Big Brother is listening – on the bus

Government Explained 2: The Special Piece of Paper

Sometimes, it is good to think about our governance structures as if we were explaining them to an alien:  it goes a long way towards exposing our blind spots.

I am still convinced that coercive taxation ought not play part in any modern government….


The French got it right – and wrong – at the same time

Free speech is paramount to the continuation of our society.

Finally, even our elites are beginning to realize this, even if they are not willing to express it openly – yet.

Even a few in the media are begginning to acknowledge this, even though most are still confused about what ‘incitement to riot’ is.


Just for the record, saying   “Your Mama wears army boots!” is an insult, not incitement to riot, violence or murder.  Saying “Kill those who say My Mama wears army boots!” is incitement to murder.

Even if you replace ‘your Mama’ with ‘Your Prophet’ and ‘wears army boots’ with ‘rapes little girls’.

And offering money to anyone who kills ‘Steve X’, because ‘Steve X’ said or wrote or drew or filmed something, is conspiracy to murder…and a criminal act.

I’m only explaining this because so many policymakers in the USA and UK and media members everywhere seem to have trouble understanding this simple distinction.

Back to the French…

Last week, the satirical magazine ‘Charlie Hebdo’ published some more ‘Mohammed cartoons’.  Good for them.

What is more, they announced ahead of time that they were going to do so.

The response of the French government:  send riot police to guard the magazine from rioters, because, as they quite correctly said, free speech must be protected.  And, they beefed up the security at their Embassies, in case there was a backlash there.

That is what the French got right.

It’s the next bit I have a problem with:  the French banned all protests against the cartoons!

I’m sorry, but that is just as wrong as banning the cartoons themselves!

Peaceful protests are a necessary expression of the freedom of speech and no government may ban them, on any grounds.


Sure, if the protests turn violent, the police are obligated to arrest those who break the law and riot.  That goes without saying.  But banning a protest just because it might – even if it is very likely that it might – turn violent is a violation of the very principles that were upheld by protecting the publication of the cartoons!

You cant’d punish pre-crime and you cannot limit someone’s rights because of what they might do.

Well, obviously, you can – the French just did it.

What I mean is that it is wrong to do so

Freedom of speech is for everyone.

It is especially important that we protect the freedom of speech of those who say things we don’t like.

Sure, the protests were likely to turn violent.  Pretending otherwise would be naive.

But the power of the government does not extend to limiting the freedoms of their citizens to commit crimes – only to arrest them and punish them in accordance with the laws after they break the law!

Yes, there is a problem in many places with protests turning violent:  but that is because in the past, the police have been negligent in apprehending and punishing those who break the laws during protests.  That is a problem which needs to be acknowledged and dealt with.

But past negligence in enforcing the laws sufficiently does not give any goverment the right to abrogate the rights of its citizens – especially a core right, like freedom of speech.

RIM lays down for the Indian government

Once upon a time, RIM, the maker of Blackberry, was known for excellent security in communications.

So much so that unscrupulous governments sought to ban it – lest they not be able to spy on their citizens.

Now, RIM seems to have rolled over and decided to let governments trample over its users’ civil liberties:

‘RIM recently demonstrated a solution developed by a firm called Verint that can intercept messages and emails exchanged between BlackBerry handsets, and make these encrypted communications available in a readable format to Indian security agencies, according to an exchange of communications between the Canadian company and the Indian government.’


RIM had originally built its reputation – and marketshare – based on the security the encryption it put all messages through provided.  Its encryption was so secure, governments that would like to monitor their citizens’ communication threatened to shut them out of their marketplace.

Hence the flop.

Without this enhanced security, however, there is little to elevate their product over cheaper or ‘sexier’ smart phones.

This, therefore, is a serious gamble on the part of RIM:  will access to the Indian market permit them to grow, or will this latest corruption of the security of its communications be the last nail in their coffin?

Ottawa Protocol on Combatting Anti-Semitism

A friend called my attention to this:  The Ottawa Protocol on Combatting Anti-Semitism, produced by the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combatting Anti-Semitism (ICCA) and just signed by the Harper Administration.  Perhaps it is important that I reproduce it in its entirety:

The Ottawa Protocol on Combating Antisemitism


We, Representatives of our respective Parliaments from across the world, convening in Ottawa for the second Conference and Summit of the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism, note and reaffirm the London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism as a template document for the fight against antisemitism.

We are concerned that, since the London Conference in February 2009, there continues to be a dramatic increase in recorded antisemitic hate crimes and attacks targeting Jewish persons and property, and Jewish religious, educational and communal institutions.

