Playing the Indian Card

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Conservative Racism (Under)exposed

Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives are now facing criticism as “racist” because of a campaign ad that showed Justin Trudeau as an oil worker, with skin darker than his skin really is. "Some Canadians [nudge nudge] say this is racist." Some were "shocked."

The picture was made by Photoshopping Trudeau’s face on a stock photo of an oil worker. As a practical matter, the ad agency or whoever made the image would have had to match skin tones between the face and the hands. As it happens, oil rig workers tend to be outdoors a lot, and sunlight darkens the skin. It’s called a tan. The image simply could not have worked without such darkening.

To see a deep tan, and immediately think of race, is to be racist. People are more than skin colours. And for that matter, to consider portraying someone as a different race as “racist,” one must begin with the premise that there is something wrong with being of that race.

In other words, the racism is in the eye of the beholder, not in the original picture. This is typically the case these days: the racists call themselves “anti-racist,” and accuse anyone who is not a racist of racism.

It seems we live in the times of which Orwell warned us.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Who Won the First Democratic Debate?

Who won the Democratic debates?

Matt Drudge’s unscientific online poll has Tulsi Gabbard winning far and away. This is supported as well by a Washington Examiner poll, and by the number of Google searches for her name during the debate.

Both Drudge’s and the Washington Examiner’s audience is well to the right of the Democratic Party’s. This indicates that Gabbard has the crossover potential, and so probably the best shot in a general election; but not necessarily in the primaries.

On the other hand, polls suggest that the Democratic Party is also well to the left of actual Democrats. Forty percent of the latter call themselves either moderate or conservative.

In any case, Gabbard’s ant-war message looks to me like a winner either left or right. It seems only reasonable to suppose that, after almost two decades of Afghanistan and Iraq, Americans are tired of foreign entanglements. Who could blame them?

The idea alarms my Filipina wife. If the US pulls back, it could mean disaster for a lot of smaller players around the world, who count on them. But from the American perspective, has it ever been worth it? They only get blamed for the sacrifice.

The odd fact that the Democratic Party establishment and the media seem to hate Gabbard probably works in her favour. The average American is angry, and wants to buck authority. Gabbard now gives them that opportunity, if ideology keeps them away from Trump. 

On the second night, the winner seems to have been Kamala Harris. She has always had great potential, but had not caught on. Her exchange with Biden on busing seems to be the sound clip that will be remembered. Hurts Biden badly, and seems to give her moral authority over him, which matters a lot. She looked like a leader. 

To be fair to Joe, her attack was probably not. Bismark defined politics as the art of the possible, Biden's stance on busing may well have been what was politically wisest at the time, if not desirable in absolute terms. He is here another victim of politics' newly long tail, thanks to social media.

The Drudge poll actually gives the second debate to Andrew Yang. But that is a bit suspect, since the moderators hardly let him speak. Maybe he benefited from this, since everyone else seemed so angry at each other.

Harris came second with Drudge: she may have less crossover appeal, but surely more potential with Democrats. At the same time, taking Biden down a notch may have helped Gabbard as much as herself. If Biden’s support is the party moderates, they are probably not now going to move to Harris, who has been running to the left. If Biden seems weak, they need a new standard-bearer. O’Rourke got mauled in the debates; Buttigieg seems to be hitting rough seas due to events back in South Bend.

It is almost as though the seas are parting for Gabbard.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Orwell Was Only 35 Years Too Pessimistic

Donetsk, Ukraine, 2010, By Борис У. - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

A piece in the UK’s Guardian argues that free speech is not under assault. “It just suits bigots and boors to suggest so.”

Their argument, point by point:

1. Free speech is not under assault, because assaults on free speech are frequently featured in the media.

If free speech were under assault, we would not hear about it, right? Because reports of it would themselves be suppressed. Right?

But, by the same token, if free speech were not under assault, there would of course not be media stories of it being under assault.

So this same evidence proves free speech both is and is not under assault.

Common sense conclusion: free speech is under assault, but is not (yet?) entirely suppressed.

2. Surveys show most students do not want to silence dissenting opinions.

This does not show that there is no censorship; it shows that censorship does not have majority support. Governments and authorities censor; the average citizen has no such power. Nor is a majority required to initiate a mob action like shouting down dissenting opinions.

3. Shouting down is only limited to a number of topics. “They are unlikely to turn their sights, say, to physics, economics or music.”

This would have been equally true of Nazi Germany or Maoist China. This is necessarily so: only subjects with political implications are likely to be censored. Unfortunately, the left also declared a generation or two ago that “the personal is political,” making almost every subject political. Recent bouts of censorship have concentrated on knitting, computer gaming, using the “OK” hand sign, drinking milk, and wearing red baseball caps.

4. Not all claims of censorship are legitimate.

This is inevitably so, given human nature. Not all charges of murder are legitimate either. This does not prove there are no murders.

5. It is okay in principle to censor someone for being impolite.

The only speech that ever needs to be protected is speech that is going to violate authority or social norms. Nobody censors people for agreeing with them. And what authority has the right to decide without discussion what is and is not polite?

6. “Some debates should be shut down.” Specifically, if an argument has been won, nobody should be allowed any longer to dissent.

This is self-evidently false. The proof that a debate has been won is that there are no longer any dissenting views being expressed. In this case, there is no call for censorship. Even were voices raised insisting that the Earth were flat, for example, or that Martians have visited, there would be no lobby to silence such voices. Nobody would be agitated to hear such views.

If censorship is happening, or is being called for, on a particular topic, it is proof positive of the opposite: that this argument is not over. Or rather, that it is indeed over, and has been lost: it will always be the losers who demand censorship. The winners will be eager to debate further.

7. “The trouble with the free speech defence is that it works to shut down any argument against it.”

In other words, to favour free speech is to oppose free speech. To oppose free speech is to be in favour of free speech. Speaking prevents others from speaking.

Orwell saw all of this coming. “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.”

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Spirit Moves in Admiralty

Those watching video of the recent upheaval in the streets of Hong Kong may have been intrigued—or, in my case, electrified—by hearing the old Evangelical chant “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord.” Why are they all singing a Christian hymn? Is something going on religiously that we should know about?

And the usual media, the MSM, were as usual basically silent on this. Religion is anathema to them.

A piece in The Federalist, by an author who was born in China, seems to explain. The authorities had called the protesters “an angry mob,” justifying sending in muscle to clear the streets. According to Hong Kong’s basic law, religious gatherings are protected. So, make it a religious gathering.

And, I can say from personal experience, outdoor Christian gatherings are familiar in Hong Kong. I walked through the downtown core on a Sunday once. The streets were otherwise silent, but in every park or open space were the Filipina ayahs, singing and “Bible sharing.” It was a thing of beauty.

Apparently, the Hong Kong Chinese were watching.

So the protesters, although most of them were not Christian, took their cue from the Christian practice. Their assemblies were the model. No doubt they took up this particular hymn because it is easy to learn and to sing. Simple as that.

