Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Coulter Affair

Three important facts to note:

  1. I'm a professor at the University of Ottawa
  2. Politically, I'm liberal on philosophical points, particularly relating to foreign policy, and conservative on fiscal matters. But I'm probably best described as Left of centre, if you really need me to pick a side.
  3. I think Ann Coulter is delusional, hypocritical, possibly narcissistic, dangerously disingenuous, and a seething cauldron of unexamined --nay, proud!-- hate.

And if you strongly disagree with point #3, you will probably cite points #1 and #2 in your inevitable actions to refute what I'm going to say for the rest of this post. I do tire of these games, and have no intention of entering into any kind of debate with anyone over anything to do with Miss Coulter.

As you probably already know, Coulter is on a pan-Canada tour. Why? Who knows. Maybe Americans --flush with purpose and a renewed skepticism of knee-jerk hate after a Democratic and supposedly liberal President gave them all health care-- are no longer in the mood for Coulter's particular brand of idiocy. Maybe she feels that Canada, North America's only nation now with a retrograde conservative leadership, presents better hunting grounds for a niche in which to sell Coulter's smear-jobs-of-the-week that she packages as books.

I don't care why she's coming. Lots of people come here. I don't have a problem with it, especially since I'm presently in Mexico and thus far away from her.

The problem, of course, is that Coulter is known for her so-called "hate speech". In the past, she has publicly called for the invasion of Muslim countries, the murdering of their heads of state and the forced conversion to Christianity of Muslim civilians. In a rehearsed public speech, she called John Edwards a "faggot". These are two examples off the top of my head. To cite more would require me to go back and read her columns again, and I really don't want to put my ageing and addled brain through such torture.

Do her words qualify as hate speech? Sure, why not? I'm on record, though, of being opposed to Canada's hate speech laws and hate crime laws. I think that a crime is not made more criminal simply by being hateful; and I think that hateful speech should not be legally punished until a link can be shown between such speech and an actual criminal act. Otherwise, people should be able to say whatever (non-libelous things) they want to say.

But that's just me.

So where are we? Ann Coulter, known for her hateful speech, is coming to Canada. Of more immediate concern to this blog post, though, is that Ann Coulter was coming to the University of Ottawa.... my generous and gracious employer whom I'd never dream of disparaging :)

Now, I don't know why the following happened. I have some theories. Here's one. The university knows its students, knows that they are mostly a Left-leaning activist lot who would get quite riled up by Coulter's (deliberately) provocative statements. Statements that may dance on the border of hate crime, or maybe even cross over into that realm, would be carefully parsed and legal action would be demanded of the university by these passionate students. So perhaps to save itself such trouble, perhaps to avoid more administrative burden in an institution already known for its overwhelming mass of bureaucracy, the university issued the following letter to Ann Coulter:

"Dear Ms. Coulter,

I understand that you have been invited by University of Ottawa Campus Conservatives to speak at the University of Ottawa this coming Tuesday. We are, of course, always delighted to welcome speakers on our campus and hope that they will contribute positively to the meaningful exchange of ideas that is the hallmark of a great university campus. We have a great respect for freedom of expression in Canada, as well as on our campus, and view it as a fundamental freedom, as recognized by our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I would, however, like to inform you, or perhaps remind you, that our domestic laws, both provincial and federal, delineate freedom of expression (or "free speech") in a manner that is somewhat different than the approach taken in the United States. I therefore encourage you to educate yourself, if need be, as to what is acceptable in Canada and to do so before your planned visit here.

You will realize that Canadian law puts reasonable limits on the freedom of expression. For example, promoting hatred against any identifiable group would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges. Outside of the criminal realm, Canadian defamation laws also limit freedom of expression and may differ somewhat from those to which you are accustomed. I therefore ask you, while you are a guest on our campus, to weigh your words with respect and civility in mind.

