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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!

There is no national RCMP policy on the use of the Alert Ready system

So Global News — and only Global News, for some reason — last night reported that RCMP spokesperson Corporal Caroline Duval stated, “There is currently no national RCMP policy on the use of the national Alert Ready system.”

This just flabbergasted me!

Is there a more egregious example of mixed-up priorities and putting the cart before the horse?! It seems that someone invented a system — the ability to send alerts to all cell phones (and radios and TVs) — without the supreme national police agency who might be empowered to use it even having a use for it! Think about it: Nobody (presumably at the RCMP) apparently said, “We need to have a system to alert the public in case of an emergency.” What someone else apparently said was, “Hey! Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to spam the entire population of a country all in one go?!” Someone else said yes, invented it, then sat around waiting for the authorities to come to them and tell that they needed to use it. (Yes, of course I’m simplifying all that, but that seems to be how to boil it down as far as the RCMP are concerned!)

The Global article linked to above is full of the excuses we’ve heard from the RCMP in the last ten days, some of which are covered in my earlier article. It also points out something of which I didn’t realise the full import, that being that while the Nova Scotia RCMP was allegedly “in the process of preparing an alert” for many hours, they had, in fact, issued multiple alerts (over a dozen) already via Twitter. Which one of those alerts was not suitable to send via the Alert Ready system, slightly modified if necessary?

Old excuses offered include that it was a “fluid” and “quickly-evolving” situation. I get that, and I said before that I don’t envy anyone having to deal with that situation. However, this is exactly why organisations such as the RCMP have a command and control structure and support personnel. A competent incident commander should have the ability to have an overview of the incident, and make decisions accordingly. Whoever was in command of this incident didn’t apparently have that ability. And apparently, neither did anyone else among the support personnel have the presence of mind to complement the officers on the ground dealing with death, blood, bodies and fire, by helping with administrative decisions removed from those immediate circumstances.

A new excuse offered in the article is that “[t]he [RCMP] system is ‘regional by design’ [Dan Henstra of the University of Waterloo] because of the different threats each province faces …. It’s also tough to impose policies that apply across the entire country, even for the RCMP, which has a clear chain of command.” I’ll admit I’m not an expert on the RCMP chain of command, and I have to admit that it’s refreshing to see an authoritarian paramilitary organisation not impose policies on Nova Scotian police officers (just for example) that only make sense in Yukon, but really? Are you telling Canadians that there are no forward-thinking, bright minds at RCMP HQ that think/thought far enough ahead about a day on which an alert might have to be issued on a provincial/territorial/divisional or possibly even national level, and come up with at least a vague guideline on why and how such an alert might be decided on? If so, what exactly is the point of having a “national” police force?!

There is also finger pointing between Nova Scotia’s Emergency Management Office and the RCMP. Premier Stephen McNeil has stated “that emergency management staff were brought in (‘on their own accord‘) [on Saturday night] specifically for the purpose of issuing an alert about the shooting, but that no request was ever made by the RCMP.” (Quote is of the article.) This seems credible, and McNeil clearly knows which way the wind is blowing on this issue. Think about it; the EMO knew that an alert should be sent out, and was ready and waiting to send that alert (not sure how many staff are required to tap a “send” button, but not just any yahoo should be able to do so), and yet the RCMP dithered. The RCMP claim that “in general, standard operating procedures for when to use the emergency alert system would be set up through the provincial and territorial emergency management officials [but] Nova Scotia’s Emergency Management Office [did not provide specific details (to Global News) on the question of] if it has protocols in place for when the RCMP and other law enforcement agencies should issue an emergency alert.” So it does seem that in general there is some blame to be shared here between the RCMP and Nova Scotia’s EMO, but who was actually in charge of the situation on 18 and 19 April? It was the RCMP, not the EMO.

Again addressing the disastrous decision to use Twitter, “The RCMP … said it used Twitter and not the emergency alert system because it is their ‘normal method’ of communicating with the public and because it is a better way for sharing information about a quickly-evolving situation. [What, exactly, is “normal” about the country’s biggest mass murder, and how, exactly, is it better than an emergency alert system designed for exactly this type of emergency?!] ‘We have relied on [Twitter] because of the instantaneous manner that we can communicate. We have thousands of followers in Nova Scotia and felt that it was a superior way to communicate this ongoing threat,’ said RCMP Chief Supt. Chris Leather a day after the shootings.” (Emphasis mine.) I addressed their “thousands” of followers previously — the equivalent of whispering/tweeting “Psst, fire” to about 5000 random people inconsistently scattered around Rogers Centre in Toronto, and then expecting the stadium to empty immediately in an orderly manner. (With respect to the reference to “thousands of followers”, I’m reminded of Dr. Evil laughably holding the world hostage for “one million dollars” in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.) Give me a fucking break! To quote a CBC article, “… in communities plagued by spotty internet [sic] service and heavily populated with seniors who might not use Twitter, some people are asking why the province did not use its emergency alert system to issue text messages to cellphones [and radios and TVs] advising people of what was happening and to stay inside.”

