Edward Keenan, John Tory, and more – on negotiation

Another ‘Tory Sale.’

John Tory says the TTC can miraculously increase service on a decreased budget. In asking the TTC to make cuts, he noted to the effect that, he’d been successful in negotiating budget cuts with the Toronto Police Force.
Those who paid attention might have noticed that the latter agreement is for a freeze that has not happened yet in the police budget. They may also have noted that the previous request for a freeze was met with a budget increase that our Mayor, John Tory, approved.

So much for that negotiation. I hope the TTC wins the next one. We need their funding.

This is the same mayor who ‘announced’ a park to be built over the railway lines south of Front Street. Before finding out what the air space rights would cost. But he knows how nice the park will be.
Of course, having tipped his hand, the city will be in a fine bargaining position to get these rights cheap. And, nobody knows who is going to pay for the park itself, either.

So much for that negotiation.

I am reminded that the previous attempt to parkify the space over the rail tracks involved a casino. Oddly enough, casino negotiations are underway now, and (if I believe the Toronto Star today) the companies bidding may be able to change two of the three specific, designated  locations, once they get approval to proceed.

That may not even require negotiation from the city, if we give them the terms they want now.

What about Edward Keenan, you say? He labels John Tory ‘the King of Compromise’.

Today’s Toronto Star has an article by Edward Keenan on John Tory and his negotiating prowess. He may have a few kind words to say, but most of this message is pretty critical.

Here’s just one paragraph. Read the full article for some fun at our mayor’s expense(s).

Like maintaining his pledge to freeze property taxes while also vowing to introduce a new source of taxes. Like moving to the wildly more expensive “hybrid” Gardiner project that seeks both to please those who wanted the highway maintained and those who wanted a new grand boulevard built where it now stands. Like announcing he won’t bid for the Olympics at the same event where he announced he expects the Olympics to come some day, and launched a task force to study making such bids. Like introducing a tax levy for city building in the same speech he froze spending on conferences and stationery.

If you’ve followed other ‘Tory Sale’ posts here, you know I am no longer a fan of our current mayor.
This is really sad. I miss Rob Ford. No wise ‘cracks’ here, please. However much one might disagree with, or disrespect, our previous mayor, he did get things done. I might have disliked many of his decisions, but at least I knew what they were, and they actually were clear decisions.

Subways, subways, subways – used to drive me nuts, nuts, nuts. But that got more done than photo-op, credit-take, double-talk – which, imho, is what Torontonians are getting now.

For those of you who enjoy, or like detesting, my dumb questions, here are two.

What would Toronto be like now, if Olivia Chow had won the race to become mayor?

Compromise might sound nice, but compromised does not. After all the compromising, are the outcomes rather compromised?

French ‘modesty’ and the Burkini

This is silly. France banned the burqa some five years ago. Several French towns have now banned the burkini.

Here is one website whose video shows the arrest of a Muslim woman for wearing a burkini. This on a beach full of bikinis.

Amazingly, they forced the woman to remove some of her clothing. The French idea of modesty is mind-blowing.

If it’s illegal for a woman to be fully covered on a beach, what are the cops doing wearing their gunbelts?

Apparently, the French idea of ‘a good Muslim woman’ is a bit weird. Here‘s another article you’ll enjoy.

French tolerance seems to be evaporating. It took a court ruling to strike down the burkini ban.

I’d like to see a demonstration which lures fully riot-equipped police onto a beach. Then I’d like to see them demanded to remove their helmets, shields, boots, and strip down to what’s accepted beach wear, if you’re a Muslim woman.

Postal Strike, Postal Service, and going Postal

Toronto, Ontario, and all of Canada may soon be hit by postal strikes.

The postal union position seems straightforward:

  • Rural workers (often female) should make as much as urban workers (often male.)
  • New hires should get the same pension (defined benefit plan) as old hands.
  • Doubtless more money would be nice.

On their website, the Canadian Union of Postal workers mention a few other things (as at this writing, sites change, eh? As usual, emphasis mine:

It is evident that the management of Canada Post has forgotten that Canada Post is not a commercial enterprise but a public service for all Canadians. Mr. Chopra spoke of the 400,000 businesses that were his “customers.” He did not mention the 35 million Canadians who have a right to decent postal service.

Canada Post managers declared that negotiations discussions were off-limits but then proceeded to use this platform to try to justify cutting pensions for the next generation of postal workers.

