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Monthly Archives: February 2011


 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY A YOUNG WOMAN NAMED ALAINA PODMOROW IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

Alaina,

I’m sure you are a idealistic and well-intentioned young woman, but the hard truth is that what you write is not well informed.

The world is so full of injustice that injustice is far easier to find than justice.

And just one of those many injustices is the treatment of women in so very many parts of the world.

There is nothing special about Afghanistan in this regard.

The talk of women in Afghanistan was a stroke of propaganda by George Bush, and sadly so many in the world have bought into it – as you have – because, of course, there is some truth in it, but all good propaganda has truth in it to make it more effective.

The issue around women has been used as trick to gain sympathy for American troops busy killing people around the clock, including many women both in Afghanistan and Pakistan with their terrible bombing.

The truth is that you cannot change a people’s old ways and customs until the conditions that formed them are solved.

In Afghanistan, there is extreme poverty, and people live hardscrabble lives in the mountains and deserts, and they are filled with ancient superstitions. You cannot just butt your way in and tell them how they should be living and what their customs should be.

Imagine someone going to 15th century Spain – the Spain of Ferdinand and Isabella, monarchs who created the Inquisition – and telling people that girls should be sent to school, and that nuns shouldn’t wear habits, and that young women should be able to go out on their own, and that wives shouldn’t be locked in iron chastity belts for years when their men go off to war. It is preposterous, and anyone attempting it would likely find himself fighting a duel or simply be stabbed in the back.

I picked Spain, but pretty much the same could be said of Italy, France, or indeed England.

As a country’s economy grows and flourishes over many years, old superstitions and prejudices begin to melt away. Everything in society gradually changes, including the status of women, and that is what has happened in all advanced countries.

But that has not happened in Afghanistan yet, and in a lot of other places.

If the United States, when it invaded Afghanistan (killing how many women and children? You will never know) had wanted to genuinely help, it would have dropped dollar bills, not bombs, to make lives better.

There are more than billion women in the world under oppressive conditions. We don’t, and we can’t interfere in every country involved. It’s impossible. So what is special about the roughly 15 million women of Afghanistan? Nothing.

Did you know that in India they have “bride burning” for unacceptable wives? Did you know poor peasants there marry off their 12 year old daughters to rich old men who are attracted to them and offer the girl’s family a bribe? And when the old husband dies, perhaps at an age no older than you, his wife does not get to keep all his wealth? And she is banned from marrying ever again and must go the rest of her life in ugly clothes, only eating certain foods?

In Pakistan, they have “honor killings” of young women suspected of infidelity by members of their own families.

Did you know that in Mexico women are brutally murdered by the hundreds, their bodies left lying in the desert like so much trash?

Did you know that in Thailand poor families often sell young girls, no older than you and often younger, to horrible men who offer them to sex tourists?

Did you know that the United States killed about a million and a half women, and many children, in its lunatic crusade in Vietnam? It killed another maybe half a million women in Iraq during its invasion. Or that in ten years of terrible American blockade before the invasion, tens of thousand children perished in Iraq?

What do you think is the condition of women’s lives in Gaza where they have endured more than three years of illegal blockade, allowing them only just-above-starvation level food stuff?

Did you know that an ultra-orthodox woman in Israel cannot divorce her husband even if he beats her, and that if he chooses to divorces her, he gets to keep her children? She is left without meaningful status.

I could make a very long list of these horrors, but my point is made, there is nothing special about the women of Afghanistan, as you have incorrectly been told.

So dedicate yourself, as we all should, to helping women everywhere, but not by invading someone’s country on the coattails of the United States, or anyone else, who has killed tens of thousands with its military horrors.
______________________________
From another reader:

“You can’t rely on Canadians to do the heavy lifting in Afganistan [sic]. We will leave that work, as usual, to the U.S. Hopefully they will help you.”

What a terrible comment, echoing, as it does, George Orwell.

For “heavy lifting” read mass killing.

For “We leave that work, as usual, to the U.S. .” read Canada is not in the mass murder business, with, by the way, a twinge of regret that it is not.

“Hopefully they will help you.” Oh, yes, a country threatening to go under from all its economic and financial excesses, a country which is literally burning money on bombing and needless brutality.


 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

Oh, yes, true words indeed.

But I fear they are good seed cast on barren ground.

The United States has demonstrated, time and again, that it is only capable of adjusting its governance after smashing its head into a wall, often after several times.

Its political system is a creaking wreck, a kind of man-made monster lumbering along, force-feed by special interest campaign contributions and marching to the drumbeat of outdated assumptions and truly ignorant superstitions.

Despite decades of declining real income, the American middle class remains moved by silly slogans like “the American Dream” and “America First,” much resembling the flock of some religious cult who even after being fleeced by its leaders insists the religion is true.

The United States is a plutocracy, perhaps as corrupt as France in 1788, and it is an overstretched world imperial power serving the narrow interests of its plutocrats, but always it is mouthing slogans about democracy and freedom and justice, largely dead and empty language, to its ordinary inhabitants.

People insulated from the effects of wars and bad times – the plutocrats and ruling establishment in Washington – just do not feel the impact of such terrible turns of event.

Elections only matter in the most nominal way in the United States, they are part of keeping the myths going, as we’ve seen so clearly in the case of Obama.

This bright, optimistic, and charming man took the world’s attention by storm after eight years of the rancid and hated George Bush.

But in two years what has he achieved? Almost nothing of consequence.

The wars go on. Indeed, they are now killing civilians weekly in Pakistan.

The Pentagon and the American intelligence apparatus have swollen into great wallowing beasts, consuming vast resources to no good purpose.

After a terrible financial catastrophe, what has been changed? Nothing, just countless billions given away to stimulate a temporary respite, paying for which threatens the very security and international position of the American dollar.

We see no meaningful legislation to regulate future financial excesses.

We hear not one voice speak about the painful sacrifices required to pay for all the ghastly excess of war and financial anarchy.

Do we see even one meaningful political change in the way elections are conducted and financed, something that might promise future reform? We do not.

Has anything changed, despite Obama’s early suggestion of a new policy direction, with America’s client state Israel and its terrible seemingly-endless abuse of millions?

Obama’s one big act, his health-care legislation, is an abomination, disliked by liberals and conservatives alike, an ugly ineffective costly compromise.

Has anything happened with the paranoid, democratically destructive legislation around American security, virtual police-state stuff which is unbelievably costly by every possible measure?

