What I do know is that over the years immediately following Stan’s death, there arose a cottage industry surrounding his music, and a closely managed version of what was supposed to have been his life. It turns out it is easier to market a carefully crafted and maintained legend than a real person.
It was frustrating to watch from the sidelines.
As time went by, the brother I had grown up with, and the complex and kind and frustrating man I knew and loved, and with whom I worked for nearly 10 years had been made into another person entirely, a caricature, and a man I never knew. And all trace of the part I had played in the music, and the part our parents had played in supporting and financing the whole operation had been erased.
So, I did begin to write the stories down, starting one night in Grande Prairie, Alberta, sitting backstage waiting for the sound crew to return from dinner.
Being in a band is a bit like running away to join a low rent circus, or a badly organized pirate ship.
The band develops its own language and rules and strictly controlled and ritualized behaviour.
Any outsider is viewed with suspicion and hostility if they attempt to breach the inner wall.
Within the band, loyalties shift and morph, and hostility develops. Even something as simple as the way another chews his food is an excuse for a fight and a death grudge that can last for years, and a different person at any given time becomes the butt of all the jokes that day or week.
As a result, even a few months on the road will turn the closest and most well intentioned of friends into a small band of ragged savages, and the jokes are no longer funny. And your glasses are permanently broken, and you’ve lost control of the conch shell. And your former friends are now advancing towards you with sharpened sticks.
As a result some of the behaviour in this story will be inexplicable by any decent person’s standards.
All I can say is we got away with it mostly, because the first rule was to always have the other guy’s back when outsiders were present, even if you had plans to kill him later.
This is a really long book. I was horrified to see just how big it was the first time John printed it out, and I did my best to edit it down. I removed most of the “F” words. That lost 50 or so pages. I then took out all the sex scenes, which took care of a paragraph. (We were after all, a folk band.)
June 25, 2016
At (of all places) the CBC, Neil Macdonald explains why the Canadian government maintains a ridiculously low limit on what Canadians can purchase from other countries without packages being subject to duty, tax, delay, and possible damage:
As any Canadian who’s ever naively bought anything on the American version of eBay (or, for that matter, any U.S. retail website) must by now know, Ottawa is determined to spoil your bargain.
If the purchase is a penny over $20 Cdn, a federal customs agent can intercept it, open it, delay it, add federal and provincial sales taxes, and, depending on the origin of the merchandise, perhaps pile on some duty charges — basically protectionist taxes.
By the time the government is done, the price of the package can easily rise by 50 per cent. And of course customs brokers usually have to wet their beaks, inflating the final cost of the average package by another 20, 30 or 40 per cent.
Basically, Ottawa has ensured that shipping across our border is such an expensive, paperwork-heavy pain that a lot of American merchants and eBay sellers simply don’t bother shipping to Canada.
The system actually seems designed to be burdensome and sclerotic.
Normally, you’d assume it’s all about increasing the federal government’s tax revenues … the CRA must be raking in the bucks, right? Not at all:
… by keeping that purchase threshold at $20 instead of giving Canadian shoppers a break and raising it to $80, Ottawa spends about $166 million to collect $39 million in additional taxes and duties.
Think about that: Ottawa’s customs officials spend a net $127 million of taxpayers’ money annually, basically to keep Canadians trapped inside the Canadian retail corral.
H/T to SDA for the link.
June 24, 2016
Jonathan Kay on the problem with discussing First Nations people as if they are “Magical Aboriginals”:
… the path toward reconciliation doesn’t always run through Ottawa or Rome. Reconciliation also can take place at the level of friends, family members and neighbours. In a newly published collection of essays, In This Together, editor Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail brings together fifteen writers — some Indigenous, some not — who describe how this process has played out in their own lives. “[The authors] investigate their ancestors’ roles in creating the country we live in today,” Metcalfe-Chenail writes in her introduction. “They look at their own assumptions and experiences under a microscope in hopes that you will do the same.”
In This Together is a poignant and well-intentioned book, and one that deserves to be bought and read. It is also informative and unsettling — though not always in the way the authors intend. Taken as a whole, the stories betray the extent to which guilt, sentimentality and ideological dogma have compromised the debate about Indigenous issues in this country.
