MAIL BAG

March 17 2008

MAIL BAG

March 17 2008

MAIL BAG

‘The story of Anne Boleyn’s sister was given in some detail in “Anne ofthe Thousand Day s’—in 1969’

COMRADE FIDEL

FIDEL CASTRO did unseat a tyrannical dictator, but his country needed political revolution, not economic revolution (“Hasta la vista, baby,” World, March 3). The fact is that the rebel leader inherited the best economy in the Caribbean, rich with literate, skilled people and a health care system that was the best in Latin America. I’m so tired of hearing of Castro’s contributions to the welfare of Cuban citizens. Average workers’ salaries, ranked eighth in the world in the 1950s, are now a pittance. Castro has essentially become a pimp: offering his citizens’ services to friendly foreign companies and charging them 50 times what the worker actually receives. All you have to do is walk the streets of Havana to know that there isn’t an apartment building fit for any human—let alone a hospital. Through his “poor man’s” revolution, Castro has managed to become one of the richest political leaders in the world. The saddest part is that he has become much, much worse than what he dedicated his life to overthrowing.

Collin Sawatzky, Kelowna, B.C.

IT NEVER STOPS amusing me how the poverty in Cuba should always be Castro’s fault. Never mind the millions of Mexicans who live in extreme poverty and who, by the way, are also willing to risk their lives to escape their country despite the fact that every single Mexican president does as he is told by the Americans. Today, all Cubans have access to excellent quality education and free health care, unlike the Mexicans or, since we are at it, the Americans.

Joanna Wojcik, Kingston, Ont.

WRITER ISABEL VINCENT’S description of Castro left me wondering how such a womanizing, ruthless man could have lasted so long in power. The article never mentions those areas where Castro improved the lot of the population, notably in education and health care, thus earning popular support. It also seems to suggest that Castro was inevitably headed toward an anti-American, Communist program. In fact, Castro was inspired by Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal. The early days of the Castro administration saw a tug-of-war between the Marxists, Che Guevara and Raúl Castro, and the liberals, such as Manuel Urrutia Lleó. Would the revolution have taken a

different turn had the Eisenhower administration forgotten about its deposed ally Batista and welcomed Castro?

Stan Carlson, Wakefield Que.

I AM 13 YEARS OLD and in Grade 8, and around this time every year we must prepare a speech to present to the class. Last year, I did my speech on the terrorist acts of Sept. 11.1 had to think of a topic that could follow it up, not seem minuscule in its shadow and keep my class entertained. I was completely stumped. But then I read the article on Castro and I knew that I had my topic. It was extremely

well written, and Isabel Vincent summarized the life of one of the most interesting men of the 20th century in 12 short pages. It has aided me substantially in my speech.

Mark Beaudry, Woodbridge, Ont.

A CANNY old commie, Fidel Scammed his people exceedingly well.

The appropriate prize,

The one I’d advise:

Commissar of Soviet Hell.

Mindy G. Alter, Toronto

I STRONGLY OBJECT to the ageist remarks made about Castro by your writer in her somewhat jaundiced article. Her description, “He appeared gaunt, his once bushy beard reduced to a scraggly mess, his hands emaciated, his face drawn and covered in liver spots,” could apply to most people his age. The man is 81 years old and suffers from a debilitating

disease. There was no need to paint this ugly word picture. The photo was clear enough. Margaret A Kennedy, Oakville, Ont.

TWISTED SISTERS

IN BRIAN D. JOHNSON’S REVIEW ofthe Natalie Portman/Scarlett Johansson movie The Other Boleyn Girl, he quotes the author of the book from which the film was adapted, Philippa Gregory, as saying she had to stumble upon historical documents to find out that Anne Boleyn had a sister and rival named Mary (“A royal cat fight of sibling rivalry,” Film, March 3). Apparently she had never seen the 1969 movie Anne ofthe Thousand Days starring Richard Burton and Canadian actress Geneviève Bujold, in which the story of Mary Boleyn (played by Valerie Gearon) was given in some detail. It’s been a very familiar story for many years.

