The Book!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Let 'Er RIP

Epitaph 4

I just knew something like this was bound to happen sooner or later.

Epitaph 5

Wake me when it’s over.

Epitaph 6

Where’s my handcart?

Epitaph 7

Forgotten, but not gone.

Epitaph 8

If all the world’s a stage
Where’s my damned ovation?

Do I get an encore?

Epitaph 9: 
The cartoon over,
I await the feature presentation. 
--Stephen K. Roney

Lindsay Shepherd and Free Speech at WLU

The assaults on free speech at Canadian campuses are becoming more alarming. Following on Ryerson University actually prohibiting a panel discussion on free speech, we have the bullying and threatening of poor 22-year-old grad assistant Lindsay Shepherd for showing a clip from TVO in class—something freely available to the general public on TV.

This is the perfect subversion of the intention of a university: the free exchange of ideas. Now any free exchange of ideas must be done outside class, in secret. The professors involved should be fired. If they are not, the university should be cut off from any public funding and any degree-granting powers.

The sad excuse used, here and elsewhere, for such attacks on free speech and free thought, is that some speech or some idea may hurt someone's feelings. And this is an act of violence against them. Like Hitler, as the profs in this case actually say.

This claim ought never to be entertained, even though it has now become an accepted commonplace. Any possible opinion or point of view is going to make someone feel uncomfortable. If I say it is sunny out today, it will offend someone whose family makes a living selling umbrellas. To prohibit any speech at all on these grounds is always to give some favoured group special privileges. And any assignment of special privileges to one group is always a withdrawal of rights from all others.

It is essential, too, to all that is good and holy, to preserve a distinction between physical assault and reasoned debate. It is not just that words are not deeds—as our grandmothers used to say, “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” It is also that defeating an opponent with superior reasoning and evidence is a very different thing from defeating him by beating him into bloodied submission with a baseball bat or a prison term. Erase that difference, and all hell breaks loose. The only options then are anarchy, a war to the death of all against all, or totalitarianism, with government purely in the personal interests of whatever individual happens to hold power.

The modern academy is now actually actively engaged in erasing that difference. The assault on Lindsay Shepherd is a definite example of beating a reasoned opinion you do not like into submission. Not, to be clear, Shepherd's opinion; that of Jordan Peterson,which she simply reported.

At this point, the safest thing for us all would be to abolish the universities. Happily, a benevolent providence seems to be at work on this as we speak. I have recently seen the prediction that, within ten years, half of US colleges will be bankrupt. Aside from such egregious abuses of power and position as we see here, the old job of the university can now be done more efficiently and cheaply online. The community of scholars is now equally present everywhere, on the web.

And on the web, happily, it is virtually impossible to suppress opinions you do not like. Making it a much better vehicle for the advancement of human knowledge.

Examples like the present one at WLU just ensure there will be less mourning for the old professoriate when they go.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Lynch Mobs

Laura Nelson, lynched 1911.

Xerxes my leftist columnist friend has raised the dire spectre of right wing lynch mobs in the street. He suggests they are to be expected due to the rise of the right wing and “white supremacy.”

But lynch mobs are not a “right-wing” phenomenon. Historically, they are more often found on the left. The term itself seems to have been invented by the American left during and after the US War of Independence to suggest the proper treatment of Tory Loyalists—the political wing of their day. The same term and techniques were then used against blacks (and Catholics, and immigrants, and Republicans) in the US South by the KKK—which was, in its day, when it was a real force (1860 to 1870, then 1915 to 1925), a leftist organization, or at least ambiguously either left or right. They were one of the pillars of Woodrow Wilson's “Progressive” administration.

Will Brown being tortured and killed in Omaha, Nebraska, during "Red Summer," 1919.

The French Revolution was a golden era of lynch mobs—virtually always on the left. The same is true of the Spanish Civil War. The Cultural Revolution in China was probably the great global heyday for lynchings and mob rule. 

It makes sense: the right is generally for “law and order.” The left is generally for “taking it to the streets.” Lynch mobs are almost necessarily on the left. A right-wing lynch mob is almost a contradiction in terms.

There have certainly been, of late, no lynchings in the name of “white supremacy.” But then, there do not seem to have been any white supremacists.

The number of actual “white supremacists” In the US is probably vanishingly small. Even the notorious Robert Spencer, who is always trotted out as prime example, with his perhaps several hundred followers, is not really a white supremacist, and would never use the term for himself. Instead, the term “white supremacist” seems to have been invented by parties on the left in order to justify lynch mobs and vigilante justice against anyone to whom they assign this label.

