MAIL BAG

October 29 2007

MAIL BAG

October 29 2007

MAIL BAG

‘I am in Grade 8 and it’s like déjà vu to read that Grade 7 girls are obsessed with being popular’

BUFFETT’S STYLE

I ENJOYED the coverage in Maclean’s magazine and on its website of Warren Buffett (Interview, Oct. 15; “Get Buffed up,” Macleans.ca, Oct. 11). But while your Net primer, especially, is meaty on the Oracle of Omaha’s personal and emerging philanthropic life, it skimps on the unique investment style that makes him different from his peers. It is true that Buffett showed amazing promise as a child and has been the only person to score an A+ in Benjamin Graham’s Columbia securities analysis course, but he started his investment partnership with several thousand dollars borrowed from family and friends. To convince his investors, he would hold cozy soup-eating sessions in their kitchens. He advocated a long-term, buy-andhold strategy that was unheard of among his peers. In fact, the major stocks in his company Berkshire Hathaway’s portfolio continue to be old investments in CocaCola, McDonald’s and Gillette. His unique style continues to make news as he ventures, for the first time, into Israel and Japan.

Gary Lai, New York

THOUGHT CRIMES

IN HER PIECE about Evan Stark’s book, Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life (“ Emotional rescue,” Health, Oct. 15), Dafna Izenberg gives respectful attention to Stark’s theme, namely that the emphasis in public awareness campaigns of the physical battering of women by men has diminished concern for the non-physical ways in which men effect control over women. Stark argues that many psychological and emotional forms of torment “can be more devastating than injurious assault,” and therefore “coercive control”—all acts of oppression men submit women to, physical or otherwise, should be criminalized. Stark’s argument is shockingly totalitarian. “Or otherwise” means he wants to introduce the Orwellian idea of thought crime and allow interference in relationship behaviours that the state cannot possibly monitor in a free society. To highlight how absurd and dangerous Stark’s impulse is, simply apply his logic to women who oppress

children emotionally or psychologically. It would criminalize mothers who scream at their children, withhold a meal as a punishment or compare them unfavourably to a sibling. Of course that will never happen, because anybody who suggested that women be submitted to such strictures would be condemned out of hand. But it speaks volumes about the entitlement of the women’s movement, and the media’s knee-jerk deference to it, that Stark’s suggestion was chosen as a subject for uncritical reportage by Maclean’s.

Barbara Kay, Westmount, Que.

UNHOLY STRESS

AS ONE WHO has experienced it, I loved Ken MacQueen’s well-researched article on workplace stress (“Dealing with the stressed,” Special Report, Oct. 15). Unfortunately it seemed to give credence to those academics and others who question that complaints about elevated stress levels are even valid. The writer was closer to the core issue when he spoke of the pressures that accompany a 24/7 lifestyle. The dominant idea in our secular culture is making a buck, and that is crazy. I remember when people took off one day a week, Sunday, to worship, or at least slow down. Without this practice of setting time apart from our business pursuits, we are left winded, exhausted and spent. Today’s stress levels are costing us far more than any $30-billiona-year hit to the economy. They are costing us our peace of mind.

Dayna E. Mazzuca, Edmonton

LITTLE ‘CARNIVORES5

I AM A13-year-old girl in Grade 8, and it was like déjà vu when I read in Lianne George’s story that Grade 7 girls were now obsessed with being popular (“In defence of mean-girl books,” Books, Oct. 15). At the middle school I attend, the exact same thing is happening, but at my school, sex, drugs and alcohol are involved. Here, 13and 14-year-old girls are pronounced “popular” because they think that they have to go along with the rest of their clique. There is always a leader in the group and everyone follows whatever she does in fear that they too will be picked apart and dropped. I have befriended girls who were bullied and then trashed and dropped by these groups of carnivores, who will pick apart every little strength they have in them until they are so worn out, they have no energy to fight back. Sometimes I wish I were born a boy.

Tahnee Pierson, Kelowna, B.C.

AS THE AUTHOR of a series of books for girls, I would like to thank Maclean’s for opening the debate on what teens should, or will, read. By respecting the intelligence of the reader and developing teen characters who face tough choices and make decisions, good or otherwise, an author can help teens see the possible outcomes of their actions. Parents and educators would do well to use teen fiction as a basis of discussion.

Patricia G. Penny, Lakefield, Ont.

DEFENDING HILLIER

YOUR BOOK excerpt from The Unexpected War: Canada in Kandahar (“Blame Hillier,” National, Oct. 15) was provocative. But let’s not dump our strongman in some lowest common denominator approach. Blame the Taliban for the war in Afghanistan, not Gen. Rick Hillier. Authors Eugene Lang and Janice Gross Stein have no dirt on Hillier. Your promise of “an inside story” was an idle boast. Jim Short, Arnprior, Ont.

IN YOUR EXCERPT, the authors claim that government officials in March-April 2005 did not use “the word war to describe what was going on in southern Afghanistan,” that “no

civilian or military leader understood that Taliban attacks signalled the beginning of a new war,” and that “the military rarely, if at all, used the word insurgency with the politicians to describe what was happening,” and that “[even] as late as January 2006... officials were still referring to the Kandahar deployment in their briefing notes as ‘a more robust peace support role.’ ”

However, it is evident that even before the deployment of the PPCLI Battlegroup in early 2006, government officials were aware of the nature of the operation and the inevitability of combat and casualties. In October 2005, defence minister Bill Graham noted that Canadian troops were “under no illusion” that their role in Kandahar would be “more in the nature of a combat mission.” Indeed, as early as Feb. 14,2005—before the decision to deploy to Kandahar—Graham told the Associated Press that Canada was willing to take a leading role in Kandahar and would deploy a brigade that would be ready to take part in combat operations.

