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 (

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."