Sunday, October 26, 2014

Will Canada have a snap election over new anti-terrorist laws and ISIS?

Big Brother is watching ...
There is a clear fault line between the two opposition parties, and PM Stephen Harper’s policies with regard to how to combat ISIS. 

The Conservatives favour actual fighting (planes dropping bombs etc.), while the opposition parties are against this. 

The NDP is further from the government’s position, while the Liberal Party would have Canadian armed forces join the anti-ISIS coalition led by the US and help its efforts (including transporting goods for the coalition), but short of Canadian planes dropping bombs on ISIS targets.

Now another fault line has appeared: the Conservatives want to tighten legislation to combat the use of the Internet by terrorists, while the two opposition parties want to slow things down, and check what is not working before passing new laws.

The police and security arms have voiced concern about their ability to actively monitor dozens of identified potential terrorist threats, without increases in their numbers and funding.

Tom Blackwell has an article that refers to the views of some experts that our laws need tightening:
Does that mean Canada’s counter-terrorism policy contains fatal flaws? Or did the two lone-wolf attackers slip through a net that can be made only so tight — without unacceptable curbs on freedom?

Experts and advocates said Thursday there may be cause to draw that net a little tauter, even if it does mean some further limits on civil liberties...

“Apparently we can do a good job of detecting them, apparently we can do a good job of doing surveillance on them, we can do a good job of removing their passports,” he said.

“But somehow we can’t put them in jail and keep the public safe. That’s the hard question.”

In fact, a Canadian law passed last year allows police to temporarily detain suspected, would-be terrorists under what are known as preventive arrests. Police seem reluctant to use the power, however, likely because they fear judges would require ironclad proof the individuals would otherwise commit terrorist acts, said Prof. Leuprecht.

John Ivison writes that the Conservatives, which have the majority in the House and can pass any laws they wish to, have been considering changes to our laws:

The Conservatives are understood to be considering new legislation that would make it an offence to condone terrorist acts online.
 There is frustration in government, and among law enforcement agencies, that the authorities can’t detain or arrest people who express sympathy for atrocities committed overseas and who may pose a threat to public safety, one Conservative MP said. “Do we need new offences? If so which?”

Sources suggest the government is likely to bring in new hate speech legislation that would make it illegal to claim terrorist acts are justified online.

The Prime Minister told the House of Commons on Thursday that Canada’s law and policing powers need to be strengthened in the areas of surveillance, detention and arrest. He said work is already under way to provide law enforcement agencies with “additional tools” and that work will now be expedited...

The Criminal Code already prohibits “hate propaganda” and it is not clear how any new legislation would dovetail with existing provisions.

The new legislation is likely to prove controversial with the opposition parties and shatter the harmony that emerged in the House Thursday, after the terror attack on Parliament Hill.

David Cameron, PM of the UK, recently announced new laws designed to come to grips with terrorist-tourism:

Among measures announced:
  • Legislation will be drawn up to give the police statutory powers to confiscate the passports of suspect terrorists at UK borders
  • The UK will challenge any attempt by the courts to water down these powers
  • Plans to block suspected British terrorists from returning to the UK will be drawn up on a "cross-party basis"
  • Terrorism prevention and investigation measures (Tpims) will be extended, to include the power to relocate suspects
  • Terrorists will be required to undergo de-radicalisation programmes
  • Airlines will be forced to hand over more information about passengers travelling to and from conflict zones
The home secretary already has executive powers to seize the passports of those travelling abroad in certain cases but Mr Cameron said the police needed greater discretion to act where needed.

How far will the Canadian government go in its new laws? 

We clearly have a problem with the use of the Internet to spread terrorist propaganda, which raises the question of what legitimate limits we can put on the use of the Internet in the public interest. 

We also have a problem with potential terrorists whose behaviour gives our security forces cause for concern.

Will Harper extend the list of new laws to include some of the proposed UK new laws (such as forcing terrorists to undergo de-radicalization programmes, and giving police the power to relocate suspects)?

Given the clear fault lines between the government and the other parties, will Harper decide to table a comprehensive set of new laws and other provisions, and then, if these are opposed by the other parties, decide to go to the people to gain their blessing for the new measures, and also for the government’s decision on our forces going to war on ISIS? 

Coupled with the reduction of the deficit and the cutting of government costs, he could run a two-pronged campaign (best choice to manage the economy, and best choice to keep Canadians safe from terrorism), during a very short election (say, 4 weeks, with election day in late November).

