Archive for November 2010

JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: MORE ON TORONTO’S ABSURD AND CYNICAL MUNK DEBATE ON RELIGION – A CASH-GENERATING OPERATION FOR A WAR CRIMINAL AND A WAR APOLOGIST


 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

POSTED RESPONSE TO COLUMNS IN THE INDEPENDENT AND THE GLOBE AND MAIL

The Munk Debates are a set of silly, costly farces, contributing nothing to advancing knowledge.

This one is particularly ridiculous both for the characters of the individuals involved and the intellectually throwback nature of the topic.

You cannot debate or rationally argue religious matters. You can try, of course, but then you might just as well debate about ghosts or boogeymen or garden nymphs and their impact on society.

This Munk Debate was literally that silly.

The scholastic philosophers tried for ages to apply logic to religion, trying to prove the existence of God and other religious matters countless times. It was all for nothing, and gradually philosophers recognized the pointlessness of the exercise.

The word science means knowledge, while religion proudly claims the world of faith or beliefs as its subject. You simply cannot apply the methods of science to the substance of religion.

Now, of course, you can argue, endlessly, about particular beliefs or faith, and many people do, but it is all a complete waste of effort. We have centuries of Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and others telling each other where they have matters wrong. It all leads absolutely nowhere in advancing knowledge or even tolerance. Indeed, it has provided the substance and motive for endless wars, tortures, and miseries.

This Munk Debate is also extremely cynical, by several measures. Any organization, attempting to establish a reputation for contributing to enlightenment, which puts on this kind of circus is unworthy of respect.

Moreover, the motivations are so clearly money-making – all those involved being handsomely paid for their trouble – and the grabbing of cheap publicity, for we know the general populace is always ready to get excited on aspects of the topic of religion. The publicity this silly event has generated should be embarrassing for any organization with pretensions to enlightenment.

Putting two big names on a stage to carry out this money-making frivolity is worthy of impresario/convicted fraudster Garth Drabinsky, but again, what utter cynicism to use a genuine war criminal like Tony Blair, a man with the blood of tens of thousands on his hands, giving him a stage to blubber about beliefs while collecting yet another paycheck. He is a man with no shame, no conscience, but an ego resembling a cancer out of control.

Hitchens is a very clever, eloquent man, but everyone knows his views on the subject. He too was just there for a quick paycheck. Moreover, he too is a man of highly questionable ethics, one who worked hard to make Bush’s criminal invasion of Iraq acceptable.

We speak today of such things as infomercials and product placement in news broadcasts. Well, thank you to the Munk people for offering up a glutinous helping of both.

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JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: NEWFOUNDLAND’S DANNY WILLIAMS RECEIVES PUBLICITY AND FLATTERY ON HIS RETIREMENT – BUT THE MAN HAS A SHAMEFUL RECORD AND IS A GENUINE BULLY


JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

Danny Williams is a disgrace, and I don’t know why he gets so much publicity in quitting.

Who can ever forgive the childish, insulting, and just plain dumb taking down of the flag all over Newfoundland because he didn’t get as much money as he wanted?

In the United States, Williams likely would have been “strung up” for doing something like that.

The fact that Canadians took it calmly actually showed what a great country we have.

Still, his seemed to me the work of an unbalanced person.

Good riddance.
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And people seem to have forgotten Danny’s absolutely shameful treatment of the women of Newfoundland who were being tested for cancer, and a large number of tests were fouled up.

He was absolutely at the center of that terrible mess. He had learned of it earlier and refused to acknowledge it.

He took no responsibility, and he got away with it, clean, reminding me of old teflon Reagan.

His poor administration and poor follow-up – after all, this is a province with a population the size of greater Hamilton – caused fear and hopelessness for thousands.

The events reminded me very much of the psychology of abused women: why do they stay with their mates? Well, here was abuse on a grand scale, and the folks still love this “strongman.”

And when it came time for his secret operation, only the US was good enough.

Leader? That? Unbelievable.

