Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - April 1, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta
4 LETHVmpQE HERALD April i, EDITORIALS Garbage in, garbage out Oil pact a great political achievement Horrendous tales are surfacing about computers and data banks. Most of them have their origin in the U.S., where California, as usual, leads the way. Among that state's more striking pioneer efforts was the computerized classification of thousands of children as "predelinquents" on the basis of information, developed by school and other authorities, to the effect that they were potential trouble makers. The U.S. department of health, education and welfare is said to have computerized files on all children of migrant workers and is expecting to expand this to cover all adopted children. Another set of files is maintained by Project DAWN (Drug Abuse Warning which is reported to pay hospitals a name for people who have used or are suspected of having used illegal drugs. By themselves, these sets of data, and hundreds more like them including criminal files and credit records, might seem to have more positive benefits than negative ones. But the interchange of such information (and opinion, rumor and misinformation) is fraught with possibilities of misinterpretation and unauthorized use. Among the examples of such misuse, it would be difficult to top the one of the Canadian who was recently told that he would have to change his name because the iniquitous record piled up by an imposter was too deeply imbedded in data banks to be erased. The initial reaction to this sort of story is to blame the computers or to invoke the imagery of George Orwell and consider that an end in itself. This can be a costly mistake. A computer is only a machine; it does only what it is told, electronically, to do. And as such it can be, and has been, an invaluable asset to society. However, the cardinal rule of computer science, one which came into being with the first generation of computers and is still true for succeeding, more sophisticated generations, is GIGO. It may have been forgotten in the blytheness with which the worlds of commerce and bureaucracy have swooped down on computers as though they were toys. It means: Garbage in, garbage out. It means that a computer follows the instructions of its human programmer; in so doing, it not only magnifies human error, it may immortalize it. Current attempts to control access to .data banks and to prevent leaks and misuse of information which amount to invasion of privacy have largely taken a legal form and the outcome is still in doubt. More attention should also be paid to .the quality of programming because ihis, too, acts as a safeguard. The idea that 'a man should be asked to change his identity because a machine was not programmed to cancel out errors should never be allowed to prevail. The necessity of understanding and controlling computer technology is made vivid by the news that the Pentagon is successfully developing a computer which responds to thought alone. To date, the number of commands to which the computer will respond is limited to seven. In view of the present uncertainties and lack of control of this technology, that is seven too many. Improving nutrition The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that more than two-thirds of the 800 million children now growing up in developing countries will encounter sickness brought on or aggravated by malnutrition. Prevention is usually cheaper than treatment, so it would benefit the developing countries to invest money in nutrition programs that would ward off that sickness. India has one million people blind from vitamin-A deficiency. Sustaining the average blind person at a subsistence level costs times the annual ingredient cost of the vitamin-A needed for prevention. In parts of Bolivia from 40 to 50 per cent of the population is goiterous and between five and 10 per cent of these suffer from cretinism and deaf-mutism. Cost of iodate to prevent goiter is one-sixth of a cent a year per person covered. Better food habits would benefit people almost everywhere in the world. Unfortunately, bad food habits seem to be spreading. The worst of them is the abandonment of the practice of breast- feeding. Breast-feeding in low-income countries is often the only available source of protein of good quality containing all the essential amino acids. The abandonment of breast-feeding is primarily an urban phenomenon; bottle- fedding is one of the sophistications of city life. Another unfortunate sign of sophistication is the wide use of "junk" foods, products deficient or devoid of nutritive value. Since "the increasing consumption of such food is due in large part to advertising, consideration is being given to trying to control it. In the United States, for instance, the federal trade commission would like to have ads include a lot of nutritional facts. It is doubtful if giving information is effective in improving, food habits. Interviews with young. Canadians have revealed that junk food is consumed despite awareness of its lack of nutritional value. Convenience and status play the .largest role, seemingly, in determining diet when the choice is left to young people. Undoubtedly the best way to improve nutrition would be by fortification bolstering the nutritive value of processed food already prominent in the diet. Nutrients can be added to such things as wheat flour, cooking oil, and salt without affecting the traditional character of food; it looks, tastes and smells exactly like the unfortified product. No radical shift in thinking or acting is required by fortification. Most governments already authorize a degree of surveillance over the marketing of food. stuffs; it would be merely an extension of principle, and sometimes of practice, to require products to be improved nutritionally. And if this required some government subsidization in developing countries it would still be money well spent. ERIC NICOL Streaking, Canadian style "Why haven't you written something about asks a reader. "What are you trying to Well, what I'm trying to hide is my disgust. I had hoped that the young men of Canada would have enough national pride to resist shucking their jockey shorts and aping a fad begotten south of the border. Our streaking is indecent because it is so damned derivative. Streaking shows to what extent Canada is a cultural colony of the States. Because U.S. university students discover an attention- getting device that requites no purchase of gasoline, is hardly reason for Canadian students to drop their drawers. But the dismal fact is that those who should be in the vanguard of our struggle for cultural independence from Uncle Sam (with or without his BVDs) display a slavish readiness to skinny-sprint in the wake of the bare-assed American. The Canada Council spends millions to foster a distinctive identity for this country. The CBC blows an even larger bundle on the effort to distinguish us from our neighbor. But all it takes is the mindless American craze of romping starkers to cause the media of Canada to flip their bananas and jitter in simian tribute. It is very difficult for a streaker to exhibit 50 per cent Canadian content. Streaking a in fact the U.S. influence at its worst: raw imperialism. The Americans have expropriated a cultural resource (public nudity) that rightly belongs to the Swedes, and used it for their own ends, which are certainly nothing to rave about. The male bottom, undraped, does not qualify as a thing of beauty and joy forever. Having defoliated much of Vietnam, the Americans continue to wreak havoc by loosing bums that violate the Geneva Convention. Is there any sociological significance in the fact that the streakers are mostly young men? Is streaking a desperate form of exhibitionism resorted to by the sex that feels threatened by woman's liberation? Does it represent a pathetic desire to prove masculinity to a world in which it has become redundant? The clappers rung in a last, desperate tocsin? We shall not know the answer till we see whether streaking dies an au nature! death or, God forbid, escalates to middle-aged streaking, mass streaking and finally terrorizing of the non-streaker by marauding mobs the clockwork orange peeled. I take the optimistic view that streaking will follow phone-booth cramming, panty- raiding, goldfish swallowing and other manifestations of American academic life, into the special oblivion that is reserved and rightly so for all such dementia. But in the meantime I urge you young Canadians to show a little gumption, by streaking if streak you must with a difference. A maple leaf behind the ear.'A Stanfield button in the navel. Streaking in mukluks chewed by genuine NWT Eskimo. Anything. Anything but abject subservience to Jack Armstrong, the ail-American butt. When we cry "Up the let there be some visible evidence of our British heritage. And keep those elbows vaight, men. By W. A. WUtoo, Star comrneatatof OTTAWA Prime Minister Trudeau has succeeded in coming to grips with widely. divergent regional Interests, of genuinely great importance to the areas involved, and has brought out of them a national position with which everyone can live. All of the signs indicate that he has done this without leaving behind bruised or resentful feelings among men whose duty was the representation of the inu.'est of their region. That is a political achieve- ment of great'magnitude and it is the role of the national leader in a country as diverse as ours. Pierre Trudeau played it-superbly well last week and it would take a very mean-minded man to dispute the contribution he has just made to the country. Other men contributed as well. Peter Lougheed of Al- berta, in particular, emerges from this situation looking politically very attractive indeed because With vital- interests at stake and with great power in his hands he has emerged as a responsible, moderate man. On the difficult aspect of equal- ization payments which was involved in the tangled oil problem, the Atlantic provinces have also shown themselves to be moderate and responsible. It would be very hard to dis- agree with Mr. Trudeau's statement that Wednesday couldn't have been a better day for federalism. If, as many people think, Mr. Trudeau has been seeking vindication after the setback he received at the hands of the electorate in 1972, it seems to' me that he is entitled to feel that he has just won it. The federal-provincial prob- lems involved In the oil issues began to go well when he took charge of them himself, and In about a month, he has altered the entire prospect. It was un- fortunate but it seemed to be true that Mr. Lougheed and Energy Minister Don Macdo- nald simply rubbed too many sparks off of each other to be a reasonable negotiating com- bination. The desire to avoid a destructive confrontation see'ms to have been an important element in