There is a strong tradition in Canada, including at this university, of restraint, respect and consideration in expressing even provocative and controversial opinions and urge you to respect that Canadian tradition while on our campus. Hopefully, you will understand and agree that what may, at first glance, seem like unnecessary restrictions to freedom of expression do, in fact, lead not only to a more civilized discussion, but to a more meaningful, reasoned and intelligent one as well.

I hope you will enjoy your stay in our beautiful country, city and campus.

Francois Houle,
Vice-President Academic and Provost, University of Ottawa"

I don't know if the letter was meant to be public. But it has been reproduced in many Right-leaning forums, the National Post among them. Poor Dr Houle was now on the radar of the vicious, bitter and petty extreme Right-wing blogosphere, for what really is a polite letter.

Now, many Coulter supporters read this letter as a veiled threat of criminal action. There's nothing veiled about it. I think it's quite a reasonable letter, but it is clear in its intent and implications. If some of Coulter's speeches in the USA were spoken in Canada, they might very well constitute hate crime under our current laws. The letter did not discourage her from coming or threaten to ban her if she didn't promise to "play nice". It just suggested that the university would feel compelled to add to its ridiculous administrative burden if Coulter did indeed give her standard US campus presentation on Canadian soil.

So far, so good.... Except that Coulter, seeing a chance to gain some press over what would have otherwise been yet another barely noticed campus tour, saw her opening. She re-printed the letter on her column, with the provocative --and incorrect-- title, "Canadian University Provost Wants To Send Me To Jail... For a Speech I Haven't Given Yet". At that point, what transpired next was fairly predictable for anyone who's observed the shenanigans of the bored and angry far-Right as much as I have.

Now, being in Mexico, I haven't been privy to all the details of what's happening on campus. But essentially, citing fears for Coulter's personal safety, "organizers" cancelled her appearance. The "organizers", as I understand it, were a campus-based student group. This is important: the university never cancelled Coulter's appearance; her own representatives appear to have done so, or at least a campus group in coordination with Coulter's representatives did so. Keep in mind that I have no facts beyond that which are published in the papers, and I'm observing all of this from Mexico. So, really, what do I know?

Okay, now on to the really predictable part. With the appearance cancelled, Coulter retained none other than Ezra Levant to --here it comes-- represent her in a human rights complaint against the University of Ottawa.

Now, I have talked about Ezra Levant many times in the past in this space. There was Ezra's seeming tolerance of hate speech on his own website. There was more of the same. There was Ezra's attacks on former Liberal leader Stephane Dion. There was Ezra's seeming blind love for all things George Bush. Oh, I've talked about him many many times before. One of his supporters even suggested that Ezra would one day track me down and beat me up. (Yeah, I laughed, too. I'm not that hard to find.)

Now the important thing about Levant, at least with respect to the current topic, is that he styles himself as an uncompromising defender of free speech. This, in and of itself, is a great thing. Who doesn't love a defender or liberties? The problem is that his support only seems to extend to people who want to say things that he agrees with.

For example, when George Galloway was banned from speaking in Canada --a true and obvious denial of free speech!-- Levant said of the issue:

"I don't see this as a free speech issue; I see it as a sovereignty issue -- keeping out an undesirable foreigner who has no right to be here, and who boasts about violating our criminal code."

"Undesirable foreigner who has no right to be here"? Sounds like a certain skinny blonde firebrand with a hate-on for Muslims. Someone "who boasts about violating our criminal code"? Again, if Coulter brags in her column that the things she says would get her arrested in Canada, I think that that constitutes "boasting about our criminal code." How about it, Ezra?

(By the way, read my whole take on the Galloway affair here.)

Levant is claiming that his reasons for taking on the Coulter case is to show how duplicitous the human rights tribunal process is, and that it is biased against conservatives. I don't know if that's true. But I think Levant lost pretty much all his credibility with not only his failure to defend Galloway's right of free speech in Canada, but his active support for the denial of those rights. Levant would be more convincing if he were more consistent with his views and appplications of his principles.

