Thursday, May 14, 2015

Acceptable Imbeciles

In this age of information, with the record of socialism’s consequences readily available, to remain a person of the left is to be, as Cicero described those ignorant of history, “forever a child.”

Not only is perpetual adolescence evident in those on the left and the politically disinterested (for whom cultural leftism represents the path of least resistance), it is often celebrated in their leaders.

For those of us further to the right (for short, let’s call ourselves People With Some Idea of the Destruction Left Wing Ideas Wrought Over the Last Century), this is precisely how we view those on the other side, whether we realize it or not.

Consequently, when we see Justin Trudeau rise in defence of some antiquated idiocy he clearly does not comprehend, or Elizabeth May throw up all over herself in an attempt to be “edgy,” we may kick up a fuss for a few days, but we let it pass since, candidly, we expect no better of them.

First, to May. The Greatest Columnist in the World, Mark Steyn, averred on Toronto radio that the Green Party poobah was not drunk when she issued her recent cringe-inducing, Khadr-praising, profanity-laced diatribe at the Ottawa Press Gallery Dinner, but is simply so cloistered among her juvenile fellow travelers that she thinks this is what passes for wit. Perhaps.

Whether May was topped up on organically brewed firewater or not, is anyone genuinely surprised that she would utter such nonsense, or that she would retain her position after doing so? Of course not – it’s just another leftist leader saying dumb things and facing zero consequences as a result.

Justin, meanwhile, made fewer headlines than he should for telling the House of Commons that “benefitting every single family is not what is fair.” As Liberal leader, and a breathtaking ignoramus even by the standards of his predecessors, Justin prefers to pick and choose who benefits from government largesse, rather than craft the best policy for the nation. Moreover, he is utterly benighted as to the consistent result this approach has achieved.

In the case of both May and Trudeau, these are the acts and ideas of children. Once again, search your heart: Are you surprised?

Thus, the familiar right-wing plaint, “If a conservative did the same thing, there’d be hell to pay” is rendered moot.

Conservatives are invariably the adults in the room. We cannot live down to the puerile level of the left, and an argument that presupposes we might goes nowhere. It’s like the Ray Romano routine about how if your 3-year-old names all her toes, it’s cute, but when Grandpa does it, it’s a tragedy.

If you have some idea what’s going on in the world, and coherent notions about life and human nature, you will be on the right. If not, you likely consider Justin a born leader and think May was “speaking truth to power.”

Of the two, Justin is by far the more consequential. While May is a self-serving sideshow, nominally representing a gaggle of greened-over weirdos and cop-out artists, whose response to difficult policy questions is to retreat behind environmentalist bromides or spew schoolyard inanities, there is a decent chance Justin will be Prime Minister someday.

Whether or not this comes to pass, the fact that it is a possibility is an indictment not only of the left, but of every voter who squanders this country’s cultural heritage by failing to recognize an idiot when he sees one.

And no Old Testament prophet gave clearer signs. Coupled with his remarks, just take an objective gander at his expression. Beneath the veneer of cosmopolitan competence is a pained, confused look like Zoolander workshopping Magnum. Left or right, simply look at this man and listen to his bleatings. There’s nobody home and you know it.

This did not begin, nor will it end, with Trudeau and May. Decades ago, Liberal Sheila Copps, as ridiculous a public figure as Canadian politics has ever produced, was Deputy Prime Minister. None who remember her from those days, or who have heard her policy silly-bears lately (“global warming” continues to haunt her nightmares, Sheila not having been hipped to the updated, CYA, catch-all term, “climate change”) could look to her for rational, grown-up leadership.

Copps remains perpetually aggrieved and animated by befuddled feminism, as though leftist women were signatory to Section 5 of NATO – an attack on one is an attack on all. Yet this absurdity was placed a heartbeat away from wielding benign dictatorship over the nation.

In this way, Trudeau, May, et al., are a continuation of an age-old tradition, of whom Copps was merely a generational marker.

Of course, this phenomenon is not peculiar to Canada. Democrats Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Hank Johnson (who famously worried aloud if excess population could cause Guam to capsize) stand as living testaments to the American left’s tolerance for dimwittedness.

Lenin infamously contended that “useful idiots” in the West would enable the spread of communism. At least Lenin had an agenda (and, tragically, a fair degree of prescience).

Today, the left elevates acceptable imbeciles not out of some ideological imperative but because, like children, they don’t know any better.

Theo Caldwell is a host on Newstalk1010 Radio. Contact him at

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

People Who Won't Be President

We must remember that Democrats are not like normal people. In their world, Barack Obama is a brilliant, inspiring speaker and Joe Biden should be trusted with scissors.

