Thursday, October 23, 2014

Stephen Harper's Ottawa speech.

“We are also reminded that attacks on our security personnel and our institutions of governance are by their very nature attacks on our country, on our values, on our society, on us Canadians as a free and democratic people who embrace human dignity for all. But let there be no misunderstanding. We will not be intimidated. Canada will never be intimidated.” (Stephen Harper, 22 October 2014)
Our security personnel, eh? Try this. Or this. And this. This too. Note especially that on 1 March 2009 Stephen Harper publically declared the Afghan war unwinnable.  The FIFTY-ONE Canadian Forces members killed in Afghanistan since that date are effectively wasted lives according to his own logic. By that logic too, the only group that benefitted from these dead Canadian troops is the Taleban.

Our institutions of governance, eh? This. Or this. And this. Oh hell, basically all of this.

Trudeau, Mulcair, either of you want to call him out and actually own the narrative on this? Didn't think so. Instead, you're going to let him have it because unity in crisis and he gave you a hug or something. Oh, good luck with that there next 'election' eh, war PM and all.

The Ottawa attacks and ISIS: A strategy?

The following assumes ISIS is the motivator.

It is interesting that the attacks in St. Jean and Ottawa focussed exclusively on military and political targets, not specifically civilians (although two were apparently wounded yesterday).  Three times (pray not a third), and it's a strategy. I don't know what ISIS propaganda says about strategy, but if they're calling themselves the Islamic State and are the ones inspiring these attacks, then perhaps this is a sign they intend to fight like a state.  These attacks targeted the political leadership and the military of a state (Canada) presently at war with ISIS.

This is an interesting point to consider.

An attack on civilians like 9/11 or the train and tube bombings in Europe mobilises politicians and publics to send large numbers of soldiers to Afghanistan, or Iraq or anywhere Muslim and disfavourable because innocents are reprehensibly killed and the public is legitimately fearful. The response that sends large numbers of Western troops to works as an Islamist recruiting tactic. However, it is useful only to a point as so much military attention of a long period just inhibits the project of setting up a Caliphate or whatever the big actual goal is called. People don't exactly thrive under military occupation and attacking civilians in the West tends to encourage lots of military occupation.

However, attacking the political and military targets in the West doesn't provide a lot of public outrage that would fuel more war because it wasn't the public that was hit. I imagine that right now ISIS is looking at the growing number of forces arrayed against it and starting to wonder about its short or long-term survival. Perhaps it thinks that it is much harder for leaders to justify to Western publics military intervention in Iraq and Syria if ISIS can be seen to attack 'legitimate' wartime targets. Unlike terrorising the public, it is very difficult to logically justify risking more soldiers lives as some kind of vengeance for killing soldiers.  Maybe ISIS has two goals.

1. If ISIS can convince the West that it isn't interested in killing large numbers of Western civilians, maybe it thinks the US and other countries will fail to sustain interest in hammering ISIS.

2. It has also demonstrated that it can hit back in the Western countries that are now attacking it. In Ottawa, it got perilously close to the leadership in one of them.

In a few days, ISIS has also forced the entire Canadian military to adopt a defensive posture in Canada. It has forced them to conceal themselves in public against an enemy they can't see, right around the corner from Remembrance Day when they'd all be on display.  When that happens on a battlefield, it's described as denying freedom of movement and is a major tactical gain if it can be done.

That makes these attacks a helluva move. It's also how states fight wars with each other.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

At the going down of the sun...

With condolences and respect to the family and friends of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise's), Hamilton.

Albainn Gu Braith

At the going down of the sun...

With condolences and respect to the family and friends of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, Royal Canadian Air Force.

Sic Itur ad Astra

Friday, October 17, 2014

Where "decolonization" goes off the rails [updated]

In another venue, fellow inkypixelcreature Alison kindly drew my attention to some aspects of this case that escaped my initial vexatious outburst below. The case is clearly not settled, and the discussion is partly one of collective versus individual rights. The quotes are also from a neighbour, not the child's mother as I missed in my hasty misread.  As with most things, context is critical and this is an extremely complicated case involving the potential for the state to remove an Indigenous child from her parents. The residential school experience and intergenerational impact it left adds a hypersensitivity to this case that would otherwise be absent.

