MAIL BAG

October 22 2007

MAIL BAG

October 22 2007

MAIL BAG

‘The re-emergence of Russian bombers patrolling the West’s skies is not a surprise’

SHOPPING AT HOME

IN REFERENCE TO your story about the Canadian loonie rising above the value of the American dollar, I take offence to you painting retailers with broad and negative strokes and saying that “the only payoff is going to the ones behind the cash register” (“Can you say recession?” Business, Oct. 8). Being in retail, I would love to pass on the savings to the consumer, but the dynamics of retail are not as simple as you make them out to be. If the savings are not passed on by importers and wholesalers, then how is retail expected to lower prices? I have to explain this exact tragedy to consumers on a daily basis. Suggesting that retail is the evil in this equation is a misinformed opinion. It will do nothing but create a lack of confidence in consumers and drive them south of the border to spend their money. This will make the strong Canadian economy suffer in the end.

Jeff Tombs, Peterborough, Ont.

‘ACT JUSTLY, WALK HUMBLY’

KATE FILLION’S Q & A with A. J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically (Interview, Oct. 8), would be hilarious if it wasn’t so misleading. Although Jacobs obviously read parts of the Bible, he seems to have completely missed that it contains more than the Jewish behavioural law expressed in the Old Testament. He apparently never strayed into the New Testament, which abolishes that law and replaces it with a disciplined walk of faith (Galatians 5:18). Further, even limiting himself to the Old Testament one wonders how he could miss—perhaps intentionally—the greatest commandment (to love God; Deuteronomy 6:5) and the clear expression of God’s requirements (act justly, love mercy, walk humbly; Micah 6:8). Sadly, Jacobs wasted his year on such trivialities as clothes, beards, and portable chairs and ended it a pebblethrowing agnostic, the farthest thing from living biblically. Even if he actually wrote a book recording a life lived in full expression of biblical principles, it has already been done by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Stan Klapauszak, Toronto

A. J. JACOBS’ year-long experiment had me laughing so hard my sides hurt. I don’t know who he talked to before he started, but most Christians know that Jesus summarized all 613 Mosaic laws into two: love God and love

your neighbour as yourself. The laws of the Old Testament were intended for the Jewish people of that time and do not apply to us today. In fact, trying to live according to the old Mosaic legal system today is crazy, as Jacobs and everyone around him noticed. I suggest he try again, remembering that it will be much harder to keep the two that Jesus suggested. But ultimately, it will be much more rewarding.

BasAbbink, St.Thomas, Ont.

BEARS IN THE AIR

IT IS ASTOUNDING that in his article about Vladimir Putin’s restoration of strategic bomber flights, Sean M. Maloney failed to mention the impending stationing of the American anti-missile shield in the Czech Republic and Poland that has so angered the

Russians (“When Bears fly, it’s nothing to laugh at,” World, Oct. 8). Is that what we call balanced and objective reporting? How convenient to blame the Russians, alone, for any “possible” return to the Cold War days when so many other world events, including the American anti-missile shield, preceded Putin’s decision. We have enjoyed more than a decade without a nuclear holocaust hanging over our heads. Let us keep it that way and let us not forget that the Russia of today is much different from that of the 1990s. As Greek philosopher Nikos Kazantzakis put it, we should not forget that “the doors of heaven and hell are adjacent and identical.”

Harry Stavrou, Kitchener, Ont.

It is with a distinct visceral reaction that one reads and learns about the re-emergence of Russian bombers patrolling the West’s skies, but definitely not a surprise to persons who have suffered under the brutal heel of the Soviets. What is so galling is that for years since glasnost and perestroika the West has donned rose-coloured glasses and treated the Russians as if they thought and believed as we do. Hogwash. The Russians never have and never will think like us. It is an innate character trait of the Russian people and especially the autocratic government under Putin, which is again terrorizing its dissident citizens with imprisonment, to acquire and dominate other countries and peoples. We have already witnessed what has happened to Putin’s opponents. What is it about the leaders of the West, including the foreign affairs apparatchiks in these various governments who hide behind the cloak of secrecy, that makes them so wrongly believe that the Russians can be trusted? Former U.S. president Ronald Reagan had it right all along; the evil empire exists and, like the phoenix, it has risen from the ashes of bankruptcy to use and abuse us and to stretch our defences beyond our capabilities and create havoc in the world.

Edite Lynch, Barrie, Out.

IT IS CORRECT to draw attention to the changing attitudes of the Kremlin toward the West, but the story should come with a few caveats. While the Russian air force does have some excellent aircraft such as the Sukhoi 30 series and the Mig 29, the Tu-95 is not one of them. Regardless of when the current models were built, the aircraft is not a modern design nor does Russia have nearly enough for any sustained operation. While it is true that some of the West’s fighter forces are occupied in Iraq and Afghanistan, the best ones are still at home. NATO has three fourth-generation fighters, the Eurofighter, the Swedish Gripen and the French Rafale, that are capable of handling the Bear, while the American fifthgeneration aircraft—the F-22—is now in squadron service. Putin may do some aviation huffing and puffing, but the fact remains that all his armed forces are in a bad state after close to 20 years of neglect and will require years of continual rebuilding. In addition, they no longer have the satellite countries of eastern Europe to rely on for manpower, nor, for that

matter, Ukraine. It is always wise to keep an eye on Russian aviation activities, but let’s not have a 21st-century cry of wolf too soon. Raymond R. Canon, Aviation Analyst, University of Western Ontario, London, Ont.

TALKING BACK TO OPRAH

I HAVE FOUR WORDS for New York book editor and publisher Nan Tálese: too little too late (“The feud that just won’t end,” Books, Oct. 8). No matter what she says now, I remember the January ’06 show where Oprah Winfrey skewered A Million Little Pieces author James Frey. She was, as Tálese told a gathering several weeks ago, sanctimonious, mean, self-serving and bad-mannered. But Tálese was on that show too. And her silence that day was deafening. I, like probably many other people, did let Oprah know that her behaviour was unacceptable, but it would have had a lot more impact if Tálese had said it to her face. As far as I’m concerned, James Frey had nothing to be ashamed of. As I recall, he first tried to shop his book around to editors as a novel, but it was turned down until one enterprising soul said it would sell much better as a memoir. I agree with Stephen King.

I don’t expect the unvarnished truth from anybody, much less an alcoholic and drug addict. In fact, I’d wager a bet that not one person on the set that day, including the panel of journalists, is without blemish when it comes to stretching the truth a time or two. If Oprah wants to defend her actions by saying it was “just business,” I’d say that was the biggest lie of all.

Calista Baltazar, Etobicoke, Ont.

ALBERTA’S CRISIS

NICHOLAS KOHLER’S ARTICLE on William Marsden’s new book Stupid to the Last Drop is bang on (“Doomsday: Alberta stands accused,” National, Oct. 8). Ecologically we are in a crisis, and rural Albertans for the most part are more than aware of it. Politically we are in a crisis as well. Albertans would be hardpressed to elect a government that wouldn’t say ka-ching every time a new oil development agreement was made. When our finance minister is nervous over a recent report suggesting that resource royalties are terribly askew and Albertans aren’t getting their fair share, you can see who’s really in control here. So who’s going to bite the hand that feeds them? If not for Alberta’s boom, the country would be in a recession. It might be time for a federal intervention. The situation in Alberta is everybody’s problem.

Jodie Prüden, Athabasca, Alta.

A SORRY SOLDIER’S STORY

YOUR STORY about the hazing of Pte. Glenn Brownhall was so upsetting that I could not sleep after reading it (“A soldier becomes a target,” National, Oct. 8). This sounds like just another version of the sorry tales we heard from the now disbanded Airborne Regiment. My heart goes out to this young

‘Gen. Hillier has misinformed the Canadian government, betrayed his troops and overstepped his bounds. He should be relieved of duty.’

man and all like him who are abused by the very people they should be able to trust, who live in fear of their own troops and then are told that a pension is their only compensation for the lingering mental and physical pain that terminates their career aspirations. Meanwhile, the perpetrators suffered no more than a slap on the wrist by comparison. We have been led to believe that our troops are over there supposedly teaching those poor ignorant Afghan people lessons in democracy and civilized behaviour. What a cruel joke on all of us.

Jeanne Halet Syms, Burlington, Ont.

LEADING THE CHARGE

GEN. RICK HILLIER misinformed the prime minister of the day when he said there were enough troops available to deploy to Afghanistan and another hot spot such as Darfur or Haiti (“Blame Hillier,” National, Oct. 15). He did this to gain permission for the deployment to Kandahar. Furthermore, he then insisted to NATO that Canada would provide a battle group for the most dangerous Kandahar mission. He did this knowing our soldiers lacked vital cargo-capable helicopters, which could avoid IEDs on resupply missions. More Canadian soldiers have been killed or wounded on these missions than in combat operations. To keep Canadian troops in this most dangerous mission, he runs a propaganda effort to help the government sell the mission to Canadians. Gen. Hillier has misinformed the Canadian government, betrayed his troops, and overstepped his bounds as a

general officer. For these reasons, I believe he should be relieved of duty.

Graeme Gardiner, Sidney, B.C.

RURAL SURFING

VERY GOOD ARTICLE on Silo Wireless (“Bringing the Internet to farm country,” Business, Oct. l). The family-run company in Ontario is a great example of farmers offering more than food production. As a point of interest, though, a silo is used to store and preserve high-moisture feed, not for “keeping cattle feed dry.”

Albert Wagner, Stony Plain, Alta.

IN PASSING

Bud Ekins, 77, stunt man. He was responsible for two of the most famous movie stunts of the 1960s, both on behalf of actor and close friend Steve McQueen. It was Ekins who jumped the fence with a motorcycle in The Great Escape, and Ekins again behind the wheel of a Mustang 390 GT in Bullitt.

Tony Ryan, 71, entrepreneur. In 1985 he founded one of Europe’s leading budget airlines, Ryanair, using a 15-seat plane. The company now operates in 26 countries and has been a player in changing Europe’s stodgy, state-controlled airline industry. Ryanair’s low prices and boastful marketing made a fortune for Ryan, who by 2007 was worth $1.1 billion.