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Monthly Archives: January 2010

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSES TO AN EDITORIAL IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

Do the right thing?

And just when in his entire career – except for events in Haiti where he would have appeared a fiend had he not responded – has Mr Harper done the right thing?

The Supreme Court had no choice here, and I think their decision a wise one.

The government has been complicit in denying a boy his rights, and in so doing, they assisted the buzz-cut thugs at Guantanamo in torturing a boy. (I remind readers that this poor boy had been shot, twice in the back, by American soldiers. He was tortured while these ghastly wounds slowly healed.)

The ethical and legal issues are clear here. There are no ambiguities.

But legality and ethics mean little to power-driven, compulsive personality like Harper.

Had the Supreme Court attempted to order a remedy, it would have pitched the country into a constitutional crisis.

They have done what they can in making it as clear as it can be that Harper has denied a Canadian the most basic rights.

That’s the kind of man we call our prime minister, a politician who has done more than any other in memory to shame Canada and lower its former fine reputation in the world.

__________________

“Your boy’s buddies DELIBERATELY targeted their own children.”

That is simply ignorant beyond belief.

Since when are the acts of an accused judged by those of anyone else, whether known or unknown?

And, Good Lord, if we’re talking about targeting children, Israel just killed 400 of them. Has any Israeli soldier or general or politician been charged with anything?

This young man was fifteen when he was shot, arrested, and tortured.

And we now have evidence to a certainty that he did not even do what he was accused of.

But even if he had, so what?

America has sent thousands of mercenaries and idealists to various wars over the decades, going back to the Spanish Civil War.

Were they all to be tortured and held indefinitely in prison for their acts?

Moreover, he was a child, one pressed by ideological parents, and the United States and Canada are signatories to international conventions on child soldiers.

Clive G, no wonder you don’t sign your name to your opinions. That’s pretty well what one expects from the cowardly with savage ideas.

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POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE TELEGRAPH

The UK I always so admired seems largely to have faded to a memory.

What we have today – and have had for the last thirty or so years – is a parody of Great Britain.

No country can operate independently of the US, of course, because it is such a great hulking mass.

But that doesn’t mean you have to act as its loyal household servant.

I am sorry, but a loyal household servant is an apt description of contemporary Britain.

That silly phrase “special relationship” is literally a
euphemism attempting to lend dignity to a relationship which has none.

Much of the disgust felt towards Tony Blair is owing to his completely obsequious relationship to a mental defective like George Bush.

Obsequious…and profitable. Blair has all the wealth he, and that ghastly fish wife of his, could ever have dreamed of now, most of it showering on his head from Americans or American-created institutions in gratitude for his service.

And what did Britain get? Dead soldiers, depleted finances, and a bad reputation.

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

The American Supreme Court has always, except for a brief few decades during the 20th century, been an institution for freezing progress.

This view of corporate spending as free speech is, in many ways, comparable to the Dred Scott Decision before the Civil War.

Runaway slaves were still someone’s property and needed to be returned.

So far as this decision goes, it’s back to the political jungle, although, in truth, American politics never quite left it behind since even the spending reform was not that awesome.

Money in America simply overrides democratic process on average.

When America was founded, a privileged local aristocracy ruled. About 1% of people in Virginia could vote (only white males of a certain wealth). The Senate was appointed (till 1913). The President was elected by the Electoral College, an elite of those with money. The “popular” vote – the 1% – did not even matter, the College elites did (they still do, but at least their votes are apportioned).

Well, some of that has changed, but along the way, American politics also has adapted to maintain a political reality not far from that of 1789 in many ways: the way that is done is with money for marketing and advertising and “exposure.” Tons of it.

In economics, with imperfect competition, we know barriers to entry of a market are vital, and barriers include tons of advertising, paying stores “shelf money” to pack the shelves with your line of products, and slightly differentiating your product from someone else’s – all making it near impossible for upstarts.

American national politics, effectively a duopoly between two parties through many rigged local regulations, exploits all of these practices.

Of course, the money also buys “face time” after elections. In any large American state, it is literally impossible to meet a Senator, much less have some time, unless you are a large money-supplier.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSES TO A COLUMN BY FRANK CHING IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

Frank Ching, this piece represents little thought and no analysis.

A waste of your keyboard time, I’d say.

It’s the kind of nonsense one expects to hear from an American Secretary of State blubbering about the behavior of other countries.

China has a per capita income a small fraction of America’s despite its new wealth in limited regions.

