Archive for February 2011

JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: YOUNG WOMAN WRITES OF CANADA’S ROLE IN AFGHANISTAN AFTER TROOPS LEAVE – SOME WELL-MEANING NONSENSE


 

 

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.

Advertisements

JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: AMERICA’S FINANCIAL AND POLITICAL INSANITY: NO ONE SAYS WHAT NEEDS SAYING AND NO ONE DOES WHAT NEEDS DOING


 

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 COMMENT: AMERICA’S VETO OF THE U.N. RESOLUTION ADDRESSING ISRAEL’S CONSTANT CREATION OF SETTLEMENTS WHICH ARE JUST ANOTHER TERM FOR THEFT OF OTHERS’ PROPERTY


 

 

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 COMMENT: ATTACKING THE JUDGMENT OF JUDGES – MINISTER JASON KENNEY APING THE REPUBLICAN RIGHT – A CLEAR DANGER TO LAW AND ORDER AND CIVIL DEMOCRACY IN CANADA


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.
________________________
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”
________________________
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.
_______________________
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.
______________________
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.
____________________
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 COMMENT: FURTHER STILL TO JEFFREY SIMPSON ON HARPER’S REACTION TO EVENTS IN EGYPT – MORE ON HARPER’S RIDICULOUS AND NASTY TOOTHPASTE SPEECH


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 COMMENT: THE DECLINING BEAUTY OF COINS NOT OWING TO DECIMALIZATION IN BRITAIN


 

 

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 COMMENT: MORE ON NEIL REYNOLD’S NASTY PIECE OF PROPAGANDA ABOUT GEORGE BUSH AND DEMOCRACY INCLUDING SOMETHING ON HAMAS


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/