Comments on politics, the culture, economics, and sports by Paul Tuns. I am editor-in-chief of "The Interim," Canada's life and family newspaper, and author of "Jean Chretien: A Legacy of Scandal" (2004) and "The Dauphin: The Truth about Justin Trudeau" (2015). I am some combination of conservative/libertarian, standing athwart history yelling "bullshit!" You can follow me on Twitter (@ptuns).
Thursday, January 31, 2008
EI benefits for women who have abortions
From the Canadian Taxpayers Federation:
"The assertion about 'abortion being a private matter between a woman and her doctor' has been made a lot this week, mostly by proponents of the Supreme Court ruling that struck down Canada’s abortion law 20 years ago. It’s a clever jingle, but not entirely true. At least not as far as taxpayers are concerned...
While few Canadians are clamouring for legislative restrictions on abortion, it is doubtful those same voters would support government promoting it. Hence, the pro-abortion lobby employs language that implies the state has little to do with it. They say it’s about the freedom to choose, an individual’s choice, and the state has no business interfering in a private decision. It’s a position that satisfies small-government libertarians as well as those claiming to be both fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Yet, government is more involved in promoting abortion than Canadians realize.
We’re familiar with provincial funding of abortion (with the exception of New Brunswick). Of course, it’s not terribly expensive – it is estimated $50-million a year is spent on the medical procedure from a $100-billion public health budget. Ultimately, it is for provincial legislatures to decide whether or not to fund it under Medicare.
But what might Canadians say about the federal government offering unemployment benefits to women who have an abortion? It is worth asking because Ottawa’s employment insurance (EI) program does just that.
According to EI guidelines, when a pregnancy is terminated within the first 19 weeks it is considered an illness and benefits can be collected. Ottawa does not distinguish between a miscarriage and an abortion. If an abortion occurs in the 20th week or later benefits are paid out under the EI maternity program despite there being no mother or child. According to the federal government, the 'birth mother' need only sign 'a statement declaring the expected due or actual date of birth.' Illness and maternity benefits are paid for up to three and a half months...
Ottawa should move to undo its spending policies that either encourage or reward having an abortion. It should certainly not pay out EI illness or maternity benefits when there is no child. "
Service Canada outlines employment insurance eligibility rules:
"Termination of a pregnancy
When a pregnancy terminates within the first 19 weeks of pregnancy, it is considered an illness under EI. If that is the case, sickness benefits may be paid as long as the qualifying conditions for sickness benefits are met.
On the other hand, if the pregnancy terminates in the 20th week or later, the claim for benefits can be considered for maternity benefits if the qualifying conditions for maternity benefits are met."
This is sick. To get illness benefits for having an abortion during the first 19 weeks of pregnancy is tantamount to treating the pregnancy as a disease. To get maternity benefits for ending the life of the child (after 20 weeks) and denying motherhood is simply madness.
Our lead editorial in the February Interim
Human rights and wrongs
Pierre Trudeau famously reminded Canadians that there is a difference between a crime and a sin; now, some 40 years after his infamous Omnibus bill, the distinction has never been less clear. Despite their noble purpose of attempting to eliminate discrimination, human rights tribunals have proven to be a remedy that is worse than the problem they were created to solve. By using government power to intervene in personal disputes, these tribunals have dangerously mixed the public and private spheres – a combination that is incompatible with liberty. They have become a kind of post-Christian Holy Office, presiding over hearings about offences in which society has no direct interest.
These tribunals adjudicate in cases where human rights have been violated without a crime being committed. This in itself is a rather strange idea: if there is harm that does not reach the threshold of crime, what kind of harm is it?
Surprisingly, in a human rights commission hearing, there is no discovery process, nor any strict rules of evidence; indeed, there is no real need to establish the facts of the case. Since the complaint itself is taken to prove that there has, indeed, been a violation of human rights, there is, in effect, a procedural assumption of guilt, not of innocence. Moreover, no effort is made to disprove or contradict offensive statements that prompt human rights complaints (which would be essential in a case of calumny or slander). The position of these tribunals is that if offence has been taken, human rights have been violated.
Offence, then, is tantamount to proof of discrimination. Thus, a human rights tribunal cannot punish crime, because the harm is not physical, nor even psychological, in any demonstrable sense. In a human rights case, self-esteem and not psyche is at issue. In other words, the defendant of a human rights complaint is being accused of moral harm, or what another age would have called a sin.
For many years, politically correct Canadian elites have worried the country is always only an election away from return to the bad ol’ days of Christian despotism.
Secularists still intone about the dangers of evangelical Christianity, even as pastors and priests are being interrogated, silenced and fined. But now, medieval prohibitions are finding their place in modern Canada, precisely because the most repressive elements in our society clothe themselves in the most progressive language. In creating the means to stamp out all traces of an imagined repression, enlightened anti-religious activists have instituted their own inquisitorial process. If Canada descends into tyranny, it will not be because of Christian values, but for want of them.
By blurring the distinction between crime and sin, and by operating on a presumption of guilt, these extra-legal bodies have had a chilling effect on some of our most fundamental liberties, including the freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and especially, freedom of religion.
Human rights tribunals have seriously harmed the very rights they were created to protect.
Ron Paul gets a celebrity endorsement
Arlo Guthrie is supporting GOP presidential hopeful Ron Paul. Says Guthrie, son of Woody: "Dr. Paul is the only candidate I know of who would have signed the Constitution of the United States had he been there."
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Explaining Rudy's loss
Stanley Kurtz says it is because he failed to give social conservatives their due. It wasn't strategy. It wasn't because of his political positions, not even his social liberalism. It wasn't his personality or personal short-comings. Kurtz says:
"Rudy lost because he dissed social conservatives. In fact, the reason Giuliani missed those early primaries is because he dissed social conservatives. Giuliani’s attempt to take apart and reconstitute Ronald Reagan’s winning political coalition was his original sin...
Rudy’s initial campaign forays were marked by a series of awkward and ill-informed statements on the abortion issue. At a minimum, this betrayed a cavalier attitude toward a significant portion of the Reagan coalition."
Social conservatives were willing to support Giuliani if he would have been more respectful of the socially conservative voters who make up a significant part of the conservative coalition. (Indeed, some of us did support him.)
In short, Giuliani lost because of his arrogant belief that he didn't need one-third (at least) of the Reagan coalition: values voters. I think America needed Giuliani to change the Washington works (or doesn't work) by attacking entrenched interests such as unions, bureaucrats, etc..., that only he seems able and willing to do. But he deserved the primary results he got.
The fallacy of choice
My old poli-sci professor Terrance Qualter once announced that his best thoughts came to him in the bath tub. Apparently, Andrea Mrozek's come to her while on skates. She observes:
"I reflected upon the TVO discussion as I skated home on the Rideau canal in my full studio-professional makeup last night. One thing I note is that everyone seemed to agree that abortion is a tough decision, not to be taken lightly. But pro-abortion groups can’t both counsel that it is tough and say it is a valid choice. Of all those 110,000 abortions annually, do pro-choicers try in every case to weigh the options very critically, very seriously? From what I’m hearing, they really don’t. If you think about it, it’s because they simply can’t. If abortion is private, between a woman and her doctor, that’s where they have to leave it. There can be no strenuous advocacy for a different way, which leads me to ask this: Do they really think it is such a tough decision after all?"
A warm welcome to Kathy's readers
Thanks to Five Feet of Fury -- not Five Feet of Furry, which is something completely different -- for the link to yesterday's story on the anti-human rights commissions. I don't have permalinks so scroll down to yesterday and its there.
US presidential politics
John Edwards is out. Rudy Giuliani will be, although if he is going to endorse John McCain and wants to help him out, it would be best for him to announce he's bailing after the California debate but before next week's Giga Tuesday primaries to he, not McCain, can bash Mitt Romney.
Romney's best chance now is beyond his control. He needs donors to resist giving McCain money between now and next week so he will have a near monopoly on advertising. But even that is a long-shot and Romney has to ask himself if he wants to spend more of his quarter-billion dollar fortune.
I'll probably blog less about US politics; the Democrats and McCain bore me and with an echo, not a choice, the race becomes a lot less interesting. What will be fun to watch is conservatives aiming their fire at one another. I'll try to resist joining the fray, not because I'm above such things but because I have conflicting views in the principle versus winning argument.
What the heck, Part II,
Or, Really bad logos
From Listverse: 10 worst logos:
McCain and the presidents Clinton two peas in a pod
George F. Will says in yesterday's Washington Post:
"Then, last week, came the radio ad that even South Carolinians, who are not squeamish about bite-and-gouge politics, thought was one brick over a load, and that the Clintons withdrew. It was the one that said Obama endorsed Republican ideas (because he said Republicans had some ideas). The Clinton campaign also accused Obama of praising Ronald Reagan (because Obama noted the stark fact that Reagan had changed the country's trajectory more than some other recent presidents -- hello, Bill -- had).
This was a garden-variety dishonesty, the manufacture of which does not cause a Clinton in midseason form to break a sweat. And it was no worse than -- actually, not as gross as -- St. John of Arizona's crooked-talk claim in Florida that Mitt Romney wanted to 'surrender and wave a white flag, like Senator Clinton wants to do' in Iraq because Romney 'wanted to set a date for withdrawal that would have meant disaster.'
Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, the Clintons should bask in the glow of John McCain's Clintonian gloss on this fact: Ten months ago, Romney said that President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki should discuss, privately, 'a series of timetables and milestones.' That unremarkable thought was twisted by McCain, whose distortions are notably clumsy, as when Romney said, accurately, that he alone among the candidates has had extensive experience in private-sector business.
That truth was subjected to McCain's sophistry, and he charged that Romney had said 'you haven't had a real job' if you had a military career. If, this autumn, voters must choose between Clinton and McCain, they will face, at least stylistically, an echo, not a choice."
What the heck?
David Brooks, the New York Times house conservative, says of Teddy Kennedy yesterday:
"[He] served that institution with more distinction than anyone else now living — as any of his colleagues, Republican or Democrat, will tell you."
I challenge Mr. Brooks to name a Republican senator who says that.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Human rights tribunals – curb ’em or close ’em
Here's the cover story in the forthcoming (February) Interim.
Human rights tribunals – curb ’em or close ’em
They are, in fact, anti-human rights tribunals and are violating the freedoms of Canadians
“Sticks and stones might break my bones but names will never hurt me.”
– Children’s rhyme
“Human rights commissions, as they are evolving, are an attack on our fundamental freedoms and the basic existence of a democratic society … It is, in fact, totalitarian.”
– Stephen Harper, 1999
For years, social conservatives have been saying that human rights tribunals threaten the freedoms of Canadians – their freedom of speech, expression, association, religion and the press. For years, these warnings have been ignored. But the threat to freedom that these tribunals present is finally beginning to be noticed after a pair of high profile cases. Both Maclean’s magazine and Ezra Levant are facing sanction over items they published that rubbed some Muslims the wrong way. Maclean’s excerpted part of Mark Steyn’s book, America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It, in which the author argued that the lack of civilizational confidence in the West, and a confident and aggressive militant Islam, will result in a dramatically different Europe and North America than the one we know now. Levant’s now-defunct Western Standard magazine published the so-called Danish Cartoons (allegedly offensive depictions of Muhammed) for news purposes, to better inform readers about the backlash against the original publication of the cartoons in Denmark.
In neither case was any law broken. There was no slander or incitement to hate or violence. There was no harm done to any individual or group of people. No court would hear a complaint against Maclean’s or Levant. But they did cause offence – hurt feelings – so naturally, some aggrieved Muslims took their complaints to the human rights commissions in various jurisdictions: the Canadian Islamic Congress took Levant to the Alberta Human Rights Commission, while four Muslim law students filed complaints against Maclean’s with the federal human rights commission, as well as ones in British Columbia and Ontario (although Ontario’s HRC has yet to decide whether it will entertain the case).
Canadian media have been slow to cover either of these cases. Maclean’s, of course, is covering the complaint against itself as columnists Steyn and Andrew Coyne have written about the issue. A few columnists (Nigel Hannaford at the Calgary Herald and David Warren at the Ottawa Citizen) have written about the implications to freedom in Canada, and a handful of papers reprinted Levant’s opening statement to the tribunal – as do we in our current issue – but otherwise, there has been little coverage of the complaints or Levant’s hearing.
In Canada, blogs and conservative websites have covered the issue, delving into the specifics and implications of these tribunals, including uncovering dirt on some of the people who are habitual complainers. In the United States, internet sources, as well as mainstream conservative publications and even the Washington Times, have been covering the issue. The American interest in the story is, no doubt, a reflection of the country’s greater interest in freedom in general, and freedom of speech in particular, than is the case here in Canada.
Complaints against CHP, Catholic Insight
While the high-profile complaints against Maclean’s and Levant have garnered the most attention, two other complaints were made public just before the Christmas break that should also worry Canadians. Rob Wells, an Edmonton man, has filed formal complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission against both Catholic Insight magazine and the Christian Heritage Party, as well as its leader Ron Gray, over their comments about homosexuality.
Although the magazine only went public with the complaint in December, Wells filed his action against Catholic Insight last February. The nine-point complaint listed fragments of columns and news published in the magazine dating back to 1994 that are alleged to have caused offence to homosexuals. Wells did not provide any context, nor any reference even to the editions of the magazine from which the supposedly offending passages were taken, yet the folks at the magazine were expected to file a prompt reply.
Fr. Alphonse de Valk, the magazine’s editor (and a former editor of The Interim), said Catholic Insight “adheres to the teachings of the Catholic church on homosexuality, which are clear that persons with same-sex attraction must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity and every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” He explained Catholic Insight comments upon current events, politics and culture and that in recent years, it has provided the Catholic perspective during debates on same-sex “marriage,” adoption rights and changes to public benefits, such as pensions.
The editors at Catholic Insight want to defend themselves by arguing the truth of their statements, but, sadly, truth doesn’t matter.
Rather, Catholic Insight must defend its right to report and comment on current events (freedom of the press) and the right to hold and express its sincerely held religious views (freedom of religion); that is, it must defend its Charter-protected rights against claims that expressing these facts and opinions causes offence to some supposedly marginalized groups and thus, are deserving of suppression. So there is an official view of certain issues; certain politically correct pieties must never be questioned and if that line is not toed, private citizens can utilize state-run institutions to silence and even punish those with dissenting views.
There was a time these freedoms were assumed. Today, not only must they be vigorously defended, but they are routinely attacked as irrelevant by human rights commissars.
Rob Wells has also launched a federal complaint against the Christian Heritage Party and its leader Ron Gray, specifically about four items on the CHP website: the reproduction of a 2002 WorldNetDaily.com news story entitled, “Pedophilia more common among ‘gays’” and three regular communiqués from the party leader that were used to communicate positions and ideas about public policy issues and current events. One communiqué from 2004 examined the interruption of a meeting of Christian activists in Alberta by a self-styled gay militia, whom Gray labelled “hate criminals” who want to “normalize perversion.” The other two communiqués were from 2005, one of which criticized the Paul Martin government move to legalize same-sex “marriage,” while the other examined Canada’s “code of silence” regarding all discussion on homosexuality.
Gray, like de Valk, does not hate homosexuals, nor does he wish them any harm, but both maintain that in a free and democratic society, debates about public policies – like the definition of marriage – are precisely that: debates. By definition, debates have more than one side and Catholic Insight and the Christian Heritage Party have been presenting arguments not against homosexuals, but against their claims to marriage.
Gray told The Interim that the Canadian Human Rights Commission – or any HRC – has “absolutely no jurisdiction” to tell a political party what it can and cannot communicate and that ultimately, voters will judge the messages of a political party. “I really think this is a crucial case, because if an agency of the government, which the CHRC is, can tell a political party what it may and may not include in its political statements, we have gone way down the road to totalitarianism.”
Canada is indeed already well down the road to totalitarianism with human rights commissions and their tribunals and boards of inquiry, running roughshod over Christians and conservatives who have not toed the line on complete acceptance of the gay agenda.
In 1997, London, Ont. mayor Dianne Haskett refused to proclaim a Gay Pride Day or to fly the rainbow flag on city property. A complaint was filed with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, which later ruled she had to proclaim such a day. Adjudicator Mary Anne McKellar dismissed the legal argument of Haskett and the city that requiring they proclaim a Gay Pride Day violated their prerogative to make political decisions and infringed on their freedom of political speech. Haskett said proclaiming such a day would be seen as an official endorsement of the organizer’s agenda. The city was fined $10,000 and ordered to proclaim Gay Pride Day. (Notably, Haskett was re-elected mere weeks after the decision was rendered.)
That same year, the city of Kelowna, B.C., issued a proclamation for Gay and Lesbian Day, while omitting the word “pride.” A complaint was lodged against mayor Walter Gray and three years later, the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal found Gray violated the province’s human rights code, because the exclusion of the word pride was “tantamount to a public insult, one which is mean-spirited, short-sighted, and damaging to positive, respectful relations between all people.” Gray responded by refusing to declare city proclamations, period. He was later re-elected with over 95 per cent of the vote.
In Ontario, Mississauga printer Scott Brockie was hauled before the Ontario Human Rights Commission in 1998 for refusing to print promotional material for the Gay and Lesbian Archives. He had done business with homosexual clients before, but never for jobs that promoted their political causes, which would violate his Christian belief that homosexual actions are morally wrong. By politely declining the GLA’s job, he set into motion a series of events that cost him time and treasure – more than $100,000 and a half-decade defending himself first before the tribunal and then in the courts. In the end, he lost, had to pay a $5,000 fine and pledge to never refuse work from the GLA or another gay activist group again. Brockie refused to abide by the decision and challenged it in court – where he lost.
In 1997, the Hugh Owens saga began when he purchased an advertisement in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix newspaper that depicted two men holding hands in a circle with a diagonal bar through them, along with references to several biblical passages condemning homosexuality (but not the actual texts). Three complainants claimed the ad exposed or could have exposed homosexuals to hatred, ridicule or belittlement. Owens said he had the right to express his religious convictions, while the paper argued that, considering that homosexual rights are a public issue, “We have a responsibility to provide a forum to the public for public discussion.” The Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal sided with the complainants, so Owens and the paper were both required to pay each complainant $2,000. The StarPhoenix capitulated on the principle of freedom of the press, agreed to pay the fine and promised not to run “anti-gay” advertisements, while Owens appealed the decision to the courts.
