by Colby Cosh
Shocking news reaches us from the American aircraft carrier Theodore
Roosevelt stationed in the Arabian Gulf. On November 21, six Miami Dolphin
cheerleaders were airlifted to the ship to perform dances for the crew.
Wearing skimpy flag-festooned outfits, the girls shook their pompoms to
songs like James Brown's "Living in America." But according to the
Washington Post, some of the carrier's otherly gendered crewmembers
"It's good for the cheerleaders to see an aircraft carrier. But it's
not good for the men. They've been at sea for close to 65 days and their
hormones are definitely on high," griped Shenandoah Hawkesworth (rank not
given; name may be an absurd joke at the reporter's expense). Fellow
sailor Andrea Commander (see previous disclaimer) concurred: "I don't
think they should have come...why should they bring something that is
sexually provocative on a ship full of young men? It's cool to have them
show their support. But you know what young men think about."
As we read these quotes, we realized to our horror that apparently the
United States is forcing fragile young women to join its Navy and
serve on combat ships with hundreds of men, some of whom may experience
occasional feelings of lecherous arousal. Do the annals of history contain
a greater outrage? Won't someone let these imperilled ladies go home and
take up the safe civilian careers they so clearly desire?
the final chapter?
Business writer Grant Robertson informs us in a November 24 Calgary
Herald piece that Air Canada, having finished off discount rival
Canada 3000, is turning its attention to WestJet. Canada 3000 went
bankrupt earlier in the month after Air Canada announced plans to create
Tango, a no-frills carrier for the eastern market. Now Air Canada, despite
a crippling debt load, wants to create a similar western-based carrier,
probably based in Calgary. As Mr. Robertson points out, Air Canada is
forbidden by statute to create money-losing subsidiaries to kill smaller
rivals. Fortunately for them, Canada 3000 went bust before anyone could
successfully object to Tango.
WestJet will, of course, not be so easy to destroy. The company
remained profitable right through the September 11 terrorist attacks; as
noted in Up Front, while Air Canada was screaming for a federal bailout,
WestJet CEO Clive Beddoe said that the help was not necessary, thank you
very much. Now Mr. Beddoe says he will fight Air Canada's attempt to put a
cross-subsidized rival in his breadbasket. "We think it's an illegal
airline," he told the Herald.
Even if the new airline is not unlawful, Ottawa should step in.
Business is business, but our tax dollars were used to "save" Air Canada's
fat bacon after September 11. A mere two months later, Air Canada
magically has the cash to expand fleets and schedules in areas already
well endowed with cheap flights. Of course, WestJet may be able to win
even an unfair fight, but that is not the point. We just want the
Transport Minister to explain why we should pay for a big, stupid airline
to pummel a small, smart one.
Readers may recall our coverage of the news that Customs routinely
opens private envelopes sent to and from Canada, sometimes copying the
contents into a database which is viewable by any government agency or
ministry that is feeling curious. Since Customs does not need a warrant to
read your mail, how do they decide what to look at? Customs and Revenue
spokesman Colleen Gentes-Hawn answered that question in a March 2 Globe
and Mail story. "If the package is from Colombia, obviously that says
something," she said. "If it's from France or Holland, there could be
ecstasy [she probably means the drug] in there."
It is hard, no doubt, to agree with the government that all Colombians
and Europeans should be treated as drug traffickers. But if the government
is willing to race-profile your mail and mine--in essence, to discriminate
against those of us with foreign friends and relatives--surely it would
consider allowing airport security personnel to discriminate in
"profiling" travellers according to national origin?
Apparently not. Edmonton Journal reporter Scott McKeen tried to
get to the bottom of this for a November 10 story, but it "proved a
tail-chasing exercise. Edmonton airport officials passed the question over
to an Air Canada spokesperson, who suggested calling Transport Canada, who
in turn referred the question to the RCMP, who suggested calling Edmonton
airport officials. A couple of officials in the bureaucracy, however,
denied that racial profiling would ever be allowed because of the Canadian
Charter of Rights, as well as human rights legislation."
Just to be clear, then, the charter protects Saudi-born air travellers
from airport scrutiny, but is silent about the government's perusal of
your personal correspondence. How very...Canadian.
Sunday morning, January 7, and legendary wild-well fighter Red Adair is
preparing to extinguish the fiery sour gas blowout at Lodgepole, Alta,
with 200 tons of high explosives. For nearly a month the well has been
spewing rotten-egg smell as far south as Montana. Mr. Adair's blast
promises to be a great show, but the government has imposed a
mile-and-a-half "no-go" barrier around the well, frustrating TV newsmen.
But one man has no intention of taking the order lying down.
The young Calgary CBC reporter takes a cameraman and heads to Drayton
Valley with skullduggery in mind. No one has told them how far the no-go
zone reaches, St. John's Edmonton Report notes, but they certainly
do not ask. Instead, they sneak out to a site overlooking the column of
flame and set up a carefully camouflaged tent. That night CBC has
exclusive footage of the gigantic explosion, and officials are livid. "We
did as we were told, and no harm was done," says the reporter. Thirteen
years later, that bravado will make Arthur Kent a news legend when he
covers Gulf War action for NBC.
something for Madame
Maybe you were wondering how Jean Chretien was able to persuade former
South African President Nelson Mandela to spend a week in Canada last
month, bouncing rays of reflected glory off our PM. Of course, there was
that honorary Canadian citizenship they arranged for the great man, but
that and three bucks will barely get you a Starbucks latte, even on
Parliament Hill. Aside from that, we cannot say what attractions Canada
might have for the liberator of South Africa.
