Friday, July 18, 2014

Dear assorted Ukrainian and Russian machomen,

I hope the loss of MH17 and her passengers puts your pathetic and utterly unjustifiable little war in perspective and causes you to end it.


Commentary. I think it is likely that either the Russians supplied the rebels with advanced surface to air missile systems (SAM), or the rebels acquired them from actions against the Ukraine military. I think it is possible but unlikely that the missile was fired by the Ukrainians. Some half-trained rebel unit got excited and squeezed off a round. It might even be the case that they had no idea that there was an active international air corridor over the area.

I also think that the Ukraine government, airlines and air regulators owe explanations as to why they allowed an air corridor to be maintained over a war zone where sophisticated weapons capable of downing fast jets are regularly used to effect. My bet is that it has something to do with the fuel costs associated with rerouting and finding the answer they liked regarding air defence capabilities in the region that allowed them to maintain air corridors.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Defence of Canada under Harper

Canada's political, social and physical geography define its defence priorities. Unless there is a massive shift in US politics, it has no land connection to any existing or potential military adversary. Our small population density and massive geography compared to the US means that even if that were a hostile relationship, the 49th parallel is too long to manually defend anyway.

Even without NORAD and NATO, Canada still sits between the major strategic military opponents: Russia and the United States. This means that confrontations between these two major military powers could occur near Canada's coasts and skies, not on the ground.

This fact makes the RCAF and RCN the key services of the Canadian Forces required for the strategic defence of Canada. We are surrounded by a lot of sea and airspace.  Like it or not, the Army's major territorial role tends to only involve aid-to-the-civil power actions, usually around emergencies like fire and flood, or tactical security for high profile international events and meetings and extremely rare armed stand-offs.

Under Harper's watch, both the RCAF and RCN are suffering rust-out and mismanaged procurement.

The RCAF is due to replace its CF-18 fighters and Sea King helicopters in the next few years. The replacement for the CF-18 is still likely to be the insanely expensive and problem plagued F-35, which may yet be cancelled leaving Canada without a combat air force. The smart scandal-rumour is that the RCAF even now does not have enough serviceable fighters to intercept Russian patrols near Canada, and the USAF has to do it instead. The Sea King replacement is the expensive, beta-standard Cyclone helicopter likely to suffer significant teething problems when it does become operational.

The RCN just lost an ancient destroyer to rust, with other ships and subs in repair after damage. The ability of the Navy to fully crew its vessels is also in doubt.  Earlier this year, HMCS Protecteur suffered a major fire and had to be pulled from another exercises and towed back to Canada. Last year, that same ship was damaged in a collision with the Algonquin, which suffered severe damage. And before that, HMCS Corner Brook sailed into the seabed and was nearly lost. At this loss rate, there won't be any ships in the water in another year or two.

Today we learn that HMCS Whitehorse, a smaller coastal warship got pulled from an exercise because of discipline problems with its sailors.

What is happening to the Navy? Is this a result of political neglect impacting morale and training, leading to slip-ups? Will the RCAF follow?

Under Harper's watch, Canada is losing the key armed services necessary for its defence. Keep in mind also that Harper's labour policies are eroding the capacity of Canadians to find employment in Canada. Harper's economic policy also privileges highly risky resource extraction at the expense of the environment, destroying the climate and landbase.

The Cons are clearly hell-bent on weakening Canada from within.

Under different circumstances, you'd start to think they were agents of some enemy power because they are passively and actively crippling the economic and military security of the state.

John Baird, international man of something or other


Canada is adding a further 14 individuals to the list of those sanctioned over Russia's ongoing involvement in the situation in Ukraine...
"Peace will only be achieved if Russia and the gunmen it continues to support start showing good faith in talks with Kyiv," he said, calling on Russia to stop arming insurgents and draw down its forces on the Ukrainian border.
Baird called news Friday of the deaths of 30 Ukrainian soldiers "shocking" and pointed to "Russian-sponsored subversion and violence."
Right now Russia is more or less letting the insurgency it supports die on the vine. Putin has likely worked out that would be some kind of colossal error that would end up costing Russia quite a lot in its relationship with the world. Otherwise, the Ukraine army wouldn't have been able to push it back to Donetsk so easily or at all. There could even be Russian troops pouring into Ukraine. That could possibly still happen, but for now it's probably best to let things evolve as they are.

