Oily duck, Tasered pork, and apple crumble for desert

Must-reads: Don Martin on the world’s most famous dead ducks; Greg Weston on election financing; Terence Corcoran on the StatsCan war.

Ottawa wants a new drug
The capital is relatively quiet, but the pundits are vexed over heroin, statistical tomfoolery, the quietness itself, Gordon O’Connor (remember him?) and, of course, the old in-and-out.

The Globe and Mail‘s Margaret Wente deems the credentials of Tony Clement’s Insite panel “irreproachable,” saying “they don’t seem to have an axe to grind.” But while their report has been hailed as a vindication of the Vancouver safe-injection site, Wente believes its findings are “at best mixed.” She seems to mean it’s a mixture of the positive (it has prevented some overdose deaths and “increased access to detox and treatment”) with the inconclusive (nobody knows how many deaths or how much of an increase). It’s a little weird that she would consider Insite’s limited reach—it “accounts for less than 5 per cent of all injections in the Downtown Eastside”—a potential negative rather than grounds for expansion, especially since she declares herself a pragmatist when it comes to drugs. Which is bloody odd itself, considering her nonsensical stance on marijuana.

In the Financial Post, Terence Corcoran launches a withering attack on the Canadian media for going crazy over one Statistics Canada release showing that lower- and middle-class individuals’ earnings have stagnated over the past quarter century, and completely ignoring another release, mere days later, showing that total family incomes have risen considerably over the same period.

John Ivison files what could pass as his resignation from political punditry, decrying in the National Post that empty legislative agenda and the complete disappearance of election fever, and swiping as per usual at Stéphane Dion as he goes. This column does represent Ivison’s long-awaited follow-up to his famous dismissal of what would become the in-and-out affair, however, as “an eye-glazingly complicated tale that has failed to gain any traction in the national media.” His take, seven months on? Remarkably, it’s pretty much the same. “The Liberal quest for scandal has produced more dead ducks than a toxic Alberta tailings pond.” (More on that below.)

The Toronto Star‘s James Travers again flirts with unreadability, which is unfortunate, since the column is just a bog-standard jab at the Conservative paranoia machine. “Core Conservatives [are] comfortable in their suspension of disbelief,” he argues. “They are convinced,” for example, “that independent watchdogs are happiest when biting the hand that feeds them bark loudest at these ruling strangers.” We have no idea what that means. And it all begins with an attack on Gordon O’Connor for his handling of the online tax return filing fiasco that reads as if the first three paragraphs are missing. What, exactly, was wrong with extending the filing deadline but not the payment deadline? Travers offers us no clue.

With questions now arising over the Conservatives’ accounting practices with regard to polling expenses, Sun Media’s Greg Weston has had enough. If taxpayers rather than individual donors are going to fund political campaigns, he argues, “throw[ing] open the books of all political parties and candidates to far greater public scrutiny” is the only way to go—and not just the Torys’ books, of course, but the Liberals’ too. “What other government operation would get away with telling taxpayers it spent $4.5 million—almost 15% of its entire 2006 budget—on ‘other’?” he asks.

Damn-fool Democrats on the march!
The Globe‘s Jeffrey Simpson suggests Hillary Clinton is trying to turn Barack Obama into a latter-day Adlai Stevenson, by hammering away at his purported elitism and abandoning her own history of embracing “policy analysis” in favour of unconvincing populist stances on gas prices, “obliterating” Iran and smearing her opponent.

Also in the Globe, John Ibbitson assesses the possible outcomes in the North Carolina and Indiana primaries, and how they’ll affect the superdelegates’ decisions. If Obama wins both, he says, Hillary would likely concede some time before June 3. If Clinton wins both, “the superdelegates might well decide that Ms. Clinton has conclusively demonstrated she’s the more electable candidate” and hand her the narrowest of victories. And if Clinton takes Indiana and Obama takes North Carolina, as expected, then the superdelegates will have to think for themselves—and quickly, for the good of the party. (Dangerously, given Ibbitson’s and every other pundit’s record in this campaign, he neglects the possibility that Obama might take Indiana and Clinton North Carolina, as well as the chance of an Armageddon-esque asteroid strike on South Bend.)

All this intrigue is silly, the Toronto Sun‘s Peter Worthington contends. “By being too smart by half, the damn-fool Democratic party has made itself look both incompetent and corrupt by having superdelegates second-guess voters instead of trusting a simple majority as Republicans do,” he writes. It leads straight to a “cesspool of … in-fighting” within the party, he argues, all of which is allowing Clinton to chip away at Obama’s once-insurmountable lead.

If we order the foie gras, will anyone share it with us?
Alberta’s dead ducks ha… oh God, those poor ducks! Sorry. Damn it, we promised we wouldn’t cry. Just give us a second. Okay. We’re okay now. Alberta’s dead ducks have, the Vancouver Sun‘s Barbara Yaffe suggests, “forced people to ask, what sort of place is the Aurora tailings pond that it could kill off so many birds who did nothing more than light on its lagoon-like liquidity?” Dead ducks forced people to ask that, did they? Not the ostensibly “grotesque abnormalities” in fish caught downstream, health complaints from local human beings, or the “outrageous carbon emissions and … enormous amounts of water and natural gas” used to extract oil from the tar sands? Not the fact that aesthetically speaking, as Colby Cosh put it, the mines “make for a convincing portrait of hell on earth”? Either Canadians are much stupider than we thought, or much smarter than Yaffe believes.

The Calgary Herald‘s Don Martin wins lunch on us—the pâté to start, we think, and then the confit de canard—for being the first Megapundit to say he doesn’t give a fat damn about all these dead birds. “Had the Syncrude grovel and government investigations of the incident been aimed at possible consequences for Cree and Dene populations living downstream,” he argues, Stephen Harper’s utterly bizarre description of the event as a “terrible tragedy” might have been fitting. But it wasn’t. It was aimed at ducks. Enough already.

Duly noted
Andrew Cohen
, writing in the Ottawa Citizen, explores the idea that a symphony is the perfect national metaphor for Germany, in that it’s a densely populated country whose people need to “organize themselves carefully” and “emphasize the collective over the individual” to be successful. He concludes that the metaphor is apt—particularly since the German government funds the arts to the tune of roughly 98 quadrillion Euros a year—and that Germany is an absolutely terrific place.

The Post‘s Jonathan Kay notes a new study showing that Taser blasts to a pig’s chest can lead to quantifiable “stimulation” of the heart muscle—and that when the pigs are “infused with adrenaline” (is anyone else getting hungry?) the risk of cardiac events increases dramatically. But Kay doesn’t think Tasers should be banned as a result. Rather, cops should simply be trained to aim away from the chest. “A significant … number of folks would unnecessarily end up in body bags if police officers had to reach for their service pistol every time they confront a drugged-up lunatic with a broken bottle or a knife,” he argues—or, we’d add, in the case of Robert Dziekanski, when they confront someone armed with absolutely nothing. Training is an issue, no question. But when to use a Taser, not just where to aim it, seems just as pressing an issue to us.




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