Monday, December 24, 2012

Steven Pinker and Funny Numbers


Harvard professor Steven Pinker opens his 800-page door-stopper, The better angels of our nature: why violence has decreased, with mind-boggling historical revisionism.

As if it were actual history, Pinker cites the story of Adam and Eve where Cain killed his brother Abel. He writes, "With a world population of exactly four, that works out to a homicide rate of 25 percent, which is about a thousand times higher than the equivalent rates in Western countries today."

He continues in this mind-boggling vein through the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, up to the present applying curious interpretations to selective history. Pinker exposes his non-historical credentials in describing certain events as "forgotten violence," revealing his belief that, as he did not previously know it, it must have been forgotten.

Deeming it hard evidence, Pinker uses such examples as 1940s body-building Charles Atlas ads which advocate physical revenge on a bully. Whereas today, the emphasis is on muscle building for peaceful purposes. Has he not seen an Arnold Schwarzenegger film?

He mentions recent war memorials which no longer honour military leaders but the fallen in battle. These monuments were built by supposedly civilized nations which annually spend billions of dollars  in arms production.

Pinker takes the number of people killed in a war and compares it to the then population of the world. Remember Cain and Abel? With increased population throughout history, the percentage number lowers, even though millions more are killed.

The possible reason for his conclusions about violence is that his history of benevolence begins sometime in the 1980s. Even then, the atrocitologist (that's a real title) Matthew White "estimates that around 180 million deaths can be blamed on all of these human causes put together [war, genocide, purges etc.]. That still amounts to only 3 percent of the deaths of the 20th century."  To Pinker, that's better than the one death that took 25 percent of the then world population.

Two examples.In the 1994 Rwanda civil war 75 per cent of the Tutsi population was massacred. The total count was one million killed in a population of 7 million. As that amounted to only 14 per cent, does Pinker deem that an improvement over the single death in Genesis? During the Cambodian atrocities by Pol Pot, 1.5 million Cambodians were slaughtered of a population of 7.5 million, about one-quarter of the population. Where does that leave Professor Pinker?

*   *   *  

"Our Twentieth Century has proved to be more cruel that preceding centuries, and the first fifty years have not erased all its horrors."  Alexandr Solzhenitsyn.

"The worst century there has ever been." Isaiah Berlin.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Law versus Public Interest


We, "the great unwashed outside the law" continue to marvel at the "entanglements of the law".

The current case in point concerns a company that polluted the ground, and then vacated the site. A court said the the public must pay the estimated $50-100 million to repair the corporation's damage to the environment.

In its decision, seven of the nine Supreme Court of Canada Justices bowed to the legal mumbo-jumbo that lets corporations hide behind the law, regardless of public interest.

The Court majority ruled that the province of Newfoundland and Labrador must get in line with other creditors, and share in whatever may be left in the coffers of insolvent AbitibiBowater Inc. In other words, public interest -- the taxpayer -- has no more status than corporate debtors.

One of the Justices wrote, "[T]he province's position would result not only in a super-priority, but in the acceptance of a 'third party pay' principle".  Absolutely correct, and that would be a good thing.

The law must be reformed to establish a common sense hierarchy for the droppings of fugitive corporations. The first claim on the remaining assets belongs to workers, regardless, whether in the form of wages, pensions or other entitlements. Next in line is the tax-paying public as represented by the government. After that, the banks and other corporate lenders. At the end of the line are shareholders.

Note. "The great unwashed outside of the law" was how a law school dean once described to me his opinion of the  general public. "Entanglements of the law" was Winston Churchill's description of the law process.

Feb. 2, 2013.  In the unrelated case of Indalex Ltd., the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that the pensions of the firm's retirees were entitled to a share of the the remaining assets.This, because the company had breached its duties to its retirees by failing to keep its pension plans fully funded, and failing to give proper notice that it was seeking bankruptcy protection.

The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) did not like that decision, and reversed it on the grounds of hardship for the company to re-define itself. While some lawyers cheered this socially immoral decision, another described it as "leaving more room for potential abuse of the bankruptcy system."  A former Indalex executive, whose pension was cut in half by the SCC claimed, "To allow this pension plan to be underfunded  is an indictment of the whole system."

The same might be said of former employees of the late Nortel Networks Corp. who were left with little after the firm went bankrupt due to corporate malfeasance for which no one was punished except employees and shareholders.

Friday, December 7, 2012

More Residential Schools Misinformation


Emails sent December 4, 2012

To the National Post. Published December 6, 2012

It would be conducive to enlightened conversation of the National Post presented all available facts concerning our Residential Schools. It is not true that "about 150,000 native children were taken from their families and sent to church-run schools under a deliberate policy of 'civilizing' First Nations" (Residential schools inquiry turns to courts, Dec.3).

Hundreds of native elders and chiefs agreed, and signed the many treaties which created the schools. They voluntarily enrolled their children in the government-sponsored schools. The James Bay Treaty bears the names of more than 70 of these native representatives.

To refer collectively to all students as "victims" violates not only the truth but common sense. Punishment meted out in these schools differed little from that in public schools of the time.

What abuse occurred in some of these schools was a crime. The Truth and Reconciliation Committee is currently in the process of determining how much of that abuse was inflicted by older students and by community leaders themselves.
  
Email to The Globe and Mail. Not published 

While in no way condoning the evils that occurred in some of our residential schools, some objectivity would better inform your readers (Ottawa taken to court over residential-schools documents, Dec.3). This report repeats the old canard of "the forced assimilation of more than 150,000 first nations, Innuit and Métis children at the schools".

Native leaders wanted their children educated in European ways, knowing full well it would change their culture. For example, The James Bay Treaty bears the marks and signatures of more than 70 elders and chiefs. To claim they did not know what they were doing amounts to condescension of the worst order.

There was no "forced assimilation". They wanted their children to learn English -- the only language common among the various tribes and nations represented at the schools. As for abuse, a Globe and Mail report (Truth commission confronts unexpected issue: student-on-student abuse, September 22, 2009) stated, "Some of the alleged abusers are community leaders even family members."

Monday, December 3, 2012

Worker Oppression Continues


"We appreciate our staff" bragged the banks in the 1940s, when they closed their branches on Saturdays. Banks then operated six days a week. With the new policy, employees enjoyed a full weekend.

Sometime in the 1970s, the banks withdrew staff appreciation, and replaced it with Saturday service "for customer convenience". 

In February 2011, the banks announced Sunday openings.  Research showed that "customers were looking for banking hours to better suit their lifestyle", TD-Canada Trust half-apologized.  "Being open Sundays is about working around peoples' lives."

In its current ad campaign, TD proclaims, "Banking can be this comfortable".   Perhaps, but not for staff whose family weekends have been destroyed.   Six days a week, evening hours and 24-hour ATMs are not enough for customer lifestyles?  

With high unemployment, jobs, salaries and benefits are at the discretion (read mercy) of corporate bosses.   Bank employees no longer receive extra pay for weekend work.   What's to complain?  Staff will enjoy their Tuesday-Wednesday week.  That's just great for family weekends. 

TD chief executive Ed Clark worries about bank costs. "Politically it's difficult" to raise fees," he contends. His gaze drifts to his staff.  But fear not.  "We are not going to do this on the backs of the average employee," he promises. Is he aware that that's how the did it in the recent past? One suggestion might be to close operations on weekends, and return staff to their families. Clark's fear was not shared by CIBC who have just announced a banking fee increase.

September 2011 brought word that Loblaw Companies, the grocery people, would also destroy employee family weekends.  Staff must work Sundays at regular pay.  If they object, they are told their replacements are knocking at the door.   

John Steinbeck's masterful The Grapes of Wrath is not history but contemporary -- the business plan where the unemployed are played off one against the other, or the under-paid against those at the door.  Comes to mind Target's take-over of  Zellers whose former staff were invited to apply for their old jobs  at reduced salaries.

The August 2011 issue of Harper's magazine reported that 75 per cent of the increase in US corporate profits since 2001 has come from depressed wages.  Doubtless, the same holds true for Canada.  This explains the gap between the rich and the working poor.

In the 1950s, my father worked for the Loblaw Companies.  He was told to work on Saturdays or be fired. He quit, and soon got another job.  In today's world of downsizing, rationalizing, part-time or temporary work, low wages, and no benefits, workers no longer enjoy the freedom of earlier generations. 

When my generation finished university in the fifties and sixties, companies invited us their their hospitality suites to explain their employment benefits.  All that changed in the seventies and eighties.

As our standard of living declines, corporate profits soar.  Trickle down is code for urinated on.

Formerly, it was called the Personnel Department where humans were deemed persons.  Now it's Human Resources on the same level as Natural Resources, that is, something to be exploited. Humans have become commodities. Dare we fear the next stage of this degradation -- employees described as human cargo or livestock? 

Pope Benedict XVI described this situation in its most brutal form:  "Man is nowadays considered in predominately biological terms or as 'human capital', a 'resource', part of a dominant or financial mechanism." 

 The sword of Damocles hanging over our world is not the atomic bomb; it is the depersonalization of man. -- Anton Pegis,  The Wisdom of Catholicism.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Nordic Madness and Lingering Nazism


It may be the Nordic air, but certain Swedish officials have inhaled something strange. This government has declared homeschooling a crime. For attempting to homeschool their son, a couple were arrested as they sat in a plane returning to India. The government placed their son in foster care where he has remained for three years. His parents can visit him for one hour every two weeks, later every five weeks. A court later dissolved their parental rights completely. They are no longer permitted to have any contact whatsoever with their son.

Another Indian couple lost custody of their two children because they fed them by hand, and had them sleep with them.One Swedish family fled to the United States where they were granted refugee status, thus deeming the homeschooling laws as persecution.

Yet another Indian couple became victims of Norway's "state-sponsored kidnapping", as it has become known. They scolded their son for urinating on himself and stealing toys from his classmates. The government placed the boy in custody for one month where he was cross-examined to obtain more evidence against his parents. (A technique developed by the Nazis.)  The mother was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment, the father 18 months, under the Nordic infamous child protection system.

Such "kidnappings" have become so common that foreigners victimized by the system have resorted to the services of a private investigator to rescue their children from foster care and smuggle them out of the country.

The case followed numerous other cases of children taken from foreigners on questionable grounds by the governments of Norway and Sweden. Indian parents appeared to be a major target.

Opponents of government child protective services claim an economic motive to the system. Foster parents receive tens of thousands of dollars from the government for caring for the children.

This Nordic madness continued.

The New York Times reported that in a Stockholm pre-school, teachers must avoid saying boys and girls, referring to all as friends. Also banned are masculine and feminine references such as him and her. These are replaced by the pronoun hen, an artificial and genderless word "popular in some gay and feminist circles."

The school library allows a few classic fairy tales such as Snow White and Cinderella. On the other hand, "there are many stories that deal with single parents, adopted children or same-sex couples."  Under the rubric of equal opportunity, girls are urged not to play with toy kitchens; blocks are not considered toys for boys; everyone plays with dolls.

The Times report continued: "... this taxpayer-financed school ... is perhaps one of the more compelling examples of the country's efforts to blur the gender lines."  A local university professor calls this "gender madness".

A toy retailer joined in the madness. In 2008, the merchant was reprimanded by the Swedish advertising ombudsman for gender stereotyping in its sales catalogue. The current version of the catalogue neuters the sexes.

Perhaps, it's more than Nordic air, but continental air that is at fault. Germany still enforces a law enacted by the Nazis criminalizing homeschooling. A Dutch member of the European Parliament has proposed banning school curriculum materials which depict the traditional family. He would censor such classics as Paddington Bear, Peter Pan, and Enid Blyton's Famous Five Stories.

Note. The United States Supreme Court has written that terminating parental visits is the Family Court equivalent of the death penalty. Every party to such an action, the court wrote in Stanley vs. Illinois, must be afforded every procedural and substantive due process protection. In American courts this means that clear and convincing evidence, the civil equivalent of beyond reasonable doubt, is necessary before parental rights are terminated.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Toronto Star vs. Conrad Black


The Toronto Star continues its vendetta against Conrad Black. The latest salvo was the publishing (October 30, 2012) of a Star-sponsored survey purporting to show that a majority of Canadians want Black stripped of his Order of Canada. As if the Order were a popularity contest.

The poll was conducted by Lorne Bozinoff of Forum Research Inc. whose website describes itself as "Canada's most  unique (sic) research firm."

As most people know, poll results depend to a great extent on the wording of the questions. The Star informed its readers of neither the pertinent question nor or any other questions likely posed at the same time.

The report then morphed Bozinoff into a critic of Black's recent appearances on British television. Needless to say, he did not like them.

The report ended with unrestrained delight: "Black was stymied last week in a court bid to present arguments why he should remain a member of the Order of Canada, and told to submit a written proposal like everyone else."

For the Toronto Star, "everyone else" does not include Henry Morgentaler. As pointed out in my earlier post, Morgentaler's appointment to the Order of Canada violated the advisory committee's own rules. The Star did not complain because Morgentaler is that newspaper's abortion poster boy.

Follow up. In his National Post column of December 8, 2012, Conrad Black aptly wrote this aside, "(unlike these jokey polls the Toronto Star likes to cite, including in matters related to me, in which recorded telephone conversations are randomly launched in small numbers around metropolitan areas, producing whatever results the Star seeks)."

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Enlightened Alberta and Wrong-Headed Ontario


A letter to the National Post published October 26, 2012

Re Alberta affirms homeschool rights, Oct. 25:

Enlightened Alberta has got its educational priorities correct. Ontario has much to learn in this regard. The new Alberta Educational Act states that "a parent has the prior right to choose  the kind of education that shall be provided to the parent's child, and as a partner in education, has responsibility to act as primary guide and decision-maker with respect to the child's education."

Ontario is heading in the opposite direction with regard to parental rights. Teachers deem themselves as "co-parents." Toronto school boards refuse to tell parents when objectionable material will be taught. The government itself recently enacted its own agenda, against parents' vociferous complaints, and they call that transperancy.
   
It is not difficult to see the next step in Ontario's quest for complete control of our children's education. Following the lead of Sweden and Germany, it will declare homeschooling illegal. Over there, parents have gone to jail and had their children made wards of the state. The Ontario Human Rights Commission has authority to censor homeschooling teaching materials.

In forcing their version of mind control on our children, abolishing parental authority is the aim of Big Brother and Big Sister in Queen's Park.

Order of Canada Special Pleading


Email to the Toronto Star, October 28, 2102. Unpublished.

Re Court orders Black to play by the rules, Oct. 26:

"It can no longer be said that Orders of Canada are awarded as a result 
of an impartial consideration of merit," according to Michael Bliss, 
professor emeritus, University of Toronto. Dr. Bliss was informed, 
"Once a candidate has been  considered and judged not suitable, 
the file is only re-opened if there are significant new achievements
that justify reconsideration." 

He was referring to the reconsideration given to Dr. Henry 
Morgentaler after the doctor's first nomination had been rejected. He 
made no new achievements, unless one considers more abortions
as adding to his oeuvre. Yet, he was awarded the Order on second
appeal. In violating its own rules, the advisory committee indulged 
in the "politicization of the process".

