Miscellany – A bunch of different things really.

Well, Captain Robert Semrau, who I mentioned in a previous post, has been acquitted of second degree murder by a jury in his court martial.  They did, however, convict him of the offence of disgraceful conduct, which can carry a prison term up to five years.  The sentence has not been passed yet, and there’s no indication of what will happen.  I think the jury must really have struggled with it, and now a judge will too.  Capt Semrau is a model citizen by most accounts, other than this event which was the product of a very, very unusual set of circumstances.

I hope it’s a lenient sentence that doesn’t end his career prematurely, that would serve no justice that I can think of.

Despite that, I’ve been annoyed that some people I know continue to be outraged that the matter ever saw a courtroom.  I cannot see any other way it could have been handled.  The allegations were made by other Canadian soldiers obviously uncomfortable with the event, who felt that their sense of duty compelled them to report it.  Once the allegations were made an investigation must begin and progress in the normal manner.  CFNIS decided that there was sufficient evidence to refer a charge, which is their job.  Those who think that the whole thing should have been swept under the rug should remind themselves of the Somalia Affair and the price that was paid in the end by an entire Regiment for transgressions of a few who could have been dealt with individually had the “system” worked.

I’m watching with interest the big military procurement decisions announced by the government.  They’re finally going to get the ball rolling on replacing our ancient AOR (replenishment/supply ships) fleet.  HMCS Protecteur & HMCS Provider are pretty significant assets to allow the global operation of the Canadian Navy, and it’s time to replace them.  It won’t be long before the Tribal-class/DDH-280 destroyers are going to need to be paid off, too.  I laughed a few weeks ago touring the USS Wasp and being told by the “guide” how the ship was likely to be paid off soon because it was 20 years old.  The newest frigates in the Canadian Navy’s fleet are nearly 20 years old.

Fleet week was interesting, though.  I was impressed the the Danish patrol ship I toured, HDMS Ejnar Mikkelson.  Apparently it’s primarily a coastal patrol boat used in the Arctic.  It’s small, versatile, carries a motor launch that can be fired out off a ramp at the rear in addition to a zodiac, and is lightly armed.  It strikes me that this is what we have the Kingston-class MCDVs for, but I think this Danish ship was a lot more modern and better equipped.  That’s the sort of thing it seems we should be looking at, I’d think.  The Danish Navy is something of a good analogue for us, perhaps – their Absalon-class ships are another potentially good example of ships we would get use out of.

Any time a government announces such big purchases there is of course the drama of deciding what else the money could be spent on.  This of course is an age-old economic quandary – the guns or butter problem.  In particular with the announcement of the single-source procurement of the F-35 Lightning II, there’s been a lot of that.  The 65 jets will cost a total of $16 billion when maintenance contracts are factored in over 20 years.  One has to wonder, do we really actually need them?  There’s that – and the single source thing – although realistically, we’ve already invested a fortune in the program, there’s lots of contracts coming to Canada, and there is no other 5th Generation fighter out there – though I laugh that it is single engine, and we bought out CF-18 Hornets over other alternatives like the F-16 because it was twin-engine and single was deemed to risky for sovereignty patrols over the Arctic.  We do need something to replace the Hornets and we need more naval capability to be able to assert our sovereignty over the north.  It’s not so much fun to know that it costs money, but it’s also necessary.

This ties into what’s been getting me a lot listening to all this stumping in the States – and it’s been in the press a lot – listening to these Republicans going on about the deficit and about how they are going to balance the budget – but David Gregory on Meet The Press tried to pin Mitch McConnell down to what, specifically, he would do in order to get the budget balanced – what difficult choices he’d make, and all he did was spin.  Chris Matthews did the same to Mike Pence, again lots of waffling, but nothing actually believable or concrete.

The fact is, much of the worst of the US budget deficit mess is the product of Republicans making stupid decisions like invading Iraq and the massive cost of the US military – the sacred cow that no one will admit to wanting – needing to cut.  It’s interesting that it draws parallels to the fall of various Empires – the cost of legions to defend the Empire saps the treasury to the point that it all collapses on itself.  I fear that could happen to the USA, and reading stuff like Jared Diamond’s Collapse, which incidentally is an amazing read, doesn’t dispel a lot of that fear.  None of the civilizations I’ve read about so far – all thriving – saw their end coming until it was too late to do anything to stop it.

This is where the debate in the States has to head.  Not to the stupidity of absurd talking points that are being raised by the teabaggers or their deluded prophet Glenn Beck et al, but to real decisions about how to get the spending on the government under real control, without any sacred cows, but in a way that makes the country actually stronger, instead of just making the insanely rich richer while the poor get more fucked over and the middle class just hollows out.  It’s not glib to say that the middle class as my parents’ generation knew it seems to be disappearing fast.  The idea of a single income household seems to be more and more preposterous to people I know, most of whom are now married and starting to have kids.  At least I don’t have that burden and don’t ever plan to.  It kind of makes me wonder why I care about the future so much – without any progeny to care about, when I’m gone none of it matters to me anymore anyhow!  I guess it’s that I wonder about how bad things could become in my lifetime, given the accelerating rate at which we seem able to fuck things up.

I guess I’ll just ride it all out and keep being an interested observer, once in a while writing some nonsense in a blog I hope some folks might find profound…

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