MAIL BAG

MAIL BAG

September 24 2007
MAIL BAG

MAIL BAG

September 24 2007

MAIL BAG

‘Blaming capitalism for the avian flu, 9/11, China, Iraq, and hurricane Katrina shows the left’s desperation’

TROUBLE WITH CAPITALISM

WHEN NAOMI KLEIN SAYS that if she took her views to the voter she’d lose, she’s right (Interview, Sept. 10). It’s the only sensible thing that she said in the whole interview. Blaming capitalism for the avian flu, the Sept. 11 attacks, policing in China, the Iraq war, and hurricane Katrina shows just how desperate the left really is.

Frank Hilliard, Grand Forks, B.C.

WHAT AN EXCELLENT interview! As Naomi Klein contends, the binary labels of capitalist and Communist are just not sufficient in today’s world. If you are critical of the current state of capitalism you are automatically labelled Communist or anti-capitalist. Purists of any sort are problematic, and I agree with Klein when she claims to be a realist. The reality is, capitalism in its current state is not working for the vast majority of people around the world, and to advocate for change neither necessarily means you advocate for violent revolution nor a complete sundering of contemporary values in the Western world. We need new definitions and a reawakening of a historical consciousness that allows us to re-examine our own humanity.

Jennifer Wilcox, Saskatoon, Sask.

NAOMI KLEIN CONTINUES to propagate the false mantra of the success of Chile’s leftist Allende regime. Salvador Allende’s radical economic reforms, although promising in the short run, were widely seen to be a failure by 1972. Inflation stood at 140 per cent, the black market in rice, beans, sugar and flour was on the rise, and the average GDP was shrinking. He defaulted on loans from international creditors and was forced to freeze all prices whilst raising salaries. The country was beset by violence, strikes and shortages. For a more accurate portrayal of the Chilean crisis I suggest Ms. Klein read the works of James Whelan, a former professor at the University of Chile and a noted historian of the South American nation. Gavin Kanowitz, Toronto

WHAT A MONUMENTAL breakdown of human character when a few capitalists among us see a disaster consisting of enormous human suffering, massive property damages and mother nature’s relentless fury as a heaven-sent golden

opportunity to mint money, amass wealth and live happily ever after! These opportunists do not qualify to be called humans by virtue of their deeds of greed. They are an insult to the category of capitalists.

Mani Banarasi, Winnipeg

HERE IS WHAT I have gleaned from Kenneth Whyte’s interview with the loquacious Naomi Klein: A most earnest lass, Ms. N. Klein, garnered fame by repeating one line: “The capitalistic is so opportunistic, but the socialist, well, that’s divine.”

Mindy G. Alter, Toronto

MAKING THE GRADE

I READ WITH DISTRESS Sarah Scott’s article (“Do grades really matter?”, Education, Sept. 10). It does great disservice to educators and provides no means for readers to independently assess the validity of its conclusions. No data are presented, save for glib references to a handful of studies, and the metric used to measure success is cryptic. Scott conflates success with renown or personal fortune. Stephen Lougheed, Kingston, Ont.

SARAH SCOTT’S STORY suggests that mediocrity in school may be a predictor of future success. It would seem that this author’s definition of success is entirely limited to a few people who have amassed obscene amounts of money, and not individuals who possess selfless qualities, such as altruism and benevolence. This article deserves a solid F.

Ron Barron, Scarborough, Ont.

As a person who did not graduate from high school with high marks, but was admitted to university, may I offer my congratulations to Sarah Scott for her comprehensive article. The practice common at many Canadian universities of restricting enrolment to only those who have high academic achievement is unfair and poor public policy. Over time, its impact on people, on our country, and on business is incalculable.

David F. Strong, President & Vice-Chancellor, University Canada West, Victoria, B.C.

AS A FORMER C STUDENT now running my own company, I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to read “Do Grades Really Matter?” I clearly remember turning to my parents upon completing high school with the words, “Now I can get on with the rest of my life.” Michael Brooke, Publisher, Concrete Wave Magazine, Thornhill, Ont.

FOR EVERY SO-SO STUDENT elected president of the United States or driving a Lamborghini, there are 10,000 former C students toiling in quiet obscurity in office cubicles. You’ve romanticized academic mediocrity and made every teacher’s job harder.

John Rovers, Associate Professor, Drake University, College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences, Des Moines, Iowa

I CONSIDER MYSELF a feminist. In the entire review of highly successful individuals who had poor to mediocre high school records there is not one woman. Come on!

LaurieMartz, North Vancouver, B.C.

GRADES ONLY MATTER if you mix them with the real-world knowledge and experiences that no book or manuscript can teach within the confines of a classroom.

Krishna Babu Lakhnavi, Winnipeg

NOW THAT Maclean’s has told our children that they can slack off in school because grades don’t matter, will you profile all of the A students who have had success? Better yet, how about telling us (and more importantly, our kids) what jobs the 99-9 per cent of C students who aren’t Bill Gates end up doing? Most of the A students referenced in your story ended up as happy, successful middle-class taxpayers. I guess that’s not good enough.

