Bob Rae to the rescue


Must-reads: Rex Murphy on Eliot Spitzer; Dan Gardner on enabling terrorists; David Olive on the end of oil; Chantal Hébert on Liberal fortunes; Scott Taylor on Canadian military myth-making; Margaret Wente on educating troubled teens; George Jonas on “politicized science.”

The night of nights
Oh, what heights the Liberals will hit in the wake of today’s by-elections. On with the show, this is it!

The Globe and Mail‘s Lawrence Martin writes—take a precautionary Gravol here—that both Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae “espouse, to borrow a phrase from Arthur Schlesinger, the gospel of excellence.” This is silly, since everybody knows only Ignatieff does so. But when Rae takes his rightful place in the House of Commons, Martin says he and Ignatieff will splint the broken leg that is Stéphane Dion. And Rae, apparently, will “make [the Tories] feel the hurt'” over Cadscam, NAFTA-disasta, Schreibergelder, etc., where Ignatieff couldn’t. We’ll believe that when we see it.

Chantal Hébert, writing in the Toronto Star, suggests the Grits are vastly overestimating the “water-cooler” value of those scandals. Perhaps boring old policy might be something the party could focus on, she muses. (A witch! A witch!) Perhaps, she continues, the party might even set its sights on a 2009 election while coming up with those policies. After all, she says, “the pain involved in bending repeatedly to the government’s will was hardly worth it if the time gained … is not put to more productive use than pasting Dion’s name on a campaign bus.”

They might not be anything to run an election on, but the Star‘s James Travers thinks “clangers” like Cadscam, NAFTA-disasta and “the threat Canada will be dragged back to the prim ’50s by new age morality police censorship” have sheltered the Liberals from the fallout of Dion’s uninspiring leadership. (For the benefit of sane people outside Ottawa, he’s talking about the no tax breaks for smut affair, or Smutscam, as we hereby dub it.) As a result, he concludes, today’s by-elections should really be “about casting off bonds and finding new direction,” not launching into the stratosphere.

It’s “a bit rich” for the Liberals to be so fired up about the NAFTA leak, says Sun Media’s Greg Weston, considering Paul Martin’s deliberate (and hilariously hypocritical) attempt during the last election campaign to paint the U.S. as climate change laggards. It’s especially rich, he adds, considering that while Ian Brodie is guilty of indiscretion, and “the leaking of the memo [was] reckless and stupid,” this really isn’t that big of a deal.

Lorne Gunter believes he’s being charitable in estimating that 68 per cent of the immigrants who come to Canada each year “are people we unquestionably want”—people, that is, who “have a better than average chance of making a net economic contribution,” plus their spouses and children. The remaining 32 per cent are mostly “family reunification” immigrants, i.e, siblings, grandmothers, etc., who tend to be more of a drag on the welfare state. Thus the government’s decision to cut that number down makes perfect sense, Gunter argues—indeed, Liberal immigration ministers Lucienne Robillard and Judy Sgro came to the same conclusion, only to see their ideas thrown under the election bus. Nevertheless, he predicts in the Edmonton Journal, “Canada’s chattering classes … will immediately brand the Tories as anti-immigration, and whisper that they might be racist.”

The twilight of terrorism
If “real terrorists” went around comparing themselves to the Red Army or the Wehrmacht, Dan Gardner argues in the Ottawa Citizen, “they’d be written off as lunatics.” Instead, he says, war-of-civilizations types have bestowed that honour upon them by insisting these gun-toting thugs constitute an existential threat to the west. If al-Qaeda had a PR man looking to spread some propaganda money around, Gardner predicts he’d hand it not to some lefty New York Times type but to David Frum, on condition he keep writing things like, “Attention nervous flyers: Don’t think you can escape the terrorists by taking the train.”

The Globe‘s Lawrence Martin tips his hats to a fellow with the unimpeachable name of Marc Sageman, who believes global terrorism is now “loose, disparate, leaderless and therefore … not destined to endure without Western provocation.” Indeed, Sageman apparently believes the entire terrorist forces now amount to “a few dozen” former Afghan mujahadeen, “about 100” old guard al-Qaedists and a whole gaggle of “bored,” irascible youth like the Toronto 18, many of whom “don’t even speak Arabic … or know the Koran.” Martin suggests Canada’s new “less combat” mission in Afghanistan is a reflection of t
his contemporary reality.

Scott Taylor, writing in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, advises Peter MacKay to remember (assuming he knows in the first place) “that the self-inflating propaganda and rhetoric” about Canada “punching above its weight” in military matters “is not substantiated by fact.” Even the “shirking Frenchies,” Taylor notes, boast a standing army, defence spending, and foreign deployments in stabilization missions that put Canada’s to shame.

Foreign justice
Between Brenda Martin’s lack of access to counsel and translation services, and the fact that she’s basically being prosecuted by the same man who investigated the money laundering scheme in which she’s implicated, the National Post‘s John Ivison is furious at the treatment the Canadian citizen has received from Mexican authorities. “The government simply has to raise its game or this woman is going to die in a Mexican prison,” he writes. If Maxime Bernier receives no satisfaction from his Mexican counterpart this week, Ivison suggests a travel advisory be issued as the first retaliatory measure.

