Playing the Indian Card

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Maktoum Receives Khalifa

Today’s banner headline in the Gulf News reads “Maktoum receives Khalifa.”

This is indeed big news.

Let me explain. The United Arab Emirates are one of the world’s last remaining absolute monarchies, albeit tempered by federation. All is decided by the seven families who control the seven constituent Emirates.

Rumour, never publicly acknowledged, is that Sheikh Zayed, the current ruler of Abu Dhabi and founder and president of the UAE, is ailing. Therefore the question of succession comes up.

Officially, the presidency of the UAE is supposed to go on Zayed’s death to Sheikh Maktoum, the hereditary ruler of Dubai. He is also the vice president and prime minister, and so nominally next in line. Many have thought this would not happen, however, because the Nahyans, the rulers of Abu Dhabi, have most of the country’s oil, and so reputedly pay most of the bills. It was thought that, when the time came, they would not be ready to give up the presidency.

That would presumably mean it would pass to Sheikh Khalifa Al Nahyan, the designated Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.

There were other possibilities. Many believed another son of Sheikh Zayed might take it—while succession within ruling families is by heredity, the tradition does not require primogeniture. That is, the oldest son does not get it automatically. Instead, the most capable candidate is chosen, as determined by the previous ruler or by family consensus. A few speculated that it might even go to the ruler of another of the seven Emirates.

Up until now, a close reading of the Gulf News suggested Khalifa was indeed going to take over: gatherings of the clans seemed all to be at his palace, and his name was given first.

Hence the headline: it seems Khalifa has now dramatically thrown his support behind Maktoum. Maktoum is receiving him: that is the sheikh's role.

Interesting: nobody says what is really happening, but everyone more or less knows. The headline would make no sense as a headline if everyone did not know. It is a question of tact and decorum, I suspect, not to talk openly about such things, more than anything else. I hope I am not violating that decorum by posting these speculations here. I presume that, because I have no inside information and am only speculating, I am not.

I certainly mean no disrespect. It would be sad to see Sheikh Zayed go: he has been an exemplary ruler, and remains high in the affections of his people. He had oil money to help; but many other rulers and many other nations have done far less well and wisely with their oil wealth.

On the other hand, no one can fault Maktoum for his management of Dubai, which he has made into a world-class city. He would presumably do a good job with the UAE as a whole.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

Current claims of oppression by this and that group must be examined dispassionately.

The one who complains the loudest is not at all necessarily the one who is most oppressed. Remember the fairy tale of the Princess and the Pea? There is a great truth expressed in it. One who is accustomed to comfort and deference, will often complain loudly about a minor irritant. One who is used to physical rigours and to being treated badly becomes inured, and will commonly not complain if they are treated badly for one more day.

Spoiled children complain the most.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Keep This One under Your Hat

More on the odd controversy about Muslim women wearing burqas:

Let’s look at a similar example, in which dress restrictions are imposed only on men: Sikhs. Sikh men are required by their faith not to cut their hair or beard, and to cover their heads. There are no special dress requirements for women. It is therefore necessarily true that only men face social pressures to dress a certain way.

For some reason, however, there is no concern about this supposed trampling on the rights of the men, as there is on the subject of Muslim women. Why the double standard?

Why no outrage about the orthodox Jewish requirement for men to cover their heads and not to cut their hair, at least their forelocks?

Apparently it is only repressive if such things are asked of women. Or by Islam.

For that matter, even in the Catholic Church: it used to be expected that women would cover their heads in church, and men would uncover them, both out of respect. For some reason, the notion that women must cover their heads was found to be oppressive, and has been completely abandoned in practice. But I’d wager any man would be rebuked today if he kept his hat on in church.

Why the double standard?

I see nothing wrong with dress codes per se. Standards of public morality are generally enforced in all countries: in the US recently, a teenaged man who streaked his high school graduation was sentenced to prison. If that is not an infringement on his rights, neither is a stricter regimen as is practiced in, say, Saudi Arabia.

The only issue is that freedom of religion requires that dress codes not ban dress required by a major faith. Therefore, the important right in Afghanistan is that Muslim women be allowed to wear burqas. But if Christian women or atheist women are also required to wear burqas, this is no big deal, no human rights issue. Nobody’s religion prohibits women covering their heads, so even requiring that a burqa be worn is not an infringement of anyone’s basic rights.

It follows that the current law in France, by which Muslim girls are not allowed to cover their heads in classes, is more of an infringement of human rights than the Afghan law on burqas ever was.

The more interesting question is, why has the wearing of the burqa become such a flashpoint among politically-correct types in the West?

Is it hostility to Islam as a highly moralistic religion?

Or is the bottom line that the burqa prevents women from fully advertising their sexual desirability?

Too often, modern concepts of “freedom” seem nothing more noble than a demand for unrestricted sex.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Use the Rod and Spoil the Child

This just in from the CBC:

"PUNITIVE PARENTING MAY LEAD TO AGGRESSIVE KIDS: STATSCANChildren raised in homes dominated by punitive parenting styles are more likely to bully, get into fist fights and be mean to others, says a six-year study of 2,000 Canadian children.


Your tax dollars at work.

Yes, “punitive” parenting might lead to more aggressive kids. But one obvious problem with such a study is determining cause and effect. Those who are imprisoned by the government are more likely to commit crimes than the general population.

It follows, by the logic used here, that sending people to jail causes crime.

A Short Note on the Riyadh Fashion Scene

Politically correct types in the West ignore/don't want to hear that most women in the Middle East want to wear burqas; burqa use is even growing by leaps and bounds. It is not something imposed on them.

