"A Just Society"

2004 was not a great year for the queer community in the United States overall. In Canada it was different story as most of us have seen. Two siblings of the British empire have gone different ways over the years evolving into distinct personalities.

Americans headed toward the unfettered rights of the individual and Canadians stuck to the peace, order and good government model. I have simplified it here as we know, Canada has made some big mistakes, one being that aboriginal Canadians did not have a vote until 1960.

The march toward entrenchment of human rights in our country moved forward with the bill of rights passed by Parliament in the early 1960's. At the same time Americans much divided as they find themselves today elected John F. Kennedy.

Kennedy in many ways made Americans feel good about their efforts to establish and or enforce human rights. Who knows what would have happened had JFK or his brother Bobby been able to serve longer. Canada elected in 1968 our own version of celebrity, Pierre Elliot Trudeau. He was dynamic, smart, good looking and created a vibe that changed our country forever.

Trudeau as Justice Minister said the State had no business in the Nations bedrooms. He brought in changes to the laws governing our personal affairs that made divorce, abortion and homosexual sex legal.

Trudeau was a man that saw Canada could be a just society. It has not been easy, but that just society is showing good signs of being alive and well. In 1982 Trudeau brought together the provinces and the government of Canada to make the most sweeping change our country has seen. The charter of rights and freedoms was established and constitutionally entrenched.

The charter is a living document, unlike other written words, the charter is permitted to evolve on its own, without the assistance of Parliament, yet uniquely, it can be guided by legislation. Pierre Trudeau has assured us long after he left office that the "just society" he envisioned would be.

"…for those of us who were there when Pierre Trudeau was prime minister it was the magic of the man that is etched and cherished in the mind's eye. We embraced his diamond-sharp intellect, his irreverence, and the style of his leadership and life.

"For the better he changed us as a nation."

- Toronto Star Editorial on Trudeau's 80th birthday October 18, 1999


Mark said...

I just wanted to say that I appreciate your blog. I hope you do not mind, but I added you to my blogroll.

Anonymous said...

The Spy in Your Pocket

by Alan Simpson

Millions of businessmen around the world go to meetings, listen to briefings, and travel around not realizing they have one of the most efficient bugs eavesdropping on their conversations, and telling the world who they are, where they are, and who else is with them.

This is not a microchip from the NSA, not even a bug to be found by sweeping buttons and belt buckles. No this is the common cellphone, or digital mobile. In many cases you need not even switch it on for it to be used as a bugging device. The authorities can do that for you, and reconfigure the handset so you will never know it is transmitting.

Few details emerge as to the extent of monitoring cellphones, only when there have been problems, or when a high profile arrest is made. There was a series of highly publicized mailbox pipe bombs that caused havoc across the United States, early in 2002. In May it was learned that the prime suspect was Luke Helder, but the problem was he had disappeared, and evaded capture by the police. He did make one mistake that cost him his freedom. He turned on his cellphone. He did not need to call anyone for he had just electronically told the network "my identity is… and I am here at…." to access the network, and start the billing process.

The FBI were alerted by the phone company, and immediately called the local police. Helders cellphone was acting like a beacon, and calling out for the police to come and arrest him.

Major Rick Bradley of the Nevada Highway Patrol commented, "We got a call from the FBI at approximately 3.20 p.m. that the cell phone had been activated somewhere between Battle Mountain and Golconda. We started hitting Interstate 80"

This remote region would have been a perfect hiding place for Helder had not the FBI been able to triangulate his position, using his cellphone as a beacon.

This triangulation is causing concerns for privacy advocates, for not only can a cellphone be identified, monitored, but it can easily be tracked. The alibi may be that the user was playing Poker downtown, but the cellphone trackers may prove otherwise. And consider if the cellphone id’s of known associates are available to law enforcement. They can tell where you were, and who was with you, or to be precise near you.

An even more scary feature on many new digital devices is that the software can be remotely programmed. This allows patches to be added to all the users software on the network, without having subscribers come into a sales office and have their handsets reprogrammed. It also allows multiple technical and operating features to be changed, or added at the convenience of the user. But with convenience comes risk. Not only can the real network operator change your cellphone, so can a technology savvy interloper, armed with the right electronic equipment. This equipment is only available to government agencies. The criminals of course been smarter than most government agencies were probably the first to use it!

This raises serious concerns for businesses such as Banks, and high tech development companies. If a cellphone can be remotely activated, either from the legitimate network, or a pseudo network simulator, hidden in a briefcase nearby, then cellphones can be switched on to monitor meetings. Today many large corporations, Banks, and Financial Institutions require all cellphones to be switched off, left outside meeting and conference rooms, and in many cases have their batteries removed for additional security.

As more and more technical features are added to these mobile wireless networks, the risks for eavesdropping, and tracking the users become easier. What may seem a simple benefit for the public can be used for "Big Brother" tactics by a intrusive government. In America the "911" feature is causing concern, for this will give constantly updated locations of every cellphone. In Britain this has been in place for several years and law enforcement were overjoyed at having the population carrying voluntary beepers giving out their location. The loophole in the law that allows this tracking is that listening to the conversations, the content of a telephone call, needs a Court Order. But the monitoring of locations, and directions as the user travels from cell to cell does not.

Drug dealers are well aware of these issues with their cellphones, and routinely steal handsets from the unsuspecting public. They can then conduct transactions, and move on to another number, on another stolen, or reprogrammed handset. This use by drug dealers only becomes public when it hits the courts, usually after someone screws up the process. Recently in Baltimore there was a court exchange between Drug Enforcement , and Nextel, where Nextel computers shut off the stolen cellphones for non-payment, and the DEA wanted them left on so they could monitor the drug dealers. Some dealers became suspicious when their stolen phones were switched off, then on again, and off again, and on again without paying a dime. So you haven’t paid any bills for six months, and the generous phone company switches the phone back on. How kind!

As more and more devices are being connected to the wireless network, users must beware that communications are far from secure. Even the algorithms that supposedly protect the contents have been shown to be weak, and easily circumvented. Anyone using wireless for computers needs to consider encrypting their files, and email. Never send anything over wireless that is confidential, unless it has several layers of strong encryption. The problem with that statement is of course that the all seeing US Government will not let its businessmen abroad use such safeguards, insisting that they use only export approved weak encryption.

In the meantime remember, especially on overseas visits, that cellphone is a beacon telling the authorities who you are, where you are, who you are meeting, and if they so desire, the contents of your conversations.