Saturday, October 3, 2015

Intolerant of Intolerance

I have had a long running discussion/argument with a twitter follower who was upset that I suggested that anyone who wants to legislate the behavior of a particular set of Muslims (those wearing niqabs) are xenophobes.  He argued that a majority of Canadians feel that niqab wearing is not in line with Canadian values.  I got peeved and asked him what religion should Canadians observe?

I am a liberal in the old fashioned sense of the term--people should be able to enjoy their freedom to do what they want as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others.   Someone brought up government intervention when religion inhibits transfusions for kids.  And, yes, the government has a role in protecting the lives of its citizens.  Adults can choose not to have transfusions, but the state can say that they have no right to make their kids do something that is dangerous.

The niqab may be viewed by outsiders as whatever, but your interpretation is just that.  It does not actually have a significant effect on outsiders, so they should just stay out of it.  The assertion that the niqab or any other religious practice of a minority is in conflict with the values of the majority is problematic, as it says that the majority is right and the minority must suck it up.  Tyranny of the majority is a real problem here. 

What are Canadian values?  I believe as I studied for the Citizenship test that the consistent focus on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was a better indicator than the strange language about barbaric cultural practices.  Yep, that phrase is in the guide, as we need to tell some people (all of the examples seem aimed at Muslims and perhaps South Asia [honor killings] not to do bad stuff. 

My assertion that one's rights should be infringed unless one's exercise infringes on others is now leading to accusations that I am a, gasp, libertarian.  Pretty sure those folks would not want to own me... that is, consider me part of their club.  Why? Because I do think regulation is often required since lots of conflicts of rights need to be adjudicated by something other than the market.  And there are lots of things that are not about rights, so again regulation is not a bad thing.

So, should I call anyone xenophobic for wanting to tell niqab wearers what to do?  Maybe not.  Maybe I should just call them arrogant?  In this political context, where one party is using this issue to distract from more important ones, focusing on the niqab is foolish in the extreme.  Focusing on a  non-problem rather than the real, substantial issues of the day is playing  into Harper's hands.  Oh, and also alienating a community that will see itself as the target of scapegoating.  That is bad for Canada's national security now and down the road.

Guns, Guns, Guns

I have not researched gun control or gun rights or gun anything.  I am just a frustrated, saddened blogger who finds the status quo appalling: an individual shoots up a church/school/mall/theater/whatever, lots  of condemnation, nothing substantial changes, rinse, repeat.  Obama's statement after the latest shooting in Oregon reflected his own frustration and sadness over the lack of progress.

