Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: March 2010

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

How very tiresome to see repeated over and over rubbish about diversity of opinion and free speech.

This event involved neither of those. Neither did it involve ideas.

I defy anyone to provide samples of Ms. Coulter’s ideas.

There are none. Had she any, I would feel differently about the event, despite my being against right-wing views.

Coulter is nightclub performer or a circus side-show act. She gets paid to make people laugh at ugly, abusive statements.

She was simply given the old hook off the stage by a large audience who did not want to hear her, much as performers in vaudeville were years ago when the audience booed.

And, by the way, she was given it by her own staff, not by the university.

Ms. Coulter’s every joke drips with venom for groups she dislikes. She makes prejudice funny.

She is every bit as unwelcome as would be Ernst Zundel doing an hour of stand-up comedy. One can imagine the subject of that.

In this case, I applaud the students for exercising their right to free speech too.

And I think it should be noted that besides being a hate-monger, Ms Coulter is coward who ran away from the effects of her own foul mouth.

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

It is indeed a stupid idea.

The fact is that it has already been tried in other places. It simply does not work.

In Chicago, most of the poorly performing schools in black neighborhoods were years ago renamed into various academies.

Sometimes one academy changes into another academy when the poor performance catches up with them.

Toronto’s new Director of education, Chris Spence, spent his last several years in Hamilton as Director. The sum total of his real achievements is zero.

Everywhere the man ever went, a retinue of cameras followed him to produce shots like the one you have leading this story.

When the cameras were turned off, so was the Director, typically rushing out to the next place.

Football players with education degrees just won’t do it. Indeed, it is time to get genuine management and analytical ability heading our schools. Education degrees are just academic fluff.

You’ll only get the best ideas in education from the best people, something our public schools fail to understand.

And that goes for the quality of teachers too. There are far too many who should never have been given a classroom. Get some people with real skills in computers and science and music in the classrooms, even if they do not have education degrees.

A name change, a photo op, and some rah-rah change nothing.

_______________________

The grand thing about schemes like Chris Spence’s is that by the time everyone discovers what a waste of time and money it has all been, he’ll be off somewhere on a gold-plated pension.

Truly, a professional mediocre bureaucrat’s dream, and it’s the kind of thing that keeps getting repeated over and over again in public education, which I am sad to say sometimes resembles a giant Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme rather than a serious institution.

A new fad every decade at least. All of them flops. New silly lingo. New pretensions. New nonsense.

Meanwhile, absolutely nothing real is done about the quality of kids’ education.

Truly nothing.

And nothing will until the management of education is taken out of the hands of teachers and ex-teachers with fluff education degrees and fluff ideas.

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

“That piece of fabric, however, negates years and years of fighting for rights and equality for women…”

I’m sorry, but that is complete nonsense.

The writer, and others here, has no basis for judging why a woman wears the veil.

For all this writer knows, the woman behind the veil is a tigress. Indeed, I have heard one interview with a conservative Muslim woman who struck me as a very forceful person.

A few decades back, in films, the niqab was viewed by our public as alluring and fascinating. There are many scenes exhibiting these aspects in old films and serials, scenes made to appeal to our sensibilities.

Now, it has completely turned around with people attributing the most outlandish motives. It’s just the backwash from America’s insane war on terror, fed by Bush’s lame stuff about women when what he was about was killing.

The picture the Globe uses to accompany this article, perhaps a staged shot, shows that quality in spades. The eyes – the face’s greatest communicator of emotion and intelligence – are brought into focus. It is a beautiful image.

These women were admitted as immigrants to Canada with their niqab. What right do we have to say high-handedly, after they have moved their lives here, they must do away with it? None.

This is the attitude of the intolerant and those who do not understand what they are talking about, using flimsy excuses like women’s rights. A woman’s rights include wearing what she wishes, does it not?

The reasons for this garment are complex – social, historical, and not just religious, but for devout wearers religion is very important, more so than its secular critics can understand.

At any rate, the number of Muslim woman who wear the niqab is miniscule. I’ve never seen one on the street, although the hijab (a handsome babushka) is common. So why this inordinate outrage over it?

Almost all immigrants eventually give up their native dress. It is up to them to decide on that, not shrill accusers in a newspaper column.

Those shrill demands are the way Americans behave. It’s one of their most unpleasant qualities. Live and let live so long as people are not being hurt – that’s the Canadian way, or at least I thought it was.

