Friday, March 27, 2015

Flippantly digging

So, it seems the joke is on the Harper government, which is now writing a letter to the UN SecGen on the legal case for moving into Syria. Haha.

But seriously, the outstandingly flippant fratboy disregard for adhering to the bare minimum of legal requirements until someone drew their attention to it? 

People who operate that level that any decision involving military action is taken very seriously, no matter how preordained it might be given the various ideologies and rationales at play. I've seen them talk about it.

Our "government"? Yeehaw seems to be the only rationale for a bunch of men in suits, Harper chief among them, who will never let themselves be put at risk of being burnt alive in an ISIL cage, or hauled before the ICC.

Fate tends to have an unpleasant way of dealing with arrogant people who mock it. This will not end well. 

Budget mysteries

My guess? The math isn't doing what the Cons tell it to. Tough in an election year.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A major international war has just broken out

Syria, Iraq (with Iranian support), ISIL, Kurds and assorted internal factions and now Yemen with it's own complicated civil war with likely involvement from Iran, both meet a Saudi-dominated pan-Arab military coalition.  Libya has internal problems. Al-Shabaab, Horn of Africa. Boko Haram, Nigeria and other places, links with ISIL. Al-Qaeda is still in there somewheres. There is now effectively a war-zone that extends from northern Africa to Iran. The main fracture lines are Sunni-Shia Islam, Kurd-Arab-Persian, and state-to-state. Add to this that Israel just re-elected a leader who promises no peace with the Palestinians and another dimension could soon be added to this conflict.

Bets are off.

The West does not and cannot control how events unfold from here.

Canada's contribution will have no effect.

Incidently, consideration of international law now has no influence in how the Harper government employs the Canadian Forces. That part is actually a very serious problem for us and for the Canadian Forces. I'm no expert (Dave?) but I don't think this puts a Canadian commander (or their charges) ordering combat missions into Syria on firm legal ground. "Everybody else is doing it" has never been a legal defence.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

RCMP spying on climate change researchers?

This, via Creekside.
Tim Takaro, a health sciences professor at SFU, says he was having lunch in Tofino with his family on Wednesday when his daughter's cellphone rang.
When she answered it, she was told it was the Burnaby RCMP calling and they were looking for her father.
"I was very upset that he had called my daughter and that he was basically threatening, intimidating on the phone," says Takaro.
He says the officer asked him if he had recently had been taking photos near a Trans Mountain pipeline work site on Burnaby Mountain. They also told him they knew he had been to protest rallies that had taken place there a few months earlier.
A few days before, Takaro says he had been taking photographs along the Burnaby Mountain conservation trails when a guard at the nearby work site approached him and told him he couldn't take any photos.
From this we might deduce that the RCMP or CSIS  or some other agency, photographs people at rallies or protests, identifies them and compiles a database, and they (or perhaps private security from Kinder Morgan) puts them under surveillance and then intimidates them by calling his daughter's unlisted number. It's also probably fair to say than any scientist involved in climate change or environmental research is likely now under some kind of surveillance.

If you or I did this to someone, we'd have the RCMP on our doorstep. It's fucking creepy and no doubt highly traumatising for both Professor Takaro and his family.

No crime has been committed. No charges. Just a phone call that tells a much bigger story.  Such is the apparent extent of collusion between the fossil fuel industry, the Conservatives, and the security services.

Bill C-51 will permit the security forces much greater reach in disrupting people's lives than a phone call. We haven't seen anything yet.

They go after the intellectuals first, you know.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Outright Liars

Jason Kenney is a liar. So is his puppy, James Bezan. So says the commander of Standing NATO Maritime Group 2.

Kenney and Bezan are claiming a close encounter between HMCS Fredericton and Russian surface combatants and aircraft. Supposedly, they got that information from the commanding officer of Fredericton.

Not bloody likely.

There is a near zero chance that the captain of Fredericton sent anything but a factual report of a distant visual sighting of Russian ships and aircraft. To do otherwise would prompt Rear Admiral Brad Williamson, commander SNMG2, to boot HMCS Fredericton to a safe area, well away from any activity. Excitable frigate captains who embellish contact reports are not an asset in such situations - they are an extreme liability.

The fact that HMCS Fredericton remains on station with SNMG2 is solid evidence that the ship is performing and reporting in accordance with the well-practiced doctrine established by the officer in tactical command.

That makes Kenney, Bezan and anybody who repeats their words, liars.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

At the going down of the sun...

With respect and condolences to the family and friends of Sergeant Andrew Joseph Doiron, Canadian Special Operations Regiment, Petawawa, Ontario.



