November 30 roundup

  • Sooooo glad to be an American: that’s how Patrick at Popehat feels following latest Canadian-libel-law outrage directed at conservative blogger Ezra Levant (& see comments for alternate view);
  • Obama has pardoned more turkeys than people. Why? [Dan Froomkin, HuffPo]
  • “Reforming medical malpractice liability through contract” [Michael F. Cannon, Cato Institute working paper, PDF]
  • Memoir of jury foreman in criminal case [Tux Life]
  • Not too sharp: Massachusetts school district disavows policy of not letting students bring pencils to school [Slashdot]
  • State governors have big plans for liability reform. Maybe even loser-pays? [Carter at PoL, more; Florida, Indiana, Tennessee, Texas]
  • Parent who sent buzzworthy demand letter to Kansas City school board is a jazz musician [Wayward Blog, earlier]
  • From comic books to violent videogames: “Our puritanical progressives” [George Will]


  • Levant basically called the guy a liar, without being able to support it factually. Accusing a lawyer of lying to a tribunal is actually kinda serious.

    Seems to me the case pretty clearly allows you to provide all the comment you want, provided it is not defamatory. You can call someone a liar, as long as you have some grounds to support it, not just because you think he’s an ass. If Levant had left it at calling Vigna an ass (sounds like the defence of truth would apply), he’d probably be $25k less poor today. But Levant is in it for the political martyrdom anyway, so it might be a worthwhile investment in his progress towards libertarian sainthood.

  • It’s about time they banned pencils! Those things are dangerous.

    A thousand years ago, when we walked to school, barefoot in the snow, I stabbed a kid in school with one. He had pulled a knife on me, in jest, so I stabbed him in the hand.

    Teacher: What are you two up to?”

    Him: “He stabbed me!”

    Me: “He pulled a knife on me.”

    Teacher: “You two shut up and sit down.”

    Today, we’d have SWAT cops rappelling in through the windows, and the school surrounded with armored vehicles.

    But those pencils are dangerous.

  • Gumby’s got it right. Levant lost for a narrow, far more serious reason. The Volunteer (an extremely libertarian Canadian blog) basically fleshes out that point here:

    If anything, the Canadian standards for libel are MORE sensible than the American ones (see e.g. Hill vs. Church of Scientology or Simpson v. WIC Radio).

  • What happened to popehat? The links are all 404 and the site is a placeholder now?

  • TC, a temporary glitch caused by my bumbling. We’re working on it.

  • Quite the podunk website, there.

  • Yep. The hamster is arthritic.

  • I’m …ah… Canadian by the way. You know, the nation to the north of you your site calls, in its highly clever way “podunk”? That’s kinda the dig I was going for there.

    Anyway, keep on with that high level analysis you got going there.

  • Accusing a lawyer of lying to a tribunal is actually kinda serious.

    Absolutely it is. Which is one reason New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, which would control this case in the United States and would have resulted in summary judgment for the defense, is such an important decision.

    We’ve made a value judgment that the importance of political debate is such that errors in discussing public figures and public servants have to be of high magnitude (malice) to support a libel judgment. You haven’t. Your point is absolutely valid, under Canadian law. The Popehat post contrasts the two systems, and comes down in favor of the American rule because its author sincerely believes that libel suits are frequently misused, in Canada and yes, in the United States, to suppress legitimate criticism of the powerful.

    That’s the entire point of the post. I’m sorry our analysis didn’t hit the high level to which you’re accustomed, but we try.

  • See now, that seems like rational discourse. Seems an interesting point worthy of some discussion. But I didn’t see any of that in your blog post however, which was basically “OMG Canada that backwater loser-land has no freedom of speech AT ALL!!!!!!”. Which you seem to understand from the above is completely absurd.

    I don’t understand the need for this kind of juvenile snark on your website. That sort of thing tends to confirm Canadian biases of Americans as myopic loudmouth jerks who spout off about things that aren’t any of their business. We get used to tuning it out as just ignorant noise. So it really does little to advance anyone’s understanding of your views, other than those that already know in their heart of hearts that the USA is the best country, like, ever. Which I’m sure is fun, in a chucking-red-meat-to-the-sharks kinda way, but is a wee bit circle-jerky, no?

  • Gumby, we aren’t writing the site for you.

    We don’t ask ourselves, “Who will get this joke?” We say to ourselves, “The right people will get the joke.”

    — Joel Hodgson

    When I comment at Walter Olson’s site, I try to do it in a manner that I won’t bring shame to Mr. Olson. I don’t want others to think that his audience is made up of low-rent people.

    But when I write at my own site, I’m writing for my own amusement. If others are amused or informed, that pleases me, but not so much that I’m going to begin writing think-tank whitepapers to satisfy some Gumby from a podunk country barely larger than New York.

  • If we lived in Canada, we could probably sue you for hurting our widdle feewings. After all, rights exist in a matrix, in which your contingent right to express yourself ought to be balanced reasonably with our interest in defending our emerging Canadian right not to be offended.

    Of course, we don’t live there. So I guess you are safe.

    I don’t understand the need for this kind of juvenile snark on your website.

    I don’t understand people who go around asking themselves if there is a need for other people to express themselves in a particular way. I view that as sort of a tell.

  • Sorry I offended you.

  • Thanks. You didn’t really. But even if you did, I ought to deal with it.

  • One of the things I noticed was that this was a judge’s decision, not a jury’s. Perhaps a jury may have found in the plaintiff’s favour, but would they have awarded him $25,000? I doubt it. Juries represent the average citizen, and therefore tend to take a dim view of people who have behaved badly, and then ask for huge sums of money on a technicality.