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)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Muskrat Falls Injunction Update

Over the last few weeks, a number of people have contacted me through social media and other means to find out what's happening with the Muskrat Falls injunction application. So here it is.

After the Appeal Court of Newfoundland overturned all of Justice Butler's decisions on the first injunction application, and imposed an unprecedented ban on her for having anything to do with any future cases I may be involved in, I resubmitted a new Statement of Claim and injunction application. The first Statement of Claim was based too much on ethical principles and not enough on legal principles in a sense. I can't go further than that, because the issue of costs I was awarded has yet to be settled with the Government and Nalcor.

The new Statement of Claim focuses on one primary theme - unlawful action by the Government, Nalcor, and CFLCO in the development and building of Muskrat Falls. Specifically, the Government committed the unlawful tort of "unlawful interference with economic relations" (description) . Essentially, one party, by its actions against a second party, knowingly causes harm to a third party. One Party = the provincial government. Second Party = Hydro-Quebec. Third Party= taxpayers/ratepayers. The adage goes that the Government knows the water management agreement imposed on CFLCO breaches the Power Contract, which gives Quebec sole access to the power of the Upper Churchill until 2041 (except a small recall). By proceeding with it, and building Muskrat Falls based on it, the government has violated Hydro-Quebec's rights. Hydro-Quebec is now suing us for that breach. We, the taxpayers and ratepayers, will be responsible for the damages awarded and the costs of a useless dam that can only operate at 20% firm capacity without the water management agreement. Hence, the unlawful interference with our economic relations.

In addition, I have included the unlawful treatment of the Nunatukavut and Nunatsiavut governments. The Government is bound by a land claims agreement with the Nunatsiavut that it has broken, and is bound to the Nunatukavut government by constitutional requirements for consultation and accommodation. These three issues of lawfulness have left taxpayers in a position of risk, and all three matters are before the Courts now as a result. To put it simply, my new suit focuses on protecting our economic rights against unlawful government action. It's what is commonly referred to as a "taxpayers lawsuit".

In order to prosecute a "taxpayers lawsuit" I have to qualify for "public interest standing". A hearing date was set to determine public interest standing with Justice Stack presiding over it. However, Justice Stack had already presided over the permanent injunction application granted to Nalcor against the Nunatukavut so I requested he recuse (step down) himself from hearing the matter. The day before the recusal issue was to be heard in Court, the new Chief Justice of the Trial Division named Justice Stack to be Chair of the Independent Boundaries Commission to reduce our seats in the House of Assembly from 48 to 40. I was notified in writing by the Court that, as a result, he would not be hearing the matter - or any matters.

A date still exists on the books for March, so I am hoping a new Justice can be named for that date, and the matter of public interest standing can be successfully determined, so the important issue of an injunction stopping the development of Muskrat Falls can be heard and implemented. This whole process started in November, 2012, and here's hoping it will come to a conclusion within the next 4-6 months. That is my update.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Middle East on Fire

The Middle East is a complicated place in some ways, but it is understandable. It's firstly about religion. Secondly, it's about power. Then it's about money. In that order. Often I hear people discuss the Middle East as if it was "all about oil", but that is very naive and simplistic. Then I hear people say "well they've been killing themselves since history began". Well, that may be true somewhat, but so have people in the rest of the world. Also, oil has only been a factor for 100 years. What about the rest of history?

The key to understanding the Middle East is realizing everything in the Middle East is anchored in religion. In the Arab sense that means either Shia or Sunni branches of Islam. From the same beginnings, but divided in history, and at war ever since. Throughout most of recent history, western powers of one kind or another have attempted to impose order on these divisions by imposing "countries" on them, with strong dictatorships to keep those two branches in some sort of working order. The cruelty necessary to do so was never at question, only the result. Order no matter what. That became increasingly necessary after oil was discovered.

The "deal" if you will was blown apart by George W. Bush in Desert Storm II when he invaded and conquered Iraq. Essentially, he let the genie out of the bottle. When his father forced Hussien out of Kuwait, he stopped the invasion before toppling Hussien. As an ex-director of the CIA, Bush senior knew that Hussien was all that held Iraq together, and giving the people there democracy was akin to lighting the house on fire. His son chose differently.

What happened in Iraq was as predictable as the sun rising and setting. The majority Shia won the elections. The minority Sunni, who had controlled Iraq via Hussien, turned on the Americans causing them 4000 plus deaths. The Shia hated the US even more than the Sunnis and happily watched and assisted as the US became embroiled. It wasn't until the US decided to buy off the Sunnis, literally, by paying insurgents a salary via "awakening" councils, that the heat went off them in Iraq. But, it never went out between the Sunnis and Shia. In fact, it opened the door for Shia Iran next door to gain vast influence in Iraq that it never had before.

The US invasion also had the affect of driving Iran (Shia) and Saudi Arabia (Sunni) into the fore front. Since that time, the two have been engaged in a not so covert war to dominate the region for their religious branch. Not for oil, but rather for the bragging rights that their half of the Muslim religion was righteous, and prevailed over the other... as was destined. Both countries have massively armed themselves. One fed by the US (Saudi) and the other by its own industry and Russia (Shia). Iran supported groups in the region that supported the Shia like Hezbollah, etc. Saudi supported the other side. Same goes for every "country" in the Middle East. I use quotations on country, because countries are a mainly European/Western imposition on the area. The Middle East is better described as Tribes. That is their nature, their history, and their loyalty - even today.

