Monday, December 30, 2013

The Little Guy Fights Back

Wounded marines booed and hissed John Wayne when he visited them a hospital ward in Hawaii during the Second World War. Wayne, who never served in the military, wore a fancy cowboy outfit that included spurs and pistols. The marines grasped the manipulation and deceit of celebrity culture.
                                                  --- Empire of Illusion by Chris Hedges

At Easter in the year 2010, a few months after the earthquake, Haiti received a grand gift from Monsanto: sixty thousand bags of seed produced by the chemical industry. Farmers gathered to receive the offering, and proceeded to burn every sack in an immense bonfire.
                                                     --- Children of the Days by Eduardo Galeano

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

To End All Crime

On December 10, 2013, the Romanian parliament considered "super-immunity" to parliamentarians, the president, and to more than 100 mayors, their convictions for corruption notwithstanding. The parliament relieved them of their crimes by abolishing the the law that declared them corrupt. Parliament is also considering decriminalizing conflict of interest laws. The goodies continue, Also on the agenda is amnesty and pardon for politicians already in prison.

Here's the lesson for the world at large. To abolish all crime, simply declare void all laws that define crimes. No matter what one does, no crime can be committed.

Thank you, Romanian parliament.

 Legally corrupt: Romanian politicians chase 'super-immunity’

New York Times, Dec, 27, 2017.  In Romania, the governing Social Democrats have revived efforts to decriminalize some corruption offences amid a series of measures that critics say undermine the rule of law

Endless Happiness etc.

I am being overwhelmed with the prospect of happiness, fun and joy.

Coca-Cola invites me to "open happiness". All I need do is lift the cap off one of their products and wonderful things will gush into my life.  

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) proclaims itself the "sponsor of fun," fun that can be mine by simply buying a lottery ticket. 

Indigo Shops (formerly book stores) offer office supplies that will help me wish "bye bye to boring," and "hello to happy." 

The Ford Motor Company promises "Endless Joy" motoring in their latest product.

When next I sip on a Coke of happiness, fantasy on my lottery ticket, deploy those boredom-destroying Indigo office supplies, and have endless joy in my Ford, I'll express due gratitude to their providers.  If only I could still my beating heart.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Democracy not for Everyone

Unpublished letter to the Toronto Star:

The clamour about Justin Trudeau's comment of Chinese success is misplaced (Rookie mistakes still hamper Trudeau's chances, Nov. 14). The complaint is based on the belief that democracy is the best form of government for all people everywhere and at all times.

Does anyone believe that, if China were a democracy, so many millions of its citizens would have been pulled out of poverty, and so quickly? To achieve such success in so short a time, those in charge had to be ruthless. (Thomas Hobbes would agree.) China is the envy of Western democracies because it is a tyranny, a tyranny with which those same defenders of democracy are most anxious to do business.

The noise extends to Trudeau’s admiration for Cuba’s American-inflicted struggling to get out of its economic and political past. Complainers object to the torture perpetrated on that island. Yes there is torture, but it is done by the American military in Guantanamo naval base. Does that mean one cannot express admiration for the United States?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Rogers Uncommunications Ltd.

Exactly what is Rogers Communications communicating?

A recent promotion brochure shows a young couple snuggling, well, sort of. Why are they are not looking at each other? Each is on their own smartphone, their thoughts elsewhere. Why they are smiling? Is it because they need not communicate with each other? Or prefer to talk to someone else? They are alone together.

The relevant website tells us that smartphones help"turn down time into data time." Rogers considers being together as down time?  "Data," whatever that may encompass, is more important than talking to the person beside you? Rather than communicate with the person in front of you, the website suggests the user "socialize on Facebook" or "invite a buddy to the new bar".

This promotion was followed by others which promised: "Share your data like never before (BF mine). And "Discover like never before."" Again the question, What is data? Like what you had for breakfast? Like that your dog is sick? Like what is there is to discover?

The Internet has led to "the death of distance," proclaimed British economist Frances Cairncross. In  the Rogers promotion, technology has created distance between people in the same room.

A recent issue of The Atlantic correctly observed, "Social networking has alienated us." Like yea Rogers?

Alienation is not what Marshall McLuhan had in mind for his Global Village. With contemporary technology, the more we connect, the less connected we are, the lonelier we become.

To the Rogers promotion, I suggest a caption: "I am never so lonely like as when I am with you."

Should you phone Rogers, you will be put on a 15-minute waiting priority. This is the multi-billion-dollar company that brags about its speed of communication.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Speculation is not journalism

An unacknowledged note to the Editor of the Toronto Star:

Your report of September 13 "Court decision could reveal gang links to Ford" is questionable journalism. The word "could" equally means "could not."  This same sentence begins "If the judge ..." You do not state what would happen "if the judge does not."

You insist on regurgitating that hoary item about the video that "appear to show ..." It may or may not. Let's wait and see.

This is not news but self-serving speculation given the over-wrought Punch and Judy show (or is it vaudeville?) between you and Mayor Rob Ford.

*     *     *

It is not my mission in life to be picking on the Star, but the editors do have a way of provoking negative reaction. (Actually, too many journalists do that, not only at the Star.) The September 19 issue featured an invitation to "make this column come alive."  To do so, simply wave one of those electronic devices over the indicated item.

By coincidence, I am on the Star's survey list. They asked my reaction to this innovation. I replied that good writing does not require a mechanical instrument to make the story come alive. Good writing makes the words jump off the page.

Nor do I expect an acknowledgement of this message.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Come As You Are From Quebec

 "Come as you are" Ontarians should scream to the soon-to-be-oppressed minorities of Quebec. Under the guise of Quebec Values, the separatist government of Pauline Marois will soon outlaw anyone in a government-funded organization wearing any clothing or symbol of a religious nature. That includes the Muslim head scarf, the Jewish kippah, Sikh headdress, "conspicuous" crosses of Christians, and so on.

The province is already well known for its language police. Make way for the religious police

Premier Marois should be having second thoughts about this ill-founded initiative. Already one Ontario hospital has invited Muslim women doctors to join their staff. The hospital's advertisement reads, "We don't care what's on your head. We care what's in it."

The premier dismisses any objection as "opinion."

The campaign should be Ontario-wide. We should invite devout people of any religion to join the exodus that began several years back. Fearing an independent Quebec, large corporations left that financially uncertain province, and moved to Toronto. Up to that time, Montreal was Canada's largest city, since then, Toronto.

