Sunday, December 18, 2011

R.I.P. Vaclav Havel and Thanks for the T-Shirt -- No, Really.

The world has lost a philosopher king.

The Velvet Revolution occurred when I was in my late teens.  To me, this was one of the highlights of the spread of liberty in the modern era.

Vaclav Havel, once jailed for his belief in freedom, became a leader who realized true freedom meant giving up power. He did so by refusing to put a state before the freedom of its constituent peoples. Though he disagreed, he did not stop the peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia or the birth of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. He realized agreeing to disagree was far more important than recent historical boundaries and political control.

Every leader should take this as a lesson. Recrimination of those who disagree with an opinion is nothing less than the slow death of liberty. As stated in the Constitution of the United States of America, 'general Welfare' is a requisite of liberty. Alienating one's neighbours because of differing beliefs is a dangerous practice. Sometimes, the world requires multiple solutions for singular problems.

During the Velvet Revolution, my Mother visited Czechoslovakia on an academic exchange. On her return, she gave me a white t-shirt, hand painted by a student. On it was written a hopeful message of freedom. Liberty and freedom are ideals of which I hope I never have to say, "Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt." May liberty and freedom last forever.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

So, America, Have You Actually Read Your Constitution?

Boy! It's amazing  how some Americans are mixed up regarding their own history.

If the Founding Fathers were such anti-statists, why would they ever have created a state? They certainly didn't think the state should, under no circumstances, meddle with people's lives. They just realized any meddling should be done with the lightest touch possible in order to serve as many citizens as possible.

Why? They saw the effects of tyranny in their own time. This tyranny wasn't social democracy. SD didn't exist. They saw the tyranny of Monarchy. They saw the tyranny of religious control. They saw the tyranny of a small aristocracy owning more wealth than the vast majority of those they ruled. They saw the tyranny of those in power torturing anyone who spoke their minds in disagreement.

As a result, they wrote one of the most famous documents in history.

Most important documents begin with a preamble that sets out the general spirit of what the creators intended. The Constitution of the United States of America is no different. It seems that many libertarians like to quote bits and pieces of this document out of context. The Constitution was written to be taken whole. In addition, things of greater importance are ordered before those of lesser importance so as to make it clear how the wisdom expressed should be balanced. I have to wonder if many of these libertarians actually know what the preamble says:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

'a more perfect union' They wanted government to unite people. They didn't say anything about partisan politics where politicians find ridiculous ways in which to say any opponent is an evil threat to the Republic. Also, 'more perfect' acknowledges they couldn't agree on a perfect solution so they expected to strive to improve it, over time.

'establish Justice' They realized law has to be created and maintained for government to work. All law creates restrictions on people.

'provide for the common defence' That's rather self explanatory.

'promote the general Welfare' Aha! Now we are getting somewhere. The Founding Fathers talked about Welfare? No, that couldn't be. Well it is. They weren't afraid of a state that looked out for its citizens. They saw the damage that states, where only the aristocracy had welfare, did to the people living in them. This is the opposite of the concept which states the rich and powerful have no obligation to the less fortunate.

Finally, we get to 'secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity'. What? It came last? What the hell? Yup again. In order to have liberty, some things have to be considered first.

That is the great wisdom they hoped you, ' the People of the United States', would live by. Everything written after the preamble is the method by which they thought this could be achieved. What's more, they realized things change and can be improved with time so they included ways to implement changes. They would have been incensed with anyone who suggested the constitution is sacred and unchangeable. No right defined in the constitution is more important than the good sense they hoped would thrive in their brave new world.

The preamble, though it could be changed, has never been. Go figure.

As for social democracy, fear of it only consumed the popular attention in response to communism. The founding fathers were probably long dead by the time Marx and Engels wrote their big mistake. Have you read the news? Communism is dead, now, too. You don't have to keep looking for it under the bed as scared little children look for the Boogey Man. Lose the fear and start making the smart decisions the Founding Fathers expected, made, and passed down to you.

