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  • FIFA ARRESTS AND THE AMERICAN JUSTICE DEPARTMENT - A GREATER EVIL THAN BENT SPORTS OFFICIALS

    COMMENT POSTED TO THE GUARDIAN

    The American Justice Department had every right and reason to pursue the American branch of FIFA.

    They have no right to go after Europeans and others.

    The fact that Europeans are cooperating in arresting their citizens and sending them to the U.S. to stand trial is just further evidence of Europe's pathetic acceptance of America's right to govern Europe.

    It is a terrible precedent, setting things up for ever greater intrusions into European affairs.

    No one likes bent sports officials, but the issue of American laws applying in Europe is a far greater one than the issue of some bent sports officials.

    America is using the public's instinctive dislike in this matter to further drive its influence and power into Europe.

  • CHELSEA MANNING IS ONE OF THE FEW HEROES OF OUR TIME

    COMMENT POSTED IN THE GUARDIAN

    Chelsea Manning is one of the few genuine heroes of our time.

    She risked everything and did so out of a profound sense of human decency.

    The truly brave always in history are abused by authorities.

    The ones who get medals are not so much the brave but the compliant.

    Most of the vast stores of secrets the United States has hidden away are not in any way threats to national security.

    They are mostly threats to the security of authorities who are afraid of public reaction to their lying, incompetence, and poor judgment.

    We cannot have democracy unless the people understand better what their government is doing and why.

    And today I think it fair to say America is no democracy but a collection of elites using the immense powers of that government to do as they wish.

    Killing, destroying, and overthrowing on a vast scale - all while supporting brutal and tyrannical governments such as Saudia Arabia or Israel who serve its purposes abroad.

  • NEWS COVERAGE OF THE PLIGHT OF ROHINGYA MUSLIMS IN BURMA - A GROUP IN EVERY WAY COMPARABLE TO THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIANS WHO RECEIVE NO SUCH COVERAGE

    LETTER TO CBC RADIO'S THE CURRENT

    The Rohingya Muslims of Burma by all accounts are treated badly.

    But in not one particular cited by your guests does the situation of these oppressed people differ from the situation of the millions of Palestinians under Israeli occupation.

    Inability to freely travel limiting opportunities to earn a living; unfair treatment by officials and police; hate speech - all of these and more are the everyday experience of Palestinians.

    The Rohingya, concentrated on the west coast of Burma in Rakhine State, sometimes leave their oppression because of the seas, yet the people of Gaza, stretched along the sea in much the same fashion, are not even free to use the sea: fishermen who go outside their tiny permitted zone are shot at regularly by Israeli naval forces; ships of needed supplies from other places are subject to attack by Israel on the high seas; and even natural gas fields discovered in the Mediterranean in areas which under international law should belong to Palestine are seized by Israel.

    The comparisons are even closer because if you ask Burmese officials, they would tell you the Rohingya want their own state, something Burma will not grant, and are regarded as rebellious, something none of your guests discussed.

    Yet CBC Radio, and The Current in particular, would not dream of treating the Palestinians’ plight, which after all is in every sense closer to home. You have not done so once in any meaningful way.

    To add insult to injury in the piece you did, you interviewed a representative of the American Holocaust Museum whose investigations are said to have established that all the “early signs of genocide” were now present in Burma. I wasn’t aware that there was an official handbook of diagnosis for genocide, but these people appear to have one.

    It does seem to me in view of the appalling conditions in Israel/Palestine, people from the Holocaust Museum are simply not qualified to comment on Burma.

    Indeed, I think it not unfair to suggest that their statements effectively serve as diversions to a faraway topic from what is going on so much closer to home in Israel.

    AFTERWORD: In a follow-up interview the next day with Burma's ambassador to Canada, he said something along the lines of "There's no such thing as the Rohingya people."

    These were exactly the same words uttered by Golda Meir about the Palestinians decades ago, and her chilling words have been echoed many times since, including a few years ago by Newt Gingrich on the campaign trail after receiving the best part of $20 million in campaign contributions from billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a devoted supporter of Netanyahu's vision of Israel.

