If Russia invaded Canada…?

Originally posted as an answer to the question “If Russia were to invade northern Canada, what would be the most obvious strategic plan of attack?” on Quora.

I was an armoured officer in the LdSH(RC) and studied armour battles as a hobby before I joined the military. I was never of high enough rank that I was ever involved in strategic contingency planning, nor did I have any access to such contingency plans. However, the strategic battle plan for an invasion of northern Canada by Russia is subject to a number of logistic realities that make the answer relatively “obvious”. Of course, military experts, professional and amateur, have a habit of making statements of certainty, which the enemy promptly proceeds to ignore.

Please note, such an invasion would appear to be foolhardy. The strategic value of northern Canada isn’t sufficient to provoke a war, so unless Russia was certain of an almost instant capitulation by Canada to the violation of their territorial integrity, it will likely cost them far more than they will gain, at least in the near term.

First consideration, the distance. For reasons that should be obvious, you need a staging area on land in Russia, and until you make landfall in Canada, you haven’t really invaded, just foolishly violated territorial integrity for a piece of ephemera (the ice isn’t really worth all that much). From a rough look at a globe, the furthest north Canadian territory is at about 83 N latitude, while the Russian side is at about 81 N latitude. While the shortest distance between them is not through the pole, it is very close. At 111 km per degree of latitude, and 16 degrees difference in latitude, the distance is roughly 1800 km, accurate enough for our purposes. In reality, the route followed will be significantly longer, for a number of reasons that will be covered below, but if it’s below 2000 km, I would be surprised.

This distance needs to be covered by your invasion force. The quickest force to insert would be airborne special forces, but they can’t hold ground – their job is in and out, and accomplishing very specific missions in difficult circumstances. They could be used to suppress any active defences in Canada, and secure the landing zone for the follow-on forces, airborne regular troops, with their organic artillery and armour (if they have any). Although these troops will have a greater ability to hold ground, they wouldn’t be able to do so against any local resistance that has access to heavy ground forces, including tanks and artillery. Additionally, if the goal is to seize territory for resource exploitation, these troops are also not ideal, and need to be followed up by regular forces. Given that you have a beachhead secured by your airborne forces, but there is no port worthy of the name that far north, you either need to build one, or use ships that can self unload the required equipment… and there will be a LOT of it, all in danger of destruction from counterattacks. Since Canada’s north is essentially undefended by anything other than occasional overflights, it would seem to be simpler to just directly land your amphibious forces in the first place.

To answer the comment about driving 75 tonne tanks around… well, trust me, combat unloading from a ship is a far better choice than trying to drive them across the polar ice. First off, the ice isn’t smooth – your invasion force is going to need engineers scouting the best routes, improving them by demolishing heave ridges and bridging ice gaps (while also stabilizing them so that they don’t spread further). All of this will be done under satellite surveillance, and air attack once they reach Canada’s territory (at the halfway point, essentially). Second, you simply don’t drive tanks for 2000 km under their own power. For long land moves like this, the best approach is trains. Failing that, you use tank transporters (low boy trailers, like they use for tracked earth moving machines). You only unload the tanks and other armoured vehicles to actually fight. The reason that you don’t drive them is that, for all of their combat survivability, they are incredibly fragile vehicle systems – the combination of tracks and suspension (that allows road speeds across moderately unimproved terrain), a rotating turret (in tanks, infantry fighting vehicles like the Bradley, and SP artillery), and optics/computers for sighting and firing is a marvel of engineering… and 2000 km of direct driving, without a LOT of maintenance will result in essentially all of them being fighting casualties (mobility or weapons systems, or both) before they reach their goal. Third is the fact that you will need multiple routes, for a number of reasons – these include the fact that road travel is single file, so you are getting a string of tanks, ready to be picked off one at a time until they can concentrate at some point, the possibility of breakdowns in locations where there is no way around the broken vehicle, and vulnerability to attack. Finally, the amount of supplies required just boggles the mind. Organic refueling is only worthwhile for relatively short moves – modern armoured vehicles are engineering marvels, but they drink fuel the way a drunk downs their poison of choice, and the winter cold (this invasion would have to be in winter, to have enough extent and depth of ice) will mean that all the engines will be running from when they leave Russia until the spring arrives. The invading force will need to establish caches of fuel, spare parts, food and water and other supplies for the invading forces all along the over ice route. Each cache requires a significant amount of logistic support to emplace (they can be LAPESed in, but will need a logistics team to sort out the pallets for use – that  assumes that you have full air superiority. If not, all of that needs to come in by truck). And then you need defences along 2000 km of ice that you are travelling.

