Playing the Indian Card

Friday, November 26, 2004

The Trials of Expat Life

A local organization of expats with which I am involved is big on environmentalism. Every year, they put aside a day for going out into the countryside and cleaning up garbage. More recently, they have organized a recycling bin for a local school, to collect used newspapers.

But it is apparently a constant struggle. The problem is, they can’t find any garbage. Pakistanis come around on bicycles and snatch up anything that is reusable.

The troublemakers. How is one to launch a proper recycling programme in the circumstances?

Bears pondering.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Angels, Demons, and Dan Brown

Dan Brown gets much credit for the research that goes into his books.

An Author's Note at the beginning of Angels & Demons claims "references to all works of art, tombs, tunnels, and architecture in Rome are entirely factual (as are their exact locations). They can still be seen today."

Not. Dan Brown is instead a fascinating study in the current popular mythology.

Page 31: "Outspoken scientists like Copernicus-- …Were murdered…. Murdered by the church…"

Copernicus remained a Catholic canon and priest in good standing throughout his scientific career. His books were published at the urging of prominent churchmen. He was not murdered.

Page 31 (and repeated often as a basic premise of the book): "Since the beginning of history, … a deep rift has existed between science and religion."

In fact, until recently--the last hundred and fifty years or so--no difference was seen between the two. As Arthur Koestler has shown, most significant scientists up to the present day have been devout.

Page 37: of Satanism: "The rumours of satanic … animal sacrifices …were nothing but lies spread by the church as a smear campaign…"

Animal sacrifice remains a part of satanism and shamanism today.

Page 39: "It seemed there was always close correlation between true believers and high body counts." (and a claim that religion led to "an ignorant future of senseless holy wars.")

The term "true believer," from a book of the 1950s, refers not to religious believers, but those who hold to a political ideology as if it were a religion: Fascists and Marxists.

There have been few real "religious wars." Consider the obvious high body counts of the last century. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Saddam, Rwanda. These were non- or even anti-religious, not religious, movements.

Even the IRA and the PLO--hence the current conflicts in Northern Ireland and Palestine--are explicitly secular and Marxist, not religious.

Page 46: "…half the schools in your country [the USA] are not allowed to teach evolution."

Evolution is taught in all US public schools.

Page 50: Hatha yoga is referred to as "The ancient Buddhist art of meditative stretching."

Hatha yoga is a Hindu, not a Buddhist, tradition.

Page 65: A Muslim is represented as thinking: "In his country women were possessions. Weak. Tools of pleasure. Chattel to be traded like livestock. And they understood their place."

As a description of the treatment of women in Muslim countries, this is absurd. Not to mention racist.

Page 110: Native Americans are represented as referring to God as "her," and as "Mother Earth."

While Native American religions commonly had an earth goddess, she was never the supreme being, only one god among many. The supreme being was male: the Great Spirit.

Page 111: The pyramid and all-seeing eye on the US dollar bill is Masonic.

This is no more than an interesting speculation.

The all-seeing eye in a triangle or pyramid, as a Christian symbol of God the Father, long predates Freemasonry.

Page 112: "Novus Ordo Seclorum … means New Secular Order…Secular as in nonreligious."

It does not mean secular as in nonreligious. It means something like "A New Order of the Ages."

Henry Wallace and Franklin Roosevelt are the source of the design of the Great Seal and the US dollar bill.

It was actually designed in 1782.

Page 158: "Church attendance is at an all-time low--down forty-six percent in the last decade."--according to an anonymous caller (The Assassin?) speaking to the Papal chamberlain.

This might be true of Italy specifically, but worldwide, attendance at Catholic churches is rising.

Page 165: "His Holiness once told me that a Pope is a man torn between two worlds … the real world and the divine."

To a Pope, the divine world is the real one.

p. 169: “Olivetti looked the camerlengo dead in the eye. ‘The prayer of St. Francis, signore. Do you recall it?’

…’God grant me strength to accept those things I cannot change.’”

The “Prayer of St. Francis” is quite different: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…” This looks like a form of the Alcoholics Anonymous “Serenity Prayer,” by Niebuhr.

Page 174: Langdon assumes the murder of four cardinals will discredit the Catholic Church in the popular mind. "If the faith of a priest did not protect him from the evils of Satan, what hope was there for the rest of us?'

