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The Man Who Shrunk the World

08-Dec-20 10:22 am EST Leave a comment

At 97, Chuck Yeager has lived a very full life. But it was distinguished for many other reasons too. Not the least of which being he was one of the architects of what was once called ‘The Global Community’. This is a smaller world where communications and mobility of mankind began to have powers that the ancient gods of the past could have only dared dream of.

Yeager’s contribution was willing to be a test pilot for the United States Air Force and, insodoing, became the first man to break the speed of sound itself. It was only the first of many achievements to come, of course – but at the time it really seemed to kick things off in a way nobody in the world could approach. In the later years of his life, Yeager would have seen super-sonic speed as commonplace (even with passenger craft like the Concord taking flight). But he’ll surely be most often remembered for being the first to show how it could be done.

Of course, today, such high-profile achievements tend to either not happen at all or be so sophisticated in enhancing our capabilities as a species we daren’t even speak of them openly (for whatever that might mean). This might lead one to think Yeager was one-of-a-kind in other ways too: that he was among the last to bring the US well-deserved glory; but while totally untrue in fact – it doesn’t diminish Yeager or his life. For those who play Elite, some of the older of us may recall he even became involved with software gaming for a time in the late 1980s – for many Chuck Yeager’s Flight Simulator was a real hit!

Chuck Yeager, remembered today as a pioneer and explorer. Truly more worthy than any of us of the title ‘Elite’!

Gen. Chuck Yeager became a legend for being the first person to experience speed beyond sound itself. (Credit: Winnipeg Free Press, December 8, 2020)

CBC Censorship Out of Control!

28-Nov-20 10:46 am EST Leave a comment

It wasn’t the first time today when the 3rd post I’d made to a CBC News article in the past 2 months got censored for some unknown reason. I was responding to another comment by “John Thomas Cromarty”, who posts quite regularly to CBC’s news story comments about the article entitled “Should people take Russia’s new COVID-19 vaccine? Increasingly, experts say it’s probably just fine” and I’d responded with the following:

Reply to @john thomas cromarty: I have very little patience for those playing politics with the vaccine and I think we should keep a list of these bastards for later consequences to follow. That said, the bare fact we participated in the development of the vaccine should result in some percentage being made available to Canada immediately – the effort spent in its development wasn’t some kind of academic exercise, after all. Then again, China loves to break the treaties it signs and the Communist Party of China needs to be destroyed. They’re guilty of atrocities unheard of since the end of World War II (where the Uighurs are concerned) to say nothing of the human rights travesties that are visited on its own people interested in greater democracy. Maybe we should’ve thought of that before pairing up with the Chinese government to develop anything!

As for now, we shouldn’t compromise on Weng’s (the Huawei CFO that was arrested in Canada which China has demanded we release). We have a long-standing treaty with our ranking ally, the United States, and regardless of the circumstances, our obligations under that treaty are clear. And let us not forget the two Canadian hostages China already took to retaliate for Weng’s capture. I for one will never support moving away from the US as an ally – and becoming some kind of Chinese sympathizer isn’t gonna help much either. It’s not as if China is anything close to making itself a worthy replacement for the US! 

— CBC News, http://cbc.ca/news, 28-NOV-2020 (in reply to comments by John Thoms Cromarty)

I am unsure what the rationale was, but apart from one word which (arguably) could have been disallowed due to the use of an expletive – the entire article was censored about 10 minutes after being made available publicly.

In fact, I’ve twice taken the time to write letters to both the CBC ombudsman and CBC content folks about the censorship issue without so much as the courtesy of an automated reply. And I’ve started to question whether CBC even takes such comments and questions seriously. I’ve certainly taken the time to read the posting rules and other pertinent literature and can find nothing in any of the aforementioned posts that was technically “out of bounds”, according to my reasoning. Also according to that reasonsing, either I’m missing relevant information or something in CBC’s process is flawed. If they don’t want end-users commenting on stories, why provide a “fake” comments section where 30% of the posts are disabled for some unspecified reason? It feels a little arbitrary and contrary to the public transparency so often decried as the fault of governments to provide when the CBC doesn’t even adhere to that same standard itself.

And I, for one, tend to disdain hypocrisy…

Lest we Forget!

12-Nov-20 09:58 pm EST Leave a comment

Rememberence Day has just passed and I thought one story I caught on http://cbc.ca/news worthy of mention this year in particular:

Ottawa announces new Hong Kong immigration options as committee warns Uighurs face ‘genocide’

Earlier today, members of a House of Commons committee looking into the plight of ethnic Muslim Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang province cited their recent conclusion that the Chinese Communist Party is guilty of perpetrating a genocide against the ethnic minority.

The all-party Commons subcommittee on human rights heard harrowing testimony from survivors of China’s imprisonment of Uighur Muslims. They shared accounts of mass incarceration, rape, forced sterilization of women and mass surveillance.

Critics say China has detained as many as one million Uighurs and members of other Muslim groups in what amount to mass prisons, where they are subjected to “re-education.”

The Chinese government has denied any abuse of human rights in the region and insists that reports claiming that are false.

John Paul Tasker, CBC, Parliamentary Bureau (November 12, 2020)

The words decrying concentration camps setup by Nazi Germany following World War II come to mind: “Never again!” It made me reflect on the loss of Canadians who fought the kind of thing China is now obviously committed to and how those words ring hollower the longer we let their failing tyranny continue unopposed here in our nice, comfortable western democracies. Just as at the beginning of World War II, the Nazis setup concentration camps where they didn’t gas Jews to death along with the homosexuals and others the ‘master race’ decried as inferior. That came later, after the horrible living conditions and abuse had settled in. Now here we are again letting conditions deteriorate for the Uighurs. How long will it be before China decides on its own “final solution” to the Uighur problem? Do we in the free world continue to do nothing?

If so, I have just one question: do we really honor those who have given their lives for the freedoms we now enjoy? Something tells me, they didn’t dream of freedom and security for just Canada and its allies facing Nazi tyranny but even if they did, can we really be so naieve to think we’re secure from any future date where the Chineese Communist Party (or its surrogates) decides it is in its own interests to take them away?

Congratulations, America!

07-Nov-20 09:50 pm EST Leave a comment
Joe Biden is elected as the 46th President of the United States.

A quick word on the election for President of the United States which has just ended (after a lengthy week of stress for many of us): Congratulations to our American friends!

Regardless of whether you’re a political liberal or conservative, there is a lot of hope evident throughout the US and the world tonight. America has felt strangely absent and inward-looking to my eye these past few years and it seems as if it really is about to join us once again in adressing the problems humanity and, really, the whole world faces. Humanity is eager to continue the work started by Europe, America and their allies (not least of which includes Canada) to deal with COVID-19, climate change, recent progress made by corrupt and tyrranical regimes the world over to ensure a happier future for all of us and future generations.

Here’s hoping the work of putting new technologies to work establishing a world at total peace and finding new ways to deal with conflict and establishing our presence throughout this star system continues too.

Categories: News and politics

Controversial Canadian Senator Backs Trump with Campaign Contribution

27-Oct-20 11:34 pm EDT Leave a comment

Senator Lynn Beyak should know that her resignation from the Canadian Senate should be immediate. She got caught red-handed making an illegal campaign contribution to Donald Trump’s re-election fund with money paid to her by Canadian taxpayers. The United States has a law prohibiting campaign contributions from foreign nationals, but Beyak’s office was saying only “it was a mistake” tonight in Ottawa.

Sen. Lynn Beyak’s office said she made a contribution to the Republican National Committee ‘in error.’ Source: CBC

Yup – a career-limiting mistake if things go the way they should and at least a fine from the Americans with a ban on her travelling to the US is probably in order too. SHAME ON HER!!!!!!!

Full story carried tonight via CBC News.

The ‘2nd Death’ of Sir John A. Macdonald

20-Oct-20 12:05 am EDT Leave a comment

Canada is, to some degree, disowning it’s first Prime Minister (PM), Sir John A. Macdonald. As every Canadian knows, Macdonald was something of a drunk and has been more recently cited as being an unrepentant assimilationist and among the lead architects of the residential schools programme (which, from Canada’s founding until the latter-half of the 20th century, took aboriginal children away from their families to a life of ritual abuse at the hands of government-funded authority). With aboriginal roots reaching well-into my own family, it might sound surprising that I am of two minds on the question.

First, Macdonald’s actions both on the aboriginal file (including the wrongful execution of Louis Riel from my home province of Manitoba), on the head tax levied against Chinese workers building the first railways, the CPR scandal among a number of corruption allegations, notorious alcoholism (including imbibing while sitting the House of Commons) and “fiscal insanity” according to a very forgiving review by a contemporary Canadian historian — there certainly is a lot to choose from when it comes to finding imperfections in this founding father of one of the world’s great nations. But as, secondly, as a student of history, I’ve always found it both difficult and unfair to judge the actions of our ancestors whilst living with all the creature comforts and morality of the modern age.

So here we are sitting with all the amenities of the early 21st century judging the rampant ignorance of those living in the 19th. What terrible people and fools they must all have been! Or so we say to ourselves — and not for the first time.

To take an example from the history of science, one could see with the benefits of 17th and 18th-century technology that Jupiter clearly had moons of its own and the Catholic Church’s original assertions that Earth must be the very center of the universe were clearly debunked by the Sun’s position there instead must also have seemed terribly ignorant. Indeed, there were those that said so.

Indeed, at first glance, Aristotle’s model of the solar system might seem a wireframe monstrosity gone horribly, horribly wrong. Until one factors in it’s a product of a unique genius making observations available to him with his own eyes, absent tools like the telescope living as he did in the 4th century BCE and with seemingly few people ahead of him in line making meaningful observations about the planets, the moon and the sun. Even after Aristotle helped spark further curiosity on the subject, by the Roman era people imagined the stars being phenomena hundreds of stadia away from the ground; or perhaps thousands. (The concept of a million as we know it was still to come down the road — not that even the nearest star could be measured in a distance meaningful in any way to a Roman citizen.)

Macdonald then was faced with challenges that bore out a considerable degree of immorality when judged by our 21st century standards. Of course the aboriginals had to be dealt with, sometimes harshly. He had a vision of Canada and the United States threatened that with invasion, as they’d done just over 50 years earlier in 1812. Claiming Cree and other tribal lands in Manitoba and elsewhere in the Canadian west was a priority to establish a Canadian-British claim on the territory, lest otherwise Canada not survive to see its own 50th birthday. And besides, as he would’ve seen it, bringing Anglo civilization to the ignorant, less technically sophisticated aboriginals could only be a good thing for them. The Spanish were the ones who’d used European technology to conquer their aboriginal peoples. Anglo civilization was gentler, more enlightened. So he’d have thought, surely.

So discredit where it’s due — but lets have the credit too, I say. Without Macdonald, we wouldn’t have Canada as we know it to hold up as a model for the rest of the world to follow. What he did to its aboriginal peoples was, of course, reprehensible, but assimilation policy was very British and the de facto approach when dealing with peoples that seemed irrationally resistant to its dominance (as happened in Ireland three centuries earlier when some bright folk decided that a certain “Ireland problem” needed dealing with). Macdonald it bears saying, with ample imperfections both personally and in policy-making, deserves to be credited with helping to forge the nation we’re all inextricably a part of today as Canadians and regardless of ancestral origin. A nation that embraces diversity in all its forms, conscious of social need and of being relied upon to (however eventually) fulfill its obligations to those it owes its friendship and duty, and fanatical in the pursuit of justice and service to its citizens.

Macdonald, whatever you may feel about him, helped create that nation undeniably. Maybe that means we rename a law school one day or remove a statue the next. But let’s not pretend he wasn’t among a tiny few to first and truly believe in something called Canada.

