Sunday, June 27, 2004

No progressive in Harper says Senator Murray

Jun. 27, 2004. 03:33 PM

No 'progressive' in Harper: Senator


OTTAWA — On the eve of a federal vote that's certain to be a cliff-hanger, an elder statesman of the former Progressive Conservative party has aimed a final backhand against Stephen Harper.

The new Conservative party led by Harper has carefully wiped out all its progressive elements to create a "reprehensible" right-wing movement, Senator Lowell Murray said one day before a tight federal vote.

The old Tories were "a moderate, centrist influence on Canadian politics," Murray said in an interview today from a vacation home in his native Cape Breton, N.S.

"But the longer this campaign goes on, the more we are seeing that the new Conservative party is not any of those things," said Murray, a confidant of two former Progressive Conservative prime ministers — Brian Mulroney and Joe Clark.

He said he was driven to speak out after several controversial comments by Conservative MPs recently came to light.

Late last week, struggling Liberals grabbed on to statements by Conservative MP Randy White, who said a Conservative government would redefine the Charter of Rights and use the notwithstanding clause to overrule court rulings it doesn't agree with, such as gay marriage.

Conservative justice critic Vic Toews said his party would ask MPs as early as next month to help choose two new Supreme Court judges — something experts say would politicize the top court.

And early in the campaign, Ottawa-area Conservative MP Scott Reid talked about limiting official bilingualism.

Such remarks show that while Harper has tried to present the new party as moderate, its intellectual roots lie in its predecessor Canadian Alliance and Reform parties, said Murray.

"Harper has been fudging and fudging and fudging ... trying to present a moderate, centrist face," said Murray.

"But people like Scott Reid ... and Vic Toews and now Randy White keep popping up and they're the honest ones, they're very upfront about what the Reform-Alliance policy is and what they're going to do."

Murray, appointed to the Senate in 1979 after spearheading Clark's successful election campaign, now calls himself an independent.

He said he didn't vote Conservative in advance polling for tomorrow's federal election.

And he admitted he contacted the Liberal war room after White's comments fired up his concerns — something Liberal strategists quickly passed on to the media.

Murray's resentment of the new party has been public for some time and is only growing.

"I see the former Progressive Conservatives have had no influence at all — you only have to look at the platform, none of the robust Progressive Conservative policies ... have survived," he said.

"I didn't support the new party and I didn't vote for them ... but I'm not joining another party."

Murray said he acted to light a fire under the Liberals to fight harder against Harper's Conservatives in the campaign's final hours.

"There's something quite, I don't like to use (the word) scary but there's something that's definitely not in the Canadian tradition."

Murray and Clark have been vocal critics of the new party, created last year by what the two have termed a takeover by the former Canadian Alliance party of the Progressive Conservative party.

Clark launched another broadside of his own, endorsing Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan in Edmonton — capital of Alberta, which is almost entirely Conservative and before that, the Alliance and Reform.

Those parties were both very critical of the Supreme Court, complaining that too often the top court — and not Parliament — was making Canadian laws.

Conservative MPs have been fairly quiet during the campaign to avoid controversy — White's remarks were made to a documentary film-maker shortly before the campaign began.

But Toews said in mid-June that he would like to see an all-party committee set up to grill possible candidates to the Supreme Court, but tempered that by saying those should only be drawn from sitting judges with extensive judicial experience.

That has alarmed some in legal circles who fear that, with two vacancies on the Supreme Court and a third expected in the next year, a Conservative government would seek our right-wing appointees.

Traditionally, the prime minister appoints Supreme Court judges after widely consulting the legal community.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Truth loses in Iraq war

Sat, June 26, 2004

Truth loses in Iraq war

By Peter Worthington -- For the Toronto Sun

Increasingly, many Americans (and others) are distressed at media reports from Iraq, that they feel are distorted and create a false impression.

There's some truth to this -- witness CNN jumping uncritically to report that Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld okayed the use of so-called waterboard torture that simulates drowning in order to extract confessions.

This subsequently turned out to be untrue -- although Rumsfeld okayed a number of interrogation techniques, but nothing that violated the Geneva Convention. What he okayed was interrogators yelling at prisoners, offering inducements, the use of multiple interrogators, using lies to get info, deceit, false documents, but nothing injurious or life-threatening.

Prisoners may be denied hot food and "condemned" to eat MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), which, horrors, are what American soldiers eat in the field. Oh, the inhumanity ...

President George W. Bush is on record vowing that the "principles" of the Geneva Convention will apply to all prisoners.

As for the despicable (but not lethal) abuse of Iraq prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison, the U.S. now has footage of Iraqi guards slowly and imaginatively killing prisoners bit by bit to reassure Saddam Hussein and his perverted, homicidal sons.

