Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Liberals Hang On In Canada

Canada held an election yesterday and Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party, will retain his post as prime minister as his party kept enough seats to form a minority government.

Via CBC:

After a tight campaign that saw the two leading parties struggle to break out of the pack, the Liberals under Justin Trudeau have held on to just enough seats in Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Ontario to secure a minority government.

Both Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh have spoken with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to acknowledge the election results.

While final ballots are still being counted in several ridings, the Liberals are expected to win 156 seats, 21 fewer than they started with 40 days ago. The Conservatives moved up from 95 seats to an estimated 122, while the NDP lost 15 seats to end up with 24.

The Liberals managed to win despite preliminary numbers showing the Conservatives won the popular vote, taking 34.5 per cent of the vote to the Liberals’ 33 per cent. That result was most pronounced in the Prairies, where Conservative turnout and support was very high.

For those of you unfamiliar with how the parliamentary system works, here’s a brief explainer: The party that wins the most seats for the federal parliament in the local districts in the provinces (called “ridings”) gets to form the government, and the leader of that party gets to be prime minister.  If that worked here in the United States, that would mean Nancy Pelosi would be running things.  (Would that it were so…)

It wasn’t an easy race for Trudeau.  He’s faced a number of stumbles, including a few scandals and his own black-face stupidity from his distant past.  But the Conservative leader, Andrew Scheer, didn’t do himself any favors by having to explain why he was a dual Canadian/U.S. citizen (a situation somewhat similar to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX); it’s his dad’s fault), and having to explain his previous views on marriage equality (he was against it).

The Conservatives did very well out west — the Liberals didn’t win a single seat in Alberta and Saskatchewan — but it’s also sparsely populated as compared to Ontario and Quebec, and the fact that there’s more than one major party in the mix diluted the Liberals’ support in the east and Atlantic Canada.

A couple of notes of observation: Canadian elections take forty days from the time they’re called to election day.  Wouldn’t that be nice?  Also, during the election, the news media, or at least the CBC, does not refer to the incumbent prime minister by his title; he or she is “[Party] leader.”  Therefore for the last forty days, it’s been “Liberal leader Justin Trudeau,” not “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,” even though he still is the PM.  I assume that’s because the press doesn’t want to give the slightest impression that they’re favoring one party over another.  That’s very Canadian: always play fair.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Happy October Holiday

To some, today is Columbus Day. In some places, school is out and it’s a holiday. Not in Miami-Dade County, though, which means I’m at work, and to some people, celebrating the arrival of Christopher Columbus is seen as not necessarily a good thing.

In Canada, it’s Thanksgiving Day. That means they get a six-week jump on Christmas shopping. I am sure they are thrilled to be inundated with jingling bells and heralding angels before the leaves are off the maples.

Anyway, enjoy the holiday if you celebrate it.

Canadian Thanksgiving

Monday, July 1, 2019

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The Wrong Border

The Trump minions have been telling us that thousands of terror suspects have been pouring over the southern border which is why we need a state of emergency to end the horror.

Yeah, no.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection encountered only six immigrants at ports of entry on the U.S-Mexico border in the first half of fiscal year 2018 whose names were on a federal government list of known or suspected terrorists, according to CBP data provided to Congress in May 2018 and obtained by NBC News.

The low number contradicts statements by Trump administration officials, including White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, who said Friday that CBP stopped nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists from crossing the southern border in fiscal year 2018.

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen told reporters on Monday the exact number, which NBC News is first to report, was classified but that she was working on making it public. The data was the latest set on this topic provided to Congress. It is possible that the data was updated since that time, but not provided to Congress.

Overall, 41 people on the Terrorist Screening Database were encountered at the southern border from Oct. 1, 2017, to March 31, 2018, but 35 of them were U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. Six were classified as non-U.S. persons.

On the northern border, CBP stopped 91 people listed in the database, including 41 who were not American citizens or residents.

So it’s the Canadians who are the real terrorists, with their hockey pucks and Tim Horton donuts sneaking in to overtake our nation.  And the way they do it is especially crafty: y’see, most of ’em are white with names like Gordie and Justin.  Very clever.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Happy October Holiday

To some, today is Columbus Day. In some places, school is out and it’s a holiday. Not in Miami-Dade County, though, which means I’m at work, and to some people, celebrating the arrival of Christopher Columbus is seen as not necessarily a good thing.