We did notice on November 18, however, that our federal Minister of
International Cooperation, Maria Minna, announced a new $1.3-million grant
for a Mozambican charitable foundation run by one Ms. Graca Machel. "Graca
Machel has devoted her life not only to raising awareness about the
situation of children in developing countries, but also to inspiring
global action to support them," said the minister. She failed to mention
that in private life, Ms. Machel is also the current Mrs. Nelson Mandela.
(She is not to be confused with the original article, Winnie Madikizela,
who kept herself busy murdering teenaged political enemies while her
husband passed the time on Robben Island.)
Of course, a million and change is a mere bagatelle to the Canadian
International Development Agency, which will spend nearly $1.4 billion on
loans and grants abroad this fiscal year. Still, every little bit helps,
even if you are married to a Nobel laureate whose speaking fees run into
The December 11 Canadian Medical Association Journal contains
one of the most comprehensive studies yet made of patterns in
prescriptions of Ritalin to children. Ritalin is the controversial
stimulant used as a treatment for what is, for the moment, called
attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A team of B.C. health
evaluators led by Dr. Aaron Miller used the province-wide medical database
to crunch the numbers and found that 81.5% of young Ritalin recipients
were boys. That will scarcely delight those who have said all along that
the drug is essentially used as medication for maleness.
The study highlights other classic concerns with Ritalin distribution.
In some health regions in B.C., prescription rates are as low as 12 per
1,000 children; in others, it is over 35. Children in low-income families
were 17% more likely to receive the drug than those in wealthier
households. If ADHD is a legitimate biological disorder with solid
diagnostic criteria, why should either of these things be true? The
question continues to await a sensible answer.
One of the study's interesting sub-findings is that new prescription
rates soared from 1 per 1,000 in 1990 to 4.7 in 1995, but declined to 3.5
in 1996. The reason? The authors believe children were being switched to
Dexedrine, which is an increasingly popular ADHD therapy. Doctors, in
other words, are moving away from a controversial pseudo-amphetamine to
the real McCoy. Lord knows we're supposed to stimulate our kids'
imaginations, but are bucketfuls of greenies really the best way to go
zero-tolerance follies continue, this time in Ottawa. Aaron Appel, 7, has
been suspended from Manotick Public School for five days for bringing a
wooden replica of an African knife to school for show-and-tell. "No
weapons means no weapons," a spokesman for the school board told the
Canadian Press, but the board's policy allows the principal to exercise
"discretion," which may or may not mean "common sense." Aaron's father, a
former missionary who uses the fake knife as a letter opener, feels his
son has been branded a "troublemaker" because of fights he has gotten into
over his fruity surname. Come to think of it, maybe children named Appel
should be allowed to carry real knives to school.
political consultant Rod Love blasted Canada's "conservative movement" in
a scathing November 25 editorial for the Calgary Herald. Addressing
those who are unwilling to unite the Canadian Alliance with the Joe Clark
Party O' Greatness, Mr. Love said, "Don't get me wrong, principles are
important...but what do you call it when blind adherence to a principle,
or its misrepresentation, stops an organization from moving forward?
Defeat, that's what you call it." Note the use of the phrase "moving
forward" as a synonym for "putting Rod Love in the PMO." "After four
straight election defeats, which part don't you get?" Mr. Love asks us in
his cri de coeur. To be honest, the part Up Front doesn't get is
why big, famous party advisers are allowed to blame everyone but
themselves for screwing up elections.
Bill Phipps, the former United Church of Canada moderator famous for his
doubts about the divinity of Christ, has issued a poignant appeal for the
forgiveness of Third-World debt. In a University of Calgary lecture he
called for the creation of a worldwide "moral economy." Mr. Phipps
explained that loans made in the 1970s to poor countries were squandered
by socialist politicians on showy dams, airports and other wasteful
monuments. (The usual cure proposed by the debt-relief crowd: more
socialism.) "They've actually paid back more than they originally borrowed
because of compound interest at high rates," the reverend noted. This news
presumably came as a big surprise to everyone in the audience who ever had
National Post revealed November 29 that thousands of Ontario
teachers are boycotting the Harris government's new testing procedures.
Newly implemented rules will require teachers in the province to
participate in quinquennial assessments of their knowledge and abilities,
or lose their certification. "The idea is ludicrous," said Emily Noble, a
vice-president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, calling
it a "slap in the face." "We believe professional development should be
self-directed." Once again members of a so-called "profession" howl over
the imposition of standards on their work. These tests would never have
been necessary if teachers' unions did not regard jobs as lifetime
sinecures. In real "professions," workers can be fired or decertified for
incompetence; did you ever hear of that happening to a teacher? If these
whiny jerks really cared about saving public education, they would
celebrate the idea of making teaching jobs conditional.
opinion, in the person of New York Times foreign affairs columnist
Thomas Friedman, tackled the tricky "What are we fighting for in
Afghanistan?" subject November 27. This is not just a battle against bin
Laden, it turns out, but against the concept of orthodoxy itself. "Can
Islam, Christianity and Judaism know that God speaks Arabic on Fridays,
Hebrew on Saturdays and Latin on Sundays, and that he welcomes different
human beings approaching him through their own history, out of their
language and cultural heritage?" Mr. Friedman asks. No mention of truth in
that grocery list. But what we really wonder is whether Mr. Friedman knows
just how few Catholic churches "speak Latin" to the Lord these