My name is Fred and I am a gay conservative living in Ottawa. This blog supports limited government, the right of the State of Israel to live in peace and security, and tries to expose the threat to us all from cultural relativism, post-modernism, and radical Islam. I am also the founder of the Free Thinking Film Society in Ottawa (

Monday, October 31, 2011

Justice for Sergei - Shows in Ottawa on November 13th...

Justice For Sergei
November 13, 2011, 11:00 AM
Library & Archives Canada
395 Wellington

Part of the 2nd Annual Free Thinking Film Festival 2011

Justice for Sergei is the shocking story of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who died in November 2009 at the age of 37 under excruciating circumstances in a Moscow detention center, still awaiting trial. His death fuelled international outrage, but inside Russia the corrupt government officials responsible were never brought to justice. One year after his death, Justice for Sergei tells the story of an ordinary man who paid the ultimate price while trying to expose the extraordinary corruption gripping Russia today.

Awarded First Prize of the Human Rights competition at the ‘Docudays’ Human Rights Film Festival in Kiev, Ukraine, on Wednesday, March 30, 2011.

An Inconvenient Tax - Shows in Ottawa on November 12th

An Inconvenient Tax
Saturday, November 12, 2011, 4 PM
Library & Archives Canada
395 Wellington

Part of the 2nd Annual Free Thinking Film Festival 2011.

Sponsored by the Canadian Taxpayer's Federation

An American look at the history of income tax and brings to light the causes of its many complexities. The film follows the tax through wars, economic booms, and the most significant presidencies in U.S. history. This whirlwind tour includes everything from early IRS propaganda films to the tax reform campaigns of Ronald Reagan, whom historian Steven Weisman describes as “the poet laureate of capitalism.” The film uncovers redefinitions of income, the creation of corporate loopholes, and even a brief moment in 1986 when Congress actually tried to simplify everything.

Speaker: Derek Fildebrandt of the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation

“The Hardest Thing In The World To Understand Is The Income Tax”
-- Albert Einstein

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Power of the Powerless shows in Ottawa on November 12th...

The Power of the Powerless
November 12th, 2:45 PM
Library & Archives Canada, 395 Wellington
Part of the 2nd Annual Free Thinking Film Festival 2011

Narrated by Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons, "The Power of the Powerless" explores Czechoslovakia's legacy of communist rule and the struggle against it: From the iron-fisted Stalinist government of the 1950s; through the vibrant and politically active Prague Spring of the 1960s; the hard-line backlash of the 1970s; and finally the bloodless revolution of 1989. At the heart of the film is the story of blacklisted playwright Václav Havel and his fellow dissidents who, for two decades, spoke out against totalitarianism. The film culminates with the student-led movement in Prague, which sparked 1989’s Velvet Revolution and drew a half-million people into the streets, catapulting Václav Havel into the presidency. The documentary features rare and never-before-seen interviews with key figures of the Velvet Revolution including Václav Havel. "The Power of the Powerless" is currently being used by human rights organizations to encourage dissidents struggling in non-democratic countries including Burma.

Winner Documentary Feature Audience Award Sacramento Music & Film Festival, USA

Freedom of What?cott to show in Ottawa on November 12th...

Freedom of What?cott
November 12, 2011, 1:15 PM
Library & Archives Canada
395 Wellington

Part of the 2nd Annual Free Thinking Film Festival

This documentary walks the fine line between comedy and controversy, between tolerance and hate, capturing one man’s unforgettable journey to the Supreme Court of Canada. Bill Whatcott is a Canadian social conservative who actively campaigns against homosexuality and abortion. On February 25, 2010 the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal overturned a Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal ruling against him alleging discrimination against 4 gay people and fining him $17,500. The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission has appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, where we are awaiting a ruling. This documentary looks at both sides of this issue.

Speaker: Karen Selick of the Canadian Constitution Foundation

"New Canadian movie about a hard-to-love free speech hero looks surprisingly good... I don’t know who 'the Moon Brothers' are, (and I hope they didn’t use taxpayer money to make this movie) but really: Isn’t this one of the most intriguing trailers you’ve seen in a while? A bit Errol Morris?"
-- Kathy Shaidle, blogger

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Unmasked: Judeophobia - November 13th Ottawa

This is the feature film of the 2nd Annual Free Thinking Film Festival to be held between November 11-13th in Ottawa.

The current political assault against the State of Israel fundamentally is a war against the Jewish people and their right to self-determination. Jews are facing a threat much greater than a military threat in the battlefield or a traditional terror threat in urban centers. They are facing the possible uprooting of the very idea that there should be a nation state of the Jewish people.

Featured in the film:

For more information, please visit our website.

Friday, October 28, 2011

O Canada!

I want to thank my dear friend Fred Litwin for inviting me to post here all week.  It has been a delight, and then some.  Thanks to Fred, I now think of Canada as my fourth home, after the U.S., Norway, and the Netherlands, the three countries in which I've lived.  Thanks to him, I've come to appreciate even more the glories of his wonderful country, a land that he obviously loves greatly and that, again thanks in no small part to him, I now love as well.  Through him, I have met so many wonderful Canadians whom I now count as friends. Indeed, never have I met so many people in such a short time whom I have truly come to think of as friends. What they say about Canadians appears to be entirely true: I've deliberately stepped on all their feet, and they've all apologized for it.  Well, that's not exactly literally true, but it's a metaphorical truth.  The fact is that I've been treated so terribly kindly by so many of the Canadians I've met through Fred, and have come to feel so very quickly that they are indeed my friends, that I can't help feeling that there really is something very special going on up there, above that 49th parallel, something that I have been very fortunate to be a part of.  I hope to be among all of you again very soon, and until then, God bless you all, and God save the Queen, and God give Fred Litwin everything he needs to continue his important work.

Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen

This is real stuff going on, folks, and it's happening all over Western Europe.
A Muslim group in Denmark has launched a campaign to turn parts of Copenhagen and other Danish cities into "Sharia Law Zones" that would function as autonomous enclaves ruled by Islamic law. The Danish Islamist group Kaldet til Islam (Call to Islam) says the Tingbjerg suburb of Copenhagen will be the first part of Denmark to be subject to Sharia law, followed by the Norrebro district of the capital and then other parts of the country, the center-right Jyllands-Posten newspaper reported on October 17.
Call to Islam says it will dispatch 24-hour Islamic 'morals police' to enforce Sharia law in those enclaves. The patrols will confront anyone caught drinking alcohol, gambling, going to discotheques or engaging in other activities the group views as running contrary to Islam.
Integration Minister Karen Haekkerup told Jyllands-Posten "I consider this to be very serious. Anything that attempts to undermine our democracy, we must crack down on it and consistently so."

A look back

Well, partly just for old time's sake, and partly to give younger folks an idea of what gay politics was like in 1994, here's an episode of the Charlie Rose Show from that year, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, featuring among others Ian MacKellan, Tony Kushner, Andrew Sullivan, and moi.  I hardly get a word in edgewise, but it was interesting to be there nonetheless.  In any event it all seems like a million years ago.

Free speech in the UK

God knows the UK today needs all the vigorous defenses of free speech and a free press that its gutsiest scribblers can come up with.  Here's a spirited one at Standpoint.

On WikiLeaks

An interesting take on WikiLeaks:

WikiLeaks is predicated on the assumption that the social order—the set of structures that channel and legitimize power—is both deceptive and brittle: deceptive in the sense that most people who observe the social order are unaware of the ways in which power is actually used, and brittle in the sense that it is at risk of collapse once people are shown the true nature of things. The primary goal, therefore, is revelation of the truth. In the past it was difficult to do this, mainly because primitive technologies made it difficult to collect and disseminate damning information. But now these technological barriers are gone. And once information is set free, the theory goes, the world will change.

