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About Quebec: More hysterical vapouring

The national press is in full-throated rant about Quebec’s policy against overt religious coverings, symbols and trinkets being worn by state employees.

The Globe asserts:

A government that posts sketches of impermissible religious dress in the public-sector workplace, as the Parti Québécois did on Tuesday, has cut itself off from its province’s roots of tolerance and freedom of conscience, and Canada’s. And once it has done so, how far will it go?

Farther, is my guess. When the last Protestant in Quebec graveyard is bulldozed, or finally abandoned to weeds, then the Parti Quebecois will breathe a sigh of relief. It is the path they have been on for forty years and they are not stopping now.

The National Post’s Jonathan Kay gets to the point about face-coverings, and I agree with him, as I am sure all readers would:

It is only a tiny slice of Canadian Muslims who support the wearing of the niqab: Most of this country’s Islamic community, no doubt, finds face-covering as alienating as the rest of us. Yet Ms. Marois’ legislation shows how the minority of Muslims who don the niqab is threatening religious freedom for everyone else: Because it is unseemly to crack down on just one religious or cultural tradition, the anti-niqab backlash in Quebec has taken the form of incipient legislation that targets all religious communities. If the niqab, then the turban. If the turban, then the Star of David. If the Star of David, then the Christian Cross. And if the Christian Cross, well then, even non-face-covering Muslim headscarves are outré, as well.

Michael Den Tandt cannot restrain his revulsion:

The contradictions, inconsistencies, stupidity and injustice in all this are too glaring for any fair-minded person to overlook. So is the massive unwarranted incursion by the state into the private choices of individuals. The PQ, in a bid for a galvanizing cause, has resorted to demagoguery, beneath which simmers barely concealed bigotry. This may be the battle Marois wanted: That no longer matters. The “Charter of Quebec Values” is an abomination. Quebecers and all Canadians should say so, come what may.

No, sir. Reaction should be proportionate to the offence. Quebec is ruling in a sensitive issue, yes. But think for a moment.

  • The state tells women to cover themselves decently, from breasts to thighs. Men cannot go around naked. The state does regulate dress.
  • It has a right to enforce dress codes for its public servants more particular or stringent than general provisions for decency.

Of course the Parti Quebecois is creating a cynical wedge issue, and I am reasonably sure they will win on this, electorally, and in surprizingly large majorities.

Is the proposed legislation over-broad? Yes. Will it lead to vexatious enforcement by vexing enforcers? Yes. Is it constitutional? Probably not, but not so unconstitutional as to be thrown out entirely, and the Supremes may well tailor the code to suit their own ideas while affirming the principle of the government’s right to determine dress codes for employees.

And most important, will English Canada’s overblown reaction do any good? No. It will harden Quebec attitudes, but that is less important than this fact: it will make more difficult the social regulation of Islam, which is not far off in English Canada too.

Everyone take a valium.

Addendum: Parti Quebecois support now at 40% among French Quebecers, according to polls conducted for the Globe.


Quebec’s charter of values is another Herouxville declaration

The reaction to Quebec’s proposed legislation to prevent the wearing of religious symbols in the public service and by people in authority employed by the Government of Quebec is ludicrous, pathetic, and futile. It has been vigorously condemned by the Globe as unconstitutional and by the Post as offending minority rights. In fact, it will prove to be the equivalent of the Herouxville Declaration.

Yet I find myself unable to get excited about it. Why? My reasons are inconsistent.

  1. I agree with the measure. The state should be neutral among religions.
  2. The state should not be neutral among religions at the cost of sacrificing liberal-constitutional democracy. The move is clearly anti-Islamic and only incidentally anti-Christian and anti-Jewish. The Muslims are a threat and need to be told they will conform to our usages and customs.
  3. It does not affect me, as I do not wear religious symbols or work in the Government of Quebec. Nor, in general, does anyone who is not French-Canadian by ethnicity. It is their closed preserve, and why spend time fiddling with the edges of their exclusive policies, rather than the core?
  4. If the Government of Canada and its Supreme Court have already allowed Quebec to impose the most suppressive law against the right of English-speakers in Quebec, both personally and institutionally,  and have presided over the gradual destruction of that community by legal suffocation, what is the sense in getting upset about some law that covers only employees in the Government of Quebec?