This comes to mind in the advisory committee's rejection of Conrad 
Black's request to make oral submission to defend his Order of
Canada.The refusal was based on the advisory committee's rules.
Dare we deem the committee applies its rules when politically
expedient?
*  *  *

The complete letter of Dr. Bliss in the July 5, 2008 issue of The 
Globe and Mail:

Your good coverage of the Morgentaler appointment to the Order of 
Canada misses a vital procedural issue. It appears that the advisory 
committee reopened the Morgentaler file and reversed previous 
decisions by earlier advisory committees.

In the course of trying to nominate people for the Order of Canada, 
I have been told that once a candidate has been considered and 
judged not suitable, the file is only reopened if there are significant
new achievements that justify reconsideration (such as a novelist
adding significantly to a body of work).

It is fairly obvious that there are no significant new achievements
in the Morgentaler case. Instead, it appears the advisory committee
has singled him out for reconsideration, violating past procedures
and discriminating against other worthy Canadians whose files are
closed, and that it has done this in response to an intense
lobbying effort.

The result, is, prima facie, a politicization of the process. It can no
longer be said that Orders of Canada are awarded as a result of an
impartial consideration of merit. Instead, getting honoured depends
on who you know and getting lucky in the committee position of the
advisory committee.

Michael Bliss, professor emeritus, University of Toronto




Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Toronto is Great by Our Own Efforts


E-mail to the National Post.

Re Hogtown's badass side, October 2, 2012

There is at at least one more reason Allan Levine may wish to consider why Toronto "does not quite measure up to the truly great cities of the world like London, Paris and Rome".

Each of these cities was once the capital of an empire. They had colonies to exploit. The magnificent vistas, monuments, galleries and museums we see today in many European cities were paid for by their colonies, one of which was Canada.

Toronto, in contrast to the "truly great cities of the world" has always paid its own way. Everything we see and enjoy in our city today we bought and paid for by our own efforts.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Translating Tapestries -- Something Like That


"Translation from one language to another is like looking at a tapestry from the wrong side." When Miguel de Cervantes put these words into the mouth of his protagonist, Don Quixote, he was speaking for me and countless others.

I first read Death in Venice by Thomas Mann in 1973, in English. As is my habit, I made margin notes which I transcribed to the inside back cover. About ten years later, I read a later English translation of this German masterpiece.

During this second reading, I kept waiting for remembered turns of phrase and certain metaphors to make their appearance. In vain. What I was searching for was the work of the translator. A 1952 translation reads, "His steps followed the promptings of the demon who delights in treading human reason and dignity underfoot." In 1954, this became, ""His footsteps guided the demonic power whose pastime it is to trample on human reason and dignity." I prefer the earlier rendering.

At best, we hope for a translation to convey the thought or idea of the author into our language. Witness the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Among the English translations of Omar's insights, the best known being that of Edward Fitzgerald. It's a magical blending of the poet's thought and the translator's formidable command of the English language.

One of my English professors was critical of the only (I believe) English translation of the French gem The Little Prince by the lamented Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Much meaning has been missed. He urged us to read the original. I did, and noted significant differences.

The English dedication says that the author's friend needs "cheering up". The French states that he "a besoin d'être consolée." Not the same at all. More than merely cheering up, the dedicatee needs to be made more comfortable. After all, it's the dark days of the Second World War. The friend is cold and hungry in German-occupied France. The author is warm and well fed in New York.

All this comes to mind as I consolidate, as it were, two translations of Baldesare Castiglione's Renaissance work of sheer delight, The Book of the Courtier. Comparing two editions, "a salutary craft" becomes "a healthy deception", "a grossness of dull wits" reads "obtuse insensitivity" and "subtleties" is "sophistries". Unless we check the front of the tapestry, we will never know which translation approaches closest to the author's intent.

Each new translation conveys a variation from earlier translations. This perhaps illustrates the awesome growth and changes in the English language. Even staying within our beautiful language, we have problems.

The various editions of the works of William Shakespeare present problems. We can accept "tainted" in one edition becoming "diseased" in another. But can be see "the all-binding law" as "the all-building law"? In Measure for Measure, Angelo has been transformed from "precise" to "prenzie". What is the difference between "headstrong jades" and "headstrong weeds" when they both mean rogue horses?

Given all this, perhaps Cervantes did not write the opening observation of this essay. I may simply have quoted one of his many translators.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Media Hysteria


A  2012 survey by The Environics Institute revealed that Canadian trust of the mass media to be at an all-time low of six per cent.

Comes to mind last month's much ado about nothing involving a Toronto Blue Jays shortstop, Yunel Escobar, who wrote in ungrammatical Spanish on his adhesive facial patches Tu ere maricon.  According to José Latour, a Cuban-Canadian author writing in The Globe and Mail of Oct 3, this common expression in Cuba means a number of things: You are a homosexual, fool, coward, cheapskate, wife-abuser, deceitful, and despicable.

No one in the media asked the accused which meaning he attached to the word. Lack of research did not hamper knee-jerk reactions, and presentation of the event as would best create an issue and attract readership. Newspapers used gallons of ink to condemn this multi-meaning word, choosing of course that meaning which created the greatest media stir, the homosexual angle.

Editorials and opinion pieces proliferated, along with reports, think-pieces, the usual word peddling, and letters, some verging on the hysterical. Long after the story was no longer newsworthy, the Toronto Star kept stirring the ashes of a superficial issue gone cold.

Escobar was vilified, condemned and everything but crucified at the goading of the media. A normally calm CBC morning radio sports reporter raged that he be "fired". He seemed unaware that the Blue Jays organization cannot fire Escobar with multi-million-dollar contract. He can only traded to a club with equally deep pockets. [Along with five other Jays, in a purely business deal, he was later traded to Miami.]

Will readers, viewers or listeners trust the media when they report something truly and not fictively offensive? Or will believers remain limited to that six per cent?

Society versus the Child


Our secular society believes that children exist for the parents. The reverse is true.

A year or so back, the Toronto Star featured a report of a pregnant woman living in Canada and of Indian heritage. Amniocentesis indicated the mother was carrying a girl. The woman wanted the girl, but her parents wanted to send her to India for an abortion. There was not a peep from pro-choice feminists defending the prospective mother's choice. Pro-choice is secondary to pro-abortion.

Our values have become so warped that some people now speak of "gender disappointment" and "gender grief" in the birth of a child whose sex is not of the parents' choosing. They claim there's even a "stigma" about it.

The Toronto Globe and Mail (Sept 21, 2012) describes this "disappointment" as "a private feeling of shock and dejection [that] washes over some parents when they envision the life with a boy or a girl, only to give birth to a child of the opposite sex". This misguided feeling has spawned in the U.S. a business where doctors promise "family balancing", that is, abort until you get what you want.

A University of Alberta law professor, Timothy Caulfield, is quoted," If someone has three boys and they want a girl, is the harm such that the state should ban choice?"  We wonder to what other mischief the professor exposes his students.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Education Must Return to Basics


A Hamilton-area father is suing his local school board for refusing to exempt his children from classes dealing with sexually sensitive topics. The media vilified him with editorials and cartoons. Letters both for and against the father have been printed. 

I see the issue as one of social engineering by the government. My unpublished September 12,2012 email to the Toronto Star.

Families are the primary source of children's education. This editorial makes the error of giving education authority solely to bureaucrats and politicians, some of whom don't even have children. 