Canada’s use of Huawei 5G would hamper its access to U.S. intelligence – U.S. official — National Post

23-Nov-19 01:40 pm EST Leave a comment

HALIFAX — The U.S. national security adviser urged Canada on Saturday not to use Huawei 5G technology, saying that doing so would put in jeopardy intelligence sharing with the United States and expose Canadians to being profiled by the Chinese government. Read More

Canada’s use of Huawei 5G would hamper its access to U.S. intelligence – U.S. official — National Post

Brexit

09-Nov-19 11:14 am EST Leave a comment

Feeling compelled, as a friend of the United Kingdom (UK, including of Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England), I’ve repeatedly found myself at odds with those from the nation with whom I’d had discourse (typically via the app ‘Discord’) concerning its fate as regards its membership within the European Union (EU). I’m often told that, as a Canadian, I am unable to appreciate the particulars of life in the UK or somehow fail to appreciate its culture and history. At home, I’ve heard these same criticism from Québec separatists although I can speak french and certainly understand life here, living just a kilometer or so from the Québec border and routinely visit the province while on business or to visit friends there. I was even given the same argument by a recent movement the appeared here in the wake of the Liberal Party Justin Trudeau’s 2nd term election victory over the Conservative Party candidate Andrew Scheer called ‘Wexit’ wherein disaffected Alberta voters founded a serious movement (perhaps the first of its kind) to break away from Canada because anyone living east of Winnipeg, Manitoba paid attention to the western part of the country. Yet I spent the first 21 years of my life living in Manitoba (especially Winnipeg) and feel ‘from’ there far more than my current city ‘Ottawa’ where I now live and work. So the latter two charges from Canadian separatists seem out-of-touch with the facts of my life. And yet I’m certainly not from the UK, so could I be so far off on the subject of a break-away from the EU?

When I first looked into the rationale behind the vote to leave, I’d dismissed it as something of an anomaly in UK politics that would clear itself up quickly. To my astonishment, that didn’t happen and the extraction process merilly rolled on ahead without apparent reason. I’d heard the complaints; the EU was “dominated” by France and Germany who’d routinely “gang up” on England in votes. Money to support the EU left the UK without return or recompense of any kind. And UK sovereignty was being systematically eroded to the point where the island would end up ruled from either Paris or Berlin in short order. Yet my research kept hitting dead ends. I examined a TED Talk done in the city of Vancouver, Canada to get some additional insights from a very British person who, herself, seemed very knowledgeable on the subject — to no avail.

Caption: Carole Cadwalladr presenting Brexit research findings at TED Vancouver in June 2019

Her rational analysis seemed to lay to rest any doubt that the UK received a great deal from the EU; contributing significantly to the recovery of the Welsh economy in recent years (the region she happened to be from). She also presented credible evidence that pointed to a careful campaign of manipulation by social media agents, foreign to the UK, of UK public view citing Facebook doing all but a dry run in the UK to prepare for a similar attempt at manipulating the forthcoming electorate in the United States (US). This effort, she claimed, culminated in the election of Donald Trump and gave rise to the theory two of the world’s most powerful democracies were being attacked by totalitarian movements bent on curbing the very idea of one person, one vote.

So if it wasn’t my being a foreigner to the UK, nor did the facts seem to do much to back up the claims of the pro-Brexit camp, perhaps its departure from the EU wasn’t such a good idea after all. And then with the withdrawal of John Bercow from the speaker’s chair of the UK’s House of Commons, it starts to look as if the dispassionate review of the material I thought I’d done might have some merit. After all, wasn’t that the job of the Speaker of the House of Commons?

Caption: Days after bowing out as Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow has described Brexit as Britain’s biggest mistake since the second world war. He said: ‘I think we will suffer in trade terms and suffer in terms of global standing and influence, and that seems to me to be so obvious’

Bercow (in my view one of the greatest Commons Speakers in the last 200 years!) echoes many of my views on this subject, so naturally, I think his comments above are worthy of attention before the UK makes a final decision on the subject of whether to leave the EU. Perhaps as importantly is the considered gains that will be made by the enemies of the UK and its allies should this idea actually proceed. Russia under Vladimir Putin, the US under Donald Trump and Facebook under Mark Zuckerberg all stand to gain from a UK withdrawal from the EU. And I say to my friends in the UK once more — look at yourselves not only provincially; but rather as member of the world community and understand how badly we need the UK’s contributions as a partner and ally instead of being as one relatively small, distant island nation of years gone by!

43rd Canadian Parliamentary Election: Last-Minute Considerations

17-Oct-19 12:38 pm EDT Leave a comment

I wasn’t going to comment directly on the election, fearing people drawing conclusions about my public endorsement of a political party. Those who live here in Canada are aware: we have a secret ballot.

Yet comments today from Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer forced me to make a few remarks in full public view. Andrew Sheer said this morning:

  • “The Party that wins the largest number of seats is [typically] asked to form the government.”
  • “Our strategy is to [deal with the recent trend of illicit drugs being poisoned with other substances] by encouraging…people getting off drugs.”

This brings up two important issues for me which I addess below, headed separately.

(Drug) Addictions Treatment

As seems typical for right-wing governments all over the world lately; starting with the climate change approach debate and carrying on through a variety of issues involving the observations and conclusions of professionals and experts (often involving science themselves), there seems to be a collective state of denial.

Conservatives seem to delight in dredging up some minority report or singular study in the climate change debate to contest the conclusions of scientists and environmentalists studying and observing ongoing changes to our environment. This same phenomenon has now inserted itself into the Canadian election when it comes to using addictions-fighting tools like harm reduction or monitored safe-injection sites. On the subject of legalization, most experts seem to agree that the whole issue of drugs is better handled by healthcare professionals instead of police; which the Chief of Police of Winnipeg (and possibly other cities) have come out and said they’d like to just left out of.

So what we seem to have here is governance by ideology instead of practical considerations. And the trouble with that approach is, in general, you end up governing the country you wish existed instead of the one that does!

The Election Game Show

What really bugs me is such broad-spectrum fundamental ignorance about how Canada’s government is designed to work. Is Canada’s education system to fudnamentally damaged that nobody realizes that Parliament decides who the government is – as the people have voted for each member sent there to do so? There’s this absurd idea that somehow a Canadian federal election is somehow analogous o a game show where the party that wins the largest seat count automatically forms the government — effectively ignoring who everyone voted for! The party with the largest seat count certainly can form the government, if it holds the confidence of more than 50% of the elected MPs. However, Andrew Sheer would somehow have us believe that all he has to do is get the largest seat count and that’s good enough…and presumably what Canadians have had to say about the matter matters not. Only a party, in Andrew Sheer’s Canada deserves to pick the government.

Fortunately, the laws of our country don’t agree and I’d really like Canadians to try to remember that instead of waiting to find out if the big blue bar on the screen is slightly larger than the big red one on October 21st (the date selected for election day this time around).

CTV’s Power Play Decries “The Art of Apologizing”

10-May-18 06:17 pm EDT Leave a comment
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oor Don Martin.  CTV’s host of Power Play spent his “Last Word” (if only!) decrying Justin Trudeau apologizing 5 times during his government’s term in office thus far, with a 6th apology for our nation returning Holocaust-fleeing Jews back to the Nazis during World War II.  It’s just too often, says Martin, and too well politically-timed not to be suspect.

 

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CTV’s “Power Play” Host, Don Marin

Of course, such rhetoric is absent justification for the political timing of each of the 5 preceding times.  And, no Don – don’t hasten to demonstrate your own team’s research skills as not being able to create the illusion of such.  I’m sure they’re at least as good as Trudeau’s speech-writing team, although need I enlighten you about our Prime Minister’s own ability to deliver speeches?  (Granted, Justin’s not as experienced as his father was, but he’s among the best our nation can offer at present according to my ear — and I’ve been in a public debate or two in my time too!)

 

The apologies Trudeau has given on our nation’s behalf serve a purpose.  We could follow Martin’s suggestion and say nothing to redress historical wrongdoings — the practice of Canadian governments for decades.  Perhaps nobody alive today had the experience of suffering the injustices and outright atrocities being apologized for.  But it does serve the purpose of those who are alive and still bearing the scars of such actions years later perhaps due to indirect associations of one form or another to have the Government of all Canadians (not just Liberals like Trudeau, but Conservatives like Marin too) recognize an injustice done to people and apologize.  This doesn’t somehow express the guilt and remorse of Canadians today, but it does express the guilt and remorse of the Government — even if it’s presumed that nothing of this sort could ever happen again.

Rest assured, Mr. Martin, the Government of Canada still has acts which it has to apologize for and will well into this century at the very least (perhaps with or even without the knowledge of our Prime Minister).  Human beings, so error-prone as we are; so flawed in our ability to exercise mature judgment at the best of times, are forced to learn from mistakes made.  And this Government isn’t perfect, as you rightly point out.  But it is Canadian.  It is our government.  And sometimes an apology is the proper course; however frequent it may seem to you.

Perhaps you’ll join your fellow Canadians in offering an apology or two someday.  If not for any errors in judgment you might have had, at the very least for holding a Government’s honest efforts to provide those who feel injustice some kind of recognition for their emotional traumas.  Unless of course, you believe that a television camera or very big microphone renders you incapable of error or immune from the need to offer a simple apology.

Where there’s smoke…

22-Jan-18 09:36 am EST Leave a comment
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enying you’re guilty of something can be difficult when the rumor mill / charge keeps happening, Scott Adams reminds us in his recent blog entry.  Indeed, proving a negative is impossible and leads to what scholars refer to as argumentum ad ignorantiam (argument from ignorance) wherein an argument is presumed true because it has not been proven false — a logical fallacy.  Yet we fall prey to this one pretty easily and Adams cites the case of Donald Trump attempting to deny ongoing allegations of collusion with Russia during the most recent American presidential election.  But is that what’s really going on here?

President-Trump-Official-Portrait-620x620

U.S. President
Donald J. Trump

Journalism is particularly vulnerable to this phenomenon because, out of a desire to “build the story” for readers, asking questions about something that didn’t demonstrably happen repeatedly actually contributes to it.  What we all want to know simply is this: is there testable evidence that Trump colluded with Russia?  Pure and simple.  But with an ongoing investigation — about which readers will want reminders of in their sub-24-hour news cycle — updates will inevitably be desired.  Also, it doesn’t hurt to repeat the question they’ll argue to see if anything inconsistent appears to quote, though over time and with many a practiced rehearsal this is less and less likely.

Instead of the constant clamour for updates, perhaps we’d all be better off letting the investigation conclude and fill our news cycle with whatever else is going on in the world; waiting patiently until the investigation comes back with a finding of no fault or charges.  It’s Donald Trump, for goodness sake — it’s not like he’s avoiding making statements that anyone with half a brain would find morally reprehensible from one week to the next.

Post-Modern Electioneering: Back to the Future

09-Feb-17 08:11 am EST Leave a comment

Robyn Urback | Columnist

Robyn Urback Columnist

Written in response to CBC News: “Millennials finally fall out of love with Justin Trudeau after he abandons electoral reform: Opinion by Robyn Urback

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s a member of the vaunted (yes and cynical) Generation-X, I’ve got to just roll my eyes once more….. Millennials are doing precisely what the generations before have done as youth – not voted as a block….at least – not for long.

But if there is really a block here to be won (and – let’s be clear – there isn’t), it would be easy to take yesteryear successes and use ’em again. We need more IT staffers (like me!) to explore service industries like software development or network engineering. And offering a bit of money for vocational training here (alongside some success stories) would really go a long way toward making up for lost ground on the FPP voting fiasco. Trudeau, God bless him, should’ve known better than to try saying “well we tried, but you know in government – you can’t always do what you thought you could before being elected” routine. Even if you believe it, it’s kind of a crappy reason to go back to the public with.

The real worry I have isn’t the loss of some fictionalized Millennial solidarity. It’s the potential for cross-demographic populism and fascism to take hold in this country! And while O’Leary isn’t Trump, maybe the best we can hope for it the short term is that fascism will pass us by and that Trudeau’s over-promise, under-deliver showing so far somehow reverses itself the more experience he gets as our Prime Minister.

I’m about the same age as he is – but it’s obvious to me while he might be better at leading the country than I’d be….his father he is not. And there is plenty for him to learn yet!

Doomsday Clock: It is now 2 minutes before midnight!

30-Jan-17 07:30 am EST Leave a comment
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efore I had entered high school (back in the late 1970’s), I can remember the periodic ominous warnings of the world’s “Doomsday Clock” scientific group.  And I was greatly relieved (as I’m sure we all were) when the pressures of a looming nuclear apocalypse seemed to disappear with the collapse of communism in what is now called “The Russian Federation”.  We got all the way back to 15 minutes before midnight (or just about) and then with the rise of terrorism it started to creep back toward midnight again.

So now it almost seems shocking to hear the clock is nearly as close as it’s ever been to midnight (surpassed only by periods of extreme political tension when nuclear war between Russia and the U.S. seemed an ever-present threat)!  Last week’s article on the subject is worth a read as is taking a moment for each of us to reflect on what we can do to save our planet.  At the moment, things are looking especially apocalyptic again — climate change, the rise of fascism, threats of war on multiple fronts (as was pointed out over the weekend by the last President of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev)…we need to stop allowing apathy and mediocre leadership to drive us all over a cliff.

