Must-reads: John Robson on the Greyhound murder; Christie Blatchford on Adam van Koeverden; Rosie DiManno on the athletes’ village; Dan Gardner on our horrible future; Vaughn Palmer on the World Trade University; Lorne Gunter on the Wheat Board.
The federal miscellany
The Liberals are still broke, the Wheat Board is still a communist abomination and Stephen Harper is still tearing the country apart. On the bright side, TGIF!
Lorne Gunter says the Liberals “simply cannot afford to fight a general election”—a shocking revelation the Edmonton Journal quite understandably put in its headline—and as such will be forced to play “crutch to the Tories’ Tiny Tim” for the foreseeable future. The truth is revealed in paragraph 14, however, where Gunter pegs the likelihood of the Grits being able to afford an election campaign “without resorting to more bank loans” (our emphasis) as “highly unlikely.” So, there you have it: they’ll resort to more bank loans. Problem solved. Thanks for stopping by.
The Vancouver Sun‘s Barbara Yaffe (who filed her wildly oversold assessment of Grit finance yesterday), handicaps the battle for Vancouver-Centre between lefty poli-sci professor Michael Byers and incumbent Hedy Fry, arguing it will be “one of the most compelling” races in the coming election (which will occur once the Liberals take out some more bank loans). Byers’ chosen issues: homelessness in his tiding, the “militarization” of the Arctic, shutting down private medical centres, “taking a break” from combat in Kandahar, big government solutions to climate change, and cruise ships “spew[ing] diesel fumes into Vancouver’s harbour.” Fry’s chosen issues, so far as we can tell: incumbency, not upsetting the applecart, and the benefits of the status quo.
The recent Informa Economics report on the Canadian Wheat Board’s allegedly dodgy math proves it doesn’t hold nearly the sway in the world agricultural market that it’s long claimed, Lorne Gunter crows in the National Post, and it suggests Canadian farmers have been bilked out of billions extra they might have gotten in a free market system. And math aside, Gunter argues, that really is the point: “In a free country, it is simply wrong to coerce someone to sell the fruits of his own labours only to the government, even if he might earn some marginal profit as a result.”
The Victoria Times-Colonist runs Andrew Cohen‘s column from Tuesday’s Ottawa Citizen, which is very helpful because we somehow neglected to mention it then. Cohen, unsurprisingly, is one of those “Canadian traditionalists” Lawrence Martin predicted would be driven “bananas” by Stephen Harper’s and Lawrence Cannon’s vision of an even more decentralized nation. “At a time when Canada is falling behind the rest of the industrialized world in health care, urban renewal, high-speed rail, energy conservation and other critical areas,” he laments, “the federal answer is not to lead a national effort seeking national solutions. It is not to speak for Canada.” It is instead to propose “an association of princely states, duchies and caliphates run by regional pashas.”
The best three weeks of every four years begins!
The Globe and Mail‘s Christie Blatchford profiles canoe-kayaker Adam van Koeverden, Canada’s flag-bearer at today’s opening ceremonies in Beijing, whom she appreciatively describes as a “recognizably a solid citizen.” Van Koeverden acknowledges the “inherently selfish” nature of individual sports such as his, and speaks to Blatchford about his experiences in Africa as an ambassador with Right to Play. Asked about nerves and the traditional flag-bearer’s curse, he points to the world’s many disadvantaged children and claims serenity. “I’m just going for a walk with a flag.”
The Toronto Star‘s Rosie DiManno and fellow journalists are taken on a tour of “the Jock Zone,” i.e., the luxuriously appointed athletes’ village where 11,452 Olympians “are pampered, cocooned, massaged, buffed, entertained, enlightened, nutritionally monitored, medically attended and altogether waited upon hand and foot.” There’s even free dental work! Michael Phelps is having none of it, however, explaining to DiManno that he’d spent the previous day sitting around playing spades with fellow athletes. “I pretty much stay in my room and watch movies all day.” Fascinating.
The future of death
John Robson, writing in the Citizen, suggests Tim McLean’s murder is a good opportunity to reflect on the trust we put in our fellow man “not suddenly to stab us or run us over as we walk down the street pondering where to eat lunch”—and to conclude not that the world is a horrible place where gruesome death stalks us all, or that we need to ramp up bus security, but that almost invariably, “even the strangest-looking [of our fellow men], or those with the weirdest internal monologues going on, do not so much as punch us in the nose.” In other words, he argues, we should realize how lucky we are not to have had “death as a seatmate yet,” stride confidently out the front door and redouble our efforts to be compassionate, productive human beings.
“It bears repeating that those of us lucky enough to live in this place at this time are—indisputably—the safest, healthiest, and wealthiest people who ever lived in the entire long history of Homo sapiens,” says the Citizen‘s Dan Gardner, while acknowledging the futility of that repetition. The human brain is inherently afraid of the future and fond of the past, he writes, which is why grandfathers always see “golden ages behind them”—no matter how much war, pestilence, famine and totalitarianism those ages contained—and foresee grim futures for their grandchildren. It’s also why George Monbiot and Naomi Klein sell so many books, he suggests.
The Journal‘s Graham Thomson reports on the official opening of the Joint District Co-ordination Centre in the Zhari district of Kandahar province, which will theoretically allow Afghan police and army, and NATO troops, to respond better to reports of insurgent activity—which locals can now phone into a new “911 call centre.” At the ribbon-cutting, Thomson notes, “the boom of howitzers at the nearby Canadian firebase could be heard” backing up the six Canadian soldiers injured in yesterday’s IED attack.
The Vancouver Sun‘s Vaughn Palmer looks at the B.C. government’s embarrassing support for the now-abandoned World Trade University project, suggesting politicians never seemed to consider that a “mothballed Canadian Forces base near Chilliwack … was an unlikely headquarters for the touted globe-straddling network of nine campuses with thousands of students.” As it turned out there were far bigger problems, Palmer notes—WTU’s president isn’t a doctor, it doesn’t have a UN mandate, and it doesn’t already have two campuses, all of which the government had asserted to the legislature. At the end of the day, Palmer says, what we have here is a bunch of “proverbial hicks” from an “unsuspecting backwater” being taken for a ride by a “skilled promoter.”
China’s last-minute decision during recent global trade negotiations to join India and other developing nations in demanding the right “to introduce special measures to protect their farmers in the event of a ‘surge’ in imports” had little to do with farmers, the Globe‘s Jeffrey Simpson suggests, and more to do with the fact the Chinese just don’t think such an agreement is “all that important” given their already astronomical trade surpluses. This augurs poorly for future climate change negotiations, Simpson suggests, since China is the world’s biggest emitter and since “some of the industrialized countries will be unable to sell substantial reductions if China does nothing, or next to nothing.”
The Post‘s Colby Cosh believes the growing phenomenon of rock musicians performing classic albums live in their entirety, even as music consumers are more likely to download individual tracks, makes perfect sense—especially for artists well past their primes, who know they “have little hope of selling us a sufficient quantity of the next record to do more than break even.” The price of concert tickets having skyrocketed in recent years, live performances are now “bread and butter” for such performers, he argues. And if “you’re charging $120 for a ticket, you had better give the fans the bread and butter they damn well want,” which is all of the classics and none of the new crap.