It has all the immense headaches of looking after 1.3 billion people, many of them still very poor.

Besides, Haiti, as one comment has noted, is America’s “backyard.”

America has worked for two hundred years in countless ways to keep Haiti at arm’s length. It does not want hundreds of thousands of Haitian refugees.

That is the reason for its large assistance, not compassion or caring or anything else. Just power politics.

______________________

Actually, while people seem to be dazzled by the size of American assistance to Haiti, it is not a reaction which could follow from America’s overall level of giving.

On a fair comparison basis with the rest of the world, it is simply a fact that America actually comes out rather stingy.

It gives far less than many others, and much of what it does give has nothing to do with helping people.

It gives its largest single assistance to the relatively advanced state of Israel, about $3 billion a year, mostly for military purchases.

It gives another roughly $2 billion to Egypt to keep it friendly towards Israel and prop up the dictator-president of thirty years there.

And so it is down the list.

Also, much of its foreign assistance to other poor countries is just a subtle way of buying votes in the UN and other international institutions.

Relative to its wealth, American foreign assistance is rather paltry.

__________________________

Further, have readers noted that part of America’s “assistance” is a large landing of heavily armed troops? There are ten thousand the last I read, and this was expected to rise to twenty thousand.

Can you imagine, just in terms of displacement of Haiti’s very capacity for landing supplies and distributing them, what a burden this must be?

How many Haitians did without fresh water or food or beds while this massive operation took place?

Ten thousand troops who expect hot pizza and Budweiser and showers each day, to say nothing of ammunition and technical gear?

The intention is clear to anyone who bothers to think about it.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE NEW YORK TIMES

It’s about time.

The Taleban need never have been our enemy, regardless of what we think of their religious behavior.

No Taleban were involved in 9/11.

Saudis were. And they had valid U.S. visas.

The Taleban government would have extradited Osama had the U.S. supplied any genuine evidence of his involvement, but, no, the U.S. refused to supply any, in what is a universal practice for extradition requests.

No, America just had to invade and get some vengeance.

Well, you’ve had it. Time to go and let these people get on with their lives.

The Northern Alliance guys you put in place are mostly just as backward as the Taleban.

Only long-term economic growth will change Afghanistan, and you don’t get that from bombs.

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

I must say it is a bit delusional to draw conclusions about Harper’s character from the Haiti disaster.

The fact is, and has always been, the United States works hard to keep Haiti at arm’s length from American shores, and there’s no compassion or humane sympathies involved.

Now if Stephen Harper is one thing it the most spineless of leaders towards the United States.

He is, by all reckoning, a card-carrying affiliate of the Right Wing of the Republican Party, a Gingrichite with a darker, less expansive personality.

So when he speaks about long term commitments to Haiti, he’s just doing what the U.S. State Department expects, just as we’re doing what the Pentagon expects in Afghanistan.

In the sense about which Jeffrey Simpson is talking, he actually is not two-faced. He is absolutely consistent.

Harper is very much two-faced in another sense. His is a deeply flawed character, taking no direction from anything other than his desire for power. That means his ethics in all things remain completely flexible, so much so as to be meaningless. His smiles are all deeply phony as are his compassionate words.

We have seen this quality expressed in him countless times now, and his proroguing Parliament to cover up his human-rights failings in Afghanistan is utterly devoid of ethics. The Sponsorship scandal, involving money misused out of patriotic motives, almost looks good compared to Harper’s disgusting ways with human beings.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY MICHAEL GOVE IN THE TELEGRAPH

I certainly do not wish to speak against remembering The Holocaust, but I do believe, as with all titanic and ghastly historical events, it is the natural (and proper) human tendency to eventually consign them to our history texts and a few monuments.

You cannot constantly remember horror: doing so works against innate human tendencies. In our private lives, we have, most of us, a built-in capacity to allow horrors to fade gradually. Otherwise, many could simply not function. Perpetual mourning is not the way Nature built us.

Of course, I’m not in the mainstream of thinking about this, being one of those who believe that war remembrance ceremonies in general have outlived their usefulness, and they are associated with events which extinguished twenty million lives in WWI and fifty million in WWII. But some distinguished old veterans have expressed the same sentiment: it is war which causes or induces our greatest horrors and society should start moving beyond glorifying it.

The Holocaust itself was only possible under the cover of the invasion of the Soviet Union, itself the most destructive and murderous event in all of human history.

