Election 42: Welcome To The End Of The Thought Process


Election 42: F-35 Fighter Jets

One thing is clear: the current crop of F/A-18 airplanes are rapidly approaching the end of their useful service lives. The time to get moving on replacing them is long since past.

Before we can consider the specifics of their replacement, we have to consider the specific missions that these airplanes would be called upon to perform.

Canada's air force has traditionally carried out the following missions.  First, there is border sovereignty operations, most usually long range interceptions of foreign aircraft approaching Canada over the ocean.

Operationally, Canada's involvement in international affairs has usually been limited to a ground attack role, where our aircraft deliver bombs or missiles against enemy positions. This is, in fact, what Canadian aircraft are doing today in our action against ISIS.

Now we consider the specific replacement currently in the pipeline: the F-35.

Recent leaks in the media suggest that there are specific problems with the F-35 as a close-range dogfighter. The F-35's supporters counter that the F-35 is supposed to be a beyond-visual-range killer, where missiles are launched against enemy aircraft before they have a chance to detect the F-35. However, this supposed strength, and apparent weakness, make the aircraft unsuitable for long-range interceptions where the fighter is required to close with the target for interception purposes. An F-35 performing an interception could be drawn into a close-range engagement using straight-forward deceptive maneuvers.

Secondly, there should be concerns about the F-35's single engine configuration. Much of Canada is uninhabited and there are vast tracts of airspace which will require crossing in order to intercept incoming aircraft. In a single-engine aircraft, an engine problem will more likely lead to the loss of the entire aircraft. Multi-engined aircraft possess a greater ability to limp home, preserving the aircraft for future use.

With regard to the operational missions undertaken by Canada, the nature of a low-observable aircraft is that in order to maintain such a low-observable profile, stores are generally required to be carried internally. This places strong limits on both the nature and quantities of stores that can be carried, either reducing the aircraft's effectiveness as a ground-attack platform, or forces the carrying of external stores which diminish or defeat the purposes of buying a low-observable aircraft.

Finally there is the question of operational quantities. Canada is proposing to buy at most 65 aircraft, and given the history of government procurement we can assume that as unit costs rise this number will only be reduced. This number is half the number of F/A-18 initially purchased, a number which has been reduced by attrition over the following decades.

The F-35 does have a number of (planned) features which are highly desirable. However the aircraft is also burdened with features which both present no operational value to Canada, and present higher technical and mechanical complexity which will lead to increased failure rates when compared to simpler aircraft. A specific example is the VTOL configuration which is baked in to the basic configuration of the aircraft. This increased, unnecessary complexity could well lead to increased vulnerability in combat situations.

Other so-called benefits, such as equipment homogeneity with our traditional allies, are not worth paying extra for. If Canada's force is required in an international operation, our allies will accept our help even if our aircraft are different.

To conclude the examination of the F-35, the proposed aircraft is not suitable to Canada's traditional usage for such aircraft, has unnecessary complexity, and is expensive.

Canada should withdraw from the F-35 program. Although such a withdrawal will be expensive, it will be cheaper than continuing through and buying an aircraft that does not suit Canada's needs.

Instead, Canada should construct a realistic program designed to meet today's needs and roles. Canada does not have a need for a stealth aircraft, as our aircraft are extremely unlikely to be deployed into a seriously hostile theater. Canada will continue to fulfill ground support and attack roles in theaters where air superiority is held by our (probably US) allies, and where serious ground-to-air defenses are dealt with by US assets, such as the F-117.

Based on this, one could seriously argue that Canada has no need for a fifth-generation aircraft. Canada should instead be looking at twin-engined, fourth- or fourth-and-a-half-generation aircraft such as the F/A-18 Super Hornet. This particular aircraft would fit in Canada's air force well, as Canada has extensive experience with our current F/A-18s. And the purchase price is extremely attractive when compared to the price of the F-35.


I've Just About Had It With Windows 10

So because I'm not afraid1 of new things, I took the immediate opportunity to download and install Windows 10 when it became available. This took the form of two paths, one where I downloaded and installed the VLK image onto my work laptop, and one where I took the over-the-web-provided update service for my home PC.

The two experiences could not have been more different.

Before the update, the home system was running Windows 7-Pro-current, while the office laptop was running 8.1-Pro-current. Updating the home computer went very smoothly with the exception of some hardware issues that I was aware of ahead of time. But pretty much everything has worked out of the box in this environment, and the wife has not been exceptionally vocal with her complaints about the new interface. So that system, anyways, can be counted as a success.

The office laptop, on the other hand, hasn't been a nightmare but it is presenting a steady trickle of stupid little almost problems that might or might not be Windows 10's fault and might not and frankly I'm getting sick of it.

I even did this upgrade "correctly": I formatted the C: drive and installed the OS fresh. No "upgrade", this was more of a "complete fresh installation". All of my applications were then downloaded and freshly installed.

And since then, I have had problems like:
  • The FortiNet VPN doesn't work. Oh unless you reboot, then it works again.
  • VMware VI Client won't install. But if you download it three times, maybe the third try will be successful. If you reboot before trying the download. And this is the case for each of the three or four different versions of the VI Client I need to install.
  • Chrome goes off into space. Yeah, it might be Chrome being Chrome, but Chrome is being Chrome far more frequently under Windows 10 than it did under Window 8.1.
  • Windows key randomly stops working.
  • Windows-key shortcuts randomly stop working. But no worries, a reboot will fix that, right?
  • Dealing with situations where IP addresses are changing back and forth frequently (something I have to do fairly often because part of my job is networking and troubleshooting/verification thereof. If you flip back and forth between two networks, or static and dhcp, then occasionally the networking stack will just go off into space and you are screwed. Yes, the same thing happens under 7/8//8.1. But so far my experience is that W10 at least isn't any better, and might be worse.
What is it with all the rebooting. This isn't Windows 95, this kind of turning-it-off-and-on-again bullshit isn't acceptable any more. It is 2015 for fuck's sake.

I also have the impression that there are more Windows Updates happening that require reboots. I suspect this is due to the newness of the OS, and Microsoft is steadily, if stealthily, rolling out the updates required to fix some of the problems I am complaining about.

Plus the usual Outlook/Outlook confusion which seems even more ingrained in W10 than it was in previous versions.

Part of this is undoubtedly the fact that I use the home system for maybe a couple hours a week, much of that playing Kerbal Space Program, while I use the laptop all day every day and when a problem crops up it is invariably an impediment to something I'm trying to get done right now. I am sure that sense of urgency and stress only adds to the negative view that Windows 10 gets as a result.

It is also entirely possible that my problem isn't that Windows 10 isn't ready for my tools, it is that my tools are not ready for Windows 10. Either way, the immediate solution to the problem is the same: get rid of Windows 10.

I said in a tweet:

And maybe it's true that I've turned into a User rather than being a Super User. But stupid problems like this are going to drive me back to Windows 8.1, because I had things set up there so that they Just Worked.

I don't have time for this any more.


1 yes I'm lying, we fear change


Election 42: Home Delivery

One of the nice parts of an election campaign is that it allegedly provides a brief platform for people to have at least broad-level discussions about important issues facing the future of the country.

And then there are stupid issues like Canada Post Home Delivery.

First, I will be honest. I have not had home delivery since I moved out of my childhood home back in 1996 or so. Since then, I have been an apartment dweller, and a resident in a new subdivision, and as such have been a user of the so-called "Super Mailbox" for well over a decade.

The most important thing about the issue of Canada Post is that it is dying. Canadians just do not send letter mail to each other as much as they used to. And as a result, revenues are falling at Canada Post.

Falling revenues lead to two inevitable things, both of which we have seen in the last year: first, the price of services is going up. I think a stamp is a dollar now? I don't know1. But there was a big jump in the price of stamps last year.

The second result of falling revenues is cutbacks in service. In a practical sense, the cost of having people trudge up and down driveways has long been identified as a major cost center, which is why the Super Mailbox was introduced in the 1980s.

For the most part, the Super Mailbox is a success. Yes, there are security problems, and weather problems, and access problems, and the problems that occur when you have to share space with up to fifty other residences, but there is usually mail in my Super Mailbox and it is usually for my household.

However, if you were to listen to the We Fear Change segment of society, you would think that this was an inhumane burden to be putting on people.

