Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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29

Oct

2017

Morneau chickened out on tax reform

Author: Jim Taylor

 I’m not convinced that even professional accountants fully understand all the 2700 pages of ifs, ands, and maybes in Canadian tax law.

            Half a century ago, in 1967, the Carter Royal Commission on Taxation recommended a simple formula: “A buck is a buck.”

            Kenneth Carter, a Toronto accountant, was appointed by the John Diefenbaker government in 1962 to study Canada’s income tax mess. Business leaders argued that the Canadian tax system was “unfair and needed reform” – even though it was vastly simpler then than it is now. 

            Five years later, in February of Canada’s Centennial year, Carter presented the government with a revolutionary report.

            It said, basically, that it shouldn’t matter how you earned your income -- hourly wages, salaries, stock market, or real estate speculation. It could be from gambling, or even crime. If you made money, you paid tax on it. Period.


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25

Oct

2017

Wisdom from a rearview mirror

Author: Jim Taylor

It rained on our drive home from Vancouver. Although “rained” doesn’t adequately describe the downpour. Genesis says that at creation, God “divided the waters above from the waters below.” On that drive home, the waters above and below re-united.

            There was so much rain on the road that our car used four extra litres of fuel going home than going out, on exactly the same road, just squishing water out of the way of the tires. 

            I would have looked for an Ark, if I could have seen it through a windshield streaming with water. 

            Oddly, my rearview mirrors were still clear. Because the rain wasn’t hitting them at all. I could see clearly, back down the highway. 

            It reminded me of one of Marshall McLuhan’s aphorisms: "We drive into the future using only our rearview mirror." 

            It’s a metaphoric way of saying that we can’t see into the future. 


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21

Oct

2017

Sex scandal is more about power than sex

Author: Jim Taylor

Two weeks ago, I had never even heard the name of Harvey Weinstein. Since then, his partly-shaven face has appeared on almost every TV newscast or entertainment program, every day.

            The Weinstein scandal has even changed the rules of what broadcasters can and can’t say on air. “Masturbation” and “erection” were once taboo words. But one can’t talk about Weinstein’s indiscretions without using them. 

            The Fox network listed 41 women who accused Weinstein of everything from vaginal rape to forcing them to watch while he masturbated, from fondling and groping them to forcing them to give him a massage. 

            The key word in that last sentence is “forcing.” 



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18

Oct

2017

Our sense of reality has fuzzy edges

Reality has fuzzy edges

Author: Jim Taylor

The mallet raps gently against the rim of the bowl. The bowl rings, sings, high and clear.

            The sound slowly fades. Do I still hear it? Or do I just imagine that I still hear it? Sound consists of molecules of air vibrating against each other; I know their ripples continue to spread and interact, even when they are no longer audible to my ears.

            There is no clear break between hearing and not-hearing. Between tasting and not-tasting. The boundaries blur.


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15

Oct

2017

Only humans kill for pleasure

Author: Jim Taylor

We humans are contradictory creatures.

            Although many animals will assist the vulnerable among their own members, and a few will even adopt orphans of other species, we humans seem to be the only ones who will band together to help total strangers -- people we have never met and may never meet, people of different religion, culture, and origins. So we organize to help refugees in Syria and Myanmar. We fund charities that work in distant lands. And when a hailstorm of bullets felled a crowd in Las Vegas, we throw ourselves on top of others to protect them; we ruin the upholstery in our cars by rushing bleeding victims to hospitals; we risk our own lives to help others escape. 

            We have made compassion a primary virtue. 

            At the same time, we are the only species that kills for pleasure. Not even scorpions and cobras kill for the sake of killing.


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11

Oct

2017

Honesty still the best policy

Author: Jim Taylor

Here are three words you will never hear anyone say: “I am lying.”

            The whole point of lying is to make your hearers believe that they are hearing the truth. Why, then, would you tell them that what they’re hearing is not the truth?

            In murder mystery novels and TV shows, witnesses always break down at some point and admit that their previous testimony was less than accurate. “But you have to believe me,” they always say. “I’m telling the truth now.”

            Really?

            Why should I believe you this time? 

            Earlier this year, National Geographic magazine did a cover story on lying. According to them, lying may correlate with higher intelligence. Liars have to use their brains harder to keep track of multiple stories – both what’s true and what they have claimed is true.


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: Lying, honesty, truth

9

Oct

2017

A crash course in recent religions

Author: Jim Taylor

Have Canadian socialists lost their collective mind? (I know, I know, hard-core capitalists would claim they never had a mind to lose.) Last weekend, the New Democratic Party elected as its national leader a non-white who wears a turban and carries a symbolic dagger!

            Jagmeet Singh, a 38-year-old brown-skinned man with abundant energy and charisma, won a 53 per cent majority on the first ballot. Yes, on the first ballot! By contrast, the Conservative Party required 13 rounds of voting for Andrew Scheer to reach 51 per cent.

            The news media immediately began speculating about how Singh would fare in Quebec, where Bill 62 bans people from wearing religious garb while receiving or providing public services -- even riding on municipal buses.

            I think focussing on Quebec avoids the real issue. How will “white” Canada react to him?


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4

Oct

2017

Taking casual pleasantries seriously

Author: Jim Taylor

“Hi! How are you?”

“Just fine. And you?”

            The routine exchange of pleasantries is one of the social graces that grease the axles of human interaction. We say the words to acknowledge the other’s presence -- to till the ground, as it were, for our real reason for getting together with that other person. Which, often, is not personal at all.

            Unfortunately, we rarely take the words of the ritual seriously. 

            I had a lawyer friend in Toronto who loathed idle chit-chat. If you greeted him, “How are you?” he commonly barked, “Don’t ask unless you mean it!”

            So I almost always asked him how he was anyway, just to see what would happen. 

            And he, to his credit, answered as if I really did mean it.

 

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Categories: Soft Edges

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