Sunday, December 28, 2014

Adult Fun

“Dad, is it any fun being an adult?”

That was the philosophical bombshell my 11-year-old son dropped on me the other day. I think I was in the middle of struggling with some boring but necessary task and told him I had to take a rain check on playing his new zombie chainsaw video game.

I am a big believer in fun, but notwithstanding what you see in beer commercials, being an adult often gets in the way.

There’s keeping track of paying not-so-fun bills, making sure there’s gas in the car and the dirty furnace filter gets changed when the thermostat starts beeping at you.

It’s a special adult joy this time of year to gather together all your stubs and receipts to so you can pay your taxes. I know there are people depending on me to pay them. If I don’t pay my taxes there’s some senator who will have to go without their housing allowance or will have to travel coach.

A child doesn’t know the fun of running down the street in your pajamas on hearing the garbage truck at the end of your driveway at 7:30 in the morning when for the past six months they’ve come regularly at 4:30 in the afternoon and you haven’t put your trash out.

Adults have to do the responsible things like schedule doctor and dentist appointments or find someone to unclog a toilet on a Sunday evening.

They have to pay attention to boring things like life insurance, college funds and putting on an itchy suit to go to the occasional funeral of elderly aunts.

Inside the house everyone’s favourite groceries have to be continually restocked, floors cleaned and laundry done. Not many people would consider any of these things fun.

And then there are the responsibilities of parenthood, with everything from wresting with long division and provincial capitals to mysterious stomach aches and bazooka barfing on the best rug in the house.

Speaking of dentists and doctors, there’s no adult joy like holding your child’s hand while they’re getting a needle or the dentist is at work with a drill on their first cavity. Plus you have to do it with a calm look on your face even though you’re feeling the pain at least as much as them.

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone with kids, but they do tend to put a crimp in your social life. If you want to go out you are at the mercy of your babysitter’s schedule. You could have playoff tickets, but you’re not going anywhere unless some 16-year -old chooses to accept your 10 bucks an hour instead of going out with her friends.

Forget spontaneous road trips, cheap last minute vacations or staying out until four because the Rolling Stones unexpectedly showed up to jam in a local bar.

Adults have to get up the next morning for work or get the kids to school with a nutritious lunch and their homework done.

And while it’s theoretically possible as an adult to eat candy and ice cream at every meal, stay up late and drive a car with big red flames on the sides, not many of us actually do it.

After listening to my catalog of responsibilities my son came to the inevitable conclusion: “So you’re saying that kids wreck adults having fun.”

I looked at him.

“No. You are the most fun thing in my life and I’m awfully lucky to have you. Now let’s play that video game. Those zombies aren't going to kill themselves."

© Stephen Lautens - 2013

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Farewell to Eddie Greenspan

I see Eddie Greenspan, one of Canada’s most well-known criminal lawyers, died on Wednesday. He was an excellent and joyous criminal lawyer, devoted to the abolition of capital punishment and putting the criminal justice system to the strictest of proofs.

I met him on one or two occasions (fortunately never in his professional capacity), but what I really remember about him is how he solved one of the great legal cases of our time that involved my parents.

Back in the 1980s my parents spent every New Years Eve with a motley crew of politicians, pollsters and advertising people. It was generally held at the home of the late, great Senator Keith Davey, who was my father’s long-time best friend. Regulars also included Martin Goldfarb, the pioneer political pollster, Terry O’Malley, head of Vickers & Benson advertising, and various other people who played in the public arena. The evenings had very little drinking involved (my father never touched the stuff) but a lot of party games, culminating in the “Canada Cup”.

The Canada Cup was the world’s ugliest trophy. Bought at Honest Ed’s as a deformed plaster lawn ornament, spray painted gold and with a little Canadian flag stuck on it, the Canada Cup was awarded to the person who made the most accurate predictions about the top events of the future year. Predictions were collected from everyone on New Year’s Eve on a variety of topics and sealed in envelopes to be opened a year later. My father was up against some of the most sophisticated public opinion pollsters and politicians in Canada, and year after year the hideous Canada Cup graced our dining room as dad beat them all in predicting the top events of the upcoming year.

One year, the winner of the Canada Cup was in dispute over the subjective interpretation of an answer. Not being able to decide a clear winner, Keith Davey said the only solution was to refer it to the legal system. He asked his pal Eddie Greenspan to hear the case.

Apparently Eddie showed up at a mock solemn gathering of the disputed parties, wearing his full court robes, and listened to each finalist argue their case as to why their answer was the correct one and why they deserved the much coveted Canada Cup. After hearing their arguments, Eddie delivered his judgment and one party went home with the world’s ugliest trophy and bragging rights for the ensuing year. There was no appeal to the Supreme Court.

Others will remember Eddie as a great criminal lawyer. I’ll always remember him as the Solomon who settled the great Canada Cup dispute (without charging a fee).

Thursday, November 27, 2014

On the Internet, Stupid is Forever

Sometimes I place things here just so there's a semi-permanent reminder of things so breathtakingly stupid they deserve to be preserved in free-floating electrons forever.

Yesterday, apropos of nothing, Edmonton Conservative MP Peter Goldring issued the following press release:
Warning: Consorting Without Protection Is Risky

OTTAWA – Peter Goldring, Member of Parliament for Edmonton East, today stated that MPs that consort with others should avail themselves of readily available risk protection for their health and integrity, to prevent besmirchment when encounters run awry.

“It will not be good enough to simply say that your intentions were honourable and you were just inviting a colleague to your apartment at two in the morning to play a game of Scrabble at the end of a day of playing sports and drinking. MPs must learn, as I have from encounters with authority figures in the past, that all do not tell the truth. I now wear ‘protection’ in the form of body-worn video recording equipment. I suggest that others do so too, particularly because some accusers hide behind a shield of supposed credibility which many times is not, and sometimes even hide behind a cloak of anonymity, which conceals their shameful indiscretion and complicity.”
Ummm... Goldring says as one of Harper's MPs he now wears "‘protection’ in the form of body-worn video recording equipment" to "prevent besmirchment when encounters run awry."

The backstory is likely Goldring's own encounter a while back with the local constabulary when pulled over on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. In 2011, according to the arresting officer,"Goldring, after an initial conversation, refused to roll his window all the way down for the breath test. The officer said Goldring refused to answer questions and sat behind the locked door of his vehicle and stared straight ahead." He was charged with refusing to blow. After a spirited defence at trial, he was acquitted in a decision that had a lot of legal observers scratching their heads.

