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American Thanksgiving and Puritan Geopolitics in the Americas


Puritan Settlement

The painting “Desembarco de los Puritanos en America,” or “The Arrival of the Pilgrims in America,” by Antonio Gisbert shows Puritans landing in America in 1620. By Antonio Gisbert (1834-1902) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


The first winter took many of the English at Plymouth. By fall 1621, only 53 remained of the 132 who had arrived on the Mayflower. But those who had survived brought in a harvest. And so, in keeping with tradition, the governor called the living 53 together for a three-day harvest feast, joined by more than 90 locals from the Wampanoag tribe. The meal was a moment to recognize the English plantation’s small step toward stability and, hopefully, profit. This was no small thing. A first, deadly year was common. Getting through it was an accomplishment. England’s successful colony of Virginia had had a massive death toll — of the 8,000 arrivals between 1607 and 1625, only 15 percent lived.

But still the English came to North America and still government and business leaders supported them. This was not without reason. In the 17th century, Europe was in upheaval and England’s place in it unsure. Moreover, England was going through a period of internal instability that would culminate in the unthinkable — civil war in 1642 and regicide in 1649. England’s colonies were born from this situation, and the colonies of Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay and the little-known colony of Providence Island in the Caribbean were part of a broader Puritan geopolitical strategy to solve England’s problems.


Throughout the first half of the 17th century, England was wracked by internal divisions that would lead to civil war in 1642. Religion was a huge part of this. The dispute was over the direction of the Church of England. Some factions favored “high” church practices that involved elaborate ritual. The Puritans, by contrast, wanted to clear the national religion of what they considered Catholic traces. This religious crisis compounded a political crisis at the highest levels of government, pitting Parliament against the monarchy.

By the beginning of the 17th century, England had undergone centralizing reforms that gave the king and his Parliament unrestricted power to make laws. Balance was needed. The king had the power to call Parliament into session and dismiss it. Parliament had the power to grant him vital funds needed for war or to pay down debt. However, Parliament had powerful Puritan factions that sought not only to advance their sectarian cause but also to advance the power of Parliament beyond its constraints. Kings James I and his son Charles I, for their part, sought to gain an unrestrained hold on power that would enable them to make decisive strategic choices abroad. They relied, internally and externally, on Catholics, crypto-Catholics and high church advocates — exacerbating the displeasure of Parliament.

Both kings continually fought with Parliament over funding for the monarchy’s debt and for new ventures. Both dissolved Parliament several times; Charles ultimately did so for a full 11 years beginning in 1629.



europe_circa_1600 (1)

Europe in 1600

Spain was England’s major strategic problem on the Continent. Protestant England saw itself as under constant threat from the Catholic powers in Europe. This led to problems when the people came to see their leaders, James I and his son Charles, as insufficiently hostile to Spain and insufficiently committed to the Protestant cause on the Continent. In order to stop mounting debt, shortly after taking power James made the unpopular move of ending a war with Spain that England had been waging alongside the Netherlands since 1585. In 1618, the Thirty Years’ War broke out in the German states — a war that, in part, pitted Protestants against Catholics and spread throughout Central Europe. James did not wish to become involved in the war. In 1620, the Catholic Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II, a relative of Spain’s King Philip III, pushed Frederick V, the Protestant son-in-law of England’s King James, out of his lands in Bohemia, and Spain attacked Frederick in his other lands in the Rhineland. The English monarchy called for a defense of Frederick but was unwilling to commit to significant military action to aid him.

Puritan factions in Parliament, however, wanted England to strike at Spain directly by attacking Spanish shipments from the Americas, which could have paid for itself in captured goods. To make matters worse, from 1614 to 1623, James I pursued an unpopular plan to marry his son Charles to the Catholic daughter of Philip III of Spain — a plan called the “Spanish Match.” Instead, Charles I ended up marrying the Catholic daughter of the king of France in 1625. This contributed to the impression that James and Charles were too friendly with Spain and Catholicism, or even were secret Catholics. Many Puritans and other zealous promoters of the Protestant cause began to feel that they had to look outside of the English government to further their cause.

Amid this complex constellation of Continental powers and England’s own internal incoherence, a group of Puritan leaders in Parliament, who would later play a pivotal role in the English Civil War, focused on the geopolitical factors that were troubling England. Issues of finance and Spanish power were at the core. A group of them struck on the idea of establishing a set of Puritan colonial ventures in the Americas that would simultaneously serve to unseat Spain from her colonial empire and enrich England, tipping the geopolitical balance. In this they were continuing Elizabeth I’s strategy of 1585, when she started a privateer war in the Atlantic and Caribbean to capture Spanish treasure ships bound from the Americas. Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay were part of this early vision, but they were both far too remote to challenge the Spanish, and the group believed that the area’s climate precluded it from being a source of vast wealth from cash crops. New England, however, was safe from Spanish aggression and could serve as a suitable starting point for a colonial push into the heart of Spanish territory.

The Effects of Spanish Colonization

Spain’s 1492 voyage to the Americas and subsequent colonization had changed Europe indelibly by the 17th century. It had complicated each nation’s efforts to achieve a favorable balance of power. As the vanguard of settlement in the New World, Spain and Portugal were the clear winners. From their mines, especially the Spanish silver mine in Potosi, American precious metals began to flow into their government coffers in significant amounts beginning in 1520, with a major uptick after 1550. Traditionally a resource-poor and fragmented nation, Spain now had a reliable revenue source to pursue its global ambitions.


Spanish Colonies in the Carribbean

This new economic power added to Spain’s already advantageous position. At a time when England, France and the Netherlands were internally divided between opposing sectarian groups, Spain was solidly Catholic. As a result of its unity, Spain’s elites generally pursued a more coherent foreign policy. Moreover, Spain had ties across the Continent. Charles V was both king of Spain and Holy Roman emperor, making him the most powerful man of his era. He abdicated in 1556, two years before his death, and divided his territories among his heirs. His son, Philip II of Spain, and Charles’ brother, Ferdinand I, inherited the divided dominions and retained their ties to each other, giving them power throughout the Continent and territory surrounding France.

Despite having no successful colonies until the beginning of the 17th century, England did see some major benefits from the discovery of the Americas. The addition of the Western Atlantic to Europe’s map and the influx of trade goods from that direction fundamentally altered trade routes in Europe, shifting them from their previous intense focus on the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean to encompass an ocean on which England held a unique strategic position. The nearby Netherlands — recently free from Spain — enjoyed a similar position and, along with England, took a major new role in shipping. By the middle of the 17th century, the Dutch had a merchant fleet as large as all others combined in Europe and were competing for lands in the New World. Sweden, another major European naval power, also held a few possessions in North America and the Caribbean. (This led to curious events such as “New Sweden,” a colony located along the Delaware River, falling under Dutch control in the 1650s and becoming part of the “New Netherlands.”)

England’s Drive Into the New World

In spite of its gains in maritime commerce, England was still far behind Spain and Portugal in the Americas. The Iberian nations had established a strong hold on South America, Central America and the southern portions of North America, including the Caribbean. Much of North America, however, remained relatively untouched. It did not possess the proven mineral wealth of the south but it had a wealth of natural capital — fisheries, timber, furs and expanses of fertile soil.

However, much of the population of the Americas was in a band in central Mexico, meaning that the vast pools of labor available to the Spanish and Portuguese were not present elsewhere in North America. Instead, England and other colonial powers would need to bring their own labor. They were at a demographic advantage in this regard. Since the 16th century, the Continent’s population had exploded. The British Isles and Northwest Europe grew the most, with England expanding from 2.6 million in 1500 to around 5.6 million by 1650. By contrast, the eastern woodlands of North America in 1600 had around 200,000 inhabitants — the population of London. Recent catastrophic epidemics brought by seasonal European fishermen and traders further decimated the population, especially that of New England. The disaster directly benefited Plymouth, which was built on the site of the deserted town of Patuxet and used native cleared and cultivated land.

