Wednesday, 27 April 2011

I am a Crown Loyalist

While reading blogs this morning, I came across one (on an American blog) which may as well have been a screed against the Royal Wedding. As someone who quite respects the writer, I was somewhat nonplussed.

Am I excited about the Royal Wedding, watching all the coverage, waiting with bated breath for the ceremony and obsessing? No, I'm not. The media's obsession with turning Ms. Middleton into the next Diana I find frankly offensive. Yes, she is a public figure now, but this relentless celebrity madness is a tremendous waste of our collective time and energy.

Here is what excites me - as a citizen of the Commonwealth and one of Her Majesty's loyal subjects, I am delighted that we are one step closer to securing the succession. I am likewise pleased that His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales has found a woman to be his partner and that they seem to genuinely love one another.

As a Canadian I am proud to be a Commonwealth Citizen. I have seen Her Majesty in person on two occasions during the course of my life and was deeply moved both times. My family have served Crown and Country for as far back as we can trace our line and I am justly proud of our history.

Attack Her Majesty if you like, attack Prince William and his fiancee. You're wasting your time and ammunition when there are far worse enemies far closer to home.

The Royal Family are not perfect, and the media do love to leap on their failings and mistakes. What they are, however, is a stabilizing influence on the Commonwealth, a link to our collective history and a reminder of the importance of Service and Duty.

That is why I am a Monarchist, and that is why I will always be proud to call myself a Crown Loyalist.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011


Lockheed Martin's corporate profile on Project On Government Oversight

It's a very long list, and that's 57 violations since 1995, so I'll just mention a few high points:
-Unlicensed Exports
-Arms Exports Violations
-Cost Inflation
-Nuclear Safety Violations (yes, that's plural)
-Federal Election Law Violations
-Violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

Oh yes, these are definitely the people Canada should be buying our next fighter aircraft from. I hereby withdraw my call for an open and competitive bidding process.

Aaaand the latest News on the F-35

CBC News - Stephen Harper claims purchase will remain within budget

Well of course you can remain within budget, Mister Harper. Just steal the money for the purchase from the billions set aside to maintain the planes. Sure we won't be able to fly them because there's no money for parts and maintenance, but they'll be very shiny.

Or perhaps we could simply stick with the "fly away" cost, the original 75 million dollar pricetag which fails to include engines, weapons or avionics? That would work nicely. No wear and tear on the airframes from unnecessary (and dangerous) long arctic patrols.

And who hasn't wanted a 75 million dollar paperweight? Or doorstop? Why, we could cut out the middleman completely and go right from purchase to turning them into monuments or placing them in museums.


To be perfectly serious: Stephen Harper is either ill-informed or lying to us. Or possibly both. He is, quite simply, colossally, stupendously full of shit. His government fell because he and his ministers (sycophants and toadies, the lot of them) would not own up to the lies they were spewing. Whenever he speaks publicly, one should keep in mind that simple fact.

And I think my Father has a point - before anyone votes, they should spend a few hours going through Hansard for the last day (link Here) of Parliament before dissolution and the election.

But back to the F-35. This is the most expensive military project undertaken in the history of the planet. Three hundred and eighty some billion dollars, I'll say that again because it's a number worth noting - three hundred and eighty two billion dollars. It has ballooned beyond all reason, was awarded to the corporation noted as the worst war profiteer (not one of, THE WORST) and the costs continue to mount while questions about its performance remain unanswered.

It's a bad idea, it does not serve Canada's needs, it's a white elephant in the truest sense of the term and we still haven't been told the full, unvarnished truth. Are there any doubts left that Canada's plan to purchase the F-35 needs to be revisited with a view to informing Parliament before they choose whether to go ahead or to place a call for open bids to replace our aging CF-18's.

I would like to see a VERY open bid. I'll bet one of the new Sukhoi's or Mikoyan-Gurevich's would be downright cheap in comparison.

More on the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II

The latest from CBC News.

I do believe I predicted that, but I don't think there's any call for plaudits. Anyone familiar with military spending could have done the same. I still remember the disaster that was Canada's Used Submarine Purchase. I believe the appropriate phrase to describe our purchase process for the F-35 Lightning II would be "Spinning Bow Tie Extravaganza."

