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Monthly Archives: May 2009

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

It’s about time.

The City of Toronto has behaved disgracefully during these events, and especially its blowhard, ineffectual mayor, always patting himself on the back for caring about cities.

The affected residents for the last week have been treated by this City very much the way residents of New Orleans were treated after Hurricane Katrina.
Imagine, after the shock and fright of the explosions in the night and evacuation, finding that a horrible noxious substance like asbestos is all over your street and yard and the roof of your house.

And imagine watching the City bring in high-tech clean-up – with bubble suits – for their own property in the area, yet the City offers no help to you but the weasel words of politicians and consultants.

Oh, a little asbestos won’t hurt you! You can even eat the stuff!

What in God’s name were the residents to do? Each one individually order high-tech clean-up?

Just from a practical point of view, that makes no sense. Wind and rain, which we’ve had almost every day, spread material like asbestos. Windows left open in the rush to leave bring it into the house.

The City’s clean-up of its own property – surely so offensive when all the residents got was blubbering and excuses – was dumb and useless. The material all has to be cleaned at the same time.

When a truck of hazardous material crashes on the highway or on a street in the City, it is always a first priority to clean it up quickly. The City doesn’t tell drivers it won’t harm them and maybe some other level of government should pay for the clean-up and just leave them hanging.

But that is exactly what was done here by cowardly, responsibility-shifting politicians.

Good Lord, this event was potentially the greatest disaster since Toronto’s Great Fire, and Mayor Miller was on vacation and remained there. His proxy, as well as other politicians, acted like limp-wristed, excuse-making members of the Board of Education following a murder in a school, rather than someone charged with getting things done and immediately keeping the City working.

I do hope the residents sue the City and everyone responsible for this fiasco. They pay their taxes – high taxes – and got ignored when they truly needed help. They didn’t make the decisions to put this inappropriate facility in their neighborhood. They didn’t approve a structure with asbestos for a facility handling explosive material.

The only hero in this grim tale is Firefighter Leek, a genuine hero. We need a street named for him.

I suggest a bronze monument with him bravely striving while a background group of pathetic politicians sit calmly, pointing fingers at one another.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY REX MURPHY IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

Rex Murphy,

You sound so sensible on Cross Country Check-Up [CBC Radio show], can you not write a sensible column?

I’ve yet to read one since the Globe unlocked you.

This one hits bottom.

All the Chinese have done here is to show us how well they’ve absorbed American popular culture, and nothing more. It is regrettable, but utterly insignificant and trivial.

This is pure Hollywood nonsense. How many times have we seen American musical films where the woman on the screen is not the woman singing on the sound track?

There have been dozens.

Please keep in mind that the entire extravaganza of the modern Olympics is little more than a multi-billion dollar Las Vegas show, completely so for the ceremonies, and to a considerable extent even for the athletic competitions.

American private foundations spend a fortune on their athletes, treating them like hand-groomed Japanese Kobe beef cattle. China does the same through the state, as did the old Soviets. Is the whole world to waste resources this way for a show every four years that pretty much only the very affluent can attend?

The modern Olympics stresses hyper-patriotism, too, a subject best left mostly to scoundrels.

And what is the meaning of a country like Canada, with a population base smaller than the State of California, selecting teams to compete?

I once went through the exercise of taking the top ten medal countries in an Olympics, and made the numbers per capita rather than simple totals. A country like the U.S. then moves from first to near the bottom.

If you do a second deflation, using per capita income for the ten countries (after all, there’s no matching of resources in the simple total count), the U.S. finishes last.

So what is the meaning or significance of a competition built on those foundations? None, it’s a huge, costly show, and that’s all.

Talking about heroism or character or any other exalted characteristic is just silly when you analyze it clearly.

There is no way on earth that the substitution of the singer for appearance will be remembered as anything but a trivial anecdote. The Chinese simply have put on the most impressive Las Vegas show ever seen, and that’s all the Olympics are about.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY ALAN JOHNSON IN THE GUARDIAN

Pure crap, Alan Johnson.

You understand nothing of the complexities that led up to this event.

What is more, you have no perspective in relation to other recent events.

Some might legitimately ask how are you qualified to write on the subject?

But then you don’t have to be qualified, do you, to put out propaganda?

I suggest you join up with the forces on your “red line” ready to repel the Eastern devils.

You, yourself, could at least do kitchen or latrine duty for the boys.

Better yet, why don’t you, in the 19th century tradition, raise a regiment for the “red line”?

Even if you were right – and you are not – being a Finlandised neighbor is a whole lot better than being an Iraqi.

Uncounted dead, uncounted crippled, an economy destroyed, ancient treasures destroyed.

You are a foolish man, Mr Johnson, a very foolish man.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY MARGARET WENTE IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

The Globe’s nightmare columnist is at it again.

Busy primly telling others how they should live their lives and pretending she is doing it out of some (clearly non-existent) sympathy for others.

The Chinese views appear based in envy and lack of understanding of what a people, long in a dreary world of no opportunity, are willing to sacrifice to rise and excel and shine.

This garbage about China reminds me of her truly foul views on Palestinian children, about how their parents must not love them because they let them become suicide bombers, it never occurring to the prim Ms. Wente that what she truly sees is desperation and hopelessness inflicted by the policies of Israel.

The same for her crusade on safe-injection sites. Foul views disguised as concern for others.