After its founding in 1620, Plymouth was alone in New England for a decade and struggled to become profitable. It was the first foothold, however, for a great Puritan push into the region. In time, this push would subsume the tiny separatist colony within the larger sphere of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. This new colony’s numbers were much higher: The first wave in 1630 brought 700 English settlers to Salem, and by 1640 there were 11,000 living in the region.

Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay were different from nearby Virginia. Virginia was initially solely a business venture, and its colonists provided the manpower. New England, by contrast, was a settler society of families from the start. Both Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay were started by English Puritans — Christian sectarians critical of the state-run Church of England. Plymouth’s settlers were Puritan separatists who wanted no connection to England. Massachusetts Bay’s colonists were non-separatist Puritans who believed in reforming the church. For both, creating polities in North America furthered their sectarian political goals. The pilgrims wanted to establish a separate godly society to escape persecution; the Puritans of Salem wanted to establish a beacon that would serve to change England by example. Less known, however, is that the financial backers of the New England colonies had a more ambitious goal of which New England was only the initial phase.

In this plan, Massachusetts was to provide profit to its investors, but it was also to serve as a way station from which they could then send settlers to a small colony they simultaneously founded on Providence Island off the Miskito Coast of modern Nicaragua. This island, now part of Colombia, was in the heart of the Spanish Caribbean and was meant to alter the geopolitics of Central America and bring it under English control. It was in this way that they hoped to solve England’s geostrategic problems on the Continent and advance their own political agenda.

Providence was an uninhabited island in an area where the Spanish had not established deep roots. The island was a natural fortress, with a coral reef that made approach difficult and high, craggy rocks that helped in defense. It also had sheltered harbors and pockets of fertile land that could be used for production of food and cash crops.

It would serve, in their mind, as the perfect first foothold for England in the lucrative tropical regions of the Americas, from which it could trade with nearby native polities. In the short run, Providence was a base of operations, but in the long run it was to be a launchpad for an ambitious project to unseat Spain in the Americas and take Central America for England. In keeping with Puritan ideals, Providence was to be the same sort of “godly” society as Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth, just a more profitable one. Providence Island would enable the English to harry Spanish ships, bring in profit to end disputes with the crown and bolster the Protestant position in the Thirty Years’ War.



But while Massachusetts Bay would succeed, Providence would fail utterly. Both Massachusetts Bay and Providence Island received their first shipment of Puritan settlers in 1630. Providence was expected to yield immense profits, while Massachusetts was expected to be a tougher venture. Both were difficult, but Providence’s constraints proved fatal. The island did not establish a cash crop economy and its attempts to trade with native groups on the mainland were not fruitful.

The island’s geopolitical position in Spanish military territory meant that it needed to obsessively focus on security. This proved its downfall. After numerous attacks and several successful raids on Spanish trade on the coast, the investors decided in 1641 to initiate plans to move colonists down from Massachusetts Bay to Providence. Spanish forces received intelligence of this plan and took the island with a massive force, ending England’s control.

Puritan Legacies

The 1641 invasion ended English settlement on the island, which subsequently became a Spanish military depot. The Puritans left little legacy there. New England, however, flourished. It became, in time, the nearest replica of English political life outside of the British Isles and a key regional component of the Thirteen Colonies and, later, the United States. It was the center of an agricultural order based on individual farmers and families and later of the United States’ early manufacturing power. England sorted out its internal turmoil not by altering its geopolitical position externally — a project that faced serious resource and geographical constraints — but through massive internal upheaval during the English Civil War.

The celebration of the fruits of the Plymouth Colony’s brutal first year is the byproduct of England’s struggle against Spain on the Continent and in the New World. Thus, the most celebrated meal in America comes with a side of geopolitics.


