Saturday, July 31, 2010

Russian roulette

As has been mentioned before on this blog, the waltz between Russian bombers and Canadian fighters is a carefully orchestrated and choreographed dance. The show up just outside our air space, we intercept, they go home. This happens so often it's usually barely mentioned in the press. The well established predictability of the thing is key to avoiding some sort of mistake. It is a game, yes, but a very serious one with clearly defined boundaries. The Russians do not enter our airspace, and we don't shoot them down. And some serious international stupid doesn't happen. Safe enough provided everyone still plays out of the same rule book.

Furthermore, this dance is better described as a NATO/NORAD-Russia event, not a Canada thing. European allies play the same game with Russian bombers.

However, the Conservatives have now established a pattern of making great hay out of this routine event for domestic political strategy. While this does not mean the tactical rules of the game have changed, it may indicate to the Russians that a strategic deviation from the established rules has occurred on our end. It would be easy enough for the Russian thinkers to look at this and read it as domestic political manoeuvring and simply ignore the inane utterings from our current government.

On the other hand, they are also watching this government make utterly insane ideological moves like cancel the long form census and its hoople-headed ministers play dress-up soldier. Russian strategic planners might (rightly in my view) think we've gone off our meds and that their old dance partner has stopped hearing the music. This makes us unpredictable and increases the risk of something going pear-shaped at 40 000 feet.

Our NATO partners might wonder the same. The Harper government has turned Canada into the obnoxious drunk at the dance, and our actions also may reflect on Russia's perception of NATO and NORAD. The collective defence nature of those organisation means that any mishap between Canada and Russia is also a problem between our allies and Russia... I wonder if any of them have mentioned this to the Harper government.

Red Alert! The Russians still have planes!

Frankly I don't think we can be expected to write a whole new blogpost every time DefMin Flying Ace "Airshow MacKay" and his trusty sidekick Woodstock Kory climb up on top of the Con doghouse to fight off the Red Baron yet again in the Arctic, so this time we're just going with what David Pugliese reported last time 18 months ago (h/t Maclean's) :
"The military officers I was talking to yesterday were full of kudos for Defence Minister Peter MacKay for a move that one described as “playing the media like a finely-tuned fiddle.”
The officer was referring to the breathless Canadian news media coverage of the flight of two Russian bombers that were “intercepted” by Canadian CF-18s …
Yesterday’s incident prompted some amusement at NDHQ about how gullible some in the news media can be and how easily some journalists swallowed the government’s bait hook, line and sinker."
We would just like to add in the media's defence that this time they didn't actually swallow, opting instead to spit it out quietly into a hankie afterwards.
Update : Ok, here we go - the new government talking points from :
Subject: Ignatieff Liberals Embarrassed by Russian Bomber Flights Over Arctic
"Mere days ago Michael Ignatieff pledged to cancel the new fighter jets the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces urgently need.
Embarrassingly for him, Russian bomber flights over the Arctic -- just two days ago -- underscore why our men and women in uniform need modern equipment to do their jobs. Perhaps because he wasn't in Canada at the time, Mr. Ignatieff is unaware of how past Liberal governments gutted our military. More proof that Michael Ignatieff isn't in it for Canadians. He's just in it for himself."
etc ... etc ...

Friday, July 30, 2010

For your weekend entertainment . . .

Jesus vs. Satan. Ya gotta love Flash. The site is not politically-correct, so if you're the type who gets their tighty-whities in a wedgie, try Lawrence Welk on YouTube. Haven't played it, because I'm into Return to Castle Wolfenstein and a 3-D spatial challenge called BORX, but the start page illustration is a hoot — Satan and Jesus facing off at a nightclub bar.

Blood on whose hands?

CNN : WikiLeaks founder may have 'blood' on his hands
Reuters : WikiLeaks may have blood on its hands, U.S. says
Both sources quote Admiral Mike Mullen :

"Mr. Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing," Mullen said. "But the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family."
Guardian : The War Logs :
"...the marines opening fire with automatic weapons as they tore down a six-mile stretch of highway, hitting almost anyone in their way – teenage girls in fields, motorists in their cars, old men as they walked along the road. Nineteen unarmed civilians were killed and 50 wounded."
Two hours later they returned to confiscate camera evidence.
A news photographer said they told him : "Delete them, or we will delete you."
A US army colonel paid $2,000 to the families of each victim and Major General Francis Kearney ordered the marines to pull the entire 120-man company out of the country.

Washington Post reader question to Assange :

"Did you take steps to delete the names and other identifying information of informants before you released the 90,000+ documents? If not, how do you answer the charge that your actions may get these informants killed?

Assange :

"We released 36,000 out of the 92,000 or so documents in the Afghan War Diaries.
15,000 have been held for further review because they may contain information about innocents or informants. We also asked the White House to provide resources to help us vet the materials; the White House did not respond."

Yesterday Obama signed the new Afganistan troop surge bill, passed by both Democrats and Republicans.
Last month, after accusing Stephen Harper of making a decision to “cut and run” from Afghanistan, Michael Ignatieff called for Canadians to stay in Afghanistan after 2011 as police and army trainers.

Harper and Iggy both supported the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, and both voted to extend the Afghanistan occupation from 2009 to 2011.
Former human rights advocate Michael Ignatieff is providing Harper and Obama with the cover necessary to support and extend that occupation.

It's down to the rest of us now to blow that cover : Rethink Afghanistan .

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The sum of futility . . .

THE NEW YORK TIMES has a report by Nicholas Kristof, "1 Soldier or 20 Schools?", where the cost of the War on Terror is tabulated. The cost is astounding:

The war in Afghanistan will consume more money this year alone than we spent on the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War and the Spanish-American War — combined.

A recent report from the Congressional Research Service finds that the war on terror, including Afghanistan and Iraq, has been, by far, the costliest war in American history aside from World War II. It adjusted costs of all previous wars for inflation.

Those historical comparisons should be a wake-up call to President Obama, underscoring how our military strategy is not only a mess — as the recent leaked documents from Afghanistan suggested — but also more broadly reflects a gross misallocation of resources. One legacy of the 9/11 attacks was a distortion of American policy: By the standards of history and cost-effectiveness, we are hugely overinvested in military tools and underinvested in education and diplomacy.

