Why I will avoid using the Toronto Star, when reasonable

If you follow this blog, you’ll be aware that I have enormous respect for many columnists on the Toronto Star, and that my starting point is often one of those columns.

It is with real regret that I will now avoid using the Star here as a matter of principle. This is small-minded of me, perhaps, but here’s why I am being so.

We have read the Star on a daily basis for decades. We pay by the three-month option. The Star is going digital (already is) and implementing a paywall (this is new). Once the paywall is in place, somehow one will be limited to ten pages. I think this is per month and likely per IP address. There are three computer users in this building but only one IP address. So, we’ll run out of pages at least some of the time.

The Star’s response is, pay by the year or pay by the month via credit card. Being small-minded, I don’t pay anything automatically on a credit card (or any other auto-payment.) Being cheap and small-minded, I don’t pay for anything by the year unless there is a significant discount for lending the money so far ahead.

I have had several eMails sent to the Star responded to in pretty much exactly the same wording: pay by pre-authorized credit card, or pay by the year. The fact that I am a long-time user doesn’t matter a damn.

Occasionally I will lapse and use the Star, especially if it is apparently the only easy source for the information. Often the same story appears elsewhere, and I will use that. Sometimes (as in the Brazil comment in the Police State blog entry) I will know what I read (maybe BBC News Online?) but not where, and keep googling until I find it. So you may notice some unusual sources being referenced. I check that the article I point to does cover the facts I was looking for.

As for the Toronto Star, it is a fine newspaper and we will continue to read it. You just won’t find it pointed to here as often as in the past.

Police State?

We were all either amused, shocked, or indifferent when Edward Snowden leaked a lot of facts about America spying on its own citizens. “They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type,” Edward Snowden told the Washington Post. You can find this quote here. Apparently many phone calls times, endpoints and durations; many online eMail providers, and many other records are routinely gathered and kept. Most of America was I hope shocked. You should be too, as much of your material goes through servers in the USA and can be watched and recorded.

I note with amusement that Brazil is trying to force many of its ISPs to keep the data inside Brazil. Here is one report on this. “Brazil may soon require global Internet companies to store domestic communications data in the country in response to reports that the U.S. widely spies on telephone and Internet traffic across Latin America.”

Given this interest in police or secret police gathering information on citizens, I marvel that we are allowing carding of pedestrians in the city of Toronto. Here is a pointer to one of several articles in the Toronto Star on this. (More on using the Star in another post.)

A black law student filed a freedom of information request and received more than fifty pages of information. In today’s paper (can’t see it online yet) there is an article describing how carding was done in one instance (there is apparently a cell phone video of the event). All the entrances and exits to an area are monitored. Everyone is required to provide identification. One person who refused was surrounded by eight (8!) cops until he relented. The information is kept, and later entered into a database that is never purged. And presumably, errors or malicious misrepresentation is possible here. The resulting database is used routinely. No probable cause is required to demand the information nor to search it later.

I submit that such a record of every time (fifty pages!) one is in an area deemed to be ‘of interest’ or one appears to be ‘of interest’ is a fundamental invasion of privacy roughly equal to knowing when, and to what numbers, I have made telephone calls; or what I put into an eMail to my co-workers at Canadian Food for Children.

So, who has the police state? America? Will Brazil escape their reach? Will Bill Blair actually do anything to materially reduce the carding and the database that it creates?

Those who remember the G20 in Toronto have seen videos of gratuitous police violence, and I think exactly one conviction has resulted some five years later.

Police state, anyone?

If you thought that was the dumb question, here’s a better one:

Can we do anything about this? Will we? Should we?

Quebec’s new ‘Charter’ of ‘freedom from religion’

The Quebec ‘state’ says it intends to be neutral, non-sectarian. So, no religious symbols can be worn, unless they are small crosses or invisible head coverings.

This is an obvious ploy to create a wedge issue. If the rest of Canada, in the form of the federal government, stops this, Pauline Marois can claim interference and hope to drum up separatist support. If the rest of Canada, in the form of a series of (tedious) court cases overturns this, interference from the ‘rest of Canada’ can still be claimed.

I think this starts a very scary trend. It could be difficult to keep a job in Quebec province if you have a strong religious belief. This could cause other cultures’ people to leave Quebec, possibly strengthening the ‘we versus English Canada’ which is the core of the separatist complaint. If this gambit works (and on-TV interviews indicate people born in Quebec will, reluctantly, relocate rather than remove (for example) turbans), then what is the next thing? Being a visible minority could be seen as being not-separatist? How about wearing a gay/lesbian wedding band? Is that a spiritual decision? Is being married a spiritual decision, at least for some couples of any persuasion?

There is some comfort in this article, however. The entire island of Montreal, some 16 mayors or equivalent, have stated that they will opt out of this charter, should it pass. And, the analysis says, the whole thing may backfire on Marois.

I’m not so sure. I hereby predict:

  • the law passes.
  • the Federal government, aka Stephen Harper, goes mute or prorogues parliament.
  • the courts temporize.
  • Marois loses support anyway.

Obviously, these are all guesses, but the first three seem decent bets.


Kudos for TOR support

I am a relatively dumb user who manages a simple website with WordPress. I get a lot of spam posts, many in character sets I cannot decipher.

I noticed that some spam posts came from the same web address. .htaccess, anyone? So much for those sources.

But, I noticed that sometimes there were a lot of closely-related IP addresses that didn’t duplicate, but seemed to come ‘at the same time’ and with similar content. A friend suggested that TOR users might be doing this, thereby disguising their true IP source address and spreading their apparent source over TOR servers.

So I sent an eMail to the TOR folks. I did not expect any support, but said clearly that, whatever happened, would be recorded here. Fair is fair.

Kudos for TOR support in this matter. I was sent a URL which promptly gave me a list of all TOR exit IPs that can send to my website. Apparently this service has always been there. The point of TOR is not to be secretive about themselves, but to allow senders to break the correlation between messages they send and their destinations. (For more information, and it is quite interesting, look up TOR in google and find out for yourself. It’s quite a sophisticated operation, and could be of key importance in increasing privacy from end-to-end watchers of the Internet. I support this capability. I just don’t think you need to hide yourself when going to a small blog to post spam, eh?)

I am figuring out how to use this goldmine of information. I will be changing the page, ‘Rules, Sort of’ when I have my new process working. Stay tuned.

As for TOR, if you have a genuine need to hide yourself, use it. Just don’t use it when spamming my website, please.

Thanks again to TOR and to the kind individual who responded so quickly. Much appreciated.

Kudos for Unitech and LG for support

On Saturday, my less-than-two years old monitor had a pushbutton switch stick. It awkwardly moved, and with luck I was able to get it stuck in the ‘on’ position.

I eMailed LG, who makes this particular monitor (Flatron E2411), on Saturday.

On Sunday, I had a response back: all LG monitors are warranted for 3 years, and please take it to Unitech in Mississauga.

On Monday, I took the monitor in. I was told, if part is in or available, one-day service is possible. I explained that I do a lot of literary reviews and really need the computer and thus its monitor.

On Tuesday, I received a phone call. Monitor is ready.

I am using it now.

so, Thank You, LG, for great support. and, Thank You, Unitech, for great support. Much appreciated.