Summer reading open thread

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By popular demand, this open thread. “Popular” can, of course, mean just about anything these days, eh, Craig?

So, what have people read? What are they planning to read? What should we read?

Floor is yours. I’m reading a sci-fi novel at the moment, Iain M. Banks’ Excession. Not far enough into it to decide if I like it yet.

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Civil war on the Right

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civil war brexit.jpg

Brexit is one of those historical phenomena that is a mosaic of sub-phenomena; or, if you prefer, a forest with a number of diverting trees. Step back.

We’re watching a civil war within ruling classes unfold before our eyes. Look at the leaders, and then consider the largely hapless voters asked to choose between two unpalatable alternatives.

Some very broad strokes:

On the Remain side: Neo-liberal sharpsters, with-it wealthy businessmen, camp-follower economists, international capital, corporate globalizers, austerity-mongers.

On the Leave side: Protectionists, isolationists, assorted in-bred toffs and chinless wonders, nostalgic Empire buffs, opportunistic nativists, racists.

Among the Leave voters: Racists and xenophobes. Confused folks who thought their votes wouldn’t count. Fools. Charlatans. Knaves. Progressive leftists who have observed the utter immiseration and social devastation among vast swathes of the population that the EU and successive, increasingly savage, UK governments have wrought. Who have seen the wealthy double their take during the same period.

Among the Remain voters: Neo-liberals. Working folks who prefer the devil they know. Young folks who wanted to have a shot at a career, or even employment, in other EU countries. Realists aware of the insanely colossal task that withdrawal will be. Progressive leftists of the sort who prefer Clinton to Trump.

Ah. Clinton and Trump. No, I’m not trolling. There again is a palace civil war. Rich and crazy isolationist nativists on the one side; rich and smart, forward-looking corporate globalizers on the other. Each with a hand in the worker’s pocket. “Our” elites vs. “their” elites. Think of it as like another World War I, that family quarrel among inter-bred royalty, conducted by other means.

Each elite appeals to a different set of popular prejudices. Opportunist populism versus a more consistently ideological approach. Guns and religion and xenophobia on the one hand; the American dream and free trade and opportunity (if not equality) for all on the other. Hate versus more congenial pipe-fantasies.

Choose your poison. Or just push the chalices away.

Of course, no true progressive can leave it thus. We need a strategy.

(continued p.94)

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Junuary in Ottawa

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Our Simcoe Street party yesterday. We have one every year to celebrate the coming of summer. Meanwhile, in Nuuk

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US election.jpg

“The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them.” ~K.M.

I hear folks are calling for unity now. I propose a Clinton-Trump ticket in that spirit of post-primary comity. Why settle for the lesser evil when you can have it all?

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Free speech chronicles

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My buddy Canadian Cynic is being sued for something he said. By Ezra Levant, the king of the Speech Warrior™ crowd, the folks who believe it’s OK to say pretty much anything—if they’re the ones doing the saying.

There are times that Hypocrisy stands on a mountaintop in a howling wind, his cape flapping, his voice thundering across the reaches of space and time, his mighty thews and sinews striking terror and madness in those who merely hold a double standard or two, or fail on occasion to practise what they preach.

“Pussies,” he sneers, as levin flashes overhead, and the ground trembles from sea to sea, and the seas toss their ships, aglow with St. Elmo’s fire, like toothpicks in a tornado. “Look to Ezra Levant, and tremble. You are not worthy even to speak his name.”

We need to give our pal CC a hand by supporting him in his legal travails. The discovery phase alone should be a pure joy, the trial a popcorn event. Ezra doesn’t have much of a track record when it comes to libel cases. He’s more than likely to be properly flensed when the matter reaches court, if he’s foolish enough to let things go that far. But (as I myself know well), justice comes at a cost—if it comes at all.

Some may find CC a trifle rich for their blood. But there’s a principle at stake here, or so I’ve been told by the intrepid defenders of free speech. And there’s another, more fleshly principle as well, one that may be more immediately appealing to many. Ezra is a putz, and such creatures can not, must not prevail under any circumstances. His goose must be cooked. His dog must die.

And so let us all find it in our hearts, or at least our wallets, to do what needs to be done. Our roguish, merry son who prowls the halls of Twitter, a mischievous imp with a peashooter, must be free to continue on his way unmolested.

Click. Give.

[Declaration of interest: I was once threatened with a lawsuit by that self-same king of free speech. Assorted Speech Warriors™, contrary to all expectations, failed to rally to my cause. If you’re reading this (and you know who you are), don’t make the same mistake twice.]