In 2002, Bill Whatcott of the Christian Truth Activists organization was found guilty by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal of offending homosexuals after he distributed pamphlets that stated facts about topics such as the prevalence of AIDS among homosexuals and whether homosexuals are born gay. He presented supporting evidence of his claims, but as Rory Leishman noted in his book Against Judicial Activism, most human rights codes do “not make any provision for truth as a defence against a charge of expressing an idea” deemed politically incorrect and likely to offend protected classes of people. Whatcott was fined $17,500 and ordered not to distribute flyers critical of homosexuals. He refused to pay the fine and several weeks after the decision was rendered, he was handing out leaflets entitled, “Sodomites and the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission.”
In 2005, the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal ruled against the Knights of Columbus council in Port Coquitlam, after had it refused in 2003 to rent its hall to a lesbian couple who were getting “married.” The tribunal said that, as a religious group, the Knights had the right to refuse the lesbian couple, but were nonetheless fined for the “undue hardship” of cancelling the event. The couple found a hall the day after the cancellation, but the tribunal nonetheless said the Knights should have worked with the couple to locate another space for their reception and reimburse them for any costs incurred.
In 2005, Alberta gay activists filed complaints against Calgary Bishop Fred Henry in the province’s HRC. He had denounced the federal government’s bill on same-sex “marriage” in a pastoral letter and a Calgary Sun newspaper column. Lesbian Carol Johnson claimed the words of the Catholic bishop were “likely to expose homosexuals to hatred or contempt.” The case was eventually dropped by the complainants, but the Alberta Human Rights Commission should have – and could have – summarily dismissed it as being without merit, because Bishop Henry has a right to express his religious views on marriage.
Last year, the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal found a youth pastor, Stephen Boissoin, guilty of writing a letter to the editor of the Red Deer Advocate that the tribunal deemed was likely to expose gays to hatred and contempt. The case stemmed from a 2002 letter in which Boissoin had said homosexuality was immoral, physically dangerous and should not be promoted in schools. Several weeks later, a homosexual was physically beaten by a thug. Lori Andreachuk, who led the tribunal’s inquisition against Boissoin, said: “I find that there is a circumstantial connection between the hate speech of Mr. Boissoin and the CCC and the beating of a gay teenager in Red Deer less than two weeks following the publication of Mr. Boissoin’s letter.” The problem is, the tribunal never heard evidence connecting Boissoin’s letter to the actions of the violent criminal. But in a human rights tribunal, proof is in the eye of the offended and circumstantial evidence is enough to convict.
This much should be clear: by putting individuals who express religious and religiously based moral beliefs on trial, it is not just the individual, but religion itself and the ability for anyone to practice their faith, that face scrutiny. The arrogance of one individual or a state institution challenging religious teaching is unimaginable.
Ottawa Citizen columnist David Warren has noted that the process is the punishment. For those who use legal counsel, there are enormous costs in defending oneself in a system that many consider rigged; meanwhile, the government pays the legal costs of the complainant, even though defendants cannot even access legal aid. In a court of law, plaintiffs must pay for their own counsel and, if the case is found frivolous, can be forced to pay the legal costs of the defendants. This, of course, discourages frivolous lawsuits. But in human rights commission cases, the odds are stacked in the favour of the complainant. Link Byfield, a senator-elect from Alberta, calls such suits ‘junk law’ and Levant says the commissions only hear the cases that real courts won’t.
Whereas, in the regular court system, the principle of double jeopardy applies – that is, defendants can only be charged once – the offended can “forum shop” among human rights commissions. If one jurisdiction rules against a claimant, he can pursue his case elsewhere.
Not that these tribunals are likely to rule against claimants. In the three decades of federal human rights commission cases, not one defendant in a Section XIII complaint that went beyond the discovery phase has been acquitted. Defendants in provincial cases do not fare much better. As Gwen Landolt, national vice-president of REAL Women, has said, “If a complaint is laid against you, you’re automatically found guilty.” Yet, not once has an individual punished by these tribunals been found guilty in a court of law of an actual hate crime.
In part, this is because it is virtually impossible to defend against a human rights complaint. Normal rules of evidence do not apply: hearsay evidence is permitted, hearings can be held in secret, the accused usually do not face their accusers, and, most important, the presumption of innocence so vital in our common law tradition is suspended as the accused must prove their innocence. If a complainant claims to be offended, it is virtually impossible to prove that he or she has not been offended.
Niceties such as facts and truth are irrelevant to human rights tribunals. Reporting facts – statistics or anecdotes, studies or reports – or quotes is no defence if these facts cause offence.
Furthermore, tribunals can require guilty individuals to pay large fines, apologize, change their behaviour, stop expressing certain views or undergo sensitivity training. As Tristan Emmanuel of the Equipping Christians for the Public Square Centre has noted, not even murderers can be made to apologize to their victims (and victims’ families), but those found guilty of uttering words deemed offensive must apologize to the insulted and publicly prostrate themselves.
With all this, the system seems to be rigged. Furthermore, human rights codes limit who can make a complaint to thos from “historically marginalized” groups, so if homosexuals or atheists do something to offend Christians, that’s too bad.
Offence is not harm
Human rights complaints are not suits based on the violation of criminal law. They do not seek to remedy an actual harm – an injury or a violation of one’s rights. Rather, they are based on whether or not someone’s actions or words insult the offended. In other words, human rights commissions are in the business of curbing real human rights – the freedom to hold and express opinions, freedom of religion, freedom of the press – in the pursuit of a world without hurt feelings.
Historically, one’s freedom was limited by the “harm principle,” which states that “my rights end at the tip of your nose.” The liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill was a great exponent of this. He said the “only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” Few expressions of opinion or belief, no matter how offensive, can plausibly be said to cause harm – sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.
In some cases, context matters. Mill said it was permissible to rail against corn farmers, but not to rail against corn farmers in front of an angry, hungry mob outside a corn farmer’s house. The former adds to the stock of ideas in public debate; the latter is a possible incitement to violence. So, human rights commissions are taking an extremely wide view of the potential to cause harm with their mandates to punish speech that is “likely to expose” certain people to not only violence, but ridicule and contempt.
The contemporary philosopher Joel Feinberg says the harm principle is insufficient and must be replaced with the “offence principle.” But this is an impossible standard to enforce and is open to all kinds of abuse, as we have seen in Canada’s myriad human rights commissions. Not only would such a principle overthrow our common-law traditions and ancient legal protections, it would remove the importance of intention when determining what is illicit and illegal.
As we have seen in Canada, it would open the door to eliminating the expression of any controversial views, stifling public debate about important issues. It would establish official doctrines, from which dissent would not be tolerated, lest it offend someone. It would be undemocratic. And, as The Economist said about the complaints over Steyn’s Maclean’s piece, it would lead to interminable dullness.
Human rights commissions were created to protect human rights, not trample them. Free citizens have a right to express themselves and practise their religions (and proselytize). They do not have the right not to be offended.
Going beyond original purpose
When human rights commissions were established in the 1960s and 1970s, they were intended to adjudicate cases of housing and employment discrimination. A. Alan Borovoy, general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, was among those who fought to get the HRCs created, but in recent years, he has criticized them for going beyond their original, intended purpose. In a 2000 Globe and Mail column, he said they are contributing to the “erosion of respect in human rights circles for the importance of free speech.”
Borovoy says there are legitimate restrictions on freedom of speech. One cannot incite violence, for example. But expressions of “strong disapproval” are permissible in free societies; indeed, they are sometimes necessary. How does one condemn odious speech – genuine hate, for example – without strong disapproval? But the fine line between strong disapproval and contempt or hatred is impossible to draw. Better, says Borovoy, to err on the side of caution. Furthermore, he argues that if freedom of religion and freedom of thought mean anything, they must be allowed to be more than a private affair; otherwise, freedom of speech would be nothing more than “freedom of soliloquy” if restricted to the freedom to speak only among those with similar views.
In 2000, Borovoy wrote that he disagreed with Hugh Owens and had disdain for Scott Brockie’s opposition to homosexuality, but he defended the right of both to express and act on their religious beliefs. More recently, he told an Edmonton audience that vigorous debate is needed, not censors and inquisitors.
But the human rights commissions and those who take their complaints to them no longer believe that differences of opinion should be tolerated. Some opinions must be trampled down and stamped out.
Borovoy and others have called for human rights commissions to be curtailed of their power to dictate what can and cannot be said; it was never the intention to have them infringe on the free speech and religious rights of individuals and certainly, they were not designed (at least initially) to dictate what magazines could publish and political parties could discuss. Their jurisdictions must be clearly defined and they must be stripped of any authority over the free speech and religion rights of individuals. Freedom of the press must also be respected.
Borovoy said when they were created, “Nobody ever thought the commissions would have anything to do with expressions of opinion or the dissemination of news reports.”
But it has happened and despite the newfound interest in the issue – at least in some circles – it is hardly a new phenomenon. It is disturbing that so many columnists writing about the issue now were silent about human rights commissions infringing upon Canadians’ rights until one of their own was hauled before one. Maclean’s columnist Andrew Coyne responded to the complaint against his magazine and his boss, publisher Ken Whyte, with a column that said journalists have ignored the problem with human rights tribunals for too long. He said it was easy to ignore (or justify) the infringement of free speech rights when decisions were made against “racists and homophobes.” But now that the big boys like Maclean’s are a target, “they have no business meddling with speech.”
