Monday, December 21, 2015

Arts Reflect the Times

The arts present the mood of the time. Renaissance painting, sculpture and literature reflected the development of thought from that of the Middle Ages. New things, new ideas were in the air. So said the arts. Scientific discoveries influenced seventeenth century writers. The age of romanticism with its narcissistic self-absorption was a reaction to excessive devotion to reason evident in the terror of the French Revolution.

For years, I have added to my scrapbooks numerous copies of Dilbert, the comic strip by Scott Adams. Years back, they consisted of harmless mocking of human nature in the workplace. They described poignantly the interplay among time-serving, error-prone employees and their attitude towards muddled management. Much humour, some truth.

Slowly, the content of the comic strip changed. The message became an exposé of corporate greed and legal dishonesty. Increasingly, acts of deception, and the word "lies" appeared to describe what once was mere company gibberish. The protagonist now speaks of societal breakdown and the disappearance of respect for the rule of law. Despite the humourous mode of the message, does that describe the state of today's civilization?

Even when allowing for the mushiness of history, we note the strong connection between the arts and the era of their creation.

Monday, December 14, 2015

A Merry Christmas to all

Letter to the Toronto Star published complete on line, and only the ultimate sentence in print, December 11:

Re: Why 'Happy Holidays' doesn't ring true, Dec. 8:

During a visit to Israel, the country was celebrating Hanukkah. The locals extended best wishes to me, a Christian. I thanked them and returned the expression of goodwill. Emma Teitel rightly takes issue with the politically correct who would downgrade 'Merry Christmas' to 'Happy Holidays'.  

While he was mayor, Mel Lastman informed those responsible for city hall decorations that it was a Christmas tree, not a Seasonal Tree as some described it. I trust no one would describe the Menorah now in Nathan Philips Square as a 'seasonal candelabra'. 

Diversity means the honouring of differences, their inclusion, not suppression.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Tribal Thinking versus the Rule of Law

It is distressing to learn the Government of Israel has ordered the destruction of the homes of three Palestinians charged with the drive-by killing of an Israeli couple. The demolition was approved by the Israeli Supreme Court.

This, over the objections of Israeli human rights groups.  A spokesperson said, "The notion that it's acceptable to punish people for other people's actions is an affront to the law."

The homes are on Israeli-occupied Palestinian land bordering the Jordan River and the Dead Sea commonly known as the West Bank.

Distressing because the demolitions left the perpetrators' families homeless. The sin of one merits the punishment of the innocent many, or so primitive thinking would have it.

To punish someone not involved in wrong-doing evidences a tribal mentality, one not in accord with the Rule of Law to which the  Israeli government claims allegiance.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

When rights become wrongs

"Is anything ever safe when everyone pursues his rights to the letter?" Erasmus

A paper on "rights inflation" at the Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences at Ottawa earlier this year reported that international law now recognized more than 300 "rights" including affordable Internet access.

Things that simply feel good have morphed into rights. If you disagree with someone, he may claim it as a violation of his rights and demand compensation. As two of them can occupy one seat in an aircraft, two midgets claim the right to pay for only a single ticket. Also claiming single-seat fare is the obese person who occupies two seats.

"You have a right to do well financially. " So advertises investment advisor Hollis Wealth. Holders of Greek bonds have appealed to the European Court Human Rights claiming their rights would be violated should the Greek government default on bond payments.

In this atmosphere of grievance collecting, we see increasing demands that one's particular complaint be added to the ever-growing list of of "human rights." All this minimizes the importance of true rights, which appear in the pertinent legislation of developed countries.

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has further warped the process in its ban on public access to its hearings. Except in special situations, it is illegal to record the proceedings. And then the record may not be used in a judicial review even if false evidence had been presented and accepted.

As Conrad Black sees it: "I doubt the Charter [of Rights and Freedoms] accomplished much substantively beyond unleashing Canada's under-qualified judges to meddle open-endedly in social animation,"

Monday, September 7, 2015

Quebec human rights folly

"In the Internet age, any attempt to exclude all racial or other prejudice from public discourse would require extraordinary intervention by the state." So argued University of Windsor law professor Richard Moon. In his 2008 report to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, Moon opined that the police are better suited to dealing with hate mongers. In other words, freedom of expression trumps over-board minority rights legislation.

The Quebec National Assembly in June tabled a proposed law empowering the human rights commission to investigate websites or individuals it suspects of inciting violence or hatred against an identifiable group.

Definitions of violence and hatred need not be the same as those used in courts of law. With regulatory boards, words change meaning to suit the desired decision.

Those who complain of violence and hatred remain anonymous even through the complainant be not part of the identifiable group allegedly attacked. As happens too often in other jurisdictions, the complainant is registered to share in the financial penalty that follows commission rulings. Human rights commissions are rightly viewed as cash cows even for non-victim bounty hunters.

The Quebec law would give the commission authority to shut down websites, Facebook accounts and any other form of expression even before the investigation is complete. No innocence until proven guilty for these people.

