Nixon vs Clinton

Many Republicans in the U.S. have publicly compared the Monica Lewinsky scandal with the Watergate scandal of the Nixon Administration. Some of these same Republicans used to say that Watergate was nothing more than politics and Nixon should never have been forced to resign. Nixon used to say so himself. So if the Lewinsky scandal is similar to Watergate, then I guess they are saying that Clinton shouldn’t resign either.

Just to set the record straight, I thought I would render a public service by offering a short refresher on Watergate.

In the early planning stages of the 1972 election campaign, a night watchman at the Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C. spotted some masking tape over a lock on a door leading to the National Headquarters of the Democratic Party. He called the police and several men were arrested and charged with burglary. At the hearing before a District Court, one of the men admitted that he had been an employee of the CIA. A reporter for the Washington Post, Bob Woodward, got curious about this connection and started investigating the case more thoroughly.

So Watergate began with a criminal act. A criminal act is a violation of the public laws of the land. The Lewinsky affair, of course, began with a case of adultery. And because Lewinsky was a consenting partner to the offense, there was no criminal act involved (though the Republicans made more than a passing attempt to characterize Clinton’s actions as “sexual harassment”, because it involved an employee. Republican House Leader, Newt Gingrich, at precisely the same time, was having an affair with one of his own office employees, while his wife was ill with cancer!)

A few months later, Bob Haldeman, one of Richard Nixon’s top aides, informed the President that the FBI was investigating the burglary. Nixon instructed Haldeman to tell the FBI to stop their investigation, and he agreed to a payment of “hush money” to the burglars. This is called “Obstruction of Justice” in legal terms and is a serious criminal offense, especially when it is committed by a public official entrusted with the authority to enforce the law.

There is no evidence that Clinton attempted to use his office to influence the investigation of the Monica Lewinsky affair. Even if you believe the worst case scenario, that Clinton asked Lewinsky to lie to the Special Prosecutor, no sane person would regard such activity as being in any way comparable to authorizing the disbursement of bribes or attempting to interfere with the criminal investigation of a burglary of a political party’s national headquarters. We should add that the burglars were attempting to plant listening devices on the phones in the offices of the Chairman of the Democratic Party. This certainly goes beyond what Nixon liked to characterize as “dirty tricks” when discussing other acts of sabotage conducted by his underlings during the election campaigns. At the core of the Watergate scandal, there were a number of discrete criminal acts, and the cover-up was intended to prevent the men who committed these acts from being caught. As much as the Republicans would like to suggest that Clinton’s attempts to conceal his affair with Monica constituted a similar act of malfeasance, it is absurd to say that because both Nixon and Clinton tried to conceal that they were concealing actions that were substantively similar.

Nixon’s legal advisor, Charles Colson, was instructed to keep a list of “enemies”. This list included political commentators like CBS’s Daniel Schorr, liberal activist performers like Paul Newman, and other public figures and journalists. The Internal Revenue Service was instructed to conduct thorough audits of the tax returns of many of the people on the list. This is a rather serious abuse of authority.

Nixon’s staff hired former CIA employees to break into the offices of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist in a coordinated attempt to discredit the well-known source of “The Pentagon Papers”. This, of course, again, was a criminal act. We don’t know if Nixon knew about it before it was carried out, but he definitely knew about it afterwards and again authorized a cover-up.

Nixon ordered secret bombings of Cambodia despite legislation which clearly required him to inform Congress promptly of such measures. He ordered his staff to lie about the bombings before a Congressional Committee. As a result of these bombings, the government of Cambodia was destabilized and subsequently over-thrown by the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge conducted wholesale massacres afterwards, leading to the deaths of millions of Cambodians. The U.S. was already in a state of undeclared war with North Viet Nam (no official declaration was ever made). The bombing of Cambodia was a very serious violation of the rights of a sovereign nation.

Nixon’s personal choice for Vice-President, Spiro Agnew, was charged with influence peddling and extortion and forced to resign. I suppose it’s not a crime to select a criminal to be second-in-line to the office of President of the United States, but it ought to be. Al Gore, on the other hand, is squeaky clean.