In Canada, it’s Thanksgiving Day. That means they get a six-week jump on Christmas shopping. I am sure they are thrilled to be inundated with jingling bells and heralding angels before the leaves are off the maples.

Anyway, enjoy the holiday if you celebrate it.

Canadian Thanksgiving

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Sunday Reading

The Forgotten Border — Porter Fox in the New York Times took a trip along the Canadian border with the U.S.

At 5,525 miles, the United States-Canada border is the world’s longest land boundary, more than double the length of the United States-Mexico line. It passes through remote terrain arrayed with 8,000-foot peaks, millions of acres of wilderness and four of the five Great Lakes — a lot of it essentially unguarded.

With President Trump’s unrelenting focus on the Mexican border and all the dangers he says it poses for America, the nation’s northern boundary has remained mostly an afterthought — even though it is potentially more porous than the southern border. More unsettling, haphazard enforcement and surveillance efforts there have upended commerce with our No. 2 trading partner and have struggled to stop extremists, drug traffickers and illegal immigrants from entering the United States.

“The problem is that we don’t know what the threats and risk are because so much attention is given to the Southwest border,” Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota, told The New York Times in 2016. She was the author of a bill that required the Department of Homeland Security to develop a threat assessment for the northern border.

Last month, the department announced its latest strategy to secure the border. Its report says that the principal challenge is ending the illegal flow of drugs between Canada and the United States. But there are other issues, like making it easier for people who live in cross-border communities to pass over the line, and speeding up the flow of trade and services — all while keeping up the country’s guard.

I spent the last three years traversing the northern border for a book about that so-called Hi-Line. The northland is a singular place, occupied by the sort of small towns that modern America has skipped over, obscure industries and old-world professions that rely on hands, not machines. It is also a wild place, with forests of old-growth hemlock, fir and birch; wild rivers; unnamed mountain ranges; and some of the largest roadless areas in America.

For much of my journey, it was difficult to discern where the border even was. I unintentionally crossed it dozens of times without seeing an agent or border monument. A French teenager jogging along a beach in British Columbia recently wasn’t so lucky. When she inadvertently crossed the unmarked border into the United States, she was detained for two weeks.

What I did see and hear were unhappy citizens on both sides of the line who said that the northern border’s “Mexicanization” — essentially, the American government’s mimicking of procedures it uses in the south — has resulted in congestion at ports of entry, invasive questioning at checkpoints, racial profiling and long delays, all of which that have changed life for the worse on both sides of the border.

Since the 18th century, when the northern border was first hastily sketched, the boundary has had the appearance of a scrawl. It divides more than a dozen American Indian tribes, and in Niagara Falls, N.Y., it cleaves North America’s most famous waterfall. Homes, businesses, golf courses and factories sit on the border. During Prohibition, taverns were built on the line so that Americans could be welcomed on one side and sold booze on the other.

Before the Sept. 11 attacks, half of the crossings between the United States and Canada were left unguarded at night. Since then, the Department of Homeland Security has increased the number of agents in the north by 500 percent and installed some of the same sensors, security cameras, military-grade radar and drones used on the United States-Mexico line.

The number of apprehensions along the northern border is relatively low compared with those along the southern line — about 3,000 in the 2017 fiscal year versus about 300,000 in the south.

Even so, every year, millions of dollars worth of smuggled drugs, including large quantities of opioids, like fentanyl, and an untold number of immigrants cross the border illegally into the United States. Motion sensors and cameras detect illicit crossers, some armed, in remote areas, but the agents can’t always get there in time to catch them.

Illicit drugs and illegal immigration are not the only concerns. A 2015 report by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs said, “Some experts also believe that terrorists could exploit vulnerabilities along the northern border to carry out an attack on the U.S.” and noted that in 2011, Alan Bersin, a former commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that in terms of terrorism, “it’s commonly accepted that the more significant threat comes from the U.S.-Canada” border rather than the border with Mexico.

Today, according to the Department of Homeland Security report, the potential terror threats come “primarily from homegrown violent extremists in Canada” who are not on terrorist watch lists and thus can cross into the United States legally.

Beyond the terrorism threat, the government has the challenge of overseeing a border crossed every day by more than 400,000 people and $1.6 billion in goods through some 120 points of entry. According to a 2011 study by researchers at the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University, increased secondary searches and unpredictable waiting times at the border were costing Americans and Canadians as much as $30 billion annually. Homeland Security has been working to minimize those waiting times.

Intensified security at border crossings also has disrupted centuries-old international communities that straddle the line. Two centuries of intermarrying among French, Acadian, Indian, German, Scottish and Dutch people created families and communities that span the border. After decades of being able to cross the line at will, families, Native Americans, members of church congregations, and employees at hospitals and small businesses now find themselves confronted with a sometimes impassable and, occasionally hostile, barrier.

In the coming months, Homeland Security will begin to put in place its border management plan, which calls for enhanced border security while also doing a better job of facilitating cross-border trade and travel. Some of the actions proposed to achieved those ends have been suggested before, with little follow-through.

This time, perhaps, our border to the north will get the attention and resources it needs.

[Photo of border at Point Roberts, Washington, by Florian Fuchs.]

Doonesbury — More tweets from the twit.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Who’s The Bad Guy Here?

A photo from today’s summit between Kim and Trump”

Meanwhile, Dana Milbank at the Washington Post on how Trump really took out our enemies over the weekend.

O Canada: You had it coming, eh.

They inflicted Nickelback on us. We did nothing.

They sent us Justin Bieber. We turned the other cheek.

They were responsible for one abomination after the other: Poutine. Diphthong vowels. Hawaiian pizza. Instant mashed potatoes. Ted Cruz.

Still, we did not retaliate — until now.

Finally, the United States has a president with the brains and the guts to stand up to the menace of the north. This weekend President Trump called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “meek,” “very dishonest & weak” for protesting U.S. tariffs. Trump’s trade adviser said “there’s a special place in hell” for Trudeau, and Trump’s economic adviser said Trudeau “stabbed us in the back” and is guilty of “betrayal” and “double-crossing.”

How do you feel now, Canada? Or, to put it in a language you understand: How’s she bootin’er?

Trudeau earned his place in the underworld for some truly appalling rhetoric, saying “we’re polite, we’re reasonable, but we also will not be pushed around.” Offensive! He also found it “kind of insulting” that the Trump administration said it was imposing tariffs on Canadian goods “for a national security reason” given that Canadians “stood shoulder to shoulder with American soldiers in far off lands in conflicts from the First World War onward.”

Canada is not a national security threat to the United States? Au contraire, as they say in (very foreign) Quebec.

Trudeau conveniently omits the invasion of Detroit from Canada in 1812. And there was that ugly dispute in 1844 when soon-to-be President James K. Polk wanted the U.S. border to extend all the way north to Alaska at 54 degrees, 40 minutes latitude (slogan: “Fifty-four forty or fight!”) but was forced to accept the 49th parallel, a humiliation that denied us Vancouver and many great Chinese restaurants.

And let’s not even get started about the softwood lumber dispute. Too painful.

[…]

Inexplicably, these foreigners are not putting America First. That’s why Trump needs to quit the group and make his own G-8 — the Great Eight — with more sympathetic world leaders:

Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, who enjoys “a great relationship” with Trump as he deploys extralegal killing squads.

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, who is “very open” and “very honorable” in running the most repressive regime on Earth.

Egyptian dictator Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, who established himself as a “fantastic guy” with his bloody crackdown on dissidents.

The Saudi regime, which has been “tremendous” as it purges business leaders and critics.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is “getting very high marks” as he jails opponents.

China’s premier, Xi Jinping, who did something “great” in making himself president for life.

And, of course, Russian President Vladimir Putin, “getting an A” for his leadership and receiving a congratulatory call from Trump after his “election.”

There is no room in this G-8 for Britain, France, Germany, Italy or Japan — and certainly not Canada. Canadians say “ Sorry ” for everything. But Trudeau not only failed to apologize to Trump, he won praise from his political opponents for defying Trump. This is a clear and present danger to the United States. Given Canadians’ well-known instability — their currency is called the “ loonie ” — there can be only one solution: We are going to build a wall from Maine to Alaska — and Ottawa is going to pay.