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I am Islamophobic

I fear Islam. I fear armed men intent on enslaving me and forcibly converting me to a totalitarian political doctrine. I fear for my womenfolk. I fear all armed hoodlums: fascists, nazis, communists, armed mobs intent on lynching me, and Wahhabists are not excepted.

Three of those political doctrines were laid in their graves in the 20th century. Two were eliminated by the violence of a world war and the third expired, leaving only leftists in its wake. The latter have taken over academia and are doing what damage they can to western civilization from their tenured positions, by poisoning minds against the civilization that sustains them. We will have to deal with them sooner or later.

That leaves Islam, a totally encompassing code of behaviour: devoid of science, theology, speculation, inquiry, rational thought, fairness , justice, mercy, and which holds one quarter of humanity in thrall. Islam has no God but Islam. It holds that God binds every molecule in the universe together by His ineffable will, so that whatever happens, is God’s will. This is indistinguishable from total immorality because, if you rob the bank, it is God’s will, and if you drive the truck into a busload of children, it is God’s will.

There is no standpoint in Islam for rational inquiry into Islam, let alone judgment of it. If the Koran had said that 2+2=5, then by God’s will, it would be so (while everyone calculated as if 2+2 equalled 4). There would be no basis within Islamic thought to assert the error of any portion of the divine Koran, even if it contained absurdities and impossibilities. It is God’s Word, literally, and no mind shall bring any standpoint of criticism to bear on any part of it, let alone rational inquiry.

A United Nations report in the early 2000s, written by Arab intellectuals,  reported that the four million people of Finland produced more goods and services than all Arabic countries combined, if oil were excluded from the total. No wonder. Dysfunctional families, dysfunctional societies, dysfunctional people.

And we are supposed to take this shit seriously?

Muslims themselves vary as all people do, and most who are here in Canada have tried to leave Islam behind, the Islam they knew back in Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Syria. But many have not. It s no accident that Muslim converts from western paganism turn so swiftly to jihad; they have received the pure call that emanates from the pages of the Koran.

So when the bien-pensants seek to warn us against Islamophbia, as if it were a mental disease or a spiritual failing, or an irrational prejudice to be eliminated by force of Human Rights Commissions, I turn to my blog to denounce such treason to rational thought.

If you replaced the term “Islam ” with “national socialism”, and “Islamophobia” with a “Naziphobia”, you would strike closer to the truth than many an erudite essay on Wahhabism. Replace “master race” with “master religion”, and you will approach the essence of Islam. Muslims may or may not be okay, but Islam is weird totalitarianism that happens to talk a lot about an angry, remote and unknowable God who has condemned us all to hell, but for total obedience to a some behavioural code dreamed up in 6th century Arabia.

Thus when I read in the National Post this morning that “Islamophobia is real, but less in Canada than the US”, I observe a once proud bastion of western values going over to the dark side.

The article said it was sponsored by the Race Relations Council of Canada, the Laurier Institution, Simon Fraser University, and the Angus Reid Institute.

There is no Race Relations Council on the Internet; there is a Race Relations Federation of Canada, , based in Toronto. You can see how it equivocates the jihadist attack on Parliament Hill that killed Cpl. Cirillo at the War Memorial with some guy yelling obscenities at an Ottawa area mosque in consequence of that attack.

Anita Bromberg, its executive director, is quoted in the press release as follows:

“These two incidents also demonstrate the dual threats that face the Muslim community, namely the threat posed by extremists who try to use the community as a cover and also that of bigots who act out in hatred”

The Laurier Institution is found here. Its Board of Directors is shown here. It is based in Vancouver. The Laurier Institution appears t be  an ongoing project funded by Simon Fraser University, and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.

At what point are you or you loved ones going to be killed because of policies proposed by such groups, and implemented by governments stampeded into a tolerance of that which should not be tolerated? We do not tolerate Naziism. We do not tolerate Nazis.

