The Supreme Court of Canada demonstrated a lack of belief in the value of free speech in yesterday’s Whatcott ruling:
The very first line in the Supreme Court’s calamitous decision in the case of Saskatchewan (Human Rights Commission) v. Whatcott gives a clue to where it is going. “All rights guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” it declares, “are subject to reasonable limitations.”
This is a legal truism, but as always it is as important what the Court did not say. It did not choose to begin a ruling on an important freedom of speech case with a ringing affirmation of the importance of free speech, or what an extraordinary thing it is to place restrictions upon it.
Indeed, in its haste to get on with the limiting, it did not even pause to properly quote the section of the Charter that grants the state such authority. The Charter “guarantees” the rights set out in it, Section 1 declares, “subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” The limits don’t just have to be reasonable. They have to be “demonstrably justified.”
Where the Court’s view of such limits is expansive and approving, the Charter is grudging (“only”) and cautious (“demonstrably”). That’s as it should be. If we accept the bedrock premise of a free society, that government is its servant and not its master, then it is up to the state, always, to ask the citizens’ permission before it intrudes on their liberty, and to prove its necessity: it is never the citizen’s obligation to show why he may remain unmolested. That spirit is lamentably absent from the Court’s reasoning.
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Jon, my former virtual landlord, sent me a link to this article in the Toronto Star. I’m just gobsmacked:
Black police officer faces charges for not investigating racial taunts against himself
A black York Regional Police officer faces misconduct charges for his handling of a farm party turned ugly, when he was allegedly subjected to repeated racial taunts and told, “I would love to see that guy hanging from a tree.”
A black York Region officer faces Police Act charges for not investigating racial taunts thrown at him when he was called to a bush party.
Const. Dameian Muirhead, 33, is charged with three counts of misconduct for his handling of a farm party turned ugly, where he was allegedly subjected to repeated racial slurs and told, “I would love to see that guy hanging from a tree.”
Muirhead, an eight-year veteran, was charged with insubordination and discreditable conduct over the way he allegedly investigated the party on the Victoria Day long weekend in May 2011. A partygoer lodged the complaint, saying he was rudely treated — but Muirhead also faces a neglect of duty charge for failing to properly investigate the racial remarks.
A police disciplinary hearing which began Tuesday was told that Muirhead and other officers were sent to the party after a woman was seriously injured when run over by an off-road vehicle.
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The White House has taken note of the Washington Post columnist’s out-of-line comments:
The best-selling author and Washington Post reporter is protesting White House pushback over his criticism of how Obama and aides are handling the sequester issue.
“It was said very clearly, you will regret doing this,” Woodward told CNN, citing an e-mail he received from “a senior person” at the White House.
“I mean, it makes me very uncomfortable to have the White House telling reporters, you’re going to regret doing something that you believe in,” Woodward said.
In a statement, the White House said that “of course no threat was intended. As Mr. Woodward noted, the e-mail from the aide was sent to apologize for voices being raised in their previous conversation. The note suggested that Mr. Woodward would regret the observation he made regarding the sequester because that observation was inaccurate, nothing more. And Mr. Woodward responded to this aide’s e-mail in a friendly manner.”
All we can say is: We know more than a few reporters have received similar e-mails from White House officials. Yelling has also been known to happen.
Nice newspaper you’ve got here, Mister Woodward. It’d be a shame if something were to happen to it, yeah?
Update: Matt Welch rounds up the media reactions here.
It has been a special night on Twitter for those of us who take a perverse interest in the way that ideologically aligned journalists and politicos will pack-attack critics of a sitting American president. Seems that Washington Post investigative-journalism legend Bob Woodward crossed a bridge too far when, in talking about reaction to his narrative-debunking Feb. 22 piece pinning the origination of the sequester directly on a White House that had vociferously denied paternity, has now gone on to dish on a “senior White House official” (later identified as White House Economic Council Director Gene Sperling) who “yelled at me for about a half hour” about the op-ed, and warned that “I think you will regret staking out that claim.”