Back in 2009, Ontario Human Rights Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall advocated the investigation and censoring of websites. She called for a national press council with compulsory membership for all on-line services. She sought to empower it to expose any breach of professional standards on the Internet, as she deemed them to be.

Commenting on the failed Hall initiative, The National Post editorialized, "...making all writers, bloggers and broadcasters hostage to a national press council is merely the first step toward letting the Barbara Halls of the world decide what you get to hear, see and read."

Undeterred by history or common sense, the Quebec government forges ahead.

See my blog post "Follow continues at the Ontario Human Rights Commission" Feb 16, 2009.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Please Fence Me Out

A yahoo politician seeking the Republican 2016 presidential nomination advocates a fence across the continent between the U.S. and Canada. 

I agree.

As a tribute to the U.S. fetish for guns and its sponsor, the National Rifle Association, the fence would be adorned with miles and kilometres of yellow tape warning: CRIME SCENE. DO NOT ENTER.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The deficit fetish

Letter to the Toronto Star, unpublished.

Re Trudeau touts red ink as road to prosperity, Aug. 28 (2015):

In reaction to Justin Trudeau's plan to revive the economy, Thomas Mulcair asked, "Why do you feel the need to be an even greater deficit hawk than the prime minister?"  Mr. Mulcair has forgotten his mentor, Tommy Douglas.

When asked how he would finance his war on social wrongs, such as poverty, Douglas referred to 1939. In the  Great Depression, Canada got into the Second World War. There were means to fight a war then and there are means to fight a war now, Douglas contended.

With deficit financing and borrowing from Canadians themselves through war bonds, Canada fought the war and emerged a world power To replace our decaying infrastructure, deficit financing is a proper decision.

As for Stephen Harper, he has left the stage on this issue, last seen wandering tearfully around an oil patch.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The stock market and the Daily Bread Food Bank

"Feed their hopes, but give them only just enough to keep them from despair," Maxims and Reflections of Francesco Guicciardini (1483-1540).

Wal-Mart stock dropped 3 percent after the company announced wage increases for their U.S. employees. An hourly salary of  $8.78 will increase to $10 sometime next year. No word if this largesse will be shared with Canadians.  Even if it does, it will not keep Wal-Mart employees from visiting the Daily Bread Food Bank.

It's ironic that certain Wal-Mart outlets contain drop boxes for the Food Bank. Ironic because it is Wal-Mart employees who are forced to use that service. Customers who  donate to those boxes are in effect subsidizing Wal-Mart starvation wages, and if the donated food was purchased at Wal-Mart, to  improving the company's profit margin.

All this inspired the revival a blog post of June 9, 2008: "Stock market promotes class warfare." Here it is:

Several years ago, the error-prone Canadian Imperial Bank of Canada (CIBC) negotiated a financial arrangement with the ill-fated Enron Corporation. "In order to extract itself from an Enron-related class-action suit, CIBC would concede a US$2.4-million settlement, the largest one-time charge ever taken by a Canadian bank, " according to The Financial Post of June 2006. CIBC maintained this in no way admitted any wrong-doing. (Do they enjoy giving away their money?)

This news was delivered to CIBC shareholders by Gerald McCaughey to whom had just been passed the CEO's mantle "from the singed fingertips of John Hunkin" who signed the Enron deal while enjoying a salary of $29.5-million (Report on Business, October 2006). To help re-coup some of this loss, McCaughey "took the axe to 950 managers, including 50 executives." This contribution to the unemployed garnered shareholder praise.

McCaughey's action threw 950 breadwinners on the job market, while Hunkin retired "with approximately $52 million in stock and securities" (The Globe and Mail, August 5, 2005).

On one side of the financial divide, we have the bank shareholders demanding even more bloodletting in order to enhance share value. On the other side, we have almost a thousand newly unemployed, one of whom may be you or your neighbour. In one house, we see a shareholder cheering while next door the family of a former banker worries about the mortgage and the cost of the children's education.

On the national scene, we see share value increasing as unemployment increases. It signals to employers greater competition among the unemployed for the jobs they offer. The temptation to take advantage of the situation is too great in the face of shareholder demands for greater profits. It means lower wages, fewer benefits, and worse working conditions for employees.

Internationally, we see large corporations moving offshore in order to realize lower costs and lower taxes. Again shareholders cheer as their own domestic economic base disintegrates.

Hedge fund investors speculate on the price of oil in the hope that tropical storms will strike the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico thus reducing oil availability. They cheer unrest in the Middle East. That too increases oil prices. [2015 note: Current low oil prices are due to Saudi Arabia politics, not economics.]

Much of the stock market is based on harm to a large segment of society for the benefit of the minority of investors who profit from injury to their fellow citizens.

As these scenarios multiply across our economy, we have the seeds of class warfare. The very nature of the stock market pits one element of society against the other.

"Modern societies are conflictual: class against class, interest against interest, men against women, workers against employers. In this, Marx was deeply right."  -- Michael Ignatieff, The Rights Revolution.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Canada first. No one in second place.

