Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Now that rivers of blood flow in South Sudan, where are those American "policy wonks" who took credit for its creation?

The smug tone of this Reuters story from a couple years ago was nauseatingly offensive then and is even more so now. It is infused from beginning to end with the hubris of privileged white folks dictating to "the darkies" what's best for them.

Not that those meddling Americans would ever use that kind of language. Nope, these would be leading edge capacity builders and civil society enablers and all that other bogus shit that front-runs the neo-colonial drive to get once and for all what we missed last time.

The entire neo-colonial enterprise is naked greed dressed up in the "white man's burden." The drive to "help" the po' folks of South Sudan was motivated by nothing other than the humanitarian instincts of those policy wonks. The oil and other resources in that new country they created had absolutely nothing to do with it.

The New York Times has gone from cheer-leading to hand-wringing in its coverage of South Sudan. It's all about the tribalism, don't you know... meanwhile, African news sources tell a different story.

We've said it before and here it is again; Africa needs to be left to Africans. The do-gooders and the prospectors and the fast-buck artists and the policy wonks and the 101 flavours of evangelists and AFRICOM need to find their busy-work somewhere else.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Should Air Canada fire those baggage handlers?

Air Canada, the once-bankrupt flag carrier for Canada, has recently become the darling of the stock markets.

Frankly, that's an embrace they would do well to avoid.

Anybody who has followed the up and down and down and down trajectory of big-name airlines over the past fifty years knows that whenever a big carrier is having a golden moment in the stock markets, it's time to go short.

The big airplane manufacturers are so hard up for clients that they offer financing deals that make the "zero percent financing" of the big car companies look predatory by comparison. All you need to score 100% financing at 0% interest from Boeing or Bombardier is some vague bullshit business plan that promises them you might need a few of their planes five or ten years down the road.

And of course you need two or three right now just to get the ball rolling.


No money down and no payments till 2020!

Honestly, it's easier to start an airline than to start a retail clothing shop in your local mall.

The proof of this is the regular cycle of airline bankruptcies.

Eventually they have to pay some bills and they can't...

They declare bankruptcy and start over under a new name a month later.

Because all those heavily subsidized aircraft manufacturers have tons of product to sell...

But back to those Air Canada baggage handlers. Should they be fired?

Air Canada management, like everyone else, knows that they have achieved their "success" by grinding down the wages of everyone from pilots to flight attendants to baggage handlers.

It's become a never-ending race to an ever-receding bottom. If a few workers take some short-cuts to make their jobs do-able, well, that's life in the age of efficiency. I'm sure that if some alert passenger hadn't made of video of this incident, Air Canada wouldn't give it a second thought.

But, thanks to that video, they now need to feign concern for customers.

They should not be fired, but they will be.

After all, Air Canada's share price is on a roll, and we can't afford to jeopardize that.

Making Russia disappear; hanky-panky in the blogosphere

On a typical day this blog can expect to get 50 or 60 page views from Russia. In the three years I've been putting out this unique combine of investment tips, political commentary, highly selective personal memoir, and downright awful offal, page views from Russia rank third in number, after only the US and Canada.

So when there are zero page views for several days in a row, I know something is going on.

My Russian readers are back, as of shortly after noon today. 

It's as if a tap was turned off, and then turned on again.

Was it something I said?

Russians enjoy something lacking in much of the Western world; leadership. There's not a whole lot of folks who don't understand who is in charge in Russia.

We can disagree to the nth degree over whether the man governs for "the people" or for a mafia of oligarchs, but we can all agree that one man is in charge.

Nobody is sure who is in charge in America, but most people are agreed that it ain't Obama. The "Oracle of Nairobi" has pretty much dropped the ball on every file that he's ever handled. 

Single payer universal health care morphs into the biggest profit subsidy for private health care ever imagined.

Closing Gitmo morphs into keeping that festering sore open forever, or till the last inmate dies.

Hope and change morphs into dope and rage...

"Red lines" come and go, as well they should, because most of what comes out of Obama's mouth is about political expediency that doesn't look more than 15 minutes into the future.