These human rights tribunals are not now out of control; they have long been meddling where they shouldn’t. And, while Ezra Levant is standing up to an Alberta human rights commissioner and holding the process up to ridicule – ably assisted by bloggers on the internet – ultimately, the issue comes down to federal and provincial governments and whether they are willing to rein the commissions by limiting their scope. In 1999, Stephen Harper, then head of the National Citizens’ Coalition, said: “Human rights commissions, as they are evolving, are an attack on our fundamental freedoms and the basic existence of a democratic society … It is, in fact, totalitarian. I find this is very scary stuff.” The problem has only gotten worse, but he is now in a position to do something about it. Thus far, Ottawa hasn’t made a peep about the federal HRC, indicating a willingness to tolerate attacks on “our fundamental freedoms and the basic existence of (our) democratic society.”
Rory Leishman, in his book Against Judicial Activism, proposed that human rights tribunals be shut down and that human rights commissions be limited to an advisory and mediating role - there would be no power to punish so-called wrong-doers. Extending the practices of normal courts to commission hearings would also help level the playing field.
But if curbing the power of human rights commissions is difficult or impossible, then they should be shut down completely. When actual harm has been committed, complainants have recourse to both criminal and civil law; there is simply no need for human rights commissions to punish people for expressing themselves.
The issue goes beyond gays and Muslims. As Borovoy has noted, it is impossible to draft speech regulations that silence certain (perceived) odious views without endangering all speech. In our news briefs this month we note that the Hamilton, Ont., transit authority has removed pro-life ads from its bus shelters. The ads featured a pregnant mother and a simple, implied question about whether there might ever be limits on abortion. The ads were taken down because of a handful of complaints from the public, and one city councilor said he found the ads offensive. How long until disagreements over any political messages are resolved not in our parliaments and public debates but before human rights tribunals? What views will have to be explained before the inquisitors of tomorrow?
Every day that the human rights tribunals continue to operate under their existing mandates, our freedoms are imperiled. If a Canadian citizen can be hauled before an HRC to defend his right to express himself, he is not truly free. The survival of Canadian democracy is at stake.
Monday, January 28, 2008
On the Republican side, Mitt Romney edges out John McCain 35%-33%, followed by Rudy Giuliani (14%) and Mike Huckabee (13%). Ron Paul gets mid-single digits.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton breaks 50% followed by Barack Obama with 35%.
A word about the State of the Union address: who cares. That is two words, I know. I'm not watching it. It's dull. It's stupid. It's pointless. I can't stand the vapid promises and partisan clapping.
The first of a gazillion stories like this
Mike Huckabee clubs Mitt Romney and Governor Charlie Crist backs John McCain leading to speculation that they are the leading veep candidates when -- the media presumes it is when, not if -- McCain gets the GOP presidential nod. That decision won't be announced for another half-a-year, but its never to early to start guessing, as Jennifer Rubin did in Contentions this weekend:
"It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Mike Huckabee, who rushed to John McCain’s defense in the flap over Mitt Romney’s position on an Iraq withdrawal date and bashed Romney this morning, is in a head-to-head battle now with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for the VP slot. A quick look at the Florida papers this morning shows that aside from the 'Obama Clubs Hillary' stories, it is the Crist endorsement news that grabs the big headlines. The Miami Herald goes with that headline as well, and comments that by raising the Iraq timetable issue McCain 'succeeded in putting his opponent on the defensive'."
We don't need a stimulus, we need economic literacy
George F. Will provides it in this week's Newsweek:
"Partisanship in Washington can be costly, but so can consensus, and suddenly there is agreement that the economy needs to be stimulated. The supposed crisis that is causing this meeting of political minds is that the market is correcting some mistakes made about something central to capitalism, not to mention progress—risk taking. There has been too much risky lending to unqualified ("subprime") borrowers, who were living riskily.
Corrections are necessary: When too much housing has been built, the market must clear the inventory. Corrections can be painful: Housing prices have declined. Lower housing costs are not an unmixed curse: Partly because of something dating from 1913 (the mortgage-interest deduction) and partly because of recent low interest rates, too much American wealth is tied up in housing. But houses are most Americans' largest assets, so homeowners, feeling less wealthy, are curtailing their spending, which causes lenders to curtail their lending, which further inhibits spending."
And politicians should do precisely nothing about it because there is little they can do:
"Often, the wise response to an economic correction is 'Don't just do something, stand there,' because the market is doing the right things. But corrections provoke political competition to provide relief. And when government "fine-tunes" the economy with 'demand management,' it responds to economic conditions as they were, not as they have become. The ameliorative measures Congress will legislate, perhaps by March, will be responsive to economic conditions indicated by statistics collected many months before the measures will begin to affect economic behavior, if they do affect it."
Expect lots of columns like these in the upcoming weeks
Headline on a Chantal Hebert column in the Toronto Star: "Tories' fate is hanging by a thread." Of course, they've been a staple of journalism for two years, but that won't stop journalists from immitating crazy street preachers and predicting the end is near.
Happy Morgentaler day
20 years of unrestricted abortion freedom in Canada and with the cost of only two million lost lives. That's a lot of people Canada is now missing -- about twice the population of Calgary.
Michael Coren has a good column in the National Post today and this part, especially, should be considered:
"The reasons for the pro-life position are many and obvious. The unborn child is unique from the point of conception, with its own DNA and a genomic character that is entirely separate from any other person. A woman has the choice to do whatever she wants with a tuft of hair or an appendix but not with a distinct person within her. The unborn child cannot survive outside of the womb but then a fully developed newborn child will similarly die if left without care.
The word 'fetus' merely means 'young child' and, anyway, after three months of growth nothing new develops. At nine months the unborn child is more mature, but then a five-year-old is more mature than a two-year-old. We know instinctively that this is a child, witnessed by how we would react if we saw an obviously pregnant woman smoking or drinking. We've been programmed to think differently if we see a pregnant women opting to end the life of her powerless child."
The idea that the unborn child is not a human being is a fiction that must be taught (propagandized) to be believed -- I'll get back to that in a moment. But many abortion supporters have conceded that the fetus is a human being -- witness women's magazine features on abortion clinics that have young women write good-bye letters to the child they are about to abort and Naomi Wolf's TNR admittance a decade ago that abortion advocates seem callous when they dismiss the reality of the child in the womb, even if she see that life's rights as subservient to that of the mother. Coren is correct to note the incongruousness of society's attitude in its reaction to the smoking pregnant mom and the one that procures an abortion.
Back to the idea that one must be taught to believe that the child inside the mother's womb is anything but a human being or that it is a person of lesser importance. When my wife was pregnant with our third child and teaching in a kindergarten class of a dozen students, she did attendance and included herself before declaring that there were 13 people in class that day. Several of the four and five year old kids protested. "No, Christina, there are 14," said one child pointing to Christina's tummy. Then most of the children said at the same time that she forgot the baby inside her. It would take time before those children are untaught the facts of human life.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Comment of the day
Caroline Kennedy says in the New York Times that Barack Obama is like her father. Ramesh Ponnuru says: "She says that Obama could be a president like her father. I assume that means that he'll be overrated, not that he'll bring us to the brink of nuclear war."
January Interim is now online
It can be accessed here. A number of notable pieces include our editorial defending the right of Catholic schools to censor anti-religious books, Russ Kuykendal's review of Randall Balmer's Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America: An Evangelical’s Lament, Theresa Smyth's column examining the brouhaha over the Ottawa Senators' wives assisting a pregnancy crisis center, a profile of Amanda Phillips, a 21-year-old Alberta girl whose pro-life work includes volunteering with women facing crisis pregnancies and Pete Vere's review of The Golden Compass.
The cover story -- stories -- is our extensive coverage of the 20th anniversary of the Morgentaler decision, including The Interim's editorial from 1988 ('Black Thursday'), Donald DeMarco's look at Henry Morgentaler through the eyes of his two sympathetic biographers ('Demystifying the man who challenged the abortion law'), Rory Leishman's dissection of the decision ('Courts decision set off a continuing national calamity'), an excerpt from David Dooley's pamphlet Supreme Court and Morgentaler vs. Biology ('Flawed reason used by the Supreme Court justices') and Professor Ian Hunter's look at Henry Morgentaler's Canada ('The Canada we knew has come to an end'). I know, I know, the four bylined pieces are all written by men but neither of the women invited to submit an article did so on time. And anyway, that 1988 editorial was written by the paper's editress at the time, Sabina McLuhan.
Our lead editorial is also about Morgentaler. Here is it in full:
The fight continues
On Jan. 28, 1988, the Supreme Court threw out existing, limited restrictions on abortion put in place by the 1969 Omnibus bill, which permitted abortions in hospitals that were approved by (rubber stamp) therapeutic abortion committees. Over the past two decades, abortion advocates have simply lied about what the court’s majority said in its decision and politicians have hidden behind these lies.
According to some abortion supporters, and their media sycophants, the Supreme Court created a woman’s right to abortion in Morgentaler. That is untrue. Canada’s scant abortion laws were struck down on narrow procedural grounds; namely, that abortion services were uneven throughout the country and asking a hospital committee was too burdensome for women and thus violated their Section 7 (security of the person) Charter rights. It was on this basis, not the creation of a new right, that the abortion licence was declared.