We remain alarmed by ongoing state-sanctioned genocidal antisemitism and related extremist ideologies. If antisemitism is the most enduring of hatreds, and genocide is the most horrific of crimes, then the convergence of the genocidal intent embodied in antisemitic ideology is the most toxic of combinations.

We are appalled by the resurgence of the classic anti-Jewish libels, including:

–       The Blood Libel (that Jews use the blood of children for ritual sacrifice)

–       The Jews as “Poisoners of the Wells” – responsible for all evils in the world

–       The myth of the “new Protocols of the Elders of Zion” – the tsarist forgery that proclaimed an international Jewish conspiracy bent on world domination – and accuses the Jews of controlling government, the economy, media and public institutions.

–       The double entendre of denying the Holocaust – accusing the Jews of fabricating the Holocaust as a hoax – and the nazification of the Jew and the Jewish people.

We are alarmed by the explosion of antisemitism and hate on the Internet, a medium crucial for the promotion and protection of freedom of expression, freedom of information, and the participation of civil society.

We are concerned over the failure of most OSCE participating states to fully implement provisions of the 2004 Berlin Declaration, including the commitment to:

“Collect and maintain reliable information and statistics about antisemitic crimes, and other hate crimes, committed within their territory, report such information periodically to the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), and make this information available to the public.”

We are concerned by the reported incidents of antisemitism on campuses, such as acts of violence, verbal abuse, rank intolerance, and assaults on those committed to free inquiry, while undermining fundamental academic values.

We renew our call for national Governments, Parliaments, international institutions, political and civic leaders, NGOs, and civil society to affirm democratic and human values, build societies based on respect and citizenship and combat any manifestations of antisemitism and all forms of discrimination.

We reaffirm the EUMC – now Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) – working definition of antisemitism, which sets forth that:

“Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
  • Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective – such as, especially but not exclusively – the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy, or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
  • Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
  • Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:

  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g. claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel.

However, criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.

Let it be clear: Criticism of Israel is not antisemitic, and saying so is wrong. But singling Israel out for selective condemnation and opprobrium – let alone denying its right to exist or seeking its destruction – is discriminatory and hateful, and not saying so is dishonest.

Members of Parliament meeting in Ottawa commit to:

  1. Calling on our Governments to uphold international commitments on combating antisemitism – such as the OSCE Berlin Principles – and to engage with the United Nations for that purpose. In the words of former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, “It is […] rightly said that the United Nations emerged from the ashes of the Holocaust. And a Human Rights agenda that fails to address antisemitism denies its own history”;
  2. Calling on Parliaments and Governments to adopt the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism and anchor its enforcement in existing law;
  3. Encouraging countries throughout the world to establish mechanisms for reporting and monitoring on domestic and international antisemitism, along the lines of the “Combating Antisemitism Act of 2010” recently introduced in the United States Congress;
  4. Encouraging the leaders of all religious faiths – represented also at this Conference – to use all means possible to combat antisemitism and all forms of hatred and discrimination;
  5. Calling on the Parliamentary Forum of the Community of Democracies to make the combating of hatred and antisemitism a priority in their work;
  6. Calling on Governments and Parliamentarians to reaffirm and implement the Genocide Convention, recognising that where there is incitement to genocide, State parties have an obligation to act;
  7. Working with universities to encourage them to combat antisemitism with the same seriousness with which they confront other forms of hate.  Specifically, universities should be invited to define antisemitism clearly, provide specific examples, and enforce conduct codes firmly, while ensuring compliance with freedom of speech and the principle of academic freedom.  Universities should use the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism as a basis for education, training and orientation. Indeed, there should be zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind against anyone in the university community on the basis of race, gender, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation or political position;
  8. We encourage the European Union to promote civic education and open society in its European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and to link funding to democratic development and respect for Human Rights in ENP partner countries;
  9. Establishing an International Task Force of Internet specialists comprised of parliamentarians and experts to create common indicators to identify and monitor antisemitism and other manifestations of hate online and to develop policy recommendations for Governments and international frameworks to address these problems;
  10. Building on the African representation at this Conference, to develop increased working relationships with parliamentarians in Africa for the combating of racism and antisemitism;
  11. We urge the incoming OSCE Chair, Lithuania, to make implementation of these commitments a priority during 2011 and call for the reappointment of the Special Representatives to assist in this work.


There is little to disagree with here – except, of course, the encroachment on the freedom of speech and the freedom of the internet, which must both remain above limitation, even in worthy causes such as this. 

We know perfectly well from history, from our own experience, that laws limiting freedom of speech specifically intended to stamp out anti-Semitism have, in the past, been used to stifle opposition to the genocide of the very Jews they were intended to protect.  So, let’s begin to learn from our mistakes!

H/T:  Andy

Government explained

My son is learning about ‘government’ in school these days…  Yes, frustrating!

