Playing the Indian Card

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Short bits

Rumour is that Romney is pulling his ad budget for Super Tuesday. This looks like conceding the nomination to McCain.

China’s wild weather is a big problem for the government. Westerners may not realize that in China, the government is responsible for the weather. Really bad weather indicates the regime has lost the mandate of heaven. I’m not saying the current turmoil will be enough to unseat the government, but it hurts them.

Apologies to the readers of this blog for a lack of posts. The undersea cables from Europe to the Middle East were cut a few days ago, and Internet use locally has been difficult.

Dead Babies

An insight into life on the Yellowquill Reserve in Saskatchewan.

Makes you wonder just how bad the residential schools could have been by comparison.

McCain is It

It’s all over but the hollering in the Republican race now. The fat lady is clearing her throat. The balloons are falling from the ceiling nets. With the Florida win, and Giuliani dropping out to endorse him, McCain will take it, barring some spectacular gaffe or scandal breaking—within the next week. The Republicans will now, on past form, close ranks quickly behind him.

There is some kind of magic at McCain’s back. Not just his miraculous revival, and how events in Iraq proved him right at just the right time. He also won in New Hampshire, improbably, among voters who wanted the US out of Iraq, and in Florida among voters who ranked the economy as top issue—playing to Romney’s strong suit. Talk about crossover appeal; we might have another “Teflon presidency” here. McCain is hard to hate. He has the fewest negatives of any major candidate.

So we may really see that perfect Republican scenario: a unified Republican party against a Democratic party torn apart by a fierce, race-tainted battle between Clinton and Obama. The black vote in Florida again went solidly to Obama. Worse, it looks possible that the choice for the Democrats might even hinge on whether disputed delegates from Florida and Michigan are seated at the convention. Floor fight!

Meantime, the speculation on a Republican VP choice begins. It is well, too, that there is much time to contemplate this; because the VP choice is more important than usual for McCain. His age makes it important—he runs a higher than usual risk of dying or becoming incapacitated in office. His “maverick” status also makes it important. He needs a partner who can reassure the party’s base. And the economy looks likely to be the big issue. McCain’s expertise is in foreign affairs; he needs someone to balance him here too.

What we need is a youngish conservative Southern evangelical with strong economic credentials, ideally a governor, who is popular in his home state.

The name “Jeb Bush” comes to mind. Unfortunately, the last name might be a hindrance.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Oil and Gas Jobs

Here are the answers for the oil and gas jobs posted a few days ago:


The roustabout helps with the drilling activities and maintenance of the drilling area.


Cuts down trees and clears brush.


The toolpusher oversees the drilling operations at night. He also ensures that the necessary equipment and materials are available.

Hot shot driver

Makes deliveries of supplies and equipment as needed


Helps truck drivers.


Working about 90 feet above the floor of the rig in the derrick, the derrickman handles the section of drill pipe under the direction of the assistant driller.

Power tong operator

Operates hydraulic powered wrenches to connect casing.

Mud logger

The mud logger, usually a geologist, will inspect and test the drilling fluid, 'mud' and the debris from the well. They will be looking for traces of oil and the different types of rock samples from the well to build up a picture of the subsurface.


The roughneck is directly involved in the drilling process under the supervision of the assistant driller. This position involves hard physical work.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

South Carolina

Obama has won South Carolina. I would expect Edwards to drop out now. South Carolina was his last best hope. If he stays in, it is with the support and as an agent of Hillary, to split the anti-Clinton vote. The obvious deal, of course, is the Vice Presidency. Edwards has denied he wants it; but he is obliged to. Edwards would balance Clinton nicely on a ticket, helping in the South and with the party’s left wing.

Even if Edwards stays in, though, the anti-Clinton vote will now tend to further coalesce around Obama. Given Clinton’s high negatives, this gives Obama a real chance.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Group Work

I’ve been pondering those striking figures posted the day before yesterday, suggesting that kids segregated by sex learn faster. Another thought slowly but inexorably emerges: is it possible the same might be true for adults?

Might men working together, and women working together, do better than mixed groups?

It is at least possible. I doubt any studies been done; who would dare do a study so politically incorrect? Where would they ever get funding? Anecdotally, though, there is one committee here at my workplace that is famous for its spectacular accomplishments last year. By chance, it was all men; an extreme rarity in this institution. Was this purely coincidental?

Just as .little boys spontaneously play with other boys and little girls with other girls, the same spontaneous sexual segregation seems to continue at the adult level in most cultures—all but our own, and that in the last forty years. The women gather to do the laundry at the stream; the men to harvest or to put up a barn. They rarely mix in groups.

Speaking personally, I must admit, I find it frustrating to be on a committee with women; it seems more comfortable when it is all men. Women seem to have different priorities. We seem often to be working at cross-purposes. It feels sometimes like a three-legged race. Men generally want the talking over as soon as possible, and the work done most quickly and efficiently. Women seem to be happy talking forever, and must agree on every detail.

What happens? The men tend to tune out. They just shift into idle. Worktime is lost.

Indeed, they almost must. As soon as a woman is present, I, as a gentleman, feel I must defer to her. It is very different with other men. If another man’s ideas seem full of crap, I can just say so. With a woman, I dare not.

Is it the same for women? I asked my wife. Being Filipina, I expect she gave me a straight, honest answer. She is not too influenced by feminist ideology. She may be aware, but does not much care, what the politically correct answer is.

She said she would much rather work with other women. Why? Because men are interested in completely different things. They are a little crazy, she explains, not unsympathetically.

The implications are obvious and ominous. The feminists have been arguing for many years that, however we might feel about it, we cannot as an economy afford to leave half of our potential workforce idle. We cannot afford not to use all those good female minds.

