Archive for AYFSM

Oklahoma City is not that far from Hérouxville, or Toronto for that Matter

Some time ago, I found myself in a discussion over ‘creeping Shariah law’ in Canada that ended up with some heat in it.  I felt a little guilty about this, for one, because the less-than-able Tucker Carlson to my much-more-liberal Paul Begala was the kid who worked parttime in the library for whom English was his second language to his native French, and that discussion, actually in the library, made the eyes of the library clerk go wide.

I really don’t remember how I ended up in such a conversation – so obviously hotbutton and likely to end in acrimony if not tears – but I can’t exclude the possibility I goaded buddy into it.

What I do remember is that the kid conveyed that the issue had been the topic of discussion in one of his Law and Justice classes and, as I recall, he indicated that more students’ knickers were in a twist than not.

I barked, in the end, to the effect, that the fear of the creep of Shariah was not only misplaced but profoundly stoopid: one more form of mediation to join a whole bunch of others, religious or otherwise, which do not have the power to override existing provincial or federal law, is nobuddy’s concern but that of the victims of a domestic apocalypse.  Where it does intersect with the public interest, it seemed mostly positive to me, shifting more of the grunt work of divorce and custody, for instance, out of Family court, again, without being binding.

Still, pros and amateurs across the country have been losing their shit over this and the like for years.  Premier Dalton McGuinty, lukewarm Roman Catholic, has had the good fortune to be able to swing at softballs, like the plank of John Tory’s 2007 campaign to extend funding to all religious schools (so obviously pandering that I reckoned it made Tory unfit for office and which McGuinty could so easily reject while throwing up his hands on the division of public and seperate education, the Constitution and all that), but more importantly here, like the movement to introduce Islamic arbitration in family law in Ontario to which DM responded with a move to ban all religious-law-based arbitrations which had been permitted under the law – on a voluntary basis – since 1991.  (Did he follow through? I can’t seem to find out.)

No matter … regarding any of the above.

What makes me want to throw heat at hitters of any level in a contest over such things is the obvious focus on Islam that’s entailed.  McGuinty didn’t give a rat’s patootie about extra-judicial arbitration til the Muslims wanted in, nor did my library interlocutor argue in favour of an entirely secular law in general.  The former, well, he’d sell out his kids to be on the right side of any issue; the latter, I’m willing to say, is a garden-variety Islamophobe.

Anyway, an implicit or explicit appeal to secular liberal democratic values here would be laughable if not for the fact of its Islam-baiting/anti-Islam subtext which remains alive and well, and the substance of so much public discourse.

I don’t need to do the litany here, do I?  In any case, don’t worry, I’ll come back to all of it in time.  But for the present, I’m shaking my head by this American manifestation of the phenomenon, Oklahoma’s Measure 755 on which voters will have their say on Tuesday:

 The ballot title that voters will see on their ballot reads:

 This measure amends the State Constitution. It changes a section that deals with the courts of this state. It would amend Article 7, Section 1. It makes courts rely on federal and state law when deciding cases. It forbids courts from considering or using international law. It forbids courts from considering or using Sharia Law.
International law is also known as the law of nations. It deals with the conduct of international organizations and independent nations, such as countries, states and tribes. It deals with their relationship with each other. It also deals with some of their relationships with persons.

The law of nations is formed by the general assent of civilized nations. Sources of international law also include international agreements, as well as treaties.

Sharia Law is Islamic law. It is based on two principal sources, the Koran and the teaching of Mohammed.

Shall the proposal be approved?

For the proposal

Yes: __________

Against the proposal

No: __________

Jeebus, why not throw in that the 9/11 hijackers were Muslims?

Not a Potted Plant, a lawyer, takes apart this measure with respect to its Constitutionality and existing law in Oklahoma to conclude:

But none of that is important. The facts don’t matter and they are, indeed, inconvenient. The point is to make people scared of the toothless shibboleth that is Sharia law and thus drive them to the polls to vote for meaningless-at-best and Constitution-subverting-at-worst wedge issues like Measure 755. Don’t fall for it — keep it in perspective, folks.

