Archive for March, 2017

Images of the Kingston Penitentiary from J. J. Kelso, “Crime and Its Suppression,” The Canadian Magazine. Vol. 22, No. 5, March 1904. pp. 440-450.  

A lengthy article on the need for reform in Canadian prisons, parole and pardon (the former just introduced federally five years earlier) as well as detailed descriptions of the ‘criminal class’ and the necessity of treating the ‘mentally unfit’ and the juvenile.  Interestingly, it doesn’t mention Kingston Penitentiary at all, and seems to rely more on Toronto police court and Central Prison records.  I assume the pictures are literally just for show, but are interesting none the less.

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The Wake perform ‘Uniform’ at the Hacienda Club , Manchester. 1983.

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This sample of 100 Colquitz patients comprised 26.7% of the 375 men
who were transferred to the Saanich institution from its inception in
March 1919 to the death of Granby Farrant in November 1933. They
represented a proportionate sampling by year of Colquitz admissions
recorded in the facility’s transfer registry housed at the BCARS. After
identifying the 100 men I located, selectively transcribed, and analyzed
their clinical files, 71 of which resided at the BCARS, and the other 29 at
the East Lawn Clinical Records Service of Riverview Hospital. 

Like comparable patient populations studied in other historical contexts, these men comprised a marginal, disenfranchised, highly institutionalized,
and deeply troubled cohort. Of the 100 individuals, 92 had
been born outside of British Columbia, and 77 originated beyond the
Canadian borders. The inmates were also dispersed widely across the
province at the time of hospitalization or arrest, with just 37 residing in
the Vancouver, New Westminster, or Victoria areas. Eight were already
in mental or carceral institutions. Only 27 were married. Their mean age
at entry was 37 years. The most common form of occupation was general
laboring (37 men), followed by farming (14), and mining (8). The
sample included merely two professionals (a police chief and a lawyer).
Six men were classified as vagrants. Eighty-five of 92 patients for whom
information was available had received more than an elementary
school education, and just two had gone to college. A wide diversity of
psychiatric disorders were manifest, the most frequent being dementia
praecox or schizophrenia (32 cases) and paranoia (31 cases). There
were also six instances of manic depression, five cases of “mental defect,”
four of alcoholism or toxic psychosis, and one each of Parkinson’s
syndrome, cerebral syphilis, psychopathic inferiority, moral delinquency,
senile dementia, and post-traumatic cerebral deterioration. 

Among the 100 male Colquitz inmates, 80 had entered the psychiatric
system under civil rather than criminal legislation. These men had been l first certified indefinitely to the PHI (up to 1924) or Essondale (thereafter)
by two physicians through the provincial Mental Hospitals Act
(MHA)?’ then transferred to Colquitz for reasons of security or because
they were deemed dangerous to themselves or others. Precisely one half
of these 80 commitment cases originated from an encounter with the
police, and in 11 instances authorities had initially laid criminal charges
before invoking hospitalization. In addition to this civil population,
there were three prisoners who had arrived from the provincial Oakalla
Prison Farm (in Burnaby) and six from the federal British Columbia
Penitentiary (in New Westminster) under, respectively, the Criminal
Code of Canada or the Penitentiary Act. Eight patients had been found
unfit to stand trial, and another three were judged not guilty by reason of insanity, at trial before a judge or jury. These 11 “Order-in-Council”
men were subject to indeterminate hospitalization under Warrants of
the Lieutenant-Governor (WLGS). Among the 20 “criminally insane”
cases and the 11 MHA commitments which had triggered an arrest or
conviction, there were 11 murder charges, 10 other violent crimes, four
property transgressions, three vagrancy offences, two desertions from
the Armed Forces, and one case of carnal knowledge. 

With a few exceptions, the mental incarceration of these psychiatric
inmates was a protracted affair. The average length of Colquitz internment
among the 100 sampled patients was 14.0 years. Eleven men were
at Saanich for less than one 36 were confined from 1 to 9 years,
and the remainder for 10 or more years. Thirty-one men were in the facility
for more than two decades, and four spent at least 40 years each
inside the Colquitz walls. The mean total time spent institutionalized in
the British Columbia mental health system, other facilities included,
was 17.2 years. Twelve of the men were in hospitals for over 40 years,
and one endured 64 years of psychiatric containment.” 