Daryl Moad, Winnipeg

‘MAXIMUM1 BOB

GM’S VICE-CHAIRMAN of product development, Bob Lutz, is a putz (“Reviving the General,” Business, March 3). The Japanese have come to dominate the North American car market because they worked hard to meet consumer needs. Lutz’s assertion that a car has to appeal to the buyer’s sense of aesthetics is true, but that isn’t enough. We want the whole package: attractive design, smart engineering, fuel efficiency, reliability, comfort and high crash-test ratings.

In the past, I have owned four GM products, three Plymouths and a Ford. For my last two purchases, I bought a foreign car when I couldn’t find a domestic that met the criteria. Evidently, so have many others. Now, just when I thought that our domestic automakers had finally woken up, you feature this “throwback.” The company culture at GM won’t change until the head office has a shift in attitude and Lutz ain’t it. If it snorts and bellows like a dinosaur, it thinks like one too.

Dave Coates, Burford, Ont.

IF BOB LUTZ views the 1950s and ’60s as the good old days, then Canadian GM workers should start looking for new jobs. During that period, rational Canadians were buying Austins, Renaults, Vauxhalls, Volvos and VWs. Now, with gasoline prices rising, a countrywide carbon tax looming, and aging boomers shopping for a car they can enter and exit

without experiencing excruciating pain, many potential buyers may be unimpressed by stylish gas-guzzling automobiles.

William Armstrong, Ottawa

WE CAN’T BELIEVE North American carmakers are still not getting the message. Living and working in southwestern Ontario, we’re acutely aware of the negative economic impacts caused by the struggling North American auto industry. While searching for a new car recently, our priorities were buy North American and get good fuel economy, reduced emissions, reliability and something cool. We were frustrated until we found our last four priorities in spades with a Japanese hybrid. Wake up North American auto designers and smell the smog!

Dianne Flook, Chatham, Ont.

IT’S INTERESTING that part of the resurgence at GM involves cutting health and pension benefits to retirees. GM lost half its market

share in the past 30 years because people stopped buying its product. It was not the welders and assemblers who decided which models to build. Management made those decisions, but it’s funny that you never hear about management having to give back years of undeserved bonuses to help prop up pension and health benefit plans. GM lived through a generation of bad management decision-making that missed every trend in modern car design, but none of the people responsible pay the price. How convenient. Robert Roaldi, Ottawa

THE BIG ‘O’

WHEN I FIRST SAW Scott Feschuk’s column, I thought, “O no!” and braced myself for the worst Oprah-bashing of my entire fan career (“She’s a woman! A brand! A retail superstore!” Comment, Feb. 25). Instead, he took,

may I say, an oddly refreshing stance, although I wondered if he had anything better to reflect on. Compared to most bashers, Feschuk focused on what Oprah has in a very lighthearted and hardly sarcastic type of way, and there’s no denying that she has a whole lot more than him. Overall, I enjoyed the humour. And hey, I’m sure Oprah doesn’t mind a little free advertising here and there. Brav-O! Hannah Anderson, Winnipeg

THE TRUE NORTH

YOUR STORY ABOUT Toronto lawyer Charles Roach leading a class action lawsuit that claims making blacks swear allegiance to the Queen is akin to forcing Jews to pledge allegiance to descendants of Adolf Hitler, misses the point entirely on the topic of Canadian republicanism, a sentiment that cannot be rejected on the sole basis that Roach is hyperbolic (“Take her or leave her,” Bad news, March 3). I think the most valid opposition to the monarchy in Canada is that having a

king or queen will always be a barrier to the realization of true democratic autonomy in this nation. To think that Pierre Trudeau’s government needed the approval of the British Parliament and the Queen to pass a new Constitution, including the Charter, in 1982! Some autonomy. And I can’t imagine the constitutional crisis that would arise if a governor general decided to exercise his or her powers. Thank goodness Michaëlle Jean is a sweetheart. When will Canada finally take the reins of its own destiny?

Stephen R Job, Toronto

JUST FOLKS

NOT SINCE the days of Allan Fotheringham have I read your magazine from back to front. Every week The End is my first read in Maclean’s. What an original idea and what an excellent job your writers do of telling the

‘ECHOage really doesn’t challenge kids to do without. The parents of the birthday child get half the donations via a cheque in the mail. How on earth does this teach sacrifice?’

life stories of people around the world who have met an untimely end. Who would have thought that a weekly obituary could be so interesting? Many times these stories of ordinary people have made me cry, and more than once, have made me gasp out loud. Often I will tell the story of these people’s lives to my family and friends. Thanks for sharing these extraordinary stories with your readers.