Mr. Chopra praised the work of Canada Post’s employees whose hard work generates the money.  Cutting future employees’ pension, trying to lock us out and stalling at the negotiating table is no way to thank us, Mr. Chopra.

There is some small substance to the claim that management of our postal service pays more attention to commercial customers than domestic recipients of mail. The top item on their website, as at this moment, includes this: (click to ‘see more’ on their site)

Canada Post can no longer guarantee a fully operational network; therefore, we are temporarily suspending the fee for the Specified Delivery Start Date option for Neighbourhood Mail.

I had to Google Specified Delivery Start Date. Bulk mail in an area can have a specified delivery start date. There is a fee for this, presumably for holding the bulk (junk) mail and releasing it on time. This fee is waived because a strike might make its service undeliverable (pun intended.)
Let me emphasize: the top item is for bulk mailers. Companies.

Those of you who bore easily can stop reading here. I’m going to provide a small comparison between Canada Post and the United States Postal Service (USPS.) The information comes from a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report which you can access, thanks to the Secrecy News project of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS.)

Service. USPS gives six-day a week mail and parcel delivery. Delivery standards were revised downward in 2012. Standards are often not met. What used to be guaranteed overnight (local mail) is not, not any more.
There is a suggestion to reduce mail delivery to five days a week. But not for packages. (As in Canada, business deliveries have management’s attention. It’s been so long since six-day delivery that my kids don’t believe it ever existed.)
As in Canada, actual service speed is crashing. (I once mailed a letter on Sunday and had the reply in my hand the following Thursday. Receipt for payment I needed that day. No way this can happen Au Canada today.)

Management. By moving workers from night shift to day shift, facility increases were required. Apparently the job bidding process is time-consuming. The logic behind this (in the referenced CRS report) escapes me. As does much of the management posturing in Canada.

Volumes. Letter volume is declining. Package volume is rising. (Same pattern as in Canada.)

Limitations. The USPS cannNot do non-postal work. This is not the case in the UK, where post offices do banking-like work. Such an extra revenue stream has been suggested in Canada.

Financial Situation. The USPS is about fifteen billion dollars in debt. It has never (in the charts shown, anyway) had more than thirty days of operating cash on hand. The USPS has defaulted on payments required into health benefit plans (which may be set up in a way that is irrational; read the full report for details.) The USPS ends every year with cash on hand, but always is borrowing. Its debt ceiling is limited by law.
So far as I know, Canada Post does not owe money.

Prices. Apparently, a good-forever international stamp costs a buck USD or so. Mail goes for something like forty-five cents USD. A lot cheaper than Canada. The USPS has strictly controlled prices and, through two court actions, was allowed a temporary surcharge to make up for a volume shortfall caused by the crash of 2008.

Canadian prices go up all the time. And we no longer have good-forever stamps.

Fleet. Mostly long-use vehicles (24 years) with an average age of 23 last year, the USPS needs new delivery vehicles.
In Canada, we purchased a new fleet of small vans for home delivery, and then announced we were transitioning to all homeowner-pickup delivery. This shift has been stalled by the new Liberal government under Justin Trudeau. However, reverting back has also been stalled by our Federal Government while ‘studies’ are done. We may be using our postal strike as an excuse to break an election promise.

Mandate. The USPS is mandated to deliver mail. It once was essentially a government agency; now it is mandated to cover its own costs. The fact that it cannot do this is generating a lot of heat and light, and now a CRS report so Congress will be informed enough to, perhaps, decide to change the rules or the playing field.

It appears that our American neighbours see their postal system as a business and then as a service, not as an essential service or natural right. In Canada, we don’t seem to know what we think. CP seems to think it’s a business.
We allowed new neighbourhoods to not-get home delivery, without a whimper. We allowed postal spokesfolks to tell us that the elderly would (I actually heard this said on TV) be grateful for being forced to go for a walk to get their mail. This for my neighbour, who can hardly cross a room, but should be rejoicing to be made to cross snowdrifts to get junk mail.
I don’t think the Federal Government is watching this very closely, as they are unwilling to interfere in what skunks might call a hissing contest. However, Justin Trudeau should, imho, have  the equivalent of a CRS report being built on the entire postal service, so his government can do at least a few sensible things after we go on strike. Like, fix the long term financing: is it an essential service? Should it be subsidized?

