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Monthly Archives: November 2009


Boskin’s home, the Hoover Institution, is little more than a glorified propaganda mill, much like the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute.

It serves as a cozy sinecure for right-wing economists who’ve retired from true academics to spend their last years in leather armchairs offering up ready-made phrases and stock answers for right-wing causes.

Boskin’s “government can’t pick winners” is a really tired cliché, much like a tire with almost no tread which has been worn thin by overuse in the United States for over forty years. He, or anyone, should be ashamed of such unoriginal and largely meaningless language.

The larger truth is: no one can pick winners, certainly including private enterprise. There are countless examples of major corporations becoming train wrecks only recently, let alone over decades.

The truth is, and always has been, that intelligent government policies help reduce risk to business and promote growth.

In everything from property rights to zoning regulation and from infant-industry protection to regulating financial institutions, government is indispensable.

The early United States used many broad and deep forms of government protection, and it still does in a great many industries, especially in agriculture. And we see the creative arts there demanding all kinds of protective and even excessive laws for their digital products.

That despite the fact that much of early United States publishing was built on theft of European material. Dickens, for example, was furious the way American publishers regularly stole his works and paid him nothing. Those same publishers are some of the big American houses today.

And if you think government is unimportant just look at the economic explosion we call China.


RESPONSE TO A BROADCAST ON CBC RADIO ONE’S SHOW, THE CURRENTThat was a terrible job of interviewing by Susan Ormiston in the item on typing facilitators.

She got across to the professor at Syracuse none of the essential criticisms by the lucid magician, a man from whom I first heard years ago.

The professor never answered her only meaningful question, and she let him slide off the hook with his silly, pompous “we don’t engage in that kind of thing.”

The fact is that the rigorous procedures of modern science can be gamed by people like those at the University of Syracuse. They may be a non-profit institution, but that doesn’t mean they have no motives to engage in unscientific research.

It brings money to the university and enhances the positions of people like the professor internally. Sadly, the money comes from desperate parents of autistic kids seeking miracles.

This facilitation business is an old fraud, going back some years, and it should surprise no one who knows some history.

We’ve had past unscientific fads galore, for example Mesmerism about two centuries ago or Krebiozen for cancer in the 1960s.

Or the years of “experiments” at Duke University – otherwise a perfectly respectable institution – on people’s psychic abilities with cards and other silliness. Millions were spent for nothing.

One can only conclude Ms Ormiston did not understand the magician’s points or she was unable to summon the skills to challenge the professor.

In either case, she has no business hosting a show like The Current.

I do hope, using her is not a sign of things to come on the show, pointing to the general trend of dumbing-down on CBC Radio which has been so painfully apparent in recent years.


It is in such an ugly struggle that we often see the true characters of people who normally manage to keep a relatively benign face to the world.

Richard Colvin is calm, articulate, brave, and clearly someone who took his responsibilities towards others seriously.

Peter “my word ain’t worth spit” and “my Ex is a dog” Mackay once more displayed his deeply flawed character.

His sputtering, arm-waving attacks on an honest man truly had the tone of accusations from the prosecution at a witch trial.

But we already knew Peter lacked the ethical stuff we teach our children.

A new and unexpected actor in this orchestrated passion play of attack bowed in with an astonishingly nasty performance a couple of days ago.

The high-water mark in sewerage overflow was reached a couple of days ago, on CBC Radio’s show The Current, when Pamela Wallin gave an interview on the subject.

Her words simply dripped with the noxious stuff of obtuse dishonesty serving politics, truly enough to induce nausea, including her much-repeated claim she just simply could not fathom Mr. Colvin’s motives.

Ms Wallin apparently lacks the moral radar to perceive when other people act bravely out of decency, ethics, and humanitarianism. Either that or she was flat-out lying on national radio to attack a decent man whom she regards as a threat to her party.

Hers was another version of kicking someone who is down, ironically enough put to the service of a matter involving the torture of prisoners.

She convinced me only of one fact, one for which I needed no convincing, and that fact is the banality of evil.

And that phrase, “the banality of evil,” best characterizes the entire matter from the original acts in Afghanistan to the efforts to throw dirt at those revealing them.


Thank you, Ms. Krieber.