It doesn't register on Marois supporters that their policy of a Quebec separate from Canada will doom their people to third-world status. A French-only nation of some six million in an English-speaking continent of 360 million is a non-starter.

Note how well supports of an independent Quebec speak English. They can afford to send their children to out-of-province English universities. At the same time, they restrict the teaching of English at home. Ultimately, this policy will produce a impoverished unilingual population at the mercy of their bilingual masters.

Do they really believe the new Quebec can use Canadian currency and have a say in the decisions of the Bank of Canada? The Quebec peso will be accepted only in exchange for Canadian Tire money, but at a discount.

Come one, come all. Welcome to Ontario. And yes, come as you are.

An e-mail to the same effect was not published by the  censorship-prone Toronto Star.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Environmental destruction

Unpublished letter to the Toronto Star, Sept 3, 2013

The reclamation of the Sydney tar ponds at public expense illustrates a weakness in the law (Sydney tar ponds site gets 'dramatic transformation', Aug 31).  

When a company in the course of business damages the environment, it should be made liable to repair that damage. The company should not be allowed to disappear and hang the restoration cost on the taxpayer. 

The oil companies in Alberta, for example, must be ordered to create a fund sufficient to restore to their original state the waters and lands they are at this moment desecrating.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Is the media gay-obsessed?

Letter to the Toronto Star, May 2, 2013 

Only someone on politically correct steroids would object to someone else favouring the traditional family (Realtor under fire for anti-gay brochure, May 2). Shame on the Star for claiming such expression as "anti-gay."

One may differ from the many reports that prove the superiority of the traditional family. To declare them hateful or anti-anybody is an attempt to suppress opinions with which one may disagree. Unfortunately, the media, less than unbiased in this matter, refuse to defend free speech, preferring to indulge in name-calling.

 * * *

Letter to The Globe and Mail, August 8, 2013

The Globe editorial about the press conference aboard the pope's aircraft claimed that Francis's statement "made history" when he said, "A gay person who is seeking God, who is of goodwill, well, who am I to judge?" It  made history only to those who haven't been listening. The pope said nothing new.

The basis of this common media error is the idee fixe that promotion of the traditional family is anti-gay. 

Recent pro-family protests in Paris were described as anti-gay. The legislation that provoked the protest was deemed an attack on the traditional family in a nation that values the family more than we do. Thus, the protest. 

A report in the Toronto papers told of a tenant in public housing. He posted a pro-family sign in his window, just pro, not attacking anyone. Someone complained. He was threatened with eviction. No one in the media defended his freedom of expression.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

That Hated Monsanto Company

From Children of the Days by Eduardo Galeano: 

Suicide Seeds

For about three hundred and sixty million years, plants have been producing fertile seeds that generate new plants and new seeds, and never have they ever charged anyone for the favor.

But in 1998 a patent gave its blessing to the company Delta and Pine to produce and sell sterile seeds, which meant new seeds had to be purchased for every planting. In the  middle of August 2006, Monsanto, blessed be thy name, bought out Delta and Pine and its patent.

Thus Monsanto consolidated its universal power: sterile seeds, known as "suicide seeds" or "terminator seeds," form part of a very lucrative line that also obliges farmers to buy herbicides, pesticides and other poisons from the genetically modified pharmacy.

At Easter in the year 2010, a few months after the earthquake, Haiti received a grand gift from Monsanto: sixty thousand bags of seed produced by the chemical industry. Farmers gathered to receive the offering, and proceeded to burn every sack in an immense bonfire.

For more on the Monsanto Company, read Monsanto's Harvest of Fear, Vanity Fair, May 2008.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Outsiders Beware

Before the courts of Ontario, there is an application to exempt certain citizenship applicants because they object to the nature of the required oath. My letter to The National Post.

Re 'Repulsive' oath to Queen assailed, Jul 13:

Three non-Canadians complain about our laws. Common among them is their insistence on imposing their values on us.  One of them admits to an unresolved distaste of things British.  Immigrants must not seek to impose their values. The Jamaican applicant's religious values cause her to describe our head of state as "the queen of Babylon." Canadians don't need that kind of talk, especially from an outsider.

These people have accepted the invitation to our house. But will enter only on condition that we tune our television to programs they prefer, only if we say things they want to hear, only if we change our laws to suit them.

I trust our courts will refuse this brazen imposition of outsiders' conditions on our way of life. Conditions of entry are established by Canadians, not by wannabes.

Should one day, the oath to the Queen be dropped, it will be done by Canadians, not by those at the gates.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Big Oil Must Ante Up

The people of Alberta recently suffered the worst floods in their history. My June 26, 2013 letter to The Globe and Mail, unpublished. 

The great presence in this time of crisis for Alberta is Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi.  Alberta Premier Alison Redford will be major player in the province's recovery. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made a cameo appearance prior to, we trust, a massive infusion of federal aid.

Missing from this scenario are Stephen Harper's supporters in the oil patch. Over the years, oil companies have sucked billions from Alberta's soil. If the province can offer one billion dollars in aid, Harper should be able to cajole his oil friends to commit at least that amount. It's pay-back time.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Distinguish Person and Behaviour

Letter published in The Catholic Register pointing out a lesson the common media seem unable to learn:

Re "Despite our differences, I still prayed for Dr. Morgentaler (June 9, 2013):

Jim Hughes is correct in praying for Henry Morgentaler. Hughes rightly distinguishes the individual from that person's behaviour. We are obliged to see God in everyone even when possibly loathing what he or she did in their lifetime.

In the field of art, we can enjoy a beautiful painting or piece of music without expressing approval of the artist's behaviour. Philosopher Jacques Maritain said that if the work enriches the spiritual treasure of the world with its beauty, forget everything else.

We must always separate the person from his or her actions.

* * *

On May 24, 2012, the Toronto Star published a waffling editorial concerning blood donations by gays.  The blood agency had recently revised its policy to accept donations from gays on condition they have been celibate for five years. My letter, intended only for the enlightenment of the editorial writer, was published May 31.

Your editorial, Lifting an outdated ban (May 24), makes a common error. You state that "the majority of gay men are locked out of donating blood on grounds of sexual orientation."  Not so. They are locked out, as you term it, because of sexual activity. One must never confuse the person and that person's behaviour. There's a significant difference.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Non-denial means agreement?

What leads media people to presume the right to question anyone?  And if the citizen refuses to answer, to publish their own conclusions? Salient in this regard was a report by Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno. My unpublished letter to her editor.

