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.  


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Going To War With Russia

As sad, and painful, as it is to contemplate, let alone say, it appears the West is going to war with Russia. Yes Russia. The firing of US National Security Advisor McMaster today, and most significantly his replacement with John Bolton point to a direct confrontation against Iran. Bolton has always advocated war with Iran, but never really been in a position to make good on the threat. Now he has been invited to join US President Trump's cabinet - a cabinet already dominated by US Generals (for the most part retired). Trump now has what any clear analysis would point to - a war cabinet.

In a game of one-up-man-ship, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has been blowing the proverbial bridges between Russia and the western world to pieces in the last several weeks with comments that have really been beyond the pale. He suggested that Russian President Putin was the person that gave the go ahead for the attempted assassination of a former Russian spy in England. He then absolutely blew that out of the water by claiming yesterday that holding the World Soccer Cup in Russia was akin to Hitler's 1936 Olympics. This last point I personally took huge exception to, because the fact is the 25 million or so Soviets that died actually fighting Hitler saved England fro German invasion - an invasion that England would have lost hands down. In truth, Johnson might just as well of accused modern day Israel of being a Nazi state. That's just how bizarre Johnson's attack on Russia was. And perhaps more importantly in the scheme of things, how incendiary the attack was.

What is becoming clear is that the US, and its western allies, are laying the groundwork for a massive war, perhaps a world war, with Eurasia and its allies in the Middle East. With the appointment of Bolton on the same day as Trump signed the first trade action against China (and he emphasized it was the first of many) the signs are very clear. The West is going to war with the East. The likely initial targets are Syria, and Iran. Any attack on Iran is a declaration of war on Russia. Iran after all is not just an important ally to Russia, but it sits right on the border with Russia. In other words, Russia would be pulled into such a war out of self-defence if for no other reason.

Bearing Russia's position in mind, think back to last week when Russia announced a number of new generation weapons it stated were untouchable by Western anti-missile capabilities. It is quite obvious that Russia is attempting to dissuade the West from its intended push against one of Russia's most strategic interests - Iran. It's also quite evident from Trump's gestures today that he is completely unmoved by Russia's message. That can only mean one thing - we are going to war. When I say we, I mean the West. As someone who has served, and the son of a World War II veteran I am disgusted by Western aggression toward Eurasia. Yes, I said Western aggression. Have a look around at all the conflicts going on. They're all going on around Russia's or China's backyard - not so much in the West...

Nobody knows for certain how this will play its deadly hand out. One thing is for certain, scrapping of the Iran Nuclear Agreement appears imminent. Also, a reigniting of the Saudi/Iran conflict is sure to follow. The West will need an easily understandable excuse to attack Iran, and that can only be one of three things really: an attack on Israel; coming to the aid of Saudi; or a North Korea style action against Iran having a nuclear weapon once the aforementioned agreement is unilaterally cancelled.

This won't be a picnic for the West though. Leave a direct conflict with Russia and China out of the equation for the moment. Consider that a Saudi/Iran conflict, or an Israeli/Iran conflict would have the affect of tripling oil prices over night. Then consider a massive sell off on the stock market. Factor in the US Federal Reserves increases in its over night lending rates. All these things, and quite a few economic problems not mentioned here, would plummet the Western economies into a cataclysmic spiral. The markets are very jittery as it is, sensing as they do that things have gone quite far off the tracks. Many people have said to me that such an economic collapse would cause Eurasia to fall as well, but I always answer that statement like this: "Remember in 2008 when the market collapsed? China sent 250 million people home to their villages, without a job, and that was that. There was no revolt, or any social turmoil. If that happened in the US or any Western economy, there would be civil insurrection almost over night. Therein lies the difference. While China would be hurt, it can sustain the blow. The Western world cannot. In other words, a war of economic attrition."

I don't know if there is anything the ordinary citizen can do to forestall this madness - as one American recently said to me: "all I can do is vote". But, I suggest if you like the world in one piece and you are concerned about the end of humanity, get out and say something. Be accountable to yourself, to humanity, and the world. Don't be a sheeple.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Is Putin hurting Russia?

A strong Russia, or perhaps a strong Eurasia, is in the interest of a peaceful world. That may not be the most politically correct position to take as a writer in the West, but I'm convinced of it. Growing up in the Cold War era wasn't easy on the nerves as the great powers from each side starred each other down, but with age comes wisdom, and for me that means an unshakeable belief that nations are people - people are possessed with "want" - and want creates tension. In other words, we as a species aren't happy unless we can control and consume everything we choose, and when we choose it.