Invading the Canadian north from Russia is ludicrous on the face of it, but if it were to happen, it would NOT be by armoured forces crossing the ice, it would be either airborne forces preceding an amphibious landing, or a direct amphibious landing. Anything else is an attempt to kill your invasion force slowly and painfully.

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Homosexuality and Evolution

Written as an answer to “Heterosexuality pretty much ensures continuity of the species, homosexuality doesn’t. What’s the benefit of homosexuality?” on Quora.

You’re missing the point about evolution – it doesn’t select what’s best, but any trait that helps survival is encouraged because the “carriers” survive to pass on that trait. Thus, we end up as a pretty social, pretty cooperative, pretty “good” overall species, because the behaviours that we call “good” are those that we are genetically pre-disposed toward.
However, there are a host of traits that are evolutionary baggage – they either don’t contribute to survival (and also don’t detract from survival), or they are counter survival but they come into the genome as part of a package deal with a survival oriented adaptation.

I have no firm answers on where, evolutionarily speaking, homosexuality fits in. However, here are a few thoughts:

  • in a family with one or more homosexual children, their existence (if they don’t become breeders from cultural pressure) gives the family one more provider without adding to the consumer count in any fashion. In a scarce resources situation, this may be more beneficial than simply generating more mouths that can’t be fed.
  • a homosexual or bisexual male will not need to be as competitive about finding a mate as heterosexual males will be, for sexual release, so they are more likely to avoid fatal competitive situations, waiting until there is a less fraught situation in which they can select a mate.
  • attraction can be a significant factor in creating relationships. Males who find other men attractive may be better able to form relationships and keep larger groups together.
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Trans Women, and Stereotypes of Femininity

Posted as an answer to “Why do some trans women conform to their society’s stereotype of what a woman is by using make-up, shaping the eye brows etc?

There are a number of different things to consider in answering your question. The short answer, cutting right to the chase is: No, there is no need for any woman, cis or trans, to conform to any stereotype of femininity and to still be a woman – the challenge truly comes from whether or not you are accepted as the woman that you claim to be.

Stereotypes are not always a bad thing – evolution actually shaped us to need and expect stereotypes as a way of staying safe. In a scary world, where we hairless apes had very few of the advantages of strength, agility, natural weapons, armoured skin and so on, we had to be able to quickly identify threats to our health and well-being, and implement that other well known human feature, the fight or flight response. In this situation, stereotypes are helpful – does it growl loudly? Danger. Is it creepy/crawly? It will likely make our skin itch. The problems comes when we mistake stereotypes for the thing that they are intended to help us classify, or, worse, when we believe in mistaken stereotypes and apply them to all members of that class that we believe are described by that mistaken stereotype. An example of the first problem is when we take a valid stereotype (women tend to be more maternal than men) and extend it to all members of the class “women” (Tamara is maternal). It may be true… or it may be completely wrong. An example of the second problem is the stereotype that women are bad drivers (most definitely not true, at least not based on drivers involved in serious accidents), and saying that Tamara is a bad driver because she is a woman.

When you see someone in Western societies in a “skirt” (any bottom covering based on material wrapped around the waist and not divided for the legs), the stereotype tells us that we are looking at a woman. However, this is not always true – Scotsmen wear kilts (and calling it a skirt will cause you a high degree of pain when the Scotsman takes offense :-) ), and there are other cultures and regions where skirts are the norm for men (Middle Eastern/Arabic nations, Pacific island cultures). Another stereotype that has changed over the years is the wearing of hose – it used to be the province of men, in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, that men wore tight fitting lower garments over their legs. This hasn’t been true in North America and Europe in a couple of hundred years, and has switched to the other side, although women weren’t allowed to display their stocking clad legs in English speaking nations until after the Victorian era. Today, if you see someone buying nylons, your immediate assumption is that they are for a woman.