In her report (What Chief Blair didn't say about Ford speaks the loudest, June 14), Rosie DiManno implies lack of evidence to be proof, and non-denial to be agreement. Police Chief Blair stated his duty and responsibility when investigating a crime. DiManno's reaction was a report full of innuendo, speculation and supposition laced with negatives, e.g. Blair did not say, did not deny, did not refute, did not confirm, and so on for half a page.  I have many times complained about reports in the Star. May I conclude the editor's many non-denials to be agreement?

Back in  2008, Toronto Star reporter Dale Brazao wrote a front-page report about an inn-keeper alleging exploitation of a foreign worker. The inn-keeper is now suing the Star for defamation. 

The point of this post is Brazao's defence, as reported in the Star of June 18, 2013. Before the Ontario Superior Court, he claimed to have tried "every which way" to be fair and convince the inn-keeper of the seriousness of the allegations against her, but she refused to answer. "I do not know what else I could have done to get this lady to speak to me," he told the court. 

As in the DiManno incident concerning the Police Chief, did the inn-keeper's non-denial justify publication?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

HR Tribunal Overreaches Again

For 150 years, the Saguenay City Council has opened its meetings with a 20-second prayer.

Citizen Alain Simoneau complained that the prayer to an "all-powerful God," as well as the crucifix in the council chambers infringed on his rights as a non-believer. He complained to the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal that the prayer forced him to "embrace a concept of recognizing a form of divine supremacy." The Tribunal ordered council to stop saying the prayer, remove the crucifix, and pay moral and punitive damages of $30,000 to atheist Simoneau.

In its decision of June 2013, the Quebec Court of Appeal thought differently. Among other things, the Court ruled that neutrality does not require "that society be cleansed of all denominational reality, including that which falls within its cultural history." There was no evidence the prayer imposed religious views on citizens or shaped government actions. Simoneau did not get his pot of gold.

Questions remain: Is it the possibility of a great payout that inspires such complaints to human rights commissions? If such awards were payable to the government, would there be any complaints at all?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Race to the Bottom Revisited

At the height of the Great Depression, Pope Pius XI issued the encyclical Quadragesimo Anno  in which he advised that " the right ordering of economic life cannot be left to free competitive forces."  

The recent disaster in a garment factory in Bangladesh should cause Western nations to re-examine their overseas purchasing policies. Chinese coastal factories are moving menial labour westward into the nation's interior. The workers in the eastern factories went on strike, got raises, then saw their jobs move inland in a kind of insourcing the outsourced.  

This story appeared in an 800-word report in The Globe and Mail, but nowhere did it mention "outsourcing."   In the spirit of euphemism, it's now "manufacturing movements" or "moving operations offshore."

China, the world's largest recipient of outsourced business, is itself outsourcing to even lower-wage nations such as Bangladesh, Vietnam and Cambodia.  One can imagine the leaders of these nations making their presentations to rich Western corporations: "Our people are poorer, more plentiful, and more exploited than the other guy's people."

Vying for poor country status constitutes a race to the bottom.  The result is seen in that November 2012 fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh sweatshop that killed 112 women working in unsafe conditions.  They are part of the 300 workers who have died in garment factory fires since 2006 in that country.

Tazreen Fashions made Mickey Mouse sweatshirts for Walt Disney, Faded Glory children's shorts for Walmart, and items with the ENTCE label for Sears.  These corporations claimed ignorance of conditions in the source of their products. Of course, if one closes one's eyes, one cannot see.

The Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights stated that nothing will change unless clothing companies protect workers as vigorously as they protect their brands.  "The labels are legally protected," a spokesperson said, "but there are no similar protected rights of the worker."   That might increase the price to the Western merchants by an estimated 25 cents per garment.  Cheap clothing comes at a high cost.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

When Disagreement BecomesTreason

Treason may be defined as a breach of allegiance to the state. American law more broadly and less vaguely holds it to be any serious injury to the United States. That's why there's greater freedom of expression in the U.S. than in Canada.

Philosopher Umberto Eco: "The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. In modern culture the scientific praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge. For Ur-Fascism, disagreement is treason." (his italics.)

It is not difficult to see fascism in today's society.  In Germany, any questioning of received history of the Holocaust warrants imprisonment. This law, and a similar one in Canada, has turned Ernst Zundel, previously a nobody, into a celebrity. Also in Germany and in several other European countries, homeschooling is a crime. Parents who insist on asserting their primary right of education are jailed, their children seized by the state, and given out for adoption. The anti-homeschooling law was enacted by Adolf Hitler, never repealed, but still rigourously enforced. Violation is treason.

In Canada, to speak in favour of the family is as it has been for thousands of years is deemed hateful and worthy of punishment. Treason in Ontario is any disagreement with the government forcing its views of family, sexuality and society on the public. The government has undermined parental authority by declaring teachers to be "co-parents" of their children. This language manipulation allows educators to withhold from parents information of what their children are being exposed to at school. Any objection is called hateful, and may have parents banned from entry onto school property. Surely a sign of fascism?

The suppression of any questioning of authority has a long history. The high priest warned early Christians, "We gave you strict orders not to teach in his name." For their efforts, Peter and Paul were executed. Throughout the Middle Ages, violators of  what society considered acceptable were punished, occasionally by death.

That spirit continues today. Anyone standing any distance from the accepted norms of speech may be jailed, fined, or lose their job. This leaves little room for disagreement as Umberto Eco describes it. Fascism reigns in one form or another and punishes non-acceptance of the agendas of governments, activists and other controllers of popular expression.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Churches Then and Now

Those mighty cathedrals of the Middle Ages were built over the centuries by architects, stone masons, sculptors, stained glass artists, and hundreds, if not thousands, of volunteers and labourers. In addition to seeking wages today, the workers sought an eternal reward tomorrow.

Today's equivalent is the sports arena or stadium, but with no spiritual solace in the offing.  A piece of recent history. In 1974, Metro Council was promised that the proposed SkyDome could be built "at no burden to the taxpayer." The original cost of $225-million ballooned to $650-million. When the building was later sold to Rogers Communications at a distressed price, the loss was borne by city and provincial taxpayers.

These projects are cash cows for billionaire team owners, and provide a playground for millionaire athletes. Promoters promise, not an eternal reward, as in the Middle Ages but, a debt-free money-maker for the municipality. To realize this dream, the citizen must participate by shouldering most of the cost and all of the responsibility for the debt so created.

The promoter convinces the municipality, in this case the City of Edmonton, to create a "Community Revitalization Levy" or some such subtle tax increase device. He points out that additional funds are available from the province through the "Municipal Sustainability Initiative," a program intended to fund municipal infrastructure and not a place of entertainment. If the project turns sour, the promoter can simply declare the bankruptcy of his participating company and walk away.