  • AL-NAKBA PERSONIFIED

    CHUCKMAN - NETANYAHU - AS AL-NAKBA

  • DANGEROUS FLAILING AND BELLOWING OF THE BEAST

    DANGEROUS FLAILING AND BELLOWING OF THE BEAST

    John Chuckman

    When I think of America’s place in the world today, the image that comes to mind is of a very large animal, perhaps a huge bull elephant or even prehistoric mammoth, which long roamed as the unchallenged king of its domain but has become trapped by its own missteps, as caught in a tar pit or some quicksand, and it is violently flailing about, making a terrifying noises in its effort to free itself and re-establish its authority. Any observer immediately knows the animal ultimately cannot succeed but certainly is frightened by the noise and crashing that it can sustain for a considerable time.

    I think that is the pretty accurate metaphor for the situation of the United States today, still a terribly large and powerful society but one finding itself trapped after a long series of its own blunders and errors, a society certain ultimately to become diminished in its prestige and relative power with all the difficulties which that will entail for an arrogant people having a blind faith in their own rightness. America simply cannot accept its mistakes or that it was ever wrong, for Americanism much resembles a fundamentalist religion whose members are incapable of recognizing or admitting they ever followed anything but the divine plan.

    America has made a costly series of errors over the last half century, demonstrating to others that the America they may have been in awe of in, say, 1950, and may have considered almost godlike and incapable of mistakes, has now proved itself indisputably, in field after field, as often not even capable of governing itself. The irony of a people who are seen as often unable to govern themselves advising others how to govern themselves brings a distinct note of absurdity to American foreign policy.

    America’s establishment, feeling their old easy superiority in the world beginning to slip away in a hundred different ways, seems determined to show everyone it still has what it takes, determined to make others feel its strength, determined to weaken others abroad who do not accept its natural superiority, determined to seize by brute force and dirty tricks advantages which no longer come to it by simply superior performance.

    Rather than learn from its errors and adjust its delusional assumptions, America is determined to push and bend people all over the world to its will and acceptance of its leadership. But you cannot reclaim genuine leadership once you have been exposed enough times in your bad judgment, and it is clear you are on the decline, just as you cannot once others realize that they can do many things as well or better than you.

    In the end, policies which do not recognize scientific facts are doomed. Policies based on wishes and ideology do not succeed over the long run, unless, of course, you are willing to suppress everyone who disagrees with you and demand their compliance under threat. The requirement for an imperial state in such a situation is international behavior which resembles the internal behavior of an autocratic leader such as Stalin, and right now that is precisely where the United States is headed. Stalin’s personality had a fair degree of paranoia and no patience for the views of others. He felt constantly threatened by potential competitors and he used systematic terror to keep everyone intimidated and unified under him.

    Stalin’s sincerely belief in a faulty economic system that was doomed from its birth put him in a position similar to that of America’s oligarchs today. They have a world imperial system that is coming under increasing strain and challenge because others are growing and have their own needs and America simply does not have the flexibility to accommodate them. America’s oligarchs are not used to listening to the views of others. Stalin’s belief in a system that was more an ideology than a coherent economic system is paralleled by the quasi-religious tenets of Americanism, a set of beliefs which holds that America is especially blessed by the Creator and all things good and great are simply its due. Americanism blurrily assumes that God’s promise in the Old Testament that man should have dominion over the earth’s creatures applies now uniquely to them. Such thinking arose during many years of easy superiority, a superiority that was less owing to intrinsic merits of American society than to a set of fortuitous circumstances, many of which are now gone.

    In Vietnam, America squandered countless resources chasing after a chimera its ideologues insisted was deadly important, never once acknowledging the fatal weaknesses built right into communism from its birth. Communism was certain eventually to fail because of economic falsehoods which were part of its conception, much as a child born with certain genetic flaws is destined for eventual death. America’s mad rush to fight communism on all fronts was in keeping with the zealotry of America’s Civic Religion, but it was a huge and foolish practical judgment which wasted colossal resources. In Vietnam, America ended in something close to total shame – literally defeated on the battlefield by what seemed an inconsequential opponent, having also cast aside traditional ethical values in murdering great masses of people who never threatened the United States, murder on a scale (3 million) comparable to the Holocaust. It used weapons and techniques of a savage character: napalm, cluster bombs, and secret mass terror programs. The savagery ripped into the fabric of America’s own society, dividing the nation almost as badly as its Civil War once had. America ended reduced and depleted in many respects and paid its huge bills with devalued currency.

