Alan Eagleson’s Friends

I was, in my youth, somewhat of an enthusiast for Marxism. Our society seemed to me to be based on greed and corruption, and I thought a good dose of Marxism would solve a lot of social ills. Of course, I knew that the Soviet Union was an oppressive, unjust society. I just didn’t think the Soviet Union represented Marxism any more than I thought the United States represented Christianity. In each case, the high ideals of the state religion was propounded but the actual practice was ruthlessly materialistic. Nowadays, I suppose I could be called a liberal.

There are days when I miss the idea of overthrowing the established order. Like today, when I read in the Toronto Star about Alan Eagleson’s friends.

Alan Eagleson has been charged with more than 44 counts of fraud committed since 1994, when he was head of the National Hockey League Players Association. Among other things, he stole money from players he represented and he colluded with the owners to keep player salaries low.

Some players now say they did kind of wonder about why their union leader was spending so much time on the owner’s yachts. They did, did they?

There is not much dispute about his guilt: Eagleson has admitted to some of the charges, and has been sentenced to 18 months so far, of which he will probably serve six. He is presently serving his time in Mimico Correctional Centre.

The Law Society of Upper Canada, hilariously, is now trying to decide whether or not Eagleson has engaged in conduct “unbecoming a barrister or a solicitor”! Like what? Did he donate some of the proceeds of his fraud to a charity?

In the same article, the Toronto Star reports that Mike Gillis, a former Boston Bruin, sued Eagleson successfully in 1996 for $40,000, part of a disability payment which Eagleson had swiped from him. Gillis was awarded $570,000 but Eagleson has appealed. The trouble is that almost all of that money is going to go to Gillis’ lawyers. Conduct unbecoming? Eagleson is a crook precisely because he behaves like a lawyer.

Look at this system! A man is owed $40,000 by a lawyer. The lawyer refuses to pay. Is he arrested? No, hell he’s a lawyer! So the victim of the fraud has no recourse but to go to court. The judge says, you can’t represent yourself– get yourself a…. lawyer! So the victim hires another lawyer to get his money back. But he can’t afford to pay this lawyer, you see, because he lost his money to the first lawyer. So the second lawyer says, no sweat, we’ll sue for what he owes you and for what you will owe me!

Now, you might observe that Mike Gillis, having been enlightened as to the courageous, unselfish, righteous needs of his own lawyers, has the solution. This solution is carefully suggested and facilitated by his lawyers: he sues Eagleson not only for the $40,000 he is owed, but for an additional $500,000 to pay his lawyers. The lawyer says, “I’ll help you get back your $40,000 and while we’ve got him down, I’ll rob him blind.” The man doesn’t care because it won’t come out of his pocket. So the system “works”.

Everybody’s happy, right? Consider Eagleson’s lawyer. Does he mind? Hell, no. He will charge Eagleson at least $500,000 himself, to spare him from having to pay out $40,000! But if he does a lousy job and loses the lawsuit, does he give the $500,000 back? Now, don’t laugh yourself silly. If he was going to do that, would he have advised him to fight the lawsuit in the first place, knowing it would cost a lot more than any possible out of court settlement would cost?

The truth is that this system is insane. It is absolutely, totally, completely, irrevocably insane. And everybody knows it. This system destroys everyone consumed by it…. except, of course, for the lawyers. And who, pray tell, makes these laws under which these cases are heard? Who is the judge? Who is the defense, the prosecution? What profession is represented in our legislature at numbers all out of proportion to their share of the population? Lawyers!

Are we really so surprised that they have cleverly evolved us a system that pays only them?

And now the most distasteful part of this particular story. Eagleson’s loyal friends have written him letters of commendation. Eagleson is a good man. Eagleson is honorable. Eagleson is a loyal friend. Eagleson never done me wrong. Here’s a list (side bar) so you can remember their names. If you bump into Bobby or Willard on the street, please restrain your desire to punch one of them in the nose. And remember that Bobby Clarke is the hero of the 1972 Canada-Russia hockey series for breaking Valery Kharmalov’s ankle with a wicked–and unpenalized– slash in game 5. Sittler? Shame on you.