A similar shell game is playing out in Markham on Toronto's northern boundary. There, the province is not involved. Any shortfall in revenue will be picked entirely up by the local taxpayer.

Such projects come with no promise of eternal reward, but too often produce eternal debt, indeed a financial hell on earth.

Who Really Needs Instant News?

Before the Second World War, people received news on the radio perhaps at noon and around six o'clock. Once the war started, people demanded more news and more often. The hourly newscasts began. The Globe and Mail came out in the morning, while the Evening Telegram and the Daily Star in the late afternoon. That seemed to suffice the need for news at that time before television and the Internet.

Then came the deluge of news reports.

According to Dr. Meir Kryger of the U.S, National Sleep Foundation, the current addiction to 24-hour new coverage is an enemy to mental health. "I got a big uptick in patients with insomnia right after 9/11," he said. "Looking at something over and over again is upsetting and interferes with sleep." His solution? "Turn off the bloody TV."

Another solution favours the print media to be read on our own time, not when the newscasters say we must have it. Even then, it need not be of breathless immediacy. In her February 23, 2013 column, Toronto Star Public Editor Kathy English wrote about the need for readers to know of events the instant they happened. My email to her. All quotes of Ms. English who did not reply.
Dear Kathy English: 
Tell me what recent "major breaking news" Star readers needed to know "instantaneously" and in "real time." What news items in today's paper do they need to know at all? What would they lose if they read today's paper tomorrow or next week?

Are readers worse off until the Star "updated in next-day stories and published corrections"? How were their lives affected by living in ignorance until corrections were published?
Do readers really need to know immediately "daily, first hand, live reports from citizens at the heart of the Arab Spring"? Explain how life would be different if they learned about these things the next day or next week. 
To use your example, did it matter that readers knew immediately the name of the Newton shooter, or his brother, or if they knew it at all? Ask your readers today if they still remember the shooter's name. Also ask what difference it made in their lives. 
There's a touch of journalistic grandiosity in all this.Yes, report news, real news, but spare the breathless immediacy.

War Propaganda and Afterwards

"The evil that men do lives after them." When Shakespeare put those words in the mouth of one of the assassins of Julius Caesar, he was speaking for all generations. In one way or another, the evil we have been taught lives in each of us. Some of it lives in me, however subconsciously.

In my defence, let me take you back to the dark, desperate days of the Second World War. This impressionable young boy living in downtown Toronto hears nothing but bad news. Every one on the street agrees it's all the fault of the Germans and the Japanese. Nazi Germany is rapidly taking over much of continental Europe. They are in Africa. Their submarines are sinking ships in Canadian waters.  England is about to be invaded.

Following their attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese are advancing in China and southeast Asia. Australia is bombed, and will soon be invaded. We hear that a Japanese ship destroyed a lighthouse on Vancouver Island. Other Japanese invade westernmost Alaska. Canadian soldiers, only a few years older than myself, are being killed in places no one on the street had ever before heard of, like Hong Kong. My school atlas tells us where it is.

Coming from a central European background, I knew what Germans looked like. And a German family lived across the street. They looked like us. But the Japanese were a different story. I had never seen one in my life. They were from a different world.

Because of the war, a war started by the Germans and Japanese, food is rationed: meat, butter, sugar, tea, coffee, gasoline, car tires. People talk about the black market. I see it as a very dark place where the rich can buy all the food and gasoline they want. The other black I hear about is blackout. When the sirens go off, men wearing white helmets with the letters A.R.P. (Air Raid Patrol) across the front walk the streets, telling us to turn off all our lights.

We are getting ready to be bombed by the Germans or the Japanese. I wasn't sure which enemy would get here first. I did not like the idea of my home getting destroyed. My 16-year-old friends must register with the government, to get them ready to join the military.

The tide slowly turns. Street talk is about air raids on the Germans. This pleases me because I feel it's better we bomb them than they bomb us. Because I don't know them. The relentless propaganda gets me and all my friends to loathe the Germans and the Japanese.

The Japanese, I am taught to despise absolutely. I am told, and I believe, they could commit every atrocity they are accused of: torture, killing unarmed soldiers, forced labour by prisoners, starvation, execution and sex slaves.

This anti-Japanese sentiment lingers so strongly in my mind that, one day some forty-five years later, as I enter a downtown department store, I stop cold. I stare wide-eyed at the enlarged Japanese face smiling down at me from the many banners scattered throughout the main floor. I am looking at the face of Alfred Sung, a Canadian fashion designer of Oriental descent. His products are being featured by the store.

But what fills memory's eye is the smiling face I vividly remember from many anti-Japanese propaganda films, comic books and magazines. It's the face of that pilot machine-gunning innocent civilians fleeing the invading Japanese army. It is the face of that Japanese officer about to torture a prisoner. It is the face my generation was taught to hate.

War propaganda taught us to hate the face of the blond German soldier, the one whose mouth wears a perpetual sneer, one who even in defeat flaunted a false sense of superiority.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

The good news is two-fold. I like to think that all of my generation knows it was brainwashed. And that life's experience has taught us how to deal with it, and to accept everyone equally. The other good news is that just as young minds can be taught hate, they can be taught love and caring and understanding. Let us pray that is what we all, friends and foe, give to the next generation.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Assisted Suicide and Other Forms of Death

Email to Ken Gallinger, Toronto Star Ethics writer, commenting on his April 12, 2013, endorsement of assisted suicide.

A report on assisted suicide requires a more balanced approached than you have presented. It must include safeguards against abuse such as pressure from inheritance-hungry children, family caretakers exhausted from rendering care. Examining the death in bed of a senior, the first thing the police check for is saliva on a pillow. If they find it, a murder investigation begins.This is not "high-sounding moral opinion" but basic common sense.

Also to be considered are the possibility of temporary insanity, depression, financial disappointment, marriage break-up, loss of a loved one, and other reasons some bordering on the frivolous. A healthy woman joined her ill husband in a Swiss suicide because she did not want to live without him.Other frivolous reasons await, and are described in my blog essay Death with Debt-Free Dignity.

"To throw every available resource at staving it off" means outside intervention. You must describe those resources, how they would be applied, and in what time frame. In any event, this application would require some delay in the suicide process. How long would you advocate?

A recent report tells of hundreds of urns containing human remains being found at the bottom of Lake Zurich. Indications are they originated with Dignitas, a business that has made that country the suicide capital of the world. The relatives of the deceased did not care enough to have the remains brought home.

