DRM discriminates against the visually impaired

DRM – Digital Rights Management, is the digital copyright protection placed on electronic media by the major manufacturers/distributors of content (movies, CDs, etc.).  And while some people argue that some copyright protection is reasonable, the rules regarding DRM are so one-sided and shortsighted that all impartial observers criticize them – for many reasons.

We can now add one more reason for valid and legitimate criticism:  DRM directly discriminates against the visually impaired:

‘Any digital text can be read aloud through text-to-speech, granting people with visual impairments the basic human right to read — unless there’s DRM in the way.

Tricking the technology used by Amazon, Apple, Adobe and Google to stop blind people from adding text-to-speech to their devices isn’t hard — but it is a felony, thanks to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. A UN treaty intended to help people with visual, cognitive and sensory disabilities access copyrighted works has been all but killed by the big publishers.’

If you are new to this debate, I encourage you to get informed because there needs to be a balance of rights:  protecting the rights of the content creators/owners must not rob purchasers of said material from being able to access it in a format that they would like.

At the current time, the rules governing content purchased on electronic media are created by politicians on the advice of industry lobbyists – very powerful and rich industry lobbyists – without any weight being given to the needs, much less the rights, of the consumer.

More balance is needed or electronic vigilantes WILL gain widespread public support.

The Robin Hood myth has survived many centuries for a reason.  Unless the society wishes for hactivists to become the next incarnation of the Robin Hood character, fixing the deeply flawed and corrupt copyright governance is a necessary first step!

Concerned Citizen seeks justice – again

Next year will be the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta.  While the significance of this document is no longer taught in schools, we should all take a moment and recall some of the reasons for its being.  And while I am no historian or legal expert (my training is in science, not law), I have learned a bit about our heritage as the Children of the Magna Carta.

One of the many reasons why this Great Charter is so important is that it ensures that the ‘King’s justice’ will be available to all the citizens, not just the select few who are rich or high born.  For this purpose, the Charter establishes local courts where individual citizens can have their grievances heard and ruled on, thus truly bringing the rule of law to all of the citizenry.

I cannot stress the importance of this:  it is one of the foundational principles of our civilization.

In a real sense, it establishes the governance through which individuals, regardless of their means or position in society, can seek legal redress for their grievances.  In other words, in establishes the means through which every citizen can be a true equal in the eyes of the law.

Having grown up on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain, I have lived in a society where all kinds of laws to protect human rights exist, but there are no means in the system for ordinary citizens to attain them.  The necessary result of this kind of system is tyranny:  if you have no means of legally seeking a remedy to wrongs, the laws that assure you of your rights are meaningless.

This is why, in Canada (as in other Magna Carta descended societies), there is a system of governance in place for simple citizens who are unable to afford fancy lawyers to seek justice through our courts.  And THAT is how all citizens are equals before the law.

And so it is – in theory.

In reality, it has become exceedingly difficult and prohibitively expensive for one of us, ‘the unwashed masses’, those of us not living privileged lives, to seek legal redress of wrongs through our legal system, be it criminal or civil.  Lawyers, as well as court costs and all the accompanying bits (transcripts necessary to ‘move things forward’ and so on) are not cheap.

Like, really, really not cheap.

In other words, the financial burden severely limits regular citizens’ access to legal remedies for wrongs suffered.

So, what is a Concerned Citizen (CC) to do when there is an appearance (real or imagined) collusion between various politicians and, what’s worse, between different levels of government which results in very real costs, exerted from said Concerned Citizen through increasing his tax burden?

Well, this particular CC has decided to try to reduce his legal costs while seeking justice for the damage of unnecessarily increased taxation by trying to bring lawsuits against the politicians and/or bureaucrats in the centre of this perceived financial wrongdoing by self-representing.  He is, after all, the founding member of the Municipal Citizens Action Group – so he takes the frivolous waste of taxpayer dollars very seriously and is driven to bring us all justice.

And what a bumpy road it’s been!

You know that saying, ‘you can’t fight City Hall’?

Well, CC is trying to fight not one, but two City Halls and a Provincial Government to boot!

For non-Ontario residents, this is probably a new issue – because lamestream media barely covers it.  But, in a nutshell, here is the crux of the matter.

Ontario government passed a law permitting various municipal transportation authorities (run at an ‘arm’s length’ by the municipal governments) to use the open bidding process to choose the best advanced electronic payment system for the collection of public transportation fares.  The municipalities, when they decided to go electronic, started this competitive bidding process and, in many cases, chose an inexpensive commercially available system already proven to be reliable in many municipalities, including Gatineau, just North of the Ottawa River from the City of Ottawa.

So far so good, right?

Not so fast.  The Ontario Provincial Government had, in its wisdom, decided that two  of the largest system, the Toronto and Ottawa ones were – and this is where things get fuzzy – mysteriously moved to abandon the bidding/contract process altogether and, instead, purchase a Metrolinx Presto system somehow backed (or something) by the Ontario Provincial government.

What is more, the Presto system was not ‘commercially available, off the shelf’ system that had been tried and proven effective:  oh no, that would be too easy!  Instead, Metrolinx began to develop a whole new, ‘custom’ system with a ‘custom price-tag’.

A very, very BIG ‘custom pricetag’!

Oh, and did I mention the system sucks?

Late.

Not working.

In other words, what was predicted all along by people when the competitive bidding process was abandoned.

Now, I do not know this to be true, but I have heard a rumour or two that some Liberal insiders, friends of the Provincial government bureaucrats and politicians, have made a pretty little profit on this whole Metrolinx/Presto venture.

And there were legitimate reports at the time, from mainstream media, of municipal politicians claiming that the only reason the cities of Ottawa and Toronto have gone with this overpriced, untested and underperforming system is because if they had not done so, the Provincial government would have withheld funds due to the cities from gas taxes (for road maintenance) and for public transit expansion.

Interestingly enough, the former Provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs (through whose office this ‘threat’ would presumably have been channeled) had since become the Mayor of Ottawa – and, all of a sudden, nobody in Ottawa, bureaucrat or councilman alike, remembers telling the media that there ever was any threat.

And, the former Provincial Minister of Transportation (from whose office this ‘threat’ would presumably have originated or been channeled) had since become the Premier of Ontario – the head honcho herself!

And not only had the previous bidding process been abandoned by the Toronto and Ottawa Transportation bureaucracies in favour of the overpriced and under-performing Metrolinx/Presto system, they have also both failed to enforce hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties permitted under the contract.

Money that had to be made up by squeezing the taxpayers even more…

This is where things begin to get very, very interesting.

CC was trying to figure out some way to get to the bottom of this whole mess and reparation of financial damages for the taxpayer.  But, where to start?

One of the things he tried doing was to sue Kathleen Wynne, the now Premier of Ontario.

In Ontario, a private citizen may lay criminal charges against someone else and pursue a private prosecution in the criminal justice system.  That is still leftover from the Magna Carta days – even if the costs are so prohibitive, CC had to represent himself, despite not being trained in the law.

However, at their discretion, The Crown may, at any point in time, take over a private citizen’s criminal prosecution and pursue it as it wishes.  Or not at all.

This has been done in the past when citizens, frustrated with race-based policing, tried to get justice in face of Police so cowed by the Liberal government that they would not enforce the law if the victims were of the ‘wrong’ race.  The pattern – quite invariably – was to let the citizens spend as much money on the private prosecution as possible, then take it over and immediately dismiss all charges.

This case was no different:  when CC was heavily invested in private criminal prosecution of Kathleen Wynne, the Ontario Premier, The Crown took over the prosecution and moved to have all charges dismissed.

But, this was different:  the top guy governing the public prosecutor’s office in Ontario serves 100% at the pleasure of the Premier of Ontario.  CC appealed the dismissal of the charges, arguing that since the head of public prosecution is employed by the Premier, dismissing charges against Kathleen Wynne who happens to be Premier is a bit of a conflict of interest and that instead of dismissing these charges.

Slam dunk – right?

After all, even the appearance of a conflict of interest is a definite threat to our constitutional democracy, right?

Well, I was in court that day, watching the judge jump through loops of logic so convoluted that she ended up ruling that had CC brought an action against Kathleen Wynne – the Minister and Premier, he would be correct that The Crown was in a conflict of interest to drop the charges.  But, he had brought the charges against Kathleen Wynne, that means the private person of Kathleen Wynne, and since her actions in this were as a Minister/Premier, not a private person, there was no conflict of interest…

Really.

At every step of the way, CC has been thwarted by obfuscation and, what in my never-humble-opinion constitutes miscarriage of justice.

But, CC is tenacious.

At every step, when he was thwarted, he pushed the judge in question to tell him how else  to approach the issue so that he could get an honest ruling on the true merit of the core issue.  In fact, he pushed so hard that, at times, I and his other supporters spectating were afraid he would be disciplined for trying so hard!

And, whenever thwarted, CC would file a new suit based on the direction of the previous judge.

And the new suit would come up and the judge would, invariably, demand very costly transcripts of all the cases that were filed before – yet these would suit to obfuscate the issue and CC would find himself arguing the previous, already lost case, instead of the new one.  And if he resisted introducing the transcripts, wanting the suit to be judged on the new grounds, he would be told that no decision can be reached without the the transcripts, even though he kept insisting this was a brand new case that ought not be tainted…

This last Friday was no different.

The case was presided over by Justice Charles Hackland, known for presiding over high-profile cases – such as temporarily removing former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford from office on conflict of interest charges.  (Of course, Rob Ford was a Conservative, and Justice Charles Hackland’s ruling was later reversed by another impartial judge…)

The very start was an omen of things to come…

Usually, it is up to the prosecution to present their case to the judge first.  As such, CC stood up and was ready to present his case when, in the most patronizing tone ever, the judge asked him to sit down, saying that he’d like to hear the intro to the case from the defense because, you know, lawyers speak a common language and so, non-lawyer CC should just shut up and listen to his betters.

At least, that is how I heard it!

It was with this opening sentence of the judge that I thought CC’s case was lost.

I have, over my career as a blogger, been to a few hearings, both before the provincial and federal judges.  In some cases, I saw people represented by lawyers, in others, I saw not-rich people self-represented. In all instances of self-representation, the judges made sure to make the law as accessible to the citizens as possible, some of them even citing that it is their duty to make sure regular people have as ready an access to the courts as people who can afford expensive lawyers and that they were both willing and legally obligated to make this happen.

Never before have I encountered a case where the judge would be, from the onset, contemptuous of a private citizen’s effort to get justice, even though they cannot afford a $500/hour lawyer.

Perhaps I am misreading this:  after all, I am an Aspie and nuances of human behaviour often escape me.  But, from the onset, I thought the judge was actively annoyed that a non-lawyer would dare to argue a case before him.

In this part of the overall effors, CC was trying to sue the City of Ottawa for not acting on the clauses in their contract with Metrolinx/Presto to collect penalties in non-delivery/non-performance of their system.  From what I understood, the unnecessary cost to the taxpayer of this whole fiasco topped half-a-billion dollars…though I have no idea of the breakdown of all this, since I did not have the court documents in front of me.

Still, half-a-billion dollars here, half-a-billion dollars there, and, pretty soon, you’re talking real money!

Predictably, the City of Ottawa lawyer poo-poohed the whole issue…

When CC was finally allowed to speak, he was no longer permitted to present the issue as a whole.  Instead, he was subjected to questions from the judge like:  “It seems that the City of Ottawa may have some claim, but have failed to act on it.  What gives YOU any standing to file a lawsuit on their behalf?”

This, necessarily, put CC on the defensive…and he did his best to defend his position.

Still, being on the defensive and explaining his legal standing in this, he had no opportunity to present his core issue.  The judge got more and more alienated from him as the morning wore on.  The judge broke with the statement that he did not really comprehend why CC was there and that, following the break, he was to explain why he ought to have a standing interest in this matter.

During the morning break, CC and his loyal band of supporters (including me) talked over the morning’s events and worried about how to get the core message across.  Being my not-so-shy self, I tried very hard to help come up with the proper explanation for why CC had a valid interest in this case.

OK, I was a bit pushy.  That’s my nature!!!

In the end, when the case resumed after the morning break and some administrative stuff got out of the way, CC asked the judge to permit me to explain the core of his case.

Amused, the judge agreed!

And so it came that I got to actually talk in a case I was covering, as a blogger.

I stated my name for the court record and explained that I was a blogger who was following this case – and that I would be glad to help the court understand CC’s position because since I have been writing about his quest, I might be able to help.

OK – this was very adrenalin-producing.

I do not recall a single thing I said.

Yet, I do recall trying to explain the situation as I have in the words above, though condensed to a few short sentences.

After a short 3-4 minutes, the judge asked me if I knew whether CC had ever sought advice from a lawyer.  I replied truthfully that I had no idea, I just wrote about the case and had never met CC outside the courthouse.

Still, I felt that question was rather ominous – as if only a legal expert were permitted to seek justice….it left me very pessimistic, regardless of what was to come.

Following my brief little speech, CC did an awesome job presenting his position.  In my mind, he truly made his case.  He explained that he submitted evidence that a Dianne Deans, the head of the City of Ottawa Transportation Committee, had been quoted in the newspapers saying that the Province (and these are my paraphrasing, not her exact words) had threatened the City of Ottawa with withholding transfer payments to the City if they did not go with Metrolinx/Presto and/or enforced the penalties for late/not working systems.  I may have misunderstood his argument, but, to the best of my highly flawed recollection, this was the central point of his argument.

When he had asked The City about is, he claimed (I think) that Dianne Deans claimed never to have made such a statement to the media.  She replied in an email – not a sworn statement which the CC had sought because a sworn statement was subject to cross examination, while a simple email was not.

The City lawyer argued that the email, which blamed a bureaucrat for the leak, was answer enough.

CC pointed out that he demanded to know, from the City of Ottawa, if a bureaucrat was the actual source of the quote (rather than the Transportation Chair, Dianne Deans), that The City was obligated to tell him the identity of that bureaucrat (Norwich ruling).

The City lawyer claimed this was frivolous and unnecessary – and since the Province was the source of all this unpleasantness, CC knew who the culprit was and the Norwich thingie did not apply.

The judge reserved his ruling.

Yes, I do think this is a very meritorious case.

No, I do not think justice will be done.

I hope to be proven wrong!

Let’s take a moment to remember Aqsa Parvez

Aqsa Parvez

April 22, 1991 – December 10, 2007

A Canadian victim of Saria

12. Dec. 2014, a Concerned Taxpayer will be at the Elgin St. Court House – seeking justice, again…

From my inbox:

Invite For Concerned Taxpayers:

On December 12, a concerned taxpayer will convince a Superior Court Judge to make a judicial notice of the legislative fact that the Metrolinx Act grants freedom of choice to TTC and OC Transpo to agree or not agree to Presto.

Upon success, this declaration would be used to prosecute the Ontario Government for taking away that freedom of choice by threats of injury of loss of gas tax, subway and LRT funding. Entering any Court room is 2 (Crown and Court) against 1 (Taxpayers), this  reality is not a reason to do nothing to stop an ongoing crime against taxpayers.

In over 20 Court proceedings, no judge has said or written that this fact commonly known to the community is not a breach of the criminal code.

Lets hope December 12 is independence day for taxpayers!

If you can, come out and show your support.  The show is scheduled to get going at 10 am, but if my previous experience is anything to go by, it will be difficult to locate the courtroom and there will be some waiting to be done…

Justice delayed, and delayed, and delayed…

Steve Silverman – What To Do When Stopped By A Cop

We Are the Children of the Magna Carta!

And as a bonus, here is Professor John Robson on the Magna Carta – starting with the story of Alfred the Great:

Why ‘Halal meat’ is ‘the thin wedge’ of Islamic supremacism

The other day, someone asked me a most interesting question (and, I am paraphrasing heavily):

“If you could wave a magic wand and do one single thing to prevent the loss of our liberties due to Sharia laws creeping into our society, what would it be?”

Without much difficulty, I answered:  “Stop Halal food!”

Well, my questioner had thought I had gone off my rocker.  “You mean to say that with all that is happening, Halal food is your biggest concern?  If they had their way, you’d be wearing a burqa, and all you would waste your one wish on Halal?”

My answer was a most enthusiastic ‘YES!!! But – it would NOT be a waste!”  And I proceeded to explain.  Unfortunately, my explanation had been cut short by the circumstances, so, please, let me complete it here.

First and foremost, I’d like to stress that under Sharia, Islamic jurisprudence, Muslims who live in a non-Muslim land – a country which is not governed by Sharia – are NOT required to eat Halal.

To the contrary:  if Halal food is not available, too difficult to obtain, or (and this is an important one) if maintaining Halal diet would disadvantage Muslims with respect to the Kafirs, then they are permitted to eat non-Halal food.  Allah is most forgiving and if no transgression was intended, then none is incurred.

In addition, if it were to give them an advantage in dealings with the Kafirs, then Muslims are permitted to drink alcohol, eat pork or do anything else that is generally taboo in Islam:  if they are doing it to further the long term goal of spreading Islam, then all is permitted.

Please, do not take my word for it – look it up for yourselves!  The rulings by Islamic authorities on this are numerous and unanimously in agreement with what I wrote.  Rather than be accused of ‘cherry picking’ my evidence by supplying one or two links, I urge you to check for yourself any Sharia authority of your choice:  it will confirm my statement.

Having established why consuming Halal food, especially Halal-slaughtered meat, is not obligatory for our Western Muslims, let me explain why permitting Halal food into our food supply undermines our society.

Yes, it undermines our society, in no uncertain terms.  In this, it is very different from Kosher food…

In order to explain this, I must first explain the relationship between Muslims and Kafirs (Kuffurs) under Sharia.

Under Sharia, all non-Muslims are Kafirs.  Usually translated as ‘unbeliever’ – an emotionally neutral word, the term ‘Kafir’, as used by Muslims, is anything but a ‘neutral term’.  It is a slur with, if possible, even more hate coiled up in it that ‘nigger’, ‘cracker’ and ‘twat’ rolled into one.

Much like some Christians believe that each and every human ‘knows’ Jesus is Christ and Saviour, that atheist also know this but are willfully pretending not to because they wish to sin and/or be evil, so Islam teaches that each and every human being is born a perfect Muslim, with full knowledge and understanding that Allah is the one and only God and the Muhammad is his prophet and that those of us who are not Muslims – are Kafirs – are willfully lying to ourselves and others when we deny Allah and Mohammed and that we are doing it because we are evil.

Thus, the word ‘Kafir’ implies an evil, willfully lying and deceiving person.  The Koran itself tells us that the Kafir is the vilest of all the creatures and warns Muslims not to trust them, take them as friends or even associate with them more than absolutely necessary.  And those are the ‘mild’ verses of the Koran – other verses make the full extermination of all Kafirs a religious duty for all Muslims.

But, let us get back to how this perception of Kafirs relates to Halal food.

There is an Islamic doctrine of ‘najis’ – ‘unclean’.

Many things are unclean:  pigs, dogs, and – yes, Kafirs.  If a Kafir touches a piece of food, they pollute it, making it no longer Halal.

Yet, some Kuffurs are slightly less unclean than others.  Christians and Jews are slightly less ‘unclean’ than the rest of us and therefor it is permitted for them to work on Halal food:  provided that they are only doing the most menial tasks and are directly and at all times watched and supervised by a Muslim.

This has some very important implications for our society.

Only Muslims, Christians and Jews may work in food production, transportation, preparation and sales.

If a Sikh, a Hindu, an atheist or another Kafir works as a waiter who carries a dish from the kitchen to the table, that food has become contaminated and is no longer Halal.

If a school cafeteria food is served by a Buddhist or  a Wiccan or an agnostic, that food would no longer be Halal.

If a nurse who injects a child with a vaccine is a Taoist or a Druid, that vaccine is no longer Halal.

If a truck driver who hauls meat from the slaughter house to the supermarkets is a Zoroastrian or Confucian, that meat is no longer Halal.

You see how this would undermine the rule of law?  Specifically the laws that forbid employers to discriminate against their employees on the basis of religion?

How can you have employment equity if only Muslims may have a supervisory role in your food supply and only Muslims, Christians and Jews are eligible to work in the whole field?

And it will not be just limited to the ‘Halal’ food market:  we have seen this in country after country after country!  It is so difficult for companies in the food industry to obtain and maintain ‘Halal’ certification if only one part of their operation is dedicated to the Halal stream that they must make all their food production and supply chains Halal compliant, regardless whether the food is labelled ‘Halal’ or not.

For example, in England, it has been shown that the vast majority of meat sold in stores is Halal-compliant, whether it is labelled as ‘Halal’ or not!

You could be eating Halal-slaughtered meat without knowing it.

And that goes far beyond the unnecessary animal cruelty involved in Halal slaughter…  (Yes, Kosher food is also slaughtered using similar method and Kosher meat is therefore shunned by aware people.  The difference is that Kosher food is always labelled as such and therefore, people have a choice to avoid it if they so wish.  Halal-slaughtered meat is being sold both with Halal labels and without, making it impossible for a consumer to make a choice.)

In addition, Muslim leaders who wish to introduce Halal food into places like hospitals and schools claim that it is the ‘lowest common denominator':  meaning that everyone in society may eat Halal food.

Unfortunately, that is not true.

For example, Sikhs are expressly forbidden to consume Halal food.  (Not just Halal-slaughtered meat, but all food that had, at some point, been Halal.)

So, if a hospital or a school serves Halal food, they are violating Sikhs religious principles.

And while Sikhism explicitly forbids the consumption of Halal food, Christianity implicitly forbids the consumption of Halal meat.

Yes, most Christians are unaware of this – but, they should be.

Both the Old and the New Testament forbid the eating of ‘sacrificial meat’ – that is, meat that has been prayed over to a God other than the Christian one.

Permit me to explain:

Long, long time ago, Pagans would sacrifice animals in Temples in order to gain favour with one God or another.  This ‘sacrificial meat’ would be cooked and served to the ‘common folk’ who would come to the temple. Since many of the poor people could not afford to eat meat on their own, they would flock to the temples for a good meal.

If you think about this, it was a quite good system:  the rich may have been trying to buy favour from the Gods, but they ended up feeding valuable protein to the poor…

And while the people ate the sacrificial meat, the priests and priestesses would proselytize to them, singing the praises and spreading the teachings of their particular deity.

Which was not particularly appreciated by the Jewish and Christian religious leaders…

So, in both the Old and the New Testaments, eating meat sacrificed to other deities was strictly forbidden!

Don’t take my word for it – please, look it up for yourself.    I recommend Acts 15:29  and Acts 21:29 as good starting points.

Yet, food that had been sacrificed to Allah has entered our food supply:  sometimes it is clearly labeled as such (and permits us the choice to avoid it), but at other times, Halal slaughtered meat is sold without any signs indicating so.  What is worse, many public institutions have substituted Halal meat in their food supply without notifying their consumers, without giving their ‘captive consumers’ (hospitals, schools) the option to practice their religion without sin.

In summary:

Not only does ‘Halal-certified food’ contravene our employment laws (the ones that prevent employer from practicing religious prejudice in hiring policies, as Halal food may not be ‘handled’ by members of most religions and by non-religious people in order to maintain its ‘Halal’ certification) and thus undermines the rule of law in our society, inconspicuously labeled Halal food (such as on cans of Cambell’s soup:  a simple crescent moon may not alert a consumer that they are purchasing a ‘Halal’ item) or completely unlabeled Halal meat has crept into our food supply, preventing non-Muslims from freely exercising their religions.

But – and this implication is perhaps even more important to consider – only Sharia adherent Muslims in our society insist on Halal food.  It is precisely these Sharia-adherent Muslims who will seek employment in the ‘Halal food supply’.

Many Muslims have come to Canada precisely to escape Sharia.  These are the Muslims whom we must protect – the moderates in our midst who want nothing more than to live free and be productive members of our society.  Other Muslims have come here with the goal to impose Sharia on our society:  these are not peaceful immigrants but radicals who have arrived as colonists, who believe that it is their duty to impose Sharia on all the people on Earth.

Yet, it is exactly these Sharia adherent Muslims who control Halal certification and manage the Halal-certified food supplies.  As Halal – with or without clear labeling – becomes greater and greater portion of our food supply chain, radical Muslims will gain control over more and more of our food supplies.

Radical Muslims believe themselves to be at war with our society.

Placing them in a position to control greater and greater portions of our food supply mechanism is, in my never-humble-opinion, not a good idea.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 127 other followers