After reading Anne Kingston’s discussion with Tom Flanagan (Interview, March 18), I came to recognize him as a sincere professional who has had to deal with the more shadowy side of our media. I envy the students who have had the opportunity to be part of his Socratic method. No doubt there will always be students who will not, or cannot, think through issues in a scientifically responsible manner, and sadly there will also likewise be irresponsible journalists in need of some sensation, regardless of proper context.
James Pott, Foxboro, Ont.
Flanagan may be intellectually brilliant, but he seems to be seriously lacking in something called “social intelligence.” I view him as a pathetic man who should be more pitied than censured. As for his career as an “éminence grise” in Canadian politics with his ideas of “incrementalism,” “methods of persuasion” and low regard for Aboriginals and social activists, I am comforted to know that his influence has finally been curtailed. If I were a crude Canadian, I could say: begone little man, go back where you came from!
Helen Kiperchuk, Addison, Ont.
The Flanagan affair is a good opportunity to review some of the taboo subjects in Canadian society. The harsh way we deal with anybody—even with our top intellectuals—when they are not politically correct is worrying. There is a powerful pressure on all of us to comply with the “rules” and to take defensive rather than challenging, dynamic positions when dealing with critical aspects of our social life. It is so sad to find out that we still have a hard time differentiating between a healthy debate and a dirty set-up looking for a low blow to a vulnerable intellectual.
Catalin and Iulia Sultanovici, Toronto
Perhaps there is a parable of power and politics hidden in Tom Flanagan’s explanation of political self-destruction. Students often feel powerless when sitting at the feet of professors who have “authoritative opinions” and therefore “know best.” Will this government, which now shuns the architect of its power (Flanagan), be looking for a divorce in the uncomfortable marriage between free speech and authoritative opinions when backbenchers and bureaucrats finally put out the inside story? As those students knew so well, free speech and the Internet can bring down he who professes to always know best with the click of a send icon.
Gerald Neufeld, London, Ont.
Tom Flanagan’s rambling apologia is even less credible with the attempt to place Paul Martin in the same corner Flanagan painted himself into on the topic of child pornography. It is supremely ironic that Martin and the Liberals were vilified by Flanagan and the Conservatives for attempting to clarify the definition of child pornography as distinct from art.
Doris Wrench Eisler, St. Albert,. Alta.
A veritable Verdi valentine
The farmboy Giuseppe Verdi may have made the “big mistake of being born in 1813, the same year as Wagner,” or have written “The stupidest operas ever” (Music, March 11), but that sure didn’t stop him from becoming one of the world’s most famous opera composers. And it did not stop the hundreds of thousands who came to his funeral, where Arturo Toscanini led the orchestra and chorus to sing Va, pensiero, his first immortal hit and unofficial national anthem of Italy. Verdi doesn’t need extra fans, but your article will add unnecessary ammunition to today’s unmusical ignoramuses.
Janos Gardonyi, Toronto
Scottish opera director David McVicor may consider Verdi’s operas among “the stupidest ever,” but I would blame the stupidest-ever stage productions of the operas. Today’s producers try to outdo one another in their idiotic and vulgar stage settings, deliberately forgetting the time period in which, or for which, the story was written. Place each of Verdi’s operas into the correct time period, stage them in the correct time period, and it will be history, a social study, the story of human behaviour at a given time.
Catheline Nemeth, Montreal
Did the kids have it coming?
Thanks for your article about the dumb prank pulled by teachers in Windsor, Ont., who told students they were going on a trip to Disney World when in fact they were only going to a local bowling alley (“Who are the adults here?” Newsmakers, March 11). Unfortunately, the director and school board administration have, as expected, swept the entire matter under the rug. We provide a mixed standard to our kids that in some cases there are no consequences for bad behaviour. While we can’t paint all educators with the same brush, it shows how serious the issues in our teaching profession can be.
M.R. Morris, Windsor, Ont.
While it was undoubtedly mean for letting the prank go as far as it did, the teachers started it hoping to impart a lesson. One of the teachers suspected her students of going through her desk, so she left the pamphlet, and staff at the school were encouraged to let the rumours grow. Did they take it too far? Yes. Did the students learn the lesson? I don’t think so; the lesson has been lost in all the discussion about the action of the teachers, turning them into the villains and the students into unsuspecting darlings. Next time, just leave the false answers to a surprise quiz.
