Sunday, August 26, 2007

Brad MacArthur

Brad MacArthur was my friend. He died yesterday.

He was an ordinary guy, but an extraordinary guy in a lot of ways as well. He never had much in the way of those 15 minutes of fame, but that's just as well, he was no celebrity.

He was a traveler - I guess when you come from a small town you either want to see some of the world or you're content in your oyster. Brad was both. He got to see Canada, or a large chunk of it, and did some traveling in the States, as well, as far south as Texas. The time he spent in BC working with his brother Terry were formative years for him. It was there he developed his knowledge of forestry and horticulture that would provide him with a start in life.

Those travelling times created tales and engendered a 'family' of Bud's friends from one side of the land to the other. For Bud was good at attracting, and keeping, friends. From the beach on South Padre Island to Lumby BC , Brad's travels and adventures were the treasures of his lifetime.

I met Brad when we moved into the house next door to his folks some 30 years back. He was just leaving on the first of his out-west peregrinations, so meeting him, as opposed to his Mom and Dad, had to wait a year or so. There are some people you meet you have an affinity for, and Brad was one of those for me. We were constant companions in a number of projects and adventures and capers over the next decade. It got to be that some people confused us thinking I was him or vice versa.

Brad was a constant in our house at Christmas and birthdays - our kids got to know him as an uncle. It was at our place that Brad met the gal he married, Marianne. We were involved in a Church group, so was she, they met at our place. One night Bud dropped in .. the wedding was about 8 months later. Brad and Marin had two kids of which Brad was immensely proud. His family became his focus and that was perhaps the most remarkable thing about him. He was as constant a husband and father as he was a friend. Not being particularly 'churched' or describing himself as 'holy' by any stretch. Brad became a Roman Catholic - to be a better example to his kids. He became a 'good' Catholic, attentive to the requirements of his faith, and perhaps holier than he would have admitted to being. There's every chance that faith has paid-off for him to-day.

Life gave Brad a number of knocks, like everybody, I guess, but he dealt with them well. He had a government job, in the Highways Department for a number of years. He was 'downsized' in the eighties and work for him became a series of 'contract' positions. He always had work, but it was never secure work, the kind you could plan on. When he died, on the job yesterday, he was working two jobs seven days a week. His health had been up-and down. He smoked for years and found quitting hard, but eventually he did it. For a while he looked ill, pale, grey, diminished. But taking another full-time job as a meat inspector seemed to revitalize him, he waxed and looked well, healthier than ever. A burst appendix emergency revealed an undiagnosed heart problem a few years back. Whether that, or the strain of too much work, affected him, who knows?

He went quick. He would have wanted to go that way. He missed his Brother Terry who died a year ago almost to the day. Every one of his nieces and nephews, some from out west, just happened to be 'at home' this week when he died, so they're all here for his funeral. His sisters, Mom and Dad as well. He couldn't have planned things much better - other than for his buddies out west.

Brad's the first of my friends to go. A dear friend and a good buddy. I'll miss him, but I'll have the tales, and memories.

Brad MacArthur wasn't as great as some men, or wealthy, or brilliant - he was just good at everything he did, I think he deserves to be noted for that and writing this is something I owe him, and me.

Be seein' ya Bud! No more "Running on Empty."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Montebello Que.

The leaders of the free world came, and saw and had a laugh. At least two of them did, the little stick-in-the-mud from down Mexico way, is a bit anal retentive. They harkened unto the Cap'ns of industry as they laid down chapter and verse on the best way to make the continent secure for the bottom line. Never mind that the stock market had been acting like a roller coaster with an inebriated carnie at the helm. This was about the important stuff - Jelly Beans.

Mr. Ganong - one of Canada's originals, after Laura Secord, at making candy, was there to decry the fact that we're not 'unified' enough. Canadian beanz can't hold a torch to those American beanz. Ours are bigger, but come in a restricted number of non-flavours. Theirs are pretty good - coming in a plethora of tastes from peanut butter through 'broccoli' and even 'dental caries' and ' halitosis' flavours. The problem is that silly rules and regs and non-standardized packaging and listing requirements are crimping the bottom line. A bean, should be a bean anywhere in North America. Right?

