Look, Ma, Our Own Maginot Line

Part of the Maginot Line

Following the First World War, the French, thinking to forever ban the Hun from their fair soil, laid out and executed plans to build a line of fortifications that would keep them safe from the ravages of marauding spike helmets. There were voices who warned that this was fighting the last war, and that there was a good chance that their Maginot Line was an expensive folly that would solve nothing, especially since the French declined to wall themselves off from the Belgians, secure in the (?) knowledge that the Germans would never come into France through Belgium. We know how that worked out.

So here’s the latest plan from those in the Trudeau/Clark government bureau of Magical Maginot Musings, a great way to blow a big part of the loot allotted for protection from marauding Kinder Morgan tankers (the part being spend by Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, apparently not Trudeau’s $1.5 Bn-over ten years), a series of five oil-spill response bases, as outlined in this article from the Victoria Times-Colonist. These would be located at Ucluelet, Port Alberni, Beecher Bay, Saanich, Duncan, and Nanaimo, with an additional base on the Fraser River. These constitute a fabulous way of disbursing funds to Port Authorities, but there ought to be considerable skepticism about the effectiveness of these bases is redressing the effects of a middling to large dilbit spill along the tanker route through the Strait of Juan de Fuca and into the Strait of Georgia before entering into a terminal on Burrard Inlet or some such place. It really looks as though this plan has about the same real value as a pat on the head and a “There! There!” in averting the inevitablility of a discharge. Responsible people don’t talk about cleaning up oil spills, they talk about avoiding them. Those who do talk about cleaning them up are generally working hard to get to the money represented by the shipping of tar and are notorious for letting the dollar signs floating through their field of fantasy cloud the reality of an accident and a subsequent spill.

Our mayor’s quoted response is puzzling: Yes, he says he’d rather not have the tankers, but actually, we could do school tours through the facility and that would bring in tourist traffic and dollars. We can do better. Ruttan was at the forefront of efforts to protect the airshed when BC Hydro wanted to put in a gas-fired generating station, and an active participant in the fight to keep the coal port out of our community and to shut down the idea of the Raven Coal operation. Why so wishy=washy on this? It gives a glimmer of a somewhat unhealthy relationship that exists between the City and the Port Authority, where the Port Authority, as a proponent of all things Harperite, exerts almost total control over the waterfront and the City seems at least to be a weak sister in capitulating, and at worst to be an enabler to the kind of lack of long-term vision that would have the sense to eliminate the risk of dilbit spills by eliminating the tankers, by not approving pipelines.

The aforementioned lack of vision and the haste to get things in place has cost us dearly through history and continues to characterize our political and economic dealings, a phenomenon that is likely to continue until such time as citizens become aware that they can, and must, delay the gratification of all the shiny baubles and tackle the long, hard decisions first by working in concert with others of like mind.

Old School?

While I’m no longer an early adopter of new technologies, I find that I can adapt to and learn whatever of the shiny new gadgets I choose to incorporate into my own processes. However, there are aspects of new developments that I find somewhat disturbing and which, on the whole, might be taking us down a path to a learned helplessness and a loss of whatever shreds of control we might have had over our actions at whatever point in time.  Wired reports that all the biggies in the tech sector are hopping on the Personal Home Assistant bandwagon, likely because no one company can let any other company stake out a dominant position in a field where there might be chests full of pirate gold awaiting those who meet with early success. Everywhere, there are blandishments to adopt gadgets that let you lock your front door from your desk at work, check all those security cameras for intruders or partying teens, ensure that your progeny aren’t exceeding any speed limits, check out where your cat has roamed, and likely scan the inside of the fridge to put together a list of things you need to pick up on the way home from work. This is naught but an extension of the smartphone enabled digital life and will fit well with the checkout-less market and the self-driving car. At what point does the human will become irrelevant?

We bought a new car in 1993 and switched manufacturers because the model we wanted couldn’t be ordered with a standard transmission. My wife and I both prefer a manual transmission, not that we can’t drive the automatic, but we both feel that we have a degree of control with the manual that the automatic doesn’t necessarily make available. All of our cars since that model have come with a cruise control. We’ve both tried it out and mostly don’t bother, partly because of the kind of roads we have hereabouts, but also because it appears to be another layer of removal of the driver from the process of driving. And now, it seems, an increasing number of cars come with systems to alert the driver to wandering out of lane, to  traffic approaching from behind, and even apply the brakes should the driver fail to respond to a collision warning. As I see advertising for these features, I can’t help but think that the people driving the cars are either letting distractions interfere with their most important and immediate task, or are incompetent and ought not to have permission to drive a motor vehicle in the first place. I keep hearing how self-driving cars will revolutionize urban transport, but given the propensity of our advanced technology to succumb to the workings of Murphy’s Law, I’m not expecting that this will be a smooth transition and that there won’t be some twisted metal and blood on the streets before it’s too far along. I’m put in mind of the sea trials of a guided missile ship of the US Navy a decade or so ago where they ran the whole thing through a series of Windows NT servers, producing an early incidence of unrecoverable crashes which left the vessel dead in the water in the Chesapeake Bay in need of a tow. Likewise, it seems, with the newest vessel, the USS Zumwalt, recently shut down in Gatun Lake while in transit through the Panama Canal. Especially combined with the propensity of governments of all stripes to enact electronic surveillance and controls, I shudder to think of the possibilities inherent in driverless vehicles.


I really prefer to drive less, to share vehicles with other drivers, to walk, to bicycle, to ride transit, to stay at home, and do degadgetize to a great extent, just keeping well-built, high quality repairable and upgradeable tools in the shop, the yard shed and the kitchen. A modicum of comfort is definitely desirable, but the laziness of surrender to technological toys is beyond countenance.




F-35 Reflux


Interesting that a tweet from none other than Donald Trump takes Lockeed to task for the insane cost of the JSF program. Of course, everyone concerned knows that this has been an enormous pork barrel for decades now, and that there is considerable doubt about the “finished” product being able to effectively carry out several aspects of its broadly-defined bouquet of missions. The F-35 seems to stand at the top of that triad of principles that govern the cynic’s universe: Entropy (particularly as defined by Dave Small), The Peter Principle, and Murphy’s Law. As to the truth as spoken by the President-Elect, we must remind ourselves that even broken (analog) clocks tell the correct time twice a day.

I went looking for Dave’s Definition of Entropy and was not successful. This I recall from a computer magazine of c. 1987:

Entropy can be characterized thusly:

If you have a barrel of chickenshit and you add a tablespoon of fine Bordeaux wine, you have a barrel of chickenshit.

If you have a barrel of fine Bordeaux wine and you add a tablespoon of chickenshit, you have a barrel of chickenshit.


I’m not sure, but here is a page that may belong to THE Dave Small in question: