Friday, June 23, 2017

No Company Should Have a Human Resources Department



It is a linguistic irony of the modern corporation that those most desolate of resourcefulness and human rapport occupy its Human Resources department.

Consistent with its culture of perverting language and policing words, “Human Resources” is one of those contemporary terms of which the intended and practical meanings are exact opposites.

If you work for an organization large and unfortunate enough to have a dedicated “HR” division – and even, perhaps, if you have been a member of that mirthless, officious cohort – you know of what I write.

Moreover, though your conditioned response is to consider HR a necessary evil – after all, someone needs to hire, fire, and ensure the company avoids legal disputes arising from personnel issues – you sense, on some level, that life would be better if the entire bureau simply did not exist.

Developed in the 1980s to protect corporations from the sudden ubiquity of “sexual harassment” cases, Human Resources departments have persisted and metastasized such that the current generation of workers cannot imagine a world without them.

But, like so many cost-driving, self-perpetuating, control-seeking entities one finds in both the public and private sectors, scrutiny yields that not only are they not good at what they do, what they do is not good.

As stated, the essential functions of HR consist of hiring new people, terminating those no longer required, and monitoring employee conduct between those two junctures (advocates of HR may insist there’s far more to it than that, but this has been the plaint of every irritating profession from politicians to mimes; to wit, what they do is much too complicated for the rest of us to comprehend).

In the first instance, it is not uncommon for HR personnel to have no training or experience as to the revenue-driving aspects of the organizations for which they work.

This is to be expected since HR is, as noted, a cost-driving enterprise, the make-work nature of which provides, at best, a thin prophylactic against legal trouble.

But consider the bounded rationality of an HR person working for, say, a software or engineering company, tasked with laying out the qualifications and sifting through the resumes of applicants, while lacking expertise in that field. Certainly, she will receive guidance from the department head seeking a new employee, but the deficit of knowledge regarding the actual job dictates that the HR person does not know what to look for.

This is how you get nonsense prerequisites for posted positions such as, “minimum 5 years’ experience” or “English or Journalism degree required.”

As to the former, perhaps one applicant served 5 years in a cubicle, accomplishing nothing of consequence for a competitor, while another evinced prodigy-like skills in a shorter period of time and wishes to bring them to bear for you. Thanks to a reasonable-sounding yet arbitrary number devised by HR, the company will most likely hire the lummox and let the superstar slip away.

Pertinent to the latter (and I admit I benefited from this in my early career), jobs that involve writing or media are often gate-kept by requirements of degrees in English or Journalism. Once again, this evinces a misunderstanding by HR personnel as to how things work.

One’s capacity for writing financial or news copy, for example, is not aided in the slightest by an English degree’s obligations to read Moby Dick or The Faerie Queene. And as for a degree in Journalism, suffice it to say sheepskin of this sort makes four years of Gender Studies look like time well spent.

But again, to an HR person who has no idea what her company does or how it makes money, this sort of thing seems perfectly sensible.

To whatever extent Human Resources bring imagination to bear, they discover uncharted ways to infuriate and enervate. No better object lesson exists than the HR-developed online application process.

Profiles must be created – complete with unnecessarily complicated passwords that incorporate upper and lower case letters, at least one number, special characters, and an emoji of a smiley whale – before carefully crafted resumes are deconstructed and supposedly “populated” into HR’s preferred form.

Invariably, such programs make a dog’s breakfast of the applicant’s curriculum vitae, such that even the most suitable candidates become frustrated at having to correct and readjust every field; indeed, the more extensive their experience, the more irritating and time-consuming is this process.

Moreover, the applicant is robbed of the opportunity to present himself as he would like, since HR has prioritized their own convenience by making the process uniform. At what point does a qualified candidate with other options begin to make assumptions about the organization and question his desire to be part of it?

Likewise, Human Resources’ involvement in the termination of employment, whether the person is leaving of their own volition or not, brings out the automaton-voiced worst of HR people.

The “exit interview” of a voluntarily departing employee – supposedly undertaken to find areas for improvement within the organization but more properly understood as scanning for potential legal liability – is a nonsense conversation between a person who is dishonest about its purpose and one who no longer cares.

Conversely, the unnecessarily obnoxious, key-card-snatching, security perp-walking type of employee termination, designed by Human Resources and punctuated by one of their number uttering passive-aggressive, lawyer-approved disclaimers, is a rare moment in which the minatory nature of HR is laid bare.

Notwithstanding their ineptitude and menace evident at the commencement and conclusion of employment, the greatest organizational damage done by Human Resources occurs during the time in between.

It is unhealthy, on a day-to-day basis, for a coterie that is uninvolved and disinterested in the actual business of an organization to monitor and police those who are working to make it a success.

Again, HR types might insist there is a constellation of other, wonderful things included in their work but, make no mistake, their primary purpose is to keep an eye on you. This is undertaken with scrupulous adherence to the shifting mores of political correctness.

This is how you get “mandatory diversity training” and, true to HR’s roots, zero-tolerance policies and terminations for behavior fitting the eternally elastic definition of “harassment.”

Glomming on to an organization’s hull, Human Resources exerts a kind of parasitic authority, since it is neither assigned (inasmuch as HR exists outside the traditional chain of command) nor emergent (no one looks to HR for guidance simply because they respect them so doggone much).

Consequently, as outsiders with opaque power and picayune priorities, HR personnel are often oddly behaved (admittedly, there may be a chicken and egg scenario at work here). Again, supervision by peculiar people who do not understand or care if you are good at your job is not conducive to esprit de corps.

Perhaps most chilling are those moments when HR attempts to show their “fun” side. If you wonder what the Human Resources folks do when they are not alienating applicants, calling security, or sending stern memos about wearing open toed shoes or labeling your lunch – this is it.

That cartoon alligator holding a badminton racquet on the flier announcing the first-come, first-serve giant hoagie party in the break room at lunch – that was your HR associate’s morning.

