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ExpatPundit

"Five axiomatic propositions of Canadian Nationalism vis-a-vis the Americans:

1. Boy, we hate Americans.

2. We really do.

3. Really.

4. I'm not kidding. We really hate them.

5. So how come they never pay us any attention?"

--Will Ferguson, Why I Hate Canadians, Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1997, p.105.





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Wednesday, February 20, 2002

The Herold-ometer triumphs again! No need to spend any further time figuring out whether Lewis Lapham is a bonehead. Instapundit notes that the February Harpers Magazine includes in its vaunted Harpers Index, "Estimated number of Afghan civilians killed by U.S. bombing last year: 3950. Source: Marc W. Herold, University of New Hampshire (Durham)." You may remember that, three weeks ago, I wrote about the great value in Herold's widely-diffused and then widely-discredited numbers, since anyone who uncritically cites them now is essentially raising his hand and saying "I'm a know-nothing goofball who is willing to ignore the truth in order to make a point!" Welcome to the club, Lewis!

As Instapundit points out, "bogus statistics never die." To address this problem, I propose the following plan. I have also carefully researched the newspaper articles that described civilian deaths. And, like Marc Herold, I have constructed a conservative tally of only those reports in which I have confidence. My tally of civilian war dead is 71 people. Now, understand that this is a conservative estimate -- it could be as high as 80 or 85. But I propose that in all future anti-idiotarian writings, we all cite this 71 death figure. When someone waves the February issue of Harpers under your nose and says: "3,950 dead! Source: Marc Herold!" You can simply reply: "No, a more recent survey with the same methodology found 71 dead. Source: BSilv."
This is insightful foreign affairs journalism? Globe and Mail columnist Paul Knox opines about the current U.S. push to expand its combatting of terrorists beyond Afghanistan:

Somehow, the battle has spread to Iraq, North Korea and Iran, and to a five-digit galaxy of people all over the world who are disposed to do bad things. "Tens of thousands of trained terrorists are still at large," Mr. Bush said in that axis-of-evil speech last month. "We must pursue them wherever they are." Tens of thousands, he said. Is this obsessive, or what? [NB: emphasis in original]

Now there may be an argument that Bush engaged in hyberbole with this number. A thoughtful response would attempt to debunk it, for example by estimating the number of terrorists that could be produced in the Afghanistan training camps over a certain period of time, and demonstrating that this number is likely less than "tens of thousands." Knox, of course, does nothing of the sort. His insightful retort is to label this claim, "obsessive." Quite the debater, aren't we, Mr. Knox?

Mr. Knox has demonstrated his keen eye for logic in the past, too. In the fall, he repeatedly slammed what he termed a selective U.S. military response to crises around the globe. "Why Panama, but not Rwanda" he asked; "why Haiti, but not Rwanda?" (I would link to his published musings, but as always the Globe and Mail chooses to remove all articles more than 7 days old.)

Apparently, it's too much to expect that Knox, who spent six years as the Globe and Mail's Latin American correspondent "during which Paul reported from one end of Latin America to the other," should be familiar with the Monroe Doctrine, which pretty much sums up why the U.S. is more likely to get involved in crises in this hemisphere.

But allow me to address Knox's primary unsupported allegation: Is Bush's focus on combatting anti-U.S. terrorists, wherever they may hide, "obsessive?" I hope so. As an American, I expect the current administration to focus like a laser on protecting American lives. That's traditionally a fundamental part of the role of any chief of state, and five months after the revelation of serious threats against the U.S., it's even more important than in the past. I want -- no, demand! -- that Bush and his administration to spend a good chunk of their time obsessing over ways to proactively protect Americans. Anything less would be gross dereliction of duty.

[UPDATE: A reader recently emailed that my characterization of Knox's questions about U.S. actions is inaccurate, and that Knox typically also raised inconsistencies in the U.S. response to Kosovo, as well as other involvements outside of the Americas, as compared to Rwanda. Since these columns are not online, I have been trying to find time to visit a library and re-check the columns. Until then, here's a tentative "mea culpa" on one-half of this post. Boy, I hate being wrong.]
Weird Canadian nationalism. Globe and Mail arts columnist John MacLachlan Gray explains that good Canadian actors shouldn't use "Method" acting techniques because Canada has its own form of actor training that works perfectly well, thank you very much:

"The trick is in finding a reality base for the pretence, so that, even when they know you're pretending, the audience can find something to believe in. Which is why American actors spend years studying The Method, a grab bag of memory techniques for producing real emotions in make-believe situations. The Method is responsible for three generations of American film actors -- Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Sean Penn -- whose considerable cash value rests in their ability to lend authenticity and authority to the contrived, stylized events of a commercial movie.

Although almost universally employed these days, The Method is neither the only nor the best way to hone a performance; over time, one gets a bit tired, watching basically the same character navel-gaze his way through one production after the other.

In fact, an effective Canadian alternative to The Method was developed 30 years ago by Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto, under the direction of the hobbit-like nationalist, Paul Thompson.

To create The Farm Show, a troupe of actors spent months in a farming community in Southern Ontario, collecting stories from the locals while learning, literally, to impersonate the individuals involved.

And then MacLachlan bemons the fate of Canadian actors:

For one thing, unless one has a particular affection for Shakespeare, Shaw and the American musical, no actor can expect to make a living in Canadian theatre these days. Instead, a Canadian actor's bread and butter is in playing supporting roles for American film and TV (the Concerned Friend, the Irate Citizen), in which "too Canadian" is the kiss of death; and in voice-over work, for which the "Martin Sheen sound" or the "Julia Roberts sound" are to be assiduously cultivated. Walk into an audition with the Huron County sound, and you might as well be speaking Swahili.

Must be time to push for Canadian content rules on the stage as well as on the airwaves, eh, John!
Next client: Mugabe or Milosevic? As Charles Johnson noted yesterday, it turns out that U.S. consul general-turned-public-relations-lobbyist Edward Abingdon helped ghost-write Yasser Arafat's NY Times op-ed piece last week as part of an international (read: European) effort to improve the fun-lovin' Chairman's image. It's good to see the Eurocrats taking such a balanced, even-handed -- and anything but simplistic -- approach to the Middle East.

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