Monday, December 20, 2010

Citizen Pays for Corporate Incompetence

On December 1, Ontario Hydro One deducted $11,907 from the pre-authorized bank account of a customer. The normal deduction was $477 per month. Since 2008, Hydro One had failed to read the electricity meter on the client's second property. Without the courtesy of a notice, this bureaucratic giant scoops up all the money it feels owing.

But hold on. The public deserves protection against corporate incompetence. The government (provincial? federal?) must decree that all such services must be invoiced within three months, otherwise the claim for payment becomes void. Lawsuits have a statute of limitations. Why not service charges?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Toronto Life Magazine and Prostitutes

In an overwrought piece of journalism, the December 2010 issue of Toronto Life presented prostitutes and their clients as well-balanced people. My letter to the Editor published in the February 2011 issue:

No matter how you dress (or undress) them, men who consort with prostitutes admit their deficiencies.

The media, in their own cute way, present them as up-scale swingers, the prostitutes as strong in family values.

Men's lack of self-containment, self-confidence, communication skills, and interesting things to say, renders them unable to attract real women -- women who come to men on women's terms and not as marketable flesh.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The "R" Word

What is the appeal in the words racism and racist?

The Ontario Human Rights Commission, in its own ungrammatical way, describes Islamophobia as " a contemporary and emerging form of racism".

The U.K. report of the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia presents the case "for seeing Islamophobia as a form of racism".

In explaining Belgium's banning the burqa, a member of parliament claimed, "We are not a racism kind of country".

In a legal dispute over Muslim women wearing veils, a lawyer "raised the spectre of racism".

Airport security screening of turbans called "elements of racial profiling".

A letter to the Toronto Star of June 18, 2014, dealt with our failings towards our aboriginal people. The writer avoided the word racist. The headline writer editorialized this complaint into "our racist history."

Not one of these examples involves race, other than in the minds of the accusers. (In the case of the Toronto Star, in the mind of the editorializer.) Such words trip off the tongue more readily than intolerance or bigotry or racial discrimination. Is it the snake-like sibilance hissing through clenched teeth that appeals? Or because it's but a short linguistic step from fascism and fascist? Or because the perpetrator is linguistically challenged?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Philosopher of Despair

Princeton philosopher Peter Singer denies the humanity of people with special needs.

In his 1975 Animal Liberation, he argued that highly aware animals are owed more respect and protection than mentally-challenged humans.

Singer claims that babies "are not born self-aware, or capable of grasping that they exist over time. They are not persons ... The life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee." He teaches that it is permissible to take human life if the person lacks awareness, such as the mentally disabled.

Under Singer's influence, the Spanish government has enacted The Great Ape Project. Henceforth in that corner of the world, apes (gorillas, chimps and orangutans) will enjoy greater rights than humans. For example, from the moment of conception, abortion and fetal experimentation are now illegal. He permits such procedures and experimentation on humans.

The original promoter of the law, a socialist government of a nation with no indigenous apes, The Great Ape Project director said: "This will doubtless be remembered as a key moment in the defence of our evolutionary comrades."

The Director believes he himself evolved from these comrades. That's why apes have been granted standing in Spanish courts. No human can kill them, except in self-defence. They cannot be used in circuses, movies, or television commercials. Experiments on great apes are now outlawed, even though there is no evidence of any being carried out.

Should apes in Spain be granted the vote and allowed to run for office? Why not? Then the government and their evolutionary kin may concoct more freedoms, such the right to swing from trees into parliament. As they are higher on the evolutionary ladder, apes should officiate at bullfights.

Speaking of which, this beneficence of rights does not extend to horned animals. Bull taunting in Pamplona, and the wholesale slaughter in bullrings continues unabated, more than 7,000 annually. The government does not want to lose those tourist dollars. No one visits Spain to see non-existent apes. This government knows when to rise above principle.

Singer has acquired a Princeton bioethics professorship from which he claims that, as ours should be the last generation of human life, we can party ourselves to death, that concern for human life is "medieval". [To use "medieval" as a pejorative, indicates limited historical knowledge.]

Nothing new in all this. The nihilist opinion of Benatar and Singer -- that life is not worth living -- has slithered down through the ages. In the 11th century, Syrian philosopher Abdul Ala Al-Ma'rri recommended that no children should be begotten, so as to spare them the pains of life. In the 18th century, the Marquise du Deffand complained that the only misfortune was to have been born. Certain overly-sensitive people are still with us, distorting young minds.

The Great Ape Project administrators intend to spread their compassion. "We are seeking to break the species barrier," the manager states. By equating himself to an ape, he is well on the way to that noble aspiration.

Letter to The Globe and Mail, August 14, 2011. Unpublished 

Professor Peter Singer speaks of "the moral gulf" humans have dug between ourselves and the animal world (A planet for all apes, Aug. 13). Humans did not dig any gulf, moral or otherwise. Nature put it there. Any attempt to blur or bridge it, a chasm actually, is wrong. It is a form of self-loathing.

Yes, some animals behave in some respects like humans, and others can be taught to imitate human actions. And the DNAs may be close.  That does not justify comparing humans with "our closest non-human relatives," as Singer describes apes. He may consider apes his relatives. I do not.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Chatter about D.H. Lawrence

"The trial that untied our tongues" claimed the headline in The Globe and Mail's shrinking literary section of October 30, 2010. The piece by feature writer Ian Brown celebrated the 50th anniversary of Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence being declared not obscene in law. Before the trial, the then British attorney-general expressed hope for a criminal conviction. For that, Mr. Brown declared him "anti-intellectual."

Law is not the standard thinking people use to judge obscenity.

The wrong charge was leveled against the book. Oscar Wilde said that boredom (he called in ennui) "is the one sin for which there is no forgiveness."  By Wilde's standard, the book is undeserving of forgiveness. I found it a soporific eye glazer. Were it not for the book's mention of naughty bits (Monty Python phraseology), we would today not even be discussing it.