What Ms. Wente offers readers is a steady dose of constipated Midwestern American attitudes and beliefs, thinly disguised to sound a little Canadian.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY JOHN O’SULLIVAN IN THE TORONTO GLOBE AND MAIL

John O’Sullivan, this is clap-trap, cheap propaganda really, full of unanalyzed assertions slightly disguised with lame banter.

Russia is doing what any other power would do in parallel circumstances, and you must know that.

That being the case, you are being dishonest. That not being the case, you know too little to be writing columns.

Georgia’s relationship with America and NATO is precisely parallel to Mexico’s trying to join the Warsaw Pact in 1979. Even you must know that Mexico City would have been overrun by America tanks within a week.

Russia has not overrun Georgia, it has limited its actions to a (former) area of the country where it has many citizens and interests, an area that already has sought its independence from the foolish governments we’ve seen in Georgia.

Your column contributes nothing to understanding and promotes only bad relations with Russia.

I think it fair to call that dumb.

But then the organization you represent [Radio Free Europe] has a long history of being a CIA-subsidized propaganda mill, less heavy-handed and clumsy than the old Soviet propaganda mill, but a propaganda mill nevertheless.

And when it comes to abusive power in today’s world, America has no match, occupying two nations, threatening a third, and beginning to threaten a fourth (Pakistan). There’s nothing to be light and banter about when you’ve caused the deaths of a million people.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSES TO A COLUMN BY REX MURPHY IN THE TORONTO GLOBE AND MAIL

“…greatest writerly acts of memorialization ever achieved.”

Good Lord, Rex, no one is ever going to accuse you of the same, given that kind of ham-fisted prose. It’s positively Soviet in its awkwardness.

You should not forget, although many do, Solzhenitsyn bitterly criticized values in his American refuge.

As long as he was attacking the Soviets, he was a media hero, but when this fiercely honest man turned his attacks to the dark sides of American society he became a media non-person.

__________

“Heaping praise upon Alexander Solzhenitsyn is well deserved. Not sure why Murphy feels the need to juxtapose Solzhenitsyn with Michael Moore. Does one have to be criticized for the other to be properly praised?”

Well put, Gary Wilson.

The truth is that someone analyzing Rex’s piece might well come to the conclusion that his praise for Solzhenitsyn is not much more than an excuse for kicking Moore.

The comparison of societal woes Rex makes is actually silly.

Of course, problems nowhere compare to living under Stalin, but if you feel the need to emphasize this thin idea, then we should feel free to make other such comparisons.

The sacrifices of the Soviets in WWII – 27 million killed and utter devastation on a continental scale – make every other sacrifice in any war since seem puny, hardly worth mentioning.

But I doubt Rex would agree with saying that.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY CANADIAN GENERAL LEWIS MACKENZIE IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

Gee, Lewis Mackenzie, The Three Musketeers was a piece of romantic fiction, indeed, romantic fiction aimed at adolescent male tastes.

Seems odd to have to remind an ex-general of that fact.

You are completely disingenuous here.

You know perfectly well why the rest of NATO is making no sacrifice for the “mission” in Afghanistan.

They recognize that this American war is: 1) of no real importance to them; and 2) it is a pointless quest by the United States playing Don Quixote.

Important countries like Germany, France, Italy, and Spain are perfectly capable of assessing the risks and rewards of the conflict, and their verdict just couldn’t be clearer.

They could shout the truth from the roof tops, but that would not be taken kindly by Bush’s America.

After all, the token forces some have there now are only a reflection of the U.S. exercising its financial, diplomatic, and political muscle to patch together something that makes it less obvious it is essentially alone.

The war was not needed. The existing situation is go-nowhere, hoping against hope that you can alter the culture and customs and attitudes of a vast land of 25 million poor, largely backward people.

It’s an idiotic notion.

Canada’s bad position there reflects a poor government decision, and nothing more. After turning down Washington on missile defense and its even greater blunder in Iraq, Ottawa decided “we owe one to the Pentagon.”

They likely thought they would manage a situation like that of most of the other NATO countries there, but they made mistakes and now they are stuck in a nasty place.

Now, we have Harper who is a rather pathetic figure vis-a-vis the U.S., always doing what he can to serve their interests at the expense of Canada’s. One can expect nothing sensible or creative from him.

Good Lord, only the other day, our new commanding general was quoting the fatuous Harper line that 24 Canadians died in 9/11.

Yes, and more Canadians die on a holiday weekend on America’s highways.

What an idiotic reason to spend billions and throw away nearly another hundred Canadian lives.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY CLIVE CROOK IN THE FINANCIAL TIMES

The gun issue in America is complex and bizarre.

First, it is clear, if you read the Bill of Rights, that the “right to bear arms” was tied to the concept of a “well ordered militia.”

The concept of the militia was imported from Britain, where going back at least to Elizabeth Gloriana’s time.

Militias were, compared to large standing armies, a money-saving measure, something Elizabeth relished.

The Colonists also were tight with a dime (after all, the rebelled in part to avoid paying a just tax).

Added to that impulse was the fear of standing armies.

Well, militias ceased being – except for the private ones of weird survivalists and Aryan Nation types back in the hills – a long time ago. America keeps a massive armed forces, spending more than half a trillion dollars a year on it.

So the “right” has lost its original justification entirely.

Now many Right Wing defenders of gun ownership in America always frame the issue around the idea of being able to oppose a tyranny.

