MAIL BAG

'Conrad Black is in jail because he has never tempered his ego with an ounce of humility'

August 18 2008
MAIL BAG

'Conrad Black is in jail because he has never tempered his ego with an ounce of humility'

August 18 2008

'Conrad Black is in jail because he has never tempered his ego with an ounce of humility'

MAIL BAG

TAKING A FLIER

THANK YOU for your article on the challenges of air travel ("Why air travel is hell," Business, July 28). My wife and I took a trip a few weeks ago that was most frustrating. When we arrived at the Air Canada ticket counter at the Ottawa airport, we were asked to print our own boarding passes, which wasted a lot of time. On the way home, we were required to obtain our own luggage tags from a computer, which was very confusing-even the agent helping us had trouble. After attaching the tags, we had to put the luggage on the conveyor belt ourselves. I am doing all of this extra work, and yet the company charged me for a pillow. These are not friendly skies.

Sam Coletti, Nepean, Ont.

FLYING IS HELL? I beg to differ. My family and I recently returned from Dublin and our overall experience was nothing but positive. We avoided that overrated and expensive monstrosity of an airport in Toronto and instead breezed through John C. Monroe Airport in Hamilton and enjoyed a very comfortable non-stop flight with Flyglobespan. No stress.

Henry Swierenga, Smithville, Ont.

SO AIRLINES are looking for ways to get rid of some weight and save on fuel costs? I have an idea. Get rid of flight attendants on short flights altogether. The service they provide is often the worst part of the flight. If you can’t go an hour without a drink of water or a coffee you shouldn’t be flying anyway. The snacks they give you are pointless. If you have to get up and go to the washroom, the flight attendants are in your way, though they always make you feel like it’s you who are in their way. Airlines should stop pretending to make flying glamorous.

Greg Campbell, Regina

EIGHTY-THOUSAND gallons of gasoline to fuel an airliner? It’s enough to make me wonder if the nostalgia over the golden age of travel is misplaced. What about the golden age of train travel? The train is a huge and neglected part of Canada’s heritage. But last time I priced sending my son from Toronto to Vancouver, the train was by far the most expensive way of going. If only trains were more affordable and more comfortable. They

are already more environmentally responsible. It seems to me that with 80,000 gallons of fuel you could probably transport the entire population of say, Chilliwack, B.C., to Toronto and back again by train. David Lee, Hamilton

YOUR STORY SAID that neither Air Canada nor Westjet would provide data on its flight performance. As part of each quarter’s financial results, Westjet provides the three key measures of an airline’s operational success: on-time performance (the percentage of flights that arrived within 15 minutes of

their scheduled arrival time), completion rate (the percentage of flights the airline completed within the indicated time period), and baggage ratio (the number of bags per 1,000 travellers that did not arrive on the same flight). In the name of transparency, here are Westjet’s “Big Three” for the second quarter of 2008: on-time performance: 84-3 per cent; completion rate: 99 per cent; and baggage ratio: 3.32 per cent. Getting it right is hard to do in the airline industry. When an airline does get it right, we would appreciate your readers knowing the full story.

Richard Bartrem, Vice-President, Culture and Communications, Westjet, Calgary

AMIEL’S WITCH HUNT

IN WRITING ABOUT Conrad Black’s trial, Barbara Amiel aptly described her husband’s ordeal and her own as a witch hunt (“This is

humiliating,” Justice, August 4). The Blacks’ lives and assets were stolen outright by the debacle that somehow convicted him on four counts out of 13. Justice? A joke indeed. Barbara’s husband was convicted by jealous fiends. In an historical irony, a rich man has been denied justice.

Nancy Roberts, Brockville, Ont.

AS ALWAYS, Barbara Amiel writes with grace and aplomb, all the more distinct since her content is so personal. Her courage is astonishing. Her question is resonant: where is the voice of outrage over Conrad Black’s treatment? Not just at the wrong end of the American justice system, but in the larger forum of public opinion, specifically here in Canada? If we as a nation are willing to pledge Canadian support for those who adopt or procure their citizenship as a function of convenience, why are we not extending it to someone who has contributed profoundly to Canadian culture? Where is the champion of this cause? I wonder what our government is doing when a significant former citizen, a holder of high national and international honour, is wrongfully imprisoned in another country? It’s time for our government to put pressure on this issue and pledge support where it is deserved.

Peter Klambauer, Mississauga, Ont.

THE PLACEMENT of Barbara Amiel’s column in the Justice section is challenging, even to the most objective of readers. What is blatantly clear to everyone is this: if you pay no attention to a court order and you disturb a document’s integrity and the evidence produced, you are obstructing justice. There is no question Conrad Black did just that. Secondly, appellate arguments are never (in Canada or in the U.S.) an opportunity to retry a case. They are only for issues on appeal that are ripe for appellate review, not just your disappointment at the result.