Frankly, I'd argue that these films be widely shown, if only to put "torture" into perspective -- such as Muslim militants decapitating hostages. How are such people reformed or re-educated into cultural decency?

In truth, they can't be. Putting current events into perspective is never easy and rarely appreciated. But it's sometimes necessary.

Different perspective

I received the following from Simma Holt, former Liberal MP under Pierre Trudeau and a News Hall of Fame journalist from B.C.

Where Simma -- no fan of the Bush family -- got this I've no idea, but it's a perspective that often differs from what we get from media reports:

Last January, there were 39 combat-related killings in Iraq. In the city of Detroit there were 35 murders in the same month. That's just one American city -- about as deadly as the entire war-torn country of Iraq.

When some claim President Bush shouldn't have started this war because Iraq never threatened America, it could be recalled that in 1941 President Franklin Roosevelt went to war with Germany, which never attacked America. Japan did.

From 1941-1945, 450,000 American lives were lost -- an average of 112,500 per year.

President Harry Truman concluded the war against Japan ... and started one in Korea. North Korea never attacked America as al-Qaida did, but from 1950-1953, 55,000 U.S. lives were lost, an average of 18,334 per year.

Vietnam 'quagmire'

John Kennedy started the Vietnam conflict in 1962. Vietnam never attacked. President Lyndon Johnson turned Vietnam into a quagmire. From 1965-1975, 58,000 lives were lost -- an average of 5,800 per year.

When he was president, Bill Clinton went to war in Kosovo, without UN or French consent. Serbia never attacked America. Clinton was offered Osama bin Laden's head on a platter three times by Sudan and did nothing. Osama has attacked the West on multiple occasions.

In the two years since 9/11, Bush has liberated two countries. Crushed the Taliban. Crippled al-Qaida. Put nuclear inspectors in Libya, Iran and North Korea without firing a shot and captured a terrorist who slaughtered 300,000 of his own people.

The Democrats are complaining about how long the war is taking, but it took less time to take Iraq than it took Janet Reno to take the Branch Davidian compound -- a 51-day operation.

We've been looking for evidence of chemical weapons in Iraq for less time that it took Hillary Clinton to find the Rose law firm billing records.

It took less time for the 3rd Infantry Division and the Marines to destroy the Medina Republican Guard than it took Ted Kennedy to call the police after his Oldsmobile sank at Chappaquiddick.

It took less time to take Iraq than it took to count the votes in Florida.

From this perspective, President Bush as commander-in-chief is doing a great job, with military morale high.

Some people just don't see all the facts.

Canadian electoral candidates challenged on IT user rights

Electoral candidates challenged on IT user rights

6/23/2004 5:00:00 PM - Public interest groups like PIAC asked five federal parties what they plan to do about spam, privacy and open source once in office. Four of them responded. Find out how technology issues stack up on the national agenda

by Fawzia Sheikh

Three groups are trying to grab the attention of the political parties on issues that have aroused little interest in the election, like user rights under copyright law and other technology-related matters.

The Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC), Digital Copyright
Canada and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre asked party leaders and candidates for their views on subjects like music file-sharing over the Internet, ways to stop spam, increasing the use of open-source software in government and the use of national ID cards before the June 28 federal election.

"These are particularly controversial issues that we wanted to hear their opinions on," said Philippa Lawson, executive director of CIPPIC in Ottawa. "They're also issues that are before the federal government now and will be. We think, with the possible exception of national ID cards, they will be on the table for the new government."

Although all the parties, except for the Conservatives, responded to the groups' request, Lawson and her peers were still "disappointed" with some of the answers.

On copyright issues such as ISP liability for copyright infringement and technological protection of copyrighted materials, Lawson said the parties referred only to an interim report last month on copyright reform issued by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian heritage —— one that the organizations considered inadequate.

Although the Liberals also mentioned their party itself was looking at the issues, "the NDP and the Bloc, I think, really didn't know," said Lawson. "The issues are complicated and require some understanding of an area that most people don't have a lot of understanding of. I think it was just their way of getting answers out fast."

On the issue of open-source software, the NDP said it has not taken a position, although it's aware the government is considering the issue. It also said it's eager to see which measures industry and software developers are able to develop to fight spam.

In contrast, the Liberal government said it has already taken steps to fight spam, last month creating an anti-spam task force to work with industry, marketers and consumers to cut unwanted e-mail. In the coming months, the government will review progress of its plan and present its findings.

The Liberals were reluctant to endorse national ID cards, and cited personal privacy, governance and projected costs as concerns. Although it had not crafted further policies on ID cards, it's researching their use in other countries.

Lawson said the Green Party in general is an issues-oriented group unconcerned about winning power and satisfying stakeholder groups. She said it's addressed technology-related topics like open-source software and spam in its platform.

