Sunday, March 29, 2009

Historians don’t repeat, do they?

David Bercuson, director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary recently published an article in Canada’s Globe and Mail - How long will this madness last? Don't ask the historian. He asserts that “People who study the past are no more likely to know what the future brings than people who read tea leaves.”

I take issue with a number of points in the article, but most of all it is the copout in his argument that history does not in fact repeat itself. Bercuson limits his view of potential repetition to exact circumstance, which is plainly a nonsense, ignoring the potential of replicating broader dynamics in favour of replication of the minutiae.

Even so, understanding historical background, I concede, is not an act of fortune telling, simply an indication f potential outcomes. However limiting historical vision will almost certainly produced flawed predictions.

Take Bercuson’s primary interest area and his reflection that: “In the past 110 years, Canada has been involved in two world wars, the Boer War, the Korean War, the Yugoslav civil war of the 1990s, the Kosovo air war of 1999 and the war in Afghanistan. There is no similarity whatever in the way these wars began.”

I note firstly that he omits several major conflict in which Canada was not involved, thus perhaps skewing his argument to fit his vision. But take his first example, the Boer War, which was firmly part of British expansionism, expansionism being a repeating basis for a number of the conflicts mentioned.

He did not mention Vietnam, as Canada was not involved, but it has strong historical links to the current Afghanistan conflict – illegal drugs trade. At the same time other conflicts and actions he omits, say Palestine or Cyprus, like Kosovo were, from Canada’s position, humanitarian endeavors. The Suez crisis comes right back to expansionism.

“History isn't a science. Neither is economics”

Quoth Bercuson, but if that is his position one must wonder, as an historian, how he justifies his tenure. The view almost suggests history is a simple waste of time. I doubt anyone would claim either pursuits are science, neither in broad terms can be exactly replicated. Yet I would argue that elements of both can be replicated in the right conditions.

Politics is not science either, but any politician worth his salt concentrates on the conditions of three key indices come election time; Trade balance, employment levels and CPI – those hip pocket Even though the available statistics might become harder to source the reality can’t be hidden.

I believe Mark Twain said something along the lines of ‘history doesn’t repeat it rhymes’. Semantics; but regardless there are still constants, indicators which are there to be found. Only a fool needs to see an exact overlay to spot the repetition, repetition in detail rather than the broad picture.

An art historian looks at detail, brush strokes and other signature marks; any forensic analysis looks for a swath of detail indicators, not the broad picture. Call it rhyme, call it history, but the repetition is there all the same.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Age of Excess?

If my blogging hasn’t been excessive of late it is hardly because of a deficit of issues. Some like economics have become a problem for me; it’s one thing warning of looking problems, quite another formulating appropriate remedies. It also seems a little redundant going on about predicted situations like AIG.

Leaving those excesses behind, a whole raft of others have been playing on my mind, making me wonder if we have not indeed entered ‘The Age of Excess’. I don’t want to sound excessively curmudgeonly, but need to share these few observations regardless.


I have a close relative who has displayed a frustrating inclination, most of his life, to a version of nominal aphasia. Put briefly, he can’t or won’t use peoples names, replacing them instead with lurid descriptive terms. The frustration is in knowing exactly who the moronic f***ing c*** is in any given statement.

For many years I only me a handful of people with this tendency, now it seems to be epidemic among men and women alike. It is a known condition, but I’ve never really worked out whether it is a mental lapse, low frustration threshold or just pure laziness. Whichever, an excessive use of gutter language does seem to be contagious.


I intend to live out my life without ever sampling a Maccas burger or KFC product, but if that doesn’t put me in serious minority try the fact that I refuse to have a cell phone. What is it with these bloody nuisance things? Increasingly I note tat the average person cannot survive without a phone of some sort connected to the ear.

So let me put it to you, communications company contracts are excessively (intentionally) complex, average use is often compulsively excessive, monthly bills are often cripplingly excessive – particularly with teens.

Not only that, but these people often have a TV screaming in the background, some sort of music device, an internet conversation or ten, a land line conversation coupled with cell phone wedged in their ear. But it is still only one more of the many current manifestations of excess.


A neighbour came in huffing this morning, having left her TV and other devices briefly, to tell me about an epidemic of obesity. This same woman, who could easily (or not) shed a few pounds, who constantly complains; I’m famished – staving… I could live for a year from her excess pounds.

They probably are famished and starving if they are surviving on junk food, but this woman cooks good solid BIG meals everyday for her brood. I could easily live for a week on just one, anyone, of their daily meals. Lucky country this, even in poverty you can easily become obscenely obese.