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Bring Kevin home

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Kevin Vickers’ attack on a non-violent protester in Dublin didn’t remind me in the least of his heroic roll-and-shoot in the House of Commons. The man protesting the commemoration of British soldiers who died in Dublin during the Easter Rising in 1916 was no Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. He was more like my friend Bill Clennett, also non-violent, who was viciously assaulted by the then-Prime Minister of Canada, Jean Chrétien, for raising his voice in a public park. In both cases, the cultural capital possessed by the attackers was sufficient, not only to confer impunity, but to mark their victims as somehow deserving of this abuse. Chrétien was no hero that day, but a common thug; and Vickers wasn’t much better, although at least he didn’t try to throttle his victim.

Nora Loreto and Michael Stewart have said most of what needs to be said about this disgraceful incident. But I find myself wondering what on earth the Irish government thinks it was doing in the first place. Honouring occupation troops who gunned down civilians on the streets of Dublin a century ago was an odd, even surreal exercise, rather like the Algerians inviting France to Algiers to participate in joint mourning for the French Foreign Legionnaires who fell during the War of Independence. Or, to be somewhat more emotive, the French and German armed forces organizing a commemoration of the Third Reich soldiers who were killed by the French Resistance—in the name, of course, of rapprochement.

What’s next—a monument to the Black and Tans?

But set the political issues aside. Some people like it when leaders step out of their roles and act “human”—even if that means behaving like lumpen street bullies. That’s part of the Trump appeal—the anti-politician who “says what everyone thinks,” and actively promotes violence against dissenters at his rallies. That same low impulse is in full swing when a PM beats up a person exercising his rights to free expression, and ditto a Canadian Ambassador, emerging from a cloud of diplomatic protocol to do the same. The victims are annoying to many. Disruptive. No sense of occasion. So they got what they deserved. The vicarious thrill that the vulgar enjoy when a brave few challenge approved narratives and get manhandled for it is, at bottom, a profoundly anti-democratic, even fascist, impulse.

Vickers crossed too many lines with his impulsive, macho performance in Dublin. He should be recalled—whatever the Irish government says or doesn’t. Those who rightly deplore Justin Trudeau’s recent antics in the House (although these pale in comparison) should try to be consistent in the application of their principles. As Canadians, we need to draw the line at gratuitous physical violence, not have our elites model it and hence help, surreptitiously, to make brutishness respectable.

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Queen's Park.jpg

In honour of a friend who seeks to foster dialogue on Israel and Palestine by “raising the issue and lowering the temperature,” let’s have a look at a pernicious Bill now steamrolling through the Ontario legislature, but concentrate on some first democratic principles here at home rather than rehashing the situation in the Middle East.

The Bill seeks to suppress the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in Ontario. BDS is a completely non-violent movement seeking to put political and economic pressure on the state of Israel to respect the human rights of Palestinians. Now, you might not like that; you might not approve of the premises of BDS; but, if you respect democracy, you have to accept that expressing opinions in a non-violent manner, short of criminal hate speech, is part of the democratic process. (I challenge anyone to find anything at the BDS link that even remotely approaches hate speech.)

The Preamble to the Bill is grossly misleading. BDS isn’t, as claimed, promoting anti-Semitism. It’s a reaction to the current policies of a nation-state. Criticizing a nation-state is not in itself racist or otherwise intolerant. We aren’t sinophobes because we disapprove of China’s human rights record. We didn’t call for the destruction of the South African state when we boycotted the apartheid regime there. Disliking President Bush, père or fils, doesn’t make anyone anti-American.

In fact, other than Israel, nation-states are likely all subject at one time or another to robust criticism without accusations of racism flying about. Our reasons for disliking Kim Jong-Un are not based, I hope, on a general antipathy towards Koreans. Ditto our concerns about Turkey sliding into theocratic dictatorship. Or our views of the vile Saudi regime.

One could go on. Only the state of Israel gets to undermine its critics at one fell swoop by calling them “anti-Semitic.” And in this they are disingenuously joined by a chorus of right-wing voices who see in Israel a bulwark against Islamism, and who will use this rhetorical low blow to defend every move that the country makes.

Back to Bill 202. “The BDS movement violates the principle of academic freedom,” trumpets a Bill that then goes on to state: “No college or university shall support or participate in the BDS movement.”

BDS is termed “anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli.” Both of these claims are ugly lies. People are not the target of BDS: the policies of a nation-state, including occupation and annexation, are.

(Again, you might not like that. But we are talking about democracy here. How can one defend, in the name of democracy, the silencing of human rights activists, even if you happen to believe they are wrong-headed?)

Further, even if you disapprove of BDS, you might agree that lying about it isn’t appropriate in a piece of legislation. BDS doesn’t promote a boycott of “Jewish Canadian” businesses, corporations and cultural institutions. It never has, and it never will. “Jews” and “Israel” are not synonymous. One is a people; the other is a nation-state. That’s no fine distinction: it’s a major categorical one.