So far, any recent vigilante “justice” of a literal sort has almost all been coming from the organizations “Antifa” and “Black Lives Matter,” who are on the left. Of a less literal sort, the threat has also been coming, and increasingly, from the left. Extrajudicial proceedings and punishments without due process from the various “Title IX” enforcement structures in US colleges; from the Human Rights panels in Canada. Granted, these are not mob rule; these are things set up by an elite holding power. It is not quite the same problem as a lynch mob. More like a Star Chamber.

Monday, November 20, 2017


Epitaph 1
Closed for renovations

Epitaph 2
I once went to take of my mask
And I came off with it.

Epitaph 3
Only bones beneath these stones;
Mind the butterflies.

-- Stephen K. Roney

The Edmonton E*****s

Controversy is warming up over the Edmonton Eskimos name. It is supposedly offensive or insulting to indigenous people. It is currently held offensive simply to give a sports team an aboriginal name, despite the fact that we see no problem with other ethnic groups: Boston Celtics, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Minnesota Vikings, Queen's Golden Gaels, and so forth. McGill managed a pass on their “Redmen” by claiming the reference was to Scots instead of Canadian Indians.

On top of that, “Eskimo” is commonly supposed to be pejorative. People generally think it means “cannibal.” This, however, is an old etymological error. It actually means something like “people who wear snowshoes.” Not offensive, and a good deal less troubling than the now-preferred “Inuit.” “Inuit” actually means “human being”--with the necessary implication that anyone who is not Inuit is not, in fact, human.

So the controversy is foolish.

On the other hand, I have never liked the name “Edmonton Eskimos.” I would not be sad to see it go. The problem is that Edmonton has nothing to do with Eskimos; or no more than any other Canadian city. I always had the same problem with Edmonton's “Klondike Days” festival. Edmonton is very far from where Eskimos live, and it is very far from the Klondike. This in itself is not a problem—Toronto is pretty far from where the Argonauts sailed—but Edmonton is just close enough to either to make it look like an attempt to mislead, and to steal somebody else's thunder. Is their really nothing about Edmonton itself worth celebrating? Does the city have no personality of its own?

To make the matter more difficult, it would be desirable to keep the team initials “EE.” Otherwise, a lot of added expense redesigning logos, helmets, stationery.

Edmonton Eskers?
Edmonton Elk?
Edmonton Electrons?
Edmonton Earthquake?
Edmonton Epic?
Edmonton Eco-terrorists?
Edmonton Ecdysiasts?

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Yet More on Moore

A lot of folks have recently weighed in on the Roy Moore case. I think an update is in order. I had most recently said that a new accusation by a fourth woman, Beverly Nelson, of an attempted rape in a car, probably tipped the preponderance of evidence towards guilt, so that Moore should withdraw as a candidate. Now I think I need to walk that back. I think serious doubts have been raised over that new accusation.

The one point that most strikes me—and this did not occur to me personally until someone else pointed it out—is that the accuser's prime bit of offered evidence is an inscription in her high school yearbook wishing her a Merry Christmas. Hang on: school yearbooks come out at the end of the school year, in Spring, and are carried around for maybe a few days after that. Who brings their high school yearbook to a restaurant the next Christmas?

Nah; not plausible. But plausible as a con, given that it reinforces the image of Moore as someone who chases younger girls—high school age.

Moore's legal team has demanded that the yearbook be submitted to an independent party to enable forensic analysis by handwriting experts. Gloria Allred, the publicity-hound attorney handling the accuser's case, has refused. I see no reason for this other than that she knows it is a forgery. If she thought it was genuine, she wold be eager to do this.

Another point, noted by Rush Limbaugh, is that the accuser says she was locked in Moore's car, and could not escape. Limbaugh points out that child locks, the kind controlled by the driver, did not appear in cars until a few years after the incident is claimed to have occurred. So why could she not have opened the door?

If Moore really is a pedophile, note that, according to everything the psychologists say currently, pedophilia is incurable. That is why we have this current hysteria about having sex offenders registers, and notifying neighbours if they move into an area, no matter how long ago the recorded crime took place. Accordingly, if the charges are true, there should not just be incidents 38 years ago. There should logically be continued incidents up to the present day. Instead,, which has always been in Moore's corner, has published a stream of character references by people who ought to know saying Moore has always been a perfect gentleman for as long as they have known him. For what that is worth.