Yes, this is how it works. These are Alan Eagleson’s friends.. So while he was cheating Mike Gillis and Glen Sharpley and Bobby Orr, he was carefully cultivating loyal friendships with Bobby Clarke and Paul Henderson and John Turner. What does this tell us? That, contrary to the testimony of Gillis and Sharpley and Orr and all the others that Eagleson was actually an honest man? That’s what these “gentlemen” want you to believe. Their signatures on their letters are a slap in the face to all the honest, hard-working NHL players whom Eagleson has cheated over the years. Paul Henderson is saying, “hey– he didn’t cheat me. Why should I care if he cheated you? Go to hell, Orr…”

The only thing their letters prove is that even a brilliant lawyer like Alan Eagleson couldn’t screw everybody at the same time.

We often hear about the two tiers of justice in this country, but we don’t often get such an intimate glimpse into how it works. You rob a string of banks of various amounts up to $40,000 and get caught and brought before a judge. If you don’t have your friendly letters from wealthy members of the establishment, judges, members of parliament, and retired professional hockey players, you can look forward to a long stay in prison. But if you are a lawyer and you rob a disabled hockey player of $40,000, and numerous others, and if you have invested that money wisely by acquiring the clothes and cars and boats and homes that allow you to move within the ranks of the privileged and blessed… you’re not likely to serve any time at all. Well, maybe 6 months. In mean old Mimico Correctional Facility.

Eagleson moves in conservative circles and was a member of the provincial Tory caucus at one point. I wonder if he ever partied with Mike Harris, who grew almost hysterically angry at the teachers who defied the law and went on strike last year. At moments like this, it seems transparent to me that the law has nothing to do with justice or fairness or good order. The law is there to hold you down while the lawyers rob you blind.


Who wrote letters asking the courts to be lenient on Alan Eagleson?

  • Bobby Clarke
  • Paul Henderson
  • Douglas Fisher
  • John Turner
  • Darryl Sittler
  • Willard Estey
  • George Gross
  • Darcy McKeough

We are Shocked: Clinton vs Nixon

Of course we’re all shocked. The President may have had sex with an attractive young intern. He was the President. He was twice her age. He was in a position of power and authority. He shouldn’t have done it.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s take a clear-headed look at what’s going on. The controversy started when a woman known to be hostile to Bill Clinton (she was a holdover from the Bush administration) secretly and apparently illegally taped conversations with Monica Lewinsky about the alleged affair. The Special Prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, accepted this evidence even though it was acquired illegally, but not before Ms. Tripp had given a copy of some of the tapes to her agent, who once spied on George McGovern’s presidential campaign on behalf of the Republicans and is also known as a Clinton-hater. The information on the tapes, like everything else from Kenneth Starr’s office, is leaked all over the place, but not to anybody with the guts, courage, or integrity to go “on-record”. For three days, we have had nothing but hysterical innuendo without any of the normal checks and balances required of professional journalism. For example, CNN reports that the President’s version of events contradicts Ms. Lewinsky’s. That’s a hoot: Ms. Lewinski has not made any official statement other than the one which insisted that there was no affair. The contradiction is with what the anonymous sources say Ms. Lewinsky said on tape to Ms. Tripp, who is the Benedict Arnold of this scandal.

Anyway, the details are already pretty tired. Most Americans, apparently, continue to approve of the Clinton administration (he lost 2 percentage points!).

What we have is one of the ugliest political scenes since the Profumo scandal in Britain in the 1960’s. And the ugliest aspect of it all is the lurid fascination of watching a nation throw itself into paroxysms of righteous indignation over a petty consensual relationship between the President and a young admirer. Even if it is proven that Clinton advised her to lie to the Special Prosecutor, the idea of impeaching the “leader of the free world” because of a sexual indiscretion is bizarre.