Relatedly, if you are employed someplace where company time and resources are consumed to make a zany video about the people who work there, you need to find another job at once. In seriousness, you must commence sending out resumes the moment you are finished reading this essay.

The healthy growth of an organization is measured, in part, by its ability to decentralize. Human Resources is antipathetic to that. Even a large corporation consists of smaller, interdependent entities, the managers of which, with developed skills pertinent to their field, know what they need.

As the employment market shifts, with job changes and contract work becoming more common, one hopes Human Resources, that malignant misnomer of the modern corporation, returns to the abyss from whence it came.




Theo Caldwell is a dual American-Canadian citizen living in Toronto. He has been a member of the New York Stock Exchange, the Chicago Board Options Exchange, the American Stock Exchange and the Kansas City Board of Trade. Contact him at theo@theocaldwell.com

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Tax Reform No One Talks About



“A territorial tax system – what IS that?”

So inquired a White House reporter of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin as he outlined President Trump’s tax reform proposal.

The question itself, and the baffled tone in which it was delivered, reveals much about why Americans who rely on news media for analysis of economic matters, and tax policy in particular, remain so benighted.

In particular, American citizens, their families, business associates, and various other “US persons” seem blithely unaware of the power claimed over them by the Internal Revenue Service.

To wit, if you are an American, or married to one, or in certain sorts of business with one, the IRS demands that you file and pay taxes to them every year, even if you have never set foot in the United States.

This is almost never discussed in the mainstream media, presumably because politicians, journalists, and various financial talking heads simply do not understand the issue. In a country where a majority of citizens do not hold passports, perhaps this it to be expected.

But the fact remains that Americans who move abroad, whether they are leaving in a huff because their preferred candidate lost an election or simply emigrating for work or family, must still file and pay US income taxes as though they had never left.

Specifically, the IRS requires a complete US federal tax filing, along with a copy of the tax return filed in the country of residence, so the two can be compared. If it is found that the filer would have paid more in tax under the American system, the taxpayer is expected to send the difference to the US Treasury – again, even if that person has never been to the United States.

Beyond the self-evident taxation without representation inherent to such a regime, the crushing complexity of the US tax code makes compliance difficult and expensive.

It is not uncommon for Americans abroad to send a few pages and a cheque to the tax authority of the country in which they reside, but then have to spend thousands of dollars to process and send a 50-page return back to the United States, even if they owe nothing further.

This is applicable to more than 7 million Americans who live in other countries, along with their spouses and various other associates and relations. These people are acutely aware of the injustice and inconvenience of this system.

And yet, you can read financial newspapers and watch business programs until your eyes fall out and hear nary a word about it.

The flummoxed query posed to Mnuchin pertained to Trump’s plan to reform the corporate tax system, such that American companies doing business abroad will be taxed only on their US operations. This would be a worthwhile change and, pace the intrepid reporter who seemed buffaloed by the concept, would bring the United States in line with almost every other nation in the world.

But, as usual, there has been no discussion of whether the individual American abroad will be liberated from the worldwide clutches of the IRS. It is all well and good to offer relief to corporations – indeed, for at least the past three presidential cycles, Republican candidates have phonetically repeated that $1 trillion will be “repatriated” by such a reform – but what about an employee of one of those companies stationed overseas? Or, for that matter, what about someone who has nothing to do with America or its corporations, with the exception of having been born there, or having a spouse or parent who was?

Currently, the only escape for Americans living abroad is to renounce their citizenship, and even that requires hefty fees and payment of an “exit tax” – essentially a capital gains tax on all assets above a certain threshold. Moreover, the IRS reserves the right to scrutinize former citizens’ taxes for years to come, and those deemed to have renounced for tax reasons are technically prohibited from entering the United States.

A few years ago, the US Treasury Department began publishing quarterly lists of Americans who renounced their citizenship (and every three months brings a new record high number of renunciations), presumably to shame those people.

Rather, the shame is on a government that treats it citizens as property, demanding money from livelihoods and toil that take place in other nations.

No other country in the world subjects its citizens to this sort of worldwide taxation, with the exception of Eritrea. But the United States actually gets away with it.

Combined with other excesses such as FBAR and FATCA – whereby Americans living abroad must annually report the numbers and holdings of all their financial accounts to the IRS – the current regime is indefensible.

At the moment, ex-patriots of Russia, North Korea, and the People’s Republic of China enjoy greater economic freedom than Americans living abroad. This is one of those appalling, counterintuitive facts that, upon hearing, one squints and rationalizes and inwardly insists must not be true. And yet, it is.

As the adage goes, Americans once rioted because the British put a tax on their breakfast drink – and it wasn’t even coffee.

A tax reform worthy of America’s legacy of freedom will liberate its citizens all over the world.



Theo Caldwell is a dual American-Canadian citizen living in Toronto. He has been a member of the New York Stock Exchange, the Chicago Board Options Exchange, the American Stock Exchange and the Kansas City Board of Trade. Contact him at theo@theocaldwell.com

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Mark Steyn, Jonah Goldberg, and Donald Trump



There are two types of people: those who think Mark Steyn and Jonah Goldberg are the best columnists in the world, and those who are wrong.

The rest of us who opine in public might have a really good day and produce an excellent piece now and then but, for prolific quality, coupling insight with comedy, Mark and Jonah are the only mortal locks in the game.

If these two bylines are unfamiliar, you may recognize them from their broadcast work.

Jonah is the panelist with the goatee on Fox News’ Special Report. Be careful you’re not confusing him with the Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes, though. A handy way to tell them apart is Jonah is funnier and doesn’t have dry-mouth every damn time he speaks.

Mark, when he’s not writing, is perhaps best known for his guest hosting of Rush Limbaugh’s radio program. He’s the Canadian guy with the British accent.

Normally, I eschew columns about other writers, the subject matter being too esoteric for mass appeal, and the enterprise itself sufficiently meta as to miss the point of policy debate.

To wit, why should I read your prose if all you have to tell me is that Paul Krugman said something stupid or that Ta-Nahesi Coates is a race-obsessed tool? And birds go tweet.

But, as the Romans would say, exceptio probat regulam – the exception proves the rule.

In conservative circles, the exceptional nature of Mark and Jonah is not really in dispute, though their supremacy as I have pronounced it may be.

Kevin D. Williamson and Ross Douthat are always worth a read, as are Kyle Smith and Charles C. W. Cooke. Ann Coulter’s weekly screed always brightens a right-thinker’s Wednesday evening. People really seem to like Matt Lewis, and one always learns something from Charles Krauthammer and George Will.

Given the choice, however, between one of Mark’s non-musical Steynposts or Jonah’s G-File newsletter and any of the above, the discerning curmudgeon knows which way to click.

Two quick examples, chosen more or less at random:

Mark on the willful deterioration of modern Christianity:

“Most mainline Protestant churches are, to one degree or another, post-Christian. If they no longer seem disposed to converting the unbelieving to Christ, they can at least convert them to the boggiest of soft-left clichés, on the grounds that if Jesus were alive today he’d most likely be a gay Anglican bishop in a committed relationship driving around in an environmentally friendly car with an ‘Arms are for Hugging’ sticker on the way to an interfaith dialogue with a Wiccan and a couple of Wahhabi imams.”

And here’s Jonah, on the topic of presidential aspirant Ted Cruz having been born in Canada:

“While I am certainly open to theories about how Ted Cruz is the Manitoban Candidate, hiding in plain sight until he can impose the metric system on our children and make us all passive-aggressively polite, my hunch is that’s not the case.”

That is arguably the best sentence written so far this year.

Before proceeding, I should note that, good as they are, both Mark and Jonah have their weak points.

In Jonah’s case, when he strays from his natural habitat at National Review and writes for mainstream publications like USA Today, his work flattens instantly, losing all traces of humour and style. It’s like he turns into Rich Lowry (incidentally, we pundits have a term of art for the weakest writer on any opinion staff: “Editor”).

Mark, meanwhile, supplements his nonpareil criticism of political correctness, Muslim apologists and “climate change” mountebanks with interminable contemplations of his true passion: songs and their histories. One is patient with such devotion, particularly from someone who has provided so much enjoyment at no charge, as Mark has done. But confronted with thousands of words on who sang the shoo-be-doo’s that magical day when Dean Martin wore a turtleneck and John Kander ordered decaf and Frank Sinatra something-something, honestly, just shoot me.

I should add that neither of these guys is a pal of mine. To my recollection, Jonah and I have never met. Mark and I have a number of mutual friends (Ezra Levant and Kathy Shaidle prominently among them), but I remember meeting him just once, at a symposium and dinner party in New York City over a decade ago. I told Mark he’s the best columnist in the world and he did not disagree. ‘Nuff said.

The reason for all this inside-baseball, tire-pumping, knob-polishing metaphor-mixing is that these two leviathans of limited government – the north and south poles of planet Leave Me Alone – are at odds over the same thing dividing the entire conservative movement right now: one Donald J. Trump.

That’s not to say that they’re fighting – although that pay-per-view would be a goldmine – merely that they disagree.

For months, Jonah has been pleading with anyone with eyes to read that Trump is not a true conservative and is ill-suited to the presidency. Trump has even deigned to respond, referring to Jonah as “a guy that can’t buy a pair of pants” – a putdown that probably needed at least one more rewrite.

Mark, meanwhile, avers that the Trump phenomenon is a perfectly logical reaction to the feckless, conviction-free conduct of so-called "conservative" leaders like John Boehner, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, et al.

A few words from each on the topic:

Jonah: “Trump has the charisma, I’ll grant him that. But there is no evidence he’s thought deeply about the job beyond how much classier it will be once he has it.”

Mark: “For many conservative voters, 2014 was the GOP's last chance, and they blew it. For those conservative voters whose priority is immigration, 2016 is America's last chance, and Trump's the only reason anyone's even talking about that.”

Both represent their positions well, and for those of us who give regular contemplation to their opinions to help us develop our own (see also, "plagiarize"), beholding them in opposition is like hearing Mom and Dad fight (I'll leave it to Mark and Jonah to decide which of them is which).

I was about to say Mark has the better of this argument until I saw Sarah Palin had endorsed Trump.

While Palin's imprimatur may help Trump in Iowa or among "Evangelicals" (the media's irksome catch-all for anyone who isn't overtly Catholic or a Democrat), I've long suspected that her act has worn thin among regular people.

Sure, we think she got a bad rap in '08 and we were embarrassed to see liberal journalists act as though they were saving the nation by blocking her from the vice presidency – especially when the alternative was Joe Biden.

But her aw-shucks know-nothingness, her cantankerous up-talk, and her shameless self-promotion have started to rankle.

Palin's sign-offs used to mean a great deal – Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, who delivered the ostensibly Trump-maligning GOP State of the Union response, owes her election to being plucked from relative obscurity in a crowded field by Palin in 2010.

Palin was, at one time, the embodiment of that roguish, mavericky, lemme-tell-ya-somethin' ethos that Trump now represents. But today, among the normal people you don't see on political panels, I expect she is a tired brand.

Indeed, as Trump's appeal has been largely based on his independence, it is possible Palin's endorsement could backfire.

It's such a standard politician's move, rendering Trump more like the Republican squishes Mark describes, at least aesthetically.

In a way, Mark and Jonah’s respective positions on Trump the outsider reflect the current state of their careers. While Mark continues to write for publications all over the world, as well as release books and cat albums (no joke, see below), he shook the dust from his cloak and departed National Review, where Jonah is a Senior Editor and now the top-dog writer.

Mark’s reasons for leaving were twofold: One, a prissy NR editor you’ve never heard of (except, perhaps, if you know this story) decided to upbraid him over a couple of jokes Mark referenced in discussing gay marriage and the intolerance of its advocates; two, Mark and NR had irreconcilable differences over legal strategy as they are both being sued by serial litigant and climate mullah Michael Mann.

Much as I would like to say National Review sucks now, in chorus with many conservatives, they still have Jonah – and Williamson, Cooke, and David French are just too darn good for me to spit that out. Even so, under Lowry’s Boehner-like leadership, the place has had a serious come-down from the days when William F. Buckley roamed the earth.

But there they are – Jonah ensconced in what’s left of the manor Buckley built, while Mark, like Liberty Leading the People (although with both breasts covered, one hopes), gives voice to the rabble outside.

Let me be clear about the distinction – Jonah is not claiming Trump won’t win, merely that he shouldn’t; and Mark, while acknowledging Trump’s persistent lead in the polls, is not endorsing him so much as saying, if several election victories by established Republicans make no difference, why not give the new guy a shot?

It’s a rare and significant schism between the two best in the business – with potentially serious implications for everyone reading this sentence – this sentence I am writing now – PERIOD.

Finally, if a person loves animals, little else matters. Jonah writes a good deal about his dogs and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Meanwhile, Mark has released an album for cats – “Feline Groovy.”

Score it that way at home if you like: Mark vs. Jonah, Trump vs. anti-Trump, cat people vs. dog people.

It will be fun to see who’s right, notwithstanding the fate of the world’s indispensable nation.

Theo Caldwell rises like Olympus above the Serengeti. Contact him at theo@theocaldwell.com

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

How the Left Controls Language



As Dennis Miller is fond of saying, liberals have a War Room for everything but war.

Similarly, the left is ever eager to refer to any unacceptable behaviour as “terrorism,” so long as it isn’t what you or I or otherwise normal people would consider terrorism.

Consequently, a bunch of ranchers occupying a vacant building to protest government overreach is terrorism (or the work of Y’all Qaeda), but a Muslim fanatic gunning down his fellow soldiers while screaming “Allahu akbar” is “workplace violence.

An armed, incoherent recluse inside a Planned Parenthood clinic is a terrorist, but a man who shoots a Philadelphia cop and expressly states that he did so in the name of ISIS is “a criminal with a stolen gun.”

Coordinated rape gangs throughout European cities are to be ignored or explained away, but Donald Trump is the real terrorist.

To the left, terrorism is only terrorism when the perpetrator looks like Johnny Lawrence or Gavin McInnes’ dad.

I could go all day on the forced euphemisms deployed to defend Islam; or, more properly, to insist Islam has nothing to do with terrorism, the clear and unequivocal declarations of the perpetrators notwithstanding.

My friend Ezra Levant points out that in the Calgary Herald’s report on a shooting at a nightclub there, the reader is not informed that both attackers were named “Mohamed” until the twenty-fifth paragraph.

Right now, you’re on the ninth paragraph of this column. Even if you hate my guts (right back atcha, commie), is my meaning difficult to discern?

Opacity, evasion, and obscuring plain truths are liberal hallmarks. The left is all about control, and language is crucial to that ambition.

It’s not just matters of life and death, like Islamic terrorism, wherein liberals twist the truth and seek to co-opt you in their lie. It happens every day, in ways large and small. We must recognize these efforts, and resist them.

If you are a parent, perhaps you recently attended a “Winter” concert or celebration at your child’s school.

To whatever extent Christmas was referenced, you can be sure it was immediately diluted by the mention of other holidays, supposedly in the name of “inclusion,” “diversity,” and “tolerance.”

As G.K. Chesterton put it, “There are those who hate Christianity and call their hatred an all-embracing love for all religions.”

It would create an awkward, binary juxtaposition simply to present Hanukkah as the sole alternative to Christmas, so clueless educators toss in their favourite standby: Kwanzaa.

Honestly, do you know one person who celebrates this made-up, American holiday, invented by an FBI stooge? Does anyone other than schoolteachers ever refer to it without being ironic?

Yet there it is, stuffed in between the birth of Christ and a humongous menorah, perhaps along with some celebratory Gaia bush pruned by Ms. Foster-Jamal’s Grade 2 class.

Again, this isn’t about “diversity” or “inclusion” or any of the reasons leftists might give; it’s about pretending the period around December 25 is jam-packed with all kinds of sacred events, in order to crowd out the one thing even non-believers know is most important.

Lies about gender are ubiquitous these days and, unlike the grinning, passive-aggressive coercion surrounding a “Winter” concert, leftists are more aggressive here.

Even though he is a man in every biological sense, and achieved greatness and fame under his given name, if you fail to refer to Bruce Jenner as “Caitlyn,” you are worse than Hitler. Moreover, Twitter will correct you (and perhaps remove your checkmark).

New York City has now instituted six-figure fines for, “intentionally failing to use an individual’s preferred name, pronoun, or title” or “refusing to allow individuals to use single-sex facilities, such as bathrooms or locker rooms, and participate in single-sex programs, consistent with their gender identity.”

This is madness and a lie but, by controlling the language, the left seeks to control you.

Recently, my wife and I attended a restaurant opening and an old friend introduced us to a fellow of her acquaintance. We talked about how much fun our wedding was (I wore a kilt; the answer to your question is, “lipstick”).

When this new fellow spoke to my wife, he kept pointing at me and referring to her “partner.” After several, conspicuous repetitions of this, I asked him what he meant. Remember, gentle reader, that this chap had just been introduced to me as her “husband” and we were in the midst of talking about our wedding.

He at first feigned confusion at my question, then became prissily offended. He had many married friends, he informed me, who didn’t mind being referred to as “partners.”

My wife and I are not a law firm or a wrestling tag-team (though who knows what the future holds), we are married. Moreover, this man had been given our preferred appellation moments before. Yet, he apparently felt the need to adjust our language to suit his principles.