This “Blame Hillier” campaign is the result of one of two factors. Either the government at the time is now trying to cover its political derrière with the claim that the operation in Afghanistan was aggressively “sold” by the military to support its current attempt to paint the war as the demon child of the current government; or, in what is a more chilling scenario, government officials at the time were asleep at the switch, blind to the possible costs of the operation in Afghanistan.

Alain Pellerin, Colonel (Retired),

Executive Director, Conference of Defence Associations, Ottawa

‘It was rude and cowardly to attempt such a satirical column on Marcel Marceau when the great French artiste, who was so popular, is dead and cannot defend himself’

NHL PROTECTORS

I MUST TAKE exception to your editorial about Steve Downie’s hit on Dean McAmmond in the Ottawa-Philadelphia pre-season game (“Headshot hypocrisy,” From the Editors, Oct. 15). While I agree that both Downie and Senators’ enforcer Brian McGrattan, the man who waded into the fight after McAmmond was hurt, should have been suspended, your reasoning is flawed. You blame McGrattan for doing what he has to do to protect his teammates because NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell refuses to. Hockey goons would not be needed if the people in charge stopped debating and reviewing and just suspended vicious players for a season and

then for life. Instantly, players who lose their cool and do something stupid would only get one chance to amend their playing style, and real hockey would be played. Downie’s 20-game suspension was one of the first real suspensions I have seen following hits that are quite obviously intended to injure.

Greg Moriarty, Carleton Place, Ont.

WHO’S CRAZY?

SURELY Maclean’s has a policy regarding the labelling of heads of sovereign states (“The crazy Kaczynskis,” World, Oct. l). Calling the president and prime minister of Poland “crazy” is highly insulting. Such a sensational headline denigrates an otherwise well-balanced assessment of the present political situation in Poland presented by writer Paul Wells. And why did you call the brothers crazy? Is it

because they are faithful to their political platform of law and justice or because they persist in restoring Catholic principles to a nation ravaged for half a century by the foreign and godless ideology of the Soviet Union? The latter left the country wide open to the misuse of power, rampant corruption in public life, alienation from 1,000 years of traditional Catholic faith and family structure, and general moral dissolution, to name but a few of the many legacies of Communism. Lech and Jaroslaw Kaczynski are doing a good job thinking in terms of what is best for Poland and not for those who are calling the shots in the EU.

Andrzej Wieslaw Debicki, London, Ont.

FOOLING GOD

IN ATTEMPTING to use the Jewish practice of establishing eruvin to permit carrying on the Sabbath as an example of fooling God, Andrew Potter has completely misinterpreted Torah law (“So we fool God with financial loopholes. What of it?” Opinion, Oct. 15). It’s not that we’re trying to fool God; God himself commanded this to Moses at Sinai as the methodology for grouping of several private domains into one and allow carrying within them. The same goes for not writing God’s name. The issue is the commandment to not erase God’s name in Hebrew (Deuteronomy 12:4), which many extend to his name written in other languages. It’s a precautionary measure not to write the name in common usage lest it gets inadvertently erased.

Michael Mirsky, Thornhill, Ont.

JEWS AND MUSLIMS don’t have a corner on trying to fool God. I guess Andrew Potter is speaking as a Christian (whatever that is) when he mistakenly implies that modern Christianity, with all its pomp, is not also attempting to fool God. How many modern Christians still believe in their hearts that God would have Christians slavishly and literally follow the metaphors and cautionary tales that were written and rewritten in the Bible by mortals? I can only imagine what Jews and Muslims must think of ritual-laden Catholics or Anglicans or rattlesnake-handling fundamentalists. Surely, they must think that most of them are also trying to fool God, if not just themselves.

Wes Terryberry, Sarnia, Ont.

MARCEAU, R.I.P.

THE ART OF MIME is not for everyone, so one could forgive Scott Feschuk for being less than enthusiastic about Marcel Marceau (“I come to bury Marcel, not to praise him,” Comment, Oct. 8). What rankles is his lack of manners. It is rude and cowardly to attempt such a satirical column when the great French artiste, who was immensely popular, is dead and cannot defend himself. In fact, Feschuk’s column was in poor taste and just plain dumb. Feschuk’s recounting of his inebriated attempts at the art of mime cannot be compared in any way to Marceau’s, nor can he come close to describing in words what Marceau could describe without them.

Douglas L. Theedom, Halifax

DUMPED/DEMOTED

AS THE RESEARCH assistant to the Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney on his bestselling book Memoirs, I read former Liberal MP Don Boudria’s letter with great interest (Mail Bag, Oct. 8). Boudria is, alas, correct. He was not dumped from cabinet by former prime minister Jean Chrétien—he was demoted. It was left for former prime minister Paul Martin to dump Boudria from cabinet, which he did, in effect, when he formed his own ministry in 2003. We will ensure that future printings oí Memoirs more accurately describe Boudria’s political demise.

ArthurMilnes, Kingston, Ont.

IN PASSING

Alfred Powis, 77, businessman. As a mining executive he grew Noranda Mines from a $700-million company in 1968 to an $ 11-billion resources behemoth in 1995. The company was later absorbed into the Brazilian mining company CRVD. Powis was a co-founder of the Business Council on National Issues.

Soe Win, 59, soldier. As prime minister of Burma, he was blamed for slaughtering dozens of dissidents from the democratic opposition in 2003. It was speculated that the raid by government goons was an attempt to kill opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. She escaped. Despite his title, Soe Win was only fourth in command in the current junta. He died of leukemia.