– Robert Menzies, “"I Do Not Care for a Lunatic’s Role”: Modes of Regulation and Resistance Inside the Colquitz Mental Home, British Columbia, 1919-33.” Canadian Bulletin of Medical History. Volume 16: 1999. pp. 188-89.

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“It started with the Boston marathon bombing, four years ago. University of Washington professor Kate Starbird was sifting through thousands of tweets sent in the aftermath and noticed something strange.

Too strange for a university professor to take seriously.

“There was a significant volume of social-media traffic that blamed the Navy SEALs for the bombing,” Starbird told me the other day in her office. “It was real tinfoil-hat stuff. So we ignored it.”

Same thing after the mass shooting that killed nine at Umpqua Community College in Oregon: a burst of social-media activity calling the massacre a fake, a stage play by “crisis actors” for political purposes.

“After every mass shooting, dozens of them, there would be these strange clusters of activity,” Starbird says. “It was so fringe we kind of laughed at it.

“That was a terrible mistake. We should have been studying it.”

Starbird is in the field of “crisis informatics,” or how information flows after a disaster. She got into it to see how social media might be used for the public good, such as to aid emergency responders.

Instead she’s gone down a dark rabbit hole, one that wends through the back warrens of the web and all the way up to the White House.

Starbird argues in a new paper, set to be presented at a computational social-science conference in May, that these “strange clusters” of wild conspiracy talk, when mapped, point to an emerging alternative media ecosystem on the web of surprising power and reach.

It features sites such as Infowars.com, hosted by informal President Donald Trump adviser Alex Jones, which has pushed a range of conspiracies, including that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a staged fake.

There are dozens of other conspiracy-propagating websites such as beforeitsnews.com, nodisinfo.com and veteranstoday.com. Starbird cataloged 81 of them, linked through a huge community of interest connected by shared followers on Twitter, with many of the tweets replicated by automated bots.

Infowars.com alone is roughly equivalent in visitors and page views to the Chicago Tribune, according to Alexa.com, the web-traffic analysis firm.

“More people are dipping into this stuff than I ever imagined,” Starbird says.

Starbird is in the UW’s Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering — the study of the ways people and technology interact. Her team analyzed 58 million tweets sent after mass shootings during a 10-month period. They searched for terms such as “false flag” and “crisis actor,” web slang meaning a shooting is not what the government or the traditional media is reporting it to be.

It happens after every mass shooting or attack. If you search for “false flag” and “Westminster,” you’ll find thousands of results theorizing that last week’s attack outside British Parliament was staged (presumably to bring down Brexit, which makes no sense, but making sense is not a prerequisite).

Starbird’s insight was to map the digital connections between all this buzzing on Twitter with a conglomeration of websites. Then she analyzed the content of each site to try to answer the question: Just what is this alternative media ecosystem saying?

It isn’t a traditional left-right political axis, she found. There are right-wing sites like Danger & Play and left-wing sensationalizers such as The Free Thought Project. Some appear to be just trying to make money, while others are aggressively pushing political agendas.

The true common denominator, she found, is anti-globalism — deep suspicion of free trade, multinational business and global institutions.

“To be antiglobalist often included being anti-mainstream media, anti-immigration, anti-science, anti-U.S. government, and anti-European Union,” Starbird says.

So it was like the mind of Stephen Bannon, chief adviser to Trump, spilled across the back channels of the web.

Much of it was strangely pro-Russian, too — perhaps due to Russian twitter bots that bombarded social channels during the presidential campaign (a phenomenon that’s now part of the FBI investigation into the election, McClatchy reported last week).

The mainstream press periodically waded into this swamp, but it only backfired. Its occasional fact checks got circulated as further evidence: If the media is trying to debunk it, then the conspiracy must be true.

Starbird is publishing her paper as a sort of warning. The information networks we’ve built are almost perfectly designed to exploit psychological vulnerabilities to rumor.

“Your brain tells you ‘Hey, I got this from three different sources,’ ” she says. “But you don’t realize it all traces back to the same place, and might have even reached you via bots posing as real people. If we think of this as a virus, I wouldn’t know how to vaccinate for it.”