 

 

 

Police Requests for New Internet Powers Could Cost You Big

19-Nov-16 07:29 pm EST Leave a comment

datalegislation

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anada’s CBC (a leading media and news organization in the country) promoted a story this past week concerning a very public request to the senior politicians for greater investigative powers.  This was followed by a poll that showed a degree of support for the police requests – seemingly predicated on a desire to curb child pornography among other crimes.  While civil libertarians and technology professionals raised the alarm on hearing this request, there was only limited consideration given to the cost of granting powers of this sort to police – tied largely to the cost of potentially onerous data warehousing by ISPs.  (As a footnote here, I want to cite the case of the UK which, this past week, saw Parliament enact legislation that would be largely in-line with the kinds of legislative change the RCMP would like to see enacted here in Canada.)

“Two parliamentary committees examined this issue.  Then there was the unanimous Supreme Court [of Canada] decision.  What part of ‘unconstitutional’ doesn’t [RCMP] Commissioner Paulson understand?”

Michael Harris, iPolitics.ca, November 25, 2016

Privacy and Internet Commerce

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anadians (and people generally) can still be very reluctant to share their personal information online.  A recent website delivered by The AppRefactory — the Edgewater Tenants’ Community Website — has been off to something of a slow start with the administration fielding questions about why an end-user’s address is needed as part of the signup process.  This is done with the awareness and limited support from the property management company that acts as the landlord which has data about every tenant’s address, yet that same information is not so readily volunteered when it takes digital form.  The information in this case is used to simply verify that an end-user signup request is for a tenant as opposed to some random user from the Internet; in order to ensure that any information a tenant elects to access or share on the site is kept within the tenant community only.  As such it is a measure intended to protect tenant privacy, but there can still be reluctance about sharing it.

This is just an example of how users have adapted over the years to safeguard their privacy.  Yet now the police want measures taken by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to circumvent privacy to such a degree that they will never again be aware of who exactly has access to their information.  (We saw in another article posted this past week how police could access computer records without appropriate authorization or authority.)  And should police officers once again demonstrate how human they can be and make a mistake, suddenly the information they’ve been entrusted with is available to parties unknown.

Such cases, once known to the public (as they will tend to be, thanks to our free press), could easily put end-users further on the defensive about their information.  And, despite poll results suggesting some support for increased police powers, there remains the likelihood the average person in Canada (which, historically, tends to be a person that trusts police authority) hasn’t thought the issue through very thoroughly and certainly not technically.  The regime Canadians will be confronted with, whatever their decision about the powers police should have online, could easily be one business is less well-able to thrive in and would find it harder to operate in without being less able to solicit end-user consent and confidence meaningfully.

And they wouldn’t know it until it really was too late.

New Powers Add Onerous Burdens on All Business (Not Just ISPs)

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he legislation in the UK does not specifically distinguish nor give license to ISPs to operate or grant any special legal distinction to them apart from providers of Internet-facing services generally.  As such it would seem to stand as a matter of law that anyone providing Internet-facing services could be compelled to maintain logs concerning end-user activity.  From a technical perspective, the law wouldn’t be all that meaningful if it couldn’t extend, for example, to providers of Virtual Private Network (VPN) services which are frequently used to both secure corporate communications online as well as anonymize network access to  BitTorrent media sharing sites or “Deep Web” network traffic.

msazurelogoSo the law must apply to businesses using the Internet equally (or at least be seen to apply as such).  And how will the small business be impacted when they’re suddenly required to maintain a database documenting (as the RCMP want) up to two years of end-user activity?  One approach we could use would be to use Microsoft Azure’s service calculator to take a service that uses a very modest 5GB of data monthly to track data transfer activity for a service, numbering just 10,000 transactions.  Without any service connections, charging just for the storage of table-based data only, we get an added cost of $409.00 per month, including a $364.00 Standard Support feature on local redundancy only.  (Nothing could immediately be found on legislative requirements for backing up this data, but a vendor support feature seemed logical to imagine in this scenario.)  That’s a not-so-inconsiderable $4,900 per year and is getting pricey for the average small business.

Now if you run a big business, things get interesting: scaled up to 5TB of data and 1 million transactions, the costs at the same level of support (with local redundancy only) balloon out to $5,223.68 per month or a whopping $62,684.16 per year.

These costs are certainly something to consider when it comes to determining who is paying for all this extra monitoring.  One thing is clear, it won’t be coming out of the RCMP’s budget!

And although this is the costs according to one vendor, it is an industry leader in a space oft-credited with reducing the costs associated with maintaining large warehouses of data (a main selling point behind “the cloud” movement).  One shudders to think how much more onerous these costs could become if one is required by law to maintain hardware and software of their own, in a facility that is solely under their own control.

Final Analysis: Restrain Police Powers Online

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ith passage of the UK legislation this past week, the Government of Canada may be best-advised to stay the course for now and weigh its options again at a later date if it chooses.  While I suspect both in the wake of Brexit and their now police powers law (called the “Investigatory Powers Bill”) will lead the UK (and England in particular) into a self-made socio-economic crisis, there remains the question as to what exactly the impact of their measures will have.  The opportunity here isn’t to regulate early and hopefully stop child sexual abuse — a cause I’m very sympathetic to and have even had occasion to assist police with.  Rather, it’s to gain the wisdom about whether the impacts of these measures will simply drive it further underground or make a meaningful difference (as opposed to being an issue cited simply as a political red herring to grant powers that will be used for other purposes).  To discover whether the economic impact is too burdensome.  And to learn comprehensively if there will be the promised ‘greater good’ worthy of the limits a free and democratic society — a just society — places on itself and its citizens.

Facebook Move May Cause Greater Secrecy About Data (Ab)Use

08-Nov-16 04:04 pm EST Leave a comment
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ata use in violation of Facebook’s licensing agreement for developers has prompted the company to intervene to halt distribution of an insurance industry app that would have used end-user data (shared by consent) to track social media behaviour and qualify some for discounts on insurance rates.  Facebook claims it has a policy to prohibit such use — but the move raises questions around privacy and whether or not Facebook acted in its own interests; possibly masking a hidden intent to mentize similar apps later itself.  Regardless, one consequence is likely: nothing stops an app developer from not disclosing the true intent behind acquiring user data nor even offering a misleading or untrue rationale for data capture.  This could simply mean England’s “Admiral Insurance” is last case of this kind we hear about.

For more information, see the attached segment from Canada’s CBC News:

We’re Baaaaaack……

23-Aug-16 04:47 pm EDT Leave a comment
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ue to certain issues with the “free” WordPress/IIS host I’d previously been using on and off for the past couple of years, I’ve ended my experimental hosting experience and returned here after all.  A couple of minor articles were deleted — but nothing too critical.

So I’ll resume in the weeks ahead posting here on articles of interest mostly to me, but perhaps to some of you out there as well. 😉  Hope the summer is going well for all!

Ezra’s Error

14-Sep-14 06:27 pm EDT Leave a comment
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Ezra Levant in a typical pose.

Ezra Levant in a typical pose.

bsent context, the Canadian political right has cultivated a new stereotype for itself in the last two decades.  Led astray in the wake of the Great Conservative Cataclysm (the deed of former Conservative Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney via Schreibergate), provocateur pundits like Ezra Levant have a new favourite tactic: to use character assassination and innuendo to shape political fortunes when the strength of goals and ideas can’t be found.

And in today’s Sun News’ “Straight Talk” column, a renewed drumbeat of criticism and dogma handed those of us who have a vein somewhere on our foreheads that thirsted to be-a-throbbin’.  Brought to us by way of Twitter: @SunNewsNetwork writes “Trudeau opposes revoking the citizenship of Canadians suspected of being involved in terrorism,” inviting readers to Ezra’s article and another poll that the neocons can use to erode liberties a little further, no doubt.

Funny how the right never seems particularly interested in getting at the truths comprising an issue and instead revert to wordplay masquerading as an unbiased poll (we’re supposed to ignore the leading nature of the question — after all, you don’t want to support terrorism do you?) which then somehow gets quoted in Question Period, in campaign literature or one of those helpful automated phone calls made during dinner.  The article itself turns out to be a tissue of quotes taken completely out of context; and you know there’s some constituency out there inhaling this stuff like a crack addict.  But how bad can it possibly be?  Surely there aren’t that many of ‘em out there…  Oh yah, this is the group running the government right now.

Uh oh!

Yes, there actually are enough people swallowing this stuff hook, line and sinker or people like Ezra wouldn’t have a job, and Harper wouldn’t be Prime Minister.  But Trudeau didn’t say Communist China was his favourite foreign country — it was just China, and he spent a bit of time there earlier in his life. Yes, you can favour decriminalization of drugs without advocating everyone should get high more often!  And taking quotes completely out of context and asking “Pardon?” as if it was Trudeau that didn’t make any sense instead of Ezra himself: this is just not supporting a political view centered on facts, reality or truth.

I don’t know how I will get through the next year if I have to watch the country come unravelled because Conservative politicians using vague ad hominem references, McCarthyist innuendo about views pursuing innocent political debate, or — I swear to God — one more tissue of lies published by Ezra Levant simply because he’s anxious to engage in another inflammatory, disingenuous diatribe on Liberal campaign issues (which aren’t published just yet).

Ezra, if the truth really will hurt the Liberals so much when they go public with their campaign, why are you slithering about the nether regions of what passes for Canada’s political theatre conjuring up demons?  Why not cling to whatever integrity as a journalist you have left and simply await this field day of yours, smiling patiently?  Reducing the political discourse to the degree you do really is bad for the country!

NASA: ⅔ of Earth’s Ice Cap Now Gone!

28-Aug-14 08:35 am EDT Leave a comment
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lthough headed for a low, but not the usual “record low” year of ice loss, NASA has now been able to assemble the available evidence and state definitively that our tiny, blue planet is in the final stages of losing the northern arctic ice cap completely.  A video released on Space.com this morning shows Dr. Thomas Wagner of NASA HQ, Washington, DC discussion various aspects of the NASA’s ARISE mission and the means by which the supporting data was acquired.

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The report is of serious concern, of course.  But I find it pretty remarkable just how incredibly fast the artic ice cap has, first, disintegrated and then virtually melted away.  The only good news in the piece was that the shrinkage this year isn’t a record low….but that doesn’t mean the overall trend (being year-over-year record loss) has terminally halted.  My guess would be that it could be an indicator things might have started to slow down slightly — but it’s too little, too late as far as the arctic ice cap is concerned.

Next, I suspect we’ll be hearing about he subarctic cap disappearing completely.  And…I now wonder if any of it will be left by 2020!

Canadian Federal Budget 2014: Legacy of a Finance Minister?

11-Feb-14 10:21 am EST Leave a comment
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hey’re saying this could be the final budget delivered by Canada’s Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty.  And CBC News is reporting that we should be looking for 6 key items to appear in this years’ budget.

But I’m reflecting on the budgets of years gone by under the Conservative government and where it’s left Canada in the past decade.   My comment on the story makes it clear what Flaherty’s real legacy will be:

mcshane
James in Kanata @mcshane: Bottom line, the average Canadian’s wealth has increased by 25% wince NAFTA.
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Bull and I will speak for the American people as well…Employers that did relocate to Mexico from the U.S. and Canada have now begun moving to even lower-wage areas such as China and Vietnam. NAFTA was supposed to “grow the economy,” all it did was increasingly benefit a smaller and smaller segment of society.

Ross Holder
@mcshane Well that doesn’t mean it didn’t grow the economy. 😉 It just means that the economy grew and served to simply widen the gap between rich and poor (i.e. profit went into the pockets of the top 5% of income earners instead of seeing every Canadian benefit). And maybe that was inevitable too; but I’d like this budget to spend more attention on managing that widening gap I mentioned between rich and poor — because this country is plenty rich enough for everyone to feel the benefit of our good fortune a lot more!

Time Magazine Person of 2013: Pope Francis I

17-Dec-13 06:18 pm EST Leave a comment

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ime Magazine couldn’t have chosen better, IMHO, for person of the year for 2013.  The pontiffs that have ascended the clergy to fulfill the tradition of being humanity’s direct channel to #God seem to have all been good men in my lifetime.  But Francis seems to stand out as one who can really bring God into the lives of the masses in a meaningful way and for a goodly number doing so with an air of humility and service that few of his fellow clergy (whatever their faith) seem able to match.  I was particularly impressed this year with his affinity for personal poverty and welcoming homosexuals into the Church he represents in a public way (and seemingly absent the theological distractions that have at least appeared to bar his predecessors from doing in like kind – and therein bringing into question their true discipleship of #Christ, in my view).

