Saturday, January 31, 2015

Harper goes full on North Korean ...

Jeremy Nuttall describes the Friday noontime fiasco when Harper gathered Ottawa-bureau reporters in one place, had them sign an embargo on information and then cut them off, preventing them filing stories on the Harper anti-terrorist legislation.

Good read!

And, this is just the beginning. We all know Harper finds democracy an inconvenient obstacle to his hold on power. Expect more, a lot more, in the coming months. Harper is a desperate individual. Desperate people do despicable things.

Added:  Highlighting the desperation of this odious psychopath is an article from Heather Mallick underscoring his need to broadcast his penis size without, you know, actually having to show it, by producing warrior-centric propaganda ... with your money.

Chris Turner explains that Harper's behaviour is nothing short of that fake US patriotism we're all familiar with. He, along with thousands of others describes Harper's 3 minute propaganda piece as nothing but a cartoon and completely out of place in a country where duty, obligation and sacrifice do not involve beating your own chest and having band play martial music 24/7.

H/T Alison for the Chris Turner link.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

funerals and politics

RIP RCMP Constable David Wynn

Constable Wynn was murdered while performing his duties as a sworn officer of the law and by all accounts was a pretty good guy who leaves behind a wife and children who will never see him again. He was a former paramedic who joined the Mounties and did a nasty, occasionally dangerous, often thankless, probably often frustrating job that the vast majority of us would not care to do and for that he is owed our gratitude. We mourn his passing and grieve for his loss and sympathize with his family.

I got into a bit of a discussion on Twitter tonight about the supposed politicization of Wynn's funeral by the prime minister and it may shock you to see me defend him, at least in part.   I don't think Stephen Harper politicized this funeral any more than any other. I emphatically do not wish to politicize Wynn's death. It is tragic and has little or nothing to do with political issues in Canada. I hope his family can be left to mourn without having to make any pronouncements on public policy or electoral politics.

Wynn was investigating a stolen vehicle when he walked into the wrong place at the wrong time and paid for it with his life. That can happen to police officers and no amount of training, equipment, backup or draconian throw-away-the-keys legal code will ever change that.

Unfortunately to my mind, we have reached the point in our culture where the death of any uniformed public servant requires politicians to respond. Wynn's funeral was attended by both the Prime Minister and the Premier of Alberta along with thousands of police officers from across the Canada and around the world. Such funerals get bigger and bigger as we attach more and more moral superiority to police officers. Wynn was murdered in the line of duty, but even funerals for police officers killed in traffic accidents bring out other officers en masse in a show of solidarity, which is in many ways admirable.

I am, however concerned about the question of politicization. The prime minister and the premier are important people, yes, but the prime minister is not the head of state, nor is the premier the highest official in Alberta. (Where the hell were the Governor General and Lt. Governor?) They attend either out of a sense of sincere solidarity or at the very least to show the voters how much they support law enforcement. The former does not require them to do anything but attend, the latter usually means speeches and crass politicking. To complain publicly about their presence at such an event in the absence of such speeches or politicking is rather like protesting the funeral of a soldier killed in combat because you oppose the war. In such a case, I emphatically do not condemn opposition to war, but I question the appropriateness of the time and place of the protest.

If such speeches are made, if politicians do what they do and try to curry favour by their presence, let them. Let the family mourn. Let the funeral proceed without any further distractions. I would compare it to having an estranged family member or ex-spouse or lover suddenly show up at the funeral of a loved one. Especially if they feel compelled to give their own eulogy about how the deceased wronged them. For me, it is simply pragmatic good manners not to raise a fuss there and then, not to scream and shout and make their unwelcome appearance the one thing that everyone remembers from the funeral. At the same time, there is every reason to show up at the unwelcome party's doorstep the next day and give them all the shit imaginable.