Should this hypersensitivity guide decisions that affect well-being of children or adults to the effect that a failure to act on the part of the state may also risk harm?  Should the state even be involved in Aboriginal issues when it comes to decisionmaking inside those communities that embrace autonomy and self-determination, including child welfare? 

I stand by my comments about the presently popular decolonization discourse and problems it poses.

--------
This case is appalling. The judge, misguided. The parent, equally so. A child's life likely hangs in the balance because of a deeply flawed application of cultural relativism and the reluctance to challenge popular postcolonial and anti-oppression discourses.

The rationale goes a bit like this. European society created modern science and colonialism. Colonialism was bad because it suppressed and oppressed Indigenous peoples and purported a Eurocentric worldview. Modern science, which is also medical science, is bad because is the product of an epistemology that grew from Europe more or less at the same time as colonialism (although in reality the geneology of science goes back to antiquity). In order to "decolonize", or undo the influence of colonialism, Indigenous people must eschew historically Eurogenic ideas and practices, and "reclaim" or "rediscover" traditional practices and knowledge in order to "resurge" and become sovereign. Ok, nothing wrong with that on the surface if you're somone who holds your ethnic or cultural identity and community to be the defining feature of who and what you are. It's completely understandable if your ethnicity has been oppressed and marginalised for generations. But I'm insulting your intelligence if I assume you can't see the flaws in the reasoning that says traditional knowledge and 'science' are either held as equal and interchangeable epistemologies, or the latter is totally dismissed in favour of the former. However, to do this so uncritically is lethally dangerous. The quote by the child's mother neighbour is shockingly telling:
“There’s a fear of [aboriginal remedies] or denial of it. If things can’t be quantified or qualified, to them it’s irrelevant,” said Ms. Hill, as she shopped at Ancestral Voices Healing Centre Thursday. “Who are they [doctors] to say she will make it with their treatments. Just because they have a degree, that makes them more knowledgeable?
Yes, actually, it fucking does. That's why there is an emphasis on providing access to and improving education for Aboriginal people. I'm humourlessly reminded of Tim Minchin.


I suppose I could argue that the blinkered worldview that leads someone to possibly kill their child because she mistrusts doctors and white people is a result of colonialism's centuries abuse of Indigenous people, and so its not really her or the judge's fault. But then I'd be denying her and the judge's agency and intelligence - doubtful as they may be. I'd also be subverting the many Indigenous communities across Canada in perpetual and desperate need for healthcare workers and resources. Sadly the door is now may be opened to deny resources to these communities because they 'can just use their "traditional' medicine'.

Maybe now we will see a restraining or recalibration of the decolonization discourse as the bloody excesses of its internal logic are plain to see. Or not.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Canadian carbon bubble

Mark Carney, present Bank of England governor, former Bank of Canada governor thinks we're in a fossil energy price bubble. If the world reaches a global climate deal, fossil fuel reserves are "unburnable" and therefore pretty much valueless. Indeed, divestment is already fast catching on.

If this happens, the Tar Sands, Canada's single economic bet, becomes nothing more than icky oily sand of use to no one.

Tell me, if you're Canadian and Albertan governing party, do you think it's smart to gamble on the sustained value of your giant pile of toxic sludge? Kinda gives new meaning to the term "toxic asset".

We smugly thought we were awesome in Canada because we didn't have the over-leveraged banks due to stricter regulations when the US and much of the world shat themselves when they realised they'd invested in a US housing-debt bubble. It's how Mark Carney got his current job.  I don't know what the economists would say would happen to Canada if the price of Alberta oil fell through the floor, but I doubt it would be fun...

