Monthly Archives: December 2007

A New Year’s Resolution

Last year I suggested a jolly family-destroying New Year’s game, Robson’s Kith and Kin Kleanser, where you make resolutions for those close to you instead of for yourself. If you followed that advice, those close to you are a lot farther away now, leaving you ample free time to join me in another variant on the antiquated notion of self-improvement. This year let’s all play my fun new game Political Promiser, in which we make a New Year’s resolution for politicians.

Good heavens! May I remind you this is still a family newspaper even though you disencumbered yourself of your own family 12 months ago using my patented method? Wash your word processor out with soap and try again.

Hard, isn’t it? There are so many attractive choices it boggles the mind. “No behaving in ways that embarrass schoolchildren in Question Period … no envelopes full of cash … refraining from saying exactly what we all knew you were going to say. …” Well, I don’t want to spoil the fun by turning over all the cards in the Suggestion Stack at once. But while you’re weighing your options I’ll put forward my own, courtesy of the poet Robbie Burns.

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My typical Ottawa wish list

Dear Santa:

This year I have been pretty good except for when I was awake and stuff so I’m hoping you can grant a few modest requests.

I should mention that I’ve spent a lot of time in parliamentary committee hearings, which explains why I’ve been so unpleasant to children and little old ladies lately. You know how it is.

You don’t? Listen, Mr. Red Suit and Black Boots, forget sitting in a mall while kids ply you with avaricious requests for flashy electronic devices (though while I’m on the subject, when I was a boy all we had to play with was bits of cardboard and wood so we put a brave face on it and called it “chess”). You try sitting in a committee room while politicians demand stuff and see how long you can keep the Ho ho ho flowing. But I digress.

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Self-censorship? Me? Absolutely

What can I say about hate speech investigations into Maclean’s magazine?

I mean that literally. This used to be a free country where we had the hard-won right to speak our minds without fear. But now the Canadian Islamic Congress has complained about a Mark Steyn piece in Maclean’s to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and to the Canadian and Ontario Human Rights Commissions and, according to Maclean’s National Editor Andrew Coyne, the first two have agreed to “launch inquiries” into the complaints while the third is dithering. The CHRC, incidentally, won’t confirm or deny this claim. Something about open government, I believe.

Now what? If I write about censorship will the censors censor that? If I were to defend someone’s right in principle to be rude about radical Islam, it might constitute my being rude in practice about radical Islam which might be misunderstood by hypersensitive types as rudeness toward Islam generally which might be misunderstood as hate speech rather than just bad manners. Who knows?

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Afghanistan’s no quagmire, it’s an anti-malarial swamp

With everyone off in Bali dealing with the urgent menace of global warming or panting over Karlheinz Schreiber’s semi-revelations, might I interest you in some malaria?

No thanks? Lacks glamour? OK, malaria doesn’t hand you $100,000 in cash and not ask for a receipt. It doesn’t excite Hollywood celebrities or in a pinch make you one. But it is the No. 1 killer of children in Africa. Plus I found something new and encouraging to say about it in an unexpected venue: a Senlis Council press conference on Afghanistan.

I confess to going in with vague suspicions that the council were among the usual suspects on foreign policy. They seemed to be calling the Afghan mission a disaster and most people who do so are engaged in wishful thinking like, of course, most of those calling it a success.

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