The editorial speaks as if any objection to an imposed curriculum challenges the entire system. Those who object are also taxpayers. They too have the right to speak out when they believe the system has gone awry. Democracy works, not by ignoring objections, as you advocate, but by listening and trying to accommodate. It is unfair to characterize objectors as wanting "to impose their agenda". Are they not entitled to challenge the imposition of another's agenda?

When the state imposes its agenda without consulting the people, dissent follows. In some European countries homeschooling is illegal. Parents have gone to jail and parents relieved of all rights to see their children again. The presumption over there, and in your editorial, is that Big Brother knows best. Does diversity extend to everyone? Or is it limited to those with whom we agree? 

Our education system went wrong when it began teaching matters beyond it authority. It must return exclusively to the basics of literature, language, history, the sciences and other core subjects. Anything beyond that is an unwarranted intrusion into family rights.

In reaction to many letters in the Toronto Star of September 15, 2012, I sent this letter, also unpublished.

Most of the disputants in this matter have missed two vital issues. The first is that parents are the primary and essential teachers of their children. To describe teachers as "co-parents" is an attack on family rights. 

Secondly, this is not a dispute about acceptance, as some writers claim and as the Star editorialized (Pulling kids from class, Sept 12). 

Underlying the original request to remove students from certain classes is a plea for a return of our educational system to the exclusive teaching of core subjects, a return to basics. That is what most parents want and expect. 

Politicians and the education bureaucracy have arrogated to themselves sole authority in such matters. That's a touch of arrogance that  must be reversed by instituting compulsory consultation with parents before such programs are introduced into the system.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

"It's just a book"


Pornographers claim that you cannot judge a book unless you have read it. By that standard, we would spend our entire lives reading pornography. No, we are entitled to judge a book from reviews, other opinion, and authors' earlier work.  On August 19, 2012, a Toronto Star reader defended the latest porn offering by stating, "It is just a book." My unpublished response to the Star:

In defending the Shades of Grey trilogy, Paula Berry makes two errors. The first is the implication that books have little or no influence for good or ill.

Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said that Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe caused the Civil War. Slight exaggeration, but it did fire up Northern antagonism against the South. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair brought about a revolution in the U.S. meatpacking industry, and lead Theodore Roosevelt to create the Food and Drug Administration. Yes, a book, even fiction, can have great influence.

Ms. Berry's other error is to equate the New York Times bestseller list with quality, along with the belief that "smut, prejudice or whatever" would keep a low-grade book off such lists. Bestseller lists are not endorsements. They merely indicate sales, and not literary, social or any other value.

* * *

To the list of highly influential books we might add the fiction of Albert Camus and Jean Paul Sartre. The anti-war novel All Quiet on the Western Front by Eric Maria Remarque was so influential that Adolf Hitler ordered it burned. A hot topic in the current U.S. election campaign is the door-stopper novel Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Other significant works of fiction appear in any history of Western thought, such as European Intellectual History since 1789 by Roland N. Stromberg.

And in the The Globe and Mail of September 22, 2012, scholar, author and broadcaster Kenan Malik commented on the fatwa placed on Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses. Malik wrote, "Rushdie was in effect sentenced to death for writing a story. Many were to be killed for translating and publishing that story. Bookshops were bombed for stocking it. It is a measure of the strangeness of the world in which we live that storytelling can be such a hazardous craft."  Even Rushdie himself, just before the novel's publication, said,"It would be absurd to think that books can cause riots."

Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code slithered into best-sellerdom. This work of fiction defied logic and history, yet became truth to the unwary and to those unfavourably disposed toward the Catholic Church.

On the death of Pole Pius XII in 1958, the secular media accorded him great tribute. This ended with the 1963 appearance of the fictional work The Deputy. In it, Communist playwright Rolf Hochhuth portrayed the pope as having done nothing to save Jews from the Holocaust.. This has gained such currency that today many accept it as truth.

What's strange is the surprise some of us have at the power of the written word.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Church and State -- Both Necessary


Email to the National Post, August 4, 2012, in reply to an earlier letter. Unpublished.

Roy Haina writes "it really bothers me" when the church talks politics (Would you like some church with your state? Aug.3).  He seems unaware that Christianity existed long before any state in the world today, and Judaism long before that.

It was the Christian church that got western civilization through the turmoil following the collapse of the Roman Empire by creating universities, libraries, hospitals, and much more. It was Judeo-Christian teaching that created the rights we enjoy today. Until relatively recently, education was the exclusive domain of religious institutions, whether Christian, Jewish or Islamic. Would Mr. Haina oppose putting that experience in education and government to profitable use?

Every great civilization in history has religion at its base. Compared to religion, the state today is shallow and lacks moral depth.

Mr. Haina should know that those who believe in nothing will believe in anything. Those with no religious belief today follow every ephemeral cult that pops up, inevitably to great frustration. The current popularity of cult films and certain television programs and best-seller books tells us that those with no belief are searching for a spiritual anchor. Unfortunately, they are groping in the dark.

Mr. Haina describes the expression of church opinion as sticking "its nose into politics". Thou shall not kill was a Jewish injunction long before the existence of any state. Similarly, thou shall not steal, or bear false witness. Emerging states realized the benefit of these and other religious commands, and turned them into crimes. There remains much the state, any state, could learn from religion.

From Catholic Canon Law, our courts have adopted or adapted such rules as: You must not condemn an absent person who may possess lawful means of proving innocence; the judge cannot be a witness; a single disposition, no matter from whom, is not sufficient for a conviction.

The state should welcome religious comment on state affairs, as it welcomes comment from secular sources. It's the message that counts, not the messenger.

The absence of a religious basis explains the disintegration, unrest and longing for something better that pervades our world today. The remedy is at hand. Everyone, including Mr. Haina should explore it.

Corporations: Invest or Pay Back


Email to the Toronto Star, August 3 2012. Unpublished

In his Opinion Piece, Reid Rusonik raised many significant points (Where bullets won't fly this summer, Aug. 2). I was particularly distressed to learn that corporations which were given tax concessions are merely sitting on the extra income. These corporations now have cash holdings equal to our national debt.

It was these same corporations that once begged and pleaded that lower taxes would motivate them to invest. Canadians are waiting for those investments. This money must be invested or returned to taxpayers for whom such concessions amount to subsidies, that is, corporate welfare. This money can be recouped by a 100 per cent claw back on the amount of the lowered tax. 

In the hands of citizens, this same money would immediately circulate through the economy, resulting in expansion and lower unemployment.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Olympics No; Expo Yes


Email to the Toronto Star. Published August 7, 2012

Re Olympic games an opportunity we can't pass up, Aug. 2.

Royson James is right and wrong. He is correct in advocating an extravaganza that involves financial support from the provincial and federal governments. He is wrong in opting for the Olympics.

There is more to life that hyper-developed athletes and their groupies. Rather than a grunt and groan sweatfest, Toronto deserves something for the mind -- an Expo.

Anyone who witnessed the brilliant success of Expo 67 in Montreal fully appreciates the value of such an event. It was a shining moment in Canada's history when more than one million visitors passed through the gates.

It's time for another shining moment. This time in Toronto.

Olympics last only a few days (thank goodness). Expos last months (thank goodness). And the Expo legacy vastly outshines Olympic leftovers, especially after the boys from Switzerland have taken their share. Olympics no; Expo yes.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Revloution Coming


The current policy of bailing out troubled banks worldwide is not sustainable.

In Ireland, the government used  a European bailout of $64 billion to save their banks. The hook in the arrangement meant austerity for the population -- a lower minimum wage, cuts to health care and pensions, and rising fees and taxes. The result has been higher unemployment and a stagnant economy.