Or maybe not. The same Federalist author lauds the protesters for how remarkably orderly they were. Young protesters stayed late to clean up. At one point they parted like the Red Sea to let an ambulance through.

I had just watched, only hours before, a new video by a South African YouTuber lamenting at how the Chinese—mainland Chinese—showed no civic responsibility; how they spit and do other broadly unmentionable business in the street. He has seen someone distraught or assaulted, obviously in need of aid, and nobody would come to their aid. 

The contrast with the Hong Kong protests could not be more dramatic. What made the difference?

What else, but the example of Christianity? Not just from the many Filipinas who live among them, and own the city of a Sunday morning. The missionaries, too, have long been resident. Most Hong Kongers have gone to Christian schools. The difference we see here between the Hong Kong protests and the mainland is the difference between the social ethos promoted by Communism and Confucianism, on the one hand, and Christianity on the other.

There is a reason why China is a “low trust” society, and Canada and other Christian nations are “high trust.” According to traditional Chinese values, the family is everything. You do not care about those with whom you do not have some formal relationship. You owe them nothing.

Christianity stands apart from all other systems in believing in the brotherhood of man. Islam arguably does as well—but Islam tends to restrict brotherhood to fellow Muslims. Only Christianity has the parable of the Good Samaritan.

It really does matter. It is, as many Chinese seem to be realizing, the foundation for our generally far more orderly and better-functioning civil society. In which the weak are not abandoned or exploited.

There are indeed signs that ordinary China may be moving in general to Christianity. When I taught in China, students asked to come to church with me. When I taught Chinese teachers in Canada, the first thing many wanted to know was how they could get in contact with a local church.

Over the few generations since World War II, Korea has become 30% Christian—Christianity is now the single largest religion there.

If the lid came off, it looks as though the same thing might happen in culturally-similar China. We might have 450,000,000 additional Christians in the world, and China become the world’s largest Christian nation.

At the very moment Europe and America are taking a wrecking ball to their culture, and destroying their advantage.

Sing Hallelujah to the Lord.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Between the Crosses, Row on Row

The offensive image.

The US Supreme Court has just ruled that Maryland does not need to pull down a century-old WWI memorial because it is in the shape of a cross.

I am not a lawyer, but the initial demand seems to me another example of our social madness. And the reasoning of the USSC ruling is not reassuring. It seems they find the monument okay on the spurious grounds that the cross is not really religious in this context, but a recognized symbol of the war.

So symbols of war are okay on public lands, but not anything that suggests religion?

Is this not self-evidently mad? Is this not self-evidently anti-human?

The US Constitution, wisely, reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a religion.” But this has apparently been reinterpreted to mean the government must be opposed to all religion. This new interpretation is in fact in direct violation of the constitutional provision: it amounts to establishing atheism as the state religion.

The government actually has a legitimate interest in promoting religion; promoting atheism is a violation of trust. Religion contributes directly to peace, order, and good government, their prime responsibility, at least according to the Canadian Constitution. Religion promotes morality and ethical conduct; it provides a social safety net, at no cost to the taxpayers; it offers a sense of belonging, and so community cohesion. It increases the general store of happiness.

All this is objectively true, whether or not you even accept the truth of religion. These are just byproducts. If it is right in its basic assumptions, of course, its value, and its social value, is beyond calculation.

And yet we are to tear it down? Why this urge everywhere now to destroy civilization?

The proper approach is obvious, and it is obvious what the Constitution means: the government treats religions equally, favouring none. The government fosters and encourages all religions, but does not erect or pay for monuments or structures that are specific to any one to the exclusion of others. If some private group, like the Knights of Columbus or B’nai Brith, or the American Legion, chooses to generously donate something, as in this case, to the government and the general public, and it is open and available to all, of course the government should gratefully accept.

Instead, we have what John Paul II called “the culture of death.”

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Media Excluded from NC Democratic Convention

More evidence of hysteria on the modern left: the South Carolina Democratic Party has given MSNBC exclusive rights to broadcast its convention. Other outlets can report only after a three-hour delay. Including C-Span, which has been more or less the political network of record. It live-streams, showing, not telling.

This seems self-destructive. It is in the obvious interests of a political party in a democracy to have its message disseminated as widely as possible. Only paranoia seems to work as an explanation: the Dems instinctively fear letting the public know too much. It fits with the growing demand for censorship on the left. It is important that voters not know what is going in.

They trust only MSNBC, with its highly partisan reputation, to hide what they want to hide, and show only what they want shown.

Which is to say, they believe they have something to hide.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Plastics Ban

Bjorn Lomborg explains in the Globe and Mail why Trudeau’s new initiative to ban plastic bags and straws will harm the environment.

Buckminster Fuller explained a simple, eye-opening fact to us in a public lecture I attended long ago at Queen’s: left alone, technology itself will ensure the least possible pollution.

Technology is the eternal quest to do more with less. Business too is all about finding efficiencies. If government just keeps its hands off, there will be, over time, less and less pollution. Every bit of pollution is a profit lost, a material wasted.

It pretty much follows, without having to independently do the math, that the current practice of using plastic straws and plastic bags will be the one that produces the least pollution. If a better solution is found, government regulation will not be needed to impose it.

What, then, is the point of such meddlesome regulations? Why, in the face of logic and evidence, do governments keep pushing such measures?

Restraint of trade. Every new regulation tends to reduce or eliminate competition for bigger players already in the market. Every new regulation is employment for another high-priced lawyer, a costly accountant, at each corporation. Small start-ups cannot afford this. They keep those in power in power; they employ the clerisy; and they offer opportunities for graft.

The most obvious casualty in this one, usual, is the poor. Plastic bags are recyclable in a thousand ways, notably as trash receptacles.

I can see good use for one right now.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

Last post I dealt with friend Xerxes’s charge that Canada was a “white supremacist nation.” But I left out his main point, which was, inevitably, Canada’s relations with its “First Nations” and/or indigenous people. His comment was ultimately prompted by the recent report of the Commission on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

He laments, as so many do, including the recent Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the supposed historical attempt to assimilate Indians into the Canadian mainstream. That, supposedly, is the root of all aboriginal problems, and amounts, says this latest commission report, to “genocide.” Xerxes was dutifully agreeing.

In fact, however, the problem with government policies towards Canada’s Indians has always been the opposite. The problem is segregation, never an attempt, to use Xerxes’s term, to “homogenize.”
This is obvious: who else since the fall of old apartheid-regime South Africa is kept apart, as if quarantined, on “reserves”? Other, perhaps, than wild animals.

And yet this apartheid approach is just what our government commissions are aggressively pushing for more of. We are headed with all deliberate speed downhill.

Nor is this previous or present segregation primarily the fault of the elected Canadian government or the “white man.” The Canadian government or “the white man” cannot unilaterally abrogate the treaties. And the Indian leadership insists they remain. Forever.