Nixon fired the Special Prosecutor, Archibald Cox, after the Supreme Court ruled that the President must accede to his request to turn over the secret tapes of conversations held in the Oval Office shortly after the Watergate break-in. Had he not resigned, this action alone, which was in defiance and contempt of the highest court in the nation, would have been almost certain grounds for impeachment. When Elliot Richardson, the Attorney General, refused to fire Cox, Richardson was fired. When Richardson’s deputy refused to do it, he too was fired. FBI agents were then ordered to seize the offices of the Special Prosecutor.

The move backfired, and alienated even some of Nixon’s staunchest supporters. He was forced to back down and appoint a new Special Prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, who promptly renewed the demand for the tapes.

Having exhausted his legal options, Nixon finally turned over some of the tapes, after announcing that several were missing and that one of the key tapes had an 18-minute gap. Nixon denied that he had ordered the destruction of evidence, but it stretches credulity to believe that he was unaware of the gaps or missing tapes until the day he finally turned them over to the Special Prosecutor.

The tapes revealed that Nixon had in fact participated in the cover-up, ordered the destruction of evidence, ordered his staff to lie to Congress and the Special Prosecutor, ordered hush money to be paid out to informers out of a secret fund controlled by the White House, and had openly suggested that intimidation and extortion could be used to obstruct the investigation. More significantly, the tapes demonstrated that Richard Nixon believed that he was above and outside of the law. The conversations reveal a petty, insecure, vindictive little man who thought nothing of using the privileges of his office to lash out at political enemies and intimidate those who thwarted his plans. When he tried to use “Executive Privilege” to hide evidence of his wrong-doing, he became a genuine threat to the rule of law and the democratic process and to the institutions of accountable government. His crimes were very serious and, had he not resigned, he deserved to be impeached, and he would certainly have been impeached, and a large number of Republicans, (including present Secretary of Defense, William Cohen), would have joined the Democrats in voting for impeachment.

To compare the Lewinsky affair to Watergate is ludicrous.

Black Eye for Canadian Athletes at the Olympics

CBC Radio just reported on a “visit” by Canadian Olympic athletes to a Japanese elementary school near Nagano. This event had been planned months ago and the school had been told that even Wayne Gretzsky and his wife might show up.

Well, the only people who showed up were a few Olympic Committee Functionaries and Atina Ford, an alternate on the Canadian Women’s Curling team. The entire event became a dismal embarrassment to all concerned. The children had prepared elaborate gifts and ceremonies, and games designed to include the honored athletes. The teachers had brushed up on their English and arranged an assembly and invited parents.

Atina Ford saved the day to some extent. She is a teacher by profession, and she quickly gathered the children around her and got some games started and had the children laughing and clapping. The Japanese were exceedingly polite and gracious, but there was no hiding the crushing disappointment, especially among the staff of the school who had been preparing for the event for three weeks.

I surprised myself at how ashamed I felt about the behaviour of the Canadian athletes, far, far more ashamed than I did about Ross Rebagliati testing positive for marijuana. In the back of my mind, I think I understand how busy their lives are and how it must feel to have everyone clamoring for a piece of you all the time. But this story twists a knife in your guts. Maybe it’s because we do know how busy our athletes are: signing endorsement contracts, going to parties, receiving congratulatory calls from the Prime Minister, posing for pictures, exchanging Olympic paraphernalia with other athletes, meeting with their agents, their trainers, their personal chef, or whatever… and none of them had a few moments to spare for a group of hopeful Japanese school children?

I just know that when our athletes find out about this humiliating situation, a number of them will step forward and immediately schedule a visit to the school as soon as possible. If they do, we’ll know they really do have class, and all will be forgiven. If they don’t, I know what my strongest memory of these Olympic games is going to be.

* * *

What’s all this blather about how beautiful and elegant and graceful the figure skaters are? As far as I’m concerned, Joan McCusker of the curling team is the only goddess on ice at these Olympic games.

 

* * *

The Canadian men’s hockey team is far more dominant than I think most people give them credit for. I’ll go on record: they will stroll into the Gold Medal. Remember, you heard it here first.

March 8, 1998: Obviously, I was wrong. However, I will observe that Canada lost to the eventual champions, Czechoslovakia, by the slimmest of margins. Then they lost an embarrassment to the Fins, but did anybody really believe the Canadians cared deeply about the Bronze medal?

* * *

The Canadian women’s hockey team deserved to lose, but I wish they had won just so I wouldn’t have had to watch the U.S. women actually sing their national anthem after receiving their medals. Don’t they know that you’re supposed to just move your lips up and down vaguely so, just in case anyone accused you of patriotism, you could always say you were mouthing the Lord’s Prayer or just chewing gum instead?

Anyway, Women’s hockey should not be an Olympic sport. There were only two countries in serious contention. It was a medal giveaway for the U.S. and Canada. Come back when there are at least six contenders.

Olympics Notes

Other Olympic Notes
Catriona LeMay Doan won the gold medal for Canada in the women’s 500 meters. She discussed her faith with a CBC interviewer, with slight defensiveness. She obviously didn’t want to be confused with other Christian athletes who believe that God awards the gold medals. Sports Illustrated picked her to win the 500 and to place 3rd in the 1000.

The Canadian Women’s Hockey team is very poorly coached. On February 14, they were leading the U.S. 4-1. The U.S. team scored a goal, which rattled the Canadians, who responded with a foolish penalty. Another quick goal, and the Canadians were really rattled, disorganized, and confused. Coach Shannon Miller merely kept pacing behind the bench, while the Americans kept scoring. They lost the lead. She didn’t call a time out, she didn’t speak to her players, she didn’t change goalies… nothing. This was a golden opportunity for the Canadians to take the high road, play clean, determined, defense, and show the U.S. how unflappable they were. Instead, they fell apart. With more than a minute left in the game, Miller pulled the goalie without securing possession of the puck or a face-off in the U.S. zone. The Canadians lost 7-4. This is merely the most recent in a long series of negative indicators– Miller cancelled the team Christmas party after a poor game against the U.S., and imposed a gag order on star player Haley Wickenheiser. There was also some controversy about the selection process for the team.

Brian Stemmle has CLASS. His terrific run at the downhill, in which he was leading 3/4 of the way through the race before hitting a fluke rut, was electrifying. In an interview afterwards, he blamed no one but himself, even though a lot of us were tempted to think the hill should have been better maintained.

At the 1994 Olympics in Spain, the U.S. basketball team stayed in private villas and hotels and refused to mix with the mortal athletes in the Olympic Village. The NHL players deserve high praise for choosing to live in the Olympic village with the rest of the athletes. Class again.

CBC coverage is the worst I have ever seen. Brian Williams is boring. Most of the “features” are poorly conceived and weakly presented (read “cheap”). There is very little insight into either the competition or the character of the athletes.

There was a time when the viewers were informed when what they were watching had been taped earlier. It is a kind of fraud to present 12 hour old events as if they were just happening. And when it really is happening, you don’t know.

Please please please get rid of those drab middle-aged men who present the medals. Who are they? What are they doing there? How did they get those jobs?!. They are the self-serving crony-apparatchiks of the IOC. Wouldn’t it have been great to have Eric Heiden, for instance, present the gold medal for speed skating, or Peggy Fleming present the medal for figure skating, or Nancy Greene for skiing? Come on, wouldn’t it? The Olympics remind me of war when I see those men: wasted, hollow old functionaries without courage, grace, or skill, controlling the destinies of the young and innocent.

Let’s see… Elvis Stojko skates a 3 1/2 minute routine including several triple-triple and triple-double jumps, makes all of them perfectly… but he can’t skate from the centre of the ice to the boards without practically collapsing in pain? Why did this remind me so much of the Keri Strug farce at the summer Olympics? My guess is that Elvis was really in some pain– every athlete at this level of competition always is–and probably had a bit of the flu. My guess is also that, knowing he couldn’t win on merit alone because he didn’t include a quad in his program, he made a play for audience sympathy. Stojko’s not stupid: he knows when the camera is on close-up. He wanted us to be impressed with his courage and determination. He wanted the judges to know that he could have done better if he hadn’t been injured. Maybe he really hoped it might win him a mark or two. Whatever the reason, I thought it was coy, and I wished he’d shown a little more class. And I’ll bet you most of his competitors think so too.