I wasn’t rude or aggressive in asking (when I’m being rude or aggressive, trust me, you’ll know it), but even my gentle pushback was enough for him to go nancing off and not talk to us for the rest of the evening.

Compare this with the recent news coverage of my old pal Seamus O’Regan and the conscientious well-wishes to him and his “husband.”

Seamus, as you may know, has entered a “wellness” program to embrace “an alcohol-free lifestyle.” For conservatives, this is called “rehab.”

I met Seamus when I was Best Man at his cousin’s wedding in Newfoundland approximately one million years ago. On and off thereafter, we had a number of good-natured, well-refreshed debates about policy. He was, incidentally, the first to spring that, “I’m not a leftist, I’m a classical liberal” routine on me – as though Edmund Burke would be Jake with gay marriage and abortion on demand.

It has been noted that, while decent people hope Seamus can quit drinking, he was positively gleeful in mocking former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford for his substance abuse.

As Seamus addresses his self-inflicted, first-world problems, don’t tell me he’s “courageous” while Rob Ford is a “disgrace,” or that Seamus has a “husband” while my wife has a “partner.”

Seamus’ case is not only an object lesson in how language is contorted to benefit the left, but also of how easy life is for liberals of limited talent and erudition who simply show up (Justin Trudeau, please call your office).

Finally, no contemplation of the left’s linguistic perversions is complete without some mention of the Clintons (though it depends what the meaning of “is” is).

On any issue, either or both of them can be counted on to parse, redefine, misconstrue and outright lie to serve their interests. But two recent instances stand out.

The first, briefly, was a telling moment in which an interviewer asked Donald Trump about Bill Clinton’s “alleged extra-marital affair.” Trump, bless him, was quick to point out Bill’s affair with Monika Lewinsky is not “alleged” but “admitted.” Moreover, well beyond an “affair,” the former president has been credibly accused of various forms of unwanted touching, harassment and rape.

This trick of the left may have worked in the 90s, minimizing Bill’s monstrous acts through the use of language, but it will be tougher this time around. Watch this space.

Second, asked recently to distinguish between a Democrat and a socialist, Hillary Clinton had no answer. The venue was friendly and the questioner was fellow Democrat Chris Matthews.

Even so, Hillary had no coherent reply, demonstrating that, for people who like to control words, liberals are surprisingly weak at deploying them.

This pertains to my swipe at Seamus (and Justin), above. The liberal worldview is all about control and mastery of superficial things, like language and words, but there is nothing of substance beneath that rapacious desire.

Here is a woman who aspires to lead what’s left of the free world, yet she has no cogent answer to a rudimentary question of public policy. It is because she has given no thought to anything but her own advancement.

This shows that for all their posturing and will to power, they are hollow and can be beaten.

You see it on the news, and in your daily life: small moves, subtle edits, and constant, picayune pressure to talk, think, and believe as they do. Speak your mind and let them pound sand.


Theo Caldwell is nodding his head like yeah, moving his hips like yeah. Contact him at theo@theocaldwell.com

Sunday, December 13, 2015

An Unexpected Child



Recently, this column took issue with those who claim the Syrian refugees are just like another Middle Eastern family seeking shelter at Christmastime. Drawing an equivalence between Mary and Joseph stopping over in Bethlehem for the census and tens of thousands of people arriving for good from a terror-rife part of the world is, as my mother would say, bollocks on stilts.

Nevertheless, while I reject the premise of that analogy, please allow me to present another which, while perhaps not much better, is at least no more craptacular.

To wit, the Christmas story is, in part, the tale of an unexpected pregnancy.

As you know, gentle reader, this column takes pride in its rapier, nonpareil lampooning of the left. But as you further know, we would rather light a candle than curse the darkness.

With that latter sentiment in mind, and directing my comments particularly at our leftward compatriots who join us from time to time, I’d like to take a stab at détente on this issue.

That is, you put down your rock and I’ll put down my sword and we try to kill each other like civilized people.

Please note that I extend you the courtesy of not calling you “friends,” as is the cheesy vernacular, since we’re not, really – you don’t play shinny and stop at Tim’s with me, I don’t compost and go to Starbuck’s with you.

Moreover, I possess some familiarity with your views of me and the dangerous crowd I run with, to which I reply the feeling is quite mutual.

All that’s to say, I don’t expect to achieve a lasting chumminess here.

But what I would like is to attain an understanding on a matter of life and death – not to you or to me, but to others.

Both you and I, gentle reader, are alive, conscious, capable of rational thought (to varying degrees), and protected by the law. If someone were to harm or kill us, there would be consequences.

We reason together from that privileged position as to the fate of a third party that does not enjoy these attributes: children yet to be born.

Let’s pause right there and consider our nomenclature.

You are no doubt familiar with the tendency of both pro-life and pro-choice advocates to box in their adversaries by choice of words. That is, the former insist on saying “babies” while the latter call a kid a “fetus” even as it’s crowning.

While I have my preference between the two approaches, I promise I’m not doing that here. I genuinely do want to see if there is common ground and then, like German and British soldiers after the Christmas Truce, we can go back to fighting.

Let us consider that 9-month-old fetus and work our way backward.

If, like the vast majority of people, you see a third trimester pregnancy, in which the child not only appears fully human but can survive outside the womb, as something to be preserved, then we have a basis for discussion. The rest is a matter of degree.

Conversely, if you are among the immovable minority who insist that a baby is not a person until after it has fully emerged from its mother – or even, until the family brings it home – then I wish you Merry Christmas and excuse you from the remainder of this conversation.

To those who remain: I am not a politician and I hope, for your sake, you’re not one either. For many reasons, this is good, particularly since culture is more powerful than politics.

This, like every significant policy issue, is a question of culture, from which politics follows, because it’s not primarily a political or a legal matter. It’s a human thing.

Can we agree to that, and weigh the merits of both sides?

If you lament the loss of people we will never know, but understandably wish to avoid the acrimony of this particular policy debate or make things even more difficult for unhappily pregnant women, almost-born babies are the simplest place to start.