You know, the opposition parties could make this an election issue.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Top 5 small arms ammo suppliers to ISIS by sample

The usual suspects. [pdf]

1. China

2. Soviet Union

3. United States

4. Russian Federation

5. Serbia

Number six in the sample is Romania, at half as much as Serbia. Some ammunition is manufactured in Russia but marketed by a US company. Others seems to be the result of captured US or US-supplied equipment in Iraq. Soviet is obviously quite old but then that country made enough bullets to fight a world war and supplied a bunch of proxy countries and other states over the years. What's remarkable though is the new manufacture stuff that's barely a year old.

You could say western action against ISIS is like cops taking the easy route and targetting the addicts and not the dealers.


Monday, October 06, 2014

Fin de siècle . . .


WEALTH ACCRUES UNEVENLY. Always has, probably always will, as history shows. But things can get distorted and then there's a market 're-adjustment'. Sometimes such a re-adjustment turns revolutionary. 

When I was a child, there were Rolls, Bentley, Mercedes Lincoln and Cadillac plus the rare Ferrari or Maserati or Aston or Bristol or Alvis, and that was about it. Today, there are around 200 cars that are more than $100,000.

Perhaps owning a carwash might be a good idea. Because with Fin de siècle we might get Louis XV's and Madame Pompadour's prediction, "après moi le déluge" . . .

How bad is the disparity in wealth? According to Autoblog, the average Bugatti owner has 84 cars, 3 jets, 1 yacht. I got an old Pontiac. Newer than Fred's, but gaining antiquity.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Canada in Iraq: Suppressing fire

So Harper announces that he's sending six very old fighter airframes to Iraq (the desert is very hard on advanced fighter aircraft and takes years off airframe life), along with Aurora surveillance and other assets. These are essentially providing air support for local forces: (Kurdish, anti-Assad Syrian militia, Syrian army, Iraqi army, Iranian military, and whatever western and Gulf state special forces operators are milling about there. I know I know, we're not incursing Syrian airspace, yet. (Does the line between Syria and Iraq it matter given the large tracts of territory with an ISIS presence or control?)

He now has his own shiny hobby war of indeterminate duration and aim to milk for votes and flags. How much good the small numbers of strike aircraft are actually doing in a tactical scenario is an interesting question. If you read this Guardian piece, the RAF is dropping precision bombs on single machine gun positions and pick-up trucks. Iranians, Iraqis and the Americans have been bombing ISIS for quite a while now, but still that organisation is holding its own. Elsewhere, Juan Cole draws attention to an item where an Iraqi close support  aircraft was forced to withdraw due to ground fire.

These kinds of report may illustrate an interesting problem. ISIS controls vast tracts of territory but they are not a conventional army. They appear more like a mix of light infantry, Mad-Max gang, and guerilla force. While they have captured armour and artillery, they don't have the organisational structure or background to use these conventionally, making it difficult for high flying fast jets to find high value targets to bomb. These jets are instead seem to be hunting jeeps and machine guns, destroying them with bombs designed to wreck much more fortified and valuable targets. They can't get close because that would expose them to dangerous volumes of small arms and light anti-aircraft fire, like the Iraqi support aircraft mentioned above. It isn't meant to defeat ISIS because ISIS cannot be defeated by bombs and bullets alone. Here's why:


The Kurds in the North, and states like Turkey are only interested in keeping ISIS off their turf, holding their own borders. There isn't the will or numbers to sweep into Sunni/ISIS Iraq and Syria to destroy ISIS. The Shia groups in southern Iraq, including the army, would have to fight tooth and nail to push ISIS fanatics out, which would mean they'd be left holding large tracts of Sunni Iraq under a Shia militia control. Something tells me that would not lead to good things.

So it's a low intensity war of suppression, probably aimed at keeping ISIS from seriously expanding or consolidating its gains. Nobody wants to put large numbers of "boots on the ground" necessary to destroy ISIS because everyone understands that sort of action would mean (1) de facto support for Assad, (2) a lot of casualties and money; (3) the continuation of insurgency for a long time to come.