Also overlooked by the RCMP, notwithstanding vagaries in cell phone technology there is nothing more “instantaneous” than an emergency alert that won’t shut up until you attend to it. Even if you are following their Twitter account, you could go a whole day without noticing their tweet, even if your do have Twitter installed on your phone!

I mean, it was even a Sunday in the middle of a pandemic! Staying at home and locking the doors wouldn’t even have been a massive inconvenience for much of the population!

What happened here was a massive failure to “serve and protect” the public. (I realise that’s an American pop culture police motto, but there’s a reason it’s used in pop culture.) I have no doubt that, as a result of Canadians and Nova Scotians being outraged at this failure, questions will be asked and answered. I also agree that the RCMP needs to focus on a thorough investigation of the incident itself, for now, but this question does need to be asked now so that it can be answered later. But will it be answered? And will someone take responsibility and fall on their sword? Or will it be dismissed and swept under the rug? And even if guidelines come out of this, they will be too little too late.

I will conclude this editorial with some additional quotes from various Global and CBC articles that stand out on their own. But first, here’s the emergency message I would have sent out late on 18 April or very early on 19 April:

Stay inside until further notice. Gunman fleeing police is armed and dangerous. Shelter in place and lock your doors. This message will be updated in X minutes/hours.


There is ‘no national RCMP policy’ for when emergency alerts should be issued, 28 April 2020

… the RCMP sent out more than a dozen tweets, advising the public to stay inside and providing information about Wortman’s appearance and whereabouts.

There was an active shooter. Why didn’t Nova Scotia send an emergency alert?, 21 April 2020

[Tony] Gibbs is also concerned by how he and his wife found out about the shooter: a call from their neighbour, rather than a provincewide alert.

Leather was asked twice to explain why the province’s alert system, which experts say uses radio, television and cellular networks to warn residents of serious threats to health and safety, including “active law enforcement responses,” wasn’t used.

The RCMP should use all tools at its disposal, Dan Henstra, an expert in emergency preparedness at the University of Waterloo, said. This includes the Alert Ready system, which, Henstra said, has proven highly effective in communicating threats to the public. … “It is a little surprising that the RCMP didn’t use the (alert) system, one purpose of which is to notify residents about ‘civil emergencies,” he said.

N.S. premier not ready to question if a public alert should have been issued about gunman, 20 April 2020

Heather Matthews, a resident of Wentworth, N.S., about 140 kilometres north of Halifax, believes such an alert would have saved her friend and neighbour, Lillian Campbell Hyslop, and possibly others. Hyslop was shot and killed while out for a walk Sunday morning.

“If we were all given that security alert for Northern Nova Scotians to lock your doors, she would have been home,” Matthews said in a telephone interview. “She would have been safe in her house. She wouldn’t have gone out for a walk.”

Matthews, who was also out walking with her husband, David, at about the same time, believes they heard a gun shot while they were out. Normally, they walk along the main road but decided to take a different path yesterday. It was only after the couple returned home that they learned what was happening because friends were calling to tell them to stay in and lock their doors.

Questions emerge about RCMP’s failure to send emergency alert on gunman’s rampage, 21 April 2020

[Lillian Campbell] Hyslop was killed Sunday morning in the Wentworth area, roughly eight hours after the shooter had killed people in Portapique, a community 40 kilometres to the south.

Matthews said she wishes her friend Hyslop, a frequent walker along the roads in Wentworth Valley, had known about the shooter before she went for her usual stroll that morning.

“I understand that RCMP put it out on Twitter. But not everybody is on Twitter, not everybody has Facebook, not everybody has the internet [sic], but we all have TVs, radio and a phone. There should have been some other way of notifying these people that they should have been inside safe,” Matthews told CBC News.

Central and northern Nova Scotia is a largely rural area where internet [sic] service is spotty and Twitter use is not widespread.