Fifty-four forty or fight! MAGA! Take off, hosers.

Democracy and compromise is a sign of weakness to Trump.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Friday, February 9, 2018

Monday, October 9, 2017

Happy October Holiday

To some, today is Columbus Day. In some places, school is out and it’s a holiday. Not in Miami-Dade County, though, which means I’m at work, and to some people, celebrating the arrival of Christopher Columbus is seen as not necessarily a good thing.

In Canada, it’s Thanksgiving Day. That means they get a six-week jump on Christmas shopping. I am sure they are thrilled to be inundated with jingling bells and heralding angels before the leaves are off the maples.

Anyway, enjoy the holiday if you celebrate it.

Canadian Thanksgiving

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Friday, August 11, 2017

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Friday, July 14, 2017

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Short Takes

SCOTUS partially lifts Trump travel ban and says states cannot restrict financial aid to churches.

Russian ambassador called back to Moscow.

Philando Castile family receives $3 million settlement from city.

School prayer in Canada runs into controversy.

Hello, Dali: Artist’s body to be exhumed for paternity test.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday Reading

Why We Must Mock Trump — Howard Jacobson in the New York Times.

Let’s look on the bright side: The spectacle of ireful Donald Trump supporters disrupting Shakespeare in the Park’s production of “Julius Caesar” and the subsequent tweetstorm of abuse directed at any company with Shakespeare in its name prove that plays retain the power to shock and enrage. Who said the theater is all anodyne, feel-good musicals?

I didn’t see the production that turned Julius Caesar into a Donald Trump look-alike, so I can’t comment on the accuracy of the impersonation or the violence against the president that some people believe it meant to incite. But there are a few things about the nature of Shakespearean drama in general — its subtle shifts in sympathy, the shocks it administers to our prejudices, its suspension of the drives to definitive political action — that obviously weren’t apparent to protesters.

The first of these is that a play, however incendiary its plot, is a very different thing from a political speech. A speech asks us to go out and do, or at least to go away and believe; a play by Shakespeare moves through time, measures action against motive and shows us consequence. We might enter the theater in rash spirits, but we leave it consumed by thought.

Mr. Trump never, in so many words, promoted the assassination of Hillary Clinton when addressing an election rally about the likely effect of her tinkering with the gun laws, but he avoided incitement only by making a sort of comic drama of his words — imagining what others might think or do, playing with future and conditional tenses, painting himself as innocent of any such intention himself. This wasn’t Shakespeare, but it was a departure from the usual blunt declamations of the “Lock her up!” variety. Deep down in Mr. Trump’s ungrammatical subconscious, some ancient understanding of the nature of dramaturgical, as opposed to oratorical, discourse briefly stirred. No, he had not called for Mrs. Clinton to be shot.

Plays don’t tell you what to think, let alone how to act. A good play won’t even tell you what the playwright thinks. What did Shakespeare believe? We don’t know. Meaning emerges, in a drama, suspensefully, out of the interplay of forces, from the collision of voices. There is no such thing, in art, as non-contingent truth.

That Trumpists don’t recognize this process is not surprising. Mr. Trump’s appeal is to those who think truth comes in a capsule. But their rage at the depiction of the president as the soon-to-be-assassinated Caesar is encouraging to the satirist. Satire is less subtle than Shakespearean drama. It lowers its head and charges. The questions always asked of it — will it do any good, will it change minds, will it even be noticed by the people satirized? — are hereby answered. Yes, no and yes.

Vexation is its own reward. It is consoling to see how thin-skinned the partisans of Mr. Trump are. But in truth, we’ve always known this about people of an absolutist bent. Just before the war, Adolf Hitler tried diplomatic means to get the British cartoonist David Low barred from drawing cartoons of the Führer. It has even been suggested that Mr. Low’s name was on a list of people to be killed when the Nazis occupied Britain.

Communism’s failure of humor is the subject of Milan Kundera’s first novel, “The Joke.” For writing the words “Optimism is the opium of mankind! A healthy spirit stinks of stupidity! Long live Trotsky!” on the back of a postcard to a girlfriend, Ludvik Jahn is expelled from the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and sent to work in the mines.

The more monocratic the regime, the less it can bear criticism. And of all criticism, satire — with its single ambition of ridiculing vanity and delusion — is the most potent.

This can be only because the boastful are thin-skinned and the intolerant are forever looking over their shoulders. Mr. Trump himself is visibly easy to wound. Should this be a reason to hold back? “Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?” the great satirist Alexander Pope asked. The question was rhetorical. Wounding the vainglorious is a pleasing pastime in itself and contributes to their demoralization. Fire enough salvos of comedy and their solemn edifices start to crumble. It might be a slow process, but it is at least the beginning.

Derision is a societal necessity. In an age of conformity and populist hysteria, it creates a climate of skepticism and distrust of authority. If mercy droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven, derision spurts up as though from a pantomime geyser, drenching the braggart and the fool in the foulest ordures.

[Photo by Sarah Krulwich, New York Times]

Past Is Prologue — Richard Ben-Veniste, former Watergate prosecutor, has a warning for Trump.

Watching the national controversy over the White House and Russia unfold, I’m reminded of Karl Marx’s oft-quoted observation: “History repeats itself: first as tragedy, second as farce.” I was a close witness to the national tragedy that was Richard Nixon’s self-inflicted downfall as president, and I’ve recently contemplated whether a repeat of his “Saturday Night Massacre” may already be in the offing. Given how that incident doomed one president, Trump would do well to resist repeating his predecessor’s mistakes—and avoid his presidency’s descent into a quasi-Watergate parody.

The massacre began when Nixon gave the order to fire Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, a desperate effort to prevent him from hearing tape-recorded evidence that proved the White House’s involvement in a conspiracy to obstruct the investigation of a break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters. Nixon’s misuse of executive power backfired, immediately costing him two highly respected members of his administration: Attorney General Elliot Richardson and his deputy William Ruckelshaus, who both resigned rather than follow Nixon’s directive. Third in command at the Justice Department was Solicitor General Robert Bork, who agreed to do the dirty deed and fired Cox.

At the time, I had been working on Cox’s team for only four months and had just been promoted to chief of the task force investigating obstruction-of-justice allegations against Nixon. It was one of five such task forces that Cox organized to carry out his broad mandate. Although Nixon ordered the special prosecutor’s office abolished and commanded the FBI to seize our office and files, we remained employed by the Justice Department. Homeless, leaderless, and dazed by our proximity to the explosion the president had detonated in our midst, we brushed ourselves off and vowed to continue our work in whatever capacity we could.

It was only a matter of days, though, until the firestorm of public and congressional outrage over Cox’s firing forced Nixon to reverse course and promise to obey court orders that compelled his release of eight tape recordings. We returned to our office and were reunited with our files, and a new special prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, was soon appointed to lead the Watergate inquiry. Amid all the furor—which didn’t end there—the public correctly asked the question “What was Nixon hiding?” The answer was not long in coming: a lot. The tapes proved Nixon was not only a liar, but also an early leader of a plot to obstruct the investigation of those who organized and financed the DNC break-in. Nixon’s choice was either to face the music—likely impeachment, conviction, and removal from office—or resign.

In Watergate’s aftermath, I thought the unique circumstances that led to Nixon’s resignation in disgrace could never be replicated. But after just six months in office, the comparisons between Presidents Trump and Nixon are mounting:

Watergate involved political espionage and electronic wiretapping by the Republican candidate’s campaign committee against the DNC. “Russiagate” involves political espionage by the Russians against the Democrats, with possible collusion by members of the GOP candidate’s campaign or advisers.

Watergate saw the president’s firing of a special prosecutor. In Russiagate, FBI Director James Comey was fired after, in the president’s own words, the bureau’s investigation had put “great pressure” on him.

Nixon called the Senate Watergate hearings a “witch hunt,” and Trump repeatedly uses the same term to criticize the ongoing special-counsel investigation.

Nixon ordered CIA Deputy Director Vernon Walters to tell Acting FBI Director Pat Gray to back off the investigation tracing cash found on the arrested burglars at the scene of the crime. According to Comey’s sworn testimony before the Senate, Trump told him to go easy on former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who is being investigated in part for lying about his contacts with Russian officials.

Nixon aide Alexander Butterfield revealed the existence of a secret White House taping system in Senate testimony. Trump once suggested that he may have covertly taped his conversations with Comey, though on Thursday he denied doing so.

Nixon claimed the special prosecutor’s office was made up of political partisans out to get him, and Trump calls Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his staff “very bad and conflicted people.” Both presidents have also sharply criticized the press, calling it the “enemy.”

As if all these parallels are not enough, Trump’s surrogates have raised the possibility that he will fire Mueller, too. Presidential confidant and Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy told reporters earlier this month he believed Trump was considering the dismissal. Incredibly, longtime Trump supporter Roger Stone, who himself worked on Nixon’s reelection campaign, has loudly encouraged Trump to reprise the Saturday Night Massacre by firing Mueller. This despite the fact that Mueller—tapped to lead the FBI by George W. Bush in 2001 and selected by Trump’s own deputy attorney general to lead the Russia inquiry, has been on the job for only a month and is still hiring staff.

If Trump’s actions seem like a ham-fisted imitation of Nixon’s, they are no laughing matter. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said she is “increasingly concerned” that Trump will fire Mueller, and send a message that he “believes the law doesn’t apply to him, and that anyone who believes otherwise will be fired”—a perhaps unintentional allusion to Nixon himself, who once said that when a president does something, “that means that it is not illegal.” The usual limits on presidential power must apply to Trump, Feinstein argued: “The Senate should not let that happen. We’re a nation of laws that apply equally to everyone, a lesson the president would be wise to learn.”

The question is not whether Trump can fire Mueller—it is whether it would be a misuse of executive power for him to do so. Should Trump let Mueller go, it would spark a constitutional crisis the likes of which the country has not seen in four decades. The business of Congress would grind to a halt and the stock market would suffer a shock. With Comey’s dismissal as the backdrop, there could be an immediate resolution introduced in the House for Trump’s impeachment for attempting to obstruct a lawful, ongoing criminal investigation.

Rod Rosenstein, in his role as acting attorney general, followed the law in appointing Mueller to be special counsel to “ensure a full and thorough investigation of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election” and related matters. It should be remembered that Nixon was named by the Watergate grand jury as an unindicted co-conspirator in a conspiracy to obstruct justice, and that the House Judiciary Committee cited his interference with Cox’s investigation among the grounds for voting in favor of impeachment. And only former President Gerald Ford’s pardon precluded an indictment of citizen Nixon for obstruction.

In Watergate, there were several Republicans in both houses who are remembered for putting country above party loyalty. The die-hards who stood with Nixon until the end—not so much. If Trump were to fire Mueller to cut off a full investigation, it would fall to congressional Republicans, who control both houses of Congress, to determine whether the United States continues to be a nation of laws. Americans would see whether a new Howard Baker, Lowell Weicker, Tom Railsback, Bill Cohen, Caldwell Butler, or Hamilton Fish would step forward and join with Democrats, who would no doubt sponsor an impeachment resolution. Or would GOP lawmakers simply go along with a foolhardy reenactment of the Watergate scandal’s Saturday Night Massacre?

O Canada? — Stephen Marche on his home and native land’s inability to celebrate itself.

July 1 is Canada’s 150th anniversary, but nobody seems particularly eager to join the party. The muted attempts at celebration have so far produced either awkwardness or embarrassment. A giant rubber duck, six stories tall, is supposed to arrive in Toronto Harbor on Canada Day, but its imminent appearance has been greeted by outrage over costs and suspicions of plagiarism. In March, the CBC, Canada’s national broadcaster, began televising a documentary series called “The Story of Us” to the almost instantaneous howling of Quebec and Nova Scotia politicians at what they regarded as significant omissions in our supposedly collective narrative. Resistance 150, an indigenous political movement, is planning to disrupt the anniversary itself.

The principal excitement of our sesquicentennial so far has been the fury of national self-critique it has inspired.

The irony is that Canada, at the moment, has a lot to celebrate. Our prime minister is glamorous and internationally recognized as a celebrity of progressive politics. We are among the last societies in the West not totally consumed by loathing of others. Canada leads the Group of 7 countries in economic growth. Our cultural power is real: Drake recently had 24 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 at the same time — for one shining moment he was nearly a quarter of popular music. Frankly, it’s not going to get much better than this for little old Canada.

