Thursday, January 26, 2006

Blackberry/NTP Patent Lawsuit: Technology Scaremongering

I don't often blog about work, but today is one exception. As the IT director at my company, I am responsible for technology selection for over a thousand computer users, and over the past two years, under my direction, the company has invested heavily into Blackberry technology (handhelds, Blackberry Enterprise Server, etc.), which our users love.

Research in Motion (RIM), the maker of the Blackberry handheld, have been embroiled in a patent lawsuit with a smaller company called NTP since 2001. Earlier this week, the litigation seems to have come to a head, as the US Supreme Court refused to hear the case, leaving RIM open to an injunction from a trial judge that may potentially shut down the service in the US.

I have been watching the lawsuit closely, and have made the conscious decision to continue investing in Blackberry technology. For me, Blackberry technology is the best out there, and the benefit of using Blackberry technology far outweighs the risk.

The email below is a broadcast email I sent today to my entire company explaining my position on the issue:

01/26/2006 03:01 PM
To: All Employees
Subject: Blackberry Legal Woes

As many of you may have heard, Research in Motion (RIM), the company behind the Blackberry handhelds many of us use, is presently involved in a patent dispute in US federal court with a company called NTP. NTP claims that Research in Motion is infringing on five of its patents, while RIM is disputing the validity of the patents. Some news media and pundits have raised the spectre of the Blackberry service being shut down as part of this legal action. These concerns were amplified by this week's refusal of the US Supreme Court to hear RIM's appeal of a lower-court ruling, leaving RIM open to an injunction by a trial judge.

We in the Information Technology department have been closely following this litigation and feel the business risk of the Blackberry being shut down is relatively small. The company suing Research in Motion is a small patent-holding company called NTP. NTP does not make a competing technology platform, and is only looking for royalty payments from RIM's US revenue. The threat of a court injunction shutting down Blackberry is something we view as legal posturing - a method by NTP to compel Research in Motion to pay NTP the royalties it feels it is owed.

While there are other technologies for wireless remote email access, Blackberry's technology is the best on the market. As such, we are continuing to invest in and deploy Blackberry technology here. In the unlikely event that Blackberry's service is shut down by a court injunction, we anticipate such a shutdown would be very brief, as it is in neither NTP's nor RIM's interest for any such interruption to remain in effect on the long term. It is also important to keep in mind that Blackberry technology is used extensively by many US federal and state government agencies, police departments, fire departments, ambulance services, and as such there would be a great deal of impetus on NTP, RIM, and the courts to quickly resolve any legally imposed interruption

We expect the RIM and NTP dispute to be ongoing for some time, however in the end we expect the issue to be resolved without an interruption of service.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the Blackberry/NTP lawsuit or our continued use of Blackberry technology, please feel free to contact us.

Best regards,
IT Department.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Palestinian Elections Tomorrow

What a week for elections. Yesterday, we saw Canada vote out the Liberals in favor of a Conservative minority government. Now, tomorrow, the Palestinians go to the polls for their parliamentary elections.

The Palestinians election bears one key resemblance to the Canadian election: the ruling Fatah party has been in power for a long time, and has developed the same "l'état, c'est moi" attitude as the Canadian Liberal party: where the party members seem to feel they have each the inalienable right to govern. This type of attitude can easily lead to corruption, irresponsible decisions, and ineffective governance, and many Palestinians are fed up with it.

Of course, where the similarity ends with the Canadian election is who the main alternative to the governing party is. In Canada, that party was the Conservative party, but for the Palestinians, that other party is Hamas: a group considered a terrorist organization by many countries including the United States and Israel.

In tomorrow's election, Hamas is likely to garner a number of votes from people who are not voting so much FOR Hamas as AGAINST Fatah. In this type of "rejection voting", a strategic voter will vote for the party he/she feels is most likely to beat the one he/she wants out, and in this case, that party is Hamas.

What would happen if Hamas gains a sizeable number of seats? What would happen if Hamas ends up winning the election outright? There are many people in Israel and the US who are very concerned about this possibility.

There is another facet to this, though. If Hamas wins the election, it will bring them to the negotiating table. The Palestinian Authority under Fatah may have been willing to negotiate, but it has shown itself to be incapable of holding up its end of the deal by reining in militants. Hamas, on the other hand, speaks for many of the militants and would probably have more success in reining them in. Thus, while it would be tougher for Israel to negotiate a peace deal with Hamas than to negotiate with Fatah, at least Hamas would be more capable of holding up its end of the bargain.

The BBC's James Reynolds asked representatives of Hamas and the current Israeli government if they would be willing to negotiate with each other if Hamas wins power in this election. Dr Aziz Salem Dwaik, a Hamas candidate in Hebron answered, "this is a choice that we will take into consideration whenever we feel that the Israelis are accepting our rights and admitting that we have rights in Jerusalem, we have rights all over the area where the Israelis built settlements and built the Israeli annexation and confiscation wall."

When asked if Israel would deal with Hamas, Israeli cabinet minister Meir Sheetrit said, "if they change their agenda formally, making action, to say we are cancelling those items on the agenda that are talking about exterminating the state of Israel and joining the route of the road map to make peace with Israel, I cannot avoid the possibility of talking to them - especially if they have been elected."

While these types of statements are definitely not conciliatory, they do leave room for negotiation. One might even argue that bringing Hamas into the political fold and engaging them in negotiations with Israel might even help the peace process on the longer term. Who knows?

This week will be an interesting week indeed...

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Canadian Federal Election Tomorrow: Throwing out the trash

Canada's election day is tomorrow (January 23). Last week, I wrote a post titled Canada's Election: The HMCS Liberal meets its Iceberg. One of my readers was gracious enough to do up a PhotoShop job (at left), based on my HMCS Liberal title.

