Eric Colbourne

Blame The Victim

 

"Good morning," my better half always says cheerily as she walks into the kitchen each day at 8.22 am, expecting her coffee and soft boiled egg to be ready on the table.

     "Good morning," I always say, quoting Eeyore from Winnie The Pooh. "If it is a good morning. Which I doubt."

      It's been like that for over a year now what with the political news and the blizzard of alternative facts coming at me from all quarters of the cyber-world.

     Despite my love for Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore, I believe Leonard Cohen stated it best. "I don't consider myself a pessimist," he once said. "I think of a pessimist as someone who is waiting for it to rain. And I feel soaked to the skin."

     Likewise.

     Staring me in the face this morning as I logged on to my dilapidated 2007 Toshiba laptop was another depressing headline generated by the forsaken posse that passes for the government of our smiling land: Newfoundland inflation at 4.1%, the highest in Canada, screamed the CBC headline. The report goes on to document the litany of fees, income taxes, insurance taxes, levies, book taxes, gas and fuel taxes--all of which add up to a major threat to my personal and economic security.

     A few months ago, our Dear Leader, Duh-wite, provided a gloomy outlook to The Globe and Mail--that great national rag known for having little sympathy for anyone outside the glowing center of the universe, Toronto. Dear Leader took the opportunity to return to his theme that the blame for the dire financial situation lay with the citizens of the province and they, of course, must shoulder all the burden.

     In a classic understatement, the ex-pharmacist, disguised as a premier, agreed that people may not like his choices. (In fact, 83% consider him a serial liar, and a political misfit, intent on destroying the economy, or what's left of it.)

     That, of course, has been a constant theme since the first sitting of the current crop of scoundrels, double dippers, and ex-NDP opportunists. Need I remind you of the words of Dear Leader's yapping crackie, the illustrious Jerry Dean, MHA for the District of Exploits. In a classic case of verbal diarrhea wrapped in an illiterate tirade in the people's chamber, he allowed that all the people of the province were to blame because we somehow forced our government to borrow and spend like drunken sailors so we could support our sense of entitlement.

     In other words, something really shitty has happened to you, but it's your own damn fault.

     All of which prompted one voter from Cottrell's Cove to advise the privileged Mr. Dean that the people of the province know only too well how to live on a shoe-string budget because they have been forced to do so by elected officials that have run our province into ruin.

     That business of the Muskrat Falls 'boondoggle' and the disappearance of 26 billion in oil revenues: none of that matters, my friend, especially for you poor buggers in rural Newfoundland and Labrador--in the end, you will pay the piper or should I say you will pay the rich pensions, salaries, and perks of my cabinet ministers and MHAs plus the murderous interest rates imposed by the big banks on provincial borrowing.

     So, as Dear Leader, Duh-Wite has promised, you ain't seen nothing yet. There is more harsh austerity to come: sky-high unemployment, poverty, and inequality on a grand scale, devastated communities, hits on seniors and children, unplowed highways--the list grows by the day. The dark side of a premier and a government without principles.

     But I hearken back to Eeyore. "They haven't got brains, any of them, only grey fluff that's blown into their heads by mistake..."

     

The Zombie Apocalypse

 

Just before Christmas, I happened to be following an interview with our dear leader, Duhwite, on the CBC supper-time news hour. Curiously at the end of the show, I could not recall any significant word or phrase that he uttered. True, there was the usual I-feel-your-pain demeanor, reminiscent of Eeyore, the sad donkey, about to burst into tears. Sincerity and faux compassion dripped like turbot slime from his pharmaceutical face. He seemed neither to have an instinct for political self-preservation (I will continue to tax you to death) nor for rational thought (we will not plow the highways after midnight).

     Later, after my better half had departed for the Land of Nod, I prepared my pre-nocturnal libation of raspberry screech laced with bog-rosemary tea--essential to good slumber and restful dreams. I switched on Netflix and browsed to a preview of Night of the Living Dead.

     My brain cells quickly swirled into overdrive. My mind flashed back to the interview earlier in the evening. Could it be? I then recalled a conversation with a witch doctor in the highland jungle adjacent to Haiti whilst on a pleasure jaunt to the Dominican Republic. As we sat in the ghostly light of his flickering campfire he showed me his magical powders and told me stories about human creatures without souls--he often used the word 'nzambi' which in my peculiar Newfoundland dialect roughly translates as 'zombie'. "Their bodies are nothing more than shells which are controlled by powerful sorcerers," he whispered eerily.

     Aha, sorcerers, I thought. The backroom bagmen of the Liberal Party. It was all beginning to make sense.

     Because my mind was rapidly beginning to falter at the late hour, I called Google to the rescue.

     Definition of zombie by the Free Dictionary: Shambling slow-witted beings. The frontal lobe of the brain is missing. This is the part responsible for morality, planning, and preventing thoughtless behavior like burying the populace under burdensome taxation.

     Definition of Zombie Apocalypse: A zombie outbreak. A widespread rise of zombies engaging in a general assault on small communities and vulnerable people ie closing libraries, taxing books, enabling poverty etc (Muskrat Falls sprang to mind). A great disaster. A sudden or very bad event that causes much fear, loss or destruction.

     On recalling the interview from earlier in the evening (mixed with the raspberry screech and the Netflix film), I experienced a revelation. The whole government, the opposition, and the rump NDP were all in this together. Evil nanobots had taken over their collective political brain.

     We were now trapped in our own zombie apocalypse. What to do?

     Fortunately, there are various 'how to' coping strategies on the Google search engine, one of which is a defense plan which begins with a zombie apocalypse quiz which will help you decide if you will survive. The first question asks you to pick a tactic (from six possibilities): run, panic, have a stiff drink, hide in the basement, find a cure, build a fort. I clicked on the drink box. As it turned out, this option turned up in various forms throughout the quiz so for consistency sake I chose it each time. My profile then flashed up on the screen:

     "Congratulations, it's a coin-toss whether you survive. By getting drunk all the time, you are not really making good decisions. But, it's entirely possible it will all work out. Which would be nice. But don't hold out hope. Either way, you'll be drunk before it all goes down. So, it'll probably be fun. Your government will help you by jacking up the price of raspberry screech."

     I will post the whole quiz to Facebook so everyone can be better prepared in future.

     Zombie awareness month is coming up in May.

Breaking News

 

 

I am now free to descend from the frozen world of the Long Range Mountains thus bringing an end to my existence as a harried hermit, harrassed by our dear leader and his courtesans. It has solved nothing of course because the tax collectors dispatched by Cathy, Minister of McDonalds, sit in all corners of the realm, ready to filch and rob the unsuspecting at every opportunity.

 

Even a bottle of life-sustaining water is denied until you fork over an additional 15% tax.

 

And that copy of Dancing On Air that you really wanted to read? Forget it unless you have the extra $3 Ball tax. Oh, I'll read it at the town library, you say. Forget that, too. Remember Dr. Dale, Minister of Illiteracy, and his plans for rural libraries?

 

Al (The Pirate) Hawkins, Minister of Ferries, stands at every terminal, threatening to keelhaul any traveller who refuses to pay the extortionate increase in fares.

 

I won't get started on Big Eddie, Minister of Outports.

 

But all is not doom and gloom.

 

The Hag, radiant in her latest swamp fashions, has brought word that Mantracker Walsh's constabulary mount had died from eating too much gowithy (bogweed). Also Wimpy Warr has given in to his craving for Big Macs and they have both retreated back to the friendlier climes of Confederation Building.

 

All of which has stimulated my creative mind to new heights of ingenuity. As you may recall I am the proud owner of the latest Apple MacBook Pro (an ill-gotten gain garnered from two gullible American tourists in the grip of grey-goose grog, otherwise known as my raspberry screech/bog rosemary cocktail).

 

I have discovered that when the MacBook Pro is pushed to its limits, a quantum world takes over in which at a precise angle to the screen, a stream of photons is emitted which transform the human body into trillions of individual atoms. These same atoms are then transported on an intense beam of light, to a parallel universe, where all the atoms come back together as a human being once again. 

 

There are of course other portals into a parallel universe. One of these is the grand entrance to the Newfoundland House of Assembly through which political mob bosses of all stripes, along with their stooges, have passed in the last 100 years: Sir Richard Squires, Joe Smallwood, Alfred Valdmanis, John C. Doyle, Ed Byrne, Frank Moores, Brian Peckford, and He-Who-Is-Without-Sin Williams.

