The Book!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

On the Drift Right with Age




A man of heart and mind.

It is a commonplace that people grow more politically conservative as they get older.

Some say this is the result of growing wisdom. This quote is often falsely attributed to Churchill: "If you're not a liberal when you're 25, you have no heart. If you're not a conservative by the time you're 35, you have no brain." Or, as Irving Kristol really did say, “A conservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality.”

This is one reason why right-wingers do not hate leftists the way leftists have right-wingers. Leftists assume rightists are either stupid or immoral. Rightists assume leftists are simply naïve.

However, it occurs to me that there may be another explanation for this rightward drift with age. The CEO of Mozilla, Brendan Eich, was recently forced to resign for holding a position on gay marriage, six years ago, that the President of the United States still held two years ago, without any visible consequences.

"The Radicals' Coat of Arms," Cruikshank, 1819.

It seems to me that this illustrates the great difficulty of remaining a leftist over time. The revolution devours its own children. Many of the same views that were considered vaguely leftist in, say, the 1960s would now be considered so right wing as to be well beyond the pale of polite society. Conversely, many ideas that are now accepted left-wing positions would have, in the 1960s, been considered flatly insane. Accordingly, in order to remain on the left, you must have no abiding principles. If you have any abiding principles whatsoever, and are, moreover, sane, you inevitably end up on the right over time.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Secret History of Crimea





The Jewish Khazar Empire
As the Ukraine spirals further into chaos, and the Mideast crises drag on without sign of resolution, it is interesting to ponder what might have been.

In the years just after World War II, Molotov was largely in control of the Soviet Union, and the expected successor to Stalin. He had a plan, ultimately vetoed by Stalin, to make the Crimea a Jewish homeland.

There was a lot of sense to the idea. Unlike Palestine, the Crimea had recently been depopulated. Stalin had deported the Crimean Tatars for collaboration with the Germans. So the land was up for grabs. Moreover, it had a history of Jewishness. The local Jewish population was significant, and it had been part of the Medieval Jewish kingdom of the Khazars. If Arthur Koestler is right, modern Askenazi Jews are actually mostly Khazar by blood.


Molotov's wife was Jewish

The Zionists, for their part, were not terribly picky at this point as to where their homeland was to be, so long as they were given one.

Had the plan gone through, we might have avoided most or all of the ongoing strife in the Middle East, and certainly several wars. We might also have avoided the recent troubles over Crimea. From the standpoint of the Jews, the Crimea is more defensible over the long term than Palestine, and more fertile. Moreover, it is European, as were most of the Jews who colonized Israel. It would have looked far less like the last colony of imperial Europe.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

More Irishness

Frank Hanley in 1942
By personal email, a correspondent who presumably wishes to remain nameless has suggested an additional honoree for our virtual Irish-Canadian Hall of Fame: Frank Hanley, longtime Montreal city councillor.

And here are two more: Eugene Whelan and Georges Vanier.

Incidentally, did you know that all of the following countries have had ethnically Irish heads of government?

Ireland
Canada
United Kingdom
France
USA
Mexico
Argentina
Chile
Australia

Israel

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Gathering Storm?

What does this tell you?

I fear this piece by Michael Totten might be a case of whistling past the graveyard. Even though he admits that Putin is free to “slice and dice” the Ukraine if he wishes.

It rings false to me that Putin would be held back from invading the Ukraine because it would take him half a million men to “invade and occupy it.” After all, the Soviet Union previously controlled Ukraine, as did Imperial Russia before it, and it certainly did not cost them a half-million troops. Of course Putin is not going to invade Poland, at least not for the foreseeable future. He can't get to it, unless he invades and occupies either the Ukraine or Belarus first. But that's a bit of a red herring. Isn't it alarming enough if he takes the Ukraine and Belarus?

Totten argues that Putin does not want to take eastern Ukraine, because it would cost him his ability to influence the rest of the Ukraine. This seems tautological: if the rest of the Ukraine accepts this logic, he has already lost his ability to influence them. So he must be ready to take eastern Ukraine if his bluff is called. Moreover, the same logic ought to have prevented Hitler from taking the Sudetenland—and it obviously did not. Ukraine is poor, so he should not want it? By that logic, Russia would never have built its Czarist empire; nor would the rest of the European powers have built theirs. Nor, for that matter, would the US be in Puerto Rico. It rests on the assumption that Putin, if in possession of the Ukraine or parts of it, would feel honour bound to provide them with a standard of living comparable to that of the rest of the Russian Federation. Why would he?

Only months ago, I was scoffing at all the journalism referring to haunting similiarities between the present state of the world and that a hundred years ago at the advent of the First World War. The similarities seemed to me tenuous; it was just a ploy to sell books or articles commemorating the anniversary.

But now, suddenly, the world looks very much like the world on the advent of the Second, not the First, World War.

