Aspergers and Writing: Thoughts on handwriting and the curse of cursive — from an Aspie with dysfunctional handwriting who gave up on cursive (and never looked back) and is now a handwriting teacher (to Aspies and others) …

The following was posted to my site as a comment by Kate Gladstone – but I thought it so important and informative, I’d like to publish it as a full post.  The author of this most excellent article has a site and can be found at http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com

Handwriting matters — but does cursive matter? The research is surprising. For instance, it has been documented that legible cursive writing averages no faster than printed handwriting of equal or greater legibility. (Sources for all research are listed below.)

More recently, it has also been documented that cursive does NOT objectively improve the reading, spelling, or language of students who have dyslexia/dysgraphia.
This is what I’d expect from my own experience, by the way. As a handwriting teacher and remediator, I see numerous children, teens, and adults — dyslexic and otherwise — for whom cursive poses even more difficulties than print-writing. (Contrary to myth, reversals in cursive are common — a frequent cursive reversal in my caseload, among dyslexics and others, is “J/f.”)
— According to comparative studies of handwriting speed and legibility in different forms of writing, the fastest, clearest handwriters avoid cursive — although they are not absolute print-writers either. The highest speed and highest legibility in handwriting are attained by those who join only some letters, not all: joining only the most easily joined letter-combinations, leaving the rest unjoined, and using print-like shapes for letters whose printed and cursive shapes disagree.

Reading cursive still matters — but reading cursive is much easier and quicker to master than writing the same way too.

Reading cursive, simply reading it, can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes — even to five- or six-year-olds (including those with dyslexia) once they read ordinary print.

There’s even a free iPad app teaching how: called “Read Cursive” — appstore.com/readcursive
Given the importance of reading cursive, why not teach this vital skill quickly — for free — instead of leaving it to depend upon the difficult and time-consuming process of learning to write in cursive (which will cost millions to mandate)?

We don’t require our children to learn to make their own pencils (or build their own printing presses) before we teach them how to read and write. Why require them to write cursive before we teach them how to read it? Why not simply teach children to read cursive — along with teaching other vital skills, such as a form of handwriting that is actually typical of effective handwriters?
Just as each and every child deserves to be able to read all kinds of everyday handwriting (including cursive), each and every one of our children — dyslexic or not — deserves to learn the most effective and powerful strategies for high-speed high-legibility handwriting performance.
Teaching material for practical handwriting abounds — especially in the UK and Europe, where such handwriting is taught at least as often as the accident-prone cursive which is venerated by too many North American educators. Some examples, in several cases with student work also shown: http://www.BFHhandwriting.com,http://www.handwritingsuccess.com,http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2009/09/08/opinion/OPED-WRITING.1.pdf, http://www.briem.net,http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com, http://www.italic-handwriting.org, http://www.studioarts.net/calligraphy/italic/hwlesson.html, http://www.freehandwriting.net/educational.html )

Even in the USA and Canada, educated adults increasingly quit cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers across North America were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of cursive textbooks. Only 37% wrote in cursive; another 8% printed. The majority — 55% — wrote with some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive.
(If you would like to take part in another, ongoing poll of handwriting forms — not hosted by a publisher, and not restricted to teachers — visit http://www.poll.fm/4zac4 for the One-Question Handwriting Survey, created by this author. As with the Zaner-Bloser teacher survey, so far the results show very few purely cursive handwriters — and even fewer purely printed writers. Most handwriting in the real world — 75% of the response totals, so far — consists of print-like letters with occasional joins.)
When even most handwriting teachers do not themselves use cursive, why glorify it?

Believe it or not, some of the adults who themselves write in an occasionally joined but otherwise print-like handwriting tell me that they are teachers who still insist that their students must write in cursive, and/or who still teach their students that all adults habitually and normally write in cursive and always will. (Given the facts on our handwriting today, this is a little like teaching kids that our current president is Richard Nixon.)

What, I wonder, are the educational and psychological effects of teaching, or trying to teach, something that the students can probably see for themselves is no longer a fact?
Cursive’s cheerleaders (with whom I’ve had some stormy debates) sometimes allege that cursive has benefits which justify absolutely anything said or done to promote that form of handwriting. The cheerleaders for cursive repeatedly state (sometimes in sworn testimony before school boards and state legislatures) that cursive cures dyslexia or prevents it, that it makes you pleasant and graceful and intelligent, that it adds brain cells, that it instills proper etiquette and patriotism, or that it confers numerous other blessings which are no more prevalent among cursive users than among the rest of the human race. Some claim research support — citing studies that invariably prove to have been misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the claimant.

So far, whenever a devotee of cursive claims the support of research, one or more of the following things has become evident as soon as others examined the claimed support:

/1/ either the claim provides no source (and no source is provided on request)

or, almost as often,

/2/ when sources are cited and can be checked (by finding and reading the cited document), the sources provided turn out to include and/or to reference materials which are misquoted or incorrectly represented by the person(s) offering these as support for cursive,

or, even more often,

/3/ the claimant correctly quotes/cites a source which itself indulges in either /1/ or /2/.

Cursive devotees’ eagerness to misrepresent research has substantial consequences, as the misrepresentations are commonly made — under oath — in testimony before school districts, state legislatures, and other bodies voting on educational measures. The proposals for cursive are, without exception so far, introduced by legislators or other spokespersons whose misrepresentations (in their own testimony) are later revealed — although investigative reporting of the questionable testimony does not always prevent the bill from passing into law, even when the discoveries include signs of undue influence on the legislators promoting the cursive bill? (Documentation on request: I am willing to be interviewed by anyone who is interested in bringing this serious issue inescapably before the public’s eyes and ears.)
By now, you’re probably wondering: “What about cursive and signatures? Will we still have legally valid signatures if we stop signing our names in cursive?” Brace yourself: in state and federal law, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over any other kind. (Hard to believe? Ask any attorney!)
Questioned document examiners (these are specialists in the identification of signatures, the verification of documents, etc.) inform me that the least forgeable signatures are the plainest. Most cursive signatures are loose scrawls: the rest, if they follow the rules of cursive at all, are fairly complicated: these make a forger’s life easy.

All handwriting, not just cursive, is individual — just as all handwriting involves fine motor skills. That is why any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from the print-writing on unsigned work) which of 25 or 30 students produced it.

Mandating cursive to preserve handwriting resembles mandating stovepipe hats and crinolines to preserve the art of tailoring.

SOURCES:

Handwriting research on speed and legibility:

/1/ Arthur Dale Jackson. “A Comparison of Speed and Legibility of Manuscript and Cursive Handwriting of Intermediate Grade Pupils.”
Ed. D. Dissertation, University of Arizona, 1970: on-line at http://www.eric.ed.gov/?id=ED056015

/2/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, and Naomi Weintraub. “The Relation between Handwriting Style and Speed and Legibility.” JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 91, No. 5 (May – June, 1998), pp. 290-296: on-line athttp://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542168.pdf

/3/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, Naomi Weintraub, and William Schafer. “Development of Handwriting Speed and Legibility in Grades 1-9.”
JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 92, No. 1 (September – October, 1998), pp. 42-52: on-line athttp://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/27542188.pdf

Handwriting research on cursive’s lack of observable benefit for students with dyslexia/dysgraphia:

“Does cursive handwriting have an impact on the reading and spelling performance of children with dyslexic dysgraphia: A quasi-experimental study.” Authors: Lorene Ann Nalpon & Noel Kok Hwee Chia — URL:http://www.researchgate.net/publication/234451547_Does_cursive_handwriting_have_an_impact_on_the_reading_and_spelling_performance_of_children_with_dyslexic_dysgraphia_A_quasi-experimental_study
and
http://dyslexia.yale.edu/EDU_keyboarding.html
Zaner-Bloser handwriting survey: Results on-line athttp://www.hw21summit.com/media/zb/hw21/files/H2937N_post_event_stats.pdf
Ongoing handwriting poll: http://poll.fm/4zac4

The research most often misrepresented by devotees of cursive (“Neural Correlates of Handwriting” by Dr. Karin Harman-James at Indiana University):
https://www.hw21summit.com/research-harman-james
Background on our handwriting, past and present:
3 videos, by a colleague, show why cursive is NOT a sacrament:

A BRIEF HISTORY OF CURSIVE —
http://youtu.be/3kmJc3BCu5g

TIPS TO FIX HANDWRITING —
http://youtu.be/s_F7FqCe6To

HANDWRITING AND MOTOR MEMORY
(shows how to develop fine motor skills WITHOUT cursive) —
http://youtu.be/Od7PGzEHbu0

Yours for better letters,

Kate Gladstone
DIRECTOR, the World Handwriting Contest
CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com
handwritingrepair@gmail.com

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Aspergers: phrasing a question really, really matters!

It has been a while since I have written about Aspergers – even though my posts on Aspergers are, by far, the most popular ones.  This, methinks, speaks to a need for understanding between how the Aspie and neurotypical brains function and for a metaphorical bridge between their functioning.

Hence, this post.

When my older son was assigned the chore of putting away groceries, I had to learn the way his brain classified things in order to find them.  Yet, my older son tended to reason somewhat analogously to me, so it was not that far a stretch for my brain to figure out the underlying rules behind his ‘classifications’ and thus his grouping;putting away of ‘stuff’.

Now that my younger son has reached the age to inherit these chores, my job if figuring out where he would put things is a lot more difficult.

This is not because he is any less or more Aspie than I am:  rather, he tends to organize things in a slightly different way than my own brain does (and, frankly, more similarly to how my Aspie husband’s brain does).  This is not due to any lack of organization, but due to different aspects of objects being seen as their defining quality – if you excuse that turn of phrase.

The upshot of this is that it is much more difficult for me to find things now.

Example:

My older son was very eager to learn my baking skills.  If I bought a package of sugar, it would inevitably be put away with flour and other baking materials.  My younger son ‘earned his stripes’ by making his daddy’s morning coffee – therefore, he associates – and puts away – sugar with coffee/tea supplies and not baking stuff, which holds no interest for him.

To be honest, it took me a few weeks – and a few weekly shopping trips – to figure out this change:  I could not find the sugar, and assumed I had forgotten to purchase it, and kept buying more every week – until my younger son asked where to store the overflow, since the coffee/tea section was just jammed up with sugar…

OK, being an Aspie myself, it takes me a while to adapt to this kind of ‘philosophical’ and organisational change.  This means that I have trouble finding stuff in my own pantry…

However, whenever I would ask my younger son where a particular item would be, he would honestly draw a blank and say he did not know.  Because memory is worse in Aspies than non-Aspies when it comes to rote memory, like where they had put stuff, etc, this actually makes perfect sense:  he had reasoned where the item should go, put it there, and gave it no further thought and thus did not create a memory of where said item was actually stored.

Soon enough, I learned my lesson!

Instead of asking where ‘X’ was, I asked:  “If I were ‘X’, where would you put me?”

This was met with a 100% success rate!

For neurotypicals, this result might be confusing:  How are the two questions so different?  They both ask about the location of a particular item!!!

But, for Aspies, the two questions could not be more different.

As in, they asked the Aspie to use different parts of their brain to answer the question.

“Where is ‘X’?” queries the rote memory of the Aspie – a weak system at best, yet the Aspie will try to remember the act itself of putting it away…with not likely to have effective results.