It is obvious too that, contrary to the familiar talking point, the old Indian residential schools were never an attempt to either erase Indian culture or assimilate Indians. Self-evidently, the way to do that would not be to segregate Indians in their own schools, with a separate curriculum. Ask Martin Luther King Jr. It would be to send them to the same schools as other Canadians. Captain Richard H. Pratt, the founder of the American residential school system, himself pointed this out: “Indian schools,” he warned, “are … well calculated to keep the Indians intact as Indians.” The Indian residential schools systematically preserved a distinct Indian culture, although not the authentic Indian culture, for whatever it might have been worth. They deliberately taught students only the skills they supposedly needed so long as they stayed on the reserves, and discouraged any ambitions to assimilate. Egerton Ryerson wrote, in advising the Canadian system, “such institutions should not give instruction in ‘white man's trades,’ but should concentrate instead on ‘common school learnings and the acquisition of agricultural skills and knowledge’.”

“It would be not merely useless,” wrote another bureaucrat of the day, “but mischievous, to try to give a taste for the town life of the Palefaces to those who are destined to go back to the wigwam, to travel on snow shoes, and to use no other implement than the fishing net and the gun.”
And so the schools, although apparently with good if paternalistic intentions, deliberately kept Indians from assimilation and held them on the reserves.

Xerxes quotes a familiar figure: a supposed 50% death rate among residential school pupils. This shocking number has entered the popular consciousness. It seems to have been simply invented by one author, Thomas King, who gave no source. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission could not come up with a figure higher than 2%, despite their best efforts; they were mandated from the start to make the residential schools out to be as bad as possible. This was worse than the general Canadian population at the time—tuberculosis was the problem—but still better than on the reserves the schools took them from. The schools were their best chance of treatment.

Along with many others, including many Indians, Xerxes quite rightly blames the Indian Act: “The Indian Act, despite several amendments, still treats Indigenous people as semi-competent children, who need wiser adults to make decisions on their behalf.”

But the Canadian government has wanted to ditch the Indian Act for generations. Ask Jean Chretien about his 1969 “White Paper.” Even when the Act was passed, and the original treaties signed, the government’s intent was that the need for special treatment for Indians would only last for a generation or so. You cannot, at the same time, as Xerxes does here, blame the government for wanting to assimilate, and for not wanting to assimilate. That is simply, and obviously, scapegoating the government and the “white man.”

 The problem is that, by framing it as treaties, they left it up to the Indians; or rather, to a bureaucracy the Act and the treaties set up, both Indian and non-Indian. They were determined from the start not to force the Indians into anything. They foolishly did not foresee the iron determination of any bureaucracy, once established, whether Indian or “white,” to self-perpetuate, and never surrender power once acquired. And in this case, the bureaucracy was, by treaty, allowed to write their own ticket, outside the usual democratic control.

This has been demonstrably to the detriment of ordinary Indians, and ridiculously expensive to Canada in general, but to the ongoing profit of Indian and no doubt also federal government bureaucrats. It is the reserve system and the Indian Act that keeps Indians in a state of permanent wardship, as though not responsible adults. And it is the “Indian leadership,” a system set up by the treaties and by the federal bureaucracy, that demands it.

The best way to foster and perpetuate that cycle of dependency is to continue to blame everything on the “white man” and the government.  It is always up to the white man and the government to do more for the Indians. And everything they do is wrong. This assumes and demands Indian helplessness. It assumes government and “white” omniscience.

The perils faced by young indigenous women, the supposed subject of this latest of endless Royal Commissions, are obviously the direct result of the failure or incapacity of the Indian family. It is because they have no functioning family that these adolescent girls are vagrants on the highways and sometimes in the cities. Often they are fleeing abuse. So too the high incarceration rate among indigenous young men, who most often commit the violence: these are abandoned, derelict, abused, or fleeing kids; kids with no effective adult supervision or guidance. The two problems are the same problem.

And the root of the problem is that the Indian family often does not function. This may have been an existing problem in Indian culture, before the treaties or the Indian Act, but it can only have been exacerbated by the passing of all responsibility, authority, initiative, and income from the individual and the family unit to the band council and the government.

The residential aspect of the residential schools was an extremely well-meaning attempt to solve this problem. Over 50% of the attendees were there because they had no other functioning or viable home. The schools were orphanages. The “Sixties scoop” was another good-faith attempt.
For both of these attempts to help, the schools and the adoption program, the government and the “white man” is now scapegoated.

They will be scapegoated again for whatever they do now.

In the meantime, these kids are trapped. It is for many a vicious spiral, ending in suicide, drug dependency, or death by violence. And it cannot be broken out of as long as the solution must come from government and the “white man.” Government and dependency has been the problem, not the solution.

Doubling down on that, as these commissions are forever doing, demanding more government and more aid from the evil “white man,” will make it worse. Indians must be treated as equals, and that means Indians must take matters into their own hands.

Passing more powers and money to “band leadership,” as these commissions demand, is the worst of it. The “band leadership,” a concept alien to Indian culture, has done more than anything to crush individual initiative. And it is further removed from any democratic control than is the government bureaucracy. Band leaderships are usually now nominally elected. But a democracy cannot function when the government controls all income, and owns everything. They can buy votes, and any opposition can be crushed or driven out before it can organize. It does not work in the Third World, it did not work in Eastern Europe, and it cannot work on the shores of Hudson Bay.

For more, see my book Playing the Indian Card. Available from Amazon and Smashwords, and soon from other outlets.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Canada as a White Supremacist Nation

Japanese-Canadians heading for internment.

My portside pal Xerxes has declared Canada a “white supremacist” nation.

I doubt there can be more than perhaps a few hundred white supremacists in Canada. I suspect “white supremacy” has not been a living ideology anywhere in North America since the 1960s at the latest. Perhaps a little later in parts of Africa. All the sudden talk of “white supremacists” over just the last two years is reminiscent of the McCarthyite “communists in the State Department” scares in the 1950s, but ratcheted up exponentially. Mass hysteria.

Where is it coming from? No doubt, from the impulse to shout “Shut up!” at things you do not want to hear. All expressions of dissent from the general public are suddenly “white supremacy.” In the US, just voting for Trump makes you a “white supremacist.”

To call Canada a “white supremacist nation” is out of contact with objective reality. Canada, America, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore, stand apart as the handful of non-ethnically-based nations in the world. Everywhere else, nationality is based largely on shared genetics. And Canada is not even tarnished, like America, by slavery or Indian Wars or forced relocation of any aboriginal people. If Canada is “supremacist,” there is no such thing as a non-supremacist country. Making the term meaningless.

Xerxes, in making his charge, does cite a few specific examples of “white supremacy.” First, the old head tax on Chinese immigration. It is worth noting that this is the only example in Canadian history of discrimination in immigration based on country of origin.

But this was, in its day, a “progressive” measure. It was Canadian labour, naturally enough, who demanded it. They saw the Chinese as unfair competition for jobs; a Chinese man whose family stayed home could accept a job at what would not be a living wage for a Canadian man with a local family to support. One can understand their concern, and, right or wrong, it was not “racist.”

It should perhaps also be noted that the first restrictions on Chinese immigration were at the insistence of the Chinese government—who saw human capital as their chief resource. And for centuries China of course simply did not allow foreigners to immigrate into China.

Xerxes then cites Canada turning away Jewish refugees before the Second World War.

This seems misplaced as a supposed example of “white supremacy.” When did Jews stop being “white”? When did they become “white” again?

In any case, although the government’s actions seem callous now that we see what Hitler then did, it should be remembered that Canada was at the time in the middle of the Great Depression. Virtually no immigration was allowed in those conditions; Jews were not singled out. Again, the exclusion was in the interests of labour, not racism.

Xerxes then cites the internment of Japanese-Canadians during the Second World War. Here, he does seem to have an example of real racial discrimination. “Enemy aliens” were interned as a matter of course, in Canada as in other countries; but the Japanese interned were often Canadian citizens. Their loyalty was not trusted; German-Canadians and Italian-Canadians were not subject to the same treatment. Still, it all happened in a state of war emergency, when jumping at shadows seems relatively understandable; it might have been safer than leaving them at risk from possible lynch mobs; and in 1988, the Mulroney government issued both an apology and financial compensation.

If that’s the worst that can be said of Canadian racism, it is time Canadians were proud of this heritage.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Culture Wars Hit Home

All images returned by Googling "gay pride parade Toronto." Some were too graphic to be used.

More madness, this time close to home.

Fr. Robert Chisholm, the pastor of St. Gregory’s Catholic Church in Picton, Ontario, recently included a brief note in the church bulletin that Catholics should avoid Gay Pride Events:

“A reminder that Catholics and all other Christians should not attend LGBTQ2 ‘Pride Month’ events held this month. They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Christian faith and morals. This is especially harmful to children because it could lead them away from God's revealed Truth. Even in ‘The County’ there are Pride flags and banners flying courtesy of the Government. Think.........these are your tax dollars at work!”

Now there are apparently pickets in front of the church, and local Catholics have been pulling their children out of the parochial school. Teachers are passing out gay pride flags and banners to their charges in opposition. CBC quotes one local businessman (who says he is Catholic, but also that he does not attend church) saying “This is just one man with one deranged view.” The CBC offers this as the voice of the local Catholic lay community. 

The offending bulletin has now been pulled down from the parish web site. Michael Mulhall, the new archbishop of Kingston, has issued a statement:

“I did not sanction this message, and it does not reflect the spirit of accompanying charity and compassion that should always characterize our faith. The archdiocese has spoken with the pastor of the parish. He regrets any hurt his inappropriate comments have caused.”

Problem: Fr. Chisholm was doing his duty, of reminding his parishioners of Catholic doctrine. What he put in the bulletin was almost word-for-word what has been said recently by Bishop Tobin of Providence, RI.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 2357:

“Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

Surely attending a Gay Pride event suggests approval? 

And note, tolerance is a very different matter from approval.

What exactly is a Gay Pride event about? There seem to be only two possibilities: either it is celebrating the fact of being attracted to members of the same sex; or it is celebrating, as Fr. Chisholm says, “a culture,” the gay lifestyle, which is to say, having sexual relations with members of the same sex.

If it is the former, “Gay Pride” is at best an expression of unearned pride—one of the Seven Deadly Sins. If you were, as they say, “born this way,” or otherwise have no choice, you cannot take credit for it either. A “Gay Pride” parade is no more moral, simply on this basis, than an “Aryan Pride” parade. 

If it is the latter, a celebration of sexual acts, it is also an endorsement of a second deadly sin, lust.

Even if you ignore the homosexual aspect, this is a celebration of sex outside of marriage. It does not sound a lot better if you refer to it as “Fornication Pride Month” or the “Casual Sex Pride Parade.” The events often feature nudity, to an extent that would cause scandal if done by heterosexuals.

“Gay Pride” parades also often feature deliberate and open mocking of religion: men dressed up as nuns, for example. 

I can understand, even sympathize, with Archbishop Mulhall for caving in, and throwing a loyal priest to the lynch mob. Nevertheless, it is an abdication of his most basic responsibility as a shepherd. It amounts to a scandal. For in doing so, he has also abandoned a large flock to prowling wolves in a moment of need.

It is probably important, given the general prejudice against Catholicism that this incident displays, to point out that homosexuals have never had a better friend than the Catholic Church. Look down the list of famous homosexual writers and artists: Oscar Wilde; Tennessee Williams; W.H. Auden; Evelyn Waugh; Gerard Manley Hopkins; Andy Warhol; Milo Yiannopoulis today. All died devout Christians; all but Auden Catholic.

To suggest that the Catholic Church is not welcoming to “gays” is absurd. The Catholic Church is their natural home.

What is not welcoming to gays is “Gay Pride” events. They are simply general invitations to sin of various kinds.

LifeSite News has stated a petition in defense of Fr. Chisholm. You can sign here.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Wild in the Streets in Hong Kong

The current situation in Hong Kong seems another example of the world gone mad.

When the Arab Spring protests arose, it was unpredictable. Governments were only engaged in oppression as usual. Yet this outburst looks provoked. Anyone could have seen the Hong Kong general public would be outraged by the new extradition measure.

But then, equally mad is China’s recent rattling of sabres over the South China Sea.

China has been steadily rising in both economic and in military power. And so the calculation should be simple: war is against her interests. Given only peace, she holds a winning hand. And war tomorrow is likely to be more successful than war today, on into the indefinite future. Accordingly, the sensible strategy would have been to keep smiling at everybody, bowing nicely, and looking as non-threatening as possible.

There can really be only one explanation for the Chinese government’s current conduct; and it is the same that explains Justin Trudeau’s recent conduct, or that of high-tech firms like Google.

The Chinese leadership knows something that convinces them that, in fact, for them, the future will not be better than the past. If they delay their drive for regional hegemony, they will soon be in a worse, not a better, position for war. And, if they do not brave these mass protests in Hong Kong today, protests in the foreseeable future will be far worse. They feel they will need this draconian weapon they are now demanding.

The Chinese government expects collapse.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Is Trudeau Panicking?

Standing tall.
In another sign of our fractious times, Colby Cosh has declared in the National Post that Justin Trudeau is “losing his marbles”; that he is “paranoid and unhinged.”

Unfortunately, I fear Cosh is right; and such things, impolite and ad hominem as they seem, may actually need to be said.

What prompts this for Cosh is Trudeau’s response to a recent letter signed by six premiers, warning that his proposed Bill C-48, effectively prohibiting new pipeline construction, will damage national unity. The Senate apparently agrees with them, and, in bipartisan consensus, has called for significant amendments to the bill.

Instead of any hint of compromise, Trudeau has declared that, by warning of threats to national unity, the premiers are threatening national unity. The Senate is threatening national unity.

It seems a classic example of hysterical denial. The polls, not incidentally, show that the premiers are exactly right. There will be hell to pay in terms of popular sentiment in the West for separation if the bill goes through. It seems even the nation is threatening national unity. Trudeau is simply in full denial of objective reality, and he is “projecting” his faults on others.