This is precisely the type of economy the banks convinced the government would happen if they were not bailed out. The cash infusion made no difference to the economy. Bankers are richer.

The net result -- bankers survive, likely awarding themselves fat bonuses for their brazen salesmanship. As the chill descends on the people, bankers are laughing all the way to the bank, as it were, and all the way to their yachts in the sunny Mediterranean.

Contrast this with Iceland where the government allowed its three major banks to fail. The economy is improving, unemployment is down, and some bankers will be charged criminally.

It won't belong before citizens on the Continent see the folly of their politicians supporting the rich by burdening the poor. It cannot last. They will revolt. It will not be nice.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Toronto Reduced to Begging


Toronto City Council intends to increase the number of billboards on municipal property. The Toronto Transit Commission has signed away naming rights to our subway stations. Under consideration is the plastering of advertising on our historic ferries to the islands. The Toronto Public Library is considering commercial advertising on and in its buildings.

These agencies of government admit they are forced into a sell-out of principles because of budget restraints in these difficult times. (When were economic times easy?) I suggest council, commission and board members rent out their bodies by toting sandwich boards extolling the virtues of commercial enterprise, such as a developer.

Fortunately for humankind, the Library has principles. It will not accept advertising for tobacco or alcohol products, religious beliefs, or politics. Permitted is advertising for gambling, oleoresinous fast food and sugar-saturated soft drinks.

Another principle is that the advertising does not "intrude on people's educational space." The MacDonald  clown will be barred from the stacks. Yet another principle is that ads do not "adversely or negatively impact the library's image" and that they should "maintain the welcoming and functioning elements of the library environment and the integrity of its spaces."

Golden arches over a library entrance no doubt will qualify. They welcome millions every year to hamburger joints worldwide. The degree of acceptable intrusion is directly  related to the degree of financial stress. Under such stress, principles tend to bend.

As authorities become addicted to the income, wedgy principles have a way of becoming breaches of principle.  Witness the obscene relationship between the Ontario Government and its Frankenstein the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, relentlessly expanding operations across the province.

Groucho Marx summed it up: "I've got principles. If you don't like them, I have others."

Political Correctness on Steroids


The legal process sometimes permits itself to be a tool of political correctness. This week, a farce was played out in a British courtroom. The villain? A soccer player. The crime? He used the word "black" in a heated confrontation with an opposing player during a match.

The prosecution wasted taxpayers' money attempting to prove that the use of this word constituted the crime of abuse as well as a racially aggravated offence to public order. Yes, there is such a law in the land of the mother of parliaments, the source of common law, and the birthplace of freedom of expression.

The agents provocateurs in this plot are hyper-sensitive do-gooders who goaded politicians into enacting such mischief.

To top off this nonsense, the accusation was not made by the opposing player, but by an off-duty constable who saw the game on television. Obviously, the good officer was rooting for the other team.

The Chief Magistrate prolonged this boring spectacle by searching for evidence that the accused was a racist. Having found none, he exonerated the soccer player.

The only good thing about this event is that it took place in an open courtroom where innocence is presumed. Whereas, in the shadows of a human rights tribunal, the accused would have needed prove his innocence -- a near impossibility, given tribunals' high conviction rates.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Class-Action Lawsuits


A report in the July 11, 2012 National Post (Lawyers get best seats in Ticketmaster class-action) gives the impression that lawyers in class-action suits operate out of altruism. Yes, the plaintiffs pay no legal fees. Yes, the action may fail and the lawyers assessed costs which they will pass onto their clients. The report does not mention that lawyers may insure against such loss.

If it's all that risky, why do lawyers swarm all over accident and disaster sites, nudging each other to instigate lawsuits and sign up plaintiffs? The pot of gold at the end of the class-action rainbow is a big one.

Another report tells us that the Merchant Law Group of Regina, Saskatchewan, reaped $25-million from the $1.9-billion Indian Residential Schools settlement. In unusual candour, lawyer Tony Merchant said, "I hate to lead myself into doing things that aren't profitable, and I hope to be pleasantly surprised [by his latest class-action suit]. I'd be shocked if this turns into anything but profitable."

(In April 2013, it seems Tony Merchant has $1.7-million in a secret account in in the South Pacific Cook Islands. This, according to the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which also claims that Merchant has money in Bermuda with which he bought mutual funds in the tax haven of Luxembourg. The investigation continues.)

In the lawsuits following the 2010 G20 meeting in Toronto, shameless, publicity-seeking lawyers make sure the media are there when they present their claim at police headquarters, dragging their clients along to add to the spectacle. It is unnecessary for clients to be present on such occasions.

In another widely reported case, the plaintiff had no intention of a law suit until convinced otherwise by lawyers trolling the Internet for business. The public calls this fee-sniffing, ambulance chasing, and other less charitable terms. The Law Society of Upper Canada, the lawyers trade association in Ontario, approves of such behaviour. Inciting legal action was once considered unethical, if not illegal. How the winds of profit have changed.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Democratic Deficit"?


"Few visible minorities on the bench, judicial study finds" read a headline in the Toronto Star of June 28, 2012. Immigration Reporter Nicholas Keung stated that "visible minorities are grossly under-represented in Canada's judiciary."

This observation was based on a report from Ryerson University's Diversity Institute whose founder, Wendy Cukier, described this situation as a "democratic deficit."

The report continues, "The problem with the federal appointment system is its concentration of decision-making in the hands of politicians."  Does this imply that politicians are anti-visible minority? Do we really care if the judge, or other appointee, is a polka-dotted Houyhnhnm, as long as he/she is competent and fair?

This same questionable argument permeates much of contemporary discourse. Minority groups demand that their distinguishing characteristic be represented in government services to the extent they are part of society.  But what if a certain minority group is the best in a certain field of endeavour? Should such a policy cap their participation?

The Toronto Raptors basketball team is overwhelmingly black. Does that constitute racism against non-blacks?

This demand for ethnic representation is a recent phenomenon. Before 1960, immigrants kept a low profile as they went about their business of turning virgin territory into productive farm land, of digging ditches so their sons and daughters could one day build condominiums, and operate rooming houses, so their children might attend university, get elected to political office and enjoy a better life. They would have considered "democratic deficit" as so much politically-correct jargon.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Competitive Eating Disgust


There are few public events more repugnant than an eating contest.

The U.S. Independence Day hot-dog competitive eating contest at New York's Coney Island is such an occasion. In what one report described as "a sweaty, gag-inducing spectacle", a California man this July 4 scarfed down 68 hotdogs in 10 minutes to take home the $10,000 prize. He said it would take several days for his body to recover from the ordeal.

For downing 46 dogs in the allotted time, a Virginia women won $10,000. Yes, someone offers money for such demeaning spectacles.

I hope news of this mischief does not reach central Africa where 15 million people (UN estimate)are currently suffering an acute food shortage.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Human Rights Tribunal Trashes Reasonableness (Again)


The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal recently abrogated centuries of legal jurisprudence. In a case before her, Tribunal Adjudicator Leslie Reaume, a lawyer, wrote in her judgement, "The question before me is not whether the [police] respondents acted reasonably in these difficult circumstances, but whether [the complainant's] race was a factor."

One of the definitions of "reasonable" in The Canadian Law Dictionary is: "That which is fit and appropriate to the end in view." That does not apply to the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

Toronto police were investigating a gun call. The suspect was a black male driving a black car, and likely armed. Yes, the suspect's skin colour was a factor as was the colour of his car. The police were not searching for a black man in a blue car or a white man in a black car. A police officer decided that the complainant's person and vehicle fit the general description of someone he spotted.

According to a newspaper report, the complainant was uncooperative in refusing to answer the officer's inquiries.and "the conversation escalated". In such a situation, reasonable police procedure would be draw their weapons, force an alleged suspect to his knees then put him in the cruiser. At that moment, the police radio reported the suspect had been spotted elsewhere. The complainant was released.

Human Rights Adjudicator Reaume speculated, "I do not believe that if the suspect had been a Caucasian man in the same circumstances, with no other defining characteristics, particularly age ...[that the officer] ... would have chosen to investigate the first Caucasian man he saw driving the same car at the same intersection." On the basis of this speculative non-belief of non-proof, she determined discrimination.

She said that the complainant has been "stereotyped as a person with some probability of being involved in a gun-related incident" because he was a black man. By what stretch of the imagination can reasonable suspicion be deemed stereotyping?

The bizarre language of her judgement continues, "It is consistent with a finding of racial profiling that all black men, or all black men of a certain age, driving along in the area in a black car were possible suspects at the moment [the Police officer] decided to commence his investigation of [the complainant]."

Yes, the police investigate all situations matching a certain description.

For having acted reasonably, officer and Police Department were ordered to pay the complainant $40,000 in damages.  In the usual gobbledegook of this feel-good tribunal, she described the event as "harrowing" and injurious "to dignity, feelings, and self-respect". That hoary language is right out of the utopian playbook and is used to justify pre-determined decisions, and without a whiff of due process. One wonders if Adjudicator Reaume considers it "harrowing" for an individual police officer to approach a possibly armed man.

How do these people come up with such awards? Had the suspect been a Caucasian in a white car, and someone fitting that description was similarly investigated, would lawyer Reaume endorse a payout of $40,000? Would there be any payout at all?

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal merits its public perception as a cash cow for the easily offended.

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal contorts logic in it worship of political correctness. When referring to the complainant's race, the Tribunal's news release capitalized the word Black, yet not in the judgement.

A copy of this post was sent to the drafter of said news release, Afroze Edwards, OHRC Senior Communications Officer (afrozre.edwards@ohrc.on.ca).

On July 20, 2012, I received a letter from Paul Richards, Correspondence Coordinator, Communications & Issues Management. (Yes, that's his title.) His verbatim reply: "Thank you for your interest in the work of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC); the OHRC was involved in the case and support the decision of the Human Rights Tribunal. Thank you for contacting the OHRC."

Monday, June 4, 2012

"Page turner" is not a compliment


Publishers and book reviewers believe that describing a book as a "page turner" is to compliment the author. It may be intended as such. In fact, it is the opposite. The term implies reader dissatisfaction with the page currently in focus. It implies the reader wants to get to the last page as quickly as possible. Book reviewers too often describe a book as "a quick read." The author would hardly be flattered.

 "Yet how many people there are who read as though some prize awaited them when they turned the last page! They do not wish to read a book; they want to have read it -- no matter how. The prize they seek is to have done with the book at hand." -- Robertson Davies in A Voice from the Attic.

One of the publishers in a writer's market guides suggests works in which 10,000 words might be read in forty minutes. I doubt anyone reading a (good) book at that pace will get the message, feel the style or revel in the vocabulary and sentence structure of the work. Needless to say, few best-sellers are blessed with these characteristics. They are the page turners.

Are good books designed to be read as quickly as possible? Or intended by the author to offer ideas, thoughts and observations worth mulling over? The page should be turned only in the hope of continuing the intellectual adventure. A book should be read with the same care with which the author wrote it.

Woody Allen described the results of a speed-reading course. "They taught us to read down the centre of the page. I read War and Peace in an hour. It was about Russia."

Regardless of the subject matter, a good book deserves attention, an honest perusal, and a mind-stretching thought. Such a book can be read only with pencil in hand. The readily erasable marks indicate important passages, excellent turns of phrase, or valuable insights. After the last page is turned, these markings are reviewed, and the noteworthy ones indexed on the inside back cover, or on a separate sheet of paper.

One finishes A Voice from the Attic with unbounded desire to preserve such incisive turns of phrase as: a strongly developed sense of grievance; a victim of an unresolved mental quirk; injustice collectors; creeps like a stain through the fabric of their lives; filled with undigested anger; gnawing on the bone of contentment. Each idea to be relished, no page turner, this book.

François, Duc de la Rochefoucauld, composer of maxims and epigrams wrote, "I am fond of all kinds of reading, especially where there is something to train the mind and toughen the soul. Above all, I find very great enjoyment  in sharing my reading with an intelligent person. In doing so one can continually reflect upon what is being read, and such reflections form the basis of the most delightful and profitable conversation."

Rochefoucauld and Davies would have had great conversations. Perhaps they are.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Bureaucracy vs Family


Email to The National Post, May 29, 2012. Unpublished.

Re Teachers oppose parents taking kids from sex ed, May 29:

This report illustrates once again what's wrong with our school system.  The bureaucrats and teachers increasingly want to intrude in other people's business, in this case, the family's business of sex education. 

Teaching must return to the basics of reading, language, writing, arithmetic, history and other core subjects. If a teacher is no good, or the principal unable to maintain discipline, parents should be able to demand better or pull their children from that school.

In this particular report, the teachers' union of Manitoba wants the government to make it a crime for parents to take their children from classes, regardless of subject or quality of teaching. They Nazi-tinged demand is motivated, not for concern of their students, but for their personal good -- the need to maintain a certain level of attendance to protect their pay. So they demand forced attendance, regardless of how or what they are pushing down young throats.

The next step in this bureaucratization of education is to criminalize homeschooling. It's already happened in Sweden, Norway and Germany where it was introduced by the Nazis. 

Parents must have more say in the education of their children, the bureaucrats less.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Weightless in Britain


As youngsters, we referred to the comedy duo of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy as Fat and Skinny. Of the team of Bud Abbot and Lou Costello, everyone described the latter as the Fat One. Of the Dean Martin and Gerry Lewis twosome, Lewis was known as the goofy-looking guy. All these performers capitalized handsomely on their physical features.

For the latest example of a legitimate concern on the verge of going wrong, we have a report of the British Parliament, Reflections on Body Image. Some honourable members want it declared  a hate crime to describe a person as "obese" or even to draw attention to a person's weight. An All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image has recommended criminalization of "appearance-based discrimination".

Much of the report was based on the fact that more than 50 per cent of the population have a negative body image. That statistic from the U.K. Centre for Appearance Research. The Centre also states that 20 per cent have been victimized because of their weight.

A key person involved with the report suggested that doctors should refrain from telling patients they have excess weight. "If they don't feel overweight, and there are no health indications, what's the problem?" she asked. Studies have consistently shown that overweight people underestimate how fat they really are.

It is to be hoped that, before any legislation is enacted, a more realistic view of body image will prevail.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Historical "racism"

 
An email to Toronto Star. Published on line May 14, 2012.

Re Refugee bill returns to the bad old days, May 7:

This report speaks of "legally-sanctioned racism" and of Canada returning "to the days when racism and xenophobia were part of our official immigration policy".
  This opinion is an example of presentism, that is, judging former times by today's supposedly superior standards. 

At one time, majority feeling, as reflected in government policy, was that English-speaking immigrants were favoured because of their easier and less expensive assimilation into Canadian life. At another time, only farmers were admitted, because that's what the young nation then needed.

This feeling and policy continued well into the 1960s. Today, it is hyperbole to speak of "toxins that are poisoning our country".  The word racism trips off the tongue too lightly in contemporary discourse.

Our immigration policy exists for the sole benefit of Canada. That said, we are obliged to show some leniency towards the downtrodden, the refugees and others rendered desolate by events beyond their control. Such leniency must be tempered by economic conditions and our ability to absorb more newcomers.


This report also leaves the impression that only Japanese were confined to internment camps during the Second World War. Two immigrants on our street in downtown Toronto were whisked away by the police. They joined other Germans and Italians placed in internment camps for the duration of the war. Little has been said about the economic hardship caused to their families. To my knowledge, they have not even asked for an apology.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Women Exploited


Tired of all that advice about losing weight?  In the mid-1990s, Sassy magazine gave 13 reasons not to diet.  The magazine for young women stated boldly: Starving yourself is complete and total lunacy.  Dieting makes you boring.  You'll gain it back, anyway. 

The "evil diet industry" is unregulated and has no legal obligation to prove its products work, the magazine pointed out.  The promise of liberation through weight loss is false.  Today's barbie-doll worship does much harm to girls and young women. 

Unnatural mannequins, computer-altered photographs, anorexic models, all create a false ideal.  Marilyn Monroe, sex goddess of the 1960s, would today be considered too large by the fashion industry.  It wants us to believe the ideal shapes are thin, thinner and thinest.

Unfortunately, too many young women believe this nonsense.  They look into the mirror, imagine their bodies much larger than they really are, and lose their self-confidence.  Naomi Wolf alerted us to this mischief in her book The Beauty Myth.  She tells how the industry's creation of a mythical, perfect body has taught young women and girls to hate their bodies.  This self-loathing leads to eating disorders and depression.

As a first line of defence, every woman should read Gloria Steinem's Revolution from Within.  The book's argument is that too many of our systems of authority undermine women's opinion of themselves.  People in this condition are ready victims for unproven products and services.  As Steinem says it: "Liberation begins with the nurturing of self-esteem."

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Charter of Rights Adulation


On the something anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, editorial writers, columnists and guest writers virtually salivated when celebrating the benefits rendered by this document. None mentioned blatant abuses. My April 16, 2012 email to The Globe and Mail. Unpublished.

It may be well and good that other nations copy our Charter of Rights and Freedoms as extolled by seemingly endless editorial writers, retired judges and commentators  However, any export of this document must include the caution:"Contents subject to extreme abuse."

One need only examine the Charter's Ontario offspring with its over-reaching tendencies and questionable results  such as --  A UFO cult declared a religion thereby transforming a breach of contract into a more lucrative case of religious discrimination.  A coffee shop owner ordered to pay $15,000 to a disruptive customer on whom he cast a racial slur, the order forcing him out of business.
  An Ottawa lawyer created a cottage industry pursuing racists on the Internet.  A hockey association ordered to pay $18,000 to a family for failure to provide adequate dressing room facilities.

The Ontario Superior Court ordered a re-hearing of a case where a business owner was ordered by the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal to pay $36,000 to a dismissed employee. Immediately following the decision, the Commission obtained a writ of seizure ordering the sheriff to sell the business operator's home to enforce the payment. On appeal, the Court said it was "simply not possible to logically follow the pathway taken by the adjudicator."
  Had the accused not had the funds to appeal, she would have lost her home. And so on, across Canada, the tax-supported abuse continues.

Human rights tribunals are cash cows for the aggrieved, real or imagined. Countries importing our Charter must be so warned.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Bullying -- Special Pleading?


Letter to the Toronto Star. Published April 27, 2012

Re Put our kids before politics, editorial, April 21:

This editorial fails to mention the legislation to which it refers. I presume reference is to Bill 13, an Act to amend the Education Act
with respect to bullying and other matters.  

Although the proposed amendment speaks to being "inclusive for all people, including LGBTTIQ," a careful reading leaves the impression its main, if not sole, purpose is for this sub-minority. 

Most bullying occurs because of body image -- the over-weight kid, the skinny one, the one with a skin problem, the awkward one who can't catch a ball or run fast, and so on. This major cause of bullying isn't even mentioned in Bill 13.

This leaves the impression the proposed legislation is the result of special pleading on behalf of the LGBTTIQ constituency. If not, why is it not all inclusive?

In 2006, the Toronto District School Board conducted a survey to determine the causes of bullying. The most cited reason was "body image" (38% in Grades 7 and 8) and (27 % in Grades 9 to 12), followed by "grades" (17%), "marks" (12%); "language"(7%) in all grades,"gender, religion and income" (5% or lower).  The issue of gay bullying did not register in the study. Source: The National Post, May 29, 2012.

This is reinforced by a 2012 report to the U.K. parliament which noted that more than half the British public suffered from a negative body image.  Evidence presented to a special parliamentary group suggested that appearance is the greatest cause of bullying in school.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Olympics Extravaganza, London 2012


The Olympic-branding police will be out in full force.

The Guardian reports that London games organizers will be checking every bathroom in every Olympic venue. They are empowered to remove or tape over manufacturers' logos even on soap dispensers, wash basins and toilets. Athletes will not be able to tweet home the brand name of the cornflakes consumed that morning, or mention the drinking Pepsi, or post a video message from rooms in the athletes' village. Coca Cola is the main soft drink sponsor. Pubs will be banned from posting signs such as: "Watch the London games on our big screen."

These are some of the results of the most stringent restrictions ever put in place to protect sponsors' brands and broadcasting rights. It affects every athlete, ticket holder and business in the entire United Kingdom. All this while 82 per cent of Brits believe the Games will not do them any good.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) demands its own rules. It requires host governments to enact specific legislation to protect games sponsors and IOC "rights". A breach of these rules is a criminal offence.

In a curious twist, a survey of Tweeters found that Nike (a non-sponsor) is the brand most associated with the Games, instead of Adidas, which paid £100 for official rights.

So offensive has the rights game become that, at the 2010 World Cup, 36 Dutch women were ejected from a match for wearing orange dresses, in what organizers deemed an ambush campaign by the beer company Bavaria whose symbol is women in orange dresses.

One report claims there is good reason for these Olympic restrictions. Any shortfall in sponsorship must be made up by the British taxpayer. The IOC has stacked the deck. The only losers may be British citizens who was not consulted if they wanted the Games in the first place. Given Olympic history, the taxpayer loses no matter what.

As Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins put it: "The Olympics have become an Orwellian parody of what happens when a world agency blackmails a government aching for prestige into spending without limit."

Friday, April 13, 2012

Toronto Star and the Bible


On April 4, 2012, the Toronto Star reported the banning of the distribution to Grade Five students of the Gideon Bible. The overly-sensitive School Trustees feared reprisals for their decision. According to that newspaper, complaints to the trustees constituted "hate mail." The newspaper gave no examples. It printed three letters in support of the trustees, none against. Mine was excluded. In the interests of fair comment, occasionally absent in that Toronto daily, my unpublished letter:

The Star's headline writer went over the top on this one (Bible ban at schools sparks hate mail, Apr. 9). None of the reported examples of disagreement with the Bluewater District School Board's decision to ban distribution the Gideon bible even remotely qualifies as "hate mail".


Every enlightened educator recognizes the Bible as a vital part of Western World history. Even an atheist, if he deems himself learned, must be familiar with it. One cannot grasp the basis of the English language without it. One cannot learn the reasons for Western progress and the freedoms we enjoy (compared to the non-Christian world) without a knowledge of the history of the Bible.

What do school trustees fear in such education? What does the Toronto Star fear?


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Toronto's Identity Politics


I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.  Martin Luther King Jr.

A positive culture must have a positive set of values, and the dissentients must remain marginal, tending to make only marginal contributions. T.S. Eliot

Before Toronto expanded to its present boundaries, the city's motto extolled the virtues of Industry, Integrity, Intelligence. These civic ideals stood us in good stead since our founding in 1834.

