Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Globe and Mail Interviews the Police Chief

On Dec. 28, The Globe and Mail reporter Timothy Appleby produced a feel-good interview with Toronto Police Chief William Blair. Herewith my e-mail to him, a copy of which was sent to the editor.

I read your interview with Police Chief William Blair in today's paper in eager anticipation you would ask the many questions that go to the heart of transparency, if not honesty of the police force. From a post on my blog:

1. The Canadian Association of Police Chiefs accepts $100,000 from Taser International Inc. as conference sponsor. A CAPC researcher accepts stock options from Taser international. Blair is the president of the CAPC.
Q: Do you want us to believe this money has no influence on your attitude towards tasers?

2. After five years, Toronto police union past-president Bill McCormack continues to be on paid suspension pending investigation of improper conduct charges. The case will not be heard for two more years. Cost so far: Over $500,000.
Q: Can you explain this costly delay?

3. A Toronto trial judge finds that "we have police officers who clearly lied while under oath."
Q: What action was taken against these officers?

4. Toronto police are blamed for drug probe delays.
Q: Can you understand taxpayer cynicism toward law enforcement officers?

5. A special investigation claimed there's a pattern of thefts by the Toronto police drug squad.
Q: What action did you take as a result?

6. Toronto police party with the money received from the sale of stolen bicycles.
Q: (Same as 4)

7. Toronto police enjoy higher salaries than their New York counterparts. By the judicious arrangement of their court appearances on minor traffic charges, some constables earn over $160,000 a year. That's not counting the $60-$70 per hour they get for drinking coffee at construction sites.
Q: What action have you taken to avoid this abuse of authority?

All these items are from newspapers. How much more is there that the media have not uncovered? Citizens are entitled to effective control over police activity. Clearly, we are not getting it.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Merry Christmas

An unpublished letter to The Globe and Mail, December 28, 2009:

In wishing Merry Christmas to one and all, Rex Murphy has upset a few readers (letters, Dec.28). One of them states: "To be wished Merry Christmas is to be presumed to be a member of Christianity." Not so.

To wish good luck does not presume a belief in fate or fortune or a rabbit foot. To the wish for a good day, I trust these readers do not reply: "Don't tell me what kind of day to have." Happy Holiday might apply to a vacation or long weekend.

In Israel during Hanukkah, I was delighted when friends who knew I was not Jewish wished me Happy Hanukkah. They were extending a wish for my happiness, and I returned the greeting with equal enthusiasm. The only presumption was that I would share their goodwill. So too with Merry Christmas, a timely hope for shared joy.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Boring Canadians?

A 1996 report from London claims that the English find Canadians boring when compared to Americans. The English as a people are too intelligent to indulge in such stereotyping. But, to the extent there may be people anywhere who believe we are boring, read on.

The United States of America was born in violent revolution, Canada in orderly progress. The American Civil War ranks as one of the most violent and bloody in all history, relative to the size of the combatant populations. Canadian civil unrest consisted mainly of skirmishes on street corners after the pitchfork-wielding rebels had emerged from the local tavern.

The American West was developed through violence. Homesteaders killed each other, vying for choice land. Cattle ranchers waged war with farmers. Known murderers roamed the streets. Occasionally, a sheriff proclaimed law and order. He was summarily shot. It took the U.S. cavalry and the vigilantes, with their potential for even greater violence, to control the situation.

In Canada, the North West Mounted Police assured that the rule of law preceded the settlers. When the time came for settlement, pioneers gathered at a predetermined place. From a hat, they drew numbers which described the land each was granted. No violence.

Peace, order and good government (originally peace, welfare and good government)still reflects our attitude of courtesy and non-violence. Whereas, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and the right to bear arms birthed American gun culture.
All this bespeaks a people whose psyche appears to an outsider as fixated on violence. U.S. television and film industries have followed suit. 

Due South or a pillow fight with Ann of Green Gables is about as confrontational as our programming gets.

If it takes violence for a nation to be noticed, then world, please avert your eyes. You will notice us when Europe once again needs liberating from more self-inflicted mischief, or when the world cries out for peacekeepers.

When I see a map of the United States, I see it surrounded by police tape marked :"Crime scene".

Added Meaning to Wordling?

This letter, published in the Toronto Star of Dec. 8, 2012, includes word to which I may have given added meaning, after seeing it in Masie Ward's biography Gilbert Keith ChestertonWordling is a word peddler, a journalist who writes to fill space, or someone like me who casts message bottles into the ether. It's a good fit with grubby which alludes to Grub Street in the London of Samuel Johnson where word people plied their trade. 

So Tiger Woods, some politico or celebrity got caught with his pants down. Big deal. Grubby media wordlings contort themselves into linguistic pretzels sifting through every aspect of the event, real or imaginary, to produce their quota of verbiage. Once this is exhausted, they wax righteous about the media frenzy they themselves created.

Publishers, editors, columnists and commentators are all public figures. Their names appear daily in their mastheads. What society needs is someone to delve into the shenanigans of these people, and make it public. All of a sudden, the public's right to know will be submerged by a cry for privacy -- a privacy the media deny to others.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Victims of Commercialism

The first time I saw someone wearing a piece of clothing bearing the name of a company was a man wearing a sweatshirt with Roots emblazoned across the front. I immediately presumed he was an employee of that company or was paid to be a walking billboard. To my amazement, he was neither.

I am still amazed that people pay to enter a building, for example, to visit the One of a Kind Show, Sportsman Show, automotive shows. They pay to meet people who want to sell them something. More logically, the public should be paid for visiting the building.

In a clothing store in Paris, France, I once asked to view various products. The clerk placed each item on the counter so as to make prominent the name of the designer. Without intending to, I shocked her when I asked if she had others of the same quality, but without the intrusive name or company logo.

Has our society become so brainwashed that we tolerate, indeed support, such crass commercialism? Is our education system so under-funded that school trustees allow junk food to be sold on the property in order to buy pencils and books for the classroom? Are the arts and hospitals so lacking in public support that they must beg for private money by naming every room, hallway, nook and broom closet after a moneyed person?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

More Human Rights and Historical Revisionism

Human rights advocates have yet to learn that one does not promote tolerance of a minority by offending the majority.

On November 3, the European Court of Human Rights, acting on a single complaint, ordered the removal of crucifixes from all Italian schools because they were a"violation of the freedom of the parents to educate their children according to their own convictions and of the religious freedom of students."

[In an ironic aside, Germany, Sweden and Norway have rescinded this "freedom of parents" by criminalizing homeschooling. Parents have gone to jail for this offence. One family has been granted U.S. refugee status. See my later posts about these countries.]

The court said nothing about the rights and convictions and religious freedom of parents who want to educate their children in sight of a crucifix. Now we have the illogic of religious freedom of a minority being used to curtail that of the majority.  Fortunately, the order was overturned after a costly on appeal.

These politically correct human rights ideologues are in good company. The last time the crucifix was banned in Europe, it was by the Communists. And the time before that, by the Nazis. At least, the latter two did not hide behind legal gobbledegook.

If not staunched, bleeding-heart, zero tolerance, and equality zealots will destroy the unique character of every nation. Next, will be a ban on all religious symbols visible from public property, the ringing of church bells which may be heard on public property, and the registration of religions. Such violations of freedom exist today in certain Muslim and Communist countries.

In Canada, we have intimations of it. During the Vancouver Olympics, all signs, banners and displays, even on private property, not approved by the Olympic despots were banned by law. This censorship was enforced by the Vancouver police whose salaries were paid for by the very citizens whose freedom of expression was denied.