Cosh does not mention it, but it seems to me the current Liberal push to reintroduce section 13 to the Human Rights code, criminalizing “hate speech,” is similarly hysterical. The obvious suspicion is that the real aim is to criminalize dissent. It is the typical response of those in full denial to any criticism: “Shut up! Just shut up! Shut up or I will hit you.”

So was Trudeau’s heavy-handed treatment of Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott. A sensible man, it seems to me, would not have pushed it to the point at which Wilson-Raybould and Philpott would resign from cabinet. It looks as though the game was never worth the candle. There seem to be a series of points at which Trudeau might have defused the crisis, and instead chose to “act tough.” He kept doubling down.

So too with Trudeau’s frequent condemnation of other governments on the international stage. He has burned up a lot of Canada’s good will elsewhere by acting as if Canada were some world power, with the right to comment on internal affairs anywhere. Why, other than to feel important?

It is perhaps as Aeschylus says of Zeus in Prometheus Bound: “his rule is always harsh whose rule is new.” That is, more broadly, repressive, arrogant, and inflexible reactions are signs of a fear of loss of control. Trudeau was from the start underqualified for his position. Panic is probably his instinctive reaction. To steady himself, he probably leaned on a few trusted advisors. He lost those advisors in the SNC-Lavalin scandal. It forced them to take the blame and resign. Now he truly has no idea what to do, and so his reaction is to cover this by acting tough. He is no doubt doomed now no matter what, in the next election. The danger is that he can smash an awful lot of china before then.

It seems to me that something like the same dynamic must also be behind the current censorship crackdown in and by social media. Google, Twitter, Facebook, and the rest seem to be acting directly against their own interests, and acting at the same time abruptly and erratically. Their recent response to Vox demands to censor Steven Crowder seemed flip back and forth hour by hour, as if they were unsure what to do. They are since resisting giving reasons for their decisions.

They have to somehow know they are doomed. They must be hearing footsteps. And this is after all altogether likely. High-tech businesses are intrinsically vulnerable to sudden fall, as technology moves on. Facebook should know; they suddenly and swiftly rose by imitating and knocking off MySpace. Google should know. They largely achieved their rise to dominance by knocking Microsoft off their pedestal. They must now see some new technology coming down the pike that makes their business model unsustainable. Some technology that they cannot co-opt by either purchase or imitation. They are flailing about in panic as a result. They feel the instinctive need to control the flow of information, because the information to come is soon not going to be to their advantage.

“Shut up! Just shut up! Shut up or I will hit you.”

More generally, this explains the hysterics on the left, which is to say, in the party of the professions. The professions as a whole are in trouble, and they know it. They are technically obsolete, in many cases—as we have surely already seen with journalism. And they are going to kick and scream and clutch the carpet, like Trudeau is, and stuff any silverware in their pockets, as they are dragged by divine Providence out the door. I’m afraid they may spill blood.

We live in what the Chinese might say are interesting times.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Coventry Welcome

St. Michael's (Anglican) Cathedral, Coventry.

On the doors of England’s Coventry Cathedral, I am told, there is a sign or poster that reads:

“We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, widowed, straight, gay, confused, well-heeled, or down at heel. We especially welcome wailing babies and excited toddlers.

“We welcome you whether you can sing like Pavarotti or just growl quietly to yourself. You’re welcome here if you’re ‘just browsing,’ just woken up, or just got out of prison. We don’t care if you’re more Christian than the Archbishop of Canterbury, or haven’t been to church since Christmas ten years ago.

“We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome keep-fit mums, football dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, and junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems, are down in the dumps, or don’t like ‘organized religion.’

“We offer a welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or are here because granny is visiting and wanted to come to the Cathedral.

“We welcome those who are inked, pierced, both, or neither. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down their throat as kids, or got lost on the ring road and wound up here by mistake. We welcome pilgrims, tourists, seekers, doubters -- and you!”

This represents the common modern sentiment: that the Church is for everyone.

Yet this is actually not the Gospel message. It is not what Jesus said. He divided mankind into sheep and goats, or wheat and chaff, and welcomed only the sheep. The rest, he said, quite literally, could go to Hell. He defined his flock in the Beatitudes, as “the little people,” the burdened, the suffering, and followed this up with an equally clear definition of those he did not want: the scribes and Pharisees. When some of them came to see John baptize, arguably the first Christian service, John basically told them to get lost: “You bunch of snakes! Who warned you to run from the coming judgment?”

Who were the scribes and Pharisees? Most literally, the intelligentsia, the educated professional class: the lawyers, journalists, accountants, teachers, professors, ministers.

It is perhaps worth noting here that, contrary to Marxist theory, this professional class, this clerisy, has always been the ruling class.

And the priests? That’s not clear. Properly, the priests of that day were the Sadducees. While Jesus’s relations with them were also difficult, he did not single them out in the same way. The phrase was “Pharisees,” or “scribes and Pharisees.” He might have added Sadducees, and generally did not. Whether or not the Sadducees of Judea can be equated with the Christian priesthood, they were not so condemned.

Instead, it was the professional “clerisy.”

I think we can also assume Jesus’s condemnation did not apply to an entire class as class; that would be arbitrary. There are some good Pharisees in the Bible. Some think St. Paul was a Pharisee in this sense. What Jesus was condemning seems rather to have been the pervasive attitude among such ruling groups that they are better than the “little people,” the laity, the Trump voters and the rednecks, the ordinary folks, and had the moral authority to tell them what to do: the self-righteous. “Pharisee” means literally “set apart, separated.” More or less, “elite.” This attitude no doubt is concentrated in the professional classes, but narcissism of a similar sort can of course appear elsewhere.

My portside buddy Xerxes proposes his own list of undesirables who should not be allowed in the cathedral--not, at least, without changing their views: “racists, misogynists, white supremacists, anti-gays, anti-Muslims, anti-immigrants.”

All of these things are indeed no doubt sinful, gravely sinful if indulged in with full understanding, since they violate human equality, and so the Golden Rule. But they are not the sins Jesus considered deal-breakers. Sin per se is after all no reason to bar anyone from the church. As Jesus said, he came for sinners, not the righteous.

And from either a Christian or human rights perspective, Xerxes’s list is incomplete. It condemns misogynists, but not misandrists; white supremacists, but not black supremacists, brown supremacists, Amerindian supremacists, or Asian supremacists. Anti-gays, but not anti-heterosexuals. Anti-Muslims, but not Muslims who might be anti-Christian, anti-Hindu, or antisemitic. Anti-immigrants, but not “anti-natives” who condemn or scorn their host culture.

Instead of opposing discrimination, this list, and any similar list, is discriminating.

And looks very much like the sort of list the Pharisees might impose on the great unwashed. Hypocritically; or as we more commonly call it nowadays, as “virtue signaling.”