This has never made sense. Those female minds were formerly employed fully and vitally in nurturing and educating the next generation of workers, surely vital to the long term health of any economy. Ask Japan; or, soon, Europe. At best, we have been simply mortgaging the future.

But it may be worse than that. Based on the figures from the schools, we may actually have been cutting even current efficiency in half; a fact that may have been masked by improvements in technology along the way.

This, if so, would certainly vindicate the ancient wisdom of sexual segregation; which all societies seem to have believed in, up to but excluding our own.

It is entirely possible, after all, that our ancestors were not total idiots. It is even possible they learned something over the millennia.

The Cherokee Swamper

I met a swamper once in the Edmonton Greyhound terminal. She was an Oklahoma Cherokee, and she was headed north to the oilfields of Fort Mac to help support her family of seven siblings. She told me she really wanted to be a journalist, but her English was not too good.

I, a journalist, was in awe. What could be more romantic than being a Cherokee swamper from Oklahoma?

Some of the traditional jobs in the North American petroleum industry have wild and wonderful names; they’re a kind of folk poetry. See if you can guess what each of the following workers actually does.

Answers tomorrow.

Hot shot driver
Power tong operator
Mud logger

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

How McCain Might Become President

Latest polls show Obama leading Clinton in South Carolina. Meantime, McCain leads Giuliani even in New York. And the verbal battle between the Clintons and Obama seems to keep getting hotter. Polls suggest blacks are polarizing around Obama, while Clinton is playing the “gender” card for more than it's worth.

The 2008 presidential race has always been the Democrats’ to lose. It almost looks now as though they might manage to lose it.

Consider: the Republican race settles on McCain soon—the Republicans do tend to close ranks quickly behind a frontrunner--while the race between Obama and Clinton remains undecided and bitter into the stretch, also stirring up racial passions. The Democratic nominee might end up low on campaign funds for the fall, as Dole was in '96 after a tough nomination battle, and with a divided party, as the Democrats were after Chicago in ’68. It might be the perfect storm.

If I were McCain, I’d be talking to Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell, or J.C. Watts as possible running mates--there might be a chance to at last dislodge the black vote from the Democrats. Or how about Joe Liebermann, as an invitation to disaffected Democrats to cross over?

Then again, here's another intriguing idea for a McCain-headed ticket: Michael Bloomberg for VP. It would of course pre-empt an independent run by Bloomberg; it would give the ticket some important credibility on the economic front, and the economy looks to be the big issue. It might give it some healthy extra funding. And, like a Liebermann ticket, it invites independents to come on board.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Mark Steyn Speaks

Ever wonder what Mark Steyn sounds like?

Every word this man utters is worth publishing.

A Word for Segregation in the Schools

I have said before and will say again that all social science is suspect, and no teaching method can clearly be shown by experiment to be better than another. People are too complex.

But as social studies go, here’s one that has produced the clearest results I have ever seen. The sheer numerical spread goes some way to erasing doubt—though I’d like to see it repeated elsewhere. At Woodward Elementary School, in Florida, they randomly assigned kids to either co-ed or sex-segregated classrooms. Then they compared how they did on the standardized state test. In co-ed classes, 37% of boys and 59 percent of girls scored “proficient.” In segregated classrooms, 86% of boys and 75% of girls scored proficient. Same school, same curriculum.

It would seem very much as though teaching boys and girls together harms both significantly.

The way it seems to work is that the students spontaneously arrive at a division of labour by sex. The girls do all the language stuff, while the boys tune out. The boys do all the math, while the girls tune out; and so forth.

It may be that this tendency to divide labour is hardwired in us.

It ought to be, for the sake of social harmony and, indeed, equality. Men and women are hardwired to be complementary, and to help one another.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Problems Confronting John McCain

McCain is now the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. However, his lead is far from assured. Luck needs to be with him. Here's why:

1. McCain and Rudy Giuliani compete for essentially the same base: Republican moderates concerned about national security. So far, Giuliani has left the field more or less to McCain. From Florida on, he may split it. McCain’ potential vote is roughly split in half.

2. This base is not a majority in the Republican Party. McCain consistently tops out at about a third of Republican voters. So far, this has been enough—because the more conservative wing of the party has split three ways. If any of those three drops out or fades away dramatically, the equation changes. His rivals’ potential vote grows by 50%--and matches McCain’s plus Giuliani’s.

3. McCain runs well as the underdog. His style does not seem to work so well with a cautious frontrunner strategy. He is now the frontrunner.

Found on St. Theresa of Avila's Bookmark

Let nothing disturb you; let nothing frighten you. All things are passing. God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Nothing is wanting to him who possesses God. God alone suffices.

Trigonometry for Jesus

An example of the general failure of our education system to educate: according to today’s National Post, a Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board adjudicator, presumably chosen for her fine education, refused the refugee claim of a Chinese woman because, although claiming to be a Christian, she did not know what a “parabola” was.

This is what comes from schools and universities that deliberately avoid teaching the basic concepts of our civilization.

Welcome to Canada, Mrs. Xin.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Your Tax Dollars at Work

It looks very much as though Richard Warman, employee of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and source of more than half of the complaints it has heard, from which he has been making a tidy personal profit, has himself been posting extremely racist views on websites. Here's a sample of what he is claimed to have posted, about Conservative Senator Anne Cools:

Not only is Canadian Senator Anne Cools is a Negro, she is also an immigrant! And she is also one helluva preachy c*nt. She does NOT belong in my Canada. My Anglo-Germanic people were here before there was a Canada and her kind have jumped in, polluted our race, and forced their bullshit down our throats. Time to go back to when the women nigger imports knew their place… And that place was NOT in public!

Richard Warman then hauled the site at which he (apparently) posted those remarks up before his employer, the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Not for anything the publisher wrote, but for anonymous comments such as Warman's own on that site.