 

Supposedly, the majority enter this inner sanctum with good intentions but few good intentions survive the molecular transformation that takes place in the mordant realm of politics. They quickly lose touch with the great unwashed. Some become smarmy lying leeches. Still others, like the proverbial chamelion, change their colors (and their principles) as their mercenary makeups mature.

 

So, in the past year, taxpayers in our fair land have endured untold abuse from the aliens in this parallel universe as they shackled us with crippling levies, fuel surcharges, higher income taxes and school closures--to name a few. We have watched as millions of our hard-earned dollars were doled out in severance to the already well-to-do (Hello, Ed Martin). We have seen those same aliens engage in crass cronyism as they hired their drinking buddies, their relatives, and their supporters.

 

In the meantime, poverty levels in our smiling land have sky-rocketed. Unemployment levels are projected at 20%. Food banks and soup kitchens can no longer keep up with demand. The Salvation Army is stressed to the limit. Bankruptcies soar. Businesses shutter. Ball Brags. 

 

And in the parallel universe of the House of Assembly, the members have just given themselves an elaborate Christmas gift--the whole lot of them will receive a gold-plated pension plan at an additional cost of $3.6 million annually, compliments of the taxpayer.

 

Christmas.

 

 

Visions

 

Suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me and I fell to the ground...Acts:22.6

                                                               

                                                        The Desert Sands of Libya

It is with great regret that I am now alone in the Long Range. At night the twinkling lights of the endangered and impoverished communities stretch all the way to Belle Isle: New Ferolle, Plum Point, Reefs Harbour, Bird Cove and all the others.

     Winter is creeping in and with it comes the early morning mist over the Leg Lake Valley and down Castor River to the ocean. From the peaks one can see clear across the Straits to Labrador. All one needs to do these days is follow the long endless line of Nalcor transmission towers leading to Muskrat Falls in the northwest and all the way to Confederation Building in our fair city to the southeast. The leached bones of wildlife litter the valleys in between.

     Before I get too maudlin I must describe what has transpired in the last three weeks, since we heard via CBC podcast, the vile threats against our physical well-being and psychological health by Judge Andrew (Roy Bean) Parsons, Minister of Laws, who took to the airwaves to warn all peaceful citizens of our smiling land to be on the lookout, all the while casting nasty aspersions on my family origins as well as the likely nationality of my two female bodyguards.

     My loyal companions were somewhat depressed after the podcast and they took longer than usual to climb the Nalcor tower to search for any signs of Mantracker Walsh and Wimpy Warr. They returned as dejected as ever. I tried cheering them up with some YouTube Leonard Cohen on my newly acquired MacBook Pro.  "Who really gets to profit  and who really gets to pay?" He crooned. "Who really rides the slavery ship right into Charleston Bay?"

    Their depression deepened.

     Perhaps, I thought, they needed a change of scenery. Perhaps they were yearning for the bright lights and bustling bistros of Bartlett's Harbour.

     Perhaps we all needed a creative project to take our minds off our predicament.

     I needed a vision. That night I partook [L]iberally of my newly minted beverage--bog rosemary tea with several splashes of raspberry screech. It induced a serious onslaught of demons--giant big macs with frothing french bulldog fangs, frenzied flying pharmacists in fearsome white frocks, angry laid-off librarians with loose locks of long hair, and directing the whole lot, Al (The Pirate) Hawkins, Minister of Ferries, playing on his musical instrument--like a scene out of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

   

     And then another thought. Perhaps I should send Dear Leader, Duh-wite, some of this stuff so he can have better visions.

     By morning my own vision was entirely focused. We would go down to the edge of Leg Lake and build a solar-powered, unmanned mini-ferry, capable of transporting two small cars (or one pickup) at a time. Shortly we had collected enough materials--roofing tar, discarded metal, tin cans, some good quality lumber and styrofoam sheets borrowed in the dead of night from friendly cabin owners nearby, and a set of propellers from an abandoned Yamaha outboard motor in mint condition attached to a derelict dinghy.

     In four days flat, our prototype was ready and I congratulated myself on my ingenuity and vision. Now, all we need do, was sail the craft down Castor River to the Straits, then around the northeast coast and into St. John's Harbour, with flags flying. The masses would meet us joyously at the waterfront. Anthony Germain would interview us for the morning show. 