We have seen some of the difficulties with this viewpoint. Even in the age of the Internet, there is no such thing as the instantaneous and complete revelation of the truth. In its undigested form, information often has no transformative power at all. Raw data must be distilled and interpreted, and the attention of a distracted audience must be captured. The process by which this is done is complex and easily influenced by commercial and governmental interests. This was true before the advent of the Internet and remains true today.

Beyond this, there is a final and larger problem. It may well be that many of the things WikiLeaks imagines are secrets are not really secrets at all. It may be that what WikiLeaks revealed when it drew back the curtain is more or less what most Americans already suspected had been going on, and were therefore prepared to tolerate.

Another advertisement for myself

Yesterday I mentioned my forthcoming e-book The Marrying Kind, a collection of essays on gay-related topics.  My other forthcoming e-book is entitled Debating Islam, and it contains pieces on, not surprisingly, Islam, as well as other subjects.  A couple of excerpts:
I would never have believed on 9/11 that in 2006, most Europeans would still be surprised to learn – to pluck two examples at random – that over seven in ten immigrant women in Sweden (according to an EU study) are affected by “honor-related violence” and that Jewish children (according to a French government report) “can no longer get an education” in France because of abuse by Muslim classmates. Some law-enforcement authorities have already thrown in the towel: in 2004, Swedish police admitted they “have no control over the situation in Malmö,” a city plagued by Muslim rapes and robberies; this August, after a Muslim gang shootout in Oslo, police said they were “reluctant to crack down on the gangs out of fear for their own safety.” 
- “9/11 Five Years Later,” De Volkskrant, September 2, 2006
The last few decades in Europe have made three things crystal-clear. First, social-democratic welfare systems work best, to the extent they do work, in ethnically and culturally homogeneous (and preferably small) nations whose citizens, viewing one another as members of an extended family, are loath to exploit government provisions for the needy. Second, the best way to destroy such welfare systems is to take in large numbers of immigrants from poor, oppressive, and corruption-ridden societies, whose rule of the road is to grab everything you can get your hands on. And third, the system will be wiped out even faster if many of those immigrants are fundamentalist Muslims who view bankrupting the West as a contribution to jihad. Add to all this the growing power of an unelected European Union bureaucracy that has encouraged Muslim immigration and taken steps to punish criticism of it — criminalizing “incitement of racism, xenophobia, or hatred against a racial, ethnic, or religious group” in 2007, for example — and you can start to understand why Western Europeans who prize their freedoms are resisting the so-called leadership of their see-no-evil elites. 
- “Heirs to Fortuyn,” City Journal, Spring 2009

Rapes in Oslo

Here's my latest piece for Front Page Magazine, about the rape situation in Oslo.

The LRB, true to form

All you  need to know about what the London Review of Books stands for these days is that shortly after 9/11, it ran a special issue on the subject that set the standard for vile post-9/11 anti-Americanism.  Now the LRB has published a full-scale attack on the brilliant and principled Niall Ferguson, whose offenses, in the eyes of the LRB, are having dared to stand up for the West (and especially the U.S.) and to be honest about Islam. The LRB's attack dog, one Pankaj Mishra, actually has the audacity to begin his screed by comparing Ferguson to the character Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby, who, you will recall, was a major asshole and a big fan of a book called The Rise of the Colored Empires.  The implication, of course, is that Ferguson (who is married to Ayaan Hirsi Ali) is a racist. Despicable.

At the honour-killing trial

In the Shafia honour-killing trial, it has already been established that the suspects used Google to try to find a suitable place to commit a murder, but yesterday more details about their Googling emerged:
While prosecutor Laurie Lacelle in her opening address to jurors told them that the “where to commit a murder” search on Mr. Shafia’s laptop took place 10 days before the four women were found dead, it wasn’t until Thursday afternoon that Kingston Constable Derek Frawley, who was qualified as an expert in forensic computer analysis, took the witness stand.
Only with his evidence was it apparent how big and broad was the presumed search for a suitable site.
For six days that June, someone used the laptop to search for bodies of water in Quebec, for “mountains on water,” for “where to rent a boat in Montreal,” for a list of crossings on the St. Lawrence and other rivers in the province.
The searches were all conducted in English, and prosecutors allege it was Hamed, the most fluent English speaker of the three, who conducted most of them.
The Google searches, Const. Frawley said, kicked off in earnest on June 3, when several were performed, the keywords as follows: “Montreal jail”; “Can a prisoner have control over his real estate”; “Montreal jail” again; “Can a prisoner have control over their real estate” and “Can a prisoner have rights to sell his real estate.”

Cool video

Video of the U.S. at night from the International Space Station.

Not from the Onion

Muslim students at Catholic University complain about being surrounded by crosses.

In praise of middlebrow culture

In a laudatory review of Gunther Schuller's autobiography, Terry Teachout writes: 

I was especially interested in what Mr. Schuller had to say about "Fantasia," Walt Disney's 1940 animated feature film about classical music, which he saw for the first time when he was 14: "That film masterpiece truly changed my life, particularly its Stravinsky 'Rite of Spring' sequence, which, as far as I can remember, was the first time I heard that remarkable music. It completely bowled me over. I knew then and there that I had to be a composer."

Needless to say, snobs of all kinds have long taken a dim view of "Fantasia," with its dancing mushrooms and cavorting hippos. Not so Mr. Schuller: "I hope [Stravinsky] appreciated that hundreds—perhaps thousands—of musicians were turned onto 'The Rite of Spring' (and by implication lots of other modern music) through 'Fantasia,' musicians who might otherwise never have heard the work, or at least not until many years later."

Which leads Terry to reflect on the important role that middlebrow culture once played in introducing young people (and not-so-young people) to high culture:

Back in the days of middlebrow culture, the movies weren't the only way for children to get a taste of the classics. I initially made the acquaintance of such literary gems as "Macbeth" and "Moby-Dick" in comic-book form, courtesy of the unjustly mocked Classics Illustrated series ("Featuring Stories by the World's Greatest Authors").

So did I. (Terry and I are the same age.)

Alexander the OK?

In a consideration of five books about Alexander the Great, Mary Beard asks “Alexander: How Great?”

In one of the first known attempts at counterfactual history, Livy raised the question of who would have won if Alexander had decided to invade Italy. Predictably, Livy concluded that the Roman Empire would have proved as invincible against Alexander as it had against its other enemies. True, Alexander was a great general, but Rome at that period had many great generals and they were made of sterner stuff than the Persian king, with his “women and eunuchs in tow,” who was by any reckoning “an easy prey.”

Besides, from early on, Alexander showed signs of fatal weaknesses: witness the vanity, the obeisance he demanded from his followers, the vicious cruelty (he had a record of murdering erstwhile friends around his dinner table), and the infamous drinking. An invasion of Italy would have been a tougher test than the invasion of India, which “he strolled through on a drunken revel with an intoxicated army.”

If you're interested in Alexander, the best place to start may not be with any of the histories Beard reviews but with Mary Renault's magnificent novels Fire from Heaven, The Persian Boy, and Funeral Games. Renault not only knew every detail about how people lived then, but she seemed to have an intuitive, preternatural understanding of how they thought.

(Ha, I notice I also used the word “preternatural” in this 17-year-old review of a biography of Renault.)