What has often been ignored – or conveniently forgotten – is that the court also urged Parliament to pass new abortion legislation, thereby recognizing that the state can (at least) limit and regulate the abortion procedure. One justice, Bertha Wilson, claimed that there was a right to abortion, but even she conceded that only the state could pass legislation regulating abortion.
Twice, the Mulroney government introduced (flawed) abortion bills that went nowhere, but Parliament hasn’t considered any limits on abortion since 1993. Many politicians today hide behind the abortionists’ lie that the Supreme Court declared women have a constitutional right to abortion to justify not addressing the issue.
For years, social conservatives have criticized the courts for judicial activism and justly so. But, in the case of abortion law, the courts passed the ball back to Parliament, which proceeded to drop and ignore it. The Supreme Court of Canada, despite four subsequent rulings (Daigle, Dobson, Sullivan and Winnipeg Family Services) denying fetal rights, urged Parliament to enact abortion legislation, but cowardly politicians have failed to act.
The Morgentaler decision was bald judicial activism and poorly decided. The court has compounded its error by routinely and systemically ignoring the rights of the unborn child. But, elected politicians have opportunistically avoided the question and a divisive and emotional, but vitally important, debate by hiding behind lies.
Despite the myths surrounding the Morgentaler decision, the Jan. 28, 1988 decision was not the last word in the abortion debate. Canadians deserve better; the unborn require action. It is up to pro-life Canadians to spread the truth and keep politicians accountable. While there might have been quiet on the abortion front at times – enough that some politicians claimed we had “social peace” – two decades after Morgentaler, the fight to protect the sanctity of all human life continues.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Top 10 bizarre mustaches
Great visual list from Listverse.
Hope this doesn't put McCain over the top in the Sunshine State
The Politico: "Florida Gov. Charlie Crist will spend time stumping with John McCain in the final two days before the critical primary here."
Better dead than 'unwanted'?
The Vancouver Sun's Daphne Bramham writes about the 20th anniversary of the Morgentaler decision and condemns the pro-life movement for not supporting increased access to contraception (ignoring that many people who morally oppose abortion also morally oppose contraception). But Bramham's pro-abortion extremism leads her to a horrible conclusion: that children whose parents do not want them are better off dead. She says:
"When the WHO/Gutmacher study was released last year, it included the shocking statistic that 42 million abortions -- legal and illegal -- were performed worldwide in 2003. Profound sadness is the only possible response to such a number, regardless of which side of the debate you land on.
But that number must be looked at in context. There are an estimated 143 million children worldwide who are unwanted, unloved and left to the care of governments or orphaned on the streets. In British Columbia. alone, there are close to 1,300 children and youth in the permanent care of the ministry because no one has stepped forward to adopt them."
The message is clear: it is better to that these children were never born. I wonder if those 1,300 children and youth think that.
Richard Darman, RIP
Richard Darman, an advisor to five U.S. presidents, and George H.W. Bush's Office of Management and Budget director, died yesterday at the age of 64. The New York Times obit notes this hilarious anecdote:
"Darman did help elect Reagan by coaching him for his debates in the 1980 and 1984 campaigns. He reprised the role for Vice President Bush in 1988, preparing him for debating Gov. Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts, the Democratic presidential nominee. Mr. Darman wore a tank helmet for the occasion, as Mr. Dukakis had done while posing for a much-derided photograph in a tank."
That might have been the extent to his humour and charm. As the Times obit also notes:
"In his book “Revolution: The Reagan Legacy” (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988), Martin Anderson, a Reagan aide, called Mr. Darman 'easily the most disliked man in the White House,' saying he had done nothing for the campaign."
My favourite political anecdote is also a comment about Darman's dislikability. His Bush administration colleague Nicholas Brady, Secretary of the Treasury, was asked why people dislike Darman immediately upon meeting him. Brady answered: "It saves time."
Friday, January 25, 2008
And which one would Gerson prefer?
Washington Post Michael Gerson looks forward to November:
"A presidential election between, say, McCain and Obama -- both positive and honorable candidates -- would be better for the country. A race between McCain and Clinton would be better for the Republicans."
As much as John McCain ain't my cup of Republican tea, in the end, he would be better than either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. McCain is not, as Rush Limbaugh called him this week, a socialist. He may not even be a conviction conservative. But he is more conservative than not, and a hell of a lot more conservative than any of the Democrats. Conservatives may find McCain imperfect -- I find his views on campaign finance reform to be odious and global warming mistaken -- but he beats the other November alternatives.
I get what Gerson is saying about the beneficial effects of the kind of campaign many pundits expect in an Obama-McCain match up, but I wonder if he understands the implication of his next line about Hillary and McCain. By implying that if Hillary Clinton runs against McCain that the GOP will win, and juxtaposing that with the "better for the country" election choice between Obama and McCain, Gerson is saying that it doesn't matter if conservatism (or something close(r) to it) wins the day. I'm uncomfortable with that and very uncomfortable with Gerson, one of the Washington Post's house conservatives, saying that.
I understand that there can be creative destruction. I wanted to see the Ontario Tories go down in flames so John Tory would have to be replaced. But this is different from what Gerson is saying in two respects. 1) There is very little difference between Tory and Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty. 2) Gerson is not making the case for a Barry Goldwater-like defeat that redefines the party and puts it in a more conservative direction.
The envelope please. And this year's New York Times' endorsements go to...
Shocking. A total surprise. Hillary Clinton and John McCain.
The Times almost apologizes for not choosing Barack Obama and wants to make it clear that by endorsing Hillary, they are not also endorsing racism:
"By choosing Mrs. Clinton, we are not denying Mr. Obama’s appeal or his gifts. The idea of the first African-American nominee of a major party also is exhilarating, and so is the prospect of the first woman nominee. 'Firstness' is not a reason to choose."
The paper says both are good candidates and there is very little difference between the two, but, "we are hugely impressed by the depth of her knowledge, by the force of her intellect and by the breadth of, yes, her experience."
But, the paper says:
"As strongly as we back her candidacy, we urge Mrs. Clinton to take the lead in changing the tone of the campaign. It is not good for the country, the Democratic Party or for Mrs. Clinton, who is often tagged as divisive, in part because of bitter feeling about her husband’s administration and the so-called permanent campaign."
On the morning shows today, Hillary Clinton defended herself by saying the Obama camp attacked first and that she was allowed to provide a "counter-punch." If the Clintons, though, are always way to eager to get down in the dirt with their opponents. I think what the paper is saying is that whoever started it, Hillary needs to stop it. Watching her combativeness this morning, I doubt that will happen any time soon.
On the Republican side, the paper backs John McCain because he is competing (with Mike Huckabee) to be the least conservative in the GOP field. That's not exactly how the paper of record says it ("With a record of working across the aisle to develop sound bipartisan legislation, he would offer a choice to a broader range of Americans than the rest of the Republican field"), but it is the reason. There are three issues they find McCain amenable on: campaign finance reform (a liberal idea), global warming (a liberal idea) and torture (a defensibly conservative argument on an issue of greater concern to liberals).
It is notable that the editorial supporting McCain is much shorter than the one endorsing Clinton; it is notable but hardly surprising that the editorial also spends more time trashing the other GOP candidates and enumerating its problems with McCain himself.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
France under Sarkozy & Fillon
The Financial Times reports:
"France is planning to freeze public spending for five years under its biggest programme of social and economic reform since the late 1960s, according to François Fillon, the prime minister."
"Mr Fillon welcomed the far-reaching proposals to liberalise the French economy published yesterday by a commission chaired by Jacques Attali, the economist and former Socialist government adviser.
The commission produced 316 proposals to inject more competition into retailing and other services, cut labour costs and streamline the state.
The proposals would be 'one of the essential foundations' of an economic modernisation law later this spring, Mr Fillon said."
Fillon has also vowed not to increase the VAT. Who would have guessed that France would become, at least potentially, a leader of economic liberalism in Europe?
The laws of this country still mean something
Publius at Gods of the Copybook Headings celebrates a court decision that requires an officer of the military to swear allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen. As Publius says:
"A Canadian officer, serving under the Queen's commission, refusing to toast the Queen is one of those bits of beyond satire absurdity that are daily fare in Trudeaupia. As many others I half expected this traitor to succeed, pleading for justice under that inversion of rights and freedoms known as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It's the stupid Charter as Ezra used to say. A Canadian judge, however, found that the laws of Canada still stand, whatever fictions might be read into Section One. Our sovereign is still Queen Elizabeth the Second of that name, fount of law and honour, Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces. Wishing otherwise and pleading injury will not work."
The federal courts, like a stopped clock.
Ezra is getting under the skin of his inquisitors
Ezra Levant reports that his lawyer has been contacted by members of the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal asking that his client stop shining a bright light on the work they do, publicizing how completely unfair and utterly ridiculous the whole process is.
John Tory supporters take the low road
Adam Daifallah has the story here.
The Toryites must be desperate. Politics is often low and disgusting and unfit for human consumption but the attacks on Reuben Devlin are really disgusting. I hope delegates at the provincial Progressive Conservative convention know the kind of people supporting the party's leader -- and use that information to make some judgements about what kind of leader attracts such support.