All we have so far, is one claimed incident almost 40 years ago. This tends to disprove the claim, unless we soon get others. The likelier picture is of a guy who, in his thirties, and single, was looking for a wife, and had a preference for younger women. A religious guy might, since virginity might matter a lot to him. Possibly he was socially awkward, and not always good at reading the signals of consent. Always a tricky business for any man.

Eat. Brains.

On Hearing Browning and Yeats Recite on the Webpage of the BBC

A poet is the most unpoetical thing in existence.
Browning sounding fatuous;
Great Yeats slouching Innisward
Soul fastened to a dying ego
Something seeming stuck upside his nose.
Dead men do recite sad tales.

In the static and commotion
Of Andrew Motion’s
Digital BBC jubilee of the spoken word.

There it is. Ecce. Ick.
Poetry is dead, and stretched prone on the mortuary table;
Amidst the high-pitched keening of its ghosts.
We knew it was dead on paper.
But it seems its death can just as well be spread
By word of mouth.
Sentiment aside,
Who can be surprised?
The skylark Shelley heard is dead and rotten
If bird it ever was;
And all of Basho’s blossoms have fallen long ago.

So let it be with poets. They are only the sort of people after all
As you might elbow in the supermarket,
Or jostle in the mall.

And so let it be with the static and commotion
Of Andrew Motion’s
Digital BBC jubilee of the spoken word.

And yet, and yet;
Can't I still hear that skylark call
And see those bright pink blossoms?
How is it the waves of Innisfree lap clear in my third ear?

Poetry is neither sight nor sound; nor type, nor lip, nor good read hearing—
It is the resurrection and the life.
It is Orpheus from underground;
For the Word, without the flesh, shall rise again.

And all of Allan Ginsberg’s ancient Molochs knock
Each against the last against the corridors of memory
Ancestral voices prophecying war once more.

A door opens; a stone is thrown away;
And Carl Solomon shall rise again;
And welcome back, Allan, Willie, Robert, John.
Welcome back, not as zombie flesh, thank God, not to glassy eye, nor weary ear;
But resurrected, perfected, transformed utterly.

-- Stephen K. Roney

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

By All Means, Let's Have More Aboriginal History

Saskatchewan Education Minister Bronwyn Eyre (Government of Saskatchewan photo)

Bronwyn Eyre, Saskatchewan's Education Minister, is facing heat for supposedly saying in the legislature that she fears there is too much aboriginal history in the school history curriculum. There is currently a petition circulating demanding her resignation. At last count, it had over 2000 signatures.

Eyre was especially troubled, she said later in a reporters' scrum, by a French assignment brought home by her son, which asked him to contrast traditional understanding of the Earth among First Nations with traditional understandings among Western Europeans. First Nations, it suggested, felt a sense of responsibility towards Mother Earth. Europeans, by contrast, saw the Earth as of only economic value.

Troublingly, Eyre's actual speech does not seem to be posted anywhere online—including at her own site—which means we must take the media's word for what she said. Which is often not reliable.

The quote I keep seeing, however, is that Eyre said “there has come to be at once too much wholesale infusion into the curriculum, and at the same time, too many attempts to mandate material into it both from the inside and by outside groups.”

If this is the essence of what she said, she is certainly right. There is something gravely wrong with the fact that her comments are controversial.

We ought to keep politics out of the school curriculum. We ought not to have a French assignment that obliges us to accept as truth some assertion that is itself debatable, and actively debated in the wider society. That is child abuse and attempted mind control. It is antithetical to education. It is the sort of thing I myself, as a teacher, find too common, and profoundly offensive.

It would be fine to have a French assignment that dealt with an issue of the day; it would be fine to have a French assignment that asked students to compare and contrast European and First Nations views of the environment. It is not okay to have a French assignment that, in doing so, tells the students what they are supposed to think those views are. The more so since in the assignment given, the information presented as indisputable fact is false.

The issue has been twisted by special interest groups into the Minister supposedly saying we should have less aboriginal history in the schools. If she did say this, however, it is not in the quote always given. That looks more like a plea that we have more actual aboriginal history in the schools, rather than just assertions snuck in to other subjects.

If there were more aboriginal history in the schools, it might not be happy news for present-day First Nations lobbyists. It is probably the last thing they really want. History is based on written sources, and the written sources we have pretty systematically contradict the claims of the aboriginal lobby.

