Black Shards Press – Electronic Gumbo is Our Specialty

Conventions Shakes Nuts Loose

26.08.2008 (6:23 am) – Filed under: Free Speech,Politics ::

Judging from these two stories, the loony-toon tree is being shaken pretty hard out in Denver and the nuts are falling to Earth.

First, Alex Jones of InfoWars was caught on video stalking and harassing Michelle Malkin outside the Denver Mint.  Evidently that’s Alex’s idea of being clever and accomplishing something for his cause.  Wrong.  What a pompous fool.  Agree with Michelle or not, she deserves some respect for trying to do what she thinks is right and the freedom to do her job in peace.

Second, 4 presumed white supremacists were arrested on drug and weapons charges in what one of the men admitted was a plot to kill Barack Obama at the convention.

Sources told CBS4 police found two high-powered, scoped rifles in the car along with camouflage clothing, walkie-talkies, wigs, a bulletproof vest, a spotting scope, licenses in the names of other people and 44 grams of methamphetamine.

Nathan Johnson, 32, was also arrested. He told authorities that the two men “planned to kill Barack Obama at his acceptance speech.”

Sounds like the plot, and the Nazi wannabes, might have been half-baked.  Even so, Americans shouldn’t take Barack Obama’s safety for granted.  Pray for him, even if you’re a die-hard Republican.

Like Malkin, Obama has the right to do and say exactly what he wants without fear of bodily injury, without having to endure streams of verbal abuse.  The fact that I disagree with everything he stands for – and I do disagree, as you know – does not give me the right to harm him.

This fact is so elementary, so fundamental that it’s a slap in the face to be reminded that I live side-by-side with so many morons who clearly don’t understand the singular principle that underlies the American way of life.

The End of Hate in Our Time

25.05.2008 (8:18 pm) – Filed under: Free Speech,Law,Political Correctness ::

In the words of Canada’s Human Rights Commission’s senior counsel Ian Fine, the commission is necessary because "there can’t be enough laws against hate."  This during a panel on human right’s commissions in which Fine was caught twice in lies – or glaring ignorance – about the commission’s activities.  Actually, a single law against hate is too many.  But what can Canadians expect from a government agency that believes that "Freedom of speech is an American concept" and has no value as a principle in Canada?  Read it all.

Ezra Levant, writing about Fine’s statements:

… one of his most execrable arguments was that "the world" had limits on free speech, and the United Nations had limits on free speech, and that Canada should be in synch with the world — and not the anomaly of the United States.

At another point in the debate, I tried to show the absurdity of banning any hateful words through a law that doesn’t permit legal defences like truth, fair comment or even common sense. I pointed out that Fine himself had given an interview with the National Post in which he read out a bigoted remark, namely: "a n*gger will try to kill you just for a slice of pizza or a piece of chicken … By Aryan standards, negroes are dangerous animals".

Fine read that to show the kind of hate the CHRC wants to fight. But that explanation, which is reasonable, is not a legal defence. I jokingly said to Fine that, since he uttered a comment that is "likely" to expose someone to "hatred or contempt", I should file a section 13 complaint against him. I said it unseriously — I was pointing out the ridiculously arbitrary and overreaching nature of the law. But — and I’ll want to check this again on CPAC — he actually looked ashen when I said it, as if he agreed with me that he had broken the law, and was ashamed of it.

I think in that moment, I glimpsed what made Ian Fine tick: he has drunk the anti-hate industry’s Kool Aid without a drop of skepticism. I think he genuinely thought, just for a moment, that I was serious when I said he was a bad man for having said the word n*gger, even in the context of anti-racism. I think he’s been immersed in a groupthink environment, with zealots, where diversity of opinion, let alone criticism, is non-existent. I think he genuinely believes that his little anti-hate squad is saving Canada from turning into an Arctic version of Rwanda.

I think that’s why he froze up when I pressed him on Richard Warman’s online bigotry — it just didn’t compute for him; it doesn’t make sense in his unified theory of the world.

The CHRC thought police and hate-crime advocates fail to observe the most basic of facts, namely that hate is an emotion, an ephemeral thought or mind set that is contained within an individual’s brain and has no impact whatever on the physical world.

Actions, to the contrary, are taken by people upon the world and are rightfully regulated by the law.  Thoughts are not so regulated, should not be, and must not be, whatever Mr. Fine and the commission believe.

Repression in Yemen

20.05.2008 (11:49 am) – Filed under: Free Speech,Middle East ::

From the NY Times and Jane Novak’s Armies of Liberation blog comes the story of Abdul Karim al-Khaiwani, a journalist who is facing a potential death sentence tomorrow as a consequence of writing about the rebellion in northern Yemen that’s cost thousands of people their lives.