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Ora Pro Nobis

We are currently, I believe, living in a world gone mad. Because of the power of social media, the ruling class, the clerisy, feels deeply threatened. As a result, they are acting hysterically. The signs are multiplying and growing more obvious. YouTube actually seems to be committing public suicide. The New York Times has just run a story suggesting that all right-wing commentary is brainwashing. A group calling itself “Super Happy Fun America” has proposed holding a “Straight Pride March” in Boston, and this is somehow seen by many media sources as an existential threat.

The rulers are terrified of the people.

We can only hope the collapse of the ancien regime is without serious violence. At this point, it is hard to see what restraints on their actions the left-elite acknowledges. Postmodernism is, in the end, a systematic rejection of all restraints. The outcome, I think, is not in doubt, but getting to it may be terrible. Totalitarian government in America, or in Britain or Canada, suddenly looks like a possibility.

Mother Mary, pray for us.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Want to Really Combat Hate Speech? Here's How

Pope Francis has called for more civility in social media. A helpful, if not an urgent, reminder.

Steve Crowder has been “demonetized” by YouTube for supposedly “harassing” another commentator, Carlos Maza, in responding critically to videos the latter posted. Crowder used the terms “lispy queer” and “Mexican.” He also sells a t-shirt that reads “Socialism is for f-gs.” With a picture of a fig where the letter is missing.

But is this harassment? All the terms quoted above were said in a humorous tone. Crowder is a comedian. He refers to members of his crew, with apparent affection, as “half-Asian X” and “not-gay Y.” Maza is indeed a “queer,” a term preferred by homosexuals themselves, and publicly bills himself as “gay.” He does have a lisp. Is it, therefore, harassment to say so? Is it insulting to call someone a Mexican?

Nothing Crowder said is actually pejorative. They were statements of fact. To make them pejorative, you have to impute motive. This is not legitimate. Allow it, and there are no boundaries.

By contrast, how about these phrases, commonly allowed on YouTube and throughout the media:

“toxic masculinity”

“too much testosterone”



“male privilege”

“white privilege”

“If you are not a woman, you have no right to an opinion on…”

“too male”

“too white”

These are seen everywhere daily. These are, in contrast to anything Crowder said, clearly intended to insult, to demean, to exclude, and/or to promote hate.

And notice how easy it would be for YouTube to set up one of Google’s vaunted algorithms to catch them.

Censorship is wrongheaded. It is a fundamental error, and a fundamental violation of human rights, to try to enforce manners by law. But if we are to censor “harassment,” at a minimum, it must be actual harassment, and not just an alibi for censoring opinions with which we disagree—and cannot rationally counter.

Which is clearly the case with Crowder.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

The True Meaning of the Adpocalypse

Half-Canadian homophobic white supremacist Nazi Steve Crowder

In the current and ongoing crisis that has been dubbed the “Vox Ad Apocalypse,” following immediately after milkshakegate, I think many are missing the key significance.

It means the left is in free fall. The right has won.

The violent urge to shout “shut up” comes when you realize you have lost the argument.

Recall the words attributed to Gandhi: “First they ignore you. Then they mock you. Then they fight you. Then you’ve won.”

It is not people holding “extremist” views—that is, uncommon views—who are being silenced. Nothing Crowder, or MacInnis, or Robinson, or Benjamin, or Yiannopoulos, say, would sound out of place in a pub. It would have been pretty much self-evident truth anywhere in North America as recently as a decade ago. When these views are put to a popular vote, as in the recent UK EU elections, or the election of Trump, they often turn out to represent a plurality or a majority of the public.

The demands to censor fall not on “extremists,” but on those more broadly on the “right” (which is to say, more accurately, not on the culturally Marxist left) who are scoring debating points most effectively against the leftist dogmas.

The silencing of Crowder is an example of this. The demands to deplatform came directly from Vox, and from the guy who made their videos, Carlos Maza, immediately after Crowder posted a devastating takedown of one video.

And Maza and Vox have still not calmed down. They are demanding more. They are, in a word, hysterical. They have lost the argument, and they know it.

YouTube, Facebook, and the rest, have been tragically foolish to go along with this public pressure so far. They probably just wanted to avoid any bad pr, and got caught in the crossfire. Neither human psychology nor jurisprudence are their forte. But it is now at a point where no matter what they do, someone is enraged. And specifically, nothing they do can ever satisfy the Mazas, who are hysterical. The silicon brigade ought to have realized this by now.

Meantime, as a result of such demands, it is their best and most popular content that is being targeted. YouTube has turned against both their suppliers, their content providers, and their customers. Which amounts to suicide for the platform. At the same time, they are drawing attention to their power, provoking anti-trust investigations.

As some economist once said, things that cannot go on forever, won’t.

Either YouTube, Google, Facebook, Patreon, Twitter, et al, are about to reverse themselves, and turn on the left, or they are going to die, and be replaced; not a difficult matter to accomplish in cyberspace. They could all easily be gone in six months.

As I have previously noticed, their odd apparent inability to foresee this suggests they may think they will all be gone in six months anyway, due to technological improvements. Tim Berners-Lee is about to give us a new Internet.

Either way, the left as we know it is going down in flames before our eyes. They have lost all moral legitimacy.

There may be some new left to replace them; perhaps the Greens and a program that sticks mostly to environmentalism.

But the identity politics left is a dead cisgender male walking.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Lead Us Not into Innovation

Rumour has it that Pope Francis is changing the words to the Lord’s Prayer (the Our Father).

These rumours are false, it seems. He has approved a change to the Italian translation. “Lead us not into temptation” becomes something like “do not abandon us to temptation” (“non abbandonarci alla tentazione”).

I believe it would be a mistake to make a similar change to the English translation. But that does not seem to be proposed.

I think it would be a mistake for two reasons. Neither of them on the grounds that the change would be theologically wrong. First, because it would cause the Catholic version of the prayer to diverge from the Protestant version. Introducing some new difference, without a very good reason, is bad for ecumenism. Anyone want to comment on the insertion of the single word “filioque” into the Creed, and the millennium-long intra-Christian strife to which that led? But this concern is surely minimal for Italian. There are not so many Italian-speaking Protestants.

The second reason is pastoral. I recall the terrible disorientation caused by abandoning the Latin mass a couple of generations ago. Some cite this as accounting entirely for the falloff in Mass attendance since. The statistical graph looks like a cliff right when this change was introduced. Nothing to me—to me, the mass is the mass—but it meant a great deal to many. The weekly mass was the one reliable moment of stability for some amidst the modernist chaos. It was as though the ridge-pole was pulled out from their lives. The same would be true for a change to the Lord’s Prayer, something all Catholics have learned by heart. Perhaps in spades.

For about the same reason, I am troubled by reports that Francis wants to allow non-Catholics to take communion. “Let’s not wait for the theologians to come to agreement on the eucharist,” he is reported to have said on a flight home from Romania.

But, as usual, his words seem to have been misquoted and misconstrued. If you include just a little more of the context, what he said sounds very different:

“To walk together: this is already Christian unity, but do not wait for theologians to agree to arrive at communion. Communion happens every day with prayer, with the memory of our martyrs, with works of charity and even of loving one another.”