Over the past week, the trend has continued and the Liberal ship has continued sinking. The Conservatives have held onto a 10+ point lead in several polls conducted throughout the week across Canada, and the only questions in many people's minds is whether or not the result of the elections will be a Conservative minority government or majority government. Much of this decision will depend on how many inroads the Conservatives are able to make into Toronto: Canada's largest city, and a bastion of Liberal support.

The Conservatives will make several inroads there, if the Toronto Sun has anything to do with it. Those from New York would recognize the Toronto Sun as a very similar paper to the New York Post and New York Daily News: a tabloid format, color pictures, and pull-no-punches stories. Earlier today, the Sun published three stories about the election, titled 218 Reasons NOT to vote for the Liberals, Harper deserves to be PM, and Grits already conceding.

The 218 reasons article is really good, and looks like something the Sun has been working on for a while and saving for the day before the election, and so, I am going to reprint much of it here. The language in the article ("we did not make this up", etc.) is a jab at the language the Liberals have been using in their attack ads over the past two weeks.

And to my American friends (who make up much of the readership of this blog), I've highlighted a few "reasons" in red you may find interesting. Yes, this article was published in a major Canadian newspaper: most Canadians are not anti-American, and many Canadians are quite fed up with hearing anti-American spew emanating from certain politicians.

218 Reasons not to vote for the Liberals
From the Toronto Sun, January 22, 2006

1 Pre-election spending: $22.2 billion, according to Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

2 Pre-election tax relief: $30 billion -- about $323 per taxpayer; up from May budget total of only $16/year.

3 Attack ads. Smearing Stephen Harper. And our soldiers. Approved by Paul Martin himself. In Canada.

4 "Soldiers" ad pulled in English but French version continues in Quebec. Several Liberals say the ad is appalling.

5 TV journalist Mike Duffy accuses Liberal strategist John Duffy of trying to intimidate him into not discussing the ad.

6 Jan. 9: Martin suddenly vows, mid-debate, to scrap the feds' ability to use the "notwithstanding" clause in Charter cases. Even senior Liberals are shocked.

7 Conservatives accused of planning to "take away a woman's right to choose," despite promises to the contrary.

8 Grits charge Conservatives won't keep promises. Hmm.

9 Courting Toronto votes in the wake of record gun murders, Martin promises to ban handguns -- which have effectively been banned since 1937.

10 Also promises to ban weapons in outer space.

11 PM pledges mandatory minimum sentences for some crimes, despite Justice Minister's assertions they don't work.

12 Promises "heroes" fund for injured firefighters and rescuers -- an idea 57 Grits earlier voted against.

13 Spokesman Scott Reid declares parents would only blow the Tories' child care subsidy on "beer and popcorn."

14 Ontario VP Mike Klander resigns over blog comparing NDP's Olivia Chow to a dog and blasting Jack Layton.

15 Industry Minister David Emerson says NDP Leader Layton has a "boiled dog's head smile."

16 Oakville riding association president quits after telling anti-gun-registry voter to take her "gun-loving ass back to the U.S."

17 Martin blasts Conservative plan to cut GST; in 1993, he co-wrote Red Book promising to get rid of it.

18 Ex-Harvard prof and would-be leader Michael Ignatieff's nomination engineered over protest in Etobicoke-Lakeshore.

19 33% of voters believe Liberals have a "hidden agenda," as opposed to Conservatives (25%), according to Ipsos-Reid.

20 Chinese head tax: Liberals refused to apologize; PM suddenly offers "personal regret" on Chinese-language TV.

21 Separatism: Martin calls this a "referendum election."

22 80% of Quebecers dislike Martin (Strategic Counsel poll).

23 Martin vows to fight Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe on "every street corner" but later refuses to debate one-on-one.

24 Martin criticizes U.S. on Kyoto at climate conference -- even though Canada's emissions record is worse than theirs.

25 When U.S. ambassador points this out, Martin declares he won't be "dictated" to and will "stand up for Canada."

26 Martin stages photo- op with ex-U.S.-prez Bill Clinton.


27 April: Martin pleaded on TV to be allowed to govern until 30 days after Justice John Gomery's final report on AdScam.

28 Grits then announced $23 billion in pre-pre-election spending.

29 May: Opposition days suspended so they can't call non-confidence vote.

30 NDP deal: Backroom deal to buy NDP support forced budget changes -- adding another $4.6 billion in spending.

31 Martin reversed sensible stand on U.S. missile defence.

32 Aid to Darfur boosted in bid to buy support of Independent MP David Kilgour.

33 Promised Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty $5.75 billion to fix "fiscal imbalance" over five years.

34 May 10: Grits lost vote 153-150 calling for them to resign, but refused to do so.

35 Secret health deal proposed to NDP; Layton rejects it.

36 May 17: Belinda Stronach wooed into Liberal caucus -- and cabinet -- just in time to win non-confidence vote.

37 Post-Belinda, Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal revealed tape recordings of PMO staffer Tim Murphy and Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh discussing possible incentives if he crossed the floor. Grits said tapes were doctored.


38 Worked with loyal team for more than a decade to take over party from Jean Chretien.

39 Only rival left for leadership was Sheila Copps.

40 Put his company, Canada Steamship Lines, in a "blind trust" that wasn't. As PM, was allowed to transfer ownership to his sons, keeping it in the family.