Read the NYT article and Jane’s post, then consider signing the petition to free al-Khaiwani, before more of this happens:

Since he was released in 2005, Al-Khaiwani has been beaten, kidnapped, censored and imprisoned. His paper was cloned, his website blocked and his children threatened.

Al-Khaiwani was badly beaten during his arrest in June 2007. His daughter, six year old Ebba, was slapped by police so hard that she fell unconscious. After Al-Khaiwani’s arrest and release on bail, he was kidnapped and badly beaten again. The US State Department issued a statement from DC noting his abduction pointed to, “disturbing trend of intimidation and harassment of Yemen’s journalist community.”

Seems the Yemeni government is unhappy with him for writing about its bloody battles with a rebel group of which he is now accused of being a part.

The facts may not be perfectly clear; however, it seems best to err on the side of al-Khaiwani and freedom of the press rather than blindly accept the Yemen states’ version of events and the harsh, possibly final, punishment that will follow such a judgment.

Schlafly Honored, Hundreds Turn Away

16.05.2008 (11:21 pm) – Filed under: Education,Free Speech,Women's Rights ::

The University of Washington honored one of its own when Phyllis Schlafly was presented with an honorary doctorate degree at today’s commencement.  Unfortunately, the ceremony was marred by students and faculty who turned their backs to her while the award was being presented.

Some applauded while Schlafly was hooded. But about a third of the graduating students draped in the school’s green and black robes turned their backs to her, along with some faculty members sitting on the stage behind her. Many family members in the audience also took part.

Three faculty members made the extra point of walking off the stage and then turning their backs from the audience.

Marshall Thompson, a Ph.D. graduate in political science, said he thought the white armbands should have sufficed for protesters to show their dissent. But he thought the turning of backs was "a bit overboard."

"It’s not the right way to voice your displeasure," he said

The protest was childish and about what I’d expect from a batch of undergrads who are still wet behind the ears.  If the students who disrespected Schlafly understood her writings and political activities, that would be one thing.  But lacking that, their protest is simply a knee-jerk reaction and of no value whatever.

It’s also petty, considering Ms. Schlafly’s age and the contributions she’s made to American society.  And it’s a familiar story in another respect:  protected students and faculty failing to respect the views and free speech rights of conservatives on campus.

Even so, I’m not sure I agree with Thompson.  The U.W. protest was calm, orderly, and non-violent – everything a public disagreement should be. 

I think the perpetrators were wrong, ethically, to deny Schlafly the respect she’s earned and wrong intellectually in regard to many of their disagreements with her.  But they conducted their protest in the finest tradition of civil disobedience, and that’s something for people on all sides of the debate to be proud of and learn from.

The New Anti-Intellectualism

06.05.2008 (6:46 am) – Filed under: Education,Free Speech ::

From the Wall Street Journal:

Often it seems as though American higher education exists only to provide gag material for the outside world. The latest spectacle is an Ivy League professor threatening to sue her students because, she claims, their "anti-intellectualism" violated her civil rights.

Priya Venkatesan taught English at Dartmouth College. She maintains that some of her students were so unreceptive of "French narrative theory" that it amounted to a hostile working environment.

Ah, the old "Disagree with me and I’ll sue you for being a facist anti-intellectual" trick.  I guess defending the ideas that she expected to imprint on her students was too much for the good instructor.

Pithy quote from Venkatesan that says it all:

"Scientific facts do not correspond to a natural reality but conform to a social construct."

Hilarious.  More from the WSJ:

The remarkable thing about the Venkatesan affair, to me, is that her students cared enough to argue. Normally they would express their boredom with the material by answering emails on their laptops or falling asleep. But here they staged a rebellion, a French Counter-Revolution against Professor Defarge. Maybe, despite the professor’s best efforts, there’s life in American colleges yet.

Indeed.  Perhaps the new anti-intellectualism that the would-be elites fear so much is simply a generation of people who are willing and able to think for themselves.

Censoring Ourselves

05.05.2008 (6:05 pm) – Filed under: Free Speech,Islam,Terrorism ::

Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith, today posted an intense condemnation of the western practice of censoring itself in regards to Islam and the terrorists who operate with its theocratic permission.  What’s most interesting about Harris’ article are his personal anecdotes about censorship by the mainstream American press.  Highly recommended reading.