Conclusions (mine, of course, eh?)

  • Part of the strike is about costs. I think the Federal Government should fix this. (Take more tax from oil extractors and profiteering banks, and use it to fund the mail. Heresy, eh?)
  • Part of the strike is about pensions. I think that defined benefit plans should be (for all permanent workers, as minimum) available, incented, and that the Federal Government should run them. It’s never gone broke, eh? Just increase the deficit!
  • The Canadian Postal Service is cutting off its nose to spite its face. Several years ago, a postal strike caused this household to switch to telephone banking to pay bills. We have the usual household stuff: gas, hydro, water/garbage, phone, internet, cable tv, and taxes. Plus a handful of other bills, like credit cards.
    We pay all of these on the Internet today.
    We used to mail cheques.
  • Some of the CPS revenue comes from junk mail. My first visit to a pick-up mailbox will include putting a ‘no junk mail’ sticker on my slot. I’m not shuffling glossy fliers while wearing gloves and stomping the snow down.
    My neighbours already have ‘no junk mail’ on their mailbox lid. I checked: it’s legal and binding. No junk mail.
  • Part of the strike is about arrogance. I think Canada Post has a typical case of Big Business / Swelled Head. Like the epi pen price increase by the pharmaceutical manufacturer, reduced service with increased prices are seen as things that can be gotten away with. Charging more for less is seen as a right, especially when the product is not readily replaceable.
  • Part of the strike is about money. Salaries of the Canada Post head office staff, especially the top positions, would be nice to know. What they pay for advertising, lobbying, and contracted services should be part of Justin Trudeau’s audit.
  • Part of the strike is about equality. New hires versus old. Rural/female versus urban/male.

I’ve written the latter points as though I think a long and bitter strike is inevitable. Given the negotiation skills demonstrated to date, I think inevitable (can’t be avoided by the participants) is dead on.

Windows 10 wakes from Hibernate – wake timers disabled or not

Windows 10 wakes up even from Hibernate. Even with wake timers disabled.

There are a lot of Google results showing others with this problem. I found what appears to be a solution. I’ll give this first, and some general comments on Windows 10 later.

I will use -> to mean, click on, or open folder, or whatever. It means, make this choice from the things you can see.

Start -> Control Panel. -> Administrative Tools. -> Task Scheduler. -> Task Scheduler Library. -> Microsoft. -> Windows.

Many, many entries.

At this point, you might see an entry: WindowsMediaCenter. Open that. You might see one or more scheduled tasks. open each one and check under the Conditions tag.

If you see Wake the Computer to Run This Task checked, you need to right-click on the task (in the list), navigate again (you can update now) to Conditions, and un-check this box.

On my computer, this entry showed when it had run last (failure, program not found!) and when it would run next. Once a week at 7:23 p.m.
On my computer, this entry has now disappeared. (I did not delete it.)
I make notes as I change things, so I’m not mistaken here, eh?

If this doesn’t work for you, search through other scheduled events for Wake the Computer … as above. Also, read the second section of this blog as a heads-up.

General Comments on Windows 10.

Overall, I like it. Upgraded from 7 on two machines. Purchased third machine with 10 already on it.

All three versions are different. Different options are present. For example, in trying to turn of wake timers, on our upgraded desktops one must go something like

Control Panel -> Power Options -> Change Plan Settings (for Balanced) -> Change Advanced Power Settings. At this point, ‘change settings that are currently unavailable’ can be clicked on. On my Asus Zenbook, this option does not appear. Continuing,
-> Sleep -> Allow Wake Timers -> Disable is supposed to stop waking from hibernation. It does not.

To allow hibernation, Control Panel -> Power Options -> Choose What the Power Button Does -> Change Settings that are Currently Unavailable ->
should give you some check boxes. Show Hibernate in Power Menu is what you need to check.

Task Scheduler. I’m pretty sure that, after opening tab after tab after tab, the system stopped showing me contents (scheduled tasks) of tabs on open. I went back to a tab I’d seen stuff in earlier, and verified this.

Windows Versions. On three computers, I have three different versions of Windows.

