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Monthly Archives: January 2011


 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

Please, just whose creature is Mubarak?

For thirty years he has been protected, generously supplied with aid and arms, and literally paid by the United States.

He is only one of many such people in the world’s oppressive governments who has spent much of his adult life on the CIA’s payroll.

Just look at the pictures placed on the Internet by demonstrators in Egypt, people gasping for breath in clouds of tear gas, and the canisters they have desperately picked up off the pavement are clearly marked “made in USA.”

Just as they were in places like Pinochet’s Chile or the PRI’s Mexico or the military junta’s Argentina or Marcos’s Philippines or the Shah’s Iran or, for that matter, in the Palestine territories under Israel’s brutal occupation.

The United States’ regularly blubbering about democracy and human rights has become a parody, a dark comedy played out at the expense of the lives of others. Hearing a hardboiled-egg, human-rights phony like Hillary Clinton pronounce on these profound matters is repulsive, like the words of a snake-oil salesman commenting on people whose deaths were caused by his poisonous medicine.

It is fair to say that few countries on earth are responsible for more suppression of human rights, at least abroad, than America.

I am genuinely thrilled by the heroism of the Egyptian people. It is a feeling I recall last experiencing when the poor Romanians rose against “the dracula,” Nicolae Ceauşescu, with their red, blue, and yellow flags, the center communist emblem torn out. Ceauşescu was, by the way, another useful friend of the United States, actually quite a good friend of Richard Nixon’s.

The Egyptians have so much working against them, Mubarak himself perhaps the least of dark and terrible forces. The United States, with its imperialist concerns over Israel and the Suez Canal, I am sure is working night and day to thwart the Egyptians aspirations.

And, of course, there is neighboring Israel, again a country always blubbering about democracy, which has enjoyed a long cozy relationship with this dictator as it has had with others, including apartheid South Africa. One wouldn’t be surprised were teams of Mossad killers sent out to do their dirty work on the uprising’s leadership.

The odds are hugely against the heroic Egyptians, but one cannot help but share their hopes and aspirations.

“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive
But to be young was very heaven!”

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JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

“President Obama’s great promise has been utterly wasted in policy-setting.”

Absolutely, and I have to believe he represented the last great hope of changing America’s course, Mr. Murray.

The entire planet breathed a sigh when Bush left office and this bright, charming young man entered.

But I cannot think of one area now where Obama has not disappointed, often greatly disappointed.

It does really seem that elections do not matter in the United States.

The pointless Afghan War goes on and on.

America is killing hundreds of civilians in Pakistan.

Iraq remains the mess America has made of it, millions reduced to hopeless lives for a generation.

America’s client, Israel, continues its brutal, bloody policies, never once making a genuine effort at peace, never once even acknowledging the inhumanity of its actions.

Internally, American politics are the same dog-fight they ever were. The Culture of Complaint prevails in everything, the Tea Party being just the latest change of costume for the same old play. No sense is heard anywhere on the national scene, at least from anyone of influence or even potential influence.

Sinking into old age as I am, it is exceedingly melancholy to consider the way virtually nothing in America has changed for the better since I was an angry young man over the horrors of Vietnam. American political rhetoric remains as utterly meaningless as 45 years ago.

The slaughter of innocents continues all over the globe, indeed, now is becoming computerized so that buzz-cut young men in secret rooms can play games at computer consoles, pumping their fists after sending a Hellfire missile into a home full of people.

I think it likely the only force now which will precipitate real change in America is its relative decline in the world, an unavoidable reality, which will cause many changes in attitudes and beliefs as it truly takes hold.


 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

Did readers catch the anecdote yesterday about Peter “peanut brain” MacKay meeting Arnold Schwarzenegger, out on a good will tour, in B.C.?

Peter’s public words included the praise for the fact that B.C. and California share a border.

Arnold is reported to have looked perplexed but said nothing, knowing that the states of Washington and Oregon separate California from B.C.

Pure George Bush or Sarah Palin.

God, what a thin bench of talent the Conservatives have.

This is the man we entrust to make multi-billion dollar decisions and to deal with a very smart cookie like Gates?
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The F-35 is an expensive clunker for which Canada has no need.

From the Pentagon’s point of view, Canada and Australia and others are providing a subsidy to try improving the thing.

A strong country begins with a strong economy.

It truly is the height of folly to be making a gigantic and wasteful expenditure like this at this time.

People with genuine conservative instincts – those who pay their bills and believe in balanced budgets – will agree.

The trouble is Stephen Harper is an ideologue, an ideologue of American right-wing persuasion, and not a conservative at all.
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“The bigger issue down the road is what are the aircraft choices down the road that will be competitive against the Russian T-50 PAK, the Chinese J-20, and the joint venture Russian/India 5th GEN fighters.”

That is only an issue for American Pentagon worshipers.

One thing is certain, we should not foolishly subsidize the anxieties of such people.

Even were the F-35 a good plane, which it decidedly is not, it is not needed by Canada.

We have no genuine use for it, and any modest number we could afford would be absolutely militarily ineffective.

It’s a bad idea from every point of view, unless you are a Harper who sits smiling dreamily at the base of a giant American Bald Eagle statue in his rec-room.


 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

Competitiveness and innovation are never affected by government exhortations, nor indeed are they affected by any other exhortations, including those of business schools or “inspirational” speakers.

They come from the underlying real economic and financial conditions of a country and of the world in which it functions.

One can only look at the United States’ position in the world and offer a bitter smile at Obama’s empty words.

Debts of monumental proportions in every accounting from international balances to personal finance, idiotic pointless wars, and mindless military and security expenditures – all at the same time new competitors like China, India, Brazil, and even Russia grow to new strengths.

The United States is simply not competitive in so many areas of its economy. Nor is there any reason to believe that it can become so before undergoing a great deal of painful adjustment, the kind of adjustment its government works tirelessly to avoid.

