Saturday, June 28, 2008

CANADA'S REX MURPHY ON JAMES HANSEN AND GLOBAL WARMING - ALSO COMMENTS ON QUOTING CATO INSTITUTE

POSTED RESPONSES TO A COLUMN BY REX MURPHY IN THE TORONTO GLOBE AND MAIL

"Truth may enter the world by many doors, but she is never escorted by force."

Rex, your opening aphorism is excellent, but it seems to me you need to apply it more widely yourself.

It's not very honest to write such lines and use them only for selected applications.

It applies, for example, in spades to Afghanistan, but you'd never know that from some of your past comments on events there.

And it applies again to a school-yard bully prime minister, and again you'd never know that from some of your reflections on him.

______________

I know the Cato Institute well and met many of its senior people some years back.

Their most important supporter at the time I spent a day at their offices in Washington was Koch Oil.

Believe me, this is a glorified propaganda mill disguised as a dispassionate think tank. Their 'fellows' are the intellectual equivalent of guys in white lab coats on television commercials holding clipboards posing as doctors to sell headache remedies.

The formula is a favorite one in the United States where outfits like Heritage Foundation function exactly the same way.

Not that some of them still can't say a true thing once in a while, much like Rex himself, but the trend in all their work is in one direction only - towards an American libertarianism, really a rather far out variety of conservatism.

Anyone who quotes them as an authority on any issue, without appropriately qualifying their status, is either naive or dishonest.

_______________

There is mud here on both sides.

The fact is that, to an overwhelming degree, the world's scientists agree that a form of global warming is underway.

Of course there are other opinions, but the impressiveness of the ranks on the warming side is something amateurs dare go against at their peril.

The most fascinating confirmation comes from the Pentagon, where nothing but the best and most expensive and most practical science is listened to. They issued an important report, some while back, identifying global warming as one of the most important long-term threats to the security of the United States.

The real question, whether human activity is causing the warming, is not answered. There are many excellent minds who believe it, but the facts are not conclusive.

So what society faces - before we get conclusive evidence, if we ever do - is a very high-stakes gamble. Change our technologies and behaviors as though the proposition were true, or don't change and risk possible catastrophic results.

I'm not sure of the answer myself, and my lack of faith in humanity's capacity to behave rationally suggests we will risk the catastrophe.

In the end, perhaps it does not matter. When our planet of apes passes, eventually another species will arise to take our place. After all, the dinosaurs lasted on the order of a hundred million years. Our half million or so is less than a blink of the cosmic eye.

Perhaps by then our robots will have inherited our place in the universe, as they most certainly will do eventually. They'll be better adapted to survive and thrive and even travel to the stars.

So maybe there isn't so much to get hot and bothered about.


ARE THE BRITISH ROYALS WORTH WHAT THEY COST?

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH

Well, just imagine the alternative, which is, of course, where head of state and head of government are the same person.

This is the situation in America.

I doubt anyone has even calculated the immense cost of the President doing ceremonial and official state functions, but it is enormous.

After all, armored limos are shipped by jet for even the most insignificant appearance. The entire Praetorian Guard with high-tech weapons shows up. And all kinds of idiotic emergency people hover around while he dedicates a church cornerstone in Iowa. In some cases, even missiles are brought in and tucked away.

Not only that, but how would you like someone like George Bush embodying the state for everyone?

It really is unpleasant having to cheer for someone like that as representative of your country when you know perfectly well he is a lying, low-life politician.

Restrictions at gatherings where George Bush is to be are ugly - because he is so unpopular and so tyrannical in temperament - that even people with certain sayings on t-shirts or bumper stickers on cars are removed. Some freedom.

Imagine the lamentable Tony Blair having the role of state? It is enough to make you ill.

So, appreciate what you have. The situation cannot be glibly summed up by an annual amount.





Which makes a better head of state?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

MACCAIN MAN CHARLIE BLACK AND HIS COMMENTS ON THE HELPFULNESS OF ANOTHER TERRORIST INCIDENT

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY MICHAEL TOMASKY IN THE GUARDIAN

Michael Tomasky,

I take some exception to your argument. It is true that humans become used to repeated horrors.

How else explain the unbelievable courage of Russians in the face of horrors beyond imagination on the Western Front? How else explain the endurance of Palestinians today after a half century of non-stop abuse?

But the truth is Americans haven't the least idea what real terror is.

Despite all the hype over 9/11, the deaths represented about 7% of what Americans kill on their highways every year, about 2 months worth of the murders on the streets, Americans killing other Americans, that go on year after year.

Even in WWII, America's losses were on the order of 1/2 of 1% of the 50,000,000 or so souls lost.

The pictures of 9/11, repeated ad nauseam on television, and the idea that so many victims were privileged middle class helped boost a disproportionate response.

People were driven by foolish paranoid fears into doing truly ridiculous things, much as they did during Orson Welles' old broadcast adaptation of War of the Worlds.

There is a history of paranoid responses in America - going back to the 1950s witch hunts and to the Alien and Sedition Acts of John Adam's time and to the immense fears of slave revolts that constantly weighed on the minds of Southerners even before the Revolution - which I believe is in part explained by the gene pool of Puritanism. The Puritans were truly ferocious, unpleasant people, filled with paranoid fears of hell and devils, and they made a heavy contribution to early America.

Mr. Black's comment reflects on something George Bush said not long after 9/11. He had not been an especially popular president - not even elected of course - but after those events his polls rocketed. Americans seemed to cling to the legs of this pathetic man like frightened puppies. On a trip to Chicago he was quoted as having said he felt as though he had won the trifecta.

We also heard from a major figure in the Pentagon a couple of years ago that another terrorist event of large size might cause the military to take over from civilian authority. Scary stuff, but spoken by a calm general.

So I am sure the possibility for an ugly response remains in America, perhaps indeed a horrible response grounded in the ignorant idea that "we didn't hit them hard enough the first time." John McCain would be the obvious beneficiary of this.

Many forget how threatening the American response was. I was writing pieces at the time trying to promote a sensible, legal and diplomatic response, and I received truly ugly e-mails. According to reports out of Britain, the government there was induced to join along in Afghanistan out of genuine fear that America was itching for a nuclear response. Remember Rumsfeld’s Nazi-like call for all prisoners there to be killed or walled away? And shortly after 3,000 of them disappeared, reportedly suffocated in vans out on the desert.


Monday, June 23, 2008

COMMENTS ON A SERIES ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS AND HOW IT IS TREATED

POSTED RESPONSE TO A SERIES IN TORONTO'S GLOBE AND MAIL

I do wish that we could wave a magic wand to eliminate the plague of mental illness, but I know perfectly well that we cannot.

We have no good answers for most of the severe forms. All the various non-drug treatments are ineffective on the severe mental illnesses, which are all the result of glitches in the body's most complex organ, the brain.

Actually, we still suffer a lot of mumbo-jumbo myths around various psychotherapies, the practices of the same people who forty years ago told families that schizophrenia was due to overbearing mothers, sending already-victim families into waves of ignorant guilt.

Schizophrenia is in many ways more tragic than brain cancer. It destroys whole families. It is what sends all the most pitiful street people out onto the streets.

But the medications we have for schizophrenia have major problems. First, many schizophrenics have intense paranoid fears. They actually fear efforts to help them. That is why many refuse to go to shelters.

Second, the drugs themselves are partly ineffective and can be quite dangerous in some cases. In other cases, they turn some schizophrenics into pathetic foggy zombies.

How do you control a paranoid person taking his/her medication? You cannot without imprisoning them in institutions as we did forty years ago, something which is unacceptable in a free society.

Despite our pride and arrogance about our science, the truth is our abilities with mental illness remain fairly primitive. We just do not know enough. So I find it difficult to see any immediate light at the end of this very dark tunnel.


AFGHANISTAN PRISON BREAK SHOWS GAP IN INTELLIGENCE ACCORDING TO CANADA'S JOHN MANLEY

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

Yes, indeed, Mr. Manley, but I’m afraid the gap is in the intelligence is in people like yourself who help to keep this bloody, pointless war going.

Afghanistan has always been nothing more than an American vengeance operation, and once they had control of the place, America did not even know what to do, except kill more people and break down doors all over the countryside.

And you, Mr. Manley, American wannabe as you've shown so clearly in the past, have only helped keep this going.

Why else on earth do you think Harper, Bush's most abjectly servile friend, picked you to do a report?

This prison break very much reminds me, albeit on a smaller scale, of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam which dumbfounded Americans who thought they had everything going nicely with killing Vietnamese.

You simply cannot suppress a major part of a population indefinitely – unless you are willing to act like Stalin - and you cannot in a few years change the habits and culture of a thousand years.

To say anything else is to be as blind and stupid as Bush.


CUBA: MEMORIES OF ELIAN AND THE MAYOR OF MIAMI STILL PLAYING NASTY POLITICAL GAMES

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE

The mayor, like so many of those crazed exiles in Miami, was in his efforts to keep Elian in Florida behaving little better than a thug.

These people held a little boy as hostage for their politics. That is simply contemptible.

Elian had a loving father, extended family, and friends in Cuba, but this bunch broke the laws and ignored court orders in their adopted country to abuse the boy psychologically and put him in an impossible situation.

The entire shabby set of events was the result of a stupid set of American policies. America, as a way of getting at Castro, gave virtually automatic green cards to any Cuban who made it into American waters.

This thoughtless policy caused many poor people, including the boy's mother, to try reaching the U.S. in pathetic wrecks, putting their lives at risk on the high seas.

In effect, the American policy was responsible for her death and the deaths of many others.

If you want to understand just how peculiar this American policy was - it has since been altered - just consider the efforts of poor Haitians to reach the U.S. a few years back. They were all turned back, and none were given green cards. They were trying to leave horrors behind to improve their lives, but they didn’t happen to be running from the right hated government. The terrors and hideous poverty of Haiti were just fine.

The same groups who held Elian hostage and abused his affection for his father included people who had been part of CIA-sponsored anti-Castro terror groups in the 1960s. There were huge training camps and tons of supplies and millions of dollars supplied to people who did stuff like shoot up ships in Cuban harbors, plant bombs in Cuban hotels, and blow up the odd airline. The scale of operations made bin Laden’s little camp in the mountains look like a boy-scout operation.

Their terror operations included activities in the U.S. There were a number of violent incidents, including a Miami newsman, writing things that were unacceptable to them, who had his legs blown off.

More than one student of the Kennedy assassination has concluded that some of the most violent of these people were responsible for the president’s death. The assassination clearly was about trying to catapult the United States into an invasion of Cuba. Kennedy became hated by these groups after his agreement to end the Cuban Missile Crisis including a promise not to again invade Cuba.

American policy over Cuba this last 45 years has caused an immense amount of misery, violence, and waste. But some of these exiles still try to exact concessions through American politics, and the silly politicians encourage them.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

MCCAIN'S FREE-TRADE BELIEFS MEET SUPPLY-SIDE REALITIES

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY JEFFREY SIMPSON IN THE TORONTO GLOBE AND MAIL

Jeffrey Simpson offers a good marshalling of the facts.

There are American predispositions which contribute to this fiscal irresponsibility.

First is the fact that once "the boyz are in hawm's way," you are not even allowed (through intense social pressure) to discuss trivial points like the fortunes being squandered to support a pointless war. War is holy, untouchable stuff, not to be besmirched by discussions of mundane stuff like sound economics.

It's one of the rather more fanatical tenets of the American Civic Religion.

Second is the widely-prevailing American attitude that "you can have it all and have it now," the financing of doing so being consigned to boring accounting procedures. Look at the housing mess after waves of 100% plus mortgages crashed.

Third is a very short-term way of looking at things. If money is coming back in tax cuts, that's good regardless of the implications for two or five or ten years from now.

Fourth is a widespread belief that Washington is actually like an occupying power, a foreign money-sucking thing that we're all be better off without (in all matters except for war). After all, the American Revolution started, not over high-sounding principles, but in large part an unwillingness to pay taxes required for the Seven Years War that had directly benefited the Colonists.

McCain mostly has views right in line with these attitudes, despite the fact he has occasionally said or briefly stood for something a little out of step. For McCain such thoughtful moments are just brief burps along the way. He is an unrepentant servant of America Empire in the tradition of "Remember the Maine!"

He is actually a rather dangerous man for the world as a whole.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

TRYING TO MAKE SENSE OF MCCAIN'S OFFSHORE-DRILLING PROPOSAL

RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY HANNAH STRANGE IN THE TIMES

You are exactly right on this, Hannah, it is hard to understand just what McCain hopes to achieve here.

First, today, environmentalism is anything but a left-wing philosophy. There are definitely people in his own party he will alienate.

The oil industry has never enjoyed great public sympathy either, and today as we enter a new era in the cost of petroleum products, I would expect that sympathy is going nowhere but down.

I think too this should be sufficient for any fence-sitters left from Hillary's campaign. Environmental recklessness is hardly a viable alternative to Obama.

As far as your calculation of filling the oil gap, it is even worse than it suggests. Depending on the nature of an oil-bearing structure, oil can only be produced at certain rates, rates far, far slower than the calculation suggests.

I do think this proposal shows us something about McCain's character. He is taking a big crap-shoot, rather than a thoughtful analysis, and this is in keeping with what we know of many of his past behaviors.

This was how George Bush went into Iraq, and the results have been disastrous (including, along with his constant threats against Iran, a significant impact on oil markets).

You may be familiar with Ian Kershaw's analysis of Hitler's personality in his large two-volume biography. Kershaw came down to the view that Hitler was a bet-the-farm gambler who had a winning streak for a while.

Bush's personality is very much like that, and so is John McCain's. It is a dangerous personality type to lead a nation which spends more on its military than the rest of the planet combined.

McCain shares another personality trait, a truly frightening temper.

Of course, McCain does not actually have the nomination yet. As you may know, there are rumors on the Internet that he will not be made the candidate at the Republican Convention.

I do not regard these as totally implausible because there has always been a faction in the Republicans which feels about McCain the way most Republicans feel about Hillary Clinton - that is, visceral hatred.

_____________________


Eric,

Your comments are incredibly uninformed, but what would one expect from someone who uses a childish epithet like "Obamatards"?

As a retired chief economist for a large oil company, I can assure you that Obama's characterization of the prospects for offshore drilling is accurate.

There is a lot of money to be made with $140/barrel oil even with a small field, so of course companies want to do it, but there is no chance that offshore drilling in America is going to turn around the developing situation. None.

And things are only likely to become worse. Apart from Bush's ignorant shooting up of some of the world's great centers of production, the rise of China and India and their competition for resources mean the United States is entering a new era altogether.

Lumbering SUVs and grotesque, over-sized pick-up trucks - two and three to a family - each with one passenger are a thing of the past, unless you are rich enough to burn money.

So is the seemingly endless suburban sprawl that has made America an ever-uglier place since WWII. Endless new cheap tracts in the cornfields and deserts are going the way of the Dodo. The costs of transportation and heating and public services are going to end this phenomenon.

So you might stop being senselessly angry and calling names and start thinking about the future new realities.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

THE INSANE CLAIM THAT BUSH HAS MADE THE WORLD A SAFER PLACE

TWO POSTED RESPONSES TO A COLUMN IN THE GUARDIAN BY OLIVER KAMM

Safer for whom, Oliver Kamm?

For the more than 600,000 murdered by Bush in Iraq?

For the tens of thousands murdered in Afghanistan, including the 3,000 prisoners who were driven out to the desert in vans to be suffocated?

For the thousands of prisoners of the CIA's International Torture Gulag?

For the abused and tortured of Abu Ghraib?

For the abused and tortured of Guantanamo?

For the millions of lives shattered in Iraq, a place that once was on the cusp of modernity and prosperity?

This has to be the most breathtakingly dumb piece of writing I've seen in years
_______________________

Apart from my question of safer for whom, citing the piles of Bush victims, the world is not a safer place for many other reasons, Oliver Kamm.

First, suppression of human rights all over the Western world is no light thing. There is nothing 'safe' about living in a police state or a quasi-police state the U.S. has become under Bush. The Bill of Rights has virtually been suspended.

Second, people of Arabic origin or of Muslim beliefs are now routinely abused and insulted in many Western countries, especially in the United States.

Third, a wave of hatred and injustice is rippling through the Muslim world. That isn't just going to go away. Bush's approach has been the approach of Israel, which today remains a garrison state with no peace and defended by walls and brutality, a long-term untenable position, besides being a shining example of ethically-hollow behavior.

Fourth, Bush's oppression and killing abroad have been closely paralleled by an almost unprecedented grant of license to Israel to behave as brutally and ruthlessly as it wishes towards Palestinians and other neighbors.

A genuinely horrible situation has grown up, and no open-minded person can possibly look at Israel's wretched behavior in Gaza and in Lebanon and towards Syria without some revulsion. Nothing, absolutely nothing, Apartheid South Africa did has not been repeated by Israel towards its neighbors, and, of course, that includes infamous mass killings of poor blacks by South African troops and mass imprisonments with no rights or justice.

Fifth, Bush has also set aside the Geneva Conventions and other important international treaties, including that safeguarding the rights of child soldiers. No meaningful sense of safety comes from this arrogance.

He has practiced new bizarre doctrines, giving the example to other states to do the same in future, as, for example, pre-emptive strikes on suspects and high-tech assassinations. These provide another measure of the 'Israelization' of American policy. Imagine a world in which every state claims this philosophy?

What has happened overall in the world under Bush is a series of steps away from democratic principles. Even if America had the most vigorous and fair democracy, something that is demonstrably not the case, when its leaders decide the fates of so many others, its tiny group of electors (maybe 1% or less of the world’s people, taking into account many Americans do not even vote) effectively acts like an aristocracy vis-à-vis the rest of the world.

You cannot claim democratic values and behave this way. After all, the Communist Party of China rules more than a billion people with almost the same percentage of representation.

The United States and Israel have given democracy a bad name in much of the emerging world. After all, in the special limited sense they claim to be democratic, so was Apartheid South Africa or the American Confederacy or the Britain of George III.

BUSH'S READING SKILLS AND LEGACY GRADUATES IN AMERICAN UNIVERSITIES

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY JONATHAN FREEDLAND IN THE GUARDIAN

'Jonathan Freedland clearly fails to understand irony. Bush's "only ever read one book" line was a self-deprecating joke of the type the British media so often doesn't get.'

People serious about books and writing know that Bush is not someone who reads. It is obvious in his words and movements - he has attention deficit - and rigid, simplistic ideas.

It's the kind of thing one just knows the way a good detective reads the psychology of a suspect.

If he ever "reads" history, it would be silly fluff, not much different to watching a television episode of a show set in WWII.

Indeed, Bush is so lacking in educational achievement, it is clear he was what Americans call a "legacy graduate" of the universities he attended.

That term, likely unfamiliar in Britain, is used to describe people whose grades and efforts do not warrant their admission, much less their graduation, from a good quality university.

But these universities - Yale, Harvard, etc - are always on the hunt for money for their endowment funds, much the way a U.S. Senator spends two-thirds of his or her time digging for campaign funds. They are also keen to "collect" prestigious names on their roles.

Clowns like Bush are accepted because the family is wealthy, and it is fully understood that donations will be forthcoming.

Also, in Bush's case, his father is quite intelligent with distinguished aspects in his career.

Our Bush unfortunately got his intellectual endowment from mummy, one of the dimmest women to reside in the White House in the 20th century, her focus being Fluffy the dog and baking cookies (just check her recorded statements in the wake of Katrina in New Orleans or on bodies being returned from Iraq for the measure of her intellectual mediocrity).

WHAT HILLARY WON BY LOSING AND THE CLINTONS' BELIEF OBAMA WILL LOSE

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE NEW YORK TIMES

The Clintons' egos each pretty much tip the scales into the range beyond any instrument's capability of measuring.

Obama will almost certainly win. The man is a new political force of nature - refreshing, intelligent, witty, and graceful.

He is an example of the best of America, and he has what the nation needs to begin healing its savage Bush-inflicted wounds.

He faces a tired-looking old man with even more tired ideas, including tired political ideas.

He defeated Hillary despite her decade and a half on the national scene, and a name recognition for her second only to the president.

As for the "feminist hero" business, Christopher Hitchens is not a man with whom I often agree.

Despite his eloquence, he is frequently quite wrong-headed, but in the following words, he describes a situation perfectly:

"Her whole self-pitying campaign, I mean to say, has retarded and infantilized the political process and has used the increasingly empty term sexism to mask the defeat of one of the nastiest and most bigoted candidacies in modern history."

Unfortunately, you cannot say such things without yourself being accused of being anti-feminist in America.

I do think a major source of this problem is what Robert Hughes has accurately called America's "culture of complaint."

It is a culture with an endless series of largely meaningless arguments over any issue.

And there are effectively full-time professionals making a living out of these movements without ever really getting down in the trenches and doing anything.

Women in all advanced countries have been progressing enormously during my lifetime.

I am an interested observer because my brother and I were raised in the 1950s by a hard-working woman. Hers was heroism greater at times than soldiers at war.

But it was the striving of millions like my mother who made this happen. It was not Hillary or Germaine Greer. Indeed, the careers of such leaders ride the efforts of those millions.

It is also the simple economic fact that advanced societies now need all their brain power. If you scrape the bottom of the barrel for the less qualified men, you are only putting your society at an economic disadvantage.

Give any group of people the education they need and then have new opportunity come along in your society for educated people, and you will see great social change, as we have been seeing.

Great changes always have great underlying economic forces at work. Speeches alone, without such economic opportunity, create little if any change.

Friday, June 13, 2008

JOHN MCCAIN SPEAKING OUT AGAINST SUPREME COURT DECISION FOR PRISONERS IN GUANTANAMO

RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE NYT

McCain is a disgrace.

You might think that a man with his history would be more sensitive in these matters, but, no, he displays the same obtuseness he did when he joked about waterboarding or when he joked about bombing Iran or, for that matter, when he was releasing bombs on the heads of civilians around Hanoi.

Guantanamo is a moral and ethical affront to the rest of the planet.

No tyrant has practices much worse than America's efforts in Guantanamo, in Abu Ghraib, and in the CIA's International Torture Gulag.

Nothing a small group of terrorists did justifies America's wholesale disregard for human rights, democratic values, and international treaties.

America has nothing, absolutely nothing to teach the rest of the world in these matters.

That is likely why you use B-52s for your lessons.

THE ANNIVERSARY OF ROBERT KENNEDY'S DEATH AND AN ATTEMPT TO EXPLOIT IT FOR PROPAGANDA

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY STEPHEN KINZER IN THE GUARDIAN

Attempting to disguise his efforts as analysis, Stephen Kinzer here offers readers a shabby piece of propaganda, one generously dosed with anti-Muslim prejudice.

The Kennedy assassinations, both of them, were definitely political acts.