In view of the armed forces of the United States – Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy, and National Guards – which could put down any rebellion by citizens in America in days, this truly is a naïve and fatuous argument.

The mental image of a bunch of belly-over-the-belt, thinning-haired guys in hunting camouflage taking to the streets to oppose tyranny is ridiculous.

That the argument is constantly put forward in America shows the juvenile level of thinking on the matter.

I might add, as a cynical observation, that if they weren’t going to rebel against the lies and abuse and war crimes of Bush, they clearly never would.

The real, underlying reason Americans remain so married to their guns today also has historical origins.

But in this case, the historical origin is slavery.

Those who’ve read about the South in the 18th and early 19th century will know there was a constant fear of slave revolt, paranoid in its dimensions (perhaps the result of guilty consciences?), despite there only ever being one fairly small revolt ever.

Jefferson – the great blubberer about liberty and lifelong holder of more than 200 slaves – supported Napoleon in trying to put down the successful slave revolt in Haiti, a very bloody business. That same Southern fear of slaves and revolts was at work in his support of tyranny over liberty.

Today, Americans remain afraid of black crime to a degree British people perhaps can hardly comprehend.

Guns are felt to be one answer. As are gated communities. And as are blundering, fuel-wasting vehicles like SUVs – deliberately designed to suggest military armored cars and to instill confidence in suburbanites for their safety on the highway as they drive from one safe area to another, through dark and feared territories.

Of course, none of this makes any sense. Black criminals almost always prey on black victims. And the number of times a white middle-class person has actually been saved by a gun is infinitesimal.

But the paranoid psychology continues. There is almost a sense of some Americans seeing themselves as desperate Israel settlers carrying around automatic weapons to stop any nasty Palestinians.

When I was a boy, despite the Constitutional issue, guns had to be licensed in any city and it was illegal to carry them hidden, except for special permitted circumstances. This has all gone further downhill, as now many jurisdictions allow people to carry guns hidden under their clothes or in their purse or in the glove box of their car.

So when traveling, watch who you bump into or get into an argument with. It could be your last.

Guns stolen from legal owners, a common event, likely account for more crimes than legal guns can ever hope to prevent.

There’s no sorting this all out rationally. It will simply take another hundred years for America to become a fully civilized society.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSES TO A COLUMN BY JOHN IBBITSON IN THE TORONTO GLOBE AND MAIL

These claims about experience and inexperience are always laughable.

We had Hillary Clinton, supposedly so greatly experienced, shouting at the close of the Pennsylvania campaign about obliterating a nation of 70 million.

What is McCain’s experience? He made his name by getting shot down over Hanoi. What was he doing there? Bombing civilians. Some experience.

McCain came home to the woman who loyally waited for him, his former wife, and divorced her while having an affair with Cindy, his current wife, and a very wealthy woman. His first wife had been horribly disfigured in an automobile accident, and he up and left her for greener pastures.

Then there was McCain’s wonderful experience with the Savings and Loan disaster in the U.S. He had a close association with some of its biggest crooks, and he never suffered a bit for it.

And there’s the remarkable experience he had when his new wife, Cindy, was caught stealing drugs from the charity for which she volunteered. Cindy was a closet drug addict, but was apparently not ready to spend any of her own fortune on the habit. She stole large quantities of drugs from the charity instead.

She never paid any real penalty for this activity whereas you or I would do hard time in a federal prison. There was Sen. McCain using every ounce of his influence to get her off lightly.

So much for experience.

I’ll take intelligence and thoughtfulness any day.

________________

Some pretty silly stuff here.

Calling Obama a rock star is pathetic. This highly intelligent man – he taught a very demanding law course at the University of Chicago, one of the world’s most distinguished universities – has never behaved with the artificial manners rock stars use to lure their fans.

He is a naturally attractive figure. Holding that against him speaks for itself.

This shallow way of describing Obama is, by the way, the latest tactic of McCain in his campaign, which says a lot about his effective intelligence.

As for people having put or not put their “butts on the line,” well, that’s pretty laughable.

First, to those who’ve read some history, the fact is Kennedy was almost charged by the Navy with incompetence and dereliction of duty using his PT boat.

The same happened over his early notorious affair with a Russian spy. The FBI was after him. Only influence saved him, the kind of influence Bush has had his butt saved with time and time again.

With McCain you get a butt that has spent a lot of time in highly unethical places.

But anyone who votes for someone because of where the candidate happens to have put his or her butt deserves just what he gets.

Ridiculous and childish.

Obama showed a toughness and purpose in the Democratic primary that is still not fully appreciated. He beat a very tough lady with great name-recognition. She under-estimated him and proved a lesser general.

So will McCain. His relatively low effective intelligence will achieve that perfectly.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY CLIVE CROOK IN THE FINANCIAL TIMES

Clive Crook is absolutely correct, but he seems to imply that things have been different with American national politics, and that strikes me as rather naive.

American national politics have always been about personality, since the days when George Washington plied voters (then only the elite voters of the Electoral College mattered) with liquor, and they have only steadily gone downhill since.

It is now completely marketing and advertising and manipulated perceptions.

Marketing, America’s one authentic intellectual contribution to the world, dominates thinking there completely.

In products, services, politics and even religion, you will find not just its influence but its dominance as a way of thinking and operating.

The duopoly of the Republicans and Democrats behaves exactly the way we see Coke and Pepsi or McDonald’s and Burger King behaving.

Neither party stands for anything consistently other than the desire to maximize its election success.

