Saturday, January 31, 2015

Harper goes full on North Korean ...

Jeremy Nuttall describes the Friday noontime fiasco when Harper gathered Ottawa-bureau reporters in one place, had them sign an embargo on information and then cut them off, preventing them filing stories on the Harper anti-terrorist legislation.

Good read!

And, this is just the beginning. We all know Harper finds democracy an inconvenient obstacle to his hold on power. Expect more, a lot more, in the coming months. Harper is a desperate individual. Desperate people do despicable things.

Added:  Highlighting the desperation of this odious psychopath is an article from Heather Mallick underscoring his need to broadcast his penis size without, you know, actually having to show it, by producing warrior-centric propaganda ... with your money.

Chris Turner explains that Harper's behaviour is nothing short of that fake US patriotism we're all familiar with. He, along with thousands of others describes Harper's 3 minute propaganda piece as nothing but a cartoon and completely out of place in a country where duty, obligation and sacrifice do not involve beating your own chest and having band play martial music 24/7.

H/T Alison for the Chris Turner link.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

funerals and politics

RIP RCMP Constable David Wynn

Constable Wynn was murdered while performing his duties as a sworn officer of the law and by all accounts was a pretty good guy who leaves behind a wife and children who will never see him again. He was a former paramedic who joined the Mounties and did a nasty, occasionally dangerous, often thankless, probably often frustrating job that the vast majority of us would not care to do and for that he is owed our gratitude. We mourn his passing and grieve for his loss and sympathize with his family.

I got into a bit of a discussion on Twitter tonight about the supposed politicization of Wynn's funeral by the prime minister and it may shock you to see me defend him, at least in part.   I don't think Stephen Harper politicized this funeral any more than any other. I emphatically do not wish to politicize Wynn's death. It is tragic and has little or nothing to do with political issues in Canada. I hope his family can be left to mourn without having to make any pronouncements on public policy or electoral politics.

Wynn was investigating a stolen vehicle when he walked into the wrong place at the wrong time and paid for it with his life. That can happen to police officers and no amount of training, equipment, backup or draconian throw-away-the-keys legal code will ever change that.

Unfortunately to my mind, we have reached the point in our culture where the death of any uniformed public servant requires politicians to respond. Wynn's funeral was attended by both the Prime Minister and the Premier of Alberta along with thousands of police officers from across the Canada and around the world. Such funerals get bigger and bigger as we attach more and more moral superiority to police officers. Wynn was murdered in the line of duty, but even funerals for police officers killed in traffic accidents bring out other officers en masse in a show of solidarity, which is in many ways admirable.

I am, however concerned about the question of politicization. The prime minister and the premier are important people, yes, but the prime minister is not the head of state, nor is the premier the highest official in Alberta. (Where the hell were the Governor General and Lt. Governor?) They attend either out of a sense of sincere solidarity or at the very least to show the voters how much they support law enforcement. The former does not require them to do anything but attend, the latter usually means speeches and crass politicking. To complain publicly about their presence at such an event in the absence of such speeches or politicking is rather like protesting the funeral of a soldier killed in combat because you oppose the war. In such a case, I emphatically do not condemn opposition to war, but I question the appropriateness of the time and place of the protest.

If such speeches are made, if politicians do what they do and try to curry favour by their presence, let them. Let the family mourn. Let the funeral proceed without any further distractions. I would compare it to having an estranged family member or ex-spouse or lover suddenly show up at the funeral of a loved one. Especially if they feel compelled to give their own eulogy about how the deceased wronged them. For me, it is simply pragmatic good manners not to raise a fuss there and then, not to scream and shout and make their unwelcome appearance the one thing that everyone remembers from the funeral. At the same time, there is every reason to show up at the unwelcome party's doorstep the next day and give them all the shit imaginable.

