Bright young lawyer needed

THE CONTRARIAN

As city engineer I went to court on a few occasions, either as a witness or to support one of our guys. On one occasion our case was delayed, and I sat through the case before ours.  That was in the days of regulated monopoly trucking, and it seems a local trucker had hauled a transformer to Ear Falls.  A trucking firm from the Golden East claimed that was rightfully his job, and he wanted to be paid his usual fee for the job even though the local guy had already done it for a third of his price.  The eastern trucker and Ontario Hydro had each sent a Toronto lawyer, $2000 suit, $200 tie, to argue the case.  Both sides made very complicated arguments in multi-syllable words, pretty much wasted on the presiding JP, a political appointee.  Don’t remember who won; don’t think it had anything to do with the facts.

In another case a couple of years ago, my wife was rear-ended by a drunk driver who had enough of a record that he faced jail time.   She was summonsed as a witness, so we went to court.  We could tell the defence lawyer was from Toronto, $2000 suit, $200 tie, imperious manner.  He got up and made what seemed to me a trivial objection.  The clearly intimidated young prosecutor sat looking thunderstruck; the JP on the bench looked relieved he would not have to send the kid to jail and dismissed the case.  Gossip was that the lawyer is famous; he goes around the province keeping drunk drivers out of jail for $15000 a pop.

In an even older case, one side was represented by a high end, successful, confident trial lawyer; well-funded and well-researched with stacks of documents. The other side was represented by a harried-looking fellow who was unable to refute any of the material put forward.  The jury seemed disinterested, and the confident guy won.

All of which goes to illustrate that too often cases are won by bravado, the guy with the most fashionable haircut and the most confident manner wins. The guy able to present the most material, whether or not it really is germane or accurate, wins because his opponent cannot afford the time needed to refute Mr. Wonderful.

That older case was when Oliver Mowat, slick trial lawyer and Premier of Ontario at the time, appeared before the British Privy Council to persuade them that our Sunset Country ought to be part of Ontario. His opponent was a staff lawyer appointed by Canada to argue we are not part of Ontario.  Not a flamboyant trial lawyer.  Appointed too late with too few resources to be able to refute the grossly inaccurate mapping and inappropriate meaningless precedents that Mowat used to make his case.  The Privy Council thought it didn’t matter, it’s all just bush anyway, and awarded the case to Ontario.  Perhaps based on Mowat’s personality, or his nice tie, or perhaps the fix was already in.

In any event a dopey decision that utterly changed Canada as it resulted in fewer, bigger provinces and a huge imbalance in the size of provinces. While Mowat may have been acting in his perception of Ontario’s best interest, a good argument can be made that the decision was bad for Canada and therefore bad for Ontario in the long run.

Perhaps there is a bright young lawyer out there who could make his reputation by appealing this decision. Whether or not he wins, he will be famous.  If he wins, we will gain by being freed from the weight of Ontario holding us down.  If he loses, at least it would publicize our Separatist sentiments as the forgotten rump on Ontario and that might be helpful.

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citizens band

THE CONTRARIAN

I was fiddling around with my old citizens band radio one day and to my surprise picked up the following conversation!

(Static, static) Breaker, Breaker, Hello, Central, do you read me? This is Inspector P. Panther reporting in.

(Static, static) Hi Good Buddy, this is Central Control reading you loud and clear, go ahead with your report.

Panther:  So I am on station at planet X2D2.  It’s been 25 orbits around its sun since I last reported, seems to be some changes in how things are going down there.  Things were pretty stable for a couple of hundred orbits since we changed their world by sending them technology to allow them to develop engine power.  But less stable now, big changes coming.

Control: Yeah well, must have been a big change when we showed them how to make transistors instead of those silly vacuum tubes they had come up with!

Panther: That’s for sure; you will be surprised where that is going.  Anyway they seem to have lost their way on agriculture, instead of the sustainable family-scale self-perpetuating crop-and-animal way we taught them, it’s all gone to big acreages of continuous frankencrop monoculture.  That is destroying the soil and maybe the climate, so it looks like they are doomed .

Control: So, can you see any reason they are doing that?

Panther: Nope.  Maybe small independent self-sufficient farmers were too hard for the Nobility to control, so they evolved this system so all the money goes to the city and most of the people had to move to the city too.

Control: OK, how does it look like that will pan out?

