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Monthly Archives: July 2009

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 

POSTED RESPONSE TO A BOOK REVIEW IN THE TELEGRAPH

Hitler suffered several setbacks to his invasion, including the Greek situation. These were important, and might have made the difference, but there were other essential ingredients to the failure of Operation Barbarossa.Hitler unquestionably believed that his army would wrap up the campaign in three months, and he might have been right under ideal conditions. After all, his victories in the West had stunned the world, and he genuinely believed the Russians were untermensch, incapable of competing with Germans. And, as it proved, Stalin went into a drunken stupor after the initial success of the Germans, and no Russian general dared make a major move not approved by Stalin.

Hitler started the invasion believing in a fantasy idea of the abilities of Russians, and anyone who undertakes a great destructive task motivated by fantasy usually fails, just as the Crusaders centuries before. But it is important to keep in mind that Hitler’s racial fantasies were perhaps no sillier or less factual than the religious beliefs of many: he was not mad – several psychiatric studies have said so – but he had a foolish, superstitious, and destructive faith.

Germany’s taking over the best Russian lands – without their people or with the people reduced to slaves – was unquestionably Hitler’s great mission in life. All else was prologue. He believed he was a kind of savior for the German people in achieving their destiny.

Germany’s destiny, as he saw it, was to be able to do what America had done in building a vast empire that ultimately created the kind of economies of scale in its markets to be a great economic force in the world. Hitler understood these principles, and he knew America had had a relatively easy time of it, facing weak opponents like native people and Spanish settlers.

That is why he insisted on absolute ruthlessness in the Russian invasion: while he had contempt for Russians as people, he knew the numbers were not on his side.

He knew the invasion would be very bloody, and that is why he used it as a cover for the beginning of the Holocaust. He not only believed that the death camps would be lost in the noise and horror of the greatest battle of all time, but his strange religion caused him to believe that, with young Germans dying in the East, it was somehow right that the Jews’ numbers should be reduced.

Hitler’s underrating of the Russians included military technology, but, while Germany was in many areas more advanced, the Russians produced some very effective weapons, including perhaps most importantly the T-34 tank. Stalin also kept vast armored reserves hidden in the East, reserves of which Hitler was not fully aware. They proved decisive when the Germans had expended their first great energy.

Winter played a role in Hitler’s defeat of course, but the fierce heroism of the Russians stunned the world as well as Hitler.

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JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE TIMES

Israel has always been the main obstacle to a fair peace, and the reason for that is its desire to absorb the West Bank and Gaza without the people living there, as well as its desire to control events for a thousand miles around.

Israel’s idea of negotiations – under every government, left or right – has been that the other side should make every major concession before “talks” can even begin, a rather ridiculous position for any negotiation.

With the threats against Iran, Israel’s desire to control events everywhere for a thousand miles around has reached its most dangerous period.

An attack on Iran, a country which has attacked no one in its entire modern history, would be absolutely destabilizing to the world. In constantly threatening this, Israel is beginning to resemble a black hole absorbing everything around it.

It has attacked at one time or another every neighbor it has. It has violated international law and agreements again and again, including building its own threatening nuclear force and, in the past, assisting nuclear proliferation through its arrangements with apartheid South Africa.

It isn’t satisfied that Bush destroyed Iraq, in large part for Israel’s benefit, it wants a list of other places neutralized or destroyed. Sharon asked for attacks on Iran and Syria too.

A nuclear Iran would actually benefit peace in the region, just as MAD kept peace in Europe through decades of turmoil. Israel would lose its absolute threat over all its neighbors and might even become amenable to a realistic peace.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY GILL HORNBY IN THE TELEGRAPH

“The best books and songs and poems and plays do not get written, nor works of art crafted, because of state subsidy.”

This is an old and tired argument, especially popular in American right-wing circles.

It is superficially true if you imagine a kind of Monty Python post-office official doling out grants to struggling artists.

But reality is far more complex.

History gives us a much more sophisticated view about the creation of art and subsidy.

Without the patronage of the great dukes and cardinals (the government of the day), the Italian Renaissance would have been a far more sparse artistic period.

Great writers and composers in Britain and Germany benefited from the same kind of sources. Shakespeare had a lordly patron, and both Beethoven and Mozart benefited from patrons and trusts set up by admiring men of influence.

Even in America, we have evidence to the contrary of this proposition. The WPA during the great depression subsidized many artists, and in American cities you can still find some of the very handsome results in public monuments, buildings, and photographic collections.

Simplistic propositions, I’m afraid, always reveal simplistic minds.

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

Reach for the stars? What does that mean?

This piece is a pile of tired newspaper clichés.

Stunning as it was, the landing on the moon was in many ways the least important event of the space age.

I am a great fan of science and exploring space, but the moon landing was a gigantic, unbelievably costly public-relations stunt.

The robot missions Europe and the US have sent to the planets in recent decades have made astounding discoveries, as have the magnificent telescopes and other exotic instruments placed into earth orbit.

We have completely revolutionized our understanding of the cosmos with these missions.