Nothing has changed. The election of 2008 might just as well not have taken place.

No individual, however bright and enthusiastic, can move the American establishment from its firm position of ignorance and selfishness and power.

And we all know what Lord Acton said about power.

His words apply to all power, no matter how established, even democratically-camouflaged power.
_______________________

If you want some interesting insight into the assumptions and attitudes of the American middle class, watch a few American real-estate, cable-channel television shows.

People often want three-car garages. They want granite counter tops. The want four bedrooms. They want three bathrooms. They want central air-conditioning.

They have saved no money. They are looking to finance on the basis of 100% mortgages.

And, perhaps worst of all, they are looking at subdivisions in the middle of nowhere, in Colorado or Texas or Arizona. Places which require cars for everyone and every single errand. Places which require twenty-four-hour-a-day air conditioning for major parts of the year. Places often with no long-term, dependable water resources, often genuine deserts.

Some of these shows actually deal with the results of the earlier excesses, people whose home prices have cratered, who owe huge amounts on their mortgages, people who are trying to sell ugly behemoths they can’t afford, and people who feel entitled.

Americans are entitled to walk away from homes and the loans which financed them when the value of the mortgage exceeds the value of the property, a fact not often appreciated in Canada where we honor contracts. They just hand the keys to the bank and go.

In buying homes, Americans often walk away from contracts too. That’s why in most places the signs in front of homes say they are “under contract” rather than “sold” during the interim between signing and closing. Realtors often keep showing homes “under contract” just in case. In America, for sure you do not know you have a valid sale until the little closing ceremony when money and keys are exchanged.

Another fact not always appreciated in Canada is that American home owners have long had the privilege of deducting the interest on their mortgages from their federal income tax. Yet even with this financial boost, still they cannot make a go of it, and for the simple reason that the deductibility has only encouraged still larger purchases and likely inflated prices.

Such shows tell us a great deal, exhibiting like educational films the results of America’s inability to govern itself sensibly. We see the grassroots reality of loose and chaotic government.

But when I say loose and chaotic government, I always exclude the intelligence monstrosity, the Pentagon, and America’s many and brutal police forces. Nothing loose there – just a quasi-police state taken for granted.


 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

The United States in vetoing this resolution abuses shamefully its power on the Security Council.

The rightness and the decency of this resolution are apparent to everyone except the same Israelis who do business with the likes of Mubarak or apartheid South Africa.

Also blind to its rightness and decency are the apologists for Israel who fill our media with a biased point of view on everything concerning the Middle East and who keep the American Congress sheepishly following Israel’s narrow and most selfish interests through the corrupt American system of political finance and campaign contributions.

Please ask yourself, what is Israel’s purpose in opposing such reasonable demands?

There is only one: Israel wants all of the Palestinian land and wants it without Palestinians.

There is a slow-motion process of ethnic-cleansing which has been going on before our eyes since the end of the 1967 war.

The occupation serves only to make Palestinians miserable so they want to leave.

Israel stands in contempt of dozens of past resolutions, and it treats the United Nations with contempt always and everywhere.

Indeed, America has gone to war in other places citing such reasons, yet here everything is just fine.

Yet our governments say nothing, our press says nothing, and indeed America’s government acts like this for fear of its political weakness in 2012.

Where is the justice, where is the humanity, where is the acceptance of democratic principles in any of this?

There is none.


JOHN CHUCKMAN

SERIES OF RESPONSES TO AN ARTICLE BY AUDREY MACKLIN AND LORNE WALDMAN IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

Yes, this is a very serious matter, and it works to destroy the integrity of our traditional politics.

But Harper and his band of political mediocrities, in almost everything, ape the Republican Party in the U.S.

I don’t know how many readers are aware of it, but for many years this judge-bashing was a favorite theme among Republicans: creepy politicians like Tom Delay (convicted felon), Phil Gram, and Newt (“I divorced my wife while she was dying of cancer”) Gingrich specialized in this.

It is one more way of driving wedges into our politics, changing the nature of our traditionally civil national politics into the kind of hissing and spitting that absolutely characterize America’s national politics.

One has to ask, too, why the Globe keeps publishing representatives of this Appalachian Throwback movement, giving voice to our cultural destruction, especially the nasty Tom Flanagan?
_____________________

At the very heart of this American Republican-inspired cheap political tactic is the nature of law in a democratic society.

It is virtually impossible to write any law so precisely that every single possibility and thousands of future cases will be covered to the letter, let alone doing so for the vast body of our laws.

That’s why we have judges, and why we absolutely must have judges.

And that is why when people like Minister Jason Kenney attack judges, they show no respect for law and order.

It does not take a great intellect to understand that if you undermine law and order, you undermine democracy.

There can be no true democracy without law and order.

It’s like saying you can pour concrete without a mold.

Oh, how many poor people in this world – people like those we just witnessed in Egypt – dream and pray for a society of laws and the democracy that accompanies it.

As another writer has astutely observed, Mr. Kenney is in the privileged position of being able to change the laws he doesn’t like, or at least making an honest effort to do so.

No, instead he takes the low road, the cheap tactic of a felon like Republican Tom Delay, and attacks the learned people whose necessary job is to interpret the law.

In essence, he turns the principles of the relationship between laws and democracy on their head.

Hateful stuff, absolutely, besides introducing divisiveness and vituperation into our politics.
__________________
From another reader:

“If they don’t want criticisms from Cabinet Ministers, then I strongly suggest they refrain from rendering decisions based on their left-wing political idealogy [sic].”

You, like the Minister, have not thought out the full implications of what you advocate.
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From another reader:

“While judges are rightly independent of the Executive…”

This reveals clearly the American origin of these views. Parliamentary systems do not have “an Executive branch”
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From another reader:

“Nonsense. Ministers are democratically elected – judges are not.”

Thirty percent of Canadians support Harper – his claims for democratic support are tenuous and really a technical byproduct of our system.

As long as he keeps to reasonable path, his lack of a mandate can be tolerated.

Just one of the problems you miss here is the inappropriateness of a government without a mandate doing extreme things.

It is a very important matter.
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From another reader:

“If a federal minister does not like the outcome of a court decision he has options available to him that the average critic does not. He can introduce a bill to parliament that amends the law…”

Oh, yes, exactly. What all the advocates of American-style combative divisiveness miss entirely.
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From another reader:

“When judges misrepresent the law or the wishes of the people they don`t represent democracy”

Judges do not misrepresent the law, their very job is to interpret it.

Indeed, if they misrepresent the law, they can be reversed and ultimately removed.

This kind of slur gives us a society of declining civility.

And what my friend are the “wishes of the people”?

The Minister and his boss represent the views of about thirty percent of Canadians.
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From another reader:

“Judges start out as lawyers, can a zebra change it`s stripes!”

“It’s” is the contraction for “it is.”

“Its” is the possessive you intended.

I do think, also, when you ask a question it is usual to use a question mark, not an exclamation point.

And please think about what you’ve written.

All lawyers are useless or evil?

What kind of a society would we have with no laws?

Russia.
____________________
From the same reader:

“Chuckman is a retired school teacher who over estimates his importance, and blathers out his a$$”

I think it not unfair to suggest that the author should know the words to the song before getting up to sing.

Retired school teacher?

Sorry, I am the retired chief economist for one of Canada’s largest oil companies, as he might easily have checked. I’m all over the Internet and even the Globe has a snippet of my background.

But that’s not what silly blubberers do before they blubber, is it?

No, they just type without bothering about facts. That way we can be sure it comes from the heart, or is it from some other organ, like the spleen?
__________________________
From another reader:

“There is nothing in our society that says judges are above criticisim.”

You miss the point entirely.

Judges are not above criticism, and no one claimed that.

And you offer the logical fallacy of a straw-man argument in saying so.

But when ministers of the government crititicize judges in public, they are very much doing more than the average citizen’s doing so.

They are introducing a divisive and belligerent quality into our politics, and they undoubtedly serve to diminish respect for judges and the law amongst many citizens.

That is playing with the devil for the sake of a cheap gain.
_______________________
From another reader:

“To assert elected members must quietly acquiesce to appointed persons is surely non-sensical and outright anti-democratic.”

No, you are just wrong, it is not.

The judges, if understand the matter at all, are absolutely essential to our system, and when something is necessary, it must be treated with respect.

Judges may be reversed or thrown out, and new judges may be appointed.

But when you do as Mr. Kenney has done, future appointments will only be received with less respect.

We may easily enter a pointless and destructive cycle of ever-lowering respect for law and order.

Eroding respect for the people charged with such a grave and necessary task as interpreting the law moves us down a road that is destructive of our institutions.

It is the Conservatives who make all the noise about law and order.

Yet they kick dirt at judges?

You cannot have it both ways.

Anyone who says so only demonstrates the lack of thought at work here.


JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

From another reader:

“Isreal [sic] is freely elected democracy and an ally of Canada’s. Yet, Mr. Simpson goes out of his way with every opportunity to criticize it and Canada’s support of this nation.”

How can you be a true democracy in which only people of certain ethnic/religious identity can become citizens and vote?

And where you have a small number of other kinds of people who are treated under laws very differently?

You cannot.

But even if one grants the doubtful but regularly-made claim, Israel cannot be distinguished from a tyranny when it comes to treatment of its neighbors.

You cannot be a true democracy without democratic values, and these last Israel lacks entirely.

“If he prefers facist[sic] theocracies over peacful [sic]democracies why doesn’t he just come out and say so.”

First, Israel’s nasty Ultra Orthodox rank, hands-down, with some of the worst of the world’s intolerant theocrats, and they have a huge effect on the county’s laws and customs.

Second, Israel is the one giving loyalty to people like Mubarak, not Jeffery Simpson or anyone else.

Third, Israel in so many cases behaves just like the worst tyrannies do.

Killing children by the hundred?

Blockading and starving a million and a half people?

Dropping cluster bombs on civilians?

Shooting and terrifying humanitarians on the high seas?

Making dirty deals with outfits like apartheid South Africa?

Lying, cheating, stealing and killing to get illegal nuclear weapons?

Keeping several million people in horrible abusive conditions, much like those of apartheid South Africa?

Where’s the humanity? The democratic values? The respect for human rights?

You may blubber the word “democracy,” but in this context, it is close to meaningless.
_______________________
From another reader:

“…all you and CTV news could come up with was an analogy that he made with a tooth paste tube…”

You are so very, very wrong.

The toothpaste cliché was the outstanding phrase of the speech.

One of Canada’s former ambassadors, one both to Israel and Egypt, said much the same.

It was a terrible set of words to utter at such a time.

Try all you wish, but – in the words of another immortal cliché – you will not make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.


 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

POSTED COMMENT TO A COLUMN BY SIMON HEFFER IN THE TELEGRAPH

Simon Heffer, you are right about the beauty of the older coins.

But I do think you are wrong to connect the change in aesthetic quality to decimalization.

Precisely the same observation could be made of the beauty of the coinage of the United States or a number of other countries.

United States coins of many decades ago were also often of outstanding design – buffalo nickel, Standing Liberty silver dollar, double eagle twenty-dollar gold piece, etc. – but today American coins are quite pedestrian in their looks.

The change rather reflects the debased value of coins today – i.e., they are less worth putting a lot of effort into – and also a general change in society’s aesthetic values for the worse.


JOHN CHUCKMAN

POSTED COMMENTS TO A COLUMN BY NEIL REYNOLDS IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

From another reader:

“It [the US] talked Israel into letting Hamas contest Palestinian elections.”

‘The results of which, when Hamas won, were ignored by both Israel and the US, leaving Abbas in power more than two years after his term officially ended.’

Yes, and further, Mark Shore, Israel’s secret service is well known to have helped Hamas in its early days.

It wanted an opponent for Fatah, so that we would end up with the very kind of mess we have.

I am sure in doing so, Israel never once regarded Hamas as a potential dangerous enemy, and it most definitely is not dangerous today.

The “terrorist” bit is a fraud which serves Israel’s larger purpose of keeping the Palestinians divided and politically ineffective while Israel slowly continues to absorb more of other people’s property.
__________________

A number of readers have looked at my article of some years ago, “Hiroshima, Mon Amour.”

I encourage others to do so because it convincingly puts the lie to people like Neil Reynolds and their facile, dishonest generalizations.

Since I wrote it, the assessment for the damage to Iraq has only grown. One scientifically-sound study put it at over half a million deaths, and another at about a million.

There have been more than two million refugees (that glorious bastion of democracy, the U. S., having refused to take any of them). Even today, huge numbers are unemployed and the basic services still do not operate dependably. A generation of people has no chance to make a better life in a country which once had great promise.

Quite an achievement, that.

Needless to say the U.S. has always kept quiet, except for the most innocuous remarks. It never reveals the horrors it has created, just as in the First Gulf War, the bodies of tens of thousands of poor Iraqi conscripts who were forced to sit in sand dunes while being carpet-bombed by B-52s were bulldozed into the ground. No numbers were ever given.

You’ll find the essay at:

http://chuckmanwords.wordpress.com/2009/06/01/hiroshima-mon-amour/

Readers may also enjoy:

“Favorite Contradictions and Absurdities Concerning the War in Iraq”:

http://chuckmanwords.wordpress.com/2009/05/27/favorite-contradictions-and-absurdities-concerning-war-in-iraq/


 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

Good God, here is a column delivered directly from Cloudcuckooland.

Indeed, George Bush is a war criminal.

He also was ready to sign off on any repressive measure at home that came along.

His vice-president, another war criminal and on whom he depended heavily, is surely one of blackest characters in modern American history- a man we easily imagine as a henchman for Hitler or Stalin.

Iraq was not about democracy, and truly only a badly uninformed person or a propagandist would say that it was.

I very much suspect Mr Reynolds of being the latter.

Iraq was about dumping Israel’s most implacable enemy, about dumping a former American friend who no longer followed the imperial line and had become quite an inconvenience, and, way down there on the level of the mysteries of human psychology, Iraq was about pathetic George Bush trying to outdo his always more intelligent and successful father.

What Bush did in Iraq was the equivalent of having used a nuclear weapon on civilians.

Please see my piece, Hiroshima, Mon Amour:

http://chuckmanwords.wordpress.com/2009/06/01/hiroshima-mon-amour/

Neil Reynolds, it actually is rather disgusting that someone living in the freedom and comfort of Canada could write this intellectual filth.
__________________________

From another reader:

“Canada…peopled by intellectual midgets…”

My, that certainly is testimony of high intellectual achievement on the writer’s part.

I do believe, when you call names to an entire group of people, it is called prejudice.

It certainly reflects ignorance.

And we may add further, using a pseudonym, adds cowardice to the writer’s list of illustrious qualities.
______________________
From another reader:

“Much is made of Israeli democracy.

“But Israel is only a democracy because its democracy hasn’t been challenged.

“Israelis would not contemplate submitting to an Arab majority, so Israel isn’t really a democracy at all. Its constitution is increasingly interpreted to exclude the possibility.”

Yes, but there’s even more on the issue of democracy.

One likes to believe that a genuine democracy also applies democratic principles abroad.

Yet nothing could be further from that concept than Israel’s practices.

It behaves like a muscle-bound bully towards all its neighbors and is friendly only to tyrants like Mubarak who assist its narrowly-defined interests.

We have countless examples of this anti-democratic behavior, but its ghastly behavior towards Gaza over the last four years is a breathtaking example.

Yes, Israel resembles apartheid South Africa in its “Bantustan” policies. People with sterling credentials on the subject have called Israel’s practices apartheid – Bishop Tutu, Nelson Mandela, and Jimmy Carter.

And while we’re speaking of South Africa, let no one forget Israel’s secret deals with that state concerning atomic weapons. Simply ghastly.

Israel’s apologists are addicted to name-calling when anyone points out these egregious abuses of human rights, decades and decades of them.

But is one to give up all principles, all concern for justice and fair-play for fear of being called names?

I think not. It is precisely in such matters where we can define those who love freedom and those who only mouth empty words.
________________________

The bottom line regarding Israel and democratic values is easily stated, without name-calling and citing only facts.

What kind of democracy kills 1400 people in a giant, fenced-in refugee camp, which is what Gaza is?

What kind of democracy kills between 300 and 400 hundred children as part of that horror?

What kind of democracy carefully calculates the just above-starvation level of calories and then enforces a blockade – illegal to be sure – to keep only that level of sustenance going across the border?

What kind of a democracy attacks an unarmed flotilla of humanitarians on the high seas, killing a number of them and terrifying the rest?

What kind of democracy drops countless cluster bombs in civilian areas of Southern Lebanon?

What kind of a democracy targets UN observers bravely doing their jobs and kills them?

What kind of democracy weekly steals more of the property of others in the West Bank and Jerusalem, using the contrived laws to do so?

What kind of democracy assassinates, assassinates, and assassinates – instead of talking to people?

As I’ve written before, we can only be grateful there are not more such democracies in the Middle East.


 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

I do think in Harper’s late and reluctant statement, following the great events which riveted the world’s attention, say something profound, and not very pleasant, about the man.

He eloquently quoted the platitude about not being able to put the toothpaste back in the tube.

Toothpaste?

Great God, how did those words fit this historic and rather magnificent moment?

Eighty million people toppling a dictator after thirty years of abuse, and our prime minister expresses regrets about not being able to put toothpaste back into a tube, not being able to return to the status quo ante?

What in God’s name do his mean and cringing words have to do with Canada’s historic reputation for love of freedom and justice?

Absolutely nothing.

The sense of these words only highlights what I wrote earlier.

Harper’s only focus has been on Israel’s paranoid and anti-democratic views of the matter, its desperate desire to keep a neighboring tyranny going, a tyranny that has served its narrowly-defined interests and convenience in the exercise of brutality for three decades.

Never mind what such a giant step forward in human freedom and decency means for Egypt and the world.

Harper’s statement also documents, in an excruciatingly public way, something of his rather bleak and ethically-ambiguous character.

There really is no other way to look at it.


JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

Did Ottawa drag its feet on Mubarak?

Of course it did.

Why?

Well, hasn’t our thirty-percent prime minister declared himself one of the world’s chief defenders of Israeli interests and entered the lists as a crusader against anti-Semitism, regardless of how chimerical it may be?

And never mind all the other nasty forms of prejudice and oppression in this world: that one is special and requires his personal attention.

One only has to read the articles coming from Israel and from the Israeli apologists elsewhere during the brave demonstrations in Cairo to perceive an emotional crisis over the possible disappearance of a dictator Israel has depended on closely for thirty years.

Some of the pieces are remarkably revealing in their total self-interest and even paranoia and all of them lack regard for the larger principles of human rights and democracy.

That set of facts completely explains Harper’s silence.

Harper is a highly selective advocate of human rights and democratic values.

And his behavior through a genuinely historic crisis marks another sad act in the busy work of dismantling Canada’s international reputation for fairness and decency.
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From another reader:

“Stupid title from an uneducated twit.”

Now, surely, there’s the mark of an educated man, using language like that.

I do think someone who throws names around the way this anonymous person suits them far better than Jeffery Simpson, who, in general, is one of Canada’s most perceptive and astute columnists.

We haven’t seen democracy in Egypt yet?

Well, part of the reason is Israel’s support and dependence upon a dictator like Mubarak. Its constant efforts, day and night, to prop him up and use him.

Often unsaid, but nevertheless true, is the fact that Israel has been a major drag on the flowering of democracy in the Arab world.

Everything which happens within a thousand miles of Israel must be viewed through the lens of Israel’s narrow and often paranoid interests.

Iraq, previously the most advanced country in the Arab world, was unquestionably one with its previously growing middle class on the way to developing democracy after Hussein (who just happened to be a good buddy of the same United States Israel leans on until he took a turn against American policy).

Now it remains a hopeless wreck: a million dead, countless injured, treasures destroyed, and an economy in depression for a generation. And just who is it that insisted on attacking Hussein and whose narrowly-defined interests did that assault serve?

Only Israel and its apologists in the United States.

God, look at Gaza. A genuine free election, cleaner than the election of George Bush, and what does Israel do?

Arrests members of the government, threatens the leader with assassination – no idle threat coming from Murder Incorporated – refuses to even talk, breaks innumerable international laws by breaking off mail and funds to Gaza, imposes a brutal blockade designed to starve people out, pressures its friend Mubarak to build walls, and kills unarmed humanitarians on the high seas.

My, there’s a set of responses which certainly demonstrate great respect for democracy and human rights.

The entire tone of this person’s comment, as well as its almost complete lack of logic, demonstrates exactly what I addressed in my previous comment. Israel’s apologists know almost no bounds in their demands and pleadings for Israel’s self-defined interests.

Israel can only be a normal country if it behaves like one, and it is difficult to see one act or policy which in sixty years reflects normal national behavior, including respect for neighbors, respect for laws, respect for international obligations, and respect for democratic values and human rights – this last particularly involving anyone outside the borders of Israel’s own peculiar democracy, defined, as it is, to serve only one ethnic/religious group.
_________________________
To another reader:

How can things get worse in Egypt?

They cannot.

And you repeat the historical fallacy of comparing today’s Egypt to 1978’s Iran.

For a dozen reasons, too long to list, that is completely inaccurate.


 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

Oh my, what a surprise.

People are tired of inappropriate policies and frequent flip-flops, not to mention the downright lies.

The man is pathetic.

Windmills to replace base-load electricity?

Nothing wrong with peak-load pricing as we now have, but someone with a brain would have figured out that 9:00 pm is not peak-load, and neither is 8:00 pm, his flip-flop change.

This man is seriously endangering Ontario’s energy future.

Then throwing the HST on top of his poorly considered peak-load periods for electricity prices?

And, please, people of Ontario, you should understand that future industries and business are not going to pay windmill electricity-prices. To prevent us from becoming completely uncompetitive in energy, I guarantee that McGuinty would in future shave industry prices and dump the excess, another big burden, on consumers.

What I cannot forgive McGuinty is the complete dishonesty of his last election campaign, and I am a small “l” liberal.

First, he had every ministry in the province running huge numbers of ads for the right weeks. In other words, he used the public purse to finance his campaign.

Even worse, he gave Ontario a bribe with his holiday, something costing many tens of millions of dollars to Ontario business and just thrown out, ill-considered, as a bribe for votes.

Then he has the bad taste to call it “Family Day,” a name which richly rings with right-wing Republican campaign rhetoric.

It doesn’t get much shabbier than that.

Although, I must say, McGuinty’s handling of the situation in Caledonia has been poor. No one wants someone killed, as happened under Mike Harris, but there is something between being brutal and letting chaos reign.

As for genuine green programs, McGuinty has a terrible record. Trucks packed with garbage from Toronto burning down 401 day after day for years. Toronto’s thousands of high-rises having no recycling programs worth speaking of.

The man is hopeless.


JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

“The President of Egypt has shrewdly faced down those calling for his resignation.”

No one who observes and thinks clearly is capable of writing nonsense like this.

Did you re-print a press release from Avigdor Lieberman’s Israeli Foreign Office?

Or is this a “guest” editorial by a pea-brain like Peter MacKay or Peter Kent?

“Shrewdly” is the last word to describe this off-balance man’s behavior.

He pretty much has cast the dice for a military coup.

What Mark Shore has written below is undoubtedly accurate. The U.S. has forbidden the use of its weapons against the crowd by Mubarak.

He simply must go.

The demonstrations are spreading to other parts of Egypt and strikes are now likely.

The military will softly shove Mubarak, and perhaps now his stooge appointment, out the door to one of his many properties abroad bought with stolen money.

Then there will be some decent elections over a period of time.

Dear Globe, you are making a laughing stock out of yourself with such dim-witted editorials.
_________________________

Not many hours later, Mubarak resigned.

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


JOHN CHUCKMAN

RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY GIDEON RACHMAN IN THE FINANCIAL TIMES

As far as the Hyde Park-Kenwood area you toured, Gideon, I spent about half my childhood there.

The area has many beautiful old homes and elegant apartments from the early 1900s when it was a high-end neighborhood with an ambiance not unlike West End London.

But by my day, it had fallen into a pretty sad state.

The Great Black Migrations out of the South in the 1940-50s had landed tens of thousands of non-urban, uneducated people there, and much of it had become a ghetto with the added phenomenon known as “white flight,” middle-class white people leaving quickly for other neighborhoods or suburbs.

Crime was tremendously on the upswing. People were mugged in the streets, and graffiti for gangs like the Blackstone Rangers were ominous on buildings and sidewalks. Where once – before my time – people slept on the porch or in the park on hot summer nights, no one in their right mind continued the practice, and people avoided walking in many areas alone or at night.

Few of your readers will know it, but at one point, I believe in the early 1960s, the University of Chicago seriously considered picking up and leaving its beautiful old campus and heading for the suburbs.

But it decided to stay, and the city gave it a lot of encouragement and special help to keep it there.

Women students who had to walk for evening classes were accompanied. I don’t know whether this practice still exists.

I don’t know whether it is still true, but whole side streets were fenced off with very tall fences to make movement from the worst ghetto – around 47th Street – very difficult. It was a very strange and memorable thing to turn on a side street and see it end with something like a tall drawbridge.

Police patrols too were increased, and lighting was improved.

The new confidence over some time, and a growing black middle class, gave the neighborhoods a boost over the decades. Many of the old mansions have been restored.

But despite the likes of the Obamas, there remains a heavy population of very poor and uneducated people, making it still not the kind of neighborhood you would sensibly walk around in late at night. Its beautiful parks – the work of the great landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, are still places to exercise caution in if alone or at night.


 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

Children range from sadly dull in intelligence to brilliant.

They also run from lethargic to bursting with energy.

Our public education – rooted in averages – and with both feet firmly planted in the ooze of political correctness simply does not recognize this reality.

Because we jumble them all together, many, many, and at both extremes, are not served well, indeed perhaps not served at all.

We’ve eliminated trades training, an honorable and valuable education. We do nothing in most places with fitting kids with apprenticeships nor is the practice of co-operative education at all common.

Not to speak of the often poor quality of teaching to our young – many never get a chance to optimize the talents they have.

We have gym teachers teaching math and other bizarre combinations in grade school, the place where foundations are built.

Principals busy themselves with committees and other bureaucratic rubbish, anything to get away and sound important, rather than working desperately to see that their schools function at their best.

The official curricula are often pathetic, not even written in good clear English and stuffed with pompous nonsense instead of focusing on what really matters.

There are no music or art programs nor are there decent libraries in many, many grade schools.

Many schools have few computers and few teachers who know how to use them.

If we could genuinely change our schools, there would be something interesting for every student, and no teacher could play the nasty game of not working hard to help and then promoting them out of his/her hair regardless of skills absorbed.

But we can’t, and it is the teachers’ union which keeps things as backward and frozen in time as they are.

So relax and enjoy the reality of what we have created.


 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

There is no surprise to thoughtful observers about Harper and Obama getting on.

It is only an apparent paradox, not a real one.

First, Obama has proven far more conservative than people thought, and indeed rather a political throwback of a president.

He keeps the killing machine and the secret prisons going just as the wretched Bush would have done, having upped the stakes in the pointless war in Afghanistan while initiating fairly large-scale killing of people in Pakistan, the last by remote control no less.

He also has not fought one significant battle for the things most people regard as true liberalism and democratic values.

Second, Harper simply grovels at the American alter, a worshiper of Old Glory if ever there was one, so what is the surprise at his cooperating warmly with anyone holding power there?

His entire political style and vocabulary seems to have been adopted from Republicans in Texas.

Last, it is simply inaccurate to speak of an open border.

What America wants, and Harper appears eager and ready to accommodate, is just moving the protected nature of the border to our perimeter – with Americans deciding the nature of the protection to be established there.

Hardly big thinking.

But then I suspect, Lawrence Martin, you reflect the fact, in your well-recognized role as a frequent apologist for the Liberal Party, that the unappetizing Ignatieff, former official spokesperson for the glories of American empire, is the Liberal Party’s pathetic appointed Leader, and who would doubt he is right on board with this dark business?


 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

FURTHER POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY YOSSI KLEIN HELEVI IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

It truly is time for Israel to come to its senses and live as a friendly state with its neighbors.

It very much does appear that the privileged, coddled world Israel has assumed and taken great advantage of – all at the vast expense of tens of millions of other people – is coming to an end.

Israel has demonstrated its tendency to take everything it can get away with, always asking for more, and giving nothing to anyone.

In so-called peace negotiations, it has played the world’s longest-running game of double-dealing. Most readers likely will not know that it has never been an official policy, and it still is not today, to accept a two-state solution.

It allows the naive in the world to believe otherwise, while doing everything in its power to work against the idea, whether its killing the Oslo Accords, trying to starve out the people of Gaza, or carrying on countless black operations to disrupt and destroy the lives of those it treats as enemies.

You simply cannot go on like that forever. Moreover, the situation violates the fundamental sense of fairness so many Americans have.

Up until now, that basic sense of justice has been kept quiescent by sentimental memories of Biblical Sunday School stories, constant reminders of the Holocaust of nearly three-quarters of a century ago, and pin-point work in campaign contributions by the huge Israel Lobby.

But visions of killing thousands of refugees (Gaza), the violation of property rights in Jerusalem and the West Bank, endless scenes of abuse, and the arrogant tone of Israel’s governments are awakening Americans and others to the reality of contemporary Israel.

Israel has had its own way for a ridiculously long time, never once sincerely trying to make a proper peace, yet always keeping its hand out for more American assistance ( more than $500 per year per Israeli), more American loan guarantees, more American privileges (like free trade), and more access to American weapons.

Under Bush, Israel went on an arrogant spree of murder and abuse, always hoping to drive the remaining Palestinians from their homes.

It has threatened virtually every neighbor in the Middle East, attacking most of them at one time or another.

But it has for the most part been the same from the beginning. Whatever original documents you examine which are generally credited with legitimizing Israel (Sykes-Picot Agreement, Balfour Declaration, and U.N. Resolutions) – regardless of the question of whether such authorities had any legal right to dispose of other people’s property – we find the idea of a Palestine Territory roughly equally divided between two states and Jerusalem shared.

But we do not see that today. Israel controls most of what was Palestine and works tirelessly to drive out the millions in Gaza and in the West Bank.

Mubarak has always cooperated in matters like keeping the border with Gaza closed so that his cheques from Langley, Virginia, continue flowing. He was even in the process of building a hideous steel wall that goes deep underground to prevent the tunnels which a desperate people use sometimes to relieve their misery.

He has been no friend to his own people, eighty million longing for responsible modern government, and he has been no friend to the poor Palestinians under seemingly endless oppression from Israel.

When you base international solutions on truth and honest dealing with real problems, you often get real, long-term solutions.

But Israel has lived in a fantasy world in which truths are never faced, dishonesty about democracy and human rights is the mantra, while gigantic subsidies and streams of weapons pour in from the United States to keep this Crusader garrison state going.

Israel is the most subsidized nation on earth. It receives about $500 per year in aid from the United States per citizen – more than hundreds of millions of people in this world must live on as their entire earnings.

It receives unparalleled access to the American President and its military and intelligence establishment. It has a free-trade treaty that would be the envy of scores of small countries. It receives billions in payments from Jews abroad and it has received billions in assistance from Germany in reparations for the Holocaust. It enjoys technology-sharing with the United States worth billions a year and it is given privileged access to contracts in the United States.

So subsidized is Israel that few people understand that when they pick up an Israeli tomato or Clementine or other produce, they are buying the most expensive produce in the world, all of it subsidized with “cheap” water from a very arid region, and a great deal of the precious water used hostilely diverted from Israel’s neighbors. To supply new water Israel uses desalination plants which produce some of world’s most costly water, not the kind of stuff a realistic economy uses to grow and export tomatoes.

With all its immense privileges and huge subsidies, why must Israel also demand that its neighbors live in governments of Israel’s choice, that eighty million Egyptians must live under oppression to make the 6 million Jews in Israel happy (population of 7 million is roughly 20% Arab). This is insanely unreasonable. It more than anyone is entitled to ask. It is beyond chutzpah. It is hubris, and if you know the Greek myths, you know the price of hubris.


 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

POSTED COMMENT TO A COLUMN BY JASON MYERS AND MARK MANTAIS IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

“Harmonizing” is such a pleasant, soft word.

What it really means in this context is allowing American goons into all ports and entry points in our country and allowing them a veto on how we handle our affairs.

So it’s an Orwellian use of political euphemism.

Why do I say American goons?

You’ve only to look at the Internet to find countless stories of the American border service treating people like scum.

I still vividly remember the last time I crossed the border, years ago, and watching this nasty little man with a sour face, a terrible personality, a big belly over his belt, and a gun on his hip seizing a banana from the lunch of a man crossing for the day in his car.

I heard the poor man exclaim sadly that it was part of the lunch his wife packed him, and I watched this thug in a uniform marching away with his prize seizure of a banana without an identifying sticker on it!

I later dealt with the same guard, and he was simply rude and ignorant.

Then there were the times when fire engines from Canadian border cities were crossing to assist towns on the American side but were held up for “security” concerns.

America is a paranoid land, and it produces an unusually large crop of mentally unstable people. Do we really want them controlling our borders?

I fear it’s a bit like the legends of what happens when you mistakenly let a vampire cross the threshold of your house.


 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY YOSSI KLEIN HELEVI IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

More ridiculous Israeli propaganda about the decline of Israeli’s friend, the dictator, Mubarak.

Indeed, perhaps the most ridiculous I have ever read, a totally self-absorbed piece, demonstrating a complete lack of principle concerning rights and democratic values.

America can’t be trusted?

How about Israel? No one in his or her right mind trusts Israel in anything.

Whoever, at any time, has put any trust in Israel over 60 years has ended with having his or her face walked on.

The betrayals from this rogue state are beyond counting.

Secret atomic weapons.

Theft of atomic materials.

Massive, intrusive spying, including the work of Jonathon Pollard, likely the most damaging spy in American history – a man whom Israel has a national holiday named for – not to mention the teams of spies posing as movers and art students in 2001who were close on the trail of the 9/11 perpetrators and never told American authorities.

Dealing with apartheid South Africa in atomic weapons.

Assassinations.

The 1967 War planned for the land grab we see now.

The phony set-up of Israeli commandos at Entebbe, a black operation to build Israel’s bad international image.

The two-hour attack against the USS Liberty during the 1967 War, a deliberate effort to sink a recognized American spy ship so that Israel could break its word to the U.S. and have Dayan’s armor turn around for more conquest.

The regular phony clearing of “illegal” settlements which are nothing but shacks set up by insane ultra-orthodox settlers while the regular “legal” stealing of land just continues.

The regular abuse of the passports and stealing of identities of allies like Australia or Canada for Mossad operations.

The claims of democracy in a region where Israel only embraces absolute leaders who don’t oppose its nasty work.

The claims of democracy where Israel never bothered to talk to a legitimately elected government in Gaza, indeed it illegally barged in and arrested members of the government and held back funds which weren’t theirs to hold.

Israel broke its agreements on international postal conventions by stopping deliveries to Gaza.

Turkey used to be given the odd good word by Israel: now, since Israel’s act of piracy on the high seas, killing unarmed people, every Israeli apologist blubbers about Turkey’s turning away from the West.

Israel has broken pretty well every international convention there is with its massive illegal arrests, imprisonments, and decades of torture.

Israel stands out in the world as the only nation in contempt of many, many U.N. Resolutions, far more than states which the U.S. attacked using contempt of Resolutions as an excuse.

The list could be continued, and articles like this one are gross hypocrisy, part of an endless deluge of propaganda trying to make Israel seem like a place with which we should have sympathy.

In the end, if Israel should become surrounded by antipathetic states, whose fault is it? An Israel which has never cooperated with any of its neighbors, which has never displayed anything but an “iron wall” towards them, an Israel which has attacked every neighbor that it has, and an Israel which double-dealt every friend or ally.


JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

Your editorialist shows his/her true colors here.

How on earth could things get worse in Haiti?

It isn’t possible.

At least Aristide was democratically elected, but I suppose for the Neo-con Luddite writing this rubbish that counts about as much as Hamas’s clean election in Gaza – that is, it counts for nothing when we are dealing with a leader or a party that has been demonized by the U.S. or Israel.

The U.S. demonized Aristide because Haitians weren’t stopped from trying to land in the U.S. America’s only concern about Haiti is that Haitians stay there.

If there is one thing the U.S. doesn’t want it is tens of thousands of Haitian refugees.

That is the position the writer of this editorial is dishonestly supporting.


 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

POSTED RESPONSES TO A COLUMN BY HEIDI BLAKE IN THE TELEGRAPH

What a blind piece of writing.

The only “rogue” state in the Middle East is Israel.

Israel has about 150 nuclear warheads, several delivery systems, and a working factory for fissionable material which no one is even allowed to visit.

The same Israel which keeps thousands in jail illegally, attacks every neighbor that it has, relentlessly keeps taking the land of others in an elaborate system of slow-motion ethnic-cleansing, and practices a brutal apartheid.

Now, there is indeed a genuine threat to world peace.

Instead of dealing head-on with a genuine threat to the world, Israel’s illicit nuclear weapons, this article stirs up nonsense about boogeymen, a truly irresponsible game.

What the article actually does is serve Israel’s narrow interests, removing the focus from the world’s outstanding nuclear rogue state, Israel, a state which has supported no international laws or treaties or regulations in building its terror weapons, has stolen, bribed and killed to get its weapons.
It is moreover a country which has wheeled-and-dealed in nuclear weapons technology with another rogue state in the past, South Africa.

Israel’s shadow falls on everything for a thousand miles around, and it has a withering effect on the whole region.

Israel has a direct effect on the nature of government in the region. It does not want democracies to emerge, because it is comfortable with autocrats like Mubarak who do not challenge its interests.

It never once tries to respect its neighbors, never once honestly seeks peace, and blubbers on and on about Islamists and terror and its being the region’s only democracy.

What kind of democracy is it that behaves this way? It’s a rather good thing there are no other democracies of this kind.
_____________________
From another reader:

“Israel, an island of liberal democracy on the forefront of a wild Muslim-Arab world”

Sorry, that is arrogant, unthinking, and uninformed.

Israel is by no measure a “liberal democracy.”

There is no Bill or Charter of Rights, nor can there ever be one in a state based on ethic/religious identity.

And minorities of many descriptions are treated unfairly and badly in Israel.

And you cannot have a Jewish democracy anymore than you can have an Islamic democracy or a Hindu democracy. Once you place limits on who has access in a democracy, you no longer are speaking of genuine democracy.

I just love that comic-book stuff about a “wild Muslim-Arab world,” a 21st century version of “the yellow peril.”

You could not cite a more stunning example of pure prejudice.

Unfortunately, it represents the attitude Israel works very hard to foster in the world, always hoping to so prejudice everyone’s thinking that Israel can do just as it pleases.

Well, we’ve seen – especially in the last decade – what Israel does when it does as it pleases. Cluster bombs on civilians, four hundred children killed, piracy on the high seas, a cruel blockade to starve people out, a continued brutal occupation, refusal to talk to anyone but a pathetic figure like Abbas who doesn’t even properly hold office, passing the most prejudiced and unfair laws, assassinating anyone who disagrees, refusing even to talk to a cleanly-elected government, torture, seizing the property of others, and practices which people of unqualified credentials to speak have called apartheid – Jimmy Carter, Bishop Tutu, and Nelson Mendella.

And we all know what Lord Acton said about power and absolute power.
___________________________
From another reader:

‘”Israel has about 150 nuclear warheads…”
‘Really?
‘If you have accurate data, information and not speculation, why don’t you share it with the rest of humanity…??’

Glad to share, but sorry you are not yourself better informed.

Jimmy Carter gave us that number a year or so ago.

Need I remind you that Carter was President of the United States, is a nuclear engineer, and was a commander of an American ballistic-missile submarine?

He is well connected with international leaders and intelligence sources, and many say he has the highest I.Q. of any president in the last century.

He doesn’t say things he doesn’t know.

Of course, actual pictures of some of Israel’s facilities and even a mold for fissionable material were published in the Sunday Times a few decades ago.

The man responsible for those pictures – an Israeli nuclear technician – was drugged and kidnapped by Israeli agents and spent many years in prison. He still lives under strict limits and threats.


 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

Well said, Mr. Crook.

And I think this points to an underlying truth about the government of America.

If a man as intelligent, optimistic, and hard-working as Obama can get things so wrong, who possibly can get them right?

He is being torn apart in the world’s mightiest, most unforgiving force-field,a set of demands from scores of directions, many or most irrational and unforgiving.

America’s national politics have many similarities to being caught in the gravitational pull of a black hole.

The force cannot be resisted, and there is only one possible end to the event: the object caught will be reduced to its constituent atomic particles.
_________________
From another reader:

‘Another question: Is not “productivity” even more of an empty mantra than “competitiveness”?’

Empty mantra?

Productivity is a real and measurable quantity.

Unfortunately, in the popular mind, higher productivity means just something like just working harder, but that is not at all the case.

Take the example of two small farmers, one still using a hoe and spade and the other using a new small tractor.

No matter how hard the farmer with the hoe works, he can barely compete with the farmer who has a tractor. Indeed, the tractor makes such increases in productivity that its owner will be ready to buy more land since his tractor enables him to work more without a huge increase in time and other inputs. Or he may choose to do still other work with his tractor in his time freed up.

Productivity is the ratio of the amount of output (the product) to the amount of an input – often called a factor of production, as capital or labor, but most often measured in terms of labor. The ratio may be in terms of hours or dollars or still other measures.

It is possible to substitute up to a point more labor for capital goods like tractors if you have an economy with huge surpluses of underemployed labor, as has been the case of China or India, since hiring from this pool of labor does not raise costs.

Competitiveness is a nation’s (or a company’s, within a nation) ability to produce goods and services at lower cost, so long as that cost has adequate returns to the factors used in producing it.

The adequacy of the returns to factors of course varies from country to country and industry to industry: we know interest rates, the price of capital, and wages, the price of labor, vary.

The United States remains competitive in areas of high-technology and advanced services, but in all traditional industries it is pretty well uncompetitive.

Its car industry, for example, is just holding on through various artificial barriers and helps. Within a few years, China is going to come crashing into North America with quality products at lower cost.

We have already seen the results in recent decades: American real wages have dropped for decades.

But even in areas of high-technology and advanced services, countries like China and India are catching up. They invest in education and technology, and they appear to have natural intellectual gifts making them very comfortable with computers and engineering.

China today produces the world’s fastest super-computer and is entering areas like high-speed trains or advanced aeronautical products. India, with its language gift from the British Empire, is busy in areas like finance and banking and on-line computer services.

The world does not sit still. The rate of change in technology, which over the long term, drives economic growth, is on a steep rising curve, which means the rates of change we see will only continue to come faster and with greater impacts. America in no way possesses a unique grasp of technology or of the ability to adapt to its changes.

Indeed, it could well be argued that the ancient adaptations Asian people have made to group cooperation and civility are superior qualities for a rapidly changing world. Just so, their clear superior average endowment in mathematical ability – measured on many international tests – gives them a powerful underlying advantage.

America’s postwar period of easy superiority, a time when all serious competitors were prostrate, is now over – that is, the so-called American Dream, that glib, largely meaningless political slogan, is dead.

On top of those realities, America has so over-extended itself with debt and waste on war in every direction, there is a huge price to be paid before an equilibrium can be reached to even start new competitive efforts. Obama and other American leaders are not willing to say any of this.

It’s just more of the same-old, same-old blubbering and slogans, whether from Obama or the Tea Party.