Playing the Indian Card

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

As Fast As You Can Say Jack Robinson


Things get more Orwellian by the day. Ontario is ready to elect a declared Nazi. Big Brother is watching and listening in Lethbridge restaurants. Now the British government has disappeared Tommy Robinson.

I do not have any clear idea what Tommy Robinson says or stand for. That is perfectly irrelevant. What matters is that he was seized by the state from a UK streetcorner, in the middle of a videocast, by seven policepersons, bundled into court, tried without a lawyer, convicted, sentenced, and sent off to prison for thirteen months, all within a few hours. He obviously had no time to arrange his affairs or for the support of his family.

And it was immediately and summarily declared illegal for anyone to even report on what happened to him.

This is not the sort of thing that can happen in a free society. This violates every codicil of Magna Carta, the ink between the lines, and the rule of law itself. This is Star Chamber. The British government is just doing what it wants.

Robinson was able to videocast the arrest. A constable said he was being arrested for “suspicion of disturbing the peace.” The problem is, he had been videocasting for an hour or more. Everyone could see he was not disturbing the peace in any commonly accepted sense of that phrase.

I suspect the real charge was violating a gag order on the trial of several Muslim men accused of serial rape. This is what Robinson was reporting on at the time, from outside the courthouse. But authorities do not want to say so because saying so would itself defeat the purpose of the original gag order by attracting public attention to the rape trial. And so they put a gag order on the gag order. And a gag order on the gag order on the gag order.

Is Orwell the proper reference here, or Lewis Carroll?

If my suspicion is right, the actions of the British authorities are not as immediately sinister as they appear. They could argue their intent was to avoid any anti-Muslim sentiments in the general population, in reaction to the details of the original trial. Incompetent, then, before sinister. But still sinister. We cannot have the establishment arresting, trying, convicting, and punishing people in secret. This is a basic protection for our liberties. This is why we have things like trial by jury and habeas corpus. This must override what might seem good in any individual case. And the present example shows where it leads even when it might seem good in this or that individual case. Now there are riots in the street, and people have a right to suspect the worst. These protections work just as much to protect the rights of the original Muslim defendants as of Tommy Robinson. 

But it was not good even on the original thesis, taken on its own—of protecting Muslims. If Muslim rape gangs are a real thing in Britain, as they may well be in principle—regardless of whether you believe they actually are—and it seems obvious that they are—the public has both a right and a need to know. In the first place, it is directly relevant to the public debate on immigration. Even apart from that, it is vital information for individual citizens to know in order to protect themselves from what might be a daily hazard near where they live. Innocent lives could be destroyed by silence. Indeed, it seems that innocent lives have for a long time been destroyed, in Rotherham, in Telford, while the authorities looked the other way.

Accordingly, seeking to keep the information from the public shows not only contempt for the public, but contempt for the public’s interests. It shows a ruling elite who looks out only for itself. It even appears they banned press coverage of the original trial not to protect Muslims, but to protect their own reputations and power. First from irate Muslims, then from an irate general public.

Speaking purely technically, purely as a matter of information, so don’t arrest and disappear me, just this sort of action by a government, according to our theory of government, as enshrined in the writings of Thomas Aquinas, John Locke, and the US Declaration of Independence, not only justifies but morally demands civil disobedience. Such a government has waived all legitimacy and deserves to be overthrown. And some on the web are now indeed actually calling for revolution. God forbid. But nobody in the colonies really wanted the American Revolution either.

If the UK government has any sense of responsibility, let alone any moral sense, they must have the Queen issue an immediate unconditional pardon for Robinson. Then appoint a Royal Commission to determine how this all happened, and how to prevent it in future.

Otherwise all hell may well break loose. Incidentally, Muslims and immigrants may stand to lose the most.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Big Brother Is Watching You

Kelly Pocha, a Cranbrook, BC, resident, lost her job at a local car dealership recently for something she said on her free time while dining in a restaurant in Lethbridge Alberta. Given how far away Lethbridge is from Cranbrook, she must have been on vacation.

I see a problem here. We are getting Orwellian, surely. The problem is, she was videoed by the other party in an argument, and the video was posted online. So—is Big Brother always watching us now? Must we now watch what we say at every moment?

The video starts in the middle of a heated discussion. That means we do not know who was the aggressor. Pocha was clearly agitated and said some heated things. But we don’t have any idea whether or how she might have been provoked. Common sense tells us there must have been some sort of provocation. She clearly implies this in the video, and so does the man with her. We just don’t know what it was. So we do not know who was at fault.

So Pocha should not have lost her job. An injustice was done.

Both parties used bad language. What has people particularly upset at Pocha is that she insisted her adversaries were not real Canadians and should go back to where they came from.