     Old gripes would be forgiven. Our Dear Leader, Duh-wite, and the Lieutenant Governor would present us with the order of Canada.

     They could now sell the expensive Romanian ferries plus the MV Grace Sparkes and the MV Hazel McIsaac for a cool 500 million--or, they could transform them into a fleet of love boats--Mary Antoinette boudoirs, mirrors on the ceilings--cruises under the tropical night skies of Conception Bay all the way to Dildo--the whole nine yards.

     It was a win-win all around. I could patent my design and sell my boats to Al (The Pirate) Hawkins for a tidy ten grand each. They would be ideal for all the island runs in the province if purchased in large numbers. One can easily imagine the savings to our benevolent government and to our Dear Leader. I have estimated they would need only two (One for backup), in continuous operation night and day, on the Long Island-Pelleys Island run.

     So, late on the fourth day, our prototype was ready. We covered it with boughs to disguise it from prying eyes and retired to our alpine fortifications for the night.

     The problem with visions is that you can never predict the future.

     As I said at the beginning, all this happened three weeks ago. After completing the prototype, unmanned, solar-powered ferry, we enjoyed a fitful night's sleep in anticipation of sea trials next day. If everything went according to plan, we would break out and head for the open ocean and St. John's, one day later.

     When I roused myself with much belching and throat clearing next morning there was a noticable sound of silence from the two adjacent bough-wiffens of my bodyguards. My first thought was that they had been abducted by the mantracker in the murky darkness after midnight.

     I soon discarded this theory as there were no pony tracks around the campsite. After much searching, I came to the conclusion that they had flown the fort and I immediately went to the shoreline to search. The prototype ferry was nowhere to be seen. My two bodyguards had deserted! Bolted! Fled! Decamped!. They had absconded with my ferry!

                                       

     Ten days later I was sitting in my lonely bough-wiffen listening to Here and Now with Debbie and Jonathan. They ran a story about a strange craft that had washed up on the shores of County Mayo in Ireland. I knew immediately what had happened. My two bodyguards had gone home to Libya via the Emerald Isle.

     All this time, they had been pining for the desert sands of their homeland.

     

     

 

Damn You, Wikileaks

 

 

Mantracker. Hot on my Trail

Location: Somewhere in the Long Range Mountains. Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

     I am awoken at six in the morning by chirpy and gleeful voices outside my bough-wiffen. Such apparent sunny ways especially at this ungodly hour strikes me as extremely odd in a land where I hear continuous doom and gloom from our dear leader, Duh-wite. I peek out to find a young couple, dressed in hiking gear, seizing control of my flickering fire-pit to make a brew which I soon realize is Kenyan Class A Coffee.

     They introduce themselves as Ken and Barbie from Bowling-Green, Kentucky. They ooze happiness and cheer. I disliked them immediately. However, my jovial Newfoundland friendliness soon kicked in and I invited them into my humble abode to enjoy the fortifying brew to which I had furtively added a [L]iberal splash of Raspberry Screech--my last bottle.

     As the lacerating libation slipped down their throats their larnyx was temporarily paralyzed and five minutes passed before they recovered the power of speech. I must find a way to slip a copious amount of this into Dr. Dale's coffee, I thought.

     After their recovery, Ken and Barbie pulled an Apple Macbook Pro from their pack and set up a small satellite receiver. They desperately wanted their Donald Trump fix from CNN before the sun rose. Instead they accidently tuned in to CBC St. John's.

     There was breaking news. Andrew (Judge Roy Bean) Parsons, Minister of Laws, was making a special broadcast to all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians on land and on sea. In the background, my face prominently appeared on the green screen. "I have taken to the airwaves," said the minister, "to warn the public of a dangerous and seditious person roaming our pine clad hills and other areas of our windswept land." Ken and Barbie were flabbergasted as they connected the face on the screen with the vacuous visage in front of them.

     "This person is commonly known by us as 'Freeman the Fugitive," continued the minister of laws. He is thought to be a descendant of illegal immigrants who surreptitiously slunk into our smiling land in 1783. Since then these people have introduced barbaric cultural practices to all areas outside our fair city.

     "He is guilty of the following offences: insulting our Dear Leader, Duh-wite; sowing sedition in the outports; impugning the impeccable character of all dishonest politicians, and the NDP; engaging in vicious and vindictive attacks on our esteemed Dr. Dale, Minister of Illiteracy, and on Godfather, Big Eddie, Minister of Outports; undermining our loyal liberal government; and many other offences that we have not yet discovered.

