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Monthly Archives: November 2010




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.




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.

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.


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?





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.





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.

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.





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


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.

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.






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.





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.





I love the photograph of Sarkozy preaching to Karzai about corruption.

The absurdities of the engagement in Afghanistan could not be better highlighted than by this.

I’m sure readers know about Sarkozy’s weird private life and terrible temper (rivaling Harper’s), but I don’t know how many readers are aware of that the smarmy, unethical Sarkozy is about as corrupt as they come.

He has managed to suppress the scandal surrounding the revelation of his taking huge wads of secret money (illegal in France ) from the country’s richest woman, billionaire L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt

Here is indeed is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Afghanistan is about power and the abuse of power.

None of the Western leaders involved – Bush, Sarkozy, Blair – has anything but contemptible morals.





Astute observers will have noticed a few years ago that Sarah Palin is an idiot.

Nothing has changed, except possibly she has grown more comfortable in the role.










It seems to me that Andrew Marr misses many of the juicy bits about Kennedy.

This is pretty tepid stuff, and none of it is news to people who lived in America at that time.

The treatment of Hubert Humphrey, one of the more honorable men to run for president in the 20th century, was very shabby.

But the Kennedys were ruthless people, all of them. They were the kind of people who would send a quick elbow into the face of an opponent in a race of any kind.

Britain knew what a truly nasty, prejudiced, and ruthless man the father was from the time he served as American ambassador. He left an outstandingly unfavorable impression.

The old man wasn’t just said to be a rum-runner during prohibition, that’s in fact how he made his fortune, and he maintained mob connections afterward.

The connections of the old man with the mob gave Jack a huge secret campaign contribution. There was a suitcase delivered with a $1 million cash gift, a very great deal of money in 1960.

Indeed, it has been reported many times that mob donors were extremely disappointed in Kennedy as President, accusing him of ingratitude.

The connections continued with Jack himself who was a friend of “the rat pack” in Vegas. One of Jack’s girlfriends, Judith Exner, was a former (?) girlfriend of Chicago mafia boss, Sam Giancana.

Perhaps the dirtiest Kennedy business was election fraud. Jack was elected by a very close vote, and it was fraud in Chicago that gave him Illinois plus fraud in Texas, courtesy of good old Lyndon, that tipped the total in his favor.

The election practices in Chicago were legendary when I was a young man. Vote counters who kept pencil lead under a fingernail to spoil paper ballots, local politicos who accompanied voters into the supposedly secret voting machines of the time, and the wholesale registration of names from local cemeteries as valid Democratic voters.

Lyndon Johnson’s career in politics in Texas is documented as having begun with local machine vote fraud with his first election to Congress. He made sure Kennedy got the same favorable treatment. His exclusion from any important roles in the administration was made all the more painful for knowing how he helped Kennedy get elected.

Mr Marr thinks Nixon might have made a good president if elected at a younger age, but there is little basis for that belief.

Nixon had a long and hateful record as a red-baiter. His first run for the Senate in California, while not involving vote fraud, very much involved the lowest of low tactics. He called the honorable woman, Helena Gahagan Douglas, who was his opponent, “pink right down to her underwear” among other charming epithets. Nixon’s work on the Alger Hiss case (a convicted spy) almost certainly involved fraudulent evidence from J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. Hoover was always a friend and admirer of Nixon’s, Hoover being one of the most unsavory characters ever to hold power in America.

Kennedy’s entire presidency was riddled with ambiguities and dark doings, despite his heroic appearance.

On the Cuban Missile Crisis, often cited as Kennedy’s best moment, there is a complex background which makes his role far less admirable and indeed helps make Kennedy responsible for its ever happening.

Kennedy was a martinet about military matters, and he dedicated his administration to getting rid of Castro. It was under Kennedy that many plans and attempts to murder Castro were made, reportedly his brother being the main report-to for the dirty work.

Yes, Kennedy was angry with the CIA for its failure at the Bay of Pigs invasion, but only because the failure embarrassed him, not because he didn’t wholeheartedly support the goal.

It was under Kennedy that the mafia was involved with the CIA in its efforts to kill Castro. At least two big mafia figures were involved in these efforts, Sam Giancana and Johnny Roselli. After Kennedy’s assassination, when it was reported that these men might be telling what they knew to Congressional investigators, they were both murdered in classic mafia style.

Kennedy kept a set of terrorist camps going and growing, run by the CIA and using Cuban émigrés, in places like Florida that make the efforts of Osama bin Laden in the mountains of Afghanistan look like Boy Scout stuff.

