Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Problem kids on NATO's flanks

I'm not talking about Syrians or Russians. Hungary and Turkey are both NATO member states. Unlike most other NATO members, which are liberal democracies of some form or another,  these two entities are now ruled by hardline nationalists. Perhaps in international realism, this would be OK for the alliance as there's not real requirement that your country's politics look like the UK, France, or the USA.

The problem is with IS and Syrian refugees and how Turkish and Hungarian domestic policy is making European security more difficult.

Hungary has taken a hard stance against masses of refugees escaping Syria (and a few other places). This as seen closed borders, which have directed masses of refugees to overwhelm other state borders and in the short-term, the civil infrastructure necessary to effectively process and resettle refugees. This isn't a military security problem so much as a civil one, as ineffectively controlled borders apparently means that it possible for one of the Paris terrorists to transit from Syria to Paris without notice. Note, this is not to say the European born terrorist was refugee, but he may have have been able to use an over-stressed system compounded by things like Hungarian policy to hide his movements.

Which brings us to Turkey, and its leaky border with Syria, campaign against various Kurdish groups, support for the ethnic Turks in Syria, and disruptive influence on the campaign against IS and other Islamist militant groups in Syria, and so on. This is not a country acting in line with the general policy of most NATO countries against IS. It is a country that may put NATO in direct conflict with Russia, given the recent downing of a Russian aircraft by Turkish F-16s and the likely Russian response.

Something to think about.

What is it about Conservative politicians and airplanes?

Remember when Harper ordered (and the commander of the RCAF submitted to) the repainting of one of the RCAF CC-150 to better represent the "Harper Government"?
Here ... this will remind you.

Well, British prime minister, David Cameron, (often referred to as a spoiled brat from a better home), while announcing billions of pounds sterling in spending and program cuts, did this.
The PM has ordered a £10m refit of an ex-RAF plane just a week before the Tories announce billion-pound cuts in the Autumn Statement
Pampered David Cameron's new jet will only start saving money after 13 years, Downing Street has revealed.
And ... this.
Tory Cabinet ministers are to get a fleet of new executive jets - on top of the special plane for David Cameron
Oh yes, the Royal Navy gets this. 
The Government is to axe the Navy’s flagship to save costs despite spending £65million on upgrading the vessel a year ago.
Just sayin'.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Turkey, NATO, and Russian Fencers

Quickly, in light of the Turkish downing of the Russian Su-24, consider:

Turkey has been a lukewarm NATO "ally" against the Islamic State. It has spent more of its efforts attacking and checking the Kurds and its border remains porous. Turkey is still the entry route for foreigners intent on joining IS and the exit route for many refugees and defectors from IS.

Turkey's internal politics have recently seen Erdogan consolidate power.

The US, Iran, Russia, Assad's Syria, and others have just taken great strides toward a unified front against IS.

The question is whether Turkey sees this arrangement as being in its interest.

If it doesn't, would it attempt a plausibly deniable attempt to scuttle it?

Because I think that's what we have just seen.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Pissing on the fear monkeys' BS

No one is so confident in their opinion as an ignorant person.

The screams coming out of the right-wing about the horrors of resettling 25,000 refugees from the bloody Syrian-Iraqi corridor controlled by Daesh, (you may know the group as ISIS or ISIL), is an illuminating example.

They even have their own petition to stop the rescue of refugees. (No, I'm not linking to it).

Their greatest fear, (and they are certainly demonstrating huge amounts of that), is that in a single intake of 25, 000 refugees, terrorists will come in with them. And then they demonstrate their profound ignorance by pointing at the Paris attacks while they wet their pants.

1. To date, none of the Paris attackers, so far identified, were refugees. They were native-born French or Belgian. Whatever their ethnicity, religious beliefs (if they actually had any), or training, they were home-grown radicalized thugs, many of whom had criminal records in Europe.

2. The refugees being brought to Canada are currently already identified. Most are living hand-to-mouth existences in refugee camps where conditions are the closest thing to a living hell anyone can imagine. Your typical terrorist isn't drawn to that type of lifestyle. Some of the Paris attackers were described by their own families and acquaintances as hard drinkers, smokers and party animals. The refugees being brought to Canada are unique in that on this occasion we actually get to pick them. These are not people showing up on a sinking boat or putting their lives in the hands of human smugglers.

3. THIS IS IMPORTANT. Tell me WHY any idiot inclined to come to Canada to blow up the doorstep of some semi-informed redneck westerner would be so stupid as to come in via the refugee system?!
Go on ... tell me.
There are too many security, criminal and health checks and WAY too much control and supervision. It is considerably easier to show up in Canada as a TOURIST. Much less hassle and nowhere near the detailed examination of one's past to which every refugee must submit.

So, the right-wing fear monkeys cannot present the refugee-terrorist-infiltrator as an argument. They'll have to come up with something else. And with every uninformed position that gets cut away from their argument, we come closer to the real reason. And it's ugly.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Gift for your Conservative friends and family

The holiday season is fast approaching.

It's a time for sharing, for rebuilding bridges between friends and family that ruptured by a decade of Conservative misrule.

Show your angry/depressed/embittered Conservative loved one that you care, by giving them the magic of Justin Trudeauimmortalised on your choice of T-shirt, tanks, and jumpers.

If you're a non-Conservative living in a riding with a Tory MP, why not extend the hand of friendship and magnanimity espoused by the new PM and send one to your elected Member.

[Seriously though, look at that shirt! The country is really in a rebound relationship.]

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Good(ale) karma

Mound of Sound picks up on something
Recall Guiliano Zaccardelli? Canada's newly minted Minister of Public Safety sure does.  Zaccardelli was the infamous RCMP commissioner who made up spurious allegations about Goodale that were divulged to the NDP who used it to sabotage the Liberals in the 2006 election, helping Harper come to power and plunging Canada into the decade of darkness...Zac was replaced by the first civilian commissioner, Tory backroom operative Bill Elliott and then the current office holder, Bob Paulson, who stands to go down in history for inventing the 'immaculate bribe' charge whereby senator Mike Duffy was charged with receiving a bribe from a guy that Paulson cleared of giving a bribe, Nigel Wright.
Now Paulson is going to have to answer to Ralphie. Wonder how that's going to work out?

I wonder if we'll see some sudden retirements and other departures throughout government and the civil service?

A book of photo-ops?

Ok, so Defence Watch is reporting that DND staff at public expense has put together a book of photos of ex-DefMin Jason Kenney doing troop-y things as gift to him. It's just a bit weird and oddly fitting that his going away gift is a book of staged pictures.

There's a larger point.  CF/DND and all the other public services haven't had the experience of a different government in a decade. Turnover and the like means that there will be very little to zero continuity between the staff of 2006 and now, and probably quite a few politically partisan hires scattered about. Any rapid Tory partisans in there may soon find themselves sweating a bit.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Well, actually, it's about the Duffy Trial

You may have been as confused as I was.

Why, given Harper's known inability to take orders or suffer any form of supervision, would he opt to remain a sitting Member of Parliament, now relegated to the opposition benches.

This is a guy, who during his concession speech, (which was a hastily re-written victory speech), didn't have the conventional decency to state his intentions to his audience before he scampered off the stage. His intention to resign as leader of the Conservative Party came via a statement released by the party president, John Walsh and even it was a rather muddled sounding bit of poli-speak with all the clarity of a cold latte. Conservative MPs have no idea if Harper is their leader.

What did come out was that Harper would continue to sit as an MP. And one doesn't have to dig too deeply to understand why.

The Duffy Trial.

Parliamentary Privilege.

As long as Harper is a Member of Parliament he cannot be compelled to testify as a witness in any civil, criminal or military proceeding. You can bet he'll be hanging onto that seat until the Duffy trial is concluded.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Power in a state visit

The Chinese president goes on a state visit to the UK, and quite literally brings the Chinese state with him.

...the Chinese embassy filled the Mall with thousands of supporters kitted out with T-shirts and flags, drowning out human rights protesters in a sea of red. 
Awkward. Really, really awkward.
In his 11-minute speech, Xi acknowledged that he was addressing the “mother of parliaments”, dating back to the 13th century, but added: “In China, the concept of putting people first and following the rule of law emerged in ancient times.” He noted that one Chinese legal charter went back 2,000 years. 
I imagine Cameron and the rest of his gang of public school boys running the government now are wincing and fuming at the humiliation. Perhaps not as much as the Chinese were humiliated by British (and other) imperial interferences in earlier times, likewise driven by Cameron and Osborne's ancestral class interests.

Xi knows this, and I imagine the show of Chinese power is a symbolic demonstration of the reversal of circumstances. The Chinese state can colonise the UK economy and put thousands of its citizens on UK streets, while the most the UK can do is provide the Chinese leader with a fancy dinner and a guided tour.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

More thoughts. Voter turnout vs. voter suppression

Well, the ex-Harper-cons succeeded in pissing off enough Canadians to actually find a polling station and vote them out in record numbers. More than 68% voter turn-out. Well over 70% in some ridings and regions.  Even with the Fair Elections Act, the cheating and the lying, all their fascist jackboot bullshit, bought newsmedia editorials, the rest of it, they still failed in catastrophic form. Wow. 