Well done, #Time!  And long-live #Pope #Francis!

Butthole(s) of the Year for 2013: The Conservative Party of Canada

17-Dec-13 05:12 am EST Leave a comment
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James Moore (cutaway from Commons video), MP (Conservative), Ministry of Industry and Trade, Government of Canada.

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hether it was covering up the expenditures of its Senate appointees, hurting Canada’s standing in the international community with mid-east policy (being America’s “yes” man), glossing over cases of dirty campaigning (being found guilty of causing election irregularities through committing election fraud), to record-setting spending on personal attacks of opposition leaders, bankrupting environmental activists with legal fees over legitimate public concerns, or imposing a tyrannical regime of anti-drug paranoia in response to a legitimate, medically-prescribed treatment of mental illness, or (late, this past week) telling a reporter it was neither “the [Government of Canada]’s job” nor “[his] job to feed [his] neighbour’s child.”

Is it just me or is it starting to look like maybe — in the eyes of our nation’s leaders — that nothing is really their job until it comes time to pay themselves and their buddies with bottomless expense accounts and other rewards that prop-up their morally bankrupt ideology?

These dickheads make the spectre of Marie Antoinette look like the sugar plumb fairy!

Yes, it’s been quite a year and one I’m not likely to forget anytime soon.  My only hope is that October 2015 rolls around, my fellow citizens don’t suffer another lapse in memory and stick this truly undesirable element back into power when the time comes.  Though I’m not what you’d call a traditional supporter of rightist politics, I’ve never in my life been so filled with dread and deep-seated resentment about a Canadian political party.  It actually feels like the Republicans crossed north across the 49th and picked up where George W. Bush left off.

On his apology…were it just he and were it just this one thing, I could readily accept it.  But Moore is a part of a club that demands a #MooreChristmas doctrine – and, fundamentally, a heart that’s three sizes too small.  Nothing short of resignations to accompany apology will do now.  Would that it were a world wherein such Christmas miracles happen…

Political Meddling at its Very Worst!

29-Nov-13 09:08 am EST Leave a comment
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utrage doesn’t begin to describe what I felt after hearing about the plight of this RCMP officer this morning (see below).  I hate the way the RCMP gets so easily turned into a political football — especially in cases like this.  The force was dealing with the case of this one Mountie just fine….but when he decided (with the nod from his union) to demonstrate his use of medicinally-prescribed marijuana while in-uniform, the force suddenly reacted as if mental illness wasn’t worthy of “the optics” involved!

And, of course, the Conservatives are once again turning what should be a common-sense issue into political football by seizing upon the opportunity to make some kind of ridiculous statement about their anti-drug policy (another holdover from a long, by-gone era) and making an example of this decorated officer.

 

Pot-smoking Mountie has uniform seized by RCMP (Source: CBC.ca, 28-Nov-2013)

 

Shame on Tony Clement, Stephen Harper and the Conservatives for being more eager to change the channel away from the Senate scandal (just one among several) and punish a loyal public servant in the most crass and medieval manner imaginable!

Microsoft Buys Nokia

03-Sep-13 12:24 pm EDT 1 comment

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ust last week, following a discussion with a potential business partner, I’d found myself doing something I’ve done a few times over the course of my career — wondering whether I was making the right choice sticking with being “a Microsoft technology expert”.  Typically, such ennui occurs during downtimes for the software giant….and there have definitely been downs with the ups in the 30-year-long Microsoft saga.  But with the announcement late yesterday about the Nokia buyout, I think I may have learned to recognize such feelings as moments the really herald the coming of a big announcement or some influential development; as once more, my momentary doubts about sticking with Microsoft were immediately laid to rest.

Nokia, for its part, hasn’t been doing well in the smartphone market — not even as well as Microsoft’s own Windows Phone operating system — in an industry dominated by Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS.  During its now outgoing CEO’s (Stephen Elop) reign, Nokia shares dropped an extremely disappointing 85% giving pause to any notions one might have toward thinking of him a replacement for Steve Ballmer (who’s also in the midst of his own departure from Microsoft).  Nokia was already licensing Windows Phone from Microsoft so some have said not much else is likely to change at the former Finnish cellphone giant.

In the end, Elop (a Canadian) may have been partly behind an engineering of optics in league with Ballmer to succeed the latter at Microsoft.  But along with those optics will be those of a renewed momentum for the Windows Phone OS, which can only be a good thing for those of us believers in the Microsoft brand.


Story supporting links:

Harper vs. Trudeau: Pot High-perbole

31-Aug-13 05:08 pm EDT Leave a comment
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anadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper got a few more shots in on Liberal Party Leader and upstart threat to the nation’s highest political office Justin Trudeau late last week by complaining that Trudeau’s position on drug de-criminalization amounted to trying to force the nation’s children onto drugs.  When will the Conservatives finally realize that such nonsense is out-of-touch with average Canadians (if not average Canadian voters)?  I suppose the message might have to await the next federal election – but it’s really difficult to listen to this guy without wondering if his Machiavellian treatments of Canada’s democratic process aren’t ever going to stimulate the electorate out of its apathy just once in my lifetime to bring a sense of reason back into our political process!

Source: CBC News / CBC Power & Politics with Evan Solomon, August 29, 2013; Copyright ©MMXIII (2013) Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, all rights reserved. YouTube.com edition reproduced here under “fair use” provisions of Copyright.

How A UFO Story Is “Killed” by Politicians

17-Aug-13 01:13 am EDT 1 comment
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o you ever get the feeling that the Government (either of Canada or the United States) might not be totally forthcoming on the question “has Earth been visited by an alien civilization yet?”  Well a recent event off Canada’s Atlantic coast (Newfoundland) gives some cause for you being suspicious, if it makes any difference to you.

After reading this, I checked some statistics and learned that a full 93% of respondents to one CBC poll indicated that they were sure aliens existed elsewhere in the universe and, of those, another 70%+ were confident Earth had already been visited.  (Interestingly, Stanton Friedman; a Canadian nuclear physicist who’s been on something of a UFO information crusade for the past 40+ years also made the point in a recent interview that most people believe they are in the minority believing in the existence of aliens and encounters here on Earth.)

With the recent acknowledgement of the U.S. concerning the existence of Area 51 and the discovery of planets smaller than Earth in star systems less than 500 light years away from this world — I’m starting to think a larger announcement might not be too far off in the future.  At least now there’s some reason to feel confident governments will come clean with what they know; not because of any sudden resurgence of faith in democracy by politicians or bureaucrats previously hell-bent on secrecy…but simply because they’ll have no choice.

UPDATE: Oppose the Russian Parliament’s Facist Anti-LGBT Stand!

07-Aug-13 08:51 pm EDT Leave a comment
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arlier today I posted on the subject of the Russian Parliament’s recent anti-LGBT laws, making being gay in Russia a crime.  Although I said a boycott of the Sochi Winter Olympics was inappropriate, I do support making statements to the Russian Federation by other means.  To that end:

Stand Against Russia’s Brutal Crackdown on Gay Rights: Urge Winter Olympics 2014 Sponsors to Condemn Anti-Gay Laws

A boycott of products will hopefully have the effect of getting the IOC to use some of its diplomatic clout by hitting ‘em where it hurts: the pocket book! 

Register your support of this measure here.

The AppRefactory Inc. Declines to Boycott Sochi Olympics

07-Aug-13 02:44 pm EDT 2 comments

DanCardFBSochiBoycott

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eceived this above invitation to support an issue on Facebook…

At issue: The Russian Parliament (Duma) voted overwhelmingly to install a series of laws which render being gay and/or gay acts illegal within Russia.  Critics argue these laws essentially violate the UN charter on human rights and take Russia back into the worst of the dark ages with respect to homosexuality generally while tolerance and acceptance are the norms now adopted by the bulk of humanity.  Some say that as a just response to these draconian measures, the 2014 Winter Olympics should be boycotted so that Russian legislators get the message that the rest of the world won’t accept their position – especially when many of the athletes attending are themselves going to be part of the LGBT community.

The Response: While I, of course, agree with the premise that homosexuality is not an area where government control is appropriate and that, as a social issue, tolerance and acceptance are the correct norms to be defended, the Olympic Games are really supposed to be about sports.  With the considerable investment of time and money to begin the lengthy list of commitments an Olympic athlete makes in preparing for the games, a boycott (however effective at communicating a message) isn’t an appropriate response to what is really a matter for Russians to resolve within their own society.  Consequently, I will not support this boycott invitation nor any others coming my way in the months ahead, regardless of how the Russians proceed on this issue between now and the opening ceremony.

Analysis of the Analysis of the…

14-Jul-13 08:26 pm EDT Leave a comment
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arren Kinsella, Sun Newspaper columnist and professional thorn in the side of whoever sits in the PMO has offered a strangely shallow analysis of the Ottawa punditry spending so much time writing about Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s imminent cabinet shuffle.  Purported to be the shuffle that will “make or break” a tired, listless government with all but the likes of a rookie Leader of the Opposition (from a party rookie at being Official Opposition) and a rookie Liberal Party leader with Obama-esque expectations riding on his shoulders to restore his party to Government in the next election somehow — Kinsella complains expectations writ of this shuffle are pure fantasy, saying, “And in the specific case of the Harper government, [the shuffle] isn’t important at all,” for five big reasons:

1. Cabinet shuffles don’t change government fortunes. When a regime is drifting (as the Harper government is) or looking tired and old and near the end of their usefulness (ditto), prime ministers will shuffle their cabinets.

They do it all the time, in the faint hope that it will make them more popular, or at least less unpopular. It’s a strategy that doesn’t work.

Can you picture the aforementioned Joe Frontporch at the kitchen table, hollering: “Jane, we’re going to vote Conservative again, because there’s a new minister of Veteran’s Affairs! Hallelujah!” Sounds crazy, no? That’s because it is.

Harper & cabinet sworn in at Rideau Hall, May 18, 2011.  (Image source: Sun News, July 14, 2013.)

Well, not to defend our misguided PM — but, frankly, I have trouble thinking of him as that stupid.

He’s trying to do what CEOs and managers in business find themselves doing when fortunes begin to sag for no apparent reason.  Re-ignite past success by (perhaps) having capable people take on new challenges in a different role.   Does it work?  It can, though Kinsella might find himself mistakenly thinking he accurately diagnosed the reason because the outcome happens to be what he expected.

2. Stephen Harper is the Control-Freak-in-Chief. Never in our history has there been a prime minister so preoccupied with micromanagement and centralization. Never has there been so little delegation as there has been under Harper, who makes Orwell’s Big Brother look like a dope-smoking slacker.

For Harper and his minions in the PMO, ministers are to be controlled, not given control. With the Control-Freak-in-Chief, who is in cabinet – and who isn’t really doesn’t matter.

It may not be original, but there’s a world of insight to be had in these words.  The PMO has never been so large in all of Canadian History — as a software consultant who’s done more than his share of federal government contract work, I can tell you you need only look of the percentage of RFPs that have come out for the PMO in recent years to have a sense of this.  It’s as if the whole government had moved into the PMO, and the ministries were only used for PR!  (And this, I think, is very, very dangerous.)

But Canadians have been content to let this slide too along with everything else it seems.  The mantra “Who else can you vote for?” has become the Conservative’s sure ticket to power and since it’s that kind of slogan that can inspire the electorate, why not the political high-stakes play of a cabinet shuffle too?  Optics über alles!

3. L’etat, c’est lui. Harper isn’t just the head of the federal government, he IS the federal government. For the Conservatives, that’s been the good news: A smart, strategic leader ran the show, and helped them win power in 2006.

But, paradoxically, it’s the bad news, too. There are no viable successors waiting in the wings. And there is no minister strong enough to give cover to Harper when he stumbles, as he has indisputably in l’affaire Duffy. If you can name a dozen of his ministers and their portfolios off the top of your head, you deserve the Order of Canada.

He’s right about it being bad news — even withstanding the horrifying picture of Duffy stumbling on the minds of voters.  But amid this latest shakeup, even Harper has had trouble maintaining his balance in the corridors of power.  And the aftershocks are far from done with the RCMP investigation of the absentee PEI Senator just getting into full swing.  And a cabinet shuffle, no matter how cynical one gets about the electorate, will not erase the memory of Duffy’s fall from grace or corpulent expense spending from mind.