She was incorrect here as a legal matter—all Canadians are equally citizens, regardless of whether by birth or adoption. Nevertheless, this is a common enough sentiment. In most countries, it would be taken for granted. It is said as a matter of course to anyone who looks foreign in China, Korea, or Japan, if an argument ever starts. So, if Kelly Pocha is being racist, most of the world’s population are racist. Most countries are founded on the basis of a shared ethnicity. That is what “nation state” means. It is even considered a principle of international law. Why single Kelly Pocha out for punishment?

And of course, Pocha’s adversaries may have said or done something far more incendiary, for all we can know, to begin the argument. We are seeing only what they chose to show.

If we defend the firing of Kelly Pocha, I certainly do not now expect to see an objection to the new NFL regulations on not kneeling during the US anthem, or a lament about how Colin Kaepernick’s rights to free speech have been trammelled. Because Kaepernick knelt on company time, on the company dime, at his place of employment, repeatedly, and on national TV. In cold blood, not in the passion of a moment. And not under any provocation.

But the case of Kelly Pocha is different, and far more troublesome. While I sympathize with employers who feel their PR and therefore business might be damaged by a rogue employee saying something on their own time, I think we need to draw a line, now that social media is everywhere. Sure, retain the right to terminate anyone for what they say during the course of their employment. Then they are speaking for the company. You cannot have a hotel clerk, for example, insulting guests. Even outside of work hours, I can see just cause if what is said is direct and public criticism of your employer or their business or industry, obviously bringing them into disrepute, like an encyclopedia salesman who spends his free time campaigning against encyclopedias. But the employee must know they are speaking publicly, not in a private conversation. And I do not simply mean “in a public place.” I mean in the media: on the record, knowing they are being quoted or recorded. Note that “on the record.” Even here, we need some protection for whistle-blowers.

I think we need a law making it illegal otherwise to terminate an employee for anything they say on their free time. Before the advent of social media, it might have been reasonable to let employers do this. But now, with cameras and microphones everywhere, continuing to allow it would and will in effect end all free speech. Everyone will have to carefully guard their speech at every minute of their lives. That is an extreme totalitarianism. That is 1984.

I believe employers themselves should welcome such a law. Because without it, they can face business repercussions if they do not terminate an employee—possibly a valued employee. If they cannot legally do so, they cannot be held to blame by customers or suppliers or financiers for not doing so. No bad PR for the company itself. So both workers and employers are protected.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Latest Polls Show National Socialists on the Verge of Taking Power

Riaz's actual Facebook post, 2013.

Doug Ford’s PCs are stumbling in the current Ontario election. When the election was called, they looked inevitable. Last analysis I saw, last night, they would still win a majority government—and the Liberals would be down to one seat!—if the election were held yesterday. But all the momentum has leaked over to Horwath’s NDP. That’s the danger when you start out with a big lead, and then try to nurse it by being cautious. Somebody else, who has nothing to lose, starts to look more exciting and dynamic.

But now, Providence seems to have intervened. Or perhaps this was inevitable. It was just a matter of time before someone found something like this on the NDP. Two PC candidates have presented a Facebook post by one NDP candidate, Tasleem Riaz in Scarborough-Agincourt, from as recently as 2013, making a blanket endorsement of Adolf Hitler. Complete with a photo of him giving the Nazi salute to troops marching in review.

It is hard to imagine anything, short of showing up with a loaded machine gun in Nathan Phillips Square, and starting to fire with enthusiasm, that could more clearly and immediately disqualify someone from public office.

More amazingly, in her first reaction to the revelation, Andrea Horwath did not seem to grasp its seriousness. She expressed continued support of the candidate and said the matter would be looked into. Boilerplate, and no sense of urgency.

The candidate’s own response was yet less reassuring. She did not deny posting it. She just says she does not recall, and does not endorse the sentiment. Anyone can always say that; even if caught red handed, videoed live in the act of posting it, you can still never be proven to have lied. Yes, you really may not recall. But you resort to that line if you posted it, know you posted it, and suppose there is a decent chance someone out there can prove you posted it. And by saying you do not recall, you avoid having to explain or defend it. First and automatic line of defense when you cannot think of any defense. If there were some context around the original quote that would justify or even partly justify it—and if she did not recall, Riaz could just as easily as anyone else have gone back and looked at the post to check context and other posts around the same time—this is where it would have appeared. She had nothing to offer. She probably has no defense. She did it, and she meant it just as it appears she meant it.

Any attempted defense that someone else hacked her account is kind of precluded by the fact that another incendiary post fairly widely separated in time has also been found, calling Canada’s military in Afghanistan a machine for slaughtering innocent men, women, and children and urging all Muslims to vote NDP. Okay, not another open declaration of Nazi allegiance, but demonstrating that she is pretty outspoken and racist.

Now, it is not just a good election tactic for the Tories to hammer away at this issue. It is a civic duty. We are actually talking now about electing an open Nazi to government in Ontario, with the endorsement of the rest of her party and the rest of the government. I could not have imagined we had become that depraved.

