Monday, December 29, 2008

ISRAEL'S CELEBRATION OF THE FESTIVAL OF LIGHT: MORE THAN 300 DEAD AND STILL COUNTING

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE NEW YORK TIMES

We are witnessing the most wanton war crimes by Israel, but people are afraid to speak up.

Just as when Israel slaughtered 1,500 in Lebanon and scattered a million cluster bombs to cripple for years on a flimsy excuse.

The 'rockets" are homemade rubbish which haven't killed one Israeli. They are the anguished efforts of people with no resources and no freedom.

And the killing of 310 people (latest tally) comes on top of the roughly two dozen Israel has murdered in the last month or so with its missiles.

And that's yet on top of keeping 1.5 million people without medicine, electricity and food.

And that's on top of arresting much of the elected government of Gaza.

And that's on top of perhaps 9,000 illegally held prisoners.

And that's on top of a half century of disgusting abuse.

Israel is openly telling the Palestinians who they must elect, backing up the demand with mass killing and destruction.

After taking their land, tearing down houses, and building a Berlin Wall, the Palestinians are told how to vote.

South Africa was kinder.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT - A CONTEMPORARY CHRISTMAS TALE

AND TO ALL, A GOOD NIGHT

A Contemporary Christmas Tale
(reposted for the season)

John Chuckman

It was only a matter of time before Santa Claus himself came under the Neanderthal-eyed scrutiny of American intelligence. After all, Santa’s citizenship is unknown, and he crosses borders with no passport or other form of identification. No one knows whether he even has a valid pilot’s license.

Although his image is well known, there is no official photograph on file with American border control, and he has never been fingerprinted or body-searched. Most disconcerting of all, he delivers parcels to children all over the world, including the children living in the Axis of Evil. His intentions with this activity are not understood beyond some fuzzy generalization about kindness and generosity to all. Clearly, here was the world’s largest unplugged pipeline to potential terrorists.

It was only after receiving no response to several urgent letters from the State Department requesting an immediate meeting in Washington that a decision was made to approach Santa’s North Pole solitude. As usual in such matters with the people now running America, a wing of America’s most lethal killing machines was employed for the purpose. You never know what you might encounter in such a forbidding place.

As the planes first zoomed over the icy silence of the North Pole workshop, one of the pilots decided to swoop down for a closer look. He was one of those daring fly-boys, and his tail struck the only wire for thousands of miles around, the North Pole Telegraph, sending his plane hurling into the workshop in a ball of flames with tons of ammunition and missiles exploding.

Santa and Mrs. Claus rushed out of their snow-blanketed gingerbread house to see what was happening, trying to calm the terrified reindeer running from their stable at one end of the house. The elves, too, scurried towards the stable, trying to stop the reindeer from running or flying off.

Above, in the dark vault of sky, the other pilots observed the explosion and saw missile trails smoking into the air. They also saw the frantic activity below and quickly concluded their comrade had come under anti-aircraft attack. So they swooped down in attack formation, rapid-fire canon tearing into everything ahead of them.

Most of the reindeer fell in the snow, spurting warm blood across the bluish-white surface. Most of the elves, too, fell gasping for life. Mrs. Claus received a wound in the head and instantly fell limp. Santa tried heroically to reach his wife but realized the situation was hopeless and turned, running into the darkness accompanied by Prancer, the only surviving reindeer.

The only witness to the massacre is one surviving elf now living somewhere in Canada under an assumed identity, fearful for his life. It is only from his testimony that we know anything about Santa’s fate.

Realizing the horrific mistake they had made, the pilots dropped white phosphorus bombs with the intention of incinerating all evidence. The entire North Pole lit up and Santa and Prancer could be seen in the distance on a huge block of ice drifting off into the dark sea, the ice everywhere cracked and weakened by the combined effects of white phosphorus and years of global warming.

Within in a few hours, the beating sound of a black helicopter approached Santa and Prancer. The elf, from his hiding place in a snowdrift, could only make out intermittent sounds across the howling coldness, but it seems armed men emerged from the helicopter, shot Prancer and shackled Santa, shoving him into the dark, beating machine. The elf heard a word that sounded like Guantanamo and Santa has not been heard from since. Reports of his fate reached the International Red Cross and organizations like Amnesty International, leading to inquiries, but these have been met only with silence from American authorities.




VICTIMS OF BUSH'S BRAINLESS WAR ON TERROR

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A PROPOSAL TO FIX CANADA'S POLITICAL PROBLEMS FROM THE SAGE OF THE ATHABASCA TARSANDS

RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY PRESTON MANNING IN TORONTO'S GLOBE AND MAIL

Manning’s old-granny image tends to disguise the underlying, unpleasant nature of his thoughts.

And his thoughts are precisely the stuff you would get from Newt Gingrich or Tom Delay playing sage.