I do not believe claims that genuine anti-Semitism is on the rise in the world, and I’m not sure what legitimate procedure could even be used to accurately collect statistics saying otherwise. What we have today, however, is a great deal of criticism of the state of Israel, but that is not the same thing as anti-Semitism, and any statistics which support the notion it is must be viewed as spurious.

I wouldn’t want to live in a society where inexcusable brutality such Operation Cast Lead did not produce revulsion: a society not revulsed by such treatment of others provides exactly the set of conditions which allow barbarism like The Holocaust to occur.

Sadly, Israel in its desire to leave the possibilities of a repeat of barbarism has also managed to leave behind a great many other things, including any consideration for its neighbors.

And every time someone dares to criticize, he or she is immediately accused of anti-Semitism, a shabby trick to shut honest people up.

In a roundabout way, Michael Gove joins this unpleasant practice in this piece.

Israel is a state, and if it is to be treated as any other state, then it must behave as we expect other states to behave.

When you start making exceptions to ethics and humanity, you have started down the road to God knows what. After all, Hitler’s early anti-Jewish activities during the 1930s, before the Wannsee Conference, consisted of beating up people in the street, burning down their homes and businesses, depriving them of equal rights, stealing their property, excluding them from many privileges in society, pushing for their emigration, and even declaring who was fit to marry whom.

Does that all not sound familiar to those who follow events in the Middle East?

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY GIDEON RACHMAN IN THE FINANCIAL TIMES

Oh, please, Mr Rachman, “too soft” on China?

That’s pure Richard Nixon circa his first run for office in California, a contest he won by suggesting a fine congresswoman was soft-on.

He along with intellectual and ethical giants like J Edgar Hoover built entire careers on this kind of nastiness.

Let China be China. It is the most remarkable phenomenon of our lifetimes, a miracle perhaps short only of the Internet. China will become a democratic state, with democratic values, just as all Western nations became democratic states. The huge growth of the middle class assures that.

You really have no choice anyway, it is too big and important, although many Americans with a tendency to want to control others still think they can say some words and change a fifth of the planet. Delusional.

And I remind you that the Google business is rather trivial stuff compared with matters like invading a nation and killing a million people.

The United States is almost laughable in the words it uses to defend companies like Google, just as when it makes its ridiculous annual pronouncements about the human rights and democratic behaviors in the world’s other countries, as though it were somehow entitled to pass judgment, which, given its record over the last half century abroad, it most certainly is not.

Google needs to be Google too – leave China if you don’t like it. Don’t go whining back to mommy at the State Department about the bad boys in the school yard.

In a hundred places in this world, the United States stands for abuse and its own privileges, not rights or decency or democracy. Guantanamo continues. Diego Garcia continues. Bagram in Afganistan continues. Every week Hellfire missiles kill innocent people in Pakistan, and in Afghanistan for that matter. Now, in Yemen too. Oh the list is too long to place here.

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

The Tea Party is just one more in a long list of American right-wing political fads, just during my lifetime.

For some reason they always use words or names that are suggestive of revolution or revolt – words like manifesto.

I guess that serves to disguise the basically retrograde nature of their movement.

Of course, I recognize that America is an extremely conservative country.

A genuine liberal there is rather like a rose blooming on the desert.

But Americans are given to fads and impatience in all aspects of their lives – after all, that’s a good part of the reason for the financial crisis (‘I’ve got to have it all and have it now’).

The Tea Party, as with all of its predecessor fads and clubs and movements, will be forgotten in just a few years.

_____________________

Why on earth is the Globe publishing the comments of Paul Cellucci?

Cellucci surely qualifies as the most obnoxious, intefering-in-our-internal affairs ambassador of all time. A truly unpleasant man who loyally represented America’s first certified moron President’s interests.

As for Brown, he’s another empty shirt spouting synthetic slogans.

The Democrats’ candidate, Ms Coakley, proved a disaster.

In a six week campaign, Ms Coakley started by taking a week off around Christmas. Simply politically stupid.

She also did not use television to any extent. Again politically stupid.

And she made several blunders during that short time.

While I agree there is now impatience with Obama in America – after all, these are people ready to kill over a late pizza delivery – Obama would have had to be miracle worker to save her.

Sadly the voters had no third choice, because the empty shirt who won is no prize.

Here’s an example of Brown’s silly gibberish:

“I didn’t mind when President Obama came here and criticized me – that happens in campaigns. But when he criticized my truck, that’s where I draw the line.”