It is within this context that someone like Hillary Clinton, a canker sore of a public figure, is considered a natural, even inevitable, leader. Notwithstanding Mrs. Clinton's recent email fiasco - true to form, it combines Tsarist arrogance with her usual, Exorcist-style projectile vomit of lies - one expects she will run for president. It is her nature.

What would she do with herself if she weren't attempting to run your life? No matter your background, you have always known such people. They are the hall monitors, the student council scolds, the home owners' association snoops. They cannot imagine you could make do without them, and they are fearful to let you try. Mrs. Clinton has to run. She owes you that much.

There are, certainly, other prominent Democrats contemplating a bid for the presidency. Copious press photos of former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley playing guitar in sleeveless t-shirts suggest he aspires to high office. The absurd Elizabeth Warren is often mentioned, having advanced her career by claiming Cherokee heritage, despite her blonde-haired, blue-eyed visage giving her the distinct appearance of one of the Village of the Damned kids all grown up and granted Harvard tenure.

Meanwhile, somewhere, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo searches the skies like Prince Humperdinck tracking a falcon on a cloudy day, hoping for a sign that his time has come.

The upshot is the Democratic nominee for president will almost certainly be one of four people - and Mrs. Clinton counts for three of them.

On the Republican side, in this contest and in life, some measure of practicality is appropriate. News outlets plaster exponential Brady Bunch photo grids across the screen, suggesting any one of dozens of candidates could capture the GOP nomination. Whether this is undertaken sincerely or simply as fodder for panelists, it is monumental silly-bears. One need not go so far as to predict a winner at this early stage (although this column would be unsurprised to see Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker inviting Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush to join him on the ticket next year), but it insults intelligence and beggars belief to suggest that so many pretenders are credible.

Like Cliff Clavin naming three people who have never been in his kitchen, this list is nowhere near comprehensive. Herewith, however, is a primer on Republicans who won't be president:

Ben Carson - A respected neurosurgeon, a reliable proponent of limited government, and an inspiring personification of self-made success, Dr. Carson has a better chance of being elected pope than president. Besides that the American people plainly do not consider the modern presidency an entry-level political position (Eisenhower was given course credit for liberating Europe), Carson lacks the experienced touch and sprawling infrastructure a plausible run requires. He is a good man without a hope.

Carly Fiorina - While she would never admit it, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO must know she is running for vice president. Besides the neophyte knocks applied to Carson, above, Fiorina is not nearly so charming as her supporters seem to think. Her angry woman routine, plainly conceived to show the eventual GOP nominee how well she stacks up against Hillary Clinton, is of limited appeal. Beyond this, her tenure at HP was not an unalloyed success and her unsuccessful run for a Senate seat in California does little to recommend her for the national campaign.

Lindsey Graham - You'd need a jeweler's loupe to find South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham mentioned in discussions of GOP presidential contenders but trust us, he's in there. Conservative columnist Ann Coulter identifies Graham as the only Republican member of Congress against whom it's always okay to run a primary, and this bespeaks his standing on the right. Perpetually imagining himself one speech away from political superstardom, Graham has apparently extrapolated his ability to cling to the GOP Senate nomination in the most Republican state to the belief that he has a national constituency. Even among South Carolinians likely to appear on the national ticket, Graham ranks no higher than fourth - after Governor Nikki Haley, Senator Tim Scott, and the indispensable Congressman Trey Gowdy.

Mike Huckabee - A consequence of involvement in American politics (besides the attention of the IRS, if you're a conservative) is daily inundation of blast emails. For the millions of us who have received endless electronic solicitations to buy heart pills, reverse mortgages, prostate enhancers and so on from former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, it is a stretch to see him as commander-in-chief. Compounding Huckabee's relentless hucksterism are his tendency toward tax and spend "moderation" and the unsettling insincerity of his friendly, cornpone image. This Huck won't hunt.

Bobby Jindal - A political prodigy, former Congressman and current Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has a bright future in someone else's Cabinet.

John Kasich - Rumpled and peculiar, Ohio Governor John Kasich has advised staffers of his inevitable presidency since his days in the House of Representatives. He is the sort of candidate who looks spectacular on paper - experience in Congress, on television, and a two-term governor of a crucial swing state - but unpleasant in person. He is at once sanctimonious and jittery, heaping compliments on himself while scanning the room for quick escapes and weapons of opportunity. Whether they can summon the exact words, Kasich will alert voters to that Confucian axiom: Never trust a weirdo.