The First World is exhausted from the effort of winning the Cold War, 24 years ago, just as the First World was exhausted from the effort of winning the First World War, 21 years previously, in 1939. They do not want to believe it could happen all over again. As a result, they are in the mood for appeasement.

But the loser, not satisfied with the result, is naturally more eager to renew the struggle. It is hard for a people to accept a sudden demotion from world power to world's biggest loser. It is natural to demand a recount or a rematch. It is natural to believe that the first result must have been a mistake. Perhaps they were done in by a fifth column; perhaps they quit too soon. A rematch surely will not end the same way, and is very much worth risking.

The First World, overconfident from their win, is ready to concede to the loser at first. What harm can it really cause to let him back in to the Rhineland, or to bite off a piece or two of Georgia? After all, the division of Austria and Germany, or Russia and the Crimea, is artificial, isn't it? It's not as if the Germans are a realistic threat any more. Or the Russians.

But besides making the aggressor stronger with each of these concessions, it also makes him bolder.

Historically, Russia has been reasonably cautious about its expansionism. Putin may know when to stop, before he provokes a larger conflict.

Or at least, unlike Hitler, to wait until he has the forces to win that larger conflict. He is building the Russian Armed Forces at quite a good clip.

That's a calculation the First World will have to keep in mind.

And what does this have to do with the price of eggs in China?

Of course, China is a complicating factor. Just like Japan in the Second World War, they have a huge incentive to encourage Russia, to leave them with a freer hand to rise in the Far East. Iran could be a third partner, in the role of Italy, taking advantage of a larger conflict to expand its influence in the Middle East.

Given the situation, everyone in NATO should be boosting their defence budgets. Instead, in he face of a long recession, everyone is cutting them, just as before WWII, in the face of the Great Depression.

US military spending year over year.



Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Feminism: The Golden Years

It seems to me that this eventuality was blindingly obvious to anyone forty years ago, and is richly deserved. The tragedy is that so many men and children were dragged down with them:

I am a feminist, I really am (I’ve never let a man pay for anything), but feel the current generation of women in their 60s, the first to abandon the way of life of their mothers, which meant they pursued careers, married and had children late, had affairs then got divorced, all in the name of liberation, are now imprisoned in debt, alcohol abuse and loneliness, wishing they could die, and do it soon.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Irish Canadian Hall of Fame

Joe Malone of Les Canadiens: scored the first goal in the NHL.

Writing in the National Post today, Terence Corcoran proposes that Canada should have an Irish-Canadian Hall of Fame, with Jim Flaherty as its inaugural inductee.

I think this is a fabulous idea. The Irish contribution to Canada, I believe, is under-appreciated—one hears far more about the French, the English, and the Scots. But more than this: a celebration of Irishness would encourage Canadian unity, since Irishmen have been prominent on both sides of the French-English language divide. Both Tom Mulcair and Peter Lougheed, for example, are ethnically Irish. The Irish could be an ethnic glue to keep Canada together.

I have a further suggestion: that the Irish Canadian Hall of Fame ought to be located in Gananoque, Ontario. Gananoque is a tourist town; it could use the attraction. It is a historically Irish area. And it is roughly equidistant from the three large historical Irish settlements (and major population centres) of Montreal, Toronto, and the Ottawa Valley.

To emphasise how important the Irish have been in the history of Canada, here is my own list of potential inductees. If you don't know who some of them are, consult my Irish-Canadian historical map for more information.

Joe Beef (Charles McKeirnan)


Irish Canadian Hall of Fame:

Thomas D'Arcy McGee
Jim Flaherty
Brian Mulroney
King Clancy
Red Kelly
Timothy Eaton
Mary Travers (La Bolduc)
Joe Beef
Gratton O'Leary
Fr. Bernard Lonergan
Stompin' Tom Connors
Edward Blake
Marshall McLuhan
Sam McLaughlin
Kate & Anna McGarrigle
The Leahys
Catherine and Mary Margaret O'Hara
Francis Collins
Robert Baldwin
Emily Murphy
Lorena McKennitt
Patrick Burns
Sir Guy Carleton
St. Brendan the Navigator
Edmund O'Callaghan
James Ready
Mother Barnes
John McLaughlin
Sir John Thompson
William Henry Drummond
Brian Moore
WP Kinsella
Alden Nowlan
Mack Sennett
Ruby Keeler
Mary Pickford
Thomas Ahearn
Charles Fenerty
Tommy Ryan
Aimee Semple McPherson
Joe Malone
Don Cherry
Bobby Orr
Ambrose O'Brien
William McMaster
Conn Smythe
Peter Lougheed
James Boyle Uniacke
Charles Allison
James Austin
John Bassett
Thomas E. Kenny
Paul Kane
Tim Horton
Emile Nelligan
Patrick Roy
Bishop Michael Power
Mac Beattie



Monday, April 14, 2014

The Special on at Ogilvy's


Not as I remember it.