So not only are we purchasing jets without weapons, avionics or engines... which leaves, well, the airframe and a novelty size price tag I suppose. I make this the second time since the election cycle began (and do keep in mind that's less than a month) that the Ministry has admitted that the price for these fighters is going up.
At this rate, by the time we are purchasing them in 2016 we may well have to hock Alberta to afford them. Which given how I'm feeling about Alberta these days might not be so bad.

Regardless, I think it's entirely clear that whichever party or coalition of parties forms a government, the plan to purchase the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II should be subjected to an open and very public review. An open and public review followed by an open tender for competing bids to see if, just possibly, Canada can find a cheaper, more efficient choice to replace our CF-18 Hornets.

Here are some other useful sources I dug up after reading that CBC article:
Embassy Magazine
CTV Edmonton
Defense Industry Daily

I think my favourite is the mention by Mr. Wheeler in the Embassy article of mass and wing loading. The comparison of the F-35's probably flight characteristics to the F-105 Thunderchief had me torn between laughing and weeping. For those who don't recall or weren't around, the F-105 (often called the 'Thud') was a supersonic fighter/bomber from the Vietnam era. It earned the nickname "Lead Sled" because it simply did not have the agility to maneuver against  North Vietnamese MiGs. By the end of the war, it had been reduced to ground attack and SAM-suppression operations.

So Canada is planning to purchase a stealth fighter that comes with no engines and that may not be able to dogfight once we scrape up enough money to buy the engines (ooh, and the CD player, extended warranty and undercoat). That is, sadly, exactly what I've come to expect from the Harper Government (tm).

Sunday, 24 April 2011

The Summer of '89

This post began as a comment over on First Draft, but it set my mind to wandering down memory lane, so I thought I'd expand on it a little and put it down here.

This is what happens when you get mugged in memory lane:

When I was nine years old, the summer of '89, my family drove out into the Maritimes to P.E.I for the Canadian Boy Scout Jamboree. My Father went on ahead with the local Sea Scout troop (as he was the Skipper) and Mom brought the minivan and the three of us munchkins (9, 6 and 3).

After CJ'89 finished, we spent the rest of the summer wandering around. First we explored P.E.I. and then New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. On a whim, we went to Cape Breton and I fell in love. The winding Cabot Trail that looks down on the Atlantic Ocean caught my heart and my eyes and the memories are so vivid I can still taste the sea air if I concentrate.

We drove into Cape Breton Highlands National Park, just to have a picnic lunch, and we ended up staying two weeks. The breathtaking scenery and the wonderful people made our more than memorable. I remember catching eels with my bare hands in a little lagoon, playing cards by the lantern in that enormous old tent we had (I swear, you could drive the minivan right into it if you really wanted to and it still went up in ten minutes with just my Brother and I helping Mom).

But the thing I remember most from that trip was the day we spent at the Fortress of Louisburg. I climbed up onto the parapet and looked out at the ocean and knew there was nothing solid between me and Europe. The history in that place was palpable, and I've felt it other places, the weight of years and lives and toil and joy and sorrow that permeates old stones shaped by hand.

I've been many beautiful places, even though I'm not widely travelled (through most of my life, family vacations were camping trips, going to a cottage or road trips to visit the grandparents down in Toronto). I have some incredible memories: a meteor shower one incredible night on the Dumoine river in Quebec, laying on a huge slab of Canadian Shield that was still warm from spending all day long soaking up sunlight, the waterfall roaring a hundred yards away; a sunset in Algonquin park that turned the sky to red, gold, pink and orange fire; the massed bands at the Glengarry Highland games when the music was so powerful you could feel it as a physical force sleeting right through your body; Peregrine Falcons nesting in a friend's backyard, their child taking its first awkward flight; a trio of otters playing on a riverbank where they'd made a mudslide, climbing up and slipping back down into the water as we passed...
But of all the places I've been and things I've seen, none ever moved me so powerfully as the view from Louisburg has.