. . . for the cost of just 246 soldiers posted for one year, America could pay for a higher education plan for all Afghanistan. That would help build an Afghan economy, civil society and future — all for one-quarter of 1 percent of our military spending in Afghanistan this year.

What a way to run a war.

Let's see Jason Kenney take this test

Yet another reason that Jason Kenney should not be allowed to touch anything important - he's an imbecile. Apparently he has yet to realize that all immigrants don't come from foreigneristan or sound like the terrorists that movie by the South Park guys. A large percentage of immigrants to Canada come from countries where English or French is a national language. And $280 bucks to take an English proficiency test that determines whether you can be a citizen? That is - how you say in English? - a complete rip off.
Nevertheless, I'd love to see how the average CPC backbencher or voter scores on a TOEIC or TOEFL.

Disaster? Not if you're an oil company or a shipping company

The June 2010 issue of Bulletin of the American Meteorlogical Society (BAMS) has produced its annual State of the Climate report and, to put it bluntly and unscientifically, it ain't pretty. Using 37 indicators, over 300 scientists from 48 countries agreed that the ten indicators directly related to surface warming (7 which increase and 3 which decrease) are not just clear but significantly so.

Each decade since the 1980s has seen an increase on average of 1/5th of a degree F. And each decade has been warmer than the previous. The first decade of the 21st Century now stands to become the warmest on record with the preceding 9 years having produced warmer years than the decade of the 1990s.

If you would like to read a summary and highlights without having to wade through the entire report, go here.

Of course, with the near surety of an Arctic meltdown, two particular groups are cheering (and ignoring the long-term disaster that accompanies their particular good fortune): oil companies and shipping companies.

The oil companies would love to be able to tap into the offshore oil in the Arctic basin. The problem has always been those pesky ice floes. Get rid of them and, well, they can delay peak oil by almost a year.

The shipping companies have always drooled over the idea of a Northwest Passage. Hell, that's essentially why Canada was explored.

Consider that the current route from Rotterdam to Vancouver is a 9,000 mile voyage via the Panama Canal. The Northwest Passage would cut 2,000 miles off that trip, eliminate canal fees and eliminate canal delays. The trip from Rotterdam to Japan, China and Korea is over 11,000 miles through the Suez Canal and a couple of really nasty choke points infested with pirates. The same trip via the Northwest Passage? About 6,500 miles. Less fuel, less time, no canal fees, no pirates.

Risk to the remnants of an Arctic eco-system? Huge.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

This is the sorta thing that starts.. happen when lines are blurred.

Defence Department computers in Ottawa have been used to alter information on a Wikipedia page critical of the Conservative government’s decision to spend billions on a new stealth fighter. Nine attempts have been made to change the online encyclopedia’s entry on the Joint Strike Fighter, including the removal of any information critical of the Harper government’s plan to spend at least $16-billion on the new aircraft. Defence Department computers were also used to insert insults, aimed at Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, into the Wikipedia Joint Strike Fighter page. Mr. Ignatieff has questioned the proposed purchase.

Quotes from news articles outlining opposition to the purchase by University of British Columbia professor Michael Byers, a former NDP candidate, were also removed. Wikipedia traced the alterations to three computers owned by Defence Research and Development Canada’s Ottawa offices. The online site has labelled the July 20-21 alterations as vandalism. The attempts to change the web page, made during work hours, stopped when Wikipedia administrators locked down the entry on the Joint Strike Fighter, or JSF.

Granted one can't tell whether it was a uniformed member or a civilian employee, but overtly political partisan acts coming from DND computers do not look good.

(h/t impolitical via Twitter)

There Is No Tone I Cannot Lower

As is the way of the cabal, I received a midnight missive yesterday afternoon. To my delight and surprise, an invitation to bring my scurrilous bloggery to you once more. A new home among some of the very best bloggers in the Canuckosphere of any political bent, it was an offer I could not refuse. So after less than a moment's reflection I powered up the Computron-3000, disassembled the telephonium, inserted a new weenie in the energizer and stabbed it with LEDs. There it was, a source of nourishment, power and illumination. Let's light it up!

Thanks to Dave and all of the Beavers for inviting me to share their soapbox.

Going to the Vatican? Wear a sleeping bag

Apparently the officials at the Vatican have nothing more to worry about than seeing peoples' knees and bare shoulders.
Tourists and Romans clad in scanty summer clothing were being told to cover up before entering the Vatican City on Tuesday. Long-standing rules on modest dress, previously applicable only to those visiting St Peter's Basilica, appear to have been extended throughout the tiny walled state. Swiss Guard officers manning the official customs point between Rome and the Vatican City began pulling aside members of the public dressed in 'inappropriate' clothing early in the morning. Men in shorts and women with exposed knees or uncovered shoulders were all stopped by the officers, who asked them if they knew "how things worked here". Bewildered locals, accustomed to treating the Vatican much like any other part of Rome, initially assumed a new bureaucratic procedure was in force. Prescriptions, letters and shopping permits were hastily produced as evidence of plans to use the Vatican's pharmacy, post office and shop. Only to be told the real reason was their clothing. "This is the Vatican City and for reasons of respect, you are not allowed in with uncovered shoulders or wearing shorts," was the standard explanation. Some retreated without protest, while a number of the women made impromptu purchases from one of the many stands selling shawls and scarves near the Vatican gates. A cheap, quick solution to cover the bare legs of men in shorts was harder to come by, although some duly trudged off to the nearby shopping district of Cola di Rienzo to buy a pair of trousers. However, a number of visitors, especially the more elderly, refused to budge.
And from the Telegraph ...
The crackdown on inappropriate clothing comes at a time of almost unprecedented crisis for the Vatican, with senior figures, including Pope Benedict XVI, accused of failing to act against priests who sexually abused children.
Priorities. The Vatican has some.

(The unclad statue of Perseus in the image above is from the Vatican Museum)

Why do people laugh at creationists? Part 17 & 18


...presented by deBeauxO's.

"Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed."

"Gratitude is a sickness suffered by dogs."

"The writer is the engineer of the human soul."

"Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas."

"Print is the sharpest and the strongest weapon of our party."

"It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything."
The first pronouncement is from Stephen Joseph Harper. The rest are from Joseph Stalin.
I'll add another one which came through Twitter this morning (apologies, I can't recall through whose feed).

