Monthly Archives: January 2008

Thank you, John Manley and Co.

John Manley’s report on the Afghan mission does a service to Canada. Which must be the primary criterion for judging it regardless of the difficulties it creates for various politicians or, for that matter, columnists.

Yes, columnists. If Mr. Manley’s Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan had produced a comically feeble result, I’d have had a field day with, say, a report on Canada’s Future Role in the European War, where Jack Layton proposes negotiating with the Nazis while Stéphane Dion wants to withdraw from Germany but invade the Soviet Union.

Instead, the panel’s tough-minded, mostly sensible document also forces me to scrap plans for a Robson Report stating various frightfully obvious facts about Afghanistan. I’m not entirely sure why MPs needed the Manley panel to do so, although it probably has something to do with a lack of strategic culture in Canada. But state them it did, in a climate where doing so was a definite public service.

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How capitalists are saving the planet

It’s opera. My wife is listening to opera while jogging. The heroine will, one assumes, come to a tragic end. But the batteries won’t, because she’s using a digital player. On which, I trust, I can record the sound of environmentalists applauding the technological advances capitalism brings.

Strange. I hear nothing. But I’ll keep trying. For like most journalists, I tape things a lot. That once meant a “tape recorder,” huge wobbling inconvenient piles of cassettes or microcassettes and a pile of batteries to warm the heart of any pink mechanical bunny. Not any more. Now my digital devices record MP3 files I store on my computer, and their batteries recharge right through the USB cable while I download.

Searching an MP3 file for a clip is much faster than rewinding a squealing microcassette. MP3s don’t snap at bad moments and are way, way easier to make backup copies of, with no loss of sound quality. It’s also way easier to search one CD or DVD than three dusty (my wife’s word) desk drawers full of cryptically labelled tapes. And because they don’t have to drive a tape around a spool, digital recorders use a lot less power so you don’t have to lug 10 extra batteries up, say, the Golan Heights so your tape deck won’t die at a bad moment.

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I’ve seen this show before

Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. And you don’t have to go all the way back to the Danegeld to get the experience. Try this Monday’s release of the latest report by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy.

At the risk of seeming weird, I should explain that on the weekend while clearing atrocious junk out of my attic, I wound up digitizing some old cassette tapes including, it turned out, a 2002 Citizen editorial board meeting with the NRTEE. On that occasion, they told us global warming was a crisis, urgent action was needed, there was substantial scientific and corporate consensus and market mechanisms were needed but they hadn’t yet worked out the details.

Fast forward six years. Monday, January 7th, 11:00 a.m., the National Press Theatre. Key members of the NRTEE told us global warming was a crisis, urgent action was needed, there was substantial scientific and corporate consensus and market mechanisms were needed but they hadn’t yet worked out the details. I recognize that I personally may, when in my cups, repeat anecdotes. And I know environmentalists favour recycling. But this is ridiculous.

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Patient, heal thyself – since no one else will

Will there be an election in 2008? Gosh, it’s so exciting. We journalists hope not because if one is called we’ll have to stop writing about whether it might be, which is more fun than dull stuff like health care policy. Mind you, we can cover an election like a horse race, then start speculating about the next one, so we’re probably OK.

Unlike you. For speaking of health care, here’s a boring story to make your hair stand on end, turn grey in that position and then fall out. In Britain, the National Health Service is planning to make people do their own health care to save money.

OK, not appendectomies. But, the Daily Telegraph reported Wednesday: “Millions of people with arthritis, asthma and even heart failure will be urged to treat themselves as part of a government plan to save billions of pounds from the NHS budget …”

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