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Updated posts

Posts that have been updated since they were published. This does not include changing very minor spelling or grammatical errors that do not change or clarify the meaning of what was written originally.

Happy sarcastic Canada Day … enslaved farm workers

Slave ship diagram (Wikimedia).

Slave ship diagram

I used to pride myself on buying Canadian (as local as possible) fruits and vegetables, passing over the American and Mexican produce where I didn’t have a particular need for it. I was tangentially aware that 99% (or maybe 100%, I’m not sure) of Canadians won’t lower themselves to work as a fruit or vegetable picker, and so Canadian farms have to import “temporary foreign workers” every season, but I didn’t realise that they were housing those workers in conditions of near modern day slavery. Recently, according to the news, the farmers have even been (passively or actively) denying their TFWs access to COVID-19 testing, seemingly because that would probably cut into more productive picking time. (Plus, of course, as we all know, testing increases the number of positive cases!*)

It’s ironic to me that, twenty-six years after Canada and the rest of the world brought down Apartheid in South Africa, the system is still alive and well in the country that is credited with inventing it.

*In keeping with the title of this post, and in fear of those with no sense of irony, I feel I should make absolutely clear that this comment is a joke!

Updated, 2020-07-02: Add link and slave ship image.

Politicians behaving badly … as usual

Scheer and Trudeau and the UN Security Council vote

I think that Andrew Sheer confuses being the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition with being the leader of a bunch of unruly children in a playground, bringing American-style ad hominem attacks to bear on the government Justin Trudeau. (Well, he is half American, so I suppose that’s no surprise.) OK, so Trudeau brought it upon himself by spending so much time and effort (and taxpayers’ money) on his pet project of getting Canada elected to the United Nations Security Council, but really, what the hell kind of measured, mature reaction is this?!:


Now, in all the fairness I can muster, I think Trudeau and/or the Liberals had the same personal dig at Stephen Harper when he failed in his same bid in 2010, so fair’s fair right? Meh, whatever. Politicians are almost all a bunch of self-serving opportunistic bastards; the only downside is that they have to inflict this crap on us, the suckers who pay their salaries for spending their lives acting like spoilt children.

At least the NDP’s foreign affairs critic, Jack Harris, had a distinctly more statesmanlike response. He was neither complimentary nor insulting, but had some constructive criticism of Canada’s (and Trudeau’s) attempt at election, and forward-looking suggestions.

One thing that does amuse me abut Trudeau’s virtue signalling is when he talks about championing maternal issues in developing countries. As far as I know, that was (ironically) Stephen Harper’s pet project back in the day!

Champagne quarantine?!

In related news, I see that François-Philippe Champagne, our gallant Minister of Foreign Affairs, suddenly crossed the border and showed up in New York to cast Canada’s ballot in this election. What the hell?! I thought the border was closed to all but essential traffic?! If our UN ambassador was in New York, what exactly was essential about Champagne’s presence? And did he quarantine himself for fourteen days before mixing with all and sundry at the UN General Assembly?! Enquiring minds want to know.

Kudos for Scheer

On the positive side of Scheer’s ledger is this farcical two-minute exchange with Trudeau in the House of Commons that is a textbook example of doublespeak and not answering the question on the part of Trudeau:

Scheer questions Trudeau’s campaign for U.N. Security Council seat

My god! Even taking into account international diplomatic niceties, Trudeau makes absolutely no attempt to address the issues that the leader of the Opposition raises. In fact, the donkey show he puts on is as passively aggressive as is possible before the aggression crosses the line into a middle finger or active, physical aggression! It’s the legislative, “grown-up” (note the quotation marks!) equivalent of the playground, “I know you are but what am I?” that would get you a bloody nose in any other setting! It’s a wonder these politicians get anything done, and it’s no wonder they are mostly so reviled by the public. None of the rest of us would get away with anything like this in real life. Maybe I’m just an ingénue that doesn’t spend enough time watching videos of politicians being assholes.

Jagmeet Singh’s ejection from Parliament

I’m of two minds about what happened to Jagmeet Singh on Wednesday. On the one hand he moved a motion that, especially in the atmosphere in which the US and much of the world finds itself these days, was completely reasonable, and I can understand his surprise (and dismay) at even one vote of opposition. On the other hand, I can see the point of the Bloc Québécois who claimed that his motion prejudged an anticipated report of the public safety committee that would have addressed the points in the motion moved by Singh.