41 Registered several CSL ships under foreign flags to avoid Canadian taxes.

42 Used U2 singer Bono for his star power; left him "mystified" and "crushed" by failing to deliver on world poverty.

43 Extended term of big-spending Gov.-Gen. Adrienne Clarkson; appointed Michaelle Jean without thoroughly checking out her past association with separatists.

44 Promised to "fix health care for a generation" with $41-billion deal with the provinces in 2004. Some fix!

45 Made separate side deal with Quebec on health care, calling it "asymmetrical federalism."

46 Agreed on "wait times strategy" with provinces in 2004. Still waiting for it to be implemented.

47 Personal doctor runs a private clinic.

48 Promised to change the way Supreme Court judges were appointed -- but only allowed MPs to question Justice Minister about them, after the fact.

49 Promised to diminish Western alienation or "I will have failed."

50 Slow to return from vacation after the South Asian tsunami, and dithered on sending Disaster Assistance Response Team.

51 February 2005: The Economist magazine immortalized "Mr. Dithers" nickname for his "faltering leadership."

52 May 2005: 63% told Strategic Counsel poll Martin was most dishonest party leader; 61% felt he was most likely to lie.

53 Sent controversial same-sex marriage bill to Supreme Court; didn't insist on a ruling on traditional marriage.

54 Invoked closure to ram same-sex bill into law June 28; cabinet members not allowed to vote their conscience.

55 Gave $2.2 billion in gas tax revenues to public transit, but none of it to repair crumbling roads.

56 Cut capital gains tax on charitable donations of securities to 50% in 1997, refused to eliminate it.

57 2004: Feds shamed over plan to send 70 bureaucrats to 60th anniversary D-Day event -- but only 60 veterans.

58 Tolerated Carolyn Parrish ("Damn Americans -- I hate those bastards") in caucus until she dissed him personally.

59 Blamed America for Canada's gun problem.

60 Before becoming PM, opposed the Clarity Act.

61 Ditto same-sex marriage.

62 And the Kyoto accord.

63 Also leaned toward joining the U.S.-led war in Iraq.


Each of these converts to Paul Martin's Liberal team just happened to score a cabinet post:

64 Belinda Stronach (ex-Conservative leadership contender) -- in charge of Human Resources and, yes, ethics reform.

65 Scott Brison (ex-PC leadership hopeful) -- Public Works.

66 Ujjal Dosanjh (ex-NDP B.C. premier) -- Health.

67 Jean Lapierre (co-founder of Bloc Quebecois) -- Quebec lieutenant and Transportation.


68 Pre-election spending: $8 billion for everything from health care to highways.

69 Martin shut down Commons AdScam committee, announced Gomery inquiry -- then promptly called the election before it could start.

70 Attack ads against Conservatives accused them of wanting to recriminalize abortion, send troops to Iraq, and govern like Brian Mulroney and Mike Harris.

71 Accused Harper of plotting with Alberta's Ralph Klein to destroy medicare.

72 Called Conservative forecast of $50-billion surplus over five years a "black hole"; Grit surpluses now exceed that.

73 PM's handpicked Winnipeg candidate Glen Murray lost to quadriplegic Conservative Steven Fletcher.

74 Mid-campaign, Martin promised Newfoundland premier Danny Williams an oil and gas revenue deal; then reneged post-election until Williams went ballistic.

75 Ministers Judy Sgro and John McCallum dispatched to heckle Harper at events.

Promises, Promises -- Grit Moments in Dithering: 76-85

76 1993: Red Book promised an independent ethics commisioner reporting to Parliament. Not implemented until 2004.

77 1993: Promised national daycare program: Signed first deals with provinces to begin implementing it in 2005.

78 1993: Promised to boost immigration levels to 300,000 per year: Announced the same target twice last fall -- despite a current 700,000-person backlog.

79 1993: Promised to reform Young Offenders Act. Youth Criminal Justice Act finally took effect in 2003, and is even worse.

80 1993: Promised national pharmacare program. No action.

81 Ditto for their 1993 promise of national home care.

82 1994: Justice minister Allan Rock promised national sex offender registry: Finally established in 2004, but had to be amended in 2005 to include Karla Homolka. Ditto for national DNA databank -- finally passed before this election.

83 1995: Martin imposed 1.5c/litre "deficit-fighting" tax on gasoline. Deficit was eliminated in 1997, but tax is still there. Now Grits justify it as part of the gas tax "deal" for cities.

84 1999: Justice minister Anne McLellan told the Commons: "The government has no intention of changing the definition of marriage or of legislating same-sex marriages."

85 20 years after Air India bombing, after years of resisting calls for an inquiry, Grits announced a limited one before this election.

Patronage, Piggery and 'Entitlements': 86-98

86 Martin appointed Francis Fox, who worked in his PMO and on his leadership, to the Senate.

87 Also Dennis Dawson, another staunch Martin backer.

88 And James Cowan, his leadership head in Nova Scotia.

89 Ditto Liberal fundraiser Rod Zimmer.

90 And Art Eggleton, who stepped aside in 2004 for Martin protege Ken Dryden.

91 October: Feds refused to cut gas taxes, but raised MPs' and staff travel allowances 4.6c/km due to high gas prices.

92 2001: MPs gave themselves pay raies of 20% -- retroactive to January. Cabinet ministers got 22%; PM Jean Chretien 42% -- boosting his pension 82%!

93 Among Chretien's many patronage appointments: Former PMO spokesman Jim Munson to the Senate.

94 Same for former chief of staff Percy Downe.

95 And longtime adviser David Smith.

96 PMO crony Jean Pelletier went to head VIA Rail (from which Martin has now fired him twice over AdScam).

97 Andre Ouellett got Canada Post, where he once cashed over $300,000 in expenses with no receipts (fired by Martin).

98 David Dingwall got the Mint; was fired over expenses but is fighting for severance: "I'm entitled to my entitlements."


