Quotulatiousness

December 3, 2017

Alberta debates marijuana legalization … oddly

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Colby Cosh’s most recent column is a real-life illustration of the old Bastiat saying that “The worst thing that can happen to a good cause is not to be skillfully attacked, but to be ineptly defended”:

I will leave better informed people to discuss Mr. Orr’s creative interpretation of the Cultural Revolution as being a proto-Reaganite anti-drug crusade. Actually, I am just informed enough to discuss it, briefly. Here’s the discussion: it’s bananas.

And yet! — the nonsense about China might not even have been the silliest part of the speech. Orr has concerns that legalized marijuana might not serve to suppress illegal production. This could, in itself, be a legitimate point. There is a genuine fear that the licensed vendors will set the price too high to compete with existing dealers. But it is not quite the point Orr chose to make. He seems to be convinced that licensed growers cannot compete with the black market at any price.

Why is it that criminals grow pot? Orr’s answer is not “because growing pot has, until now, been a crime.” That would be too easy. “Let’s look at it from a business point of view,” he suggests…

“The black market doesn’t have to pay taxes. They don’t have to pay (worker’s compensation). In most cases they don’t have to pay for any capital expenditures on land or buildings. They don’t have to buy business licences. In many cases they don’t pay for power… Anybody who tries to do this legally is going to have to pay all of these expenses, and you think you can compete financially on that level with them?”

This, of course, explains why, when we want furniture or shoes or chicken, we all invariably buy them in back alleys from underground businesses. But if Orr were to actually look around Alberta — even his own part of Alberta — he would see that lawful businesses do have some advantages.

Legal growers can raise hundreds of millions of dollars in capital markets not run by guys named Lefty or Snake. They can recruit scientists, professional marketers, and horticultural experts without having to hope Walter White shows up. They can exploit economies of scale. They can buy or rent acres of land without having to hide from helicopters. They can do business in broad daylight: they can rent billboards.

And meanwhile, it is not really as though illegal pot growers don’t have labour costs, or overhead, or capital and land requirements. Underground businesses that don’t pay “tax” still have to spend money, often more money, on the basic protective services that taxes buy the rest of us. Any economist could have told Mr. Orr as much. But I am afraid he got his economics out of the same Cracker Jack box his Chinese history came from.

November 29, 2017

Something rotten at the Royal Military College of Canada

Filed under: Cancon, Education, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Ted Campbell discusses the concerns about the Royal Military College (RMC) in the latest Auditor General’s report:

Aerial view of the main RMC campus in Kingston, Ontario.
Photo from Ted Campbell’s Point of View

As you can well imagine, despite the almost zero interest in government and the media ~ reflecting the fact that taxpayers neither know much nor care even a tiny bit about the military, unless there’s a scandal with sexual overtones ~ this is a hot topic amongst many of my friends. Reactions range from:

  • Hey, RMC is doing just fine, it is meeting its assigned mission ~ “The mission of the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) is to produce officers with the mental, physical and linguistic capabilities and the ethical foundation required to lead with distinction in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF)” ~ and who cares if it costs a bit more than, say, getting a tainted BA from Laurier?
  • … through to …

  • Burn. It. To. The. Ground.

Most of my military friends and acquaintances agree, broadly, with the Auditor General:

  • The Royal Military College is a pretty good university that produces well educated men and women, most of whom are, perhaps, somewhat less than adequately prepared for further military training; but
  • The Royal Military College is notably weaker than in years (decades) past and weaker than it should be, today, at producing young men and women who are physically fit, even tough, who have high ethical standards and who display an acceptable level of leadership skill and ability.

So, why, one might ask, is The Royal Military College an academically fine college but not so good at the military stuff?