Update: I just thought I would stem the tide of stupidity before it gets started. I'm no communist pinko. I believe in hand ups and not hand outs. I believe in good government, not obese government. I believe in solving problems and not hurling insults, though a little insult may make those who rely on them take notice and read the fine print. I want peace, however, I am not against war, as a last resort, to secure freedom. I believe in borders, not for the protection of wealth, but for the protection of freedom. Most importantly, I believe everyone is capable of greatness even though everyone makes mistakes.

Breast cancer patient: “I want to apologize to President Obama.”

Original article: Breast cancer patient: “I want to apologize to President Obama.”

I'm glad I'm in Canada. After being hit by a car, I know all too well how health coverage may be needed unexpectedly.

I have to laugh at those who insist universal health coverage is a threat to liberty. I can only imagine how free I would feel, now, had I received poor medical treatment. I am also quite free to change physicians if one does not earn my confidence.

I get the impression American conservatives, in the debate on healthcare, anyhow, like the idea of screaming 'Evil!' as directed by politicians so they don't actually have to think about the meaning of true freedom. Perhaps they don't like thinking health issues can effect anyone, including themselves.

Sometimes, in order to have freedom, you have to acknowledge others must matter. If you don't, you risk the wrath of those who's freedom you have denied. Freedom does not mean living as if only one's own problems matter.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Does Command of the Canadian Military Lie With a Single Individual?

In a previous post, I argued Mr. MacKay broke the law by putting human life in jeopardy.

I have been looking at another aspect concerning Mr. MacKay's use of military resources. MacKay's action may actually be an issuance of a command in breach of constitutional and defence statutes. Operational command of the military seems to lie with the Chief of Defence Staff. Cabinet is responsible for policy:

> Primary authority rests with the Governor in Council to implement and amplify the NDA by regulations for the "organization, training, discipline, efficiency, administration and good government of the Canadian Forces."5 Under section 12(2) of the NDA, the minister has the power to regulate the same matters but subject to any regulation made by the Governor in Council and Treasury Board. The minister has the power to make regulations governing who commands what and whom, but the "exercise" of command is then in the hands of the designated commanders subject to law.

What authority does Mr. MacKay have to command operation of the military in the absence of a Cabinet order? Has Cabinet issued any orders to the CDS allowing the minister direct command of the military? If yes, allowing one individual to command the military is a very dangerous situation. If no, then Mr. MacKay has grossly abused his position.

> Subsection 18(1) of the NDA states that the Governor in Council may appoint a CDS "who shall, subject to the regulations and under the direction of the Minister, be charged with the control and administration of the Canadian Forces." Furthermore, "command" of and in the CF is confirmed as a military activity that flows through commissioned and non-commissioned officers under
section 18(2):

>> Unless the Governor in Council otherwise directs, all orders and instructions to the Canadian Forces that are required to give direction to the decisions and to carry out the directions of the Government of Canada or the Minister shall be issued by or through the Chief of the Defence Staff.

Was the order placed using proper chain of command, namely was the order given through the CDS? If not, has the CDS properly delegated someone to receive requests from the minister and is there a defined list of requests which are to be approved? Was the use of SAR resources by the minister specifically ordered, by CDS, as delegated? Is the minister permitted to arrange for operations which, by agreement of the military, are to be denied? Can the minister order covert military operations?

> Although the CDS is subject to the minister's direction in exercising general powers, the responsibilities of the CDS are not delegated from the minister. Moreover, the CDS has responsibility exclusive of the minister of National Defence in three areas: powers in respect of which the CDS is not subject to the direction of the minister, for example, in the promotion of
members below the rank of general;6 in all matters related to "aid of the civil power";7 and in the conduct of military operations.

MacKay's use of a helicopter ride under the 'guise' of a training operation is, in fact, a matter related to "aid of the civil power" and an order to conduct military operations. The minister has no authority to give such direction.

If the Minister of National Defence can issue arbitrary orders to the Canadian military, what stops him from using military power for far less benign purposes? There are plenty of examples of states in which unchecked command of the military lies in the hands of an individual. Does Canada wish to be seen as one of that rather unsavoury clique?

All of the quotations, above, were taken from the DND document located here:

Update: In this article from the St. John's Evening Telegram, it appears someone ordered a military investigation of NDP MP Scott Simms. Simms actively pursued MacKay's SAR misuse in the House of Commons. The article suggests someone used the military in support of political power.  This is a blatant misuse of the military for support of political power which is specifically outlawed.  Who supports their political power through use of the military? There are no shortage of tyrannical dictators in the news.  Is this what Canada has become?