In describing the stock “Magical Negro” who often appears in popular books and movies, Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu once noted that this type of character typically is shown to be “wise, patient, and spiritually in touch, [c]loser to the earth.” (Think of Morgan Freeman’s portrayal of Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding in The Shawshank Redemption.) In This Together contains a menagerie of similarly magical-seeming Aboriginals who are “soft-spoken” and “insightful.” A typical supporting character is the hard-luck Aboriginal child whose “entire face seemed to radiate a quiet knowing.” Older characters speak in Yoda-like snippets such as “There is much loss — but all is not lost.”
White characters in this book mostly are presented in the opposite way. They tend to be cruel, obese (“bulging,” “fat, red-faced,” “plump”), and soulless. Streetly goes even further, describing outsiders who come to Tofino as “faceless, meaningless” — as if they were robots. In a story about a First Nations woman with the dermatological condition vitiligo, Carol Shaben casts whiteness as an imperial disease — “an ever-expanding territory of white colonized the brown landscape of her skin.” In matters of economics, whites often are depicted as amoral capitalist marauders (“quick to brand and claim ownership”), while Indigenous peoples are presented as inveterate communitarians — gentle birds who “soar above the land, take stock, perch without harming, settle without ownership, and be grateful without exploitation.”
For decades, it has been a point of principle that Indigenous peoples in Canada must chart their own future without interference from outsiders. Our First Nations will have to make difficult decisions about what mix of traditional and modern elements they want in their society; and address wrenching questions about integration, relocation, language use, and education. Addressing these hard questions will be all the more difficult if Canada’s leading thinkers — even those with the best of intentions, such as the authors of In This Together — build the project of reconciliation on a foundation of attractive myths.
It is our moral duty as a Canadians to acknowledge the full horror of what was done to Indigenous peoples. But we must not respond to this horror by seeking to conjure an Indigenous Eden of postcolonial imagination — a society that never truly existed in the first place.
June 22, 2016
Matt Welch has a few warnings for Americans of all political stripes who threaten to come to Canada if the wrong politico gets elected president this year:
* Revenge-minded border cops. Casually crossing our northern border with a family of four, as I attempted recently, is no longer a routine matter. Investigators I know who have worked with Canada’s Border Services Agency say that customs officials are ramping up their screening of Americans in advance of a possible November onslaught. And just maybe, after 15 years of U.S. border enforcers giving Canadians a harder time, followed by 12 months of a xenophobic presidential campaign, we might be getting some payback.
* You better like Canadian musicians. Americans can be forgiven for losing track of who among their beloved North American entertainers might say “oot and aboot” after a few Mooseheads. But sitting at one of Toronto’s roughly 1,000 sports bars is a grueling reminder that Canada’s Broadcasting Act, which requires that at least one-third of the content at commercial radio stations emanate from musicians with maple leafs in their passports, is a make-royalties program for the Rushes of the world. If you think American classic rock stations are repetitive, get used to side 1 of “Moving Pictures.”
* You can run from America, but you cannot hide. Think living in Montreal or Vancouver frees you up from the long arm of the Internal Revenue Service? Think again! There are two countries on this whole planet that require federal income tax filing from its nonresident citizens. Eritrea, not particularly known for its good governance, is one of them. Uncle Sam’s the other.
It gets considerably worse from there. Because of a putrid 2010 law called the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA for short, because Washington legislators are nothing if not subtle), U.S. citizens and their spouses who hold more than $10,000 total in non-American financial institutions must file annual disclosures listing the maximum exchange-rate value of each and every such account during the previous year. If you don’t comply, you face steep fines and even jail time.
Ostensibly aimed at fat cats, this law instead has punished the majority nonrich among America’s estimated 8.7 million expatriates. Not only does FATCA impose costly paperwork on individuals, it also requires overseas financial institutions to act as Washington’s international collections muscle, mandating that they seize and transfer to the IRS 30% of deadbeat Americans’ assets. To the surprise of no one who understands basic incentives, foreign banks have been dropping American clients like sacks of flaming garbage.
June 21, 2016
Published on 20 Jun 2016
Special thanks to Karim Theilgaard for composing the the new theme for our brand new intro!
We are approaching the 100th regular episode and decided to surprise you with an extra special episode about the staggering numbers of World War 1.
June 20, 2016
A few days back, “Weirddave” posted a little account of his recent visit to L’Anse Aux Meadows:
You can fly into Gander, but it’s expensive AF and you’ll have to make a jillion connections and live in airports for 2 days. Driving from the US means taking I-95 as far as it goes, then transiting New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to North Sydney. There you get on a ferry for an 8 hour trip to Port Aux Basque. Do it overnight and splurge for a cabin (trust me on this). Even then, you can’t get into Port Aux Basque if it’s too windy (a not uncommon occurrence in the North Atlantic). Our ferry sailed in a circle off Port Aux Basque for 12 hours until it was calm enough to go in, costing us a whole day (you don’t drive at night in Newfoundland because the island is infested with moose and you’ll hit one). There is no WiFi on the ferry.
From Port Aux Basque it’s 699 kilometers to L’Anse Aux Meadow, 699 kilometers of 2 lane highway with lots of potholes. If you love scrub pine and birch, you’ll be in heaven. It’s very pretty, and Gros Morne National Park, which you’ll go through about halfway, is gorgeous. The drive is miserable when it’s raining, and it’s always raining in Newfoundland. As a bonus it was 2 degrees C today. After you’ve seen L’Anse Aux Meadow ( a day at most ) you have to do it all over again going the other way. The local hootch is a rum called Screech that aspires to be Val-U-Rite. On the plus side, the locals are friendly, if occasionally unintelligible, and I ate 6 lobsters in four days, so yum.
If you find yourself in Newfoundland, you must go to L’Anse Aux Meadow. If you’re thinking of going, my advice would be to take an RV and make it a leisurely trip across the Maritimes. Take 2 weeks off and really enjoy yourself.
June 19, 2016
Only a few Canadians are consciously passionate about monarchism. We know that our royals are Canadian mostly as a matter of constitutional metaphysics. The serious monarchists are equalled or outnumbered by those who would like us to move further toward an American form of government with a directly elected presidency, having already adopted a written constitution and an American-style judiciary.
When we embraced free trade with the United States, accusations of treason were thrown around haphazardly. The patriotism of any Canadian who merely wanted to sell and buy American things was given the stink-eye by liberal “nationalists” who had just supported a Jeffersonian bill of rights and a Marshallite Supreme Court. Now there are those who want to make a Congress out of Parliament and an official “first lady” of the prime minister’s wife: no one calls them bad Canadians.
Well, they are a little bit bad, in the sense of being negligent, because they are acting on a contradiction they do not see. What it would be hard to explain to a Roman or an Elizabethan is that our attachment to the monarchy is mostly unconscious. Its expression among most of us takes the form of mild contempt for the United States; we feel American government is ridiculous, a half-competent burlesque of Westminster-style democracy. Presidents amass more and more of the powers of an absolute monarch, more of the mythological features of a Sun King; they make increasingly ambitious religious promises to heal the sick, obtain fair weather, cultivate prosperity in the face of chance and accident.
Colby Cosh, “Why Canadians are better republicans”, National Post, 2016-05-30.
June 13, 2016
In the New York Post, Naomi Schaefer Riley reports that Americans are apparently moving less frequently than they used to, and at least part of the reason is the hellish experience of moving:
Americans are stuck. Research from the Census Bureau suggests that Americans have stepped in some wet cement and have yet to extract themselves.
In 1948, more than 20 percent of Americans moved to a new home. But that percentage has been steadily declining since the ’80s, to the point where now only 11 percent of Americans say they have moved in the last year.
Experts have offered all sorts of reasons for this immobility. But for some of us, anyway, there’s the unavoidable fact that moving is a pain in the behind. It’s expensive and time-consuming — and it seems to be getting worse. When I tell friends that our family is moving this week, they look at me as if I’ve just told them a family pet has died.
When my parents sold a house three decades ago, they were told to “straighten up.” But now our homes are expected to be immaculate displays. There are people who make their living “staging homes,” as if we should put on some kind of theatrical performance in order to get top dollar.
Real estate agents will give you piles of material to explain what to do to a house to make it “show ready.” (That “show” is apparently “House Hunters.”) “Make your house look like a Pottery Barn catalogue,” one agent explained. “Only three to four books are allowed on any shelf.”
Apparently people in Pottery Barn catalogues don’t read. Also, their children don’t have Legos.
We moved house earlier this year and we’re still digging out from underneath the rubble. It didn’t help that we found the perfect house to buy long before we expected to, and so hadn’t begun any kind of prep work in our existing house in advance of the move. We were trading a larger home in a 15-year-old suburb for a house in a small town that was nearly 200 years old. That translates to not only smaller living space (about 1000 square feet less) but also little to no storage space (closets were extremely rare in the 1830s). We’d been 13 years in the house and our stuff had “settled” around us … we could have used six months to de-clutter, pare down our less-frequently-used possessions, and make regular trips to the dump. Oh, and my sudden health issue and two-week stay in ICU almost exactly in the middle of the packing phase really didn’t help at all.
We moved out in phases, clearing out most of our stuff from the interior of the house, but leaving the garage and basement stuffed with anything we couldn’t get packed in time for the movers to take. We had much of the interior of the house repainted (actually, we had both the houses repainted), plus new carpeting upstairs and lots of “handyman” fixes to try to erase as much of the bumps and dings of having actually lived in the place for more than a decade. Then the real estate agent brought in the staging crew and decorated the place. After that was done, we barely recognized it, but while the furnishings and decorations were visually attractive, it was clearly not the kind of usage any normal family would have for the space.
Fortunately, our house did sell fairly quickly for just a bit less than our original asking price, but remember all the crap we stashed away in the garage and the basement? We only just finished clearing that out the same day we had to hand the keys over to our lawyers prior to the sale closing. Where did it all go? Most of it ended up in what I eventually plan to be my woodworking shop in the garage. Lots of the rest ended up going to the dump. I lost track of the total number of dump runs we made … and I know there’s probably more that will need to go that route as we begin to unpack the remaining boxes.
After all that, I really understand the attraction of minimalism but I know I could never live that way: between my thousands of books and my woodworking tools and materials there’s no way to be truly “minimal”. For example, while the garage is currently filled to the brim with “stuff”, my table saw and other woodworking power tools are in a storage locker because there’s no room for them in the shop (yet).
Of course, on a warm spring afternoon, just looking out over the backyard reminds me that the move was worth it:
June 9, 2016
Speaking of Canada and plans, and looking north at the egregious hereditary idiot running the place, the one with the penchant for physical assault of legislators, and his over-privileged and -entitled wife, plus the lunatics who put him in office, it is not impossible that Canada would someday permit easy access to Latins and then ease their way to crossing our northern border. We need to make it absolutely clear that if they ever start doing this their existence as a sovereign nation will end and they will become just another province of a not especially friendly empire, us. We’ve long been Canada’s last line of defense, but they’re our first. They’d better goddamned realize what that means before letting Prince Justin engage his more humanitarian delusions.
Tom Kratman, “El Imperio Contraataque Part 5: Or Maybe More Than A Single Ounce of Prevention…”, EveryJoe, 2016-05-30.
May 25, 2016
In her latest column for Taki’s Magazine, Kathy Shaidle looks at the #elbowgate scandal in parliament:
No, Trudeau’s hissy fit was profoundly unparliamentary, even for him. He’s previously stuck out his tongue at opposition members. This isn’t even the first time he’s cursed in the House. Again: Like father, like son…
And — in any workplace beyond the Hill, perpetrated by any man with a poles-apart pedigree — it would be a fireable (and possibly criminal) offense.
Most readers likely share my dismay that human resources has siphoned so much power from other corporate departments like accounting or sales, as our society’s slow-motion sex change continues. But that’s the world liberals have created, so one might reasonably suspect that — ha! Had you going, didn’t I?
You see, Trudeau calls himself a feminist. All. The. Time. And for those few who haven’t sussed this out by now, that doesn’t mean he treats women equally and respectfully. That would be cwazy tawk! No, it means that, when he elbows one in the boobs, it’s no big deal. Because his feminism “shots” are up to date. He’s immune. See: “Clinton, Bill” and “Kennedy, Ted” for homegrown examples.
Oh, and “Ghomeshi, Jian” for one northern varietal.
I’ve written about Ghomeshi before: the women’s-studies major–turned–minor musician–turned–major Canadian broadcasting “star” and progressive pinup — until he was accused of slapping around his girlfriends. That case went very badly for the girlfriends, but accusations nevertheless persist that Ghomeshi and his fart catchers created a “toxic work environment” at the CBC. One I was forced to subsidize via government extortion, and where his “inappropriate” “sexist” behavior was tolerated and “enabled” zzzzzzz so sleepy…
Alas for, well, this column, “three’s a trend,” not two. But having no such professional scruples, amateur journalists from Victoria to St. John’s gleefully reposted this photo of Ghomeshi and Trudeau looking chummy as shit, along with an #Elbowgate hashtag and cheeky “We’re feminists!” captions.
May 20, 2016
My old regiment gets a bit of media attention, this time from the Orangeville Banner, as Chris Vernon goes along on a spring weekend exercise with the Lorne Scots:
As my handler Lorne Scot Master Corporal Christopher Banks drove through the gates of the 4th Canadian Division Training Centre, I was overcome with a familiar anxiety.
The centre, known by soldiers simply as Meaford, is approximately 17,500 acres of dense bush, limestone cliffs, open meadows, a lake and 22 kilometres of Georgian Bay shoreline. I spent two months here for basic training in the summer of 2005 and at age 35, I believe I was the second oldest recruit.
Soldiers in 32 Brigade Group complete their basic training at Meaford, other career courses and perform several weekend exercises on the base throughout the year, and every fresh-faced private in 32 Brigade knows the anxiety I felt, even now as a civilian, as Banks drove us through the gate.
You see, there is a certain “suckage factor” to Meaford.
“Welcome to the Meaford weather machine,” said Banks, an inside reference among soldiers that refers to the fact that it can be sunny on one side of the base while on the other side it can rain for hours while you are out on a foot patrol.
There’s also poison ivy, a rumoured ghost, mosquitos, and large ruts left in the ground from the 1940s when the army used the base as a tank range. These ruts have sent many recruits home with broken and sprained ankles, not to mention broken dreams, as the injured troop will have to wait till next year to complete basic training.
Headquartered in Toronto, 32 Brigade Group is mostly an infantry brigade consisting of more than 2,400 soldiers in 12 reserve units based in Toronto, Aurora, Barrie, Brampton, Georgetown, Oakville, Mississauga, Owen Sound, Brantford, Simcoe, St. Catharines and CFB Borden. It also has two reconnaissance regiments, two field artillery regiments, a field engineer regiment, six infantry battalions and a communication (signals) unit.
Banks, who did tours in Afghanistan and Bosnia, drives us down a pothole-riddled dirt road. I recognize the road. It’s where I jogged every day between seven and 10 kilometres at 5 a.m. while on basic training.
Banks is taking me to a Forward Operating Base (FOB) where approximately 266 infantry reservists are camped out.
“We are doing raids. Offensive training. When they (soldiers) arrived last night there was no rest. We pushed them across that line of departure at 5 a.m.,” said Lieutenant Colonel Bruce Mair from inside a command post tent where officers are milling about and looking over maps.
Reservists are part-time soldiers who serve generally one night a week, one weekend a month and a few weeks in the summer. Mair has been a reservist for 29 years and in the civilian world serves as a police officer.
Reserve units primarily respond to domestic situations, like ice storms or blackouts. However, they are trained for combat and many members have gone overseas to serve with the regular force in Bosnia and Afghanistan.
May 17, 2016
Richard Anderson responds to the uproar that the PM’s lovely wife somehow has to put up with the indignity of too small a staff to handle her “official duties”:
There is no job called “First Lady of Canada.” Until somewhat recently — Margaret Trudeau incidentally — the wife of the serving Prime Minister was hardly ever mentioned in public. Laureen Harper spent nearly a decade in the role without bothering anyone and with minimal support. The office of British Prime Minister has been in existence for nearly three centuries and even specialist historians would be hard pressed to name more than a handful of Prime Ministerial wives. There is nothing in the laws, customs or traditions of our system of government that regards the spouse of the PM as anything more than a bystander to the functions of the state.
But that was then. As we are continually reminded: It’s 2016!
Justin’s father dispensed with the hum-drum limitations of his role as First Minister, creating the modern Imperial Prime Minister who rules with a rod of iron. It was under the elder Trudeau that ministers became clerks and back-benchers so much parliamentary cannon-fodder. The thing about absolute monarchs — or sandal-clad philosopher kings — is that there is no limit to their purview. All things fall under their sway. Consequently those who serve under the New Sun King’s remit must wield great power as well. To suggest otherwise is the gravest example of lèse majesté.
Mrs Trudeau is not a trained psychiatrist, counsellor, medical expert or technical advisor of any sort. She has a degree in communications and once worked as a personal shopper for Holt Renfrew. Her resume is so thin it makes her husband look like George C Marshall. Like her husband she is the child of upper class Montreal privilege. What actual help such a being could provide to the “people” of Canada is hard to define. Perhaps a pep talk on the importance of being born rich and beautiful and marrying well.
The voters demanded change last October. We replaced a flawed man of substance with a man-child as Prime Minister. Not surprisingly Canada’s new “First Lady” is as useless and vain as her predecessor was accomplished and professional.
May 16, 2016
In the Toronto Sun, David Akin looks at Bernier’s campaign to be the next federal Conservative leader:
“I want a freer and more prosperous country,” Bernier said. “And the way to do that is to have a limited government. I’m a real Conservative. I believe in freedom, responsibility, fairness and respect. That’s the four themes of my campaign. Every public policy will be based on these four themes.”
He is convinced that a campaign of ideas will win both his party’s leadership and the prime minister’s office.
But some of those ideas may be a tough sell in some regions.
No more corporate handouts for the likes of Bombardier or General Motors, for example.
And even though his riding has a huge number of dairy, egg and poultry farmers, he vows to end the high tariffs that protect them from foreign competition and force consumers to pay higher food costs.
He will offer to caucus colleagues and to the party’s grassroots a more inclusive style of leadership than Stephen Harper’s.
Riding associations should be free to pick their own candidates, Bernier said, without interference from the leader. And if MPs want to debate issues or introduce legislation that is at odds with the leader, Bernier would be OK with that.
Bernier, like Harper, has no intention, for example, of going anywhere near abortion but if any of the 10 Conservative MPs at the annual anti-abortion rally last week wanted to introduce a private members’ bill on the subject, they would be free to do so and his caucus would be allowed a free vote.
Bernier would personally focus on smaller government.
“Be a strong government, but in your own jurisdiction. When you have a smaller government, you have more freedom; when you have more more freedom, you have more prosperity,” said Bernier.
“I believe in free markets and I think we must speak about what we believe to Canadians with passion and with conviction.”
May 10, 2016
[The movie] Glory, concerning the raising, training, and early combat actions of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, one of the state’s two free – that’s important – black regiments raised for the Civil War. It’s a good movie, in most respects. But it fosters a couple of half truths which, like most half truths, are wholly misleading.
In the first place, the 54th was not a regiment of runaway slaves. Oh, there are some; men who escaped – self-selecting, like William Carney, as they did – at a time when escape was quite difficult and very dangerous. Most of the men of the 54th, however, were born free. Some, indeed, were born free in Canada. Company G, for example, was recruited in Toronto and came south to fight.
What difference does that make? It makes a vast difference. If one were to peruse the accomplishments of the black regiments in the Civil War, one wouldn’t find much to commend or condemn among the regiments composed of freedmen. Oh, they were important to the war effort, but not for fighting so much as for labor, and to guard behind the lines. The couple of occasions they were given the chance to shine, notably at the Petersburg Crater, circumstances, to include some incredibly stupid decisions, tended to screw them.
So the best we can say of the freedmen regiments is that we don’t know. That said, it would be a very surprising thing – an unconscionable defense of slavery, really – to suggest that having been enslaved didn’t do bad things to one’s character, didn’t set one in the mind of being inferior, didn’t strike at one’s self confidence and morale at the very core.