The English school board of Montreal recently announced it will have to shut more schools because it is starving for lack of qualified (by Quebec’s suppressive legislation) students.

Since opening in 1998, the board, which covers much of the Montreal downtown, has seen enrollment in “free fall,” dropping from a peak of 27,000 students at the turn of the century to this year’s projection of 19,800, Mr. Cohen said.

The losses are part of a province-wide downturn in Anglophone students, with most English-language school boards in Quebec seeing fewer students each year — except for those lucky ones in the Montreal suburbs that have benefited from Anglophone migration.

If English Canada was unable to come to the defence of one its major communities (once a million strong in a country of then 20 million in 1960) in the face of French-Canadian electoral power, and this under the rule of Pierre-Elliot Trudeau, the great exponent of federal power, what is   the point in telling the Canadian French they are a bunch of racists for their insistence on not getting their licences or services from face-covered women?

First, they do not care. They are a hundred percent racist and it starts with you, maudit anglais, and works downward and outward from there to other tribes and peoples. So telling them what they already know and approve of in themselves baffles them and makes them think we have a screw loose.

Second, we probably agree with their purpose. They are telling people that the way they want things is the way things are going to be, and no god damn exceptions for Muslims. Would you not like English-Canada to be as assertive? Or maybe it already is, in different ways.

Third, the obvious point, they will see this as just another provocation by liberal bien-pensants to prevent them from pursuing their racial and linguistic survival, something they will not put up with, and never shall.

Remember the Hérouxville Declaration? All of the usual sorts got upset with the Quebec municipal council that published it, yet its basic ideas are now Canadian immigration policy. There is now an official code of conduct for Canadian which advises them that honour killings and female genital mutilation are not tolerated. So who is ahead of the curve, Quebec nationalists or the chattering classes?

Gleichschaltung in Quebec

Gleichschaltung was a term used by the Nazis for “coordination”, “bringing into line”,”making the same”.  In the period from 1933, when they took power, to 1937, the Nazis forcibly “coordinated” every institution in German society so that it could never be a source of opposition to the regime, and created many organizations (such as for youth) in which participation was compulsory.

Now I freely admit that likening the behaviour of the Parti Quebecois to the Nazis in any real sense is unfair, ludicrous, so exaggerated as to be seriously misleading and unjust. There is no terror here; I write and speak  freely; the Quebecois neighbours are nice; there is no secret police, no burnings of books or of witches. English shop owners are not burnt out, nor are our churches.

So by what right do I liken Quebec’s proposed policies against the visible wearing of religious symbols to a form of tyranny?  After all, I agree that Islam’s adherents need to be watched carefully, and that the state needs to suppress jihadists and their supporters. I am against significant Islamic immigration.

So I am just as bound and determined to maintain a  liberal democratic society as the Quebecois seem determined to maintain a democratic tribal one. That is the nub of our differences.

A propos tribalism, I have just begun to read Karl Popper’s magnificent “the Open Society and its Enemies”. Popper writes clearly, and the targets of his well-considered wrath are Plato, Hegel, and Marx, among others. His fundamental contention, so far as I understand it, is that humanity is in a constant struggle against those who would have us live in a tribal society, where we shall all vibrate on the same wavelength. Such, in their own ways, were the goals of National Socialism, and International Socialism (race versus class). Plato’s political writings concerned how the Guardians could maintain their purity of purpose against the diverse purposes of the leser people whom the Guardians would rule.

Popper’s  argued passionately against collectivism and seeking a meaning in history, which meaning would compel us conform and subordinate our thoughts and actions to the Greater Collective Good, as defined by the prophet (Plato, Hegel, Marx, or anyone else).