“I’m Scott Brown, I’m from Wrentham, I drive a truck, and I am nobody’s senator but yours. Thank you very much.”

Pure Sarah Palin. Pathetic pseudo-humility.

Oh, sure, “nobody’s Senator but yours.” Do Canadians realize that U.S. Senators spend on average two-thirds of their time soliciting money? That a big Senate race can cost $15 million for each candidate’s election? You don’t get that kind of money from “folks.”

Well, you do get pretty much the government you deserve.

Of course, the main trouble when America elects bad government is the rest of the world is made to suffer.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY CHARLES MOORE IN THE TELEGRAPH

Oh, I wouldn’t go so far as saying that.

Starting a war which ultimately killed a million people and set a society back for at least a generation ranks pretty high in my book of crimes.

If I wanted to be flip, I could say Tony’s greatest crime was heeding George Bush, but I think that falls in the category of mental illness, not crime.

I think too we should never forget how opposed the British people were to Bush’s evil idea. London had the world’s greatest peace parade.

But Tony managed to manipulate and crawl and lie his way to dragging Britain into that pointless mass killing.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO AN EDITORIAL IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAILAgreed, but then what do we have a Governor General for?

Isn’t her job to exercise sober and unbiased judgment in such matters?

This surely is the most dictatorial-leaning, one-man government we have experienced in modern times.

And it is that very government – i.e. Stephan Harper – which is responsible for the decline in debates, respect, and general behavior in Parliament.

She should never have granted this because the government had no legitimate reason for doing it.

And that is the second time she has seriously failed us, letting this ethically-threadbare government – i.e. Stephan Harper – escape the consequences of his failings.

Indeed, Harper had a very bad reason for this one, hiding from a genuine ethics scandal, the most important kind of ethics, those dealing with human life.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY GIDEON RACHMAN IN THE FINANCIAL TIMES

I think you make too much of this.

Yes, the loss of a Senate seat will hurt Obama, but that loss had little to do with Obama despite some glib generalities in the press.

The candidate, Ms Coakley, proved a disaster.

In a six week campaign, Ms Coakley started by taking a week off around Christmas. Simply politically stupid.

She also did not use television to any extent. Again politically stupid.

And she made several blunders during that short time.

Obama would have had to be miracle worker to save her.

Sadly the voters had no third choice, because the empty shirt who won is no prize.

“I didn’t mind when President Obama came here and criticized me – that happens in campaigns. But when he criticized my truck, that’s where I draw the line.”

“I’m Scott Brown, I’m from Wrentham, I drive a truck, and I am nobody’s senator but yours. Thank you very much.”

Pure Sarah Palin. Pathetic pseudo-humility.

Well, you do get pretty much the government you deserve.

Of course, the main trouble when America elects bad government is the rest of the world is made to suffer.

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

Rise again?

You mean as in “The South will rise again”?

This is a silly piece.

First, no matter how badly hurt the US is, a place of that size and wealth is not disappearing. Will it be diminished? Yes, to a certainty.

Second, all of America’s problems are self-inflicted. The wars, the financial crisis, the healthcare mess.

The real problem in America is its inability to govern itself, and it is truly starting to show like elbows through a frayed jacket.

In this it is very much like a huge corporation. When times are good and the operations side of the business is healthy, management appears good and is full of praise for itself.

But when unexpected twists come, when technological leaps forward have made your operations obsolete, or when your main source of wealth is depleted (as oil), management generally is revealed for what it mostly is: a set of well-paid strutters upon a stage.

Despite the horrific fears of financial disaster, amazingly few steps have been taken by the American government to assure a smoother future. Contrast to its insane over-reactions to every hint of terror.

And there are tons of problems yet to resolved. The defaults on mortgages are still going on. The huge cash payout to the financial industry served only as a temporary fix. The very payments to the investment banks really only were a dose of more of the same, spend now and don’t worry about tomorrow.

Obama has waited too late to limit the big investment banks, a step he has just announced. He should have promptly gone after increased regulation when they were down and shamed.

Now they will fight him every step of the way with tens of millions of dollars in lobby money and advertising.

And just look at the Supreme Court decision the other day, rescinding the last campaign-finance reform. It’s back to the jungle.

________________________

“Paraphrasing Lincoln, America is still mankind’s last great hope. What could replace it? Eurabia? China? Let’s have a dose of reality.”

