Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Behold, the mighty Hoover Dam! 80 years old

America's Hoover Dam was dedicated in a formal ceremony on September 30, 1935, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Eighty years ago.

Hoover Dam, which forms Lake Mead, once one of the US's largest water reservoirs, was constructed over a five-year period (1931–1936) during the Great Depression.  The total cost of the dam was $49 million dollars when it was built, which would translate to $700 million if we tried to build something like it today. 

For perspective, consider that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have cost, to date, $1,641 billion.  Those wars cost the Americans 2,345 Hoover Dams. 

Hey ... maybe they could simply build 2,345 Hoover Dams (47 in every US state) and then blow them all to bits; they seem to like doing that with their wealth. 

Lots of things come to my mind, though, when I think of what Americans could do with that money.  I wonder why it never occurs to some Americans that they're simply flushing their treasure down the crapper.

My mother used to say, whenever I would spend my entire allowance on bottle rockets and firecrackers, "Son, you're just burning up your money."  Yeh, point conceded, but how I loved to watch it burn!  I guess some people just like a lot of noise and pretty sparks, huh?  :-)

The wars were wars of choice; no one forced Americans into them; Americans chose war over what they could have had instead.  It was a bad choice, an unwise choice, but it was also a choice they made with their eyes wide open. My dad always used to tell me:  "if you want to know what a man's priorities are, watch how he spends his money." People always find a way to afford the things they really want most.  Always.

Americans chose war.  Americans want war.  Lots of it.  By their actions; they demonstrate that.

Not gonna criticize Americans.  We all know they're God's chosen people!  I'm not questioning that.

But I do think Americans would be far better off, after 14 years of war, to have built 2,345 Hoover Dams.  Just sayin ...
Charles Aulds
September 30 2015


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Most Canadians just want to restore Canada

As a new Canadian, voting this Fall in my first federal election, I was a little surprised that so many young people I know and work with (in a liberal Atlantic province) express a preference for Thomas Mulcair over Justin Trudeau.  I just don't see the personal appeal, though I support the party and its platform.

It was explained to me that Mulcair comes across as a very capable public administrator, one to whom important decisions can be trusted.

Our current government is perceived as one that had badly mismanaged Canada; taking the country in directions it didn't need to go.  Canadians (those I know personally), by and large, do not want radical change, they want a return to the Canada they love; and I, the Canada that brought me from the United States, at the age of 48, to start a new life, in a new country, in which I had no family or friends.

Now a citizen since February 2012; I can still see the Canada that enticed me to immigrate; and I see young Canadians determined to protect and restore it.  And that makes me confident of my/our future.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

We protect our own rights when we defend the rights of others

When I immigrated to Canada in October 2005 from the Southern US state of Alabama; it was a big surprise to me to discover that Canadians also exhibit an adulation of soldiers and the military; it was not exactly what I thought of as a Canadian trait. People start wearing the poppy two weeks before Remembrance Day and by November 11th, you will hardly pass someone on the street without a poppy on their coat.  Unlike Americans, though, Canadians don't take pride in military power, with Canadians, it's more of an agreement that "we owe our freedoms to those who fought and died in all of Canada's wars ... yada yada."

I do believe Canadians give too much credit to the state and the soldiers who serve that state for the freedoms we enjoy. Not enough credit to ourselves; we're the ones who are most responsible for defending our rights/freedoms ... soldiers are delegated the responsibility for defending the nation's sovereignty and security, which is a lesser role, a less important role, even if more hazardous.  Soldiers will do what they are told, even if those actions are morally wrong or illegal, always, with shockingly few exceptions. 

It is true that we grant ourselves our freedoms in our laws and we protect them in our courts; but more importantly, we protect and defend our freedoms when we exercise them, and guard them when we insist that those freedoms be granted to others, even those with whom we strongly disagree.

We defend our own rights, liberties, and dignity when we protect the rights of those who we may not even feel deserve them, especially those who are powerless to defend themselves. Canadians: remember?  Americans: remember?

I'm using one of my Charter or Bill of Rights freedoms right now; did you recognize that fact? So, what would you really be attacking if you attacked me, personally, for my opinions or beliefs, or if you tried to intimidate me into silence, as others have?

Inclusive Freedom. Expansive Freedom. That is the Canadian idea of Liberty.
The idea that the liberty of all is enhanced when new freedoms are granted to
Justin Trudeau, March 9, 2015
In a Speech delivered at the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada

Thursday, September 17, 2015

TED talk: David Rothkopf, "How Fear Drives American Politics"

I found this TED talk by David Rothkopf very interesting.  In it, he explains how the fear-driven reactionary response to 9/11 has led to more terrorism, a war on our fundamental rights, and attacks on science by the US government, replacing reason with emotion in decision-making, an inability to respond effectively to modern threats, and enormous costs to society, mostly from the fear-driven distraction from the most critical issues that we confront, terrorism not being one of those.

He begins the talk, like this ...

On September 11, 2001, 19 guys took over four airplanes and flew them into a couple of buildings. They exacted a horrible toll. It is not for us to minimize what that toll was. But  the response that we had was clearly disproportionate – disproportionate to the point of verging on the unhinged.

We rearranged our entire national security apparatus in the most sweeping way since the 2nd World War.We started two wars.  We spent trillions of dollars.  We suspended our values. We violated international law.  We embraced torture. We embraced the idea that if these 19 guys do this, anybody could do it.  Therefore, for the first time in history, we were seeing everybody as a threat.  And what was the result of that?  Surveillance programs that listened in on the emails and phone calls of entire countries, hundreds of millions of people, setting aside whether those countries were allies, setting aside what our interests were.

Despite the fact that, according to our intelligence services, on September 11, 2001, there were 100 members of core Al-Qaeda. There were just a few thousand terrorists. They posed an existential threat to no one.

I would argue that, 15 years later, since there are more terrorist attacks, more terrorist casualties, since the region from which those attacks emanate is more unstable than in any times in its history, we have not succeeded in our response.
David Rothkopf, CEO of the FP Group and editor of Foreign Policy Magazine
TED talk:  "How Fear Drives American Politics"   (18m00s)

It is very encouraging to me that Americans, as Mr. Rothkopf says, are finally emerging from a long "age of fear."  Americans are finally awakening (it seems to me) to the reality that not one of the seven wars they've launched since 9/11 have been successful in mitigating the threat of terrorism and, by making large regions of the planet politically unstable, they have increased the size of terrorist groups and their power and their reach.  America's fear-driven response to one single successful attack has made war more likely, perhaps inevitable, and possibly endless.

The fact that it took 15 years for Americans to even begin to deal with what was, essentially, a tiny threat, almost irrelevant to most people, is absolute evidence that the country is dysfunctional; not just in Washington, but from sea to shining sea.  The crisis facing Americans does not lie overseas; it never has.  Not even in the Cold War world that I grew up in.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Edward Snowden awarded the 2015 Bjørnson prize for free speech

On September 5th, Edward Snowden accepted the 2015 Bjørnson prize for intellectual freedom of expression via a video link from Moscow, because the United States told Norway to extradite him if he attempted to accept the prize in person.


In a world that needs heroes, we are very fortunate to have a man like Edward Snowden.

"The boundaries of our rights have been changed arbitrarily by a few officials
  sitting behind closed, who substituted their judgement for our own."

– Edward Snowden, in accepting the 2015 Bjørnson Prize for free speech