Harris writes:

As for infringements of my own speech, my first book, The End of Faith, almost did not get published for fear of offending the sensibilities of (probably non-reading) religious fanatics. W.W. Norton, which did publish the book, was widely seen as taking a risk–one probably attenuated by the fact that I am an equal-opportunity offender critical of all religious faith. However, when it came time to make final edits to the galleys of The End of Faith, many of the people I had thanked by name in my acknowledgments (including my agent at the time and my editor at Norton) independently asked to have their names removed from the book. Their concerns were explicitly for their personal safety.

Nature, arguably the most influential scientific journal on the planet, recently published a lengthy whitewash of Islam (Z. Sardar "Beyond the troubled relationship." Nature 448, 131-133; 2007). The author began, as though atop a minaret, by simply declaring the religion of Islam to be "intrinsically rational." He then went on to argue, amid a highly idiosyncratic reading of history and theology, that this rational religion’s current wallowing in the violent depths of unreason can be fully ascribed to the legacy of colonialism. After some negotiation, Nature also agreed to publish a brief response from me. What readers of my letter to the editor could not know, however, was that it was only published after perfectly factual sentences deemed offensive to Islam were expunged. I understood the editors’ concerns at the time: not only did they have Britain’s suffocating libel laws to worry about, but Muslim physicians and engineers in the UK had just revealed a penchant for suicide bombing. I was grateful that Nature published my letter at all.

In a thrillingly ironic turn of events, a shorter version of the very essay you are now reading was originally commissioned by the opinion page of Washington Post and then rejected because it was deemed too critical of Islam. Please note, this essay was destined for the opinion page of the paper, which had solicited my response to the controversy over Wilders’ film. The irony of its rejection seemed entirely lost on the Post, which responded to my subsequent expression of amazement by offering to pay me a "kill fee." I declined.

I could list other examples of encounters with editors and publishers, as can many writers, all illustrating a single fact: While it remains taboo to criticize religious faith in general, it is considered especially unwise to criticize Islam.

There is a reason for this, of course, which Harris identifies quite clearly – physical safety.  Those who view the world with open eyes will not be surprised by his words.

Only Muslims hound and hunt and murder their apostates, infidels, and critics in the 21st century. There are, to be sure, reasons why this is so. Some of these reasons have to do with accidents of history and geopolitics, but others can be directly traced to doctrines sanctifying violence which are unique to Islam.

There are those who disagree, of course.  Some point out episodes in the Jewish and Christian religions as evidence of a general religious hypocrisy.  Others parrot the "Islam is Peace" line while desperately wishing it were so.  Still others claim that Harris is racist and that I, by writing this post, am as well.  Untrue.  And yet…

And if anyone in this debate can be credibly accused of racism, it is the western apologists and "multiculturalists" who deem Arabs and Muslims too immature to shoulder the responsibilities of civil discourse. As Ayaan Hirsi Ali has pointed out, there is a calamitous form of "affirmative action" at work, especially in western Europe, where Muslim immigrants are systematically exempted from western standards of moral order in the name of paying "respect" to the glaring pathologies in their culture. Hirsi Ali has also observed that there is a quasi-racist double-think on display whenever western powers trumpet that "Islam is peace," all the while taking heroic measures to guard against the next occasion when the barbarians run amok in response to a film, cartoon, opera, novel, beauty pageant–or the mere naming of a teddy bear.

What is true is that actions speak louder than words.  When western government and media institutions capitulate to terrorists by censoring the press and the citizenry, western societies are in effect admitting that they have neither the will nor the ability to counter Islamic terrorism’s corrosive effect on freedom and liberty.

Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."  As unpleasant as this may be to bear it is the truth.  As such it must be written about and repeated, regardless of who claims to be injured by the words.  Denial, after all, is a personal choice.

Paterson Should Protect Free Speech

30.04.2008 (11:23 am) – Filed under: Free Speech,Islam,Law ::

Gov. David Paterson has until the end of today to decide whether or not he will sign a bill the New York state legislature passed – unanimously – that would give American citizens who are sued for libel abroad the right to obtain a declaration that their works are protected under American law.  Let’s hope he does the right thing.

More about the case of that started it all from the Wall Street Journal:

England has become a choice venue for libel plaintiffs from around the world, including those who seek to intimidate critics whose works would be protected in the U.S. but might not in that country. That English libel law has increasingly been used to stifle speech about the subject of international terrorism raises the stakes still more.

The case against Rachel Ehrenfeld in England by Saudi banker Khalid Bin Mahfouz is illustrative. Her 2003 book "Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Funded and How to Stop It" dealt at length with one of the most significant (and difficult and dangerous to research) topics – the funding of terrorism. The conduct of Mr. Bin Mahfouz as a possible funder of terrorism was one of the subjects discussed in the book, which was published in New York.