More plausible as the basis of the lawsuit is class distinction -- a lady taking a gamekeeper as lover.

This trial was a money-making lesson for today's scribblers. No matter how inconsequential, no matter how encased in ennui, no matter how hackneyed your book may be, work in something sexual. Too much is not enough. That's what the media and the sub-literati look for.

 Should anyone object, mock them as "anti-intellectual."

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Twist on Foreign Aid

Pick a country in need of a little foreign aid. Here's the plan.

A Canadian lends to the government of that country $10,000, at 10 per cent, for 10 years.

The only requirement is that the $1,000 annual interest be spent in that country. The Canadian government does not charge taxes on the interest earned by the Canadian investor.

The result:
1. The country has the use of the money for a fixed period of time.
2. The purchaser's interest is spent to support local industry.
3. The Canadian government aids a country in need.

Alberta Rights Commission a "Kangaroo Court"

Tolerance enforced by law is tyranny.

Yet another "worst example" of this comes from the Alberta Human Rights Commission and the May 30, 2008, judgement of Commissioner Lori G. Andreachuk, a lawyer. The issue was a letter in a local newspaper written by Stephen Boissoin in which he expressed his view of the homosexual agenda.

Darren Lund, a heterosexual, lodged a complaint. "[A]lthough not a direct victim [he] did expend considerable time and energy and suffered ridicule and harassment as a result of his complaint. The Panel finds therefore that he is entitled to some compensation," Andreachuck decided.

What do we have here? Lund, a person not affected by the letter in question, suffered ridicule from a third party, and Boissoin is ordered to pay him $5,000 for "pain and suffering." The illogic of all this failed to register on the Commissioner.

The farce continued when Andreachuk ordered Boissoin to "request" the newspaper to print her judgement and "request" the newspaper to publish his apology. Of course, the newspaper refused. This naive opinion constitutes legal over-reach at its most obscene.

Andreachuk further ordered Boisson never again,  until the day he dies, express similar views, not in his emails, not even in private conversation. This is more restrictive than what the Inquisition imposed on Galileo (who continued to publish).  Will the good Commissioner Andreachuck eavesdrop on Boissoin's pillow talk?

Fortunately, a court overturned the commissioner's mischief.

Human rights commissions are staffed by lawyers. One would think their training, if not common sense, would inhibit participation in such abuse of the legal process. The judgements of such tribunals too often smack of anti-intellectual flailing and gasping utopianism.

No law has ever changed a privately-held opinion.

Now the really good news. Commissioner Andreachuk's mischief came to the attention of the Alberta Government. The Culture Minister ordered changes in the Commission procedure. He has also initiated a search for a new Director who will "re-tool the commission from top to bottom. We had to change the governance of how it's run," he told the press. "It has to become objective. It's a quasi-judicial body that has to be run like one. No more kangaroo courts." All the commissioners were fired. They have been replaced, it is to be hoped, by people endowed with a modicum of common sense.

The non-profit Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership recommends the repeal of that part of the Code that deals with "statements or publications likely to expose people to hatred or contempt" in order to protect freedom of speech. There are those in the human rights community who are quick to say 'shut this person up, he said something nasty about gays or shut this person up he said something nasty about people in Somalia.' We don’t see limitations on freedom of expression as a good thing in the human rights arena. We see it as a bad thing.”

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Media Interviews

In the early days of television, the BBC interview program Face to Face set the standard for such telecasts. Its salient feature was the hidden interviewer. The camera over his shoulder focused on the guest throughout the entire program. The CBC program Take 30 had much the same format. The interviewer's ego was restrained. Since then, the interviewer has gained prominence to the point of intrusion. He/she has become the celebrity, not the guest.

The interviewer-free format produces desirable results: It minimizes the temptation of interviewer at self-glorification. It does not provide the interviewer with a platform for his opinions. It discourages negative interrogatories so favoured by today's media.

The format today is designed to showcase the interviewer. The late but not lamented program of CNN's Lou Dobbs illustrates this common practice. Dobbs introduced his guest as an expert in the topic of the day. With the camera focused on his abnormally white teeth, Dobbs opened with a self-serving thesis, the guest given time only to validate on what Dobbs has just said. Dobbs repeated his harangue. The guest uttered the affirmation sought by all down-scale interviewers, "You are absolutely correct." Another close-up of Dobbs's teeth ended the interview.

The flow of intelligent dialogue too often is not present as much as the listener deserves. Some interviewers operate from an inflexible agenda, thereby forcing the interview into a sought-after conclusion.

The closest we come to the ideal is TVO's Steve Paikin. Alone on camera for only short sequences, questions well phrased and researched, his personality never intrudes, no hand waving, no head bobbing. His guests are encouraged, indeed urged to soar. That's why they are there, to inform the viewer.

The clue to the interviewer's style is the negative interrogatory, and the word "but." For example, "But do you not believe...?" Good interviews are conversations among knowledgeable people.

The interviewer represents the listener. Questions should be those an informed person might ask. To accomplish this, the interviewer must be a well-researched listener, not a polemicist with an agenda.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Book Burning a Western Disease?

A copy sent to The Globe and Mail, unpublished.

The opinions of two novelists on book burning fill a page of the September 11, 2010 issue of The Globe and Mail. Neither seems aware of relevant historical context.

In the longer of the two pieces, Esquire columnist Stephen Marche opines that book burning is "an endemic Western disease with deep cultural roots." This ignores the fact that the vast majority of books were and still are published in the West. Where most books are produced, most books will be read, most books saved, most shredded, most burned.

