Friday, 1 July 2011

Oh. Canada...

I've been absent for a month or so, dealing with family and personal business and taking a break from watching/reading the news and the blogosphere. It's left me feeling quite disconnected from the daily atrocities being perpetrated around me, which is both a nice break and unsettling.

Today is Canada Day. In past years I would have been celebrating and enjoying myself. Not today. I have no patriotism left in my heart.

Make no mistake, I love my country. Canada is beautiful and the people are with few exceptions good, friendly and open-minded. But I have lost all the pride I used to feel when I thought of my nation. Watching recent history, how our government has dragged our good name and reputation around the world through the mud and perverted or ignored our laws and values leaves me feeling ill.

So no, I am no longer a Proud Canadian. When I call myself Canadian I feel not pride but shame, recrimination and dread. For the unjust wars we are helping wage that are not just wasteful but evil. For the policies that *my* government espouses that enrich a few and grind the rest a little further down into the mud. For police that I no longer trust but now actually despise for their corruption and violence against the people. For union-busting. For nonexistent environmental policy. For all of that and more, I am Ashamed to call myself Canadian.

So for me Canada Day is not for celebration. I will spend it mourning and searching for right actions I can take to try and undo all this harm.

Rebuilding the Canada I loved will be a long and arduous task and I don't even know where or how to begin.

My Country is Broken.

And so is my Pride in her.

Friday, 3 June 2011

A Young Woman Deserving of a Standing Ovation

Senate Page Brigette DePape

(or is it Brigette Marcelle? there appears to be some conflict on the point of her surname)

I would like to extend this young woman my thanks for her moral courage and wit.

May hers be only the first of many barbs sunk deep into the hide of Stephen Harper and his Government.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The First of June... The Glorious First of June

Two hundred and seventeen years ago today, there was a great battle.

The Third Battle of Ushant.

The Glorious First of June.

But let me start at the beginning...

In 1793 France's harvest failed. An agricultural nation found itself facing famine. The French Revolution was in jeopardy. France's armies were embattled on their borders and the people at home faced starvation.

But France had one ally among all her enemies: America, a fledgling nation itself, could provide the food France needed to sustain herself. By Christmas of 1793 a fleet of a hundred merchant ships had assembled along the east coast of America. A small flotilla of the French Navy, under Rear-Admiral Vanstabel slipped out of Brest to meet them and escort them back home with their cargo.

Great Britain was slow to react. Total war was an idea that had yet to be fully realized by the nations of the 18th century. These were not yet the days of the great Blockade, when the Channel Fleet under Lord St. Vincent scarcely saw port but patrolled up and down the coast like a pack of wolves, swooping down on any French ships found at sea and slipping in to cut out or burn ships at anchorages up and down France's coast.

Still, on the 2nd of May, 1794, the Channel Fleet left Spithead under Admiral Lord Howe with thirty-two ships of the line and ten frigates.

A quarter of the warships split off to escort a merchant convoy across the Atlantic. The remaining twenty-six battleships and seven frigates sailed south with Lord Howe in command. For two weeks his fleet spread out across the Atlantic in search of the French grain convoy but found nothing. Reassembling at Brest, they found the harbour empty.

The French Fleet had sailed three days earlier, under Admiral Villaret de Joyeuse with twenty-one of the line. A royalist who had risen to captaincy in the days before the Revolution, Villaret de Joyeuse nevertheless felt his loyalties were to France and had remained with the Navy. The situation was so desperate in France that the National Convention had let him know that if the grain fleet failed to make landfall, his head was forfeit. During the height of the Terror, this was not an idle threat, and one of their representatives was aboard his flagship.

On the 19th of May, Lord Howe again turned his ships out to sea. The day before the two fleets must have come within a hundred miles of each other. But in the days before wireless, fleets were dependent on signal flags. Without sufficient frigates to spread out across the miles in search of the enemy, Lord Howe's fleet had no way to know their enemies had been so close.

At 5 a.m. on the 28th of May, a signal went up from the HMS Latona, one of Howe's frigates. A sail had been sighted. After three hours, the sail proved to be a British merchant brig on course to London. As this fact was being spread through the fleet, more sails were sighted. This time it seemed certain that it was the French.

Admiral Villaret, reinforced to twenty-six ships, was to the south. After meeting the convoy he was cruising ahead of it, and with the wind from SSW was moving north. On sighting the British, he gave the order to Form Line and their course came north-west.

Lord Howe gave the signal to tack. The French, with the wind behind them, had the weather gage and the initiative in the engagement. A single order from Villaret and his ships could run downwind towards the British or turn and run with a lead to daunt any British pursuit.