Back in Europe, minority complaints are already being heard about the the Union Jack with its composite crosses of Saints George, Andrew and Patrick. Next, the dozen other European flags which include the cross, then the Red Cross. How about refusing any ballot marked with a cross rather than an x? Stupidity, even of solemn judges, must never be underestimated. Politically correct too often means socially inept.

We are left to wonder if such judges and human righters are in fact self-loathing activists. These ecumaniacs believe any other religion, culture or point of view must be better than their own. In her book Islam, Karen Armstrong cherry-picks her way through Islamic history to produce a shallow apology for the historical violence committed in the name of that religion.

In The Evolution of God, journalists Robert Wright fairly grovels to explain the spread of early Islam. He excuses Mohammed's raiding of caravans with the observation that contemporary Arabic likely did not contain the word "robbery". Wright does not explain how they translated Thou shall not steal. After all, Mohammad did claim belief in the Jewish bible.

Wrong-headed do-gooders believe that everything must be reduced to the lowest common denominator. Mediocrity assures that no one will be offended, other than by boredom. Activists want the United Nations to declare that gender is a social, not biological, construct. Imagine the mischief that will flow from that, never mind confusion in the washrooms of the nation.

In an Orwellian scenario, human rights commissars will one day ban religious art and artefacts now on exhibit in art galleries and museums. The excuse will be that these institutions are beneficiaries of public money. It is hardly reductio ad absurdum to fear that some day our homes will be subject to approval. After all, we are beneficiaries of the state. And the Ontario Human Rights Commission already has the authority to censor homeschooling materials.

Such home inspections occur, usually by government-approved mobs, in India, Pakistan, Vietnam and Egypt. After the "inspection,"homes are looted then burned to the ground, while the police arrest the homeowners for causing a disturbance.

Equity legislation favours minority groups, while over-riding the wishes of the majority. Human rights advocates rarely (never) speak of minority responsibility, tolerance and accommodation. According to Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, "Minorities must know their place. We must respect minorities, but also protect the rights of majorities."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Olympic $pirit

Visualize the Olympics as a multi-tiered pyramid.

At the apex, we have the self-perpetuating dynasty of nabobs and bureaucrats known as the International Olympic Committee (IOC). These travelling salesmen roam the world demanding luxury suites in five-star hotels. They are courted as royalty in those countries that prostitute themselves in order to host this orgy of wasteful unimportance. The un-consulted local citizen pays.

A photograph in The Globe and Mail of May 28, 2011, shows Olympic swimmer Mark Tewksbury relaxing on a California bed that makes a king-size look like a cot. As Canadian chef de mission for the 2012 Olympics, Tewksbury gets to hole up in Toronto's ultra-expensive Windsor Arms hotel. No economy hunting for these guys.

"The Youth Olympics were designed to shift the focus away from the win-at-all-costs mentality and relentless commercialism of the adult Olympics." Toronto Star editorial, Aug 27, 2010.

In its bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics, South Korea offered Olympic officials free flights and hotel rooms. Another prospect offered free education for their families. Top honcho Jacques Rogge made a back room deal for China to get the 2008 games. In return, he got Chinese support in his successful bid for the IOC presidency.

The City of Chicago spent $60 million in its unsuccessful bid for the 2016 event. The Greek parliament has opened an investigation into allegations that German industrial giant Siemens AG paid bribes to secure contracts before the Games.

Citizens of the free world are entitled to a referendum before their governments apply to host such events. The result would be that only nations controlled by dictators and despots would ever apply. No public opinion was sought for the London 2012 Olympics. As of September 2007, the estimated cost has tripled to £9.3-billion ($19.2-billion).

In 2007, three Norwegian cities vied for the 2018 winter games. When a poll showed that only 38 per cent of the citizens thought the Olympics a good idea, all three dropped out. In Vancouver, voters turfed out of office the mayor who imposed the Olympics on them. Taxpayers in Colorado voted overwhelmingly not to spend one dollar for the 1976 winter Olympics. That, after a cabal of Denver businessmen had already been awarded the games. This exercise in democracy, an Olympics first, stunned the boys from the land of secret bank accounts. They quickly rescinded the original award.

The Olympic hierarchy has arrogated to itself a status higher than diplomatic immunity, and intimidated the B.C. court into accepting it. Its arcane structure allows the IOC to keep secret the salaries and bonuses paid to its officials, despite millions of Canadian dollars put at their disposal.

This small IOC group control every aspect of the games, and are above the laws of the nations which receive their beneficence. Witness the refusal of the IOC to include women ski jumpers in the 2010 Vancouver event. The British Columbia Supreme Court declared the action discriminatory, but the IOC to be immune to Canadian human rights laws because decisions are made in yodel land. That, despite the enormous subsidies from all levels of government in Canada.

These people tout the Olympic spirit, yet do not prevent the host nation from turning nasty. Vancouver has severely limited foreign competitors' use of the venue facilities for training. The true Olympic spirit is own the podium at all costs.

On the national level, the Olympics capitalize on unresolved adolescent loyalty -- my school is better than yours. The cry now becomes ugly chauvinism -- my country is better than yours, because our athletes won more medals than yours in events most people never heard of. Why should we feel proud of a fellow citizen who succeeds at something only family and friends will remember? When one wins a gold medal by 1/100th of a second? Small the mind whose national pride hangs on such trivia. At base, this is an appeal to tribal instincts.

The IOC manipulate public opinion by convincing the media to equate a ribbon and a piece of tin with national greatness. How else to explain governments spending vast amounts of taxpayers' money to stage a three-week party other than to boost the chauvinistic egos of a small minority?

Of course, the media love the advertising dollars generated. Curiously, few athletes actually consume sponsors' unhealthy sugar and cholesterol-laden products -- a giveaway that some athletes are in it for the money.

The Olympics provide a forum for global politics. This mischief started, or was ratcheted to fever pitch, by Adolf Hitler and his 1936 Berlin Olympics. The Nazi despot used the event to flaunt the superiority of the Aryan race, whatever that is. As a publicity stunt, Der Führer inaugurated the carrying of the lighted torch from Mount Olympus in Greece to Berlin.

By coincidence or design, the Olympic salute resembles the Nazi salute. The torch is still carted around the host nation, but now to create commercial interest. Each carrier pays $349 to participate. This non-event costs the Canadian taxpayer $14-million. Advertising-hungry media massage it into a symbol of national pride.

A controversy arose when CTV, an official games sponsor, announced that 27 of its broadcasters would carry the torch. "They're supposed to be journalists," complained former Globe and Mail columnist William Houston. "They are not supposed to be part of the Olympic cheer-leading torch procession . . . The torch relay is an event used to promote a business enterprise, the Olympics. That's why the relay is a good thing for reporters to stay away from."

As a sop to freedom advocates, the boys from Switzerland claimed to offer "free speech zones" during the Beijing show. It did not happen. For the Vancouver games, the free speech zone was far from the games.

Taking a page from the Beijing Olympics, the musical performers of the opening and closing ceremonies in Vancouver will mime pre-recorded music. This decision has caused Bramwell Tovey, celebrated conductor of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra to withdraw from this "fraudulent" procedure.

The poor suffer the most. Why is there more money for a few athletes than for social services for thousands? Citizens of every host country, Canadians included, are evicted from their homes to make way for Olympic sites, or housing for the rich after the games, or accommodation for visitors.

Real estate speculation abounds. Once out of their homes, the poor cannot protest within camera range. To help convince taxpayers that the poor are not evicted permanently, promoters claim that the athletes' accommodations will become social housing. This has yet to happen.

Fortunately, not all are treated as badly as the estimated 40 to 300-plus Mexican students murdered, machine-gunned by their own government while protesting the 1968 summer games. Any civilized organization would have the decent thing and cancelled the games. Not IOC President Avery Brundage and his crew. There's too much money to be made. They blamed the students. Ten days after this massacre, Olympic officials released white doves to mark the opening of games -- symbols of peace, goodwill and brotherhood. The families of the victims were hardly impressed.

