Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Newfoundland's Pied Piper - Premier Danny Williams

If you live long enough, especially in Newfoundland and Labrador, you will be a witness to great irony, tragedy and suffering. Such is the case of the Muskrat Falls hydro dam project's creator. Although Newfoundland was settled primarily by the English, during the potatoe famine of the early 1800's a large number of Irish came to the Island (my ancestors on my father's side included). Perhaps it is this Irish brush that paints the place in its melodramatic colours. Perhaps not. But, it is certainly an Irish tale that a lone piper lead all the children away by hypnotizing them with mystical notes from his pipe. The Pied Piper. This post is dedicated to the Pied Piper of Newfoundland - Danny Williams.

Now, because Williams is  known to sue the bejesus out of anyone who even suggests wrong doing on his part, myself included, let's just make the disclaimer that I'm not "insinuating, by innuendo or otherwise", that Williams plays a pipe or that he's Irish or that he leads children into the water to disappear. That's just a metaphor there Danny, so put your big boy pants back on, stop thrashing on the floor and stomping your feet. What I am most definitely saying is, that as Premier of this "sunny land", which ain't very sunny, Williams created the monster that is known to all as Muskrat Falls.

Of course "Muskrat Falls" is far more than just a point on the Churchill River. It's more than just a dam. It started with a series of bills created and passed by the Williams' government to create Nalcor as a corporation, and little beauties like the Water Management Agreement - to illegally take power from the Upper Churchill dam, which is controlled by Hydro Quebec. The stated goal was to make Newfoundlanders "Masters in their own house" … ah you can here that pipe singing now as the children line up one by one. Surely a Rhodes scholar (arts degree) and a distinguished lawyer (Dalhousie Law School), such as Williams could be trusted to know what he was doing the media and masses quipped. But, sadly, despite the deep unending strains of his pipes, he did not.

Seven years later, a project that was to cost $5 billion has now swelled into a sea of at least $12.7 billion - not unlike the Irish sea the children walked in to and disappeared. However, unlike the piper of lore, this piper will have to answer for his deeds. There is now a public inquiry being held in Newfoundland, and this Monday the Pied Piper of Newfoundland will be starting his testimony. Unlike his Irish predecessor, Williams will have to explain his deeds as Premier. It's unlikely that he will piously apologize for leading the child to the sea. What we are more likely to witness is an indignant old man, possibly in a "Kavaunghaesk" performance, lash out at those to small minded to see his grand vision.

What ever the case may be, you can be sure that somewhere, nestled away with a warm cup of coffee, there will at least one person who would not walk into the sea, smiling to himself. It's probably the same person who had been threatened with personal destruction, including that of his name. Ah, the delicious irony in that.


Thursday, July 12, 2018

Trump is not Stupid

It's fashionable, even expected, to pour scorn on the current President of the United States - Donald Trump. Of course, he brings It upon himself with his unmatched egotistical meanderings. That being said, there is a definite method behind his madness that eludes most political commentators. What Trump is very deliberately doing, albeit from many different directions, is attacking China's attempt to replace the United States as the preeminent economy with the world's new reserve currency.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, China has taken a different tact in its march to world supremacy - the economic route. It transformed itself from an insulated and agrarian society to essentially a quasi-capitalistic sweat shop. For decades the Chinese people slaved in factories to produce the cheapest possible products for primarily American multi-nationals. America became almost deindustrialized as a result. However, the American services economy grew exponentially as a result of cheap Chinese imports. It looked like a win-win for the US and Chinese economies.

However, the Chinese government saved a substantial amount of the funds it earned at the hands of its citizens, and reinvested the funds in US real estate, stocks, bonds and currencies. It did the same in many other countries in the world as well. It has stocked up on massive quantities of gold to back its national currency. It has created its own version of the World Monetary Fund. To make a long story short, the Chinese used discipline to place themselves in the position to replace both the US dollar and the American economy as the primary economic pillars of the world today.