I have never been back there. Part of me actually worries about going back and finding things changed, that the natural beauty I remember has been paved over or despoiled somehow. Part of me worries about going back and finding that I've changed, that I don't see the beauty in things so vividly now that I am grown.

But one of these days I do plan to go back. Because I still remember the sea breeze and the white breakers on an ocean of blue that I've never seen anywhere else since. That, and the green and stone of mountains that fall right to the sea, where once or twice we saw Humpbacks at play.

One of these days.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

The Stephen Harper Vision of Canada

Warren Kinsella offers a glance.

These fine folk offer a retrospective.

This is what my nation has in store for it, if Stephen Harper is given a majority mandate. Take a good long look and ask yourself if that is the kind of Canada you'd like to live in.

I love my country, but I really don't recognize it anymore. We've fallen so far from the ideals I always pictured when I thought of Canada. We are better than Stephen Harper would have us, and we can be better than he imagines us. He is a vile, petty, vindictive controlling man and his vision is so limited and so broken that it drives me to rage.

What maddens me all the more is that for all his lies, for all his crimes, Canadians seem blinded. It baffles me that people will still listen to him and support him, after everything that he and his people have done. What is wrong with these people?

And if he wins a majority, what will we do then? Will the Liberals and the NDP have the moral courage to stop their petty, useless sniping at one another and form a coalition with the Bloc?

Is any one of the so called 'leaders' willing to set politics aside and act not for their own power and gain but for Canada's benefit?

Have the lies and the rot set in so deep that Harper's vision for Canada is what we deserve?

The day after the election we'll know. If Harper wins, will Canadians fight back and prove that we deserve something better?

Or will we sink back into our chairs and settle our blinders more comfortably on our heads and hope that it will all pass us by without affecting us directly?

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Lies and the Lying Liars who Lie Them

A note for Stephen Harper, a man both Wrong and Dishonourable, on his claim that he was not found guilty of contempt but was simply outvoted by the other three parties:

Acts of Parliament have the Force of Law!

A word on my Politics and the Election

As Canada approaches an election that seems destined to polarize our people and our politics, I think it meet to say a little about my own political leanings.

I am not a Conservative nor a Liberal nor even a Democrat or Green. I've always found ideas and ideals more important than party lines, and the actions and choices of our elected representatives are more revealing than the labels they claim.

In the past I have voted for the Green Party more often than any others, because the choice between the Tories and Grits has often seemed to be of the "flip the coin and then shoot yourself" variety, and in my riding I have never liked the NDP representatives terribly well either. Giving a few dollars to the Green Party by casting my vote for them seemed as efficient a use for my X as any.

But Stephen Harper's stewardship of the Conservative Party seems to enshrine the kind of radical polarization we can see south of the border. His actions, his personal cowardice and his disrespect to the Nation I love are unforgiveable. Under his 'leadership'*, Stephen Harper has turned the Conservative Party into a caricature. They have stumbled from scandal to scandal, running the gamut from electoral fraud, influence peddling, fiscal irresponsibility, intimidation, pork-barrel spending and outright brutality.

He has to go.

I truly don't care how it is accomplished, or who gains a mandate to govern Canada for the next few years. All that matters to me is that the Conservatives are defeated. A Harper majority would just be the final step towards Canada joining the United States in a frantic race to the bottom.

So wherever you vote, whatever your thinking about our leaders, I will be voting not FOR a candidate or a party...
I will be voting AGAINST.

And isn't that really the Canadian Way?

* I place the term in quotes because I don't believe Stephen Harper could even define the term Leader to my satisfaction.

The English Debate is Tonight

And while Elizabeth May will not be there, the rest of the major party leaders will be in attendance.

I hope that they will have learned from their lesson in 2008. Attack Harper, band together, ignore his attempts to turn you against one another. There are ten thousand things they can hold up as evidence of Stephen Harper's malfeasance, if only they take this opportunity. Being in front of the cameras and confronted with difficult questions that he simply cannot dodge is Stephen Harper's worst nightmare.