Olympic officialdom turned Canada into a temporary police state. Part of the $925-million of the overall cost to taxpayers (out of an operating budget of $1.884-billion) was earmarked for a security force of 15,500 police, military and other personnel. The IOC brainwashed guards on both sides of our border into treating critics as terrorists. The Vancouver police force was already notorious for its pepper spraying of a photographer at a public protest several years back. The perpetrator of this weapon mishandling is fondly remembered as Sergeant Pepper.

The IOC has raised censorship to an art form. It bares its financial and legal fangs to frighten off advertising by anyone not authorized to do so anywhere in the host city. Canadian media remained silent.

Instance: The Australian Olympic team was ordered to remove its boxing kangaroo flag from the athletes village because it is a registered trademark, not a national flag.

Instance: For the Vancouver Winter games, the IOC bought up the city's entire outdoor advertising space for the ten days of the event, in order shut out non-Olympic sponsors, that is, companies which refused to pay the high sponsorship fees.

Instance: The IOC muzzled students, successfully banning them from posting in their dormitory windows, that is, private property, anti-Olympic signs visible from an event site.

Instance: The City of Vancouver must "ensure that no propaganda or advertising is placed within the view of the television cameras covering the sports at the games or of the spectators." Censorship police will scour the area day and night. Swiss autocrats dictate to Canadians limits to freedom of expression.

Instance: In early December, Canadian border guards detained U.S. broadcaster Amy Goodman and demanded to know her views on the Olympics. They examined her notes for a projected speech. They demanded to know what she was going to say, whom she intended to meet. News of this incident spread quickly across the U.S. This mischief garnered for Canada the award for the "best paranoid freedom of speech suppression" from television commentator Keith Olbermann. Complained Lucy Dalglish, head of the Reporters' Committee for Freedom of the Press, "I could see any country in the world doing this, except Canada." The IOC just stands back and laughs at us.

Instance: A Canadian critic of the Olympics, Marla Renn, was denied U.S. entry. On her return, she was questioned at length by Canadian guards who recorded all the numbers on her cellphone, and demanded to know the names of those she had intended to meet.

Instance: Other Olympic critics were tailed and questioned by plainclothes police. Neighbours, associates and former spouses of Olympic critics have been questioned in an attempt to extract damning evidence against the critics. The Mayor and Council of the City of Vancouver meekly accepted these acts of intimidation.

Instance: Such is the censorship choke-hold of the IOC that the City of Vancouver ordered removed from an art gallery window an Olympic-mocking poster, declaring it illegal graffiti. The city conveniently ignored the fact that this gallery has been posting "graffiti" for years. Why enforcement now? Think subservience to Olympic blackmail.

Instance: The Vancouver Public Library is also into censorship. It has advised all branches not to have Dairy Queen or Pepsi sponsor any event during the games period, but rather approach McDonald's or Coca Cola, official sponsors, instead.

Instance: The Olympic Committee filed a legal objection to the Canadian Congenital Heart Alliance's (CCHA) use of a torch in its logo. The IOC wants world-wide exclusive use of the torch symbol, as well as the five barrel hoops. They might also consider registering the swastika to acknowledge the origin of the Olympic torch.

Instance: IOC officials ban reporters interviewing torch carriers.

Soon after the closing ceremony, the host nation's hope for a polished image goes down the memory hole. Then begins the hangover, the long process of clawing its way from under an Olympic debt. The $10-million roof over the 1972 Munich Olympic Stadium ultimately cost $60-million.

The left-over bad taste in Vancouver is in the mouths of those employees who stayed on until the end of the games. They were promised retention bonuses. Olympic officials reneged. 

Montreal's 1976 Olympics $1.5-billion debt took 30 years to pay off, and the city still has a crumbling white elephant to feed. Former Mayor Jean Drapeau's promise of an east-end renaissance did not happen. The neighbourhood surrounding Olympic Park, a concrete wasteland, remains among the most depressed areas in Canada. The original estimate was $120 million. About $300-million is required to replace the ill-designed roof.

The $12-billion cost of the 2004 Athens Olympics, plus infrastructure projects rushed to completion at inflated cost, caused the debt rating for Greece to be lowered from stable to negative, and their bonds close to junk status sparking their current debt crisis. The national economy will be crippled for at least a generation tending the disintegrating unused sites, and removing the debt which turned out to be double the original estimate. The boom in tourism touted by promoters did not happen. The annual maintenance cost of the mothballed complex is $100-million. The International Monetary Fund declared that Greece must slash wages and social spending. The IOC richer; the Greek citizen poorer.

The $6-billion 2000 Sydney Olympics cost the Australian taxpayer triple the original estimate Again, the anticipated influx of visitors never materialized. Areas of the Seoul Olympic Park (1988) "sit like a graveyard today," with only minor pedestrian traffic.

The Chinese government, being criticism averse, need not explain to anyone the $44-billion cost of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. But reality overtakes even despots. The showpiece Water Cube is losing just under $2-million annually. The other showpiece, the Bird's Nest is now a tourist attraction. At the current rate of income, it will take 30 years to recoup the $475-million investment. Reports says that other venues have fared even worse.

On the commercial level, we see the one, the only, the sole reason why the Olympics exist. Corporate and Olympic interests pocket billions of dollars every two years, peddling gimmicks, unhealthy food and over-priced services. The IOC hierarchy keeps the money from sponsorships, media rights. NBC paid $2.2-billion for the rights to the Vancouver Olympics and the 2012 London summer games. The IOC sells licences to produce logo-bearing t-shirts and other obsolescent paraphernalia. It has failed to remove the suspicion that it scalps its own tickets.

In February 2011, IOC President, Jacques Rogge, advocated that the IOC  get into the gambling business to take advantage of event outcomes. They "must" do it to stop others from doing it with no profit to the IOC. It's just another way to increase the flow of money to their mountain vaults. And the host country will bear the cost of enforcement of this money grab.

From 2001 to 2004, this "non-profit" money mill amassed $4.2-billion. We wonder what benefit accrues to the Swiss government, The latter does not levy taxes on this bi-annual windfall. An independent British think tank, One World Trust, ranked the IOC as the least transparent of the 30 non-profit organizations it measured (Transparent.Org). Both the Swiss government and operate in secrecy.

Local charlatans jack up hotel and restaurant prices. In the best spirit of free enterprise, home owners rent their abodes at extortionate rates. The mentality of those willing to be gouged is another matter.

On the people level, we have the athletes. They represent the only legitimate participants in the entire scheme, that is those not drugged, doped, granted expedited citizenship so they may join the team of a richer nation, using forged passports with false birthdays, of indeterminate sex, seeking special tax exemptions, or unabashedly competing for commercial sponsorships.

They work for the lowest return for their time, energy and financial investment. The Olympics encourage them to damage their bodies with freakish diet and training regimens, a "brutally harsh experience" as one athlete described it. Certain blood-doped former East German athletes have become permanent invalids. How many around the world? ["Who is it that does not voluntarily exchange his health , his repose, and his very life for reputation  and glory, the most useless, frivolous, and false coin that passes current amongst us."   Montaigne essay "Of Solitude"]

All this for a piece of metal on a ribbon, and the hope of being featured in television commercials. Men would die for baubles Napoleon sneered when he created the French Legion of Honour. Our Olympic heroes have their moment in the sun, if it can pierce the smog of the host city. They are then soon forgotten, unless they hailed from a small town which named a street after them or posted their names at the town entrance.

