Failed State of America

It is February 15th 2018 and the United States has had 30 mass shootings since January 1st. The usual battle lines are being drawn on why it happens despite ignoring data such as this in the New York Times last year. As an outsider it appears that the right to life and security of the person have been completely abandoned in the United States. Is gun violence a symptom of America’s failure?

The first set of factors to determine a failed state are:

  • loss of monopoly on the legitimate use of force
  • erosion of authority to make collective decesions
  • inability to provide reasonable public services
  • inability to interact internationally

The first of the above factors I’m taking as a given in the United States. The second is also evident in the hyper partisan, winner take all politics. Flint Michigan is a prime example of a nation not being able to provide basic public services. There are various reports a US diplomatic service in chaos and shortages of key diplomatic staff. Also, the contradictions coming from the current administration of foreign and trade policy make relations difficult.

More comprehensive checklists are available in the above article. The US hasn’t many of the social indicators until the economic inequality factors. The US has one of the highest infant mortality rates in advanced economies, poor education results, and certain groups suffer more deprivation than others based on ethnicity, orientation, or gender. The recent shutdowns of the US government is an example a state failure to fulfill obligations.

The first political indicator is criminalization and/or delegitimization of the state. This has been happening for decades in the US. Corruption disguised as campaign contributions, diversion of public resources to private companies, and defunding regulators all contribute to this. Much American media adds to the attack on government legitimacy with anti-government heroes promoted as pundits or in fiction. Holding government to account is difficult because of gerrymandering and the vast amounts of money required to run in politics.

The US public service is deteriorating, I mentioned Flint and the 30 mass shootings this year. There are many more examples where essential services for Americans are suffering a lack of services or terribly funded services. The wealthier an American is the more services are made available for them. When school teachers in poorer areas have to pay for supplies out of pocket it is a sign of failure.

Every country has a human rights problem at some level and the US is no exception. In my life we’ve gone from having to remind people Black is Beautiful back to Black Lives Matter. The militarisation of US law enforcement, the under siege mentality of US law enforcement, and the prison industrial complex are other factors pointing to America’s failure. Political violence against the state isn’t as common but does take place such as the Oklahoma City bombing.

The state within a state indicator is also met by the United States. Private security and intelligence services have been given access to state resources without the same stringent oversight. The weaponization of US politics hasn’t begun quite yet but threats of violence and radicalization of violent people has. There are plenty of armed groups eager for the next civil war to break out.

The American Revolution replaced a distant aristocracy with one down the dirt road. American bipolar, partisan politics still has elites and aristocrats controlling politics. Democrats fund one institution and Republicans are obligated to destroy that institution once back in power and vice versa. Both populi and optimi hide behind national symbols and patriotic rhetoric. Such extremism denies debate, progress, compromise and America’s existence.

There is currently an investigation into Russian involvement in the last presidential election. Any foreign government to pay for access to US policy makers. There alleged Russian connections to the National Rifle Association, which controls much of Congress. The above article mentions military/paramilitary not mere financial influence peddling but the money is destabilizing Americans ability to control their representatives.

Both KGB by Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky, and The Mitrokhin Archive by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin mentions KGB plots to destabilize the United States from within. Conspiracy theories, false information, financing armed groups, and feuling paranoia were tactics to weaken the Western Democracies. America may wish to look deeper into ties of extreme right wing groups and their Russian counterparts, it may lead to Russian security services involvement.

The United States is not a failed state, but it is not a stable and functional state either. Maybe fragile state is the best description right now. Blaming Russia, Mexico, the other faction, or whatever for America’s situation as every American is to blame and responsible for reversing these trends. Maybe Americans are happy living in a state that fails so many and are comfortable watching neighbours die for lack of care or security. Maybe Americans are waiting for United Nations intervention.

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Boeing’s Hypocrisy #Cdnpoli

Boeing has succeeded in adding another 79.82% duties on C-Series aircraft from Bombardier claiming they’re being dumped into the United States and subsidised by Canada and Quebec. Boeing does not have a product that competes with the Bombardier C-Series, but has convinced US regulators that a much smaller Canadian company is going to destroy the US giant.

