Saturday, April 30, 2011

Winston Churchill, Parliamentary Democracy, and Steve

"The Prime Minister is the servant of the House and is liable to dismissal at a moment's notice by a simple vote."

Photo Karsh December 1941

Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons Official Report, Jan. 27, 1942.


From time to time in the life of any Government there come occasions which must be clarified. No one who has read the newspapers of the last few weeks about our affairs at home and abroad can doubt that such an occasion is at hand.

Since my return to this country, I have come to the conclusion that I must ask to be sustained by a Vote of Confidence from the House of Commons. This is a thoroughly normal, constitutional, democratic procedure. A Debate on the war has been asked for. I have arranged it in the fullest and freest manner for three whole days. Any Member will be free to say anything he thinks fit about or against the Administration or against the composition or personalities of the Government, to his heart's content, subject only to the reservation, which the House is always so careful to observe about military secrets. Could you have anything freer than that? Could you have any higher expression of democracy than that? Very few other countries have institutions strong enough to sustain such a thing while they are fighting for their lives.

I owe it to the House to explain to them what has led me to ask for their exceptional support at this time. It has been suggested that we should have a three days' Debate of this kind in which the Government would no doubt be lustily belaboured by some of those who have lighter burdens to carry, and that at the end we should separate without a Division. In this case sections of the Press which are hostile-and there are some whose hostility is pronounced-could declare that the Government's credit was broken, and, it might even be hinted, after all that has passed and all the discussion there has been, that it had been privately intimated to me that I should be very reckless if I asked for a Vote of Confidence from Parliament.

And the matter does not stop there. It must be remembered that these reports can then be flashed all over the world, and that they are repeated in enemy broadcasts night after night in order to show that the Prime Minister has no right to speak for the nation and that the Government in Britain is about to collapse. Anyone who listens to the fulminations which come from across the water know that that is no exaggeration. Of course, these statements from foreign sources would not be true, but neither would it be helpful to anyone that there should be any doubt about our position.

There is another aspect. We in this Island for a long time were alone, holding aloft the torch. We are no longer alone now. We are now at the centre and among those at the summit of 26 United Nations, comprising more than three-quarters of the population of the globe. Whoever speaks for Britain at this moment must be known to speak, not only in the name of the people-and of that I feel pretty sure I may-but in the name of Parliament and, above all, of the House of Commons. It is genuine public interest that requires that these facts should be made manifest afresh in a formal way.

September 8, 1942

Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons Official Report.

THE PRIME MINISTER (MR. CHURCHILL): Nine weeks have passed since I spoke here on the Vote of Censure. I am most grateful to the House for the substantial majority which they then gave to me and to the Government. Every proof that is given to the world of the inflexible steadfastness of Parliament and of its sense of proportion strengthens the British war effort in a definite and recognisable manner. Most particularly are such manifestations of our national will-power a help to the head of the British Government in time of war. The Prime Minister of the day, as head of the Executive, has to be from time to time in contact and correspondence with the Heads of the Executives of the great Allied States. President Roosevelt and Premier Stalin are not only Heads of the Executive but are Commanders-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. We work our affairs in a different way. The Prime Minister is the servant of the House and is liable to dismissal at a moment's notice by a simple vote. It is only possible for him to do what is necessary, and what has got to be done on occasion by somebody or other, if he enjoys, as I do, the support of an absolutely loyal and united Cabinet, and if he is refreshed and fortified from time to time, and especially in bad times, as I have been, by massive and overwhelming Parliamentary majorities. Then your servant is able to transact the important business which has to be done with confidence and freedom, and is able to meet people at the heads of the Allied countries on more or less equal terms and on occasion to say, "Yes" and "No," without delay upon some difficult questions. Thus we arrive, by our ancient constitutional methods, at practical working arrangements which show that Parliamentary democracy can adapt itself to all situations and can go out in all weathers. That is why I am especially grateful to the House for their unswerving support and for the large majority with which they rejected a hostile vote on the last occasion we were together.