Culturally, numbers and sentiment are with you in opposing the termination of nearly full-term pregnancies for any reason other than life and death complications.

North American political progress on this point has been mixed but, if you need a law to tell you it’s wrong to do away with a fully formed baby, you are surely among the minority I amicably dismissed above.

From there, however, it gets more complicated and necessitates some discussion of politics, law, as well as something else we hear a lot about in policy debates: science.

Now, my Master’s degree is in a science so soft it’s practically flaccid. That said, I’m not shaking too badly to match wits with, say, Leonardo DiCaprio or Prince Charles (speaking of science, technically alcohol IS a solution, but I digress).

Science, like culture, must always be willing to face questions and able to withstand scrutiny.

As scientific advances tell us more about the development of babies in the womb, including their capacity to feel pain, and increase the likelihood of survival for premature births, we must re-evaluate the concept of personhood and the consequences of our actions.

Again, this is both a cultural and political matter, in that order. If we know that terminating the life of a 20- or even 8-week old fetus will be excruciating for it, and if we further know that this child could survive outside the womb, are we still okay with that? If so, what does that say about us? And if not, how should the law reflect our view?

As to that last, both the United States and Canada have inverted the order of culture and politics through Supreme Court decisions – the US in 1973 and Canada in 1988.

For some, this constitutes a cultural stare decisis, putting the issue beyond debate. But to say we cannot discuss a literal life and death issue because a few lawyers made the decision for us decades ago is not only misbegotten, as we have seen, but an abdication of our God-given responsibility to reason.

I have precious little faith in politics, politicians, and lawyers, so how about the following: We make the law irrelevant.

That is, if we all agree that little lives are important and that those of us already born have a responsibility to give the same chance to others, if we are able, it will not matter what excesses the law allows.

As Saint Paul instructs, all things are lawful but not all things are good. Eventually, perhaps a legal and political solution may come to pass, but not without a cultural shift in favour of life – and not until people believe they have better options. By then, it won’t matter.

What, then, to say to those who are skeptical or disagree and, most important, to women who are pregnant and did not plan or wish to be?

Perhaps something like this: It is not my job to judge you. Whatever, if anything, you know about me, I’m actually much worse than you think. It is a safe bet that you are a far finer person than I am.

Moreover, despite whatever caricatures you may have seen, many who share my views feel the same things: compassion for you and appreciation of their own shortcomings.

We believe you, and the child within you, are created in God’s image and worthy of respect.

Returning to that unexpected pregnancy at the first Christmas: Mary had faith and courage but, unlike many surprised mothers-to-be, she had been told in no uncertain terms by the Angel of the Lord that her child would be a big deal.

Justin Bieber’s mum presumably received no such assurance (whether or not Bieber is the Antichrist, I leave to those possessing of more advanced theology).

It’s easy for those of us not in that position to say “have faith” or “choose life” when there is little consequence to us. I’d like to improve on that.

I don’t believe in coincidences. If you or someone known to you is on the horns of a dilemma with an unexpected pregnancy and planning to terminate it, have the child and I’ll find a way to raise it for you.

This isn’t a first-come, one-off proposition. I’ll do it for as many as ask. If you’re wondering how such an undertaking could be accomplished, as the Irish philosopher Paul Hewson put it, “The God I believe in isn’t short of cash, mister.”

I’m not doing it because I think your kid is the Messiah. In fact, if the child grows up with much exposure to me, chances are he’ll be a world-class jerk. Nevertheless, he has a right to live.

Now, this is a sincere offer, but let’s please not make it the focal point of this prose. What I’m saying is that if those of us who are pro-life mean what we say, we must be part of the solution beyond stating what the law should be or what other people should do.

And to those on the other side, I reiterate the words of another Theo: “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

Happy Christmas, everyone.


Theo Caldwell can’t feel his face when he’s with you. Contact him at theo@theocaldwell.com

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Christians Get Special Treatment



Surely we can agree that what Christians need most is a good talking-to from people who don't share their beliefs.

It's quite something, isn't it? The same people who spend this time of year kicking over crèches, expunging Christmas carols, and ensuring no Christian prays in public nevertheless have an ironclad grasp of what Jesus thinks about everything from immigration, to abortion, to gay marriage and guns.

People who wouldn't dream of calling Caitlyn Jenner "Bruce" or pointing out that he's not a woman (much less "woman of the year") are perfectly at ease lecturing adherents of a faith they don't even follow.

On issue after issue, Christians routinely earn a jolly good spanking for not living up to leftists' standards or for questioning the supremacy of liberal orthodoxy.

The leitmotif is that Christians are hypocritical, failing to meet moral obligations that the critics themselves do not recognize.

Of particular bemusement is the glee displayed whenever a prominent Christian is caught misbehaving, as though this reveals some previously hidden truth about the faith. But if the jackals knew anything about Jesus’ stated mission, they’d know Christianity is a religion for bad people.

If you were already perfect, you wouldn’t need it. This is why Jesus is not a Christian.

And so we endure the know-it-all smirks of media types, the insufferable sanctimony of leftist celebrities and, of course, the ubiquitous, judgey rants of angry, showerless hippies.

Speaking of which, Barack Obama called it “shameful” and “not American” to consider prioritizing refugee status for Middle Eastern Christians who are fleeing ISIS and the Syrian civil war.

Why is that? Christianity has been the most persecuted religion in the world for some time, and the treatment of Christians in Syria and Iraq has been especially vicious. If they were of any other faith, would giving them special protection be likewise ruled out of bounds?

The question of Syrian refugees has occasioned a field day for those who sneer at Christians. To wit, anyone who questions the importation of tens of thousands of people about whom we know very little and have understandable security concerns is, ipso facto, making baby Jesus cry,

Knock it off, gaylord.