First, let's kill all the politicians
Tyler Cowen is asked by a reader why so many politicians are lawyers. Cowen's answer:
"My guess is that lawyers are good at fundraising and good at developing personal contacts. This helps explain why fewer politicians are lawyers in many other countries; money is more important in American politics. A lawyer also has greater chance to exhibit the qualities that would signal success in politics, such as the ability to persuade and the ability to speak well on one's feet. Not to mention that many lawyers have ambition.
Natasha, who is a lawyer, adds that law generates an outflux of people to many other fields, not just politics. There is also a path-dependence effect, by which a previous presence of politicians in law breeds the same for the future. What else do you all know about this?"
All this would seem to be true but I'm also sure there is much, much more to it. In the comment section is another possible answer: many political science university grads go into law school and thus come into their profession with an interest in politics. Sounds plausible.
I have two other guesses. One is that lawyers are people who have studied and worked with the law so it is only natural that they'd want to have a say in writing it. Also, many lawyers probably really do care about the people and issues that they encounter is their professional lives and somewhat naively believe that they can do good on a larger scale if they enter the political arena.
Cowen cross-posted his question at The Volokh Conspiracy, where this comment was posted:
"Democratic presidential candidates with JD's:
Hillary Clinton - Yale
Barack Obama - Harvard
John Edwards - UNC
Joe Biden - Syracuse
Chris Dodd - Louisville
Tom Vilsack - Albany
Bill Richardson - None (But has M.A. from Tuft's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy)
Dennis Kucinich - None
Mike Gravel - None
Republican candidates with JD's:
Mitt Romney - Harvard
Rudy Giuliani - NYU
Fred Thompson - Vanderbilt
Sam Brownback - Kansas
Duncan Hunter - Thomas Jefferson
Tommy Thompson - Wisconsin
Mike Huckabee - but for what it's worth he has an honorary LL.D from Ouachita Baptist University.
My highly unscientific conclusion: there is a correlation between 'presidential candidate without a JD' and 'slightly nutty'."
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
From Ben Adler at The Politico:
"Ron Paul, the Texas congressman frequently dismissed as a long shot candidate with no real chance at winning the Republican presidential nomination, has won nearly twice as many total votes to date as Rudy Giuliani, a candidate still widely viewed as a strong contender.
With his second place finish in Saturday’s Nevada caucus, where Paul defeated Giuliani in every county in the state, the Texas congressman has now received 106,414 votes to 60,220 for Giuliani. Both candidates have collected zero actual delegates."
The thing about markets, especially stock markets, is that they go up and down
From the New York Times:
"Wall Street endured another volatile day on Wednesday as stocks plunged at the opening bell, spent much of the session in negative territory, then erased a 326-point deficit in the afternoon to post strong gains in the final hour.
'The market has this out-of-control feeling, and until the market sees some semblance of stability, it’s going to continue to be very volatile,' said Richard Sparks, senior equities analyst at Schaffer’s Investment Research."
Another thing about markets, which Mr. Sparks should know, is that no one 'controls' them.
One difference the Harper government makes
Many movement conservatives, myself included, have been critical of the Harper government but on foreign policy there is a huge difference (despite missteps) between a Conservative government and a Liberal one. Take for example its refusal to put up with the BS that emanates from the UN as reported by Steven Edwards of CanWest:
"Canada is poised to become the first country to significantly distance itself from a major anti-racism conference that the United Nations is planning for next year.
Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier is expected to announce as early as today that Canada is dropping out of planning for the UN's Durban II Conference -- which the international organization is billing as a followup to its controversial 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa.
Insiders say the government feels the new conference is shaping up to be a copy of the anti-West and anti-Israel free-for-all critics said the initial gathering became."
The process is the punishment
Barry Cooper in today's Calgary Herald writing about human rights tribunals:
"The entire process is skewed. Most obviously in that complainants get a free ride and defendants pay full legal freight. The taxpayers of Alberta paid for Levant's interrogation. A lawyer from the Alberta Attorney General's office was present at the Boissoin-Lund panel.
This meant that, unlike the procedure in a genuine court, even if the defendant wins, he loses -- money, if nothing else -- and even if the complainant loses, he wins by ensuring that potential critics will think twice about speaking up."
David Warren wrote in the Ottawa Citizen last month that the end result doesn't matter as much as the complaint because the process is the punishment. How true: the time and the cost of mounting a legal defense; the public assault on one's dignity as a threat to someone else's human rights as a bigot of one sort or another; the need to defend one's own human rights of freedom of expression, religion, the press, etc... One might say this is a bug within the system but no doubt the Left finds it one of the features. Those with opposing views must be punished: severely and without benefit of a real court trial.
The benefits of trade
Russell Roberts at Cafe Hayek:
"Don [Boudreaux] argues in the book [Globalization] and in the podcast that to point to an American steel worker put out of work by imports of Brazilian steel and say that he is "harmed by trade" is to misunderstand the nature of trade and its winners and losers. He says it's like saying that a man whose wife leaves him for another man is harmed by love. After all, the man married because of love. The man is the product of his parents who were touched by love. So it is with the steel worker. His steel job exists because of trade. His whole life is supported by trade of various kinds. So in what sense is he 'harmed by trade?'
It's a profound point. It forces you to see just how trade and specialization and the division of labor create the incredible lives we lead, lives of wealth and health unimagined by previous generations."
Roberts goes on to say:
"[T]here's no denying that it's very tough on a person who has invested most of his life in a particular skill to suddenly find that there's no demand for that skill. Yes, it's the price of progress and it's a price worth paying. Yes, it's not particular to foreign trade, as Don points out, but is the result of all kinds of economic change. But there is something deeply poignant about it, nevertheless.
It is a mistake to use protectionism to keep that worker from having to deal with change."
The lesson, Roberts finds, is that it is important that we get for ourselves the type of education that will help us cope (employment, happiness, adaptability) in a rapidly changing world.
From Jay Nordlinger's Impromptus column: "When I spotted the headline over another AP report — 'Castro Says Not Ready to Campaign' — I thought, 'Yeah, what else is new'?"
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Naomi Wolf redux
Writing today in the Los Angeles Times, Frances Kissling, former president of Catholics for a Free Choice, and Kate Michelman, former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, say:
"Advocates of choice have had a hard time dealing with the increased visibility of the fetus. The preferred strategy is still to ignore it and try to shift the conversation back to women. At times, this makes us appear insensitive, a bit too pragmatic in a world where the desire to live more communitarian and "life-affirming" lives is palpable...
Our vigorous defense of the right to choose needs to be accompanied by greater openness regarding the real conflict between life and choice, between rights and responsibility. It is time for a serious reassessment of how to think about abortion in a world that is radically changed from 1973."
Writing in the October 16, 1995 The New Republic, Naomi Wolf, said:
"At its best, feminism defends its moral high ground by being simply faithful to the truth: to women's real-life experiences. But, to its own ethical and political detriment, the pro-choice movement has relinquished the moral frame around the issue of abortion. It has ceded the language of right and wrong to abortion foes. The
movement's abandonment of what Americans have always, and rightly demanded of their movements -- an ethical core -- and its reliance instead on a political rhetoric in which the fetus means nothing are proving fatal.
The effects of this abandonment can be measured in two ways. First of all, such a position causes us to lose political ground. By refusing to look at abortion within a moral framework, we lose the millions of Americans who want to support abortion as a legal right but still need to condemn it as a moral iniquity. Their ethical allegiances are then addressed by the pro-life movement, which is willing to speak about good and evil...
For when we defend abortion rights by emptying the act of moral gravity, we find ourselves cultivating a hardness of heart...
Since abortion became legal nearly a quarter-century ago, the fields of embryology and perinatology have been revolutionized -- but the pro-choice view of the contested fetus has remained static..."
Not that anyone will notice. Fred Thompson's campaign was lacklustre, at best, but it should be proof that conservative policy alone will only get you so far, which is about 10% max, South Carolina excepted. If Thompson was the most consistently conservative candidate (and he was), in theory his departure should help the next most consistently conservative candidate. That would be Mitt Romney.
A real culture of death
The Los Angeles Times and John Mueller has an astonishing set of numbers from the Rambo series of movies, including this one:
Number of people killed per minute in the Rambo series:
Rambo: First Blood (1982): 0.01
Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985): 0.72
Rambo III (1988): 1.30
Rambo IV (2008): 2.59
The total number of people killed: 1, 69, 132, 236. There is even a breakdown of kills when Rambo is wearing his shirt compared to the number killed with his shirt off.
(HT: Marginal Revolution)
Happy Roe v. Wade day
America, em, celebrates 35 years of (mostly) unencumbered abortion today. More than 40 million are unable to mark the grim anniversary because the United States Supreme Court ruled on this day in 1973 that their lives weren't 'meaningful'.