Enter modern day Russia. Enter Putin. Ostensibly, Vladimir Putin is serving the function of President of Russia, but in the bigger picture his role (and responsibility) is far greater than that. He, and Russia, are the major force behind a greater Eurasia. You can call it the "Silk Road" or whatever you like, but in reality Eurasia represents a deterrent to American unilateralism (or domination if you like). Putin's job has been to use oil money to rebuild Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, and he has done so with great discipline. The question, however, is whether he can place Russia in the shoes of the Soviet Union and re-establish a multi-polar world. That question is both burning and unanswered.

Just like most things in life, Putin's great strengths are also in many ways Russia's great weaknesses. On the one hand, Putin is a master of the concept "don't use a hammer to kill a fly", but on the other hand he is failing to realize that great statesmanship may necessitate the use of a hammer to send a message to the rest of the flies. In other words, a taking of one's place with authority. His decision to allow Russian athletes to compete at the Olympics while Russia itself was humiliated as a sort of "non-country" is a case in point. Putin had all sorts of reasons for sending his athletes, but he failed his country horribly by doing so. A great power, or even just a self-respecting power, does not allow other nations to disrespect its colours. That is as old as humans' presence on this earth. Yet, Russian athletes were subjected to just that in South Korea. It was the Russian men's hockey team that refused to allow that humiliation to taint them, yet their "unlawful" singing of the Russian national anthem was more an act of defiance than a proclamation. That is a key difference. Great nations do not commit acts of defiance, because to do so is to admit they are unequal - as defiance is the act of the weaker while principled decision is the role of the strongest.

It's important to note, and their must be many in Russia that would agree with this, that a country is meant to be run as a country and not an intelligence agency. Putin, out of necessity and likely habit, has run Russia like an intelligence agent - harkening on his old career no doubt. While those skills may have been well placed in placing Russia back to a position of strength, they now hold Russia back from its position as a great power, and without Russia being a great power America is free to continue its relatively unopposed world rule. The best current example of that is Syria.

Syria is really more of a Putin failure than it is an American success. Putin is deathly afraid of  "another Afghanistan". Afghanistan rings in the Russian ears as Vietnam rang in American ears before Ronald Reagan. Reagan, however, used his popularity  to move the American people past the Vietnam era, and pushed them into global military supremacy. Think what you will of Reagan, but that was an act of great leadership. Unfortunately, it appears Putin is not as confident in his ability to lead the Russian people past their Afghanistan mindset and into their place as an equal super power. Instead he prefers to sit himself, and Russia, in the shadows of international conflicts. His approach is that of an experienced intelligence officer - careful, targeted, and effective. What's wrong with that you might say.

It boils down to this: It's a totally predictable weakness. Great nations make great gestures. The prerequisite of a great nation status is that you will fully commit to the defence of your allies. Now just this week Putin claimed he would do just that, but it's been taken as just talk. And he has often wondered publicly why the West doesn't listen to him. Well the answer is quite simple - they don't respect him. Talk is cheap. The willingness to sacrifice is strength. Putin has not proven by action that he is willing to sacrifice for hos allies or even his country (ie. the recent Olympics). He's going along to get along. Sure Russia has intervened with primarily safe air force assets to stop the overthrow of Assad in Syria, but what else has it accomplished? Syria sits divided, with a now dug in American military presence insuring it remains that way. Instead of taking decisive military action at the very beginning of the conflict, which in this case would have meant sending armed divisions into Syria back in 2013, Putin took the least costly option possible and now faces a direct confrontation with the US to make Syria whole again. Ditto for Ukraine - another frozen conflict and another broken ally.

Indeed, the answer to Putin's public ruminations about the West not listening to his dire warnings lies in his mirror. When unfettered strength has been called for he has used measured responses rather than decisive strength. He has failed to set the tone that would demand respect. You don't pick your battles as the leader of a great nation. Rather, you forcefully engage those that bring battle to your doorstep. If it's war then it's war. If it's peace then it's peace. Israel is a good example of this. The reason the world listens to Israel is because they know that Israel will act - and forcefully so. There is no such feeling now for Russia. That lack of respect is something that is severely undermining the idea of a multi-polar world, and without a multi-polar world then why does Russia even matter? For Putin, the person who  is in place at this time in world history to make it happen, the mission is forget your KGB mentality and be a great statesman of a great power.