However, asking an Aspie to recreate the decision-making process that would have them classify the object and, based on the results of this classification, have them choose the proper place to put it – that is a completely different thing!

And, the Aspie will re-create the classification system in their mind (no memory required) and reliably come up with the same place to put said object ‘X’, time after time!

This may seem trivial for non-Aspies – but it makes a world f difference to us as it requires us to use a completely different part of our brain to arrive at the answer:  memory (poor) versus reasoning (strong and replicable).

I hope that explaining this distinction will make sense to you, neurotypicals who read my blog, and that it will help you understand and interact more positively with the Aspies in your life!!!

Islam, Satire and Death

Dr. Baglow vs. Freedom of Speech: September 23rd, 2014 – Barbara Kulaszka

This is a report on an ongoing trial:  the rest of this account can be found here (and at the top bar of this blog).

On September 22nd, the judge warned everyone in the courtroom that come hell or high water (and, I am paraphrasing here), this trial was going to finish tomorro – that is, today.  In order to make sure that this indeed comes about, she would recall everybody into Courtroom #20 of the Elgin Street Courthouse in Ottawa, Ontario, at 9am instead of the usual 10am – adding a one-hour ‘buffer’ to their time.

Aware of this, I arrived at the Courthouse nice and early – about 25 minutes after 8.  I strolled slowly through the parking garage, stopping to chat with one of the attendants whom I got to know well enough to say ‘hi’ to over the duration of these proceedings.  Then I had a tea and went to the ladies room before – with plenty of time left – strolling up to the 2nd floor and to the appointed courtroom.

Surprisingly, I did not see any of the actors in our little drama – and I began to get an uneasy feeling.  Did I get the time wrong?

I checked my notes and the wall clock and, sure enough, I still had 12 minutes before the proceedings started.

Ah – there was a paper sticky-taped onto the door – perhaps the press finally figured out the importance of this case to their own ability to report the news and enough of the showed up to have to move things to a larger courtroom!!!!

YES!!!

No…

Here was some incoherent message about teenagers and dating….  But, the look at that sheet of paper gave me a glimpse through the double doors’ windows…and it looked like the trial was already ongoing!!!

Panic time!

Not wanting to make a lot of noise inside the courtroom upon my arrival, I took my notepads and scribble-tools (today I was using a blue Zebra pen, fine point – they write quite quietly and have a good feeling in the hand, heavy but not too  much so…)  OK, I got my implements to hand and intramurated velocitously. (Yes, I am a huge fan of Black Adder – and if has, at times, affected my vocabulary….though, the character I most closely identify with is Baldrick.)

OK – in I sneak and sit down as quietly as possible.

Everybody is in and things are in full swing!

Barbara Kulaszka is standing up and speaking.

To her left, Connie Fournier sits calmly, wearing a dark purple pantsuit and a cream blouse, which I will later notice has a delicate black embroidery and is accented by a single strand of knotted pearls, long enough to reach beneath the blouse’s collar.  The overall look is pleasing, but, from behind, the bob in which her hair is cut is just the wrong length, making her neck appear shorter than in had in her previous outfits.  However, this optical illusion is dispelled when Connie glances back and gives me a warm smile.

To the right of Ms. Kulaszka sits Roger Smith, aka Peter O’Donnel, in his blue blazer and another pair of tan slacks.  His shirt will later be revealed to be almost a twin of his earlier one – black and charcoal stripes, but instead of a blue pinstripe, this one has a gray one.

Next is Mr. Steven Frankel, the brilliant young lawyer representing the CCLA.

To his right, Mr. Burnet, the Plaintiff’s lawyer, had his gaze firmly fixed on the judge and was listening intently to Ms. Kulaszka’s every word.  He had better, too – at the end of the day, he’d have a chance for a brief rebuttal to all the defendants’ closing arguments, so listening intently was very critical.

On the far right, as usual, was Dr. Baglow…I bet he does not hear that phrase very often!!!  Sitting far back from the table, his legs elegantly crossed in front of him, he had a calm and almost serene demeanour.  In his signature black suit and, as he once wrote, ‘the most comfortable walking boots on Earth’, I glimpsed a navy cuff of a shirt, if I am not mistaken…though, I must admit, I was so busy trying to catch up with what was being said that I did not take the time to note this down.  My apologies.

Later, during a break, Dr. Baglow helped me out:  he said he noticed I was wondering about the pin in his lapel.  It was indeed some sort of an abstract maple leaf:  a pin denoting 30 years in the Public Service. During another break, he let me know that the reason why he only wore his gun-metal-rimmed glasses at some times was because they were reading glasses and he only needed them at some times.

This made me a little envious:  I also have glasses, but mine (purple-rimmed) are progressive trifocals….yet, I still vacillate between wearing them or not.  When I wear them, I can actually see what is going on:  the major things, like people’s expressions and demeanour (I may not be able to decipher it, but I can at least describe it) – and the minor things, like, say, what I am writing down.  However, I cannot shake the feeling that, when I am not wearing my glasses, I get a much better feel for everything….that I can better absorb the atmosphere and emotions and all that.  So, I am constantly putting my glasses on, taking them off, putting them on, taking them off….sitting on them….sorry, I am rambling….

 As I started taking notes, Barbara Kulaszka (BK) was just speaking about Dr. Baglow having been at the forefront of the Omar Khadr re-patriation movement.

If you read my blog regularly, my dear reader, you will know my views on the huge miscarriage of justice that is the Omar Khadr case.  Perhaps it is my Aspieness, but, I am a big one for the adherence to the rule of law.  Yes – sure, I hate some laws and believe that we MUST change them – but, until such a time that we DO change them, we are obligated to follow them.

And, according to the Geneva Convention, there was only one legal manner to deal with Omar Khadr:  two bullets to the back of the head.

