At the end of a turbulent week:
A corrupt and discredited regime crumbled before an army of ruthless extremists sweeping through town after town to the gates of the capital.
Unfortunately not in Ontario:
Alas, Tim Hudakr al-Niagari lacked the strategic clarity of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
~Speaking of whom, and as a footnote to the collapse of Iraq and the triumph of Obama-Clinton foreign policy, things that would shatter any other presidency barely ripple the surface of Barack Obama's.
For example, a few days ago, the President released a quintet of dangerous prisoners back to the enemies amid assurances from John Kerry that any suggestion they might return to the battlefield was "baloney". It now emerges that the aforementioned Mr al-Baghdadi, the guy who is about to snaffle Iraq, its oil fields, its state-of-the-art military hardware, and the most expensive US embassy ever built away from the Americans and inflict on the Great Satan its biggest humiliation in four decades is also a prematurely released American detainee. What an inspiring tale al-Baghdadi's story must be to those five Afghans.
As I usually say round about this point, sometimes a society becomes too stupid to survive.
~A couple of free-speech notes: The Australian has yet another column contrasting the difference between the Canadian Parliament, which successfully repealed the Section 13 censorship law, and their cousins in Canberra, who are having a more difficult time ridding themselves of the equivalent Section 18c.
I would make one observation. By the time Parliament voted, Ezra Levant, I and a few others had already won the debate. That's to say, Section 13 had been so publicly discredited that it had no defenders. Even Canadian "Human Rights" Tribunal judges had turned against it. It was, in effect, unenforceable. Brian Storseth's private member's bill was the last piece of the puzzle, and was voted through only when his squishy finger-in-the-windy colleagues concluded that there was no downside to being seen to vote against "human rights". It would be overstating things to cite it as an example of Milton Friedman's advice: you create the conditions whereby the wrong people are forced to do the right thing. But we certainly created the conditions whereby the could-go-either-way people found it safe to do the right thing.
Rob Nicholson, Canada's Attorney-General, was entirely useless in our battle, spending most of it either on the other side or keeping his head well below the parapet. By contrast, George Brandis, QC, Australia's Attorney-General, has been a very public face of the proposed 18C repeal. In that sense, Her Majesty's Government in Canberra has behaved more honourably than that in Ottawa. However, it also means that the issue became far more partisan in narrow party-political terms. With hindsight, Ezra and I benefited from running around as out-of-control loose-cannon types whom none of the establishment liked. The political support we got was from similarly independent types - Jason Kenney, the Conservative immigration minister; Keith Martin, the Liberal MP and self-described "brown guy"; even a couple of Quebec separatists. The campaign benefited from not being part of a party platform. Whereas Down Under it seems to have become just another cudgel for Tony Abbott's opponents to take up against him.
So I guess my advice is Mrs Thatcher's old line: first you win the argument, then you win the election - or in this case the parliamentary vote. But you have to demolish 18C in public first. I hope to make a modest contribution to that effort Down Under later this year.
~Certainly, free speech in Australia is in a parlous condition. This week, the New South Wales Supreme Court finally wrapped up an 11-year defamation case:
An epic legal battle in Australia over a withering restaurant review by a food critic has finally ended, with a newspaper forced to pay ,526 [£349,000] for a notorious critique which described the pork belly as "the porcine equal of a parched Weetbix [Weetabix]"
The 2003 review, by Matthew Evans, in the Sydney Morning Herald of plush waterside restaurant Coco Roco provided colourful descriptions of the "soggy blackberries", "overcooked potatoes", "outstandingly dull" roast chicken and limoncello oysters that "jangle like a car crash", before warning readers – perhaps unnecessarily - to "stay home".
"I've never had pork belly that could almost be described as dry," Evans noted. "Until tonight... Why anyone would put apricots in a sherry-scented white sauce with a prime rib steak is beyond me."
He also said that the sorbet "jangles the mouth like a gamelan concert".
None of that strikes me as that withering, not to anyone who recalls the Death Wish director Michael Winner's foray into restaurant criticism for The Sunday Times. The late Mr Winner would have found "soggy blackberries" and "rubbery and tasteless" apricots rather anodyne criticisms. There seems no good reason why Mr Evans' review should have led to two jury trials, another before a judge, two appeals, two special-leave High Court applications and a High Court hearing. Of the three restaurateurs, one reported that she "could not walk for half an hour after reading it", while another claimed it caused her to put on 125 pounds and attempt suicide. That would seem to be their problem, rather than Mr Evans'. I've certainly had worse reviews without feeling the urge to take the "outstandingly dull" roast chicken out of the oven and put my head in its place.
The judge, Peter Hall, decided "the hurt to feelings" was exacerbated because the review remained available online. A very dangerous judgment in my view because it will make it more likely that craven media outlets will react to the persistently aggrieved (such as the usual belligerent Islamic lobby groups) by vacuuming the archival record.
At any rate, a society in which you can't call somebody's blackberries "soggy" and express bewilderment at the combination of prime rib and apricots in sherry-scented white sauce is not free.
~One final note on the Ontario debacle. If you like sharp post-election analysis, try John Robson's column. He wrote it a month before the election:
A significant portion of the Ontario electorate seem happy to tolerate deceit, incompetence and fiscal ruin in one self-satisfied Liberal package provided they get lavish handouts.
Indeed. But what of the alternative?
Hudak does not question the fundamental premises that got us into this mess and if elected he won't get us out.
Far from being the second Mike Harris of his foes' lurid fantasies (Harris won elections by promising to cut government) Hudak calls himself a "purple Tory," unwilling to say if he's red or blue or unclear on the difference.
So here's the second problem.
His partisans snarl that for all his obvious failings we must elect him because the alternative is Wynne.
But they gave us this choice, picking him as leader and rejecting a leadership review after he flubbed the last election.
And so he flubbed another.