Emily Clutton, Stratford, Ont.

OKAY, I read the article and some of it was believable. But who was that guy, with a remarkable resemblance to Conrad, shredding documents and why was he doing it? Mary Bailey, St. Catharines, Ont.

CONRAD BLACK is in jail today not because of any true criminal offence, but because

he has never tempered his ego with an ounce of humility. When did America (and Canada for that matter) develop such distaste for ambition, success and justified pride? It’s a shame. Both for Lord Black and our society.

Melissa Kimens, Regina

AXE MEN RULE!

KATE KENNEDY IS RIGHT in her article about the death of guitar solos (“It’s official: the guitar solo is dead,” Music, July 28). Guitar solos are nowhere to be found in Top 40 music, but if your only source of music is Top 40, you are severely depriving yourself of some fantastic music. Bands like Dream

Theater, Opeth and Three couple unbelievable musicianship with intelligent songwriting, yet they are repeatedly criticized for selfindulgent solos and fills, as if it is a crime to actually put time and effort into their craft. Why ask skilled guitarists like John Pétrucci and Paul Gilbert to apologize for (gasp!) actually knowing how to play their instruments? I doubt this attitude prevails among fans of classical music, ballet, or even sports— would you expect anyone to perform beneath their ability?

Lisa Ferreira, Whitby, Ont.

HEAVY METAL, whether it’s death, thrash or speed, uses every type of guitar solo possible. Whether to complement the melodic undertones or give a totally chaotic and dark feeling, the solo shall always survive in the world of heavy metal music.

Daniel Pelletier, Orleans, Ont.

PRAISE FOR AN IMAM

WOW! I just finished reading Maclean’s interview with Syed Soharwardy, the imam who filed a human rights complaint again Ezra Levant for publishing the controversial Dan-

ish cartoons (Interview, July 28). The turnaround in his opinion on human rights commissions after complaints were filed against him gave me a glimmer of hope about the. whole human rights commission fiasco. If people would actually take the time to think rationally about issues and discuss them before getting so egregiously offended, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are today. As a secular Canadian, I really don’t understand what all the fuss is about. Open and honest dialogue about contentious issues is always the better alternative. The minute governments—or God forbid, lawyers—get involved, we become polarized into opposing camps. Kudos to Soharwardy for having the courage to admit he was wrong.

Gerry Hawkes, Guelph, Ont.

I’M FINDING MYSELF thinking that I might actually be able to relate to Calgary imam Syed Soharwardy when he says human rights commissions are not for disputes about freedom of speech. Hallelujah, or whatever the equivalent Muslim word is. Maybe he could share some notes with the crew that gave your Mark Steyn a few undeserved new wrinkles.

Tim Kent, Vancouver

BEAVERS ON THE MARCH

NATIONAL PRIDE swelled inside me and my hand went over my heart when I read Malcolm Gray’s story about Canadian beavers chomping their way across Russia (“Ivan, what’s that chewing sound?” Nature, July 28). Our imperialist little rodents are carving a legacy worthy of us putting them on our nickels. I am sure it is not funny for the Finns, Russians and Argentineans, but it does show our beavers are the best. All hail the mighty Canadian beaver and its conquering of the world.

Glen Davis, Carleton Place, Ont.

THANKS FOR the article on the pesky Canadian beaver threatening Moscow. Do you think they’re onto us? All over the world Canucks meet in clandestine corners plotting how we can take over the world using beavers. Phase one: Moscow and Argentina. Phase two: Washington, London and Madrid. After that, the most devastating. Phase three: we clip the flight feathers of Canada geese and place them in downtown parks in foreign cities. Soon Canadian icons will be everywhere. Today, the Great White North, tomorrow, the world!

Owen Thornton, London, Ont.

BARENAKED SUPPORT

THANK YOU to Nicholas Köhler and Cathy Gulli for the well-balanced article on singer

Steven Page’s arrest on drug charges (“Barenaked Mess,” Profile, Aug. 4). I have been a Barenaked Ladies fan for many years. I think that as a society we are expecting too much from our entertainers. We are so quick to point out their failings and act shocked at their basic humanness. I was really happy that your article, instead of bashing Page, presented the facts along with commentaries from rational people including his lifelong friend. Instead of judging others, it’s time for us all to look inward and find some compassion, empathy and forgiveness.

Kelly Wadsworth, Oshawa, Ont.

'Mamma Mia!' is sleazy? Thank goodness all this moral turpitude was happening in Greece.'

