Playing the Indian Card

Sunday, February 21, 2021



Scott Adams, in his daily podcasts, has pronounced himself puzzled by the apparent truth of an insight from Tucker Carlson: that whatever the left accuses the right of doing seems to be just what they have been doing themselves.

They accuse Trump’s followers of trying to stage an insurrection; they use this as an excuse to try to stage an insurrection. A second or third insurrection, following the Russia hoax and the Ukraine impeachment. They accuse Trump of encouraging rioting; after a year of encouraging rioting. They accuse Trump of authoritarianism, for considering calling in the National Guard to protect the White House under siege, or for considering calling in the Guard to cities torn by rioting. As soon as they are in power, they call in the National Guard to protect Washington, and keep them there. And plan to impose COVID regulations on the states. They accuse Trump of colluding with Russia; Hillary Clinton was colluding with Russia, Joe Biden was colluding with Russia, not to mention China and the Ukraine. They impeach Trump for supposedly, perhaps, interfering in Ukrainian legal affairs and demanding a quid pro quo for aid. Yet Biden is on video boasting about interfering in Ukrainian legal affairs and demanding a quid pro quo for aid. They have called Republicans Nazis and Fascists for years; that’s the entire “Antifa” thing. Then when Gina Carano tweets a comparison of the left to the early Nazis, this is intolerable. She must lose her livelihood for it. They declare the right “anti-Semitic” while being anti-Semitic. They accuse the right of being racist, while making everything about race. They actually declare not being racist, racist. They claim the Republicans are for the rich and against the poor, while openly expressing contempt for the poor.  It is only too obvious there is a pattern here.

The principle is simple, and known since ancient times. When someone commits consciously to evil, to something they know is wrong, the truth becomes their enemy. They feel the need to get as far away from truth as possible. They will come to consistently say the opposite of the truth, and accuse the innocent of their sins.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

War by Other Means


Joe Biden is working for the government of China.

I was recently watching a video on the history of Iran. As a matter of policy, Britain controlled the government of Iran for years in the early 20th century simply by strategically bribing key officials.

Why not? In the end, it is the cheapest option: cheaper than fighting a war, or sending foreign aid, or making any sort of a government-to-government deal. And it avoids provoking possible conflict with other powers also seeking influence.

So why not China? Now that China’s prosperity gives its government some serious money to work with, why wouldn’t they do the same thing Britain once did? They are not strong enough to overcome the US in war; strategic bribery costs much less.

Especially since, unlike in the case of Britain, bribery is a part of the traditional Chinese way of doing business. 

Surely, then, they will have tried; they will have tried to bribe key figures in a country as important to them as the USA.

If this has not previously been an issue, it is because, in the developed world, we could count on most of our elite being too honourable to sell out their country. That was in some significant part why Britain could control Iran through bribery, but Iran could not control Britain. 

But we have seen a visible decline in the morality of our elite in the past few decades. That sort of patriotism is long dead on the left. They will openly declare the US evil in its inception.

We know, in fact, that the Chinese are doing so: they are bribing, infiltrating, and compromising. We heard recently of prominent academics accepting secret funding from China. We hear of Diane Feinstein’s office, and Eric Swalwell’s office, being infiltrated by Chinese spies. We hear of huge numbers of Chinese spies present in the US. 

Joe Biden, as a longterm senator and then VP, on the left and not publicly predisposed to be anti-CCP, would have been an obviously worthwhile target. He must have been approached.

Biden has a reputation of being for sale. He has acquired a personal fortune in office. He has long been understood to be in the pocket of the insurance industry in his home state.

And we have direct evidence he is on the Chinese payroll, from his son’s laptop, confirmed by his son’s business partner.

I think Biden spoke with surprising openness when asked about China’s treatment of its Uyghurs at a recent town hall:

“So, the central -- to vastly overstate it, the central principle of Xi Jinping is that there must be a united, tightly controlled China. And he uses his rationale for the things he does based on that. I point out to him, no American president can be sustained as a president if he doesn't reflect the values of the United States. And so the idea I'm not going to speak out against what he's doing in Hong Kong, what he's doing with the Uyghurs in western mountains of China, and Taiwan, trying to end the One-China policy by making it forceful, I said -- by the way, he said he gets it.

Culturally, there are different norms that each country and their leaders are expected to follow.”

He is excusing the Uyghur genocide as “different cultural norms.” And he seems to have assured Xi Jinping that his opposition to the genocide or to the Hong Kong takeover is purely pro forma, to satisfy public opinion. It does not reflect his own views, and he is not actually going to do anything.

The same attitude could have maintained good relations with Hitler in 1938. Biden sees himself as fundamentally on the same side as Xi, and essentially in opposition to the US population. They must just be kept quiet so business can be done.

If China owns Joe Biden, who else have they bought? 

Justin Trudeau probably need not have been bought. He looks to me like what Lenin used to call a “useful idiot,” with delusions of glamour about Communism. On the other hand, Trudeau has shown himself to be buyable by others. And his actions towards China seem contrary to good sense and Canadian interests. To be sure, his government has also been in conflict with China; but that seems to have been forced on him by the need to honour an extradition treaty with the US.

I suspect from their actions and public stances that China has down payments as well on President Duterte of the Philippines, and President Moon of South Korea.

Nobody in China goes in through the front door. Everything has a back door.

The US, or Britain, or someone, ought to be smart enough to buy Xi Jinping.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Work of Human Hands


These are the words of consecration at the mass:

“the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.

“the wine we offer you: fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become our spiritual drink.”

I suddenly realize it is significant that the bread and wine have two sources: nature plus human effort. This is their essential nature, and this is why they are the things we consecrate.

They are works of art, in the proper sense: they are co-productions of God and man.

This is the divine plan of salvation: God made the natural world to be perfected by man in art. God offers each of us grace and salvation, and it is up to us to respond and to work with it, as in the creation of art.

This is the contrast between the wine of the Eucharist, and the apple of Eden.

We are saved by art—not just the fine arts, but by every craft and skill. We are made, in Genesis, to be gardeners. We are made out of red clay by Yahweh, as a pot is made, and made in his image—to be potters. We are to imitate Christ--and Christ was a carpenter.

Through each work of art, we are building the New Jerusalem.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Wild in the Senate Chamber


Many are celebrating the acquittal of Donald Trump in his Senate trial. Others, of course, are lamenting it.

I am more shocked that 57 Senators could vote for a conviction. The only practical result of a conviction would have been to prevent Trump from running in the next election. That would be irrelevant unless the Democrats believed he had a real chance of getting re-elected. In other words, their intent was to subvert the will of the people, to subvert democracy. To deny the entire population the right to vote.

This was an attempted coup.

It was also a blatant assault on freedom of speech. Trump was being tried for something he said, and for campaign rhetoric. Besides the issue of human rights, freedom of speech is necessary, as John Stuart Mill demonstrated, to have a functioning democracy. This is why no representative can be sued for slander, for example, for anything they say on the floor of the House of Commons. It is essential that political speech by elected officials be unrestricted. Unless all views are heard, the people are not being allowed a choice.