The Republicans, for example, rather than a true conservative party have been a party of big spending and lowering taxes (for some), thus becoming the party of massive economic irresponsibility and huge debts.

The Republicans also, rather than the true conservative ideal of non-interference in private lives, have been the party of Christian hucksters trying to tell everyone what to do, the party of the paranoid ready to spy on everyone in every possible way, and the party of unethical business practices.

The dominance of marketing and advertising is why we have the dominance of money in American politics, something with which in the past McCain himself displayed considerable concern. America on the national level is today a de facto plutocracy. Big contributors get access and influence. Ordinary people are only marketing data points and the occasional subject of photo-ops.

Also, there is a consensus amongst America’s powerful on what I might call the really big issues. For example, we really do not see the Democrats – half a century ago portrayed as the party of the working man and woman – standing up against deficits which put a huge future burden on ordinary Americans. We do not see them standing up as a party against ugly colonial wars like Iraq to which overwhelmingly the sons and daughters of ordinary Americans are sent. We do not see them standing up against torture and abuse in the (false) name of security. And we do not see them standing up against laws which twist and distort every aspect of the Constitution protecting ordinary people against the abuse of the privileged.

So the combination and inter-workings of manipulative politics, money to pay for the manipulation, and the interests of the powerful who supply money for the manipulation make American democracy and national politics a fairly hollow set of institutions.

Added to this is the corporate structure of the country. Most people having good jobs have them with large corporations. Have you ever seen a democratic corporation? Corporations, with minor variations, operate much the way military organizations do.

Effectively, the main economic structure of America is an anti-democratic institution, one both with leverage over employees (and foreign readers cannot appreciate the full impact of this which includes a family’s health care insurance, corporate and government employed Americans being pretty much the only ones with decent insurance) and with the access and resources to largely have its way.

In the end, at least at this time, it perhaps doesn’t really matter that the political body politic is so warped, because the consensus of powerful people in America will keep the nation headed on the same course it has been on for decades. The America voter is faced not so much with a meaningful choice of policy directions as a choice of the person who will represent them collectively as both head of state and head of government.

And the truth is that even where there are domestic issues with some choice possible, so few politicians keep their promises or are able to keep their promises, that voting for an issue in America is a pretty hollow exercise. The best the voters really get is to choose between two individuals for personal characteristics which seem more agreeable.

Final note to one poster, the Pentagon and the defense industry plus the intelligence monstrosity make the greatest socialist entity in the world, one utterly without civilian and human-rights values, one with no competition, no democratic values, and a dangerous one. But American conservatives always think that is just fine. It’s the schools and social programs that are evil ands inefficient. Childish nonsense.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE TORONTO GLOBE AND MAIL

It’s called making hay while the sun shines.

It makes perfect sense and is a return to the past.

Many years ago, high school graduation was a big deal. Many left school early for industrial jobs, knowing full well, graduate or not, that is all they would likely qualify for anyway.

The ideal of universal graduation is a bit of a fantasy since it is always based on the notion that our schools have something to give everyone. The truth is they don’t.

In the past, too, when high school graduation was a big deal, those who graduated did so with either the academic equivalent of today’s watered-down BAs or with superb secretarial or trades skills.

For the significant portion of any population with no academic inclination, what do today’s public schools in Canada offer? Almost nothing. Good training in trades and skills is long gone for the most part, having been sacrificed on the alter of every parent’s saying “my kid’s goin’ to college.”

Even former polytechnic schools and community colleges are contaminated with this fantasy. Some are becoming second-rate universities, some wish to become universities, and many are simply not offering the hard-nosed skill training for which they were originally created.

It all represents an inflation, a devaluing of the currency of education, despite the seeming great variety of educational opportunities.

And where there are real opportunities to make money with their limited skills young people are voting with their feet.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY BENNETT RAMBERG IN THE GUARDIAN

Bennett Ramberg quite clearly ignores the elephant in the room.

Israel.

Israel since the 1960s has twisted every rule, broken every agreement, likely assassinated a number of people, and engaged in theft and espionage to achieve nuclear-power status.

Israel employs the implicit threat of these weapons – and sophisticated delivery systems – time and time again to get its way in the Middle East.

Israel even engaged in highly illicit proliferation when it helped apartheid South Africa to achieve nuclear-power status, the weapons being removed by the United States with the change in government.

The great powers allowed all of this to happen, even assisting in some cases.

How can they turn around and pretend such self-righteousness over others? Whether North Korea or Pakistan or Iran?

The existence of Israel’s weapons is one of the main impulses causing others to seek the weapons.

Who would want to forever be under the shadow of a state like Israel, one that has shown half a century of human-rights abuse, aggressive war against all of its neighbors, and the regular laying down of ultimatums to everyone for a thousand miles around.

We’d have a better Middle East under a period of MAD, just as we have a better Europe today.

But Israel and its apologists do not want that. They want the continued hegemony of Israel over a vast set of lands.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSES TO A COLUMN BY REX MURPHY IN THE TORONTO GLOBE AND MAIL
I’ve always enjoyed you as host of Cross Country Check-up. You treat almost all callers with courtesy and decency.But in writing columns – I never read them before they were “unlocked” – I realize you truly are something of a Jekyll and Hyde character. This piece is silly blather: wordy, pointless, and stained with envy.Obama is not responsible for the immense response he generates in people, nor does he display the least indication of hubris in his reactions. The man is genuinely gifted: intelligent, graceful, thoughtful.

