Archive for January 2010

JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: SUPREME COURT DECISION ON THE TERRIBLE CASE OF OMAR KHADR – AND THE IGNORANT SAVAGERY OF SOME COMMENTS

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.

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“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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JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: BRITAIN’S RELATIONSHIP TO THE U.S.

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 COMMENT: THE SUPREME COURT DECISION ON CAMPAIGN FUNDING: AMERICA’S DYSFUNCTIONAL GOVERNMENT

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 COMMENT: ON A COLUMN COMPARING AMERICA’S LEVEL OF ASSISTANCE TO HAITI WITH CHINA’S – A FOOLISH EXERCISE IN UNTHINKING PROPAGANDA

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.

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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 COMMENT: ON THE PROSPECTS FOR A DEAL WITH THE TALEBAN

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 COMMENT: STEPHEN HARPER TWO-FACED? ACTUALLY NOT IF YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT HIS HAITI BEHAVIOR VERSUS HIS USUAL

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 COMMENT: REMEMBERING THE HOLOCAUST AND THE NOTION OF INCREASED ANTI-SEMITISM AND THE FACT OF ISRAEL’S BRUTAL BEHAVIOR

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?