You’ve spoken the simple truth.

Ignatieff is a disaster.

A disaster by every possible measure.

He has no political skills.

He has no idealism.

He has no charm.

He is simply dull and uninteresting as a speaker.

There is no spark in the man.

He is a dry academic observer, and an academic of not especially outstanding abilities.

And he carries a record of views that are unacceptable to all ethical Canadians.

Dion is a good and intelligent and perceptive man, but he made a serious political mistake with his Green Shift going into an election.

Had the party allowed him to recover in the normal fashion, I think he would be embraced by many Canadians.

Instead, the blind people running the party shoved Ignatieff down our throats.

Ignatieff’s record for his few years in Canadian politics reads like something from the old Poliburo.

Parachuted into his riding. Parachuted into the leadership. Uninteresting to the people.



Oh, sure, Michael Valpy, we sure have done ourselves a great service.

Serving as loyal minor satrap to the Pentagon in its pointless quest for vengeance in Afghanistan – now, there surely is a fine thing.

The lives of hundreds of Canadian soldiers destroyed or now driven by mad hideous memories of abominations like the very common rape of boys tolerated in Afghanistan. Again, surely, a fine thing.

And the proud achievement of our handing over prisoners for torture. Now, that is an exceptionally fine thing.

Warrior culture is a stupid term for Canada to adopt. We have no enemies who can seriously threaten us, except if you count the United States.

In that case, I’m afraid our “warrior culture” wouldn’t buy us one day’s success against their military Frankenstein monster.

Warrior culture and great standing armies are among the world’s great outdated and dangerous traditions. They rank with burkas and holy inquisitions and heavy nuns’ habits and meaningless superstitions. Indeed, warrior culture is a form of superstition.

When genuine threats occur, no one needs to tell Canadians about outdated nonsense like “warrior culture.” We would all respond. But that is a very different thing than going for adventures abroad, a very different thing than killing and being killed as part of lunatic crusade.

Powerful armies constantly seek outlets for their dark powers. The record of the United States since WW II is proof of that, and a shameful record it is.

Stupid pointless war after stupid pointless war.

Overthrow of government (even democratic ones) after overthrow of government.

It’s a terrible record which has only kept turmoil going in the world and achieved almost nothing of worth.

Historians rank as one of the most important causes of WWI, a pointless bloodbath if ever there was one, Europe’s great standing armies and military competitions of the time.

And, of course, WWI was only the warm-up for WWII, an even greater bloodbath which need never have happened but for WWI.

One last, terribly important point about “warrior culture.”

Even were the people of the United States to come to believe they were under a form tyranny, with the country’s vast occupying armies and National Guards, equipped with awesome weapons, there isn’t a chance they could rebel, despite all the silly talk about private arms keeping tyranny at bay.


“The West should set an objective, not seek a way out, which would mean defeat…”

Sorry, but that is an absolutely fatuous statement.

Why are forces in Afghanistan in the first place if they have no objective?

War is a pretty damned serious and costly thing – no project society ever does normally compares to its consumption of resources to say nothing of lives – and you really should have a sound idea of what you are doing before you set off on one.

The United States never understood what it was doing there, and it still does not. Yet it continues to pressure others to commit more resources to its pointless and destructive campaign.

Second, there is nothing wrong in government or world affairs in admitting you’ve made a mistake and correcting it.

Indeed, to do the opposite is sheer lunacy. Lives and treasure are being squandered every day to no purpose. Canada made a ghastly mistake committing to Afghanistan, and I think most ordinary Canadians understand that.

Defeat? That concept is not even relevant in Afghanistan. Emphasizing that blowhard term is just what the brutal pride of the American establishment emphasizes. Keep killing and bombing for pride.

When you undertake a wrong-headed project, “defeat,” as it were, is implicit from the beginning.

Thus was the American holocaust in Vietnam. Thus was the American intrusion into Somalia. And thus was America’s crusade for vengeance in Afghanistan.

By the way, the thought here is so unimaginative, it just makes me wonder about the University of Calgary in any area but the hard sciences. Of course, it’s home too of Tom Flanagan, a tiresomely regular idiot-savant on the Globe’s pages.