 By way of illustration, according to the United Nations' Arab Human Development Report 2002, "The Arab world translates about 330 books annually, one-fifth of the number that Greece translates." Population of the Arab world 300 million, Greece 12 million.

The books burned by the Nazis were not those of business, economics, mathematics, geometry, and the physical sciences. They burned books dealing with the humanities: religion, philosophy, culture, history, literature, the arts, that is, the mind-stretching, idea-producing works. The latter are the same areas of study our universities are currently downgrading.

Burning is not necessary in order to destroy a book's value. Just leave it on the shelf un-read. That neglect will have the same result as incineration. Society will have forgotten its message. While the physical sciences are cumulative, and only the latest version need be known, the humanities must be re-learned, from the beginning, in every generation.

The authors of the famous 1066 and All That got it right. "History is not what you thought. It is what you can remember," the preface tells us. The authors therefore, did their research in "golf-clubs, gun- rooms, green-rooms, etc." This tongue-in-cheek procedure contains much truth. It isn't what's written in books that counts, but how often those books are read. But I digress.

Elsewhere on the same page of the Globe, novelist Drew Hayden Taylor commits the same error as Marche. He too seems unaware that "white people" (as Taylor terms the West thereby revealing his status) have written the most books, and therefore likely to destroy the most books. A culture with no books has none to burn.

Taylor does not know that Muslims consider the actual physical pages of the Koran as sacred property. Christians do not ascribe the same sanctity to the pages Bible. For them, the message not the medium counts. But he has his own drum to beat (pun intended) in using book-burning as an excuse to drag in the unrelated topic of residential schools.

Now that we're talking about residential schools, Taylor is advised to await the report of the inquiry currently in progress. The commission will show that the treatment of aboriginal students had little to do with religion, and everything to do with government. The religious instructors were forced to implement such policies under pain of financial sanctions from Ottawa.

Taylor's worst deficit is in Islamic history. He writes, "It seems to me far more damage has been done to natives by people following the gospels and by any believing in the Koran." This speculation also evidences a lack of Canadian history. No Canadian aboriginal was ever exposed to Islamic behaviour. But he is free to read the history of the Islamic Ottoman Empire, for example, to learn what havoc it wreaked across the Balkans for almost 600 years, and how many millions of slaves Muslims took from Europe and Africa. (In 1631, Muslims raided and enslaved the entire village of Baltimore, County of Cork, Ireland.)

Taylor is half correct in his belief that books are not evil, only people. But like everything else in our ambivalent world, books can influence people to do evil things, instance Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf.

Neither of these authors mentions Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 415. How can a novelist write about book burning without mentioning this insightful work? It describes an anti-intellectual society where the job of firemen is to burn the great books of the Western world -- the humanities, of course.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

G20, Sherry Good and the Class Action Cash Cow

A copy of this post was sent to The Law Society of Upper Canada.

A self-described "paranoid" is suing the Toronto Police Services Board and the Attorney-General of Canada for $45 million. Sherry Good claims her rights were violated while she mingled with G20 protesters and gawkers in downtown Toronto on that famous weekend in June 2010.

"I didn't think they had the right to tell me I couldn't go out and protest," she complained to the media. Of course, the police do not deny the right to protest. But the law they enforce describes what protest acts are criminal.

"I couldn’t sleep last night. I took the day off work. I’m so upset" at the way she felt treated by the police. "I don't believe human beings can do the kind of things they did to other human beings that weekend."

Precisely what she and her companion wearing a black-shirted with Russian markings were doing at the time of police confrontation, other than packing golf balls in her purse, awaits a convincing reply. The police claim she got "mouthy." That's a no-no when dealing with authority no matter what.

Ms. Good intended originally not to get involved with the law, but simply wanted to tell her story on the Internet. A couple of lawyers trolling for business picked up her complaint.

According to newspaper reports, Murry Klippenstein and Eric Gillespie approached and convinced her to be the representative plaintiff. And there we have a big-bucks class-action lawsuit. Is inducement to litigation legal or ethical? Law Society of Upper Canada -- lawyers' trade association -- thinks all is fine. The public has less flattering words for such behaviour.

Casting the money net even wider, The Globe and Mail reports, "It's these 800 people, as well as anyone else detained by police but never arrested that the lawyers are targeting in their class-action suit." To harness more citizens to this lawsuit, the lawyers organized a rally in Queen's Park.

In common class-action patter, Good (coached by her lawyers?) told reporters, "What happened to me and hundreds of others was very wrong." She now speaks for hundreds of others. It wasn't wrong enough to sue, until lawyers convinced her otherwise.

Why a press conference in Queen's Park to launch a lawsuit when the site of her complaint is at Spadina Avenue and Queen Street, and just north of the G20 meeting site? Many suspicions present themselves. Needless to say, lawyers Klipperstein and Gillespie featured prominently in the photo-op.

Full disclosure: I was downtown both days. I brought along my teen-age grand-daughter to demonstrate to her how to behave: No screaming, no smashing golf balls against store windows, no goose-stepping, no Nazi salutes. no insults by Courtney Winkels of B.C. assaulting Constable Adam Joseph by blowing soap bubbles at him.

Footnote: Police officer Adam Joseph is suing YouTube for defamation of character with regard to this incident. Go Adam, go.

On a dozen occasions, I approached the police lines. Stepping over occasionally abusive adolescents trying to look cool stretched out on the roadway, I thanked the officers for being there. I wished them well. They responded kindly.

Sidebar: The sinking of the Queen of the North ferry on March 2006 off the B.C. coast resulted in a class action lawsuit. Forty-five plaintiffs received a total of $140,000 or an average of $3,111.11. The remainder (60%) of the settlement, $213,000, covered legal costs.

