Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Monday, October 31, 2016

After ISIS.

As the Syrian army, with support from Hezbollah and Russia crushes ISIS in Aleppo,  and as the Iraqi Army with support from Shite Militias and the US squeezes ISIS in Mosul, the next step becomes the big question. Will the US respect the wishes of the Syrian government and leave the Syria battle to its government and the Russian military, or will the US ignore the sovereign rights of the Syrian government and push to install a Kurdistan from North Eastern Syria and North Western Iraq? That is really the $1 million question. Will things escalate between Russia and the US on this battlefield or will there be a recognition of traditional spheres of influence.

Traditionally and historically, Turkey has done everything within its power to thwart a Kurdish state. Whether it be decades long intelligence/military operations against the Kurds within Turkey itself, or whether it be actual uninvited military incursions into Syria and/or Iraq to attack Kurdish fighting elements, the Turkish position has always been against the development of any Kurdish state. Given that the Kurds are claiming a good portion of South Eastern Turkey as part of the new Kurdistan one can somewhat understand the Turkish policy toward the Kurds. However, the result has been ongoing turmoil within the region for decades.

As it stands now the main force of the Syrian army, and allies, are focused around the Aleppo area in a time consuming fight in that city. The Turkish army has invaded and driven south toward the Al Raqqa area, although not to the city itself. Instead the Turks have pivoted east to take on the Kurds and drive them to at least behind the Euphrates River that runs through central Syria. At first the US had agreed to the Kurds withdrawing, but that seems to have changed and the Kurds are standing their ground. Meantime, the bulk of Iraqi forces are surrounding Mosul from three sides, but thus far leaving the western side of the city relatively open - which could allow the ISIS elements and others in the city to retreat westward to Syria. Curiously, a large contingent of Shite militia are attempting to cut off that exit by flanking Mosul, however Turkey has since warned them not to take the strategic city between Mosul and Al Raqqa that would cut off the ISIS retreat. All very complicated.

Bottom line is that within three months both Mosul and Aleppo will be liberated from ISIS and other Islamic forces. The race will then be on to take ISIS's capital Raqqa. Currently the Kurds, with their American allies, are closer than anyone else - other than the Turks. And that brings the Turkish role to the forefront. First point: Turkey is only in Syria because Russia allowed it to be so. Shortly after Turkey reconciled with Russia that country's army militarily intervened from the north, and secured its border with Syria. That effectively sealed any chance ISIS could resupply or sell oil to the north without Turkey's approval, and if Turkey approved such an action its relationship with Russia would be over before it started. So Russia's plan for Turkey was to seal the border first. Mission accomplished. In return, Turkey got the green light to go after the Kurds from Russia, but not the US.

Phase two, which hasn't happened just yet, will be Turkey sweeping into Raqqa before the Kurds and the US can. The Syrian army is out of position to move on Raqqa before anyone else does, because they are still fighting to the south along the Lebanon border. They must also retake Dayr az Zawr located strategically south of Raqqa and on the wrong side of the Euphrates River for anything other than a cross river assault - which would involve massive casualties and every chance of a serious defeat. So bank on it that Russia has already got Turkey to take on Raqqa. It suits both of their purposes.

Once that battle takes place, and the remnants of ISIS are trapped on the Syrian-Iraqi border, the focus turns to restoring the territorial integrity of not just Syria, but also Iraq. The area is rich in oil reserves - a wealth that both countries will need to rebuild their war-torn countries. However, American oil companies have strong ties and contracts with the Kurds in northern Iraq,  and are likely expecting the same kind of concessions in north eastern Syria. It is at this point in the conflict when push will come to shove. Russia will have no choice to back the Syrian military in recovering all their territory, and that means driving the Kurds from all of Syria. That will also involve driving all the Americans out of Syria to. Considering the US has opened an air force base in north east Syria, in Kurdish controlled territory, it is easy to see how this battle will escalate. Likely, the only factor that could stop an actual military confrontation between the US and Russia in eastern Syria would be the election of Donald Trump. He has pledged to work with Russia on destroying ISIS and my analysis of him is that he's a deal maker that would seed Syria because the it is Russia's sphere of influence. That is the only action that could stop a direct escalation between Russia and the US.

