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f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

February 25, 2006

wallace & rushdie, stevenson & hall

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 10:29 pm

My friend George Wallace at Fool in the Forest tries to keep

his “personal and cultural” weblog apolitical.  However, he is

willing to head out on the choppy seas of political punditry in

pursuit of a bad pun.  Thus, a few days ago he opined on the

Dubai Ports World controversy, in order to use the headline:

Scubai-Dubai To-do (Feb. 22, 2006).  Having stuck his neck

out that far, George decided to rally on the side of freedom

of speech regarding publishing the Danish cartoons of the

Prophet.  George says:

HideGoTree  “I am inclined to be an absolutist when it

comes to matters of free speech and free expression,

let it gore whose ox it may.  On that score, I quote

approvingly this weekend commentary from Colby Cosh:

“What I want to know is, how come our other

constitutional freedoms are never hogtied and

thrown onto the psychoanalyst’s couch like this? 

. . .


“But let anyone exercise freedom of the press, or

freedom of speech, and suddenly his motives are i

nterrogated — suddenly the ‘right’ is only available

to the well-meaning, which is to be defined none

too broadly.”

I left a lengthy Comment disagreeing with George (and Colby),

George replied thoughtfully, and I responded (not persuaded

by George’s quoting from William Bennett and Alan Dershowitz

in the Washington Post).


                                                                             watch step sign


       Now that we’ve had a little more time for reflection and the

(totally unjustified) violent riots have died down, it would be

great if others joined the discussion.  It seems to me that no rea-

sonable person in the Western World is questioning the right

of Flemming Rose, editor of the Danish Jyllands-Posten, to

publish those cartoons.  We have been questioning the wisdom

or appropriateness of the decision to publish.   As I noted at

Fool in the Forest, having the right is not the end of the decision-

process for responsible citizens, publishers, speakers: 

When exercising the free speech right is likely to lead

to violence or great offense to others, I would hope that

there would at least be a balancing of interests — what

is the benefit from exercising the right, and what are the

probable ill effects? Saying the benefit is proving the ex-

istence of the right is not particularly useful.




Since the cartoons say nothing that could not have been

said (much better) with words, and they would predictably

offend even moderate Muslims (who would not dream of

reacting with violence), their original publication makes little

sense to me. Re-publishing makes even less sense. No

matter how shocking or tame, republishing in the USA adds

little to the discussion — Muslims will still be offended; all but

extremists will condemn the violent reactions; and, more people

are very likely to be victims of violence at the hands of extremists.

What do you think?

tiny check  Although I think Colby Cash has greatly exaggerated the

threat to free speech (especially since that right exists vis-a-

vis the government, not as protection from the opinion of private

persons), I heartily agree with him that the United Church of

Canada was completely off-base concluding — with nothing

but speculation to support their claim — that the only reason

the cartoons were published is “simply racial hatred.”


empty bottle

a few words

I would like to take back



tiny check With George Wallace on my mind, I should point you

to his Declarations and Exclusions, an insurance-oriented 

legal weblog, where he has started a new feature called

Beyond the Bar — which will have George’s gleanings from

non-law-oriented weblogs that seem to be worth a look by

lawyers. The first selection for BtB is a post from 3quarksdaily 

by Michael Blim, who teaches anthropology at the Graduate

Center of the City University of New York. Blim examines the

the U.S. Supreme Court.   


update (Feb. 26, 2006): Speaking about free speech in a

“free country”, please check out this tale of police station

intimidation when an undercover reporter tries to get a

complaint form in Miami., “Police State Intimidat-

ion,” Feb. 4, 2006 (via Mike Cernovich).  I don’t think this

could have happened in Schenectady.


“rushdieNYT”  salman rushdie

from nyt


tiny check  In thinking about the free speech issues raised by the Danish

cartoons, and wondering when it is wise to speak up against bullies

who are prone to react with violence, I naturally thought about author

Salman Rushdie, who was placed under a death fatwa, over the sup-

posed insults to the Prophet in his novel Satanic Verses.  In so doing,

I remembered my own connection with Mr. Rushdie. 


Two weekends ago, I finally got around to trying the Facial Recognition

software demonstration at MyHeritage (which I learned about through

Bob Ambrogi).  You can upload a photo and the MyHeritage folks will 

compare it with a data base of 2500 past and present celebrities.” 

You are then told which celebrity you most resemble. 




Well, I submitted this 2005 photo, and was told that I most looked like Salman 

Rushdie — based on a photo of Rushdie where he, unlike me, has a beard. 

I then tried a 1980 photo of myself and was told I most resembled Harry 

Houdini.    A week later, my same 2005 photo was matched with Colin

Powell.   Interesting.  (Back around 1980, one of my best friends remarked

that I looked like whichever ethnic group you most disliked that week. In 

1970, I was told I looked like “Omar Sharif on acid.”  Omar and I were both

a lot younger then.


I had a lot of fun with MyHeritage.  Three female friends of mine were very

pleased to hear that they looked like Julia Roberts, Katherine Hepburn,

and Isabella Rossellini.  I was a little surprised that a male friend, despite

his mustache, most resembled  “The Little Flower of Jesus,” St. Therese

de Lisieux.




under the

blackest doodle

something unerasable








their laughter

is not about me

but would sound

just like that

if it was


“empty bottle”& “their laughter” – Quiet Enough (2004)

“empty bottle” – Upstate Dim Sum  (2002/I)


sunglassesG  Now, it’s time for something non-controversial.

The excellent haiku of Carolyn Hall:



sudden gust?

the book opens to a poem

I like even better 



icicles drip on the sill

   a pile of bills waiting

        to be paid




            winter sunset

        in the shrimp boat’s wake

pink pelicans  










over the top

of my sunglasses

blue sky    





spilt milk

spreading along the grout lines

morning chill


 “spilt milk” – Heron’s Nest (11:5, May 2000); A New Resonance 2

 “icicles drip” – Acorn 3; A New Resonance 2:

“winter sunset” – The Heron’s Nest (II:5, May 2000)

“sudden gust” – The Heron’s Nest (II:10, Oct. 2000)

“over the top” – The Heron’s Nest (II:1, Jan. 2000)




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