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)

Thursday, April 30, 2015

NL Budget 2015 - Practiced at the Art of Deception

There are two words that come to mind after reading budgetary estimates for 2015 in this province: election; and deception. Actually there is a third - tragic. For starters, the biggest bomb of all is that our actual budget deficit for 2015 is $2,092,867 billion. Not the $900 plus million that's being thrown about in the media. Here's how it breaks down:

Total revenue for 2015 is projected to be:                      $ 5,757,328 billion

Current Account Expenditures for 2015:                    -  $ 6,659,952 billion
Capital Account Expenditures for 2015:                     -  $ 1,143,743 billion

Need to borrow for 2015:                                               $ 2,092,867 billion

Now the politicians are saying that capital spending is not a part of the deficit, but the fact is that it is. The University of Calgary just issued its report stating they saw the deficit coming in at $1.8 billion, so they were actually a little light. The government here likes to deceive people by saying this or that isn't included. Like, for instance former premier and finance minister Marshall's statement that the money allocated to Natural Resources, and then reallocated to Nalcor each year for the last three years does not contribute to the deficit. Yet, his estimates each year clearly show the transfer from the General Revenue Fund to the Department of Natural Resources. That number factors into the expenditures of the department. That is how it's accounted for.

The truth, according to the government's own budget estimates is that fiscal 2014 saw a cash shortfall of  $ 1,051,798 billion. In other words, the total amount needed to borrow for last year, and this year is approximately $3.2 billion - which will go directly to our gross debt.

Speaking of gross debt, that is the total money we owe and are making debt payments on, 2015 will see it rise to $13, 889 billion. In 2003, before the oil money really started rolling in, that number was $8,932 billion. This year we will pay just over $770 million in interest charges/debt expenses. In 2003 that number was $520 million. Revenue this year is projected to be $5.7 billion. In 2003 it was $3.7 billion. The total budget expenses in 2015 is projected to be $8.2 billion. In 2003 it was 3.6 billion. So, in other words, after 12 years of oil, and over $20 billion of oil revenue brought in, we are spending over 200% more annually to run the affairs of the province,with revenue that has only increased 65%. That's shocking. That's catastrophic financially. It's called structural deficits with huge debt accumulations.

It's no wonder that Standard and Poors warned the provincial government last year to shed the weight of the public pension plans or face a credit downgrade. They knew the government was heading into massive deficit, therefore added debt, and in order to keep that rating we had to cut the pensions loose.  Still, you can expect a credit downgrade imminently at this rate.

Now to the politics. The utter sleazy politics of deceiving your own people to further your political hopes. The PCs have scheduled an HST increase of 2% effective January 1, 2016, or about two months after the next election. They've pledged not to replace 20% of the public service as it retires over the next 5 years... the next five years. They've committed to an all day kindergarten starting in 2016..2016. In other words, none of the big hits or programs start until AFTER the next election. That way, the PCs are serving a budget up they hope won't immediately affect the pocket books of voters - ie: re-election. The horrific truth is that no matter what government is elected in November, 2015, a financial disaster never seen in modern time Newfoundland and Labrador awaits. The Liberals have already said they will cancel the increase on election, but can they?

2016 will not be much better, and likely much worse for the province's finances and economy. We are on the cusp of a provincial recession as it is. Almost 30% of all employees in the province work for the provincial government. They likely compromise about 80% of the higher incomes here. Keep in mind that 30% of residents here are too poor to pay any income tax. The PC's have said the government will have to borrow $5 billion over the next 5 years. That's just an outright lie. Just for starters, the federal loan guarantee is only now starting to kick in for Muskrat Falls. That loan requirement is at least $5 billion, and many experts suggest it could reach $8 billion in additional borrowing beyond the $2.6 billion the province has invested in cash. In fact, the federal loan guarantee won't kick in until at least 35% of the total project cost is paid in cash by the province. That $5-* billion has to be paid within 2 years for the 2017 first power date to be met. Then there is the minimum $750 million investment in Hebron which must be paid upfront. And so it goes. Considering the government is spending $1 billion a year more than it brings in just to operate government - not including fancy projects like Muskrat Falls and Hebron -  the next government is looking at massive cuts. A 2% increase in the HST will only bring in about $300 million at the most - if the economy remains at the level it is.

Unfortunately, the economy won't be remaining where its at now. Construction and real estate are falling rapidly. Oil companies are scratching development projects as the international trade war with Eurasia begins to heat up. It's worth noting that Russia is the number one exporter of oil and natural gas in the world, not Saudi Arabia, and they can hit us hard. Expect that to happen as the BRIC countries solidify their oil for food and the like trade deals with Russia and China. None of this is being explained in any way to the people of the Province. The real truth is we had a window, a ten year window, to reap as much as we could from our oil. We didn't. We squandered it in a money-mad drunk fest. Now the party is over. Was Danny Williams the best premier this province has ever had? No. He was the worst premier this province ever had. His actions have caused irreparable harm to the place and the people. That is the truth. The numbers speak for themselves. Don't believe the deception spun by the entrails of the Williams government. Realize that as a people we have been deceived in an almost unimaginable way.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

RCMP bring in Ontario Investigator in Don Dunphy killing

There are two tragedies in the story of the killing of Don Dunphy by the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador's personal bodyguard - one is personal and one is societal. The personal tragedy is that of the Dunphy family, and especially that of his daughter Meghan. The second tragedy is the conduct of the government in this province regarding the investigation and of course the police conduct of the investigation.