It was imposed on them in Taliban-led Afghanistan. But there, what PC types don’t want to hear is that similar dress codes were imposed on Afghan men. All men had to wear beards. This was not oppression of women; it was oppression of everyone. And it was unique to that regime.

It's time people in the West got over the idea that there is something wrong with traditional Muslim and traditional Arab dress.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Of Mayans and Pharisees

I was half-listening to two college professors chatting. Something about Von Daniken and Velikovsky; they both enjoyed them. One was advising the other what books to read next. Then something about the Mayan pyramids in Mexico being identical to the early pyramids in Egypt. But the Church had destroyed the Mayan writings.

The International Catholic Conspiracy had struck again.

These were in theory very educated people, holders of advanced degrees. These are the people educating our young.

How is it that so much of what they “know” is apparently merely superstition and prejudice?

The experience was not unique, nor did I find it surprising. I am myself an academic. I have been around many water coolers and faculty lounges and have heard many urban legends. This actually seems par for the course.

Let’s look at this bit about the Catholic Church suppressing Native American culture. I have heard it many times before, generally from the well-educated and fashionably opinioned. And, notably, never from a Native Canadian. All the Native Canadians I know are devout Christians.

In fact, I what records we have of the Mayans were preserved by Catholic clergy. The Popul Vuh, the Mayan sacred epic, was preserved and translated into Spanish by Father Francisco Ximanez in 1702. Without him, we would know nothing of the Mayans.

And this is true throughout the Americas. In most places, where the native peoples have a writing system, it was devised for them by missionaries. Where languages have been preserved, it has been through grammars and dictionaries made by missionaries. Where we know the old legends and beliefs, these were recorded by missionaries. Missionaries commonly worked hard to preserve native culture. Back in Kamloops, Father Jean-Marie Raphael LeJeune published the Kamloops Wawa from 1891 to 1923: a regular newspaper in the Chinook language, reflecting Native concerns.

Native culture was changed forever –one might say it was “destroyed,” but that in the end is a value judgment, and debatable--by plagues, alcohol, and the sudden availability of higher quality goods and more efficient technologies from abroad.

Christianity was one part of this mix. Christianity replaced the Native religions, just as it had replaced native religions across Europe. At the same time, it did what it could to protect the Natives from alcohol and plague. And the change from native to Christian beliefs was hardly by compulsion. I, too, would be pretty eager to embrace a new faith that condemned human sacrifice, slavery, and torture, preached the equality of man, and protected from curses, loss of soul, and demonic possession.

Was that a great loss, or a great gain, for Native culture? I would call it a great gain, and in itself no more a matter of “destroying” Native culture than the evangelization of Europe “destroyed” European culture.

But I digress. We were talking about two college professors. Why do they believe something so obviously false?

Whenever occurs a great evil or a great good, whenever right and wrong appear in the world in the raw, a mystical process begins. All of us who have a vested interest in concealing the truth—which probably means all of us--start to work, spinning silken threads out of our own innards, and begin to conceal matters under thick cobwebs of misinformation. The guilty are gradually exonerated and rewarded, the good blamed and punished. We do this so we can live with ourselves, for we know we are too often not good and not right.

Case in point: the evils of Fascism and Nazism are now commonly blamed on the Catholic Church, which was at the time almost the only voice against it.

Case in point: pedophilia, which was almost accepted by Kinsey and the Sixties “sexual revolution,” is now commonly blamed on the Catholic Church, which was at the time almost the only voice against it.

Case in point: racism is now often blamed uniquely on White Anglo-Saxons, to the British and the Americans; Andrew Young’s famous claim that the English invented racism has been eagerly taken up in many places. But these were, historically, the people who fought most fiercely against it, against Hitler, against slavery, against caste in India.

Case in point: racism now masquerades as “anti-racism.” The White Anglo-Saxons, as above, are now racially stigmatized themselves, by “anti-racists,” in terms hauntingly similar to those once used against Jews.

Case in point: Jesus was crucified. By the scribes and Pharisees, by the Roman civil authorities, with the assent of the mob. But surely those who were first and most fierce against him were the scribes and Pharisees.

By the scribes and Pharisees; by the teachers and intellectuals of his day.

Teachers and intellectuals. Essentially the same class Plato called “Sophists.”

Of course there are good teachers and honourable intellectuals: we have all known some. And they are pearls of great price. But there is a great and persistent truth here.

Precisely because our universities and colleges are supposed to be the bastions of free inquiry and deep thought, this is also sure to be where the cobwebs most gather. Because we are all frightened of truth; we all have something to lose from it.

I suspect the only thing that can give us the courage to face truth is deep religious conviction. It is no surprise, therefore, that the great universities were all founded as religious enterprises.

And it is equally no surprise, perhaps, that, stripped of this religious sense of mission and secularized, they have become so commonly places not of free enquiry and deep thought, but of ignorant prejudice and group thought. Even places frightened to death of independent thought or free enquiry. Whose main mental exercise seems to be to believe six impossible things before breakfast. In the words of Abigail Thernstrom, “islands of repression in a sea of freedom.”

Woe unto us, scribes and Pharisees.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Tigger Charged with Sexual Assault

Tigger, at Walt Disney World, was charged with “battery and lewd and lascivious molestation,” which carries a prison term of fifteen years, for allegedly touching the breast of a 13-year old girl while posing for a photograph with her. He was acquitted. But isn’t this madness? Fifteen years in prison for touching a girl’s breast?

And the system encourages such charges, because had they succeeded they could then have sued Disney for big bucks.

This puts any male worker at too great risk. It amounts to an anti-male pogrom, and it is naïve for any man to think he is safe merely because he has never done anything objectionable.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Attack of the Foreign Frogs

When I was in Korea, I laughed at how hopelessly xenophobic Koreans were. One memorable example—memorable enough that I clipped it to make the point--was a newspaper story reporting with alarm that larger foreign frogs were invading Korea. Then a later story reported triumphantly that the brave local frogs, though smaller, were beating up on the evil foreigners.

Then when I returned to Canada, almost the same story showed up almost immediately in a local paper. Large American frogs were invading and wiping out the poor pacifist Canadian frogs.

Canadians, just like Koreans, blame problems on foreigners. Maybe all nations do. The only difference is that Koreans blame all foreigners. Canadians blame America specifically.

In either case, though, it is an ugly practice. It is scapegoating. It is prejudice.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Death of a Nation

A friend in Korea asked his secretary if she could contact any Canadians for him.

Her response:

“Does that place exist anymore?”

O wad pow’r, the gift he gie us, to see oursel’s as others see us.

I think the Korean’s view is weirdly accurate. Canada has been suicidal for some time, and the tendency is accelerating. I think this is because Canada’s self-identity is so thouroughly tied in to being a colony that the idea of an independent Canadian nation is basically unpatriotic. It has always been “Empire First!”

I wrote this about a year ago:

I have watched events in Canada with astonishment for some years now, from both within and without the country. It is hard to miss that something exceptional has been going on in Canada. Others have noticed too. The Economist has recently declared Canada “cool,” and shown a moose wearing shades on their cover.

I think the truth is sadder. Slowly this impression has been growing on me: Canada is committing suicide.

Canadian nationhood was, in the broad span of history, a rather brief and querulous thing to begin with. Canada achieved independence, by most standards, only in 1933 with the Statute of Westminster. Until then, its entire raison d’etre was to be “British North America,” the part that refused independence and stayed loyal in 1776. On this view, Canadian independence was a contradiction in terms, and suddenly faced the nation with the need to justify itself from scratch. It also set up the obvious alternative: why now bother to be separate from the United States, with whom English Canada has always shared an almost identical culture?

One obvious response was to cobble up something in the way of a uniquely Canadian culture. And it seems to me there was a brief and beautiful blossoming, for a generation or two: The Group of Seven, the Montreal poets, Mordecai Richler, George Grant, Robertson Davies, Margaret Atwood, and so on. George Diefenbaker offered his “Northern Vision,” and Lester Pearson his new Canadian flag. There was an attempt to create a distinct “Canadian” view and voice.

And then, that light failed. More recent writing in Canada, while very good, perhaps better, has lacked any notion of or interest in a distinct Canadian voice. The common wisdom has gone from Canadian cultural distinctiveness to general denial that there is a Canadian culture at all; instead there is now “multiculturalism.” Atwood, too optimistically, saw the distinctive Canadian theme as survival. Yann Martel sees it as transience: Canada, he has famously commented, is a “hotel.”

Transience. Mon pays, c’est l’hiver, and what is winter but a general death? Not survival, but death.

The greatest Canadian heroes are often admired for having died before success: Louis Riel, Terry Fox. Isaac Brock, James Wolfe.

Apron strings with Britain cut, the new emphasis on multiculturalism looks like an attempt to recolonize. The smiling faces in traditional Asian costume that Sheila Copps’ Heritage Ministry produced for last year’s Asian Heritage Month are only too reminiscent of the old Boy’s Own Annual view of the British Empire: all the smiling happy natives dancing around the margins of the page.

Multiculturalism gives us the solace of believing that, if the source of all culture, of all received wisdom, is no longer London, it is at least not Canada. No; literally, it must be anywhere else but Canada. Whatever happens in Canada is peripheral, transient.

A nation built upon sand, however, cannot long endure.

Indeed, with a deep confidence that nothing here matters, Canada’s elite has been encouraged to be irresponsible, like adolescents running the house in the absence of parents: let’s hold a big party and invite everyone! Let’s say there are no more rules; everything is permissible!

I date this tendency from Trudeau; although himself always a federalist, against the backdrop of Quebec separatism, Canada was not something he was committed to at a visceral level. Not his motherland—that was always Quebec--but an intellectual toy. He was free to tinker, and he did. His Canadian Constitution, in the end, is the source of much of the present national electoral dysfunction: for the sake of getting the deal, all sorts of odd interest groups of the moment were appeased with constitutional guarantees. As a constitution, it is now extremely difficult to alter. This has mortgaged Canada’s posterity, as a constitutional entity, to the forces that had political influence at one moment in our history, 1982.

The recklessness has gotten worse since. Mulroney’s Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords thankfully did not pass; if they had, amending the constitution would have become almost impossible. But the failure of Meech and Charelottetown also chillingly displayed how close to impossible it is to amend the Canadian constitution already. And it was all, in Mulroney’s own famous words, a “roll of the dice.”

That’s quite a phrase to characterize a nation’s polity. But so it has become since. The recent judicial activism is perhaps merely the inevitable spread of the same attitude through the system: everyone feels free now to tinker and reinvent all systems to suit their opinions of the moment. Preston Manning’s ultimately pointless destruction of the Progressive Conservative Party, the party that founded Canada, can be seen as another example of the trend: no Canadian tradition is sacred. Indeed, if it is a Canadian tradition, it is profane.

We now have, to my mind, a rapidly deteriorating situation where fashionable ideas, like multiculturalism, gay marriage, raising children without spanking, intrinsic aboriginal land rights, rule by the judiciary, and so forth, are being too readily enshrined in law, in legal precedent and even, by court dictat, “read into” an almost unamendable constitution.

At least one of these rather experimental ideas is bound, by the law of averages, to turn out to be a national train wreck. No need to guess which one; I suspect more than one. It may look “cool,” if you are not in Canada to face the consequences when this hits, but this surely is a case where that Chinese curse rings true: “may you live in interesting times.” The horrible likelihood is that Canadians will be faced with a situation in which, after much suffering, there will be no legal, constitutional way to escape a very bad situation.

Yes, in theory there is that “notwithstanding clause.” Bless Alan Blakeney for it. But it applies only to parts of the constitution, not to all. And it will not help if what is needed is a constitutional amendment, not the limited suspension of some article. To, for example, curb the powers of a rogue judiciary. Or to satisfy the desires of Quebec.

In such a situation, because of the constitutional gridlock, it will become practically necessary to dissolve Canada to fix the problem. That is what we are now headed for, sooner or later. There will be no legal alternative.

If we are unlucky, this means a bloody revolution. But, thankfully, I cannot see that happening. Perhaps we are too sensible; perhaps it is just that nobody cares enough about Canada.

It might mean separation. Indeed, the strains of Canada have made separation a common thought for generations: separation of Quebec, separation of the West; the notion is so endemic to the Canadian suicide fantasy that Douglas Coupland, in City of Glass, basically a travel guide, predicts that even the Lower Mainland of BC will become an independent country quite naturally in the course of time.

This too is not a pleasant thought. Separations rarely happen without personal tragedy: families destroyed, careers destroyed, businesses destroyed, economies destroyed, and most often civil war.

But there is another obvious possibility. Indeed, it seems the most obvious and likely as well as obviously preferable. Annexation to the US.

Canada existed only as “British North America.” Having had time enough, it has managed to invent no plausible new identity; it has now retreated from the entire enterprise. Therefore, the captains and the kings having departed, its destiny as part of a united North America is, in a word, manifest.

Mulroney’s other grand scheme, Free Trade, happily makes this mechanically and legally easier to accomplish. The demand for it may gradually grow, and it may happen gradually, if we are lucky, as the constitutional problems of Canada become more obvious and—perhaps more important in practical terms, for most people-- grow to affect the economy. But even if Canada busts up suddenly and violently, the urge will be overwhelming on both sides of the border to have the Americans move in and prevent disaster.

There remains one great danger: the Americans may not want us.

Don't Tread on Them

As you may have heard, the leftish British newspaper The Guardian launched a campaign asking its readers to write to Ohio families urging them to vote for John Kerry, not Bush.

Among the responses sent directly to the newspaper:

“Consider this: stay out of American electoral politics. Unless you would like a company of US Navy Seals - Republican to a man - to descend upon the offices of the Guardian, bag the lot of you, and transport you to Guantanamo Bay, where you can share quarters with some lonely Taliban shepherd boys.
United States”

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Cereal Killings

Whatever happened to Crispy Critters?

Remember “I want my Maypo!” The kid with the oversized hat?

Roman Meal? Haven’t seen that one for years. I can’t remember how it tasted. I remember a Roman Meal bread as well, when I lived in the States.

Red River Cereal is still going strong—the one with the Red River Cart on the label. I love the chewiness of the flax. But you can’t find it in the Middle East.

How about corn meal? Remember a nice bowl of yellow corn meal in the mornings?

I grew up on this junk, and have not lost the taste for it. I still love a bowl of Honey-Nut Cheerios. I’ll even eat Lucky Charms if I think no one is looking.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Lynne Cheney Wins Presidential Debates

A good analysis of Kerry's drug plan, from a California blogger:

"Also, apparently this came up as a recipe for cheaper healthcare:

(1) Back empty delivery trucks up to Pfizer factories.
(2) Fill trucks with cartons of newly-produced drugs.
(3) Drive north on the nearest interstate and cross the Canadian border; allow drugs to be bathed in mysterious Canadian 'cheap-o-rays'.
(4) Turn trucks around, drive south, unload drugs in U.S. warehouses.

Obviously I'm simplifying -- the real scheme would have more steps and be considerably stupider."

The whole concept is absurd on its face: Kerry says these are US-made drugs, but re-importing them from Canada will make them cheaper.

As the debate sinks in, Bush seems to be picking up ground. Effectively, he won the third debate, inasmuch as people seem to look at him more favourably and at Kerry less favourably as a result of it.

I just checked the three ranking flash sources, and they all show Bush gaining ground over the past forty-eight hours or so: Rasmussen, Iowa Electronic Markets, and Tradesports. CNN just came out with a new poll showing Bush has regained a lead, and a full eight points among likely voters.

It was all very strange. First, all the commentators said Bush won handily. Then the early polls came in showing a win for Kerry. Now the polls are showing Bush gaining support immediately after the debate.

Maybe the commentators, being more experienced and more aware of the issues, just spotted it faster. It usually takes a few days to be sure what the public reaction really is.

I think Kerry sounds and looks very good in a superficial way, but it is jive talking. It comes apart under analysis. As with the drug plan above.

Kerry also seems to be under fire for his comment on Mary Cheney. It is becoming the one real gaffe of the debates. This is what matters most, and sticks in everyone’s mind: a revealing gaffe. Two years from now, I suspect everyone will say Kerry lost the debates decisively, that he lost in the third debate, and that he lost with this gaffe.

Lynne Cheney should be credited with the best line in the debates. It will be the one remembered on the other side: “this is not a good man.” I think that is likely to sink in. It works on Kerry the same way “would you buy a used car from this man” worked on Nixon. It works better because it plays up one of Bush’s great strengths: all else aside, Bush is a likable guy.

My prediction in August was that Bush would win the election by eleven points. That was counting on his winning the debates. If I am right in reading the debates as an ultimate Bush win, I stick by that. CNN shows an eight-point lead already among likely voters, and the Bush trend line up.

