MAIL BAG

June 16 2008

MAIL BAG

June 16 2008

MAIL BAG

‘Burmese generals are guilty of letting this tragedy take place under their very own eyes’

BURMA’S NIGHTMARE

YES INDEED, Burma’s tragedy in pictures is worth not a thousand but a monumentally infinite number of words (“Burma: A tragedy in pictures,” World, May 26). Burmese generals are criminally guilty of letting this human tragedy take place under their very own eyes, and on their watch. Their sordid negligence and inhumane breach of basic human rights and dignity is way beyond human comprehension. The guilty must never, ever, be allowed to go scot-free. It is the moral responsibility of each and every one of us to make sure that not only are the destitute and victims of nature’s fury taken care of, but that the perpetrators of the deliberate denial of fundamental human needs be made accountable.

Chris Banarasi, London, U.K.

THE CYCLONE in Myanmar is indeed a tragedy. And that tragedy has been compounded by the insensitivity, arrogance and supremacist attitude of the West. Evidently, their demand was that the government of Myanmar cede complete authority over vast chunks of its territory to a group of Western nations that includes the former colonial power. This demand was backed up by a veiled threat of invasion—American gunboats with their load of diabolical weapons were close by. No government can accept such conditions.

As for the United Nations agencies, they were speaking with a very distinct British accent. It is quite understandable that the government and the people of Myanmar want nothing to do with nations who do not wish them well, but have now appointed themselves their saviours. On the other hand, the co-operation between Myanmar and its friends and neighbours—Bangladesh, China, India and others—has been quite good during this crisis. India dispatched not only planeloads, but shiploads of supplies immediately following the cyclone. But of course you would never know that if you were to follow only the Western media. One not so insignificant sign of the contempt that the West has for Myanmar is the insistence on the use of the ridiculous British-imposed name “Burma.”

Nash Soonawala, Winnipeg

THE ONE ITEM that governments, religion and activists haven’t the courage to deal with is population. The world replaced the tsu-

nami deaths (250,000) in 28 hours. The Burma deaths were replaced before the storm blew itself out. But we are really concerned about ducks in a tailings pond and polar bears 40 years from now.

Sam Hisey, Toronto

BLIND DRUNK

THE TERM “alcoholic” has all kinds of harsh, negative connotations attached to it, and your article (“How healthy are you?”, Health, May 26) only reinforces that perspective, while doing nothing to inform your readers that excessive consumption is the real problem,

not alcoholism. While there really are a small percentage of Canadians who actually are addicted to the substance, there are far more who drink too much for their own good simply because they have been caught up in our culture of excess, where “part-tie” means using whatever substances are on hand to alter consciousness, and more is preferable over less. Teens standing by walls of beer boxes and chugalugging till they puke is a weekend ritual for a great many students, few of whom ever consider the painful hangovers, empty wallets, or even the sexual assaults that too often follow. It is a culture that scorns moderation as something for sissies and salutes excess as some kind of badge of honour. William Clegg, Gabriola Island, B.C.

AT 67, just thinking about getting older in British Columbia I reach for the bottle.

Peter Radford, New Denver, B.C.

SPENDING LIMITS

MACLEAN’S TAKES issue with a report that I used to support the Conservative case against Elections Canada (“Forget the hidden agenda, the Tories are getting a name for playing with the facts,” National, May 26). The article suggests I was mistaken to claim the report was authored by chief electoral officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley. On this point the article is just wrong. In fact, the quote in question is from broadcasting arbitrator Peter S. Grant, in the appendices of the “Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada on the 36th General Election.” Kingsley signed off on the report, endorsed it and submitted it to the House of Commons, with a cover letter that referred to all of its contents as “my report.”

Elections Canada wants some of our local ad spending to be counted against the national party spending limit. Naturally, this raises the question of what constitutes local versus national spending. The Kingsley report that I quoted addressed this question by concluding that if a political advertisement has a tag line that attributes it to the local campaign, it is considered a local expense. The Conservative ads in question did so and that is why they should be considered local advertising. If Elections Canada were to remain faithful to its own interpretation in this Kingsley report, the “in-and-out” controversy would not exist. Pierre Poilievre, MP, Nepean-Carleton, Ottawa

A BUNCH OF TALKING HEADS

THANK YOU FOR exposing the daily equity market reports for the absolute tripe that they are. As a financial planner, I tell my clients not to pay attention to this day-by-day assault on their intelligence, but even I have a hard time turning it off as I track the markets and closings each day. You’re right that this media “filler” each day is not only unexplainable guesswork, but harmful to investors as they ride the emotional roller coaster up and down, not just at each statement or each year, but possibly every market day. Trying to figure out and make news out of each market-day’s activity is impossible. Only the trends can tell a story, but they take too long to develop for our short attention span and the media’s need to define everything that happens in the world in small sound bites, over and over each day. Too much information, and most of it garbage!

