Sunday, May 31, 2009

HARPER TELLS CANADIAN JEWISH CONGRESS HE WILL LEGISLATE TO ALLOW SUITS IN CANADIAN COURTS BY VICTIMS OF TERROR: A DANGEROUS ANTI-DEMOCRATIC PROPOSAL

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

This is a dangerous, anti-democratic path to follow.

What is a "victim"?

What will be "support" of terror?

Not to say what is "terror"?

The extremism that attends every discussion of Israel and terror gives us just a hint of the ugly legal excesses to which this proposal could open us.

What I most fear is a new kind of "slap" suit to shut up those who criticize Israel's bloody excesses.

This is pretty shabby stuff for a Canadian Prime Minister to do or even offer to do on behalf of the interests of another country.

Maybe if Ignatieff comes out strongly against this, I can even manage to support him, a man whose background views are extremely negative for me.

Harper is trying to drag Canada completely into the American camp on this, ignoring Canada's traditional balanced view of the Middle East.

This may well be the most destructive act Harper has attempted.


__________________


There is nothing rational in all the words and acts surrounding the topic of terror.

Of course, the very concept of a War on Terror is, and always was, irrational. A war against a method or belief. Absurd.

Also, quite legitimately, one person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter.

This proposal would invite all of the irrationality that surrounds this topic to jam its way into our courts.

It's a very odd proposal for a genuine conservative too, people who generally are very careful about what goes on in courts and critical of courts stretching their authority too far.

It's completely wrong for anyone genuinely supporting human rights and democratic values.

But then we all heard Harper a couple of years ago criticizing the UN when Israel targeted and killed four brave observers in southern Lebanon, including a brave Canadian officer doing his duty.

The man is really shameless. This also reminds me of the cards that went out to Jewish Canadians for their holidays, something which of course unpleasantly implied the existence of ethnic lists in Harper's Party.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS BLUBBERING ABOUT AMERICANS NO LONGER ADMIRING THE MOTHER OF PARLIAMENTS IN VIEW OF EXPENSES SCANDAL

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS IN THE TELEGRAPH

I don't know what Christopher Hitchens is going on about, and I strongly suspect neither does he.

Americans are just generally ignorant of the nature and workings of Parliament.

Honestly, having grown up and lived half my life in America, I feel it fair to say that outside of some academics and devoted followers of world affairs, few Americans have the least idea about Parliament.

And over time, I suspect this becomes more and more true since Americans know one thing if they know anything, America is the greatest.

This should not surprise because amazingly few have any idea how their own Congress works.

Hitchens in this only confirms what I believe is a truth about his writing: the man is an obsessive writer even when he has nothing to say. I grant him saying it eloquently though.

A COLUMN ASSERTING THAT JESUS WOULDN'T VOTE FOR BRITAIN'S BNP

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY MICHAEL NAZIR-ALI IN THE TELEGRAPH

Jesus wouldn't have voted for Blair either.

Or Bush.

Or Sarkozy.

Or a lot of other politicians.

He would have driven the entire American Congress off Capitol Hill just as he drove the moneychangers from the temple.

And now we know he would do the same with the Mother of Parliaments.

Seems to me his recommendation here is not a strong one.

A POLL SHOWING WHAT A QUARTER OF AMERICANS BELIEVE MEANS PRETTY CLOSE TO NOTHING

RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY DANIEL FINKELSTEIN IN THE TIMES

"In my last two paragraphs I mentioned a poll in the US indicating that a quarter of all Americans blame the Jews for the financial crisis either moderately or a great deal. I concluded by saying that I don't like it when people mob up."

Daniel, you cannot take such a poll seriously.

A true random sample of American opinion on almost any subject is always disturbing.

After a few years of the bloody pointless invasion of Iraq, a poll showed sixty-odd percent of Americans believed that Saddam was involved with 9/11.

I don't recall the number, but a surprisingly large percent of Americans believe in the devil and believe that the Mark of the Beast is 666.

Polls showed a good slice of Americans believing that the Apollo Mission to the moon was faked.

I very much don't like it when people mob up either, but a quarter of Americans believing anything you care to name is not mobbing up, not surprising, and virtually predictable.

As for David Irving, I admire your publishing his e-mail, but I wish you had shown the restraint not to characterize it. People can interpret for themselves.

ON OBAMA'S BEING FIRM WITH ISRAEL OVER ITS SETTLEMENTS

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

“Obama Firm.”

Well, let's hope so. The only way we will ever see peace and an end to the abomination of Israel's occupation is if the U.S. is firm.

Indeed, America needs to be firm about a lot more than freezing settlements on freshly-grabbed land.

Obama does have the best chance of doing something meaningful here of any president since Israel's founding, both because he is so popular and because everyone in the world – other than the ceaseless apologists for Israel’s bloody excesses - recognizes the status quo is a disaster.

And it is not a disaster waiting to happen. It has happened.

The single greatest cause of all the ugly business summed up under the title War on Terror is Israel’s behavior towards its neighbors and America’s toleration of it.

Yet, despite Obama’s exceptional opportunity, I am not hopeful. If you read the saga of Truman’s recognition decision at Israel’s emergence as a state, you realize just what serious pressure is.

And look at Hillary Clinton. She went to Palestine once and made sympathetic statements. Then, when she wanted to be Senator, she took almost a one hundred and eighty degree turn in her language. Pressure indeed.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

ON THE NOTION OF CANADA'S MILITARY BEING INADEQUATE AND SOME GENERAL TRUTHS ABOUT THE NATURE OF MILITARIES

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY FORMER GENERAL LEWIS MACKENZIE IN TORONTO'S GLOBE AND MAIL

"Our infantry ranks are so diminished that Canada's combat role in Afghanistan has to end"

Good.

There is no more wasteful enterprise on earth than the military.

Like police, you need some military, but it should always be regarded with great care as a necessary evil.