One also can remember recent Liberal success with “Team Chrétien”…which might well be something the country can get behind as a distinctive style difference with Harper, should Trudeau take up that approach during a forthcoming campaign.

4. A shuffle won’t change the fundamental problem. And Harper’s problem is well known and not even disputed by smart Conservatives: The governing party has lost its way. There’s no raison d’etre anymore.

There’s no mission statement. Nobody in the Conservative caucus remembers why he or she was sent to Ottawa in the first place.

A cabinet shuffle won’t change that problem, it’ll draw it into sharper focus. None of the many youngsters with “P.C.” appended to their surnames will feel powerful enough, or independent enough, to challenge the boss.

So get ready for same old, same old.

5. Nobody will notice. Forests will be felled to print opinion columns about the cosmic significance of the fashion sense of the newly minted minister of Public Safety. But Joe and Jane Frontporch won’t actually read any of those columns (which is one of the reasons broadsheet newspapers are in a spot of trouble, but that’s a lament for another day).

—— Warren Kinsella, Sun News, Jul 14, 2013

Points #4 and #5 seem to contradict each other somewhat.  But on the whole, it all relates back to point #1: cabinet shuffles don’t change election results — but that’s not what this was ever about.  It’s more internal management of PR for the Conservatives than anything.  And, yes, that’s all that this government has ever really been about.  Meaningless Law and Order measures, changing armed forces rankings, and lukewarm gun control rollbacks are the hallmark of Herper’s time in office.

In the end, that’s how history will record this period in Canadian history.  No cabinet shuffle will change that one iota.

Senate Reform (Canada) 2013: Constitutional Crisis in the Making?

04-Jun-13 09:19 pm EDT Leave a comment
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aving one’s cake & eating it too seems to be the primary fixation of every politician ever borne these days — and in more ways than one.  From the office of Senator Mike Duffy, former CTV political affairs journalist, who’d swore he’d help Prime Minister Stephen Harper reform the Senate when he was first appointed to Justin Trudeau who see reform as absolutely essential whilst simultaneously promising, if elected, to leave constitutional reform of any kind on the back burner.  Yet both men, along with every other politician in the country appear to want what every Canadian wants: either a Senate that works or no Senate at all.

Duffy’s appointment was part of a greater plan by Stephen Harper to build what he called a “critical mass”, of like-minded Canadians who would agree to vote through the necessary legislation for a peaceful transition within the Senate at some (then) future date.  This would negate the need for another round of constitutional discord since senators would be voting within the system to either abolish or reform the upper house, depending on whatever deal could be made at that time (and whatever deal Canadians would ultimately approve of).  Harper seemed to be favouring an elected Senate; but didn’t say in the interview whether he supported the vision espoused by some of his fellow senators (eg. Sharron Carstairs of Manitoba) who’d favour a ‘Triple-E’ Senate model (elected, effective, and equal).

Whatever Harper’s ambitions, they seem to have come crashing down around his ears in the first half of 2013 with Duffy’s own behaviour triggering a near total collapse of public confidence in the Senate, which wasn’t at its highest pinnacle to begin with.  Already there are calls for constitutional-based reform which, as anyone even loosely familiar with Canadian politics can plainly see, is a minefield.  Not to mention Québec is under a separatist government at present (led by Pauline Marois); which doesn’t exactly aide the cause of reformed federalism in Canada historically.

Source: “The National”, May 16, 2003 (http://www.cbc.ca/video)

With not just apathy, but anti-Senate sentiment at such a feverish pitch, Harpers plans for the Senate are likely on the backburner for the foreseeable future.  And although Mike Duffy has survived in his Senate seat (so far), it’s doubtful he’ll be able to lead any great charge of the reformists therein anytime soon.  And so, down the drain are the hopes of Harper and by some strange coincidence those of the Canadian people where the Senate is concerned…at least until the political mood in Québec and the rest of the country become a little more certain about what course change in Canada’s upper house of sober second thought should take.

DuffyBuck

Notwithstanding a worsening of the crisis which could well lead us down the path into another hand-wringing round of constitutional frustration.

Vials of Apollo 11 moon dust found in storage – MSNBC

25-May-13 11:04 am EDT Leave a comment
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oney, where did you put that jar of lunar orthoclase I was saving?"

This is definitely not the kind of thing one would expect to get lost.  While the article claims all the vials are accounted for – I wonder whether someone might not have recorded a volume of rock "consumed" by testing and simply skimmed a little for themselves….

“Austerity Measures” Philosophy Flawed, Says Political Economy Student

07-May-13 12:48 pm EDT 1 comment
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he measures that have forced people into bankruptcy all over the world have turned out to be the product of a pair of academics screwing up a spreadsheet.  No peer review – and the graduate student that brought forward the evidence proving  the premise for the changes in public policy we’ve seen are so flawed hasn’t been taken seriously.

But maybe that part of the story is still to come… Here’s hoping!

New Space Race: Pros & Cons

02-May-13 02:48 pm EDT Leave a comment
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have to disagree with myself it looks like. (Maybe that doesn’t happen often enough!) But only recently has the “big picture” being pursued by the Obama administration started to become evident. And, I hate to admit it; it might not have gone so well if details of what must surely have been a deliberate strategy been announced at the beginning: let the private sector pave the way to space exploration.

The Ross Report

What this "spurning" by NASA entailed, we’ll probably never know.  But it’s not hard to speculate that NASA might find another space race with its old cold-war adversary useful.  What’s not useful is the inevitable adversarial attitude that occurs politically being exacerbated by a new space race.  So – is a space race good or bad?

Overall, I think we should probably be spending appreciably on extraterrestrial research because, overall, there appears to be plenty of evidence that the technological advances which result invariably imrpove the condition of humanity, and our understanding of the universe.  Too often, politicians come along and dogged by those who think the world’s problems will be solved organically by kind-hearted human beings spending on feeding the poor and healing the world’s sick with the…

View original post 231 more words

Elections Canada drops plan for online voting due to cuts – Politics – CBC News

02-May-13 04:56 am EDT Leave a comment
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midst all this talk of a budget surplus of $3.1 billion (among other criticisms of a multitude of spending faux pas by Canada’s Conservative administration), somehow a pretty high-profile item can’t even earn $0.0073 billion ($7.3 million) worth of attention from the Government of Canada: online voting.

It might not sound like a big deal; but, according to Elections Canada (the regulatory authority responsible for running elections in the country), the $7.3 million shortfall means no online voting will be available to citizens sooner than the general election of 2023.  Notwithstanding the several elections irregularity issues that have erupted around the Conservatives in the past few elections, or the (arguably) excessive spending on the F-35 contract, not subject to a competitive bidding process for some reason, two Auditors General (one of whom used to be a Conservative cabinet minister herself) have found this government heavy on spending and taxing the middle and lower classes – light on audits to measure results on various programmes under Conservative stewardship.  Admittedly, I’m a bit partisan toward the Liberals (no big shock there) – but on my most objective day with the wind at my back playing the most pro-Conservative apologist I can – I couldn’t find the straws to grasp ahead of the arguments needed to explain this emerging tale of fiscal incompetence.

What ever happened to that great Canadian mythology about Conservatives being better stewards of the nation’s purse strings?  Who’d have thought I’d ever be pining for the return of the old Progressive Conservative party (the one before Preston Manning and his entourage of displaced Texans moved into 24 Sussex Dr.)?

Pick-Pocket 2.0?

28-Apr-13 12:46 pm EDT Leave a comment

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redit card fraud is about to reach new heights, according to this report by CBC.ca.  Can you say “holy crap!”?  What we need is for the phone companies to start allowing charges through to your phone bill as if the phone itself was a credit card, instead of apps like this appearing making credit fraud easier.  Card readers on smart phones are definitely not the right way to go….

Conservative Crime & Punishment Agenda Trumps Free Speech

22-Apr-13 02:26 pm EDT Leave a comment

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ews from Mexico of a Canadian woman’s 18-month (formerly indefinite) incarceration without representation by her Canadian government was only one of two items this week illustrating a long-standing pet peeve I have with the Conservatives’ crime & punishment agenda.  Now, the Conservative house-leader (in the Canadian House of Commons) has cancelled debate on a resolution that would have seen more power granted the back benches to speak on behalf of Canadians, and represent their constituents in favour of rushing through debate on a hastily-drafted anti-terrorism bill that seems little more than taking political advantage of the tragedy in Boston.

    Hopefully, my country(wo)men are getting as tired of this as I am!  (That, and the latest attack ads which put the new Liberal Party Leader, Justin Trudeau in the cross-hairs of Conservative pre-election spending.)

Mission Improbable: Analyzing Conservative Justice

22-Apr-13 01:53 pm EDT Leave a comment

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anadians seem to be having a tough time getting their consular representatives to help with problems abroad again….re-enforcing words spoken by (Canada’s) Liberal Party leader, Justin Trudeau at the convention last weekend.  Once again, the governing Conservatives seem to be abandoning those detained abroad to whatever injustices prevail instead of taking an interest in the outcome of cases where Canadians are detained without having the benefit of a government that will see them returned safely home; whether it be to serve time in a Canadian prison or simply to be exonerated of charges that have no merit.

In this episode of the CBC’s Fifth Estate, a woman who’d committed no crime was charged and held in a Mexican maximum security prison.  Was it her government that came to her aid?  Not bloody likely – it was the Mexican Supreme Court which finally agreed that based on numerous human rights violations during her incarceration her case should be thrown out!

Still, it was a hellish 18-month ordeal involving a heart-attack amongst other health problems resulting from a confinement that was absent a crime.  And nowhere to be seen were Canadian consular officials, perhaps presuming her guilt without so much as a review of the case (or none on record).  Or perhaps there was a review….one that had the stamp of RCMP approval on the word of a convicted felon and known liar.  Political scandal being swept under the carpet?

At least she’s home now – but the questions will, if there still is justice to be found in Canada, continue…

2 dead, 90+ injured in Boston Marathon Terror Attack

15-Apr-13 06:44 pm EDT 1 comment
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ll of Canada stands with our US brethren, once more, at this time of crisis…

Christian Science Monitor

Ten Years After 9/11 Bush Says “Blank Stare” Meant to “Project Calm”

29-Jul-11 03:06 am EDT 5 comments
On September 11, 2001, U.S. President George W. Bush absorbs news of the attacks in New York for the first time.  Many have suggested he was overwhelmed into a state of indecision at the news and should have immediately excused himself from the childrens’ classroom to deal with the emerging crisis.
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s the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks approaches, former U.S. President, George W. Bush gives an interview to the National Geographic Channel wherein he maintains his apparent “blank stare” captured on video immediately after being told of the attack on the World Trade Center was actually a deliberate effort to “project calm” amid a developing crisis.  The report of the hour-long interview by Reuters also says Bush will outline his thoughts during those first few minutes following his being told the news, and also discusses his approach toward dealing with the aftermath of the attacks in a very candid way.

According to the report, Bush brought no notes to the interview and responded to questions without apparent preparation.

If true, this piece might actually be worth watching; since one of the main issues many have had with hearing Bush in these kinds of interviews is the very scripted way he has historically responded — ever wary of the political cost of saying the wrong thing.  (And in this, of course, Bush is far from alone.)  But with the length of time that’s now past, there could be a fresh perspective on his mindset and perhaps even an answer to the question about whether he was really “frozen with indecision” immediately after being told of the first attacks in New York.

Winnipeg Jets unveil new logo

22-Jul-11 10:51 pm EDT 2 comments
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eah, I can’t claim I’m too thrilled with the new logo either.  And, as someone rightly observed, the CF-18 silhouette isn’t all that appropriate since they’re on the verge of retirement, to be replaced it seems quite certain by shiny new squadrons of expensive F-35’s (that we probably could’ve got a lot cheaper).

But it goes almost without saying that it’s a real thrill to see Winnipeg with an NHL team again.  The city didn’t feel like a real Canadian city without one.  (No denegration intended toward Québec City, which should also see the Nordiques resurrected.  And hopefully that will happen soon too!)

