Friday, April 27, 2012

Playing the "Stalin Card"

Prime Minister Stephen Harper accused the Opposition of subversive obstruction of the collectivization of Canadian oil swamps and treasonous subversion of the Leader's objective that planes run on time to the Caribbean for spring break. The Prime Minister reminded the House that Article 58 of the Soviet Criminal Code gave the government broad powers to act in the national interest, and that it would do so. He gave this example from the Gulag Archipelago to illustrate his government's resolve. It was received by the House with rapt attention.

Here is one vignette from those years as it actually occurred. 
A district Party conference was under way in Moscow Province. 
It was presided over by a new secretary of the District Party 
Committee, replacing one recently arrested. At the conclusion 
of the conference, a tribute to Comrade Stalin was called for. 
Of course, everyone stood up (just as everyone had leaped to 
his feet during the conference at every mention of his name). 
The small hall echoed with "stormy applause, rising to an ova- 
tion." For three minutes, four minutes, five minutes, the "stormy 
applause, rising to an ovation," continued. But palms were getting 
sore and raised arms were already aching. And the older people 
were panting from exhaustion. It was becoming insufferably silly 
even to those who really adored Stalin. However, who would 
dare be the first to stop? The secretary of the District Party 
Committee could have done it. He was standing on the platform, 
and it was he who had just called for the ovation. But he was a 
newcomer. He had taken the place of a man who'd been arrested. 
He was afraid! After all, NKVD men were standing in the hall 
applauding and watching to see who quit first! And in that ob- 
scure, small hall, unknown to the Leader, the applause went on 
— six, seven, eight minutes! They were done for! Their goose 
was cooked! They couldn't stop now till they collapsed with 
heart attacks! At the rear of the hall, which was crowded, they 
could of course cheat a bit, clap less frequently, less vigorously, 
not so eagerly — but up there with the presidium where everyone 
could see them? The director of the local paper factory, an 
independent and strong-minded man, stood with the presidium. 
Aware of all the falsity and all the impossibility of the situation, 
he still kept on applauding! Nine minutes! Ten! In anguish he 
watched the secretary of the District Party Committee, but the 
latter dared not stop. Insanity! To the last man! With make- 
believe enthusiasm on their faces, looking at each other with 
faint hope, the district leaders were just going to go on and on 
applauding till they fell where they stood, till they were carried 
out of the hall on stretchers! And even then those who were left 
would not falter. . . . Then, after eleven minutes, the director of 
the paper factory assumed a businesslike expression and sat 
down in his seat. And, oh, a miracle took place! Where had the 
universal, uninhibited, indescribable enthusiasm gone? To a man, 
everyone else stopped dead and sat down. They had been saved! 
The squirrel had been smart enough to jump off his revolving 

That, however, was how they discovered who the independent 
people were. And that was how they went about eliminating 
them. That same night the factory director was arrested. They 
easily pasted ten years on him on the pretext of something quite 
different. But after he had signed Form 206, the final document 
of the interrogation, his interrogator reminded him: 

"Don't ever be the first to stop applauding!"  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The imminent NATO demobilization...

...and the usual state of denial.

Canadian soldiers undergo health inspections as part of the demobilization process in 1919. Medical personnel checked for a variety of ailments, including venereal disease, and held back afflicted soldiers until they were cured. These examinations were especially important in light of the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919, which killed millions worldwide and approximately 50,000 in Canada.
George Metcalf Archival Collection

NATO is broke, except maybe Germany, and the rush for Afghan exits is in full swing, including NATO auxiliaries like Australia. There have been some hundreds of thousands of soldiers in Afghanistan in the last 10 years, and the outlook for war is poor, at least that of the nationally financed resource squandering infantry spectacles. War could of course be fought to extinction with machines, but assuming that not to be the case, there are going to be a lot of scarred, injured, war veterans experienced in violence yet unemployed, and perhaps - as after Vietnam - finding civilian life impossible. So, good luck to all of us.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The "history-challenged" West


"Earlier this month a briefing by intelligence officials told journalists that the Taliban had lost the power to launch large-scale attacks."
-Bilal Sawary, BBC News, April 16, 2012
 "What Kabul attacks say about Afghan security"

 Meanwhile back in Vietnam...

 “A few months earlier there had been an attempt Higher to crank up the Home For Christmas rumor, but it wouldn’t take, the troop consensus was too strong, it went, “Never happen.” If a commander told you he thought he had it pretty well under control it was like talking to a pessimist. Most would say that they either had it wrapped up or wound down; “He’s all pissed out, Charlie’s all pissed out, booger’s shot his whole wad," one of them promised me, while in Saigon it would be restructured for briefings, “He no longer maintains in our view capability to mount, execute or sustain a serious offensive action,” and a reporter behind me, from The New York Times no less, laughed and said, “Mount this, Colonel.” But in the boonies, where they were deprived of all information except what they’d gathered for themselves on either side of the treeline, they’d look around like someone was watching and say, “I dunno, Charlie’s up to something. Slick, slick, that fucker’s so slick. Watch!”
- Michael Herr, 1968, more or less

[emphasis added]

Thursday, April 12, 2012

"ISAF Aftermath"

Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner "Acme Aftermath," 2006
© Warner Bros.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Grapes on Legislative Violence

MP Justin Trudeau and Senator Patrick Brazeau
 debate substantive issues

National Post 

So it's me Ron MacLean here with Don Cherry on House of Commons Night in Canada to discuss the role of fighting in parliamentary democracy. Grapes, I know you've got strong feelings about this...


RON MACLEAN let's get to it.  There are some, like Andrew Coyne who suggest that fighting shouldn't be part of the game, even though it has a history.

Yeah, we've talked about this before, the fact that the two front benches in the House of Commons are two swords' lengths apart, to avoid violence, but there have been punch-ups in even Westminster style parliaments, Canada's having been one of the most tame.

So what's your take on the Brazeau-Trudeau matchup last week?

I liked it - I'm not gonna lie - and I think both guys were honourable and gave it their best shot, toe-to-toe.  It looks a lot more honourable than what went down about the F-35, the government being whining weasels.

What about fights in the Chamber?

Well, no, not in this day and age.  The car park is another story.

In the British House of Commons Bernadette Devlin punched out Reginald Maudling, "punching and scratching him, and pulling his hair..."

Yes, that was unusual, but Devlin was Irish like Brian Burke, and you know those guys don't hold back. Burke didn't want to send down Colton Orr just because the guy couldn't play hockey.

So do you think there should be regular fights in the Commons?

I didn't say that, and no, just like I don't think hockey games should be continuous fights.  It's a matter of The Code.

The Criminal Code?

No, there's a separate code for hockey.

And for the House of Commons?

I like Trudeau's approach.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The F-35 impulse buy

Mr. William J. Pristanksi
Principal, Prospectus Associates
"In 2003, he was the chair of the successful Peter MacKay Leadership Campaign. Later that year he was a senior advisor to Mr. MacKay during the merger negotiations and the subsequent ratification process that formed the new Conservative Party."

Friday, April 6, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The unseen hand of Lockheed-Martin... the F-35 catastrophe.

Ask Ray Sturgeon. Or Nigel Wright.  But listen to Ike...