Alberta is little more than the other end of a big pipeline to Texas.

Alberta sends oil down.

Texas sends up executives and managers and ideas and money.

The money is why Manning can sit back in his "institute" and blow hot air, pretending to significance for Canadians.

The vapid ideas appear to compose the entire content of his mind.

God, does anyone recall that pathetic series on CBC1, "This I Believe"
which Granny Manning hosted a couple of years ago?

A daily set of platitudes and bromides, likely the most pathetic broadcast ever offered by the network. All of it, ideas and even the title, taken from a U.S. broadcast, itself a tiresome business.

Thank God, it didn't last long, I'm sure CBC received bags of complaints, and it probably only ran it in the first place owing to pressure from Manning and Harperites.

Now, he's providing similar quality political stuff in his "columns" in the Globe.








IT TRULY IS HARD TO TELL THEM APART: PRESTON MANNING IS THE ONE IN BLACK-AND-WHITE

THE DEATH OF CONOR CRUISE O'BRIEN AND THE DISPARAGEMENTOF ONE OF HIS MOST IMPORTANT BOOKS

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY OLIVER KAMM IN THE TIMES

Mr. Kamm,

We agree on the greatness of gentleman and scholar Conor Cruise O'Brien.

But with the following words you depart into a fantasy world and certainly leave me behind: "...and a truly terrible book purporting to demonstrate that Thomas Jefferson was an ideological precursor of Pol Pot."

I have read perhaps ten biographies of Jefferson besides being familiar with that period of American history, and I think it fair to claim some understanding. Your characterization of the book is unfair and inaccurate.

Here is my review of O'Brien's book, "The Long Affair," which incorporates remarks on the lamentable Georege Will who expressed himself in ridiculous words about it when it was published (University of Chicago Press):

This is, quite simply, one of the most important books ever written about Jefferson. It redresses the terrible imbalance created by American historians who think of the Founding Fathers as the Twelve Apostles re-incarnated. Critics of the book should understand that O'Brien is a world-class scholar.

When O'Brien published "The Long Affair," about Thomas Jefferson and his peculiar admiration for the bloody excesses of the French Revolution, the Sage for Archer Daniels Midland (aka George Will) went into a word-strewn fit over the book. I think Will's excesses speak to the quality of most criticism of the book.

Perhaps, the single thing about the book that most upset George was O'Brien's comparison of a statement of Jefferson's to something Pol Pot might have said. Jefferson wrote in 1793, at the height of the Terror, "...but rather than it [the French Revolution] should have failed, I would have seen half the earth desolated. Were there but an Adam and Eve left in every country, and left free, it would be better than as it now is." George wrote off Jefferson's brutal statement as "epistolary extravagance," and attacked O'Brien for using slim evidence for an extreme conclusion about an American "hero."

George went so far as favorably to compare the work of Ken Burns with that of O'Brien, calling Burns "an irrigator of our capacity for political admiration," as compared to one who "panders" to "leave our national memory parched."

I mean no disparagement of Ken Burns, but he produces the television equivalent of coffee-table books. O'Brien is a scholar, the author of many serious books. The very comparison, even without the odd language, tells us something about George.

But language, too, is important. The irony is that George's own words, "irrigator of our capacity for political admiration," sound frighteningly like what we'd expect to hear from the Ministry of Culture in some ghastly place (dare I write it?) such as Pol Pot's Cambodia.

But George should have known better. This letter of Jefferson's is utterly characteristic of views he expressed many different ways. Jefferson quite blithely wrote that America's Constitution would not be adequate to defend what he called liberty, that there would have to be a new revolution every 15 or 20 years, and that the tree of liberty needed to be nourished regularly with a fresh supply of patriot blood.

Jefferson's well-known sentimental view of the merits of sturdy yeomen farmers as citizens of a republic and his intense dislike for industry and urbanization bear an uncanny resemblance to Pol Pot's beliefs. Throwing people out of cities to become honorable peasants back on the land, even those who never saw a farm, was precisely how Pol Pot managed to kill at least a million people in Cambodia.

What is it about many of those on the right relishing the deaths of others in the name of ideology? You see, much like the "chickenhawks" now running Washington, sending others off to die, Jefferson never lifted a musket during the Revolution.

While serving as governor of Virginia, he set a pathetic example of supporting the war's desperate material needs. He also gave us a comic-opera episode of dropping everything and running feverishly away from approaching British troops in Virginia (there was an official inquiry over the episode). Jefferson turned down his first diplomatic appointment to Europe by the new government out of fear of being captured by British warships, a fear that influenced neither Benjamin Franklin nor John Adams.