  • Zenbook. Windows 10 pre-installed. Added ZoneAlarm as firewall and antivirus and everything works just fine.
  • Desktop # 1. Windows 10 update from 7 was never scheduled. (Yet the annoying prompt showed up as an all-white blank window on Win7.) Upgrading failed (rolled back) claiming ZoneAlarm is incompatable. Put ZA to sleep and re-ran the update. All is well.
  • Desktop # 2. Windows 10 update from 7 scheduled fairly early. Had to turn this update off repeatedly on windows updates. Annoying prompt showed up correctly. Attempting to upgrade to 10 met with ‘no updates are available.’ Found a downloader on Microsoft site, disabled ZA, and upgraded. Re-enabled ZA and no problems – for a little while.
    (Routinely, I update all the anti-virus, anti-spyware, et cetera on several machines.) While doing a ZA update, the internet went down and could not be recovered. Disabled (option in ZA) ZoneAlarm. Internet stayed down. UnInstalled ZA. Internet came back up. Installed new download of ZA. Still working weeks later.

Small things are different between the two desktops. Defaults. The zenbook is different again. Different versions of Spybot, for example. Desktop # 1 kept the previous version. Desktop # 2 gained a new version with a totally different interface. Zenbook is similar to, but not identical with, Desktop # 2. Go figure.

My suspicion: ‘upgrading’ as desktop # 1 did, gets one version; desktop # 2 used a different route and got a different build. The Zenbook got a laptop version.

Windows activity under the covers.

There is a lot of this. One experiment I did was to sleep (used to do this before I had hibernate; one power cycle a day, eh?) overnight and, on awakening, go to
This PC -> C drive -> Search -> Date Modified -> Today.
Given that your computer was sleeping, and you’re ‘instantly back to where you left off,’ you will be surprised at the number of files that just got changed during that ‘instantly.’

Microsoft Customer Experience Improvement Program.

This is spyware. Google this and find the options to get the lowest level of reporting possible. Set that.
There is a website that claims to provide a script that it claims will tell Windows Firewall to block a (large) number of IP addresses – supposedly the ones Windows uses for things like CompatTelRunner.

I do not know if this website (winaero?) solution works. Post here if you know.

You can leave task manager ‘up’ during sleep, and as soon as you can, switch to it on wake, and see how much LAN and disk and CPU are being used by what. Nothing you started. This is spyware.

I found that awakening from sleep often took longer than from hibernation. Maybe it’s really random and my sample is too small for conclusions.

Windows Inconsistencies.

My son pointed this out. I did not believe it before seeing it with my own eyes. Here’s my conclusion:

If it can be reached from Control Panel, go to it from Control Panel.

Some items may come up under ‘Cortana’ search, may appear to be identical with what you get from a Control Panel selection, but may omit options (change settings that are currently unavailable comes to mind) or have options greyed out and frozen.

This is imho a blatant violation of the First Law of Data Processing: One is The Magic Number. If you have the same information in two places, it will get different. This applies to algorithms and presentation logic. If you need to show the info in two places, call the exact same code. Don’t re-write it so as to look nearly the same while not fully equal in capability.

Allow Wake Timers does not, when turned off, stop waking from hibernation.

I don’t really know what the option precludes. I’m guessing that it stops mere user-installed applications from setting a wake timer. Clearly the task scheduler can cause the computer to wake from hibernation (and presumably from shut down) since there is an option on each task entry to allow this.

Your system may be different from my system.

My very similar desktops are not running identical Win10 (<- Win7) systems.

Expect Oddball Results.

Odd Result 1. Can’t use Weather tile.

Move very slowly and deliberately with Windows 10, especially deletions and un-installs. I apparently got rid of the Microsoft Store and disabled the Microsoft Weather tile. Trying to access Store from the taskbar gives an error, Check Your Internet Connection and Try Again. Trying to set the location in the Weather tile gives an error. I can set location on and background on (settings) however I like, and the weather tile won’t do anything but give me the basic summary – for the wrong location (Ottawa – I’m in Toronto). However, when enabled, the tile does update the temperature. In Ottawa.

I’ve tried oddball solutions from the Internet, including PowerShell commands. The net result is

  • I can’t reach the Microsoft Store
  • I can’t get into the forecast etc in Weather as I can on two other machines
  • I can’t set the weather location


  • I am getting weather updates from Ottawa, restricted to the tile contents only.

Conclusion: don’t mess with stuff until either you’re sure you know what will happen, or can live with pessimal results.

Odd Result 2. Music is inconsistent.

