Tag Archives: Margaret Wente

One columnist’s excellent adventure

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I always knew I left the employ of the Globe and Mail too soon. Now, I have real evidence that my failure to become a national columnist of weight, gravitas and fulsome wordiness has robbed me of the opportunity to obtain contact highs in the rocky mountains of Colorado.

There, we find the Globe’s Margaret Wente, provocateur-cum-commentator extraordinaire, hanging with some producers of perfectly legal pot, (“In the Weeds”, May 16, 2015).

God, what an assignment!

Give a Russian sailor a bottle of vodka, a credit card and tell him that downtown Halifax in the springtime is his for the plundering, and. . .well, that’s just about the only circumstance that beats what dear, old MW recently encountered in Denver, which is, by the way, “magical at dawn.”

I’ll bet it is, but do go own Ms. Wente: “Along the western horizon, the snow-capped mountains are bathed in pink from the glow of the rising sun. The sky is turning purest blue. The air is crisp and clear, and you can see forever. What a great place to get stoned.”

She goes on (and on, and on, and on. . .hey, is that my hand in front of my face, or just another snow-capped mountain?): “In Colorado, recreational marijuana was legalized on Jan. 1, 2014. Denver now has more pot stores than it has Starbucks. Anyone over the age of 21 can walk into a store and choose from hundreds of varieties of flowers, nibbles, marijuana-infused drinks, oils, ointments and pain patches, as well as a growing array of wax and other supercharged hard-core products. There’s even a sex lube for women, which promises to deliver the most mind-blowing experience of your life.”

Okay. . .too much information even for the stoners among us. Still, I get her point. She’s having fun “researching” this business. More power to her.

Except, of course, until recently, Ms. Wente belonged to a strident cohort of Canadian commentators who adamantly refused to accept the logic propounded by sociologists, psychologists, several important lawmakers (both former and current) and almost every cop who ever ran a beat.

For years, they have insisted that decriminalizing marijuana, regulating it as a controlled substance, would save millions of dollars in tax-funded law-enforcement costs and just about as many kids from underserved, breathtakingly damaging incarceration courtesy of the state.

Here’s what The Times of Israel (no friend of progressive social policies) said just the other day: “Signalling a possible shift in attitude towards the recreational use of marijuana, police chief Yohanan Danino called for the government to reassess its current policies in light of growing calls from lawmakers and the public against prohibition of the drug.”

Reported the Times: “Speaking to high school students in Beit Shemesh, Danino told them they will be ‘surprised to hear’ current police policy on cannabis. ‘More and more citizens are demanding marijuana use be permitted,’ he said. ‘I think it’s time for the police, along with the state, to reevaluate its traditional position.’”

So do I. And so, now, does Ms. Wente. Sort of.

“I inhale. . .gingerly,” she writes. “After two or three draws, my cough subsides and I feel relaxed and happy. My entire body seems lighter. The effect is like three or four glasses of chardonnay, but without the heavy, woozy feel. It’s nothing like the stoned sensation I remember, when all I wanted to do was curl up into a fetal position and eat jelly doughnuts.”

Then, she heads home to Toronto, to the waiting arms of her husband who, without a bag of pot at the ready, presumably kisses her on the cheek.

Now, that’s a contact high worth keeping.

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One columnist’s excellent adventure

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I always knew I left the employ of the Globe and Mail too soon. Now, I have real evidence that my failure to become a national columnist of weight, gravitas and fulsome wordiness has robbed me of the opportunity to obtain contact highs in the rocky mountains of Colorado.

There, we find the Globe’s Margaret Wente, provocateur-cum-commentator extraordinaire, hanging with some producers of perfectly legal pot, (“In the Weeds”, May 16, 2015).

God, what an assignment!

Give a Russian sailor a bottle of vodka, a credit card and tell him that downtown Halifax in the springtime is his for the plundering, and. . .well, that’s just about the only circumstance that beats what dear, old MW recently encountered in Denver, which is, by the way, “magical at dawn.”

I’ll bet it is, but do go own Ms. Wente: “Along the western horizon, the snow-capped mountains are bathed in pink from the glow of the rising sun. The sky is turning purest blue. The air is crisp and clear, and you can see forever. What a great place to get stoned.”