In case you haven't heard, Russia has mobilized its sole aircraft carrier, along with warships and submarines to the coast of Syria. It is also expanding the facilities of its Syrian air base. The Chinese have also declared they are prepared to intervene militarily on Syria's side. What we are witnessing right now is not the Russians preparing for immanent action in Syria. They are instead prepositioning resources for a much larger battle with the US and its allies. The Americans are doing the same thing by position naval forces off the coast near Syria, and massively reinforcing the air base at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. If Trump does not win the US Presidential election, and reverse the show down in Syria, then these prepositioned forces will engage each other. That's why they're there. They're not there to take on rebels, or ISIS or Hezbollah, or Kurds or the Syrian army.

It has to be said that a lot rides on the result of that politicians gone wild election to the south of our country. On the one hand a deal maker who is not opposed to pulling the US back from the "policeman of the world" self-appointed status it has generally abused for the last two decades. He may be a chauvinistic you know what, but he may not be a blood thirsty imperialist - so that's ok by me if the choice comes down to it. Hillary Clinton on the other hand has been shown to be an instrument of the big corporations that are driving America's foreign policy, and also driving it to placing it and the rest of us in the world in mortal danger. So, my fingers and toes are crossed that the egotistical chauvinist isolationist wins in a few days from now, and not the corrupt insider doing the bidding of those that not only do not respect humanity, but in fact see it as a mere inconvenience in a quest to have the world as they see it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Labrador Down

I've never been to Labrador before, yet I've fought to stop Muskrat Falls in the courts and outside them for five years. It seemed the right time, and many people there encouraged me to come (see Facebook) so my wife and I set out ready to support the "land protectors" with everything we had. One ominous message on Facebook suggested something different though:

"...he is a politician trying to get attention." That came from Charlotte Wolfrey, Status of Women Coordinator, Nunatsiavut Government.

An interesting statement to be sure. While some may remember my foray into Newfoundland politics back in early 2011 and 2012, I have primarily been focused on defeating Muskrat Falls during and since that time. So I found Ms. Wolfrey's statement a little strange. That being said we arrived in Goose Bay Sunday to lend a hand. Literally within 30 minutes of arriving and chatting with some trappers and other folks at the Muskrat Falls gate an irate lady started tearing into me that she did not want me there. After a fair bit of prodding I was able to find out she also worked for the Nunatsiavut government. I tried to calm her, but she wouldn't leave me alone and followed me throughout the demonstration site day and evening. Shortly after that incident a man named Roy Blake began yelling my name and came after me publicly for sending messages to my friend who was with the land protectors inside Muskrat Falls. He too ended up being an elected member of the Nunatsiavut Government. (he subsequently apologized to me several times which was honourable). However, a certain trend was beginning to stick in my mind.

Perhaps these attacks on me were coming from my opposition to Universal Helicopter ferrying in workers to the Muskrat Falls site while the protesters laboured below to stop workers coming in? That's initially what I thought, but then some other conversations on the side started to point in a different direction. Truthfully, I don't view myself as a person with a high profile. I approach people in that way. People were telling me though that the Nunatsiavut government considered my profile a threat (to their control of the protest apparently). I only relay this story because it points to the rest of the story - the betrayal of Labrador at the hands of its Aboriginal leadership.

You see, the story of Labrador's betrayal lies in control. Control of the many by the few. I spoke to many of the people at the main protest camp and gate and got a good feel for their position. They were worried about their way of life. Period. Hunting, fishing, living off the land. That was their concern. That is why they were there and that is what they were fighting for. However, in the background scurrying amongst the protesters were what I would call "organizers". These organizers were the ones that came after me. Their job, evidently, was to shepherd the crowd about, keep tabs on what was being said and feed information about. In other words, they were controlling it. At least most of it - the Innu seemed quite independent and doing their own thing. Some people complained that Todd Russell was nowhere to be found unless a camera was there, and others were upset that the Grand Innu Chief said Nunatsiavut was simply looking for money by way of an Impacts and Benefits Agreement for the methylmercury poisoning. Mark me down as agreeing with her position on that one.