It's interesting to think that an entire generation of the civil service (including no doubt a number of now ex-PMO staffers) have entered adulthood and parliamentarians, the Commons knowing only Harper and his brand of governing. Even Rosemary Barton has mentioned she's only covered federal politics under a hostile Harper government. How government finds its way from here will be interesting to watch. 

Will they keep the Harper changes, fall-back on institutional memory, or evolve into something else? 

Election results: first thoughts

1. Ding dong the witch is gone.

2. The immediate legacy of Harper, sworn enemy of all things Liberal (esp. Trudeaus), is to facilitate a majority Liberal government led by the Son of the Father. Ouch. That's Shakespearian political drama Canadian-style if there ever was.

3. The same problem that allowed Harper his 2011 majority also allowed Trudeau's win. FPTP permitted both parties to win majorities with a minority of the popular vote. Not-Harpercons still does not make the Grit-victory fair. We need to get on that.

4. Let's see how they do. I'm afraid the confused and disillusioned shortpantsers will have trashed vacated Tory offices and that incoming Liberal ministers will discover other more sophisticated messes that require clean-up before they get started. I hope I'm wrong.

5. When they do get started, it'll be interesting to find out just what were truth, lies, and unmentionables in campaign, and how these translate into policy and legislation.

6. Future elections could be even more interesting. The NDP is now a major federal player and has demonstrated it can appeal to enough Canadians to come within winning distance. The Tories, although Oppositon, have been relegated to, well, mostly Alberta and no-doubt have some post-Harper reinvention to do. What foul beast emerges from that vile and demonic process, we can't yet say.

7. Ding dong the witch is gone. [with apologies to witches]

Thursday, October 15, 2015

After the Election

I have no idea to what Canada will awake on Tuesday morning. The polls are too close to call and if recent events are any indication, maybe useless in predicting outcomes (someone needs to revise their sampling models!).

Right now my only concern is dislodging Harper. I don't much care what the other parties are promising because election campaigns are silly things built of spin, lies, and blue blue sky. The only thing that counts is what they do after vote day. I mean, I'd be quite happy if they were lying about refusing to form a coalition in order to offset shrieks of "coup d'etat" from the fascists and perhaps an attempt to bully our spongy GG into somehow halting the electoral process or discounting anything other than a Tory victory.

Still, should Harper form the next government, especially a majority, so be it. There is no cosmic law that says his foetid government will have moral legitimacy, even in the freak event that it is awarded a fraud-less victory. The social contract will be broken, absolving the public of any moral obligation to conform to the wishes of the Conservatives.

It would open up a vast space for provincial, local, and grassroots social and political innovation and transformation.  The federal government is a lot less necessary in practical terms than it believes.

Provinces have enough constitutional power to run themselves, and there are millions of Canadians with great ideas and skills who can put their energy into building the kind of country we want.  But we might have to work for it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Islamic State casualties and scenarios

Defence Watch is reporting that coalition air strikes have killed 20 000 ISIS members, which means an unknown but likely high number of wounded. I don't think IS battlefield medicine is of a NATO standard, meaning that many of the killed would likely have survived in other circumstances. Still, 20 000 is a lot. To put in perspective, it's nearly half of the more than 50 000 US troops killed in the Vietnam/American War.

Yet IS remains, far less resourced than the Russians, US, and their allies. Still it is able to hold ground and sustain itself while the bombs fall, and the Russians and Americans squabble over strategy and air space and menace each other.

I suppose it's possible that the mix of efforts targeting IS (and related groups), however organisationally dysfunctional, will break its back in terms of its logistics and personnel, but I'm not sure that leaves anyone particularly better off. Afghanistan and Bushed Iraq both show that motivated armed groups are able to dissolve and wage a very persistent guerrilla war against any occupying force and any returning residents. The region will be very unsafe for the foreseeable future, perhaps indefinitely, regardless of whether IS remains intact and able to hold territory. The Assad regime or whatever replaces it will be busy for years to come, at least until climate driven drought destroys the water supply and food security of the region and the regime collapses into more violence. Displaced militants, especially those with foreign passports will flee and head to Saudi Arabia, Europe and elsewhere, creating more headaches for the security services in those places. Gulf states especially may be prone severe upset due to the large numbers of IS sympathisers in those places.