He achieved the remarkable feat of defeating a woman who had name-recognition and connections second only to George Bush, an accomplishment still not fully appreciated.

After 8 years of the most incompetent man ever to hold the office of President, a man whose every utterance causes millions to scrunch-up their toes in intellectual pain, the world is eager for a man of this quality to assume power.

When I compare Obama to McCain, the first adjectives that come to mind are “fresh” versus “tired.” After that, there’s “bright” versus “mediocre.” “Polished” versus “beat up.” “Informed” versus “uninformed.”

I’m sure he will win by a surprisingly large margin.

My God, he strode across Europe like statesman, impressing all who saw him. All McCain’s sad bunch could do was put out garbage about photo-ops and shows.

Clearly, you belong to their whining, unimpressive gang.

_________________

“I don’t recall JFK or FDR, the most popular presidents since Washington, being aw shucks shrinking violets.”

Yes, indeed.

Read Harry Truman on Roosevelt. The man, likely the most gifted leader the U.S. ever had, was an ego-maniac.

Putting oneself forward to lead a great state, or any state, is always in part a matter of strong ego.

Indeed, in some cases, it goes beyond inflated ego into narcissism and even to a low-grade psychopathy.

Some of Kennedy’s behavior, and Lyndon Johnson’s, suggests the last condition. So, definitely, does our charming Harper’s, for that matter.

The job of voters is not to be distracted by small issues like ego – so long as it remains in the range of the sane – but to judge the quality and character of a candidate.

He or she will act as the nation’s representative. In America, this involves the unfortunate double role of head of government and head of state.

Even many issues are not that important. Politicians often ignore their promises or fail in efforts to implement them.

Look at McGuinty’s shabby record of promises in Ontario. Look at Clinton’s failure to implement almost anything worthwhile.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE NEW YORK TIMES

There are some fine phrases, but I am disappointed overall.

Obama, sadly, felt the need to emphasize his American identity and his love of country.

What else could he be but American? He comes as an American candidate. He sounds like an American. He talks from an American perspective. He didn’t need this weak, saccharine-flavored emphasis.

As far as the love of country, hasn’t the world had enough of American jingoism?

It has been nothing but a source of pain and injury to others, death and destruction on a rather massive scale from the holocaust in Vietnam to the destruction of Iraq.

And there is something painfully embarrassing about the need to tell crowds you love your country. It really reminds me of the urges of Fundamentalist Christians to declare their love of the Lord.

That Puritan strain seems to drench, almost like cheap cologne, much of America’s communications, from info-mercials for mops to policy speeches abroad.

Do other foreign leaders come to America and make featured speeches about their love of Britain or France or China?

At least he spared us a team of baton-twirling girls in red, white, and blue sequined panties.

Obama’s line about finding the future for the children was ghastly stuff. Where do you hide a future?

______________

On an issue of substance, more troops to Afghanistan, Ms Merkel has already told him no.

Europeans for the most part understand the futility of this American crusade.

And I do think it inevitable that Obama disappoint Europeans, although there will never be the intense antipathy George Bush invites with every utterance.

The Americanism stuff in Berlin only suggests how difficult, almost impossible, it is to be truly different at the top of American politics.

There is a large group of very wealthy and powerful people whose views drive American policy. They have interests in keeping a conservative state at home and an aggressive imperial force abroad.

Presidents come and go, and anyone abroad who thinks they have the power to greatly shift the emphasis of America simply does not understand the country.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY INAYAT BUNGLAWALA IN THE GUARDIAN

Sorry, but there is no more hopeless expression in human affairs than, “We must remember,” no matter what the subject.

People have a built-in propensity to forget the painful. It is a psychological-health mechanism.

Americans have already forgotten their holocaust of Vietnam – except for thinning-haired, big-bellied veterans leaving teddy bears at the memorial in Washington.

I say they’ve forgotten because they’ve repeated the idiocy in Iraq, achieving absolutely nothing just as the 3 million deaths in Vietnam achieved nothing.

The Armenian Holocaust is almost forgotten, except by Armenians who have intense personal interest.

The horrors of the Belgian Congo, a million dead, are virtually forgotten.

Stalin’s ghastly terror is largely forgotten. He is rather a hero to many Russians.

Russia’s unbelievably terrible struggle to beat Hitler – 27 million killed and some of the biggest battles in human history – isn’t even known outside Russia for the most part. Americans actually think they won the war in Europe, a sheer fantasy.

America never really tries to remember slavery. There isn’t so much as a monument in Washington to that great shame, and there has never been reparations for all that misery and plunder.

Mao is responsible for as many as 70 million deaths, according to recent biographers, yet there is his face on all denominations of currency in China.

Getting worked up about remembering is pretty much a waste of human energy.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE NEW YORK TIMES

There are many aspects of this relationship you have missed, including some quite dark ones.

Perhaps the most important is America’s reluctance to go to war against Germany.

It was, in the end, Hitler who declared war on America.

Not only was America reluctant to go to war against Germany, but forms of fascism were very common in America during that period.

The American Bund, looking for all the world like Brownshirts, was a huge organization and held a gigantic rally in New York City.

Many wealthy Americans had close business relationships with the Nazis. Texaco traded fuel right up into war. IBM assisted in record keeping systems. Disney used to send special copies of his new cartoons to Mussolini, who was a great fan.