Almost as alarming, people seem to be talking about this as if it were an issue of “antisemitism.” Hitler was about one hell of a lot more than antisemitism. There was that little matter of the Second World War. You might recall; it was in all the papers. And that odd bit about enslaving the entire population of Eastern Europe. Yeah, and ruling the world. There was that dictatorship bit, endorsed in detail here by referring to Adolf as “The Ruler,” Der Fuhrer. And that inconvenient absence of all human rights, or norms of government, and personal rule without regard to morality of any sort. And Germany itself left in rubble. At the end, Hitler literally wanted to have them all killed—all Germans.

Riaz was openly endorsing all of this. Up to and including an image of lines of marching men.

At the same time, she was implicitly at least--actually, pretty explicitly--declaring a disregard towards any democratic restraints on her or restraints of parliamentary tradition or law. Her core idea as expressed is that, like the Nazis, whatever she says or does to get power, once given power, she will do with it just as she pleases.

But hey, everyone is cool with that bit.

We are all doomed if the NDP gets into power, with her still a candidate.

In fact, it looks as though we are all doomed if the NDP gets into power, with or without her. Because they obviously do not see this all as terribly problematic. This is the true face of the modern left.

No, strike that. Whether or not the NDP gets into power, we are all doomed. Because nobody now seems to see this as a big deal.

I tremble for my old province when I consider that the Lord is just.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Munk Debate on Political Correctness

I watched with anticipation the Munk debate a day or two ago on political correctness: “Be it resolved: what you call political correctness, I call progress.” The con side was represented by two major stars, Jordan Peterson and Stephen Fry. The pro side was represented by two relative unknowns—literally unknown to me: Michael Eric Dyson and Michelle Goldberg.

The fact that the con side had two big names, and the pro side two unknowns, is telling. This suggests they could find no big names who were prepared to defend political correctness. As it was, at different times during the debate, both Dyson and Goldberg themselves more or less declared against political correctness. This made it a rather odd debate.

And the audience—in Toronto, generally one of the world’s bastions of political correctness—was also surprisingly strongly against the proposition. They do a poll of the audience on the question before the debate begins. The numbers were 36% for the proposition, 64% against.

Then, in the actual debate, as Stephen Fry kept pointing out, nobody except he ever actually addressed political correctness. It was all instead about race, "gender," and who was or was not privileged.

This is all tremendously telling; and what it tells us is that everyone is fed up with political correctness. It has very little constituency, and no good rational defense.

It ought to disappear tomorrow. Why is it still with us, and so powerful? Indeed, still seeming to grow more powerful and more demanding by the month?

It dominates and tyrannizes, because by the nature of the beast everyone is kept terrified of being the next one lynched. This is an important reason why such political correctness or censorship is so harmful. If anyone stands up to it, they become the next target. And everyone else joins with simulated eagerness in the mob when it forms, simply to avoid being singled out as the next target. It is always safest to go along and help with the lynching. This is how mob rule works and witch hunts work. With them, a small group can hijack a democracy.

Of the speakers, Fry came out best: for one thing, he was the only one to address the proposition.

Peterson was ineffective, because he foolishly ran after every red herring tossed out by the other side. It must have been tough for him, because some were at the level of personal insults and taunts. What I wished he or someone would do was clearly define what he meant by political correctness to start with, and then explain why it was wrong (or right). I was especially disappointed because he did just this, briefly, in the famous Channel 4 Cathy Newman interview in England. Here he left the essential point unstated: political correctness makes it impossible to honestly and openly debate an issue. You cannot make an important point without offending someone.

Instead, Peterson gave vent to his general hostility towards the ideology of the left. Unfortunately, Peterson is not a clear or systematic thinker. He is always all over the place. He is always going with the moment, and his current impulse.

Fry, of course, also might have brought this up. He did, at least, mention 1984 and Newspeak. But mostly he made a different point: that political correctness does not work as intended. A valid point too, but much less important.

On the other side, Dyson was appalling and offensive. He was a textbook racist, of an extreme sort. His argument was, in essence: “I’m black. I’m black. I’m black. You’re white. You’re white. You’re white. Never forget this. Black is good. White is bad.”

Not quite to the point; and pretty morally depraved. It was all racist insult, ad hominem, and no argument. And it was hard to listen to him insisting that “black” and “white” group identities were things foisted unwillingly on him as a black, for which he bore no responsibility, at the same time that he was insisting on his blackness and Peterson’s whiteness, and that nobody had a right to deny they were white, or to deny that race was important. He was demanding to have it both ways.

It was more ironic when you looked at him. By his appearance, I could not have identified him as “black.” He was obviously of very mixed race. This was an identity he was insisting on for himself, no one else. And insisting on because it gave him special privileges.