There is NO need to bring in new sanctions against Russians, least of all from Canada. US, European, and NATO responses will draw Russia's attention because they can actually hurt Russia. The impact of Canadian sanctions would be neglible to the Russians and could actually be of greater harm to Canada, because - if Russia even bothers to respond - it will direct its response at Canada in some way. Alas, it made the Cons feel all tingly and tough.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

End of Harpergov?

The always good to read Kirbycairo makes the case that endless anger politics and court-corrected legislation has doomed the Harpercons in the next election.

I'd say yes, likely true if all other things were equal. However, this is also why why the Fair Elections Act exists. They just need enough seats, not all of the seats to keep on keeping on and I simply don't trust the FPTP system and the Governor General to deny them that, even without robocalls or whatever new skulduggery they've connived in dark corners for the next election.

After so long with Harper at the helm, the party had been reduced to one office and an operating mode that effectively denies the legitimacy of anything that opposes them, be it the parlimentary opposition, non-supporters, the Constitution, scientists, everyday Canadians, and so on and so forth.

This is THE problem for them because it means that they will never appeal to a majority of Canadians, and hence cannot sustain majority wins in fair elections. 
There's also no coherent recovery, if there is a recovery at all for the Cons if they lose and deep down they know it.  Why? Because they've concentrated power at the top, rewarded fealty and crushed initiative which means that rising stars only rise so far and none but the Glans has executive authority. More importantly, they've snuffed out the best of both their Reform and Tory roots, which involved a mature understanding of and respect for institutions of government and democracy and a clear ideology. They only destroy things now. With those things gone there's no foundation left to rebuild on.

They'll fight like cornered animals.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Disaster Putin Posin'

"Honey, that Harper boy is at again with his Putin Posin'."

"Let me be clear, I'm really a pilot. Why do you ask?"
Vlad, smiling for the camera in his Bear near Canada
as Stephen snaps his photo from his
prime ministerial CF-18. (I wonder if they trade pics?)
Word: It's not even a disaster in Manitoba, and may not be. There've been no evacuations yet in Manitoba's annual flood (seriously, it's what happens there because it's a floodplain, sigh), just "water lapping at farm buildings" and yet there he is...


Ukraine hasn't made much in the news lately. I think it once it became clear that Putin wasn't likely to invade beyond Crimea and the pro-Russian rebels appeared to have consolidated their gains in the east, the press lost interest outside of the odd report. It's back in the news a bit now with the pro-Russians retreating in the face of the Ukrainian military's assault. It's hard to retake a city once you leave it.

It's just tragic for all concerned. Unless Putin has a sudden and insane change of mind in the next few days, the rebels appear to be pretty much on their own, and there are reports that they are fairing poorly in terms of support from Russia. Of course, we obviously don't know what it's like inside the rebel camps now, but they can't be feeling too good about the lack of decisive action by the leader of the country they think they belong to. Maybe Russian support is thinning out, and maybe the Russain commandos assisting them are leaving. In any case, their fates have already been decided in places like Moscow, Brussels, Washington, and Berlin.

Nostalgia mixed with masculine ideals, is a killer. These rebels before they were rebels and the territorial Russians crossing to help them, hanging around unemployed (this a hard but insightful piece) and whinging over beer and cigarettes, the older ones remembering life before the USSR collapsed, and the younger ones in awe thinking they'd all be better off if Russia were in charge... Then Euromaidan happened, and local politics got colourful. The Russian army walked into Crimea and tough Russians with guns showed up in Donetsk and other places and things got exciting. Pro-Russian volunteers came in to help. Nostalgic fantasies at the pub got uniforms and guns and life had a bit more meaning. Must have felt scary but thrilling at first to go off and learn some basic light infantry tactics in the woods somewhere or dust-off an old uniform and memories. A few easy wins against a starved, surprised and restrained Ukrainian army and a big chunk of territory was theirs. Dead civilians and comrades where the Kyiv struck back fueled the sense of righteousness about the cause.

Things must have felt different after the Donetsk Airport loss and casualties, and definitely now this week. The Ukraine government isn't going anywhere and finds itself moving closer to the EU, which is evidently not worried despite all the violence. The Ukrainian army has done some consolidating in the past few months and is now moving against the rebels with force. I don't think it will be long now.

Sadly, the question of what happens to the people in eastern Ukraine still remains, Crimea notwithstanding. There's effectively a civil war in that part of the country and anger and sorrow will be the fallout. Everyone should do their best to remedy things as much as possible as quickly with money and jobs and keep it that way for 20 or 50 years. There is a risk that the radicalised Donetsk denizens will start setting off bombs on buses and markets in western Ukraine, which is what happens in cases like this. Let's hope it doesn't.