Cumberland-Colchester MP Lenore Zann, who represents the area, said Monday many of her constituents “prefer Facebook” to Twitter.

Debi Atkinson is another friend of Hyslop’s from Wentworth. She told CBC Radio’s As It Happens Tuesday that most residents of their village feel like they were left in the dark by police.

“Everybody’s feelings about the whole thing was, why wasn’t there an amber alert? We went into this blind,” she said. “Out of all our friends, I don’t know anybody that follows Twitter, that has a Twitter account.

McNeil said the province’s Emergency Management Office had been activated and technicians were brought in Saturday to send such an alert — but the request never came from the Mounties.

Inexplicable lack of alert of a killer on the loose in Nova Scotia

Fake RCMP cruiser used by mass shooter in Nova Scotia.

Fake RCMP cruiser used by mass shooter in Nova Scotia

It was a week ago that Canada’s worst mass shooting started in Portapique, Nova Scotia. One man spent over thirteen hours murdering people (many of them apparently unknown to him and just out and about their business) and burning down houses around the province. And yet, at no point did the Royal Canadian Mounted Police issue an alert to the residents of Nova Scotia.

It is unfathomable to me, and many others, that they did not do so. Speaking on behalf of the Nova Scotia RCMP, Chief Superintendent Chris Leather (the Criminal Operations Officer for the Nova Scotia RCMP) offered the excuse that “We were in the process of preparing an alert” when the police shot and killed the suspect, Gabriel Wortman. Thirteen hours after the rampage started, they were still “in the process of preparing an alert” that should have taken minutes to prepare! This despite the fact that the provincial agency responsible for sending those alerts had reached out to the RCMP and basically begged (my word) to send an alert. This too is unfathomable and inexcusable to me.

Late on the Saturday night the police started receiving emergency calls and came across multiple crime scenes with thirteen dead bodies, a shot and injured victim (who had information on his assailant, the shooter), and burning homes … and no suspect. I don’t envy anyone in that situation, civilian or police officer, but my god, you already know you have a crime of unimaginable magnitude in peacetime on your hands, and no fucking suspect in sight, in custody or anywhere to be found! The alert should have been sent out there and then, never mind hours later when they received credible evidence that the perp was driving a fake police car and dressed in a police uniform!

And really, there are just no polite words in my vocabulary to address the moronic use of Twitter as the only mode of communication with the public. I know this is the 21st century, but Twitter is at best a niche mode of communication — a large niche I will admit, but niche nevertheless. I and many others have no need for it, never mind needing it enough to have it on my phone; in fact, I don’t personally know anyone who uses it, especially for sending or posting messages. Despite working in the tech industry I only have a largely abandoned Twitter account for my business (which I only ever used to transmit, not receive), and as of this writing only about 11 percent of the Nova Scotian population follow the Nova Scotia RCMP’s Twitter account (the introduction to which features a dead link). At the time of this crime I think it was less than 9 percent. Even so, that 9 or 11 percent likely includes many who don’t live in Nova Scotia (especially now), and an even smaller percentage of the largely retired population in and around Portapique would be followers.

I fully agree with anyone who says that the emergency alert system should not be overused — except those morons in recent months who have complained about Amber Alerts. Nobody in their right mind thinks that the average cop on the beat should be able to access that system directly. But higher echelons — if not the highest echelon — of the Nova Scotia RCMP should have been roused out of their beds well before midnight, and made the decision to alert the public to an armed and dangerous mass murderer being on the loose in the province. There should be no need to “prepare” anything; there should be a template ready to go. Someone in the office — not at the scene — at the RCMP should have already, within minutes, had the text of the message prepared for immediate approval. I know very well that mass messages are sometimes easily misunderstood by the recipients if they’re unexpected, but that’s a small price to be paid to save lives and all the more reason to have a previously composed and vetted template ready to go.

What this boils down to is that if the alert had been issued within an hour of the above realisation — that numerous shooting deaths had occurred and that no suspect had been apprehended — quite possibly nine lives could have been saved, including that of Constable Heidi Stevenson. As it turns out, she is the only hero among the RCMP in this incident, apparently putting her life on the line in what I can only surmise was an intentional head-on collision with Wortman’s fake RCMP cruiser, and then losing it in an apparent gun battle with him.