Friends and acquaintances who are reasonable closely connected to RMC (current and former academic and military staff and/or officers in the parts of the HQ that have responsibility for RMC) suggest that the academic staff (currently led by the College Principal, Dr. H.J. (Harry) Kowal, CD, rmc, BEng, MSAe, MA(SS), MDS, PhD, PEng, BGen (Ret’d)) has a better focus on what it is doing and why it is doing it than does the military staff (currently led by the Commandant, Brigadier General Sébastien Bouchard, an Army officer from one of the engineering branches). Should BrigadierGeneral Bouchard be fired and replaced with someone better? No, the problem is not his leadership ability, it is that Dr. Kowal’s mission is clearer, simpler and easier to accomplish than is General Bouchard’s. In theory the reverse ought to be true, but …

Most of my friends and acquaintances who are “in the know” agree that RMC’s biggest problem is that the military, proper, has far, far too little say in who gets in and once in students are not allowed to fail out for fitness (athletic), ethical or leadership deficiencies.

A while ago a friend related a story (it’s actually three or four stories, all put together) about one of the courses at the College ~ it was about a mid-term exam: one student was caught cheating, one simply failed to even write the exam and a third had to be given a second chance because (s)he had a learning disability. “Wait!” I exclaimed, “How in hell did someone with a learning disability get into RMC in the first place? How in hell will someone with a learning disability ever stand watch on the bridge of a ship, command a troop of tanks in battle or fly an airplane?” “Not to worry,” my friend said, “(s)he will never get that far … but (s)he will graduate.” He went on to explain that no one in “official Ottawa” is wiling to enforce standards any more. No one believes that a person with a learning disability severe enough to require special attention like an exam re-write can ever do any useful job as an officer in the CF, but no one has the courage to say, up front, “sorry, Margaret or Mike, but you are not qualified to study at RMC because we, the military, have our own, valid, operationally required standards and you don’t meet them.” In the 21st century we all know that every snowflake is special and every special snowflake will go to some human rights tribunal if the military ties to enforce reasonable, legitimate standards, and the admirals and generals and bureaucrats and politicians are far more afraid of a human rights story in the media than they are of North Korean missiles.

“But,” I said, “what about the one who cheated and the one who just ditched the exam?” They, I suggested, must, surely, have been given the old “heave-ho.” “Nope,” my friend answered, “the exam was just declared optional ~ it will count as, say, 15% of the final course mark so the young person who ditched it will still, most likely, graduate and the cadet who cheated was given a bureaucratic rap on the knuckles because no one in the military chain had the balls to fail him/her.” Failing someone, he said, is very, very difficult because even the military has adapted to a social system in which everyone must pass everything … only, he said, in a few (hard science and engineering) departments is there some doubt about everyone passing everything.

November 28, 2017

The Canadian Army’s Leopard tanks

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In a discussion on Facebook the other day, I’d mistakenly stated that the Canadian Army had initially sent the “new” Leopard 2 tanks leased from Germany (20 refurbished Leopard 2A6Ms) to Afghanistan to support the Kandahar mission. In fact, as a lengthy article linked by John Donovan pointed out, our poor zipperheads had been operating non-air-conditioned Leopard 1 tanks until the government made arrangements with some of our NATO allies to get modern MBTs into the combat zone. I suspect the reason for my confusion was that the old Leopard 1 tanks were designated as “C2” by the army and I’d confused that with the more general “Leopard 2” name for the modern tank. This article in Defence Industry Daily sets out the details:

Leopard 2A6M in Afghanistan

A number of options for renewing Canada’s tank capability were considered, ranging from refurbishment, to surplus, to new. Delivery time was of the essence, and DND’s examination determined that the cost of any new vehicles involved paying up to 3 times as much as buying the same basic tank models on the surplus heavy tank market. New medium tank options like the 32-tonne CV90-120 light tank also offered full tracked mobility and similar firepower at less cost, but Canada had learned that heavier weight was often a tactical plus in theater, and decided that they needed vehicles sooner rather than later.

Accordingly, the Canadian government approached 6 allied nations regarding surplus main battle tank sales, and received proposals from 3 of them. It then went ahead and made 2 purchases, plus another 2 follow-on buys.

Their tank choice is a modern mainstay for many countries. Thanks in part to the great DeutschePanzerSchlussverkauf (German Panzer fire sale), the Leopard 2 and its variants external link have now been bought by Germany, Austria, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Finland, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Singapore, Switzerland, Sweden, and Turkey.

Canada’s 1st step was a lease, in order to get modern, air-conditioned tanks to the front lines immediately. Germany won that order, and 20 German Leopard 2A6M mine-protected tanks were delivered by the summer of 2007 to replace existing Leopard 1A5/C2 tanks in Afghanistan. The new tanks’ electric turret systems produce less heat than the C2s did, and air conditioning was added to the new German tanks in theater. This was a relief to Canadian tank crews, who had needed protective suites in the 140F/ 60C interiors of their Leopard 1A5 tanks.

The 2A6M is the most modern serving Leopard variant, though KMW had proposed a “Leopard 2 Peace Support Operations” variant with improved protection, and integrated combat engineering capabilities. By the time modifications were finished, the Leopard 2A6 CAN turned out to fall somewhere between the conventional 2A6M and the PSO. Canada actually ended up keeping the leased and modified German tanks, and sending 20 Leopard 2A6Ms from its follow-on purchases back to Germany.

The follow-on purchases of 127 tanks were won by 3 countries. The biggest order for 100 tanks went to the Dutch, who are serving under NATO ISAF beside Canadian forces in southern Afghanistan. Training for 5 years and initial spares will also be provided. Cooperation between these nations is not new. Dutch PzH-2000 mobile howitzers have already proven very helpful during Operation Medusa external link, and so had their CH-47 Chinook medium-heavy helicopters – some of which were bought as surplus from the Canadians in the 1980s. The cycle continues. And so it goes.

In the aftermath of their sales to Norway, Denmark, and now Canada, The Dutch were left with 110 Leopard 2A6-NL tanks in their arsenal. Other sales dropped that total further, and on On April 8/11, the Dutch Ministry of Defense announced that the last tank unit was to be dissolved and all remaining Leopard tanks sold.

The additional Leopard 2 buys totaled 27 tanks/ hulls. First, another 15 Leopard 2A4s were bought from Germany, to be used for spare parts. This hadn’t been contemplated in the initial plan, but it was necessary. The initial set of 20 leased German Leopard 2A6Ms were experiencing readiness problems, as tanks were cannibalized in order to keep others running. A 2010 buy from Switzerland added 12 stripped Pz 87s (Leopard 2A4 variants) for conversion to specialty vehicles, under Canada’s Force Mobility Enhancement (FME) program.

The earlier Leopard 1 tanks had been purchased in the late 1970s (very much against the preferences of the government of the day) to replace the late 1940s vintage Centurion tanks the Canadian Army had been operating:

Canadian Leopard 1A3 (Leopard C1) at the Bovington Tank Museum.
Photo by Chris Parfeniuk, via Flickr.

When 4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group was moved from Westphalia to Lahr on the Rhine frontier with France, some policy-makers apparently sought to do away with Canada’s tanks entirely.

For some years, the brigade continued to use their Centurion tanks, an excellent tank in its day but one that could not be used on long road moves. In 1975, the Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, visited Germany to ask the Chancellor for his support for getting Canada special trade status with the European Common Market. He was told to come back to discuss the matter once Canada had replaced its antiquated tanks.

The contract for the Leopard tank acquisition followed quickly. Consideration had been given to totally rebuilding the Centurions with new power pack as the Israeli army has done with their Centurions. Before the order could be delivered Canada negotiated a deal with the German Government to lease 35 Leopard 1A2’s to train their crews on the new tanks.

The upgrade from the initial Leopard C1 to the C2 model began in 1996:

Late in 1996 it was announced that the Canadian Forces were to carry out a major update on their fleet of Leopard C1 tanks (The C1 was the equivalent of the Leopard 1A3), which involved the replacement of the existing turret with the complete turret of the German Leopard 1A5. The Leopard 1A5 turret features the STN ATLAS Elektronik EMES-18 computerized fire-control system which incorporates a Carl Zeiss thermal imager.