Excessive consumption seems to be drilled into people now as a duty, which probably works with all the other fears driving excessive behaviours.


Just in my small region it’s estimated that half the population have some sort of drug issue, prescription and otherwise. In fact they are often, by explanation, related. “I needed to lose weight I became hooked on sped…” I needed speed to work the hours I was on, then crashed my truck. Now I’m on painkillers…” “I only smoke (marijuana) to control the pain in my life…”

So that takes in the screwed up adults, what about the school kids who seem to be equally enamoured of various substances? Or the local dealers supplying all and sundry. Or the biker runs delivering to town without drawing the slightest attention from local police. In fact I received a warming from the bikers recently for reporting activity to the police, which would suggest a tad of collusion.

Motor Cars

Talking of drugs… While many people are downsizing or getting out of cars, because of rising costs, the drug dealers are keeping the high end of the market buoyant. I just had one complain to me this very day about the excessive $500 service charge he was just hit for.

Why do these blokes need the biggest and fastest cars when most can barely drive? Because they can!!! We watch this particular bloke driving his high powered car like a little old woman, but it obviously helps his status.

To go further might seem a little excessive and a lot curmudgeonly. I certainly enjoy my glass of red wine, and I’m often accused of liking it to excess. Even so I’m never accused of being less than lucid and sober.

I can reflect on teen ‘heroes’ The Stones and The Who. With the latter it was and still is My Generation, and ‘I hope I do die before I grow old’ – still I hope that. Sure they were fairly excessive at the time, and tended to do our outrageous living for us. Now everyone seems to have a self-destruction wish.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Richard L. Armitage a name to conjure with

"Armitage is always one of those characters who just happen to be standing around when something BAD happens to America. Never anything good. ALWAYS something BAD. If he was a sailor, his shipmates would call him a Jonah.", 8 May 2004

If you are still focused on Karl Rove as the bad guy who escaped justice give some thought to an even worse specimen - Richard L. Armitage. Dicky is well known in Australia. His name first comes up with the 1970s

His intermittent presence was strongly felt during John Howard’s reign, more particularly during a rather long ambassadorial hiatus. Dicky took an active political role here criticizing our then opposition party, squashing any US inquiry into Australia’s notorious Iraq wheat sale kickbacks, then noisily claiming that only a few dumb Aussies were concerned about the obvious corruption.

Armitage, it seems, cut his teeth in the CIA/Mob Golden Triangle drug trafficking from 1971-1975. This is where he linked up with his Iran-Contra co-conspirators; the likes of Gen Secord and Ted Shackley et al. Dicky has been up to his ear lobes in US black operations for decades.

In fact there is still disquiet over his appointment as Assistant Sec State under Colin Powell, based on the fact he was previously rejected for a cabinet post under Bush Snr because of his involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal. The George W nomination actually passed the Senate on voices, without comment.

Despite his known illegal activities Armitage managed to retain his grip on powerful, influential positions. See: From An Approved Biography - Ambassador Richard Lee Armitage. He has also retained an influence on international drug trafficking, now out of Afghanistan/Pakistan.

Part of Dicky’s raison d'etre for supporting drug trafficking is the long held view that enemies can be controlled through drug addiction. It sort of works - according to the U.N. World Drug Report for 2005, Iran has the highest proportion of opiate addicts in the world. But obviously it works on enemies at home too, as his black operations involve smuggling drugs into the US for the domestic market.

Hillary Clinton tainted?

More to the point is that Armitage and his sponsors are addicted to the profits of drug peddling. The concern now is that Armitage has plied his trade through State for many years, and current Sec State Hillary Clinton, or a least Bill, is tainted, is tainted by past associations with these crooks.

When the Rudd government came to power in Australia the former diplomat Prime Minister virtually sidelined our State equivalent, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Rudd is constantly criticised for his foreign travel, but he is obviously taking a fir grip on that particular tiller. A good thing too given the history of playing by the riles of the US black ops guys.

I’m not sure any American President since Eisenhower has had any real control over State. I truly doubt that Obama deliberately chose Clinton and I’m curious about Biden’s past associations with the likes of Armitage.

On the other hand I can relate to the tears of joy from Colin Powell on Inauguration Day. Powell was sucked in as a stooge, the Senate of the day quietly allowing the appointments of the discredited thug, Armitage, to control any thoughts Powell might have about democratic practices.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Hitching the wagon to corruption trivia

Since 2003 I have been waiting for the full story on a pair of British Columbian ministerial assistants arrested in a raid on the province’s legislature. The charges included money laundering and bribery corruption in relation to the secret sale of British Columbia Rail (BCR).