Don’t even mention comparisons to Watergate. Nixon conspired with his senior staff, including the Attorney-General, to cover-up numerous serious criminal acts, including misuse of the FBI and the IRS to harass and spy on political opponents. He maintained an illegal “slush” fund. He accepted illegal, under-the-table campaign contributions. He destroyed evidence and fired the Attorney General when the investigation drew too near to the Oval Office. The list of offenses was so long and detailed that the Democrats didn’t even bother to pursue the charge that he cheated on his income taxes. His staff committed real crimes, including burglary and bribery, and tried to obstruct the investigation of those crimes.

Clinton had an affair. He may be a jerk, but he is not a criminal. Whitewater, you say? The Republicans have tried desperately for five years to find evidence of any kind to indicate that Clinton committed a crime. In spite of all their efforts, no such evidence has surfaced.

The Republicans, in what appears to me to be a highly coordinated strategy, are laying low, hoping to downplay the suspicion that all of these charges are politically inspired. Having learned their lesson from the highly negative reaction to the government shut-down last year– a result of their stubborn determination to sabotage the Clinton administration–they are trying very hard to convey the impression that they are taking the “high road”. Don’t be fooled: they know exactly what they’re doing. When the time comes, if the public can be swayed against Clinton, they’ll demand their pound of flesh. It’s been more than 25 years, but they won’t think it’s too late to retaliate for Watergate.

The question any alert observer would have to ask is, do they really want to give Al Gore a two-year head start on the next election? Maybe, maybe not. It might be easier to fight an incumbent who can be blamed for just about anything that happens in the country, than a fresh-face with creditable experience and political savvy. I’m not sure of the read on this one, but I do know one thing: we’re not getting the whole story.

More and more citizens appear to be adopting the view that this is all politics as usual in Washington D.C. Generally, they feel Clinton is doing a good job– the economy is booming–and don’t want to see a change.

I’ll go out on a limb and make a forecast: a reaction will set in shortly. The media will do some self-analysis and conclude that they may have gotten carried away. Clinton will go on the attack. The American public will perceive this attack as being an indictment of the media that splashes stories about semen-stained dresses on the nightly news, and they will quietly approve. Gore will be president… in 2000.

The Tears of a Clone

You may have heard that a Richard Seed, a scientist in Chicago, has announced that he is going to proceed with human cloning experiments, in spite of President Clinton’s request for a voluntary ban on such experiments for five years. Then it was announced that two labs, one in the U.S. and one in Bath, England, have succeeded in cloning headless mice and tadpoles.

Charles Krauthammer, in Time Magazine, reacts with horror. Please, oh please don’t create headless humans. He feels it should be a capital crime. “Cloning is the technology of narcissism”.

Well, I didn’t know narcissism was a crime. But I do know we don’t have room in all the prisons in the world for the guilty. And I know that Krauthammer is a raving hypocrite. We have spent 200 years building the culture of narcissism and Time Magazine has been it’s biggest cheerleader. Suddenly Frankenstein gets up and walks, and Time goes “eek”. Where was Time Magazine’s righteous indignation when we dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

There is one major problem with stopping scientific experiments on human clones. We don’t have the intellectual, moral, or cultural framework left to support the idea. Our boldest thinkers have killed God, the thoughtless middle class has locked him into a charming little box in a tiny little corner of Sunday, and most of our religious “leaders” are too busy building crystal cathedrals and erecting statues of themselves to do anything more than rant about high school sex education and pornography on the Internet. And now science has gone pornographic and nobody is ready to grapple with the complex scientific and moral issues that arise from it.

The problem is that the idea of free enterprise, or allowing the “market” to determine the success, failure, or acceptability of different technological inventions or ideas, has come to dominate not only our society’s economics and corporate management and even government, but our culture as well. And the fundamental philosophical belief that makes free enterprise possible is individualism. If you ask yourself, who should have ultimate authority to determine whether or not you can buy something, read a book, listen to music, watch a video, or wear your seatbelt—the answer is always “me”. We don’t want the government, the church, the union, or the corporation to have that authority. We want it all for ourselves. And if we want to make brain-less clones to provide us with an unlimited future supply of transplantable organs, who has the right to stop us?