My parents came to Canada during the 1920s.  They were poor, no formal education, spoke no English, were Catholic and settled in rabidly Protestant Toronto. They became Canadian citizens as soon as law allowed. In their long lives, they never spoke of the glories of their Austrian homeland nor of how things were done differently and better over there. They did not bring European politics to Canada.

Little wonder I have no patience for partisan and nationalist arguments among later immigrants. Disputes in foreign lands must be left there.

Little wonder my patience ran out in 2010. The then Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty met with the Indian transport minister to discuss trade. Because of a grievance back in India, a group of Sikhs protested. "Unless they make amends quickly, the Liberals will definitely lose this community's votes," said Harbans Jandali, president of the Ontario Sikh  and Gurdwara Council.

I sent a letter to the Toronto Star arguing that foreign problems are better left off-shore and that Canadian politicians should not be held hostage to behaviour on the other side of the world. I sent a similar letter to Mr. Jandali. The newspaper did not publish, nor did Mr. Jandali reply.

This came to mind when I read a report in the Star of August 13, 2015 headlined, "Canadian Jews in Israel could help Harper."

My email to the Star, also unpublished:

It's disappointing if people holding Canadian citizenship but living permanently in foreign countries vote in Canadian elections in a way to further the interests of those countries in preference to those of Canada.

In the forthcoming election, some such Canadians living in Israel will vote for Stephen Harper because of his stand on Middle East affairs.

Disappointing because my vote on Canadian issues will be cancelled by a single-issue voter concerned more with off-shore matters than with our economy, health care, Aboriginal rights, research funding, the environment and so on.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Will the real Billy Bishop please stand up

Letter to the Toronto Star, August 1, 2015. Unpublished.

World War flying ace Billy Bishop may or may not be proud of the tunnel to the Toronto airport bearing his name (Billy would be proud, editorial, July 31).

More likely he would cringe at the thought there has long been an airport named after him in his home town of Owen Sound. Imagine a flight from Billy Bishop to Billy Bishop.

Yes, Bishop trained World War Two pilots at this site. But was there need to take the name of an existing facility? Toronto Island Airport makes more sense. The present name should be changed.

*   *   *
August 17, after-thought. The airport should have been named after Canada's most decorated soldier, Lt.-Col. William Barker. This Manitoba farm boy shot down 50 enemy aircraft during the First World War. He also received awards from France and Italy. There is always time to make a correction.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

More censorship at the Toronto Star

The issue here is the Toronto Star's apparent double-speak. The photograph that appears in the Star shows Justin Trudeau in a Pride Parade alongside a young women with her breasts exposed. The Star blurred out her nipples. Thus my unpublished letter of August 8, 2015. 

Re Topless photos with Trudeau cause Internet commotion, Aug. 7:

The Toronto Star promotes the Pride parade as a "family event." In other words, you recommend we take our children to see topless women in the flesh. Yet, when it comes to publishing photographs of this "family event," you indulge in censorship, as in this case. Can you explain this double-dealing scented with a whiff of hypocrisy?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Olympics for Toronto? Let the people decide

Letter to the Toronto Star, published July 31, 2015.

Re 61% of Torontonians want the Olympics, July 27:
The only poll that counts is the vote of the people. Any Olympic bid by Toronto must begin with the people, all of them, not just 755 as in this poll.  A referendum may well show that citizens have higher priorities for the spending of billions of their tax dollars.
The bid itself costs millions of dollars. The City of Chicago spent $60 million in its unsuccessful bid for the 2016 Olympics. Colorado was awarded the 1976 Winter Olympics. Then the people were consulted, and they voted it down.

The history of bribery in mega-events is well known. All citizens of a free country deserve a voice with regard to unnecessary expenditures.

*   *   *

On August 8, Star columnist Royson James adopted his editor's promotion of the event. (Would a contrary opinion be allowed in that paper?)  James extols the Olympics in literary flights of fancy: "There is no greater test of a city's mettle: no more pressing and irrepressible mandate for success on a stage where the alternative is embarrassment; no more exhilarating gathering of the world's peoples."

On the other hand, James describes the opposition as "highbrow," those who "lack faith" and others "stricken with delusional self-loathing." And other forms of name-calling. Such are the flights of turgid prose. He cites the poll mentioned above as definitive. 

Mr. James' roster of miscreants must include Eric Reguly. By coincidence on the same day, the Globe and Mail's European Bureau Chief explained "why Olympic games remain money-suckling boondoggles."  Reguly tells why his home town does not need "a coming-out party," and that "winning them would be little more than an ego massage." Curious, these are two main reasons why the Toronto Star wants this event.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Canada Post, censorship or not?

In March 2014, Canada Post issued a public apology. It had delivered to residents of Happy Valley-Goose Bay flyers critical of the homosexual lifestyle. In a published letter to the Toronto Star, I asked if the corporation had become a censorship agency responsible for the content of what it delivers.