Boeing has claimed they’re preventing another Airbus rising up to destroy what was once a monopoly, and is now a duopoly. Maybe it was wrong for Canada to help Bombardier, maybe it was wrong for countless Canadian governments to allow our other aerospace companies to be destroyed. This is the Avro Arrow situation all over again, we cave in to Boeing’s pressure we become little more than a colony. We become the lesser partner in the Mercantile system, giving away resources and a nice captive market for inefficient industry.

Canada should cancel all contracts currently held by Boeing, ban all US manufacturers from bidding on the CF-188 Hornet replacement, and make the US put all its subsidies on the table in NAFTA talks. Boeing should be afraid of Bombardier, the Chinese, and the others coming for market share. Because Boeing is likely uncompetitive without the direct and indirect subsidies it receives in the United States. Add to the subsidies that Boeing is the second largest contractor to the US government, mainly because they’ve destroyed the competition.

Many of Boeing’s contracts don’t pass the smell test, as a search at the Project on Government Oversight finds. One example is in 2016 Boeing paid $18 million to settle claims it overcharged the US government. My search found ten pages of Boeing overcharging, receiving questionable contracts, and being paid for research the US government conducted. Boeing isn’t upset about subsidies to Bombardier, its upset they didn’t get any too.

The World Trade Organisation has ruled that some of Boeing’s subsidies are illegal. Maybe Canada should join those challenging America to play by the rules it helped create. There another ten pages of search results on the WTO site mentioning the Boeing Airbus dispute, both companies receive tax dollars so why shouldn’t Bombardier? The European Union arguments make Canadians look like amateurs when it comes to corporate welfare.

Boeing has a history of consuming competitors, the tariffs could be part of a strategy to buy Bombardier cheap. Boeing doesn’t have any products in that market, buy Bombardier and all that Canadian subsidised research is Boeings to exploit. Maybe if we provide tax rebates, grants, guaranteed purchases, interest free loans, and government employees to help with sales, Canada could keep one of the parts plants.

Show No Weakness

I am a straight, white, somewhat middle class male and I’m having trouble coming to grips with what happened in the United States on the weekend. The fact Heather Heyer could be killed by Nazi in Twenty First Century North America is disgusting, troubling, and a warning. I know Nazis, and their fellow travellers have never gone away, but they have come out of the shadows, the dark places they’ve been lurking and are now in the open.

The “all sides”, “both sides” statements from Donald Trump and the chorus of trolls saying Black Lives Matter, and AntiFa are the same as Nazis, KKK, et cetera is false. If there is a radicalized left forming violent groups it is a response of the lack of response to the Nazis. How many have been shot or lynched because of Black Lives Matters? How many AntiFa types have called for genocide of a group?

The current outrage because statues are being pulled down, statues that in many cases were put up during the era of Jim Crow, the rise of the KKK and Nazis, the era of blaming Jews or others, and seeing Democracy as weakness. These groups thrive with the help of apologists, deflection to other groups, and wishes to not have any trouble. They see calls for understanding and dialogue as weakness to exploit and proof they’re superior.

Canada is not immune to this evil, never has been. The King government in the Thirties were as appeasement minded and believed Nazis would deal with the Communist threat. Two recent articles from Vice and the CBC show how these groups are getting bolder, bigger and more dangerous. The fact the Canadian government and Canadians see this as minor threat is proof Canada is soft on Nazis, weak, and quite possibly infiltrated by them.

Looking at the websites and social media of Canada’s three I could see no condemnation of what happened in Virginia or of Trump’s statements blaming the victims. A tweet from the Premiere of Ontario and another from the Prime Minister were awhile coming and didn’t condemn Trump’s seeming support for the Nazis. Are the NAFTA renegotiations so important we’d shit on the graves of the service people killed fighting Nazis in World War II?

Remember the lesson from the children’s book Give A Mouse A Cookie, these Nazi groups just want to normalize their views, be part of the debate, have their fears taken seriously. There were people that thought Hitler would be more manageable and less violent if he had a seat in the cabinet, many of those people ended up dead.