Let’s say the government does pass a law—as seems likely—banning the creation of human clones. First of all, some big corporation (or maybe a bold, little corporation) is going to go ahead and do it anyway and then challenge the law in court. Try to imagine the Supreme Court’s ruling on the issue. What are the grounds they will give for supporting the law? As long as the clones don’t have a brain, they won’t be human, because our courts and legislatures have steadily shrunk the definition of “human” in order to accommodate all the other scientific developments of this century, including artificial respirators that can keep brain-dead humans “alive” indefinitely, artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, and, of course, abortion. Would you want to argue that cloning violates some universal concept of human dignity? The courts have ruled over and over again that such concepts are religious in nature and thus discriminatory.

Even if the Supreme Court in the U.S. supported the law, scientists would simply move off-shore to some obliging little island nation and proceed with impunity. Does anyone doubt that there’s money to be made in this business, regardless of any national laws?

So there will be no law. We will clone humans because we can clone humans. We have a new Pandora’s box before us and we will open it because we have already opened every other Pandora’s box and nobody knows any more how to even conceive of an idea of a rationale for keeping it closed.

What are we going to do with all these new powers? We’re going to live longer. We’re going to automate everything. We’re going to have all the information in the world at our finger-tips. We’re going to become more and more self-sufficient and self-contained. We’re going to be completely selective about what we do, who we see, what we know about, where we go, what we believe. Can government survive these developments? Can the church? Can the family? In Sweden, already, almost half the population lives alone. In the future, all of us may have two, three, or four different families in our lifetimes, and then, for the last decades of our lives, we will live alone, because the ultimate convenience is to be completely self-sufficient.

No civilization in history has been faced with so many issues that confront the question of what being human really means. The Middle Ages believed that man was a worm riding on the waves of a colossal tempest, whose only dignity was the possibility of redemption by an all-powerful god. The Renaissance gave man faith in himself, as “the measure of all things”. The late 19th Century gave rise to a prevailing belief in human progress—both moral and material. The sinking of the Titanic was a little blip on the radar screen of the horizon of human potential; the two World Wars—including the holocaust and Hiroshima—were major blips. But we continued our race to the future. To the average citizen, the 1949 World’s fair, with its displays on the wonders of technology, had more impact than the ruminations of Jean-Paul Sartre on absurdity. Now, with the collapse of communism and world peace, for the first time, within our grasp, we seem to stand on the brink of unimaginable wealth and progress. The computer and the Internet have become the poster boys of this brave new world, and DNA manipulation may be the crown jewel. But all of these developments have created a profound spiritual unease.

What if we are soon able to live to 100? 120? 150? Can a marriage last 100 years? I don’t think so. Think about it: our notions of fidelity and commitment were forged in an era in which the average life-span was less than 40 years. People married young, so the average marriage lasted about 25 years. Is the rise in the divorce rate merely a reflection of the fact that people can live together for only so long? The Bible is emphatic about divorce—it is wrong. But life expectancy in 30 A.D. was even shorter than it was in the 19th century, and the status of women was equal to livestock. Can such an imperative survive today’s social climate?

And what will we think about as we replace our burned out organs and continue to grow older? Will we grow wise and begin to understand that there are moral satisfactions that can’t be bought or manufactured? Or will we grow foolish and increasingly desperate, and resort to drugs and cosmetic surgeries and ever greater obscenities in order to recapture the shallow illusions about the satisfactions of youth and vigor and sexual appeal?

The Wrong Issue: Welfare Bums in Ontario

A surprising number of my friends and acquaintances absolutely agree with Mike Harris when he says he wants to kick those lazy free-loaders off the welfare roles and put them back to work. Why should the government subsidize able-bodied adults who should be out there working? Why am I working hard just so my tax dollars can pay for you to have a good time?

Maybe I agree, maybe I don’t. The thing is, I don’t think most people realize how much a smoke screen this issue is.

The thing is, when the government writes a check for $450 to Mabel Smith (not a real person) and her two children because she doesn’t have a job and needs to pay for her apartment and food, we cry “hand out”! Welfare bum! Parasite!