The US added some gas to the fire when it and NATO, by abusing the UN enforcement of a "no-fly zone" in Libya, toppled another dictator and opened the area to religious tribalism. The same can be said for the covert, not at the time overt, US involvement supporting anti-Assad rebels in Syria. Assad equals Shia (Iran) and the rebels including ISIS equal the Sunni (Saudi). What the US has been doing is undoing the system of order and control it either helped or unilaterally imposed on the religious tribes of the Middle East. In other words, it is hauling truckloads of the driest wood you can find, soaking it in petrol, and throwing the flame on top. A rather curious dance of creating the conditions for competing extremism, and then deeming itself to be at war with it.

The latest Middle East "country" to implode on the US is Yemen. Situated at the mouth of the Gulf, Yemen is very geo-politically important. The Houthis have taken power there after overthrowing, you guessed it, the Saudi (Sunni) dictatorship. The Houthis are of the Zaidi branch of, you guessed it, Shia. As I write this post, the United Nations security Council has been called to a meeting to discuss the Houthis takeover of Yemen. Simultaneously, the US has just announced it is sending 4000 plus troops to its base in Kuwait. Whatever happens, you can be sure that either Saudi Arabia, or the US, or both will invade Yemen at any time now. And so it goes.

What is at fault for all the chaos in the Middle East? That depends on how you rationalize it. However, there are some truths that remain so no matter the rationalization. The Middle east is a land of tribes that hold their religion, Shia, Sunni, or Jewish, more dear than any other thing. It is who they are, and it is the source for all they are - including politics. Values there are not based on democracy, or any kind of "free society". For them, in many ways, democracy and freedom are counter to what is expected of them by their religions. Human freedom, if followed to its logical conclusion, would go against the teachings of the Koran, and that is as offensive to them as watching people be decapitated is to us. But, the US and other Western nations never seem to learn that lesson. Our governments continue to try and impose the "white man's burden" on them. Even though it has no chance of ever succeeding. We stir the pot, and then cry foul that the pot never ceases to stop boiling.

Now, though, the US has raised the heat in the Middle East so drastically that the ominous tales of Armageddon come to mind. The bear vs the eagle. The great war in the Middle East that consumes millions. Scary stuff. Very scary stuff. But ask yourself: what is the logical conclusion to the fires burning in Syria, Egypt, Israel, Iran, Libya, Iraq, and now Yemen? It has to all be going somewhere - such is the nature of our human condition. So where? The Shia and the Sunni aren't going to happily toddle off to their particular corners and allow one side or the other to freely reign over them, The US, Russia, China, etc are not about to walk away and leave what they perceive to be their pawns toppled from the board. Where are all of these competing interests leading us? To one big explosion of violence or to one big reconciliation? If the US government wasn't the "power" on earth that they seem to be, I would say we have a chance of creating some sort of respectful co-existence in the Middle East. Whether that be by attrition or agreement. However, if the US remains free to dance in the china shop, well, let's just say people should start reading their Bibles' story of Armageddon. It's a story about lighting the Middle East on fire.  

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Minsk 2.0 Bound for Failure

Two hours ago the powers of Europe and Russia, along with Ukraine and representatives of the Donetsk and Luhansk republics, signed a new "peace deal" in Minsk. Problem's not new. In fact, it's a regurgitated version of the first one that failed so miserably. Here's why the first one failed and the second one will as well.

1.  The war in Ukraine has been witness to war crimes enmasse. Thousands of civilians have been slaughtered by the Ukraine army, and many more thousands have been maimed for life. During the first few months of the war, a deal like Minsk may have worked. After a year of the national government turning the guns of war against "its own" cities and villages the blood and destruction is far too great. Then there are the thousands of dead and wounded troops on either side. And their families. Are they supposed to submit to an agreement that allows the Ukrainian government to rule over them once more after such massive human rights abuses?

Almost as astonishing, the new Minsk deal calls for those who were responsible for these crimes against humanity to be pardoned from prosecution. An action that leaves human spirit betrayed. It defies the basic tenets of justice in the most vile way. A politically expedient hand shake that washes the blood of tens of thousands from the hands of those responsible.

2. The agreement ignores the referendums held by the people of Donetsk and Luhansk. It effectively ignores their democratic wish to be separate from Ukraine. That type of expression of will cannot be washed away with the stroke of a pen. It remains in the hearts and minds of the people. It was an expression of their will. A will that has been tossed to the wind again for political expediency. A betrayal of their collective hopes and aspirations.

3. Ukraine retakes its border with Russia effectively leaving the people of Novorossyia trapped and separated from their "guarantor" Russia. That leaves the door open for Ukraine to reverse all the battlefield losses they have suffered in the last year, and free to implement their will against the people of Donetsk and Luhansk.

4. The provisions for decentralization of powers and "special status" for Donetsk and Luhansk are left meaningless as Ukraine President Poroshenko so blatantly showed by declaring Ukraine will not federalize at a press conference held before he even left the venue of the talks. In other words, a meaningless promise.

5. Disarming of the military forces of Donetsk and Luhansk. The only real guarantor of security, safety, and defender of the will of the people of Donetsk and Luhansk. In other words, the very army that has been shelling their cities and villages will now be patrolling their streets. In other words, they will become occupied by their oppressors. Distasteful to any person with a shred of human dignity and pride.

The list goes on and on. Minsk 2.0 is nothing but a shallow, "diplomatic" attempt to appease the interests of Russia and Ukraine while ignoring those central to the equation: the people of Luhansk and Donetsk. A betrayal. An insult. Such an agreement can never have a long shelf life. It is doomed to failure because it ignores the human will and its need to see "justice done". Such an agreement leaves the wounds of war to fester and breeds deep routed hatred and resentment. It is not honourable and it is not practical. It is but a grand gesture, in a grand hall, that disrespects honour, sacrifice, and the human will to be free of one's oppressor. Shame on all involved.