Henry Ford’s photo hung over Hitler’s desk at his chancellery. Hitler admired Ford’s ideas on race and race improvement, which were quite revolting.

Indeed, before Hitler hit his full stride, the biggest program of eugenics in the world was in America. Tens of thousands – typically people with low IQs but sometimes other “undesirable” types – were ordered involuntarily sterilized under the oppressive laws in America.

Few Americans know it, but the way the Pledge of Allegiance (itself a questionable thing in a supposedly free society) was given, right up until about 1940, was by stepping one foot forward and extending the right arm up, just like the Nazi salute.

By the way, your reference to America’s victory over Germany is quite inaccurate, though commonly believed in America.

It was Russia, at the cost of 27 million lives, that rolled over the Nazis. They fought the greatest single battle in all of human history, Stalingrad. They fought the greatest tank battle ever seen, Kursk. And they endured horrors like the siege of Leningrad where the dead were piled like cord wood.

America bombed and bombed – killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians – but according to no less an authority than Albert Speer, Germany kept its armaments production going well to the last days. And, as we all know, even the death camps went unscathed.

When it looked like the Russians would roll right over Europe, America joined the battle in a serious way, but Germany was effectively already defeated. America’s great Battle of the Bulge from that period, was rather a squib of a battle compared to something as titanic as Stalingrad.

America’s total losses in WWII were roughly one-half of one percent of the more than 50 million souls who perished.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY NESRINE MALIK IN THE GUARDIAN

Yes, but there is nothing unique about the circumstances of Muslim women trapped in oppressive families.

Women of orthodox Judaism not only have no right to divorce abusive husbands (although the high-handed husbands may readily divorce their wives) but they will lose their children if they don’t comply with the authority of husband and rabbi. They are also under obligation for a certain appearance.

Hindu women can be ordered to marry someone in the twenty-first century. Hindu women who do not meet family expectations are not infrequently murdered, being burned alive.

Catholic women throughout South America and in other places must put up with domineering husbands, must bear all the children required, and have few economic rights.

In animistic Africa, husbands and other relatives raping female children is so common there are homes keeping the offspring who are considered as evil influences back in their villages. It just does not get more degrading than this.

Yes, in all these cases, a woman is technically able to leave her family and to leave her faith, but that is a wrenching change not one in a thousand is up to.

It is truly tiresome to read of the shortcomings of Muslims – just another aspect of the wave of Islamophobia going through the Westerrn world. It is all conservative, tradition-bound religions – all of them – that are abusive to women and have little regard for their rights.

Anyone may see in films of Muslim countries women in all stages of modernism. No head gear at all. Simple head scarves, really little different to the common babushka of the 1940s in the West. And entire bourqas, actually rather rare through the entire Muslim world.

I look at old snapshots of 1950’s Chicago, where I grew up, and a prominent feature of the cityscape was nuns in full habit, some of them ridiculously awkward and cumbersome. Just 50 years ago.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY CLIVE CROOK IN THE FINANCIAL TIMES

 

As one whose job for years involved making (economic) forecasts, I can truly testify it is a humbling enterprise.

However, humans seem built psychologically to crave them nevertheless.

I do think the Greeks had the definitive story on this, as on so many things.

Cassandra was given the gift to tell the future accurately, accompanied by the curse that no one would believe her.

After two victories by the most incompetent and emotionally repellant president in America’s history, it is difficult to offer any rational thought on the functioning of American politics.

There have been several polls showing Obama with a significant lead, on the order of eight points, but there are also polls showing more or less a tie.

My gut feeling tells me Obama is going to win by a surprisingly large margin.
He is an attractive and highly articulate candidate. John McCain, much less so.

I think the words that instantly come to mind in making a comparison are “fresh” versus “tired.”

Obama beat an opponent who had great name-recognition, someone every American knows over the last fifteen years. That remains a stunning achievement.

John McCain has a number of serious weaknesses, chief among them a truly ugly temper. I can’t see him getting through the difficult months ahead without a couple of big blow-ups.

The economy is full of threatening signals, and there may be more yet, and the man in the White House now has a deservedly low approval rating.

The one really big unknown is Israel’s possible action against Iran. I believe Bush and Co. have quietly resigned themselves to not bombing Iran, but Israel may, stretching its resources to the limit, be able to carry off what it threatens daily.

If they decide to do so foolish a thing, it would likely come before Bush is gone.

The fall-out, from even a failed attempt could be immense. Of course, instantly, oil prices will skyrocket. And at least one strike back with Iranian missiles seems a certainty, being an entirely legitimate response.

Would American voters then look to the nasty old military man ready to spend a hundred years in Iraq – a war that was largely about Israel’s situation – or turn to the thoughtful intelligence of Obame?

It has the potential for being a real turning point in America’s relationship with Israel if Israel insists on dragging America into another war.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE NEW YORK TIMES

“Finish the job”?

What “job” would that be exactly?

The purpose of this invasion has never been defined, beyond vague, and quite ridiculous, blubbering about democracy and terrorism.

We all know it was instigated through a long and tortured series of nasty lies and manipulative behavior.

We also have the fact that in the vernacular, “finish the job,” often means killing someone or something off.

Is that what these bright lights mean?

They haven’t seen to the dispatching of enough souls? The creation of enough mayhem? The crippling of enough children?

What segment of the Iraqi population still needs killing off?

Since the invasion was a war crime, plain and simple, you really have to wonder about such language.