She connects with a fair number of male couch beer-swillers who consider her a “hot babe.”

She connects with the gun nuts.

She connects with the trailer-park and fuzzy-dice set.

She connects with the lobotomy cases of the religious right.

She connects with all the xenophobes in America who have no use for “damned fureigners.”

God that’s a lot of people in America, and she is a very dangerous woman.


Apart from Sarah Palin’s dozens of ridiculous errors and misstatements plus a demonstrated tendency towards abuse of power, two facts stand out like the great rocks of the Straits of Gibraltar for me.

One, Sarah took six years at five different colleges before she finally earned her BA in a bird subject like “communications.”

Two, the woman quit her elected job as governor of one of the least populated states in America, yet told us she was not a quitter.

The woman is simply a joke, but then so was Bush, and look what that moron gave the world.

America seems to have a boundless appetite for this kind of insipid daytime-talk show politics.


Nothing is at stake in Afghanistan.

That is, except for American pride in once more having invaded a country, killed a great many people and achieved nothing.

America didn’t know what it was doing from the beginning, and it still does not know.

But it sure knows how to kill people, and the American establishment is always ready to do more killing and bombing rather than be embarrassed at its own foolishness.

It chewed up human beings in Vietnam for ten years to no purpose whatsoever beyond regard for its own violent and stupid pride.

No one else regards Afghanistan as a serious threat, else why are NATO countries constantly browbeaten by American officials into making larger commitments?

The facts of Afghanistan are rather simple if you open your mind to them.

It is not a democracy – never was and still is not – and you can never create a democracy at the barrel of a gun. Moreover, America’s own problematic claim to genuine democratic government makes it among the least suitable of instructors.

Afghanistan is one of the poorest regions on earth, affording only a hard-scrabble existence to most of its people – it always has been poor and it remains so. America has done almost nothing to turn around its economy for a brighter future, but it sure has killed a lot of people and created a lot of damage.

Like all poor, backward countries, Afghanistan remains prisoner of ancient customs not understood by modern societies, and nothing, except long-term serious economic growth, America can do will change that.

Consider even a healthily growing third-world country like India. It still has bride burning, forced marriage, and horrid treatment of widows, plus many other ghastly ancient customs it will not shake until after generations of growth.

Imagine going to 17th century Spain and telling the people they must give up the Holy Inquisition, Jews and Arabs must be tolerated as full members of society, and nuns must stop wearing hideous gigantic habits? To pose the question is to know the answer.

How much more so Afghanistan?

The warlords that now are deemed the government of Afghanistan are, most of them, no better than the Taleban in terms of modern values. Horrible acts continue all over the country, and the burka is still worn in most of the country. Some, like General Dostum, are nothing but mass murders.

Rape of boys is common everywhere, often done by translators and other helpers of Americans right in front of the eyes of troops. The Americans and others tolerate these hideous acts, for the sake of keeping allies and helpers, acts which would earn their perpetrators long prison sentences and public hatred anywhere in the West.

Alliance with those warlords is the only thing that allowed America its cheap “victory.” Cheap in American blood, that is, not Afghan blood.

The Taleban never was America’s enemy, the perpetrators of 9/11 were mostly Saudis, and they were mostly in America on legitimate visas, being part of a secret CIA training scheme that backfired badly.

Most of the terrorist incidents since the invasions – like the London underground bombing – are just the work of homegrown men angry and frustrated at the injustice of what has happened, at the tens of thousands of their fellow Muslims killed with no thought or care.

The CIA never took any responsibility for 9/11. America never took any responsibility. But Afghanistan was invaded – according to experts, just the deaths in Kabul from bombing were at least 50,000 – and the Taleban was dispersed. Some achievement.

Now America bombs and kills regularly in Pakistan, claiming, just as it claimed about Cambodia during its bloodbath in Vietnam. People under no charges are regularly assassinated along with any family members and bystanders, a la Israel’s regular extra-judicial killings, activity indistinguishable from that of former South America juntas who regularly made people “disappear.”

America is only making enemies and de-stabilizing still another land.


Richard Colvin is a genuine Canadian hero.

How rare it is to find an honest man in government, and rarer still to find one who puts his career at risk for hard truth.

