Friday, April 8, 2016

A drive-through province

An economy in free fall, more deaths than births and an ugly language war to rival Quebec's. Can anything save New Brunswick?

Katherine McDonnell, aged 104, moved to the Mount Saint Joseph Nursing Home in Miramichi, N.B., four months ago. She was born in Rogersville, a mostly francophone town 50 km south of where she sits now, and lived most her life in nearby Nelson, in a home overlooking the river. She'd still be there were it not for an accident. "I fell on the floor and never walked again," she says, chuckling in her wheelchair. She and her husband, John Dolan, had three children; a great-grandmother several times over, she has outlived John by a quarter-century and counting.

Along with her demeanour, McDonnell's age has made her something of a legend in Miramichi--and for good reason. She is among the oldest people in the province, and her memories stretch back to when New Brunswick was an economic powerhouse driven in no small part by what was cut down, dug up and fished out of Miramichi.

Today, Miramichi is a microcosm of New Brunswick's myriad social and demographic challenges. The closure of most of its mines, lumber and pulp and paper mills, along with the air force base in 1996, spurred an out-migration of its younger residents. The average age of the residents of the region of Campbellton-Miramichi, encompassing roughly a third of the province, is 49.4--the second-highest amongst Atlantic Canada's 15 economic regions, according to Statistics Canada.

One of the few growth industries in the area is the housing and caring for those, like McDonnell, who have stayed behind. Last May, the government announced Miramichi would be the site for a 240-bed nursing home, which will add to the 4,500 existing nursing home beds in the province. The home, which will be the largest of its kind in the province, "will achieve our goals of creating jobs, growing our economy and supporting families," Premier Brian Gallant said at the time. He said roughly the same thing a few days earlier about a government investment in a shipyard. Wood, metals and fish used to be New Brunswick's economic staples; now, more and more, it is old age.

Present-day New Brunswick is testament to the well-worn adage that the story of Atlantic Canada is one of leaving for other places. Nearly 21,000 New Brunswickers--about the population of Dieppe, the province's fourth-largest city--have left the province since 2005. Though Maritimers often yearn to come home, increasingly more New Brunswickers won't do so in this lifetime. 2014 marked the first time in its history that there were more deaths than births in the province, a dubious honour shared by Newfoundland and Labrador as well as Nova Scotia.

It doesn't help that New Brunswick is more drive-through than fly-over; thanks to successive governments and their vote-friendly promises of building roads, it is now possible to drive from the border of Quebec to Nova Scotia on a single tank of gas. The current Liberal government briefly considered installing tolls on its borders; a cynic would say it was to capitalize from the steady outflow of its residents. (The government eventually reneged on the idea.)

Those who stay are faced with these hardening economic and demographic realities, along with a burgeoning language war and a political culture steeped in linguistic tribalism arguably rivalling even that of Quebec. As a result, governing New Brunswick often means pitting north against south, French against English and urban against rural, amidst a stumbling economy and crippling debt, projected to hit $13.5 billion at the end of the fiscal year. (Other provinces like Quebec and Ontario may carry more debt per capita, but they're better positioned to manage that debt.)

Meanwhile, Brian Gallant's Liberal government has cut the number of days for debate in the legislature to historic lows, and limited media access to the premier and his caucus. (Despite repeated attempts, Maclean's was unable to secure an interview with Gallant for this article.)

"You'd think small would be simple, but New Brunswick is the classic example of how that really isn't true," says Robert Campbell, president of Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B. "For a little province like this, we just can't get our act together."

TWENTY YEARS AGO, New Brunswick was in enviable financial shape. Former premier Frank McKenna's government produced successive surplus budgets and made a significant dent in the province's debt. "A lot was done to restructure the province during the McKenna years," says federal auditor-general Michael Ferguson, who held the same position in New Brunswick from 2005 to 2010.

Fast forward to 2015, when economist Richard Saillant published Over A Cliff?, a compendium of New Brunswick's various economic and social ailments. As the title suggests, the picture isn't pretty. Saillant invokes the possibility of outright bankruptcy for the province, which has posted five straight budget deficits. An aging population, out-migration, diminished economic opportunities and at times profligate governments put New Brunswick in the dubious company of Greece, Portugal and Italy, only with more trees and less Old World charm.

"I'd say that New Brunswick, and Atlantic Canada more generally, have missed the urbanization boat," Saillant says. "While there are individual successes in the Maritimes, world-first innovation is disproportionately concentrated in large urban areas."


About half of New Brunswick's population lives in rural areas, more than double the number in neighbouring Quebec, according to Statistics Canada. For the government, it means services are more expensive, particularly in the areas of health and education, which together make up 60 per cent of the provincial budget. It also means fewer higher-paying jobs and more reliance on an extraction economy and the federal government. Federal cash transfers make up about 36 per cent of the province's budget, the second-highest percentage in the country, behind Prince Edward Island.

It also means rural areas have outsized political clout. Saint John, Fredericton and Moncton, the province's three largest urban centres representing a total of about 188,000 people, have a combined 16 seats. The remaining 33 are mostly rural ridings, which tend to jealously guard their services and institutions even as their populations diminish.

The result, according to former provincial Liberal cabinet minister Kelly Lamrock, is a continuation of New Brunswick's unsustainable status quo. "We've targeted our policies on just getting re-elected and so we prop up failing industries and we bail out failing companies. Atlantic Yarns went under and lost an $80-million loan. The government I was a part of lent $70 million to [Miramichi-based] Atcon, a failing construction company that went under a year later. The Marriott call centre closed. It turns out they were subsidized to the tune of $20,000 a job and just left when the subsidies ran out. And the list goes on. We have generally been about keeping the majority of people comfortable rather than attracting new people."

New Brunswick's electoral map reveals another latter-day truth about the province. Following the 2014 elections, with a few exceptions, it is divided between Liberal red in the north part of the province and Progressive Conservative blue in the south. Not coincidentally, this is the rough divide between New Brunswick's French and English populations. There are 10 sitting anglophone MLAs amongst the Liberals government's 27 members. The Progressive Conservatives have exactly one francophone MLA in their ranks.

