Must-reads: John Ibbitson and Peter Worthington on Jeremiah Wright; Richard Gwyn on Bear Stearns; Jonathan Kay on Tibet.
The party’s over
Obama’s spiritual adviser is a foaming-at-the-mouth conspiracy nut and the economy is in a slow counter-clockwise swirl. Abandon hope, all ye who read on.
“Questions far outnumber answers” when it comes to Barack Obama’s so-called “spiritual advisor,” Pastor Jeremiah Wright, says the Toronto Sun‘s Peter Worthington. “As Obama keeps reminding Americans: ‘Words matter,’ ” he notes. So how is it that Wright’s extremist comments on race, Israel, 9/11 and AIDS are only coming to light now? And what does it say about Obama’s judgment that he waited this long to disavow the man who presided over his marriage and baptized his children?
Obama’s claims never to have heard Wright preach as he does in the incendiary videos that sparked this controversy strike The Globe and Mail‘s John Ibbitson as “unlikely.” Nevertheless, he argues, the comments should be taken “in context.” Sure, black liberation theology holds that America “deserved” the 9/11 attacks and that Washington created the AIDS virus to kill black people. “But the broader message emerges from a cultural tradition forged in slavery and Jim Crow.” We’ll take Ibbitson’s word for it. But we’d prefer someone in the White House who, upon hearing such rubbish, would put his children’s hats and mittens on and storm out in search of a saner house of worship.
Five years after the invasion of Iraq, Jeffrey Simpson says it’s “easy to forget how many people supported the invasion of Iraq, including many people in Canada”—not least the Canadian Alliance in opposition and media that “did not do an adequate job of scrutinizing what was being said.” If there’s a point to this column beyond that, we’ve missed it completely.
By loaning JPMorgan $30 billion to buy Bear Stearns, the Toronto Star‘s Richard Gwyn argues, the Federal Reserve has effectively “nationalized” a company that must bear significant blame for the subprime mortgage crisis. And “the money to do this is coming from ordinary American taxpayers,” he adds, “many suffering the consequences of that financial crisis in the form of lost houses and jobs.” What the Fed is doing, Gwyn argues, is “engage[ing] in a massive exercise of moral hazard,” laying the groundwork for the next generation of unscrupulous financiers to lay the groundwork for the next crisis.
“When the banks fail,” the Star‘s Thomas Walkom warns, “and in everything but name, Bear Stearns did fail …. the whole system jams up.” Americans are already buying fewer “cars, trucks, brake linings [and] two by fours – all things that we sell them,” he warns. And as more and more banks discover “that great chunks of their investment portfolios are turning to dross,” and with Canadian governments unwilling to run a deficit even temporarily to maintain services, Walkom assures us the party is well and truly over here in our peaceable Dominion.
Bob Rae’s return to the House of Commons “has noticeably deepened the Liberal gene pool and sharpened an Official Opposition attack squad with a strangely wobbly government in its sights,” Don Martin writes in the Calgary Herald. But whether the addition of another “hefty alpha male” to the party’s front benches is cause for hope or concern depends entirely on what you think of Stéphane Dion. “[H]aving a bounty of replacements isn’t exactly what Dion craves as a measure of his bench strength,” he notes. But it says here that excessive bench strength is always better than none at all—which, it also says here, is pretty much Stephen Harper’s situation.
Meanwhile, Sun Media’s Greg Weston informs us, House Speaker Peter Milliken is leading a five-MP junket to Peru—a venture Weston derides as a mixture of sightseeing, wining-and-dining and pointless glad-handing. (At least Tory MPs Ted Menzies and James Rajotte will “actually get to talk to journalists,” he quips, “albeit only Peruvians.”) This comes at a time when Foreign Affairs is issuing rather dire travel warnings for certain parts of the country, Weston notes, though we’re not quite clear on what that has to do with anything.
Homeless in Canada
The Globe‘s Christie Blatchford reports from the trial of three Canadian army reservists accused of beating a homeless Toronto man to death outside the Moss Park Armoury, then turning their violent attentions to a female passerby who threatened to call police. Prosecutor Hank Goody says he “expects the evidence will indicate one or more of the three soldiers ‘was apparently under the influence of alcohol.’ ”
Also in the Globe, Margaret Wente points to a CBC Newsworld documentary as evidence that helping the homeless is far more difficult than your average left-leaning politician makes out. After the film’s director, Nijole Kuzmickas, takes a young drug-addicted couple under her wing, the male half of the
relationship “spends the rent money on a dog, and they run out of food.” The lesson “is not that the homeless can’t be helped,” Wente stresses, but that “the problems of the people we see sleeping on the streets are more intractable and complex than most of us imagine.”
Israel, meet Tibet
Andrew Cohen, writing in the Ottawa Citizen, tries to imagine what will go through the mind of German Chancellor Angela Merkel during her historic address to the Knesset in Jerusalem today. Neither she nor Ehud Olmert can pretend to inhabit the world of the Holocaust, he notes—indeed, Merkel was born after the war and can bear guilt for the Third Reich only through concerted, valiant effort. But that, Cohen contends, is exactly what the Germans do. “Berlin, in particular, groans with” reminders of the Holocaust, he writes. Quite simply, he concludes, “Germany understands the sacred need to remember.”
From the million Tibetans killed after the 1950 invasion to the destruction of monasteries and the “massive flood of ethnic Chinese migrants, who’ve made the Tibetans a minority population within their own territories,” the National Post‘s Jonathan Kay suggests “the Tibetans have a far better claim to the world’s sympathy than the Palestinians.” As such, he sarcastically assumes CUPE will any moment now be unveiling their anti-China boycott, the UN will condemn China as loudly as it can, and the Beijing Olympics will be cancelled. “Anything else amounts to a ‘double-standard,’ ” Kay sneers. “And that’s simply unthinkable.”
The Star‘s James Travers expresses his disappointment, which we share, that the pricklier elements of John Manley’s Afghanistan report—dealing with “porous borders” and “the Karzai administration’s own endemic corruption,” for example—were ignored by Conservatives “determined to neutralize Afghanistan as an election issue” and Liberals desperate to create an illusion of party unity. Given that we’ve “punched above [our] weight”—Travers should talk to Scott Taylor about that—”stood shoulder-to-shoulder with allies and repeatedly paid the ultimate price,” Travers argues we should be demanding coherence from our allies, not just troops and equipment.
The Edmonton Journal‘s Graham Thomson has a message for all those “academics and pundits and experts gnashing their teeth over the anemic turnout rate” in the provincial election: the turnout was in fact lower than 41.3 per cent, because nobody knows how many eligible voters weren’t on the list. Given massive recent immigration to the province, Thomson thinks it’s safe to say there were a lot.