Canadian Census now on Includes Hong Kongers (Taiwanese included in 2016 census)

From a story at the Globe and Mail (the previous 2016 census ethnic categories are here):

Relevant posts:

Pro-PRC Chinese-Canadians vs Pro-Hong Kong ones

How can Canada Help Hong Kongers Escape their new PRC Prison?

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

NORAD (and NORTHCOM) Thinking Offense of some sort vs Russian Threats–what does Canadian Government Think?

(The image at the top of the post is part of the tweet quoted below.)

This tweet by NORAD about moving beyond a strictly defensive mission, presumably with the concurrence of Canadians serving at the command, tells a very big story that is not getting enough attention in Canada or the US–GIDE stands for Global Information Dominance Experiment (more here, note mention of Canada):

Now have a look at this recent post that gives background over which to ponder–it looks like NORAD may now be fully on the NORTHCOM bandwagon. Again, what does the Canadian government think? Has it actually thought about what is potentially involved for Canada if the role of NORAD expands to include some sorts of pre-emptive offensive capabilities? E.g. cyber attacks. In sum the US clearly has wide and revolutionary NORAD concerns; it’s not just about modernizing the ancient North Warning System. Rather it’s “left of launch” and all that, fully involving NORTHCOM and other US commands (note the badges at the top of the GIDE image that centres on the Arctic Ocean):

US NORTHCOM Thinking pre-emptively vs Russian Cruise Missiles, Leaving NORAD a Backwater?

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Bombardier and the Military “Special Mission” Bizjets Business

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “The interior of Raytheon’s future Intelligence Surveillance Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) special mission aircraft, being developed using a Bombardier Global business jet, shows onboard workstations used to help military operators rapidly process multiple types of intelligence in an undated still image from video. Raytheon Intelligence & Space/Handout via REUTERS.”)

Further to this 2016 post,

Boeing, SAAB Promoting Military Versions of Bombardier Bizjets

here’s an update on the current business at Reuters, note that “niche”:

Luxury jet makers battle over lucrative spy plane niche

Last month, a ghostly grey business jet took off from central Sweden and headed across the Baltic on a routine spying mission.

The converted Gulfstream, caught on a tracking website, was flown by the Swedish Air Force and patrolled an area thick with Russian radar signals off the militarised coast of Kaliningrad.

Apart from a couple of unobtrusive bulges underneath, Sweden’s two Gulfstream-based S102B Korpen spy planes look like any other sleek corporate jet.

But inside, the Swedish jets and a growing fleet of newer corporate aircraft contain the eyes and ears of a relentless intelligence war.

From the South China Sea to the Middle East and the Baltic, governments are eyeing “special mission” business jets capable of looking or listening at potentially lower running costs than converted passenger or military planes [emphasis added].

It’s the latest chapter for a discreet market worth an estimated $3 billion to a handful of corporate jet specialists and the Israeli, European and U.S. arms firms that supply advanced intelligence systems.

The rising demand for small jets with systems once reserved for bigger planes has energised a market led by General Dynamics (GD.N) subsidiary Gulfstream, with Canada’s Bombardier (BBDb.TO) and France’s Dassault Aviation (AVMD.PA) snapping at its heels [emphasis added].

“A key area for growth is in signals and electronic intelligence,” said defence analyst Francis Tusa.

“This is increasingly viable on smaller aircraft because of improvements in electronics and their reduction in size. It’s all about processing power and the size of electronics.”

‘NUMEROUS OPPORTUNITIES’

The trend accelerated last month when Sweden’s Saab (SAABb.ST) paired its new-generation GlobalEye early warning system, carried on Bombardier Global business jets, with Gripen warplanes in its bid for a crucial Finnish fighter contest [emphasis added, see: “Saab includes 64 Gripens and GlobalEye pair in best and final offer for Finnish HX contest”].

[GlobalEye uses the Bombardier Global 6000 airframe:]

GlobalEye AEW&C aircraft

Missions vary widely from intelligence planes that passively scoop up radar and listen to communications to the most advanced early warning aircraft that actively scan or watch for threats…

All eyes are now on South Korea, which may search for new early warning planes later this year to augment its Peace Eye fleet based on Boeing 737s, analysts and industry sources said.