As the country's sole officially bilingual province, New Brunswick is often held up as the closest thing to that hoary Canadian ideal of compromise and compassion, with the two solitudes living in harmony on the same chunk of rock. Certainly, operating in both French and English has had economic benefits. In the mid-1990s, attracted by the bilingual workforce and government subsidies, call centres and office-support operations began to set up in the province. Today, these industries employ roughly 15,000 people, according to a 2015 government report. It also says bilingualism has helped foster business with Quebec, to the tune of $3.9 billion in yearly export revenues between 2007 and 2011.

But New Brunswick has also seemingly imported some of Quebec's language woes, complete with sign laws, absurdist legal battles and doomsday-style rhetoric from linguistic camps. The most recent kerfuffle involves the busing of school children.

Last spring, New Brunswick NDP Leader Dominic Cardy suggested French and English students should be allowed to take buses together, if only to save on costs. (French and English schools are operated separately from each other, but in a few cases, one bus was able to serve both schools). Education Minister Serge Rousselle expressed his anger at such a thing, and was further angered when he learned that a handful of francophone students in Richibucto (pop. 1,965) were being bused to school on English rolling stock. In a statement to the National Post, Rousselle promised to rid his department of what he called an "administrative anomaly." The issue of whether being bused in one's mother tongue is a Charter right is currently before New Brunswick Court of Appeal.

In actual fact, busing children according to the language they speak doesn't appear to be more expensive. According to its 2015-16 budget, the province spends about $57 million a year to bus nearly 98,000 students, or roughly $580 a student. In contrast, Nova Scotia spends about $910 a student.

For English-language advocates, the issue is less about cost than what they see as favouritism of French New Brunswickers. According to Statistics Canada, 71 per cent of French New Brunswickers are bilingual, while only about 15 per cent of the province's English can speak French. "More than 70 per cent of the province is disqualified from a majority of government positions, and a growing number of private sector positions," says Sharon Buchanan, the president of the Anglophone Rights Association of New Brunswick (ARANB).

There are other insidious effects of French in New Brunswick, Buchanan says. The city of Dieppe has issued fines to businesses that neglected to put French first in their bilingual signage, and an attempt was made to change the name of Moncton's Robinson Court to honour Acadian poet Gerald Leblanc.

Buchanan, 47, herself a unilingual English manager at a call centre, says her kids can't get work beyond Tim Hortons because they don't speak French well enough. She says she's been threatened. "One of our members was spit on while passing out ARA flyers in front of Wal-Mart in Moncton," she says.

Language issues aren't particularly new in the province. There was once a fledgling separatist Acadian party, Parti Acadien, which had similar goals and socialist sensibilities as the Parti Quebecois in Quebec. There was also the Confederation of Regions Party, an anti-bilingualism party that sent several elected members to the legislature in 1991 before the party self-imploded four years later.

"I think [tension over language] is at a level not seen since the 1980s," says Christian Michaud, a constitutional lawyer who has worked for the New Brunswick government on language cases in the past. Part of the blame falls on the francophone minority, he says. "We put too much weight on the court system. As francophones, we've evolved through the courts, and we've won. But we've lost touch with the population. We seem to think the way to get things moving is to attack it in the public sphere."

At the same time, "everything in government happens in English. There needs to be more francophone spaces within government."

Michaud sips his cortado and looks out at downtown Moncton. It's a bustling place, with the traffic jams to prove it. Moncton is the fastest-growing region in Atlantic Canada, thanks in large part to the francophone migration from the north. For English rights groups, it's another sore point. Moncton is booming largely because it is bilingual, and therefore home to many of the call-centre and public sector jobs. "Yeah, nobody is happy here," Michaud says, laughing. He's joking, of course.


FOR THE LAST decade, New Brunswick has had two successive one-term governments--an anomaly in a province known for political dynasties. Premier Louis J. Robichaud served for 10 years. His successor, Richard Hatfield, was in power for nearly 17. McKenna also served for 10 years; he came to power in 1987, when his Liberal government won every seat in the legislature.

Former minister Kelly Lamrock says the recent, quick-change governments are a result of poor leadership. "We've had a lot of premiers who don't meet the basic test of, 'If you are not scripted by your advisers, can you explain why you've decided what you've decided?' As a result we're getting them out of any situation where they might be unscripted," Lamrock says.

Coincidence or not, the Gallant government has reduced the number of days in which he and his caucus would be forced to face such scrutiny. In February, the government shut down the legislature, which will allow the provincial budget to move through committee without daily opposition questions. Media access to the premier, meanwhile, "is becoming increasingly scarce," says New Brunswick press gallery president Adam Huras. Limiting access is old hat, if only because it's so successful--just ask Stephen Harper. The downside, as Lamrock sees it, is a general erosion of the regard for the political class, exactly when New Brunswick needs strong political leadership.

"We've got some incredibly creative people doing some very good things. But there's a sense that politics isn't where you make a difference. You make a film, you start a small business. You don't go to the legislature," Lamrock says.

Greg Hemmings has done both, 115 km south of the legislature in Fredericton. In 2007, Hemmings set up his film production studio in Saint John. The gritty counterpoint to Fredericton's staid bureaucracy, Saint John's mix of cheap rent and industrial decrepitude has sparked an East Coast artistic mini-renaissance--like Detroit, albeit with a heartier social safety net.

Hemmings House, the film studio, has produced documentaries about computer coders in Estonia and youth orchestras in Venezuela, among others, from its offices in the city's uptown district. He is relentlessly bullish about the city. "I dare say, it's thriving," Hemmings says. He feels about the same about New Brunswick in general. "There's a scrappy entrepreneurialism here," says the usually bearded and always smiling 39-year-old. Today, Hemmings House employs 10 people. "In 2002, Enterprise Saint John [a government-funded entrepreneurial initiative] gave me a loan, an apprenticeship and then an award. It was like a hot knife through butter to get interest in what I was doing."