Meghan's tragedy is of course the loss of her father. She didn't expect him to be gunned down in his own home just hours after having brunch with him on Easter Sunday. She didn't expect her Dad to be killed for tweeting. But it happened here. After the death of Donny Dunphy, Meghan turned to a cousin who is a practicing lawyer for advice on retaining a lawyer. Her cousin recommended Erin Breen - a lawyer in St. John's. The story takes a bit of a turn here, because Erin Breen had a conflict or two herself in representing Meghan. Firstly, and most obviously, Erin Breen was sitting on the Board of Directors of Nalcor Energy - the highly political crown energy corporation for the Province. It is an established fact that a person does not get named to Nalcor's Board unless they are a political partisan of the PC Party. Then there is the fact the law firm she belongs to, as a partner no less, is an established Tory law firm. In fact, the partisan nature of the firm caused a scandal over this . Beyond those facts, Erin Breen has donated to the PC Party every year since 2008 (check it out here) .

Now I spoke to Erin Breen on these matters and she claims the donations were  not made by her, but rather her law firm in her name. Does that really make any difference? Obviously her firm could not make those donations without her consent.  Then she informed me she had tendered her resignation from the Nalcor board as of April 15, 2015. However, by that time she had been the Dunphy's lawyer for well over a week. So, in my opinion, Erin Breen should not be representing the Dunphy family. That opinion jumped out at me when she made the statement that the tweets that brought about Don Dunphy's death were a "red herring". In fact, those tweets carried a direct link to the premier's office in the shooting death of Mr. Dunphy. A fact that carries potential legal recourse for the family to attain damages in a court of law. So, that was a red flag to me.

Now, the dueling controversies of the RCMP investigation and a public inquiry continue to dominate the story. The Minister of Justice in this province, Darrin King, insists he has no role to play in who investigates the Don Dunphy killing. He also insists that a judicial inquiry cannot be called until the investigation is over, and only then if he deems there are "unresolved issues". In other words, he's leaving the door open to not calling a judicial inquiry even though every person killed by the police in this province has resulted in a judicial inquiry. Of course, none of those had direct and public links to the premier's office. However, his story has a major hole in it on both fronts. Firstly, he can call a judicial inquiry, appoint a judge, and await the results of the investigation before allowing it to begin. And secondly, the RCMP is breaking its own policy by investigating the Dunphy killing.

The RCMP have a policy that it will not play any part in an investigation into a police-caused death it is involved with unless no other agency or force is available to conduct such an investigation. That's a fact - read the link. It seems obvious that any number of police forces or agencies, separate and apart from the RCMP and the RNC would be available to conduct a homicide investigation into the Dunphy killing. However, the RCMP is following the back up policy that "should no other force" be available, it can conduct the investigation under these conditions:

   "Where there is no such agency, cases will be referred to external police services,                   who can enlist independent observers to assess and report on the impartiality and                     independence of investigations. As a last resort, where neither a special agency nor                 an external police service are available, the RCMP will undertake investigations.                       However, an investigation will only be conducted by the RCMP after extensive                        screening of investigating officers for conflict of interest and an independent observer                will be appointed and a final review of the investigation will be conducted by an                        independent police service."

Given that the RCMP are involved in the special protection unit that guards the premier, and other VIPs, and given the fact they were involved in the visit to Don Dunphy's home (the extent of which is not firmed up yet), it would appear an extensive screening would have been needed for conflict of interest. Yet, they began the investigation of the shooting immediately - which would logically have provided no time for "screening". Also, an "independent observer" was not named to the investigation until days into the affair - contrary to RCMP policy. In effect, the RCMP is now compromising its good name by refusing to follow its own policy requirements.

That brings me to the latest news - not yet reported by media in the province. The family was contacted yesterday by the RCMP to advise it that an "Ontario private investigator" had been assigned to the Dunphy investigation. No public release of this information has happened yet. All in all, the Don Dunphy tragedy keeps getting more tragic, and more infuriating by the day. It is getting more and more clear every day that not only did the Premier's office contribute to the death of Don Dunphy by falsely accusing him of making threats via Twitter, but that some sort of white wash campaign is being conducted to make sure that those sins don't end up back on the Premier's door step. All in all, this entire situation is on the one hand an embarrassment of incompetence, and on the other hand a dark commentary on the state of justice in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Does NL need a new political party?

It's a refrain I've been hearing more and more lately: "we need a new political party". It's often accompanied by "the Liberals are no different than the PC's" or "they're all crooks" or "I can't vote for any of them". Different comments, but essentially the same message - people here are becoming deeply estranged from the existing political parties. It's not just voter apathy. It's more like voter disgust.

It's been slowly evolving over the last few years. The disengagement from the people. The lies. The attempts to cover things up. The secrecy. All of it has eaten away at people's trust in their government, and specifically the PC party like cancer on the bone. People began looking at the NDP as an alternative, and for a while Lorraine Michael was not just leading in the polls in this province, but she was the most popular opposition leader in Canada. Then, while she was on holiday, from the backrooms came a cynical attempt at a palace coup. When that failed, 2 MHAs left the party and eventually joined the Liberals after a "believable" time out period. People here turned on the victim rather than the perpetrators, and knocked the NDP and Lorraine Michael out of contention in the polls. The party fell and she fell.

The Liberals then became the flavour of choice. Like a great, hopeful wave people switched their preference to the Liberals - or so the polls say. The Liberals became confident, many so much it bordered on arrogant, and before you knew it the Liberals were indistinguishable from the PC's. The smell of power washing over them. The backroom interests cocooning around them. The money comforting them. They no longer had to stand for anything. They just had to remain silent and ride the wave to power. Then reality hit.

People started asking what the Liberals stand for. The provincial radio shows, at least one of them, began openly mocking the Liberal Party for refusing to let people know what they would do any differently than the reigning PC's. As time unfolded, it became shockingly clear to some that the Liberals were in fact not going to do much differently at all.

Two of the most recent examples of that trend are Bill 42, and the police-death of Don Dunphy. Bill 42 seeks to take 8 seats out of the provincial House, and bring the number of MHAs to 40 from 48. Almost all the lost seats coming from rural Newfoundland. The Liberals got together with the PC's in the House of Assembly, sometime during a late night session, and made a political deal to get the seat reduction legislation through. Now, people are up in arms about their districts being carved up like Swiss cheese, and the Liberals are practicing the line "wasn't me". Little do they apparently realize that they look absolutely foolish and pathetic as they now try and claim they never voted for the seat reduction, just the amendments (political deal) that allowed it to become law. You could almost feel a collective rolling of the eyes on the Island.

Then, the Liberals joined the PC's in decrying those that insisted on a judicial inquiry, over the killing of Don Dunphy by a member of the Premier's security detail, were simply playing politics - as opposed to what it really is - obvious accountability. Again, like Bill 42, the NDP came on the side of the people in demanding an inquiry be announced. After all, announcing a judicial inquiry will happen in no way impedes an investigation into Don Dunphy's death. It merely states what should be the obvious, and that is an inquiry will be held after the investigation is complete. Not might. Not maybe if we can control the outcome. So, the NDP is coming up like roses on these last two huge issues. Whether or not that will translate in the polls is questionable. A key problem for the NDP is their new leader. His rise to that position stinks badly of backroom politics as well. And, where there is a backroom game afoot, there is control. The new leader suddenly retired from head of the "fishermen's union", when he was near retirement in any case, just before Michael suddenly stepped down as NDP leader, after she just won a leadership review handily, and after stating she would lead the party into the 2015 election. The hands of the backroom are all over this.

So all this brings us to the question: Is it time for another political party in this province? The answer, to my mind, is yes. The problem is that the last thing people here likely want is more politicians. That's a convenient truth for the boys pulling the strings on the other three. However, the dilemma remains that if a different commitment to democracy and integrity is not somehow invented, then the province is on the brink of no-return. And, if you love this place, that's a very hard pill to swallow. It seems unlikely that integrity, honour and accountability can rise to the surface of these parties controlled as they are by a very small group of people within the province. Their goal is control. Control of the people, but more importantly to them - control of the budget. They want those public dollars going to their interests, their companies.

So, if a political party can be born in this province that is firstly committed to integrity, honour, and truth before agenda, then yes it's time for a new political party here. The breath of fresh air is badly needed. Otherwise, there may well be a complete collapse of the governing "order" here. Too many of the people who should be the gatekeepers on power here have been corrupted by self-interest. Ordinarily, they would have been weeded out before they got in to that position - for having that weakness. But, in a place where that group is so small, and so exclusive, the order has become too introverted. Too compromised. Eventually when that happens, no matter where in the world, that order collapses and social chaos results. That's why there's an order in the first place. Order is the cure for chaos. However, order in a democracy comes from a firm set of rules that exclude "self-enrichment".That is to say, those with the real "influence", not the politicians, must be disciplined beyond self-enrichment. That hasn't happened here. Perhaps the real need in Newfoundland and Labrador isn't a new political party. Perhaps the real need is for a new set of Gatekeepers with the discipline to do their duty responsibly - for the best interests of the people, not their own.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Newfoundland Government refuses call for Judicial Inquiry into Don Dunphy's Death

The Premier of this province refuses to call, at this time at least, a judicial inquiry into the shooting death of Don Dunphy at the hands of his personal body guard. A disgraceful, arrogant, and out of touch position that angers the people here to the core. Yet, the ruling PC cabinet refuses to call an inquiry.

The reasoning goes something like this: "There is an ongoing investigation...there maybe criminal charges as a result...the investigation may leave no questions left to answer...those calling for it are playing politics." This is the kind of foolishness that often passes for governance here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Here's some background for those that don't know the province, or those in the province that don't scrutinize the government's actions on a daily basis like a few of us do...:

1. The RNCA (the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Association) is a union-like association representing the RNC officers in this province. Since 1999 it has donated thousands of dollars each year to the ruling PC Party - almost exclusively. It donated $10,000.00 to Paul Davis for his successful leadership campaign. All of this in violation of the RNC Act, which makes it illegal.

2. The RNC forms the premier's personal protection force - ie: bodyguards. The RCMP are also involved in this function.

3. The premier is a retired RNC officer. He appointed a retired RNC Chief as his Chief of Staff.

4. On Easter Friday a member of the premier's office flagged a tweet from Don Dunphy, which was not a threat, but sent it to the personal body guard of the premier anyway.

5. On Saturday, the next day, the premier attended a hockey game with his family without any security what so ever.

6. On Easter Sunday a member of the premier's bodyguard, dressed in plain clothes, driving the premier's personal black SUV, arrived at Don Dunphy's, was invited into his home, and 15 minutes later the officer shot Don Dunphy dead. Apparently the conversation took a turn for the worse, for "whatever reason", and Don pulled a weapon on the officer. Or so the officer says.

So, we have a police force, politically linked to the governing party, whose officer, the premier's bodyguard, shot and killed an injured worker and vocal opponent of the governing party in his own home - without witnesses. Pardon the hell out of me, but if that isn't the most bizarre set of circumstances in a so-called democracy, then I don't know what would be. The problem here is that nobody in our society wants to be held accountable. It's the culture of "unaccountability". Wasn't me. Wasn't my fault. Wasn't his fault. It was nobody's fault. Shit happens. Oh well.  This is what passes for democracy in Newfoundland.

Then, in a further bizarre twist, we have the opposition Liberals, who are meant to clean up the mess left by the PC's after the next election, refusing to call for a public inquiry. Ironically, they are spouting the same buzzwords and talking points the discredited PC's are. It's like politics submersed in complete slime. Andrew Parsons, the Liberal justice critic, had the actual nerve to state people calling for a public inquiry were playing politics. Apparently, Parsons and the Liberals, along with the PCs are unable to to tell the difference between "holding people to account" and "playing politics". A completely disgraceful position. A despicable attempt to marginalize people outraged and seeking accountability over an innocent man's death at the hands of a premier's bodyguard in 21rst century Canada by framing it as "playing politics". It turns my stomach. The NDP, to their credit, came out yesterday calling for such an inquiry.