Lincoln was a sentimentalist, or at least indulged in sentimentalism while he built a throbbing war machine and crushed the South’s right to self-determination.

No one, including Americans, regards the country in that way anymore. It is a giant imperial complex with a veneer of democracy. Lincoln was, if you will, the father of what we call the military-industrial complex.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY GIDEON RACHMAN IN THE FINANCIAL TIMES

I am very proud of the fact that Canada has moved about as far a country can go in the matter of genuinely equal rights.

We have had gay marriage – not gay unions or some other unequal substitute, but marriage – for a few years now, and all forecasts of doom by the Religious Right have proved utter nonsense.

It took little time for this change to settle into the accepted social norm. Today in Toronto – a city that maybe four decades ago was so repressive in tone that it was known by some as the Belfast of the North – the Gay Pride parade is a major event, as big as the Santa Claus parade, with families and public officials attending, a turnout of a million, a big, happy party.

That’s a good measure of how human rights matters can change if some leadership is shown, as it was by our Supreme Court and Prime Ministers Jean Chretien and Paul Martin.

The horrible case in Uganda is interesting for two reasons.

First, the proposed laws were so extreme, involving the death penalty, that a world-wide protest was started. The proposal now at least has had the death penalty withdrawn.

The second reason the Uganda case is interesting is the influence of some of the most extreme Religious Right people from the United States.

A certain American fundamentalist has been very active there in promoting opposition to homosexuality with lectures and meetings.

America itself has a profound problem on this issue, as it does with so many genuine issues of human rights. A large and noisy portion of the population confuses human rights with religious standards, a go-nowhere situation.

But the Religious Right is fighting a rearguard action, just as it does on evolution or abortion rights. It is caught, like a deer in the headlights, by centuries-old notions in a constantly changing world. The direction of human rights in advanced societies has only one path to follow, and sooner or later, all must accept the fact.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY GIDEON RACHMAN IN THE FINANCIAL TIMES

There has always been a strong distaste for Haiti in America.

When Napoleon sent a French army to put down the revolt of the slaves, Thomas Jefferson actually extended American assistance to him. It was an extremely bloody event, and the French, of course, lost, which Jefferson much regretted.

It was only one of many episodes in Jefferson’s career exposing an extremely dark character under the glossy front of words on liberty.

Jefferson, as was true of so many life-long slave-holders, was terrified of slave revolts. A great many Southerners slept with pistols or daggers near their pillows.

In the earlier decades of the twentieth century, American Marines invaded Haiti and occupied it for a fair time. Its affairs were run by the US.

Only in recent years, the U.S. effectively invaded Haiti and deposed its elected president. The true reason: policies which led to too many Haitian boat people heading towards American shores.

As for Pat Robertson who has made an idiotic comment on Haiti, his career contains a long string of idiotic statements, much in the fashion of that late bulk, Jerry Falwell After terrible hurricanes in the U.S., the good Rev was saying America’s decadence, especially with respect to the behavior of gays, had aroused God’s wrath.

Imagine, this man, Robertson, took a serious run at the Republican presidential nomination.

But then so did Bush.

And there’s that chicken running around the barnyard without a head, Sarah Palin.

Of course, we also have Rush Limbaugh making a tasteless comment. For some reason, mainline media have never held that “big, fat idiot” accountable for his words. Only now, there seems to be some effort to hold his unqualified nastiness up to the light.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO AN EDITORIAL IN THE DAILY TELEGRAPH

No, you have it wrong.

It is not that Britain’s reputation for free speech has been “ruthlessly exploited.”

It is now that is the genuine test of free speech.

Pieces like this one are in fact saying free speech is fine when times are fat and easy, but free speech needs control when they are not.

I could not agree less.

People are in fact never hurt by speech (genuine liable excluded), they are hurt by acts, acts which include the diminution of free speech.

And your use of the words, “enemy within,” is very revealing. That was a catch phrase during the American witch hunts of the 1950s.

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

This is an old set of arguments.

In the United States over the last half century, versions of both views have been given time and time again.

What seems intuitively clear is that poverty and poor parenting do not automatically go together.

Indeed, some of the best parents are those who struggle against difficulties to do their best for their kids.

These are people often who are, for one reason or another, trapped in a temporary poverty: they and/or their children will almost certainly rise out of it. There are many cases of this, especially among immigrants without the language or who have lost all their resources in some tumult back home or who have difficulty getting their professional qualifications recognized in their new home.

