Category Archives: International

Can you spot the difference?

Two headlines side-by-side in my “NBC News Top Stories” feed yesterday:

Muslim Mob Attacks Christians, Parades Naked Elderly Woman

Transgender Pageant Unites Christians, Muslims, Jews

One is in Israel. One is not. So where is the BDS movement on trendy campuses with respect to Egypt which, the first story gets around to mentioning casually at about paragraph 13, “Christian men cannot marry Muslim women in Egypt unless they convert to Islam first, but Muslim men can marry Christian women.”

Suppose Israel had a law where Christians couldn’t marry Jews without converting, or Muslims couldn’t? There’s be an outcry. But when it’s in a Muslim-majority Arab nation, the reaction is yeah yeah now back to how Israel oppresses whoever.

Now to be fair the activists do see a difference. They just see it backwards.

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The end of the world news

While politicians are gassing on, here’s the sort of thing that really matters: the Washington Post reports on a superbug resistant to last-resort antibiotics, and liable to share its genes with other more sinister bacteria, that has reached the United States.

People tell me, oh, I wouldn’t want to live in the Middle Ages because they didn’t have antibiotics. Well, we did and we squandered them.

Three cheers for modernity.

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The Invictus

There he goes again, you may be tempted to say. Our PM posed with the Canadian Invictus Games team and did their pushup-then-lock-one-arm-and-extend-other-hand gesture while issuing a thinly veiled challenge to Prince Harry and President Obama to do the same or something similar for the British and American teams for the upcoming games in Orlando. NBC headlined it “Watch Justin Trudeau’s Macho Challenge to Obama, Prince Harry” and indeed my first thought was “Showing off again, huh?” But on reflection I’m going to praise him instead.

First, the Invictus Games created by Prince Harry “for wounded, injured and sick Service personnel” are an excellent cause. Second, fitness is an excellent cause. Third, and crucially, the two leaders he implicitly challenges are both themselves healthy and physically active. It would be unfair and in bad taste to call out a political leader who through age or misfortune couldn’t do such a thing. But in this case I appreciate his doing the… well, it sure is a clumsy thing to describe.

So I was thinking of dubbing it “the Trudeau” so we can do it at the dojo without spending five minutes naming it. But I decided “the Invictus” was a better name. Because this time I don’t think he was calling attention to himself but to two worthy causes: rehabilitating wounded members of our Armed Forces and those of our allies, and staying fit.

Yes, it’s a challenge, to other leaders and to the rest of us. But it’s a worthy challenge because most of us should be able to do at least one “Invictus”. If Trudeau happens to look good doing it, it’s because he keeps himself in shape. And that’s a good thing.

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Johnson v Obama on Brexit

A nice piece in today’s Daily Telegraph advocating Brexit and criticizing Barack Obama’s intervention in the debate (on which I commented recently), by London mayor and long-time columnist Boris Johnson. He says that “to stay in the EU” is to consent “to the slow and insidious erosion of democracy in this country”. He’s exactly right. And if the pro-EU campaigners aren’t exactly aware of it, they certainly hold a worldview that categorizes genuine self-government as an irritating obstacle to progress rather than vital to preserving a decent society.

There is no European Magna Carta and it matters. And if we want to maintain the foundations of individual dignity and enterprise that have made Canada what it is, we need to recapture our own sense of the enduring importance of self government and an awareness that, to the extent that “progress” and liberty are antithetical, we should choose liberty.

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So close, and yet so far

A curious intervention by Barack Obama in Britain’s debate over leaving the EU. It’s not odd that he supports them staying in. He would. But it’s odd that for once he got the premise so right though as usual he got the conclusion so wrong.

After a ritual nod to Britons’ right to decide their destiny for themselves, the American president launched into a rightly derided and probably counterproductive attempt to cajole and bully them into submerging their sovereignty in the European Union, including threatening their access to American markets with a claim that a genuinely independent Britain would go to “the back of the queue” for a trade deal, well behind the EU. So much for the special relationship, I guess.

I find Obama’s performance more than usually curious because his effort to flatter the British drew on the shared values that underlie that special relationship: “As citizens of the United Kingdom take stock of their relationship with the EU, you should be proud that the EU has helped spread British values and practices – democracy, the rule of law, open markets – across the continent and to its periphery.”

He’s quite right about the first part. Those are British and subsequently American, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand values. Government in the Anglosphere, as we argued in our Magna Carta documentary and will in the “True North and Free” project currently under way, is dramatically different even from government in the more politically pleasant parts of Europe, let alone the rest of the world. And Obama isn’t normally sensitive to such matters, to put it mildly. But he went on to say “The European Union doesn’t moderate British influence – it magnifies it.” And that’s completely wrong.