Petty tyrannies

An important article by Myron Magnet about the inappropriate exercise of eminent domain and similar abuses of local government power:  

A U.S. Supreme Court justice recounted over cocktails a while ago his travails with his hometown zoning board. He wanted to build an addition onto his house, containing what the plans described as a home office, but he met truculent and lengthy resistance. This is a residential area, a zoning official blustered—no businesses allowed. The judge mildly explained that he would not be running a business from the new room; he would be using it as a study. Well, challenged the suspicious official, what business are you in? I work for the government, the justice replied. Okay, the official finally conceded—grudgingly, as if conferring an immense and special discretionary favor; we’ll let it go by this time. But, he snapped in conclusion, don’t ever expletive-deleted with us again.

Don't let's be beastly to the Germans

An explosive article in yesterday's VG here in Norway reports on author Tor Bomann-Larsen's about-to-be-released book, Æresord (Word of Honor), in which he writes that Norway's beloved King Olav (who reigned from 1957 to 1991), while he was crown prince in the 1930s, encouraged England to cozy up to Hitler in the interest of European peace. In 1935, he wrote to his friend and cousin, the Prince of Wales, urging him to negotiate with the Germans, saying that “the only thing that could help to straighten things out a bit would be a close relationship between England and Germany.” In 1939 he wrote to George VI, begging him to talk to Hitler. As VG notes, by this time Hitler had instituted the Nurenburg Laws and Krystallnacht had taken place. (The article also points out that Olav's father, King Haakon, totally disagreed with Olav and refused to have anything to do with the Germans.) 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Helga Weiss's story

Another Holocaust diary sees the light of day:

On an Auschwitz station platform in 1944, Helga Weiss and her mother fooled one of the most reviled men in modern history, Josef Mengele, and managed to save their lives. Not long into her teens, Weiss lied about her age, claiming she was old enough to work for her keep. Her mother persuaded the Nazis under Mengele's command that Helga was in fact her daughter's older sister, and she was sent to the forced labour barracks and not the gas chamber.

The story is one of many recorded in a concentration camp diary that was sold to publishers around the world at the Frankfurt book fair. The private journals of Helga Weiss are to be published in the UK for the first time next year by Viking Press, while foreign rights have been snapped up by publishing houses across the world.

More Kirchick

Another day, another strong piece by Jamie Kirchick....

Higher education

In my book Surrender I wrote about the pro-jihadist hijinks of a certain Kent State professor: March 2007, it was reported that Julio Pino, an associate professor of history at [Kent State], had been posting at a jihadist Web site. Pino, using the name Assad Pino, had also written to the student newspaper in 2006: “You [that is, the United States] are a nation that permits the production, trading and usage of drugs, gambling, the sex trade, spreads diseases that were unknown to man in the past, such as AIDS, and turns women into commodities for sale. . . . The ill done to the Muslim nations must be requited. The Muslim child does not cry alone; the Muslim woman does not cry alone, and the Muslim man is already at your gates.” 2002, in the same newspaper, Pino had praised a suicide bomber.  
Now (via a link from here's the latest on Pino:
A Kent State history professor, who has allegedly been linked to elements of Muslim extremism, reportedly lashed out at a former Israeli diplomat speaking at the university Tuesday night.
The event was co-sponsored by the undergraduate student government and entitled “An Evening with Ishmael Khaldi.” Khaldi spoke in regards to his book, A Shepherd’s Journey, which details his life journey from a small tent in a Bedouin village to the inner-circles of the Israel Foreign Service. When his speech ended, Khaldi opened the floor to a Q&A, where History Professor Julio Pino rushed to be the first to question Khaldi.
John Milligan of KentWired, an independent student publication, reports that Pino began to question how Khaldi could justify speaking of foreign aid given from Israel to countries like Turkey, when that aid was financed by “blood money that came from the deaths of Palestinian children and babies.” Milligan, a senior majoring in magazine journalism, then captured the the most shocking part of the exchange:
“The crowd fell into an awkward silence as the two continued to exchange words from across the auditorium.
‘It is not respectful to me here,’ Khaldi said.
Pino responded by saying ‘your government killed people’ and claimed Khaldi was not being respectful to him.
‘I do respect you, but you are wrong,’ Khaldi said. ‘It’s a lie.’
The exchange ended as Pino stormed out of the auditorium shouting ‘Death to Israel!’”

Greater Islamophilia in Norway?

According to a study for Norwegian state television, 25% of Norwegians think there are too many Muslims in Norway and that Islam is a threat to Norwegian culture. This number sounds low to me, and it also sounds low to researcher Anders Ravik Jupskås at the University of Oslo, who told NRK that he “believes the terror attacks of July 22 have had an influence on people's attitudes. I think we are facing a long-term trend of greater tolerance for other cultures.” I think the low figure is indeed a result of the atrocities of July 22 (in which an anti-Muslim maniac gunned down dozens of teenage members of Labor Party Youth), but the reason for the low figure, I would wager, is not tolerance; it's fear and insecurity – after the vicious public demonizing of Islam critics that took place in the wake of the massacre, Norwegians are understandably loath to tell pollsters what they really think about Islam.

Cat story

Having anxiously entrusted my cats to airlines on several occasions, I couldn't help noticing this story:

After a nearly two-month-long search, American Airlines has finally found 'Jack the Cat,' a pet that went missing at New York's JFK during a the wild travel weekend that saw Hurricane Irene bearing down on the city.

How does a cat survive – and stay missing – for two months at an airline terminal? If only Jack could talk.

Advertisement for myself

A couple of new collections of my essays are about to be published as e-books. One of them is The Marrying Kind, which brings together a few dozen of my essays about gay life and gay rights, the earliest dating back to 1994. It should be available on some time within the next few days. Here are some excerpts:
What these reactions signify to me is a powerful tendency among some homosexuals to recoil reflexively from the vision of an America where gays live as full and open members of society, with all the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of heterosexuals. Many gay people, indeed, have a deep, unarticulated fear of that metaphorical place at the table. This is understandable: gay people, as a rule, are so used to minimizing their exposure to homophobia, by living either in the closet or on the margins of society, that for someone – even a fellow gay person – to come along and invoke an image of gay America sitting openly at a table with straight America can seem, to them, like a hostile act. 
 – “The Stonewall Myth,” New Republic, June 13, 1994
 “Stonewall 25,” exulted a friend after the march in June [1994], “saw the last gasp of the radical gay left.” Perhaps. Certainly things are changing dramatically. Left-wing gay groups are floundering; the Log Cabin Republicans grow apace. While the gay left seems increasingly barren intellectually and unable to distinguish tactics from strategy, moderate gay voices are being raised and listened to. Unable or unwilling to address the important questions that openly gay moderates are raising, gay-left honchos have chosen instead to paint us dishonestly as a bunch of bigoted, reactionary, self-serving, upper-class conformists.
Last spring in Gay Community News, Urvashi Vaid lodged a by-now-familiar complaint: “By aspiring to join the mainstream rather than continuing to figure out the ways we need to change it, we risk losing our gay and lesbian souls in order to gain the world.” But nobody’s “aspiring to join” the mainstream; the point is that most gays live in that mainstream. What Vaid apparently hasn’t been able to reconcile to her worldview is the emergence from the closet and from political silence of increasing numbers of gays whose politics differ dramatically from her own. The more visible such people become, the clearer it will be how out of touch many gay-left leaders are with the majority of those whom they claim to represent.
– “The Road to Utopia,” The Advocate, September 20, 1994
Nor are we clear among ourselves about the goals of the gay rights movement. Do we want social acceptance and respect, equal rights under the law, sexual liberation, increased self-esteem, Marxist utopia? All of the above? Or do we simply want to vent our anger at society, get the rage out of our system? Is the movement’s role to provide gays (or, perhaps, the world generally) with a more ambitious vision of sexual pleasure or human relations than that reflected in the relationships of our parents? Or do we just want an excuse to throw condoms at priests or run naked up Fifth Avenue?
– “Confusion Reigns,” The Advocate, October 18, 1994
Take James Wolcott, who in a 1989 issue of Vanity Fair ridiculed David Leavitt's novel Equal Affections for presenting “a gay version of that nice young couple down the block.” Gays, Wolcott made it clear, should be “sexual outlaws.” That review was an early salvo in what has since become an assault on “gays next door” by straight liberals who often don’t see how offensive they’re being. Consider an editorial in the New York Times that appeared in June on the morning of the Stonewall 25 march. After declaring support for gay rights, the editorial criticized “gay moderates and conservatives” for seeking “to assure the country that the vast majority of gay people are ‘regular’ people just like the folks next door.” 
– “The Folks Next Door,” The Advocate, November 15, 1994