What Colvin’s words say for the characters of the people who surround Harper is very unpleasant.

But what else would you expect?

Harper always supported America’s ghastly war crime of invading Iraq, and we know from countless examples in recent years that Harper’s idea of ethics almost define the banality of evil.

And Harper has no qualms about Israel’s several mass murders in Lebanon and Gaza. He’s gung ho for a state openly practicing ethnic-cleansing and apartheid.

Following America into the mire of Afghanistan has been terrible for Canada, squandering our nation’s reputation as well as lives and money while achieving nothing of worth.

As to Mr Peter “My word ain’t worth much” and “I call my ex a dog” Mackay’s attempts to throw dirt, well consider the source.

Apart from all his other accomplishments, MacKay has demonstrated his intellectual weakness in several poorly-handled jobs.

His word carries no weight weight in any balance of arguments.

Particularly when he is aiming to undermine a man of distinguished achievements, substantial intellect, and genuine honor.

Good God, Mackay, is just plain pathetic.

Harper’s crowd has brought us a stinking copy of right-wing Republican shabby politics.

The stuff about the letters to certain constituents deemed Jewish and containing suggestions about opposition of anti-Semitism is right from the gutter. So too any attack on Colvin.


Richard Spencer,

Anyone who uses seriously the phrase “war on terror” immediately loses my attention as being someone with little worth saying.

You cannot have a war on ideas or techniques.

But you can very much have a war on a group of people whose religion or politics you do not like.

If people like you spent your time combing through the local mutterings of politicians and others in various countries, you could make just as superficially extreme-sounding a case.

Every day in the backward parts of that vast sprawl called America, you can find the most appalling things being said by local political or religious leaders.

In the backwoods of India or Africa, some of the statements made and practices done daily would curl your hair.

And in Israel, orthodox rabbis regularly say and do the most horrific things by the standards of the 21st century.


Boris Johnson, your speaking of “betrayal of the fallen” is simply the cheapest, shabbiest old politician’s trick there is in times of war.

No logic, no facts, only an appeal to misplaced emotions. Wrapping yourself with a bloody flag is not an argument: it is the kind of thing we expect from the likes of America’s Sarah Palin, an utterly uninformed airhead.

Just because a dishonest politician like Tony Blair commits people to their deaths in a pointless cause does not mean that the nation must continue in it after people have begun to understand what has been done to them.

Imagine applying Boris Johnson’s non-thinking, emotion-laden principle to past wars. The evil Lyndon Johnson committed the United States to the most destructive and utterly pointless colonial war of the 20th century in Vietnam: his only real reason being fear that Nixon would “out-Commie” him in the next election. The United States would still be slaughtering people if governed by Johnson’s principle.

Johnson’s thinking reminds me of General Earl Haig, the incompetent, strutting commander who sent half a million men to their deaths in the summer of 1917, achieving nothing.

It cannot come too soon.

Abbas is a pathetic figure, representing a Palestinian version what in the United States used to be called a Step’n Fetchit, indeed there was a minor black comic actor who went by that name in early American films.

He has never served his people well, not through any bad intent on his part, but through a complete lack of the skills needed for his position.

It has at times been genuinely embarrassing watching him quietly swallow the garbage Israel regularly pitches in public, claiming it is working on the “peace process” while stealing more of other people’s land almost daily.

But, of course, one must also take account of the long line of assassinations of Palestinian leaders by Israel, including quite likely Arafat, who was probably poisoned in the same secretive way as an early attempt on Sheikh Yassin before he was finally blown up in his wheelchair by a Hellfire missile.



I applaud your sentiments, but they are just that sentiments, and sentiments have no role in the ugly game of power politics being played by Israel.

Israel has made it abundantly clear that it will never accept this outcome. Many prominent Israelis are on record as saying not only is a one-state solution unacceptable but also a two-state solution whether federated or not.

The continuous march of settlements and slow-motion ethnic-cleansing taking place in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem is in keeping with long-held beliefs by Israeli leaders that all of the parts of Israel from 2,500 years ago must be Jewish, and that certainly includes the West Bank.

As long ago as the Camp David talks with President Carter, Begin, an old Irgun terrorist, kept telling Carter that Israel must have Judea and Sumaria, ancient names for areas where millions of Arabs live.