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Strategy Page on the challenges facing the government as the younger generation grows up:
A major source of information about North Korea is obtained by South Korean intelligence experts interviewing the steady flow of refugees arriving in South Korea (via China and the South Korean embassies in neighboring countries like Thailand). For the last decade, over a thousand of these refugees have arrived each year. In the last few years China and North Korea have increased their efforts to reduce that number, which peaked at 2,900 in 2009 and was 1,500 last year. These determined and desperate people keep coming. Separate interviews are compared and checked against each other to obtain an updated and accurate first-hand view of life in the north. This also helps detect the spies North Korea tries (often with success) getting into the south via the refugee route. While the refugees detail the growing decline in living standards up north, it’s also become clear that there is a very real generational shift in loyalties in the north. The generation who grew up during the 1990s famine (that killed about ten percent of the population and starved most of the rest for years) no longer believe in the North Korean dictatorship. Many who came of age before 1990 still do, but for most everyone under 30 the state is the enemy and self-reliance, and not a benevolent dictatorship, is the only way to survive. The North Korean government has been fighting these attitudes more and more, as this generation of unbelievers grows larger each year. The more astute members of the northern leadership see this as a no-win situation. Eventually most North Koreans will be very hostile to the state and more adept at making money in spite of the government, or simply getting out of the country. Most of the leadership is still afraid of enacting Chinese style economic reforms because they believe a more affluent population would seek revenge for the decades of misrule and tyranny. The Chinese say that didn’t happen in China. The North Koreans point out that, as bad as the Chinese communists were in the 1950s and 60s (killing over 50 million people via starvation, labor camps and execution) that was not as bad (proportionately) as what the North Koreans have suffered. Moreover, the North Korean leaders point out that, historically, Koreans have been a bit more excitable and brutal when aroused by misrule. The Chinese say times have changed but the North Korean leaders are not yet willing to bet their lives on that being the case.
The refugees report that most North Koreans understand that the police state up there is strong enough to suppress any uprising now or in the foreseeable future and that the only real threat to the dictatorship is intervention (openly or via a coup) by China. Refugees also report that it’s common knowledge that hundreds of North Koreans have died of radiation poisoning or been born with birth defects because of the uranium mining and working with nuclear materials. The government has responded by offering large cash bonuses to those who will work in the uranium mines. The refugees report in detail many other ways the Kim government abuses their subjects.
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At Techdirt, Mike Masnick fisks “the worst article you might ever read about ‘Cybersecurity'”:
There has been a lot of discussion lately about “cybersecurity” “cyberwar” “cyberattacks” and all sorts of related subjects which really really (really!) could do without the outdated and undeniably lame “cyber-” prefix. This is, in large part, due to the return of CISPA along with the White House’s cybersecurity executive order. Of course, the unfortunate part is that we’re still dealing in a massive amount of hype about the “threats” these initiatives are trying to face. They’re always couched in vague and scary terms, like something out of a movie. There are rarely any specifics, and the few times there are, there is no indication how things like CISPA would actually help. The formula is straightforward: fear + handwaving = “we must have a law!”
However, I think we may now have come across what I believe may top the list of the worst articles ever written about cybersecurity. If it’s not at the top, it’s close. It is by lawyer Michael Volkov, and kicks off with a title that shows us that Volkov is fully on board with new laws and ramping up the FUD: The Storm Has Arrived: Cybersecurity, Risks And Response. As with many of these types of articles, I went searching for the evidence of these risks, but came away, instead, scratching my head, wondering if Volkov actually understands this subject at all, with his confused thinking culminating in an amazing paragraph so full of wrong that almost makes me wonder if the whole thing is a parody.
[. . .]
There’s been plenty of talk about these Chinese hacks, which definitely do appear to be happening. But, what economic activity has been undermined? So far, the hacks may have been a nuisance, but it’s unclear that they’ve done any real damage. It is also unclear how CISPA helps stop such hacks, other than making Congress feel like it’s “done something.”
Are there issues with online security that need to be taken seriously? Yes, absolutely. Do we need legislation to deal with those problems? That’s debatable, and we’re still waiting for some evidence not just of scary sounding threats, but that this kind of legislation will actually help. Unfortunately, this article keeps us waiting. But, it did make us laugh. Unintentionally (we think).
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