The annual gathering of the Writers' Union of Canada took place in Ottawa in June, with many former chairs on hand to offer memories of their time in office. Susan Crean remembered encountering a young, blue-eyed politico at a constitutional conference in Calgary in 1992. When the man learned that she had co-authored a certain book about American domination of Canadian and Quebec politicians, the man responded:

"You should not have been allowed to write that book."

The man: Stephen Harper. Crean never forgot his words, but especially the word allowed. The room full of writers in Ottawa issued a gasp.

I'm convinced that the biggest priority for governance of this country is the removal of Harper from office.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I believe the corporal.

Everyone would like to disbelieve Rick Hillier. That's understandable. He drove those horses a little harder than he should have. However, I have to agree with him on one point: Initial action reports are full of errors. That's a simple fact. Nothing coming off the battlespace is completely accurate. It can't be. The confusion is just too overwhelming.

So, this report has more information, but it also has the eyewitness statement of one who was there.
"I was there and our boys were not killed by friendly fire," Corp. Jody Mitic wrote on Twitter. "Ask anyone from Charlie Company. Friendly fire my ass . . ."

Give me a reason why I would not take the word of a corporal, on the ground, in the action, fully engaged.

I've been him. I believe him.

Why do people laugh at creationists? Part 15 & 16

Four fried chickens and a coke...

Been a coupla months since the bards at Canadian Cynic went on holiday. An aeon in blogtime. Since then we've had fighter debacles, Census scandals, emerging RCMP scandals, G8/20 scandals, and 90 000 scandalous documents from the big dusty place across the sea. And some others that don't immediately leap to mind.

There's no blog in the blogsphere that quite captures the essence of the all that political muppetry with same incisive wit and snark as the the CC crew, but they are nowhere to be found save for one brave soul making a twitter stand. But that's just not the same.

Just sayin' maybe they oughta think about puttin' the band back together...

Doris is a Liar

Go read BCL.

Stockwell Day MP PC, asserts that that long form Census data allows your find out personal information about your neighbour, such as whether they are Jewish. As to why he said Jewish one can only speculate, but the fact remains his assertion is false. It is beyond reasonable to pressume that someone with Day's position damn well knows how census data is handled, therefore suggesting that some might somehow be able to find their neighbour's responses to the long form or short form, is a complete and intentional misrepresention of reality.

Just pay it . . . .

The NEW YORK TIMES has a report by Steven Greenhouse, "Pressured, Nike to Help Workers in Honduras", about the successful efforts of US college students to force Nike to do the right thing. Moral suasion was ineffective, but when the students had their colleges buy their sweats elsewhere, the kind folks at Nike had a change of heart. I don't buy Nike.

Facing pressure from universities and student groups, the apparel maker Nike announced on Monday that it would pay $1.54 million to help 1,800 workers in Honduras who lost their jobs when two subcontractors closed their factories.

Nike agreed to the payment after several universities and a nationwide group, United Students Against Sweatshops, pressed it to pay some $2 million in severance that the two subcontractors had failed to pay.

The University of Wisconsin, Madison terminated its licensing agreement with Nike over the Honduran dispute, and Cornell warned that it would do the same unless Nike resolved the matter.

You can make a capitalist be morally responsible, it's just not easy.

Conflict. Blue on Blue.

The CBC report.
The Canadian military is rejecting a report released by WikiLeaks that suggests four Canadian soldiers who died in September 2006 in Afghanistan were killed by friendly fire from U.S. forces.

The military maintains the four soldiers died in combat with the Taliban.

The press release issued by Canadian Expeditionary Force Command on 3 September, 2006.

Four Canadian soldiers were killed today at approximately 8:50 a.m. Kandahar time as they fought to drive Taliban fighters from a region west of Kandahar City. These casualties occurred on the second day of Operation Medusa, a significant combined effort between the Afghan National Security Forces, Canada and our other NATO partners in the International Security Assistance Force.

The incident report from the US 205th Regional Corps Advisory Group on that same day.

At 030414Z Sept 06 received SAF & RPGS from sawtooth building.
returned fire 1x GBU dropped on it.
Sawtooth building is heavily damaged.
only 4x sections remain standing. no activity observed.
Casualties 4x CDN KIA 4X CDN WIA.
At 030419Z Sep received SAF and RPG fire on op,
a total of WIA in these hour 7x CDN,
and 4x CDN KIA and 1x WIA interpreter.

Attack on: FRIEND
Discrepancy? Looks that way. Read that CEFCOM press release again.

More later... perhaps.

A gross misuse of the uniform

Click through to the DND website today and the first visual you get is the Minister of National Defence, Peter MacKay, smiling back at you - wearing a Canadian Forces CADPAT TW uniform. It's been that way all weekend after MacKay participated with a Canadian military team in the Nijmegen Four Days Marches. Except that he didn't participate in the entire march; he only showed up for the last day. How that fits with the regulations established by Stichting DE 4DAAGSE is beyond me.

Last week Boris pointed out, not only the danger involved in this visual, but the shameless, self-serving political theatre that it actually represents. What I pointed out, in comments to that post, is that MacKay's adoption of a Canadian Forces uniform for wear in public may well be illegal.

The Minister of National Defence is a civilian appointed to cabinet by the Crown on the recommendation of the prime minister. Reporting to that civilian are two different heads of two complimentary but different organizations: The Deputy Minister, a senior civil servant who heads the Department, and the Chief of Defence Staff, a uniformed flag/general officer who leads the Canadian Armed Forces. Both those senior people are responsible to the Minister of National Defence.

The National Defence Act makes it clear that, by statute, the Canadian Armed Forces are separate and distinct from the Department of National Defence. The minister's responsibilities are clear and the distinction is very clear. The Minister of National Defence is a political appointment of the government and, while responsible for the direction of defence policy, is not a member of the Canadian Armed Forces and cannot issue orders to the Regular, Reserve, Special force or other constituted elements of the CAF without doing so through the uniformed CDS.

The Minister of National Defence has no status-of-rank inside the Canadian Armed Forces. Period. Neither does the Prime Minister.