Our winning competitors are now being paid. In Beijing, the Canadian Olympic officials awarded money to medal winners: $20,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver, and $10,000 for a bronze medal. This becomes laughable in case Canada wins in hockey. All but three of the Canadian men's hockey team already average over $3.5- million per season.

Fifteen months after being awarded medals in Beijing, five athletes were ordered to return them. The IOC decided they were guilty of drug cheating. Did the Alpine boys store these athletes' urine samples for all those months while they worked out the chemical formulas for banned substances? Henceforth, medal winners will be under a cloud of suspicion for at least fifteen months.

There's one more tier in the Olympic structure: pimps, prostitutes, and drug dealers will offer their wares and services. Our courts and human rights commissions will soon declare such behaviour as socially acceptable. The Swiss princes will then live off the avails by declaring these activities Olympic demonstration sports.

On August, 27, 2010, months after the 2010 Winter Olympics had ended, The Globe and Mail editorialized, "The Youth Games were designed to shift the focus away from the win-at-all-costs mentality and relentless commercialism of the adult Olympics." Now, they tell us.

Within a year of the Vancouver games, the hangover set in. "Taxpayers could get snowed under with Olympic loss," claimed a September 25, 2010 Globe and Mail headline. The story was the anticipated bath Vancouver would take in the vain hope of recouping its $1-billion-plus investment in the Olympics athletes' village.

The city was betting on a rising housing market to help pay the bills. "As things stand today," the report continues, "the project is shaping up to be a financial disaster for Vancouver taxpayers, with losses totalling in the tens, possibly hundreds of millions of dollars."

In January 2011, Vancouver Olympic Committee CEO, John Furlong, confirmed in a leaked internal memo that pensions and bonuses promised to certain employees would not be paid. VANOC reneged on an obligation in order to show the public a balanced operating budget.

Olympic critic Kathy Corrigan: "We've said all along VANOC should have been more forthcoming about their finances. They don't comply with freedom of information requests. The Auditor-General has not been able to take a look. It's hard to get information about what's going on. It's been like that from the beginning."

April 12, 2011. As more information becomes available, the financial picture gets worse. The of Olympic Village-related costs to the Vancouver taxpayer now totals $300-million. Final figures are about two years away.

If you think this post shows a disgraced IOC, and an embarrassed Vancouver, see A Shameful Track Record by Laura Robinson, Literary Review of Canada, Jan-Feb 2010, and Five Ring Circus: Myths and Realities of the Olympic Games by Chris Shaw.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Iceland in the Canadian Fold

A renewal of an earlier offer.

Iceland's financial deep freeze has rendered its banks incapable of meeting international obligations, and its reserves unable to cover demand for cash withdrawals. Three of the nation's biggest banks have collapsed racking up debts 16 times the nation's economic production.

A decade ago, the banks were sold to private investors. Is the collapse any surprise? The stock market has lost 97 per cent of its value since September 2008. McDonald's hamburger joints have fled the island. Another economic implosion is feared. The situation gets worse, but the point is made.

The question remains: Why should Icelandic taxpayers be held responsible for the failure of high-risk investments made by private corporations? Another question: In the absence of criminal action by these corporations, why should there be compensation at all?

There is but one solution to Iceland's problem. The banks must renege on all foreign obligations, absolutely and totally. The nation must declare bankruptcy.

Iceland must forget about joining the European Union. Europe which  is on the path of self-destruction. The island nation need only look west, and apply for provincial status in Canada. We can readily absorb its 300,000 inhabitants constituting less than one per cent of our population. We will have a debt-free province, a stepping stone to Europe, and another spectacular place to visit within our boundaries.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Media Myths

The common media may get carried away by its own myths. This renders it unable to acknowledge the truths which give the lie to those myths. Here are two letters offering such truths, but which the Toronto Star refused to publish. The first destroys the Star's oft-expounded myth that the Catholic Church is contributing to the spread of AIDS in Africa. The second letter points out the pro-choice stand of the Star is actually pro-death.

Re Lewis sees tide turning in war on AIDS, Sept 30:

This report lists the "big players" in the war against aids but fails to mention the biggest players of all. Christian faith-based organizations provide more than half of AIDS health care worldwide. Specifically, one out of every four AIDS patients in the world is treated in a Roman Catholic centre.

The church has a network of 1,600 hospitals, 6,000 clinics, and 12,000 initiatives of a charitable and social nature, not only in Africa, but in Asia and elsewhere. Craig McClure, executive director of the International AIDS Society has acknowledged that these services do not receive the media attention, if not gratitude, they deserve.

Re Desperate mothers, Oct 3:

A healthy mother can and wants to give birth to a healthy baby girl. Because of a cultural preference for boys, her family forces her to have abortions on two occasions. Where are the pro-choice people defending a woman's right to choose life? Not at the Toronto Star.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Human Rights Pot of Gold

Letter published in the Toronto Star, August 20, 2009

Re Tribunal told guard wasn't mocked for refusing hard hat, Aug. 18

Is the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal out of control? The commissioner sits quietly while someone claims $40,000 for a perceived slight to his religious head gear. It is claimed that this slight has brought on stress, medical issues and reduced work hours.

Were it not for the prospect of a pot of gold at the end of the human rights rainbow, such fatuous claims would not be made.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

End of the Line?

In a recent report, The Globe and Mail journalist, Michael Valpy, dwelt at length on the vicissitudes of growing old. My email to him:

I trust the second paragraph of your August 8 item was tongue-in-cheek. As a 76-year-old, I have experienced none of the sensations you mentioned. If HiNi should take me (not for a minute do I believe there will be a pandemic), it would only move up the date for the next stage of my growth.

As for being the butt of jokes, should we really care what a forty-year old thinks about anything?

Idea number One: Films should be reviewed by someone under fifty and someone over fifty. It adds a great deal to our lives to have a perspective of fifty or more years. People of age enjoy a bigger picture of life.

We have seen fashions come and go, and come and go again. We can sit back and laugh at the "latest" fad, knowing it is just another re-hash of a re-hash. But to youngsters, it's all new. They lack perspective.

Idea Number Two: Every time a "new" fashion emerges from unimaginative designers, newspapers should show where that new-old idea came from. But that might be against the newspaper's financial interest.

Idea Number Three: Youngsters to read and study until about age forty, forty-five. Then think about what they have read for ten years or so. In their fifties, they may deign to express an opinion, but only tentatively. Serious communication must await sixty, more or less. (Some exceptions permitted.)

If a woman is worried about "crepey cleavage and saggy booty," it's only because she worried about similar non-essentials when she was young. It's a question of confidence.

Idea Number Four: Run out of town those "anti-aging" establishments. They are anti-reality, anti-life, preying on one's insecurity.

Idea Number Five: The size of an issue of a newspaper be determined by the amount of real news, not by the amount of created stories or advertising sold.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Crumbling Buildings

The thirty-year-old Pompidou Centre in Paris is in need of major repairs. Complained one French politician: "We have in Paris structures left by the Romans two thousand years ago, yet these new buildings are crumbling."

Not just in France. In Montreal recently, a slab of concrete fell 17 storeys from a Marriott Residence Inn killing a woman dining in the restaurant below. Pieces of that city's Olympic white elephant regularly scale off, endangering passers-by.

None of this should be news. The renown architect, Anthony Adamson, years ago warned of our construction practices. Lintels, and other pieces of seemingly well-attached materials, he observed, are held in place by small metal clips. In time, these will rust, and danger will follow. Other architects confirm this opinion.

And in Toronto. In 2007, a piece of the marble cladding came unstuck and fell off the 30-year-old CIBC Building on the corner of Bay and King Streets. The architect did not allow for Toronto's weather conditions. The 45,000 slabs of Carrara marble are to be replaced at a cost of $100 million.

This month, two concrete slabs fell from the office building at 240 Duncan Mills Road.

