Canada accidentally recognizes independence of Basque Country, Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Quebec - Macleans.ca

Canada accidentally recognizes independence of Basque Country, Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Quebec

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Must-reads: George Jonas on Kosovo; Peter Worthington on Obama.

American grab-bag
Racist preachers, adulterous state governors and Ed Stelmach, together under one heading!

An admiring Peter Worthington post-mortems Barack Obama’s “A More Perfect Nation” speech in the Toronto Sun, arguing he’s likely saved his skin as far as the Democratic nomination goes. But he says “the real damage may come if (when) he wins the nomination and moves into the presidential campaign against Republican John McCain.” For better or for worse, he argues, race is now a part of this campaign. And “Hillary’s ‘white’ supporters, in unknown numbers, may opt for McCain over voting for Obama.”

“At the moment,” The Globe and Mail‘s John Ibbitson notes, “there are three senators, 11 representatives and nine former representatives who have been indicted or who are under investigation” for various kinds of malfeasance. The ex-governor of New Jersey may or may not have had a “hardcore consensual sex orgy” with his gay lover and wife, who is furiously denying the allegation for the purposes of the couple’s extremely messy divorce. And incoming New York governor David Paterson “disclosed this week that, yes, he had had several affairs during his marriage. But that was okay; so had his wife.” Considering the “nation expects its leaders to demonstrate their Christian commitment,” Ibbitson thinks, “there are an awful lot of misbehaving public figures, these days.”

If Obama or Clinton find themselves in the White House and stick by their protectionist guns, the Edmonton Journal‘s Graham Thomson reports they’ll soon be engaging the Alberta government in a duel over so-called “country of origin” food labelling. Supporters say they just want Americans to know where their food comes from, but as Ed Stelmach recently said, “how do you label a Campbell’s soup can” in 2008? Protectionists don’t much care, says Thomson. They just know “some food-processing companies will buy 100-per-cent American raw materials so they don’t have to through the bureaucratic bother of figuring out where the various ingredients came from.”

Unintended consequences and the Balkans
Kosovo’s independence is the inevitable result of a war launched by “politicians who emerged from a 1960s generation of confused peaceniks, eco-freaks and draft resisters,” George Jonas writes in the National Post. The hippies sought to forestall the ethnic cleansing of Albanians and facilitated that of Serbs, in short, and Jonas thinks superior men and women would have foreseen that outcome. “[P]erhaps we hesitated recognizing [Kosovo],” he suggests, “because we recognized that we should have hesitated going to war for it.”

The Toronto Star‘s Thomas Walkom, meanwhile, is one of these people who believe Canada has set a precedent in Kosovo—that the government must now recognize “any ethnically based province that decides to unilaterally break away from a larger state.” Why is this the case, you might ask? Because of Hamas, of course—what are you, simple? Because Stephen Harper “has insisted on injecting what he calls a moral element into foreign policy”—for example, by not speaking to the legitimately elected government in the Gaza Strip—Walkom believes that recognizing Kosovo must indicate moral acceptance of ethnic nationalism and unilateral declarations of independence.

It seems to us, however, that the moralist approach actually gives a government more leeway than the “all nations are equal” approach to make such distinctions. But then, it also seems to us that Quebec is about as much like Kosovo as it is like Nigeria, so clearly we’re missing something.

Duly noted
Behold the Star‘s James Travers, Master of Ledes: “Bob Rae is just too good to be entirely true to Stéphane Dion.” We lost count of the number of things that could mean at about eight. What Travers wants it to mean is that while “[b]uilding a more robust team” is in the Liberal party’s interests, it necessarily comes at the price of Rae’s own leadership ambitions and at the risk of what Travers sees as innate suspicion among Canadians of “government by committee.” And while Rae reduced months of Liberal capitulation to a handy catchphrase, “strategic patience,” where Dion struggled for months to articulate the strategy, Travers says no one man can shore up the party’s “flimsy platform planks.”

“It’s hard to imagine” how Jean Charest’s $75,000-per-year salary top-up from the Quebec Liberals “makes Charest any more obligated than he already is to the party that got him his job in the first place, and on which he depends to keep it,” says the Montreal Gazette‘s Don MacPherson. As such, he argues, it’s especially eyebrow-raising that the party didn’t bother telling anyone about it for 10 years. What account did it come out of, he wonders? Can a donor contribute directly to that account, and, if so, “does Charest know the identities of his benefactors?” All are questions the Liberals could have avoided with proactive disclosure, MacPherson writes, and that the province could prevent by joining every other Canadian province and legislating disclosure of outside sources of politicians’ income.

The Globe‘s Christie Blatchford reports from the trial of three army reservists charged with murdering a 59-year-old Toronto man, ostensibly for the crime of sleeping on a park bench. The defence strategy is beginning to emerge, she relates: the three men were drunk as lords, and the victim, Paul Croutch, may not have been as helpless as it appears. We have yet to discern
the relevance of whether the three men were “weekend warrior” soldiers, as per their defence attorney John Rosen, or seasoned “combat soldiers,” as prosecutors allege. But we can certainly see why Blatchford would want to cover this trial.

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