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Victoria Times Colonist to Remove Online Commenting

This week, our local news­pa­per announced it was remov­ing the com­ment sec­tion in future posts. This comes in the wake of a fair­ly well-estab­lished trend of promi­nent media out­lets, includ­ing Pop­u­lar Sci­ence, decid­ing to do the same in order to bring the empha­sis back to the con­tent, and curb wide­spread abuse of writ­ers and their audi­ences by unpleas­ant dri­ve-by com­menters.

And tru­ly, noth­ing of val­ue was lost.

First, what many major out­lets have real­ized by now, many of them through rather hard lessons, is that jour­nal­ism isn’t just a busi­ness, it’s a del­i­cate bal­ance, a deep search for the truth. By its very nature, this demands well-devel­oped com­mu­ni­ca­tions skills and keen social com­pe­tence on the part of its researchers and pre­sen­ters, and a care­ful­ly craft­ed envi­ron­ment in which to con­vey the infor­ma­tion to the audi­ence.

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With Liberty and Firearms for All

One of the issues that’s come up repeat­ed­ly in con­tem­po­rary US pol­i­tics is the idea that the 2nd Amend­ment con­veys an individual’s right to obtain, pos­sess, and open­ly car­ry firearms.

The realm of law and order is not unlike the fash­ion world in that over time, new trends emerge and fresh items of inter­est arise, while estab­lished trends can be played down or may fall out of favour entire­ly. Inter­pre­ta­tion mat­ters most, and that inter­pre­ta­tion is gen­er­al­ly sub­ject to the lin­guis­tic evo­lu­tion and soci­etal atti­tudes of the peri­od. In the case of the 2nd Amend­ment, the leg­is­la­tion has been furi­ous­ly debat­ed in a mod­ern set­ting as to the mer­its of its gram­mat­i­cal struc­ture and mean­ing, oth­er his­tor­i­cal prece­dents, and dif­fer­ences between the orig­i­nal and rat­i­fied ver­sions.

The recent push for wide­spread ‘free­dom’ enshrined in law as per­mit­ting indi­vid­ual gun own­er­ship wasn’t always so. Up to the turn of the 21st cen­tu­ry, it was wide­ly accept­ed by many (even con­ser­v­a­tive Chief Jus­tice War­ren Berg­er) that an indi­vid­ual right to bear arms wasn’t a thing. Many con­ser­v­a­tives at the time car­ried the same torch and stood in oppo­si­tion to what they believed was a sil­ly, if not fair­ly haz­ardous, idea.

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Anti-Intellectualism and Politics

Dur­ing 2015, Cana­da took a con­scious, intro­spec­tive turn toward a more pro­gres­sive jour­ney as vot­ers elect­ed Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau. Since then, we’ve been mak­ing inroads on a sig­nif­i­cant depar­ture from the atti­tudes of the pri­or admin­is­tra­tion and stay­ing most­ly true to this. While there remains a lot of heavy lift­ing to do in cor­rect­ing the anti-progress lega­cy of Stephen Harp­er, we’re on the road to recov­ery. There remains a cer­tain faith in gov­ern­ment, such that we’ve sig­nif­i­cant­ly boost­ed vot­er turnout. That in itself speaks vol­umes.

The change of admin­is­tra­tion brought with it some very pub­lic moments, like the new equal­i­ty cab­i­net, the rise of an abo­rig­i­nal chief as Jus­tice Min­is­ter, and the appoint­ment of an inter­na­tion­al­ly respect­ed war hero as Defense Min­is­ter.

While these changes are in all respects wel­come, and in most cas­es long past due, it’s the sub­tle stuff we don’t see going on behind the scenes day-to-day which con­tributes just as much if not more to the shap­ing of our char­ac­ter as a cul­ture of many dif­fer­ent cul­tures. The way our politi­cians behave toward one anoth­er, their inter­ac­tion with the peo­ple, their will­ing­ness to cham­pi­on progress and edu­ca­tion, their atti­tudes toward strangers, and their com­pas­sion towards the ‘oth­er’ — all of these are the mea­sure of a politi­cian whether that indi­vid­ual is with­in view of the press or not. One thing I found reas­sur­ing about this past elec­tion was the con­scious rejec­tion of divi­sive pol­i­tics by the Cana­di­an peo­ple. What we have right now is not per­fect by any mea­sure, but it’s a lot bet­ter than the alter­na­tive might have been.

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SCC to Parliament: Struck Down, Try Again! … and Other Adventures in Law Making

This post fol­lows a response to the Ottawa Cit­i­zen arti­cle from ear­li­er today:

[ Pun­ish the Clients, Not the Pros­ti­tutes ]

… which, in turn, fol­lows this his­toric Supreme Court rul­ing from last year:

[ http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/13389/index.do ]

So here’s the TL;DR for any­one who’s not been fol­low­ing the issue: the Bed­ford case end­ed with a rul­ing by the Court that Canada’s cur­rent laws address­ing 3 key aspects of pros­ti­tu­tion are uncon­sti­tu­tion­al, and that they, in and of them­selves, have the effect of cre­at­ing gross­ly dis­pro­por­tion­ate safe­ty risks and oth­er prob­lems for the pros­ti­tutes them­selves. The SCC struck down the laws and gave Par­lia­ment 12 months to rewrite this leg­is­la­tion.

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Finally, Some Clarity in the Rob Ford Scandal

For those of us in Cana­da and abroad who have kept an eye to the news, there have been some very shock­ing rev­e­la­tions in the ongo­ing Rob Ford scan­dal, above all else that the may­or of Toron­to has admit­ted he smoked crack cocaine and pur­chased ille­gal sub­stances.

This, in and of itself, should right­ful­ly mer­it charges under the Con­trolled Drugs and Sub­stances Act if we are to apply the law even­ly to a hold­er of office as we would to any­one else on the street. Cocaine is a Sched­ule 1 con­trolled sub­stance car­ry­ing a manda­to­ry min­i­mum sen­tence. Due to the recent tough­en­ing of Cana­di­an drug laws and drug pol­i­cy, law enforce­ment does not look kind­ly on either sim­ple pos­ses­sion or trans­ac­tions for the pur­pos­es of obtain­ing an ille­gal sub­stance.

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Adobe Has Been Hacked!

It’s much worse than any­one could have imag­ined.

Ini­tial­ly esti­mat­ed at a data breach of 3 mil­lion com­pro­mised cus­tomer accounts, includ­ing cred­it card data and order records, the total has since risen over the past month to 38 mil­lion cus­tomer accounts, and more recent­ly, an updat­ed esti­mate has pegged the num­ber of com­pro­mised accounts at 150 mil­lion. The hack­ers were also able to make off with some of Adobe’s clos­est-guard­ed secrets, includ­ing the source code for Pho­to­shop and sev­er­al oth­er major projects.

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Anti-Vaccine Crusader Andrew Wakefield Marked by Science Community as Discredited, Fraudulent

So … I was read­ing FARK today when I came across this: the man cit­ed as the ini­tia­tor for much of the cur­rent cli­mate of anti-vac­ci­na­tion fear has been called out as fraud­u­lent and dis­cred­it­ed by the British Med­ical Jour­nal (see also: cov­er­age via Seth Mnookin and NYT Mag­a­zine). Wake­field was the per­son who tried to claim that MMR vac­cines cause autism — an unproven alle­ga­tion that has unfor­tu­nate­ly car­ried a dis­pro­por­tion­ate amount of weight in the minds of some par­ents.

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Infosec: When in Doubt, Leave it Out

Allow me to intro­duce one of my biggest peren­ni­al pet peeves: the act of shar­ing way too much infor­ma­tion.

Call it pro­fes­sion­al­ism, para­noia, or com­mon sense, when it comes to the abil­i­ty to share infor­ma­tion about each oth­er and our­selves online, the old adage applies: “With great pow­er comes great respon­si­bil­i­ty.”

At the low end of the spec­trum, giv­ing the world too much of your­self may be mild­ly enter­tain­ing (or in oth­er cas­es annoy­ing) to the oth­er users who stum­ble across your Face­book page and can sud­den­ly fig­ure out how many times in a day you go to the wash­room or re-blog embar­rass­ing pho­tos. On the oth­er side of things, if you’re not care­ful it’s fright­en­ing­ly easy to end up shar­ing infor­ma­tion that could cause direct and seri­ous harm to rep­u­ta­tion, finances, and fam­i­ly mem­bers. A com­mon phe­nom­e­non to all parts of this is the per­sis­tence of data, where hurt­ful com­ments and regret­table dis­clo­sures can come embar­rass­ing­ly home to roost at a much lat­er time, some­times years or decades down the road thanks to today’s per­fect storm of auto­mat­ed archiv­ing ser­vices and unpre­dictable human inter­faces.

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Reflections on Finance and the Incentive to Budget, Part 1

Appar­ent­ly my excur­sion from the oth­er day left me laid up a while after­wards, so I’ve been using the time to rest, catch up on cur­rent events, and read up about one of my oth­er peren­ni­al loves: finance.

I can’t men­tion it enough: a great many peo­ple I’ve encoun­tered over the course of my life have great dif­fi­cul­ty doing some­thing as sim­ple as bal­anc­ing a cheque­book. They take on too many bad debts at unre­al­is­tic inter­est rates, they take on finan­cial instru­ments that built with only the short term in mind, they lose track of where the mon­ey goes each pay­day, or they neglect the pur­pose of cre­at­ing and pro­tect­ing a sav­ings. All of these are patho­log­i­cal and may not at first seem to have that much of an impact, but they cause seri­ous dam­age and a great deal of strife in the end.

Worse still are those who cre­ate an arti­fi­cial cri­sis: they cat­a­stro­phize the state of their being to exclude them­selves from scruti­ny, or choose to stay anchored to cir­cum­stances they could extract them­selves from — for exam­ple, mak­ing proac­tive ren­o­va­tions or repairs to a home that’s bleed­ing out mon­ey through exces­sive ener­gy bills each month, instead of putting up with the sta­tus quo.

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