Playing the Indian Card

Friday, September 30, 2016

Who Won?

Strange about that debate. All the common taters said that Trump lost badly. And I thought so too. Then the snap polls came in. They were just as strong the other way. They sll say he crushed it.

Okay, they weren't scientific. They could be manipulated. Still--polls from MSNBC, Time magazine. Hard to believe Trumpites are so dominant among computer geeks without being dominant in the general population. The well-educated and the young are not an obvious Trump demographic.

This might, of course, be an expression of enthusiasm, not numbers. But then, that too bodes ill for the Democrats. Who is likely to turn out to vote?

So I listened again, and I think I may see why. By conventional debating rules, sure, Clinton dominated. She had all her talking points ready. But Trump dominated her on the ancient and vitally important, but generally overlooked, matter of rhetoric. Political commentators are interested in policy. But without that interest, the rest of us are naturally, spontaneously, more impressed by rhetoric. We come away with a general tone of the matter. That is why it has been a traditional object of study.

Most of what Clinton actually said was tiresome cliche, the sort of boilerplate phraseology any good writer knows to avoid. The kind of stuff well-calculated to put your audience to sleep. Stuff we have all heard before, election after election. Much of it designed to obscure a point rather than to make it clearly.

I started to take notes. Especially early in the debate, there seemed to be one of these in almost every line.

  • Wealthy pay their fair share;  meaningless--what is "fair"? But who van be opposed to "fairness"? 
  • Close the corporate loopholes;  again meaningless. What counts as a "loophole"? And haven't politicians been promising to do this for generations? And yet you say there are still " loopholes"? 
  • trickle down economics -- nobody on either side has ever believed in "trickle-down economics." But it sounds good, which is to say, bad. Classic straw man.
  • Grow the economy -- sure. Who's against that?
  • We just have a different view - meaning what? Just sounds thoughtful
  • I understand that - meaning what? Just sounds thoughtful
  • Invest in the middle class - why the middle class? Because nearly everyone sees themselves as middle class. If the majority saw themselves as lower class, or upper class, she would no doubt be investing in them. 
  • Wall Street - a bogey man. A faceless entity, so safe to demonize.
  • Grow the economy - surely a radical proposal. Who's against? What does saying you will do this matter, since everyone says they will do this?
  • Clean energy - clean sounds good, dirty sounds bad, but otherwise open to any arbitrary definition.
  • Power every home - and why wouldn't you power every home?
  • Get the economy really moving again - really. How dare she? Doesn't she fear the backlash?
  • Building on the progress we've made over the past eight years
  • I've tried to be very specific -- a good way to dodge giving any specifics.
  • Get the economy going again
  • Hold people accountable -- again, who is against this? Yet up to now, we have not bothered to do it? Yikes" Who has been in power recently, then? 
  • Robust set of plans - plans are always robust. But the term is meaningless in this context.
  • Not add a penny to the debt
  • Paid their fair share
  • Streamline
  • They are saying, "hey!"
  • Rebuild the middle class
  • Investing in the middle class
  • It was a mistake, and
  • I take responsibility - this line echoes Jack in Lord of the Flies. It is a way to avoid responsibility by paying it only lip service.
  • Commonsense gun regulation - gee, can't really be against common sense, can we? 
  • In our great country - obligatory pander to everyone
  • All of us need to be asking hard questions - ooh. Makes her sound tough. Without committing to anything.
  • Unintended consequences 
  • Communities need to come together to do what will work - Meaningless phrase. Why wouldn't they? Haven't they? 
  • Faith communities
  • Racist birther - sounds tough, hurled at Trump, but nowadays everyone and everything is declared to be " racist," so it only means disagreement and an attempt to avoid debate.
  • We are not going to sit idly by - obviously not a Buddhist, then. Impressive.
  • We are going to have to make it clear - good idea. How novel. Why not start tonight? 
  • The Russians need to understand that - an easy assumption that they do not. That's a pretty facile explanation. Im sure everything would have worked out better if Hitler had understodo he was not supposed to invade Poland, too.
  • I have put forth a plan to defeat ISIS - why wouldn't you have? Your running for president
  • I think we need to do much more - so why haven't we? Why haven't you?
  • We have to be cognizant of the fact that - sounds so intelligent. But if we know we have to know what we know, we know.
  • We've got to work more closely with our allies - Why didn't anyone think of this before? 

All political boilerplate, empty of real meaning and certainly empty of impact. Just all the clever words. Intrinsically deceitful, lacking in vision of any kind, and insulting to the electorate. This kind of thing might have worked in the past, when people heard less of it. With information now ubiquitous, people are beginning to notice that they've heard it all many times before. You can' t even fool all of the people some of the time any more.

Trump, by contrast, for all his logical incoherence, his incomplete sentences, used words we are not used to hearing in politics, words with meaning and emotional impact:

  • Stolen
  • Firing
  • Sad
  • We cannot do it any longer
  • You're wrong
  • We have to stop them from leaving
  • That was a disaster
  • You can't do what you're looking to do
  • Devastation
  • A disaster
  • Money back
  • Big fat ugly bubble
  • Ripped off
  • A third world country
  • The worst of all things has happened
  • You walk down the street you get shot
  • Abused and used
  • Knock the hell out of ISIS

They were truthful in the way that a good novel is truthful--vivid, true to life. Real words as might be spoken by real people to talk about real things.