_____________________

“Imagine what even this newspaper would look like if all the pictures of women had their faces all covered up.”

Sorry, but we get unthinking comment after unthinking comment.

A tiny minority of humanity wears the niqab, and a tiny fraction of them is in Canada.

You could also say, by that kind of “logic,” what if the newspaper were full of people wearing the gear of Watusi tribes people?

Please, some tolerance and intelligence are needed here.

Ridiculous.

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

This is good news on all sides.

First, Frum, a bag of wind who has worked with America’s ugliest neo-cons in advocating American imperialism all over the globe, loses his post.

But perhaps more important, this act is a sharp confirmation of what the American think tanks actually are, propaganda mills play acting as academic institutions.

The American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute all operate on the same basis as those television commercials for over-the-counter remedies featuring actors in white lab coats pretending to be doctors.

They offer only one point of view, always.

And now we know they don’t even keep staff who even once do not toe the line.

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

“…the free exchange of ideas….”

What pompous nonsense!

Coulter exchanges no ideas, only attitudes, hateful attitudes.

And she was not there to speak and inform – she was there to entertain those who laugh at the jokes of nasty-mouthed twelve-year olds.

This woman is a hatemonger without redeeming values.

Had she attacked the appearance or customs of Orthodox Jewish people, as she does those of others, the Globe would be patting itself on the back while pronouncing that Canada has no room for her.

And in that case, you would be right.

As it is, you could not be more wrong.

And your pompous phrasing takes no account of the fact that the University of Ottawa did permit this seething lump of intolerance to speak.

It was a large group of people, exercising their own rights of speech, who shouted her down.

And, as someone who dearly embraces free speech and hates censorship, I applaud them.
_____________________

What Ann Coulter really represents – apart from intolerance and the retarded-development humor of a frat boy – is the triumph of info-tainment.

America is awash in info-tainment, having even at least one entire network dedicated to it, Fox.

She was here to make her offering on an organized tour with promised profits, just as Cirque du Soleil does Los Vegas.

Indeed, circus performer – of the kind from the old days of “freak show” tents – would be one accurate way to describe what she does.

Ideas and information are no more part of her act than they are for nude lap-dancer at a men’s lounge.

It is truly absurd to discuss her in any other light: to do so is to buy in to the idea that Americans are informed by Fox Television.
___________________

Ian Hunter offers us a remarkably vacuous article.

What Mr. Hunter has done here, thinly disguised as a defense of free speech and quality education, is attack Allan Rock, obviously a politician he does not like.

The issue of free speech is truly not present in this incident.

Ms Coulter is a paid performer.

And an audience booed her off the stage.

It used to happen all the time in Vaudeville.

Remember the old jokes about the cane dragging an unpopular performer off the stage?

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

The sick influence of even our limited involvement with Afghanistan is apparent in the very words of some of these remarks.

“Our boys”!

Canadians never traditionally spoke this way. It is the speech of belly-over-belt American politicians from Mississippi.

“The women of Afghanistan”!

As though the writer had any idea at all, and besides, “the women” were George Bush’s ace propaganda ploy.

America did not go there to help women. It went there to kill, and it has killed a great many people.

We have squandered many lives and billions of dollars trying to make the Pentagon smile at us.

That’s enough.

Staying longer would be proof that American insanity is catching.

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

There is something almost shameful that an American Secretary of State feels obliged to address the Lobby for Israel on so basic a matter as Israel’s recent behavior towards the United States.

Moreover, Aipac is an organization which has been involved in some very dodgy activities in the past, as reflected in extensive FBI investigations.

Israel publicly insults the Vice president of the United States on a high-level visit and then argues with American officials over their view of the fact.

What other country in the world could get away with such behavior?

And then the prime minister, a man whose intolerance and brutality are a matter of public record, gets a tête-à-tête in the White House?

Israel’s ugly seizure of Arab homes in East Jerusalem violates every international agreement.

Israel’s entire recent behavior – mass murder in Gaza, assassination, brutal blockade, and taking the property of others – is little different to what Serbia was doing when the United States went to war against them.

If you want peace, you talk to your neighbors, you stop abusing your neighbors, and you stop stealing from your neighbors.

But if what you want is other people’s homes and farms, minus the people, in a vast slow-motion ethnic-cleansing, you behave exactly as Israel behaves.