Hemmings's optimism for his home province is heart-warming. Given the state of New Brunswick, hopefully it's contagious as well.

Caption: Going broke: Downtown Saint John; those who choose to stay face hard economic realities

Caption: Nothing to see here: (left to right) New Brunswick's economy is stumbling; old-age homes are a growth industry; the Irving pulp mill

Federal Grants Boost N.C.'s 'Early College' High School Push

Pilot Mountain, N.C. -- The students bent intently over their desktop computers at East Surry High School on a recent afternoon weren't all working on the same lesson, or in the same course--or even as part of the same school.

Senior Ben Chilton sat in a corner, reading for an online political science class at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, while a handful of other students were earning credits at East Carolina University in a classroom in an online community in which students and teachers are represented by avatars. And another senior, Timothy Crotts, highlighted passages from an old-fashioned textbook in a personal-finance class, also for an ECU course.

High school students earning college credit may sound like nothing new. But over the past few years, students in East Surry and 17 other rural high schools in the Tarheel State have been hitting the accelerator on dual enrollment, thanks to help from North Carolina New Schools/Breakthrough Learning, a nonprofit organization, and a $15 million grant from the federal Investing in Innovation, or i3, fund.

Along the way, these students have helped Breakthrough Learning get to the bottom of the research question its grant was designed in part to answer: Can Breakthrough Learning use the strategies that have worked at "early college" high schools--typically small schools located on the campus of a community college or another postsecondary institution--and bring them to a more traditional high school setting?

The grant doesn't wind down until December, but the approach shows promise, according to an interim report by the SERVE center at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a research and evaluation organization. Schools that began the program in the first year of the five-year grant--the 2012-13 school year--saw higher percentages of students taking college-credit-bearing courses by the end of 11th grade.

What's more, roughly 89 percent of students in early-college high schools enrolled in some type of college, either two-year or four-year, compared with nearly 74 percent of similar students, according to a separate, multi-year study of early college high schools in the Tarheel State, also led by the SERVE Center.

Scaling Up

Such results earned Breakthrough Learning further federal confidence--and funding: a $20 million "scale up" grant, also through the i3 program, to help the organization grow. Breakthrough Learning is the first program nationally to progress from the "validation" stage, which is for programs that have moderate evidence to back up their approaches, to the scale-up level, which is for proven projects that are ready to go big.

The funds will enable the nonprofit, which was started in 2003, to extend its reach in North Carolina and also to bring the program to Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina. Those states are doing a mix of early-college and comprehensive high school approaches.

And, as it does in North Carolina, Breakthrough Learning will provide outside coaches to focus staff members on its six "design principles," which are aimed at helping schools improve teaching and better tailor instruction to individual students. It also helps train "college liaisons," who facilitate much of the dual-enrollment work.

"Being awarded this kind of grant makes me feel like there are others in Washington who think that education is a pursuit worth experimenting [on]," said Laurie Baker, the senior director of New Schools Rural Initiative. "It implies this: 'We believe in you, go forth and be the pioneer. And we take that really, really seriously.' "

The i3 program was created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and aimed at helping to investigate and expand promising district-level practices. Its successor, the Education Innovation and Research program, was enshrined in the Every Student Succeeds Act, the latest update of the main federal K-12 law.

Districts in the four states that signed on to participate in Breakthrough Learning's scale-up grant are just beginning their work. Mississippi opened its first early-college high school in partnership with Breakthrough Learning this school year. The Golden Triangle Early College High School got nearly 120 applicants for the first 9th grade cohort--twice as many as the school had space for.

Starting a school--even on the campus of a community college that's eager to partner--isn't easy. But visits to successful sites in North Carolina have helped, said Jill Savely, the director of the school.

Most of the schools she and her team toured "have been in operation for eight, 10, 12 years," she said. "They have their own identity, they've already made their mistakes. They've shared with us those challenges. We haven't really had to start from scratch."

Meanwhile, some communities, including Surry County, are delving deeper into the "career development" side of the college- and career-ready equation.

The end game: deeper connections with local businesses that can provide both internships for students and "externships" for educators to help them figure out how to make classwork relevant to the working world. Ideally, Baker says, each school participating in the program would have at least one strong partnership with a postsecondary institution or business.

Work-based learning can be a way to reach a set of students in Surry County who might not understand how academics can prepare them for the working world, said Jill Y. Reinhardt, the assistant superintendent.

In a perfect world, some educators in Surry County would love to see high school seniors be able to spend up to three days a week gaining real-world experience and the other two in the classroom, taking college coursework.

"I have high hopes for the internships. The students want it," said Celia Hodges, the principal of Central Surry High School, which joined the initiative with the scale-up grant. "The next step is the community buying into our students."

But barriers exist in remote Surry County which includes Mt. Airy, the small, idyllic North Carolina community that served as the model for the town in Andy Griffith's television comedies.

Right now, so-called "work-based learning" opportunities are offered in the district, but they are scattershot, and the internships typically don't offer pay. Transportation across the county can be a serious barrier. What's more, parents don't always understand the purpose of the experience--or at times, even the college coursework--making it more difficult for students to buy in.

But a lot is at stake for communities like Surry County as they try to navigate those barriers. Many in Surry County once found employment in the now-faded textile industry, but a group of educators, local business leaders, and others who met recently to think through the grant acknowledged that it's not coming back.

It will be up to the school district to help train a future generation of workers who can fill jobs and maybe even bring new industries and business to this isolated community, they said.

"Because [the] rural [context] has its own unique set of challenges, we are really trying to position these districts and schools as the agents of change within their communities," Baker said.

Alyson Klein

Long life

Apart from the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, I've never known what my human rights are supposed to be. Presumably they include the right to go about my daily business without being attacked, insulted or otherwise abused. But there are many grey areas. Are sudden loud noises or disgusting smells violations of my human rights? And what about the deafening mirthless laughter that I have to endure in British pubs?

