Four In The Afternoon: Margaret Wente, Peak Oil, Tree Fungus

4 in the AfternoonJust warning you. Today is a bad day to leave me in charge of these news blurbs. Have yet to read anything online that hasn’t added fuel to my fury. I don’t know, maybe my moron filter is slipping.

But, seeing as it’s my Tuesday duty to come up with a news summary at some point, here it is, four items ripped from today’s headlines along with their ratings on my Fury Inflammation Scale (which quantifies how much these things boost my anger… and like the Richter Scale, it’s logarithmic). For my own sanity, I’ll take them in descending order….

1. WENTE VS EDUCATION — 8.5: There was a time, back when Rex Murphy still wrote for the Globe and Mail (lo, so many months ago), where Margaret Wente was starting to look like a reasonable, even-handed commentator. I’d finish reading Murphy’s weekly splat of anti-factual blather, close the dictionary widget on my desktop in a huff then turn to Wente’s column and find myself thinking, “Hm, she’s not as bad as I remember.”

Oh, how the migration of Blustersaurus Rex into the wilderness of Canadian print journalism has allowed the Wente breed of cuckoo to flourish.

This week, she aims her snark machine at Canada’s universities. Her screed hits all the notes you’d expect: The days of pampered institutions of higher education are passing. Research should only be a focus of a few elite academies (the UofT, no doubt, numbering among them). Professors should be answerable to their customers. Public universities should do as the public sees fit and abandon any courses of study that appear in any way frivolous.

She ends off by wishing nothing but ill unto the humanities.

What Wente here is advocating for, much like every MP from the Party-Formerly-Known-As-Reform, is that our universities should be transformed into little more than extensions of high school. Profs should be pedagogues not active researchers (and thus experts) in their field. No field of study should be supported if its benefits are not immediately obvious to those uninitiated in them.

Oh, she also seems to take some delight in the idea of creating a two-tiered university system. A Canadian Ivy League, as it were.

Of course, that would result in Canada’s research community being slashed by what? Two thirds? Three quarters? More?

Elsewhere of course the same voices calling for the gutting of our post-secondary academies are demanding they produce more — more innovative technology, more cutting edge science, more smarter students — with less and less public support.

Wente’s noxious assault on universities hardly seems constructive.

I’d like to go on, but I’ve three more of these things to write. (Globe and Mail)

2. MORE ON OUR MILITARY GONG SHOW — 6.0: Diplomat and whisleblower, Richard Colvin, revealed today that Canada has been actively blocking the Red Cross’ ability to monitor the well-being of Afghani detainees. This hardly counts as surprising considering everything else Colvin has revealed. Still, people getting tortured makes me angry. And every day, what Colvin is telling us about what’s going on in Afghanistan is making more angry.

Oh,  incidentally, don’t forget our military was telling the same inquiry yesterday that to investigate claims of detainee abuse would have been “rude”. (My word, not theirs.)  (Globe and Mail)

3. OIL’S NOT WELL — 4.3: The International Energy Agency reported today that oil prices — which are now up around $80USD a barrel — could jeopardize the economic recovery. The freaky thing about this article is that it’s yet more evidence that global oil production has peaked. (Probably peaked back in 2005, in fact.) If it hadn’t, then OPEC would be confidently responding to this by boosting their output. But they aren’t opening the taps any wider because they can’t.

And that’s pretty fucking scary.

But this story pisses me off and warrants a 4.3 on the FI Scale because a.) it was front-page news online for all of about a minute this morning and b.) aren’t we still bending over backward to accommodate the tarsands industry because they’ve been so hard hit by low oil prices? Wasn’t that why Stelmach slashed his provinces royalties and why Wall kept ours down and declared Saskatchewan open for business? For how long were those oil prices low, exactly? (Globe and Mail)

4. BACKTRACKING ON DUTCH ELM — 2.4: The Saskatchewan Party government has reinstated a Dutch Elm Disease control program they, whoops, cut into non-existence a couple weeks ago. “Why does that piss you off, Dechene? Isn’t this an example of government responding to the will of the people?” Sure. Except that they’ve only reinstated $100,000 of what was originally a $500,000 program. So, the headlines on this story should read that the Sask Party has reinstated 20 per cent of the DED control program. Or that the program has been slashed by four fifths. Not that they’ve “restored” it. (Leader Post)

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5'10'' tall and he was born in a place. He's not there now. He's sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It's "Girl From Ipanema", thanks for asking. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.