I actually wrote an email to his teacher to explain that, when, on a recent assignment (and on any potential tests), he was asked to list all the positive attributes of a ‘command economy’, he said there were none, he was not displaying ignorance of the course material:  he was making a highly principled statement.  He even emailed her the Keynes vs. Hayek video – but she said she could not show it in class because it was too complicated…

Yes, our children are being brainwashed into Keynesian ideology from grade school.  (Just to underline my point:  even the spellchecker was familiar with ‘Keynes’ and ‘Keynesian’ – but not ‘Hayek’…)

Which is why I was glad to come across the following video, which explains rather well the problem with ‘government’:

Remember the old proverb:

What are the 10 most feared words in the English language?

‘We are from the government.  We are here to help!’

Warrants? We don’t need no stinking warrants!!!

This is beyond the pale!

Yes, Mr. Levant is correct to raise the spectre of Pavlik Morozov:  I was certainly taught in school to live up to his example.  But that was on the other side of the iron curtain!  There is no room for twisted crap like that in our schools now!

Let you be the first to read it!

I have a gun.

I even volunteered in a school, teaching children how to use a gun, just like mine.

A glue gun, that is.

I have a whole bunch of glue sticks in an ammo box I bought at an army surplus store – partly because I like puns and partly because it is efficient.

I also own a tape gun – it makes wrapping presents more efficient.

And I have two staple guns.  (OK, one is my hubby’s, but that makes at least half of it mine, no?)

My kids own guns, too!

From the air-zooka (which ‘shoots’ air, if you are not familiar with it) through a marshmallow gun to water guns…

But if I wanted to own a firearm – an actual gun for shooting bullets – I would not feel obligated to tell ‘the state’.  Why?  Because I believe, to the core of my being, that the Magna Carta gives me the right to carry whatever arms I think I need to protect my person, family and property.  Nothing – no law  – can, in my never-humble-opinion – abrogate this natural right to protect myself.

It is precisely because I have the right to carry weapons that police has the power to carry weapons:  they derive that right from me, and you, and all the other citizens. Since the government acts as our proxy, it cannot do what each and every one of us does not have the right to do, irrespective of the government.

This equation goes both ways:  since the state is acting on our behalf, it cannot do anything we are not free to do.  Therefore, if some agents of the state do carry firearms, it therefore follows that each and every citizen has that very same right.  If we did not have that right, then the government agents would have nowhere to get that right from.

I recognize I am not expressing this eloquently – following is a video that does a much better job of it:

When all the rhetoric is washed away, at its core, this is about self-ownership. Which Telecom Giant thinks you should pay more?


The Big Three are ripping us off and using the money to manipulate Canadians and the government.

As we’ve been saying, the Big Three cell phone companies have a plan to price-gouge Canadians by shutting out small competitors1. Now they’re unleashing a misinformation campaign to muzzle your voice.

For example,

    1. Rogers recently bought and paid for a trumped-up study2 that wrongly implies Canadians (you) can afford to pay more for telecom services.


  1. Rogers just took to the courts to argue that Canada’s false advertising rules violate the telecom giant’s freedom of expression! This after being caught red-handed and fined $10,000,000 dollars for misleading cell phone advertising.3

Will you let them get away with it?

With these two acts of extreme arrogance, Rogers has demonstrated that they will go to ridiculous lengths to tighten their stranglehold on communications and raise prices.

Some say mobile is the future of the Internet and communications. We have to stop the Big Three from creating a command and control communications market with tight contracts, content controls, price-gouging overage fees, and disrespectful customer service.

The government could make a decision on this at any moment. Sign the Stop The Squeeze petition now.

With hope and determination,

Steve, on behalf of your Team

P.S. Unlike Big Telecom, we listen to Canadians. Some of you have expressed that we should provide more details in our messages. We heard you—here’s some more detailed background information:

    1. Cell phone companies require low-frequency wireless spectrum to deliver the latest mobile devices to customers. There is a new block of 700 MHZ spectrum that will be available for use through an auction later this year and the government is about to decide who will have access to the spectrum.The Big Three providers are sitting on more than enough spectrum to do deliver their services to Canadians (including those in rural areas). They want the government to take a do nothing approach and allow the Big hree to control essential spectrum and shut out independent competitors. You can also check out CTV News coverage of this issue here.
    2. Lemay Yates recently released a report, bought and paid for by Rogers, that suggests Canadians have better Internet speed, availability and pricing than our global counterparts. But this research directly contradicts many other independent reports (from the OECD, Harvard, the New America Foundation, Akamai, and more) that show Canada falling woefully behind on key metrics like price and speed.