Friday, December 02, 2011

Peter MacKay Must Be Held Criminally Accountable

Peter MacKay should be accountable to the same standards that apply to anyone else. In this case, the Criminal Code of Canada is quite clear.

429. (1) Every one who causes the occurrence of an event by doing an act or by omitting to do an act that it is his duty to do, knowing that the act or omission will probably cause the occurrence of the event and being reckless whether the event occurs or not, shall be deemed, for the purposes of this Part, wilfully to have caused the occurrence of the event.

Search and rescue resources are operated by the Government of Canada for the protection of all Canadians. It is Mr. MacKay's duty to ensure these resources are used in accordance with the purpose for which they are maintained. The Constitution of Canada codifies this duty. Resources such as this actively support rights we are entitled to:

7. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

By using a search and rescue helicopter for the sole purpose of convenience, Mr. MacKay has committed criminal mischief as outlined in the Criminal Code:

430. (1) Every one commits mischief who wilfully

(b) renders property dangerous, useless, inoperative or ineffective;

(c) obstructs, interrupts or interferes with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property; or

(d) obstructs, interrupts or interferes with any person in the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property.

There are any number of ways in which Mr. MacKay's actions contravene the Criminal Code.

430.(1)(b) was breached since the helicopter could not respond to an emergency completely fuelled or from its base where it could be equipped with required equipment needed for a specific situation.

430.(1)(c) was breached by his use of the helicopter.

430.(1)(d) was breached by causing interference of the crew operating the helicopter.

The aggravated nature of this very specific sort of criminal behaviour is acknowledged with specific mention in the Criminal Code:

430.(2) Every one who commits mischief that causes actual danger to life is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for life.

Finally, having authority over property is absolutely no excuse for these sorts of actions, according to the Criminal Code:

430.(3) Where it is an offence to destroy or to damage anything,

(a) the fact that a person has a partial interest in what is destroyed or damaged does not prevent him from being guilty of the offence if he caused the destruction or damage; and

(b) the fact that a person has a total interest in what is destroyed or damaged does not prevent him from being guilty of the offence if he caused the destruction or damage with intent to defraud.

There is strong evidence that Mr. MacKay was fully cognisant of the nature of his actions. According to emails obtained by Allan Woods at the Toronto Star, he was warned by the Air Force. His guilt was confirmed by his fabrication of a cover story, after the fact, in which he stated he was on board the helicopter to observe training exercises. By misrepresenting the nature of his use of this resource, he defrauded the people of Canada.

Mr. MacKay should face the same force of the law which applies to all Canadians and defend his actions in criminal court, not the court of public opinion.

Update: Friday 2 December 2011

I have made the Gander, NL detachment of the RCMP aware of this case. In order to respect the  criminal proceeding which may follow, I will not be posting any updates which mention the specifics of this case. Feel free to post comments about this article, however, I may hold them until after the legal process concludes.

Update: Monday 5 December 2011

On Mr. MacKay's behalf, the military undertook an operation in which denial was discussed and agreed upon. If the mission had any sinister objectives, it would be a covert operation. If Mr. MacKay can arrange this deniable operation, what else could he do? I have written a post about legal aspects of control of the military.

Also, I would like to thank Allan Woods, at the Toronto Star, for taking time to engage me in an email discussion. He pointed out, the emails I referred to in his article did make mention of allowing MacKay's helicopter use on the condition that the use not effect SAR services. However, in light of the fact that this operation was arranged with deniablity in mind, would the denial lead to altering procedures to guarantee safety? Also, considering the time frame in which this operation was arranged, was there even enough time to put safety practises in action?

Update: Thursday 22 March 2012

This past winter, a tragedy occurred in which a Labrador boy died, lost in a blizzard.  In this episode of the Fifth Estate on CBC, it appears the Canadian Forces misrepresented its ability to perform its search and rescue duties. I have to wonder what's going on when Peter MacKay, the Minister of Defence can order a convenient ride on a search and rescue helicopter, yet one was not available for its primary purpose, saving lives.