Monday, July 03, 2017

"Proud Boys" a national shame

Due to employment related restrictions I'm not as free to post opinions on the internet as I once was, but when I saw this I thought it was something the ink strained wretches should know about and possibly look into. Seem a bunch of  Gavin McInnes' little brownshirts decided to disrupt a First Nations and Metis event on Canada Day. Further, it seems they are all serving members of the Royal Canadian Navy, at least for now.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

More #ERRE thoughts

I'm finding it interesting to contrast the Liberal and NDP supplements to the ERRE committee report, found on pages 321-333.

The Liberal dissenting opinion makes frequent reference to witness testimony and descriptive data from the report to make its case for a comprehensive public engagement and knowledge building exercise prior to any hard decision on electoral reform.

In contrast the NDP supplement is largely rhetorical, but it at least goes so far as to suggest the two  proportional alternatives it sees as most suitable for Canada (MMP and RUP).

Neither are particularly enthusiastic about referenda.

The question I suppose is whether it's possible to introduce a viable MMP or RUP system for 2019 amid the technical constraints and aims of widening participation argued by the Liberals.

Seems to come down to both technical possibility for 2019, as well as trust that the Liberals are sincere about electoral reform that includes PR and wider democractic participation.

Tricky tricky.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

#ERRE report and poison pills

There's a lot of hay being made of about Maryam Monsef's parliamentary attack on the Electoral Reform committee's report.  In brief, Monsef went on the attack and accused the committee of  failing in its job by producing a recommendation for proportional representation and a referendum on whether Canadians want it. In response, the committee members, other MPs, and the general public bristled, largely focussing on the fact that the committee recommended PR yet was disparaged by the Minister for doing so.

What I think everyone missed is the referendum recommendation. Specifically,
  1. Recommendation 12
    Observation: The Committee acknowledges that, of those who wanted change, the overwhelming majority of testimony was in favour of proportional representation (PR). The Committee recognizes the utility of the Gallagher Index, a tool that has been developed to measure an electoral system’s relative disproportionality between votes received and seats allotted in a legislature, as a means of assessing the proportionality of different electoral system options.
    The Committee recommends that:
    •   The Government hold a referendum, in which the current system is on the ballot;
    •   That the referendum propose a proportional electoral system that achieves a Gallagher Index score of 5 or less; and
    •   That the Government complete the design of the alternate electoral system that is proposed on the referendum ballot prior to
      the start of the referendum campaign period 

More than anything else, a referendum is what the Tory members of the ERRE committee were pushing for and they damn well got it. A referendum is a political bludgeon that tends to benefit populist sentiment more than considered opinion. Brexit, Indyref in Scotland, the last Quebec referendum, the rise of Trump, and some of the Harper era antics around proroguing all show how populist appeals can confuse complex issues in voters minds. The fact that the committee also included a relatively complex formula that would need some time and effort to explain as part of a referendum question is probably unhelpful.


Because as soon as it goes to referendum, the Tories can come out with all sorts of fear-mongering rhetoric probably linking PR to some kind of commie-hippie-ISIS-Liberal plot to corrupt your precious bodily fluids. 


Because the last decade of Conservative governments show they can't quite nudge past 40% of the popular vote. The Conservatives are in an existential crisis as each new generation of voters are less and less conservative minded, and the older stable generations of Tory supporters are shuffling off this mortal coil. PR does not help Conservatives win elections so they will do what they can to sabotage it. 

So what happens if electoral reform goes to a public vote and the Conservative fear campaign wins? ER is shelved. which is pretty much as good as never happening. 

If the Liberals impose it sans referendum, they'll be accused of ignoring the will of Canadians and undermining parliament. If they don't they'll be accused of breaking a key election promise. 

Viewed this way, the committee report is toxic to PR.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Let's have a little Locker-Room talk ...