At the same time, he was railing against just the sort of politics-as-usual Clinton had neatly set herself up as an example of:

  • Bureaucratic red tape
  • Red tape
  • Regulations
  • Typical politician
  • All talk, no action
  • Political hacks

It had to be devastating.

What is certain is that Trump has uncommonly good skills, or instincts, as a rhetorician. What is at least as evident is that Hillary Clinton has no skills and no sense here.

And, as it happens, this is crucial to success as a president.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte

If you think black lives matter, you must be appalled by Black Lives Matter.

No doubt there is police misconduct. The shooting of Sammy Yatim in Toronto, for one example. It is not, however, so far as any evidence can tell us, racially motivated nor about racism. By falsifying the cause, BLM is doing its level best to avoid a solution.

This is bad for blacks just as it is bad for whites: either might be victims of police misconduct. But blacks come into contact with police far more often.

Moreover, BLM is stirring up racial prejudice among blacks, potentially provoking violence in which blacks as well as whites may die. And prejudice among blacks against the police.

The rioting it is encouraging and supporting kills blacks, loots and destroys black businesses, and economically depresses areas in which blacks live.

It subverts the rule of law in favour of a lynch mob mentality. How well did that work for American blacks last time? As a permanent minority, the last thing they need is to throw power into the streets. Let the largest mob rule? In the end, who is that going to be?

It makes perfect sense, from a police perspective, if they are already a bit jumpier and more likely to assume the worst when dealing with a black suspect. After all, violent criminals are disproportionately black. Racial profiling? I'd do it too, if my life could depend on it. In fact, the statistics do not show that police are more likely to shoot black suspects, but one could understand if it were true, and no racism need be involved.

Now BLM comes in and encourages black hatred towards police. This has demonstrably boosted the odds that any given black suspect will pull out a gun and start shooting. And this, in turn, naturally and reasonably enough, increases the odds that any given police officer will assume the worst, and shoot first.

Leading to a rapidly descending spiral of race hate and dead black men.

Or, to avoid the risk of becoming the target of this lynch mob treatment, police may choose to back off-- simply stay out of black neighbourhoods, avoid black suspects. Leading to chaos and murder in black neighbourhoods, as well, of course, as any business that can pulling out.

Who's that going to help?

Great job. Are BLM really that stupid? Or are they really that malicious?

Monday, September 26, 2016


Some of you may have seen old movie clips of Al Jolson performing in blackface. This is a vestige of what was, for a hundred years or so, the classic American popular entertainment. It was what America had instead of opera: the minstrel show.

Nowadays, of course, it is understood to have been unspeakably racist. White performers blackened their faces with burnt cork and pretended to be black. They they would sing and dance and tell jokes, most of them nonsensical. What could be more insulting or offensive?

Or was it? Consider these facts:

  1. minstrel shows were often banned in Southern cities before the Civil War. They were considered implicitly abolitionist
  2. minstrel shows were at least as popular with black as with white audiences.
  3. clowns always paint their faces. Far more often, they paint their faces white. Is this insulting to whites?

We seem always too eager to believe the worst of our ancestors.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Jim Crow Flies Again

In 1947, baseball integrated. The Brooklyn Dodgers fielded the first black player, Jackie Robinson, since the 19th century.

By 1953, there were fewer black professional baseball players than there had ever been.

This is the often overlooked aspect of the process of desegregation. The Negro Leagues, one of the most successful black-owned businesses in America, collapsed within a few years. Today, after over seventy years of integration, there are fewer blacks playing major league baseball then their proportion of the population.

So, did integration really help or harm black Americans?

People generally overlook the fact that segregation or discrimination cannot really harm a minority so long as you have a free market.

When the major leagues refused to hire blacks, as they did, beginning in the post-Reconstruction era, this merely created a healthy niche market for black baseball. Once the major leagues let in blacks, this market collapsed; black spectators quickly switched to the same league as everybody else, where they could see the best white as well as the best black players.

Integration was a net gain for the consumer, not for blacks specifically.

So it must be in any business. If one employer arbitrarily bases his hiring decisions on race or sex instead of on ability and application, he is voluntarily waiving a business advantage to any potential competitor. That gap, over time, is sure to be filled.

The only way this cannot be so is if there is a monopoly in that area of the market, or if government gets involved. Only government can pass laws and regulations binding on everyone.

This was the problem with "Jim Crow" laws in the US South – they legally required discrimination. All that as needed to end that injustice was to rescind all such laws.

Instead, we doubled down. Governments everywhere passed laws making it illegal for private businesses and private individuals to discriminate. Such laws could add nothing to the fight for equality. The free market would have taken care of that. At the same time, they violated the fundamental human right to freedom of association, which is no small matter. They violated property rights, which is almost as destructive.

Worse, not content with this, governments moved swiftly to reintroduce racial discrimination, with "affirmative action." Such laws can do nothing to prevent discrimination against the one group; Negro Leagues would just have arisen. At the same time, they require real discrimination against the other.