She goes on (and on, and on, and on. . .hey, is that my hand in front of my face, or just another snow-capped mountain?): “In Colorado, recreational marijuana was legalized on Jan. 1, 2014. Denver now has more pot stores than it has Starbucks. Anyone over the age of 21 can walk into a store and choose from hundreds of varieties of flowers, nibbles, marijuana-infused drinks, oils, ointments and pain patches, as well as a growing array of wax and other supercharged hard-core products. There’s even a sex lube for women, which promises to deliver the most mind-blowing experience of your life.”

Okay. . .too much information even for the stoners in our midst. Still, I get her point. She’s having fun “researching” this business. More power to her.

Except, of course, until recently, Ms. Wente belonged to a strident cohort of Canadian commentators who adamantly refused to accept the logic propounded by sociologists, psychologists, several important lawmakers (both former and current) and almost every cop who ever ran a beat.

For years, they have insisted that decriminalizing marijuana, regulating it as a controlled substance, would save millions of dollars in tax-funded law-enforcement costs and just about as many kids from underserved, breathtakingly damaging incarceration courtesy of the state.

Here’s what The Times of Israel said just the other day: “Signalling a possible shift in attitude towards the recreational use of marijuana, police chief Yohanan Danino called for the government to reassess its current policies in light of growing calls from lawmakers and the public against prohibition of the drug.”

Reported the Times: “Speaking to high school students in Beit Shemesh, Danino told them they will be ‘surprised to hear’ current police policy on cannabis. ‘More and more citizens are demanding marijuana use be permitted,’ he said. ‘I think it’s time for the police, along with the state, to reevaluate its traditional position.’”

So do I. And so, now, does Ms. Wente. Sort of.

“I inhale. . .gingerly,” she writes. “After two or three draws, my cough subsides and I feel relaxed and happy. My entire body seems lighter. The effect is like three or four glasses of chardonnay, but without the heavy, woozy feel. It’s nothing like the stoned sensation I remember, when all I wanted to do was curl up into a fetal position and eat jelly doughnuts.”

Then, she heads home to Toronto, presumably to the waiting arms of her husband who, without a bag of pot at the ready, kisses her on the cheek.

Now, that’s a contact high.

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Our home and dangerous land

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We are, dear Canadians, beset from all sides of the political playing field by the proposition that our lives are no longer our own, that our freedoms are transitory, that our faith in this peaceful, prosperous land is illusory.

We get the message from the federal government, whose Bill C-51 seeks to enact, in its own wordy, doctrinaire manner, “the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, which authorizes Government of Canada institutions to disclose information to Government of Canada institutions that have jurisdiction or responsibilities in respect of activities that undermine the security of Canada; (and) the Secure Air Travel Act in order to provide a new legislative framework for identifying and responding to persons who may engage in an act that poses a threat to transportation security or who may travel by air for the purpose of committing a terrorism offence.”

At the same time, Part III of the bill “amends the Criminal Code to, with respect to recognizances to keep the peace relating to a terrorist activity or a terrorism offence, extend their duration, provide for new thresholds, authorize a judge to impose sureties and require a judge to consider whether it is desirable to include in a recognizance conditions regarding passports and specified geographic areas.”

But we also get the same message – though inverted – from the Liberal opposition in Ottawa.

As far as Justin Trudeau is concerned, “Conservatives pretend to talk a good game about freedom, but look at what they have done with it. They have fallen a long way from the era of Sir John A. Macdonald to the ‘why do you hate freedom?’ taunts of the recently departed Sun News Network. . .Our social contract sometimes requires us to moderate our freedoms. . .The ongoing question for democracies is how we strike the right balance.”

So, on the one hand, international terrorism is the single, biggest threat to our democratic rights and freedoms; on the other, official reaction to international terrorism is the single, biggest threat to our rights and freedoms.

Then, of course, there is the trusty third hand that is the Fourth Estate, which is always ready to further bewilder a benighted public on matters regarding bodily harm and spiritual peril.

In this respect, Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente (that fine newspaper company’s “agent provocateur en chef”) does not disappoint.

In her regular screed on Tuesday, she opined: “Some people are allergic to the T-word. After a lone gunman stormed Parliament Hill last fall, killing a soldier at the National War Memorial, they said it was not possible to conclude that this was terrorism. . .It’s easy to see why certain people want to play down the T-word.”

She also wrote: “The terror threat is a potent weapon in Stephen Harper’s arsenal. . .It’s true that Mr. Harper is overplaying the threat of terrorism. It’s also true that plenty of people are underplaying it. . .And it’s disturbingly clear that an increasing number of young Canadians are being caught up in a radical millenarian death cult.”

Overplaying versus underplaying; business-as-usual threats to the social fabric of this country versus radical millenarian death cults; a government that wants to put us all to sleep with bedtime stories about imminent catastrophe versus a political opposition that’s simply willing to put us all to sleep; a mainstream media that’s more than willing to oblige both ends of the ideological spectrum, oftentimes in the same column newspaper  space affords.

We do, indeed, live in dangerous times – but the greatest threat is to our right to think critically and soberly about the world around us.

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When our knowledge is unequal to our opinion

 

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Whenever a columnist, book reviewer or any other species of gum-flapper, who’s paid to pontificate windily about the world’s state of affairs, writes something like, “I don’t know much about this subject, but that’s never stopped me before,” I usually take that as a helpful invitation to stop reading.

Occasionally, though, curiosity gets the better of me. 

So it was the other morning when I stumbled across a line in Margaret Wente’s latest attempt to speak for the common man from her lofty perch, at the Globe and Mail,  as one of Canada’s best-known columnists.

In her diatribe against “liberal policy elites” who are snapping up copies of French economist Thomas Piketty’s new book about the growing divide between those who have and those who have not in western societies, Mrs. Wente declared, “I’m not qualified to analyze Mr. Piketty’s work (Capital in the Twenty-First Century), which even critics have described as ‘brilliant’. My question is why now?”

Her answer was transparently deflective: “The progressive elites have been completely captured by the declinist narrative. . .There’s just one problem with this. Although highly educated social progressives are alarmed by the scenario, hardly anybody else is.”

She then “proves” her point by quoting surveys that show that regular folk – you know, “real” people – couldn’t give a toss about so-called income inequality. In fact, what Joe and Jane Public care most about is government incompetence and waste.

Now, there’s a straw man if ever one came tumbling out of the opinion pages of Canada’s national newspaper. 

Ms. Wente may not like “policy elites”. She may have reasons to distrust them. But that doesn’t mean they’re wrong about the deleterious socio-economic effects of the ever-widening gulf between the rich and rest. 

Equally, the apparent sanguinity of the general public doesn’t automatically denote that the average man and woman on the street is right. In fact, it doesn’t even go to the root of the problem.

Has it occurred to Ms. Wente that one reason why middle earners are more ticked off with governments than rich people is that they recognize how tax policies,  which were supposed to protect the common interest, have effectively accelerated the concentration of wealth among the one per cent?   

Besides, asking someone directly whether he’s worried about income and wealth inequities is like asking a farmer whether he’s concerned about crop failure. Sure, in a general sort of way. But it’s not real until it happens, up close and personal. And in this regard, data trumps anecdote every time. 

Earlier this year, a formerly confidential government report (made public through an Access to Information request by Canadian Press) declared that “the Canadian dream is a myth more than a reality.”

In fact, its findings pointed to “a middle class that isn’t growing in the marketplace, is increasingly indebted though it has a relatively modest standard of living, and is less likely to move to higher income (i.e., the middle class is no springboard to higher incomes).”

Other findings included:

“Over 1993-2007, there has been a slight hollowing out of the middle class, and the face of the middle class has changed considerably. Couples without young children and unattached individuals now account for most middle-class families.”

Meanwhile, “although middle-income families experienced a good progression in after-tax income, the same cannot be said of their earnings. In particular, the wages of middle-income workers have stagnate. . .Although the middle class holds a relatively fair share of the ‘wealth pie’, higher-income families have far greater nest eggs. Furthermore, wealth is not equally divided among middle-income families, with those headed by younger individuals being at a disadvantage.”

Compared with other western nations, Canada actually fares pretty well. But for how long? 

The economics of rampant income inequality is not an issue of pocketbook envy. Disparities in the currency that makes everyone’s world go round generate disparities in every avenue of life, from education to health care and, eventually, to the consumer sectors that sustain all goods and service-producing industries.

Although I am one of those gum-flappers who gets paid to pontificate windily, this time you can trust me.

I actually do know a little something about these things.

 

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