He was not, it seems, referring to the Eucharist, but to communion in the more general sense.

A good rule of thumb seems to be: never believe anything reported about Pope Francis until you have consulted at least three sources. One of them CNA.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Andrew Scheer and Unlucky Section 13

An important life lesson: never trust a man (or woman) who is always smiling.

I think Andrew Scheer has made a major blunder. He seems unaware that politics has changed. Scheer has pleased no one with his censure of Edmonton MP Michael Cooper. Half of the commentators are outraged that Cooper was disciplined; the other half are outraged that he was not thrown out of caucus.

Scheer was doing the old politics of triangulation to grapple the Liberals for the centre. But there is no centre any more. We agree on nothing any longer. In such a climate, compromise only looks like lack of principle. Because it is. It is exactly that. It is appeasement.

Had Scheer backed Cooper, at least half of the population, those who are naturally inclined to vote Conservative, would have cheered him. By distancing himself from and disciplining Cooper, he has alienated them, and gained the support of no one. Had he even gone so far as throwing Cooper out of caucus, he would probably have gained nothing. Those on the left have too many alternatives already.

Cooper’s supposed offense was berating a witness before the Commons Justice Committee who tried to link mass shootings with “conservative commentators.” Crucially, the committee was considering bringing back the notorious Section 13 of the Human Rights Act, which restricted free speech in Canada by punishing “hate speech.”

In making his point that the charge was nonsense, Cooper quoted from the suppressed manifesto of the Christchurch shooter, in which the latter condemned conservatives and conservatism. He might also have pointed out, but did not, that if conservative commentators can be held responsible for mass shootings, so, by the same logic, could every Muslim imam or commentator, including the man before him.

Scheer, in taking the stance that he did, seems to actually have endorsed the concept that censorship in general is a good idea, that conservative commentary leads to mass shootings, and that it ought to be suppressed.

With friends like that, conservatives hardly need enemies?

If the Conservative Party is not going to defend the right to conservative opinions, what is the point of a Conservative Party? If the Tories as well as the Liberals are happy to take away free speech, why is voting Conservative any better than voting Liberal?

Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party may look too far down in the polls to drain away many votes on the right, but that could now change. Compare Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, which went from creation to dominance in six weeks. That’s the new politics. Bernier’s group seems to be doing well at finding candidates.

Aside from this, there is the danger that conservative activists may now not work the phones, or just stay home. “Firing up the base” is claimed to be what netted George W. Bush his two wins.

And suppose Scheer wins, then goes on to govern as he seems set to campaign, as just another Liberal administration? That’s what Mulroney tried. The result was to break the old PC party into three pieces. When an opinion held strongly by a large proportion of the electorate sees no outlet in the major parties, something has to give.

It is a great pity Scheer won the Conservative leadership instead of Bernier. Scheer apparently won because everyone in caucus liked him. His skills were the skills required in a House Speaker. He is miscast as a leader.

It is as Confucius said:

“If an appointee to public office has no friends, it is necessary to make inquiries. If an appointee to public office has no enemies, it is necessary to make inquiries.”

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

The Decriminalization of Dissent

The classical method of "cutting people off."

My left-listing friend Xerxes just surprised me by coming out against censorship, against unfriending in social media, and against shouting down speakers with whom you disagree. This would seem to buck the trend on the left, of demanding ever-increasing and ever-more-stringent censorship.

His may be only one voice. Or this may be a symptom that the left has gone too far, and that the “Just Walk Away” movement is spreading. Gag reflexes may be kicking in.

Xerxes writes of receiving offensive emails:

“You have these friends, see, who keep sending you emails filled with racist slurs against Muslims, abortionists, ‘Indians’ (they still use that term), Hindus, Asians, and immigrants in general.”

And he ponders:

“Should you cut them off? Block their emails? Terminate the friendship?”

But concludes:

“Isolating persons with whom we disagree simply amplifies the echo chamber they live in.”

There are a lot of problems here. But in a backhanded, incoherent way, he seems to recognize that something has gone wrong. He’s just not clear yet whodunit.

To begin, note that he speaks of “racist slurs” against abortionists. You may have noticed that abortionists are not actually a race.

Neither are Muslims, Hindus, or immigrants.

So he is using the term “racism” incorrectly.

This might be trivial, if it is simply a matter of saying “racism” when he meant “prejudice.” But that does not work either. It is hard to see how one would be prejudiced against abortionists. To call someone an “abortionist” is to say they have performed a specific act. What then is one pre-judging? If it is a matter of saying that the act is wrong, that is not a prejudice, but a “judice”— a moral judgement.

It looks as though Xerxes is still simply using the term “racism” to refer to views or political positions with which he disagrees.

Now, the thought that you should “cut someone off” and end a friendship simply because you disagree with them seems self-evidently wrong. Let’s look at his justification:

“Should you cut them off? Block their emails? Terminate the friendship?
Or do you try to reason with them? Prove their so-called facts incorrect? Point out the flaws in their logic?
That might work if they reached their views as a reasoned conviction. But that’s unlikely. More likely, they’re regurgitating cultural memes they’ve accepted without any conscious analysis.”

That is, he says it is impossible to reason with them because they are only repeating things they have heard, and have never thought about.

But that is an obvious non sequitur. If they hold their opinions from ignorance, it is commonly held that people are capable of both thinking and learning. Entire schools have been founded on this premise. If this were the issue, it is the perfect argument for continuing the dialogue. They are misinformed; you inform them.

So whatever the real reason Xerxes and the left previously wanted to censor, deplatform, and silence dissenting views, and still does at some level, this cannot be it. And since this claim is so obviously through-the-looking-glass, I think we can assume that the real reason is discreditable. Otherwise nobody would be able to convince themselves of something so absurd. This is what psychology calls “denial.”

I think he hints at the real reason with his conclusion. It is as though truth is beginning to dawn.

“Isolating persons with whom we disagree simply amplifies the echo chamber they live in.”

Now, who is isolating themselves, the friends who send him the emails, or him, if he “cuts them off”?

This is where the left, and the clerisy who presume they rule the rest of us, have been living. And they are perhaps, if Xerxes is an indication, now beginning to realize it.

In a list of oddly random complaints, as though he does not want to look at the issue too directly, Xerxes then expresses dissatisfaction with “various right-and/or-left-wing advocacy groups who shout down speakers they don’t approve of...”

The next thing he needs to realize, of course, is that it has been exclusively left-wing groups doing this. That’s too much, no doubt, for now.

But I sense a shift in the wind. Sometimes you don’t need a weatherman.

Monday, June 03, 2019

What Have We Been Missing?

I love Alex Colville. I believe his painting usually have a distinct spiritual message. I took a lot of photos at a Colville exhibition in Ottawa a few years ago.

This one perhaps best sums up them all: what have we been missing? What are we forgetting?

Or this one: Death is our hitchhiker. We are about to cross that bridge. Hadn't we better look in the rear-view mirror?