What about Coulter? Since I started writing this post about 10 minutes ago, I received an email from her automatic listserv (someone thought it was funny to sign me up; I actually kind of enjoy deleting her emails). You can read her current column here (which is exactly what she wants you to do; so I guess I'm helping her out, as well.) It's interesting how the mighty have fallen. Once a syndicated columnist at leading papers, a promising lawyer, someone who, I think, even worked at the White House briefly, Coulter is now calling out members of the SFUO --the University of Ottawa's student federation! Picking fights with undergrads? Really? Oh Ann.

So Coulter is denouncing someone's decision to "deny" her he opportunity to spread her extreme views on a college campus. Hmmm, this sounds vaguely familiar. Let me see... Columbia University once compared Coulter to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Why it this relevant? Because Ahmadinejad once spoke at the Columbia campus, despite conservatives trying really hard to prevent him from doing so.

In fact, prior to the Iranian leader's appearance, conservative forces rallied under the leadership of such Coulter compatriots as Michelle Malkin, who issued this call for supporters to send a message to the university administration that Ahmadinejad was not welcome on campus.

When Coulter herself was asked about Ahmadinejad's Columbia appearance, she said this:

"You know, I give a lot of college speeches, I know how colleges behave, and there is the least free speech on a college campus as any place in America. It is like Iran—so for them to be saying they are allowing this guy to speak because of free speech, you know, your head explodes."

Er... what? Further in the same interview, Coulter suggested that by allowing Ahmadinejad to speak, Columbia was "aiding the other side." At least that's the way I read it. Coulter is a master of dancing around topics so deftly that it's hard to pin her down to any particular viewpoints, except that liberals are sissies and Muslims are evil.

The president of the University of Ottawa, Mr Allan Rock, a seasoned diplomat, issued the following statement to all members of the university community today:

"On Tuesday, March 23, an appearance by Ann Coulter was scheduled on our campus, organized by the International Free Press Society Canada and the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute.

The University of Ottawa has always promoted and defended freedom of expression. For that reason, we did not at any time oppose Ann Coulter's appearance. Whether it is Ann Coulter or any other speaker, diverse views have always been and continue to be welcome on our campus.

Last night, the organizers themselves decided at 7:50 p.m. to cancel the event and so informed the University's Protection Services staff on site. At that time, a crowd of about one thousand people had peacefully gathered at Marion Hall.

"Freedom of expression is a core value that the University of Ottawa has always promoted," said Allan Rock, President of the University. "We have a long history of hosting contentious and controversial speakers on our campus. Last night was no exception, as people gathered here to listen to and debate Ann Coulter's opinions.

I encourage our students, faculty and other members of our community to maintain our University as an open forum for diverse opinions. Ours is a safe and democratic environment for the expression of views, and we will keep it that way."

It doesn't sound to me like anyone's free speech was being curtailed. In fact, all official missives suggest that Coulter was openly welcomed to the university campus. I think what actually happened was that when Professor Roule sent that ill-advised letter, the Coulter-ites and their hypocritical self-styled supporter of "free speech for people I agree with", Ezra Levant, saw this as an opportunity to manufacture an event and make both Levant and Coulter briefly relevant again.

That is all. Nothing more to see here. Ignore the pests and they'll just go back to screaming about Communists and evolutionists in their basement meetings.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The UFC and the US Armed Forces: Strange Bedfellows Indeed

Dana White, President of UFC

I was living in Washington, DC, in the eras of 9/11, the start of both recent US wars on/of terror, the Beltway sniper and the now fabled anthrax attacks. One day my friend Andrew J. and I went to see a movie. At the start of the movie was the now common US Marines recruiting ad. I looked over to Andrew and saw that he was visibly saddened.

"What's up?" I asked him.