    Following Vietnam, it has just been one calamity after another revealing the same destructive inability to govern, the same thought governed by zealotry, right down to the 2008 financial collapse which was caused by ignoring sound financial management and basically instituting a system of unlimited greed. The entire world was jolted and hurt by this stupidity whose full consequences are not nearly played out.

    The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were completely unnecessary, cost vast sums, caused immense misery, and achieved nothing worth achieving. We now know what was kept hidden that more than million Iraqis died in an invasion based entirely on lies. These wars also set in motion changes whose long term effects have yet to be felt. Iraq, for example, has just about had its Kurdish, oil-producing region hived off as a separate state.

    America’s primitive approach to the Soviet Union’s collapse, its sheer triumphalism and failure to regard Russia as important enough to help or with which to cooperate, ignored America’s own long-term interests. After all, the Russians are a great people with many gifts, and it was inevitable that they would come back from a post-collapse depression to claim their place in the world.

    So how do the people running the United States now deal with a prosperous and growing Russia, a Russia which reaches out in the soundest traditional economic fashion for cooperation and partnership in trade and projects? Russia has embraced free trade, a concept Americans trumpeted for years whenever it was to their advantage, but now for Russia is treated as dark and sinister. Here America fights the inevitable power of economic forces, something akin to fighting the tide or the wind, and only for the sake of its continued dominance of another continent. Americans desperately try to stop what can only be called natural economic arrangements between Russia and Europe, natural because both sides have many services, goods, and commodities to trade for the benefit of all. America’s establishment wants to cut off healthy new growth and permanently to establish its primacy in Europe even though it has nothing new to offer.

    America’s deliberately dishonest interpretation of Russia’s measured response to an induced coup in Ukraine is used to generate an artificial sense of crisis, but despite the pressures America is capable of exerting on Europe, we sense Europe only goes along to avoid a public squabble and only for so long as the costs are not too high. The most intelligent leaders in Europe recognize what the United States is doing but do not want to clash openly, although the creation of the Minsk Agreement came pretty close to a polite rejection of America’s demand for hardline tactics.

    The coup in Ukraine was intended to put a hostile government in control of a long stretch of Russian border, a government which might cooperate in American military matters and which would serve as an irritant to Russia. But you don’t get good results with malicious policy. So far the coup has served only to hurt Ukraine’s economy, security, and long-term interests. It has a government which is seen widely as incompetent, a government which fomented unnecessary civil war, a government which shot down a civilian airliner, and a government in which no one, including in the West, has much faith. Its finances are in turmoil, many important former economic connections are severed, and there is no great willingness by Europe, especially an economically-troubled Europe, to assist it. It is not an advanced or stable enough place to join the EU because that would just mean gigantic subsidies being directed to it from an already troubled Europe. And the idea of its joining NATO is absolutely a non-starter both because it can’t carry its own weight in such an organization and because that act would cross a dangerous red line for Russia.

    Kiev is having immense problems even holding the country together as it fights autonomous right-wing outfits like the Azov Battalion in the southeast who threaten the Minsk Agreement, as it tries to implement military recruiting in Western Ukraine with more people running away than joining up, as it finds it must protect its own President with a Praetorian Guard of Americans from some serious threats by right-wing militias unhappy with Kiev’s failures, as it must reckon with the de facto secession of Donetsk and the permanent loss of Crimea – all this as it struggles with huge debts and an economy in a nosedive.

    America is in no position to give serious assistance to Ukraine, just plenty of shop-worn slogans about freedom and democracy. These events provide a perfect example of the damage America inflicts on a people with malicious policy intended only to use them to hurt others. There is such a record of this kind of thing by America that I am always surprised when there are any takers out there for the newest scheme. One remembers Kissinger encouraging the Iraqi Kurds to revolt against Saddam Hussein and then leaving them in the lurch when the dictator launched a merciless suppression. I also think of the scenes at the end of the Vietnam War as American helicopters took off in cowardly fashion from the roof of the embassy leaving their Vietnamese co-workers, tears streaming down their faces, vainly grasping for the undercarriages of helicopters, a fitting and shameful end to a truly brainless crusade.