I don’t know the nature of the motion, and particularly whether or not it was binding or just some feel-good parliamentary fluffery designed to (as mentioned previously) be self-serving opportunism. Which it was has significant bearing on the matter, but I have not seen comment on this by anyone in the media. However, I can certainly understand Singh’s discomfit, especially at Alain Therrien’s alleged dismissive wave in the direction of Singh. Probably another example where, had I been involved, there would have been nasal blood (Therrien’s) spilled on the Commons floor!

The “new NAFTA”

I am amused that, despite its unwieldy new name — that some (mostly Americans) have tried to make into a single “word” — people are calling the “United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement” the “new NAFTA”.

So I read that there is already bluster in the US that they’re itching to take legal action against Canada and Mexico as soon as the new agreement comes into force on 1 July. So what else is new? These are our “friends”! However, what sticks out for me in that article — besides the video of Deputy Prime Minster (and Intergovernmental Affairs minister) Chrystia Freeland’s rather smarmy (if unspoken) “fuck you” between gritted, smiling teeth aimed in the direction of the US threat — is the claim that US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer makes that other countries’ plans to tax American-based digital services is a plan to “screw America”. Ironically, the very next day, I received notice from one of my digital providers that they would henceforth be charging my company and their other customers taxes levied by six US states, including the one in which my business is domiciled. I doubt the two actions are linked, but the Americans are busy screwing themselves with new taxes!

Canadian hostages in China

China has finally, after holding them without charge for eighteen months, charged two Canadian hostages with “spying”. Everyone and their dog knows this is tit-for-tat, gangland hostage taking (“hostage diplomacy”) by the Chinese government, except the tit (or the tat) that happened in Canada was a lawful arrest under international treaties. I think it is despicable the situation in which the US has put Canada to further their political agenda, but it doesn’t excuse thuggery on the part of China who have stolen the lives of two (and arguably four) Canadians purely for spite. And on top of that the prisoner in Canada lives in her own multi-million dollar house in a larney area of Vancouver, while the two Canadians rot in cells in China! The two — known in Canada as “the two Michaels” — are Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. Even if they were released by China tomorrow, they’ll never get back the time stolen from them by the Chinese government. It is unconscionable!

Hopefully the world will one day, together, stand up to the bullying of China (not just against Canada, but other countries including Taiwan and [recently, with deadly results] India), but it’s questionable whether or not that will happen in time for them to be stopped from steamrolling all over the rest of the world. I think China already delivered yet another “message” to Canada earlier this week; it is alleged that China strong-armed African nations — whom they have quietly re-colonised over the last decade or two — into voting against Canada in the aforementioned United Nations Security Council elections.

Hero pay

In other news, Canadian grocery store operations are clawing back the raises given to their employees when they were (temporarily, apparently) “heroes” on the “front lines” of the COVID-19 pandemic — and all the other quasi-military terms used for them and similar low-paying occupations like cleaners, drivers, etc. Never mind that these companies made and continue to make a killing on elevated sales numbers (including as a result of hoarding). The hypocrisy is galling! If there was one thing I thought people would learn from the experience of the pandemic it’s that far too many people are terribly, terribly underpaid, and then they suddenly became “heroes” overnight! And for that they got a measly two bucks an hour extra! That’s all they’re worth! And now, they’re not heroes any more, they’re just schleps schlepping their way through a work day again.

I know that I don’t have any economic solutions for the massive inequities in society (in this country or any other), but you can’t, in good conscience, pay someone a meagre wage one day and the next day claim they’re heroes, pay them a pittance more, and then take away their hero status (and extra pay) on some arbitrary (and collusive) date in the future. Are they heroes or not? Look, nobody claims they’re heroes in the same sense as a person who defends or saves the life of another, but really, the hypocrisy really is galling. And the hypocrisy is galling not just on the part of the grocery chains — Sobeys, Metro, Save-On-Foods, Loblaws, etc. — but on the part of us, their customers. I’ve said for a long time that so many people want to strike for good union wages, then they want to shop at disgraceful places like Walmart. It’s understandable that we all want to optimise our revenue-to-expense ratios, but this is a big deal that needs to be addressed somehow.

