These days, no news is good. Period. - Macleans.ca

These days, no news is good. Period.

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

by
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.