99 "The government will restore the public's faith and trust in the integrity and good management of government."

-- Martin government's first throne speech, Feb. 2004

100 "We are going to condemn to history the practice and the politics of cronyism ... No longer will the culture in Ottawa be one of entitlement."

-- Martin speech, March 2004

101 "Perhaps there was a few million dollars that might have been stolen in the process; it is possible."

-- Jean Chretien, 2002, defending the sponsorship program

102 "Cynicism about public institutions, governments, politicians, and the political process is at an all-time high ... Honesty and integrity in our political institutions must be restored."

-- 1993 Red Book, co-written by Paul Martin

103 "Screw the Red Book. Don't tell me what's in the Red Book. I wrote the goddamned thing. And I know that it's a lot of crap."

-- Martin as quoted in the 1996 book Double Vision: The Inside Story of the Liberals in Power


104 Joe Volpe expensed $138 for a "pizza dinner for two."

105 Pierre Pettigrew took his chauffeur on $10,000 worth of trips, even though he didn't need him to drive.

106 Judy Sgro said the ethics commissioner "vindicated" her in the foreign strippers scandal, when he found her in "clear violation" of parts of the conflict-of- interest code.

107 Ralph Goodale said in 2004 the surplus would be $1.9 billion -- it turned out to be $9.1 billion.

108 Don Boudria spent a weekend at the luxury ski chalet of Quebec advertising honcho Claude Boulay.

109 So did Denis Coderre.

110, 111, 112, 113, 114: Allan Rock, Claudette Brashaw, David Anderson, Jane Stewart and Bob Thibault all accepted free fishing trips and/or flights from the wealthy Irving family of New Brunswick.

115 Hedy Fry falsely claimed racists in Prince George, B.C. were "burning crosses on lawns."

116 Herb Dhaliwal called U.S. President George Bush a failed statesman.

117 Lawrence MacAulay lobbied the RCMP and Corrections Canada to fund training at a college his brother headed.

118 Art Eggleton lost his post as defence minister for giving a contract to an ex-girlfriend.

119 Scarborough MP Tom Wappel refused to help an 81-year-old blind war vet because he didn't vote for him.

120 John Manley proposed subsidizing Canadian NHL teams up to $3.5 million each; scrapped the idea two days later.

121 Andy Scott was overheard on a plane saying he would have to "cover" for Chretien at the 1998 APEC inquiry.

122 Sheila Copps' Heritage department spent $15 million on "free" Canadian flags for all.

123 Copps kept her promise to resign when the Grits failed to scrap the GST -- and was promptly re-elected.

124 Michel Dupuy attended a 1995 dinner with Liberal lobbyists and others who ended up receiving federal grants.

125 Jag Bhaduria was expelled from caucus over revelations that he falsified his background and wrote threatening letters.


Justice John Gomery's November report is reason alone not to vote Liberal. Here's just a tiny taste of why:

126 Gomery inquiry testimony drove separatist support to highest level in a decade.

127 Gomery summed up AdScam: "A story of greed, venality and misconduct" featuring "a complex web of financial transactions among Public Works ... Crown corporations and communication agencies, involving kickbacks and illegal contributions to (the Liberal) party."

128 Gomery on the Liberal party (Quebec wing): "The (party) as an institution cannot escape responsibility for the misconduct of its officers and representatives."

129 Jean Chretien openly taunted the judge by bringing golf balls to the inquiry, saying they weren't "small-town cheap."

130 Martin led cheers in caucus for Chretien the next day.

131 The forensic accountants who exposed the Enron scandal said even they couldn't tell where all the AdScam cash went.

132 Among the things sponsorship money paid for: 1,200 golf balls bearing Chretien's signature;

133 $46,300 worth of maple-leaf neckties;

134 Montreal Grand Prix tickets for senior Grits;

135 $100,000 worth of Christmas decorations;

136 A TV series airing in China.

137 A $16,000 plaque and flag in a store in Chretien's riding.

Speaking of Scandals: 138-158

138 Gun registry: Supposed to cost $2 million, now at nearly $2 billion (even AG can't fathom it), with gun crimes rising.

139 Income trusts: Suspicious trading before Ralph Goodale's Nov. 23 announcement now under RCMP investigation.

140 Option Canada: Secret 1995 unity fund now being probed by RCMP.

141 HRDC boondoggle: $1 billion blown on dubious job-creation projects (including a fountain in Shawinigan).

142 Helicopters: Cancelling contract to replace aging Sea Kings in 1993 cost $500 million and put troops at risk. New contract finally issued in July 2005.

143 Submarines: $750 million to buy used British subs that leak and, in one case, caught fire, killing one submariner.

144 Home heating rebate: Finance minister Martin doled out $1 billion in pre-2000-election cheques to people who didn't need them, including 7,500 who were dead.

145 Shawinigate: Chretien lied about intervening to secure a federal business loan for an associate in his riding. Later said such interventions were "the normal operation."

146 Francois Beaudoin: Raided, intimidated by Liberal operatives and forced from his federal bank job after questioning the loan to Chretien's Shawinigan associate. Judge Andre Denis later called it "an unspeakable injustice."

147 Hepatitis C: Liberals, under Chretien's orders, voted in 1998 against compensating excluded victims of tainted blood scandal; changed their tune in 2004 -- no money has flowed yet.