     "A psychologist at our great university testifies that mentally, he is a person with a depraved and diseased mind. He lives in mortal fear of heights and of walking underneath ladders. Black cats terrify him.

     "My office has just learned from a reliable source in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London that he may be travelling with two companions of the female persuasion. This is their picture:

     "They were last pinpointed by Wikileaks in the vicinity of the Nalcor transmission line in the Long Range Mountains. We suspect the two female companions may be ex-bodyguards of the deceased dictator Gadaffi, the late ruler of Libya. As such, they, too, are wanted fugitives who are suspected of contemplating sabotage.

     "Once our Constabulary mantracker has cornered them, they will have a speedy trial and will be imprisoned in her Majesty's Penitentiary until further notice." He fondled his noose as he spoke.

     "I urge you with all the power of my silvern voice to be solemnly vigilant," he said. "God guard thee Newfoundland......and oh yes, Labrador."

     When I looked up, my two guests had completely flown the bough-wiffen. They left behind their Apple Macbook and an expensive pair of hiking books which fit perfectly.

     

     

Another Dispatch From Beyond The Wall

 

Conversion on the Road to Damascus

Location: Somewhere in the Annieopsquotch Mountains, Newfoundland and Labrador

     My miniature solar panel enables me to maintain contact via my trusty iPhone with political developments in our fair province. A week of enormous import has flashed by and a number of the Forsaken Posse in Confederation Building have, like the apostle Paul, seen the light on the road to Damascus, or shall we say Muskrat Falls.

     For those who have not been following the story, people power in the Big land has forced the mighty Nalcor and the inept Liberal Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to abandon their abominable scheme to flood massive tracts of the Churchill River Valley without clear-cutting and removing soil. Such a scheme would have resulted in a massive spike in methyl-mercury levels downstream and people would be exposed to the very real horrors of Minimata disease for generations.

     Two weeks ago, Premier Duh-wite claimed he had inherited the problem. "My hands are tied," he said.

     "If people in the area are told not to eat fish, seabirds, and seal, they will be compensated," said Perry (The Bunny) Trimper, Minister of Environmental Destruction to protesters in Goose Bay in June.

     "Eat less fish," tweeted Nick Whelan, the ham-fisted Liberal M.P. for St. John's East, mocking the people of Labrador.

     The people of the Big Land shut the place down. Not even the courts and the RCMP could stem their outrage. Premier Duh-wite's hands were indeed tied. After an eleven hour meeting with Aboriginal leaders, he cried uncle. The flooding scheme was shelved. His retreat was about one thing, he said, "the health of Labradorians." The Bunny repeated the meme on all the news outlets.

     All the drama and political sincerity was unbearable. I came down with a case of debilitating insomnia--the ideal conditions for a visit from the old hag. As I lay semi-conscious in my lonely bough-whiffen at two in the morning, I suddenly found myself in a state of total paralysis. Not a muscle could I move as my humble shelter filled with the overwhelming fragrance of the evergreen forest and the distant murmur of the pristine waterfalls of the Annieopsquotch.

     Despite my natural instinct to scream in terror as she sat sedately on my chest, I was able to ask in a whimpering whisper what her motives were. "I have come to warn you again," she cackled. "I bring news that Mantracker Walsh and Wimpy Warr are hot on your trail. They are both from the Constabulary."

     Only yesterday, she informed me, they left Dildo heading west towards Virgin Cove. Before I could offer my profuse thanks, she disappeared.

     At least she had offered more in the way of conversation this time. "Come again," I called after her, but the words were lost on the mountain winds.

     My iPhone rang at 3.30 in the morning. It's me, RS from MP," hissed a hysterical voice. The Mantracker is on your tail. Big Eddie now has me under surveillance too. He just hired Dr. Dale's drinking buddy to keep an eye on me. I can't talk any longer." He hung up before I could respond.

     Now that I was fully awake, I could think clearly. The new information would leave me plenty of time for a well-planned exit from my current location, I thought. I would be in no danger until they neared Eastern Tickle.

     

A Very Thingish Thing

 

"When you are a bear of very little brain," said Pooh, "and you think of things, you find sometimes that a thing which seemed very thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it."