To appease every enclave of the enlarged city, every activist and political-correctness enforcer, our motto was changed in 1998 to Diversity Our Strength.

Rather than celebrate mutually shared aspirations, such as the common good, our new motto invites us to observe what separates us racially, ethnically, sexually, politically, and financially. The city fell into the trap of identity politics with its hint of victimhood. Diversity is a condition, ideals are things to strive for.

The old motto encouraged a citizen to say, "Here I am. How can I help?" The new motto, "Here, Toronto, are my rights and my demands. What can you for for me and  my particular cause?" Each minority group clamours for its own representation, its own agenda, leading to fragmentation of civic purpose, quotas and overall negativity. This affirmative action guarantees we will not have the best qualified in positions of influence and authority, just an average of mediocrity.

An example of this will soon play out when the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal finds the Peel District School Board guilty of "systemic racism" -- a new addition to the ever-expanding Utopian lexicon.

The Tribunal will base its foregone decision on the fact that, while close to thirty per cent of Peel Region residents are South Asian, only two per cent of region school principals are from that part of the world. This feel-good presumption of racism is based on the attitude that lack of evidence constitutes proof.

The Tribunal's finding of "systemic racism" will be based on the feeling that public services must be delivered by people who reflect the colour, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual preference and residency of the citizens served.

Is it "systemic racism" that white people are not proportionally represented on the Raptors basketball team?

Inherent in this Utopian bias is the error that all are qualified to serve, to teach and to deliver government services. If the social and political views of my elected or appointed officials are more or less similar to mine, I do not care if he/she is a polka-dotted Brobdingnagian or a striped Luggnaggian.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Profit from Drunkenness


Earlier posts on this blog may have given the impression that the mischief of human rights commissions is a recent aberration and confined to Ontario and Alberta. Here's one from the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

In 1991, the Commission ordered Canadian National to rehire FN, who had been dismissed in March 1985 for repeated absences due to drunkenness. The Commission said that CN had discriminated against him on the basis of a disability -- his drinking.

FN's supervisors first noticed his problem in 1984, and referred him to Alcoholics Anonymous. He attended  two or three AA meetings, became absent from work more than usual, and had an accident with a company car, an incident he attempted to cover up.

Even then, he was not fired, but suspended, and sent to two drug-dependency programs. He refused to participate in follow-up counselling and AA sessions. CN dismissed him, saying he had not seriously attempted rehabilitation.

Unmoved by CN's efforts to accommodate Mr. N's "disability," the Canadian Human Rights Commission held the company had no right to fire him, and ordered he be re-hired with six-years' back wages.

Fortunately, the Federal Court of Canada would have none of this mischief. It overturned the Commission's judgement.

What if a small business had hired FN, and lacked the resources to launch an appeal? It would likely have been forced into bankruptcy. Human rights tribunals too often miss the big picture.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Laws, Courts and Bureaucracies

Letter to the National Post.

Father De Souza has pinned the tail squarely on the bureaucratic donkey (Who watches the watchmen, Mar. 16). When bureaucracies, such as police or prosecutors, are strengthened, citizen rights are weakened. Rights laws are zero-sum game. What you give to one must be taken from another. And the Government's new crime bill takes a great deal away from citizens, legally and financially.

I especially enjoyed the phrase "the bureaucracy that wears gowns and carries guns." The rule of law is a nebulous concept ultimately enforced at the point of a gun. It's legalized violence.

Toronto police are the highest paid in Canada, if not the world, yet its members slip from one blunder to blunder. Witness some of their behaviour during the G20 -- mischief that is slowly becoming class-action lawsuits for which citizens will pay.

Witness the shortage of judges and courts (a situation exacerbated by the new crime bill) which ensures the justice will be delayed and therefore denied. Such delays have already set miscreants free to inflict more mayhem on the public.

We do not obey the law because it is the law. Laws change every day. No one I know reads the Criminal Code to see what they can do that day. Law-abiding? No. To the extent law reflects human behaviour, to that extent it is citizen-abiding.

Aristotle put it this way -- a person capable of only following rules is a natural slave. Is the Government turning us into slaves?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Public Documents are Public Property

Unpublished letter to the National Post.

Re Judge allows Toews to find out who viewed his divorce papers, Mar. 8:

A Winnipeg judge apparently saw nothing amiss in granting Public Safety Minister Vic Toews permission to learn the names of people who have viewed his publicly available divorce papers.

The good judge deemed it unfair that personal matters might be revealed "at the whim of any passerby." But that's what happens with public documents. Any serious objection should inspire him to demand that such documents be sealed from public view.

Big Brother is lurking if a citizen must identify himself and have his name recorded simply to view a public document.

The next frightful step may force libraries to disclosed the names of borrowers of certain books. Reading a book about terrorism, or how to make a bomb, or how to do robo-calls, may soon lead to one's home being raided.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bureaucrats and Politicians Attack Basic Values


Government intervention into more and more aspects of our lives must be challenged as an attack on basic values. Here are some reasons why.

Bertrand Russell -- "The fight for freedom is not won by any mere change in our economic system. It is to be won only by constant resistance to the tyranny of officials."

Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh -- Once you start involving governments,"you immediately begin to involve political philosophies and attitudes of all sorts and all sorts of difficulties that are much more easily avoided if you have something which is voluntarily financed."

Former Ontario Education Minister Thomas Wells -- "There is in many respects a waning confidence in the effectiveness of public education. In elementary education, the most public voiced concern is with the basics -- what many parents and others often call the Three Rs."

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Law Must Earn Respect


Society is in poor shape when citizens, such as in a recent incident involving homeschooling in Alberta, are ordered by law to “honour and respect” the law.

Carve this in stone: Those who enact, enforce or interpret law receive only such respect as is commanded by their performance, not by what they demand.

The situation becomes toxic when families in Quebec must fight for the obvious -- that they, the family, not the government or the courts, are the primary teachers of their children.

The Supreme Court of Canada recently approved the soft totalitarianism of a Quebec law conferring on the government exclusive rights of religious education. These same Supremos claim to uphold religious freedom. In the crunch, they have wilted when called on to defend that freedom.

It's time for a revolution to limit the power of anyone in authority -- political, bureaucratic or judicial -- to clearly stated basics. Governmental intrusion into education must be limited to setting standard tests in core subjects. Activist judges must be reined in, along with empire-building bureaucrats.

To realize a revolution, laws that refer to human rights, diversity, multiculturalism, and other vague notions of how society should operate, must be re-written The re-write will contain strict limits as to interpretation and manipulation by the troika -- politicians, officials and judges, especially our activist Supreme Court. The Russian troika is a carriage powered by three horses, but controlled by one driver. In Canada, that driver must be the people.

Light occasional shines in dark places. The Alberta Human Rights Act gives parents the option of removing children from classes dealing with religion, sexuality, or sexual orientation without academic penalty, something the Supremes denied Quebec citizens. The bad news is that Alberta's appointed Premier, under the influence of radical elements of the province's teacher union, wants to relieve parents of that right.

We can only hope that one day a streak of enlightenment will penetrate the darkness of the Quebec government and the Supreme Court of Canada. It will not happen voluntarily. On occasion, noses must be pushed into the mud of reality. Such a challenge now confronts us.


Sidebar. "... Ontario's provincial judicial appointments system scores much better than the federal system, which is still heavily tainted by political partisanship and conspicuously lacking in transparency." --- Jacob Ziegel, law professor emeritus, University of Toronto. (The National Post, March 7, 2012)