Some people aren't concerned about jelly beans, they're concerned about other non-standardized or unreported things like allowable amounts of pesticide residues, trace elements of toxic materials, antibiotics or disease elements. But Prime Minister Harper tried to make it simple for us.

Meanwhile outside the gates, Mr Harper described the situation as "Sad". Whether he was referring to the numbers of protesters, or the fact they showed up at all, wasn't too apparent. They were, in comparison to other venues, a fairly moderate bunch with only a few arrests announced.

That's not the cops fault. Apparently the 'Doofi' in blue, midnight black, grey or urban camo, had sent a couple of stalwarts into the rabble to keep an eye out for the lunatics and to see what they could do to 'preserve the peace'. It's rather unfortunate that the three stooges had to get caught by protest organizers, getting ready to chuck some rocks at their brothers in order to 'egg on' the anti-democrats. This all captured on video and dropped on UTube A step down in stupidity since Sgt. 'Roxxoff' of the RCMP was taped lacing a west coast crowd with an industrial strength container of mace a few years back. As if there isn't enough trouble in the world. The assholes have to create more to justify their 'security' overtime pay. What royal twits. 'It's a dirty job, Bobby, and it takes a right lout to do it. Set a rioter to catch a rioter I always sez.'

I don't know how impressed the Surete de Quebec will be - after they've spent their monnaie. But I wouldn't be counting on a law and order vote there. I'll be surprised if Portobello brings Mr. Happy any votes in Quebec, it didn't change my mind, the guy's a wet fart in disguise.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Dieppe: 60 Years On

This last week-end marked the 65th Anniversary of the Dieppe Raid during World War Two. The event was marked with reminiscences by old warriors and a ceremony on the beach which included the standard contingent of government-sponsored attendees and family members. A notable day to commemorate a fiasco which seemed more bloody than heroic at the time. Notable, too that this anniversary - the 65th, is celebrated when the 25th, 50th and 60th all passed with little to remark them.

This was the Canadians first real debut in the Second War, if the equally, if not more profound, disaster at Hong Kong a year and half earlier is overlooked. The Canadian First and Second Divisions had been training in England since shortly after the war started and had been held as a force in readiness while English forces were reformed after the Dunkirk evacuation and the fall of France. By 1942 they were reaching the point of being over-trained and were spoiling for a fight. The German invasion of Russia was into its second year and the Stalingrad looked like another German win, when the British decided that something must be done to distract the Germans and a large scale raid on the French coast was considered. The Second Division was tasked for the raid.

The King's cousin, Lord Louis Mountbatten, had recently acquired responsibility for a revitalized department of Combined Operations, and to him fell the responsibility of putting the raid together. The Canadian C in C Andrew McNaughten was all for the operation, but as planning proceeded and some necessary preconditions (in his estimation) were dispensed with or diminished his feet became cooler, or so the legend has it. The actual raid was commanded by "Ham" Roberts who would be decorated, and then 'dumped' for a lacklustre performance. The raid's outcome would force MacNaughten to resign as a field commander (but become the War Minister).

According to Canadian legend, Air and Naval support resources for the raid were notably reduced from the first plan. The raid itself was almost scrapped but for the personal promotion of it by Lord Mountbatten. It became a reason in itself. Even at that, criticism notes, it was never vetted by the general staff and so planning was later questioned.

The raid went askew early with delays in departures and the meeting with a German convoy en route. One initial commando landing was a success, another on a total failure. The element of surprise, if there was to be one, amounted to the surprise of the Germans at the wide range of targets that appeared in full daylight before their armed gunsights. The Canadians stood the storm all morning, with only one small party succeeding in getting off the beach. The remnant was withdrawn in the early afternoon and those left behind surrendered. The dead numbered some 1000.