Here is an interesting comment by the site's owner. Are his claims true?

"I am a current victim of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, and have been under going a three year legal battle with them, due to a message board I had on my website ( back in 2003. Not a single word I have written is at issue, but rather messages others posted (that I did not even know about). As part of my vigorous defence, I have challenged the Constitutionality of Section 13 (Internet gag law) and Section 54 (fines) of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

"Here is a few statistics from my case that tells the whole story about the CHRC:

Active and Past cases: 43
Cases the tribunal ruled on: 29

• 0% of respondents have ever won a section 13 case before the tribunal.
• 100% of cases have 'whites' as respondents
• 98% of cases have poor or working class respondents
• 90.7% of respondents are not represented by lawyers
• So far, $80,500 has been awarded in fines and special compensation since May 9, 2003.
• 48.8% of all cases (Past and active) are by Richard Warman

Why then is Warman himself not prosecuted?

Something smells bad here.

(H/T to Kathy Shaidle, Five Feet of Fury)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Ezra Levant as International Hero

Ezra Levant: The Musical. See the YouTube video here.

One Wheel Drops off the Axis of Evil

They scoffed when Iran said it needed a nuclear reactor to meet its energy needs.

It probably did.

France has just signed a deal to sell nuclear reactors to the UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.

It just makes sense. Nuclear energy takes a large initial capital outlay, but, long term, it is cheaper than petroleum as an energy source. Oil is necessarily no cheaper for the Gulf countries than for anyone else: oil you burn at home is oil you are not selling abroad, and another $100 a barrel you are not earning. Iran, with its large population, needs that money even more than Saudi Arabia or the UAE does.

In fact, the Iranian nuclear program is no product of the revolution. It began under the Shah, and nobody then thought it might imply belligerent intent. But after the revolution, France, the US, and Germany abrogated deals to provide Iran with fuel and technical assistance, obliging Iran, unlike Saudi Arabia et al, to go in-house.

Bottom line: Iran’s development of a nuclear power option may indeed be entirely for peaceful means, and no cause for alarm.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Boy Genius Speaks

Four things the Republicans need in order to win the presidency, according to Karl Rove speaking before the Republican National Committee:

1. Get out and introduce themselves to the American people. Okay; any candidate can do that. Maybe a rap against Thompson, who seems less energetic about that.
2. Engage on kitchen table issues: the economy, education, health care, jobs. Essentially, any candidate can do this, although McCain might be faulted currently for not stressing this enough.
3. Campaign for non-traditional Republican voters. Advantage here to Rudy Giuliani and McCain, I think, who most appeal to non-Republicans and groups not traditionally Republican.

“The fourth thing the Republican candidate needs to do, Rove said, is demonstrate strength on the central issue of our time: Iraq. Republicans must show that ‘they understand that the surge is working; that all those defeatist and naysayers and negative people who said it won't work were wrong.’ The Republican nominee must present a striking contrast on the Iraq issue with whomever the Democrats nominate. The 2008 election won't be about whether or not it was a mistake to invade. It will be about how to build on our recent successes.”

This seems to argue strongly for Giuliani or McCain.

If Rove’s famous political instincts are still sound, that’s who the American Republicans should nominate.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Benedict Silenced in Rome

The students of Rome’s La Sapienza University have apparently embarrassed themselves by forcing Pope Benedict XVI to cancel a planned speech. They planned to shout down the speech, Fascist-fashion, with loud rock music had he appeared. The speech was to be on the death penalty and the case to abolish it.

The students don't want to hear about the death penalty? No, that was not the problem. This was pure ad hominem—it was because it was the Pope who was saying it. Sadly, it seems their expensive education has not managed to get so far as to show that ad hominem arguments are worthless.

More: they have apparently not yet grasped the principle of academic freedom; nor of the free exchange of ideas as the essence of the university; nor of free enquiry. But no surprise here; many of their professors joined in the protest. If they too do not know these things, they are surely not capable, ever, of teaching them. Perhaps Adam Smith was right, when he argued, over two hundred years ago, that the real purpose of a university was not to promote and protect knowledge, as claimed, but to promote and protect the class interests of the faculty and staff. There be pharisees.

So much, too, for any smug claims that modern Western culture is any less inclined to censor than are Islamists—a point Iran’s President Ahmadinejad archly demonstrated by holding a competition for cartoons on the theme of the Holocaust. The postmodernist, politically correct left is at least as eager to censor as any Islamofascist. The two are natural and actual allies, and work eagerly together through Canada’s Orwellian-titled “Human Rights Commissions.” Everything we are now blaming the Islamists for, the “new left” did first.

Benedict cannot be permitted to speak, according to the radical students and faculty, because he "condemns centuries of scientific and cultural growth by affirming anachronistic dogmas such as Creationism, while attacking scientific free-thought and promoting mandatory heterosexuality."

The obvious example, I suppose, of the church’s attempt to prevent scientific and cultural growth was its founding of La Sapienza University back in 1303. At least, its current students seem determined to demonstrate that this is the ultimate result of that initiative.

These thoroughly modern academics are determined to demonstrate to the whole world that they do not want to learn any unfamiliar thoughts or ideas. And they demonstrate that they are currently quite ignorant of the key thoughts and ideas of Western culture. They do not even know, and cannot be bothered to check, that the Catholic Church has no dogma of Creationism. “Creationism,” as that term is commonly used, has never been the position of the Catholic Church, which has had no quarrel with Darwin.

Sadly, this general ignorance of our own religious heritage is everywhere; it is a testament to the failure of our entire education system. According to The Economist, less than half of Americans can name the first book of the Bible, and only a third know who delivered the Sermon on the Mount. Yet what could be more fundamental to Western culture?