As for the disabled opposing assisted suicide, is it the pressures mentioned in my opening paragraph that they fear? Your comparison with abortion is inappropriate, the vast majority of which are done against a healthy child in a healthy mother. The child is destroyed because its existence would prove inconvenient. The taking of any life, be it through abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, assisted suicide or war, cheapens all life.

Assisted suicide cannot be played two ways. One must offer unconditional assisted suicide on demand, or not. In the latter case, conditions must be clearly stated.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Home-Grown Alienation

A letter published in the Toronto Star, April 9, 2013

Re How to grow a terrorist, Apr. 6:

In this report, various opinions are expressed as to the nature of social alienation felt by young Muslims.That of CSIS director Richard Fadden comes the closest to the truth. He said, "If you take someone who is slightly disenchanted and inclined to think the west is not very good, and you put them in with these people, the next thing you know you want people to do violence."

One need not be Muslim to be disenchanted with our society.

Any reasonably honed social conscience objects to our culture of death as seen in our abortion rates, the demand for euthanasia and assisted suicide, government insensitivity, permanent battle-ready status, corporate greed, destruction of the environment, employee oppression, market manipulation, pornography in the media and places of entertainment, tax evasion by the rich, justice not always seen to be done if done at all, and so on and on.

The inability to do anything to improve such matters renders anyone, especially if unemployed, vulnerable to advocates of violence.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Justice at a Price

Justice may be blind. Need our courts be?

In 2003, a citizen laid a complaint of assault under the Police Services Act. A police adjudicator dismissed the complaint.  The citizen then sued for unlawful arrest, use of unnecessary force, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. The lawsuit was dismissed prior to trial. He appealed to the Ontario Court of Appeal which upheld the dismissal.

The appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada reversed the decision of Ontario's highest court in no uncertain terms. In April 2013, the Supreme Court found that the use of the civilian complaints process was "a serious affront to basic principles of fairness." The initial lawsuit may proceed.

Two salient features emerge from this so-far ten-year proceeding.

1. The Ontario Court of Appeal did not recognize "a serious affront to basic principles of fairness."

2. Justice belongs to those with the financial resources and the patience to appeal to higher jurisdictions.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Islamism and the Toronto Star

An email to Toronto Star columnist Haroon Siddiqui, and his reply. 

Dear Haroon Siddiqui:

In your column of February 14, you attempt to neutralize Islamic violence by pointing out the violence of non-Islamic people. Your observation "given Christian European history" does not excuse Islamic history. My bad behaviour does not justify the bad behaviour of my neighbour.

You state that Pope Benedict's "pronouncements are all the more shocking coming from an otherwise well-regarded religious scholar."  Damning with feint praise is high school rhetoric gleaned from Mark Anthony's "honourable men" funeral oration. Attacking the messenger does not produce quality argument. Perhaps the Pope had in mind the Christians being persecuted in many Muslim countries today. Follow this for a few weeks:

You describe the Pope's statement as a "bigoted view of Islam." Nor does name calling further any discussion. In his Regensburg speech (to which I presume you refer), Benedict quoted the Byzantine emperor Manuel II. The emperor feared another Ottoman invasion (they had failed twice already), and was pleading for European assistance, when he said, "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

What could have motivated Manual to say that? Starting with Mohammed's command to conquer (Qu'ran passim), and up to Manuel's time (1391), Muslims had invaded, occupied, colonized, pillaged or raided for slaves, Christian Palestine, Egypt, North Africa, Spain, France, Cyprus, Crete, Rhodes, Sicily, Malta, Sardinia, Cartage, Pisa, Armenia, Anatolia, Gallipoli, Kosovo, Southern Italy, Rome, and Thessalonica where they captured 30,000 Christians for their slave markets.

You object to the police "spying on law-abiding Muslims." During World War Two, law-abiding Germans, Austrians, Italians and suspected sympathizers, were spied on, investigated, finger printed, and interrogated at home and at places of employment. The government used its authority to detain anyone acting "in any manner prejudicial to the public safety or the safety of the state." As a result, many law-abiding citizens, some Canadian-born, were interned for the duration of the war.

The work of CSIS cannot be dismissed as uncovering only "few dozen at best" jihadists in Canada. It is fewer than "a few dozen"  who are currently in jail for conspiracy to blow up buildings in downtown Toronto. It was fewer that "a few dozen" who destroyed the World Trade Center and attacked the Pentagon. It was fewer than "a few dozen" who blew up the Madrid and London subways. 

Given recent history, death is more than an "infinitesimal" possibility.

Yes, let's rid ourselves of "clichés and misconceptions," and be welcoming, but keeping history in mind. 

Siddiqui's verbatim reply: "It is not an excuse. It is a fact of European history. You defending the Pope's statement that he himself has recanted and apologized for and mostly reversed himself on? But I do thank you for reading."

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Entrepreneurial Stealth

Average citizens have the means of expressing disapproval should they believe their government is corrupt or over-taxing them.

 In Spain, there is a growing stealth economy, that is, out of government sight. Clandestine restaurants are springing up in hidden places, such as basements, garages, lofts and warehouses.

In one case, the proprietor buys his supplies in bulk from friends in wholesale markets. All transactions are in cash. Diners are warned, should the police raid the place, to clap hands and sing Happy Birthday, thus creating the illusion of a gathering of friends. To enhance the deception, family photographs grace the walls, and there's a toothbrush in the bathroom. He numbers among his clientele bargain-hunting police officers.

Other Spaniards have converted their apartments into jazz clubs. They have no listed address, and are found only through word of mouth, Facebook or Twitter.

Economists estimate these unlicenced places are depriving the already financially battered government of some 30 billion Euros ($50 billion) in taxes each year. That amounts to 20 percent of Spain's gross domestic product.

Meanwhile, in tax-strapped Greece, citizens have resorted to scavenging for wood for their fireplaces. All that to avoid the taxes on heating oil which the government increased last fall by 450 percent. It's not working as planned. Heating oil sales have plunged 70 percent from a year earlier. The cost to the government is about $190 million.

This has spawned a new businesses of selling wood.The source of some of the wood is illegal logging in national parks, and thefts of trees and limbs from city parks. Air pollution has been measured at three times normal levels. The deforestation is occurring at a rate not seen since the German occupation in the Second World War. (Source, The New York Times, Feb. 10, 2013)

In less harassed France, le systèm D thrives. "D" for se débrouiller which means to work it out for yourself. The citizenry do it in spades. Inventive Parisians we once knew did it this way.