This month, the issue flared up again. The flyer in question was pro-life (anti-abortion to others) but found offensive by some. The postal union got into the act by claiming some letter carriers were upset about the flyers and have balked at delivering them. The union "supports our members who feel they have a legitimate concern that a corporation like Canada Post should work to preserve family values."  So now it's the the union that wants into the censorship business.

Common sense at last. A Canada Post spokesperson stated that the corporation is not responsible for the content of mail and is legally obligated to deliver all such material.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

How not to win friends

To secure an advocate for one's cause, there are ways to go about it, and ways not to go about it.

At a trial in Toronto, the charge was living off the avails of prostitution, in street parlance, pimping. As the Crown Attorney's questions became more pointed, the accused thought he would win the jury's sympathy. He shouted at the prosecutor, "Admit it. You've been after me for years because I once shot a cop."  If any jury members were asleep, that woke them up. He was found guilty.

Land-locked Bolivia would like access to the nearby Pacific Ocean over the territory of its neighbour, Chile. During the return flight to Rome following his recent visit to South America, Pope Francis was asked by a Bolivian national if he would mediate this dispute. The pope said he could not comment as the issue was currently before the International Court of Justice. In any event, was the pope disposed to help?

A few days earlier, Bolivia's leftist president, Evo Morales, presented Francis with a gift. It was a cross in the shape of a hammer with a sickle mounted on it.  A "communist cross" is hardly the way to win a friend then ask him for help.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Greece, Toronto and Subsidiarity

Letter to the Toronto Star. Unpublished.

Richard Gwyn points out the flaw in bigness ("Taking on the bullies," July 7, 2015).  Much of the pain now endured by the people of Greece can be traced to the enormous bureaucracy of the European Union, Gwyn maintains. 

Elsewhere in the same issue of the Toronto Star we see the headline "Amalgamation a flop, Fraser study suggests."  The report questions the purported financial advantage of amalgamating Metropolitan Toronto into a mega-city. Purported cost savings were not realized. In fact, overall costs increased. This mistake was the work of the government of Mike Harris who believed bigger is better. 

In Toronto, there is talk of de-amalgamation. Europeans should also be thinking in terms of de-centralization, of invoking subsidiarity, that is the placing of control of various matters with the smallest government level best able to handle it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Equity Demands Equal Pain

In a recent decision, Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Peter Lauwers wrote, "The legislative scheme offers no way out for people who are impoverished, dealing with health issues, or other difficulties, and who bear the burdens of these enormous fines for many years... It is most unfortunate that there is no process in the system for commuting old and back-breaking fines for people who have little prospect of paying therm, and whose lives are being ruined."

 The Canadian Law Dictionary defines equity as "Justice according to natural reason and good conscience as distinct from that which is strictly according to law."

In the spirit of Justice Lauwers' enlightened approach to law enforcement and in a spirit of equity, I propose that motor vehicle fines be levied in such a way as to produce equal pain for all offenders, that they be levied according to the defendant's ability to pay.

A $50 parking fine is a serious burden for a low-wage earner but a mere nuisance to a rich person and unlikely to discourage further violations.  Therefore, fines for parking and traffic offences be rated according to the value of the car. Thus the $50 fine for the owner of a modest car would be $100 to $150 for the owner of an up-scale vehicle. The brand name of the car can be programmed into the hand-held devices of ticketing officers such that the ticket automatically indicates the amount of the fine.

Equity demands equal pain for equal violations of the law.

Friday, June 19, 2015

"To kill the Indian in the child" -- never uttered

I recently criticized the Toronto Star for its editorial use of the odious expression "to kill the Indian in the child."  The basis of my objection was the Star's placing these words in quotation marks and failing to attribute them to some actual person.

This occurred in the midst of the vacuous debate of whether the Indian residential schools constituted cultural genocide. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Beverley McLachlin, waded in thereby shedding her robes of judicial impartiality and exposing the legal activist.

Toronto Star apologist Cathy English replied with an excerpt from a speech by Stephen Harper where he used phrase again in quotation marks, again without attribution. On occasion the expression was attributed to the poet Duncan Campbell Scott, long-time Superintendent of Indian Affairs responsible for the residential schools.. Worse still, one correspondent claimed it appears in Canadian legislation.

Statements in quotation marks must be the exact words uttered by an attributable source. Neither the Star nor the Prime Minister followed this essential rule.

For the record, an excerpt from Conversations with a Dead Man; the legacy of Duncan Campbell Scott by Mark Abley:

"But the offending phrase is not Scott's. He never used those words. Neither did any other Canadian official. The quotation can be traced back to a somewhat different statement uttered by a high-ranking officer in the U.S. Army, Richard Henry Pratt, the nineteenth-century superintendent of a residential school in Pennsylvania: 'All the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him and save the man'."

Sunday, June 7, 2015

"Homophobic" rendered meaningless

The word "homophobic" has had a three-stage history.

Early in the twentieth century, "homo" was from the Greek meaning "the same." Homophobic meant fear of the same, that is, fear of boredom.  Apparently ennui was a major concern at that time.  Oscar Wilde described it (ennui) as "the one sin for which there is no forgiveness." According to engram, the word disappeared from common use.