That idea is such a fixation for many Israelis that indeed there can never be meaningful peace without U.S. intercession against it.

And what are the prospects for that?


Well, how nice to find Ms Clinton has caught up with the world’s people.

Despite what their governments may say under various kinds of pressures, most people in the world know Israel’s policy of settlements is not legitimate. Indeed, it is outright theft, besides breaking international agreements on occupations.

It is disheartening to see the way Obama – starting with a fresh mandate, a good mind, and the knowledge that there can be no peace without real pressure on Israel – has given in to the relentless efforts of the Israel Lobby.

There seems to be no hope for a rational and humane settlement. Israel just carries on with apartheid and a gradual, relentless ethnic-cleansing while it stands in contempt of dozens of UN resolutions, any one of which could have been used as a reason for UN military intervention.

And we are to simply pretend it is not happening and never criticize Israel for fear of being called anti-Semitic.

A true nightmare for human rights and freedom.


I have heard Rick Hillier speak at some length recently on CBC Radio. Naturally, he is out promoting his book.I thought he largely came off as a whiner, rather naïve about the realities of war and politics.Hillier went into Afghanistan literally barking about doing some killing, arrogantly tossing aside Canada’s sense of itself as a peaceful and peacekeeping place.

His words rankled many people, and naturally a control-freak like Harper put limits on Hillier’s mouth.

I tend to agree with Chantal Hebert’s assessment that Hillier’s book, unintentionally on his part, will only contribute to Canada’s not continuing a military commitment in Afghanistan beyond its commitment.

The entire Afghanistan adventure is nothing more than a demonstration of America’s ability to behave much as it pleases in the world. In the aftermath of 9/11, it pulled out all the stops in finance and diplomacy to get UN and NATO recognition of what essentially was vengeance.

The invasion never made any sense, and after America’s superficial “victory,” it had no idea what to do, except to let its brutal special forces loose on villages all over Afghanistan. Its “victory” amounted to a pact with the devils of the Northern Alliance – monsters like the mass-murderer General Dostum being as bad or worse than the Taleban – and it achieved nothing but a great deal of killing and the dispersal of the Taleban.

No NATO country – especially powerful ones like France or Germany – has made a commitment of troops that is in keeping with America’s paranoid assessment of the world dangers of Afghanistan – that fact is telling beyond anything else.

Canadians should never forget that the only reason we sent troops to Afghanistan was a decision in Ottawa that “we owed one to the Pentagon” after having refused to participate in America’s missile shield and its even more disastrous and murderous adventure in Iraq.


This is a truly silly review which fails on its own terms. I haven’t read the book, but nothing said here confirms the title of the review.

Indeed, Charles Moore, through his use of parentheses after quotes or assertions only indulges in exactly what he accuses the author of.

If you have a critical point to make you do not need a nudge-nudge, wink, wink.

Histories, even great histories, are full of judgments.

Just read Churchill or Gibbon or Tacitus.

It is always the responsibility of critical readers to examine several books on a subject of interest to get a feel for the variation in assessment of a period or individual.

Just as witnesses at a trial can each give different accounts of something they actually saw, so it is most certainly with history or biography. The “truth” is only ever vaguely indicated in a cloud of doubts and differing assessments, much the way, at the sub-atomic level, the Uncertainty Principle makes it impossible to define at once all the variables of a particle.

I should have thought that fact elementary for anyone claiming to have such a grasp of history that he can call an author “ignorant.”


A declared election winner, no less.

And after all that ballot-box stuffing.

Now there’s the kind of democracy heroic young people are ready to die for.

I guess Americans have taught the Afghans this much: how to run an election Florida-style.


Sorry, Gordon Gibson, as soon as a writer uses a term like “hard power,” I stop reading, knowing full well he has nothing to say.

The phrase is the creation of Pentagon consultants on expense-account lunches.

Bullying and ruthless violence – a million dead in Iraq, two million displaced – may not be summed up as “hard power” except by a person who is not thinking about what he is writing.


And if she leaves him, will he call her a dog in public?


“I think the media hate Ignatieff because he is a successful author.”

