Saturday, April 23, 2016

Another unwarranted apology

On April 12, 2016, the Toronto Star reported that Prime Minister Justine Trudeau will in the near future apologize in the House of Commons for an event of 1914. My letter to the Star with copies to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland. No reaction expected -- the Star censors anything that questions any of its target markets, the PM ignores everything not on his agenda and my Member of Parliament does not reply to any of my communications.

No more anachronistic apologies (Trudeau to formally apologize for Sikh tragedy, Apr 12). 

No Canadian alive today is responsible for the immigration law of 1914. The ship Komagata Maru was turned away from Canadian waters at that time because it posed illegal entry according to the law of the day, unfortunately to the detriment of many Sikhs aboard. 

Canadian immigration laws protect Canadian interests, not those of would-be illegals.

In her book, The Uses and Abuses of History, Margaret MacMillan asks, "Is it healthy ... for societies to apologize for things that were done in different centuries and under different sets of beliefs?"  The warden of St. Anthony's College at Oxford University continues, "It is all too easy to rummage through the past and find nothing but a list of grievances."

Should anyone think differently, the memory of abused British prisoners then deserves an apology. 

During the Second World War, 25,000 Sikhs deserted Britain to join the Japanese-inspired Indian National Army. In his book, To the Kwai and Back, War Drawings 1939-1945, Ronald Searle graphically depicts the horrors inflicted on British prisoners. In one sketch, a captured British officer on his knees is about to be beaten by a Sikh guard for failing to salute. Searle writes, "The most visible guard duties outside the wire were taken over by Sikhs who gratuitously thrashed any unfortunate who caught their eye."

No apology demanded.
* * *
Later additions:

"One should not demand that past epochs conform to current prejudices, and thus commit the sin of excessive 'present-mindedness,' distorting the past by forcing it into a mould of recent construction."
     Roland N. Stromberg
     European Intellectual History since 1789

* * *

Was it necessary in 2007 for a tribe in Papua New Guinea to apologize for eating missionaries in the 19th century?

Exporting human rights and wrongs

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

One need only examine one of the Charter's offspring (Ontario Human Rights Tribunal) with its over-reaching tendencies and questionable results.

-- A UFO cult was declared a religion thereby transforming a breach of contract into a more lucrative case of religious discrimination. 

-- A coffee shop owner was ordered to pay $15,000 to a disruptive customer whom he called a Gypsy.  I do know if there's a connection but within two months the coffee shop closed.

-- A hockey association was ordered to pay $18,000 to a family for failure to provide adequate dressing room facilities.

-- The Ontario Superior Court ordered a re-hearing of a case where a business owner was ordered by the human rights tribunal to pay $36,000 to a dismissed employee. Immediately following the original decision, the Human Rights Legal Support Centre (HRLSC) swooped in and obtained a writ of seizure ordering the sheriff to sell the business operator's home to enforce payment. 

On appeal, the Court said it was "simply not possible to logically follow the pathway taken by the adjudicator." The HRLSC chose to proceed, the illogic notwithstanding. Had the accused not had the funds to appeal, she would have lost her home. And so on, across Canada.

By any objective standard, human rights tribunals are cash cows for those with grievances, real or imagined. Countries importing our Charter must be warned: Handle with care.

Self-serving questions

In a recent interview on CBC Radio One, Anna Maria Tremonte, asked why the interviewee's
opponents acted in the they did. I informed my favourite interviewer that such questions invite self- serving answers, and it did -- "I simply cannot understand why they would do that" or some such biased reply was the result. The proper answer is, "Ask them."

Similarly, hypothetical questions tempt self-serving answers. On April 19, the Canadian government avoided the issue all together. Globe and Mail journalists reported that Chrystia Freeland, "would not say whether she would have sold the weaponized armoured vehicles to the Saudis were it in her decision in 2014" (when the deal was originally approved by the previous government).

The Minister of International Trade wisely replied, "It's important not to engage ... in hypotheticals ... not to engage in what-might-have-beens."

A third type of question to be shunned is the negative interrogatory. As the question contains the sought-for answer, it is self-serving of the questioner.  Examples:  Do you not think the Toronto Maple Leafs should quit hockey?  Don't you want this job? You really don't want to do this, do you? 

You do agree with me, don't you?

Bad law is bad law

During the reign of Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismark, the government enacted a law designed to shelter the sensibilities of European monarchs against public ridicule. It was illegal to insult those in high office. In 2016, Recep Erdogan demanded the 143-year old law be enforced against a German satirist who had mocked the Turkish president.

On March 31, the comedian read a poem mocking the Turkish leader whose government has brought more than 1,800 criminal cases against Turks for insulting their president.

Germany's freedom of expression laws notwithstanding, the case has been allowed to proceed, with the statement the government intended to repeal the stale-dated law.

During the reign of the German chancellor, Adolf Hitler, the government enacted a law against home-schooling. Its aim was to ensure Nazi indoctrination for all. 

That law is still in force. It authorizes the government to remove children from parents who wish to home-school their family. For repeated offences, the children may be removed permanently and adopted out to strangers, the parents losing all rights to access. 