For example, both he and Goldberg were able to blithely and repeatedly assert that they knew what Peterson or Fry were thinking or feeling as white males, better than they knew themselves. But, at the same time, as white males, Fry and Peterson could not possibly understand what it was like to be either black or female. It was insulting for white people even to speculate.

I wish Peterson had called either of them on it. He never did. Fry was not going to, because he was of the left too, and often played the identity politics game personally, as a gay. Instead, Peterson made the fair and interesting point that you cannot speak of group rights without also assuming group responsibility, and this demonstrably goes bad places. True, but a bit too abstract to make much impact. Goldberg was able to simply respond “I don’t see the connection.” It would have helped had Peterson given an example or two: Jewish blood guilt, or saying all gypsies are thieves, all Muslims are terrorists, or racial profiling. Again, can’t have it both ways here.

Peterson objected sharply to Dyson dismissing him as a “mad mean white man,” and “bringing race into it.” I would have felt better had I heard the correct term, “racist,” or “bigot,” here.

At one or two points, Dyson went on about how equality was not possible when “we have been oppressed for three hundred years.” Note the automatic assumption of group identity. Peterson responded “Who is ‘we’ here?” I wish he had responded, “My God, three hundred years. You must be older than I am!”

In the real world, slavery in America, affecting blacks, ended in 1865, 153 years ago. “Jim Crow” laws ended in the 1960s, 53 years ago.

So how much oppression has Dyson actually experienced? Is he really 300 years old?

No doubt Dyson would respond that the effects live on, from generation to generation, so that he is still a victim.

Okay, if so, how about all those immigrants who have arrived in America since 1865 almost literally penniless? They too started from base zero, often well after local blacks had had a few generations to build. Why are their descendants not considered similarly handicapped? What about the Jewish refugees who arrived since the Second World War, having just suffered a far worse discrimination than the blacks had known even in distant slave days? Or the Armenians? Or the Ukrainians? What about the Irish? The last penal laws against them in the UK were rescinded only in the 1920s. Yet all these groups are “whites,” presumably with “white privilege.” Is there really something unique about the black experience here?

Other than black privilege?

Goldberg, by comparison to Dyson, only sounded confused. She kept saying the opposite of the obvious truth. She asserted right out of the gate, and then repeatedly, that political correctness was a matter of letting more voices be heard. It is the exact opposite of that: it tries to silence points of view. But nobody called her on it. She claimed that nobody actually lost their jobs due to the “me too” accusations. Any one of us could name several very famous men who did. She ended by asserting that we only get upset with political correctness because white feelings are hurt. We should not care only about the feelings of white people. Yet “not hurting someone’s feelings” is actually the standard justification for political correctness.

This is what you usually hear when someone knows they are morally in the wrong: instead of just telling a random lie, they will consistently assert the exact opposite of the truth. It is a kind of backhanded confession that the opposition’s arguments are compelling.

We are left to speculate on why Goldberg wanted to publicly defend a position she apparently knows is morally and logically indefensible. Perhaps the professional exposure is sufficient explanation.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Ten Awful Things about Canada

A friend, prompted by Quora, has listed one hundred things he hates about Canada. He brings the perspective of an immigrant from Australia. About 98 of his 100 complaints are “the weather.” Two others contain the word “Ford.”

I have the perspective of someone who grew up in Canada, but has also lived and worked in other countries around the world. Here’s my shorter list:

1. The weather. The cold would be fine for a few weeks a year. I actually miss it, and winter sports are a great way to enjoy it; but it goes on for too long. February should be spring. 

2. The darkness in winter. This always bothered me more than the cold: getting up in the dark, indoors at work all day, coming back from work in the dark, it seemed as though you never saw the sun. On this score, mind you, most of Canada would actually be better than most of Northern Europe. And most of Canada is less often overcast than Northern Europe as well. 

Red lines show natural barriers dividing Canada into isolated regions.

3. Canada is too spread out, with too few people. It is not just underpopulation. There are three or four natural barriers dividing Canadians: with Maine like a sore thumb in between, it is a long trip from Central Canada to the Maritimes, if you don’t go through the US. And the Great Lakes and Canadian Shield make a long little-populated stretch between Central Canada and the Prairies. Then there is a maze of mountain ranges between the Prairies and the West Coast. Not to mention the jump by sea from the Maritimes to Newfoundland and Labrador. As a result, if you are in Vancouver, the rest of Canada might as well not exist for you; and the same if you are in St. John’s. This leads to our fourth problem:

4. Toronto is too dominant. Everything seems to happen in Toronto, and everyone else in Canada resents it.

Why should this be a problem? Toronto is far less dominant in Canada than London is in the UK, Tokyo in Japan, or Paris in France. The difference is that if something important is happening in London, if Celine Dion is playing the Palladium, the average Brit can go down for the day to see it. If something important is happening in Toronto—or Ottawa, for that matter―for the average Edmontonian, it might as well be happening on Mars.