The biggest question right now is why won't the government call an inquiry? Why are the Liberals backing that position, rather than seeking the truth, and listening to the public? Obviously the Judicial Inquiry could not commence until after the investigation is finished, but it can be called to commence immediately after the investigation. The judge can be appointed. The terms of reference can be crafted. All the administrative issues could be resolved. We called it "concurrent activity" in the army. Civilians call it "multitasking". Bottom line is there is no reason to not announce there will be an inquiry after the investigation. Instead, Minister King said yesterday that a judicial inquiry won't be called unless he feels the investigation comes up short. So, the political people, who accepted illegal political donations from members of the RNC, are going to decide whether an officer of the RNC (who was the premier's personal bodyguard), and the office of the premier will be subjected to a judicial review over the killing of an opponent of the government - not witnessed.

Name me another jurisdiction in Canada where we would even be talking about this. That's how rotten to the core the political elite of this province are. That is just how badly things need to change here. Donny Dunphy did not die in vain. He's become the symbol of victims of an irresponsible, corrupted elite within our province.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How to Fix Veterans Affairs Canada

Veterans Affairs Canada is the department of government that's meant to look after the needs of Canada's military and RCMP veterans. These days, actual war veterans numbers are dramatically falling, while soldiers injured and hurt in normal duties is on the rise. Part of that is awareness of mental health issues like PTSD and/or Serious Depressive Disorder. Often referred to as "operational stress injury". However, the vast majority of injuries are of the physical nature. Currently there are just over 3000 civilian employees at Veterans Affairs administering the needs of people that the department refers to as "clients".

It's come to my attention that the new Veteran's Affairs Minister O'Toole has been heavily canvassing VAC staff to seek answers for making the system run smoother. One answer he appeared to receive was the need for more case managers. I would argue here that is the response of the bureaucracy seeking to help the bureaucracy and not the veteran. By way of example, it was three years into the process before I even new a case manager was assigned to me. I found out when a central VAC operator transferred me to him by mistake. Has it helped a lot since I found him. Not really. The case manager can't do a thing to speed up decision making on benefits, or anything similar to that. That process is highly centralized in certain centres in Quebec, and the Maritimes.

Where I believe Minister O'Toole is being lead astray is that the bureaucracy is more concerned with making its job easier, rather than making Veterans lives easier. The two are not necessarily the same. To understand Veteran's Affairs you need to realize that the department is heavily politicized. Not just by the current government. In fact the New Veterans Charter was brought in by the Martin Liberal government. It's sole purpose was to strip the right of injured Veterans to receive a proper disability pension, and instead give a one time payment. In other words, instead of a Veteran receiving over a million dollars over a life time on pension, he would receive on average $40,000.00 and cut loose. The Rehab program provides a stop gap measure for the most seriously injured, but there are not guarantees with it like there is with a pension.

Here are some steps that I believe would depoliticize Veterans Affairs and make it better for Veterans:

1. Disband Veterans Affairs Review and Appeal Boards. These two levels of appeal boards are all political appointees. Many are failed political candidates, party fund raisers, etc. Almost none are ex military, and even less have medical training. They are viewed, for reason, as persons delaying and denying Veterans benefits.

2. Replace the Review and Appeal Boards with single judges. Singular judges can be placed in each province or region, depending on demand. Judges are more likely to understand the evidence and the legislation. They are professional decision makers. They are required to be apolitical. When a Veteran can't get a positive decision at the review and then appeal level, he/she must go to Federal Court in any case, and all the Federal Court is currently empowered to do is refer the matter back to the same process a soldier just came out of - the review and/or appeal boards. A never ending bureaucratic ride that only serves to employ civil servants and delay/deny veterans. The result would be a judicial system, showing judicial respect, and a vast reduction in matters going as far as the Federal Court.

3. Amend the Canada Health Act to require doctors to conduct medical examinations, and complete paper work as required or face sanction for refusing to do so. Many Veterans find that doctors simply want nothing to do with the huge paperwork required of VAC, and therefore refuse Veterans a proper examination and most importantly the filling out of currently needed paperwork. An alternative to this is a massive reduction of the paperwork to two simple doctoral requirements: 1) Is there a diagnosis; and 2) If the answer is yes can it be contributed to military service. Pure and simple.

4. Do away with the massive amount of nitty-gritty medical analyses currently numbing the system. The system of awarding dollars or benefits based on fifths of an injury. If a soldier is injured he is injured. It doesn't matter whether three fifths or five fifths is attributable to military service. If he was injured during service that's it. Whether or not he can wipe his own arse, whether or not he can drive, etc. People with no legs can drive. Does that mean they are only partially disabled?  Drop all these massive manuals defining this degree of injury or that definition of injury. It's an injury. Full stop. Simplify so that the system meets the legislation, which means the soldier is given the "benefit of the doubt" by a "grateful nation". Not the soldier is given "what we have no choice to give him" by a "stingy nation".

5. Require that all injury claims be administered, adjudged, and settled no later than 1 year after application. With a massively reduced paperwork/bureaucratic trail, there is no reason why a soldier should have to wait for more than a year to finalize all his financial/benefit determinations. After which the soldier may or may not need further or life long care, but the dollars and cents that will stabilize his life and give the family peace of mind will be in place fast. In my own case it's been 5 years, and I'm not finished yet - which to me is bizarre. I know there are others that have been in the system for longer than that.