Yet, for the most part, Lawson pointed out, most parties are more concerned about issues like health care and defence that resonate deeply with Canadians than technology problems that have only indirect implications.

"The problem is that when you have unbalanced copyright law, then the repercussions there are not obvious. But you end up having reduced educational opportunities or less access to information. You don't know what you're missing."

Potential changes in copyright law have certainly been a sore point for CIPPIC and PIAC, which this week responded to the government's recommendations last month on the subject.

Sue Lott, counsel for PIAC in Ottawa, said the biggest concern is the government's strong push to ratify two treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization, the Copyright Treaty and Performances and Phonograms Treaty, that will pressure Canada to adopt measures "prohibiting circumvention of technological protection measures used by copyright holders."

Lott said she fears further legal protection of technical measures, as the standing committee urges, will override legal uses of copyrighted material such as study, research, educational and private uses.

"You can end up wiping out any ability to even access material...because it doesn't delineate whether you're accessing it for legal or illegal uses."

Lott was concerned very few public-interest organizations, in particular those in the educational community, have followed this issue. Fearful about what they might lose, educators have taken "a much more careful and weaker voice, frankly, than I wish they had."

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Latest poll has Liberals back in the lead.

Latest poll has Liberals back in the lead News Staff

As the federal election race rounds the bend into the final home-stretch, a new poll suggests the election tide may be turning back in favour of the Liberals.

An Ipsos-Reid survey of 1,000 people conducted for CTV and The Globe and Mail finds the Liberals have surged ahead of the Conservatives in popular support, grabbing 34 per cent of decided voters. The Conservatives have slipped four points to 28 per cent.

The NDP is steady at 16 per cent support, and the Green Party has six per cent.

The biggest change is in Ontario where the Liberals are up eight points to 42 per cent, versus 30 per cent for the Conservatives, who are down eight points. The NDP is at 20 per cent and the Green Party at six per cent.

In Quebec, the Liberals still trail the Bloc by 30 percentage points, 23 per cent to 53 per cent. The Bloc, nationally, is pegged at 13 per cent of decided vote support.

Among all eligible voters, 63 per cent are "absolutely certain" they will vote in the election, while 23 per cent are likely to vote. Twelve per cent said they are not likely to vote.

The Ipsos-Reid/CTV/Globe and Mail poll was conducted from June 18th to 20th, 2004. A representative randomly selected sample of 1,000 adult Canadians was interviewed by telephone. With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate to within ±3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been had the entire adult Canadian population been polled.

Seat projections

As for who will govern the country, the race is still too close to call.

According to Ipsos-Reid's seat projection model, if a vote were held tomorrow, the Conservatives would have a potential of 110-114 seats, the Liberals would have a potential of 107-111 seats, the NDP a potential of 19-23 seats, and the Bloc Quebecois a potential of 64-68 seats.

The Ipsos-Reid results are vastly different from the numbers SES Canada Research found from nightly polling conducted over the same period for the CPAC network.

That polling has the Liberals and the Conservatives in a dead heat, at 33 per cent support each. The NDP has 18 per cent support, the Bloc 12 per cent, while the Green Party has five per cent.

The random telephone survey of 600 Canadians has a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

According to the analysis of Wilfred Laurier political science professor Barry Kay, the Conservatives would win 126 seats compared to 95 seats for the Liberals, 27 for the NDP and 60 for the Bloc. Kay reached his conclusions after studying all the major polls taken since June 1.

Ontario could swing vote

Looking at the numbers, Ipsos-Reid's Darrell Bricker says that although the Liberals have taken the lead in terms of decided vote, the seat projection leaves questions.

"As far as the seat model shows, the parties are pretty much tied. And it's going to go like this -- neck and neck -- until the end of the race," he told "The way the regions work and the seat breakdowns work, it's still very much tied."

With the numbers showing the leading parties running such a close race, Bricker doesn't see much chance for a huge swing in the campaign's final days. But he doesn't rule it out entirely.

"There might be a surge on one side or the other, but that will be a matter of timing and turnout. Because this election is going to be won at the margins -- in particular in the province of Ontario where both leading parties have opportunities all along the 401 corridor."

The Globe and Mail's Jane Taber points out that the sentiment in Ontario is a big factor for the election.

"We've seen how volatile Ontario is, and Ontario is the important province. There are 106 seats in Ontario up for grabs. And it has been going back and forth it seems during the five-week election campaign," she told Canada AM.

"But things do turn around on a dime. We saw it happen over the weekend. If Harper has a few good days, maybe he can catch up.

"I can't call this one. It's too close."

Monday, June 21, 2004

Site of the week!

For all you geeks out there who want to find out where emails come from and check those pesky little IP numbers here's the site for you. Nice clean interface, and quick lookup, makes this my site of the week.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Gmail mail hits the geek spot!