"They've won," he said. I asked him to explain and he said, "There was a time when the military recruiting ads would come on and everyone would boo because we all saw through it. Now we all sit in silence." And indeed, some seemed to sit in not only silence, but in reverence. "They've won."

Fast forward to present day. In the past couple of weeks, I've watched a lot of UFC. I love the sport of MMA and I love the way that UFC has helped the sport to grow. I've blogged about it here, here, here and even here. In this post, I wrote:

"I've argued many times that MMA is a civilized sport, that it exalts in the purity of the human spirit and strives to make a man confront his true self. The battle is, in many ways, irrelevant to the character-building journey that minimal-rule fighting represents."

A weird thing has begun to happen in the last few months, particularly in the last few weeks --or maybe I've been to blind to notice it before: the ever-growing intimate relationship between MMA --the UFC, in particular-- and the US military. This relationship, sadly, may somewhat invalidate my quote above.

At least one entire UFC pay-per-view (PPV) event was completely sponsored by the US military and was put on specifically for US military personnel. At last month's finale of The Ultimate Fighter, UFC's reality show, it was announced that one of the competitors was leaving for Afghanistan in a few days. The fight commentator, Mike Goldberg, was almost in tears, emoting on how this young man was fighting in the octagon, but would soon be abroad "to fight for our freedoms".

At UFC 107, which I finished watching last night, it was announced in the ring that one of the fights (that between Kenny Florian and Clay Guida) was being "brought to us" by the US Marine Corps. Both fighters then gave the corps a standing ovation, and the camera panned to shaven-head men in uniform in the audience, whooping it up.

In the past, UFC has sent its fighters to tour US soldiers in the field, such as Rampage Jackson's trip to Camp Pendleton. The relationship between UFC and the US military is an increasingly intimate one.

Well, what's the big deal? Ordinarily there wouldn't be one. In my world, any legal entity is allowed to sponsor any legal event and reap the rewards of sponsorship. And it's certainly any citizen's right to express his patriotism in any legal way he sees as appropriate. I may not like the recruitment methods of the US military, and I certainly don't like the way in which armed men have begun to be revered in some parts of society; but I do not deny the military's right to sponsor events and the UFC's right to accept such sponsorship. And, as I'm sure has occurred to many, there is a certain congruence in two brands of violence finding love in one another's tattooed arms.

Admittedly, it makes me uncomfortable that an erstwhile global brand like the UFC is visibly tying its philosophies, fortunes and values to the political dynamic of a single nation, the USA. I wonder what that says of the company's attitude toward fighters from nations not sharing American geopolitical ideologies. The company's newsworthy inability (or unwillingness) to sign Russian heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko, considered by many to be the pound-for-pound greatest living fighter in the world, might be indicative of an inability to fit competitors from non-NATO nations into their conceptual dynamic. Even so, if UFC wishes to tie its fortunes thusly, as did many professional wrestling companies, I suppose it is their right to do so, however unattractive to me their brand becomes.

But let me be absolutely clear and say that this post is not about bashing the military. Not at all. In other posts, I will gleefully offer my criticisms of US (and increasingly Canadian) military fetishism, and of the thinning line between soldierdom and policymaking, and of immoral and politically inappropriate use by government of the instruments of war and security. But no one should take any of this as criticism of the individuals who serve in the military. All of my interactions with members of the latter have always been pleasant and cordial.

Rather, the big deal, for me, arose when I received a Twitter tweet from UFC President Dana White, acting, not as a private citizen, but as the President of the UFC. The tweet was this:

danawhite Read the story then you decide. They have my support. I hope they have you too.
Click on the link he forwarded. It's a Facebook page asking for political, emotional and financial support for "two elite Navy Seals" who are facing courtmartial for allegedly abusing an Iraqi detainee in their custody. According to the page, the charges are of "impeding the investigation and dereliction of duty in failing to safeguard a detainee."