6. Institute a Triage System. Major injuries get priority handling, meaning they are expedited within weeks. Lesser injuries that are not considered major can be somewhat less. By way of example, if one soldier has injuries that could result in loss of life or ability to work, then it takes priority. Lesser injuries like arthritic pain in a limb are secondary for priority, but all must still be dealt with in a year.  

7. Layoff some staff and hire others. By massively simplifying paperwork, eliminating fifths of injury and other minute nitty-gritty diagnosis requirements, the government can massively reduce the work force in Veterans Affairs. Veterans Affairs salaries alone constitute about a quarter of a billion dollars. By reducing the administrative portion of VAC and refocusing it from an administrative organization to a "response" organization, the government can actually save money in pension and salaries to civil servants. In other words a complete culture change. We aren't "clients". We are Vets. We served our country. We didn't go to Walmart.

It's an old saying in the military: "KISS - Keep it Simple Stupid". Veterans Affairs doesn't need nips and tucks. Veterans Affairs need radical surgery. It's NOT the fault of this government. Veterans have been getting short shafted for decades. Where it's becoming an issue for this government is due to its continuation of the system, not the creation of it. That is understood by all Vets I believe. Certainly those of us who had parents serve in the Second World War understand that. The Canadian public needs to understand it as well. Transformation to serve the Veteran is what is necessary. Whether labour unions like or dislike the loss of membership is irrelevant. Treat the men and women with the respect and dedication they served with. Show them Canada cares, and not that Canada just does the bare minimum..or less. That's how to fix Veterans Affairs Canada.

Canada's New Moth to Flame Foreign Policy

The Conservative government in Ottawa is dragging the Canadian people into the fire that is the geo-strategic war between the United States and Eurasia. It is not a place that Canadian have traditionally wanted to be in, nor is it a place they want to be in now - yet it's happening.

The first step in the march toward becoming America's "little brother", rather than "cousin", came during the initial Ukrainian conflict with the separatist republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. Prime Minister Harper quickly jumped in on the side of the never elected, but mutinously in-placed "Maiden" government. A collection of protest groups, organized it is allegedly by western governments, and dominated by neo-Nazi groups like "Aydar", "Right Sector", and the like. Real like torch burning, swastika waving neo-Nazi's. The kind of people that would make my father spin in his grave having spent five years of his youth fighting this kind of scum. He took pride in playing a part to wiping them out. And now, so many years later, like a dormant virus the neo-Nazi's reemerge in Ukraine.

Next, we as a country intervene, albeit in a small way, in the conflict in Syria. Or, loosely defined as the conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia being played out in Syria. Some will jump in and say wait a minute, we started by bombing ISIS in Iraq, and just now moved that into Syria. True enough, but the fire started in Syria, and it's now returned. The bottom line for Canada is why are we intervening with even one singular soldier in this conflict? Saudi Arabia is no different than ISIS. The major difference between the two is Saudi Arabia uses swords to cut off the heads or limbs of those it condemns of breaching the Koran, while ISIS uses knives. It's as obvious as the nose on your face. The west rightly condemns ISIS for it's brutal implementation of  ultra-orthodox Islamic law, but doesn't utter a singular word against Saudi Arabia for the exact same crimes. Geo-strategic selective vision at it's worst.

Back to our new "Evil Empire Russia" foreign policy. All things Russian are now viewed as all things repugnant - including to our great shame, the boycotting of the Russian celebration of the 70th anniversary of Victory Day against the Nazis. Despite being elected by the Russian people with double the plurality that our own Prime Minister has ever received in a decade of his governance, we refer to the Russian President now as the head of a mafia, a Godfather of the Russian Mafia, a murderer of the media, a controlling evil manipulator of his own people and the world, etc. We demonize the man. He is the new enemy, therefore he must lose all "humanness". Meanwhile, the government of Canada ignores the massive list of war crimes documented and committed against the people of the Donetsk and Luhansk republics as if somehow it never happened. It's bizarre. The Ukraine army leveled entire villages, towns, and relentlessly shelled and even fired ballistic missiles, into the major cities of Donetsk and Luhansk. Thousands upon thousands of civilians were slaughtered by modern, high explosive munitions. Tens of thousands were maimed for life. Hundreds of thousands have been left homeless and as refugees. Their crime? Wanting to get the hell out of Ukraine with their land. Also known as self-determination - a right guaranteed under the UN Charter.

Yet, despite the ugly, brutal truth of the Ukraine government's slaughter of its "own" people in the republics of Donetsk and Luhansk over the last year or so, the Canadian government now sees fit to send "trainers" to Ukraine to help retrain an army that lost horribly at the hands of its "own" people. Not to say they didn't have some help along the way, but none the less, our government is going to assist in the rebuilding of the Ukraine army. An army guilty of horrendous war crimes. That means the Canadian people are assisting as well, as long as we remain silent on the issue.

Prime Minister Harper seems to be a guy that can't help being that Cold War leader he always wanted to be, but was born too late for. It's just hard to see it any other way. We stayed out of Iraq, because we had a Prime Minister who understood Canadians don't want to follow the US from one war to another. We're not into it. We like our wars on ice. We don't support dictators, no matter which geo-strategic side they're on. We shake our collective heads at the American government as it goes around the world trying to be "world cop". Live and let live in peace, for all. That is our policy. That is our wish. Now, that is our dream. Canada has lost its way. It's role as honest broker in the Middle East, which we always cherished, has been reduced to our just recently retired Foreign Minister being egged in a Palestinian refugee camp. We've been snubbed at the UN from Security Council roles. We have lost any appearance of being an honest broker for disputes between Eurasia and the US. In a word, we have lost "respect". With that loss of respect we have lost the trust of those who we now stand opposed to. We no longer enjoy the position that Pearson and others engineered for us on the world stage. We no longer stand for the "right". Now, like a moth lured excitedly to the flame, we jump at every opportunity to prove we are anything but a friend of peace.