    I don’t know but I very much doubt that the present government of Ukraine can endure, and it is always possible that it will slip into an even more serious civil war with factions fighting on all sides, something resembling the murderous mess America created in Libya. Of course, such a war on Russia’s borders would come with tremendous risks. The American aristocracy doesn’t become concerned about disasters into which they themselves are not thrust, but a war in Ukraine could easily do just that. In ironic fashion, heightened conflict could mark the beginning of the end of the era of European subservience to America. Chaos in Ukraine could provide exactly the shock Europe needs to stop supporting American schemes before the entire continent or even the world is threatened.

    I remind readers that while Russia’s economy is not as large as America’s, it is a country with a strong history in engineering and science, and no one on the planet shares its terrifying experiences with foreign invasion. So it has developed and maintains a number of weapons systems that are second to none. Each one of its new class of ballistic missile submarines, and Russia is building a number of them, is capable of hitting 96 separate targets with thermo-nuclear warheads, and that capability is apart from rail-mounted ICBMs, hard-site ICBMs, truck-mounted missiles, air-launched cruise missiles, sea-launched cruise missiles, and a variety of other fearsome weapons. Modern Russia does not make threats with this awesome power, and you might say Putin follows the advice of Theodore Roosevelt as he walks softly but carries a big stick, but I do think it wise for all of us to keep these things in mind as America taunts Russia and literally play a game of chicken with Armageddon. I don’t believe America has a legitimate mandate from anyone to behave in this dangerous way. Europe’s smartest leaders, having lived at the very center of the Cold War and survived two world wars, do understand this and are trying very carefully not to allow things to go too far, but America has some highly irresponsible and dangerous people working hard on the Ukraine file, and accidents do happen when you push things too hard.

    In another sphere of now constant engagement, instead of sponsoring and promoting fair arrangements in the Middle East, America has carried on a bizarre relationship with Israel, a relationship which is certainly against the America’s own long term interests, although individual American politicians benefit with streams of special interests payments - America’s self-imposed, utterly corrupt campaign financing system being ultimately responsible - in exchange for blindly insisting Israel is always right, which it most certainly is not. An important segment of Israel’s population is American, and they just carried over to Israel the same short-sightedness, arrogance, and belligerence which characterize America, so much so, Israel may legitimately be viewed as an American colony in the Middle East rather than a genuinely independent state. Its lack of genuine independence is reflected also in its constant dependence on huge subsidies, on its need for heavily-biased American diplomacy to protect it in many forums including the UN, and on its dependence upon American arm-twisting and bribes in any number of places, Egypt’s generous annual American pension requiring certain behaviors being one of the largest examples.

    Here, too, inevitability has been foolishly ignored. The Palestinians are not going anywhere, and they have demonstrated the most remarkable endurance, yet almost every act of Israel since its inception, each supported by America, has been an effort to make them go away through extreme hardship and abuse and violence, looking towards the creation of Greater Israel, a dangerous fantasy idea which cannot succeed but it will fail only after it has taken an immense toll. Despite America’s constant diplomatic and financial pressure on other states to support its one-sided policy here, there are finally a number of signs that views are turning away from the preposterous notion that Israel is always right and that it can continue indefinitely with its savage behavior.

    Recently, we have had a great last effort by America and covert partners to secure Israel’s absolute pre-eminence in the Middle East through a whole series of destructive intrusions in the region – the “Arab Spring,” the reverse-revolution in Egypt, the smashing and now dismemberment of Iraq, the smashing and effective dismemberment of Libya, and the horrible, artificially-induced civil war in Syria which employs some of the most violent and lunatic people on earth from outside and gives them weapons, money, and refuge in an effort to destroy a stable and relatively peaceful state.

    I could go on, but I think the picture is clear: in almost every sphere of American governance, internally and abroad, America’s poor political institutions have yielded the poorest decisions. America has over-extended itself on every front, has served myths rather than facts, has let greed run its governing of almost everything, and has squandered resources on achieving nothing of worth.

    I view America’s present posture in the world – supporting dirty wars and coups in many places at the same time and treating others as game pieces to be moved rather than partners – as a desperate attempt to shake the world to gain advantages it couldn’t secure through accepted means of governance and policy. America is that great beast, bellowing and shaking the ground, and for that reason, it is extremely dangerous.

