Entries from August 1998

Let’s Not Get Too Choked Up Over The Death Of Socialism

David Frum August 29th, 1998 at 12:00 am Comments Off

‘The biggest intellectual event of the 20th century is the death of socialism.’ When the neo-conservative intellectual Irving Kristol first offered that observation in the mid-1970s, it sounded almost perverse. But of course Kristol proved completely right: a faith that once moved millions has over the past decade gone the way of Albigensianism.

It is strange, then, to pick up a recent issue of  Harper’s magazine and see a long essay by a writer named George Packer about his decision to join the U.S. socialist party in, of all years, 1989. Packer and I attended college together in the late 1970s, and all these years later I remember him vividly: a keenly intelligent, earnest boy, almost universally liked. We all expected him to go on to great things: to become a famous writer or perhaps a crusading politician. Instead, he vanished off the face of the earth after graduation. Only now do we learn what he was doing with his time: he was editing the newsletter of the Boston chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. Of all the many crimes committed in the name of socialism over the past 150 years, the waste of George Packer’s talents comes nowhere near the top — but it is real, and sad, enough.

What is even sadder, on the evidence of the Harper’s piece, is all these years later, Packer still does not seem able to grasp what exactly went wrong. ‘When I joined,’ he writes, ‘I couldn’t even have said exactly what socialism was, and I still can’t.’ Not so long ago, when socialism was still a living doctrine, socialists could tell you exactly what socialism was: it was an economic system that would promote greater equality and prosperity by confiscating private property, abolishing prices and interest rates, assigning people to jobs on a rational basis rather than by the higgledy-piggledy jumble of the free market, and paying everybody what he needed, neither less nor more.

The trouble is without prices and interest rates, society cannot make rational economic decisions. Without private property, valuable resources are squandered because nobody has an interest in caring for them. Assigning people to jobs is a polite way of describing slavery, and paying everybody what he needs, neither more nor less, is an inducement to idleness.

Packer seems to know this, but seeks to evade it by arguing, ‘socialism has always had less significance as a program than as an ideal.’ The trouble is, an ideal without content isn’t much of an ideal. It’s like the Monty Python sketch: ‘We are here today to interview Dr. Elaine Nitwit, who has a new theory about dinosaurs. Dr Nitwit: your theory.’ ‘My theory about dinosaurs is new.’ ‘Yes. And?’ ‘And it’s about dinosaurs.’ ‘But what is it?’ ‘It is mine.’ Et cetera.

But at least Dr. Nitwit did not go on to tell us that while her theory lacked all content, she was a morally superior person for believing in it. Alas, that’s what my classmate does seem to believe. All those dreary years at his newsletter have left behind, not a feeling of regret, but a quite unlovely moral vanity. ‘What could it mean to call yourself by a name that has passed not only into popular disrepute but almost out of contemporary speech? It means either (1) you’re old enough to have been around when it was a living, breathing idea (2) you’ve studied economic and political theory and have some hypothetical proposals for worker self-management; or (3) you have a good heart.

Actually, most of the socialists I have known (and back in the days when they were still numerous I knew quite a few) were selfish, bitter and exploitive people, not goodhearted at all. Socialism attracted them because it provided an outlet for their considerable capacity for hatred, while conveniently transforming ’compassion’ from an irksome duty to those around you into a useful political slogan to justify punishing the annoyingly successful.

Which is why Packer’s dirge for his old creed is premature. Socialism has collapsed as an idea — a victim of its own crimes and failures — but the psychic needs it fed live on. Now those needs express themselves in new forms: environmentalism, feminism, multiculturalism. Packer dislikes these new ideologies, and reasonably so. But I suspect in the end he will fall prey to one or another of them. After all, what’s the alternative? Only the intolerable message of conservatism: slogans can never substitute for goodness; our worth as human beings is measured not by what we say, but by what we do.

Originally published in The Financial Post

Revisionism And The Reference Books

David Frum August 20th, 1998 at 12:00 am Comments Off

Dictionaries, books of quotations, encyclopedias: it’s impossible to be a journalist without them. It’s noon, the editor is on the phone demanding copy, and there you are, desperately trying to remember who came first, Charles Tupper or John Abbott. But as someone who relies heavily on reference books, I’ve begun to notice a disturbing trend: they’re being corrupted by political correctness.

A few weeks ago, I was trying to track down the exact wording of a joke I’d heard attributed to Viscount Melbourne, Queen Victoria’s first prime minister. I did what quote searchers have done for the past 130 years: I reached for John Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. But since I happened to be out of my office, the  Bartlett’s I got was not my trusty old battered edition from the 1950s; it was a brand new book ‘revised and enlarged.’ Melbourne — the wittiest prime minister Britain ever had, the man who explained cabinet government with the line ‘it doesn’t matter what damn lie we tell, so long as we tell the same damn lie’ — was nowhere to be found (although his great jab at the liberal historian Macaulay, ‘I wish I were as sure of one thing as Tom Macaulay is of everything,’ did show up in a footnote). Instead, the preface tells me, ‘the present edition turns to old and recent works on ecology, and adds quotations from John Muir, Aldo Leopold and others.’ Not to mention Helen Reddy, Steve Biko and four entries from Nikki Giovanni. (Surely you remember Nikki Giovanni, author of the immortal words, ‘and if ever i touched a life i hope that life knows that i know that touching was and still is and always will be the true revolution’?)

I need to check dates even more often than quotes. So when a book company sent me a promotional copy of the Cambridge Biographical Encyclopedia, I was grateful. Until I looked up the entry on Ronald Reagan. ‘Although originally a Democrat and supporter of liberal causes, he became increasingly anti-Communist, and in 1962 joined the Republican Party as an extreme right-winger. … His domestic popularity remained high throughout his presidency, despite charges of corruption against his aides and his inability to get much of his program through Congress.’ ‘See Carter, Jimmy,’ the book suggested, so I did.

While Reagan was an extremist and a failure, here is what Cambridge has to say about the most inept president of the postwar period: ‘As governor of Georgia, he expressed an enlightened policy towards the rights of African-Americans and women. … He arranged the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel (1979), and was much concerned with human rights at home and abroad. His administration ended in difficulties over the taking of U.S. hostages in Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan ‘

This sort of rank political bias is not common in reference works, even today. Much more common is the sort of anti-bias bias the author of the Cambridge encyclopedia promises in his introduction: ‘We have been particularly concerned about the generally poor coverage given by biographical dictionaries to women, African-Americans, Aborigines, Maori and other minority groups, and have paid special attention to the coverage of leading personalities under such headings.’ Which is how the otherwise obscure female mathematician Sonya Kowalevskaya, the Australian painter Emily Kngwarreye (‘known as much for being an Aboriginal artist as a contemporary abstract painter’) and the songwriter Nina Simone (both black and a woman) come to be listed alongside the great and the near-great, the famous and the infamous.

We don’t hear the phrase ‘political correctness’ as much these days as we used to, because it has become so unremarkable. What the phenomenon is was best described by George Orwell, in words that — fittingly — are not included in Bartlett’s, despite their familiarity. ’Don’t you see that the whole aim is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thought crime literally impossible, because there will be no words with which to express it.’

If Bartlett’s insists Nikki Giovanni’s words are immortal, while Viscount Melbourne’s are forgettable, if Cambridge asserts Emily Kngwarreye is as worthy of mention as Caravaggio or Monet, it’s because the editors of these books hope to make it harder for their readers to believe otherwise. But it’s always possible to resist. Sell your new editions at the second-hand bookstore, take the money and buy an old  Bartlett’s or an old Columbia Encyclopedia. You’ll lose the entries on Sarah Bagley (a 19th-century labor activist of whose life ‘little is known’) and Betsy Byars (novelist ‘specializing in kitchen-sink dramas’). But you’ll breathe in their pages the purer air of intellectual freedom.

Originally published in The Financial Post

Price-fixing In The Name Of Equality

David Frum August 18th, 1998 at 12:00 am Comments Off

‘OTTAWA, 1999 — A federal agricultural tribunal today compensated Canada’s dairy farmers for years of underpricing of milk. The tribunal found cow’s milk has for decades been priced more cheaply than goat’s milk, notwithstanding that both are equally high in vitamins and minerals. Under the newly established principle of ‘equal prices for food of equal nutritional value,’ the tribunal awarded the dairy farmers $ 4 billion in compensation.’

The federal government is anxiously lofting trial balloons about possibly appealing a human rights tribunal’s decision to award female government employees between $ 1 billion and $ 5 billion in compensation for years of alleged underpayment for their services. We are so inured to the huge sums they toss around in Ottawa that most of us have no sense of how much money $ 5 billion really is. Put it this way: $ 5 billion is the annual difference between a 7% and a 5% goods and services tax. Put it another way: to raise $ 5 billion, Ottawa would have to increase everyone’s income tax rate by 1.5 percentage points. We’re talking about big money.

Apologists for the human rights tribunal argue money is less important than rights and principles — especially the principle, which we have enshrined in law, that people should be paid equally for work of equal value. But is that principle really at stake in the federal pay equity case?

It needs to be said as plainly and bluntly as possible: pay equity is a hoax. The method used to calculate ‘work of equal value’ may involve masses of statistics and complex equations. So does astrology. Astrology is still a fraud, and so is pay equity.

The premise of all pay equity schemes is that something — in this case, labor, but in principle, goat’s milk, automobiles, shoes — can have a ‘value’ independent of its price. A job, they say, can pay $ 24,000 a year, but really be worth $ 26,500. Now it’s true that when we speak, we will sometimes talk about work being ‘undervalued,’ much as we will say ‘our heart is broken’ when we are disappointed. But just as heart surgeons don’t take the latter metaphor literally, economists should not be fooled by the former.

People who work for a living are not helpless, pathetic rag dolls. They are shrewd valuators of their pay and prospects. They know what they can do and they know what their skills can earn. If an employer tries to pay them less than they can get elsewhere, they quit. And ‘elsewhere’ does not mean just across the street: it means around the world. Carpenters will drive from Moncton, N.B., to Vancouver to find opportunity; university graduates flee Montreal for Toronto three days after graduation; restless young people in Winnipeg slip illegally across the border to work as waiters in Chicago.

When a worker decides to stay put, it’s also usually for good reasons. Maybe not reasons that would seem good to somebody else, but reasons that are good to her. Of course she would like to earn more. Who wouldn’t? But the fact is, when she offered her services on the open market, the job she accepted was the one that offered what she regarded as the best combination of pay, satisfaction, opportunities, security and benefits. Her pay was set the same way as the price of goat’s milk: by accepting the best offer.

If someone now wants to come along and say that accepting the best offer is not a valid way of setting wages, the rest of us need to understand the full implications of that. What the pay equity people are proposing is not a little tinkering with wages in the name of equality. What they are proposing is the rejection of the very core of the market mechanism. If the market is ‘wrong’ about wages, there is no reason to think it is ‘right’ about anything else. If government bureaucrats can make Canada ‘fairer’ by tossing out market wages and substituting a number they have made up in their own minds, then they can make Canada ‘fairer’ by rejigging the price of houses, grapefruit and computer software in the same way.

But the market is not wrong and bureaucrats cannot fairly set prices. ‘Equal pay for work of equal value’ is gibberish. The plaintiffs in the pay equity case are not entitled to a nickel. Yes, Ottawa should appeal. But first it must amend its own laws to make clear that in Canada, the promise of non-discrimination will not be perverted into an open door to socialism by stealth.

Originally published in The Financial Post

The International Criminal Court Must Die

David Frum August 17th, 1998 at 12:00 am Comments Off

Bluster minus resolve equals humiliation: That is the Clinton foreign-policy formula. Over the past five years, the United States has endured such humiliations in Somalia, in Yugoslavia, in Iraq, and at the hands of China and Iran. Last month, it suffered yet another — this time at the United Nations.

For five years, the Clinton administration talked and talked in its garrulous way about establishing a permanent international court for prosecuting war criminals. This year, it got its wish. In June and July, representatives of the world’s governments gathered in Rome to vote on a treaty establishing a new International Criminal Court. As might have been predicted — indeed, it was predicted — the treaty is a disaster from the point of view of both American interests and American values, so much so that the Clinton administration has refused to sign it or send it to the Senate.

It’s embarrassing to have to pull the plug on a diplomatic process you started yourself, but the embarrassment is a debacle of the administration’s own making. From the beginning, the Clintonites sent dangerously misleading signals to the rest of the world about what the United States was prepared to tolerate. And perhaps, in their dreamy way, they misled themselves too. This is an administration that has all too often seen American sovereignty as an irritating technicality. This sentence from a speech given by chief U.S. war-crimes negotiator David Scheffer in the Netherlands last October merits parsing: “The shield of sovereignty – which, after all, is the bedrock of international law — and the Cold War prevented the best-intentioned architects of the postwar international system from extending accountability or enforcement beyond state responsibility to those individuals who are the most egregious violators of international law.”

That’s just the sort of self-abnegating talk the U.N. likes to hear from an American. Taking the hint, the Rome delegates went promptly to work on a treaty that refused to pay heed even to America’s minimum requirements. Too late, Clinton administration negotiators frantically strove to salvage from the Rome convention something that might have some remote prayer of ratification by the Senate. But the Rome delegates voted down American compromises and amendments amid scenes of anti-American cheering and jeering reminiscent, according to witnesses, of the worst U.N. excesses of the 1970s. The Clinton administration was obliged in the end to reject its own off-spring. But despite that rejection, damage has been done: As soon as 60 countries accede to it, the treaty goes into effect — and, according to its terms, it will bind not only those countries that sign, but those that don’t. Indeed, unless the United States acts wisely now to forestall it, the International Criminal Court will grow into an institution with a great capability to inflict harm.

It’s tempting to believe that things that are impossibly boring — like the work of the United Nations — are also pointless and unimportant. But as tedious as the discussions and position papers leading up to the creation of the new world court have been, they can only be ignored at great peril to U.S. interests in the world.

The treaty confers on an appointed prosecutor the power to decide that the actions of individuals and governments are “crimes against humanity.” Working closely with a court staffed by judges from a number of different countries, some democratic, others not, the prosecutor will have the power to question witnesses, gather evidence, frame indictments, and issue arrest warrants. The whole court will then try these cases and impose punishments. Supporters of the Rome treaty argue that nobody has anything to fear from it except the world’s Pol Pots. But the treaty’s own language tells a different story.

Article VIII lists war crimes over which the International Criminal Court will have jurisdiction. Here’s one of them: “Intentionally directing attacks against civilian objects, that is, objects which are not military objectives.” Question: Was Hanoi harbor a “civilian object” when President Nixon ordered it bombed in the spring of 1972? What about the presidential palace in Benghazi, Libya, which President Reagan attacked in 1986? How about the electrical and water systems of Baghdad, destroyed by the American bombing raids on Iraq in 1991? Or the camps and neighborhoods of Mogadishu into which President Clinton ordered the Marines in pursuit of Gen. Aideed? Americans will say — rightly — that these “objects” were in every case legitimate targets of war, and that the civilian deaths that resulted were sad but unintended. If the International Criminal Court becomes a reality, however, American opinions of American military actions will no longer be the last word. Not the Congress and the American people but a prosecutor perhaps from Bangladesh, and judges drawn (who knows?) from Ghana, Denmark, Jamaica, Ecuador, Oman, and Malaysia, will decide whether an American president has gone too far in defense of American interests.

Of course, power politics being what they are, the International Criminal Court may hesitate to strike directly at the United States. But Israel will provide a convenient proxy, as it long has in the U.N. General Assembly. The language of the Rome treaty implies that the existence of Israeli settlements in the West Bank constitutes a war crime: “The transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The treaty further appears to declare the very existence of Israel a crime against humanity; it lists “apartheid” as a crime and then defines “apartheid” in language that U.N. agencies habitually apply to Israel.

Defenders of the treaty will say that these ominous possibilities remain hypothetical. Canadian foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy, perhaps the treaty’s single most persistent promoter, says the chances that the court will ever prosecute an American serviceman are “minute.” But there’s little reason to accept that not very reassuring reassurance. The conferees at Rome stripped away the international procedures that have until now protected the interests of the United States from the caprices of the U.N. system, and opened the door to an alarming possibility of interference in and sabotage of America’s ability to defend itself and to guarantee world peace and security.

The United States, like the four other permanent members of the Security Council, can veto important U.N. actions. But the International Criminal Court was carefully structured to deny an American veto. And as the Indian delegate to the Rome conference explained, this was done with the deliberate intention of reducing the influence of the country that through this century has paid most of the bills and shed most of the blood required to defend democracy: “The composition of the Security Council and the veto vested in five permanent members is an anomaly. This anomaly cannot be reproduced and recognized in an [International Criminal Court]. There cannot be one rule for some countries for the exercise of [the court's] jurisdiction and another rule for others.”

Astonishingly, David Scheffer, the Clinton administration negotiator, at one point indicated that the United States might actually accept the stripping away of its once-cherished veto, providing only that some role was reserved for the Security Council. This was the so-called “Singapore compromise”: Instead of putting in the hands of the Security Council the power to start prosecutions (which the United States could thus always veto), it would have given a majority on the Security Council the power to stop them (which would have meant that the U.S. could protect itself only if seven of its fellow Security Council members agreed). Even this compromise was too much for the governments assembled in Rome, though: They voted instead to confer on the court nearly unfettered discretion to decide whom and when to prosecute.

Almost equally intolerable for the United States, the Rome conference vitiated the principle known in U.N.-speak as “complementarity” — the idea that democratic countries can be trusted to prosecute their own William Calleys. Instead the Rome treaty gives the International Criminal Court power to prosecute criminals even in countries with functioning legal systems if the prosecutor believes that the home country of the criminal is “unwilling to prosecute.”

Someday, somebody will have to explain why so many alleged democrats of the late twentieth century were so eager to vest political power in bodies unaccountable to any electorate. But that is what the backers of the International Criminal Court want. In a fascinating speech last December, Louise Arbour — the Canadian chief prosecutor of the Yugoslav and Rwandan war-crimes tribunals – declared, “Subject to legitimate national-security concerns, which should be adjudicated by the court, governments should not control, nor should they be perceived to be controlling, the prosecutor’s access to relevant evidence.” In other words, the international court, and not the duly elected leaders of a country, ought to have the last word about what is vital, and what is not vital, to a country’s national security.

Nobody expects the International Criminal Court to go around subpoenaing the U.S. secretary of state right off the bat. It will take a while for the court to work up its nerve. But direct accusations against the United States are not the only way for this body to make a nuisance of itself. Suppose a civil war breaks out within a country in which the United States has a vital national-security interest. The American interest in such a conflict will probably lie in
pacifying it as quickly as possible, by bringing the leaders of the warring factions to the table. But what if those faction leaders have blood on their hands? The last thing an American diplomat needs, after a long day of persuading the various sides to put down their arms and negotiate, is to have some ambitious U.N. official show up to serve subpoenas. True, the treaty creates mechanisms by which the United States can ask the court to cool its jets. But why should it have to ask?

Considerations like these have obliged even the feckless Clinton State Department to abandon the treaty it sponsored. Now the United States must decide what to do about it. There are four main choices: wait and see, renegotiate it, subvert it, or fight it.

The wait-and-see option would mean giving the court time to establish itself, perhaps providing technical assistance so as to prevent it from acting too idiotically. This risks conferring undeserved legitimacy on the court without in any way curbing its potential to damage U.S. interests. This will be the course preferred by the squishiest officials of the Clinton State Department.

Renegotiation is perhaps the most dangerous alternative, and it’s (naturally) the course that the Clinton administration seems most interested in. It entails striking a rhetorical hard line against the treaty in its present form, while pleading with the treaty’s sponsors in Canada and Europe to offer the United States some concessions that might provide an excuse for an American signature. In other words: another round of bluster and irresolution leading inevitably to yet another humiliation.

In closely reasoned testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in late July, former assistant secretary of state John Bolton sketched out the third option. He argued that the United States should isolate the International Criminal Court: make clear that the U.S. will pay no heed to its decisions and refuse in any way to cooperate with its work, all with an eye to reducing its status to that of a UNESCO or some other futile U.N. bureaucracy where the nephews of African and Asian dictators find refuge. Meanwhile, Jesse Helms, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, is urging the Clinton administration to adopt the fourth option: combat the court directly — by, for example, refusing to keep troops on the soil of countries that have acceded to the treaty.

Some combination of options three and four will emerge as the foreign policy of the next conservative administration. But in the meantime, there are three things that the United States should do immediately: announce its unwavering refusal to accept the jurisdiction of the court; reduce its contribution to the U.N. budget by a dollar for any dollar that the U.N. devotes to the International Criminal Court; and declare that any attempt by any country to arrest or interfere with any American at the behest of the court will be deemed an unfriendly act.

Among its many charming habits, the Clinton administration has repeatedly condemned all criticism of its foreign adventuring as “isolationism.” But if there is anything likely to stir up the old spirit of American isolationism, it is the arrogant attempt by a world body to displace American sovereignty and American law with unaccountable, unelected quasi-governmental world institutions. Real internationalism is, now and always, internationalism that defends and vindicates American interests and American constitutional values. It’s no paradox at all: Those who most want America to play a constructive role in the world must most vehemently insist that the International Criminal Court be junked.

Originally published in The Weekly Standard

Ah, The Summertime Joys Of A Cold, Impersonal Roadside Motel

David Frum August 1st, 1998 at 12:00 am 1 Comment

‘Click here for a note from Humphrey, the world’s favorite inn cat.’

That, I’m very sorry to say, is an actual link on the Web site of a bed and breakfast on the way to my in-laws’ cottage. Every year around this time my wife and I plan the route from our house to my in-laws’, and every year we find ourselves wondering: what on earth is it about the innkeeping business that accounts for its fatal fascination with the cutesy-poo?

‘In her spare time, Kathy enjoys reading, sewing, and collecting strawberry items, angels and other interesting collectables.’ Of course she does. I have a brochure here from another B&B, this one in Kansas, whose logo is a fat, pink cherub alongside a cow. Angels exercise a fatal fascination upon the owners of beds and breakfasts, second only to teddy bears. Travelling through Vermont, I once stumbled upon a B&B called the Teddy Bear Inn, whose owners covered their lawns with dozens of miniature Adirondack chairs with teddy bears on them. And alas, it’s not unique. There are Teddy Bear Inns strewn all the way from Vermont to Oregon — in fact, the Web site of the Oregon Teddy Bear Inn offers a 15% discount to anyone who can count all the bears pictured there.

A friend of mine from New York used to travel regularly to Vermont on business. He always stayed at the same place: a Motel 6, 30 minutes by cab from his destination. Wasn’t that inconvenient? I asked him. Not nearly as inconvenient,
he replied, as staying at the bed & breakfast in town, and being awoken at seven in the morning by the innkeeper knocking on the door and shouting, ‘Fresh muffins, by cracky’

The dark obverse of the cutesy-poo personality is its authoritarianism. ‘We ring the chimes to let our guests know when breakfast is ready,’ a Pennsylvania B&B says. At the Motel 6, you get breakfast when you want it, you’re permitted to start the day with plain toast instead of double-fudge muffins, and you’re even allowed to read the newspaper while eating. But B&B keepers – who have been up since dawn preparing their banana fritters and bacon pie and pineapple blintzes — are irked by such antisocial behavior.

Shortly after we were married, my wife and I attended the wedding of a friend in a small Ontario town. Accommodation was tight, and we were booked into the local B&B, managed by a twittery woman who sat at the head of a long breakfast table and motioned to every guest to join her as they came downstairs.

We allowed ourselves to be bullied the first morning, and sat down where she indicated. All through the meal she demanded, with a significant leer, to know whether we had enjoyed our night. The next morning, we skulked downstairs and bolted for the door, hoping to make it to the local diner. She was too quick for us, intercepted us at the door, and steered us to her table. ‘Oh, of course: you two lovebirds want to be alone.’ And then she hovered over our table, winking at us, until we accepted our defeat, and invited her to sit down and tell us the story of her life.

I know thousands of people enjoy this sort of hospitality, but I always find something rather ominous about the ads that tell me how friendly the owners of a B&B are. All too many of these places should be termed a B&B&A — bed and breakfast and autobiography: ‘For ReRe, [yes, that's her name] owning the Brickyard Barn Inn is an opportunity to indulge her decided flair for professional and private entertaining.’ ‘Several of Andy’s siblings live in or around Topeka.’

We live in a world that is all too often cold and impersonal. But I can’t help wondering whether there isn’t some sensible middle way between impersonality and having a hotel manager tell me where each and every one of his brothers and sisters can be found. If there isn’t — if we really must choose one extreme or the other — then reserve a room at the Motel 6 for me alongside my misanthropic friend. And you can pass my serving of sour-cream turnovers and honey-glazed dumplings to Humphrey the cat.

Originally published in The Financial Post