To avoid paying for a licence for his television, the existence of which was disclosed by an aerial on the roof, (or possibly to avoid the cost of the aerial itself), the owner installed a wire mesh covering the entire ceiling of his bedroom. Somehow, this gave him adequate reception.

Another "D" neighbour,  from time to time drove to Germany to purchase exotic fish eggs. These he hatched in his apartment by placing the eggs in receptacles that filled almost every flat surface of his home. When grown, the fish were sold to local collectors, for cash, of course.

Meanwhile, his wife operated a knitting machine. The clothing she produced was exchanged for groceries with the merchant down the street.

The neighbour across the street worked for the post office. I regularly saw him stop his post office truck, and deposit his wife and a load of groceries.

And so the big wheel keeps turning under the government radar.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Think Before You Lend

Do not lend to anyone stronger than yourself. If you do, resign yourself to loss -- Ecclesiasticus 8:13.

To wage war against England, Phillip IV of France became deeply indebted to the Knights Templar in 1307. To shed the debt, Phillip accused the knights of heresy, and ordered them burned at the stake.

To wage war against France, Edward III of England borrowed money from the banks of the Bardi and Peruzzi families. His defaults in 1343 and 1346 destroyed both banks, and that brought down a third bank. (Later, to borrow money, Edward had to leave his queen and children as security.)

In 15th century France, merchant and financier Jacques Coeur of Bourges was believed to be the richest man in the world. Charles VII and other powerful people were indebted to him. To rid themselves of this burden, Charles and his associates falsely accused Coeur of various crimes, including the murder of the king's mistress. Wrongly convicted, he was fined, and his property confiscated, mostly by the king.

The London bank of the Medici closed in 1472 because it could not recoup its loan to King Edward IV. (Pesky bunch, those Edwards.) The Medici family bank in Bruges lost money because Charles the Bold of Burgundy refused to repay. Other defaulted loans to the powerful caused this bank to be liquidated. As a bank manager of the time said, "No ever become embroiled with great lords without losing his feathers in the end."

We have today's version of this type of financing. The client lends money to a bank through a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC). Its fixed-period allows the bank to arrange its affairs to its own schedule and needs.

On the other hand, a bank lends money by way of a call loan. The borrowed money must be returned immediately the bank demands it. Whether borrowing or lending, the bank is in control, not the client.

It gets worse. By way of financial legerdemain, the Government of Cyprus, in 2013, shifted the enormous debt of the nation's banks onto the shoulders of depositors. According to the Toronto Star, the Canadian version of this manoeuvre entails the government placing a bank's debt on not just stockholders, but on anyone who has made a loan such as a GIC, paid into a mutual fund, or even deposited money into a savings account.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Rights case exposes yet another legal defect

Letter to the Toronto Star published January 31, 2013

Re Human rights tribunal probes illegal 'rent deposits,' Jan. 28:

This case points out a serious flaw in our human rights legislation. The complainant, a would-be tenant, was asked to pay a year's rent in advance. This violated the Ontario Residential Tenancies Act. Rather than bring court action against the landlord, the complainant appealed to the Human Rights Tribunal.

In this way, the complainant's costs will be borne by taxpayers, while the defendant must pay for his own defence. Should the complaint fail, the defendant cannot claim costs from the complainant. Should the complaint succeed, the defendant must pay at least the $10,000 the complainant demands.

The defect in this procedure lies in the financial incentive to bring such actions to the Human Rights Tribunal rather than to court where they belong. Also, if the awards were paid to the government, many complaints would wither away.

On March 7, a settlement announced, but not the details. Such secrecy exposes one more defect. The tribunal decision should not be secret. It affects all landlords.

For more examples of misguided thinking, click "human rights" below.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

LCBO Sniffing Alcohol Fumes

When not price-gouging beer, wine and spirits purchasers, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) indulges in its own brand of fuzzy thinking. The recently harmonized sales tax lowers the tax rate on LCBO products from the current 12 percent to eight percent. This indicated a lower retail price.

Now begins the mixed message known as fuzzy thinking: Prices increased. Big Brother LCBO claimed a "social responsibility" preventing it from lowering prices to a level that would encourage alcohol abuse. As if lowering prices a few pennies would produce more drunk drivers, more broken homes or more productive hours lost. The Board did not explain how it determined the price level that would discourage alcohol abuse.

Yet at the same time, the LCBO sold wines and spirits at discount prices of up to four dollars. In February 2013, a slick 16-page insert in daily newspapers, screamed: "Discover savings in every aisle", "Collect more all month long", "Bold value", "Save $6.00" on cognac, $3.95 on rum (increased to $5 in 2014) and so on for 12 pages. And the following week, a 40-page booklet extolled the social importance of hosting a party "like a bon vivant" with Southern Cocktails. And radio advertising with a women's dulcet tones promising the good life.

How does lowering prices by a few pennies discourage alcohol abuse, while much larger discounts do not? According to the Ontario Finance Minister, the smaller price decrease would be reckless. No word what he thought about the steeper discount prices, and the ceaseless promotion.

Purportedly for "social responsibility" reasons, the Board has also increased its mark-up on imported wines from 64 to 71.5 percent, and on domestic wines from 58 to 65.5 percent. This is the business ruse of using a new system to increase profits, as occurred when Canada went metric, as currently occurring while the one-cent coin is withdrawn from circulation.

Fuzzy thinking is elevated to an art form when the LCBO hides behinds the skirts of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The Board claims a close association with organizations formed to promote safe consumption of alcohol. How does it explain to mothers the discounts and promotions?

Premier Dalton McGuinty did not deny the charge of price gauging. This will all look good for LCBO nabobs when they next demand fat pay increases or bonuses.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Switzerland Taxes Believability

A Reuters report informs us that Switzerland "intends to take a tougher stance on multinational companies which have minimized their tax bills by channelling revenues through low-tax jurisdictions."

This comes from one of the many little nations whose economies float on the dirty money of the world. In its secret accounts, this mountainous region hides billions of dollars for tin-pot dictators, drug dealers, money launderers and just ordinary tax-dodging rich people.

In Switzerland, tax avoidance evasion is a national pastime, but only when done against foreign nations. When the victim is the Swiss government itself, righteousness sets in.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Magic Box Appears in Toronto, One More Time

During the 1950s when feelings of nationalism were stirring among many Africans, some people decided to capitalize on the situation. They went about the countryside selling "independence boxes".

