If you don’t have to go out, don’t go out.

The novel coronavirus has arrived in Nova Scotia. Or, perhaps it’s more accurate to say the virus has been here for some time, and we’re just getting confirmation now. It takes a few days for symptoms to appear, so anyone reading (or writing) this could have it without even realizing.

The top priority for now is keeping the spread of the virus to a minimum, to avoid strain on the health care system. That means practicing “social distancing” to the greatest extent possible:

Remember, even if you aren’t sick, you may be carrying the virus without knowing it. And even if you’re young and healthy, you will inevitably come into contact with the elderly, people with chronic breathing problems, and other members of vulnerable groups.

The Washington Post has posted the best article I’ve seen, illustrating how the coronavirus can spread and how social distancing can keep the problem manageable. The Post uses some very clever (and unnerving) animations to explain some complicated mathematical and scientific concepts. (There’s a reason I went into law instead of a STEM field.)

Court appearances in the coming weeks will be affected, as well. I am now working from home as much as possible, and changing all in-person appointments to phone or videoconference meetings. If you are one of my clients, I will be in touch.

It’s time to take this seriously, but don’t panic. And even though we may have to physically stay home, we can still keep in touch with our friends, relatives and neighbours through social media. Or, if you’re in Italy, by singing on your balcony:

Don’t worry, everyone: I promise not to sing to you in public, unless the authorities need me to help disperse a crowd.

The Vaxxed Question

A highly controversial, heavily criticized and allegedly harmful and offensive movie is being shown in the Halifax area. But enough about Doolittle. Let’s talk about Vaxxed II: The People’s Truth:

Halifax says it will not cancel the upcoming screening of an anti-vaccination film at a municipal facility later this month.

A spokesperson for the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) said the Banquet Room in the LeBrun Recreation Centre on Jan. 31 was originally booked by an individual for $345.

“After the booking, it came to the municipality’s attention that the individual was representing an organization,” Maggie-Jane Spray said in an email.

The film, Vaxxed II: The People’s Truth, promotes the unfounded claim that vaccines cause autism or other developmental problems, which they refer to as “vaccine injuries.”

[…]

Multiple studies, including one that involved nearly every child born in Denmark over an 11-year period, have shown that there is no link between autism and vaccination.

The original study that sparked the debunked claim was published in the journal the Lancet in 1998 by Andrew Wakefield and linked the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to autism.

The publication of the study led to a widespread increase in the number of parents choosing not to vaccinate their children for fear of its link to autism.

But Wakefield’s findings have since been widely rejected and the Lancet formally retracted the study in 2010, due to serious flaws and an undisclosed conflict of interest.

I don’t think the city should cancel the screening. In a free society, public spaces like libraries shouldn’t be open only to those with views acceptable to the government. That’s an open door for all kinds of abuse by the state.

These guys should be free to speak their piece about vaccines, and I in turn should be free to tell them their uneducated potatoes who apparently believe a child is better dead than autistic. Which, as the parent of a child on the autism spectrum, is something I take personally.

There is absolutely no evidence that vaccines cause autism, and Andrew Wakefield, the “doctor” who first made this conspiracy theory socially acceptable is a sociopathic con artist. And guess who’s in this movie, alongside nepotism poster child RFK Junior?

Why the foiled Halifax shooting plot (allegedly) wasn’t terrorism

This Canadian Press article by Laura Kane explains how the distinction between “terrorism” and mere criminal activity can be blurry, and why the alleged plot to shoot up the Halifax Shopping Centre this past weekend doesn’t qualify as a terror plot:

Police said there is no evidence that ideology or culture is part of the allegations. But if plotting to cause mass murder in a public place is not called terrorism, then what is?

Defining terrorism is a complex task, one that has preoccupied governments since the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, experts say. And with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s new anti-terror bill before Parliament, taking a closer look at the Canadian definition is all the more crucial.

“The problem of defining terrorism has been a thorny one from the get-go,” said terrorism expert John Thompson, vice president of Strategic Capital and Intelligence Group.

“Terrorism overlaps with so many other activities. When does a violent protest become terrorism? When does some sort of psychotic episode where someone is acting out become terrorism? It’s a very hazy border.”

In Canada, section 83.01 of the Criminal Code defines terrorism as an act committed “in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause” with the intention of intimidating the public’s security or compelling a person, government or organization to do or refrain from doing an act.

[…]

Andrew Mack, a security expert and professor in the school for international studies at Simon Fraser University, called the alleged Halifax plot a “deadly criminal offence,” but not a terrorist one.

“The important point there is political intent, and ‘political’ is fairly widely interpreted,” he said. “If we’re talking about (ISIS), for example, they will always justify what they’re doing in religious terms. But as far as law enforcement is concerned, that’s political.”

That’s the question: were the shooters motivated by any religious or political ideology?  A widely-shared article by Robert Devet, for the Halifax Media Co-op, argues that the would-be shooters’ fascination with Nazism is being downplayed:

The Tumblr blog of James Gamble, the 19-year old found dead in Timberlea, features pictures of Adolph Hitler and marching Nazis.

