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Monthly Archives: March 2012

 

 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

If this is true, why is creepy Harper pursuing the nightmare of perimeter security with the U.S.?

The column is little more than reverse-psychology Harper boosterism.
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A reader writes:
“Free trade isn’t so great when one partner is WAY bigger than the other.”

In economics we know that the smaller partner in a free-trade deal gains disproportionately compared to the larger one.

That is why all free-trade deals with the U.S. are complex: the U.S. tries to gain maximum advantage out of that known starting point.

In fact, many U.S. free trade deals are little more than enticements to small countries to sign on to voluntary American involvement and interference.

Such deals mean the U.S. only has to threaten to abrogate the treaty to hold a genuine hammer over the head of a small country.

All of the deals with places in South America and Central America are of precisely that nature.

And what has Harper done in these matters?

Dutifully run down to Central America to sign parallel agreements in keeping with American policy – these deals have all been virtually economically worthless to Canada and represent zero Canadian initiative.

I haven’t seen a sign of what Ibbitson is blubbering about.

In fact, Harper’s is the most cringing and servile government in our history with regard to America and its interests.
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“Free-trade is a myth.”

That statement is certainly true.

True free trade exists only in theory, just as the form of economic organization we call perfect competition exists only in theory.

All free-trade agreements are forms of managed trade, managed according to some negotiated set of rules.

The free trade of classical economics is beneficial to all partners, however the smaller and less sophisticated economy – the one making the greatest economic gains – has to make the largest adjustments.

That means that while the economy as a whole gains, individual regions and industries can suffer badly in the transition. Canada certainly experienced this under North American free trade.

Keenly aware of the vast size of its markets and their attraction to smaller countries, the United States never, never signs a free-trade agreement without squeezing maximum geo-political advantage out of it.

The geo-political price may in fact outweigh the economic gains to the smaller partner in the view of many citizens of the smaller country.

You do not get anything for free, and certainly not in free trade agreements.

 

 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

Mr. Ignatieff proves as dull a writer on this topic as he was a speaker in politics.

Cliches, unoriginal imagery, and uninspired establishment analysis – just about sums it up.

Speaking of parallel universes (a truly dull cliche of Ignatieff’s choosing), isn’t Ignatieff living in one himself if he thinks this contributes to anyone’s understanding?

Some of the truths in this matter include:

1) The United States and Israel wouldn’t know what to do without Assad. He’s almost a silent partner in keeping extremists quiet, just as the House of Saud is and just as Mubarak was.

2) The United States – in its typically blundering way in contemporary foreign affairs, not even understanding its own genuine long-term interests – secretly helped instigate this uprising, and Israel is supplying weapons.

3) A militant and more Islamic-focused Syria represents the same kind of idiot situation created in Libya – a long-term source of militants raging with resentment against American interference.

4) Does anyone remember the American race riots of 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, and 1992/ Police and National Guard (bayonets fixed on rifles) killed rioters by the scores in the streets of major American cities.

One can only imagine how brutally the American establishment would react to the kind of political provocation seen in Syria. America has the greatest mass of troops and weapons on the planet ready to suppress any civil disturbance.

5) And need I remind anyone of Israel’s response to the least provocation? Assad, in putting down a genuine civil disturbance, hasn’t managed to kill the number of people Israel has killed in recent years, and these were people just trying to seek relief from occupation and constant oppression.

This piece seriously raises the question of what anyone ever saw as special in Ignatieff?

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‘I will start by saying the violence and the number of dead in Iraq is a lot higher for the same period as is in Syria. Having said this I have to say the mantra of : “Assad killing his own people” is tiresome.’

Good point.

America left somewhere between a half and one million corpses in Iraq.

The inept politician writing this piece helped praise the effort.

Even today – once the Arab world’s most advanced country, well on its way to eventually graduating to more democratic government –it is an awful place to live.

There is no dependable water and electricity for many.

There are no decent jobs for an entire generation.

Depleted uranium dust is slowly poisoning thousands of kids.

And America’s brutal stupidity created at least two million refugees. Imagine two million out of a population of maybe twenty-five – a huge disruption.

And who took in those refugees?

You’d be wrong if you guessed the United States who created their plight.

You win the prize if you said Assad’s Syria.

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

Exactly.

But that is because they are not accurately called Conservatives.

Harper’s party is a Northern affiliate of the Republican Right, which also is not in any way a genuine conservative party.

It is the party of the imperial establishment, full stop.

Whatever Eisenhower’s “military-industrial complex” wants, it gets.

Whatever measures represent traditional, responsible conservatism are irrelevant.
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“conservatives are actually on point — starve the beast.
they won’t admit to it, but that is their true calling.”

Wrong.

That is what they like to pretend they are doing.

In effect, they are spending irresponsible amounts of money on new matters.

How is the F-35, a gulag of new prisons, a pointless war in Afghanistan, and a host of other measures starving anything?
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“They? They great unwashed majority that does not agree with you? They?”

How do you know the majority?

And how do you know it is unwashed?

Are you Canada’s preeminent secret pollster?

Of course you are not.

Expressions like yours are simply a display of the same kind of ignorant arrogance we see from Harper regularly.

Or from the shabby likes of Newt Gingrich.
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Harper is just a far less garrulous and amusing version of Newt Gingrich, albeit wearing a red-and-white tuque instead of being wrapped in Old Glory.

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“How about ADSCAM, where did that money go…?”

Simply pathetic.

Harper’s thugs stand in contempt of Parliament, in violation of all principles of an open society, and now in violation of our election laws.

In sum, Harper has pissed on our democratic values.

The Adscam business involved a genuine effort to preserve the country’s integrity, an effort abused by a small number.

There’s no comparison – none.

 

 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

Never has it been the mission of the NDP to “eradicate capitalism,” whatever that portentous phrase is supposed to mean.

Neil Reynolds here displays his ignorance or prejudice, and perhaps both. Certainly he presents a straw-man argument, feeble as virtually all his mental meanderings are.

The NDP is typical of the kind of social democratic parties that we’ve seen in Europe for many decades: parties committed to easing the huge disparities which just naturally arise under the powerful operations of unregulated capitalism.

Capitalism – in the likely case that Neil Reynolds doesn’t understand the meaning of the word – involves the accumulation and concentration of capital in private hands.

It is from this concentration that we get the great investments which make our society richer in material goods over the long term.

Communist societies long ago proved that you dismantle this mechanism at your peril.

But the mechanism is so ruthlessly efficient in pure economic terms that large numbers of less able competitors are left with little, including what humane people regard as basic services.

All genuine social democratic parties represent is sufficient re-distribution through taxes to pay for social programs to prevent the natural outcome of raw, unregulated capitalism which is unarguably a tendency towards Dickensian England or the two-fisted ugliness of the Mafia.

Franklin Roosevelt’s government in the United States proved, for any who care to study it, that social democratic measures can actually work to preserve the basic dynamic mechanism capitalism in times of immense stress and impending revolution.

 

 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

The dishonesty and prejudiced nature of Clifford Orwin’s thinking are highlighted with a simple thought-experiment: by his line of thought, it becomes acceptable, and indeed necessary, for a third party to attack Israel.

After all, Israel actually has illicit nuclear weapons and uninspected bomb-making facilities, is not part of anti-nuclear weapons treaties, and it has proven itself capable of the world’s worst case of nuclear weapons proliferation (the case of apartheid South Africa).

And, of course, unlike Iran, Israel has attacked every neighbor that it has, some more than once, and its leader has as his credo, not religious orthodoxy, but constant and ferocious lying.

The only reason any casual reader could give a moment’s plausibility to Orwin’s muddy and prejudiced argument is that Iran has been so demonized in our press that people respond the way they do towards a product that has been heavily and falsely advertised.

And who is responsible for the never-ending demonization? Why, apologists for Israel’s bloody excesses, people like Clifford Orwin.
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“The Jewish State still exists because of the influence of the diaspora Jews on a powerful country– the USA. So the idea that Israel is on its own is a total farce.”

Israel is in fact the most subsidized entity on earth when one considers the totality of special privileges granted it: everything from a generous free-trade treaty with America to an American guarantee of Israel’s oil supply to the sharing of secret technology and the freedom for citizens to move back and forth as dual nationals and to a $3 billion handout every year plus many more special privileges courtesy of America’s corrupt campaign-finance system and the lobby for Israel’s skill in manipulating it.

Yes indeed, Israel’s claims to independence are a farce.

What other leader of 7 million people – not even the size of many of the world’s cities – gets to shove his way into the Oval Office with regularity? And gets to discuss such sensitive topics as the use of America’s military?

And we all know what will happen in general terms should that lunatic Netanyahu attack Iran.

Iran, quite within its rights of self-defence, will hit back with missiles – and it has large numbers of accurate missiles – aimed at Israel’s cities or perhaps at Israel’s totally illegal nuclear weapons plant at Dimona.

Israel will then cry to the U.S. for help and to prevent it from having to respond with nuclear missiles.

Willy-nilly, the U.S. will be dragged into yet one more war for this nasty country that cannot get along with one of its neighbors and which indeed has attacked all of them at one time or another.

If the U.S. does attack, Iran will respond in many ways, including possibly sinking an aircraft carrier with its Sunburn supersonic missiles.

Will Russia enter the fighting? Will China?

Only dangerous idiots advise this course.

Israel tried previously to entangle the U.S. in war with its deliberate two-hour attack on the USS Liberty, a well-marked intelligence ship of which the Israelis had been advised, during the Six Day War.

When it comes to rogue states, Israel makes North Korea look positively bucolic and peaceful.

JOHN CHUCKMAN

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY DAVID BLAIR IN THE TELEGRAPH

An idiotic question.

Should Israel and the U.S. bomb a country which has attacked no one in its modern history?

A country, moreover, that every expert agency has declared is not working on an atomic weapon?

A country that is a member of international treaties and allows inspection of its sites?

Bombed by what surely rank as the most criminal and aggressive governments in the current world?

An America which has literally killed millions to no point since Vietnam?

An America which to this day is the only nation to have actually used nuclear weapons, twice, on civilians?

And bombed by Israel, a country whose leader has been characterized by two major Western presidents as a perpetual liar?

And Israel a country which week-in, week-out steals the property of others and conducts with regularity extrajudicial murders of people it does not like?

And a country which broke every rule and law there is to secretly obtain nuclear weapons?

A country which shared nuclear weapons technology with apartheid South Africa?

I believe when the question is phrased correctly, the answer is screamingly obvious.

That this kind of nonsense even appears in our papers – as it does with regularity – shows what a distorted world we live in.

The United States is God, and Israel serves as His blessed angel of vengeance.

 

 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

It seems clear that Putin commands more support than anyone else in Russia.

It is equally clear that the small number of demonstrators against Putin, undoubtedly covertly encouraged by the CIA, represents a small minority.

So why do we keep getting junk-think articles like this one from Arel Braun?

Because Putin is intelligent and capable and takes a stand on a number of international issues opposed to the official line from Washington.

As far as Russia’s painful future, Mr. Braun seems unaware that Russia has already been through the worst – a great depression and huge convulsions following the collapse of communism.

We did not hear from people like Braun then.

I believe Russia has a great future – with their resources and gifted people – and they need someone like Putin, not a drunken clown like Boris Yetsin.

The world needs multi-polar power and not a single super one like the United States. That is something in the interests of the overwhelming majority of the world’s people.

We’ve already seen the U.S. behave as a high-handed bully many times in recent years.

Apologists for Israel’s bloody excesses and irrational demands – Mr. Braun having been one of these in the past – do not agree. They want an America uber alles to keep Israel in an unchallenged position as Mideast junior partner in determining world affairs .

I cannot attribute any other understandable motive for an article like this.

Russia will become a more perfect democracy in future, but it needs to grow and become strong and build a strong middle class, and Putin is a pretty good bet for the kind of leadership needed for now.

 

 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

“… a managed democracy is not a true democracy…”

May we set that down in the Globe Book of Golden Editorial Bromides?

Even if true, it only puts Putin in the same category as many American politicians.

There is widespread election fraud in every national election in the U.S.

Several American presidents were indeed elected through vote fraud: these include John Kennedy, George Bush, and Lyndon Johnson’s rise to the Senate.

I grew up in the Chicago of the 1950s and 1960s, and vote fraud – everything from political supporters helping old folks work the new voting machines and the registration of the names of the dead off cemetery registrations to ward-heelers burning the midnight oil hitting the switches on the then-new voting machines or voiding opposition ballots by making marks with pencil lead stuck under their fingernails – was common, accepted fact – indeed, there were many jokes about it.

Indeed, in our last election in Canada, Harper’s goons began importing shabby American practices with its robo-calls – vote fraud in every sense of the term.

To expect Russia – with its absolutist history – to instantly meet high democratic standards is just nonsense or propaganda.

Please, Globe editors, when you write stuff like this, ignoring any sense of perspective in history and national affairs, you only scream to your informed readers, and you do have some informed readers, that your attitudes towards propaganda are just a little gentler than those of the old Politburo.

Russia has made remarkable progress, and rough democracy or not, most Russians wanted Putin.

That’s more than you can say for former-President Bush.

 

 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

For those who do not know, China’s military expenditures have run officially at about 10% those of the United States for years.

Even if you allow for some disguise in expenditures, it has not been more than 15% those of the United States.

In recent years the United States’ expenditures have increased at explosive rates, as the Pentagon quite literally aims to have the entire planet subject to its drones and spy satellites and new hypersonic killing machines.

The United States spends as much as the total of all the other world’s countries on the military.

The United States is the world’s greatest arms dealer, by a huge measure.

Only in recent weeks Obama – yes, Obama, that former sandal-wearing academic – announced new measures to keep America’s hold of the Eastern Pacific – a direct threat to China, courtesy of the Pentagon which now pretty much controls what an American president may or may not do.

And China sees America doing things like using its high-tech drones to assassinate people in half a dozen countries.

That is the context around China’s new expenditure, and I believe we should all be grateful that the world has a few states that will not allow America’s usurpation of authority around the globe to go unchallenged.

 

 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

It is a terrible waste of precious resources to give teachers the total package they now receive.

Their wages, considering many of them have little more than a general BA and 9 months at an academically worthless teachers’ college, are extremely high.

The next best job most of them would qualify for is as a salesperson or clerk, and that is not a sarcasm.

And we only ask them to work for less than 9 months a year, and those are comprised of short days.

We give them the most ridiculously generous days-off benefits on the planet. Paid substitutes every time they are off plus, of course, their own salaries – so each day off costs taxpayers roughly double.

They are also permitted an inordinate number of days off – 24 per short year – and many treat this allowance as almost an additional vacation time they would be foolish to miss.

“Banking” of sick days, something almost unheard of in private business, is pure abuse.

Then they get all those “professional development’ days off. They are supposed to be doing worthwhile things on those days, but in reality they amount to still more vacation.

They, unlike most comparably paid people in industry, are never expected to work one minute of overtime, at least not without being paid more.

They are responsible to virtually no one for their skill and performance levels. After being hired, they are never, never checked out by anyone. There is no such thing as a meaningful assessment of performance.

And what do we get in return? An undistinguished level of achievement for our young people which is absolutely not competitive in the world.

And our children spend roughly half a year in school each year.

The pay for performance is actually rather disgraceful.
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“That’s why teachers vote liberal.”

It has little to do with Liberals, although McGuinty has been especially grovelling towards teachers.

Conservatives have no record – none at all – of doing anything serious about the gross excesses of teachers.

Every politician is afraid of a teachers’ strike.

We really need someone ready to take one to pare the excesses down.

Once we have one, it won’t last long, and we can get back to a real world set of conditions applying to teacher employment.

Teachers would fold in short order when they found they would not be able to manage this year’s holiday in France or the payments on the BMW.

We desperately need not only budget savings but a new sense of purpose and urgency to become competitive in our public schools.

 

 

 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

Well, as with all simplistic poll questions, you get a meaningless response, but why does the Globe editorial proceed to treat the meaningless with the irrelevant?

Normal teasing and even the odd insult are not bullying, not by any sensible measure, and I’m sure that overwhelmingly that is the kind of activity showing up in the poll’s responses.

Physical abuse, mugging, and relentless abuse of a victim, however, are genuine bullying.

These have no more place in our society than assault and robbery and stalking on our streets.

We hire at great cost police and a vast justice system to help protect us from such treatment on the streets.

No one, except perhaps Rob Ford, thinks you dial 9-1-1 because someone teases or briefly insults you.

But in a school community, children and parents expect that it will be safe from the same acts we do not tolerate on our streets.

Sadly, this is often not the case.

Schools are communities, and the authorities of the communities are the adults. Children look to them for safety, but in so many cases today they look in vain.

The anti-bully programs with slogans and videos and t-shirts we have today are little more than a way for administrators to cover their behinds. Window dressing.

What is required are teachers and administrators who look out for and respond to such unacceptable behavior, but too often they are not paying any attention and even actively avoiding intervening to avoid the troubles of difficult children and difficult parents. In a word, their behavior often is just cowardly.

That is unacceptable, because they are the eyes and authorities of the school community.

Of course, there are more than a few teachers who themselves are bullies, but you just try getting anything done about them. Impossible.

We had zero-tolerance on violence – a good thing for the safety of the entire school community – but as soon as one ethnic group found its students in trouble more than others, the policy was dropped like a hot potato.

Yelling prejudice about stats is a pretty sad way to destroy a good policy.

 

 

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

POSTED RESPONSE TO AN EDITORIAL IN THE TELEGRAPH

You’ve no basis for saying this.

I’ve seen nothing that would warrant Putin being characterized this way.

He is not the kind of democratic spirit we tend to have in the West, but he is intelligent and capable, and he is the kind of leader a huge nation struggling to get its footing needs.

No democratic nation in the West is without an early history of strongmen, aristocrats, or kings. Indeed, today, those of great wealth still exercise inordinate power in our so-called democratic states.

Just look at the example of Rupert Murdoch, a man whose enterprises appear to have broken every British tradition of civility, privacy, and equality before the law.

But then the True Blue Right Wingers of Telegraph’s editorial staff don’t need proof to spout about those they don’t like, do they?

The truth is we have one absolutely proven gangster state in the world, and that is Israel.

It steals from others whatever it wants.

It kills anyone it feels like killing.

It holds more than 4 million people in seemingly endless bondage.

It threatens the security of every state within a thousand miles of its border, whatever that happens to be on a particular day.

Its leader is so flagrant a liar that two heads of major states were overheard saying so.

JOHN CHUCKMAN

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

A reader writes:

“Rob, I’ve read that you quote the “man on the street” and people “in Tim Hortons” telling you that they want subways. In fact, I believe you just recently said that “everyone” tells you that they want subways.”

In economics we distinguish between what people want and what they demand.

If “wants” ruled the world, beggars would be kings. Wants are only wishes, and generally uninformed wishes.

Demands are wants backed up by the willingness to pay for them, and demands are a large part of what all of economics deals with.

People may want subways – I’m not even sure of that – but are they willing to pay for them?

Do they even have any notion of what they cost? Of how totally insignificant a distance you can build for even a hundred million dollars?

No, they mostly do not.

Add to that the troubled economic times we are in, and people’s genuine demands – what they are willing to pay for through taxes at all levels – will be markedly different to simplistic responses to a politician’s simplistic questions in a subway car.

Rob Ford’s questions only sharply define one of the fundamental problems of our politics: politicians offer glamorous schemes without taking any trouble or responsibility to cost them and explain their costs. It is a practice which is irresponsible.