I hope the people who arrange housing in the Olympic village had the genius to put the curling teams into the same dorms as the snowboarders. But then, marijuana probably is a performance enhancing drug for curlers….

This is about the fifth Olympics in a row for which it was predicted that Canada would take a “record haul” of medals. Who is responsible for these predictions? Whoever it is should be sacked.

Bettman Weenie

Gary Bettman was interviewed on CBC last night. He was in Nagano attending the Olympics.

Gary Bettman is the weenie who runs the NHL. I think the technical name for his position is “President and Chief Weenie”. You remember Gary Bettman, don’t you? He’s the guy who scored that over-time goal for Philadelphia in the 1976 Stanley Cup finals while playing a man short and with a fractured ankle.

Yeah, right.

Actually, Bettman is an accountant, I believe. He looks about as athletic as a tub of cream cheese. But when the Stanley Cup is finally won every spring, guess who gets to present it to the winning team? Jean Beliveau? Rocket Richard? Bobby Hull? Bobby Orr? No, it’s president-weenie, Gary Bettman.

What I want to know is, who is paying for Bettman to be in Nagano and what is he doing there? Is he staying in the athlete’s village? If not, who’s paying for his hotel room? Why is he there? Why does this man even exist?

He is typical of the controlling functionary class of parasites who, unfortunately, dominate almost all sports. He was never an athlete. He never practiced something for hours and hours every day of every month of every year for most of a life-time in order to be the best at something in the world. He never suffered through the injuries, pain, and sacrifices to reach an Olympic class of performance.

He is a weenie, and now he is an Olympic weenie. When these men present medals and awards, they are sending a message to the athletes. The message is, you may have done all the work and made all the sacrifices, and you may have all the talent, but our system is not controlled by people who do all the work and make all the sacrifices and have all the talent, and if you don’t kiss my ass, we will crush you, the way we crushed Jim Thorpe, and Carl Brewer, and the American sprinters who gave the black power salute on the podium at the Mexico games in 1968, and Bourne and Krantz, the Canadian ice dancers who could turn perfectly synchronized quintuple lutz’s and still finish fifth.

Killers

So Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson wanted clemency for Karla Faye Tucker, the Texas murderess who was executed yesterday evening. It’s hard to imagine why. Won’t the morals of western society collapse in a sodden heap the day we allow compassion to over-rule our sense of biblical justice?

It is hard to imagine how someone who claims to live his entire life according to the precepts of the bible can come to some of the conclusions that Falwell, Robertson and company come to. According to them, the Bible endorses free enterprise, capitalism, and the American way. It’s mind-boggling. Even if you are a literalist– and I’m not–where on earth does someone get the idea that the Hebrews believed in laissez faire economics? In fact, time and time again, God held the Hebrews strictly accountable for how they invested their capital, used their resources, and what they spent their money on. The widows, orphans, and strangers had to be treated well, or God would withdraw his favours from Israel. Nowhere does God say or suggest, “don’t give generously to the poor, for in so doing, thou wilt encourage dependency and sloth. And thou shalt keep the minimum wage low that the Lord may bless your tax-free capital gains”.

Back to capital punishment: contrary to what I just said, there is sound biblical evidence for the application of capital punishment, right next to the sound biblical evidence for mass murder and genocide. Does that sound harsh? Well, if you’re a literalist, you have to find some way to explain, to your heart’s satisfaction, why God occasionally approved of the slaughter of women and children, along with the soldiers of Israel’s enemies.