But real heroes aren't always, or even usually, soldiers. Jefferson, despite a long and successful career and a legacy of fine words (expressing thoughts largely cribbed from European writers), cannot be credited with any significant personal sacrifice over matters of principle during his life. He wouldn't give up luxury despite his words about slavery. He never risked a serious clash with the Virginia Establishment over slave laws during his rise in state politics. And in his draft of the Declaration of Independence, he lamely and at length blamed the king of England for the slave trade, yet, when he wrote the words, it was actually in his interest to slow the trade and protect the value of his existing human holdings.

Unlike Mr. Lincoln later, who had none of his advantages of education and good social contacts, Jefferson did not do well as a lawyer. He never earned enough to pay his own way, his thirst for luxury far outstripping even the capacity of his many high government positions and large number of slaves to generate wealth. Again, unlike Mr. Lincoln, Jefferson was not especially conscientious about owing people money, and he frequently continued buying luxuries like silver buckles and fine carriages while he still owed substantial sums.

Jefferson spent most of his productive years in government service, yet he never stopped railing against the evils of government. There's more than a passing resemblance here to the empty slogans of government-service lifers like Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich who enjoy their government pensions and benefits even as they still complain about government. Jefferson's most famous quote praises the least possible government, yet, as President, he brought a virtual reign of terror to New England with his attempts to enforce an embargo against England (the "Anglomen" as this very prejudiced man typically called the English).

Jefferson, besides having some truly ridiculous beliefs, like those about the evils of central banks or the health efficacy of soaking your feet in ice water every morning, definitely had a very dark side. Any of his political opponents would readily have testified to this. Jefferson was the American Machiavelli.

It was this side of him that put Philip Freneau on the federal payroll in order to subsidize the man's libelous newspaper attacks on Washington's government - this while Jefferson served in that very government. At another point, Jefferson hired James Callender to dig up and write filth about political opponents, an effort which backfired when Callender turned on Jefferson for not fulfilling promises. Callender famously dug out and publicized the story about Sally Hemings, Jefferson's slave-mistress, his late wife's illegitimate half-sister (slavery made for some amazing family relationships), a story we now know almost certainly to be true (by the way, dates point to Sally's beginning to serve Jefferson in this capacity at 13 or 14 years old). It was this dark side of Jefferson that resulted in a ruthless, years-long vendetta against Aaron Burr for the sin of appearing to challenge Jefferson's election to the presidency.

Jefferson expressed himself in embarrassingly clear terms about his belief in black inferiority. And it is important to note that in doing so, he violated one of his basic principles of remaining skeptical and not accepting what was not proved, so this, clearly, was something he believed deeply. There is also reliable evidence that on one occasion he was observed by a visitor beating a slave, quite contradicting Jefferson's public-relations pretensions to saintly paternalism.

When Napoleon sent an army attempting to subdue the slaves who had revolted and formed a republic on what is now Haiti, President Jefferson gave his full consent and support to the bloody (and unsuccessful) effort.

Hero? I have no idea how George Will defines the word, but by any meaningful standard, Jefferson utterly fails.

Read the book, and decide for yourself.








THE DEVIOUS HIGH PRIEST, JEFFERSON, WITH THE CHIEF ACOLYTE AT HIS TEMPLE, GEORGE WILL

Thursday, December 18, 2008

THE AMERICAN SENATE AS A DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTION

RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY DANIEL FINKELSTEIN IN THE TIMES

Daniel, until 1913, the Senate was entirely an appointed body.

The U.S. government was largely based on the British constitution of the time – greatly admired by many of the Founders - with the Senate having the role of the House of Lords, hardly a democratic model.

(Indeed, the president represented the king in the original scheme, with a number of the Founders favoring a lifetime appointment or a ten-year term. As it was, the Electoral College concept - taken from old systems like the election of the Holy Roman Emperor - made him not directly elected by the popular vote. In the early days the popular vote didn't even matter.

The College vote did - by a small group of elites - the college not having to conform to popular sentiment at all – or what there was of it since in a place like Virginia about one percent of the population had the franchise. Indeed, technically this remains true today, although the College would never dare deliberately overturn the popular vote. Still, we get minority presidents frequently because of the winner-take-all element in the state-by-state votes.)

The anti-democratic Senate is the body with the real power. Having to approve every major presidential appointment and treaty negotiated as well as all legislation from the “People’s House” or the president, the Senate can virtually emasculate an elected president.

Even with election today, the Senate remains highly anti-democratic.

It is elected in a staggered fashion, one-third every two years, so that its basic composition cannot be changed in any one election. Public concern or burning issues largely don’t effect it.

The requirement for a super-majority (60%) to overcome a filibuster truly means the Senate does not work with normal democratic rules under any of its deliberations.

The fact that the Vice-President is given the role of tie-breaker in the Senate - his only genuine Constitutional duty - is also anti-democratic because, as you know, the silly office of Vice-president is filled by selection of a presidential candidate.