So, Mr. Goldring's mania about recording everything and accusers hiding "behind a shield of supposed credibility which many times is not, and sometimes even hide behind a cloak of anonymity, which conceals their shameful indiscretion and complicity" is less about the current issue of MPs behaving badly and more about his own brush with the law. Plus some people just can't keep their mouths shut.

Only a few hours after Goldring's press release, the Prime Minister's Office no doubt gave him a hot earful and he issued a retraction, saying it was "inappropriate".

No word on his Robocop body cam, which I'm sure his Conservative caucus colleagues appreciate during closed door sessions and frequent chewings out by Harper. After all, you never know when you might be besmirched.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wars, Freedom and Liberty

Yesterday was Remembrance Day, and a particularly solemn one in light of the tragic murders of two soldiers on Canadian soil. It was also an awkward one for the Harper Government as veterans and their families regain their voices and increasingly speak out about the glaring disconnect between Harper's vision of Canada as a proud military power and how poorly his government looks after our old soldiers who now need and deserve our care and assistance.

With the centenary of the First World War being commemorated this year, it is rightly a time for reflections on that terrible war that cost 16 million lives with millions of others returning home terribly wounded. We do a disservice to the causes and effects of the Great War by repeating the simplistic history Harper and others put forward about what that war was about.

At the time WWI was touted as "The Great War For Civilization" and "freedom" and "liberty" were rallying cries for the Allies to continue to feed the horrific meat grinder of the battlefields of Europe. While "The Great War For Civilization" now sounds a little over the top, yesterday's Remembrance Day services did repeatedly keep referring to WWI being a war for freedom and liberty.

Modern scholarship, like Margaret MacMillan's wonderful book "The War That Ended Peace", explains the complexities of the beginning of WWI and the motivations behind the relentless stumbling towards conflict.

What World War One was not was a war of conquest. Except perhaps Austria-Hungary's ambitions in the small Balkan states, the rest of the war wasn't about a land grab in Europe. Unlike the Second World War when Hitler intended to add to Germany and create puppet states around it, World War One was expected to be a short military fight to "clear the air" and then everyone would go home. It was Bismarck's "diplomacy by other means" - a bloody nose to teach France and/or Russia a lesson and take them down a peg. Germany asked Belgium permission to travel through on its way to fight France and invaded when it was told no. It also tried to assure England that it had no interest in staying in France and hoped England would stay out of the fight while they sorted it out between them, which England seemed to have considered.

Except for swapping some African colonies and perhaps occupying part of ever-troublesome Serbia, no one was interested in having their flag fly permanently over a foreign country during WWI.

So when a hundred years later politicians still describe WWI as a war of freedom and liberty, it wasn't in the same sense as World War Two, when a truly evil government was bent on conquest and enslavement. No one wants an invading army in your country, and everyone rightly wants them to leave, but the Kaiser was no Hitler and he wasn't looking to enslave anyone. He was an immature, vain and short-sighted leader whose actions (along with others) led to war, but he wasn't at war to spread an ideology or make Germany bigger. It was a war about access to markets and raw materials and the personal rivalries of royal cousins, their generals and politicians.

Fighting for freedom and liberty? Certainly not in the sense that World War II was. World War One was a tragic and misguided conflict, but to repeat that countless men and women died in WWI for freedom is hardly true in any meaningful sense, especially compared to other conflicts that were about conquest or imposing an ideology on another country. Tellingly, WWI German war propaganda also told their soldiers that they were fighting for freedom ("Freiheit") as well.

As for "The Great War for Civilization", Germany, France, Austria and England were all at the height of their "civilization" before 1914. The war - although fought on both sides with barbaric ferocity - was not about anyone's desire to destroy civilization. The "barbaric Hun" was a useful wartime propaganda tool, but didn't reflect the sophistication of their pre-war society.

A hundred years later politicians who revel in a resurgent militarism repeat these tired phrases long since discredited, because no one will fight for corporate economic interests or the vanity of politicians, but you can still make people fight for freedom and liberty.

None of this takes away from the tragedy and sacrifice of the common soldier who inevitably pays the price for war, or our duty to remember the fallen. We simply owe it to them and future generations to be honest about what they made the ultimate sacrifice for and not hide it behind a false politician's slogan of "freedom and liberty".

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Dean Del Mastro & Harper's Hobson's Choice

A convicted but noisily defiant Dean Del Mastro suddenly resigned as a Member of Parliament today.

Two days ago he was telling the world that he would go to the gates of hell trying to reopen his case after being convicted but before sentencing for what his press release called "fresh evidence". We haven't seen his "fresh evidence", but it appears it is some Elections Canada evidence that was disclosed at or before trial, but Dean and his legal eagles decided to roll the dice on it and didn't feel they needed to ask for an adjournment to review or contest.

But today Dean changed his tune from defiant and fight to the last breath, to resign immediately with what passes for political dignity. In his 15 minute resignation speech in the House of Commons today, Del Mastro was still defiant, defensive, self-congratulatory and expressed his undying love for the Conservative Party.

The Conservatives rewarded him with two things. First a standing ovation from the Government benches, which is odd for someone just convicted of willfully committing electoral fraud. Second, a proposed amendment yesterday from Conservative MP Tom Lukiwksi, parliamentary secretary to the government House leader, amending the MPs' pension forfeiture rule that would limit the new rule to a specific list of criminal offences, coincidentally excluding a conviction under the Canada Elections Act.

So, Dean would get to keep his pension.

Harper was on the horns of a dilemma with Del Mastro's conviction on three courts of violating the Canada Elections Act, the most important of which was not the overspending, but the deliberate attempt to cover it up. The Canada Elections Act says clearly that anyone convicted of these offences is automatically stripped of their seat in the House of Commons and prohibited from running or holding office for 5 years. Parliament controls its own affairs, and Harper has in the past hidden behind a sympathetic and compliant Speaker and his majority to thumb his nose at everything up to and including being found in contempt of parliament - the only time it has ever happened in the Commonwealth.

Harper hates the courts and is determined to make sure Parliament (ie: Harper) is firmly placed above the courts. For him to implement a decision of the courts and Elections Canada regarding Del Mastro, his former parliamentary secretary and Ethics Committee member, would be to acknowledge the courts' authority over him. Not going to happen.