Perhaps a public enquiry is needed as some have been calling for, and it can address the negligence involved in not sending an alert, but a public enquiry is not needed on that point alone. It simply requires someone in the RCMP with big enough balls, male or female, to step forward and admit that the RCMP fucked up big time, and apologise … and then resign, or be demoted and/or fired.

But is there enough decency in the RCMP to do that, in memory of the victims of the killer, and in deference to their surviving families?

Jody Wilson-Raybould for prime minister of Canada!

Jody Wilson-Raybould,

Jody Wilson-Raybould

I sent the following email to Jody Wilson-Raybould on Wednesday after her testimony to the justice committee:

Subject: Commendation on your testimony
Date: Wed, 27 Feb 2019 22:16:58 -0800

Dear Mrs. Wilson-Raybould:

For the first time in my life, today I watched live proceedings from Parliament. I thought I’d switch off after your opening statement and get on with my day, but six hours later I was still riveted to the CBC video feed and then TV news broadcasts.

In the forty years since I came to Canada at the age of twelve I have never been so impressed at the integrity shown by a politician as I was today. Well done. And except for the repetitiveness of the lines of questioning, I was mostly (but not completely) impressed with the civility of the discourse and our parliamentary system.

When will Canadians have the opportunity to vote for a party with you at the helm? And where can I get my “JWR for PM” bumper sticker?

Craig

It’s ironic that Mr. Feminist himself doesn’t realise that “no means no“. The “grinning legatee” clearly has something to hide, even judging only by his own behaviour. I’m not a fan of the Conservative party, and Andrew Scheer in particular, but I do agree with his call for Trudeau’s resignation. Never thought he’d be a one-term wonder, but I’m hopeful now. Hypocrisy and arrogance are vile.

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!

Dylann Roof is NOT a Rhodesian!

Screenshot of RhoMail.com from 22 June 2015

Screenshot of RhoMail.com from 22 June 2015

This is a re-post of a statement I published on the RhoMail.com website on 22 June 2015.

This idiot — Dylann Roof — is NOT A RHODESIAN!

He is an American extremist zealot, through and through.

Being 21-years-old, he was born fifteen years after Rhodesia ceased to be a country, and by his own admission in the manifesto attributed to him he is the product of the results of a Google search. He has as much right to wear a Google logo and attribute his murderous thoughts to Google as he does to attribute them to Rhodesia — a country in which he never lived, let alone visited, and which had nothing to do with his warped views and alleged actions. He should be wearing a swastika (itself appropriated from more benign origins), not a Rhodesian flag; in fact, one appears on his supposed home page. Southern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesians (as it and they were at the time) fought against the Nazis and their odious ideology.

By his co-opting the Rhodesian flag he has besmirched a proud people, most of whom would NOT — despite the recent words of misinformed revisionists of history — have any truck with him. The Rhodesian flag was proudly worn by more black soldiers than white in the battle against Communist-backed terrorists in Rhodesia’s civil war.

Dylann Roof is not the so-called last Rhodesian, as he calls himself (there are still plenty of authentic Rhodesians alive and well); he is an American who has (allegedly) perpetrated the uniquely American crime of mass murder in peacetime. He is the product of the United States of America in the 21st century, and has nothing to do with 20th century southern Africa.

Please do not associate him with Rhodesia, nor Rhodesians with him.

We offer our condolences to the family and friends of those who were killed in Charleston, and wish those injured a speedy and full recovery.

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.

RCMP hypocrisy: The video lies, the video tells the truth

The gall! The unmitigated gall!

As anyone who paid the slightest bit of attention to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police killing of Robert Dziekanski knows, the RCMP did their level best to (first of all) hide the video evidence, and then completely discredit it. Despite the fact that any private citizen (i.e., non-cop) caught on video breaking the law would get a one-way “do not stop, do not collect $200, do not pass go” ticket to jail, no expense or red herring was spared by the RCMP in trying to sell to the public the snake oil that the video didn’t tell the real story, and that Mr. Dziekanski really was a great and credible threat to four burly cops as he brandished his weapon of mass destruction: the infamous stapler. The video, they claimed, was less than useless. (This in addition to all of the lies about Dziekanski and the incident itself [not to mention the post-mortem collusion] that they spewed to the media and the Braidwood Inquiry.)