It is already looking for target-tracking or “listening” jets, prompting U.S. defence giant Raytheon (RTX.N) to propose putting consoles and artificial intelligence on Bombardiers…

Heavily exposed to fluctuating demand for civil business jets after quitting the rest of the aerospace industry, Bombardier says it is now dedicating more resources to military missions [emphasis added].

“We’ve been approached (with) numerous opportunities … I would say in the last couple of months,” Chief Executive Eric Martell said in response to a Reuters query.

Jetmakers do not disclose data for sales of special-mission aircraft. The market is estimated by U.S. research firm JETNET to be about 5% of annual large-cabin business jet deliveries [emphasis added].

According to JETNET, Gulfstream is the leader in business jet deliveries to government customers, competing with rivals such as Bombardier and Dassault, which recently clinched orders for seven Falcon 2000 Albatros planes for the French Navy [for maritime surveillance].

LUXURY TO SPYCRAFT

But Gulfstream is ending production this year of its popular G550 corporate jet, which was recently delivered to Israel as a surveillance aircraft, creating a potential opening for rivals.

For Bombardier and (Dassault’s) Falcon, much depends on what Gulfstream does to position a new model to take the place of the G550 as the dominant special-mission business jet [emphasis added],” Teal Group analyst Richard Aboulafia said.

“If they don’t have a replacement that’s as suitable and popular … then Bombardier and Falcon gain.”

Bombardier’s range of “special mission” bizjets are given at this company webpage. And the post below gives the much bigger picture for what’s left of Bombardier. The special mission niche is nice but no answer to the company’s long-term viability:

Can Incredibly Shrinking Bombardier Make it as Stand-Alone Bizjet Maker?

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

The Pipedream of the Biden Administration’s Cutting Canada Much Slack over Line 5 (or much else)…

…and note how the oh so progressive NY Times spins its story (at bottom of the post) effectively to blame Canada. First excerpts from an opinion piece at the Globe and Mail:

Complications with national infrastructure projects are nothing new for Canada

John Ibbitson

\As expected, the May 12 deadline for Enbridge to shut down the Line 5 oil pipeline, as decreed by the Michigan government, came and went, and oil continues to flow. Enbridge will continue ignoring Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s shutdown order unless a judge rules otherwise.

From an amicus brief filed by Canada this week we learned that the Trudeau government and the Biden administration are in talks. A reasonable solution to any environmental risk posed by the pipelines that lie on the lakebed of the Straits of Mackinac is to expedite construction of a tunnel under the lakebed. Here’s hoping Canada, the U.S., Michigan and Ontario can get to that solution…

[Note how dependent Ontario and Quebec are on this pipeline: “The pipeline carries some 540,000 barrels of Canadian crude oil and other petroleum products per day across Wisconsin and Michigan to Sarnia, and accounts for nearly half of the supply of light crude oil, light synthetic crude oil and natural gas liquids in Ontario and Quebec.”]

For those of us who believe that hydrocarbons will be an important part of the global energy mix for a couple more decades at least, that Canadian oil and natural gas are cleaner and more ethically sourced than most of the competition, and that the economies of Alberta and Saskatchewan are vital to Canada’s future and must be supported, the scene is depressing. Local opposition has doomed hopes of future energy projects, and internal divisions have so weakened the United States that it is no longer a reliable partner.

President Joe Biden appears unwilling to stand up to Ms. Whitmer and other Democratic governors who support her, even though her actions are “raising doubts about the capacity of the Government of the United States to make and uphold commitments without being undermined by an individual state,” as the Canadian amicus brief bluntly put it.

Canada can no longer trust the United States because of its internal divisions. It can no longer get anything done at home because of our internal divisions. And that’s that.

Those last two paragraphs are a tad sharpish, Now see this other piece in the Globe today:

With the Line 5 shutdown order, the U.S. spurns Canada’s energy needs again

Lawrence Martin Public affairs columnist

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer won’t back off. Rather than show flexibility toward Canada in the confrontation over the vital Line 5 pipeline, she’s treating the good neighbour as badly as Donald Trump did, prompting a showdown.

She’s ordered the shutdown of the Enbridge Inc. line that passes through her state and supplies almost half the fuel needs of Ontario and Quebec. She threatened Tuesday to seize the profits of Enbridge if it doesn’t comply. It says it won’t.

This line has been in operation for 67 years without a leak into the Straits, but that doesn’t cut it with the uncompromising governor, a rising Democratic Party star. She alleges it is in ill-repair and could cause a horrific spill. She’s ignored a compromise reached by the previous governor, Republican Rick Snyder, that would see Enbridge bore an underground tunnel connecting Lake Huron and Lake Michigan as a replacement for the pipeline.