Starbird says she’s concluded, provocatively, that we may be headed toward “the menace of unreality — which is that nobody believes anything anymore.” Alex Jones, she says, is “a kind of prophet. There really is an information war for your mind. And we’re losing it.”

I sat dumbfounded for a time as she spooled through tweets in her database: an archive of endless, baseless speculation that nevertheless is evidence of a political revolution. It should be unnecessary to say, but real humans died in these shootings. How disgustingly cruel it is to the survivors to have the stories of those deaths altered and twisted for commercial or ideological ends.

Starbird sighed. “I used to be a techno-utopian. Now I can’t believe that I’m sitting here talking to you about all this.””

– Danny Westneat, “UW professor: The information war is real, and we’re losing it,” The Seattle Times. March 29, 2017.

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The Suicidal Army
“In the 1934 plan, G-2 branch had produced an inventive way for the Army
to draw on its guerrilla warfare heritage and make maximum use of the
limited resources available to it. However, this plan was quite at odds with
the prevailing view within the Army General Staff. Two years earlier, the
Army Chief of Staff had submitted a programme to the government for the
development of a sizeable conventional force. He proposed building-up the
Army, over a 15-year period, to a 75,000 strong force which could field a
corps of three divisions well equipped with artillery, tanks, armoured cars
and aircraft. The Army Staff told the Minister of Defence that the purpose
of the programme was to provide for ‘the systematic building up … of a
Field Force suitable to the defence requirements of this country… organized
in a self-contained, properly balanced whole … [and] equipped with all the
modern weapons required.’ The massive scale of this programme can be
appreciated by noting that, at the time, the Army had only 13,000 troops,
little artillery, a handful of armoured cars, very few aircraft, and one tank. 

As part of this programme, the Army convened a board in January 1933
to examine options for a new armoured fighting vehicle capable of
countering a tank attack, and which could be manufactured in Ireland. After
a year of deliberation, the Board proposed purchasing a single light tank
from a Swedish firm, and components for two additional tanks along with
assembly instructions, ‘with a view to gaining the practical experience
which would be invaluable when the more ambitious programme is
undertaken’. The Defence Department believed that assembling these
tanks could ‘pave the way for the possible development of a mechanical
industry in this line’. Needless to say, Finance officials strongly disagreed
with the Army’s proposal. They saw ‘no future for any Irish Firm in the
manufacture or even in the assembly of tanks’. In addition, the Department
of Finance was sceptical about the estimated cost of the programme,
particularly as it was believed that the Army had simply pulled their figures
out of thin air. Accordingly, the Minister of Finance rejected the Army’s
proposal and only gave permission for the purchase of a second completed
tank. Whereas the Army had wanted to start up a tank industry in Ireland,
all it got in the end was two tanks. Similarly, the rest of the Army’s buildup
programme was vetoed just as effectively by the Department of Finance.

Obviously the war in Europe increased the military threat to Ireland.
Britain had agreed in 1938 to give back the ports it had held onto in the Irish
state on the assumption that they would not be denied access to these ports
in wartime. When war broke out, the Irish government, led by Eamon de
Valera as Taoiseach (Prime Minister), did just this to preserve Irish
neutrality. This infuriated Winston Churchill who, now back in office as
First Lord of the Admiralty, had been highly critical of the decision to hand
back the Irish ports in the first place. He considered them vital to the Royal
Navy’s ability to defend Britain. Robert Fisk persuasively shows that this
led Churchill, as Prime Minister from 1940, to have an ‘unhealthy fixation
with the idea that strong-arm tactics might be used against the Irish’. This
was precisely what Irish intelligence officers had predicted in their 1936
‘Fundamental factors’ report.

Thus, Irish political and military leaders were only too aware of the
military threat they faced from Britain. However, at the same time, they also
relied on British military support to repel any German invasion. Indeed, in
the Summer of 1940, this is what Army planners worried about most.
Hence, General Defence Plan (GDP) No.l, drafted by the Plans and
Operations (G-l) branch of the Army General Staff, was designed in May
to suppress a rising by the Irish Republican Army (IRA), and from July to
repulse a German invasion.33
Britain worried about this also; not only did
Britain want Irish ports for its navy, but it also wanted to ensure that
Germany did not overrun Ireland. Thus, there was considerable cooperation
between the Irish and British militaries to facilitate this. In July
1940 the British Army established a liaison team, called the 18th Military
Mission, to prepare plans for a British military intervention in aid of the
Irish Army. 