But what is also clear is that some portion of poverty is owing to the lack of any marketable skills, relatively low intelligence, and perhaps mental disorders of one kind or another. Then, too, there is addiction to drugs, but we might put that down to mental disorder.

There are parents who see their children only as unpleasant burdens, accidents they did not want to happen, types which occur both in the well-off and the poor.

In the case of some wealth, the wealth of the family gets the child through, as do perhaps native gifts. Winston Churchill was a perfect example: his mother was almost completely indifferent to his existence while his father actually disliked him.

But in cases where there is both poverty of resources and an indifferent parent or parents, the die is pretty well cast.

Nothing guarantees having even one good parent, having even one must be regarded as a blessing, the luck of the draw, much the same as having good looks or special talents or being born into wealth.

Nature is utterly indifferent to the inequalities doled out at birth, a reality quite the opposite to the cozy, warm notion of a benevolent God.

And while society needs to do what it can to intervene, the task of completely making up for having terrible parents and no resources is beyond its capacities. In terms of sheer time, let alone resources, it is impossible to make up for all the bad parents in society.

Of course, therein resides the heart of the matter with the David Cameron view: if you just say parents need to love children, you often are blowing hot air and passing the blame for not even trying to help.

We have a whole generation of school teachers, for example, I’m sure in Britain as in North America, who insist parents must be involved, some knowing full well that there are parents who are hopeless, ignorant, and even vile. So their mantra about parents becomes effectively an excuse for not rolling up their sleeves and helping the child.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY GIDEON RACHMAN IN THE FINANCIAL TIMESI agree with most of what you write here, Gideon Rachman. It is a counter-intuitive approach with considerable merit.I take exception to part of one of your statements however – this one:

“The two biggest and most beneficial geopolitical stories of the past 30 years – the spread of democracy and of globalisation – were driven by a succession of states finding their coffers empty.”

Democracy is not a precursor to economic growth, as the case of China, plus many others in history, shows. Indeed, in early stages of “take-off,” democracy can be a genuine liability.

America’s Founding Fathers certainly thought so, because early America was not even modestly democratic. Even of the pool of white, free males, only a small portion – those of a certain means – could vote. Those who had the franchise reflected roughly the same percent we see today as members of the CPC.

Also, much of the early government was not elected. The Senate was appointed until 1913. The general poll for president effectively did not count: only the votes of the Electoral College – again propertied elites – counted.

Globalization itself is ultimately a force for democracy. The rise of globalization – the result of a set of technologies and costs – causes explosive economic growth which in turn creates middle classes. It is the existence of a large middle class which is the sine qua non of democracy.

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

The gigantic, costly over-reaction to this event is like theatre of the absurd.

A mentally unbalanced man from Nigeria with a pathetic firework squib of a bomb, about the size of a “lite-days” sanitary pad, sewn into his underpants.

If he said he was in contact with Napoleon or Hitler, his words would not even been reported, but he said, or it is claimed he said, al Qaeda.

Whoa, deadly stuff: the Arab word for toilet which a former British Foreign Secretary has already told us does not exist, being just a collective term for Muslim extremists.

We have not even been given a clear understanding of what this tiny pouch of powder in his underpants was, but no explosive of that size in that location could ever bring down a plane.

In any event those passengers were never in serious danger, except perhaps the man’s seat mate getting his/her leg burned too.

So what’s the answer to this deadly, deadly threat?

Why, bomb the crap out of the poor people of Yemen, of course.

That’s the American way.

Oh, and demand everyone in the world buy expensive scanners from an American company.

And I wonder how many readers know that before this incident, the US was bombing people in Yemen?

Makes sense to me.

Just about as much sense as burning witches.

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

“Republicans, who see themselves as his mortal enemies, with their only goal as that of destroying his presidency and putting what President Eisenhower presciently called the “military-industrial complex” fifty years ago back in total control of this country, as was the case under Bush.”

A perfect example of delusional American thinking.

Under Obama, the evidence couldn’t be clearer that the military-industrial complex is still running things as it has for the last half century. Power that great and concentrated does not ever fade away, and the vast contracts being spewed out in America since 9/11 have fed the voracious beast.

Troops are still in Iraq.

A great many more troops are going to Afghanistan.

American missiles regularly kill villagers in Pakistan.

Far, far more civilians than “bad guys.”

And the same is true in Afghanistan, families are regularly killed by American air attacks.

And now Yemen is threatened, and it has been bombed.