There is no question that the Nunatsiavut Government used the methylmercury issue, at the last moment, to try and strong arm the government for money (or an IBA as the Grand Chief of the Innu said). They tried to control every aspect of the protest, including criticizing the hunger strikers methods of protesting - which given its effectiveness and popularity was somewhat suspect. Their organizers on the ground shunned the idea of people camping in the flood zone which would have been a much more effective way to protest and stop flooding. A group of Innu finally took it upon themselves to do just that by setting up tents on the North Spur on Monday. Furthermore, the leader of the group of land protectors inside the Muskrat Falls camp was an Innu - David Nuke. From my perspective on the ground the Innu were the least boisterous, but most serious of the aboriginal groups in their opposition. It was evident.

Finally of course there were the "settlers", which basically encompasses anyone living in Labrador that isn't Aboriginal. They didn't get a voice at the table when Ball met with the Aboriginal leaders, yet some of them were the people that originally started the protest. By way of example, David Nuke was asked to give an inspirational speech to the original few protesters by a "settler". That one speech ended up getting him inspired enough to join and in many ways lead the group that entered the Muskrat Falls camp. The bottom-line for most protesters I spoke to was stopping the flooding so their way of life would not be ended. Most were extremely sincere. A few, it was obvious. were cheer leading more than believing.

Then disaster struck. With the backing of the country, and even encouraging statements from the Prime Minister (finally) that science must prevail, the three Aboriginal leaders met with Premier Ball. The result? Catastrophe for the people of Labrador. The flooding will proceed of the initial 25% of the reservoir. The promise? To drain that 25% in the spring if science dictates it should be done. This would be laughable if it wasn't so tragic. It is a known scientific fact that the moment the water becomes trapped in the reservoir, and begins interacting with the soil, that mercury is released from the soil and is converted to methylmercury. That's the science. It's pretty basic. The agreement these leaders agreed to was to unleash methylmercury into the river, and then "possibly" drain that area after the fact and remove the soil and trees. As if somehow there would be no poisoning of the river by these actions. It is bizarre. Here is the demands of the Nunatsiavut President 5 days before the "negotiations" started:

“Unless all vegetation and soil is removed the threat to our health, culture and way of life remains,” he says. “Nalcor should also be directed to delay plans to begin initial flooding of the reservoir (which would see water levels rise from 18 to 25 metres) to allow for the removal of trees, vegetation and topsoil. Initial flooding is expected to take place within days, and once you flood the land the damage has been done. There’s no turning back then.”

"There is no turning back then" His words, not mine, even though it is blatantly obvious to anyone with grade 12 science. Here is the link . Yet, after 12 hours of negotiation he completely capitulated. He wasn't the only one. The Innu and Nunatukavut leader did the same. The promise they received was a spot on an "advisory committee". Having served on an advisory committee federally I know that these committees do nothing more than give advice in the end - which can be totally ignored. Ball said as much when he admitted to the press that the government doesn't give up the power of decision making to advisory groups. Translation: We flood the reservoir exactly as we wanted; we'll think about maybe emptying it in the spring to clear all the soil and trees; and we'll look at what your advisory committee suggests for the rest of reservoir, but no promises as we'll make the final decision. In other words, all the people that protested, went on hunger strikes and generally put themselves out there (including getting arrested) wasted every moment of their time and energy in doing so. They were betrayed at the last minute when they knew their position was strong and determined.

There are only a few ways this scenario can go after this: more compliance or more protest. The people that live along the river, and in the area, will see the end of their way of life unless they want to risk being poisoned. The Aboriginal leaders will have their little advisory committee and no doubt dollars to fund their own contributions to it. The settlers will be stuck in their usual position - afraid to raise objections for fear of being tagged as meddling at best or racist at the worse. Either way, this is the end of something beautiful that Labrador had to offer its people, and others from around world. This is Labrador down.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Why Trump Won

America is black and white - it's not red, white and blue. Unless you understand that very crucial foundation you will never understand what's happening there right now. In America, you are a winner or you're a loser. There is no soft, squishy middle ground. There is no "oh he came so close". You either win or you don't. Even if it's by one point, a win is a win. That is America. That is crucial to understanding why Trump has been winning and why he won the US Presidential debate last night.