The Harper Song (Steve It's Time to Leave)
by John Roby

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Very Seriously Unwell Knell of The Globe and Mail

I'm not saying it's terminal, but it's very worrying.

Canada's "national newspaper" published - presumably after considerable thought - an editorial endorsing Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada in the current Federal Election, an editorial that managed to avoid the entire reason for the election in the first place: contempt of Parliament and the abuse of power.

There seems to be a pattern of great newspapers going broke and caving to crass political pressure. Consider for example the New York Times that continues to publish Wikileaks documents while simultaneously portraying them as not that important, the leaker of said documents as being an unprincipled sex maniac, and the source - who clearly thought he was upholding his oath to the American Constitution - a traitor.

You can't have it both ways. Either you're interested in the truth or you're willing to look the other way, just like the Germans who affected not to notice the concentration camps. Of course, there's a price for speaking the truth, as Bradley Manning is allegedly discovering, but one that the owners of The Globe, The New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Times (of London of course, there is no other) are anxious to avoid. Even The Guardian, supported by a trust, managed to screw up the WikiLeaks bonanza, to the extent of excluding the CBC in some misguided apprehension of exclusivity. Look where that got them. There must be some German word that combines "hubris" and "stupidity".

Even over the last 10 years, The Globe has published fabulous stuff - like Graeme Smith in Kandahar who was clearly not "embedded" and spoke the truth. It's as if the Globe Editorial Board lives in its own bubble universe, and doesn't read its own newspaper. Actually, that's very much like The Wall Street Journal, even before Murdoch bought it.

It's time for loyal Canadian citizens to save The Globe and Mail from eating its own young.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Loose elephant in Globe and Mail Editorial Boardroom

The subject who is truly loyal to the chief magistrate will neither advise nor submit to arbitrary measures - Junius
From Thursday's Globe and Mail
Apr. 28, 2011 Page A14

Globe Editorial
The Globe’s election endorsement: Facing up to our challenges
From Thursday's Globe and Mail
Apr. 28, 2011 Page A14

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

House of Commons Night in Canada 2011.1

So it's me, Ron MacLean, here with Don Cherry on House of Commons Night in Canada. Don, we're into the home stretch, and there's unprecedented interest in the final. What's your take on that?

I still think Luongo's out to kill me...

You were saying that last year.

...and I'm trying not to take it personally.

That would be Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks...

Is there another Luongo?

Yeah, his dad, but what we're talking about is the Canadian Federal Election on May 2, 2011

Luongo's dad must be superhuman, in an asylum, or dead. I can't imagine a normal human being surviving the last two years of Canadian hockey if his kid was Canada's clutch goaltender.

The fact remains that Roberto Luongo isn't running for Parliament in the election...

He doesn't have time.

...but other people are, and in particular Jack Layton who's making an underdog playoff push.

Who said Layton was an underdog? I like his guts, and his suits are better than all the other guys.

What about Elizabeth May?

What about her? She doesn't wear suits.

How would you know?

Fair comment. I've never seen her wearing a suit.

And you've never seen Jack Layton in his underwear.

How would you know?

Fair comment. I've never seen you with Jack Layton in his underwear.

I'm not sure this conversation is heading in the right direction.

What's your prediction for the Federal Election?

Over 2 million people voted in the advance poll. I think a lot more will vote on May 2.

That seems pretty safe. Who do you think will form the government?

The Governor-General. It's her call.

Don, I hate to break it to you, but there's been a change in the G-G.

Oh, yeah, that's right. Now we've got a constitutional lawyer who played hockey for Harvard.

You don't seem enthusiastic.

I know I'll get shot for saying this but I'm more enthusiastic about cute babes from Haiti.

You won't get shot, but you might get fired.

They can't fire me, there'd be a revolt.

So that's it from us here at House of Commons Night in Canada...

I'm trying to imagine the headlines..."Grapes shot at dawn. Refuses blindfold."