Irish neutrality was primarily about Ireland affirming its sovereignty and
asserting its independence from Britain. Hence, the Irish government was
adamant that the British military should only come to Ireland’s rescue after
the Irish Army had first engaged the Germans, and Ireland had officially
requested assistance. Yet the British Chiefs of Staff told the British War
Cabinet that they could only defend Ireland if British forces entered the
country before the invading German force landed in Ireland. Hence, the
British military came up with a plan (Plan ‘W’) which ‘on one level fully
intended to be the British response to an Irish call for assistance – was also
the embryo plan for the British invasion of Eire.’ Irish Army staff knew
full well Britain’s ambivalent military intentions. The Irish Chief of Staff,
Major-General Dan McKenna, reported to senior Irish politicians in 1941
that the British appeared to be preparing to strengthen their force in
Northern Ireland, adding that: ‘Whether this increased force is to assist us
in the event of German aggression or to be used against us we cannot

definitely say.’ What is clear was that by November 1940 the threat of a
German invasion had receded, while Britain began to look ever more
threatening. As McKenna later recalled:

Although [the British Army] had given us their North of Ireland order
of battle earlier in the year 1940 towards the end of the year, when
more troops came to Northern Ireland, they notified us that they no
longer could make their order of battle available to us, and that in
consequence they would not ask for ours. In the atmosphere then
prevailing we could have had an invasion at any time.

This view was shared by Taoiseach de Valera who believed that ‘there was a
danger that Britain might attempt a rapid and surprise occupation of the
country.’ De Valera was so worried about the threat of imminent British
invasion that he ordered all Christmas leave to be cancelled for the Army. It
should be noted that for the purposes of assessing the Irish Army’s War Plans,
the actual threat of invasion from Britain was less important than the Irish
perception of this threat. As we have seen, to Irish military and political
leaders the threat was very real, and remained so until December 1941.

In response, G-l branch switched their attention in mid-November 1940
from completing GDP 1 against a German attack to drawing up GDP 2
against a British invasion. The sense of urgency is indicated by the fact that
GDP 2 was completed by staff officers, approved by the Taoiseach, and
promulgated to army commanders in Operational Order 3/1940, within one
month. At the same time the Irish government was so concerned about not
doing anything that might be seen as provocative by the British, that all
reference to Britain was deleted from Operational Order 3/1940. 

Nevertheless, the force posture adopted under GDP 2 was clearly
designed to meet a British invasion of the entire country, the main effort of
which was expected to be an overland drive from Northern Ireland directly
down to Dublin. Under GDP 2, the Irish Army re-organized itself into two
divisions. The 2nd Division was given the task of meeting the main British
thrust from Northern Ireland. The 1st Division was tasked with providing
reinforcements for 2nd Division, and defending the rest of the country
against sea and air landings. GDP 2 determined that a ‘definite stand must
be made as far north of the line Dublin-Athlone-Galway as possible’ and
to this end the bulk of 2nd Division was to be deployed on a Main Line of
Resistance (MLR) along the line of the rivers Boyne and Blackwater. In
addition, an infantry outpost system, augmented by patrols and cyclist
squadrons, was set-up ahead of the MLR to initially delay the enemy
advance and allow time for the mobilization of forces on the MLR.

GDP 2 was quite at odds with the 1934 war plan and 1936 intelligence
report, both of which strongly warned of the risks of deploying along static 

defensive lines. The adoption of a static defence may be explained by the
fact that the new war plan had a different objective. Whereas the purpose of
the 1934 plan was to drag out the war as long as possible with Britain, the
purpose of the GDP 2 was to buy enough time for German forces to
intervene on Ireland’s behalf. GDP 2 does not explicitly refer to a German
intervention in support of the Irish Army, but the Irish General Staff clearly
saw GDP 2 in this context. So, whereas the 1934 plan sought to preserve
the regular Army, by organizing it into mobile formations, and to use it to
prepare the nation for guerrilla warfare, under GDP 2 it merely had to keep
the British at bay for a few days until the Germans arrived. 