This was an attempted coup, shameless and in broad daylight. It was an attempt to overturn the constitution of the United States, and its system of government. The regrettable January 6 incident, whoever was responsible, was not.

And this attempted coup in the Senate came alarmingly close to succeeding. With alarmingly little objection from anyone.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Thinking Way Too Far Ahead


Possible Republican contenders for presidency in 2024:

Donald Trump. The Republicans make a grave error if they turn away from Trump. If they do, his followers will stay home or form a new party. He is their best shot.

He may, on the other hand, not be up to it after four more years. If so, the ideal contender for the leadership of the Trump faction is Jared Kushner. His involvement in the Abrahamic Accords has demonstrated his ability; he would not just be a Trump surrogate or dynastic successor. And he comes with Ivanka.

There are other possible contenders for the Trump crown: Mike Pompeo, any of Trump’s children; but only one of this group can run. The advantage this faction has is that they will probably only run one of their number; the others will stand down, ensuring a strong showing in the early primaries. If any of them ran against the Trump-backed candidate on their own, they would lose all support for doing so.

If not Trump, there is a large constituency for another non-politician. Another populist candidate might convince people he could do a better job than Trump at draining the swamp, and that is the underlying source of Trump’s appeal. Politicians in general are in disrepute, and the just-concluded impeachment trial has accentuated this. 

This leaves a big opportunity for Tucker Carlson, who is sounding populist now; but I doubt he would want to give up his media position, which probably has more real power to change things. Or Kanye West, as another billionaire; but since he is reputedly crazy, and inexperienced in politics, he comes with a high risk of self-immolation. Other obvious billionaires lack Trumpiness—as Arnold Schwarzenegger discovered when he tried to replace the master on The Apprentice, or as Mike Bloomberg discovered in the Democratic primaries. Doing the in-command billionaire role is not that easy. Elon Musk might be able to do it, but Elon Musk has more important things to do with his genius. Candace Owens has hinted at interest in running; but I’m not sure she has the intellectual chops. I’ve seen her flat-footed in an interview. If it were my choice, I’d love to see Ben Shapiro.

Traditional and religious conservatives are another large constituency within the party. Trump and Trumpites are actually rather odd bedfellows for them. They ought by rights to coalesce around Mike Pence; but Pence may not be capable now of being a unifying figure within the party. He was unfairly blamed by Trump for accepting the Electoral College results, and if he has to run against Trump or a Trumpite in the primaries, this adversarial image will be reinforced.

Ted Cruz is another prominent possibility for the TRCs. He has kept on the good side of the Trump populists. The rap against him is that he is unlikeable. That stopped Bob Dole; it did not stop Richard Nixon. Other possibilities in this slot are Tom Cotton, Tim Scott, Josh Hawley. The problem here is that there are too many possible standard-bearers, and they are unlikely to step aside for one another. This may spread the TRC vote too thin in early primaries, and eliminate them all.

Then there is the libertarian wing of the party. They have an obvious leader in Rand Paul, who has also stayed on the good side of the Trump faction. Paul’s problem, to my mind, is that he sounds unpresidential, whiny. Cut out for opposition, not leadership. Someone has floated a unity ticket of Rand Paul and Tulsi Gabbard. Great idea, but probably not achievable, politics being the art of the possible,

Ron DeSantis as Governor of Florida is making waves these days. But sitting governors are sitting ducks; they have to govern, and bucks stop there when things go wrong. Andrew Cuomo has recently gone from Democrat star to Democrats demanding he resign. Kristi Noem has faded as COVID numbers have risen in her state. Chris Christie was supposed to be the odds-on favourite for the nomination in 2020--and then there was that bridge thing. Some governor may rise, but it is unpredictable four years in advance. 

Dan Crenshaw looks good, and charismatic. But he also seems too new and inexperienced.

What about the party stalwarts, the professionals, the guys who would have backed Jeb Bush last time? I think they have long had their eyes on Nikki Haley. I think Haley may have won their support, but killed her chances of becoming president, by coming out publicly against Trump recently. I don’t see the Republicans winning if they run against Trump instead of the Democrats.

My track record for predicting nominees has been awful. I called it for Jeb Bush last time, for Newt Gingrich the time before, for Rudy Giuliani the time before that. So don’t trust me on this. But I think the next Republican nominee will be Nigel Farage.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

The Real Issue


Some years ago, on an email list populated by professionals, I came out as a fan of free markets. The immediate response was that I must be an objectivist, a Randite. And that, apparently, would have been okay. But when I insisted I was not, that her philosophy seemed to me immoral, I was suddenly shunned.

When the left shows itself so intolerant of the right, it is not “capitalism” or any sort of economic policy that bothers them. It is the hint of a moral order. This is why so much of leftist politics is about sex.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in Art


This CBC Report is disturbing: the government of Canada is giving $19 million dollars to the families of missing indigenous women for works of art.

Even if we ignore the RCMP statistics, common sense tells us that murdered women and girls are relatively unlikely to have been murdered by random strangers. The likeliest suspect is a family member. Aside from such direct murders, girls vulnerable to murder by a stranger are most likely in that vulnerable position because they are trying to escape an abusive family situation. They are trying to “disappear” as a matter of survival. And of the rest, neglect or rejection by their family is most likely to have led them to be on those remote highways alone.

Indians, especially Indian youth, are being sacrificed by the Canadian government to twin idolatries: on the one hand, the myth of the “noble savage,” which holds that no Indian can be held morally responsible for their actions; and on the other, the myth of “family values,” which holds that all families are loving and supportive.

Rejecting the reports of the police, the federal government set up a commission that interviewed only family members of the missing women, in order to get to the “truth” about the missing women.

Great idea. Kind of like interviewing only OJ Simpson to get the “truth” about the death of his wife Nicole.

And OJ didn’t even get a painting out of it.

Sunday, February 07, 2021

The Real Face of Racism

Woodrow Wilson, who wanted all states to be ethnically segregated. See his "Fourteen Points."

The left has recently redefined “racism” to mean any commitment to the founding principles of liberal democracy. Therefore, anyone who holds either conservative or liberal beliefs is “racist,” or “white supremacist.” Only Marxists or anarchists, apparently, are non-racist. And only if they are not themselves white.

Unfortunately, dictionaries can no longer be trusted on any political issues. They are now often altered in real time to reflect current usage, whatever it may be. Accordingly, Merriam-Webster now includes, as a possible definition of racism, “a political or social system founded on racism and designed to execute its principles.” Leftists can therefore argue that the US or Canada were “founded on racism”—supposedly, on slavery, on the unfair seizure of Indian lands--and everything since has accordingly been racism. Supporting the continuance of their systems of liberal democracy thus becomes “racism.” 

This attitude among the publishers of dictionaries, unfortunately, makes dictionaries useless. There is no point looking to them for correct usage: they are looking to you. And this ability to alter the language for political purposes also violates dire warnings left to us by Confucius and by Orwell. The meanings of words are subject to the memory hole.

Webster’s New World Dictionary still gives us the established definition. Quoted in full, racism means “Feelings or actions of hatred and bigotry toward a person or persons because of their race. Discrimination or prejudice based on race. Racism is a belief that one race is superior to the other or the practice of treating a person or group of people differently on the basis of their race.”