I don't mean to be that morose and I normally am not. My wife finds it odd that I'm considered the optimistic one at work because of my hopeful attitude about abortion and more sanguine observations about the culture. It should be noted that there is a change in the culture. Abortion numbers are declining. Since the 1980s there has been a significant shift in public opinion on the issue to the pro-life side so the country (United States) is about evenly divided. On every issue aside from an outright ban, the public sides with pro-lifers (both in Canada and the U.S.), whether it be parental involvement laws, banning partial-birth abortion, defunding, or informed consent. Polls show fewer women say they would ever even consider abortion. What is most notable is that much of this shift has occured because of the increasingly pro-life sentiment of young people (under 35). Demographer and Democratic Party sympathizer Phillip Longman worries that his party will become a minority party, perpetually out of power, because people who hold socially liberal views are not reproducing and passing on their values at the same rate socially conservative people are. As one friend of mine said, even if we don't do anything, we're going to win this eventually. That's not quite true but it alludes to a real point: the pro-life movement is winning and we are on the right track. 'Choice' has been demonstrated to be a fraud -- it is actually pro-abortion -- and abortion's greatest fraud is that it is pro-woman despite the potentially psychologically and physically harmful after-effects and the raw deal women get relationship-wise when men can escape the consequences of their actions.
Yes, 1.2 million abortions a year is a tragedy that must eventually end, but we are well on our way to eliminating abortion by making it unthinkable. When slavery was ultimately banned in England, after nearly a half-century of incremental regulations and restrictions, there were fewer than 300 slaves left in the country. It could be banned because it was largely a non-issue. The same can be achieved in Canada and the United States on the abortion front.
For my case on hope within the pro-life movement that appeared in the December issue of The Interim, see "In the pro-life struggle, the glass is half full." For Michael New's dissection of the media's pro-abortion bias when it comes to covering declining abortion numbers, see his article "Quiet Decline: The good news about abortion that hasn’t made news," at NRO.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Pro-life movement: not just a bunch of old fogeys
That's the gist of this Washington Post story on youth attending the March for Life in Washington. What is notable is the lack of firm and brimstone; what there is, however, are baby showers held by campus pro-lifers for abortion-minded women who decide to keep their babies.
My two favourite topics: baseball meets politics
New York Yankee CF Johnny Damon to endorse Rudy Giuliani in Orlando.
Great quote on the GOP primaries
Mark Steyn in The Corner on Rudy Giuliani's strategy:
"Rudy's campaign makes no sense, except, presumably, to his therapist. A 'frontrunner' who writes off IA, NH, MI, NV, SC, but he's the only guy who can beat Hillary? Where? In Guam?"
Good news for Mitt
Two pieces of good news. First, according to Rasmussen, Mitt Romney is leading John McCain 25-20 in Florida with Rudy Giuliani at 19%. Second, I'm supporting Romney for the GOP presidential nomination. I have been supporting Giuliani for the past year, but he is an atrocious campaigner, making Fred Thompson look energetic and passionate, and he has very little chance to become the candidate. Romney was always my second choice because he is the most conservative candidate in the field and he is the candidate (after Giuliani) most likely to shake up Washington and challenge special interests (which was the primary appeal of Giuliani for me); but now Mitt's my first choice.
Canadian health care: not worth the price
The Frontier Center for Public Policy has teamed up with the Stockholm/Brussels-based Health Consumer Powerhouse to compare 29 European and Canadian health care systems. (Press release here and study here.) Not surprisingly for a socialist health care system, it finds Canada ranks very poorly for consumer (that would be patients) sensitivity. Rebecca Walberg, a FCPP senior policy analyst and a researcher on the project, said, "Because our system is oriented towards providers, rather than the system's users, consumers do not receive meaningful guarantees of timely and effective treatment. In successful European health care systems there are strong patient rights laws. Because Canadians lacks such rights, Canadians are treated as passive patients, rather than empowered consumers." That's because he who pays the piper calls the tune.
Also, and most importantly, when it comes to bang for the buck (results on a per cost basis) Canada ranks dead last. As Walberg explains:
"The Euro Canada Health Consumer Index shows that we do a mediocre job of fulfilling our commitment to excellent and accessible healthcare. The Austrians, the French, and the Dutch enjoy better and more accessible healthcare than we do, and at a lower per capita cost. There is no reason why Canada cannot improve and reach a similar level, and the release of the Index marks an important new tool to use to this end."
I have one major complaint and that is that Canada gets penalized for not paying a greater percentage of pharmaceutical drug costs. The last thing we need is a pharmacare program.
Well of course
Vancouver Sun headline: "Conservatives inject politics into a question of nuclear safety." But of course they would: they are politicians and politics is what they do. The idea that members of a government or the opposition would be 'playing politics' always seemed an odd complaint. What do people expect of politicians?
What about the other side of the story
In a review of abortionist Susan Wicklund's This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor and Robert P. George and Christopher Tollefsen's Embryo: A Defense of Human Life, Emily Bazelon writes in the Washington Post:
"[T]o illustrate the hassle of state-imposed restrictions, Wicklund describes a teenager who missed days of school and had to wait a month because of a state parental consent law, and a woman who lost her job because of the multiple visits necessitated by a mandated 24-hour waiting period."
A teen misses school. A woman loses her job. And in both cases, unborn children lose their lives. But their stories are never told; can never be told.
Men and abortion
A letter to the editor of the Boston Globe:
"Antiabortion activists are sending men the message that their stories 'will help legal efforts to end abortion.' But the message these men should share with each other is: 'My story should serve as a warning that if you are about to have sex with a woman with whom you are not in a permanent, exclusive, and nurturing relationship that will be able to support a child with everything he or she will need, you risk the pain of losing a child to abortion - so zip up your little soldiers.' That could help make abortion obsolete and legality a nonissue."
Sadly, I don't think a lot of men care if their unborn children are being killed. In fact, my guess is that as much as abortion is painted as a women's issue, its principal beneficiaries have been irresponsible men who get to have consequence-free sex. To many of them, that's a dream come true.
The letter is a response to an article about pro-lifers changing tactics (or, more properly, adding new tactics) by publicizing the post-abortion psychological trauma experienced by men. (Pro-lifers have already highlighted the physical, emotional and spiritual harm experienced by post-abortive women through organizations like Silent No More Awareness.) I'm not sure that shifting the focus from the harm abortion causes women to the harm abortion causes men and women is a smart strategy. First, groups like Silent No More has a lot of work to do to get its message heard by the larger public and this new message about post-abortive men distracts from that. Second, it feeds into the pro-abortion arguments that pro-life is anti-woman. Of course, that's nonsense, but pro-lifers need to understand how their strategies, even if based on facts and truth, affect the wider public's perception of the movement. Feeding existing negative stereotypes is unwise.
Simply the best thing written about HRCs -- launch human rights complaints against them
David Warren in Sunday's Ottawa Citizen:
"I wonder if I should make a human rights complaint (I write sarcastically). Perhaps I could get a hundred or more journalists to go in with me. The complaint would be lodged with the human rights bureaucracies for Canada, British Columbia, Alberta, and perhaps Ontario -- simultaneously, the way the Canadian Islamic Congress has brought its case against Maclean's magazine for publishing Mark Steyn. Better yet, since the Canadian taxpayer is paying the bills for nuisance suits to these kangaroo courts, perhaps we should bring a hundred or more separate complaints. They would all be against the 'human rights' commissions and tribunals themselves.
Each one of us would explain how we, as members of the class 'journalists,' are being subjected to hatred by the acts of the HRCs. We could go on imaginatively about how we felt personally demeaned and humiliated by what the HRCs were doing to such colleagues of ours as Mark Steyn, Ezra Levant, and Rev. Alphonse de Valk of Catholic Insight. We could write tear-jerkers about how sensitive we are, and just how badly our feelings have been hurt by the sight of human rights tribunals undoing all the advances in press freedom that had been achieved over more than three centuries. For that is the sort of thing that really wrecks your day.
It would be fun to watch the HRCs investigate themselves. Several hundred thousand people -- mostly abroad, alas -- have watched the tapes Ezra Levant posted on his website, of the ludicrous interrogation of him by Shirley McGovern, an officer of the Alberta Human Rights Commission. Why not tapes of Ms. McGovern interrogating herself, and going through her standard checklist, to see what thought crimes she has committed?
In drafting the complaints, we might find a model in the rambling, hand-scrawled, semi-literate effusion of the Calgary imam, Syed Soharwardy, that launched the 'human rights' case against Mr. Levant -- after Calgary police told him that, under Canadian law, Mr. Levant could not be simply arrested and imprisoned for publishing cartoons in his magazine that Imam Soharwardy didn't like.
That's why you go to an HRC: because your case is not good enough to stand up in a legitimate court of law. And because you don't want to invest your own time and money, but would rather the taxpayer provide officers to do the paperwork, and pick up the tab. Instead, you want a slam-dunk way in which you can victimize someone you don't like, by playing the victim yourself, without any financial or legal consequences, except to him. 'Human rights' commissions were designed to provide just this service, for the use of persons who are both litigious, and lazy."
Sunday, January 20, 2008
The second last Sunday before the Super Bowl, Part II
New York Giants at Green Bay Packers
The season started with questions about whether Brett Favre was 'too old' and that the Packers didn't look like a playoff-bound team? Remember in September when there was talk about firing Giants coach Tom Coughlin? The Packers have looked very good and the Giants are peaking, so this could be a great match-up. More likely, however, Favre and the weather demolish the Giants as Manning plays more like his old self than the Peyton Manning-like QB we've seen the past few weeks.