The challenges for trans women are numerous. We know what gender we are, and we have our internal sense of how we look and present to others. Many of us, particularly when we transition after puberty, are cursed with broad shoulders, large feet and hands, narrow hips, bearded faces, a prominent brow ridge, deeper voice, and so on. Late transitioners (like me, started transitioning at 45) also have challenges such as hair loss, and decades of acculturation as a man, leading to patterns of behaviour (speech, body language, how we walk, how we sit, etc) that are atypical for women in our societies. For many of us, acceptance as women is just as important as our internal sense of gender – this acceptance is hard to come by when there are numerous cues, both conscious (behaviours, for example) and unconscious (shoulder width, height, brow ridge) that conspire against us. It is relatively easy to spot a man wearing women’s clothing, dressed as a woman – unless he is an actor, and has trained for the role, he’s likely to pick inappropriate clothing, demonstrate discomfort with the clothes and role that he is playing, speak and act and walk and sit in ways that will out him as a “man in a dress and a wig” regardless of how flawless his presentation may be, from a 2-dimensional perspective.

One way to overcome these cues is to modify all the conscious cues that we can (sit and walk demurely, speak appropriately, wear age relevant and accepted clothing) and minimize all the unconscious cues to the degree that we are able (hairpieces for baldness, electrolysis for beards, clothing styles that flatter our height and hips, or deemphasize our shoulders, holding our hands in ways that make them appear smaller), essentially aggressively conforming to every single stereotype for women that we can. For a cis woman, who has the unconscious cues built in to her genetics, she can mess with the conscious cues and not be misgendered in most circumstances – in my experience, a butch woman is still a WOMAN, no matter how unfeminine, stereotypically, her dress and behaviour may be. For a trans woman, every cue that we miss on the conscious side just adds to the weight of the unconscious cues that we didn’t fully mitigate. This leaves us in situations where we can’t get access to the washrooms that we need, or where we can’t find a romantic or sexual partner, or we get stared at and laughed at and generally marginalized, all because we didn’t fit the stereotypes.

This isn’t unique to trans women. Trans men, butch cis women, or flamboyant cis men face the same problems – for them, the challenge is that they can end up being identified as gay, even if they are quite definitely straight… and not one bit of this should matter, either being trans, or gay, or just non-conforming in presentation. But it does. So, many trans women shape their eyebrows and wear makeup and skirts and have surgeries done to reshape their faces or to give them breasts – not because we necessarily buy into the stereotypes for our gender, but because the only way we will be accepted as women is if we conform to the stereotypes as much as possible.

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I have no pride…

I have no pride about my situation, because I didn’t create it – what I do with my circumstances is the thing that I wish to be praiseworthy. I am defined by my performance and not by the stage on which it happens.

A truth that I have held for a long time now, and a friend’s comments reminded me of this.  We are the mistresses and masters of our fate – what will you do with your life?

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The “biblical” definition of marriage


Marriage (Photo credit: Lel4nd)

Billy Graham supports Mitt Romney, in part because he believes in “the Biblical definition of marriage“. Marriage involves at least three separate components that I can think of, and only one of them is relevant in a biblical sense.

The first component of marriage is the personal commitment to your partner, to be their other/better half, to cleave to them only, to be with them through sickness and health, richer and poorer, etc – this is a personal commitment which varies from person to person and between cultures, but this is not biblical. It’s a commitment that can be made in the absence of any religious or societal component, and, for most people outside of the accepted marriageable groups, this was as far as they could go (I’m thinking specifically of gays and lesbians, but it could equally apply to interracial relationships, or other “unacceptable” partnerships). This commitment has nothing to do with the validity or acceptance of the bible definition of marriage.