End of Final Shuttle Mission Yields Bitter Commentary

21-Jul-11 09:47 pm EDT 2 comments
This unprecedented view of the space shuttle Atlantis, appearing like a bean sprout against clouds and city lights, on its way home, was photographed by the Expedition 28 crew of the International Space Station. Airglow over Earth can be seen in the background. (Courtesy: http://www.nasa.gov)
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ox News has gained plenty of notoriety for injecting inflammatory rhetoric into its news coverage in recent years, but after seeing this recent video on the heels of watching coverage of Atlantis’ return to Earth at the end of the final shuttle mission, it seems the aim here is to turn the event into yet another political football.  The claim being that, unlike Kennedy, Obama is ending manned spaceflight in the U.S. to save money.  But, as is almost always the case where Fox commentary is concerned, there’s really more to the story.

What the authors of hundreds of Twitter messages that seem to be absorbing Fox’s take have missed is that the move is part of a larger plan to share the glory of (and hopes of profit in) with commercial entities.  Already it’s hoped that by the end of 2011 and certainly during 2012, unmanned commercial flights will take on resupply missions to the space station, with manned flights by the end of 2013.  An 18-24 month pause in manned spaceflight doesn’t seem like “an end” of any sort to me…

Still, one needs to concede that were the U.S. not sinking into a financial abyss at the moment, there’d likely not be any particular will to end shuttle flights during the hand-off to commercial enterprise; regardless of the arguments about how NASA’s presence in the open market would have made commercial manned spaceflight much less viable.  But SpaceX has already demonstrated that, flying an unmanned empty capsule aboard its Falcon 9 rocket, it and other companies are today much closer to having the capability to take over from NASA because of the decision to take it to the private sector.  NASA provided funding for some of SpaceX’s efforts as it is doing for 4 other companies which stand close to getting their own spacecraft off the ground.

In fact, I’ve seen a similar move before by government agencies with respect to privatization of previous government monopolies.  At the dawn of the Internet era, there was only a single ISP in Winnipeg, Manitoba (my home city).  A fellow named Bill Reid who directed the University of Manitoba’s (U of M) Computer Services department made a decision to take the Internet private.  Why wasn’t business doing this on its own?  Well MBNet (the ISP’s name) was offering dial-up access for free to students of the U of M and for an extremely low rate (base annual fee of $25 per account¹) which made private ISP service all but unviable.  But when MBNet kicked all its users off (or almost all) one fateful day, companies like Magic Online Services (later purchased by TotalNet of Montreal) stood ready that very day to offer service to the public.

At the time, there were those that saw MBNet’s move as being unfair – many were forced to make significant changes to their networking services in a very short period of time.  But at some point, stepping back was surely the right thing to do lest Winnipeg and even the province of Manitoba more generally make competition in the Internet services market a game played strictly by very large companies.  (Indeed, the market’ has largely gone that way in any event, but it’s quite possible the current situation would have been much worse.)  And I see the same being true for a much broader set of reasons where NASA is concerned.

Time will tell, of course — but at the very least Obama and the NASA administration shouldn’t be faulted for this effort.  The U.S. is experiencing a serious financial crisis and there’s little doubt even from the decision’s detractors that the private sector can ultimately do spaceflight more cost-effectively.  And at this point in history, surely that’s enough reason to make it a private concern…particularly when there exists a real possibility the U.S. won’t be able to afford manned missions on its own if steps aren’t taken to redress the crippling U.S. deficit.  Steps exactly like this one.  Indeed, one could well argue that this move will preserve manned spaceflight in the years ahead; and that not privatizing manned missions to space would threaten the continued ability of the U.S. to undertake such challenges.  Perhaps even threaten the existence of NASA as an agency of manned exploration anywhere but in historical texts.

Hopefully in the long run, those on Twitter who’ve thus far spared the time to barely read the lead into neocon-authored editorials will eventually find time to hear the full story.  Of course, there are a few other obstacles that stand in the way of that: the realization that a previous Republican administration deregulated the financial services sector and started a war with 2 countries creating a situation where decisions like this were inevitable.  And I’m not sure that message will ever get the kind of reception necessary for Twitter-bound hecklers to cease their de facto campaign of complaints re #nasa.

But the taste of the last shuttle’s return to Earth would sure be less bitter for it if they did.


¹ An original document containing MBNet’s fee structure was located while doing research from this story.  Based on my memory of extensive prior MBNet usage, I can testify its authenticity.

UPDATE: Freak Storm Smashes Tree 200m Away From Front Door!

19-Jul-11 09:31 am EDT Leave a comment
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o in the aftermath of Sunday night’s freak storm, it appears there was 1 man seriously injured after all, unfortunately.  Even so, many eye witnesses have commented it’s a miracle there weren’t more casualties.  An investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Labour continues; but I’m not sure there’s much one can do to avoid this type of event.  A temporary stage can’t be blamed for what Environment Canada has characterized as a "downburst" — a kind of reverse tornado.

Will monitor for news on investigation in weeks ahead a report findings here.  As always, stay tuned!

Freak Storm Smashes Tree 200m Away From Front Door!

17-Jul-11 11:08 pm EDT 3 comments
Smartphone video shot shortly after a freak storm caused damage to Ottawa; this video was taken just outside and around my apartment where a tree in a neighbour’s front yard was splintered by heavy winds! Below, the position of the felled tree is projected on a map of the neighborhood.
Bluesfest site location (above, courtesy Google Earth); where the main stage hosting the "big name" artists was severely damaged by winds exceeding 90 km/h, according to Environment Canada (Source: CBC News)
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uite a night, here in Ottawa — and here I am again writing another blog article about what can only be described as “unusual” weather (for this city anyway). Earlier this evening I was at my usual spot, seated in front of my computer coding away when a loud “crack” could be heard outside. Unsure at first where the noise came from, smartphone cam in-hand, I walked around outside a very short distance and found myself confronted with a felled, 50+ year-old elm strewn across the road.

As is evident from the relative calm depicted in the attached video (above/right), the storm wasn’t a very lengthy event….reports elsewhere indicate that while incidents of damage were spread over a wide area, there were intense winds and lightning for only about 15 minutes. Long enough, however, to cause the main stage at Bluesfest (an annual summer music festival hosted in the city’s downtown) to be blown apart; and to cause numerous other instances of felled trees, 1 fire and numerous power outages in the suburbs.

No injuries associated with the storm have been reported as yet.

In the ensuing hours immediately following, there are reports of another system heading for the city. Additional coverage to follow as events warrant.

They’re at it again: Canadian Government Bending to Calls for More Expensive Internet

12-Jul-11 02:53 pm EDT Leave a comment
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in Volk!  Ein Internet!  Ein Bill: Expensive!”

A “live blog” of the hearings is displayed below:
CRTCLiveBlogSample_110712

Yes, CRTC hearings prompted by a public outcry over proposed rate hikes are being held here in Ottawa today, but it remains to be seen whether the effort will prove to be anything more than a valve to vent angst in the electorate over making Internet in Canada far more expensive than it already is. (Canada already is host to some of the highest charges for access and bandwidth anywhere in the G7!)

More to follow on this story in the days ahead….stay tuned!

South-Eastern Ontario Beset by April Tornadoes — No April Fool’s!

11-Apr-11 12:17 am EDT 4 comments

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erhaps it’s just my being a Manitoba ex-patriot; but I was shock-stricken by what I’d initially thought a belated Twitter message from Canada’s “The Weather Network” concerning tornado watches and warnings being released by Environment Canada (the Canadian government department responsible for acting as the official weather forecaster) being issued for this very night.  So to verify, I visited the Ministry’s website and, sure enough, there’s severe risk of tornadoes turning the still frozen topsoil up into the high heavens along with anything else fixed at or near ground zero within the twister’s dreaded path:

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The region coloured in bright red in the map of southern Ontario above denotes a region called “Barrie-Orillia-Midland”; and is so coloured to indicate a weather warning.  (Amber indicates a weather watch, while green indicates watch/warning ended.)  Source: Environment Canada, 11-Apr-2011.

So far, no reports of twisters reaching the ground or causing damage/fatality have been reported.  Should such events follow this extraordinary event, I’ll be sure to post updates to this article for reference.

It bears mentioning too that southern Ontario isn’t exactly Canada’s “tornado alley”….that would be more the case on the Canadian prairies (which I still call “home”, despite having lived in Ottawa, Ontario since summer of 2000).  Tornadoes in the summer months are a very real danger pretty much anywhere near Winnipeg — indeed the city itself if struck by tornadoes of sufficient intensity to do serious damage or pose a risk to personal safety every second or third season. (But never in April, particularly given that Winnipeg’s climate is lightly cooler than Ottawa’s or Barrie-Orillia-Midland’s

Smoldering Ramblings & Rhetoric: Origins of a Congressional Assassination

08-Jan-11 09:46 pm EST Leave a comment

From: Ross Holder
Sent: Saturday, January 08, 2011 9:13 PM
Subject: Smoldering Ramblings & Rhetoric: Origins of a Congressional Assassination

http://m.youtube.com/watch?gl=CA&warned=True&client=mv-google&hl=en&v=PnNx0WThoF0 

Why is it every time a multiple homicide story comes out, the suspects fit into one of a certain set of profiles and/or have a creepy website the that linked above – but everyone is so surprised? Perhaps even more puzzling are the furious denials by America’s right-wing political demographic. Within minutes of the story breaking on CNN, the “blame the left” punditry that is oh so unavoidable to the point of distraction in the US was washing its hands in unison of any culpability for provoking such an act. Some bloggers of this same ilk took to joking about the irony behind Gifford (a Democrat) arguing against tighter security measures in the “war on terror” suffering due to a lack of security.

Clearly, there’s no accounting for taste amongst the neocons.

But if you find yourself worrying about growing political unrest in the United States thanks to the acrimonious tone of political discourse originating from media personalities sympathetic to the Tea Party or the Republicans (such as Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh), you are in good company. Particularly if, like me, you’re a Canadian whose fortunes are dependant on a strong, stable America. (Or if you’re an American citizen rightfully fearful of ending up in some kind of civil unrest or perhaps even another civil war.)

The only silver lining to this story I can imagine is that there is now a spotlight on the inflammatory rhetoric and those who’re peddling it. Perhaps now we’ll see a few more public figures outside the Democratic Party line up next to John Stewart (who really did all anyone could do to sound the alarm about something like this happening last year and prior) in denouncing the nonsense being rebroadcast by Fox News and returning a long-overdue dose of sanity to the national political theatre.

Perhaps we’ll see fewer rallies with tea partiers being invited to bring their guns and more rallies where the greatest drama is the satire of someone like Stephen Colbert offered as comic relief.

Sent from my Windows 7 Phone

Categories: News and politics

Coyne vs. Mulcair: Debating Maclean’s Magazine Story on Corruption in Québec

08-Nov-10 05:26 pm EST Leave a comment

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ndrew Coyne, Maclean’s Magazine’s right-of-centre lead political columnist and National Editor, found himself facing off with Thomas Mulcair, MP for the New Democratic Party’s (NDP) first and only elected seat in the province of Québec (who is starting look like he might not be holding on to his seat for long); won in a huge political upset for the Liberals who traditionally hold it.  The subject of the debate was the Maclean’s article concerning corruption in Québec’s political establishment and – as has been widely reported – the article spurred a huge controversy over whether the article (coming from a leading English language Canadian journal) affirmed widespread disdain for Québec throughout the rest of Canada, which would further the cause of Québec separatism.

Unfortunately, Mulcair came off as being unfair and opportunistic.  I find myself disagreeing with Coyne frequently, but Mulcair’s approach in debating Coyne was simply the product of single-minded ad hominem attacks blended with statements extracted from Coyne’s article meant to make him seem bigoted and intolerant that were demonstrably taken out of context.  (Indeed there were several such remarks which Coyne stated were merely a list of possible views that could be taken by would be proponents of corruption being a problem in Québec – but not necessarily his own views.)

“What explains Quebec’s unusual susceptibility to money politics? Deeply entrenched deference to authority? A worldly Catholic tolerance of official vice? There is no grand unified theory: at different times and in different situations, different forces have come into play.”

                       — Andrew Coyne, Maclean’s Magazine;

Perhaps what annoyed me most about this interview was that it was yet another symptom of the political discourse in Canada taking on some of the negative characteristics of American political discourse; and I can’t think of anything Canada needs less right now.  And consistent with the experience the Americans are having, it seems to me that extremists on either side of the political spectrum are leading this charge away from reason.

If it gets much worse….perhaps we should invite Jon Stewart to hold a rally on Parliament Hill (similar to the mall rally held a week ago this past weekend).