 NPP follows up a few days later, looking into the scant evidence of the application of Shariah in arbitrations across the US, and while it’s a bit of a mixed bag so far as the results go (the negatives stemming from American judical error), NPP’s conclusion is:

yes, there are some significant differences between Sharia and U.S. law. But again, there is little here that seems so awful it can’t be tolerated in a private arbitration agreement. And as a practical matter, the only way a U.S. court is going to deal with Sharia is by way of looking for substantial due process violations when it is asked to compel arbitration or confirm an arbitration award, or when it is asked to confirm and enforce a previous award of a foreign court pursuant to a treaty obligation or the Full Faith and Credit clause.

Regardless, let’s stamp out any hint of Shariah, Oklahoma and Ontario, cuz the next thing you know the Muslims will be flocking to small town Quebec, constitutionally guaranteed Shariah in hand, to stone adulteresses and ban Christmas and drinking.

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Just Cut the Compensation Cheque Now, Part III / The New Atheism, Part 2

Say what you want about Omar Khadr (and the small matter of his rights and prerogatives internationally and as a Canadian citizen) – and plenty in Canada do* – but if you don’t find something just a tad Kafkaesque and seriously alarming about his trial and his treatment, well, I don’t think you and I could even agree in a discussion of the weather.

The obscenity of the show trial was reinforced by the testimony of the Prosecution expert Dr. Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist who basically said that Khadr is a feral jihadi whose reintegration into life among the civilized and law-abiding is improbable.

However, as the G&M reports:

Under cross-examination by defence lawyers, Dr. Michael Welner said he talked to Nicolai Sennels before coming to the conclusion that the Canadian-born Khadr was “highly dangerous.”

And what’s the bedrock of Dr. Sennels knowledge of Islamic radicals?

Massive inbreeding within the Muslim culture during the last 1,400 years may have done catastrophic damage to their gene pool. The consequences of intermarriage between first cousins often have serious impact on the offspring’s intelligence, sanity, health and on their surroundings.

Sure, the studies cited by Sennels about the fruit of consanguineous unions make one go hmmmm.  Still, cautious sort that I am, I’d like to see a 2nd body of opinion: what do the phrenologists have to say?

If Edward Said had lived into the era of Twitter, he might have said, OFFS theyre radical cuz theyre INBRED? AYFSM!!! deja vu all over again!!!!

In 2010, not only do the endless, um … insights … into the Muslim mind by self-proclaimed experts go unchallenged, but the perennial dig, that the mooslims are a bunch of depraved behnchods, undergirds testimony allowed in what passes for a legal proceeding.

We’ve seen this movie before.  Jews and Gypsies, you know what I’m talking about.

Oh, there’s lots of dark corners into which I could peer to highlight what kind of pathological pseudoscience we’re dealing with here.  But where this – and the essentialism of the New Atheists – takes me is back to a bit of research I abandoned a few years ago,** the meat of which indicts not only the actions of British colonial authorities, but the whole of the intelligensia and activism that served it.

Long-short.  After the British fundamentally altered land tenure in India in the late 18th century, boodles of people were displaced, tons of peasants but also all the formal and informal militia types who’d worked for landlords across North India.  In the next couple of generations crime became rampant, especially highway robbery.  One William Sleeman (who was also a great believer in phrenology) gathered evidence on crime in the territories he oversaw and drew the erroneous conclusion that a criminal cult which sacrificed its victims to the goddess Kali was largely responsible.  Convincing the colonial administration, and the British and Anglo-Indian public, of the grave threat posed by this cult – in no small measure thanks to a media campaign he’d propagated – he was given the authority and resources to hunt down these devotees of thuggee.  Small problem.  There’s not a shred of reliable evidence that such a cult ever existed, as Radhika Singha et al. have firmly established.***

No, I’m not heading towards the thesis, Islamic terrorism does not exist.  Here I’m interested in the precedents in jurisprudence established for the thugee hunt, and the legistlation inacted by the British for its prosecution, which morphed into sweeping powers to confine swathes of Indians identified as belonging to criminal tribes and castes, groups congenitally uncivilized and prone to petty and heinous criminality.  To be convicted of thuggee all that was required was the testimony of an accomplice, driven to rat out someone else by a plea deal that granted him life in prison over the probability of a hanging.  To be sure, this was (probably) insufficient to get you convicted of anything, never mind hanged, at the Old Bailey in the 19th century and, curiously enough, it’s inadmissible in any proceeding under Islamic law, which the British had otherwise bent over backwards to accomodate in the colonies.  Subsequent law, as I’ve indicated, allowed for the rounding up of whole families, detaining them in isolated camps indefinitely, simply because they were born into groups imagined to be genetically predisposed to lives of crime.