The only nation on earth which can push Israel towards civilized behavior towards its neighbors is the United States, yet because of the campaign-financing efforts of outfits like Aipac under America’s ghastly campaign-finance laws, that needed push is rendered almost politically impossible.

All quite absurd, the most powerful country in the world, a country which has been unbelievably generous towards Israel, has its foreign policy heavily bent by a place with the population of Ecuador.

__________________

When people write about Israel’s additional territorial claims in terms of Hebrew Scripture, for most of the world’s people it makes as much sense as modern Greece claiming Turkey owing to the Iliad.

If you can quote Scripture as authority in Middle East affairs, you can justify anything, including killing all non-Jewish residents, for that is what the Biblical Hebrews were enjoined to do, over and over.

Many countries could have a claim on the territory we call Israel if this approach were valid, including the Egyptians (who long, long ago ruled there, the Lebanese (viewed as the descendants of the ancient Phoenicians who also ruled there), and perhaps even the Iraqis.

The silliness of this claim is made even greater by the important research of an Israeli scholar who says that the Palestinians are, for the most part, the actual descendants of the ancient Israelis.

When Rome conquered territories, it typically did not remove the inhabitants and it did not interfere with their religion, so long as they accepted Roman rule. Just because, after two turbulent millennia of history, most of the Palestinians are Muslim does not invalidate this concept. Moreover, DNA testing is tending to support this view.

So what we are really talking about with Israel’s modern activities is removing the descendants of ancient Israel who have lived there countless centuries in favor of new immigrants from New York or London. If that isn’t imperialism, I don’t know what is.

On still another level, Biblical claims must be rejected simply because they are dangerous and de-stabilizing. Greater Israel as it has been defined by Zionist scholars – and mind you, there are no maps in the Bible – includes the West Bank and Gaza and pieces of Syria and Lebanon. Does claiming that, or any portion of it, resemble anything but a certain formula for endless war and unrest?

Personal religious views and 2,500 year-old books have no place in international affairs.

In the end, if Israel wishes to be regarded as a state like any other state, then it must behave as we expect other states to behave, and that does not include undefined borders which constantly ooze out over the property of others.

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

Many of the criticisms here are true, especially those about costs.

But since when in America is it possible to legislate a neat, rational, economical, sensible bill about anything?

That’s not just a sarcasm.

American legislation is often so convoluted, so fraught with nonsense, that it in practice it achieves the opposite of its title.

That’s just a reality of government in America.

The one real merit of this legislation is that the door is finally thrown open to some extent on healthcare.

And that’s no small thing.

With time, the legislation will be refined, improved, and perhaps changed significantly.

The real truth is that America – with its opinionated extremes, its ideologies, and its sheer volume of noise – learns often only by banging its head against walls.

We have seen that time and time again.

Turning America in anything is like turning a super-oil tanker in a tight channel, and too often there is a drunk at the helm.

America is a chaotic society, yet pretends to be well organized, and it is overflowing with posing and melodrama.

It is, as Robert Hughes said, a culture of complaint.

________________

“…it is opposed by most of the country; and it is now law. I would never have believed this possible in the United States.”

Clive Crook, that statement by someone as well-informed as you astounds me.

A great many major votes in Congress do not reflect general public opinion in America. Check out public opinion on subjects like gun control, abortion, and some of America’s wars.

The truth is that a great many Americans do not vote, so while their views are reflected in a valid poll, they have no political influence.

Also, Congress blurs many issues with immensely complex omnibus bills, making it difficult to sort out votes.

And since representation is what economists call “bundled,” voters will forget or forgive an unwelcome vote on some issues so long as they get what they want on others.

In a political duopoly, no voter gets the policies he or wants without lots of extra baggage from either party.

Finally, there has been an immense amount of misinformation, genuinely stupid stuff like the rubbish about death panels put forward by genuine airheads like Sarah Palin.

Once voters see that such misinformation is what it is, views will alter. There will undoubtedly be a big educational drive too.

I would have much preferred another approach – this one has many shortcomings – but it is step forward, and it will make it easier to make refinements in future.

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

Gee, it would be nice if the Globe got its garments right.

At the top of an article about the niqab (a veil for the face), you have put a picture of women wearing either chador (a flowing body garment which is often worn without a veil) or a hijab (a simple head scarf, not all that different to a babushka).

It isn’t possible to see from the cropping which garments these are, but are most definitely not niqab.

It really would be nice to get a break from all this mindless, anti-Muslim hysteria.

What do I care what my neighbor wears so long as he or she is a peaceful member of society?

My experience with Muslims is simply one a sweet-tempered people who pretty much mind their own business.

I wish their critics displayed half their excellent qualities.

__________________

“Yeah, it’s such a shame how all that hedonism led Israel to become the most prosperous nation in the middle east, with the most diverse economy…”

Pure and utter ignorance, that posting.

Israel is, in fact, the most subsidized country in the world, and it enjoys countless unfair advantages over others.

For decades the U.S. government has given it about $3 billion per year – that’s about $500 per head each year.

Oh wouldn’t Canadians, or even more the Arabs the above writer so clearly despises, like to receive a foreign government’s cheque of $500 each year? Most of Israel’s population has grown up its entire life with this benefit.

But that $500 per head subsidy is only the start of special advantages.

America shares precious intelligence and technology and access on a scale extended to no one else.

What other relatively insignificant country – Israel’s population is about that of Ecuador – gets its president into the White House every few months?

What other country of this size has a generous free-trade agreement with America?

But those are still only the beginnings of the subsidy.

America’s defense establishment enters into all kinds of huge and costly joint projects with Israel – as for the Arrow anti-missile missile – sharing valuable technology and access to the best brains plus money.

American Jewish organizations have sent literally tens of billions to Israel over 60 years, and these immense contributions have been given charitable status exempting the givers from tax.

Europe too gives Israel special status in many economic matters.

Germany of course has paid billions in reparations for the holocaust to Israel – I’m not faulting that, but only pointing out one more huge subsidy. It also supplies Israel weapons – like a small fleet of sophisticated, diesel-powered submarines – at bargain-basement prices.

Israel’s economy is often grossly inefficient, yet its privileged position allows for that. For example, Israel squanders the precious water resources of the region to grow things like tomatoes which it exports to the U.S. and Europe. If the true cost of the water were reflected in the price, Israel’s produce would rot on the docks for lack of customers.

And then at the same time, Israel builds desalination plants to create more potable water at immense cost per unit volume of water.

Israel is many things, but it is neither efficient nor is it an economic miracle. It only has that appearance if you don’t look beyond the gloss.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY JEREMY WARNER IN THE TELEGRAPH

Jeremy Warner, you have it exactly right.

Americans have never been free traders at heart.

And I believe that is because the impulse to dominate, very much part of American culture and tradition, is not comfortable with it. Americans raised for generations with Manifest Destiny and “Empire of Liberty” have an instinctive repulsion around compromise with others.

And, following from the same roots, Americans are largely repulsed by the rule of international organizations so necessary to a better-ordered world. Thus everything from the United Nations to various International treaties are viewed with suspicion or even contempt.

Indeed, America often uses free trade, in the form of free trade agreements, as a weapon for political domination.

After all, classical economics tells us that it is the smaller partner who has the most to gain from free trade.

So when the U. S. signs a free trade agreement with some relatively small countries in South America or the Caribbean (as it has recently), it obtains effectively a sledge hammer over the affairs of those countries: don’t get out of line or we’ll abrogate the treaty benefiting you.

Further still, when the U.S. enters into a large and complex free trade agreement – as, for example, the North American Free Trade Agreement – it flexes its muscle whenever it is uncomfortable with a situation rising out of the terms of the agreement.

Students of that historic agreement will know the U.S., on a dozen issues, has simply declared it will not comply, and that is after going through the entire dispute-settling process established by the treaty and losing every decision. For Canada this high-handed behavior has included everything from trade in pork to soft-wood lumber, and for Mexico, it has included many agricultural products plus important services.

Americans, many of them, simply believe they have the best of all possible worlds under the best of all possible governments, and anything which appears to say otherwise is rejected out of hand.

Paul Krugman, despite the Noble Prize, is contaminated with strains of the same thinking we see in Thomas Friedman or Pat Buchanan or a large fraction of the United States Senate.

That is why, in my book about the decline of the American Empire and the rise of China, one of my most important themes was whether the United States would peacefully allow China to compete. I do believe if China is allowed to peacefully compete, it will unquestionably become the world’s most powerful economy in not many decades.

United States’ history puts the odds against it. The rise of Japan was met with immense hostility which eventually caused the Japanese to go to war against the United States, something they had had no intention of doing.

But the American expectation to keep the Pacific Ocean as an American lake made it take policies extremely hostile to Japan. The same motive was still at work only a few decades ago with the American holocaust in Vietnam.