The students, supposedly Italy’s intellectual elite, also claim that Benedict is against “scientific free-thought,” apparently on the basis of a speech he made in 1990 in which he quoted philosopher Paul Feyerabend’s opinion that the conviction of Galileo for heresy was “rational and just.”

But the students are displaying themselves to the world in dunce caps: can they not grasp that they are demonstrating exactly the dogmatism today of which they dubiously accuse the church four hundred years ago?

And have they never learned the difference between quoting and expressing one’s own views? This bodes ill for Italian scholarship; it is one scholarship’s most basic rule. One wonders how much plagiarism there must be at La Sapienza U.

Ironically, the one thing that might save universities from such sophistry is a return to their original religious sense of mission.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Note on Terminology

Please remember, when referring to the various operatives for the various candidates in the US primaries, to use the correct collective terms:

Obamaniacs (or Obama girls)
Rudy tooters
Romney minions

Supporters of Ron Paul can most simply be referred to as “nut jobs.”

Romney Takes Michigan

So far, the results of all the primaries and caucuses have been the same: nobody who had a chance to begin with has been knocked out. The result is about the same as if the next primary were the first to be held. Now Romney’s back in the hunt too.

If this holds up, expect Edwards and Thompson to win South Carolina, Giuliani to win Florida, and Ron Paul and Mike Gravel to sweep the board on Super Duper Tuesday.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Ascent of Man

According to The Economist, studies show good-looking people also have higher IQs.

This goes against popular wisdom: beauty is only skin deep, you can’t judge a book by its cover, and so forth. In fact, though, people do rather well in guessing who is and is not intelligent from photographs. Popular wisdom here, I think, is only wishful thinking. People want to believe that any exceptional talent in one direction is matched by a deficit in another. That makes the rest of us feel better. Hence the popular notion that beautiful women are stupid (“dumb blondes”) and that handsome men are twits or empty suits; or, conversely, that bright men are geeky and uncoordinated. Doesn't make it so.

In fact, the studies’ results are entirely unsurprising. It’s what Darwin would have predicted. If you’re smart, so long as beauty is valued in your culture, you’re more likely than average to find a way to catch a better-looking mate. The kids, over the generations, will then tend to be both smart and good-looking. Conversely, if you’re beautiful, you have a better chance of snagging a smart mate, so long as that too is valued.

The Economist reports that good-looking people are also more successful in their careers. The uglier you are, the lower your pay is likely to be. This is no surprise, and may not even imply discrimination against the ugly, if attractiveness is linked to intelligence. More surprising is that the difference in income caused by beauty is greater for men than for women: the ugliest man earns 14% less than the best-looking, while the ugliest woman earns only 10% less than the most beautiful. This despite the fact that we value beauty more in a woman than a man.

What could explain this? These figures suggest that there is greater competition for a good income among men than among women. Either it is harder for a man than a woman to get a good job, or else it is more important to their survival for a man than a woman to get a good job, or both.

This, too, is predictable. But it implies pretty clearly that we are discriminating against men.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


You owe it to yourself to see the videos Ezra Levant has posted on his website of his session before the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

Remember to scroll down to the "Opening Statement," and watch the video clips in the correct order. It's much better that way.

This is a part of Canadian history, being made now. Joseph Howe has risen from the dead.

Ezra Levant for Prime Minister.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Wives, Be Subject to your Husbands

One of the people who prepared the questions for the Fox News South Carolina Republican Debate may have been Catholic. The question they lobbed at Mike Huckabee referred to a Bible passage that was in the scheduled Sunday reading two weeks ago: Colossians 3: 18. The passage is one especially hated by feminists. It stuck in Warren Kinsella’s craw at the time, according to his blog:

‘The second reading today was Paul to the Colossians (3:12-31): "Wives, be subject to your husbands."

Not many folks I know take the Bible literally. But I'm sorry, that little admonition is just idiotic.’

Huckabee, being a trained minister, handled the question well. But it is telling that everybody these days—including the questioner last night, and including Kinsella—misses the vital fact that the admonition comes in two parts:

“Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them.”

So there are in fact reciprocal obligations on both sides. This is what equality of the sexes looks like.

Granted, they are not the same obligations. But, if you are going to object only to wives obeying their husbands, then, whether or not the Bible here is showing bias, you certainly are.

If “wives, be subject to your husbands,” implies that the husband need not submit to his wife as well, you must also, to be fair, read the next passage the same way. Wives, then, need not love their husbands, and are free to act bitterly towards them. Moreover, as this possibility passes without comment, you are apparently okay with this. You have no problem with obligations being imposed on the husband; only with imposing one on the wife.

This is sexual bias. This is sexual discrimination.

Now, anyone with any sense—this excludes, of course, feminists—is aware that men and women are different. Any CAT scan proves it. Any farmer always knew that much: you treat a cow differently from a bull, or God help you.

Men crave independence and self-reliance. Men like to make practical decisions. Women crave community and a good emotional atmosphere.

The formula to have a happy, peaceful household, therefore, is for the wife to concentrate on letting her husband make the decisions, whenever he seeks it. This is what is most important to his happiness. Meantime, a husband can serve his wife best by making her feel she is loved and surrounding her with pleasant emotions. This is what she most needs to be happy in that relationship.

Why is this difficult to understand? Only because of the contemporary prejudice against men and their needs.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Canada's Holocaust: The Sequel

Reader “G” sends a fascinating link, in response to my posting on “Canada’s Holocaust,” concerning the Indian residential schools:

“I think you should think again ... after you watch this documentary.

Christianity was forced upon them on pain of death. Children who didn't convert were often killed. Traditional children and adults were sterilized, a key giveaway of genocidal intent. Why did children die from TB in the schools at a rate 7 times higher than any population in the world EVER?

