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Monthly Archives: August 2010

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

The shameful thing truly is that a study is needed to tell us this obvious truth.

The money and time spent on the study itself are reflections of the poor state of our public education.

Math, perhaps more so than any other subject, builds the next row of bricks on that previously laid.

I tutored kids in math, and I learned a good deal about the state of math education in Ontario.

It is terrible.

There is a ridiculously complex curriculum written in education jargon that many a math major would not understand.

The subject areas jump around far too much, proving in effect a large series of short stories rather than a novel with a good plot.

And the teachers use this stupid curriculum, their fear of not covering it all, to avoid doing what really needs doing.

I encountered a number of children in grade five who did not know their times tables, a topic that was part of grade two or three when I was young.

Those not knowing them – because the teachers do not take the considerable effort required to effectively teach them – are of course still passed.

So we end up with the most absurd situations – deliberately created – of children being introduced to things like elementary probability, which is work with fractions, when they do not know the times tables or division facts needed to work with fractions. Or try division problems with double-digit divisors without knowing the times tables.

Any reasonably bright person observing such nonsense knows we are in trouble and knows the education establishment in Ontario has failed our kids.

Good work, Dalton, handing them gobs of money and getting nothing in return but ease in your election.
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“…teach kids math using real life examples when young, cutting up pizza, dividing oranges, slicing cake…”

A totally inadequate and trivial notion, useful at the baby level, something already done by good teachers.

When it comes to multiplying or adding fractions, this notion is completely useless. Or try using wedges to teach double-digit division. Basic algebra? Solid geometry?

Not all math operations can be given easy-see demonstrations, yet they must be learned for the power of what they do.

But they can be taught by patient, methodical teachers, teachers who themselves understand what it is they are doing – something far too often not the case in our elementary schools.

Fundamental ideas like place value and what moving a decimal point left or right does must be absorbed thoroughly.

The real problem is the average poor quality of grade-school teachers and their often lack of any special knowledge. We have gym teachers teaching math sometimes or “teacher-librarians” expert at nothing handling various classes.

And, of course, going beneath that layer of the problem, we come to the fundamental one: a teachers’ union which often defends and effectively promotes incompetence.

Those people form the talent pool out of which virtually all the education officials up to the minister come from. The blind leading the blind.

We’ll only improve things by efforts like changing the way teachers are trained and taking recognized experts from outside of the public education establishment – as university professors recognized for their skill and expertise – to write curricula. All performance testing should also be handled this way.
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“I think the best way to improve education is to abolish faculties of education, thereby eliminating the affectations and pretensions that go with the limp masters and doctorates in the “discipline”. Most of what passes for higher education here is not worthy of the name, and, merely debases the coinage, as evidenced by the shoddy research that only occasionally appears before the public.”

Absolutely, spot on.

The best example of this I can think of is the new Director of Toronto Public Schools, a football player with a meaningless doctorate in education. Every time he opens his mouth, it is either to reveal how little he knows or to do a photo-op.

Hire people who know math to teach math, and just so every other fundamental subject.

We have a huge reservoir of talent out there in our retired professors, scientists, technicians of every kind, government specialists, astute businessmen.

Hire them on at least a part time basis with no need for vacuous degrees in education. Throw in local artists and musicians to enrich the schools.

Get rid of the deadwood, people who know nothing and have no enthusiasm.

We could improve our schools dramatically in a couple of years.

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

Too early to write-off direct talks?

Please.

Representatives for these “direct talks” on the Palestinian side in a sense do not even exist: Abbas’s election mandate timed out a year ago, and he stays in office under emergency measures – i..e,, he has absolutely no democratic legitimacy.

But even poor Abbas, a kind of Palestinian “step’n’fetch it” figure if ever there was one, wanted nothing to do with such talks while Israel continued stealing land. The American administration browbeat him for months, threatening him with loss of all aid, into attending.

The only genuinely elected government in any of the territories of Palestine, Hamas in Gaza, remains under Israel’s brutal blockade and imprisonment – that is, those elected representatives who were not illegally arrested by Israel or murdered in assassinations or murdered in Operation Cast Lead.

Representatives for these “direct talks” on the Israeli side are from the Netanyahu government, a group of people who have not the least interest in what any normal person would call peace. The “foreign minister” qualifies surely as a David Duke figure.

Now David Duke in the United States – former Klu Klux Klan chief and minor politician – is treated anytime in the press as a lowlife. Avigdor Lieberman is every bit the hateful racist as Duke, but he is far more poisonous, being the foreign minister he is in a position to make his hate wreck the lives of millions. Because he is an Israeli, Lieberman is treated with respect he does not deserve.

Does anyone but a madman believe anything can come out of that set of circumstances?

The only possibility is that Abbas is virtually beaten down into signing something utterly inappropriate for his people. In that case, the “agreement” won’t be worth the paper on which it is written.

This entire matter is utterly meaningless as statesmanship, it is brutal political theater, intended to please the Israel Lobby in the U.S. to get the Democrats through the mid-term elections without a catastrophic loss of campaign contributions.
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The Six Day War was an elaborate black operation by Israel. It prodded the Arabs over and over with many aggressive acts into hostility, and then it attacked first.

The intention was to seize the lands not seized in 1948 with the terrors of Irgun and Stern – that is, to create Greater Israel, a self-defined concept that has always motivated Israel’s government.

The attack on the USS Liberty, a US spy ship on station in the Mediterranean, was intended to blind the US administration while General Dayan turned around his armor to attack in the North.

It was not a “mistake.” It was a deliberate two-hour attack on a well-marked ship, one moreover that Israel had been advised would be on station to guard against its ambitions.

Dayan felt that if he had the slot of time, he could achieve all Israel’s goals of conquest, and he pretty much did, presenting the world with the fait accompli whose ghastly consequences we have endured since.

It was all a neat trick, wage a lightning war of conquest while getting sympathy as little David fighting off hoards of nasty Philistines, but Israel knew from its first planning it was sure to win.

And we’ve learned since that the “little David” image is a sentimental fairy tale: Israel behaves the part brutal bully in its part of the world, attacking and terrorizing every neighbor that it has, even now threatening people a thousand miles away who have never attacked anyone.

See:
http://chuckmanwords.wordpress.com/2009/05/27/was-einstein-right/

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

 

Aural Braun’s column reminds me very much of the kind of pseudo-academic stuff churned out by those legions of scribblers working at America’s many think tanks, all of them functioning like the actors wearing white coats in television ads posing as doctors.

In other words, Mr Braun is attempting to sell us a bill of goods, but I’m afraid he doesn’t do a very good job of it.

“…the additional nuclear know-how that Iran is bound to gain from operating the advanced reactor is likely to serve a dual purpose and thereby boost prospects for Tehran’s nuclear weapons program.”

That’s simply inaccurate and question-begging. The best intelligence sources have told us Iran does not have a weapons program. Moreover, by what god-like authority are we to deny scientists and engineers in Iran the right to learn about reactor operations? God knows, Israel’s scientists suffer from no such restriction.

“Second, Russian leaders, President Dmitry Medvedev included, have pushed forcefully for Russian regional dominance, and this includes at least key parts of the Middle East.”

I thought Mr Braun’s qualification was as professor dealing with politics and international affairs? But with that flat-footed statement, he shows no understanding of what large and powerful states always do. They invariably behave in such a way that they serve as the sun to a solar system of states around them.

Indeed, that is precisely what Israel has worked towards since the Six Day War. Israel strives, with its ill-gotten nuclear weapons and bottomless military subsidies from the United States, whose government seems permanently intimidated by a relentless lobby, to become a miniature geo-political replica of the United States in the Middle East, one sharing no understanding or sympathies with the peoples over which it casts its shadow.

“The Erdogan government, which some suspect of considerable Islamist sympathies, has not only challenged Israel but has built powerful ties with Iran and Syria.”

First, I truly doubt Mr Braun would have written this nonsense before Israel’s bloody act of piracy on the high seas. Naturally, Turkey was deeply offended when its citizens were murdered, its word questioned (Turkey had officially examined the ships before they left), and a great deal of property stolen. Israel never even apologized.

Erdogen was treated as a rather exceptional leader by Israel’s apologists when he worked with Israel on a number of matters. Now, he is suddenly a pariah.

I hate to be the one breaking the news to Mr Braun, but Syria and Iran are legitimate, and ancient, countries. There is nothing wrong in having relations with them, even “powerful” ones, to use the same loaded word Mr Braun does.

There is additional news for Mr Braun: despite its Ataturk-started traditions of secular government, Turkey is a Muslim country, so Islamist sympathies are as natural as breathing. Only someone defending the indefensible (Israel’s behaviour), as Mr Braun works towards indirectly in this column, would consider that some kind of accusation.

“Third, although Moscow understands that a nuclear Iran would present a profound long-term danger, it also seems to believe it can control the ‘process’….This is an extraordinarily risky gamble and, in light of Iran’s determination and inventiveness, a foolish one.”

There is not one genuine fact in those statements, but lots of attitude and unwarranted adjectives.

“Superpower restoration for a Russia saddled with a unidimensional, energy-based economy confronting a dire demographic decline is a dangerous pipe dream.”

Apart from its mixed metaphors, that statement is ridiculous. Where is the evidence that Russia thinks it can be a “superpower”?

Russia in fact is a country of about 150 million people with an intellectually-gifted population, some extraordinary technological capability, and an economy that is “over the hump” of its great depression following the collapse of communism, and it is now starting to show potential for serious long-term growth.

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

You do not have to be “conspiracy-minded” to believe that Doctor Kelly did not kill himself.

The associate of Doctor Kelly’s, Mai Pederson a military interpreter, who recently revealed facts about his physical state – some injured part of his arm meant he could not wield a knife and made it impossible for him to cut his own wrist –  is not a “conspiracy-minded.” She says he also had been advised quietly he was on a hit list. She also tells the story of the red laser site which appeared on his forehead on a walk together in Baghdad, something which made him take the threat seriously.

The relative of Doctor Kelly who said absolutely that that just was not his temperament is not a “conspiracy-minded.”

The expert doctors who’ve said he could not have died the way it is said that he died are not “conspiracy-minded.” The vessel cut could not even have bleed him to death.

The term “conspiracy theorist” often used instead of “conspiracy-minded” is actually one that, in my view, automatically marks out its user as dishonest.

It is a way to condemn all people who question the facts of something as borderline paranoids.

It truly is a term without meaning too, displaying for those who are careful of words its user’s lack of thinking.

We do, after all, have genuine conspiracies by governments with large interests. To say otherwise is to display ignorance.

This has always been true in history, but today the stakes are higher than ever in matters of international affairs for some countries.

It is, for example, open knowledge that Israel sends dozens of agents abroad in elaborate schemes to murder those deemed enemies.

And what of the years-long cover-up in Britain of the true events around Bloody Sunday?

What of the case, a few years ago, of a half-dozen American nuclear warheads being shipped across the country? Every outside expert says that the checks and balances make such an “accident” impossible?

What of the downing of the fourth hi-jacked plane on 9/11 over Pennsylvania? It was almost certainly shot down, likely on Cheney’s orders, because multiple debris fields stretched for miles, something impossible in the kind of crash claimed.

What of Israel’s attack on the USS Liberty, spy ship, during the Six Day War? When Israel finally got around to explaining it, it claimed an “accident”? A two-hour attack against a well-marked ship, one Israel had been advised would be on station and when the lead Israeli pilot made an initial low enough pass slowly to acknowledge crew members waves? Taking the ship out of commission cut off American information of the battle field and gave General Dayan the time to turn around his armor to complete the conquests of the Six Day War, the effort to secure Greater Israel, the results of which we suffer to this day.

What of Israel’s nuclear weapons program? Years of intense, high-level deception.

What of South Africa’s nuclear weapons program?

By the way, I wonder how many readers know that Doctor Kelly was one of the technical team assigned to take possession of South Africa’s nuclear warheads when the apartheid regime ended? Doctor Kelly knew many damaging secrets.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSES TO A COLUMN BY ROSEANN O’REILLY RUNTE IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

Roseann O’Reilly Runte, this is very thin gruel indeed.

“Imagine a world without innovation. The best ideas emanate from thoughtful research, discipline and team work.”

This statement is demonstrably false.

Einstein did not work in a team, neither did Darwin, nor Freud, nor almost any of the groundbreaking mathematicians of the century, people like Goedel.

Creators from Mozart to Schoenberg or our own Glenn Gould were not team members.

Yes, universities use teams of people in their research, but the fact is that truly new ideas rarely come from them. In the cases where they do, there is usually an individual who has sparked the work with an idea that requires testing and demonstrating.

Education is very important, but professional educators do often tend to overemphasize the importance the role of the institution, versus the inspired teacher or theorist.

Real education should start with the very young, as one of Queen Elizabeth I’s great teachers, Roger Ascham, stated centuries ago. Identifying the talents of the young and nurturing them fully gives a society the best chance of high success.

But it is with the young that Canada perhaps most fails. Many of our primary teachers cannot even use a computer, and many of them know little or nothing about the subject they teach, from math to history.

“Tolerance and respect are based on knowledge. Fear and distrust stem from ignorance.”

Well, that sounds nice as a broad aphorism, but I am afraid that it is largely false. Many highly educated people have been destroyers of society and enemies of tolerance: just a few examples from our last century include Joseph Goebbels, Henry Kissinger, James Angleton, or Vladimir Lenin.

You might include people like Edward Teller or even, to come down to the ridiculous, George Bush (two degrees from prestigious universities, although one doubts they were anything more than “legacy” degrees granted in search of his rich family’s contributions).

And in our primary schools, there is almost no room for what I call critical education. Try teaching children something meaningful about superstition, and you will have Christian Fundamentalist parents looking to be rid of you. Try teaching children to think critically about politics, and you will have party-faithful types after your hide. Try teaching children to think critically about the distortions of advertising, and you will have corporate people making your life miserable.

“Without access to education, wealth disappears”

Again, a highly exaggerated claim, as current events in places like China and India demonstrate. But more importantly, it is the quality and nature of the education that count as what economists call “human capital,” investments which generate wealth.

Higher education has two components: one part is investment, and the other is consumption. When someone studies demanding subjects which are needed in the economy, it is investment. When someone goes to university and muddles through in a “bird” subject, it is mainly consumption, not investment leading to anything of importance to the future economy.
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“First of all, Einstein did work in a team – graduate students and other professors around the world were often consulted and contributed to the many brilliant innovations.”

Einstein consulted select people, but he did not work as a team. He actually rather disliked the atmosphere of academic institutions generally.

His important papers have his name, not that of an institution.

And, I must say for someone who is ready to accuse others of ignorance, you seem unaware that he worked at the Patent Office when developing relativity by himself.

You say I cannot negate the column by a few examples, but isn’t that ridiculous? Am I supposed to submit a list of hundreds? Which, by the way is completely doable. How many would you like?

This column reflects second-rate institutional academia, the very kind that contributes little to new knowledge and certainly no brilliant ideas.

“As for your dumb-headed assertion that those who take “bird” subjects; which I take you mean anything not directly beneficial to an industrial economy, are simply consuming precious resources which could be better spent pumping out scientists, engineers, doctors etc. is idiotic at best”

But that’s simply not what I said. For someone ready to hurl names, I do think you could read what you comment on before commenting.

I mentioned Mozart and Schoenberg. I could also have mentioned – again, if I were submitting lists – people like Picasso, Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, Edward Steichen, and hundreds of others.

I am well aware of the changes that have taken place in the world, and, while new areas of knowledge have developed, it remains true always that there is education as investment and education as consumption.

A lot of what we see today is education for consumption, of little difference to the real economy than eating jelly beans, and I believe this has been a trend for decades.

I am reminded of Sarah Palin who took 6 years at 5 different institutions to get a bachelor’s degree in “communications.” She remains abysmally ignorant, vastly uniformed, uninterested in serious things, filled with superstition and prejudice, and could have achieved what she has achieved without ever taking a course after high school.

In general, today’s average undergraduate is no better educated than the graduates of a good high school seventy years ago. Indeed, in some respects, they are less so.

We’ve simply inflated undergraduate degrees, much the way a third-world county’s central bank inflates its currency. That contributes nothing to the real economy other than keeping specific people, like the author of the column and the author of the comment, employed churning them out like sausages.
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“The reason why I enjoy and am grateful for my university education is because students are allowed to disagree and question the supposed ‘facts’ they are given. This model for learning should, if anything, be introduced at a younger age. I would have done a lot better in high school if I knew I didn’t have to agree with the teachers point of view.”

Please, points of view are not the same as facts. You may disagree with points of view in university, but unless you are a genius with a new discovery, you cannot argue with facts.

But even granting disagreement with points of view, any classroom where a great deal of that goes on is one where education is being consumed, not where valued investment in education is underway.

Can you imagine classrooms filled with students full of attitude arguing with Shakespeare’s use of the passive voice or with the Third Law of Thermodynamics? That is a formula for a living chat room where nothing of substance is achieved.
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“John Chuckman, you have it wrong on China and India. Both are investing heavily in university-based research for precisely the reasons indicated by the author”

Actually, no, I don’t think so.

We served as “homestay” for a gifted student from China for the better part of three years.

Through him and his friends, I am familiar with the circumstances in China facing students. Apart from that, I published a book on China’s growth in 2007.

Yes, China is investing, but up until now, going to university in China was limited to only the very elite of society, and I mean intellectually elite, not just moneyed.

The number of places was, and truly still is, relatively small, and there is a very tough national exam to be admitted, one which would probably exclude three-quarters of the undergraduates in Canada.

Because of these facts, pretty much only very superior talents attend Chinese Universities today.

Many are coming to Canada’s institutions precisely because of the difficulty of admission in China.

Also, a bright friend of our young man confided that they regard Canadian universities as far easier. They work you like a dog in China.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSES TO A COLUMN BY RONALD LAUDER IN THE TORONTO GLOBE AND MAIL

“Even a tolerant country such as Sweden must not tolerate those who preach intolerance.”

Yes, indeed, but the author certainly is being extremely hypocritical in this matter, for the government of Sweden’s responsibility can no greater than that of the state of Israel: it surely is beyond question that anti-Semitic events like those in this story are stoked up by Israel’s never-ending series of brutal behaviors.

The example of intolerance and violence against victims best known on the planet is the state of Israel: invasions, murder, illegal arrest, torture, apartheid practices, and ethnic-cleansing.

Right now, Israel, for the second time, is destroying the dwellings of hundreds of harmless Bedouin on the Negev Desert, and it arrests those who oppose its police-state activities to protect their homes.

Previously the government of Israel followed the ghastly practice of poisoning the crops of these people in order to drive them away.

At the same time, not a week goes by in which Israel does not commit a new injustice in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, throwing people off their property with the flimsiest excuse and stealing title to it.

The poor people of Gaza are into their fourth year of a brutal and unjustified blockade, denying them many of life’s ordinary requirements. Israel Post has recently announced that mail will not be delivered to Gaza, in violation of international conventions.

Israel killed with impunity nine human-rights workers on the high seas, and to this day neither the ships seized nor the personal effects Israeli soldiers grabbed from hundreds of innocent people – phones, computers, cameras, wallets – have been returned to their owners. God knows what happened to the cargo which included everything from donated wheelchairs and medicines to food.

Israel weekly makes provocative moves in Southern Lebanon, from cutting down trees on the Lebanese side of the border – yes, other people’s trees – to flying its jets threateningly overhead. It never assisted in locating the countless cluster bombs it dropped to kill and maim innocent people going about their business. It shouts, day after day, for war on Iran, a country which is attacking no one.

And millions go into their fifth decade of living under humiliating and illegal occupation.

Israel freely assassinates anyone it chooses to regard as an enemy, and that likely includes prominent figures like former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri or Palestine’s Yasser Arafat.

I just wonder whether there is even one Palestinian who would not gladly trade places with a Jewish person in Sweden, despite the unpleasantness of some minor vandalism?
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“I stopped reading this article when it attempted to label attitudes about Israel as attitudes about Jews. Israel is a state, not a race or religion.

“Certainly Jews should feel free and comfortable to live in Sweden, and any other democracy. But that has nothing to do with Israel.”

Absolutely.

Israel’s defenders never seem to grasp this essential truth.

When spokesmen like Ronald Lauder say otherwise, I always feel I’m being told I must drop all clear thinking and sense of fairness under threat of being labeled as anti-Semitic. How is such labeling different to people who use epithets and paint ugly graffiti?

In that sense, I am sorry to say, but I regard apologists for Israel like Ronald Lauder who call critics of Israel anti-Semitic as representing the same anti-democratic and anti-enlightenment values as the unthinking thugs who break windows in a synagogue.

You cannot demand special pleading here: either you are fair and consistent in your treatment of others or you are not.

The thugs in Sweden are unacceptable, but then so are Ronald Lauder’s prejudiced words.

As for Israel’s barbarism and injustice, the day everyone is browbeaten into accepting it is the day we will know Hitler’s ugly legacy to the world lives on.
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“JOHN_CHUCKMAN_ if Sweden hates Israel for whatever reason, that does not give citizens of Sweden or Swedish government the right to abuse Swedish Jewish population that supports Israel because of their history.”

I never said that it did.

The author of this comment has commented without reading the material on which he/she is commenting.

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

Jeffrey Simpson, you just could not be more wrong on this matter.

Yes, there is an unintended consequence, but there are unintended consequences in every conceivable way of financing parties.

Private financing, in palate-loads delivered to loading docks, is the American system that has given them, quite simply, the best government that money can buy.

Did you know that the average American Senator spends literally two-thirds of his or her time trying to raise money?

Mrs Clinton, in her race for the New York Senate, spent $45 million, an amount which brought a gasp even from her easy-virtue hubby.

If you remember, Bill Clinton, when President, was selling nights in the Lincoln bedroom for gigantic campaign contributions.

Those giving large amounts of money always get something back, if only privileged entrance to the Senator or Representative.

We must weigh the unintended consequences of one method versus another for their pernicious qualities.

Public financing is important, and it is very much a measure of our devotion to democracy.

The BQ is a legitimate party, representing the views and interests of a fair number of people in Quebec, and it deserves the same treatment as any legitimate party.

Tilting the finance system is a cheap idea from someone desperate for a quick fix to our current political impasse. It is worse in my view than the suggestions you recently pooh-poohed of the Liberals and NDP merging or the Liberals getting rid of that sea-anchor of a leader, Ignatieff.

Separatism is fading, as anyone may observe, slowly but surely.

Why? Because people in Quebec now see that they are treated as an important part of the country and because young people have careers to get on with and because in-migrants to Quebec do not see separatism as a reason for coming to Canada and because native Quebecois, like all the world’s advanced people, have low birth rates.

Besides all of that, the BQ has acted mostly the part of a responsible party, albeit one with geographically-limited interests. That is more than can be said of Harper’s Conservatives on many issues of importance.

I sometimes find it slightly amusing to call the BQ a separatist party, given the nature of its day-in, day-out activity.

And, last but not least, doing what you recommend would only be viewed in Quebec as a targeted policy against Quebec’s interests, and indeed that view would be completely right.

Foolish column, Jeffrey Simpson, very foolish.

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

“The integrity of the Canadian judicial system would be better served by extraditing Mr. Khadr to face charges in the U.S.”

A genuinely morally obtuse statement, that.

There is a long history of men going abroad to fight for causes in which they believed. And there is a long history of men going abroad as paid mercenaries.

Men went by the thousands to fight in the Spanish Civil War. They went in the thousands to fight in parts of Africa during the 1960s. Some went to South Africa as mercenaries during Apartheid.

Indeed, Jewish Canadians and Americans have gone to Israel to fight in that country’s many wars of aggression and participate in its long occupation and abuse.

In all these cases, and in many more over time, we do not afterwards illegally arrest, imprison, and torture the people involved.

The only genuine difference here is the highly questionable use of the word “terrorist,” a witches’ brew of a word which truly defines nothing.

If you claim “terrorists” are evil people who kill innocent civilians for their cause, then what in God’s name are the United States and Israel? Decades of bloodshed, most of it civilians. Only last week the U.S. bombed and killed 54 civilians in Afghanistan. And we just celebrated the anniversary of Hiroshima – a non-military target in which only civilians died – an absolute black spot on America’s soul.

And we must never forget America’s glorious record of killing 3 million people in Vietnam, most of them civilians, by the most horrifying methods, and the legacy of an earth soaked in poisonous Agent Orange – a true holocaust by any definition of the word.

And then a million victims in Iraq and at least two million refugees created.

Of course, those horrors are not all. The U.S. is far and away the world’s biggest procurer of arms, supplied to everyone from dictators to murderous juntas all over the world for decades.

And the Globe frets about a judge’s correct and lawful treatment of Abdullah Khadr, a mere suspect at arms procurement who had been terribly treated owing to U.S. blood money paid out?

The editorial writer here needs, as they say today, to get a life.

And thank God for fair and decent judges.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY RORY GILFILLAN IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAILRory Gilfillan’s words are quite unpleasant and more than a little confused.

First, if you take his basic principle of only celebrating the outstanding, it seems to me that you must logically extend it to all areas of activity.

In schools, in the arts, and in the sciences. And that necessarily implies authorities picking and choosing who should pursue what. In the U.S. they do this with floods of money and privilege, and in China they do this with state authority.

That general attitude results in America, a true social Darwinist society.

Second, while everyone likes being astonished by the fabulously gifted, there are many small pleasures in enjoying the efforts of the less gifted.

Third, I just do not regard sports in general as all that important. For those that do enjoy them, fine, but for society to use many precious resources only to groom and praise those with talented bodies gives you the sense of contemporary China towards sports, a sense not completely different to that which prevailed under the Third Reich.

Yes, it is nice to see gold medals, but really when the Olympics or any other big event is over, two weeks later the beer-fed emotion is forgotten and a hell of a lot of money has been spent on very little of substance. It still all reduces to a modern version of Rome’s “bread and circuses.”

People like Mr. Gilfillan would have us believe there is more to it, but truly there isn’t.

Perhaps almost better the many celebrations of small victories than the big blow-out for a few physically talented people.

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
 

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

Hard to know from the information given here just what Stursberg’s departure means.

Executive rat leaving a ship he helped direct into sinking in a sea of dumbness?

I do think it is all rather hopeless. CBC is on a one way trip to nowhere.

New dumb shows and dumb hosts and dumb formats abound. Once the remaining quality people have reached retirement, the wreck deserves to be abandoned.

With people like George Stroumboulopoulos, Jian Ghomeshi, Evan Solomon, and now Jan Arden, CBC becomes less and less meaningful everyday, pop fluff with no core of genuine experience and broad knowledge.

God, recently, I gave a try to a CBC documentary series on World War II, hosted by Stroumbouloulos. George, dressed in his usual I’m-cooler-than-anyone outfit, appeared out of a cloud of special effects lighted mist like God descending from heaven and proceeded to make a completely inaccurate statement concerning the war. I didn’t watch another minute of this pop nonsense passing for documentary.

Good old Ghomeshi, Canada’s 2010 answer to Dick Clark’s Bandstand, has had endless promos for an interview with Paul McCartney. Oh, wow, one of the biggest egos on the planet, with almost nothing to say, whose genuine creative work was forty years ago, gives yet another interview. What’s the point and what’s Canadian about it?

Many of CBC Radios shows have become nothing more than amateur hour try-outs for pop singers – the stuff is larded into half the programs. Mary Ito’s show is simply a boring series of second-rate singers and wannabes interspersed with chat about her latest jaunt somewhere. Jann Arden sounds like the female version of Trailer Park Boys.

Who needs a public broadcaster for this kind of vacuous stuff?