Millions of dollars were poured into training, equipment, and supplies and plans for dirty tricks. Some of the members of these vast terror groups shot up Soviet ships from boats, planted bombs in places like hotels, buzzed Cuban locations with planes, and even attacked those in the United States who did not support them.

American spy planes regularly flew over Cuba, and surreptitious missions were taken by submarine, landing cutthroats to do dirty work. And, of course, the U.S. refused to return Guantanamo to the Cubans from whom it was on lease, the lease having expired.

It truly did appear from both Castro’s and Russia’s point of view that America was preparing to invade Cuba.

Kruschev fixed upon the movement of missiles to Cuba to protect Castro. It still is not completely clear whether he planned to use them as bargaining chips or only as a defensive threat. In the end, the Missile Crisis was settled by an American commitment not to invade Cuba, plus some other matters as removing Jupiter missiles from Turkey.

It may be argued that Kennedy’s response to events in Cuba brought us closer to nuclear war than is generally known. The Russians had armed with nuclear warheads a number of the short-range missiles, as protection while the rest were assembled. The idiots in the Pentagon were ready to land an assault force immediately, and it is likely that they would have been met with tactical nuclear weapons on the beach which were in the battlefield commander’s control. Kennedy did not oppose the Pentagon, he only wanted to try another approach first. That was his merit.

More than a few people think that Kennedy’s settlement was the beginning of assassination plans by whatever group did in fact assassinate him. Kennedy had so many bitter enemies – the mafia, elements of the CIA, the ferocious and armed Cuban émigré community, plus others, including Israel for his intense secret opposition to its becoming a nuclear power – and no one who has studied events of that time carefully believes that poor old Oswald was anything but a patsy in some plot he did not even understand.

The modern history of America has a good deal in common with that of the Borgias in Italy. What we get on television and in newspapers and in most books is highly sanitized.





A truly frightening prospect.

She would be a repeat of George Bush, perhaps worse, possessing even a lower-intelligence brain and a far bigger mouth.

Palin couldn’t even manage to finish her term in one of the least demanding executive jobs in America, governor of Alaska, a place with the total population of a middle-sized town.

But Americans have become such suckers for publicity and advertising and cheap (ghost-written) slogans, being inundated with these things, a good number of them believe this mediocrity is qualified for one of the world’s biggest jobs?

Her stunning ignorance on almost any subject that matters was on display for all to see during that farce of a campaign with John McCain.

Her intelligence and application are documented in her academic career: she took six years at five different institutions to get a BA in the soft and easy subject of communications. The last institution likely granted it partly as an act of mercy.

Her petty tyrant temperament also have been put on display numerous times. There was her abuse of authority in Alaska trying to get a police official fired whom she happened not to like. Then there was her pressuring a young man to marry her pathetic daughter, dragging him around like a trophy on display.

There is a whole list of her public statements which would be embarrassing to any thoughtful person.

Since leaving her job in mid-stream, she has done nothing but appear for high fees, mouthing the inanities of a front organization like the Tea Party. She is just one more shabby opportunist serving the interests of powers she does not even understand.




NATO always needs new mission statements because the organization is obsolete, yet it survives as though it still had a large purpose.

Its only legitimate purpose – from an international point of view – was the Cold War.

The hard truth about NATO today is that it is only a mechanism for American presence and dominance in Europe – all the rest is just window-dressing, and that is why it is kept alive and looking for purposes.

Afghanistan is a perfect example of how the U.S. uses and abuses NATO. It is the only country that cares a fig about Afghanistan, but the token forces from a number of countries give it a plausible show of international purpose.

Were Afghanistan a genuine threat, NATO countries would put half a million troops there in short order.

Only the U.S. keeps a large force mired there. It is indeed the dog who has captured something with which it does not know what to do.





What’s green about McGuinty’s energy policies?

His policies remind me of all those manipulative marketers who make naïve people feel good by slapping pink-ribbon images on their products.

McGuinty’s policies are in fact a threat to our future.

He is closing efficient coal-fired plants, which means that in future when we need extra power, the economic situation now helping keep demands down, we’ll buy it from the very people who actually cause Ontario’s air-quality problems, the scores of less-efficient coal-fired plants in the American Midwest.

The closing of those plants won’t change Ontario’s air in any serious way, except possibly making it worse when we need to buy extra electricity, at high rates, from those Midwestern plants.

Not only that, but those coal-fired plants provide what is called base-load power, available twenty-four hours a day.

Windmills are not base-load power. They provide only intermittent power, and at very high cost per unit of energy.

New base-load gas-fired plants are in the works, but Western Canadian gas is not so plentiful as it once was. There are big exports and a huge current, and even bigger future, use in extracting and upgrading the tarsands. Gas prices will rise.

But even there, McGuinty shows his unpleasant blundering in acts like his recent NIMBY backing-off from building a new gas-fired plant in one area.

Ontario’s energy costs are being driven needlessly higher by McGuinty’s short-sighted policies, and we’ve only seen the beginning.

Industry always gets preferential rates, so how is Ontario’s future high-cost electricity going to lure industries to locate?

Simple, they’ll be given preferential rates subsidized by even higher bills for ordinary consumers.

McGuinty’s energy policies are aimed only at buying votes, the votes of those ready to embrace anything labeled as “green” even if it is far from the truth.

It is the same kind of smarmy thinking he did in getting re-elected last time: give people holiday, which cost us hundreds of millions of dollars, and let every department in the government run stupid ads at public expense for six weeks.

McGuinty green? God, the guy has tolerated the spectacle of years of fleets of diesel trucks rumbling down 401 every day to dump Toronto’s garbage somewhere else.

He has contributed nothing to the shameful fact that Toronto’s thousands of high-rises do not even have recycling programs.

And if he wanted genuinely to improve Toronto’s air quality as well as lessening great waste and ugliness, he would do something to stop suburban sprawl and daily long-distance commuting.

McGuinty is a green phony.






Sorry, but this editorial begs an essential question.

What mission?

The “mission” has never been defined.

And why is that? Because the “mission” cannot be defined.

It is truly preposterous to talk of remaking an ancient society of about 30 million people who mostly live hardscrabble lives in the mountains and deserts.

Afghanistan is only barely a country with traditionally no real central government, no roads, and few of any other modernity.

It is a collection of tribes, many of them living as people lived centuries ago. Even its borders are not fixed, the arbitrary Durand Line serving as an imposed border with Pakistan.

Just consider how long it takes for serious economic development to occur, economic development being the only path to modern democratic society.

Even China – the economic miracle of our age – which had much infrastructure, a cohesive society, and great human capital has taken more than thirty years of growth to arrive where it is.

And great parts of China are still poor and backward, especially in the West.

Or consider how long it takes to change one important human habit, say smoking. Only after decades of effort are we changing this once everyday-accepted habit.

Yet the newspaper editorial rooms, following the well-paid flaks at the Pentagon, speak blithely of immense changes in what is a gigantic country.

The United States never went into Afghanistan to advance its people. If it had wanted that, it could have dropped dollar bills instead of bombs.

What the United States wanted was vengeance, and also, I believe, that football-atmosphere feeling of, “Well, after all we are the greatest, and these poor turban-heads can’t stop us from doing as we please.”

The U.S. garnered UN support in the wake of 9/11 by exploiting sympathy, calling in debts, threats, and promises to get the votes to make the “mission” look international.

Just consider the NATO commitment, apart from Tony Blair’s abused Britain loyally carrying America’s gear. If it were such an important mission, of world significance, then you would not see 750 troops here and 2000 there, many of them under heavy restrictions about fighting. No, you would see the response of WWII. NATO counries cannot say it in public, but they do not believe in America’s “mission.” The size and very nature of their efforts speak eloquently for anyone listening.

It has been a fool’s mission from the beginning, and it remains a fool’s mission.

In the end, the Taleban, who are best described as a large segment of the country and not the phony term “insurgents’ must be part of any government. Karzai recognizes that. So what are you wasting lives and treasure over?

The great irony, of course, is that the Taleban need not have been our enemies. They are not pleasant or modern people, but their views are often no different to those of the Northern Alliance America has effectively put in their place, and the truth is their views are no more backward than those in many third-world countries, including India where savageries like bride-burning continue.

The Taleban did not cause 9/11. Saudis and some others, working abroad, quite possibly in a CIA black operation which backfired, did. They were not even the original ones to grant Osama bin Laden refuge, America’s Northern Alliance did.

And the Taleban still agreed after 9/11 to extradite bin Laden if only a bit of evidence were provided, the normal working procedure for extraditions all over the world. But the United States refused, and, to this day, it is interesting that bin Laden has never been included on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.

For some reason unbelievable resources have been put into defeating what cannot be defeated. The fight against the Taleban has been subsumed under that great and hazy thing called the War on Terror, which really is an absurd extension of Israel’s views of how you live in the Middle East. Insanity, pure and simple.

So, even accepting your doubtful assumptions, the solution is to attack all of these places?

The war on terror is derived from Israel’s view of living in the Middle East. Israel sits, armed to teeth, with an armed forces and security establishment monstrously out of proportion to its size, and it has attacked every neighbor that it has, some more than once. It threatens every country within a thousand miles that demonstrates any independence of view, and it has used every dirty trick in the book to assault its perceived foes.

Nothing has been a more complete failure than Israel’s way of living with its neighbors.

It is a garrison state, constantly suffering from paranoia, reminding me much of the way people in Virginia in 1700s reacted to the circumstances of slavery, sleeping with guns and knives under their pillows and regularly being driven to excesses by fears of slave revolts.

It is not a model or an ideology to serve as anything of an example.

Indeed, a great deal of the discontent felt in Muslim countries relates to the great suppurating wound of Palestine/Israel, a natural human reaction to the great injustices and to the one-sidedness and injustice of American policy.

Solving a fundamental problem like that would go a great way towards reestablishing healthy relations with the world’s billion Muslims, but still, after decades of talk, we see no honest effort to do so. Instead we spend countless billions fighting phantoms.





“David Cameron’s repudiation of George Bush’s policy on waterboarding is logically flawed, argues Janet Daley. “

Pure logic does not apply to such matters, rather they intimately involve democratic and human values and just plain human decency.

Western society has struggled for centuries to reach the point where we even question such acts. We endured inquisitions and terrors and the rack and countless other ingenious and malevolent engines of human cruelty to reach our enlightened state. Overcoming our nasty chimpanzee origins and creating societies of just laws have been no small feats and represent our greatest achievements.

Crude people like George Bush or sophists like Janet Daley willingly cast aside this advance of immense importance for no good reason.

I remind readers of just a few details Bush’s background. He happily sent scores of prisoners to their deaths by execution in Texas, including a woman whom he mocked in public over her plea for mercy. He said in Chicago, shortly after 9/11, that he had “won the trifecta,” knowing how polls soared for his administration which had been quite unpopular. A boyhood friend told us of one of young George’s great pleasures in life: stuffing lighted firecrackers into frogs and watching them blow up.

George Bush demonstrated in countless ways his lack of genuine regard for ethics, from his drunken abuse of family to his disappearing from his obligations in the Air National Guard, the institution which was his ticket in avoiding Vietnam, a ticket paid for through family influence.

Bush was in the driver’s seat for Abu Ghraib, and readers may not know that the worst excesses there have been suppressed. One of the world’s foremost investigative reporters, Seymour Hersh, told us that events included the raping of children and killing. Bush also gave us Guantanamo and the entire CIA international torture gulag which includes God-knows–what to this day in places like the secret facilities at Bagram Air Base and the unapproachable Diego Garcia.

Bush thought nothing of the Northern Alliance’s General Dostum taking 3,000 Taleban prisoners in the early days of the conflict in batches out to the dessert in sealed trucks to suffocate while American soldiers stood around picking their noses. He thought nothing of a child soldier of fifteen, who had been shot twice in the back by Americans, being sent to Guantanamo, contrary to all international agreements, to be tortured and kept out of contact with family or lawyers for years.

I remind readers too that George Bush gained office by vote fraud in Florida. He is a man of about as poor a set of ethics as you will find on the planet outside of some police states or prisons.

No, Janet Daley, you support what no decent person can support, an example of almost unparalleled creepiness in the leader of a modern democratic state.

Shame on you: there can never be a defense for torture.




I think there is a real possibility that Harper’s sanity is crumbling.

First, we had his troubling ramblings about fighting anti-Semitism as a defense for his abject failure at United Nations diplomacy.

Then, we had his economically-ignorant defense at the G-20 of America’s debasing its currency, truly bizarre since he has a graduate degree in economics and is known as rather a Chicago-school man.

Now, we have his claim for unilateral powers over the armed forces. I did think the Governor-General was Commander-in-Chief, and I did think Parliament always was the ultimate decision-maker in our society.

There are late-onset forms of certain serious mental illnesses from which he may be suffering, or this could just be a form of megalomania that has set in.

Whether that is the case or not, I would think he is under terrible stress, his entire political career being widely regarded as unsuccessful beyond the mechanics of holding onto office through tricks and games.

He must realize that he will never get a majority government, something I am sure he has worked tirelessly towards, and he must know most Canadians do not trust, or even particularly like, him.

He also must realize he has not managed to build a Conservative Party the population regards well, his cabinet being mainly controlled yes-men and intellectual mediocrities, each afraid of Harper’s reported ugly private rages.

And he has failed utterly to establish a Conservative brand for ethics, having been caught time and again indulging in shady and unethical and even nasty-child practices.

On the international scene, his years have sent Canada’s reputation tumbling, and even he must be aware of that.

It is an unwelcome test of the strength of our political institutions if we can survive with dignity the assault on our traditions Harper represents.

Erika from America:

Canadians “aren’t that principled…”?

Oh, my, Americans are so principled.

I think we saw that at Abu Ghraib, didn’t we?

And at Guantanamo?

And when General Dostum, America’s Northern Alliance friend, drove 3,000 Taleban prisoners in batches in sealed vans out onto the desert to suffocate while American soldiers watched and picked their noses?

And in all the trail of lies leading to an illegal invasion in Iraq, something which should make members of Bush cabinet subject to trial as war criminals?

Oh, and the holocaust in Vietnam reflected proudly on those principles, didn’t it?

Slaughtering 3 million. Using napalm. Torturing. Throwing men from helicopters. Sending in nightcrawler special forces to villages to cut people’s throats in their sleep: 20,000 village leaders in good old Operation Phoenix.

You sure can’t beat that for principled.

How about the toppling of the peaceful government of Cambodia, allowing the Khmer Rouge to take over and murder a million more?

How about the overthrow of many democratic governments with which the US did not agree? Guatemala, Haiti. Chile. Iran. And more.

How about America’s not speaking out one meaningful word as Israel slowly starves one and a half million in Gaza today?

“Canadians can’t handle the truth.”

I think the writer has been watching too many Jack Nicholson movies.

It is clearly, overwhelmingly Americans who cannot “handle the truth,” including of course the fact that their sense of entitlement and poor regulation have sent the world tumbling into an economic crisis.

But don’t worry, America will climb out, not by passing reasonable measures or needed new taxes, but by debasing its currency, just as it did after Vietnam, leaving the whole world “holding the bag” as it were.

“The widespread sentiment is that it’s an American war,” but dear Erika from America that’s exactly what it is, a pointless American war, one in a long string of pointless wars since WWII.





Oh please.

Neither is India’s common practice of bride burning.

And its common practice of arranged marriages for young girls (sometimes twelve years old) to old well-off men who give money to a poor family.

And there is India’s terrible tradition towards widows, often the same unfortunate young girls who were pushed into an arranged marriage with an old man.

The widows are treated as unwelcome living corpses, having to dress certain ways, live certain ways, and not allowed to remarry, even though they may be in the prime of life. Suicide is a common way out of this hell.

In many countries in South America we have the most horrendous treatment of women. Young migrant women in Mexico have been murdered by the hundreds with no effort to solve the crimes. South America’s machismo culture treats women in the home as virtual slaves and even in some places makes women alone on the street fair game for rape.

In Thailand, dirt-poor families not infrequently sell young girls into prostitution, a practice providing the allure for the West’s thousands of sexual-tourists there.

Women in Ultra Orthodox Jewish communities, a throwback culture to another century, are treated as possessions, not being able to divorce abusive husbands without losing their children plus suffering many more inequities.

The position of women in fundamentalist Christian communities, including the Mennonites, is an example of the same kind of throwback culture, a throwback to a time when women had no real voice in almost anything.

Then there’s the glorious working of the Catholic Church in many poor parts of the world, and even in those not so poor, a long tale of abuse and perversion.

The list goes on and on, especially for third-world countries.

It is a matter of historical record that women only receive fair treatment with sound, long-term economic development. It was only in the 20th century that a Canadian woman could vote, but even more importantly, the banks would not even let a woman have an account without a husband’s approval not that many decades ago.

You seem to have selected out Iran for purely propaganda purposes, Iran being America’s flavor-of-the-month to castigate and threaten.





There are serious problems with Harper’s statement.

First, he is trying to justify his government’s failure to secure the Security Council seat we, by all precedents, should have received. In a word, he is taking no responsibility for his poor administration of foreign affairs.

Second, Harper attempts to put himself in the heroic position of having fought anti-Semitism. This is dishonest, hypocritical, and without ethics.

Just consider that Harper effectively implies that others who receive temporary seats may be anti-Semitic, and just so Canada in the past.

Is that way of explaining yourself an example of diplomacy? Or is it yet one more example of the very incompetence which lost Canada the seat?

There is yet one more flaw in logic contained in Harper’s words.

He is implicitly equating one-sided support for Israel with fighting anti-Semitism.

That is not just incorrect, it is dishonest.

Israel is a state, and if it wants to be regarded as a state like any other state, it must behave by the rules which apply to the community of states.

Criticizing Israel for its often brutal and unjust behavior has nothing whatever to do with anti-Semitism.

Saying that it does is the shabby trick of Israel’s paid apologists.

Defending Israel against warranted criticism is not defending the world against anti-Semitism. It is the repugnant embrace of a dirty trick.

It also reflects an attitude with which most Canadians do not agree.

Canadians are largely fair-minded about the Middle East, and Canada’s policies and statements for decades, until this narrow-minded minority government, always have been balanced and fair-minded.

Harper has been quite ugly on the subject of Israel’s behavior. I do not know why, whether he is just so prejudiced against the rights of Palestinians or whether he is being craven to elicit campaign contributions from the powerful special interest groups which advocate a one-sided view of Israel.

Recall, after Israel’s deliberate targeting of UN inspectors doing their duty in Southern Lebanon, including a brave Canadian officer staying at his post, Harper, instead of criticizing the killings, criticized the UN for having the inspectors there.
Recall Peter Kent, second-rank minister of no distinction, announcing unilaterally in a speech that Canada was ready to go to war on behalf of Israel, making an extreme and provocative policy statement without having consulted Parliament or the people of Canada.

And recall Harper having previously asserted that Canadians who criticized Israel were anti-Semitic. Who granted the head of our government, a minority one at that, the right to call honest citizens ugly names?

Harper truly demonstrates in this matter what a twisted and deceitful person he is.

If we are a decent society, then it goes without saying that we disapprove of all forms of bigotry.

So why this selecting out one form of bigotry, anti-Semitism, for special mention over and over?

The very language of many who comment reflects this odd phenomenon, people often saying they are against bigotry or prejudice AND anti-Semitism.

I think this is so because of the constant effort at a form of reverse prejudice: people feel they need to cover themselves against the charge of anti-Semitism explicitly, even though they do not say they are not bigoted against blacks or against Arabs or against Catholics or anything else you can mention.

All bigotry is actually a form of superstition, and no rational, clear-thinking person indulges in it.

Bigotry certainly includes reverse prejudice.




This is an excellent explanatory piece on one of the most important economic realities facing the world.

Sadly, in the United States the level of discourse in politics is so consistently low and juvenile, people do not appreciate this looming situation, and their cowardly politicians are not about to explain it to them.

We should never forget the role that pointless and destructive wars play.

Its current two wars have achieved nothing useful to the world’s economy, being essentially a kind of gigantic consumption for which America has not the legitimate means to pay. War has been America’s junk food since the 1950s.

Were America functioning the way most countries must function – that is, paying for what they consume and not borrowing to pay for what they consume – I believe we would see a much more judicious use of its Frankenstein military.

Indeed, the monster would be cut down to size more in keeping with America’s own defense and proper interests, not insane crusades all over the globe based solely on the prejudices of American voters and narrow special interests.

The expenses it put into killing three million Vietnamese and toppling a stable government in Cambodia decades ago were colossal at the time. After that hugely destructive and pointless war, Nixon devalued the currency.

The whole world was forced into paying for America’s obtuse policies.

“Whatever we think of America – we know and trust her globally far more than the regime running China as a one party state with vast swathes of the country and activity closed to any sort of observer. “

I don’t see any factual basis for that statement. It’s purely emotional, a result of being comfortable with years of shared culture.

The fact is for all the pose of openness, American society at the top – where it counts in terms of power and influence – is not really very open.

Many secrets remain secrets virtually forever, even long after the supposedly mandated time of their release.

The motivations of America’s establishment are often not clear, and we receive only fluff explanations for major actions which affect the entire world.

For example, the invasion of Iraq has not yet been honestly explained.

If you are familiar with the details of 9/11, you know that complex event has never been explained.

We still do not know why or exactly how President Kennedy was killed. The official investigations are discredited in scores of ways.

What about the very legitimacy of American governments?

Kennedy won through vote fraud.

Lyndon Johnson’s career in Texas started with vote fraud.

Bush won through vote fraud in Florida in 2000.

All national elections in the US are largely decided by money. This recent Mid-term election saw mountains of cash spent, about $4 billion dollars. Those contributors are buying influence and access, things which ordinary Americans are pretty well excluded from today. If you live in any major state, you have as much chance of talking to your Senator as you have talking to the President: zero.

The American intelligence establishment now consists of at least 16 agencies. Only recently a glimmer of information about its budget was revealed. It’s now at least $80 billion a year. Only a decade ago, CIA was typically said to cost $30 billion.

That dwarfs everything else on the planet, just as today America’s military spending exceeds the total of all other nations on earth combined. What are they doing with that colossal amount? What is the long term effect of such immense power, especially when combined with economic vulnerabilities?

Every phone call and e-mail in America is recorded and run through super-computers. The same for Britain or Canada. The FBI has the authority to go to public libraries and check what people are reading. You can be excluded from flying by the mere adding of your name to a list, and there is almost no way to remove it. Privacy has been invaded as almost never before.

Eisenhower warned of the Military-Industrial Complex, and it has been a growing problem in a free society for decades, but today its threat has reached a new order of magnitude.

Now we have a set of super economic problems facing this top-heavy power structure. It is not at all clear that its responses will be favorable to the world. Rather, the reverse is very much likely.

We know what Lord Acton said of power. Never was there a greater test of his observation than what we see in America today.

“It will start a civil war in America in my opinion because the middle class is going to be wiped out in the coming dollar collapse.

“The anger and resentment expressed by the Tea Party people will be a drop in the ocean.”

The US middle class – at least the large, more modest portion of it – has been effectively in decline for decades. Real wages have steadily fallen.

America’s immense boom after WW II was based on all its competitors being prostrate and on its factories having only just become gigantic to serve a huge military. But one by one, the competitors have returned and new ones have emerged.

The myth of American economic magic spun during the 1940-50s is beginning to dissolve – what American politicians love to call “the American Dream.” The rude fact is that America is not really very competitive in many economic activities, and nothing is harder than coming down from the kind of high Americans have long been on.

People were able to offset this reality by such adjustments as both husband and wife working and moving to cheaper houses in the suburbs.

But these patches are pretty well exhausted.

Further, a tremendously important economic issue not discussed here is the future climb in energy prices once the economic downturn is over. We will see oil at well over $100/barrel again.

The growth of China and India mean nothing but immense increases in the demand for energy, as well as other vital commodities.

All those poor lower middle-class Americans out in the suburbs are going to find their adaptation no longer works.

When oil a while back temporarily reached nearly $150/barrel briefly, we saw the beginnings of a revolution in America. Large car sales crashed, and large cars – pick-up trucks and SUVs are essential parts of the suburban life formula.

When such prices are sustained, people will be dumping their sprawling suburban homes which require a great deal of energy to heat and cool and to reach from work.

America’s most ferocious home growth for years has been in the American South West, but those homes require large amounts of energy to cool through semi-desert climates.

America’s military spending too has been a terrible investment. No economic activity is more wasteful than building expensive hardware in huge quantities basically to rust. And its very existence is a constant lure to its use in wars that add even more waste.





I just want to know what else has Obama done since day one other than compromise?

All of his policies for two years have been compromises, some quite shabby ones in my view, notably his expanding the war in Afghanistan, his health-care monstrosity, and his surrender to Israel on his early demand for genuine peace efforts.

The truth is that this election is one more demonstration that Americans simply cannot govern themselves rationally. Indeed, it provides evidence that American democracy should be on the list of endangered species. It was a huge bought-and-paid-for operation, costing billions, leaving contributors privately glowing and chuckling about their success in getting what they wanted while leaving ordinary people thinking they have actually done something for themselves.

Much of the American electorate is gullible and poorly informed with no critical press left, and they respond to empty slogans and deluges of meaningless advertising. They respond to people like the leader of the silly Tea Party or Sarah Palin who are no more informed or helpful than Jimmy Swaggert or Rex Humbard would be.

The Republican who will become Speaker of the House actually cried in front of the cameras, a pathetic performance. His crying wasn’t about anything of substance or compassion, it was about his achieving personal success. Jimmy Swaggert puts on the same act when he’s passing the collection plate. This is how a great country governs itself?

The Supreme Court gave a decision on campaign funding that is genuinely dangerous, and this campaign shows just why. Ignorant rhetoric prevailed, and genuine public discontent was channeled into directions where it can not possibly shake the nation’s establishment.

I am disappointed in Obama, although I never expected huge changes, but I am even more disappointed in America falling for tired rhetoric and giving no clear thought to the future.

Sarah Palin, the Tea Party – it’s all been done before. They represent nothing but a series of big feel-good meeting by political evangelists moving their tent crusades across the countryside, themselves paid handsomely for their efforts, the whole effort generously paid for by interests whose objectives they do not even understand.

How many times in my lifetime have I heard the ridiculous pseudo-radical expression “We’re taking back the country!” rehashed? Well, in this election, it was the forces of wealth and militarism who took the country back from the threat of widespread popular discontent.

Of course, the taxes needed in America are now out of the question. Taxes are un-American, even when you are literally swimming in debt.

Never mind buckling down to hard work and sacrifice. Never mind recognizing the needs of the future. “You can have it all, and have it now because you are an American!” is the message embraced.

Stupid, surely, and on a grand scale.

“The People of America are now back in control of their Congress, it is no longer controlled by special interest groups with hidden agendas.

It was funny watching the Dictator being humbled by the People. Obama will learn he has no power at all. It was a great day when FREEDOM came.

I wonder how the turn out was . I bet it was way over 90% of US voters!”

That is an unbelievably uninformed comment, but it does nicely demonstrate what the election represents: slogans with no content and complete lack of genuine information.

Actually not only was the turnout not high, it is a different pool of people to those who vote in presidential elections, as it always is for mid-terms.

The Dictator?

Well, using that term is pretty much a confession by the writer to an adolescent mentality or just plain paranoia.

By the way, the good old American people lost control of their Congress ages ago to the moneyed lot who pay the campaign bills.

One fact is certain, this was the most expensive election ever done.

Corporate and special interest money poured into this election as never before thanks to an idiotic, anti-democratic ruling by the Supreme Court about campaign funding.

The moron Tea Party itself was funded by the billionaire Koch brothers. It is anything but a grassroots movement.




There are two basic kinds of stupidity, Mr Harnden.

There is the original sense of the word, meaning a lack of intelligence.

There is no reason to suppose that the frequency distribution of IQs in America is much different to that anywhere else.

So, in that sense, yes, Americans are not stupid.

But the word has at least one other basic meaning, and that pertains to the holding of beliefs or views which appear to thoughtful people to have been devised by those who are stupid because their full implications are destructive.

America, having spent countless billions of dollars on two pointless wars and having caused the world financial crunch through a lack of any financial discipline in their laws, the last a reflection of the “I want it all and I want it now” attitude which dominates the society, is, very much, in this second sense characterized fairly as stupid.

Millions of lives disrupted all over the Western world because Americans insisted on buying their three-car garage homes with no down payments and with the legal ability to walk away from the mortgage when the price fell after purchase.

An entire generation of people in Iraq having their lives ruined with no jobs and even still many with no clean water or dependable electricity. A million dead, two or three million refugees, and countless cripples – all to no good purpose? Now that must be regarded as extremely stupid.

And how will America pay for a great deal of this destruction and havoc? Certainly not by reaching into its pockets for additional taxes.

My God, taxes are un-American. No, America will exploit its unique position as having the world’s main reserve currency. It will inflate and default on its obligations to billions of people, just as it did after the equally pointless war in Vietnam, and just as it did in the financial crisis.

Now a man of extremely mediocre intelligence was responsible for a great deal of this, and today we have a woman, not even of mediocre intelligence, barking at podiums, being paid millions, and being talked about as a candidate for the presidency.

That surely reflects a kind of profound stupidity.

I am disappointed in Obama, although I never expected huge changes, but I am even more disappointed in America falling for the same tired rhetoric and giving no clear thought to the future.

Sarah Palin, the Tea Party – it’s all been done before. Its nothing but a big feel-good meeting by political evangelists moving their tent crusades across the countryside.

Never mind, buckling down to hard work and sacrifice. Never mind recognizing the needs of the future. “You can have it all, and have it now!” is the message embraced.

Stupid, surely, and on a grand scale.




Sorry, Kate, you only show how uninformed you are.

Rape is the common experience of prisons everywhere.

If you want to dig into the facts, rather than making meaningless comments, you will find men are raped regularly in British prisons, those especially holding the hard criminals.

In the United States, rape is the unspoken part of the sentence.

The establishment has always used the fear around that fact to intimidate prisoners rather than working to solve the problem.

But I’m sure you don’t really care to get at the facts because your article is intended as just one more piece of propaganda to demonize Iran.





One does not like to read such clear statements of prejudice as those quoted for Goddard, but this article completely misses important perspective.

In the arts and creative fields, extreme temperaments and eccentric views are perhaps more common than not.

Richard Wagner, the great composer, was an extreme bigot, but we still honor his music.

American poet Ezra Pound was also an extreme bigot, and his poetry is still read.

Winston Churchill in the course of his long career said some truly hateful things about other groups.

Martin Luther, translator of the Bible and religious revolutionary, wrote things as vicious as anyone in history, but his name is honored in countless churches.

Abraham Lincoln – yes, the great liberator – had a low opinion of blacks.

And just so Thomas Jefferson, author of the first draft of the Declaration of Independence.

What are we to say of great figures like Sergei Eisenstein or Dmitri Shostakovitch who worked dutifully under Stalin, murderer of millions?

We even make heroes of some figures whose hatreds we’ve forgotten: one such was Sir Thomas More, a man who actually fiercely enjoyed burning alive those who did not agree with his views.

The list is almost endless.

Goddard was a great director. I do not see how honoring the body of his work says anything about his prejudiced views.