It would be instructive for many, for example, to actually read the texts of the treaties agreed to and signed. They bear no relation to the current First Nations claims. It would be instructive to read the accounts by early explorers and missionaries of the environmental practices of the First Nations. They were the very reverse of solicitous towards the natural environment. They were profligate and wasteful, to European eyes.

Western European civilization is historically almost unique in seeing the natural environment as something of intrinsic value, and under our care.

By all means, let's have more aboriginal history.

Monday, November 13, 2017

More on Moore

As I suggested might happen, another accusation has come out against Roy Moore, and it is serious: an aggressive sexual assault on a sixteen-year-old. With three accusations, and two of them serious, I believe he should step aside. If he does not, nobody should vote for him. He may yet be innocent; but there is not time to prosecute the matter before the election. If he is prosecuted later, and found innocent, he can run again, and ought then to be given a sympathetic hearing.

But for now, the chances are too good that the charges are true. We now have the word of three women against one man. Mind you, this is not yet as strong as the evidence against Jian Ghomeshi, back in 2016. He too had three accusers, and their claims were more serious. And he turned out to be innocent.

The issue is complicated as well by a general prejudice against Southern US culture, which traditionally, like most cultures, sees nothing wrong with older men dating younger women. Let us be clear: there is nothing wrong with older men dating younger women: that is purely prejudice. The age of consent in Alabama is sixteen.

The issue here is sexual assault.

The Factory School

To fix the schools, we need better teachers. We need a better curriculum. But there is one more thing we need, and it is also easy to get, if we have the will. We need better classrooms.

The schools we have now are basically modeled on factories. This is supposedly for efficiency. It does not work. Children are not identical, like car parts, and cannot be treated as such. Worse, treating them as though they are identical objects is an awful lesson in civics in a free democracy.

It is not possible to pitch a lesson properly to all the students in a large class. The dumbest will not get it, and will be left behind. The smartest will be bored out of their minds, and tune out. Most teachers worry only, if at all, about the dumb kids, and tend to slow it all down. Making it worse for the smartest ones.

There is no way around this, in a large class.

Ironically, it was probably better in the old one-room schoolhouse. With a mix of students at different levels, there could be no attempt to have them learn in lock-step.

We used to stream students, to reduce this problem: there were dumb classes and smart classes. This has become politically incorrect. By this system, kids were consigned when young to permanent failure. So we threw them all together into one class, making the problem worse.

The current “efficient” system is insanely wasteful. Properly, no student need fail. Everyone can learn anything; it is just a question of how long it will take them. We end up putting kids through twelve years of schooling, and they come out the other side, and perhaps have learned little or nothing. We have wasted their childhoods.

Fortunately, we now have a simple solution: we teach with computers. With computers, each lesson can be automatically paced to suit each student. If a student does not get the point of a lecture or explanation, he or she can watch the video again, or watch another video on the same topic.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Roy Moore

On Judge Roy Moore, things seem to be getting distorted. The last I saw, there were exactly two accusations of genuine impropriety: one of aggressively propositioning a 14-year-old, and one of giving alcohol to someone 18. Neither, even if true, are that far out of line. He is also accused of dating, and kissing, a 17-year-old and an 18-year-old, when he was in his thirties. Take away any ageist prejudice, and there is simply nothing wrong with that. It is traditional in most cultures to have a similar age difference, and by Alabama law the women were above the age of consent, 16.

Note an important distinction here between the Moore case and the current Hollywood scandals. Aside from their particular actions, the Hollywood accused are accused of using a position of power to exploit others for sex. Even if the charges are true, this is not so for Moore. He was just another eligible bachelor going on dates.

So we have two accusations? More may come out, but that is not enough to presume guilt, in the middle of an election campaign, when his opponents have every motive to smear him with false allegations. In good faith, he is still innocent until proven guilty.

Korea, Summer, 1951

Korea, Summer, 1951: A Canadian Who Did Not Survive Remembers

August in Asia is hotter than death;
Christ, that a cold rain could fall!
Like the rains that I knew where the jackpines grew
In Canada, when I was small.

Every rock, every brick, is as hot as a wick,
And wickedly ripples the air;
If I could I would go where the sweet Chinooks blow,
For I know of no night fevers there.

I don't that much mind that I die here or there;
When you're dead, you're just dead, as a rule.
But please don't cremate me, deep-freeze me in state--
Damn Sam McGee, let me die cool.

-- Stephen K. Roney