Gary Scobie, Burlington, Ont.

AFTER 20-some-odd years of reading financial newspapers and magazines, and now watching the talking heads on BNN, I finally caught on to the fact that all they are is talking heads. Who said an old dog couldn’t learn new tricks? Golf is more suited to my temperament and better for both my waistline and my head. JeffBrisbois, Port Williams, N.S.

SHOOT OR BE SHOT

NOAH RICHLER accuses this nation of turning away from its “peacekeeping” role in

favour of front-line battle in Afghanistan (“And now we are warriors,” History, May 26). What Noah does not understand is that both battle and peacekeeping are simply missions and roles for a military to play. “Peacekeeping” is not the foundation of our military or our foreign policy as a nation. Fulfilling our mandate as a member of the UN and of NATO is our responsibility as a nation. Currently, those responsibilities require a military deployment in a part of the world that is hotly contested, where our soldiers must shoot or be shot. As a former soldier, I know full well the mindset of the men and women deployed. Regardless of the mission, their job is the same—stay alive and get the job done. A soldier is a warrior regardless of whether the mission is preserving peace or enforcing it with battle.

Brian A Mcllmoyle, Toronto

THOSE DARLING DIVAS

IN THE ARTICLE about the disco divas (“Never can say goodbye,” Music, May 26), where have all you Maclean’s writers been? There may be washed-out artists making comebacks, but divas singing on dance instrumen-

tals have always been around. Artists like Crystal Waters, Haddaway, Technotronic, Snap! were around in the ’90s and David Guetta, Kaskade, Terry Todd in the 2000s. Disco has been masking itself under different names: dance, house and electro. It seems this decade is bringing back all the old music artists who are trying to make a comeback, but who isn’t? Donna Summer’s single I’m a Fire is the only song on the album that is disco, the rest are just R&B.

Courteny Piech, Saskatoon

A TAXING PROBLEM

ANDREW COYNE states that the best and cheapest way to reduce greenhouse emissions is to put a price on them (“Why the public might buy into a carbon tax,” Opinion, May 26). Gasoline prices have doubled and tripled in the past decade and consumption continues to rise. Double the price of my home heating and electricity and I won’t sit here and freeze in the dark. It is cheaper to pay these high conventional energy prices than to buy a new Prius and retrofit my house with ultra-efficient windows, geothermal heating and other expensive energy savers. Until viable “green” energy alternatives are widely and economically available—in five, 10,15 years?—most of us cannot significantly reduce our energy use regardless of the price. Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion’s carbon tax will be all pain and no gain for the vast majority of Canadians.

Derryl Hermanutz, Spruce Grove, Alta.

TO REDUCE greenhouse gas emissions Coyne suggests the best and cheapest way is to put a price on them so that gas consumption will decline. Liberal Leader Dion says the

same thing. But gas prices have already increased. Prices are 46 per cent higher than in 1984 and many forecast more increases around the corner. Therefore, we already have the higher prices, with more underway, that, according to Coyne and Dion, should result in the objective of changing our gasguzzling behaviour. Why then do we need a carbon tax?

Gerry Van Kessel, Gatineau, Que.

FIVE-COURSE SEXISM

SINCE I AM from the hinterland of Alberta, I must confess that I have never been to a restaurant that offered a mystery five-course tasting menu as described in the article. If the five courses offered are approximately sized as depicted in the accompanying photo, I feel reasonably certain that I could finish all five courses without feeling overly stuffed, since the total amount of food looks to be about what might be required to keep a small child going for a little while. Jacob Richler’s assertion that he would not enjoy sitting beside any woman who did not dread the prospect of plowing through a five-course meal was certainly beyond the pale. Is he talking about the amount of food shown in the photo, or a more normal amount of food? Is he implying that the only women worth knowing are skinny anorexics? What gives him the right to make such a sexist remark? It’s lucky that my path will likely not cross Jacob’s, since I feel reasonably certain I would not want to sit beside Jacob Richler on a plane or a lifeboat, or anywhere for that matter. If the article was ironic or satirical, sorry I missed that—he came across as completely insufferable.

Susan Osterwoldt, Millet, Alta.

IN PASSING

Bo Diddley, 79, musician. A pioneer in the use of electric guitars, his signature rhythm helped shape rock ’n’ roll, and was widely copied by Buddy Holly, the Rolling Stones and many others. Although he had relatively few hits, his sound became pervasive, helped by an approach to the guitar that expanded its performance range.

Yves Saint Laurent, 71, fashion designer. At age 21, the shy Saint Laurent was named head of the fashion house bearing the name of designer Christian Dior. His famous pantsuit revolutionized women’s clothing. In 1962 he opened his own house of couture and later pioneered a ready-to-wear business stream with his Rive Gauche chain of stores.