Canada needs to spend money on intelligence and law enforcement to target these groups and disrupt them. The education systems in Canada need to teach the dangers of Nazism, and children of these people need to be taken by child services. These people see mercy as weakness, and we can not let them see any weakness, no crack in our resolve to exterminate these groups once and for eternity.

To some it may seem a bit rich for someone with my level of privilege to be filled with dread for humanity after what happened in Charlottesville. You might think I’m the last person they’d come after, wrong they’ve already come for me. A couple of times they’ve attempted to recruit me with their rhetoric of “whites under siege” and “restoring the natural order of things”. I passively resisted, I wish I could’ve said or done more but when faced with thugs and check all the Social Anxiety Disorder boxes it is difficult to do more. I take pride in being called “race traitor” or “Jew” (which is a compliment, right?).

Growing up in Southern Ontario I’ve heard the racist and hate language my entire life, some hidden behind “God’s Will” or some other acceptable sounding phrase. Today they target Muslims and claim Christianity is under threat, but they don’t mean the Black Baptist Church they torched do they. If you know enough history you see why they hate Muslims, tens of thousands from around the world of which fought the Nazis in World War II.

Dividing us from moderate Islam is as much a strategy as taking over the governance of the United States or weakening Canada with fears of losing out on NAFTA negotiations. As a recent CFL t-shirt says: “Diversity is Strength“, so instead of trying to understand hate mongers build alliances with various targeted communities. Need inspiration, look at the list of peoples/countries engaging Nazis in Italy during World War II, everyone from Algerians to New Zealanders and a Persian Bear named Wojtek the Soldier Bear.

To end this incoherent rant I’d ask or better yet demand everyone write their MP or Representative and call for emergency sessions to debate the return of over Nazism and develop a strategy to defeat it before a country falls to it. Please order your political servants to take the threat seriously enough to recall Parliament or Congress to deal with it.

With Nazis any sign of what they perceive to be weakness will be exploited to turn us all into slaves. Also, please help keep cisgendered white folk from being radicalized by them, report all attempts to CSIS, RCMP, or which ever agency is appropriate in your area.

Which Way London? #Ldnont

In a recent opinion piece on the London Free Press site mentioned London is halfway between Toronto and Detroit. I think the person was trying to sell that as London’s selling point as justification for better rail service at the expense of local rapid transit. I disagree about delaying rapid transit but agree London needs better travel to areas beyond the city’s bubble.

London is halfway between Detroit and Toronto, and I don’t mean geographically but halfway between decay and success. Detroit used to have a world leading trolley focused transit system which was profitable. The rolling stock would still be running today if it hadn’t been destroyed in the 1985 Mexico City earthquake. Detroit nationalized the profitable private system then converted it to buses as part of a car focused transportation system. Toronto about the same time built a subway line and extended streetcar/trolley service with abandoned rolling stock from Cleveland or Cincinnati. Which is the more successful city today, Detroit or Toronto?

Toronto loves cars as much as Detroit or London yet recognizes that it can no longer afford to focus solely on cars for transportation. It is estimated the Greater Toronto Area, Canada’s main economic engine, loses $11 billion annually in lost productivity due to cars being congested. Toronto alone loses $3.3 billion in productivity because of its inadequate transportation networks. As younger generations reject the car for more efficient and cost effective transportation methods it will be the GTA and Hamilton that will attract people and not cities building wider roads or second class alternatives.

London’s current choice is bus rapid transit focusing on the centre of the city only. It is a flawed plan, an incomplete plan, a plan with many problems. Having seens some of the city and LTC’s supporting documents it is the information that is missing that sticks out. Metreolinx has some in depth studies showing how expensive the status quo or further automotive infrastructure could cost billions more. London makes vague statements about progress and attracting investment but I’ve yet to see anything with the opportunity costs of doing nothing or the justification for the plan as is. Even the two websites show how far behind London is, if you can get to LTC’s website.

