Must-reads: Doug Saunders in Belgrade; Graham Thomson on literacy-for-food in Afghanistan.
The Toronto Star executes a collective swoon for the Democratic nominee.
Barack Obama’s call for 10,000 more American troops in Afghanistan “is not a long-term solution,” and “is less likely to work there than in Iraq.” His position that “he’d bomb Pakistani hideouts of the Taliban is a recipe for igniting more anti-Americanism in Pakistan.” And his belief in an “undivided” Israeli Jerusalem bucks an international trend towards a more “even-handed” approach to the Palestinian conflict. Can you tell this is a love letter from Haroon Siddiqui to Obama? No, really, it is. “Rarely has an American presidential candidate walked taller abroad than he,” he gushes. “He’s coming across as president-presumptive, and already setting the tone and direction of U.S. foreign policy.”
That’s bad news for Stephen Harper, James Travers opines, because he partakes of the same “policy bundle” as George W. Bush, which Obama is totally repudiating. What exactly are those shared policies? Well, lessee here. “A disastrous Iraq war, an economy sagging under debt load as well as the subprime burden”? Um, no, no and no. “Unilateral interventions and democracy exported at gunpoint”? No, and no. “Family values, tax cuts, law and order, and the military as patriotism’s principal vector”? Somebody call us, please, when Obama comes out against any of the first three—and wasn’t there something about 10,000 more troops for Afghanistan? This line of argument has always been a stretch, we think. Obama quite naturally whets the appetite for an inspirational, “inclusive” leader, but until one installs him or herself atop the Liberal party, we don’t see how that’s going to directly impact Harper’s fortunes.
And finally, the amazingly ridiculous Bob Hepburn blubbers away about Obama thus far forsaking Canada—and specifically Toronto—on his international tour. “We realize a TV clip of Obama standing in front of the CN Tower isn’t as cinematically enticing as a clip of him from Paris with the Eiffel Tower in the background,” he pleads. “And we know a photo of him on Yonge St. wouldn’t stand a chance against pictures … of Obama addressing thousands of Germans in Berlin.” But please, oh glorious sir, won’t you favour us with just a brief visit, and perhaps some shiny loonies tossed from the window of your limousine?
Meanwhile, in Canada, it’s politics as usual… or is it?
The Financial Post‘s Terence Corcoran wants to know why, if Canadians are driving less, as “some of our leading Bay Street economists” are telling us, we bought more gasoline in May than we did in April. Good question—but hang on a second. “Canadian retail gasoline sales by volume have steadily increased over the last half decade, May over May,” he reports, until this May, which saw a three per-cent drop over the previous. Well, yeah, says Corcoran, but “a 3% difference in same-month gasoline sales from one year to the next is hardly an indicator of a major new trend.” So why’d he bring up April then? Weird. Anyway, his point about gasoline consumption trends differing from other consumer products, and the importance of that to carbon tax schemes, strike us as quite well-taken. We’re sure y’all will let us know if we’re wrong.
Margaret Wente‘s War on Drugs continues in The Globe and Mail with her umpteenth dismissal of the idea of legalizing marijuana. Her basic premise is that because there’s a lot of unanswered questions about it—Who’d sell it? “What should the profit margins be?”—we shouldn’t do it. A representative sample of her Aristotelian reasoning: “Do we really want a lot more 15-year-olds getting stoned? Okay, we could prohibit pot for minors. Can you explain why that would work any better than it does with booze and cigarettes?” But wait, can’t 15-year-olds get their hands on pot now? And wouldn’t we rather have an imperfect legal framework keeping it away from them than relying on the consciences of Canada’s drug dealers? And hang on, would legalization increase consumption? Sure it would, says Wente, because “alcohol abuse—and rates of liver disease—hit bottom during Prohibition.” Q.E.D., Canada. And away she goes to the cottage.
Never mind the kvetching, says the Globe‘s Lawrence Martin. All is well in Canada—every single last thing. The Atlantic provinces are “no longer a big welfare-sucking basket case,” the west is “rip-roaring rich [and] … could care less about the wording on cereal boxes,” and the separatist debate has been exposed as “shallow as a birdbath.” (Jeepers, Mr. Martin, are you trying to get it started again?) We are “decoupling” from the United States as it loses its monolithic presence in world affairs and “a new, more grown-up consensus” has replaced “divisive debates” over free trade and “continentalism.” Our “big, sprawling, multicultured family is getting its act together,” he crows, and this “new harmony gives the country an opportunity to behold new frontiers.” Quick, Canada! To the Globemobile! We’ve got “new national projects” to undertake!
Genocide, treason and Serbia
Radovan Karadzic’s arrest reenergizes the belief among some in Canada’s military community that had Canadian soldiers or Dutch paratroopers been keeping the peace in Srebrenica in 1995, the massacre of some 8,000 Bosnian Muslims might have been prevented—so says the Toronto Sun‘s Peter Worthington. “The Dutch Air Mobile guys wouldn’t have stood by,” says retired Lt. Col. David Moore, and “nor would my troops.”
At first glance, the Globe‘s Doug Saunders reports from Belgrade, yesterday’s protests by Karadzic supporters “looked like the old Serbia.” Then they set fire to the flag of the Socialist Party—i.e., the party of Slobodan Milosevic, Karadzic’s former boss. It was perfectly emblematic of the new Serbia, says Saunders, or at least what the softened SPS hopes will be the new Serbia in coalition with the pro-western government. The party “is willing to lose former allies such as Mr. Karadzic in order to gain a stronger future in a Europe-oriented Serbia,” Saunders reports—but it’s doing all it can, nevertheless, to deny any role in his arrest.
The Edmonton Journal‘s Graham Thomson looks at an intriguing “literacy-for-food” program in Kandahar City, which lures women into the classroom with the promise of cooking oil, lentils, salt and wheat. The premise is essentially that their husbands’ empty stomachs will trump their misogyny, he says, “but women are discovering the course satisfies an intellectual hunger, too.” In a country where many don’t even know their age (because they can’t read a calendar), Thomson says the potential “ripple effects” of such a program are obvious.
The Vancouver Sun‘s Vaughn Palmer is still hounding the B.C. government over the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia “chop-shop” scandal, arguing that while the law prohibits naming the employees involved, the total lack of comment is both inexcusable and malodorous. Palmer doesn’t need names; he just wants to know: “Was anyone fired over this scandal? Were they paid compensation? If so, what was the total payout?”
Also in the Sun, Daphne Bramham looks at the contentious debate over whether athletes should declare their opposition to China’s human rights record at the Beijing Olympics. The most interesting aspect is that many Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama himself, believe “any protest might provoke an even more devastating crackdown than the one in March.” For “conscientious athletes,” Bramham suggests, that makes their decision all the more fraught with peril.