What is always annoying are the responses to the concerns about guns, so I thought I would come up with a listicle of the usual responses and my quick response to each:
  1. "Too soon!"  Well, it is always too soon to discuss this stuff because there is always another shooting a few days or a week later.  If we wait for a decent peaceful interval, we will never have a discussion of this stuff.  Also, this is wonderfully cynical: "hey, you guys are mobilized by outrage and might do something.  How about we all wait until the anger fades and you guys have less passion to organize a response?  Kthxbai."
  2. "It is about mental illness, not guns." Why are these opposed?  Obviously, when an individual decides to kill a bunch of people, it combines motive and means.  The motives are often hard to understand and may often be the result of mental and emotional problems.  Yes, we need to do a better job of treating those with these problems, but, no, doing something on the mental health front does not logically exclude government from doing anything else such as regulating guns.  
  3. "If the disturbed don't have guns, they will use knives."  Well, that would be progress.  Far easier to run from a knife than from a bullet.  It is also harder to kill many people with one knife than with a semi-automatic handgun or rifle with a magazine of 15 or more bullets.
  4. "If the disturbed don't have guns, they will escalate and use bombs."  Again, that would be progress, as it is not easy to build bombs.  It is not impossible either, but it is not easy.  And the government already does a fair amount to make sure people don't have easy access to bombs.
  5. "Gun control does not work." The handy charts this week of states with and without gun control and the rates of murder via guns is suggestive.  Yes, the causal arrow could go the other way--states with less violence develop more gun regs.  Yet other countries have guns and have disturbed citizens but yet don't have the same incredibly high level of violence.
  6. "Most gun deaths are not caused by sprees by whites but are among/between minorities."  Oh really.  So, we should not do anything about spree shootings because it is only one form of gun violence.  That is like saying we should not fight all cancer but just focus on the one or two forms that are related to the most deaths.  It also suggests that gun control might not make a difference in such places.  Or that we need to solve racism or poverty or intra-African-American problems or "culture" before we turn to guns.  Which is another classic way of kicking the can down the road so far that it cannot be seen.
  7. "Liberals just want to take everyone's guns away." Maybe some do.  I think most folks just want sensible gun regulation--that anyone buying a gun from any source should have a good background check, so that those who are most likely to use them as they are designed (to kill lots of people) don't have easy access.  My particular focus would be to bring back restrictions on weapons that can kill large numbers of people quickly.  One does not need a Glock with a 19 bullet magazine to defend one's house or an AR-15 to go hunting.  These weapons are designed to kill many people quickly.  I don't expect that we can eliminate murder, but I would like sincere efforts to reduce the carnage.  Yet, I know that this would be closing the barn door but ...
  8. "There are already so many guns out there that gun regulation would not make a difference."  Maybe, but most of the spree shooters were able to get their guns at stores quite easily, rather than having to buy or steal them from some gray/black market.  I wonder if the anti-gun control people support legalization of drugs because the argument here seems similar--the stuff is going to get out, so why bother?
  9. "This is just part of an attempt to increase the power of the state."  I am pretty sure that most gun control advocates would not be advocating gun control if gun-related death and destruction was a minor problem.  It is on political agendas because of the damage guns do.  Far more than terrorism as Obama made quite clear, far more than many sources of death and far more than most preventable causes of death.  
  10. "The Second Amendment means that guns cannot be regulated, just as the First Amendment says that speech or assembly cannot be regulated."  Um, no.  The Bill of Rights establishes rights that are rarely but sometimes abridged, when there is a compelling public need.  One cannot yell fire in a crowded theater if there is no fire, for instance.  Assembly is regulated in a variety of ways.  Freedom of religion does not permit murder or cannibalism or whatever.  So, the idea that there can be no regulation, especially when the 2nd amendment mentions a "well-regulated" militia, well, there you go.
  11. "This is the first step in an effort by the government to become totalitarian." Give me a fucking break.  Of course, as Barney Frank once said, talking to a conspiracy theorist is like talking to a piece of furniture--what is the point?
Note I am not discussing the arguments about having guns--that they are for protection (when guns in the home are far more threatening to the kids and spouses in that home).  All I am saying is that we get these same tired arguments after each shooting.  And they are dumb, dumb, dumb arguments.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Canada is Unreliable?

Today, the NDP have backtracked a wee bit and have said that they would not be bound by a TransPacific Partnership [TPP] agreement negotiated by the Conservative government.  I then tweeted that Westminster systems are unreliable.  How so?

Remembering a piece one of my advisers wrote a while back, and then a friend built on, the basic idea is that the more veto gates in the process, the harder it is to change a policy.  In Canada, there is only one key decision point (most of the time): the Prime Minister.  With party discipline and a majority or a clever strategy for handling a minority situation, a new PM can completely flip policy from the previous PM.

In a Presidential system, any policy has to pass through two or more veto points, such as the President and a legislature or even two houses of a legislature, so passing new legislation or radically revising adherence to a treaty is much more difficult.  Not impossible, but harder.

In non-Westminster parliaments, proportional representation tends to lead to multiple parties in coalition, which means bargaining that is less likely to be undone after an election.  Yes, a completely different set of parties can come in, but often there are parties that do not leave.  For much, although not all, of Germany's post-war history, the FDP was junior partner with either the Christian Democrats or the Social Democrats.  Also, as some on twitter noted, there are patterns of more consensual power-sharing so that international agreements are vetted not just by those in the coalition.  Consensual is never a term folks use to describe confrontational government in British-style parliaments.

Anyhow, this basic set of differences among democracies make some more credible and reliable than others.  And that means that what the NDP might be doing is problematic but entirely predictable.

Oh, and another reason for me to vote against the NDP--I am not a fan of protectionism.

The Few and the Many: Guns and More Guns

Yet another mass murder.  Obama's statement last night was moving and painfully accurate.  I loved that Obama was putting the US in a comparative context.  Alas, that does not fly too well.  His call for stats comparing terrorism to gun crime was met quickly by folks on the internet

And the facts are likely to be ... irrelevant.  Dan Drezner has an excellent post discussing the limits of Obama's anger.  Obama is not going to stop the rest of government for this one issue.  And I understand that.  I would like to see one of these speeches (alas, there will be more opportunities) to actually contain some real proposals of what sensible gun regulation would look like.  Provide a clear alternative between doing nothing and taking all the guns away.

