Friday, March 27, 2009

The march of Islam and the destruction of free speech


Contact: Nathan Bupp
Phone: (716) 636-4869 x. 218

Center For Inquiry Condemns United Nations Resolution on "Defamation of Religions"

UN Human Rights Council statement prepares the way for international criminalization of religiously offensive speech

March 26, 2009 (New York)—The United Nations Human Rights Council has handed another victory to Islamic states in their decade-long push to limit freedom of expression out of “respect” for religious beliefs.

A new Council resolution decries a “campaign of defamation of religions” in which “the media” and “extremist organizations” are “perpetuating stereotypes about certain religions and sacred persons,” and urges UN member states to provide redress “within their respective legal and constitutional systems.” Capitalizing on concerns about racial profiling and discrimination in the era of the war on terror, the language conflates criticism of Islam with anti-Muslim bigotry and seeks to stifle peaceful speech in the name of “dialogue” and “diversity.”

Similar resolutions have been passed at the Council since 1999 and by the General Assembly since 2005. The resolution passed with 23 in favor, 11 against, and 13 abstentions, gaining one additional no vote since the last time it was adopted by the Council.

“The concept of ‘defamation of religions’ is both absurd and dangerous.” said Ronald A. Lindsay, CFI’s president and chief executive officer. “Legally speaking, it’s gibberish, and any ban on so-called ‘defamation’ would effectively prevent any critique of religious beliefs or practices.”

In the opinion of a broad range of civil society organizations, these pronouncements do nothing but lend legitimacy to the repression of political and religious dissent around the world, particularly in Islamic countries. Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, for example, which carry mandatory sentences of death or life imprisonment, are frequently used against members of the Ahmaddiya community, a peaceful minority Muslim sect.

Through its UN representative, Dr. Austin Dacey, CFI participated in the negotiations over the resolution during the March session of the Council in Geneva, and delivered an oral statement before the plenary meeting on March 24. Most worrisome, according to CFI, is that the present language equates religiously insulting speech with “advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence,” a category of speech that is prohibited by existing treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which have the force of law.

“Now the argument becomes very awkward for Europe,” said Dacey, “since many European states have laws against hate speech, Holocaust denial, and even blasphemy (for example, in Austria) that have been upheld by their regional human rights courts. The Islamic states will say they simply want to extend the same protection to all beliefs.”

The Center for Inquiry has submitted a written briefing to the Tenth Session of the Human Rights Council detailing a reading of the case law that separates criticism, satire, and insult from incitement.

The Center for Inquiry/Transnational is a nonprofit, educational, advocacy, and scientific-research think tank based in Amherst, New York. Their research and educational projects focus on three broad areas: religion, ethics, and society; paranormal and fringe-science claims; and medicine and health. The Center's Web site is .


Thursday, March 26, 2009

The end of an era -- what wll the "Obama Doctrine" look like

A few months ago there was a lot of bumpf going on in the media about whether Obama would emulate Franklin Roosevelt.

Roosevelt kept the U.S. out of World War Two until 1942. Canada was at war in 1939. Roosevelt supported Canada in the war before America got into it by buiding warplanes, parking them at the border, and allowing Canadians to cross over and tow them across into Canadian territory.

Last night one of the nostalgic A.M. radio stations played a tape of Bob Hope entertaining Canadian soldiers at Camp Borden in Ontario in 1944. Hope sang his famous "Thanks for the Memories" theme song with the lyrics alterted to praise the alliance between Canada and the U.S. and to remark on the "open" border between the two countries.

Although Hope has since passed from the scene, Canada is still involved in military alliances with the United States, NATO, NORAD and in joint command operations in Afghanistan.

This story appeared this morning courtesy of Canadian Press.

WASHINGTON -- A senior official in the Obama administration doused hopes yesterday that the Canadian border will be treated differently than the beefed-up Mexican boundary where drug violence is escalating.

"One of the things that we need to be sensitive to is the very real feelings among southern border states and in Mexico that if things are being done on the Mexican border, they should also be done on the Canadian border," Janet Napolitano, secretary of homeland security, told a Canada-U.S. border conference.