Given this definition, the modern left is racist. The political right is not, and I warrant has never been.

It is an old tactic to taunt the left that segregation in the US South was purely a Democratic Party project. It was; the Republicans freed the slaves. The left, however, can respond that “Democratic Party” does not correspond to “leftist”; that these were conservatives who happened then to be Democrats, and are now Republicans. 

But does this wash? The same people who supported segregation were solid supporters of FDR for four elections, with his program more or less defining the modern left. Who in the modern left is against the TVA? They, the segregationists, were almost the sole supporters of Al Smith before him, that supposed radical progressive, and before that solid supporters of Woodrow Wilson, commonly considered the godfather of modern “progressivism.” Wilson’s administration was largely responsible for the entire segregationist system at the federal level.

Indeed, racism was deeply embedded in the progressivism of the early twentieth century; one might even argue it was at the core. “Progressivism” was all about science, and injecting this new expertise into the business of government and social order. And one of science’s brilliant new discoveries was this matter of human races. At least, we could see the dawning of the millennium: the human race could now be genetically perfected. Eugenics was one of its cornerstones. Tommy Douglas wrote his thesis arguing for it. Chinese immigration, at the same time, was banned at the insistence of the labour unions. Immigration was unfair competition for the working class. Although its contents were rather ambiguous, as befits a politician, J.S. Woodsworth wrote a book with the provocative title “Strangers at our Gates.”

The left will counter with “But what about the Nazis? They were the ultimate racists, and they were on the right.”

But by what logic have the Nazis ever been placed on the right? They were, by their own account, socialist revolutionaries and progressives. The associated movement in the arts was called “futurism.” The claim seems based on only two things: that they considered the communists their chief rivals, and that they were racists.

The latter claim is tautological. In fact, the Nazis here were in the mainstream of the left in their day.

The Oxford English Dictionary has no entry for “racism.” The term was invented after the dictionary was compiled: it was invented in the early Twentieth Century—the era of the first “progressives.”

Until modern times, and the Marxist/progressive project of setting human society on a properly scientific foundation, mankind was not classified like animals into biological races, and so racism was not even a possibility. In this fundamental sense, the left invented racism. Conservatives would have found the notion alien. And liberals would have rejected it on the grounds of human equality.

It is true that there was discrimination before this period; there was slavery, for one thing. But this previous discrimination was generally on cultural or religious grounds, not on the basis of race. That might have been better or worse—but it was a different animal.

The founding principles of either Canada or the US are the opposite of racist. The Declaration of Independence declares that “all men are created equal,” and the Constitution guarantees “the equal protection of the laws.” The Canadian Constitution declares “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.”

These promises may or may not have been kept in any given instance, even on a large scale; but they are the system. Those who uphold and defend them, liberals and conservatives, are anti-racist. Those who object to them, Marxists, progressives, and anarchists, in wanting an alternative system, are racists.

The contemporary left aggressively promotes hatred and bigotry based on race: complaints of “white privilege” and overt hatred of “whites,” primarily; sometimes Asians; sometimes Jews. It sees people as groups, races, rather than individuals, and seeks to treat them as such. It demands unequal treatment based on race. This is the dictionary definition of racism.

The left is racist in its nature.

Friday, February 05, 2021



A traditional unsympathetic portrait of the Qin emperor.

Most of the horrors of the modern world can be traced to scientism.

Do not misunderstand me; scientism is not science. But science is rarely heard from in popular culture. Scientism is the pseudo-religion that considers science the source of meaning and reality. It is the dominant faith of our age, and its consequences are profoundly destructive. Not least to science.

When people claim that doubting climate change is “anti-science,” or that “the science is settled” on any given issue, this is scientism, not science.  True science is based on skepticism and taking nothing on authority. Science makes no truth claims; it is a method of inquiry, not a set of dogmas. 

Besides the damage to science, scientism is, for example, the foundation of all racism. If we can agree that racism is a problem, rejecting scientism is the way to solve it. Before science sought to classify humans as if they were animals, the concept of race did not exist. The ancient Romans, or the Medieval Christians, knew nothing of race, and would have considered it as senseless to discriminate against someone due to their skin colour as due to their hair colour or eye colour. This is why both Roman citizenship and Christian baptism was open to all, without discrimination of birth.

Marxism, and all the mass murders it has produced, is also based on scientism. Marxism wanted to reduce all human life to material, and scientific, terms. It defined itself as “scientific socialism,” and was and is, of course, aggressively atheist. People were merely objects, means rather than ends.

Nazism is also directly based on scientism—it is Darwinism applied to the human species.

Everything we today experience as “mental illness” can, I think, also be attributed to scientism, which strips the world of its meaning. It is a striking fact that, before Freud, “mental illness,” melancholy, was generally considered transitory and curable. Now it is multiplying like an epidemic, and is incurable in all its forms. It is still highly curable in non-Western societies.

A Chinese student of mine, without anything being assigned, chose to write and submit an essay arguing for the need for society to support the Humanities. This looks to me like an appeal: Chinese schools and universities, like those in the old Soviet Bloc, do not teach the Humanities. There are no Humanities departments. There are only the STEM fields, and Marxist ideology.

She contends in her essay that this is why the Soviet Bloc fell—history shows, she writes, that any society that neglects the Humanities must fall in time. She cites, along with Eastern Europe, an earlier example from Chinese history, the Qin Dynasty. The Qin unified China in 221 BC under the banner of “legalism,” which emphasized social order as the only value. Books were collected and burned. 

The dynasty lasted only 15 years. It collapsed as the leaders, guided by no principle but power, began executing one another.

A point we are coming to, I fear, in our current societies. Humanities give us morals and meaning. Without the Humanities, there is no “why.” 

My student is not alone in her perception that scientism is a fatal flaw. When the Berlin Wall fell, the new democratic regimes of Eastern Europe thought the same, and sent their academics to the West to bring back knowledge of the Humanities.

Sadly, they discovered that the West, too, had largely abandoned them, in everything but name. Instead they had themselves been concocting and distilling the poisoned Kool-Ade of scientism. 

It has only gotten worse since.

Now the West seems to be falling apart, just as China is falling apart; from the same poison.

The difference is perhaps that there are more people in China who realize the problem. Chinese culture may recover first.

Thursday, February 04, 2021

Paranoia Strikes Deep


Expressions of insanity appear now all the time. A commentator on my friend Xerxes’s latest column says “January 6 was the day the Republican Party illustrated its true purpose—white supremacy.” 


There were probably more genuine communists in the State Department back in Joe McCarthy’s day than there are white supremacists in the entire US today. I have never encountered one, in person or in print, although I have not gone looking. They used to be around, but probably not since the 1960s.

I have seen nothing in the Republican Party on January 6 or any other day that would suggest even tolerance within its ranks for such a view. I recall when Trent Lott was drummed out of the party leadership for a muted suggestion that the Dixiecrats were right back in 1948. While not necessarily “white supremacist,” the Dixicrats—a faction of the Democratic Party of the day—were segregationist. A position still heard in the Democratic Party today, but not among Republicans.

