Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: July 2010

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY ALVARO VARGAS LLOSA IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

“The evidence is overwhelming: Hugo Chavez is propping up the region’s most unsavoury characters”

This is a truly dishonest piece by Alvaro Vargas Llosa, “a senior fellow at the Independent Institute,” but astute readers know that most American think tanks are nothing but well-financed propaganda mills, many of them depending on American multinational corporations for their funding, and some, on the CIA through covert channels.

The statement rather describes perfectly decades and decades of American policy in South America.

Who helped set up the coup in democratic Chile which killed an elected president and ultimately 15,000 other people?

Who tolerated, without so much as a wrinkling of the brow, the military dictatorship of Argentina which regularly made people “disappear” by kidnapping them and dropping them from planes over the ocean? Thousands and thousands of them.

How about “the disappeared” of Guatamala, international organizations putting the toll there at 45, 000 souls, none of them explained, or even identified to their families, to this day?

How about the American Army’s School of the Americas, now renamed owing to its ghastly reputation for teaching the military and police of such states how to control and torture people?

How about more than seventy years of crooked, murderous government in Mexico under the PRI which rigged every election?

All these events and more were known to American officials. Not only were no steps taken to alleviate the situations, the United States enjoyed the “stability” provided by such activities.

God, such vapid propaganda is tiresome to read.

I would think it must be tiresome to produce also, but those “senior fellowships” with leather chairs, expense accounts, and handsome salaries do ease the pain.

Advertisements

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

Margaret Wente herself is a perfect example of the shortcomings of conventional journalism.

She does stories such as the fairly recent one about free-injection sites in Vancouver with almost no genuine research and only with the clear purpose of propagandizing against an important experiment.

She does utter nonsense propaganda like her long piece on the Iraq invasion, packed with misinformation and lack of genuine investigation – see: http://chuckmanwords.wordpress.com/2009/05/28/the-iraq-wars-trashiest-piece-of-propaganda/ .

She shills, again and again, for the return of Conrad Black, a convicted felon.

She defends the indefensible as in Israel’s inexcusable bloody attacks on innocents.

What is the common thread in Ms. Wente’s work when she strays beyond safe and fluffy subjects like the horrors of a backyard barbeque not working?

Defense of the establishment, promotion of a biased right-wing point of view – a defense not done with facts and investigation, which I could respect, but with playful words and personal fantasies.

No wonder people turn to the Internet and unconventional sources. The Ms. Wentes of this world are intellectually and ethically spent.

Wikileaks and the leaker, if ever known, should receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

The truth is that war is the greatest act any government ever undertakes, and yet it remains the act in which the people of every democracy are kept in virtual ignorance.

The press always quietly conspires with the government in suppressing, minimizing, and selecting.

Voters and taxpayers need to understand what is they are voting for and paying for.

The farther we go from this principle, the closer we get to a meaningless democracy with the Pentagon effectively running our affairs.

And that’s pretty much the case today in the United States, Obama’s election having made not a whit of difference to what the brainless Bush was doing.

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY FRANK CHING IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

Someone who thought a little more deeply than Frank Ching would know that the United States has absolutely no business in these waters and that over time its presence can only be dangerous.

Much like its continued presence in Korea, this is nothing more than an expression of global imperialism and, in a very real sense, an insult to the peoples of this part of the world who are perfectly capable of settling their own international affairs.

The United States, time and time again, has pushed the limits there in Cold War fashion.

Recall the American spy plane under the great idiot Bush that was brought down in China.

The previous new government of Japan was elected wanting to remove America’s ugly presence in Okinawa – ugly because it includes nuclear weapons aboard ship – but American pressure brought the new leader down.

And readers should know that there is no definitive proof that that South Korean ship was sunk by the North Koreans. It may have been nothing but an accident aboard the ship, afterwards used to stoke up feelings a la “Remember the Maine!”

Indeed, many of North Korea’s extreme behaviors are responses to American provocations never admitted.

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

“We are stuck between a majoritarian political culture and the reality of minority government…”

Tom Flanagan shows a remarkable lack of imagination in political affairs.

There are many steps we can readily take to break up the political logjam in which we find ourselves, but they all require some courage and imagination to do things in new ways.

First, of course, we could have coalition government, a perfectly normal practice in parliaments all over the world. This would end, overnight, the embarrassing and destructive politics now at work in Ottawa.

Second, we could change the way we vote, getting rid of our primitive first-past-the-post system. A number of countries have also made this change, thereby extending the value of a vote and the meaning of democracy.

And there are still other measures possible, but none of these interests Tom Flanagan.

Why would that be you may ask? Especially considering he styles himself a political scientist?

The answer, of course, is that Mr. Flanagan functions first and foremost, not as a political scientist, but as a flak for right-wing causes.

Real political changes almost certainly would not favor the right-wing, and I must say rather anti-democratic, agenda Mr. Flanagan tirelessly serves.

Why do I say anti-democratic? Just look at his advice to Harper and his past newspaper pieces.

He supported Harper in proroguing parliament for the explicit purpose of not getting to the bottom of the abuse of prisoners in Afghanistan.

He ranted against coalition government, impugning intentions he knows perfectly well were democratic in nature.

And there are many such pieces to a puzzle whose picture is that of a tight-lipped, right-wing American who wants to import Gingrichism into our national institutions.
_____________________________________

“The West are using this “the West wants in” just to they can cry like little blubbery babies. It’s tiresome and worn out.”

Amen, Amen, Amen.

That is a truly dishonest slogan, and the repetition of it is an authentic example of whiney baby American politics.

Alberta represents just under 11% of Canada’s population. By what jerry-rigging would it be possible for 11% of a population to substantially influence national affairs? The argument is simply anti-democratic.

But since Alberta was extensively settled by Americans looking for free land at the turn of the last century and since its big contemporary industry, hydrocarbons, is almost totally an American-dominated enterprise with experts, executives, and financial people constantly shipped up from places like Texas and Oklahoma, we see a constant re-inforcement of America’s attitudes and whiney-babyism.

And that ongoing, quiet process includes institutions endowed by oil money, which end up with spokesmen like Tom Flanagan or Preston Manning or our dear Prime Minister, former National Citizens’ Coalition flak, Stephen Harper.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY MARGARET WENTE IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL‘This regime has taken so many lives. There’s got to be a time when it stops’

Ms. Wente appears now to have exhausted her rational mental faculties in the relentless drive to create propaganda supporting Israel’s military and the Pentagon.

The United States, I remind readers, has killed about a million people in Iraq, unknown tens of thousands in Afghanistan, and three million in Vietnam, and those numbers don’t count all the smaller murderous efforts like Somalia, Pakistan, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, and its loving support for Israel’s bloody predations against largely defenseless people.

In the total of all these places, the United States has created millions of refugees and countless cripples.

It has overthrown legitimate governments all over the world, including democratic ones in Chile, Iran, and Guatamala.

But somehow, Ms. Wente assures us, Iran is so terrible?

Iran, which has started no wars in its entire modern history?

Iran, which while a theocracy (just like Israel) is a relatively open place where one may visit and a great deal of information flows (compared to many other societies on earth)?

Iran, compared to the 3 million annual cases of genital mutilation of women in Africa?

Iran, compared to the routine rape of girls by their fathers and other elders in Africa?

Iran, compare to the bride-burning in India?

Iran, compared to the hideous treatment of millions of widows, including young girls who had been married off for profit to old men who die, in India?

Iran, compared to occupied Afghanistan where a majority of women still wear the burka?

The world is filled with cruelties, and Iran is one of lesser parties to them, but Israel wants Iran attacked, so Ms. Wente does her duty churning out more unbalanced rubbish.
_____________________________________

One further thought.

And just whose holy book is it which commands the stoning of unfaithful women?

Israel doesn’t stone women, but the Ultra Orthodox there often attack women they regard as “loose.”

There have been cases in recent years of prostitutes having been burned alive in homes mysteriously set alight.

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

“F-35 fighters are the price of sovereignty”

Surely this ranks as the most block-headed caption I can recall reading on a Globe editorial. It reads like a quote from some Pentagon-supplied crib book for the press.

What on earth does subsidizing the Pentagon’s purchase of these costly planes – which is effectively is just what our purchase represents – have to do with our sovereignty? The Pentagon will be putting them to good use in its endless chain of colonial wars all over the world.

We could not hold off the United States – the only genuine future threat to Canada’s sovereignty in both the North and the Great Lakes – for twenty minutes.

The United States has become a military Frankenstein monster, spending – quite literally – more than the entire rest of the planet on the military.

Our purchase of this plane – for which we have almost no use – is a subsidy to the Pentagon’s acquisition of them. The small fleet we can afford represents little genuine military capability.

And readers should be aware that the capital cost of acquiring these planes, high as it is, is only the beginning.

Modern high-tech, high-performance military planes require immense and costly maintenance efforts.

They are almost like Japanese Kobe cattle being hand-rubbed and fed beer every day.

America’s “stealth” fighter and bomber, for example, must each have special climate-control hangers, and they take the kind of attention to detail of the space shuttle after a flight in orbit. The costs are staggering.

This purchase is about the stupidest waste of money a person could come up with, only excepting a continuation of our dismal mission in Afghanistan, something which also does no more than support the Pentagon’s hormone-driven insanity.
________________________________

“Protection, undefined, as in this editorial, is little more than a racket.”

Good line, that.

How very true, much resembling the undefined use of words like security or sovereignty.

Dumb and meaningless, but appealing to the herd instincts of many.

The chest-thumping knuckle-draggers are out in force on this one – mainly, I suspect, aggressive little boys who like expensive, bright toys (so long as others pay for them).
_________________________________

“MacKay’s announcement is another indication of a serious minister putting serious tools into the hands of the people who protect us.”

Peter MacKay’s entire history in cabinet is marked by poor performance in his various roles, childish insults mumbled in Parliament, and a rather feeble effort to appear a forceful figure.

Strong is the last adjective any thinking person would apply to him.

Protect us? From what? The boogey man?

Well, he finally found his niche, the military, where money is thrown around like confetti and everything is justified with totems like “protect” or “security” or “sovereignty.”

Carried to its limit, that kind of thinking gives you the Pentagon, the most wasteful, destructive, and anti-democratic force on earth, and a major contributor to the decline in the United States now clearly underway.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSES TO A COLUMN BY RICK SALUTIN IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL
He’s a bit of a snot actually.I don’t know why he even pursued politics except that backroom boys promised him the top, and Ignatieff thinks being at the top will cap his family’s achievement.

Besides snottiness, Ignatieff just really does not like mobs of people. It’s obvious in his facial expressions in many, many pictures. Maybe he has Asperger’s Syndrome?

You cannot cure a quality like that. It is equipment no politician should have.

Then there is his clear inability to even say anything that excites or interests people.

He’s a writer – a man who spends hours a day bent over a keyboard, talking with no one.

He is not a public speaker. He is not a people person.

But above all for me is his groveling – there’s no other word for it – posture towards American imperialism.

Essentially that was his master at Harvard. The stuff about human rights was window dressing, much like hearing a man of Bush’s quality talk about women’s rights.

Ignatieff is simply not a liberal in the best meaning of the word.

His only poor service to Canadian politics is effectively extending Harper’s ugly minority rule.
____________________________________________

“Let’s face it, the only thing ingrained here is our anti-intellectualism, which borders on anti-intelligence (Canadians are actually proud of it).”

This and similar comments are ridiculous.

Most people who oppose Ignatieff do not do so because he writes books.

They oppose him because he has almost none of the classic political skills. In political terms he’s an idiot-savant.

His only true meaning in the political world has been to extend Harper’s time for smashing up Canadian traditions.

And I find an (effectively) appointed leader repulsive to my democratic values.

We need intelligent people in government, and I dearly hope we never go the way America has, taking seriously people like Sarah Palin or George Bush, people with brains the size of a gnat’s.

We’ve had many intelligent leaders, and, truth be told, Harper is intelligent, although I reject his values and the nasty minority crowd he tries to please.

Intelligence in government must be effective – effective for action, not for writing books.

While Ignatieff can write books, he almost totally lacks the kind of effective intelligence required in a good politician.

Intelligence for me is always a primary quality in a politician, but I find Ignatieff utterly unappealing and almost laughably ineffectual.

And apparently so do a lot of other Canadians.

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

This kind of legislation is just one more chilling aspect of the Islamophobia which has descended on Western society like a poisonous cloud of volcanic ash.

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.

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’s rights when what he was about was killing.

Women wearing the niqab or the burka – both not really common in the Islamic world – were admitted as immigrants to France with their garments and customs. What right does anyone have to say high-handedly, after they have moved their lives there, they must do away with it?

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 these garments among a minority of Muslims are complex – social, historical, and not just religious, but for devout wearers religion is very important, more so than secular critics can understand.

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.

We have women being beaten in their homes by the thousands in all Western countries. We have a world packed with abusive practices towards women – bride burning and horrid shunning of widows in India to female genital mutilation (not a Muslim custom but an African one with 3 million victims a year) to the widespread acceptance of fathers and other elders raping young girls in Africa, and people focus on this insignificant phenomenon?

It wasn’t many decades ago that fashionable women in Britain and the United States wore veils with hats. Would anyone with manners have asked a woman then to remove her veil? Indeed a vestige of this practice remains in our wedding ceremonies with the bride wearing a veil only her husband lifts.

No wonder the Muslim world feels under assault from the West. We bomb their countries. We keep men in secret prisons. We say forms of torture are okay. And we interfere with their religious and cultural practices here. Can anyone blame them for feeling angry?

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

A fair trial for Khadr, or any other tortured captive for that matter, after eight years of illegal imprisonment is impossible.

Moreover, how can there be a trial in which no proper jurisdiction exists?

That is the very nature of war.

People invade the home of others – as the U.S. did in Afghanistan – and they get killed doing it.

You do not, afterward, “try” the people who may have killed your soldiers.

But topping it all was Khadr’s absolute status as a child soldier.

It is the U.S. who has broken many laws in arresting him (after shooting him in the back), abusing him, torturing him, and imprisoning him.

God, what a dreadful example to the world the U.S. has set.

But when you are as arrogant, ignorant, and rich as America, you just do not care about laws and what the world thinks.
__________________

“Was he fair by throwing that grenade?”

“He’ll get a fairer trial and more of a chance than the one that he gave to the soldier that he murdered.”

It really is too bad people do not even think for one second before writing such ignorant comments.

Yes, throwing grenades is part of war.

No, he murdered no one. Using a weapon in war is not murder.

You do not get tried for doing what’s part of war, only for atrocities, like the ones both Israel and the U.S. have committed by the score in recent years.

And, again, Khadr was a child soldier who, in the name of God, has suffered enough. Shot twice in the back, tortured, held with no rights, and in fact falsely accused of the very act he is said to have done.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY ANDREW MALONE IN THE DAILY MAIL

This is an excellent article, and the witness is totally convincing. Her knowledge of Dr. Kelly’s physical disabilities and the fact that she conveyed what she knew early in the investigation to British police are important tests of her believability.

I have long thought Kelly was murdered, the general nature of the situation in which he was found having only the most superficial plausibility, but the idea that agents of Tony Blair’s government did it always seemed ridiculous.

Cui bono?

It is difficult to imagine a more likely candidate than Israel’s secret service.

First, the Iraq invasion was endangered by Dr. Kelly’s expert knowledge and willingness to talk.

Second, he had demonstrated his willingness to talk in his BBC experience, something which generated frustrating and unsatisfactory results.

Third, we well know Israel assassinates those with whom it strongly disagrees regularly, and this has included other scientific figures, notably Canadian Gerald Bull, a world authority on big guns who had worked for Hussein.

Fourth, the Iraq invasion was not about oil nor was it about tyranny. It was about Israel and the perceived need by the American establishment to eliminate Israel’s most implacable foe.

Israel was the great beneficiary of the invasion.

Fifth, the method likely used resembles methods used by Mossad, as in its recent murder of Mahmoud al Mabhouh in Abu Dhabi, who was heavily restrained while being injected, with his room being set as though nothing out of the ordinary happened. There, great effort was made to make the event look natural. So too in the case of Yasser Arafat, who was likely poisoned by Israeli agents.

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

Thank you, Ms. Atwood, well put.

I always treasured the restraint and decency of police in Canada, having come decades ago from a tough part of a tough American city.

The first time I was shocked out of my warm glow was with the OPP shooting at Ipperwash. That pointless and brutal event much resembled the activity of thugs like the FBI, an agency which has a huge list of abuses and violence and stupidity and literally thousands of victims over its history.

The Toronto example however is turning out even worse than first reports, so the contrast Ms. Atwood offers is even greater.

I heard today on CBC Radio the chilling report of a man with artificial legs who was arrested.

The police apparently ordered him up – he was sitting on the ground – but he couldn’t stand without the sticks he uses, and he explained all this to the police.

Then some genuinely bad-apple cop reached down and pulled one of his legs off.

Then the disgusting cop ordered him to hop.

The man was under arrest for more than a day without his appliances.

There was also the ugly case – involving genuine police-state brutality – of the man who was arrested while with our highly regarded journalist, Steve Paikin, who witnessed everything.

Such behavior by police ranks with the vicious criminal morons who killed a distraught Polish man in Vancouver’s airport.

I know, thank God, that most police do not behave in this way, but policing always is a job which both attracts dangerous personalities – psychopaths of varying degree – and challenges the self-control of those with bad tempers. People who want some “action” are inevitably drawn to policing, much as they are to the military.

Only a tough standard of review of excesses and the absolute determination to rid ourselves of such thugs in uniform are defenses against them.

I do not think we are in danger of all our police behaving the way American cops have a well-earned reputation for behaving in many small towns and poor parts of cities, Amnesty International having cited many times police brutality in America as common.

But I do think our institutions governing police are weak. Those cops in Vancouver, at the very least, should have been rudely dismissed. So too the cop who pulled off the artificial leg and ordered a man to hop.

Show the thugs the door, and I do not think we have to worry about their sickness taking hold. Doing so would serve as a declaration to the world that Canada is determined to remain a decent society, the kind of society where people peacefully protest the closing of prisoner farms as Ms. Atwood did.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY WESLEY WARK IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

Oh I do think Wesley Wark has missed something very important, but that is not unusual in Wark’s pieces.

Richard Fadden can’t say it, but I’d bet serious money he was given a wink and nod by Harper for his earlier statement.

Traditionally, it is only with such approval that spy agency masters ever speak out in public.

Harper, of course, now cowardly denies having done so, leaving Fadden hanging out to dry, as they say.

No other explanation is plausible for those who understand anything about spy agencies.

As to Wesley Wark’s poorly chosen example of John Kennedy and Allen Dulles – poorly chosen both because the situations are not comparable, CSIS never enjoying the power and resources of CIA – and because Wark fails to offer the full story which involved in part Kennedy using Dulles as a fall guy for a stupid, blundering decision.

‘As JFK famously told CIA director Allen Dulles before forcing him to step down over the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, “You might think the buck stops here, but it’s you, Allen, who is going to resign.” ‘

Yes, Mr. Wark, but it was Kennedy who ended up dead.

 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

“With time, society changes, and the gap between justices who believe in fidelity to the original document and those who believe in a “living constitution”–equally defensible positions, regardless of one’s politics–gets wider.”

 That is absolutely true, with the exception that “fidelity to the original” can be called an equally defensible position.

Not in rational terms. It cannot be.

The Judge Bork view of things is exactly comparable to the Fundamentalist Christians who believe the earth and all it contains was created at one stroke about 6000 years ago.

The world now changes rapidly, and the rate of change only grows more rapid with changing technology. All forms and practices of government must change in response, not necessarily promptly but regularly.

Also, the simple fact is that the American Constitution was a document of compromise, and some of the compromises were with forces we now find utterly unacceptable, as for example, with the very real political power of slaveholders.

Even further still, the Constitution has many flaws. The Fathers were not all-seeing and, indeed, were downright wrong in some important matters. Some of the things they thought they were doing ended up with the opposite effect to what they intended.

Perhaps the greatest single example of that was the division of war-making authorities, the President as Commander-in-Chief and only the Congress as able to declare war.

Of course, in the modern era, none of America’s many wars are declared, so Congress’s power is vestigial.

And when the Founders made the President Commander-in Chief, Americans largely believed in no standing armies, so his power was only potential for a situation Congress first decided military response as appropriate.

But today, his power is immense and dangerous because of America’s Frankenstein military. He is Commander-in-Chief of a thing greater than all the world’s armies combined.

In a very real sense, this immense contemporary power violates the fundamental ideas of the Founders because the President’s office was deliberately designed to be weak, which indeed it still is in domestic affairs. 

But the Bork view very much fits the military-industrial complex America has become. Empires and militarism are quite comfortable with sticking with ways which facilitated their rise.

The great irony is that the sentimental sense of America which is so often cited by Bork-types in fact no longer exists, and, to a considerable extent, never did.  

America is barely a democracy at home and literally behaves the part of a tyranny abroad often.