Religion doesn’t poison everything, but for the sake of argument I’ll grant that it may posion some things.  But sometimes when experts, amateurs, and a bunch of partisans diagnose religion as the social pathogen behind an array of symptoms, they become far too ready to prescribe a cure at least as harmful as the disease.

So, I’ll play my hand and assert here my biggest claim, though I’m well aware that I’m still a long way from presenting a compelling case.  I assert that the New Atheism, in addition to the myriad of other problems with it, stands in the service of the Neo-conservative agenda which has run rampant since 9/11.****  Far from doing in all religion, it merely casts chaff upon the wind for teabaggers et al. to catch and try to make hay with, while the wheat nourishes only the converted (eeww, that metaphor was a little rich).

But to get back on point, I don’t give a rat’s ass what Omar Khadr’s present state of mind is or what hijinx he and his family might get up to in future, specially once he returns to the bosom of that family.  The law, Canadian, American, and International, has been used and abused to manage a constructed class of accused.  Racial, ethnic, and religious bias have led Canadians to abandon any fundamental sense of justice they might have had.  And Canadians will pay for it.

On the CBC as I write: “Ivan Henry has been acquitted of all 10 sex-related charges that sent him to prison for 26 years,” with the evocation of Donald Marshall, David Milgaard, and William Mullins-Johnson.   I sometimes forget that Canada has a grand tradition of railroading the marginalized.

*Ezra Levant was all over print, blog and teevee (here’s Levant on Connect with Mark Kelley, jump to 11:05) this week to decry Khadr’s likely return to Canada.  EL’s column and the comments on it have really increased my dread.  As I wrote to a very famous blogger after I watched Connect:

Sure I’m happy to be considered a bleeding heart ala Rebick and all those others at the public broadcaster.  Nonetheless, Canadian authorities were complicit in Khadr’s illegal interrogation and torture, he has a right to repatriation, he was a child soldier, etc., etc.  And he’ll sue and he’ll win.  This is how the rule of law is manifest in Canada and elsewhere (most of the time).

What alarms me the most is the stuff of the comment threads – it seems that a swath of my countrymen and women are content to see the rights of another citizen shredded, proper consular services denied, return to Canada blocked, and innumerable other international agreements of which Canada is a signatory ignored in such a case (one so wrapped up in long list of American war crimes).

**For want of the conviction that the evidence bore out the thesis.

***And that thesis was that no less than Mark Twain, in Following the Equator, saw thuggee and the construction of other 19th century Indian criminality for what it was.  Dare I revisit this for the 3rd time?  Still, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Deceivers are entertaining camp, no?  Sadly, I know too much to enjoy them fully; Twain, I’d argue, shared a similar hint of gloom.

****In my defense at present, grant me this polemical flourish: remember C. Hitchens early position on the invasion of Iraq?  (I’ll be back soon with some weightier consideration of some of the New Atheists’ 19th century heroes including JS Mill, who died with plenty of Indian blood on his hands.)

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Please Make Me a Drink of Grain Alcohol and Rainwater

I really can’t believe there are still people in the world, specially in Canada,* who are worried bout floorudayshun and their precious bodily fluids:

“Should the Region of Waterloo fluoridate your municipal water? Yes or No”

The Results?  “The anti-fluoride side won with 50.3 per cent,** beating the pro-fluoride side by fewer than 200 votes out of more than 30,000 cast.”

*Full disclosure: some of my best friends are paranoids.
**Idea for photography project commencing in about 10 years: The Big Book of Waterlooean Smiles.

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Because I Haven’t Passed on Anything Creepy in Awhile

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I’m Reminded of Hamilton on Days Like These

So, plus six months into the strike by USW 6500, Vale Inco has restarted the smelter.