Brown overlooks the cult of martyrs and Jesus's crucifixion. If this logic held, Christianity would never have begun.

Page 177: Brown refers to "unpublished books of the Bible" held in the Secret Archives of the Vatican.

There are no unpublished books of the Bible. The Bible as we know it is those writings the Church chose as canonical. If a book is not included, it is necessarily not part of the Bible.

Page 224: The Pantheon "got its name from the original religion practiced there-Pantheism--the worship of all gods, specifically the pagan gods of Mother Earth."

The original religion practiced in the Pantheon was not pantheism, but polytheism.

Pantheism is not the worship of "all gods," but the belief that god is coterminous with the created universe--that "all is God" or "God is all."

The gods worshipped at the Pantheon were in no sense "of Mother Earth." Gaea was a minor deity, not even a member of the official pantheon. The creator God was Saturn, and the chief god was Zeus--both male.

Page 225: "Langdon had been amazed to learn that the dimensions of the Pantheon's main chamber were a tribute to Gaea--the goddess of the Earth. The proportions were so exact that a giant spherical globe could fit perfectly inside the building with less than a millimeter to spare."

Name me a globe that is not spherical.

This simply means the Pantheon's dimensions are those of a perfect sphere. This is a tribute to geometry as eternal truth. It has nothing to do with the Earth, generally understood by the ancients as the realm of imperfection, in contrast to the pure world of geometry and logic.

Page 239: Pagan gods are described as "Gods of Nature and Earth."

The pagan gods had nothing in particular to do with nature or the earth. The ancients held nature and the earth in no higher esteem than we do--rather less, in fact.

Langdon translates the inscription on the Pantheon to read "Marcus Agrippa, Consul for the third time, built this," and muses "So much for humility."

The Pantheon was actually built by Hadrian, who refused, out of modesty, to put his own name on any of his projects. He credited Marcus Agrippa, builder of an earlier version, instead.

Page 243: "According to the Bible, Christ was born in March."

There is no indication in the Bible of when Jesus was born. But the choice of December is not random; it fits with an earlier tradition of the time of the Annunciation--counting nine months forward.

Page 243: "The practice of 'god-eating'--that is, Holy Communion--was borrowed from the Aztecs."

Communion dates back to the first century AD. There was no significant contact between the Americas and Europe or Asia until 1492. Aztec civilization did not yet exist in the first century AD.

Ritually eating God was familiar wherever there was a god of grain or harvest: which is to say, throughout the ancient world.

p. 255: of Churchill: "Staunch Catholic, by the way."

There is no way Churshill was Catholic. I assume he was Church of England, but for a Catholic to have been British Prime Minister in the 1930s would have been a cause celebre. There were rumblings even recently over speculation that Tony Blair might convert.

P. 262: "the ancient myth of Daedalus, how the boy kept one hand one the wall as he moved through the Minotaur's labyrinth..."

Brown may be relying on some minor tradition, but in the most familiar version of the myth, Daedalus is the builder of the labyrinth. It is Theseus who solves the puzzle, by unravelling a thread.

p. 284: "Two pyramids, each with a shining elliptical medallion. They were about as un-Christian as sculpture could get."

As noted, the pyramid is an ancient symbol of God the Father. A church spire is a pyramid.

p. 290: a BBC reporter comments, on a big story, "I'll be taking the Pulitzer with me."

He would not be eligible. The Pulitzer is an American prize, for American reporting.

p. 290-1. The hero, Langdon, "scanned the rooftops for a church steeple or bell tower…. He knew, of course, that not all churches would have visible spires, especially smaller, out-of-the-way sanctuaries."

Like, say, St. Peter's Basilica, or St. John's Lateran.

Almost no churches in Rome have spires. Spires are Gothic; Rome's churches are Renaissance and Baroque.

p. 294: Referring to St. Peter's Square, the hero, Langdon, comments that it has no statues.

It is surrounded by statues of the saints. Large statues of Sts. Peter and Paul stand at the west side of the square.

p. 294: A Vatican guard explains "Most maps show St. Peter's Square as part of Vatican City, but because it's outside the walled city, Roman officials for centuries have claimed it as part of Rome."

