Saturday, February 20, 2010

TIGER WOODS' "APOLOGY" - A SCRIPTED LAS VEGAS SPECTACLE WITH A CAST OF THOUSANDS - PLUS A LAUGH-A-MINUTE SIDESHOW OF "SEX THERAPISTS"

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE INDEPENDENT

Please, tiresome man, just go away.

I don't want to hear or see another headline about your personal life.

All this noise about a man who plays golf?

I don't know what kind of ridiculous effort Woods is undertaking, but a scripted apology with a cast of thousands looking on is about as insincere as it gets, just another cheap Las Vegas show.

Sex therapy? More ridiculous nonsense. It's about like the idiot Christian fundamentalists who use "therapy" on homosexuals to make them "normal."

Here is a man who should never have married, at least not to a woman who expects traditional fidelity.

The most honest thing he could do is grant her a generous divorce, but no he undoubtedly doesn't want to make the big payout.

He's also looking, undoubtedly, towards rejuvenating his sponsorship income.

This is a completely dishonest and insincere man, one who has lived years of the most extreme lies.

There is no cure for having that kind of character.

THE FOOLISH USE OF AN UGLY EPITHET

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY DANIEL FINKELSTEIN IN THE TIMES

"Now it should never - never - be the case that arguing against the policy of the Israeli Government is regarded as proof of anti-Semitism."

Thank you, Daniel.

Unfortunately, your open mind does not characterize a good many defenders of Israel's excesses, including some well-known people.

It has become common to hurl the epithet "anti-Semite" at anyone criticizing Israel.

This foolish use of an epithet has two effects, at least.

First, it immediately sends the debate over Israel's foreign policies into the gutter, when there is indeed a large and important set of issues to debate.

Two, in the long term, the term "anti-Semite" will lose all genuine meaning.

This is already becoming the case with some other hideously over-used words, including “genocide” and “terrorist.”

Friday, February 19, 2010

RICK SALUTIN ON HARPER'S POOR EXCUSE OF A FOREIGN POLICY AND ESPECIALLY HIS OBSESSION WITH ISRAEL

POSTED COMMENTS ON A COLUMN BY RICK SALUTIN IN TORONTO'S GLOBE AND MAIL

These truly nasty men of Harper's are gradually destroying the entire fabric of Canada's international reputation.

Our reputation included fairness and balance in the Middle East, as elsewhere.

Harper has said many provocative and unpleasant things to his own people, including suggesting that Canadians who criticize Israel are anti-Semites, a vile repetition of a favorite attack on critics by apologists for Israel’s bloody excesses.

Peter Kent has always been a second-rater, a man not particularly astute or even interesting to listen to, now a junior minister with a junior mind at best. Where does he dare suggest we are committed to going to war for Israel, or anyone else for that matter?

Where in God’s name does he think he receives that kind of authority?

Of course, it is from his bully boss, Stephen Harper, who tells everyone in his creepy little party what to say unless they want a chair hurled at them in caucus.

I truly cannot believe that the Alberta-derived bunch of Harper's ministers and supporters – truly, mainly the classic WASP-types - are that attached to Israel.

And they cannot be seeking just votes with this inappropriate demonstration of loyalty to one small state, Israel: the Canadian Jewish community is in fact a fairly small one, I believe on the order of 1 to 2% of population.

So what motivates this foreign-policy obsession, for no other word is adequate?

I do recall Heather Reisman, who supported the Liberals, getting upset with them for not being enthusiastic enough about Israel. I believe they were only trying to be fair, but that is not how Ms Reisman saw it, and she was public in her criticism.

Ms Reisman is of course a successful and well-off business person, and Canada has produced several prominent Jewish families of great success and wealth.

Traditionally, many Jews supported liberal or progressive parties because of their own history of hardships and discrimination.

But the often ghastly human-rights behavior of the state of Israel now makes a terrible wedge issue for Canadians of Jewish descent, and politicians like Stephen Harper smell opportunity, opportunity for large campaign donations.

Effectively, Harper seems eager to trade the genuine long-term interests of Canada and all of its citizens, interests in maintaining a precious reputation for fairness and decency, for the short-term potential of substantial campaign contributions in the face of an ugly international situation.

Were I a Jewish Canadian concerned about Israel’s future, I would hardly be comforted by that kind of transaction in pretended loyalty.

________________

"As a country, we should stand against terrorism, not sit on the fence to placate barbarians."

Yes, absolutely.

The only trouble is that the person making that comment, like so many others these days, equates barbarians with Muslims.

Pure and absolute prejudice.

Everyone with eyes and ears and a working brain regards Operation Cast Lead as the purest barbarism.

And so too Israel's horrific attack on Southern Lebanon.

I do believe we have more to fear from an organized state sinking into barbarism than we do from malcontent individuals or even groups. Far more.

A state, moreover, armed with nuclear weapons and ugly stuff like nerve gas.

OBAMA'S MIDDLE EAST EFFORTS JUST NOISE SIGNIFYING NOTHING

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

The American campaign-finance system keeps the Congress tied up in knots by special interests.

No special interest has a better organized and intensely systematic approach to Congress than America's apologists for Israel's excesses.

Your views as a Congressperson are tracked and tested.

If your views are considered not sufficiently in Israel's interests, your opponent receives contributions and help.

If your views are acceptable, you receive contributions and help.

It is all extremely focused, and it is all extremely effective.

Favored Congresspeople even receive goodies like deluxe vacations in Israel under the guise of studying aspects of society there.

The terrible problem is that the only power which can push Israel to a fair and decent settlement is, unfortunately, the United States.

And it is incapable of exercising its strength for good precisely because of the effects of the campaign-finance system.

Obama started by seeming determined to a fresh start. He was encouraging for those wanting to see fairness done, but The Lobby has already worn him down to an ineffectual voice on this great issue of our time.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

WHY IS THE UK STILL THREATENING ISRAELI POLITICIANS ASKS PHILIP JOHNSTON? THE ANSWER PLUS A COMPARISON OF GUERNICA AND OPERATION CAST LEAD

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY PHILIP JOHNSTON IN THE TELEGRAPH

Why are we (the UK ) still threatening to arrest Israeli politicians?

Gee, I wonder?

Could it possibly be that they are war criminals?

In the recent past, an author from Britain served time in jail for "holocaust denial," a stupidity but hardly a crime for most minds, but it's okay to slaughter 1400 people, including 400 kids, in a refugee camp?

I was reading a biography the other day and came across a terrible fact.

Guernica, one of the 20th century's iconic horrors and the subject of a famous painting, had about 1600 people killed by German dive bombers.

That's almost the same death toll as Operation Cast Lead, yet in this case we are to ignore the savagery and pretend everything is just fine.

AMERICA'S RATHER DERANGED SECRETARY OF STATE CLINTON SPEAKS ABOUT MILITARY DICTATORSHIP IN IRAN AND A NEW ARMS RACE

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

Clinton's remark is pure farce.

The military of Iran is relatively small.

The United States on the other hand, now spends over $700 billion each year on its military, more than the total for all other countries on earth. That's far more than the total GDP of some countries.

Add to that the tens of billions more spent on at least 14 different intelligence agencies, and the size of the American military establishment is breathtaking.

Considering Obama ran with words about peace and now cannot be distinguished in his actions from George Bush, I do think it fair to say that it is the United States which to a large degree is governed by its military.

_________________________

The woman has become a tireless and rather deranged servant of Israel.

How can you have a bigger stock of nuclear weapons than the US already has?

And, please, the elephant in the room is Israel with its estimated 150-200 nuclear warheads. The entire Middle East is under its threat.

Why in God's name isn't Israel, with its genuine arsenal and not a hypothetical one, charged with inducing a weapons' race?

Recall her frighteningly insane declaration during her presidential campaign about incinerating Iran. That's over 70 million people. Absolute insanity.

CRISPIN BLACK ON BRAVE AND HONORABLE SOLDIERS BENFITING US ALL - AND THEN THERE'S WILL POWER

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY CRISPIN BLACK IN THE TELEGRAPH

"The brave and honourable spirit of Britain's soldiers will benefit us all."

I cannot believe that an informed person in the early 21st century writes such stuff.

Crispin Black sounds very much like a throwback to 1914.

I'm sorry, armies are sometimes necessary, but to speak of "the brave and honourable spirit" of professional soldiers simply doing their jobs rings hollow.

And that would be true even if what they were doing were not totally pointless, a political war to serve America's paranoia.

But Crispin insists on getting even more ridiculous:

"The daily exercise in Afghanistan of will-power and leadership serves the best human instincts."

“Will power” was a favorite of the late Mr. Hitler. It’s also popular in junk diet books.

The best human instincts are served by killing people in their own land for no good reason?

I don't know which is worse, the author for writing such words or The Telegraph for giving them space.

THE FENCE CONTROVERSY AND THE VANCOUVER OLYMPIC CAULDRON

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

See what up close?

Some pipes with gas-fed flames at the end?

What a terrible aesthetic deprivation that is.

_______________

"The cauldron will be open to the public Monday March 1st..."

I think that says it all, about the torch, about the flame, about this ugly pile of ductwork, and about the Olympic nonsense.

The cauldron will be open - a phrase right out of cheap science fiction movie.

_______________

"...all we get for the symbol of the games is a chain link fence"

Not quite.

You get a chain-link fence with a pile of galvinized ductwork behind it belching flames.

The image, to my mind, is nothing so much as some part of a factory or sour-gas plant.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

THE NEW AMERICAN OFFENSIVE IN HELMAND AFGHANISTAN FINDS LITTLE ORGANIZED RESISTANCE

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

Why would the Americans meet organized resistance from the Taleban?

First, the Taleban are poorly-fed peasants in sandals and turbans, carrying WW11-vintage weapons like AK-47s.

The Americans, and their assistants, are beef-fed monsters in Kevlar armor and high-tech combat boots, carrying costly weapons and supported by satellites and radars and communication systems and missiles.

It isn’t a war in any sense, unless you count Hitler’s Wehrmacht in 1939 rolling over Polish horse cavalry with Panzer Divisions supported by dive bombers and powerful artillery by Krupp, but even that infamous event was less lopsided than this kind of unleashing of hell.

I do think by now, the Taleban have learned a few things, too, over the years of facing such forces. The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong didn’t defeat America by going at it in conventional battles.

Only Americans believe that fleets of helicopters and Hellfire missiles and thousands of armored men and armored vehicles can genuinely change anything anywhere.

Of course, they can kill plenty of people, in many cases innocent civilians, as they killed eight just the other day.

The people being killed are native Afghans, although the press likes to blur that truth by using the phony word “insurgents.”

The people doing the killing are occupiers.

There’s nothing to cheer for here.

It's all simply naive and stupid and pointless.

THE STORY BEHIND THE SHOOT-DOWN OF A MISSILE BY AN AMERICAN AIRPLANE-MOUNTED LASER

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

This report sounds dramatic, as it was intended to by the American forces supplying the press releases.

It is simply propaganda for the military-industrial complex.

Interestingly, key bits of information are left out.

Why? Because they would be embarrassing.

This "weapon," as it exists, is regarded as militarily insignificant even by Mr. Gates of the Pentagon.

It must be quite close to its target, a situation unlikely ever to happen in the real world.

Its target must be a slow take-off, liquid-fuel missile.

A modern solid-fuel missile cannot be stopped by this clunky gadget.

There are also many countermeasures which can be taken. I believe, for instance, that the person who has commented that a mirror-coating on a missile renders the laser useless against it is correct.