Ottawa has repeatedly raised the issue with U.S. counterparts to try to ward off a crisis. If the shutdown occurs, thousands of jobs would be threatened and gas prices would jump. But with the Democrats, the Liberals’ ideological soulmates, pals diplomacy hasn’t worked. So Ottawa filed a motion Tuesday with the U.S. District Court in Michigan saying Canada’s energy security is at risk and urging the court to prohibit a “unilateral compelled shutdown.”

The motion cites the 1977 Transit Pipelines treaty, which bars either country from interfering with the cross-border flow of oil. Should push come to shove that would appear to give Ottawa an advantage in the case.

The Trudeau government has already felt the sting of the new administration concerning pipelines with U.S. President Joe Biden’s cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline. Not getting his help to prevent a Line 5 shutdown would come as another blow from a president with whom Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has a warm relationship [sure, but to any substantive account when it counts?]

Mr. Biden appears bent on steering clear of the conflict, leaving it to state and the courts to work out. He is a fan of Ms. Whitmer. She was on his short list for vice-president…

All aid short of help. And then the Gray Lady has at Canada as a not yet repentant enough climate criminal who is “complicating” relations:

Theme song and movie:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Pearl Harbor, or, in December 1941 FDR Wanted War with Nazi Germany not Japan

Very few American historians like to acknowledge this inconvenient truth. For several months the president had had the US Navy acting increasingly provocatively in the Atlantic against the U-boats, seeking thereby to provoke an incident that would provide a reason to ask Congress for a declaration of war. Meanwhile he was trying to to deter Japan in the Pacific by strengthening US forces in the Philippines, particularly with B-17 heavy bombers; he was not secretly hoping/allowing for an attack on Pearl.

The book quoted immediately below deals with the responsibility of the US Navy and US Army commanders in Hawaii on December 7 regarding the overwhelming success of the Japanese attack. The quote is from p. 76 of Kimmel, Short, and Pearl Harbor, The Final Report Revealed by Fred Borch and Daniel Martinez (both were “intimately involved in the investigation” that produced the 1995 report, see p. XII); the quote is from the authors’ commentary in their book on the report):

…Roosevelt did not want war with Japan in 1941. On the contrary, war on a second front was the last thing he wanted since the U.S. Navy had been fighting an undeclared war against German forces in the Atlantic since 1941, Roosevelt, if he truly wanted war, wanted a fight with Hitler’s Germany –not with Imperial Japan. It follows that permitting a Japanese surprise attack would likely thwart this goal…Additionally, starting a war with Japan when U.S. forces were already fighting in the Atlantic {as they in fact were [see here for the Oct. 1941 sinking of the destroyer USS Reuben James, 115 lives lost, still not enough to get Congress to act] would open up a two front war–and ill-advised and risky venture.

More on this theme at this recent post:

Why it Made Sense for Hitler to Declare War on the US on December 11, 1941

As for the Philippines in December 1941 and after, see this review of this excellent account, MacArthur and Defeat in the Philippines. More on the vainglorious Field Marshal of the Philippines:

Dugout Doug MacArthur: The Worst General in American History, or, the Man who Stalingrad-ed Manila

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

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How many Ukrainian Nations? Or…

…a cosmopolitan from Kiev at the front in the Donbass, raising the questions: what is Ukraine? who are the Ukrainians? Note link at the end of the post.

From an article at the London Review of Books:

Stubborn as a Tomb

James Meek

Absolute Zero 
by Artem Chekh, translated by Olena Jennings and Oksana Lutsyshyna.
Glagoslav, 154 pp., £17.99, July 2020, 978 1 912894 67 3

When​ his company commander vanished from the front line at the end of 2015, the Ukrainian conscript and novelist Artem Chekh was told he’d deserted and gone over to the enemy. Through the winter Chekh and his comrades were encouraged to believe their captain was a traitor, laughing at them from the line of separatist bunkers opposite their own, lavishly equipped with warm clothes by his new Russian friends. Chekh preferred to think he had just run away. Maybe he’d found a job fixing cars in a backstreet garage in Poland.

With the spring thaw, Chekh’s unit was ordered to advance using the First World War-style tactics developed by the Ukrainian army to chip away at the separatists’ hold on a corner of Donbass in south-eastern Ukraine: digging trenches into no man’s land under shell fire until, as Chekh says, ‘in your binoculars you can see the barcode on his canned meat.’ In this space between the lines – the ‘grey zone’ – lay a birch wood, and in the birch wood a team of sappers found the captain’s body. He’d shot himself in the head and his body had lain there all winter, gnawed by wild animals. Everyone recalled the rumours of mental illness.

Only a handful of casualties are recorded in Chekh’s memoir, compiled from columns he wrote for the Ukrainian media during his army service…

t’s too crude to say that the Donbass conflict, which began in April 2014, a month after the Russian annexation of Crimea, pits Russophone Soviet nostalgist separatists against Ukrainophone Ukrainian nationalists. The separatists, dependent on Russian financial and military support – including Russian troops, equipment and cross-border artillery fire – are a Russian-speaking, socially conservative, working-class movement with a small neo-Stalinist fringe. Their supporters buy into the Soviet version of history; it’s not that they don’t think Ukraine is different from Russia, but as a subset of regions within a greater realm, not as an independent country. On the other side, Chekh’s side, is an ad hoc, bilingual Ukrainian alliance, in which pro-EU, pro-capitalism middle-class social liberals stand awkwardly alongside working-class national patriots, with a small neo-fascist fringe, all led by a government drip-fed with loans, grants and low-grade military intelligence, but little real military support, from North America and Europe. Both sides are obliged to accommodate the agendas of unaccountable billionaires, the nominally ‘Ukrainian’ or ‘Russian’ oligarchs whose businesses often span Ukraine, Russia and the Euro-American world. Early in Prilepin’s autobiographical Donbass novel of 2019, Not Everyone Goes to Hell, the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic tells the author disgustedly that the Kremlin wants him to let a Ukraine-based tycoon take over certain Donbass industries: ‘They could at least have offered me a Russian oligarch!’…

In seeking to ‘liberate’ Donbass from the separatists, many Ukrainian veterans, Chekh reports, thought they were in a battle of good against evil. So, of course, did their separatist counterparts, though Chekh doesn’t say so (if we were to reduce the opposing sides to their darkest fantasies of each other, the war would be Nazis v. orcs). But as Chekh begins his service most of his comrades have come to believe that the area will never be part of Ukraine again, and see themselves as holding the line against further incursions.

Chekh and his fellow conscripts encounter Ukrainian civilians who disapprove of the war and its precursor, the violent overthrow of the country’s democratically elected president Viktor Yanukovych, venal and repressive though he was. This sentiment is shared by a significant minority, particularly in Russophone communities in the south and east of the country. As Chekh’s platoon serves in the south, a farmer challenges them about the war. They swear at him and steal some of his watermelons. From the Donbass front line they make trips for pizza or coffee to small towns nearby, where many sympathise with the separatist cause and see the Kiev loyalists as war-bringers…

Chekh and his comrades agonise over the meaning of the wifi password in one restaurant popular with the troops: ‘crimeaisours’. Does the restaurant manager mean Crimea should be Ukrainian, or Russian? The second, it turns out. The women in the market ‘cannot get over their surprise at the military presence, as if war is something that belongs in the distant past, and we – we are something along the lines of the Soviet military force occupying Germany’.

There is another tension, closer to Chekh. With insouciant clarity he represents himself as a middle-class, liberal European consumer-intellectual of the 21st century, stepping out of a globalised Ikea-furnished world into a killing war of national self-determination [emphasis added]. If, a decade ago, that might have seemed a step backwards in time, now it seems a skip from one 21st-century moment to another – even, for anxious liberals in some wealthy democracies, a possible future. Part of what gives Absolute Zero its relevance for a non-Ukrainian audience is Chekh’s awareness of the divergence between his worldview and that of the socially conservative, less educated workers and farmers he fights alongside. If in other parts of the world finding common ground between liberals and social conservatives seems, for the time being, only politically pressing, for Chekh it is a matter of life and death. A man by nature impatient with borders finds himself ready to shed blood to defend one. A religious sceptic who tries to see things from the other guy’s point of view is in the trenches with believers who deal in right and wrong.

Chekh recalls taking part in the long Maidan uprising in Kiev that led to the overthrow of Yanukovych in 2014. Chekh’s particular cause was visa-free travel to Europe; a friend’s was better provision of bike paths [emphasis added]. ‘Here in the army,’ he writes,

“most people are for ‘stability’, a popular election slogan of Yanukovych. Money is the true measurement of happiness. True corruption is preferable to liberal chaos. And for most of them, for us who took part, standing our ground and protesting, we were not successful. The result of our slogans ‘Out with the Mob’ and ‘Ukraine is Europe!’ were political collapse, war, and grandmothers who hanged themselves over gas bills … How do I explain to a miner from Dnipropetrovsk or a beekeeper from Vinnystya the importance of the availability of a mandarin smoothie and blueberry cupcakes [emphasis added]?”

Arriving at boot camp, Chekh notes the absence of people like him. ‘Where are all the lawyers, designers, journalists and salesmen? Where are those who sold their Rolls-Royce for an opportunity at the front? … How can I press Control Z and return to the clean streets of the capital, and my spotless office?’ He remembers how difficult it was in peacetime to know what to say when he offered coffee to the people who came to do work at his dacha, and agonises about his ‘refined Ukrainian’ speech – his fellow soldiers, presumably, speak dialect Ukrainian, or Russian, or code-switch freely between the two…

Chekh plays up his distance from his fellow soldiers for literary effect. He wasn’t born a suave metrosexual with hipster tastes; all the troops have mobile phones, and you don’t have to be a bien pensant member of the Kiev intelligentsia to know that posting on Instagram about the shenanigans of your commanders is more likely to shake things up than mouthing off to the lieutenant. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether Chekh is voicing his own thoughts or gently mocking those of his fellow citizens…

When Chekh talks about ‘her majesty the Soviet Union’, I assume he’s thinking of the tired, broken, shabby affair that was the USSR in the late 1980s, and everything he sees emanating from that past: the corruption, rigged votes, militarism, nationalism, secret police excesses, impermeable borders, stale slogans, ancestor worship, sexual, racial and artistic conservatism, the unaccountable elite, the triumph of the patriarchy….

…Chekh sees…that the divide doesn’t run along the trench line between Ukrainian loyalist troops and Donbass separatists, but between individuals in any country, who can’t live together if they regard one another as traitors…

This is the caption for the photo at the top of the post: “Ukrainian servicemen stand at their positions on the front line with Russian-backed separatists, near the small city of Marinka, Donetsk region, on April 20, 2021. ALEKSEY FILIPPOV/AFP/Getty Images”; it’s at this April 20 piece by an excellent Globe and Mail correspondent:

An earlier post with a Canadian angle at the end:

Ukraine and Ukrainians (Ruthenians) Circa 1911

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Ancient Christian Treasures at Risk in Tigray, Ethiopia

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “The lavishly illustrated gospels are written in Ge’ez, a language of the ancient kingdom of Axum. Ge’ez survives only as a liturgical language in Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity and Judaism, but is closely related to Tigrinya, which is widely spoken in modern Tigray region. Photos courtesy of Michael Gervers/University of Toronto”.)

By the Globe and Mail’s man for Africa, more wonderful photos at the original:

A further article in the Globe on the bigger picture, more photos:

Meanwhile in Mesopotamia, note further posts at bottom of the post:

Christians just Hanging On in Iraq

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Anyone under Forty (esp. outside Canada) Heard of Robertson Davies?

Robertson Davies is my favourite English Canadian novelist, based on his Deptford Trilogy (see this 1982 article by John Kenneth Galbraith). He is also a very English-oriented, very white and quarter of a century dead male. So it was most refreshing to find this in the weekly “By the Book” author interview in today’s NY Times Book Review:

Stacey Abrams

Stacey Abrams, the Georgia politician and romance writer…

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?

“What’s Bred in the Bone,” by Robertson Davies [confess I have not read], is a novel about a man whose life contained much more than the surface would suggest, including espionage and angels. Davies was a distinguished Canadian author, and this is Book 2 of his Cornish Trilogy (“The Rebel Angels” and “The Lyre of Orpheus” are first and third). I usually recommend the book to folks who ask me for a good book list. Rarely has anyone heard of him or the novel, which is a shame…

That’s in the States. Canada today? The UK? One suspects for many nowadays the sentiments expressed in this 1985 NY Times Book Review piece on What’s Bred in the Bone would be even more the ticket:

PAINTER, FORGER, MISER, SPY

By Larry McCaffery; Larry McCaffery teaches American literature at San Diego State University and is co-editor of the journal Fiction International