The supposed government of Iraq wants a timetable for your departure. Does that count for anything?

The head of the largest Shia group wants you out, period. Does that count for anything?

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE NEW YORK TIMES

 

Obama’s right, of course.

The American Right has a large number of truly unpleasant people.

Just think of their conscienceless behavior around the poor Cuban boy Elian, intimidating him and insulting the boy’s father and country.

Or their ceaseless assault on Hillary Clinton in the White House.

Tom Delay on Clinton’s trip to Africa.

Phil Gramm on almost anything.

The late hateful Jesse Helms on military personnel
reacting to President Clinton.

The wonderful late Jerry Falwell on gays.

Pat Robertson on why natural disasters happen.

Oh, there is a huge list that could be made.

Spewing hatred is part of the essence of America’s ugly Right.

And then there is the irony that whenever someone prominent in conservative circles is shown to have questionable ethics – a not infrequent event – it’s perfectly okay.

It is simply a matter of public record that Cindy McCain stole drugs for her own use – she was a closet drug addict – from the charitable organization for which she worked.

She paid no price for this behavior which would land you or me in federal prison. And her “straight talk” husband assisted in getting her off easy.

Then we have Cindy’s very public behavior with regard to McCain’s first wife, the woman who waited for him all those years while he was prisoner. She was disfigured in an ugly car accident, and McCain left her to marry Cindy. Very admirable behavior.

But that’s all just fine.

What is unforgivable is ever to be honest and sensitive and say you were disappointed in your country, as Michelle has done.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY DAN HIND IN THE GUARDIAN

Charlie Brooker’s shabby approach to discrediting the idea of conspiracies looks to extremes of human behavior – severe obsessive-compulsive personalities being no more common than schizophrenics or manic-depressives – to ridicule and discredit beliefs held by millions of healthy-minded observers.

Cheap-thought writing like Mr. Brooker’s tries to exploit the fact that there are people who are absolutely fixated with the idea of conspiracy, obsessive-compulsive types who have somehow become bound to the idea of conspiracy as explaining almost everything.

It’s just as if he took the paranoid thoughts of people who believe they have been taken over by aliens to ridicule the perfectly valid idea that there are likely other living things somewhere in the immensity of the cosmos.

Actually it is worse than that because the existence of other life is a probability. The existence of conspiracy is a fact.

Conspiracies are as much a part of history as any other human activity you care to name. Often we don’t learn the full story for a long time, but even in my lifetime, there are many publicly-known conspiracies.

It is historical fact that the C.I.A. conspired with the American mafia and some vicious Cuban exiles to assassinate Castro. There were many attempts, some of them more bizarre-sounding than anything in fiction.

The C.I.A. also maintained and trained and equipped a secret private army of Cuban exiles in Florida whose job was to terrorize Cuba, an operation costing tens of millions that made bin Laden’s camp in the mountains look like a boy scout operation. Some of these secret, government-paid thugs regularly raced over to Cuba and machine-gunned Soviet ships in port, others planted bombs in Havana hotels and, in at least one case, an airliner.

Richard Nixon started a secret group called The Plumbers in the basement of the White House whose job was to do break-ins and black-bag jobs against Nixon’s opponents. Among other deeds, they broke into Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office to steal his records.

Ronald Reagan also had a secret group in the White House carrying out completely illegal activities, for example, secretly trading American missiles to Iran for funds to give the Contras.

Israel attacked the then-sophisticated spy ship, the U.S.S. Liberty, during its 1967 war, spending two full hours strafing and bombing and torpedoing the well-marked ship, Israeli reconnaissance pilots even having made eye contact with crew members on deck before the attack. Later, Israel just said sorry, it was a mistake, a patently false explanation. The likely (unrevealed) cause: to draw the U.S. into its war.

Israel secretly assisted the apartheid South African government in developing atomic weapons in the 1970s. This help was in return for secure sources of certain strategic materials and, likely, assistance in carrying out a secret test explosion in the Indian Ocean. The weapons were secretly removed by American authorities with the fall of the apartheid government.

An American corporation, ITT, secretly supplied Richard Nixon’a agents with a $400,000 payment towards the costs of overthrowing the government of Chile, then the most important source of copper in the world. The government was overthrown, the elected President murdered, and a ruthless general took over, killing 15,000 people.

This list includes only a fraction of the genuine, known conspiracies over recent decades.

There are many issues around the official story of 9/11, too many to go into here, but without believing anything out of the ordinary, it is nothing but honest to say there are many unexplained matters, and then to ask, why?

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

We are only there to please the Pentagon.

Ottawa, having turned the US down on Missile Defense and on Iraq, felt obliged to join the circus in Afghanistan. The exact words were: “We owe one to the Pentagon.”

Of course, when the Liberals agreed, they likely had in mind a more traditional peacekeeping role, much like the other members of NATO who have put restrictions on their troops.

The U.S. went there for vengeance. There is no other explanation. All the stuff about the plight of women – something which never bothered the U.S. before, and which still does not in many parts of the world as in India – is propaganda, the best kind, of course, based on truth, but propaganda nevertheless because it was not the reason for American efforts.

Once there, having used the thugs of the Northern Alliance – many no better than the Taleban towards women or anything else – for a cheap quick “victory,” it clearly did not know what to do. A new cast of thugs became provincial governors and the U.S. bombed anything that moved, killing thousands of innocents. It set up a central government which governs to this day almost nothing.