And the bigger the military of a country is, the greater is the temptation of politicians to use it to bad purposes.

Analysts of the pointless bloodbath called the Great War agree that the level of armaments in the various states was a major contributor to starting the war. And what was Hitler’s first priority after taking power? The armed forces, of course.

The United States is the clearest contemporary example of that hard truth. Here is a nation that rebelled against imperial military forces only to end up being a greater imperial military force.

It spends as much on its military Frankenstein as all the other countries on the planet put together.

And the results are: occupation of two countries, neither of which ever attacked that country; regular bombing in a third country, Pakistan; constant threats to a fourth country, Iran; support of apartheid in Israel; plus innumerable other intrusions and black-ops.

The world surely is a better place for the three million the US murdered in Vietnam, isn't it? And for the sea of Agent Orange and landmines it left there? And for the million deaths it generated in Cambodia by destabilizing a neutral government with secret bombing? And don't forget the million or so killed in Iraq plus a couple of million refugees and an economy set back for a lifetime.

Lord Acton said it best for all time: power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Why is it that conservatives and militarists like Lewis MacKenzie do not understand these things? That’s like asking a careless boy why he just smashed a bird’s nest.
________________

Arctic sovereignty I fear is an illusion.

Who is it that is actually going to challenge it?

Why, the world's military colossus of course.

Would our outposts of troops wave at the passing American atomic submarines and guided-missile cruisers?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

THE EFFORT TO REMOVE A CHILD FROM HATEFUL PARENTS

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

This is a dangerous path the editorial would have us follow.

I had experience years ago as a substitute teacher in the US that brought home how common this kind of business is. It isn’t just Aryan nonsense, it’s often religion and other dark and hateful matters.

A little girl who obviously trusted me enough to raise an intimate family matter came to me after class, asking me, her face clearly showing fear, what I thought about "the Mark of the Beast (666)."

She had been filled with terrible stories from the delusional Book of Revelations by her lunatic parents.

I did my best to give her helpful answers, explaining patiently not everyone agreed on these matters, but I understood that to in any way challenge her parents’ ghastly beliefs would be to invite all hell to break loose and would do nothing for the child.

I did my best, but felt in the end I failed her.

From my limited experience, I know this kind of business is not uncommon.

In another case, I thought drugs were involved with a young girl. When I explained this to the teacher who had been on a course for the day, she nearly had a fit. “Don’t even mention that word to me!” She was terrified of “opening a can of worms.” Teachers and school authorities all too often are not the least helpful.

We have ignorance, hate, and intolerance - in one form or another - being taught by parents in thousands of homes. This is just one of the reasons I laugh when I hear the teachers’ mantra about getting parents involved. The truth is that the involvement of incompetent or ill-intentioned parents is the opposite of helpful.

Are we to remove all such children? We cannot possibly.

Just to handle the cases of pure, unmistakable abuse, our child welfare institutions are inadequate.

The truth is that most abuse - psychological and physical and sexual - is overwhelmingly at the hands of parents or other relatives. The case of the stranger-abuser is extremely rare.

Look at the record of the Catholic Church. Its priests have horribly abused thousands, yet we take no legal action against them as a society.

I am comforted by the flexibility and adaptability of children to grow out of the teachings of idiotic parents or other authorities. After all, the Pope today was a member of Hitler Jugend as a boy. I myself attended a church that taught the dark things that little girl in the US feared, and I grew into a strong-minded skeptic.

OBAMA AND GUANTANAMO AND THE OMAR KHADR CASE

POSTED RESPONSES TO A COLUMN BY CLIVE CROOK IN THE FINANCIAL TIMES

"First of all, we need to know a lot more about each individual still being held in Guantanamo..."

That's rather cowardly, to say the least.

We know more than enough.

These men were arrested and sent to Guantanamo against all international law.

They have been abused and tortured for years, again against all international law.

For years, they were allowed no lawyers, no visitors, and even the Red Cross was not allowed to visit.

The US has not only ignored international law and obligations, it ignores its own principles.

You cannot have a Bill of Rights worth spit if its provisions are completely ignored as soon as you put a toe over the border.

The very existence of this concentration camp - for that is precisely what it is - is an affront to people who love freedom and decency.

It is also the final proof of George Bush's complete incompetence: he foresaw none of the consequences of creating this horror.

______________________


The case of Omar Khadr is the one I am thoroughly familiar with.

He has suffered, at the hands of American soldiers, beyond the understanding of most.

He was a mere boy, pushed by ideological parents, when he went to Afghanistan.

At the age of 15, he was shot twice, in the back, by cowardly American soldiers.

Then he was arrested and imprisoned in violation of all international conventions about child soldiers.

He was charged with a crime over something that is not even a crime in war, that is shooting one of your opponents.

But as we know now, he didn't even do that. It has all been trumped up.

Khadr was tortured for years, again against international conventions. This included a particularly vicious American interrogator, well known for his brutality, having the boy with two horrible wounds trying to heal sit up regularly in uncomfortable positions, pulling at his wounds.

Khadr was held with no access or help for years.

I recall in many, many wars abroad having nothing to do with the US – civil wars and revolutions and colonial wars from Spain to the Congo - American soldiers of fortune and motivated idealists going off by the thousands to fight for one side or the other.

They weren't subjected to this Nazi-like treatment afterward. This is a total disgrace on the part of the United States.

And our Prime Minister's cowardly refusal to stand up for a citizen and an abused boy is also disgraceful, but he unfortunately reflects American sensibilities. To have asked for this boy, in view of a family history which includes a dead father who knew Osama bin Laden, would have been viewed as an unfriendly act by an insanely mad American government.

And we have the horrible irony that some of the images from that other ghastly place, Abu Ghraib, now being held back include images of American guards Sodomizing young prisoner boys. Our great investigative reporter, Seymour Hersh, has told us this over and over, but America pays little attention.