So great has the Chinese effort been, that it now can challenge the US dollar as the primary economic, political, and even military tool in the world. Just very recently China has concluded deals with Russia and Iran to purchase oil and other goods in their national currencies, excluding the US dollar as a necessity for trade. Even more perilous for the Us is China's ambition to create the same agreements throughout Asia, Africa, South America, and even Europe. In a nutshell, the American Empire is under direct threat by a "communist" country that has beat them at their own game. The solution? Change the game.

Enter Donald Trump. What the majority of the world seems to be missing is that Trump is not some lunatic fanning his ego with schizophrenic economic and military policies. Nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, he is directing the disassembling of the world order the United States created, because they are losing their own game. His strategy is clear: isolate China by any means. Whether its fanciful deals to bribe North Korea's regime away from China's wing, threats of war against Venezuela's government, appeasing Russia to try and sway it away from Beijing, the result is the same: isolate China. By isolating China Trump hopes to stop China's ambitious "Belt and Road" project and stymie a Eurasian takeover of the world economy. It's that simple. Trump's speech in Poland in 2017 very clearly reinforces that belief:

"The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert it and destroy it?"

This was just a part of his "Churchillian-type" speech to the people of the West from the capital of Poland in 2017, but it raises some immediate and obvious questions: Is there a threat to the survival of the West that we are unaware of; is it necessary to defend them at "any cost"; and is our civilization under immediate threat of extinction? You could be forgiven for thinking these words were some kind of attempt by Trump to sound Churchillian or Kennedy-like in the depths of the Cold War, but the truth is we aren't in the depth of a Cold War are we? At least not one we are aware of in any case. What we are in is the final stages of American dominance of global affairs using economic tools to foist itself upon the peoples of the world. So if that qualifies as the end of civilization, well, then I suppose we are almost there.

The truth is, like any other politician, Trump is the front man for those in the back ground, or "backroom" as we say here in Canada. It's worth noting that at one point or another his entire cabinet seems to reflect every branch of the US military. It's also worth noting that he threatens countries with maximum consequences, but holds out credence for those that follow his line. So it has been worth watching as he pursues a trade war with China, despite China's attempts to placate him. China now appears to have learned the lesson that they are in fact the strategic target of the US, and as such Trump will go all the way with them. What we in the rest of the world need to understand about Trump is that he is not the "dotard" of the political realm, but rather a very deliberate person doing a very calculated thing, with every intention of taking it all the way. "All the way" means if the economic war does not bring China, and by ricochet Eurasia, to its knees then actual war will follow - " any cost?".

Trump is, as they say, dumb as a fox. While the world may be dazzled by his approach, it should not fail to see his aim. Trump, and specifically those behind Trump (read the US "Military Industrial Complex") aim to preserve US hegemony over the world, and to do so they must rip apart the current world order they built and replace it with another. So, belittle and scoff at Trump all you want, but be warned he is most definitely not the court jester you may imagine him to be.  

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Israel Skating on Thin Ice

As we all know, criticizing the State of Israel is considered a dangerous practise. In fact, just today, the State of North Carolina made it a criminal offence to do so. So there you go. That being said, another qualifier is needed. The author has no issue with the Jewish religion or Jewish people in general. Firstly, it would an act of prejudice to lump all people of a group or religion together and cast them in the same light merely because they share a religion. Only the most racist and bigoted (Nazis as an example) would do so. I have friends who are Jewish. They don't live in Israel, so they aren't Israeli, but they are Jewish. This article is about the government of Israel, not about all the people in Israel, or about Jewish people in general.

The Israeli government and the Israeli military are, in a phrase, acting above the law. The "law" being those written and unwritten rules that separate humans from untamed beasts in the wild. During the last few months, in particular, Israel has committed mass violations of International Law: All UN Charters and their respective clauses guaranteeing the rights of refugees, civilians, and the basic rights of people; the Geneva Convention regarding targeted attacks on medical staff and civilians; and the statutes restraining State action banning crimes against humanity, and genocide. Simply put, Israel is now an outlaw state in the family of nations.