Anything less is a failure to adhere to the International Law and endangers civilian populations at the hands on non-uniformed combatants.  The Americans ought to be prosecuted for War Crimes for having permitted Omar Khadr to live and even rendering him medical aid!!!  Such a travesty!

At an earlier time, I actually had a conversation with Dr. Baglow about Omar Khadr and I mentioned that the two of us would probably agree that, in his case, the International Laws were not followed.  Indeed, I raised the subject specifically because I expected him to elaborate, so that I would have the opportunity to point out just how deeply misguided – if not downright evil for endangering civilian populations everywhere – his position on Khadr was.

Unfortunately, Dr. Baglow just sighed deeply and looked so very, very sad that I did not have the heart to continue the conversation…and thus did not have an opportunity to enlighten him on the error of his thinking.

 OK – back to the important stuff!!!

BK was explaining how Dr. Baglow was at the forefront of calling for the repatriation of the War Criminal Omar Khadr.

Next, she defined what the word ‘supporter’ means:  one who supports.

For example, a ‘supporter’ of the Maple Leafs’ is NOT somebody who plays hockey with them, who is a member of the team.  Rather, it may be somebody who buys their merchandise or watches their games or just says things that are nice about them.  Even, perhaps, just expresses sympathy with them when they are loosing…

Similarly, saying somebody is a ‘Taliban supporter’ – it does not mean he is one of the Taliban!

Rather, it means somebody who may say things that express empathy with the Taliban….

OK – I am having a hard time wording the next bit:  most likely because BK is much nicer a person than I am, much kinder and gentler…and I am ‘choking’ on typing the words she actually said, as they show way more of an empathy for Omar Khard than I am deeply convinced he deserves…  But, she was speaking for the defendants, not me, so I must choke down my opinion and report to you, my dear reader, her words…

BK said that ‘expressing support for ‘the human rights’ (as if a non-uniformed combatant had any, under international law) of Omar Khadr’ could be interpreted as expressing empathy for the Taliban’ – and, by definition, that would be included in ‘being a supporter of the Taliban’.

Indeed, argued BK, the plaintiff himself used the very same logic when he said that the CCLA supported father Boissoin (a Catholic priest who was given a lifetime ban by a Human RIights Tribunal on speaking about the Catholic Church’s position of homosexuality), saying that the CCLA ‘gave aid and comfort to hate speecher’ and that they were ‘hate-speech facilitators’…that the CCLA ‘stands with haters’ and ‘aids in homophobia’.

BK asserted that ‘giving aid and comfort’ is, indeed, the very definition of ‘supporter’!

At this point, Madame Justice (her black judicial robe, white collar and red shash accentuated only by perl stud earrings and simple, elegant rings on the ring finger of each hand) nodded her head in assent and reasoned agreement.

In addition, BK carried her momentum forward, this was the medium of a Message Board – not a scholarly dissertation…which, through medium alone, classified this as a ‘comment’…

The Judge wondered about this being ‘fair comment’ if fully 41% of Canadians shared Dr. Baglow’s view.  If I were the lawyer, I would have quickly pointed out that the fact that this automatically meant that 59% of Canadian did NOT share Dr. Baglows view – making this a very fair comment indeed.  But, I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on the internet…

Instead BK took a much better tack, pointing not to peasant logic, like I would have, but to actual law:  she presumed Mr. Frankel would speak to this later (to which he nodded – earning one of Madame Justices’ broad smiles), but, the legal test (as per the WIC radio case ) was whether ‘anyone can honestly hold that opinion’.  Not the majority, not 41%, but ‘anyone’.  (And, I am heavily paraphrasing – I am simply not able to take notes fast enough!  You, my dear reader, ought to fire me and get a faster writer to report on this!!!)

As in, of ‘anyone’ can honestly hold and express this belief – that is the test.

This, the Judge agreed with.

Which is where things took a turn into territory rather unknown to your reporter – but one that seemed very familiar to both madame Justice Polowin and Ms. Kulaszka:  the Vietnam War issue…  They had a fun back-and-forth about someone named ‘Jane Fonda’ and a nickname of ‘Hanoi Jane’ – but, not knowing the context, this did not make much sense to me.  But, the two of the seemed happy, joking, agreeing – on the same ‘note’, if you get my drift.  ‘Ancient argument’, ‘based on fact’ – these were the terms ‘flying about’.

In his turn, Dr. Bagglow seemed so bored, he was in danger of falling asleep…

Which is where the topic of ‘Taliban Jack’ got re-introduced (it had been discussed ‘many’ times before to illustrate how hyperbole and nicknames and memes work).

From here, the proceedings took a turn into legaleese:  another field I am blissfully ignorant of.  All I can do is report the words…and badly, at that, as I am not fast enough to get them all down…my deepest apologies, my dear reader!

Madame Justice Polowin wanted to know how does this get ‘around’ the ‘Grant’ test.

BK disagreed – the ‘test’ here was not ‘Grant’ but ‘WIC‘.  People listening to a ‘shock jock’ would know a well-followed controversy, the facts of the case were known to the audience in that case as in this one.  Roger Smith was talking about ‘Dr. Dawg’ – a pseudonym.

If people did not know who ‘Dr. Dawg’ was – then, saying something about a ‘pseudonym’ was clearly not defamatory.

If people DID know who ‘Dr. Dawg’ was – then they would have been following the controversy and been aware of the background facts…and thus would have been able to understand the sense in which the words were uttered – making them, yet again, not defamatory!!!

BAZINGA!!!

What needs to be weighed here is the state of mind of Dr. Baglow during this whole exchange:  from the very beginning, his aim was to find a pretext to sue her client.

The judge did not, to my untrained eye/ear, appear particularly empathetic to this line of reasoning…as expressed by the succinct: “So?!!?”