Most ministers of national defence would not dream of donning a CF uniform for any reason. One of the overarching foundations of a confederated and democratic Canada is that the Canadian military is a civilian controlled operation. When General Andrew McNaughton was appointed Minister of National Defence in 1944, during the 2nd World War, he assumed his duties as a civilian and appeared in civilian clothing.

MacKay appears to place little value in the conventions and statutes which separate him and his office from the uniformed armed forces.

There are statutes restricting the wear of Canadian Forces uniforms to those who are entitled to do so.

Now, I will presume that MacKay either insisted or was somehow given official leave to wear a CADPAT TW uniform and that somehow, somewhere, someone decided it was either too trivial a matter over which to engage in a regulatory career-damaging fight or, someone didn't bother looking at the regulations.

CF Dress Regulations Ch 2, Section 1 paras 43, 50 detail when a civilian may wear a CF uniform. It also states that in such instances the the wearer must display a brassard on the left arm indicating the wearer's affiliation accompanied by the block letters CIVILIAN NON-COMBATANT. MacKay is a civilian yet did not do that.

Queen's Regulations and Orders article 17.06 also applies. From that and the following regulation you might notice that even a member of the CF has restrictions in the wear of the uniform.

The Canadian Protocol site offers no occasion when the Minister of National Defence is authorized to wear a Canadian Forces uniform.

So, what is MacKay's purpose?

There are some who suggest (and within limits I would agree), that having senior people join the ratings and ranks in challenges such as the International Four Days Marches is a good thing. That, however, has to be tempered with appropriate levels of decorum. And MacKay is not one of the "senior people" of the Canadian Armed Forces. He isn't a member.

The obvious is right there in the picture. This was a PMO approved photo op for MacKay. This was another display of the martial fetish in which members of Harper's government will find every opportunity to use the troops as a backdrop to demonstrate their personal machismo.

"Look at me! I am the warrior minister and I lead all Canadian troops."

Except that it is all theatre. "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV."

MacKay is not a soldier, but he'll play at it by dressing up.

In the end a dangerous association starts to bubble up. MacKay, by misusing the uniform of the Canadian Armed Forces for his own political gain, has once again attempted to portray the Canadian Forces as an arm of his political party.

As one commenter here said:
It is at times like this that an elderly person with a funny green suit in the closet might well reflect that he is not an employee of the federal government, but a personal servant of Her Majesty. And is only doing what Mackay and Harper say because Ma'am would like him to.

MacKay has grossly misused the uniform of the Canadian Armed Forces. That's illegal.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Why do people laugh at creationists? Part 13 & 14

Sorry for the delay in posting. SATCOM fail.

RCMP mutiny?

First it was Statistics Canada, now uh oh.

Senior RCMP members have complained about Commissioner William Elliott to some of the highest levels of the federal government on two separate occasions in the past seven days, the CBC has learned. The complainants, possibly as many as 10, include some of the force's top officers, including deputy commissioners Tim Killam and Raf Souccar.

They have accused Elliott of being verbally abusive, close-minded, arrogant and insulting. One complaint described Elliott, who became the first civilian to head the Mounties in July 2007, in a rage, throwing papers at another officer.

Verbally abusive, close minded, and insulting? Seems to be SOP for the uniformed cops these days. But anyway, if the RCMP brass are rebelling against Harper's choice of commissioner, hot on the heels of Munir Sheikh's resignation... Is this the beginning of a federal civil service rebellion?

Can't prorogue your way out of that one Stevo.

This is shaping up to be an interesting summer.

Hawn, juxtaposed

Take it away, Steve V.

Today's release of ninety thousand confidential documents on Afghanistan by Wikileaks was the subject of today's appearance by Hawn. These documents are quite damaging, painting a bleak picture of the mission in Afghanistan. With that in mind, note Hawn's comments, wherein he tries to fluff off the documents:
"A lot of them are dated, so it's really information that might make a good story but isn't that relevant to what is happening today. You know, it needs to be fairly immediate information to have a huge impact"

That's right, like other mission defenders, Hawn suddenly argues that all these explosive documents are "dated", not terribly relevant to "today". Hawn also says, that in terms of the mission, unless it's "immediate" information, it really has no strategic impact. Hawn has just undercut the entire line of argument he's used on the detainee file, particularly when most of those documents are, in fact, much more out of "date" than those released today. So, when the mission is threatened by disclosure, documents are minimized, but if said documents have the capacity to embarrass the government politically, they are exaggerated and it becomes an issue of harming the troops.
Lotsa that goin' around in Conservative circles these days.

Cannon, juxtaposed

On the Wikileaks:

"Our government is concerned obviously that operational leaks could endanger the lives of our men and women in Afghanistan,"

On the Taliban
, 142 Canadian deaths since the year his government called the NDP leader "Taliban Jack":

“We encourage a reconciliation process that is inclusive of all Afghans, no matter their ethnicity”

Yeah, I thought so.

Afghanistan Wikileaks fallout...

Official lines on Afghanistan have never quite meshed with what we've heard through various grapevines and reports from non-government sources. From government, we get a whole lot of spin and focus on flags, coffins, and apparent nobility of the conflict. We get very little of substance that allows the public a clearer picture of the conflict.

But now. Now we're learning a lot more about how the war's going that doesn't quite mesh with the political spin. There's a lot in these documents, much of which is definitely not for public or enemy consumption. Governments and some media are emphasising this as a violation of OPSEC, operation security, and could endanger lives. Fair enough.

However, the cat's out of the bag now and focus on that line of thought serves to deflect attention from the substance of the leaked material. There's nothing to be done about the massive security violation save for finding where the leak came from - which might prove a really interesting discovery in its own right. The issue now is about the contents and what that means for public perception and government spin.

If the substance of the leak counters the official line, then the public - we who ultimately fund and provide staff for the war - are being lied to. That's a whole separate issue from operational security. If the leak shows we're being lied to by politicians intent on maintaining our participation in an unsuccessful war and compels our withdrawal, then it's hard to see what could be better in the long term for troops' lives and democracy.

I'll have more to say later...

Non-Americans ask, "What is this tea party?"

Question from a non-American on
I keep hearing and seeing posts about this tea party? Must be a gringo thing.

When is it?? Who is it?? And do I want to be there?