The other half of Harper's Hobson's choice was whether to kick out Del Mastro or not. If he kept him, he would have to fight the real observation that he was harbouring a convicted election cheat. If he kicked Del Mastro out, not only was he caving to the courts, but he was sending a lesson to the faithful that even his loyal foot soldier and attack dog would go under the bus when necessary. And there is no telling who the dog would bite once off the leash.

So in a remarkable about face, today Dean Del Mastro resigned his seat, still singing the praises of the Conservative Party.

What changed? His pension for one. One can imagine a scenario where Del Mastro was told by the PMO short pants brigade that if forced to make a decision, Harper would be forced to have his Conservative caucus vote him out of his seat, pensionless. In fact yesterday Peter van Loan - one of Harper's replacement attack dogs - indicated that the Conservatives might be forced to vote him out of the Commons and might not be able to protect his pension.

Unless - I'm guessing - Dean spares Harper the embarrassment of either keeping him or caving into the court and dismissing him through a vote.  In return, Dean keeps his pension (and possibly some unspecified token of future gratitude) and a small scrap of his dignity

Suddenly, defiant Dean turns on a dime and changes his tune and resigns full of love and praise for his (former) Conservative colleagues. He has fallen on his sword in return for keeping his pension and a farewell speech and Harper can scuttle off to China while the whole thing blows over.

Del Mastro's motion to reopen will go no where - at the best of times it's a rarity and what he complains of being "fresh evidence" is in reality a tactical mistake by him at trial - and any appeal is likewise doomed to failure.

In the meantime Harper has dodged a bullet and Dean keeps his pension after likely having had it explained to him that it was that or being hung out to dry by his own people with nothing to show for it.

Plus a standing ovation from the people who ordered him to walk the plank.

Ain't love grand?

Dean Del Mastro - definitely not a Conservative

Friday, October 31, 2014

Terrorism or Just Terror?

I was back on Sun News yesterday to talk about whether Justin Trudeau would recognize the Ottawa shootings as "terrorism". Apparently it is a big deal on the right to say the actual word. Mulcair has so far refused to brand the Ottawa shooter a terrorist, and frankly that's fine with me. Between my being asked to comment and showing up at the studio Justin Trudeau took the wind out of their sails and said that the Ottawa attack was indeed terrorism. Sad faces all round at a gotcha moment denied.

I tried to start my conversation with Pat Bolland with my view that the terrorist/not terrorist talk is really a "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin" question. It's pure semantics. From a Criminal Code definition perspective, the Ottawa shootings met that definition of terrorism - it is serious violence against the government for a political agenda. A finer point that may only appeal to the lawyers in the crowd is whether the shooter's mental state was capable of forming the requisite intent - i.e. - was he so nuts that the terrorist intent can't be rationally formed by him. It's an academic question that is of no comfort to their victims, but we'll never know. Clearly he - as in the other recent killers of soldiers and RCMP officers - had mental issues.

One point I tried to make is that there is no evidence we've seen that these were "directed attacks" by some terrorist organization. There's no structure or coordination to them, no funding or planning by a terrorist group. Just "lone wolf" attacks by mentally fragile people who have embraced their own skewed version of a violent fundamentalist religious movement with a grudge against authority for their crappy lives. They were "radicalized" by online videos and materials that seemed to speak to them and give their failing lives meaning and purpose. If you haven't read the old classic by Eric Hoffer "The True Believer", you should. It deals with the psychology of certain people susceptible to radical ideologies of the left, right and religion and how fanaticism fills a void in their lives. These are lost souls who find something simple and extreme to cling onto and an enemy to blame, often with tragic results.

The commentator on Sun TV before me talked about how "90% of the Muslim youth he had met were already radicalized." That's just nonsense. There are moderate Muslims by the truckload, but they can be afraid to speak up and make targets of themselves from both sides. Demonizing them as a group drives them further away. The fear mongers are desperate to spin these tragedies into something bigger because it feeds two agendas - the "law and order" security agenda, and the xenophobic anti-Islam agenda. That's why they want to label it "terrorism", because that's a big and emotional bedsheet to hide behind.

Terrorism of course exists. It has existed as long as there have been institutions to rebel against. ISIS is a particularly terrible group and is more than happy to "inspire" terrorist wannabes anywhere in the world with a few cheap YouTube videos and a call for jihadists to come join them in their miserable local war. That, however, seems to be the limit of their international ambitions, with the caveat that anyone who stands in the way of that goal is also considered a fair target. It is not a coincidence that the Ottawa shooter was set off allegedly by being blocked from leaving Canada to join them. It was when he was separated from his heart's desire that his amorphous rage turned towards Parliament Hill.

You can justify all kinds of things in the name of fighting terror that you can't in a rational crusade for better mental health funding. You can extend the reach into people's lives if it is terrorism, but not if it is the frustratingly unpredictable lives of people suffering for severe mental illnesses. Labelling actions as occurred in Ottawa and Quebec terrorism gives us the illusion that we can confront and control it, when the reality is we can't. Both killers were well known to the RCMP and still the tragedies came as a surprise. We already have ample legislation on the books - too ample in my opinion - to deal with terrorists, criminals and their enthusiasts.

As I started to mention on Sun TV, for anyone who has lived with mental illness in friends and family, you know how unpredictable it can be. With the best care and supervision, people can still behave erratically and even violently. Add a radical belief to it (and extreme religiosity is often a symptom of mental illness) and you have people who are unpredictably dangerous. How often have you heard the expression "he was quiet, polite, and kept to himself" used to describe someone who had just tragically gone off the rails? Legislation and even enforcement are largely incapable of dealing with it because of its very nature.

But these things are nuance, and the difference between "terrorism" and "Terrorism" with a capital "T" is not one many people want to make in the wake of a tragedy, especially if it feeds a law and order and security agenda already in place and looking for traction.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Albainn gu brath

Wearing a poppy and my Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada regimental tie in honour of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo tragically murdered while he himself was honouring our dead at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.

While I never had the honor of serving, I have had the pleasure and honour of being a supporting member of the Argyll's Officer's Mess for almost a decade, kindly asked to join by their Colonel after speaking there and discovering I was born in Hamilton. The past week has been a difficult one for the Argyll regimental family, which is close-knit and an important part of the Hamilton community.