The second component is the cultural/societal/legal piece. There are regulations in Canada (and equally in the US and most other nations) around what marriage means, as a contract between the partners, and regarding the rights and privileges (and occasionally obligations) placed on the married persons in the eyes of society, the law, and the government. From a positive standpoint, this includes access to the benefits of the partner, the right to inherit when the partner dies intestate, the right to have access and make decisions about long term care when the partner is incapable, and the obligations of support for children of the marriage and the partner in case of marital dissolution. An aspect rarely discussed in the US is the number of partners involved, as it is assumed that this will always and only be two, but there is a legal definition, and associated penalties, for the commission of bigamy. These rights and obligations are based in civil law, with contractual and legal enforcement, beyond and outside any biblical definition of marriage, and can even be found in explicitly atheist states.

The final component is the moral or religious aspect. Surprisingly, the New Testament is mostly silent on the topic of marriage, with the passages about bishops being the husband of one wife seemingly implying that more than one wife could be the norm for other marriages. Additionally, the Old Testament contains numerous examples of polygamy (polygyny specifically), and has at least one injunction that could require polygamy (the surviving brother marrying his sister-in-law to ensure that she will bear a son to carry on her husband’s name). Interestingly, “fundamentalist Mormons“, who haven’t fallen away from Joseph Smith’s original revelation, still practice polygyny despite the proclamations stating that the Mormon church (cult?) no longer supports new polygamous marriages as of the late 19th/early 20th century. Regardless, if the modern church wishes to define marriage “biblically” as one man and one woman, they are welcome to it – however, this celebration and restriction is not impeded or encouraged by either the commitment element (lots of loveless marriages out there) or the legal/cultural component. The only remaining concern for Christians should be that, as churches, they could be FORCED to perform marriages between unacceptable partners, such as two men, or a black man and a white woman. However, I’m not aware of any law, or proposals for laws, that would force a religious celebrant to perform such a ceremony – if nothing else, membership in the congregation by one or both of the partners is often a requirement, and I can’t see that hurdle being willingly leaped by any of the unacceptable couples.

Bottom line seems to be that the religious right in the US is using the excuse of “the biblical definition of marriage” to support legal and cultural discrimination against gays and lesbians, to prevent them from receiving the same benefits, rights and obligations as the heterosexual couples do. Seems very self-serving, and totally unloving – but it’s the first plank of the Billy Graham organization’s direction for its supporters to use in picking a candidate to vote for, and is important enough to allow them to accept a Mormon as their choice for next president of the USA


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Don’t re-post or share this (unless you want to)!

I’m not checking to see who wants to stay on my friends’ list, and I’m not promoting some worthy but currently unknown cause.  I’m not going to monitor who likes this post, and I have no idea what you’ll think about the fact that I posted this at all.  But if you find this amusing, or it made you think, or you just need some random external content to post on your wall, feel free to share and re-share this post!

For those of you who have posted the friend list check, sorry that I didn’t “like” it – it wasn’t because I don’t want to be your friend, but because I hope that I mean more to you than one like, and that missing the post wouldn’t cause you to un-friend me.  For those of you that have posted a link to a worthy cause, I won’t “+1” if you don’t let me know WHY it’s so important to you – if you do, I’ll even “upvote” the fact that chocolate cookie dough ice cream allowed you to re-connect emotionally with your cocker spaniel, or that the latest sale at Shoppers was a transformative experience for your psyche!  For those that tweet nothing but quotes from others, I’m likely to stop reading your feed, because I don’t care nearly as much about the doubtless timeless words of wisdom from some stranger as I care about you and why I connected with you in the first place.

I  know that it’s all “on-line”, and “virtual” for most of us.  But I keep telling myself that there are REAL people behind the bits and bytes, the pixels and pointers, and that REAL person, with a life that means something special to YOU, is what I want to know about.  I love the pictures of your kids, or the view out your resort room window, or your family finish in a race.  I click through to special causes and articles that you post when you tell me WHY you care, or why you think that I should care. I even like the outcomes of the endeavours of strangers that you care about, if their achievements inspire you, or me, to be more or better.

Let’s be real with each other, and not randomly post status updates copied and pasted from somewhere without saying what makes it so special to you.  Because, when it all comes down to it, I “like/+1/RT/upvote” you for YOU!

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Guilt prone people make better leaders!

Interesting article, in light of the link I posted earlier this week about authentic apologies.  The conclusion seems at least somewhat counter-intuitive, but makes a weird sort of sense as well.

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