Another 1800 prisoners entered German POW camps. The survivors took their recriminations back to England, and ultimately Canada. Only time has put a 'gloss' on what was then considered to be an unnecessary and fruitless sacrifice.

It took a year to reconstitute the Second Division which went on to take a role in the Battles for France, Belgium and the Netherlands later in the war.

What seems certain is that the lessons of a landing on a hostile coast were taken to heart. Gone the notion of 'grabbing a port'. The raid led to innovations in support armour and attention to the needs of landing tanks early in the invasion. Landing craft were also improved as a result of Dieppe. The notion of creating a second front without proper planning and support wouldn't be repeated, Russia would have to 'hold on'.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Caveat Emptor - Airbus the Sequel

The egg may be congealing on the pusses of the Ottawa gang who were gloating over the recent arrivals of Canada's newest military hardware. Canada received, this past week, its first, of 4, C-17 'Globemaster III' Boeing cargo jets. Yesterday Canada's first Leopard 2's rolled off an Antonov heavy-lifter onto the tarmac at Khandahar airport.

The army was ecstatic with the tanks, a hundred of so will put Canada back into the mechanized forces category on a numerical par with Poland and Hungary. The Afghan contingent will appreciate the climate-controlled environment rather than the water filled cooling vests they had to wear. Mind you, if one of those liquid metal IED penetrated the tank, I'd rather have a 1/2 inch of cold water between me and it, rather than a tankers' coverall and some climate-controlled air. But they're sure the 'cats' will put the wind up the Talib.

The C-17's are the offspring of the reconciled lumber trade dispute that first arose 5 years ago.

The WTO ruled in Canada's favour and the US had to repay some tariffs they had imposed on Canadian lumber - about $5 billion worth . Being the business types they are, the Yanks wanted us to take it 'in trade'. So we bought 4 'big birds' for 3.4 of those billions. Enough to move all of Canada's new tanks for servicing in Holland over the course of any two-month period.

Now the interesting part. Up until those 4 big birds are flight tested and the crews worked up to speed, Canada will continue to depend on leased Russian heavy movers to get its forces positioned and supplied. Yesterday, an Antonov-124 'Ruslan' brought two Leopards from Holland to Afghanistan. The same day the Russians announced their whole 'Ruslan' fleet was going up for sale - all 32 aircraft. The asking price is estimated to be somewhere in the area of 350 - 500 Million dollars.

It seems strange to be laying out 3.4 billion dollars for 4 aircraft, when 1/6 of the price would have bought 32 of them. It's not as if the Ruslan isn't a good aircraft, the CAF has used them repeatedly. And it isn't that the C-17 is a vastly better aircraft - it isn't. It seems comparable but might lose on the maintenance requirements to the rougher Russian bird. The big difference is cost. What couldn't Canada have done with 2 and a half billion dollars, other than delay the close of Boeing's Seattle C-17 operation for a few months.

Sometimes you get what you pay for, and sometimes you don't. If we hadn't been owed those lumber billions, those Ruslans would look even more like the good deal they are. Looking on the bright side we got our Globemasters 'free'.

Bring 'Em to JUSTIS

The Padilla case in the States is almost wrapped-up. Padilla, an American who converted to Islam and then went on a trip to Pakistan and, possibly, Afghanistan among other places, was found guilty of charges of 'conspiracy to support a terrorist organization'. Padilla, at the root of everything, was convicted of 'thinking' of doing something.

This case marks a sea change in American jurisprudence and opens the doors to more charges and convictions for 'doing' nothing more than thinking about something. When it comes to 'ordinary' crime, nothing can be done about it until an actual crime is committed - something is done to break the law. When it comes to security against 'terror', nothing needs be 'done' and someone's opinion can haul you into court.

The evidence against Padilla was flimsy at best. It consisted, in the main, of two items. First a reputed confession to another inmate in a military brig. The second an ' application form' that Padilla is supposed to have completed in an attempt to join an AlQaeda training camp in Afghanistan. There were also some transcripts of conversations with others charged with similar 'crimes' - these will be used as evidence of conspiracy against them, but it was admitted that Padilla's conversations were not incriminating.