These two debates are the only time in this election that he absolutely cannot campaign inside his protective shield of flunkies, cronies and sycophants. If Ignatieff, Layton and Duceppe take this opportunity and work together, they can destroy him.

Oh, I hope they've learned. You can only fight Harper's lies by confronting him with the truth of his deeds. Expose him to Canada as the criminal and villain that he is and you can drag him down.

Harper is a wounded beast already in this campaign, snarling and roaring to everyone who can hear. He tells every crowd he speaks to (and oh, such carefully vetted crowds they be) just what they want to hear and hopes that no one else is paying attention. He wants only his own supporters to vote, doing everything he can to drive down turnout.

Even if forming a coalition is off the table for Michael Ignatieff, Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton, they should be banding together. Compared to the enmity Harper holds for them, their differences are small, and they are petty. Harper is a threat to all of them.

Work together. Drag him down. Tear out the lies that fuel his campaign and show them to the people.

They can hand Harper a ringing defeat tonight.

I hope they can see that.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

A Non-Apology

Harper Apologizes for Rally Screening (courtesy of the CBC).

Except, you know, that he didn't. Nowhere did I hear him utter the words. Nor did he take responsibility for his people's actions. How odd. Watch the video, I did. In both languages he skirts the issue and fails to actually apologize.

In fact, I don't believe I've ever heard Stephen Harper say "I'm sorry". Or even "sorry". I wonder if he is even capable of pronouncing the words. Even worse, he lies right into the camera, ignoring the fact that his campaign has been limiting access to him very carefully from before the election was called. Campaigning in a bubble.

Here is what he should have said, if he were an adult:
"On behalf of my campaign staff, and on my own behalf, I apologize. I am sorry, for anyone who was denied access to my rally for any reason. Please understand that I have spoken with my staffers and we are adjusting our policies to ensure that there will be no recurrence of these incidents. Again, I apologize. I am sorry, and I will work to make certain that this does not happen again."

Wouldn't that be nice to hear? Just once?

And while you're at it, I'd like a pony too.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Just a moment of Zen

Something peaceful and starkly beautiful, for these trying times that tax our souls.

Bach to Nature?

Please do forgive the pun.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Just to put a bed to this "Spooky Coalition" Nonsense

Once and for all.

An oldie, but a goodie. Rick Mercer says it better than I ever could.

The Rick Mercer Report: Canada Explained

The CF-35 Lightning II?

The CF-18 Hornet has served Canada well. Since 1982 when the RCAF first began to receive them, they have done their job and done it well. But the airframes are growing old and within ten years they will have reached the end of their useable lifespan. A replacement is needed.

All of this I will grant you. To maintain our sovereignty as a nation, Canada has need of an air force. To patrol our borders (and we have so much border to patrol), to support our troops in their missions overseas (providing reconnaissance, close air support and air superiority if necessary) a replacement for the CF-18 is necessary. I will not argue this point.

But not the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. For one thing, I would be shocked to learn that Lockheed Martin had EVER brought in a military contract on time and under budget. Whatever the cost we taxpayers are quoted, expect it to rise and balloon. If you don't believe me, consider the revelations back in fall about the military procurement process for Chinook helicopters (available here on CBC's website ). The F-35 is a single engine, limited payload and limited range multi-role aircraft. I am not a defense industry professional, nor am I a military pilot, but in my view the F-35 is entirely inadequate for Canadian needs.

One of the reasons for acquiring the CF-18 Hornet instead of the F-16 Fighting Falcon or one of its competitors was the use to which the RCAF intended to put it: long distance patrols, especially in the arctic where Canada needs to assert sovereignty. In a single-engined aircraft such as the F-16 or the F-35, engine trouble could be catastrophic and result in the loss of the plane and (likely enough, in the high arctic) the pilot as well. With a twin-engined fighter like the Hornet, the chances of being able to limp back to base are significantly better. Cheaper to repair a damaged aircraft than it is to have to buy a replacement AND train a new pilot, no?