  • JIMMY CARTER'S BRAVE COMMENTS ON THE TERRIBLE SITUATION IN GAZA - ISRAEL'S INEXCUSABLE BRUTALITY - CITING WHAT HAPPENED IN THE HOLOCAUST CANNOT EXCUSE WHAT WE SEE - A SOCIETY OF LAWS OUR ONLY DEFENCE

    John Chuckman

    COMMENT POSTED TO AN ARTICLE IN THE GUARDIAN

    Bless you, Jimmy Carter, a man who genuinely deserved a Nobel Peace Prize.

    Carter, a man of immense integrity and great understanding, is one of the only prominent people in the Western world to speak truth about Israel's unending brutality.

    Our press goes on and on about natural disasters like Nepal's earthquake, yet almost never gives notice to the very unnatural disaster Israel has created before our eyes.

    And Mr. Carter’s reward? To be called an anti-Semite by many Israelis.

    Using what happened three-quarters of a century ago in another country in another continent in extraordinary circumstances of war and hate to justify such atrocities makes no sense to any honest, impartial, and informed person.

    Injustice is injustice no matter what history you may cite.

    If you want a society of laws, then you must abide by laws.

    You cannot stand outside the law, as Israel has done for its entire existence, and create anything worth creating.

    The logic of Israel’s excuses is the logic shared by every tyrant and conqueror and criminal through history, all of them having their own important reasons for doing what they did, and it goes nowhere towards establishing the rule of law that is the only true refuge we have against the powerful and hateful and mad.

  • CANADA'S LEONA AGLUKKAQ'S BIZARRE COMMENTS ON EASTERN UKRAINE DURING A MEETING OF THE ARCTIC COUNCIL GROUP OF NATIONS WHOSE IMPORTANT PURPOSE IS NOT POLITICS BUT THE EMERGING PROBLEMS OF THE ARCTIC

    John Chuckman

    COMMENT POSTED TO AN ARTICLE IN RUSSIA INSIDER

    Please don't take Leona Aglukkaq’s words too seriously. They do not represent mainstream thinking in Canada.

    Leona Aglukkaq has had a record of mishandling the ministerial portfolios she has been handed by Stephen Harper. Her time as Minister of Health is a genuinely embarrassing memory.

    Stephen Harper's 39%-government (his share of vote totals split several ways) is mighty light on talent. It is team, as they say in hockey, whose bench is pretty thin. So he must use virtual incompetents like Ms Aglukkaq to fill posts.

    Mr. Harper has been appropriately nick-named a party of one. He has a personality, and this is not an exaggeration, sharing some characteristics with Stalin. No one in his government says one word that was not put into their mouths by him. The various comments coming from Ministers like Ms Aglukkaq these days not only do not reflect the views of most Canadians, they often may not even reflect the timid minister’s own views.

    Readers may enjoy:
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  • MORE MONEY WON’T FIX CBC

    MORE MONEY WON’T FIX CBC

    John Chuckman

    I’ve heard leaders of both the Liberal Party and the NDP promise more money for CBC should either of them be elected later this year. We know CBC has suffered fairly severe cuts in funding from Stephen Harper’s bleak government. But at the same time, something else has been happening for years at CBC, and much of it has little to do with money. CBC relentlessly has dumbed itself down, hiring hosts with little interesting knowledge or even effective intelligence, muting and censoring the content of shows, and demonstrating, again and again, its implicit rejection of what should be its mandate.

    A national broadcaster can never compete directly with commercial broadcasters. You don’t have to be an expert to understand that. A national broadcaster only makes sense if it focuses on quality, as a showcase for the nation’s talent, as an educator for children and the nation’s immigrants about the political and cultural nature of a country, as a forum for new ideas, and as a contributor to general understanding by others about what Canada is.

    CBC is failing miserably today on all fronts. I address radio broadcasting since I am not someone who watches television, and besides it is the radio service which long has enjoyed the superior reputation, but that now has ceased to be the case. Much of what now is broadcast day-in, day-out, both on Radio One and Radio Two, is simply a waste of airtime. Blubbering about pop music for hours of every day, as CBC Radio has done now for years, is about as far as you can run away from the responsibilities of a national broadcaster.