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Anti Corruption,

 

My “limit of understanding,” as you so graciously put it, has hardly been enlightened by your silly post.

 

I know perfectly well the history of Newfoundland’s dealings with Quebec on hydro-electricity.

 

No one forced Newfoundland to sign the contracts all those years ago.

 

The fact is that Newfoundland believed it had a good deal then.

 

You cannot go back years later and say, “Look, this hasn’t worked out for me, I need a new price.”

 

Try that on your mortgage or any other long-term contract and see how far it gets you.

 

It is a sure sign of lack of understanding to use the language you use in the matter.

 

Now, I know perfectly well that Danny Williams is a smart and a successful businessman, so his use of that language, and far worse, is pure demagoguery to appeal to likes of yourself. Clearly it worked for him.

 

But the fact remains the man is dishonest, abusive in his language, and is a true bully – a nasty piece of work altogether. Have you ever heard or read the appalling things he has said about Quebec? The language of the gutter, entirely.

 

People are charmed by Danny’s old down-east act, but Williams’ approach to government resembles on a smaller scale Hitler at Munich, shouting and frothing at the mouth and threatening and abusing to get his way. You may admire that. I do not.

 

My “limit of understanding” at least allows me to understand that if all the premiers behaved this way, we would simply not have a country.

 

By the way, don’t you find people who make aggressive comments without using their names to be just a touch cowardly? What would old two-fisted Danny Boy say?

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: WITH GAFFES LIKE “OUR NORTH KOREAN ALLY” CAN PALIN WIN IN 2012? PLUS REFLECTIONS ON THE STATE OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY


 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

What you are really asking here is: how stupid are American voters?

The very fact that Palin can enjoy a fair bit of popularity is rather an indictment of American democracy. The woman is plainly stupid. She’s proven it dozens of times.

Of course, money plays just a huge role in her promotion, as it does in all American politics now, America being in many ways pretty close to a plutocracy.

All Palin has done, since quitting her fairly humble job as governor of a state with about the population of Cleveland half-way through its term, is collect millions of dollars for cheerleading. Her words never go beyond clichés, slogans, and the odd ghost-written joke.

You might dismiss her as the comic relief on the political rubber-chicken circuit, but the phenomenon truly is more serious than that.

She is being pushed from behind the scenes into being a presidential candidate.

Had she an ounce of sense, she’d know she is completely unqualified for high office, but she is as ambitious and egotistical as she is stupid, a dangerous combination indeed.

For the powers that be – the big-money and establishment people behind her – her kind of candidate, gullible and easily manipulated while keeping the public stirred up with empty slogans and dumb rhetoric, is desirable.

Bush was her forerunner, a remarkably mediocre man who let the Cheneys and Rumsfelds actually run things without being elected.

It is a dangerous new development in an American society whose democratic credentials are badly worn.

The world’s only hope is that this woman is so overwhelmingly stupid she will not succeed beyond collecting millions from a minority of people who have more money than they know what to do with.

JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: TORONTO’S MUNK CENTRE DEBATE BETWEEN TONY BLAIR AND CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS ON THE ROLE OF RELIGION – A NOTE ON THE HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN BARBARISM


 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

This is a celebrity circus, not a debate and certainly not any kind of intellectual event. It is pseudo-intellectual nonsense posing as significant discussion.

Religion is the opposite of logic, and centuries ago philosophers discovered that you cannot argue with logic about religious matters.

The Munk Debates might just as well be an arm of Garth Drabinsky Showboat Enterprises.

The two people involved, while celebrities indeed, are both people who have done no service to humanity.

Blair is a war criminal, pure and simple, and a kind of nasty idiot to boot.

Hitchens is a very clever, eloquent man but one who worked hard to make the criminal invasion of Iraq seem acceptable.

There really is a special place in hell for each of these gentlemen.
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How easily we forget that the history of organized Christianity provides almost certainly the bloodiest tale in all of human history.

The Crusades, that dark saga of Christianity written in blood and terror, continued sporadically over hundreds of years. They served little other purpose than gathering wealth through spoils and sacking cities and easing the periodic domestic political difficulties of the papacy and major princes of Europe.

We hear of the treatment of women under Islam in certain places, not remembering that Christian women were left locked in iron chastity belts for years while their husbands raped their way across the Near East. And the character of Saladin, hard warrior that he was, shines nobly in history compared to the moral shabbiness of Richard Lionheart.

Europe wove a remarkable tapestry of horrors in the name of Christianity from the beginning of the modern era. There was the Holy Inquisition, the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain, the Reformation, the Counter-Reformation, the Thirty Years’ War, the English Civil War, the St Bartholomew Massacre, Cromwell’s slaughter in Ireland, the enslavement and widespread extermination of native peoples in the Americas, the Eighty Years’ War in Holland, the expulsion of the Huguenots from France, the pogroms, the burning of witches, and numberless other horrific events right down to The Holocaust itself, which was largely the work of people who considered themselves, as did the slave drivers of America’s South, to be Christians.

Over and above the conflicts motivated by religion, European and American history, a history dominated by people calling themselves Christian, runs with rivers, lakes, and whole seas of blood. Just a sampling includes the Hundred Years’ War, the War of the Spanish Succession, the Seven Years’ War, the slave trade, the French Revolution, the Vendée, the Napoleonic Wars, the Trail of Tears, the Opium War, African slavery in the American South, the American Civil War, the Franco-Prussian War, the massacre in the Belgium Congo, the Crimean War, lynchings, the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, World War I, the Spanish Civil War, and World War II.

JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: WHAT AFGHANS WILL THINK OF CANADA’S CONCERN – COMMENTS WHICH SHOW HOW LITTLE SOME UNDERSTAND – HOPES FOR CHILDREN INCLUDING THOSE IN GAZA


 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

“The answer provided was simple: NATO members are there to contain terrorism and build a stable country.”

Rubbish.

Since when do armed forces “build” stable countries?

It has never happened.

Contain terrorism?

I’ve yet to hear of any terrorism coming from Afghanistan.

And most young Afghans won’t even be aware of Canada’s existence despite our billions spent.

Our soldiers just look like Americans, even wearing pretty much the same gear, and in Afghan eyes, we are all foreigners who don’t belong there.
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From a reader we have, “fascist taliban”

That’s uninformed nonsense.

The Taleban was formed in the wake of Russia’s leaving a mess, a mess made worse by the CIA’s secret war of subsidized terror against Russia which left weapons and money in the hands of some truly terrible people.

There was daily killing in the streets all over Afghanistan as the rivals in the Northern Alliance warlords – the guys we call allies – fought each other like street gangs. They also used to extort money on every road so people couldn’t even conduct normal business.

The Taleban was originally a grassroots organization to put an end to that mess, and they very much did so. They also put an end to the drug trade, something flourishing again under the American occupation.

They are not advanced, humanitarian people, but then neither are half our allies in Afghanistan, folks like mass-murderer, General Dostum.

As far as human rights go, amazingly little has changed. Women in most of Afghanistan outside Kabul wear the burka.

This comment is a good example of so much that is printed and broadcast about Afghanistan: it simply uses clichés, clichés that aren’t even Afghan but American.

“Girls who don’t have to worry about having acid thrown on their face by the taliban.”

Yes, and won’t it be a bright day when the children of Gaza get a balanced diet and the things they need for a full life?

And when they don’t have to cower in terror from Israeli jets overhead?

Or fear being used as human shields?

And on that bright day, it will be lovely that the children of East Jerusalem don’t have to worry about their families being thrown out of their homes by settlers who use tricks and excuses to steal the homes of families who have lived there for centuries.

JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: AMERICA: DIMINISHED AND PARALYZED AT VARIOUS INTERNATIONAL GATHERINGS

 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

You have put many of the relevant points very well, Clive Crook, and I think this an inevitable development.

America’s sweeping power and matchless affluence after WWII were temporary phenomena, the result all the world’s major competitors being flattened by war and America’s industries having just reached remarkable levels of output as the armory of democracy.

But all those competitors – Germany, Britain, Italy, and Japan – are today back and thriving.

Not only are they thriving but new remarkable competitors have emerged, especially China. And now we even have countries like Brazil and Russia starting to emerge.

Trade and economics are of course not zero-sum games, but competition always means there are relative winners and losers.

Americans, even the most humble of them, over the last half century have formed an iron-clad sense of entitlement. Their leaders have only force-fed them in this with jingo nonsense like “the American dream,” and the new (new in the postwar period) phenomena of mass marketing and advertising with new penetrating media have only further fed this fantasy belief.

Americans’ naïve religious propensity, the inheritance of Puritan genes, makes many of them extremely gullible to such nonsense as being special.

This entire set of beliefs and expectations works strongly against American competitiveness, and America simply is not competitive in many areas. It is living off its accumulated fat, as it were, in many respects.

Real wages for the middle class have done nothing but fall for decades. Americans have adjusted by such efforts as two spouses working and moving out to elephantine houses thrown-up on the deserts and in the cornfields. Both these strategies have pretty well been exhausted.

I would add, too, the important factor that American education has, on average, become inflated and lost a good deal of value. High graduation is practically guaranteed even for someone who barely reads.

Undergraduate degrees have suffered exactly the same decay in value. You can get an English degree in America without ever reading Shakespeare. You can get a degree in television studies or circus. You can get a degree just by playing basketball.

What these educational trends represent is the consumer portion of education taking over to a considerable extent from the human investment portion of education, a reflection surely of the postwar feelings of American entitlement, as in “my kids goin’ to college” even if the kid involved has no academic talent. Such education makes you competitive with precisely no one and only wastes resources in a form of consumption.

Another absolutely crucial area contributing to America’s decline is its long series of pointless, costly wars. Nothing is more wasteful than the military, but America’s sense of entitlement has fooled it into believing it can manipulate the world to its narrow interests and quite frankly uninformed prejudices.

America’s titanic investments in the pointless slaughters in Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and in many lesser efforts has been as unproductive as its decayed system of education.

You can’t keep doing stupid things – all the while pressuring everyone else to pretend that they are not stupid – forever, and I genuinely believe America has reached the limits. Our greatest future danger is America’s not recognizing these truths and adjusting appropriately, instead taking the John Wayne approach to the new world emerging, especially towards China.

JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: GEORGE GALLOWAY AT MCMASTER UNIVERSITY


 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN HAMILTON’S SPECTATOR

George Galloway is a genuinely heroic political figure.

His values of justice and decency are beyond question.

His skills in debating or arguing those values are simply formidable.

Galloway very much reminds me of certain 18th century figures who bravely stood their ground, defending worthwhile principles.

Politicians today generally offer nothing of the kind. Being a political weasel or a hypocrite has been developed into a fine art, as we see in our own thirty-percent prime minister, always excusing his failures with blather.

The running wound of Palestine is the greatest international issue of our day, and almost no politicians and no newspapers are willing to take it on.

The lack of justice and fairness there are major contributing factors to so much of the trouble we see in today’s world.

Today Israel is into its fourth year of trying to starve out a million and a half people in Gaza. We have revelations only recently that Israel’s government actually calculated the food ration which would make the people miserable but not die from malnutrition, and it is that calculation which decides what enters Gaza.

We also saw Israel attack an unarmed boatload of humanitarian workers on the high seas, deliberately killing nine of them.

How in God’s name is that any different to the work of Somali pirates? Yet where is the outrage in our press?

Peace really is not that hard, if you genuinely want it, and Israel, while mouthing the words, clearly does not want peace. It wants more land, minus its inhabitants of centuries.

At least Galloway articulates these humanitarian truths. He also walks the walk, having spearheaded convoys of humanitarian assistance.