On my way out of Ogilvy's, I got caught in a revolving door
And never left.
I still and always see my image in that glass,
Going the opposite way.
It stays eight as I grow apparently old.
And ever and ever and ever again we spin,
Between the warm interior full of fantastic jewels
And the cold and busy street that goes one way.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Who Is Privileged?

A good rule (not my own, but I do not remember where I heard it) for figuring out who is really in the cat bird seat in a given society is to figure out who you are not allowed to criticize--at least not in polite company, or with folks you do not know well.

It pretty well goes without saying that anyone officially designated as "privileged" is not in this group.

So go to it--who is it you dassn't razz at a cocktail party of supposedly well-bred folks?


World's Best Prose Narratives

Not my field, exactly; I'm more of a poetry guy. Being a poetry guy, I dislike long, rambling books, and am drawn to language that is fine in detail. The piece also has to have a deep and powerful vision to be on this list--not just a rip-snorting read. These are books that explain the universe.


Andersen, Hans Christian, "The Princess and the Pea"
Andersen, Hans Christian, "The Emperor's New Clothes"
Burgess, Anthony, A Clockwork Orange
Carroll, Lewis, Alice in Wonderland
Carroll, Lewis, Through the Looking Glass
Conrad, Joseph, Heart of Darkness
Defoe, Daniel, Robinson Crusoe
Dostoyevsky, Feodor, Crime and Punishment
Golding, William, Lord of the Flies
Kafka, Franz, The Metamorphosis
Orwell, George, 1984
Orwell, George, Animal Farm
Wells, H. G., "In the Country of the Blind" (short story)
Wells, H.G., "The Door in the Wall" (short story)

Nope, no Joyce. Too much of a chore to read. 

Happy for suggestions re what I am missing.


Friday, April 11, 2014

RIP Jim Flaherty

As far as I have seen so far, the Canadian press, to their credit, is pussyfooting around it. But it seems most likely to me that former Finance Minister Jim Flaherty committed suicide.

He was still rather young to die by other means. He had no known life-threatening diagnoses. The timing seems striking, only weeks after he had stepped down from Cabinet. No other cause of death or apparent cause of death has been  given. He did have a very painful disease, and the treatment for it has depression as a known side effect.

Update: looks like I'm wrong. The police are now saying it was a heart attack.


Wednesday, April 09, 2014

St. Thomas Aquinas on Evolution



Not only did Big Tom believe in evolution from the apes: he deliberately made himself look like a capuchin monkey.

In the recent past, I pointed out that Evolution  was no new idea with Darwin, but had been a live theory since ancient Greece. And I noted that St, Augustine assumed it. Now I discover, thanks to TOF's blog, that St. Thomas also assumed it. The money quote from Summa Theologica:

Species, also, that are new, if any such appear, existed beforehand in various active powers; so that animals, and perhaps even new species of animals, are produced by putrefaction by the power which the stars and elements received at the beginning.

-- Summa Theologica, I.73.1 reply3
Aquinas differs from Darwin only in the mechanism, which he imagines to be "putrefaction." St. Thomas also argues nicely that evolution is the most fitting way for God to create: creating things that can themselves create other things is an intrinsically greater feat and greater good than just creating everything all at once.

The idea that there is some conflict between Christianity and evolution per se is plain wrong. The problem, for some, is with Darwin's proposed mechanism. These two issues ought not to be confused.

Is the PQ Down for the Count?


In the wake of the recent Quebec election, all the pundits are saying it is all over for the PQ, and perhaps for separatism. A new age has dawned. Quebec is opening to the outside world.

It may be so, but it is the job of pundits to see something historic in every minor event. Elections come, elections go, and this time’s big losers are entirely likely to be next time’s big winners. Witness, for example, the PQ and Liberals in Quebec, eighteen months ago. We have seen, federally, both the Conservatives and the Liberals rise again from the ash heap of history after far worse election losses than the PQ's this time out. And, if the polls are right, had the election been held two months ago, the PQ would have won. Then the narrative would have been completely different.

They ran a lousy campaign. That could be the extent of it.

In Quebec, it is indeed possible for well-established parties to suddenly disappear. Some of us still remember the mighty Union Nationale. The fact that the most recent example of a party suddenly imploding is the separatist BQ on the federal level may give added hope that something larger is happening. But it may just be coincidence. Two stars may have aligned, the personal attractiveness of Jack Layton in Quebec, and the inept PQ campaign.

It is also possible for popular sentiments to shift very quickly, so that movements that seem dead now may rise tomorrow. There was a time, not long ago, when the thought of the NDP electing anyone in Quebec seemed absurd.

I do think time is on the Federalist side; Quebec separatism is a xenophobic movement, a rearguard action against the intrusion of the modern world. But anything can still happen.