I don't know the facts surrounding the incident beyond those reported in the Facebook page. The page itself exists to garner public, and therefore political, support for a sociopolitical perspective, specifically that the rights of the detainee are less important than the need to honour the Navy Seals in question. To quote the page:

"The proceedings against these heroes are an outrage to all the brave Americans serving in uniform to defend this country, especially those deployed in harm's way."

Their rationale is that prosecution of alleged abusers plays into the master plan of "terrorists" to diminish soliders' morale. This is followed by:

"The supposed victim, Ahmed Hashim Abed, was the mastermind behind killing, burning and mutilating four American contractors in Fallujah, Iraq, in March 2004. His followers hung the desiccated corpses high on a box-girder bridge over the Euphrates River. Mr. Abed was run down by the SEALs on a covert mission in September 2009."

I hope it's clear to anyone reading this that the charges against a detainee (who has yet to face trial, by the way) has no bearing on whether or not his custodians are allowed to strike him. This is the nature of accepting the responsibility of custody. This is how it works in every legal system in the Western world. And as an aside, my congratulations to the US military for convening such a courtmartial; it goes a long way to reclaiming their image as a law-abiding agency worthy of international respect.

So what makes me uncomfortable about this whole thing? It's the fact that UFC President Dana White, in his capacity as President of a corporation, is sharing this website address to UFC fans and adding the qualifier, "They have my support. I hope they have you too. [sic]"

It's one thing to accept sponsorship from an arm of the government, on behalf of your company, and to further state your support for the policies and practices of that governmental arm. (After all, that's what allowing the military to embed itself so closely within your commercial activities means: that you associate yourself with that agency's policies, practices and philosophies.) It's quite another thing to brazenly advocate for the preferential slackening of criminal law on select transgressors where such slackening coincides with the larger agenda of your sponsor.

In other words, Dana White, private citizen, can do whatever the heck he wants. Dana White, corporate head of UFC, has no business encouraging UFC fans/customers to advocate for the vitiating of selected criminal proceedings.... That is, unless that it is indeed the will of UFC, Inc.

I wonder what the UFC Board of Directors has to say about this? And if indeed it is official corporate policy to take a side in this particular matter, then UFC needs to spell this out clearly. And, of course, they will have lost me as a fan, and perhaps many more like me.

I'm surprised that no one else has been commenting on the growing intimacy between the UFC (the fastest growing brand in sports) and the US military. A Google search brought me just two hits: this peace activist has a more angry stance than me; and this exchange on a fight forum has already been deleted, only accessible, it seems, through Google cache.

Many people reading this will respond with several predictable tropes. As in the cached exchange, some will reply with, "From the entire U.S. army, Go **** yourself." Others will say, "Well what did you expect, that's their demographic."

The former is par for the course. The latter is simply saddening. What I "expect" is irrelevant. What is important here is what we choose to tolerate. How comfortable are we as a society with our corporate leaders using their corporate heft to influence consumers to not only accede to certain political philosophies (nothing new there) but now to overtly advocate for the vitiation of criminal proceedings in favour of the abuse of an individual?

Strange --and critical-- times indeed.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Bits of Tid

Mysterious lights appear over Norway. Clearly, an alien space ship opened a hyperspace jump gate in the upper Earth atmosphere. Judge for yourself:

In unrelated news:

In even more unrelated news, a student who shall remain unnamed has honured me (I hope it was an honour) by naming her pet mouse somewhat after me. Introducing.... "Rayrat":

Apparently, Rayrat lives in a cage with three lovely lady mice. It's important to me that my namesake is, as the kids say, gettin' some.

Lastly, D-Mack sends us the Top 10 Science Fiction Disappointments of the decade. The article is retarded. Yeah, I said it.

Today's Real Topic

Now, in today's serious bit of news, I just came from the press conference for the unveiling of my artist friend Jenn Farr's newest project, a very important depiction of the cell in which Canada's recent "extraordinary extradition" victims were kept and tortured while being held in Syria. The endeavour is spearheaded by Kerry Pither, author of Dark Days.