In St. James Town, the concrete pieces of a railing between two buildings facing 325 Bleecker Street are deteriorating. One has already fallen off. The rusted metal clips are there to be seen. And at the residential building of 325, the concrete canopy over the front entrance is in need of support.

The Canadian Ethos

In early August, the Toronto Star featured a letter whose writer bemoaned his feeling of exclusion from "the Canadian ethos" due to the word God in our national anthem. A follow-up letter from a sympathetic reader was also printed. But no letters such as mine:

Re Canada should become religion neutral (August 6):

I can understand atheist Brian Stewart's feeling of exclusion from "the Canadian ethos" by the words of our anthem "God keep our land glorious and free." I, as an anarchist, also feel left out of that same ethos by the Charter of Rights that speaks of "the rule of law."

The phrase is there because the Charter was written by lawyers. Had it been written by plumbers, it would have read "the rule of plumbing." Frankly, it would not have made any difference to the average Canadian.

My advice to Mr. Stewart is to keep a stiff upper lip, as I do, while we endure the oppression of democracy.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Stoning of Soraya M. is fiction

An unpublished letter to the Toronto Star (2009).

Re Violence clouds message, July 17:

The film, The Stoning of Soraya M. is fiction. The book by Freidoune Sahebjam, published in France in 1990 and on which the film was based, was not presented as a true story. The English translation emerged in the United States as factual in every "true and shocking" detail.

In a Toronto Star report of May 28, 1994, Staff Reporter Rebecca Bragg wrote: "Not one detail of the Sahebjam's story can be independently corroborated; all the characters' names are false, and not even the village is named." The author later admitted the book was "reconstructed" from various accounts. He did not name the village because he feared the army might destroy it. Stoning is illegal in Iran.

Bragg continued: "Reviewed at face value as non-fiction across North America . . . the book's figure for stoning deaths of women is now firmly established in worldwide computer information databases." It now virtually impossible to correct the record.

I have suggested the Toronto Public Library insert in its on-line descriptions, which trumpet the book's veracity, a reader alert as to the questionable nature of its content. The Library answered that they get their information from an American source, that I should contact them. Why  must we accept American information unquestioned?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Woman's Poetry Prize?

Each year, the Pat Lowther Memorial Award is given (I believe through The League of Canadian poets) "for the best book of poetry by a Canadian woman published the preceding year."

In sports, for example, I can understand different leagues for women. Men, being generally stronger, would otherwise have an unfair advantage.

But in poetry, in any of the creative arts, what disadvantage do women burden under that they cannot compete directly with men?

What would Margaret Atwood or Alice Munro think of an award for the best novel by a woman? I trust they would not accept it. Women in the arts display through their work no less insight, inventiveness and creativity as their male counterparts, and often greater. They do not need to be singled out for special recognition.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Language and Meaning

George Orwell would be chagrined, but not surprised, at the abuse of our beautiful English language by the media and advertising interests.

The Royal Bank of Canada television commercials extol the benefits of a new service plan. For $13.95 per month we get certain services including free cheques and free overdraft protection, and other no charge services. This is another version of the old joke about the person checking hotel rates. He is told that that the more expensive suite has free television.

The Ontario Government on May 14, 2009, ran a notice in the daily press about a proposed development of Highway 407. One sentence reads: "The pre-planning activities include planning and preliminary design." If pre-planning includes planning, what's planning all about?

When The Law Society of Upper Canada announces the disbarment of one it its delinquent practitioners, the reasons may be many. In its announcement, however, the Society mentions only the least trivial of the perpetrated behaviour. Rarely is there only one charge against a lawyer. Mentioning the least of the wrongs conveys the notion of an organization protecting the public at every turn.

The Globe and Mail recently welcomed its new Editor-in-Chief. The long statement praised the new comer, described his experience, and history. As for Edward Greenspon, the out-going Editor-in-Chief, the announcement merely said he was going on the "new challenges." Readers are left to read between the lines.

The media have been intimidated into describing a prostitute as a "sex-trade worker" and an abortionist as an "abortion provider." U.S. lawyers describe torture as "interrogation techniques."

People in law flatter themselves by referring to their business as the justice system, and our courts of justice. They are courts of law whose product may or may not be justice. Law is a process, justice the presumed goal of that process.

Hyundai commercials proclaim their cars come "loaded with standard features." That's a good start.

In half-inch bold red type, Flight Centre offers a flight to Athens for $235. Then in 1/16th inch black type "taxes and fees $513." Not to be outdone, Sunquest offers a vacation for $397 (again in half-inch type) then the sucker punch of $204 in taxes. What do travel people have against giving the full cost up front? Porter Airlines warns of "taxes, fees and surcharges" in a footnote. Failure to read the fine print will result in being stung in half-inch bold face type at the time of payment.

The "majestic vagueness" of the American Constitution (so described by The New Yorker) prohibits Congress from enacting laws respecting the establishment of religion. On the face of it, the amendment protects religions from government interference. Over the years, this obvious meaning has been turned inside out.

The self-styled tolerant members of the American Civil Liberties Union want banned all those crosses in Arlington Cemetery and any recognition of God on the U.S. one dollar bill. The foes of religion want destroyed all memorials to the war dead which display a cross or any other religious symbol. And we thought only the Taliban were so intolerant as to destroy other people's religious symbols. To their credit, the Taliban does not hide behind the baloney of thinly sliced legal niceties.

Around construction sites, we see posted signs alerting passers-by to Danger Work Overhead. It is a mystery as to what pedestrians are supposed to do as they walk under the scaffolding. Don't walk under the protected area? Be prepared to dodge falling construction materials? During the 9/11 crisis, the U.S. government to its citizens to enjoy the holidays but be sure to take precautions.

In its monthly statements, Bell Canada lists the client's choices among the plethora of options. This list includes a charge for Touch-Tone. The implication is that this is an option, when in fact it is compulsory. Strange, given that the old dial service (where it is still available) costs the company more to operate than Touch-Tone. This later should be included in the basic charge.

A new meaning to "battery" as in "assault and battery" was created recently in West Virginia. A suspect held for questioning in a police station "lifted his leg and passed gas loudly" and fanned the gas toward a policeman. The complaint: "The gas was very odorous and created contact of an insulting of provoking nature with the patrolman."

Monday, June 8, 2009

Police Out of Control?

The litany of reports of police misbehaviour demands serious investigation into police training and attitudes. The efficacy of the Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) is also in question. 

--- The Canadian Association of Police Chiefs (CAPC) accepts $100,000 from Taser International Inc. as conference sponsor. A CAPC researcher accepts stock options from Taser international.

--- Families of 22 people shot by various Ontario police forces in the past five years are still waiting for an explanation.

--- After five years, Toronto police union past-president Bill McCormack continues to be on paid suspension pending investigation of improper conduct charges. The case will not be heard for two more years. Cost so far: Over $500,000.

--- A Toronto trial judge finds that "we have police officers who clearly lied while under oath."

--- Toronto police are blamed for drug probe delays.

--- A special investigation claimed there's a pattern of thefts by the Toronto police drug squad.

--- Toronto police party with the money received from the sale of stolen bicycles.

--- Toronto police enjoy higher salaries than their New York counterparts. By the judicious arrangement of their court appearances on minor traffic charges, some constables earn up to $160,000 a year. That's not counting the $60-$70 per hour they get for drinking coffee at construction sites.

--- As it approaches its first $1 billion budget, Toronto police refuse to disclose the cost of maintaining 28 horses and 43 equestrian officers. This, from The Globe and Mail. In fact, the amount ($7 million) is (not clearly) disclosed in the annual budget.

All these items are from newspapers. How much more is there that the media have not uncovered? Citizens are entitled to effective control over police activity. Clearly, we are not getting it.