For political reasons, Stephen Harper and Jim Prentice had to attend Wynn's funeral. Their base, and probably their opponents, would never let them forget it if they hadn't. Whether they would have attended if they were not in politics is another, more personal question none of us can answer for them. That said, I do not think that they politicize the event by their simple presence. Whether they deserve to be vilified for their actions the next day depends on their actions. (though given the CPC's track record of issuing a plea for funds to help the Prime Minister fight the evil Muslim terrorists who would murder us all in our beds only hours after the Charlie Hebdo office attacks, one might just wonder about the purity of their motives in such a situation). The coverage I have seen has been limited and none of it mentioned speeches by either politician or any role played by them other than attending the funeral. Whether they attempt to make political hay out of it after the fact remains to be seen, though I have seen enough of this prime minister to have little doubt that he would gladly load Constable Wynn's corpse onto his political bandwagon and parade it through the land if he thought it would get him more than a handful of votes. I hope he proves me wrong, it would be a nice change.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The definition of "combat" ...

Is NOT the one provided by some pencil-necked, political, maggot out of the prime minister's office. Especially when that particular creature has never so much as stood in a recruiting office, much less actually been in armed conflict.

Let's get an item out of the way here. Anyone in any military theatre of operations coming under hostile fire has every right to return fire and every right to return that fire with full effect. (Yes, that means kill the person(s) shooting at you). That clean little white box is not up for debate.

Here's what the PMO's resident mouthpiece, Jason MacDonald, had to say:
A combat role is one in which our troops advance and themselves seek to engage the enemy physically, aggressively, and directly. That is not the case with this mission.

That definition has been flatly debunked by MGen (Ret'd) Lewis Mackenzie and Col (Ret'd) Pat Stogran, both of whom have extensive combat experience.

MacDonald suggests that Canadian special forces, on the ground in Iraq, providing targeting information and data to CF-18 (and allied forces) air strikes, does not constitute "combat". Worse, however, is that the Canadian Forces, in the form of Lt-Gen Johnathan Vance, provided cover for MacDonald by continuing to advance that ludicrous notion.

What's the issue here? Well, Harper told parliament and the country that Canada would not be involved in ground combat operations - at all. The SFOC troops sent to Iraq were provided as trainers. Which suggests he knew that was never the case and he lied.

The simple fact that Harper's mouthpiece has had to come out with a warped definition of "combat" highlights one very illuminating fact: Harper lied to Canada from the get-go about the nature of the Iraq mission and he knew he was lying.

What else is at issue is the behaviour of Lt-Gen Vance. He should have withdrawn from the discussion immediately by stating that Canadian ground troops were obeying the rules of engagement specified by the Government of Canada ... and then let the excrement land in the laps of the politicians. Vance is now party to a political fight in which he has no place and which erodes public trust in the Canadian Forces.

I have contributed to a lot of "After Action" reports, but in this instance one stands out. In referring to a particular action the report stated that:

"Elements of (unit) came into position where company-strength enemy activity was observed. (Unit) continued to provide situation reports without engaging the enemy. At (time) (unit commander) called for gunfire support from (ship) to neutralise enemy position. After (several hours) of continued bombardment (unit commander) reported that enemy was sufficiently incapacitated to allow (different unit) to advance on final objective. (Unit's) combat action successfully cleared the route to (objective)."
See that? The members of the "unit" did not fire a single shot from their position. It did however, provide targeting data and coordinates for the ship. Here's the thing: The guy calling the fire is the guy leading the fight. As each bullet left the ship's guns they became the combat multiplier of the ground unit and the combat action was attributed to both the ground unit and the ship.

If I'm on the ground providing targeting information to an air asset with a bomb, it's MY bomb. Nothing about it is not ground combat.

Harper lied and he knew he was lying. Now he's got others lying for him by trying to change the definition of "combat". It is reminiscent of another politician saying, "I did not have sex with that woman."



 

Monday, January 05, 2015

Guns n' F-35s and the CF-104 II

MoS has great post on the F-35A's gun problems.  2019 and they think it might finally be OK to shoot the thing! The other F-35s are gunless and require and externally mounted gunpod, and in all cases carry ammunition quantities far below any current fighter standard - some more on that in a sec. But first, some points to consider.