I don't have much sympathy for this outlook. I've been dealing with a Super Mailbox for a decade, and my particular part of society is yet to crumble.

Frankly, if having to go to the corner every day or two to pick up your mail is the one thing that is going to force you out of your home... well maybe you need to think about how secure you really are in your home.

You want to save Canada Post? Start sending large quantities of surface mail.

If Canada Post is to endure and be able to continue providing even rudimentary mail delivery services, they have to find ways of doing things more efficiently. Ending home delivery makes sense from both an economic and fairness standpoint.

1and that should tell you something about how relevant Canada Post is to me.


Review: Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

I think all you need to know about this is that my wife spent the whole movie rewriting it as an "Agents of Shield" episode. She said it would have worked fairly well.

Election 42: Long Haul Elections

So here we are, two and a half weeks into the longest election period in modern Canadian history. And so far the most interesting thing to come up has been the total lack of interesting things to talk about. The big issue on day two of the election was Mr. Harper referring to the Liberal leader as "Justin". Cutting edge, vital stuff, I tell you. And since then? All Duffy, all the time. The only reprieve from this has been the brief interlude where a conservative supporter went off on a bunch of reporters for blowing Mr. Duffy's "cheating on his tax form" way out of proportion, and frankly everyone hopes this is merely comic relief.

My theory has long been that the only people who really care about elections are the media personalities who get paid to write and talk about them. The media likes to position themselves such that if something of historical importance occurs, they can be seen to have been there, writing the definitive commentary on the issues of the day, speaking to the future. We saw this at its most ridiculous extreme during the so-called Charlottown Accord incident of 1992, when the media was falling over each other to speak to the future in an effort explain why Canadians had, here and now, decided to accept this constitutional accord. Of course they all looked like tools when Canadians decided that they'd rather not.

The only other people who like elections are the political hobbyists who get excited over the cut and thrust of electoral combat.

Most real people don't seem to care. And given the dropping number of people actually getting out and voting, a plurality of voters are not engaged even in the slightest.

As I said up top, to me the most interesting thing to happen so far is what hasn't happened. I don't know if all the political writers are still on summer vacation or what, but there hasn't even been an effort to drum up a sense of drama. It is almost as if even those most invested in the election are admitting that even though the election has been called and the campaign is happening, it isn't really time to get going yet, so why bother.

What if they called an election and nobody cared? Because that is where we are so far with this one. Which makes me wonder what the point of calling it so early was1.


1 Just kidding. I know calling the election early was either about getting more of the party's money washed through the election reimbursement process or shutting down annoying third-party anti-government advertising campaigns.


Election 42: ISIS

What are people doing to keep us safe from ISIS?

Let's back the hype truck up a bit first. Why are we even concerned about ISIS?

ISIS is a few thousand religious fanatic types who have corralled the market for atrocities in the middle east. They've got guns, oil, and money. They are the very definition of small beer. They don't deserve anywhere near the amount of attention they've been getting.

ISIS's threat to Canada and Canadians might as well be zero.

Know how many Canadians were killed by terrorism last year? Even if we expand the definition of "killed by terrorism" to include those service people fighting said war against terrorism? And expand that definition to include the service people who take their own lives when they come home? Neither do I. I am, however, pretty damn sure that it is less than the thousand or so people that MADD estimates are killed by drunk drivers right here in Canada every year.  It is certainly less than the 47000 people estimated to be killed every year in Canada due to drug abuse.

Where's the War On Molson?

And don't give me any of that liberal "Duty To Protect" sanctimonious bullshit either. If we have a duty to protect those poor innocent Iraqi civilians, why are we not in Zimbabwe? Uganda? The Kongo? Somalia? Turkey to protect the Kurds? ... or Ukraine? Why are the Iraqi civilians so special that we spend our resources "protecting" them and risk the lives of our Canadian service people in a way that we don't protect others?

But, you might say, what of Terrorist Cells Here In Canada Plotting Evil Deeds? Well, that's why we have internal police services, to detect and circumvent these things. Such services have even been handed absurdly powerful powers in the form of C51 fear-mongering. And judging from the low number of people killed on Canadian soil as a result of terrorist operations, they seem to be doing a pretty good job.

