19 February 2008

SPOT THE LOGIC ERRORS! with Simon and Marie

Lesson One

Simon and Marie meet on the street, by chance.

SIMON: Marie, I received the strangest note in the mail yesterday. Please be so kind as to listen to this curious sentence: "The letter should not be viewed as a threat because as long as you refrain from defamation, there is nothing to worry about."

MARIE: That sentence contains the logic of a pretzel, Simon! It is what our English teacher calls "muddled thinking."

SIMON: You have placed the problem on the point of a pin, Marie. Might you have any examples of muddled thinking from recent correspondence in your possession?

MARIE: Why, yes, Simon, I always carry such things with me! Here is just such a sentence from a note of which I was recently the recipient: "I said nothing that was personal, I merely asked if this sudden upsurge of interest in the fair publicity wasn't due more to a lack of something in your life at the moment..."

SIMON: Marie, I have this sudden upsurge of interest in a bag of pretzels! Is there an outlet nearby where such snack foods are sold?

MARIE: Simon, the Pretzel Cornucopia is just two blocks away, in the direction of my home. Shall we walk together?

SIMON: Walking together is always better than walking apart, Marie!


At February 19, 2008 7:40 pm , Blogger Paul Vermeersch said...

I think I see the errors in logic. Thanks, Simon and Marie!

At February 19, 2008 8:44 pm , Blogger gary barwin said...

Well, Simon and Marie, the comment which is the one that I am leaving begins like this, and perhaps it is hard for those reading to hear what clearly it is that I am speaking because in my mouth is a pretzel, but I'd make it a summary of what is being said like this: "It's not de fair it's de fame."

At February 20, 2008 6:20 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the letter that Stuart has only posted one sentence from. For the record.

Dear Stuart,
Thank you very much for your offer to meet in mediation with us. We know that you are as anxious to bring this to a swift conclusion as we are since you, like ourselves, have professional and personal obligations that need attending to.
We have found a mediator that we feel is neutral with the appropriate background to best deal with the sort of issues that need to be addressed. Her name is Sarah Sheard. Neither of us know Sarah personally. We met her at a reading where her credentials were read as part of her bio and spoke briefly to her about the process and her fees. She is a writer, a therapist and has been a professional mediator since 1998, handling over 142 cases. Her credentials can be found at www.sarahsheard.com. Her fee is $150.00 an hour, to be split between the two parties. Only the three of us and the mediator would be present for the mediation.
Because of family and work constraints, the soonest we would be able to set aside time for mediation would be in mid-March.
In regards to your pre condition for going into mediation, there seems to be some misunderstanding of what a cease and desist letter means legally.
The letter was not a suit that we had begun, it was simply a document stating that we retain our legal rights to take the next step if the defamation does not stop. A person can't waive or retract their legal rights to seek redress if someone defames or libels you. The letter should not be viewed as a threat because as long as you refrain from defamation, there is nothing to worry about. The letter gave a clear example of the defamatory passage as determined by a lawyer (and you only need one example) and asked for specific actions. We are satisfied that you have stopped as requested. We will not be filing a suit at this time.
We hope that we can come to an arrangement that is mutually satisfactory for all of us and that we can meet in the future as colleagues with respect and good will. If you wish to respond to this letter through a third party, please feel free to do so.


Halli Villegas and Myna Wallin

At February 20, 2008 6:27 pm , Blogger Razovsky said...

I'm assuming the above note was submitted by Myna and Halli. If that's not the case, please let me know and I'll remove it.


At February 28, 2008 8:11 pm , Blogger Razovsky said...

I offer this note this note in response to the above, but I will not enter into public discussion of it.

Since I maintain that I have never defamed Myna or Halli, and yet they claim I have, I am hesitant to say anything, because if they interpret it as defamatory, they may proceed with a suit. And even a spurious, unsuccessful suit would likely cost me hundreds of hours, many thousands of dollars, and untold acres of emotional energy.

I explained to Margaret Christakos -- who generously made great efforts (along with Maggie Helwig and Nadia Halim) to facilitate a road towards peace -- that my interest was in conciliation, not mediation. There is nothing to mediate, nothing to resolve. I offered my opinion on some issues that were profoundly important to me, and I was threatened with a lawsuit.

Margaret and Maggie suggested possible conciliators -- someone from the St. Stephen's Community House and someone who works with First Nations groups. I thought these sounded great -- people who have no connection to the scene, and who do humanist work. M&H seem to have found someone they prefer -- Sarah Sheard -- to the choices I'd already agreed to.

I've known Sarah for about 25 years. It was she who -- working for the Canada Council-sponsored National Book Week -- invited Nick Power and me to create a Small Press Book Fair in the mid-1980s. So I don't think she'd be an appropriate mediator, even if mediation was in order.

As to the letter I received from M&H's lawyer: I would love to post the text of it. The many allegations, the threats, the list of possible financial and legal consequences if I do not meet various demands: that I retract unspecified statements (I have retracted nothing); that I cease defaming his clients (not an issue, since I had never defamed them); that I remove all references to his clients from my blog (I have removed nothing, but I have been extremely cautious about what I've posted, because I cannot control how others will interpret fair comment).

When I wrote to M&H's lawyer, asking for a list of the "many" "false," "malicious," "bullying," and "defamatory" statements I must retract, beyond the one example he originally gave (a single sentence that I believe is fair comment), he declined to supply them. This reluctance on the part of my accusers to identify my offending words has been a recurring theme.

I repeat my precondition to any kind of talks: the legal threat must be dropped. This sort of libel chill is intolerable in a writing community. That it has been initiated by the coordinators of the Toronto Small Press Book Fair -- a project that has been part of my life and my writing practice for two decades -- breaks my heart.

Once the threat is withdrawn, I will decide -- without the pressure of legalcoercion -- whether I feel it would be fruitful to meet face to face.



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