You cannot vote separately for President and Vice-president, although, in the early Republic, Electors could, and sometimes Vice-presidential candidates wound up as President. In the original thinking, the Vice-president really does represent something like the Prince of Wales, a king in waiting, although his role as prince-in-waiting ends with the next election.

The Senate’s bizarre two seats for every state - the Great Compromise protecting the interests of under-populated slave states - means today that one of the Senators from California "represents" sixteen million people. At the same time, one of the Senators from New Hampshire represents about three hundred and fifty thousand - very democratic, especially when you consider the Senate’s immense power.

Because Senators from big states today cannot possibly shake hands with all their constituents, even if that's all they did for six years, then advertising and marketing play a key role in elections.

It is estimated a Senator on average spends two-thirds of his/her time in office collecting and soliciting campaign money. Once the money is received, the quid pro quo is access by lobbyists for the next six years. Again, very democratic.

The Founders, most of them, did not trust or even like the idea of democracy. The word had the connotation among members of the Constitutional Convention similar to “communism” in 1950s America. That’s why there are all the extremely conservative designs in the Constitution, with the Constitution being by design an immensely difficult thing to alter.

The sense of democracy you feel in America today comes only after more than two hundred years of rebellions, wars, and crises gradually making America a fairly democratic place. But the nature of the Senate – its powers, manner of election, and financing - provides the real measure of how far removed even today America remains from democracy.

Colin Powell couldn’t have been more wrong when he answered the French at the U.N., in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, that America was the world’s oldest democracy.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

BERNANKE AND HIS STUDIES OF JAPAN APPLIED TO THE CURRENT FINANCIAL CRISIS

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

The writers are trying to glorify what amounts to a cheap trick on all America's trading partners and allies, another scam even bigger than the ones we've seen.

It doesn't matter what academic terms Bernanke uses to cover it.

What the U.S. is doing is to embark on an inflation that will penalize all those holding dollars, an involuntary tax on people all over the planet.

That's how it’s going to pay for Bush's gross excesses.

It's done this before: we saw the same behavior after the idiotic and incredibly costly Vietnam War.

Now it's going to do the same for its equally idiotic, and even more costly, adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Of course, the American dollar is already being questioned as the world reserve currency, and rightly so.


OBAMA AND EDUCATION

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

Yes, I'm sure Obama cares deeply about the poor state of much of America's public education.

But education under America's Constitution is a state matter, and the federal government is very limited as to what it can do.

The Department of Education of course doles out billions in federal incentives and assistance, but it is the local authorities who shape things educational in America.

Local authorities like the current Governor of Illinois and a host of crooks and incompetents across the land.


CON ARTISTS: WHY DO PEOPLE FALL FOR THEM?

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY DANIEL FINKELSTEIN IN THE TIMES

Why do they fall for advertising's flimsy and dishonest claims?

Why do they fall for ambitious and manipulative politicians?

Why do they fall for wars and send their children off to die in them?

Why do they fall for the ridiculous and prejudiced claims of religion?

I think it has something to do with the fact that humans are little better than glorified chimps, responding to the chest-beating of an aggressive male.

Evolution may produce a better model someday, but for now it truly remains the human comedy, what Mark Twain called ‘the damned human race.’


Saturday, December 13, 2008

CANADA'S PRINCE OF DARKNESS ASSUMES LEADERSHIP OF THE LIBERAL PARTY

December 13, 2008

CANADA’S PRINCE OF DARKNESS ASSUMES LEADERSHIP OF THE LIBERAL PARTY

John Chuckman

Since leaving the shaded groves of Harvard a few years ago, seeking as his second career the running of a country, Michael Ignatieff has been a prominent politician in Canada . He didn’t just pack his bags and come home – he grew up in Canada – he had the encouragement of some Liberal Party officials as a possible future leader.

While it’s true that the Liberals needed to do something to revive their fortunes – Ignatieff is their third leader in a few years – they have acted desperately both in selecting him and in their manner of selecting him.

Canada’s progressive vote is divided among four parties, and the largest of these, the Liberals, was hurt by a scandal in Quebec a few years back. The bright, relentless, frequently less-than-civil Stephen Harper has kept his new Conservative Party in power as a minority for two and a half years, making every measure before Parliament one of confidence, rarely consulting the opposition, and daring them to make his government fall.

Two weeks ago, shortly after an election no one really wanted and a loss of Liberal seats, tempers snapped with Harper’s provocative introduction of three anti-democratic measures described as economic ones – they involved government funding of parties, equity for women, and the right to strike – while holding off any genuine economic measures. Three opposition parties then formed a coalition to topple Harper, something for which there is little precedent in Canada.