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

 

You are only partly right, Daniel, calling Jefferson author of the Declaration of Independence.

That is of course what Jefferson liked to think himself – he had an ego the size of a cruise ship – and he had that half-truth carved on his tombstone at Monticello.

But in that as in so many things Jefferson was a rather dark and devious man.

Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration was long and slightly ridiculous. The opening memorable phrases were amended to what we know today by that original genius, Benjamin Franklin.

Perhaps more importantly, the Continental Congress whittled his draft seriously down. Jefferson was in fact angry and embarrassed by the editing.

Jefferson’s draft was ridiculous for his lengthy focus on the King’s guilt for the slave trade – this from the lifetime owner of more than two hundred slaves.

Jefferson undoubtedly had a double purpose in this condemnation of the King.

First, at the time, there was actually a surplus of human flesh on the market, and slave prices were falling, and Jefferson was looking after his large investment in flesh.

Second, as always, Jefferson liked to be seen as a great advocate of human freedom, a kind of minor Enlightenment figure if you will with a legacy of words if not acts, so condemning the King would be part of his manufactured legacy.

Jefferson was such a spendthrift all his life, never able to earn his way as a lawyer, he never thought of setting his slaves free. Indeed, he died a bankrupt still.

So far as freedom goes, Jefferson also assisted Napoleon in trying to suppress the slave revolt in Haiti. A number of other ugly behaviors and policies are on his freedom-balance sheet.

The Declaration, if you actually read it (few do), after the wonderful opening words, descends into an almost petulant long list of charges and grievances, taking on a tone of something still true of America, always blaming others for their own poor choices.

All early – before the revolution – visitors to the colonies remarked how healthy and free the American colonies were. The colonies were widely regarded as one of the freest places on earth.

But being asked to help pay with taxes for something which largely benefited them – the French and Indian War – and being made part of a dreaded Catholic place, Quebec, under the Quebec Act caused an almost insane reaction.

The colonists had the benefit of the war and saw no reason to help pay for what they already had, and anti-papacy became a raging storm resembling in its intensity something from Northern Ireland in 1969.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAILWhy?Who needs a column to explain the obvious?

Israel hurled a studied insult at the Vice President of the United States on a visit, and expects everyone just to smile.

Unbelievable.

Israel wants it both ways in everything.

Recently a government leader from Brazil was on a visit, and he did not wish to visit a certain monument to a controversial Zionist.

The Israeli government went out of its way to treat his action as an insult.

As far as the U. S. goes, Israel is happy to receive countless blessings – from security agreements and intelligence sharing to the world’s richest haul of foreign aid – yet when the U. S. treats any of Israel’s high-handed behavior for what it is, the U. S. government is the bad guy.

Ridiculous.

And why is the American Secretary of State calling the leader of an insignificant country of 7 million (less than 6 million if you discount the Arabs Israel has every intention of eventually expelling) to explain her remarks? It, of course, should be the leader of the insignificant country calling her to apologize.

And people say it is the Arabs who behave irrationally.

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

Netanyahu is beyond reaching by criticism or speeches, being one of the worst in a long series of prime ministers ready to do almost anything to achieve Israel’s unspoken goal: getting rid of all Palestinians and taking all their homes and farms.

There can be no defense of such unethical and brutal behavior, although a large number of Israel’s apologists keep trying. After all, the United States went to war when the Serbs were doing much the same kinds of things.

I fear Israel is going to confront the world with a true crisis in the next decade or so, as it drives out the 1.5 million people from Gaza and the several million from the West Bank, and it would do this with no compensation for taking people’s property or disrupting their lives.

The blockade of Gaza is nothing but a brutal attempt to drive the people out under the pretense that Israel can’t live with “terrorists.” Gaza has always been a nightmare for Israel’s leaders: 1.5 million refugees huddled in a small enclave inside Israel’s claimed territory.

There is little hope to preventing a disaster it seems to me simply because the United States is the only force on earth that can demand reason from Israel, and the lobby for Israel has the members of Congress caught in a web of sophisticated campaign-financing techniques and the threat of unpleasant, noisy opposition at each election.

When President Truman was pondering the question of whether the United States should immediately recognize the state of Israel then emerging from a wave of terror by outfits like Stern and Irgun, frightening Palestinians into a mass exodus from their homes, he is said to have remarked that the lobbying efforts coming at him were like nothing he had ever experienced, overwhelming.