Jim Crow lives. He works for the government.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Coming Up Trump

It is a painful thing to have to choose between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, two unsatisfactory candidates. But that does not mean it is a hard choice.

Strictly speaking, of course, there is another choice or two: there is the Green Party, and there is Gary Johnson. The Libertarian ticket is actually extremely impressive this time around. Nevertheless, unless they climb a lot more in the polls, voting Libertarian looks only like throwing your vote away—the moral equivalent of staying home.

The first requirement in a leader, the sine qua non, is honesty. Lose that in the top tier of government, and welcome to the Third World. Only then comes competence. And only then comes any particular stance on issues. Issues change, and are mostly unpredictable. Most leaders mostly only follow polls and make their political calculations anyway. And presidents are not properly responsible for that; it is the legislature, if anyone remembers.

On honesty, there is no hard choice. Hillary Clinton is the most openly dishonest major candidate at least since Richard Nixon, whom she eerily resembles. Like Nixon, she seems to lie as a matter of general principle, whether or not it is in her own immediate self interest.

This is the mark of a truly mendacious soul. When you have signed on with the Devil’s party, you come to see that general inky darkness is your best protection. As if by instinct you begin to shun the light. You are a person of the lie. Truth, even harmless truth, is the enemy.

If we elect such a person, the consequence is that warned of by Confucius as the greatest danger to good public order: words begin to lose their proper meaning. Nobody any longer says what they think. Terrorism is no longer terrorism. Male no longer means male, nor female female. Right is wrong, and wrong is right.

Okay, granted, this has already largely happened in America. This is what we call “political correctness.” The American elite, its political and social leadership, has already turned down this dark path. And they have done so, I submit, ultimately over the issue of abortion.

But Hillary Clinton would take it all to the next, and deepest level. That is a pit America might well never manage to climb out of.

Now, some will of course respond that Trump is objectively at least as awful a liar as Hillary. Trump steaks? Trump university? He lies often, and obviously. What have we been thinking here?

Sure, Trump lies often. Quite likely as often as Hillary, or more often. But there is a crucial difference here. Clinton lies to deceive. Trump lies as entertainment. Are the tales of Paul Bunyan, or Pecos Bill, lies? Are the tricks of a stage magician lies? Did Shakespeare lie in telling us there was a minor gentleman in Henry IV’s time named Falstaff?

That is the level at which Trump plays; the same level as, in his day, PT Barnum. Call them lies if you like; you are only making yourself the butt of the joke, by thus admitting you believed them.

At a deeper level, the true unshakable source of much of Trump's popular support is precisely his truth telling. In an atmosphere of growing public dishonesty, he is prepared to call a spade a spade. Even, clearly, in situations when this is not, by all conventional wisdom, in his own best interests.

The popular instinct here is a good one.

At this point, all else is already irrelevant. But some might well come back, now, with the point that Clinton is clearly more qualified. Indeed, some say she is one of the best-qualified candidates ever. By comparison, Trump has never even run for public office.

It is true that Clinton has put in the time. But what has she ever done? Yes, she served as Secretary of State. But during her time there, we had Benghazi, the email scandal, and a rapid decline in America’s influence everywhere. Not a reassuring record. Yes, she got herself elected to the senate; but largely, I think, on name recognition. Her great life accomplishment seems to have been marrying well.

So, we have a choice between an unknown quantity, and someone we know is not up to the job. Seems to me that choice is easy, too.

But it is also worth noting that Trump has at least demonstrated the most important skill; and Clinton has demonstrated that she does not have it. The chief value of a president, and his chief job, is as a communicator. The presidency has or ought to have little power to set policy. The president is there mostly to inspire, unify, set the tone, use what is sometimes called "the bully pulpit." Communications skill is what made Reagan successful; it is what made FDR successful; it is what Lincoln had; it is what John Kennedy had.

It is what Hillary obviously hasn’t.

And Trump has done nothing so clearly in the primaries as to demonstrate that he has supernatural, superhuman skill as a salesman, which is to say, a communicator.

Accordingly, there actually seems to be a chance that Trump will be a good president.

Finally, on policy, Trump and only Trump is on the right side of the one most important issue. Abortion. As I say, unrestricted abortion is what has poisoned the well of American public life. The consequences never end. Even if one does not particularly care about publicly sanctioned mass murder, you have to end this before you can do much good anywhere. It is very much like the issue of slavery in the nineteenth century.

I’m with Ted Cruz on this one. The moral path is clear.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Nothing to Sneeze At

Comments from doctors on viewing the Hillary Clinton 911 video:

“What you saw yesterday was very, very serious, and people better start taking this seriously,” Eric said. “This is big time now. This is really, really big time, so I hope that somebody really gets after this.”

“What you saw was not even remotely close to pneumonia,” Eric said firmly.

“I told my wife last night, I said I won’t be surprised if I wake up today and find that Hillary Clinton has passed away,” James said.

“There’s clearly something that’s drastically wrong, and I think that some people are overlooking that.”

The fact that the Clinton camp are still seemingly lying about what it is, and have not yet released her medical records, suggests we are wise to assume the worst. If she is not serioudly ill, releasing her records would be the way to put the rumours to rest. Whatever is there must be worse for her than the speculation is.