Albainn gu brath!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Dier's Remorse

A curious thing happened yesterday at the Supreme Court of Canada. The Court was hearing the appeal from the BC Court of Appeal in a case about euthanasia - specifically the right for those who are unable to take their own lives to have access to "physician assisted death" ("PAD"). You can read the arguments of the appellants in their factum (statement of law and fact) here as a PDF.

Formally known as Lee Carter, et al. v. Attorney General of Canada, et al. the case began in the BC trial division, where Justice Smith ruled that (I'm grossly simplifying here) since able-bodied and mentally competent people can legally and practically end their own lives, there is an inequality because people who are physically unable to end their lives have no access to ending their lives without assistance, particularly humane, competent, physician assisted death. The trial division agreed, but the BC Court of Appeal overturned that decision. The Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal.

I'm raising this case not to deal with the ethical issues or merits of voluntary euthanasia, although for the record, I agree with the appellants, although I hope never to be faced with that decision. The obvious reality is that end of life decisions are made every single day. People agree to non-resuscitation orders and the removal of feeding tubes in hospitals and nursing homes across Canada. As a former client's Power of Attorney I was once asked for permission to remove him from a ventilator. These are hard decisions (and they should be), but we make them.

The Attorney General of Canada (through the Department of Justice) has opposed this appeal. You can read all their reasons in their own factum filed with the Supreme Court. It relies on a case called Rodriguez from 1993, the "slippery slope" argument (ie: if you allow it, where will it all end? Plus, everyone will want one...), protecting abuse (ie: bumping off Granny to get at her gold teeth), and the ever-popular "Supremacy of Parliament" argument (ie: it's up to Parliament to decide such weighty issues, not the court). Of the last one, it takes some cheek to tell the Supreme Court of Canada it shouldn't have the power to decide human rights issues under the Charter of Rights, since that's its job.

One other argument made in the factum and also in yesterday's oral presentation to the Supreme Court caught my eye as novel. Essentially, the federal government argued that it would be wrong to permit assisted suicide because the people who die that way might live to regret it.

Yes, you heard that right.

Department of Justice lawyers argued that if you allow people to commit suicide, they might regret it...

"[T]hey will be unable to voice their regret once they're dead...."

The Conservatives are well known for defending the "pre-born", but this is the first I have heard of them advocating for the post-dead.

The original trial judge rejected such a notion, pondering the obvious in her judgment wondering "if regret is possible after death."

Apparently no dead people were called as witnesses to testify via Ouija board or through the Long Island Medium about their afterlife second thoughts.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The F-Word

CTV's Don Martin the other day finally used the "f-word" in describing the Harper government. Of the recent secret proposal to amend the Copyright Act to allow political parties (ie: the Conservatives) to use news footage in their (mostly negative) ads without permission, Don Martin said this is "flirting with fascism" -

"Fascism" is an emotionally charged word, associated more with Naziism and antisemitism than Spanish or Italian fascism, or its many South American or modern variations, so many are hesitant to whisper it even when it starts becoming appropriate. That's why CTV's breaking the taboo is so significant. It is now out in the open for discussion, and it is a discussion we should be having before it goes further.

From First to Last

First they came for Parliament, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Parliamentarian.

Then they came for the Refugees and Immigrants, and I did not speak out—
Because I was born here.

Then they came for the Scientists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Scientist.

Then they came for Elections Canada, and I did not speak out—
Because I only vote once every four years.

Then they came for the Charter of Rights, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a criminal and they made me afraid for my safety.

Then they came for my data, emails and private conversations, and I did not speak out—
Because I thought I had nothing to hide.

Then they came for the Judges, and I did not speak out—
Because I trusted my government to obey the law.

Then they came for people's citizenship, and I did not speak out—
Because I already had my passport.

Then they came for my sons and daughters to fight overseas, and I did not speak out—
Because I‘m a patriot and don’t want to be called a terrorist sympathizer.

Then they came for me—and it was only then I realized there was nothing left of the Canada I loved. 


A postscript - John Baglow (aka Dr. Dawg) wrote an article that discusses fascism and the use of the "f-word" as it applies to Harper's policies and actions. Read it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Canadian Lawyer Cover Story - Harper's Judicial Appointments Process

I've written the cover story for Canadian Lawyer Magazine in September - out now. 

My article examines the system that Harper's Conservatives and Justice Minister Peter MacKay have developed to stack the mechanics of the federal judicial appointments. The result is an opaque and closed door system that sees women appointments stalled and visible minorities on the bench at a pathetic 1.5%, while the Conservatives hide behind a fictional "arms length" process.

You can read the full article here.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

#MacKayTees - Trending on Twitter

So Peter MacKay decided to slip into something more comfortable at a recent Conservative Fundraiser. What he put on and posed for pictures in is a tee shirt for the good & heavily armed people at the National Firearms Association (NFA) — a seriously pro-gun lobby group — during a Conservative Party fundraiser in Edmonton last week.  The black T-shirt with a logo of a maple leaf and an assault rife (pointing prophetically at his head) and the words “No Compromise” under it.

Furiously backpedalling MacKay said: “A Canadian veteran wounded in Afghanistan approached me at an event in Edmonton, handed me one of his T-shirts and asked if I would pose for a photo." That appears to be a bit of a nose-stretcher, even for the Minister of Justice, as it was the lady on the left who gave him the shirt to wear according to her (now protected) posts. She (Ericka Clarke of the NFA) told CBC News in a Facebook message that she had brought the T-shirt to the event and also posted this:

Surely telling the truth is a job description for the Minister of Justice.

All of which is simply by way of prologue to my starting #MacKayTees and my own Photoshop fun to see what other kinds of inappropriate tee shirts MacKay might wear...

The #MacKayTees was trending on Twitter today, and even attracted the notice of the Toronto Star.

One last note - the above are my originals. I saw a lot more on Twitter done by other people with different tee-shirt slogans, but they left on my name in the corner. I didn't do them. Accept no substitutes!

PS - You can read a slightly more serious article on it by pal @fernhilldammit here:


A little update - our friends at Sun TV News were shocked - shocked, I say - by the reaction. Pleased to see they used three of my #MacKayTees as illustrations.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Harper & Me

It's always dangerous to announce a work in progress this early, but I'm working on a new book about the starkly different views of Canadian nationalism and values that have emerged under Harper. It's more of a personal exploration of what it means to be Canadian and how my Canada is so different from Harper's, even though we are complete contemporaries - both born white, middle-class in 1959.