By late afternoon the two fleets were converging and the first shots were exchanged. The French turned and the British followed with all sail as Lord Howe gave the order 'General Chase'. At this point the grain convoy would pass far to both fleets sterns, but with enemies in sight the British seem not to have spared a thought for the convoy.

That evening, the HMS Audacious (74 guns) finally caught up with La Révolutionnaire (110 guns). The French vessel had exchanged distant broadsides with a number of other vessels during that long day, but now the two came to grips at close range. For two hours that evening the two vessels hammered at one another, with the higher standard of British gunnery providing an advantage over the more inexperienced French crews. Just before 10 p.m. La Révolutionnaire struck her colours and was dismasted as she collided with Audacious. Audacious herself was heavily damaged, with her rigging shot to pieces and scarcely able to maneuver. In such a state, she was incapable of boarding her conquest and the two ships drifted apart. By morning Audacious had jury-rigged repairs enough that she could sail before the wind, but La Révolutionnaire had been reinforced by several frigates. All Audacious could do was turn and limp for home.

La Révolutionnaire did the same, and both vessels eventually made their home ports without further action.

The rest of the two fleets continued their headlong chase, and by dawn were sailing south-east. In the night, the French had regained their advantage to windward and Lord Howe called off the chase and issued orders to form line.

With the British Fleet to the north and to leeward, the two fleets continued their dance with the British still in pursuit of the French. Lord Howe passed on orders to tack in succession at around 7 a.m. on the 29th, pointing the British line at the tail of the French line of battle.

Observing this maneuver, Admiral Villaret gave orders to wear ship and the French line began to reverse itself, retracing its steps towards the British. With the grain convoy to think of, it was vital to keep the British occupied.

Lord Howe had seized the initiative from the French. His attempt to split the French fleet in half had failed, but he now held the weather gage: he could attack when he chose. As both fleets continued on course to the west, British and French sailors worked furiously to make repairs.

The morning of the 30th brought fog, reducing visibility in spite of strong winds. When the fog lifted mid-morning, the British sighted the French fleet making headway to the east. Both fleets changed course towards one another, but the fog thickened again and by noon the British ships could not see each other, to say nothing of their enemies. Turning back to their original course, the British fleet listened for signals but there was nothing else to be done.

The fog persisted until the afternoon of the 31st of May, with the French sighted to the north, downwind and about five miles away. It was sunset before Lord Howe's fleet could reassemble and reorganize itself. Through the night the British maintained their westerly course while the frigates kept the French within sight.

Sunday, June 1st arrived with cloudy skies and wind from the south. Both fleets were moving westwards and more or less parallel. Lord Howe passed orders to pass through the enemy line. This meant a long run towards the French fleet, facing their broadsides bow-on, but as the British passed through the French they could fire into the vulnerable bows and sterns of the French ships and they would finish downwind of the enemy, leaving them without an easy avenue of retreat. A ship upwind had two choices in close action: to fight, or to surrender. Lord Howe was seeking a decisive fight that would leave the French nowhere to run.

For five days now, Admiral Villaret de Joyeuse had led the Channel Fleet away from the grain convoy. He had done all he could to protect the precious grain ships by leading the British away, and now he would buy them more time to escape by bringing his ships into action with Lord Howe. His duty was already done, whatever the outcome.

Lord Howe's fleet bore down on the enemy in line abreast, with the intention of arriving as simultaneously as possible. The intent was to rake the French with broadsides and round on the French from the lee side, leaving them nowhere to run. In practice, it was impossible for twenty five ships to maintain a neat line, especially when facing fire from the French line of damage.

Less than half of Lord Howe's fleet managed to break the French line and the battle became a general melee. HMS Queen Charlotte, Lord Howe's flagship, came alongside the French Montagne before engaging Jacobin, Républicain and Juste. HMS Brunswick and the French Vengeur engaged so closely that their anchors caught and for hours they hammered away at each other before Vengeur was dismasted and the Brunswick drifted away downwind aimlessly as she struggled to make repairs.

At length, Admiral Villaret de Joyeuse managed to slip free of the battle to the northward with twelve ships. The British, with only eleven ships battle-worthy, were unable to mount a pursuit and they had seven prizes to protect. Vengeur was the worst damaged, after being holed below the waterline by Brunswick. Only the arrival of boats from HMS Albert and Culloden and the help of the cutter HMS Rattler managed to save nearly five hundred survivors of her crew as she settled lower in the water and finally sank.

Working through the night, the British managed to make their six other prizes and their own vessels seaworthy, but unable to face another battle set sail at dawn on the 2nd of June for England.

The French grain fleet arrived with few losses and Rear Admiral Villaret de Joyeuse was promoted to Vice Admiral. He survived the Terror and was later appointed by Napoleon as Governor of Venice.

The Channel Fleet under Admiral Lord Howe sank one and captured six enemy vessels without losing a single British ship. Their prizes: America (74 guns), Impétueux (74 guns), Juste (80 guns), Achille (74 guns), Northumberland (74 guns) and Sans Pareil (80 guns). It was the first major action of the Napoleonic Wars, and one of the most resounding and one sided fleet actions in naval history.


The Order of Battle of 3rd Ushant is available on wikipedia Here.

Thank you, for reading this far. My family have a long and proud naval history stretching back to the 18th century. It's important to me, to keep the memories alive of days when men could fight and then turn about and risk their lives to save fellow seamen.

As a last thought, I'd like to offer two poems by Rudyard Kipling. He is my favourite poet, the only one who can consistently reduce me to tears just by reading. I still cannot read any but his shortest poems aloud without having to stop and compose myself mid-verse.

From "Song of the Dead"

We have fed our sea for a thousand years
And she calls us, still unfed,
Though there's never a wave of all her waves
But marks our English dead:
We have strawed our best to the weed's unrest,
To the shark and the sheering gull.
If blood be the price of admiralty,
Lord God, we ha' paid in full!

There's never a flood goes shoreward now
But lifts a keel we manned;
There's never an ebb goes seaward now
But drops our dead on the sand --
But slinks our dead on the sands forlore,
From the Ducies to the Swin.
If blood be the price of admiralty,
If blood be the price of admiralty,
Lord God, we ha' paid it in!

We must feed our sea for a thousand years,
For that is our doom and pride,
As it was when they sailed with the ~Golden Hind~,
Or the wreck that struck last tide --
Or the wreck that lies on the spouting reef
Where the ghastly blue-lights flare.
If blood be the price of admiralty,
If blood be the price of admiralty,
If blood be the price of admiralty,
Lord God, we ha' bought it fair!

and "The French Wars"

The boats of Newhaven and Folkestone and Dover
To Dieppe and Boulogne and to Calais cross over;
And in each of those runs there is not a square yard
Where the English and French haven't fought and fought hard!

If the ships that were sunk could be floated once more,
They'd stretch like a raft from the shore to the shore,
And we'd see, as we crossed, every pattern and plan
Of ship that was built since sea-fighting began.

There'd be biremes and brigantines, cutters and sloops,
Cogs, carracks and galleons with gay gilded poops--
Hoys, caravels, ketches, corvettes and the rest,
As thick as regattas, from Ramsgate to Brest.

But the galleys of Caesar, the squadrons of Sluys,
And Nelson's crack frigates are hid from our eyes,
Where the high Seventy-fours of Napoleon's days
Lie down with Deal luggers and French chasse-marees.

They'll answer no signal--they rest on the ooze,
With their honey-combed guns and their skeleton crews--
And racing above them, through sunshine or gale,
The Cross-Channel packets come in with the Mail.

Then the poor sea-sick passengers, English and French,
Must open their trunks on the Custom-house bench,
While the officers rummage for smuggled cigars
And nobody thinks of our blood-thirsty wars!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The Latest News on the Troubled F-35

Things just keep getting better and better in this sad little tale. First we have President Obama threatening to veto a defense authorization bill to develop a second engine. This has been bandied about for some time now, with various arguments for and against, but Defense Secretary Gates has come out firmly against it as wasteful.

Then there's the news that Japan is rethinking its plan to purchase the F-35 in light of the delays that keep cropping up in the program. They're considering the F/A-18 Super Hornet and the Eurofighter Typhoon as alternatives.

Or the news that the F-35's operational range falls short of estimates and program requirements. Fantastic, so the plane that Canada will need to maintain Arctic sovereignty has a range that falls 15% below the original estimates? I should note that carrying external fuel tanks does seriously degrade the vaunted "stealth" capabilities of the F-35, rendering it just as visible as any of its competitors (which, far from being six years from operational testing, are already operational with numerous countries).

I think my favourite piece of news to crop up of late is this one: Lockheed doesn't actually have an estimate of the cost of the F-35 program. They claim it will be less expensive than the estimates others have advanced, but when asked for a number, they reply "insufficient data". Come on, guys, at least have the courtesy to lie. You could always state later that "our estimate was made with too little information, but on further testing cost estimates are being revised upwards."

Even I could come up with some convincing weasel words there, and I'm just one of the plebes. You lot are the largest supplier of the United States Military (and, let's remember, the worst and most notorious war profiteers) and the best you could manage was "insufficient data"? That's really just sad. I expect better from the crowning beacon of the Military Industrial Complex. It's like you're not even trying.

Finally, just to round up this set of links: the U.S. Senate and the Department of Defense are in agreement that the F-35 program is going to cost too much. Lockheed of course claims they can bring costs down (any takers for THAT particular bet?) and that they can build them and run them more cheaply. They just need more time for testing.

While the meter is running, of course.

It's really quite simple: Canada has been sucked into the U.S.A's most expensive (or is that costly?) military acquisition ever, along with numerous other countries that have fallen for the hype. The F-35 development has been a morass of unanswered questions, extended delays, cost overruns and diminishing expectations. Other nations are starting to see the writing on the wall, but extracting themselves from this whirling vortex of failure promises to be quite a challenge.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - Canada needs to start over from scratch with a completely open and competitive bidding process. Replacing our CF-18's isn't a question, it needs to be done to protect our men and women in uniform. What we choose to replace them with, however, remains to be determined. Throwing our money into the black hole that is the F-35 is just folly.

In spite of what our glorious, dead-eyed leader and his cronies would tell us, there ARE other options. Most of them cheaper, already tested and ready for delivery.

It's really just that easy.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Mankind's Greatest Creation

When I first started this blog, I didn't necessarily intend for it to be relentless political and social commentary. That's more a side effect of my own obsessions than an actual intent.

So today I would like to rant and ramble about something else: Mankind's greatest and most lasting achievement. Our finest creation, and one that is as important and valuable today as it was when we first began crafting it.

I speak of course of the Dog.

Nowhere on this Earth will you find a more loyal, loving, hard-working and reliable companion than Canis lupus familiaris.

Whenever I start to doubt my own worth and contribution to the world, I never have to look further than the eyes of my dog, Jasper (well, his full name is Jasper Tobias Friendly-Bear, he was named by committee). The love and faith he puts in his human family surpasses anything I have ever seen in my fellow man. If I have earned his approval, I cannot be so vile as all that.

Dogs are our greatest creation for a simple reason: they genuinely love us. Dogs can live without humans, but without us they are never quite complete. We took wolves and we made them just a little human. They have all the best of both worlds, and that makes them special and precious.

History is rife with stories of the loyalty and unswerving devotion of Dogs, even in spite of our own failings. We do not give them the credit they deserve, but Dogs have followed us through the rise of civilization and even today they work tirelessly for us. There are breeds of dog that were created JUST to save human lives (like the Newfoundland or the Saint Bernard). They work alongside their masters at a thousand different tasks, happy just for the chance to be useful, asking only for approval.

We are not always the most loyal of masters, we do not always deserve the credit our Canine companions offer us, but to me that makes their steadfast adoration so much more genuine. Dogs love us because of what they are, and because of who we made them.

All they want of us is to be one of the group. Some food (and maybe a snicket or two of whatever delicious thing we're having, hmm? ohpleaseohpleaaaaaasssseeeee...) and a warm spot to curl up at night are perks but I think they would be satisfied just to be given a place beside us.

If there is any lasting good that Humans have achieved, I think it lies in Dogs. Our first attempt at playing God, and the only one that seems to have paid constant, positive dividends for all of us. Buildings and inventions crumble, knowledge is forgotten (if it's ever listened to) and empires collapse but through it all Dogs have followed us and will continue to. Loyal to the very end.

The reason for this post is simple: I was just watching my dog, Jasper, chasing off a red squirrel from the bird feeders. I'm out at my parents' home in the country, and the red squirrels are a pleasant change from the large (and aggressive) black variety we get in the city.

When he was younger, Jasper and I had a game: I would sit down in a chair on the lawn, with him laying down beside me, and we would wait while one of those awful black squirrels climbed down the trunk of the maple tree beside the driveway. Jasper would tense up as soon as he saw it, but I trained him to wait until I gave the word. Once the squirrel was a few feet from the tree, just far enough to give both of them a sporting chance, I would tell Jasper to "go get him" and Jasper would take off like a black, furry guided missile, barking all the way.

He never caught a squirrel, but that was never the point. I would check him before he did in any case. The point was chasing off a small furry thing that was on our territory, because that's just not allowed, is it? Well, then there's the barking and running. Jasper does love the running and barking.

I should point out that both of Jasper's parents were foundlings. He is as purebred a mongrel as it is possible to get. There's some terrier in there, somewhere, and quite possibly some coyote as well from the way he howls and whines, but his ancestry is and always will be a mystery. What Jasper IS, is the most Dog dog I have ever known: chasing squirrels, chasing cats, burying everything, digging up the yard, chasing his tail, fetching sticks/balls/anything you care to toss and any other classically "Dog" behaviour you can think of. He's not perfect (well, I think so) in that he's a mooch, and he's often quite excitable and protective of my family when strangers are around, but he is as much my brother as my brother is. I would not change him in any way, except to give him the same long lifespan that humans enjoy.

Well, and possibly heat vision, just for an afternoon. That would surprise the hell out of those black squirrels that keep disturbing the birds and red squirrels at the feeders. Not to mention the mailman back in the city.

Suffice to say that my family has had several dogs over the course of my life and all of them have been special. Most importantly, though, they have been parts of the family rather than simple pets. I adore Dogs, and not just because they are floppy, loyal companions.

I can never look into a Dog's eyes without seeing echoes of all the generations of Dogs that came before, and feeling an obligation to repay some of that loyalty and love that we have been paid by our four-legged companions.

Colour me shocked: Harper & Senate Appointments.

What. A. Surprise.

Scarcely any time at all has passed and lo and behold, our all-powerful, well-coiffed Prime Minister has decided that he will go ahead and make some appointments to the Senate after all.

Rather than wait and begin a process to make the Senate more democratic, Stephen Harper has decided to appoint a trio of Senators from the ranks of Conservative candidates who lost their ridings. I suppose there had to be a use for all those failed candidates, and after all two of them are previous Senators.

Look forward to more of this in the next five years. There are a LOT of Senate retirements scheduled before the next election: twenty five, to be precise. The Conservative majority in the Senate is going to last a long, long time.

Add in the three Supreme Court appointments that our right honourable Hagfish-with-a-Haircut will be making over the summer and Canada is going to have a very different political landscape by the time the next election rolls around.

I'm really not certain what we can do to fight this? A legal omnibus bill chock full of nasty little goodies like Internet Lawful Access (1984 is 2011?) will just be the beginning. Op-eds in favour of healthcare privatization are already being published, just to prepare the ground for an eventual assault on our hard-won universal medical programs.

Is there going to be anything left of my country by the time the Conservatives come up for reelection? Or will Harper and his fascist little gang have carved out the heart and soul of my nation?

(Sources with far more details than my own rant. They do the heavy lifting so we don't have to, bless their hearts: CBC NewsThe Sixth Estate)

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

On the Long Gun Registry and Gun Control in general

It is the intent of our incoming Conservative government to scrap the Long Gun Registry. Leaving aside the fact that police associations across the nation have spoken out against this action, the money's already been spent. Cancelling the Long Gun Registry will save a very small amount of money.

But more important is the simple question: why object to registering your firearms?

Let me explain - in a very general way, I am against gun control. Every repressive government in history has limited access to weapons, from the Japanese Shogunate and Feudal Europe to Communist Russia and China. A disarmed populace is a helpless populace, and therefore incapable of opposing the government. Without weapons to defend ourselves, we are sheep at the mercy of the wolves and beholden to the dogs who are set out to protect us.

I'm also of the opinion that an armed population is a polite one. Or would be, in the generation or so after natural selection was given time to demonstrate its effects. Of course, I'm also of the opinion that an educated population is a free one, and our current level of education and awareness is woefully lacking at the moment. So no, I would not support a dismantling of gun control in Canada at this time. Canadians are insufficiently mature to handle that sort of personal responsibility.

Please note: I include myself on that list. Given license to carry a firearm on a daily basis, I would give myself three months before I used it in a fit of pique on some slack-jawed moron. Six at the outside, but I do not suffer fools gladly. So no, we're not there yet. Not as a whole, not as a nation.

Gun control, of various sorts, has been a reality in Canada since 1892. It has been trending steadily upwards from the first. It isn't new, and it's not a surprise. Anyone who has been paying attention during the last century could view the curve towards control of firearms. While from a philosophical point of view I am troubled by this restriction of my freedom, I am both a practical and deeply cynical man. I have no illusions that the restriction also applies to people who are far more dangerous/foolish/deranged than I. The laws may keep interesting and entertaining technology out of my hands, but they do the same for criminals, potential criminals, idiots and the insane.

So I am both willing and ready to register any firearms that Canada will allow me to own. I may bemoan the fact that some firearms are restricted or prohibited (often for reasons utterly divorced from their capabilities, in many cases based entirely on their appearance) but I accept it. If I truly felt a need to own, say, an FN FAL like the one my father carried while he was an officer in the Camerons, or a Kalashnikov, I would move somewhere less restrictive.

Will the Long Gun Registry save lives? Possibly, but a significant percentage of firearms used in crimes aren't registered and a great number have been smuggled in illegally from the United States. It goes without saying that criminals are less likely to register their firearms. In the same sense that locks are for honest people, the Firearm Registration is for law-abiding citizens.

But the Registry has proven to be a valuable resource for police, and while I have less respect for the Rozzas than I did when I was younger (see the G8/G20 protests, Stacy Bonds, Robert Dziekanski, etc) they still serve an important purpose for the public and if the Canadian Firearm Registry is a useful tool to them then I have no serious objections to it. More than 10,000 hits a day, or so wikipedia informs me here. The RCMP certainly believe that it works.

The objections to the Long Gun Registry seem to come down to cost overruns, which are a feature of virtually any government program (F-35 jets? G20 security? Those damned submarines we bought used?) and that it doesn't make us any safer.

Originally, the Long Gun Registry was supposed to pay for itself, with taxpayers only on the hook for $2 million. Back when this was announced, I was in high school and I still laughed uproariously. Government programs, especially ambitious ones that have never been implemented before, rarely come in under budget, and even more rarely are they "self-funding". However now that the registry is finally up and running, ongoing costs are fairly modest. We pay for our police and the RCMP to protect us, and if they find the CFR-Online to be a useful tool in crime prevention, doesn't it make sense to maintain it? Certainly I would rather offer them a tool like that than Tasers that are used more as devices of torture than as an alternative to their own firearms.

On the safety point, I tend to disagree. Deaths by firearm have been trending steadily (if slowly) downwards in Canada. Here is a reference page from Statistics Canada listing deaths by firearms from 2000 to 2007. Suicide by gun and accidental death have dropped, while homicide by firearm has increased slightly. I would be interested to see the statistics on death by registered versus illegal firearm, but I was unable to find that on StatsCan's website. A quick look shows that homicide statistics as a whole have been relatively stable the last decade and that the trend in death by homicide has been downwards since the 1970's.

In any case, you're more likely to be murdered with a knife, and I haven't seen any suggestion that the government wants us to register anything sharp longer than 2.5 inches.

Overall, I find the thought of the Long Gun Registry being scrapped both pointless and partisan. It's self-evidently a sop to western and rural residents who feel put upon having to inform their government that yes, they own some guns. It does not cost anything to register or transfer the registration of rifles and shotguns, so the complaints about it costing too much loses even more credibility: the boondoggle of organizing it has already happened, the waste that was going to happen has already happened and keeping it running will be really quite reasonable.

My problems with gun control are largely with the restrictions on purchase and availability. If the government wants to know that I am armed, and even with what, I'm perfectly willing to tell them. Again - if I had any objection, I would simply do what real criminals do and go to the black market. My problems are also largely philosophical, because there are far better candidates for my ire than gun control.

My concerns with scrapping the Long Gun registry are far more concrete and immediate: if it is removed, in ten or fifteen years we will just have to waste the money all over again starting from square one. It has proven a valued resource for law enforcement personnel and may well be reducing deaths by firearms.

We have to license cars, planes, boats, bicycles, pets... is it so outlandish to require that one also registers their rifle or shotgun?

If anyone could present me a cogent, reasoned and logical argument in favour of scrapping the Long Gun Registry, I would change my tune. Until such time, it remains just one more Conservative plan - long on partisan agenda, lacking in benefit for Canada.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Something to take careful note of

Six thousand, two hundred and one.

That's the margin of victory. Something is very, very wrong when such an insignificant number can change the course of a country's politics.

The U.K. are looking at electoral reform and in four years time Canadians need to make a reform of our First-Past-The-Post system a major election issue.

Alternative Voting for Cats?

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

The Fire that Burns Within and Without.... 12/8/2004

Finding the Spark

Fanning the Flame

Feeding the Blaze

Loosing the Conflagration

Watching the Pyre


Sifting the Ashes

in the hopes of...

Finding the Spark

On the Death of Osama Bin Laden

I'm Canadian, but I don't see the point. Ten years ago, it would have mattered. Now, it's too late. He's a symbol to both sides, but a decade of occupation, drone strikes, guerrilla warfare, security state paranoia, friendly fire casualties, roadside bombs, IED's, government corruption, burning poppy fields, Private Military Contractors, foiled terrorist strikes and successful ones have taken their toll.

Maybe, just maybe, if all the troops stood down and came home, I could celebrate. But Canadian troops are overseas where we never should have sent them, not keeping the peace but fighting and dying for... what? What have we accomplished, by pouring out our treasure and the blood of our soldiers?

Has democracy suddenly broken out in Afghanistan? Is Karzai suddenly no longer criminal and corrupt?

Am I glad Bin Laden is gone? No, not really. He was an evil man, but you don't want to hear my list of evil men. I could go on for days without running out of candidates.

It's too late. The next few months, when American and Canadian troops DO NOT come home to return to peacetime lives will drive home that point.

Osama Bin Laden may be dead, but his 'children' are alive and well. Prospering, even, as distasteful as that may sound. Prime Minister Stephen Harper (and I taste bile every time I speak that name) was already on the news yesterday telling us that the "war is not over".

The War on Terror was lost a long time ago. It was over the moment the West decided that it was alright to resort to terror tactics, torture, extraordinary rendition, "precision" drone strikes, an ever escalating security state and a laundry list of other crimes and obscenities. We lost that war. They won.

The real war is still ongoing, and this latest news just shows that for every skirmish progressives and rational people win, we lose just as many. Last night my nation lost a catastrophic battle, and I fear we're going to be in the dark for a long, long time to come.


We, collectively, are Fucked.

I'm sorry if that seems harsh. It's still true.

Fuck you.

If anyone in this fuckwit country had been paying attention for the last five years, I wouldn't be watching this happening. Let me refresh your memories with a few choice images:
-an elderly man being arrested by helmeted thugs, his prosthetic leg forcibly removed.
-prisoners handed over into torture by Canadian troops.
-a three time convicted, disbarred lawyer working in the Prime Minister's Office while his prostitute mistress collects a salary he arranged through patronage.
-a Canadian General commanding an airstrike that ended with the death of several children under the age of twelve. Children murdered because a Canadian gave the order.
-the largest mass arrest in Canada's history, incarcerated women threatened with gang rape.
-one hundred and fifty five of Canada's soldiers dead in a mountain land where Empires go to die.
-twenty two Canadians dead of listeriosis because the Conservative government loosened regulations and procedures.
-a Prime Minister who is on record saying Canada is shameful for its socialized medicine.
-an environmental catastrophe so large that it can be viewed from space, shepherded by a Conservative government so disinterested in the environment that their environment minister resigned rather than make his annual reports.

Are you smiling? Do the memories cheer you up? The little people suffering as they should be while your life goes on so utterly unchanged? Good. You've finally gotten the government you wanted. You've finally got the government you deserve. The RCMP can do what they like, the CPC can do what they like, the Corporations can do whatever they like and so can you.

Without your government mandated medical care, public education, civil rights or human rights of course, but you weren't even using those were you? Everything will be just fine, business as usual, smiles and sunshine everywhere...

Provided you don't get in the way of the CPC, the Corporations and the RCMP.

What could be more delightful than this, you ask? Why, you get to pay them for the privilege. Oh yes, and don't worry, your loss is their gain and that's just how they like it.

Do you like it when people in authority they don't deserve lie to your face? When they break the law and laugh when you point it out?

Congratulations. We're all in this together now, and we will be for the next four years.

Fuck you.

And Fuck Me too.

Because with a Harper Conservative Majority, ALL of us are Fucked.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Election Day!

The polls open in just a few more hours. If you haven't voted already in the advance polls, get out there and cast your ballot.

Tomorrow my nation decides what kind of future we want. Will we look forward or will we curl in on ourselves? Will we open our minds or will we close our eyes? Will we prove to ourselves and the world that we are still of that same courageous stock as our fathers and forefathers, or will we denounce ourselves as cowards and paranoiacs?

There are many candidates running for office in tomorrow's election, but there are really only two messages. Stephen Harper and his Conservatives are petty, small-minded, theocratic, authoritarian, cowardly, corrupt, venal and thuggish. The campaign Harper and his people (and the lazy, complicit "liberal media" *hawk-spit!*) have run has been the most negative I can ever remember: attack ads, cheap smears, outright lies, people thrown out of town-halls or banned from gatherings, candidates campaigning in hiding and ducking debates.

All of this is of a piece. The Conservative Party follow their leader, and he is a low, vicious, vindictive excuse for a man. He would happily sell out the ideals of my country for his vision of what we all should be - dismantle our socialized medicine, engage us in every brush-fire war the United States sees fit to start, play spendthrift with our tax dollars and have nothing to show for it but photo ops, shiny toys that don't work (courtesy of Lockheed-Martin and their lovely F-35... we'd be better off buying BAC English Electric Lightnings to protect our borders), withdraw funding from charities and NGO's, deny women and homosexuals their human rights and trample all over all of our rights and freedoms with his band of handpicked goons.

That is the message of the Conservative Party of Canada.

The other parties, while they bicker and snipe at one another, all have things in common: principles, ideals, hope, moral courage and a vision for Canada that is positive instead of negative.

Are they perfect? No. Are they flawed? Yes. Do I agree with all of their platforms? No, there are issues that none of the opposition parties have touched on that I feel are very important.

But they they stand for something positive. They all want to build something, instead of tearing down what others have striven so hard to build.

Tomorrow, you have a choice. You can decide the direction of Canada's future, along with every other citizen.

As a people, Canadians can choose to move forward courageously into an uncertain future. Or we can place our heads back into the sand for another five years and hope that the trials and tribulations afflicting the world will mostly pass us by.

Canada was once a leading nation, a shining example to other countries. In technology, in foreign aid, in democracy, in caring for one another.

We can be again.

We stand on the brink of a collapse into authoritarian chaos, if we allow it.

We stand at the cusp of a Golden Age, if we will it.

Today we decide what shape the future will be.

Get out there. Vote your conscience. Vote strategically.

But Vote.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

The Election is Tomorrow...

And in my riding, John Baird is running for reelection for the Conservative Party of Canada.

This is a man who, in his time in the House of Commons, is best known for shouting down his party's political opponents and carrying water for Stephen Harper. He is, quite frankly, odious and vile. He is a thug, and his presence as Ottawa West-Nepean's representative in Parliament lowers the tone and the standard for all those he speaks for.

He was the MP who introduced the "Accountability Act." I'll pause a moment while you savour the irony of that. This act has failed systemically and entirely to render a scandal-ridden government anything close to accountable. I would suggest reading Democracy Watch's summary for a series of examples of the failure of the Conservative government to address accountability.

In the five years he has worked in the House of Commons, John Baird has been responsible for cuts to social programs including medical marijuana, the Status of Women, employment for youth and more. He has supported a lackluster environmental policy that saw Consevatives fighting the Kyoto Protocol and Clean Air Act and been personally criticized by such luminaries as David Suzuki and Al Gore.

His presence in the House of Commons is an insult and a joke to every rational citizen of my riding. His policy failures are a matter of public record and his party's policy decisions are crippling Canada's reputation internationally. Tomorrow I have hope that he will find himself out of a job.

Because he's a thug and a toady, because he puts the CPC ahead of local interests, because like the CPC he works to make Canada worse instead of better.

So cast your votes tomorrow, and let's toss Stephen Harper's lapdog out on his ear.

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?

Monday, 28 March 2011

In Defense of Hope

As this blog may quickly degenerate into a collection of venom and cynicism that could well spiral out of my control, I choose to begin with something I hope will set the tone for my writing here: a declaration of hope.

We are at a crossroads, as a species. The human race stands on the cusp of something great. For all of our history we have been children, playing in our sandbox. Making mud pies and sand castles and scarcely aware, in our way, of how much more there is for us.

But now we are older, and the sandbox is growing crowded. We bicker and fight over trinkets to decorate our little endeavours. We pull each other's hair and kick one another's shins and scream at one another. We lose our tempers and kick down what we have built and threaten to tattle. We refuse to share. We refuse to get along. We push the smaller children aside and bully each other viciously.

There is so much more for us. There is an infinity just beyond our horizons. A universe brimming over with more than we can ever use. Wealth flows in endless rivers just beyond our fingertips, because we will not stand up to take hold of it. It is there. For us.

Our sun provides us more power than humanity can use in millenia. Our solar system is filled with resources we could use to heal our sick and ailing world. Wealth beyond counting, right there for us, if only we can stand up and take those first steps beyond the little, sandy world we know.

There have been a few. Brave souls who have looked and seen what is there. Fewer still with the courage to take a step, or two, outside the walls of our sandbox and return to tell us what we could have.

Think of it. Think of the awesome beauty of a future where there need be no poverty or hunger because we have abundance instead. Think of the majesty of what mankind can build, if only we have the strength to try. A future without want. A future without need. A future bright with opportunity.

An entire galaxy, a universe of energy and water and metal and stone, enough for us to build and dream and play for as long as the stars burn. Enough, and more. For everyone.

All we have to do is to take those first steps.

It will not be easy. Nothing worth the doing ever is. It will be hard, and we must make hard choices. When you are a child, even learning to walk can be difficult. Tying your shoes for the first time can seem like an impossible riddle.

But we learn, if we try. And we can help one another, on the way. Because in this journey, no one needs to be left behind. There is enough to benefit all of us.

So there you have it: The future, if we are brave enough to reach for it. Hope, if we are selfless enough to embrace it.

Or we can stay here in our sandbox, and dig for bottle caps and marbles and bits of string until it's too dark to see and there's no room left for anyone to play.