Burning veils in Yemen

In Yemen, women burn their veils:

SANAA, Yemen (AP) -- Hundreds of Yemeni women on Wednesday set fire to traditional female veils to protest the government's brutal crackdown against the country's popular uprising, as overnight clashes in the capital and another city killed 25 people, officials said.

In the capital Sanaa, the women spread a black cloth across a main street and threw their full-body veils, known as makrama, onto a pile, sprayed it with oil and set it ablaze. As the flames rose, they chanted: "Who protects Yemeni women from the crimes of the thugs?"

Don't get too excited about what this signifies, however:

Wednesday's protest, however, was not related to women's rights or issues surrounding the Islamic veils - rather, the act of women burning their clothing is a symbolic Bedouin tribal gesture signifying an appeal for help to tribesmen, in this case to stop the attacks on the protesters.

Obama = Nixon?

The San Francisco Chronicle compares Obama's White House to Nixon's:

If anything, there is almost a Nixonian quality to the level of control, paranoia - and lack of credibility - this White House has demonstrated on the issue of media access to President Obama's fundraisers.

Bay Area reporters will not be allowed inside the W Hotel today when the president meets with hundreds of contributors paying $7,500 or more to attend. Only Washington-based journalists were allowed in the pool - continuing a disturbing trend by this White House to severely limit access to fundraisers. Even former President George W. Bush, hardly a champion of transparency, allowed local reporters to cover his fundraising events.

Fundraisers are not private events in this post-Watergate era. Contributions are a matter of public record, and the public has a right to know what is being said to and by the president. Local journalists are better positioned than their Beltway brethren to recognize who is there - and why.

At PJMedia, Bryan Preston adds a few comments of his own:

This White House has come to fear and loathe local reporters, ever since Dallas reporter Brad Watson queried the president about his rocky relationship with Texas. In that episode, note that the local reporter (Watson) asked some tough questions, tough enough to get a rise out of Obama, and then USA Today rode to the president’s aid and criticized Watson for doing his job. After that, the WH implied that reporters with enough gumption to ask tough questions of The One will get the freeze out. And back in May, the Obama White House went after a tiny local CA newspaper and got it to scrub a story about FLOTUS that was barely negative.

Fear and dhimmitude

More on that Nashville hotel that cancelled the anti-jihad event. The hotel guy's argument: "at least two of your speakers have a history of enraging people to the point of violence." Of course he has a perfect right to cancel the event; this isn't about denying people their freedom of speech. But it is about fear and dhimmitude, and it's terribly inauspicious.

Loving Islamists

At Time magazine, a stupefyingly idiotic article, even by current Time standards. The headline pretty much says it all: “As Tunisia Counts its Votes, Can the West Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Islamists?” Writing confidently that “[t]here's no inherent contradiction between Islam and democracy,” author Tony Karon contrasts the “[s]ecular liberal parties, based largely in a relatively well-off segment of the urban middle class,” but “unable to connect with the language and priority concerns of the impoverished majorities,” with the Islamist parties, whose “extensive social and welfare programs, designed to ease the burden of the poor,” he extols. He seems totally clueless about what Islamism even means. How is it that so many of the readers who have posted comments on this article “get” Islamism while a Time author does not?

Happy birthday, Adolf

I always felt the laws in some European countries forbidding parents from giving their kids certain names were outrageously, intrusively statist, but a story like this makes you think again:

The Campbell’s three small children were removed from their Holland Township home by the state in January 2009 after they asked a grocery store in Greenwich, N.J., to write “Adolf Hitler” on their son’s birthday cake.

Though a local Wal-Mart honored the birthday cake request, Adolf Hitler Campbell and siblings JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell were put into foster care.

So just remember -- if your kid is named after a mass-murdering genocidal maniac, get his birthday cake at Wal-Mart!  

A brightly burning flame

Here's  my latest piece at Front Page Magazine, a profile of the courageous Italian writer, activist, and legislator Fiamma Nirenstein.

Occupy Hollywood?

Somebody named Jo Piazza makes this argument at Huffington Post:

Americans are currently occupying cities across the country as a part of Occupy Wall Street, demanding an end to corporate greed and a more equitable share of the pie for the middle class.

Yet, the middle class continues to prop up the .01 percent: Hollywood celebrities who make millions just for being themselves. When it comes to making money, celebrities are abnormal. Their enormous salaries make them outliers in the American economy, on a pay grade above most CEOs, surgeons and lawyers -- the professions that typically come to mind when we think of the wealthy.

So how about a movement to Occupy Hollywood?

Here's a good comeback at Big Hollywood.

Ebert on Kael

Yesterday I linked to a New Yorker piece on Pauline Kael, occasioned by a biography of her and a Library of America collection of her work; now here's Roger Ebert writing about her:

We met often. There was a night of drinking during the festival in my hotel room, with Scorsese and me sitting on the floor at her feet. (It was circa 1970, and sitting on the floor was commonplace, I suppose as some kind of statement, just as wearing blue jeans everywhere had become). When she was on the jury at Cannes, I was invited to a little bistro where she introduced Agnes Varda and Jacques Demy. When she briefly took leave of the New Yorker to accept a job offer from Warren Beatty at Paramount, she invited me to a dinner at an Italian restaurant with such as Ray Bradbury, Toback and Robert Towne. "Honey," she confided, "I can't stay out here. They're all whores." Not including present company, it was implied.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Our upcoming panel on The Biases of the CBC is driving people nuts!!!

I love it...but those post-modernist lefties are going beserk over our upcoming film and panel discussion on the Biases of the CBC! Our film looks at CBC bias against Israel and against conservatives. We'll follow the film with a panel consisting of Brian Lilley of Sun News, Eric Duhaime from Le Journal de Montreal, Stephen Taylor from the National Citizens Coalition, and Mike Fegelman of HonestReporting Canada.

To see how beserk they've gone...check out our facebook event page.

Here are the details:

The Biases of the CBC
November 13, 2011, 2 PM
Library & Archives Canada, 395 Wellington
Admission $15 ($10 for students) or free with a Festival Pass.

Rubin on revolution

Barry Rubin doesn't mince words at PJMedia:

On February 11, or October 23, or November 28, 2011, the Middle East entered a new era. Whether you date it to the fall of Mubarak, the Tunisian election, or the Egyptian election, what do you think is going to happen in the next half-century in the region? This is now — I call it officially — the Era of Revolutionary Islamism.