Those familiar with Mr. Davies’s ”Deptford Trilogy” (”Fifth Business,” ”The Manticore” and ”World of Wonders”), which first brought him to attention in the United States during the 70’s, will discover in ”What’s Bred in the Bone” many of the same elements found in his earlier works. Here too we see Mr. Davies blending realism with the conjuring illusions of art, employing classical allusions and symbols alongside esoteric references to astrology and alchemy, fusing comedy of manners with Gothic melodrama. T HIS odd mixture – part Trollope, part Samuel Johnson, part Nabokov – only partially obscures Mr. Davies’s basically conservative, even elitist, views about life and art. These aristocratic preferences ultimately prevent him from creating a work that is Canadian in the way so many important contemporary works from Latin America seem recognizably Latin American in sensibility. Whereas such authors as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Carlos Fuentes, Manuel Puig and Julio Cortazar have joined European and Latin American ideas and styles, incorporating into their fiction the full range of their cultures’ conflicting myths, voices, gestures and symbols, Mr. Davies has self-consciously written a novel that looks to Europe (and especially England) for its central motifs, symbols and methodology. This approach, elaborately mirrored and rationalized in Cornish’s esthetic stance, is ultimately an ingenious but limiting evasion.

I call it an evasion because it appears to be founded on a nostalgia for the artistic principles of a different age – one in which the artist’s inner vision of things could be presented within a coherent language of symbols shared by the community. Cornish finds such a language in the religious and mythic icons used by the great Renaissance painters; he eventually produces two masterpieces that derive from his own experience.

Mr. Davies’s reliance on many of the conventions of the 19th-century novel, on an intricate series of literary and artistic allusions and most centrally on the symbolism and patterns of the Arthurian Grail legend and the biblical story of Jesus and Mary is based on a desire to find a system of interpretation he can share with his readers. Cornish and his creator both seek a means not simply to give artistic expression to life’s pain, mystery and beauty, but to offer a means of interpreting them. And both suspect their belief that ”art is a way of telling the truth” has been eroded by a world view dominated by skepticism and despair and the contemporary artistic emphasis on ambiguity, subjectivity, free play and art for art’s sake.

But is our age really so devoid of potent symbols, patterns, terminology and systems of interpretation?…t may be lamentable that many people today are more familiar with the symbols of the film ”Star Wars” than with those of ”Morte d’Arthur,” that the big bang, entropy and black holes grip our imaginations more fully than biblical creation myths or the Devil or that Bruce Springsteen’s lyrics about fast cars, urban jungles and the promise of the open road speak to some more urgently about their longings and disappointments than classical poetry. But to ignore the emergence of contemporary myths and symbols, or to deny their power to move people and help them interpret their existence, is to risk being out of touch with one’s age…

Ah, that dreaded “out of touch with one’s age”. One supposes art just gotta be hip. One also supposes that for many today Mr Davies just reflects a dead world, one that they are glad is dead. Thank goodness then for Stacey Abrams.

And for more on the other hand, here’s a nice 1989 review of The Lyre of Orpheus at the NY Review of Books:

Hermits and Fools

David Lodge

Robertson Davies started writing novels fairly late in life, and has come into his prime as a novelist at an age when most men are glad if they can summon up enough energy and concentration to read a book, let alone write one. Born in Thamesville, Ontario, in 1913, he was an actor (with the London Old Vic company), then a playwright, theater director, essayist, and newspaper editor for many years before (and after) he published his first novel, Tempest-Tost (1951). This and its sequels, Leaven of Malice (1954) and A Mixture of Frailties (1958), which make up the so-called Salterton trilogy, aroused little interest outside Canada. Fifth Business, which appeared more than a decade later (1970), and the Deptford trilogy, which it inaugurated, continued in The Manticore (1972) and completed by World of Wonders (1975), enjoyed some success in America, but made little impact in England. I have to confess that the first time Robertson Davies impinged on my own consciousness was when I was asked (by an American journal) to review The Rebel Angels in 1982.

What’s Bred in the Bone, a related, though free-standing novel, was widely praised, and was short-listed for the Booker Prize in 1984. It put Robertson Davies in that small group of novelists whom anyone professing a serious interest in contemporary fiction has to read. His impressively bearded countenance, staring challengingly from the review pages of newspapers and magazines like a reincarnation of Tolstoy (whose birthday he shares, to his obvious pleasure, along with Goethe and Saint Augustine), has become a familiar literary icon. The publication of The Lyre of Orpheus, which completes another, as yet unnamed, trilogy, is an important literary event…

Mr. Davies:
Remembering a Favorite Canadian Novelist—Robertson Davies Visits a NY Hotel  Room

PREDATE: Now if one wishes to consider the lasting art of a dead white male:

Hieronymus Bosch and Christian Nihilism, or, Mechanist, Modern and Mysterious in the late Mediaeval

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds


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Cancel Churchill? Cancel Napoleon? Cancel Lincoln?

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “‘An act of commemoration, not of celebration’: President Macron and his wife, Brigitte, at Napoleon’s tomb in Paris. Photograph: Reuters”.)

Can Winnie, Boney and Honest Abe be left to rest in some sort of peace? Must the kicking around continue? Where it will all end knows only…the conclusion of a piece at the Observer [the first two great historical figures are dealt with earlier therein]:

Let’s be honest – every national hero is tainted by the values of our time

Kenan Malik [tweets here]

We have to adopt a less black-and-white approach to Napoleon, Churchill and their ilk

[those raising historical wrongs] often themselves impose a cartoonish view of the past and its relationship to the present, from the call to take down Churchill’s statues to the mania for renaming buildings. The complexities of history fall foul of the political and moral needs of the present.

In 1876, Frederick Douglass, the great American former slave and staunch abolitionist, gave a speech at the unveiling of the Emancipation Memorial in Washington DC. He was critical of the statue, which depicted Abraham Lincoln as upright, but the freed slave as “still on his knees and nude”, as Douglass put it in a letter. He was critical of Lincoln, too, who was not, he told the crowd at the unveiling, “in the fullest sense of the word, either our man or our model”. Lincoln had been willing “to protect, defend and perpetuate slavery in the states where it existed” and “to pursue, recapture and send back the fugitive slave to his master, and to suppress a slave rising for liberty”. And yet, through the civil war, Lincoln had helped “deliver us from a bondage”. The memorial, he believed, was “a compliment and a credit to American civilisation, and a prophecy of still greater national enlightenment and progress in the future”.

In the raw aftermath of the civil war, Douglass, who more than most understood the degradations imposed on black Americans, could be both brutally honest and insightfully nuanced, in a fashion that seems to evade so many today.

Understanding the reasons why so many in France are ambivalent about Napoleon’s legacy is useful. Would that we could be equally perceptive about figures and events closer to home.

Quite. Relevant posts:

The British Raj and The 1943 Bengal Famine: A Crime Against Humanity?

Lincoln, Slavery, Racial Equality and John Brown

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Not all Populism is Bad; it’s Race AND Class, Stupid

Excerpts follow from the parts of this article at the NY Review of Books dealing with the books noted at the quote below:

Dividends of a Just Economy

Robert Kuttner

[the books]

The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism

by Thomas Frank

The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together

by Heather McGhee

According to Thomas Frank, the conflation of right-wing and left-wing “populism” is more than semantic sloppiness. It’s the latest reflection of a long-standing effort by elites to demonize demands for a democratic economy. Frank, a historian who cofounded The Baffler magazine, calls this “the Democracy Scare.” His new book, The People, No,combines a history of populism with a witty and thorough account of how ideologically opposite movements came to be branded by the same dismissive word: a 2017 report by Human Rights Watch is titled “The Dangerous Rise of Populism”; a New York Times essay by Tony Blair is headlined “How to Stop Populism’s Carnage”; the Global Populisms Project at Stanford declares on its website, “Populist parties are a threat to liberal democracy.”

As Frank demonstrates, the original People’s Party of the 1880s and 1890s, widely known as the Populists, had nothing in common with the Western European far right of today, much less with such antidemocratic figures as Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, or Donald Trump. It was a Jeffersonian, racially liberal, deeply democratic protest movement against economic concentration and corruption, and a demand for political reform. Far from being know-nothing in the mode of Trumpists, the movement was committed to popular education. The Populist Alliances set up lending libraries and encouraged their members to learn about economics. Coin’s Financial School, a populist best seller in 1894, Frank recounts, “was packed with tables and numbers: its point was not to discredit learning but to challenge conventional wisdom—to encourage people to figure out their predicament for themselves.”

In the anti-populist rhetoric of the Gilded Age, Frank finds a telling continuity with the anti-Roosevelt screeds of the 1930s and the broad-brush disparagement of populism today. He quotes a Supreme Court ruling from 1895 striking down an early income tax law that had been enacted by a coalition of Populists and Democrats, which sounds as contemporary as a Wall Street Journal editorial. “The present assault on capital is just the beginning,” wrote Justice Stephen J. Field. “It will be but the stepping-stone to others…a war of the poor against the rich.”

The ideas of the People’s Party were radical, but most eventually became mainstream, and several became law. Its demands for the breakup of monopolies were partly realized with the enactment of (poorly enforced) antitrust laws in 1890 and 1914. Other populist demands that later became law were direct election of senators, the progressive income tax, regulation of railroads (the Populists wanted nationalization), and price supports for farmers. Contrary to the nativist stereotype, the original Populists favored open immigration. The Populist idea that replacing the gold standard with “fiat money,” backed only by the credit of the government, could provide the cure for panics and recessions was decried by the experts as lunatic-fringe and inflationary—in 1913 it became law with the creation of the Federal Reserve. “In the most consequential Democracy Scare of them all,” Frank writes, “the cranks turned out to be right and the experts to be wrong.”

Many historians treat the Populist revolt as a crackpot movement that fell by the wayside. But as Frank observes, progressive populism reached its full flower in the administration of Franklin Roosevelt, who was not shy about condemning economic elites and using his office to rein in their abuses and to empower workers. The voters reciprocated. “Populism is what strengthened the unions and built a middle-class democracy [emphasis added],” Frank writes. “Populism, rightly understood, is what allowed Roosevelt to win four presidential elections” and gave Democrats a six-decade majority in Congress.

Frank is the authoritative chronicler of how downwardly mobile voters turned against their own economic interests. His first book, What’s the Matter with Kansas (2004),suggested that the culprit was the seductive appeal of social issues. White working-class voters tended to be cultural conservatives, and the trio of guns, God, and gays, plus the fear that racial integration would threaten their status, proved more salient than the practical economic benefits championed by liberal Democrats. But in two subsequent books, Listen, Liberal (2016) and now The People, No, Frank has explored how his Kansas thesis told only half the story.

It wasn’t just that Democrats were annoyingly liberal on social issues. They also stopped delivering on economic issues, as wages stagnated, corporations destroyed unions, and new concerns, such as the stresses on the working family, arose but were ignored by government [emphasis added]. By the time the Tea Party appeared in 2010—and more emphatically with the victory of Trump in 2016—many white working-class voters had given up on both mainstream parties…elite neoliberalism is as antidemocratic as explicit right-wing authoritarianism—and more insidious. The two forms of antidemocracy feed on each other…

…absent reform drastic enough to improve prospects for most people, the allure of the white-nationalist right will keep undermining the progressive alternative. This undertow is reflected in the stubborn loyalty of about 40 percent of the US electorate to Trump, who offered nothing to improve their lot other than psychic gratification. It’s one thing to enact some legislation; it’s another to win back the people…

Heather McGhee’s The Sum of Us is a powerful call for racial alliance. More than a moral appeal, McGhee’s book provides a practical manual on how to bring it about. McGhee, a former president of the progressive think tank Demos, argues that the most effective form of antiracism is to embrace both race and class. Racism hurts Blacks disproportionately, but it also hurts whites who could benefit from activist policies precluded by the politics of racial division. “Black people and other people of color certainly lost out when we weren’t able to invest more in the aftermath of the Great Recession,” she writes. “But did white people win? No, for the most part they lost right along with the rest of us [emphasis added].” McGhee is out to challenge what she terms the “zero-sum paradigm”: the premise that if Blacks gain, it must be at the expense of whites, and vice versa…

McGhee documents these realities with care: white people who can’t get affordable health insurance; white people bilked by mortgage fraudsters; white people no longer able to attend free public universities; employers who defeat union organizing by dividing workers by race. Each example reflects the absence of better policies for all, a possibility precluded by racial animus. McGhee is unsparing in describing how this version of America is harder still on Blacks. But the challenge is to make this story persuasive to white voters attracted by the likes of Trump, so that they shift their allegiance from racism to progressive economics…

Woking up is no answer. And of course the price for getting southern Democrats in Congress to agree to New Deal programs was to ensure that African Americans were not able to benefit properly, or at all, from many of them.

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Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds