These days, no news is good. Period.

Paul Wells on how everywhere the news is the same: bad

by Paul Wells

These days, no news is good. Period.

Tara Todras-Whitehill/AP

The other day, Martin Scorsese screened his new 3-D children’s movie, Hugo, for his daughter Francesca, who was turning 12, and 50 of her friends. Two thoughts occur:

It’s probably a good thing Scorsese didn’t have a daughter turning 12 the year he made Taxi Driver.

It’s official: you’re an inadequate parent.

“What? A pinata?! Daddy, I wanted 3-D Jude Law! Francesca’s dad gave her 3-D Jude Law!”

This is the kind of autumn we’re having, people. Trouble and woe in every direction. We are way past the days of “No News is Good News.” We are well into the realm of “No News is Good.” It’s as if the entire world had turned into a Maclean’s magazine cover.

The omens and portents are many. Consider these two isolated data points:

Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S. resigned amid allegations he was trying to enlist the Obama administration in a struggle to keep Pakistan from falling under military control.

Billy Crystal is going to host the Oscars again.

Sure, the scale of these potential disasters is not quite the same. But as Dan Gardner reminded us in his book Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear, risk is the product of a nasty event’s magnitude, multiplied by its probability. So “nuclear-tipped Islamo-fascist Pakistan” would be a bigger problem, if it came to pass, than “way-too-long opening musical number in dubious homage to the Best Picture nominees.” But it’s also less of a sure thing. So basically you should worry as much about one as the other.

Everywhere the news is the same: bad. In Washington, the bipartisan congressional debt supercommittee turned out to be a partisan congressional debt supercommittee, which means it was unable to decide how to fix the jumbo American debt. The panel never had a chance of succeeding. As soon as it admitted failure, everyone went right back to work on whose fault this all was.

“What’s most disappointing about that is that our President has had no involvement in the process,” Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said. “Instead, he’s been out doing other things: campaigning and blaming and travelling.” Romney, who has had no involvement in the process, made his comments in Nashua, N.H., where he had travelled to campaign.

Failure of the debt panel “guarantees” (i.e. probably does not guarantee) a series of tax increases and spending cuts meant to reduce the debt. These measures are designed to be automatic. So they will not be automatic. The chairman of the House armed services committee, Howard “Buck” McKeon, said he will bring in a bill to prevent the automatic cuts. So (a) words have no meaning and (b) countless billions of dollars’ worth of war machinery and, who knows, maybe the very credibility of the U.S. economy, now depend on the actions of a guy named “Buck.”

In Egypt, the army has finally agreed to early elections, which could well mean triumph for the Islamic fundamentalists. The “liberals”—the groups that want the most democracy, as Canadians understand the term—prefer a later election, because the democrats can’t win if voting happens now. The good news is Egypt’s army and its fundamentalists aren’t in open warfare. The bad news is they’re starting to get along.

The top-grossing film in North America is the latest Twilight movie about pale, pouty vampires. Taylor Swift, who swept the American Music Awards, has the top-grossing tour in North America. Here I have no punchline. I figure I don’t really need one.

In Ontario, Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals returned to office with a Throne Speech that used the words “uncertainty” and “slow” four times each. Perhaps surprisingly, the Throne Speech wasn’t referring to U.S. Republican party presidential candidate Herman Cain, who told an interviewer he thinks a military strike against Iran would be a bad idea because Iran has mountains. “I’m not supposed to know anything about foreign policy,” Cain told a campaign rally later. “Just thought I’d throw that out.”

Perhaps the best demonstration that a leader should know as little as possible about foreign policy is Michael Ignatieff. The former Liberal leader, BBC globetrotter and Kennedy School thinker is the subject of a new book by our distinguished colleague Peter C. Newman, who signed on to chronicle Ignatieff’s triumph in the recent elections but who remains flexible based on changing events. Newman is down on the Liberals these days, but remains oddly persuaded Ignatieff had greatness in him.

“This party needs to change, this party has to grow, this party needs to renew,” Ignatieff told Newman in July, 2010. “We’ve got a hell of a lot of work to do.”

“If people could have only heard the way he talked to me on the bus,” Newman writes. I think that’s precisely backwards. People heard, loud and clear, that the Liberals need to change, grow and renew, and that they had a hell of a lot of work to do. So people declined to elect them.

Meanwhile, the news continues to roll in. The Canadian Press reports that Canada’s multi-billion-dollar F-35 jet fighters may be unable to communicate with ground troops or older aircraft, if the F-35s ever even get delivered. It’s that kind of autumn.




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These days, no news is good. Period.

  1. I wonder if reading that article is like sitting through your therapist’s sessions?  A bit here, there and everywhere but I actually found it quite interesting! Keep it up Paul. 

  2. Darn – I can’t remember which loyal Liberal pundit (G&M?) threw out the idea Mark Carney would be suitable to lead the party when his BoC term is over.  This guy ‘felt’ Carney reflected Liberal values/quality and a big plus ‘everybody likes him’.

    • I think it was Lawrence Martin.

  3. The reason the news is so depressing is that the average citizen is snoozing through the process — so no-one is holding those in charge accountable resulting in their acting in what they perceive to be their own self interest –

  4. It’ll be even worse next year at this time when we’ll have to listen to Mayan end-of-the-world hysteria, so enjoy the calm while you can.

    • Well this is rare, but I have to say I couldn’t agree with you more.
      I have a feeling the level of apocalyptic clap-trap everywhere will be truly oppressive next December.

  5. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way- in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

  6. We all have our different examples of why we fear the four horsemen are on the way, two of mine are:

    1) China Factory Unrest Flares:

    In factory towns across China’s export powerhouse in the Pearl River Delta, a vicious cycle of slowing orders from the West and increasing wage pressures has led to a series of major strikes that could reverberate through the economy.

    The strains underline recent warnings of a looming export slowdown from a senior Guangdong official and a survey of country-wide industrial activity in November that showed the worst contraction since 2009.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/25/us-china-factory-strikes-idUSTRE7AO04C20111125

    2) Daily Telegraph ~ Death Of A Currency: 

    The defining moment was the fiasco over Wednesday’s bund auction, reinforced on Thursday by the spectacle of German sovereign bond yields rising above those of the UK.

    Contingency planning is in progress throughout Europe. From the UK Treasury on Whitehall to the architectural monstrosity of the Bundesbank in Frankfurt, everyone is desperately trying to figure out precisely how bad the consequences might be.

    What they are preparing for is the biggest mass default in history. There’s no orderly way of doing this. European finance and trade is too far integrated to allow for an easy unwinding of contracts. It’s going to be anarchy.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/jeremy-warner/8913884/Death-of-a-currency-as-eurogeddon-approaches.html

  7. perhaps if we didn’t spend quadrillions on guns and bullets we would have got somewhere ..

  8. I don’t know how Liberal supporters think but from outside it looks like Liberal elite don’t like their base – it takes quite a bit of chutzpah for Iggy to tell party’s supporters they are inadequate and must work harder. And Apps is doing it as well – Lib elite have done everything correctly and it just the base who are lazy and must work harder.

    Libs are snobs with no unifying ideology other than Libs must be in charge because they are awesomest of awesome. Libs should stop waiting for a saviour – like they are with Mark Carney at the moment – and do hard work themselves instead of standing around with thumbs up their bums but that’s not going to happen.  

    Blackadder ~ I’ve got a plan so cunning, you could stick a tail on it and call it a weasel

    ““This party needs to change, this party has to grow, this party needs to renew,” Ignatieff told Newman in July, 2010. “We’ve got a hell of a lot of work to do.”

    • As you say, you don’t know how liberal supporters think. Snobbery is now just a liberal trait according to you. Where do you get this crap from? Stop reading nothing but PJ O’Rourke and Thatcher bios…please.

  9. huzzah

  10. “When i was a gal we were all trying to be mad in a sane world. Now it seems we are all trying to be sane in a world gone mad,”

    Margaret Rutherford…the late great British character actress…sadly i forget which film.

    That’s what you have to perfect Paul…the art of forgetting. Either that and or crack open a good vintage of your choice, put something nice on the audio system and kick back and watch the whole human race flush away its precious inheritance down the crapper; all because we’re basically too self centred to risk not getting our fair share or fearful someone might get more…oh and grab yourself a little love while you’re at it, it’s the only thing you’ll remember or regret not doing in the end.

  11. A more correct comment may be ” no news THAT IS REPORTED is good news” and it is simply that real reporting is a thing of the past, a dinosaur. Now a reporter just regurgitates whatever presents on the wire services and thinks of it as reporting. This likely is due to the control of media exercised in ‘free’ societies.

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