Kirchick on Khadafy

Jamie Kirchick, who is as brilliant as he is prolific, chides  those who would compare the overthrow of Libya's dictator with that of Saddam Hussein:  

Tactics aside, likening American involvement in Libya to its overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq is worse than comparing apples and oranges. It's akin to equating the arrest of a mugger to an FBI sting of a nationwide mob operation.

As brutal a leader as he was, Moammar Khadafy did not pose a strategic threat to the United States as did Hussein's Iraq. In 2004, Khadafy gave up his weapons of mass destruction program and in 2006 the United States removed Libya from its list of state-sponsors of terrorism (Khadafy undertook these moves in response to the overthrow of Saddam, a positive outcome of the war which the President's supporters have neglected to include in their estimations). Were Libya still in possession of such capabilities, it's far from certain that NATO would have intervened.

Moreover, Iraq is at the geographical and political heart of the Arab world - a regional power bordered by other key states like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey. Libya, in all senses, is on the periphery. Simply put, what happens there is not nearly as important to American strategic interests as what occurs in Mesopotamia.

To segue from the serious to the frivolous, the most interesting thing to me about the Libyan dictator was, of course, the fact that there seemed to be an infinite number of ways of spelling his name. Here's an article from earlier this year on this all-important topic:

The Associated Press, CNN, and MSNBC spell it "Moammar Gadhafi." The New York Times spells it "Muammar el-Qaddafi." At the Los Angeles Times, it's "Moammar Kadafi." Reuters, the Guardian, and the BBC go with "Muammar Gaddafi." The Irish Times goes with "Muammar Gadafy." ABC News – which spells it "Moammar Gaddafi" – has posted a list of 112 variations on the English spelling of the Libyan strongman's name.

At The Christian Science Monitor, we go with "Muammar Qaddafi," a spelling that is no more or less defensible than anyone else's.

All this would just be a matter of idle curiosity if it weren't for the Web. Go to Google News and type in “Gadhafi.” Now try “Qaddafi.” And now try “Gaddafi.” Notice how it returns three completely different lists of stories? How you choose to spell it determines what news you get.

Here's  the ABC list mentioned above.  Enjoy!

French justice

Well, he shouldn't have been arrested in the first place, of course, but an acquittal is at least better news than a conviction:

An appeals court on Tuesday confirmed the acquittal of a French man accused of inciting racial hatred after posting an Internet video of himself burning a Koran and then urinating on it.

Ernesto Rojas Abbate was arrested in October 2010 after posting footage of himself wearing a devil mask and tearing pages from the Islamic holy book before setting it on fire and later urinating on it to extinguish the flames.

Prosecutors, who had been seeking a three-month suspended sentence and 1,000 euro ($1,400) fine, appealed after a court acquitted him in May on charges of inciting racial hatred.

Honour killings, V

Mark Steyn has his say about the Shafia case:

The Kingston Trio plus the first Mrs Shafia weren't victims of a crime passionnel committed by a momentarily angry father unable to bear what he saw as his daughters' disobedience, but of a cold, pre-meditated, well planned act of quadruple murder in which pretty much everyone in the family who wasn't a designated victim was in on the crime. Think about it: This is a world in which a father and mother sit around the kitchen table with their son plotting how to kill their three daughters. At a certain level, such people are not fully human.....

It's hard to see what Canada has to gain from admitting significant numbers of people from the culture that spawned the Shafias. Perhaps in time one could make functioning western citizens of them, but it would be a slow process and, even if we had the stomach for it, would be unlikely to justify itself in cost-benefit terms. So instead they come and settle into a culture that asks nothing of them. And slowly but remorselessly we adapt to them: Police departments learn to tiptoe round touchy subjects like "honour killing"; hospitals evolve from "FGM" (the pejorative "female genital mutilation") to "FGC" (the less judgmental "female genital cutting"); and a courthouse in Ontario discreetly reorders its day in order not to inconvenience the translators that "Canadian citizens" now require:

On Fridays, the judge told the jurors, the lunch schedule will be shifted so the interpreters, all male, can get to mosque for prayers.

The multicultural experiment is not worth it. By the time those who foisted it on the post-war west acknowledge that, it will be too late.

Material girl

Finally, a reason to live: Madonna has directed a movie about Wallis Simpson. The question, of course, is this: will it turn out to be deliciously bad, or just bad?

Honour killings, IV

Ayaan Hirsi Ali weighs in on the Shafia case:

Horrific details of an alleged mass honour killing emerged in a crowded Ontario courtroom last week: Three young sisters and their polygamous father's first wife were murdered in the name of religious purity, according to the Crown prosecutor: A staged car accident, plotted and executed, allegedly by the father, mother and brother of 19-year-old Zainab, 17-year-old Sahar, and 13-year-old Gheeti Shafia, whose reportedly brazen refusal to comply with the traditions imposed on Afghan females so polluted the family's honour that only death could remove its taint. In the chilling words of the girls' father, Mohammad Shafia, "They betrayed Islam" by consorting with boys, posing seductively for cell phone photographs, and refusing to wear the hijab. "God's curse on them for generations. May the devil (expletive) on their graves. Is that what a daughter should be? Would a daughter be such a whore?"....

If anything can be taken from the untimely death of the four Shafia women, it is this: honour violence is happening in North America and our institutions need to quickly educate themselves to be able to properly respond to save lives. These girls embrace our culture and expect that we will protect them from the savagery they left behind in their homes countries -- we owe it to them to do no less.

One man's 9/11

On 9/11, the American writer William  Deresiewicz and his wife were in a remote Indian hotel with a bunch of non-American strangers:

The TV was bolted to a corner of the ceiling, and the only channel it received was Fox News. First we got Newt Gingrich. Then we got Pat Buchanan. Then we got Al Haig. It was like a trip down Republican memory lane. “Who are they going to roll out next?” I finally snorted. “Barry Goldwater?” Then came the news that the president was circling in Air Force One. The German guy—he was just about the only other guest who hadn’t left by that point—made a critical remark, something about a coward. I knew this was a way of reaching out to us, the offer of a little shared Bush-bashing, but I couldn’t stop myself from acting like my suspicions had been confirmed. “It’s a perfectly understandable security measure,” I snapped. “What do you want them to do?” A few minutes later, he left, too. I had gotten what I wanted. We were alone.

L'amour, toujours l'amour

Jay Nordlinger in National Review:

I’ve quoted to you before what Jimmy Carter said in 2009 on receiving an award from the PLO: “I have been in love with the Palestinian people for many years.” He has been far less in love, of course, with the Israeli people, and with Jewish people in general.

         Most of us fall in love with individuals. I believe it’s true that Carter
         fell in love with Palestinians as a class.  I think his love is not pure,
         however, because I think it comes from, or at least is fed by, his
         hatred of the Israelis.

Honor (sorry, honour) killings, III

Barbara Kay on the Shafia case:

If we are to combat this social scourge, it is no use hiding behind politically correct feminist and multicultural mantras. At a panel discussion last winter, for example, a Toronto therapist took the reflexive feminist line that honour killings are just another form of domestic violence, a product of a generic "patriarchy" that could happen to any Canadian girl or woman: "It's not a [product of] South Asian or Muslim culture." Another panellist suggested there was an element of Islamophobia in "how these things keep getting labelled." The Canadian Council of Muslim Women claims that any connection between Islam and honour violence is "coincidental."

