LONG WEEKEND ROUNDUP
Must-reads: Scott Taylor on Kosovo; Daphne Bramham and Rex Murphy on Barack Obama; Greg Weston on Canadians imprisoned abroad; Dan Gardner on deluded environmentalists; John Robson on Canadian Catholics; Peter Worthington on Tibet.
Ottawa grab bag
An Easter Monday tour of Ottawa, from the Human Rights Commission to the Ethics Committee, the Serbian Embassy and Stockwell Day’s office. (He’s not there, by the way, and can’t be reached—especially if you’re in a foreign prison.)
Until 2007, George Jonas writes in the National Post, “all the zeal, obsession, civic-mindedness, ambition, sincerity or malice” of Brian Mulroney’s “inquisitors, trackers, clairvoyants and persecutors … hadn’t produced one tittle of evidence that he violated any legal or ethical standard.” In 2007, Karlheinz Schreiber, left with few remaining options to avoid extradition to Germany, “pitched his adopted country a ball.” If this matter was anything other than an undignified political witch hunt, Jonas argues, we wouldn’t be running with it.
Not only did recognizing Kosovo royally cheese-off Serbia, Scott Taylor writes in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, but it amounts to recognizing a non-entity. Most of Kosovo’s “legitimate revenue” comes from European Union handouts, nearly half of its citizens lucky enough to be employed work distributing those handouts or in support of foreign troops, “the region boasts the highest number of prostitutes per capita in the world,” and ethnic Albanians killed three dozen minority ethnic Serbs as recently as four years ago. Meanwhile, he notes, “those jubilantly celebrating their ‘independence’ are waving the Albanian flag—not the American-designed new Kosovo flag.” There’s still time for Ottawa to “come to its senses,” Taylor suggests.
The Toronto Star‘s Haroon Siddiqui asks whether “human rights commissions [should] judge what is, or is not, hate literature,” concluding that yes, they should, because that’s part of their mandate under the Human Rights Act. One begins to wonder if he’s actually missed the point that spectacularly—that he thinks people were suggesting the HRCs have no such mandate, rather than that they shouldn’t, or that they’re misusing it—but he changes tack abruptly and says that “we should get the human rights commissions out of the business of regulating the press.” But until then, he argues, the HRC must investigate complaints from Muslims, however spurious, just as it has investigated complaints from non-Muslims, lest it be accused of a double standard. Hell of a way to run a country, that is.
The Calgary Herald‘s Don Martin reveals his choices for the best “six-word memoirs” of various Canadian public figures—e.g., Stephen Harper: “Vote for me—or I’ll sue.” With a few exceptions, they’re pretty awful.
Sun Media’s Greg Weston reveals that during Stockwell Day’s tenure at Public Safety, the number of Canadians convicted of crimes overseas and allowed to transfer to Canadian prisons has plummeted. It’s gone from a “rubber stamp” arrangement, which Weston seems to think is ideal, to a “screw them” approach, as articulated in a B.C. community newspaper, which most reasonable people would agree is not. Given this state of affairs, Weston says Brenda Martin has little reason to hold out much hope of salvation. We think Weston might have mentioned that Martin has explicitly rejected accepting such an arrangement, but it’s interesting information.
Quebec’s first minority government is producing favourable results, Chantal Hébert argues in the Toronto Star. Premier Jean Charest seems reinvigorated, the Parti Québécois is “re-examining its social democratic creed with an eye for policies designed to generate more collective wealth” and abandoning a sovereignty referendum as Job One, and the Action démocratique is “exploring different approaches to immigration and demography.” Ottawa’s second minority government, Hébert continues, is producing yet more crappiness, where “non-of-the-above—or the Green Party—is becoming a serious default option.”