Sorry to the world. It's a government, not a people.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Don Dunphy - Shoot the Messenger - Media vs Social Media

The shooting of Don Dunphy is the latest, and for us most tragic, example of the media attacking social media. It's not new, but it's becoming hyper-inflated.

When Don Dunphy was killed by the personal security detail of the premier of Newfoundland in his home on Easter Sunday the media got it all wrong. It jumped on one part of a five part tweet. It painted Donny as a half-crazed injured worker striking out threateningly at the premier of the province. But then social media intervened. The twitter message in its full context filled the airwaves. Suddenly the story that was being perpetuated in the media began to fall apart - embarrassingly so. To give David Cochrane of the CBC credit, which is painful, he did get those tweets out there and helped change the conversation. Yet, stations like VOCM continued with the one tweet, dangerous threat scenario.

Then of course there is the issue of what happened in the home. Again, David Cochrane led the story that "sources" said Don Dunphy pointed a gun and that's why he was shot. Then the RCMP came out the next day, and to settle the public down in their words, they released that indeed it was a fact that Don Dunphy pointed a gun at the officer after 15 minutes of conversation - that suddenly went bad. Their source for this information? The very officer that shot Don Dunphy multiple times in his home, killing him instantly. Now, if this were a person who was not a police officer that person would be in custody and have to prove self-defence to a judge. Not in this case. No, in this case the officer sits at home on paid leave while the family buries their loved one. Yet, the word of the man who fired the shots without witnesses is propagated like it was the undeniable truth, when any common sense, right thinking person might well think an officer in such a situation might have a reason to cover his arse. That's not to say that he did, it's just to say that he had plenty of reason to.

Then, despite a "we can't comment, it's under investigation" defence, the RCMP releases a bit more information. This time it was yes, indeed, the premier's bodyguard came and saw us, did a threat assessment, and saw Donny's brother before he went to the house. The media dutifully spills the news for all to lap up. Yet, in the detail it's let out that threat assessment is a computer search if there's a criminal record on the man. Not a detailed, comprehensive, he did all he could do type threat assessment. And so it goes. Selective news leaks, to selected news reporters, for the sole purpose of "calming the hordes".

Then the premier went on local and national television to tell all that it was Don Dunphy's fault, that his staff contacted his bodyguard about "threats" and the bodyguard did his job, and it was changed world out there, and that in a personal phone call after the shooting he gave the bodyguard a call and gave him his "personal support". On the national CBC news broadcast Davis repeated the same talking points he had said earlier to the provincial media. This time the national reporter looked at him incredulously and asked if the premier was comparing Donny Dunphy to Al Queda or ISIS. In other words, what the hell are you talking about. The question would seem obvious to most of us, but it slipped past our provincial media...

Just yesterday, the bodyguard under investigation became a non-bodyguard...according to David Cochrane...again...from a "source"...again... a selective leak to calm the hordes...again. The premier, the man whose office sent the now ex-bodyguard (apparently) to see Don Dunphy has announced he will make a decision on a judicial inquiry after the RCMP investigation. The man whose office is responsible for the events that led up to Don Dunphy's death is going to decide if Don's death warrants a judicial inquiry - after the RCMP, who were somewhat involved in the Dunphy shooting, finish the investigation of his death. Not to mention that both police forces serve as the premier's bodyguard. Yes, the same bodyguard whose member killed Don Dunphy. It's all good though, because the RCMP, who were involved somewhat in the shooting, have appointed a retired judge to watch over them. And so it goes, you can't make this shit up.

Where's the media on all of this? Now the tweet is no longer described as the "threat", but rather the "perceived threat". Even though anyone with less than high school English can clearly see the tweets had nothing to do with the premier, but referred to two already dead politicians. Facts be damned, we'll call it a perceived threat because the RCMP and the premier's office are apparently illiterate. On the rifle bit, yes, that's still out there as a fact, even though it has yet to be confirmed by forensics or anything else - other than by the shooter. The investigation? Nothing to see here folks. Not a single word or criticism that the RCMP were investigating a police killing that they were involved in. Nope. Not happening. All the rest is covered by:"we have to wait for the results of the investigation". Convenient when so many troubling questions already are quite factually evident.

However, it's becoming more and more obvious that in this province the media is not concerned by facts. It's concerned about keeping it's position as the filter of truth that feeds the public as it sees it, and when it feels like it. Despite being some of the most active on twitter, reporters and broadcasters here decry the "irresponsible" and "nut-bar" approach of social media. It's as if the media senses, in the free exchange of information and ideas on social media, it's own demise. And in that assumption there is truth. The media is quickly becoming the dinosaur of the information age. As the world becomes more plugged in, and the populations better educated, the media looks more and more like a vintage of yesteryear. Tired, worn out, and out of ideas. More concerned about keeping those subscription numbers and reporters salaries than asking the tough, but quite obvious questions. Instead, the Don Dunphy killing is just the latest example of the media shooting the messenger. Shooting the social media. The very people who they hope to influence with their "news".

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Ugly Truth about Newfoundland

Newfoundland is not an ugly place. It is beautiful. It's raw, rugged nature, unblemished by time remains for all to see. You can't help but love Newfoundland. The place. However, there is a deep, dark side to Newfoundland that defies the beauty of this place. In a word, tyranny. Not the tyranny you would find in a dictatorship over sees. Not the tyranny of an armed camp. This is the tyranny of the elites. And here the elites work hand in hand to keep the average Newfoundlander (or common man as it goes here) firmly in his place. Dissent here equals disloyalty. Disloyalty equals persecution. Persecution by the small group of business families that run the province. Persecution by an elite that is so small that it encompasses the few but powerful law firms here, and the few but powerful media outlets here.