Advertisements for himself

The Atlantic runs a few excerpts from Norman Mailer's massive trove – over a thousand boxes! – of correspondence. In 1965, he writes to William F. Buckley, Jr., about Joan Didion (who, without any premeditation on my part, seems to be turning into the recurring theme of this week's blogging):

What a marvelous girl Joan Didion must be. I think that’s one conservative I would like to meet. And who would ever have thought that the nicest [review of An American Dream] I am to read about myself four weeks after publication should come in the National Review. Well, this is the year of literary wonders. What do you think the odds would have been for a parlay of good reviews in National Review, Life, the New York Times Sunday Book Review, Paul Pickrel at Harper’s, and the Chicago Tribune. One hundred fifty million to one, or would we have picked it by light-years?

Anyway, I write you this letter in great envy. I think you are going finally to displace me as the most hated man in American life. And of course that position is bearable only if one is number one.

A thousand boxes! Could it be that Mailer is one of those writers who will end up being admired more for their collected letters or journals than for the work published during their lifetimes?

Honor killings, II

Brian Seaman, a researcher with the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre, makes the familiar multicultural attempt to soft-pedal honor killing by reminding us that domestic violence already exists in the West:

For example, take the hot button issue of “honour killings”. Barbaric as the practice admittedly is, it is tritely obvious too that Canadian women who are white and of Anglo-Celtic or other European backgrounds will suffer abuse and some will die at the hands of their boyfriends, husbands or exes in a domestic example that could attract the label of barbarity.

For the thousandth time, honor killings cannot be compared to ordinary acts of domestic violence. These are not crimes of passion. People in any culture are capable of crimes of passion. No, these are cold-blooded executions performed by people equipped with an on-off switch for love for their own children – a phenomenon that is impossible for a healthy Western mind to conceive of. To admit, on a large scale, people with such a cultural mindset into a civilized Western country is to welcome into our midst a systematic, dispassionate barbarism that is beyond our imagining.


A colorful profile of Kaiser Wilhelm II:

He was given to bombastic speeches, once warning newly sworn-in recruits that, if ordered by him, they would have to shoot their parents. He gave astounding orders to departing soldiers at the time of the Boxer Rebellion that they should arouse fear as had the Huns of yore. He detested liberal critics. And he spoke disparagingly of foreign nations, especially of Great Britain. Some of this had to do with his Anglophobia; he totally distrusted his mother, the daughter of Queen Victoria. Worse, though, than his arrogant, bombastic statements, he supported ministers and military personnel who called for an ever greater German army—and, most ominously—for a high seas fleet that would eventually be strong enough to defeat the British navy. The details of government he shunned, for they interfered with his diversions. He wanted to reign, and he enjoyed his huge court—over two thousand subordinates from generals to servants to gardeners, whom he would at times affront with crude jokes and offensive pranks.

Honor killing in Canada

In Kingston, Canada, a man, his son, and his second wife are on trial for the honor killing of the man's first wife and three daughters. At Front Page Magazine, a piece about these horrendous crimes:

It is believed Mohammad Shafia, a prosperous businessman who owns a shopping mall, killed his daughters for the same reason that Aqsa Parvez’s father murdered her: They were living too Western a lifestyle. Shafia’s daughters would wear Western-style clothing, have boyfriends, disrespect traditions such as the hijab, and be defiant of his authority. They also apparently suffered the same mistreatment at their father’s hands that Aqsa Parvez did for behaving so. One daughter was even kept out of school for a whole year when it was discovered she had a boyfriend. Shafia, however, was apparently particularly hostile to the friendship and alliance the three had formed with the childless Rona, which was probably the reason she was also killed in this mass honor murder.

“They committed treason on themselves. They betrayed humankind. They betrayed Islam. They betrayed our religion…they betrayed everything,” Shafia told Tooba, the murdered children’s mother.

To show perhaps he isn’t completely unfeeling, Shafia also told his second wife he becomes “consoled” over his daughters’ deaths whenever he views the cell phone photos Zainab and Sahar took of themselves, posing in their underwear or with boyfriends.

“I say to myself, ‘You did well.’ Were they come to life, I would do it again,” the wiretap recorded him saying....

The Shafia family is typical of some immigrant families from Third World countries with strict religious cultures. They arrive in the West but never actually live here. They want to take economically from their new environment but still want to live their lives by the laws, rules, customs and values of their country of origin. They want to adopt nothing in this respect from their new society, believing in some cases their new country’s culture inferior to their own and that it even poses a threat. For them, integration is simply out of the question and no attempt is ever made, choosing self-segregation from the host society instead.

But problems often arise when their children attend school and encounter values that contradict those of the family’s, especially if a strict religious, patriarchal culture reigns at home. Girls face heavy restrictions in such homes, particularly in Muslim ones, and therefore can be especially affected by a school environment where equality between the genders is stressed, and they notice female classmates from other cultures enjoying unheard of freedoms. Wanting to fit in with the others and enjoy life, these girls then rebel against their restrictive home environments, but sometimes with deadly consequences.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Attention, cartographiles

Here's an entertaining read for anyone who's into maps.

Deconstructing Woody

At Slate, a grab-bag of diverting pieces by and about Woody Allen.  

An exhilarating moment for Europe?

Wow – something sensible in the Guardian!

At this point "pro-Europeans" have to stop talking rubbish and start on realpolitik. Alaric is not at the gates of Rome. Washington has not crossed the Delaware. Napoleon has not returned from Elba. All that may happen is that Europe's democracies, disregarded, distorted and corrupted for a quarter century by the oligarchs of Brussels, will crawl out from the shadow of the very Acropolis where democracy was born. For all sceptics of grand federations, gilded alliances, and upmarket mafias hatched down the ages in Europe's cloud-capped spas, this could be an exhilarating moment.

Scientology versus South Park



A Nashville hotel cancels a conference by Islam critics.


I wish every school system in the Western world would learn a lesson from this: a Silicon Valley school where the IT people send their kids because it doesn't have computers.

A voice from Zion

In the American Scholar, a straight, non-Mormon Utah woman offers an absorbing personal account about Utah, Mormons, and gays:

Almost three out of four people in Utah are Mormon, but you can’t fully understand what that means until you live here. Knowing that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) is one of the fastest growing in the world with more than 14 million members, or watching Big Love on HBO or The Book of Mormon on Broadway cannot prepare you. Even the intense media attention on Mormonism with the presidential campaigns of Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman barely touches the surface of the faith. Mormons themselves who come to live in Utah from other parts of the country make the distinction between Mormons and Utah Mormons. The climate is so different here. In this theocracy, in a place Mormons refer to as Zion, I will always be an outsider, but I have made a kind of peace with the state. You have to if you want to remain. The peace is both hard earned and uneasy, tested continually. And it has been the stance of the LDS Church on homosexuality that has most recently challenged any goodwill I have fostered over the years.

Our betters know better

Most Britons would like to see a referendum on EU membership – but the EU doesn't like referendums, and neither does David Cameron:

David Cameron on Monday suffered his largest parliamentary rebellion since becoming prime minister as around 80 Conservative lawmakers defied their leader to vote in favour of holding a referendum on Britain's EU membership.

Cameron's government, which is against holding a referendum, in the end won the House of Commons vote 483-111 due to support from the Liberal Democrats -- the Conservatives' euro-friendly junior coalition partners -- and the main opposition Labour Party.