Panther: Not good, maybe civil war when they run out of food.  Unless there is a change in their culture – it is quite amazing to look down on their cities, sprawling out over the country side.  Each family has an area around their house big enough to grow their own food, but instead they use it to try to grow a better crop of grass than the neighbours.

Control: Grass?

Panther: Yes, it’s a green herb, not good for much except to cover up the ground.  I think it’s a class thing, comes from before we got involved, when their Nobility had big acreages of landscaped grounds around their castles.  These folks seem to think that a well-kept patch of grass makes them Noble too.

Control: So they are degrading the farmland, and each putting a lot of effort into growing a patch of grass which they do not use for anything except to impress each other.  Anything else new?

Panther: Yep the most amazing change is that they advanced that transistor technology we gave them to where they all carry a little electronic device and spend all their time and attention playing with them.  They don’t seem to socialize even as much as they did my last trip.  Way less than 50 orbits ago when they spent a lot of time socializing together, doing little ritual movements as a group along with some annoying and raucous noises, they called it “dancing”.  Now they are just isolated.  That might be the worst development of all; they are after all herd animals and can’t live as individuals very long.

Control: Okey dokey, report noted, over and out.

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A POLITICAL DISCUSSION

THE CONTRARIAN

I see the split in modern society as a tug-of-war between two different basic assumptions or prejudices. One side believes we are born totally virtuous, a clean slate, and all evil is imparted by society.  So if we can create a perfect society, we will have perfectly virtuous people, that is, a Utopia.  The other side believes we are after all animals with all kinds of urges and instincts which we do not even fully understand, and society’s job is to restrain these urges, or at least prevent us from harming one another and Utopia is an impractical dream.

So on one side, we must destroy family and religion as they are the main vehicle for perpetuating our evil society and preventing Utopia. On the other side, the view is that family and church are the best way to curb the evil in our human nature, and are the foundation of a free and equal society.  On one side, all-encompassing government is seen as the solution, while on the other, excessive government is seen as a problem.

Extremists on either side see the other side as ill-informed nit-wits, and if it comes down to extremists in charge, poverty and war are inevitable.

Fortunately, between them is ‘the common sense of the common people’. That great mass of opinion would say that both prejudices are right, and that both are wrong, the truth is somewhere in between.  They oppose either extreme.  That is where I try to position my ‘Contrarian’ commentary.

Sadly for us, the powers that be, our educated elite, our universities and all our mainstream media has reached a Consensus supporting the ‘evil is imparted by society’ side, and we are being pulled to the pro-government, anti-family, anti-church extreme.  A Consensus, led by our mainstream press, especially the CBC, which makes that a gross misuse of our tax dollars.

Here is a concrete example of our Consensus’ bias toward big government. The election of Donald Trump as US president was a ‘common sense of the common people’ reaction to the big-government extreme gaining too much power in that country.   Our Canadian Consensus has been howling about him loudly and continuously ever since, even though it is none of our business and making this fuss can only hurt Canada.

An American, Doug Casey is one of my favourite modern political writers, fun to read even if you do not agree with him. He is an extreme Libertarian, pro-freedom, anti-government.  He says we only need two laws, one, ‘do what you say you will do’, and two, ‘do nothing to harm anyone else’.  Governments only role is to arbitrate infractions of these rules, and of course defend the country from invasion.

I thought his comments on Donald Trump were at least thought-provoking, here is a quote.

From Doug Casey, quoted in ‘Casey Daily Dispatch’, April 8, 2017

“Is Trump a good thing or a bad thing? They say, “Oh he’s a racist.” “Oh he’s a sexist.” “Oh he’s a homophobe.” “Oh he hates Muslims.” Frankly we should analyze those things, but I think they’re basically all lies. In fact, he’s just a businessman, flying by the seat of his pants. He doesn’t have a core philosophy.

What’s going on in the US now is a culture clash. The people that live in the so-called “red counties” that voted for Trump—which is the vast majority of the geographical area of the US, flyover country—are aligned against the people that live in the blue counties, the coasts and big cities.

They don’t just dislike each other and disagree on politics; they can no longer even have a conversation. They hate each other on a visceral gut level. They have totally different world views. It’s a culture clash.

I’ve never seen anything like this in my lifetime. There hasn’t been anything like this since the War Between the States, which shouldn’t be called “The Civil War,” because it wasn’t a civil war. A civil war is where two groups try to take over the same government. It was a war of secession, where one group simply tries to leave.

