I am the one per cent

Posted January 2nd, 2012 in Canada by Adrian MacNair

They come out with these articles every first working day of January, reminding us wage slaves of how little we make in comparison to the big corporate CEOs and executives who presumably do little to earn their millions:

The 100 highest paid chief executives whose companies are listed on the S&P/TSX composite index made an average of $8.38 million in 2010, according to figures pulled from circulars by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a left-leaning think-tank.
That’s 189 times higher than the $44,366 an average Canadian made working full time in 2010, the report says.

Hm, yes. The CCPA says. That’s impressive, I say.

But let’s put it in perspective. The GDP purchasing power party basis for the average Afghan is $900 per year, which takes the average Canadian 39.6 hours to earn. So, by the time your first or second week back to work is finished, you’ll have outearned your Afghan counterpart for the year.

Not that that’s entirely fair, since Afghanistan is 214th on the list of the world’s richest nations. So, since we’re comparing averages, let’s compare the poor average Canadian schlep to the average global inhabitant still utilizing the GDP PPP basis.

That number is about US$7,178 by 2009 estimates. That means by the time March rolls around and Canadians are grumbling about getting a week in Mexico away from the seemingly endless cold and snow and frost, the average wage slave has outearned his global citizen with fully 10 months left in the year.

It’s a far cry from $8.38 million, but I’d say your $44,366 earner in Canada is doing just peachy.

Dutch government wants a return to Afstan…

Posted January 7th, 2011 in Afghanistan, Canada, International, Technology, united states by MarkOttawa

…to train police. Further to the Update here,

Media out! Of Afghanistan/People’s Daily Online Update

the latest:

THE HAGUE — The Dutch cabinet agreed Friday to a police training mission to Afghanistan, 11 months after the last government collapsed in a spat over military deployment to the conflict-torn nation.

“The cabinet decided today to send an integrated police training mission to Afghanistan in the period 2011 to 2014,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced after the weekly cabinet meeting.

“In total, the mission will entail 545 men and women,” he said, adding it would have a “strict training objective. No component of this mission will be involved in any military offensive.”

The decision comes some six months after Dutch troops withdrew from Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)…

NATO’s request for an extension of the Dutch deployment sparked a political row that led to the centre-left government’s collapse in February last year, precipitating the August pullout.

The governing coalition at the time was led by the Christian Democratic Action, which is now part of a right-leaning minority government in a loose alliance with the anti-Islam PVV, which is opposed to the training mission.

The government “needs a majority in parliament” to send the mission, said spokesman Henk Brons.

That means Rutte will need support from opposition lawmakers in the face of the PVV’s disapproval.

The prime minister said Friday the purpose of the new training mission would be “the strengthening of the civilian police and justice system in Afghanistan” and the “advancement of the constitutional state”.

The mission would include 225 police trainers in Kabul, Kunduz and Bamiyan.

“We will also retain four F16 (fighter jets) in Afghanistan. The F16s play an essential role in finding roadside bombs and boosting our security on the ground,” he said.

That will involve technical support personnel, including medical and logistics experts, as part of the team, said Rutte, arguing that the Netherlands’ work in Afghanistan “is not done”…

Rutte, who insisted the decision was “thoroughly deliberated” and based on the outcome of two fact-finding missions to Afghanistan, said the security of the Dutch trainers would be ensured by troops from Germany, the lead ISAF nation in Kunduz.

More from AP via the CBC website (will our other major media cover the news?):

The government says in a letter to parliament the mission will involve 225 police trainers and 320 military support staff who will be stationed in the capital Kabul and the northern province of Kunduz…

Plus earlier from Radio Nederland:

…The Dutch trainers would be deployed under the auspices of the European Police Training Mission (EUPOL)…

…Four Dutch F-16s would have to stay on in Afghanistan to provide protection to the troops. The jet fighters would have to be relocated from the southern province of Kandahar to the north of the country. The F-16 unit includes about 120 troops, bringing the total number of personnel for the mission to about 500…

So much for those quittists hoping for a grand Western bug-out. And aren’t those F-16s just a hoot?

Our government…has not been willing to employ our CF-18s in Afghanistan to support the CF and allied forces there even though urged to do so by our allies.  Too fearful of political and media reaction if a bomb or missile killed some civilians accidentally, don’t you know…

H/t Terry Glavin.

Update thought: The real message here, what with Canada’s also retreating to a training role, is that only two NATO members–the US and UK (plus the Danes)–are willing to engage in extended combat in Afstan.  Pathetic.  And why the Brits have a real special relationship with the Americans and we do not.  The way of the real, not Byers and Staples, world.


Hang ‘em high

Posted December 17th, 2010 in Afghanistan, Canada, International, united states by MarkOttawa

Holy justice! As close as it gets in Canada:

Ontario’s top court hikes sentences for convicted terrorists

Ontario’s highest court has come down hard on convicted terrorists, dramatically hiking prison sentences for the first Canadians convicted of violent jihadist activities.

In a series of rulings released Friday, the Ontario Court of Appeal said the scourge of terrorism necessitates demonstrating to would-be recruits that they will pay with their freedom.

It sentenced an Ottawa terrorist, Mohammed Momin Khawaja, to life in prison, and raised sentences for three key members of the so-called Toronto 18 terrorist group.

One ringleader, Saad Khalid, saw his 14-year sentence elevated to 20 years, while another member, Zakaria Amara – described as the mastermind of the plot to bomb the CN Tower, CSIS headquarters and a military base – failed in a bid to have his life sentence reduced.

“He knew full well that hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent people would die or be gravely injured if everything went according to his plan,” said Mr. Justice David Doherty, Mr. Justice Michael Moldaver and Madam Justice Eleanore Cronk.

“Indeed, a strong argument can be made that widespread carnage was precisely the outcome that he intended.”

A third member of the Toronto 18, Saad Gaya, had his sentence raised from an equivalent of 12 years to 18 years – and the court said that Mr. Gaya was lucky his sentence wasn’t hiked to 25 years…

In two more rulings, the court ordered the extradition of two alleged Sri Lankan terrorists to the United States [where time is serious, ask Baron Black of Crossharbour]…

Now let’s see what happens with the Supremes and appeals.

Update: A very good column by Christie Blatchford of the Globe and Mail:

Terrorism rulings an early Christmas present from our justice system


Comments Off

Great Gaming: Pak paranoia and a WikiHoax

Posted December 10th, 2010 in International, Technology, united states by MarkOttawa

The country is pervaded with conspiracy theories; no wonder some fell for this. From Foreign Policy’s “AfPak Daily brief“:

Crude propaganda hoax

Yesterday morning, major Pakistani newspapers carried stories allegedly based on U.S. diplomatic cables released by the web site Wikileaks in which U.S. officials purportedly described Indian spies supporting Islamist militants in Baluchistan and Waziristan, called former Indian army chief General Deepak Kapoor “an incompetent combat leader and rather a geek,” said a “Bosnia-like genocide” is occurring in Indian-administered Kashmir, and asserted that the Indian military is supporting Hindu fundamentalist groups, among other claims (Guardian). The cables, however, could not be found in the Wikileaks database, suggesting Wikileaks was exploited for propaganda purposes.

Pakistan’s Express Tribune and The News have issued mea culpas admitting that the “story was dubious and may have been planted,” acknowledging that the reports came from the Islamabad-based Online wire service, which is “known for their close connections with certain intelligence agencies” (AP, AFP, BBC, ET, The News). However, the Urdu-language Jang, which carried the story on its front page yesterday, has not mentioned the incident, and the right-wing daily The Nation, which “still appeared to believe the story,” editorialized that the cables revealed “India’s true face” and “Washington’s hypocrisy” (BBC, Nation)…

More on that paranoia at this post:

The Indo-Pak-Afghan Great Game–and the US


Where Canada and Denmark led…

Posted November 20th, 2010 in Afghanistan, Canada, International, united states by MarkOttawa

…the US Marines follow:

Marines Sending in the Tanks

There has been some skepticism over the Marine Corps’ decision to send a company of M1 Abrams tanks to join the battle in southern Afghanistan, but the use of tanks in a counterinsurgency in general, and in Afghanistan in particular, is hardly new.

In Afghanistan, the Canadians and the Danes have used their tanks to great effect–and Canadian Army Maj. Trevor Cadieu has written a detailed account on how tanks became an integral part of the Canadian fight in Kandahar—the place U.S. Marines are fighting now [in fact they are mainly in neighbouring Helmand province]. In December 2006, the Canadians deployed a squadron of Leopard C2 tanks to Kandahar, and the major writes that “after deploying forward … the tank squadron and armoured engineers featured prominently in all major combat operations undertaken by the Canadian BG … Since May 2007, the tank squadron has fought almost constantly alongside Canadian and Afghan infantry in close combat with the Taliban.”