If they converted so willingly to Christianity as you would like to think, why did the government find it necessary to outlaw their spiritual traditions, and hunt them down in the bush and jail them if they held 'potlatch' in secrecy?

If they went so willingly to the schools, why did the RCMP round up the children with a gunboat?

If the schools were so wonderful as you would like to think, why were the children who escaped hunted down by police with dogs?

You are trying very hard to paint Canada lily white, but you are only lying to yourself: No one believes that.”

Thanks for this, G. The video, “Unrepentant,” features charges leveled against the United Church and their residential school in Port Alberni by former United Church minister Kevin Annett. It raises some challenging questions. If it is true, we had a genuine holocaust in the Indian schools, involving, as you say, forced sterilizations and outright murders.

However, it is hardly a balanced account: the writer and producer is Kevin Annett himself. This is a bit deceptive, since he is interviewed in the film as if he is its subject. Annett makes very serious charges against the United Church, the residential schools, and even the Indian leadership, up to and including murder, mass murder, and genocide, but does not interview anyone from those bodies. We are left with the case for the prosecution; we have not heard from the defense.

So all we can do with this is try to evaluate the inherent probability of the charges.

Here’s the executive overview: to believe Annett’s case, we must accept the existence of a conspiracy against him, ultimately lasting generations and involving the active participation of the staffs of all the residential schools, the RCMP, the medical profession, the Canadian publishing industry, the Canadian and BC governments, Macmillan-Bloedel, the United Church, the University of British Columbia, the UN, the Indian leadership across Canada, and Annett's wife.

How likely is this?

William of Occam, would that thou wert living at this hour. Or at least your barber.

Annett seems sincere. So are many other believers in many other conspiracy theories. But the charges he makes in this movie are quite reminiscent of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. If leveled against Jews, or native people, instead of against white Christians, it would constitute a hate crime.

His historical references which can be checked are demonstrably false. He complains, for example, about the Indian Act keeping Indians second-class citizens. To be fair, he should have mentioned that it is the Indian leadership, not the Canadian government, that wants to keep the Indian Act. To quote the Canadian Encyclopedia, “The Chr├ętien government (1993-2004) stated that it was prepared to abolish the Act, continuing a line of similar commitments made for over a century.” A Canadian government White Paper again proposed abolishing it in the Sixties—and the plan was dropped in the face of widespread native protests. No
Indian Act means natives would have the same rights as all other Canadians. That means no treaty rights.

Annett cites the deliberate transmission of smallpox by infected blankets. To hear him, it was standard procedure, and was used against the Miqmaqs, Algonquins, and Hurons, as well as “all up and down Vancouver Island.” “In reality,” the narrator intones, “smallpox was a chief weapon in the deliberate germ warfare waged by European powers against native peoples.” An honest historian should have pointed out that there is no evidence of it ever having been done anywhere but once, at Fort Pitt, in the US—if then. And it is disturbingly reminiscent of stories of the Jews poisoning wells, isn’t it? It is a standard folk explanation for any epidemic. The designated scapegoats, the foreign element, did it.

Annett, and G above, makes much of the fact that the RCMP rounded up native children who tried to leave their residential schools; one of the ex-rev's native informants calls the Mounties “terrorists.” In fairness, he ought to have mentioned that non-native truants from school received the same treatment. And still do.

Annett claims at one point that Dr. Peter Bryce, the medical officer for the Department of Indian Affairs, found rates of death from tuberculosis at “the schools” of “nearly 50%”; at another point he says “over half” in “all the schools on the coast and in the prairies”; at another point he says the rate “in the West” was 69%. These figures seem to contradict one another. Which is it? The New Scientist claims Bryce’s data showed the overall rate as 24%. A Canadian Dimension piece gives the same figure.

Of course, a 24% rate of tuberculosis is shocking enough. But, as I pointed out in my original piece, “Canada’s Holocaust,” tuberculosis was also rampant—and still is—in native communities. Nor can the residential schools be faulted, as Annett repeatedly claims, for not curing it—there was no known cure. Nor is there any evidence, as Annett claims, that there was a deliberate policy of killing off native children. In the opinion of Professor Milloy of Trent University, who has written the book A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System--not an apologia--the problem was a lack of funding for the schools: “It has absolutely nothing to do with the idea of ‘Let’s get them sick with tuberculosis and wipe them out as a species on the earth.’ It’s the fact that the feds won’t spend any money on this, and that’s what it leads to.”

In March, 1932, for example, Indian Affaris sent a directive to the schools that “as a result of spending cutbacks, it cannot authorize admitting children with tuberculosis to a sanatorium or hospital unless the patient requires ‘care for relief of actual suffering.’”

Bad enough—but to be fair, would the problem of crowding and therefore transmission have been any better in a poor home back on the reserve; or indeed in a traditional longhouse? Probably not; when you are poor, you cannot afford a separate home for a sick family member.

The film stresses that, when Arnett was delisted as a United Church minister, he was not allowed to know the charges against him; and that this violated "natural justice." Leave aside the question whether one's employer is obliged to meet the standards of a court of criminal law before letting you go; the charges against Arnett were obvious. He himself notes being previously informed that, in order to continue in the ministry, he would have to undergo a psychiatric evaluation and take further training in pastoral care. And that he refused to do this. Here Annett seems less than honest.

In Annett’s film, many native people recount horrifying stories, not just of sexual abuse, but of sterilization, torture, and murder in the schools. They certainly seem sincere—those tears are real. But are their memories plausible?

One old man, for example, recounts a punishment in which he was put in a bathtub of hot water, to which was added a pail-full of snakes: “black and yellow” snakes, he recalls. The snakes then writhed in the hot water as they died.