A couple of the answers from that thread:

The "tea party" is a corporate-backed astroturf political "movement" that began right around the time a lot of European-descended "white" Americans realized that there wasn't anything they could do to prevent an African-descended "black" Senator from being elected President of the United States.

A group of almost entirely white, upper-middle-class, Republican men are incensed that there is a "black" man in the White House working in a room that isn't the kitchen.

So, they've taken to the streets to protest policies that they would undoubtedly support if it were a "white" Republican enacting them.


"It's the last great hope for America. And really, since you're a foreigner, we shouldn't tell you because it's American made and not for export!

Besides, you couldn't understand anyway because you don't know what it's like to have freedoms (like when I was a kid, why can't we go back to those times?) and we can't translate into your boogabooga language."

H/T Cheryl

Dear Tony...

I have no reason to doubt the nobility of your intentions when you lept into the moving water in an effort to save. It shows you to harbour a fundamental and selfless, if foolhardy, decency toward your fellow human that sets you apart from some of your partisan supporters and colleagues (just read article comments if you doubt me).

However, at the risk that you again encounter a similar situation, I might suggest that you consider taking a Swiftwater Rescue course or at least gain some empirical experience learning to assess and effectively swim in moving water to the point where you are comfortable in it. This will help you in determining if leaping in fully clothed will actually help the person in trouble or simply add to the problem. By the sounds of things you are very lucky not to have become another casualty in need of rescue or worse, retrieval. I can't help but wonder, partly from an experience in which I nearly died, just what the hell you thought you would have done once you reached her?

The smartmoney is on working from shore methodically and carefully and only entering the water when rescuer safety is ensured. However, should you find yourself in moving water and a little scared, it might pay to keep in mind the following.

The basic standard when finding yourself in the fast water is first to not panic. The water is very fast, big and scary, yes. But if you're breathing and floating, you're already partly in control of the basic staying alive bit of your situation. NOW, stop panicking and get your feet up so you can see them poke through the surface, pointing yourself FEET FIRST downstream with your head up looking over your toes. This way you minimise the risks of getting yourself caught on rocks, or strainers (branches and logs submerged just below the surface) because you'll float over them (arse might bruise though), head injury because your feet hit the rock in front you and not your melon, and of having the current pull you under and keep you there because your foot got stuck. Then let the current do the work for you and carry you downstream. Don't fight it, you'll exhaust yourself and die. Use your hands to steer and guide you to safety, but always feet up and pointed downstream. Safety is in eddies and river banks you can safely swim to. Avoid rocks, ledges and falls and the frothy nasty pin you under nonsense at their base, holes, pieces of tree, canoes in fast water (swamped or controlled they act as giant moving logs: bad bad), or the temption to see if your feet reach the bottom. These are the things that kill. Big standing waves are only big standing waves and can be quite fun to float through in a PFD.

Oh, and please have some humility. Don't twitter your attempt at heroism all over the universe. It looks crass and self-indulgent, especially since it seems that you succeeded in little more than getting wet and scaring yourself and probably your loved ones. And all at a time when you're taking heavy flak over some serious idiocy around the Census - it looks bad.

Kind Regards.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Leaking Like a Sieve . . . .

Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have done it again, and BIG TIME. Apparently, the leak of tens of thousands of Afghan war documents makes the Pentagon Papers look like child's play.

The Guardian UK has the full story with lots of background links.

Fascinating stuff to wade thru which I've just begun to do.

Something for you to do on a summer Sunday afternoon, eh ? ? ? ?

UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald has now weighed in on the topic, and his summary is spot on:

Whatever else is true, WikiLeaks has yet again proven itself to be one of the most valuable and important organizations in the world. Just as was true for the video of the Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad, there is no valid justification for having kept most of these documents a secret. But that's what our National Security State does reflexively: it hides itself behind an essentially absolute wall of secrecy to ensure that the citizenry remains largely ignorant of what it is really doing. WikiLeaks is one of the few entities successfully blowing holes in at least parts of that wall, enabling modest glimpses into what The Washington Post spent last week describing as Top Secret America. The war on WikiLeaks -- which was already in full swing, including, strangely, from some who claim a commitment to transparency -- will only intensify now. Anyone who believes that the Government abuses its secrecy powers in order to keep the citizenry in the dark and manipulate public opinion -- and who, at this point, doesn't believe that? -- should be squarely on the side of the greater transparency which Wikileaks and its sources, sometimes single-handedly, are providing.

Why do people laugh at creationists? Part 11 & 12

Chocoholics beware . . .

Cocoa beans are dried in South Sulawesi, Indonesia. A London firm has bought up so much cocoa that candy makers are nervous.

THE NEW YORK TIMES has a report that chocolate could get more expensive. Why? It appears that Anthony Ward has cornered the cocoa market.

To some, he is a real-life Willy Wonka. To others, he is a Bond-style villain bent on taking over the world’s supply of chocolate.

In a stroke, a hedge fund manager here named Anthony Ward has all but cornered the market in cocoa. By one estimate, he has bought enough to make more than five billion chocolate bars.

Chocolate lovers here are crying into their Cadbury wrappers — and rival traders are crying foul, saying Mr. Ward is stockpiling cocoa in a bid to drive up already high prices so he can sell later at a big profit. His activities have helped drive cocoa prices on the London market to a 30-year high.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Poll found in Kandahar Airfield toilet

Francis Silvaggio : Notes from Afghanistan, July 2, 2010

"While I doubt Ipsos would approve of the collection process, the data was interesting. Out of 26 respondents, only 7 thought progress was being made. 18 people marked “No” and 1 person ticked “HELL NO!!!” That means 73 per cent of those polled think the mission is failing.

Anywhere else, this may mean very little. But this poll was done in a military bathroom, in the middle of a war zone, by soldiers."

Bonnie downgraded to Tropical Depression

Bonnie is now downgraded to a Tropical Depression with surface wind speeds estimated at a sustained less than 30 knots (56 kmh/35 mph).

The cyclone is encountering 25+ knots of wind shear and is drawing in dry air from the southwest. It is being steered a little more south of the forecast track at about 15 knots tracking west-northwest. That should give it landfall at around 25/0400 UTC on the coast of Louisiana. There will likely be small areas of high winds in isolated squalls. In the area of the Gulf oil blowout this system, with timing and a bit of luck, should have less impact than the effects of Hurricane Alex.