Jennifer Olivero, Hanover, Ont.
Giving it all away
Your editorial, “Lessons from billionaires on the right way to give away money” (From the Editors, March 11), leaves out one of the prime motivators of the wealthy for establishing a charitable foundation: tax avoidance. By transferring some of their assets to a private foundation, wealthy individuals can keep their capital intact and tax-free indefinitely. To maintain charitable status, private charitable foundations need only devote the return on investment proceeds from their funds to charitable activities. Since its inception, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has rarely spent any of its capital on charitable causes. The rise of private charitable foundations worldwide is allowing the 0.01 per cent a huge tax break and the ability to establish a tax-free legacy. Unfortunately, it is also bleeding governments of revenue needed to maintain services for the rest of us.
Ron Valois, Peterborough, Ont.
Your editorial on the right way to give away money correctly put the spotlight on the importance of evidence and results for high-quality philanthropy. But outcomes in the field of philanthropy are not as precisely measured as in the world of business and may take many years to be fully evident. While it is indeed important that Warren Buffett voted to work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, it’s also important to underline that this was the world’s biggest gesture of funder collaboration. Not only did Buffett recognize the importance of evidence, he recognized the value of not reinventing the wheel, and of doing it with others. I see more such funder collaboration occurring in Canada and it will make philanthropy’s impact all the more powerful here, over the long term.
Hilary Pearson, President, Philanthropic Foundations Canada, Montreal
Men in tights
The phenomenon of former hockey players who are now dance performers (“The real dance revolution,” Stage, March 11) is a throwback to the phenomenal Gene Kelly over 60 years ago. Kelly, who played hockey as a youngster in Pennsylvania, started his own dancing school and then moved on, with his athletic build and man-on-the-street dancing style, to become an American dance legend. Between movies, he once hosted a TV special in 1958 called Dancing: A Man’s Game, which showed that dance was also a form of athletics, and which encouraged a whole generation of Billy Elliots.
Richard Orlando, Montreal
It’s hard to feel sorry for men in ballet. Yes, far fewer boys than girls have traditionally entered dance schools, but those who go on are virtually guaranteed jobs precisely because there are so few of them. In fact, it’s harder on the companies because they’re the ones that have to accept a lower standard for men than for women. And of the eight ballet companies in Canada that receive Canada Council funding, only three are run by women. Karen Kain is truly the exception as the leader of our biggest company, the National Ballet of Canada, but what an extraordinary woman she had to be to get there! Let’s continue to find ways to encourage more women to try for positions of power in dance.
Andrea Rowe, Chelsea, Que.
When the going gets Duff
I always get a good laugh whenever I read Scott Feschuk, and his column about Mike Duffy (“Lessons from the senator from P.E.I.-ish,” Feschuk, Mar. 11) was also a hoot. But it also made me very angry hearing about the $22,000 Duffy claimed in living expenses. At my workplace I would have been fired for embezzlement, and I would not have had a hope in hell of defending myself in court, or even the chance of securing another job! Why isn’t Duffy, along with Pamela Wallin and others, fired?
Pete Russell, Thornbury, Ont.
Mike Duffy was just playing the political game, being “parachuted in” to P.E.I., so he could be appointed a senator representing that province. Such is often done when a star candidate is to run in some electoral district, or where a new party leader needs to win a by-election so he/she can have a seat in the House of Commons. No one expects the “parachuted” person to really commit to that electoral district, just to rent or buy a place there so it can be called his or her official residence. I have long felt this to be wrong, but it has been a common practice for ages, both provincially and federally. Perhaps with the current fuss, it will actually get changed, but I won’t hold my breath.
Louis Johnson, Kitchener, Ont.
Squeal for eel
Grilling live baby eels (“A caveman kitchen with finesse,” Taste, March 11) is a viciously obscene, stomach-turning, reprehensible activity that Jacob Richler should be ashamed of mentioning without labelling it as such.
Loretta Mayall, Moose Jaw, Sask.