Now, if you were a teacher in a residential school, and you wanted to discipline—or even to torture—small boys, is it likely you would find it worth your while to collect a bucketful of snakes for the purpose? For one use? It’s possible; but it sounds a bit dreamlike. A bit too symbolic.

Another informant recalls a classmate killed in front of her by a nun who kicked her in the neck. The child fell dead, and the other children were told to step over her into class.

Imagine that scene—a nun able to high kick and kill with one blow. It does not sound entirely human. It sounds more like the powers demons have in folk tales, or in dreams. And this, I note, reputedly happened not in a residential school, but in a day school in North Vancouver. Those children would have reported home to their families that night.

But nothing was said? Even the dead child’s parents did not notice anything?

Another informant saw a child thrown to her death by a nun out a second storey window. Certainly physically possible—but how likely is it that a woman, even a psychopath, would risk a hanging with such audacious public behaviour? What mere child's life would be worth it? How likely then that no member of the staff of the school would contact authorities? How likely then that the medical officer who signed the death certificate would not alert the police to possible foul play? That the parents would not suspect something? The odds winnow down…

Another informant describes himself and other native boys being sterilized by something like an x-ray. Nefarious, certainly. But if this is possible, why has it not by now become a popular procedure? Lots of men go for vasectomies; this would be much less intrusive. Odd that a residential school should have such advanced technology, generations later still unknown to everyone else. Damned clever, those Jesuits.

So, to accept the tales as true, one must accept a rather high level of improbability. This being so, there is an interesting, and disturbing, alternative possibility. There is such a thing as mass hysteria. And there is such a thing as a false memory.

Five million Americans, for example, remember being abducted by aliens.

Childhood memories are especially unreliable. Even we adults, let alone small children, sometimes have difficulty distinguishing between dreams and the waking world. My two stepchildren once reported an encounter with Dracula at the head of the apartment stairs. They still both retain that vivid memory, as teenagers, though they cannot explain it.

Annett’s anecdotes are just that—anecdotal. It seems possible that all the natives interviewed have false memories. Many of these interviews, according to the film, were recorded on Vancouver’s east side. With all due respect, I think I could go to Queen Street, in Toronto, and with relative ease find as many informants who would report being the rightful king of some place or other, and many who are currently the subjects of CIA experiments.

False memories may even be more common in native cultures than in the Canadian mainstream: traditional hunter-gatherer cultures just about everywhere put a premium on dreams, and hold them to be supremely significant. It is dreams, not the waking world, that reflect the true, spiritual nature of things. The barrier between the imagined and the “factual,” physical world, which seems so solid most times to modern Northern Europeans, is not so to many other cultures; or is, to them, ultimately irrelevant. They do not equate "imagined" with "untrue." Truth is found in the dreamtime.

If we accept this possibility, it too has remarkable consequences. If native or childhood memories are unreliable, for the sort of purposes we might associate with a court of law; if you can find some native to remember anything it is possible to imagine, even quite improbable things; then what about those memories of sexual abuses in the schools, on which the current large cash payments to natives are largely based? What about the native “oral traditions,” now given equal weight with the written treaties in determining just what the deal between natives and Europeans is, and who owns what land by aboriginal right? Can we count on two-hundred-year-old communal memories to be so trustworthy?

One begins to see why even native leaders dislike what Annett is doing. His work tends to discredit the whole enterprise.

And beyond native issues: with childhood memories so unreliable, is it right to drop the statute of limitations, uniquely, in the case of pedophilia charged against Catholic priests?

No; here we are entering the land of nightmare.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Iron My Shirt

The discrepancy between the polls and the actual results in the New Hampshire primary is historic. Everyone is trying to explain how it happened.

One fascinating bit of evidence is that exit polling suggests the big difference between Iowa and New Hampshire was in the way women voted: they went in much higher proportion for Hillary Clinton in the second contest.

This suggests that the pivot point that turned the Clinton campaign around may not have been Hillary’s teary-eyed moment, but an incident at another rally when two hooligans disrupted a talk with a sign and a chant of “iron my shirt.” Hillary observed in response, as the protesters were bundled off, that she was running to break through the old glass ceiling and to end sexism. The crowd loved it. Standing ovation.

Women may have felt driven, after that, to vote for her. And women are the majority of the electorate. In a democracy, a sane person does not pick a fight with the majority.

But the moment seemed too good for Hillary, frankly, to be true. The heckling too obviously helped instead of harmed her. And it turns out, indeed, that the thing was almost certainly staged. The perps have now been identified as two young men who work for a Boston radio show. So they may have done it as a publicity stunt; then again, one of them apparently had a “Hillary for President” sticker on his carrying bag. The media are overwhelmingly Democrat by voter registration… And isn’t this just a small step beyond planting audience questions, something Clinton’s campaign has already been caught doing more than once?

Others note that Hillary seemed remarkably well prepared with her comeback, which went on for some time. And not only that—the chants of the demonstrators seemed to be picked up clearly by a microphone. That seems unlikely in normal circumstances. And when the disturbance began, Clinton asked that the lights be turned on so it could all be better seen.

Have a look at it all for yourself here.

It smells funny to me.

"Iron my shirt?" When was the last time you heard anyone express a sentiment like that, even in private?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


The world first started to go terribly wrong when Kennedy was shot, my grandfather died, and Toronto’s population overtook Montreal’s.

Those who, like me, believe this with every fiber of their being, and who perhaps even had the good fortune to grow up in Montreal in whole or in part, are bound to enjoy this blog.

