Author: Matthew Barlow

Political Tribalism

There has been a lot of hand-wringing about the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency.  This began the night of the election and shows no signs of abating.  The current issue of Foreign Affairs, the august publication dedicated to the impact of the world on the US and vice versa, is dedicated to unraveling this question from the point-of-view of foreign affairs and policy. In the issue is an article from Amy Chua, John M. Duff, Jr., Professor of Law at Yale, adapted from her new book, Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations.  In it, Chua argues that tribalism explains not just messy American involvements in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, but Trump.  In the case of those three messy wars, she notes that American policy makers failed to recognize questions of ethnic or national identity in those three countries, hence the quagmires.  Her argument is compelling and well argued. But when it comes to Trump, it seems to me she is on much shakier ground.  She argues that tribalism is what led to white voters to elect him.  She notes that the white majority in the United States is shrinking and Trump capitalized on that.  So far, so good.  She goes on to discuss classism and the plight of the (white) poor in the country.  Again, so far, so good. But it’s when she gets into...

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Child Spies

News has erupted in the United Kingdom that Scotland Yard has been using children as spies for criminal cases.  Not surprisingly, most British are sickened and appalled by this, as are the usual array of human rights groups.  There can be no defence of this. None.  This is one of the most morally repugnant things I have ever come across in my life. The children are pulled from a database about gang members, apparently.  And certainly, some have already decided that they’re criminals and therefore forfeit their civil rights.  It’s not that simple.  First, they’re children.  Second, being in this database is not necessarily an indication of criminality.  Third, even if they are, that is not an excuse to curtail someone’s civil rights. To do so is inhumane. It says that someone is less of a human due to past behaviour. The House of Lords committee that revealed the existence of this programme is sickened.  Even David Davis, one of the most self-serving British politicians of our era (he resigned from PM Theresa May’s cabinet a couple of weeks ago) is appalled.  I wonder what Boris Johnson thinks? And yet, here is May’s spokesperson defending this practice: Juvenile covert human intelligence sources are used very rarely and they’re only used when it is very necessary and proportionate, for example helping to prevent gang violence, drug dealing and the ‘county lines’...

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Merci Beaucoup and Thank You

At the end of May, at the annual Congress for the Humanities and Social Sciences in Regina, SK, my book, Griffintown: Identity & Memory in an Irish Diaspora Neighbourhood, won a CLIO Award from the Canadian Historical Association.  I wrote the best book in Québec history last year.  I was stunned and surprised when I found out about this award in early April and I remain just as gobsmacked today. It is very humbling to be recognized by your peers for your work, I have to say.  It has also been humbling to see the response to the book as...

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Doug Ford: Ontario’s Populist

Canada is beside itself with the election of Doug Ford as the Premier of Ontario.  Ford, the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, is not really all that qualified to be premier, I must say.  The lynchpin of his campaign was a promise of $1 beer, and the rest was based on a basic message that the government of Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne was stupid.  Well, he didn’t exactly say that, but it was pretty much his message.  The centre and left in Ontario and around Canada has been wringing its hands as Donald Trump Lite has...

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Wither Nos Amours

Rusty Staub died yesterday.  ‘Le Grand Orange’ was the first franchise icon for the Montreal Expos.  The Expos, in hindsight, were a star-crossed franchise from the getgo.  Staub arrived in Montreal in the winter of 1969, just before the Expos inaugural season.  He was dealt away in 1972, to the New York Mets.  Social media today in the United States remembers Staub as a long-time Met.  In Canada, he is an Expo. Staub was before my time, he was traded away before I was born.  But I grew up knowing the story of Le Grand Orange, the greatest player in franchise history when I was a kid.  He did return to the ‘Spos, as we called them, in 1979, though he left again in 1980 for Texas.  His #10 was the first number retired by the Expos. His death got me to thinking about the sad history of my first baseball team.  The Expos lasted from 1969-2004, before moving to Washington.  They weren’t a great team, to be honest.  They had their ups, but had more downs, and they left town with an historic losing record.  They won the NL East once, during the 1981 strike season, but then they lost a playoff to the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Rick Monday hit the homer that crushed my childhood dreams of a World Series for the ‘Spos.  That day is still...

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