I have a couple of Harry Chapin CDs. I normally play the CD itself, but this set lives elsewhere so I had Windows Media Player save it. This under Win7.

After installing Win10, my sound came back (was disabled on this machine for unspecified reasons.) One of the first things I tried was playing music. I’d just installed VLC player, so got it to look at my Chapin (Gold Medal Collection, Disc 2). Three of the tracks were missing.

I looked at the folder itself. This PC -> Music -> Harry Chapin -> The Gold Medal Collection Disc 2
and lo, tracks 1, 13, and 14 are missing.

Now I open Windows Media Player. music, artist, gold medal collection disc 2.
All 15 tracks are visible. Track 13 (Sequel) plays just fine.

Conclusion: Windows Media Player did, imho, store the CD in wherever Windows keeps Music. Maybe Media Player has a secret backup location. I don’t use VLC to play music, except for this one time.

Odd Result # 3. Firefox can’t access a file, but Edge can.

Somewhere in my random searching for power on options, I came across and accidentally clicked, an option to watch power for sixty seconds and create a report. The file is c:\windows\system32\energy-report.html.

So, I naively typed the above file and path into Firefox’s entry box. error. can’t find the file. OK, I navigated This PC -> C drive -> windows -> system32 -> and found the file energy-report.html. Clicking on this led to Firefox (my default browser) which got a File Not Found – Firefox can’t find the file at … . Now right-click the file , -> Open With -> Edge.
Voila. I can see the energy report. It thinks my mouse (with its Microsoft driver) is wasting power.

The contents of the report might be important to you. The operating system is, imho, preventing an un-loved browser (FireFox) from accessing a file, while permitting a loved one (Edge) to see it.
In fact, Notepad can open this file.

Conclusion: Windows 10 discriminates against Firefox. By telling it that a file is not there.

Scheduled Tasks often fail.

If you walk through the task scheduler as above, you’ll see quite a spread of task dates. There were a few from something weird like 1999. There were a few from the day of Win10 installation.

And then there were the ones that rerun, over and over. On every logon and each hour thereafter. At specific times.

Among these are some that fail every single time they run. Missing program.
Yet, they run.
I think I got rid of the Media Center on this machine. It was a busy first two days, with rollbacks etc, and my usual notes are more scribbly than useful. I do have Windows Media Player, and it does work.
Yet there was a scheduled task to update Windows Media Center.

There are many scheduled tasks on this PC (# 2) that fail regularly. This is a waste of processor time and responsiveness.

Comments, corrections, additions: all welcome. Usual rules apply. (see Rules, Sort of.)

A boring note: why I question ‘can’t decrypt a message’ (in some cases)

Assume I am sending you a message. I decide to encrypt it. I send you the message via a device and some network. You receive the message off that network and your device decrypts it.

There are two very different cases:

  1. You and I are in real-time communication, or
  2. My message goes ‘somewhere’ and you get it from there later.

In the first case, total security (aside from breaking the encryption via brute force) from eavesdropping is possible.
Let me detail roughly what happens in https (I am a client and you are my bank, say.):

  • your website sends a challenge message and mentions your certificate.
  • my browser acquires, from a certificate issuer, your certificate and most importantly, your public key.
  • my browser creates three random (DES? AES) keys and sends you a message, encrypted in your public key, which includes those random keys. I think it also encrypts a bit in those keys, using one after another in sequence (triple-DES.)
  • your website decrypts using your private key. Supposedly only you and the certificate issuer know this key. This ‘proves’ the message was received by the intended target.
  • your website responds demonstrating that it was able to decrypt as above, and including a test message encrypted in the three keys my browser made up at random.
  • from then on, for this one session, we encrypt/decrypt all traffic contents in those three keys.

This way of exchanging information is rather secure, because:

  • Use of the certificate-related public and private keys is restricted to a very short message which is mostly random data.
  • The actual secure traffic is encrypted via three keys that were never used before and will never be used again.
  • Presumably, both our machines forget those keys after our session is complete.

Note that both my computer and the bank’s website must remember the three keys for the duration of the interchange. However, those keys are not needed thereafter and generally are discarded.

In the second case above, since we are not in conversation when my message is sent, the machine at ‘somewhere’ must know how to decrypt the message for you. There is no exchange of secret key between the end participants, since they are not in a real-time connection. I cannot send you the secret key, as you are not available to me at send time.

In this case, the messages must be decryptable by the ‘somewhere’ machine that stores them for the time between is-sent and is-picked-up.
While both the sending and final forwarding traffic can be protected (via https or similar), the storage in ‘somewhere’, if encrypted, has to be done by a key that ‘somewhere’ remembers for the ‘time between’ sending and receiving by the end participants.

Thus my confusion about Blackberry in India. They claimed that messages ‘on their server could not be decrypted by them.

This is true if the messages are in-flight between active end points that have exchanged random encryption keys.
This is not true if the messages are stored, being sent by one party when the intended recipient is not online at the same time.


Police, Passwords; Law and Order; facts?

The police chiefs of Canada have just started a fear and smear campaign. It’s aim: to force anyone to reveal her/his password to any device.

This is, of course, contrary to current Canadian law.
It is also contrary to current American law.

I have been following this legal discussion in the USA. A criminal’s phone  was suspected of containing extra evidence. The US authorities tried to force the owner to provide the password. Then they tried to force the phone provider (Apple?) to break the password.
Then they claimed that they, the FBI, actually broke the password themselves.

I will more or less refute every claim implied in the above paragraph. I simply don’t believe what we were, by implication, told. Here goes:

Once the phone was, as claimed, broken, no new evidence was shouted from the rooftops. If I were the winning prosecutor in such a technological battle, and it provided key evidence that added to proof of existing charges, or suggested additional charges, I’d let the reporters all know. Loudly.
Instead we got silence. This after the FBI claimed they broke the phone and could break another one.

In US law, the owner does not have to provide the password. There’s some very old American legislation on this. I won’t research it again, but merely provide you with the basic court decisions’ net results. This from memory, ok? (Based on CRS reports.)
Self-incrimination includes being forced to disclose the content of one’s mind. Thus a physical key can be compelled, but a lock’s combination cannot. Consequently an accused canNot be compelled to provide a password: the legal equivalent of a lock’s combination.

In US law, a provider of equipment does not need to do the work of breaking its password protection. (This even if the password could be demanded by law.) To make this happen, the authorities would need to prove that the password could be broken, and that the provider was the only possible breaker. In addition, the authorities would have to recompense the provider for the costs involved. Apple simply said that the costs were large and it probably couldn’t be done; the authorities said that others could do it, so get on with it. Apple responded by saying, if they can do it, then you should ask them to. We’re busy.

That the FBI broke the password themselves is, imho, open to doubt. No evidence was claimed, so far as I know, to have come from this. (How they would prove they got something both new and critical, from a phone, with a suspect in custody with clearly little chance of beating the charges, is unclear to me.)
I suspect the entire episode was intended to create a precedent for forcing passwords to be given out, broken, or circumvented. (By password I also include encryption key. It’s merely the ‘password’ for decryption, eh?) I don’t think more evidence was needed, or even useful. I see it as a publicity stunt.
I note that the FBI say they cannot break ‘more recent phones’.

OK, so why should you care?

Government surveillance is a key part of a police state. The best way to lose your freedom is to be under scrutiny at all times.
We’re moving, as a society, and the direction is disturbing.

Citizens can defend themselves from such constant scrutiny in various ways. Or can they?

  • Encrypt your messages. Your online financial transactions are encrypted. The US Government made sure that the encryption keys were short enough that their supercomputer could always break that encryption.
    At one point, longer keys were treated as munitions and penalties for exporting supporting software were like those for shipping missiles and bombs.
  • Hide their actions. You might behave behind your high fence with no overlooking buildings. A US case whereby a surveillance airplane, flying where a private airplane could conceivably fly, detected marijuana plants in such a backyard. This was Not deemed to be a violation of a reasonable expectation of privacy.
  • Use a device that ensures privacy. Barack Obama insisted on keeping his Blackberry. The spooks around him found a way to agree that it was suitably secure. But if you buy a smartphone, you may be compelled to disclose its password and thus your encryption key. Not in the United States of America, but here in Canada if our police chiefs have their way.
    It appears that Blackberry pulled out of India over security demands. Could they have decrypted user’s messages? (I thought not, but the reason is technical and boring.)
  • Go off the grid. There is no protection from the likes of the Unabomber. There is no protection from a secretly radicalized individual.