So She Wasn't Made of Brown Sugar after All

Okay, I got it wrong. So sue me; big deal; so did everyone else. Clinton’s back; the Comeback Queen. I think just possibly this primary result, on the Democratic side, was based on the general calculation that Obama had it won. Assuming so, perhaps, a lot fewer young folks bothered to turn out here than in Iowa—his strongest constituency. A lot of independents who might have voted Democrat and Obama may have switched to the supposedly closer Republican contest to help McCain, perceived as being in more trouble. And a lot of people too may have been moved by Clinton’s recent shows of emotions—not to embrace her candidacy, possibly, so much as to feel that, heck, the Clintons at least deserved better than to end by being embarrassed—since Obama has it won anyway, let’s lend her our vote to show her some sympathy, to preserve her dignity.

A man who sheds tears or shows emotion—as Muskie did in 1968—is probably doomed. But it does not follow that the same is true for women. I think many, men and women, are conditioned to respond generously to a women seemingly overcome by emotion. We want to reach out. It may not be fair, but it is the way the world is.

If I’m right, Hillary Clinton’s comeback may be short-lived. That calculation will never happen again. It depended on the confidence that she would lose.

It is pure instinct, but I think people really are eager for change. Not a big change in policies, nor in the political direction of the country. I think most people know things are going pretty well, on the whole, for the USA. It’s more a question of change of personnel. After all, there have been Clintons or Bushes in the White House for the last 28 years. Anybody younger than 45 this year has never seen a presidential ballot without one of those two names on it. I can understand a feeling that there need to be some fresh faces—rather than at least four more years of the same. So too with the strongly partisan temper of those times—attempted impeachments, “vast right-wing conspiracies,” culture wars, and so forth. It begins to feel sterile and repetitious, especially into a new millennium.

No, to me it feels the time is right for an Obama and his message. I believe it will prevail. Huckabee’s message too works well on the same principle—a new face, a new approach, and a platform that breaks molds. McCain’s “maverick” persona also perhaps fits the temporal temper, despite his age.

Anyway, the net result of this match is the same as the net result for Iowa: nobody is knocked out. Nothing is decided. McCain will now have the money and momentum to go on—had he lost, it would have been done for him. There is no reason for Romney to drop out before Michigan—he has ties there, and is not in trouble for money. Nevada also might be good for him, with its Mormon population. Win both, and he’s back in the fight. Huckabee and Thompson are sure to want to stay in through South Carolina, which looks promising for them. Thompson can also hope to pick up significant support should Romney drop out. Giuliani has not yet begun to fight, and the split in the early primaries works in his favour.

Among the Democrats, similarly, Edwards will want to hang on to South Carolina, his home state. Clinton and Obama are, of course, both fully in contention—for now.
But if and when Richardson or Edwards does drop out, it will probably shift the calculus decisively in favour of Obama. Even if it is not there already.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

New Hampshire Predictions

My last-minute predictions for New Hamsphire: big win for Obama on the Democrat side; a win for McCain on the Republican side.

Obama will win because the logic of the public drama requires a Clinton meltdown.

McCain will win because the rumoured late surge for Romney is improbable--it usually takes about two weeks for what is being said in the press to show up in the polls, and this would be a turnaround in 24 hours. The expected huge Obama win will convince many independents to vote in the Republican primary, where they can make a difference, and McCain's strength is among independents.

Now let's see whether I'm right...

McCain and the Boys on the Bus

A Washington Post column gives some idea of why John McCain is so popular with the press.

While we need to remember that the press has their own agenda, it is also true that they get to see the candidates much more closely than the rest of us do. Their judgement may on this be worth something. Especially since McCain is not congenial to them in policy terms.

I get the feeling John McCain would be a lot of fun to have a beer with.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Democracy and Culture

Especially since Vietnam, many believe that democracy may not work in non-European cultures. A friend recently even limited that to Northern European cultures. His thought was that other parts of the world were too “tribal.” This is very much the rap against America’s plans in Iraq.

I strongly disagree. Democracy already works pretty well in a lot of nations outside Northern Europe: India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan; not to mention Italy, Spain, Greece, and so forth. The advantages of democracy are pretty obvious, to people in the Third World as much as in the First. Polls show the average Arab in the street, for example, certainly wants it.

The great advantage of democracy is not that the people get to choose their own government. Who cares? The point is to get the best government, and there is no reason to suppose the popular majority have any special insight in that regard.

No; the great advantage of democracy is that it offers a peaceful way to change governments when one is plainly not working. An undemocratic society must either struggle indefinitely under an incompetent, corrupt, or oppressive government, or accept the chaos of civil war. Indeed, it must often accept the periodic chaos of civil war anyway, as autocratic leaders die without clear successors. The advantage of a hereditary monarchy, the best government system other than democracy, is that it at least ensures at most times a peaceful succession. Nevertheless, unlike democracy, it does not allow a bad ruler to be replaced.

Even for the rulers, democracy is the best deal. Yes, it might be good to be king. Yes, democracy unpleasantly allows them to be replaced. But it also allows them to die in their beds, a luxury autocratic rulers cannot anticipate. The attraction of this does not depend on culture.

But, regardless of culture, it is very difficult to establish a democracy. It requires a responsible and moral ruling class; and one that is responsible and moral almost to a woman and a man. For democracy requires a gentleman's agreement in which those in power do not crush opposition when they have a chance, but allow themselves to be peacefully replaced, in confidence that the next group will behave the same way and will not crush them. It's very tough to build up that trust. It's very easy to lose it.

The most important thing George Washington ever did for the United States was to serve two terms as president, and then voluntarily leave power, even though he could have been re-elected--or probably, could even have had himself named king. That is the entire difference between the American Revolution, and the French, or English, or Russian one.

And that is the miracle America needs in Iraq.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

What is John Edwards Up To?

It seems odd.

I did not watch the US presidential debates last night—different time zone on this side of the world, and all. But it looks as though, instead of what one might expect, all guns turning on Obama as the new frontrunner, Edwards spent the debate going after Clinton—to the point even of not responding when Obama attacked him.