Perhaps my human rights are changing with age. Am I, at 76, entitled to expect an offer of a seat on a crowded Tube train? Is it my right that somebody should help me with my suitcase when I am carrying it upstairs? I don't know. Nor do I care. But some people care very much about the deprivation of rights that they believe to be theirs.

Consider the case of the television presenter Louise Minchin, who has reportedly kicked up a fuss about being made to sit on the left-hand side of her male co-presenter on BBC Breakfast, Dan Walker. The producers tried putting her on his right, but found it 'didn't work'. It didn't work, apparently, because people don't like to see a man sitting on a sofa on a woman's left. It feels wrong, just as it would feel wrong for a man to be seen standing on his bride's left as he takes his wedding vows before an altar.

Nobody seems to have thought much about it before, but that's the way that couples nearly always appear on screen, in photographs, and on public occasions--woman on left, man on right. But why? Is it, as some have said, because being on the right suggests greater authority? And if so, is it not sexist and discriminatory to make the far more experienced Ms Minchin sit on the left of the new male recruit to the programme, thus implying that he is the more authoritative of the two? Is it not an infringement of Ms Minchin's human rights?


I wouldn't have thought so, but then what about Anders Breivik, the Norwegian Nazi who murdered 77 innocent people in a bombing and gun massacre in 2011. His victims were mostly guilty of no more than attending a left-wing holiday camp. As an admirer of Adolf Hitler, and a man still planning to fight to the death for the triumph of national socialism, Breivik has hitherto evinced little enthusiasm for human rights. But after serving five years of his 21-year prison sentence in a Norwegian jail, he has developed a surprising interest in them. He has accused the Norwegian government of breaching a clause in the European Convention on Human Rights that prohibits 'inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment'.

In court he spelt out how. He was given cold coffee and made to eat and drink from plastic cups and plates. He was held in isolation and not allowed to see any of his Nazi friends. He wasn't even allowed to publish books of Nazi propaganda. Worst of all--'worse than waterboarding', he said--he was made to eat microwaved ready meals. All this, in his view, amounted to torture.

Cold coffee, I agree, is depressing. But I've nothing against plastic cups and plates. And as far as microwaved meals are concerned, I would consider it an infringement of my human rights if I weren't allowed to put chicken tikka masala in my microwave oven. But anyway, we're dealing here with a mass murderer whose treatment, in good old Norway, is kinder than he could expect almost anywhere else in the world. He has three cells to wander among, a television set, a computer, books, newspapers and so on.

A state attorney, winding up for the government, described Breivik as an 'attention-hungry narcissist' who has been found by doctors to be rather happy in jail, although he claims that the state 'has been trying to kill me for five years'. The state's methods, it must be said, are not as good as his when it comes to killing people. They involve letting him watch television programmes that, he says, he enjoys but cause him brain damage. This is a slower way of killing someone than shooting them.

So what do we conclude? One man's meat is another man's poison, one man's human right is another man's torture? Perhaps we should forget about having a bill of rights.

Following the followers

In his new book Apostle Tom Bissell has an advantage over writers who go looking for Jesus: he can start with human remains. His frame for this uneven combination of travel and Church history is a series of trips to the alleged tombs of the apostles.

To flesh out 13 ghosts (the 12 disciples and Paul) Bissell mines the gospels, the work of Church historians both early and late, and the Apocrypha. 'Without the Apocrypha,' he admits, 'the 12 apostles would seem even more irrevocably distant.'

The former disciples of Jesus are an elusive bunch. Destroyed or partial texts throw up discrepancies and cases of contested identity, equivocal traditions set in unspecified places and fanciful pasts invented by unreliable chroniclers. The apostle stories that survive are opaque, mysterious and compromised.

Which turns out to be less fun than it sounds. Bissell doesn't like the Apocrypha--'sloppy, repetitive, frequently boring'--and is forever worrying at the joins (where visible, which is nearly always) between 'actual Christian history and drowsily velvet curtains of legend'. There isn't much factual meat on these particular bones, and the historical soup can taste thin. This is a shame, because Bissell is surely correct in his claim that Christianity remains 'deeply and resonantly interesting', both culturally and for many of us (including Bissell himself) personally. He points out in his author's note that he's approaching this material as a lapsed Catholic and a theological non-specialist.


This ought to work as a recommendation, especially in a field where specialists so expertly block out the light. As an outsider Bissell, author of a previous book about computer games, might have been expected to find a refreshingly accessible perspective on the apostles of Jesus and early Church history. Alas, the history and theology of early Christianity have little to do with these slippery followers of Jesus, as the book freely admits. The exception here is Paul, who certainly does influence the development of Christianity, and whose letter to the Romans Bissell calls 'one of western civilisation's central documents'.

Theologically Paul is so influential his chapter in Apostle has no room for any travel. Another chapter (of the 12) pushes aside an apostle and is devoted to Christology. Apostle dips its toe into New Testament theology, then falls right in.

Textual discrepancies between the gospels are revisited in detail. Footnotes prop up the pages and the bibliography is extensive, impressive and, well, specialist. Instead of navigating the scholarship Bissell seems determined to fit it all in: surveys of the literature, variations in the Orthodox churches, Hellenism, the languages of India, the Syriac Church, hypostasis and homoiousios.

Any readers who don't already know their Origen from their Eusebius may wonder where to look. Bissell knows he gets lost--at one point he starts a paragraph 'For those of you at home', before yet another digression, this time about Melchizedek (a king who appears in Genesis and the Psalms). I had been hoping not to be at home, trapped in layers of detail, but transported by the excitement of the apostles and Bissell's travels to find them.

The travel aspect of the book promises some relief, but as a travel writer Bissell's method is also dependent on research. Apostle adds information about Bernini's Roman friends, provides the history of the 2005 Kyrgyz Tulip Revolution, and the geology of an individual lake. No book could stand this weight. That's what the internet is for.