Which I took to imply that the plaintiff’s state of mind had no relevance on whether or not he was defamed…by the defendants…

BK handled this rather well.

As Dr. Baglow sighed deeply and examined his manicured hands, BK explained tat re-posting the disputed words AGAIN using his sock-puppet persona ‘MsMew’ ensured that even if the original words were taken down by Roger Smith, they would remain on the site – along with the malicious identification of Dr. Dawg as Dr. Baglow.  This demonstrated malice – but not on the part of her client, but on the part of Dr. Baglow…

Indeed, BK continued, given the definition of the word ‘supporter’, her client did not think the impugned words were ‘defamatory’ in any way, shape or form (yes, I am paraphrasing).

Dr. Baglow, on the other hand, had demonstrated malice with his ‘sock-puppetry’ – and, as Dr. Dawg and MsMew, it was he who was bullying her client.

As for ‘malice’, the ‘WIC’ case demonstrated that even though the ‘shock-jock’ ‘hated’ Ms. Simpson’, that was irrelevant in the legal ‘finding of malice’:  rather, paragraphs 67 to 85 (of the ruling in the WIC case, I can only presume) show that since the dominant motive was that the ‘shock jock’ ‘believed’ what he said, the fact that he also hated her did not matter.

OK – I freely admit, there was a bit here that went 100% ‘over my head’:  something about ‘Ross vs. New Bruns’ or something somewhat similar….predominant motive, tab 12 paragraph 106…I have no clue what this was about…

Yet, this concluded this bit and, in the next installment, I shall report on Roger Smith’s closing arguments!

Thank you for reading this far!!!

 

Dr. Baglow vs Freedom of Speech: September 15, 2014

This is a continuation of a prolonged court, the earlier bits of which are here:  Day 1 part 1 and part 2 , Day 2Day 3 and Day 4 part 1 and part 2 of this trial were covered in March, 2014 (write-ups by me at links).  Day 5 is more or less covered by days 6 and 7.…  Day 6 is here.  Day 7 part 1 is here – sorry about having had to chop this up into short little bits, it seems my original write up was too long for WordPress to format correctly… part 2 is here.

Dr. Baglow’s impression of my coverage of the court hearings, as per Twitter, is here.

Which brings us to the first day of the ‘fall session’ of the trial, where the defense part of this case starts.

Aside – I understand that the court-ordered ‘blogosphere expert’ will be testifying on Thursday..

I showed up in court nice and early – long before the information desk folks (on the 2nd floor of the Elgin St. Courthouse in Ottawa – but facing the main Elgin St. entrance) got the memo about which courtroom this particular civil case will be heard in.   However, as time passed on, I learned that the case will have been heard in Courtroom #20 – the courtroom closest to the main/front entrance (and thus dubbed ‘the smoker’s courtroom’).  Here are the players:

Justice:          Polowin, J.

Plaintiff:        Baglow, John

Lawyer:          Burnet, Peter Francis

Defendant:     Smith, Roger

Self-represented

                 Fournier, Connie

Self-represented

                 Fournier, Mark

Lawyer:            Kulaszka, Barbara

As the ‘players’ arrived on the ‘playing field’, these were my observations:

Barbara Kulaszka (BK) looked her steadfast self:  short hair kissed with just a tiny bit of silver, billowing lawyer’s robes framing her slender frame, she was her true self.

Peter Burnet, (PB) slightly balding and silver, looked distinguished (edit:  a complained-of phrase has been removed here).

Roger Smith looked dashing in his tan slacks, brown shoes, blue blazer, dark (black or charcoal) shirt with a blue-inside-a-gray-striped shirt and blue thin-striped tie, his silver hair dashing, his cheekbones chiseled above his silver, manicured beard/mustache.

Dr. Baglow wore his signature outfit:  black suit, blue shirt (opened collar, as if to stress his ‘blue collar’ sympathies), the ubiquitous riding boots (with delicate and adorable little silver trimmings), silver watch, rings on the ring and pinkie fingers of his left hand, silver hair and tailored silver mustache accentuated by the gun-metal framed spectacles he twirled in his hands more than he wore.

The charismatic Mark Fournier wore a new-looking dark blue suit with a thin gray stripe, black shoes and a cream, open-necked shirt.

Connie Fournier was elegant in form-fitting dark trousers which flattered her shape and a dark violet, v-necked thin-knit pullover (with cute button-sleeve detail) which highlighted her fine, strawberry-blond hair cut into a flattering bob.

To complete the picture, let me just say that the same Court Clerk (from the spring) who did not want to be blogged about (and worried she’d be ‘Twittered’) presided over the case, fussing over the improperly entered ‘stuff’ from the spring and lamenting that it will fall to her to re-enter and correct it all.  The ‘Madam Court Reporter’ was a pretty young woman sporting longish black hair with flattering bangs.  Her trim figure was perfectly framed in a navy blue, long-sleeved knit dress accentuated by a thin brown belt with gold-coloured metal trimmigs.  Her pumps were impeccable!

Also, the CCLA, an intervenor in this case, was not represented by Mr Frankel, but by a competent-looking young woman in a black-and-white striped shirt, black slacks and blazer and bright red flat shoes (which she shed while she sat cross-legged on the spectator bench) – I understand Mr. Frankel will rejoin the case later in this week.

Courtroom #20 differed from most court rooms in that on the right side, it sported a sturdy-looking gray sofa with 4 fluffy-looking pillows.  I can only presume that Dr. Baglow’s past blood-pressure difficulties motivated the court to pick a courtroom with a sofa in it.  Otherwise, Courtroom #20 was much like most of the courtrooms in the Elgin St. Courthouse in Ottawa:  creamy-white walls with the ‘head’ wall (behind the judge) being a wood-panel in the same tan colour as the doors and the wooden-bits of the spectator benches, bearing the Canadian Coat of Arms. (The back wall – not the benches!) The seat bit of the upholstered spectator benches was a muted pink, which clashed rather badly with the crude orange-red of the floor carpeting.