The Canadians say that they’ve found so much success in Afghanistan with the German-made Leopard tank that they completely revised plans for the structure of their ground forces…

The Danes have had much the same experience with the Leopard II in Afghanistan, claiming that the tank’s 120mm gun is so accurate that it minimizes civilian casualties, and the RAND team reports that the Danes “noted that tanks can respond very quickly when contact is made with insurgents, and that it was clear the Taliban respects tank firepower. Indeed, it was stated that Taliban activity drops considerably when tanks are operating in an area.” [The Danes, by the way, are staying fully in the fight.]

And this morning, Jason Fritz, an Army vet and consultant, has this to say about the use of tanks in a counterinsurgency fight in Afghanistan:

You know what scares the hell out of dismounted insurgents? 70 tons of badassery that will make them dead if they mess with it…

Canadian badassery (with some German help):

More here.


Canadians and combat (not)

Posted November 18th, 2010 in Afghanistan, Canada, International, united states by MarkOttawa

Just not our thing anymore, actually.  In Canada it now seems the rule for politicians, pundits and the public that the Army really doesn’t engage in combat if the dead go over 100–unless perhaps it truly is a situation of clear and supreme national interest, or else a clear and convincing victory is won with rapidity.  See the posts from Daimnation! in late 2005 and early 2006 here and here (so much for the prime minister as a war leader).  I think I had the finger on the country’s pulse then, such as it is.

Americans do not have the peacekeeping-obsessed (that’s what we will be doing in Afstan, eh?) culture Canada has in spades, Nor do the Brits.  In fact I venture that “peacekeeping” has almost zero, er, resonance in either country, and very little in Australia.  Canadians have been brainwashed, in large measure by our own governments seeking to reflect (correctly) perceived popular sentiment.

Anyone want to bet that any Canadian government will put the Army into any real combat during the next decade, if not longer, even should a situation arise that might well make it seem the right thing to do?

Not that most Euros, Danes aside, are any different.  The conclusion of an earlier post:

It is a sad reflection of Canadian realities that this country of 33 million will not fight for more than five and half years, can only deploy just under 3,000 CF personnel to do so, and cannot tolerate it when the death toll moves past 100.

Predate: There was brief moment when attitudes were more robust–but then soldiers died:

Defence analysts and politicians from the NDP and the Conservative Party said it is time for a military leader like General Rick Hillier, who speaks from the heart about the role of the Canadian Forces in the war on terror.

Controlled anger, given what’s happened, is an appropriate response,” NDP Leader Jack Layton said [emphasis added, worm turned] . “We have a very committed, level-headed head of our armed forces, who isn’t afraid to express the passion that underlies the mission that front-line personnel are going to be taking on.

“A bit of strong language in the circumstances, I don’t find that to be wrong.”..

In a media briefing two days ago, Gen. Hillier laid out the mission for the more than 2,000 troops who are headed to Afghanistan in the coming year: provide security in the country and, more importantly, go on the hunt for terrorists.As part of the deployment, the Canadian Forces are sending commando soldiers from Joint Task Force 2 with the expectation that they will be involved in combat.

“We are going to Afghanistan to actually take down the folks that are trying to blow up men and women,” Gen. Hillier said.

He also gave a blunt assessment of the role of the Canadian Forces, which he said are designed to protect Canadian interests at home and abroad.

“We’re not the public service of Canada, we’re not just another department. We are the Canadian Forces, and our job is to be able to kill people,” Gen. Hillier said…

We’ll not hear anything like this again from anyone in government service about our enemies for quite a while:

“These are detestable murderers and scumbags. I’ll tell you that right up front,” said Hillier…


More on decision to keep some CF in Afstan–and some important consequences/In the field Update

Posted November 17th, 2010 in Afghanistan, Canada, International, united states by MarkOttawa

Excerpts from a very useful post at Milnews.ca (worth checking every day):