She also said there would be no further delay of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which will require adults entering the United States from Canada to present a passport as of June 1. "It is a real border and we need to address it as a real border," she said.

If this is a true reflection of the current state of Obamaland thinking about international cooperation, then I think he will come to resemble the 5th President, James Monroe, who is best remembered for the "Monroe Doctrine" advising Europeans to stay out of America's back yard, except in this case, we are the Europeans.

It seems that military alliances no longer have the mystique they used to have.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

You heard it here first -- a leading Christian fundamentalist doesn't think religion should prevail

So polygamy was all over the news today.

The federal government is standing by its position relative to the prosecution of the 7th Day Adventist group leader in Bountiful, B.C. that it is constitutionally illegal. Most legal experts think otherwise because of the freedom of religion rights in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the failure of the government to stand up for marriage as a contract between a man and a woman when faced with the issue over gay marriages.

The consequences of the decriminalization of polygamy are severe when such a high proportion of immigrants to Canada are from Muslim countries where polygamy is legal. It raises all sorts of issues unaddressed at the moment under our laws regarding property rights and custody rights. Of course, Islamic law has this all sorted out, so the pressure will come to enshrine the Sharia law as a simple way of dealing with it. Our politicians love simple solutions to complex problems.

The general experience of women and children in polygamous relationships has tended not to enhance their equality and rights; it tends in the opposite direction, with male dominance. Our societal values make women and men equal and grant rights to children.

Some commentators argue that because the government permitted the legal definition of marriage to slide with respect to homosexuals there is no good reason to object to it with regard to polygamists who claim it as a religious right.

I think these are different arguments.

We have known for some time that a small percentage of the population is homosexual, not because of some moral choice, but because of genes, genetics, biology, or simply an outcome of nature. So the issue facing society was whether to recognize the social relationships of these people that were based on their biologically determined nature.

We long ago gave up on laws restricting the rights of consenting adults to all sorts of sexual behaviour, including homosexuality. So if sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex is not illegal, why would marriage be so? There simply was not a good enough argument against it.

Biology doesn’t dictate polygamy. The only excuse for it is religion. It is a matter of choice, and like many things in religion the question of compulsion arises. The Koran does not say that a man must have multiple marriages; it only says he can if he can take care of all the women properly.

These 7th Day Adventists may mount a different argument about compulsion, but they face the problem that the parent church turned its back on the religious compulsion for polygamy decades ago.

If you are a fan of the HBO series, Big Love, you will know in this last season that the ex-church Hendricksons tussled for a few episodes over an alleged letter that showed the church had not really abandoned polygamy. This was proof to the family that they really were on the right path to salvation.

On the matter of whether religion should rule the day, I would have to bow to a statement made by a person I would never have guessed would offer such a principle, Dr. Charles McVety, of the Institute for Family Values, an evangelical fundamentalist Christian.

“As Dr. McVety said, when he explained why religious practice should not be allowed to trump fundamental human rights: “If the government can’t protect women and children, then what good is the government?”

Monday, March 23, 2009

Now it's Canada's turn to hide its face in shame

This member of the British Parliament, George Galloway, appears to be a publicity-addled extreme left-wing nutbar (he laments the dissolution of the Soviet Union), with a whiff of corruption attaching to him, and his views are likely too extreme to be popular with anybody outside of the membership of the NDP.

However, he should have been admitted to Canada to say his piece and, if in the course of saying it, he violates any criminal law he should be arrested and charged. How he can be a security risk to this country escapes me.

So what if he supplied aid to Hamas? He didn’t come here and raise the money and if he were to do so, then he could be charged under the anti-terrorist laws.

I am surprised that Ezra Levant would line up on the side of the government on this one and I think his reasoning is just so much sophistry. There is less reason for the Canadian government to bar Galloway than there was for the British government to bar Geert Wilders – at least in Britain’s case there was at least a threat of public disorder.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Obama demonstrates the problem of negotiating against yourself

I used to negotiate collective agreements with labour unions. I took courses in negotiations and communications to improve my skills and I had a lot of hands-on experience over 25 years.