Anyway, can you imagine keeping a fleet of these clunky machines in the air at all times? Of course not.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

JEFFREY SIMPSON SPEAKS OF OLYMPIC TORCH MEMORIES - MINE AREN'T QUITE SO SENTIMENTAL

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

Yes, indeed, the memory will remain.

Ugh, I'm sorry, Jeffrey Simpson, but nothing about the Olympics is a bigger waste of time and money and publicity than the torch run.

Imagine the immense costs and logistical problems of lugging this goofy-looking object around every backwater of Canada?

It all started, as it always does, with the immense silliness of flying a flame in an airliner from Greece. Pure idiocy.

And it ended this time in the hands of a man who has lived for years in the United States.

But he's a celebrity, a celebrity raised in Canada.

My God, what a magical moment as he stood there in what looked like a fireman's coat with red mittens trying to roast a marshmallow at a camp fire.

The damned torch looks like nothing so much as a cheap prop in a science fiction movie. It truly is a homely object, something most people wouldn’t pick out of a neighbor’s recycle box.

And the picture going with this column touchingly shows an athlete holding a plastic mini-torch, resembling a Christmas ornament dollar-special at Wal-mart.

My, it is all stuck in memory, even if we have to pay the immense cost of this ridiculous Las Vegas show, and we don’t have the money.

FURTHER TO NOISES IN THE MIDDLE EAST

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

Israel was indeed created by force.

And a good deal of that force was the purest form of terror from gangs like Stern and Irgun.

Innocent villagers were murdered to terrify the Arab population into running.

And they did run, but not far enough for Israel.

Later, Israel engineered the Six Day War to grab still more of the Palestinians' land, and it was a black operation that was hugely successful.

Ever since, despite countless UN Resolutions, Israel has continued a program of slow-motion ethnic-cleansing in those occupied lands.

Gaza, essentially a giant refugee camp from Israel’s terrors and wars, by the testimony of at least one former prime minister, has always been an Israeli nightmare. Israel seems now to have discovered the solution: starve and bomb them till they leave, using the pathetic excuse that a democratically elected government, many of them professional men of high repute, is nothing but a gang terrorists.

Israel’s intentions are clearly to take over virtually all of the land that was Palestine, minus the Palestinians.

Israel also coveted Southern Lebanon, and made every effort to hold on to it for years after invading until the Hezbollah drove them away.

Neither Hezbollah in Lebanon nor Hamas in Gaza has ever invaded Israel (nor are they even capable of doing so), but as we all know Israel has invaded them repeatedly, murdered thousands and seems ready to do so again.

And we are all supposed just to watch quietly while violent crimes are committed over and over again, and our illustrious prime minister actually threatens us with treating criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism.

It is simply a human-rights nightmare.

Friday, February 12, 2010

OBAMA AND THE GRIM SHADOW OF AMERICA'S TORTURE PRISONS - AND THE BRUTAL FACT ONLY DREAMERS AND FOOLS BELIEVE IN CHANGE IN AMERICA

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY JOHANN HARI IN THE INDEPENDENT

Yes, absolutely, the secret prisons in Afghanistan, and those in other places, cast a grim shadow across Obama’s smiling face.

I believe that decisions like keeping America’s torture gulag operating abroad are the greatest source of people's disappointment with Obama.

But I'm afraid people were being unrealistic to expect much else.

America is an empire, not a dreamy "shining city on a hill," but a rather brutal society which feels entitled to run the affairs of others in all parts of the planet.

It does this through a combination of its immense economic and military might.

America’s own population lives under a version of Social Darwinism, as relatively few people abroad fully appreciate. There is relatively little sympathy or patience for the concerns of foreigners, a simple but brutal fact.

The American establishment – the intelligence industry, the Pentagon, the defense contractors, and the huge multi-national corporations – do quite literally form a government within a government.

That is not a left-wing fantasy or a slightly paranoid delusion – after all, it was a Republican president and former general, Eisenhower, who first sounded the warning. It is the ineluctable result of this stupendously wealthy and largely unaccountable set of institutions.

A great many dark and devious men hold high positions in this establishment, and they have billions at their disposal plus a general population which is passive in accepting their actions.

Think only of the pointless holocaust in Vietnam. Countless billions wasted, an estimated 3 million Vietnamese murdered in an orgy of killing, and a devaluation of the dollar afterwards to help pay the bill. All of it done for nothing more than the fears and prejudices of that establishment.

The last American President who truly challenged that establishment died on November 22, 1963.

Obama wants to be the elementary civics-class textbook version of a president, the kind of president which the establishment tolerates from either party, not end up being either driven from office in shame or worse.

To talk with genuine expectations about change of any real consequence today in America is utterly na├»ve. It’s just about as meaningful as talking about change in the France of the late eighteenth century with its dukes and cardinals and princes, whose carriages simply thumped over the bodies of peasants who happened to be in their way.

Yes, a revolution did happen then, but try that in an empire with a military establishment pushing two million, all armed with unbelievably powerful weapons and a set of at least fourteen intelligence services which spy on every phone call and e-mail and even check the books you read at the library.

The French Revolution will never be repeated, and the pathetic American libertarians who naively believe that holding on to their beloved rifles and pistols secures their freedom surely only bring a quiet chuckle from those who know better.

NEO-CON TOM FLANAGAN CLAIMS HARPER IS "FIXING" CANADA'S SENATE STEP BY STEP

POSTED REPONSE TO A COLUMN BY TOM FLANAGAN IN TORONTO'S GLOBE AND MAIL
To paraphrase Bill Clinton, it depends on what you mean by "fix."

I think I understand what Mr. Flanagan means by "fix," and it is just as loaded with hidden meaning as Bill Clinton's dishonest question.

___________________

Canada’s Senate should either be left as it is or abolished.

An elected Senate is just copying what was done in America, Mr. Flanagan's home and native land.