And he faced an election as an underdog candidate, so campaign funds were critical, and that’s how Israel gained recognition.

And nothing has changed: Obama just signed an agreement for $30 billion in American assistance over ten years, yet Israel is neither a poor country nor is it seriously under threat from anyone. That’s more aid than anyone anywhere receives, even people in far greater need. That is only possible under the influence of an extremely tough lobby at home.

So despite well justified criticism from America’s administration as the Vice-president recovers from the grotesque public insult of Israel’s announcing new settlements in East Jerusalem to coincide with his trip, it is almost impossible America will start enforcing fairness on Israel.

And so a truly ugly world crisis seems unavoidable not too far in the future.

______________________

“Mr Chuckman knows, Gaza is under the control of Hamas, a fundamentalist organization openly dedicated to anti-Semitic principles and to the destruction of Israel. Its goal is simply to cast out the infidels and impose Sharia law over all of Palestine.”

Just more of the countless repetitions of mindless, going-in-circles arguments.

First, Hamas is not a terrorist organization, except by Israeli declaration. Its history was overwhelmingly as a humanitarian organization.

It was actually secretly supported earlier by Israel’s secret service, in an effort to create competition for Fatah, so it cannot have been viewed as much of a threat.

When Hamas became a political party, it ran a clean election and was honestly elected. Most of its senior leaders are professional-type people, not terrorists. Hamas for the Palestinians represented the hope for clean government after the endless corruption of Fatah.

Anyway, no matter what you might imagine Hamas to be, one is supposed to talk to one’s opponents for peace. Just because I have neighbors with whom I don’t agree doesn’t give me the right to attack them, attempt to starve them out, imprison them, or murder them, but Israel claims this insane right.

Israel has never ever talked with a legitimate government. As we all know from history – Nixon and China for example – often extreme foes are better able to make peace.

Anyway, all Israel did for years was treat Arafat as though he were a clod of dirt, and many suspect Israel finally assassinated him with poison, something they’ve done many times to others.

If you want peace, you talk, you compromise, and you do not even need American assistance to do so.

If you don’t want peace – indeed, if you want to make those with whom you disagree disappear and you want to seize their property – you do just as Israel does year after year.

It truly is that simple.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAILReading of Helena Guergis’s airport melt-down, I may have new sympathy for the unpleasant Rahim Jaffer, her husband.

Maybe there’s actually a good reason Rahim Jaffer (of drunk-driving, cocaine-possession, and getting-off-with-a-slap-on-the-wrist fame) does the desperate things he does?

He appears to be married to a lunatic.

And, yes, indeed, where were the RCMP tasers on this one, as someone above asked?

I guess they save that treatment for poor foreigners who can’t speak English and who are not junior cabinet ministers.

And even then, they need four officers against one person to “deploy” the taser.

The photo with the story only shows two RCMP officers with the ghastly Guergis.

God, the new Conservatives have pathetic ministerial material. Peter “we’ll fight for Israel” Kent, Helena “I’m God” Guergis, Peter “my ex is a dog” MacKay, Lisa “leave my documents behind” Raitt, Maxime “leave my secret papers at my biker gang girlfriend’s” Bernier, and so on.

Our election system is a terrible mess if its result is keeping a bunch of second- and third-raters like this running the country with about a third of the country’s support. We really do need serious election reform.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
RESPONSE TO AN INTERVIEW ON CBC RADIO

“Fresh Air” is the third program recently interviewing Kevin Sylvester about his children’s book.

Sylvester is a perfectly nice man, and I like him, but I turned the radio off.

I’m really tired of this kind of in-house “nepotism” at CBC Radio. It is unfair and abusive.

I know several publishers turned Sylvester’s book down, so I doubt it is some magical production. Indeed, I heard parts of it read, far too many parts, when he replaced Shelagh Rogers one summer. It was actually shameful that he was paid to host a show and his hosting consisted of many, many readings from his work-in-progress.

This making the rounds at CBC shows for free publicity is just wrong since he is both an ex-full-time employee and a current part-time employee. This is abuse of listeners and access to CBC Radio.

Even more, with all the authors in this country, why would one little children’s book – even if it wasn’t mediocre and the writer didn’t work for CBC – get this unwarranted attention?

I’d almost bet that the publisher who did take the book did so knowing full well it would get this kind of excessive, free promotion by his fellow CBC employees.

Simply wrong, and my respect for CBC Radio goes down with each iteration of this kind of behavior.