Vatican City, and its legal boundary, has existed only since 1929--less than a century.

p. 295: Bernini's Respiro di Dio or West Pomente, at the base of the monolith in St. Peter's Square, is cited.

The guard describes it as "the image of a billowing gust of wind."

Who has seen the wind? What does it look like?

p. 337: "Though brilliantly rendered, the statue [Bernini's The Ecstasy of St. Theresa] depicted St. Theresa on her back in the throes of a toe-curling orgasm."

How does one know, by looking, that someone is experiencing an orgasm? According to St. Theresa's own testimony, what she felt was intense pain.

The statue shows St. Theresa seated, leaning backward.

p. 338: "St. Theresa was a nun sainted after she claimed an angel had paid her a blissful visit in her sleep."

And Albert Einstein was a patent clerk.

St. Theresa was a doctor of the church--that is, one of the church's most important theologians--and founder of the Carmelite order.

Nobody is made a saint during their lifetime.

p. 338, speaking of the same statue: "Even the type of angel Bernini had selected seemed significant. It's a seraphim, Langdon realized. Seraphim literally means 'the fiery one.'"

Seraphim is plural; the singular is seraph or saraph. Brown also uses "Illuminati," elsewhere, as a singular.

There is no iconographic reason to assume the angel in Bernini's statue is a seraph.

p. 341: the chamberlain, a Catholic priest, refers to the late pope as "Supreme father."

This would be blasphemy to a Catholic. The supreme father is God.

p. 355: "The church (Santa Maria della Vittoria) is on Piazza Barberini."

It is on Piazza San Bernardo.

Note the preface: "references to all works of art, tombs, tunnels, and architecture in Rome are entirely factual (as are their exact locations)."

p. 363: "Langdon realized that despite the encroachment of modern buildings, the piazza (Barberini) still looked remarkably elliptical."

Piazza Barberini is triangular. Piazza San Bernardo is a square.

p. 398: Brown has the arrow of the angel in the “Ecstasy of St. Theresa” pointing west.

It points north.

p. 399: "What figure would Bernini have carved as a glorification of water. Neptune and Apollo? Unfortunately that statue was in London's Victoria & Albert Museum."

Bernini carved perhaps a dozen fountains throughout Rome. All of them were glorifications of water. Trevi Fountain seems pretty obvious, with Neptune guiding his chariot over the waves, flanked by tritons and sea horses.

p. 402: "A flawless tribute to water, Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers glorified the four major rivers of the Old World--The Nile, Ganges, Danube, and Rio Plata."

The Rio Plata is in South America, between Uruguay and Argentina.

p. 424: "The lone dove is the pagan symbol for the Angel of Peace."

Angels are a Semitic concept; there are no pagan angels. The dove representing peace is a specifically Christian image: the Holy Spirit as "the comforter."

p. 473: "no crucifixion … could possibly match the scope and drama of this very moment."

A bit over the top for a book on the Catholic Church. Bigger than the crucifixion?

p. 484: "Each of us is a God, Buddha had said."

Buddha said nothing like this. His main metaphysical doctrine was "Anatta": literally, "there is no self." Which seems the polar opposite of this assertion.

p. 488: "The early Christians had believed in the resurrection of the flesh."

All Christians believe in this, or are supposed to. It's in the Apostles' Creed.

p. 519: "by Holy Law the camerlengo is ineligible for election to the papacy. He is not a cardinal."

There is no such requirement. Not all popes have been cardinals.

p. 534: "for centuries…science has picked away at religion…condemning religion as the opiate of the masses."

This is from Marx, who was a political philosopher, not a scientist.

p. 535: The papal chamberlain says "Headlines carried science's miracles every day. How long had it been for religion? Centuries?"

More like minutes or seconds. According to the Catholic Church, miracles are common and happening all the time. It is necessary to document miracles for canonization.

p. 558-9: "Although an unlikely candidate, Mortati was chosen by an unprecedented unanimous vote by the College of Cardinals."

The actual vote totals in papal elections are never revealed. Even if they had been in this instance, there is no way anyone could know if this was unprecedented.