A recent radio show I did on the direction of the country and an article I wrote for Canadian Lawyer Magazine (out next month, I think) started me thinking about why Harper has had limited success winning Canadians over to his world-view. A recent poll shows Canadians in the last ten years are becoming more progressive in their beliefs as our government brings in increasing regressive policies. Harper's attempts to fit a square peg into a round hole fascinate me.

The book is shaping up as a look at Canadian liberalism & conservatism, the role of government, the Charter and rule of law, Canada's place in the world and how Harper has tried to drag the country's attitudes and values in a completely different direction than the last 50 years with limited success.

Writing so far is going very well, but I always do a mock up of the cover art to inspire me to complete it. Here's an early look.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Monday, August 4, 2014

A Face Made For Radio - My Recent Talk Show Appearance

I'm very pleased to have been asked last week to appear on @CanadianGlen's radio show "The View Up Here". Over the two hour show we chatted mostly about Harper's Conservatives and their problem with (or refusal to) understand the Charter, role of the courts and the legal limits of a parliamentary constitutional democracy. We talk about their terrible record at the Supreme Court of Canada in pushing their ideological legislation without being burdened with concerns about its constitutionality or little things like a fundamental respect for the rule of law.

Thanks Glen. Here is the archived show:

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The "right" to bear arms in Canada - not.

Harper's Public Safety Minister says "To possess a firearm is a right..." No it is not in Canada. Amazing the level of propaganda or ignorance from the "Public Safety" Minister.

In Canada there is no constitutional or surviving common law "right" to a firearm. The Criminal Code and firearms regulations "cover the field". In 1993 (Wiles) the Supreme Court said: "Canadians, unlike Americans, do not have a constitutional right to bear arms."

In 2010 the Ontario Court of Appeal in R. v. Montague, 2010 ONCA 141 said:
[16] Moreover, contrary to the Montagues’ contention, the Supreme Court of Canada has addressed the question of whether the possession and use of firearms is a constitutionally protected right and has rejected the notion that Canadians have an absolute constitutional right to possess and use firearms. See R. v. Wiles, [2005] 3 S.C.R. 895, at para. 9; R. v. Hasselwander, [1993] 2 S.C.R. 398, at para. 414. Although s. 7 of the Charter does not appear to have been expressly invoked in those cases, the Supreme Court stated in Hasselwander at para. 414 that, “Canadians, unlike Americans, do not have a constitutional right to bear arms.” In Wiles at para. 9, the Supreme Court said: “[P]ossession and use of firearms is not a right or freedom guaranteed under the Charter, but a privilege.”

[17] The Montagues submit that the above-quoted comments are obiter, as ss. 7 and 26 of the Charter were not engaged in Hasselwander and Wiles or any related jurisprudence.

[18] We disagree. The Supreme Court’s comments in Hasselwander and Wiles apply with equal force to s. 7 of the Charter.

[19] The Supreme Court has also recognized that the possession and use of firearms is a heavily regulated activity aimed at ensuring peace, order and public safety: see Wiles, at para. 9; Reference re Firearms Act (Can.), [2000] 1 S.C.R. 783.


By the way, the decision of the Court in Montague was delivered by Moldaver J.A., who Harper later appointed to the Supreme Court.

Pretty much case closed. The Minister of Public Safety should open a law book once in a while.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Rob Ford is "Lucy"

Luc Besson's new film "Lucy" is based on the old myth that we only use 10% of our brain capacity. Not true, but for some reason the movie poster got me thinking about our Toronto Mayor Rob Ford...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Harper, Lawyers and the Rule of Law

This is more of a reminder for a larger project I'm fiddling with. I'm fascinated as a lawyer (non-practicing now, thank God) by the attitude towards the law, Charter and courts shown by the Harper Conservatives. Contempt I think is the word that best describes it. The contempt is borne out of a complete and willful lack of understanding of how our parliamentary democracy works and how laws have to be in conformity with the Constitution (including the Charter of Rights).

Theirs is a very unsophisticated - almost juvenile - belief in the "Supremacy of Parliament" and the false god of raw numbers democracy. Due largely to the influence of American republicanism (big and small "R") and prairie charismatic populism, they believe firmly in the right of the majority to tyrannize the minority. The courts of course stand in the way of it as a bulwark against laws that overstep constitutional or deeply-rooted common law precedent.

A recent example (one of many, especially in the wake of the Nadon decision) is a quote from MP Larry Miller, the four-term Conservative MP for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound. It's saddening that in 4 terms as MP he has still not learned anything about how the parliamentary system works. In fact, he must be actively taking steps to not understand it.

Harper's chair of the Transport and Infrastructure committee, and known as the Conservative “Keeper of the Flame”, Miller recently said:

Larry Miller MP
Deep Thinker
“Taking parliamentary powers away ties into the stories that the courts are making the laws. In my opinion, Parliament should make them and if the public don’t like them, then the public will straighten things out. If you take things one step further, why elect people and pay them to do something the courts are doing. But the courts are not there to make laws, they are there to interpret and enforce those laws.

“There are two main reasons I became a Conservative. Firstly, I’m fiscally responsible — I want to see smaller government, not bigger government. Secondly, I’m all for rights and freedoms but the Charter complicates things. Pierre Trudeau did this willfully and deliberately, taking rights away from the majority to protect the minority. The Charter of Rights puts all the lawmaking decisions into the hands of the Supreme Court and to me, that is not what democracy is about."

 See July 14, 2014 National Post article.

It's hard to know where to start with this level of ignorance, especially the lament about Trudeau and the Charter taking away the right of the majority to beat the tar out of minority interests whenever they feel like it. That was sort of the well-publicized point of it.

Then you have Dan Albas, the MP for Okanagan-Coquihalla, who says "he respects the courts" but the goes on to show contempt for the judicial process:

"Often the Plan B is to do an end-run around our democratic process and turn to the courts where it seems some judges are quite happy to engage. This can result in decisions contrary to what have been decided in our democratic process," Albas told CBC Radio's The House. "Basically what you're having is a judge can overturn and then cost the taxpayer a lot of money without any accountability or representation on their behalf."

Because rights are judged on how much money they cost taxpayers, which the government wouldn't have to spend on court challenges if they cared about them in the first place.