The 105mm L7 rifled guns in the Leopard 1A5 turrets were not retained but were replaced with Canadian Leopard C1 original 105mm guns, the L7A1. The ballistic computers were reprogrammed to match 105 mm Canadian ammunition.

The turret rebuild was carried out in Germany and commenced in June 1997 with the first turret being shipped to Canada in December 1997. GLS refurbished the turret, removed the 105 mm gun, modified the turret where required, including the installation of the new radios ordered under the Tactical Command, Control and Communications System project.

The turrets were shipped to Canada where a subcontractor installed the 105 mm L7A1 barrel and mounted the turret on the existing chassis for final delivery to the Canadian Forces. It was expected that about six turrets a month would be upgraded with each turret taking six months to upgrade. The program was completed by late 2001.

November 22, 2017

The Canadian version of the Sterling submachine gun

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

The Canadian army kept the Sten as their standard SMG for several years after the war, but eventually had to come up with a replacement weapon. The selection committee eventually settled on Sterling SMG, which the British army had been using, with a few modifications. Historical Firearms has the details:

…in November 1956, the first Anglo-Canadian Submachine Gun Steering Committee meeting was held. The Canadians liked the Sterling and requested a manufacturing license. They did, however, wish to make some changes to the weapon before they adopted it.
These changes included a small bayonet boss and redesigned lug reinforcement for the L1A1 rifle bayonet, a simpler trigger mechanism designed by Sterling engineer Les Ruffell, a height adjustable front sight taken from the L1A1, an adjustable rear sight with wider sight protectors. In early 1957, these changes were encapsulated in a sample model assembled from Fazakerly-made L2A3s, these were re-designated the L2A4. Later changes were also made to simplify the Canadian Sterling’s end cap and a squarer brass deflector and hand stop.

The primary internal departures from Patchett’s original design were the decision to have a single rather than double return spring and to use a non-helically grooved bolt. Instead using an improved Sten breech block, this had a number of advantages including being able to use existing tooling, avoiding paying royalties for Patchett’s bolt and simplifying production. Compared to the Sterling-made guns the C1 was certainly simpler using stampings and spot-welding.

However, the C1 retained a surprising level of parts commonality with many parts interchangeable between both Canadian and British weapons. This commonality included magazines, however, the Canadians also simplified the magazine’s design. They dispensed with Patchett’s roller system and designed their own magazine which held 30, rather than 34 rounds, but could be used in all Sterling-pattern guns.

Two experimental suppressed C1s were made by Long Branch to replace the Sten MkII(s) and the MkVI, but the Sterling-Patchett L34A1/Mk5 was adopted instead. Canada purchased at least 5 L34A1s.

The Long Branch Arsenal was just west of Toronto along Lakeshore Road in what is now Mississauga (my cadet hall was adjacent to the former factory site):

I didn’t realize the site had been active that late … I’d assumed it was demolished shortly after the Korean War.

November 19, 2017

Unique Ross Experimental A2 Pistol Prototype

Filed under: Cancon, History, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Forgotten Weapons
Published on 13 Mar 2017

This is a very rare Ross automatic pistol, patented in 1903 by Charles Ross, of the Ross Rifle Company in Quebec. It is a short recoil, toggle locked design, made for the .45 Ross proprietary cartridge (although efforts were made, unsuccessfully, to make a .45 ACP version for the US 1907 pistol trials).

November 17, 2017

Canada is back in peacekeeping … sorta

Filed under: Africa, Cancon, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Ted Campbell is not happy with the government’s “decision” on peacekeeping:

It appears that today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced just about the “best thing” for him and his Liberals in the long, long, long run up to the 2019 election campaign; but it’s pretty much the worst thing he could do for Canada and the Canadian Forces and the UN. In fact: it appears to involve a handful of “penny packet” commitments ~ a “grab bag” one journalist said, none of which will do much good ~ being too small to even been noticed amongst the 75,000+ UN soldiers in Africa ~ and none of which will contribute materially to the Trudeau Liberal’s quest for a second class, temporary, powerless seat on the worthless UN Security Council.