First, people have been bolting guns to planes for 100 years now, so at least this bit should be a no-brainer. However, with this strange little aeroplane, they've had amnesia and made the sight/trigger on the F-35 a block of complex computer code instead of a mechanical or electro-mechanical system, and failed miserably.

Second, fighter gun systems are less about the amount of ammunition carried and more about delivering the most mass or destructive power to a target in as short a time as possible. Guns are used in close air to air combate or strafing runs: it's important to know that fighters move very fast and there isn't time for some long burst of fire. Whether it's a tank on the ground or an enemy fighter, the speeds involved means that any target might only appear in the sight for a second or two or even less, making the amount fire the gun can deliver in that time very important. It may mean that the smaller number of rounds carried by the F-35 is thought to be adequate (should the gun work) because the technological innovations, larger calibre of ammunition (30mm vs. current ~20mm standard) in the F-35 mean the plane will be more 'efficient' in its gun deployment.

Third, early in Vietnam, the US air combat thinkers had decided that the future was all missiles and didn't build guns into new fighters like the first F-4s. This cost them as North Vietnam had Soviet planes with lots of guns and focussed on getting close enough to use them on US aircraft. Being close enough to use guns generally means being inside the minimum range for using missiles. No gun in that scenario = very big problem and later versions of US planes like the F-4 all had built-in guns.

So what does this mean for Canada?

Right now, the most important role for the RCAF isn't optional bombing campaigns in one far flung part of the world or another. It is NORAD and NATO air defence, which as it did in the Cold War means intercepting Russian fighters and bombers near NATO and North American air space. You can see from the photos they publish just how close at least some of the aircraft can get to each other, which is well within gun range (I wonder what Voodoo crews thought when that happened), and definitely inside missile range. If something were to go wrong there during a fighter-fighter intercept, a dogfight would ensue and guns and agility would play major roles in the outcome. A less agile and gun-troubled aircraft like the F-35 would be at a prima facie disadvantage! Know this:

The primary Defence of Canada role for the RCAF is as an air defence (i.e. fighter) force because the main military threats to Canada still come from the air.  This should be the only fact that really matters in any new Canadian fighter purchase.


This minimal concern for the gun points toward what the F-35 actually is, which is a deep penetration bomb truck. During the Cold War, Canada's CF-104 Starfighters were deployed to Europe as high speed deep [nuclear] strike platforms, not as air to air fighters. Even if it worked, the F-35 is essentially a CF-104 replacement, not a CF-18 replacement.

By not pushing for something designed as a fighter from the start, the Harper Government might be said to be abdicating its first military responsibility: defend Canada.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Veterans faking their injuries?

I'm not going to link to it because he doesn't deserve it, but the vile and souless Fantino has suggested that veterans malinger for money.

It's hard to imagine a more wretched and misanthropic psyche. Even his face drips spite.

Sexual crimes and the military pt. 2

There's a quite disturbing (trigger warning) article in GQ on male-on-male rape in the US military. I don't know what the figures are for Canada, but most of the attention is on women. Still, my own experience suggests that men might also face issues. A couple of incidents come to mind.

It was 20 years ago now, but one instructor I had would get visible erections when he ran soldiers (mostly male) through endless 'change parades', a stress technique that requires soldiers to change into different orders of dress within very short time limit (seconds or minutes). Failure to meet the timing was punished by push-ups or being required to adopt very painful and uncomfortable stress positions. I have no idea what happened to this man.

In another instance I know of, an instructor ordered male subordinate soldiers into the shower and required they lather and rinse repeatedly in front of him until he was satisified they were clean. This man eventually seriously injured a soldier in another private powertrip and his career was thankfully ended.

There were rumours of rapes targetting men, or stories of things that happened in other armies, but most of us dismissed those. Now, I wonder and I'm sure others have stories.

Power resulting from hierarchical organisation (militaries, police, workplaces, government/public nowadays) results in abuse because humans are imperfect that way. Hierarchy is an ancient method of organisation, and one that I think has seen its day as society runs into ecological and social crises resulting, fundamentally, from a few people able to control others.