Their claim that she was diagnosed with pneumonia, but nothing was said about it until sme hours after this incident, also suggests we should assume the worst. Had pneumonia really been the problem, why keep it secret until it was forced out? Why not announce it immediately? Why not pre-empt the risk of such a public incident? It might well have only gained her sympathy.

No, they needed time to come up with this, pneumonia, as a plausible cover story, now required, for something more serious—serious enough that, if it were known, it would disqualify her in at least some eyes---more likely in many eyes--for the presidency.

The biggest worry in the Trump camp should be that she steps down as a candidate. Almost anyone else, at this point, would be harder to beat.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Jefferson - Hemings Scandal

Hmm. The politically correct fix may not be easy.

When I was a schoolboy, most everybody thought Thomas Jefferson was one of the greats. Me included. Jefferson is now rather in eclipse. I read from a recent visitor that the guides at Monticello now spend most of their time talking about how badly the slaves had it on his estate, rather than anything flattering about that slavemaster Jefferson. I have even seen the suggestion recently that the Jefferson Memorial ought to be pulled down.

Why this reputational turnaround?

Sure, Jefferson owned slaves. We were perfectly aware of that back in my school days. Yes, it was a stain upon his character, but it was already factored in. Washington owned slaves too. So did Ben Franklin or John Hancock. Yet Washington, Hancock, or Franklin are not facing the same re-evaluation Jefferson is.

No, the new thing, which has made so much difference in the popular appraisal of Jefferson, is Sally Hemings.

You have heard the story? Hemings was Jefferson’s slave. It is now, thanks to DNA evidence acquired in the 1990s, generally accepted that Jefferson took her as his common law wife after he was widowed, and had several children by her.

Why is this so intolerable? One would think we were past condemning misogyny. Is white on black love still forbidden? Or would it be okay if it were a black man and a white woman?

Ah, but no doubt it is because she was a slave. Power differential and all that. Like a predatory boss hitting on a pretty secretary—as used to be a common romantic motif, but is now considered intolerable. She was a slave. That means it was all involuntary on her part. That means it was really rape. Worse, he was a white man raping a black woman. If irate African-Americans were not already going to exhume him just to lynch him, the feminists would.

A few points. First, it is all just rumor.

Although it is commonly stated as fact, the claim that Jefferson took Hemings as a mistress is not, in fact, proven. The DNA test proved that some male in the Jefferson line was the father of one of Hemings’ children—descendants of her other children were not tested. But there were dozens of male Jeffersons in the neighborhood of Monticello at the time. Why assume it was Thomas? We assume it was perhaps only because that makes the most salacious story. Really, the odds it was him are only about one in twenty-five. No jury would convict.

Sally Hemings as portrayed today.

Interestingly, given the ire of African-Americans over it all, Hemings also was not black. She was three-quarters European by blood, and apparently looked, according to contemporaries, white. Not at all how she is commonly portrayed now. Her children are listed in censuses as “white.”

Finally, there is a problem with the claim that it was all forced upon her. Yes, she was a slave. But in the end, she was actually a slave by choice. if Jefferson was an oppressive slave master, or an unwelcome suitor, Hemings had a perfect opportunity to escape.

Here’s how. Sally accompanied Jefferson’s daughter to Paris when her master was appointed US Ambassador to France. While they were there, the French government abolished slavery. And, yes, this also applied to the slaves of foreign diplomats—Jefferson apparently had to start paying her regular wages.

At this point, as a practical matter, all she had to do was walk out the front door, and she was free forever. And she had been studying French.

Sally Hemings as portrayed today.

She chose instead, at the end of his tenure, to return with her employer to America, and become again his slave.

He cannot have been all that terrible to work for.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Attawapiskat's Eternal Crisis


Before the suicide crisis in Attawapiskat, there was the housing crisis in Attawapiskat. Yestere’en, I watched an NFB documentary reporting the then shockingly shabby state of housing on the reserve. You can view it here. A recent story in the Toronto Star reports that the housing crisis is still with us. It says some 80 local homes are currently in need of a bulldozer’s attentions. That’s one quarter of the housing stock.

By the film, the houses certainly did seem to be in seedy shape. Holes in the floor; no water; burn marks from electrical fires.

Although the homes looked rather new.

The chief laments to the camera lens that some of the homes were even built way back in the 1970s, and so must be replaced.

The ‘70s? I’ve never lived in a house that new. How did these homes fall so quickly into critical disrepair?

For that matter, why can’t you fix a hole in the floor, or the damage from an electrical fire, or even graffiti on the living room walls?


The film suggests two reasons: firstly, the harsh winter temperatures that far north are rough on any mortal construction.

But that by itself cannot explain it. One could still do repairs.

Secondly, the film explains, building materials are extremely expensive, since they must be shipped great distances from the remote South.

Let us accept that this is true. On wonders, then, immediately, why everyone does not move. If you are poor, why live in a place where both housing and food is far more expensive than the norm? Not to mention, why live where there is no work? And in a climate that obliges you to stay indoors most of the year? There is a reason why the North is not densely populated.

But then again, this issue of impossibly expensive upkeep does not seem really to hold. Attawapiskat is not the only nor the most remote community in the world. The northernmost town of any size anywhere is Longyearbyen, Norway—above 78 degrees North latitude. Attawapiskat is only 52 degrees North. The weather is more severe in Longyearbyen. The problems with getting supplies are no less serious: it all has to be shipped in. Yet in Longyearbyen buildings and homes look in generally good repair.


Granted that residents of Longyearbyun must have more money to put into upkeep: they have jobs. Still, especially if you are poor, it is surely more economical to keep your house in repair than to bulldoze it and buy another one every forty years or so. If there is no ready cash, it would make more sense for the band office to offer early small loans than late new homes.

The problem, then, cannot be the local climate, nor the remoteness of the community, nor ultimately the lack of money. And even if it were, the answer would be simple: move. All of these must be symptoms of some deeper problem. Given some deeper problem, simply sending more money north is no solution. Build them all new houses, and in a few years they will simply be back where they are now.

Nor is this unhappy situation the result of their being historically oppressed by whites, or their land stolen, or their grandparents attending residential schools, or their traditional way of life taken from them. There are few whites anywhere to be seen. Eighty-five percent of Ontario is still crown land. This includes almost all the land around Attawapiskat for hundreds of kilometres in all directions. If there ever were sufficient fish and game to support the Cree by hunting and gathering, here there still is. All the money they are being sent by the federal and provincial government, and the nearby diamond mine, is on top of anything they would have had historically.

Nor is it laziness. If it were, the idle Cree ought to be fairly happy with their lot. They clearly are not: there is, after all, that second crisis at Attawapiskat of which we have all heard. That epidemic of attempted suicides. And there is the matter of alcoholism and substance abuse, endemic to native communities. Not a sign of contentment with life as it is.

Location of Longyearbyen

Lazy people to not want to kill themselves in their idleness; nor is is logical on that basis to live more poorly on welfare here than they might live elsewhere.

Instead, the Cree who have remained in Attawapiskat simply seem incapable of doing anything about their lot. Not incapable physically, certainly. And not incapable mentally. They are incapable spiritually. They obviously have, jointly, that awful experience of paralysis of the will we call clinical depression. If you are truly depressed, you simply do not have the energy or the faith or the hope, you do not have the spirit, to do any thing, even to help yourself.

Severe depression can be caused by culture shock. To encounter another culture, even one that is not obviously broadly superior, can shake all the certainties in your being. Hence a lack of direction, hence of will, hence what we call depression. The present situation seems unsatisfactory, but one no longer knows which way to jump. Every direction seems a cliff edge. If nothing any more makes sense, why make the meaningless effort to paint your living room walls or to stay sober? What is the point of that? Might it just as easily turn out to be exactly the wrong thing to do?

If culture shock is the cause of this endemic depression, the cure is painful, but obvious. If Canadian Indians are still, at least on reserves, suffering from culture shock, centuries after first contact, our basic approach has clearly been wrong. You do not conquer culture shock by locking yourself in your room; that fossilizes it. Nor can you pickle it in alcohol. That is what the reserve system has done. You must instead get out and engage the surrounding culture. Do so, and eventually all begins again to make sense.


The residential schools, then, were not at fault for taking Indian children out of their culture. They were at fault for keeping them in that culture. They were, in the end, Indian schools, that segregated Indians, cemented that self-identity, and left them in contact only with other Indians.

Since the first treaties were signed, the government has also been in the business of artificially preserving traditional Indian social structures. Dealings have always been with tribes or bands as corporate entities, not with Indians as individuals.

Yet if Indian cultures have lagged behind other cultures for the past few thousand years, these traditional social structures are almost surely the reason. Because Indians are not, at all, lazy or stupid or incapable. All the European witnesses at first contact attest to this.

I think we can freely see why the traditional Indian culture has failed. It is communistic and totalitarian. There are no laws nor mechanisms, firstly, protecting private property. As a result, there is no incentive to strive, to try hard, nor to do or think anything new. Do better than your comrades in any way, other perhaps than defending the tribe, and you are only likely to stir up envy and the urge to steal. For the state of nature, as we have seen, is truly war of all against all. Accordingly, no individual as an individual can build up the reserves to stand against the social consensus, to safely dissent from the tribe or its demands. Traditionally, Indian family bonds were also clearly weak: marriages were easily and often dissolved, paternity was never certain. Children belonged not to the family, but the tribe. No family traditions could arise in dissent from the tribal consensus. And above the tribe, there was no settled structure of laws or government to check the tribal regime. Everything was within the tribe, nothing was outside the tribe, nothing was against the tribe. Totalitarianism.

What you had, and continue to have, on a reserve, is the situation outlined in the novel Lord of the Flies. A happy hunting ground for any faction of bullies. Without checks or balances, once such a faction can seize power, their power is absolute.

If there is one thing likely to produce cllinical depression, even more so than culture shock, it is being exposed to constant bullying.


Nor does introducing democracy, in itself, solve this problem. Hitler, after all, was democratically elected. Without checks and balances and separate centres of power, a majority can just as easily become a mob.

We have seen some of the results in conventional Indian culture; endemic torture being the obvious example.