Harper started backing off his insulting measures almost immediately, but all trust was broken. In a poor precedent, the Governor General accepted Harper’s request to prorogue Parliament until near the end of January. So on January 26, Parliament will return, Harper will likely introduce some genuine economic measures, and the Liberal Party will have a new leader to face a delicate situation.

The Liberal party executive sees Ignatieff as tough, the kind of attack-dog needed against Harper, and so, behind the scenes, his leadership opponents were pressured to withdraw – including the remarkably talented and highly experienced Bob Rae – leaving only Ignatieff and a party membership feeling it has been ignored.

Ignatieff spent years speaking for America 's global empire, allying himself with the Neo-cons in his enthusiasm for invading Iraq . He joined the ranks of ethical cowards by suggesting some modest role for torture. He since has blubbered something about changing his views, but it's what he did when it mattered that counts. Had he been in office when Bush invaded, Canadians would be killing and being killed in Iraq . Ignatieff has nothing in common with Canada ’s great Liberal tradition, which saw Pearson saying no to Lyndon Johnson over Vietnam and Jean Chretien doing the same to George Bush over Iraq .

Ignatieff’s way to the leadership is consistent with his past. After leaving Harvard, he got his nomination to run for parliament by being parachuted into a riding where he used some questionable tactics. Here is one Toronto newspaper columnist's description of Ignatieff's efforts about three years ago:

"And snookering one potential opponent, name of Shwec, on the grounds that he wasn't a party member, although he'd paid his dues, and another, name of Chyczij, who also happens to be the association president, on the grounds that he hadn't resigned the presidency when he filed. Not to mention locking the office door ahead of the deadline so they couldn't file in time."


It sounds a great deal like politics in Richard J Daley's Chicago or President Mubarak's Egypt .

He told his constituents he would live in the riding, a suburb of modest homes, but instead lives far away in an upper-class condo district, claiming to be "a subway ride away," less than true and certainly not the same thing as living among those he represents.

Arrogance comes with the territory of national leadership, but there is a limit as to what is palatable, and Ignatieff exceeds that limit. He spent most of his adult life in other countries, serving interests often inimical to those of Canada . He has three years of political experience, no organizational experience, no policy experience, in foreign or domestic affairs. But he has a name, and some of our political insiders have tripped over themselves to thrust him forward.

But he is aggressive, arrogant, and has demonstrated Machiavellian skills. I see him as a divisive and anti-democratic figure, much as Stephen Harper.

What a poor choice is left to the people of Canada for the next election. I’ll be throwing my vote to the Greens.




MICHAEL IGNATIEFF, ETHICAL NULLITY

Monday, December 08, 2008

AN AMERICAN NEO-CON LIVING IN CANADA PREACHES ABOUT CANADIAN DEMOCRACY

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

Tom Flanagan is an American neo-con, and truly has little basis for preaching politics or constitutional matters to Canadians.

Moreover, he has been a close advisor to our unpleasant, personality-disorder Prime Minister.

"But the Governor-General, in her role as protector of Canadian democracy, should ensure the people have that opportunity..."

That statement is simply ignorant of Parliamentary government, as you might expect from an American and from a Harper advisor.

It also is just a re-statement of one of the official Harper talking points given to all Conservative mouthpieces. We've heard it over and over, in one form or another, and there is no factual basis for it. Indeed, quite the opposite.

Democracy spoke during the recent election. Canadians voted 63% against Mr. Harper's party.

Under the Westminster system, our system, once a Parliament has been elected, the people have done their democratic duty.

After the election, members have the freedom to form new alliances or even a coalition. We often see, for example, members crossing the aisle. Such members of course must answer to the people at the following election. Half the parliaments in the world are run by coalitions.

No one "voted for" Harper but the small number of people in his own
riding, and the coalition's assuming power would of course not affect his riding's representation.

So how is democracy affected?

Amazingly uninformed comments from a supposedly educated man.




TOM FLANAGAN, BUSY SPREADING THE ALIEN VIEWS OF AMERICAN NEOCONS ACROSS CANADA

Saturday, December 06, 2008

AFGHANISTAN SHOULD BE OVER - WE'VE DONE WHAT WE COULD

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

"Canada and its allies are fighting at the request of the United Nations Security Council, which has used repeated resolutions, the most recent one enacted last month, to authorize an International Stability and Assistance Force."

This is technically true, but saying only this leaves out the harsh realities that are far more important.

The UN was pushed into this by Bush whose people were pressuring and threatening and bribing countries around the globe for the vote.

When the Brits first joined Bush in the invasion, we know they did so in part because they seriously feared America was ready to use nuclear weapons on Afghanistan otherwise.

Canada made this commitment under intense pressure, officials in Ottawa saying at the time "we owe one to the Pentagon."