No mention of possible repeal.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Ashley Madison speaks of morals and values

Ashley Madison is a website operated by Avid Life Media of Toronto, its slogan "Life is short. Have an affair." The site purports to be "the leading dating service for discreet encounters" of the infidelity kind. The braggadocio speaks of a "secure site." Indeed, the company flaunts a "trusted security award."

Such websites cater to men who lack self-confidence and imagination, creatures who neither understand nor accept their limitations and whose naïveté leads them to believe the fairy tale of website security.

Hackers recently successfully cyber-attacked Ashley Madison. They demanded the site be "immediately and permanently" shut down along with a sister site that operated in "prostitution/human trafficking." Avid Life did not oblige. The hackers released profiles of the site's clients, names, addresses, credit card information and painfully more.

Righteous double-talk added a touch of dark humour to the drama. In a statement, the company pleaded for an end to this "unprecedented crime." It asked the hacking community "to use their moral judgement and their values to help us."

Yes, an infidelity website with a false promise of security speaks of morals and values. Hacked emails showed that Avid Life itself had hacked into a competitor's website in 2012, thereby having earlier committed this "unprecedented crime."

And one dares speak of morals and values.

April 22, 2016 up-date. In the class-action lawsuit against Avid Life Media for security breach, a Missouri judge refused a request for anonymity by that the 42 plaintiffs representing users of the website. They must identify themselves for the action to proceed. We await the next step in this tawdry affair.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Colonial Grievances

India demands the return of one of the British crown jewels. Under, some believe, questionable circumstances, the 105.6-carat diamond emerged in England during the reign of Queen Victoria. The Indian Cultural Minister is exerting "all possible efforts" to see the return of the sparkler, short of war, I presume.

Also in someone's cross-hairs are Britain's so-called "Elgin marbles," pieces of the Parthenon in Athens shipped to England during the Ottoman occupation of Greece, again under disputed circumstances. The Greek government demands their return.

Just to make it a threesome, Canada should join the line. We should demand the return of  all those beaver pelts taken from our forests to make hats for the British aristocracy in the 18th and 19th centuries. Do we also want the return of all that wood taken to provide masts for the British navy?

While we exported these goods to Britain, in return, they sent us immigrants. We got the better deal by far. So no, we won't lodge a complaint.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Selling weapons to Saudi Arabia.

A version of this sent to The Globe and Mail, May 8, 2016. Unpublished.

Plans are under way for a sale of $15-billion dollars worth of light armoured vehicles from a Canadian manufacturer to Saudi Arabia.

Objections to the transaction have emerged. Cited are Saudi Arabia's human rights record, its execution rate, its war in Yemen, and the fear the vehicles may be used against its own people.

By those criteria, Canada should suspend trade with China. That nation's human rights record is a source of shame, it will not reveal its execution rate believed to be high,  it has waged war and occupied Tibet, and it has used tanks against its own people in Tienanmen Square.

By those criteria, Canada should suspend trade with the United States. That nation's human rights record against its black citizens is a source of shame, its execution rate is on the same level as that of Saudi Arabia, it has attacked and/or exploited every nation in the Western Hemisphere, and is currently equipping its municipal police forces with surplus military light armoured vehicles for use against its own people.

The objections are a confusion of morality, law, politics and business. Trade with Muslim countries continued during the so-called Crusades. Need we love those with whom we do business? Need we approve of their behaviour? And they of ours? We should not hesitate to deal with the devil it it redounded to our benefit.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Profits and virtue in coal

American banks have developed an understandable caution against financing coal companies. The sole reason is the downward shift in the coal industry, possibly a permanent situation.

The banks claim their reticence is due to concern for the environment, rather than the prospect of negative profits -- a blatant attempt to turn necessity into a virtue.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Unanswered questions

A recent newspaper report was headlined, "Studies support feeding infants allergenic foods such a peanuts."  When I was a youngster at school, everyone in the class had peanut butter sandwiches. To my knowledge, no one ever had a reaction to the peanuts. Today, some school ban all nuts.

None of the studies in the report examined how the product was cultivated and processed. What is different from then and now? What fertilizer is used that was not used before? With what are the plants sprayed that was not used before?

As we enter one of those ubiquitous coffee shops, we are delighted by the aroma wafting through the air. Why does the taste of the coffee not live up to the promise of the aroma?

On your next visit to an art gallery, exam any paintings of Adam and Eve. If they were created by God, why do they have navels?

Commercial revisionism

Reader’s Digest, a number of years ago, produced a book of fairy tales and fables. Inhaling excessive amounts of secular air, the publisher indulged in the questionable business of revisionism. Every reference to a church or religious place was censored and replaced by a castle or other large building.

A report in The Washington Post tells of recent revisionist activity. The website of the intelligence-challenged National Rifle Association offers gun-slinging versions of Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood.  Happy to relate, the weapons produce happy endings.  Have the perpetrators of this literary mischief inhaled excessive amounts of gun smoke?