Jun. 18, 2004. 06:19 AM

Fledgling Gmail hits the geek spot

Enthusiasts barter to get in now
Pilot offers flight over CN Tower


Some people will do anything to be among the first on their block with a Gmail account.

The new Internet e-mail service from Google Inc. is so popular people are paying to get in on the limited test version now of what will be a free, unlimited service later this year.

Since Google, an Internet search engine specialist, announced April 1 it was expanding into the e-mail business, some people have paid as much as $70 U.S. through the Internet auction site eBay to buy Gmail accounts from people who got them for free from the company.

Others are offering to swap an intriguing mix of products and services in exchange for a Gmail account, from personally re-enacting an episode from Star Trek to a first edition copy of the sci-fi novel Dune.

Toronto's Stephen Thomson, a student pilot and accomplished pianist, made one of the most valuable pitches: A free flight over the CN Tower (or landmark of your choice) plus a musical performance at your wedding (or any other occasion), a combination worth $300, in his estimation.

Within five hours of posting his bid on, a free swap site not affiliated with Google, Thomson had received a Gmail invite from "an incredibly trusting person" named Lisa. It was unclear when or if Lisa planned to collect from him, Thomson said in a telephone interview yesterday.

But why the frantic rush to join a potentially "buggy" test version of a service that will be easier to access — and presumably smoother to use — after the public version launches later this year?

Thomson said he was motivated by the desire to beat out his buddy, a committed computer user who'd let him in on the cool factor attached to owning an early Gmail account.

Plus, he wanted an e-mail address free of the underscores, backslashes and numbers later adopters get stuck with because the good names have all been taken by then.

Sean Michaels, a 22-year-old university student who created, says there are two other factors at work. Google has a cult-like following in the tech community, where it's seen as the anti-monopolist, and a lot of devotees want to support its efforts to dethrone Microsoft Corp.'s Hotmail as the leading e-mail service.

"People think Gmail is going to be the e-mail standard of the future, that it's going to become what Hotmail is now, and they want to have a good address, one that shows they got in early," Michaels said.

Plus, Gmail comes with a staggering 1 gigabyte of storage space, more than 100 times what other free e-mail services offer. So much the average user would never have to delete another e-mail in a lifetime.

Michaels created, where people can trade anything they want for a Gmail account, after noticing that limited access to the test version of the service was creating a black market for the accounts.

As is common in computer industry circles, Google was ironing out the remaining bugs in its new service by inviting a select group of users to test it out.

Michaels wasn't among them but says he received a Gmail invitation from a reader.

Since mid-May, when he created the site, more than 20,000 people have posted requests for Gmail accounts, he says. He doesn't know how many have actually succeeded in getting one.

But he is seeing signs that Google, already the Web's leading search engine company, knows another good thing when it sees one. The company has lately been issuing many more Gmail invitations through existing account holders.

Michaels has seen the impact on the value of Gmail accounts available for sale on eBay, he said. They've dropped to about $10 this week from $70 three weeks ago.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Dvd Forum approves HD-DVD-ROM specs

DVD Forum approves HD-DVD-ROM spec

By Wolfgang Gruener, Senior Editor

June 11, 2004 - 12:36 EST

Chicago (IL) - A steering committee of the DVD Forum has approved the final specification of one potential successor of today's DVD. The HD-DVD-ROM will carry one or two data layers with a total capacity of up to 30 GByte. First drives are expected within the next twelve months.

The approval of the Specification 1.0 of the HD-DVD-ROM format marks a significant step forward for NEC and Toshiba, the two main backers of the technology, to bring their technology to the market. As the competing Blue-ray format, which is pushed by Sony and a industry group including Dell and Hewlett-Packard, HD-DVD is based blue lasers. As opposed to red lasers, the technology usea a shorter wavelength and can increase the density of data stored on media.

According to the Forum, the 12-centimeter HD-DVDs discs will be available with single and dual data layers offering 15 or 30 GByte capacity. Compared to Blue-ray, NEC and Toshiba, believe that HD-DVDs can be manufactured cheaper since the discs use the same layer height as common DVDs. The firms believe that read-only HD-DVDs as well as HD-DVD drives will be available as early as the beginning of 2005.

The DVD Forum also voted on the provisional approval of the codecs MPEG2, WM9 (VC-9) and MPEG4 AVC(H.264) set at the committee's last February. The meeting resolution is unclear, if the provisional status in fact was removed, but denied the motion to retain the provisional status "until the level of information concerning the licensing terms for VC-9 is the same as the level of information concerning the licensing terms for AVC/H.264."

According to Microsoft, the provisional status was removed and WM9 received mandatory status for HD-DVD.