One of the key things you learn is not to negotiate against yourself. There is a strong tendency to make a unilateral offer in the hope that this will instill a movement from the other side on something it is demanding. This never works. The other party interprets this as weakness, takes the offering, and doubles down on its demands for the rest of its shopping list.

One of the best examples internationally was the abandonment of Gaza by Israel, a unilateral move after years of trying to trade land for recognition and peace. Triumphant Palestinian militants claimed victory in their long fight with Israel and promptly promoted two military clashes by bombarding Israel with rockets and kidnapping its soldiers.

We can also see this playing out with President Obama.

First, he gave a television interview to an Arab television network talking about his new deal desires for the Middle East and claiming the U.S. was wrong in its previous policies.

Next, he wrote a letter to the Iranian president saying much the same. The immediate response from Ahmadinejad was that America must first apologize for all its “crimes” against Iran. That is, Obama must do more groveling to Iran – no promise of anything in return, of course.

Obama had already received public criticism for unnecessarily torpedoing long-standing U.S. policy in his television remarks without clearly replacing it. He was told this would have negative consequences. Yet he proceeded with the letter and, guess what, he got the predicted response.

One would have thought by that point a bright, thoughtful chief executive would have considered what his path was yielding and planned it differently; like maybe authorizing secret meetings of senior officials with their Iranian counterparts to explore avenues of cooperation that could be turned into public relations successes and real progress.

That would be a different president than this one, apparently.

He has now ripped a page right out of Osama bin Laden’s playbook and released a video translated into Farsi all about his good wishes for Iran and wanting a handshake and a hug.

And what did this effort yield?

Ahmadinejad’s boss, the Ayatollah Kamenei spoke at a large gathering of the faithful, whose mood was best defined by incessant chanting of “Death to America”, and said that deeds must precede words. In short, Obama must take unilateral steps that favour Iran before Iran will even consider some reciprocity.

Who is advising Obama? Will he listen to anybody, besides the voice in his own head? Let us hope so, because he is clearly naïve.

I worry more about Russia, than I do about Iran. The last time the United States elected a young “hopey-changey” president who went to Berlin and gave inspirational speeches the Russians severely put the U.S. to the test by placing nuclear armed rockets in Cuba. That was a very scary time for those of us who experienced it.

I think it will not be very long, after this Iranian demonstration, that Mr. Putin will be pushing Mr. Obama up against a wall just to see what he is made of.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Colour me puzzled

I am beginning to think Barack Obama is not America’s first black president as much as he is its first chameleon president. His colours change with his background.

His supporters seem mystified by some of the things he is doing, like proposing to carry on the war in Afghanistan and leave a substantial number of troops in Iraq. These people must have been soaring on his rhetoric and not paying much attention to the devil (i.e. the details) because those are the things he said he would do, including attacking Pakistan.

But what puzzles me is some of this other stuff that seems to contradict what he stands for.

Colour me complacent

President”Hopey-Changey Guy” to borrow a conceit from Mark Steyn, was going to provide radically different government from his predecessor. Yet as this story shows, conservatives are really happy with the way he is handling the terrorist file, because he is not in any particular hurry to dismantle the operations set up by George Bush.

Colour me invisible

Not so happy are the tens of thousands of veterans, particularly those who have been physically or mentally damaged, from fighting their country’s battles. President “Fix the Health Care System” intends to offload the financing of their care on the private insurance industry. The problem with the U.S. health care system which he was supposed to fix is the private insurance industry.

Colour me red (either with anger or embarrassment, take your pick)

Then we find that President “Outraged” has instructed his minions to do everything possible to demand that AIG not pay bonuses to its managers. That seems to be a very principled stance, on behalf of U.S. taxpayers. Left off the table, however, is the more than $100,000 AIG contributed to Obama’s election campaign. Some outrage is good, but too much outrage would be over the top, I guess.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Canada's hypocrisy at the United Nations

The ridiculously named United Nations’ “Human Rights Council” is in the news again trying to push through a several times re-written resolution criminalizing any criticism of religion. It is sponsored by Pakistan and, although it is couched in the feel good language of pluralism and understanding, its real intent is to the open the door to a worldwide purge of cartoonists who make fun of Mohammed and to students, like Afghani, Pervez Kambaksh, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for questioning why Islam treated men differently than women.