America dragged in NATO, as it has done before, to give a plausible international character to things. As well, it hoped others to assume some cost for its crusade.

What so many do not understand is that Afghanistan is not even a country as we normally understand it. It is a collection of tribes, hard-scrabble people living in mountains or deserts. Its culture is lost in the 14th century, and it is incredibly poor.

Nothing has been achieved in Afghanistan of lasting value.

Of course, some of the people there like having us, and why not with all that money and goodies being spread around by troops?

No one with any knowledge believes you can change the workings of an ancient society in a few years or even decades.

Talk about country re-building is just foolish nonsense from the mouths of well-paid Washington consultants.

Yes, Germany and Japan were “re-built” after WWII, but what people miss was that these had been advanced societies already. They had human capital – lots of educated people with advanced qualifications and entrepreneurs and scientists – upon which to build. The need was largely for bricks and mortar and some spur to effort.

This human capital simply does not exist in Afghanistan. Nor will it until there are many generations of economic growth and development.

You can’t even change an advanced society’s customs in a few years. Look at our consumer habits vis-a-vis global warming.

Saying you can remodel Afghanistan is the literal equivalent of saying you could step into 15th century Spain and turn around a society of nunneries, cloisters, burning heretics, and deporting Arabs and Jews.

Absolutely ridiculous.

You can never do enough for America’s insane paranoia. Just look at the police state measures underway down there.

Again, Britain and others only went in because they literally feared America’s launching atomic weapons on Afghanistan at the time. We have leaks that tell us members of the British government believed that use of atomic weapons was imminent.

It was insane from the beginning. Observant witnesses realized America didn’t know what to do once it got there – other than kill lots of people – and they still don’t.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY DANIEL FINKELSTEIN IN THE TIMES

“In my last two paragraphs I mentioned a poll in the US indicating that a quarter of all Americans blame the Jews for the financial crisis either moderately or a great deal. I concluded by saying that I don’t like it when people mob up.”

Daniel, you cannot take such a poll seriously.

A true random sample of American opinion on almost any subject is always disturbing.

After a few years of the bloody pointless invasion of Iraq, a poll showed sixty-odd percent of Americans believed that Saddam was involved with 9/11.

I don’t recall the number, but a surprisingly large percent of Americans believe in the devil and believe that the Mark of the Beast is 666.

Polls showed a good slice of Americans believing that the Apollo Mission to the moon was faked.

I very much don’t like it when people mob up either, but a quarter of Americans believing anything you care to name is not mobbing up, not surprising, and virtually predictable.

As for David Irving, I admire your publishing his e-mail, but I wish you had shown the restraint not to characterize it. People can interpret for themselves.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED COMMENT TO A COLUMN IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

“Obama Firm.”

Well, let’s hope so. The only way we will ever see peace and an end to the abomination of Israel’s occupation is if the U.S. is firm.

Indeed, America needs to be firm about a lot more than freezing settlements on freshly-grabbed land.

Obama does have the best chance of doing something meaningful here of any president since Israel’s founding, both because he is so popular and because everyone in the world – other than the ceaseless apologists for Israel’s bloody excesses – recognizes the status quo is a disaster.

And it is not a disaster waiting to happen. It has happened.

The single greatest cause of all the ugly business summed up under the title War on Terror is Israel’s behavior towards its neighbors and America’s toleration of it.

Yet, despite Obama’s exceptional opportunity, I am not hopeful. If you read the saga of Truman’s recognition decision at Israel’s emergence as a state, you realize just what serious pressure is.

And look at Hillary Clinton. She went to Palestine once and made sympathetic statements. Then, when she wanted to be Senator, she took almost a one hundred and eighty degree turn in her language. Pressure indeed.

 JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY FORMER GENERAL LEWIS MACKENZIE IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

“Our infantry ranks are so diminished that Canada’s combat role in Afghanistan has to end”

Good.

There is no more wasteful enterprise on earth than the military.

Like police, you need some military, but it should always be regarded with great care as a necessary evil.

And the bigger the military of a country is, the greater is the temptation of politicians to use it to bad purposes.

Analysts of the pointless bloodbath called the Great War agree that the level of armaments in the various states was a major contributor to starting the war. And what was Hitler’s first priority after taking power? The armed forces, of course.

The United States is the clearest contemporary example of that hard truth. Here is a nation that rebelled against imperial military forces only to end up being a greater imperial military force.

It spends as much on its military Frankenstein as all the other countries on the planet put together.

And the results are: occupation of two countries, neither of which ever attacked that country; regular bombing in a third country, Pakistan; constant threats to a fourth country, Iran; support of apartheid in Israel; plus innumerable other intrusions and black-ops.

The world surely is a better place for the three million the US murdered in Vietnam, isn’t it? And for the sea of Agent Orange and landmines it left there? And for the million deaths it generated in Cambodia by destabilizing a neutral government with secret bombing? And don’t forget the million or so killed in Iraq plus a couple of million refugees and an economy set back for a lifetime.

Lord Acton said it best for all time: power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Why is it that conservatives and militarists like Lewis MacKenzie do not understand these things? That’s like asking a careless boy why he just smashed a bird’s nest.
________________

Arctic sovereignty I fear is an illusion.

Who is it that is actually going to challenge it?

Why, the world’s military colossus of course.

Would our outposts of troops wave at the passing American atomic submarines and guided-missile cruisers?