Anyone familiar with the history of the American Senate knows that it has served only to slow progress and serve the interests of the wealthy. It is always on the side of war and empire and the interests of the military-industrial complex.

It indeed has no other purpose. Two elected bodies is a formula for failure.

I do believe that that does not represent what the great majority of Canadians would choose.

But then what does a Neo-con like Flanagan care about what people choose?

He's really talking about the interests of a small minority fundamentally changing our government without due procedure.

A STUDY WHICH SHOWS THOSE WHO DON'T ENJOY READING BY FIFTEEN ARE UNLIKELY TO SUCCEED

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

Yes, this study result strikes me as quite valid, but I'm afraid it has little to do with our schools.

It's a bit like saying those with intelligence and some mix of initiative will succeed.

My observations of children who like to read suggest little of it comes from the class room.

Of course, a good class room can further the love and skill further, but the truth is that a good many of our elementary teachers are themselves non-readers (you only have to listen to their conversations) or indeed people who have no idea about how to teach children to read.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

PALIN AND CRIB NOTES ON HER PALM - HARDLY A BIG POINT BECAUSE SHE HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO SAY WITH OR WITHOUT NOTES

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE NEW YORK TIMES

The problem certainly is not the crib notes on Sarah Palin’s palm, although it makes a funny anecdote after her blubbering about teleprompters.

The problem is that Sarah Palin has absolutely nothing to say, with or without notes.

Almost every word that comes from her mouth is completely predictable. And all of it is as vacuous as the applause soundtrack from a 1950s television sitcom.

Organizations might just as well buy a DVD of her past appearances and play random selections.

Imagine giving this hare-brain a hundred thousand dollars to come and say nothing?

Ah, that's America, land of opportunity.

And, of course, when dear Sarah bounces around and waves her hands like a Baptist preacher at a tent meeting, she sees nothing from the podium but real folks in the audience, not beltway insiders.

This, as she works tirelessly to become one of those very beltway insiders.

What a truly tiresome theme, a re-tread of Newt Gingrich and Lamar Alexander and Phil Gramm plus countless other past opportunists devoid of content.

How is it that America has an endless appetite for such regurgitated tripe?

Monday, February 08, 2010

STILL MORE ABOUT THE GOOFY TEA PARTY: THIS TIME JOHN IBBITSON WRITES ABOUT AMERICAN ANTI-STATUS QUO MOVEMENTS

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

John Ibbitson,

You really do have it entirely wrong.

I'm surprised at how much so. Perhaps it's your American-wannabe inner-self seeking expression?

There is nothing new, and certainly nothing genuinely anti-status quo, about the goofy Tea Party.

Good Lord, Sarah Palin - George Bush with a sex change - was there, and they were applauding that total airhead as she waved her arms around like a Baptist tent preacher.

And surely, you understand that there is nothing new about Palin except the color of her hair.

In fact, the Tea Party is the same tiresome bunch we've heard from dozens of times before in the U.S.

It's a re-run of a re-run of a re-run there: back to political basics and origins.

It's almost a hobby amongst the U.S. Right Wing, every once in while, we get a bunch of them with a new set of slogans.

This latest group of clowns reminds me of Lamar Alexander working desperately towards the Republican nomination in 2000, by going around in a red lumberjack shirt and offering the profound suggestion of a part-time government.

Likely it was a custom-made lumberjack shirt since good old Lamar is a multi-millionaire. Of course, in one sense, old Lamar was only talking about formalizing the de facto reality: America does have a part-time government if you count the time spent soliciting money.

Were you aware that one of their speakers at the convention also called for the re-establishment of literacy tests for voting? It's the old code phrase for eliminating black votes.

Anti-status quo? Yes, if you count going backward a century as being anti-status quo.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

THE GOOFY TEA PARTY AGAIN - AND THE CLOWN SARAH PALIN - AND THE TRUTH ABOUT THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION

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

Oh, please, any group which can become excited by a certified airhead like Sarah Palin is pathetic.

The Tea Party is just one more in a long list of fad right-wing movements in America, most of them deliberately employing the language of revolution to make themselves sound consequential.

Well, they are all about as revolutionary, and as interesting, as the latest version of dish soap from Procter and Gamble.

And this author, Konrad Yakabuski, too, has a childishly limited understanding of the American "revolution."

"...driven by the same distrust of the ruling class that inspired the Revolution."

That statement is simply not true. It represents the American 8th grade civics-class version of the "revolution."

Americans in the colonies were a pretty privileged group in the world of 1776. Everything we read from foreign observers tells us how good and healthy and free their lives in fact were. From life expectancies, smart people like Franklin calculated how quickly the population would become large.

Britain - in the Seven Years War (aka, French and Indian War) - had even eliminated the worrying threat of the French encroaching into the Ohio Valley.

But when Britain wanted Americans to help pay for that war with some new taxes - a perfectly reasonable expectation – we first saw Americans acting like rude kids being served spinach for dinner, a behavior which has continued down to this day.

Indeed, the financial crisis which just threatened the world comes from the same dark place in the American soul: “I want it all, and I want it now.”

Britain also irritated the colonists by keeping rules about land speculation and against disturbing the natives in the Ohio Valley, an unpleasant get-rich-quick practice in which George Washington was a leader, surveying other people’s land and later selling it to new immigrants from Europe.

And it still further irritated the colonists – actually infuriated them – by imposing the Quebec Act, arousing the ugliest anti-Catholic rhetoric you could imagine, truly gutter stuff.

These are the true origins of the American Revolution, an event which is far more accurately called a revolt since it was an effort to overthrow an imperial power, not local government by locals.

None of the rhetoric about liberty and justice had much to do with it, unless you agree that people who trade in slaves make any sense in talking about such concepts.

Selfishness writ large.

And just so now, the clownish Tea Party.