No wonder, then, that one of the young people of Attawapiskat, asked about why they attempted suicide, identified bullying as the problem. And, specifically, bullying by adults, not other kids.

Never and nowhere has totalitarian, communist government worked. Always and everywhere it has produced poverty and oppression. Why should we expect it to be different for Canadian Indians? Why condemn them to the Third World in the midst of great prosperity and freedom?

Tribalism also promotes, rewards, and demands dependency. Each individual belongs to the group, as a child belongs to a parent. Individual initiative is not on. No wonder, then, if reserve Indians become dependent on government cheques. Moreover, the profound dissonance between the values furthered by the reserves and those of the larger culture again helps paralyse the will: two voices are calling urgently in opposite directions. Tribalism, determined to own the individual, will call that much more strongly.

The last thing we ought to do if we care about Indians is double down on what we have been doing: keep shovelling more money and so authority into the band structure. And simply requiring at last some financial accountability from the band leadership is still not enough.

We should stop the money flow to bands, and instead send it to each individual Indian. This would be easy: of necessity, the government already keeps lists of every single treaty Indian by name. We should divide all reserve lands, and give full title to an equal portion to each band member individually, allowing them then to mortgage, buy, and sell. The Indian band as an organization need not be acknowledged.

If Indians wanted to preserve their traditional tribal structures, they would be foolish, but they would be free to do so. They would have the same freedom of association as any other Canadians. They could form, among themselves, a social contract, and tax themselves to finance it as a local government.

Gee. We could call it a town or municipality.

Of course, membership could no longer be based on race. That is reprehensible. Anyone who bought land within the municipality limits, anyone living there, must have an equal say.

Good luck to them.


Friday, September 09, 2016

What is Aleppo?

Gary Johnson is getting flak from the media today for not being able to answer a reporter's question, "What would you do about Aleppo"?

I can't see this harming him.

First, most Americans could not have answered that question. Frankly, I could not. Yes, I know where Aleppo is, but what am I supposed to do about it? It was a deliberate "gotcha" question. If the reporter were being honest, he would have asked "what would you do about the Syrian refugee crisis"?

It being a gotcha question, it says nothing about Johnson's fitness for office. Moreover, since most Americans would not know what the significance of "Aleppo" here was, they are not likely to hold it against Johnson. Instead, his not knowing humanizes him, makes him look like a regular guy. That's a plus, not a minus.

Besides, the question being despicable, I think Johnson gets some sympathy out of it. After all,  anyone a dishonest press does not like can't be all bad.

Finally, Johnson trails badly on grounds of name recognition and press coverage. Really, given his qualifications and that of his running mate, and the general dissatisfaction with the two leading candidates, he should be doing much better in the polls than he is. In this situation,  for him, almost any sort of publicity is good publicity. That the press shows it cares so much about him is sure to boost his status.

Better than that, Johnson did not try to fudge his way out of not knowing. The typical politician's response would have been to try to give the false impression that he understood the reference. He might have said "In what regard, Ed?" or, "Certainly not what the present administration has been doing." Either of which would sound good regardless of what Aleppo happened to mean.

Instead, Johnson apparently did not even consider this kind of dodge. Instead, he immediately, and sincerely, asked "What is Aleppo?" I think this gives him huge credibility, as someone who is talking straight instead of trying to put things over on the folks, in a year when that seems to matter more than usual.

Monday, September 05, 2016

More on the Anglophone Union

A piece I read recently on the idea of CANZUK (the union of Canada, Austalia, New Zealand, and the UK) proposes Calgary as the capital. Their logic is, first, that the capital cannot be in the UK, and second, that Calgary is roughly equidistant from everyone.

I take their first point. The UK is already likely to dominate by population, and the equality of member states must be underlined. Australia and Canada are not going to sign on for a revival of the British Empire.

But as to the second—Calgary seems to qualify as equidistant from all other capitals, but only by being equally remote from everyone. Nobody chooses a capital on that basis—otherwise Australia would be administered from Alice Springs, and Canada from Churchill, Manitoba. Calgary is also profoundly landlocked, and this is unsuitable for the capital of an essentially maritime nation, connected historically and geographically by the oceans.

The capital should, of course, be Montreal. A seaport, convenient to Ottawa, and the closest large city outside the British Isles to the bulk of the union population in the British Isles. Montreal has such cultural and historical heft that it seems entitled to be the capital of somewhere, and so far it is the capital of nowhere. Moreover, its choice as capital might help convince Francophone Quebec to support the notion of joining this vast Anglophone endeavour. Once made capital, it would serve as insurance that Quebec not in future want to separate.

I even see an ideal site for the new administrative complex: the Place des Nations end of Ile Ste. Helene, built for Expo 67, now a park. It is available, it is close to downtown, it is linked by rapid transit, and, as an island shaped like a ship’s prow, it is symbolically appropriate for this maritime trading union.

More on the Anglophone Union

A piece I read recently on the idea of CANZUK (the union of Canada, Austalia, New Zealand, and the UK) proposes Calgary as the capital. Their logic is, first, that the capital cannot be in the UK, and second, that Calgary is roughly equidistant from everyone.

