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.

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.


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.