In the mid-1930s, it reappeared, this time in its Latin derivation of "homo" meaning "man." For a short while, homophobic referred to a woman who feared men.

The use of the word since the 1970s should be rendered "homosexualphobia."

Beyond fear, the word is currently used as a pejorative to castigate any questioning or disagreement with homosexual behaviour in public such as walking naked on our main streets or simulating sexual acts many consider lewd.

The word has now used so broadly it has no definable meaning.

Erasing Toronto history

Letter to the Toronto Star, June 3, 2015. Unpublished.

The Star shows concern for the erasure of aboriginal street names (Ojibe street signs bold reminder of aboriginal heritage, June 3), yet none for the disappearance of other historic names. 

I refer to the changing of Cawthra Square in downtown Toronto to Barbara Hall Park. Surely there was some better way to honour the former Human Rights Commissioner than by blotting out the name of one of our early families? 

For more than a century, Cawthra Square was the name of a plot of land in the Isabella and Jarvis area near where William Cawthra's widow lived after her husband's death in 1880. William was a businessman and philanthropist.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

"Who am I to judge?"

This report (Can Pope create a climate for change? May 30) describes Pope Francis as one who “opened the church’s doors to gays by simply saying, Who am I to judge?” 
In a press conference, he said, “A gay person who is seeking God, who is of good will – well, who am I to judge him?” 
In fairness, the entire sentence must always be cited.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The message and the messenger

Letter to the Editor, Toronto Star, May 27. Unpublished.

Re The folly of the 'density creep' crew, May 26:

This column by Heather Mallick is an object lesson on how not to debate an issue. 

Mallick disagrees with residents' objections to a real estate development on their street. "A surly bunch," she describes them.  "Stubby-legged and trousered, sturdy as the two-storey, single-family homes they're defending, they pose in a hostile clump as they alert all Toronto to a coming menace. If you want to catch them smiling, turn the photo upside down."  

Mallick does not like the message, so she attacks the messenger. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

One event, three observations

The event:
Adolescents in a Toronto are vehemently protesting their high school dress code, specifically the injunction against clothing which exposes girls' midriffs. The piece of clothing in  contention was once called a halter top. Young girls believe they have discovered something new because haberdashers now call them crop tops.

Observation One:
"Youth due to its limited experience, tends to gravitate to absolutes. If it rejects, with cause, the absolutes of U.S. policy, it moves easily to separate but equal absolutisms."
               --- Rick Salutin, Toronto Star, May 29, 2015.

Observation Two:
"The young, at an age when they have not yet any experience other than sexual, when they do not yet have years of personal suffering and personal understanding behind them, are jubilantly repeating our depraved Russian blunders of the Nineteenth Century under the impression they are discovering something new . . . But of those who have lived more and understand, those who could oppose these young, many do not dare oppose. They even such suck up, anything not to appear conservative. Another Russian phenomenon of the Nineteenth Century which Dostoevsky called "slavery to progressive quirks."
                --- Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, Nobel Lecture in Literature 1970

Observation Three:
Recently, I saw a reference to "the ethical sensitivity of youth."

Monday, May 25, 2015

Omar Khayyam

OK's to-do list:

--  a loaf of bread from the baker
--  a jug of wine from the vintner
--  a book of verse from the library
--  two song sheets
--  pick up thou
--  head for the wilderness.

P.S. That's Paradise enow.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Muslim dress vs French hot pants

A 15-year old Muslim girl in France has been banned from school for wearing a long black skirt. That's anathema to the nation's cult of secularism. An official said it was not the skirt that was the issue. Rather, because she wore it as a sign of her faith. Are we at that point in Western history where one's motive for wearing a certain piece of clothing is of greater importance than the clothing itself?

She was ordered to wear "neutral clothing." Does that mean mini-skirts and hot pants? Would the government object if a Paris fashion house introduced The Muslim Look?

Much of the current situation stems from idolatry of the state. Its current manifestation, secularism, tends to eliminate personal freedom, as in the case of this young woman. France has a poor record in this regard. The search for a national persona continues. How about something yet untried -- a tolerant and accommodating secularism?

Canada should launch an immigration program in France designed for Muslims. Advertising would read: "Come to Canada. Come as you are. You will be welcomed (except in Quebec)."

In her book "Belonging," former Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson wrote, "True secularism means the acceptance of many beliefs, not the eradication of them all."  

We should all work towards a balance between extreme freedom of expression which sews the seeds of violence and extreme criticism of religion which demeans personal belief. Life entails a balancing of interests, a compromise.

The TTC has gone PC

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is ending Sunday stops outside churches. I can understand the TTC ending Sunday stops for business reasons. 

The excuse offered was intellectually insulting. The spokesperson said, "It's just about ensuring there's some equity." In other words, because some receive an extra service, equity says none can have it. Does that mean consideration for the handicapped and seniors will be abolished?  

The TTC has expressed the race-to-the-bottom mentality of the politically correct. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Sex education

Letter to Toronto Star, published May 9.