Monday, May 25, 2009

NETANYAHU'S VIOLENT NONSENSE ABOUT THE ROAD TO MIDDLE EAST PEACE BEING THROUGH TEHRAN

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

Netanyahu is one of the world's more dangerous leaders.

He has no grasp on reality and panders to dark fears.

The US blew Iraq into a wasteland for Israel's benefit. Yet politicians like Netanyahu insist on doing that to Iran too.

Iran has attacked no one in its entire modern era.

Israel, by contrast, has attacked every neighbor it has, some more than once.

Its brutal savagery in Gaza is only not condemned more widely because the press tends to be intimidated by the false accusation of "anti-Semitism."

The best intelligence tells us clearly Iran is not working towards a weapon, but even if it is, so what?

Europe managed a long peace under MAD.

A monopoly on nuclear weapons is the most dangerous possible situation for this technology.

Many believed the US was close to using them in Afghanistan. That fear brought Britain into the pointless crusade.

Israel has a monopoly in the Middle East, and we can see the results. No willingness whatever to pursue genuine peace and no willingness to stop its long-term abuse of millions of Palestinians.

Netanyahu stands only for the forces of darkness. Peace is a word in his mouth which means only "do it my way."

Friday, May 22, 2009

IS FOREIGN AID WORKING?

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY MARTIN WOLF IN THE FINANCIAL TIMES

This is a murky question, and necessarily so since foreign aid is a murky subject.

A good portion of foreign aid has nothing to do with wanting to help people. It represents a form of bribery, very much resembling the “pensions” that the king of Spain or France in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries would award to important people in other countries.

Keeping influential people abroad under “pensions” is a very effective method of limiting their behavior.

Aid payments also are a way of securing votes in international forums such as the UN. The US, for example, regularly quietly threatens those it wants to vote a certain way with reduction or removal of aid.

Much of aid goes to making corrupt leaders wealthy – and in third-world countries, there is rarely any other kind – or to building prestige projects which have little or no economic value.

A good portion of aid goes directly or indirectly to military projects, thus further impoverishing already poor lands in the name of government security.

Another good portion of aid gets spent on salaries and travel expenses for middle-class Westerners who supervise projects. While some agencies in the world do genuinely important work through either paid or volunteer work, there is a large cadre of professional humanitarian types who absorb substantial amounts of aid themselves while helping relatively little.

Much of aid also comes with conditions that make it much less useful than it might be otherwise.

The US, for example, has long stood against the propagation or abortion and even birth control in programs it supports.

There is no greater single thing we can do for the progress of many poor lands than vigorously supporting all forms of fertility control. Overpopulation – in relation to a place’s resources and economic opportunities – is the world’s most serious economic and social problem.

It also happens to be the world’s greatest ecological problem, dwarfing the impact of all the anti-pollution efforts of the world’s advanced countries.

I actually do not know what the answer is concerning aid. It may well be one of those questions for which there is no good answer.

Individuals and certain private and government programs do some great work, but that has to do with their motivation and good management, but the greed and self-importance of our own governments and institutions may render impossible any systematic effective approach to aid.

That’s a gloomy view, but then it is the damned human race we are talking about.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

THE ROAD TO VICTORY IN AFGHANISTAN IS THROUGH PAKISTAN: VIETNAM AND CAMBODIA DEJA VU

SERIES OF POSTED RESONSES TO A COLUMN BY JEFFREY SIMPSON IN TORONTO'S GLOBE AND MAIL

"The road to Afghan victory runs through Pakistan."

I am sorry, Jeffrey Simpson, to see you give any recognition to this ugly business.

The US had no business in Afghanistan in the first place – no Afghan attacked them, and Americans never even tried to offer evidence of complicity in 9/11 for purposes of extradition. Britain joined in the insane crusade, we know, because they truly feared the US was close to using nuclear weapons.

Now to "win" the US is exporting its pointless, destructive war to still another country.

The parallel with Vietnam and Cambodia is genuine and frightening. The US bears major responsibility for the Cambodian Killing Fields by its weakening of a neutral government through secret bombing and incursions. It is always demanding “cooperation” from people not involved or interested in its bloody adventures.

Few people realize that the border to which you and American officials refer is no border at all. The Durand Line is a relic of British imperialism, and it was never even properly finalized.

The Pashtun – the major pool of Taleban recruits – live on both sides of the Line as though it did not exist, which indeed for them is the case. It's like talking about the border between Quebec and Eastern Ontario.

Musharraf, for all his faults, kept at bay the US effort to spread its war into Pakistan, but they managed to get him out through manipulations, bribes, and black ops. He was a dictator but an honorable one with the best interests of his country in mind.

Now they have a somewhat cooperative government from the US point of view. All you have to do is ask what that means in terms of Pakistan’s own interests and understanding of interests. It goes precisely against them.

The US assassinates groups of people – often complete innocents – every week with drones and Hellfire missiles.

Now they’ve pushed the Pakistani army to fight its own people. They are killing their own people and creating tens of thousands of refugees fleeing their homes on behalf of the views of lard-ass bureaucrats in Washington sitting in leather chairs, gazing out at the Potomac.

Of course, Canada’s involvement is no different in kind, just in extent. We are there because we owed one to the Pentagon. How very meaningful.

Gee, I wonder how long it will be before Washington equips the drones they’ve started flying along our border with Hellfire missiles? After all, major officials in Washington, including the last Republican presidential candidate, still blubber paranoid nonsense about the 9/11 bunch having come through Canada.

And just think of the government we will have to stand for our interests: Harper, a man who just cannot grovel enough to American interests, or Ignatieff, an adopted American, who may well even be a CIA mole.

_________________


The Taleban did NOT refuse to hand over people after 9/11.

To say that is plainly ignorant.