Friday, July 04, 2014

F-35 fire

Seriously, it's like the plane is begging people not to buy it.
The U.S. military said it had grounded the entire fleet of 97 Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets until completion of additional inspections of the warplane's single engine built by Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp.
I wonder if the Royal Navy has a Plan B? Might say as much about the Monarchy as the military-industrial-political complex if the Sovereign's namesake carrier is unable to field the aircraft it was built for.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Another of Christy Clark's sparkle ponies dies

Let's see ... how should we word this?

You may not like fucking BC Ferries, but BC Ferries likes fucking you!

BC Ferries, A CORPORATION IN WHICH THE ONLY SHAREHOLDER IS THE PROVINCE OF BRITISH COLUMBIA which is wholly funded by the taxpayers of British Columbia, which makes it a citizen owned entity, has announced that it is building its next three ships in Poland

Isn't that just about the most interesting thing you've heard in the last ten minutes?

Seaspan, the only Canadian shipbuilder on the short list for construction, withdrew its bid because it could not guarantee delivery before 2017. Its order book, according to Seaspan, is full, primarily due to a federal government order for an entire fleet of new ships.

Except for one small item. They haven't even ordered the steel for the ships ordered by the federal government because the Harper government has played this like a dog fucking a football.

And Christy Clark? Well she's a mid-day radio blather-head so far out of her depth as to be laughable if she wasn't so goddamned dangerous.

Here you go Clark! Chew on your own fucking words!
"It won’t be just a matter of us building BC Ferries," Clark said. "We want to build ferries for countries all over the world here."
 When that pitchfork hits her in the ass we can only hope she deflates as fast as her sparkle ponies.

Party Poly-ticks

Perhaps it's the nature of party politics that eventually causes parties to abdicate themselves of their founding principles. Political parties come into existence with ideological agendas and a set of corresponding positions and policies. It's what makes them political parties.

Eventually though, parties lose themselves in politics. The Conservatives, whether Reform or a proper Tory variety, used to at least have some kind of honesty (brains?) regarding what they were about and tried to conduct government responsibly, at least as far as they saw it. Mulroney tried to sort Quebec, and NA/FTA fit within their vision. They liked nice suits, unity and business, and none were in the dark about it. Then the Great Grey Glans's Western faction of self-centred and piss-ignorant junior officers and cadets launched their coup and promptly fracked the place with what the rest of us know as authoritarian fascism (or abject thuggery). I really don't think that they could actually describe what they are.

Now the party that should really be the diametric opposite of all that is the HarperCons (including focusing on the party, not its expendable leader on the website) has embraced Tony Blair's (TONY BLAIR!) Giddens-y black-is-white, up-is-down, help-confused-voters-sleep-at-night, third-way mumbojumbo which saw Blair's Labour sign-up to an American Neocon war that continues to slaughter innocents to this day. At least our LIBERALS saw that thing for what it was.

Congratulations, NDP: You're now worse than useless.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Harper vs. Putin, air edition

RAF Typhoon with Russian Su-27 - June 2014
Brian Stewart at CBC suggests that Harper's  over-the-top tough-guy rhetoric about Putin has led to increased Russian strategic bomber flights and thus a busier time for Canadian fighters and pilots conducting Arctic interceptions.

I'm not sure there's a direct causal relationship or that Putin is petty enough to care about what an insecure Canadian political leader (and possible secret admirer) has to say about him, but it is probably true that things are starting to feel like the old days at NORAD.  Not that we would know, because as Stewart mentions in Canada these things are secret. I disagree with his reasoning that this to keep the Russians in the dark about what we know. NORAD sees pretty much everything in the air around North America (because that's its job) and the Russians know it, and the Russian aircrew certainly notice when US or Canadian fighters pop up to say hi or radar waves bounce off their airframes.

The secrecy claim is also a little weird when put in the context of Europe where the RAF is happy to highlight their Baltic interceptions of Russian aircraft of all types, including armed fighter aircraft.

Then again, if the Russians are flying armed fighters near Canadian air space, it might look a little more concerning than docile and easy to shoot-down large bombers or reconnaissance planes. Not that anything would happen, but I imagine the dynamic changes and pilots' palms sweat a little when fighters meet fighters.

Perhaps also it puts a particularly problematic repurposed bomber procurement/corporate welfare project in even darker shadow by daylighting reality and thus the need for Spitfires (or maybe, just maybe checking out of the absurd Great Game altogether)...