The EU isn’t democratic. It’s not tyrannical. But it is bureaucratic, centralized and unaccountable. It stands more for rule by law than of law, in the vital sense of fair, stable rules that arise from the people and protect their right to make their own choices. And it stands for government meddling not open markets. I do think the British example has made Europe better over time; even France, let alone Germany, has to some extent been embarrassed into creating more responsive and less repressive governments. But both also made impressive efforts to crush British liberty by force. And neither have embraced the common law system under which governments emanate from the people organically rather than standing majestically, or stodgily, above them.

Obama then claimed that “A strong Europe is not a threat to Britain’s global leadership; it enhances Britain’s global leadership. The United States sees how your powerful voice in Europe ensures that Europe takes a strong stance in the world, and keeps the EU open, outward looking, and closely linked to its allies on the other side of the Atlantic. So the US and the world need your outsized influence to continue – including within Europe.” Which is utter bosh.

Britain’s influence in the world has dwindled dramatically since it joined the European Economic Community, forerunner to the EU, back in 1973. Not only because it joined. But it was part and parcel of turning away from the glorious heritage of liberty that had made this damp, chilly foggy group of islands a hyperpower economically, culturally and militarily and also the “Mother of the Free” described in Land of Hope and Glory. Worse, Britain’s influence in Britain has dwindled, as law, regulation, and even jurisprudence come increasingly from the alien continental system.

For over a thousand years Britons decided their destiny for themselves, via a Parliament that controlled the executive in a way not even Europeans managed and nobody else really even tried. That is the system that spread to the United States as well as Australia, New Zealand and Canada. And precisely because democracy in the desirable sense, rule of law in the desirable sense and open markets in the genuine sense are British values, they should leave the EU.

Europe is so close to Britain. And yet it is so far away. And so is Barack Obama.

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Firm but flexible on the Saudi arms sale

In my latest commentary for the National Post I say it’s shabby political theatre for the Liberals to release “secret” bureaucratic documents that echo administration talking points defending selling armoured personnel carriers to the repressive anti-Western Saudi regime.

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The old flag

File:Flag of New Zealand.svgIt’s great news that New Zealanders have voted to keep their flag instead of adopting an ugly empty substitute. And revealing news.

At first the traditional flag seemed doomed, partly because it was the traditional flag. Why, it even had the Union Jack, and the usual suspects were saying New Zealand couldn’t be all grown up until they dumped their heritage and… what? Got a new one?

Oddly, the incoherent answer there, as so often here in Canada, was implicitly if furtively yes. The other ugly options with ferns were somehow meant to represent the real New Zealand, which didn’t spring from the Anglosphere but by some strange coincidence had all its virtues while being trendily postmodern, inclusive and amorphous or something, And typically it was the “centre-right” party that was pushing the change.

Unsurprisingly it was veterans’ groups who spearheaded the opposition early on. And possibly people with taste. And in the end the politicians managed to make the whole thing sour and skewed, and in the aftermath people are going after PM John Key, claiming that by intruding his own preferences for a new flag he prevented the people from voting the old one out in favour of a blank space into which some false new traditional emblem could later have been easily inserted.

It’s one thing to be sensitive to failings in our past and determined not to repeat them. And, to be fair, to worry that your flag looks too much like Australia’s, as some New Zealanders did. It’s quite another to reject the past but deviously, substituting an ersatz one instead of owning up that you really don’t like the place as it actually evolved and want to get a new better one. And when consulted, people with a heritage worth keeping will reject the latter every time. As I very much imagine Canadians would have done if given a vote on whether to ditch our Red Ensign for a logo in the Liberal Party’s colours back in 1965.

I don’t think it’s coincidence that the traditional New Zealand flag is actually nice to look at and the various replacements were not. They had that focus-grouped-logo look, smooth, manipulative, contrived and off-putting. And in that they accurately reflected the deeper impulse behind the move to replace the traditional emblem and the tradition itself with something artificial and uninspiring.

Anyway, congratulations to New Zealanders for keeping the old flag flying. And not just, I hope, on the flag pole.

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Meet the new senators, same as the old senators

My colleague Kelly McParland writes perceptively that Prime Minister Trudeau’s new Senate appointments have attracted less notice than they should have.

I should confess first that I was once again not on the list and second that Kelly quotes me approvingly in the piece that the list is so predictable “it might have been selected by an affirmative action random-elite-candidate-generator.”. And now I want to return the favour by quoting him approvingly.

“Would it have been too much to include just one new senator who doesn’t see government as the answer to every problem? An entrepreneur? Someone who’s been required to meet a payroll or risked their own money on an idea?”

Apparently it would. Which is why we need to fix the constitution including creating a Senate that is truly legitimate because it is elected, is independent of the Prime Minister and yet effective, and represents the provinces without paralyzing Parliament.

Yes it can be done. Australia does it. And in our upcoming documentary we’ll give a lot more detail on how to make it work. Including why it’s especially troubling to see former senior public servants become legislators. The fusion of the upper reaches of the public service and the legislature into a fourth branch unknown to constitutional theory is not good for our democracy.

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