London lives in its own little world, it is unable to learn from other cities mistakes or successes. The danger is London, or as I’m beginning to call it Ditherville, will not survive without bold transportation reforms and an end to the automotive monopoly in transportation. The disconnected walking paths, cycle routes, poor transit to anywhere not the downtown all leave London rather unlivable outside a few downtown areas. These disconnects are costing London, most likely far more than the cost of fixing them.

How much is the car costing London in lost productivity, as a barrier to employment participation, in increased policing costs, in health care costs, environmental damage, and lost investment opportunities? As the rapid transits argue London residents are paying for better transit, just not their own. Many other communities are looking to take the money if London doesn’t spend it. I agree with the “Not Yet” person in the opinion piece that London does need to connect beyond city limits. Which would be pointless if most people can’t get to where those connections are made.

London needs a grid transit system, with two rapid transit corridors north/south, and another two east/west. It needs to spread the transit system to all areas of the city and plan for future integration with a regional system like Metreolinx and the possibility of high speed rail, which won’t stop for buses. It needs to work with the rest of the province to have a single smart card paying system that works on any Ontario, and possibly any Canadian, transit system. It needs cycle and walking network that extends beyond city limits and is accessible from any point in the city. It needs to slow investments in auto infrastructure until the other systems catch up in funding.

How does London compete in a world where economics is shifting back to Asia? Can London survive using the status quo? Nothing says London has to be anything but farm fields and ruins in a century. Working against the rest of the region, province or country will certainly make London like Detroit or cities that require trowels to see. While we’re waiting for lights to change or travelling at 60km/h in our horseless buggies the rest of the world is getting places at 200-500km/h. We still haven’t separated bulk, fast freight, and passenger service to dedicated tracks, slowing all of them down. But at least we have a six lane highway to Detroit and Toronto, that’ll compete with China’s 20,000+km of high speed rail.

Targeted Sanctions #Cdnpoli #sanctiontrump

With the announcement today that Ivanka Trump is to receive security clearance, office space, and unprecedented access in the White House I feel it is time to revisit my idea on Twitter that the Trump administration warrants Canadian sanctions. Not being a lawyer I might be wrong but my understanding is international law gives Donald J Trump himself immunity. That immunity does not extend to his family nor any of his business interests, nor to his cabinet and their business interests. Canada already has the Special Economic Measures Act to lay sanctions.

Broad sanctions will hurt Canada and vulnerable Americans and not really be noticed by the Trump administration. Targeting the Trump family, Trump business empire, and those of the Trump administration who are poised to use their position for personal gain would be far more effective. Current Sanctions by Canada are for questionable election results, oligarchical seizure of public assets, denial of Human Rights, and destruction of essential services.

Donald Trump’s recent actions against democratic governance, Human Rights, public assets, denial of service, and fostering fear in minority groups should worry us. If they were committed by a leader in the developing world we would not hesitate to call on international sanctions. When African leaders are elected under suspicion or blatant fraud we slap sanctions on within days or weeks. With the suspicion of Russian involvement of in November’s results it would be hypocrisy of Canada not to sanction the United States regime as we would any African, South American, or Asian regime.

When North Korea or Iran sabre rattles and threatens to use weapons of mass destruction we don’t try to foster friendship and engagement we tighten the sanctions. When Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe pitted “veterans” against farmers and farm labourers to steal land we didn’t open trade negotiations to secure our market we sanctioned. How is Trump’s forcing through pipelines on Native lands, targeting of minorities, and threats of war with North Korea any different?

With the disturbing ties between the Trump administration and the Russian Federation’s government and ruling oligarchy we could call targeted sanctions as an extension of our current Russian sanctions. Those sanctions are in part due to the Russian annexation of Crimea and the proxy war in Ukraine. The call for NATO nations to spend more money while stating that the alliance is no longer relevant and that the United States wouldn’t come to members’ aid threatens security and may foster an international crises. The calls to end sanctions on Russia without Russia changing its support for its proxy wars or returning Crimea will embolden the expansion of Vladimir Putin’s empire.