It is difficult to describe the air of expectation one can only experience in the courtroom, with everyone present and waiting for the judge to arrive.  I can only liken it to a cross-section of the feeling which, as a 14-month-old (OK – I’m an Aspie and remember this), you are expecting the vaccine-baring MD to enter the room where your mother is holding you down overlapped with the dread you feel as you are sitting at a desk, awaiting your fist Calculus exam paper to arrive.  Add to this the distinct staccato of high heels in the distance – it is ever present, even if completely unrelated to the judge’s arrival – and you approach the hushed tenseness that awaiting the judge’s arrival in the courtroom accompanies!

As in – no movie could possibly do it justice!!!  No amount of suspense could possibly capture the breathlessness of these moments!!!

At 10:05, Madam Justice Polowin, J., entered.

Her hair was longer and lighter than before – and her (paler than before) face looked puffy and strained.  Yet, her eyes looked as intelligent and as sharp as ever!

The first session of the first morning of a hearing are usually taken up with tedious ‘housekeeping’ or ‘administrative’ matters.  Not so in Madam Justice Polowin’s courtroom today!  We went straight to the start of the defense’s case!!!

The first person to take the stand was Roger Smith (aka Peter O’Donnel).  He explained that even though ‘Roger Smith’ is his legal name, it is not ‘unique’ – both ‘Roger’ and ‘Smith’ being ‘common names’. ‘ Peter O’Donnel’, however was somewhat less unique – and as it was his birth name, he used it extensively  (though not exclusively – he sometimes picked ‘humorous nicnames’) in his online activities.

It is my impression that Roger Smith is a very reluctant defender:  it seems to me that he believes that his only defense lies in his truly held beliefs (and that promoting these is in the public good), but that he also thinks that having to justify his deeply held ‘political beliefs’ in front of a judge is very inappropriate of itself (regardless of the eventual ruling) and subversive of our democracy itself – akin to having to having one’s very thoughts needing to br sanctioned by a court of law….which, obviously, is a violation of the most fundamental freedom – the freedom of thought.  So, it seems to me, he is very reluctant to present his beliefs and convictions to the court – yet, his only defense (it seems to me) lies in him claiming to ‘truly believe’ what he had said/written/posted on the internet.  As in – it seems to me as though Roger Smith believes that it is not his statement of his beliefs, but his convictions themselves, which are on trial here – a form of ‘thought-crime-policing’, if you will.

And, since (in my never-humble-opinion) he thinks ‘thought-crime’ ought not be a ‘crime’ (if you excuse my clumsy expression of the principle), he is having difficulty with the whole matter.

As in, defending his views would be a bit of  a violation of the ‘thought-is-not-a crime’ bit.

At least, that is the impression I have been left with following his testimony and the bit of cross-examination I saw.

The testimony bit of the day merely repeated what had been entered into the record in the past – just the light it had been cast in was ‘slightly’ different.  And by ‘slightly’, I mean ‘a lot’.  As in, the bits that the prosecution entered in as ‘strong’ evidence now seemed rather silly and frivolous…which is not much of a comfort, since in a civil case of libel, ‘malice’ is presumed and needs to be disproved, rather that that whole ‘innocent until proven guilty’ bit of jurisprudence….

Yes, much revolved around SmallDeadAnimals (SDA) and Jay Currie’s blog posts, as well as Free Dominion and the Conservative blogosphere in general…plus Dr. Dawg’s blog –  ‘progressive’ site run by the plaintiff (civil prosecution).

Roger Smith’s background – from Math and Science to an Honours’ BA in Geography in order to become a ‘Climatologist’ (‘Climate Scientist’ in Newspeak), along with the necessary Global Warming/Anthropogenic Climate Change baggage – was discussed, as was the means by which Roger Smith makes his living as well as his online identity  – all this was explored at great length.

Then we got into the relevant bits – the 7 words which are the subject of this lawsuit (and which I therefore fear to mention – on the pain of ‘re-publishing slanderous material’) and the context in which they had been uttered.

It seemed to this court observer that Mr. Smith not only proved (beyond a reasonable doubt- a much more strenuous test that required in a civil lawsuit) that he believed the truthfullness of his statements, but also that stating them in an online forum was ‘in the public interest’.

Actually, this is where things got rather interesting – after the lunch break (1-2 pm), when Roger Smith had finished his testimony and his cross examination by PB commenced!

PB seemed obsessed with the idea that Roger Smith’s view of what constituted ‘appropriate speech’ was ‘beyond the pale’.

Which is rather funny – considering me being in the audience (and the only person there in the courtroom with the express purpose to report to you, my dear readers, on the contents of this hearing)!!!

If you read my blog regularly, you may know that I am a free speech absolutist – because I am an anti-slavery fundamentalist.

Perhaps it is my Asperger’s that informs this bit of me, but, for better or worse, I cannot help but see this issue in black-and-white – with no gray in between.

To me, this is the necessary extension of the principle of self-ownership:  if you own your self, then you and only you are responsible for your reaction and any and all resultant action you may take based on what you hear/read.
In other words, if you can be swayed to bad actions through ‘hate-speech/incitement to violence’ you hear, then you are admitting that the speaker is a de-facto part-owner of you and thus, submitting to their will is a tacit admission/permission of slavery.  And I am 100% against slavery!!!
Self-ownership implies self-responsibility!
A 100% self-ownership (i.e. anti-slavery fundamentalism) implies a 100% self-responsibility, thus making all forms of hate-speech/incitement irrelevant.
Which means that all hate-speech/incitement laws are an admission of and permission for a form of slavery – something I will never accept.
And since I cannot accept any form of slavery, I cannot acknowledge that hate speech/incitement can sway a self-determining, self-owning individual…which makes outlawing it an admission that my core principles are irrelevant…something I cannot accept.
I hope this makes some kind of sense to you – it certainly makes sense to me.
But, that is me – and (thankfully) not the subject of this particular lawsuit.
Anyhow, it seemed to me that PB spent most of his cross-examination time trying to ‘nail’ the ‘bit’ where Roger Smith drew ‘the line’ between ‘permitted speech’ and ‘illegal speech’.