Mike Pence - Indiana Governor Mike Pence is the riskiest name on this list, inasmuch as he could be president, perhaps even a fine one, but it is difficult to see his path to the GOP nomination. When asked about 2016 in TV interviews, Pence provides energetic, rehearsed replies, barely concealing his enthusiasm for the top job. It seems he plans to wait for an opening, but that makes him a longshot in a crowded field of eager competitors.

Rick Perry - The longest-serving governor in America, Rick Perry of Texas, is a gentleman but not a scholar (his new glasses notwithstanding). To wit, his infamous "oops" moment in the 2012 primary debates, wherein he forgot the third of three Cabinet departments he proposed to abolish, was not a one-off. Perry knows Texas like the back of his hand but, when it comes to national and international policy, he is desolate. No amount of study can transform a candidate into a plausible president if he does not live and breathe this sort of thing already. Perry is respected and admired by those who worked on his 2012 campaign, but even they can see that he is not made to lead America. You can't put in what God's left out.

Rick Santorum - Having scored a stunning upset in Iowa in 2012, by the skin of his teeth and after cleaning the windows and mowing the lawns of every caucus-goer in Des Moines over the previous year, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum remains hopeful. But none of us is made for all markets, the vast majority of us will never be elected to anything and, in Santorum's case, if he were going to catch a presidential wave it would have happened by now. At 56, with a lengthy Congressional career already behind him, Santorum may go on to do good things. Becoming president is not among them.

Donald Trump - Please.

Of course there is, and will be, much more to say of this race before it is through. Contenders like Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, et al. will either earn a spot on the roster above or break through to bear the palm of victory. Meanwhile, Walker is being asked about evolution (always a sign that a conservative is polling well), Rubio is hoping Republicans have forgotten his immigration gambit, and Jeb is raising gobs of money (though this is not necessarily dispositive - President Giuliani, call your office).

But, as the Psalmist said, our days are numbered. One hopes this list helps us make the most of our time.

Theo Caldwell is a host on Newstalk1010 Radio. Contact him at

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Future Belongs to Islam

If A Christmas Carol and the Terminator movies taught me anything, it’s that the future can be changed. That said, barring some unforeseeable course correction in Western society, we are going to lose this so-called War on Terror.

Specifically, we will be vanquished by Islam, our government and civil structures overrun, and our vaunted institutions reduced to Ozymandias-style ruin.

This will be accomplished by various means, including demography (as scrupulously documented by columnist Mark Steyn, a long-time harbinger of America’s decline), liberty-squelching surveillance, censorship, and, above all, our disturbing lack of faith.

Having lived too long on the intellectual capital of greater generations, we have no understanding, much less appreciation, of the legacies left to us. To wit, we don’t know who we are, we don’t know what we believe, and that’s why we’re going to lose.

The Charlie Hebdo and kosher market massacres in Paris (and before them, recent attacks in Australia, Canada, Boston, etc.), along with the pusillanimous, politically correct responses thereto, reveal the stunning contrast between our corpulent, complacent culture and the lean, hungry enemy we face.

To Muslim Jihadists, this isn’t just life and death – this is eternal, spiritual, divine.

And what do we believe in? Climate change, micro-aggressions and man-spreading. Do we even know what matters? By “we,” I mean all of us, top to bottom, in today’s culture.

The erstwhile leader of the free world pays lip service to the notion of free speech, while mendaciously blaming its exercise for his foreign policy failures. Simultaneously, his administration contorts itself hideously to avoid calling our pressing danger by its name.

Even the Pope – at a time when Christians are brutalized and murdered in Africa, the Middle East and across Asia, what does he do? He comes out full-bore against global warming.

We brag about our supposed freedoms and the inherent superiority of our systems, but do we believe any of that? Do we even know what it means?

I know the sort of freedoms I cherish, but the priorities of a little guy like me don’t amount to a hill of beans in modern America.

That is, they prevail on parchment, but not in practice. Run down the items in the Bill of Rights and see how many remain intact in our age of speech codes, civil forfeiture, obscene searches and capricious prosecution.

Moreover, if we were to start over again today, is there any chance we would enact such a charter of negative liberties (i.e., things the government cannot do)? More likely, we would weave some interminable, EU-style document infested with such newfangled “human rights” as free health care and transgender bathrooms.

Consider freedom of speech and private property. If our generation sought to build a new society, would we understand that these two rights form the bedrock of liberty?

Most important, where do these rights come from, in the modern reckoning? Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, et al. were confident they are endowed by our Creator, nature’s God.

Whence do our rights emerge today? From the Supreme Court? The United Nations? Oprah?

Ask any Obama-voting, Jon Stewart-suckling pajama-boy to name the source of his freedoms and he’ll just stare at you like Cameron gawking at the Seurat in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

And this is why we are going to lose. We believe in nothing, let alone God. As for the Islamists, at least they have SOME god on their side.

As was stipulated in my radio interview with the Godfather of Canadian free speech, Ezra Levant, perhaps 99 percent of the world’s Muslims can be considered moderate. Even if that estimate were accurate, out of 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide, that leaves some 15 million – over ten times the number of active-duty personnel in the US military – eager for Holy War.

Numbers aside, survey the culture and governments of Muslim nations, to say nothing of the actions of the Jihadists, and ask yourself what influence such moderates wield in real terms. Is it logical to assume moderates will have more power after the radicals achieve victory over the West?

Again, that’s 15 million willing to kill, and die, for their convictions. As Hyman Roth asked Michael Corleone after the latter saw a Castro loyalist blow himself up rather than be taken alive, “What does that tell you?” Comes the reply, “They can win.”

How does that compare with our side’s prevalent faith systems? Would environmentalists die for their beliefs? Heck, they won’t even live by them.

And so, we will lose. That is, unless we and generations yet unborn find a fortitude and cultural confidence that has not been seen on our side in decades. How likely is that?
Will we, pace Dylan Thomas, continue to go gently into that not-so good night? Or may we yet summon the will to rage, rage against the dying of the light?

Theo Caldwell is a host on Newstalk1010 Radio. Contact him at

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Canada Will Be Intimidated

Heroic acts often have cowardly echoes. That is, selfless conduct is celebrated in the moment, held high as an example of the human ideal, only to be followed by mass timidity.

We have witnessed this throughout the interminable and ubiquitous “War on Terror.”

9/11 had many heroes. Todd “Let’s Roll” Beamer, for example, famously rallied his fellow passengers on Flight 93 to prevent their plane from being used as a missile. Emergency workers in New York ran into burning buildings to save civilians, many of whom sacrificed themselves to help one another.

In the days and weeks that followed, stirring speeches were given, American flags were hung from millions of homes, bellicose country-western songs were written and recorded. The message of all of these was robust, virile and explicit: Those who harmed us will be punished, we will not be intimidated, and we will continue to live in freedom.

Thirteen years on, we see what stuff and nonsense that was. As Americans shuffle through the dystopia of the modern security state – their communications monitored, their bodies groped and scanned, their enemies undeterred – the bravado of those early days is revealed as just so much chin music.

The recent terrorist attacks in Canada are, thus far, following a similar pattern. Shortly after two uniformed military personnel in Quebec were deliberately struck by a car driven by a disaffected Muslim, Martin Couture-Rouleau, another Islamic radical, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, opened fire at the War Memorial in Ottawa. Zehaf-Bibeau murdered Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, then raced into the Parliament buildings, where he was shot and killed by the normally ceremonial Sergeant-at-Arms, Kevin Vickers.

Cpl. Cirillo has been mourned by the nation, and Vickers has been lauded for his quick-thinking and bravery. Both reactions are suitable and just.

But, like Beamer and the firefighters at Ground Zero who personified heroism, Vickers will be praised but not emulated by his countrymen.

If anything, Canada’s reversion to cringing pusillanimity has been even swifter than that of the United States. Immediately after the attack, much of downtown Ottawa was “locked down,” as was the Canadian Embassy in Washington and, for reasons that obtain only in this age of hyper-security, police appeared at street corners, transit stations and public events in Toronto and elsewhere.

Shortly thereafter, General Tom Lawson, Canadian Chief of Defence Staff, ordered members of the military to avoid wearing their uniforms in public.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper took to the airwaves to insist, “Canada will never be intimidated.” Politicians love to tough-talk our enemies in this way, assuming they have the temerity to identify our foes and the ideology they all seem to share.

But as cowering citizens are ordered about by police and security officers, submitting to searches and seemingly endless indignities in the name of “safety,” and the nation’s top soldier tells troops to shed their once-proud uniforms, one wonders – what, exactly, do they think intimidation looks like?

In his speech to the House of Commons, Harper called for an increase in the government’s surveillance powers. But if you can’t get a handle on maniacs like Messrs. Couture-Rouleau and Zehaf-Bibeau, whose criminality and radicalization were evident through existing means like police records, how does it help to access the recipe-exchanging emails of grannies in Owen Sound?