Bissell's literal journey never really gets started: Jerusalem is 'disappointing' and in St Peter's Square it rains. He gets sick in Chennai and indignant if he can't use his Visa card. His contemporary travel adventures always seem secondary to ancient questions and confusions, and the research gradually buries an otherwise eloquent travel writer. Bissell nails Russian stoicism in Kyrgyzstan by describing a woman who looks as if she's 'spent a large portion of her life being cold indoors'. My personal favourite is the comforting homeliness of Saint Sernin's Basilica in Toulouse, like a 'brick cassoulet'.

Much of this material glints brightly, slightly out of reach. Bissell wants to seize on everything, from biblical exposition to the monks of Mount Athos, who forbid even female animals entry--but neither the place nor the idea is explored. Apostle contains too much, and too little.

The German theologian Rudolf Bultmann famously declared the impossibility of discovering the historical Jesus. Imagine the difficulty, then, of going in search of those vaguer characters from the New Testament, the apostles.

In the absence of historical fact, Apostle never quite decides how best to illuminate uncertainty beyond observing that the myths and legends are slightly ridiculous. In the very last line, Bissell reaches the conclusion that stories can be as worthy of attention as any long-lost truth. The reader may have got there before him.


Killing time in a Heathrow first-class lounge, I notice how many men adopt an unmistakable 'first-class lounge' persona. They stand like maquettes in an architect's model (feet apart, shoulders squared, defining their perimeter) and bellow into mobiles like they're the first person ever to need 'rather an urgent word' with Maureen in HR.

Along with this 'manstanding' comes the 'manspreading' of jackets, laptops and newspapers (FT for show; Mail for dough) over a Sargasso Sea of seats. In many ways, 'first-class-lounge persona' echoes 'country-house-hotel face'--the affectations couples embrace during weekend mini-breaks. These include: pretending to be at ease in a Grade I Palladian mansion; summoning tea with a patrician wave; claiming to know about topiary; and throwing shade at new arrivals with the air of those for whom the house has 'been in the family' for hours.

B ack in New York, anti-Trump voters are bereft that Michael Bloomberg has declined to toss his $38 billion net worth into the ring. I'd certainly have considered supporting an entrepreneurial candidate who is pro-choice, anti-gun, gay-friendly and comparatively sane. If only I had a vote. Which brings me to 'DoubleCross'--a disruptive online venture I'm planning with a pal, Rett Wallace. In the 'sharing economy' individuals monetise excess capacity--decluttering attics (eBay), renting rooms (Airbnb), driving cars (Uber). DoubleCross extends this logic to democracy. In their latest elections, 165 million Americans, 41 million Russians, 20 million Brits, and 234 million Indians didn't vote. Many would have been only too eager to flog their franchise to the highest bidder. DoubleCross lets voters list the candidates they'd be prepared to back (no fascists or no Trots: whatever floats your vote), after which the world bids for their ballot. Once proof of voting (a polling-booth selfie) is confirmed, payment is released. DoubleCross will globalise every election from the Kremlin to the Knesset, the presidency to the parish council. My barrister friends warn that even if it proves legal, it wouldn't stay legal for long. But they said that about Uber, now worth nearly two Mike Bloombergs.

A pple's refusal to unlock a terrorist's iPhone is, depending on your point of view, principled defiance or treacherous obstructionism. Yet I suspect the company took a third way: decrypting the phone in secret while fighting in public. This way Apple appears virtuous while keeping the authorities sweet; and the FBI gets its data while letting us believe our phones to be impregnable. It's the same with Trident. The 'Metternich move' would have been to announce renewal with a fanfare but deploy dummy warheads--saving money, securing jobs, and doubling down on the 'uncertainty principle'. Jeremy Corbyn's plan is similar, except he told everyone.

T he final printing of a newspaper is a bleak cultural watershed--like the razing of a library or the evisceration of an opposition party. So I greet the last paper edition of the Independent with despondency. The Independent played a formative part in my life: publishing my first article (a diary), and giving me work-experience in the darkrooms. It was there, under the expert eye of master-printer John Luff, that I learned to be a photographer--not through tuition, but by observing craftsmen at work. Back then, the Independent employed truly great snappers: Brian Harris, John Voos, Herbie Knott, David Ashdown --to name a few. Photography was taken seriously, reproduced beautifully and allocated generous real-estate. These photographers could shout 'hold the front page' neither in jest nor as a tiresome gimmick. (Glynn Griffiths's shot of the 1988 Clapham Junction rail crash was startling as a full page-one splash.) Given the freedom to frame unexpected angles, hone a style and develop an audience, photographers became almost like columnists. It's a mystery so few publications even attempt to emulate the Indy 's photographic golden age.

A s I exited the minicab with a volley of thank-yous, my driver observed it was usually considered sporting to pay. Something, so conditioned by the cashlessness of Uber, I had completely neglected to do. Like all successful service apps, Uber eliminates the moments of friction at the start and end of a transaction. In New York, developers are jostling to establish the killer restaurant app that allows diners to book a table and then, after eating, depart without air-squiggling for a bill or attempting drunken tiponomics. We already spend 12-18 per cent more when using credit cards instead of cash; who knows how this will inflate when our phones are set to 'auto pay' and we float in an all-you-can-eat buffet of frictionless commerce.

Trump's golden ticket

Don't worry, this won't be as dorky as it sounds. Nerdy, perhaps, but not so dorky. In the fifth Star Trek movie--

Hey, come back! Sit down, don't worry. This will be painless. In the movie, the USS Enterprise is hijacked for the 493rd time and driven to a remote planet where God lives. (Don't ask.) God wants a ride to another star system and requests the use of Captain Kirk's spacecraft. Kirk, detecting the work of some unfathomably vast con artist, asks, "Why does God need a spaceship?" Good question. Here's another:

Why does a billionaire need to sell vitamin supplements? Donald Trump did. One hesitates to detail the story of the Trump Network, lest the libel laws be "opened up" by a Supreme Court "bill" (signed by Trump's sister) and critics of Trump find themselves in So Much Trouble, So Much, I Guarantee It. (This is worse than A Lotta Trouble, I Tell You.) But the details were described by the Boston Globe's Stat News website, which covers health and science topics, and so far the Globe hasn't been sued into penury.