Here's another quote from an anonymous Harper MP that shows some of this contempt for professionalism and the legal profession in particular by his government:

Another recounted receiving a call from the Prime Minister’s Office informing her that she’d received an appointment in the justice ministry: “I said, ‘Tell the prime minister to call me back, I didn’t finish law school.’” When the prime minister called, he told the MP that the department had too many lawyers, and that he needed “some practical politicians in there.”

Imagine the Department of Justice having too many lawyers. Do you think this might be the attitude that has led to so many of their laws and cases being thrown out by the courts as clearly unconstitutional?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

We're Better - Off With Harper, or something

Here's a little Photoshop to counter the new paid for social media campaign by the Conservatives that pops up on Twitter or Facebook as "promoted". If you click on it you are immediately asked for your email address for fundraising, CIMS and what have you.

First the original:

Now my enhancements...

Feel free to post in reply whenever you see the original.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

"Canada's Founding Party"

How Harper's Conservatives have constantly tried to mangle and even rewrite Canadian history has been an alarming interest of mine.

There are events like the celebrations of the War of 1812, when Peter MacKay famously thanked the French for their kind assistance when in fact they had been on the other side. Remember that Napoleon guy who gave England so much trouble? MacKay tried to recover by saying he was referring to French Canadians, except of course he made the statement at the French embassy to real Frenchmen.

Others have written extensively about how the Conservatives' 8th grade approach to Canadian history is pretty much only about hockey and wars. Even as I hit the "publish" button on this little note, Andrew Coyne wrote an article about Harper's 2014 Canada Day speech.

The Conservative Party's website has a page devoted to how the history of Canada is supposedly the history of the Conservative Party: "Conservative achievements include Confederation, women’s suffrage, the Canadian Bill of Rights, and the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement." Women's sufferance in 1917 was introduced by Borden as an electoral trick to win the election (only women connected with serving soldiers got the vote so they could vote for "pro-soldier" Borden's Conservatives). Diefenbaker's Canadian Bill of Rights was toothless and is now irrelevant thanks to the Charter, which Harper refuses to acknowledge or follow when it conflicts with what he wants. And the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement brought in by Mulroney is at best controversial benefit to Canada and at worst decimated Canadian industry and put us firmly on the path to devolving once again simply into a resource state, which Harper has again embraced wholeheartedly.

As for being responsible for Confederation and Canada itself, that is a myth.

Forget for a moment that that same page states that the current Conservative Party was founded in 2003, it reaches back over the corpse of the Progressive Conservative Party so Harper's Conservatives can lay claim to being "Canada's Founding Party".

Glossing over the other aspects of shoddy historical revisionism, the main claim to being "Canada's Founding Party" is a major and false part of the Harper Conservative mythology. Of course Sir John A. Macdonald was a major mover in Confederation, but he was hardly alone.

There are generally accepted to be 36 "Fathers of Confederation" (not including Joey Smallwood) and they came from all parties. Here is a list of the "Fathers of Confederation" to which I have simply appended their political affiliations:

Politician -- Province -- Political Party

  1. Sir Adams George Archibald -- Nova Scotia -- Liberal
  2. George Brown -- Ontario -- Liberal
  3. Sir Alexander Campbell -- Ontario -- Conservative
  4. Sir Frederick Carter -- Newfoundland and Labrador -- Conservative
  5. Sir George-Étienne Cartier -- Quebec -- Conservative
  6. Sir Edward Barron Chandler -- New Brunswick -- Conservative
  7. Sir Jean-Charles Chapais -- Quebec -- Conservative
  8. Sir James Cockburn -- Ontario -- Conservative
  9. George Coles -- Prince Edward Island -- Liberal
  10. Robert B. Dickey -- Nova Scotia -- Conservative
  11. Charles Fisher -- New Brunswick -- Liberal
  12. Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt -- Quebec -- Liberal-Conservative
  13. Sir John Hamilton Gray -- Prince Edward Island -- Conservative
  14. Sir John Hamilton Gray -- New Brunswick -- Conservative
  15. Sir Thomas Heath Haviland -- Prince Edward Island -- Conservative
  16. William Alexander Henry -- Nova Scotia -- Liberal
  17. Sir William Pearce Howland -- Ontario -- Liberal-Conservative
  18. John Mercer Johnson -- New Brunswick -- Liberal
  19. Sir Hector-Louis Langevin -- Quebec -- Conservative
  20. Andrew Archibald Macdonald -- Prince Edward Island -- Conservative
  21. Sir John A. Macdonald -- Ontario -- Conservative
  22. Jonathan McCully -- Nova Scotia -- Liberal
  23. William McDougall -- Ontario -- Liberal
  24. Thomas D'Arcy McGee -- Quebec -- Liberal-Conservative
  25. Peter Mitchell -- New Brunswick -- Liberal-Conservative
  26. Sir Oliver Mowat -- Ontario -- Liberal
  27. Edward Palmer -- Prince Edward Island -- Conservative
  28. William Henry Pope -- Prince Edward Island -- Conservative
  29. John William Ritchie -- Nova Scotia -- Conservative
  30. Sir Ambrose Shea -- Newfoundland and Labrador -- Liberal
  31. William H. Steeves -- New Brunswick -- Liberal
  32. Sir Étienne-Paschal Taché -- Quebec -- Conservative
  33. Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley -- New Brunswick -- Liberal
  34. Sir Charles Tupper -- Nova Scotia -- Conservative
  35. Edward Whelan -- Prince Edward Island -- Liberal 
  36. Robert Duncan Wilmot -- New Brunswick -- Conservative
As you can see, there are a lot of Liberals in the mix, including key men of considerable political stature like George Brown and Oliver Mowat of Ontario. 

Macdonald himself at the time of Confederation had run under the confusing banner "Liberal-Conservative", which mostly died out within a decade although was still in use by some candidates as late as 1911.

In 1864 at the Charlottetown Conference there were 9 Liberal delegates and 14 Conservative or Liberal-Conservatives.

Confederation a Conservative achievement? Hardly.  As a glance at the above list shows it was a complex alliance of provinces, politicians and parties, but to the 8th grade history of the current Conservatives, it was their achievement alone. I suppose that is why they feel they can do anything they like with it.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Fathers' Day

Father Knows Best

With Fathers’ Day upon us, I’ve been swamped with requests from my wife and son for an idea of what I want.