A copy of this post was e-mailed to TPSB on May 20, 2009. Reply received June 8.

Dear Mr. Peringer,

Thank you for your email dated May 20, 2009.

The Toronto Police Service Board is actively engaged in fulfilling its mandate to provide adequate and effective police service in a manner that is both accountable and respectful.

You may wish to link to Chair Mukherjee's blog, agendas and minutes of the TPSB at www.tpsb.ca and view the live web casts of the TPSB meetings to get a more accurate sense of the rigor which is inherent in police oversight in Toronto.

Again, thank you for taking the time to write to the TPSB.

Alok Mukherjee
Toronto Police Service Board

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Citizenship of Convenience

Letter to The Globe and Mail, June 6, 2009. Unpublished.

Canada, it seems, has yet to learn the a difference between being a generous nation and a foolish one. Of the 2.7 million people with Canadian citizenship living abroad, more than half are believed to have dual citizenship, and be permanent residents of their country of origin (Canada's relationship with Lebanon, June 5).

These Canadians hold passports of convenience which they wave with patriotic fervour when they need a bolt hole. The evacuation of 15,000 "Canadians" during the 2006 Lebanese troubles cost us an estimated $65 million. We may be certain the owners of available ships boosted their rates when they learned Canada was involved.

More frightening is the possibility of these non-taxpaying "Canadians" swamping our health care system. Many of them maintain false Canadian addresses ( mainly in Quebec) in order to qualify for medicare or other benefit should the need arise.

Clearly there are two classes of Canadians: Those who pay taxes and those who free load.

Nation of Wimps

In a 1992 radio broadcast, journalist Lynda Frum posed this question: "What's to account for many men and women wanting to identify themselves as the victims of one sort of hardship or another?"

In 2011, a University of Manitoba doctoral student failed the required exams twice. He was awarded his degree because "he suffers from an extreme examination anxiety disability." We have no reports of such a disability during his Master's examinations.

In July 2010, a Vancouver woman sued the British Columbia's Lottery Corp. for not preventing her from gambling away $330,000 over three years.

In November 2005, an Ontario judge accepted sexsomnia as a defence against the charge of rape. Sexsomnia was described to the court as a sleep state precipitated by a combination of alcohol, genetics and sleep deprivation. The judge accepted this self-imposed state as adequate defence, and acquitted the accused on the basis that the attack had been involuntary. So get little sleep and drink to excess and you  have two-thirds permission to commit legal rape. A glib lawyer can fabricate the other third of your defence.

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that voluntary drunkenness is a defence against a charge of sexual assault. Away from the legal jargon, get blind drunk and the law will be blind to rape. Indeed, the blind leading the blind.

Loto-Quebec faced a $500-million class action law suit brought by 119,000 gamblers addicted to video lotteries. The plaintiffs claimed the casinos caused their financial losses, and should pay compensation. Curiously, the lawyer behind the action claims to be a recovering gambling addict. In January 2010, the government settled with a $50-million payment. How money cures addiction was not explained.

Addicted gamblers are suing the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation for $3.5 million, claiming the OLG failed to prevent them from entering provincially-run casinos.

A lawyer who gambled away $1-million is suing seven casinos because they had "a duty of care" to spot her compulsive behaviour, and intervene. Similar lawsuits are also underway in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

When these people win their pots of money, odds are they head for the nearest casino, and the wheels start over again. This mischief provides an incentive to these people to sneak into the casino, lose money, then sue because of inadequate security. And our wrong-headed courts will give them another bag of money.

The family of a Saskatchewan drug addict is suing her dealer for failing to help her after she overdosed. Guess what she will do with the winnings.

An Ottawa lawyer, Paul Ebbs, successfully sued the federal government for "wrongful hiring" by making him endure three years of boredom in his job. It took him that long to realize the job was not "exciting, challenging and demanding" as he claimed he was promised. For realizing his job was boring after 36 months behind a desk, he received an undisclosed compensation. (A job applicant in a Dilbert cartoon said, "If you agree to give me no work, I will agree not to sue with some sort of bogus employee claim.")

Canadian courts have ruled that the host is responsible if a drunken guest at his party injures himself on the way home.

What's next? A class action against automobile manufacturers because they create dangerous drivers? Suing the liquor control board for creating alcoholics? Suing bridge builders for creating jump-off points? Suing municipalities because speed limits are not lower? The possibilities are endless.

While we may understand and perhaps sympathize with these people, the question remains: Need the general public compensate individuals for private problems? Why should the rest of us pay for self-inflicted wounds?

To turn a private problem into a public problem is unacceptable. Our legal system (courts and human rights tribunals) has created a culture of wimpy people looking for a pension plan due to their own weakness, indiscretion or mindless behaviour.

Linda Frum concluded her broadcast with the question: "Why is there such willingness to concede to the wrongdoings that victims present to us?"

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Abortion versus School Attendance

According to a June 1, 2009 Canadian Press report, 146 schools in Ontario will close over the next two years. The reason is low enrolment. The impact on smaller communities could be devastating as young families will not move to towns with no schools. Local industry will suffer.

Since the 1997-1998 school year, there has been a 15 per cent decline in enrolment for Ontario elementary schools, and since 2002 average enrolment in secondary schools has dropped 14 per cent. Curious that no one sees the connection between school enrolment and live births.

There are 40,000 abortions in Ontario each year. That number of live births five years ago would fill many classrooms today.

In his History of Rome, Livy wrote, "Rome was not strong enough to challenge any of her neighbours, but great thought she was, her greatness seemed likely to last only for a generation. There were not enough women, and that --- added to the fact there was no intermarriage with neighbouring communities --- ruled out any hope of maintaining the level of population."

June 6, 1944

This year's commemoration of the World War Two invasion of Normandy (June 6, 1944) was billed as a "Franco-American ceremony." This offended British and Canadian sensibilities. Letters to The Globe and Mail pointed out Canada's contribution which included 14,000 soldiers who landed that day. My letter described the French contribution. Alas, only the final sentence was published.

Your editorial (Not Franco-American, June 2) is too kind to the French.

There were far more Polish troops attached to the Canadian army in the Normandy invasion than French with their 177 green berets. French troops did not land in Normandy until August 18. By that time, Canadian, British and American forces were well inland. Yet, the monument where the Canadians and Poles landed on June 6 reads (French first): This is the place where the French and their allies began the liberation of Europe.

Conveniently overlooked in this piece of mis-history was the fact that the Soviet army had earlier begun the de-Nazification of Europe on the eastern front, while American, British and Canadian forces were already chasing the German army up the boot of Italy in a horrendous campaign.

Perhaps the insult in not inviting the Queen, or Canadians, or Poles, was due to Winston Churchill who said to his associates in World War One, "Remember, gentlemen, it is not just France we are fighting for, it's for Champagne."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Human Rights and the Culture of Death

The very fact that we are discussing incest as a possible human right illustrates again the Pandora's box of mischief opened by The Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Globe and Mail editorial, The state has a place in this bedroom, Apr. 20).

Such legislation with its victim-promoting offspring has produced a plethora of laws, rules, regulations, and outright verbiage. Here are a few -- hate-crime laws, hate-speech laws, affirmative action, political correctness, fawning multiculturalism, enforced diversity, zero tolerance, thought police, sensitivity training, attitude re-education, social and language inclusion, describing anything displeasing as racist, ideological coercion, grievance promotion, conversation monitors, dialogue facilitators, and the excess of feel-good rules with weasel names created by control freaks, all designed to squeeze human thought into someone else's narrow view of the world.