Yet when racial and religious supremacism  dresses itself up in the guise of a religion, then western democracies are afraid to call it by its real name, and earnest do-gooders like Anita Bromberg spread moral confusion in the mistaken belief they are generating social peace. Useful idiots, was Lenin’s name for them.

Weakening the anti-bodies to social infection, that is their actual result.

And why is the Post associating with such nonsense?
The statute founding the Race Relations Foundation is found here. It was established in the Chretien regime (1991). One might well ask whether concerning itself with Islam is ultra vires of its legal powers, as Islam is a religion (of a very particular type), and is most certainly not a race.


Speaking of asteroids

I was wondering, when I saw this picture of the comet Rosetta, what would happen if it hit the earth at 100,000 miles per hour, or 250,000. How far into the ground do you think it would penetrate? How many megaton equivalents of explosion would we experience?


  • 50 megatons?
  • 100 megatons?
  • 200 megatons?

There is an interesting little app called nukemap,  at

Go there. Select some area with which you are familiar. Drop a 50 megaton bomb on it. (The largest yield of an American nuke is 9 megatons). See what happens.

Now try to imagine what would happen to the western United States if something the size of the Rosetta hit Los Angeles (pictured above) at high speed, such as we see in asteroids accelerating toward earth for a few million miles.




What if plate tectonics added to your electricity bill?

Plate tectonics was the first and only “theory of everything” in earth sciences. By explaining that mountains rise and fall because vast plates crash into each other with exquisite slowness, and that continents are but assemblages of “plates” drifting across the magma below them, the theory gave geologists the first comprehensive theory of what the earth has been doing for the last ten billion years.

Two great books chronicle the evolution of our thinking on geology, and particularly, plate tectonics:

Supercontinent, by Ted Nield.

Annals of the Former World, by John McPhee

The time scales of geology require an expansion of one’s idea of time. We live and die like fruitflies compared even to a ten-thousand year perspective, which is about one-tenth the right length for considering an ice age, and one thousandth for considering geological change. If you want a measuring tape for geology, use something where one million years is represented by an inch, and your tape is 30 feet long. Five and a quarter feet would get you back to about the end of the dinosaurs (63 million years ago).

Both these books should be read by anyone considering the nature of time and the earth.

Yet despite the triumph of plate tectonics as the theory of everything geological, there are disbelievers and skeptics within the body of respectable geology. Not all accept the unified narrative of oceans splitting apart and gradually being zipped up as plates rip apart and collide again somewhere else.

John McPhee writes about a geologist called Anita Harris in  chapter two of “Annals of the Former World”, who does not believe that the Appalachian range, once as high as the Himalayas, was created by a continental landmass pressing against the eastern edge of North America.


Anita Harris geologist

Her skepticism about the adequacy of plate tectonics to explain the origin of the Appalachians is well-expressed here. Essentially she says, plate tectonics provides a story to cover up the absence of observation.

… Anita said, “I believe in plate tectonics — just not in the way they’re perpetrating it for places like the East Coast [of the US]. It shouldn’t be used as the immediate answer to every problem. That’s what I object to. Now that their suture zones have disappeared, people are going to microplates.”

If you have been interested so far, you will be smelling where this trail is going. No one has denounced Anita Harris or her equally skeptical geologist husband. There are no labels of “deniers” being tossed about, no declarations that those who dispute the triumph of plate tectonic theory are “unscientific”, “stupid”, and ought to be banned from publication. No cabals of geologists have tried to have them excluded from the American Geophysical Society.

She was not driven from her job at the US Geological Survey, and has received its Meritorious Service Award. So what gives?

The ability of a geologist like Anita Harris to hold her job while disputing the adequacy of plate tectonics shows that geology is still a science, which “climate science” is not.

Nothing in plate tectonics is causing or will cause my Ontario electricity bill to rise by $150 a month. Nothing in plate tectonics is causing coal-fired electricity plants to be shut down, and for large windmills to disfigure the landscape, and for government subsidy-seekers to engage in useless wind and solar ventures at taxpayer expense.

I suppose that if plate tectonics were the theoretical basis of a drive to reduce human CO2 production, Anita Harris would have been hounded out of the profession, for publicly expressing insufficient zeal

No one who contemplates the huge amount of government subsidies that have funded atmospheric sciences can doubt that many careers have profited from global warming alarmism, and many more thwarted and turned away from true science by the obvious political agendas their computer models are expected to be serving.

The theory – and it is  still a theory – of anthropogenic global warming is driving billions of research dollars into atmospheric and cryogenic sciences, but the implicit bargain with the scientists is corrupt. There is huge pressure to come up with correct results, to go with the flow, and it is accompanied among the less scientifically-minded with a tendency to denounce the nay-sayers, the skeptics, the wait-a-minute! people who do not express sufficiently zealous approval of “man-bad, Gaia good”.

Wind-mills are not an atonement; they are just a particularly stupid way to generate electricity.

Right now I am waiting for a climate scientist to say that man-caused global warming would be disproved if any or all of the following things [fill in the blanks] happened or failed to happen.


In the spirit of Karl Popper, is man-caused global warming a falsifiable proposition? Because if it cannot be falsified, then it is a religion, and something other than science.


Recriminations start among UK Tories

The usual recriminations have started after UKIP’s by-election victories. On the one hand, the people feeling the heat are saying to Prime Minister Cameron that must do something to stop the immense flow of immigration to Britain, and on the other the progressives and other wets do not want Cameron to sound too much like UKIP.

Millionairess entrepreneur Ms James, 57, is the first openly lesbian Conservative MP. She gave those at the meeting a written statement, which said: “There is a danger that the anti-immigration and anti-EU minority tail is wagging the majority British dog. There is a clear case that needs to be made for immigration. Their role in wealth creation should not be underestimated.

“The day people are put off by the constant negative rhetoric about people coming to this country, and stop coming, is the day we will have far more to worry about.”

She is said to have highlighted a recent poll which showed that more than two thirds of the public would not vote for Ukip in any circumstance.

The same polls showed that two-thirds of Canadians would never vote Reform in any circumstances. In a three-party election all you need is for about 3% more than 33% to change their minds, and voila, you have a majority government.

In any case, it is too late Mr. Cameron. The British people have decided you are a slimy weasel. Any adaptation to UKIP is likely too late.

A Welsh Conservative MP says his party is aloof and out of touch, and must reform itself or lose the election – and not to Labour either.

He writes:

The Rochester result is not some bolt out of the blue. It is the inevitable result of the most dramatic shift in voter behaviour in our lifetimes. As it stands, 44 per cent of voters will back a different party at the General Election than in 2010. The biggest migrants are Conservatives joining Ukip, and Liberal Democrats joining Labour. But all parties are losing significant support to ‘don’t know’.

Why UKIP is winning in England

Nigel Farage’s UKIP party won two by-elections last night in England and for once the British conservative press is asking the right questions. Why is UKIP winning?

Speaking of former Tory MPs and now UKIP supporters, Tim Stanley writes:

Somehow these posh, wide boys have managed to connect with an extraordinary coalition of angry middle-class and alienated working-class voters. How?

The answer must surely lie with collapsing faith in Westminster. The Credit Crunch, the expenses scandal, NHS horror stories, child abuse nightmares, even the dark hints of paedophile gangs at the heart of power – it all adds up to a sense that the establishment is irredeemably broken. And attempts by the mainstream parties to fix it are undone by their lack of cultural legitimacy. If there really is a class war going on, Labour has totally abandoned its position as the voice of the workers.

UKIP started the class war, and is winning it, says Stanley.

I am reminded of the Reform Party’s march to power in Canada. When we started in eastern Canada, we were just a bunch of middle aged guys with computers, deeply angry at the state of Canada under both Mulroney and especially Chretien. I mention computers because, in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, computer literacy was just beginning. We were not the mouth-breathing bigots of legend.

We were crapped on by the CBC. Peter Gzowski was telling us our values were “un-Canadian”. Opinion coverage in the CBC would feature three left-wingers, Tory, Liberal and NDP, discussing why balanced budgets were wrong. Then as now, the Globe and Mail was a source of smug fatuity, condescending to explain to us the errors of our ways.

Those organs of opinion still exist, and the opinions represented by those organs still prevail in many parts of Canada. Yet for the main part, Canada has moved on. Geoffrey Simpson used to be the prophet; now he is chronicler of opinion among the Assistant Deputy Ministers and the kind of people who live in Ottawa’s The Glebe district.

So was it a “class war” we Reformers were waging? Perhaps you have to be a Brit to see it that way. I saw the Reform movement as an attempt to re-connect Canadian politics to Canadian values: the real ones. Since the fight between us Reformistas on the one hand and everyone else on the other was a cultural fight, it was fought over bitterly. The Laurentian hereditary Liberal upper class was being uprooted, and continues to be uprooted, from their accustomed seats of power. In so doing the Canadian nation has at long last been allowed to see itself in the mirror, and likes what it sees.

Will the same process continue in England? Will UKIP eventually unseat the Tories from their thrones of power? Read this:

To beat Ukip and retake command of the national political narrative, the mainstream parties have to reconnect with the people and to demonstrate that they share their concerns, are being honest about the problems ahead, and have faith in the common sense of ordinary people. Labour and the Tories have to remember that – to borrow an American phrase – the average man and the average woman is the king and queen of British politics. They are the masters and the successful politician is simply their servant.

The Tories in England will not be able to do this under Cameron;  they will only be able to do this under the leadership of Nigel Farage. Whether UKIP assimilates the Tory party, as Reform did to the wet Tories here, or whether he marches to power over the corpse of the Tory party, is the relevant question.

There as here, when the hereditary governing party starts to see the nation as alien to itself, and inferior, and in need of replacing, then the days of the hereditary governing party will not be long. Here it was the Liberals. There it remains the Tories. If Canada is a model, then Farage will win, because the British people want him to.



Shaddam IV

José Ferrer was an old actor when he played the Emperor Shaddam IV in Dune. I have often wondered what a pleasure it would have been to speak the following lines, knowing they might be the last he ever spoke in a professional role:

“I want 50 legions of our Sardaukar terror troops on Arrakis at once!”

“Sire, that is our entire strategic reserve!”

“At once I tell you. I am talking about genocide. The deliberate destruction of all human life on Arrakis.”

Would any actor be able to resist the charm of a part that held such lines as these, and made them credible?

strait of Hormuz


Think about the oil extraction business for a moment. Huge investments, monster engineering, and the world’s total dependence on petroleum to fuel our lifestyles. Think of tanker traffic through the Straits of Hormuz, and navies sent to  protect shipping lanes. Think of 4 billion cars and trucks moving goods. Think of 18 million barrels of oil a day passing through the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s biggest choke point.

oil traffic hormuz

Then think of the world’s vehicles coming to a halt for want of oil. Thus when you search google images for “Strait of Hormuz”, what mostly appear are of maps and warships.


Now imagine all the world’s oil had to pass through the easily blocked Strait of Hormuz, and alien powers controlled both sides of the Strait.Trying to block that strait would be asking for it, would it not?

Thus the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV pulled out all the strategic reserves to descend on Arrakis/Dune for a clean-up campaign of singular extremsim.


The particular genius of Frank Herbert, the author of Dune, was to postulate an esoteric substance akin to a psychedelic, made in only one place in the universe, Arrakis, that was the only conceivable fuel for interstellar transport at practical speeds. That was “spice”, the incidentally anti-aging compound that enabled Guild Navigators to “fold space”.