The last point is part of my reason for keying all this crud. Law enforcement authorities will use any possible slant to increase their powers. It is the nature of power to augment itself. Thus any failure on the part of law enforcement is taken as the fault of the country and its citizens, for not having given law enforcement sufficiently intrusive powers as to curtail illegal acts of any kind. The indefensible must be met with more intrusion and more surveillance of citizens.

Since it is impossible to win against the lone wolf, it is necessary to stop short of tying all freedoms in knots while making the attempt.

I will give a few examples of why I think government inspection of our lives should be curtailed, not increased. I simply don’t trust them.

  • At one point, Intel was requested to put a back door into every CPU chip they made. In the hands of law enforcement, this is like having your life story available to anyone who can touch your back door. With such broad access as the prize, criminals would find or buy a hack. (Consider ‘trojan’ malware, which makes your computer usable by a remote chat room visitor. Look how much trouble and social engineering goes into conning users into downloading such misery. Imagine if the bad guys could simply connect, like the FBI wanted to, to your CPU without you making a single error in security.)
    Intel’s refusal was not greeted with enthusiasm by law enforcement.
  • At one point, DES keys were limited in length. Then financial institutions were allowed to use longer keys. I believe the US law now allows any key length, and we’re moving forward into AES. This as the supercomputers get better.
    In short, I think we’ve always been spied on.
  • The HeartBleed bug. This was known by the spooks for about two years before it became common knowledge amongst us mere users. USA government departments reportedly used this to spy on all manner of website contents.
    (The bug is part of a protocol whereby two machines reassure themselves that the other is ‘still there.’ A ‘heartbeat’ request is sent and returned. If the request asks for a lot more data than it sent, random extra data (adjacent computer memory contents) will be returned. So a peek into the memory of any web-active computer can be achieved with this bug. The machines don’t really have to be in any collaboration at all; web protocol says, you answer a heartbeat request with a heartbeat response.)
  • Most of us are too young to remember when seasonal greeting cards could be sent more cheaply (postage-wise) if their envelopes were not sealed.

Your government has various ‘law enforcement’ agencies. They all want to spy on you. The balance between freedom and law and order is being tilted, and the larger forces are those wanting to intrude on your privacy.

Do you care? Will you write, phone, or eMail your federal and provincial representative? (or, in the USA, federal and state?)

Those are the dumb questions.

Americans should watch this with some slight unease. A shift in legal ground in Canada could be trumpeted as cause for new legislation in other countries.

Gary Beck: Perceptions

I do book reviews. Kindle book reviews, where I am listed for poetry but in fact get all kinds of work for consideration.

I often post a review elsewhere at the request of the author; GoodReads is a common target.

I just finished posting a review of Gary Beck’s Perceptions (some 99 poems.) You can find this review here.PerceptionsPerceptions by Gary Beck
My rating:4 of 5 stars.

Beck has provided us with ninety-nine poems on the human condition. As always, do not let my star count override your judgement of content. More on the stars, counting, and my rating challenges later. Let’s get to the point: Beck’s work.
Beck usually ambushes his reader in a book’s first poem, and Anthem keeps up this tradition. The idea of patriotism wrapped up in growing, or at least potential, prosperity, meets with a dose of reality. To quote Pogo, we have met the enemy, and it is us.
Beck will make you think, especially about the maelstrom that was Iraq after the American-led adventure. Turn to Iraq Monologues for a series of scary insights into what it is to live in such a ‘liberated’ land.
In Beck’s Excursion, I found a disturbing ‘echo’ of Robert Frost’s The Bonfire (war is for everyone, for children too.) In Beck’s poem, tough times are reflected in a child’s conversation. Then again in Original Sin, our damaging of our own surroundings is captured: “We have tainted the air, /poisoned the water, /depleted our food, /until once again /the few have much, /the many little. /The difference this time…” Turn to this poem and read it for yourself. Like Frost, Beck tells us unpleasant truths.
A recurring theme in this collection is the ambiguity of the United States’ position as ‘world protector.’ This occurs in Misunderstood, where it is impossible for the USA to get it right in the eyes of all.
This collection explores our perceptions. We are complicit in the evil deeds of others inasmuch as we allow ourselves to be: “unaware /of the seething torments /driving some to despair /who renounce…” This is a quote from Brute Force.
Beck does venture into other aspects of culture, as in the longer poem Art History, where we find this: “An enterprising monkey /became a wealthy painter /by splashing paint on canvas /and signing it Jackson Rhesus. /New schools of art came and went/ quickly and to such acclaim /that buyers needed experts /to tell them what they liked.” The poem goes on much more from there than you might expect. A fun read.
Conversely Beck can convey tough situations, as in Invocation, where we find this: “I think of my AK-47 /hidden under the floor boards.” This is just one passing thought in a person’s head. Scary.
The dilemma of fighting domestic terror is captured in Who Will Feed Us. If you want ‘literary’ work, turn to A Moral Tale A La Shelley, which begins: “I met a merchant from an oil-poor land, /who said: “Two vast and rusting derricks stand….” The parallel is both clear and clever.
I must confess my enjoyment of A Turbulent Bird is partly because we Au Canada are watching the development of the F-35. Apparently the V-22 Osprey was a similarly ‘challenging’ defense project. I suggest you read the poem, and then google for the Wikipedia description of the plane and its history.
If you were scrolling for the tiny carps, there may be an echo. If there are any typos, I didn’t catch them. Nothing. Let’s get back to the star count.
My personal guidelines, when doing any review, are as follows: five stars means, roughly equal to best in genre. Rarely given. Four stars means, extremely good. Three stars means, definitely recommendable. I am a tough reviewer. There are a lot of poems here that spoke to me, and your favourites may be different from mine. Still, four stars from this curmudgeon seems right on: highly recommended. Enjoy.