Re Dispel myths on sex ed, Editorial, May 2:

This editorial claims that 49 per cent of those polled support the Ontario government's proposed sex education curriculum, while 34 per cent oppose. In the same edition of the Toronto Star we read that 42 per cent support while 40 per cent oppose. Within the margin of error, this constitutes a tie. 

Whichever numbers one uses, each side is a minority. Neither can rightly be described as a "vocal minority" with its covert message of disapproval.

Ninety per cent of Ontarians may agree the curriculum needs updating. That does not confer blanket approval for whatever some in the government deem acceptable. With so many opposed to parts of the proposed curriculum, this has become a classic case calling for accommodation for both sides.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

What standard to judge the past?

Letter to the Toronto Star, April 26.

Re War poet remembered, April 26:

In his review of of a new biography of Rupert Brooke, James Cullingham comes close to the error of presentism -- the judging of historical events in the light of today's purportedly superior standards. 

For example, in his travels across Canada, Brooke met Duncan Campbell Scott whom the reviewer describes as the "now notorious assimilationist Canadian poet and Department of Indian Affairs mandarin." Scott believed the best future for our first nations was assimilation into the European culture. 

That was a common feeling a century ago. Today, some consider it notorious. A century from now, who knows?

Order of Canada B-list

Published in the Toronto Star of May 3, 2015
Burnishing the honour, Editorial April 27
The government is correct when it says there are “under-represented sectors” among recipients of the Order of Canada. That group includes discredited Conservative senators, media clowns and other denizens of yahoo land.
Honours must not be awarded according to geography, notoriety or a misguided notion of democracy. The purpose of any award is to recognize special achievements of deserving people, achievements that serve as inspiration for the rest of us.
The proposed affirmative action program will create a B-list of winners and the attendant dumbing down of this unique award.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Dis-Order of Canada

Letter to the National Post, April 23, 2015

Stephen Harper intends to dumb down the Order of Canada (Order of Canada reform in budget, Apr 23). The Prime Minister is correct in his belief that certain sectors of society are under-represented such as discredited Conservative senators and inhabitants of the yahoo element. The reported feeling is that there is too much Margaret Atwood and too little Don Cherry among Order recipients.

By coincidence, elsewhere in today's National Post (Where culture wars were worth fighting), we read, "A TV-ready image is valued considerably more than any literary pedigree . . . People today go to pundit school. They learn how to be on TV as a pundit, but they don't have any substance. Intelligence has been replaced by volume."

Honours are not intended to be brought "closer to the people," as Harper asserts. Their purpose is to recognize quality achievements to which we should all aspire. Is it time to bid farewell the nobility of the Order of Canada?

Sex education. At what age?

Letter to the Toronto Star, April 21, 2015. Unpublished.

It is unfortunate when a message is answered by an attack on the messenger. Such is the case with three letter writers who disagree with protesters of the sex-ed program proposed by the Ontario government (Ignorance's last bastion, April 20). 

Rather than deal with the concerns of the reported thousands of parents, the letter writers, one of them a teacher, resort to abuse and name-calling. There may be much to commend the program. Yet it does spawn reasonable doubt, for example, as to when young children should be exposed to more mature sexual situations. 

Protests, such as that at Queen's Park recently, voice the failure to address honestly held opinion. The government should immediately undertake an educational program along with a clear message as to its purpose. The reaction might surprise. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A new embassy in Israel

Israel is the sole nation whose purported capital city, Jerusalem, no government in the world recognizes as such. In April 1979, Opposition Leader Joe Clark announced before the Canada-Israel Committee in Toronto that, should he become Prime Minister, Canada would move its embassy to Jerusalem.

"Next year in Jerusalem," he said, "is a Jewish prayer which we intend to make a Canadian reality." In June of the same year, newly-elected Prime Minister Clark affirmed his election promise. Eighteen days later, he said the decision would be deferred "until the status of Jerusalem is clarified within a comprehensive agreement between Israel and her Arab neighbours." That has yet to happen.

This month, Stephen Harper announced the construction of a new Israeli embassy in Tel Aviv. Not even our Israel-obsessed Prime Minister dares risk the opposition that greeted Clark's error.

On occasion, reality does have its effect.

Strange law makes for doubtful citizens

An unacceptable application of the law was reported in the media today. The issue concerned five Toronto police officers convicted of obstructing justice and perjury through falsification of reports. The five received 45-day conditional sentences, that is house arrest with wide latitude for leaving home. They appealed.

Three court of appeal judges dismissed the appeal. They wrote that perjury strikes "at the very root of our justice system" and "public confidence in the honesty of the police is fundamental to the integrity of the criminal justice system."

Their decision continues, "When the perpetrators of the crime are police officers sworn to uphold the law, the objective of denunciation has heightened significance. Police offices owe a special duty to be faithful to the justice system."

Crown prosecutors asked for a three-year jail sentence.

"However," the judgement concluded, "in light of all the circumstances, particularly the passage of time . . . I would order that the operation of the sentences be stayed." In other words, the convicted walk free.