  • What does this mean for the Canadian-led and run Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team (PDF copy of page here if link doesn’t work?  This from the Globe & MailCanada is slashing aid to Afghanistan and abandoning any presence in Kandahar by withdrawing not only troops but civilian aid officials next year. Despite the approval of a new training mission, the moves mark a turning point where Canada is significantly disengaging from Afghanistan: dramatically reducing the outlay of cash, reducing the risk to troops, and quitting the war-scarred southern province where Canada has led military and civilian efforts. There will be a deep cut to aid for Afghanistan. International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda said Canada will provide $100-million a year in development assistance for Afghanistan over the next three years, less than half the $205-million the government reported spending last year ….”
  • According to Postmedia News, late decision on new mission = rush to get ready for it...
  • Who’s happy?  The White House and the NATO military alliance applauded Canada’s plan for a military training mission in Afghanistan Tuesday as Prime Minister Stephen Harper assured opposition parties that the armed forces will work safely “in classrooms behind the wire on bases.” ….” Here’s what NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen had to say: “I warmly welcome Prime Minister Harper’s announcement that Canada will deploy a substantial number of trainers to the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan. Canada has contributed substantially, over many years, to the operation in Afghanistan. Canadian forces have made a real difference in the lives of the Afghan people, often at a high cost ….” More from the Canadian Press on that
  • Meanwhile, the transition continues on the ground in AfghanistanA scouting party from the NATO unit that could replace Canadian troops in Kandahar will be touring the area over the next few days. Planning for the departure of Task Force Kandahar is underway and a proposal on how the transition will take place is still being finalized, a senior U.S. officer with the alliance’s southern headquarters said Tuesday. The Canadians “are in a critical location,” said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was authorized to discuss the situation on background only. “We’ve got to make sure that area is still covered, and covered well.” ….”

What will strike readers of the NY Times:

Canada to End Combat Role in Afghanistan at End of 2011

Does the world need more Canada? As far as I can find the British media ignored the government’s decision rather completely. Typical.

Meanwhile Maj.-Gen. (ret’d) Lew MacKenzie explains clearly, to enlighten those who scream otherwise, the future non-combat role of our forces (as I have tried to do):

Our trainers won’t be ‘Omleteers’

Regarding our civilian presence at Kandahar, I wrote this ten days ago:

…I have heard from someone well up on Canadian activities in Afstan that the government is currently planning to remove all or almost all Canadian civilians and civilian police from Kandahar as the CF withdraw, and have our civilians based in Kabul. So there goes Canadian participation in the PRT


Fighting the good fight for Afghans–and all of us

Update: A very good Nov. 9 story (via Defense Industry Daily) on what’s happening in the Canadian sector of Kandahar Province now that the US surge has peaked:

Afghanistan: Before fighting season ends, one last push
Photos: Coalition troops sweep through remaining Taliban strongholds.

A month ago:

Canadians work to corral Taliban as major operation begins
U.S., Afghan forces launch air assault in Horn of Panjwaii stronghold


The strange death of the Conservative Canadian cabinet

Posted November 14th, 2010 in Canada, united states by MarkOttawa

What is strange is the way it has been announced.  It has been a central principle of the Westminster system of Parliamentary government that major government decisions are made collectively by the cabinet and that cabinet members are collectively responsible for those decisions.  It has been apparent for at least two decades that the prime minister, whatever the party, has increasingly been usurping that power of decision.  The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, Laurie Hawn, has now made this changed reality completely clear.

This is what he has just had to say about the prime minister’s decision (not, it is very apparent, the cabinet’s) to shift the Canadian military mission in Afghanistan from Kandahar to Kabul and to change its role to solely non-combat training:

1) On CBC News Network’s Power & Politics, Nov. 12, at 6:40 on the clip:

…The prime minister is empowered to make this kind of decision…

2) And more fully on CBC Radio One’s The House, Nov. 13, at 8:35 on the clip:

…The prime minister is the head of our government and he is empowered to make these kinds of decisions…The prime minister is within his authority and mandate to make this kind of call…

So the Canadian federal government is de facto headed by a powerful presidential figure; there is no de jure to prescribe the powers of the cabinet vis-à-vis the prime minister, just accepted convention which is most definitively not what it was.  One wonders when our politicians, punditocracy, and professoriat will remark upon the constitutionally rather startling statements by Mr Hawn.

One pundit, Chantal Hebert, does make these rather telling observations on how the prime minister’s decision was presented to the public:

…Stephen Harper’s communications director, Dimitri Soudas, did the media rounds.

The sight of an unelected partisan staffer apprising Canadians of their government’s thinking on a top-of-mind defence and foreign policy issue that involves committing hundreds of Canadian men and women to a war theatre for an extra three years was unprecedented.

The power of the PMO has been in ascendancy at the expense of the federal cabinet for a number of decades, but that evolution has rarely been as blatantly obvious as over the past two weeks…

The Crown may still have ministers but they no longer are of any real account. The prime minister indeed rules the executive alone.  And, with a majority government, the legislature too–unlike in the United States where the two branches of government are firmly separated.