This also brings up the potential constitutional problems of the military action in in the middle east. If an ISIS terrorist came to Canada and committed a terrorist act, we would catch them and put them on trial. We would probably end up keeping them in prison for a long time, if not for the rest of their lives. So instead, we have sent planes to the middle east to preemptively kill the potential terrorists, the support people for those terrorists, and any civilians who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, on the off chance they might engage in terrorist activity against Canada. We are enacting a higher, wider penalty on much flimsier grounds.

The main argument against ISIS seems to be that these people want to come over here and tell us how to live, and we are resistant to that idea. Why is going over there and trying to get them to see how wrong they are at the barrel of a gun any different?

The root causes of the middle eastern issues come down to decades or centuries of western meddling in cultures that were not prepared to deal with such meddling. Continued modern meddling has not proved to fix any of the continuing problems. The west can't sweep in, knock out all the so-called "bad actors" and have democracy suddenly flourish (see Iraq, Afghanistan, et al). The people involved have to want it, and today they don't. All we do is changing the faces at the top of the various organizations.

The problem in the middle east right now is not a national security issue. It is a humanitarian issue, and that is how Canada should engage. Once the locals have come to a point where they are tired of killing each other such that they can control their hot-headed elements1, even at a empty-words level, Canada should get involved as peace keepers.

So what are people doing to keep us safe from ISIS? ISIS is not a threat. Bring our soldiers home.

1 And yes, that could take years or decades -- see also the Isreali/Arab situation in general.


Election 42: Food Marketing Boards

Food marketing boards take a lot of stick these days. They work by artificially controlling supply, thus having a knock-on effect on prices. These boards usually go hand-in-hand with import restrictions, placing heavy penalties on foods imported into the country from elsewhere.

The Americans in particular are not in favor of the marketing board system. Americans see everything through the eyepiece of commerce, and see in Canada a market opportunity for their otherwise cheap food.

The thing is: food supply is not like other commodities like cars or iPhones.  The food supply, and where it comes from, is not a problem of commerce.  It is a problem of national security.

Marketing boards are defended by their benefits:

First, food providers are ensured a revenue stream that will cover costs. This means that consumers are both fully covering the costs of producing their food, and are used to paying those costs.  It also reduces the risk that food providers will go out of business.

The result of this is that food is generated within the borders of Canada. In the event of a food emergency, the supply of food is available to be nationalized, to be redirected where the national interest is -- whether that direction is to specific regions of Canada, or possibly to support our interests internationally.

Without these boards, food producers in Canada would mostly go out of business, and the remainder would probably become part of international conglomerates.  In either case, the amount of food generated within Canadian borders would be reduced, meaning that in a food emergency, Canada would be bidding against other nations for the available supply of food.

Having a domestic food supply does not protect us from failure of that domestic supply.

But if you don't have a domestic supply, you have fewer options should a global food emergency occur.

Which would you rather do: make the tough choices about who gets to eat the food you make -- or try to out-bid other nations for a supply of food?


Review: Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation

Solidly OK. A nice modern interpretation of the James Bond-esque running-around-the-world-with-ridiculous-sitations. You have to admire Cruise for continuing to do these physical stunts at his age, even if the Ethan Hunt character is starting to get long in the tooth.

Frankly, it was much better than Fantastic Four would have been.

Review: Fantastic Four

Ha ha, just kidding.  Even though it didn't look like the train wreck that Transformers 4 promised to be, it was reviewing incredibly badly and in the end I just couldn't risk it.  We went to see Mission Impossible instead.


Review: Blade

Awesome action sequences.  Pacing is a little rough, and the story hand-waving is a bit more breezy than would be normally ignored.  Fun for an afternoon with nothing else to do.


Review: Daredevil

This is the Ben Affleck version, although it was unironically streamed from NetFlix.  I managed to follow what was going on fairly easily but I wonder if that was because I had recently watched the NetFlix version. The Kingpin was perhaps more believable than the NetFlix version, although there is much more room for subtlety in the NetFlix version. Overall it was ok. I understand why the world didn't go wild for it.


Review: Mr. Holmes

This, I think, was exactly what I wanted from this movie.