The U.S. never had a clear purpose, beyond revenge, when it invaded Afghanistan. It had made almost no real effort to use diplomacy, legal channels, and economic pressure to seek justice over 9/11.

So far it has achieved nothing but dispersing the Taleban and killing a lot of civilians. Much of the support of moderates there has been lost with its insane propensity to bomb everything that moves, which generally turns out to be civilians.

The Kabul government today is no more genuinely in charge of the country than it was five years ago.

But Canada has been recognized in America - always desperately looking for countries to join in the killing - and that is the only genuine purpose of this "mission."

So, indeed, the purpose, what there was of it, has been achieved.


DION SHOULD GO SAYS MANLEY

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

John Manley is right on this - although it's already been said by others - and he is hardly much of one to speak on this.

Manley is in his own way as pathetic a politician as Dion - a boring speaker who resembles an overweight boy scout given to jerky shakes of the head and rolling of the eyes. Altogether unattractive.

And, more importantly, very much a crypto-Conservative, an American wannabe.

Dion at least has the merit of being an honorable man with genuine ideals, not an opportunistic fence-sitter like Manley.

When a man of Manley's character speaks like this, it isn't brave, it's just creepy.




A TELLING PICTURE OF JOHN MANLEY WITH STEPHEN HARPER WATCHING

Friday, December 05, 2008

THE DECISION BY GOVERNOR GENERAL MICHAELLE JEAN TO PROROGUE PARLIAMENT

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY HEATHER MALLICK IN THE GUARDIAN

I'm sorry, but Heather Mallick gives a version of events inaccurate enough so that the unfamiliar cannot understand the historic events that just transpired in Canada.

"She is Michaƫlle Jean, a Haitian-born Quebecois woman of great intelligence and style, a former journalist who speaks five languages, a diplomatic star overseas, in other words, an intellectual who personifies everything that enrages Harper."

This is simply incorrect both with respect to fact and emphasis.

First, while the unpleasant Harper has spoken contemptuously of the arts community receiving grants, we have no evidence that intellectuals in general “enrage” him. None.

Indeed, he is a highly intelligent man - trained in classical economics and having made remarkable progress in learning French while on the job - albeit one seriously lacking in emotional intelligence.

As for Michaelle Jean, the not widely-known truth is that while beautiful and intelligent, she is a highly fragile personality.

She keeps away from the press, but there are enough stories since her appointment as Governor General by the previous (Liberal) Prime Minister Martin to confirm the idea she has serious emotional and/or mental problems. A few reports in the press suggested Mr. Martin understood this not long after the appointment.

Despite avoiding the press, her fragility shows through clearly in some pictures of her lovely face.

It was reported in major newspapers in an almost footnote story a while ago that when Mr. Harper first took office, people filling him in on less-known problems in the capital advised that the Governor General was a possible road-side bomb waiting to go off.

In this, she reminds me very much of the late Princess Diana, a glowing woman who charmed mass audiences but, by many reports, blew gaskets behind the scenes.

Now, I like what I see of the Governor General, and I don't say these things to attack her character, but they are essential to understanding her historic, and wrong-headed, decision. Intelligence and beauty played no role in this, and I think it fair to say Ms. Mallick emphasizes them to set up her false dichotomy about Harper and intellectuals.

MichaĆ«lle Jean’s decision about proroguing Parliament (a temporary adjournment and wiping clean of the order paper for upcoming business such as the imminent confidence vote) was simply wrong on the facts. Of course, we must accept it, just as we accept any decision of the Supreme Court in criminal or civil matters, but we are, as members of a free society, free to analyze and even criticize it.

She was totally within her rights to do what she did because there are no written rules for this crucial aspect of her job, but it was a mistake, going against the rights and responsibilities of the members of Parliament as a whole, setting a bad precedent, and effectively suppressing the will of a large majority of Parliament - the three parties of the coalition opposing Harper representing 63% of the popular vote in the recent election.

She has allowed a prime minister facing an imminent vote of non-confidence to escape, much like dismissing school for seven weeks to benefit a student who was about to fail an exam. The precedent set is a poor one.

Most of the time, the Governor General, just as the Queen, serves a ceremonial role, representing Canada as head of state abroad, at ceremonies, and in awarding honors, allowing for a decent separation from the head of government, a politician. But on the rare occasions in which the parties in Parliament cannot agree as to where the rules and traditions take them, she is there to make a binding decision.

Of course, out of respect for democracy, her decision is to be based on the Constitution, parliamentary rules and traditions, and precedent, and not on personal preferences with regard to parties or personalities.

And I don’t think her decision shows such bias, but it did show, I believe, another bias, and that is the preference of this frail personality to avoid public controversy and the great tensions of making a correct but difficult decision.