So while it is in some sense grotesque to liken Quebec’s collectivism to those of national socialism, Marxism, or the Platonic republic, in another sense, it is a tepid copy of  much worse regimes. It is the direction in which the Parti Quebecois wants to go that is objectionable, not the state at which it has arrived.

Pauline Marois says she wants

a serene harmonious debate so that we can collectively draw some conclusions that allow us to live together better. That’s what we want”.

Pauline, you can have a debate, or you can have a serene and harmonious hymn singing, but you cannot have a debate when different ideas of society are, ipso facto, excluded or beyond the zone of toleration . You can have political liberty, you can have fundamentally different ideas of society being argued about, but you cannot have everyone on the same wavelength. If you want that, go to North Korea.

Serene, harmonious debate – my ass.

The charning young man in the bow tie

I was talking to a charming young man last night, who was dressed in a bow tie at the dinner-dance. He was working for some sort of leftist-progressive think tank in the Harvard area. He explained his group’s opinions. It all seemed rather reasonable to a Canadian, like higher minimum wages, or easier rights for unions to organize. I nodded politely. (I do not agree, I merely think this is the stuff of political life). Thus encouraged, my young friend continued in the confident tones of one who knows where the world is going, that his group was seeking to generate a more carbon-neutral energy policy. I nodded sagely.

I keep wondering why young people of high intelligence can continue to believe this massive error, and of course I know the answer. Carbon dioxide emission is the equivalent of Marx’s labour theory of value. Let me explain. Key to the capitalist system, thought Marx, was exploitation of an evil kind. Since, according to Marx, labour input determines the value of anything, then if a capitalist sells a product for more than the costs of the labour and capital inputs, the profit was, by definition, “exploitation”, a form of evil.

By contrast, the market idea of value is that a thing is worth what a willing buyer will pay for it. And that price can vary enormously depending on the circumstances.  In a town under siege, a pound of butter commands more than a diamond necklace, whereas in normal times a pound of butter competes against a large variety of delicious foodstuffs, and thus its price is kept reasonable – in the minds of a set of buyers.

The labour theory of value, which guaranteed that “capitalism” would always be “exploitative”, was the undergirding of the Marxist abhorrence of free markets. Move the camera forward a hundred years. Marxism is in tatters, its revolutions have been abandoned, and the apparatus of Marxist claptrap is finally seen for what it is.

Capitalism surges on unchecked, improving, destroying, transforming. Yet the impulse to control the outcomes continues, and will always be felt by confident young men in bow ties, and their spiritual successors. Capitalism is always trying to be out of control. And charming young men in bow ties are trying to tame it.

How to tame the beast? The one truly clever idea that the political Left has had in the past fifty years is that carbon dioxide, being the inevitable end product of combustion, along with water, is the perfect scapegoat. Leftism cannot beat capitalism in the race to improve people’s lives. That much has been learned. Nevertheless, the leftist impulse is eternal, because it is a spiritual disease, a sin if you will. If you can attach blame to all this improvement you see everywhere from Brazil to Bangladesh to Botswana, you may have discovered  a powerful theory for restoring the power of a secular leftist elite. How so?

The claim of the political left is that capitalism is destroying the planet, not accidentally, but essentially. Not through the generation of polluting by-products, but in the basic processes of burning carbon fuels: oil, coal, natural gas. All this prosperity is fraught with the sin of producing  CO2, which is warming the planet, which is leading to eco-catastrophe.

The arguments against this new secular leftist elite come down to:

  1. the earth is not actually warming, or
  2. if it is warming, we are not causing it.

The arguments for the new secular leftist elite always come down to the notion that every climate or weather event has an underlying cause, the production of CO2 in the process of increasing prosperity. Increased CO2 leads to more warmth which leads to wilder weather.

Behind all the arguments for this or that absurd measure to mitigate the production of carbon dioxide lies the essentially fraudulent assertion that capitalism is warming the planet, and we have to do something. So we sort or garbage into three bins, we reduce our carbon footprint (sin less), and try to live lives more pleasing to our new masters, including the charming young man in the bow tie.