Apollo was a one-off dead-end project, immensely impressive like a gigantic fireworks display, but the actual hard science of the Apollo mission(s) was minimal, nothing that robots could not have done far better and far more cheaply.

When I was a boy I loved stories of traveling to planets, but Apollo turned out to be nothing like those stories, and with my adult understanding I realize how immensely more our limited resources can achieve by robot technology and new sophisticated instruments in space.

The notion of sending men to Mars any time in the foreseeable future only makes me think of the early-astronaut expression for flying in earth orbit, spam in a can.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY CHRISTOPHER BOOKER IN THE TELEGRAPH

The author makes some very good points.

Here’s another very important one he missed.

Wind turbines provide intermittent power, and they are completely incapable of ever replacing what energy analysts call base-load power.

Base-load power comes from nuclear or coal or hydroelectric: it is power that is produced and may be called upon twenty-four hours a day.

Wind turbines operate – like 17th century sailing ships – only when there is sufficient wind. In most locations this is only a fraction of the day.

Another important point: wind-generated power costs about twice as much per unit of energy as some of our conventional sources.

So wind power is both unreliable in the timing of its availability and costly for what you get. Indeed, some research starting to emerge seriously questions the economic rationality of massive wind turbine projects like those in Germany.

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

Sorry, Mr. Gibson, there is no moral debate here.

I find it stunning that anyone living in a free country could even pose this question seriously.

The example of Israel is perfect. Israel has secretly, as well as in public, murdered those it calls enemies for decades.

And where has this taken Israel? Israel has no peace. Israel today has the worst reputation in the advanced world as a place of fairness and decency. And Israel gradually sinks lower and lower into a murky abyss of ghastly ethics and democratic values.

We have the witness of Israeli soldiers as to the horrible Nazi-like words with which they were prodded in advance of the Gaza invasion.

Indeed, it is a legitimate question whether Israel as we know it can long continue. The CIA only recently predicted that it would change in 20 years into something else, with many of American and European dual-nationals returning to the lands of their birth.

There is simply no question about these results. That’s why Israel’s defenders constantly today lash out at what they call anti-Semitism, calling the critics of human abuse haters.

You cannot have a society of laws and justice when you are unwilling to live by such laws yourself. The US has fallen into this same moral pit with its international torture gulags and its assassinations.

This kind of murder is absolutely no different to some rogue cops secretly executing the people they regard as criminals. It is no different to the ghastly work of death squads in Brazil going through poor areas of cities murdering children at night. And it is no different to the past several juntas in South America who made thousands “disappear” by kidnapping them and dumping them out of planes over the ocean.

God, the most precious thing we have achieved over countless centuries of ghastly murder and conflict is a society of laws and defined rights. How damnable that anyone would even toy with the idea of destroying that.

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

And if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.

We know perfectly well that America has been using drones and Hellfire missiles to kill many people, without charge or trial or conviction of anything.

Remember, too, Rumsfeld’s bloody Nazi-like words about killing or walling away America’s al Qaeda prisoners in Afghanistan.

It wasn’t long after that that 3,000 prisoners disappeared.

They are said to have been loaded into trucks and driven out into the desert to suffocate, then being buried in mass graves. This was done by one of the warlord’s men while American soldiers watched and picked their noses.

And let’s not forget the war crime of the Iraq invasion. A million killed, a couple of million refugees created, a modern society set back for decades. Results no different to having used a few nuclear weapons against a people who did absolutely nothing against America.

So why would there be any hesitation over this? The American establishment has demonstrated a lawless disregard for international law for eight years.

Of course, there wasn’t, and I’d bet it was that ghastly Dick Cheney who headed the operation and perhaps the new commander in Afghanistan who managed it.

America has no claim to any kind of ethics or democratic values in light of recent years.

The election of Obama has not changed this position at all, other than offering a friendly smile and a good mind in place of a pathetic lump.

A great deal of effort will be required to restore America’s tattered reputation, and I see no efforts indicating that effort is underway.

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

McNamara may be the greatest modern example of the banality of evil. He was, in his heyday, a dry, boring man with the appearance of a corporate executive who taught Baptist Sunday School classes.

He was very bright and energetic, but dry and boring, driven by an insane need for success and with no evident ethical standards beyond those associated with the ferociously ambitious.

The United States, under his advice and that of others like McGeorge Bundy, created the greatest holocaust since that of World War II.

An estimated three million Vietnamese were killed, many of them suffering horrible deaths from napalm and early versions of cluster bombs.

Carpet bombing by B-52s made parts of that poor country resemble the surface of the moon.

Left behind were millions of pounds of the hideous Agent Orange oozing through the ground to cause birth defects for perhaps centuries.

Left behind too were hundreds of thousands of land mines to cripple and kill farmers for decades after.

The reason for this horror? The Vietnamese were fighting a civil war and the side with the wrong economic beliefs was winning.

Of course, it also relates to America’s penchant for obsessions, its Captain Ahab drive to chase and kill the great whale.

In the 1960s, it was communism.

Today it’s Islamic fundamentalism.

