Sunday, 26 October 2014


So, today the CBC decided to fire Jian Ghomeshi, the successor to Peter Gzowski.  Earlier this year, they lost the rights to Hockey Night in Canada, which was the CBC's prize broadcast since the 1930s.  CBC has been haemorrhaging staff, both through layoffs and resignations, for months.

You'd almost think there was a conspiracy afloat to destroy Mother Corp.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014


I've been reminiscing about Ottawa after following today's news.  The National War Memorial is visible from where I worked in City Hall, and I would often visit it at lunchtime or after work.  I'd see the reservists on guard there and wonder what they were thinking.  My condolences for Cpl Cirillo and his family, friends and regiment.

My deepest respect to Sergeant at Arms Kevin Vickers and the rest of the law enforcement, security and other officers on Parliament Hill and elsewhere in the Capital for rising to the occasion and responding appropriately and with superb professionalism.  We don't often think of the Sergeant at Arms as anything other than a quaint relic of a bygone era, when we see him parade the mace at the opening of Parliament, but with the actions of Mr Vickers today, and those of RenĂ© Jalbert at the Quebec National Assembly in 1984, are evidence of the nature of the men recruited to fill those positions of trust and responsibility.

It was interesting to see twitter feeds from various politicians emerging through the crisis.  I'll admit that my first thoughts on reading some of them included rolling my eyes or raising my eyebrows, but on reflection I now realise that my initial reaction was uncharitable.  Twitter has become an interesting phenomenon, allowing us to read the first, unfiltered thoughts of the writers.  It's interesting to see the information that the twitter writers find most important to share first.

Keep calm and carry on, eh.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Why bomb the Islamic State?

Last week, my friend Daryl posted the following comment on his Facebook page, along with a link to an editorial from the Sun (the Canadian Sun News Network, not any other Sun).  I've decided to share Daryl's question and my response here, and open this conversation up for input from my legion of fans.

Daryl's original comment:

I'm curious. I know I have Left wing friends, and I know I have hawkish left wing friends too who are big on law, order, and good government. Why do you suppose this opposition exists here? Are the Liberals and NDP speaking truly on your behalf? And if so, why would you oppose Canada getting involved in the fight against ISIS/ISIL/whatever they are calling themselves this week? On the surface I understand why my dove left wing friends don't want to get involved, it's way over on the other side of the world and why should Canadian soldiers die for a cause that Iraqi, Iranian, and Syrian soldiers should be fighting instead. Sure. Why not. I agree, the weak shouldn't be made to fight, they suck at it. But I don't get my hawkish left wing friends (as I described) being opposed to getting involved.... or is your opposition more of a go big, or don't go at all sort of thing?

I replied as follows:

Hi, Daryl

I saw your request for comments on Canada’s plan to bomb IS in Iraq and possibly Syria from ‘left wing’ friends.  The whole left wing/right wing or wherever on the political spectrum thingie can be somewhat subjective, but I assume that from your perspective I fall in the left wing category, so I’ll take a stab at offering my thoughts on the matter.

I originally thought of posting this to your Facebook timeline, but quickly ruled that out.  I don’t have time to hang out on fb and respond in a timely way to comments on my comments.  I noticed that your commentators were getting belligerent in defending their viewpoints, and it appeared to me that some commentators were deliberately (mis)interpreting comments through the lens of their own biases.  

I may have it wrong here, but it seemed that your initial question was based on a bit of a fallacy, and I certain did not agree with Mr McCullough’s opinion piece.

1.  The Liberals and the NDP are not necessarily pacifists.  These parties supported sending Canadian warplanes to bomb Muammar Qadafi’s forces in Libya a few years back.  I think the opposition to the government’s proposal says much about the government’s heavy handed approach to almost every area of policy since it won a majority of the seats in the House of Commons in 2011.  On this particular issue, the NDP proposed an amendment that was categorically rejected by government MPs before the government’s proposal was put to the vote.  If the government completely rejects suggestions from across the aisle, why should opposition MPs turn around and support the government?  