148 Airbus: Feds apologized in 1997 and paid $2 million to former PM Brian Mulroney for false kickback allegations.

149 Challenger jets: Chretien made secret, rushed, untendered $100-million deal to buy two from Bombardier in 2002.

150 Somalia inquiry: Grits shut it down prematurely in 1997.

151 Agent Orange: Feds dithered on compensating soldiers exposed to the toxic Vietnam-era chemical in Gagetown, N.B.

152 Zahra Kazemi: Canadian's murder covered up in Iran; Canada's response was weak.

153 Bill Sampson: Canadian wrongly imprisoned and tortured in Saudi Arabia for 3 years; Canada's response was weak.

154 Maher Arar: Canadian wrongly imprisoned in Syria for a year; Canada's response was weak (inquiry is now pending).

155 Tobacco suit: $1-billion civil suit in the U.S. against a Canadian tobacco giant for allegedly evading billions in taxes by smuggling cigarettes was thrown out. Cost: $17 million.

156 Air security fee: Imposed excessive $24/round trip tax in 2001, raking in $1 million/day (since cut to $14/round trip).

157Ads: AG Sheila Fraser said on top of AdScam, some $800 million in ad contracts since 2000 were questionable.

158 Canada "wordmark": Feds paid ad firms $1 million to "develop" it; later conceded it's existed since 1965.


159 Increased spending 37% since 2000; 55.8% since eliminating the deficit in 1997, says Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

160 Increased federal staff 10% since 1999, the CTF says.

161 Tax Freedom Day in 1993: June 6. Last year: June 26, according to Fraser Institute.

162 Average family income increase since 1993: 37%. Average increase in that family's taxes: 50%, according to CTF.

163 Spending predicted (in November) to rise 25% by 2010.

164 In past two budgets, stashed $9 billion in untouchable "foundations" -- AG warned of lack of accountability.

165 1998: Martin, as finance minister, reduced EI premiums 15c/$100 but hiked CPP premiums 30c/$100, costing taxpayers $59 a year.

166 1999: AG found EI surplus excessive.

167 1996: Spent $1 billion getting Atlantic provinces to "harmonize" GST and PST.

168 2000-2005: Fiscal surplus forecasts understimated by a total of $35.3 billion.

169 Promised to decriminalize marijuana, satisfied no one.

170 Encouraged Corrections Canada to release inmates as early as possible -- prisons boss said goal was 50% release rate.

171 1996: Brought in conditional (house arrest) sentences for violent crime, including homicide.

172 1997: Tightened notorious "faint-hope clause" that lets murderers appply for parole after just 15 years -- but only to exclude serial killers, and only those who kill after 1997.

173 2005: Established $3.7-million pilot project to set up tattoo parlours in prisons.

174 1994-97: Refugee backlog doubled.

175 1997: Wasted more than $300 million a year paying social benefits to backlogged refugee claimants, AG found.

176 1998: Lost track of 4,613 refugee claimants up to August.

177 2003: Lost track of 36,000 immigrants ordered deported, AG found.

178 2002: Senate Committee on National Security and Defence said Armed Forces were so overstretched they should step down from all peacekeeping operations for two years.

179 2005: Same committee found Canada not equipped to handle a major disaster.

180 1997: Low-paid soldiers resorted to using food banks.

181 2001: Troops sent to Afghanistan in forest-green uniforms.

182 Ottawa too secretive, Information Commissioner reported.

183 10 years after the 1995 Quebec referendum, 48% of Quebecers told Strategic Counsel pollsters they would vote "Yes" to separation again; 47% said "No."


184 1993: Kept campaign promise to cancel Pearson airport privatization deal. Estimated cost of cancellation: $1 billion.

185 1993: Broke campaign promise to get rid of GST.

186 1993: Embraced NAFTA, 27 days after winning election promising to fight it.

187 1995: Almost lost the country in Quebec referendum.

188 1995: Created sponsorship program in response.

189 1996: Throttled a demonstrator at Flag Day event.

190 1996: Claimed he had regular chats with a homeless man.

191 1998: Joked about RCMP pepper-spraying demonstrators at APEC summit in B.C.: "Pepper, I put it on my plate."

192 1998: Called 64c dollar "good for exporters."

193 2001: Did nothing for 25 Canadians killed in 9/11, delayed visiting attack site.

194 Blamed U.S. "greed" for terrorism.

195 2002: Staffer Francie Ducros called George Bush a "moron."

196 2002: Responded when asked what kind of proof he'd need to join the invasion of Iraq: "A proof is a proof and when you have a good proof it's because it's proven."

197 2002: Refused to join Iraq war, or to confirm Canada had 31 soldiers serving there with U.S. and British forces.

198 2002: Announced his retirement -- for 2004!

199 Refused to declare Ontario SARS crisis a disaster; offered paltry aid.


200 Pre-election spending: $2.248 billion in week before vote called, according to Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

201 Premature election ended shortest majority mandate in 90 years (three years) -- cost $200 million.

202 Lifted Canadian Alliance platform promise: $100 billion in tax cuts.

203 $100 billion tax cut really $55.4 billion when other things like CPP increases are factored in, CTF calculated.

204 22 RCMP investigations ongoing into Grit grant and loan programs, including four in Chretien's riding alone.

205 Elinor Caplan, immigration minister, told voters supporters of the Alliance were racists and Holocaust deniers.

206 Alliance accused of supporting "two-tier" health care.

207 Chretien openly talked about quitting post- election.


208 Pre-election spending: $8 billion.

209 Vote called despite Manitoba flood crisis.

210 35% of voters said June 2 election call was premature.