SILLY BUNNY!!!

As IF there ought to be such a thing as ‘illegal speech’!!!!

 

Roger Smith said he drew the line between what ought to be permitted speech and not somewhere between what Ernst Zundel said and what is routinely said online by people whom ‘the progressives’ label as ‘Neo-Nazis’ but who are in reality no such thing.

As in – according to Roger Smith – Ernst Zundel was ‘illegal speech’ while the wrongly villified ‘neo-nazis’ who were not really ‘neo-nazis’ were OK…if you actually listened to what they truly said rather than just buying into their rhetoric.

But, PJ tried very very hard to paint this in the worst light possible – as in, he tried to twist Roger Smith’s words into saying that Ernst Zundel’s crap (and his claims ARE crap) was OK but the Neo-Nazis were not OK.

It seemed to me that Roger Smith, naturally nervous, being on the stand and all, did not really understand where PB was aiming with this ‘twisting’.  But, the judge sure did!  And, she put PB in his place on it, too.

However, this was not the only bit of testimony that PB tried to twist – and I am not entirely certain that the judge (much less Roger Smith, who was justifiably nervous, arguing for his retirement fund and all) quite got the manipulation or not.

Anyhow, that is where I had to leave off – having real-life obligations and all….I do hope to be filled in on the bits I missed and report to you tomorrow!!!

 

 

 

 

John Baglow vs Connie Fournier, Mark Fournier and Roger Smith: the ‘FULL TRIAL’, day 1, part 1

Today, Monday, March 24th, 2014, was the first day in the ‘FULL TRIAL’.

First, a few caveats:

*       My computer has died and I am sending it in for service:  this means I have borrowed equipment (my long suffering hubby’s tablet) and this is NOT the ‘ideal’ blogging medium under any plausible definition… so, instead of highlighting or bolding, I will have to capitalize for emphasis.  I am not shouting, just emphasizing  – my apologies.

*       Due to this really, really slow machine with none of ‘my stuff’ on it (and my limited access to it, as I get to ‘share’), I don’t have the quotes/links to previous/cited cases and so on.  I could get them, if I had the time online, but, currently, I do not.  I may – time and technology permitting – re-visit this post and insert quotes and/or links at a later date when time and internet access are more under my control.

*        Due to me being me – and a certified Aspie to boot – my observations are very, very limited.  They are limited both by my lack of legal training (my area of education is Physics, not Law) and my linguistics (while I may have beecome fluent in 5 languages by the age of 13, I have never mastered ‘legaleese’).  I cannot highlight it this mchine, so I cannot link:  please check out ‘Asperger’s on Wikipedia to understand my limitations in abilities to ‘get’ some of the nuances of what went on:  however, if you are ble to correct me or explain any of my observations more accurately than I, please, I TRULY BEG YOU:  COMMENT!!!  Help others get a better, more accurate picture of what is going on,  I would much rather be corrected than go on in ignorance at any time, on any topic, so, please help me and anyone else reading this get a more insightful picture of the situation, if you possibly can.

TLDR: this will be  a condensed, highly personal and highly imperfect account of my admittedly falliable observaions of this first day of the FULL TRIAL of this particular defamation case.  If you can correct me and/or are willing to add to it, please, do!  As I have borrowed and klunky tech, I cannot highlight or link or spellcheck – sorry…

Background:

Connie and Mark Fournier are the operators of Free Dominion, oldest and longest running political forum in Canada until it was sued into silence by Richard Warman.

Roger Smith, aka Peter O’Donnel (and not just online), is a member and frequent content supplier on Free Dominion and elsewhere on the blogosphere.

John Baglow, aka ‘Dr. Dawg’, aka ‘Ms. Mew’, is a guy who is a retired civil servant and unionist, a self-proclaimed leftist activist, an avid blogger, a Richard Warman groupie (imnho), and a guy with a pechant for black riding boots with the most adorable little silver trimmings.

Please note:  all my own dealings with either John Baglow or ‘Dr. Dawg’ have been very amicable and positive.  I have, in the past, asked him to get me in touch with another progressive blogger I have crossed swords with amicably in the past (I may hold many of the so called ‘progressive views’, but disagree with most of the so called ‘progressive metods’ of achieving them) and he had done so very quickly and courteously.  I was seeking some help/publicity for some Tibetan refugees to Canada and Mr. Baglow has provided it and been very nice to me throughout – and, by extension, to them.

I have found him to be pleasant and charming when ever I have interacted with him.  In fact, I find him quite charismatic.

And, I find it admirble that he has brought a young man I presume to be his step-son to the courthouse to observe civic cases:  it is imperative that we get the next genetration interested in our civics, and I give praise to all who do.  Kudos to him for that!!!

Yes, I bash when bashing is due, but I also give credit when that is due, too…so, please, don’t sue me!!!

This particuar ‘flame war’ started on the blog of Jay Curry and bled over to a number of online spots, including Free Dominion, where the 7-word phrase this courtcase is about was posted by Roger Smith.  I am afraid to report what those 7 offending words were, because from the Richard Warman legal precedent, if I, as a private person, publish the ‘public’ documents of what had been filed at court, I, too, might become liable for ‘re-publishing’ those ‘defamatory’ words.

Yes, it is a matter of ‘public record’.

