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, October 31, 2010

Not So Swift Afghan Policy

This week Russian military forces conducted operations in Afghanistan...say what? The news of the joint American-Russian military operation against a drug target in Afghanistan was interesting to say the least. Only those in the corridors of power would know why this particular drug operation was targeted or why the Russians of all people were involved. There must be a very good reason. Question is: "Does the means help the ends?"

Think for a moment that it was only just over a two decades ago that the Russians left Afghanistan thus ending their nine year occupation of that country. It took the Russians only two days to capture Kabul, but nine years to realize they could not hold it. They suffered 25,000 dead and 37,000 wounded depending on which set of numbers you believe. Nothing compared to the massive attrocities inflicted upon the people of Afghanistan. Estimates of Afghan deaths are between 1-2 million people. 1.2 million people disabled. 3 million mamed or wounded. 5-10 million people fled to Pakistan or Iran - one third of Afghanistan's pre-war population. A further two million displaced internally within the country. As mind boggling as those numbers are, consider the destruction of the country itself. Irrigation systems, crucial to agriculture all but destroyed by Soviet aerial bombing. Water systems poisoned. Villages, towns, cities destroyed and depopulated. In other words, the Soviets/Russians layed Afghanistan to waste.

Consider then how the Afghan population must have felt when Russian troops entered their territory in force for an organized military operation - and as guests of the Americans. The Taliban must have been doing cart wheels at the sheer magnitude of the publicity this presented to them. A recruiting tool unmatched since the first Soviet invasion. Unbelievable. You have to think that at the highest levels these decisions must be well thought out, and sanctioned. The pros must out weigh the cons. Yet that is hard to see or believe in this case.

Certainly if you are the Russians, read: Putin, you are happy to be flexing muscle back in the old neighborhood. You can go in, get out, and suffer relatively little expense. It's a hint of "what we could do, should we choose to." A little macho strut - not unlike some of the other macho goings on in Russian politics prior to the next Presidential election. However, this time everyone has egg on their face.

Our alliance, NATO, has been battling for control of Afghanistan now for some nine years. The stated objective has been to win the hearts and minds battle with the Taliban for the proverbial soul of the Afghan people. The stated purpose of our occupation being to help rebuild Afghanistan and create a viable democracy for the benefit of its people. And then we invite the Russians in? The people that layed waste to the country and within living memory. The Afghan President was dumbfounded and embittered. Easy to understand why when you consider he is the one that must explain this to his people.

It is really a complete breakdown of intelligence to allow such a slap in the face to the Afghan people. It is the height of insensitivity to allow Russian soldiers across the border and into a country that they so recently committed such atrocities to. It almost begs the question: "Are they trying to win the war, or are they trying to amp it up?" Is such a small, and relatively insignificant raid worth undoing nine years of work, and legitimizing the Taliban in the eyes of those undecided or leaning Afghans? Don't the Afghan people deserve better, and more sensitive care at our hands than that? We believe in upholding to them a different standard than the cut throat, barbaric world that has been much of their lives. And then they bring in the Russians. You really have to feel for those people.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Quebec route vs Under the Sea

This weekend, at the annual convention of the Progresive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams made it known - Newfoundland will proceed with a sub-sea cable to transmit power from Labrador to eastern markets. Thus, hopefully, ending the debate of selling further power to Quebec for it to retail to the rest of the east.

Of course much of the debate, if not all, was created by the duplicitous actions of Hydro Quebec and the Power Contract of 1969. While hopefully the debate ended this weekend, politically there was absolutely no other option open to the Newfoundland government. To be exact, the cost of the Upper Churchill Falls contract to date, and projected to 2041, at current rates will be aproximately 91.5 billion dollars. That is 91.5 billion dollars Canadian. That is Newfoundlands direct cost. It is necessary to view it in that light as these are revenues that the Newfoundland people did not get to realize. This is money that is floating the mammoth Hydro-Quebec and the neo-nationalist agenda it and the political elite of Quebec perpetuate. On the backs of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. They know it and we know it. The animosity this betrayal has created will last intergenerationally, and now has the potential to permanently imprint itself on Newfoundland's political culture.

In reality, therefore, there was never really any chance Quebec would get it's hands on even one more nano watt of Newfoundland's power. Ironically, there are still some in the form of the provincial Liberal Party that espouse a positive view of any business relationship with Hydro Quebec.  Whether it be on open air radio shows or in the provincial media, they push the view that our business relationship with Hydro Quebec was, and is, a good one. Hard to imagine. In a sadomasochistic way I suppose, if you're into that, which most of us are not. Perhaps that is one of the fundamental reasons the provincial Liberals in Newfoundland are not even on the radar politicially. Or in the hearts and minds of the people.

In any case, with the partial development of the Lower Churchill, and just as importantly the laying of the sub-sea cables to Nova Scotia, a new era is on the horizon for Canada's "newest and coolest" province. Whether the Upper Churchill Falls contract expires by natural death in 2041, or suffers a more immediate termination, the sub-sea cables will be ready to transmit that power to the eastern seaboard. Energy, and perhaps financial, independence will become a reality and those blessings will give a long overdue bounty to the great people of Newfoundland and Labrador. They overwelmingly deserve it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A tempest in a ...

This week our Premier landed himself in some hot water - with some folks. During a press conference he assailed the Mayor of Marystown for assinine comments, and stated that he - the Mayor that is, didn't count. In fact, he essentially accused him of grandstanding over the federal naval ship building contracts. Perhaps the wording "doesn't count" was unfortunate. Perhaps it was said out of frustration.

The Mayor of Marystown is no innocent player afterall. To be specific - he's a bit of a political opportunist. At one point in his career he vied for the PC nomination in his riding and lost. He then ran for the liberal nomination and won. He then ran in the provincial election and lost. That about sums it up.

As a Mayor, and speaking as a former one myself, you don't attack the provincial government unless all avenues have been exhausted and you are certain the provincial side is not looking after your best interests. I for one, and probably atleast 85 percent of Newfoundlanders would have a hard time believing that Premier Danny Williams would do anything to harm the progress, financially or otherwise, of Newfoundland. The man has built himself the most envied political reputation, in recent political history atleast, as one who looks after the people of Newfoundland. Ask a Newfoundlander about Danny Williams and they will tell you: "the only Premier that's ever stood up for Newfoundland". Don't believe me? Try it.

He has taken on the major oil companies, the federal government, the Quebec government, and most recently it looks as though Vale may be next. The bottom line is he has the dollars to back up his talk, and he uses that for the benefit of the people of Newfoundland - to the best of his ability. He is only human, and makes mistakes from time to time, but not at the deliberate cost to his people - unlike so many politicians we have seen across this country. Given all his commitment toward the people and the province is it any wonder he would take great offence to the comments made by the Mayor?

Essentially, this liberal biased Mayor tried to embarrass the Premier for political gain. Pure and simple. It's no coincidence that the liberal party are all rushing to the Mayor's defence. It gives them a wedge issue to portray the Premier as arrogant and detached from the ordinary people. However, and under closer scrutiny, the questions should really be headed in the direction of the Mayor and not the Premier. Why would a Mayor on the short list for a life saving multi-billion dollar contract come out publicly, and the press is as public as you can get, and essentially question the Premier's integrity. Afterall, to say the provincial government needs to do something to help Marystown implies that it is doing nothing. In other words, the provincial government doesn't care enough to help create massive employment and substantial economic growth to the area. From my knowledge of Mr. William's, and for that matter his government, I would say that nothing could be further from the truth. Another question to the Mayor might be: "What do you expect the Premier to do when the military contract is a federal matter and soley under federal jurisdiction?" Clearly, this Mayor is not acting out of the best interests of his citizens, unless he sees publicly embarrassing the Premier as oil to grease the federal wheels.

Bottom line, as a Mayor you are supposed to act in a bipartisan fashion. Your focus is meant to build concensus, and not to be the agent of dissension. How does it serve the purpose of your citizenry to try and gain "sound bites" for your own apparent publicity? Sure the Premier could have chosen his words better, but very few people in Newfoundland question his loyalty to them. That is the highest compliment any politician can have. Perhaps the Mayor needs to learn that lesson. Perhaps the media should be asking the Mayor how his attacks on the provincial government, and it's leader, help the cause of Marystown?