The US requested extradition of certain people, and the government of Afghanistan, then the Taleban, asked for some evidence to support the request.

The US refused.

Yet that is the standard operating procedure everywhere with extradition treaties: the requesting state must supply some evidence to support the request.

But the US simply refused.

And to this day, we have not been given one shred of genuine evidence that Osama bin Laden did what everyone assumes he did.

Why does everyone assume that?

Because the US government says so, and because the major corporate media have repeated the assertion endlessly.

Again, if you want a world of laws and civility, then you must respect the laws and be civil yourself.

The US seems to believe it is above that principle, and its only excuse is its power.

Might makes right.

_________________

How short memories are.

Clinton not only rained down missiles in Afghanistan killing God knows how many people, he bombed a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, killing a number of people and destroying a valued facility in a poor part of the world.

Absolutely no evidence has ever been given that that plant was anything but what was claimed, a pharmaceutical plant.

Of course, this fact also shows American meddling in Sudan going back a long time.

Any wonder it is a mess there?

MORE FIREPOWER FOR AFGHANISTAN AND A NAZI-LIKE ASCETIC GENERAL MCCHRYSTAL

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

Plenty of firepower, oh boy! I guess the more than a hundred civilians murdered just days ago by jets wasn't enough.

Just what this poor country needs.

Kill, kill, kill - that's America's idea of a human rights mission.

I don't know how many readers have noticed, but the new general appointed by Obama's government for Afghanistan, McChrystal, is nothing but a professional assassin.

A Nazi-like ascetic who barely eats, something that would interfere with his efficiency and joy in killing.

He'll run an operation like the ghastly Operation Phoenix in Vietnam, an operation directed by CIA in which the thug special forces crawled around on moonless nights to cut the throats of people like village leaders.

They murdered at least 20,000 people that way.

That's what the new general has done for some years in Iraq.

God, what are Canadians doing working with such bloody creatures?


Friday, May 15, 2009

THE RUBY DHALLA ABUSE OF CAREGIVERS BUSINESS

POSTED SERIES OF RESPONSES TO TWO COLUMNS IN TORONTO'S GLOBE AND MAIL

It's time for Dhalla to step down.

The caregivers' advocate who has just testified is a sincere and decent woman who has not the least reason to attack Dhalla, not even knowing who she was originally.

So we have four independent people speaking against Dhalla: the two widely quoted caregivers; the advocate; and another caregiver.

None with the least motive to attack her.

Indeed, were it as pleasant to work in Ruby's home as Ruby claims, any caregiver would go pout of her way to keep the job.

What is so crummy about this is that Dhalla, by sticking to her position, is effectively calling all these perfectly decent people liars.

We learned, from a previous poster under one Dhalla story, that Dhalla is known in Ottawa as a difficult person with whom to work, as well as having the highest turnover in staff of all members of parliament.

Funny how this advocate's testimony precisely confirms this information about a politician she never knew about until now.

Have a little shred of honor, Ruby, and resign.

________________


Ms. Dhalla does herself no favor by blubbering about conspiracies. It sounds a bit flaky, to say the least.

The committee may handle this badly, as the Conservatives handle so many matters badly, but public opinion is what is important in this matter.

Three women, all hard-working women from abroad, have independently said much the same thing.

They have no common motive for saying what they say, other than the wish for some fairness after considerable unfairness.

Why would Ms. Dhalla be the object of any conspiracy? She simply is not that important or controversial a public figure.

Of course, one is not guilty in courts until proven so, but here we are dealing with the court of public opinion, and it does not work the same way.

Sorry, Ms. Dhalla the court of public opinion thinks your behavior stinks.





DHALLA AS KALI

NETANYAHU AND THE TWO-STATE SOLUTION: SOME HARD TRUTHS

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

Netanyahu isn't determined to go slowly, he is completely against a Palestinian state.

He has made this clear many, many times.

Indeed, from Netanyahu's past statements, it seems very clear he has contempt for Palestinians, an attitude not uncommon in Israel.

If you want peace, you embrace it. Full stop.

If you want what Netanyahu wants, you behave as he does.

What does he want?

The rest of the Palestinian territory without the people.

Going slowly in this way is properly called slow-motion ethnic cleansing.

___________


"What you have in the Holy Land is a clash of ethnic nationalisms infused with religious ideas."

I do not think that is accurate.

The Jews - at least the non-European ones - and the Palestinians are closely related people, indeed it is an Israeli scholar who recently told us that the Palestinians are pretty much the remains of the ancient Israelis left after the Roman conquest.

As far as religion, Israel is one of the most secular societies on earth. Only the ultra-orthodox segment gives it any religious color.

___________


"There will be peace when your friends in the Arab and Muslim world agree to recognize Israel's right to exist."

The writer above may be sincere in believing that, but Israel is completely disingenuous when it repeats this tired bromide over and over.

One of the few negotiating levers Palestinians have ever had is withholding recognition. Israel otherwise holds about all the power levers.

Any person who reads the world's news should know the artificiality of that notion.

It is common practice among states to withhold recognition as a negotiating position. The United States has done it many, many times.

The US waited decades to recognize the Soviet Union.

It has gone the best part of half a century without recognizing Cuba's government.

Further, how do you recognize a state with no clearly defined borders?

One, moreover, intent on expanding its de facto borders?

Further still, the formulation Israel always insists on is recognizing Israel as the Jewish state. What about the million and a half Arabs who supposedly hold citizenship?

Asking people to certify you as a Jewish state is exactly akin to asking people to certify you as a Muslim state or any other “ism” you care to name.

The above points make clear just how complex the Israeli/Palestinian matter is, and there are many other matters of international law involved.

It is anything but a simple fight between religions.

_____________


"...the two state concept is as much a contributor to peace as was the splitting on Korea into north and south..."

That is wrong and poorly informed.

The entire history of the creation of the state of Israel, going back to agreements with the British government through the UN mandate, assumed and mapped out two states.