For those of us who have followed the anthropogenic global warming fraud for ten years or more, the miracle is that the global warming zombie marches forward on the moving walkway provided by the zeitgeist, the spirit of the times. In truth, the moving walkway is provided by the young men in bow ties, who confidently assert utter twaddle. Marxism had its day, but killed millions upon millions before the experiment was abandoned.

I fear the global warming policy zombie will also result in the deaths of millions, the immiseration of millions more, before it is stopped. I hope I am wrong.

Matt Ridley has a useful article on the climate alarmists, where he says, in part:


Anyway, by “unprecedented”, the WMO meant since 1850, which is a micro-second of history to a paleo-climatologist like Carter. He takes a long-term perspective, pointing out that the world has been warming since 17,000 years ago, cooling since 8000 years ago, cooling since 2000 years ago, warming since 1850 and is little changed since 1997. Consequently, “the answer to the question ‘is global warming occurring’ depends fundamentally on the length of the piece of climate string that you wish to consider”. He goes on: “Is today’s temperature unusually warm? No – and no ifs or buts.”

I have been saying the same for years. Look at the map of eastern north America. Long Island, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket are moraines left by the last major glaciation, which started retreating hereabouts between 11,000 to 9,000 years ago.

I wish our young men in bow ties were aware of the basic facts concerning  recent glaciations. I write this sweating on one of the hottest days of the Canadian summer, imagining what it would have been like to be here 13,000 years ago, under two vertical miles of ice sheet. Rather more like Greenland’s ice cap than the green hills of the Eastern Townships.



Jihadism is an app

Best description of the phenomenon: distributed, downloadable, free. From the Telegraph, by Mathew d’Ancona:

Jihadism is now, literally, an app, a downloadable mindset that encourages self-starting, DIY terrorism of the most basic sort. Roshonara Choudhry, who stabbed the Labour MP, Stephen Timms, in his surgery in May 2010, had been radicalised by jihadi sermons on the web. To say that Islamist terrorism in 2013 is disaggregated is no more meaningful than saying that Nike or Apple is disaggregated. Globalisation has fostered the emergence of a supranational network, connected by hatred of American and Western “foreign policy”, anti-Semitism and a longing to enforce Sharia and restore the Caliphate. As I have written before, the network plots globally and kills locally. It is active in Mali, Algeria, Yemen, Egypt and anywhere else that has Wi-Fi. And last Wednesday it was active in Woolwich.

Jihad, coming to a theatre near you. Why are we importing these people?

Television price increases irrelevant, says producers association

In the immortal words of Arnie Schwarzenegger, “I like you, I kill you last”.

Once more the Canadian production community is at it, seeking rents and subsidies,  and regardless of the tone, much of what Mr. Hennessy says below  is accurate.

GATINEAU – That broadcast distributors would increase the price of basic packages if the CRTC licensed new 9(1)(h) services is a red herring, according the Canadian Media Production Association (CPMA) told commissioners on Tuesday.  “We believe that the impact of 9(1)(h) services on affordability’ is a red herring that threatens to overshadow the achievement of more significant objectives under the [Broadcasting] Act”, Michael Hennessy, president and CEO of the CMPA, said during his opening remarks.

The association acknowledges that licensing additional services with mandatory carriage orders may trigger basic package rate increases, but it says this isn’t the sole reason broadcast distribution undertakings (BDUs) raise rates,
which have been climbing steadily for years, regardless. It would be a stretch to blame consumer dissatisfaction with the price of their BDU service on your rare decisions to add new, exceptional Canadian services to basic, said Hennessy.
That may be the spin, but the reality is that the cost of basic is already heavily inflated by inclusion of the BDUs’ own services, including their high-cost sports services.”