The good regiments, conversely, 54th and 55th Massachusetts, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Louisiana Native Guard, 1st and 2nd Kansas Colored, 20th USCT … some few others … were by and large free born. They did well, fought well, and, in disproportionately large numbers, died well. But they had never, in the main, been subjected to the literal degradation and decay of slavery while, for that fraction which had, they had either self-selected for sheer obstinate courage or could draw considerable moral support from those who had or who had been born free.
And then there’s the other thing that annoyed me about the movie, that scene where the men of the 54th – explicitly, if wrongly, portrayed as runaway slaves – are issued their first uniforms and everything changes in an instant from disorder, indiscipline, and general raggedness to precision, as if the mere symbol could change the reality.
The very idea is nonsense. One doesn’t overcome a lifetime’s conditioning with a symbol. No, not even if you desperately want to. No, not even if you can convince a court and legislature that your fantasy must be given wing. It just doesn’t work like that.
Tom Kratman, “The Amazon’s Right Breast”, Baen Books, 2011.
May 7, 2016
The Canadian military (all branches, but especially the reserve forces) have an obesity problem that needs drastic measures to address. Ted Campbell offers his prescription to trim down the bloat:
Command of the Armed Forces should flow from the Governor General, who is, by the Letters Patent of issued by King George VI in 1947, the Commander in Chief, through the Chief of the Defence Staff who should also, for clarity, be styled “Commander Canadian Armed Forces” (COMCAF) and to four regional joint commanders: Commanders of Pacific, Western, Eastern and Atlantic Commands. Each of those commanders should have subordinate and appropriately ranked Naval, Army and Air “component commanders.” (Appropriately means according to the size and scope of the forces in their commands. The Naval Component Commander in Western Command, which has only a handful of Naval Reserve Divisions, might be a Navy Captain while the Army Component Commander in each of Pacific and Atlantic Commands might be an Army colonel or, at best, a brigadier general.)
Staffs should be lower ranked and as [a] firm, absolutely inviolable rule no staff officer in any headquarters may outrank the principal commanders who are directly subordinate to the commander that staff officer serves. In some, rare, cases principal staff officers might be equal in rank to subordinate commanders so that the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff and the officer who heads the national Joint Staff might both be three star officers (vice admirals/lieutenant generals) as would be the commanders of the four Joint Commands. But in an army brigade group, which, given its size and combat power, ought to be commanded by a brigadier general (not by a colonel), where the principal subordinate commanders are lieutenant colonels, the principle operations and support staff officers ought to be majors.
In short almost every staff officer currently serving in almost every HQ, large and small, high and low, in the Canadian Armed Forces is, right now, one (in a few cases two) rank higher than (s)he needs to be. This (over-ranking) is a serious problem because it contributes to HQ bloat and it clouds what should be a very, very clear “chain of command.” It should change, soon. Change would be unpopular and moderately difficult but not, at all, impossible.
Fewer, smaller, leaner and meaner, and lower ranked HQs will, I am 99.99% certain, be more efficient and effective and they might be forced to actually understand the unique pressures that face reserve force members ~ most of whom have full time, civilian jobs (or are full time students) and who do their reserve force work after the “bankers’ hours” that almost all Canadian Armed Forces HQs work. (If I had a penny for every horror story I have heard about army staff officers who know far, far too little about the reserve force units in their areas and who give, sometimes just silly but often quite stupidly impossible
ordersguidance or tasks, that cannot possibly be met on time, if at all, I would be a wealthy man. Now, it may not be clear that lower ranks will solve that, but I believe that lower ranked officers are more likely to work harder (as all staff officers should) and, in an effort to impress their commanders (and his subordinate commanders, too), work smarter, too, which will alleviate many of the problems that are the result of useless HQ “busy work.”
Less money spent on useless, over-ranked staff officers in redundant HQs would mean that equipment and support personnel could be found for the Army Reserve. Minister Harjit Sajjan knows the problem … all he needs to do is to push General Jon Vance in the right (unpopular but right) direction. They are both new enough on the job and each brings to it well known sense of “operational” soldiering that they could make unpopular decisions, give unpopular orders and shake up the comfortable, somnolent, entrenched uniformed bureaucracy, especially in the Canadian Army, and, thereby, reinvigorate the Canadian Army Reserve, using the Auditor General’s damning report as a catalyst for change.