It is only since Israel became a reality that the two-state concept has virtually disappeared.

The Six Day War itself, and we have the testimony of some very important historical figures including President de Gaulle, that Israel contrived with deliberate provocations and black-ops to get the Arab states to attack, knowing full well that with its serious advantage of front-line US weapons it would easily win.

Israel knew it could count on the US too. Indeed, with the USS Liberty incident - the deliberate two hour attack on a well-marked American spy ship in the Mediterranean - Israel tried to pull the US in from the beginning.

We see the result. More than forty years later, occupation continues along with a constant bureaucratic pressure to remove Arabs, take land, bulldoze homes and olive groves.




PEACE FROM THIS MAN?



HERE IS NETANYAHU'S OFFICIAL LIMO

CONSERVATIVE ATTACK ADS: A POX ON BOTH YOUR HOUSES

POSTED SERIES OF RESPONSES TO A COLUMN IN THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Harper is indeed a goon, but even goons get it right sometimes.

Ignatieff only confirms the arrogant, princely image of Conservative attack ads when he uses language like "from afar."

No one but a writer speaks that way.

And then we have: “Is that the type of Canada you want? To have a government decide who is a good Canadian and a bad Canadian? Who is a true Canadian and who is a false Canadian?"

This is a plainly false dichotomy. No one said Ignatieff was a "false Canadian," whatever that would be anyway.

And the government made no statements.

A political party did.

Ignatieff does not look especially effective in opposing these advertising suggestions. Could that be because they are largely accurate?

I dislike Harper. I dislike American-style campaigning.

But the Liberals opened themselves to this and more with their anti-democratic crowning of a life-long ex-pat as leader, an ex-pat moreover who enthusiastically embraced the American empire and its worst excesses.

_________


You just knew it was coming.

Harper's Conservatives so much resemble Rush Limbaugh in the way they deal with political competition, dragging down Canada's political discourse to the level of East Texas.

Yet, in this case, while I disagree with Harper's low-life approach, I cannot help but agree with the message contained in the ads.

I saw my first ad last night, and I must say that they have hit their mark.

It really is a sad situation in Canada's political life to have two such people leading our major parties.

I recommend voters not register support for either of these political cretins.

____________

The word "arrogant" covers many qualities other than those we normally associate with it.

There is a slippery, dishonest quality about Ignatieff that is observed in his almost every statement and action (Uncle Fester, above, captures it well).

Ignatieff is simply not made of the same stuff as the quality leaders the Liberal party has supplied us in the past, indeed, a rather remarkable series of men.

Harper, as all observant Canadians know, is himself a man of slippery values, inconsistent ethics, and a low-life approach to politics. He very much resembles Rush Limbaugh without the nasty humor.

Harper has introduced us to a shabby American-style of politics.

Could that be because his base and funding in Alberta are pipelined up from Texas for the oil industry? I think there is truth there. His advisors included just such people.

Returning to Ignatieff, we can say that he is, for all intents and purposes, an American, an adoptee but still an American.

His Canadian background means about as much as that of John Galbraith.

Actually less, because Galbraith did clearly reflect Canadian attitudes and influences in his writing and advocacy.

Not in my lifetime have Canadians been offered such a poor choice of party leaders.

A pox on both their houses.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

THE FOOLISH AMERICAN NOTION OF PROMOTING DEMOCRACY

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

"George W. Bush tarnished the idea of democracy promotion, but that doesn't mean it's not a worthy goal..."

Sorry, this is a dangerous and stupid idea, and it wasn’t just Bush who has made a hash of things since WWII. Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Bush pere, and sleazy Clinton all interfered in other people’s affairs, killing many and helping few.

We need to make our own democracies as admirable as possible, so that people admire them.

But the history of the modern era just could not be clearer about the way democracy comes about.

Economic growth produces a middle class of size and substance. Once this group is large enough, it does not want its decisions made by autocrats or aristocrats.

Democracy blooms naturally from a healthy economy over time. It is as inevitable as mushrooms on the lawn after spring rain. It causes old customs to drop away and promotes human rights through the wider enjoyment of society's blessings.

So we should be ready to assist others in making their societies grow and offering technical assistance.

Anything more is Bushism.

Joseph Nye is an American, and he cannot resist the evangelical urge to change others: it is as American as cherry pie, and it is stupid and destructive.




A POSTAGE STAMP TO THE GLORY OF AMERICA'S PROMOTION OF DEMOCRACY

THE CAMBRIDGE SPIES OF THE 1950s AND THE GOOD PURPOSE THEY MAY WELL HAVE SERVED

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY DANIEL FINKELSTEIN IN THE TIMES

I don't know how you can rank people much of whose work remains secret to this day. You really do not know how effective or damaging each was.

So far as we know, few spies were more damaging than Maclean and Philby in their top form.

Many of your names of course are the Cambridge Circle.

I actually think - although full revelation of their work could change my assessment - these men served a high cause.

The US was in the turmoil of McCarthyism and the Pentagon contained a number of generals ready and willing to launch a pre-emptive nuclear attack on Russia.

There were actually plans for doing this at one point. After all, the early 1950s were less than a decade after the US used two atomic weapons, on civilians no less.
And MacArthur was ready to use nuclear bombs on the Chinese just at the dawn of the 1950s to clean up the mess he himself created at the Yalu River.

Those were ugly days, fanatical and dark. People today cannot appreciate them fully without reading some good books.

Russia's progress in getting nuclear weapons and in having the details of many US secrets likely saved the world from a catastrophe.

The cold War was nasty, but MAD actually contributed to tolerably peaceful situation.





MISS ATOMIC BOMB IN NEVADA 1950s




HAVING A GAY OLD TIME: WAVING AND SMILING BEFORE OBLITERATING A CITY

TEACHERS' UNIONS A BARRIER TO EDUCATION?

