Playing the Indian Card

Monday, June 23, 2008

This Wooden Indian Forgot His Cigars

When Stephen Harper rose in parliament to deliver a historic formal apology for the residential schools, Phil Fontaine, chief of the Assembly of First Nations, then rose to give a response. The news photos show Fontaine in full, elaborately beaded feather warbonnet.

The National Post has a shot here.

That full feather war bonnet is no more part of Fontaine’s heritage than of Harper’s. Fontaine is Ojibway. The feathered headdress is unique to a few plains Indian peoples. The Ojibway never wore them. Moreover, they are supposed to have a specific meaning: every feather is earned with an act of bravery. For someone to wear such an elaborate one casually is like stuffing one’s chest with fake medals. It is a tasteless blasphemy against real Indian culture.

It is rather as if someone of Irish descent rose in parliament dressed in green top hat and clay pipe, looking like a leprechaun. Except, getting his Northern European ethnicities mixed up, he also wore pointed painted wooded shoes.

Here is how an Ojibway chief like Fontaine ought to have dressed.

All the fake ceremony and culture is done rather cynically, I suspect, for the liberal rubes. Most Indian “leaders” seem completely out of touch with real Indian culture, and seem to get their notions about their own supposed traditions these days mostly from Hollywood, comic books, and old Paul Revere and the Raiders songs.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Does Joe Biden Represent Real Change?

It seems to me Barack Obama has a VP problem. On the one hand, he can go to an older, more experienced, candidate in order to balance the ticket and shield him from the charge of inexperience. But any well-established politician is going to work against his basic theme so far, the one that got him the nomination: “real change.” Because he has stressed that message, he would open himself to charges of hypocrisy and to disillusionment among supporters.

He, can, on the other hand, go for another candidate who represents change. But if he does, he is doubling the inexperience problem, and making a ticket that could look positively lightweight. The charge of inexperience could sting, too—it is a charge already leveled against George W. Bush. Aren’t people liable to feel, especially if the economy is in trouble and if the nation is at war, that this is no time to experiment at the top?

Who’s he going to pick?

My wife offers a half-serious suggestion: “Oprah Winfrey.”

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Go, Ezra, Go!

Mark my words: Ezra Levant deserves to go down in Canadian history books as a national hero. I want to see him some day made Governor-General.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Invest in Egypt, Not China.

Here’s an interesting thought, from a CIBC analyst. High oil costs mean high shipping costs. This may go some distance in wiping out China’s competitive advantage in manufacturing. China’s markets are mostly very far away.

Just when it seemed gone forever, Will manufacturing begin to return to North America and Europe?

It could. Actually, it could begin to return today, if either area introduced a very liberal guest worker program. It’s a lot cheaper to bring the people to North America to build the products, than to bring the products.

But can oil maintain its current high price? I don’t think so. At the present price, too many previously unprofitable sources become profitable—oil sands, oil shale, oil from coal, not to mention nuclear power. Once these sources come on line, the price will necessarily come down.

But this will take time. Meantime, China’s economy may take a big hit from this temporary oil shock. Meantime, with the price of basic foodstuffs also rising rapidly, this will hurt in China more than it might otherwise. If, as I suspect, China’s economy is largely a soap bubble floating over a pin, this could be a big crash, involving the fall of the current regime.

By the time all the pieces are pulled back together, China may be well behind India, with its outsourcing, economically. Latin America and North Africa should also boom, as labour there is still cheap, but manufacturing there requires much less transportation to get to major markets. There’s a lot of good labour in Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil.

Some folks are certain that the current high price of oil—and the current high price of food—are inevitable signs that we are running out. Running out of oil, and running out of arable land. If so, the problem I outline above will be permanent; China goes down for the foreseeable future. But this is certainly not so. If it were a case of supply gradually outstripping demand, the price would rise gradually. What we see instead is a sudden, dramatic spike. Only two things can cause that kind of sudden market movement: a speculative bubble, or government action.

The spike in cost of food can be readily explained by the price of oil. Not just from higher transportation costs—the sudden shortfall in food stocks can be explained twice over, mathematically, by a shift in agricultural production to ethanol. Government action, largely.

As for oil, we’ve seen it before, haven’t we? Prices suddenly go way up, to milk the market, then fall just as fast in time to prevent new oil sources from coming on stream. It’s called a cartel. Government action.

Monday, June 02, 2008


A writer in the NatPost a few days ago wrote about being vegetarian. I was struck by how much his own experiences as a vegivore tallied with mine.

Here are my own responses to Frequently Asked Questions:

1. No, I do not eat fish or chicken. These are not vegetables.

2. No, I do not crave meat. The sad news is that, once you are off meat for a little while, it smells and tastes like something you might find in an outhouse.

3. Okay, I do miss bacon.

4. Vegetarians eat more than salads. We need protein just like you do. A meat meal with the meat scraped off the plate is not a vegetarian meal.

5. No, I am not bothered by seeing you eat meat. If I were, I could not survive for long in the real world.

6. Do not assume anything about my politics. I do not support PETA and have no problem with you wearing furs. Vegetarianism is a diet, not a political program.

7. No, turning vegetarian did not make me feel any healthier.

8. I am vegetarian for two reasons: first, I object morally to expecting an animal to die for what seem to me fairly trivial reasons. Second, if everyone were vegetarian, theoretically, there would be up to ten times as much food available in the world. It’s more efficient—what I don’t eat feeds nine more people.

9. Please, carnivores, when there is a buffet served and only one dish is vegetarian, let the vegetarians go first. They can eat only that; you can eat anything. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to go without lunch…