That kind of comment indeed confirms Churchill’s sarcastic view on the average voter in a democracy.

Oh, please, it has nothing to do with books.

Ignatieff has simply proven a dreary public persona. Anyone with ears and eyes understands that.

He has no charm and sparkle like Chretien.

He has no piercing intelligence and commanding presence like Trudeau.

He has no sense of being a man of the people, a la Pearson.

He is almost totally unsuited to the job he has taken on, and it has nothing to do with this or that member of his staff.

The sooner he steps down – from a job he did not even get democratically – the better off our country will be.

We need an admirable, sparkling leader to stop that creature Harper, that walking assemblage of pieces of corpses, who is wrecking much of what most Canadians hold dear.

Ignatieff’s little political career by appointment is nothing more a continuation of the disastrous split in the Liberal Party when Martin pushed out Chretien.

If Harper gets a majority, we are all going to be very sorry.

The ghastly crew of creatures who are Harper’s loyal legion – ever see Tom Flanagan’s picture? Unsmiling tight thin lips, he could have a career doing roles like Silas Marner or a remake of the Night of the Living Dead – are just getting going in anticipation of Harper’s being able to sweep away everything they hate.

Thank you, Rick Salutin, I agree with your sentiments, except that I would use stronger language.CBC is simply being dumbed-down everywhere. I very much fear that it will, before long, reach the point of no longer being worthy of public support as a true quality national broadcaster.Perhaps the worst example is the lukewarm-dull Jian Ghomeshi, a man who is basically a pop recording promoter with nothing interesting to say – Dick Clark forty years later – taking up the venerable morning slot of Radio One. Simply ghastly for those who appreciate intelligent talk

Hip-hop – the ultimate dumbed-down music, and not infrequently a form of genuine hate-speech or insipid anti-hate, is now pushed on almost every show.

I spent one half-hour with the new Evan Soloman political show, replacing Don Newman’s outstanding Politics. It is a disaster of quick takes and flashing signs, resembling one of the crasser sites on the Internet.

My wife and I absolutely hate it. Don Newman brought a subtle, penetrating intelligence to quality interviews with national figures, and he had people capable of replacing him, notably the astute Susan Bonner, but, no, this pop guy was slammed in ahead of them with a goofy Sesame Street format.

Perhaps the most depressing thing about CBC Radio – always in the past a beacon of excellence not equaled by the television network – is the now generally low quality of the news broadcasts.

First, it often presents stories as brief headlines which immediately raise more questions than they answer. You just have to say to yourself, is there no editor thinking about what’s being said?

Second, it is just unblinkingly stupid about matters like illness, spreading foolishness and fears instead of hard facts. During SARS – a disease that killed 44 people when ordinary flu and pneumonia kill thousands every year – the network was turned into a morning-to-night source of poor information, containing no perspective.

Later, all we heard about was bird flu, despite the fact that bird flu never became a serious threat.

Now, it’s H1N1 morning until night, almost never with anything new or truly helpful being said.

The only exception I’ve heard was on The Current with the superb Anna Maria Tremonti in a piece where we learned of important research showing that it is likely opportunistic bacterial infections on top of H1N1 causing deaths, not just the flu virus.

I actually hear ungrammatical language at times on morning news casts out of Toronto, language which would never have been tolerated in the past.

CBC Radio still has some genuine treasures: Eleanor Wachtel, Kathleen Petty, Bob McDonald, Bernard St. Laurent, Bill Richardson, Michael Enright, Rick Mercer, and others, but what is notable about the list is the average advanced age. What happens when they retire? More (ugh!) Ghomeshi and (yuck!) Soloman and (gasp!) Stroumboulopoulos.

There will then be absolutely no reason for a “national broadcaster.”


Radio 2 has a case of the same chronic acne afflicting Radio 1.

There are some exceptions, but the disease has ravaged a fair portion of the network’s public face.

I just do not understand why the public broadcaster has to ape the worst of commercial broadcasting.

The whole point of a public broadcaster is to offer thoughtful talk and excellent music not found other places.

It is just a fact that such broadcasts will never be wildly popular, but they are there for anyone to turn to.

Becoming pop and dumb is like turning the opera into just one more rock band. There’s no point.