Ezra and the Alba cops

Ol' Ezra's off his meds again, clearly. Wow.


Monday, December 29, 2014

Police issues

Question: How do you deal with mentally disturbed persons acting out with or without a weapon if you don't have the police on hand?

There is a chance that today's police will kill the person by gunshot or some 'less lethal' device on their tool belt. Behaviour perceived as violent and the presence of a knife or some other weaponised object indicates 'threat' and the nature of threats are compared against an increasing scale of force the in the situation assessment guidelines.  I suppose that works in a purely technical, quantifiable and thereby legally defensible sense, but people still die who don't have to. The unarmed should not die as a basic given.



Under these conditions, the preservation and protection of life, even the "subject's" life is not prioritised when police weapons become involved. The choice is effectively between lethal, and less-lethal, with death remaining distinct possibility in each case. Indeed, the latter is more like Russian roulette given the high degree of uncertainty regarding the way individuals will respond to Taser-type weapons and random variability with the power of the weapons themselves.

Indeed, I wonder if the presence of police themselves might be perceived by a person as a threat to their life. I think there's an assumption that the intimidation factor will cause the individual to submit. This is wrong. There's a fight or flight instinct, and some people will respond aggressively when they feel threatened. In fact, this perception of threat is what allows the police to use violence themselves.

People who deal with the mentally ill or disturbed in the course of their jobs, including nurses, social workers, and shelter staff often encounter violent incidents that do not result in death. The absence of weapons and the presence of calm voices and established means of assessing the context that does not involve a scaled threat-force matrix, and controlling the situation and prospect of harm to others tends to win the day. There is no available recourse to Tasers, firearms, mace, or anything like that. Life is preserved. 

In the past few weeks in the wake of incidents with police in the US, I've seen a few different internet discussions and posts on social media by police and others who go on about how none of these incidents would happen if people just 'complied' with police direction, inferring that lethal violence is justified in the wake non-compliance. Hello, Judge Dredd.  This isn't a legal argument and it assumes the police are of sound mind and bias-free judgement in the knowledge and application of their powers, so we should all just jump when ordered! 

By their very nature, they are a socially cohesive organisation, police are susceptible to groupthink and therefore unable to be biased, and are publically unable to recognise their own bias. Indeed, they are unable, except in very rare cases, to remove the idiots from their ranks. No organisation can function effectively if it cannot eject or rehabilitate the problem staff. The police effectively work against themselves because public trust them is eroded. If the public trust is eroded, the police will leave themselves exposed to policymakers intent on enacting reforms they really won't like.

In any case, the relationship between police and certain communities is not good and it is changing as police militarise, weaponise, and further insulate themselves from the public. 


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Stealthiness and the F-35, Harper style

Back here, Dave asked:
Why is the coward bearing the title "prime minister" so hell-bent on sole-sourcing the F-35? BECAUSE HE'S MADE A DEAL HE HASN'T TOLD YOU ABOUT. He's hiding something - he always is!
Now Bill Sweetman at Aviation Week asks the same after some delicate words regarding the results of the new fighter secretariat's review in the context of the Harper government's handling of the whole affair.
One way or another, it seems Canada’s fighter procurement is headed for the competition that Ross and others maintained in 2010 would be a waste of time. If the Harper government had started a competition then, it would have a decision by now, and that does raise an interesting question. If Harper and his colleagues thought the F-35 was so great, why didn’t they want to prove it through an open contest?
The F-35 could be a photo of an Airfix model by this point and the Harper government would still be gaming it from the cupboard.

Why?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sexual crimes in the military

I am completely unsurprised by the ordeal faced by this woman.
A former military corporal who said she faced reprisals after accusing a superior of sexual assault feels vindicated after the Canadian Armed Forces extended an apology and reparations to her. St├ęphanie Raymond said the outcome will have positive repercussions, particularly for women as well as for some men serving in the Canadian military.
I haven't met a woman in the armed forces who hasn't faced assault or harrassment to one degree or another. It's been nearly 20 years since the military took steps following Somalia and other scandals to end this despicable kind of bullshit. However, little has changed and sexual assault and harrasment, overwhelmingly but not exclusively against women, is still an abject problem.