Journal Entry from an Undisclosed Location in the Annieopsquotch Mountains, Newfoundland and Labrador:

     I have recently perfected a miniature solar panel from tin cans which have been castoff in copious numbers along with wads of other waste throughout the wilderness. The invention allows me to maintain contact with the outside world as I keep one step ahead of my pursuers. Just this morning I received a call from my undercover contact in the city.

     "Is that you?" said RS from MP. "I haven't heard from you in months. I thought they had vaporized you."

     "It's me," I said. "What's the scoop?"

     "Big Eddie, Minister of Outports, is sending Mantracker Walsh, Deputy Minister of Justice, out beyond the wall to trace your trail and hunt you down like a dirty dingo. She's riding a big black clydesdale from the Constabulary's mounted unit. Wimpy Warr, MHA for Green Bay, is with her on another horse. You must have ticked him off too. Run away! Run Away!" he whispered urgently. "And be careful out there," he hissed. "They're all out to get you. Stay away from the Nalcor transmission line. That's the first place they'll look. I have to go now, Big Eddie's cousin, Georgie (Corleone) is coming down the corridor. Jeez, that guy gives me the creeps."

     So I sit in my lonely bough-wiffen in these mountains contemplating the latest revelations from my snitch in Confederation Building.

     As I tuned in to the CBC evening news on my iPhone I learned that there is a minor uprising at the Muskrat Falls site in Labrador. Apparently, the population of the Big Land objects to being poisoned to death by Nalcor and Premier Duh-wite's Forsaken Posse.

     Perry (The Bunny) Trimper, Minister of Environmental Destruction, makes a muddled mundane meandering statement on the passionate protestors who are determined to fight. For once I am not alone, I thought.

     Premier Duh-wite makes a statement. "I inherited the problem," said Duh-wite. "My hands are tied."

     Or, as Pooh said: Don't underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear and not bothering.

     Winnie the Pooh is still my favourite book. I didn't discover it until I was an adult because we didn't have a community library when I was a child growing up on the island. If Dr. Dale, Minister of Illiteracy, has his way, nobody will have a community library. Period.

     I have read the book a total of 117 times since then and have it committed completely to memory.

     Damn, I'm running out of power.

     I love Pooh and tonight, under the bright hunter's moon, I miss him very much.

Dispatches from Beyond the Wall

 

My Recent Adventures

After my ingenious escape 

Smite Thine Enemies

 

Morning radio on the People's Network is a passion of mine. Like my regular 7am coffee, I can't do without it. I was likewise engaged this morning when I recognized a voice from the past responding to Piya Chattopadhyay, host of CBC's the Current.

From out of political purgatory came the voice of Roger 'the Revelator' Grimes, former premier of this great land--for a very brief period. He had indeed returned with words of wisdom, prophecy, and advice for the Forsaken Posse at Confederation Building  and their Dear Leader, Dwight.

At first, Grimes reminded me of a present day version of the great prophet Isaiah, he of Old Testament fame. On one of his off days at the temple in Jerusalem some 2700 years ago, Isaiah allowed that 'truth has stumbled in the street and uprightness cannot enter.' he could very well have been thinking about present day Newfoundland and Labrador.

As the interview progressed, however, Grimes morphed into a modern day Joshua, he of Jericho fame who succeeded Moses. Early on, Joshua was a bit of a gentleman and didn't go around picking fights with just anybody, not even the opposition. It was only after the walls came tumbling down that he decided he could go farther in political life by being really, really mean.

Joshua then gained quite a reputation as the merciless leader of the Israelites. Henceforth he was one hard ticket. Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown couldn't hold a candle to Joshua. His friend, Achan, thought he should get a big bonus for helping Joshua with the Jericho stuff. So unbeknowst to Joshua, Achan helped himself to silver and gold and shekels as well as a nice robe, all from the treasury of Jericho.

Joshua fell flat on his face when he found out about it but when he regained his composure he had Achan stoned to death. Then he burned to death all Achan's sons and daughters and their donkeys and sheep and goats.

After that, Joshua besieged the city of Ai just to show how tough and nasty he really was. His men killed every last Ai soldier, murdered all the women and children, then killed the king and hung his body from a tree. In order to be transparent about it all, Joshua asked God to stay the sun so everything could be done in the light of day.