Incidentally, how disquieting that the term “in lockdown” has passed so seamlessly into modern usage, as though to be sequestered by government agents were as natural and commonplace as to be “in the shower” or “out to lunch.” Compare, say, the denizens of Churchill’s Britain thumbing their noses at the Blitz to the duck-and-cover reflex of today’s coddled masses.

This is both a matter of politics and of culture. Culturally speaking, modern citizens are content to surrender personal sovereignty in the shallow hope that the authorities will protect them. As to politics, Canadians have no saviour on the horizon.

Misbegotten as Harper’s reaction may be, Canada’s Prime Minister in Waiting, Justin Trudeau, is the most ridiculous major party candidate in North American history. The Derek Zoolander of Canadian politics, Trudeau is of the hippy-dippy, drum-circle school of thought that contends a radical Muslim is no more likely to commit terrorism than, say, a devout Methodist. The result, again, is blanket surveillance and proctological investigation of innocent people as we pretend we haven’t the foggiest clue what quarters may give rise to the next attack.

Columnist Mark Steyn is fond of saying that government always goes for the soft target, and that target is always you. This is why each terrorist incident is an excuse for more oversight of your life and person, even as the identities and motives of actual terrorists are obscured and denied.

Before noon on September 11, 2001, America had already inoculated itself against hijackings of that kind. As Beamer and his cohort demonstrated, anyone attempting to seize an airliner in that way would be stopped. When cockpit doors were reinforced, this completed the precautions necessary to prevent another such attack.

And yet, not only do the grotesque absurdities of transportation security continue at America’s airports, they have expanded to train stations, subways, and sporting events across the so-called home of the brave.

Vickers, like Beamer, showed that there is no substitute for personal courage and willingness to act when faced with extreme circumstances. If the intervening days since the Ottawa attack are any indication, however, Canadians recognize heroism, but will accept yet more supervision of their daily lives.

Make no mistake (to borrow a phrase), this is not our enemies’ doing; it is our own. It is we who have prioritized safety over liberty, who have countenanced the expansion of police powers and security measures and, when there is no freedom left to defend, it is we who will be to blame.

Theo Caldwell is a broadcaster and investor in the United States and Canada. Contact him at

Thursday, June 19, 2014

"Lost" Emails Should Be the End of the IRS

There is a double indignity to being on the receiving end of a bad lie. The insult of being served with obvious dishonesty is compounded by the liar's presumption that you are stupid enough to swallow it.

Claims by the Internal Revenue Service that they’ve “lost” emails from Lois Lerner and a half-dozen other employees pertinent to the agency’s targeting of conservative groups represent just such dual scorn.

As is well known to anyone who runs a business – or, heck with it, anyone who's rushed their laptop to a strip-mall repair shop – there is almost always some way to recover emails and hard drive data. This is especially true of networks with backup protocols and storage requirements, such as the IRS requires of the private entities and individuals they audit.

From the outset, the IRS has responded to this matter in ways they would never accept from taxpayers. Starting with Lerner’s absurd contention to Congress that she had done nothing wrong, followed instantly by her invocation of the Fifth Amendment, to the agency’s year-plus of stonewalling and prevarication in the face of legitimate inquiry, this ridiculous outfit has held itself to a lower standard than it demands of the citizens it purports to serve.

Now, with this laughably convenient lie, that the very emails Congress is requesting have somehow vanished into the bowels of Lerner’s Commodore 64, the IRS has defied satire to such a degree that it can never be taken seriously again.

Consequently, we who advocate the abolition of the IRS must continue to highlight its institutional dysfunction, rather than focus on a few individuals.

Inasmuch as this scandal is personalized, its potential as a catalyst for change is diminished. If, however unlikely, Lerner were to go to jail, or President Obama were to be directly implicated, a satiated public could suppose the responsible parties had been served their just desserts. But this problem is systemic, not personal. It is the bureaucracy itself that must be eviscerated.

Counterintuitive though it may seem, the incrimination of a president is small potatoes compared to the import and opportunity this moment provides. America's decline is not a function of a particular chief executive, no matter how mendacious or incompetent. Rather, it is hastened by the nation's ubiquitous and permanent bureaucracy, of which the IRS is emblematic.

Alas, it was inevitable that the IRS imbroglio and its attendant investigations should become partisan affairs. This is not because Republicans hope to take down Barack Obama as Democrats seek to protect him – this president has proved impervious to scandal, or even basic scrutiny – but because the bureaucracy and the Left are one.

For all their self-labeling as agents of "progress" and "liberal" ideals, the Left are guardians of ossified, statist, liberty-squelching systems across the globe.