All this is just what I caught in a cursory reading, without research. Some distortions might perhaps be necessary to fit the plot. But a lot of this is certainly unnecessary and speaks of ignorance and sloppy research. Consider too: this book must have gone through editing. Imagine how many more mistakes the editors must have caught.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Alberta Towns

In honour of the Alberta election, here are the answers to the "Alberta Towns" challenge I posted a couple of weeks ago:

Not Quite in Earnest: Frank

Calvin & Powers: Calgary

Chicken Out: Cochrane (Cock-ran)

Shy Forest Creature: Red Deer

Scat Cat: Jasper (Jazz-purr)

Fat Bastard: Edmonton (Edmund – ton)

No Swearing Allowed: Banff

Giant Steppes: Grande Prairie

Crossing the River of Forgetting: Lethbridge

Noisy Devil: Drumheller

Jesus! Grandma's Missing: Lac Ste. Anne

Big Money: Grand Cache

Drunkard's Creek: High River

Monday, November 22, 2004

Yasser Arafat and the Monsters

The face of Yasser Arafat as he was helicoptered out of Ramallah haunts me. One might assume he would be distraught, being very ill. Instead, he seemed overjoyed. Blowing kisses to the crowd.

I wonder—did he know he was about to die? And was he looking forward to it? I suspect he was, in some deep part of his soul. Death is frightening, but also inviting. And in the end, I suspect, more inviting than frightening.

I watch my three-year old son. He is now fascinated by “monsters.”

What is a monster? Anything that seems capable of eating him up. You can see the basic survival instinct working here.

And yet, it is not simply that he is afraid of them. He is afraid, and he cannot get enough of them. He wants and does not want to be eaten; he wants and does not want to be caught in games of chase.

On a tour of the Colosseum, our guide reported that, even though the competitions were roughly 50%, there were many who sought the life of a gladiator. She suggested it was the only way for some of the poor to hope for fame and fortune. I suspect instead an instinct more basic.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Why Don Cherry is the Greatest Canadian Who Ever Lived

CBC TV has offered a list of the top ten Canadians of all time, as decided by Internet poll. Over the upcoming season the list will be gradually narrowed, until at last the greatest Canadian of all time will emerge.

Here's the starting list:

* Tommy Douglas
* Wayne Gretzky
* Don Cherry
* Sir John A. Macdonald
* Terry Fox
* Dr. Frederick Banting
* Lester Pearson
* Alexander Graham Bell
* Dr. David Suzuki
* Pierre Trudeau

Inevitably--and happily, for CBC--the list has been controversial. Everyone objects.

Me too, of course. With all due respect, I cannot see Tommy Douglas or David Suzuki. I ran the list by non-Canadians of my acquaintance; none had heard of them. Douglas never even rose to the top of his profession.

Others object to Don Cherry. Funny. He's the one who struck me as most clearly belonging there.
Here's my thinking:

1. You cannot be truly great unless you are self-made, self-defined. If you do not rule yourself, you rule nothing.

2. Anyone who owes their greatness largely to office is less great. They may have merely had greatness thrust upon them.

3. Anyone who owes their greatness to privileged birth is less great. They started on second base.

4. Anyone who has not faced and overcome significant adversity is less great. They may only have been lucky.

5. To be a great Canadian, you should be somehow special to Canada. You should reflect or speak to the Canadian soul. To be, say, the "first Canadian" to do something is meaningless.

Most on the CBC list are surely still great by these criteria; but the greatest? Only Don Cherry seems to me to perfectly fit the bill. Cherry was not born to privilege; he has defined himself, has succeeded in widely differing roles, has overcome a career setback (losing the coaching job in Boston), and he surely speaks to something in the average Canadian.

Canadians think of themselves as quiet, modest, conformist, polite. Don Cherry seems to violate this mold. But in fact, when I think of other great Canadians who fit my criteria, they all seem to defy this type. In fact, they are, like Cherry, generally boisterous, roughhewn, and eccentric. Is this, perhaps, the real, unacknowledged, Canadian character?

Consider this list, presented not in any particular order. Perhaps it is a list of real Canadian heroes. Perhaps it is a list of Canadian anti-heroes. You decide.