Twenty-three copies of the book were sold in England. On that slim basis, Mr. Bin Mahfouz sued there, claiming that his reputation had been gravely harmed.

Ms. Ehrenfeld (on the advice of English counsel) refused to appear before the English courts, and a judgment against her was entered in the amount of $225,000. At any time, Mr. Bin Mahfouz could seek to enforce that judgment. Whether or not he does, the harm to Ms. Enhrenfeld’s reputation remains real.

Ironic that Bin Mahfouz’s reputation has been enhanced, at least among those he seeks to please, while Ms. Enhrenfeld’s has been damaged.  The aggressor playing the victim is a pathetic trick but one that works too often. 

This seems like a clear-cut case of the law being used for a purpose other than which it was intended.  Unfortunately, England seems – from this side of the pond – to be unwilling to take action on this and other matters that Those Who We Dare Not Offend could use to foment unrest in the streets.

Appeasement, anyone?  Seen this before?

The least David Paterson can – must, IMO – is to sign this bill and designate his state as one in which the free speech of its citizens is explicitly protected from the predations of over-rich censors abroad.

Chilling Effect in Canada

09.04.2008 (12:21 pm) – Filed under: Conservatism,Free Speech,Law,Media,Political Correctness ::

Kathy Shaidle reports that she and other bloggers are being sued by Richard Warman, a former member of Canada’s Human Rights Commission and frivolous lawsuit filer extraordinaire:

Canada’s busiest litigant, serial "human rights" complainant and — the guy Mark Steyn has called "Canada’s most sensitive man" — Richard Warman is now suing his most vocal critics — including me.

The suit names:
•    Ezra Levant (famous for his stirring YouTube video of his confrontation with the Canadian Human Rights tribunal after he published the “Mohammed Cartoons”)
•    FreeDominion.ca (Canada’s answer to FreeRepublic.com)
•    Kate McMillan of SmallDeadAnimals.com
•    Jonathan Kay of the National Post daily newspaper and its in-house blog
•    and me, Kathy Shaidle of FiveFeetOfFury.com

Kathy says fighting the lawsuit will cost her $30,000 or more and I’m betting on the "or more" bit of that statement.

Ezra Levant says:

Obviously, this fight isn’t just about Warman and the defendants. It’s about political censorship, the abuse of government power, and the freedom of the blogosphere. Warman wants to marginalize and perhaps even criminalize conservative ideas. Well, I want to denormalize the human rights commissions. It’s going to be a helluva fight – and an excellent opportunity to showcase the abusive, corrupt, bullying, censorious nature of the CHRCs and their star pupil, Richard Warman.

I don’t even think the importance of this fight is limited to Canada. The creeping censorship that Warman embodies is of the same breed as the censorship that Geert Wilders faces for his film, Fitna. It’s part of a global attempt to squelch ideas about liberty and other western values. It’s part of an unholy alliance between domestic leftists and foreign jihadis. In fact, it’s precisely what I’m talking about, with Mark Steyn, in New York tomorrow.

I believe that this sort of censorship-by-proxy is a pressing issue that needs to be countered by active resistance from writers and readers alike.  That’s why I’ve donated to Kathy’s fund and plan to tip the others who have requested help as well.

Do your part to help keep the web (relatively) free and open.  Where else can you make your voice heard?

Support Geert Wilders’ Right to Speak

01.04.2008 (9:44 pm) – Filed under: Free Speech ::

The Jawa Report is linking to a petition aiming to organize a boycott of Dutch goods and services if Wilders is punished or prosecuted over the Fitna affair.

Like Wilders’ film or not, it’s a no-brainer that making the video and distributing it are well within the realm of free, protected speech.  For that much Wilders deserves to be supported in his struggle against the Dutch government that would muzzle him if it could.

As for some of his other statements, I’d remind you that the right to speak is more important than liking what you hear.

Censored?

28.03.2008 (4:02 pm) – Filed under: Free Speech,Technology ::

Michael van der Galien, my boss at PoliGazette.com, just emailed and said that the site has been suspended by the hosting provider, one alfahosting.be.

Michael had recently posted about Fitna and embedded the video in the post. A rousing discussion followed and now this.

Coincidence? I doubt it.

True, there are often bandwidth limitations, etc., associated with remote hosting. Perhaps the video burned through our allotment. Or perhaps Michael failed to pay his bill, as I did here at the mighty Black Shards last year.Or perhaps more sinister forces are at work. More later, I’m sure.

Update

The PoliGazette site is back up and running now. So far I’ve not received an explanation for the down-time. But why look a gift horse in the mouth. We didn’t have to test our recovery plan, which is good.