To go outside the strict boundaries of day-to-day conduct established by these elites is to invite unto yourself public ridicule and humiliation, and personal destruction. Whether that destruction be of a financial or reputation nature - although it is almost always both. Newfoundlanders know it. They know it only too well. It's the Italian mafia version of Omerta - or silence. We run the show, we run the money, we run everything - you do not challenge us. Granted, it's not very Italian here, so perhaps Irish mafia is a better analogy. Whatever the name, Newfoundlanders have been afraid for a very long time of the powerful here.

It began  with the "Merchants", the small group of families that controlled Newfoundland by controlling its economy. Fisherman survived on the credit from these stores, whatever the price and conditions, and then turned over what they made to pay there way clear. A never ending sentence of feudalism - and it never ended.

Now, things are a changin'. Feudalism is dying a sudden death here in Newfoundland. Our government, that represents those elites is falling. Not just the government that is in office today, but the governments coming after it. "Falling" means business as usual amongst the elites here is dying. Instead of the people becoming controlled servants to these families, and the systems they control, the people are taking back, or perhaps better put finally taking, this beautiful place back for themselves.

In the last four years the political, legal and business elite here have been subjected to a phenomenon they do not see or understand. All they can see is the order they had so tidily enforced and enjoyed crumbling all around them. They're scared. As the incumbent premier said very recently: "Some authority from somewhere is challenging us". As odd as that comment might seem, it's not altogether off the mark. Their is an authority, but it's not challenging the "boy's club" here - it's destroying it. There is no challenge. "Challenge" implies that there exists a possibility they can win, and there is no possibility of that. They just haven't figured that part out yet. They haven't stopped long enough to see how far they've fallen. Perhaps they don't want to see what it looks like when they finally hit ground. Whatever the case, they desperately try and cling to the feudal system so well layed out for them by their predecessors. Newfoundlanders, average Newfoundlanders, the common man be damned.

In fact, the ruling class of Newfoundland is in such a panic they are making mistakes. Big mistakes. Grave mistakes. The most recent, and personally tragic one being that of Don Dunphy - who is to be buried tomorrow. The premier's own staff flagged a completely innocent tweet made by Don, contacted the premier's own body guard, and the rest is history. Don died. He died for tweeting. The reason I say that is the officer should never have gone to his home. But, they couldn't help themselves. They had to show this poor man, suffering as he was, that they were the bosses around here. He dissented, and made them look bad. He needed a talking to. The talking to went bad, apparently, and now Don Dunphy is dead. But, Don wasn't the only one that died on that Easter Sunday. No, the last shred of any credibility the Newfoundland elite had died with him, and I'm positive that Don would have been tickled with that.

He knew only too well what it was to suffer under this regime of silence. Now, predictably, the many in the local media tried to spin his death on the strength of one part of a five part tweet. To make Don look bad. To make him look depraved and dangerous. To make the result seem justified. It didn't work. The premier tried to show he was the last authority by stating he phoned the officer that fired the shots and gave him his "personal support". He knew that his office sent the officer to Donny's home. They used his personal black SUV to do it. He knew there would have to be an investigation, yet he compromised it before it started by giving the shooter his "personal support". And he didn't care. Why didn't he care? He didn't care because that's what happens when you mess with power. They are the last word, and the only word. That's the way it's always been. And then BOOM! The people of the province came apart. They exploded in anger and disbelief at the death of Don Dunphy. Why? Because the killing of Don Dunphy represented everything we have come to despise, and give oath to change.

The powers to be will no longer be the powers to be. It's over for them. Whether it be the business or legal elite. Whether it be the small, select families. It's over for them. All they have to do is stop, look, and see what's happening to their grip on this place. It's been happening for four years. The politics of feudalism is dying a slow, twisting, in denial death. As the saying goes "God guard thee Newfoundland". Well, God is with us, and we are the people.  

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Don Dunphy Dies for Politics in Newfoundland

                                                                   Don Dunphy

Don Dunphy died for expressing his pain and suffering in a small rural community in Newfoundland at the hands of the Premier's personal security force. In other words, he died over politics. He had just finished having Easter Sunday dinner with his daughter when, at about 230 pm, a solitary plain clothed member of the Premier's personal body guard arrived at the Dunphy home in a plain black SUV, with smoked black windows - the Premier's own personal government vehicle. From that moment til the moment several shots rang out remain unaccounted for. The only witness was the man that pulled the trigger ending Mr. Dunphy's life - and voice.

Mr. Dunphy was injured at work. The compensation board abandoned him, but he refused to go quietly. He became engaged in social media, mostly Twitter, and attempted to make a difference, He tweeted on many things, all generally centered on social justice. On Good Friday he sent a series of tweets to Premier Paul Davis, and a cabinet minister Sandy Collins. Sandy Collins had just sent out a public tweet expressing his satisfaction about cruising with the premier, in his car, listening to a song whose message was enjoying the sunshine. Mr. Dunphy, suffering as he was and had been for many years, replied to the public tweet of Collins:

5 tweets that would end his life. Someone on the premier's staff contacted a member of the premier's bodyguard, and two days later a sole officer appeared on Mr. Dunphy's driveway. The tweet originally put out by the provincial media originally showed just the last tweet, which mentioned the words "dead" and "hurt". However, social media quickly found the entire set of tweets, and the story line began to change. The string of five tweets, representing the full conversation, clearly show anyone who can read English that Mr. Dunphy was not threatening anyone. Not the premier. Not anyone. Instead, it was simply the response of a long suffering man responding to a system he felt had ignored him and, simply put, he was upset that these two politicians were enjoying a carefree ride in the country while he suffered. Nothing more. Nothing less. That was his only crime.