Fast forward 3400 years.

"Dwight Ball is way too much of a gentleman," said Grimes to the radio host. "He's showing too much respect and kindness to people like Ed Martin and Ken Marshall [of Muskrat Falls fame]. These people don't hesitate to punch Dwight Ball in the eyeball, punch him in the nose, punch him below the belt, stab him between the shoulder blades."

Grimes' advice to the besieged premier: Get nasty and mean--meaner than a junkyard dog. Meaner than Joshua. Make it like a good hockey fight.

Thus Spake Roger.

I'm not making this up.

Deja Vu All Over Again

 

1933 was a very bad year. The Great Depression, a worldwide economic disaster, was at its peak; Adolph Hitler became chancellor of Germany; and the Dominion of Newfoundland, in dire financial straits, turned out the lights on democracy.

The financial difficulties of the Dominion of Newfoundland amounted to 100 million dollars of government debt--1.8 billion in today's dollars. Today, the figure sounds all too familiar.

The financial hole of 1933 had not been dug overnight. Despite having borrowed fourteen million between 1914 and 1918 to support the war effort, Newfoundland was still in decent financial shape. Over the next fifteen years, however, government made a practice of borrowing heavily to bankroll projects like the Reid Newfoundland Railway which had become an enormous burden on the country.

To add to Newfoundland's woes, successive political leaders like Sir Richard Squires and Walter Munroe engaged in shady practices to enrich themselves and their cronies. Squires spent much of his time flitting between his luxury apartments in New York and London, hobnobbing with the rich and famous at government expense. Munroe was more interested in rejigging the tax system to favour himself and his rich friends on Water Street.

Throughout the 1920s ordinary people watched powerlessly as the privileged upper class plundered the treasury. One editorial writer for the St. John's newspaper, The Evening Telegram, lamented that with the falling off of the standard of government, there has been a growing disregard of the interests of the people.

It all came to an ignoble end in early December 1933 at the last meeting of the Legislative Assembly when Prime Minister Alderdice stood in the house and proposed a motion which in effect terminated Newfoundland's self-government in return for a bail-out by Britain. The result: For the first time in the history of nations, a country had willingly sacrificed independence in favour of colonial status. Only two members of the assembly voted against the motion, Roland Starkes for the District of Green Bay, and Gordon Bradley for Humber Valley.

One would think that such a shameful decision sparked outrage. Instead on December 22, 1933, the cream of Newfoundland's political and business class met over a lavish dinner at the Newfoundland Hotel in St. John's to celebrate the end of their independent country. The menu featured entrees like lamb chops with mint sauce, poached Atlantic salmon, and roast turkey, all washed down with fine French wines. Speaker after speaker praised Prime Minister Alderdice for bringing an end to the country's "harassing financial difficulties."

Henceforth, the colony of Newfoundland would be ruled by six commissioners appointed by the British government. The 'temporary' arrangement lasted until confederation with Canada in 1949.

One of those commissioners, Sir John Hope-Simpson along with wife, Quita, arrived in Newfoundland in February 1934. They left detailed impressions of the colony and its people through letters to family back home in Britain. There has been terrible misgovernment,--worse, terrible immorality in the government, said Quita, in one letter to her daughter. The people have been exploited. The natural resources have been wasted and gambled away. Wealthy men hold huge tracts of land....

Their impressions were often those picked up from ill-informed gossips in the city. Their portrayal of people in the outports was particularly interesting. All over the island the people are in desperate case, read the same letter. Women stay in bed til 1 o'clock because there is nothing to get up for. In other places people never go to bed because they have no blankets, so they stay huddled together round whatever fire they have....The popular perception amongst the elite in St. John's was that outport people did not work hard enough, lacked perseverance, and were entirely dependent on government for whatever services they enjoyed.

Attempts by the commissioners to improve conditions in rural and outport Newfoundland were aften met with scorn by Water Street merchants. The outport people are happy with their lot in life, the commissioners were told. Any change would upset the apple-cart. Sir Eric Bowering, a prominent businessman in the city, was of the opinion that everyone in the outports was ignorant and should never have been granted the right to vote in the first place.

Still, 1933 was not a total washout. Willie Nelson was born on April 29 of that year. "What has changed is that nothing has changed," Willie once said.

RSS feed