It is Canada’s interests to sanction the Trump administration, as it will embolden resistance to Trump and roll back of some terrible policies. Millions of Americans have lost healthcare access and we Canadians can expect greater fraud in our systems as a result. Refugee bans have a greater number of people risking their lives to come to Canada and American minority groups might end up joining them. The removal of restrictions on small arms may foster more violence on American streets that spills into Canada. Already the unchecked hate and threats against minorities has spread north and cost Canadian lives. Tariffs on Mexico will hurt Canadian jobs dependant on supplying or being supplied by Mexican industry.

It is ultimately up to Americans to decide Trump’s fate, and by extension their own. Do they wait until America is a battleground or do they move quickly for a peaceful transition? Sanctions on the Trump regime can starve that regime of resources and distance support from people and organizations that are vulnerable to sanctions being imposed. Targeted sanctions may cost a few Canadian jobs, but doing nothing may cost many Canadian lives. Which is easier to replace, a lost job or a lost life?

The announcement today that Ivanka Trump is to be her father’s chief and most trusted advisor reminds me of Stalin and his daughter. By the end even Stalin’s favourite daughter wasn’t trusted by a paranoid dictator that had seized unchecked power. The Trump administration is working to removes checks on executive power and turn the United States into the Trump family’s personal property. Maybe sanctions on Ms Trump will convince her to reign her father in before she to is cut out of the decisions.

My Shift epiphany #Ldnont

Laying in bed Saturday morning it dawned on me, the London bus rapid transit plan has nothing to do with growing a vibrant 21st Century city. Shift, like all major political decisions in the past seven decades is about BabyBoomers. Once I realized that I learnt to accept the very flawed plan as it currently is.

No generation in history has or will have the automotive usage patterns of the BabyBoomer. The bulk of Canada’s wealth is held in the hands of BabyBoomers, as is the bulk of the private automobiles. We still build automotive infrastructure thinking the average BabyBoomer just turned 16 and has the Dad’s car keys. The reality is within ten years BabyBoomers start turning 80 and must start having driving tests every two years. Even before 80 doctors can revoke licences if the patient is deemed a driving danger.

The bulk of the BabyBoomer generation are hitting retirement age in greater numbers. They are already downsizing homes and going with hassle free condos which in London will supposedly be along the BRT line, at least that is the plan. This explains to me why the routes are where they are. Two major hospitals and two major malls are within the core of the plan. Translation, convenience to medical appointments and a place to walk when the sidewalks are icy.

So now that I realize the aging Boomer is the focus of the plan my only complaint is the blatant dishonesty on what/who it is for. Selling Shift as a progressive plan to make the London of tomorrow is false, if it were then connecting Fanshawe/Western students to courses on the other campus the route would stick to Oxford and not meander through the downtown. If it were for the growing tech industry it would connect to the airport so the tech companies could connect with the world of customers. If it were for lower income London it wouldn’t focus on a few areas that gentrification will make for the affluent only.

The LTC in the last while has made progress on correcting some silly routes and making improvements on hours of service. There are still areas of London, mainly lower income, that have poor or no service. Most of the industrial areas are not serviced at all, including the areas the city is spending to attract new industry to.

The longer the commute, the lower the commuter’s productivity. Routing commuters from the suburbs through a central point of failure in a downtown intersection built for horses will lower the productivity and health of London. The focus of the city and LTC on the downtown focus appears to be coming at the expense of satellite areas of the city. Many London commuters will have to use automobiles, especially poorer people in the ignored areas or people who work in industrial areas. The long commutes or unhealthy means of commuting make London unattractive to investment, and Shift is doing nothing to correct this.

Shift is best viewed as a boon for the serviced area and the affluent seniors most likely to be able to downsize to the serviced area. Shift is itself left vulnerable to reactionary politics that will make BRT lanes into HOV lanes and then freeze funding so LTC is forced to cannibalise satellite routes to keep BRT running. If someone has seen concrete guarantees to keep this from happening please show them to me.