We might have something like that again, hopefully nonviolent this time. I don’t think the US should any longer remain as one political entity. It should break up so that people with one cultural view can join that group and the others join other groups. National unity is an anachronism —-“

“Trump is associated with the free market, even though he understands nothing about economics. He’s not really a free market guy; he’s an authoritarian, not a libertarian. And he has some disastrous economic ideas—like putting up import barriers and replacing Obamacare. He’s trying to run the country as if it were his privately owned company.

He also has some good economic ideas. Cutting regulations, wonderful, and he’s doing it. Cutting taxes, fantastic. This is very good.

But he appears to want a weak dollar: What he’s really doing is destroying American savings and making imported goods more expensive. This is horrible. I mean this could actually be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. A Smoot-Hawley tariff lookalike.

I applaud the fact he also despises Progressives, Cultural Marxists, Social Justice Warriors, the media, academics, and the like. But, again, he’s no libertarian.”

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STOLEN LAND

THE CONTRARIAN

A page from Willy Brant’s diary  Stopped in town for coffee the other morning, the usual gang were there with their usual strongly held but not necessarily well informed opinions. A couple of guys were rambling on about the Wabigoon Band Land Claim settlement.  Said the band got $24 million compensation for about a hundred acres of swamp being turned into a hundred acres of wetter swamp, it wasn’t worth ten bucks when the dam was built in 1910, $24 thousand is too much, much less 24 million, blah blah blah.  I chipped in to say I don’t know anything about it, but the Wabigoon band will no doubt make good use of the money, and anyway any government money coming into our district is a good thing.  That chilled the air pretty good, and I kind of drank up and slinked out.

Big Joe, my neighbour down the road stopped in to check up on me, and I was telling him about it. “Well”, he said, “I think there was more to it than that, I think they had to move or rebuild their village, and there was a lot of lakeshore got flooded.”  He swigged his coffee, then went on “Although I don’t think the government has really thought this through.  There were already a lot of freehold homesteads in 1910,  from Dinorwic all the way to the west end of Wabigoon lake, and their boundary is the ‘high water mark’, which is a ways out in the lake now that Wabigoon’s level was raised.  There are a lot of strips of lake-bottom that actually belong to somebody.  So if this settlement is as inflated as some people think, it means all these landowners could be up for a tidy sum”.

“Unless the government goes all racist on this, and disqualifies non-native landowners” I chipped in. Joe goes on “well, they might, we are seeing all kinds of chipping away at landowners rights, the government just takes our land.  F’rinstance, if somebody finds a strange flower in your field, and it gets judged ‘endangered’ you could lose use of 40 acres or more of your land without any compensation.  And that’s just under the Species at Risk act, there are lots more examples.  There is an outfit in rural Ontario called ‘Landowners Association’ whose purpose is to fight the government taking our land, I get their magazine, keeps my blood pressure up”.

Thinking about this, I added “You know, this could be even bigger than our area, most of the industry in old Ontario started with a dam and a waterpower mill, there could be lots of flooded land in old Ontario, maybe even in big cities. This could run into billions!”

“I don’t think so”, says Joe, “this past 40 years or so the government has been busy cleaning up those old deeds, taking away wrinkles like this underwater land, along with some of your rights, when property is transferred. If your lawyer isn’t smart enough to catch them.  I expect most plots, even a lot of local plots, have had their underwater land quietly taken by the government already, without any compensation of course”.  Which left me thinking, we are supposed to have squeaky-clean, honest government in Canada, what must it be like in other countries? Or maybe Joe is just paranoid.

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Them big companies

THE CONTRARIAN

A page from Willy Brant’s diary — Bumped into an old acquaintance in Timmies the other day, a real farmer with lots of livestock and everything.  After agreeing on the weather being a problem (weather is always a problem) and to keep a conversation going, I remarked “Well at least with the good price for beef there is some money out there.”

“What planet do you live on”, he exclaimed, “Beef has dropped like a rock, I didn’t get much over half as much for my feeder steers this year as two years ago.” “Really”, from me “I was just checking out the meat at the supermarket, looking for a roast for when my daughter might visit next month, one that didn’t look very big was $50!”

