‘Betrayed!’ – a book by Connie Fournier

“F” stands for “Free Dominion”.

That is what Dr. Michael Geist wrote in his ‘internet freedom countdown’.

“F” could just as easily could have stood for “Fournier” – as in Connie and Mark Fournier, who have done more for the freedom of speech and freedom on the Internet than any other Canadians.  And this time, I am not using hyperbole!

20 years to the day and in the very building I had signed my marriage license, I came to observe and blog about a court case involving Free Dominion:  Connie and Mark Fournier.  It was a civil case involving anonymity on the internet and both the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Dr. Geist’s Electronic Frontier Foundation were intervenors in the case.  Having heard of the latter two and considering any court case they both thought important enough to intervene in to definitely have a significant impact on my own internet and speech freedoms, I came to spectate.  (OK – I have to admit – I am a Geist ‘acolyte’.)

While following this particular case and many, many more, I came to deeply admire Connie and Mark.  Over the years, they have made significant impact on the evolution of our speech and internet rights, always from a deeply principled perspective.

Now, before you get the idea that I agree with Connie and Mark’s political views, let me stop you right there.  They are social conservatives who come from a Christian perspective.  I am a libertarian, just this side of turning into an-cap. And a militant ignostic as well as a registered Kopimist.

Despite the greatly different views we hold on a myriad of topics, I came to like and deeply respect the Fourniers.  Even when we discussed topics we disagreed on, they were respectful and principled and debating things with them has always been a pleasure.

Full disclosure:  the one principle both the Fourniers and I completely and totally agree on – and it is perhaps the most important principle of them all – is the importance of freedom of speech.

I came to understanding the true and essential need for freedom of speech as the cornerstone of our civilization and the internet as the vehicle through which it is anonymously and effectively delivered because I was not only born on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain, I was also born the daughter of a political dissident.  Perhaps because of this, I learned early on that without the freedom to criticize and ridicule political and religious ideologies and figures, you lose the means of defending all your other rights and freedoms. And while I don’t know the route that brought Connie and Mark to the same conclusions, it is a demonstrated fact that they have not only lived by that principle, they have sacrificed all to preserve freedom of speech in Canada (and, by extension, all Magna Carta countries) and have put their financial and physical security – their very well being on the line to protect anonymous speech (in their case, on the internet), which is so very crucial in preventing the abrogation of free speech in public spaces.

OK – I have now sketched in the background so that you, my dear reader, are aware of what I know, think and whatever prejudices I may have regarding  my review of Connie Fournier’s new book:  ‘Betrayed!  Stephen Harper’s War on Principled Conservatism’.

One more thing before I start:  here is a most excellent review of the book by Jay Currie (and, no, I did not read his review before I had made my own mind up).  The comments are excellent!

The Review:

‘Betrayed!  Stephen Harper’s War on Principled Conservatism’ by Connie Fournier is a truly scary book.

Connie Fournier is both intelligent and eloquent and has the skill to line the little pearls up, one by one, till they form a brilliant necklace – or an effective noose…

Yes, I saw a part of the journey that Connie so accurately describes in her book – but I truly only saw a small part.  Yet, step by step, event by event, convoluted happening by convoluted happening, she lights the path and puts forward some very convincing evidence that points not just to the corruption of our ‘progressive’ leaning bureaucracy but also demonstrated how the Harper ‘iron fist’ is affecting things behind the scenes (whether through direct action or through carefully selective inaction).  Limited by the legal rulings still muzzling her, she succeeds in getting the important points across in a logical, accurate and believable manner.

This book has bought into focus the consistency with which the Harper government has sought to control, regulate and stifle internet communication.  The book stops before the Trans Pacific Trade Treaty  –  again, a Harper government ‘baby’, the leaks about which prove the veracity of everything else written in the book.

Yes, I would recommend it as a read – even though I disagree with Connie’s conclusion that the Green Party would be the natural place to cast a protest vote for.  No – I think the Pirate Party of Canada is a much better candidate, as their abid opposition to Bill C-51 is coupled with opposition to copyright consumer right abuses that the TPTT imposes as a supra-national law.  If there is no Pirate Party candidate in your riding, please, do consider running for them.  If my health were better, I most certainly would do my best to try to run for them!

But, again, I digress…

This is an important book to read for everyone who understands the crucial role freedom of speech plays and who would like help navigating the legal jungle of bills and attempts to deny it to us, the citizens – especially as it relates to the electronic medium.

Whether neo-Con or not, this book will open your eyes to the systematic process that is already in place to persecute political foes of the party in power and is written in such an accessible way that even non-techies will understand the implications of the proposed muzzling legislation coming from Harper’s ‘Conservative’ government.

Everyone of my relatives and friends will be getting a copy from me!

Reddit, the Jesse Jackson ama, Victoria’s secret firing and the aftermath

If you spend a lot of time on the interwebitudes, you will probably have across the name ‘reddit’ – even if you are not a frequent user of the site.

Personally, I love the place!

And, I freely admit that my blogging time has decreased when my reddit time increases.

If you spend even a little bit of time reading the news, you will probably have heard that reddit has had a little bit of a blow up.  In the figurative sense.  Being the sharing kind of person that I am, I thought I’d get some of the background and links here, in one place, for your convenience, my dear readers.

First thing to remember is that reddit is user-generated content and most of the moderators are volunteers, with a life outside of reddit (if such a thing is possible) and that only a fraction of the people responsible for making reddit the awesome community it has been are actually employees of the company.

Anyone (who registers) can create a post, a comment to a post, or even create a whole channel (called a subreddit).  If you have thought of it, chances are, there is a subreddit for it!

Here are just a few examples from my favourites:

And politics, world news, and so much, much more!

One of the most popular subreddits ever is AMA = Ask Me Anything.  When President Obama went on it, even the robust servers of reddit were overloaded.

This particular subreddit, AMA, had an employee named Victoria Taylor.  A very popular employee, whose job it was to verify that the people answering the AMA were the actual people named, not their assistants or PR flunkies.

And this was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back!

Everyone (the moderators and the redditors, that is) went into full rebel mode, either blacking out subreddits or freezing submissions for a specified symbolic time period or apologizing and stating reasons for why they remained open (this is mostly true for the support groups or the fluffier pages – even such ‘apolitical’ subreddits as WTF (what the fuck – on of my favourites) went dark (marked as ‘private’).

This blowup is popularly called AMAgeddon and is the reason why so many reddit alternatives (including its almost clone, Voat) are down because they just cannot handle the influx of reddit defectors.

And the petition calling for the interim CEO, aka Chairman Pao, to resign got over 160,000 signatures in just a few hours.

Of course there is a lot that lead up to this.

Drip, drip, drip…

Chairman Pao fired a popular dude – just because he got leukemia.  (OK, I lost the link to that twitter feed, but it’s true.  I’m sure if you do a little digging, you can find it.  Sorry – there is now such a glut of info…that Twitter thingy was one of the first things I saw, but now it is drowned out….apologies.)  First, reddit accommodated him, letting him work from his current home, then threatened to fire if he did not relocate to California.  Then, when he agreed to get them a letter from his MD saying it’s OK to relocate, one day later, Chairman Pao called him up and fired him anyways, citing his poor health as a reason.  Even though he had managed to do his job despite the illness just fine…

Drip, drip, drip…

Chairman Pao had made changes, attempting to turn reddit from free speech user generated content into a ‘safe space’.

In case you are not familiar with speech codes, ‘safe spaces’ is the ultra Political Correct speak for non-controvesrial and PC self censored to the point of irrelevance.  Yeah…

Drip, drip, drip…

And this policy started coming into place by trying to completely delete whole subreddits that were deemed ‘not safe spaces’.

Like a subreddit that made fun of fat people.

Now, don’t get me wrong:  I have the figure of a goddess!  A palelolithic fertility goddess, to be exact!

Yet I was deeply offended and seriously angered when I learned that reddit deleted the subreddit that made fun of fat people!  I’m a big girl (really, I am) and I don’t need someone – anyone – to protect me from people making fun of an aspect of what makes me me!  GRRRRRR!!!

So, it is in this atmosphere of people being very unhappy that censorship, politically correct censorship, was ruining reddit that the firing of Victoria Taylor came.

Perhaps even more importantly, in came on the heels of an AMA session with the notorious race hustler, Jesse Jackson, which (rather predictably) turned out to be not very pleasant for the ‘good reverend’.

One of the thing about the reddit community (redditors) is that they are difficult to easily place into any of the current political group.  OK, I am oversimplifying here, obviously, but if I were to describe the generic generalization caricature thingie of most redditors, I would say they are free speechers, socially progressive, strongly individualistic techies.  Live and let live – and say it like it is, without pretentious sillyness.

As in, we tend to live our social live on the internet, where a person’s gender and race are not visible and certainly not a factor in evaluation.  Only one’s opinions and online behaviour (history) are used by others to form opinions about one.

Because all other context is missing.

Striped away.

The internet is the most egalitarian of fora!

And, most of us find ‘speech codes’ to be beyond silly.

Yes, we can be hurtful – but we poke fun at our selves as much as at others.  And because our online presence is crafted to be whatever we choose it to be, we are not afraid to say what we actually think, regardless of our gender, colour, orientation, fat content or anything else!

Which is why the timing of Victoria Taylor’s termination at reddit is so important:  it came on the heels of an AMA session with Jesse Jackson.

An AMA session that, rather predictably, did not go so well for him.  Actually, reading it was really, really hilarious!!!!

Jesse Jackson seems to have complained that his nephew was ‘shut out’ from the opportunities in Silicon Valley because he is black….except that his nephew is a professor at MIT…..because ‘racism’.

It gets betted from there:  from people asking about his illegitimate son (whom he fathered while married) to, well, calling him a racist twat – to recommending he fire his publicist for ever letting him do a reddit AMA!

I highly recommend reading the whole thread – it is hilarious!  I was in pain from laughing!!!

Which, again, highlights the problem:  Jesse Jackson was hoisted on his own petard and raked over the coals for his prejudice, racism and divisiveness.  For profiting by stoking the racial flames rather than being a healer and making our society better.

Very predictable reaction from the reddit core audience.

But, the result was that Victoria, the employee responsible not for the mocking, but for lining up and verifying the guest, was fired by the PS-correct-driving CEO.  Who is trying to impose the hated, nay, reviled, ‘safe spaces’ agenda onto a free speecher, deeply individualistic community.

So, yeah.

Drip, drip, drip!!!

The proverbial bucket overfloweth!!!

Welcome to AMAgeddon!!!

CATO Institute: Net Neutrality, Obama and Oatmeal (Berin Szoka)

Here is some food for thought:

What do you think?

Who owns your body?

Many people even today live under the yoke of very direct and brutal slavery.  We have recently heard the horror stories.

But this is not the only way slavery is happening.

No – this time, I will not go on a long rant about how coercive taxation is, in a very real sense, the state making an ownership claim over our bodies, but it hits close.

Different societies are built on different principles – and, depending on these foundational ‘truths’, the governance of the society evolves.  All societies evolve over time.  But, those societies which build their governance on things other than the principles they were founded on soon run into serious trouble;

After all, in order for a society to function in a healthy way, for the citizenry to be able to anticipate, understand and guide themselves by the rules of the society, it is important for every new law, for every rule that is enforced, to be grounded in this foundation.  I’m not sure if I am explaining this clearly, so, if I am making a mess of it, please, let me know and I’ll try to clarify.

What I mean by this is that in a very practical sense, for a new rule to ‘work’ in a society, one must be able to reason to it by starting with the foundational principles.

In other words, if laws are passed which are arbitrary – cannot be arrived at by reasoning from ‘first principles’, sooner or later, the governance will not form a seamless body but the laws and regulations will become a mess, some may even contradict each other and it will be upon the whim of the police and the judiciary as to which rules are enforced when…

Our politicians – in all levels of government – are busy passing laws and regulations.  If every citizen were to memorize every new law and regulation as they are passed, they would have little time to actually be productive…and the society would begin to stagnate.

If, however, each and every law and regulation passed could be reasoned out from ‘first principles’ (the ‘foundational truths’ on which the society is built), then the citizen needs not memorize every new rule and regulation:  these will simply be a natural extension of the foundations upon which the society is built.

One of the core – if not THE core – ‘foundational truths’ on which our society is built is the principle of self-ownership.

So far, so good – yes?

I own my body and you own yours.  You cannot sell your children into slavery or for body organs, because while a parent may be a child’s guardian, the parent does not own their child.  Each and every human being owns her or him self.

So, what are our bodies made up of?

Lots of stuff.

Some of our ‘stuff’ shares common things with other humans, some with all living things – and some of our ‘stuff’ is uniquely our own and defines us as an individual.

Let’s look at some examples of ‘stuff’ that makes us up – but which we share with some others.

Blood, for example.

We can, within certain defined parameters, switch blood from one person to another:  from one who has enough and chooses to share to the ones who need it.

Same with, say, kidneys and corneas and lots of other ‘stuff’.

Our brilliant scientists have, for example, found a way to take a pig’s heart, keep the ‘infrastructure’ but wash away the DNA containing tissues, graft a human being’s own personal stem cells over this pig’s hear infrastructure – and then implant it into that human!!!  Most brilliant, since all the DNA-bearing ‘stuff’ is that owner’s very own DNA, so the body recognizes it as part of itself and the immune system does not try to ‘kill this invader’:  something which, when using another human’s heart, had to be fought with anti-rejection drugs that had considerable and unpleasant side effects.



And there’s all these new cancer treatments and chronic illness treatments based on gene therapies!  It’s enough to make one feel like we’re living in the science fiction future!

Makes sense that we will expect more and more gene-based therapies for our ills.

But, there is a problem with this.

The problem is that, in their wisdom, the bureaucrats who award patents have agreed with deep-pocketed corporaions to grant them patents on genes.  Both human and non-human…

Please, consider this very, very carefully.

For decades, the MD’s and medical researchers have warned that the greatest obstacle to more gene therapies being developed and used in the practice of medicine are – you guessed it – patents granted on genes.

Oh, it crept in gradually, like all the greatest villains in history.

First it was a human-modified gene in one creature or another which made it more suitable for medical studies – human-altered gene, it was argued, intellectual property rights…

Then it was ‘unraveling’ genes – doing the lab work to identify them and the role they played.  The corporations argued – quite truthfully – that they invested money up front to make this possible.  And they did, that is true.

But we must remember why patents were ‘brought about’:  it was a trade off. The ‘inventor/thinker’ would share the information with everyone else about all aspects in return for ‘exclusive rights’ on the item for a period of time that would let them make back their investment plus a modest profit. But, it was argued, one could only patent ‘products’ – not naturally occurring ‘stuff’.

So – how come patents were granted to companies on naturally-occurring ‘stuff’ like genes?

A bit of ignorance and a bit of corruption, I guess…

But, we now find ourselves in a situation where multinational corporations own the patents on certain human genes.

Aside:  this issue is explored very, very well in a most excellent Canadian Netflix show, ‘Orphan Black’.  Not only is the show brilliantly written and generally awesomely executed, it tackles this very question:  if a corporation ‘owns’ a ‘gene and all its derivatives’, and that gene is inside of you, do they ‘own’ you?  Do they have a legal claim on your children?  Your child is, after all, a derivative of your genes….

Please, indulge me in the following speculation.

A corporation owns a specific gene which is, say, introduced into asthma sufferers using a specific virus (as the genetic material carrier).  This engineered DNA (patented by, say, Corporation ‘C’) is successfully integrated into your cells, so that all the cells of your body have replaced the old, ‘faulty asthma-causing gene’ with the newly engineered ‘C’ gene.

Then you have kids.

Your children will have inherited the ‘C’ gene.

Do you have to seek permission to ‘create a derivative of the ‘ C’ gene through reproduction’ before you have said child?

Do you owe the Corporation ‘C’ royalties?

Do they have an ownership claim on your offspring?

As the laws stand, these questions have not been answered very well.

For example, courts have ruled that if a genetically modified pollen accidentally pollinates your non genetically modified crops, you DO owe the pollen’s patent holder royalties.

Really, do think about where this is heading….

After all, if somebody owns your gene – something which is in every cell of your body – do they not have an actual claim of ownership over you?

This is why I am so thrilled that CHEO (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario) has initiated a lawsuit challenging the patenting of a specific gene-test.  OK – a baby step, but a very, very important one!!!

Let’s keep our eyes on this one!

So little time, so many cases…

Many of you are aware of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) and their victimization at the hands of Prime Minister Harper’s spokesperson, Jason MacDonald, who so unkindly dismissed NCCM’s objection to the PM’s selection of a Rabbi, saying “We will not take seriously criticism from an organization with documented ties to a terrorist organization such as Hamas.”  .

NCCM (formerly known as CAIR-Can), of course, hotly disputes any such connection.

As such, NCCM announced on May 26th, 2014, their intention to lay a defamation suit.  Some more coverage on this is here and here.

So far so good.  I mean – bad.

‘Good’ in the sense as in these are agreed-upon, known things.

Yesterday morning, someone who’s been following my Dr. Baglow vs. Freedom of Speech reporting, had tipped me off that a Statement of Defense had been filed ‘in an Ottawa court’, and I, being from Ottawa and knowing the Court House, well, perhaps I could go and fetch it.

Quite exciting!

Yes, the case is exciting, but now, other bloggers turn to me for Ottawa court news!

(Plus the Municipal Taxpayers Action Group is going to court in Toronto on Monday, the 6th of October, 2014 and had asked if I’d be able to cover it…unfortunately not, but, if you are in Toronto, go and support them!  I’ll publish a press release from them as soon as possible about the proceedings on Monday.)

(OK – so it doesn’t take too much to amuse me…but I’ve never claimed it did!)

So, yesterday, instead of writing up Connie’s closing arguments for the Dr. Dawg defamation case (I am a very slow writer – my apologies, but I only have so much time…), I popped over to the Elgin St. Courthouse (Ontario court) because my experience with defamation lawsuits suggests that that is where they’re ‘duked-out’.

So, back to my old haunt I go.

Isn’t it interesting how quickly one becomes a ‘familiar stranger’ if one regularly shows up at even such a busy place as the Ottawa City Hall (best parking for the courthouse) and the Elgin St. courthouse itself.  I’ve been there for everyday of one week, then a few days the next week and then I showed up on Thursday of this week…yet, people remember me as a ‘familiar stranger’.  Not enough to sit and chat – but well enough to smile, say hi to and otherwise exhibit signs of recognition.

Now, I ought to be clear:  I may ‘stick out’ a bit more than some people…  Perhaps it’s my look (after all, I DO have the body of a goddess – an Upper Palaeolithic fertility goddess is still a goddess!!!), perhaps it’s my socially awkward demeanour or my silly grin…  Or, it may be my eccentric wardrobe (notice than in none of my ‘sartorial reports’ do I describe what it is I am wearing – there is a reason for that….many of my clothes are self-made and show it).  Whatever the reason, people do tend to remember me.

Still, whether it was visiting a relative in the hospital for a few weeks or now the courthouse, people tend to quickly begin to regard me as part of the ‘fittings’.  It usually starts very casually, but, pretty soon, it is clear that if I were to abuse the situation and ask for access to a restricted area ‘because I forgot my badge that day’, I’d be able to get to just about anywhere….because people naturally form communities and will extend great help to others they perceive as members of their community.  It’s one of the best things about people – without this, we would never have built a civilization.

But…when out communities get so large that we begin to extend membership status to people who are only ‘familiar strangers’ (as anthropologists like to put it), the security implications are troubling, at best…

As usual, I am off topic…  Refocusing!!!

Once I had irrevocably set my circuits to finding this paperwork, I set out for the Elgin St. court house to hunt them down.  But, from past experience, I knew that it was much easier to get public records on a case if I had the case number in hand.  So, before I did set out, I took some time to see what I could find online.


I realized that something had to have been filed because I found this most impartial (LOL) report .

“I have no doubt that this punitive prime minister has added the NCCM to his long list of enemies and intends to crush them — if he can — in the courts. So Harper has retained Peter Downard, a top-flight defamation lawyer in Toronto, to carry a big, blunt legal stick for him while he’s busy posturing for another kind of fight with the real terrorists in Islamic State. (Downard is also representing MacDonald.)

Downard may have written his clients’ 22-page statement of defence, but every word of it oozes Harper’s noxious political modus operandi and his distinctly vengeful way with opponents.

Here’s the extent of Harper’s ‘evidence’: The NCCM was once called CAIR-CAN. That acronym was similar to a U.S.-based organization called CAIR. The two groups, NCCM insists, were and remain separate entities.

Not in Harper’s eyes. CAIR once appeared on a list of unindicted co-conspirators entered in a case involving another charity allegedly providing “material support” to Hamas. De facto: CAIR-CAN (now NCCM) and CAIR are one happy Hamas family. Talk about your legal Hail Marys.”

Yeah, riveting reading…but, there is no link (at least, not that I could find) to the actual Statement of Defense (is that not ‘standard’ for journalists?) and nowhere did I find the case number.

Still, having looked at the Notice of Libel (which I found via Atlas Shrugged’s ‘Litigation Jihad’ post, thank you), I wrote down the full names of the litigating parties and, as that was the best I could get, I headed downtown.

Hurry up and wait!

I hurried up to the civil division, took a number – and waited.

The nice bureaucrat at the wicket too a moment to listen to me – and shrugged that without a case number, there is nothing she can do to help.  Rather crestfallen, I showed her my notepad with the ‘Notice of Libel’ info jotted down on it hoping this might help….

No such luck.  If I wanted any filed document, I’d have to give her the case number.

By now, my lower lip was quivering as I inquired as to how might I proceed to find it…

With this, she could help me – over there, there is a public access terminal and I can go search their database from there to find out the case number.  Once I have it, I can come back and she’ll see if she can help me.

Having spent the better part of a decade on the Executive Board of Directors of an IM/IT professionals organization (now officially part of the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance), I thought I just might be able to handle a database search, right?

Well, not so much…

It seems that no matter what keyword I entered in what category, I could not find this particular case.

I could find all kinds of other things:  for example, case #CV08000410200000has Stephen Harper pitted against the Liberal Party of Canada and the Federal Liberal Agency of Canada.  Case #CV080004317100 pits Stephen Harper against the Ottawa Police Board Services et al and case#CV11000532100000 has Helena Geurgis battling Novak et al, including one Harper, Stephen.

But, though there are very many other cases involving ‘a Harper’, these were the only ones I could find involving ‘Stephen Harper’.

And there were absolutely 0 cases involving the National Coalition of Canadian Muslims – or NCCM.

Wondering if, perhaps, I was using the search engine poorly, I thought I’d do a test using some familiar names.  Plugging ‘Baglow’ into the search engine uncovered a few cases:  ‘Baglow, John v. MacNair, Adrian Raphael Alexander’ is case #CV090004648900SR, ‘Baglow, John v. Smith, Roger et al (that includes Fournier, Connie and Mark) ) is case #CV10000494620000, ‘Baglow, John v. Smith, Roger et al’ (including the same, plus Kelly, Stephen and CCLA is also listed as a participant) is case #CV10000498030000, ‘Baglow, John v. Pearse et al’ (Pearse, Gary; Baman, Gail; The Island Marble Corporation)’ is case #CV99CV0121570000, ‘Baglow, John v. Billings, Rosemary Graham’ is case #FC02FL0017630000 and ‘Baglow, John Sutton v. Barrymore’s Music Hall’ is case #SC08001042970000.

There is no way of knowing, without doing some legwork outside of the court house, if all these ‘Baglow, John’ people are, indeed, the same person.  But, having come up with this list made me fairly confident that I was indeed using the database search engine effectively.

Having drawn a blank, I went back to the wicket…  The nice bureaucrat who had helped me earlier was away for the moment, but a younger, prettier one took pity on me and heard me out.  Taking my notepad, she entered the names into the terminal in front of her and, in a few keystrokes, told me that they did not have any such case in this courthouse’s database.

No, it did not mean the case is not in front of the Superior Court of Ontario – just that it is not registered in this particular courthouse and thus it is not scheduled to be heard there.

No, she had no idea where else it might be heard, or how I could find out the case number.

Yes, she agreed, without knowing the case number, I am not likely to get far…

My time being up, I left rather crestfallen…

After some back-and-forth communications with my betters, I got only one suggestion:  try the Federal Court in the Thomas D’Arcy McGee building on Sparks St..

Yes – I was a bit skeptical – defamation is, in my experience, a provincial matter.  But, as this involves the current holder of the Office of the Prime Minister of Canada as well as Her Majesty the Queen of Canada, there could be some weird twist to this and not checking the Federal Court records would be a serious omission.

So, today, instead of writing up Connie’s closing argument – off to Sparks St. I go!

he nice people at the information desk of the Thomas D’Arcy McGee building directed me to the Federal Court’s registrar’s office and, as soon as I walked in, a nice (very good looking) young man in a green t-shirt and faded blue ‘skinny-jeans’ smiled at me in acknowledgement while he finished up a phone call, then came right over.  He took my info down cheerfully and started clicking away at his computer.

He clicked and he clicked and he clicked…

Every minute or so, I heard a ‘loud click’.  It took me a while to trace the sound – it was a little machine on the desk used for date/time stamping documents as they were submitted!  OK – now I knew the source and the reason for the sound.  Still, every time it ‘clicked’ in the hushed room, I just about ‘jumped out of my skin’! (Gosh – I hope that is not a ‘racist’ sentiment!!!)

As he was searching, the nice young man chatted with me a bit – not ‘polite small-talk’ but actually ‘down-to-the-point questions.  I explained my situation, and that if only I could find out the case#, I could probably ‘run with it’.  He smiled disarmingly – the case # is what THEY like to work with, too!

He truly did all he could to find the case # – but, he failed…

As of now, I am no closer to figuring this out..

Oh – I almost forgot:  this morning, I also called the PMO’s office in the morning to try and find the case #.  I phoned (613) 992-4211 – and the nice lady who answered the phone said I’d need to speak to ‘one of the aids’ about this.  She transferred me helpfully, and all I gt was an answering machine:  so, I left my name, contact info and that I am looking for any info about this case in general and the case # in particular.  As of now, I have not heard back…

If you, my dear reader, have any suggestions as to how I could follow up on this, I would greatly welcome your help!!!




Can Video games be used in education? – a guest post by my son

I removed the header identifying my son’s name and the class/teacher/assignment he wrote this  for.  The reason for publishing this essay is that I think it is most awesome and can stand on its own!  

            Video games. You’ve probably played at least one of them before. Almost everyone has at some point in their lives. Chances are it was fun, but maybe not. If you look on the internet, it doesn’t take long to find out that there are many people who love video games. If you haven’t really thought about them, you might find it strange that some weird form of entertainment has gotten such a huge following. But stop yourself there. If you really go down the rabbit hole of video games, you can see that they can be more than just cheap time-wasters.


When kids see games, most of the time, they will pounce upon them, because kids love games. What if there was a way to use these games in order to educate them? Then kids would see it as another game, and allow themselves to imprint upon it, something kids might not do for pencil and paper work. But how could you possibly get any educational value from a game?


Firstly, games can help you learn basic logic skills. This can be as simple as teaching a young child how pressing a certain button can have different results. For example, you could let the child experiment with a set of buttons, where each of which makes a different colour on the screen. After letting the child experiment, ask the child to make a specific colour appear. This can be extended into more advanced logic puzzles. In a game called Minecraft, there is something called Redstone, which allows users to create logic gates and make complex contraptions. People have made computers, calculators, clocks, and more by using it. This would be a fantastic way to teach logic gates. Have the students make RS-Nor latches, and contraptions to prove their understanding.


Redstone isn’t the only good thing about Minecraft, though. Minecraft can teach kids architectural design, how to manage resources (Making sure you don’t run out of food, getting the right amount of material to build something, etc.), how to read, allow a great form of expressing themselves, and so many other applications! It’s like LEGO on steroids, minus choking hazards and the pain of stepping on them. There’s even an official educational version of Minecraft licensed by the developer, Mojang, called Minecraft EDU, and it’s being used in classrooms around the world. If you install mods manually into Minecraft, the possibilities increase almost exponentially, as are mods to add computer programming, and more.


But let’s take a step away from just Minecraft. Games in general can help kids develop problem solving skills and wit. If you already think that playing chess (or similar board games) is great for children, you’re in luck. There are many games that are all about using wit, intuition, and problem solving to get out of a tight situation. There are games that are basically chess with different rules, such as Starcraft or Civilization. There are also many single-player puzzle games that make you think about how your actions can affect your environment and how to get past obstacles. Games like Portal 1 and 2 are great examples of this.


Some history games put the player in the shoes of a historical figure, and give you the task of making the same decisions the figure did. If well executed, this can really help the player understand why these figures did what they did, while if they just read a textbook that said they did something, it won’t have the same impact for the student. Admittedly, this approach might not be great at teaching specifics like dates or small decisions the real historical figures did, but it can put them in the right mindset.


And when it comes time for marking to see how each student is doing, most games will provide a much more quantifiable answer than other means, or at least a more convenient means to an end. It’s easy to take a look at how students are progressing through games. What stages gave them the hardest times? Which ones did they breeze over? Is there a central concept the student is struggling with? You can teach it to them, maybe walk them through one of the stages they are having a hard time with. Watch them progress again, see if they learned anything from your lesson.


In fact, there are some schools and teachers that are testing the waters with using games in the classroom, and you know what? Teachers are showing that it’s working! There are many examples of teachers reporting positive effects, and the usage of some games like Minecraft in subjects like math, science, social studies, and computer science.


I am not trying to say that games should replace other parts of school. No, that would not be a good idea. What I’m really saying is that games can be used in conjunction with the other methods to provide great benefits. If we can move ourselves away from the idea that games are only entertainment, our society can benefit hugely, as games have a lot of untapped potential.



  • Andrew Miller “Ideas for Using Minecraft in the Classroom” org, Demand Media April 13 2014, Web. September 18 2014
  • “Examples by Subject” minecraftedu.com n.p. n.d. Web. September 18 2014
  • PBS Idea Channel, Mike Rugnetta “Is Minecraft the Ultimate Educational Tool? | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios” Online video clip. Youtube, March 6 2013, Web. September 18 2014
  • Jacqui Murray “Minecraft in the Classroom Teaches Reading and More” Teachhub, n.d. September 18
  • Brandon Chapman “Video games could dramatically streamline education research” news.wsu.edu September 18 2014, Web. September 18 2014 (No, this was not a mistake.)

Dr. Baglow vs. Freedom of Speech: September 23rd, 2014 – Roger Smith aka Peter O’Donnel

This is reporting on a real-life (unfortunately) court case, the whole narrative of which is indexed in Dr. Baglow vs Free Speech – and listed at the top bar of this blog.

As I left off, Barbara Kulaszka, the lawyer representing the defendant Mark Fournier, had finished her closing arguments.  It was now Roger Smith’s (known online as Peter O’Donnel) turn to make his closing arguments.

It is difficult to describe Roger Smith in a few words because he is quite a complex person.  Even my short exposure to him made that clear.  So, what I write, can only be a very tiny glimpse of this unique (in a very good way) and highly intelligent man.

Roger Smith is of a similar age as the plaintiff, Dr. Baglow, and both have silver hair – but that is where the physical resemblance ends.

Where the extroverted Dr. Baglow is expansive, speaks loudly with expressive body language (his doctorate is, after all, in poetry – so some theatricity ought to be expected) while the introverted Roger Smith is shy and humble in his demeanor, speaking softly and gently.

So, one has to listen carefully when Mr. Smith speaks – not just because he is soft-spoken, but also because he makes many little jokes under his breath!  And his jokes are well worth straining one’s ears for.

Even Madame Justice Polowin seems to enjoy his jokes – her eyes sparkle and she has even, a couple times, rewarded Mr. Smith’s humour with the kind of smile usually reserved only for Mr. Frankel.  (At least – in this courtroom…..though Connie has, at times, earned it as well.)

I will be paraphrasing a lot, but, to the best of my understanding, Roger Smith’s defense revolved around the following points:

Firstly, he asserted that the impugned words were actually not defamatory – and urged the judge to find that way.  After all, the fact that the late Jack Layton was referred to as ‘Taliban Jack’ not only did not cause him any defamation, it seemed to actually help his electoral success!

Madam Justice was nodding her head in assent.

Secondly, he (RS) did not mention the plaintiff by name – Roger Smith’s online pseudonym called Dr. Bglow’s online pseudonym a name.  But, pseudonyms are not the same as real-life names and, as even the court’s own expert had testified, people often build a very different, unique persona for their online pseudonym – one which intentionally differs in tone and perhaps even opinions from their real-life identity (for various legitimate reasons).  Thus the two ought not be conflated:  Roger Smith did not call Dr. Baglow anything – Peter O’Donnel called Dr. Dawg a name, that’s all…

In addition, the context of the debate – ongoing, skipping around all through them interwebitudes from blog to blog to discussion boards and back again, over a number of days – had reduced the defamatory potential of the impugned words to exactly zero.

Since that debate did bounce around from one online place to another, it is not the easiest thing to follow the actual real-time sequence in which the various comments were made because some were time/date stamped in one time-zone, some in another.  In order to make it easier for Madam Justice to follow the timeline, RS had taken the pains to sequentialize them in Appendix A.  Madam Justice was much less interested in this at that point in time than Mr. Smith was, but, in my never-humble-opinion, she will find it a useful tool as she reviews the evidence.

Which she will – she made that abundantly clear!

For the duration of the trial – and even in the communication that was not publicly visible, like the various emails that form the voluminous body of the exhibits in this trial and tribulation, the plaintiff and his lawyer, Mr. Burnet (who had, actually, commented as a ‘guest’ on the Warman trial coverage on this very blog in the past), had referred to Roger Smith as an old crank, a wingnut.

This, I believe, was the very word that Madam Justice Polowin used extensively when questioning the court expert on online media and communications – and he assured her that once a person has acquired an online reputation as a ‘wingnut’, nothing that person says will be taken seriously by anyone else and his commentary will either be skipped right over or simply seen as humorous interlude…

But, I digress…

Throughout this whole ordeal, Peter O’Donnel had been referred to as a crank, a nut, a wingnut…and his writings were referred to as ‘incoherent rambling’ and ‘woolly essay’.  In other words, ridiculed and dismissed.  There was even one email read into evidence from Dr. Baglow to someone (Jay Currie, I suspect, but am not certain) where Dr. Baglow dismisses Peter O’Donnel as an inconsequential crank, saying he’s probably not even going to bother suing him because coming from him, the impugned words ‘mean nothing’:  it was the Fourniers he was going after for having provided a forum for this speech to be uttered.

So, RS continued, he was surprised that in his closing arguments, Mr. Burnet had promoted Roger Smith to an intelligent man, a deep thinker … and his writing was promoted to ‘well-composed prose’!

It was at this point that Roger Smith earned one of Madam Justice’s impish smiles and her cheeks even flushed a bright pink, as I suspect she was working hard to stifle a fit of giggles…apparently, this ‘promotion’ had not gone unnoticed by her!

Working on his momentum, RS continued building his defense, recalling the plaintiff’s words (which Dr. Baglow regretted and apologized to ‘our agricultural workers’ for having used) ‘yokels with pitchforks’ and re-classified Omar Khadr and his ilk of terrorists (the subjects that evoked the impugned description of Dr. Dawg from Peter O’Donnel) as ‘super-yokels with rifles’.

And, a substantial number of Canadians (59%, if I understand it correctly) do hold the belief that lending moral support to Omar Khadr is indeed ‘giving moral support to the enemy’…it would, in very real terms, enhance their geopolitical struggle on the other side of the world if their members were receiving moral support from some people over here, undermining our political will to continue in the armed struggle.

RS asserted that leftists often make common cause with terrorists in their regional struggle.  (Indeed, I would have taken this further, pointing out that many leftists believe that their utopian end justifies any means and that supporting (directly or indirectly) the enemies of our Western society, based on civil liberties, will bring our civilization down faster, which will help them build their tyrannical dystopia that much faster.)

The judge interrupted RS at this point, saying he need not belabour this:  she understands that he means that ‘support’ is more than just money or direct fighting…

During this bit, Dr. Baglow was leaning back from the table, his long legs elegantly crossed in front him in a classical ‘power pose’ – but he was very fastidiously studying his manicure.

Mr. Burnet was using the index finger of his left hand to tap his ear, listening carefully to every word and undoubtedly preparing for his rebuttal at the end of the day.

Indeed, RS continued:  support can be passive, like supporting ‘carbon taxes’…I suppose the climatologist in him cannot be suppressed! (By the way, according to the brief discussions we had during breaks, our scientific conclusion on ‘Global Warning’ are pretty similar.)

His essay (within which the impugned words were contained) covered a number of topics – from Steven Harper to long-form census (something that was VERY HOTLY debated in my own family:  one of those instances where my brilliant economist father-in-law, who had been a special economic adviser to 4 different Liberal Prime Ministers – two as PM’s, two while Ministers of the Crown who later went on to seize ‘the brass ring’, well, he and I battled long and loud over the souls of the next generation of our family over this issue! I think it was the next generation of our family that won:  they were forced to consider the issue from all possible angles and reach a conclusion of their own (not that they’d tell us what that is)!!!  Which, really, is the point…  Though my hubby and my mother-in-law tried throwing things at us (figuratively!) to change the topic….it seems not everyone appreciates a heated, no-holds-barred political discussion at the dinner table!  Which reminds me – I must get something awesome prepared for the next family holiday….) Re-focusing!

The essay covered things as diverse as the ‘beer and popcorn’ fiasco and lamented the hypocrisy of calling conservatives ‘yokels with pitchforks’.  RS admitted freely that it was a poorly written essay, and that it rambled a lot and would not have won any essay contests!  Indeed, it was so poorly written that the thread was virtually unread…until, that is, this whole thing erupted!  Then Streisand effect took over….once Dr. Dawg and MsMew sank their teeth into it (my words, not his).

OK – I must admit to you, my dear reader, that I have mangled both the wording and the timing of the various arguments.  I am working both from memory and my notes – and when I see something touched on, I keep writing – spilling the whole scoop to you, even when it ought to have just been foreshadowing…then, I read on and find the full argument I described 300 words ago only happened now.  Please, forgive me my sloppy reporting – I just wish someone better at it than I would have been in the courtroom to present another accounting of the events.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that throughout the trial, different people did drop in for a bit here and there.  Today, for example, Mr. Frankel’s sister-in-law, who is a law student, dropped by the courtroom to watch the closing arguments (and got to have lunch with Mr. Frankel to boot!).

He-who-must-not-be-named (on pain of legal action)  also dropped in every now and then, though not today.

And Canadian Cynic, known in the blogosphere for his knowledge of Linux (good) and for hurling misogynistic slurs at conservative women (sad, so very sad) on the internet (at least, that is what a quick Google search suggested), also popped in a few times:  I even saw him chatting with Dr. Baglow in the hallway, but no matter how hard I tried to establish eye contact, I failed.

On this last day of this case, there was also a youngish man with a mop of blond hair, a gray tweed jacket, light open-necked shirt with a subtle stripe and blue jeans.  I approached him during the lunch break and sked if he were a reporter.

“Sort of” he smiled as he slid over a copy of Frank magazine.  “I’m with them!”  I saw him later chatting with Canadian Cynic.  Funny thing is – Frank magazine’s name did actually pop up in the trial earlier, as an example of how different print media have differing ‘standards’ for ‘discourse’…as in, one would not expect as colourful a language in, say, CTV or CBC or ‘Globe and Mail’ as one would from ‘Frank magazine’…  And demonstrating that different segments, even wihin the same ‘print media’ would have different levels of discourse and expectations of the way language is used is at the very heart of this court case: the plaintiff asserts that once published, even to one person, the ‘language’ must be ‘standardized’ and it really is of no relevance whether this is a scientific treatise or a tabloid or a shock-jock-thingie (WIC radio case)….while the defense is claiming that in different platforms, the participants are performing for different audiences and that the expectations and understandings of the particular audience of their message board is of paramount importance because it is the perceptions of that segment of the citizenry who will be exposed to the impugned words, so, how they perceive will define their defamatory potential.

OK, I have been generalizing again – but I think that this is important because conveying the ‘flavour’ of the differing sides is so core to this very case….

Thank you, my dear reader, for having indulged me thus far.

I have attempted to capture both the substance of Mr. Smith’s defense as well as the atmosphere in the courtroom.  But, let me return to it, in my most imperfect manner.

Roger Smith explained to the judge that he truly and honestly held the belief that what Dr. Dawg had posted in his comments constituted giving aid and comfort to the terrorists and enemies of Canadian Armed forces in Afghanistan – and that while he held these beliefs about the words posted by Dr. Dawg, he did not harbour any personal malice against Dr. Baglow himself … but that the evidence bore out that, sadly, this was not true in reverse.

RS pointed out that while Dr. Baglow had reached out to Connie and Mark Fournier, asking them to settle out of court, he had not presented any such opportunity to Mr. Smith himself.  Not once had Dr. Baglow extended Roger Smith the courtesy of even contacting him…

Any reading of the discussion, as it evolved over the 7 or so days, will reveal deeply vitriolic comments made by Dr. Baglow – much more so than by RS.

‘Begly’ (the name that the defendant, at this point, thought was Dr. Dawg’s meat-space name – not even being aware of the proper name of the pesky paintiff who thinks himself so important that ‘everyone’ knows him, yet he should not have to meet the ‘higher bar’ for defamation set for ‘public figures’ – he’s the only ‘public figure’ who should have the ‘private person’ protections against legitimate political criticism), Zyklon B, pot-calling-the-kettle-black…you get the picture.

At this point, Mr. Smith became unsure if pointing out just how much of a chill a ‘guilty’ verdict would cast over the interwebitudes and just how cluttered the courts would become with defamation cases if the bar were to be set this low…  Being a principled person, he wanted it judged on the merits of this case – which he honestly thinks are insufficient for the finding of defamation.  But, this is where he was, in my never-humble-opinion, torn:  he wanted the court to be aware of the potential real-life implications of setting the bar this low, without appearing to ‘fear-monger’ or some such thing.

Madam Justice Polowin found this rather endearing:  she assured Mr. Smith that the so called ‘floodgates argument’ is not without merit and is, at times, successfully employed by real-life lawyers at court so he, as a self-represented citizen, ought not be ashamed of raising it.  And she smiled…

I know my words do not do justice to this moment at court but I’d like you, my dear reader, to know that this was a ‘Moment’ with a capital ‘M’…if you excuse the expression.

At this point, Roger Smith concluded his defense by saying that he cannot afford a fancy lawyer and that it would probably have been wise not to fight this battle, but, that he was not fighting it just on his own behalf but also on the behalf of the many Canadians who cherish their freedom of speech and exercise it, including on the internet, and that he felt that it was his moral obligation to our society to fight this battle!

In her right, Madam Justice Polowin seemed to understand this – and appreciate the kind of sacrifice it took Roger Smith to go on and fight for all of us!!!

She beamed a wonderful smile at him, and assured him that, for a self-rep, he had done an admirable job, that he was respectful of the court rules and, along with Connie, they had been some of the most professional self-reps she had ever had the pleasure to preside over.



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