Maybe they'd just shoot you with Laura Secord chocolates.

Worse than blood stains.

On your suits nobody will notice.

The F35 Edsel

Statement by the Prime Minister of Lockheed-Martin

Canada needs this aircraft for adequate force projection from our seat at the table in the global alliance against environment-rich situational awareness and extremist terrorism. Canadians who think otherwise have the luxury of living in a democracy where futile parliamentary bickering is protected by strong patriotic citizens prepared to do tough, dirty work with no thanks. We had to bomb Libya with antique F-18s: who wants that stain on Canadian history?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Case of the Booted Guerilla (Found?)

Listeners, does it strike you as at all significant that in a story that concerns a gorilla that wears boots, Eccles is bare footed? Could it be that these clues will bare feet?

Afghanistan: Hundreds escape from Kandahar prison
"A tunnel hundreds of metres long was dug from the south of the prison into the prison and 476 political prisoners escaped last night," said prison director General Ghulam Dastageer Mayar.

One escapee told the BBC it had taken him about 30 minutes to walk the length of the tunnel. The escape took most of the night and vehicles were waiting at the exit point to take prisoners away.

Kandahar's provincial authorities said a search operation was under way.

So far, only about a dozen of the prisoners have been recaptured. Police said they were looking for men without shoes - many escaped barefoot.

The Black Hole of ISAF

ISAF Joint Command Morning Operational Update, April 26, 2011

ISAF Joint Command Evening Operational Update April 27, 2011

ISAF Joint Command - Afghanistan
For Immediate Release

KABUL, Afghanistan (April 27, 2011) – Afghan National Security and International Security Assistance Forces discovered 2,502 pounds (1,135 kilograms) of hashish during a patrol in Zharay district, Kandahar province, today.

The drugs were destroyed by security forces.

In other ISAF news through Afghanistan:


An Afghan and coalition forces patrol discovered a weapons cache in Kandahar district, Kandahar province, today, consisting of three AK-47s, nine magazines with rounds, 400-800 loose 7.62 mm rounds, two 40 mm rounds and one large bag of an unknown substance.

Also in Kandahar province, Spin Boldak district, coalition forces found 37 pressure plates, five suicide vests, three battery packs and three strips of plastic foam.


A coalition forces patrol discovered 10 82 mm rounds in Ahmadabad district, Paktiya province, today.

All weapons have been or will be destroyed by security forces.

Tunnel? Sarpoza?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Harper's Sarpoza investment paying off in spades

The Great Sarpoza Prison Break, Part 2

On Friday, June 13, 2008, the Sarpoza Central Prison in Kandahar was broken open and some 1,100 inmates escaped, many apparently transported from the scene by prearranged buses.

"A man claiming to be one of the escapees called AFP from an unknown location to say the rebels had made it to safe havens. "'They (Taliban attackers) came in and freed us,' the man who identified himself as Abdullah told AFP over the phone, adding there were buses waiting outside. "'A number of us who would not fit in the buses escaped through pomegranate gardens. We all are in safe places now,' Abdullah said."

Now, April 24, 2011, after some $5,000,000 in improvements to the prison by the Canadian government, fewer than 500 prisoners escaped through a tunnel dug from the outside.

"According to one of the escapees (whose numbers could dramatically tip the odds in favour of the insurgents on the eve of this year's "fighting season"), the tunnel was of sufficient diameter and high enough for the prisoners to stand upright for most of their walk to freedom.

"Sections were lit by electric light and ventilated with fans, he said.

"One official who visited the prison said the tunnel had two exits, and that the second branch led to a wing of the prison housing ordinary criminals. For whatever reason, that equally grand escape did not come off.

"'I only found out that we were going to escape at midnight,' the 28-year-old insurgent, who did not give his name, said during a phone interview with the Guardian.