211 Economy: 12th among industrialized nations, according to Conference Board of Canada (down from 3rd in 2003).

212 Competitiveness: 14th, according to World Economic Forum (down from 4th in 1997).

213 Health care: 30th in efficiency, according to World Health Organization.

214 Ethics: 14th, says Transparency International, due to "marked increase" in corruption (down from 5th).

215 Military spending: 153rd out of 192 countries, based on percentage of GDP; 14th in per-capita spending.

216 Peacekeeping: 36th, according to UN.

217 Personal income tax burden: Highest in G-8, says OECD.

218 Marginal tax rates: Second only to China, says C.D. Howe Institute.

Hmm.... 218 more reasons for me to feel content in my decision to vote Conservative in my mail-in ballot three weeks ago. If the Conservatives do follow through and win, and especially if they win a majority, Canada will be headed for a renaissance.

Update: January 23, 9:00 PM

Well, it's election day. The polls have closed in all of Canada except British Columbia on the West Coast, and counting is underway. Of course, there's not much to do except sit and wait: under Canada's election laws, there is a blackout in effect until polls are closed in all parts of Canada, which is at 7:00 PM local time in each time zone. News stations can broadcast election results locally after the polls have closed, but since the Internet is accessible in British Columbia, Canadian news sites and bloggers are prohibited from publishing election results until after 10 PM.

So, not much left to do except sit and wait. I'll be back sometime after 10.

Update: January 23, 11:30 PM

Well, we did it. Most of the ballots are counting, and we have a new Conservative minority government. As of the time of this post, the seat count is as follows:

Conservatives: 122
Liberals: 106
Bloc Quebecois: 50
NDP: 29

One interesting winner in this election is the Bloc Quebecois, who now can enjoy the role of kingmaker. Many of the Bloc's policies (with the obvious exception of Quebec separatism) are similar to those of the Conservatives, and I would expect the Bloc to vote along with the Tories on many issues:
  • Democratizing the senate.
  • Giving more power to the provinces.
  • Cleaning up corruption.
  • Improving the accountability in the appointment of judges.

Of course, being seen as too cosy with the Bloc is an anathema for all of the federal parties, so it is unlikely for the Conservatives and Bloc to form a formal alliance. However, I would not be surprised to see the Bloc voting with the Tories on many issues.

By the same token, the Bloc would also be highly unlikely to go along with a non-confidence motion against the Conservatives to force an early election, since it would not be in the Bloc's interest. The Bloc knows it can never become the government since it only runs candidates in Quebec, and so, their goal would be more strategic: to throw their support behind the party whose policies are closer to their own. Thus, while the Conservatives did win a minority government in this election, it seems like a configuration that can remain stable for a number of years.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Kidnapping and Murder in Baghdad

Updates below

Original Post: January 9

It has been tough to blog for the past few days. On Saturday, an American freelance reporter named Jill Carroll was kidnapped by gunmen, and her Iraqi translator, a man named Allan Enwiyah, was killed. My friend Fayrouz had written a blog post (complete with the reporter's name) but later took the reporter's name down at the request of the organization trying to negotiate her release. I've been holding my tongue over the past couple of days out of respect for her and that organization, but now that her employer, the Christian Science Monitor has released an article on the topic including her name, and other news organizations including the New York Times have picked up the story also, I should be safe talking about it now too.

While I don't know Jill myself, she is a good friend of Baghdad Treasure, a fellow blogger and friend of mine who I had the pleasure of meeting over dinner a few weeks ago in New York. Earlier today, BT was so bothered by kidnapping he was beside himself with tears. Fortunately, BT was able to pull together enough composure to write a blog post talking about his friend, which is well worth reading.

I've been reading all the coverage about this crime, and as I see it, the whole think reeks of a setup. I have some more specific thoughts on the issue, but since Jill is still being held captive, I will keep them private (for now) out of concern for her.

Perhaps the saddest element to this story is the translator, 32 year old Allan Enwiyah (at left), who was shot twice in the head and dumped at the side of the road by Jill's kidnappers. The Christian Science Monitor article shows a picture of him (at left), a beaming father holding his infant son. It is difficult to look at this picture and think of that little boy growing up without his father at his side. The kidnappers targeted Jill Carroll because she is American - possibly because she works for an American news company with deep pockets to pay ransom. But Allan Enwiyah was just an Iraqi; someone the kidnappers saw as a piece of human detritus fit for nothing more than a quick bullet in his head at the side of the road. The kidnappers has no reason to murder Allan, they could have just as easily thrown him out of the car and allowed him to go home to his family. Instead, they murdered him in cold blood just out of spite, and robbed his wife of a husband and his young children of a father.

As a father myself, this picture is difficult to look at without feeling tears welling in my eyes. And, so, while most news organizations seem to be glossing over Allan Enwiyah as just another dead Iraqi, I am dedicating this post to him and his memory. May he rest in peace.

My thoughts and prayers tonight are with Jill Carroll, with Jill's friends, and with the family and friends of her translator Allan Enwiyah.

Update: January 10

I was talking with my friend Fayrouz this morning and she had a great idea. She has setup a PayPal donations button on her blog, to allow people to donate money to help Allan Enwiyah's widow through this traumatic time. It is difficult for a woman to raise small children by herself in the best of circumstances, think about how hard this will be for this poor woman in Iraq. I've added this domations button to my blog sidebar as well.

Update: January 18

Last night, the kidnappers holding American journalist Jill Carroll released a video of her to al-Jazeera, threatening to kill her in 72 hours if the US does not release all female Iraqi prisoners it is holding. As detailed by the Christian Science Monitor and al-Jazeera, since the video's release, there has been a nearly universal cry for Jill's release, including from groups that are usually supporters of Iraqi insurgents: groups like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and the Muslim Scholars' Association in Iraq. Even al-Jazeera released its own statement as it played the video condemning violence against journalists and urging the kidnappers to release Jill unharmed.