“This was locker room talk,” says Donald Trump about his vulgar and very dangerous comments whereby he bragged about his willingness to commit sexual battery. (If you’ve been living under a rock and missed it, just Google it. I won’t be linking to it). 

Men’s locker rooms: I have been in countless of them over the course of my life, from high school and hockey arenas to military barracks and high-intensity training centres. 

Is Trump correct in placing his recorded mindset and language in “the locker room”? Well, yes, and no.

Teenagers, with hormones raging, occupy the locker rooms of high schools. There was, if my fading memory serves me correctly, a lot of talk about sex and girls. There were always the braggarts who would claim to have bedded the “hot chicks”. Virtually all of that turned out to be utter BS. It was high school and claims ran higher than any substantive activity. I can never remember, at any time, anyone suggesting that the best way to get the attention of any girl was to force oneself upon them. 

Over time, with age, the conversation in most locker rooms changed. The people were more focused on the task ahead or one just completed. I spent hours in locker rooms in the company of some of the toughest men on this planet. Whether we were training to be divers, jumpers, fire-fighters or just win a soccer game, any talk of sex was fleeting and discussions about women were pretty minimal. The language would have been considered by many to have been extremely foul, but it was linguistic embellishment, common in an all-male environment. In the naval service, (I was in two of them), we were particularly adept at constructing sentences peppered with expletives which served only to add colour to the language. 

Once in a while a guy would come along who DID start talking about his sexual exploits. And, on even fewer occasions, someone would go down a path asserting a psychopathic disdain for women, objectifying them as a group and suggesting that women “wanted” to be sexually assaulted or abused. It was never a “discussion”. It was usually an unwelcome monologue foisted on the group by one loud-mouthed individual seeking to become the centre of attention. In a locker room or a barracks or a mess-deck, it usually meant, to us, that the person doing the talking was attempting to cover some inadequacy in his competency or character. It typically ended when another person told him to shut up, (a gentrified way of describing it), or his audience simply left the room. 

I have witnessed, in a public pool locker room, some guy ask if we saw “the hot babe in the blue bikini”, only to find himself tapped on the shoulder and be told by an indignant stranger, “That’s my daughter.” The offender immediately assumed a state of mortified silence.

So, Trump is partially correct. It IS locker room talk. It’s what HE says in a locker room. It’s what HE says on a bus. He takes over the conversation and spouts his psychopathic bile. 

Where he’s dead wrong is that it isn’t locker room talk until he starts talking

(And apparently, I'm not the only one who feels this way). 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Threats? Oh dear.

Often, people who issue threats are betraying the precarity of their own position.

As a major potential F-35 customer, a lack of or continued postponement a Canadian order likely increases the cost of the F-35 for other customers, perhaps prohibitively. This could be terminal to the program as it would also impact US orders.

More to the point, Canadians generally find naked threats terribly impolite. It's ingrained in our national mythology. We are not keen to cooperate with rude people. Trudeau has an out here.

The Canadian military is conditioned by definition to respond to threats with aggression.

Boeing, Dassault, or Saab will see this as an opportunity to sweeten an offer.

I'm not sure Lockmart really did itself a favour.

Events unfold, the centre cannot hold

Sometimes things just happen.

In the UK just a short time ago, prime minister David Cameron created a monster in the form of a suggestion that, despite being publicly pro-EU, he would open a conversation, and later a referendum about Britain's withdrawal from it. Lord knows just what he was thinking (my own view is that he thinks very hard but finds thinking very hard). Fear of UKIP's fear of eastern Europeans and brown people, Bojo or Osborne, I don't know. Whatever it was, he is now faced with not on some easy vote, but a deeply divided country that may well irrevocably dissolve in the near years should the leave side win and Scotland consequently hold another referendum to leave the Union.


In the US, decades of GOP race-baiting and obstructionism have opened the door to Trump.   Nuff said. 

My point is that it doesn't take much for the game to change overnight. This time next year the UK might not exist and a mostly English parliament might be presiding over restive publics in Wales and some serious weirdness in Northern Ireland as the loyalists see the object of their loyalty fade. The economy may be in shambles, millions of returning citizens will need housing and care in a stressed NHS. Access to its major economic partner could be severely curtailed.

In the cannot begin fathom other to say that the US role in the ordering of the world will look very different even if Trump means only half of what says.

Meanwhile, the white walkers of climate change advance. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Rex Murphy and the #ymmfire

Rex Murphy is talking the Fort McMurray fire. Despite a virtually universal outpouring of support and sympathy from across the land for the victims of the fire, he with his exhausting logorrhoea is doing his best to sow division. Referring to anyone of an environmentalist or activist strand who has criticised the Tar Sands, he utters:
And just to blow pepper into the sad eyes of those dispossessed and thrown on the road, there was the predictable troupe of gloaters and sadists — a bleak and wretched lot, though, thank God, small — gloating about karma, and “whadyja expect” and “Nature’s revenge” on the oilsands. Miserable bastards, whose brains are missing and whose hearts are dead. 
OK, Rex. Nobody, but nobody, is gloating about Fort McMurray fire. It is a disaster and an emergency with few parallels in Canadian history. More than 80 000 people are displaced and much a town destroyed. Nobody I have seen, and believe me, I have been watching this closely since it began, has said anything untoward about the fleeing people. An environmental activist might have a sibling working on the rigs in the Tar Sands and many workers in that community understand the environmental hazard that their industry represents. Even industry knows, path dependent as it is.

The criticism levelled by environmentalists about Fort McMurray has ALWAYS been about the industry that town has boomed around. Where criticism has been voiced about the people who live and work there, it's in relation to the vice and social problems that high-wage boom towns attract, which is a form of care. That Rex would suggest otherwise - in the middle of a humanitarian emergency - means he's either bone stupid or maliciously trying to politicise and position this disaster from the getgo as a conflict between his partisans and 'environmentalists'. I won't insult him by assuming he's stupid.

Now, having said that, make no mistake that this disaster is political.

One, Fort McMurray is a single-industry resource town. Like every other resource town in Canada, it is deeply affected by the market boom and bust cycles that plague the natural resource sector. Should  Fort Mac have got rich on a timber or diamond boom, the bust would inevitably come as global markets did their thing - even without climate change. It was well bust when this fire hit, making the practical economic incentive for rebuilding and repopulating a very serious problem.

Two, the role of Fort McMurray's industry in the fire cannot be overlooked. Boreal forests are likely in a very different fire regime due to climate change (and this year, the addition of El Nino weather patterns). There is no shortage of solid scientific research on this and is extremely likely to be the causal mechanism. Discussing this is not the same as gloating. With any other disaster there are two sets of conversations that happen at the time. One is concern for the victims, and the second is the discussion of causes. Hurricanes, earthquakes, plane crashes, tsunami and we're immediately talking about weather systems, engineering, building codes, pilot error, tectonic slips, anything that could have caused the event, or protected or made vulnerable the victims or certain victims. It's how we learn and cope with the awfulness of it all and try to prevent or prepare for the next occurrence.

Three, people are impacted. The lives and livelihoods of at least 80 000 have been immediately and radically disrupted. This will have a profound impact on people's short and long-term well-being. No one is laughing at or mocking this fact. Make no mistake that the casualty list over the coming years will grow from the two tragic car-crash deaths in the evacuation, but no one will really notice. Some evacuees, men mostly, will never recover from the shock to their well-being and sense of place and identity, and self-destruct. Some to the point of suicide.  Women will take on additional burdens and some will face abuse as the men with strong occupational identities and used to very high provider-wages struggle with loss identity and income. Children and youth will face their own challenges of dislocation, broken marriages, and the loss of friends and stability.

