Borders bookstore caves in to censorship by violence

Borders bookstores have announced that they will not stock the April/May edition of Free Inquiry magazine – because it contains four of the Muhammed cartoons.  They’ve cited the safety of their customers and staff as their primary concern, which has caused outrage from the magazine’s editors. 

What is at stake is the precious right of freedom of expression,” said Paul Kurtz, editor-in-chief of Free Inquiry. “Cartoons often provide an important form of political satire … To refuse to distribute a publication because of fear of vigilante violence is to undermine freedom of press — so vital for our democracy.”

He’s right.  Borders have caved in here, albiet with the best of intentions.  They’ve tried to protect their customers, but they’ve tried to protect them by responding disproportionately to the level of threat. 

Of course Borders should do their utmost to protect the security of their customers.  But any decision such as this should be made on a the basis of a rational risk assessment.  Borders, instead, have based theirs on an irrational fear.

How many bookshop patrons or employees in the United States have actually been violently assaulted as a result of their decision to stock a newspaper, book or magazine that some Muslims consider offensive?  Not a lot (possibly even none). 

How many bookshop patrons or employees in the United States have actually been violently assaulted as a result of their decision to stock a newspaper, book or magazine that anybody considers offensive?  Again, not a lot.

And have Borders received a specific threat that would make them fear for the safety of their patrons or employees?  Well, they haven’t mentioned it, so I very much doubt it.

So, given that the level of risk is ridiculously low, the response should proportionate.  If we don’t nip this in the bud, it won’t be long before we see bookstores adopting a nuclear deterrent, on the off chance the Soviet Union reforms.  

Update:  Dale Amon at Samizdata has tracked down Borders’ customer care email address, and urges you to write.

Belarus update

Now that the protests have died down in Belarus, a quick update of a few interesting stories I’ve seen today:

Not a lot of cheery news, unfortunately.

About the best we can hope for is that the opposition have learnt a lot of lessons that they can use in the future, that awareness of the situation in Belarus has spread massively, and that people in Belarus are aware that a sizeable opposition movement exists.

A problem with ministerial blogging

Just been looking at David Miliband’s blog, where he defends his decision to make his blog a ‘ministerial’ site, and defends the high cost of setting it up – a stonking six grand.

I really don’t see it as a ‘scrounge off the taxpayer’; much of my professional life is ‘Ministerial’, paid for by the taxpayer, and part of that has to be about engaging with people, and this helps me do that.

In theory, I don’t really have a problem with spending a decent amount of money to customise a blog, to make sure it fits in with the ministerial webpage.  Image is all important in politics, and we (the blogging community) would have crucified the poor guy if he’d have turned up with a bog standard wordpress or movable type template.

But two related things I wonder about:

  • Ministers move from Ministry to Ministry quite a lot, at the whim of Prime Ministers.
  • It costs six thousand pounds to integrate a blog with a Ministry website.

So, just how many times will David Miliband’s blog consume six thousand pounds of taxpayers money over his political career?

US Supreme Court raises middle finger to middle america

You gotta love Antonin Scalia, Bush’s new appointee to the Supreme Court one of George Bush’s favourite Supreme Court Justices.

While sitting in church, Scalia was asked how he deals with criticism over the separation of church and state. In response, he slowly lifted his middle finger:

You know what I say to those people?” Scalia replied, making the obscene gesture and explaining “That’s Sicilian.”


Americablog, a patriot, and a Christian to the last, expresses the indignation of millions of God-fearing households:

Scalia owes every Christian an apology. If a “gay activist” had done this, it would be the headlines around the world and the gay community would be apologizing for it for the next 20 years.

President Bush, is this still your favorite justice?

Thing is, if Scalia had been gay, he’d never have become a Supreme Court Justice. And so, nobody would have even noticed him waggling his finger.

An Armenian Priest in Rwanda

Now here’s a blogger with an interesting take on genocide.

Father Vazken is an Armenian Priest, working in Rwanda. Here he writes of being introduced to some survivors of the 1994 genocide:

He introduced me as a grandchild of Armenian Genocide survivors. The ladies listened attentively. I tried to speak but got choked up. Was this not the scene of our parents? It was like looking through time in the aftermath of our Genocide, where women, children came together… where good intentioned souls got together to help. Did our mothers have the same support that these women have? How could they go on with their lives?

Armenia, of course, suffered an horrific genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Turks in 1915.

(Thanks to Onnik for the tip).

Man attacked with typewriter

A Russian man gets mad at a Ukrainian, and this is what happens:

“The molester threw a typewriter out of his window on the fifth floor, aiming at a passing Ukrainian citizen,” a source in the law enforcement agencies said.

The typewriter landed on the Ukrainian’s head and he had to be taken to hospital with skull injuries. A few hours later the police detained the assaulter, a Moscow resident who admitted his guilt.

The pen might not be mightier than the sword, but the typewriter, now that’s a real weapon.

(This post brought to you courtesy of the Mosnews appreciation society).

Belarus protests broken by riot police

Riot police have stormed the tent village in October Square, Minsk, forcibly removing the protestors.


All over for the Belarus protests? Right now we can only wait and see what happens.  If people turn out in numbers tomorrow, they could still destroy Lukashenko.  But if nobody turns up, then the opposition movement will have to regroup, and learn its lessons for next time.

Defeated opposition Presidential candidate Alexander Milinkevich had called for a major protest in the squre tomorrow (Saturday), which it was hoped would draw in many people who were unwilling to show up to the smaller scale protests on weekday evenings.  Whether people show up in large numbers for this protest, is the key.
Some people suggest that people will be outraged, and show up in large numbers.  I’d like to hope so.  But I’m not confident that they will. We have to assume that most of the leaders, and most dedicated members of the protest movement are now in jail.  And the threat of violence now hangs heavy over the head of anybody undecided as to whether to risk their future livelihood.

Protests planned for Ukrainian elections

In a move sure to delight pro-democracy activists the world over, Viktor Yanukovich has vowed to take to the streets of Kiev if the upcoming Ukrainian Parliamentary elections are marred by voter fraud.

Yanukovich, if you recall, was the pro-Russian candidate who tried to steal the Presidential election in 2004.  He was only prevented from doing so after a mass of people powered Ukraine to its now famous Orange Revolution.

And, it looks like he’s learned his lesson good.