So here’s what the former head of Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives, Tim Hudak, wants to accomplish in his Bill:

Anyone who “supports or participates in” the BDS movement cannot contract with any Ontario public body. That includes “any ministry, agency, board, commission, official or other body of the Government of Ontario…any municipality in Ontario, or…a local board, as defined in the Municipal Affairs Act, and any authority, board, commission, corporation, office or organization of persons some or all of whose members, directors or officers are appointed or chosen by or under the authority of the council of a municipality in Ontario.”

So much for working at an Ontario university or college if you have personally expressed support for BDS. Good luck if a union supports BDS—under this legislation, its collective agreements with a municipality, hospital, school board or the province of Ontario would be torn up. Pension funds would also be cleansed of political impurities.

The point is not that the Charter of Rights would eventually land on all this like a sledgehammer. It’s that our Ontario legislators seem to be giving the Bill serious consideration. It doesn’t matter, in the final analysis, what your views of Israel, Palestine or the Middle East in general happen to be. What is slowly going on before our eyes in Queen’s Park exposes the shallow roots of our democracy: the relative ease by which legislators prove willing to silence ordinary Canadians without a second thought.

In 1998, the Ontario Supreme Court made an important ruling in the case of Daishowa Inc. v. Friends of the Lubicon. The latter were supporting a small band of Cree whose ancestral lands were being logged without permission by a major corporation. They had initiated a consumer boycott of Daishowa, and the company was seeking a permanent injunction to prevent them from doing so. The court did not impose the injunction, and stated:

The expression engaged in by the Friends relates directly to a very important public issue which deserves respect, protection and a forum. If the Canadian Constitution protects a corporation’s expression where the context is largely economic, then the common law should not erect barriers to expression by consumers where the purpose and effect of the expression is to persuade the listener to use his or her economic power to challenge a corporation’s position on an important economic and public policy issue.

Why should a nation-state be any different in this respect than a corporation? In either case, the law should not erect barriers to expression. But that’s precisely what Ontario lawmakers are attempting to do now. Is that acceptable in 2016? Let your MPP know what you think.

UPDATE: And…the Bill is defeated on second reading by a vote of 39-18.

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To countless well-wishers

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Faro in the window.jpgThank you. Thank you all so much. Also on behalf of my friend Penni—and my stepson, Danny, whose road to healing will be the rockiest.

I cannot express how cheering your good wishes have been over this difficult period. Just over two weeks. Feels like months.

Moved beyond measure. All of our differences erased. Just a reaching-out, sympathy and friendship.

No more words.

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ezra.jpgSept, 1 2016 - Comedian and oil company lobbyist Ezra Levant today unveiled his latest media coup at a downtown intersection in Chapleau, Ontario. While the sudden shift from failed-online-video-and-podcast-recycling-group-blog to a Magic Marker and Bristol Board format took some Rebel subscribers by surprise, Levant insists that this new incarnation marks a huge technological and journalistic leap forward.

“It’s low cost, incredibly efficient, and environmentally friendly,” explained Levant. “And you’ll notice that we manage to convey exactly the same quantity of news at exactly the same level of detail, analysis and accuracy my followers have come to expect. See how I used the different colours of marker, and how nice and straight the lines of text are? People appreciate that.”

Levant dismissed critics who attribute his new format to failure of his last venture to attract advertising, and to the departure of several key contributors. “I think it’s great that Brian finally found himself a real job,” said Levant. “And I couldn’t be happier that that faggot Antichrist Coren found a publisher for his socialist, Muslim-loving anti-Israel feminazi blasphemy. No, I didn’t read it. I don’t read books named after guitars. And it didn’t have any pictures, did it?”

Although many Rebel supporters with paid subscriptions were at first nonplussed, the majority rallied quickly behind Levant’s new venture. “I think it’s great that Ezra’s breaking down the last barriers between audience and, uh, whatever it is he is”, said Bryna Gene, in the last comments of the Rebel site. “He’s the last free thinker left in Canada who really encourages his readers to think for themselves.” “I agree”, added Ryan Djeaan in a response. “He’s the last free thinker left in Canada who really encourages his readers to think for themselves.”

Meanwhile progressive bloggers across Canada reacted with shock and horror to the news. “I guess I could buy a few cartons of yellow stickies and plaster the lampposts in Chapleau with disparaging comments”, said a visibly shaken Facebooker who referred to himself only as TR. “But what’s the point? What’s the point of anything anymore?”

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On The Mend

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Dropped by the Dawg House yesterday, and am pleased to report that the Good Doctor is doing very well. Healing nicely, mobile, in good spirits, and catching up on his Netflix while his recovery continues. He was deeply moved by all the kind thoughts, words, prayers and good wishes, and asked me to convey his gratitude to you all.

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