Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Smart? Or Not So Smart?

Well, I got a chuckle when I read a news story today about the new electric Smart Car that's been piloted here in Toronto. Here's the story, then my commentary.

Dawn of the electric Smart Car era:
Bill Tharp was one of the first people in Toronto to get a Mercedes-Benz Smart Car but he’s already making plans to ditch the gas-guzzling two-seater in favour of his new toy.

“We’ll use it for everything,” Tharp said of his latest acquisition — an electric Smart Car he’s now leasing as part of a pilot project with Mercedes and Toronto Hydro.

Tharp — CEO of green tech investment firm Climate Change Infrastructure — is the first to get a crack at one of 17 electric cars that will be available through the four-year program, during which both Hydro and Mercedes will gather information on how well the technology works and how consumers will use it.

Toronto Hydro has already installed a $2,000 charging station in Tharp’s garage where he can power up the car before taking it on his 12-km daily commute.

He said he’ll use his new car for as much of his daily driving as he can, although he’ll still keep the van he uses when he and his wife and three children travel together.

“They get one-on-one time with mom and dad,” Tharp said of the parenting advantages of owning a two-seater. “If we have things we need to discuss, we go to the Smart Car.”

Anyone interested in leasing one of the electrics — they won’t go on sale to the general public until the latter half of 2012 — can sign up at www.smartexperience.ca but the program isn’t for everyone.

The lease itself costs $545 a month for the four-year term and you’ll need somewhere for the charging station, so anyone who only has access to street parking can’t participate.[SNIP]

Okay, that's enough! I can't stop giggling every time I read that. Did anyone else see what I saw? First off calling the smart car a "gas guzzler". I swear, I have seen some mopeds that have bigger gas tanks. Next, did you tally up all the costs for the car? $2,000 for the charging station at home (later on Ontario Hydro says they are covering it at the moment), $545 for a monthly lease, and then later on the battery replacement (they say ten years down the road and there is no cost at the moment). I mean, are they really serious about this? A new Chevy Volt would probably cost less to lease then this electric toaster on wheels. Sure they are just using it to run around Toronto, but still I wouldn't even consider a Smart car to begin with.

Most of these eco-friendly ideas and people that try to do so aren't thinking right. Sure they say that the costs will come down if more and more people buy them. I don't see a huge line up at dealer ships though to purchase any of the new hybrids. I am seeing more of them on the road though. Where more is instead of one a week, more like one a day.

The costs of these electric vehicles is just a pie in the sky solution for what they are driving at (pun intended). All this talk about carbon footprints and being good for the environment is mostly wishful thinking. The cost of creating and driving electric cars is more then regular vehicles. We just don't see the immediate impact like we do with regular internal combustion engines.

But if Mister Tharp wants to go along and believe this stuff, all the power to him. He can obviously afford the lease on this test model Smart car. As for me? I will be lowering my carbon footprint by walking and taking the bus.

Here's a couple of more reasons why I shudder at driving Smart cars....

I Am Back!

Well I have been quite here for a couple of weeks. Feelings of malaise, and other stuff mean that I haven't had much to say. Besides other people I have stumbled upon have said things much better. Today is just going to be a link and minor comment day since I need to get back in the grove a bit. So lets get at it.

WikiLeaks spills Canadian terror details (from the Toronto Sun)
This whole WikiLeaks scandal is hilarious in one sense. Julian Assange thought he would be revealing horrible secrets of the United States of America. Big Epic Fail to him. The best part about this documentation is showing how much Canada's intelligence is on top of current terrorist threats. And yes I did have an idea about the Hezbollah presence here in Canada. See my Gaza Flotilla pictures and posts for the documentation.

Speaking of Julian Assange:
WikiLeaks founder again appeals Swedish detention order

Apparently he's wanted for investigation in a couple of sex crimes in Sweden. Nice guy there isn't he.

Back to Canada:
Federal Tories take 2 byelections, Liberals 1

This will make the leftist parties here tremble in worry about calling another election anytime soon. Cheers!

Friday, November 12, 2010

I Believe in War!

Did I grab your attention? I should hope so. That is a very provocative title as it should be. Please follow along carefully as I try to justify that statement. Today is November the twelfth, one day after Remembrance Day here in Canada, Veterans day in the United States, and Armistice Day in the United Kingdom. This day holds special meaning to many people. Be they veterans of war, military action, or the families that are left behind. It's not a celebration, or it can be, it's a day of mourning and thanksgiving. We mourn the loss of our brightest and finest on the fields of battles far from home. Without their sacrifices we wouldn't be living the lives we enjoy today. At one point, everyone was touched either directly or indirectly by the horrors of the Great War, and it's final conclusion World War Two. Fathers, mothers, grandfathers,grandmothers, uncles, aunts, cousins, brothers, sisters, were part of this. Each one sacrificed something to ensure our modern freedom and peace. Whether it was blood, sweat, toil, or tears, everyone gave their all. Some gave the most in laying down their lives.

THIS is what Remembrance Day is all about. Recognizing our dead and fallen. I will get into this more later on. Now I must go and justify my belief.

Like I said, I believe in war. I don't find it glorious or charming. It's one of those forces that must be endured and weathered when it's time comes. In all of modern history, or ancient history for that matter, there has been only decades of peace. Every where you turn in history there's been battles, strife, and wars. As we have moved on from swords and shields, warriors to soldiers, it has been a constant of human existence. Many people have tried for peace, some have succeeded, most often they haven't. Wars have been started over trivial matters, to matters of great importance. Could they have been avoided? Possibly.

It matters though that there are always two sides in a war, us and them. I won't try to debate who's right and who's wrong. I may dabble a bit here and there, but I will leave the big questions to philosophers and armchair generals. War can be seen though as a final resort. Yes, I know, all peace protesters will say that violence is the last resort of the incompetent. On this belief I will agree.

Heads done exploding yet? Yes that's right, I agree violence is the last resort of the incompetent. But I believe in war, and no that's not an oxymoron or cognitive dissonance. For most of modern history soldiers haven't been a part of the political process. The military has been a tool of governments enacting their will. So when a country goes to war, it's usually because the politicians have failed in their duties. There are always exceptions to these rules, but generally they hold true. After all, Von Clausewitz said in his tome "On War", "War is just politics by other means".

So to set things straight. Soldiers don't cause wars. Generals don't cause wars. Politicians are the one major cause of military conflict in the military age. Things go to hell politically and the prime minister/president/king picks up his phone and tells his generals to kit up and move out. War is a horrible thing. The violence, the bloodshed, the horror, and atrocities. It is a necessity though. Wars must be fought to protect liberties and freedoms. We have fought several wars over that question. Most people living in today's modern world seem to have forgotten that. We don't fight wars for fun, we fight them because we get backed into a corner and have to come out swinging. Any other wars we have been involved in recently, Afghanistan and Iraq for example, have been about ensuring other people have the same freedoms we enjoy. Okay those might not be proper examples, after all they were both terrorist states, or on the other hand, the people of both states were trod under by autocratic regimes that told them what they could and couldn't do. Another discussion to be left for other people, and it has been hashed, re-hashed like leftover potatoes for breakfast...mmmm breakfast...

Do soldiers look forward to war? In a way, yes. Why do they? Well, that's a complicated answer. Here's one way to look at it. Soldiers are craftsmen. For their entire career they train in all skills and tools of war. On the range in the field they practice their craft, honing their skills. Most consider themselves lucky if they can go their entire career without having to put into action what they have put into practice. All soldiers are aware of what war is. They have heard the stories older vets won't tell families or other civilians. They have heard the stories of stark terror as a soldier huddles in a trench in the middle of a long artillery barrage, or as he comforts a friend that's bleeding out because there is no medical facilities close by to save his life. We as soldiers are aware of our mortality on the battlefield. In fact numbers have been compiled from many modern conflicts on how long we can expect to last on the modern battlefield. Think about having the phrase beaten into your head that you can be expected to last for seconds or minutes once the fit hits the shan. Yes that's right, some units had a life span of seconds, 17 seconds for armoured reconnaissance if I remember correctly.

So we know the horror, the short life spans, the misery, and practice as much as possible in conditions that are as close to the real thing as possible. Are we mad men for doing this? Well some consider us that, including spouses and girlfriends/boyfriends. Why do we do it? There's only one real answer to that, someone has to, why not us? The best quote I can think of is "People sleep peaceably in their beds because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." Violence is the soldiers lot. We do it so that we have a peaceful, and free life to return to when our duty is done.

There is a purpose to war as well. The main purpose to a war is to beat your opponent so viciously that they don't even want to think about it again. You take all your tools, all your learning in the craft of war and apply it totally to your opponent. You don't just want peace, you want peace on your terms with them understanding that if they were ever to try it again bad things would happen to them. That's how wars are won, lost, and prevented. Wars are won when soldiers are unleashed to apply their knowledge and craft. That's why I believe in war. That's why it's necessary. Unfortunately it's a lesson that must constantly be taught and re-taught to all the despots and tyrants around that would try to take our freedom and liberty away. You can have freedom or you can have peace. Peace doesn't really mean freedom, freedom doesn't really mean peace.

