Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Canada to do more for NATO?

That's the word from MP Bob Nault, head of the House of Commons' foreign affairs committee.

The thinking is that if the US scales back its contributions to NATO, or abandons it altogether, Canada will step into the breach. If nothing else, that statement gives some sense of the overweening hubris running amok among our military types.

Last year the US spent 600 billions plus on defence. Canada spent 20 billion. But Canada will step into the breach! Now that's called punching above your weight!

I think the best thing that could happen to NATO is that it take the same dive into the dumpster of history as the Warsaw Pact did twenty-five years ago. NATO has been in busy-work mode for a quarter of a century, and it's really hard to see where much of that busy-work has done any good.

Afghanistan?

Libya?

Endless exercises in provocation on Russia's borders?

The best thing Canada could do for Canada is to detach itself from NATO. We don't need to spend more lives and dollars destroying other countries. This will of course be met with howls of outrage from the Naults of the world.

What about our obligations to our allies?

What about our shared values?

Bullshit and double bullshit. Think about the "shared values" of the NATO alliance for a moment. There may have been something to that fifty years ago, when NATO was essentially a combine of white Christian European nations plus the Turkish military. Today many NATO countries take positions on any number of issues that do not resonate at all with values that we consider Canadian. Since the dissolution of the USSR, the only "common value" binding us to our allies is a lingering Russophobia.

As for those obligations to our allies, the two most powerful of them, the US and Turkey, are at this moment engaged in illegal military operations in Syria. What should be our obligation, if any, to allies who flout international law?

It's time Canada disengaged from NATO and pursued a truly independent foreign policy.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Nevermind Israel; apartheid alive and well in Canada

Don't take my word for it. Take the word of Quebec coroner Dr. Bernard Lefrancois. Dr. Lefrancois was tasked with investigating a rash of suicides in a native community on Quebec's North Shore, and in his report, released yesterday, he doesn't hold back from using the "a" word.

Apartheid.

Ironically, on the very day that his report was released, 70 countries, including that most virtuous of The Nations of Virtue, Canada, were convening in Paris for yet another gabfest about Israeli apartheid and the implementation of the "two state solution."

I don't hold out much hope that anything will come of Dr. Lefrancois' report. Reports and inquiries and hearings and investigations into our shamefully shabby treatment of First Nations have been a dismally predictable feature of the news cycle for as long as I can remember. They plop onto the news horizon with a ripple or occasionally a small splash, and are then quickly forgotten.

Nothing changes.

Maybe we'll start taking these matters seriously when 70 nations convene in Paris to discuss a blueprint for a Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction campaign against apartheid in Canada.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

BREAKING: POT-ADDLED HILLBILLY NOT SMOKING POT!

That's right. Haven't fired up a fattie in weeks now.

I'm vaping instead.

Yup, plunked down a hundred bucks for what looks like a cigar tube. You put your stuff in and you push the button, and it's up up and away!

I must admit I knew nothing about this technology, which will come as no surprise to those who have pegged me as a know-nothing all along. But it does prove that, contrary to popular opinion, it is in fact possible to teach an old dog new tricks.

One thing I've learned is you can smoke the same shit more than once. Like, that is beyond cool! Who knew?

Well, Junior knew for one. In fact, when I shared this revelation with him, he says, "hey Dad, you can smoke it three or four times in your vaporiser, and then you can knock it out and twist it up and it'll get you high again!"

Get the fuck outta here, I thought.

But it turns out Junior knows way more about ganja in the modern era than I do. Sure enough, you can puff on that vaporiser three or four times, roll up the dregs in a zigzag, and get high again on the same shit!

That is simply fucking amazing!

I've got a whole new attitude about the concept of "progress!"

In praise of Beppi Crosariol

Once again a weekend comes and goes, and once again I contemplate returning my weekend Globe & Mail to The Korean for a refund.

But along comes Beppi, their intrepid wine columnist, who poses the question; "drink less or drink smarter?"

Not that he's the only writer worth reading this weekend. Far from it! A lot of the regulars must still be off on their holidays, because John Doyle has way more column inches than usual, and he's always worth a look.

And Eric Reguly has a provocative piece about the folks who brought you the recession of '08.

But it's Beppi who saves the day. In response to his own rhetorical question, he puts the ixnay on drinking less in favour of drinking smarter.

Building on Beppi's foundation, it didn't take long for me to devise a strategy whereby I could actually drink more and drink smarter!

Thank you Beppi Crosariol!

The Korean is off the hook for at least another week!

Friday, January 13, 2017

What's left?

Back in the day, it was a pretty straight-forward thing distinguishing right from left on the political spectrum. The right was where you found your reactionaries and warmongers. The left was the "progressive" side of the spectrum. The left was pro-labour, pro-women's rights, pro-choice, anti-racist, anti-war, and if not out and out anti-capitalist, at least acknowledged that the titans of industry and the big banks needed to be kept on a short regulatory leash.

Those were the days when the top union boss at the UE, which represented the workers at the General Electric plant where I cut my welding teeth, was an out-and-out self-confessed commie. Not a "liberal," not a "social democrat," not even a "socialist," but a full-bore communist. Yup, that was CS Jackson. And, may I add, he was a mightily effective union leader to boot.

Today, distinguishing left from right is a much more nebulous undertaking. As I tour the blogosphere, I encounter a gusher of references to "rabid leftists," "left-wing extremists," and "die-hard socialists." At first blush one is inclined to be impressed at the robust health of the left in American politics today!

Then you realize that all these references are to the Democratic party and its acolytes...

Bummer, man!