While looking for an appropriate article to which I could link on one of the main news websites (that isn’t behind a paywall, like The Globe and Mail is), I came across this one: The End of ‘Hero Pay’ for Grocery Workers in Canada an Operational Necessity: Expert. It’s written by an academic (which is not always a knock) for a retail industry publication, and as a result is skewed towards being supportive of the pay cut. However, it does cover some interesting points that are critical of the retailers that I think are worth reading.

Jas Johal

Someone else who I think doesn’t quite get his position as a member of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is BC Liberal MLA Jas Johal. He was a half-decent television reporter, but man, the only time he pokes his head above the parapet these days is when he wants to be on TV again and has nothing constructive to say … about anything, ever! I mean, I get that his job is that he’s an Opposition “critic” of the current NDP government, but there’s a difference between the title “critic” and the adjective “critical”, and you can’t claim that the government — any government — of the day doesn’t ever get anything right.

His latest crap is to criticise and condemn the BC government for daring to consult the public on ways in which they might steer activities related to recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not exactly direct democracy in action, but we haven’t seen a pandemic in about a century, certainly longer than Johal’s lifetime, so what the hell downside could there be to initiating a consultation process that could very well have a positive effect?!

Give it a rest Johal! I think if you looked like a reasonable person once in a while instead of whining and complaining all the time you’d actually look like the Liberal leadership material for which you’re obviously trying to posture yourself.


Updated, 23 June 2020: Corrected my grammatical error. Of course you can’t make an ad hominem attack on a government!

Zimbabwe orgasms: Independence 5.0

"The Herald" front page, 22 November 2017.

“The Herald” front page, 22 November 2017

Although not in quite the same morbid manner as described in The last days of robert mugabe (which is actually based on an interview with Emmerson Mnangagwa last year), his portrait has indeed finally “fallen off the wall” in Zimbabwe! The country has come to its senses, and Zimbabweans collectively have finally grown a pair, even if the developments do not guarantee that there will be any change in the way that ZANU-PF will continue governing the country. More cojones may still be needed by the populace in the short term, not to mention patience.

The title of this brief, celebratory post makes two references: first, to the release today of emotion that has been pent up in Zim for 37 years. The scenes on the streets of Harare and Bulawayo (and I’m sure many other places in the country) were nothing short of orgasmic. Having left Rhodesia 38 years ago, I was surprised at my own emotional reaction to the news.

Secondly, some are referring to this as a new independence day, so let’s take stock of how many Zimbabwe (and Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia before it) has had:

  • 1.0 (1923): Southern Rhodesia attains “responsible government”.
  • 2.0 (1963): Southern Rhodesia attains independence from the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
  • 3.0 (1965): The Unilateral Declaration of Independence from the United Kingdom made by Ian Smith.
  • 4.0 (1980): In an act of theatre, a bureaucrat named Soames shows up from the UK and ushers Rhodesia (via Zimbabwe Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia once again) to the latest version of independence as Zimbabwe.
  • 5.0 (2017): Within days (ironically) of the 52nd anniversary of Independence 3.0, Zimbabwe casts off robert mugabe and a “#NewEra” is declared, many referring to it as a new “Independence Day”.

I shall optimistically keep my fingers crossed for Zim.


Updated, 24 November 2017: Pointed out that the article linked to is actually based on an interview with Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Charlie Hebdo se souvenait

"Charia Hebdo" cover defaced with a "Keep Calm and Carry On" pencil.

Charia Hebdo: Keep Calm and Carry On

It’s one year on (from 7 January 2015), and I’m remembering the attack on the offices of, and the cold-blooded murder of members of the staff at, Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Also of note is the concurrent murder of the protection officers that were detailed to protect certain Charlie Hebdo staff members after a previous terror attack in 2011 and two bystanders, as well as others who were murdered — another police officer and shoppers at a grocery store in Porte de Vincennes (a suburb of Paris) — in associated attacks in the days following.

I read somewhere recently that Charlie Hebdo was on the verge of closing down when the attacks happened, and that they have experienced a renaissance since. Perhaps that is the point behind their rather graphic tank cartoon, of which I heartily approve. If you believe in a higher power — Allah, God, whatever — I would call the recovery divine intervention. Take note: Your god does not approve of you killing people, certainly not in his name, and he’s not so fucking vain and insecure as to have issues with being drawn.

Vive la presse libre!

Android issues

Google+ has stopped, which is very unfortunate.

Google+ has crashed, burned and died, which is terribly unfortunate

As I’ve alluded to before, my disappointment with the Android operating system created by Google is mighty. However, it reached a new low last week.

Suddenly I kept being presented with “Unfortunately, Google+ has stopped” errors that prevented me from doing anything until I tapped either “Report” or “OK”. I tapped “OK” the first few times, but then I thought, “Well, maybe I should be a good user and report this problem.” At first my reports were polite, but after being presented with this error every few seconds, sometimes one on top of the other while I was still trying to report the previous instance, I started to use four-letter words, usually two per report. Then I just gave up, and hit a few random letters before sending my report. I figured that after a few dozen reports something might be done. I am so naive!

Anyway, after a day or two of not being able to do anything on my tablet without constant interruption by the Google Plus app apparently crashing, I decided to take matters into my own hands. First of all, I don’t use Google Plus in any shape or form, but (of course) it’s a “system app” that you are forced to keep, so I rolled back the updates and disabled it. Then I went and disabled every single Google app I could identify except the six that I’m actually using:

  • Chrome,
  • Gmail,
  • Google Play service,
  • Google Play Store,
  • (Google) Maps, and
  • Youtube.

I have no doubt that there are more Google services on my tablet “phoning home” at every opportunity, but I probably can’t do much about those. As for the six that are left, short of “rooting” my device I probably can’t operate without the two “Play” apps, Gmail is on my list of things that I won’t need in the near future (and will disable) as I work diligently to stop using all Google services (I’ll be writing about that when I have some time), Chrome I’m keeping for now as I think it’s a good idea to have a second web browser on any machine (even if one of them is Google crap), Google Maps I will replace if or when I find something as good (in the meantime I’m fine using it with location services turned off), and Youtube … well, since it’s the world’s video sharing service, I won’t be disabling that any time soon, I suppose.

Speaking of rooting, I’m now way more inclined to do that than I was a couple of years ago when I bought this tablet. The only issue is that I don’t have the time to spend managing all of my computing resources. Technology was supposed to save us time, allowing us to frolic in fields of green with our friends and families while the computers did all the work. Instead we’re chained to them like slaves. How bloody ironic! Anyway, my tablet doesn’t seem to be on a list of supported devices for which there are instructions and software for rooting. Further digging reveals that I could probably work on it but … here we are back at the time excuse in this circular argument.

But here’s some further irony in this story: Once I had disabled all of the Google apps I could get my hands on, suddenly I could multitask again! Well, as well as you can on a tablet, I suppose. Where once I couldn’t switch to another app without it completely reloading from scratch, now I can get back to where I was mid-session with some of them. Firefox is the exception, which annoyingly reloads tabs from scratch every single time they’re re-selected.


Update, 29 November 2015: Having got on a roll and removed or (if it’s a “system app”) disabled any app that I’m not using, I was left with Samsung WatchON, which (after rolling back all of the updates) I can neither disable nor remove nor even stop. And yet, according to its Wikipedia article (as much research as I am willing to waste my time with), “App is discontinued on December 31, 2014 worldwide except US and Korea, and June 15, 2015 in those remaining two countries.” (The wording of that is not the only problem with the Wikipedia article.) When I try to run the app I’m told that it won’t run because the time on my device is wrong. Well, actually Samsung, it’s not. And so, having rolled back all of the updates so that I could disable this “system (cr)app”, I’m now running an out-of-date and possibly vulnerable app that I can neither stop, disable nor remove, and I keep being prompted to update it. Well, I guess I’d better update it then to stop the annoyance! Now when I try to run it I get an error message about not being able “to retrieve data from the server.” It helpfully suggest that I “Try again later. (1) [sic]

Thanks, Samsung, you useless bastards.

Submission to GNSO Privacy & Proxy Services Accreditation Issues Working Group

My submission today to the ICANN forum addressing the GNSO Privacy & Proxy Services Accreditation Issues Working Group Initial Report:

While I can’t understand why some businesses hide their contact information — it seems counter-intuitive — I emphatically support the legitimate use of WHOIS privacy and proxy services.

To state my bias up front, I am the registrant of 120 domains for business and personal use. None of my 44 business domains are protected by a privacy or proxy service. Of the remaining 76 domains, 8 (11%) use a privacy or proxy service. I’m not doing anything illegal with those 8 domains (you’ll have to trust me on that), but it’s controversial enough with some people that I wish to make it that much more difficult for those people to identify and/or find me. If the cops need to find me for any reason — which they don’t — including related to my domain registrations, it would take them all of five minutes with their legal powers (and, ironically, finding me probably wouldn’t even involve using WHOIS!), and that is sufficient for the greater good of society.