Let’s be very clear: Canada is not “back” ~ this is a far cry from the sort of traditional UN peacekeeping that Canada did in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s and that Justin Trudeau and many, many Canadians imagined in 2015, and it is a far cry from what Canada could do if the government really wanted to help.

[…] I suspect that too many non-military voices in too many special interest groups argued for the “penny packet” and “let the UN help decide” approach. My suspicion is that the UN simply doesn’t know how to organize or manage a complex, logistical and/or air transport mission, and the “civil society” special interests that want Canada “back” in UN peacekeeping have no idea at all about military matters or how to get the most bang for the buck.

The good news for the Liberals is that it will the autumn of 2018, at the earliest, when “negotiations” with the UN come to some sort of conclusion and, probably, early 2019 before Canada actually sends anyone into anything like harm’s way … just in time for a campaign photo-op with the PM waving good-by to some female RCAF members in baby blue berets as they board a plane bound for somewhere. And, so long as the UN doesn’t send any home in caskets the Trudeau government campaign team will be happy. But it will give Team Trudeau another chance to smugly proclaim that “Canada’s back,” and that’s all that really matters in official Ottawa late in this decade.

Is There Any Cheese in Cheez Whiz? (And the Story of Kraft)

Filed under: Business, Cancon, History, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Today I Found Out
Published on 5 Nov 2017

In this video:

As America gets ready for their upcoming Super Bowl parties (or Royal Rumble party, if that’s your thing), Cheez Whiz – the yellowish-orange, gooey, bland tasting “cheese” product – will surely make an appearance at some of them. But what is Cheez Whiz? Why did get it invented? And is there really cheese in Cheez Whiz?

Want the text version?: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2015/01/cheese-cheez-whiz/

November 14, 2017

“…the Mount Rushmore of Canadian television for grown-ups”

Filed under: Cancon, Media — Tags: — Nicholas @ 05:00

I stopped watching much television on a regular basis by the time I was in my late teens, so I’m certainly not qualified to talk about what shows might qualify as the greatest Canadian TV, but Colby Cosh points to Justin McElroy’s NCAA-style tournament bracket of Canadian TV (English language only) as perhaps the most accurate representation we’re likely to see:

The bracket provides for an interesting overview — necessarily short-sighted, and skewed toward shows that an online audience has a chance of remembering — of Canada’s English-language television history. McElroy made the choice to organize the “tournament” in thematic quadrants, which created an immediate problem in the small 16-show version of the bracket. Literally all the best English Canadian programs for adult audiences have been comedies, and were packed in with each other in the early rounds.

This is still a bit of a problem in the expanded version, and I am cross with McElroy for setting it up this way, but it is his baby. And when I think about it, I admire the way he made pretty indisputable choices within the comedy category. His original four comedy invitees to the tournament were SCTV, Corner Gas, The Kids in the Hall, and Trailer Park Boys.

That’s… pretty much the Mount Rushmore of Canadian television for grown-ups, isn’t it? I have a special fondness for SCTV, which is part generational and part parochial: if I peep over the top of my desktop Mac right now, I can look down at the plaza where they shot the walk-and-talk sequence in Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas’s “Play It Again, Bob.” And I could go have lunch in the restaurant where they wrote it, too.

SCTV’s capture of an NBC time slot, its (now widely acknowledged) out-competing of Saturday Night Live, and its monumental role in the imaginations of today’s influential comedians make it a special Canadian treasure. And it has aged pretty well: people of all ages still laugh at “Count” Floyd Robertson, I think.

