Bring her home to stop the whining

Must-reads: Doug Saunders on “Americanizing” the Afghanistan mission; Christie Blatchford on rescuing child abuse victims; James Travers on the food crisis; John Ivison on the doctor shortage; Don Martin on Brenda Martin.

Must-reads: Doug Saunders on “Americanizing” the Afghanistan mission; Christie Blatchford on rescuing child abuse victims; James Travers on the food crisis; John Ivison on the doctor shortage; Don Martin on Brenda Martin.

Departmental briefings
Criticism and advice for the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Citizenship and Immigration, Finance and Defence. And a finger in the eye for the Liberals.

The Calgary Herald‘s Don Martin implores Foreign Affairs to get Brenda Martin (who is clearly of no relation) home from Mexico as soon as is humanly possible—guilty, innocent, whatever; he just wants the whining to end. “Canadians increasingly find it tiresome to hear griping from someone who has received more media and government attention than all other foreign-held Canadians combined,” he writes, “most of them proclaiming their innocence with the same gusto Martin has shown.” Indeed, he rather trenchantly suggests, “the only apparent difference between the Martin case and so many others seems to be her regular access to phones.”

Although last week’s Michael Ignatieff fundraising event raised many awkward leadership-related implications for the Liberals, Sun Media’s Greg Weston says the biggest problem still comes down to cold, hard cash. With a spring election still very much a possibility, he argues, the “party bagmen are already attempting to pry the same pennies from the same Grit pockets as Ignatieff and the former leadership contenders who are trying to pay off their debts.” If Dion dug in his heels after inevitably losing the election, that would cost more untold millions for a leadership review convention. And if he lost, “all those wanting to be his replacement would be back begging the same party donors for more millions.”

Foreign-trained doctors who come to Canada eager to contribute have terrible trouble landing the residency positions they need to become accredited in Canada, John Ivison writes in the National Post, and yet our teaching hospitals “have been accepting trainees from foreign countries in record-breaking numbers—all of whom come here at their governments’ expense and then return home once fully trained.” This is largely a visa issue, Ivison notes, and as such “Ottawa should take a serious look at whether Canada’s long-term interests are being hawked for short-term profit. If they are, a moratorium on the university intake of foreign trainees should be put in place, pronto.”

Why don’t Americans seem to care about the massive deficits that their government runs, and that the three remaining presidential candidates propose to continue running? “Maybe the numbers are too large to be understood,” The Globe and Mail‘s Jeffrey Simpson suggests. “Maybe the U.S. anti-tax attitude is so deep that it trumps all else.” Thankfully, he opines, here in the civilized north, Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin bravely dragged us kicking and screaming out of the deficit era. Which makes it all the more odd, Simpson writes, is that a Conservative government would risk falling back into deficit by increasing spending and transfer payments, and cutting business taxes and the GST, at a time when the economy seems poised to go into the tank.

The Globe‘s Doug Saunders reports that soldiers and military commanders on the ground in southern Afghanistan are welcoming plans by American forces to go on the offensive in Helmand province against what U.S. General Dan McNeill calls some “truly intractable dudes.” What they’re not so sure about, however, is the proposed “Americanization” of their own missions, “including lengthier deployments for soldiers, harder-line opium-poppy-eradication strategies and the use of military forces in reconstruction and humanitarian work.” It won’t be an issue for Canadian troops for now, says Saunders, but it will be once the much-vaunted 1,000 American troops arrive in Kandahar province. One unnamed Canadian official hopes the Marines “can do their learning over there [in Helmand], make their mistakes over there,” before they start working with the Canadians and other troops under Canadian command.

How to solve the food crisis
The Toronto Star‘s James Travers argues that the growing global food crisis is a golden opportunity to help small farms in Third World countries vastly increase their yields. “Driving smallholder yields from low to high makes better long-term sense than supercharging already superproductive corporate farms,” he writes, but it takes a lot of money, time and effort to get the fertilizer and infrastructure to where it’s needed. Unfortunately, he says, “it’s easier and more politically rewarding to simply prime the domestic farm pump.”

If the Globe‘s Margaret Wente had a time machine, she might also have a column worth reading about all the unintended consequences of the biofuels revolution. But she doesn’t have a time machine.

Duly noted
“Indiana is everything,” John Ibbitson writes in the Globe. “If Mr. Obama can take it, he refutes Ms. Clinton’s accusation that white, blue-collar workers won’t vote for him, especially in the Rust Belt states of the Midwest.” And he says it would really, really help if Jeremiah Wright went “away, far away, to some place without phone service, and stay[ed] there until after the general election.”

The Edmonton Journal‘s Graham Thomson gets letters after arguing, as he did on Saturday, that Greenpeace risked turning Ed Stelmach into a victim by disrupting his speeches and lumping him in with baby seal murderers. After all, Thomson contended, Albertans did elect the guy. “What, all 20 per cent of eligible voters who voted for his party?” one reader quips. It’s a fair point, Thomson agrees, but he’s sticking to his guns, arguing that this is simply one of the many injustices inherent in Alberta politics. Now that it turns out one of the Greenpeace stuntmasters was an NDP staffer, for example, her boss—MLA Rachel Notley—has to decide whether to discipline her and risk the ire of her environmental supporters, or give her a free pass and be portrayed “as an accomplice to a political stunt aimed at the premier.” Such is political life in Wild Rose Country.

The Globe‘s Christie Blatchford looks at the case of a German child rescued from his abusive father with the help of Toronto Police Detective Constable Warren Bulmer, whose detailed evidentiary analysis of child pornography has helped identify nearly 50 victims around the world. But the German case highlights an emotional paradox in Bulmer’s work, she notes, in that local police allowed both the boy and his father to be photographed and identified. “Instead of simple euphoria that the sexual abuse has been stopped, ‘I also start to feel bit worse,'” says Bulmer. “On the one hand, the boy has been freed from a life of sexual assaults. On another, in one fell swoop, he has been orphaned and outed.”

Andrew Cohen writing in the Ottawa Citizen, laments the impending closure of Tempelhof Airport in what was West Berlin, the main staging area for the 1948-1949 airlift that kept the city alive during the Soviet blockade and site of many other historical events. But “it isn’t just about war,” he adds. Sitting in the massive, “Teutonic icon” of a terminal building “is to recall aviation when flying was about romance, elegance and style.” (There’s a lot of that going around lately, for some reason.)

“The letter carriers I’ve met are perfectly decent, hard-working chaps,” Jonathan Kay writes in the Post. But if even a few of the rank-and-file share their union leadership’s views on Israel—in CUPW’s words: “boycott, divestment and sanctions”—he wonders if Israeli interests in Canada can count on receiving their mail. Besides which, he argues, all the anti-Israel rhetoric, “communist clichés and Trudeau-era anti-capitalist paranoia” littering the union’s website are just bad for business. “If you have something to send to Tel Aviv, would this … information make you more or less likely to use Canada Post?” (Our answer: we couldn’t possibly be less likely to use Canada Post to send anything anywhere under any circumstances whatsoever.)