"The man, who had served three years of five-year sentence for fighting foreign forces in Afghanistan, said that a mere 20 minutes later he and his cellmates were taken to the entrance of the tunnel, a hole in the concrete floor that dropped down five feet to the tunnel passage itself.

"'It was very well organised. They only let a certain number of people go through at one time, because they wanted to make sure there was enough air to breathe in the tunnel.'

"When the escapee prisoners got to the construction company compound at the end of the tunnel, they were met by their commanders and taken off in cars to safe locations.

"And to compound the humiliation of the Afghan government and its Nato allies, the prison managers appear to have been totally unaware of the escape until long after the prisoners had disappeared into the night."

The encouraging news for Canada is the 50% reduction in escaped prisoners in only three years. At this rate and for another 5 million bucks, only 250 Taliban would escape by 2014.

The Montreal Gazette said it best in an article by Keith Gerein on March 28, 2011

"Despite these positive changes, some issues remain. Mirwais, the office manager, says that while there is strong demand for guard jobs, all but one of the 26 civilian positions are unfilled. Many are needed to staff the vocational unit, which has facilities for teaching inmates carpentry, carpet-making, sewing and welding.

"[Ian]Chinnery says such problems will have to be addressed by the Afghans and a small group of U.S. mentors, because the three remaining Canadian correctional officers are heading home over the next few months.

"Still, he said he believes the prison has largely conquered its biggest troubles.

"'We are pretty proud of how far we've come with this place,' Chinnery says.

"'The Afghans now need minimal assistance to run it. But leaving here is like watching your kid get on the school bus for the first time. You know he's going to be fine, but it's still hard to let go.'"

And according to the BBC:

"Police said they were looking for men without shoes - many escaped barefoot."

Friday, April 22, 2011

Eeyore on Acid

Canada's 2011 Federal Election

Apology to E.H. Shepard

This election is about the abuse of power. That's it. Do Canadians want criminals in charge of the country, or not? If yes, then one should definitely vote for the Conservative Party of Canada, a totalitarian government of one that has just been called out on contempt of Parliament, but really, it’s contempt for everything and everybody that doesn’t agree with Stephen Harper’s fantasy about the world, a blatant contempt for the rule of law, for history, for the Magna Carta, for science, for anything other than itself and its anal preoccupations like building prisons.

If not – and I have great faith in Canadian common sense that we do not – we should vote for the opposition in its most effective available form. As my mother told her Conservative Member of Parliament, Greg Rickford, she had visited East Germany when it still existed, she didn’t like the culture of a police state, and she does ...not like the similar direction the Conservatives are taking us here. Parliamentary grinches like Andrew Coyne complain about the travesty of the Bloc Québecois being a party in Canada’s parliament, a party dedicated to the country’s dismemberment, but the alternative is a Conservative Party that doesn’t give a damn about the country at all and in fact is willing to sell it out in secret to the Republican Party, without consultation, and really, without basic human decency. The Bloc does its homework and plays by the rules; the Conservatives do not.

Take for example the case of Khadr vs. United States of America, which took place in Ontario Superior Court regarding an American extradition request for Omar Khadr’s brother, a Canadian citizen jailed in Pakistan. The following paragraphs of Justice Speyer’s decision in 2010 contain the stark essence of the only issue worth talking about in the current election:

“IV. The Clearest of Cases

“[150] I recognize that the collection of reliable intelligence is of the highest importance in protecting and securing a nation from the dangers of terrorism. It must also be recognized that there will always be a tension, especially in troubled times, in the balancing of intelligence and security issues with cherished democratic values, such as the rule of law and protection from human rights violations. In civilized democracies, the rule of law must prevail over intelligence objectives. In this case, the sum of the human rights violations suffered by Khadr is both shocking and unjustifiable. Although Khadr may have possessed information of intelligence value, he is still entitled to the safeguards and benefit of the law, and not to arbitrary and illegal detention in a secret detention centre where he was subjected to physical abuse. The United States was the driving force behind Khadr’s fourteen month detention in Pakistan, paying a $500,000 bounty for his apprehension. The United States intelligence agency acted in concert with the ISI to delay consular access by DFAIT to Khadr for three months, contrary to the provisions of the Vienna Convention. The United States, contrary to Canada’s wishes, pressured the ISI to delay Khadr’s repatriation because of its dissatisfaction with Khadr being released without charge, even though there was no admissible evidence upon which to base charges at that time. In my view, given this gross misconduct, there cannot be a clearer case that warrants a stay. [It is no small irony that the Ontario Superior Court of Justice thus found the American government complicit in the gross violation of the Vienna Convention – in Pakistan – after which the same American government tried to use the same Vienna Convention – in Pakistan – to spring Raymond Davis.]

"[151] In issuing a stay of proceedings, it is not, in the words of Tobiass, a form of punishment to the requesting state, but rather a specific deterrent; that is, a remedy aimed at preventing similar abuse in the future. It is also aimed at this court dissociating itself with the conduct of the requesting state." [emphasis added]

The fact that the Canadian government, in the person of the Attorney General of Canada, was willing to pimp for such a case in the face of “gross misconduct” by the United States of America, described by Justice Speyer as “abuse”, sets such a low bar for the standard of governmental conduct that only a weasel could get underneath it.

There are many other examples of Conservative government abuse that form an unequivocal pattern: the obstruction of justice before the Military Police Complaints Commission (page 242-243 of Chairman’s statement at adjournment), the improper manipulation of, and subsequent buying out of, a civil servant charged with protecting whistleblowers (the fabulously Owellian “Office of Public Integrity”) in order to impugn the process; the improper political interference with George Galloway’s perfectly legal entry into Canada; the abuse of power and attempt to intimidate a witness appearing before a House of Commons Committee in response to a summons; the flagrant refusal to provide an honest accounting of its various policies, both military and civilian; the blatant machinations with regard to a federal agency and its funding, and another federal agency and its funding; the abject and richly deserved failure to convince the United Nations General Assembly that Canada deserved a seat on the Security Council; the knee-jerk dismissal of the Goldstone Report without having actually read it; the lack of an honest environment policy, the lack of any science policy except as directed by a chiropractor, the hiring of a disbarred lawyer and convicted fraud artist to advise the Prime Minister on public release of documents on the Afghan prisoner file - documents so sensitive they can’t be released to guys on the Military Police Complaints Commission who have the required security clearances – but can be seen and administered by a guy who lobbies for the employer of his ex-hooker girlfriend. As they say in theatre, you can’t make this shit up.

What we have here is a failure to distinguish fantasy from reality. If the Conservative Party of Canada built airplanes, they’d be selling us an F-35 made of asphalt. It wouldn't fly but it would be good for Alberta.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Fluffy in Libya

And now they'll want the United Nations to cover their three asses.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A fart in church

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973

The amazing, fantastic, ground-breaking United Nations Security Council Resolution 1970 was followed almost immediately by the hideous, ambiguous, paloeolithic United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. UNSCR 1970 was passed 15-0, a momentous event, made even momentouser by the referral of the Libyan leadership to the International Criminal Court, which the United States has been loathe to recognize for obvious reasons, the most obvious being the "Crime Against the Peace" of the Iraq invasion of 2003, a war crime by any estimation. Now we were getting traction.

Then, in some distorted, hallucinating initiative from the Crusader past, the Security Council passed Resolution 1973 10-0, with 5 major abstentions: China, Russia, India, Brazil, and Germany. Germany! We're talking NATO here.

Instantly, all the painful progress achieved in 1970 was wiped out by a Curtis LeMay "bomb them back to the Stone Age" resolution that apparently gave carte blanche to all members of the UN to do whatever the hell they wanted in Libya and chalk it up to good works, probably with a tax exemption.