  1. According to the Vancouver Sun: “Rogers Communications Inc. is asking an Ontario court to strike down part of a federal law requiring a company to have ‘adequate and proper’ tests of a product’s performance before advertising claims about the product — on the grounds that it violates its freedom of expression.”

Now that you know the details, it’s time to act.

Support is a non-profit organization that relies on donations from people like you to operate. Our small but dedicated team ensures even the smallest contributions go a long way to make your voice heard. Please donate today.

Computerworld: ‘Hacked memo leaked: Apple, Nokia, RIM supply backdoors for gov’t intercept?’

Can’t say this os a surprise, but it’s important that the confirmations are as publicly known as possible.

‘Everyone knows’ that all Miscrosoft software has more backdoors than a whorehouse – Microsoft openly admits they consult with the US government while developing Windows products.  But Apple consumers always laboured under the presumption that they were above such surveillance…

From Slashdot:

‘The memo suggests that, “in exchange for the Indian market presence” mobile device manufacturers, including RIM, Nokia, and Apple (collectively defined in the document as “RINOA”) have agreed to provide backdoor access on their devices. The Indian government then “utilized backdoors provided by RINOA” to intercept internal emails of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a U.S. government body with a mandate to monitor, investigate and report to Congress on ‘the national security implications of the bilateral trade and economic relationship’ between the U.S. and China.’

So, now we know a bit more:  more electronics manufacturers are willing to sell out their customers to government surveillance.

And, the US government is not unique in having access to the backdoors built in to consumer electronics.

So much for ‘an expectation of privacy’…

SOPA: uniting the internet against collusion by big business and big government


Sounds so innocuous:  Stop Online Piracy Act.

After all, ‘Pirates’ are all ‘bad’, so anything to get them off ‘our internet’ must be ‘good’, right?

We, surely, the Orwellian language is only a part of the trick here.

The SOPA hearings are being held today and it is difficult to believe that anyone who does not directly benefit financially from this legislation would be willing to support it.  The effect of this legislation would be to chill free speech in ways to give Richard Warman and his Section 13 co-oppressors wet dreams in perpetuity!

Right now, even with the ‘moderate’, much less draconian legislation in place, the copyright infringement laws are being used to silence critics of big business – or even just independent voices (lest they become critical in the future).

In this example, a DMCA claim was used to censor a daily tech news episode which criticized a big-music corporation:  under the law, a mere DMCA claim was enough to force a takedown of the episode for a minimum of 10 days.  If you are running a daily news show, 10 days is an eternity…  At least, under the DMCA rules, the news show could appeal to a judge…

And, of course, we all know that the US government has been known to censor a blog for over a year, denying them due process of law to get their property restored and name cleared.

Just to add injury to injury:  not only are you guilty until proved innocent under SOPA, getting to court to prove your innocence will be much harder.  And even if you were victorious and the courts found you innocent of all charges, you would not have a recourse to sue for damages suffered as the result of the false SOPA accusation!

Is this type of legislation even needed?

The Swiss government certainly does not think so:  they have gone the opposite route.  After studying the data for a long time, these legislators have concluded that downloading music/videos for personal use is not just perfectly legal, they claim it actually channels money away from copyright holders and  helps the music/movie industry in the long run.

Even US judges are suggesting that if you buy a DVD, you just might be allowed to rip it under ‘fair use’ doctrine!

And what about the people who have been the most vociferous about the need for crippling the internet in the name of copyright protection?  Surely, they themselves do not indulge in the very behaviour they wish to stamp out with knee-jerk legislation like ‘three accusations and you are permanently banned from the internet’, right?

Well, not exactly.

“French President Nicholas Sarkozy is a man who has championed some of the most aggressive anti-piracy legislation in Europe. But today it’s revealed that the occupants of his very own office and home are responsible for a nice selection of pirate downloads using BitTorrent. Three strikes? Those with access to the Presidential Palace’s IP addresses have already doubled that quota. “

But, surely, those entertainment legacy industry movers and shakers who have lobbied the legislators for SOPA – the ones who claim that downloading movies and music for free would bankrupt them – surely they are not doing this themselves, are they?

Of course they are!

“With increasing lobbying efforts from the entertainment industry against BitTorrent sites and users, we wondered whether these companies hold themselves to the same standards they demand of others. After some initial skimming we’ve discovered BitTorrent pirates at nearly every major entertainment industry company in the US, including Sony Pictures Entertainment, Fox Entertainment and NBC Universal. Busted.”

And those ‘evil Pirates’ – they must be up to even more vile things…

…but only if you call building a school and bringing high-speed internet connection to a small farming village (which only had one dial-up connected computer for the whole village before) to be a bad thing…

Let’s hope the unanimous screams of protest from the citizens of the internet get heard!