There is, in addition, a special problem with Toronto. Towns and cities develop a distinct character, based on the first large body of settlers. This stands to reason: as each new settler arrives, they mostly assimilate to local attitudes, and these get passed on to each generation. So that, barring one huge immigration wave to swamp the current residents within a few years, the basic character of the place will be set forever. 

The Glorious 12th, King Street, Toronto, 1860s.

Toronto was largely settled by Northern Irish Protestants. It used to be known as “Toronto the Good” and “The Belfast of North America.” Its newspapers previewed and reviewed the Sunday sermons. That was weekend entertainment. It still has a “Temperance Street” downtown. Until the 1960s, if you were not a member of the Orange Lodge, you did not get to be mayor.

You might think all that is gone, replaced with its modern multiculturalism. You would be wrong. Toronto has simply replaced the old Calvinism and its uncompromising rigidity with a “progressive” fundamentalism that is just as hostile to dissenting views. The average Torontonian still divides all they meet into the saved or the damned, based on simple criteria. Westerners in particular notice this. One writes on Quora, “Toronto is kind of fun, just don’t utter any nonsense that diverges from the acceptable opinions of the area.”

Having a city with this character as the centre of Canadian culture, which Toronto has now become, is deadly. Canadian culture has been moribund ever since it moved down from Montreal.

5. Not enough history. This is partly due to Canada being underpopulated, as noted. Fewer people means fewer memorable things done. And Canada is a young country, very young in its Western reaches. I read an autobiography of an Albertan who referred to going to college in “Old Ontario.” Old Ontario? You mean there were already houses there way back last century?

Europe or Asia, to a Canadian, is a revelation. Better than Disneyland, by far. There is something historical or culturally important around every corner. I really miss that in Canada. The best we can do is Casa Loma?

On the other hand, this cuts two ways. A Welsh friend envies my Canadianness because he finds Europe old and musty. In their different ways, Alberta and BC have a freedom from the past that allows them to try new things, new ideas. It is no coincidence that, down in the US, the computer and high-tech revolution happened in the San Francisco Bay area. And before that, the movie industry in LA. Aerospace largely in Texas and Seattle.

6. The Tyranny of Nice. That is the title of a book co-authored by Kathy Shaidle, and it captures something important. Canadians are unfailingly polite. Sometimes being too polite is a problem. Nasty and bad people can exploit it mercilessly, and Canadians will just go along and do as they ask rather than make a fuss.

I’m afraid bad people are learning more and more that Canadians can easily be taken advantage of in this way. One Korean confided in me that he always found Canadians to be “naive.”

Worse, if anyone in Canada stands up to such bullying, the local social consensus will turn against him or her, instead of the aggressor. He or she is considered to be the one creating a fuss.

This has recently had the vital effect of severely curtailing, if not ending, freedom of speech in Canada. A Pole who had immigrated confided to me that he always felt freer to speak his mind in Communist Poland than he did in Canada. In China, my hosts asked me, “Why do all Canadians seem to think the same?”

7. There is a strong atmosphere of racism and sexism in Canada. Canadians will not believe it, they take pride in the opposite, but my Filipina wife, for one, found it almost intolerable. One reason I left for Asia many years ago was so that I could, for once, not be discriminated against for being pale of skin and male. It is endemic in Canada and never seems to let up. It is not racism against “blacks” or “aboriginals,” but racism against “whites” and East Asians that is the problem. Not discrimination against women or gays or transgenders, but against males and heterosexuals.

8. Christianity and Catholicism in Canada is often depressingly weak tea. Not weaker than Europe, or, for that matter, mainland China or Japan, but certainly weaker than a place like Korea, the Philippines, or Vietnam. And weaker than Islam is in the Persian Gulf, or Hinduism in India. In these places, religion in general is a much more present element of human life than in Canada. In Canada, not even priests and ministers can be assumed to be religious. Given that religion is, with the possible exception of personal relationships, the most important thing in life, this is a horrible lack in Canadian life.

One symptom of this is that in Canada there is a kind of taboo against old age, illness, and death. This is pretty unhealthy in itself. On the one hand, people spend too much time and energy worrying about trivial health risks; on the other, nobody wants to admit that they are old or think about or talk about death. Since it will come to us all, this is not good for anyone.

9. The family compact. There has always been an element of clubbiness in Canadian society. It seems to be especially bad in Ontario; and of course it is especially awful for government jobs. It began, no doubt, with the old “Family Compact,” and has been an issue ever since. Again, newcomers keep conforming to any established local tradition. I suppose it is no worse than most countries, with their classist traditions, but it is an unpleasant contrast to the US. It always seems to matter who you know; and important information that ought to be made generally public is often not, so that those in the know can benefit. There is an old boys’ network. I have heard this complaint from an immigrant from Eastern Europe, and one from Pakistan, and I think it is true.