Categories: News and politics

World War III: A Theatre of War Takes Shape

23-Aug-10 08:49 pm EDT Leave a comment
Since Sept. 1, 2001, Iran has been systematically targeted and isolated by the United States; both economically and politically — as part of a larger plan for war that could spread to every corner of the world.
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t’s a sad day for me; and yet a day I’ve known with quiet resignation all my life would likely come.  Just as when I saw NCSA Mozilla load on my home computer for the first time in the mid-1990s and knew the Internet would forever after change the world, today I’m able to see with near equal certainty that a large global conflict that will have as much impact on this planet’s destiny as World War II is getting precariously close to beginning.  What clinched this as a certainty rather than a strong suspicion were certain elements of an essay posted to www.globalresearch.ca, an anti-globalization geo-political think tank based in Montreal, QC (Canada).

The essay, entitled “Preparing for World War III, Targeting Iran” lays out an extremely persuasive case for a clandestine American-led build-up of weapons, alliances and orchestrations of “information” which amount to thinly-veiled propaganda designed to manipulate public opinion throughout the American alliance (of which Canada is a hugely-invested part) into supporting war with Iran.  The essay’s author, Michel Chossudovsky, an economics professor at the University of Ottawa (by trade) outlines in summary yet well-sourced fashion various moves by the United States and its allies over the past several years to show that there is a strategy of encirclement, now virtually completed, coupled with a number of key developments on the mid-East diplomatic front which culminate in the isolation of Iran from its historic partners, Russia and China.  He outlines the the players, where they’re located and what the likely opening scenarios of the conflict will involve very convincingly.

Where there is room for disagreement with Chossudovsky is on his analysis of the motives of the players.  Now before I go too far in attacking this part of his thesis, I should say, in his defense, the essay was clearly a summary work and not a WikiLeaks-style blueprint for the invasion of Iran.  He’s clearly a man convinced of the overwhelmingly odious motives of the American alliance; citing the favourite theme of plundering natural resources of foreign countries to ensure a continued supply given the United States’ own dwindling reserves.  And although mention is given to Russian and Chinese interests being contested in the ensuing conflict; he even concedes that their reluctant support of recent UN resolutions erodes their own prestige:

“[China & Russia’s] decision within the UNSC contributes to weakening their own military alliance, the Shanghai  Cooperation organization (SCO), in which Iran has observer status.”
          — Michel Chossudovsky, “Preparing for World War III,
          Targeting Iran”; August 1, 2010 (Published to:
         
http://bit.ly/93cUbZ, viewed August 23, 2010)

Unfortunately, he doesn’t delve further (at least in this 1st part of a 2-part essay) into the motives for those forces’ apparent concession to the Americans.  We can certainly assume, charity or a more peace-loving nature had little to do with decision.  One not as well-read on the subject, and being fed a strict diet of western media, might still conclude that such motives may well be economic in nature — and that these same forces may well lead to a conflict of more limited scope than the global thermonuclear destruction being prophesised.

Apart from the flamboyantly anti-American tone of the essay, there’s also a critique (somewhat well-deserved in my view) concerning both a seemingly pacified media and blunted pacifist movement in North America since the election of Barack Obama.  Chossudovsky finds this development strange and weaves it into the narrative of the overall tactical manoeuvring of the Pentagon.  And while there is no doubt, there are some moves by the political and military establishment in the U.S. to control the narrative, one need not look that far back to see how easily that narrative got out of hand and more or less killed the desired end-game by the leadership.  Indeed, that loss of control led to a change of leadership and perhaps key changes in U.S. foreign policy yet to be revealed.  But regardless, the argument that the western media is so tightly controlled has to be regarded with some scepticism since clearly this charge is at least occasionally demonstrably out of touch with the reality on the ground.

Having said that, it is certainly true that the pacifist movement, much as the general public, is far too overly concerned with Afghanistan and the Iraq post-mortem and more attention needs to be paid to the plans the Pentagon has for the world of the next 10-20 years.  Frankly, it’s not a world filled with utopian notions of liberty and democracy for all.  It’s a paranoid world, filled with a multinational security apparatus bent on eroding the illusion of personal privacy to a cruel joke and military preparedness for a war where the opening salvos will include the first deployment of nuclear ordinance since the end of the Second World War.

To put it simply, we all need to wake up and right now….lest we find ourselves waking up to a nuclear holocaust that snuck up on us, seemingly without warning.

Categories: News and politics

The New CF-35: Good Deal for Canada?

18-Jul-10 10:55 pm EDT 1 comment
CBC’s Eric Solomon interviews Allan Williams, a former Assistant Deputy Minister responsible for hardware procurement with Canada’s Department of National Defence during a regular episode of “Power & Politics” on CBC Newsworld. (July 16, 2010–Source: CBC Power & Politics)
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new controversy erupts with an announcement by Canada’s Defence Minister, Peter MacKay this week with the announcement Canada will purchase 65 F-35 “Joint Strike Fighter” jets from Lockheed-Martin, a major defence contractor based in the United States.  But critics of the proposal argue that nobody can know for certain that it’s a good deal for Canada — because the bid process was closed.  In this article (updated periodically as debate ensues in forums online), I will share my views on the matter and commentary from the pundits; including both professional and casual commentators, using CBC News video and forums content.  Excerpts will be aggregated here over the next few days, so check back and see how the online debate evolves…

 

Table of Sources

 

Selections from CBC Forums Commentary

Story Headline: F-35 Jet Canadian Spinoffs Expected (CBC Money)

Story Comment Posted: 2010/07/19 at 10:43 PM ET:

RadMan wrote:Posted 2010/07/19 at 9:28 PM ET:

“The attack is intentional, the types of weapons used we know will cause "collateral damage". The West knows that the methods being used will cause devastation beyond belief to peoples that have done nothing to deserve the wrath being brought upon them.”

I find this kind of thinking extremely presumptuous and ignorant. It’s all well and good to join the "blame the west" (and never “blame the terrorists”) club for the aforementioned collateral damage, but there’s simply never been a war that didn’t involve unintentional casualties and damage to property. This expectation that bombs will fall and missiles will hit their targets with flawless accuracy is unrealistic. War just isn’t a safe endeavour, so if anyone wants to support a war, they need to do so with that expectation in mind.

But to think that because “collateral damage” is a feature of war that anyone advocating a war must necessarily also want the collateral damage is a gap in reason. War might not be safe, but neither is either appearing weak on the world stage or allowing ones enemies (and we _do_ have them) to commit acts of terrorism with impunity. Western leaders aren’t evil people in favour of strife and misery; they’re responsible to their country and ensuring its protection. And the reality is that in a world full of unreasonable, violently-minded people, doing that job will sometimes necessitate war and, just as surely, collateral damage.

Those people who think of themselves as proponents of peace would do well to occasionally check their high-minded ideals and acquaint themselves not only with the effects of war, but of its causes. Because it’s a huge oversimplification to think it’s all caused by a bunch of greedy, evil westerners.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/money/story/2010/07/16/f-35-spinoffs-canada.html#ixzz0uBiYJk9E

Agree: 1 / Disagree: 0


Story Comment Posted: 2010/07/19 at 4:24 PM ET:

McWal_Job wrote:Posted 2010/07/19 at 9:04 AM ET:

“…I was lucky enough to have an old guy who was from Avro, take me under his wing…I would highly doubt there was any security leaks during the project because you were only allowed work on your own project, and the Russians considered Canada a backwards bush league country… It wasn’t until Diefenbaker went berserk and slaughtered the Canadian aviation industry in Ontario, that ant drawings got out.”

Yeah another comment posted here earlier by Kreistor mentioned this new "leak theory" concerning the *real* rationale for the Avro’s cancellation:

Kreistor wrote:Posted 2010/07/16 at 10:41 PM ET:

“"Actually, I’ve seen one very good explanation for the squashing of the Arrow.The Americans feared the design would fall into Russian hands. While it was a great aricraft, there were already aircraft in the NATO inventory that could take out Russian bombers. The Soviets, though, did not have an aircraft that could take out a US bomber, but the Arrow was capable of the job.”

The Wikipedia article on the Arrow cites the evidence more specifically:

“The [decision to destroy Arrow design materials] has been attributed to Royal Canadian Mounted Police fears that a Soviet ‘mole’ had infiltrated Avro, later confirmed to some degree in the Mitrokhin archives”.

I’ve created a digest of my responses on this subject at my blog site (http://bit.ly/9SChfL), which is where I’d refer you for my further comments concerning the Arrow.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/money/story/2010/07/16/f-35-spinoffs-canada.html#ixzz0uBiqvHaV

Agree: 1 / Disagree: 0


Story Comment Posted: 2010/07/19 at 3:49 PM ET:

JustAnAverageGuy wrote:Posted 2010/07/19 at 10:50 AM ET:

“Although we both agree that the F-22 Raptor is the better jet, there’s just one small issue with Canada purchasing them. That being that the US congress won’t allow the US to export these units to any country, something which will not change for the foreseeable future.”

Now I’m not at all sure this is true. I’ve read on a few other websites that the option for certain countries to purchase the F-22 has been extended: the examples I am aware of are Britain and Australia. In fact, Australia, according to the "Australia Air Power" site reports that country is on the verge of making changes to its defence strategy and merging the F-22 into its fighter jet fleet instead of going with the F-35. (See http://bit.ly/cYbyX3 for more info. Thanks to kyle1984 for the source.)

And if those countries have access to the F-22, it’s a safe bet Canada can get it too (due to the nature of our alliance). But even if so, it’s also a safe bet we won’t be getting 65 F-22s for under $20 billion….or even a little more than $20 billion. Plus the F-22 doesn’t offer everything the F-35 does; and vice-versa — a decision would have to be made around how much budget there is to buy these aircraft to replace the CF-18s and whether they’re a better fit for our military needs looking ahead into the next 20-35 years (the estimated lifespan of the F-35 air frame). I think the Liberals might have said something of this sort recently… 😉

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/money/story/2010/07/16/f-35-spinoffs-canada.html#socialcomments#ixzz0uA1oaKPx

Agree: 1 / Disagree: 0


Story Comment Posted: 2010/07/18 at 10:21 PM ET:

kyle1984 wrote:Posted 2010/07/17 at 9:13 PM ET:

“…the UK, who is the biggest contributor the R&R project was saying that the procurement costs of the F-35 progressively converge with the unit costs of the F-22A Raptor, and that the F-35 was becoming less survivable as threats evolve.”

The website you were quoting from provides some new insight, but I’m forced to eye it critically because there was little critique I could find on the F-22A Raptor, which, as you probably know, has experienced serious cost overruns in its production (in the US).  In fact, the F-22 has only survived this long as a manufactured aircraft because parts supplies are spread broadly across the continental US providing jobs in many US states, making it extremely difficult to cancel for political reasons.  Also, a senior software developer, I often write proposals and recommend technology solutions for both private and public sector organizations and I would never write a paper that was quite as one-sided as the quoted source; regardless of what technology I was recommending.  So I’m doubly-suspicious because it was written by an Engineer/Fighter-Pilot who, in my view, oughtta know better. 😉

Not that this diminishes his analysis concerning the F-35 on its own.  It is of some concern that he cites UK sources as saying F-35 costs could rise to the level of the F-22; there certainly is nothing in the Canadian government announcement about the F-35 purchase, which is of course one of the major criticisms being put forth by the Liberals.

The survivability of the F-35 seems a bit of a weak argument to me too.  He’s suggesting that you can’t upgrade the plane as readily as the F-22, but I can’t quite figure out why that might be.  And I’d need to understand that better before changing my mind.

Agree: 10 / Disagree: 0


Story Comment Posted: 2010/07/18 at 10:00 PM ET:

kEiThZ wrote:Posted 2010/07/18 at 2:26 AM ET:

“They just want competition for the sake of competition. It’ll be millions to have a fly-off or worse, we’ll only have one compliant bidder. There’s only one 5th gen jet on the market for us and that’s the F-35. Anybody that says they want competition is either being deceptive or intends to dumb down the requirement.”

I’ll refer you to what Allan Williams, former Assistant Deputy Minister, DND (chief procurement officer) said on Eric Solomon’s Power & Politics (used to be linked here, but it’s still linked off main article: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2010/07/16/canada-jets.html.  As anyone who’s ever had any experience with project management will tell you, it’s pretty silly to argue against due diligence and going through an open bid process.  Why?  A number of reasons (watch the video); but chief among them it helps prevent you from getting ripped off or taken advantage of.