Homosexuality was decriminalized on the grounds that the state should not interfere with the behaviour of consenting adults. Then, homosexual "marriage" by consenting adults. Abortion by a consenting adult (consent not sought from the person most affected). With consenting adults as the criterion, polygamy will soon be declared legal, and then incest, followed by removal of the minimum age of consent.

What then? If one believes in human rights and animal rights, what objection could there be to consensual bestiality? The recent homosexual parade in Madrid advocated just that. Or someone "marrying" his/her dog or goat? A political party in Holland advocates abolishing the age of sexual consent, legalizing bestiality, child pornography and pedophilia.

The Ontario Supreme court will soon declare that the laws against soliciting, pimping and operating a bawdy house violate the Charter of Rights guarantee to life, liberty and security of the person. Courts and human rights commissions do not deal in logic, the former thrives on paper-thin legal rationalization, the latter on slabs of feelings.

Does the state have any business interfering with consensual dueling? Or consensual murder-suicide pacts? Or assisting in the suicide of a consenting adult?

The Charter of Rights, as interpreted by our blinkered, with-it judges and bleeding-heart human rights commissars, is incrementally destroying the standards which made our civilization what it is. They are creating a culture of victimization, perversion and death.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Taser verses Stapler

Letter to the Toronto Star. Published April 4, 2009.

Re Victim was 'demonized' by RCMP, lawyer says (April 1):

Following their killing of Robert Dziekanski, the RCMP conducted a shameful investigation into his life. They sent investigators to Poland. This attempt to smear the victim cost the taxpayer $58,000.

Let's reverse the situation and investigate the mounties and their private lives. Did this quartet take breathalyzer tests that day? Does any of them have a record of assault, drunk-driving, wife-beating, child abuse and all the other things they investigated about their victim? In fact, such investigations did occur. The results further discredited certain RCMP officers.

Now that the RCMP has declared the stapler an offensive weapon, we should equip the mounties with this lethal device, and take away their tasers.

Of course, the Chiefs of Police advocate tasers. They accepted $100,000 from the manufacturer for their convention. It's time all our police forces at all levels got the public oversight so obviously lacking.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Only what the media want us to know

On March 17, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI opined that condom distribution in Africa was not the total solution to the scourge of HIV/AIDS, in fact, might worsen it. Neither the Toronto Star nor The Globe and Mail reported his reasons, preferring to adopt their usual stance of mocking anyone, especially a religious person, who disagrees with them. Neither newspaper printed letters critical of their stand. Neither printed letters detailing the reasons for the statement. Neither wants its readers to have the whole story to judge for themselves. These are the same people who proclaim the public's right to know, that is, to know only what they want readers to know.

Unpublished letter to The Globe and Mail:

Rather than taking the simplistic approach (as in today's cartoon) to the debate over condom use and HIV/AIDS, The Globe owes its readers the complete story.

Edward C. Green is the director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. In claiming the condom distribution exacerbates the AIDS problem, Green states, "The Pope is correct, or put it another way, the best evidence we have supports the Pope's comments."

Protestant minister Martin Ssempa of Uganda's abstinence and faithfulness anti-AIDS programs: "Condoms have not reduced HIV-AIDS anywhere in the world... Higher condom (use) across Africa has resulted in higher HIV... In countries where the Catholic Church is strong, there is lower HIV than places where the Catholic Church is not."

Sam L. Ruteikara, co-chair of Uganda's AIDS prevention Committee: "Profiteering has trumped prevention...AIDS is no longer a disease. It has become a multibillion-dollar industry. Meanwhile, effective HIV prevention methods, such as urging Africans to stick to one partner, don't qualify for lucrative universal-access status. Our wisdom about our own culture is ignored."

Unpublished letter to the Toronto Star:

Re Papal blind spot on HIV, editorial, Mar. 19

There is much to agree with in this editorial, but it paints a lopsided picture. While the debate over condom use in Africa rages in the Western media, mostly at the expense of the Catholic Church, these same media make scant mention of Catholic work combating the HIV/AIDS scourge.

The Church is the largest single contributor to the treatment of HIV/AIDS patients. One out of every four sufferers in the world benefits from Catholic initiatives, hospitals and clinics.

If the easy availability of condoms has not controlled HIV/AIDS in Canada, how can it do so in the Third World? Condoms may or may not be a quick fix for Africans, but experience indicated the long-term solution lies elsewhere.

We must also be wary of manufacturers, advertisers, distributors, foundations and other "charitable" organizations which have financial interests in the promotion of certain products.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Ode to Toronto at 175

Dear earth of my city:
From you we draw our strength,
Land for which many have died
But elsewhere;
Land where many have been born
And nourished;
Land which has welcomed many
Who prospered;
Land which inspires many
To create.

Under your roofs, we find shelter;
In your schools, growth;
In your libraries, ideas;
In your parks, recreation;
From your platforms, culture;
In your laws, protection;
In your streets, each other;
In your places of worship,ourselves;
In your cemeteries, final rest.

Environment impelled,
We renew our city each day;
Reverencing the past,
Enjoying the present,
Planning the future.
Like Ancient Athens's youth,
Let us pledge to make our city
Not only not less, but greater,
Better and more beautiful
Than it was given to us.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Evolution and the Catholic Church

Unpublished letter to the Toronto Star in reply to a letter erroneously stating the Catholic position on evolution.

Re Church perpetuates myths, too, Mar. 2

It's a source of humour when outsiders tell Catholics what they believe. Dylan Rivis creates his own myth with regard to faith and reason when he states that Catholics deny the theory of evolution. In fact, the Church teaches that evolution is an important part of God's plan for the universe.

John Paul II has said, "Science can purify religion from error and superstition. Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes." Faith and reason are in conflict only to those who understand neither.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Mindset Journalism

In his book, The Death of Free Speech, John Ziegler examines how the news media have created arbitrary, biased, and illogical rules for determining what can and cannot be said in the public arena. Ziegler limited his investigation to secular events.

But his observations hold true for media reports of religious matters. Is it laziness or a propensity for steel-trap thinking that develops the rigidity all too evident in the common media? It is akin to censorship. Two recent examples.

1.   Pope Benedict XVI recently lifted the excommunication on a number of Catholics, one of whom, Bishop Richard Williamson, was later exposed as a holocaust denier. No matter what the multitude of Catholic news agencies reported, the secular press refused to acknowledge that the lifting of the excommunication and the holocaust denial were in no way related. The media linked the two events, often in the same sentence.

2.   The reportage of the profoundly troubling sex scandals within the Catholic Church is another example of mindset thinking. Child Maltreatment 2006, a report of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, states that 66 per cent of sexual abusers are parents, other relatives, unmarried partners of parents, friends or neighbours, and that only 0.5 per cent are "professionals." And clergy are a subset of "professionals," and Catholic clergy a subset of clergy.

The 2007 Annual Report of U.S. Catholic bishops, prepared by outside auditors, identified 15 allegations of childhood sexual abuse in the American Catholic Church from 2000 to 2007, an average of fewer than two per year. A 2007 investigation by the Associated Press identified 2,500 public school teachers who from 2001 through 2005, had their teaching licences revoked or restricted as a result of sexual misconduct with minors -- an average of 514 per year. The ratio of abuse in American public schools to that of the Catholic Church runs as high as 275 to one.

This in no way excuses any of this behaviour. All perpetrators must be prosecuted. But this does illustrate the media bias as to how these dreadful incidents are reported.

Folly Continues at the Ontario Human Rights Commission

In 2008, the Ontario Human Rights Commission smarted at the realization it had no jurisdiction to punish a journalist for what it perceived as "Islamophobia."

The Commission's website purports to define Islamophobia. The result is a wandering, erroneous and grammatically embarrassing effort. Such commissions wallow in vagueness, preferring to deal with feeling rather than fact. They exclude objective judgement, a condition favoured by the Utopian activists who inhabit such institutions.