Update: A response of mine in the “Comments”; this post was not making a partisan political point:

I was not criticizing this prime minister in particular. I was merely pointing out what an odd way in which a fundamental change in the Canadian constitution was effectively made public (significant parts of our constitution are still unwritten: neither “cabinet” nor “prime minister” appears in the Constitution Act, formerly known as the BNA).

I would point out that PM Chretien was in practise equally presidential. I have seen no indication that he took his announcement in early 2003 that the CF would return to Afstan (so they would not be available in any strength for Iraq) to cabinet, nor that shortly thereafter he took to cabinet the announcement in the House that Canada would not take part in the invasion of Iraq.

Prime ministers for some time have become ever more presidential. The present difference, for good or ill depending on how you look at it, is that until 2004 those PMs could also control Parliament.

Rather scary, regardless of the party the PM heads.

Upperdate: Version of the post is also at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute’s 3Ds blog.


F-35: I wonder what the Americans said

Posted November 13th, 2010 in Canada, International, Technology, united states by MarkOttawa

Further to this post,

The F-35 may take a bit of US budget kicking

the latest from Defense Technology’s “Ares” blog; somehow I don’t think our government will be saying anything of its own volition:

Vice Adm. David Venlet, the Pentagon’s F-35 program executive officer, and Larry Lawson, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 vice president, are returning from a Nov. 11 Joint Executive Steering Board meeting with the eight JSF partner nations in Rome.

The meeting, the first of its sort for Venlet since taking office, comes just after a White House-chartered deficit reduction commission proposed sharply curtailing U.S. orders for the single-engine Lockheed Martin aircraft. A defense official said the F-35 proposals “surprised all of us,” but noted that the proposal is preliminary and not yet actionable.

But, this bombshell and the forthcoming — and highly anticipated — technical baseline review (TBR), which will establish a new schedule and cost, were perhaps the gorillas in the room, as they were not on the formal agenda for the meetings, according to a defense official.

Venlet was unable to brief the TBR because it has not yet been approved by the Pentagon. And, a forthcoming life-cycle cost also has yet to receive the official blessing from senior Defense Department officials. However, both items are expected to potentially send shockwaves through the eight partner nations, as further price increases and delivery delays are expected [emphasis added].

International partners were expected to have their first deliveries in 2014 of the CTOL aircraft; that, however, is likely to change based on the new program baseline.

The Joint Executive Steering Board meeting took place only a day after the co-chairman of the White House deficit reduction commission suggested terminating the short-takeoff-and-landing (Stovl) F-35B and halving U.S. orders for the F-35A/C (carrier versions) through 2015. The commission’s co-chairs estimate the B termination will save $41 billion, including $17.6 billion through 2015. Halving the A/C buy and supplementing the purchase with F-16s and F/A-18E/Fs would save $9.5 billion through 2015, they add.

This was the first official foreign trip of this sort on F-35 by its new program manager, Vice Adm. David Venlet. He opted to break with past tradition and not attend this year’s Farnborough Air Show outside of London in order to manage the massive TBR, which will outline a new price and schedule for the tri-variant, stealthy fighter program. That review will be briefed to Pentagon acquisition czar Ashton Carter Nov. 22 [emphasis added]…


The F-35 may take a bit of US budget kicking

Posted November 10th, 2010 in Canada, Technology, united states by MarkOttawa

Them costs, them costs:

White House Commission: Kill The F-35B

A draft document issued by the White House commission on reducing the federal deficit recommends scrapping the F-35B short-take-off, vertical landing (STOVL) fighter outright…

The proposals, contained in a supplement to a $3.8 trillion plan unveiled today, are not final and do not have any legislative force…

The F-35B is not the only Joint Strike Fighter version to be hit. The commission calls for production of the USAF F-35A and Navy F-35C to be cut in half in the years up to FY2015 [emphasis added], with the cancelled buys to be replaced by F-16s and F/A-18s…

I wonder if poor Peter thinks these might be just more glitches. And that we will start receiving our F-35As in 2016 with an average production cost of $74.5-million each.

Update: So we pay all that stealthy money for six expeditionary fighters? Even if twelve, such a contribution hardly seems worth it in any rational Canadian strategic military perspective; and will surely add very little practically to any serious coalition endeavour to which Canada might contribute against what is currently called a “peer” opponent.  Please think about it seriously.

Upperdate: The Canadian Air Force eventually deployed 18 CF-18s for the Kosovo/Serbia campaign–from a fighter strength far greater than 65.  Interoperable enough it would seem, even though the USAF and NATO allies (with one exception) have never flown Hornets.