Of course, even that will not matter much.  The social science on this is pretty clear.  It goes to basic politics that despite the rhetoric of democracy, the small almost always have more power than the large.  What is true about dairy in Canada is also true for sugar in the US and is also true for ethnic politics/diaspora influence (draft in pdf).  It is far easier to get a small group of enthusiastic people who are directly affected to organize and mobilize than the large mass of society to focus on a single issue. And politicians care about who shows up, not those who stay at home or who are focused on other stuff.  The President was right to point out that many gun owners do not support the stances of the National Rifle Association, but those that do are the ones that write letters, show up at protests, and all the rest.

So even the most left wing of politicians in the U.S. would take pro-gun, anti-regulation stances: Bernie Sanders.  Running in Vermont, chock full of hunters and liberal ice cream purveyors, Sanders pandered to the NRA folks.  This is not a left/right thing, but a who mobilizes thing.  Some progress was made in the 1980s after the shooting of Reagan and those around him (James Brady most notably).  Mostly regression since then.

But as folks note, if we can do nothing in the aftermath of the mass murder of small kids, then it is not likely that anything will happen when other folk are killed.  Yes, I am profoundly frustrated and profoundly cynical about this issue.  A very sad Spew after yet another sad day of avoidable tragedy. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Pondering the Arctic

After fighting with a friend about arctic security/sovereignty (a semi-big issue up here in Canada), I had an epiphany:  why not learn from the Russians and especially the Chinese.  Much has been written about the Chinese strategy to deny the US Navy/Air Force access to the South China Sea, and now the US is concerned about Russian A2-AD weapons in Kaliningrad and elsewhere.

Canada has been focused on building ships and a port while pondering which CF-18 replacement might be handy way up north.  But if the big challenges are ships (research/whatever) and planes, then invest in stuff that thwarts such stuff.  While subs are super-handy for denying access in large bodies of water and especially under the water threats, they are also super-expensive and will always be scarce (Canada will never buy enough, sorry).

But missile batteries that aim to knock down planes and sink ships?  That can be done at a fraction of the cost.  Staffing them?  That is harder, but perhaps remote controlled?  Or just rapidly deployable?  Given how long it takes to get to the Arctic from anywhere by ship (also through straits controlled/monitored by the Americans), one would have plenty of time to move a battery of anti-ship missiles to key spots in the high north.  Where?  Check out this pic:
Thanks to Steve Daly,
Of course, missiles (and mines dropped by planes) are not the kind of things that get generals and admirals nor politicians seeking big projects excited.  One would still need ships and planes for a variety of uses, but if one wants "effective control" of vast hunks of territory, either predeployed A2-AD systems or easily deployed ones make a great deal of sense to this armchair amateur strategist.

Of course, for land based ops, there is always this.  H/T to  Chris Zeitz @PrivateSnuffy

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Where Is Helen Milner When You Need Her?

As I watch the diary cartel of Canada perpetuate its reign via "supply management", government policies maintaining the cartel's supremacy in Canada, I have to wonder: where is Helen Milner?

Milner wrote a great book, a model for those working on dissertations, arguing that the interests of protectionists (such as the dairy industry in Canada) are often offset by those with stakes in international stuff:
  • those firms that rely on exports since they understand that trade involves reciprocity
  • those firms with foreign investments that sell back to the domestic market (less relevant here)
  • those firms that rely on foreign parts for their own products.  Barriers to trade increase their costs.
At this moment in time, Canada is engaged in international trade negotiations: the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).  Canada's status within this has been at risk over Canada's refusal to allow more competition in the dairy markets.  My question is this: where are the Canadian firms that would benefit from TPP?  Shouldn't they be lobbying government?  Shouldn't they be opposed to the perpetuation of supply management?

I don't expect consumers, who are hurt by the dairy cartel via higher produces and reduced selection, to lobby because their pain is diffuse.  I don't expect consumers to solve their collective action problems to organize to push for lower prices and more selection (and better quality--competition does help with that as well). 

Given that dairy farmers are but a few, where are the companies whose interests are threatened by these few folks?  I am seriously confused.  Helen Milner cannot be denied!

Testing My Theories the Hard Way: Islamophobia Is Winning?

Over the course of an interesting brownbag lunch our department was having discussing the debate last night, I had an epiphany:

This election may test one of my beliefs about how ethnic conflict "works".  That is, I have long argued that politicians engaged in symbolic stances on identity issues will be most successful when there is significant insecurity.  That when there is not much real security, the symbolic stances will not fly.

Well, here we are: Stephen Harper's niqab-baiting, securitizing refugee stances seem to be working as the support for the NDP in Quebec seems to be dropping and leading to greater support for the Conservatives.  Why?  Islamophobia seems to be working even though the threat posed by a few women wearing niqabs is just non-existent. 

One takeaway from last night's debate was Thomas Mulcair's relief that the niqab "issue" did not come up.  Instead, Harper emphasized the need to vet refugees, as if the threat posed by terrorists hiding among the refugees is huge.  Indeed, not helping these folks might radicalize more Canadians than whatever terrorists slip through and are admitted as refugees (and forever monitored). 

Yes, there was some violence last October by a couple of individuals aimed at Canadian institutions (the Canadian Forces, the War Memorial, the Parliament), but Canadians have not been acting as if they have lived in fear since then.  Yes, the Conservatives have passed a law (C-51), but that happened quite opportunistically in the aftermath of the attacks.  Since then, how serious have Canadians pondered the Islamist threat to Canada?  Not much.

The actual threat is quite low, but Harper has been able to pander to Islamophobes throughout the country (not just a Quebec thing), putting both opposing parties in difficult spots.  On the bright side, neither the Liberals or the NDP have pandered to these very worst instincts.  Instead, the NDP resisted the bill, and the Liberals are pushing back on the effort to revoke dual citizenship from terrorists.  Neither opposing party is seeking to play to the haters (well, I always discount the Bloc Quebecois), and that is good news.

But damn, this election may lead to another Conservative win due to its manipulation of hate and fear.  And they are, indeed, of the dark side.  This would be an electoral win most tainted.  I am hoping that the polls are either wrong or will bounce back.  Not because I want the NDP to win, but I don't want it to lose this way.  And I certainly don't want the Tories to win this way, since it would likely lead to emulation.  Ethnic outbidding starts this way, with a party seeking to win votes from the majority population by representing a minority as a threat.  The Muslims of Canada have done little to earn this targeting, but we have it nonetheless.

Quick Take on Canadian Foreign/Defence Policy Debate

Last night was a first for Canada: a debate solely focused on foreign and defence policy.  Well, sort of.  Folks dragged in domestic political stuff, but the debate was a success anyway.  Indeed, many pundits afterwards liked the flexible bilingual nature--that any of the party leaders could jump into and out of whichever language they wanted.  A different format, one that resembles life in bilingual places (Montreal, Ottawa).  Of course, this frustrated the truly bilingual since the broadcasts were either English with French translation or French with English translation but not a single outlet without translation....

The other thing that made this a unique debate is that I played a small role--I was on the advisory council that discussed which questions to ask.  As I have no foreign policy experience, I was pretty silent when folks were talking about how to ask questions that would get the leaders talking and perhaps even off of their talking points.  That credit goes to Frank Harvey and Janice Stein.  My role was simply to dismiss the idea of asking a third set of Mideast questions---we had Iran, ISIS, and someone wanted to add Israel-Palestine.  It came up anyway, but given the finite time (we omitted China and trade), spending more time on a region that is really distant was something I opposed.

Anyhow, debates are almost ways shaped by expectations.  In this case, people had low expectations for Trudeau since he has bungled some of his previous foreign policy/defence stances and because he is depicted as "not read" by both the Conservatives and NDP.  But he held up well, showing that he had a good mastery of the facts, pushed back when Mulcair criticized his father for stuff that most folks barely remember and only Quebeckers would be that pissed off about, and did a nice job of justifying some pretty problematic stances.  It is hard to be the party in the middle.

Harper came off well in some segments but not others.  To claim credit for all of the "progress" on Arctic sovereignty was pretty amazing, given that little has actually happened.  All sled, no dogs, indeed!  Still, Harper knows his stuff and did a nice job of pinning the other two candidates to often weak positions.

Mulcair is smart, but came off poorly, I think.  While I am not a fan of Keystone, I don't think Mulcair really justified his stance well.  I got blasted by some on the left for calling Mulcair a protectionist, but his party's stance is consistently less pro-trade than the others.  Given Canada relies on trade, this is a problem.  The debate was a big loss for him mostly because Trudeau did well.  As they vie for the anti-Harper vote, nearly anything that helps Trudeau is bad for Mulcair and vice versa.  Trudeau's solid performance was exactly what Mulcair did not need.

Overall, the debate focused on a bunch of substantial policy issues and showed some clear distinctions among the candidates, so it did the job it was supposed to do.  It will be interesting to see how this was perceived not by the pundits (we pundits disagree as evidenced by my time on CTV news last night with David Bercuson) but by the voters.  And we will only know that in about three weeks.  Oh, and the voters will probably not be thinking that much about foreign/defence policy when they vote, but if they do, this debate will probably shape their views to an extent.  Yea us!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Canada's Foreign/Defence Policy Debate

Tonight is the big foreign policy/defence policy debate for the Canadian election I was part of the advisory council that shaped the questions, but don't blame me.

I have no experience in writing debate questions, so my main contribution was trying to make this debate to be focused not just on the Mideast.  Really.  I had to remind folks that the Mideast is very, very far away.  Still, it gets most of the oxygen here. 

Given heaps of discussion about Canada's diminished role in the world, this debate will get some attention even if people will vote mostly on domestic stuff, as always. 

Anyhow, follow Stephanie Carvin​ at @StephanieCarvin as she live-tweets it for Macleans.  I am sure I will have a thing or two to say as well.

Arctic Threats? Yes, I Dare to Pooh-Pooh

Huh?  I got into an argument last night with a friend about a piece by a bunch of friends who downplay threats to the Canadian Arctic.  Why?  Because I am a committed Arctic skeptic.  It is not that I don't that the Arctic does not exist, but that threats to it are not very scary.  Especially compared to other threats in the world.  Of course, since Canada faces little of those threats because it is geographically privileged (surrounded by seas and one friendly neighbor), any modest threat can stand out.

I was accused in this argument of being a dinosaur (ok, being a Cold Warrior throwback) because I emphasize geography.  That is, the Arctic is a hell of a long way from everyone including ... Canada and Russia.  If a cruise ship has a problem up north, help will be arriving in weeks and months, not hours or days.  Ooops.  I also scoffed at the Chinese threat because China is far, far away.  And any effort to get there requires going through a strait or through relatively narrow passages that NATO has much practice monitoring (the spaces in between Greenland/Iceland/UK).

My combatant argued that my thinking was too conventional, and that cyber stuff, satellites and pesky research ships (where research means spying) matter in all of this.  And I ponder how?  How can stuff that cannot occupy any space threaten Canada's holdings in the Arctic?  Yes, other folks can have heaps of information about the Arctic and where the resources are, but getting those resources out in any volume requires either massive teleportation devices or ships and much effort to sustain a resource extraction enterprise.

My friend mentioned subs.  Indeed, Canada does not really know what is happening underneath the waves.  Join the club.  The undersea is vast, and only a few countries can operate in any kinds of numbers there--US, Russia, maybe China.  But what can do those subs do to threaten Canada from under the Arctic?  They can launch missiles, but doing so from there is not that meaningfully different from doing so in the Pacific or elsewhere.  What else?  They can launch some squads of Special Operations Forces .... to do what?  Occupy briefly a random island?  For what purpose?  To declare that said island is now part of China or Russia?  We already play the island hopping game with the Danes over Hans Island.  And any island way up north is far easier to isolate.  Again, straits.  Until the Chinese develop planes that can have damn near infinite range, I am not too worried.  Canada could easily invest in the anti-access/area-denial stuff that the Chinese have done in their neighborhood.

What else?  Ah, the Northwest Passage came up.  Canada would like to consider the NWP internal waterways and part of Canadian territory.  Good luck with that, as the Law of the Sea is pretty clear about such stuff--folks can steer their ships between whatever straits they want, ultimately.  The real problem is who is responsible for when one of those ships hits a rock, spills oil and maybe starts to sink.  Back to the cruise ship problem.

Unless Canada seriously invests in the Arctic, which no party really promises to do, Canada will have to rely on the traditional strategy: partnership with the US.  Oh, yes, the US which has a different stance on NWP.  But given Canada's size (population) and size (territory) mismatch and the relevant threats out there--US, Russia and Denmark (and China if one wants to dream), the choices are obvious and obviously constrained.  Either work with the Russians against the Americans or work with the Americans against the Russians (and mythical Chinese).