But calling Sirhn Sirhan the first of a long line of terrorists is so wildly inaccurate it is ridiculous.

First, anyone who has studied the assassination of Robert, as Kinzer clearly has not, knows from ballistic and other evidence that has gradually emerged that Sirhan, while taking shots at Kennedy, was not successful. Kennedy was hit by bullets from two other directions in that crowded mob scene.

Again, anyone who has studied the assassinations, is almost certain that the same people responsible for killing John killed Robert. Robert's coming to the power of the presidency was a deadly threat.

Not only was Robert exceedingly loyal to the memory of his brother, he was the most ruthlessly capable of all the Kennedy brothers. It goes without saying, he would have hunted down those responsible for his brother's murder.

Sirhan served exactly the same role as Oswald did, a convenient patsy .

Both these assassinations were professionally planned and executed. Both had more than one shooter, and both had a patsy ready to be dropped into the laps of law enforcement.

Both of these assassinations reflect powerful motives, motives not present at all in Oswald, who actually liked Kennedy, and in Sirhan’s case we have a genuinely mentally unstable individual who couldn’t even shoot straight.

Assassinations at this level in a large advanced society are always the result of conspiracies and complex plans, the plans providing for the certainty of success and the safe distancing of conspirators.

There are, I believe, three plausible candidates for organizing the assassination, all quite powerful groups, all selected for their extreme motives, resources, and opportunity.

The first candidate is a branch of the American mafia, a number of whose members had been deeply hurt by the Attorney General’s aggressive organized crime-fighting activities. After all, Kennedy had received handsome secret contributions in cash from the organization when he ran for office. He had also had at least the seeming cooperation of some senior mafia leaders in his efforts to assassinate Castro, and here he was letting his brother conduct a ruthless campaign against the interests of some families. A mafia family leader and the leader of the Teamsters Union at the time, a known mafia associate, are on record as having made threats against Kennedy. Some members of the Congressional investigations came to favor this candidate although they failed to prove it.

The second candidate is one of the many Cuban refugee groups armed, trained, and paid by the CIA in hopes of invading Cuba again, hurting its economy through terrorist activities, and assassinating any of its leaders. Few Americans today appreciate the extent of these government-subsidized terrorist camps then, operations that make Osama’s camp in the mountains look insignificant.

Kennedy was loathed by the most violent of these groups in his last days because he agreed not to invade Cuba as part of his settlement with the Soviet Union over missiles in Cuba. After that pledge, Kennedy had the FBI raiding the operations of some of these previously catered-to groups as a show of good will towards the Soviets. It is in connection with these very raids that Oswald had some not-well-understood but certain connection with the FBI. These refugee groups were ruthless, angry men who didn’t hesitate to kill or cripple those in their way. They had even conducted a number of terrorist attacks in Miami.

The third candidate is Israel, whose secret efforts at developing nuclear weapons were underway at the time and had become known to Kennedy. He made it unpleasantly clear in private communications that he would not allow Israel to go nuclear, something not widely known in America. But the people running Israel considered it essential that the country become a nuclear power, and we have all seen over many decades how Israel has not hesitated to assassinate or attack where it regards its interests are involved.

Just a few years after Kennedy’s assassination, during the Six Day War, Israeli planes made a two-hour attack on the U.S.S. Liberty, a spy ship operating in the Eastern Mediterranean, killing many of its crew. Israel’s motives have never been explained adequately or investigated openly, but likely had to do either with suppressing information of atrocities in the Sinai – the Liberty being an intelligence-gathering ship – or with trying to trick the United States into entering its war against Egypt. In either case, we see ruthlessness compatible with eliminating a hostile, powerful leader.

Each of these groups had great motives, more than adequate means, and ample opportunity. By comparison, Oswald stands out as a ridiculous figure with no motive, virtually no means, but a seeming opportunity arranged for him by others at the Texas Book Depository. He was, almost certainly, the patsy he said he was in police custody shortly before his death, having been duped by forces he didn’t understand into certain activities that would mark him before the assassination. We have ample evidence of Oswald’s lack of serious interest in things military, his having been pretty much a flop at being a Marine, and of his temperamental inclination in other directions. While he had a temper (who doesn’t?), he was not a violent man, indeed Russian observers who recalled his years in Russia said he was temperamentally incapable of murder.

As for Sirhan, he was simply a raving man who couldn’t shoot straight.


RIOTS IN SOUTH KOREA OVER MAD-COW BEEF IMPORTS AND A RIDICULOUS COLUMN CONCERNING THEM

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY MARCUS GEE IN THE TORONTO GLOBE AND MAIL

What a silly column this is.

Marcus Gee here displays, under intense spotlights, the most remarkably naive views possible.

Of course, various groups in South Korea are exploiting fears over mad cow disease.

Isn't that the normal way politics always work everywhere? Events of this nature provide the momentum required for new temporary coalitions of interests.

But saying that does not mean that the people of that country are not genuinely frightened by the prospect of contaminated beef from the U.S.

And not without reason.

The U.S. shut Canada out of its markets for two years over a very insignificant outbreak of mad cow. The real reason, as everyone who follows such affairs knows, were American cattle interests south of Alberta. They made a huge economic gain out of a trifling event.

At the same time, we know from a good deal of anecdotal evidence that many cattlemen in the U.S. are more cavalier in their attitudes towards mad cow. Cases go unreported and carcasses are quickly disposed of out under the Big Sky.

The Koreans who, like the Japanese, are quite touchy about food quality, are deeply concerned.

This is a real crisis, Mr. Gee, and your pronouncements from an arm chair on Front Street are laughable.


DION HOLDING OUT AGAINST HIS LIBERALS ON AN ELECTION

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY LAWRENCE MARTIN IN THE TORONTO GLOB AND MAIL

Dion is a fine man in many respects, and he might have made a good prime minister at another period, but I think we've had enough time and events to judge that he lacks the abilities and instincts required just now in Canada.

He frankly looks bad in the hot, ugly breath of Harper whose top skill is being scornful and dismissive. The reputation and decency and security of our nation require that Harper go. He is an unfortunate carbuncle on Canada's back side.

But I do not believe Dion is up to the challenge. God, Chretien would have taken Harper apart.

The carbon tax is going to be a mill stone Dion drags around, and I believe it will closely parallel in its political effect John Tory's insistence on financing all religious schools, a proposal that seemed an obvious loser the moment I heard it. And John Tory is an admirable man.

It will be hard to explain a carbon tax to ordinary Canadians. And complexity is the last thing a man who can barely speak English needs.

Besides, in excluding motor fuels, he is already being inconsistent.

The experience in Europe shows that carbon tax is not an especially effective policy. Cap-and-trade is a much effective approach.

The public has already lost a good deal of confidence in the Liberals, pathetically supporting bills out of keeping with Liberal traditions just to avoid an election. And why avoid an election? To give Dion more time for intensive English lessons.

Altogether, a bad political patch.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

FURTHER ON MCCAIN AND COLD-WAR MENTALITY: PUTIN HAS NOT STARTED A NEW COLD WAR

POSTED RESPONSE TO COLUMN BY DANIEL FINKELSTEIN IN THE TIMES

Mr. Cox,

You've written complete rubbish here.

You may not like Putin's policies, but he is cooperative and intelligent in his relations with the West.

There is no Cold War attitude from Putin, but he does defend Russia's interests, and he does reject many nasty American policies, and rightly so.

The various degrees of censorship one finds today in Russia are little different to what exist in many lands.

In the U.S., for example, the major networks and quality newspapers have never done any reportage giving anything but a rather benevolent face to the murderous fiasco in Iraq.

The New York Times, which beat the drum for the stupid invasion, even insists on using the affectionate WWII term "G.I.s" for the occupying professional army that invaded Iraq. I suspect they don’t extend that to the mercenary thugs of outfits like Blackwater though.

Today, the U.S. occupies two large countries, carries on a series of assassinations and attacks in surrounding territory such as Pakistan, keeps a huge fleet off the coast of Iran and threatens that country daily.

It also supports the endless brutality and oppression of Israel, making no genuine demands to end that human-rights disgrace.

And, as I mention in my previous post, the U.S. runs an international gulag for "suspects." Thousands illegally held and tortured.

The Patriot Act within the U.S. has virtually suspended the Bill of Rights for those selected for the attention of the good folks at the FBI.

Who has a Cold War posture today? Only someone deliberately blind to reality could possibly write what you have written.

John McCain is just what we do not need to make it worse.


MCCAIN ON COMMUNIST PRISONS AND HIS COLD-WAR MENTALITY

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY DANIEL FINKELSTEIN IN THE TIMES

Mentally, McCain apparently still lives in the Cold War.

In recent comments about Cuba, McCain spoke of "communist prisons," saying relations with the island nation could not be improved until they were opened. He echoed the fact that he had spent five and a half years in one.

Do you know which country imprisons the highest portion of its population in the entire world?

Why, it's the good old USA.

And, of course, the CIA runs an international gulag, illegally transporting and torturing thousands.

And we have the International disgrace of Guantanamo.

By the way, McCain spent five and a half years in prison in Vietnam for the act of bombing civilians. He was bombing civilians around Hanoi at the time he was shot down.

Doesn't actually sound dark or unfair to me.

Now, add the fact that the US holocaust in Vietnam (about 3 million slaughtered) was carried on without so much as the nicety of a declaration of war.

Under international law, bombing civilians in an undeclared war is, quite simply, a war crime.


Al QAEDA ON THE RUN?

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY JASON BURKE IN THE GUARDIAN

First, to this day, there is no indisputable proof that al Qaeda even exists.

You really have to wonder about the idea too that a secret terrorist organization would take a name which translates "toilet."

And the frequent notices posted on supposedly known al Qaeda Internet sites border on the absurd. The American top-secret NIA would be able to locate these sites in a few hours. A Predator drone with Hellfire missile would soon follow.

And no evidence ever has been produced that bin Laden had anything to do with 9/11.
That charge is not even on his American federal charges.

The idea of al Qaeda serves as a convenient journalistic catch-all concept for all the many discontents in the Arab world with America's ugly policies in recent decades.

But if it does indeed exist, and it is true that it is on the run, you may be sure there will be plenty of contenders for the title coming along.

You can't end this kind of activity without cleaning up the injustices on which it is founded, and there's not been a hint of such effort.

CINDY AND MICHELLE

RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY HANNAH STRANGE IN THE TIMES

Michelle is vibrant, intelligent, and educated.

She would make a delightful First Lady.

Apart from a warm and sincere smile, I very much look forward to her speaking her mind at times. Who knows, she might become the first female president one day?

Michelle and her husband clearly care about each other, the affection is palpable, a very refreshing and unusual situation in First Families.

Cindy has inherited family money and not much else I can see.

Her recipe-publishing caper - recipes taken from others - was a public relations disaster.

She's not well educated and sounds it.

She has paid for so much plastic surgery on her face, it is now embarrassing. Same with hair bleached until it looks weird. She looks like a bad job of embalming.

It has been widely reported that she and her husband have separate bedrooms. There is certainly no sense from photos of affection between them. They have a pre-nuptial agreement, and he gets to use things like her jet on contract terms.

He, of course, at least until he finally started turning into a trilobite fossil, had a reputation as a skirt-chaser. Same old, same old is the prospect here for the White House.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

ISRAEL'S AMBASSADOR TO BRITAIN LABELS BRITAIN AS ANTI-ISRAEL

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE DAILY TELEGRAPH

We must remember another Israeli ambassador recently called Jimmy Carter, the most decent man to be president this century and the one president who made a genuine contribution to peace in the Middle East, "a bigot."

I have no problem describing such remarks as special-pleading and just plain ignorant.

If Israel is to be a state like any other state, its policies must be subject to the criticisms we apply to any other state.

Israel's behavior towards all of its neighbors has been horrible. Its attacks on Lebanon were simply war crimes.

It holds the Palestinians in virtual bondage. Moral authorities like Bishop Tutu and Nelson Mandela have said plainly that Israel practices apartheid.

Israel claims to be democratic but ignores the results of a clean election it doesn't like. It arrests the members of that government and threatens its leaders with assassination. It slowly starves out 1.4 million people for the crime of voting for the wrong party.

It unfairly labels parties like Hamas as terrorists, a ridiculous charge from a state in large part founded on terror and one that secretly subsidized Hamas to create opposition for Fatah.

Are we to just ignore these things, as Israel's apologists ceaselessly insist that we do?

Israel only has to start treating its neighbors decently and to make genuine efforts for peace to quickly alter opinions in Britain and around the world.

The truth is that the Israeli government still quietly practices slow-motion ethnic-cleansing. The dream of Greater Israel, at the expense of its neighbors, still is very much alive.




You are anti-Israel for opposing such horrible abuse of power?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

FURTHER TO OBAMA CAN BE ORDINARY NOW AND WHEN SOMETHING IS NEW WITHIN LIMITS AND THE NATURE OF AMERICAN POLITICS

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

John Powers,

Have you never heard of something being new within limits? It does seem an obvious concept to me.

Indeed, most of what we know as new, in politics or science or anything, is new within limits. We speak of a new planet around a distant star when in fact there must be billions of them our technology still does not permit us to perceive or measure.

If you don't understand that American politics is about money, you must be extremely naive. Even John McCain had some insight into that when he tried for years to get some meaningful reform (and essentially failed).

A U.S. Senator quite literally spends two-thirds of his or her time on the job soliciting campaign contributions.

A full-blown presidential campaign with all the primaries and festive trimmings can go through a billion dollars.

American politics are about money because that is what America is about.

Nevertheless, within the squalid limits of soliciting money and paying obeisance to major lobbies, sometimes something new happens. Obama is just such a phenomenon.

He won't be able to turn around the United States from its barnacle-encrusted ways, only a very naive person can believe that.

Indeed, George Bush’s legacy is that he has in many ways tied the hands of future reformers.

Just one small example: Bush stupidly abolished the inheritance tax which did not affect small asset holders. Every economic historian knows that the passing on of great economic wealth is no force for good. Often the recipients are far less competent than a fortune’s founder, but even more importantly, it promotes overall the kind of rigid social structure of late 18th century France. Jefferson understood this. We do see America settling into a kind of de facto aristocracy today. Even political offices are now frequently handed down in families.

Trying to undo the harm of this is a very great feat. New taxes are unpopular even if they are good for society.

And then there’s Bush’s whole quasi-police state with the Bill of Rights practically suspended over superstitious nonsense and the bumbling FBI being empowered even to get lists of what you read at the public library.

Many vicious, freedom-hating (for aristocrats like Bush do hate true freedom) measures have been embedded in laws with names like The Patriot Act. Try undoing something with a name like that in country like America where the Congress spends more time historically on flag-burning amendments than on many sensible needs – eg., getting rid of the obsolete, anti-democratic Electoral College.

But here and there, he will offer small changes and new perspectives. And, all over the world, people will stop feeling like puking when the voice of the President is broadcast, the case for the last eight years.

I do think hoping for much more than that is overreaching. The United States is a very conservative society with an outdated 18th century constitution that has many anti-democratic provisions and is close to impossible to change.

If he tried a great deal more, he would be knee-capped by the establishment, the Borgias of Washington. The office of the presidency is, by the way, in domestic affairs quite a weak one, far weaker than a British Prime Minister.

If he or anyone else persisted, well, there is the example of the Kennedy brothers, a reality recognized already by Hillary and others on television with sick jokes.

The Borgias on a global scale, that's America.

THOUGHTS AROUND OBAMA CAN BE ORDINARY NOW AND THE FOOLISHNESS OF COMPARING CLARENCE THOMAS

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

This column of Clive Crooks is remarkably well-thought-out. It's the kind of analysis that contributes to clear thinking.

I would raise the point that nothing happens in America that does not have a racial dimension, the country is literally wired for Galvanic responses that way.

So this remarkable success by a black man was bound to generate shocks, and I think we will see a sorry amount of this during the actual presidential campaign.

Although not from McCain himself, whom I regard as likely fair-minded in this regard, but from the many well-financed private groups with grudges, the kind of thing we saw with "the Swift Boaters" and Kerry.

I am truly sorry to see a post like Marie's. Frankly it is just uninformed and dripping with prejudices.

It is only natural that blacks would support Obama en masse. He is a genuine black prince and represents a tremendous welling-up of pride after centuries of both slavery and Jim Crow.

I don't think most of us can even imagine the feelings he arouses, although you might think a woman - seeing that the same phenomenon happened around Hillary with a certain class of women - might be a little more sensitive to it.

Comparing - along any dimension, material or intellectual or spiritual - Obama with Clarence Thomas is just colossal ignorance.

Thomas is a thoroughly mediocre man, one with bad taste and judgment, appointed to the Supreme Court only because he was both black and conservative. He was not distinguished before his appointment, nor has he distinguished himself afterward.

His speech about a "high-tech" lynching was an embarrassment at the moment he gave it. Utterly inappropriate, a cheap appeal to guilt around the black reality. I felt almost ill at the time that so few politicians or newspapermen called him on it.

Richard Nixon made two disgraceful attempts to appoint incompetents to the Supreme Court. His appointments at least were questioned and failed, despite the infamous claim by Republican Senator Hruska of Nebraska, that, like all other qualities, mediocrity should be reflected on the Court!

Obama has brilliant mind, a sense of humor, and he is simply graceful. He has taught law at distinguished schools. He has a distinguished academic record. He is the finest public speaker to appear for years in the United States.

The recognition of Obama for just what he is exactly what Dr. King dreamed of, not false claims for black faces with non-existent qualities.

With people like Ferraro and some other Clintonistas , we are getting exactly the equivalent of Clarence Thomas's "high-tech lynching." Rubbish and prejudice disguised as thought.

HARPER AND A NEW SERIES OF ATTACK ADS AGAINST DION

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

Harper is absolutely superb at one thing.

And that is being nasty.

He reminds me very much of Newt Gingrich in this quality. Ugly.

However, as someone has said above, Dion opened himself with this with his proposed carbon tax.

A proposal which fails to recognize the revolution in petroleum pricing which has taken everyone by surprise is a poor one.

GM's Oshawa truck plant is closing because of this revolution, and it is only the first of many waves to be felt.

Car-downsizing, the end of so much urban sprawl into the cornfields, a decline in suburban real estate values, energy surcharges everywhere, re-thinking many activities and services - these and so many other events are hurling towards us at high speed.

And a technical revolution towards energy substitutes now must be said to be underway, although it may take a decade or so to see its impact.

A carbon tax is not only unnecessary, it has a history of no hard success in Europe. McGuinty - painful as it is for me to acknowledge - has made a good move with Charest in moving towards a cap-and-trade system.

HILLARY CLINTON AND WOMEN ADVANCING

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE GUARDIAN

Women in all advanced countries have been progressing enormously during my lifetime.

I am an interested observer because my brother and I were raised in the 1950s by a hard-working woman. Hers was heroism greater at times than soldiers at war.

But it was the striving of millions like my mother who made this happen. It was not Hillary or Germaine Greer. Indeed, the careers of such leaders ride the efforts of those millions.

It is also the simple economic fact that advanced societies now need all their brain power. If you scrape the bottom of the barrel for the less qualified men, you are only putting your society at an economic disadvantage.

Give any group of people the education they need and then have new opportunity come along in your society for educated people, and you will see great social change, as we have been seeing.

Great changes always have great underlying economic forces at work. Speeches alone, without such economic opportunity, create little if any change.

Friday, June 06, 2008

A READING BY THOMAS FRIEDMAN ON A GREEN WORLD

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY ADITYA CHARABORTTY IN THE GUARDIAN

Anyone who goes to a Thomas Friedman reading deserves what he or she gets.

Friedman not only is a less-than-elegant writer - his style might be described as mindless-bouncy, pop-radio style - he is a parody of a genuinely thoughtful man.

His main function with his columns and parts of his books is as a boisterous aluminum-siding salesman for the Pentagon's interests, as well as for those of its mini-geopolitical replica, Israel, which has been favored by some of the most irrational columns ever printed in a major newspaper.

He wrote a book on globalization which proved he doesn't know what globalization is.

Years ago, he used to whine - he whines a lot - about Japanese cars in America. He sounded a lot like a UAW union boss instead of a thinker.

Now what on this planet could be further removed from green things than the Pentagon? Cluster bombs? Land mines? White phosphorus bombs? Thermonuclear warheads? Germ weapons labs? Torture?

Friedman is a perfect example of the way American-style marketing works. Here is a fairly mediocre mind, promoted by huge amounts of money every year to get a certain point of view "out there."

SPECULATION ON THE ROLE OF CLINTON WITH OBAMA AND THE SENSE-OF-ENTITLEMENT CROWD

RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY HANNAH STRANGE IN THE TIMES

I think your speculation, Hannah, about a post like healthcare for Clinton, plus some campaign-debt payoff, is sound.

Not only did she make a name in healthcare, but it is a fairly safe post in terms of limited general influence and its heavy demands to keep her out of Obama's hair.

Her gracelessness now in bowing out is just breathtaking. I do think she's completely blown serious future consideration as a national leader. Frankly, she's rather dangerous.

And look at her sense-of-entitlement clones. Geraldine Ferraro is even more unbelievable.

She's throwing accusations about anti-feminism and racism when any objective observer can see the darkest stuff was all Clinton's handiwork.

I cannot believe the site of disappointed, sense-of-entitlement women Democrats.

They would rather vote for man with a reputation as skirt-chaser, a hard drinker, a man with a fury of a temper, and with a record of rather shady connections than their own party's graceful, intelligent candidate.

I guess the words about a woman's scorn do have at least a little truth to them.



Just old-fashioned American arrogance and sense of entitlement

Thursday, June 05, 2008

THE DISMISSAL OF SEVERAL SENIOR AIR FORCE OFFICIALS - IT MAY BE MORE THAN IT IS MADE TO APPEAR

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE

There may well be far more serious matters involved here than the blog writer captures.

First, there is a considerable opposition in the high ranks of the military and intelligence against a Bush attack on Iran.

That opposition was reflected in the top-secret national assessment of Iran's nuclear program which was leaked months ago.

The leak was intended to embarrass Bush and put some brakes to his intentions, and it did achieve these things.

The (forced) resignation of Admiral William Fallon, Mideast commander, was also a reflection of this opposition.

The loading of the B-52 with nuclear-armed missiles has never been explained adequately.

According to people who should know, this cannot happen through error. There are too many powerful cross-checks.

Is it possible that these missiles were intended to be part of an aborted attack on Iran's nuclear facilities?

This is the kind of story American papers should be investigating, but they do not, instead report Pentagon blather like this from Robert Gates.



A B-52H loaded with cruise missiles

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

SHOULD HILLARY CLINTON BE CONSIDERED AS OBAMA'S RUNNING MATE? AND WHAT THE OFFICE OF VICE PRESIDENT MEANS

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

Selecting Hillary as his running mate would prove a catastrophe for Obama.

With Hillary and Bill sharing the same space, there wouldn't be oxygen enough left in the White House to breathe.

They both would be looking over his shoulders and second-guessing him. He'd feel them staring at his back.

Most importantly, Obama's greatest strengths are freshness and thoughtfulness, he has a kind of grace, very rare qualities in an American national politician.

Hillary is tired stuff, a bitter, old-school pol. Her husband, despite all the superficial charm, is genuinely sleazy. Their presence would cast a shadow across Obama's administration before he even got started.

Obama has an intelligent, educated, independent-minded wife too. She will shine, and the last thing she needs is checking over her shoulder for Hillary.

Obama needs to pick a white, well-educated woman for his running mate, someone genuinely suitable to be president. There are today lots of them in America.

A few weeks after he's done that, Hillary will be forgotten. I doubt she'll ever have a national presence again. She has demonstrated a truly unpleasant character, but then we should have known that because she's lived with her ethically bankrupt husband for thirty years.

I think the best Hillary could do is work towards taking on the Edward Kennedy role in the Senate. He will be missed. But even this is not going to be easy. She has offended many.

__________________________

Martha K,

I don't think you understand the nature of the office of Vice President.

There is no work, none.

The only defined role in the American Constitution is to cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate.

It is the most useless job on the planet, as several past vice presidents, and notably John Adams, have said.

It gives an ambitious person a lot of time to kill and the potential any day to create problems with publicity and leaks.

In recent times, the vice president has been given a ceremonial role abroad to "fill in" for the president when the matter is less than important.

The repulsive Dick Cheney has been unlike any other vice president in history. He is the de facto, "closet" president, Bush being a weak character and an obtuse one too. This is unlikely ever to be repeated.

Any strong person in the vice president's role rankles. Johnson was unbelievably angry with the Kennedy brothers. They just ignored him, and he had an ego the size of Hillary's.

More than one observer after the assassination of Kennedy believed Johnson was involved for this reason. There was a play written not long after called "MacByrd," MacBeth reworked. And there are several serious analyses of his possible involvement.

_________________________


Martha K,

You truly sound ridiculous now.

I don't know where you've been getting your information about who has called whom what, but when the information is as poor as you reveal here, it really is better to avoid advertising the fact by posting.

Plenty of people have called Obama names, insinuated nasty things about him, and questioned his motives. He has suffered through idiocy like flag pins, Reverend Wright, and reaction to his lovely wife's honest remarks. Clinton joined in on much of this crap.

Clinton is well known, moreover, behind the scenes, to have attempted to influence super-delegates with a line about black Obama having no appeal to the White Flight crowd (America's term for whites who fled blacks in the cities and first-tier suburbs after the Civil Rights Act). It was an ugly use of race, likely the ugliest of her many questionable statements.

Her ego may be measured by idiotic claims like being under fire in Bosnia, a complete fabrication covered by nonsense about being tired (when you are tired, hidden truth is more likely than fabrication).

She also plainly blew her campaign. She was originally the leader. She underestimated her competition and used some very poorly considered tactics. This is anything but proof of her judgment.

But the most glaring measure of her ego is her complete lack of grace in losing. She should have gracefully conceded and encouraged support for the party's candidate - that is the way it is done.

But not by Hillary. We have to be kept in suspense with her breathing hard in the background. It's just awful.




Can you imagine this pair behind you constantly?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

RUSSIAN JOURNALISM AND CRITICS OF PUTIN LOSING THEIR JOBS, A CASE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES' SMIRKY SELF-SATISFACTION

RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE NEW YORK TIMES

And how is it any different in America?

You really sound terribly self-satisfied reporting matters like this about Russia or China, and the facts simply do not warrant it.

American television broadcasting is totally subservient to the Washington establishment. Shamefully so.

There isn't one anchor or commentator, including PBS, who dares voice any hard analysis or serious criticism of the literally incompetent Bush.

Indeed these broadcasters, plus major newspapers like The Times, always provide the melodramatic drumbeat leading into stupid acts like the Iraq invasion. It was the same for that colossal waste of life in Vietnam.

When anyone in a public broadcasting position does anything different to that in America, he/she is in trouble.

Look at the quality journalists involved in the Operation Tailwind report concerning Vietnam some years back. They all lost their jobs, yet I am sure the essence of that story was true.

Look at what happened to Dan Rather - normally a pretty Milquetoast anchor - when he reported material on Bush's shameful Vietnam era record. The essence of that report was also true, yet Rather became history.

On the other hand, errors the other way are never hurtful to careers. CNN showing a ridiculous amateur film about a mythical al Qaeda mountain-redoubt weapons lab testing poisons on dogs. The shoddiest pure propaganda.

The New York Times hounding Wen Ho Lee out of his job and reputation on the basis of gossip from the often-incompetent FBI.

There are numberless examples, including the hounding of an innocent Richard Jewel for a bombing in which he actually had been more a hero than a villain.

Smirky self-satisfaction just does not belong on the faces of news sources, but it is common in America.



Judith Miller, just one of The New York Times past glories

Monday, June 02, 2008

DEMOCRATS' BEHAVIOR IN THE PRIMARIES

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY DANIEL FINKELSTEIN IN THE TIMES

This behavior is not the behavior of a party. It is the behavior of an individual, an exceptionally ambitious and selfish individual.

The Democratic Party at the national level has close to disappeared. The country, which has always been conservative, is becoming overwhelmingly so. With prominent members like Lieberman – supporting McCain - what on earth can it represent?

And the Democrats for the most part cannot be distinguished from the Republicans when it comes to imperial wars. They vote to start them, and they vote to sustain them, and most never raise their voices against a stupid war crime like Iraq.

The people of the United States are reacting to sheer government incompetence today. Bush isn't a conservative, he is an idiot.

Obama offers hope not because he is radical in any way but because he is thoughtful and sympathetic and can put a good face on the American Empire. He will not be a big agent for genuine change because that is not possible for anyone in today's America.

There are legions of powerful and devious men in the country’s establishment who work to keep America on imperial course. Their tolerance for change is close to zero. They can make a president look weak and ineffectual.

You have much the same going on in Britain. Tony Blair's pathetic "New Labour" is not the Labour party at all, not even a shadow of it.

It was only a marketing vehicle for Blair to enjoy power. It represented no coherent principles, and I think it pretty clear that Brown, left with Tony's wreckage, is in deep trouble.

SHOULD WE PUNISH PARENTS FOR THEIR CHILDREN'S BEHAVIOR?

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE DAILY TELEGRAPH

There's the old saying that parenting is the biggest job for which no one gets any education.

We could benefit from required participation in parental courses for every pregnant woman.

But even that improvement would likely be inadequate.

Having children you care little about is one of the dark, little-examined areas of society, but it goes on all the time.

Really slothful parents, as any conscientious teacher who has dealt with them knows, are virtually hopeless.

They often themselves are repositories of the same terrible behaviors they inflict on others with their uncared for children.

I do believe in many or most cases, we are seeing the results of low effective intelligence and/or serious mental disease.

These are genetic conditions, not learned ones.

I do believe that one day, in advanced societies, people will have to be licensed to have children, basic behavioral and economic qualifications being established. It is a measure that would virtually empty our prisons and greatly improve the quality of public schools.

We do not permit some people to do so simple an act as legally drive. Why do we freely allow people to dump at great cost troubled children they are unqualified to have?

IRAN'S RIGHT TO NUCLEAR ENRICHMENT TECHNOLOGY

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

Indeed, enrichment is part of nuclear technology.

Iran has every right to exercise its capacity for science, providing resources for its economy and opportunities for young scientists.

The Israeli-American attitudes towards Iran are arrogant almost beyond belief.