In my mind “legitimate use” of WHOIS privacy and proxy services includes hiding from people who would like to make it easier to track down people they disagree with (including using some legal pretext to do so), which includes even people with a legitimate reason to want that information. If someone with a legitimate intellectual property interest in the content of a particular website is motivated enough to contact the owner of that website, then they should be prepared to do some work to do so.

It should not be any easier to track down the owner of a domain than it is to track down the owner of a phone number or vehicle licence plate — which is not easy in my part of the world — if the domain owner does not want to be found by casual curiosity, even the professional curiosity of lawyers.

While I give ICANN lukewarm support for verifying WHOIS information provided by domain registrants (it might as well be accurate), the fact is that the WHOIS database is more useful for spammers than it is for any legitimate use. For that reason it is a far more negative effort than it is positive, and any effort to restrict the use of privacy and proxy services only makes the public perception of the WHOIS even more negative.

Archived on ICANN website.

Update, 13 August 2015: Removed the link to my submission on the ICANN website, as the URL keeps changing.

Possible arrival of Verizon in Canada

I’m not a big fan of multinationals, and quite frankly I’m dubious about the possible entry of Verizon into the Canadian cell phone market — the market with the highest prices and least competition in the world. (Third World countries like Somalia and Zambia have better service and lower prices than Canada.) I’m also not happy about the way the scheme to encourage new entrants and more competition in the market has been co-opted by the Big Three (Bell, Telus and Rogers).

But if companies like Bell are willing to take many of their customers’ hard-earned dollars out of their overflowing coffers to buy full-page advertising in major newspapers to convince the same customers they’re already screwing that Verizon’s entry into Canada is a bad thing, then on that basis alone I say we should roll out the red carpet for Verizon.

Think about it. Things can’t get much worse for the consumer, and one can only hope that things get a little tougher for the incumbents, even if only temporarily.

Update, 30 July 2013: And now Telus is spending your money suing you via the federal government!

Oh, the irony

So there I was, surfing the Web looking for information related to ambulances in British Columbia, when I came across the BC Ambulance Service’s page on treatment guidelines. Being the curious type, I downloaded a PDF copy of said treatment guidelines to have a quick look.

But instead of a document about treatment guidelines, this is all that the 2.2 MB file displayed to me in my current PDF reader of choice:

For the best experience, open this PDF portfolio in Acrobat 9 or Adobe Reader 9, or later.

For the best experience, open this PDF portfolio in Acrobat 9 or Adobe Reader 9, or later.

Now, given the size of the file and the fact that the size matches what is stated on the BCAS website, the content of the PDF is obviously there on my computer, but the BCAS (presumably) have (in their infinite wisdom) deemed that I can only “best experience” (excuse me while I throw up) their document in Acrobat Reader! This is indeed ironic, given that “PDF” stands for “portable document format” and, according to page 33 of Adobe’s own specification, “PDF is a file format for representing documents in a manner independent of the application software, hardware, and operating system used to create them and of the output device on which they are to be displayed or printed.” (It also reads, on page 25, “The goal of these products [Adobe Acrobat] is to enable users to exchange and view electronic documents easily and reliably, independently of the environment in which they were created.”)

So, apparently, the portable document format isn’t actually very portable.

I refuse to install Adobe Acrobat Reader on my primary machine. It is the poster child for “bloatware“; when all you want to do is have a quick look at a PDF document, or all you want to do is open a one-page document (like the invoices I prepare in my business), you have to load this behemoth of a program, wait and wait and wait some more while your hard disk grinds on forever, only to use one per cent of the program’s features (when it finally opens) and take less time to look at the document than it took to open it. And let’s not forget about the constant updates to the ninety-nine per cent of the application you don’t use, and Adobe’s habit of getting their sticky fingers into the very heart of your operating system. No thanks.

If Adobe produced a “light” version of Acrobat Reader (which is itself a light version of Acrobat, a program used to create PDFs) I’d consider using it. Until then I should at least acknowledge Adobe for making the portable document format an open standard, allowing me the choice to use other software to view PDFs.