Some research to consider:

Canada and NATO #Cdnpoli #NATO

I know I shouldn’t have read the comments on an article about Canada’s Arctic being vulnerable to Putin’s expansion schemes. It annoys me when people say NATO’s expansion caused the current tensions with Putin’s Empire, saying it is American imperialism that is the driving force behind NATO’s recent moves. I get the sense people believe the USA are the ones making the decisions, that the eastern NATO nations are just doing as they’re told, and they are obeying to the wrong power. Even my limited historic knowledge of eastern Europe says this is wrong.

Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania have all suffered from Russian occupation, as has Poland, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic and Ukraine. These nations have suffered under Russian, Austrian, Prussian, Nazi, and most recently Soviet occupations. These peoples have been play things for regional powers, “great” powers, and distant ignorant leaders drawing lines on maps for centuries. Are those opposed to NATO asking these peoples to become pawns again?

The comment that sparked this post was about having Canadian troops in Eastern Europe coming home. As if our small forces, mostly company sized groups (+/-60), are the tipping point to spark armageddon. Canadian Forces need to be able to operate with Allies, for their security as well as ours. This is what NATO was set up for, to cooperate on security and to keep the Soviets from using Salami tactics to move across Europe. Divide your enemies is a classic strategy straight from Sun Tzu and is even older.

We see throughout the world a rise in anti liberal-democracy movements, how are any liberal democracies to survive if they don’t work together? Canada can not expect NATO allies to defend us if we dismiss other nations concerns re Russia. The economic centre of gravity is shifting back to the east and away from twentieth-century manufacturing and the Atlantic. The economic upheaval this will cause will make Canada, NATO, and NATO partners even more vulnerable. Throw in the costly effects of climate change on the security environment and we should soon see that Canada abandoning allies is Canada betraying itself.

NATO, like all institutions, is in need of reform, and so are the militaries that are NATO members. More needs to be done in readying NATO forces for any eventuality, every nation could be doing more. By more I don’t mean the arbitrary 2% of GDP spending target set by iron mongers, I mean seeing diplomacy as worth investing in for something other than trade deals. Diplomats and spies are the first and second line of defence, military personnel are the last line. It is time to take the domestic politics out of diplomacy and stop letting petty interests get in the way of global security.

Another comment on my FaceBook after sharing the article was about reducing Canada’s defence policy to petty partisan jabs. No political movement in Canada has a monopoly on wanting to secure Canada’s sovereignty, nor does any party have a glowing record when it comes to supporting the Forces or its membership. The Forces have been ground down over decades and lots of new toys or ‘lipstick on a pig’ policies such as going back to old uniforms and ranks are going to fix things.

If we are going to be an effective ally we need flexible, self contained, expeditionary forces that are capable of working in the air, sea, land, and cyberspace. I’ve written before on how I’d structure the Canadian Forces differently. Since I wrote that I would add greater assets for the electronic/cyber element to both defend and attack. It will take political courage to face the institutional push back, do we have politicians with that courage?

We need a government who stands up to iron mongers, and explore the possibility of nationalizing the defence industry, then placing the plants where it makes strategic sense and not political sense. At very least explore price and wage controls to keep costs manageable, along with higher taxes in the defence industry to get our money back from shareholders profiteering from security.

NATO isn’t perfect, no human institution can be, but it is the tool we have to protect from a world leader seemingly bent on having a greater empire than Stalin or Catherine the Great. It isn’t what some of western Europe’s or the USA’s leaders want, their views are irrelevant, it is about people living with the legacy of occupation by the Soviet Union not wanting to return to the status of mere satellite or a region ignored/belittled by Kremlin elites.

Canadian Forces are in Eastern Europe because democratically elected governments want them there. NATO’s move east has been through invitation, it has not gone as far east as some have invited, Ukraine and Georgia would have NATO extend further east. NATO has not accepted those invitations but citizens of NATO nations need to know why Ukraine and Georgia feel threatened. NATO’s strategy in the Cold War was to make the Soviet Union play Hnefatafl when it wanted to play chess, there is no reason to abandon this strategy but, as Sun Tzu recommends, leave them a way to escape.