Their government ignores reality because Americans are on average surely the world’s greatest whiny babies when it comes to painful adjustments.

It is their sense of boundless entitlement, fostered by countless dumb politicians blubbering in Fourth of July speeches about the American Dream and passing laws and budgets, year after year, which are completely irresponsible.

That is simply a one-way trip to nowhere, no matter how big your economy and how great some of its past performance.

But Americans are suckers for tent preachers, in everything from new product advertising to politics and self-help gurus helping themselves to people’s pocket books, and Obama is really starting to sound like one more of a tiresome breed.

The answer, of course, is for America to shut-up and roll its sleeves up – even then there are no guarantees of the same kind of future as it has enjoyed in the past – but you never fire America’s imagination by truth and reality.

Miracles, sermons, sugar plums, and fairy stories are always in demand.


 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY STEPHEN POLLARD IN THE TELEGRAPH

“So why has the US done nothing except pressurise the Israelis over settlements for the past two years?”

That seems an extremely naive question besides being factually an inaccurate description.

The only way to get a fair peace in the Mideast is with pressure on Israel. After all, Israel literally holds all the cards, occupying the land, controlling the people, regularly stealing bits of the property of others with no effective opposition, and being militarily a Frankenstein monster compared to the Palestinians, a military monster which regularly strikes out killing and maiming large numbers.

Israel has also managed to quash every outside effort to reach peace, as with the Oslo Accords. And Obama started out right, for the first time being a little tough on Israel rather than the usual complaisant attitude.

Still, anyone viewing the last two years objectively would hardly say he has seriously pressured Israel. But, in fact, he has now turned quite around. Why?

The answer is obvious: serious local electoral troubles plus the tireless efforts of the Israeli Lobby.

That is precisely the formula which got Israel recognized as a nation in the first place.

President Truman was under tremendous political pressure in his reelection bid.

He had no intention originally of recognizing Ben-Gurion’s self-declared state. There was no good argument for doing so.

But then Truman was literally inundated by lobbyists and apologists for Israel. His life was almost made a misery by platoons of special pleaders.

So he agreed to recognize Israel, and he was reelected.

Clearly those two things do not constitute cause and effect, but money is the mother’s milk of American politics and, undoubtedly, large campaign funding pledges plus promises of press support were made between the two events.

Obama went into office with a balanced and reasonably fair attitude towards Mideast peace, the first modern president to do so.

But he too was met by a wall of pressure – influential delegation after influential delegation.

His name also became widely hated in Israel, as his assistant, Rahm Emanuel, unhappily discovered on a visit to Israel with his family.

At the same time, his reelection prospects have turned around dramatically owing to the ongoing poor economy in the United States and to Obama’s widespread perception as an elitist serving the interests of bankers and corporations.

So now he has quietly backed off all of his original Mideast positions.

He has also made some dramatic efforts, in light of his new political weakness, to placate Israelis and American Jews – e.g., signing a ten-year arms gift agreement with Israel, supplying Israel with some new weapons technology, and offering Netanyahu a ridiculously extravagant bribe for a few months of cessation of settlements.

Obama’s getting ready to run as a less-than-heroic figure, and he needs all the help he can secure, so he has abandoned any pretence of fairness or the much-required pressure on Israel for a fair peace.


 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

POSTED RESPONSES TO AN EDITORIAL IN THE TELEGRAPH

“How should we respond to his warning? Ignore it because he made mistakes in Iraq and therefore nothing he says can be trusted? His analysis of Iran is based on far more reliable information than was available about Saddam’s Iraq.”

Sorry, but this piece is not just incorrect, it seems to me to be dishonest.

Made mistakes in Iraq?

How is that anything but dishonest? There were no mistakes, there was only a long and twisted and deliberate effort to deceive, and Blair works hard at it still.

You did not have to be a senior member of a government before the Iraq invasion to know that Bush, and his hopeless acolyte, Blair, were not telling the truth.

The facts were there for a critical mind to sort before the invasion. Solid information from past and current weapons inspectors, leaks from foreign intelligence, the testimony of an émigré Iraqi nuclear scientist, and the views of some heads of state – there was a mountain of legitimate information out there to put the lie to George and Tony.

And there was just the basic history at the time: context is always critical for understanding any situation. The first Bush’s invasion decimated Iraq, much more so than we were ever told, and then we had a decade of bombing, plotting, blockades, and the starvation of Iraqi children.

During all that extended horror, the phony right-wing think tanks in the United States never stopped the lobbying and speeches and publishing papers for the overthrow of Hussein, the very people George Junior hung around with and later made advisors in his criminal government.

His analysis of Iran is based on far more reliable information than was available about Saddam’s Iraq?

How can you write that with a straight face? First, Blair’s access to information can only be less than it was. Two, the general understanding of what is happening in Iran is demonstrably bad, less because Iran is a closed society – it is not – but Israel and its apologists and lobbyists conduct a non-stop crusade of misunderstanding, black information, and blind pressure. Newspapers like the Telegraph cooperate in this effort with editorials like this one.

We have already been told by the best intelligence available in the world that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program. Moreover, many of Iran’s efforts to defuse the situation created by blind international pressure, as its efforts at an agreement with Brazil, point in the opposite direction of Israel’s claims. But even if they had one, they are a threat to no one. Modern Iran has attacked no one, quite unlike Israel which has attacked every neighbor that it has, some more than once.

Last, no country in the world has a record more packed with deception in nuclear matters than Israel. We know Israel has on the order of 150 warheads. We know it has several delivery systems for these weapons. We know that its nuclear weapons plant at Dimona is not open to any inspection. We know that it is not a signatory to non-proliferation while Iran is. We know that Israel lied, stole, and deceived for decades to get its weapons. We know it cooperated with apartheid South Africa, assisting them with their nuclear weapons, against all international agreements and law.

And last, we know Israel has worked for decades to make itself into a geopolitical miniature of the United States, one that strives to control events for at least a thousand miles outside its borders (whatever those are). Efforts to threaten Iran are only the latest phase of this.
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Blair has been so well paid for his criminal cooperation with Bush, it should be embarrassing. Every gift that it is in the power of the American establishment to grant, including various sinecures, has been granted.

America pays its servants well. You only have to look back at its long history of its various satraps, which includes everything from secret salaries from the CIA to various honors.

Blair even got a “peace” prize of a million dollars. Imagine, a mass killer given a peace prize?

But this prize was the gift of an Israeli foundation, so the confusion between war and peace is perhaps understandable.

Blair is an almost contemptible individual, having helped destroy a society for nothing, lied almost every day of his term of office, served the only certified moron ever to be an American president, and now enjoying unearned wealth like a Middle Eastern potentate.

His word on anything, including religion, is simply worthless.


 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE INDEPENDENT

He “regrets” the loss of life? How very civil of him.

But just what does that even mean? Is it anything along the lines of saying sorry to the mangled remains of the pedestrian you just dragged to his death under your car while you were driving drunk?

Blair truly is one of the most repulsive leaders of a major country of the last several decades.

Starting a war which ultimately killed a million people and set a society back for at least a generation ranks pretty high in my book of war crimes.

If I wanted to be flip, I could say Tony’s greatest crime was heeding George Bush, but I think that falls in the category of mental illness, not crime.

I think too we should never forget how opposed the British people were to Bush’s evil idea. London had the world’s greatest peace parade.

But Tony managed to manipulate and crawl and lie his way to dragging Britain into that pointless mass killing.

He has been richly rewarded for his dirty work – appointments, sinecures of every description – all the good things in the gift of those he doggedly served, the United States.

And just look at his pictures and hear his empty glib words now.

But isn’t that what you would expect from a supreme narcissist, indeed one bordering on a psychopath?

False charm, constant lies, endless manipulation, and attracted to killing – that is Blair.

It is simply stunning that in the twenty-first century, in an advanced democratic country, a leader can get away with what Blair has.

Indeed, he has prospered beyond anything he likely ever dreamed of, working the miracle of transmuting dead flesh into gold.

Sorry, Tony, all the prayers and masses you can muster and all the perfumes of Arabia won’t touch the stench you carry.


JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

Davidovitch seems the perfect example of Tom Flanagan’s target market.

“Harper’s reasoning was, why should Canadians be forced to pay a party who’s [sic] sole existence is based on the fact that it wants to destroy Canada.”

That is just plainly an untrue statement.

The Bloc wants a form of quasi-independence, but it has never stated that Canada’s destruction is a goal. Perhaps Davidovitch cannot grasp the subtlety of the difference? But then Flanagan himself seems rather weak in understanding this.

More importantly, while I do not have any affection for separatism, as a critical observer, I do have to say that the Bloc has sometimes played a constructive and civil role in Ottawa.

It has supported some good legislation and has, at times, acted rather statesmanlike, more than anyone can say of Harper and his gang of Alberta frat boys.

Indeed, we have the irony that the Bloc has supported legislation of Harper’s it regarded as beneficial to Quebec, a fact which the politically inept Ignatieff seems incapable of turning on Harper and his advertising lies about the support of separatists.

“I like Flanagans [sic] idea. I don’t want another red cent of my hard-earned tax dollars going to the enemy, which is the Bloc. I want the Bloc to die, and the sooner the better.”

I am not surprised Davidovitch likes Flanagan’s ideas.

They are the ideas of a narrow-minded ideologue with a dark agenda which includes decreasing the political vitality of Canada and moving it into the kind of vicious, yet meaningless, partisan politics of the United States, his home.

Davidovitch has demonstrated on these pages many times his having a similar harshly ideologue viewpoints.

“If I want my money to go to a political organization then I should be able to decide which one I want to fund by checking off a box.”

That is exactly what they do in America, and do you know what? It is completely ineffective. The funding of America’s parties at the national level much resembles what we find in third-world country; votes and candidates are pretty much for sale to the highest bidder.

Many aspects of American policy – a good example being the almost insane support for Israel with its rude injection into daily national political life, something Harper has already tried to copy to the extent his limited mandate allows – reflect only special-interest funding.

The George Bushes, the Sarah Palins, the Newt Gingriches, and the Tom Delays – comprising a rogues’ gallery of nightmare politicians – are only made possible by America’s lamentable, twisted system of campaign funding.

The leader of the Bloc seems almost a cultured gentleman by comparison.

And I am actually rather proud to live in a country with the tolerance and civility to permit the Bloc in Parliament, despite its inconveniences. It will fade and perhaps alter over time, but that should reflect the desires of its supporters – Canadians all – and not the high-handed thug politics we find in the United States.

Making a big issue of this relatively small matter is just one more example of Harper’s ceaseless effort to use nasty wedge issues to move Canada in the direction of East Texas politics.

And Tom Flanagan plays, if you will, Igor, the lab assistant, to Harper’s Frankenstein creature in the effort.
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From another commenter: “...when the Conservative Party is able and willing to fund itself simply through personal donations…”

Sorry, that is a meaningless and uninformed comment.

The ability of very conservative parties to finance themselves has been the history of countries everywhere. Why? Because very wealthy people and business interests, and, in some cases, even foreign governments keep them flush with cash.

You cannot have a strong democracy that way. Indeed, the very claim for today’s Conservative Party in Canada has absolutely nothing to do with democracy.

Just examine the United States in any detail, and what you find under the outer trappings of democratic government is almost an 18th century aristocratic state.

The U.S., the inventor of marketing techniques, has worked its way through a long experiment, conclusively proving that it is possible to have the trappings of democracy without the substance.

Money controls who can get a nomination, money controls whose face will dominate the airwaves, and money pays for many special tools and helps from travel to dinners and expensive special assistants and technology.

In this sense, America has made almost no democratic progress since the time of its revolution. Despite the fact that slowly, gradually most people have gained the vote since those early days – only about one-percent of a place like early Virginia had the vote, it being by no measure a democratic state – the same small percent of wealthy men pretty much control the nation’s destiny nearly two and half centuries later.

We know marketing and advertising work: we all accept that fact today in everyday life. So it should be no surprise in that it works in politics?

The best funded candidate virtually always wins. Occasionally, in this or that individual case, that may prove untrue, but in the language of science – statistics – it is absolutely true.

On average, money prevails, no matter how poor the candidates, how empty the party platforms.

Just look at the line of silly clown figures in the United States whose voices remain in our ears despite their mediocrity and lack of anything meaningful to say.

Truly, a George Bush or Sarah Palin would not be competent to be promoted to department heads in a Wal-Mart super-store

Yet I believe most people, deep down, are disturbed by the idea that our leadership and policies should be determined in this way.

Many ordinary Americans just fatalistically accept the unpleasant political realities of their society, feeling utterly inadequate to change them, just as they do in so many matters of consequence from wars to oppressive legislation like the Patriot Act.

Let’s not have Canada follow that terrible pattern, which, when all is said and done, is precisely what the Tom Flanagans and Stephen Harpers want. They are truly secret embracers of privilege and an almost Nietzschean belief in the right of “supermen” to govern.


JOHN CHUCKMAN

POSTED RESPONSE TO COLUMN BY CHARLES BURTON IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

Charles Burton, parts of this piece are less than insightful.

“Mr. Hu, while the public face of the Chinese regime, faces challenges from his military and security apparatus, from opposing factions within the Communist Party and from powerful regional and business interests.”

“The other is that Mr. Hu cannot make commitments to the West because he lacks the means to assure they are kept.”

Both those statements and more could be made about Obama. Indeed, the same observations may be even more true of an American president.

So few observers realize how weak – weak that is except in command of the military – the office of the American president is, that it was designed to be that way, and that there is a long record of failed opportunities in international affairs owing to that weakness.

But your last statement is a solid one:

“As for Canada, burgeoning Chinese realities cannot be accommodated by our current “one size fits all” approach to foreign relations. Our relations with China deserve a China-based approach that draws on a more comprehensive “whole of government approach,” and a separate government unit to more effectively co-ordinate Canada’s forward-looking engagement with China.”

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‘”China responds to these demands with………”

‘This statement summarizes the whole problem with the West. They demand. They want others to comply. How patronizing.

‘I don’t see the West responding to any of China’s demands. I don’t see China making demands. Period.’

Yes, Mr Burton’s piece is extremely one-sided, largely failing to make any point worth making.

Over recent decades, I think it fair to call China, judging solely by its behavior, one of the world’s best behaved states.

The corollary to that proposition, again based solely upon its behavior, is that the United States has been one of the world’s worst behaved states.

Always demanding. Always pontificating. Always pointing fingers. Always ready to break out into self-righteousness. Always secretly pressuring even its friends.

And always, always starting wars, which in just a few decades, have killed millions.

My God, China looks good by that standard, no matter what other limits it may have.


 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

“No mercy for a tyrant who showed none”

Oh, I see, you mean Baby Doc.

My mind had leapt, on first reading that, to visions of war criminals like George Bush and Tony Blair.

Had the writer of these extremely sanctimonious and almost darkly comical words even considered for one moment how Baby Doc and his father, Papa Doc, managed to run a reign of terror for so very long (from 1957 to 1986)?

The United States was always in quiet compliance with these men, especially the father.

It could have ended the terror in very short order, had it chosen to do so, but it did not chose to do so for a very good reason: they both served American interests. One suspects they were both on the CIA’s secret payroll too, a common enough situation for many of the world’s less pleasant villains, always providing they support American aims.

And has it occurred to the chest-beating silly person who wrote this editorial how Baby Doc even returned for this organized stage play?

He had no valid Haitian passport. These days especially you cannot just get on a plane and fly to another place without good documents.

The U.S. had to be party to his return, but why? It certainly was not out of any sense of righteousness. After all, the U.S. tolerated a long series of bloodthirsty tyrants from Pinochet, who killed at least 15,000 people, to the various military juntas who used to make people “disappear” by the thousands – all known to U.S. authorities but quietly supported in everything from training in the American Army’s infamous (now renamed) School of the Americas to providing military equipment and quiet payments from the CIA.

I don’t know what the U.S. intention here is, but it has absolutely nothing with the editorial writer’s chest-beating silliness.


 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

Harper’s legacy?

Clearly it will not be in anything tangible, unless you count ridiculously expensive planes bought to help subsidize his friends at the Pentagon.

Nor is it in any worthy new laws for the country, unless you count his meaningless crime reforms intended only to satisfy some blood vengeance.

It certainly will not be in foreign affairs. He is a two-trick pony there. First, do whatever the United States even hints that it wants. Two, drag Israel into our national politics as it is in the United States.

His will be the legacy of a new political culture, a severely amoral one. The rank smell of Newt Gingrich, Tom Delay or a Phil Gram clings to Harper.

This man spends virtually his entire day thinking and working towards maintaining his power, about what kind a wedge he can create that might gain him a few votes, what new cheap trick or charge – it doesn’t matter whether it’s true, it doesn’t matter whether it hurts Canada, just so it works.

He works tirelessly to block all efforts at honest investigation into serious matters – whether its troops’ ugly behavior in Afghanistan or his minister’s leaving secret papers at his biker-girlfriend’s house for weeks.

Harper has succeeded in being kind of a Teflon-coated PM, avoiding many matters he should have taken responsibility for, and he’s done this without a bit of Ronald Reagan’s charm.

That’s because his loyal base are the kind of people who think Sarah Palin is something good rather than ridiculous, and it’s because the Liberal Party cannot put an effective leader up against him, and, of course, it’s also because Quebec is simply out of national political play.

In that combination of circumstance, he’s been lucky, not skillful.

But he does have a unique skill set in Canada’s national politics: he’s a schoolyard bully and a cheap manipulator of considerable talent.


 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

Terry Fox was a nice and a brave young man.

But calls for a museum are ridiculous.

Indeed, in a very real sense, building a museum would defeat the entire purpose of his last efforts, drawing large amounts of money to a building and staff rather than to cancer research.

A handsome, modest statue is entirely fitting, and truly all that is needed or appropriate.


 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

POSTED RESPONSE TO AN ARTICLE BY GIDEON RACHMAN IN THE FINANCIAL TIMES

“Power does not need to be a zero-sum game and nations need not fear the success of each other.”

These words of Obama’s are true, and I wish they set the tone for relations between China and the United States.

But they are not the view of the American establishment, and they are extremely unlikely to set the tone.

People of power and privilege who think about power and privilege all the time do not regard such a parvenu with open arms.

We already have had a great deal of anecdotal evidence that insiders from the Pentagon to the State Department have not adopted Obama’s words as their slogan.

I believe that America’s reaction to the rise of China is one of the greatest dangers to world peace we will see over the coming decades.

After all, if you go back and study the rise of Japan, you will see a pattern.

The United States did everything it could think of to hinder the rise of Japan. Indeed, the Japanese felt such intense pressure they did something they had never planned on doing, attacking the United States.


 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

POSTED RESPONSE TO AN ARTICLE BY MICHAEL WARREN IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

Sorry, this is a silly article.

No matter what the details Harper will use the shrill charge of “coalition.”

He has already started, actually.

Coalition shouldn’t be a charge, of course, for those who understand how parliaments and democracies work, but we are dealing with the nastiest bully in the schoolyard, and the head of the Liberal Party is as weak and ineffective an opponent as it would be possible to find.

A genuine leader in opposition should hurl the lies right back in Harper’s face, but our pathetic Ignatieff isn’t tough, and, surprisingly, he just isn’t as smart as the world used to credit him from books. He’s a weak voice in the wilderness.

Just look, Harper has already started bring in the Bloc and separatism into his stupid blubbering about coalitions.

A real opposition would put a right-back-in-your-teeth ad citing all the successful legislation and changes Harper has done with the help of the Bloc.

There are always enough stupid voters out there to be influenced by trash. Just look at Sarah Palin, a woman who should be a clerk at a WalMart, making millions out of suckers.

Or look at George Bush with his eight years of stupidity and gross lies.

Harper is the same kind of politician, the worst example perhaps we have ever had on the national scene. He’s introduced a kind of filthy, irrational politics we’ve not seen before.

You can’t fight that with truth or rationality, because there is only one truth for Harper: what can I do to throw some mud, wreck some gears, gain a few votes – doesn’t matter about the truth, just so it works.


 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

Well said, Jeffery Simpson.

I believe there is an important contemporary political phenomenon with conservatives few have carefully observed.

As you say, fiscal conservatism has been dead for decades.

Both Reagan and Bush were big, big – truly reckless – spenders.

Yet they always were reluctant to pay the bills for their spending, typically cutting taxes again and again.

Not paying your bills is a fundamental violation of traditional conservative views and ethics, the one part of conservative philosophy I have always regarded well.

So what is a contemporary conservative?

A politician who tries to buy votes with tax cuts. Long ago, conservatives would say that liberal politician tried to buy votes with big, new programs. The conservatives finally hit upon a counter strategy of buying votes with tax cuts.

Tax cuts had the additional advantages of crippling the government’s ability to grow and creating a temporary Keynesian stimulus to the economy.

It has been an effective cheap trick, especially in the United States where hatred of the “fed’rah” government is bred in the bone.

And again, as you say, the one area where there are never cuts, only increases, is in so-called defense (so-called because just ask yourself, when was the last time the United States launched a war to defend itself?). This part of conservatism has applied primarily to the United States, a nation that regards itself as democratic yet continually behaves as a rather arrogant world imperial power.

Indeed, many Americans through a long and complex process of indoctrination Mussolini would have admired – in everything from marching bands, pledges, football homecomings, flags on porches, speeches, songs, social pressures of every description, plus the presence of the military everywhere including recruiters in every campus and high school – almost regard the very meaning of their country as a grotesquely-enlarged cartoon eagle, with its talons out, ready to strike.

And for so many young Americans of humble origin and limited prospects, the military is the key to a paid education, their part of the cheap political slogan, the “American Dream.” Plus a sense of worth, unavailable in McJobs, in a place which so exalts uniforms.

The only way you keep that whole thing rolling forward is with more spending and, truly, more wars – completely against the attitudes of most of the Founding Fathers who were generally traditional conservatives and afraid of standing armies.

So mindless support of the military-industrial complex – thank you, President Eisenhower, the last right-thinking Republican – has become a fundamental part of American conservatism.

Only recently, with the intense influence of the United States in Alberta and thereby on Stephen Harper do we see a bit of this poisonous philosophy coming to Canada.

Of course, the great game American conservatives have devised has within it the seeds of its own destruction.

Much as the former Soviet Union always contained the seeds of its own destruction – immense inefficiencies and endless spending on the unproductive military and security establishment.

The United States is unquestionably stuck on a downward path towards losing its imperial status with vast economic and fiscal inefficiencies and unbelievable spending on a military which never creates anything but waste and destruction.

While the United States remains frozen, much like the proverbial deer in the headlights, countries like China, India, Brazil, and even Russia are making genuine progress as efficient competitors on a grand scale.
____________________________

“And this is why there’s a Tea Party movement spreading across North America. Less taxes, less government spending.”

Sorry, the Tea Party is nothing but more of the same old, same old.

There is nothing new in it, whatsoever.

There have been many versions of the same thing, including the “contract with America” of that pudgy old phony, Newt Gingrich.

Just look at the party’s hooking up with Sarah Palin, truly a pitifully ignorant person who understands nothing of economics or, indeed, much of anything else.

The Party is a vehicle – paid for by some wealthy people – to harness the discontent of so very many Americans who really do not understand what has happened to them.

And so many Americans are virtually trained to look for quick and easy answers, trained to respond to celebrities like Palin, and trained not to question the fundamental assumptions of their society.

America’s middle class is in an unavoidable spiral of decline. Real wages have fallen for many years. Its efforts to maintain its situation – through two people working per family and moving out to distant suburbs for cheap land – is about played out.

The world of suburban sprawl and two large cars is coming to an end with oil prices which are only going to go up long-term. And America’s lack of competitiveness in many fields only grows vis-à-vis up-and-coming states. So does its debt of every description. And so do the foolish expenses of its military-security complex.


 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

Question her tactics?

What about her intelligence, to say nothing of her sanity?
____________________________

“i’m curious to know how many of the commentin’ folk actually watched palins video from start to finish …. i’m gonna guess ….not many”

And why would they, Ian of Chicago?

We have been exposed to Sarah Palin excessively over the last couple of years.

There is simply nothing she could say on any subject worth reading or hearing.

The woman is poorly educated and marginally retarded.

And her low effective intelligence is dangerously combined with an ambition she doesn’t even understand herself.

Why keep putting yourself forward when you’ve so miserably failed at everything you’ve ever tried?

Everything, that is, with the exception of making millions of dollars from those who have more money than they know what to do with, buying tickets to rubber-chicken dinners.


 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

POSTED RESPONSE TO COLUMN BY CLIVE CROOK IN THE FINANCIAL TIMES

“Mr Chuckman, why are Canadians are so obsessed with America and Americans, studying American history to glean anything and everything that can be used to bolster long formed opinions of ‘America the Evil’ then spewing it ad naseum. If only Canadians spent 1/10 as much time worrying about what’s wrong with Canada.”

Constance P, that is a truly fatuous comment, and I note that is in the very spirit of American politics being discussed.

Did your words possess any validity, there would be no reason to analyze or criticize anything.

I do not claim to be an expert on America, but it is a subject I know rather well, having been born and having spent close to half my life in the place.

In my effort to understand the world in which I live, America is a subject about which I have read a great many books, and I have written one and am in the process of writing a second.

I do think myself qualified to make comments on the subject, quite likely somewhat more than yourself.

At any rate, ad hominem argument – yours – has been recognized for centuries as invalid logic, indeed as no argument at all.

America’s people constitute about five percent of the world’s population, and its active voters a far smaller fraction, perhaps on the order of one percent.

So when America swings its economic and military weight around in world affairs, which it does certainly day and night, it is in effect acting as an aristocracy. After all, the Communist Party of China represents about the same fraction of the Chinese population, and it is in for constant carping and criticism, especially from America.

When a small group of people so affects the lives of others, I take it to be your view that those affected aren’t supposed to say anything.

A limited view, to say the least.

That last of yours is embarrassingly revealing. What do you know about Canada and Canadians to qualify you to make such a specific comment as you do?

Your saying that only reveals the same thinking pattern of which you accuse me.

I would roughly assay the quality of your comment as coming pretty close to twenty-four karat Sarah Palin.


 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

There is only a military rivalry in American eyes.

China has been explicit in policy statements that it has no intention of pursuing America’s place at the top of the arms totem.

It really is important to remember that China spends a small fraction of what the U.S. does on arms.

Official numbers used to put it at 10% of American expenditure, but analysts have put a more realistic figure of 15%.

No matter how clever you are you cannot compete in an arms race spending roughly 15% of what the other fellow spends.

Of course, all those percentages assume American published figures are accurate, something which is almost certainly not the case.

America spends as much as the entire rest of human society on arms. It is also the world’s largest arms merchant, contributing greatly to violence in dozens of places.

What China is doing with its military is only preparing it to defend its legitimate interests. After all, it isn’t China sending warships to Chesapeake Bay or buzzing around San Francisco with spy planes.


JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

I’m not sure what else anyone could expect, Mr. Crook.

The cast of characters on the national political scene, especially those on the right, makes mighty poor material out of which to shape a civil political life.

Winning is everything, sophomoric arguments are common, and insults are basic building blocks of American politics, not to mention election fraud.

This political phenomenon is not new to America.

Perhaps many abroad have no real feeling for the history of America’s national politics.

Abraham Lincoln, now the nation’s most beloved president, was commonly called an “obscene ape” during his campaigning. Grotesque cartoons and vicious commentary played regularly on the theme.

There was an undercurrent in all that hatred of Lincoln’s having been believed to be an abolitionist. He most decidedly was not, but that mere fact didn’t stop the hate and excess of opponents just as facts do not stop the hate and excess of today.

Hatred was so intense, Lincoln went to Washington for his inauguration hiding his identity.

Andrew Jackson, as near a mad president as ever there was, fought duels, horse-whipped one politician, and threatened anyone who said anything he regarded as an insult.

Thomas Jefferson had a full-time paid hack to dig up dirt on his opponents, including the man he worked for as Secretary of State, George Washington. When the hack didn’t feel fairly treated by Jefferson, he sold his services to others, disseminating such dark facts he had discovered as Jefferson’s liaison with a teen-age slave girl, Sally Hemmings.

Look at the way the opposition treated Senator McGovern’s running mate, Senator Eggleton, a thoroughly decent man who had experienced some depression. Look at the way nasty graffiti artists treated Senator Muskie during his campaign, reducing him to public tears. Look at the words of Tom Delay – now a convicted felon – about Bill Clinton’s big trip to Africa, words dripping with hate and racism.

There are countless examples of this political insanity in America just during my lifetime. There was the idiot Republican Senator who accused the Clinton administration of running a concentration camp after the poor Cuban boy, Elian, was taken from his kidnappers and sent to a quiet place of refuge following months of being held to ransom and hearing his loving father regularly insulted by shouting voices.

And this stuff is not without real consequences, sometimes far greater than the recent shooting in Arizona. Richard Nixon made a career early on of defaming his opponents – his early election to Congress featured insults and lies toward the woman against whom he ran. Nixon accused her of being “pink down to her underwear.” His reputation as a gutter fighter was so established that President Johnson, in sending the beginnings of an army to Vietnam, was known to be motivated by political fear of being castigated for “losing Vietnam” the way “China was lost.”

The late Governor George Wallace and serious presidential candidate had a famous quote justifying his extreme actions towards desegregation: he famously said he would never be “outniggered” again after losing in an early political fight owing to his then moderation.

America is simply too young a society to have developed genuinely civilized political customs, and there is a raw quality to it that almost encourages the kind of behavior of a Sarah Palin having a cross-hair sight over a politician’s face on her web site.

The effects of this rawness are reinforced by America’s wealth because wealth enables people to publish and disseminate filth and stupidity in vast quantities. They are also reinforced by the totally dominant ethos of, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

I see little hope for any change, except after the passage of a century or so.

America’s now-certain relative decline in the world should help a bit along the way: nothing is unhealthier for manic behavior than quasi-religious faith in being number one.


 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

Sorry, but you can’t pour concrete without a mold.

There is no infrastructure of any description in Haiti.

No proper government.

No proper police.

No proper roads.

Even the land is stripped to brown rather than being green.

But it has plenty of corruption.

International donors fear funds handed over to Haiti end up in Swiss bank accounts.

What are people to do?

Take the place over and run things for a decade?
________________________

“I can’t imagine these ladies — especially Her Jeanness — getting their manicured hands dirty in the Haitian cesspit.”

A harsh comment, but I think a very apt one.

Michaelle Jean is that worst of the international set who love posing for photo ops and signing their names to letters and petitions, but who actually do nothing.

Take off your designer duds, let your coiffure go, and roll up your sleeves, Ms Jean. Let us see a few months of relentless toil in Haiti. Then we’d both know you are sincere and you would offer a powerful example.

This kind of fluff appeal resembles the multi-millionaire pop singers who offer a cheesy song for poverty or the pope speaking in his ermine and Gucci slippers about it.

Revolting, actually.

Someone has to actually do something in such situations, but clearly that someone is not Ms Jean anymore than it appears to be the government or better-off residents of Haiti.


 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

I have long held a minority position on Huckleberry Finn.

Many years ago I chose certain books to read aloud to children, and one of them was Huckleberry.

The more than two hundred repetitions of that ugly word became a serious embarrassment.

I can only imagine the problem in a classroom of black or partly black children.

I understand the accepted reason for Twain’s writing this way – that the word would lose its explosive power – but I think that the idea is just plain wrong.

Words like that one do not lose their sting with repetition.

The American black comedian, Dick Gregory, wrote a small book decades ago with that same word as its title. His stated purpose was the same one claimed for Huckleberry.

Well, it did not work, Gregory’s book is forgotten, and that word remains deeply offensive, and just so Twain’s use of the word.

Twain himself, people either forget or do not know, was a very rough character, and he used that kind of language in his daily life just as Harry Truman did decades later, a native of the same state.

Twain was also a cantankerous and often a very angry man, as we see with blinding clarity in the biographical materials just recently published after a hundred-year moratorium.

I am not totally convinced Twain’s intention was even what is claimed as his purpose, but regardless, passages of the book are excruciatingly embarrassing and counterproductive.

The very fact that there has always been this sentimental aura around Huckleberry in America is actually evidence of a great deal of institutionalized insensitivity.

The publisher of the new edition of Huckleberry has done absolutely the wrong thing: censorship is never acceptable. Huckleberry should be retired from public school curricula, retaining a place on library shelves for those who want to read it.

The idea of a boy and a runaway slave rafting down the Mississippi is a very appealing one, full of symbolism, but I do not agree with Hemingway that the book was the beginning of American literature. Moby Dick is a far more worthy candidate.


JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

“Handled carefully, merit pay for teachers might work.”

A profoundly silly statement, Gary Mason.

First, when did school boards or public schools ever handle anything carefully?

If you can cite a significant instance, you will earn a footnote in history.

Our school boards are run by teachers who no longer want to be teachers.

And who are our teachers?

Generally, they start teaching right out of teachers’ college, young people with no experience of the world, aware of none of the complexities of dealing in the real world of business.

At the grade school level, they are mostly not well educated, being generalists having taken a lot of easy-to-pass courses, specialists in nothing, and then they spend a year in that most anti-intellectual, anti-academic, and anti-real world of institutions, the teachers’ college.

The atmosphere in public schools and in school boards is one somewhere between a monastery and the post office.

Just read the language of the education establishment, and you will read, not so much the jargon that goes with any profession, but a lot of puffed-up language saying almost nothing and high-sounding euphemisms for avoiding problems or making hard decisions.

Further, there is an almost suffocating sense of cloistered society in our school bureaucracies, of “ins” and “outs” and favoritism and “hush, you musn’t say that.” It is not an atmosphere conducive to fair and open evaluation of anything.

This includes a kind of prevailing bureaucratic dishonesty. For example, the subject of bullying is talked about endlessly and expensive materials are purchased for presentations. Yet the real solution to bullying is never, never touched: that is, every teacher’s taking responsibility for the acts which occur before his or her eyes.

Another example of this institutionalized dishonesty is the effort to deal with genuine problems by inventing some new temporary nostrum rather than dealing directly with a problem which requires sleeves rolled up and hard effort. The examples are countless.

There is the fraud of Afro-centric or other forms of segregated schools as a solution to poor academic performance. Essentially, if these succeed – as measured by grades – it will be because of reduced demands and high marks for projects which are of little value to a good education, all conducted in the “safe” atmosphere of a place with no genuine scrutiny.

There is the fraud of social promotion: a way to make no extra effort for difficult students and a way to kiss your problem good-bye at the end of term.

Ontario has report cards that are almost a joke from a Monty Python skit. Pre-written, bureaucratic phrases are pasted into each kid’s report from a list. Their actual performance is not even properly graded.

Ontario has literacy tests – created and graded by teachers themselves – rather than grappling with teaching kids to read in the first place. As they exist in Ontario, and I have both read them and experienced a foreign student’s exposure to them, they are a complete fraud, accomplishing nothing.

Literacy closets – things filled with costly special-purpose, forgettable, throwaway books created just to the purpose – rather than attending to libraries and seeing that there is good literature kids will enjoy and learn from and teachers who help introduce them to it.

The teacher-librarian – a bizarre creation which is neither a qualified librarian nor a teacher with expertise in anything, but a body sitting around to fill in holes for various teachers away for one reason or another, spending their remaining hours supposedly taking care of the library. One good look at the state of these libraries will tell you how effective they are at their job.

Now, on top of all this, add the teachers’ union, defender of dead-wood, hero organization of the non-performer.

Finally, add a school system under direct political control, whose politicians are concerned only with getting re-elected and avoiding any serious conflict, no matter what their rhetoric.

So this is an environment in which conscientious, impartial evaluations of performance can occur? Only in your dreams.


 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

Merit pay for teachers is a totally unworkable idea, and it is that for many reasons.

If you genuinely embrace the concept of merit pay – that is, better-than-average pay for excellent performance – you must, for logical and economic consistency, also embrace less-than-average pay for under-performing teachers.

Only in that way is there a genuine incentive for improved performance at all levels, and only in that way is there a genuine appraisal of performance at all levels.

Yet that part of the merit-pay idea is never discussed: we hear only about extra pay for superior performance. In effect, such a one-sided system would be bribery for favored teachers.

Extra pay for supposedly superior teachers is guaranteed under current arrangements to be nothing but a giveaway of billions to no genuine effect.

And try selling the idea of full-range merit pay to the teachers’ union, the same organization which works day and night protecting the jobs of incompetent teachers almost the way the Catholic Church has protected its abusive priests.

And which of our generally spineless politicians would show the courage and tenacity for a fight with that monopoly organization? Imagine Dalton McGuinty standing up the teachers, a man who has done nothing but shovel money at them to keep his political peace?

And what is average performance? The way our public education is organized, it would be impossible to establish because teachers, once they are hired permanently, are never assessed. There are no meaningful measurements or standards.

You cannot use only student performance because some teachers are assigned to schools where families are successful and expect performance, providing encouragement and resources, while some teachers are assigned to schools where families are broken or unsuccessful, sometimes barely feeding their children and having no high expectations.

You cannot use the official curriculum as a standard against which to measure because it is pretty much a poor pile of generalities and frantic efforts to appear comprehensive rather than a specific set of measurable requirements.

Further, there is no qualified, experienced body of people to do the assessing. Once Ontario did have such people, but the concept of regular assessment died decades ago.

Moreover, our entire public education system is essentially run by teachers – perhaps its greatest source of weakness. Principals are generally just teachers who wanted out of the classroom. Superintendents and directors are just teachers again who’ve piled up lots of puff education courses – and truly there are few other kind at our colleges of education where academic standards are low.

There is no perspective in any of these officials beyond a kind of generalized public-school teacher perspective, and that gets us nowhere.

One assumes that the whole idea of merit pay is to increase the effectiveness of our schools. The only way to do that is to compete with world standards of performance, and we don’t do that with our present system. It will take far more than merit pay.


 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

In fact, Peter Kent is the perfect appointment as Environment Minister.

“Environment” is a dirty word in Harperland, the ministry little more than a plaque on a door, and the minister little more than the name on the plaque.

And dear Mr. Kent has already demonstrated what nonentity he is, truly a pathetic figure, unqualified to be a decent department head at a Wal-Mart store.

So, Harper’s appointment is a marriage made in heaven.

Soviet citizens used to grumble, “They pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work.”

Canadians now can say, Harper will pretend to assign work on the environment, and Peter will pretend he’s doing it.
__________________________

“Harper likes to have around him people who don’t question him…”

Always the way with bullies, and this prime minister is a true bully.

What a sad sack lot he has had for ministers!

The current health minister won’t even go on radio news shows to be questioned about anything. She has done some ridiculous things, and likely is too stupid to understand what an embarrassment she is.

There’s that wonderful man with the biker-gang girlfriend who left secret papers at her house for weeks.

And the wonderful gal who had to be escorted out of an airport by police after blowing a fit, who never opened her mouth without sounding like a recording tape from the Betsy Wetsy doll, and whose husband was abusing substances, the justice system, and every regulation there is for lobbying.

The new environment minister, as junior minister of nothing, practically declared Canada at war for Israel. What was he smoking? Is he competent enough to answer a doorbell?

And how else do you explain Peter MacKay?
___________________________

A note to those who regard the focus of an environment ministry as only the subject of climate change.

We have fish in the Athabasca River which resemble atomic mutants from a 1950s science fiction film.


 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

“The only scam we know of for sure is this Russian dictatorship being driven from the passenger seat by Putin. In a country where laws are made up on the fly and applied retroactively.”

A thoroughly meaningless comment.

I don’t know that Khodorkovsky is a fraudster.

But the author of this comment certainly doesn’t know that he isn’t.

I do think people with no detailed, expert knowledge have to accept the verdicts of courts, something true in every country.

What else are we to do?

Question every verdict on the planet?

Russian dictatorship?

Putin was elected. He is popular, far more popular than, say, Harper in Canada or Obama in the U.S. or Sarkozy in France.

To say anything else is simply to display ignorance.

Laws made “on the fly”?

It would be nice if people who assert stuff like that had even the slightest factual basis for their words.