The Ukraine fiasco is that only because Obama couldn't decide, and still hasn't, what America's "strategic interests" are in that corner of the world. And unless you buy into the "American exceptionalism" fantasies of the PNAC crowd, you have to admit there are none.

A cursory reading of history and a glance at a map will confirm that Russia, on the other hand, does indeed have legitimate strategic interests in Ukraine, specifically in Crimea, and it didn't take Putin long to act in the interests of the nation he is leading.

The presumptuous dilettantism of Nuland and Pyatt was nipped in the bud before they were done congratulating themselves on their "revolution."

That has of course led to the most embarrassing howls of outrage from the PNAC acolytes in Washington, and also from their more devout devotees like Tusk in Poland and the incomparable Harper-Baird combination in Canada.

I don't for a moment imagine that Putin is some sort of modern day messiah who is leading his people to the promised land. But I do believe he is a hard-nosed realist who is preventing Russia from being steam-rollered by the "American exceptionalism" juggernaut that rules Washington and most of its helper-states these days.

And for that Mr. Putin should be celebrated.

Cathal Kelly rides his anti-Putin bona fides to a slot at Canada's newspaper of record

The big dogs at the Globe keep an eye out for up-and-coming talent they can poach from their competitors. Therefore it was no surprise to see Cathal Kelly disappear from the pages of the soft-lib Star and show up instead in the pages of the more serious news organization around the corner.

I'm guessing it was this seamless melding of sports reporting with political commentary that sealed the deal.

Kelly establishes his mastery of geo-politics with the first two sentences; Vladimir Putin doesn't make entrances. Like the devil, he appears.

I'm sure that his former professors at whatever journalism school Kelly attended were cringing by the time they got that far.

It only gets worse. Kelly destroys virtually every convention of professional journalism with a non-stop propaganda attack on Putin. Did he meet or interview Putin? No, but he saw him at an arena!

That's good enough for Kelly's former bosses, and more than good enough for the new ones! Objective reporting be damned - we got a guy here who can parrot the Harper-Baird anti-Putin rants without even trying... sign him up!

Kelly went on to distinguish himself with a heart-felt plea for Canada's Para Olympic squad to stick it to Putin by boycotting the Para Olympics. Yup, it's not up to the able-bodied professional athletes to sacrifice themselves on the altar of political boycotts, but the "challenged" athletes who have been training for years should step up and make Kelly's political statement.

Cathal Kelly himself could have stood on principle and refused his Sochi assignment.

Why didn't he?

Canada's foreign aid spending way down but bafflegab designed to hide that fact is way up

The Ottawa Citizen has an embarrassing story about Canada's failure to meet its foreign aid commitments.

Apparently the only OECD country whose foreign aid budget is shrinking more rapidly than Canada's is Portugal, which has been wracked by economic crisis and austerity for five years.

Now have a gander at the load of bafflegab that the Minister of International Development, Christian Paradis, dropped on his government website just a couple of days before the Citizen story came out;

“Canada recognizes and supports the vital role that civil society plays in reaching development objectives. Civil society engages citizens in their countries’ decision-making processes that affect them. Empowered by the fundamental rights of freedom of expression, association and assembly, civil society enables citizens to hold their governments to account, providing legitimacy to the governing institutions, which in turn ensures growth and sustainable development and reduces poverty.
“Nearly 2.4 billion people around the globe continue to live in regimes where they have little or no say in who leads their country or in how they are governed. Recently, we have seen an increasing trend of states attempting to close the democratic space and restrict the rights of free of expression and assembly—introducing laws and regulations that undermine civil society's independence, restricting access to foreign assistance, limiting the scope of activities and ability to organize, and imposing prohibitive registration and reporting requirements on the community.
“Canada has committed to “deepen, extend and operationalize the democratic ownership of development policies and processes” and to make multistakeholder partnership models the norm. Inclusive development, underpinned by democratic ownership, is essential to building a Post-2015 Development Agenda that delivers results.
“Canada has a strong track record of support for civil society, one that is recognized around the world and can serve as a model to other nations. As recently mentioned by His Highness the Aga Khan, ‘Canada is uniquely able to articulate and exemplify three critical underpinnings of a quality civil society—a commitment to pluralism, to meritocracy, and to a cosmopolitan ethic.’
“It is because of these values that Canada is working hard to protect and promote a democratic space for civil society around the globe. Since 2009, Canada has participated in the Task Team on CSO Development Effectiveness and Enabling Environment and has chaired the multistakeholder Community of Democracies’ Working Group on Enabling and Protecting Civil Society.
“Through its role as Chair of the Working Group, Canada coordinates global actions to counter legislation that restricts civil society. By engaging in principled diplomacy, advocacy and technical assistance activities, we will continue to oppose the adoption of restrictive laws that target civil society, and to support the development and implementation of enabling laws that empower civil society to thrive.
“Going forward, we will continue our commitment to advancing freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law around the world by protecting and promoting an enabling environment for civil society—in law, in policy and in practice. To that end we recognize the need to:
  • Ensure that civil society is included in the development, reform, implementation and monitoring of legal, policy and regulatory regimes that target civil society.
  • Promote, protect and respect fundamental rights and freedoms, particularly the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, the right to free association, the right to freedom of expression, and the freedom to communicate and cooperate with others in all sectors, within and across borders. This right includes cooperation in coalitions and networks using all forms of communication.
  • Ensure the judicious application and monitoring of the rule of law, preventing human rights abuse and protecting human rights defenders against harassment and violence, taking account of special circumstances of human rights defenders for religious freedoms, women and children.
  • Protect the democratic space to ensure that civil society can operate free from unwarranted state intrusion in their affairs; pursue a broad range of self-defined objectives; and seek and secure funding from domestic, foreign and international sources.
  • Support civil society to strengthen their own development effectiveness, consistent with the Istanbul Principles, including enhancing their transparency and accountability.
“Canada believes donors have a responsibility to promote an enabling environment for civil society. Canada intends to provide predictable, equitable and transparent funding opportunities through different modalities that support the diverse roles of civil society; and to promote a multistakeholder dialogue to inform and facilitate a diversity of perspectives and approaches.
“Canada is focused on delivering results for those in need around the world. We will continue to pursue inclusive and sustainable development worldwide by promoting and protecting an enabling environment for civil society. We will encourage other development partners to do the same. And we will ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable people, including women and children, are at the core of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.”
Christian Paradis
Minister of International Development and La Francophon

What the hell does any of that mean?

I'm not sure, but you'd never guess that the guy whose name appears at the end of it oversaw the folding of CIDA into Foreign Affairs last year, and presided over the move to tie "foreign aid" to the foreign projects of major Canadian mining conglomerates, would you?


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Canada Navy woefully unprepared for Ukraine gambit

Harper and Baird talk a big game but here's the straight skinny.

Canada's maritime forces are spread way too thin to lend a hand in the Black Sea.

Mostly Canada's maritime forces are spread amongst a number of ship repair facilities on both the east and west coasts.

For every 3 months a Canadian ship spends defending democracy, it has to spend 3 years in drydock for a refit. It's a little-known but oft proved bit of conventional wisdom.

At the present time only three Canadian ships are able to sail the seven seas, and they're all in the Arabian sea looking for terrorists and illegal drugs.

Here for example is the story of HMCS Toronto making the biggest drug bust in her history.

It's tough when you have to weigh the war on drugs against the battle for democracy, but we are a small country and we can't be expected to punch above our weight every time.


I've been reading Fisk for quite a long time and he generally gets it right.

So it's not that I disagree with his premise, but I'm not sure, as Fisk seems to be, that this is necessarily a bad thing.

How is Mafiastan any different from the status quo in most of the world?

The imaginary elimination of so-called corruption merely replaces under-the-table schmiergeld with "official" application fees, processing fees, handling fees, and so on.

You eliminate corruption by institutionalizing it.

If anything, the under-the-table part of the corruption pie is going to folks outside the regular corruption hierarchy...

Schmiergeld represents the democratization of corruption.

Which is why every now and again you'll see the most corrupt regimes launch anti-corruption drives.

It's not that they want to get rid of corruption.

They just want to get rid of the competition.