This undoubtedly has put a bad taste in the mouths of thousands of people in town, figuratively speaking.

Today, making it all the worse, the smelter has quite literally put a bad taste in my mouth and undoubtedly the mouths of thousands and thousands of others in the Greater City of Sudbury.

In related news, striker thumps scab.  I bet Steve Ball isn’t walking around Sudbury all alone.

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I’m Cryin’ 96 Tears

Sometimes my new CBC Radio One habit serves, not to elevate my media taste but to push it back down to the netherworld wherein dwell the likes of peopleofwalmartawkwardfamilyphotos and craftastrophe.

So it was this lunchtime that I was, as other listeners would know, listening to The Vinyl Cafe and the repeat of a Dave and Morley story:

It was 1972. She was working in summer stock, in a ­theatre in Providence, Rhode Island—eight plays, two months. She was a seamstress.

There was a 3,000-seat arena not far from the theatre. There was a free skate from eight to ten every Monday night. It was the only night that the theatre was dark. She kept meaning to go skating. She finally did—at the end of August. It was the night she met Dave.

Dave was in town with a Dick Clark Caravan of Stars pro­duction—eight acts in two hours, including “?” and the Mysterians, The Archies, and Bobby Goldsboro. It was a hateful tour. The musicians hated the music they were playing and they loathed the venues they were playing in. A sourness descended on the whole enterprise before the end of the first week. Dave, who began the tour as the technical director, soon realized he was presiding over the rock-and-roll equivalent of a Ford Pinto. He could count on something going wrong every day. He kept waiting for the explosion. The only salvation was the most hated moment of all—the last number of every show—when Bobby Goldsboro sang “Honey.”

About two weeks into the tour one of the Mysterians bought a battery-operated megaphone, and every night a group of musicians would huddle off-stage, trying to distract Bobby Goldsboro by singing alternate lyrics during his song. They would sing just loud enough so he could hear them and the audience couldn’t. In Saratoga Springs they rigged up a microphone behind stage. The plan was to feed their version of “Honey” through Goldsboro’s monitor. Somehow the feed got rerouted—it was never clear how—and their lyrics, which involved Honey doing unspeakable things with a shaved, greased goat, got routed through the arena pa.

To the audience it appeared as if this unbelievable rewrite was actually coming out of Goldsboro’s mouth. Goldsboro, who was dimly aware that something was horribly wrong, gamely finished the song. While the crowd watched in disbelief. When the tune came to an end, there was a moment of pure silence. Then, Goldsboro looked around in confusion as the audience rose as one and gave him the only standing ­ovation he got on the tour. After the show he kicked up such a fuss that the Mysterians had to stop their evening antics. Instead, every night, when it was time for “Honey,” they would slip into the audience, where Goldsboro could see them, and put on oversized construction ear protectors, waving, smiling and making rude gestures at him while he sang.

Things got so bad that Dave left the tour and began to advance the show. This meant arriving in each town a few days ahead of everyone else to prepare the arena and then, thankfully, to leave before anyone else got there. He spent that entire summer arguing with arena managers about concession rights and electrical boards. And that is how he came to meet Morley in those last days of the summer of 1972.

Alas, my attention wandered away from the story at this point as I began to wonder, whatever happened to Bobby Goldsboro?

Of course the answer was readily at hand.  Google led me to Wikipedia  and Bobby Goldsboro’s Official Website (tomorrow, wish him a happy 69th birthday –

It seems that Bobby no longer performs actively, but he’s keeping busy in this semi-retirement.  He makes children’s teevee shows.  And,

Recently, the energetic dynamo decided to pursue another lifelong passion; oil painting! He has quickly gained a reputation as a world-class artist. Having never studied painting, the self-taught artist is now being featured in one-man art shows at galleries around the country. His paintings are being purchased by fans and art lovers alike and Bobby and his wife, Dianne regularly donate paintings and giclee prints to charities for fund-raisers.

If you work in the arts, this is mondo NSFW.

But if you dare,

descend with me,






Really Bobby, your website has to protect this image from unauthorized copying?

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Sunday News Shows …

… don’t often make me do a spit-take.

via Rumproast.

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