1. Eddie Shack. Anyone with Gretzky's talent can be great. Eddie Shack did it without talent.

2. John George Diefenbaker. Not even his own party seemed to want him to be Prime Minister. His views were radically different from those that ruled the Conservative party of his day: in some ways, Margaret Thatcher was really a Diefenbaker Conservative. Dief overcame much adversity: he lost his first wife, and his first several tries for public office. He has left a deep impression: no prime minister save Trudeau is so well remembered, so loved or hated.

3. Robert W. Service. Ignored or scorned as an embarrassment by "sophisticated" Canadians, Service is the most successful poet who ever lived. Keith Spicer once said Canada, to become a nation, needed to be defined by poetry. At your Service: he invented the North. Considered rough and uncouth even in his own day, he struck a chord with ordinary Canadians. And he did it on his own: he wandered the country destitute for some years.

4. William Kurelek. Here too is a self-made man: surviving a poor and abusive childhood and crippling depression, Kurelek invented himself as an artist, following no school nor established style. His style is childlike, rough, often falsely called primitive. His political and religious views were strongly held and unfashionable. He sanctified the Canadian landscape and daily Canadian life.

5. Gordon Sinclair. Another self-made man. Sinclair said what he believed, regardless of the consequences. His reporting of the Second World War made him persona non grata with the Canadian brass. He established something of a Canadian tradition of the radio curmudgeon.

6. Ed Mirvish. Not the richest man in Canada, but unique, irreplaceable, boisterous and roughhewn. Toronto would be a very different place without Ed Mirvish.

Don't we begin by now to see a definite type?

7. Johnny Wayne. I can hear the groans. The official view of Wayne today seems to be "too corny for words."

Never mind. "Sophisticates" of all nations are embarrassed by just what is unique in their culture. They want to be like everyone else.

He was an odd mix: very literate, even intellectual, but never above a cheap gag. Frank Schuster, his partner, was more the standard Canadian model of the standard Canadian; but Johnny Wayne was the one who drew your eye.

Nobody was ever bigger in Canadian entertainment.

Here are a few more examples of the type: Real Caouette, Camillien Houde, Jean Drapeau, Ma Murray, Amor de Cosmos, Richard J. Needham, William Lyon Mackenzie, Irving Layton, Jim Carey, Stompin' Tom Connors, Ben Weider, John Robert Colombo, Charlotte Whitton.

Not a lot of shrinking violets there.

Now let's look at the feminine form of the archetype:

8. Lucy Maud Montgomery. The unacknowledged founder of Canadian literature. Almost everything written or even filmed in Canada since has been annotation on Anne of Green Gables. I have little impression of Montgomery's own personality; I take it as expressed in her character Anne. And Anne is the female Don Cherry. Anne knows adversity, and triumphs by the force of personality. Rough-hewn, outspoken, and self-invented. She is, in short, a Canadian.

And Montgomery is our Shakespeare, our Moliere. One consequence is the great Canadian strength in children's literature.

9. Celine Dion. Again, I can hear the groans. Of course, the average Canadian "sophisticate" is embarrassed by her. But she has to be on the list: she is probably the most famous Canadian, in world terms, of all time. She too came from nowhere in social and financial terms; not even blessed, as are so many current "divas," with looks. She is not outspoken in the way some of the male figures on this list are, but she does seem to be her own woman.

10. Kateri Tekakwitha. Perhaps not a familiar name to all Canadians, but one engraved deep in the heart of Canadian Catholics. Leonard Cohen saw her as archetype of Canadian spirituality. And that is, in the end, the greatest of greatnesses. Blessed Kateri too was a determined non-conformist in her Mohawk milieu. No timid soul.

How to account for the variance between this list and the official “modest Canadian” type?

I think it may be a question of class: my criteria have naturally favoured the working class; I think the official view favours the Canadian upper class.

And it says something about Canada that the two classes are so different. They would not be, say, in Korea or in the US. Canada, in the end, is, like Europe, a very class-conscious place.

Canada has always been a bit of a struggle between the Family Compact and the Clear Grits, between Citadel clique and Patriotes.

The CBC list is mostly the Family Compact list. Mine, although some are nominally Tories, is mostly a list of Clear Grits.

I'm Baaaack!

Apologies for not posting for two weeks. I was away in Rome.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Sheikh Zayed Passes

I was wrong.