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

Teachers' unions are a barrier to improving public education, not the only barrier, but the single greatest one.

The unions always make noises about being concerned with quality education and the welfare of children, yet their primary effort is to protect the jobs, levels of remuneration, and number of responsibilities of their members. These two primary goals are not compatible.

The unions will always say the public should spend more, but they speak from a point of view that assumes resources are virtually limitless. They are not, of course. In many jurisdictions the taxes on the homes of retired couples and widows supports the schools.

If you examine the budget of any school, you will see the teachers' income is overwhelmingly the bulk of the budget, leaving no room for better libraries, music rooms, art rooms, and even computer labs.

Many, many teachers do not even know how to use a computer, something that should be a condition of hiring and/or continued employment. You cannot even bring the benefits of computerization with people who cannot use them.

While there are many outstanding teachers, there are also many virtual incompetents, and the system we have not only tolerates this, it encourages it.

The entire establishment, from top to bottom, is corrupted by the power of the unions. The teachers’ colleges, many of them, have low standards of admission and teach politically correct pap and unanalyzed notions. Even at a place like Harvard, you have a professor known for “multiple intelligences,” a notion with no empirical basis. Yet you’ll find professionally printed posters in classrooms promoting multiple intelligences.

The education schools simply adopt notions from pop psychology or business literature in a highly naïve fashion and teach them as though they were a body of facts. Ideas like those of the late and now-disgraced Bruno Bettleheim get sucked into the curriculum. Why?

Because teaching wants to be called a profession, rather than an avocation which is what it really is. There is not legitimate body of scientific and analytical knowledge which makes teaching a profession, the way there is for science or law or medicine. There are the tips and tricks of experienced, successful teachers, but these are often forgotten by an establishment trying to render itself a profession.

We would improve our schools overnight if we opened teaching to enthusiastic and knowledgeable people who want to teach and help kids, including retired managers and engineers from industry, musicians, actors, scientists, and photographers, and just great young enthusiasts with expert knowledge.

We need a simple system where such people are used as substitutes and practice teachers a brief time and then, upon demonstrated competence, given their own classes.

What most teachers learn in education courses contributes nothing to education. Rather it is all part of an elaborate guild system supporting the fallacious notion of “professional educators.”

My best and most remembered teachers were the people who knew a great deal about their subject and were enthusiastic communicating it. That is the ideal we should have, not the almost Soviet idea of professional educators.

Indeed great past educators, like Roger Ascham who taught Elizabeth Gloriana, have said it is important to have the best teachers at an early age. We often have the opposite today, grade schools teachers thinking they are competent in almost anything while often it is actually nothing.

Typically schools – because wages and benefits are so high – cannot afford specialists in many subjects, and they pretend teachers are interchangeable from gym to math or library to English. Simply ridiculous, and we are wasting vast resources.

We get nonsense coming out of the educational establishment like the idea that teachers need only the expertise of teaching theory rather than any real knowledge about what they are teaching. That’s why the textbooks today so often have large crib sections in the teachers’ edition, basically telling people about something they are about to teach yet know little or nothing about.

In many schools in America, you’ll find ridiculous banners about being somebody and being self-confident. There are even morning rituals, like some kind of Pol Pot rally, around the theme. The teachers and administrators (virtually all former teachers too) carrying on this stuff have no idea of what they are talking about. The prisons are full of hard criminals loaded with self-confidence, as one observer has noted.

The principals running schools are generally just former teachers who have no genuine experience administering anything. Sometimes it happens they rise to the challenge, but all too frequently they do not. They’ve taken some additional gimpy education courses – and if you haven’t been exposed to these, you cannot believe how soft and without real content they are – and earn meaningless graduate degrees.

The politics of dealing with the mess we’ve created are almost impossible. That’s why I put my faith in technology. We are already starting to see the beginnings of a new future with things like the best teachers being recorded and available that way online at any time. I do think in fifty years our idea of the conventional classroom will be as outdated as the guild halls.




BUT HE'S A UNION MEMBER IN GOOD STANDING

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

IGGYMANIA OR IGGYPHOBIA ?

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY LYSIANE GAGNON IN THE TORONTO GLOBE AND MAIL

The only cases of Iggymania ever reliably reported were discovered in Ignatieff's immediate family.

Even there, Iggymania apparently is a somewhat insipid contagion, known to have caused one or two relatives to experience a brief sniffle when exposed to one of his speeches.

However, some researchers have come forward with the theory that even these sniffles are not Iggymania but Iggyphobia.

COMEDIENNE WANDA SYKES TELLS A FUNNY JOKE ABOUT RUSH LIMBAUGH AND UNBELIEVABLY PEOPLE RUSH TO HIS DEFENSE AND ATTACK HER

RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE NEW YORK TIMES

If Rush Limbaugh is a patriot, then there is no better demonstration of Dr. Johnson's famous line, "Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels."

The fact is that Ms. Sykes' line is genuinely funny, and, like all genuinely funny things, it tells a ferocious truth in highly compact form.

Rush Limbaugh is, as a book title told us, a big fat idiot.

A big fat idiot, moreover, who spent years taking illegal drugs.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

NEWSPAPER JOURNALISTS WHO ATTACK THE INTERNET FOR ITS LACK OF AUTHORITY OR QUALITY ARE OFFERING BARELY DISGUISED PREJUDICES AND SPECIAL INTERESTS

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY NIGEL FARNDALE IN THE DAILY TELEGRAPH

"The mountainous, steaming quantity of horsedung out there on the internet...."

This is an often repeated notion, and it is completely wrongheaded. Indeed, such statements actually disguise prejudices and special interests.

First, they reflect an anti-democratic attitude, an assumption of superiority over the masses "out there."

The fact is that the Internet contains nearly everything that humanity does, both good and bad. The Internet has wonderful creations by bright minds as well as junk of every description.

If you do not have the judgment and background to distinguish one from the other, then likely you are also having serious trouble in regular life too.

Traditional print journalists and pundits are very fond of repeating Nigel Farndale's bromides. They like to portray themselves as giving the public authoritative and informed comment that is now endangered.

Why?

I think it is little more than their sensing the economic erosion of traditional media and fear losing their quite privileged positions to some of the sweaty masses.

The real truth is that traditional newspapers have failed the public so many, many times, that they have lost considerable credibility and authority. When was the last time a major newspaper dug into something really important and brought the public the information it needs to cast informed ballots? It certainly was missing during the Iraq horror, as it was missing for much the of the American holocaust in Vietnam or in the ghastly reign of J.Edgar Hoover in Washington.

It is a poorly kept secret that various newspapers put out various “lines” on important public issues and have done so since their beginning. We all know that political parties have favorite newspapers and plant stories. We all know that certain government agencies plant stories and selectively leak.

And we all know that many columnists, draped in togas of disinterested authority and adorned with laurels of wisdom, are effectively paid propagandists. People like Mark Steyn or Thomas Friedman spring instantly to mind.

That sad situation has been true since at least the time of Thomas Jefferson when he was American Secretary of State and secretly put Philip Freneau and James Callender on the government payroll to write and publish attacks on George Washington’s administration.

Well, the technology of the Internet has begun to free us from the confines of traditional newspaper publishing, and it is not such a bad thing when you consider the true record of establishment newspapers.

As a wise American once said, there is freedom of the press only for those who own one.




"HERE'S TO JOURNALISTIC INTEGRITY!"




"HEY, I'LL DRINK TO THAT!"

Friday, May 08, 2009

OBAMA'S OPPORTUNITY TO APPOINT A SUPREME COURT JUDGE AND SOME OF THE GENERAL DIFFICULTIES IN SUCH APPOINTMENTS

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

The real issue in selecting judges for America's Supreme Court is not the candidates' 'left' or 'right' orientation.

The heart of the matter is in whether they are 'strict constructionists' concerning interpretations of the Constitution or whether they believe judges' interpretation, with advancing times and changing circumstances, is just as much a part of the Constitution as the words on parchment themselves.

This bears certain similarities to the Catholic Church balancing the Gospels with tradition, tradition being something which is changeable and varies from place to place.

While this division in views does tend to come down to conservative views versus liberal views, it is not necessarily so. You certainly may believe that interpretation is important and yet be conservative in some of your views.

My own view is that 'strict construction' is akin to the Christians who believe every word of the Bible is the literal word of God.

The writers of the Constitution, with apologies to the likes of Tom Delay who used to carry a copy with him at all times like a Testament or donor card, actually overlooked many possibilities and made some genuine mistakes.

The U.S, wasn’t much of a democracy in their day – and many would argue it still isn’t much of a democracy – but essential characteristics of the society have changed a great deal in a couple of centuries. In early Virginia, for example, about 1% of the population could vote, roughly the same percentage as is represented by the Communist Party today compared to the Chinese population.

Of course, even were their handiwork perfect, it would no longer seem so two and a quarter centuries later. The changes that come over time with technology and the economy are profound (which takes us back to the previous column on genetics too).

Just one aspect of technology’s influence on law we see today is the literal melting away of copyright standards with digital material and the Internet.

Still further complicating the judge-selection business is the way some individuals change when they have the appointment, Warren being a classic example.

________________________________


'Empty slogans such as "strict construction" have no meaning whatsoever and are merely code words for following a far right wing agenda, just as "states rights" was once a code word for segregation.'

Sorry, that is rather wide of the mark.

"Strict construction" is certainly no empty slogan: it is precisely one end of a continuum of judicial philosophies in the United States.

Of course, there are few, if any, judges who hold to the extreme ends of that continuum, but you must have a descriptive term for each extreme to mentally place someone along it.

I think it is playing fast and loose with the courts to use the terms "liberal" and "conservative." Courts are, in theory free of politics. Of course, they are not truly so, but the cause is not helped by openly describing judges in that fashion.

The natural results of strict construction do tend to be conservative, but then America is, and always was (except for a brief time, under and after FDR), a very conservative country.

Thomas Jefferson didn't even believe the Court had the right to decide anything affecting the individual states, and he was ready at one point for secession over precisely that matter.

That was the absolute zero, if you will, of strict construction, and America has a large population that still regards Jefferson as America's greatest sage.





YOU HAVE TO ADMIT IT LOOKS A LOT LIKE THE SUPREME SOVIET INSIDE

THE APPROACHING REVOLUTION IN VALUES

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

"...genetic discrimination in hiring will be illegal, of course..."

The "of course" reflects today's values, but progress in genetics is going to upset virtually all of our accepted values.

Why? Values have to do with the verities of our world and the nature of the choices we make.

But the verities are all on their way to being tossed out the window.

We see just the leading edge of a revolution coming with matters like people having themselves cloned, parents having another child just to provide transplant parts for a loved and sick one, and truly designer babies with every important characteristic selected by parents.

The bizarre possibilities - bizarre by today's perspective - are virtually endless, so human values and ethics - and the laws reflecting them - are in for the greatest revolution of all time over the next century.




THE APPROACHING STORM

Thursday, May 07, 2009

RIGHTS CANNOT DISAPPEAR WHERE THEY NEVER EXISTED

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

Ramesh Thakur, this is intellectual rubbish.

"The reality of recent reversals on human rights, civil liberties and press freedoms is hard to miss."

Human rights only exist where the population honors them and where that population enshrines them in their laws.

Those conditions do not exist, and never have existed, in Afghanistan.

And to blame that fact on the Taleban shows only that you literally do not understand the place you are writing about.

The war lords of the Northern Alliance are every bit as horrible as the Taleban. You don't even mention their mass murder of 3,000 Taleban prisoners through suffocation in the desert.