In his later years, McNamara was a sad figure. He very much did come to regret his role. He was almost driven by the ghosts of all those dead souls.

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

The latest word is that Palin resigned so abruptly owing to a new, yet-undisclosed scandal brewing.

It is said that an Alaskan building corporation called SBS was given the contract for building the arena in good old Wasilla, and in return it helped to build her rather impressive home.

A separate report indicates that the costly supplies were delivered from SBS while others actually built the home.

It is clear to anyone who has seem pictures of her home that it is beyond the means of this woman’s meager achievements and large family and the high costs of building in Alaska.

No one who is thinking clearly believes her bizarre act was a political strategy. It simply is not the way politics are done in the U.S.

Candidates running for nominations virtually always retain their existing offices until the last possible moment.

Palin likely reached a secret deal with a prosecutor behind the scenes. We may never learn the full truth.

But we know from other events that her ethical standards are extremely flexible. The case of her wildly spending two hundred thousand dollars of other peoples’ money during her campaign on designer clothes is the clearest example of many.

She was given an account for a modest topping up of her wardrobe, and promptly went on an insane buying spree buying stuff for her entire family.

McCain and establishment Republicans were outraged behind the scenes, but they managed to keep it reasonably quiet. She had to return the clothes and has no friends in that wealthy wing of the party.

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

“If I had to bet right now, I think we just saw the opening statement of the 2012 presidential race.”

Unbelievable, you quit your public post early, and that means you are running for president?

There must be something we do not know that has happened in her private or official life behind this.

It remains stunning that in such a powerful, rich country as the United States this woman would be taken seriously for even five minutes by any group larger than her immediate family.

Every time she opens her mouth a cliché falls out.

“It would be apathetic to just hunker down and go with the flow.”

Go with the flow? I think it’s called doing the job for which you were elected.

And her tiresome whimpering about “the real America.”

Haven’t we had enough of the “the real America,” from every huckster and professional rustic in the Republican Party for decades?

“A recent CNN poll had Ms. Palin running neck and neck with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.”

Good God, the late freak Michael Jackson’s name inserted into a poll in America would produce comparable results.

Besides, Mitt Romney is a stiff, cold, and unappealing man who spent twenty million dollars of his own money promoting himself and still failed.

“We are not retreating, we are advancing in another direction.”

Quoted from the lips of the very Douglas MacArthur who was ready to bomb China with nuclear weapons and whose drive to the border with China – despite many warnings – brought a million Chinese “volunteers” into the war.

Wasn’t eight years of the first certified moron president enough?

________________________________________

Phil Gramm and what his momma used to say about “getting’ down outta” the wagon to help push it?

Deadbeat Bush and his never having read the international section of the newspaper? Lamar Alexander and his rustic lumberjack campaign shirts (custom made)?

Nixon and his wife Pat’s “cloth Republican” coat? Privileged, spoiled flyboy McCain, son and grandson of admirals, and his regular guy look?

Dan Quayle and his “potatoe”?

Former Sen. Roman Hruska and his plea that members of the Supreme Court should reflect all qualities, including mediocrity?

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

Lawrence Martin, this piece is a little pathetic.

I like Obama and wish him well, knowing full well no one can seriously alter the course of America’s paranoid imperial policies.

After all, the combination of all the vested interests of the FBI, the CIA, the dozen other intelligence agencies, the Pentagon, America’s Borgia-like wealthy clans, and its immense corporate interests reduce the voice of the people in an election to a little squib.

It’s nice to see that charming smile at the White House, but it hardly compensates for all the things that are terribly wrong.

The Iraq withdrawal has turned into a game of words.

Fighting has intensified in Afghanistan.

America is busy interfering in Iran and lying about it.

Guantanamo continues, as do horrid places like Bagram Air Base.

The ugly laws of the Patriot Act continue.

Some military bureaucrat daily sits down to a control panel somewhere in the US and lines up a Predator Drone to fire Hellfire missiles down at some poor people in Pakistan who are promptly incinerated with no arrest, no trial, not even any proper charges. Then the operator happily goes to lunch, having done his morning’s work.

Israel got away with mass murder in Gaza, and now it continues to block entry even of building materials to help clean up the mess. More than a million tortured people and Obama doesn’t say or do anything so far as we can see.

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

 

Tim Hudak blubbering about Mike Harris sounds like the Ontario politics version of “Springtime for Hitler.”

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

Preston Manning is personally responsible for bringing up Harper as his political protégé.

So far as I know, it is the only political act of substance for which Preston Manning can claim any legitimate credit in his entire lamentable career.

And it is precisely Mr. Harper’s mean spirit, his divisive political practices, and his selective ethics that have altered our Parliament for the worse.

Now, that good old Preston is endowed with a pseudo-academic, mini-institute of his own – a personal propaganda platform, courtesy of oil money – he can play the philosopher, above the fray.

What a bad joke this man is.

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

This is just standard stuff in the Bible Belt.

Tiresome, really tiresome.

This idiot actually told us how he went to tell his mistress it was over, accompanied by “a spiritual advisor.”

The problem, Dear Governor, is not in your spirit, it’s in your glands.