Meanwhile, the Star‘s Thomas Walkom pipes up, Omar Khadr has been in jail for six years, and is finally being “tried in a kangaroo court for an alleged crime that took place when he was a child on the strength of what appears to be fabricated evidence.” Which is indeed appalling. But Walkom’s theory of this government’s indifference—(a) that it divides Canadian citizens into “those it likes and those it does not,”; and (b) that it will only go to bat for someone who “run[s] afoul” of a country it’s “opposed or indifferent to,” such as Mexico, Saudi Arabia or China—makes absolutely no bloody sense. Indeed, (b) pretty much cancels out (a). And since when is Ottawa “opposed or indifferent” to Mexico? And if this is a Tory pathology, then how does Walkom explain the Liberals’ identical do-nothing approach?

MacPherson on Quebec
Thanks to provisions in the Quebec Election Act exempting the ridings of Îles de la Madeleine and Ungava from the minimum population requirements, the Gazette‘s Don MacPherson notes, some Quebec voters “can have two-thirds more influence” than others. Some even believe the province “now has the most ‘unequal’ electoral map in North America.” Thus, he applauds the courageous decision from the Chief Electoral Officer to redraw the boundaries in a more equitable fashion.

Meanwhile, he notes, a party “that has been known to argue over punctuation” was busy enshrining Pauline Marois’ policy proposals—including washing its hands, for now, of that whole referendum business—with little to no opposition. That might not sound like great news for the Parti Québécois, but while they’re entrenching, MacPherson says the Action démocratique is splintering. Despite leader Mario Dumont’s 94.8 per-cent approval rating at the weekend’s convention, he says, it featured “unprecedented dissension, over immigration policy and Dumont’s secret salary.”

Goodbye Albany, hello Washington, D.C.
The Vancouver Sun‘s Daphne Bramham can’t understand why the media seems less interested in Eliot Spitzer’s manifest immorality than in “the woman who led [him] astray” and in his wife, whom some have apparently suggested was somehow neglectful of her marital duties. We concede her point about giant front-page depictions of the photogenic prostitute in question, but we can only conclude that Ms. Bramham reads, watches and listens to different media than we do—or that we haven’t been properly trained to decode their messages. We’ve seen plenty of condemnation of Spitzer’s conduct, both from legal and familial standpoints.

To wit, here’s Rex Murphy—quoting William Blake and Shakespeare, naturally—arguing that “[a] governor who rents women is complicit in the state’s decay,” while lamenting that such a sentiment is likely “too crisp and emphatic for our relaxed age.” He ruefully predicts Spitzer will soon be applying “[t]he warm, moist towelettes of pop therapy” to salve his “personal tragedy.” It’s an absolute triumph, this piece, particularly the following line with regard to the so-called Emperors Club: “Napoleon would never check in as ‘George Fox.’ ”

The best Hillary Clinton can hope for at this point, L. Ian MacDonald argues in the Montreal Gazette, is to make up the gap in the popular vote between herself and Barack Obama, then pitch her campaign to the superdelegates as the one that can win “all the big states, from New York to California.” This is not going to happen, MacDonald assures us.

Duly noted
“How is it,” the Globe‘s Christie Blatchford demands to know, “that in 2008, in the most unforgiving parts of the country, families are living cheek by jowl, or in tinder-box trailers, or sleeping in shifts in conditions that would be acceptable nowhere else by no other group of people?” There are decades-worth of reports on suicide, poverty, unemployment and “the reside of residential schools,” she writes, and yet nobody seems to notice until “protesters block a road or a railway.” Even in Afghanistan, she says she’s never seen the “defeat or compliance” that predominates on Canada’s most downtrodden reserves.

The Globe‘s Margaret Wente visits Toronto’s Regesh School, a privately run organization that reengages troubled youth with their education, and more to the point with behaving like normal, respectful human beings. Founder Ed Schild says the much-derided concept of self-esteem is key to the turnaround—some of the students, he tells Wente, “have no idea what it’s like to be successful. They don’t even know what the experience is. You literally have to bring it to their attention.”
The school amounts to “an intensive form of substitute parenting,” Wente concludes—proof, she says, that yet another “lesson in identity politics” is not going to drag them towards success.

Time was it was chiefly Marxists and Nazis who propagated the idea that lying and coercion “in a good cause is OK,” George Jonas writes in the Post. “[B]ut it doesn’t take a Marxist or a Nazi to bully and lie.” Today, he notes, campaigners and governments gleefully bend the truth to fit their climate change or anti-smoking (or anti-drug) agendas. And “politicized science,” he warns, is far more dangerous to your health than cigarettes.

“To be sanguine about oil continuing to play its huge role in the global economy requires a belief in a lot of things going right,” David Olive writes in the Star. And he’s got a whole lot of corroborating evidence to prove it. Guzzle gas while ye may, people. The end is bloody well nigh.

Lorne Gunter, writing in the Post, argues against installing British-style closed-circuit surveillance cameras in Canadian cities on grounds that “the right to be left alone” underpins all the other delightful liberties we enjoy. And we agree. But the July 7, 2005 London Underground bombings are an odd example to cite. True, the cameras didn’t save 52 innocent lives. But two weeks later, they played a key role in identifying and capturing some very dangerous characters.

The Toronto Sun‘s Peter Worthington concedes “there’s no way to right what was clearly a wrong,” namely, Washington’s and the UN’s decision to bomb Serbia based on trumped-up evidence of genocide against Kosovar Albanians. But, he argues, “at the very least the truth of what happened should be recognized.”

He also relays the heartwarming tale of a Jack Russell terrier lost by one Toronto family, found and adopted by another, and eventually returned to the original family, reducing numerous children in both families to blubbering wrecks.

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