They convinced purchasers that the boxes contained all the wonders of independence -- freedom, security, success, comfort, and perhaps an improvement in the weather. Your problems and anxieties will disappear, they promised, but on condition you do not open the box until the day of independence.

In 1973, a fund-raiser for the separatist party rolled into Quebec and sold $800,000 worth of boxes containing "completed things", "a culture and a country", "something good and creative", with the promise "you have nothing to lose."

In 1989, the box emerged in Toronto. It contained the multi-purpose SkyDome that would cost the taxpayer not one cent. In the hope of a return on their investment, Ontario citizens shelled out $360 million towards the building's cost of $578 million.  When the box was opened, fifteen years later, this financial boondoggle was sold to Rogers Communication for $25 million.

The magic box has reappeared in the form of a casino proposed by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation.  The Toronto Taxpayers Coalition promises that the box is loaded with wondrous things -- $400 million for a "fully funded subway expansion", one kilometre of subway tunnelling annually, and "the cornerstone of a fully funded subway expansion plan that doesn't raise taxes one cent."

The Coalition report promotes the casino as an opportunity the city "cannot afford to pass up". The mission statement of this three-year old group says, in part, "While taxes are a fact of life, properly tendering contracts and prudent fiscal planning, budgeting, and spending will dramatically reduce the tax burdon (sic) on our residents."

The taxpayer will not know what's at the bottom of the box until the casino is in operation. OLG CEO Paul Godfrey admits Toronto's share of the income will not know until after Toronto Council has made its decision. Sign a blank cheque, he urges. Only when it's too late will the income and tax and social burden be known.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Dirty Money In Little Countries and their Abettors

In September 2010, CBC-TV reported that 1,785 Canadians are hiding money in HSBC Bank in Switzerland. The Opposition in Parliament demanded the government press criminal charges against those named in documents received leaked by a former bank employee.

The Tax Justice Network (TJN) has designated Switzerland the least transparent, that is the most secretive, in financial matters, in the world. What is this mountainous region hiding?

Despite evidence of wrong doing, the Canadian government is about (October 2010) to sign an agreement with the Swiss government which allows Canadian accounts to remain hidden. In the future, if the government presents credible evidence of Canadian laws being violated, application may be made to the bankers in yodel land. Thus, the victim must apply to the perpetrator-enabler who will decide if the evidence is credible.

The Swiss government said it would agree to exchange information with other countries on a case-by-case basis for "specific and justified" requests. In the land that gave us the cuckoo clock, tax evasion is a national pastime. (This nation's actions in moving Nazi-confiscated money during the Second World Was are part of its glorious history.)

The United States Department of Justice has exposed fraud abetted by UBS, Switzerland's largest bank. There are an estimated 52,000 tax-dodging Americans hiding about $15-billion in UBS accounts. Rather than face prosecution for conspiracy to defraud the American people, the bank agreed to open its books and pay a $780-million penalty.

It paid the fine.  By October 2010, the bank still refused to open its books claiming that release of clients' names would place their employees in danger of prosecution. Well yes, that's the idea. The 60 staff members knowingly involved in the scam deserve punishment.

The bank also contends that release of clients' names violates Swiss privacy laws and constitution. Thus the government is complicit in what would be a crime in any other country.

Counting on the public's short-term memory, in January 2011, UBS ran a series of feel-good ads in The New York Times.

British tax authorities plan to chase 50-billion Euros in unpaid tax on money sent abroad to Switzerland and Luxembourg.

The Swiss government is involved in this global conspiracy. It enjoys the taxes paid by banks on its revenue from these accounts amounting annually to about $120 million. In return, the government enacts laws designed to protect this globally harmful practice.

This is particularly strange. In 1991, Switzerland's Federal Banking Commission announced that the country would abolish "most" of its anonymous accounts. This, in a bid to rehabilitate the nation's reputation by forcing tax dodgers to hide their money elsewhere. More than twenty years later, little has changed.

U.S. prosecutors have also launched a criminal investigation into American clients of HSBC with accounts in Asia. In a similar probe, German authorities have raided all 13 branches of Credit Suisse. This bank harbours an estimated 80 billion dirty dollars. Britain has joined the hunt for untaxed earnings held by 6,000 of its richest and most powerful.

The Boston Consulting Group says that nine trillion (yes, trillion) of untaxed money is stashed in these accounts. Switzerland accounts for at least $1.8 trillion of it.

It's time to punish nations such as Switzerland whose economies float on the dirty money of the world (listed below). Some of these pieces of land would not even exist as nations were it not for their destructive banking services. Honest people do not need accounts hidden from legitimate scrutiny. 

The civilized world must boycott nations offering safe haven for the ill-got proceeds of tax dodgers, tin-pot dictators, tyrants and Ponzi scheme operators. According to the Canadian Centre for Policy alternatives, these people annually evade taxes amounting to more than $250 billion.

Yasser Arafat tucked away $5-billion in Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Cayman Islands. Auditors have traced to Swiss banks $240-million in the names of the sons of deposed Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. Augusto Pinochet of Chile hid $25-million in foreign banks. How much of the Ugandan treasury did Idi Amin stow in such accounts? Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines? Suharto of Indonesia? Gaddafi of Libya? The deposed Shah of Iran siphoned off millions into foreign banks.  Moussa Traoré has stashed away much of  the wealth of Mali. How much of the Afghanistan treasury has the Karzai family moved to Swiss banks? 

Taxes estimated at $35-billion annually are lost to the debt-stricken Greek economy by 2,059 of its wealthiest citizens.  Their $3.3 billion is in the Geneva branch of HSBC.  

In October 2010, the names of these Greek tax evaders (the Lagarde list) was given to the former Greek finance minister.  He is accused of removing from the list the names of three of his relatives, claiming that someone else had erased the names.  In October 2012, the list was published by an independent magazine. The journalist, Costas Vaxevanis, was arrested and charged with invasion of privacy. His lawyers have informed him of other pending charges. "The case was a top story in the international press," Vaxevanis said, "but not in the country where it took place." 

Owners of hidden accounts do not receive interest.  Rather, they pay an annual fee.  Therefore, if the access number should die with the tyrant, the Swiss bank will eventually take the entire account.  In the meantime, have free use of that money for its own purposes.

Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier is a special case. In the decade before his ouster, he embezzled at least $500 million which he deposited with UBS. By January 2011, Duvalier learned that chateau living is expensive, so his hoard had dwindled to $6 million. So, Baby Doc returned to Haiti in hopes of getting more. Haitians also wonder where the $300 million, Duvalier's friends stole from the treasury of that impoverished island has been deposited. The issue remains unsettled.