In reply to my complaint, the Law Society of Upper Canada sent me two tightly-typed pages (single spaced, both sides of the paper) with this boiler-plate rationale:

"After reviewing the information you provided, we have found that the concerns you raise are not something that the Law Society can deal with. We can only act on complaints that provide information suggesting a lawyer has done something contrary to our Rules of Professional Conduct. It appears circumstances surrounding Ms. Good's hiring of [Klippenstein and Gillespie] are unknown."

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Good Samaritan -- the Universal Person

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus tells of a Jewish traveller attacked by robbers and left for dead. Two of his own people see him, but pass on the other side. Finally, a Samaritan comes to his aid.

At that time, Jews and Samaritans were enemies. So, here we have a stranger helping someone he is supposed to hate. The story asks which of the three acted as a neighbour to the injured person. Who is my neighbour? The answer, of course, is that our neighbour is anyone we are in a position to help.

The parable universalizes the idea of neighbour. Jesus later reinforces this concept when he instructs his disciples to teach all nations, not just the people we know.

This dismissal of tribal thinking emphasizes the notion of the individual. He or she need no longer suffer for the misdeeds of others in their community. It abolishes collective guilt and collective punishment.

We each make our own heaven or hell by our own personal effort.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

David Chen: the Law versus Common Sense

Look no further than the criminal charges against Toronto shop keeper David Chen to see how law enforcement can morph into farce.

May 2009: A security camera showed Anthony Bennett, a thief with 43 convictions, stealing $60 in plants from Chen's store, the Lucky Moose in Chinatown. The thief returned an hour later, and was apprehended by Chen and his employees. They held him until the police arrived four minutes later.

In addition to charging Bennett with shop-lifting, the zealous constable charged Chen and his employees with assault, kidnapping, forcible confinement, and possession of a concealed weapon. The weapon was a box cutter used in Chen's retail business, and attached to his belt. (Shades of the killing of Robert Dziekanski where the RCMP claimed a stapler an offensive weapon.)

Crown Prosecutor Colleen Hepburn offered to drop the kidnapping and assault charges if Chen pleaded guilty to forcible confinement and possession of a weapon. For this he would receive an 18-month suspended sentence and a criminal record. Chen refused. The kidnapping and possession charges were dropped anyway.

A charge of kidnapping entitles defendants to a jury. The Prosecutor rightly feared Chen's peers would do the sensible thing and find everyone not guilty. The two remaining charges will be heard by a judge sitting alone.

For pleading guilty to this and yet another theft charge, serial criminal Bennett got 90 days jail time reduced to 30 days on condition he testify against Chen -- a despicable use of prosecutor discretion.

The criminal code allows a citizen to arrest someone if caught committing the crime, a law that goes back to ancient times of hue and cry. Since then, surveillance cameras have been invented. They operate in lieu of the shopkeeper standing guard all day. Any reasonable judge would modernize the concept of citizen arrest to include the Chen situation, and accept camera evidence as sufficient grounds for later arrest.

Should the judge find guilt, the vagaries of the law will reveal themselves. We can be sure fee-sniffing, ambulance-chasing lawyers are already salivating to offer Bennett a deal -- split the take in a civil suit against David Chen. Given the quirks of the legal system, a judge might well award damages to the thief. But that's for another post.

October 29, 2010: Chen and his employees were found not guilty. On occasion, judges do the right thing. The law under which they were arrested was amended in June 2012.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Media and CSIS

This post has been sent to The Globe and Mail editor

Under the headline, "Fadden raises espionage alarm," The Globe and Mail reporter Sarah Boesveld begins, "At least two provincial cabinet ministers and a number of other government officials and employees are under the control of foreign countries as part of espionage schemes, Canada's top security official said Tuesday." (Italics mine)

No such thing was said by Richard Fadden, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). Not until the fourth paragraph does Boesveld let him speak, "We're in fact a bit worried in a couple of provinces that we have an indication there are some political figures who have developed quite an attachment to foreign countries."

A report from the CBC's Brian Stewart constitutes the bulk of the remainder of this news item. According to Stewart, Fadden "deems" the two cabinet ministers to be "agents of influence" or "secret supporters." Boesveld correctly attributes these words to Stewart, not Fadden.

Beware of reporters quoting each other, especially when the original reporter claims that a third party was merely "deeming" something. One reporter's speculation becomes another's fact. The next day, a Globe editorial massaged Stewart's "deeming" into a "declaration".

As did most other media, the Globe missed the real point, the real need in this affair. Fadden alerted malleable politicians that they are being watched.

Suggested solution: All politicians should immediately post on their websites the source of all gifts from, and free trips to, foreign countries. Then, investigative reporters might check relevant voting records to determine the truth of these "deemings." The innocent have nothing to fear.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Equality of Punishment

of the Canadian Criminal Code reads in part: "A court that imposes a sentence shall also take into consideration the following principles: (a) a sentence should be increased or reduced to account for any relevant aggravating or mitigating circumstances relating to the offence or the offender . . ."

When sentencing someone convicted of a crime, judges consider many things -- the background of the accused, motivation, physical ability to endure prison, financial ability to pay a fine, the efficacy of the proposed punishment, and so on.

Applying court reasoning, this is a plea for equality of punishment for parking and driving offences. A thousand dollar fine may annoy a wealthy person. It would devastate a poor one. There is no equality of punishment. To bring such about, vehicles will be categorized by their cost, as there is a co-relation between the cost of the car and the owner's income.

If the fine for a parking offence is $30 for the owner of a basic car, the fine for the operator of an extravagant model may be $100 or more for the same offence. And the others in between.

The same thinking applies for driving offences. Finland assesses speeding tickets in proportion to the violator's income. Fees, fines and costs varying with ability to pay constitutes acceptable, indeed desirable, discrimination.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Media, News Control and All That

A rambling examination of the print media

In her review of You Can't Read This: Forbidden Books, Lost Writing, Mistranslations, and Codes by Val Ross, writer Deborah Ellis writes: "It is very clear in this book how those with power or vested interests have always striven to keep information deemed dangerous out of the hands of people with less power --- "dangerous" meaning information that could upset the status quo, and start the masses thinking that perhaps the emperor is not wearing any clothes."