You don’t mention the fact that virtually all of the women in places, places ruled by the warlords, outside Kabul – and even many there – still wear the burka.

You don’t mention the Potemkin schools that open with fanfare and close for lack of funds.

You don’t mention the immense poverty and virtually complete lack of a modern economy. You don’t mention the war lords involvement with poppies.

Afghanistan is a backward, poor, tribal society. Full stop.

Such backward places in India still burn brides. Such backward places in Africa see young girls routinely raped.

You do not advance a society with conquest and occupation, America's idea of a human-rights mission. Carpet-bombing is not a tool of democracy, no matter what your fellow institute arm-chair experts in the U.S. say.

God, they just murdered maybe a hundred people with their stupid bombing. And in Pakistan, they are pressuring the government towards collapse.

You are only defending a corrupt and murderous effort which has nothing to do with rights.


Monday, May 04, 2009

IS THE REPUBLICAN PARTY GOING UNDER?

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

Perhaps readers may recall that Senator Specter worked on the Warren Commission investigation of the John Kennedy assassination. The fact is certainly an indication of how long he has managed to survive in national politics.

But details of his work on the Commission show us something else too.

Senator Specter was the author of the Single-Bullet Theory. When the Commission could not sort out a set of contradictory facts, Specter secretly mashed them together into the theory now long-since discredited by all serious students of the assassination.

Perhaps this shift in parties is another such brainstorm?

The Republican party well deserves its fate. For decades it has been a ridiculous organization, a rickety marriage of philosophical conservatives with the Christian Mullahs of America's Religious Right.

In other words, the impossible marriage of those who in theory believe in freedoms with those who do not.

The party has stood on the wrong side of almost every great ethical issue for decades.

Moreover, it gave the world eight years of the brain-dead Bush administration which also happened to be the least ethical group of people to control the White House in memory. It has taken Americans as a whole a while to begin fully grasping the extent of the disaster Bush created on almost every front from foreign affairs to the domestic economy.

I do think the Religious Right itself is in decline. Their worst period of interfering in politics and demanding unreasonable laws and regulations represented perhaps the last great outburst of these backward, anti-scientific people as a force in American politics. The full decline will take a while, but I think its inexorable decline has begun.

The force of progress and clear thought and science was overwhelming them with fear, and they sought to stop progress in many public spheres, a truly impossible task in a world where science has become a gigantic, unstoppable establishment.

I think this fact has been sinking in to some degree, and they will return to exercising their religious rights where they belong, at home and in churches.

Of course, without the strength of the Religious Right, the Republicans become de facto a permanent minority party.

If these speculations are correct, then we are at an historic watershed in American politics, as when the Whig Party died.

Unfortunately, it does not necessarily mean a more liberal America. The Democratic Party has become an almost meaningless one in terms of philosophy or policies. Its last president, the sleazy Clinton, could pass, judged by his few, undistinguished achievements, as a middle-of-the-road Republican.

This shift in politics may represent a truly historic opportunity for Obama. It may give him the room, as people full of uncertainties look desperately for leadership, to accomplish a great deal to become a president of Rooseveltian proportions. Maybe.




THE MAGIC BULLET STRIKES

Friday, May 01, 2009

SWINE FLU AND THE POOR JOB THE PRESS DOES REPORTING IT

POSTED RESPONSE TO COLUMN BY ANDRE PICARD IN TORONTO'S GLOBE AND MAIL

Thank you, Andre Picard, for some good sense.

I have always thought that the SARS outbreak in Toronto was far overplayed. Contrary to the slap-yourself-on-the-back stuff we hear regularly about such a good job of management, much of it was actually botched.

CBC Radio, which should have better judgment, was one of the worst offenders. Bulletins all the time. Numbers all the time. No perspective at all. Thousands die every single year of regular flu and pneumonia alone. I'm sure the media contributed to the serious economic slump in Toronto.

Now we are getting the same rubbish again. Even perhaps false information.

The WHO has said there are only seven confirmed deaths so far, but the media keep reporting more than 150, a number which if even accurate is not a statistically significant health event in the world's population.

Last, I would just remind people that modern medicine can do almost nothing against flu anyway.

I believe telling people to go to hospital is irresponsible. As far as going to your doctor, well you are lucky if you have one, so why put him/her at needless risk?

When you take someone to the hospital with flu, after waiting hours, you will be told to take aspirin, liquids and perhaps a diarrhea-prevention compound to avoid de-hydration, and rest.

There is nothing else to be done. Antibiotics are a useless waste for viruses. Anti-virals are often ineffective and costly.




"HI, I'M FEELIN' JUS' FINE"

PARALLELS BETWEEN TRUDEAU AND IGNATIEFF BUT IGNATIEFF IS NO TRUDEAU

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

The parallels are few and shallow; the differences are immense.

Trudeau was a remarkable man, capable of surprisingly large acts.

Ignatieff is just one more somewhat above-average academic without a truly original idea or act to his credit.

Trudeau's personality sparkled. It showed in his eyes.

Ignatieff's natural tendency is slightly gloomy and aloof. The eyes are uninteresting.

Trudeau held the basic principles of a "just society" very dear, and one always sensed he would fight for them.

Ignatieff has no core principles that are large and that he would sacrifice for.

Trudeau stood up to American arrogance and irrationality.

Ignatieff has proved already he just blends into it.

When Trudeau spoke of human rights, there was authenticity.

When Ignatieff speaks of rights, he sounds like he's quoting a textbook.

When Trudeau looked upon injustice, you knew he was affected.

When Ignatieff looks on injustice, you know it doesn't even penetrate his consciousness.

___________

Harper is indeed a liar and, more importantly, a moral coward, a quality he has demonstrated many times.

And Ignatieff is a liar, and, more importantly, a moral coward, a quality he also has shown many times.