I honestly don't know what Jesus would do about the Syrian refugees, and neither do you. Certainly, he would prescribe love and compassion, but how best to apply that? Is welcoming a city-sized population of unknowable people from a region rife with terrorism compassionate to those who might be put at risk?

Would the best thing for Syrians be to establish safe zones close to their home, or even to help them win their country back?

These are difficult questions, with which many good people are grappling.

But it requires an egregious caliber of self-regard to suppose you know for certain what the answer is, based on a book you probably haven't read and don't believe, and to encapsulate your high-mindedness in a cartoon on your Facebook page.

Even George Stromboulopoulos, who should be saying nothing but sorry for his weekly desecration of the formerly revered institution of Hockey Night in Canada, delivered a bizarre little lecture to the “Bible Belt” by way of that damn Kermit meme.

Revealing the quality of judgment that sees him appear coast-to-coast-to-coast each week in pajamas fashioned into suits, Snuffalupagus enlists Kermit to equate Syrian refugees with a certain other “Middle Eastern family seeking shelter, fleeing persecution” at Christmastime. Get it?

He states it’s, “hard to disagree with the facts” but then mentions that “technically” Joseph and Mary were just traveling for the census of Caesar Augustus before adding, incomprehensively, “but it adds to the poignancy of the refusal.”

Never mind that this is hipster doofus nose-ring nonsense – there’s a dig at Christians to be had so, as the kids say, I’m just going to leave this right here.

In my previous column, I mentioned the politically correct spontaneous combustion of Liberal Cabinet Minister Chrystia Freeland on Real Time with Bill Maher. I bring it up again for two reasons: First, stupidity of this sort cannot be confined to a single session of prose; second, as she is my Member of Parliament, I claim the special privilege of acute embarrassment.

In her mangled wreck of a discourse, in which she attempted to create an equivalence among extremists of all religions, Freeland noted, “The Bible says, ‘an eye for an eye.’”

Neither Freeland, nor her fellow panelists, nor even columnists purporting to upbraid her for her performance possessed the biblical literacy to know that Jesus specifically refuted that concept. This is how we got the expression, “turn the other cheek” (which the Lutherans famously adapted to, “kiss my ass”).

Nevertheless, despite knowing almost nothing about the religion, while oversimplifying and misinterpreting what little they have gleaned, the left are quite sure that whatever has gone wrong, Christians are somehow to blame.

Which of course brings us to Colorado, and the recent shooting in and around a Planned Parenthood clinic.

In the media and online, it was striking to see the clawing desperation for the perpetrator to be a practicing Christian.

Even after it was revealed that Robert Lewis Dear has no religious bent (he isn’t even a Republican!), the UK’s Daily Mail reported that a cross “was displayed outside his house.” Have a look at the “display” yourself.

Egads, it’s a pair of sticks which, if you look at sideways, yeah, kinda looks like a cross (either that, or…I got nothing, it’s a pair of sticks).

No matter – to these people, he may as well have erected a scale replica of Christ the Redeemer on his roof.

Among the most relentless accusers are former or nominal Christians, eager for the “strange new respect” of the mainstream left.

An erstwhile friend of mine, who has made a career of hopping back and forth between sides in the culture wars and sneering at whomever he disagrees with at the moment, was quick to proclaim, “Many ‘Christians’ should be deeply ashamed today.”

Mind you, this was without knowing the shooter’s religion or political affiliation – and he has none, to speak of. Based solely on the fact that he was inside a clinic of Planned Parenthood – where no staff or patients were injured – he is presumed to be Christian and his guilt is extrapolated to other adherents of what is (for now) the world’s largest religion.

Now, my old pal may be a toothache and a bore, but he is far from anomalous. The internet and the airwaves were inundated with silly-bears of this sort, complete with the tiresome, preening self-righteousness the supposedly tolerant reserve for Christians.

But you know what? Let’s give it to them. Let’s assume the shooter was a tambourine-banging, Benny Hinn-believing, white suit-wearing Christian weirdo (or, if you like, a busy-fingered pederast protected by Vatican City’s lavender mafia – whatever stereotype makes you feel most self-satisfied).

Isn’t this when the reflex to proclaim that a person’s religion has nothing to do with their actions kicks in?

Just ask John “You Name It” Kerry about all the other things that cause people to do bad things before religion is to blame.

What’s that you say? Only one religion benefits from that kind of rote, politically correct defence? You’re almost there.

It’s true, Islam inspires people to find new and exciting ways to explain away the plain truth of some of its adherents’ behaviour. But no other religion would be so swiftly, viciously, and comprehensively villainized for the actions of one believer as Christianity.

Sure, a lot of people don’t like Israel, but no responsible, otherwise employable person would come out against “Jews” immediately after an attack like the one in Colorado, even if there were evidence of a Jewish culprit.

So, while Islam is uniquely protected and cherished by those who wish to think well of themselves, it is merely first among equals. Perhaps Islam’s defenders are so eager and unequivocal in their insistence that the religion has nothing to do with violence because they’ve had so many opportunities to rehearse this line.

Among many other things, political correctness is a conscious choice to invert reality. In this case, whenever we are attacked by radical Muslims, the acceptable leftist reaction is to insist that the group most in need of protection and accommodation is Muslims.

Only Christians can be instantly blamed, and subjected to collective guilt.

To those who indulge in these daily little judgments and mass assumptions, I say the following:

I am a Christian, but not a very good one. In fact, I’m Presbyterian, which barely even counts. I’m not supposed to tell you I think you’re a dope and your worldview is mush-minded idiocy (in this way, I do the job other Christians won’t). I do and it is, but that’s between me and God.

Which brings up another point – if you knew my religion’s holy book nearly as well as your smug status updates and moronic hashtags suggest, you’d know you weren’t put on this earth to be my judge. Jesus specifically said that before you worry about the speck in my eye, you ought to take the stick out of somewhere yourself.


Theo Caldwell is standing in the dark. Contact him at theo@theocaldwell.com

Monday, November 23, 2015

"Racism" and "Climate Change": The Left's Answers to Everything



For ages, it seemed “racist” was the only world liberals knew, much like “Hodor.

