Juries? Bah!

 May 25, 2018 11:00 AM
by Marcel Strigberger

    A story surfaced recently about jurors in some cases consulting the Internet to study information about the case, which info never formed part of the evidence. Some of these incidents resulted in mistrials or near mistrials.

    Aside from admonishing jurors not to do these things, in my view judges are powerless to enforce this practice. I believe the only way of stopping it is to do away with juries altogether.

    Let’s face it. The jury system officially started in the days of the Magna Carta in 1215. I’d say 800 years plus is a good time for at least a first review.

    What’s a jury doing in a court of law? You don’t see a jury system in other professions, such as medicine. I can’t imagine a surgeon in the operating room, about to do brain surgery, turning to a jury of six laymen scooped up from a local Tim Hortons, asking, “Where do I cut?”

    Nor do I see engineers mulling over rolls of design sketches, turning to that group of six and saying, “We’re designing the world’s largest suspension bridge. It’s got safety risks. We need your help.”

    Not only are jurors not qualified to make decisions affecting people’s liberty or economic future but they are expected to do so objectively after being dragged into the courtroom kicking and screaming. The system gives them something like no pay at all for the first 10 days of the trial and from day 11-49 they get the grand total of $40.00 per day. Amortized over say 49 days, this works out to about $1.27 per hour. And they do not even get reimbursed for expenses, not even travel. This compensation package would certainly motivate me to pay close attention to the evidence.

    To make matters worse, jurors know that the judges and the lawyers are getting paid handsomely for their attendance. I get the feeling after a few days they enter the jury room and say, “Grrr...They’re not even covering my parking. Someone here is going to pay for this. Let’s see, do you really think that accident caused the plaintiff’s problems? Let’s Google “fakeamputationclaims.com.”

    I also find that judges and lawyers tend to project a mood that jurors are naive, generally possessing intelligence rivalling that of Homer Simpson. For example they kick the jury out of the courtroom for a voire dire. By now don’t you think that most jurors have figured out that this means that they are not supposed to hear that the accused confessed to the police, admitting that his dream job was to be a hitman.

   My favourite is when the judge tells a jury to “disregard those comments”. If a judge believes any juror of sound mind will consider them forgotten and erased, that judge will also believe that the Toronto Maple Leafs will win the next Stanley Cup.

   My views about retaining the jury system are clear and definitive. On this issue, the jury is not out.



Royal Wedding-Here I Don’t Come

 May 18, 2018 1:00 PM
by Marcel Strigberger

     I'm happy today. The reason for this joy is that I was not invited to attend the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. .

     Before I celebrated my non invitation, I checked my emails again today to ensure there was no last minute message from the wedding hosts reading something like, "We still have not heard from you. May we have the pleasure of your reply as we have to instruct the caterer accordingly."

     No such email. Modified rapture.

     I think most of us would have issues if we were invited to this classy gala event.

     Firstly there is the cost pf the trip. We cannot expect the hosts to subsidize it. I recall Prince Harry travelled to a wedding in Georgia a couple of years ago but without his then girlfriend as she was short in cash and Harry declined to treat. What could we expect?

    Then there is the attire. This is a grand shindig. I’d have no clue what to wear. I doubt the invite said something like, "Black tie optional". I know the Brits usually welcome guys in kilts. This would be a non starter for me. England can get damp and cold in the springtime. And even if it were an option, I would want to wear a tartan from my clan. This might be a problem. I in fact did a Google search but I could not come up with clan MacStrigberger. And certainly I would not want to otherwise wear any old tartan and be accused of cultural appropriation.

    Then there is the food itself. I don’t know what’s on the menu is but I have restrictions. I can’t stand the sight or smell of white sauces, vinegars and most of all, Parmesan cheese. When I see those servers at Italian eateries approaching a table near me offering to douse a customer’s dish with that vile smelling cheese, I transform from my mild mannered self into the Incredible Hulk.

    I usually deal with these issues in advance by calling the party hosts and asking them review the menu with the caterer. Presumably in this case Prince Charles would be the man to go to and discuss my dietary essentials. However I would feel a bit uncomfortable calling him just before the wedding and being overly blunt. I’d probably have to be more discreet. I’d likely say, "Hi Charles. How’s your polo coming along these days? By the way, at the luncheon are they serving pasta?