Documents released this week by a judge in a political corruption trial trace the government's route from staunch denial to talks with bidders and then a media strategy on how to sell privatization to the public… Campbell haunted by BC Rail deal

I really have to agree with this comment:

It's trivia. Politically titillating, yes. Entertaining, certainly. But relative to the case itself, it's just trivia on a grand scale. …case buried in political trivia

Dave Basi and Bobby Virk were probably up to their ears in the corruption, but remain the scapegoats in a bigger picture and the exposed corruption is now incredibly commonplace. Selling off public assets is never popular, but hardly ever a government losing proposition, but this sale had all the conspiracy mix that is now so popular with our elected representatives.

Try this lot:

While the Premier, Gordon Campbell, was claiming there were no plans to sell potential buyers were being sought and briefed.

Among the major ‘bidders’ were Canadian National (CN), Canadian Pacific (CP), Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp and OmniTRAX,

The process wasn’t a level playing field and CP and the U.S. bidders fed only those parts which suited the government.

In fact they all complained because CN alone had been given an opportunity to meet with BC Rail shippers, gaining valuable knowledge about rates that other bidders didn't have.

While the sale was being denied Campbell’s communications bureaucrats were busy crafting a message and media delivery system designed to mitigate fallout from the final result. Basi and Virk were doubtless players in the game, but the game so far is just your garden variety corruption.

Now once upon a time you looked beyond a sex scandal to find the real corruption. Now, increasingly, the corruption is just a trivial distraction from drug trafficking. Here again, through Basi we meet Jasmohan Singh Bains, the 33-year-old would-be Mr. Big of the Vancouver Island drug world.

This becomes significant when we consider just how big the BC illicit drug trade really is. From the smoko (and don’t think trains) BC Bud is the North American marijuana of choice. I know in Australia there are regular interceptions of illicit chemicals, from the making through to product, intercepted on their way to Australia. God knows what gets across the border.

Sadly, its doubtful even these revelations will make an impression of the Campbell Governments electoral fortunes. Conservatives seem to walk under the scandal bar with impunity.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Second rate Super GoatTrack

When it comes to communications technology I expect Australians are not alone in enduring second rate services. Sure we have a particular and ongoing corporate/political battle resulting in retention of an antediluvian network infrastructure. In the past few weeks we’ve found out just how antediluvian.

In the wake of a series of severe storms and local flooding, not too local fortunately, we lost internet connection. A phone call assured us the state was out and suggested about five hours to restore service. The next day, and for many days later we had no service, even tough the ISP was up.

To date, besides the frustration and loss of connection, it has cost us hours on the phone to Punjabi operators and the cost of a new router/modem set up. Having sorted every other problem and obtained an intermittent service the problem now seems to be isolated to the copper wire service on the other side of our wall.

Of course no one wants responsibility for that issue, for the fact we live in a high humidity, high salt laden environment and wires in the junction box are merely twisted together and not soldered. Industry best practice seems woefully inadequate! Which brings us to a joyless celebration…

Adios Sol Trujillo

The now privatized Telstra is one of Australia’s biggest corporation and unfortunately the owner of our telecom network infrastructure; the roots of our ongoing corporate/political battle. There are some Americans who will know the reputation of Sol Trujillo, CEO of Telstra for the best part of past four years.

It seems Sol is a sensitive character and can’t understand why Aussies joke about his Hispanic antecedents. Fair go Sol, this is a country that calls a spade a nig nog; racial sensitivity is not our strong suit. But really, racial epithets are nothing to the sort of insults Sol and his amigos deserve.

Under Sol’s watch the general attitude from Telstra has been ‘fuck you’ to Australians, our politicians and regulators. “We don’t do things your way in America!” I guess given that Sol was rarely in Australia during the time he managed this major corporation suggest he never had the opportunity to understand Aussie ways.

One thing he did understand is that his exit needed to happen before a four year deadline on local tax exemption. Perhaps that deadline should be pulled back so we can get rid of arseholes like So more quickly. Even at a $30 mill price tag its worth seeing him off.

Cognisant of Sol’s racial sensitivities the Aussie PM Rudd received the departure news in true local spirit. Just one word – adios! Sol has pretty much destroyed any credibility Telstra had left so now we might get down to building a reasonably reliable communications network here. At the very least we might start soldering copper wire connections.