However, it is difficult not to conclude that the 1934 plan offered a far
better defence for Ireland during the early war years than GDP. 2. There are
two reasons for this. First of all, six years had not changed the basic truth
that it would have been suicidal for the Irish Army to engage the British
force head on. In 1940, G-1 expected the British invasion force to consist of
three divisions and an armoured brigade from Northern Ireland, and a
further two divisions from Great Britain; totalling 70,000-80,000 troops
with approximately 1,000 armoured fighting vehicles and up to 400 field
guns. Against this, the entire Irish Army was only 40,000 strong with a mere
73 armoured fighting vehicles and 51 field guns. Thus, as in 1934, not only
would the British have had numerical superiority, but their force would have
been far better equipped and trained. 

For this reason the Irish 2nd Division would have had slim chance of
delaying the British advance for sufficient time to allow for German
military intervention. G-l expected the British to launch a surprise attack
with ‘mechanized and motorized forces … utilized in the German model’. Such British forces would, in all likelihood, have swept past the Irish
infantry outposts and rapidly overrun the MLR. As one of the authors of
the GDP 2 admitted: ‘each forward battalion [on the Irish MLR] may
encounter a force 5 to 9 times its own strength in men alone. In the nature
of things unless the enemy blunders badly or we happen to be extremely
lucky, the odds are against us.’ 

In short, had the Irish Army executed GDP 2, it would have suffered the
same dire fate as the Iraqi Army suffered when it put up a static defence
against the US-led coalition in the 1991 Gulf War. Indeed, the analogy is
striking. In his recent analysis of the outcome of the Gulf War, Stephen
Biddle argues persuasively that in explaining the scale of the coalition’s
victory, the superior technology and superior skill of the Coalition forces
operated in synergy to produce overwhelming victory: ‘the Coalition’s
advanced technology made it possible to exploit Iraqi mistakes with
unprecedented severity, enabling entire Republican guard divisions to be
annihilated in close combat with minimal losses.’ Similarly, reports of    divisional exercises carried out by the Irish Army in 1942 reveal a catalogue
of basic tactical errors by Irish troops which the better trained and equipped
British Army would have been able to exploit with devastating effect. For
instance, one report notes that: ‘There were, in fact, far too many avoidable
occasions when troops bunched on roads and offered excellent targets to
enemy machine-guns, mortars, artillery and air attack.’This was a critical
shortcoming, given that any invading British force would have enjoyed
overwhelming superiority in artillery and airpower. Overall, the report
found that the standard of tactics and fieldcraft ‘was generally below the
required standard. Under these circumstances, the basis of the 1934 plan –
to fight a series of delaying actions in order to preserve the regular Army,
train the volunteer force and give it experience – made a lot more sense. 

The second reason for favouring the 1934 plan over GDP 2 was the
probability that Germany may not have been able, or even willing, to send
an intervention force to bail out Ireland. The Irish General Staff simply
assumed that: ‘In the event of Britain initiating acts of war in this country it
is quite certain that Germany will at once intervene.’ McKenna later
admitted that the Irish Army had greatly underestimated the extent to which
Germany was deterred from invading the British Isles by the Royal Air
Force and Royal Navy. It has also been suggested that the Irish
government realized that ‘it would have to face a hostile British incursion
alone — accepting German help would be militarily pointless and would be
politically disastrous.’ There is some evidence to support this view, in that
de Valera refused to accept a German offer of a stockpile of captured British
weapons. Thus, preparing a guerrilla campaign arguably would have been
a more prudent course of action than relying on German assistance. Indeed,
such a campaign may have offered a considerable deterrent to British attack,
given that Britain would not have wanted five army divisions bogged down
in Ireland in the midst of a world war.”

–  Theo Farrell, “Professionalization and Suicidal Defence Planning by the Irish Army, 1921-1941.” Journal of Strategic Studies, 21: 3 (September 1998), pp. 71-75.

Photograph source. “Taking aim: An Irish Army soldier, wearing a German-style helmet, trains in 1939.”

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Johan Christian Dahl, Megalith Grave near Vordingborg in Winter. Oil on canvas, 1824-1825. Museum der bildenden Künste.

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Prison for Women, Kingston, Ontario. Two photographs of the cells of unknown inmates. Undated and with no description in archives as to purpose.  Based on surrounding material in fonds and the Star Wars blanket, very late 1970s or early 1980s.

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