To my mind, there can be only one explanation. Edwards has concluded that he cannot win, that Obama already has the nomination wrapped up, and he wants another shot at the VP slot on the ticket.

I think he’s right, too. Hillary is not going to pick herself up from this. There will be no comeback. She was too far ahead. Now that the inevitability is gone, the fall is going to be too precipitous. It’s the inevitability of the tragic form—there can be no sudden redemption at the end. And, as a tragic hero, she will be forever held guilty of hubris, whether she was or not.

Actually, though, if I were Obama, I would not go with Edwards. The rap on Obama is youth and inexperience. Edwards is not a strong counterbalance in that regard. Obama needs his LBJ. Someone seasoned, especially, on foreign policy. Joe Biden, for example.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Iowa Results

So how’d my Iowa caucuses predictions do? I was right on Huckabee winning, right on Romney placing, for the Republicans. Thompson seems to have edged out my choice, McCain, for third. I did less well on Democrats: I was right that Clinton would come third, but had first and second places reversed.

Now how did I do compared to the professionals? Awarding three points for each correct first-place finish, two for a correct second-place, three for a correct third, my overall score is 6. A different system: three points for getting a win, place, or show correct, one for being within one place of the correct finish: 12. 6/12.

Compare Terry Eastland at the National Standard: he called Barack to win, but Clinton to come second. Like me, he expected McCain to take third. His scores on the same basis: 8/10.

Richelieu, of the National Standard: 11/16.

Stephen Hayes: 3/8.

Jim Geraghtey, National Review: 12/18—a perfect call!

Neil Newhouse, Public Opinion Strategies: 1/8.

Will Robinson, New Media: 1/5.

Marc Elias, Perkins Coie: 8/12.

Let’s add the two figures to get a composite:

Od: 18
Eastland: 18
Richelieu: 27
Hayes: 11
Geraghtey: 30
Newhouse: 9
Robinson: 6
Elias: 20
Average: 17.37.

So at least I beat the average for “experts.” And I did hedge my bet by saying that a clear lead for Obama over Edwards on the first ballot would lead to a major move to Obama instead of to Edwards.

Anyway, the big media spin coming out of this looks to be Obama. Fair enough, I think. It looks as though he drew huge numbers of new caucus-goers. This makes him the new favorite to take the Democrats’ nomination. He’s likely now to take New Hampshire on the bounce, and build up nice momentum for the big primaries to come.

The second-biggest story I hear and read is the failure of Romney among the Republicans. Odd, the difference in emphasis—the focus on the winner for the Democrats, the loser for the Republicans. Because, actually, Huckabee got a better spread than Obama, and the loss was worse for Clinton than for Romney.

But the media do not like either Huckabee or Romney. They like Obama a lot, and generally like Hillary Clinton.

They also like McCain, and have been trying to spin his fourth-place finish as a win. I too may have gotten fooled by this media hype, and overestimated his chances in Iowa as a result. I don't think his finish in Iowa helps or hurts him.

The main thing this result does, I think, is to keep everyone still in the race—everyone who seemed to have a chance going in, that is. It could have finished Edwards, or Thompson, or Huckabee, or Obama, but didn’t. However badly Romney or Clinton did, they both have the money to keep going.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Re: publicans

With apologies, I have revised my previous post. I did not realize the rules for the Republican side in the Iowa caucuses are not the same as for the Democrats--for the Republicans, the caucus procedure is a straight vote. Not making enemies matters far less for them--and Romney's strategy makes more sense.

I think I'll stick with my predictions anyway, just with less justification: Huckabee wins, Romney second, McCain comes third. We'll see in a few hours.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Last Thoughts on Iowa

Much of the analysis of what is about to happen in the Iowa caucuses seems to miss an important factor. The voting system for the Democrats is essentially a preferential ballot. In each county meeting, candidates must poll at least 15% of the vote. If they do not, they are eliminated and a second vote is taken. Their supporters move to their second choice.

Nobody seems to notice that this dynamic, not just the straight polls, must be factored in when predicting results. And the dynamic is quite interesting. Second choices matter.

Based on this, and the current polls, shaky as they are, what is likely to happen?

On the Democratic side, a tight race—which we seem to have--almost certainly means Hillary is doomed. Because of her perceived frontrunner status, she already has almost all her likely supporters. Expect her to come in third. Edwards is most popular as a second choice—in a close race, this should put him over the top, unless Obama is well ahead of him on the first ballot.

Because nobody is factoring in the preferential aspect, this will play in the media as a surprise. Making it news, and giving Edwards (or possibly Obama) big momentum. Hillary, by contrast, will look like a loser. The wheels could come off her bandwagon.

On the Republican side, the rules are more straightforward--attendees just vote once, for their favourite.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Year in Wild Guesses

It’s a tradition to make predictions at this time of year. It’s nonsense, of course—the thing that happens, in the news, will be the thing we did not expect. Otherwise it would not be news.

But what the heck, for the fun of it, here’s my best shot. I’ll just give opinions without the reasoning, to make it all seem more mysterious. A year from now, we’ll get together and have a good laugh about how wrong I was.

1. Republican John McCain beats Democrat John Edwards to win presidency of the US.

2. No federal election in Canada.

3. No US or world recession in 2008.

4. The government of at least one of the following countries implodes: China, Cuba, North Korea, Myanmar.

5. News of a demographic shift in the developed world—more babies being born.

6. A spate of books responds to the atheist books of the past year, and sells well. Militant atheism becomes a bit of a laughing stock.

7. More breakthroughs in biotechnology. At least one major cure.

8. Violence in Iraq continues to decline. Iraq is generally reevaluated as a success. Bush’s popularity rises.

9. Muslim militancy visibly on the decline.

10. Microsoft will lose profitability; Google will grow.