[…]

These shows all did what is often thought to be nigh-impossible for Canadian TV: they found devoted, permanent international fans. Nearly all the shows in the other brackets are mere schlocky Canadiana, of no enduring interest to anyone else on the planet. The Degrassi franchise is perhaps the major exception — and even it might be called schlocky Canadiana, if we’re being frank with one another. Its reputation in the U.S. depends heavily on the social-realist adventurousness that the Canadian broadcast environment permitted: for Americans it seems to be almost like watching another country’s weird porn.

However, no mention of the great shows of Canadian [content] TV would be complete without at least a tip of the hat to one of the worst TV shows ever made.

November 11, 2017

Mark Knopfler – “Remembrance Day”

Filed under: Britain, Cancon, History, Military, WW1, WW2 — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Bob Oldfield
Published on 3 Nov 2011

A Remembrance Day slideshow using Mark Knopfler’s wonderful “Remembrance Day” song from the album Get Lucky (2009). The early part of the song conveys many British images, but I have added some very Canadian images also which fit with many of the lyrics. The theme and message is universal… ‘we will remember them’.

Vimy Ridge Heaven to Hell – Full Documentary

Filed under: Cancon, France, Germany, History, Military, WW1 — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Bobmarliist
Published on 8 Feb 2013

November 6, 2017

The end of the battle of Passchendaele, 1917

Filed under: Cancon, Europe, History, Military, WW1 — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

The Canadian Corps under Lieutenant General Arthur Currie began the final phase of the battle on 6 November, 1917:

By 6 November, the Canadians were prepared to advance upon the Green Line. The final objective was to capture the high ground north of the town and to secure positions on the eastern side of Passchendaele Ridge. Again, according to Major Robert Massie: “The third attack … was the day when the First and Second Divisions took Passchendaele itself. On this occasion, the attack went off the most smoothly of any of the three. They had fair ground to go over, and especially those that went into Passchendaele itself had pretty fair going, and the objectives were reached on time.”

After early hand-to-hand fighting, the 2nd Division easily occupied Passchendaele just three hours after commencement of the attack at 0600 hours. The 1st Division, however, found itself in some trouble when one company of the 3rd Battalion became cut off and was stranded in a bog. When this situation eventually righted itself, the 1st Division continued toward its objectives. Well-camouflaged tunnels at Moseelmarkt provided an opportunity for the enemy to counterattack, but they were fended off by the Canadians. By the end of the day, the Canadian Corps was firmly in control of both Passchendaele and the ridge.

The final Canadian action at Passchendaele commenced at 0605 hours on 10 November 1917. Sir Arthur Currie used the opportunity to make adjustments to the line, strengthening his defensive positions. Robert Massie summed up the thoughts of many participating Canadians as follows: “What those men did at Passchendaele was beyond praise. There was no protection in that land. They could not get into the trenches which were full of mud, and you would see two or three of them huddled together during the night, lying on ground that was pure mud, without protection of any kind, and then going forward the next morning and cleaning up their job.”

[…]

The Canadians had done the impossible. After just 14 days of combat, they had driven the German army out of Passchendaele and off the ridge. There was almost nothing left of the village to hold. Altogether, the Canadian Corps had fired a total of 1,453,056 shells, containing 40,908 tons of high explosive. Aerial photography verified approximately one million shell holes in a one square mile area. The human cost was even greater. Casualties on the British side totalled over 310,000, including approximately 36,500 Australians and 3596 New Zealanders. German casualties totalled 260,000 troops.

For the Canadians, Currie’s words were prophetic. He had told Haig it would cost Canada 16,000 casualties to take Passchendaele – and, in truth, the final total was 15,654, many of whom were killed. One thousand Canadian bodies were never recovered, trapped forever in the mud of Flanders. Nine Canadians won the Victoria Cross during the battles for Passchendaele. While the human cost had been terrible: “Nevertheless, the competence, confidence, and maturity began in 1915 at Ypres a short distance away, and at Vimy Ridge earlier that spring, again confirmed the reputation of the Canadian Corps as the finest fighting formation on the Western Front.” So wrote esteemed Professor of History Doctor Ronald Haycock at the Royal Military College of Canada for The Oxford Companion to Canadian History in 2004.