So why is Canada so bad at celebrating itself? The nationalism that defined the country during the last major anniversary, the centenary in 1967, has evaporated. The election of Justin Trudeau has brought a new generation to power, a generation raised on a vision of history more critical than laudatory. We dream of reconciliation with the victims of our ancestors’ crimes rather than memorialization of their triumphs.

Mr. Trudeau has described the country he leads as “the first postnational state,” with “no core identity, no mainstream.” He may be right. But if we are a postnational state, then why are we even mentioning the formation of a national state in the first place? It seems so arbitrary.

The historical moment we will commemorate next Saturday is Confederation — a bunch of old white guys signing a document that bound a loose collection of provinces controlled by the British Empire into a vague and discontented unity without the slightest consideration of or participation by the First Peoples. It doesn’t seem ideal, or even accurate, as an origin. Needless to say, native people were here for thousands of years before that. And Canada managed to reach proper independence, with the right to amend our Constitution without approval from Britain, only in 1982.

Nonetheless, I will be celebrating. The British North America Act, which I was forced to study in school and which, at the time, I considered the single most boring object ever produced by human consciousness, has grown on me. Maybe I’ve aged. But so has the world. Confederation was an attempt at compromise between peoples within a unified political framework. In this way at least, a moldy 19th-century document has, oddly, prepared Canada for the 21st century surprisingly well.

Nationally, Canada has been spared the populism that has swallowed the rest of the Western world because there is not, and has never been, such a thing as a “real Canadian.” Kevin O’Leary — Canada’s supposed answer to Donald Trump — ended his campaign for the leadership of the Conservative Party, even though he was leading in the polls, because he couldn’t speak French well enough to win an election. To lead this country, you must be able to navigate multiple languages and multiple cultures. Our longstanding identity crisis has suddenly turned to a huge advantage — we come, in a sense, pre-broken.

Pierre Trudeau, Justin’s father, articulated Canada’s difference from other countries perfectly: “There is no such thing as a model or ideal Canadian,” he said when he was prime minister in 1971. “What could be more absurd than the concept of an ‘all Canadian’ boy or girl? A society which emphasizes uniformity is one which creates intolerance and hate.” Despite this country’s manifold failures to uphold its ideals, its core vision has turned out to be much more sophisticated than America’s “E pluribus unum.”

Not that the pre-broken post-national condition is without its agonies. Colonized self-loathing seems to be a national trait we will never fully shake off. Canadian self-flagellation results always in the same warm, comfortingly smug sense of virtue. Self-righteousness is to Canada what violence is to America. It transcends the political spectrum. Whether it is Conservative insistence on frugality and small-town values or the furious outrage of identity politics on the left, everyone has the same point to make: We’re not as good as we think we are, and the government should do something about it.

The virtues of this country are mostly negative anyway, which may also make overt celebration difficult. Canada’s real glories are its hospitals and its public schools, but those, unlike the Marine Corps, cannot be paraded. Canada is, according to several international surveys, the most tolerant country in the world. But it’s absurd to celebrate not being quite as insane as the rest of the world. You don’t get a cookie because you hate people on the basis of their skin color a little less than everybody else.

None of what I have written should be taken to imply that Canadians don’t love their country, or that I don’t love my country. I do. Most Canadians do, too. They just love it quietly. They don’t want to make a big fuss. Britain made a big fuss with Brexit and look what’s happening to it. America at the moment seems full of dedicated, flag-waving patriots who love their country passionately, vociferously; they just can’t stand their fellow citizens or their government.

Canada’s reluctance to celebrate itself is actually something worth celebrating. It has become abundantly clear in 2017 that patriotism is for losers. Patriotism is for people and for countries that need to justify their existence through symbols rather than achievements. Canada is doing well enough that it doesn’t require spackled vanity. It doesn’t need six-story-high rubber ducks.

This is the most Canadian thing I will ever write, I know, but I’m proud of my country for its lack of pride.

 Doonesbury — He’s back.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Short Takes

Former Acting A.G. Sally Yates warned Trump White House about Flynn.

So did President Obama.

GOP enlists 13 men, no women, to draft Senate healthcare bill.

South Korea votes for a new president today.

Eighteen frat brothers charged in hazing death.

Four feared dead in flooding in Canada.