Bush by eleven.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Alberta Towns

Fanciful names for Alberta municipalities. Can you guess the original from the allusion?

Answers next week.

Not Quite in Earnest

Calvin & Powers

Chicken Out

Shy Forest Creature

Scat Cat

Fat Bastard

No Swearing Allowed

Giant Steppes

Crossing the River of Forgetting

Noisy Devil

Jesus! Grandma's Missing

Big Money

Drunkard's Creek

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Protocols of the Priory of Sion

The Da Vinci Code deserves to be, as it is, a record-breaking bestseller. A great read, with plot twists atop cliffhangers atop puzzles. But it also relies for its plot on a conspiratorial view of history. Such conspiracy theories are always wrong: nobody can keep a big secret for generations. And dangerous: the claims of the “Priory of Sion,” the secret society at the heart of the book, smack of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the forged history used over the last century to justify the persecution of Jews.

Only this time the target is Catholics.

Others have picked apart much of the history in the book. See, for example, Sandra Meisel's article "Dismantling the Da Vinci Code," in Crisis magazine (Sept. 1, 2003). But what of its philosophy? Reading along, it seemed to me that the book's philosophy is essentially Nazism.

Not that it advocates killing Catholics; but Nazism never publicly advocated killing Jews either.

A few points of similarity:

1. The conspiracy view of history. Here, an ancient Christian conspiracy to subvert pure European pagan culture to repress women. Compare the Nazi theory of an ancient Jewish conspiracy to subvert pure European pagan culture to repress Germans.

2. The book advocates a master family, genetically superior, who by right should rule the world. Compare Nazism's master race, genetically superior, who by right should rule the world. Or indeed Imperial Japan’s master family.

3. Bad guys are physically deficient; good guys are physically attractive. The physically deficient are bad, the physically attractive are good. Merit is genetic; genetics is merit.

4. The government of the Priory of Sion, the assembled good guys, is unfettered rule by a solitary genius. The grand master may do as he wills with the order and its assets. The membership supports this without question and without knowledge. Genius is an assumed qualification for the office: Da Vinci, Botticelli, Newton, Jean Cocteau are past masters. This is the same model as the Nazi Party: the "fuhrer principle." The Priory even has storm troopers: the Knights Templar.

5. For the Nazis, following Nietzsche, conventional "Jewish" morality was the morality of slaves, promoting subservience. For Da Vincism, rather less nobly, conventional Judeo-Christian morality inhibits good sex. It promotes the subservience of women. This is good reason to dispense with morality altogether.

6. For Nazism, morality is the creation of those in power. Governments are free to do as they wish, for whatever they wish is, ipso facto, moral. This is the assumption of The Da Vinci Code: he who holds power makes the rules. “Judeo-Christian” morality exists to bolster the power of the Church.

7. The Da Vinci Code's world is a no-holds-barred power struggle. Everyone competes with everyone. This is Hitler’s self-justification in Mein Kampf: everyone does it; life is struggle. We too must struggle; otherwise we are simply fools.

8. Everyone but for the hero and his group is corruptible. Money can make anyone do anything. Compare Mussolini’s critique of “plutocracy.” To this rule of money Fascism was the antidote.

9. Anyone with much money is sinister. They can and will manipulate matters. The Catholic Church is sinister because it has control over large sums of money. "Jewish bankers" were sinister for the same reason.

10. Robert Langdon, the Code's hero, expresses the postmodern view that knowing the actual truth is not important; indeed, perhaps not possible. We all choose the myth under which we wish to live. This seems to be endorsed by the Priory as well.

Compare Goebbels's theory of “The Big Lie,” that a propagandist can manufacture truth. “Fascism is relativism,” Mussolini said.

11. The Da Vinci Code prefers "paganism" to Christianity. Pagan times are a lost paradise. Christianity corrupts the originally pure Aryan thought and culture. Compare Nazism, which sought to revive pre-Christian traditions, reinstituting worship of Wotan and the sun. Or Japan’s kodo, which saw ethical Confucianism and Buddhism as foreign accretions to be expunged, reinstituting worship of Shinto gods and the sun.

12. In general, and without stating so, The Da Vinci Code assumes that the foreign and heterodox is bad, the local and pure good. Catholicism, essentially cosmopolitan (“catholic”), coming from Asia, is suspect. Compare the Nazi xenophobia towards Jews as a cosmopolitan, Asian element.

(The Da Vinci Code’s idea of “local” extends to anything Western European. But so did Nazism’s.)

13. The Da Vinci Code flirts with millennial notions of the “New Age,” "Age of Aquarius," or “end of days.” Compare Hitler’s millennial “thousand-year reich,” and interest in astrology.

Dan Brown, the author, would probably deny hotly, and sincerely, that he supports Nazism. So would his readers. Many of these ideas are merely common currency: in New Age, feminism, Marxism, postmodernism. The Da Vinci Code is a mirror of its times.

But Nazism, too, was popular in its day: Hitler was elected. No surprise if its ideas remain attractive. Here is a simple solution to the world’s problems, and it will cost you nothing—others are to blame, and others will pay the price. Indeed, if you are of the chosen, you are free to do as you want without guilt. If you are a genius--and who does not suspect this of themselves?--even divinity is possible.

That’s tremendously liberating. For the SS.

Pray The Da Vinci Code is not taken seriously by readers. But popular novels, like those of Karl May, also had their part in the rise of Nazism.

Pray for Dan Brown's baby.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Jive Talking: Debate #3

The debate is over; I watched it live. I thought it was a tie, but a lot of pundits are calling it a Bush win.

It looked as I expected all the debates to look: Bush warm and likable, Kerry like a wind-up toy. Lots of jive talking. Here are a few bits I noted down:

"It's against the law in the United States to hire people illegally."

Shocking. I hope the press picks up on it. This needs to get out.

"The fact is that we now have people from the Middle East, allegedly, coming across the border."

Also shocking. Imagine, people from the Middle East coming to the US. There goes the neighbourhood.

As I said before, Kerry is racist.

I also thought I heard Kerry say "We'd put money into the hands of people who work hard, who play the rules, who pay for the American Dream." Maybe it was just my imagination, but it does seem to sum something up. His Freudian slip, or mine?

He also quoted the Bible as saying:

"Love the Lord, your God, with all your mind, your body and your soul"

Now, to me, the image of loving God with your whole body seems unfortunate. This is not love, although it does tally with what many people who support Kerry apparently think love involves.

What the Bible really says is "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." Probably best to keep your body out of it.

I also heard Kerry spend the taxes he is going to raise on "those making more than $200,000 a year" at least three times. First he spent it on health care: the $600 billion to $800 billion it is going to raise would cover the $1.2 trillion to $5 trillion cost of his health care plan. Then he used it to cover the projected social security shortfall. Then in the next response he used some of it to cut the deficit in half. That's another $150 billion per year of the up to $89 billion per year the tax raise would bring in. Then later he said he'd spend it on after-school programs.

I'm not sure I'd want my money managed by someone who thinks 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 2.

Kerry also repeated his fundamental error on morality. On the question of abortion, he said "I believe that I can't legislate or transfer to another American citizen my article of faith. What is an article of faith for me is not something that I can legislate on somebody who doesn't share that article of faith." But issues of morality are objective, and objectively binding on all, not matters of faith. Faith and morals are quite separate things. If someone claimed a personal belief in human sacrifice, is that his right to choose? Would government have no business legislating on the matter?

A side note: Wesley Clark slaughtered Sean Hannity in their post-debate analysis. It's a pity that Clark ran for president this time. He wasn't ready, and needed political seasoning. He might have been formidable in four years.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

No Fifis Here

“MONTREAL - A gay man who was called a ‘fifi’ by a used car salesman has been awarded $1,000 by Quebec's Human Rights Tribunal. …

In addition to the $1,000 in ‘moral damages,’ the car salesman and his employer must also pay interest and expenses.”

CBC News,

It’s little news items like this that send a chill down my spine and make me grateful I’m not currently living in Canada.

They amount to an absence of freedom of speech in Canada. We must all guard what we say.

Note too that the accused did not have his day in a conventional court, but was convicted by special tribunal. Rather like a witch hunt.

Memories of Belmont Park

Others who grew up in Montreal may enjoy this as much as I did:

Remember the laughing woman? Remember that slow clicking approach of the Cyclone as the chains drew it to the first rise?

Saturday, October 09, 2004

US Presidential Debate: The Sequel

I think Bush won handily, although the early polls give the edge to Kerry. Kerry is good, no question. But I thought he looked a few times as though he’d been hit upside the head with a wet fish.

The blows seemed to be landing.

It struck me that no good Catholic can in conscience vote for Kerry. I do not think this is too strong a statement. It is not just that Kerry says he backs abortion. He also represented morality as a matter of individual choice, of personal faith. Now, to accept that, you must reject Catholic teaching on faith and morals, because Catholicism teaches above all else that morality is objective and binding on all. You cannot reject Catholic teaching on faith and morals and be a Catholic. It would be possible to say “abortion is a sin, but I’m going to do it anyway.” It would be possible to say “abortion is a sin, but I am going to permit others to do it anyway.” But it is not possible to say “abortion is a sin for me, as a Catholic, but not for you.”

Which it seems to me is what Kerry said.

More Old TV

The old Superman series was a big deal for us as kids. We could only pick it up with cable, from a station across the border in the US. It was the great benefit of cable, in our minds.

Bob Newhart--the one in which he ran an inn in Vermont.

Here's a web page devoted to the sainted memory of TW3:

Turns out it, in turn, was a knockoff of a British original.

You can view an actual clip from Fractured Flickers at

A candidate for the worst TV show of all time: Lost in Space. And it was actually revived for a bad movie!

Friday, October 08, 2004

TV or Not TV?

Thinking for fun of old TV shows. Everyone remembers Monty Python and Star Trek, but what other shows would you really love to have the full run of on DVD, if you spotted it? What gems do you remember from long ago?

I think of Wayne and Schuster, first off. Nothing was more exciting when I was a kid. It was more special because it was only on once a month, and you had to watch the listings carefully or you’d miss it. They weren’t always funny, but when they were good, they were brilliant. The level of allusion turned their best stuff into high art. I remember, for example, once they did a baseball game all in Shakespearian blank verse. In their day, these guys were Canadian national monuments.

Still in Canada, the CBC production of Anne of Green Gables. I already own that one, on cassette. I can watch it again and again, and enjoy it every time. I appreciate how much culture and history is woven into it as well. Plus, Anne is one of the great fictional characters of all time. Even the Koreans and Japanese all love her.

What else? Back when Global TV first started in Canada, they got the license on the promise that everything they showed in prime time would be their own Canadian production. This of course lasted only a year or so, but for that year, there were some intersting things on TV. I loved The Great Debate, which had two prominent figures going head-to-head on some current issue. I remember Irving Layton defending the war in Vietnam, and Tommy Douglas, who was an orator of the old school. It would be great to see some of those again.

The Galloping Gourmet used to be something I'd look forward to. Graham Kerr was just fun to watch. Did you people get that in the US at all?

This Hour Has Seven Days was also very cool, but 1. you can still see it anyway in reruns, and 2. it was really just a knockoff of That Was the Week That Was, from the US, which was better. But I’d sure like a full run of That Was the Week That Was. Anyone remember that one, with Tom Lehrer's great topical songs in each episode?

For a brief time there was something called Fractured Flickers, I think by the same guy who did Rocky and Bullwinkle. (Speaking of which, Rocky and Bullwinkle was also a great. Wanna see me pull a rabbit out of a hat?). It showed late at night, after the news. It took old silent film footage and gave it a goofy narration by Hans Conreid, who had one of the funniest voices ever. I thought it was terribly funny as a kid, worth getting out of bed for in the middle of the night.

Later on, nothing was better than the old Smothers Comedy Brothers Hour. Remember "Tea with Goldie"? Mason Williams?

Later, Saturday Night Live was as exciting. But I remember it only from its very first few seasons.

I went through a long period when I couldn't miss Masterpiece Theatre every Monday night.

I used to love just listening to Walter Cronkite's voice. He had a series called The Twentieth Century that captivated me. I even loved the Prudential commercials. And remember his election campaign coverage with Eric Sevareid’s goofy self-important editorials? Very radio. It was great. I’d love a set of those, convention by convention, up through the sixties and seventies. Clips of Abe Ribicoff accusing Richard Daley of Gestapo tactics, Scranton and Goldwater at the Cow Palace, those old roll-call dramas.

There was a great British sitcom called Shelley that I used to follow. Shelley was a grad student who couldn't find a job. It struck home, in the seventies. He finally left to teach ESL abroad. Maybe that's where I first got the idea.

Someone in Britain did a poll recently, I think of TV critics, and came up with the conclusion that the best TV show of all time was Sergeant Bilko. I just don't get that one.

Thoughts on the VP Debate

Cheney won.

Rather Shrewd Observation

A though to ponder, courtesy of Paul Schneidereit in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald.

“Think about it. How could Dan Rather's ‘unimpeachable’ source turn out to be a well-known, discredited and unstable Bush hater? It insults Rather to call it a dumb mistake.”

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Getting Religion

In response to a comment on “Ivy League,” below, I want to stress that, in order to function, a university does need religion, not "religion." Secular creeds like Marxism or Scientism seem only able to keep things honest in limited academic areas and for limited times--as in decades, not generations. This is not enough to sustain an enterprise like a great university. For that, you need real religion, not quasi-religion.

The problem is that we all fear truth, because we all have much personally invested in lies. In order to face truth honestly, to actually seek it instead of seeking to cover it up, we need a deep conviction that, in the end, the universe is benevolent. That is definitively a religious view: that is, in a word, faith.

Turkish Delight

From a recent news piece:

“Turkey almost scuttled its own application for [EU] membership by suggesting new penal legislation that would have criminalized adultery. ‘If that ever spread to EU,’ said one Brussels wag, ‘at least half of some 400 million Europeans would become criminals.’"

Sad but probably true. And it explains why religion in general has grown less popular in North America and Europe over the past forty years. Since the “sexual revolution” of the Sixties, a huge number of us have a vested interest in rejecting the traditional teachings of religion. Because they tell us we have sinned.

Most gravely, in the case of abortion.

Ivy League

I suspect the Ivy Leagues will probably die on their own at this point. Along with the university system as we know it. The whole structure has become dysfunctional. It probably only worked when combined with a religious sense of mission. This has been systematically stripped out over the last couple of generations.

I see the research mission of universities being quickly taken over by the think tanks, and the educational mission of the universities soon being done more efficiently on-line. It is now possible to create a critical mass of scholars virtually (in both senses) at any place. This is far more efficient that trying to gather them all together physically in some town in the Cambridgeshire bogs.

No doubt many of the old schools will segue into the online world and continue as brands, but it will nevertheless be a very different thing. And students will want to, and will be able to, cherry-pick instructors and courses one-by-one, instead of being stuck with a single supplier throughout a degree program. In such a world, the reputations of individual scholars will probably count for more, and that of recognized brands like Harvard or McGill will count for less.

Interesting Claims Regarding Iraq\SpecialReports\archive\200410\SPE20041004a.html

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Still Debating the Debate

I think there is a real chance still that Kerry will have lost the debate. Historically, the real winner and loser has often not been apparent until maybe a week afterward, as what the candidates said gets evaluated and spun.

Kerry sounded good and looked good; but was mostly talking nonsense. His Iraq policy was "I'd get more countries involved." How? "I'd hold a summit." Wow. That ought to make a big difference. His policies on North Korea and the Sudan contradicted his complaints about unilateralism on Iraq. And sounded unrealistic. He said he'd get rid of old Soviet nuclear material in four years instead of ten or twelve; that sounds good, but no word on how, just a number. He'd fight nuclear proliferation by ending all work on bunker-busting bombs--the sort of thing that might be needed to take out nuclear sites in, say, North Korea or Iran. And he suggested saying something silly in a speech was more significant than a vote in the Senate (against the appropriation for Iraq).

Smooth--but jive talking.

Les Expos: Je Me Souviens

Sad day--the Expos have gone south. I was in Montreal when they began, and loved rooting for them in old Jarry Park. Some years they were a very good team; certainly better than their payroll.

I hear, by the way, that the team cannot use the name "Senators." It's still owned by the Texas Rangers. I suppose they could make a deal to buy it back, but here are a few other suggestions:

Washington Federals - my favourite. I like the inevitable short form. "The Feds are in town."
Washington Greenbacks.
Washington Revenooers.
Washington Whigs.
Washington Mandarins.
Washington Monuments.
Washington Nickels.
Washington Eagles.
Washington Secret Service.
Washington Bureaucrats.
Washington Hill Sitters.
Washington Stateless Persons.
Washington Exexpos.
Washington Maudits Anglaises.
Washington Odd Sox.
Washington Gorgeous Georges.

