Wednesday 24 September 2014

Working in Montréal today --Civilian arms race

Good morning folks,

I will be working in Montréal today and then will be off until Tuesday.

It really bugs me to see police officers in military combat gear.  Flak jackets, body armour, kevlar helmets, AR-15 converted M-16s, M4s, and the latest, driving up in MRAPs equipped with LRADs.

Did I start to loose you as the list went on?  Don't worry, you aren't suppose to know about this stuff, up until quite recently it wasn't civilian authority equipment.  It is military equipment designed for combat.  But over the last few years we are seeing more and more of it in civilian use.

What I fail to understand is why do the civilian authorities, on both sides of our border incidentally, do not realize that even the appearance of so equipped officers causes an escalation of hostilities.  When someone dressed for combat shows up and is equipped with enough firepower to kill you several times over an instinctive response may very well be attack first, after all, he doesn't even look like a chatty guy.

And you likely should worry, that officer probably has not had the full training on when and how to use his gear, and likely has not been briefed adequately on the rules on engagement.  We've seen plenty of Canadian and US examples where the semi-non-lethal Tazer has been used as punishment and not as that alternative to lethal force that we were promised.  And, since he is now prepared for combat, he is likely to not see you as a citizen but as an enemy.  It is the 'when you are a hammer, all you see are nails' theory.

Welcome to the new combat ready police force of small town USA.  With a pull back from the ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan there are an abundance of military ordnance available for free to civilian police departments and school districts.  That's right kids, your local school can finally have that MRAP armored personnel carrier in those nasty situations where armed and IED equipped insurgents take over the math club.

Don't even think about having a student demonstration on the high cost of tuition, your crowd will quickly be dispersed through the tactical use of grenade launchers firing in tear gar canisters..

Whoops, quick side bar.   The grenade launchers used by the military typically launch fragmentation grenades, NEVER tear gas canisters.  Tear gas is a prohibited weapon by signatories of chemical weapons ban treaties.  However, civilian police are free to use tear gas on citizens.

And.. we are back. Yes, the tear gas will flow and then the LRADs will fire up.  An LRAD is a tactical ear piercing 149 db noise maker that a properly trained soldier would deploy in 2 or 3 second bursts causing much pain in those in the wake.  An untrained police officer might deploy continuously for several minutes causing permanent hearing loss of those in its wake like the untrained police did in Ferguson, MO in mid August.

One of the HUGE problems with the transfer of equipment program, is that if the receiving agency does not use the equipment within one year, it must be returned,


Really?  Yes.   That means that if Anytown, USA receives say.. 30 M-16s, they had better find a situation where they can use them.   Perhaps the next domestic call with reports of an intoxicated couple yelling at each other will result in their house being surrounded by 30 officers with assault rifles in combat gear.  Yeah.. drunk Billy Bob then becomes severely agitated, confused and frantic, grabs his possum gun and the rest is history.

Police dressing for combat is violent, it is threatening to the civilian population and will likely result in an arms race.  An increase in domestic insurgency.  A self fulfilling need for the combat equipment.

Dumb and dumber.

Have a good day.  De-escalate where possible.

Thursday 18 September 2014

Working in Ottawa today --Self determination

Good morning folks,

I will be working in Ottawa today.

After a few weeks away from traveling, I am back in the regular schedule.  I had a two week Staycation and the last week was otherwise engaged. So here we are, first day back on a plane and..

Scots are heading to the polls...

You've likely heard that today is Scotland's vote of Yes/No for an independent Scotland.

Perhaps you heard it from The Simpson's Groundskeeper Willy, Hey fellow Scots, on September 18th our people will take to the polls to decide once and for all if Scotland should declare its independence.  Now both sides of this argument have valid points, the freedom loving heirs of the Highland tradition, and those who enjoy crawling like worms beneath British boots!  Our most recent polls show that we are split 50/50 on the matter and I am hesitant to throw my support for either side, be it the right one or the obviously wrong one!

The current union between Scotland and England dates back to the 1707 Act of Union and I might add that a mere 40 years after the signing, new laws were enacted that were aimed at eradicating the Highland culture, the Gaelic language, Tartan, and a prohibiting of owning weapons.   Not unlike the Japanese attempt at eradicating the Korean language and culture in the late 16th century and again in the mid 20th century (previous pulp).  the Koreans are still kind of ticked over that, btw.

But let's let that previous transgression slide a bit.  So what is the current independence push all about?

Well..  Sure, each election the left leaning Scots get a right leaning gov't imposed on them because of the more right leaning and higher populated England.  An independent Scotland would in theory be free from the Conservatives for good and their austerity measures.  Since 2008 the UK gov't has been married to a series of cost cutting measures that have seen a budget cut of 6 billion £ and a loss of 50,000 jobs. 

But the strongest is the desire for self determination.  Scotland formed its own Parliament in 1999 and that just increased the appetite for more self governance and determination of destiny.  Many also believe that a self governed Scotland would prosper with locally managed oil reserves and a Scotland only tax regime.

What is the right answer?  Would an independent Scotland become a member of the EU?  Would Spain and Italy block its entry -- each have their own internal independence movements, The EU president José Manuel Barraso has already stated that Scotland entering the EU would be difficult if not impossible.

London is not agreeable to an independent Scotland to continue using the £ although it could just carry on using it without permission but that would mean without input to monetary policies of the £ which could be extremely risky to the new Scot economy.

But enough of plane cabin political analysis.

If my Scot friends and relatives decide now is the time to move out and go it alone, they are tough enough to succeed; it would not be easy, but life isn't ever.  If they decide to stay, then let's hope that London will keep its promises for reform and new powers for the Scottish Parliament.