It's one thing to read about modern torture and to have polite, fashionable discussions of it at cocktail parties and on the Internet. It's another to physically experience the actual conditions. If you can get a chance, visit the installation. Here are a couple of quick pics snapped on my Treo:

The installation is called "El Abbar", which means "the grave", and is a precise recreation of the cell in which several Muslim Canadians were held and tortured by Syria, with collaboration (as concluded by the Iacobucci Inquiry) by Canadian agencies. Those held include Ahmad El Maati, Abdullah Almalki and, of course, Maher Arar.

The cell is tiny and dank. The walls are thin enough to overhear the torture of those held in adjacent cells. Sometimes so many would be stuffed into a single cell that they would take turns sleeping. I'm told that cats would pee on the prisoners from the grate above, and of course the odours of filth and decay were ubiquitous. One of the artist's intents was to re-create the smell of the place, as well, but that was eventually not pursued.

It's ironic that the press conference for the unveiling of this object was coincident with one by Minister of Foreign Affairs Peter McKay, someone I would charge as complicit in the abuse of the men held in these cells.

I think it's important for all Canadians to recognize firstly the horror of these conditions, and the fact that innocent men were held there against their will and tortured repeatedly; and secondly the extent to which Canadian authorities were --and continue to be-- complicit in these ongoing abuses.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Oops, I Forgot A Title

Greetings from a Starbucks on Chapel St in New Haven, Connecticut. I'm here to attend a conference at Yale University. What a nice place! Weird how I can't find any free wifi here, though; I've been reduced to paying for wifi at a coffee shop. I'm so ashamed.

As a new professor struggling to find his footing at a 2nd tier Canadian university, I must admit to being a bit star-stricken here at this storied and ivy-draped legend of academia. How I wish I'd had the money decades ago to attend a school like this. We really do live in a classist society, wherein the trajectory of one's life is oft determined by the size of one's family's assets.

Thus it's a bit ironic that I'm here essentially to hear Jeff Sachs speak about the financial and economic basis of world poverty and ill health. Doubly ironic that Sachs' name is tainted by his associations with corporate greed, classism of the worst variety, and the nightmare of Russian economic "shock therapy".

My day begain today by oversleeping and arriving at the airport technically after the gates of my flight had closed. I was scolded by the airline dude ("I really shouldn't check you in but...") And as I was about to thank him profusely for making an exception for me, I discovered that my flight was running aan hour late. Yeah I was technically late, but I was also technically early. Asshole.

I'm checked into the Duncan Hotel, which is a 120 year old grimy building that's both dark and moldy, but is also very cheap and smack downtown, a couple of blocks from Yale. The elevator dude warned me: "We shut down the elevator after 11pm, so you'll have to take te stairs if you come in late."

"That's okay," I said. "I need the exercise."

Then he barked at me: "It ain't no laughing matter for the disabled people!" Asshole. They should really let him out of the elevator now and then.

I stopped for a giant buffalo meat burrito at a brilliant cafe called the "Corner Copia". Quite unlike me, I decided to share a table with a stranger. She was an older woman with a floral hat, crumbs about her mouth, and many possessions scattered about her. I have a habit of attracting crazy people, so I was braced for the worst.

But this woman was remarkable. She was a retired anthropologist with an incredible amount of wisdom and experience about a great many topics. She had done cutural fieldwork in Trinidad, some research on the linguistic potential of Neanderthals, had written a Chinese cookbook, and presently starting an ESL business in Asia. Her husband had been a project manager on the Apollo space flights, for Zod's sake! Given the great number of ambitionless people I've been encountering of late, it was a joy to learn of the details of this woman's life.

In Other News...

More evidence that the world is fundamentally retarded: The Pirate Bay has been found guilty. This bit of prosecutorial nonsense seems to be a case of pure vindictiveness and a rather liberal and reaching interpretation of the law. Copyrights as we know them are passe. We live in an era when we need to redefine the limits of so-called intellectual property, the assumptions underlying which are inherently philosophically problematic.