That being said, Israel has been getting away with these crimes against humanity because it has, over many decades, carefully influenced people in positions of power all over the world to "see things" from Israel's perspective, when in reality its actions against the Palestinians in particular ought to transcend even the most "influenced people's" bias. The slaughter of nearly 60 people in one day, and the maiming of 1200 more on that same day, was an act that will live in infamy.

The Israeli government's characterization of these victims as "terrorists" is both disgraceful and dangerous. It is disgraceful because it intimates those of any age, who throw themselves at a fence in protest (they had no weapons to use) can be classified as terrorists and summarily executed. It is dangerous for the same reason. Consider the precedent the State of Israel is setting for the rest of the world. Is it now okay for the nations of the world to set up machine guns and snipers at protest and mow down unarmed people? Even if those people are spurred on by another group which may have a darker intent? The answer is as obvious as the massacre that Israel executed against the Palestinian people - no, it's not acceptable.

The brutal massacre of unarmed civilians relates in some ways to the Israeli air strikes being conducted in Syria by the same source - the Israeli Army. The common threads are they both: break international law; they're done in the name of Israel's security; and Israel couldn't care less what the international community thinks. In a word, Israel has gone rogue. It now sits outside the family of nations. Certainly is totally supported by the United States government, although I venture not amongst a majority of the American people. It's also supported by Saudi Arabia, which just happens to be the biggest violator of individual human rights in the world, and, like Israel, is conducting an unsanctioned war against one of the poorest countries in the world - Yemen. Those are the countries Israel has locked up, and clearly Israel feels those are the countries it needs to lock up for support.

However, where is the rest of the world? Certainly Turkey, who has a blemished record on human rights all its own, has taken decisive, and in my opinion leadership worthy action against Israel by immediately recalling its ambassador to Israel, and sending Israel's' ambassador to Turkey packing. Turkey may be many things, but when it comes to defending the rights of peoples less able to defend themselves, especially Palestinians, Turkey can be counted on to be there. The European Union, to its credit, stood against the Americans at the UN and demanded an independent investigation. The Palestinian Authority itself took the strongest move, and the most effective move, by filing a complaint with the International Court of the Hague against Israel today. The Palestinian government only joined the International Court in 2015, and had been persuaded by the US not to file charges on previous occasions, however this time is different. This time the US has lost its influence with the Palestinians, and now Israel faces the prospect of an international war crimes trial - in my opinion well over due.

We simply cannot tolerate Israel, or any other country, committing wanton murder upon unarmed civilians as they protest. It is unacceptable to every value we hold as civilized people living in the 21rst century. In many ways it is incredible that a people so violated, and so persecuted by the Nazi regime of Germany would in turn persecute another in such a violent and indiscriminate way. It boggles the mind. One of the key lessons of the evil that was Nazi Germany surely is that barbarism against people, particularly identifiable (or unidentifiable) groups can never be allowed to happen again. The Palestinians are in every way deserving of this protection now. The Israeli people should know better. It is after all the primary responsibility of the Israeli people to confront their own government when it acts in such a brutal fashion. The international community must, and will, act as well, but surely the Israeli people won't stand for such inhumane treatment of a people already scattered to the four winds - it was not long ago the Jewish people were scattered to those same winds without a home of their own.

What is done is done now. The dead are buried. The thousands of wounded, from the last few weeks of protest, lie at home or in hospitals contemplating life ahead as amputees or orphans, or what have you. The Israeli Prime Minister stands defiantly in the face of the civilized world, his chin firmly in the wind (a lot like former Italian dictator Mussolini), as the Israeli Army continues to "operate freely" in the air space and on the ground in sovereign countries like Syria and Lebanon. Something has very much changed though this week. Israel's slaughter of the Palestinians has cost Israel any moral authority or high ground it thought it may have had. It is now under scrutiny. It may find itself as a war criminal in the Hague. It may find itself boycotted, or even sanctioned. Certainly its reputation will be down there with the Apartheid government of South Africa, or the murderous Croats, Serbs and Muslims from the former state of Yugoslavia who killed each other as if they were animals and not humans. This is the ground Israel now sits on. Perhaps not ground. Perhaps ice. Thin ice.