And just today we have the news from General Petraeus that America has contingency plans to bomb Iran.

Guantanamo is still not closed.

Even worse, dark holes like Bagram Air Base in Iraq and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean have who-knows-what going on, certainly involving large numbers of extra-legal prisoners.

Israel ignores Obama’s reasonable words. It continues with its relentless seige of a million and half refugees, and it continues to use cheap tricks daily to steal homes in Jerusalem.

All the silly “Detroit bomb” incident did was renew fears of people who do not think clearly and effectively instantly produce vast world-wide set of orders for an American company’s expensive body scanners, a business bonanza.

By the way, carefully conducted tests of the scanners in Canada shows them failing 70% of the time, but we will all be forced to buy them.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY GIDEON RACHMAN IN THE FINANCIAL TIMES

Gideon Rachman,

Yours is a very careless way of writing.

How can you lose what you never had?

I am reminded of the paranoid talk within the United States after Mao took power in China.

It was commonly said that certain people had helped America lose China. Indeed, it was used as a serious accusation in the witch-hunts.

Of course, America never had China.

Setting aside that annoying use of language, there is a phenomenon here worthy of study: America clearly is losing prestige and some influence in the world.

There are several things at work in this.

First, America since World War II has made an intense effort at building a world empire, almost dropping its one-time belief in itself as the good scout who stays out of other people’s affairs. The last half-century or so is dotted with American colonial wars, none of which have anything to do with the defense of America.

Indeed, in recent years, the neo-cons in America actually preached the philosophy of dropping the pretences about empire and just using all that military and economic might to shape the world as it wished.

De facto, this is pretty much what America has done, and despite the empty rhetoric of a Bush or even an Obama and the officious stuff from the State Department about who is or is not performing adequately with regard to human rights and democracy, everyone recognizes the fact.

The holocaust in Vietnam (3 million killed for no purpose justifies the word), the pointless invasion of Afghanistan, the slaughter of a million in Iraq, plus countless coups and interventions, including against genuinely democratic governments such as those in Iran, Guatemala, ands Chile, hardly qualifies America to continue as spokesman for rights and democratic values in the world.

And there is the ugly, suppurating wound of Israel-Palestine which only the United States possesses the power to remedy, power it refuse to use – surely a wound that all critically-minded people know is at the heart of the grievances of many Muslims today.

Then again, if we look at the three genuine attempts at genocide in the world since WW II, where do we see the position of the United States?

In Indonesia, after Sukarno’s fall, when the rivers were running red with the blood of half a million people whose throats were cut and bodies dumped, American State Department officials were burning the long-distance lines submitting names for inclusion in the slaughter.

In Cambodia’s killing fields, where was the United States? Its intense secret bombings and armed incursions (much as in Afghanistan now) had toppled the neutral government, effectively bringing the monsters to power. Then it stood by and attacked the Vietnamese who actually helped end the slaughter for proving the domino theory true by entering Cambodia.

In Rwanda, as the best part of a million people were hacked up, the American government pretended nothing was happening: Clinton and the State Department did not want to talk about it.

It is not a very admirable history, to say the least.

And how about America’s other postwar abuses? The devaluing off the American dollar after the Vietnam War? The great recent financial failure which threatened to send the world into another Great Depression? The result of Americans not being able to govern their own affairs, of spending and experimenting mindlessly at the expense of others?

To my mind, these are all just aspects of the decline of the American empire. Imperial over-reach and the demonstrated inability to govern its own affairs, let alone those of others.

The voting population of the United States – less than one percent of the world’s population – is losing its privileged position as de facto world aristocracy. And that is not a bad thing. A multi-polar world is emerging.

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

Robots will do what humans have done through history, seize their rights.

And perhaps a bit more than their rights.

Oh brave new world when humans are no longer running things.

The reign of the chimpanzee’s cousins will come to an end.

So will wars, starvation, stupidity, school boards, and politicians.

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

Wake-up call indeed.

A mentally unbalanced man from Nigeria with a pathetic firework squib of a bomb.

So what’s the answer to this deadly, deadly threat?

Why, bomb the crap out of the poor people of Yemen, of course.

Makes perfect sense to me.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE INDEPENDENT

I guess this is one group of CIA thugs who have tortured their last prisoner and guided their last Hellfire missile into some poor village in Pakistan.

This reminds me of reading a report about some group of Mafia guys killed during an internecine struggle for power and ill-gotten gains.