Canada has taken a correct and principled stance.

"Canada rejects the basic premise that religions have rights; human rights belong to human beings," said a Foreign Affairs spokesperson.


I wonder how that spokesperson would explain section 296 (1) of the Criminal Code of Canada to the U.N:

(1) Every one who publishes a blasphemous libel is guilty of an
indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not
exceeding two years.

(2) It is a question of fact whether or not any matter that is
published is a blasphemous libel.

(3) No person shall be convicted of an offence under this section
for expressing in good faith and in decent language, or
attempting to establish by argument used in good faith and
conveyed in decent language, an opinion on a religious

This provision has been present in every amended version of the Code since 1892. The last prosecution for blasphemous libel occurred in 1935, but sometimes seemingly moribund laws have a phoenix-like way of reviving themselves in peculiar cases.

And what exactly does this defense mean – “decent language”? What was considered decent language at the height of the Victorian Age is a far cry for what passes for normal speech today. In fact, it is probably true that decency in language in the 21st century had been relegated to just another interesting artifact of history.

Canada would do well to try to lead by example, rather than just mouthing liberal platitudes on the international stage, and abolish section 296 (1).

Then it can tell the Muslim world to “screw off”.

In decent language, of course.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Defend liberty. Defend freedom. But, above all, defend single malt Scotch.

Here is an interesting essay by Roger Scruton on the differences between Islam and Western societies and the things we ought to be defending in our culture and historical narrative. There is a little more Jesus and Christianity in this for my taste, and his prescription for dealing with Islamic resentment, “forgiveness”, doesn’t provide the necessary punch, in my opinion.

However, there is a lot food for thought here.

Mr. Scruton is a writer, philosopher, and public commentator. He is currently a professor at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences in Arlington, Virginia. His essay is a revised version of a lecture given as part of the Program to Protect America’s Freedom at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

Consider his views on the terrible tendency of western-loathers to indulge in guilt and make common cause with Islamic critics of the west:

The illusion that we are to blame, that we must confess our faults and join our cause to that of our enemies, only exposes us to a more determined hatred. The truth is that we are not to blame; that our enemies’ hatred of us is entirely unjustified; and that their implacable enmity cannot be defused by our breast-beating.

There is a drawback to realizing this truth, however. It makes it seem as though we are powerless. But we are not powerless. There are two resources on which we can call in our defense, one public, and the other private. In the public sphere, we can resolve to protect the good things that we have inherited. That means making no concessions to those who wish us to exchange citizenship for subjection, nationality for religious conformity, secular law for shari’ah, the Judeo-Christian inheritance for Islam, irony for solemnity, self-criticism for dogmatism, representation for submission, and cheerful drinking for censorious abstinence. We should treat with scorn all those who demand these changes and invite them to live where their preferred form of political order is already installed. And we must respond to their violence with whatever force is required to contain it.

He raises seven areas of distinction between Islam and secular western civilization. The one that really caught my attention was this one:

This brings me to a final and critical point of difference between Western and Islamic communities. We live in a society of strangers who associate rapidly and tolerate each other’s differences. Yet ours is not a society of vigilant conformity. It makes few public demands that are not contained in secular law; and it allows people to move quickly from one group to the next, one relationship to the next, one business, religion, or way of life to the next, and all with relative ease. It is endlessly creative in forming the institutions and associations that enable people to live with their differences and remain on peaceful terms, without the need for intimacy, brotherhood, or tribal loyalties. I am not arguing that this is a good thing, but it is the way things are, and this is the inevitable byproduct of citizenship as I have described it.

What makes it possible to live in this way? There is a simple answer, and that is drink. What the Koran promises in paradise but forbids here below is the necessary lubricant of the Western dynamo. You see this clearly in America, where cocktail parties immediately break the ice between strangers and set every large gathering in motion, stimulating a collective desire for rapid agreement among people who a moment before did not know each other from Adam.

I am a guy who likes my “tot” and when I first cast around for a name for this blog I thought of calling it “Single Malt” in honour of my favourite beverage, but, I didn’t want people to think this was just a blog about Scotch. Had I realized that by adopting such a title I would have been acting in the defense of western civilization, I might well have proceeded with my first choice.

It goes on and is well worth the read if you click on the link at the top of this posting.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sorry Ezra, but I'm just not buying it

I see that Ezra Levant is bursting at the seams over a book he has just written about the human rights racket in Canada. He would like everybody to buy it, not just because it shows how very smart he is and how stupid other people are (reason enough to write it), but because he is also faced with law suits and needs the money.

Now I appreciate Ezra’s battle for the preservation of free speech in this country and in other circumstances I would be inclined to line up and buy it. But I am not going to do that. I will certainly read it. I will borrow it from the library when it becomes available, or from a colleague or a neighbour, but I won’t fork out my money for it.

Ezra wrote a blog posting mocking the atheist bus ad campaign, calling the atheists behind it “cowards”, dumping on the slogan of the atheists and even going so far as to make fun of the physical appearance of a spokesperson for the campaign.

Lost on Levant was the issue of free speech prompted by this campaign, a subject about which he fancies himself as the leading Canadian expert (if not international expert, since he addressed the U.S. Congress).

The same sort of pencil-necked government bureaucrats that he has been whaling on for the past 18 months turned down the atheists’ ads in the cities of Halifax, Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna, Ottawa and London, Ontario. The city council of Ottawa has since reversed the decision of its transit authority.

They may be a different set of bureaucrats to the ones in the HRCs, but they march to the same drumbeat. They couldn’t run the ads because they might “offend” somebody.

Indeed, they were aided and abetted in their back room deliberations by utterings of Dr. Charles McVety, Canada’s leading evangelical spokesperson, the Catholic Bishop of Calgary, Fred Henry, and even Ezra’s old Muslim pugilistic pal, Imam Syed Sohawardy, also from Calgary, who all jumped in to tell people how they were offended.

One would have thought when the imam spoke it might have prompted Levant to take a second look and reconsider what he wrote. Nope.

So, I have to assume from this record that Ezra Levant is all for free speech unless it happens to be the views of atheists, for whose rights he doesn’t give a shit.

Sorry Ezra, as an atheist, I have decided I’ll hang onto my 15 bucks and spend it on something more deserving, or on somebody more deserving.

And I hope that other non-religious people who read this will follow suit.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Trooper Marc Diab travels the Highway of Heroes

Yesterday afternoon I had an experience that I will not likely forget for a long time. I was leaving to drive east on the 401 expressway into Toronto to an appointment. As I approached the ramp leading onto the highway I noticed flashing lights, a mob of people and many waving Canadian flags on the eastern side of the bridge over the highway. At the bottom of the ramp were about 6 or 7 Royal Canadian Mounted Police in their splendid scarlet dress uniforms.

I realized right away that this was all in honour of the return of the body of Trooper Marc Diab, who died in Afghanistan last Sunday from a roadside bomb attack. He was the 112th soldier carried in such a miltary procession along this road and it has now been dubbed the Highway of Heroes.

I turned on my radio and heard traffic reports giving regular updates on the progress of the military convoy. I discovered I was perhaps a couple of kilometers ahead of it. As I drove east, every overpass was crowed with people who stood in very chilly weather to show respect for Trooper Diab. Among the flags draped over the railing was a home made one showing an evergreen tree bordered by the red stripes of the Canadian flag. It was supposed to represent the cedars of Lebanon. Trooper Diab is an immigrant from Lebanon who died serving Canada.

I had heard of this ritual but never before witnessed it. You cannot help but be moved by it.

