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, May 12, 2019

Newfoundland and Labrador needs Crosby

Newfoundland is in a state. It had a very brief period of oil fueled hysteria, and then, as they say in Newfoundland: "the bottom fell outa her". It was sad really. Of course, the collapse of oil prices didn't just single out Newfoundland for financial mayhem - see Alberta, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, etc. The difference really is that these other places had great oil prices for a long period before the collapse, and were able to better sustain a price collapse. So, with a series of very poor financial decisions (see Muskrat Falls as an example), the collapse of the oil industry, and the corruption that runs rampant in the province, Newfoundland is in desperate need of a change in governing - that change could be Ches Crosbie.

Ches Crosbie is a very thoughtful, very successful lawyer from St. John's (okay he's a townie and a lawyer … so we'll have to look past that). His family is one of the most influential and wealthy families in Newfoundland (okay, we'll have to look past that as well). The difference with Ches Crosbie is that he is not a flashy egotist. That is a major difference - more than you might think. He is a reasoned man, and that is exactly what Newfoundland needs at this time.

Because Newfoundland is a place of very concentrated wealth, and very wide spread poverty, the provincial government there is used as a wealth distribution vehicle rather than an instrument of considered decisions. It is incredibly knee-jerking. The population is very susceptible to patronage, and panics when it thinks it may be out of favour for that patronage - in other words there are so few crumbs they will bare knuckle fight for them. That's the way they've been played for hundreds of years by the small establishment there, and the same remains true today.

Current premier, Liberal Dwight Ball, has the very appearance of the slick used car salesman from the movie "Fargo". Slicked up hair, and cowboy boots with his suits. His approach has been shockingly similar. He promised 3 inquiries on incidents that were very important to the people but failed to deliver on two: the Coleman/Humber Valley Paving scandal; and the Burton Winters tragedy (ironically both tied to Labrador). He promised to review construction of the infamous Muskrat Falls hydro dam. He didn't. He promised to manage the project better, and at last count it was 120% over budget - which puts those corrupt African dam projects to shame at their measly 65% average. He promised a democratic reform program, and just like Trudeau federally he broke it without shame. The people have every reason to reject the Liberal Party in this election.

So who should they vote to replace the disappointing Liberals? Well the NDP and NL Alliance rump parties are not an option. Newfoundland only has 40 seats up for grabs, but neither party could muster even that tiny number of candidates - not even close at less then 30%. They are not an option, and quite frankly they are a waste of a vote - with all due respect to the men and women who were brave enough to put their names forward to carry the respective banners. In addition, and perhaps even more importantly, the federal Liberals are on their way out after the callosal SNC Lavalin scandal. Newfoundland likes to have a close relationship with the feds when it needs money (like now), and it's hard to see that relationship happening with a Conservative government in Otta, and a Ball government in St. John's. That leaves the PC Party.

However, the PC Party was really the initial author of Newfoundland's current misfortune. As a governing party during the ten years or so that Newfoundland enjoyed oil prosperity the party was infused with corruption and cronyism. It spent every single cent of oil money it made, every single cent of regular taxation funds it raised, and then borrowed massively on top of that - a tradition the Liberals carried on with when they took over. The real question remains did the PC Party learn its lesson? Did the PC Party reform itself internally? The answer may be Ches Crosbie.

Crosbie, after all, is not a man of unlimited charisma. He is not the fire breathing dragon of say a Danny Williams. He is not the smooth, smiley Tobin or Ball type. He is not even the force of nature type like his father was. He is in fact his own man. A man who appears to value reason and sober thought over flash and dash. He is an intelligent man in his own right. This is exactly the kind of man Newfoundland needs at the helm to navigate the seas of financial disasters facing Newfoundland now - and in the future. The only question remaining is whether or not the PC Party has learned its lesson, or is it simply waiting at the trough to take its turn. Given the choice, and keeping in mind the very poor governance record of the Liberals, the balance leans toward Crosbie and the PCs. Whatever the election this week results in, it is very unlikely to be a major win for either side. A small majority is likely. That being said, and if the polls are right, Crosbie will be the benefactor of that choice.
 

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 - "...at 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.