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, ESTABLISHMENT DARLING, ATTACKS GORE VIDAL - AND GRAHAM GREENE ON WHAT A WRITER'S RESPONSIBILITY IS - AND 9/11 FACTS

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE INDEPENDENT

This isn't an attack.

Gore Vidal is a crackpot, a rather delightful and entertaining one.

Christopher Hitchens, however, has become something much more unpleasant, and far more dangerous, than a crackpot.

Hitchens is now a relentless defender of the establishment, eloquent and wordy certainly, but serving interests a genuine writer should never serve.

Graham Greene said it so superbly:

"You remember Thomas Paine’s great apothegm, ‘we must take care to guard even our enemies against injustice,’ and it is there – in the establishment of justice – that the writer has greater opportunities and therefore greater obligations than, say, the chemist or the estate agent."

No matter what you believe about 9/11, it is simply a fact that there are many unanswered questions.

I do not think that that fact means the government was involved, but it could not be clearer that the government is hiding things.

Just the simple facts that structural steel used there required twice the temperature that aviation fuel burns at 3000 versus 1500 degrees), that most of the force of the impact and explosion was depleted by blowing out the other side, and that we have pictures of survivors standing by the entrance hole tell us clearly there was not enough energy to cause those collapses.

The recorded images of the collapse are, almost to a certainty, images of a controlled demolition, not a "pancaking" down of floors. Indeed, the central core was so immensely strong – overbuilt from an engineering point of view – that even if the floors could have “pancaked” down, the core would have been left standing.

And there are so many other questions.

Most of the perpetrators were Saudis, and, crucially important, had legitimate visas for the US. Who issued those? The Israelis knew about them and were curious, following them around with a large gang of agents who were arrested and deported afterward.

What was going on? A CIA training operation gone sour? A much larger plot than the men in the planes, including others who planted explosives at the building bases? Who knows, but we do know we have not been told the truth.

And as for the fourth airliner, there is absolutely no question but it was shot down by an American fighter plane. The debris field was vast and could not possibly have resulted from the official fantasy story of “let’s roll,” a story concocted to save the government from a monstrous set of lawsuits.

Yes, Christopher Hitchens is not a writer in the truest sense of the word, he is the kind of talented scribbler who has always served those with power.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

ON THE ISSUE OF MERIT PAY FOR TEACHERS

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

True merit pay for teachers must cut both ways.

The better teachers should get more than average while the poorer teachers should get less than average.

That is the only intellectually defensible way to do this.

Of course, the truly poor ones – of which there are many – should be let go.

How much chance is there that the teacher's union - at its heart the cause of most of our educational woes - would support that? None.

As for only paying bonuses, that really is a bribery system. Because the education system is so much larger and complex in the US, it is only natural that bribes would come into being.

After all, American states and cities outbid each other in concessions to keep or receive industries.

In a large American metropolis, typically there are many school boards, ranging from immensely well-financed ones in breathtakingly wealthy suburbs to piteously financed ones in some urban centers (truly rural schools in the US are often terribly poor too).

In a place like Chicago area, there are suburbs with PhDs teaching high school and with facilities comparable to a private quality college. Then there are science labs in some Chicago neighborhoods where the Bunsen burners do not work.

Paying these bribes is just one more mechanism for the well-off to assure themselves all the very best. Poor boards are not able to compete.

It's just one more form of Social Darwinism in a country which specializes in such arrangements.

Another argument against this idea is a strong one too. The fact is, in Ontario, we have no in authority competent to judge the quality of teachers. Principals are afraid, often rather limp-wristed, and they are just teachers themselves who in many cases sought a way out of the classroom.

Once a graduate lands a permanent job in Ontario, his or her teaching is never examined or assessed. There are no specialist teams competent to do this anyway, as there once were.

Going right up the Ontario hierarchy, we have pretty much nothing but ex-teachers who’ve escaped the classroom. That’s how we get superintendents and even directors with little capacity for management or sound judgment.

NOISES IN THE MIDDLE EAST: IS MURDER INCORPORATED PREPARING A NEW WAR?

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY PATRICK MARTIN IN TORONTO'S GLOBE AND MAIL
Murder Incorporated has been making all kinds of threatening noises lately.

Threats towards Iran.

Threats towards Syria.

Threats towards Southern Lebanon.

And there's the effort to starve the Palestinians out of Gaza while daily stealing more of the property of others in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

We have a very ugly and threatening situation developing.

Syria is absolutely right to say that if a war starts, Israeli cities would be targets. It is the only way for Israel's savage leaders to reconsider whatever it is they appear to be planning.

After all, Israel and the U.S. have never hesitated to bomb and shell cities.

Israel used an artillery siege on Beirut in the 1980s. In recent years it has bombed Beirut and dropped ghastly cluster bombs.

Israel caused the deaths of thousands in just the city of Beirut in the 1980s. The U.S. slaughtered civilians in cities all over Iraq, especially in Baghdad. And it regularly bombs civilians in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Its holocaust of Hanoi was one of the most bloodthirsty events of the second half of the 20th century.

The U.S. is the only power capable of restraining Israel's aggression, but it refuses to do so. Policy under Obama, just as under Bush, seems virtually set in Tel Aviv.

MORE ON THE TEA PARTY: THIS AN ARTICLE SO POORLY INFORMED IT SHOULDN'T HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED - BUT PERHAPS IT FITTINGLY SUMS THIS SILLY BUNCH

POSTED RESPONSES TO A COLUMN BY TOM VELK IN TORONTO'S GLOBE AND MAIL
Tom Velk, this is a remarkably poorly informed piece.

First, you start with a straw-man argument.

The fact is no one on earth thinks the Tea Party represents rebels.

In fact, they are the same tiresome bunch we've heard from dozens of times before in the U.S.

Back to political basics and origins.