Not so for The Beast, according to the Rex Murphys of Canada. For them, climate change and disaster impacts beyond the immediate hero-worship of victims and anyone in a uniform is like the violent blowback from foreign policy misadventures. Discussion of causes and long-term consequences is off-limits and results in vicious name-calling and deflection when attempted. They'll also stop paying attention in the weeks, months, and years ahead where the full impact of the disaster on displaced people manifests.

Contrary to Rex, progressives and activists who protest the Tar Sands largely amplify the voices of scientific research evidence that show our fossil fuel dependence leads to tragedies like this fire - and much worse. Contrary to Rex it is a deeply-rooted desire to see humanity have a future that drives this informed commentary. Quite different from gloating sadism and dead hearts.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

That LAV deal

Frankly, the LAV deal is a shitty deal for anyone in Canada but the Tories, and I honestly don't believe the Trudeau, Dion, and the rest like it any more than of us. I think they probably know they've got no good defence for their decision. They've got advisors looking at the tea leaves and wondering what the next of war in the region will look like. We've got no idea where and how any weapons in the region will be used and by whom.

Dion, Trudeau, others, and their advisors would have done a cost-benefit analysis around this, I'm sure. It might have come up with the following:

First, if they'd cancelled, the Americans and Europeans would have made noises because it impacted their arms industries too given the distributed global supply chains involved (e.g. for LAV gun turrets).

Next, the Saudis (and General Dynamics Land Systems) would have sent a fleet of Suezmax tankers full of lawyers to compel us to fulfil the order or compensate them into the gazillions, probably both. I'm the contracts have pretty nasty penalties written in. We might have had a serious diplomatic spat too, and watched Canadian investments in the Kingdom run into serious trouble. There's $4 billion in trade between the countries and we weren't going to mess with that by axing the armour deal.

Despite having a majority, the Grits are also worried about public opinion. If we'd squashed the deal, a few (but not all!) of the same folks now vexed at them for signing it would have been yelling at them for not signing it. They'd cite protecting Canadian manufacturing jobs, screwing-over a key partner in the fight against ISIS (and therefore coddling up to the terrorists!), opening Canada up to lawsuits, and so on. The PR mess is bad now, but I wonder if it would be a hell of a lot worse if Canada was faced with penalty payments in the middle of a loud public protest about cancelling the deal.

Here's the thing: Canada makes a lot of weapons. We have a sizable, top-shelf arms industry. We mostly export to NATO allies and other friendly liberal democracies. But there are customers who aren't in that category and buy big ticket weapons from our allies too.  The ugly fact is that selling big ticket items to employs a lot of people and brings in a lot of cash. The LAV platform is the major heavy weapon system made in Canada in large numbers and it sells very, very well around the world.

What should they have done? Revoke the export permit and faced the kind of backlash that would have material impact in terms of industry and labour relations, penalties and lawsuits? Let the deal go ahead, and face the rhetorical lashing from the public and the perhaps comparatively minor cost of facing off a court challenge?

My sense is that there was no good answer in front of them, and they defaulted to spin and mistruths.  What would have been a better way for the Liberals to handle it? Perhaps being more direct about the pros and cons of the deal and the whole rationale for their decision, whatever decision it was. They can definitely revisit Canadian arms manufacturing and export law.

The arms trade is a dirty business for everyone involved. Best to stay the hell out of it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Transparency is hard

Lying about major arms deals to illiberal regimes.

Dion, please resign.

Trudeau, we expected this of your predecessor.

If your hands were tied or your government were pressured by things we haven't seen, such as industry lobby pressure, petitions from other states, or something else entirely, explain it to us.

That's called transparency. It's hard, I know.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

OK, Liberals

Fix this. 

It doesn't matter how many mayurasana JT can do on his desk or how gender-balanced your cabinet is.

Lying to us about the state of the nation's finances or how you spend our tax money, or anything really, is despicable.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Panama papers

Reading the rolling accounts of the Panama Papers (Iceland's PM just resigned, David Cameron's family has some 'splaining to do), I think we're a scandal away from a popular revolt. Each one of these fucking document dumps nakedly shows how much of the game is rigged against us. 

Monday, April 04, 2016

Silly people

Good grief.  The perpetual and tiresome CF identity crisis continues.

Pips will be removed and replaced by metal maple leaves, according to Lieutenant-General Marquis Hainse, commander of the Canadian Army. Gold braid will be returned to the uniform cuffs. These changes reverse some of the insignia changes brought about three years ago by the Conservative government.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Blue Lives Matter?!?!@£$*%($)£)


Cops in the town of Port Hope, Ontario have launched a "Blue Lives Matter" campaign that critics argue is tone-deaf at best and an egregious form of appropriation at worst.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Cons can't help themselves

Yep, you just keep doing what you're doing, Conservatives. 

Crass, insensitive, completely oblivious to context and lacking in basic decorum: they still haven't figured out this lost them the last election. 

Perhaps they've forgotten how to do politics any other way? 


Tuesday, March 08, 2016

F-35, IT edition

The latest fun from the plane that just refuses to work is that the radar sometimes fails and needs to be rebooted.

There are rumours that Lockheed Martin is proposing to install a direct line to their tech support in all production F-35s.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

New Con boss on the Twitters

I think it's going to take the Cons a long time to climb out of the pit their last boss and his pals dug them into.

They've maybe got an intractable problem now in that their vision of the country is simply unpalatable to 60 to 70% of the electorate. The Conservative share of the vote is likely to shrink further as the older generation (60+ years) of hardline Tory voters passes on. Younger Canadians, X-ers, millennials, and so on are very liberal in their outlook and lives and to them, the Tories have almost no appeal. 

The environment matters, health and welfare matter, social diversity matters. 

Conservatism, as it stands in opposition to these things, is obsolete. 

To find its feet again, the CPC will have to become something other than conservative.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Trudeau and ISIL: some guesses and thoughts

Just watching the press conference about Canada withdrawing CF-18s from Iraq and increasing the number of special forces and logistical support...some quick thoughts.

- Half a dozen CF-18s bombing the odd truck or position every few days is not massive air campaign. I'd venture to guess that there is an oversupply of strike aircraft in the region relative to available targets. Unless a significant ground battle is joined by forces the West supports, news reports suggest allied strike aircraft are largely hitting targets of opportunity. Removing our more charismatic weapons (CF-18s) from the fight will not impact anything other than domestic public opinion. Bombing sounds exciting and less boring than a long slow enabling of local forces, which in turn is more politically palatable that admitting there's no real strategy at work and whatever we do is probably pointless.

- Local forces are whatever they are and are the key to keeping ISIL at bay if not deating them. Supporting key actors there to - for now, to some extent - is probably the only real way to be involved if Canada insists it wants to be involved militarily, let alone any other way.

- Local forces are diverse, often oppositional, and shift in the winds. Some constants are the Kurdish forces who have a territorial base and a coherent mission. Turkey plays an ambiguous role. Russia is present and will largely do as it pleases and backs Assad. Mix in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and so on and whatever Canada does or doesn't do, it won't be in any way decisive.

- We're there for show, because all our big showy friends (who made the most recent mess, re invading Iraq 2003) are there. No one knows or has known what they're doing because everything is complex, non-linear, and superpositioned where allies and enemies can be one and the same.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Brave "Albertans" cowardly lost an election

The stuff being posted about Notley and other women in her government is appalling. Death threats, threats of violence are criminal because they have no place in a civilised society. This much should be obvious to the lawnorder conservative crowd.

But again, not really. So much is so lost on them.

Instead, we get yet another flavour of the cheetoh-crumb basement misogyny currently in vogue. 

Grown men threatening violence against the women with whom they disagree. 

Imagine that. 

Men with sisters, mothers, girlfriends, wives, colleagues and friends bashing out stuff on their facebooks and chatrooms. 

Tough guys, these "cowboys"