It's like the Trump U story, except you didn't pay $35,000 to learn secret business tricks like "Buy low, sell high." The Trump Network sold vitamins, which isn't unusual--turn on the radio and you will hear someone offering mega-beet super-bee-pollen acai-kiwi extract with pure cuttlebone-and-fish-oil beta-blocking antioxidant joint relief, packed in a pill as big as a lumberjack's toe. The Trump difference, however, was his network's uncanny ability to discern which vitamins you needed. Of course, they couldn't diagnose you from a distance. You had to give them something.

You had to ship your urine to the Trump Network.

Don't worry, they provided the vials. No one was expected to FedEx a sponge.

Is this not how all great fortunes are maintained? Prepaid urine mailers?

It did not end happily, according to Stat News:

"The Trump Network had gotten in trouble financially," said Bonnie Futrell, a former marketer and "diamond director"--one of the top-tier marketers in the company. "They weren't being able to pay [the lab]. They weren't paying vendors. They weren't paying us."

Of course, this says nothing about Trump's business acumen; he just lent his name. (And his crest, which is your guarantee of genuine total Trumposity.) It says nothing about his huge fortune, because lots of billionaires decide that a sideline in multi-level marketing might be the ticket to the next pot of gold--in this case, given what people sent in for analysis, literally a pot of gold. We all know the story of Andrew Carnegie telling his board of directors it was time they branch out from steel into selling small battery Mr. Lileks blogs at

Operated shock collars for cats, because "thae be verra, verra disobedient." (He died, raving, the next day.) And of course there's the famous story about Bill Gates, riding high on Windows money, deciding to diversify into eversharp knives sold at 3 a.m. on TV This computer thing could go south any day now, but people need knives. Visionaries, all.

So it didn't work out? It's not like he was personally involved in the project--well, aside from speaking at the launch in Miami in 2009, where he told a roaring crowd that the product was tremendous and he was tremendous and they were going to be tremendous and you know what tremendous people who were successful had in common? They were tremendously successful. Thank you. He also made a personal testimonial on the Trump Network site, which had links to other great products, like Snazzle Snaxx. These were nutritional snacks for kids. Tremendous snacks, really something, I'm telling you. Not available in stores, as commercials used to say, as if that meant the product was too good for mere retail. You had to buy them from the most trusted source you knew: your sister-in-law, who signed up for this furshlugginer multi-level marketing thing, and now everyone had to buy the stupid snacks to humor her. Before this, it was cayenne colonics.

Wannabe presidents Huckabee and Ben Carson aren't exactly strangers to the Miracle Supplement game, either. But neither was involved in a multi-level marketing scheme to sell video phones, another Trump-endorsed business that was tremendous and really, really fantastic. Successful? Well, in some dimension, you can use your video phone to order Trump Steaks, Trump Vodka, and a seat on the Trump Shuttle, but not this one.

None of this matters, because Trump is strong and smart and will build a wall and activate the anti-Muslim force field and take oil. Mark his words, the oil, it's going to be taken, okay? So much oil, you won't believe it. But it is odd to see someone whose brand relies on towering financial success--it would make J. P. Morgan's testicles wither in shame if he were alive, I'm telling you--be connected to these penny-ante rinky-dink huckster schemes.

On the other hand, if you learned that Bernie Sanders had come out with a line of black support-hose socks to be worn with sandals, you'd almost be relieved: At least he had some knowledge of the business world. At least he'd have learned a thing or two about the effect of high labor costs on the domestic sock industry. He might have realized that a country with 35 types of deodorant is a better place than a country that makes one type, and doesn't have any, because the government nationalized the factory.

At least Trump tried! Anyway, it all answers the question Kirk posed: Why would God need to hitch a ride to some place? Because someone else paid for the gas, that's why.

The father-Fuhrer: chaos in the family, chaos in the state

Michael Brendan Dougherty is bitter. I think that I can write that in both truth and charity. (I think you might even say that he and I are friends.) Dougherty is a conservative of the sort sometimes advertised as "paleo" and served as national correspondent for The American Conservative. Like many conservative writers with those associations, Dougherty spends a great deal of time lambasting the conservative movement and its organs, from which he feels, for whatever reason, estranged--an alienation that carries with it more than a little to suggest that it is somewhat personal.

In 2013, he announced that he planned to set aside political writing to concentrate on the relatively sane world of professional baseball, saying: "National politics has most of the vices of 'bread and circuses.' And if that's the case, pro sports is a better circus." But it is difficult for a politics man to give up politics--look at all the political crap that ESPN viewers and Sports Illustrated readers have to endure--and he has taken it upon himself in this election cycle to serve as Apostle to the Cathedral, "the Cathedral" being a favorite metaphor of the so-called alt-right for the "distributed conspiracy" (in the words of Curtis Yarvin, a.k.a. Mencius Moldbug) that might in less riled-up times be described as "polite society," the conventional wisdom among people who live in places such as Washington, D.C., and New York City and work in fields such as politics and media.

You know: Them.

Donald Trump is the headline, and explaining the benighted white working class to Them is the main matter. Sanctimony is the literary mode, for Dougherty and for many others doing the same work with less literary facility.

Dougherty invites us to think about Mike, an imaginary member of the white working class who is getting by on Social Security disability fraud in unfashionable Garbutt, N.Y. Conservatives, in Dougherty's view, don't give a damn about Mike. They care a great deal about Jeffrey, "a typical coke-sniffer in Westport, Conn." Jeffrey pays a lot of taxes, both directly in the form of the capital-gains tax and indirectly through the corporate tax, and tax cuts "intersect with his interests at several points." Republicans want to encourage private retirement investments, which might send some business toward Jeffrey's "fund-manager in-law, who works in nearby Darien." (For those of you unfamiliar with the econogeography of Fairfield County, Conn., going from Westport to Darien is moving up in the world. Next stop: Greenwich.) "If the conservative movement has any advice for Mike, it's to move out of Garbutt and maybe 'learn computers,'" Dougherty writes in the magazine The Week. "Any investments he made in himself previously are for naught. People rooted in their hometowns? That sentimentalism is for effete readers of Edmund Burke. Join the hyper-mobile world." The piece is headlined "How Conservative Elites Disdain Working-Class Republicans," and I suppose I should mention that my own writing on the white working class's infatuation with Donald Trump is Exhibit A in Dougherty's case.

Never mind the petty sneering (as though the conservative movement were populated by septuagenarians who say things like "learn computers") and the rhetorical need to invent moral debasement (tax cuts are good for the rich people in Connecticut who don't use cocaine, too) and Dougherty's ignoring out of existence those capital-driven parts of the economy that are outside of the Manhattan-Connecticut finance corridor. And never mind the math, too: It is really quite difficult to design federal tax cuts that benefit people who do not pay much in the way of federal taxes. Set all that aside: What, really, is the case for staying in Garbutt?

There was no Garbutt, N.Y., until 1804, when Zachariah Garbutt and his son John settled there. They built a grist mill, and, in the course of digging its foundations, they discovered a rich vein of gypsum, at that time used as a fertilizer. A gypsum industry sprang up and ran its course. Then Garbutt died. "As the years passed away, a change came over the spirit of their dream," wrote local historian George E. Slocum. "Their church was demolished and its timber put to an ignoble use; their schools were reduced to one, and that a primary; their hotels were converted into dwelling houses; their workshops, one by one, slowly and silently sank from sight until there was but little left to the burg except its name."

Slocum wrote that in ... 1908.

The emergence of the gypsum-hungry wallboard industry gave Garbutt a little bump at the beginning of the 20th century, but it wasn't enough. The U.S. Census Bureau doesn't even keep data on Garbutt. To invoke Burkean conservatism in the service of preserving a community that was exnihilated into existence around a single commodity and lasted barely a century is the indulgence of absurd sentimentality. Yes, young men of Garbutt--get off your asses and go find a job: You're a four-hour bus ride away from the gas fields of Pennsylvania.

Stonehenge didn't work out, either: Good luck.

Garbutt is Trump Country, and Dougherty, while not a wild-eyed Trumpkin, is generally sympathetic to Trump's critique of current American economic policy, namely that international trade and immigration are dispossessing the white working class. There is not, in fact, very much evidence for those claims: Immigration does put some downward pressure on wages, but it also puts downward pressure on prices. Native-born low-skilled workers' money income may have stagnated, but their real income--what they can buy with the money they earn--has continued to improve modestly. The main effect of new immigrants' wage competition is felt in the wages of earlier immigrants. But the effects of immigration overall are tiny compared with the effects of factors such as health-care expenses. In many lower-end occupations, overall compensation in fact has gone up over the years, but the additional compensation has come largely or entirely in the form of medical benefits. In some cases, the expense of medical benefits has gone up so much that total compensation has increased even while money wages have gone down. That's the worst of all possible worlds: It costs more to employ those low skilled American workers, but they don't feel any richer-and if their employers are paying more for the same benefits (or paying more for inferior benefits under the so-called Affordable Care Act), they aren't any richer, practically speaking.

On the trade front, American manufacturing continues to expand and thrive--an absolute economic fact that is, perversely, unknown to the great majority of Americans, who believe precisely the opposite to be the case. Americans have false beliefs about manufacturing for a few reasons: One is that while our factories produce much more than in the past, they employ fewer people; another is that we tend to produce capital goods and import consumer goods--you won't see much labeled "Made in the USA" at Walmart, but you'll see it on everything from the aircraft flown by foreign airlines to the robotics in automobile factories overseas. Another factor, particularly relevant to the question of manufacturing and trade, is that a large (but declining) share of those imported consumer goods comes from China, a country with which we have a large trade deficit. That isn't because the Chinese are clever, but because they are poor: With an average annual income of less than $9,000, the typical Chinese household is not well positioned to buy American-made goods, which are generally expensive. (China is a large consumer of U.S. agricultural products, especially soybeans.) Add to that poorly informed and sentimental ideas about what those old Rust Belt factory jobs actually paid--you can have a 1957 standard of living, if you really want it, quite cheap--and you get a holistic critique of U.S. economic policy that is wholly bunk.

Which isn't to say that the Mikes of Dougherty's world have it good--they don't. But they aren't victims of the wily Chinese, scheming to make them poor: In the story of the white working class's descent into dysfunction, they are the victims and the villains both.

The Washington Post's "Wonkbook" newsletter compared the counties Trump won in the so-called Super Tuesday primaries with the demographic data and found trends that will surprise no one who has been paying attention (and certainly no one, I hope, who has been reading this magazine). The life expectancies among non-college-educated white Americans have been plummeting in an almost unprecedented fashion, a trend not seen on such a large scale since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the social anarchy that prevailed in Russia afterward. Trump counties had proportionally fewer people with college degrees. Trump counties had fewer people working. And the white people in Trump counties were likely to die younger. The causes of death were "increased rates of disease and ill health, increased drug overdose and abuse, and suicide," the Post's Wonkblog website reported.

This is horrifyingly consistent with other findings.

The manufacturing numbers--and the entire gloriously complex tale of globalization--go in fits and starts: a little improvement here, a little improvement there, and a radically better world in raw material terms (and let's not sniff at those) every couple of decades. Go back and read the novels of the 1980s or watch The Brady Bunch and ask yourself why well-to-do suburban families living in large, comfortable homes and holding down prestigious jobs were worried about the price of butter and meat, and then ask yourself when was the last time you heard someone complain that he couldn't afford a stick of butter. That change happened a little at a time, here and there.

The family-life numbers, on the other hand, came down on us like a meteor. Before the war, divorce had been such an alien phenomenon that it animated such shaggy-dog stories as The Gay Divorcee, a play in which a fictitious act of adultery had to be invented to move the plot forward.

Divorce in 1960 was so rare as to carry a hint of scandalous glamour, which it kept throughout the 1970s and 1980s, with women's magazines writing lifestyle pieces about informal weekday dinner parties for divorcees (the word itself is today faintly ludicrous) and men's magazines celebrating divorce as a second adolescence.