It's a fad amongst the U.S. Right Wing, every once in while, we get a new bunch of them with slogans.

It's been typical for them to use words or phrases like “manifesto” or “revolution” so that they grab attention and sound like something other than the retro-grade folks they are: Patriots with four-car garages.

The Tea Party will disappear within a year or two. It has nothing to offer. Good God, just consider they’re using the brainless Sarah Palin as a keynote speaker. Kind of says it all.

As for Jefferson, you seem unaware of the facts of his life. He said that the country needed some blood shed every twenty years or so to keep the Tree of Liberty nourished, and he wasn’t using poetic language. He supported the bloody French Revolution right through The Terror, leaving behind some pretty awful statements.

Jefferson actually shared qualities with Cambodia’s Pol Pot: he believed in the honest yeoman type and was against industrialization and opposed Hamilton’s sophistication in finances. He was repressive as in the revolt of Haiti and his horrible embargo of England and his Inspector Javert-like pursuit of Arron Burr.

Altogether a confusing and rather unpleasant man.

_______________________

"4. Describing America's growth in the 19th century: "the giant did not grow by conquest (except of a figurative sort)" The War of 1812 was an attempt to do just that; The Mexican War? the forced death March of natives from Florida; the many 'Indian Wars' of conquest."

Yes, indeed. Don't forget the Spanish-American War intended to steal Cuba and other properties.

Then there's the theft of Texas.

The theft of New Mexico and California.

The story of Hawaii is a very sad one. America stole the place after the British were gone and ignored the pleas of natives who even petitioned Congress and were completely ignored.

Don't forget the many bloody uprisings in the "Empire of Liberty" stretching back to putting down the Whisky rebellion to the ghastly mass slaughters of blacks in the 1920s in Oklahoma and Florida and other places. Bodies by the hundreds dumped into mass graves and their property stolen.

Actually, America's record, for those who know it, very much resembles Germany's rise in the late 19th and first half of the 20th centuries.

Only the fact that the places America attacked and pillaged were thinly populated prevents its record from being one of deaths in the many millions like Germany's.

Of course, its ruthlessness goes right up to the fire bombing and atomic bombing of Japan and its mass murder in Vietnam with perhaps 3 million victims left behind. And a million victims in Iraq.

It ain't a pretty record.

I really think the editors of the Globe need to do a much better job in selecting the people they print. This piece is uninformed trash.

Friday, February 05, 2010

THE AMERICAN HEALTH CARE POLITICAL MESS: A KEY FACT NOT WIDELY APPRECIATED OUTSIDE THE U.S.

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

One of the key facts in understanding American health care and the lack of support for serious reform is not widely understood outside of the United States.

That fact is that under the existing regime, the comfortable middle class almost universally receives very good health care.

Those who work at good corporate or government jobs receive good to superb insurance as a benefit.

This fact effectively removes society's most vocal and politically influential group of people from the debate. In fact, it actually puts them on the side against any change: "I've got mine, and I don't want it mucked up," is genuine if unspoken thinking.

The people who suffer most are the underemployed or those consigned to lives with low-level jobs - the great majority of clerks and retail employees and people who work at service work of many descriptions. They receive either no insurance or, often, insurance which is so poor in its coverage and rules that it can be close to useless. In effect, they are hard-working people who cannot afford to buy costly private insurance and have little prospect for a change in their circumstances over their lifetimes.

Of course, there are also the tens of millions who go entirely uninsured, but many of these are young and in a sense their plight isn't as serious as the underinsured.

So the total American population is highly segmented, as it were, into groups whose political importance also varies greatly. The politically important ones are pretty satisfied with their health care. The politically less important are generally not but tend to be inert.

When politicians are doing their electioneering (even outside of health care), middle class people are pretty consistently their target of first importance. They have the money, they have the voices, and they are statistically the most likely to vote. It’s fundamental part of “the calculus of consent.”

General ethical appeals have limited claim on many of them. America is not run as a society in which ethics, apart from self-interest, play a great role in politics. This is easily observed in many phenomena, but the words used by politicians and political commentators are especially revealing in this regard. People aren’t addressed as citizens or fellows but typically as consumers in America. There is a palpable theme of Social Darwinism that surges through most public affairs.

And, of course, as de Tocqueville observed a long time ago, “I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America.” That characterizes every national election still, and Obama’s was no exception.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

ARE THE VANCOUVER OLYMPICS TO BE A FINANCIAL DISASTER OR NOT? AND OTHER OLYMPIC MATTERS

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

"But if you're going to suggest, as Olympic critics do, that the Games have cost $6-billion, at least have the decency to say that a good chunk of that amount – $4-billion, in fact – has gone to things that were going to get built anyway."

This is just a roundabout updating of Mayor Drapeau's infamous line about Olympics and deficits and having babies.

Of course, in the case of Montreal 1976, we were left with a whopper of a deficit, and some of the infrastructure was poorly designed and built in the rush, yielding far less utility in the future than structures carefully done over time.

There's no reason on earth a city the size of Vancouver, not really a terribly large city, would have been spending $4billion on infrastructure.

And the comment on the immense security cost, above, is on the mark: we are at the point where a public event requiring this much security is not worth it.

The excesses of the modern Olympics are beyond counting, but they may perhaps be best symbolized by the Olympic Torch Relay. It costs a fortune to pull off this meaningless quasi-barbaric ritual in a country the size of Canada.

And what are its origins? The 1936 Olympics in Germany, a country under great international pressure at the time over its suitability to host the Olympics and a country then given to lavish quasi-barbaric rituals.

The infamous Joseph Goebbels put the first Torch Relay into the modern Olympics, and we still mindlessly repeat it.

It has no connection to the origins of the Olympics, and, indeed, the entire modern excess called the Olympics has no relation to the ancient, relatively simple event.