After some inappropriate activities by Mr. Harper, immediately preceding the Governor General’s decision, the stage was set for the right decision to require extra courage and stamina.

Harper’s nasty little party spent days hurling accusations of everything right up to treason against three honorable men following their consciences and going about a perfectly legal operation of parliamentary government.

Indeed, it was only the divisive and extreme aspects of Harper’s character – exhibited in his government’s bizarre recent economic statement, only the latest of many bizarre and antagonistic behaviors in a few years - that drove three disparate leaders from three parties to come to the difficult decision that they must join in a formal coalition to topple the government.

Harper went out of his way to promote misunderstanding around the coalition, claiming voters had just selected him and that this effort amounted to overturning democracy. Of course, in our Westminster system of democracy the only voters who actually selected Harper were the tiny number of his own constituency. And he has served as prime minister for two and a half years solely by virtue of periodic support of other parties in the House, the very parties he was now viciously attacking.

Harper and some of his worst hacks threw every unfair accusation they could think of, fanning hatreds and prejudices, including prejudices towards Quebec, the home base of one of the three parties. They ran quickly produced ads, the party being well financed by Alberta oil. They arranged public demonstrations, including one in front of the Governor General’s residence, surely entirely inappropriate for trying to influence a decision whose nature is perhaps best paralleled by a decision of the Supreme Court. Popular opinion simply has nothing to do with it.

We are left, after the Governor General’s decision, with a widely disliked government, led by an almost psychopathic and certainly devious personality. The chief political fact keeping his minority in power is that the progressive opposition is divided into four different parties. A country that is overwhelmingly progressive is stuck with a neo-con Prime Minister who listens to no one and stoops to any cheap stunt he thinks will be to his advantage.

Yes, the opposition can return near the end of January and defeat his government on its budget, but those many weeks will see unparalleled efforts by the government to demonize the opposition and manipulate public opinion, and the opposition, not nearly so well financed, will come under unusual pressure to break up. And already Harper’s government has toyed with the idea of bribing key parties in the opposition with posts or appointments.

I’m sure the budget will be fairly reasonable too, making defeating it all the harder. But a budget per se – there hasn’t been one yet - has not been the cause of this historic non-confidence effort. Harper’s school-yard bully personality is, and we appear stuck with it for a while.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

HUMAN RIGHTS AND CIVILIZED SOCIETY - REFLECTIONS ON A PIECE BY OLIVER KAMM FOCUSING ON KHOMEINI'S 1989 FATWA AGAINST RUSHDIE

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY OLIVER KAMM IN THE TIMES

"A cosmopolitan and polyglot society is a wondrous development in Western civilisation."

Yes, I agree heartily. In Canada we enjoy one of the world's leading cosmopolitan, peaceful, and decent societies. I wish the blessing on all people.

"It involves a single category of citizenship and equal rights under the law for everyone, regardless of national origin or race or creed."

Fine words there too, but what about Israel? It violates these principles every day. And it is precisely the West's reluctance or cowardice to push Israel in the correct direction that helps generate so many of the grievances we see between Moslems and the West.

"The often feeble Western response to the fatwa two decades ago was a terrible precedent...."

And just so the Western response to Israel's bloody excesses. Israel's insistence on a half century of the policy of an "iron wall" towards its neighbors is the source of great instability and injustice in our world.

1,500 people killed in Southern Lebanon and a million hideous cluster bombs dropped to kill innocents for years to come - all done on a flimsy, contrived excuse.

A siege of the 1.5 million people of Gaza and dozens of mafia-like assassinations - all because a free election failed to elect the government Israel wanted?

Has Iran done anything to anyone to compare? I don't think so.

You can't be selective in these human-rights matters, as I detect a regular tendency in your columns.

You are either for civilized values or you are one more obstacle against them.


A CONSERVATIVE HACK INVENTS A RIDICULOUS THEORY ABOUT QUEBEC TO SUPPORT HARPER'S EXCESSES

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

William Johnson, I don't know what planet you've been living on, but I haven't seen M. Duceppe laugh once.

I don't hear him making school-yard bully remarks or low-life jokes either, although I hear these regularly from Conservatives and especially the unpleasant Mr. Harper.

No, M. Duceppe has viewed this entire matter as the grave business it is, even though his party's interests are strictly provincial.

He has acted rather statesmanlike throughout.

Which is far more than anyone can say of leading Conservative mouthpieces.

Look at you, inventing a nonsense theory about Quebec just to offer a new slant on the Harper attacks.

Ridiculous and more than a little prejudiced.

I'd be ashamed to put my name to intellectual rubbish like this, but then I'm not serving the interests of the most low-life prime minister in memory.


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

IS THE COALITION USING A FALSE PRETEXT TO TOPPLE HARPER?