Two salient features of the court's decision: It says that the police may contravene the law and not be severely punished. One of the perpetrators is still a police officer. It also informs future perpetrators that, to receive a light sentence, delay the process as long as possible.  And who better to manipulate the law than those whose duty it is to enforce it?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Human rights commissions for fun and profit

Published in the Toronto Star:

Only history with show the correctness or otherwise of the Supreme Court's recent decision against Saguenay's recitation of a prayer before city council meetings. 

Salient in this issue is the role of the Quebec Human Rights Commission. The objector to the council prayer appealed to the commission and demanded $100,000. He was awarded $30,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

Human rights commissions have become cash cows for the aggrieved, imagined or actual, a situation now endorsed by the Supreme Court. There are those who earn income conjuring up or creating causes of action before these tribunals, the complainant's costs borne by taxpayers. The accused must hire his own defence. 

Were there no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, one wonders how many complaints would be made to such tribunals. 

"Us" and "them"

Why are gay issues always framed as religious issues?  

What about the non-believer who does not favour gay marriage or people marching naked in public, because rightly or wrongly, he believes it against nature or for social reasons?  

Our courts and human rights tribunals operate on a winner take all basis, a "us" against "them" mentality. The result exacerbates differences of opinion and fosters the no-compromise mentality so favoured by the media. 

Diversity works both ways. What needed is clearer legislation and tribunals better trained to resolve such issues to provide accommodation for all honestly held points of view.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

International petulance

Prime Minster Harper insists on parading his embarrassing incompetence on the world stage.  

Some months ago, his petulance lost him an opportunity to speak on Ukrainian human rights with Russian President Vladimir Putin.  At the recent Americas Summit, while President Obama discussed an alliance with Raul Castro, Harper refused to speak to the Cuban President. 

With such adolescent behaviour the PM forfeited face-to-face opportunities to advocate the human rights he claims to espouse. To whom does he speak of human rights, if not the offenders?  

Harper has made a career nullifying Canada's international stature. He has lowered our status as renown peacemaker.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Bureaucracy Rampant

Letter to the Toronto Star. Unpublished.

Re Riding without a bell takes toll, April 9:

A cyclist without a bell is fined and loses demerit points on her driver's licence. There is no logical connection between riding a bicycle and a licence to drive a car. Imagine two cyclists, neither with a bell, are both fined. The latter happens to have a driver's licence is doubly punished with demerit points. 

What's next? Demerit points for late payment of taxes? Demerit points for not shovelling the snow in front of our homes?  Surely someone in the bureaucracy can see the nonsense in relating two distinct situations? 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Oil and the Western World

Letter published in the Toronto Star, April 4, 2014

Re PM, NDP clash over legality of bombing March 26:

Winston Churchill advices against legal entanglements. Whether something if lawful or not is of no consequence to the victim. The question becomes: Is it right and just to bomb someone who poses scant, is any, danger?

The existence if ISIS is yet another eruption of discontent that has characterized that region of the world for more than 1,500 years. Let's be honest. If it weren't for oil, the West would ignore the Middle East.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Why are we killing?

A letter published in The National Post March 28, 2015:

Re: A Mission Worth Extending, editorial, March 25.

Your editorial presents reasons why the mission in Iraq should not be extended. It points out that during the past six months, the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham has become even more barbaric. 

In other words, the bombing has done little good. Yet you endorse Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s solution to throw more gasoline on the fire. Despite increased barbarism, you deem the “mission can be judged a success.” You state unless we continue bombing, the bad situation would “spread over much of the Middle East.” Canada’s job is not to defend Israel or any other country in the region. 

You state “the threat is real.” Not to Canada. You state “the international community had to act.” What good did it do in Afghanistan? 

Western nations should stop meddling in Arab wars. It matters little whether the world buys oil from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries or ISIS.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Hell of War

Two pieces of related information.

I once knew an elderly woman who, during the Second World War, lived in a small German village. She told me that the locals could distinguish a German aircraft from one of the Allied air forces. They could also tell from the drone of the engines if it carried bombs.

As sometimes happened, Allied planes missed their targets and headed back to England with a full bomb load. As an aircraft would never attempt a landing with bombs aboard, the practice was to dump them in the Channel.

She told me that on one occasion they heard approaching their village a plane returning from a mission over Berlin or Frankfurt, but still carrying bombs. It flew over her village. No harm done. Over the next non-strategic village, it dropped its bombs killing some of the inhabitants.

                                                                 *   *   *

In the 1950's, my summer job was with the Air Regulations branch of the Canadian Department of Transport.  I assisted the inspectors, all of whom were veteran pilots.I learned that one of them did not drop the bombs of an aborted mission in the channel. He ordered, "As long as they land somewhere on German soil."

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Modern Mediocrity

"The brand new mediocrity is more cherished than the shop worn perfection." So wrote Baltasar Gracian in his 1653 A Truthtelling Manual and the Art of Worldly Wisdom.

The Spanish Jesuit anticipated the noise that today passes as popular music, while the perfection of classical music gets pushed aside. Money interests have dumbed down any pretensions to quality still lingering in the modern soul.

