Category Archives: Writing > Current Events

Writing > Current Events

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:

[ ]

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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