Monday, June 16, 2008

One way to handle a decline in circulation

Pull out the T&A shots for the front page above the fold.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Coolest Apartment Ever

If I'm ever rich enough to have the means, I very much hope I'll still want to do something like this.

Revised and Extended on the NY Times re: Free Speech

Here's an email I sent to some compatriots discussing the NY Times piece which I had previously commented on. It revises and extends my remarks. I've added some links for the fun and convenience of any potential readers and/or historians.

Super huge props or whatever the blog-appropriate version is to Ezra Levant upon whose blog I have relied to follow the Canadian mess. I heartily recommend it.

Honestly, I find the whole thing too depressing to even get on a high horse about.

What can be said? The Times' attitude is apalling but not at all surprising coming from such staunch supporters of the latest in US campaign finance reform, which is basically a "speech for me, not for thee" piece of legislation from their perspective.

The article actually does a decent job of presenting both sides, though it way front-loads the criticism of free speech and support for "hate speech" laws. The headline and brief summary provided for your email forward, however, betray their true feelings quite nicely. We're "out of step with our allies" and "some legal scholars" think we should reconsider our bizarrely wide scope of free speech protection.

Meanwhile, you're probably thinking, as I did, that they have free speech up in Canada. You are wrong.

The latest decision handed down by a Human Rights Commission up there had as its punishment the proscription on a Christian minister from ever again expressing any "disparaging" remarks about homosexuality. Oh yeah, he also had to publish a public apology for having held those beliefs to begin with. And you thought show trials with public apologies went out with the Cultural Revolution. Shame on you.

I really feel like these things are going to get more and more press, even down here. The more you learn of them, the more shocking they are, NY Times white-washing support aside.

These are tribunals whose "judges" need have no legal qualifications at all and frequently don't. When they do, those qualifications are often of the "divorce lawyer" sort. Can you imagine having a divorce lawyer appointed to a middling bureaucratic post determining where the proper limits on free speech are? (Memorably, one such commissioner was asked what weight he put on the right to free speech. His answer was "free speech is an American concept, so I give it no weight." Apparently he'd never read or heard of the Canadian Charter of Rights or had even a passing familiarity with centuries of common law evolution...)

Then there's the way these things are run. There's no rules of evidence, no presumption of innocence, no reliance on precedent either of the commissions or real courts, pretty much no established procedure at all. Fully half of the section 13 hate-speech complaints have been filed by one man, who, by the way, used to be an investigator for one of these comissions. He gets 5-figure settlements for his efforts, despite often not actually being a member of the group who he feels might have been offended.

Some of their investigative techniques involve stealing a neighbors wireless internet connection, using it to log onto white supremecist websites, posting outrageous messages, and then launching a complaint over the replies.

And the best part? The section 13 cases have a 100% conviction rate. Yep, that's right, every single complaint that's gone to "trial" has been found guilty. I'm not super up on my totalitarian history but I'm reasonably sure even the Soviets liked to throw the occassional "innocent" verdict into the mix, just to keep up appearances.

Of course, much like the Soviet trials, the investigation itself is in fact a punishment of sorts. You see, if you make a complaint that's the end of your responsibility. From there on out, the state pays to investigate and then prosecute the complaint. Of course, the defendant pays his own way, which can run to 6 figures or more (these cases can drag out for years as well). And if you're found innocent? (Which you never are if the complaint is a "hate speech" one) No getting the costs back. Real Canadian courts have the admirable "loser pays" feature.

At any rate. As I've said before, you should really read up a bit on what's going on up there, if only because it's so chillingly interesting. Also, I must again recommend Steyn's book, an excerpt of which set off his hate-speech trial, as an excellent, funny, and morbidly depressing read. (Quite an accomplishment to mix those attributes.) I've said it before, I'll say it again: Western Civ. is on it's way out. Faster rather than slower. The irony is those hurrying to usher it out are prob. going to miss it most.

Public Notice

There Will Be Blood is an excellent, excellent movie.