But when a corporation receives a tax exemption…. we get confused. The government doesn’t give Molson Breweries, for example, a check, so it isn’t a handout… or is it?

You tell me: what’s the difference? There isn’t any. If Molson owes the government $10 million in taxes on it’s net profits and the government says, hey, tell you what, pay me $5 million instead, what we have is the government giving Molson’s $5 million dollars as surely as if they handed it to them in small denominations in a little black briefcase. If it was true, this would be a massive government “hand-out”. It would be unfair.

Well, the government does this all the time. It does it when it allows corporations to deduct the cost of renting a box at the Skydome as a “business” expense. It does it when it allows corporations to pollute the environment without paying the cost of cleaning it up. It does it when it uses tax money to pay for sports stadiums, or when it defers taxes on a new factory, or subsidizes the cost of electricity for aluminum plants. It does it when it builds highways and bridges for the cars manufactured by Chrysler, GM, Ford, and Toyota. It does it when it helps bail out the banks that made stupid loans to third world despots who used the money to buy weapons from American manufacturers. It does it every time two businessmen go out for lunch and bill their expense accounts.

The most egregious example of this kind of lavish government subsidy of the rich is, of course, professional sports. The Minnesota Twins are, at this moment, demanding that the hardworking taxpayers of the State of Minnesota fork over about $400 million to pay for a new stadium for the Twins. The owner of the Minnesota Twins is a billionaire. But, he weeps, he can’t afford a new stadium. The old stadium, built to last 30 years, is only 15 years old, but it doesn’t have a private entrance for the boxes, you see, so those rich people actually have rub shoulders with ordinary plebes on their way to their exclusive, private, privileged seats.

At the same time, these idiot owners are offering their players contracts for up to $100 million over seven years. Everyone on the face of the earth knows that this is insane, but most people seem to think that it doesn’t directly affect them because they don’t go to many professional sporting events and if the owner wants to squander his money like that, so be it. The truth is though that you and I are paying Joe Carter $6.5 million to hit 25 home runs and bat .240 this year, because we paid for the Skydome with our tax dollars and the money that the Blue Jays didn’t have to pay for a stadium was thereby freed up to pay for their players. Just to add insult to injury, they gave the exclusive food concession rights to McDonald’s so they could charge twice the regular price for a hot dog. You would think that since we paid for the stadium we could at least get decent food at a fair price. And, of course, McDonald’s is thereby getting a government subsidy. Where are all the free market believers when it really matters?

This is madness. This is insane. This is the product of a society that is full of macho sports freaks who get visibly upset when they hear about a welfare mother spending $30 of her money on booze and cigarettes instead of food but stare with envy when see a basketball star show up with his two bodyguards. What that welfare mother should really do is learn how to play baseball.

The solution is simple. The reason Minnesota even considered subsidizing the stadium for the Twins was the threat to move the Twins to another town that would be willing to pay for a stadium. (Minnesota turned them down). It should be illegal for any town or any state or province to subsidize, with tax dollars, a professional sports stadium. All of the other subsidies should also stop, including “hidden” subsidies, like the costs of dealing with environmental damage caused by factories and industries.

Every corporation should be required to clean up after themselves– if they complain that they can’t afford to do this, they shouldn’t be in business. Should car manufacturers pay to build roads? They’ll scream bloody murder. They’ll say that it would make cars too expensive. Well, isn’t that a thought! You mean the real cost of cars is far higher than the sticker price? How about the cost of bodily injuries caused by speeding? Maybe we should have built up the public transit services instead of the highways. Maybe we should have more trains and buses today and less Firebirds and Intrepids. Read the history of the development of our cities: this idea is not as far-fetched as you think.

Finally, no bank– including the IMF– should be allowed to loan money to any government that is not certifiably democratically elected. Why should the people of Brazil or Argentina pay for F-14 fighter jets ordered by the illegal governments that ran those countries in the 1970’s? Do you know what those jets were used for? Nothing. Do you know where the money is coming from to pay back those loans? It’s coming out of the schools and hospitals and development projects that are needed to help the average people of these countries survive.

Either that, or we should learn to shut up about welfare recipients.