For political reasons, Stephen Harper and Jim Prentice had to attend Wynn's funeral. Their base, and probably their opponents, would never let them forget it if they hadn't. Whether they would have attended if they were not in politics is another, more personal question none of us can answer for them. That said, I do not think that they politicize the event by their simple presence. Whether they deserve to be vilified for their actions the next day depends on their actions. (though given the CPC's track record of issuing a plea for funds to help the Prime Minister fight the evil Muslim terrorists who would murder us all in our beds only hours after the Charlie Hebdo office attacks, one might just wonder about the purity of their motives in such a situation). The coverage I have seen has been limited and none of it mentioned speeches by either politician or any role played by them other than attending the funeral. Whether they attempt to make political hay out of it after the fact remains to be seen, though I have seen enough of this prime minister to have little doubt that he would gladly load Constable Wynn's corpse onto his political bandwagon and parade it through the land if he thought it would get him more than a handful of votes. I hope he proves me wrong, it would be a nice change.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The definition of "combat" ...

Is NOT the one provided by some pencil-necked, political, maggot out of the prime minister's office. Especially when that particular creature has never so much as stood in a recruiting office, much less actually been in armed conflict.

Let's get an item out of the way here. Anyone in any military theatre of operations coming under hostile fire has every right to return fire and every right to return that fire with full effect. (Yes, that means kill the person(s) shooting at you). That clean little white box is not up for debate.

Here's what the PMO's resident mouthpiece, Jason MacDonald, had to say:
A combat role is one in which our troops advance and themselves seek to engage the enemy physically, aggressively, and directly. That is not the case with this mission.

That definition has been flatly debunked by MGen (Ret'd) Lewis Mackenzie and Col (Ret'd) Pat Stogran, both of whom have extensive combat experience.

MacDonald suggests that Canadian special forces, on the ground in Iraq, providing targeting information and data to CF-18 (and allied forces) air strikes, does not constitute "combat". Worse, however, is that the Canadian Forces, in the form of Lt-Gen Johnathan Vance, provided cover for MacDonald by continuing to advance that ludicrous notion.

What's the issue here? Well, Harper told parliament and the country that Canada would not be involved in ground combat operations - at all. The SFOC troops sent to Iraq were provided as trainers. Which suggests he knew that was never the case and he lied.

The simple fact that Harper's mouthpiece has had to come out with a warped definition of "combat" highlights one very illuminating fact: Harper lied to Canada from the get-go about the nature of the Iraq mission and he knew he was lying.

What else is at issue is the behaviour of Lt-Gen Vance. He should have withdrawn from the discussion immediately by stating that Canadian ground troops were obeying the rules of engagement specified by the Government of Canada ... and then let the excrement land in the laps of the politicians. Vance is now party to a political fight in which he has no place and which erodes public trust in the Canadian Forces.

I have contributed to a lot of "After Action" reports, but in this instance one stands out. In referring to a particular action the report stated that:

"Elements of (unit) came into position where company-strength enemy activity was observed. (Unit) continued to provide situation reports without engaging the enemy. At (time) (unit commander) called for gunfire support from (ship) to neutralise enemy position. After (several hours) of continued bombardment (unit commander) reported that enemy was sufficiently incapacitated to allow (different unit) to advance on final objective. (Unit's) combat action successfully cleared the route to (objective)."
See that? The members of the "unit" did not fire a single shot from their position. It did however, provide targeting data and coordinates for the ship. Here's the thing: The guy calling the fire is the guy leading the fight. As each bullet left the ship's guns they became the combat multiplier of the ground unit and the combat action was attributed to both the ground unit and the ship.

If I'm on the ground providing targeting information to an air asset with a bomb, it's MY bomb. Nothing about it is not ground combat.

Harper lied and he knew he was lying. Now he's got others lying for him by trying to change the definition of "combat". It is reminiscent of another politician saying, "I did not have sex with that woman."


Monday, January 05, 2015

Guns n' F-35s and the CF-104 II

MoS has great post on the F-35A's gun problems.  2019 and they think it might finally be OK to shoot the thing! The other F-35s are gunless and require and externally mounted gunpod, and in all cases carry ammunition quantities far below any current fighter standard - some more on that in a sec. But first, some points to consider.