As far as the first piece of evidence is concerned, Padilla would have had to have been even more of a dope than the prosecutors at his first 'trial'. They botched it so badly, the government had to have Padilla re-arrested and confined by the military as a designated 'enemy combatant'. He was also moved out of the jurisdiction of that court to North Carolina where he is supposed to have bragged to a cell mate about his terroristic endeavours. He maybe believed they weren't really out to 'get him'? That's not surprising because some sensory deprivation experiments he 'volunteered for' while in military custody have reportedly reduced him to gibbering idiot status. Even at that his trial took place in a third jurisdiction - Florida, where it was felt a conviction was a 'slam-dunk'.

The second piece of evidence was retrieved from Afghanistan. However secretive the Taliban and AlQaeda might be, they apparently keep good records, not only of those attending their jihad camps, but of applicants as well. And being sticklers for factual accuracy, they make sure that applicants use their real names and give accurate biographical information. I guess that was in case next of kin needed notification. Anyway, out of all the thousands of applications from Abduls and Saleems who passed through those Afghan camps, Padilla's application popped right out at the guys who 'found' it, probably because of the New Jersey address and phone number. There are people running all over America who can forge any document you might want to buy, but the 'good' guys wouldn't do anything like that to nail a 'renegade'?

One has to wonder about Padilla's defense. The trial ended in a welter of crap that concluded with the Judge instructing the jury that the defense of 'justification' was not to be considered in Padilla's case. What happened to 'he didn't do anything'? The defense caved and started to argue that the prosecution was right about the conspiracy but it was a 'justified' conspiracy? Horse crap!

Padilla never 'did' anything except go to Asia, (thousands of armed Americans are in Asia right now). He didn't go to that camp, or buy any guns or build any bombs. But National Security thought he might, and that's why he was locked up 4 years ago. They didn't try him for thinking of building a bomb, they tried him for thinking of supporting Al Qaeda. And they convicted him of that.

He could get life for it.

Another stupid article was this week's announcement that the US wanted Canada to help them out by taking a couple dozen Yazgur 'refugees' they've been holding at Guantanamo for the past 4 years.

It seems that investigations have shown that these Chinese Muslims, captured in Afghanistan, aren't any threat to America. But the US Army is keeping them in Gitmo because there's nowhere else for them to go. They conned Albania into taking a couple, but I guess the CIA can't just drop these guys off downtown in European or African cities anymore. And they certainly don't want to send them to China where a gruesome fate might await them. The Chinese call most ex-pat Yazgurs 'terrorists'. So the new kindler, gentler detainee apparatus wants to send them to Canada. (Canada is trying to obtain the release of a Yazgur/Canadian the Chinese have tried and plan to execute, so the Yanks must think we have a soft spot for 'em.) The soft spot would have to be in the head, so PM Harper's probably got a ministry considering it.

In the news this week the poker-playing leader of the free world has decided to up the ante and call the Iranian bluff by declaring their entire Revolutionary Guard a 'terrorist organization'. Now that, at best, would set up those 4 "Al Quds 'honchos'" the US captured in Iraq last winter, for a show trial and a Cuban vacation. Or, at worst it's going to get some Iranian bank accounts in the great US of A frozen, if they're not iced already. Other than that, though, you'll need $5 to get a Starbucks with that story. I guess somebody thought the Iranian 'royal tour through the 'Shanghai pact' was 'provocation'.

And finally speaking of provocation. the Russians have announced their resuming their Atomic war training exercises by practicing navigation skills for targets in Asia, Europe and North America. This wouldn't have anything to do with George's deciding the ABM Treaty was stupid, and rebuilding America's atomic arsenal, would it?

America has some of the smartest, most creative, inventive and industrious people on earth, the opposite end of the scale is in power, however. In my opinion, positive 'smarts' count for bat scat and ignorance - either blissful, or malevolent, and the creativity like that of the Hun is endangering the world.