Unable to impose political correctness on the media in Ontario, OHRC Chair Barbara Hall called for a national press council with compulsory membership for on-line media services. She would empower this yet another bureaucratic overseer to expose any breach of professional standards on the Internet, as she would like them to be.

In a manner exemplary of its communication skills, the Commission articulated, "Ensuring mechanisms are in place to provide opportunity for public scrutiny and the receipt of complaints, particularly from vulnerable groups is important, but must not cross the line into censorship."

From an editorial in The National Post: ". . . making all writers, bloggers and broadcasters hostage to a national press council is merely the first step toward letting the Barbara Halls of the world decide what you get to hear, see and read."

This attempted expansion of government intrusion was in reaction to the proposed curtailing of human rights commissions' jurisdiction as recommended by Law Professor Richard Moon. He wrote, "The use of censorship by the government should be confined to a narrow category of extreme expression --- that which threatens, advocates or justifies violence against members of an identifiable group."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The old public relations trick -- isolate the victim

One public relations trick is to isolate the victim, make him/her feel that they are the problem, that their complaint is unique, and that they should stop bothering us.

1.   Many years ago, I complained to the Public Relations Manager of the Toronto Transit Commission about the terrible smells which then emanated from the Summerhill subway station. He replied he had never heard of the problem, but made a note of it. Two or three years later, a business associate wrote to the TTC about the same matter. The letter she received was from the same person I had spoken to earlier. His reply was that he had never heard of the problem before.

2.   After returning from a package trip to the United Kingdom, I lodged a complaint with British Airways about the hotel they had reserved for me. The building was so decrepit water from the suite above mine leaked into my bathtub. Their reply was that no one had ever complained about that before.

3.   On another occasion, I pointed out to Canada Post the slow delivery of a first-class letter within Canada. Their reply was that they preferred to talk about the vast majority of their mail that does get delivered in due course.

4.  All of which brings to mind the old joke about the "Bug letter," except it's no joke. It's a normal public relations manoeuvre.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Iceland Can Bank on Canada

Letter to the Toronto Star. Published October 24, 2008.

Iceland's financial deep freeze has rendered its banks incapable of meeting international obligations, and its reserves unable to cover demand for cash withdrawals. Among angry depositors are 120 British municipalities, hospitals and charities, including Cambridge University. The government hopes the nationalization of its banks will solve the problem.

There is but one solution to Iceland's problem. The banks must renege on all foreign obligations, absolutely and totally. Indeed, the nation itself must declare bankruptcy. This unilateral action will render nugatory threatened European legal action.

Once the ice chips have settled, Iceland need only apply to Canada for provincial status. We can readily absorb its 300,000 inhabitants constituting less than one per cent of our population. We will have a debt-free province, a stepping stone to Europe, and another spectacular place to visit within our boundaries.

Another stage of Canada's manifest destiny entails reviving the plan to add the Turks and Caicos Islands to our domain. Taking its 30,000 sun worshipers into our fold poses no problem. Britain has found the colony's lawmakers to be corrupt. We can easily depose them, using our strong police presence in nearby Haiti.

Canada and the European Union have begun serious trade talks. With Iceland in our fold, we will already have a foot in the door.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Quality Trumps the Incidentals

Letter to the Toronto Star. Unpublished.

Re New push to make boards match colour of city, Jan 26 (2009)

Toronto has adopted a Utopian report that every board, commission, committee, sub-committee and school-yard huddle must consist of people reflecting the ethnic mix of the city. This misplaced idealism carries seeds of danger en route to failure. Nowhere do we read of quality, competence and ability.

In this quota system, the minority appointees will feel they represent only their particular ethnic or social group. In the absence of competition for these appointments, how else did they get the job? This initiative is based on the belief that the present system does not represent every community. By the same token, should we fear that ethnic appointees will not represent majority interests?

The danger is the ghettoization of supposedly pan-representative committees and commissions. Worse yet, the majority may defer to the representative of this or that particular community, even though the matter under debate is not in the best interests of the larger community. Worse still, the practice may develop whereby community representatives horse-trade authority among themselves.

Toronto's motto once was: Industry, Integrity, Intelligence. The city's new motto, Diversity Our Strength, celebrates our differences, not something we can all aspire to together.

This is multiculturalism and diversity gone barking mad. How else to keep this policy current other than by racial profiling? We can hope this is a temporary aberration in our city's passage into maturity. At which time, the sole criterion for appointment or election to office will be ability to speak to the interests of every community, and voters mature enough to judge candidates solely on quality, competence and ability.

One person cited in this report believes that children are inspired by people of the same skin colour, ethnicity or religion. Role models are important. But to the extent that it is true, our educators have failed. The challenge is to teach young people that they can be successful regardless of these incidentals, and that they should grasp good ideas and inspiration whatever their source.

Atheists and their Wannabes

Letter to The Globe and Mail. Unpublished.

Margaret Somerville, McGill University Founding Director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics, and Law, speaks of the passion, actual or staged, of people like Richard Dawkins (The search for shared ethics, Jan 27, 2009). Atheists define themselves by what they do not believe.

But, Dawkins and his wannabes are anti-theists. They define themselves by what they ardently oppose. And what they oppose is the inclusion in the public forum of the beliefs of the majority, people, those people who acknowledge some form of Higher Power in the grand scope of things. As Professor Somerville points out this attempted exclusion is undemocratic.

The legal concept of separation of church and state originated in a distorted interpretation of the First Amendment of the the U.S. Constitution.  The Amendment was designed to protect churches from state interference, from the government creating a state religion. Somewhere along the line, it got contorted into its present configuration.

The fact that this concept is not in accord with Islamic thought poses a problem for the Western world.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Anti-aging Racket

Letter to The Globe and Mail, January 14, 2009, in reaction to an article on aging. Published.

We want our wine to age, but whine when we age (The quest for the test tube of youth, Jan 10). We describe this futile quest by that anti-human, insulting word "anti-aging." This makes us prey to every faker, charlatan and snake oil salesman on the planet. Aging is not a disease.

The film of each life ends. That's all folks. The Book of Life has no sequel, not even a second edition. The quest for long life begins in youth by the proper care of the body. The only effect an elixir, nectar, ambrosia or potion will have is to decrease one's estate.

Rather than waste energy putting on the trappings of the young, a better option is to make the most of every day (and night) "before we too into the dust descend" when the world will hear "no more talk of thee and me." The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam offers an inspiring place to begin.

Letter to the Toronto Star. Unpublished.

Re Facing end of road the hardest part of living, Nov. 15

Pardon me if I detect a dab of condescension in Judy Steed's comments on aging. If Ms. Steed be "haunted by the eyes of old people," and "touched by their courage in growing old, in revealing their vulnerability," then she has not looked into my eyes or the eyes of other septuagenarians, octogenarians and nonagenarians whom I know. Yes, some people our age have shut down their life's horizon. That's a personal decision. It is not for others to judge, or even comment on.

Hardly is it "the bravest thing to continue to live." Its acceptance acknowledges that the parade of life one day will move on without us. And we move elsewhere. Frankly, that's not a bad idea. All required is a sense of maturity, a maturity younger people do not have, and will not understand until the sand of their hourglass has shifted into life's lower chamber. "At my age, I don't even buy green bananas," jokes a truly mature person.

Yes, older people sometimes become dependent on others. We are always dependent on someone, only in different ways at the different stages of life.

Those truly fearing time's passing may find solace in The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Among other things, this 12th century Persian advised:

So when at last the Angel of the Drink
Of Darkness finds you by the river-brink,
And, offering his Cup, invites your Soul
Forth to your Lips to quaff it --- do not shrink