Vested interest will always seek to control the news. That's why they monopolize the mass media.

There is nothing new in all this. Here's one from 16th century England from The Book in the Renaissance by Andrew Pettegree. When Protestant Henry of Navarre became king of France in 1589, the news was available to English readers in "at least 40 pamphlets" -- the then common mode of news dissemination. However, his 1594 conversion to Roman Catholicism "was greeted with deafening silence in London."

The purpose of a newspaper is to make money. No money, no newspaper. It makes its money by entertaining readers with only that information the publisher wants them to know. The "public's right to know" is media code for the publisher's right to print what they wish.

If you want to know why a newspaper has adopted a certain policy, follow the money. Evaluate the influence of the policy on their bottom line. Rare is the publication that goes against its own financial interests. It will do nothing to harm its income and everything to bolster it. The owners demand no less.

Struggle is the essence of plot. With no struggle, conflict, or dispute, there is no story. The lazy journalist seeks extreme opinions or situations. If none is at hand, one is fabricated. A common technique is the negative interrogatory, such as "Don't you think . . . ?" Another method is reporter harassment, "Why won't you answer my questions? As if a citizen need explain his behaviour to a reporter.

The subjunctive mood with its supposition, contingency and doubt can plant seeds of concern in the reader's mind when there need be none. But the subjunctive helps create a story in progress. It implies the potential of something negative. The Oxford English Dictionary tells us it designates a mood the forms of which denote an action or state as conceived and not as a fact. Collins English Dictionary describes subjunctive as "denoting a mood of verbs used when the content of the clause is being doubted, supposed, feared true etc. rather than being asserted."

The use of the passive voice alerts to possible indecision or lack of grasp of the issue.

Look for undue use of the conjunction "but." The report may be -- We know A, but we do not know B." It may be used to instil a false concern, or to cover up poor investigative performance.

On the CBC's At Issue Panel (25 Sep 08), Maclean's Editor Andrew Coyne acknowledged that "the media has a vested interest in exaggerating events."

While proclaiming freedom of expression, our media indulges in its own style of censorship under the rubric of "publisher's prerogative".

"It is a characteristic of people in the news business that they are forever on the side of the public's right to know -- so long as the knowing stops short of media affairs" -- George Bain, Maclean's, March 20, 1995.

The news industry "represents the only major corporate activity in our society that effectively controls communications about itself." -- Peter Desbarats

"How much of the wealth which a newspaper takes out of the community is it morally obliged to give back in services?" -- Peter Desbarats

Interpretive reporting has become more designed to affect people's feelings about issues than their understanding." -- George Bain

"The sensitivity of the media to their own interests, usually stated as the interest of Canadians, is never to be underestimated." -- George Bain

The quality of a newspaper may be judged by the quality of its published Letters to the Editor. They reveal the perceived level of readers' intelligence, as well as the publisher's attitude toward its public.

I believe it safe to presume journalists take instruction from their paper's editorials. After all, it is the boss who signs the pay cheque. To state otherwise would be to deny human nature, both that of the publisher and that of the journalist.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Selective News at the Toronto Star

A May 8 email to Kathy English, Toronto Star apologist. No reply.

Dear Kathy English:

Your recent column Who decides what is news? inspires this letter.

You state, "Journalism is, by necessity, the art of selection, or deciding what matters and how to present that to audiences." You leave hanging the question "matters to whom?" Of course, it's what matters to the publisher, the editor, and the journalist.

Two cases in point. A week ago, the Star ran a front-page story about women who may have been abused by Catholic clergy. This past Saturday, you ran another front-page story speculating about a bishop you have been unable to locate.

The former story was based on anticipation of something that may not happen. Why you ran the latter story one can only speculate. To whom would Star anticipation and speculation matter? Each of these pieces was used to dredge up and re-print hoary stories. May I speculate that this fits into the Star agenda of never missing an opportunity to smear the Catholic Church? May I anticipate a righteous denial?

Let's be honest. Neither report is news, but an attempt to create news. Splashing non-news on the front page reveals much about the quality of Star reportage. It's only being realistic to state that newspapers publish only what they want the public to know.

A December 8 email to Kathy English. No reply.  

Every time someone smears swastikas on a synagogue, the Star give it coverage. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I have not seen mention of the November 25 vandalism of the Nativity scene in front of old city hall. Why the difference?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The slippery slope into Lake Zurich

Hundreds of urns containing human ashes have been found at the bottom of Switzerland's Lake Zurich. Indications are they originated in Dignitas, a business that has made Switzerland the suicide capital of the world.

A former employee said that dumping urns was standard procedure at the suicide facility, that Dignitas director Ludwig Minelli has himself dumped at least 300 into the lake. Authorities claim that someone has committed the crime of disposing of urns containing human remains without a licence.

This licence attitude was mocked in the film Return of the Pink Panther. As a Swiss policeman, Peter Sellers demanded to see a street beggar's "lee-saunce for zet men-key." All the while, an armed robbery was going on the the background. To top off the absurdity, Sellers retrieves and returns, with a tip of the hat, a packet of money dropped by the robber as he ran to the get-away car.

In the case of Dignitas, the Swiss show more concern with licence enforcement than the greater evil of assisted suicide. In fact, the government has legalized the procedure, creating the phenomenon of suicide tourism.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Globe and Mail Issues a Zinger

This post has been sent to The Globe and Mail editor and Kelly Grant.

For the  April 24, 2010, issue of The Globe and Mail, the newspaper's city hall bureau chief, Kelly Grant, wrote a piece about Toronto's Kensington Market.

After a brief history of the area, this zinger: "But a turning point came in 2007, when Yonathan Musse, a 19-year-old Alex[andra] Park drug dealer beloved for protecting kids and helping his neighbours, was fatally shot . . ."

By what stretch of the journalistic imagination can a drug dealer be considered "beloved" for protecting kids and helping neighbours? He was simply waiting until these same kids were old enough to become addicted to his products. That was his livelihood. His very existence in the neighbourhood endangered the lives of all.

Is this what The Globe and Mail considers helping one's neighbours?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Who is the Catholic Church?

During all the reports about scandal in the Catholic Church, the common media persist in two errors. The media confuse the message and the messenger.

If a postman, while delivering a letter, walks across our rose garden, would we refuse to read the mail he delivers? A handful of messengers have despoiled the garden of faith. This in no way affects the message of the Gospels, the message of Jesus. And it in no affects my faith.

In fact, journalist John Bentley Mays writes that this crisis presents an ideal time for renewal and a "great opportunity for those who believe that the central task of Christianity is the proclamation of the Kingdom of God."

The media present a false idea of the Church as some monolithic creature in a foreign land. I am the Catholic Church. The people I see every Sunday are the Catholic Church. Along with a billion others, we are the Catholic Church. Because the perpetrators of these evils are also the Church, the rest of us have a heavy cross to carry.

Let justice and love prevail. Let's also have a clear understanding of the nature of the message of faith and who exactly constitutes the Catholic Church.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Glorious Poland

Sad the news of a plane crash on April 10, 2010, killing many of Poland's political, military and business leaders. They were en route to a memorial service commemorating the 1940 Katyn massacre of the nation's best and brightest.

Soviet dictator Josef Stalin ordered the murder of some 22,000 of Poland's intellectual elite: military officers, police officers, professors, priests, rabbis, doctors, writers, teachers. The plan was to reduce the nation to an illiterate satellite of Moscow. In the long run, the plan failed. Resilient Poland regained its place among the learned nations of the world.

This is especially poignant as this week I read The Enemy at the Gate by Andrew Wheatcroft. The author describes the agony, the slaughter, and the near loss of Vienna to the Muslim Ottoman Empire in 1683. The Turkish attackers had tunnelled under the city walls already breached by bombardment. The inhabitants awaited their fate.

A little history. At that time, Vienna was key to Muslim expansion in Christian Europe. The first attempt to capture Vienna in 1529 had failed. This earlier siege was considered so serious that Martin Luther appealed to non-Catholics to come to the aid Catholic Vienna. Again, in 1683, Protestant troops assisted in the city's survival.

In the latter siege, relief came when John Sobieski, King of Poland, led the largest cavalry charge in history. With anywhere from 5,000 to 9,000 horse bearing down on them, Ottoman troops retreated, never again to attack Vienna. "Long live the King of Poland" the inhabitants cheered as the victory procession moved through the battered city. Sobieski reported his triumph to other European leaders. Each letter began, "We came, we saw, God conquered."

During the Second World War, a Polish contingent formed part of the Canadian military in the liberation of France and invasion of Germany. An excerpt from a report on the 1996 death of resistance fighter Barbara Lielb Starowicz: "The liberation of the Oberlangen camp in north western Germany came in 1945 in one of the most magnificent ironies of the war. The First Armoured Division of the Canadian First Army comprised Polish veterans who were fighting under their flag and the Canadian flag.When the rumble of armour was heard in the camp, the Polish women, 1,728 prisoners of war, had no idea what it was -- German armour? Death in a scorched-earth retreat? The first tank entered, the crew was approached: We are Poles! They danced for days."

At this time of mourning, we think of glorious Poland with sadness and gratitude.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The New York Times and Objective Journalism

This post has been sent to the editor of The New York Times.

In 1964, I worked in the campaign of media personality and former evangelist Charles Templeton in his unsuccessful bid for the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party. During a break in one of our strategy sessions, Charles reminisced. When he worked for the Toronto Star a few years earlier, the shortage of hospital beds was a major political issue. He proudly informed us that for 26 consecutive days he put the hospital issue on the front page.

One day we had no hard news to report, he told us. So I phoned a politician friend, and told him to ask a question in the provincial legislature, any question about hospital beds. The question was asked and featured on the front page of the next issue.

I felt admiration, marveling at the power he wielded. However, after years of media scrutinizing, I came to realize how false, how manipulative, how abusive of the reader. His cause was not to inform, but to further an agenda. Worthy or not, this was a misuse of the platform given to him. If he was executing Star policy, then the newspaper itself was wrong.

Media coverage of the troubles of certain members of the Catholic Church hierarchy brought the Templeton episode to mind. As of a few days ago, The New York Times has given negative front-page mention to matters Catholic for some 40 consecutive days. Which makes me wonder whether the Times is presenting news or riding a hobbyhorse. There may be some who marvel at what they consider determined journalism. There are others who resent being manipulated.

Lutheran theologian John Stephenson has challenged media coverage of these sex scandals. The press "cannot be expected to highlight insignificant details such as the fact that Benedict XVI has vigorously addressed this issue from the first days of his papacy." He continued, "When guilt is foreordained and execution already carried out, mere supporting evidence is of no account."

Barely a week ago [about March 23], the New York Times headlined the "news" that, as cardinal prefect in 1996, Ratzinger, quashed the canonical trial of of a priest of the Milwaukee archdiocese accused of unspeakable crimes.

"There is no likelihood of the NYT apologizing for this lie uttered a reader, after the paper declined to interview the canon lawyer who presided over the judicial proceedings in Milwaukee. According to him, the canonical process was still in full swing when the accused priest died."

Had the Times held that interview, it might have missed a day in its campaign. Increasingly, authoritative voices are challenging Times reportage. Unbiased sources are exposing factual flaws. When serious errors persist, the editorial process takes on the trappings of abuse of platform.

On May 6, a CBS/NY Times poll tested the American public on the matter of media bias. The poll showed that 53 percent of the respondents thought the scandal reports were accurate. I do not know if the newspaper has the wit to see the inverse situation -- that almost half the population thought the reports to be inaccurate.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Foreign Issues in Canadian Elections?

On March 24, 2010, the
Toronto Star reported that Harbans Jandali, president of the Ontario Sikh and Gurdwara Council as stating, "Unless they make amends quickly, the Liberals will definitely lose this community's votes." He was reacting to Premier Dalton McGuinty's 30-minute meeting with Indian transport minister Kamal Nath, in Toronto to give a talk to the Canada-India Business Council.

Jandali alleges that Nath abetted riots in which more than 3,000 Sikhs were killed. The riots were in reaction to the 1984 assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. 

The Star did not publish this letter. 

Re Sikh leaders promise to make McGuinty pay, Mar. 24:

I hope the president of the Ontario Sikh and Gurdwara Council was misquoted when he threatened to make an event in India an issue in an Ontario election. Otherwise, it means that when I cast my ballot over such matters as education, health care, the environment, and social welfare, my vote will be cancelled because of an incident in a foreign land with no relevance to Ontario.

My parents came to Toronto in the 1920s. Not once did they talk of the politics of their native Austria. They did not force me to learn German, or wear the costumes of their homeland. They never spoke of the glories of the homeland, because Canada had become their homeland. They always voted for what they thought best for Toronto, for Ontario, for Canada, not for Austria. All they wanted was to blend into their chosen culture.

Dare we hope that later immigrants do likewise, and not threaten Canadian politicians with issues beyond our borders?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Both Sides of the Argument

The British House of Lords is currently debating a law requiring school children, as young as five to receive "non-judgemental" information on abortion and homosexuality. Promoters of the law claim that children must receive "both sides of the argument."

One wonders why legislators do not require abortionists to provide "both sides of the argument" before doing their work. Why is it that only those who believe in preserving life must plead their case?

I would like to know why legislators do not require "both sides of the argument" when homosexuals are permitted to parade naked down our main street while simulating anal sex and masturbation.

The common media would have us believe that any expression of disagreement with such behaviour constitutes hatred and "homophobia." (That dreadful word now designates anyone who expresses any disagreement with the ever-expanding homosexual agenda.)

Politicians in the United Kingdom and some in Canada are caught in the threefold trap set by the media, well-funded homosexual activists, and the abortion lobby. None of this trio represents democratic opinion. Just one per cent of Canadian say they are homosexual.*  The vast majority find abortion morally wrong.**  As for media, the public consistently ranks its journalists near the bottom of any survey of esteem for the various professions.***

Two reasons for the common opinion about the media have just come to hand. The Globe and Mail did not report the poll on abortion mentioned above. While the March 13 Toronto Star buried "abortion" in a mountain of words, preferring to massage the story into one of "values" and left-leaning ideology. This constitutes yet another example of the media reporting only what they want the public to know.

* The Globe and Mail, June 16, 2004. The other "side of the argument" claims five to 10 per cent. Even that small number wields an unjustified influence in our courts, human rights commissions and legislatures.

** 75 per cent of Canadians deem abortion morally wrong, according to a February 2010 poll by Allan Gregg of Harris-Decima and Dr. Andre Turcotte of Carleton School of Journalism. Other polls that produced similar results: Angus Reid January 2010, Harris-Decima March 2010, Ipsos Reid July 2012, Ipsos Reid June 2014.

*** The Pew Research Center reported in September 2009 that 60 per cent of the U.S. public believe news coverage to be inaccurate and biased. That's up from 45 per cent in 1985.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Children as Objects of Marketing

The Toronto Star recently published a report dealing with the exploitation of children. It described store operators' plans to turn children into fashionistas. This published letter opens with a quote from one such operator.

Re Luxury looks for Mommy and me, Feb. 25, 2010:

"Once kids turn 5 or 6, they start to know what they want."

As the father of four children, I can state that is nonsense. This observation is a commercial hope, not a fact of life.

The commercial world already exerts too much pressure on young people, robbing them of their childhood. Some children and unwitting parents have been lured into the abominable cosmetics market. A 10-year old child is not a young man or woman.

Mature parents are obligated to protect their children, and refuse to be intimidated by such blatant exploitation.

Monday, February 15, 2010

More Utopianism at the Human Rights Commission

An unpublished letter to the Toronto Star.

Re Obese woman wins fight for better parking spot, Feb 11, 2010:

For not acceding to the demand of a condo owner for a more convenient parking spot, all the other condo owners in the building must pay $10,000 to an aggrieved owner. The Quebec Human Rights Commission, in a brain-flash of idealism, claimed the condo board was wrong not to take the desired spot from a woman in her sixties and give it to the obese complainant.

Is there no end to the wrong-headed decisions of utopian human rights commissioners? What will they do if the woman who must now surrender her parking place becomes handicapped and requires a more convenient spot? Will the Commissioners order the obese complainant to return it? Or will they order another owner to give up their spot?

The fact that the complainant hired a lawyer indicates a grab for the pot of gold as well as the righting of a perceived wrong. If there were no chance of getting money, but only the parking spot, would she have complained at all?

Monday, February 1, 2010

No Apologies for the Crusades

Following 9/11, U.S. President George W. Bush proclaimed a "crusade" against the perpetrators. For this he was criticized, as the word might offend some Muslims -- the perpetrators of the disaster. In his book, The Future Church, John L. Allen jr. writes, ". . . guilt for sins of the past, from the Crusades . . . " Too much Western literature perpetuates this error.

Anyone offended by the word seems shy of history.