   Then of course there is the question of a gift. What do you get a couple whose wedding is estimated to cost over $50 million? I usually throw in a cheque for a couple of hundred dollars. Actually it depends to some extent on my advance knowledge of the food menu. They cross me over with the non edibles I loath, and forget the gift. I'm the one who expects compensation.

   Anyway, even if invited I would have declined. After all I cannot just attend the wedding of every Tom, Dick and Harry.


No Manatees for you

 May 14, 2018 5:00 PM
by Paul Chato

Spent some time in Fort Myers only to be disappointed once again by the lack of promised wild animal sitings. 

Please see video below for the whole story. 


Paul Chato

Paul Chato has been many things: a graphic designer, programmer, comedian, head of network TV comedy, game producer, 3D animator, playwright, event host, director and anything else that matches his fancy. Most of the time he pulls the levers at YourWebDepartment.com.



Life Insurance for Immortals

 May 7, 2018 7:00 PM
by Marcel Strigberger

     I recently watched a commercial about an insurance company that offers guaranteed life insurance if you are between the ages of 50 to 75. To boot, you need not even answer a medical questionnaire.

    The ad shows a clip of an elderly couple with their grandchild and grandpa saying something like, "I thought my family's future was really bleak but now with this insurance I'm set. I have lived; let the flood come."

    The man almost sounds like Charles' Dickens' Sidney Carton.

    A win-win situation if you ever saw one, right?

    Now I am a retired lawyer who has sued insurance companies often enough and one thing I have learnt is that insurers do not care to part with their money too readily. I have yet to see a claim falling down some icy steps and the adjustor comes running to my office with his chequebook and says, "We at Mutual Lovable Insurance really feel sorry about this. Here, write out your amount."

    And so how can this company do it? I have thought about it and I have come up with the following possible explanations.

    The first and obvious one is outrageous premiums. "So you want $1000 dollars worth of insurance. That will cost you 1100."

    I don't think so. I can't see some bug eyed statistician telling the marketing V.P. that the insurer would have no problem selling this because according to his scientific calculations and P.T. Barnum, there is one born every minute.

    The answer lies deeper.

    One scenario is that the company accepts everyone but when a claim is made, it doesn't pay. The scene at the claims office may be reminiscent of that Monty Python parrot sketch, where an irate John Cleese tries to return a recently purchased dead parrot to pet shop owner Michael Palin. Palin of course insists that the parrot is still alive.

    Similarly the insurer might question whether indeed the insured is actually dead. I have no difficulty whatsoever visualizing a claims adjustor saying to the policy beneficiaries, "George isn't dead. Look, I just saw him open one eye."

    Or the policy might have a very stringent test for death, like in the Wizard of Oz. The insured must be "absolutely, positively, morally, spiritually, ethically, undeniably and unreliably dead".

    The insurance company could argue that as there may be life after death, nobody really dies at all and therefore they don't have to pay. While the beneficiaries argue with the adjustor in the kitchen, he could also remind them of the principle of reincarnation and say, "How do you know that the fly on the screen isn't George?"

    It's an argument.

    Then again perhaps the insurer has a nobler way of avoiding payment. As they only have to pay out if someone dies between the ages of 50 and 75, maybe they have found a secret potion thereby ensuring that their clients in fact don't fold before reaching 75. Now that I think about it I noticed that grandpa in that commercial had a flask of some elixir at his feet. Curious.

    And if it's not something you ingest, perhaps the insurer does it voodoo like, as in The Portrait of Dorian Gray. You stay young, your picture ages. The commercial says you don't need a medical. It says nothing about you not needing a photograph.

    Finally there is the unthinkable explanation: the insurance company really is out to lunch. They actually do accept applications from some poor 74-year-old soul who is in intensive care with heart failure.

     At the annual shareholders' meeting the C.E.O says, "Ladies and gentlemen, this year we paid out death claims totalling 50 million dollars and we took in premiums in the amount of $3511.14. But it's OK. We have succeeded in our main goal; customer satisfaction."

    I guess if you believe this one you will also believe in the existence of the Land of Oz; and that that fly on the kitchen screen was George.

   It's all a mystery to me. If anyone has the answer, please share.






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