There was a sign on an office door at one of my universities that stated "Nothing destroys a beautiful hypothesis like an ugly fact." This is where we are in Canada right now.

The crude hypothesis the current government saw was that great mass of oil and gas sitting under Alberta (and a few other places) was going to make everyone rich. They looked at the numbers, talked to their corporate buddies, and everyone went into paroxysms of excitement because Canada was going to be an energy superpower and the future would be sunshine and lollipops for the people the Conservatives think matter. The reasoning was very simple: 1. Canada  has a lot of oil. 2. Oil is worth a lot of money. 3. [Insert Tony Montana quote here]

The ugly fact or facts are: Canadian oil is locked up in sand underneath the boreal forest, or at the bottom of the Arctic or North Atlantic. It is difficult and absurdly costly to extract and only makes money if the street price of oil is steep. Think of it this way. In Saudi Arabia, you can have a nice time getting a suntan whilst you stick a spigot into the ground to get the oil. In Canada, you have to deal with blackflies, mosquitos, ice and snow and use giant machines to strip away hectares and hectares of trees and soil, all of which impose costs. The other ugly fact, is that we're just getting serious about the oil business when the rest of the world is moving on because science shows oil to be  extremely hazardous to the planetary health. Naturally, the trepanated contrarian geniuses in the Conservative Party are doing the equivalent of investing in big tobacco after the cancer link was demonstrated.

So instead of looking at the facts and thinking about other ways the capitalising on Canada's capacities, the current government has doubled down on the oil sector. However, to do this, they have to criminalise reality and corrupt national institutions. The Cons, oil-bidness, the RCMP and CSIS all appear to be in bed together desperately trying make a go of the Tar Sands. "Anti-petroleum activists" are now potential terrorists lumped-in with fanatical mass-murderers. It's insane of course, as these guys are hell-bent on wrecking the country in pursuit of what is basically a very bad investment decision. It also suggests the POTUS is now on a Canadian watch-list, given that he's openly calling Canadian oil filthy and disgusting? Good-luck with that.

As I said before, they do not get that there is simply no win for them here. Renewable energy is at or near cost parity with oil, almost every other country in the world is working towards massive reductions in fossil fuel use because climate change. Canada will be reduced to selling dime-barrels of shitty product in global back-alleys, while our furious leader is holed-up in a cupboard at 24 Sussex and his remaining loyalists are outside making a last ditch stand against reality.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Who wrote the RCMP report and why?

First off, it is a clear fail based on sources alone. If this was a paper from one of my students, I'd fail it for failing to use rigorous sources.

This leaves us with a problem.  Either the RCMP is blindingly stupid, and hires D students to its research, or something much worse is happening.

If the RCMP used rigorous and reliable sources for their report, they'd likely have drawn a very different set of conclusions about what constitutes a threat to Canadian infrastructure and the economy. Climate change, undeniably causally linked to the petroleum sector, is an overwhelming threat.   How would the report have read if that were clearly recognised?

On the other hand, and assuming the RCMP is staffed with smart people, the poor quality of the report suggests that it was written to provide some kind of justification or support for a preexisting set of ideas or initiatives.


Friday, February 20, 2015


You guys know the Harper Government is not forever, eh? That Bill C-51, with all the whizbang spy-and-dick-with-everyone-and-make-everything-illegal bill looks shiny and fun, but it sets you up for a terrific fall. Here's why.

First, despite what it might think, the Harper government is just a government and PMSH is just a man. Until they actually ban or render illegal the Opposition parties, they're in jeopardy. Remember, only 30 or 40% of us enough vote for his party. Most of us aren't cool with that freakin' guy because, like C-51, we find him rather creepy and weird. This year or some other year, they will lose an election to a party that will make undoing all their bullshit a priority. It could very well be that the next government imposes so many controls on your operations you'll need parliamentary committee approval to order new stationary - if you're lucky. If you're unlucky, they completely restructure your respective organisations.

Second, the Bill and the RCMP report basically put your agencies in opposition to most of Canada. Canadians get out and protest a lot, about a lot of things, and mostly very peacefully. We've been doing it for a very long time and a little law or two ain't gonna change that basic tendancy because we're quite accustomed to being free to do it. Especially when the things people are protesting now appeal to an increasing range of people. The pipeline protests in BC aren't just a bunch of treehuggers, they're also your Timmies crowd who are suddenly waking up the risks of having a bloody tar-hose in their yards or on their coast. You're potentially setting yourselves up to investigate and arrest millions of people. Read that again: millions of Canadians. That's how big the net is that you're casting. Especially when you consider the younger generation who will form your recruiting base and be your bosses in a few years, are aware of the consequences of climate change and the contribution of petroleum to that problem and desperately want it fixed.