There's no solution but containment. Except you can't tell a voting public you're joining a war with no path to resolution. People don't get that, let alone political leaders. Now Canada is going to drop bombs on the infinite and indefinite in the desert until something else happens. What, exactly? Well, I suppose we'll know when it happens. Or we won't.



Thursday, September 25, 2014

Night Moves . . .


SOME FOLKS REALLY EARN THEIR PAY. Like the pilot of that Harrier AV-8B landing at night on the flightdeck of amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island somewhere in the Arabian Sea. Do visit David Cenciotti's site, The Aviationist, which has fine pictures of aircraft and events from around the world, to see the video. Brave people.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pointers . . .


Speakers in Houses

Well, we've always suspected The Mouthpiece takes his orders from the Great Grey Glans. Mr. Mulcair finally called him out on it, and duly punished. On Iraq no less, where the Harper Regime has deployed Canadian troops but won't tell us anything else about it. Trudeau the enabler apparently changed the subject. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Baubles, RCAF edition

The news yesterday was about the RCAF (officers, mostly, save for 'aviators') joining the RCN and the Army (officers, entirely) in the back to the future schtick of reverting to pre-Trudeau unification ranks and symbolism.

Judging by the RCAF Facebook and Twitter comments, it is slightly controversial. Some pragmatists saw nothing wrong with the yellow-gold bars that were the norm until now and see this sort of exercise as a waste of money when, you know, wounded vets are being seriously fucked out of pensions and badly needed ships, planes, and trucks remain unrealised. Others wax wistfully about how some sort of 'honour' is now restored and recall with fondness the pre-1968 uniforms tucked away in closets. Still others are less than satisfied because this looks like a  compromise between the old RCAF of Wing Commanders and Pilot Officers* (because the last really big War, Commonwealth, at so on), and the post-Hellyer Majors, Colonels and Generals, with updated versions of the rank insignia of the former superimposed on the latter. To me, it seems like a very made in Canada solution where competing traditions were compromised. Former privates, who are most definitely not pilots, are now something called 'Aviator' which is meant to be a gender-neutral variation of the 'Leading Aircraftsman'  - nevermind 'aviatrix' I guess. (Will the army finally drop the weird MCpl rank/appt thing, and reinstate the lance jack? Unlikely.) I also don't quite understand why RCAF Air Commodores and Marshals Generals require TWO distinct versions of their rank insignia on their DEUs (seriously, why?).

The NCOM ranks haven't changed save for the lowest symbolised rung.  This stuff really is all about the officers (and politicians).

Yet, the RCN just officially lost FOUR of its most important warships, the RCAF's Hornet replacement is unknown, and the wounded are cast-off, and Canada quite literally just got sold to Chinese investors by the Harper government. Who this shiny back-to-the-future Canadian Forces are meant to serve now remains an open question.  Could get weird in ten or twenty years.

*CTV is reporting that maintaining the Army, sorry, uh, "Royal Flying Corps" officer rank titles is because a return to the RAF-type ranks (ahem, also in use in many other air forces!) is "too confusing". Not sure I buy that.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Scotland: No wins.

Massive 84.5 % voter turn-out.

Close finish at 55 % for No.

Verdict: Good result. Further devolved powers are clearly on the radar, democratic participation is renewed, and Scotland can now serve as an inspiration to serious constitutional reform in other parts of the UK, which could create more regionally relevant representation and governance.

If, if, if, the momentum can be harnessed and any sore feelings got-over by those who hold them. There are more than a few people 'blaming' on the web and in some of my circles blaming the trio from Westminster for their last minute devolution promises that swayed the vote. There's no proof they had an effect, and it is actually an act of indirectly blaming fellow Scottish residents. This country does not need division now.

More soon, but I have a pile of work to get through.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Scotland: Branding exercises and the No

The final referendum result won't be known until breakfast tomorrow.