Hanson on Pericles and America

In the New Criterion, a wise, eloquent essay in which Victor Davis Hanson brings his rich knowledge of ancient history to bear on today's America and Americans, asking, in essence, what Pericles would make of us and our “presentism,” and what we would make of him and his “reverence for the past”:

The mark of a great leader and an even greater people is precisely such reverence for the past—not a vague past, but one of real people who lived, suffered, achieved, and died for others. In our age of presentism and pride in our high-tech affluence—in which Americans use the standards of the contemporary university to judge prior generations as inferior to our own sensibilities in terms of race, class, and gender equality—such blanket praise of our ancestors seems reactionary and illiberal. After all, the President of the United States has recently apologized for American behavior of a half-century earlier in Iran; for supposed past indifference to the Palestinian issue; for maltreatment of Native Americans, blacks, and other minorities; and for dropping the atomic bomb in World War II. Nowhere does Barack Obama hint that he himself—so unlike the anonymous of the past whom he easily castigates—might lack the physical stamina or bravery to withstand a bout with pre-antibiotic diphtheria, to drive a mule team in summer across the Utah desert, to survive a Banzai charge on Okinawa, or to retreat from the Yalu River in November 1950.

Hanson's conclusion:

The real lesson of the Periclean Oration is not merely that some Athenian values should be our own, but that in our place, according to our station, we too might have the imagination to articulate the singularity of our culture and the bravery to proclaim it without apology or qualification. To do otherwise, is to enjoy the unmatched bounty and freedom of the United States without gratitude to those of the past who bequeathed it, and without present awareness that what we enjoy makes us blessed beyond the comprehension of most of the six billion others on the planet.

In short, Pericles reminds Americans that, should a great culture not feel that its values and achievements are exceptional, then few others will as well—a fact injurious to a small and insignificant state, but fatal for a power with aspirations of global leadership. A leader who relentlessly reminds his countrymen of their shortcomings will naturally apologize abroad for them as well, and what starts as self-critique becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of national decline.

Horse abuse

So one of those Central Park carriage horses, the ones romanticized in films like Manhattancollapses in the street and dies.  I'm amazed it doesn't happen more often.  Every time I see one of those horses I shake my head in pity.  Does any horse in the civilized world live such an agitated life, clomping every day through the most hectic and noisy traffic anywhere, constantly being cut off by lunatic cab drivers, and being taken care of (supposedly) by people many of whom do not seem, to put it kindly, to be the most sensitive of souls?  Time to put an end to this animal abuse once and for all.

Bellovian reflections

In the New York Review of Books, an engagingly reflective, previously unpublished piece by Saul Bellow about being a Jewish-American writer:

The condition I am looking into is that of a young American who in the late Thirties finds that he is something like a writer and begins to think what to do about it, how to position himself, and how to combine being a Jew with being an American and a writer. Not everyone thinks well of such a project. The young man is challenged from all sides. Representatives of the Protestant majority want to see his credentials. Less overtly hostile because they are more snobbish, the English want to know who he is or what he thinks he is. Later his French publishers will invariably turn his books over to Jewish translators.

The Jews too try to place him. Is he too Jewish? Is he Jewish enough? Is he good or bad for the Jews? Jews in business or politics ask, “Must we forever be reading about his damn Jews?” Jewish critics examine him with a certain sharpness—they have their own axes to grind.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pauline Kael's back in the New Yorker

The New Yorker has a long piece on Pauline Kael, who, as it happens, was no fan of Joan Didion:

She hated what she viewed as Didion’s fashionable despair. She used the adaptation of “Play It as It Lays” (1972) as an occasion to sneer, in print, at the novel’s style. (“I read it between bouts of disbelieving giggles.”) The following year, Didion’s husband, John Gregory Dunne, published an essay pointing out that Kael’s ignorance of the moviemaking process meant she sometimes praised or chastised directors for choices they didn’t make.

Dunne, it turns out, wasn't the only Hollywood insider who chided Kael for being insufficiently savvy about what actually happens on a movie set. After Kael, in a takedown of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, complained that each line of dialogue in the film “comes out of nowhere, coyly, in a murmur, in the dead sound of the studio,” the picture’s director, George Roy Hill, who had, in fact, shot it outdoors, shot off a letter to her:

“Listen, you miserable bitch,” he began, “you’ve got every right in the world to air your likes and dislikes, but you got no goddam right at all to fake, at my expense, a phony technical knowledge you simply don’t have.”

Fun stuff.

Up close and personal

I am not a fan of Joan Didion, for reasons I explained at length in a Hudson Review article in 2007 (available here to subscribers), but this intimate profile of her makes interesting reading nonetheless. I found the following admission especially striking, because it confirmed my own major reservation about her work:

She admits that her writing might lack empathy, even human curiosity. “I’m not very interested in people,” she says. “I recognize it in myself—there is a basic indifference toward people.”

Murder most foul

The Telegraph reports on a horrible killing in Scotland that may or may not have been motivated by homophobia.


In a comment on a previous posting by me, Dr. Dawg writes: "Fundamentalism of all kinds is the enemy. I don't think we should pick and choose." I encourage Dr. Dawg to purchase my book, Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity.

It is interesting how certain people, when you criticize Christian fundamentalism, are quick to cheer. Then when you turn around and criticize Islamic fundamentalism, which frankly is a much more alarming phenomenon, the same people are quick to condemn you for not criticizing Christian fundamentalism in the same breath.

Poller on the al-Dura hoax

From Nidra Poller, reflections on the enduring Muhammed al-Dura hoax:

Recognized almost immediately as a staged scene by astute observers, denounced by others as an unfounded accusation against Israeli soldiers, the Dura video has been analyzed, investigated, dissected, exposed, taken to court, attacked, defended, exploited, and debated for almost ten years. As it turned out, the Palestinian cameraman Talal Abu Rahma, who has won countless prizes for the video, captured less than one minute of the dramatic scene that lasted, according to his sworn testimony, for forty-five minutes. Forty-five minutes of uninterrupted gunfire "from the Israeli position" left the man and boy miraculously intact as far as one can gather from looking at the video. Contrary to what the world has been led to believe, there is no raw footage of the scene. And, contrary to what might be expected, this and other equally embarrassing revelations have left the Dura myth, to all intents and purposes, intact.

Rapes in Oslo

I'm watching Norway's TV2 all-news channel right now and they're reporting that the number of rape assaults in Oslo has doubled. In fact, there have already been twice as many rape assaults in the city so far this year as there were in all of 2010. This in a city where, as was reported in May, every rape assault in the last five years was committed by a person with a "non-Western" background. Conservative member of parliament André Oktay Dahl calls the situation "critical" and is brave enough to acknowledge that many of the perpetrators come from cultures "with a reprehensible attitude toward women."

Two rapes took place this weekend, one of them in the park outside the Royal Palace.

The North African autumn

In Tunisia, the “main Islamist party is on its way to power after the first truly free and fair elections in the country's history”:

The moderate Islamic movement Ennahda, or Renaissance, is expected to win the most seats in the assembly, although no one party is expected to win a majority.

An Ennahda victory, especially in a comparatively secular society like Tunisia, could have wide implications for similar religious parties in the region....

Ennahda believes that Islam should be the reference point for the country's system and laws and believes that democracy is the best system to maintain people's rights.

It has also said it supports Tunisia's liberal laws promoting women's equality - making it much more progressive than other Islamic movements in the Middle East.

Some voters expressed concern that despite its moderate public line, Ennahda could reverse some of Tunisia's progressive legislation for women if it gains power.

Meanwhile, in Libya, the country's “interim leader outlined more radical plans to introduce Islamic law than expected as he declared the official liberation of the country.”

(Than expected by whom?)

Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, the chairman of the National Transitional Council and de fact president, had already declared that Libyan laws in future would have Sharia, the Islamic code, as its "basic source"....