First, people have been bolting guns to planes for 100 years now, so at least this bit should be a no-brainer. However, with this strange little aeroplane, they've had amnesia and made the sight/trigger on the F-35 a block of complex computer code instead of a mechanical or electro-mechanical system, and failed miserably.

Second, fighter gun systems are less about the amount of ammunition carried and more about delivering the most mass or destructive power to a target in as short a time as possible. Guns are used in close air to air combate or strafing runs: it's important to know that fighters move very fast and there isn't time for some long burst of fire. Whether it's a tank on the ground or an enemy fighter, the speeds involved means that any target might only appear in the sight for a second or two or even less, making the amount fire the gun can deliver in that time very important. It may mean that the smaller number of rounds carried by the F-35 is thought to be adequate (should the gun work) because the technological innovations, larger calibre of ammunition (30mm vs. current ~20mm standard) in the F-35 mean the plane will be more 'efficient' in its gun deployment.

Third, early in Vietnam, the US air combat thinkers had decided that the future was all missiles and didn't build guns into new fighters like the first F-4s. This cost them as North Vietnam had Soviet planes with lots of guns and focussed on getting close enough to use them on US aircraft. Being close enough to use guns generally means being inside the minimum range for using missiles. No gun in that scenario = very big problem and later versions of US planes like the F-4 all had built-in guns.

So what does this mean for Canada?

Right now, the most important role for the RCAF isn't optional bombing campaigns in one far flung part of the world or another. It is NORAD and NATO air defence, which as it did in the Cold War means intercepting Russian fighters and bombers near NATO and North American air space. You can see from the photos they publish just how close at least some of the aircraft can get to each other, which is well within gun range (I wonder what Voodoo crews thought when that happened), and definitely inside missile range. If something were to go wrong there during a fighter-fighter intercept, a dogfight would ensue and guns and agility would play major roles in the outcome. A less agile and gun-troubled aircraft like the F-35 would be at a prima facie disadvantage! Know this:

The primary Defence of Canada role for the RCAF is as an air defence (i.e. fighter) force because the main military threats to Canada still come from the air.  This should be the only fact that really matters in any new Canadian fighter purchase.

This minimal concern for the gun points toward what the F-35 actually is, which is a deep penetration bomb truck. During the Cold War, Canada's CF-104 Starfighters were deployed to Europe as high speed deep [nuclear] strike platforms, not as air to air fighters. Even if it worked, the F-35 is essentially a CF-104 replacement, not a CF-18 replacement.

By not pushing for something designed as a fighter from the start, the Harper Government might be said to be abdicating its first military responsibility: defend Canada.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Veterans faking their injuries?

I'm not going to link to it because he doesn't deserve it, but the vile and souless Fantino has suggested that veterans malinger for money.

It's hard to imagine a more wretched and misanthropic psyche. Even his face drips spite.

Sexual crimes and the military pt. 2

There's a quite disturbing (trigger warning) article in GQ on male-on-male rape in the US military. I don't know what the figures are for Canada, but most of the attention is on women. Still, my own experience suggests that men might also face issues. A couple of incidents come to mind.

It was 20 years ago now, but one instructor I had would get visible erections when he ran soldiers (mostly male) through endless 'change parades', a stress technique that requires soldiers to change into different orders of dress within very short time limit (seconds or minutes). Failure to meet the timing was punished by push-ups or being required to adopt very painful and uncomfortable stress positions. I have no idea what happened to this man.

In another instance I know of, an instructor ordered male subordinate soldiers into the shower and required they lather and rinse repeatedly in front of him until he was satisified they were clean. This man eventually seriously injured a soldier in another private powertrip and his career was thankfully ended.

There were rumours of rapes targetting men, or stories of things that happened in other armies, but most of us dismissed those. Now, I wonder and I'm sure others have stories.

Power resulting from hierarchical organisation (militaries, police, workplaces, government/public nowadays) results in abuse because humans are imperfect that way. Hierarchy is an ancient method of organisation, and one that I think has seen its day as society runs into ecological and social crises resulting, fundamentally, from a few people able to control others.

Ezra and the Alba cops

Ol' Ezra's off his meds again, clearly. Wow.