Personally, I’m happier believing that the Bible is infallible in the sense of spiritual inspiration, but not necessarily in the sense of historic, social, or economic truth. Thanks to the Dead Sea Scrolls, we have found more than a few errors of translation in the gospels. One more error in translation I’d like to suggest is the idea that God approved of Israel’s violent campaigns against their Canaanite neighbors. More likely, Israel’s writers and historians merely did what all modern writers and historians do as well: attribute a divine moral authority to an all too human act of nasty blood-thirstiness.

The Salaries of Canadian MPs

According to Southam Newspapers, Canadian MP’s rank near the bottom of the world in terms of pay. Here’s some comparisons:

The big surprise here is socialist Sweden, which pays their members of Parliament less than anyone else, though they sit for a respectable 125 days a year. My goodness. What happened to the stereo-type of the free-spending left-lib government hack squandering all the taxpayer’s hard-earned money on useless and wasteful policy-wonking? What’s going on here? How come the most conservative government in the western world, the U.S., pays their legislators nearly the most?

There is a theory that a national health insurance plan similar to Canada’s would never work in the U.S. (where the cost of health care is, proportionately, three times what we pay) because conservative doctors would consider it a moral duty to cheat the plan as much as possible. There is a good deal of evidence that this theory is true. So the conservatives have made themselves a self-fulfilling prophecy: national health insurance will not work in the U.S. because we will abuse the system to death.

Good for them. That’s why they get paid so much.

Canadian MPs are paid too little. Most people in responsible positions that are at all comparable to being a member of parliament earn well over $100,000. But if we do decide to increase their pay, we should demand something in return: genuine democracy. Thanks largely to Trudeau, our government has evolved into an overly centralized system wherein most key decisions are made by top advisors and cabinet and ordinary party members play almost no role in arriving at decisions anymore. If we really only need ten people to run the country, let’s pay ten people to run the country and toss the rest of the bums out. Let’s also abolish the Senate now and get it over with.

Yes, our MPs are paid too little, but one thing does need to be pointed out: they all applied for the job knowing full well what the wages were. No one forced them to run. If they don’t like the pay or working conditions, fine, quit. There is something offensive about these guys campaigning on civic-mindedness, prudence, and responsibility to the taxpayer… and then doing everything they can to line their own pockets once they get in.

The problem is: who decides what the government should be paid? I have a solution. It’s so ingenious I can’t believe no one every thought of it before! And it’s perfectly in tune with the modern spirit of privatization and downsizing. This is the plan: every candidate running for political office must include, as part of the registration process, a “bid” for his own salary. So when Joe Schmo launches his campaign in Kamloops, the first thing voters want to know is, how much is he offering to work for? Preston Manning can offer his services for $34,500 a year. Chretien thinks he’s worth $100,000. Voters can decide.

You may think this will give an unfair advantage to the rich, who can afford to offer to govern for free. I don’t think so. I think most voters will realize pretty quickly that a Paul Martin at $125,000 is worth a lot more than a Sheila Copps at $69,000, or a Conrad Black– should he decide to run– at $5,000. It would make elections a lot more interesting, because really good, popular politicians could set records for highest pay, and would be entitled to influential positions because the voters want them to have influential positions. Politicians would be more accountable, because we could quickly figure out if they were worth the amount of money they asked for, instead of the amount that all MPs, competent or not, receive.

One last rant here: the taxpayer subsidizes education in Canada to an enormous degree. I forget the actual figures, but I saw them once in the Globe and Mail, and believe me, the numbers are huge. Among the most expensively subsidized educational programs is medicine. And those figures do not even include the cost of providing hospitals and clinics in which doctors and nurses are trained.

I propose that every medical student, nurse or doctor, who enrolls in a Canadian college or university, should be required to sign an agreement to repay every last cent of the subsidized portion of their education if they ever decide to move to U.S. and practice there. The amount would probably be well over $100,000 for doctors, and $40,000 for nurses. Perhaps someone will come up with better figures for me. Why should we Canadian taxpayers, in effect, subsidize the U.S. health care system just because they’re too stupid or dishonest to have their own coherent plan?

Country Salary Sitting
Japan $169,759 43
Germany $102,798 66
United States $169,672 144
Canada $64,400 148
Sweden $36,465 125

 


	

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

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.