“Yeah”, he answered “Them big companies just keep ripping us off. When the price of live cattle doubled a few years ago, the retail price more than doubled.  But most of the retail price is processing and markups by the big companies, so if all they were doing was passing on the increase in cattle price, the retail price should only have gone up maybe 30%.  But they doubled the retail price, and blamed it on the farmers!”  He was getting a bit red in the face, and speaking a bit loudly and emphatically. Come to think of it, I think this is the guy who is always spouting off about how ‘them big companies’ are ruining the world.  I suppose I have to confess I am about the same, but I just blame Ontario, whatever party is in power.  So I agreed, in a quiet voice, that “yep, all the money goes to the big city, and nothing left for us out across the country”.

“What’s really infuriating”, he went on with a bit less volume, “is that while the farm price of beef has been falling, the retail price stays up. So they jacked it up unfairly blaming the increase on the price of cows, then they don’t drop it down when the price of cows goes down. Them Big Companies!” he finished, in his most scornful voice.

Joe was out messing with the fence around his barnyard when I went by on my way home, so I stopped in, and dumped this conversation on him. “Is it true, beef is dropping like that?  I had no idea, course I don’t have any cows.”   “Yep”, from him, “it just keeps going down, month after month.  We still do okay, but the guys who borrowed to expand their herd or to replace their worn out equipment are getting worried”.

“So now”, from me, “if we can’t stop imports because of free trade and all, and Trump’s wall stops our main export market, could we be in trouble again, sort of like when mad cow disease hit and the price collapsed and ruined our farm community?”

“I don’t think so”, from Joe, “Don’t forget Trump is a politician as well as a salesman, so he is likely lying most of the time. Anyway he doesn’t have the power to do a lot of what he says; he doesn’t even have as much power as our Canadian Prime Minister.  And we are building up our local market nicely, that will help insulate us local guys from shocks like that.”

After thinking a bit, I went on “I suppose it is a bit like oil, the price of crude bounces all over the place with Saudi princes and Putin and Obama playing games. But the price at the gas stations goes up when crude goes up and takes a long time to go down when crude goes down.”

From Joe “You got it, little buddy, your friend is right, ‘Them Big Companies’ make sure all the corn goes to the big city, and we country folk get the cobs,” and I finished “Or they get the apple pie, and we get the cores”

So we both go home depressed.

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Scientifically Proven

THE CONTRARIAN   The claim ‘Scientifically Proven’ is a good sign of a scam. The claim ‘Unconditional money back guarantee” is usually a sign of a scam.  If you see both together, it is almost sure to be a scam.

Engineers are scientists, and I am here to tell you that ‘scientifically proven’ is impossible most of the time. Science is not a closed book, we are making new discoveries all the time, and each new discovery shows that something we thought was scientifically ‘proven’, is wrong, especially in what is called the ‘soft sciences’, but even in such hard science fields as physics.  Too much of what passes for science is found looking at an isolated effect rather than a whole spectrum, sort of like looking through the wrong end of a telescope and seeing what looks like a picket fence half a mile away, then looking at the big picture and seeing the picket fence is really the teeth of a wolf about to devour you!

Too much is based on fractured logic, as in roses are red; roses have thorns, therefore everything red has thorns.

Too much is based on extrapolation.  A typical test for toxicity of say a new medicine is to feed increasing quantities to a flock of rats, then dignifying the dose that kills half of them by calling it ‘LD50’ (lethal dose 50% of the time).  Divide that by 1000, and that gives you the promoted, ‘scientifically proven’ safe dose.  Guinea pigs are a thousand times more susceptible to dioxin than rats.  If we are a thousand times more susceptible to the poison being studied than rats, the ‘safe dose’ is not safe at all, 50% of us will die!  On the other hand, if a quart of alcohol will kill most men, then by this method a safe dose is a quart divided by a thousand, say about a teaspoonful.  So a ‘scientifically proven’ safe dose of wine would be a teaspoonful, while our dietitians claim a glass of wine a day is ‘scientifically proven’ to be good for you.

In other words, ‘scientifically proven’ is an advertising term, and means nothing.  Similarly, no guarantee can be ‘Unconditional’ – there are always conditions, such as you have to prove you actually purchased the item.  Just advertising terms.

It seems there are many more scams being tried now that the internet has made it so easy to contact so many people, but they have always been with us, in flyers, magazines, on the back of comic books (Have muscles like Tarzan by using this new gizmo 15 minutes a day!) Some 60 years ago one of our neighbours was impressed by an ad in the Free Press Prairie Farmer.  “New Breakthrough Fly Killer”, the ad proclaimed.  Scientifically Proven! Unconditionally guaranteed!  So he sent in his $9.95, and waited patiently for his new scientific breakthrough Fly Killer, maybe even inspired by Martians!

He breathlessly uncovered it when it finally arrived, to find that it contained a block of wood, and a small wooden hammer, along with the instructions “place fly on block, hit with hammer”. What could he say; it actually does kill flies as claimed!  Scammed!

Unfortunately the art of the scam has entered too much of our daily lives including our governments, our politicians and political causes. Save yourselves some trouble, and maybe even $9.95 for a block of wood, by looking at every extravagant claim with great suspicion.

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The Wisdom of Crowds

THE CONTRARIAN — Contrarians like the book “The Wisdom of Crowds”, by James Suroweiki. It starts with the premise that there is a thread of common opinion or belief in any large group of people. It offers case histories to demonstrate that this common opinion always leads to better outcomes for the group than the direction in which any elite tries to lead them.

This of course is the basis of the political philosophy classically called “Populism”

Classical Populism seeks to determine the common wishes of the people, and govern so these common wishes are met. Of course the trick is to determine what that common opinion is – people have all kinds of side issues, they tend to repeat what they have been told, and to tell interviewers what they think the interviewers want to hear, so it takes some digging.

Preston Manning is Canada’s primary Populist, and back about 1989 it was his particular genius to set down a program which nicely encapsulated Canadian common opinion, what he would call “the common sense of the common people”. I would summarize it as ‘we are sick and tired of an educated elite using government’s power to try to change us from what we are to what they think we should be’. When the Readers Digest published a well-written summary of Preston’s program (April 1991, if my memory is any good), millions of Canadians breathed a sigh and said, “finally, someone who is expressing exactly what I think”, and thousands sat down and wrote a check to join Preston’s Reform Party. It quickly became the largest political movement in terms of members in Canadian history, outnumbering all three traditional parties combined, and most of the members had never joined any political party before, truly a ground-swell in Canadian politics.

In hindsight, I think that another thread of that common sense of the common people is the realization that the huge disconnect between what the people think, and what our leadership thinks, leaves Canada vulnerable to takeover by a Hitler or Castro demagogue. Perhaps Reform was too much of a one-man show, and Preston too effective a public speaker for his own good. This coupled with the massive and unrelenting propaganda campaign by our Educated Elite telling us that only an evil and rotten person would support the Reform resulted in many members quietly, even sheepishly slinking away, repudiating their membership and pretending it never happened.

Of course a new and wildly popular movement attracted large numbers of opportunists and ideologues and wingnuts and weirdo’s. Preston and his disciples went to Ottawa, and were infected with the brain-rot that seems to get everybody who goes there. Between the ideologues and the brain-rot, the notion of ‘unite the right’ took hold. This is just plain silly – there was no ‘right’ to unite – populist Reformers had more in common with rank and file NDP (which grew out of a populist movement, the CCF), than with the Progressive Conservative party, which had for decades been refashioning itself into a slightly more class-conscious (some would say snooty) version of the Liberal party. Canada needed two Liberal parties like I need a third ear growing in the middle of my forehead (actually, maybe that’s not a bad idea – I might listen more and talk less). But that is what we ended up with, as Populist Reform was destroyed and subsumed in the new Conservative party.

So we common people get to choose between three parties, Tweedle-dee, Tweedle-dum, and Tweedle-dopey, all under control of an elite stuck on the ideas of 1960’s California university students, and we are more cynical than ever. And therefore even more vulnerable to a Hitler-type takeover.
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I wrote all this several years ago, (never published anywhere), and ran across it while cleaning up my files. I believe the ‘common sense of the common people now is “we are even more sick and tired of an educated elite using government’s power to try to change us from what we are to what they think we should be.” Over the 20 years since Reform was destroyed, we have seen our rights to privacy, property, free speech, eroded, our opportunities strangled with miles of red tape and regulation, our services and benefits rationed.

The ‘educated elite’ has become an entrenched Establishment with the support of both big government and big corporations bent on destroying entrepreneurship and small business and social structure, we will all be sheep and the Establishment will be the shepherds. They have redefined ‘populism’ as any who disagree with any part of their one world, sheep and shepherd agenda, and equate it with ignorance, stupidity, even tribalism. So you have to know what kind of populism we are talking about – classical Populism good, newly defined populism bad.

It seems a pretty good bet that there will be a clash between the real people and that agenda-driven Establishment, and the outcome is not likely to be pleasant.

Just a cynical opinion from a contrarian.

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