Women leaving the armed forces I've met in recent years uniformly cite this as their reason for leaving. Many have stories of a passively defective or an outright hostile chain of command when they've sought redress.  Some just get fucking sick of it.

The issue, perhaps, might be the very nature of the armed forces. It is a legacy institution, patterned and born of another era, organised in a rigid hierarchy, insular, with deeply embedded traditions and norms, very interested in protecting and perpetuating itself. Strong parallels, I think, between the armed forces and that other institution where sexual crimes are rampant.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

UKIP's quips

Ah, I believe we're a familiar with this sort of problem with our ReformatoryCons, who are basically now required to think only in verbatim PMO talking points.
Nigel Farage is cracking down on Ukip supporters’ social media activity after a series of scandals over racist comments. The party has changed its constitution to prevent unauthorised use of the Ukip logo by supporters, members and officials, while Ukip’s chairman has warned those tempted to join Twitter: “My advice: just don’t.”
A rather scary lesson from Canada is that if UKIP can actually tighten up its game, a merger with the Conservatives is just over the horizon. I don't think there's anyway UKIP can break a certain percentage threshold without at least finding an ally. Be interesting to see how this plays out...

Friday, December 19, 2014

OK, cupboard

Well, we had to know that at some point the man would have to account for his cupboardliness in the face of danger. The excuses, sorry, reasons are apparently as follows.

1. His MPs hustled him away and stashed him with the mops and things.

2. The RCMP trained him to hide.

3. He's gets to see all the intelligence that no one else does so he alone understands the nature of the threats he faces and hid accordingly.

4. And lastly, he's simply too important to die.
"One of the things you try and do is conceal yourself if you can, but obviously the best situation is to exit," Harper said, adding the goal is for the prime minister to be able to continue to run the government.
Well, on the first and second counts, maybe. But then that suggests, especially in the context of third and fourth counts, the rest of his MPs and staff are, shall we say, expendable. Pity he didn't bother to share his apparently unique knowledge of threats with the rest of his caucus or the Oppositon. Not important enough, I guess.

None of that changes the fact that he hid in the cupboard while his peers faced death and he is now making excuses. 




Monday, December 15, 2014

Sydney cafe hostage: They called the army?

One gunman holding hostages in cafe. This is the exactly the sort of civilian problem that police tactical unites train for the world over and partly what's behind the rise of the warrior cop. In Australia, however, early reports indicate the cafe hostage situation was resolved by an army tactical unit (BBC is reporting RAR, which has a commando battalion but who knows, it could be SASR).  If true, one wonders why the army was brought in. One scenario comes to mind.

The hostage-taker had Islamist banners and such, making the Australian government or authorities regard it a military problem given the at this time nebulous links to Daesh/ISIS. 

Truly bizarre. The aftermath?

1. Linking a comparatively minor civilian event to problems in the Middle-East causes the powers-that-be in Australia to put troops on the streets. Nice work, there.

2. If true, much of the rationale for the New South Wales Police having a tactical capability (very much on display in the news footage) just vanished because violent hostage takings involving civilians are now an Australian military matter. So much for the warrior-cop, eh?

Osama bin Laden couldn't have dreamed this.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

NEB: Rubber-stamping pipelines and boasting about it

Hostile to the public interest. Conservative Party agent. Oil sector agent. In league with Satan. Pick your description, either the formerly respectable National Energy Board, which you pay for, will not help you understand and possibly object to an oil or gas development in your neighbourhood.

Fascism. Now read this.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Con clumsiness

Oh for crying out loud.