Of course, it is also debatable whether those who illegally entered the capitol building were, indeed, Republicans. Whether they were or not, there is no evidence whatsoever that they did so because of a belief in “white supremacy,” as opposed to a belief that the recent election had been stolen. Had they or even any faction of them indeed been interested in demonstrating in favour of white supremacy, one would have expected at a minimum the publication of a manifesto.

The simplest explanation for this comment is simply that the author of it is insane, in the proper sense of the term. He is completely disconnected from external realities.

Another leftist comments, in alarm, referring still to the events sin Washington on January 6th, “there are, at the last count I could find, 165 well-armed civilian militia groups across the U.S.” This is actually what the framers intended with the Second Amendment: it was to ensure the existence of “a well-regulated militia.” There is nothing sinister about a militia per se, except to a government up to no good. A well-armed citizenry was understood by the framers to be, and is, a protection against abusive government. 

Said commentator writes “all it takes is incendiary speech from misguided leaders to ignite them”—i.e., the militias. If he is referring to January 6, there is no evidence that any militia was involved. Nor that the people who did enter the capitol illegally were inspired by any particular speech. Those who did enter the building did so only minutes after Trump finished his speech, some distance away. They could not have been listening to it. Moreover, there is much evidence online that their invasion of the capitol was planned in advance.

This commentator, too, seems to be delusional; or at least badly misinformed.

He writes, of Republican objections to now being scanned by metal detectors on entering the building, “Can you imagine wanting to carry a concealed handgun into a congressional chamber?”

I can. Mass shootings usually take advantage of gun-free zones. The certain knowledge that no representatives are armed makes them sitting ducks.

As to being concerned about the representatives themselves acting responsibly, these are the people chosen by their peers as the most responsible in their communities, and entrusted with the powers of government, including the power to declare war. Nobody has the authority to overrule the vetting of the people. To demand that authority is itself an attempt to usurp the government; it is a coup attempt.

Another respondent finds it “chilling” that some right-wing outlets are openly suspecting Joe Biden of being a “socialist radical.” This leads her to the conclusion that “the virulence and irrationality of the opposition is very frightening.”

During the recent primaries, Bernie Sanders was Biden’s chief opposition within the Democratic Party; it looked in the early going as though Sanders was going to take the nomination. It seemed to take some fast work in the backrooms to grab the nomination instead for Biden.

Bernie Sanders openly calls himself a socialist. 

It follows that a large proportion of the Democratic Party, perhaps a majority, is socialist in their allegiances. And they have just been elected into power. It is reasonable to at least suspect that Biden either agrees with them, or has cut a deal. It is certainly exponentially more plausible a suspicion than that the Republican Party is “white supremacist.” Literally nobody in the Republican Party, I warrant, would say they are a “white supremacist.”

Another commentator actually quotes Trump telling the crowd on January 6th “to ‘get’ Pence if he didn't stop the certification process.” 

The transcript of his speech, which is available online, shows that Trump did not say this, or anything like it. The quotation is either deliberately invented, or hallucinated.

The characterization, common throughout the left, of the illegal entry into the capitol building as an attempt to seize control of the government seems similarly delusional—indeed, paranoid. Few of the civilians present seem to have been armed. As your correspondent notes, they had no plan for any alternative government. 

By this standard, any political demonstration could be characterized as an attempt to seize control of the government.

The left likes to stress that five people died during the event—as if this demonstrates that it was a violent attempt to seize government. CTV News refers to it in headlines as "the deadly capitol riot." They do not note that four of those five were demonstrators. One woman shot dead by capitol police. Of the other three, one man died of a heart attack; another of a stroke. One was trampled in the crush. These are the sort of things that might happen in any large gathering, especially of relatively elderly people. The officer died the next day of a stroke. As far as we can tell, the worst he suffered at the hands of demonstrators was being pepper sprayed. His death may or may not have been related to the stress of dealing with the protesters.

What are we to make of the fact that a large proportion of the general public seems to have gone insane? How can we respond?

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Dogs in Canada


It is commonly said that people come to resemble their dogs. Perhaps instead it is that people choose dogs that resemble them.

National dog breeds do seem to reflect the personality of the place. German shepherds for the German character: rather aggressive, wolflike, martial. Poodles for France: clever, all show and style. The bulldog for British tenacity: bred to fight bears. America is a beagle, eager to please.

And if so, I think our native breeds speak well for Canada.

Perhaps I must omit the Husky; people may accuse me of cultural appropriation. It is essentially an Inuit-bred dog. Not from the mainstream. Pity, because it is an admirable breed.

But the generic country breed in Eastern Ontario, is the border collie. Kingston holds an annual sheepdog competition that attracts entries from across North America. Originally, of course, a Scottish breed. But then, so are many Canadians. And it seems significant that the border collie is so dominant on Eastern Canadian farms, even though sheep are not.

The border collie is, like the beaver, a tireless worker. Perhaps along with the sedentary poodle, it is the most intelligent of breeds. But a collie makes a terrible watchdog. It is friendly to everyone, and never snaps. Its care is for the welfare and proper order of its flock.

Typical Canadian.

Then there is the Newfoundland: perhaps also the product of a subculture, but one that has its adherents, thanks to internal migration, across Canada. It is so completely identified with Newfoundland, in foreign eyes, that when Newfoundland was first granted a parliament, Punch showed it populated by this dog. Big, powerful, gentle. A dog that will risk his life in heroic rescue. 

And the Labrador, another working dog, common across the country, the world’s finest retriever. Most famous for his gentle bite, which will not puncture the skin of a fallen bird. Much less think to eat it: he will always deliver it instead to the proper authority.

If our dogs reflect our values, as they almost almost self-evidently do, Canadians are nice, Canadians are polite, Canadians work hard with heads down, and Canadians believe in following the rules.

And Canadians are easily distracted by a squirrel.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Thanks for the Dance


Leonard Cohen's posthumously-released "Thanks for the Dance" performed by his former lover Anjani Thomas.

Touching--although the lyrics work better if sung by an old man.

Thanks for the dance

I'm sorry you're tired

The evening has hardly begun

Thanks for the dance

Try to look inspired

One, two, three, one, two, three, one

There's a rose in your hair

Your shoulders are bare

You've been wearing this costume forever

So turn up the music

Pour out the wine

Stop at the surface

The surface is fine

We don't need to go any deeper

Thanks for the dance

I hear that we're married

One, two, three, one, two, three, one

Thanks for the dance

And the baby you carried

It was almost a daughter or a son

And there's nothing to do

But to wonder if you

Are as hopeless as me

And as decent

We're joined in the spirit

Joined at the hip

Joined in the panic


If we've come to some sort of agreement

It was fine, it was fast

We were first, we were last

In line at the Temple of Pleasure

But the green was so green

And the blue was so blue

I was so I

And you were so you

The crisis was light

As a feather

Thanks for the dance

It was hell, it was swell

It was fun

Thanks for all the dances

One, two, three, one, two, three, one...


Saturday, January 30, 2021

History Begins to Rhyme


The original "black  bloc."

Is the US--and the world--going Fascist? The parallels are uncanny.

The Nazis wedged themselves into power in Germany largely because the establishment was distracted with fear of the Bolsheviks. Similarly, the modern left misdirects attention to a mostly fictional threat of insurrection from “white supremacists.” And throws their support behind Antifa and BLM.

In general, law enforcement and the judiciary—the establishment--are playing favourites instead of following the rules, going soft on Antifa or Black Lives Matter or Hunter Biden, throwing the book at rightist groups like the Proud Boys, or Donald Trump. This resembles the favoritism shown in Weimar Germany towards the Nazis, allowed to rule the streets, while Bolsheviks and other socialists were dealt with harshly.

The reaction by so many in government to the invasion of the capitol building by a mob on January 6 even looks strikingly like the Nazis’ exploitation of the Reichstag fire. Whether or not it was a “false flag” operation.

Old Joe Biden looks like a reassuring but easily controlled figurehead. This is a strategy the Nazis found effective in their last run: Hindenberg, Petain. Not sure why this should be a Nazi strategy in particular, but it has been. Perhaps nostalgia is a part of the Nazi appeal. Similarly, they resurrected the aged Peron for an encore in Argentina. 

The censorship and blacklisting of dissenting views is now blatant. 

The last US election looks fixed.

We see emerging a seamless coalition between government and big corporations, eliminating the free market. This is more or less the definition of Fascism in economic terms.

We also, if it needs to be said, see an ongoing holocaust, unrestricted abortion. I suspect it is guilt over this that is fueling the whole move to Fascism. But racism and discrimination is also being aggressively fomented against another targeted minority, straight “cisgender” white males. Who are accused of all the same things the Jews were accused of in the 1930s. There is even growing antisemitism.

And so it goes.

The last time it touched down, this all happened mostly in three medium-strength powers. Nevertheless, it took a lot to end it then. 

This time, it looks much stronger. Both China and the US look as though they are moving to Fascism. 

Are we all doomed? It took many years of struggle to achieve freedom and democracy. It may not be so easy to ever get it back if it is lost.

It may take another war, worse than the last. Just because both the US and China are Nazi, does not mean they will ally. Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia were virtually the same system, but fought to the death. In earlier years, Mussolini stood against Hitler’s annexation of Austria. There is no honour among Nazis. To the contrary, the logic of their beliefs will compel them to sooner or later fight one another. Nazism requires a hated enemy.

I have also seen the theory that, with the rise of a middle class, liberal democracy becomes inevitable. We have seen evidence in East Asia over the past few decades: once the GDP per capita hits about $10,000 US per annum, the system morphs into something more liberal. A prosperous middle class has the resources to resist an oppressive government, and the desire to do so. This theory, if correct, suggests that any movement to Nazism is temporary, pulling against the tide of history. It might work for a time, given the crisis and economic chaos produced by COVID; as it worked for a time in Germany and Italy under the strain of the Great Depression. But once prosperity returns, it cannot hold on. No government exists for long without at least the tacit consent of the governed. All it takes is for the common soldiers and the police to stop following orders…

But what if the concentration of power in a few big tech firms is killing the middle class? Many have actually been saying just this. A few on top, and everyone else on GAI? Now the existence of independent merchants or service providers or business owners of any kind seems dependent on the mercies of Amazon, Google, PayPal, or a few others. Amazon can refuse to carry your products or your storefront; Google can delete you from search results; PayPal can refuse to process payments...

Yet I think the inherent logic of the Internet is decentralizing. We have allowed power to be concentrated in a few silos so that people can put locks on the door, but this is artificial. Once America Online was the only visual interface to the Internet, and held close to a monopoly. Where are they now? MicroSoft used to have a near-monopoly on the Internet and even personal computing with the dominant browser and the dominant operating system. Now both monopolies got busted, by the market itself and the evolving technology. The tech companies will keep trying to build their silos—Apple’s introduction of the concept of apps was a blatant example. 

But this is like whack-a-mole. The monopolies work for a little while, until the public realizes their options. Because of the nature of the beast, putting a printing press in every home, a video camera in every pocket, it is not going to be possible over the long term to control and restrict the flow of either information or commerce. Trying to do so is going to require ever more extreme measures.

And that is perhaps what we are seeing now. Those holding power now are paranoid, and are acting as though they are desperate. CNN, the New York Times, Twitter, publishing companies, seem actually to be acting in ways that destroy their own brands. The online investment firm Robin Hood just did the same. Desperation could explain the overreaction to the capitol invasion, and the seemingly childish attempt to impeach Trump after leaving office. Or AOC claiming Ted Cruz is trying to murder her. It looks hysterical.

It could get very messy; but I suspect we are seeing the mad thrashing of a dying beast.

Friday, January 29, 2021

A Musical History of Canada


In the spirit of the stage play “Oh, What a Lovely War,” Here is a musical tour through Canada’s military history:

Begin with the Seven Years War. “Evangeline,” tells the story of the Acadiens:

An English soldier’s song from the same period: “The Girl I Left Behind Me”:

The Girl I Left Behind Me

“I'm lonesome since I crossed the hill,

And o'er the moor and valley,

Such grievous thoughts my heart do fill,

Since parting with my Sally.

I seek no more the fine or gay,

For each does but remind me,

How swift the hours did pass away,

With the girl I left behind me.

Oh, ne'er shall I forget the night

The stars were bright above me,

And gently lent their silvery light,

When first she vowed to love me.

But now I'm bound to Brighton Camp

Kind heaven, then, pray guide me,

And send me safely back again

To the girl I left behind me.”

Then “Brave Wolfe” for the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. 

A chorus of “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” and the flag of the incipient USA.

“The Rebels,” a Loyalist song of the time.

Ye brave honest subjects who dare to be loyal,

And have stood the brunt of every trial,

Of hunting shirts and rifle guns;

Come listen awhile and I'll tell you a song;

I'll show you those Yankees are all in the wrong,

Who, with blustering look and most awkward gait,

'Gainst their lawful sovereign dare for to prate,

With their hunting shirts and rifle guns…

Cut the triumphalism with a round of “Barrett’s Privateers.”

Guns are heard. The voice of Thomas Jefferson: 

“The acquisition of Canada this year, as far as the neighborhood of Quebec, will be a mere matter of marching; & will give us experience for the attack of Halifax the next, & the final expulsion of England from the American continent.”

Segue to the War of 1812: “Come All Ye Bold Canadians,” 

and “The Lower Canadian Militia Song.” Can’t find the music.

Le matin, des le point du jour,

On entend ce maudit tambour,

Maudit tambour et maudit exercice,

Toi, pauvr' soldat, tu en as d'la fatigue.

Ils nous font mettre dans les rangs,

Les officiers et les sergents,

L'un dit: recule et l'autre dit: avance!

Toi, pauvr' soldat, t'en faut de la patience.

Nos sergents et nos officiers

Sont bien traites dan leurs quartiers,

Nos capitain' boiv' le vin et la biere

Toi, pauvr' soldat, va boire a la riviere.

Qu'en a compose la chanson

C'est un tambour du bataillon

C'est un tambour en battant sa retraite

Toujours regrettant sa joli' maitresse

“Over the Hills and Far Away” for the British Regulars:

The lyrics might be modified to fit Canada—instead of “Flanders, Portugal and Spain,” “Queenston, Montreal, and Maine.”

