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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.

 

don-martin

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.

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