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Monthly Archives: July 2011



Sorry, Breveik fed on a lot of “mainline” writers, people like Mark Steyn.

I do wish we could counteract the flood of Islamophobia and propaganda by apologists for Israel’s brutality, but there are such people writing for every newspaper in the Western world.

It is their thinking – the kind of stuff Margaret Wente periodically expels about the Middle East – that Breveik fed on.

We should not be intimidated by these horrible events into putting all the blame on the Internet – that would be foolish and it would be wrong.

The subtler forms of prejudice and injustice we regularly receive from people like Thomas Friedman or Margaret Wente or Charles Krauthammer or Jeff Jacoby or Mark Steyn is far more dangerous than blogs on the Internet.


It comes wrapped in the robes of noted newspapers, giving it a sense of weight of authority or importance for the weak-minded or unanalytical, and some of it has far greater circulation than most things on the Internet.

There is no question that a man like Breveik respected symbols of authority – he was totally captivated by things military.

No Joe Blow on a blog would have appealed to him the way a Mark Steyn did.


A reader quotes:

“All that is required for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing. “

A wonderful quote.

But like all aphorisms, it leaves the details out – a bit like a prescription without all the ingredients.

“Doing something” is not the same thing as “doing the right thing.”

The examples of Norway and the United States are important.

Norway has chosen deliberately to keep its openness, freedoms, and rights. It struck out at no one, not even killing Breveik in capturing him.

The United States – after one terrorist incident, which by the way was actually smaller than Norway’s as a proportion of population – has gone berserk.

It has started two wars, bombed half a dozen countries, killed maybe a million people itself, passed stupid, anti-democratic laws, and turned its borders into those of a fascist state.

I’ll take the Norweigian response any day.

Your response is that of the United States or of that other place which partly inspired Breveik, the garrison state, Israel.







Dangerous fictions?

Which of the hundreds which humans adhere to should we busy ourselves with exposing?

We are chimpanzees with big brains, the big brains only making us more dangerous than our murderous ancestors.

Just as one example, we are inundated with dangerous fictions about the Middle East, and these are fictions which helped motivate Mr Breveik.

Israel murders 400 children in Gaza, but that’s hardly worth commenting upon.

The United Nations’ raporteur for Palestine, Richard Falk, distinguished academic and an American Jew, recently reported that Israel’s forces in their various attacks and punishments and raids have killed 1,335 Palestinian children since the year 2000.

I don’t see you or other columnists getting worked up over that.

And the United States started an illegal war in Iraq – mainly to wipe off the board Israel’s number-one enemy – which ended with the deaths of the best part of a million people, countless cripples, and an entire society set back for a generation.

Indeed, the killing the United States has been doing in recent years makes Mr Breveik look like a piker when it comes to murder.

How about all the crazy religious beliefs and values which motivate so much of the world into terrible injustice? Bride burning in India? Treatment of young widows in India? Selling girls to old rich men in India and Thailand and other places? The fairly routine murder of prostitutes in Mexico? The ghastly ritual murders in parts of Africa? Africa’s brutal female mutilations, 3 million a year? Africa’s common practice of men raping young girls in villages? The Catholic Church’s countless thousands of abused children in all the corners of the world?

One of the dangerous fictions at the Globe is that Doug Saunders thinks before he writes.

The other is that he has anything worth saying.


I just love one particularly obtuse comment starting with “Let’s be honest.” I love it because after those words everything said is prejudiced, ignorant, and unbalanced.

“There is an inherent incompatibility between the Western culture and the teaching of Islam (Think “slut-walk” or “gay-pride”) “Freedom” and human rights in the West are inimical to Islam.”

Things like “slut walk” are no more acceptable to the Ultra-orthodox Jews who largely determine Israel’s policies and laws.

Only a few years back in Israel, a group of women, known prostitutes, were mysteriously burned alive when their house, near an orthodox neighborhood, was burned down.

It is quite typical for Ultra-orthodox men to drive “loose women” off their streets with violence and vituperation.

And are you trying to tell me that “slut walk” would be acceptable to the millions of American Christian fundamentalists who support Israel and help distort American policies to its benefit? Or gay rights?

Try “slut walk” in strongly Catholic parts of South America? There would be some new murders of women.

Your comments are nothing but unthinking ignorance with no perspective, the same kind of prejudice which clearly motivated Breveik.

You are promoting Islamophobia.

Simply appalling.

You are the perfect example of why Doug Saunders’ column is nonsense.







The Republican behavior has a long history.

Barry Goldwater, a decent though extreme politician, back in the early 1960s was fond of saying, “…extremism in defence of liberty is no vice…”

The “Tea Party,” really just a sub-caucus of the Republican Party, adhere to that kind of simplistic declaration of faith.

One senses in such adherence more than a tinge of another American social phenomenon, the notion of the endless possibilities of self-improvement held almost as a kind of intense faith in wish fulfillment.

If I want it to be so, and wish or pray for it hard enough, it will be so.

The outer limits of these attitudes are seen in the large groups of fundamentalists who periodically sell their homes and gather in some location, waiting for the Second Coming at a predicted date – something which has happened dozens of times.

Another reflection of the phenomenon was highly visible at the turn of the century. Huge numbers of otherwise seemingly reasonable Americans predicted social collapse and stocked freeze-dried food and ammunition.

We do have millions of American fundamentalists who support Israel out of some bizarre set of thoughts from the Book of Revelations that when certain events transpire in the Mideast, Christ will return. Thus they support Israel in a kind of nihilistic embrace of death.

I believe these extreme attitudes and views have a Puritan origin. They are in the genes, not learned.

That makes them pretty well unchangeable over any reasonable time horizon.

Whenever a bizarre subgroup has leverage over a political system, owing to that system’s inadequate institutions, we get paralysis.







If you study American history, you will know that this is a nation which never, never anticipates or plans ahead.

It has gone through many crises only after having pounded its head into a wall many times.

That observation has remained true from the creation of the Constitution – after the pathetic Articles of Confederation – to entering World War II.

Another debilitating American characteristic is its obsessions. There are always obsessions, and the Tea Party is only the latest manifestation of this.

Of course, it never hurts to endlessly be told you are number one in just about everything: it becomes pretty hard for those who adopt this naive faith to believe the country is being driven over a cliff. How can that be for Number One?


A reader in the U.S. writes:

“Everyday life down here isn’t all doom”

Oh yes, indeed, everything is just fine in Dorothy’s Kansas.

Americans are busy demanding homes with three-car garages, five bedrooms, three baths, and central air out in godforsaken desert sprawls like Arizona or California or Nevada where the future water supply is non-existent.

Or building such crappy chipboard villages on valuable farmland in places like the Midwest.

Granite counter tops as far as the eye can see, and Jack-and-Jill sinks from coast to coast.

All of it requiring more roads, more cars, more fuel, more electricity generation, more maintenance with absolutely no thought for the future at all.

And so many of the buyers have saved no money for what they think they deserve.

And meanwhile you keep hundreds of bases abroad and an armed forces of over two million butting into everyone else’s business. And you cannot even run your own affairs.

You are killing civilians daily in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, in Somalia, in Yemen, and supporting Israel doing the same in Palestine.

But how very nice that your weather is beautiful.

The quoted reader demonstrates exactly why the United States is declining, declining in economics, declining in ethics, declining in democratic values.







‘Ms. Stewart’s conversation tends to sound like that. Outwardly cool, if not icy, she has clearly mastered the vocabulary of modern corporatese, all those “bottom lines” that, “at the end of the day,” will allow us to “move the yardsticks.” ‘

Ms Stewart sounds a rather tedious person, not the type needed to save the CBC from descending into meaninglessness.

“…she dated George Stroumboulopoulos…”   That, in and of itself, is proof of extremely poor taste. Stroumboulopoulos is a man of no outstanding quality save his sense of his own world-class coolness.

She has “a degree” in English Literature – the “a” undoubtedly means a BA – just as several hundred thousand others, including many marginally employed, have.

Without good quality serious talk, sound news shows, and genuine arts and culture programs, there is no point to CBC television’s existence. And right now, the only one of those that it has is the news, but even that has its weak sections.

CBC television misses many good opportunities, including not taking full advantage of documentary films and genuine cultural critics. People like the late Brian Linehan or today’s immensely talented Jesse Wente are the kind of people CBC should always use.

Now, CBC Radio has always been another matter. With people the caliber of Anna Maria Tremonti, Bill Richardson, Eleanor Wachtel, Robert Harris, Bob McDonald, Bernard St-Laurent, and a few others, we have some world-class excellence in radio – the kind of things not remotely available on commercial networks and not equaled by American NPR.

But CBC has been playing nasty games in recent years with radio too. Mediocrities like Jian Ghomeshi and his platitudes, cheap record promotions, and outbursts of poor taste are dumbing-down the radio too. And Radio Two has also substituted people who talk like teenagers sometimes rather than just entertaining authorities.

And when the excellent people I speak of retire – none of them are young – and if the trend towards intellectual mediocrity continues, CBC Radio too will largely not be worth keeping.

Who needs pop music and pop interviews with Americans on CBC when commercial radio and the Internet are replete with them?

If CBC can’t offer what commercial networks cannot – a showcase of Canada’s best and most thoughtful – it has no raison d’etre.







“What did Norway do to deserve such devastating attacks?”

Sorry, Doug Saunders, but that title represents utter stupidity.

Undoubtedly, the killer is seriously mentally unstable.

There is no protection from the occasional explosions of such people.

They are simply part of the human condition.

That way of thinking plays into the hands of all the lunatics out there looking for a political or mystical explanation of such matters, as it does to all the paranoid who would have us all live in fortresses with layer after layer of mindless security.

The guy responsible was a known right-wing, Nazi-like extremist.

He actually came to the island, armed to the teeth, dressed as a police officer.

Police have him in custody, an amazing feat when you consider what American police would have done, and they will learn what little there is to learn from this very sick man.

The horrific number of victims is owing to the nature of the island. The BBC has an aerial photo of the place. The victims were like fenced-in prey.


“Shame on us all for instinctively blaming Muslim terrorists for the tragedy. We have been too much brainwashed here in the West.”

It is absolutely the measure of how inundated we are with anti-Muslim propaganda that people would jump to this conclusion.

In fact, he is a Christian, a representative of the bloodiest religion in all of history.

How bloody has Christianity been?


“Why does the Nobel prize keep getting inserted into these articles about how peaceful Norway is?”

Yes indeed, and look at the last Nobel Peace Prize winner, Obama, a man who has now killed something on the order of 2500 innocent people in Pakistan with the modern version of Hitler’s “buzz bombs.”

All in the process of trying to murder people who are nothing but suspects, exactly the fashion of the old South American military death squads making people they don’t like disappear.

And who keeps a secret chain of CIA torture prisons going.

Who never closed Guantanamo.

Who keeps troops in Iraq.

Who keeps troops in Afghanistan.

And who is also secretly bombing in Yemen and Somalia.

Who never says a word about Israel’s horrors done to a captive people.

The Peace Prize has come to mean nothing.

Past recipients included an American war criminal, a man of great treachery with the blood of thousands on his hands, an old terrorist for the Israeli’s Irgun gang, and the father of Israel’s atomic bombs.

All of it no reflection on poor Norway, of course, but a definite indictment of trying to induce peace with prizes.







The McLuhan phenomenon must be seen in proper historical perspective.

The tweedy man and his mystical mutterings became famous at a time of great social change and unrest, a time of love-ins, LSD, communes, Mao, and many other now passé things.

I’ve always regarded McLuhan as greatly overrated, and I believe the efforts now to puff him back up into a significant figure are doomed to failure.

I met him once and I liked the tweedy quality, but the mutterings were just that, almost like the work of a bright man with a brain disability.

Yes, here and there, there is a clever, pithy observation, but they are almost like the one-liners of a stand-up comedian – they go nowhere.

I’ve heard contemporary followers of his trying to explain how prescient and advanced his thinking was, but they remain utterly unconvincing, generally themselves sinking into the same incomprehensible strings of clap-trap phrases that McLuhan entertained himself with.

I believe he was likely a professor of above-average classroom interest and the kind of curmudgeon many students were happy to experience, but I do not believe he was a man of far-sighted vision or a revolutionary thinker at all.

His eccentric sense of humor in appearing in a Woody Allen film I think almost certainly summarizes what he was doing when he was making cryptic pronouncements to groups of puzzled faces and being paid handsomely for doing so.



Good piece.

Liszt wrote some remarkable music, but a great deal of his work is overly theatrical and, yes, genuinely melodramatic.

That is why certain passages of his were favorites for the scores of things like 1930-40s serial movie thrillers.

The anecdote about his deliberately flash efforts for audiences is not unlike some other artists we have known, and not just in music. It is a way to build an audience, and a fat pocketbook.

But we can’t damn him for being what he was. I’m sure he himself knew that he could never reach the composing heights of Mozart or Beethoven or Bach, despite all his bravura performing talents.

Parts of his music strike me – a non-musical person – as unique, despite my dislike of passages which seem bombastic, and anyone who creates something unique surely has a place in artistic history.







I love it!

What an ingenious people.

Americans have no real grounds for complaint.

During America’s entire history it behaved exactly the same way.

Charles Dickens used to be furious when a new book of his was quickly and cheaply reprinted in America with no permissions and no royalties paid.

And it wasn’t just literature but whole inventions were copied from Europe.



Vikram Mulligan is the kind of young person I much admire. This is a great project to create unmistakable evidence of police abusing their own rules, and the fact should concern every citizen.

His effort will not of course be welcomed by some police and, I suspect, by the ineffective Chief Blair, but his are the kinds of effort which genuinely contribute to a better society. Our police are truly beginning to be out of control, and it is rather frightening.

Police are extremely well paid for marginally skilled people, and the privileges they have are excessive. We need to expect much more of them, and we should see police who break the rules dismissed, as they would be in so many other jobs with fewer privileges.

The danger of policing is much overstated.

The stats demonstrate that firemen actually have a considerably more dangerous job. The deaths and serious injuries for other occupations far exceed those for police, as for example for oil-rig roughnecks.

Yet we are bombarded with stuff about the dangers police face. It is a fact that in a relatively peaceful city like Toronto, most police never draw their guns.

The police abuse we saw during the G-20 was something no good policeman should be proud of.

So, too, threatening stunts like showing up at City Hall in uniform to demonstrate about wages, and that against direct orders. Everyone gets the respect they earn, and that has to be true for police at least as much as for anyone else.

Uniforms in many parts of the world are objects of fear. Let’s hope that never becomes the case in Canada.







In case anyone missed the fact, the Taleban need never have been an enemy.

None of them were involved in 9/11.

A bunch of Saudis were.

The Taleban are not the kind of people we like to see ruling anywhere in the world, but they are no worse than the members of the Northern Alliance who fought America’s ground invasion, supported by carpet bombing, and now serve as governors and officials all over Afghanistan.

And they are no worse than various fundamentalist groups which predominate in many corners of the world, including places like India or South America and great parts of Africa in their treatment of women and lack of regard for modern human rights.

The U.S. did not go to war over human rights, it never has done so in all its endless wars since WWII.  It went there for other reasons, not completely clear, and it manipulatively used the plight of women there as truth-based propaganda, the most effective kind, to win over American soccer moms for the war, and the tactic worked beautifully.

It was not even the Taleban who first invited bin Laden to find refuge in Afghanistan, but when they threw out the various warring groups of the Northern Alliance (after the Russians were gone), they allowed him to stay. The Taleban originally was an alliance for the Afghan idea of clean government, and they did end a great deal of corruption and drug business.

After 9/11, the U.S. tried to extradite bin Laden. The Taleban government asked for some evidence of his guilt, a normal procedure in extraditions everywhere in the world. The U.S. refused in a huff.

So the U.S. used its immense leverage at the UN, where half the nations are in its pay and the other half fear its wrath, to get the invasion covered by a UN resolution-fig leaf. Everyone was also motivated to go along emotionally in the wake of 9/11.

All the NATO countries serving as allies have only given relatively token efforts to the U.S. cause. A few thousand troops here and there, many not even in fighting roles, is not a serious commitment. NATO countries have always appeared to know something that the general public does not.

That is not how nations act when there is a genuine threat of world importance, as the U.S. always insists there is. But that is how nations act when avoiding American reprisals and providing it with the fig-leaf fiction of a coalition.

Yet after each horrific bombing – in which thousands of innocents have been killed over ten years – we read “the coalition forces bombed this or that.” In almost all cases, that should read, the U.S. bombed this or that. And now the “this or that” includes Pakistan in a big way. Many hundreds of civilians have been killed in what are, in every respect, high-tech versions of death-squad murders by South American juntas.

I believe the U.S. carried off this murderous enterprise almost solely for vengeance – “We gonna show ya’ll can’t do that to ‘merica!” Never underestimate the reservoir of anger and vindictiveness in America’s belly-over-the-belt, flag-waving crowd – people who are in many cases just generally angry with the way things are going in their lives.

Once in there, America really did not know what to do because the place is a snakepit of tribalism and bloodfeuds and ancient customs.

It has all been a terrible, terrible waste.

I do wish the Nobel Committee could take back its Peace Prize from the charming, intelligent man whose hands are now covered with blood.

One thing Obama has proved is how little elections matter anymore in America. Except for the lack of laughable, stupid statements, you really wouldn’t know Bush wasn’t still president.

The War Machine can work with anyone.








How many reporters has the United States killed in its invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan?

We know to a certainty that there were cases which closely resemble deliberate murder, as of certain Al Jazeerah reporters and cameramen.

The United States deliberately bombed Al Jazeerah offices in Baghdad, killing three journalists.

One might also ask how many – and there were many – journalists were murdered by juntas like that in Chile or Argentina, regimes the U. S. tolerated, supplied, and supported for years?

How many – and there have been a great many – people have been murdered by Israeli agents on the pretense that they were “militants,” nothing but a fig-leaf term for those who disagree with Israel. Has the U.S. ever called into question this savage way of treating people?

Mullen is a ridiculous hypocrite. He could care less about journalism or free speech or murder of opposition.

His shooting his mouth off in public is nothing but a way to try to put Pakistan’s government on the defensive at a time when it is finally reacting to America’s savage assassinations by means of CIA murder-squads and America’s constant bombing by the drones, a bombing which has killed literally hundreds of innocent civilians.

The United States has become little better than the world’s most heavily armed bully.


“A country cannot stand on the fence, or take positions of both extremism and counter extremism, and expect to be respected and supported.”

Truly an uninformed comment.

Pakistan is not “stand[ing] on a fence”  (you do mean sitting, don’t you – standing on a fence is pretty much an impossibility) it is reflecting its own national interests.

The United States cares about no one’s interests but its own. Full stop.

Its interests are not the world’s at large, and it is a rather foolish thing to imply they are.


“And name one country that does not promote self interest?”

I do believe that is clearly implied in my remarks.

If every country reflects its own interests, there is nothing to condemn or disparage in Pakistan, yet we have endless accusations about this or that in Pakistan, mostly the result of the CIA playing what a former senior agent once called his mighty Wurlitzer organ – that is, a set of willing or duped news outlets skillfully manipulated to create a desired impression on the public awareness.

The American view is that its own interests are the world’s interests.

Your comments tacitly assume that falsehood as truth.

The issue at hand, as you oddly put it, is an American military man making a charge about another government – something which in the first place is inappropriate under the supposed American system of the military being the servant of government and not making statements about policies or political matters.

And the military man is a gross hypocrite because he and his government have busied themselves with the murder of many, including journalists – not an unimportant consideration.

Any threat of Pakistan’s sinking into chaos – a much exaggerated notion if you understand the history of Pakistan’s military – is owing entirely to American interference.

Bush virtually threatened Musharraf into cooperation, then followed that up with pets on the head by forgiving debts and letting go of America’s firm policy opposing Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

Musharraf was a genuine Pakistani patriot, but Bush’s people turned him into a reluctant servant of American interests.

Ever since, and to a growing extent, America has interfered in Pakistan’s affairs, leaving its government looking weak in the face of bullying and violent attacks.

That is what happened in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. A neutral government, not aligned with America’s self-interested policies, was thrown into instability by massive secret bombings and incursions by American troops.

When the Prince fell, the Khmer Rouge took over. America then washed her hands of all responsibility for the horror which followed, and somewhere between 800,000 and 1.5 million souls perished

When the victorious government of Vietnam – victorious against America’s long intervention in which it killed perhaps 3 million people – interceded to stop the horror (and people today often forget or do not know this) America just idiotically sat back, saying, “See, we told you, the domino theory is true.”.

It is repeating the same stupidity in Pakistan.

Anywhere on the globe, a government seen by its people as allowing another government decide whether hundreds of its own citizens should die in assassinations would be viewed with contempt.









This is the second trashiest thing Margaret Wente has ever written, and that is saying something because she occupies herself with a great deal of trash.

Apart from insulting brave humanitarians, the underlying theme here is a quieter re-statement of the idiotic assertion that the very selectivity of people’s interest in Israel-Palestine displays their anti-Semitism.

People should show more concern about North Korea? First, North Korea is an absolute government. Israel claims to be a democracy, and with that word “democracy” goes a lot of associated concepts about human rights and ethical government, else it wouldn’t be a claim worth making, but we plainly see endless abuse and refusal to honor human rights by Israel.

Ms Wente truly ought to register as a lobbyist for Israel.

Readers may be interested in the following.

Ms Wente’s all-time great piece of idiocy critiqued at:

A critique of the moral-trash theme of selectivity buried in her current piece:


“Nor should the people of Gaza be punished for the incompetency of its leaders as Ms Wente so kindly suggests.”

True, except that no one has ever demonstrated Hamas as incompetent.

Quite the opposite appears to be the case, Hamas has held its people together after more than three years of brutal, illegal blockade and that after Israel’s inhuman assault called Operation Cast Lead, in which Israel killed 400 children and a thousand others.

I’d say Hamas has shown the qualities of British leadership during The Blitz.



“Could someone quote a reliable source giving the total of Israelis killed by Hamas rockets or incursions? In the game of numbers, numbers matter.”

The rockets – overgrown homemade fireworks – have never been proven to have killed anyone, although while Israel was wading through the blood of 400 children and a thousand others in Operation Cast Lead, it claimed that about ten Israelis were killed, a claim like so many from Israel never substantiated.

By the way, just one fact is most telling here. The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur for Palestine, Richard Falk, a distinguished American academic and a Jew, only recently published the fact that Israeli forces have killed 1,335 Palestinian children since the year 2000 in their various incursions, suppressions, and brutal policing.

Now, there is a real record of achievement of which to be proud, Ms Wente.

The stuff of democracy to be sure.



“And it is interesting that in UK, France and Canada you have Conservative governments and then all of them including US Congress and Senate creating special committees to fight anti-Semitism.”

“…anyone even tangentially linked to it can kiss his/her career or life good-bye.”

Apologists for Israel use the term “anti-Semitism” in exactly the way the late Senator Joe McCarthy used “communist” or “pinko.”

The technique is called demonizing and intimidating your opponent, and the intention is to stop people from even considering your opponent’s arguments and observations.

Never mind dealing with the facts and arguments of your opponent, just label him as something filthy.

Israel does this with the word “terrorist” also.

It labels people who oppose its ghastly policies as “terrorists,” conveniently forgetting that Israel itself was founded in the terror of the Irgun and Stern and other murderous gangs and forgetting, too, that there is only one source of regular assassination, illegal arrest, property theft, and constant abuse of 4 million people in the Middle East, and that   source is Israel.

We have all heard of narco-states, but I believe today it is right to describe Israel as a mafia-state, a state where the government itself murders whoever it thinks worth murdering and steals whatever it thinks worth stealing.


“Meanwhile the country is bounded on all sides by hostile nations, much larger than itself.”

Who chose this troubled location?

Who established their beach head, as it were, with the horrors of the Irgun and Stern gangs?

Who has attacked every neighbor it has, and some two or three times?

Who keeps 4 million people in a state of abuse and a lack of any rights at all?


“Since ceded to the Israels after WWII, a land of mostly wandering shepherds has been transformed into a modern, vibrant, productive land.”

First, no one ceded that land to Israelis.

What authority did the British Empire have giving away the homes and farms of others?

Transformed into a vibrant, productive land?

First, Israel is the most subsidized entity on earth.

It has received hundreds of billions – yes, billions – in subsidies from the United States and others.

The U.S. government gives about $500 per year per Jewish citizen of Israel, and it has done so for decades.

The U.S. also gives priceless technical assistance and access to intelligence and cooperative projects of every description.

Germany has poured tens of billions in reparations into Israel, rightly so in view of past crimes, but still an immense subsidy.

American Jewish organizations have also poured tens of billions into Israel.

Israeli Americans enjoy the special privilege of dual citizenship, something the United States is averse to for others, and this means they can freely travel back and forth transferring technology and other huge benefits.

Its economy only flourishes because half of its trade is with the United States, enjoying as it does a privileged free-trade agreement that would be the envy of any small country.

Its agriculture only flourishes because it diverts the water of others in this dry region.

Then what does it do with the stolen, precious water?

It grows things like tomatoes and clementines to send all the way to the United States, a place with tons of capacity to grow such things.

The real economic cost of this agricultural nonsense is immense. The replacement cost of water in Israel is reflected in its desalination plants (also subsidized) which produce some of the world’s most costly water.










Accountability in news?

You must be kidding.

Rupert Murdoch’s key to success in all his news operations was to understand what an utterly false and sentimental idea that has become and to offer the globs of raw meat that attracts viewers and readers.

Fox News is the perfect example. It contains almost no genuine news. It frequently plays the role of obvious propaganda outlet. It has no accountability. And it laughs at the ideas of scrupulousness and ethics.

Even though News of the World and Fox are the absolute trash pits of the news world, respectable papers like the Globe and Mail are not so far removed from them as your editors would like to think.

You play games with readers all the time, from the selection of pictures used to the titling of stories.

And the editorials on the editorial page have become a disgrace of hypocrisy and half-baked notions.

Your pretensions in political endorsements are laughable, and you should be ashamed of even still carrying on that hack tradition intended to buy you favor from politicians.

That grand old lady of pomposity, The New York Times, has a long record of dishonesty and favortism. On more than one occasion, it has kept CIA plants working in its newsroom, writing deliberately manipulated stuff, and gone after certain people in its pages based on secret tips from that most disreputable of all police agencies, the FBI. On many matters, e.g. Israeli affairs, it makes no pretense of showing fairness in its stories. It also pompously pretends to endorse things only serving its own interests.

The late I.F. Stone, an extraordinary and genuine journalist, warned people again and again that you must read between the lines and that you must compare what other sources say.

Unfortunately, a good part of the population only has the patience, and perhaps the understanding, to absorb headlines and sound bites. Your industry, and it is an industry not a cause, knows that and continues to play on it.

The truth is that most journalists are either heavily prejudiced or bent or not very competent or lazy. Stories are often rewritten press releases. The idea of being “embedded” with the military is utterly dishonest and contemptible.

The ideal of the journalist dedicated to the truth almost does not exist. A few people in my lifetime – like the late I.F. Stone, Semour Hersh, Anthony Summers, Robert Fisk, and a few others – did or do what journalists are supposed to do.








A brilliantly thought out set of points, quite comprehensive and clearly reflecting a wealth of experience.

It is greatly to be regretted if they are ignored.

I remember the days when the TTC was often regarded as the best transit system on the continent, but that has not been true for a long time.

Mayor Miller had his fantasies based on no hard-headed thinking, and Mayor Ford appears to have slogans based on no facts.


The TTC has been doing foolish things for a good many years now.

My favorite example is the Spadina Subway.

When built and for many, many years, this was a subway line to nowhere, to an old abandoned military base.

The trains ran greatly under capacity for years and years. Efficiency in terms of cost per passenger was dreadful.

At the same time, the Yonge line had pretty much reached capacity, and it would have been by far the best choice to double capacity on the Yonge line.

Subways, by definition, are suitable only for high-capacity routes. They are the most expensive form of transit.

TTC’s abandonment of fare zones many years ago was a very foolish idea. The London Underground fares reflect distance as do bus fares.

TTC had it right nearly half a century ago. With amalgamation and urban sprawl, we’ve demanded the TTC run all kinds of bus routes to nowhere, the costs per passenger mile being ridiculous. Meanwhile, vital routes in the city suffer from inadequate service.

As with any other form of investment, you cannot have everything unless you have a limitless amount of revenue, something certainly not true of the TTC. Whenever you build a large new capital project, you must take account not just of the costs of creating it but of the long-run costs of maintaining it.

We have made the mistake of looking only at initial investment costs too many times in many of our facilities, but the TTC stands out.

That’s why things begin to look crummy and why there are regular breakdowns.



Comment from another reader:

“A noble tribute to a great man.”

Washington was considerably less than a great man.

His appointment as commander of the revolt in Massachusetts by the Continental Congress effectively ended the authentic little bit of popular revolution in the whole American Revolution.

When Washington assumed command, he wrote letters describing the patriots as rabble and “scum.”

Washington was an extremely arrogant and aristocratic man, known in Virginia and at the continental Congress for his aloofness and coldness.

He had worked hard for a regular command as a British officer, he was a great admirer of the British Army, and he was crushingly disappointed when he didn’t get it after his service in the Seven Years War.

Having no great inheritance, he set himself to making a fortune – he became one of the richest men in the Colonies. He achieved that in two ways.

One was through land speculation, on a grand scale in the very territories, further west, that the British government was trying conscientiously to keep for the native people. He would claim and survey land and then sell parcels to new immigrants. He had a reputation as a sharp trader who left more than a few with a sour feeling over their business.

Two, and most importantly, he married the richest woman in the Colonies, the widow Martha Custis, who had been left a good fortune. Theirs was not a warm and loving relationship, but kind of a cordial business deal.

As a former colonial temporary officer for the British Army during the Seven Years War, Washington felt entitled to design his own colonial’s uniform to wear in attending the Continental Congress, advertising as it were his potential services as an officer if they should be needed. It was a slightly ridiculous display, but Washington was totally in love with military life and would serve where someone would use him.

When he rode into Massachusetts and took command of the militias no one there actually had given him, he instituted flogging and hanging of troops for disobeying the strict new rules he laid down in the British tradition, and these were men who had volunteered, not to be under Washington but to serve against British occupation.

Washington was a terrible general, losing virtually every battle in which he was engaged, winning only one clear, minor victory and another minor half-victory. The revolt succeeded not because of Washington but because first, the British were mostly half-hearted about the whole thing, and second, something little recognized by Americans, because of the French.

The two decisive victories would not have happened without the French, the first at Saratoga, a huge surprise for the British owing to the immense effort the French had made to arm Washington’s army, and two, owing to the remarkable generalship of Benedict Arnold on the American side.

Arnold, of course, was to be cast as Judas Iscariot in the official myths of the American Civic Religion. He was an immensely more talented general than Washington, and Washington, being jealous, actually worked to hold him back in promotion, which was why Arnold eventually went over to the British.

The context of being called “a traitor” is very important to understand in the American revolt, and few Americans do understand it. It has been observed that about one-third of colonists supported the revolt, about one-third opposed it (Loyalists), and about one-third were totally indifferent to the “revolution.”

A French aristocrat who came over to take a commission – a common practice for well-heeled adventurers from Europe, much as Washington’s own background with the British Army  – remarked that there was more enthusiasm for the American revolt in the cafes of Paris than he observed in America.

So the so-called revolution was never a popular uprising beyond the brief local experience of those in Massachusetts who had volunteered to oppose the occupying British.

And why had the British occupied Boston? Because Americans refused to pay their taxes, taxes raised by the way mainly to pay the immense costs of the Seven Year War (aka, The French and Indian War) from which Americans greatly benefited by getting the French out of the Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys.

Not wanting to pay tax remains a recognizable trait to this day in America.

The other decisive victory was Yorktown, a battle which ended the war, but Yorktown would never have happened without the French. It was the French commander who pushed for taking advantage of the opportunity. Washington foolishly wanted to attack New York, an almost guaranteed losing proposition. It was local French commanders and experts who guided the battle, and it was French ships that blocked a British escape by sea. It was also French weapons used and French loans feeding the American troops.

Upon surrendering his command later, Washington, who always made a big deal about serving those years for no pay, submitted his expenses to the Continental Congress. Washington was a canny businessman, even if a poor general, and his contract was for no pay but all expenses, the kind of deal any defense contractor today would love having.

He submitted a bill for over 400,000 dollars, an immense amount in that day. Washington kept count of every bottle of wine he drank or served his guests, and his table was always bountifully supplied with luxuries even at Valley Forge while the common soldiers suffered terribly, and Washington demanded for every cent of it back.

He got it because the Congress was so relieved with eventual success and because he was a wealthy and influential member of the compact of families then running things.

His poor soldiers never even received all their back pay. Eventually they were given script which many sold at huge discounts to the face value because they could not wait so long for their little bit of money, that canny old Washington being one of the dealers in buying it up and eventually profiting handsomely.

The French never received any genuine gratitude for their efforts, and Washington went so far as to turn his back on poor old Tom Paine, author of influential pamphlets during the revolution, when he was thrown into prison and threatened with being guillotined during the French Revolution. Washington wouldn’t lift a finger to help him.

The French never received their generous loans back, and to this day while knowing a name or two such as Lafayette, most Americans do not understand it was the French who actually won the war.



The genuine issue is not ex-pats as this piece by Ignatieff would have us believe.

Indeed, the claim is a pretty putrid way to excuse your own failings.

It is self-damning when you think about it: “Gee, I didn’t do anything wrong, I was just this wonderful cosmopolitan guy attacked by horrid little people!”

Please, the unexamined life is not worth living, and Ignatieff surely has not spent five minutes examining his own, else he would never write such tripe.

You cannot, anywhere in the world, expect to return from a great long period abroad and assume leadership of a great national party almost immediately.

The very idea is preposterous.

In politics, you earn your credentials, a thoroughly appropriate demand for what is the art of the practical.

Ignatieff spent no time earning his “creds.”

And, really, and I say this as a genuinely (small “l”) liberal-minded person, Ignatieff displayed pure arrogance in thinking he could do otherwise.

And, with this column, he is only demonstrating again that he “just does not get it.”

Pretty damning stuff for a highly educated man.


“Michael Ignatieff is a Canadian.

“In every sense of the word.”

Michael Ignatieff is a drip.

In every sense of the word.

Being a Canadian drip doesn’t make any difference.


“Mr Harper’s constant attacks on Mr Ignatieff for his time outside of Canada reflects [sic] insularity and insecurity.”

A totally false argument.

Insularity is an issue only in the mind of Michael Ignatieff, busy spinning tales to comfort himself about his utter failure.

Ignatieff was an incompetent politician. Full stop.

He also, as one reader has correctly remarked, proved to have an unappealing personality.

Writers often have unpleasant or underdeveloped personalities: after all, they spend most of their working hours alone with a keyboard or a tablet of paper, almost the polar opposite of what politicians do, glad-handing people as soon as they’re in high school.

He also lacked the largeness of spirit of the great Liberal prime ministers: he is a surprisingly conservative and unimaginative man, considering his education and travel.

Had it been otherwise, Harper’s nasty ads would have been ignored as background noise. After all, Canadians have not embraced Harper, a man of extreme views and unethical behavior, Canada’s first genuinely creepy leader, with a meager 39.6% mandate. They only avoided the unpleasant and incompetent and almost buffoonish Ignatieff.

Ignatieff has none of the fierce intelligence and drive of a Trudeau and none of the ineffable charm of a Chretien.

He showed no judgment, time and time again, as dallying in France when Parliament was prorogued. The insiders of the party made a terrible mistake luring him back, and they soon knew it, desperately putting on silly stunts like Ignatieff’s “Ma and Pa Kettle’s Excellent Adventure Crossing Canada by Bus.”

Simply inane.


“He has principles and stood up to serve.”

God, what complete puffery.

What principles of Ignatieff’s stand out?

I fail to see any beyond the most ordinary.

Stood to serve?

What an overly-dignified description for a man’s being offered and given leadership of a great party without doing anything to earn it.


“…there is far more support for Mr Ignatieff then you want to believe.”

You are asserting nonsense in the face of those election results?

That is delusional.

And I wonder, had you heard the previous buzz among some in the party about Ignatieff?

Many observed that he trusted no one but his wife.

He tended to consult no one.

So tense had this situation become that we saw in some Wikileaks material that the American ambassador secretly commented on the bad blood between Ignatieff and Rae.

In the end, I count myself a pretty seasoned “reader” of people, and Ignatieff struck the wrong note with me immediately.

It had nothing to do with his having lived abroad. It had nothing to do with his education. It was just my reading of a politician who could not connect.

I never had any doubt he would lose and lose big.