You start to get the picture, so to speak.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Politics as Entertainment: The Provisional Oscars

BoJo the clown.

I am hoping Boris Johnson wins the UK Tory leadership. Because politics is entertainment, and he is a skilled entertainer.

I make no apologies for this view. Politics otherwise accomplishes very little. And should probably not attempt to do more, since anything it does is coercive. The best a political leader can do for any electorate is to entertain and inspire, to get them through the mire in better spirits.

Most people, whether fully aware of it or not, also seem to choose political leaders for entertainment or for inspiration value, not really for any other reason. They choose someone they want to see regularly on their TV for the next four years. This was Hillary Clinton’s fatal flaw, and Barack Obama’s strength.

Will Ferguson wrote a humorous history of Canada called Bastards and Boneheads, evaluating each of Canada’s prime ministers. He got it gravely wrong. He ranked first ministers in terms of whether they managed to impose their will—“bastards”—or had others’ wills imposed on them—“boneheads.” Very wrong, I think, in a democracy, totalitarian in tone, and cynical.

I think it far more meaningful to rank the PMs in terms of their entertainment or inspiration value. A far better measure of their real relative success in the job.

Citing only the premiers I remember personally:

Any excuse to run a picture of John Diefenbaker.

John Diefenbaker 

Probably the greatest Canadian political entertainer in my lifetime. Unfortunately, he was perfectly cast for the role of opposition leader, not prime minister. His specialty, honed in the courtroom, was righteous indignation. In power, he was paralyzed by a lack of enemies. He did his best, but it was no longer plausible. A comic who lost his straight man.

Lester Pearson 

If Diefenbaker was shaped by his experience as a defense attorney, Pearson was shaped by his career as a diplomat. His instinct was to stay out of the camera frame. His idea of leadership was to let each minister make of his or her portfolio what they would, while he just tried to keep them on speaking terms. This led to vastly entertaining politics, the emergence of stars in supporting roles like Judy LaMarsh, Walter Gordon, Paul Hellyer, Jack Pickersgill, and Joe Greene, not to mention Pierre Trudeau, John Turner, and Jean Chretien; but it served Pearson’s own career poorly. And led to a period of over-government.

The complete entertainer. And you knew I was going to run this picture.

Pierre Trudeau

Trudeau was well aware of being a performer—he has said as much, in critiquing his early performances. And he did a great job of it; he understood the importance of style. The role he played was a matinee idol, roughly in the 60s tradition of James Bond. He was both inspiring and entertaining.

Joe Clark

Anyone immediately following Trudeau was sure to get bad reviews. Clark was physically and verbally awkward and had no stage presence. “Joe Who?” was not just a comment on the public’s initial lack of familiarity with him. It lingered long after that. It was his inability to play any kind of recognizable part.

John Turner

Turner shared with Clark the misfortune of following Trudeau. Running the cartoon after the main feature never works. Just like Clark, by comparison with the master, he always seemed physically awkward, and as though he could never get into character. He was always too aware of being on stage. He could not say his lines with conviction: “I had no choice.” “I happen to believe you sold us out.”

Brian Mulroney

Mulroney by contrast had it easy. To win, he only had to come across as more interesting than John Turner, who seemed to give the term “empty suit” a bad name. Mulroney’s rhetorical talent was limited, but he had some. He failed, in the end, because he thought he had more than he did. Things he said to inspire instead came across as hollow boasting. He could not make the audience believe.

Jean Chretien

After Trudeau, Chretien is the master. But in a lesser way. Trudeau could both entertain and inspire. Chretien could only entertain. He had a fine and a long run with his nicely rough-hewn “p’tit gars de Shawinigan” persona. It was more than a little corny, but he was great, and lovable, at it.

Paul Martin

To some extent, Martin failed for the same reasons Clark or Turner did: the public had become accustomed to someone more interesting. He was perhaps the best finance minister Canada ever had. But that takes different skills to be PM. He could not convey a character or a conviction. That’s why he got the “Mr. Dithers” label. It was his equivalent of “Joe Who?” 

Just look into those steel-grey eyes. And don't try anything funny.

Stephen Harper

Harper is the anomaly in this thesis. He is conspicuously grey and boring. And yet he won several elections. Partly, he was lucky in his adversaries: Martin, then Dion, then Ignatieff. Compare the ahistorical surge of party three under Jack Layton: at least the NDP had given the public someone interesting to watch.

It is also not entirely fair to see Harper as a bad actor. He was really a good actor who chose the role of a quiet manager, a part that required avoiding histrionics. It is far from easy to be a great straight man. And a great straight man is also entertaining. I don’t know about others, but for me, Frank Shuster was always more interesting to watch than Johnny Wayne. Martin was more interesting than Lewis. George Burns was more interesting than Gracie Allen. The greatest comedians are often straight men: Emmett Kelly, Buster Keaton.

Harper seemed to be well aware of what he was doing, too. He more or less told Canadians that there are more important things in life than politics. Like hockey. “No surprises” and “no hidden agendas” were pretty much the watchwords of his administration.

Why didn’t Harper get tagged with a moniker like “Mr. Dithers” or “Stephen Who?” Because he did not bill himself as offering thrills or high drama. That is the key: he did not fail at a role. He succeeded brilliantly.

Justin Trudeau

Petit Patate is well aware of the need to entertain, which he surely learned at his father’s knee. That may be why he gravitated to substitute drama teaching in the first place. He just turns out to be utterly talentless.

It is painful, as with his India trip, to watch him try. Pure Gong Show.

On this basis, Boris Johnson is the UK Tories' only hope to remain in power. He may be their only hope to remain a major party. Nigel Farage is just too entertaining.

Le deluge.

Now, on this same principle, you might ask, who’s the best bet down in the old Etats-Unis?

Trump, I say, is probably unbeatable. Who was ever more entertaining than Trump? He honed his routine on reality TV, and he knows exactly what he is doing.

But among the Democratic contenders, who would be their best bet?

Not Biden. Biden is a decent red-faced clown, but Trump is also a red-faced clown, and Trump does it better than Biden can. The Democrats’ only hope is that the public may be bored with red-faced clowns. They need to try a change of pace. Like in an old variety show. What act best follows a red-faced clown?

But of course: the pretty woman on the high trapeze. 

Tulsi Gabbard. You can’t say she’s not nice to look at. She comes across, so far, as more sincere than anyone else in the pack. And her seriousness and dignity contrasts well to Trump’s clownishness. If people are sick of Trump, she is the anti-Trump. If he tried to insult her as he does Elizabeth Warren or Hillary Clinton, I think it would only earn her sympathy. At least from all the men.

Bernie Sanders is probably next best. Again, it’s the apparent sincerity, which is another way of saying he is a skilled natural actor. He’s like the tall magician in black who pulls pigeons out of his hat. He promises impossible things fiscally, and voters are liable to want to see how he intends to pull it off.

Andrew Yang is the other name that comes to mind. Same act.

Unfortunately, such magician acts do tend to be easily parodied and disrupted by a red-faced clown.