Like the guy in the office who tries to give himself a nickname ("From now on, could I get you to call me T-Bone?"), they insist they're about freedom and fighting for the little guy, even as they ensure he remains little.

It is axiomatic that the bigger a government gets, the smaller citizens become. This column has previously noted that in modern America, there is a tax consequence to every undertaking, literally from cradle to grave. In this way, the IRS is the vanguard of the nation’s regulatory juggernaut.

Little wonder, then, that the Democrats, the party of government, reflexively leap to the defense of the IRS, and left-leaning sympathizers roll their eyes at the suggestion of disbanding it, as though America could not survive without this malignant agency, which has existed for less than half of the nation’s history.

But this has to be the last straw.

Yes, as the most officious, militant and corrupt tax authority in the world, the IRS maintains the threat of force against citizens. But that is all it has. How can anyone – left, right or indifferent – respect them again? Transparent dishonesty and blatant corruption have stripped the IRS of whatever legitimacy it once possessed.

What, then, to replace it with? Of the two most conspicuous alternatives – a consumption tax or a flat tax – the former is furthest from the current mandate of the IRS, thereby facilitating the outright dismantling of that hideous structure.

Remove taxation entirely from the realms of income, health, religion, speech, charity, and the myriad other aspects of daily life infected by its touch. Under a consumption tax, when you buy something, you pay a tax on that transaction, and that is the end of your obligation to finance the federal government.

Critics refer to such a system with the deliberately provocative and misleading moniker of “regressive,” meaning it affects rich and poor alike in equal proportion. Besides that a flat tax does precisely the same, the result of a consumption tax is that those who earn and spend more will be taxed at higher amounts. In this way, wealthier individuals and organizations shoulder a higher portion of the tax burden than those with less, and arguably a higher portion than they do under today’s so-called “progressive” system.

President John F. Kennedy, an aggressive tax-cutter, was fond of pointing out that the Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word “crisis”: one stands for danger; the other for opportunity. America is in crisis, prominently represented by the corruption of its tax authority. This is, however, an opportunity to change the country for the better.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Put Cameras on Police

“The first rule of police work,” Sean Connery intoned to Kevin Costner in his Oscar-winning turn in The Untouchables, is this: “When your shift is over, you go home alive.”

Actually, the first rule of police work, as generally understood by those of us who pay police to do it, is to protect the property and persons of the citizens they serve. Unfortunately, too many among the modern constabulary have internalized Connery’s fictionalized, Prohibition-era Chicago way, while adding a streak of militaristic zeal, such that today’s police seem utterly anathema to what they were a generation ago.

Concerned more with self-preservation and control than with public service, modern police stalk city streets like an occupying force tasked with quelling an unruly population. This mindset is manifest in urban centers across the ostensibly free world, and evidence squeaks out in furtively recorded video and tearful testimony from those who have been on the business end of contemporary policing.

It should not require bystanders with camera phones or a lucky dash-cam angle to exonerate a suspect and expose police misconduct. Therefore, as the nature of policing has evidently changed (and not for the better), and since the technology exists, a partial remedy is apparent: Put cameras on police.

Specifically, police officers interacting with the public, apart from narrowly defined undercover circumstances, should be required to wear cameras that record their actions. The footage from these devices should be obtainable through freedom of information and subpoena procedures, with the identities of private citizens obscured unless they give consent.

“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear,” bleat nincompoops who defend the surveillance state. Their logic is sound, but they invert the application of rights and obligations in a free society. To wit, while they are misbegotten in supposing government has a right to monitor the actions of private citizens, their “nothing to hide, nothing to fear” admonition would be perfectly apt if directed toward police or others invested with public trust.

Put it in purely semantic terms, if you prefer. Absent a compelling reason, the behavior of private citizens should remain just that: private. Likewise, the conduct of officers operating in a public capacity should, as the default procedure, be public.

This is a qualitative matter of common sense, for which a quantifiable case can also be made. For example, in the city of Rialto, California, the use of force by police dropped 60% and complaints against officers dropped by 80% in 2013, the first year body-worn police cameras were deployed.

Whether the knowledge they were being recorded curbed police excesses, or people consequently chose not to launch unfounded complaints, or both, the result affirms Justice Brandeis’ assertion that sunlight is, indeed, the best disinfectant.

My antipathy toward modern law enforcement has not been fundamental to my assimilation of public policy. I am not a reflexive, cop-hating anarchist. You’ve never seen me smashing a Starbuck’s window or storming a police barricade in a balaclava (though I submit I could sell that look). I even played as a ringer for a New York Police Department hockey team, as some drinking companions were officers from the local precinct and, on hearing I grew up in Canada, assumed I would be a stellar addition to their roster (a harmless stereotype, of which I disabused them on my very first shift).

