Thursday, July 29, 2010

Has Canada lost the will to be cannon fodder?


To: Lorrie Goldstein

From: Neil Kitson

"Has Canada lost the will to fight?"

Dear Lorrie: Eat Dieppe.

"Dieppe was a pathetic failure. Sixty years later, it seems obvious that Jubilee was a bizarre operation with no chance of success whatsoever and likely to result in a huge number of casualties."
Juno Beach Centre

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Medusa Redux

So rather than relying on General Hillier's memory or bland assurances from the DND, the truth about the WikiLeaks "friendly fire" document might be in unredacted versions of the DND documents which the AFGH Committee should be able to see.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Globe and Mail, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and Arithmetic

WikiLeaks and the Smoking Gun

"But the Harper government – which initially refused all comment on the 92,000 leaked U.S. and NATO documents posted on the Internet by WikiLeaks – broke its silence Monday night to deny that the deaths had been caused by a mistake by an ally." The Globe and Mail, July 27, 2010

"The friendly fire allegation occurred in a report that was among more than 91,000 documents released Sunday revealing new details about the war in Afghanistan and describing numerous accounts of brutality, corruption, extortion and kidnapping by members of the Afghan police force." - CBC News website, July 26, 2010

"WikiLeaks today released over 75,000 secret US military reports covering the war in Afghanistan." WikiLeaks website, July 26, 2010

One of the most unsurprising conclusions from the WikiLeaks Afghan document dump is how unsurprising it is. At first glance – I haven’t read all the documents – it paints a picture (the “mosaic effect” beloved by international security services as an abstract ruse for denying information to concerned citizenry) of a mindless war conducted by well-meaning people who have no idea what they’re doing or why.

Meanwhile, two of the most revered institutions in Canadian “news” reporting – the Globe and Mail and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation – seem incapable of reading.

If they can’t read the executive summary, or even the reports of the three international newspapers trusted by WikiLeaks to authenticate the documents (The Guardian, Der Spiegel, the New York Times), then why should we believe anything they publish?

To be fair, none of these three revered international institutions seems to be able to count either.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The only reason Canada's Afghan policy is still on its perch... because it's been nailed there.

"The most common error in politics is sticking to the carcasses of dead policies."
- attributed to Lord Salisbury, 1877

“No one starts a war--or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so--without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it.” - attributed to Carl von Clausewitz

Dieppe, anyone?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Doug Suttles is baaaaack!

From The Daily Hurricane:

Here's the rich part. Today, Suttles dodged virtually every inquiry as to exactly what BP intends to do, picking up the new mantra that Wells started yesterday, "Nobody wants to see any more oil going into the Gulf." He said it at least 5 times (seemed like 100). He said the facilities to take 100% of the flow would take until the end of the month, and coincidently, that the relief well would be ready for the kill at the same time. He also said this morning that, in order to open up the well for containment, they would flow oil into the Gulf for up to 3 days. 3 days. Wells said something similar yesterday, raising the spectre of oil spewing into the Gulf on all of our television screens, claiming that they would have to do that to take pressure off of the well before containment could resume. Of course, no one asked the obvious question of why they would have to do that since they have 2 closed systems with chokes tied to the well that they've already used successfully. Unless I'm missing something, they can "relieve pressure" up the existing risers. If they can't do that, they can certainly put the Enterprise back on station, and run a riser with a latching cap to tie directly to the top of the stack.

So the stage is set. It sure looks like to me that BP is refusing to disclose critical data and playing chicken with the government while holding our Gulf of Mexico as hostage. They have every motivation to not produce the well, for all the reasons we've discussed before, most importantly, being able to measure the flow; and the ROV feed of oil roaring back into the Gulf is the gun to the head. The government should compel BP to release all the data from this test. Again, this well, this lease, this oil and gas belong to the United States. This well is in federal waters, and we are all owners here. As owners of this resource, we have a right to see all the information available. BP should immediately release all of the pressure buildup data, temperature data, acoustic data, and seismic data. They should also release their build up models including the Horner plot forecasts that Wells discussed yesterday. Only then can we make a judgment that BP is managing this in the best interest of the United States, not just their own. We need no more reason for this demand than the massive scale of this catastrophe.

Friday, July 16, 2010

3,000 Twin Otters Can't Be Wrong

I read that Canada is going to spend $16,000 million ($16B) on a new fighter (which includes parts and maintenance.) Hard to believe, particularly when it's not at all clear what such a machine will actually do, other than look incredibly hot. Maybe that's all it's supposed to do: impress the Big Toys Boys.

I suggest an alternative, to invest the entire amount in the Twin Otter, a fabulous aircraft of mythic abilities, designed and built in Canada. I figure, on the back of an envelope, not accounting for economies of scale, that we could get 3,000 Twin Otters for the same price. Admittedly, they would be slower, but there would be more of them to do...whatever the JSF-35 is supposed to do.

My fear is that this proposal would not be regarded as sexy enough in the macho world of the Conference of Defence Associations, extreme hardware masturbators. I therefore propose a number of variants:

Twin Otter Terrorist Interceptor

This variant is designed to protect Canadian erections against mindless hordes who want to knock them down. Armed with state of the art air-to-air missles, the TI would be available 24/7 to degrade terrorist airliners. Admittedly, they would not be as fast as terrorist airliners, but with modern technology they could be doing touch-and-goes at Boundary Bay Airport and still take out some Cathay Pacific rogue flight aimed at...well... the Canadian Museum of Anthroplogy.

Twin Otter Terminator

The Otter gunship, Canada's answer to the Spectre. We'd just load it up with guns to blow the hell out of anything. Also rockets. Cluster bombs. Everything.

Twin Otter Guardian

This variant has a radar dome mounted in the cargo bay, as well as state of the art sonar for amphibious operations.

Twin Otter Jihad

This Remotely Operated Aircraft is designed for a one-way flight, and has a munitions capability ranging from nuclear weapons to Molson Canadian. A deterrent second to none.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dieppe, Khe Sanh, Korengal, and the Pointless Operation

DEFINITION: A Pointless Operation is the military occupation of a small territory for a brief time at great cost, followed immediately by abandonment of the same territory with no obvious result except for incomprehensible rationalizations of people who weren't there.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A government of ratbags....

...and their usual abuse of procedure.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Looking for Lord Kelvin

“Still, telegraphy, like many other forms of engineering, retained a certain barnyard, improvised quality until the Year of Our Lord 1858, when the terrifyingly high financial stakes and shockingly formidable technical challenges of the first transatlantic submarine cable brought certain long-simmering conflicts to a rolling boil, incarnated the old and new approaches in the persons of Dr. Wildman Whitehouse and Professor William Thomson, respectively, and brought the conflict between them into the highest possible relief in the form of an inquiry and a scandal that rocked the Victorian world. Thomson came out on top, with a new title and name - Lord Kelvin.” - “Mother Earth Mother Board“ Wired Magazine, December 1996

So in this absolutely fabulous fifty odd-page article in Wired, Neal Stephenson, aka the Hacker Tourist, reviewed the development of intercontinental telegraphy - wiring the world - making the case that the Internet started in the 19th Century as digital technology. I'm not qualified to comment, but it seemed persuasive to me.

He described an electrifying technology war conducted between geek factions trying to figure out transatlantic cable practicality. On the one side there was Wildman Whitehouse, a doctor whose name and personality seemed to belong to a carnival like Ultimate Fighting, and whose solution to long distance telegraphy was to apply more power: the longer the distance, the more power you put into the cable. Then there was this other guy, a Scottish physicist, well OK, he was Northern Irish, William Thomson, who would also go on to be Lord Kelvin and, incidentally and as a result, fabulously rich, who thought Whitehouse’s approach to be doomed, and advanced interesting arguments on why this should be so.

The solution to the conflict was entirely practical: Whitehouse applied more and more power until his cable blew up.

“After the literal burnout of the first transatlantic cable, Wildman Whitehouse and Professor Thomson were grilled by a committee of eminent Victorians who were seriously pissed off at Whitehouse and enthralled with Thomson, even before they heard any testimony - and they heard a lot of testimony.

“Whitehouse disappeared into ignominy. Thomson ended up being knighted and later elevated to a baron by Queen Victoria. He became Lord Kelvin and eventually got an important unit of measurement, an even more important law of physics, and a refrigerator named after him.”

What does this have to do with Afghanistan? There’s a principle at work, which is the failure to recognize an incorrect conclusion when presented with evidence.

The current "thinking" among various influential political theorists with fancy credentials is, as the wonderful Uri Avnery said (A Flash of Lightning, 19 Jun, 2010): "If force doesn't work, use more force." The alternative hypothesis, that maybe force won't work at all, or is in fact the wrong conclusion, and that a an alternative conclusion might lead to another approach to the problem, or even a reformulation of the problem, is a thought that not only does not occur to anyone who gets air time at the United Nations or more obviously in the United States, it's not even thinkable.

I'm not suggesting that the delusional, obnoxious Wildman Whitehouse has anything in common with Generals MacChrystal, Petreaus, Admiral Mullen, or NATO Secretary General Fogh Rasmussen (a name almost as good as Wildman Whitehouse); I’m stating the obvious conclusion that Generals MacChrystal, Petreaus, Admiral Mullen and NATO Secretary General Fogh Rasmussen are just as delusional as Whitehouse, and, left in charge of NATO etc. will continue to apply more and more force to Afghanistan until it, too, is burned to a crisp.

What we need to find is somebody as smart as Lord Kelvin with a different idea, and enough of the rest of us willing to listen.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Vancouver, Cape Town, fabulous déjà vu

Cape Town's main stadium cost around $500m to build. It will be run by a private company after the World Cup, and beyond one off events has no obvious sporting use.

No Cape Town football club has the support based required to use it , while cricket and rugby already have established grounds.

But the tournament has seen more than a million supporters from home and abroad pass through the city's fan fest sites.

Lesley de Reuck has spent the last three years project managing the city's World Cup plan and is adamant the investment has been worthwhile.

"As a destination and a nation we've shown the world we can deal with mega events in every facet. I think we've really proven a point beyond any doubt."

Many South Africans have also spoken of a renewed sense of national unity and patriotism being unleashed, but those analysing the event from a less emotive standpoint question just what the tangible benefits might be.

"If you look back historically, the investment at the very highest level of sport, and the World Cup is the pinnacle, very rarely filters down to the mass population," Ross Tucker of the South Africa Sports Science Institute said.

"Do our young players now have more opportunities? I don't see that happening as a result of six or seven new stadia that aren't really going to be used for soccer."

There is no question that this World Cup has been an organisational success in Cape Town.

But once the vuvuzella blowing stops, FIFA will be hoping there is more than just disenchantment left behind.