All true. But take a look at Figure 3.1.7 below  from the CRTC’s own annual statistical report. You will see that cable television costs have risen faster than the consumer price index, the price of telecommunications other than the Internet, and the price of voice telecommunications. Here it is:

Figure 3.1.7 Price indices [TPI1, BDU2 (cable and satellite, including pay television), Internet access services, and CPI]

Please note that the more the industry is exposed to competitive pressures, the less the increase of price. The broadcast distribution undertakings (BDUs, that is, cable companies acting as distributors of “broadcast” programming) show the highest price increases across the sector most regulated as to conditions of supply (Canadian content obligations and others). Internet access is a pure play of telecommunications using IP technologies, with neither legacy circuit-switching, nor public service obligations, and exposed to the operations of Moore’s Law more completely than any other sector. Voice telecommunications is largely what is covered in the line marked “TPI”. It is imperfectly competitive, but most of its prices have been deregulated.

Back to Mr. Hennessy, the television producers’ lobbyist, and a fine one indeed. He is in effect saying, don’t blame mandatory carriage of new services for your cable price increases: we are only one of a number of villains, sorry, causative agents.

I agree. The Broadcasting Act itself is the problem. It is directed to produce mediocre productions, and country houses for clever men who milk the system, at staggering costs to the Canadian consumer. We pay the approximate costs of two or three  modern naval destroyers per year, every year, to sustain this regulated system. Personally I would prefer a stronger navy. We are paying for a naval expansion program already in broadcasting and film subsidies.



Statistical note:

  1. The TPI reflects the price changes experienced by a household for a basket of telephone services. The basket of telephone services reflects a weighted-average of consumer expenditures on basic local service, other local services (such as options and features), and long distance, installation, and repair services. However, the TPI does not include wireless or Internet service expenditures.
  2. The BDU price index reflects the price changes experienced by a household for a basket of cable television services. The basket includes both ‘Basic’ and ‘Extended’ cable services. Basic cable service is the minimum service to which all customers must subscribe. Extended cable service is the most popular package of additional channels. The index does not account for ‘bundling discounts.’

Source: Statistics Canada

The enemies of discourse

The enemies of honest discourse are those who believe that sensitivities trump truth. Since, in their view, there is no truth, truth has no claim to trump sensitivity. Indeed it has no claim at all. Those of us who believe, roughly but simply, that the truth is out there, that it is discovered, that a process of reasoning and discourse uncovers the layers of not-quite-fully-true from the more-fully-true, are in for trouble when we come across the legions of Untruth. The modern nihilists- for that is what they are – claim sensitivity and victimhood as their badges of  honour, their passport to not be questioned. Those who question and attack are motivated by “hate”, and need thought correction.

I got the following long citation from Kevin Westhues. He based himself on several academic mobbing incidents where professors were turfed for discussing something in honest terms.

Modern discourse

Following are ten key characteristics of modern discourse, what many professors and students even now consider the normal or standard way to think, study and argue in the academy:
• “personal detachment from the issues under discussion,” the separation of participants’ personal identities from subjects of inquiry and topics of debate;
• values on “confidence, originality, agonism, independence of thought, creativity, assertiveness, the mastery of one’s feelings, a thick skin and high tolerance for your own and others’ discomfort”;
• suited to a heterotopic space like a university class, scholarly journal, or session of a learned society conference, a place apart much like a playing field for sports events, where competitors engage in ritual combat before returning with a handshake to the realm of friendly, personal interaction;
• illustrated by debate in the British House of Commons;
• epitomized by the debates a century ago between socialist G. B. Shaw and distributist G. K. Chesterton;
• playfulness is legitimate: one can play devil’s advocate, speak tongue in cheek, overstate and use hyperbole, the object being not to capture the truth in a single, balanced monologue, but to expose the strengths and weaknesses of various positions;
• “scathing satire and sharp criticism” are also legitimate;
• the best ideas are thought to emerge from mutual, merciless probing and attacking of arguments, with resultant exposure of blindspots in vision, cracks in theories, inconsistencies in logic;
• participants are forced again and again to return to the drawing board and produce better arguments;
• the truth is understood not to be located in any single voice, but to emerge from the conversation as a whole.