And you, BC Ambulance Service? How about making your portable-document-format document portable? I don’t want to “experience” your document singing and dancing; I just want to read it. At least let me have a second class “experience” in my chosen PDF reader. Thank-you.


Update, 3 May 2012: Wouldn’t you know it. The day after I wrote this, Foxit Reader prompted me to install a security update. After the update I thought I’d see what happens when I open the same file. Lo and behold! Turns out that it appears that a “PDF portfolio” is (as the name might suggest) a portfolio or collection of PDF documents in one container (file), and one needs to view the “attachments” to see and open the individual PDF documents. The original display (see above) certainly didn’t suggest that, and the inclusion of the Adobe logo made me believe that here I had a document created in Adobe Acrobat that refused to be displayed in non-Adobe PDF readers.

Turns out I was wrong. Not sure if I should blame Foxit Reader for not being more helpful, or if I should blame Adobe because a document created using their software (the document’s properties show that it was created by Adobe Acrobat) led me to the conclusions I made. I lean towards the former — if only because of the different behaviour of Foxit Reader after the update and the fact that the update appears to address this very issue — but I do presume that the wording displayed previously (the so-called “best experience”) comes from Adobe and their software, and so could be worded to be more helpful and less biased. Clearly though, Foxit Reader is now identifying the nature of the file and displaying its own message, something it should have done before.

Below are screen captures showing what I see now on opening the file, on viewing the attachment list, and on opening the attachments.

I am a supporter of terrorists and other nasty people

I’m a little behind the eight ball, as this is now “old news”, but this week I donated money to Greenpeace Canada for the first time in my life. Why? Well, I’ll explain it this way: When you donate to Greenpeace online they have a field on the donation form that asks why you’re motivated to donate to them. This is what I filled in: “Stephen Harper says you’re terrorists” (not to mention funded by foreign money).

Way to go Stevie. Nothing like using hyperbole to convince people to support those not on your side of what should be a reasoned debate. Maybe you should take a lesson from … uh, yourself.

In other vilify-your-opponent news, there’s your friendly neighbourhood defender against the bogeyman, Vic Toews, Canadian Minister of Public Safety. Didn’t he learn anything from George Bush’s “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists” gaffe? (Read or watch George; read or watch Vic.) Really, any thinking person on either side of any argument rejects this kind of useless rhetoric, and some courageous people (like Margaret Wente) have the guts to come right out and say it.

Mr. Toews also took to the pages of the Asian Pacific Post in a full-page editorial that may have been preaching to a choir that probably thinks Canada is too soft on crime anyway, given the regimes in place where many of the readers of that publication originate. (Incidentally, the online version appears to be a slightly reduced version of the printed one.) He also makes the disingenuous comparison of private data (what he calls “basic subscription data”) to “the modern equivalent of phonebook [sic] information”. Mr. Toews, I can’t help but wonder if your personal home phone number is listed in your local telephone directory. Is it? Oh, it’s unlisted? You mean, you want it to be private?! What a radical concept!

A much more reasoned response to Toews’ rhetoric comes in the form of an editorial by John Ibbitson (‘With us or with the child pornographers’ doesn’t cut it, Mr. Toews). He writes:

Privacy commissioners in Ottawa and the provinces will not like being called such vile names. … There are powerful arguments on both sides. None of us want to handicap police in their efforts to track those who would defraud us, harm children or plot acts of terror. But we must also be wary of granting the state new powers that could restrict the sovereignty of citizens. … should the state be allowed to have new powers to know who we are on the web — in effect, to register our online identities — without a judicial warrant or even our knowledge or consent?

But Yoni Goldstein also makes half a point in his editorial (or is it a satire piece?) Stop Pretending to Care About Privacy. He contends that the general public is hypocritical and has already given up any notion of privacy in”tweeting” and “facebooking” the minutiae of their lives, and using Gmail. (Actually, I’ll give him two-thirds of a point, as he also validly points out the hypocrisy of people who wail about their privacy being violated, all while keeping rags like the National Enquirer and websites like TMZ in business so that they can see the nipples and dead bodies of celebrities.) However, he conveniently doesn’t mention things like monitoring private communications like email, instant messaging, voice and video.

Sometimes it takes a cartoon to really get the point across, and so I present these two. The first refers to Bill C-51 (the Investigative Powers for the 21st Century (IP21C) Act, also here), a predecessor to the current Bill C-30 (previously known by its short title Lawful Access Act, tendentiously renamed to Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act to make sure that opponents of the bill are aware that they are supporters of child pornographers), and plays on the well-worn (but completely bogus) argument that if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about. The second is clever and speaks for itself.