Since Trump began his journey in politics he has been sniped by the US media incessantly. He has been probably the most character assassinated politician in US history - or at least recent history. When he ran for the Republican nomination he was singled out by the media and the Republican establishment. Almost every month, sometimes less, a "great white hope" would be thrown up as a sacrificial lamb to challenge him with the desperate hope that one could stop him from attaining the nomination. The media fed off it, and yes most certainly fanned it throughout. Yet, Trump won the nomination despite all of it.

Now he's onto the presidential race, and it's a bit of deja vu. Except, this time around, there is one not interchangeable opponent - although the establishment has been desperately arguing for Trump to be replaced. As each week, now day, that passes the political establishment of the US gets obviously desperate to stop Trump. That "establishment" crosses party lines by the way - in case you thought it didn't. A good example is the Republican Speaker of the House who has tried to knee cap Trump from within since day one. All very public of course. Then there are the representatives publicly pulling themselves away from supporting him. And then there is the Republican business types. And so it goes.

What the establishment seems to be missing in the whole equation is that throughout this two year long, historically unprecedented character assassination of the man, his polling numbers have stayed firm. As it stands now, depending on which poll you believe, Trump is within five percent of Clinton. That is really quite extraordinary considering the massive media and political resources that have gone into degrading the man publicly. It is that extraordinary result that speaks to a deeper, darker truth about America today - the country is at war with itself.

More specifically, the majority of Americans are turning on their political and business establishment - sometimes referred to as the "1%". The last decade has seen the fall of confidence in almost everything considered "American" by the US public. The fall, manipulation and dishonesty of the stock markets. The massive growth of the US debt. The housing bubble that destroyed so many lives. Wars in the Middle East that have killed and maimed thousands of Americans, and show no sign of relenting despite being hopeless. Viewed through the black and white glasses of the average American their system is falling in upon itself - which it is.

The big question in their minds becomes: "who is to blame". The answer has become the establishment. The 1% if you will. The people who lined their own pockets for all it was worth, broke every rule to do it, and then sailed away without penalty. The people who over saw their friends doing it and either assisted them, or turned a blind eye faking ignorance when caught out. This has become America. Americans see it to. They know Snowden was telling them the truth now about mass surveillance. They know Assange was giving them the truth as his organization leaked email after email of the "establishment looking after the establishment". And now the age of social media has changed where people get their information from. They've seen how the CNN's of the world have fed them spoon after spoon of spin, so now they've turned in big numbers to the internet to educate themselves.

Not only is the US establishment losing control on its grip of power, but the US media is rapidly losing its power to influence. All a result of breaking the simple rule: "Use power, but abuse it and lose it." It's a simple truth that still holds all to true. That's where Trump comes in. Now Trump is no angel - far from it. For starters he needs to drop the whole "Mussolini face" that he constantly projects on TV (ditto for his sons). Mussolini was strung up on a lamp pole by the masses, so if he wants to be the man of the masses he needs to hold his chin and gaze level. But I'm getting side tracked.

Trump has become the Captain of the anti-establishment movement in the US. He was never really a Republican (whatever that is) in the first place. He smartly realized that as an independent he had no hope of success in an election, so that brand was needed to get him in the race, and it did. Now he has the brand, and it can't be pulled away, he can be the independent he always was. It is that "independent" position that will endear him to, guess who - independents. That's the swing vote that wins you a US election. As America reals against its establishment Trump floats with it. "Just words folks. Just words" is the famous line. Or at least it should be, because each time he says it the American people remember how many times they've been given "just words" just to see it come to nothing. Here's three words that should jog your memory: "Yes we can!". And so it goes.

George Bush used to say: "don't piss on my boots and tell me it's raining". That's exactly where the American people are today. All Trump is doing is telling them they're right to feel that way. The more the Democrats, and their establishment buddies in the Republicans or in business hit at Trump they are really hitting at those Americans that think exactly the way he does.

I've seen this movie before, just on a smaller scale. I've been in breakfast meetings with senior Conservative backroom boys (and girls) when they would go on and on how they simply could not understand why Brian Mulroney was hated so much by the people as Prime Minister. It didn't matter how much you tried to enlighten them, which really shouldn't have been necessary, they just couldn't see it. I suppose there are none so blind as those that refuse to see. The ones that utter: "let them eat cake", or the ones that ignore four sexually abused women sitting right in front of them. Indeed, that is why Trump won the debate, and that's why he will win the November election.