My own father never made a big deal out of Fathers' Day. We didn’t need a day set aside when it was okay to break down the manly walls and express how we felt about each other with some cheesy card or itchy tie. Dad and I were close, and always enjoyed spending time together.

As adults, we had a standing Wednesday lunch where we could talk about what was happening, share some funny stories and generally relax in each others’ company. Lunch always stretched into a couple of hours.

When he died of a sudden heart attack at 63, I lost my best friend. And even though he left with me expecting many more years and lunches with him, he left with nothing unsaid or unresolved between us. I was lucky, and didn’t need a special Father’s Day set aside for either of us to know it.

So now with a son of my own, Fathers’ Day mostly comes and goes without too much fanfare. I’m lucky that I also feel appreciated on most days already by an affectionate eight year old who so far would rather spend time with his dad than just about anyone.

Still, if really pressed, there are a couple of things I wouldn’t mind having if someone is looking for a special treat for dad.

I’d like to have dinner is some place that’s not described as a “family restaurant”, has an indoor playground, or has laminated menus that are as sticky as the floor.

I’d like to be able to lock the bathroom door for more than eight seconds before someone is knocking on it with “an emergency”.

I’d like to mow the lawn without plastic army men shooting out from the lawnmower and embedding themselves in my ankles.

I’d like to watch one television program that isn’t animated, features robots, wizards, child twins or is simply a thinly-disguised vehicle for selling overpriced toys.

I’d like to go to the movies without having to get up three times to take a certain someone to the bathroom, thereby missing whatever plot there was and tossing sixty bucks out the window.

I’d like to be able to find any two of our three remotes.

I’d like to be able to walk through the living room without crushing a couple hundred bucks of Lego underfoot.

I’d like to be able to read the newspaper without being asked: “Are you through yet?” every three minutes.

I’d like to sleep past 7:15 on Saturday mornings and be early once on school days.

Still, all of that is a small price to pay for a son who is happy to see you every morning and insists on a story before he can fall asleep, and wants to do special things for you whether it is Fathers’ Day or not.

Plus, at eight my son isn’t shy yet about giving his dad a big hug in public.

Just the other day he said to me: “Dad, I love you.” Unfortunately, it was followed with: “So, how long are you going to be in the bathroom?”

© Stephen Lautens 2010

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Game of Throne Speeches

An obvious little thought - don't know why I didn't think of it earlier...

Friday, March 21, 2014

New CPC Election Campaign?

Just thought I'd anticipate Harper's next election campaign...

Three Cheers For the Supreme Court of Canada

Good for the Supreme Court of Canada calling out Harper on yet another attempt to bypass the law. The courts are increasingly becoming the backstop of Canadian democracy as institution after institution is being de-funded, dismantled or subverted by the Conservatives.

The refusal of a Supreme Court appointment (which I said via Twitter when it was announced was unconstitutional and couldn't be fixed by the lame "fix" hastily stuffed into a budget bill) is an unprecedented slap to Harper.

Of bigger significance is the statement that the federal government cannot unilaterally change the Supreme Court Act to suit it, as they tried. Thanks to PE Trudeau for protecting it as part of the repatriation of the Canadian Constitution. This also does not bode well for Harper's Supreme Court reference about his ability to reform the Senate alone, which I have been calling out as unconstitutional as well.

So a tip of the hat and raise a martini (Alberta - not Russian - vodka) to the 6 justices of the SCC.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

No more free lunches! Except at the PMO.

The new sign on the PMO.
Over the last three years Harper's office has spent $67,789.48 on weekly catered lunch meetings for PMO staffers and ministerial chiefs of staff. According to the Huffington Post, this includes:

Boston Pizza ($7,724.26)
Mexican restaurant Southern Cross ($9,024.28)
Lebanese restaurant, El Mazaj ($8,471.70)
The House of Greek ($10,020.03)
Indian Express ($8,442.54)
Café Deluxe ($18,857.16)
Freshii’s ($5,249.51)

Prime Minister Stephen "no free lunches" Harper left Treasury Board President Tony Clement to explain this an apparent violation of Treasury Board policy. Clement blamed the bureaucrats, who clearly ordered food for Harper's PMO crew and ministerial staffers week after week against their will. The PMO lunchers pretty much all make six figures a year.

No word on whether the bureaucrats also chewed for them and then fed them like mother robins.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Harper's Judgment

Harper and his Conservatives have been going on about Justin Trudeau's "judgment" in all their attack ads and emails, and it is likely to become their theme of Election 2015 (since they have precious little else to run on).

I thought I would make a start on a new poster (infinitely expandable) showing how poorly Harper stacks up in the judgment department.

Here it is in PDF format (7 MB - updated August, 2015) - Harper's Judgment.

(Don't click the thumbnail below - it will show up as too small and I'll get a lot of emails and tweets about not being able to read it... Click the link above for the full-sized version.)

Monday, January 20, 2014

200 Schnorrers

I think I first came across the word "schnorrer" through Groucho Marx. In the famous song "Hurray for Captain Spaulding" from the movie Animal Crackers, he sings: "Hurray for Captain Spaulding, the African explorer / Did someone call me Schnorrer? / Hurray, hurray, hurray!"

My own grandmother grew up in the Jewish part of Winnipeg and peppered her language with Yiddish expressions picked up from her friends. I'm not sure if "schnorrer" was one of them, but it came to mind recently with Harper's trip to Israel.

"Schnorrer" is a Yiddish word meaning freeloader, and it seemed appropriate when applied to Harper's massive entourage of guests who accompanied him to Israel - 208 of them according to the official count, by far the largest delegation in living memory.

With typical Harper Government™ openness and transparency, even though the final list of delegates was ready January 8th, it was only released January 18th, and then only to the press on the trip a hour after the plane was in the air. It still hasn't been posted officially anywhere I can see on a government website.

Sun columnist David Akin on the trip hastily scanned a copy of the list during a refuelling stop in Germany and posted it.

Of the 208 people with Harper, there are 21 rabbis in the delegation, presumably because Israel has a rabbi shortage. On the list is Dr. Marvin Levant, father of Ezra Levant, brave Sun TV anti-subsidy champion and inventor of "Ethical Oil". There are six evangelical Christian ministers, including the leader of Harper's own Christian and Missionary Alliance Church as well as the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Trinity Bible Church, the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada and Crossroad Christian Communications. The evangelicals here as in the US are profoundly obsessed with Israel as it relates to the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ, and for their part the Israelis put up with them with what can only be considered bemusement since they are major contributors and supporters.