Thus, Dune is the most important planet in the universe, because there and there only is found the one substance that holds the known universe together in a network of trade and empire. And it bears more resemblance to LSD or DMT than petroleum.

Now imagine some little desert punk with a nom de guerre of Mu’ad Dib is threatening the supply lines with his guerilla.

Why could spice not be replicated elsewhere? As the story turns out, spice is the detritus of sand plankton which has come into contact with water, poisonous to the sand plankton ecology of Dune/Arrakis. The ecology of Dune is based on a life form for which water is a poison, and at the acme of the Dune food chain is the sand worm, Shai Hulud. The giant sandworms were the end stage of creatures that started out as sand-plankton, like krill that grew into whales.

shai hulud

At their greatest size, they were a mile long, and relentlessly patrolled their territories to destroy the sources of noise, whatever they were, animal or machines. Thus spice mining was an expensive affair, as extractor-refineries had to be lifted off the surface before the sand worms destroyed them. Only the vast profits of spice-mining could justify the accompanying losses of life and investment.



In the inimitable words of Baron Vladimir Harkkonen, the ultimate villain,

He who controls the spice controls the universe!.

And this is only part of the background to Dune, and not the plot line.

What is the spice of modern life?

So I ask you, what is the spice of modern life? What is the monopolizable commodity of inestimable value which can be cut off and when cut off, is disastrous for the economy?

Petroleum? comes close, but check out those pictures of battle fleets patrolling the Strait of Hormuz, and think about fracking. Supply is fungible. Prices can go down as well as up. We can destroy any overt seizer of oil supplies. Just ask Saddam Hussein. Navies serve as price regulators, in a way.

Coffee? Buy it for pennies and sell it for pounds to addicts, which is most of us. Comes close but is not grown in one place only. Cannot be monopolized.

Heroin? Does not drive the economy or human efficiency. Too debilitating. A limited taste.

Khat? Not addictive enough.

Tobacco? Addictive, but not monopolizable.

Alcohol? Ubiquitously available, even where it is banned.

Internet protocol addresses? there are 4.8 billion in IPv4 and galactic clusters worth in IPv6. Even if you used them up, they would just invent another numbering system for computer addresses. Very limited opportunities.

Wait a minute!

What about bandwidth into your home?

  • vast investments preclude much competition;
  • huge lobby power to influence governments and popular opinion;
  • being pro-regulation makes you look like a commie;
  • academics are on call to defend your power;
  • vertical integration into services allows you to make money off the high-end services (TV, sports etc);
  • endless litigation can be readily afforded.

I think bandwidth (signal capacity) is the spice of modern life. Unlike the case of Paul Atreides/Mu’ad Dib in Dune, it is by no means settled whether the Emperor will crush the rebellion or join it.

It us up to you, Prime Minister Harper. It is up to you, Commissioners of the CRTC. CRTC hearings begin on Monday on an apparently boring subject: on what terms should smaller Internet service providers be able to lease bandwidth from the carriers?

Will you play the role of Baron Harkkonen? That would be politically suicidal. Or the liberator of the spice, Paul Atreides? Dangerous but possibly worth it. Or the Emperor Shaddam IV?  Hard to say, but he intervened on the wrong side of that dispute. Do not emulate his example.

It is always news when media notice the obvious

An interesting article in the Baltimore Sun today draws attention to the total dominance of Fox News over all other cable and broadcast sources.

Below are the stats for viewership on mid-term election night.

Ratings at 10 p.m. Election Night for Cable and Networks:

Fox News: 6.6 million overall (1.8 million 25 to 54)

CBS: 5.4 million (1.5 million)

NBC: 4.2 million (1.5 million)

ABC: 3.1 million (1.1 million)

CNN: 1.9 million (912,000)

MSNBC: 1.6 million (566,000)