I WAS QUITE SHOCKED to see the Steven Page scandal on your cover this week. Was there not any positive news you could have run instead? Yes, I am a long-time Barenaked Ladies fan and I was shocked about the news, but in my opinion, it’s not headline news. Everyone slips.

TaraArro, Oakville, Ont.

I SHOULD NOT have been surprised when I retrieved Maclean’s from my post office box and found the lurid cover’s promise of voyeuristic schadenfreudean glee over Steven Page’s misfortune. Talk about a dog-bitesman story—a rock star found with illicit drugs. Page should be given credit for retaining his dignity for as long as he has while living in the fishbowl of pop stardom that our society demands of creative souls. We should celebrate his creativity and recognize that, to borrow a trite cliché, there but for the grace of God go I. Keep following your muse, Steven.

Jan Raczycki, Clinton, Ont.

SEX REGISTRY FLAWS

MICHAEL FRISCOLANTl’S ARTICLE on the national sex offender registry (NSOR) is right—it is a seriously flawed and ineffective law enforcement tool (“Taking the handcuffs off to keep track of sex offenders,” National, July 28). In March, after reading Friscolanti’s Jan. 14 cover story on this issue, our office wrote to Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day to express our concerns about the effectiveness of the NSOR. One of the issues we raised was the failure of the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) to alert the RCMP when registered sex offenders were released from prison. Day replied and assured us that the government is taking appropriate steps to improve the NSOR and informed us that there is now an administrative agreement between the CSC and the RCMP to share information on releases of sex offenders. While this is a step forward, more needs to be done as many dangerous convicted criminals are too easily able to avoid registering on the NSOR. Our office will continue to pursue this matter until the NSOR is functioning efficiently, allowing authorities to properly keep track of dangerous convicted criminals and reduce further incidents.

Steve Sullivan, Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Ottawa

MAMMA MIA! AND MORALS

SO THE MOVIE Mamma Mia! is an insidiously playful attack on family values (“My mother slept around. Ha ha ha!” Film, July 28)? The musical’s Abba rhythms frame and justify a “sleazy plot” of “parental abandonment and promiscuity” as “wholesome” family entertainment? May I further fan the flames of moral anxiety? The movie’s wedding scene message is even more reprehen-

sible: that a working, struggling, single mother has just as good, or an even greater, right to give a daughter away than any dad, present or remote. Thank goodness all this moral turpitude was happening in Greece.

Eva Bednar, Toronto

IT IS INTERESTING that Jaime J. Weinman’s article adopts the moralist stance in the review of Mamma Mia! at a time when Henry Morgentaler and abortion are controversial. Is it the theme of having a child out of wedlock, as opposed to aborting, that offends, or the numerous sexual partners angle? Is Meryl Streep’s character altogether too happy about the situation when she should come to a bad or at least less cheerful end? Neither male sexual promiscuity nor violence has ever been a problem in dramas, comedies or musicals, and while this latter category has little appeal for me, I find the double standard hypocritical, retrograde and boring.

Doris Wrench Eisler, St. Albert, Alta.

TOOTHSOME READING

AS ATEENAGE GIRL, I, unlike Brian Bethune, did not find Stephenie Meyer’s novel Twilight in the least bit spellbinding (“Love at first bite,” Books, July 28). In his story about Meyer’s bestselling series of teen vampire novels, Bethune writes that “it’s what’s underneath, the age-old crises of growing up, of trying to grasp who I am and what do I have to offer, that hook readers and make them want to live in the authors’ imaginary worlds.” I must say that I would not want to live in a cookie-cutter romance novel, with bland, two-dimensional characters such as a heroine who might as well be a Disney princess and a hero who has as much personality and spark as the prince in Snow White. Twilight does not offer young females a positive and realistic role model. Bella is a beautiful, helpless princess, who is portrayed as the quintessential dumb blond. Is this what we as adolescent females want to aspire to? In incidents where she is faced with attackers, she does very little to defend herself and prefers to allow her vampire boyfriend to save her. What does a dependent trophy-girl have to offer the world? Nothing! So, if they’re looking for a good vampire book or a good solid genuine romance with strong characters and real bite, I would advise your readers to look elsewhere.

Haley Isaak, East St. Paul, Man.

IN PASSING

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, 89, author. With the publication in 1962 of OneDay in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, he established himself as an unflinching opponent of Soviet oppression. He spent years in political prisons, bringing the word “gulag” into the global lexicon. He won a Nobel Prize for his literary work but faltered after the end of the Soviet Union, at one point presenting a TV talk show that was cancelled for lack of viewers.

Randy Pausch, 47, academic. A computer science professor, he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in 2007 For his last lecture, he gave an inspirational talk on the importance of pursuing one’s passions that became a global sensation last year on YouTube.