The term "crusade" appeared centuries after the events it purports to describe. The inconclusive numbering also came later. Muslim historians named each battle after the nationality of the invader. Nor were these attacks directed exclusively against Muslims. In the one billed as the Fourth, Christians from Western Europe sacked Christian Constantinople. On another occasion, a Muslim prince collaborated with the Frankish military to attack other Muslim prince.

Some of these attacks were motivated by the need to expand European trade. The failure of the 1160s series of invasions of Egypt stimulated the urgency to reach the Far East by way of South Africa. Muslims deemed the 1497 voyage of Vasco da Gama into the Indian Ocean as an intrusion into their trade routes.

Long before these campaigns began in 1095, Islam had attacked or overrun Christian lands such as Jerusalem (638), Egypt (640), North Africa to the Atlantic Ocean (709), Spain (711), France (732), Italy (820), Sicily (827), Anatolia (1071).

Europeans lived in constant fear of Muslim raiders in search of slaves and loot. The 903 sack of Thessaloniki in northeast Greece netted 30,000 Christians for Muslim slave markets. These raids occurred as far north as Ireland. Muslim piracy on the Mediterranean Sea, and belief that the gateway to Europe was always open, struck fear throughout the continent.

[The long process of liberating Europe began with failed Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683. In 1801, the United States Navy and the marines put an end to the piracy and the enslaving of Europeans as well as Americans.]

Initially, the Crusades were a reaction to the persecution of Christians in the Holy Land. Religious celebrations were abolished, churches destroyed, Christians deprived of their possessions, then hanged, and tombs were plundered. The initial motive for the first Crusade was the retrieval of holy relics and the protection of pilgrims. Commercial interests came later.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Collective Punishment is Alien to Canada

Letter published in the Toronto Star January 25, 2010

Re Darts and Laurels, Jan 23:

The Star has awarded a Laurel to the principal of a high school for cancelling the hockey season because "one of the players directed a racial slur against an opponent." This is a most unfortunate decision by the principal, and a wrong opinion of the Star.

Canada does not have the concept of collective or tribal punishment. For wrong-doing, the perpetrator is penalized, not the community, in this case, the entire team.

As this event occurred among young people, its correction should be sought in their education, at home and at school.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Corporation equals Person and Other Legal Mischief

Why do our courts equate individuals and corporations?

The concept of free speech evolved to protect political, religious and social liberty and expressions thereof. Nowhere in this long evolution did anyone contemplate economic liberty and the legal protection of corporate interests. Not until corporations gained undue influence over the judicial process

The Supreme Court of Canada has declared, "Freedom of expression, even commercial expression, is an important and fundamental tenet of a free and democratic society." Thus, the Court placed corporations on the same level as people.

This absurdity springs from the legal fiction that corporations are persons. For breaking the law, a corporation cannot be jailed, whereas humans can be so punished. Thus the law protects corporations more than that humans.

There is no basis, historical or otherwise, for including advertising under freedom of expression.

American courts also have it wrong. Speaking for a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Anthony Kennedy overturned a ban on political spending by corporations: "If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech."

 It's amazing how legal folk can massage "associations of citizens" into corporations. Nowhere does the U.S. Constitution equate corporations and individuals. Yet the courts, in the spirit of "constitutional originalism" ignore all this. In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 2010, Judge Scalia found a corporate right to become involved in the election process, but also to keep their machinations secret.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Survival in Battle

In his book, Infidels: A History of the Conflict between Christendom and Islam, British historian Andrew Wheatcroft comments on the 1571 defeat at Lepanto of the Ottoman navy by a united European armada. The victory was due in part to the ease with which the Europeans adapted old techniques to new military use.

"In the Muslim ranks, by contrast, every innovation became a matter for argument even resistance. . . Guns and artillery were still necessary, but carried no mark of courage. Perhaps for this reason few of the developments and innovations in gun technology were adopted by the Islamic world."

Letter to the Toronto Star published January 16, 2010

Re Deciphering the news from the war on terror, Jan. 7:

Haroon Siddiqui complained: "But the reality is that NATO nations run from danger as far as they can and wage war from afar. Bombs are dropped by pilots from on high or from pilotless drones, and cruise missils are fired from hundreds of kilometres away. Mostly they die, not us."

Prussian war strategist Carl von Clausewitz could not have said it better.

In the film Patton, the U.S. general put it this way: "No poor bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won the war by making some other poor bastard die for his country."

That's what war is all about, one's own survival, not the enemy's. If one disapproves of such tactics, one must advocate the end of all war.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Drug Traffickers Must Compensate Society

On January 7, 2010, Ontario Superior Court sentenced three men to prison six to eight years. "We are not dealing here with small-scale street trafficking," the judge said. "We are dealing with large-scale sellers of cocaine."

Considering the human, social and economic damage that drugs inflict, sentences for trafficking deserve to be akin to those for murder. These relatively light sentences will not discourage drug dealers, only cause them to be more careful while increasing the price of their products.

Heavier sentences should include financial restitution. A percentage of the perpetrator's life-long earnings belong to the society they have permanently damaged. This penalty may be reduced should the convict implicate his associate drug traffickers.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Third and Final Offer to Iceland

Following my two earlier offers (24/10/2008, 19/10/2009) for Iceland to become a debt-free province of Canada, comes the January 6, 2010 news the nation is unable to repay a$5.7 billion debt. The problem stems from the collapse of a privately owned bank. The island economy is in such dire straits that MacDonald's has left the island. (Of course, that may have been as a result of improved Icelandic taste.)

Iceland's parliament last month voted to pay off the debt. President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson vetoed the legislation after receiving a petition from a quarter of the population not to pay it. "The people are the supreme judge," the he said. A presidential veto automatically triggers a national referendum.

The referendum should also assess national feeling toward joining Canada.