If I were to identify a turning point in my assessment, it would be the G20 summit in my hometown of Toronto in 2010. During that disgraceful episode, police assaulted and rounded up innocent citizens en masse and held them in brutal conditions without charge.

The police chief responsible is precisely the sort of impenetrable cop you may have encountered, who speaks as though he is reading from a manual and, when confronted with hard questions, mumbles inanities about “safety.” As of this writing, he is still on the job and in good standing.

Purely anecdotally, while my lifelong circle of acquaintances includes no violent criminals (at least, not that I am aware), more people I know have been subjected to assault and brutality by police officers than by criminals.

This is a simple fact, albeit subject to the bounded rationality of my personal life, but it is sufficient for me to roll my eyes every time police mouth the desperately obsolete silly-bears about “putting their lives on the line each and every day” to protect the public.

The unfortunate police interactions of those known to me have occurred in cities across North America – with one egregious instance in Europe – and are sufficient that I, as a well-intentioned citizen who would never knowingly break the law, view police less as an ally than a threat.

To this, society’s reliable cadre of cop-affirming anachronists might reply, “Yeah, well next time someone’s breaking into your house, who ya gonna call, tough guy?” On that, a couple thoughts:

First, in the immediacy of a break-in, it seems less practical to make a phone call than to deal with the matter one’s self. One hopes that, even in today’s pansified culture, a man defending his home can still summon formidable force. Further, readers who maintain a confidence in police to stop crimes in progress have perhaps seen too many movies.

Second, and most important, if someone breaks down my door in the dead of night, as a law-abiding person but a student of current events, I suspect the police would be the ones most likely to do it. News reports may not refer to “home invasions” when the perpetrators are police officers, but the effect is the same – or worse.

In fact, given the choice, I would much prefer my door to be breached by unofficial thugs than the badge-carrying variety.

In a pajama-clad flurry of fists, profanity and weapons of opportunity, I expect I could subdue, or at least dissuade, a criminal intruder. An invading police officer, however – even if I have committed no crime, or if he simply has the wrong address – can call for backup, surround the premises, apply deadly force, then spout some nonsense to compliant media about there being “drugs” in the home or suspicion of “terrorist activity” in the residence. (To be clear, neither exist at my house.)

In either case, if one believes in the sanctity of private property and the Castle Doctrine as enunciated by William Pitt the elder, the law would be on my side. In the real world, however, the law has a funny way of coinciding with what forceful state agents say it is – that is, unless their actions are recorded for all to assess.

Warming to our theme of equating police with criminals out of uniform, police should be punished more harshly than civilians who commit the same crimes. Unlike private-sector criminals, police who transgress the law compound their offense by abusing the public trust, and using taxpayer-funded equipment to do so. Unfortunately, the opposite is largely the case.

Earlier this year in London, a police officer was convicted of assaulting a 30-year-old woman, Sarah Reed, accused of shoplifting (she was later convicted).

The actions of the officer, PC James Kiddie, were captured on the closed circuit television of the store Ms. Reed was accused of robbing. He was shown grabbing Ms. Reed by the hair, throwing her to the floor, and aiming repeated strikes at her head.

Officer Kiddie may be a brute, but if we assume he is not an idiot, it is doubtful he would have acted as he did if he realized he was being recorded.

His punishment consisted of 150 hours of community service and fines totalling several hundred dollars. Could a private citizen, acting without the auspices of law, expect such lenient treatment for an assault of this nature? Certainly, private citizens may not be called upon to contend with a shoplifter, but neither could they claim the legitimacy of law when acting violently.

Most unsettling about the incident is this – to whom could Ms. Reed call out for aid? “Help, police!” would be the reflex in an earlier age but, since it was a police officer himself committing the assault, one imagines that would only make things worse.

And it is this betrayal of public trust, this upending of social norms, that demands full disclosure of police conduct and harsh consequences for abuse.

There are two ways to do this, as TV cops have been advising for decades, “the hard way, or the easy way.” It says here, so long as police view their employers as the enemy, opting for militarized solutions to mundane situations, we should make them do things the hard way.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Great Wall of Canada

Unlike the United States, which often makes presidents of its governors, Canada has no tradition of elevating its provincial premiers to the office of prime minister. But, as the Romans used to say, Exceptio regulam probat (“The exception proves the rule”) – and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall might be that exception.

Last week, Premier Wall was in Washington, DC, to talk about a bevy of issues with congressional leaders. I spoke with him during his trip and asked, of the many topics he was in town to address – energy, the Keystone XL oil pipeline, country-of-origin meat labeling – which was most important?