Someone mentioned today over coffee that Yes side scored a major PR victory by co-opting the Saltire, Scotlands blue and white flag, early on and using it as a de facto YES/SNP logo. That flag has sadly now become a biased political statement, rather than the neutral symbol of national unity and regional identity it ought to be.

The No side for some reason has gone with a weird colour scheme that involves yellow and purple, and reminds of UKIP every time I see it. There are also a lot less No signs around where I am. It is actually hard to voice scepticism about independence about this here, even for many Scots let alone poor expats. In my workplace, there are one or two quite vocal and jovial Yes supporters, and I've met some really upbeat and lovely people who are active Yes campaigners.  You end up feeling like you'd really hurt their feelings if you asked some harder questions, regardless of which side you were actually on.  Canadians are known for our apologetic politeness and this is where we get it from! No one ever wants to say no, instead people make declining mumbles or say nothing at all. Tricky business, this mix of culture and rhetoric. I haven't actually met a No campaigner, although I see them around. I wonder if that says something.

Questioning comments are sometimes uttered in quiet voices behind closed doors lest others be offended. There's a subtle unpleasantness to it all that I find myself more aware of in these closing hours.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dangerous delusions . . .

SOMETIMES, IT'S NOT WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW THAT'S DANGEROUS, it's what you believe true that isn't so.

This is a failing in all of us, but it seems to be most pernicious with the socially and politically conservative in societies, wherever they may be.
— HIV —
AlterNet is a fine site, with a thoughtful article by Cliff Weathers, “How Denial Caused One Major Health Catastrophe, and How It May Trigger More Crises”, which describes the costs of this mind-set with the HIV crisis in South Africa — and more important, perhaps, if you live in North America, the increasing vulnerability of all of us on this continent because of cutbacks to vaccination and other public health programs in states with GOP governments.
So, instead of administering the cocktail of HIV medications known to be effective, Mbeki had his health minister contrive alternative remedies for AIDS, including beetroot and garlic.
The results were devastating for South Africa. More than 330,000 people died prematurely from the disease between 2000 and 2005 due to Mbeki’s AIDS denialism, and at least 35,000 babies were born with HIV, infections that could have been prevented using conventional medicine, according to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health.
— Whooping Cough —
In the US, the challenge is a whole host of critters:
While there is no direct institutional denialism of conventional medicine here in the U.S., the denialist movement is active and spreading nonetheless. Vaccine denialism—especially in states with lax public-health laws—has already shown to have a negative effect on public health in some regional pockets, and it’s leaving those communities open to outbreaks of diseases that had been all but eradicated, including measles, polio, whooping cough (pertussis), and even smallpox.
In 2013, researchers confirmed that a 2010 whooping cough outbreak in California—the worst in the U.S. in more than 50 years—was spread primarily by the children of parents who received non-medical exemptions for school vaccinations from the state. The study showed that the outbreak was found exclusively in clusters where children were not vaccinated. There were more than 9,000 cases of the disease in California in 2010 and 10 deaths. In San Diego County, where there were about 5,000 immunization exemptions, there were 980 cases of whooping cough.
Meanwhile, some states were slashing programs for children's vaccinations. In 2011, the year after the whooping cough outbreak in California, Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott cut a state program that provided whooping cough vaccines for poor mothers of babies too young to get their first whooping cough vaccines. There has since been a whooping cough outbreak in Florida with a six-week-old boy dying from the disease. 
These whooping cough outbreaks have been followed by a measles outbreak that began in Texas this year, which is now spreading throughout the U.S.
Smallpox? Yikes!! They just don't get it, so now we're going to get it . . . and thanks to Stevie and his orcs and their anti-science attitudes, voting CON could be really, really dangerous to your health.

Tomorrow's Scottish vote

It's been a noodle-baker to be sure.

I've gone from a clear 'no' to a clear 'yes' to fence-sitting, to leaning marginally one-way or the other, to thinking that there are really no good options in front of me.

In practical terms, I don't think either side has made the case, because they can't. It is impossible to know the final terms of independence at this time and anything said is propaganda. Whatever the politicians and campaigners say now is meaningless. There will be a negotatiation period in the event of a Yes win during which the issues around currency, resource revenues, and the other nuts and bolts issues of divorcing states of are sorted out. There is a risk that this could get very nasty and disadvantageous indeed if a sentiment of 'to hell with Scotland for wrecking Britain' set in. In the event of Yes, I would prefer a second vote on the final terms but I don't trust this sort of thing to happen. 

I'm too much of a realist to trust the emotional resonance alone, which is what much of the Yes camp seems to be about. It's appeal may be in that Yes is a much more confident term than No (could give a new weight to the term yes-man!). The vision of some kind of Celtic Scandanavia (Orcadians and Shetlanders exempted) is very, very appealing, but again this is a fantasy until the final terms are known.

The Yes side does not acknowledge the people in the UK inside and outwith Scotland who rely on a stable pound and economy for their day to day lives. Some people without a vote may be deeply harmed through no fault of their own and they will resent Scotland for it and support a punitive approach to negotiations. The lack of clarity on such critical items like EU membership is also a major problem, and the Scottish economy could stumble severely should countries like Spain block membership. Recovery could be difficult without access to key markets and not enough people are interested in rapid alternative economic experimentation at a national scale to pursue that option. Even I think it's too dangerous. We may be in for a shock regarding just how deeply the relationships go between Scotland the rest of the UK, EU and the world when these are threatened and made visible.

I'm also aware that political moods change with each generation. Give it ten or twenty years, and it's possible that the appeal of independence will have waned, as with Quebec. 

In the same theme, the polling is pretty much 50/50 right now, and the terms are only a simple majority for a decisive result. This is a grossly unfair criterion and it is recipe for pretty vicious conflict because it will effectively leave a country divided. Without a very strong majority win for either side, barely half the country may well determine the future for the other half. I can't support either outcome under those conditions because it is flagrantly irresponsible democracy.

For me, the existence of such a close race starkly emphasises the need for constitutional reform across the UK and I think a No win would be guaranteed if this were put on the table by Cameron et al.  Peripheral regions like Scotland and the north of England haven't done well since Thatcher and there's a serious question of representation in and relevance to NewLaboCon run Westminster.

Then there's climate change and the way the world is heading. I don't believe that creating new borders is ultimately adaptive. There will be migrations of people to and within Europe as some regions become inhospitable and borders simply reinforce us-and-them dynamics that facilitate wars and conflict instead of cooperative, or at least tolerant problem solving and accommodation. The rest of the UK and Scotland may need each other rather desperately under these conditions. [Nigel Farage would probably blame and invade an independent Scotland under these conditions.]

What do I want then? I want options that aren't presently on the table. In the event of a no, constitutional reform. In the event of a very clear majority Yes, second a vote on the final agreed terms or a series of options.

Monday, September 15, 2014

FIPA 2025

14 January 2026
In retrospect, the US military occupation of the Tar Sands and northwest BC coast to Kitimat and Prince Rupert in 2025 was a little predictable. The confrontation with China over energy resources had been brewing for years.

The 2014 ratification of FIPA by then Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper placed Canada on US defence planners' 'potential adversary' list as it gave an economic and military peer competitor to the US a far more lucrative deal than NAFTA.

When Harper was finally ousted, the new Canadian coalition government attempted to shred the FIPA in the face of overwhelming pressure from the electorate, which in turn had largely sided with the massive anti-pipeline protests that culminated when 37 people were killed in related violence. China sued Canada under FIPA for obstructing its investment in the tar sands and pipelines. The risk of a Chinese win, which would have effectively severed the United States from Canadian energy suppliers due to the shear magnitude of Chinese investors' control of that supply, prompted the US annexation.

Chinese and US carrier battlegroups are presently in a tense stand-off in the North Pacific as negotiations toward peaceful resolution continue in Geneva.