Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The response from Canada

I must say I am pleasantly surprised that conservative America has realized there is a large landmass directly north of the United States. Yes, Canadians have elected a Conservative government that will last two years at most (“Canada moves to right in vote,” Page 1, Tuesday, and “Canada’s victory,” Op-Ed, yesterday).

Once again, though, you have missed the point. The Conservatives gained 36 percent of the popular vote. However, the Liberals, the New Democrats, the Green Party and even Bloc Quebecois — all with strong leftist convictions — took about 63 percent of the vote. Canada is not, as some neoconservatives seem to think, about to swing to the right. We value our social convictions far more than the American right gives us credit for.

As for the supposed “warming” of Canadian-American relations, don’t count on it, especially in a minority-government situation. If there is one thing on which Canadians can agree, it is our rampant dislike of the Americans — or, should I say, the government of President Bush. The two are interchangeable at the present time. At last count, about 75 percent of the population voiced its displeasure with Mr. Bush’s America in a national poll.

Therefore, Conservative support for strengthening relations will be lukewarm at best. Canadians realize there are better things on which to spend our tax dollars than a missile-defense program created solely for the glorification of the American military.

The “warming” of relations between our two nations will not take place in 2006. Rather, it will be in 2008, when Mr. Bush’s term ends. Not a moment too soon.


Waterloo, Ontario


Speaking as a Canadian best described as a “Red Tory” — were I an American, I’d be regarded as a “McCain Republican” — it is delightful to watch American conservatives misinterpret the result of the Canadian federal election, seeing only what they wish to believe (“Canada’s new leaders,” Editorial, yesterday).

You call the election “the definitive repudiation of Prime Minister Paul Martin’s scandal-ridden government.” Hardly, unless you disregard that the Conservatives were elected not only with a minority, but with a smaller one than the Liberals received 18 months earlier. Or, unless you forget that the reason “the Conservatives [are] slated to form their first government in 12 years” is that they, too, were mired in scandal 12 years ago, topped off by a glaring host of strategic and policy failures. Nothing in politics is ever definitive.

You believe “Mr. Martin’s exit opens doors for more neighborly and more grown-up relations.” How so? Has the Bush administration decided to adhere to the North American Free Trade Agreement and the rulings of its panels, rather than to allow both to be subverted by lobbyists? Will foreign wars be prosecuted on bases of more than thin gruel or only if NATO is agreed? Perhaps the notion “If you’re not with us, you’re against us” was abandoned in favor of something “more grown-up”?

In response to a December opinion column published in your paper, new Prime Minister Stephen Harper affirmed that asynchronous U.S.-American outlooks have a substantive basis as well as an attitudinal one. For example, Mr. Harper has committed himself to a review of America’s real commitment to free trade through its commitment to NAFTA. This review imbeds a deeper, though undeclared, subtext now that China is buying into the Canadian oil patch and other strategic resource sectors.

The only definitive thing about the Canadian election is that Mr. Harper is politically constrained by the reality of a patchwork center-left parliamentary majority in opposition, and a national outlook, whether French or English, that has been definably un-American since 1776.


Stratford, Ontario

Abstinence, sex-ed and public opinion

The article “Youths support abstinence as sex education” (Nation, Sunday) completely misrepresented the Harris Poll it cited concerning views on abstinence programs.

First, the article suggested that the survey revealed wide support for abstinence-only programs. The poll itself shows this conclusion is unfounded. The questions used in the survey referred to “programs to promote abstinence from sex before marriage” — not to abstinence-only education programs. All comprehensive programs include a component on abstinence and delaying sexual debut. Neither the questions asked nor the conclusions drawn by the Harris Poll suggested widespread support for abstinence-only programs over comprehensive ones, as your article asserted.

Second, the article cited studies that deal only with perceived effectiveness rather than measured effectiveness of abstinence-only programs. The Harris Poll itself warns against drawing conclusions about perception versus effectiveness, stating: “In reviewing these poll results, one should bear in mind that these results only measure perceptions [not] the actual effectiveness of these programs.” It further notes that “most adults are skeptical about the effectiveness of these programs” and that 78 percent of adults do not believe they’re effective in reducing extramarital sex.

The reality of abstinence-only programs is that they leave people at risk of infection and unintended pregnancy. A recent review of data on abstinence-only programs by the Society of Adolescent Medicine concluded: “Although it has been suggested that abstinence-only education is 100% effective, these studies suggest that, in actual practice, efficacy may approach zero.”


Executive director

Center for Health and Gender Equity

Takoma Park

Bigger than Katrina

Katrina was not the worst storm to hit New Orleans. The worst storm is coming. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, that storm will be a slow-moving Category 4 or 5 hurricane with lots of rain. It will come right into New Orleans and overtop her levees, leaving the city drowning in 27 feet of water. It’s not a question of if. It’s only a question of when.

Will that storm come before the many years it will take to upgrade the levees? Will the old levees hold in the meantime? Who knows.

What we can assume, unfortunately, is that New Orleans likely will experience water again, flooding in from one direction or another, destroying everything rebuilt in areas below sea level.

One does not have to spend the night in a Holiday Inn Express to know what the city desperately needs. She needs a floodwater-management plan good enough to assure residents that it is safe again to put their private dollars back into rebuilt homes and businesses even if the levees fail again.

Who will provide that plan, and what should it embrace?

I have suggested to former Presidents Clinton and Bush that the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund should sponsor a $1 million prize to the architects and engineers who come up with the most acceptable, cost-effective flood-management plan for New Orleans. Let the City of New Orleans pick the winner and then commit to implement the plan.

The plan could include, for example, smaller levees built within the outer levees. Canals in between could move water from levee breeches to lower-sea-level areas designated as reservoirs, where auxiliary-powered water pumps could move the water out of the system. The plan could include a new zoning code that could call for filling in below-sea-level areas with sand and dirt before rebuilding begins, and a building code that requires, where appropriate, flood-proof lower floors. The Mississippi River flows through the city, and like a giant conveyor belt, the river is loaded with sand and dirt, which could be dredged daily to provide fill material along with more fill material obtained from dredging the new reservoirs and water-management channels.

The plan could call for vertical-evacuation shelters scattered throughout the city in the upper floors of buildings and sky bridges that connect some of those buildings. It could call for utility systems rebuilt above any potential floodwater level. After all, New Orleans’ cemeteries were built above ground, and the city’s telecom, electric and sewage systems could be rebuilt above the flood threat base.

If Venice, Italy, can survive in water 365 days of every year, New Orleans can be redesigned to handle a few days of it. However, if the city is not effectively waterproofed, the next Katrina could be the storm that brings an end to this great American city. America should not allow that to happen without a fair fight.


President and CEO

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America

Former Louisiana congressman


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