I take their first point. The UK is already likely to dominate by population, and the equality of member states must be underlined. Australia and Canada are not going to sign on for a revival of the British Empire.

But as to the second—Calgary seems to qualify as equidistant from all other capitals, but only by being equally remote from everyone. Nobody chooses a capital on that basis—otherwise Australia would be administered from Alice Springs, and Canada from Churchill, Manitoba. Calgary is also profoundly landlocked, and this is unsuitable for the capital of an essentially maritime nation, connected historically and geographically by the oceans.

The capital should, of course, be Montreal. A seaport, convenient to Ottawa, and the closest large city outside the British Isles to the bulk of the union population in the British Isles. Montreal has such cultural and historical heft that it seems entitled to be the capital of somewhere, and so far it is the capital of nowhere. Moreover, its choice as capital might help convince Francophone Quebec to support the notion of joining this vast Anglophone endeavour. Once made capital, it would serve as insurance that Quebec not in future want to separate.

I even see an ideal site for the new administrative complex: the Place des Nations end of Ile Ste. Helene, built for Expo 67, now a park. It is available, it is close to downtown, it is linked by rapid transit, and, as an island shaped like a ship’s prow, it is symbolically appropriate for this maritime trading union.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

A Third Empire

Big Pink.

With Brexit, a union of the Anglosphere becomes more plausible. And you hear more mention of it. Most British commentators, true, do not include the US in the proposed entity, as I would. This is perhaps understandable, as the US would completely dominate any such union. The UK does not like being number two.

But then let's play the ball where it lies: without the US for now. It seems to me that the concept of such a union still makes mighty good sense for the potential players: most obviously, Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

First and for all, of course, there is the benefit of free trade, and the free movement of people. Canadians could choose to move to and work in Australia, and Britons in Canada. Canadians who look with envy at the greater career opportunities in the huge American market, especially, should appreciate this.

For Britain, there is secure access to the natural resources of Canada and Australia. It makes more sense for the UK to establish free trade in this direction than with Europe, because European nations are much of a muchness; they all more or less offer the same competitive advantage, a large skilled labour force, and so are natural competitors. By contrast, Britain's strengths and Australia's are more complimentary: Britain has a large skilled labour force, and strong, established service industries, but lacks Australia's natural resources.

It also makes more sense in cultural terms, of course, for Britain to reach hands across the sea than to stick with Europe. Its culture, and especially its political culture, is far closer to that of Canada than to that of Italy. Moreover, Britain is by tradition and geography a maritime trading nation; its natural ties are not the land ties and the ties of proximity that drive the rest of the EU.

For Canada, the great allure is, as has always been the core of the Canadian experience, a counterbalance to the strong centrifugal force of the USA next door. As part of a Commonwealth Union, Canada would be, unlike with the US, and indeed from then on in dealing with the US, much more of an equal partner. Canada has a vast territory that, if ever challenged, it does not have the manpower to protect. Now, it relies entirely on tacit US protection. That is beneath the dignity of a great nation. That is the state of being a colony. Better a formal military alliance with Britain, which does have the manpower.

Moreover, Canada’s security needs fit Britain’s capabilities like a glove fits a hand. Britain is by tradition a naval power. Canada has the longest coastline in the world.

If Canada remains in NAFTA, the addition of Commonwealth Union membership would also be a great trading advantage. By setting up in Canada, American firms could gain access to the significant British market, as well as those of Australasia. British firms could in the same way gain access to the gigantic American and Mexican markets.

What sets may also rise again.

Australia has almost the same defense concerns as Canada. It lives in a possibly dangerous neighbourhood, and like Canada lacks the population to defend a vast territory. As an island nation, it needs naval power above all else.

As goes Australia so goes New Zealand--present ties make the two inseparable. At the same time, becoming part of a larger union protects New Zealand from being too dominated by its much bigger neighbour.

There are other potential partners. Ireland, for example. Ireland does not, for historical reasons, want too close an embrace from Britain. But it was vastly to Ireland's economic advantage to be in the EU alongside the UK. Now that the UK is out, Ireland's position is awkward: most of its truck, trade and transit is with Britain, rather than the more distant remainder of Europe. A Commonwealth Union gives Ireland a new and viable option: join the larger group, and the presence of largely catholic Canada and largely Irish Australia prevent English influence from becoming suffocating, as in the EU. Joining the Anglophone union might also make Irish reunification easier: the counterbalancing presence of Britain, Canada, and Australia in the larger union might well make Ulster Protestants feel more secure with Dublin as their capital. Instead of losing their British ties in joining the Republic, they would be broadening them.

The former British colonies of the Caribbean might also make worthy partners. From their point of view, union would boost tourism, often their main income. From the perspective of Canada, and to a lesser extent Britain, they would offer ideal winter tourism and retirement destinations. No doubt there would be some migration of locals to the greener economic pastures of the more developed dominions, but this is not a major consideration pro or con: we are speaking of small populations. Nor are all Caribbean nations poor: the Bahamas, for example, if a member of the union, could pull its own economic weight.

The union might be especially attractive to several Caribbean islands with mixed English and French histories; the strengthening of cultural and tourism ties with Quebec could be alluring. For Quebec, they could be a source of Francophone immigration. More generally, few Caribbean islands are really viable, economically or militarily, as nations by themselves. Joining a larger jurisdiction would be entirely to their advantage.