Here's one for Laura Secord:

Next, the rebellions of 1837. A few good songs came out of that rebellion. “I’ll be a Tory,” 

then “Up and War Them All, Willie!” Second song here.

Then “Un Canadien Errant.” 

“The Battle of the Windmill” was a popular folk song around Prescott for a century. 

Next, the Fenian Raids. For context, “The Bold Fenian Men.” 

A Fenian Song:

An Anti-Fenian song:

The Riel Rebellion: “C’est au Champs de Bataille.” Lyrics supposedly written by Riel himself.,++louis+riel&source=bl&ots=XlhmfRl6Ka&sig=acdm4DFvI3Y2GednKtYrtmTaPPw&hl=fr&sa=X&ei=DqH4UvqMGMua0AXUz4C4DA#v=onepage&q=C'est%20au%20champ%20de%20bataille%2C%20%20louis%20riel&f=false

First World War: we have an embarrassment of riches. “Vive la Canadienne,” definitely. 

“Why Can’t a Girl be a Soldier” for the feminists.

"The Recruiting Sergeant":

"The Princess Pat.”

And here’s an authentic 1915 war song from a Canadian collection that would be nicely multiculti. No idea of the tune, though.

“They Say that in the Army.” Verses can be inserted to reflect the Indian soldiers who were present, if not in the Canadian regiments. For example, “You ask for a biryani, and they give you intes-tine.”

Balance it out with “Wo alle Strassen enden” for the Germans.

Second World War: there’s a nice bit by the Happy Gang, to the tune of Colonel Bogey’s March: “Good Luck—And the Same to You.”

The D-Day Dodgers:

“North Atlantic Squadron,”

Stompin Tom had a clean version:

Afghanistan: Bryan Adams’ “Ric-A-Dam-Do”

And end with “Highway of Heroes”

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

1984 in 2021


This famous old Apple commercial is now deeply ironic. This is what high-tech was in its early years; it has become the opposite.

Monday, January 25, 2021

The COVID Stress Test


Ibn Khaldun

There is a theory, by Sir John Glubb, that empires last about 250 years, then collapse from having overreached themselves. 

The idea is not new. Ibn Khaldun suggested in the 14th century that regimes have a lifespan; ruling elites grow lax and self-indulgent over time. Then some new tribe thunders in from the desert.

This thesis has been raised by several voices recently, because American civic society seems to be breaking down. And because the USA is now in the 245th year of its official existence.

Perhaps. I’m old enough to remember when the USA was about to be replaced by the Soviet Union, or eclipsed economically by Japan. The USA is also arguably not an empire, certainly not for its entire existence. 

Any empire runs primarily on prestige. No empire could exist on mere power; human abilities are not distributed that unequally. Prestige builds on prestige; as prestige grows, its jurisdiction expands increasingly beyond what it can maintain without prestige. Eventually, the bubble bursts. 

The bubble perhaps burst for the British Empire with the fall of Hong Kong and Singapore in World War Two. The Warsaw Pact simply ran out of other people’s money. 

The current COVID-19 pandemic is like a stress test: for America, and for all nations, so that perhaps we can see who is decadent and who is not. It is probably too soon to draw firm conclusions—winners one month look like losers the next—but who is gaining prestige from the epidemic, and who is being revealed as less competent?

The case for the US, to begin with, is unclear. Their infection rate has been high, and may shoot higher as newer variants spread. The strain has led to rioting in the streets of many cities. Americans have certainly not pulled together. There have been problems with the vaccination rollout. On the other hand, the USA was first with effective vaccines. The US system has always been designed to be shambolic without breaking.

The UK situation is similar, based on a similar system. A higher infection rate than many countries; but they were almost as fast with a vaccine, and are faster in inoculating. Their vaccine is cheaper and easier to transport; they are set to produce it worldwide at cost. They are liable to benefit massively in earned international prestige. It all follows the typical British model: disorder at the start, but swiftly pulling things together through improvisation; losing every battle but the last.

Australia and New Zealand have done themselves credit so far by almost avoiding the pandemic in the first place; aided, no doubt, by their isolation.

Overall, the Anglosphere looks sound.

What about possible replacement powers?

China, of course, must lose prestige on a massive scale for being the source of the pandemic, and failing to do what was necessary to prevent its spread. They seem to have efficiently limited the virus internally, but by using brutal measures. They have hoarded necessary supplies. They have now developed a vaccine, but without proper testing; and indications are that it is not very effective.

Russia did well by shutting their border early, and have developed a vaccine. But it too has not undergone proper testing, and Russia apparently lacks the capacity to produce it in large quantities.

India will probably increase its prestige. The recorded rate of infection locally is relatively low. And India has most of the world’s actual vaccine production facilities. They are gearing up to produce the UK vaccine in bulk, and have at least one vaccine of their own in the works. They may be in a position to ship CARE packages abroad.

Brazil is doing notably poorly throughout the pandemic; so is Iran. Their initial responses to the virus were reckless, and their attempts to fight is seem riddled with corruption. So much for two other nations often cited as possible future powers.

The EC has also done poorly: things were terrible early in Italy and Spain, are now disastrous in Ireland and Portugal, the central commission has been slow to approve any vaccines, and France’s vaccine candidate seems to have failed its trials. Europe seems to have been suicidal since at least the 1920s. With the exception perhaps of the Nordic countries and the Central European nations that emerged from the Soviet Bloc. Denmark is doing notably well. Sweden may have chosen the wrong course early in not shutting down, but perhaps deserves admiration for trying something different, rather than going along with the crowd.

East Asia, outside mainland China, has also done well. Most notably, Taiwan has vastly increased its prestige. It was one of the first nations hit by the virus, and it effectively stopped it in its tracks. This is significant, because any prestige gained by Taiwan is in effect prestige subtracted from the regime in Beijing. This may bode well for China as a future superpower—but under new management.

South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia have also apparently reacted to the pandemic well at the outset. On the other hand, they do not seem to have been very aggressive in getting the vaccines; their record might look worse in the long term as a result.

Most impressive in the race to actually vaccinate, so far, have been Israel, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. Each, individually, is too small to make many waves in the wider world. And the fall in the price of oil is not helpful for the region. On the other hand, the recent peace deals among these very nations suggest the possibility of a new Middle East, under their joint management, that might indeed rise to world power status.

Ibn Khaldun theorized that the new power should emerge from just beyond the fringes of the old, as the Arabs arose from the desert between to overwhelm both the Persian and the Eastern Roman Empire. Just as Rome emerged from the fringes of the Hellenic Empires left by Alexander.

Who might that be? Might a new alliance of CANZUK count as the fringe of the American Empire? Might a new alliance of the Middle East count as the fringe of old Europe? Might the fringes of China--ASEAN, Japan, Korea--become a separate power through alliance? Might Taiwan, as fringe, take over China? Might India be the fringe successor to the old British Empire?

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Desecration of a Catholic Mass


Both right and left condemned the recent invasion of the US Capitol building. So can we expect the condemnation from all sides of this?