Sad to say, the Democratic party today is at least as reactionary and warmongering as their Republican counterparts, if not more so. And at least as pro-capitalist. Hillary Clinton, the "left" candidate, just spent 1.2 billion dollars, provided mainly by the big banks and the war profiteers, in the most expensive election campaign in US history, only to be defeated by a reality TV personality who spent a small fraction of that and got virtually nothing from the big banks and the warmongers.

What the fuck goes on here?

Back in the day, we could rely on the media to explain things, and if we didn't like the explanations provided by so-called mainstream media, there existed a thriving alternative media happy to fill in the blanks. Today the mainstream media is totally in the pocket of the "deep state" and the alternative media hysterically informs us that Obama has a communist agenda.

CS Jackson must be spinning in his grave...

But at least what's left of the UE had the good sense to endorse the Sanders campaign.

Alas, we know how that ended.

What's left?

Not much... but there is hope! Bernie's short-lived run as a socialist proved that there's a hunger in America for real change. Bernie's unfortunate capitulation to the corrupt Dem party machine put an end to that.

But the hunger remains.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The strategic thinking behind Trump's cabinet picks

Looks to me like Trump is using the same strategy in choosing his cabinet that an aspiring middle-school teacher would use in managing a classroom.

Pick out the leaders of the various cliques, get them aboard, and then let them deal with the naysayers and upstarts. Once the factional leaders have pledged allegiance to the alpha dog, the grumblers will eventually shut up and fall in line.

Works in the classroom. Will it work for Trump?

That's one reason Trump's cabinet is full of GS alumni. Wall Street may be reluctant to take direction from Donny J, but when there's a half dozen former GS heavy hitters in the Trump cabinet, at least you know Wall Street will be paying attention.

So if the decree comes down from the top of Trump Tower that there's a one-time window for corporate tax avoiders to repatriate their off-shored billions at a low rate, those corporate types will be far more amenable to hearing that message if it comes from their GS brothers than if it came from the tax-evader-in-chief.

Same goes for General "Mad Dog" Mattis. By all accounts he's a highly respected guy the length and breadth of the military establishment. When the order comes down to close half of America's offshore military bases, the folks being downsized are going to be way more amenable to the message if it comes from General Mattis than they would be if it came from some unruly NYC condo developer with fake hair.

One thing that I'd wager on with 100% certainty is that, unlike Barry O and W before him, Mr. Trump will never be a prisoner of his cabinet.

Time will tell.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

How mining companies give taxpayers the shaft

Sad story in my Globe and Mail today about the Faro mine in Yukon. Justin Giovannetti tells us all about the fallout after the world's biggest open pit mine was abandoned. It's a good story as far as it goes. As a taxpayer and a citizen it's certainly important to be informed of a major environmental threat and what the government is doing about.

What the government has been doing about it is cooking up a remediation plan. The plan has been in the planning process for 18 years now, and get this; work should start in 2023! In the meanwhile, planning takes a lot of money - at least 250 millions thus far! And that's just the planning! The actual remediation is expected to cost at least a billion!

That's a lot of cash and a fascinating story, but what would have been interesting is some discussion about how this ended up being a taxpayer liability. All Giovannetti tells us is that "...the owner went bankrupt, dumping one of Canada's largest environmental liabilities into the lap of the federal government."

Yup, just like that!

Now the story, to my way of thinking, would be far more informative if we knew a little more about those owners who went bankrupt. Obviously, a lot of people must have made a lot of money during the lifespan of what was once the world's biggest open pit mine. Why aren't they cleaning up after themselves?

The lead-zinc motherlode at Faro was discovered by a guy named Al Kulan. He teamed up with an established American mining multi-national, Cyprus Mines, and Cyprus Anvil was born. The CEO of Cyprus Mines at the time was a guy named Henry Mudd. Check out his wikipedia page and you'll see he's mostly famous for his philanthropy; giving money away. He obviously had plenty of it coming in.

Cyprus Mines changed hands and was controlled by Amoco, the US oil giant, at the time Faro closed in the early '80s. They have plenty of money too. Most Cyprus properties eventually ended up with Freeport McMoRan, a company with revenues of almost 16 billion US dollars in 2015.

Amoco, via its subsidiary Dome Petroleum, sold the mine to a rising star in the mining industry, Clifford Frame. Frame has twice been honoured by The Northern Miner as its "Miner of the Year." Frame went on to a measure of infamy thanks to the Westray mine disaster in Nova Scotia in which 26 of his employees died. Here's a fascinating article about Mr. Frame's business practices from Paul McKay at the Ottawa Citizen. Mr. Frame is now 83 years old and fabulously wealthy. No word on whether he's kicking in a few bucks towards the cleanup costs.

Mr. Frame fobbed the Faro mine off on another Toronto mining promoter, and this is the guy who went bankrupt in Giovannetti's story. But he personally didn't go bankrupt - just the company that owned the mine! He too is fabulously wealthy and remains active in the mining community.

So this is what would make a fabulous story, or at least flesh out Giovannetti's version. Lots of folks made lots of money in the relatively short life span of the Faro mine. How do they get to keep their millions but the taxpayer gets stuck with the billion dollar plus tab to clean up their mess!

Sadly, this is far from an isolated incident. Remember Royal Oak Mines? Peggy Witte was the darling of the business pages in The Globe and Mail for a few years, a tough woman making it in the macho world of mining. She too has a "Miner of the Year" trophy on her mantle. She too left a billion dollar mess for the taxpayer to tidy up.

And then there's those 150,000 orphan oil and gas wells awaiting taxpayer remediation in Alberta alone.

That's how we roll in Canada! Some entrepreneurial genius comes up with a scheme. They get laudatory press coverage galore and oodles of government subsidies. Then, when the mine or the well is worked out and our entrepreneurial whiz kids are long gone, leaving the taxpayer holding the bag, that same press can't even remember their names.