One of the first things I noticed about the video of Jill (the image at right) is her appearance. While she looked tired, and her hair was a bit messy, she does not have the bedraggled appearance one would expect for someone who has been held by kidnappers for ten days, which suggests she has been well treated.

I suspect the kidnappers may be taken aback by the amount of sympathy Jill has gotten from many different corners. Perhaps they are even second-guessing themselves in what they are doing.

My thoughts and prayers are with Jill today and with all her friends and family. I am also praying for her kidnappers - that they may feel some sympathy, realize the error in their ways, and release Jill unharmed.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Canada's Election: The HMCS Liberal meets its Iceberg

The election campaign in Canada has gotten very interesting over the past few weeks. The Liberal party, which has been in power for the past twelve years, seems to be on the verge of defeat. Since I last wrote about the Canadian election, the Conservative party has surged ahead in pre-election opinion polls and has is now a solid 10 percentage points ahead of the Liberals, which could easily translate into a majority government if the lead is kept up.

A Conservative victory would likely herald a new renaissance in US/Canadian relations. Many elements in the Conservative election platform seem like something borrowed from the US Republican Party, and include:
  • Pulling Canada out of the Kyoto agreement (for basically the same reasons Bush pulled America out a few years back).
  • Tightening Canada's border security.
  • Getting tough on crime, especially crime involving drugs and weapons.
  • Increased defense spending.

Meanwhile, the Liberal party's campaign has devolved into what one newspaper called a "train wreck", with scandals continuing to crop up at each corner. Just this past Friday saw one Liberal candidate accused in a sworn affidavit of offering a government job to an opponent in exchange for throwing the election; another involved in a land-flip scandal; and a third posting a bogus "endorsement" in a local newspaper.

A week ago, in a desperate attempt to stop the hemorrhaging of their support, the Liberal party rolled out a series of attack ads, trying to play on voters' fears. Each of these ads had ominous music in the background, focused on an unflattering image of Stephen Harper, and had a female voice reading a blurb of text that was repeated in writing under Harper's face. By far the most disgraceful Liberal attack ad was this one:

Stephen Harper actually announced he wants to increase military presence in our cities. Canadian cities. Soldiers with guns. In our cities. In Canada. We did not make this up. Choose your Canada.

As someone who grew up in a military family, I find this ad absolutely despicable. It is as if the Liberals are insinuating that having soldiers stationed in cities would be setting up Canada for some sort of coup d'etat.

I'm obviously not the only one who feels that way. Liberal MP Keith Martin called this ad "appalling" and blamed it on "some idiot". The Liberals pulled this abomination of an ad a few hours after it was released, but it is still available to be viewed here.

Paul Martin, the current prime minister and Liberal leader at first stood behind the ad, but later discounted it and said, "All political parties have ads which they don't play. That's one that was not played.''

Even if they had never played it on television, I am appalled that someone would even think to create that ad, since it shows the thought behind it was there.

A few more of the Liberal attack ads put out last week stink of scaremongering and blatant anti-Americanism:

Who paid for Stephen Harper's rise to the head of the party? We don't know. He refuses to reveal his donors. What do you suppose he's hiding? We do know he's very popular with right wingers in the U.S. They have money, maybe they helped him. We just don't know. He just won't say.

Nothing like a good conspiracy theory to brighten our day.....

Of course, that Liberal attack ad pales when compared to this one:

From the Washington Times, December 2, 2005: "Canada may elect the most pro-American leader in the western world. Harper is pro-Iraq war, anti-Kyoto, and socially conservative. Bush's new best friend is the poster boy for his ideal foreign leader. A Harper victory will put a smile on George W. Bush's face."

Well, at least someone will be happy, eh? Choose your Canada.

As a Canadian living in the US, seeing this kind of blatant anti-Americanism in political ads really disgusts me. Of course, it's a bittersweet sensation, since I can feel more content in my choice to vote for the Conservatives, and can be happy that the Conservatives seem to be enjoying a groundswell of support in Canada.

Like the Titanic 95 years ago, the Liberal party in Canada seemed unsinkable a few years ago, but with the recent string of scandals, it seems they have finally met their iceberg.

Update: January 16

Yet another example of the Liberal party's desperation today: trying to make the Conservatives pull an ad they had released to defend themselves against the Liberal attack ads. Reason: copyright infringement. Copyright infringement?! I laughed for about 5 minutes when I read this.

Update 2: January 16

This is really disgusting. For the past several weeks, the student union at the University of Toronto had been working with Elections Canada to setup special polling stations to allow students to vote on campus for candidates in their home ridings. Now this morning, just one week before the election, Elections Canada abruptly cancelled them.

After a bit of digging, the student union found out the polls were cancelled by Elections Canada after they were strongarmed by Liberal party lawyers acting at the behest of Liberal candidate Tony Ianno. And so, with one despicable act, the Liberals have denied 40,000 young people the right to vote in their first federal election.

The U of T student newspaper wrote a story on this earlier today, and the blog Angry in the Great White North has picked this story up also. About an hour ago, the Globe and Mail (Canada's largest newspaper) published it, and by tomorrow morning, I would not be surprised to see it on the cover of at least a few newspapers.