It does seem to me worse. Those who stormed the capitol might have reasoned it was their own property, as taxpayers and citizens. Some seem to have been invited in by guards. Here the intent was to deprive others--Catholics--of their civil rights. 

Worth noticing too here how vice typically says the opposite of the truth, and scapegoats the innocent for their own crimes. They claim the Catholic mass is "teaching hate" and violence. They are asserting hatred of Catholics and demanding the right to kill.

All evil is delusional.

Where Governors-General Come From


Lorne Cardinal

Canada’s Governor-General, Julie Payette, has been forced to resign in disgrace. This is shocking, since her sole role was ceremonial. Not a hard job.

This has raised questions about how Governors-General are selected. Traditionally, it has been purely at the whim of the Prime Minister. Stephen Harper set up an advisory committee. This seemed a better idea; but of course, it removed the opportunity for a patronage appointment, and so was abandoned.

The solution, it seems to me, is to put it into law. And give the responsibility to some established body, rather than to an ad hoc committee.

And I have a body in mind: the Order of Canada. 

The Order of Canada: more than just a snowflake?

At present, the Order of Canada is no more than a medal you get to wear on special occasions. But the medal is given to those “who make a major difference to Canada through lifelong contributions in every field of endeavor.” Granted, awards are somewhat political, but are chosen by committee, not by prime ministerial fiat. Passing the task on to them would put it at least arm’s length away from politics and patronage, and produce a Governor-General who might genuinely represent the nation as a whole, chosen by people who are commonly believed to have the best interests of the nation at heart.

Who would make a good Governor-General? I like Lorne Cardinal, who plays “Davis” on Corner Gas. An actor is ideal for the role; it is an acting role. Cardinal is known by all Canadians, and beloved. He is a big man, well-cast physically for the role. And it would not hurt, for the political correctness brigade, that he is aboriginal.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

A Smattering of Leftist Delusions


 I cannot be accused of being prejudiced against the left; after all, I am left-handed. Still, my gauchist chum Xerxes let me down this week by writing nothing controversial. 

On the other hand, some of his correspondents made some typically silly port-side comments.

JM suggested that evangelical Christians worshipped Trump as sent from God, because he promised to fight abortion and pursue and anti-LGBT agenda.

Trump is not anti-LGBT. He appointed the first-ever openly gay cabinet member. His use of “YMCA,” redubbed “MAGA,” as his re-election campaign song illustrates an outreach to the LBTQ community; although the song itself, with the new lyrics, seems to have been a spontaneous campaign contribution from the gay community.  Many prominent members of which seem to have supported him. 

It is a persistent leftist myth, or delusion, or item of disinformation, that the religious in general care much of a flip about homosexuality. Abortion matters. The left seems to want to change the subject.

Our correspondent JM also says some odd things about QAnon. I am far from an expert on that group—it seems to get more attention from the left than the right, and I only hear about it from the left. Nor am I curious; life is too short. But she claims that QAnon is directed against the Jews, and accuses them generally of killing and eating babies. That’s a little too improbable for my tastes. It sounds like a conspiracy theory about a conspiracy theory. 

After all, QAnon is passionately supportive of Trump, aren’t they? And Trump has been the most pro-Israel president since Truman. Trump has a Jewish daughter, a Jewish son-in-law, Jewish grandchildren. 

So I checked the Wikipedia entry. I gather the charge of antisemitism against QAnon is based on no more than the fact that they accuse George Soros of being in part behind most of the things they do not like which include pedophilia. And, as it happens, Soros is Jewish.

By that logic, anyone who did not vote for Bernie Sanders in the primaries might also be called antisemitic.

On the left side of the political spectrum, antisemitism seems to be a growing problem. It seems rare on the right. Indeed, the left is its natural home: resentment of “rich capitalists” easily segues, as in the Nazi case, into resentment of the generally successful Jews.

TW, another commentator, mischaracterizes the philosophy Josh Hawley, and of Pelagius. He writes that, in an article for Christianity Today, “Mr. Hawley denounced Pelagius for teaching that human beings have the freedom to choose how they live their lives and that grace comes to those who do good things, as opposed to those who believe the right doctrines.”

Pelagius--17th century Calvinist print, with the original caption, "Accurst Pelagius, with what false pretence Durst thou excuse Man's foul Concupiscence, Or cry down Sin Originall, or that The Love of GOD did Man predestinate."

To begin with, Hawley denounced Pelagianism, not Pelagius. The ad hominem fallacy is entirely TW’s, not Hawley’s. And Pelagius did not teach what TW claims. The idea that salvation came or did not come from believing the right doctrines was, arguably, Martin Luther’s position, but not Pelagius’s. The Pelagian heresy, against which Hawley argues, was the denial of original sin: that humans were innately good, could achieve salvation and an ideal world on their own merits, and did not need divine assistance.

An entirely unrelated issue. And a position that is widespread in the modern USA. 

Especially on the left.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Dirty Sex and the Bible


Whenever we read a news story dealing with a field or event with which we are familiar, we are astonished at how wrong they get it. I have long been appalled at how poorly journalists seem to get religion. We ought to realize that they are probably just as bad on fields we do not know.

A recent piece in the Daily Mail mocks Biden’s White House for showcasing Cohen’s “Hallelujah” during a memorial ceremony for those who have died of COVID. Trump also had the song performed at a recent White House event—I think it was for Thanksgiving. It is becoming a nondenominational religious standard.

But the Daily Mail objects:

“Jewish fans of late Canadian singer Leonard Cohen are pleading for his classic hit 'Hallelujah' to no longer be played at memorials and other somber events because of the ballad's sexual lyrics after it was performed at a COVID-19 memorial this week on the eve of Joe Biden's inauguration.”

“It's actually a sexual song - and people should stop trying to make it into something it's not.”

“'Yes, Christians, all Jewish people make fun of you when you sing the song about Jewish sex to celebrate your holidays and commemorate your lost. All of us'”

The author of the Mail piece, and his Jewish informants, are apparently unaware that the story of David and Bathsheba is word for word in the Christian as well as the Jewish Bible. There is no reason why the adulterous allusion would be apparent to Jews and not Evangelical Christians, who do have a bit of a reputation for reading their Bibles.

And suggesting that Cohen’s song is not religious because it describes this affair makes just as much sense as saying the Bible is not about religion because it describes this affair. Do they imagine that sex and the relationship between the sexes is not a part of God’s creation? Have they never read the Song of Songs?

Probably not. They would be shocked.

The Daily Mail piece helpfully quotes the lyrics, although not accurately.

There are actually several versions of the song. But just go with the lyrics published with this story. They end

“I'll stand before the Lord of Song 

With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.”

Who can the author and his Jewish informants imagine this “Lord of Song” might be? Donald Duck?

And don’t they know Hebrew? The word “Hallelujah” means “Praise God (Yahweh).” How subtle is that?

More on the meaning of Cohen’s “Hallelujah” here.

In similarly stupid recent articles elsewhere, Donald Trump is taken to task for having them play “Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’” as he departed the White House. They quote Mia Farrow and Nancy Sinatra saying Frank would have hated Trump. So how dare he take her father’s and her husband’s song?