Overpopulation? No Such Thing

A recent newsletter piece suggested that overpopulation was the reason for Haiti’s poverty.

But on the evidence, there no economic penalty at all to having a higher population. That is a myth. On average, the richest countries (viz. Western Europe, Northeast Asia) are more densely populated than the poorest (viz. Africa).

Haiti is not, by the way, the most densely populated country in the Caribbean, according to the figures I have seen. Barbados: 642 people per sq. km. El Salvador: 307.5. St. Vincent/Grenadines: 300. Haiti: 271. All wealthier than Haiti.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Myths They Live By

The following comment by a well-educated (Ph.D.) left-leaning friend on an email list:

“It's … known that, among Americans who have passports, about twice as many favour Kerry as favour Bush. The younger and those with a more global perspective do not seem to be very enthusiastic about GWB, on the whole.”

He has his demographics wrong. This is the left-wing stereotype of the Republican. In fact, the average Republican in the US is younger than the average Democrat. The college-educated are more likely to be Republican than Democrat. I haven't seen a study, but given the proportion of US military, overseas ballots (those literally with a more global perspective) probably favour Bush.

And the cyberworld seems rather to the right of at least other media. Witness the blogosphere vs. CBS recently. Yahoo Groups lists 245 Conservative email lists, 90 Liberal. On Googlefight, Republican beats Democrat 7,210,000 to 3,540,000; Conservative beats Liberal 7,220,000 to 3,500,000.

CBC Press Bias

Does the following headline really fit the story? The first and last lines are given below.


“Liberal party audits show that more than $1.5 million in donations came from companies involved in the federal sponsorship scandal.

… Conservative MP John Williams, who headed a parliamentary inquiry into the scandal, says they provide evidence of kickbacks.

‘The way this appears on the surface, this is kickbacks by the advertising agencies to the Liberal Party of Canada,’ said Williams.”


Friday, October 01, 2004

Terror in Iraq

A writer in the local paper--an Arab writer--made the interesting point that, if the terrorists in Iraq had any confidence they had popular support, they would not be using terrorism. They would instead be preparing for the elections, and would be sensitive that killing Iraqi women and children was not going to help their popularity. No, instead, they are working their hardest to prevent the elections. This tells all.

This seems to make it plain that the most likely way to reduce the level of terrorism in Iraq is to hold elections as soon as possible.

More broadly, an insurgent movement that does not have the support of the people is not going to survive long-term, if they cannot seize government quickly and by force. The one danger is ethnic struggle, Sunni against Shia against Kurd, with insurgent movements having support within their ethnic enclave. But Sunni against Shia has not been a serious issue anywhere else in the modern Muslim world to date; so it seems unlikely to happen there.

The Debates

I just finished watching the US presidential debate on foreign policy.

Contrary to my own expectations, Kerry won. This is not just my opinion: a snap poll says it was the conclusion of most viewers. Kerry sounded knowledgeable and bright. To me, his positions did not hold together, but Bush did not show this clearly.

This was the most important debate: more people watch this one that later ones. It was also supposed to be Bush's best shot: foreign policy. Although Kerry has also chosen to make foreign policy his centrepiece, so he might never have agreed with this assessment.

I think there is still a decent chance that some of Kerry's statements of "fact" on foreign policy will be uncovered as howlers. The next twenty-four hours or so will tell the tale. That could change perceptions: in previous debates, perceptions of who won or lost really did not become clear until about a week later.

But I saw no visible knockouts. I remember hearing Ford say Poland was not dominated by the Soviet Union and thinking "uh-oh" immediately. Or Benson's line "you're no Jack Kennedy." Nothing like that here. Bush did fine; Kerry seemed to have more information at his fingertips, that's all.

On the whole, I suppose this is good for Bush. Kerry had more at stake. Bush is sitting on a lead, and so anything close to a draw goes to him.

One thing that bugged me about Kerry's comments, that I would have liked Bush to go after him on, was the implicit racism of his attitude on foreign policy, and of many of his answers.

Kerry said several times that America was bearing 90% of the casualties in Iraq, to criticise Bush's supposedly unilateralist policies. Sitting there listening as a foreigner, it struck me that the subtext here was that it would be just fine to Kerry that people got killed, as long as they were foreigners. Great way to build a coalition of international partners, right?

But even then, his figure of 90% ignores all Iraqi deaths. Heck, if you're not of Western European ancestry, you're not even really alive in the first place, I guess.

Again, while he stressed the need for foreign deaths on the ground, he also criticised Bush for "outsourcing" the operation in Tora Bora--where they thought they once had Osama bin Laden surrounded--to Afghan troops. Instead of using "superior" American troops.

Another nice slap at allies. It suggests the Afghans (and Pakistanis) are not reliable, and not competent. And pretty chauvinistic, too, to blandly assume that the American troops could have handled mountain fighting better than the locals. Locals who knew the terrain, had been fighting in it for twenty years. Locals who managed to defeat the Soviet Union here only a few years ago. Great way to build an international coalition.

Again, he seemed contemptuous of the African Union over Darfur. Regardless of his claim otherwise to oppose unilateralism, he advocated piling American troops in there unilaterally, to "catalyse" the African Union. As though it was America's burden to show natives what to do.

When you stop to think of it, this may be the one thing on which Kerry has indeed been consistent throughout his career. After all, isn't this the essence of his entire position on Iraq and the Middle East? That it doesn't matter what happens to Iraqis or Afghans, only what happens to Americans?

And wasn't this his position on Vietnam as well? His opposition to the war was a question of getting Americans out, saving American lives and money. Never mattered what happened to the Vietnamese left behind.