Is this one more aspect of the general dumbing-down going on, the Ghomeshi-izing of CBC?

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

Read Graham Greene’s “The Comedians” in considering your answer to this question.

It remains a devastating examination of Haiti although written many decades ago.

___________________

One could theorize that an entire population of ex-slaves provides a poor basis for a society.

In general, the slaves taken by traders were the ones without the wits and cunning to avoid being taken.

Of course, people discussing slavery generally forget that it was African chiefs themselves who traded their people to slavers for profit. They weren’t likely to select the most promising of youth.

Slaves were valued only for their physical abilities, strength and endurance.

I think you could fairly speculate that an unrepresentative sample of African population provided the basis for Haiti, a population then missing many of the qualities which go to building a sound society.

Two hundred years of abject failure tells all thinking people that something there is drastically wrong.

The arguments, repeated in a comment here, about past wealth seized and American occupations cannot possibly explain the human hell that Haiti is.

Immigrants came to other parts of North America, virtual peasants from Russia or Germany or Scotland, without a dime in their pockets and became successful in millions and millions of cases.

Haiti has now become the classic case of the development nightmare with a population-resource ratio inadequate ever to achieve anything. No resources and high birth rates.

There have been a small number of successful Haitians. In general, they either live in an exclusive enclave above the squalor or leave, like our Governor General.

Haiti too is an extremely racist society. People are literally graded like fruit by graduations of lightness in their skin color. This was not imposed on the society, but has arisen out of its history.

American interventions, naturally hated anywhere, have always been based in fear that huge migrations of Haitians would land on America’s shore if things became desperate enough.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE TELEGRAPH

American television debates are not, nor have they ever been allowed to be, debates in any sense – they are joint press conferences.

They are scripted and tightly controlled. Times for responses are highly limited. The moderator is jointly agreed upon, and thereby is rather a marshmallow-like newsman, And the questions generally do not touch true controversies.

Past presidential debates are only memorable for the odd mistake, but candidates have always made mistakes, and I think they are often more powerful in print than on the evanescent television image.

There’s also silliness that enters the television debate, a good example being the impression Nixon made with five-o’clock shadow and sweating, and that is no way to judge a leader.

In effect the American debates are the perfect symbols of what national politics have become there: a rather vacuous contest between the duopoly political parties and having much the flavor and sense of the kind of advertising we see for burger chains or the two big soda pop companies. All rather dreary and definitely uninformative.

And, contrary to what was claimed the other day on this topic by Toby Harnden, always ready to exaggerate, the American debates have changed almost nothing real: you don’t get change from an exchange of fluff.

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

“Over the past decade, the international community has invested billions of dollars and sacrificed hundreds of men and women in a fragmented effort to stem an increasingly downward tide that has been evident for years.”

Cory Anderson, this is complete rubbish.

First, Afghanistan has been torn apart for decades, going back to America’s secret war against the Soviet Union in which a couple of billion dollars were spent on destruction.

Indeed, under the Soviet Union, many Afghans, especially women, did better than under the Northern Alliance which came afterward and which is again in charge thanks to America.

Second, it is an occupied country still, and every week bombs fall on civilians somewhere and destroy buildings somewhere.

Third, it is, and was, a poor place, and like all poor places in the world it features backwardness and low levels of education.

Fourth, if by some magic you educated every child to a high level starting tomorrow, the economy would have no place to absorb them. They would virtually all become candidates for emigration, effectively taking with them a costly investment somewhere else.

Fifth, in order to both educate and absorb educated people, an economy needs economic growth and plenty of it.

Sixth, if America had really wanted to assist Afghanistan, it would have dropped dollar bills, not bombs.

Seventh, may I suggest that you avoid writing about matters in which you have almost no knowledge?

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

Gee, where’s Preston’s picture?

The thing I enjoy about Preston’s columns is his new cool-guy look, clearly an effort to recapture his lost youth of the 1950-60s.

It is the only thing I enjoy about Preston’s columns.

His words are always tedious pontificating.

But I must say it is nice that some oil company with more money than it knows what to do with or Christian fundamentalist crackpot group gave Preston his very own little institute in which to play chief executive.

It’s so much better than having him in active politics.

Remember, Preston’s legacy to the nation is that nasty cretin we call our prime minister.

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

“Barack Obama is a puzzle.”

Yes, indeed, and I think you’ve described it well.

“His ambitions are genuinely progressive; his temperament is genuinely open-minded. It is a rare and confusing combination, and it explains a great deal.”

Yes, again, but I think there’s more to the mystery than that.

Pragmatism is of course a philosophy claimed by many Americans, even before it was explicated by William James.

But ideology has also always been a feature of American society, often extreme ideology and often colored with religious or quasi-religious beliefs.

That too shouldn’t sit well with pragmatism, but apparently it does.

I put it down to two things in the end.

One is what the fine American historian Page Smith called – misusing a word by standards of our modern understanding – America’s “schizophrenia.”

There are countless examples of this dating back to the Founding Fathers blubbering about freedom while trading in slaves, what the great Dr Johnson called “drivers of negroes” talking about freedom.

Jefferson, that greatest of blubberers on freedom, supported the tyrant Napoleon trying to recapture Haiti, as well acting in a great many other anti-freedom loving ways.

Lincoln started a great bloody war rather than tolerate the South’s right to self-determination. Lincoln may be viewed actually as the founder of the military-industrial complex with his mighty armies and ironclads. Yet Americans think of him as Father Abraham, an epithet having almost nothing to do with Lincoln’s actual character and behavior.

Look at the America of the last half century. It has started numerous bloody wars, killing millions for almost nothing, and coups, yet it insists on using the language of peace and liberty and principles. It just does not compute.

The one national drive that dominates American history is the drive to empire, to expand and to run the lives of others. Naturally, this drive is not contained in the anthems and speeches, but it is always there, subordinating everything else.

So a kind of “schizophrenic” thinking just comes second-nature. Being part of the fabric of the society, it influences thinking in all matters, domestic as well as foreign.

You cannot spend the best part of a trillion dollars a year on the Pentagon and at least fourteen intelligence agencies and pretend there is some unique freedom in America. That is absurd, yet most Americans desperately believe the absurdity.

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

Tough and tireless, yes, but to whose benefit?

“Turn the page” on the coup in Honduras?

When was the last time she or any American Secretary of State talked that way about a coup that the U.S. did not favor?

The Falkland Islands?

They belonged to Britain before Texas belonged to the US.

Before California.

Before Alaska.

And well before the US seized Hawaii against all the natives’ wishes. Their national petition was completely ignored in Washington as the US government annexed the place.

And the people in the Falklands are British in origin and in loyalty.

What you see here is the “special relationship” in action.

Tony Blair spent British lives and wealth on Bush’s pointless crusades, and what does Britain get back?

You might think so elemental a thing as support in the Falklands.

But that’s not how America operates. It takes what it wants from everyone, and blubbers about principles.

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

“…it should be evident that cost calculations can’t capture the impact of elite athletic competition…”

Please, Mr. Simpson, this is the most fatuous argument possible for wasting immense sums of money.

Sporting pride?

What about scientific-achievement pride?

What about pride in our primary education institutions?

Or pride in the quality of our libraries?

It does seem to me that these last are pretty clearly a little threadbare, and yet they are far, far more important than adult games.

Sporting pride comes from people who only see what’s on the television screen for an hour or two.

They have no sense of the costs involved.

And from an economics point of view, that includes “opportunity cost,” what you gave up to have a two-week blow-out signifying nothing.

$6 billion-plus would build about 250 first-class schools which would serve our children for the next couple of generations.

Or it would build a comparable number of great libraries.

Or still, if you chose not to build new institutions, it could have provided great upgrades to several thousand such institutions.

Or it would fund some genuinely world-important scientific research projects, bringing focus to Canada by some of the world’s best brains.

Instead we’ve got beer-soaked memories and a set of tinny-looking medals.

The Olympics is a mug’s game.
______________

And just look at the picture attached to this column: a group of pretty girls wearing ridiculous-looking hats – the kind of hats no one in Canada has ever worn – and, I’m sorry, but the poor women look like servers at some fast-food restaurant chain with a Northern theme.

Or how about the giant inflated Mountie? It resembled the things used at the openings of new car washes.

And that choice was particularly thoughtless considering in what low esteem so many today hold the Mounties, with Vancouver itself having been a focus of their criminal behavior.

What about the little Glow-Lite plastic candles everyone marched in with? Wal-mart Christmas merchandise, surely.

But we did not pay Wal-mart prices for any of this kitsch. It was all custom-designed and custom-made, and I’m sure it all cost a fortune.

Bad taste at sky-high prices.