Frank Sinatra had no rights to the song. The lyrics are by Paul Anka. Sinatra merely covered it. Trump has precisely as much right to it as Frank Sinatra did.

Monday, January 18, 2021

The Future


The surest evidence that an election was stolen is if, immediately after the election, it is forbidden to suggest that the election was stolen.

I had thought that the tech execs were only interested in making money, and that their censorship was a temporary bug, forced on them by advertisers and users. I was misled by economic theory. I should have been thinking psychology.

Now it occurs to me that if you are the type of restless spirit that sets about acquiring vast wealth, and you succeed, and a few billion more or less no longer seems to matter, and you inevitably find you are still not satisfied, you are naturally going to turn to other possible sources of satisfaction. Why not, say, try for power, if the opportunity is there? 

The internet looked at first like something that would decentralize power, as the invention of printing did. That seemed inherent in its architecture. Now everyone would have a printing press and a video camera. I overlooked the fact that those more open channels for communication went both ways: also allowing increased surveillance of everyone.

At this moment, I am almost prepared to indulge that luxury of the old, despair over the future. I think we have lost both democracy and free speech. That means the only way to resist oppression is with violence, and violence is both appalling in itself and leads to purely random results.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Music of My Life


A few years ago on Facebook, someone asked for a list of albums that meant a lot to you.

Here are mine, thrown at me today by Facebook’s “memories” feature.

Lightfoot! His first, and still his best, album. With great bass by Bill Lee. I was a bassist.

Songs of Leonard Cohen Hit me where I lived. I lived a couple of blocks away from Cohen’s boyhood home, and took the same route home from school. He was a local boy. Introduced to Cohen by Nick Economides, who was older and whom I looked up to for his sophistication.

Songs from a Room. Neither this nor his first are his best albums. But these are the ones from my teenage years. "Seems So Long Ago, Nancy," "Tonight Will Be Fine." I remember listening to "A Bunch of Lonesome Heroes" on the porch with Violet Birch.

Byrds, Fifth Dimension. One of the first three albums I bought, in a batch. It wore better than the others. Bought all the Byrds albums following it too. Tempted to put some others on the list. They were probably better albums, but as my first exposure, 5D is the one that influenced me the most.

Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited. First got to know it because a neighbourhood kid, Bob White, held dances during which he used to play it. The strategy, all the guys knew, was to ask your favourite girl for “Desolation Row” for a long slow dance where you got to hold her close. Trying to dance to Dylan was ridiculous. Then I started listening to the lyrics. "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry," was my favourite for a long time.

Bringing it All Back Home. I bought it after Highway 61. Almost as good.

Blonde on Blonde. Disappointed at first. But it grew and grew on me. "Visions of Johanna.""Just Like a Woman," "I Want You." Al Kooper's organ.

Peter Paul and Mary, See What Tomorrow Brings. A lot of great songs. Among other things, the album I listened to after my first girlfriend broke up with me. My sister and I used to sing harmony on "Betty and Dupree."

Joni Mitchell, Blue. Not my album. My brother was the bigger Joni Mitchell fan. But this one was supernaturally great. Humming “Carey” was the only thing that got me through one summer working in a plastics factory. “River” and “All I Want” were even better.

Planxty. Bought when I was living in Ottawa. Perhaps the greatest album ever recorded by anyone. I had "Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór" played at my wedding. The one that didn’t work out.

Steeleye Span Please to See the King. Picked up second hand in a bargain bin. Yow! I love those rough edges. A revelation after the sanitized folk of the early Sixties. 

The Band Music from Big Pink. Another album that seemed to change everything.

Moby Grape. Tipped off on this one by Hit Parader magazine—a great publication. Crazy good. Sadly, two of the band members later just went crazy. Few songs match the energy of Skip Spence’s “Omaha.” 

Rolling Stones, High Tide and Green Grass. Not my album. Was playing in a kid rock and roll band, and a couple of my bandmates were wild about the Stones. I think Louis Lapierre owned the album. Did not especially like the music then—it was just the most fun to play on stage. But it has grown on me ever since. The Stones get better with time.

Ian & Sylvia Four Strong Winds. I love all their stuff, and Ian Tyson solo, but this I think was where I came in. I cannot ever get “V’la le Bon Vent” out of my mind. Nor would I ever want to. Let alone the title track. Or “Royal Canal,” which oddly always reminds me of Kingston, with the canal and the penitentiary.

Rolling Stones, Let It Bleed and Beggar's Banquet. The soundtrack at Inscape, the teen drop in coffee house in Gananoque, brain child of Father Ed Shea. "Gimme Shelter." Yeah, I love rock and roll.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Corner Gas


Being out of the country for many years, I have just discovered “Corner Gas,” a longtime runaway hit on Canadian TV. I believe it is the most popular Canadian scripted show of all time. Launched in 2004, it is still running as an animated series.

Brent Butt, creator and star, says he does not know why it was and is so popular. What is it about this particular troupe of eight characters? Butt is a brilliant writer, and has done several other projects, but none have approached the success of Corner Gas. What was the magic formula?

I think it is obvious; but a thing long forgotten. Comedies work best in a rural setting. This was something the ancient Greeks knew already. Comic characters, for them, were formulaically rural folk; the word “clown” literally means “rustic.” 

The reason, I believe, is that comedy works by releasing tensions; the punch line is a spring abruptly unsprung. More broadly it works by allowing us escape from our worries. A rural life implies that: a simple life away from our troubles. Most Shakespearean comedies involve retreat into a forest or wilderness, a “green world,” as Northrop Fry noted, which somehow resolves the problems of the protagonist.

For a time, American television conformed, perhaps by accident, to the old formula, and had a run of huge comedic hits based on rural life: Beverley Hillbillies, Hee Haw, Green Acres, Petticoat Junction. Then the marketing mavens realized with alarm that they were not appealing to the most desirable market. Most Americans lived in cities, after all. Especially most Americans with money to spend. So the geniuses, in lock step, cancelled all the hillbilly opreys, though still the most popular shows, to reflect the real lives of their desired audience. The replacement sitcoms were all set relentlessly in suburbs or the city. Mary Tyler Moore was going to make it after all. 

They did fine; some were great. But they ran against no rural competition. If there was a thirst in the audience for such an escape from their dreary daily lives, it was not satisfied.

One notable exception: Gilligan’s Island. A show with a puerile premise and without good writing. Nevertheless, the escapist setting alone seems to have gained it, in the absence of any other non-urban competition, cultural immortality.

Overall, nobody in Hollywood seems to understand how comedy works. At least, nobody with money to fund a TV show. But here in Canada, Corner Gas hit upon that same ancient formula. Everyone in Toronto wanted to imagine themselves living in Dog River.

It is also the old Canadian formula. Dog River is a colony of Mariposa. Leacock’s Sunshine Sketches of a Small Town is, along with Anne of Green Gables and Songs of a Sourdough, one of the three founding documents of English Canadian literature. All three are about people living in isolated communities. It is the shared Canadian literary experience. Largely as a result, the soul of Canada is in its small towns. Largely as a result, the soul of Canada is comic, so that Canada keeps generating brilliant comics and comic writers like Brent Butt.