You go to the Tumblr blog of Lindsay Kantha Souvannarath, the Illinois woman now in custody, and a swastika is the first thing you see.

Meanwhile, thanks to the work of people who know their way around in the world of blogs, message boards and handles, there are strong suggestions that at least Souvannarath has along-time infatuation with fascist and white supremacist ideas.  None of this has made it into Nova Scotia news outlets.

One CBC reporter looked at Gamble’s Tumblr blog, and mentions the Nazi references in passing, almost as an afterthought.

The same for a Chronicle Herald story, where a reference to Nazi images warrants one sentence.

You have to wonder whether coverage would have changed in tone had the plotters been Muslims, and had the Tumblr images been of Osama Bin Laden, or ISIS militants?

That’s a good question, actually.  Justin Bourque, who murdered three RCMP during his shooting rampage in Moncton, was apparently motivated at least in part by his radical anti-government, anti-police beliefs, yet he wasn’t charged with terrorism-related offences.

Islamist terrorism is a very serious threat – we saw that in Copenhagen this past weekend, right around the same time as the Halifax plotters were being charged.  But not all terrorists are Muslims – and, it goes without saying, not all Muslims are terrorists.

There’s no justice like mob justice

Reading the front-page story in today’s Metro, about 13 Dalhousie dental students being suspended from clinical activities for their appallingly sexist Facebook comments, I was struck by this passage near the end:

Florizone said he’s not ruling out the possibility of expulsion, but emphasized university administration must follow a fair and just process to determine the proper course of action.

However, Jennifer Nowoselski, vice president internal of Dalhousie Student Union, believes those policies are outdated, saying it doesn’t protect students from sexual discrimination.

“It’s the base minimum of what the university could do in this situation,” she said.

Yeah, who needs due process, anyway?  It’s not like sexually charged allegations at a university ever turn out to be incorrect, right?

These Facebook comments (some of which “joked” about using chloroform to sexually violate women) were disgusting and grossly inappropriate, and the fact that these idiots would post them online, apparently under their own names, calls into question whether they’re smart enough to perform dentistry in the first place.

Is the university, whose reputation has been seriously damaged, right to investigate this?  Sure.  But the key word is “investigate,” before we destroy people’s lives and careers.

Someday, it could be one of the people demanding immediate expulsion who finds herself in trouble for something she wrote online.  And when that happens, I suspect she’ll be grateful for “a fair and just process to determine the proper course of action.”

Professor Petras and the Jooooooooooos

James Petras, writing for the notoriously anti-Semitic (and deceptively named) Veterans Today:

Over the past fifty years a far-reaching transformation has taken place within Jewish organizations, among its leaders and their practices and policies.  Currently Jewish leaders have converted charities, social aid-societies and overseas programs for working class Jews into money machines for self-enrichment; converted charities funding health programs for Jewish refugees fleeing Nazism into the funding of colonial settlements for armed Zionist zealots intent on uprooting Palestinians; and organized a powerful political machine which buys US Congress people and penetrates the Executive in order to serve Israeli military aims.  From defending human rights and fighting fascism, the leaders of the principle Jewish organizations defend each and every Israeli violation of Palestinian human rights – from arbitrary arrests of non-violent dissidents to the detention of children in ‘cages’.  Israel’s Kafkaesque prolonged administration detention without trial is approved by contemporary leaders.  In the past Jewish leaders, especially labor and socially-engaged activists had joined forces with Leftists in opposition to political bigots, McCarthyite purges and blacklists.  Today’s leaders practice the very same bully, blackmail and blacklist politics against critics of Israel and its Zionist appendages.

[…]

…the Great Transformation of Jewish charitable organizations has resulted from the ascendancy of an ethnic supremacist ideology which views ‘others’ as inferior subjects to be ruled by the superior intelligence of Jewish political and business leaders and which orders that the ‘disobedient’ and ‘dissident’ be castigated as ‘anti-Semites’ and punished by jail, media ostracism, censorship, overt threats and, most commonly, loss of employment.  A key consequence of the rise to political power of the once socially conscious Jewish organizations is the shedding of their popular mass base.  Members have resigned in protest over the CEO’s manipulative authoritarian leadership style.  Expulsions and harassment have forced others to retire. But most of all the leadership’s blind political submission to Israeli state policy and self-enrichment has alienated growing numbers of young socially active, as well as, middle age Jews who are disenchanted with their Gonif leaders.

The article is illustrated with this:

Petras is an adjunct professor in the International Development Studies Program at St. Mary’s University in Halifax.   (Also listed as a “Program Associate”: Michel Chossudovsky, who runs the Israel-obsessed conspiro-kook website globalresearch.ca.)

If this is what the St. Mary’s IDS Program wants to be associated with, that’s their choice.  But I’d push my own kids toward something more credible, like Trump University.

(Hat tip: Adam Holland)