Megapundit: I can’t believe it’s margarine!

Must-reads: Daphne Bramham on Daniel Igali; Richard Gwyn on foreign aid; Colby Cosh on margarine; Dan Gardner on torture.

Nobody’s talking about even remotely the same thing today, so we’re just going to divide today’s Megapundit up newspaper-style. We suggest you enjoy it with coffee and some kind of pastry, drenched in the yellowest margarine you can find.

The Vancouver Sun‘s Barbara Yaffe casts doubt on a Daily Telegraph editorial (as one should on anything forwarded to one’s inbox by Ryan Sparrow) that called Stephen Harper “talented but curiously neglected” on the world stage, lauded his record of tax-cutting and keeping “spending in check,” and noted his “popular and successful record in office.” As Yaffe explains, and which you already knew, this is all a tad oversimplified—and in the case of spending, arguably flat-out wrong.

Lorne Gunter, writing in the Edmonton Journal, takes issue with David Herle’s argument (in yesterday’s Globe) that Stéphane Dion’s conciliatory approach among carbon-belching Albertans and Saskatchewanians is proof of his belief in a united Canada and of his overarching magnanimity. “Since when do you get brownie points for doing the minimally decent thing?” asks Gunter, who’s more inclined to believe that Dion’s soft-pedal approach was a desperate attempt to hang onto every Liberal vote, and the federal funding that comes with it (see John Ivison yesterday), even as he pitches yet “another wealth transfer from the West to central Canada.”

The Toronto Star‘s Chantal Hébert kicks off the latest round of by-election prognostication, prophesizing doom should the Liberals lose in Westmount or Don Valley West—which they clearly won’t, so we honestly fail to see the point in worrying about it. The races in St-Lambert and Guelph are slightly more interesting, we suppose, since it would be “ominous news” for the Liberals and Tories if the Bloc Québécois hung on to the former, and since the latter represents “a test of the governing party’s capacity to gain ground in the flagging heart of Ontario’s manufacturing base.” We just cling to this strange, probably insane view that in absence of some monumentally surprising outcome, by-elections are just… you know, by-elections.

The funding and organization of on-reserve aboriginal education in Canada has fluctuated wildly over the years, The Globe and Mail‘s Jeffrey Simpson argues, and yet the deplorable figure of 60 per cent not graduating from high school has remained a constant. That’s unlikely to change, he believes, until the fundamental issues afflicting many Canadian native reserves—isolation, lack of economic opportunity, etc.—are addressed. Which they never will be, he concludes, in a climate where any attempts to “exercise more control, or to be more demanding of results … would smack of ‘colonialism,’ ‘paternalism’ and a residential schools mentality.” So… yeah. Not much good news on that front.

The National Post‘s Terence Corcoran dismisses the 15-cent text message foofaraw as a media-hyped witch hunt against “the evil telecom giants” over a “charge that almost nobody will pay,” since most heavy users already have (or should have) bulk or all-inclusive text messaging plans. And it’s distinctly embarrassing, Corcoran believes, to see Industry Minister Jim Prentice dignifying the ridiculousness with a clumsy, “me-too!” response.

The Burmese typhoon and 2005 tsunami highlight some of the perils of foreign aid, Richard Gwyn argues in the Star: that genuine tragedies will be used as fundraising campaigns by NGOs; that generous donations will be thrown around too lavishly in recipient nations, creating resentment and other unintended consequences; and that, ultimately, well-meaning organizations will take over vital services from local governments, however inept, creating a kind of “new colonialism”—a problem that’s particularly acute, Gwyn suggests, in Afghanistan.

The Journal‘s Graham Thomson reports from a pancake breakfast at Kandahar Airfield in honour of the American helicopter pilots who warned a Canadian convoy of an incoming suicide car bomber last week. Understandably, he reports, the new armoured vehicles in which the unharmed Canadians were travelling are getting rave reviews. The Calgary Stampede-themed event was somewhat diminished by a missing shipment of cowboy hats, Thomson reports, which are apparently “lost somewhere between Calgary and the Kandahar Airfield.”

John Robson, writing in the Ottawa Citizen, waxes ecstatic over British Tory leader David Cameron’s fire-and-brimstone speech against political correctness and “moral neutrality,” arguing Canada could use plenty more of that from its politicians. On the other hand, he concedes, if Canadians have an affinity for plain speech, they don’t generally show it at the ballot box. After all, he rather brilliantly quips, “look what we let Dalton McGuinty do to John Tory over faith-based schools, while sending his own kids to one.”

In the Globe, Rick Salutin complains that Stephen Harper at the G8 summit “joined in piling onto Zimbabwe … for its ‘fraudulent election’ and ‘illegitimacy'” but “showed no sense of perspective: that the U.S. held a fraudulent election in 2000.” This is precisely why we don’t generally inflict him on Megapundit readers. For God’s sake, Mr. Salutin, you’re a grown man!

The Citizen‘s Dan Gardner attempts yet again (successfully) to destroy the fallacy that torture isn’t torture unless it involves “electric shocks and severed fingers,” and the circular logic that any American interrogation technique isn’t torture by virtue of it being employed by Americans, who don’t torture people. But we totally disagree with his contention that Canadians would be outraged on Omar Khadr’s behalf had he been mistreated by “the Saudis—or any other Third-World government, for that matter.” If it was some other 15-year-old had been captured and mistreated in similar circumstances, then maybe. But the widespread Canadian death-wish for Khadr is, in our opinion, a deeply personal (and disturbing) thing.

The Iraqi troop surge is working, the Globe‘s John Ibbitson argues, and it was all John McCain’s idea. Advantage… Obama. Huh? Well, for one thing, Ibbitson says stability in Iraq may allow Obama to shift the campaign’s focus onto the domestic economy, where he “has the advantage.” More complicatedly, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s demands for a deadline for US troop withdrawals could allow Obama to stick to his original anti-war script, even while he benefits from McCain’s surge, and to argue for refocusing on Afghanistan.

To the extent that it affords Quebeckers greater lipidic freedom, the Post‘s Colby Cosh applauds Quebec’s decision, at long last, to allow yellow margarine to be sold within its borders. (Foreign readers will think we’re putting them on, but alas, we are not.) But he can’t get too overjoyed about a decision that’s only possible “because canola producers now have about as much pull as dairy farmers.” Ultimately, he argues, this is a “concession” from the province’s “agriculture cartel” made “in the hope of delaying the advent of outright free trade in food.”

The Vancouver Sun‘s Daphne Bramham looks at former Olympic wrestler Daniel Igali’s new coaching and mentoring role with the Nigerian team, members of which were recently denied the opportunity to train in Canada because they couldn’t get visas—which is incredibly ironic, Bramham notes, given that Igali himself is a Nigerian refugee. The decision, which was rescinded by immigration minister Diane Finley too late to be helpful, “may have cost one female wrestler her only chance at the Olympics,” Bramham notes. And in a country with few non-criminal avenues for advancement in life, Igali laments, every opportunity is crucial.