The NHC has removed all Tropical Storm Warnings and added an interesting comment:

I have to admit to joining a certain chorus of forecasters who viewed those intensity models with much skepticism.

Why do people laugh at creationists? Part 9 & 10

Friday, July 23, 2010

Taliban Cannon


So now it’s time to talk to the Taliban.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon told reporters on Tuesday that the Taliban has an important role to play in laying the foundations of a new Afghanistan. “We encourage a reconciliation process that is inclusive of all Afghans, no matter their ethnicity,” he said.

Now cup your hand to your ear and listen for the caterwauling of the uber patriots here on the home front decrying the minister’s capitulation to the enemy. Hmm. Oddly quiet. Could this minster really represent the government that so cravenly branded NDP leader Jack Layton “Taliban Jack” four years ago for suggesting exactly the same thing?

Because IOKIYAC.

The price for the Conservatives to reach the same position as the NDP wasn't paid by any of them. Rot in hell Mr. Cannon. Rot in hell you despicable fuck.

Limitations . . .

When the only world-class thing
you have is your military,
a lot of countries begin to look
like they really need a war.

Why do people laugh at creationists? Part 7 & 8

A short visual history of the Cons behavior in government

Or, as Boris put it in comments a little further down the page :

"Sometimes I don't even think there's an ideology at work. Just a bored kid in the garden with firecrackers and a BB gun. Being elected was like getting grounded for them."

Next time, Canadian electorate, please use Con-doms.

F-35 sales tales: BMD edition...

I'm growing increasingly fascinated by the apparent sales practices of Lockheed Martin. I think this comes from selling mobile phones for exactly long enough (hours) to be told to lie, spin and dazzle if need be, but get them to sign. I never sold a phone and didn't make a cent. I've never trusted a salesperson since and generally assume I'm being lied to either by commission or ommission.

Via the Aviation Week crew watching the Farnborough Fun Flyers:

The Joint Strike Fighter distributed aperture system (DAS) could be useful for ballistic missile defense [BMD], according to Tom Burbage, executive vice president of F-35 program integration at Lockheed Martin.

During a recent flight of the system on Northrop Grumman’s BAC-111 test bed near Baltimore, Md., the EO/IR system captured the launch of a Falcon 9 rocket from 650 mi. away. Burbage dropped that little nugget during his JSF briefing for reporters July 19 at the Farnborough Air Show.

To be fair, he notes that missile defense is not currently a mission for JSF. But, during an interview later with Aviation Week, he said that the sensor capabilities of the aircraft could be useful for this role.
However, Bill Sweetman in the comments notes that this might a little bit of a stretch.
I thought the idea of airborne infrared was to track the missile in ascent after burnout, which is a rather different kettle of fish from watching a Falcon launch with all nine Merlins going full blast. You might want a bit more aperture than DAS to do that.
Ballistic Missile Defence is a touchy issue in Canada. I can hear the Opposition challenge "F35 Part of Conservative Plan to Sign Canada on to BMD"...and of course the reality challenged Cons will probably think the tooth fairy just left a complete Distributed Aperture Radar system under their pillow, and send letters to Lockheed Martin asking "really really can it really?" And Lockheed Martin will lick its chops and sweetly say...?

Yeah, this could get messy.

Civil rights . . . .

CAN WE SUE McGUINTY? Or his minions? Or the police? It sure seems there were lots of civil rights violations over the G20 protests, and according to this ruling by our Supreme Court, reported in the Globe & Mail article "Supreme Court upholds damages claim in charter rights breach case", the "authorities" might just be liable for their transgressions. Maybe their minions can be sued personally, for damages. Especially concerning the law that was not Gazetted, and therefore, not law of Ontario.

Tropical Storm Bonnie bound for the Gulf

23/1500Z - Tropical Storm Bonnie continues to move in a West-Northwest direction at about 16 knots. Its landfall in southern Florida was relatively normal for a cyclone of this size although somewhat drier than might be expected. (I will clarify that by pointing out that it is still dangerous.)

Bonnie is a small cyclone and somewhat disorganized. It is being affected by an upper level low which is creating enough wind shear to inhibit intensification. Various models have Bonnie either maintaining its strength or weakening prior to a northern Gulf coast landfall. I would agree with that, however, many of those intensity models had a wobbly initialization. Bonnie's quick formation and small size make it difficult for most models to build a higher-skill intensity forecast.

Most track models agree that Bonnie will collide with the Gulf oil spill although the cyclone has increased track speed to a rate beyond yesterday's forecast. That should put Bonnie onto the oil spill by Saturday.

The NHC is not calling for intensification beyond a Tropical Storm with maximum sustained winds of 45 knots (83 kmh/52 mph). Storm surges are expected in the 1 to 2 foot range.

The possibility of Bonnie becoming a hurricane is currently very low and it would take a sudden drop in upper wind flow to give it conditions which would allow intensification. That isn't going to help the crews in the Gulf at all. Sea states and wind will force them to cease operations (which they have already reported to have done), until the effects of the cyclone pass.

Maple Syrup Revolution podcast 10

Thursday, July 22, 2010

G8/20: dude not a cop

Something of a mea culpa: Here and here I joined the discussion around the circumstances of a certain individual filmed jumping on a police cruiser. Turns out he wasn't a cop and has now been named and charged as a result of his actions at the G8/G20.

Whoever and whatever he was doing there, I am relieved to know the police have actually managed to actually lay charges over some of the more violent actions of protesters. Nearly a month after the fact mind you and well, not apparently against members of their own ranks. They're still far too busy actually trying to avoid that particular brand of scrutiny.

It's possible now after Montebello and Toronto that the tactics of agents provocateur and assorted window smashers have had their day.

More at Dr. Dawg's.

Tropical Storm Bonnie

In two days it should smack right into the disaster zone in the Gulf of Mexico.
More later.

The G20 Independent Review

~updated below~

Amusing CBC headline today : G20 independent review seeks public input

What will not be included in the 'independent civilian review' :

~ specific operational issues
~ actions of police forces other than the Toronto Police, including the RCMP
~ complaints about personal experiences with police officers

Former assistant deputy attorney general of Ontario Douglas Hunt will oversee the drafting of the review's terms of reference will introduce further limitations on a review which already has no legal power to effect any changes and has been cobbled together by a civilian group whose sole mandate is to provide policy and oversight advice to the police chief.