I read the papers as implying that the UAE presidency would pass from Sheikh Zayed al Nahyan, on his death, to Sheikh Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai.

On the evening of November the 1st, the passing of Sheikh Zayed was made public.

I was at a meeting of a local society’s executive committee when I heard the news:

“At this moment, 8:50 pm, November 2, 2004, M’s cell phone rang. He retreated to the other room to take the call. On his return, he reported that Sheikh Zayed’s death had just been announced.

In the sudden silence, it was resolved that the group would express our regrets and condolences in a letter to our sponsor, Sheikh N.

B. volunteered to compose such a letter.

‘This is a very significant and very sad event,’ said G.

At this point, other cell phones started going off. J, after answering his, advised, ‘Take it easy when you’re going home. There are people hysterical out there on the streets.’

Indeed, there was loud mourning through the night from all the city’s mosques.”

This is an event bigger, in local terms, than the Kennedy assassination would have been in the US. Zayed is literally the founder of this country, its George Washington. And he is a genuinely good man as well, genuinely loved by all. No one, after his very long rule, has a bad word to say about him. On Dave’s ESL CafĂ©, all the comments by usually cynical expat English teachers, were praise. At mass the next Friday, the priest declared that “Sheikh Zayed is now in heaven,” and that “he was a very holy man.” This a Catholic priest speaking of a Muslim.

It is in a way sad that Zayed’s passing was noticed less than it might have been in the wider world, happening as it did on the eve of the US elections and at almost the moment that Yasser Arafat’s illness was revealed.

I suppose this is as it should be: Yasser Arafat’s passing, and what happened in the US election, will have a far greater bearing on the world. They took up all the attention of this blog as well.

But it is a shame that we do not more celebrate the truly good among us, and the truly good leaders.

One measure of Sheikh Zayed’s generosity: fully 28% of the budget of Abu Dhabi went on foreign aid.

His funeral did attract a very good selection of Middle Eastern leaders. Afghanistan’s President Karzai was there, I believe on the very day he won his election, perhaps his first official act. Prime Minister Allawi of Iraq was there, despite his pressing concerns at home; and so was the Iraqi president. Almost every ruler in the Arab world attended personally. Britain managed Prince Charles and Prince William, plus the Minister of Defense, Geoff Hoon.

The US did less well. I imagine people were tied up with the election, but the best they managed was Assistant Secretary of State Armitage a few days later.

This might, however, have been the preference of the UAE government.

But then the surprise. Maktoum did not, as I predicted, take over.

Even though the constitution provides for him to automatically become president for a thirty day period pending election by the Supreme Council, the presidency was given within hours to Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince.

Nothing shocking here; many people thought Sheikh Khalifa would get it. It just defies the tea leaves I thought I read in the newspapers.

Peace, in any case, be upon Sheikh Zayed’s soul.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Democrats Robbed Again

The emerging party line among Democrats now seems to be that they were robbed again. The Diebold Corporation stole the election from them, be juking the vote on their voting machines in six (out of 88!) counties in Ohio.

Never mind that Kerry lost the popular vote big time. That only matters when it’s the other side. If a Democrat can win electorally while losing the popular vote, that’s just simple justice.

The only real evidence of fraud seems to be that the exit polls are at variance with the actual vote. And that the head of Diebold apparently supported Bush.

This is wildly improbable in its face. There are basically only four possibilities here, with regard to the variance between the exit polls and the actual vote:

1. the vote count was wrong, and there was wrongdoing involved.
2. the vote count was wrong, and it was honest error (snafu)
3. the exit polls were wrong, and there was wrongdoing involved.
4. the exit polls were wrong, and it was honest error.

Now, based on Occam’s Razor alone, 4 is the most probable answer, and 1, the Democratic position, is the least. Proposition 1 requires a vast conspiracy, proposition 4 requires only the usual level of random human imperfection.

But we have further evidence, making this Democratic claim, in a word, incredible.

First, the exit poll figures (or the vote) were off across the board by six percentage points or so; they were not off only in places where there were electronic voting machines, or any one type of voting. They were off in Democrat-controlled counties, and they were off in Republican-controlled counties. This means the accused voting machines cannot possibly be responsible for the discrepancy. Nor can any conceivable conspiracy have been big and diverse enough to have cooked it on the voting side.

Nor could any such conspiracy have confidently predicted it would finally come down to Ohio, and to six of its counties, and so have managed to plant their machines there, years ago.

It would have been theoretically possible, on the other hand, for a small group to cook the exit polls: they were all done by one firm. Making this a far more plausible solution, if there is a problem.

Now recall that the exit polls are also at variance with the regular polling in the days close to the election. These other polls, by contrast, predict the voting outcome rather accurately. So, you have, let's say, six polls plus the actual vote. All but one poll say one thing. One poll calls it differently. It’s a pretty slim premise that the one poll that got it wrong must be right, and all the others plus the actual vote wrong.

Second, we _know_ the exit polls are off. We know this because their demographics are skewed. They include far too many women to be representative of the group that actually voted. Therefore, the exit polls being off is zero evidence that there was anything wrong with the actual vote. This by itself reduces the real possibilities to propositions 3 and 4 above. The exit polls were wrong, and the only question is whether they were skewed deliberately, or in honest error.

Honest error seems the most likely answer. Especially since, according to Slate, "Today's exit polls were no more off the mark than were those of four, eight, or 12 years ago." - Slate. They were significantly off in 2000 as well—so far off that the job was given to a new firm this time.

This argues strongly to me for proposition four. However, we should also remember that:

Third, we actually know there was wrongdoing involved in the exit polling. This came, at a minimum, in their being publicly leaked. This violated the terms under which the exit pollers were employed, although they themselves were not necessarily the culprit. The leak prima facie aided Kerry, not Bush.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Has America Really Lost Jobs Under Bush?

This is true only on a very arbitrary selection of facts. I look at the unemployment rate, and see it at a historic low. Which seems to suggest the problem, if there is a problem, is not a lack of jobs, but a lack of workers. You can't have more jobs than you have workers to fill them, after all.

What is really happening seems to be that a larger proportion of the population is in retirement and early retirement than ever before. And this suggests growing prosperity, not doom and gloom. Perhaps more women also feel they can afford to stay home and raise their children, instead of pulling in a second income.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

It's Values, Stupid

Iraq was not the overriding issue for the American people, at least according to the much-maligned exit polls. People said instead that they were voting on values.

It was morality, stupid. It was about defending the family. It was about preserving conventional ideas of right and wrong.That is what civilization is: at base, the basic acknowledgement that there are rules of proper behaviour.

This essential premise has clearly been under attack in the last few years, by postmodernism et al.

Bush had the best of that issue, because he appeared to be a man of principle. Kerry was labouring under memories of Clinton’s personal misbehaviours, I imagine. But he was also the wrong candidate on values. Kerry, in the end, seemed to have no principles. That resonated. And I think I was right that he hurt himself tremendously with his comment about Mary Cheney in the third debate: it made him seem to lack character, to lack honour. This is also, I think, why the Swift Boat ads resonated so strongly: Kerry seemed to show no honour as a soldier. This is why the CBS memo fiasco resonated: it spoke of general dishonesty on the left.

The Dems have lost the moral high ground.

The US Election

I have been arguing for some time that the oughts are marking a political and cultural shift as profound as that in the sixties. You can even trace it in the election results year by year.

Some parallels:

Reagan = FDR
Clinton = Eisenhower
George W. Bush = John Kennedy
Iraq War = Vietnam War
9/11 = Kennedy Assassination

The first major departure from the script is that--thank God--Bush did not get assassinated in his first term. Now we see how that changes things.That had the result that Goldwater (= Dean) did not win the nomination for the opposing party. I guess Scranton did (= Kerry).

Coming soon: a cultural sea change like the sixties. But in what is now called the "conservative" direction.Three years to go 'till the Summer of Love.

As to the breakdown of civility and the political hardball in recent years, I see that not as a permanent trend, but the kind of thing that happens at any transition, in any democratic revolution. Stands to reason: when a new view emerges, first you necessarily have a dramatic split in views, because not everyone accepts the new view at the same pace. Next, the establishment, feeling embattled, fight fiercely to preserve its power and privilege.

We saw it all in the Sixties; we’re seeing it again now.

The new view is the complex of attitudes currently called "neo-conservatism." As it was the "New Left" in the Sixties.