No matter the crisis or quandary, just give them a minute and those on the left could explain how racism, probably yours, was the cause of it all.

It was the only rhetorical move they had – and the only one they needed. No matter how abstract, they would apply it to any policy dispute, as in, “Oh, you aren’t in favour of Obamacare? Racist!”

Obviously, the technique has not lost its utility, as demonstrated by the shrieking eels currently making themselves heard across American college campuses.

But along the way, they came up with a new catch-all: “climate change” (actually, their original term was “global warming” but, as there has been no “warming” in almost 20 years, they’ve had to adapt).

Democratic presidential candidate and angry Muppet Bernie Sanders has repeatedly called climate change the greatest crisis we face (in this inanity, he is far from alone), and has even averred that this invented problem is the cause of Islamic terrorism and responsible for ISIS.

Funny how climate change doesn’t cause Christians or Jews to go on murderous rampages.

This is, of course, an exquisite vintage of stupid, but it does not end there.

A popular liberal claim is that 300,000 people die from climate change every year. As to which specific people these might be, that’s where the reception gets a little fuzzy. ‘Twas always thus.

Socialists love people in groups of a million or more. Consequently, they insist their preferred crises are walloping some colossal number of people, rather than give a name – just one – of a victim and explain specifically how that person was affected.

For example, aid worker Anita Datar, who devoted her life to helping others, was gunned down by Islamic terrorists. She was one among many victims of this genuine crisis this month alone, and their names are easy to find.

Presumably, the roster of those killed by climate change is alongside the list of those who’ve died from second-hand smoke.

My pal Gerry Nicholls recently quipped that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, frustrated at not being taken seriously, ordered Canadian war planes to bomb climate change. Not for the first time, Gerry might be on to something.

If we are fed up with leaders who insist on obsessing over a made-up crisis in the face of a real one, we should just tell them ISIS has a sasquatch-sized carbon footprint. That’ll make their bull run.

Speaking of bull, Hillary Clinton boldly asserts that Muslims, “have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.”

If you subscribe to the belief that the vast majority of Muslims are neither terrorists not terrorist sympathizers (and I do), it is still patently obvious that Islam has at least something to do with terrorism.

But the worldview of people like Hillary, Justin, and Bernie is not about facts. It is about something else entirely.

Among the many life lessons to be gleaned from Kung Fu Panda is that we must let go of the illusion of control. It is well-documented that liberals are all about controlling their fellow man. Here, they strive to control the very nature of mankind.

It would be more convenient if Muslims had nothing to do with terrorism, which were really caused by climate change, and if any assertion to the contrary could be dismissed as racism.

Speaking of which, it is bemusing when leftists who wish to call you anti-Muslim scream “Racist!” as though this worldwide religion of over a billion adherents were somehow a race.

As the kids say, what the actual F?

The truth is, ISIS is not under control (nor is it “contained”) and no amount of insisting that our problems are of our own making, and thereby mutable by altering our own behaviour, will make them so.

To the liberal mind, however, it is always our fault (or, more particularly, your fault), and there is no problem too complex to be encapsulated by that dopey Facebook meme of Kermit the Frog drinking his damn tea. But that’s none of my business.

Steve Sailer has described political correctness as a “war on noticing.”

If you notice, therefore, that there has been no actual global warming in nigh two decades, or that a lot of “workplace violence” tends to be prefaced with “Allahu Akbar!” then you are declaring hostilities.

As to the former, it is impossible to take environmentalists’ worship of “science” seriously, or even to respect their capacity for basic mental agility after watching the Congressional testimony of Sierra Club President Aaron Mair on this topic. Take a look, I’ll wait.

And as to the latter, bear in mind that that same US government that promises to subject “Syrian refugees” to strict scrutiny also scrutinized Nidal Hasan right up to the rank of Army Major before he self-deployed as a “Soldier of Allah” and slaughtered his colleagues at Fort Hood.

Whether American-born like Hasan or foreign unfortunates like those fleeing the Middle East, the liberal mind has a willful blind spot when it comes to Muslims.

Incidentally, if your appetite has been whetted for footage of leftists discrediting their own positions through witless, inarticulate defences thereof, have a gander at Liberal Cabinet Minister Chrystia Freeland on Real Time with Bill Maher recently. Take your time, I’ll be here.

Where were we? Oh, right – you’re a racist. Also, 97 percent of scientists agree you’re worse than Hitler.

Racism and climate change are the one-two purse-slaps of political correctness.

On the topic of those Syrian refugees, accusations of racism have been predictably and ubiquitously leveled at all those who voice concerns about importing tens of thousands of unknowable people from such a hotbed of climate change.

As Canadian commentator Rex Murphy wisely noted, “Keeping our eyes open does not close our hearts.”

To the left, people who use their eyes, or their brains, or who speak the truth, are all racists. Just live with it. It’s how they roll.

Liberals refuse to see, and so they are perpetually mystified by the obvious. Also, it seems they want to be mad at someone, anyone. Political correctness offers permissible rage, moral superiority, and the ability to shrink existential problems to manageable size.

To the climate change obsessives, I say with the utmost compassion, you really need to get over it. Open your eyes, please, as we could use your help with the real problems of our age.

And to those who have, do, or will call me a racist: Y’all can kiss my black ass.

I will not go back and forth in a discussion instituted in bad faith, nor am I required to prove my innocence to self-appointed judges. Also, your fly is open.

Do they really believe it? That is, do otherwise cogent, seemingly sane adults honestly think the major challenges of this world can be miniaturized and explained away by first world obsessions? Or, as I suspect, are they just repeating received wisdom, having learned their outrage phonetically?

Either way, if you blame racism or climate change, without irony, for the crises of our time, you forfeit the right to be taken seriously.


Theo Caldwell has a dream. Contact him at theo@theocaldwell.com