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What’s in a Name?

Old names wake magic…   (unpublished haiku, by Jim Bennett, obscure Canadian poet)

Let’s have a peek-inside at some interesting names. We can be manipulated by those names. Today’s names are:

  • Our Lady of Peace
  • Little Orphan Annie
  • Michael Ford
  • Trump

Our lady of peace. Belonging to us. The one we believe in. Our lady of Peace. Bringing us peace, perhaps made of or composed of, peace.
This happens in your brain whether you realize it or not.

Little Orphan Annie. Cartoon character, along with “Daddy” Warbucks, Punjab, and others. Little orphan, requiring the reader to find her cute and vulnerable. Orphan, demanding sympathy. Ward of “Daddy” Warbucks. Daddy in quotes means he’s not there much. Warbucks I leave you to smile at. Punjab appears (this from memory) to be a large, dark, alien, stealthy servant, perhaps bodyguard, merging toward assassin.
This cartoon would probably not do very well today. Stereotyping and perhaps racist.
But we still like little orphans. Even stray cats evoke sympathy.

Michael Ford. Parents: He was born in 1994 to Ennio Stirpe and Kathy Ford. You can read all about him on Google and Wikipedia. His press claims he is ‘not like’ Doug Ford and Rob Ford. While it is possible you’ve never heard of these politicians, at one time Toronto (Canada) had the most famous mayor in the world.
Micheal Ford was elected by a landslide, despite having eleven opponents.
Changed his name legally to Ford before running for Toronto City Council.
Names are magic.
We’ll see how he does: on his own, now.

Trump. The Donald. (In case this is read a hundred years from now, historical note: in August 2016 Donald Trump has some real chance of becoming the next president of the United States of America. Some are dismayed at this, even some of his own political party.)
Trump, in Wiktionary, means a card which wins a trick irrespective of its rank due to strange rules agreed on before the deal.
Trump, in Wictionary, also means to blow a horn. Apparently trompe, drum, and other words come from the same basic root; they all meant trick or noisemaker.

What’s in a name? Names are magic. If enough people believe, the church building named above becomes a true sanctuary. If enough people read, the cartoon mentioned earlier becomes breakfast conversation. If enough people recognize a name, the councillor with the convenient name change wins well over half of all votes.
if enough people believe, a loud well-named person can become a business tycoon. That tycoon can, despite bankruptcies that broke small companies and abandoned workers who were owed money, claim to self-finance his campaign (until later, when he needed even more money.) That campaigner can shout down opposition at rallies and advance toward what looks (from Canada) to be the most powerful position in the world, just one rank under God.

That leader of the free world could hold the nuclear codes.

Then indeed may we all be trumped.

Can we stop this?

Will we (and the journalists) laugh at the most egregious statements? (Mark Twain would encourage this.)

Will the American People vote with their prejudices? Or will logic and common humanity shape their next, critical choice?

Those are the dumb questions. Let’s hope the answers aren’t dumb.