I hope there are no more soldiers coming home this way, but if there are, I will be standing on the overpass at the bottom of my street with my neighbours.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ford really does have a better idea

In Germany, new car sales are up by 21.5% in the month of February. In fact, it is the best February for sales in a decade. At the same time new car sales in Ontario are down by over 50%.

The difference is that, in addition to the carmaker’s generous incentives, the German government introduced its own incentive package, offering 2,500 Euros towards the purchase of a new car for anyone trading in one that is more than 9 years old.

Ford Motor Company of Canada suggested that the Ontario government launch a similar program. It has also been recommended (not by Ford) that the federal and provincial governments suspend their sales taxes on new car purchases for a time. This should apply only to cars and trucks made in Canada.

I remember back in the 1980s when the Japanese motorcycle companies invaded the “big bike” market in the U.S. and Harley-Davidson, the only surviving American motorcycle company, was on the verge of bankruptcy. President Reagan imposed a 100% import luxury tax on big motorcycles and this gave breathing room for Harley to reinvent itself and come roaring back, literally and metaphorically, to financial health.

Now a tariff is the opposite of a government incentive, but the point of Ford’s suggestion and the example of Reagan is that the government has tools at its disposal that it can wield very effectively to assist industry. It doesn’t require injecting massive amounts of money into the bank accounts of the companies that pissed their money away in the first place. And it certainly doesn’t require the government to supervise an industry the way the public would expect it to do to safeguard the loans.

If it is a credit problem, then the government could provide the lenders with credit guarantees for purchasers of new cars. These government tools are not forever. They would only be employed until there was some sign the industries were out of the danger zone.

I drive an 8 year-old vehicle made in Ontario. It has more than 335,000 kilometers on the odometer. The body is beginning to show some small signs of rust, but the engine and transmission are running just fine. I am expecting it to last to at least 500,000 km without major trouble. However, if the governments suspended the sales taxes, the manufacturers continued the attractive sales incentives I have noticed when passing dealerships, and there was a generous scrappage fee, I would trade it in tomorrow for a new one.

I am looking at a replacement vehicle in the $30,000 range. With sales taxes that car would cost me approximately $34,000. The manufacturers are currently offering discounts of $3,000. If a scrappage fee were introduced at say, $3,500, and the sales taxes were suspended, the cost of the vehicle is less than $24,000. That is a $10,000+ saving, tax included, on a car that was originally priced at $30,000.

It would very hard not to bite on that one.

Monday, March 9, 2009

All you unbelievers are going to burn in hell and probably take New York city with you!

Courtesy of Jewel Samad, AFP, Getty Images

Isn’t this a great picture of the Goreacle!

It reminds me of one of those old U.S. military recruiting posters, the ones the said “Uncle Sam want you”.

Except I don’t think the Reverend Gore is asking for people to follow him, since he generally only preaches to the choir. I think he is suggesting that bad things will (or should) happen to those who don’t follow his religion.

Like these folks, for example, and this guy.

And, he is not alone. Here is another pastor predicting the end of the world after receiving personal advice from God. He is suggesting stockpiling supplies for 30 days, an odd thing to do if the world is about to end. Perhaps the triggering event, which he predicts will occur in New York city, has to do with the deniers' meeting and Al Gore’s curse.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Liberal Party of Canada embraces Tamil Tigers

I don't wish to support the views of Ezra Levant in casting doubt on the integrity of Michael Ignatieff, the current leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, and possibly the next Prime Minister of this country, but I do think the issues raised by Levant in this posting are very troubling. And I do agree with his notion the Ignatieff can't hunker down in the weeds on this one.

I am a conservative and have been a supporter of Stephen Harper, but I thought the promotion of Ignatieff to the front ranks at last gave the Liberals a reasonable alternative to Harper. How he handles this stink may change my mind on that one. It is clear that this is the same old Liberal Party pandering to every ethnic vote that is to be had, no matter how unsavoury. No wonder successive Liberal governments have never seen fit to outlaw prostitution in this country.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Lord of Chappaquidick

I see that the U.K. has given a knighthood to U.S. Senator, Edward Kennedy. It is quite common when conferring honours of this sort that the knight be associated with some landmark. For example, former Canadian mogul, Conrad Black, now enjoying the hospitality of the United States government in its Coleman Correctional Institution (a.k.a. the Big House) in the state of Florida, was called "Lord Black of Crossharbour".

So, I guess it will now be Sir Edward, Lord of Chappaquidick.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

They're finally giving them away

The yesterday I had lunch with a friend and we were lamenting the demise of the economy over a fine bottle of Australian shiraz, when my companion remarked on the number of unsold cars on the dealers’ lots. “They can’t give them away”, he said.

Well, that was yesterday and it is a fast moving economic crisis.

Wouldn’t you know it, they are now giving them away. Here is a story from today’s Toronto Sun about a GM car dealership in Peterborough, Ontario.

If you buy a new van at Storey Pontiac Buick GMC by March 31, you'll get a new car for free.

"We're trying to create some excitement," says owner Rick Storey.
"And in a challenging market, the ultimate winner is always the consumer."

The promotion at the Peterborough dealership started Tuesday and five vans have already been sold, he said yesterday.

It's first-come, first-served. Storey said there were 37 vans in inventory as of yesterday afternoon -- choose any one ranging in price from $26,000 to $33,000 and the dealership will throw in a 2009 Pontiac G3 Wave, worth about $15,000.

Meanwhile, prices on the vans are all clearly indicated, he says, and prices have not been marked up.

"There are no gimmicks," Storey says.

If you don't need two brand new vehicles in your driveway, Storey says, then the dealership can still offer you discounts on the vans.

NOTE: Pontiac advertises the Wave as a fuel-efficient car that "leaves a sad trail of brokenhearted gas pumps wherever it goes."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lady, we want to see what you look like for a good reason

There is a court hearing in Ontario on March 13 that will be reviewing another judge’s decision to require a Muslim woman to remove her face veil when testifying as witness in a trial. This is in order that the judge and the lawyers can try to determine her reliability from her demeanour as she testifies.

In more than 800 years of legal development in English common law, the right of an accused or a defendant to make full response to an accuser has been enshrined in the right of cross-examination under oath. A masked witness handicaps the defense. That much should be obvious.

Unfortunately, the judge who decided the case apparently did so on the grounds of his assessment of the religiosity (not very) of the potential witness. It was the right decision for the wrong reason.

I have read a lot about Islam and the one thing that comes through all the commentary is that donning the veil is not a religious requirement; it is a matter of personal choice. Now there may be an argument that the choice is made by men and therefore supporting the veil under all circumstances is anathema to our western culture in that it symbolizes male suppression of females. But there are enough women who say they do so of their own free will, so it is difficult to determine how far we should be pushing the male dominance theme.

The law should simply recognize that is a personal choice and tell the people who make those choices that there are circumstances in our society when their personal choices, or the personal choices made for them by their husbands or fathers, must be set aside for a greater good.


I previously wrote about a disturbing aspect of Islam, that it religiously sanctions deceit and lying. Here is one of the clearest essays on this subject I have seen. The author is Raymond Ibriham. This is a piece about him from his biography on his website.

It was at the Library of Congress that Mr. Ibrahim discovered hitherto unknown al-Qaeda tracts and treatises written in Arabic which he went on to translate and annotate into the well received The Al Qaeda Reader (Doubleday, 2007). Based solely on al-Qaeda’s own words, this collection of translations, according to Mr. Ibrahim, “proves once and for all that, despite the propaganda of al-Qaeda and its sympathizers, radical Islam’s war with the West is not finite and limited to political grievances—real or imagined—but is existential, transcending time and space and deeply rooted in faith [p. xii].”
Mr. Ibrahim is author to dozens of articles, essays, and translations on radical Islam, appearing in a variety of publications, including the Chronicle of Higher Education, Middle East Review of International Affairs, Jane's Islamic Affairs Analyst, and Middle East Strategy, Harvard; Los Angeles Times, Washington Times, Washington Post, New York Times Syndicate, United Press International, and Financial Times; National Review, Weekly Standard, Pajamas Media, American Thinker, and FrontPage Magazine. (Links to all his writings can be found at

Monday, March 2, 2009

Bullies: fight, it doesn't matter if win the fight, you win your self-respect by fighting back

The newspapers have been full of commentaries in the past couple of weeks after a teenage girl came to the media with her story of being bullied by a gang of girls at school. It started with name calling and ended with an assault on a school bus. Until she “outed” the school in the media, very little to nothing was done by the adults who are charged with ensuring her security and safety at school, including the bus driver.

This has launched a torrent of e-mail of similar stories about other schools and other bullies.

I can remember being bullied on about three occasions during my public school days in the 1950s. Yes, folks, bullying is not a new phenomenon. And you never forget these incidents.

The first one occurred in kindergarten, when a bigger boy with three or so accomplices targeted me after school and pushed me to ground every day. One day I decided to push back, thinking he would back off. But he didn’t. So the next day, I tried a new tactic. I went up to him in class and asked him why he always wanted to fight me and why not just be friends? To my surprise he said OK. And throughout the rest of the school year we were good friends.

The next one occurred in the second grade. A boy who was not in my class and with whom I had never had any previous contact came up to me and picked a fight by shoving me around, for no reason. He was no bigger than me and I did not feel fear. Also, he did not come at me with cohorts. So I fought back and we ended up rolling around on the ground. This attracted a crowd.

Interestingly, I don’t remember the crowd as being friends with either of us. They didn’t know my name or his. What they did was cheer on the guy in the long pants to beat up the guy in the shorts. I was the one in the shorts. The fight ended in a draw with both of us too winded to continue and the crowd dispersed.

But I remember feeling that long pants were associated with manliness and shorts with wimps. For years and years after that I refused to wear shorts, no matter how hot the weather.

The last one happened in the seventh grade when I was about 12 years of age.

On the weekends I used to walk through the school grounds on my way to visit a friend. There were always 20 or so boys about my age playing ball hockey on the paved area. A small group of these hockey players began to taunt me for no good reason. I just ignored them. As each Saturday rolled around and as I walked by, the name-calling increased. It was always started by one boy and then the others would jump in like a chorus.

Then one Saturday, the smallest one in the group actually stepped in front of me holding his hockey stick as if he were going to hit me and dared me to fight him. I wasn’t a big person, but this kid I could have squashed like a bug, hockey stick and all. His bravery was based on the gang who were backing him up and who I believed would join in on his side if I should get the upper hand. I told him I would have to go home and get my hockey stick and managed to extract myself from danger. But as I left the school yard,I remember thinking that this had to stop because it was just going to get worse.

One week later, I was on the field behind the school with a mob of boys playing a game we used to call “kick, catch and run”. Later, I learned it was really rugby. But, we played it without tackling.

Except, the boy who was the ringleader of the bullying group was playing on the other team and every time I got the ball and ran, he would try to trip me or knock me down. Again, I just ignored this.

When he saw that he was getting no reaction from me. He stayed back after a scrimmage and started to fight me. I just lost it and unloaded on him. I pounded him until he was helpless on the ground. He was bleeding from his nose and his mouth. At this point the other players came back to question the fight. I said nothing, having made my point, and just walked away from the field. I saw the others get him to his feet and help him get home.

The next weekend when I came through the school ground nobody taunted me. The little guy who had challenged me to a fight looked at me with new respect in his eyes. The ringleader never said another word to me the entire school year.

That is what taught me the lessons worth knowing in dealing with bullies. You have to fight back and you have to do it early in the game when you recognize a bullying pattern. You also have to go after the ringleader because that is the one who provides the courage to the others.

In fighting back you are conquering your fear and you will feel a lot better about yourself, even if you don’t win the fight.

I recall reading a James Michener novel in which one of the characters says that he knows when he gets into a fight that he may not win it, but he is going to make damn sure that the other guy knows he has been in a fight – he will not walk away without having shed some blood. I carried that idea in my head for many years and it always gave me courage to face down those who wanted to fight me.