Then there appears to be 7 members of the Jewish National Fund along for the ride. You may recall that they had Harper as their guest of honour at their multi-million dollar fundraiser a month or so ago, and in return they created the “Stephen J. Harper Hula Valley Bird Sanctuary Visitor and Education Centre” in a nature park in a northern valley bordered by the Golan Heights. Presumably it's a good place for Harper to let his couple of hundred cats roam.

Most of the 208 Schnorrers on the trip (including head scratchers like the CEO of the Keg Steakhouse and Stockwell Day & family) have their way paid by the taxpayer. Accompanying press had to fork over $8000 each for just the flight and hotels for the 4 day trip. From the lack of information forthcoming from the PMO it's impossible to tell if charity cases like the Reichmanns, Aspers or the CEO of Air Canada had the Canadian taxpayer pick up their tabs as well.

Another point I made on Twitter - it used to be that virtually all official visits and trade delegations included as a matter of course a token Opposition MP or two. Of course, any semblance of a lack of partisanship went out the window a long time ago with Harper.

I should point out that not all people on these official trade delegations ask to come. Sure - there are always line-ups of people trying to mooch a free ride on the government's tab. There are also those people the government lobbies to come along because they add an air of respectability and legitimacy to a government trip. I was with a company a few years ago that was repeatedly asked to accompany Harper on a visit to Asia, which we declined in spite of considerable pressure. Looking at the list of people on Harper's Israel trip, it's hard to see who might lend it an air of impartial respectability.

Of course the whole thing is just a pre-election campaign stop for lots of video and photos and a free trip for the freeloaders, as well as cementing support from both the Jewish and evangelical base at home for 2015.

Next year in Canmore!

My Life as a Cartoon

As a bit of fun I recently had my portrait done in the style of a Simpsons character. I'm glad I came out more Lionel Hutz (may he rest in peace), than Sideshow Bob, but this isn't my first incarnation as a cartoon.

When my father published his compilation of columns in "Take My Family Please" (1981), he asked famous Canadian cartoonist Lynn Johnston, author of the iconic "For Better or Worse" comic strip, to illustrate it. Here is one of the cartoons of the whole family. By the way, that's me in the bottom left showing my affection for sister Jane.

Finally, when I was a weekly columnist for the National Post, they created this hand-carved beauty of me. I remember being told it wasn't the product of Photoshop or some mechanical process. Some guy literally hand-carves these woodcuts. In fact, in my case it took so long to produce that by the time it was finished the National Post had gone through another round of freelancer layoffs and they only got to use it a couple of times in the paper. Maybe they keep losing money because they spend it on woodcuts.

Still, I ended up with a nice souvenir, and I didn't have to sit on a rickety chair in front of a starving portrait artist in Times Square to get it.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Boys' Christmas

I know it's a little late, but my friend Rob of some 35 years just managed to get in our annual "Boys' Christmas". This is when we get together and give each other all the fun and stupid stuff no one else will.

This year Rob gave me a British flag vest, and perhaps to offset it, a plastic Kaiser Wilhelm helmet. In his haul he got a pretty cool flashlight and a bottle of "handmade" Texas vodka.

We always go to a local pub to open our loot, because there's nothing like wearing a funny hat around strangers.

So that officially ends the Christmas season for another year, but I dug up a column I wrote about it way back in 1999 (you can see it has become a long-standing tradition).

Rob and I flashing the Secret Santa Gang Sign

A Sharp Gift

I find it difficult to think about Christmas until after the first day of December. Even though the Halloween stuff barely made it off the shelves before being muscled aside by the plastic Santas and rubber reindeers, I refuse to let the department stores dictate the beginning of the holiday season.
If they had their way, we’d have one long holiday season beginning on January 1st and ending New Years’ Eve. Eventually, we’d all spend our entire lives in greeting card stores, and still never find one we liked.
But now that December is finally here, I don’t mind hearing Christmas carols blaring out of store speakers. In fact, I’m starting to feel downright Christmassy.
And in the spirit of Christmas, I want to pass along to the ladies the secret of buying gifts for the men in your life.
It never ceases to amaze me how much soul searching women go through looking for the perfect present for the men in their lives. They try to find an after-shave that is manly yet smells good – like “Pizza” by Ralph Lauren. They worry about whether he’ll wear a green shirt, or if a ratchet set is actually something a man would really use.
I’m here to tell you that there are only two presents you can guarantee a man will like - flashlights and pocket knives.
It must be genetically programmed into us. I’ve never met a man who doesn’t think a flashlight or pocket knife isn’t a great gift.
When I was best man at my friend Rene’s wedding, his present to me to remember the tender feelings of that special day was a great boot knife. That was fifteen years ago and I still throw the knife in my bag when I head to the cottage.
My friend Rob and I exchange presents every year at what has become known as the “Boys' Christmas”. We give each other all the stupid stuff  no one else ever would. So we wrap up miniature bottles of booze, plastic army men and Star Trek tattoos. And every year, we each give the other a pocket knife.
Do we ever look at it and say: “But I already have a pocket knife”? We always say: “Great, another knife!” and proceed to see if it will cut through a beer can.
Dad was one of the most un-knife like people you’d ever meet. Even so,  every Christmas my father always had a tiny Swiss Army knife handy to help cut pesky tape and ribbons.
I don’t know what primitive urge attracts us to knives, but trust me, we never get tired of them. And nothing says love more than giving a man a knife.
For anyone who’s at all squeamish about giving things with sharp edges as presents, you’ll be happy to know that men also love flashlights. The flashlight gene is right next to the pocket knife gene in men.
Maybe it comes from reading under the covers as kids. Or being sure that something in the closet is just waiting for you to nod off.
Whatever it is, most men never grow out of their love affair with flashlights – everything from those tiny key chain beams to the monster 12-battery police torches Most men have at least a half dozen by the side of the bed.
And don’t go all Freudian on me, about how knives and flashlights are just a symbol to compensate for male physical insecurity If you’re using that thing to cut string or light up a room, you have serious problems.

      So if you have a man who’s difficult to buy for, look no further than a store that sells knives and flashlights. That is if you can get past the crowd of men outside with their noses pressed up against the window.

© 1999 Stephen Lautens