Haig proved to be true to his word. By 14 November 1917, the Canadians had been returned to the relative quiet of the Vimy sector. They had not been asked to hold what it had cost them so much to take. However, by March 1918, all the gains made by Canada at Passchendaele would be lost in the German spring offensive known as Operation Michael.

General Sir David Watson praised the Canadian effort: “It need hardly be a matter of surprise that the Canadians by this time had the reputation of being the best shock troops in the Allied Armies. They had been pitted against the select guards and shock troops of Germany and the Canadian superiority was proven beyond question. They had the physique, the stamina, the initiative, the confidence between officers and men (so frequently of equal standing in civilian life) and happened to have the opportunity.”

British Prime Minister David Lloyd George was even clearer when it came to the Canadians: “Whenever the Germans found the Canadian Corps coming into the line they prepared for the worst.”

November 3, 2017

Battle of Beersheba – Canadian Frustration – Balfour Declaration I THE GREAT WAR Week 171

The Great War
Published on 2 Nov 2017

On the Western Front this week, the Canadians under Sir Arthur Currie attempt to advance once more, whilst Haig remains optimistic about an imminent breakthrough. Following Caporetto, the Italian retreat continues, whilst the British Army enjoys success on the Palestine Front, with a little help from mounted ANZAC troops. With Lenin’s return, the revolution looms over the Russian capital, whilst the Balfour Declaration is issued in Britain.

October 31, 2017

We may no longer refer to a last-place candidate as having “lost their deposit”

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Colby Cosh on a recent court ruling in that hotbed of radical democracy, the Alberta Queen’s Bench, declaring candidate deposits for federal elections to be unconstitutional:

Deposits are a tradition in Canadian federal elections as old as the ballot itself, dating to 1874. But Queen’s Bench Justice Avril Inglis’s ruling suggests that their days are probably numbered. They were introduced for the purpose, stated at the time and very often re-stated since, of deterring frivolous candidates for office. Before the year 2000, you needed to hand over $1,000 to run in a federal election: you got half back automatically if you complied with the Ps and Qs of election law, and the other half if you got at least 15 per cent of the vote.

This practice ran into trouble when (literal) communists litigated against it, arguing that it impeded the Charter rights of the poor and humble to participate in elections. Parliament acknowledged this by making the full $1,000 refundable, so talking heads no longer speak of “forfeiting one’s deposit” on election night. But the government continued to take the view that the “frivolous” need to be discouraged from pursuing federal candidacies. This was not really a satisfying rectification of the Charter issue, as Kieran Szuchewycz, an Edmontonian with some legal experience, seems to have noticed.

The truth is that Szuchewycz (who, for all I know, could be the guy who mops my local 7-Eleven) ran circles around the Department of Justice lawyers who turned up to oppose him. Justice Inglis has ruled that the $1,000 deposit fails almost every point of the Oakes test for laws that impinge on Charter rights. She found that “preserving the legitimacy of the electoral process” is an important objective, but the connection between having a grand lying around and being a “serious” candidate is not clear.

Szuchewycz observed that nowhere in the literature defending election deposits is “seriousness” or “frivolousness” defined. Nobody can point to an example of any harm arising from the existence of even admittedly frivolous candidates, like the long-established Rhinos.

And, well, the deposit doesn’t seem to discourage the Rhinos, does it? If you are well-heeled but “frivolous” you can afford the deposit. If you are in earnest, but broke, it’s a problem. And there are other “seriousness” tests in election law, notably the requirement for candidates to gather nominating signatures from riding residents. So what’s the thousand bucks for specifically?

Update, 8 November: Elections Canada is respecting the Alberta Queen’s Bench decision and no longer requires candidates in federal elections to submit a deposit. H/T again to Colby Cosh.

October 29, 2017

The Poutine crisis – “Toronto is living a cheese curd lie”

Filed under: Cancon, Randomness — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Toronto loves to adopt anything trendy and try to claim it as its own. Poutine, an imported delicacy from Quebec, early on was lovingly described as “the culinary equivalent of having unprotected sex with a stripper in the parking lot of a truck stop in eastern Quebec”, yet has been culturally appropriated as part of Toronto’s myriad of “local” dishes. Yet, according to this explosive investigatory report by Jake Edmiston, the so-called poutine that Toronto loves is … falsely labelled, inadequate, lacking a key component:

Some time ago, I realized that in Toronto, the cheese curds do not squeak. And cheese curds that do not squeak are a dangerous thing. They can trick you into thinking that cheese curds are just chopped-up cheese. The whole idea, to those unlucky enough to have never had a good one, must seem absurd: Eating cheese by itself, piece by piece in the same compulsive way that someone eats more chips than they need.

Think of the nightmare lived by a man scouring a city for chips that crunch but finding each bag stale. I am him.

As food-obsessed as it is, Toronto is living a cheese curd lie. It’s not always a popular assessment, though. One local cheesemonger took it rather badly.

“Who said that?” Afrim Pristine, the maître fromager at Cheese Boutique, demanded over the phone earlier this month.

“I say that,” I replied.

“You say that?” he said, confused. “Have you been to the Cheese Boutique?”

“I haven’t had your cheese curds yet.”

“So why would you say that?”

“I haven’t said it in print yet. I’m just saying that.”

“Okay. Um, I think you’re very, very wrong,” he said. “I think you’re incredibly wrong. To say that you can’t find good cheese curds in Toronto, I think, is crazy, actually.”

[…]

Curds are the butterflies of the cheese world — beautiful, transcendent, but only for an instant. They offer the rare example of cheese reaching its full expression as a snack unto itself, so airy and texturally complex that it is liberated from the usual dependence on crackers or bread or wine. Curds have been spared all the pressing and squeezing that occurs in the late stages of the cheddar-making process. They’re pulled right from the vat before any of that happens, still full of air and whey. That’s what makes them so much different than the cubes of mild cheddar beside the slices of salami on your cheese tray. Not for long. As that moisture seeps out over time, they inch closer to their cubed cousins, closer to ordinary. The squeak is, really, the only thing separating the two.

H/T to James Bow for the link.

October 28, 2017

QotD: Special forces are not a “cheaper” alternative to large, conventional forces

Filed under: Cancon, History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Special Forces are a good tool, and an old one … their origins go all the way back to colonial (mid 18th century) North America when units like Butler’s Rangers and Rogers’ Rangers were formed. The British kept skirmishing troops alive in the form of The Rifles (heirs to the traditions of numerous, famous “rifle” and “light infantry” regiments) and many 21st century Canadian regiments still bear similar titles. Special Forces had a rebirth of sort in World War II when the British made raiding and commando operations into an important tool ~ because they, the Brits, did not have the resources to take the fight to the Germans in Europe in 1941 and ’42. Modern history is full of raiding exploits from Entebbe to the killing of Osama bin Laden and it all encourages penny pinching politicians to believe, incorrectly, that a few Special Forces soldiers can replace battalions and brigades … they cannot, they do not: they are (relatively) narrow specialists who do a few, small things very, very well but cannot conduct major combat operations or even their own specialized tasks for anything like a sustained period.

Canada needs some Special Forces ~ maybe 2,500 is the right number, I do not know. But good Special Forces are always drawn from a large pool of tough, superbly disciplined, well trained sailors, soldiers and aviators. If the government wants to use more and more Special Forces in a variety of roles then it needs, above all, to maintain a large enough, high quality base from which to create and sustain them. Special Forces are part of a modern, combat capable (and, therefore, expensive) military … they are not a low cost replacement for it, no matter what the Liberal Party of Canada might want.

Ted Campbell, “Special Forces”, Ted Campbell’s Point of View, 2017-10-16.

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