Alberta’s road to perdition
Ed Stelmach’s greenhouse gas emissions targets make the federal government’s unattainable, The Globe and Mail‘s Jeffrey Simpson reports, and furthermore they will “completely obliterate” the positive effects of British Columbia’s carbon tax. (We don’t recall Simpson mentioning this when he was tearfully nominating Carole Taylor for sainthood, but never mind.) And Alberta’s problems go well beyond Ottawa, he warns. By 2050, he believes Alberta will be “the pariah of jurisdictions internationally.” We look forward to the feds’ international “Blame Edmonton” ad campaign.
On the bright side, Lorne Gunter suggests in the Edmonton Journal, citing plummeting sales in oil and gas rights, Ed Stelmach might have single-handedly destroyed the oil patch economy with his ill-advised royalties grab. Of course, the money is flowing to Saskatchewan and B.C, which might make up the difference in emissions. But if Gunter has his way, the newly-elected Stelmach majority will soberly reconsider the new royalty regime and bring the good times back to northern Alberta.
After all, Gunter notes in the Post, five years of data from submersible Argo buoys deployed around the world hasn’t shown any warming in the oceans—which is a key factor in the climate change models. Naturally, he sneers, brainwashed scientists have been quick to question the buoys and not their dominant warming hypothesis.
Organizations like Greenpeace dismiss carbon capture and storage, Dan Gardner notes in the Ottawa Citizen, and they can’t stand nuclear power even though the threat it poses pales in comparison to their apocalyptic climate change predictions. “What they want instead is a big campaign for energy conservation coupled with promotion of green energy sources such as wind, solar, and biomass”—which, in an amazing coincidence, is precisely what they’ve been advocating for decades. There’s an innate leftist distrust of big business at play in their blinkered attitude, says Gardner. But he also suspects their judgment has been impaired by “years of vilification.” “Nuclear is a threat,” he mimics. “Nuclear kills. Nuclear must be eliminated.” (Ample supporting evidence can be found here.)
The Vancouver Sun‘s Daphne Bramham is unconvinced by Barack Obama’s much-lauded reaction to the Jeremiah Wright controversy. “We don’t choose our relatives,” she says, identifying the “huge difference” between the private comments of Obama’s unenlightened white grandmother and Wright’s incendiary rants before “thousands of cheering people.” But more fundamentally, she wonders why a man who “not only envisions a ‘post-racial society’ [but] seemed to embody it” would listen to Wright in the first place.
Rex Murphy, writing in the Globe, makes precisely the same point. “Why would a ‘healing’ politician, one who sought to transcend race or ‘move past’ race, be a congregant in such a church with such a pastor?” he asks. Whatever the answer, and no matter how effective his speech last week, Murphy says the “most compelling dynamic” of Obama’s campaign—a black man for whom “race was not the fulcrum” of his presidential bid—has been neutralized.
All that may be, Susan Riley writes in the Citizen, but it remains in “everyone’s interests to rescue public discourse from the 24-hour news loop, the gore-splattered political arena, the obsession with petty crime and personal foibles.” That’s the part of the message that resonates north of the border, she suggests, where “menial-minded, risk-averse leaders” ensure little progress is made on climate change, the plight of aboriginal Canadians and other intractable problems.
The Star‘s headline department summarizes Thomas Walkom‘s column perfectly. Headline: “Is Bush the worst U.S. president ever?” Subhead: “Historians might argue over ranking, but there’s no doubt he has been an unmitigated disaster.” The only notable feature of the piece not captured there is its penchant for mixed metaphor. Our favourite: “His thrusts at social security reform were stillborn.”
Of hypocrites and apostates
If one showed up to chess club and “played trumpet instead of chess,” John Robson suggests in the Citizen, one would not “think it odd” if one was summarily shown the door. Yet thousands upon thousands of Canadians feel free to “reject the authority of the Bishop of Rome [and] yet remain in its church”—and they tend to howl in protest when someone like Terrence Prednergast, archbishop of Ottawa, calls them out. Robson reserves his greatest scorn for Catholic politicians who claim their constituents’ concerns outweigh those of the God they claim to believe in. This, he quite reasonably argues, is idiotic.