Vancouver, as was China, is a gigantic, immensely expensive Las Vegas show, a glitzy, vacuous temporary temple to sports not even paid for by the people enjoying it.

LAWRENCE MARTIN SAYS THE LIBERALS ARE GOING TO LET IGNATIEFF BE HIMSELF

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

Let Ignatieff be himself?

God, what a treat that will be for voters.

Let him drone on in his drab tone.

Let him display his arrogant and stand-offish attitude.

Let him display his striped trousers and silk stockings while crossing his legs on podiums across the country.

Let him speak about relatively trivial points while the great issues of the sweep past him.

Let him blubber about the democratic values his entire sordid little political career in Canada has worked against.

Let him smile his sardonic smile and be self-satisfied about his changing his mind about past support for torture and mass murder in Iraq.

God, I wish the Liberal Party would come to its senses and dump this political albatross.

CLIVE CROOK DISPARAGES J. K. GALBRAITH'S ARROGANCE - AND RIGHTLY SO

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

I too have read a number of Galbraith's books, and there is no doubt that he is an interesting writer, and while I disagree with a good deal of his thought, I welcome the thoughtful views of those who go against the academic establishment.

I have also met Galbraith, briefly, and heard him lecture, and there is equally no doubt that he was one of the most arrogant people I have ever met. He literally dripped arrogance. Not a pleasant experience.

Further thought.

It is not widely appreciated that Galbraith came from rural Ontario. His first academic work was at what was then called the Ontario Agricultural College (since changed into the University of Guelph).

I've always thought, in view of Harvard and the top Washington establishment, that he hid his embarrassment at that humble beginning with practiced arrogance.

Perhaps.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

CLIVE CROOK CAPTURES THE ECONOMIC ABSURDITY OF AMERICAN GOVERNMENT BUDGETS - AND AMERICA'S GROTESQUE MILITARY EXPENDITURE

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

Yes, exactly.

Whether in war or foreign affairs or economics or trade, the basic problem is the American attitude of "I want it all, and I want it now."

Another word for this is entitlement.

I think there really is no cure for this sickness, just as it is virtually impossible to undo the damage to a person raised by parents who behaved as though they were his servants.

The only time we saw some deviation from this obsession was in the Great Depression, a learning experience comparable to repeatedly hitting one's head into a wall.

But, as we've seen, even depressions have been banned in America now. You can buy your way out, and go back to just what you were doing.

____________________

Yes, Wendell Murray, the American military expenditure is actually cancer-like in its growth, and only recently we were assured by the good Mr. Gates that there would be still more coming.

American politicians today sometimes harangue about China’s military expenditure, which at somewhere between 10 and 15% that of America’s (with four times the population), seems almost miniscule.

There is no rational explanation for this.

Consider the countless billions squandered in Vietnam - inflate it to present dollars and the sum is immense - and to what end?

Trillions were spent on the Cold War, almost all of it wasted. The Soviet Union finally collapsed based on the flaws in economics and logic embedded in its very foundation and structure, not owing to America's military might.

I think the practice reflects a combination of the American entitlement syndrome (we are entitled to make all others fear our might) and the Moby Dick obsession with chasing the white whale.

There always seems to be a white whale for America.

Spain’s remaining North American Empire of the 1890s, Communism for decades going back to the 1920s (when Hoover first showed his obsession with getting rid of anyone who could be regarded as a Communist), to Islam in recent times.

Does that reflect a basic paranoid trait in a good portion of the population, the legacy of the horrible Puritans? I’ve long thought so. I think Australia was lucky to get the convicts rather than the Pilgrims.

I do believe the world needs seriously to start re-thinking the role of the American dollar as reserve currency in light of the county’s proved record of irresponsibility. That role for the currency leaves Americans with an option no one else has in paying for its lack of control. Look what it did after Vietnam.

NORMAN SPECTOR MAKES SILLY CLAIMS ABOUT IGNATIEFF USING DUCEPPE

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

I have no use for separatism, but I think it more than fair to say that Mr. Duceppe is by a good measure the more statesmanlike of the three, comparing him with Harper and Ignatieff.

Duceppe also has demonstrated a solid concern for the kind of values most Canadians are comfortable with.

Harper is a nasty political accident, an extremist who has managed to enjoy power only owing to a set of circumstances beyond his control.

Ignatieff is not worth discussing. The man represents no values whatsoever. His voice is never even heard on important matters. And his past is a disgrace, whether speaking of his support for torture and mass murder or his receiving his position through anti-democratic manoeuvering. And to put the cap on it, he isn't even interesting to listen to, rather drab in fact.

The press, and columnists like Norman Spector, actually make far more out of the separatist affiliation of Duceppe than is warranted. He has no chance ever of achieving separation, the majority of Quebec’s people not supporting that end. But he has been a more respectable and, in my view, responsible member of Parliament than Ignatieff or Harper.

A FITTING RESPONSE TO A PREVIOUS BIZARRE COLUMN BY ANTHONY JULIUS

RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY MELANIE MCDONAGH IN THE TELEGRAPH

Melanie McDonagh, you have captured perfectly a sense of Anthony Julius's piece.

The tone of Julius's piece actually struck me as a bit bizarre and off-the-wall.

Why, of all the things you could discuss would you choose this insignificant little remark?

Especially, when you consider the fact we understand today that the charming Diana was a very disturbed person. Are the little confidences of disturbed people to a professional the stuff of publicity? Of course, they are not.

His anecdote just touches the filth which floats around today like stuff on a waste pond: the endless shrill accusations that every critic of Israel is anti-Semitic.

It represents an obsession and a desperately unpleasant effort to cover Israel's atrocities.

THE RETIRING OF ANDY BARRIE FROM HIS MORNING CBC RADIO SHOW

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

Andy Barrie certainly is a man of intelligence and some talents, but I think this very interview reveals why it is a good thing that he is leaving the morning show.