Canada's Special Economic Measures Regulations against Iran state that "it is prohibited for any person in Canada and any Canadian outside Canada to … provide or acquire any financial services to, from or for the benefit of, or on the direction or order of Iran or any person in Iran." Shahrooz said it seems that some banks are interpreting the sanctions harshly, essentially applying them to anyone who has a connection to Iran — be it a residence, citizenship or even travel.  "That's a fairly aggressive reading of the legislation. It actually captures people who I don't think Canadian legislators ever intended to capture," he said.
The Canadian 'legislators' who came up with this regulation are vindictive pricks and I'd be unsurprised to learn they are well pleased with themselves over how aggressively and broadly their little bitty rulz are applied.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Out there, in the Harpercarnage

Oh, cupboardly man, I would not want to be in your shoes.

Here's the deal. As former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page put it at a talk in Victoria a couple of years ago, he's untouchable. Mr. Page lost a son, and in his mind there was nothing you or your minions could do to him after that experience that would hurt him.

Major Mark Campbell is a very capable man maimed beyond most people's comprehension on a mission you sent him. You've made him angry because you fucked him and his soldiers out of care and compensation for their wounds.

When the enemy blew away half his body, you turned around kicked the other half. You didn't support him or his brothers and sisters. You didn't withdraw them when you decided the war was pointless, and 51 were killed after that point and I don't know how many wounded. And you've cut compensation so they will spend their days 'managing' sort-of with their disabilities and horrors. What does that make you, if after the enemy has their go at the troops, you take a shot at them when they return? Seriously, what do you think that makes you?

Here's the thing: If you keep hurting people, taking things away from them, they eventually reach a point where they have much less to lose and far more to gain by taking you down. A person who can lose half their body in combat and still keep fighting is not someone you want to dick around.

Forget the useless Opposition, it'll be Maj. Campbell or someone like him who will destroy your government through the courts or the election circuit or some other very Canadian means. 

Cupboardly man, you and I don't know who you're fucking with out there.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Talking tough

The cupboardly man is talking tough regarding two regions of the world with the potential to blow-up. Ukraine-Russia and Israel-Palestine are flirting with major war and insurrection.

Our PM may think it is low risk to mouth-off to Putin or declare some kind of weird love for right-wing Israeli governments, but sometime in the next year or three he could find himself facing requests to back-up his words with actions.

He ought to shut-up and tread carefully.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Soft targets and red herrings

The mentally questionable individual who posed as a decorated jumper from the RCR is a soft target and irrelevant. The scorn presently being heaped on him from military circles is unsurprising, but Mr. Gervais is a red herring. Stephen Harper has worn unearned RCAF wings and members of his government has appeared in uniforms complete with rank and unit insignia, not to mention received unentitled salutes.

The military members and police, serving and former, crying blasphemy at some random civilian might ask themselves if they are also willing to heap the same vitriol on the politicians who do likewise and cause real harm for veterans, not their simulcrum.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Interstellar

Interstellar is an interesting revision of the same themes apparent in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Time features large and the idea of literally warping time is now theoretically possible. The vastness and complexity of the universe, or multiverses are increasingly known to us. We have devices in space now that can look at the some of the oldest light in the universe. We have caused a particle to exist in two places at once.

And yet, despite all of this knowledge about our position in spacetime, that is our position in existence, we cling to old fears and identities. We still scream at each across lines on maps, or colours of skin, or whatever confabulations tell us we are somehow divisible from each other like fire and water, not beings made of the same matter as the stars around us.

What we are so much more than we claim to be.

Canada and Australia, alone in the world

G20 Summit lead-up, 2020

The world was not shocked today when the remaining G20 countries declined to extend meeting invitations to Canada and Australia over their stance on climate change. The intransigent position on fossil fuels taken by the national governments of these two countries distrupted last year's summit as the other G20 nations all but finalised a new energy agenda. An unidentified official from Japan suggested that Canada and Australia were excluded for both their roles as fossil fuel producers and that the main goal of this year's meeting was the finalise binding commitments on clean energy production across the G20.

The French foreign minister went even further, saying bluntly that the two countries were harmful to the G20 and a danger to the future of the Earth and said that if their over-leveraged economies were not already in steep decline due to the loss of major international markets for coal and oil and the maquiladorisation of the Canadian labour market, sanctions would be an option. "In five years or less, their economy will collapse anyway because nobody buys dirty fuel," the minister said to reporters.