POSTED COMMENT TO A COLUMN BY STANLEY HARTT IN TORONTO'S GLOBE AND MAIL

This is just intellectual rubbish, showing no understanding of the way parliaments work.

Actually, it is just plain rubbish, because there is nothing intellectual in Stanley Hartt's words.

In our system, a governing minority either has the confidence of the House or it does not.

Harper's Conservatives do not have the confidence of the House.

How could that be any clearer?

Uninformed speculation on motives for why the minority governing party has lost the confidence of the House is entirely irrelevant.

There is no validity in asking why each member of parliament has cast his or her vote on any issue at any time.

And just so here.

Once the people have spoken in an election - and they have just spoken with more than 60% of their votes cast against the Harper Conservatives - it is up to the members of Parliament to make arrangements there.

Second-guessing them is in fact what is anti-democratic.


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The Bloc is represented in Parliament.

The Bloc has actually been the Official Opposition.

The Bloc always participates in our election debates.

They have just as much legitimacy to act within the rules of Parliament as any other party does, and that is all they are doing.

It is actually darkly funny to hear Harperites attack the Bloc when it was their leader who recognized Quebec as "a nation," a cheap act done for the sake of gaining a few votes.


WAS OBAMA'S APPOINTMENT OF CLINTON RISKY?

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY MICHAEL TOMASKY IN THE GUARDIAN

I don't agree at all that she is a big risk.

Obama is a calm, self-confident person, one moreover who already has gone toe-to-toe with Clinton during the primaries.

He won those confrontations. Hillary was the one off brooding in a corner.

Her sleazy husband was ferociously angry by all reports and kept telling his friends that Obama could never win.

Guess who won and won big?

The immense concessions the Clintons have made - approval of sleazy Bill's speaking engagements and a full vetting of his contributors - really show a complete humbling of their pride.

And Obama has her inside the tent peeing out rather than outside peeing in.


HARPER'S FURY OVER THE COALITION

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

A high-handed bully called Harper has brought this upon the nation.

Three leaders from three parties with different views have been driven to forming a coalition against their first impulses by this unpleasant and dangerous man.

Just the rhetoric Harper is now using displays for all thinking people his poor character.

He's intelligent enough to know the charges he is hurling are cheap "sound bites" appealing to various Canadians who do not understand this perfectly legal working of Parliament.

This is government by a manipulative liar, a man with a natural bent to authoritarian government.

We all know Harper was perfectly happy to have the Bloc's support for whatever it was he wanted.

He even signed an agreement with them to topple the Martin government.

Now, suddenly, they are ghastly people.

In fact, the Bloc is currently working for the best interests of Canada despite their basic philosophy. At any rate they are a legal part of Parliament entitled to behave in any legal way that other parties do.

They and the other coalition parties represent the majority of Canadian voters, the landslide majority at well over 60% of the vote.

Harper is simply a liar when he says anything else.

What is so sad, judging from some comments here and in other places, is that there appears to be large numbers of Canadians - poorly educated Canadians and perhaps many new immigrants - who simply do not understand how parliamentary government works.

If it weren't for this fairly widespread ignorance, Harper's efforts to hurl half-truths and lies would be hopeless.

Also, importantly, do we demonstrate and rile up people with slogans when the Supreme Court is to make an important decision? Of course not. We don't want a Supreme Court ruled by yelling mobs.

And it is precisely the same for a decision by the Governor General. Hers is a legal and binding decision to be made with regard to our Constitution and traditions and parliamentary rules. She is not running a popularity contest, and, good God, we hope she is not deciding from intimidation.

That way lies insanity, yet that seems clearly the direction Harperites are pushing us towards. Absolutely irresponsible.

Demonstrations in front of the Governor General's house much resemble the ugly stuff of Right Wing Americans demonstrating at a doctor's house over abortion or intimidating women attending a clinic.

It is completely inappropriate. As are Harper's behavior and statements.

_____________________

I just wonder do some people forget how dreadful Harper has been for this country?

We have a story in this same newspaper tending to confirm what many knew, that Mulroney took bribes and lied and took money from the government on false pretences.

All Harper has done with this nasty business is to bury it.

Just as he has done with the Cadman affair, a very serious business indeed.

As he did with the shameful behavior of his former foreign minister.

And do people forget how Harper has belittled the leader of the opposition with name-calling and cartoons rather than arguing with sound arguments?

And do people forget how this nasty man, Harper, said that Canadians questioning the horrid bloody policies of Israel were anti-Semitic?

And do they forget how Harper blamed UN observers doing their jobs for Israel's deliberate killing of them - including a brave Canadian officer - during its illegal invasion of Lebanon?

Do they forget Harper never corrected his deputy when he insulted a woman in Parliament and lied about it?

This man has no character. None. And he’s going out of his way to prove it now.




Harper leaving a late session of Parliament.