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An unpublished letter to The Globe and Mail, December 28, 2009: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