This is hard to believe, given the recent hideous past in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Vietnam. In his book "Taliban. Islam, oil and the new great game in central Asia" Ahmed Rashid offered up this definition of a failed state:

"A failed state is not necessarily a dying state although it can be that too. A failed state is one in which the repeated failure of policies carried out by a bankrupt political elite is never considered sufficient reason to reconsider them."

Rashid was talking about Pakistan 10 years ago. He might as well be talking about NATO now.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Trillion Dollar Map

That's one trillion dollars a year (= 1000 billion = one million million dollars a year). That's a lot of mortgages.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

House of Commons Night in Canada, 2011

Playoffs, Round 1, OMG

So it's me here with Don Cherry on House of Commons Night in Canada for 2011. Don, we've had the opening leaders' debate in English, even before the Boston-Montreal series. What's your take on that?

It was a brawl! I'm not gonna lie to you. This is playoff parliamentary democracy!

So who won?

It's a long series. I don't think I can predict any more than saying nobody won and nobody lost in the first game.

Some would say Harper won a clean ace, particularly with the Auditor-General's report on the G8/G20 rolling around the press, basically saying the federal funding was a scam.

Yeah, there's a lot of loose talk in the playoffs, a lot of mind games. I read somewhere the Conservatives said Jack Layton won the debate. There's nothing they'd like better than to go up against a socialist with a cane. The G8 is old news and nobody's gonna know anything until the final report comes out after the election. It's like Sami Salo - day to day and you can't believe everything you read.

What did you think of the Bloc?

Jill Doosep is a smart guy and I even understood what he said, although his suit was brutal.

So you'll be tuning in for the French debate?

Absolutely! As long as I can get the subtitles.

So that's a wrap for HOCNIC. I read that Rick Mercer thinks it's cool Gilles Duceppe is one of the top trending topics on Twitter.

I don't know what you're talking about. There's too many "t"s. Anyway, Mercer has his own agenda, but at least I taught him how to dress.

See you tomorrow.

Can Ignatieff even skate? I mean, he's a Russian and everything...

Strong, stable government...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lloyd Axworthy and the Responsibility to Protect

"Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

It's not like I've read Sun Tzu in the original or anything, but with the interweb we have a translation from MIT that I've taken at face value, and is remarkable for common sense.

What is remarkable for the complete absence of common sense is the current UN "intervention" in Libya, or as Eeyore would have it, a "Confused Noise." Having achieved a remarkable unanimous Security Council resolution referring Ghadhafi (I'm not bothering about the spelling) et al. to the International Criminal Court - the jurisdiction of which is a subject avoided like Monica Lewinsky in Washington, but the resolution in fact establishing a precedent that the Americans acknowledge the Court's existence existence, an impressive advance that will surely come back to haunt them, all of them, including Obama - Resolution 1973 was passed 10-0 with 5 significant abstensions, authorizing a "no-fly zone". Shortly after that, over 100 cruise missiles and miscellaneous hardware were launched to protect civilians in Libya.

It's hard to believe that Sun Tzu, or Clausewitz, or Churchill, or Giap or any of these guys, would think such action to be anything other than adolescent folly. It's one thing to say R2P and it's another thing to do it. If we had Rwanda to do over again, what in fact would we do? And more to the point, what are we now doing in the Ivory Coast?

The "responsibility to protect" is a noble goal. Figuring out how to do it is, from an ordinary citizen's point of view, really, really difficult, so difficult that nobody knows how to do it, even if there is consensus that a tyrant shouldn't be allowed in plain sight of the world to annihilate citizens peacefully asking for personal dignity and human rights.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

"When the swallows come back to Kapuskasing"*

(*Song by J. Wayne. F. Shuster)

From the desk of Raymond Sturgeon
Conservative candidate for Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing
April, 2011

The F-35 will provide a wide range of benefits for this constituency. First, the day after the election, I will be returning to my day job with CFN Consultants, where I will be in a position to advance the interests of my constitutents in the cause of building the most expensive fighter aircraft that nobody has ever wanted in the history of the world. The money's going to go somewhere, I don't see why, for example, Manitoulin Island shouldn't get some of it.