Any force that can sustain 20K dead and still hold ground isn't going to fold easily under more bombs. Maybe a solution rests less in dropping bombs, than in drying up the supply of food, fuel, arms and money that sustain IS and its mimics - basically ring-fencing Syria and Iraq, and making possible - where possible - the safe exit and relocation of refugees.  Nope, instead the US, Russia, Iran, et al will continue to shovel arms into the place and Europe will continue to shit itself over consequent refugee flows. If it continues long enough, Israel will get seriously involved and things will get even weirder.

In the post-9/11 era, none try to end wars. The powers that be used to do that, often through ham-fisted, bungling attempts, but the shooting stopped in the Balkans, Cyprus, Vietnam, and a host of other places.  Now instead they institutionalise multi-year bombing campaigns and low-intensity land-wars, which are just continuations of existing wars. War can now be waged below the public casuality tolerance threshold, making it easier to use military force as a normative policy tool against enemies that pose minimal material threat to Western forces.

I can tell you that if Russia or the US and its allies lost 20 000 troops to IS, they'd be using mach numbers to measure the pace of withdrawal. It continues because it's easy.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The G&M Will Again Endorse the Harperian Nightmare.

I can hardly bear the suspense.

It should be any day now that Phillip the Crawley yet again instructs his pet editorial board at The Grope and Flail to endorse the Harperian junta.

The torturous language required in order to do that is what has me in suspense. I'm sure the tame scribes will do a bang up job of it or face the consequences.

It should make for an enraging read.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Canadian surrender monkeys, neoliberalization, hobby wars

CBC is reporting the Canadian Forces planning staff under the recently retired and "biologically wired" General Tom Lawson discussed integration with the US military, up to and including "full" integration. The article states that it wasn't about defence agreements like NORAD, but targeting "expeditionary" aka offensive overseas operations: war-making.
Over the past few years, Norad has also assumed increasing command and control over naval forces that protect the maritime approaches to North America. But those efforts are focused on defence; the integrated forces planning was for expeditionary forces to be deployed on operations overseas.
The Conservatives are denying any knowledge of this. I'm tempted to believe them.

There are just so many things wrong with this picture that I hardly know where to start.

If the Tories actually aren't lying(!), then senior staff officers attempted to negotiate the complete surrender of Canadian sovereign control over our defence to a foreign power without the knowledge, let alone the sanction of the government and especially parliament. How else do you put it?

I believe there are very serious laws against this sort of thing.

An earlier piece this week hints at why.
Military planners advised the chief of the defence staff the proposed integrated force would help Canada "demonstrate a continuing commitment to the U.S." 
military planners were searching for operations and exercises on which to deploy Canadian troops in order to contribute to "international peace and security," but also to support objectives such as retaining "readiness" and to assert the military's "relevance and credibility" to Canadians.
So it's a sort of corporate merger? Perhaps hatched in the mind of a general (or several) seconded to a career-development MBA program, who came back gushing about new "markets" for CF capabilities so the organisation stays competitive. Betcha it's in a dissertation somewhere.  That, or coming out of Afghanistan (and Iraq) the international senior officers who worked so closely together came away thinking "oh, it was really great working together, we should do this more often," while their troops are left to carry the mental and physical baggage from all that wonderfully slick "interoperability" and the rest of us get to trot out with our poppies on 11 November and listen to sombre speeches about sacrifice and valour.

Never mind whether the war was won or lost. Not really the point anymore, is it? Deploying, interoperability, relevancy, etc are the discursive terms of traction. Everything is about amping up all that stuff. Where does it lead? One giant US-led superNATO+ where the only one actually able to set a defence (war?) policy is President Trump?

None mention words like "victory" anymore. The modern Western army is an army of adventure for adventure's sake. Maybe the risks of war are too low (for our side), especially so for the air marshals, generals or admirals pretty much guaranteed executive spots in the transnational defence industry jobs on retirement. I'm digressing.

The point is that treaty-making, defence policy, and national sovereignty are and can only be the purview of elected parliament and the government of Canada. The winner on the 19th might want to issue a stark the officer corps.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Election Fraud

Hey, don't forget to also SUPPORT this documentary. It needs it. We need it.

SUPPORT POST PRODUCTION FUNDS from The Script & Film Co. on Vimeo.

Even Elections Canada, hamstrung as it is by the Tories gets that we don't want a repeat or worse.


Watch this. Share and support. Most importantly, VOTE.

I live in Europe and work in a multi-national environment. People I meet tend to come in two stripes.

1. Passively ignorant, in that they know absolutely nothing about Canadian politics and still think we're peaceful, nice, democratic, green folks in a big beautiful land, and/or they had an amazing visit there once.

2. Or they are aware of us, and deeply concerned, asking, "WTF happened to you guys?!" as the elected Harper government bombs and carbons-up the world.

h/t Bob :-)