Where would these little countries be without money from deposed Liberian president Charles Taylor, Zimbabwe's blood-diamonds Robert Mugabe, the self-serving war lord Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, Omar al-Bashir of Sudan? Fingers also point to corrupt leaders of Ukraine as Swiss bank patrons.

Word is that Libya's Gadhafi family have billions of dollars salted away in Dubai. A probe into the assets of deposed (January 2011) Tunisian leader Ben Ali and his 33 of his family extends to Switzerland.

The world must also condemn nations whose banks and governments benefit from blood diamonds, weapons dealers, drug lords, slave traders, crime syndicates and money launderers, as well as garden variety tax evaders.

American authorities have obtained documents showing that the bank runs similar operations for about 5,000 Canadians and the $5.6-billion they have hidden in UBS. The Canadian government must follow the American lead and expose our home-grown tax evaders, drug dealers and other criminals.

Wealthy Americans have now (2011) withdrawn almost completely from Swiss banks. This, as a result of the global clampdown on tax evasion and that dispute between U.S. authorities and UBS.

 July 23, 2012

Research by TJN states that offshore havens are currently hiding $32 trillion in non-taxed wealth. It sets the amount of lost annual tax revenue to national governments at $280 billion. This does not include non-financial assets such as real estate, yachts, gold, diamonds and racehorses.

This ability to hide money especially harms the economies of 139 developing countries, the report continues. It estimates that since the 1970s, the richest citizens of these countries had amassed $7.3 to $9.3 trillion of "unrecorded offshore wealth".  This represents "a huge black hole in the world economy", according to TJN economist James Henry. 

November 2, 2012

A letter to the Globe and Mail from a Liberal Senator reads in part: "The case of Canadians with secret bank accounts in Liechtenstein is well-known. A list of 106 Canadians with accounts totalling more than $100-million was given to Ottawa in 2007. Five years later, less than one-third of the money owing has been collected. And not a single charge."

January 5, 2013

The United States has been pursuing tax dodgers through a combination of pressure on offshore havens  and amnesty programs at home.  In December, UK-based HSBC Holdings (Europe's largest bank by assets)  paid US$1.9-billion settlement with the American government for its activities in money laundering in aid of drug traffickers.

To that same end, Switzerland's oldest bank, Weglin, paid U.S. authorities $57.8 million for its conspiracy to help Americans evade taxes. The bank's managing partner said its behaviour is common in Swiss banking. The bank went out of business permanently, telling is, in effect, its entire operation was of this nature.  

Switzerland's State Secretariat for International Financial Matters is negotiating with U.S. officials for an industry-wide settlement. This tends to confirm the suspicion that every Swiss bank is in the business of sheltering the world's dirty money. 

Of the 8O  tax havens in the world, places that provide legal and financial secrecy, the Tax Justice Network lists the  ten worst offenders. In TJN order:  Maldives, Nauru, Antigua and Barbuda, Netherlands Antilles, Bermuda, Brunei Dar es Salaam,  Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Guatemala, St. Kitts and Nevis, Lebanon, St. Lucia, Liechtenstein, Liberia, Marshall Islands, Macau, Montserrat, Seychelles, Turks & Caicos, Samoa, British Virgin Islands.

March 19, 2013

The Argentine government has accused HSBC Holdings PLC of conspiracy to hide bank accounts, thereby helping private companies to evade tax payments and launder money.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Guns and Rights

The Portage County District Library of Ohio posted this notice on its website: 

It is illegal to carry a firearm, deadly weapon, or dangerous ordinance anywhere on library premises, pursuant to the Ohio Revised Code.

On March 2, 2010, the US Supreme Court declared that a state law banning the carrying of guns constitutes a violation of citizens' right to defend themselves against criminals.  Never mind that the United States has more hand-gun deaths than the rest of the world combined.

The Second Amendment, on which this decision is based, reads: A well regulated Militia, being necessary for the security of a State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed

Under the jack-boot of the American gun lobby, the National Rifle Association (NRA), courts have contorted the obvious meaning of this amendment into the virtually uncontrolled use of firearms, or have been paid off since judges run for office down there.  The "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" clause in the US Constitution is also invoked by the NRA.

This is another example of the limitation of law.  Rather than debating the social benefits of carrying guns or not, the matter rests on whether or not a ban violates the Constitution.  No thought is given to the value of a document that permits such behaviour, or to rescinding the Second Amendment.

More gun-related reports from the USA:

In January 2014, pre-eminent gun journalist lost his job with Guns and Ammo magazine, lost his job as star of a gun television show, and lost the income from gun endorsements. The October 2013 issue of the magazine ran his column titled "Let's talk limits" in which Dick Metcalf  suggested there be a debate on US gun laws. The former Cornell and Yale history professor wrote, "The fact is all constitutional rights are regulated, always have been and need to be."  

The wrath of almost every gun-toting American descended on him, as well as e-mail death threats. Similar happened to Jerry Tsai, editor of Recoil magazine for writing that body-piercing ammunition was "unavailable to civilians and for good reason."   And in 2007, author of 23 hunting books, Jim Zimbo, was punished for suggesting that military-style rifles were "terrorists" weapons.

States that have official weapons:
Utah --  the Browning MI911
Arizona -- the Colt revolver
Tennessee -- the Barrett .50-calibre rifle
Pennsylvania -- Pennsylvania Long Rifle
West Virginia --  1819 flintlock rifle 

Also from gun-addled Arizona comes a report that state legislators want to arm university professors and students.  The argument runs that they should have the fire power to ward off the next deranged campus invader. It is difficult to image teachers becoming gun-slingers when many in our police forces fail accuracy tests. [See Guns label below.]

In August 2012, a three-year-old deaf boy in Nebraska was ordered to change the way he signs his name.  School authorities claim that his hand gestures may look like a gun.  School policy forbids any "instrument" that "looks like a weapon".

In January 2013, a six-year-old Maryland boy was suspended from school for pointing his finger like a gun and saying "pow".  Earlier, he was accused of pretending scissors were a gun.  A school official characterized these actions as threats to shoot a student.  The family's lawyer is trying to get the school system to remove the incident from the boy's permanent record.  Such reports may be used against the youngster for the rest of his life.

Thus, in the United States, it is legal to carry a loaded assault rifle into a school.  It is not illegal until the perpetrator actually shoots someone.  But should a youngster make an imitative gesture, retribution will follow.