Refreshingly, unlike many politicians, Wall gave a straight answer: the Boundary Dam and Saskatchewan’s revolutionary carbon capture project.

The $1.35 billion undertaking, which is set to go online this summer, will become the world’s first post-combustion, coal-fired carbon capture and storage facility. In converting the Boundary Dam Power Station near Estevan, Saskatchewan, the project integrates a rebuilt coal-fired generation unit with carbon capture technology to create low-emission power.

Coal is copious in Saskatchewan, and Wall is convinced Boundary Dam can make the best of that resource.

“Clean coal is not an oxymoron,” he avers, and he hopes to establish a model from which other economies, including the United States, can learn.

In this way, and not for the first time, tiny Saskatchewan, with a population of just over 1 million, is showing larger jurisdictions how to do things well.

The cradle of Canadian socialism, a place so flat you can watch your dog run away for days, Saskatchewan was for decades shunned and scorned, even by those who were born there.

“We used to give luggage as a graduation gift,” Wall recollects of provincial tradition. But in recent years, a burgeoning economy, fostered by a government with the good sense to get out of the way, has reversed that. “We have net in-migration from every province in Canada,” Wall reports, “with the occasional quarterly exception of Alberta.”

Speaking of Alberta, Wall is one of many voices, Canadian and American, advocating the approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from that province to Texas. After years of studies and reports, Keystone is the most scrutinized conveyance in the history of running liquid, yet its approval remains elusive.

Wall contends there is a window to get Keystone approved before the November congressional elections, for one reason: “Democrats don’t want to lose the Senate.” This reverses the rationale of many conservatives, including Charles Krauthammer, who think the Keystone’s approval is a fait accompli after the election, but not before, as Democrats’ opposition is a purely political stance, to motivate their voting base among the environmental left.

In either case, Keystone would be one of 75 oil pipelines criss-crossing the Canada-US border, and Wall is bemused that this particular project has become a cause celebre. During his DC trip, Wall speculated on concessions Canada might make in order to expedite the approval. His comments were misconstrued by the Canadian media to suggest he favors a carbon tax – which he most certainly does not – perhaps as an honest mistake, or wishful thinking by liberal-minded reporters, hoping to co-opt a popular politician to their cause.

The United States needs Keystone more than Canada does, and even the most verdant Democrat understands this. If there’s one metric that affects federal politicians, including presidents, it’s the price of gas, and a steady, affordable supply from a neighbor and ally will be beneficial in this regard.

As to being misquoted, Wall is not exactly angry (and honestly, what is an angry Saskatchewan Premier going to do – swat you with his curling broom?), though he does evince some frustration. For the benefit of American readers, a Canadian politician admitting to being “frustrated” is the rough equivalent of a president going to DEFCON 2.

Back home, Wall is having undeniable success in his second term. Saskatchewan unemployment is at 3.8% and as Premier, Wall enjoys an approval rating of 66%.

Even those of us who are not professional politicians, and who cannot count on 66% approval in our own living rooms, have to be impressed by such numbers.

As a pundit, one is privileged to interact with leaders in various fields, including and especially politics. Sometimes, one is grateful the conversation is at an end. That is, an interlocutor may be important, erudite and newsworthy, but something about them is irksome, and one gets the feeling of being played.

With Brad Wall, the opposite is true. While he is plainly intelligent, and discusses policy at a high level, he is at ease with himself, and a free trader in the marketplace of ideas. He is outcome-oriented, yet simultaneously and invariably pleasant.

This puts him in contrast to the prime minister many hope he will replace. Canada’s current leader, Stephen Harper, has something of a following among American conservatives but, as his critics point out, he has never been embraced by a majority of Canadians. This seems, at least in part, a function of Harper’s bloodless demeanor.

Harper’s attempts to seem genial, which are clearly unnatural to him, result in a discomfiting incongruity, like a nursery rhyme in a horror film.

During his DC sojourn, Wall noted numerous photos of Ronald Reagan in congressional offices. “Reagan was not interested in the whole left-right thing,” Wall notes, “but up and down.”

To Wall, an effective leader will defend his ideas or improve them, placing purpose ahead of ideology. Most of all, he understands that progress is achieved by the citizens he serves.

“Government is not going to take credit for the economy,” Wall says, speaking of Saskatchewan and of successful stewardship in general. It is a refreshing philosophy, from which a nation would benefit.

Theo Caldwell, an author and broadcaster, is a dual US-Canadian citizen. Contact him at