Of course, this is masked by various drives for “diversity.” This is a con. Race was never the issue; any more than it was for the aristocracies of Europe. The son of an Indian Rajah was always happily accepted to Rugby. The “racial diversity” quotas just further limit opportunities for those of the wrong class.

How else explain the cultural prominence of such mediocrities as “The Royal Canadian Air Farce,” Ben Wicks, or Peter Gzowski? Or, for that matter, Justin Trudeau? Kathy Shaidle, again, refers to it as “the genetic lottery.”

10. Canadian colonial attitudes. Contrary to what might be expected elsewhere, membership in the Canadian family compact is and always has been less often related to coming from some old established local family than to having stepped off the latest steamer from the UK. We give an inordinate prestige to the foreign, especially if it comes with some sort of British association. That explains, for example, Ben Wicks, the Irish Rovers, or Murray McLaughlin. It can work too for pukka sorts from the subcontinent: they get advantaged for their English-sounding accents and association with Empire. 

Leprechaun music.
This is silly, racist, and disadvantageous to most Canadians. Our love affair with multiculturalism is one example. We ought to put all our efforts into developing our Canadian culture. Instead, we only value something if it comes from overseas. Growing up in Canada, and studying “English literature,” I learned that English literature in Canada did not include anything written outside the British Isles. But now we are more sophisticated: it includes anything written in English in Africa, the Caribbean, or India as well. Just not in Canada. Unless, of course, by an aboriginal writer.

11. In comparison to the US, on the one hand, or the EU, on the other, career and life opportunities in Canada feel severely limited. Going to grad school in the US, horizons seemed to immediately expand, and they immediately contracted again once I returned. That still hurts. This has mostly to do just with Canada being a relatively small market. This is one reason why I am a big fan of the CANZUK idea, and of NAFTA.

All of this been said, I do still consider Canada the best place in the world to live. I have not listed the pluses in this post. I wish I could live there myself. I am currently not an exile by choice, but for economic reasons.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Monty Python's Dive Bombing Circus

Have recently been re-watching old Monty Python Flying Circus episodes. Just about everything seems to be available online through YouTube.

I still find them funny. I love absurdist humour, and that is what they mostly were. You can’t beat the fish slapping dance.

Each of the six Pythons seemed to bring something special to the show:

John Cleese was the comic genius. He could write brilliantly and perform brilliantly. He could do complex verbal humour, and striking physical humour, both at the highest level.

Graham Chapman was the acting talent. He was always completely the person he was acting. This made him fantastic as a deadpan comic or straight man: no matter how absurd the situation, he seemed real and believable and vaguely troubled by it all.

Michael Palin had what can be a comic’s greatest gift: he was intrinsically likable. This is the complete package for some great comics: Jimmy Durante, for example, was not really funny, just consistently lovable. Charlie Chaplin was mostly lovable, not funny. Palin was like that—always an eager puppy. Great comic persona.

Eric Idle’s talent was as a lyricist. His songs are some of the most memorable things from the series. He wrote in the tradition of W.S. Gilbert or Flanders and Swan. He was also probably, next to Cleese, the best comic writer.

Terry Gilliam had the visual imagination. Idle provided the sound track, Gilliam provided the scenery. Without it, Python would not be Python. It was the most distinctive element.

Gilliam has made a name for himself as a major director since the series ended. Yet the best director in the group was Terry Jones. That suggests how good Jones is. When the group did their own movies, they always chose Jones, not Gilliam, to direct. They knew both best; they knew what they were doing. If you re-watch Life of Brian, as I just did, with an eye for the cinematic element, it is astounding how good Jones is. He simply chose not to pursue this path after the series ended. He’s been spending his time on Medieval history—doing what he likes, not needing to worry about money.

I also recently re-watched the famous debate between Palin and Cleese, on one side, and Malcolm Muggeridge and the Anglican bishop of Southwark, on the other, on Life of Brian—supposedly the late Douglas Adams’s favorite bit of television. Muggeridge and the bishop hated the movie.

Who won? I think it was a split decision. Palin was crushed by the archbishop, and pretty much knocked out of the debate. But Cleese got in the best line, against Muggeridge. Muggeridge and the bishop lost sympathy by being openly insulting towards the film, not acknowledging its value as humour. And, worse, by not discussing the theology, but dismissing it out of hand. They came across as grumpy old men. I suspect they were at a disadvantage from only having seen the movie for the first time a few hours before. These were only first impressions, they had not had time to compose any substantial arguments, and no doubt they were shocked.

On the other hand, Cleese loses sympathy today by characterising the bishop’s and Muggeridge’s position as simply unintelligent. Which comes across as disrespectful and even as a backhanded admission that they were right.

Cleese justified the film in debate, and gave its central message as, “Don’t just believe what you are told. Decide for yourself.” Good advice, but not illustrated by the film. In reality, in Britain or throughout the developed world, either when the film came out, or now, sincerely believing in the Christian message is a minority position. It is the subversive and independent position. Going along with the herd in these days or those meant mocking Christianity, chasing worldly success instead, and enjoying Monty Python.

If you want something that makes the point Cleese claims to have been making, Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People might have qualified. But, tellingly, it is not funny. Another piece that makes the point, even more dramatically, is the New Testament. Which, as Cleese admitted, they could not find a way to make funny. You probably cannot really make this point and still be funny.

The more fundamental problem or issue, to my mind, is that Python was straying here from what was best about them: absurdism. Like too many other celebrities once they find an audience, they began exploiting their platform to promote their personal opinions on this, that, and the other thing: on religion, on Christianity, on politics, on The Meaning of Life. Meaning. Note that word. Being funny was no longer enough for them.

I can’t really fault them for this—it is exactly what I do here, albeit without the audience. But in the case of Python, it goes uniquely against the essence of what made them great. This explains, I suspect, why they themselves found their comic muses drying up, and found they could no longer do the series. And they turned out, I think, as is most likely to be the case for celebrities who speak outside their own expertise, not to have any particular great or interesting insights on things like the Meaning of Life.

Why would they, any more than the next guy?

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Ontario Leaders' Debate

I gather the conventional wisdom is that NDP leader Andrea Horvath won the recent Ontario leaders’ debate.

Probably true, but unsurprising. Like Tania Granic Allen in the PC leadership debates, she was the one candidate free to say anything interesting. She was not going to be elected, and could not be held to account for any promises made. She had nothing to lose.

By contrast, Doug Ford’s job was intrinsically less inspiring. He was on course to win big; his task was to sound reassuring and to promise nothing specific that was going to come back to haunt him.

Kathleen Wynne too has little chance to win, but she is still not free to say what she wants. She has a record with which she is saddled, and which she had to defend. Were she to come up with any extravagant new promises, or new policies, the rejoinder would have been obvious: so why haven’t you done it in the last fifteen years?

Given that math, Horvath was bound to “win,” if nobody made a major mistake, and all candidates did what they needed to do as well as they could.

What troubled me most in listening to the debate was that small government had no defender. It was not in Ford’s interest to point out ideological differences: he is on track to beat Wynne sheerly on scandal and perceived incompetence. So he did not differ much from either of the other two, both on the left. But as a result, the impression was left that the answer to any problem was to spend more government money on it, and pass more government regulation. For the most part, nobody cared to point out that money did not come from nowhere, and if the government did not spend it, it did not disappear.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Some Ideas Are Just Bad Ideas

Antifa debating their position.

Good news seems to be coming thick and fast. The day before yesterday, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince reportedly made an agreement with the Vatican to allow the building of Christian churches.

With that, and now that women can drive, it almost makes me want to be back in the Kingdom.

Except that the money is no longer there. The price of oil is still way down. The US is now on track to be the world’s top exporter of oil. Aside from prompting KSA to open to the world, this chokes off funding to radical Islamic movements. It also cuts the funding that has enabled Vladimir Putin to engage in his foreign adventures in Syria and the Ukraine.

Before he was elected, Trump promised that, if they chose him, Americans would win so much, they would get tired of winning. Big talking blowhard, right?

Incredibly, he actually seems on track with that promise.

It is not just foreign affairs—although, in foreign affairs, we also have North Korea just recently calling suddenly for denuclearization and reunification. That’s quite a shift. And ISIS is now all but gone in Syria and Iraq.

Everyone has been worrying about traditional jobs all disappearing; it looks inevitable, giving the emerging technologies. Yet US unemployment just dropped to 3.9%, lowest since 2000. The biggest drop was among blacks and Hispanics.

Can Trump really be that good? It seems more likely that, in fact, Obama was that bad.

In her day Margaret Thatcher boldly said that the ideas of the left are “simply wrong.” On the evidence, it looks as though she was right, and is still right. The positions of the left are almost systematically wrong, naive, or unrealistic. For example, to take a recent example, believing that carbon taxes, by raising the cost of carbon, would mean we use less of it. Yet raising the minimum wage could have no effect on levels of employment. Or believing that one’s “gender” is purely a matter of choice, yet gender discrimination is real and a serious problem. After all, nobody chooses his or her gender...

It doesn’t seem just a matter of opinion, on which reasonable, moral, and sharp minds can differ. It seems to be logical nonsense and objectively demonstrable.

For thirty years, Ontario was run by a Tory provincial government, and Ontario government bonds were blue chip. In those days, we would grumble about blue laws, rent controls, and unnecessary government regulation; but there was no question at least that the place was well run from a managerial perspective. The provincial finances were always in blue chip territory. Then the Liberals got in, followed a cycle later by the NDP, and the provincial finances rapidly went sour. Now Ontario is a have-not province, with a staggering public debt.