Outspoken Italian newspaper editor Magdi Allam’s conversion from Islam to Catholicism will only richen the bounty on his head among Islamists, Colby Cosh predicts in the Post. But the reaction among mainstream Italian and European Muslims will be more interesting to watch, he says—and so far, Islamic leaders have said all the right things. Allam’s post-Muslim life will be “a test of whether there can exist true freedom of religion when converts of one kind live in peace and those of another dwell in fear,” he concludes.
Of prostitutes and opportunists (prostitunists?)
We knew Rosie DiManno would find something other than figure skating to write about in Sweden… and it’s hookers! Four decades after “launching the sexual revolution,” she reports in the Star, this nation of statuesque blondes and ubiquitous social workers (many of them statuesque blondes) has recently seen a bizarre anti-prostitution alliance between arch-fe
minists and “the Mrs. Grundy faction.” In short: johns are prosecuted, but prostitutes never are, on the assumption that they are victims, and their “decision to trade in flesh [was] not a reasonably considered choice.” DiManno sounds highly skeptical, but declines to explicitly condemn or support the scheme.
50-year-old women who gave up careers at 25 to raise children and run a household while their husbands win the bread “ought not to be tossed into a competitive and unforgiving work world and told to sink or swim” if their marriages fall apart, the Globe‘s Christie Blatchford quite reasonably contends. Heather Mills is not such a woman, she quite reasonably continues. Indeed, she’s altogether ghastly, and apparently indicative of a growing sense of entitlement even among women who “marry the ordinary Joe.” Blatchford wonders where these women get the “confidence” to march into court and demand money for nothing. (We suspect the answer is “from lawyers.”)
The Toronto Sun‘s Peter Worthington has had enough of western governments and the United Nations voicing displeasure over various slaughters of the innocents around the world—from Rwanda and more recently Darfur to Iraq and more recently Tibet. And he wonders how anyone can “mouth ‘Never Again‘” when it comes to modern-day atrocities with a straight face. “Military action against China on behalf of Tibet is out of the question,” Worthington concludes. “What isn’t fair, is our silence—and reluctance to even consider boycotting the Beijing Olympics.”
The Star‘s James Travers files another Passive-Voice African Travelogue, a weird, utterly infuriating genre that we believe he invented. (Sample: “To drift around southern Africa after a decade away is to be slapped hard by a couple of changes.” Our suggestion: “I recently drifted around southern Africa, ten years after my last visit, and was slapped hard by a couple of changes.” But we digress.) Among all the things that haven’t improved, he reports, the ubiquity of cell phones is a positive development. They don’t just connect people, he argues. They, and their embedded cameras, provide a “slow drip of acid on authority.”
Two recent cost/benefit analyses of the counter-terrorism measures enacted since 9/11 have shown a return of between 9.5 and 15 cents on the dollar, the Citizen‘s Dan Gardner reports. Hawkish right-wingy types might dismiss this as overly simplistic, he says, but alas, they already accepted as gospel data commissioned by the same organization that found anti-global warming efforts were terribly cost-inefficient aria. If they dismissed these latest findings… why, they’d be hypocrites!
Pauline Marois’ suggestion that English language instruction in Quebec’s francophone schools needs to be improved is a rare example of a politician addressing “a real language problem instead of its effects,” Don MacPherson writes in the Montreal Gazette. The constitutional and legal battles over Bill 104, which closed a back door into the English school system for families that wouldn’t otherwise have access to it, is an example of the latter. Politicians both Péquiste and Liberal would rather duke it out in the courts than help Quebec parents satisfy their desire for bilingual offspring, MacPherson alleges.
The Toronto Sun‘s Peter Worthington eulogizes George Gross, the paper’s legendary sports editor and “day-oner,” who passed away last week at 85.