Pam Damoff, Oakville, Ont. j i

REGARDING Michael Friscolanti’s story about the life and death of Christopher Thomas Morriseau (The End, Feb. 25), Chris had a streak of goodness in him, but he lacked the strength to act on his positive resolutions and so he died young. Thank you for telling his story. His failures teach us what not to do. I am glad The End deals with ordinary people, showing we all can learn from the people next door.

Lochan Bakshi, Edmonton, Professor Emeritus, Athabasca University, Edmonton

SABOTAGING THE MISSION

I COULDN’T AGREE MORE with Andrew Coyne’s statement that “no one wants a ‘neverending mission,’ but never-ending secondguessing is hardly better” (“Onward armchair generals, marching as to war,” Opinion, Feb. 25). Having served overseas with the Canadian military during the “peacekeeping” frenzy of the 1990s, I am quite troubled by the sudden so-called concern various politicians have expressed for the safety of members of the Canadian Forces. It seems to me that if you can get some media attention out of something, then it is worth having an opinion about. Where were these good people when we were in Haiti, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo and Rwanda, poorly equipped, underpaid, and subjected to rules of engagement that made our jobs difficult and dangerous?

I do not recall that any politician ever said our mission in the former Yugoslavia should be halted and our troops withdrawn due to the high human cost. I guess it wasn’t a sexy topic, but Afghanistan sure is! Otherwise we wouldn’t have Jack Layton and the NDP braying about immediate withdrawal from com-

bat. How about we stop trying to sabotage the mission and look for ways it can best serve in the reconstruction of a decimated country? Reinhard Lechleitner, Osgoode, Ont.

JUNIOR EXCESS

AS THE FATHER of five-year-old twins, 'I love the idea of ECHOage, the website that allows children to donate money to good causes to

celebrate a child’s birthday (“The gift glut fix,” Home, March 3). In recent years, our girls’ birthday parties, and those of their friends, have been, frankly, embarrassing examples of excess. Yet we just couldn’t find a way around them. ECHOage is a wonderful solution. I plan to try this for my daughters’ next birthday, and I hope all the parents who read Maclean’s will consider it. It really is a win-win for everyone.

Rieran Green, Ottawa

HOW SAD THAT Debbie Zinman and Alison Smith have had to come up with the idea of ECHOage. Is it not the job of parents to instill values in their children? Four years ago, I talked to my children about how many things they had and we discussed researching charities to ask our birthday guests to donate to. At ages 5 and 4 they understood the concept of sharing and happily came up with World Vision Canada and the Hospital for Sick Children as their charities of choice. This has continued with every birthday since.

At the same time we talked about the number of parties they were being invited to. We

talked about family time and other commitments and they understood they could not possibly attend every party they were asked to attend. Once again we came up with a plan—limiting each of them to one party a month. Although I applaud the idea of getting parents and children alike thinking about excess, ECHOage really doesn’t challenge these kids to do without. The parents of the birthday child get half the donations via a cheque in the mail. How on earth is this teaching them any kind of sacrifice?

Anne-Marie Jander,

Acton, Ont.

CORRECTION

The Feb. 4 issue of Maclean’s incorrectly reported that Mohawk Internet Technologies is wholly owned by the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake and was denied status as an approved gaming host by U.K. authorities. In fact, MIT is owned by the community ofKahnawake, Que., and held in trust by Tewatohnhi’saktha, the Kahnawake Economic Development Commission, and it was the Kahnawake Gaming Commission that was denied. Maclean’s regrets the error.

IN PASSING

Jeff Healey, 41, musician. Blind since he was eight months old, the internationally respected Toronto guitarist and jazz trumpeter was best known for the 1989 hit Angel Eyes. A radio host who showcased his collection of thousands of jazz records, he also appeared in the movie Road House. He died of cancer.

William F. Buckley, 82, political commentator. An influential American conservative columnist, TV debater, wine connoisseur and author of more than 50 books, he fostered a political movement that helped elect Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush to the White House. He founded the National Review in 1955 as a vehicle for his seminal ideas.