Was there evidence a crime was being committed, or going to be committed? No. Was there cause for the premier's body guard to be at Mr. Dunphy's home? No. So why was he there? Given the politics of intimidation in this province, the most likely answer was he went to the Dunphy house to intimidate a man into silence. What evidence is there of that? Well, first of all, unless the premier's political staff is illiterate, and the body guard is illiterate, there was no cause for any police action. None. Zip. That is the biggest clue, but there are others. The use of the premier's own personal black SUV. The use of the premier's own bodyguard. The leaks about who pulled a gun on who first - despite no "official" comment. The fact that a sole officer went to "investigate" a "non-crime" without any other witnesses. From my own experience, an eerily similar situation to the time 4 years ago when Minister Wiseman sent his personal Executive Assistant, a self-proclaimed member of the Newfoundland "backroom", to threaten me with personal destruction if I allowed my name to stand in the PC leadership race. This ended far  more seriously for Mr. Dunphy, but the bones of the matter are very similar.

The question remains, was Don Dunphy lawfully killed by a member of his premier's bodyguard. There is no question he was killed. There is no question who did it. The question remains was it lawful. I would argue it was not. An officer of the law cannot pull over your vehicle, let alone enter your property without "cause". There was no cause. There was no threat to the premier. None whatsoever. The only reason that officer was at the Dunphy home was to intimidate. If you don't believe that, well, then you have to believe the premier's office and the bodyguard can't read English. What is the more likely? It's clear what is the most likely. Now, local media and talk shows were very quick to decry speculation about the death of Don Dunphy. That's typical of politics in Newfoundland. Silence the outrage. If you speak out you will be labelled as "playing politics". It's a form of control used here all the time. Don't speak out, even when it's as obvious as the nose on your face.

If you do speak out you become the problem. You are scapegoated. The original issue becomes obscured in charges of political opportunism. You have an axe to grind. You are a disturber of the shit. It doesn't matter that what you say makes perfect sense, or is a perfectly normal opinion. If it shakes the foundations of power in Newfoundland it must be silenced. Don Dunphy shook that system more than he or anyone else apparently realized. He was silenced. Silenced by his own government. But, in his death, Don sent a message that he could not send in life. It lead the national news. It splashed from coast to coast. An injured worker, ignored and marginalized by a government in this country that suppresses political opposition. That was the message Don was trying to send in life. That was the message his death sent to the entire country.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Operation Megiddo

Looking at the world today, it's not hard to see the ancient Biblical predictions of the final great battle in the Valley of Megiddo (Northern Israel) taking shape.In fact, it's quite obvious to even the casual observer of international politics, let alone serious students of the geo-strategic. On the one hand, it's kind of scary we are heading down this path. On the other hand, if you believe in the Bible, it's all apart of God's plan, and to judge it any other way is to put yourself before God. In both instances, we are all heading toward that date with destiny  - so it appears.

Watching the rise of China, the demonetization of Russia, the arming and slaughter within the Arab countries, the internal maneuvering of the United States, and the placement of profit over humanity on a world-wide scale, one can only conclude that all these things must come to a central boiling point. For every action there is a reaction, and sooner or later those reactions are going to culminate in a blood letting. I suppose, in that way, we as a species are pretty predictable, and therefore Revelation, as written in the Bible, is a common sense result of a humanity consumed with itself. In other words we are authors of our own demise. Unable to detach ourselves from the superficial. Seemingly unable to restrain ourselves in a disciplined way from consuming every resource, every beautiful thing on the planet we inherited. Acting as it were as children without a parent to constrain us.

Wherever we look in the world today, our humanity is being sacrificed on the alters of self-serving arrogance. Africa is being torn apart by disease, starvation, corruption, and war. All of which is fully within the reach of humanity to stop - and all of which has not been stopped. The most militarily powerful countries in the world are mobilizing their armies, and those of their proxies. Our TV scenes are full of images of children, women and men being killed by military actions all over the world. Whether it be Ukraine, Nigeria, Iraq, Libya, or any other place the story remains the same - detachment. It's somewhere else, who cares. It's not our problem. It's off to Walmart we go. It seems as if the collective human spirit, that force that can do almost anything, has chosen to cocoon in self-interest while the forces of those driving us to the Valley of Megiddo march on. In a sense, humanity seems resigned to sacrifice itself for pleasure, comfort and contentment.

Watching this unfold in slow motion is a bit of a tribulation in itself. Coming to the realization that governments like the United States are intent on either controlling the world, or destroying it if that's not possible, is troubling.  Seeing countries like China and Russia respond in like measure is equally troubling. On the one hand there is the argument that their actions are in self-defence against a power intent on consuming or controlling them. On the other hand there is the lesson Jesus taught us, which is to turn the other cheek. To love your enemy. I suppose if everyone followed Jesus' teachings we wouldn't have this march toward Megiddo. There would be no conflict. It takes two to tango, and if one keeps turning the other cheek then the other must eventually resign itself to peace. But, apparently, only the perfect man was able to achieve that standard, and the rest of us are that much less - to our detriment.

With a full blown war in the Middle East now just on the horizon, and the posturing of primarily American forces in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, we stand on the cusp of the Valley of Megiddo. We can see it from here clearly - if we turn our head in that direction. But can we? We seem consumed with self-righteousness. We have allowed ourselves to become the judge, jury and executioner of our fellow man. We are not our brother's keeper. We lean more toward Cain. We cannot see the goodness each of us possess. Whether it be the man with long hair, beard and black pajamas in Syria or Iraq, the battered soldiers on either side in Ukraine, the determination and discipline of a Chinese or North Korean soldier, the defensive spirit of the Israeli volunteer army, the pride in the step of the Russian soldier, or the sincerity of an American with fighting spirit. We can't honour, and respect our difference. We can't bring ourselves to see that all people have qualities that in their own way are beautiful. Instead, we turn a blind eye to those qualities in our quest to be right. Not righteous, but self-righteous. Sitting in judgement. Consumed with purpose. Even when we instinctively know that purpose leads us to the Valley of Megiddo.