2.  On to specifics.  The government has decided to send 6 warplanes to provide aerial support to whoever it is on the ground fighting IS. To me, it appears that this is an attempt by the Government of Canada to show that we are going to “do something”, without regard to what “something” is, or if it is effective or (as I suspect) counterproductive.  IS wants Western powers to unite, send in military force which will then kill civilians in their area of control, so they can rant about “crusaders’ coming to get them and create a reason for muslims to rally around the black flag.  Dropping bombs WILL kill civilians - just look at what happens when Israel goes after Hamas.  Certainly to me it seems that we should not fight IS by doing exactly what they want.

3.  Prior to the debate in Parliament, there were reports of Canadian operatives active on the ground in Iraq.  I assume that these operatives were JTF types - and to my mind, JTF, SAS, SEALS, and other special forces are more effective than launching HE munitions from aircraft.  They will support the local fighters on the ground directly, provide training, backup and maybe even a bit of spine to the locals when needed.  They will be better able to distinguish between friend, foe and local farmer/grandma/other civilian.  Better to have SF on the ground than RCAF in the air.

4.  Other than the Kurds and what’s left of the Iraqi army, who is on our side on the ground?  Turkey isn’t involved, yet - they’re not about to support Iraqi Kurds in case it encourages Turkish Kurds.  We can’t distinguish between good Syrian rebels and bad Syrian rebels, and we’re ought not to be supporting Bashir Al-Assad’s forces after condemning them for the past bunch of years.  We’re not ready to make friends with Iran, even though the Iranians are probably more worried about the IS nut bars than we are.  We’re too busy shaking our fists at Russia to make an effort to bring them on side.  Basically, we need allies on the ground, LOCAL allies, and there are far too few of the ‘goods allies in the area  make a difference against IS.

5.  While the Syrian civil war has been raging for years, there has been a massive dislocation of Syrian civilians.  There are HUGE numbers of Syrian refugees in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere.  We can make a meaningful contribution to their lives by providing support, especially in Jordan.  Why not take the money that would otherwise keep 6 CF-18s and 600-odd CF ground and air crew function in their undisclosed location, and use it instead to help these refugees.  It would create more goodwill, both with the refugees (who for the most part just want to go home) and with the countries hosting those refugees (who are our potential allies against IS).

6.  In the meantime, we don’t seem to have a meaningful idea of how we;re going to help the people in West Africa fight Ebola.  We should be sending them support so that this outbreak can be contained there before it spreads.

7.  It seems that IS is recruiting Canadians.  We can do more by tracking Canadians leaving the country - we don’t even interview people leaving Canada which is common practice in other countries - I’ve been interviewed by Immigration officials when leaving Afghanistan, Australia and other countries.  Setting up an exit interview would allow immigration officials to verify that visitors have left the country, and for Canadians leaving, they’d get at least the first destination that potentially radicalized Canadians are visiting, even if these potential jihadis are smart enough not to hand over their entire itineraries.  Extra police work at home can help stem the flow of recruits to IS, which again will be a greater benefit to the battle against them than dropping bombs on cities in Iraq and Syria that IS has occupied.

8.  Legally, what is our basis to go and bomb the crap out of another country?  We have no treaty obligations (unless IS is foolish enough to attack our NATO ally Turkey).  I don’t think that the UN Security Council has addressed this as yet, or even been asked to sanction the activity.  Is it just because IS has issued threats?  Done horrible things?  We’ve ignored horrible behaviour before (Rwanda, Congo, Central African Republic, Uganda, Sierra Leone, etc) so what makes IS different?

I could keep going, but it’s late, I’m next up for feeding Erik and I need to get some sleep or i won’t be able to keep up with Arthur in the morning.


As you can see, I kind of ran out of steam toward the end.  If anyone cares, I could expand my opinion on any of the items I've presented above, and would be interested in anyone who wishes to refute them.


Municipal elections grrr

BC municipal elections are coming up soon.  i'm trying to get information on candidates and positions for my municipality (Esquimalt), but just about the only municipal election I can get any information on is Toronto's.  FFS.