The innocent have nothing to fear.

The innocent have nothing to fear.

Toews must be an online predator.

Toews must be an online predator.


Update, 15 March 2012: This post was getting long enough, so I had to cut it off somewhere. However, if your impression of “Anonymous” is that they are a bunch of rogue geeks/nerds that are kinda mostly harmless, but they could get out of hand and bring down civilisation as we know it at any moment, you need to read How I learned to stop worrying and love Anonymous.

And probably the most succinct summary I’ve read about why Bill C-30 is bad comes from Ivor Tossell, who writes (in Toews’s ‘child pornographers’ gaffe aside, Bill C-30 has real dangers):

Contrary to what you might have heard, the new bill, C-30, doesn’t invite police to monitor your every online move without a warrant. It does, however, require Internet companies — loosely defined — to cough up your name, Internet protocol address and a few other identifiers if the police ask for them, even without a warrant. This means that the police could conceivably collect a pseudonym you’ve been using to comment on websites, present it to the relevant company, and say, “Who is this person?”

By trading pseudonyms for IP addresses, then IP addresses for real names and addresses, and repeating the process, police could get a pretty clear picture of what you’ve been up to online.

So yeah, without a warrant the cops can “only” get “the modern equivalent of phonebook information”, but to extend that analogy, they can then follow you from your home to see where you work and with whom you socialise, they can peek in your windows to see your taste in the art hanging on your walls (and which one your safe is hiding behind), they can rifle through your garbage and the mail in your mail box, and on the list goes, and all without a warrant just because they managed to obtain your “phonebook information”. In the online world — again, all without a warrant — they can now see that you gripe about (or are blowing the whistle on) your employer, they can see that you have a personal advert on that dating site that caters to cheating spouses, they can see that you regularly bid on and buy old Barbie dolls on eBay (you big tough biker guy you), and so on. This is all personal information that is ripe for abuse in the wrong hands, and that includes the hands of the police.

Now maybe you and I “have nothing to fear” (see cartoon above) or even be just a little bit embarrassed about, but these things violate your privacy, plain and simple, and we should all fear that.

Sticker shock on Canadian cell data rates

I had to do a double take after I put myself back into my chair and fastened my seatbelt when I saw the price of data transfer on the Virgin Mobile Canada website: $51 200 per gigabyte! Holy shit Batman! Are you kidding me? (See the “Canada Rates” tab at “Long Distance and Roaming“.) On a low-end high-speed Internet connection for a residential customer, that would translate into a bill of $6.4 million per month if you used your full bandwidth allotment! How is that justifiable when other packages on their site are advertised at a “mere” $15 per gigabyte, less than three ten-thousandths of the price? How is it justifiable, period?!

Virgin Mobile Canada data rate of $51 200 per GB!

Virgin Mobile Canada data rate of $51 200 per GB!

Virgin Mobile Canada data rate of $15 per GB.

Virgin Mobile Canada data rate of $15 per GB.

It just highlights what is common knowledge among any Canadians even vaguely aware of cell phone rates outside of Canada. We have among the highest rates (on voice and data) anywhere in the world — the absolute highest according to some surveys. Even Somalia, a Third World country in the thrall of pirates and warlords that has been without a functioning government for over two decades, has better and more competitive cell service than Canada. Why we put up with this, and why our government continues to allow the cell phone companies to gang together and collectively bend us over and screw us, is beyond my comprehension.

So having braved looking at a cell phone company’s website again, I’m going to retreat back into my Luddite cave as I head down the home stretch of my fifth year without the financial millstone of a cell phone hanging around my neck.

Some more links for your consideration:


Update, 14 March 2012: A glimmer of hope on the horizon: Ottawa opens telecom to foreigners, although the announcement is a bit of a mixed bag. Not that I think that “foreigners” are Canadians’ salvation, but our own countrymen (and -women) are quite happy to screw us. However, with Canada being the most expensive place on the planet to own and operate a cell phone, there is only one way for prices to go … assuming the tendency will be to head towards the middle of the pack, and not into the stratosphere! It’s competition and a smashing of the oligopoly that’s needed, and if that means that it takes Europeans, Asians or even Africans owning cell phone companies 100%, then so be it.