Now onto the article I stumbled across that was linked to from Scaramouche.

The article, written by Susan G. Cole, that got me seething and fuming was from Toronto's Now Magazine. The usual collection of leftists and such. The title was "Going to war over poppies", subtitle "War has other victims. It’s time for a new ceremony that remembers all who suffer."

Opening paragraph lays it all on the line:

If you’re like me, Remembrance Day makes you a bit uneasy.

You want to identify with the ever-dwindling numbers of soldiers who’ve survived the war trauma of their youth. But all that pro-army pageantry seems to romanticize war when we should be spending the day assessing the damage of military conflict, not celebrating it.

The ceremony to remember our fallen makes her uneasy. Somehow I don't sympathize with her feeling. Maybe because I am a cruel man, or perhaps I know more about the costs and trauma of war then she does. The article continues on and on ad nauseum about how all sides are bad, how all sides commit atrocities, how all war is bad. She's entitled to her opinion, no matter how much it stinks. She has her forum, this is mine. As for atrocities on all sides? There's one small difference about that. Guilt, and punishment. We have punished our criminals for the atrocities, they don't get swept under rugs. One example is a Canadian highlander unit here in Ontario. Forgive me I don't remember the unit, but I do remember the story. Most highland units were a tam, type of hat, that has a feathered plume behind the cap badge. There are different colours, mostly white though. I forget the colour they wore, when I asked what the colour represented I was told after the fellow soldier dropped his head. It was a hackle of shame. Apparently a squad of troops was found guilty of raping civilian women during a battle. They were tried and punished, but the unit still bears the shame. The shame of having such troops among their ranks. The hackle is to be worn for a hundred years after the fact. That's how we deal with atrocities.

As to the other dead in war? They are remembered as well. Remembrance Day and the red poppy are not just for soldiers, they are for ALL war dead.

Now this whole white poppy idea. It isn't new at all, in fact it was first floated back in the 1920's in the United Kingdom to promote peace.
From Wikipedia:
In 1926, a few years after the introduction of the red poppy in the UK, the idea of pacifists making their own poppies was put forward by a member of the No More War Movement (and that the black centre of the British Legion's red poppies should be imprinted with "No More War"). Nothing seems to have come of this, until in 1933 the Women's Co-operative Guild introduced the White Poppy. Their intention was to remember casualties of all wars, with the added meaning of a hope for the end of all wars; the red poppy, they felt, signified only the British military dead. The Peace Pledge Union (PPU) took part in its distribution from 1934, and white poppy wreaths were laid from 1937 as a pledge to peace that war must not happen again. Anti-war organizations such as the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship now support the White Poppy Movement.

Those who promote the wearing of white poppies argue that the red poppy also conveys a specific political standpoint, and point to the divisive nature of the red poppy in Northern Ireland, where it is worn mainly by the Unionist community. They choose the white poppy over the red often because they wish to disassociate themselves from the militaristic aspects of Remembrance Day, rather than the commemoration itself.[1]

Now the Peace Pledge Union is an interesting organization. They backed Neville Chamberlains 1938 peace conference with Adolf Hitler and Germany. We know where that lead to. They were against a lot of war time preparation and so on. Talk about backing the wrong horse. Or did they just think that if Britain rolled over and played dead they would be spared?

I find most "militant" pacifists, love that oxymoron, to be an interesting subset of the human race. They tend to deny human nature, side with the tyrants, show their underbellies at the first sign of war with said tyrants, and are willing to scream about their rights and freedoms.

The modern day pushers of the white poppy movement seem to be set in their paths. Their arguments are similar to all those peace protesters. War is wrong, soldiers are criminals. It sickens me to have to read this tripe that they come out with year after year. If any of you have the stomach, I urge you to read the comments at the now article. One commenter, nevilleross, seems to have sipped a bit too much from the kool-aid.

I think that I will call this an end for now. I have shone the light on some dark territory. And it's been a long day/week for me. Take care.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lest We Forget....

At the 11th day at the 11th hour of the 11th month we WILL remember them.

Cenotaph

92 years, 65 years, 57 years, and many other on going missions that our soldiers are active in. Our thoughts, prayers, and thanksgivings go toward all our troops.