Second, the F-35 will allow me to visit all my constitutents frequently, using cutting edge technology that leaves the Twin Otter, just to pick one example, looking seriously outdated. The F-35 can't land on water admittedly, but my previous client, Lockheed-Martin, with whom I will be resuming professional relations the day after the election, has a plan to fill in selected northern Ontario lakes and construct state of the art all-weather landing strips on the then unused piles of dirt.

Third, I will be lobbying hard for an advanced NATO fighter base in Kapuskasing. Why not? If Cold Lake can have one, so can we.

Fourth, our many First Nations constitutents will benefit from the many job opportunities at fast food outlets that will spring up around the various bases and lake reclamation projects.

Sturgeon for Harper's Ottawa Team in 2011! The caviar is a bonus.

Friday, April 8, 2011

"F-35 Shoots Down Canada's Government"

From: Ares, "Defense Technology Blog" at Aviation Week and Space Technology

Posted by Bill Sweetman at 3/25/2011 6:21 AM CDT

Canada is likely to be headed for new national elections by the end of the day, following a vote of no confidence inspired, in part, by the majority Conservative party's handling of the F-35 issue. Update: As predicted.

The outcome hasn't made the incumbents look very competent -- particularly in view of the fact that there was no need to pick this fight at this time, since even the JSF's proponents don't argue that there is a need to order aircraft until 2015 at the earliest.

Last week's press conference performance by assistant Deputy Minister of Materiel Dan Ross probably did not help. Ross, as reported here, initially waded into the debate last October with an impassioned but not very professional appeal to the voters' grandparently instincts.

Last week, Ross was assigned to defend the government's position that the JSF will cost Canada about $75 million per unit.

This figure was challenged by a Canadian reporter who noted that the U.S. Government Accountability Office, in its latest report, is projecting an average acquisition cost of $133 million. No, Ross said, that number includes research and development -- a direct misstatement of facts.

Canada's defense of its cost numbers -- detailed here -- is a combination of the Pentagon's Selected Acquisition Report (SAR) numbers from two years ago and year-old Lockheed Martin talking points. As Lockheed was doing last spring, Canada is showing a set of descending learning curves and trying to show that the contracts signed for the first four low-rate initial production (LRIP) lots define a line below those curves, pointing at the magic $75 million price.

Let's enumerate the basic problems with that approach.
First of all, LRIP 2 and LRIP 3 are cost-plus contracts, far behind schedule, and have not delivered yet. When they do, the cost will be above the contract value.
The LRIP 4 contract provides for an overrun of 40 per cent, and so far the program has yet to deliver any aircraft on time or on cost.
A lot has changed since SAR 09, including a delayed and shallower LRIP ramp. The USAF's acquisition chief, David van Buren, has confirmed that the average unit procurement unit cost has "almost doubled" and that it is "simply unacceptable and must be reduced".
DoD acquisition czar Ashton Carter has also made it clear that, absent new management initiatives and efficiencies ("should cost") the program is headed ("will cost") towards a price that the customer cannot afford in planned numbers.

The Pentagon itself does not have an official, approved acquisition baseline beyond fiscal 2016 (in which year the USAF plans to spend $120-plus million for each of 70 F-35As, close to full rate). That needs to be established to re-establish Milestone B authority for the program to proceed: the original Milestone B from 2001 was rescinded last year.

Although most observers expect the Conservatives to emerge on top in the election, the questions are not going to go away.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper has won a reputation for borrowing the opposition's ideas to stay in power - under pressure, will the party back off from its uncompromising opposition to a fighter competition? Their argument that this would delay the replacement of the CF-18 has been pretty much exploded by the latest program delays.

