Must-reads: Rosie DiManno and Colby Cosh on Olympic politics; Janet Bagnall on PromArt; Marcus Gee on Georgia; Don Martin on that fall election you’re all dying to vote in.
In the wake of day seven of the Olympics, the commentary has gone all serious-like again.
“Who on Earth thinks that children aren’t treated like interchangeable parts all the time on Western TV programs” Colby Cosh asks, apparently unmoved (as are we, quite frankly) by the plight of seven-year-old Yang Peiyi. And who among us believes “that vocal performers singing anthems and other tricky numbers in open-air stadia don’t lip-sync as a matter of course?” Cosh detects the same whiff of hysteria that consumes Canadians whenever our athletes perform below expectations, noting that exactly none of the 15 potential medal-winners the National “We’re getting beaten by Togo” Post identified have yet had their chances to medal. “If we were as self-confident as we fancy ourselves,” he concludes, “we might at least consider making a collective decision to stop worrying quite so much about the Summer Games.”
We were on the fence for much of Rosie DiManno‘s argument that Saudi Arabia should either allow female athletes to compete in the Olympics or be banned, in view of the IOC’s core principle of gender equality, until she reminded us that “South Africa was rendered an Olympic pariah for three decades because of apartheid.” Not to say the two phenomenon are equal, but one IOC member recently rejected the comparison on highly suspect grounds, arguing apartheid can’t “be considered parallel to the effort to bring women into absolutely equal gender balance.” “Balancing the sexes is not even the issue, you hypocritical git,” DiManno quite rightly responds in the Toronto Star. “But spoken like a true moral midget.”
The Vancouver Sun‘s Daphne Bramham files a not-very-compelling rundown of all the ex-Soviet backwaters and impoverished African republics currently ahead of us in the medal standings, but just when she seems to be getting to the point, she offers only unanswered questions. Do we want to cut off funding to some sports entirely so that others may flourish? Do we want to send a smaller team? Uh, we don’t know—aren’t you the opinion columnist? And, of course, there’s the classic false Olympic dichotomy: “balanced against health care, education, better roads and safer cities, how much are Canadians willing to spend for a flush of patriotism every four years?”
The Globe and Mail‘s Christie Blatchford profiles Bent Jensen, world-renowned coach of the Canadian men’s rowing team, who is proving a massive inspiration to the team as he battles cancer. “Just before the team left for China, the cumulative toll of the 12-week course of chemo rendering Jensen thin and a little frail, he began sometimes using ski-pole-like sticks to help him walk,” she writes. “Occasionally, since arriving in Beijing, the rowers have caught glimpses of him in the hotel in a wheelchair.” And yet, even this week, he took in a workout of the lightweight men’s four on his bicycle.
Prepare for a fall election. Seriously this time.
Do not roll your eyes in Don Martin‘s direction just because he is indulging in the sort of election speculation you’ve heard a thousand times since early 2007. “There’s a hefty difference now,” he argues in the Calgary Herald, which is that Stephen Harper is threatening to violate the spirit (if not the letter) of his own fixed election date legislation, declaring Parliament unworkable (thanks in large part to his own MPs’ obstructionism in committee rooms) and sending us to the polls. Things are indeed different in Ottawa these days, but it seems to us Harper and his minions have made very similar noises in the past. In any case, this might just be the most depressing sentence in Megapundit history: “The only solution for this election-hungry government is to order committee work obstructed by its own MPs to bolster Harper’s assessment that parliament is paralyzed beyond repair.”
L. Ian MacDonald‘s area code fetish moves west from the 418 to the 450—Montreal’s mainland suburbs—where Saint-Lambert is up for grabs in the Sept. 8 by-elections. As readers of the Montreal Gazette‘s op-ed pages know by rote, the Tories “have replaced the Liberals as the competitive federalist party everywhere off the island of Montreal,” and while the riding should be safe Bloc Québécois territory, the latest almighty CROP poll shows the Tories neck-and-neck across the 450. Add in the fact that provincial Liberals are openly working to help the Tory candidate, MacDonald argues, and you are left with “an interesting story.”
“Two-year-olds, teenagers and irrational adults might indulge in pointless self-destruction,” Janet Bagnall writes in the Gazette on the subject of the government’s sudden arts-funding cancellation spree, “but governments are not supposed to jeopardize entire economic sectors no matter how angry they are that someone they don’t like qualified for a grant.” That about sums it up, we’d say.
The Caucasian conflagration
“The idea that Georgian aggression forced Russia to intervene [in Georgia] is as absurd as the Nazi claim that Polish aggression started the Second World War,” Marcus Gee writes in the Globe. Indeed, he argues, though George Jonas beat him to the analogy, “the Russian claim to be defending minorities in Georgia has unsettling echoes of the Nazi claim to be protecting ethnic Germans when it invaded Czechoslovakia.” More to the point, Gee says whatever disastrous provocation Mikheil Saakashvili recently undertook, Vladimir Putin had the whole thing planned from the start and is clearly the aggressor. “Simply abandoning Georgia to Moscow’s ‘sphere of influence’ … would send a signal to democrats from Warsaw to Kiev to Tallinn,” he concludes, “that they are on their own.”
Lorne Gunter, apparently interpreting Paul Wells’ column in this week’s Maclean’s as a sort of dare, manages to locate “elements of the West vs. Islam conflict in Moscow’s actions.” To wit: a united, Christian Ossetia would “offer a counterbalance to the Muslims of Chechnya,” he argues in the Edmonton Journal, which would, for reasons he doesn’t really explain, prevent any of the “200 million Muslims on [Russia’s] southern borders” from going jihadi. “Don’t imagine the Russians don’t think in such terms,” he intones.
John Robson, writing in the Ottawa Citizen, urges Canadians to consider how much they value their health, and then to think about how much their government, which has sole dominion over keeping us healthy, values it. If you were responsible for buying your own healthcare, he argues, you would balance that priority against “a car, a home, education for the kids, a retirement fund, a bit of bacon in your porridge and a decent chance of living long enough to enjoy all these good things.” Each person would strike a different balance. But “when you hand over health care to government, … these still-necessarily value-for-money calculations are not merely done by someone else. They are also done very differently.” And “they are generally not done well.”