The same phenomenon is seen across the US: there is a reason why the rust belt is in decline, and industries have all been moving to the sun belt. Check which party has been in power at the city and state level in either case for the past forty years.

Or look what happened to New York City when they finally, after many years, elected a relatively right-wing Republican mayor in Rudy Guiliani. The turnaround seemed almost miraculous―like Trump.

I offer an illustration that effected me personally. I was in Ontario, doing quite well as a technical writer and editor, running my own business, when, in 1990, the NDP government came in. They passed a law requiring that any company in the province with more than 50 employees must employ a certain percentage of women. This in an economy that was, due to other NDP policies, already contracting.

This made Ontario businesses in general less efficient and less competitive—employees could no longer be hired on merit. But it was especially devastating in my profession and in my industry. As everyone probably knows, qualified and talented female programmers, engineers, and technologists are thin on the ground. Yet high-tech firms had to somehow meet these quotas without getting wiped out by competition from elsewhere in the fast-moving, intensely competitive high-tech market.

The solution was obvious: take all technical writing in-house, and hire only women to do it. Given that women have, on average, better verbal skills than men, this was the one area where they were least likely to put the firm at a critical competitive disadvantage.

As a result, overnight, by government fiat, the field of technical writing in Ontario became open only to women.

I had to either change career or move. As it happened, I did both.

A terrible financial and personal loss for me; but also, a terrible loss of talent, competitiveness, and expertise to the provincial economy.

This largely explains political correctness. If you have good arguments, you welcome public debate. When you know your arguments and your policies cannot withstand scrutiny, you want to avoid any public debate.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

The Three Forms of Racism or of Abuse

Europe's scapegoat: everybody gets to blame the Jews.

There are three kinds of children in a dysfunctional family. All three are abused, but in different ways.

First, there is the scapegoat. He or she is abused because the parent, and perhaps also the siblings, envy them. This will be the smartest, most moral, or most attractive child—like Cinderella. And hated for it, as Cain hated Abel.

Second, there is the black sheep. He or she is not hated, but looked down on. He is pushed around on the probably false premise that he is irresponsible, not capable of looking after himself—like Jack of Jack in the Beanstalk. He may be neglected, but not actively abused. He may even be cared for, but contemptuously.

Third, there is the golden child. He or she is actually pampered and favoured. But this too is a sort of abuse. He or she is “taken care of” like a pet, but is not allowed to manage his or her own affairs—like Sleeping Beauty. Not a hard life, but lacking in human dignity.

These roles should sound familiar. We see the same triage among groups in a sick society. One minority group will get picked on for being too successful; another gets picked on for being shiftless and lazy, the black sheep. A third gets pampered, but controlled.

The Jews are an example of the first, and blacks in America of the second. It is important to notice, and nobody seems to notice, that they are discriminated against in more or less opposite ways. Nobody talks about the blacks secretly controlling everything. Quotas at universities or in employment never work against blacks. And, most importantly, nobody wants to kill all the blacks. That level of hatred is reserved for the scapegoat.

The Jews still get this attitude, as they always have, but the scapegoat role has more recently been shifting to “straight while males.” Everybody gets in a free kick at them. They are in a very dangerous situation.

Women are an example of the third form of abuse, the “golden child.” Traditionally, they have been given favoured treatment in all kinds of ways. Everything they do is wonderful; they can do no wrong. They are much less likely to be charged or convicted of a crime; if convicted, they will get a lighter punishment. In some traditional societies, they are immune from prosecution. They are exempt from military service; in many societies, they are not obliged to earn a living, but can always demand to be supported by the nearest male relative.

They were, however, not allowed to make their own decisions. They are treated like pets.

Not all forms of abuse are equal; surely the scapegoat has a far greater grievance than the black sheep, who has a far greater grievance than the golden child.

Given human nature, however, it is the golden child who will complain most loudly, and be the hardest to satisfy. They are, after all, used to getting whatever they want. They expect to be taken care of, and so feel it is incumbent on the rest of us to make them feel better. Think of The Princess and the Pea.

Accordingly, feminism demands far more changes from the rest of society than the Jews or the blacks do or ever did.

In a way, this is the hardest form of abuse to ever overcome. For the abused, or for those around them. It is more than likely that, no matter what is done, reconciliation will never come. They will naturally want more responsibility, but at the same time will object to the withdrawal of any privileges, and will refuse to accept responsibility when things go wrong.

Canada’s “First Nations” have sometimes been seen as black sheep, but more often, they have been Canada’s “golden children,” “noble savages,” kept on their reserves, as Buffy Ste. Marie has observed, like wildlife on a game preserve. Or like huggable pets.