Another issue: whether the defence department will release the statement of requirements, which was seen by the PBO, is not classified but is considered "sensitive."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The only reason for Canada to buy the F-35

From The Armed Forces Journal, April, 2011

The Pentagon’s top 25 most expensive weapons programs

1. F-35 fighter aircraft
2. Ballistic Missile Defense System
3. Virginia-class submarine
4. Arleigh Burke-class destroyer
5. C-17A transport aircraft
6. F-22 fighter aircraft
7. V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft
8. F/A-18E/F fighter aircraft
9. Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier
10. Trident II fleet ballistic missile
11. Joint Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle
12. P-8A maritime surveillance aircraft
13. Patriot/Medium Extended Air Defense System Combined Aggregate Program
14. CH-53K heavy-lift helicopter
15. Black Hawk UH-60M utility helicopter
16. Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile
17. Family of medium tactical vehicles
18. DDG 1000 Zumwalt-class destroyer
19. Joint Tactical Radio System, Ground Mobile Radio
20. E-2D early warning and control aircraft
21. San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock
22. Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle
23. Stryker armored vehicle
24. C-130J transport aircraft
25. Space Based Infrared System

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Danger Man

Where is Patrick McGoohan when we need him?

Hell in Brussels, Part 3

From the war diary of Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard

March x, 20xx, 04:30 Awakened by batman with message from Ottawa, Toppest Secret. Decoded message reads "Speak to nobody."

March x, 20xx, 04:45 Asked batman for coffee, using crude sign language.

March x, 20xx, 06:00 Message from DND HQ, Ottawa: "You're in charge of Libya."

March x, 20xx, 06:15 Trappist monk-like silence inhibiting. Questions richochet around my brain: Is Libya part of NATO? Can't speak.

March x, 20xx, 08:00 Press conference. Difficult to conduct since ordered not to speak to reporters.

March x, 2011, 08:01 Message from Supreme Commander, NATOHQFLATULENCE: The United States is unavailable.

March x, 2011, 08:15 NATO strike fighters await assignments, except for the Germans, and also the French.

March x, 20xx, 08:30 Retire to bunker. Otherwise might influence Canadian general election.

April 1, 20xx 08:00 UN Security Council calls, put on hold.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Fives Eyes' Daisy Chain is alive and well

The obvious legal answer to this legal attempt - made in secret - to limit a citizen's right to ask her own government for information, in this case Maya Evans, is that she and all British citizens are responsible for what their government does, as was held to be the standard at Nuremberg for German citizens. As Canadians found out at the Maher Arar and Air India Inquiries, if the scret services screw up, ordinary citizens offer the apologies and pay the bills. And that's why we need to know.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


UNSCR 1386

"3. Authorizes the Member States participating in the International Security Assistance Force to take all necessary measures to fulfil its mandate;"

That doesn't include war crimes, right? "All necessary measures" doesn't justify what subsequently went on at Bagram, right? The UN Security Council can't authorize war crimes, right?

UNSCR 1973

"4. Authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary-General, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, and acting in cooperation with the Secretary-General, to take all necessary measures,"

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Security Council Should Suck It Up

So the entire Libya mess should be dumped into the Security Council's lap, rather than left up to a Coalition of Crusaders. There was impressive unanimity for referring Ghadhafi to the International Criminal Court, and there are well described mechanisms in the UN Charter for the use of force as directed by the Security Council.

Somehow, Resolution 1973 has let the UNSC off the hook, appearing now as whining impotent critics of whatever is going on in Libya. Germany abstained from 1973, which is important, but if the Libyan government is going to slaughter its own citizens with Russian weapons, the Russians should be made to suffer appropriately while we watch this on CNN or AJE, and the Chinese should also suffer while dithering in their own twilight world of purulent investment in a totalitarian regime.

Dear Julie

Second Kick At The Can

Brian Gable, The Globe and Mail

I thought my first Access to Information Act request would be my last, but not so. I'm impressed - after the last 5 years - you're still standing. Please give my best wishes to Cathy. We're all fortunate that Canada's civil service employs people of your high calibre, and that you have not all quit or gone mad.