Much has been made of the sub-zero temperature (35 degrees in American) and snowy weather at Lambeau Field, and rightly so. Eli Manning may have avoided his customary lack of awareness on the field of late, but the elements might distract him or hinder his ability to execute. The Giants might be on a nine-game road winning streak but most road games aren't like the games in Green Bay; their two playoff road wins have come in Tampa and Dallas. Manning played poorly in bad weather games against the Washington Redskins and Buffalo Bills earlier this sesaon. And not only does the weather possibly hurt Manning's game, Favre seems to step it up in blizzardy conditions. He is 43-5 when the temperature dips below 34 degrees F.
But it isn't only the weather that Manning will have to contend with. The Packers have seen Manning excel in recent weeks and will have figured out why. They'll load up the box, forcing Manning to his throwing game, which although pretty good the past few weeks, has actually been inconsistent. He has had amazing drives which often seem as much a result of luck and ad libbing as it does a well-executed plan. The result is the same -- playoff wins and an impressive showing against the Patriots in the final week, but the luck can run out any time. Manning has been at his best when settling for short yard passes rather than making bad long throws that seemed to just as often result in a turnover as a big play. Indeed, Manning has historically had a talent for miscues that changed the complexion of the game -- in the opponent's favour. However, the Giants haven't had a turnover in either of their playoff games this year. How long can they keep that up?
The Giants are without TE Jeremy Shockey and WO Plaxico Burress is ailing and although he is available, he is less than 100%; both are key components of the Giants offense. Look for them to utilize rookie receiver Steve Smith which might work out, but might not. The running game depends on the Thunder and Lightning rush of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. Their domination in the second half of the season correlated with the Giants re-emergence as a serious contender. The Giants were the seventh-best running team in the NFL but the Packers had the sixth best defense against the running game. If this aspect of the Giants offense is neutralized, will Manning return to the (foolish) strategy of looking for big plays on long passes? It could happen and it would be a disaster for the Giants. If the running game gets the Giants into the red zone, don't expect them to complete the drive that way; they have had trouble inside the opponents' ten yard line and the Packers rushing defense in their own red zone was ranked third overall.
On the Packers' side, look for RB Ryan Grant to follow up last week's great performance (207 yards on 27 carries -- and, yes, two fumbles in the first minute and nine seconds, but he redeemed himself). There are plenty of people to whom Brett Favre will pass but the man to watch -- and marvel at -- is Favre himself. Perhaps like no other QB in the league today, he carries this team on his shoulders, and he has carried them a long way. There is no reason to believe that the final destination isn't Glendale, Arizona. Favre doesn't get sacked often (19 times this year -- fourth best in the league), but the Packers are facing a Giants defense that had more sacks than anyone else in the league. Osi Umenyiora (13 sacks), Justin Tuck (10) and Michael Strahan (9) are the trio to look out for. If they put the pressure on Favre, the Giants can stay in the game. In a more lop-sided battle, the Packers have the third best second-and-short offense in the league and they are facing the 27th-ranked defense in such situations. Green Bay makes good use of their tight ends and running backs and the Giants don't defend against these positions very well. This could be the difference in the game -- Green Bay has so many weaknesses and mismatches to exploit that they'll find a way to beat the Giants.
While the Favre-led Packers' offense gets all the credit, the defensive CB duo of Charles Woodson and Al Harris are truly elite and LBs Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk are solid. The Packers can shut down so many parts of the Giants game that unless the weather keeps the combined score under 20, the visitors are in serious trouble. The Giants need everything to go right for them to win and they don't have a lot of options if the Packers effectively shut down their short-passing game; they'll need an early lead before the temperature gets colder and, possibly, the snow and wind worsens. (The Giants had a near perfect game against the Cowboys with no interceptions, no fumbles and just three penalties, and still only won 21-17.) If the weather was better, I'd bet on the Packers slaughtering the Giants with Favre going for a lot of long passes and running up the score (40 or more). But with the snow and cold, expect more of the running game. The Packers win, covering the 7.5 spread. And they always have the Packers' Prayer.
The second last Sunday before the Super Bowl
San Diego Chargers at New England Patriots
The short prediction is that the Pats win. If the Chargers do beat them, it will be New England's first loss in almost exactly one year (the Indianapolis Colts beat them January 21st, 2007 to advance to the Super Bowl). Not only are the Patriots undefeated, they may even better than there numbers indicate. They can beat opponents in so many ways that as one colour commentator said last weekend, 'who you gonna stop?'. Or as Sports Illustrated's Don Banks noted this week, they "just always pick up on something it can use to flip the script." The Chargers would be the underdog in the best of circumstances but they could be without QB Philip Rivers, RB LaDainian Tomlinson and TE Antonio Gates who all have major injuries. Even if they play, they are pretty banged up, as is the rest of the team considering the Bolts are coming off an extremely physical game last week; NT Jamal Williams has missed practice all week. To add insulting sickness to injury, OLB Shawne Merriman, the team's sack leader, has been off with a flu.
To win, the Chargers have to score a lot of points. San Diego is on an eight game road winning streak, during which they are averaging 28.5 points per game. That won't be enough to beat the Pats. New England is 7-0 this year against teams that made the playoffs and have averaged 37.8 points per game against them (whereas they averaged 36.8 overall, suggesting they step up their game against big opponents).
Gates will probably play but at less than optimum effectiveness. The result is that he is a decoy, but as Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz notes, "a powerful decoy." That said, he will be better at the beginning of the game than later so if the Bolts are going to win, they'll have to have their lead early. This is possible; as Football Outsiders notes, the Chargers have won their last few games going deep and the Patriots are an average defense against long passes. Furthermore, if the Chargers can change their game plan and throw down the middle, they can exploit the Patriots' worse-than-average defense down the middle. But all this might be difficult with backup QB Billy Volek. Sure, Volek may be one of the better backup quarterbacks, and he represents one of the smallest drop-offs from the starting QB in the NFL, but he is still the backup quarterback, his late-game heroics last week notwithstanding. That said, it is a little harder to prepare for the backup QB because it is difficult for the defensive coordinator to anticipate the opposition's strategy. (Interesting fact: when Volek played for the Tennessee Titans in 2004, he became only the second QB to throw for more than 900 yards in a two-game span -- the other being Phil Simms. He is capable of big games.)
In the absence of Tomlinson -- either actual because he's not playing or virtual because he's not playing up to his capabilities -- look for Michael Turner and Darren Sproles to step it up a notch. They were great against the Colts last week. Antonio Gates' injury hurts the team, but less so when receiver Vincent Jackson played like he did against the Colts, when we finally saw what his size and talent can do. If Jackson can't repeat that performance, Chris Chambers must step it up.
If the Chargers can't outscore the Patriots, the Chargers will have to step up their defensive play. If they can challenge Tom Brady in a way that he hasn't been challenged most of the season, and get into his space quickly so he doesn't have all the time in the world to leisurely scan the field before throwing, they might be able to throw him off his game. If anyone can do it, the interception machine of CB Antonio Cromartie (11) and safeties Clinton Hart and Marlon McCree (eight between them) can. That it is still a big if.
Last week the Jacksonville Jaguars defense was all over WR Randy Moss, but with all the options Brady and the Pats have, it didn't really matter. If it isn't Moss, it's receivers Wes Walker or Jabar Gaffney or RB Kevin Faulk or (last week) Donte Stallworth. The Patriots find a way to get it to whoever is best situated to receive the football and score. What's interesting about this is that while the Chargers are pretty good defensively against No. 1 and No. 2 receivers, they are lousy against all other receivers. The Patriots have the most weapons to go to and the Chargers are not prepared to meet that challenge. And if the Patriots aren't passing the ball, watch Laurence Maroney run with it.
There are some interesting match ups. The Patriots had the best play action offense in the league (11.1 yards) but the Chargers the best play action defense (4.1 yards). Should be great to watch. Furthermore, the Pats and Bolts were the two best offensive teams in the red zone (the opponents 20 yard line to goal), but the Chargers had the best defense within their own 20 yards (and their own 40-21 yard line). The Chargers were the best at takeaways, with 48 (30 off passes, 18 more on fumbles). The Patriots established a team record with the fewest turnovers in the league (15) and only six of them came of the fumble (four by Tom Brady).
The Chargers beat the Colts last week with the same injuries they are dealing with this week and what are the odds of winning twice with hobbling stars while playing the best teams in the league? The Chargers were a bit lucky last week and today their luck runs out. The Patriots are simply a great team. They are the least penalized team in the NFL this year, a sign of their discipline. (You might except safety Rodney Harrison who has been drawing dumb penalties in recent weeks.) The Patriots have so many players that can beat you and Brady finds a way to get it into the right guy's hands at the right moment. And if the Chargers need Tomlinson to "be a difference maker" to score the upset, as SI.com said this week, the Bolts are in trouble; it is foolish to pin Super Bowl appearance hopes on a player with a gimpy knee. It won't be possible to "put the entire San Diego offense on his back and carry it for as long as necessary" with a hyper-extended knee. The Patriots win, they become the first 18-0 team on their way to becoming the NFL's first 19-0 team at the Super Bowl and they beat the 14-point spread in doing so. And while it might seem pointless to watch a game that the favoured team will win easily, it will be a joy to watch as they put on a football clinic for all to enjoy.
A shorter NFC analysis/prediction will be posted during the Pats-Chargers game.