People who do not share this opinion should take care not to air it in public for fear someone whose taste in movies is not abominable will overhear.

Don't say you weren't warned when you lose the respect of your betters over your horrid taste in movies.

An open letter to the girl in the next cube

Please, please, please learn to do whatever it is you do without muttering what you're reading under your breath. It's almost as annoying as the horse-like sound you make when you eat those pretzel sticks every afternoon for four hours.

In fairness, your sing-songy multi-hour long gossip phone conversations during which you alternate between desk phone and cell phone, occasionally using both at once, is still by far your most annoying habit.

By contrast, I've almost learned to ignore the loud clomping noise your shoes make whenever you take more than a single step and sometimes even then.

But please. The muttering-under-your-breath-as-you-read thing is a bridge too far. There have to be limits.

PS. None of the above should be construed in any way as a suggestion that you should begin once more to listen to crappy Chinese pop music on your computer's speakers. Everyone in earshot of you is glad that you finally stopped after the four-dozenth complaint. -b

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


What I know about Giants football you could fit on a matchbook. (You'd probably need to expand all the way to a few sheets of paper to capture the rest of my football knowledge.) That said, I saw an episode about sports journalism, radio, blogging and what-not on that Real Sports with Bob Costas HBO show once that featured Strahan on one of the panels. He seemed like a very good guy and able to hold up his end of an argument which is always fun to watch.

This article on his retirement suggests that I didn't get the wrong impression.

American Exceptionalism

Came across this article in the NY Times today, only to discover it's part of a series the NY Times is running on American exceptionalism in the law, that is to say aspects of our legal system that are unique in the world. Haven't read the rest of the articles but plan to.

At any rate. Today's is on Freedom of Speech which, as we all know, is relatively absolute in the US and guaranteed explicitly to remain so as laid out in the 1st amendment. This is not at all the case in the rest of the world, even in those countries who trace their legal systems to English common law, as we do.

The article takes as a hook a rather controversial human rights case going on in Canada wherein one of their major publications has been hauled before a tribunal for an unflattering article on Muslims, something that would be impossible to imagine in the U.S.

The case is pretty much endlessly fascinating. I recommend Ezra Levant's blog as a resource. He writes well not only about the McCleans/Steyn case mentioned by the Times but also his own pending tribunal. If you have the time his YouTube videos of his own interrogation by a bureaucratic censor are hysterical.

The Times article's headline (at least in the online version) is the disapproving-sounding "Out of Step with Allies, U.S. Defends Right to Offend". Given that a publication like the Times rarely finds reason to come down on the American side of any difference with Europe, I figured this would be an upsettingly anti-free-speech take. Overall, the article was fair. It presented the rational for the anti-hate-speech laws prevalent in other lands but also included a reasonable description and assortment of defenders of our own first amendment absolutism on speech. The support for the censorial was mostly front-loaded but I suppose that's just nit-picking, ultimately.

At any rate. I have loads to say about the Canadian cases and what they signify for the broader decline of Western Civilization but it's late and I want to go home.

The Painter Who Adored Women

I'm pretty sure there's more than one name on that list. I'm almost completely unknowledgeable about art and offhand I can think of at least 3...

Monday, June 9, 2008

Still regularly watch this on demand...

Perhaps defining the phrase "too much time on your hands", here's a very detailed, very involved exegesis* of the final scene of The Sopranos.

On the other hand, I'm reading it so clearly I have even more time on my hands...

H/t? (is that the correct bloggerly thing to do? This is all so new...) to Ross Douthat at the Atlantic

*This is the second time I've gotten to use the word "exegesis" in the past month. One of my all time favorite words. Good month.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Good to know

The NY Times continues its slide into fanzine-level editing:
Correction: June 1, 2008 An article on May 4 about black liberation theology and the debate surrounding the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr, Senator Barack Obama’s former minister, erroneously confirmed a statement by Mr. Wright that the United States has used biological weapons against other countries. There is no evidence that the United States ever did so.