Yet this week, after the editor of the Osoyoos Times related an incident during which he felt he was humiliated (Google cache, local cache) in a guilty-until-proven-innocent road side stop by RCMP Corporal Ryan McLeod, the Officer in Charge BC RCMP Communications (Superintendent Ray Bernoties), gleefully offered video evidence (local cache, now that the RCMP have apparently deleted this press release) which he essentially claims makes a slam dunk case that refutes the claims of editor Keith Lacey. He even smugly adds, “This is the type of transparency British Columbians expect from the RCMP.”

The hypocrisy! The sheer, bald-faced, fucking hypocrisy of the murdering RCMP!

You might almost think the guy was trying to make a sarcastic joke, or the press release was written by Monty Python, if it wasn’t so serious. Yes, Supt. Bernoties, we do expect transparency from the RCMP; one day I hope we’ll see some.

The hypocrisy continues: “This police officer, who you so freely defame using your position …”. Excuse me while I splutter my morning coffee all over my computer screen! The record shows that the RCMP themselves used their position and access to the media to “freely defame” Robert Dziekanski before the video evidence and the testimony of bystanders came to light, and is a textbook example of why we can’t take as gospel what police officers say in support of a charge. (Being a grammar nazi I can’t help but point out that this cop — the top cop for “communications” in BC — doesn’t even seem to know when to use the word “whom” instead of “who”, and later also uses the word “slander” when he should refer to “libel” — a double blow for someone who is supposed to be proficient in both communications and the law. Actually, the whole “letter” reads as if it was written by an eight-year-old getting a D in English class.)

The hypocrisy concludes thusly: “If there was one positive to your negative article, it was a reminder to me of the many baseless and malicious allegations our members must constantly face while carrying out their duties. Fortunately, in this case, the video removes any doubt that the police officer’s actions were professional and respectful.”

Wow. Poor baby. “[B]aseless and malicious allegations” my foot. Before the outrage set in, I was just left dumbfounded.

Keith, you are wrong about one thing in your editorial. You state, “This is a free country, not a police state.” Sorry, but clearly you haven’t noticed that this is no longer true, especially the moment you drive a car onto a public road.

 


 

Updated, 14 August 2015: Linked to local cache of RCMP press release, seeing as it has either been deleted from their website or moved.

Invincible and invisible cyclists

Cyclist dressed in black. Photograph by Mark van Manen, PNG.

Cyclist dressed in black. (Mark van Manen, PNG.)

The front page story in The Vancouver Sun on 29 November was Cycling’s most dangerous intersections: 10 places cars are most likely to hit bicycles in Vancouver. Illustrating that story was one of the pictures you see here. (For some strange reason, the Sun has two identical versions of the story [here and here] on its website, but with different pictures.)

Now, I realise that the photographs were no doubt posed, but they beautifully — and ironically — illustrate exactly why so many cyclists (and pedestrians) are getting mowed down on Vancouver streets. Note the following:

  • The cyclist is dressed entirely in black, and
  • The picture is taken at night.
Cyclist dressed in black. Photograph by Mark van Manen, PNG.

Cyclist dressed in black. (Mark van Manen, PNG.)

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been driving in Vancouver on a rainy night — which, as you will know if you live in this part of the world, account for about 300 of 365 nights — and a cyclist or pedestrian has almost literally appeared “out of nowhere” and narrowly avoided becoming one with my car. You can point the finger of blame at me if you want, accusing me of not paying attention. But really, even if there was no car traffic on the roads (besides me) and so I didn’t have to be swivelling my head this way and that to look out for them (especially at intersections, which is what the Sun story is about), I’d be hard-pressed to see a damn nearly invisible person (and bike) until my headlights are reflected in the whites of his or her widening eyes. Besides, if I’m doing such a poor job of paying attention, how come I don’t have these close calls during the day in good weather?

Add to that cyclists and pedestrians who think they are somehow exempt from both the laws of the road and of physics — or have a death wish — and you have a recipe for disaster. The onus is on everyone on the roads to do their part to keep them safe, but jeez, if you’re the one likely to be on the losing end of a collision, don’t you think you should invest a little more effort and thought in keeping yourself alive before you even walk out the door?

(Copyright note: These photographs are the copyright of, presumably, Mark van Manen of the Pacific News Group [PNG]. They are used here without permission, but I assert that their use here is in line with the concept of “fair dealing” under Canadian copyright law, in that this article is a criticism of the content of the works themselves and the news story to which they are attached rather than simply being a reposting of a news article. To the best of my knowledge, non-copyrighted versions of these photographs are not available. In any case, these are the pictures the public has seen, so my creating my own similar pictures would negate the nexus of this article.)