You are being set up to attack Canadians in the defence of dying industry on a dying planet. Do your homework on this.

Seriously, there is no long-term win for you here.

Third, my last point, is that if we do not kerb greenhouse gas emissions and radically reduce our use of fossil fuels, there won't be a CSIS or RCMP left in 20 or 50 years. Flooded coastlines, megadroughts, storms, and so on will wreck the global economy upon which the Canadian economy (including the oil industry) depends, and with it, Canada in general.

To hell with a few terrorists in the middle-east: your 'analysts' are too stupid for words if they disregard the threat of climate change in favour of some other pet issue. You might want to replace them.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

The intellectual power of a dead tree stump ... and a wide open net.

Whoa! What's this?!
Watch and listen very closely ...

I n t e r e s t i n g !!!

Here's the thing ... I agree with him ... completely. The anti-vaccine movement is a crowd of dangerous, self-absorbed, selfish, dilettantes who, devoid of any scientific training or knowledge, have positioned themselves as "experts". They are no such thing and Murphy is quite correct in pointing that out.

In fact, Murphy is so right on this one that he just shot off his own foot. Murphy regularly spouts off as one of the leaders of the climate-change denial faction. To use the same facetious tone as Murphy himself employed, whenever people seek climate science guidance from the likes of Murphy or his fellow geo-scientists in media punditry, they've confessed to having the intellectual power of a dead tree stump.

Murphy couldn't complete the first line of a climate formula. He has a degree in English. We don't need Murphy's stamp of approval to determine which science to accept and which to ignore. Murphy represents a movement of dangerous, self-absorbed, dilettantes, devoid of any scientific training or knowledge, who have positioned themselves as "experts".

Murphy needs to heed his own words and start taking his own advice.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Bill C-51

Bill C-51 is pretty terrifying for a host of reasons, but partly because it represents just how chickenshit the Liberals are of rocking the boat and challenging the Conservatives.

Some things to think about.

1. The Conservative government's involvement of Canadian combat forces in every conflict in the Muslim world in turn makes Canada a target. This is the logic of fighting. If you pick a fight with someone in the street and strike them, you can expect to be struck back. If you send Canadian warplanes and troops to attack an enemy somewhere, you can expect that enemy to hit back.

This terror bill is in part the Conservative government's response to the ultimately very minor enemy strikes on Canada, but strikes nonetheless. The problem is that no one really asked the Canadian public if we'd accept that kind of risk for Harper's little bit of military adventurism.

2. The conflict against Islamist radicals will not last forever, but a new security law on the books will likely remain in place. An expanded security bureaucracy accustomed to radical new powers will look for other places to apply them in order to continue to justify its existence. Politicians have lumped environmental and social justice advocates in the same rhetorical stew as the monsters presently running around Iraq and Syria.

In the era of climate change and growing wealth inquality, that kind of skulduggery leads nowhere good and could well amount to a constraint on adaptive action because it criminalises advocacy.

3. This security fear is a handy distraction for the Conservatives as their economic showpony falls lame with the collapse in oil prices. It won't be much longer if we see massive job losses and economic hardship.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

New York cops, protesters, and...machine guns?

I don't know what's in the copshop water in New York City, but the police there apparently think they need several companies of infantry to police potential roving shooter terror attacks and, uh, "protests".
"It is designed for dealing with events like our recent protests, or incidents like Mumbai or what just happened in Paris,"
The unit will be equipped with long-rifles and machine guns. While the kind and type are not specified, these kinds of weapons form the basic arms of an infantry section, which makes me think they are developing a capacity somewhat different from the normal SWAT arrangement. I mean how long did we think it would take before the 'warrior-cop' thing just became 'army'?

Couple things.

First, the roving shooter problems they refer to tend to involve large numbers of civilians in the line of fire, and this requires a very controlled response. In Ottawa, despite the awesome array of firepower brought out by the police, the shooter was killed by normal beat cops and the sergeant-at-arms who had to go to his office to get his gun. In other instances, the shooters tend to hide quickly and are found in sheds and backyards, and boats, if not dead by their own hand. Mumbai was an exception and in the case of a highly trained and well armed terror cell, there are military formations and other police to be called upon.

But it's the protests bit that snuck in there that is the scary bit. A bunch of people protesting a suspicious police shooting, or some local political issue aren't terrorists hell-bent on killing people - not even in the same universe. But we live in an age where the powers-that-be insist on lumping them together.


Anyway, I don't know if the police quite realise what they're getting themselves into with this militarisation business. We know what eventually happens when armies are deployed to protests.

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.