    Some once-excellent shows are decaying even as we listen. “The Current,” for example, with Anna Maria Tremonti, one of most capable interviewers Canada has ever produced, has her doing few incisive interviews, avoiding topics, and substituting Oprah Winfrey-style fluff, as for example, a half hour about plus-size women recently. I’m eagerly anticipating the “complete make-over” show. Apart from the noticeable decline in political or cultural interviews, which to my mind were the show’s raisons d'être, the now-usual Friday host and temporary fill-in is a person (aka, future possible replacement in training) who has neither the skill nor sharp intelligence to conduct an enjoyable, hard-hitting interview.

    Moreover, that fill-in host just happens to be the wife of a senior newsman on the same station, raising once again the problem of nepotism and favoritism which has long plagued the radio network.

    The “Sunday Edition” with Michael Enright is a mere shadow of itself, not only cut from three to two hours but filled with boring crap like precious personal essays and documentaries from wannabe producers and there is a noticeable limit on the worthiness of the people being interviewed. There is a rather viciously quiet, persistent strain of bias on some topics, one being the Middle East, injected regularly and without the least effort to balance other views. Such news and current event shows have been drained of most of their meaningful content.

    The show, “As It Happens,” has been literally run into the ground, its original premise of telephone interviews with an assortment of the day’s newsmakers or eccentrics having become outdated by the timeliness of events on the Internet. Anyone who spends a bit of time on a computer knows those things before this show gets around to them today, yet the show desperately tries to hold on and find a purpose with not-very-good interviews and even boring little panel groups.

    The National News and the regional news, coming out of Toronto, border on embarrassing at times. Apart from the now-often poor grammar of newsreaders, the content is just thin and uninformative. There is no digging, there is no follow-up, and there is no judgment or concern demonstrated over clearly unanswered questions. It comments on events in other parts of the world today with no understanding and often considerable bias, often sounding as though as though press releases from Washington were being read. A truly Canadian viewpoint has just about disappeared. Reportage on other stories throughout the country is often by very young women correspondents who sound as though they just graduated from Ryerson, using the obviously-learned gimmicks of journalism courses, always attempting to end with little punch-lines, which are more often than not predictable and desperately contrived.

    The parade of not even second-rate musical talent jammed into every available opening - everything from junky rap to knock-offs of soul or 1960s stuff and a lot of silly girlie-sounding elevator music - has increased steadily everywhere so that barely a few minutes pass before it starts up again. I doubt one out of ten of these is worth broadcasting, making CBC sound like what I imagine the old, fabled Ted Mack Radio Amateur Hour must have sounded like. And besides, the main content of Radio One should be intelligent talk, not music, much less starving-artist style pop music.

    All of the classy, knowledgeable people on specialty shows – from Bernard St Laurent to Bob McDonald or Eleanor Wachtel or Ed Lawrence – are getting old, and one can only imagine with what teeny-bopper horrors they will be replaced.

    The show, “Ideas,” originally of some interest, now is pretty much a tired, deflated balloon. There rarely is anything worthy of the name idea making an appearance. The show buys documentaries of remarkably little worth and broadcasts them with a vapid voice-over by the host.

    A complete lack of imagination and meaningful direction at CBC has been running things into the ground for years. The management has only one theme, come up with some pop stuff so that we’ll be popular, and of course that’s questionable assumption as well as a dereliction of its duty as a national broadcaster.

    I think the hideous Jian Gomeshi saga nicely illustrates what has happened, serving almost as an allegory, his dreary career closely corresponding with the descent of CBC into meaninglessness. Apart from his grotesque personal life, the man always was a walking mediocrity with almost nothing he said worth hearing but with a lot of bad judgment and bad taste thrown in as flavoring, yet because the show achieved some popularity – after all, if you throw enough crap on a wall, there will always be people entertained by the act - the man was allowed to run his show for years as a sadistic bully, supposed CBC principles of humanity and fairness cast to the wind by all involved. No, there’s far more in that dreary story than a man charged with rape and abuse of women, there’s the mask of the CBC ripped off to reveal a whining, inadequate, and timid management.

    I simply do not see how handing over hundreds of millions of additional public funds can change CBC for the better, given the people who are entrenched there now and have made nothing but poor decisions for years.

  • NO WESTERN COUNTRY HAS ANYTHING CLOSE TO DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT TODAY - THREE REFORMS ESSENTIALTO PROVIDING IT - COMMENT TO AN ARTICLE ON ENDING FIRST-PAST-THE-POST BALLOTS AND USING ORDERED PREFERENCE BALLOTS

    John Chuckman

    COMMENT POSTED TO AN ARTICLE IN THE GUARDIAN BY OWEN JONES

    A mostly accurate assessment, but we need more than the ballot change to gain something which can meaningfully be called democratic government.

    Today, in Canada, Stephen Harper’s government, elected with just 39% of the vote, has busied itself with dismantling a good deal of what the world knew as Canada. It has a technical majority, and Mr. Harper is an effective parliamentary dictator whose policies stand against 60% of the electorate’s wishes. That isn’t democracy, by any measure, and I believe the situation in Britain with the unpleasant David Cameron is similar.

    We have a terrible democratic deficit all over the so-called democratic world, and it is more than a little ridiculous that our (effectively unelected) leaders take us to bloody, meaningless wars, always blubbering about democracy, or they support the policies of a state in which half the people under its rule have no votes and absolutely no rights, again with blubbering about democracy, this time in the Middle East.

    There are two essential reforms to claiming some genuine democratic government in the West. And there is a third which would largely complete the job.

    First, as the writer suggests, get rid of "first past the post" voting. It is antiquated and genuinely undemocratic. A ballot listing ordered preferences would result always in a government in which a true majority of voters felt they had some investment. The common feeling of non-voters that "what difference does it make?" would be attenuated, and today in many Western countries half the people do not vote.

    Second, and equally important, get the private and lobby money out of elections, entirely, and put severe penalties upon donors and receivers who break the rules in secret.

    Create an agency to oversee elections with strict powers for accounting of campaign expenditures and legal powers to investigate.

    American elections today, for example and with no exaggeration, are quite literally bought-and-paid-for. The Clintons, for example, have a history of grotesque fund-raising and spending. An American Senator, on average, spends two-thirds of his or her time in office raising funds. It results in government by and for elites. It also results in grotesque distortions of policy in favor of groups able to donate heavily, a major explanation for America's go-nowhere policies in the Middle East.

    In France we had stories of Sarkozy getting millions from an aged heiress and a huge secret donation from Qaddafi.

    Mr. Blair was also a good buddy of Qaddafi and never saw a wealthy person he didn't mark with obsequious treatment.

    The last necessary reform for a semblance of democracy is the implementation of a quick-referendum system by computer to over-ride the legislature for all acts or policies involving life and death and especially war. The people who must sacrifice and live with the grim results should always make these decisions, not even an elected body or individual. I guarantee we would have fewer wars, and since overwhelmingly our wars only serve special interests, that would be a very good thing indeed.

  • ON THE INFORMATION THAT SOME AMERICAN HIGHWAY PATROL POLICE ARE BEING USED TO TRAIN UKRAINIAN POLICE - THE VIOLENCE OF AMERICAN POLICE AND AMERICAN SOCIETY - A POOR TEACHER

    John Chuckman

    COMMENT POSTED TO RUSSIA INSIDER

    Ukrainians should be very careful about any training from American police.

    American police forces have a well-earned reputation for violence and abuse.

    They kill a large number of innocent Americans every year - estimated at 1,000 to 1,500 - far more than any terrorist dreams of. The statistics are not kept, almost certainly to suppress the shameful reality.

    Few if any of them ever are dismissed or charged which means implicitly that American authorities accept the behavior.
    But as few abroad, happily watching re-runs of American television situation comedies, will know America is a very brutal society in which to live.

    Murder and violent crime rates are high. Police are often brutal. Prisons are extremely brutal. America maintains the world’s largest population of its own citizens behind bars. Some of its “super-max” prisons are an affront to human rights and decency. It embraces the death penalty too.

    American police are militarized in their equipment, training, and attitudes, and the trend in militarization has only increased greatly in recent years. With all the meaningless colonial wars America has been fighting, there is a huge pool every year of ex-servicemen of course, all trained to kill, who need to be absorbed back into the civilian population, and police work is one of the typical destinations for them.

    On top of those horrors, in recent years many American police forces have undergone training from Israeli forces, and surely there is no nation on earth whose record of killing and brutality on a per capita basis exceeds that of Israel.

    It is a rather bleak picture in total, and I think any society which uses training or ideas from American police is desperate or lacks basic understanding.

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