This interview focuses on personal matters, and that is precisely what Mr Barrie does on his show.

I know more about Andy Barrie's personal life and personal views than I do about anyone else on CBC Radio, indeed likely more than all the other people on CBC Radio together.

I know almost nothing personal about such outstanding CBC talents as Anna Marie Tremonti, Eleanor Wachtel, Bob McDonald, or Michael Enright.

But I know about Andy’s religious views, I know about Andy’s late brother, about his history in Montreal, about his history in the U.S., about Andy’s mother, about Andy’s late wife, about Andy’s health, and a good many other things.

I know too much about Andy, and especially his views. He cannot conduct a serious interview without making it almost as much about views or comments of his as the person being interviewed.

He inserts his views into almost everything, and I regard that as something of an abuse of listeners. I believe it was the third or fourth time he started in with the “I’m an atheist” stuff that I wrote in saying if I heard it once more, I’d puke. Not because I care in the least about atheism, but simply too much of the self-indulgent boy doing his adolescent bravado act

There is too much in Andy of the old Larry Solway days, the aggressive, opinionated telephone-in show host.

I like to hear the morning show for events, but I think it can only improve without the really huge ego.

Monday, February 01, 2010

ON THE FINAL CHAPTER TO CANADA'S AFGHANISTAN MISSION - WHATEVER THAT IS

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

The final chapter of our Afghan mission?

And just what was our "mission"?

I doubt anyone in Canada can give a coherent definition of that so-called mission.

The government has blubbered again and again, as have some of its supporters, about making the purpose clearer to people, but they never have.

That is simply because there is no purpose, at least in the conventional meaning of the word.

The United States went there for vengeance and to kill as many people it regards as hostile as it can. It dragged along all the “help” its vast resources of finance, aid, and military could extract from the world, hoping to make the business look like something other than it is.

Even then, most countries, except for Tony Blair’s Britain, sent only token help to this supposedly world-important “mission.”

There never has been any other meaning, except in the columns of propagandists.

Canada's only purpose was to placate a mindlessly angry and paranoid United States with the knowledge that we'll help hold your overcoat while you're busy doing all that killing. We accidentally got assigned to a place where our troops suffered disproportionately

No other definition of our "mission" fits the facts. It is a dark and brutal and pointless chapter in our history.

________________

"...should have realized that the mission since the German Conference was to rebuilt Afghanistan and provide the necessary security for its people."

It doesn't get more unthinking and uninformed than that.

Afghanistan is not being "rebuilt."

The place was never a country in the sense that we understand it. It is simply a remote place which is the home to a number of tribes. There is traditionally no central government - and there effectively still is not - and there are no roads to speak of, and relationships are governed by a set of ancient tribal rules.

You cannot undo that in even a lifetime.

Because the economy is so primitive, it is little more than window dressing to build a lot more schools too. There is no employment for more educated people in a tribal society like that.

If we could by a wave of the hand, suddenly educate all the people of Afghanistan, all we would achieve is producing a lot of people who want to go somewhere else. The primitive economy cannot absorb them.

The "German Conference" was just one more in a long line of American tools to manipulate world opinion.

Had America cared the least about developing Afghanistan, it would have dropped dollar bills, not bombs.

How few people are even aware that the Taleban originally was created to provide clean government, at a time when the country was under the warlords of the Northern Alliance, who in their internecine fights were killing tens of thousands of people after the Russians left.

The Taleban’s original purpose had absolutely nothing to do with fighting the West.

Yes, they granted Osama's people a place to stay, but Osama had before that been someone who served American purposes, indeed, someone who visited the United States and received assistance.

After 9/11, the Taleban would have extradited Osama's people had the US offered one shred of evidence concerning his guilt, something they refused, and to this day, we've still not seen any.

America has managed the feat of making an enemy of the Taleban. Pointless because, whether we like it or not, they are part of the fabric of that country.

America’s total achievement, apart from killing tens of thousands more, includes the poppies, which the Taleban had suppressed, now blooming like wildflowers, and the Northern Alliance warlords rule their respective areas with all the corruption and violence and anti-progressive behavior as always.

A total disaster.

ON THE NOTION OF A MADE-IN-CANADA SOLUTION TO THE BURKA

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

Ms. Khan, there is to my mind only one made-in-Canada approach to this matter.

That is, let people do as they wish in their private lives and as they feel their religion directs them.

Anything else is state interference into private lives and religion, an abhorrent concept in which I am sorry to see France becoming involved.

I don’t like burkas, but I didn’t like nun’s heavy habits of only a few decades ago either. Some of them were godawful outfits, covering from head to toe and pinching the face in heavily starched material. I’m not too fond of the grotesquely ugly clothing strict Mennonite women wear too.

But it is all none of my business.

We had no complaints about those excesses. The complaints today reflect raw anti-Muslim prejudice, and we have no business accommodating that.

Over time, as people adjust to a new society, they or at least their children, will give up these ancient customs. It just takes time.

It was only a couple of generations ago that women from Eastern Europe, and actually many others, wore babushkas routinely. In the World War II period, it was stylish for women to wear veils on their hats. In Victorian times, women covered themselves in heavy dark clothing and wore hats with large heavy veils. All just common fashion, and all of it has disappeared.

If people out there are concerned about women’s rights, then look to the world’s many true horrors and do something about them.

Three million women a year undergo sexual mutilation in Africa. It is routine practice also in many parts of Africa for older men in a village to rape young girls.

In India, we have bride-burning and honor killing. We also have a ghastly tradition that marries off little girls to rich old men, so the family can get a little money. This horror is compounded by the fact that when the old man dies, the girl is left a widow, and there are terrible rules which apply to her for the rest of her miserable life, including never marrying again and even the clothes she must wear and the food she must eat. Tens of millions of widows in India live under this tyranny.

The world is full of genuine horrors and abuse, never mind what someone wears by custom.