The divorce rate doubled over the span of a few decades--even as the marriage rate was declining. Add to that the violence of abortion, which fundamentally alters the relationship between men, women, and children, and what exactly "family" means to those of us born around the time Roe v. Wade was decided becomes a very difficult question.

The concept of the nation as an extended family is the notion that separates American-style conservatism, with its roots in the classical-liberal ideas that informed the American founding, from blood-and-soil, throne-and-altar European nationalism. In Europe, this is an idea popular with the Right: It is entirely unsurprising that Trump has enjoyed the endorsement of, among other European rightists, Jean-Marie Le Pen. In the United States, it is an idea--and an error--popular on both sides of the political divide: The distastefully squishy progressive writer George Lakoff argues that the American Right prefers a strict patriarchal model of the family and, therefore, a similar model of political life, while the Left is inclined toward the maternal and the nurturing. (Right-wing critics of free trade and free enterprise in the English-speaking world often speak of "nurturing" economic policies, because they do not wish to write the word "socialism.") But it is an idea that fits at best uneasily with the aspirations of American conservatism.

One of the worst errors in public life is the common one of mistaking the metaphor for the thing itself. In reality--and reality is not optional--the president isn't the national dad (Governor John Kasich's insistence notwithstanding), and government is neither paternal nor maternal. The nation isn't your family. Your family is your family.

The metaphor points both ways: Nationalism may speak to a longing for lost national greatness, but in our own time, it speaks at least as strongly to the longing after--the great howling lamentation for--the ideal family that never was lost, because it never was formed. The Mikes of the world may be struggling to make it in the global economy, but what they really are shut out of is the traditional family. The current social regime of illegitimacy, serial monogamy, abortion, and liberal divorce has rendered traditional families optional, at best--the great majority of divorces are initiated by wives, not by husbands--and the welfare state has at least in part supplanted the Mikes in their role as providers, assuming that they have the wherewithal to fill that role in the first place. Traditional avenues for achieving respect, status, and permanence are lost to them.

Milo Yiannopoulos of Breitbart London has done more to put homosexual camp in the service of right-wing authoritarianism than any man has since the fellows at Hugo Boss sewed all those nifty SS uniforms. He refers to Trump--this will not surprise you--as "Daddy," capital-D.

It is easy to imagine a generation of young men being raised without fathers and looking out the window like a kid in an after-school special, waiting for Daddy to come home. Many of them slip into harmless Clark Griswold-ism, trying to provide for their own children the ideal families they themselves never had. But some of them end up grown men still staring out that window, waiting for the father-fuhrer figure they have spent their lives imagining, the protector and vindicator who will protect them, provide for them, and set things in order.

Dougherty cites the work of the conservative polemicist Sam Francis, one of those old capitalism-hating conservatives who very much embraced the paterfamilias model of government. His analysis, like mine, finds emotional and policy links between the Trump movement and its earlier incarnation, the Pat Buchanan movement. For Dougherty, Francis provides the philosophical link. He also provides the stylistic link: He was a kook. "Francis eventually turned into something resembling an all-out white nationalist," Dougherty writes, "penning his most racist material under a pen name. Buchanan didn't take Francis's advice in 1996, not entirely. But 20 years later, [Francis's book] From Household to Nation reads like a political manifesto from which the Trump campaign springs." From Household to Nation is typical in that it is based on a category error, asking economics to do what economics doesn't: to provide the means "not simply to gain material satisfaction but to support families and the social institutions and identities that evolve from families as the fundamental units of human society and human action." Economics is about satisfying human wants, not defining them. The problem isn't that Americans cannot sustain families, but that they do not wish to.

It is therefore strange to me that Dougherty so fundamentally misdiagnoses the conservative reaction to Trump: "A Trump win," he writes in another piece, "at least temporarily threatens the conservative movement, because it threatens to expose how inessential its ideas are to holding together the party." (Dougherty also equates the fundraising engaged in by conservative organizations with the Social Security fraud that sustains his fictional Mike, a characterization that indicates the emotional temperament at work here.) Of course there is careerism in the conservative movement, but to proceed as though it were impossible to imagine that conservatives oppose a man running (knowingly or not) on a Sam Francis platform because we oppose the loopy crackpot racist ideas of Sam Francis is to perform an intellectual disservice.

IT is also immoral.

It is immoral because it perpetuates a lie: that the white working class that finds itself attracted to Trump has been victimized by outside forces. It hasn't. The white middle class may like the idea of Trump as a giant pulsing humanoid middle finger held up in the face of the Cathedral, they may sing hymns to Trump the destroyer and whisper darkly about "globalists" and--odious, stupid term--"the Establishment," but nobody did this to them. They failed themselves.

If you spend time in hardscrabble, white upstate New York, or eastern Kentucky, or my own native West Texas, and you take an honest look at the welfare dependency, the drug and alcohol addiction, the family anarchy--which is to say, the whelping of human children with all the respect and wisdom of a stray dog--you will come to an awful realization. It wasn't Beijing. It wasn't even Washington, as bad as Washington can be. It wasn't immigrants from Mexico, excessive and problematic as our current immigration levels are. It wasn't any of that.

Nothing happened to them. There wasn't some awful disaster. There wasn't a war or a famine or a plague or a foreign occupation. Even the economic changes of the past few decades do very little to explain the dysfunction and negligence--and the incomprehensible malice--of poor white America. So the gypsum business in Garbutt ain't what it used to be. There is more to life in the 21st century than wallboard and cheap sentimentality about how the Man closed the factories down.

The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible. Forget all your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap. Forget your sanctimony about struggling Rust Belt factory towns and your conspiracy theories about the wily Orientals stealing our jobs. Forget your goddamned gypsum, and, if he has a problem with that, forget Ed Burke, too. The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump's speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin. What they need isn't analgesics, literal or political. They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul.

If you want to live, get out of Garbutt.