1833: The last duel

I think you will agree it is reasonable for normal people to be confused by the antics going on in media, entertainment and politics. It seems Lewis Carroll’s fantasy about a new, weird world behind the looking glass has come over on this side. I guess it’s acceptable that many female pop singers seem more to be bleating strippers or that our media has lost track of facts and reason. They have an audience, and a fool and his money are soon parted. But politicians? Now it’s getting serious.

Kerry Knudsen

For example, Toronto Mayor John Tory last month started lobbying for higher property taxes, based on the argument that all the surrounding jurisdictions had higher property taxes.

Seriously? Leaving the merits of more taxes for Toronto aside, is it really an argument to claim that somebody else is levying higher taxes, so we need to?

It is not. The idea that there is more money to be had based solely on the excuse that somebody else is doing it is bonkers. What if we look at Denmark? There, car owners have to pay 150 percent tax on a new car. That is, if you buy a car for $100,000, you then pay a tax of $150,000 for a total of $250,000. Taking Tory’s logic, just look at all that wasted revenue.

Just the fact of using this argument to raise taxes should be probable cause to bring back the pillory. The pillory, for those who don’t know, was a stand with holes for head and hands where people were placed as punishment for being stupid. It was not really a “corporal” punishment in the sense there was no beating or flogging, and there was no jail time, although it seems the offender was sometimes pelted with rotten fruits, eggs or vegetables. It was purposely developed to humiliate idiots publicly into stopping their idiocy without clogging up the jails.

We banned the pillory in most of Canada in 1869, and in PEI in 1876. A pity, as there is no discernable decrease in the offence for which it was intended.

Politicians are simply not welcome to discover revenue streams to tax, and then make up programs to spend it. And even if that is their goal, they should keep it to themselves, lest somebody point out they are fools.

 

Moving on, our Prime Minister over the weekend threatened the Leader of the Opposition with a libel suit based on accusations the Leader made regarding the SNC-Lavalin affair.

I am all for libel suits. There need to be more of them, especially against the faceless, fake-named trolls on the internet that besmirch the reputations of honourable men and women because they hold differing (and often correct) political views. The media, especially, gets away with murdering reputations or with skulking away when discovered false without a whisper of an apology. For an example, look at the coverage of Senator Mike Duffy before and after the smear campaign.

However, we are fortunate in Canada that truth is a defence against a libel action, and we are doubly fortunate that opposition leaders are especially considered for their role in shining a light where there is darkness. Personally, I don’t know if Trudeau colluded or obstructed justice. However, if he did not, it seems he has a chance every Question Period to show how the PCs and NDP are wrong in their concerns. As I mentioned last month, I don’t know about Trudeau. However, if we ever actually had a Prime Minister that accepted multi-million-dollar bribes from an international corporation and used his power to give them a pass, how would that look? How would we know? What might we see? And today we can add another question: what could we do about it?

To add to the confusion, in the U.S., the president has been accused roundly for obstructing justice, but we don’t see any evidence. In addition, one House committee, one Senate committee and the Independent Counsel have all issued reports declaring no finding of obstructing justice or collusion. So on the one hand there is investigation with no evidence; on the other there is evidence and no investigation.

 

Libel is an attempted assassination of honour. It replaces a tradition of dueling. Dueling was outlawed along with the pillory in the 1800s, with the last death by dueling occurring in Perth, Ont., in 1833.

In that instance, according to the Smithsonian:

On June 13, 1833, a young man named Robert Lyon was shot in the lungs by one John Wilson in the town of Perth, Ontario. The source of their dispute, according to Andrew King of the Ottawa Citizen, was a school teacher named Elizabeth Hughes. Wilson was in love with her, but she did not return his affections, and later went out with Lyon and a friend of his. When Wilson found out that Lyon had not only taken Hughes on a date, but also put his arm around her in a manner Wilson felt inappropriate, he challenged Lyon to a pistol duel.

The encounter did not end well for Lyon, but Wilson was acquitted of any crime and was eventually elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada. He also married Elizabeth Hughes.

I am guessing after Wilson killed her boyfriend, Hughes found other suitors in short supply.

Honour was a virtue, back then, and people were fierce in defending their honour. This is quite the contrary to today, when pasty, soft cyber-warriors conduct stealth assassinations from behind fake names and false locations: classic description of cowardice.

 

Which brings me to my point. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being a reader of Wood Industry. People like you remain the foundation of reason and reality on earth. You value such virtues as prudence, courage, self-control and justice. You have been my retreat when all the screaming banshees, carnival barkers, internet trolls and industry gossips are prowling.

I love working for independent businessmen and women, and I love trying to help in whatever way I can to keep the flow of information monitored, if not clean.

Part of my reward for our work together is that I have been asked by the American Society of Business Publications Editors (ASBPE) to address their annual convention next month in St. Petersburg, Fla., and to serve later on a panel. The topic will be the commercialization of independent speech. Commercialization of independent speech happens when the loudest blowhard gets to buy the microphone. It should be entertaining.

Anyway, we are having fun. Building permits are up. Housing starts are up. Renovations are up. Production is up. Overseas competition is down. It’s hard not to be positive, even in the environment of politicians, media and entertainers buzzing like a swarm of gnats in April. It was Kipling that said the trick is to keep your head while others around you are losing theirs, and you are doing a great job.

As another anonymous contributor observed, the thing to do when surrounded by whirling dervishes is to “let ‘em whirl.”

Thanks for making Canada a better place.