I personally think this action will cost the liberals dearly. Let's face it, with all the other scandals, the last thing the Liberals need right now, especially in Toronto, is a newspaper headline about Liberal lawyers denying 40,000 young people the right to vote.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Ali Fadhil Arrested

I'm not quite sure what to make of this:

Ali Fadhil
Wednesday January 11, 2006
The Guardian

Last weekend an American special task force unit raided my house. It was precisely the kind of terrifying experience I have had described to me over and over again by Iraqis I have interviewed in the past two-and-a-half years. My wife, Zina, described it as like something out of a Hollywood action movie.
It began at half past midnight on Saturday when explosives blew apart the three entrances to my house. We thought we had been caught in a bombing, but then a rifle sneaked round our bedroom door and shot a couple of bullets blindly; suddenly our room was filled with the wild sounds of US soldiers.

My three-year-old daughter Sarah woke to this nightmare. She pushed herself on to me and shouted "Daddy, Americans! They will take you! No, no, not like this daddy ..." She tried to say something to one of the soldiers but her tears stopped her from speaking. Instead of blaming the soldier I could see she was blaming me. I tried to calm her down but as I did so the soldier threw me on to the ground and tied me.

They then took me downstairs and made me sit in the living room while they smashed every piece of furniture we have. There were about 20 soldiers inside the house and several others on guard on the roof. A blue-eyed captain came to me holding my Handycam camcorder and questioned me aggressively: "Can you explain to me why you have this footage?"


Is that the same Dr. Ali Fadhil who we know from his blog?

Another news article news article has a sinister connotation behind this:
Dr Fadhil is working with Guardian Films on an investigation for Channel 4's Dispatches programme into claims that tens of millions of dollars worth of Iraqi funds held by the Americans and British have been misused or misappropriated.

The troops told Dr Fadhil that they were looking for an Iraqi insurgent and seized video tapes he had shot for the programme. These have not yet been returned.

The director of the film, Callum Macrae, said yesterday: "The timing and nature of this raid is extremely disturbing. It is only a few days since we first approached the US authorities and told them Ali was doing this investigation, and asked them then to grant him an interview about our findings.
Now this gets interesting. I wonder if one of the officials behind this "misuse" and "misappropriation" got wind of Ali Fadhil's investigation and decided to call in an anonymous tip, telling the authorities they could find a terrorist at Ali's address, knowing the US forces would go raid his house. Someone's going to have some explaining to do...

Update: January 11, 2005

The Guardian posted an audio file from Ali Fadhil, explaining what happened. Here is a link if you would like to download it for yourself.

Some highlights from the audio file:
  • While the soldiers were raiding Ali's house, they showed him a picture of a woman with glasses, an "American reporter" who sounds like Jill Carroll. Apparently, the soldiers had received a tip that Jill Carroll (the topic of my last post) was being held captive in Ali's house.
  • After raiding his house, the soldiers took Ali to the Green Zone for interrogation, where they told him they had the wrong address and apologized to him.
  • They gave Ali $1000 as compensation for the damage to his house, and $500 as compensation for the time he spent in captivity in the Green Zone. According to Ali, the damage to his house was far more than this amount, since they smashed most of his furniture.
  • The only thing that was missing from Ali's house was a videotape, which was only a copy of a news report he was working on (the original is in London).
  • Ali's 3 year old daughter is "traumatized" and jumps at any loud noises now.

Update 2: January 11, 2005

The mystery gets deeper, here are two blog comments:

There are at least two Ali Fadhil's in Iraq. One is a brother of (deleted). The other is a reporter. I remember last year there was a radio report from Ali Fadhil broadcast on NPR in the USA. I checked with Ali Fadhil, and he said, "It was not me."Thus, I think it is not our Ali Fadhil. This Ali Fadhil apparently is very close with the insurgents, and perhaps his cell phone number was found in the possession of terrorists.Original Jeff Email Homepage

There are at least two Ali Fadhil's in Iraq. One is a brother of (deleted). The other is a reporter. I remember last year there was a radio report from Ali Fadhil broadcast on NPR in the USA. I checked with Ali Fadhil, and he said, "It was not me."Thus, I think it is not our Ali Fadhil. This Ali Fadhil apparently is very close with the insurgents, and perhaps his cell phone number was found in the possession of terrorists.I realize it's not the most uncommon name in Iraq. The Guardian report suggests that they are the same person, and it identifies him as a doctor, which is also true of Ali from (deleted).DaveDave Nalle

How many doctors named Ali Fadhil live in Baghdad? And, is the one who had his house smashed up the same one we know from his blog? I would really love to know the answer...

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Long Distance Voting in the Canadian Election

I voted in the Canadian election yesterday, through a mail-in ballot.

I really liked Paul Martin's performance as finance minister a few years ago, and I still like Paul Martin as a leader. Until a few months ago, would have been likely to vote for his Liberal party in this election, but after all the anti-Americanism and other electioneering silliness I wrote about last week, I changed my mind, and my vote. I voted for the Conservative Party, whose party platform includes fixing a number of the mistakes that have been made in the last couple of years, and restoring the type of relationship Canada has usually had with its southern neighbor and biggest trading partner, the United States.

In case anyone is wondering how this process works, I registered last week by sending a completed form and copy of my Canadian passport by fax to Elections Canada, who mailed me a ballot package to my address in New York. To vote, I wrote the name of the candidate I am voting for on the ballot, enclosed it in an inner envelope (a security envelope with no identification on it), placed the inner envelope into an outer envelope (which had a sticker on it identifying my name and the riding I was voting in, and which I had to sign indicating I would not attempt to vote elsewhere), and placed the outer envelope into a mailing envelope. The reason for the multiple envelopes was to preserve the anonymity of my vote. My ballot is presently making its way through the US Postal Service on its way to Ottawa, where it will be counted and included in the overall results for the riding I voted in on Election Day on January 23.

This election will be interesting to watch, as the results are expected to be close...