I particularly like TPB's so-called "King Kong defence", with its shades of South Parkianism.

The amazing part is that while the owners of TPB have been found guilty, there appears to be no legal compulsion to shut down the website. What a frakked up situation. So get yer torrentz while u can.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Busty Babes and Cruel Aristocrats

“I‘m going to put people in my place so when the history of this administration is written, at least there's an authoritarian voice saying exactly what happened.” - George W. Bush, re: his upcoming book. (Emphasis mine.)

News from England is that a Parliamentary bill is being introduced to police erotic content in animated materials. The new law would make it illegal to possess cartoons depicting certain elements of child abuse. Artists are naturally concerned.

I'm on record as being opposed to this sort of misguided use of police powers. I've oft argued that the possession of images depicting actual abuse should not be criminalized, since the possessor was not the one committing the abuse; such policing actions are tantamount to thought control, which should concern everyone, especially given our recent experiences with the heavy-handed moralizing Bush regime. My solution has been to instead recognize that such possession is instead indicative of a degree of mental illness, and to compel psychiatric interventions rather than criminal ones. If our intent really is protection of the vulnerable, and not just punishment of the distasteful, then I believe my path is the rational one.

The counter argument has typically been an economic one, that possession of images of abuse creates a market for them, compelling true abusers to produce more content, necessarily involving actual abuse of the vulnerable. I do not think that the evidence for this argument is strong enough to support it; but it is nonetheless a rational argument.

The argument in favour of this new bill is, however, even more tenuous: that possession of animated images of abuse feeds a culture of permissiveness that may compel actual abuse. The evidence for such a linkage is even more tenuous than that that seeks to link actual pornography with real abuse. I cannot help but conclude that the true motivation underlying the new bill is in fact moralistic and not rationalistic. In essence, Pariliament seeks to express its disapproval for the aesthetic tastes of possessors of such animation, rather than seeking to reduce instances of actual child abuse.

As Bill Maher would say, government has no business legislating taste.

It's a shame that I must add the following caveat, but experience compels me to do so... For those who will predictably accuse me of defending child abusers and pornographers, I say: "Grow the fuck up." I'm advocating for the movement of the prevention of paedophilic tendencies into the domain of health management rather than criminal management, nothing more.

I'm further advocating for a clear line to be drawn between what the state is free to police and into what it has no business even peeping, specifically the dark corridors of one's thoughts. For when that line becomes blurred, all it takes is a power hungry and moralizing adminstration (*cough* *cough* Bush/Ashcroft/Cheney *cough*) to start poking around for more politicized content, like one's Libertarian beliefs, sexual orientations, political allegiances and ethnic affiliations.

It starts with the state criminalizing possession of animations of abuse. It evolves with the state criminalizing possession of novels about insurrection, poems about free thought, images of rebellion. It's a slope that's more than slippery: it's pretty much vertical and greased.

Speaking of erotic animations, Andrew R. pointed me to a recent article in The Globe and Mail, which discussed recently discovered drawings by Superman co-creator Joel Shuster. Apparently, Shuster had a double identity of his own: he used to draw comic books about "an imagined netherworld of corporal punishment, busty babes and cruel aristocrats." Neat, huh?

Here are some of the images published from The Globe and Mail, taken from Shuster's defunct title, Nights of Horror.

I think I used to date the chick in the bed.

In Other News:

In ongoing quest to die from overeating, I give you this monstrosity, the bonecrusher.

And lastly, here's a list of 20 ridiculous complaints made by holidaymakers. My favourite:
"The brochure stated: 'No hairdressers at the accommodation'. We're trainee hairdressers - will we be OK staying here?"
And on the same note, here's a famous letter sent by a disgruntled Virgin Airlines passenger to Sir Richard Branson.

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