So I’m afraid, I simply can’t agree that it’s a waste of money — even if it looks at the outset very likely that the F-35 would be the successful bid in any event.  And the Liberals are quite correct in pointing this out…not to mention reminding Canadians of the extremely risky pattern the Conservatives follow with respect to non-disclosure.  (As everyone now knows, the old Reform promises of "openness" and "transparency" in government were dead and buried pretty much the day the Conservatives took power for the 1st time and were faced with practicing what they’d preached.)

Agree: 7 / Disagree: 0


Story Comment Posted: 2010/07/18 at 1:45 AM ET:

kyle1984 wrote:Posted 2010/07/17 at 9:13 PM ET:

“Has our government done any work evaluating this file or just pulled it off the shelf and jumped for joy as how sexi it looked. Their defence of, ‘It my decision and I’m going to make it whether you like It or Not’ is lame and getting real tired!
Sometimes there is a distinction between what you want and what you need.
I think it the Governments’ job to provide the financing but it should be the C-Forces making the decision as to what they need.”

Well, I dunno if we should just leave it entirely up to the military.  I think ideally, the political leaders should state what the policy goals and objectives are, and then ask the military about how to best equip Canada to achieve them, in the context of national defense.

I also just wanted to add that I did a bit more research after reading the article you quoted earlier, and the F-22 is actually not considered a direct 1:1 competitor for the F-35.  It turns out that it would cost Canada considerably more to purchase F-22s than F-35s and the interop features wouldn’t be as great, so there are some trade-offs — though it must be said there’s broad consensus that the F-22 is a superior air-to-air weapons platform.

But I couldn’t find any good cross-references for the notion being argued by Dr. Kopp, that the F-35 was a "technological failure" so for now I have to stand by my earlier comments that this analysis seems highly subjective.  And it now appears, insofar as the Canadian purchase is concerned, that the Conservative’s numbers on the maintenance costs (which are still secret) could lead us closer to the $16-18 billion mark than the lower $9 billion figure cited at the news conference.

Agree: 6 / Disagree: 7


Story Comment Posted: 2010/07/18 at 1:28 AM ET:

ChrisinEdmonton wrote:Posted 2010/07/17 at 9:35 PM ET:

“NO WAY…for 18 BILLION we should be able to build our own jets designed specifically for our C-Forces needs. Be Canadian. Buy Canadian.”

Dude, what in the name of God are you smoking??? I want some!!!

Sorry, but there is a level of ignorance beyond which people really ought to keep their mouths shut and you are about $282 billion short of being allowed to open yours without being hollered at by me. =P Do you have the foggiest idea how much it costs to design a modern jet fighter, capable of operating in the modern theatre of warfare? Nope — didn’t think so. Well the Americans have invested well in excess of $300 billion just developing the F-35 to date; that doesn’t even begin to include manufacturing or maintenance costs for the 1200-unit fleet of F-35s they want deployed in the next 5-10 years.

It isn’t in dispute whether Canada has the know-how to build a jet fighter on its own (‘cuz we sure do!); but I’d have to seriously doubt that there’s 10 people in this country who’d get behind the idea of spend upwards of half a trillion dollars on what you’d call a "built-in-Canada" solution. We just don’t have that kind of money to spend without disastrous economic consequences.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/money/story/2010/07/16/f-35-spinoffs-canada.html#socialcomments#ixzz0u5mYlAp5

Agree: 14 / Disagree: 5


Story Comment Posted: 2010/07/18 at 12:27 AM ET:

JUST THINKING 01 wrote:Posted 2010/07/17 at 7:07 PM ET:

“I really wish poeple would remove their own political views when detailing with issues such as this. Whelther you like or dislike the Conservatives it has no bearing on this issue.”

I agree, in principle. Ideologically-based policy decisions seem to be happening with alarming frequency, and so goes the political debate — which isn’t healthy. Having said that, however, there’s more than one issue on the table here: whether to buy the fighters and whether the ongoing pattern of the Conservatives governing in camera is the right way of doing things. And while I may agree with the decision to buy into this F-35 deal, I remain vehemently opposed to the air of secrecy that is the hallmark of this government. It really wouldn’t have hurt anyone to have an open bid process (because I’m pretty darned sure Lockheed-Martin would’ve won anyways).

"The Liberal’s already sent us down this road long before the Conservatives made this purchase. They signed up us up for the Joint Striker program to start with, they approved the what 500M in funding to the program with the idea of purchasing the jets."

And I’m getting tired of this Conservative refrain that’s little more than typical Tory disinformation. The Liberals didn’t "send us down" any road. They simply made Canada part of the JSF R&D program, which, yes, was the right thing to do. But nothing in that agreement stated we were obliged or needed to buy fighters afterward; we had the option to do so. So it’s not really "hypocritical" as McKay keeps trying to paint it; though I admit it makes a great sound-bite.

Add to this a reminder that the Liberals aren’t opposing the F-35 at all, in fact — they’re advocating a review and an open bid instead of ramming the deal thru.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/money/story/2010/07/16/f-35-spinoffs-canada.html#socialcomments#ixzz0u5nWFEDB

Agree: 10 / Disagree: 9


Story Comment Posted: 2010/07/18 at 12:08 AM ET:

Kreistor wrote:Posted 2010/07/16 at 10:41 PM ET:

“Actually, I’ve seen one very good explanation for the squashing of the Arrow.The Americans feared the design would fall into Russian hands. While it was a great aricraft, there were already aircraft in the NATO inventory that could take out Russian bombers. The Soviets, though, did not have an aircraft that could take out a US bomber, but the Arrow was capable of the job.”

Yeah, I heard about that theory recently too. And I can’t argue the facts about whether the Arrow had been compromised (though the documentation of this theory rather sketchy so far); but if that really was the problem, it seems that it could’ve been dealt with a whole lot better than scrapping the programme. (Generally, ya don’t scrap production on a jet fighter because security leaks are suspected, though this was the rationale given by the RCMP for destroying the design materials.) Not to again mention that the Americans weren’t hugely keen on being upstaged by Canadian technology (which is well-documented), and there were strong economic incentives for Truman to convince Diefenbaker to purchase a number of Bomarc missiles for northern air defense instead. (Missiles that were obsolete within 10 years of deployment, and scrapped shortly thereafter.) As a student of history, I tend to buy into the economic incentives as being the stronger of the two motives for the Arrow’s termination; if, in fact, they were ever in competition.

After all, there’s still no declassified evidence that suggests the Americans knew or even suspected that Arrow security had leaks.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/money/story/2010/07/16/f-35-spinoffs-canada.html#socialcomments#ixzz0u5uwMa9g

Agree: 5 / Disagree: 1


Story Comment Posted: 2010/07/16 at 7:44 PM ET:

rnixon75 wrote:Posted 2010/07/16 at 6:32 PM ET:

“9 billion can go along way to our own economy not outsourcing it to other countries..BUILD the damn things here!”

As another posted pointed out, you’re talking about the Avro Arrow. And yes, Diefenbaker should have been hauled up on charges of treason both for killing the deal — and again for killing the deal because he was a Conservative PM manifestly doing what he was told to do by the U.S.! But this is the 21st century and your comment reflects the fact that most people just don’t understand that modern planes aren’t built by individual countries anymore. And nobody should be under the illusion that the F-35 is exclusively an American plane — they might’ve manufactured and assembled it, but plenty of Canadian design went into it too.

And I suspect more will follow with upgrades and maintenance in the years to come if we do the right thing and buy these planes.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/money/story/2010/07/16/f-35-spinoffs-canada.html#socialcomments#ixzz0u5zEpuk9

Agree: 24 / Disagree: 4


 

 

Categories: News and politics

The “Barefoot Bandit” Bankroll

17-Jul-10 09:27 pm EDT Leave a comment
Colton Harris-More taking a self-portrait with a portable camera in 2009.  This image was released to the media by his mother (if I recall media reports correctly) and was re-posted here from his Facebook fan page.
O

kay, I’ll admit — I do admire Colton Harris-Moore.  But I’m not sexually attracted to him, I don’t want to write him fan mail, and I certainly don’t want him to get away with his 1-man crime wave unpunished.  And I’m starting to wonder if, in this, I’m in the minority.

I mean, good Lord: I got curious about a link I saw on this Facebook fan page and was horrified to find, when I clicked on the link, that there are a good number of people willing to donate money to his legal defence!  I’d hate to think these people actually support the notion that someone can break into houses, steal & crash planes, jeopardize lives and get away with it!  But when you setup a fund for someone’s legal defence, it’s usually done because the defendant is thought to be deserving of extra support to ensure the best possible legal defence and to assure a just verdict of “not-guilty”.  Normally, people don’t donate money to such causes that are likely to result in a guilty verdict due to overwhelming evidence in any event.  (I mean, what for?  The money would simply line the defence lawyer’s pockets.)

What’s remarkable about Harris-Moore is that he was clever enough to evade the considerable law enforcement resources brought to bear in his capture and arrest.  Clearly, he’s a smart guy and I, for one, am drawn toward smart people.  Always have been.  But at the same time, I think it a massive waste of intellect and really a tragedy that he’s used that intellect to do so much damage.  I mean, I hear people say “well he didn’t hurt or kill anyone”; which isn’t really true since stealing and vandalizing property is patently doing harm.  But the fact he didn’t kill anyone doesn’t somehow earn him my favour either, so why anyone could think this argument relevant is beyond me.

Likewise you’ll see the opposite extreme being touted on You Tube where a number of videos related to his exploits have appeared.  The Law-and-Order wing nuts out there seem to want him made an example of; some even call for the death penalty Naturally, as a Canadian, I’m among the traditional majority who opposes the death penalty for a number of reasons I won’t get into just now.  But even were I in favour of it, the simple fact is Harris-Moore isn’t alleged to have committed any capital crimes.  So why would his notoriety somehow make him deserving of such an injustice as wrongful execution is as puzzling as this fund for his legal defence.

But that’s the Internet, for ya, I suppose.

Like a good many people, I suspect my curiosity will lead me to tune into the next upcoming chapter: his trial for crimes committed after he skipped out on the half-way house he was staying at.  And then we’ll all want to see if his notoriety can be sustained long enough to be useful when he’d finally served his sentences…assuming he doesn’t escape yet again.  Will he write a book?  Will he participate in the production of a movie (of which there is much talk)?  Or perhaps his genius will find a more natural and productive outlet….

Stay tuned!

Categories: News and politics

Protesters Demand Police Accountability

10-Jul-10 11:48 pm EDT Leave a comment
 http://www.cbc.ca/video/swf/UberPlayer.swf?clipid=1541620477&state=popup&PID=_DyE_l_gC9yXF9BvDQ4XNfcCVLS4PQij
CBC News / The  National: More than 1000 people marched in downtown Toronto on Saturday  (July 10, 2010) to protest the mishandlng of G20 security during the  summit and to demand a public inquiry to hold police accountable for  action during the event.
P

rime Minister Steven Harper must be glad he’s got some time off now since the fall return of the House could be far more stressful than he expected when Parliament adjourned for its summer recess. It’s already clear fallout from the G20 Summit at the end of June isn’t going away anytime soon, and if voices grow too much louder, the Government may be forced into convening an inquiry before summer’s end.

Is it that bad? Well one after another, those who stood “firmly behind the police” have begun to distance themselves from the G20 entirely. Originally, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty was towing the party line, which was that police did a great job, using only that force which was necessary. But now it seems that he agrees that the federal government tried to shove this down his government’s throat and they’re to blame for planning anomalies that left police overwhelmed. And, as I have commented at some length previously on Facebook, the appropriate steps are now being taken to bring the supposedly overwhelmed police to account for their action: that being dozens of lawsuits. In addition, the Toronto Police and the Toronto Civil Police Oversight Authority have both launched investigations of their own, though of course neither of these will recommend disciplinary action for any officers. (This begs the question what the point of these investigations might be, and also what kind of “oversight” the civilian oversight authority provides when it is unwilling to launch a toothless investigation that can’t recommend anything more menacing than a carefully worded report to Toronto City council.)

No, at the end of the day there will have to be a full Judicial Inquiry into the handling of G20 security — with terms of reference that enable it to hold people accountable for what happened. But expect Harper to resist vigorously. For he and the Conservatives, the uncomfortable questions asked at a Judicial Inquiry could prove poor timing indeed should a federal election need to be called. And, since his government is pretty much entirely to blame for bungled G20 security, an inquiry offers his government no benefit whatsoever.

Categories: News and politics
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