Harper has been reluctant to bring NATO into this (unlike the Norwegians), and the Canadian First Defence Strategy is a nice bit of nationalist propaganda, but Canada already depends on the US for help in defending the skies above Canada and the waters off of Canada.  The US has far better eyes undersea than Canada ever will.  That is the reality.  Just because it was true during the Cold War does not make it less true now.  The math of distance and expense still apply.  It is incredibly expensive to operate and sustain way up north, so if the Russians want to blow a lot of money on it, I say let them. Yes, Canada needs to improve its search and rescue capability and have a few icebreakers around, but there is nothing going on up there that is genuinely threatening.

Of course, I could be an old codger with a fax machine, betamax recorder, three main channels on ye olde big-ass un-flat screen TV.   And this dinosaur still thinks that sovereignty means making choices in a constrained environment and not so much being able to independently defend one's stuff.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

That Which Is Easy and That Which Is Right

Playing upon people's hate and fear is, well, of the dark side.  The rise of the niqab issue in Canadian politics is symbolic politics at its worst.  How so?  Because it takes a non-problem and puts it at the center of the political system.  A very small minority of a small minority wear niqabs.  Despite their utter irrelevance to larger political issues, these women have become a focal point because Stephen Harper wants to appeal to the xenophobic tendencies in Canada. 

Yes, majorities in country don't like the niqab.  So what?  I bet majorities don't like a bunch of religious practices.  But that is why the right to observe one's religion is enshrined in Canada's constitution.  Picking on the small is easy, picking on them when others fear them is very easy. 

But that which is easy and that which is right are actually pretty easy to distinguish in this case.  One of the basic challenges of any Prime Minister is to choose between that which is easy and that which is right (thanks, Dumbledore), and the current PM is disqualifying himself for holding that office as he continues to choose that which is easy.

The bigger problem here is that once one decides to ride the wave of xenophobia, one cannot simply get off easily or safely at a time and place of one's choosing.  Oh, and if we want to radicalize the next generation of Muslims in Canada, alienating their mothers/sisters/daughters/etc is a good place to start. 

This stance is simply un-Canadian (and un-American for that matter).  I have always been ambivalent about Stephen Harper, disliking his stances on transparency (he's against it), his hostility to public servants, and his hypocrisy about the military and NATO (defending/supporting when convenient, undermining the rest of the time) but appreciating his political acumen, his sincerity when it comes to his love of Canada, and all that.

But this late grasp, this desperate reach for one of the worst yet tempting tactics in politics is below him and below any Canadian politician worthy of higher office.  There is no problem here---just a group of people who are feared by the majority, so why not exploit those fears to hold onto office for another few years?

Friday, September 25, 2015

If Only It Were Made of Ice

Alas, the wall that some 40% of Americans want would be of bricks and mortar.  Takes the Game of Thrones joy out of it.

What to make of this survey result?  The actual question is thus:
If a wall is good for the Mexico border, it is good for the Canada border as well
Okey, dokey.  The result of 41% agree is the same as for the following question:
There should be a brick-and-mortar wall between the U.S. and Mexico
Let's take the second one first.  Is 41% high or low?  Given all of the rabble-rousing and the actual existence of some walls along the border (see the Volleyball picture to the right), 41% is probably low.  After all, the loudest candidate for higher office is making this one of the very few distinct policy proposals, and this has led to an outbidding process where the rest of the GOP candidates have promised to stop the hordes of Mexicans with walls, drones, frickin' laser beams, etc.

Ok, with that context, what about the Canadian question?  It seems like most of the people who want a wall with Mexico want one with Canada, perhaps because it makes them sound fairer and less racist?  What would be the survey result if the question was asked without any reference to Mexico:
Should the US build a wall between Canada and the U.S.?
My guess is that the result would be somewhere around 20% since one can get about that much support for any wacky policy proposal.  Some folks will always say yes because they think the country should be surrounded by walls or because they have family in industries that would benefit from the wall-building or because they would like the acreage of potential graffiti space (see East Berlin Gallery to the right).

And some Americans may actually be threatened by Canada in some way.  What would these Americans want to keep out?
  • Rabid moose?
  • Maple heist-ers?
  • Superior hockey players that keep Americans on the bench?
  • Xenophobic politicians as America has reached its capacity?
  • Tim Horton's?  The lines are too damn slow!
  • All the comedians that are stealing American jobs!
  • Celine Dion?  Too late.
What am I missing?

The key point, of course, is that this survey question is mostly .... air.