Singapore would also be on my list. It, too, is too small to protect its own interests, and it is a strategic plum too attractive to any aggressor. Better to form a voluntary union with some larger entity where its concerns are heard, than to sit and quack. This is why, despite ultimately insurmountable demographic difficulties, Singaporeans tried hard to form a union with Malaysia. Association with the Commonwealth Dominions should be more comfortable. Singapore, in return, would be invaluable to the other partners as a regional naval base, and as a regional headquarters to do business with Asia. If Singapore retained its membership in ASEAN at the same time, it would have huge trade advantages, and could offer British, Canadian or Australian firms easy access to the vast and fast-growing Southeast Asian market.

The projected union still, to my mind, with these members, seems relatively lacking in one essential resource—indeed, the most vital. Manpower. Even with these several strong nations linked together, the total population would not be that far north of 100 million—less than a third the population of the US, less than one twelfth the population of China, about the population of Japan. Worse, the demographic trends are toward population decline, barring large immigration from elsewhere. This makes the future, and future prosperity, insecure.

Yet there are obvious risks to large-scale immigration. It can change the culture. This matters: cultures are not equal. The greatest advantage the Anglosphere has, and has always had, is its culture, a culture of public order, respect for law and authority, for individual and property rights, and relative honesty in government. Where and how, then, can the proposed union safely secure its demographic future, without handing away the keys? The more so since the rate of population growth even in the less developed world is beginning to slacken?

Nobody here but us Filipinos.

India is the obvious solution, but it would be a culturally indigestible chunk. It is many times larger than the rest of the union put together. And Indian culture is, in the end, significantly alien: different languages, very different religion. Moreover, a land power, with other great land powers on its borders—a valuable complementary ally, no doubt, but not a good blend as a full strategic partner.

A better alternative, I propose, is union with the Philippines. Its population, soon to be 100 million, would ensure sufficient manpower for the foreseeble future while being just small enough not to overwhelm. Any Filipino who has graduated high school can speak English, and English is the lingua franca of the country. It is, like the rest of the union, predominantly Christian. It is an archipelago, defensible by a naval power. It is a functioning democracy. While its governmental and legal system are not quite the same as the Commonwealth Realms, they are close relatives: Manila follows the American model, with much current talk of moving towards the Westminster parliamentary system. The Philippines has a strong tradition of seafaring--one in five of the world's sailors today is Filipino. This meshes well with British traditions, and is especially valuable to what would be primarily a sea power and a trading nation. This trading tradition also, not incidentally, makes Filipinos particularly apt at navigating cultural differences and at migration. Wherever they settle, you find no Filipino ghettos. There are not Filipino neighbourhoods the way there are Little Italys or Chinatowns. Give them a generation, and a Filipino family has assimilated.

I expect the Philippines, for their part, would welcome the association. Not just for the obvious economic opportunities for Filipinos, either. When the American Navy pulled out of Subic Bay, there was graffiti reading "Yankee, go home-- and take me with you." Whatever mild thirst there might have been then for going it alone, moreover, has faded a fair bit in the face of new Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea. The Philippines needs to join up with a legitimate naval power.

Britain, Canada, Singapore, and Australia can finance the ships; the Philippines can supply able sailors. The former can offer the capital, the factories, the resources; the Philippines can supply the many willing hands.

Will the pour Filipinos take jobs away from less-skilled Britons or Canadians? Sure. No doubt. But the choice is this: let local and loyal Filipinos take the jobs, or let then be taken by distant Chinese and others. If allied Filipinos take them, the money paid stays and circulates in the union, making the overall opportunities for all of us greater. If we send it to China, the capital and the opportunities are there. And then serve to strengthen an alien system that may be antithetical to our interests.

One more reason that we all might want to do this: one hopes it is temporary, but the US is beginning to look punched out. It seems weary of shouldering alone the burden of being "the world's policeman." Time, perhaps, to call in Scotland Yard. Nations like Britain, Canada, Australia, and the Philippines, who have relied since WWII upon the assured aid of the American military mammoth whenever needed, might be wise to start making alternative arrangements. Indeed, such a strong new partner might persuade the Americans too to stay in the fight. Either way, surely better for our interests than passively ceding the field to some unpredictable other. China? A new caliphate? The BRICS?

The US, in a new wave of its traditional isolationism, also seems to be pulling back from trade deals. The Germans and the French are muttering that the US is not negotiating in good faith on the proposed free trade deal with the EU. But Washington is perhaps only reacting to popular opinion. Americans are sick of the world outside. Both major presidential candidates have announced against the TPP, to which both Canada and Australia were wedded.

This presents for others both a danger and an opportunity. With the US pulling back, the rest of us need new trading partners elsewhere. And it also leaves an opening for someone else to seize the trading opportunities the US is waiving. Another argument for a Commonwealth customs union.

I believe that the union, as proposed, as a free trade area and a unified military entity, would begin life as the third-largest economy in the world, and the third-largest military power. It would only grow in influence and importance from there.

Traditional British naval ensign. You know, I see three blank quadrants that might be filled.