Please ensure you limit your "public input" accordingly.

Update : Things looking up. Ontario police watchdog Gerry McNeilly is to start his own inquiry into the almost 300 complaints against police. He does have the subpoena power and the authority to investigate G20 actions of police from outside Ontario as well - although RCMP not mentioned. In comments Mark Francis notes the Canadian Civil Liberties Association approves this one :

"The review will examine the systemic issues related to allegations of unlawful searches, unlawful arrests, improper detention and issues related to the temporary holding facility during the G20."

F-35. The project, the plane, the mission - from the seat

During the past few days Boris (leading the way) and I have put out a few posts regarding the announced plan to purchase the F-35 Lightning II as a replacement for the Canadian Air Force fleet of F/A-18 fighter jets. Those posts generated some long and highly informative debates in the comments sections. One commenter was clearly very well informed on the subject, from various angles, and expressed some frustration at articles which appeared in national media publications, specifically The National Post, by Mark Collins, and The Toronto Star, by Michael Byers.

Unfortunately, if you don't read the comments section (75 comments can be daunting) you might have missed an important part of the whole debate especially the part offered by an informed, educated Air Force officer in procurement. While not a member of the fighter jet community we invited that commenter to respond to Mr. Collins and Dr. Byers (and to some degree, Mercedes Stephenson) on this site.

His/her post is presented unedited and without further comment except to say that he/she is closer to the subject than any of we regular contributors.


Michael Byers writing in the Sunday edition of the Toronto Star and Mark Collins writing in the National Post's Full Comment have recently sought to portray the decision by the Conservative government to acquire the F-35 Litening II (the Joint Strike Fighter) as wrongheaded and inappropriate for Canada's defence needs.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Setting aside the politics of the purchase and process in which Canada acquiesced to it, there are a number of points both authors have raised about the aircraft's technical merits and the alternatives to the F-35 that I would like to address:

- "stealth" aircraft are offensive platforms equipped solely for "shock and awe" first night types of missions
- that the F-35 lacks the range for the defence of Canada' Arctic
- that the Boeing Super Hornet is viable and cheaper alternative for Canada

These assertions demonstrate a serious lack of understanding of the rationale and reasoning behind the Air Staff's choice of the F-35. To start with, the purchase has not come out of thin air. The Next Generation Fighter Capability (NGFC) office has been in existence for the better part of a decade and has been tasked with (like all other defence procurement programs) finding a platform that will serve the CF for 30+ years after the retirement of the CF-18 Hornet.

To accomplish this task, one must understand the evolving nature of the air threat in the decades to come. This environment has markedly changed in the post-Cold War era. During the Cold War the best platforms our fighter pilots might encounter were usually possessed by the Soviet Union and to a somewhat lesser extent, the Warsaw Pact forces. And while fighter aircraft were sold to friendly regimes elsewhere in the world, they were rarely top of the line.

In the post-Cold War era though, this situation has been reversed. Russia, starved for cash, particularly for its aerospace and defence programs now seems to have no qualms selling its best technology to anybody willing to pay. The proposed sale of the S-300 air defence system to Iran is an excellent example. But it's even worse on the combat aviation side of the business. Some of the best versions of its platforms are not even flown by the Russians. For example, While the Russians field several hundred Su-27s, they have sold the Su-30 MKI, a significantly more advanced model of the Su-30 (a derivative of the Su-27) to India and the Indians intend to field hundreds of them in the years to come. The Chinese also operate over 150 of less capable Su-30 MKK (still more advanced than the base Su-30 operated by Russia). And while Canada entertains no desires to enter into conflict with the rising Asian powers, more disconcerting for us, is that this platform (the Su-30 in various variants) is rapidly becoming the air superiority fighter of choice around the Pacific Ring and for those flush with cash. New operators of the Su-30 now include Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Uganda, Algeria and (most importantly for North Americans) Venezuela. The Russians even go so far as to develop advanced platforms largely for the export markets, that they don't intend to induct into service themselves. The MiG-35 is a good example of this.

The Russians aren't the only ones in the game, either. The Chinese have also recently awakened to the revenue potential of exports of advanced fighter jets. Their recent partnership with Pakistan for the J-10 program is the first effort at exporting a medium capability fourth generation fighter. This is an aircraft that's on par with the F-16 or Mirage 2000 and is being offered up by the Chinese, often as a sweetener (and a way to recover some of their spending) to their resource partners in Africa.

Looking at this proliferation of advanced 4th and 4.5 gen aircraft around the world, combined with the sales of advanced anti-air systems like the S-300, the CF is rightly concerned that potential adversaries today are fielding platforms that may already outclass the CF-18. For example, the Sudanese are now fielding significantly modernized MiG-29s. Should Canada decide to participate in any sort of action similar to Operation Allied Force (NATO's intervention in Kosovo), it would mean our fighter pilots would be facing opposing platforms that are potentially as capable as their own. And while training, weapons and tactics can give us the edge, the margin is far too discomforting for the Air Staff on which to risk the lives of our fighter crews.

The situation in the future does not look markedly better. As platforms like the J-10, Su-30, MiG-35 and even the Su-35 proliferate around the world, the CF will face a significant challenge in maintaining its combat edge in any potential combat scenario overseas. Domestically, the development and fielding of 5th generation fighters by the Russians and Chinese (combined with China's attempt to field aircraft carriers) will pose significant challenges to our security in the Arctic. For this reason, the combat aircraft that the CF acquires for the future has to possess certain characteristics that ensure our crews have the ability to counter the threats they will face abroad and in the defence of Canada. For a small, single type multirole fleet there are three characteristics: stealth, advanced sensors/networking/sensor fusion and improved aerodynamics.

It is unfortunate that some of these characteristics (such as stealth) have been mis-characterized in the press as being solely required for offensive missions. Stealth characteristics dramatic improve survivability. While stealth technology has been associated with offensive aircraft to date (particularly by the public watching "shock and awe" footage), in the future air combat environment of highly capable 4th and 4.5 generation fighters combined with advanced anti-air systems like the S-300, stealth is essential for the survivability of the platform. The enemy can't engage our fighters if they can't detect them. Stealth gives our pilots a significantly better shot at completing their missions and coming home safely.

