Monthly Archives: September 2009

Race is not the issue in health care debate

[First published on]

When Barack Obama’s health reform program ran into serious trouble, a number of people triumphantly threw the race card onto the table. It promptly skidded off onto the floor.

President Obama gets some credit for this wholesome outcome. Having refused to run as the “black candidate” in 2008, he has good-naturedly brushed aside such cries of racism over health care in 2009.

It is a pity others could not do the same. Instead, the stakes were dramatically raised when Jimmy Carter told NBC’s “Today” show “I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man… because of a belief among many white people, not just in the South but around the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country.” Continue reading

Running a numbers racket

Hey, where’d my update go? No, not software. The Sept. 10 Update of Economic and Fiscal Projections. Jim Flaherty announced a catastrophic change in the federal government’s fiscal situation, labelled it “staying the course”, scurried off, and everyone went back to discussing Michael Ignatieff’s electoral prospects. It would be more appropriate to recall Brian Mulroney’s.

This budget update was a downdate, a trip a quarter century back into the dismal past of bad decisions defended by fantasy. The runaway spending and deficits are bad enough. But what really scared me about the Update was its return to the pattern of the Mulroney years in which, whatever could reasonably be foreseen was terrible but whatever lurked on the borders of Never-never-land was mysteriously going to be fine. People ignored this phenomenon until it was very nearly too late.

And now it’s back. Continue reading

They mean what they say

A lot of bloodthirsty maniacs out there want to blow us up. What are we meant to do about people who don’t take it seriously?

On Monday, the Israeli Embassy invited me to meet Dr. Jonathan Fine of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya. Claiming some knowledge of the terrorist threat, I asked him to skip the basic briefing and instead tell me how to move the discussion forward.

He said start with ideas. Talk about who our enemies are and what they want. Too often, he added, even counter-terror experts immediately turn to the adversary’s strategy and tactics. These things matter, he said, but first things first: Tell me your adversary’s image of you, and I’ll tell you his strategy and tactics. Continue reading

Advertisements for himself

There’s a lot of excitement in the press about the Liberals’ new campaign ads. So perhaps I could request 37 seconds of your time on the subject.

I pick 37 seconds for two reasons. First, that’s how long the incredibly exciting English-language ad lasts, which suggests either an insulting estimate of your attention span or a realistic estimate of your interest in Michael Ignatieff’s views. Second, I make the second estimate. Continue reading

When pistol packing was normal

In Alan Garner’s novel The Weirdstone of Brisinghamen, the stolid British farmer Gowther Mossock is awakened by his dog barking at a sinister little intruder returned to prowl round his farm so he fetches his shotgun. His wife says “Watch thy step, lad. You’re bigger than he is, and that’s all the more of thee for him to hit.” “I’ll be all reet, but he wunner,” Gowther replies. How times have changed.

I’m not recommending this second-rate fantasy for teens I happened to revisit as part of my summer reading. But far better to read about Gowther than imitate him.

Act like that today and the authorities will swoop on you for violating firearms laws, daring to defend yourself, and for good measure tag you for a hate crime against goblins, who would probably then get government jobs under an affirmative action program.

We were never told this would happen. Continue reading