Charles Cirtwill, Halifax

‘Organic certification doesn’t assure purity— nor is it meant to’

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

CRITICISMS OF the integrity of the organic system of production are not substantiated (“The truth about ‘organic’ food,” Environment, Sept. 10). Organic certification indicates a certain standard of practice. It is not an assurance of purity—nor is it meant to be. Products can become contaminated in a number of ways that have nothing to do with farm practices. Testing for pesticide and other residues fails to consider what organic is really about: the long-term building of soil microbiology. Besides meeting our standards, Canadian organic products are often subjected to stringent international quality control monitoring. The new federal organic regulations will give Canadians an additional level of oversight that includes the rule of law, and more inspections and traceability. We trust our products and know that organic remains the only verifiable way to know how our food is grown and made.

Matthew Holmes, Managing Director, Organic Trade Association in Canada;

Laura Telford, Executive Director, Canadian Organic Growers; Stephanie Wells, President, Organic Federation of Canada

CANADIANS SHOULDN’T be surprised that organic standards have been supplanted by business, seducing more money out of the pockets of people seeking to enhance their image. Organic food flown in from places such as Thailand completely destroys what organic production is about—eliminating the environmental footprint left by farmers and consumers. That is what local farmers are doing. With the help of conscientious consumers who seek to buy local, provincial, and

Canadian food, perhaps there will come a time when you will be talking about how farmers are helping the rural economy rise out of its slumber.

Art Smith, Chief Executive Officer, Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association, Guelph, Ont.

WIN-LOSE SITUATION

YOUR STORY (“No justice for the middle class,” Justice, Sept, lo), reminded me of my own sad experience with the cost of justice. In 2003, five years after I originally filed a lawsuit, I was vindicated. My elation was shortlived. My legal costs amounted to $71,2771 had raised $13,175 through private collection, and the court eventually awarded me $11,253. I therefore ended up with a shortfall of more than $46,000. And so, along with all the other concerns expressed by Justice McLachlin and Justice Gomery, potential litigants should be aware that sometimes, even when you win, you lose.

Louis Quigley, Riverview, N.B.

GOT OIL?

NONE OF THE NEWS reports about the deal between Newfoundland and Labrador and big oil companies to jointly develop the Hebron oil field I have seen displayed a map showing the precise location of Hebron (“How to win, in a fight with Big Oil,” Business, Sept. 10). When Newfoundland joined Canada on Mar. 31,1949, it brought a three-mile zone with it into Confederation. Decades later the Canadian government, under Pierre Trudeau, negotiated—against all odds—an international treaty for Canada to have not only a 200-mile zone, but also the continental shelf east of

Canada. Now that prices hover around $70 a barrel, Newfoundland lays claim to all oil revenues, and its premier demands that equalization payments, which Newfoundland received all along, continue. No one can blame the province for that—avarice is a normal human trait—but the people of Canada, Newfoundland, and especially the knee-weak politicians in Ottawa, should be made aware of these facts.

Walter Weller, Strathroy, Ont.

MUSIC FOR THE MASSES

THERE IS NO CHANCE that the opportunity to see live broadcasts of Metropolitan Opera productions will negatively impact attendance at local opera productions (“Opera: coming to a theatre near you,” Film, Sept, io). I saw every one last season and intend to do the same this season. Every performance was sold out and people arrived in advance to claim good seats. There were seniors who can’t afford regular ticket prices, people who like the convenience of the local movie house, others who found a broadcast to be an unintimidating introduction to opera, and people like us who attend all the opera we can and were thrilled to see Met performances without travelling. Offering great, lowcost, easy-access broadcasts is the best PR opera culture can hope for. Use it.

Janet Macdonald, Toronto

A TESTAMENT TO STEAD

BRIAN BETHUNE’S giggling ramble through recent attempts to have fun with the New Testament blundered when it included C.K. Stead’s My Name wasJudas (“Not your grandma’s Jezebel,” Books, Sept. 10). Stead’s novel is a wholly adult attempt to answer the question: what sort of man was Jesus of Nazareth? Those of us who think that there probably was such a man, and that he certainly wasn’t divine, are challenged to answer that question. Stead’s answer is better than any other that I have seen—it’s a truly credible account

of the human character and course of events that gave rise to the Gospels. It is also gripping, sometimes funny, often sad, ultimately heartbreaking. One reviewer has said that the book should earn Stead the Nobel Prize. Shame on you for lumping it in with the progeny of Dan Brown!

Jonathan Bennett, Bowen Island, B.C.

SURPRISING ANALYSIS

CONCERNING BARBARA Amiel’s Opinion piece (“Good luck if you’ve got nasty underclass tastes,” Sept.io), I do not wish to comment on Mr. Vick, his dogfighting or the American judicial system. Irrespective of the subject matter, what I appreciate in Ms. Amiel’s writing is her ability to look at her subject from a sensible distance and relate it to patterns of social behaviour, historical precedents and other current events that I had not thought were connected. I certainly do not always agree with where she takes her analysis, but I do enjoy the journey.

Glen C. Bodie, Toronto

IN PASSING

Luciano Pavarotti, 71, opera singer. Hailed as the greatest tenor of his generation, with a rare clarity to his voice and athletic ability to hit high Cs, he began in Modena in 1961 with a role in La Bohème. He sang alongside Placido Domingo and José Carreras as the Three Tenors, and even shared the microphone with Bono, Sting and the Spice Girls.

Anita Roddick, 64, entrepreneur. The founder of the Body Shop chain of “ethical cosmetics” stores and a champion of environmental causes, she grew her business to comprise 2,100 outlets in 55 countries. Roddick was suffering from cirrhosis of the liver linked to hepatitis C. She died of a brainhemorrhage.