Israel has lied to the world for forty years, having today according to our latest information, 150 nuclear warheads plus the capacity to deliver them, even to Europe.

The U.S. of course maintains enough thermonuclear weapons to, in Hillary's lovely word, "obliterate" a good portion of the earth.

Iran does not have a weapons program so far as we know.

But if it did, so what? Iran has as much right as anyone to do so.

Indeed, today they are surrounded by nuclear powers. Israel and the U.S. threaten and insult them regularly.

Stability in the Mideast would actually result if there were a power with weapons to match Israel. As it is, Israel is free to act the bully throughout the region, a miniature replica of American behavior in much of the rest of the world.



Truly frightening, isn't she?

ONTARIO AND QUEBEC GET TOGETHER ON A CAP-AND-TRADE SYSTEM FOR EMISSIONS

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

Finally, an act with which I can agree with McGuinty.

Harper's weird little mob is only disparages cap-and-trade because they fear pressure for its being extended to the world's filthiest energy project, the tarsands.

In other words, they put narrow regional interests ahead of national ones.

Cap-and-trade is a proven, fairly easy-to-implement, approach.

Now if Dion would just drop his outdated idea of a carbon tax, we'd be on our way towards real progress.



McGuinty and Charest

REFLECTIONS ON TRUFFAUT AND JULES AND JIM

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY PETER PRESTON IN THE GUARDIAN

This era of film is filled with such wonderful memories.

Today, it seems we are in an entirely different world, artistically as well as politically, and it is not a world better for the most part.

I was very fond of Truffaut.

But I must say you missed what I regard as one of the key themes of Jules and Jim, and that is the destructiveness of love.

I found it one of his most disturbing films.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

ELIZABETH THE FIRST AND HER LASTING INFLUENCE - NOTHING TO DO WITH MYTH

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY NEEL MUKHERJEE IN THE GUARDIAN

Neel Mukherjee,

I truly feel you've missed the essence of Elizabeth altogether.

First your assertion, "She was the first English Renaissance leader to exploit fully the importance of spectacle," is incorrect.

Ever heard of the Field of Cloth of Gold? Elizabeth's father loved spectacle, and the magnificent Wolsey served him well and often in this.

Actually Henry spent his once full treasury - built up by Henry VII - down to nothing on this kind of nonsense.

There is a real basis for Elizabeth's fame. Myth is not even an issue here.

First she was a brilliant leader, speaking six languages, selecting a remarkable group of talents to advise and support her (she was an extraordinary judge of talent and character), and able to carry on a very artful policy towards other European princes, using their prejudices about women against their own interests.

A pope at the time said that he and Elizabeth would produce the most extraordinary children.

She did her very best to keep England out of war. She did her very best to keep the treasury sound, reforming the inflated currency - debased by Henry's extravagance - as one of her early acts of office.

Her period was one of a real flowering of exploration and culture owing to changing technology. Her court was surrounded by the most amazing people as diverse as Doctor Dee and Drake to Shakespeare and Raleigh.

She genuinely loved the affection of her people, and they wholeheartedly returned the feeling.

She genuinely believed in freedom of religion, just so people did not go against the established order in public, a very advanced outlook for her time.

She was genuinely concerned about doing the right thing in many circumstances, including the handling of Mary, Queen of Scots, a foolish woman who constantly pushed the boundaries and worked to make Elizabeth feel insecure on her throne.

She only reluctantly agreed to Mary's execution after taking years of abuse and with her advisors and parliament demanding and pushing her for execution.

Elizabeth's reign also marked the real beginning of parliamentary-limited monarchy, a genuine historical milestone.

In many respects she well qualifies as the greatest prince of modern European history.





Two favorite portraits of Gloriana, the first as young girl

CHINA AND DEMOCRACY AND COMMUNIST PARTY BUYING OFF MIDDLE CLASS

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY JOHN LEE IN THE GUARDIAN

But, John Lee, this is always what is done as nations progress to modernity.

Eventually, the middle class will be large enough and well-off enough, to assume control of politics and the state. When that happens, it's called democracy.

The early United States was ruled by a small group of elites. About 1% of Virginia's population could vote.

You could not vote without property. The Senate was appointed. The president was elected only by the Electoral College, selected from the same property-holding elites. The Bill of Rights sounded good but was never enforced owing to disagreements over state versus federal authority.

If you do the math, you'll see that 1% is roughly the same representativeness as modern China (about 60 million party members out of 1.3 billion).

It took many years of progress – slow, step by step, plus a huge war - to turn the United States into the democratic state that it is, although many would say the process is far from over.

In the modern case of Revolution in Iran, both the emerging middle class and religious conservatives were against the Shah. The Shah had played up to the growing middle class in many ways, including letting their children study abroad.

But at some point, an absolute monarch becomes ridiculous for thousands of professionals and businessmen with vital interests in the decisions made.

The Iranian middle class made a coalition with the religious forces who hated the Shah because he was secular and had little patience for religious traditions.

The Revolution succeeded, but then the religious forces squeezed the middle class out, much as the Bolsheviks had pushed aside the others who had overthrown the Czar.

It is only a matter of time before the middle class comes back and Iran becomes a democracy. If you look at scenes in Tehran, you already see a young middle class impatient with old ways.

Democracy is everywhere and always the ultimate product of sustained, strong economic growth. It will be in China too.

STARBUCKS AND AMERICAN CORPORATE CONFORMITY

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY RICHARD ROGERS IN THE GUARDIAN

Conformity, contrary to America's fantasies of itself, has been there since the beginning.

"I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America."

Alexis de Tocqueville

I, too, have an affection for Starbucks, never understanding the prejudiced attitudes towards the company.

In every city I've visited, Starbucks saves architecturally-significant buildings from destruction by renovating them and making them pleasant and useful places. I've seen this in Toronto, Portland, Boston, and Chicago. It is an admirable policy.

Starbucks offers a lot of pretty decent entry-level jobs, far better in quality than an outfit like Wal-Mart.

Starbucks supports the Fair Trade movement. This too is an excellent corporate policy.

And Starbucks makes damn good coffee.

I see very little to object to in this well-run company. I wish that other octopus American corporations were even a little like it.

McDonald's slams its garish, ugly logos everywhere and sells crap to kids. Wal-Mart stores look like cinder-block warehouses in a sea of parking lots, and its employment policies are dismal. Many of the corporate sports corporations, like Nike, have been caught red-handed abusing child workers abroad.





SOME ELECTION WORKINGS IN AMERICA

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE TORONTO GLOBE AND MAIL

John Brown, Bush was "elected" with half a million votes less than Gore.

This kind of thing happens because of the antique, anti-democratic provisions of a hard-to-change Constitution. The Electoral College actually elects the President, not the popular vote.

Just one vote in a state - whether that vote is fraudulent or not – can give the entire state to the candidate with that vote.

Florida's vote was riddled with fraud, a common event in national elections in the U.S. Kennedy was elected through fraud in Illinois and Texas. Johnson started his career in Congress with vote fraud in Texas (see Caro's authoritative biography). There are dozens of techniques used to promote fraud.

The fraud so common in American national elections happens for several reasons. One is the fact that state officials run the rules and create and count the ballots in each state. The other is the tremendous incentive given local officials by the reality of the Electoral College.

A third is a rather cavalier, historical attitude towards elections. Even the great Lincoln was dishonest and maligned his Democratic opponent in 1864. Washington bought the electors wine and liquor for their votes (at that time the popular vote was a formality - the select politicos appointed to the Electoral College were the only ones who mattered.

The fraud only comes to matter when the two sides are fairly close. Overwhelming victories tend to nullify its effects on both sides.

The Supreme Court decision that put Bush in office went against a proper recount in Florida, thus effectively court-appointing the president.



John Quincy Adams, involved in an early American election scandal.