And, yes, it is ‘factual reporting’ of a ‘public document’….or what was said on public record in a court of law and thus apart of ‘public record’…

BUT!!!

Afte the latest Warman vs. Free Dominion and John does decision, that is no defense:  if the factual record is, at some later point in time, found to be defamatory, the factually reporting on it on the internet is considered to be ‘re-publishing the defmatory statements’ and it would open me to liability.  So, my reporting of tody’s events will necessarily be highly constrained.

The subject of the ‘flame war’ was Omar Khadr, his inaccurate (as per UN’s definition) characterization by ‘Dr. Dawg’ as a ‘child soldier’ and the implications of willfully promulgating this demonstrably inaccurate legal description.  Peter O’Donnel’s opinions complied with the UN’s legal definition (thus leaving Omar Khadr outside of the protections UN grants to ‘child soldiers’) while Dr. Dawg attempted to draw the moral high ground by inaccurately describing the Taliban terorist as a ‘child soldier (in the legal, not colloquial, definition) and then demanded the legal protections for Omar Khadr that are only available to UN-defined ‘child soldiers’….a demostrable and rather glaring hypocrisy which ‘Peter O’Donnel’ pounced and opined upon.

In many online spots.

On Free dominion, he opined so in 7 words which I dare not repeat.

These 7 words that ‘Peter O’Donnel’ posted – and which, he asserts, are his honestly held opinon, shared by some 8 million Canadians (according to his opening statement), are the ‘basis’ of this lawsuit.

It was originally dismissed as a frivolous and a vexatious lawsuit. (And, I reported on it – oh, how I wish I could link!!!  The more I use it, the more I loathe this borrowe tech!!!)

Then, it was appealed – and several judges agreed that internet ‘flame wars’ were ‘legally uncharterred terrtory’ and that some ‘precednt-setting rulings’ need to be made here.  Just so us iternet folks would know where the actual boundaries lie…you know, so we could stay within the lines, the lines are your friends…..(OK, old commercial – but applicable!)

Thus, we have a ‘FULL TRIAL’

TLDR:  trial, ruling against Baglow (frivolous), but no legal rules for ‘internet flam war’ so FULL TRIAL to set ‘legal precedent’.  Baglow:  cute guy, charismatic and nice, wrong side of argument here.

OH, MY – OVER A K OF WORDS AND I HAVE NOT STARTED ON TODAY’S EVENTS YET…..deepest apologies, just trying to get the parameters in before I start today’s observations, as I honestly cannot afford to get sued…

FACTS:

These are the facts as posted outside the courtroom #24 at the Elgin St. Courthouse on the 24th of March, 2014:

Justice:          Polowin, J.

Plaintiff:        Baglow, John

Lawyer:          Burnet, Peter Francis

Defendant:     Smith, Roger

Unrepresented

                 Fournier, Connie

Lawyer:             Kulaszka, Barbara

                 Fournier, Mark

Lawyer:            Kulaszka, Barbara

Mr. John Baglow turned up as well groomed as ever:  a dark suit, a blue-collar shirt and them cute riding boots with the adorable silver trimmings he has become so well known for.  He knows what he looks good in and uses it well!

Connie Fournier wore a classy, slim-line dark skirt with a gray pattern, a pretty blouse with a multi-red abstract pattern and a red blazer that accented the blouse perfectly – with an understated, classy gold/gold-tone diamond/rhinestone necklace (sorry – I am not knowledge-able enough to tell the two apart…it was ‘understated’ and ‘classy’ at the same time and I wish I could pull a similar look off….Connie looked smart and classy and – well, we have words for women like that!!!).

Roger Smith wore a blue blazer and khakis – understated, yet elegant.  With his silver-kissed hair, he was easily the most attractive person in the courtroom.

The charismatic Mark Fournier wore a tweed jacket and slacks and, despite his bigger-than-life persona, tried his best to stay in the background.

In addition to the people listed above, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association were interveners in this case – as friends of the court – on the side of the defendants.  The lawyer sent to represent them was a young man named Steven Frankel – and while he had a wedding ring on the ring finger of his left hand, he looked younger than either of my sons.  OK – I officially feel old now….but, when he spoke, he sounded really, really smart!

And, of course, the judge…

Madam Justice Polowin, J., presided over the case.

She looked sharp, with her pale hair cut short-ish, slicked back at the temples and wonderfully fluffy on top, she wore understated light stud earrings (pearls?) and her judge’s robes flowed playfully about her slight frame.  She self-admitted to being a luddite (knowing how to send and receive emails – but nothing else on the internet) and asked for every bit to be explained, internet technology and jargon and culture included.

I see now that it is way late, and I plan to be back in court to observe tomorrow – so I must suspend my narrative here.  Let me just state that, at the end of the day, Madam Justice Polowin stated (at the end of the day) that even though the trial had been scheduled for Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday, she sees no way they’ll get through it all (while doing a proper and thorough job of examining the underlying issues, as the appellate court had directed) by the end of this week and so participants ought to alter their travel plans accordingly…

MORE LATER!!!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The things my hubby says

I think that I have the bestest, most perfectest husband ever possible.

Not only is he incredibly punny, he also says some of the sweetest things ever!

For example, one of his favourite sayings is:

Don’t pet the sweaty things!

OK, so his dyslexia may have something to do with it, but it carries much the same meaning as the original, don’t sweat the petty things, but with a lot more panache!

Another one of his sayings:

Strong like bull – smart like bag of hammers!!!

And, he pays me the sweetest compliments ever!  Just the other day, he told me that I was 3 standard deviations from the mean!!!  What could be sexier than that?

And today, he called me ‘his personal Wikipedia’!

Did I ever mention that Aspie-to-Aspie marriages tend to be the happiest and most long lasting ones?