We will see soon if he decides to do this.



Saturday, October 11, 2014

Shameless self-promotion: Review of my Purrfect Way Book

Thought I would give my how-to book another shameless plug – the delightful review on Amazon of my book, Your Purrfect Way to Publish & Promote Your Amazon & Kindle Books said it all, I think.

Join the revolution!

You know that you are a Rebel.

The chances of a north American writer finding a publisher for his or her book are slim. But that does not mean that your book must forever remain unpublished.

You have an option.

You can decide to rebel against the traditional publishing way, and  become a revolutionary. You can ride the wave of the future.

You can join the ranks of the thousands of Independent publishers – also called Indie publishers or just plain Indies. That's a title to wear with pride. As such, you will become part of a major historical movement, as dramatic as the first invention of the printing press in 1458 by Johannes Gutenberg.

You can join the Gutenberg+ Revolution by publishing your own book, using Amazon's print on demand (POD) for your soft cover version, and Kindle for your eBook one.

Just as Gutenberg's invention of the printing press in the 1450's started a massive revolution in the production of books, so too the services offered to all of us by Amazon and Kindle are triggering a similar revolution.

Your Purrfect Way has been given 5 stars by the reviewer, also an author, and a great boost. Here's Sarah Sheard's review:

"Customer Review
A powerful go-to manual for aspiring self--publishers, May 21, 2013
By 

Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)

This review is from: Your Purrfect Way to Publish & Promote Your Amazon & Kindle Books (Paperback)

I thought it absolutely fantastic in its usability and breadth. I'm a novelist who recently began ebook self-publishing. I've figured out some of the basics but this book maps a gazillion new pathways onward and upward.

I've found nothing to compare to this manual in clarity, range of topics and dip-in-ability. Ashton's been generous in offering this amount of research so affordably to ebook self-publishers at all levels. Written in a readable, friendly style too.

Sarah Sheard
author of: Krank: Love in the New Dark Times."
There you have it. Now, if you know ANYONE who is or might be writing a book, or who, in your mind, should be thinking of writing a book, tell them about this one – better still, gift it to them (Amazon softcover 400 plus pages only $14.99, and Kindle eBook only 99 cents).

And really, really think about writing a book and publishing it, yourself. 

What have you got to lose? Gift it to your relatives, your friends, and your carefully selected enemies.

If you are in business (employed or your own), how about writing a book about a field you know about? Looks good on your resume, eh?

Go for it!

And once you have published your own book, you will need to promote it.

That's tough.

But not impossible.

You will need to build your Author Platform, along the lines of this diagram:



And you will need to prepare your own Promotion Plan, like the one described in this post.

Don't forget to check out my manual for self-publishers – Your Purrfect Way to Publish & Promote Your Amazon & Kindle Books, which you can  read about at my Amazon author site: https://www.amazon.com/author/glennashton

And the best of luck to you!

And please consider subscribing to my author Newsletter using the subscription form in the right hand panel of this site.

When you subscribe, you will get a FREE 16-page summary of Blake Snyder's Save the Cat! beat sheet.
Welcome to the Rebellion!


Thursday, October 09, 2014

From My Quotes Cupboard: The Feudal Power of Britain’s Justices of the Peace

Justice of the Peace, with folded hands
Rural England, which was then three-fourths of England, was governed by the absolute patriarchal sway of the Justices of the Peace. Of county self-government there was none, till the establishment of County Councils in 1888...

The Justices of the Peace absorbed more and more judicial and administrative functions, thrust upon them by a Parliament composed of country gentlemen like themselves – justices gone up to the national Quarter Sessions at Westminster. Indeed, the magistrates in the eighteenth century were hardly in any way controlled or inspected by the central authorities.

Though nominees of the Crown, they in fact co-opted each other, for the Government accepted the recommendations of the Lord-Lieutenant, a local magnate primarily anxious to stand well with the squires of the county...

[The] Tudor and Stuart monarchs had, for a period of two hundred years, tried to make these unpaid local magistrates subserve the purposes of a bureaucracy devoted to the partisan projects of the Crown. But this long experiment had broken down in the final crash of 1688.

Thenceforward the Justices of the Peace may be said rather to have controlled the Central Government through the Houses of Parliament than to have been themselves under any supervision. Nominally State officials, they really represented feudal power tempered by civilization and public spirit...

[The Justices of the Peace] were in fact responsible to no-one ... And their powers and functions covered all sides of county life. They administered justice in Quarter or Petty Sessions, or in the private house of a single magistrate. They kept up the prisons and bridges. They licensed the public houses. They administered the Poor Law. They levied a county rate.

These and a hundred other aspects of country business lay in their absolute control. But they had not, for the multifarious purposes of justice and administration, any proper staff in their pay. Prisons and workhouses, like everything else, were farmed out to contractors, with results disasterous to efficiency and humanity.


British History in the Nineteenth Century (1782 – 1901) by George Macaulay Trevelyan 1928

For more Quotes, please CLICK HERE and for even more, CLICK HERE.


Monday, October 06, 2014

Kudos to Premier Wynne for remedying our democratic deficits

Political Reformer Premier Wynne
While many premiers, MPs, politicians and commentators wring their hands about the low voting counts in elections, and the feeling of impotence of many citizens, Premier Wynne of Ontario has decided to stop whining and do something about it.

With one bold step, Wynne will provide Ontario municipalities with the chance to try a radically different method of electing municipal councillors than the undemocratic first past the post sytem:

Premier Kathleen Wynne has ordered her municipal affairs minister to give Ontario cities the alternative of employing ranked ballots in the 2018 civic elections.

In her mandate letter to Ted McMeekin, Wynne spells out the importance of leading from the activist centre” with democratic reforms.

“We will spot emphasis on partnerships with organizations, communities and individuals to support foster continued economic growth and make a positive impact on the lives of every Ontarian,” the premier wrote.

“This collaborative approach will shape all the work we do. It will ensure we engage men and women on the troubles that matter the most to them, and that we implement meaningful options to our shared challenges.”

The advantages of a ranked election system are spelled out in the RaBIT website, and also discussed in two Wikipedia articles – on its use in the USA, and a general one.

Wynne’s instructions are wider than simply using the ranked system:

Substantially, Wynne has instructed McMeekin to start an evaluation of the Municipal Elections Act following the 2014 municipal elections” next month.

“You will assure that the act meets the needs of communities, and that it offers municipalities with the solution of making use of ranked ballots in future elections, beginning in 2018, as an option to initially-previous-the-post,” she wrote.


More to come?

By crafting the mandate of her Municipal Affairs Minister to ensure that the Municipal Elections Act must “meet the needs of communities”, Premier Wynne has given the Minister a pretty wide mandate.

Transparency and Open Data:

For example, the Minister should check out the suggestions of the Manning Foundation for Democratic Education on the need for open data to allow for more transparency in municipal government. This is one way to ensure that communities have ready access to information about their municipalities, so as to find out avenues to meet their various needs, and to inform themselves of the steps being taken by their councils.

Citizen Referendums &  Initiatives:

The Minister should investigate changes to the Act to provide for democratic input in civic decisions through some form of citizen referenda, or citizens’ initiatives. See also the Wikipedia summary of particpatory democracy.

Barriers to Running for Office:

Another topic the Minister should investigate is whether the Act needs amendment to allow municipalities to experiment with different measures aimed at reducing barriers to citizens running for election to the municipal council, and what support should be given to enourage wider participation by under-represented groups (such as women and minorities).

Citizen Input into Municipal Governance:

The Minister should review the use of Creative Insight Councils and Wisdom Councils as a means allowed to municipalities under a revised Act to encourage greater participation by citizens in the identification of needs to be met by the council, and methods to meet those needs.

He should also consider amending the Act to allow the use of collaborative e-democracy methods, along the lines spelled out in this article.

The Act should also allow for municipalities to experiment with different forms of empowerment through public participation in municipal governance. These could include the setting aside of a portion of the municipal budget for allocation by citizens to chosen activities or needs (participatory budgeting), including forms of neighbourhood planning.

Funding could be provided under a revised Act for the establishment of municipal Think Tanks with membership from citizens and experts, focused on local issues. One example could be a regional ThinkYoung organization, aimed at increasing the involvement of young people in municipal affairs and governance.

This initiative by Premier Wynne could be one of the most significant steps taken by any level of government in  Canada to improve the state of our democracy.

Successful outcomes in various municipalities undere this program would encourage other provinces to try similar experiments, and other levels of government to modernize their governance practices.


Saturday, October 04, 2014

Iraq, Syria & the Islamic State: Obama’s new & revised Queensbury Rules

For many years, a code has governed the manly art of boxing: the Queensbury Rules, endorsed by John Douglas, the Marquess of Queensbury. These rules set out what you can and cannot do to your opponent in the boxing ring, and are equated with a sense of fair play and sportsmanship.

The essence the Queensbury Rules is that you do not enter the ring to fight to win; you must win by the rules. The rules are very specific (no wrestling; if a man falls down, you wait for him to get up; no seconds in the ring to help one fighter; no spikes on your boots, and suchlike.

Today, we are faced with a superpower that under its latest president has issued a new set of Queensbury Rules, governing how states and others may box in the arena of international behaviour.

Obama’s revised Queensbury Rules are a far cry from the old Queensbury Rules, and anyone trying to understand what President Obama is trying to achieve with his undeclared war on the Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria should take a little time to understand what he has changed in the Rules.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Israel & Gaza: Tectonic shift in past 24 hours

Israel's embattled prime minister
The Egypt-brokered truce agreement just struck has resulted in two shifts in the underlying political forces in that area.

The first shift is a de facto recognition by Israel of the pan-Palestinian government that Abbas had set in place, as Zvi Bar’el writes in Haaretz:


But this is just a preliminary agreement. The important agreement will come in another month, when both sides return to Cairo to negotiate over core issues like a port and airport, prisoner releases and Gaza’s reconstruction. Over the coming month, the cease-fire’s stability will be tested, and that is the innovation in yesterday’s agreement: The truce is of unlimited duration. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Why is Justin Trudeau dancing to victory?

Heather Mallick in the Toronto Star has a few good reasons why our next Prime Minister will be named Justin Trudeau:


But what makes some politicians attractive and others repellent?

Trudeau is intelligent, humane and self-confident, a Québécois who is devoted to Canadian unity and has the most marvellous family: a sophisticated career-minded wife, Sophie Grégoire, and three adorable young children with the interesting names that only confident parents bestow: Xavier James, Ella-Grace and Hadrien. He has an English degree from McGill, a UBC teaching degree and taught for several years. He has his father’s intellect and wit, while being more down to earth, and his mother’s good looks and warmth. And the guy, a Montrealer, can wear a suit.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

New program can analyse your personality (and a politician’s)

Yair Neuman: Personality Analyzer
Prof. Yair Neuman, a researcher at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has developed such a program, and has used it to analyse the views of President Obama and Hillary Clinton towards Israel:

Neuman’s method, which he describes as augmented intelligence, works with any text of a person’s words – from a speech, interview, essay, or online post. The text is processed by computer software he developed. An expert must interpret the results.

Among other things, Neuman has used the program to profile political leaders and school shooters, to predict behavior on Twitter, and to evaluate online customer reviews.


How does it work? You feed a speech you made into the program, press a button, and voila! results arrive which an expert can interpret:


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Israel & Gaza: Is Kerry a Nebish?

John Nebbish Kerry?
This question has been raised, given Kerry’s missteps in recent weeks:
Nonetheless, one can’t deny Kerry’s almost inexplicable series of mishaps, faux pas and unfortunate events: on Friday it was the press conference in Cairo with the UN Secretary General and the Egyptian foreign minister that was not only upstaged by the Israeli rejection but also marred by technical mishaps that either blotted out Kerry’s face or distorted his voice; before that it was the Egyptian security authorities who insisted on humiliating Kerry by carrying out a physical security check before his meeting with President Sisi; before that it as Kerry’s unfortunate “So how is your day” query to the grieving American mother of fallen IDF solider Max Steinberg; and before that it was Kerry’s hot mike comments about Palestinian casualties on Fox News. Never mind this week’s widely-mentioned New Republic investigative report in which Kerry was assigned most of the blame for the collapse of his own peace efforts.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

USA: Elizabeth Warren takes the fight to Wall Street

The Real USA
The highly intelligent, courageous and scrappy new senator is not stopping in her fight for the middle class. She is pounding the streets, raising money for long-shot Democrat candidates, and focusing on the rigged stock market that favours the wealthy and has a lock on many elected senators and House representatives:


Yet Warren’s 2014 road show is important in its own right. By stumping for long-shot Democrats in red states, raising and spreading around campaign cash, devising innovative legislation for candidates to borrow and, most importantly, sharpening the left’s rhetorical attack on Wall Street, Warren could have a major impact on the future of the Democratic Party, regardless of what she does in 2016.

Her traveling road show powerfully demonstrates why. Warren blows past any Beltway skittishness over “class warfare.” In her recent appearances alongside Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes and West Virginia’s Natalie Tennant, she portrayed the options before voters as “a choice between billionaires and students” or between someone who will “stand up for Wall Street” or “stand up for the families.” 

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