The simple fact is that the procurement process for the CF-18 replacement has never been open and competitive. Without really thinking about it, I can name a half dozen alternatives to the F-35 (all of which are two engined and have similar or better performance and payload capacity): the Eurofighter Typhoon; the Dassault Rafale; the Super Hornet; the Sukhoi SU-30 or SU-35 Flanker derivatives; the Mikoyan Mig-35; the Russian/Indian PAK FA... how many is that? Why not license the SU-47 prototype that Russia built, have Bombardier and other companies manufacture it domestically and call it the "Archer"? I'll bet that would support a good few jobs and might even garner some export sales to boot.

Simply put, there are options. Ones that would better serve Canada's needs and ones that could well be cheaper for the taxpayers.

I sincerely hope that Stephen Harper's government is replaced and that whoever replaces him begins this process again in an open, honest and reasonable manner. Because expecting openness and honesty from the unreasonable Stephen Harper and his Conservatives is just not in the cards.


edit: fixed the link on the CH-47 & EH-101 helicopter procurement process.

Friday, 1 April 2011

At times like these...

I remember what it was like to be proud to be Canadian. Then I hang my head and fight back tears of rage.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is once again vowing to end electoral per-vote subsidies. The last time he floated this idea, Canada came close to a constitutional crisis and its first Coalition Government. But Harper prorogued Parliament and the Opposition blinked.

But he has never changed his intentions and he has never changed his desires. Stephen Harper is a criminal. His government (do recall that it was the, heh, 'Harper Government') is under investigation for electoral fraud, is guilty of being in contempt of Parliament, is plagued by scandal after scandal. All those scandals seem to trace back right to the Prime Minister's Office. How could they do anything else, when Harper is such a control freak.

So this is what my nation has to look forward to, if Harper gets a majority mandate?

Worse than that, though, is the simple fact that in spite of all the scandal and malfeasance and corruption and contempt, Stephen Harper is not suffering in the polls. For all his crimes, his supporters are not deserting him.

"The human eye is a wonderful device. With a little effort, it can fail to see even the most glaring injustice." -Quellcrist Falconer, Poems and Other Prevarications (Richard K. Morgan)

Once, I was a proud Canadian. Maybe someday I can be once again. But not now.

On the Nature of Good

As a follow-up to my last post, just a few thoughts on Good.

If Evil can be defined as deriving from selfishness or ignorance (or both), then it should follow that Good is best understood as flowing from its opposite. Selfless thought and action, and Understanding.

Take a moment and consider something good you have seen or heard. Something hopeful and positive. Every good thing I can think of does seem to link up to those two ideals: Selflessness and Understanding. Scientific discoveries, charitable acts, even (as my brother suggests) someone showing up at work with cupcakes for no particular reason.

Greater understanding of our world and of each other. Selfless acts to enrich each others lives. Learning and Charity.


I haven't been able to come up with a better definition of the concept.

This is all just thinking of course. In the hopes of someday building my own moral compass, independent of the one I was raised with, independent of the Christian values I was taught. Not different, necessarily, but deriving from reason and my own judgment rather than from external sources. I'm not entirely sure that it is even possible.

But I have my hopes.

On the Nature of Evil

Allow me to share an idea. It is as close to wisdom as I have ever come. A realization I had, once upon a time, while thinking about good, evil, the nature of sin and what 'good' is.

It's quite simple, really. All evil, all sin, breaks down to two words. The seven deadly sins? Nope, just two: Selfishness, and Ignorance.

Whenever you hear of something wrong, criminal, vicious or evil, you can break down the act or the words down to their root and find Selfishness, Ignorance or the two together. Everything negative in the world that Man has perpetrated against Man, it all comes down to being selfish or ignorant or both.

Two sins, working hand in hand in our hearts and minds. Two sins that only become unforgiveable when they are willful. Everyone has moments when they are selfish or ignorant, when they unthinkingly do something vicious or stupid. But when someone consistently chooses the selfish, ignorant path, they make themselves a threat to the rest of our species.

All the Evil I have ever witnessed, just humans being selfish and ignorant. Refusing to care about others, refusing to think and ask and question. Selfish. Ignorant. All our problems revolve around those two words. Small minds unwilling or unable to do more than obey, to do more than think of themselves.

Simple, really. Isn't it?