Advanced sensors, networking and sensor fusion is also vital for a future fighter platform. These systems dramatically increase the pilots awareness of his surroundings and allow several fighters to operate as a single system as opposed to a team of aircraft. This significantly improves both their combat power and combat efficiency. Such networking and fusion not only improves situational awareness, it allows the pilots to engage targets they cannot "see" using the combined air picture derived from multiple sensors on multiple aircraft.

The third characteristics is improvements in the aerodynamics characteristics of the aircraft. The big improvement here is the internal carriage of ordinance. Weapons and fuel tanks hanging from the fuel tanks incur significant aerodynamic drag penalties. This causes aircraft to significantly underperform from their advertised figures on range and speed. Internal carriage of weapons eliminate these drag penalties allowing the aircraft to perform much closer to the glossy brochure figures. An alternative here would be an improved airframe and engine that allows for supercruise (the ability to travel faster than Mach 1 without using fuel guzzling after-burners).

Aerodynamics brings us to the next major discussion point: range. The Joint Strike Fighter has been impugned as possessing insufficient range to adequately operate in Canada's vast Arctic expanses. Is there any truth to that? To answer this question, range has to be understood the way engineers and pilots discuss it. For us, there are two range numbers that matter: ferry range and combat radius. The first lets you pre-position your aircraft. The second lets you fight as far away from your base, tanker or whatever you are trying to protect. In the Canadian context, the F-35 has more than adequate ferry range to reposition from Cold Lake to our forward operating bases in the Arctic. But combat radius is where the F-35 shines. It's combat radius is significantly higher than most of its competitors (except for maybe the Eurofighter Typhoon) and the currently in-service CF-18. This means the F-35 will be able to operate further away from its base or tanker, putting distance between the enemy and their targets. In a future where our potential polar adversaries are fielding advanced fighters with significantly longer range missiles, putting some distance between their combat aircraft and our defenceless tankers or bases or urban centres is vitally important. Lastly on range, Michael Byers suggests that the range is insufficient because it takes 8 hours for a tanker to arrive in the Arctic. Here he is getting range and endurance mixed up. They are not the same thing. Simply put, however, the F-35 has the requisite range and endurance to operate in the Canadian domestic environment.

And all this leads us to our third major point of contention: alternatives to the F-35. Several have been proposed, and if the Air Force was willing to compromise on its requirements, some (the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Dassault Rafale for example) could be contenders. However, the one being pushed by some commentators opposed to the JSF purchase, is the Boeing F-18 E/F Super Hornet (largely because of its price). This is an aircraft that is wholly inadequate for Canada's future defence needs. Mark Collins insists that its adequate since the US Navy operates the aircraft. However, that's only half the story. The US Navy does indeed operate the Super Hornet in the fleet air defence role today. It replaced the F-14 Tomcat in that role. However, it does not intend to do this in the years to come. Like the CF, the US Navy too has recognized the changing air threat environment and it too has committed to the Joint Strike Fighter program. As has the other operator of the Super Hornet: the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). Both these operators recognize that going forward the Super Hornet will not possess sufficient survivability in a medium or high threat battlespace. So both are procuring Joint Strike Fighters to escort the Super Hornet. That should have told Mark Collins something. The Super Hornet is being relegated to the role a light bomber in the future, a bomb truck. This is not what the CF desires in its next fighter. And this is not what Canada needs for its own defences.

The Super Hornet has a significantly lower combat radius than the F-35 (meaning it has to fight closer to what it's trying to protect), no stealth characteristics (a must for survivability in the future) and no improvements in its aerodynamic characteristics over our existing CF-18. In sum, it's a terrible alternative for the Canadian Forces. Those pushing the Super Hornet, are either unaware of the CF's requirements or don't care about them and seek to simply impose the cheapest solution possible.

And the Super Hornet isn't all that cheap either. The RAAF's experience is instructive for Canada. The Aussies spent about AUS$ 6 billion, paying out about US$ 2.2 billion to acquire 24 aircraft and agreeing to a US$ 2.4 billion agreement for 10 years of support. Given the Australian experience, a fleet of far less capable Super Hornet would cost us between $6-$7 billion to acquire and up to $13 billion to support over 20 years. Contrast that to the $9 billion spent on acquiring 65 F-35s and a rumoured cost of $7 billion for a 20 year maintence contract. So while the Super Hornet might have a lower acquisition cost, it is far more expensive to maintain (understandable since engines account for one third of an aircraft's maintenance costs and the Super Hornet has two) over the long run, significantly negating any savings in acquisition costs. Furthermore, being less current that the F-35 also then means that the CF would have to spend billions on upgrades sooner to keep the aircraft at par with the threats it might face. This makes the Super Hornet a terrible value proposition. We'd be paying significantly more over the long run for a lot less capability.

In summary, the Air Staff and the CF are right when they suggest that the Joint Strike Fighter is the most capable and most cost-effective solution that Canada can field in the decades to come. It meets or exceeds all our defence requirements at a reasonable long term price. The alternatives are all significantly more expensive and could result in capability gaps in the later stages of the platforms expected service life (2030-2045), possibly requiring significant and expensive upgrades or simply sacrificing survivability putting our air crews and possibly our national security at risk.

While it's understandable that some commentators and politicians are unhappy with the method in which the Joint Strike Fighter was selected, they should understand that significant efforts were put into studying the future threat environment, evaluating the options and identifiying the best value proposition for Canadian taxpayer, and the best platform for the Canadian Forces for the next 30 years. The Air Staff's recommendations should not be taken lightly. Their decision was not concluded in a flippant manner. And those attempting to portray the F-35 as a unaffordable luxury, a "cadillac" of fighters are doing significant disservice to the fighter pilots, engineers and civil servants who have spent the better part of a decade studying the issue. It's one thing to criticze the government for its processes. It's another matter entirely, to challenge the choice of the CF, assume you know better than the professionals and then insist on a cheaper alternative without knowing if it's suitable or not. I sincerely hope these commentators will be a little more responsible in the months and years to come and place the needs of the CF and concerns for our national security over partisan bickering.