Mr Abdul-Jalil went further, specifically lifting immediately, by decree, one law from Col. Gaddafi's era that he said was in conflict with Sharia - that banning polygamy.

In a blow to those who hoped to see Libya's economy integrate further into the western world, he announced that in future bank regulations would ban the charging of interest, in line with Sharia. "Interest creates disease and hatred among people," he said.

And in post-Mubarak Egypt, a court “sentenced a man to three years in jail with hard labour on Saturday for insulting Islam in postings on Facebook.”

The Cairo court found that Ayman Yusef Mansur "intentionally insulted the dignity of the Islamic religion and attacked it with insults and ridicule on Facebook," the agency reported.

The court said his insults were "aimed at the Noble Koran, the true Islamic religion, the Prophet of Islam and his family and Muslims, in a scurrilous manner," the agency reported.

Mansur's conviction comes at a time of mounting fears that Islamists will sweep the country's first parliamentary elections after Mubarak's ouster, scheduled to begin on November 28.

Moral inequivalence

Elliott Abrams asks:

What does one make of organizations that wish to see former President George W. Bush behind bars, but have never expressed similar sentiments about Fidel Castro, Vladimir Putin, Bashar Assad or Hassan Nasrallah?

Those organizations would be Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, which just this week asked Canada to try to prosecute Bush “for his role in authorizing the torture of detainees.” They issued their statements now because Bush is soon to visit Canada again. The Human Rights Watch press release is entitled, “Canada: Don’t Let Bush Get Away With Torture.”

No surprise there. While Bush was president, the young people who stopped you in the street in Oslo to ask you to support Amnesty International never mentioned Castro, Putin, Assad, and company – no, they always got your attention by calling out the same words: Guántanamo, Abu Ghraib, Bush.

Frank Kameny, R.I.P.

Every gay person in North America, I would expect, has heard of the Stonewall uprising. The uprising, which took place outside the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, New York, in June of 1969, was motivated by a police raid on the bar, and is generally credited with initiating the modern gay-rights movement. No doubt Stonewall was one of the splashiest events in the early phases of the movement's history, bringing wider attention to the issue of gay rights and raising the consciousness of gay people to whom it had never occurred that they had a right to dignity, let alone that they might actually take to the streets and stand up for that dignity.

But before there was a Stonewall uprising, there was Frank Kameny, who died on October 11. There is no one who deserves the title “father of the gay-rights movement” more than he. He was fighting for gay rights more than a decade before Stonewall. Four years before the Stonewall's customers, along with numerous other local gays, erupted into a spontaneous, raucous, large-scale demonstration in Sheridan Square, Kameny and a small number of gutsy friends were organizing an orderly picket march outside the White House. To compare a photograph of those picketers – the men in neatly pressed Fifties-style suits and ties and the women in equally conservative garb – with pictures of the Stonewall riots underscores the dramatic differences in American society, and in the gay-rights movement, that a mere four years would bring.

My friend John Corvino sums up Frank's legacy:

When Dr. Franklin Kameny was fired from his government job in 1957 for being gay, there was no national gay civil rights movement. It took pioneers like him to make it happen.

A Harvard-trained Ph.D. and World War II veteran, Frank lost his job as an Army Map Service astronomer for being a homosexual. Unsure of his future employability and outraged by the injustice, he petitioned all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case. That firing and subsequent refusal sparked a tireless lifetime of activism.

(Incidentally, in 2009 the Federal Office of Personnel Management finally issued Frank a formal apology for the firing. In his inimitable style, he promptly replied that he was looking forward to his five decades of back pay.)

In 1961 Frank co-founded the Mattachine Society of Washington D.C.—a “homophile organization” based on the original group in California. Soon thereafter, in 1963, he began a decades-long campaign to revoke D.C.’s sodomy law. He personally drafted the repeal bill that was passed 30 years later.

In 1965, he picketed in front of the White House for gay rights. Signs from that demonstration, stored in his attic for decades, are now in the Smithsonian’s collection.

In 1971, he became the first openly gay person to run for Congress. (He came in fourth, which itself was a kind of victory given the anti-gay sentiment of the era.) He was instrumental in the battle that led to the declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association in 1973. He continued to fight over the decades against employment discrimination, sodomy laws, the military ban—unjust discrimination in all its forms.

More on Frank's life here. My friend Jonathan Rauch also pays tribute:

Frank Kameny made my life better. He made countless gay people’s lives better. He showed us the meaning of courage. He showed us the power of standing up for ourselves. He renewed our belief in moral suasion against ignorance and hostility. And he made his country, our country, truer to the better angels of its nature.

Philosophically and temperamentally, Frank was not exactly a perfect fit with the dominant strain of the gay-activist movement that developed out of Stonewall. He was not a far-left utopian who despised religion, capitalism, the military, cherished gay marginality and rebelliousness for its own sake, and sought to overthrow American society and American institutions. No, he believed in the values set forth in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and he simply wanted gay people to have a place at the American table, just like their straight brothers and sisters. To see self-confident, well-adjusted young gay people today who cannot imagine ever being in the closet or feeling ashamed of their sexual orientation is to see a world that Frank helped bring into being. He had an immeasurable impact on the lives of people who have never heard his name.

I only met Frank in person once – last year, in Washington, over dinner with a few other gay friends. But I had known him for years as a very active fellow member of a listserv to which we both belonged. He was the oldest member of the list, but also, perhaps, the feistiest – never rude, but always insistent. His constant message: don't just complain about these things among yourselves. Get out there! Contact the media. Write your member of Congress. Spread the word! Make a difference! He practiced what he preached, and in doing so helped shape an America truer to its founding principles – an America in which gay people can live with greater personal liberty and integrity, and pursue happiness as freely as everyone else.

Hello, everybody

Bruce Bawer here. I want to start by thanking Fred for inviting me to hang around here this week.

I first met Fred a couple of years ago when he invited me to speak in Ottawa and elsewhere under the auspices of the Free Thinking Film Society. We have kept in touch ever since, and I spent time with him again this June when he invited my friend Hege Storhaug to Canada to lecture and I tagged along to introduce her. Over these years he has become one of my heroes – at once a man of thought and a man of action, principled, gutsy, tireless, and generous of spirit. It's an honor to be a guest blogger here.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Celebrated author Bruce Bawer to blog at GayandRight for a week...

I am delighted to announce that celebrated author Bruce Bawer will be blogging here for a week. Bruce is an amazing intellectual and I am proud to call him my friend.

Considered one of America's leading cultural critics, Bruce Bawer was born in New York City in 1956 and received his BA, MA, and PhD in English from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Described by Kirkus Reviews as "a literary essayist for the ages," he has published several volumes of literary criticism, including Diminishing Fictions (1988), The Aspect of Eternity (1993), and Prophets and Professors (1995). His other books include A Place at the Table (1993), one of the most influential books ever written about homosexuality; Stealing Jesus (1997), which Publishers Weekly called “a must-read book for anyone concerned with the relationship of Christianity to contemporary American culture"; Coast to Coast (1993), which was named by the Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook as the year’s best first book of poems; and While Europe Slept (2006), a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist and New York Times bestseller.

Bawer's latest book, Surrender (2009), was described by Booklist as "sublimely literate and rational...immensely important and urgent." Bawer has also contributed hundreds of articles and reviews to such publications as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, City Journal, The Wilson Quarterly, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The New Republic, Cato Policy Report, The Nation, and The Times Literary Supplement, and is a regular contributor of literary essays to The Hudson Review.

Since 1999 he has made his home in Oslo, Norway.