An antithetical observation appears in The Austrian Achievement 1700-1800 where  Ernst Wangermann wrote: "It was for the growing number of these amateur performers, with their great thirst for emotional stimulation, that C.P.E. Bach, Haydn and Mozart wrote some of their most inspired music.  For the challenge to discover the accents of the soul . . . was the one that appealed most strongly to their own personalities and to their artistic aspirations."

Would anyone dare to so describe the concoctors of today's musical offerings?

Monday, March 2, 2015

How to Produce Home-Grown Radicals

There is much in the news lately about Canadians fleeing their native land to work and fight for the Islamic State. This reportage is rive with speculation why these young people would place themselves in harm's way.

Experts in such matters have probed deeply into this behaviour and emerged with equally deep and speculative reasons. They do not see the most salient motivations staring them in the face.

One need not be unduly sensitive or idealistic to become disaffected with a society that condones corporate greed, that is laced with pornography, that promotes people parading naked down our streets, along with worker exploitation and government insensitivity. That is what many young people witness in our secular world.

Add to this mix personal grievances --  no job, uninspiring education, aversion to war, poor counselling etc. and we have produced radicals willing to fight to destroy such a society, or build a society more in keeping with their beliefs.

All quite understandable. No experts needed.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Police Paid Leave Beyond Reason

Letter to the Toronto Star published Feb. 23, 2015
Re Peel Regional police officer convicted in car insurance scam, Feb 14:
It is beyond reason that a recently convicted police officer has been on paid leave since his arrest in the spring of 2011. That’s four years of salary at taxpayer expense.
I trust his conviction ends this nonsense, or will it continue during a protracted appeal process? There is something wrong with a legal system that permits such mischief.
One solution is to place in trust the salary of an arrested officer. If found not-guilty, he receives back pay plus interest. If convicted, the funds are returned to the taxpayer.

In the interim, the police union should cover his basic needs, or he be allowed to find alternative employment.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Charlie Hebdo and Free Speech

Letter to Toronto Star, January 28, 2015. Unpublished.

The initial reaction to the January 7 events at Charlie Hebdo has faded. We may now quietly examine the situation.

This weekly of juvenile effusions itself indulges in censorship. In 2008, the magazine published cartoons challenged as anti-Semitic. Because of the outcry, cartoonist Maurice Sinet  was asked to issue an apology. He refused and was fired.  So much for Charlie Hebdo being "on the front lines of the free-speech fight," as the Toronto Star describes this purportedly satirical publication.

We currently have a visitor trying to raise funds for the cash-strapped magazine (Canadians urged to fight against fundamentalism, Jan 27). She frames her effort as a battle against Islam which "must submit to secularism." Is it Cartesian reasoning to equate a radical element with an entire religion?

Dialogue and accommodation promote understanding, not confrontation. That's something Charlie Hebdo and its fund-raiser apparently do not understand. It is to be hoped that our visitor return to France wiser but empty handed.

Supreme Court Okays Death on Demand

On February 7, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada jolted downwards the quality of health care in Canada. It approved death on demand. Doctors capable of aborting healthy babies would not hesitate to sign death warrants for the terminally ill, the chronically ill, the mentally ill and the disabled.

Then we have the intervention of human rights commissions and their authority to override Supreme Court decisions and parliamentary restrictions. Spurts in the floodgates are already evident in some European countries where there is currently a demand for lethal injection from a clinically depressed teenager and a healthy prisoner serving a life sentence.

Would denial violate constitutional and charter rights to equality before the law?  Restrictions were once in place against abortion on demand. Remember what our Supreme Court did in that case and what Parliament failed to do. Members of the highest court in the land are out of touch with reality (not for the first time) if they believe restrictions can work.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Too White to Woo

Letter published in the Toronto Star, January 13, 2015 

To claim that the House of Commons is too white, old and male smacks of racism, ageism and sexism.(Parliament too white, old and male, study says, Jan 3). Parliamentarians are elected for the sole purpose of representing our political views as ultimately expressed in the laws they enact. 

I do not care if my federal, provincial and municipal representatives are freckled, polka-dot Luggnaggians, so long we envision our Canada, our province, our city more or less in the same way. If they fail in that, I do my best to see them replaced by someone who does.

Let us never forget the ringing words of Martin Luther King Jr. who dreamed that one day his children would "not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Political Correctness Rampant

Letter to the Toronto Star published January 13, 2015.

To claim that the House of Commons is too white, old and male smacks of racism, ageism and sexism (Parliament too while, old and male, study says, Jan 3). Parliamentarians are elected for the sole purpose to of representing our political views as ultimately expressed in the laws they enact.

I do not care if my federal, provincial or municipal representatives are freckled, polka-dot Luggnaggians, so long as we envision our Canada, our province and our city more or less in the same way. If they fail in that, I do my best to see them replaced by someone who does.

We must never forget the ringing words of Martin Luther King Jr. who dreamed that one day his children would "not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character."