arriving at an agreed solution but it is evident that Western acceptance of the Trudeau government's good faith in its approach to the related transport and economic development questions vital.' A confrontation would have had the Government of Canada and that of Alberta both seeking to set the price of oil. Constitutionally, it seems clear enough that the province has the power to do this within its borders and that the federal government, through its jurisdiction over international and inter- provincial trade, has the power once the oil leaves the province of origin. A situation of this sort has the makings of either rational agreement or disruptive conflict. Mr. Lougheed was in a 'OK... entice me away from my welfare state Kissinger-Brezhnev talks inconclusive By James Reston, New York Times commentator WASHINGTON Henry Kissinger is back from Moscow without the agreement he sought on the control of strategic arms, but at least he avoided an open break with the Soviet leaders and preserved the possibility of a Nixon visit to the Kremlin this summer. This is not much but it is better than adding one more problem to his already strained relations with Europe and Japan. He went to Moscow fearing that the anti- detente forces in the Soviet Union were rising as they are in the United States, but both sides apparently agreed to keep the negotiations going. Nevertheless, it is fairly obvious that the pace of American diplomacy is slowing down in the U.S.S.R., China, Europe and the Middle East, partly because the issues are critical and partly because of domestic political considerations in all the major capitals. President Nixon's problems at home are never mentioned officially in any of the forums where military, economic, financial or 'trade questions are being discussed, but in Letters private, officials overseas wonder whether Nixon will be around to implement -any agreements he makes or whether, even if he is not impeached or convicted, he will have the authority to redeem any commitments made in his name. For example, Leonid Brezhnev and Kissinger talked about working toward "irreversible" under- standings, but every- thing is reversible in the present state of political instability in the world. Accordingly, the tendency abroad is to go much slower than Kissinger desires, and to avoid both open breaks and spectacular new agreements until it is clear that the president is going to survive with sufficient power and confidence to govern. For a time, some observers in Washington felt that an enfeebled Nixon admini- stration might be so eager for diplomatic successes abroad that it might take undue risks for short-run political gains that would turn out to be harmful or even dangerous later on. Specifically, that the president might be tempted to amend his minimum security High quality paper In reference to the article in The Herald March 23, in whi.h it was reported that Standoff News and Broadcasting operation received a gift, I would like to state that some of the money is being wasted in that the quality of paper being used is too high for a newspaper. I am in favor of a newspaper being run in Standoff but if it is to be a newspaper encompassing all the traditions of a newspaper it should be printed on newsprint. GERRY SNAITH Pincher Creek Spectacular results I thought others might have missed the following sentence from an article In the March issue of The Saturday Evening Post. I certainly think this statement is true. "Whatever the merits of President Nixon's complaint against the networks, it a reasonable guess that if the Senate were investigating the networks as It is investigating Watergate, the networks would be screaming blue murder, though It Is an equally reasonable guest that the results would be quite spectacular, including the likelihood of conflict interest and payola." MARGUERITE MOSER Coaldate. requirements on both strategic arms and the Middle East in order to demonstrate at home that he was still powerful and effective in the foreign field and thus "essential" regardless of his administration's scandals at home. In fairness, it.is hard to find a single shred of evidence to support this charge. It amounts to suggesting that the president would put his own personal security ahead of the nation's, and while things are bad, they are not that bad. Nevertheless, the atmosphere of suspicion remains here, and now this thesis is being reversed. For the last line of defence for Nixon in the impeachment process lies' with the conservatives in the senate, who are not enthusiastic about the policy of detente, and certainly not eager tor any chancy deals with the Soviet Union. In fact, when Kissinger went to Moscow this time, he was handed on Capitol Hill before he departed a list of "demands" which he was requested to place before the Kremlin leaders with the suggestion that the policy of detente would be in jeopardy if the demands were not met. Kissinger probably had the good judgment to keep this in his pocket, thus avoiding an open break, but at the same time it was probably in Nixon's interests to leave things in Moscow about where they were. The interesting thing is that Brezhnev was apparently willing to play the waiting game too. He has his own military hawks who, like ours, are not happy with the arms talks or the bogus air of political chumlness. Just as Nixon is blamed here by some .conservatives for giving the Soviets too much wheat and too much advanced technology, to Brezhnev has his critics, They complain about Nixon's opening to China, about the compromise over Berlin, about the limitations placed upon them in the arms negotiations, about the compromise armistice In the Middle East, and particularly about Kissinger's success with President Anwar El- Sadat of Egypt and his domination of the Middle East peace talks, from which the Soviet Union has virtually been excluded. Nevertheless, Brezhnev has kept his opposition in control. It is important to him personally as he approaches his 70s that he negotiated the recognition -of the eastern European borders and established a working arrangement with the United States, which he still hopes will produce the credits and trade and technology necessary to raise the standard of living as well as the prestige of the Soviet peoples. In the present plight of the Nixon administration and the mood of America in an election year, Moscow is not likely to get the credits and trade it wants, nor is it likely to get the arms concessions it wants in the foreseeable future. It is in Nixon's personal interest to coast for a while, and hang on to all the conservative support he can get. Thus, it would probably be a mistake to say that Kissinger did riot make progress in Moscow. He kept the talks going and calmed the fears of the conservatives without arousing the hostility of either Soviets or the Europeans, who hate these big deals between Washington and Moscow. It is a time for waiting .on both sides, and while motion is Kissinger's trademark, 'he also knows when' to pull up. strong position, however, and the prime minister's logic in his reply to a question at his press conference seems irrefutable. He said that correspondents could deduce for themselves that the two western premiers would never have accepted this agreement if they had not also accepted federal good faith in pursuing the economic objectives that have emerged from the Calgary conference last year. At that moment, Mr. Loug- heed had in his hands a corn- compelling weapon con- stitutional power to set the price of oit within the province. He refrained using it. That weapon will never again be as effective. We have already taken a large move towards the world price of oil. People have adjusted to the psychological shock of moving from a world of cheap oil to one where that vital commodity is expensive. Next year, the Alberta premier will have less leverage. This in- dicates the extent to which he has accepted the good faith of the Trudeau government. The logic, however, can be carried one step further: Alberta and Saskatchewan must not be left feeling betrayed later on. The federal government must now deliver its side of the bargain. The economic -effects of more costly oil are being phased in gradually in this country. That makes it more comfortable for the consumer anii more important, it gives Canadian industry a competitive advantage in world trade. Since individual welfare depends upon the state of the economy as a whole that is as important for ordinary' people as for company presidents. Some of the most interesting aspects of last week's agree- ment, however, are political. Mr. Lougheed has a base upon which he can usefully build. It lies within his reach to pick up the role that John Robarts played so well when he was premier of provincial Jaader who could be relied upon to take the wide view and-see the interests of all of Canada. No provincial leader has fit- ted into that role, which is im- portant for the health of this country, since Mr. Robarts re- tired. If Mr. Lougheed can in fact fill the vacancy he will both contribute to the country's welfare and to his own political prospects. He is widely considered to have national ambitions and at one point it seemed likely that his necessary pursuit of Western regional interests might spoil them. That has not happened. The government's handling of the oil problem has always sat well with the public. The opinion polls have revealed this clearly. There is no reason why it would not have been well cushioned from the turbulence that entered the oil industry last September. Since Mr. Trudeau has just brought them a year or more of price stability at a level far below world prices he must be able to look forward to some favorable political fall-out. This session's Conservative attempts to bring the govern- ment down have taken on a somewhat absurd aspect since there is no evidence that the public wants, anything more than to see this Parliament work. The New Democrats have also been making election noises lately apparently as the result of a sort of crisis of confidence over their support for the government, although the polls have shown they are not suffering from it. Now, however, anyone who forced an election would find himself confronting a strengthened government. Mr. Trudeau probably would not win a majority in a spring election because the natural divisions of the country work against it. But for a while the odds are that his successful handling of a problem as difficult and potentially divisive as the oil issue would do him a great good at the polls. The Lethbridge Herald 604 7th St. 8. LMMfMgt. Albtftt LETHBRIDGE HERALD CO. LTD. uti t Swond CtaM RtgmrMton No. 0012 DON H. PILLING Managing Editor ROY F. MILES Advertising Managar DOUGLAS K. WALKER Editorial Editor CLEO MOWERS. Editor and PuMtMw DONALD R. DORAM OtfWM Manapar ROBERTM. FENTON KENNETH E. BARNETT Butlnaai Mirtkgar "THE HERALD SERVES THE SOUTH"