Postmodern discourse

Over the past half century, a competing mode of discourse, the one I call postmodern, has become steadily more entrenched in academe. Following are ten of its hallmarks, as Roberts and Sailer describe on their blogs:
• “persons and positions are ordinarily closely related,” with little insistence on keeping personal identity separate from the questions or issues under discussion;
• “sensitivity, inclusivity, and inoffensiveness are key values”;
• priority on “cooperation, collaboration, quietness, sedentariness, empathy, equality, non-competitiveness, conformity, a communal focus”;
• “seems lacking in rationality and ideological challenge,” in the eyes of proponents of modern discourse;
• tends to perceive the satire and criticism of modern discourse as “vicious and personal attack, driven by a hateful animus”;
• is oriented to ” the standard measures of grades, tests, and a closely defined curriculum”;
• lacking “means by which to negotiate or accommodate such intractable differences within its mode of conversation,” it will “typically resort to the most fiercely antagonistic, demonizing, and personal attacks upon the opposition”;
• “will typically try, not to answer opponents with better arguments, but to silence them completely as ‘hateful’, ‘intolerant’, ‘bigoted’, ‘misogynistic’, ‘homophobic’, etc.”;
• has a more feminine flavour, as opposed to the more masculine flavour of modern discourse;
• results in “stale monologues” and contexts that “seldom produce strong thought, but rather tend to become echo chambers.”

Westhues was basing himself on two pieces: one by the incomparable Steve Sailer, and the other by Andrew Roberts, a student at a northern British university, who writes a decent blog.


As Western society has become progressively more sensitized to victims, the unempowered, and the disenfranchised, and has desired to give a voice to them, we have tended to truncate or limit public discourse in various ways to ensure that such groups don’t feel threatened. While well-meaning, this reformation of public discourse has come at considerable cost. It has rendered the taking of offence or the playing of the victim or underdog card incredibly powerful ploys within debate. In many cases these ploys overwhelm the debate, making challenging debate next to impossible.

Read more here.

Faced with an opposing position that will not compromise in the face of its calls for sensitivity and its cries of offence, such a mode of discourse lacks the strength of argument to parry challenges. Nor does it have any means by which to negotiate or accommodate such intractable differences within its mode of conversation. Consequently, it will typically resort to the most fiercely antagonistic, demonizing, and personal attacks upon the opposition. While firm differences can be comfortably negotiated within the contrasting form of discourse, a mode of discourse governed by sensitivities and ‘tolerance’ cannot tolerate uncompromising difference. Without a bounded and rule-governed realm for negotiating differences, antagonism becomes absolute and opposition total. Supporters of this ‘sensitive’ mode of discourse will typically try, not to answer opponents with better arguments, but to silence them completely as ‘hateful’, ‘intolerant’, ‘bigoted’, ‘misogynistic’, ‘homophobic’, etc.

Had it not been for my re-immersion in university life a few years ago, I might have thought such views as caricatures, exaggerations. They are not.

The people who resort to this style of debate fall into two camps: the truly inept, and the wholly cynical. The wholly cynical exploiters of the sensitivity-trumps-truth mode were quite surprized to hear me call them fascists. They objected that they were pure souls of moral enlightenment. I replied one did not need to put on an armband in the morning to be a fascist: all that one has to do is believe power trumps truth, and the sensitivity discourse is their path to power. I met these people in the 1960s and 70s. They were marxists then. The cover has changed since but the shit inside is still the same.

The world turned upside down

You know the world has changed when the English-language edition of Pravda runs an article by a Xavier Lerma that calls Obama a Communist, and praises Putin for his recent speech vowing to get state finances in better order and not to interfere in the market. Xavier Lerma is one of those slightly cracked bloggers who post stuff to the Internet in the hope of propagating the truth, rather like, uh… me. Yet it is entertaining to read a fellow who believes Putin is on the right path.