Thursday, July 8, 2010

Letter to my MP RE: G20

The first draft of my letter I'm writing to my MP. If anyone sees any problems please email me/comment. I'm going to send it tomorrow after I re-read it and edit it with a fresh set of eyes. Obviously this is fully open and anyone can use this in whole or in part.


I am writing to express my utmost concern over the actions of my government on both the federal and provincial level as well as the policing action that occurred during the G20 summit in Toronto. As you are no doubt aware it was the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. Over 1000 people were arrested and less than 25 percent of them were charged with any crime other than “breach of the peace”. This demands an inquiry by a neutral and respected third-party that does not hold conflicts of interest in the situation. The Conservative federal government, the provincial Liberals as well as the various police forces involved do not meet that requirement. The recent announcement of a public review is a nice first step but still grossly inadequate.

I will start by saying this is not a partisan letter and I do not want a partisan response. Both major parties had a role in this disaster. Premier McGuinty and his government secretly met and updated a regulation, The Public Works Protection Act, which restricted movement and curtailed numerous charter rights inside of the security fence. I find this unusual and puzzling as I was under the impression that there was already legislation in place allowing the government to restrict movement around an area when foreign dignitaries were present.

What I find extremely troubling was the manner it was used. The police chief of Toronto Mr. Bill Blair knew that it only applied to the inside of the fence yet allowed the public to believe it was 5 metres outside of the fence. He purposely deceived the public and is on record admitting it at a news conference in the name of public safety.

What I find absolutely appalling is that the act was never actually needed. The police were given free-reign to search anyone in a multi-block radius away from the security fence at random. This is a gross violation of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms that I do not take lightly. Even if you believe that these powers were necessary it is the government’s role to pass legislation so that you are held accountable to your constituents. The police have absolutely no right to systemically violate our Constitution in the name of public safety. Unfortunately that was not the worst of the violations we incurred on our civil liberties.

After the brief period of property damage that occurred on Saturday, something that I obviously condemn, it appears a more important Charter right was suspended. Hundreds of peaceful protesters and bystanders were deprived of their freedom without any justified reason. Violence elsewhere in a city does not give the police unchecked power to detain those in that city. I will not get into the numerous cases but surrounding a protest and arresting everyone in order to possibly find several vandals is abhorrent. It is suppressing dissent in one of its purest forms.

Protesting became de facto illegal on Saturday evening and Sunday. If you were in a peaceful protest you were sometimes given a choice to disperse or to be arrested. Sometimes you weren’t given that choice, you were simply arrested. This wasn’t an isolated incident. It was a systemic decision by assumedly police leadership as it would be illegal for the government to give specific orders. This is another flagrant violation of our Charter Rights. The federal government can declare wartime powers to detain without charges as well as search and seize property. The police cannot for a very good reason. They are not elected officials and therefore not accountable to the public at large. Most of their investigations are done by the people involved with issuing these orders on the G20 weekend. This brings me to why a fully independent public inquiry is needed.

Bill Blair, the Toronto Chief of Police, has been caught lying and deceiving the public on numerous occasions. This is not a statement of opinion. It is fact. The weapons that his forces showcased included very few actual weapons. Some of the most dangerous items that he had were: flaming arrows, a crossbow, a chainsaw, medieval armour, and unknown liquids. The armour and arrows were a costume by a fantasy role player that was taken from him by the police well outside of the G20 area and the crossbow and chainsaw were utterly unrelated as well. The police chief and his staff were incompetent, illiterate or deceitful. None of which make him suitable to be a part of an inquiry other than as a witness to be cross-examined. He also admitted, as I mentioned earlier, to purposefully misleading the public for the sake of public safety in regards to the Public Works and Protection Act.

This is a small snippet of easily available information. There is much more out there to strengthen my argument but as it stands I think the conclusion is clear. We cannot have an investigation of police conduct undertaken by this man and expect the results to be credible. How can you possibly expect the public to trust him to be impartial after this?

The response I see repeatedly from various levels of government is that there are avenues available to those who feel they were mistreated by police. I find this problematic in a few ways. The systems in place are not for gross violations of civil liberties. Quashing dissent by eliminating peaceful protests isn’t something that one person can argue very well. No one person has to be beaten or arrested for the police to successfully do this. Marching through a park and clearing people out accomplishes that goal quite well. In this case people were arbitrarily arrested and in some occasions allegedly beaten or abused. This is a traumatic event and also could instil somewhat irrational (yet warranted to some degree) fear of the police and government. If you were recently arbitrarily arrested without cause and put in third-world detention facilities do you actually think that they are going to still have the same level of trust in the system? Do you not think that it is understandable that some people will be scared to come forward?

If you take issue with any factual statement I have made I encourage you to either call me or respond in writing and I will be happy to provide evidence of my claims. I also encourage you to view videos posted on the internet. I am not saying that there isn’t an explanation for some of the police violence that is so apparent. We don’t have all the answers but we, the public deserve a full and impartial inquiry to determine if there were any justifications to all of the travesties we witnessed. Violence undertaken by criminals does not make us all criminals. If we are forced to give up civil liberties for security on the whim of an unelected police force they exist only on paper.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Security for Freedom is not the Answer - Statement to Mr. Blair

Mr. Blair, police chief of Toronto, you wilfully deceived the public and you were caught by the media red-handed. This is not a statement of opinion. It is fact. My opinion is that you should resign and surrender yourself to an independent inquiry. That will not happen unless you are forced to by political and public pressure.

Dalton McGuinty and The Ministry of Community Safety by not speaking out and informing us about the misconstruction of the regulation that was actually passed were abetting this behaviour. They allowed a police officer to create laws in an ad hoc manner in the name of public safety.

It doesn’t matter if no one was charged under these fake laws. The illegal searches and demands for ID the police undertook during the G20, sometimes kilometres away from the zone that only existed in Mr. Blair’s twisted narcissistic mind acted as an intimidation tactic that stifled free expression.

You admitted that you intentionally suppressed civil liberties unlawfully and systemically while countering with a smile and response saying, "No, but I was trying to keep the criminals out". In the same press conference he then claimed that the police should be allowed to investigate themselves. That is an outrage and no citizen of this country should find this behaviour acceptable.

During a press conference Mr. Blair displayed the cache of ‘weapons’(Globe’s report here). I fully admit I was laughing when I saw them but that laughter was tempered rather quickly when I realized the level of deceit the police chief was willing to go to in order to save face from the disaster you presided over. The most menacing weapons, the chainsaw and crossbow were utterly unrelated to the G20.

You specifically mentioned arrows tipped with socks that could be used in a medieval style flaming arrow tactic and chain mail. Actually no, you were again lying or at absolute best not subjecting this display to the most basic scrutiny because the outcome was more relevant than the truth. The arrows and chainmail were taken from a fantasy role player on his way to live action role playing. He cut the tips off and covered them with a pool-noodle and a sock. This wasn’t some grunt that put something in the wrong place. You explained what the arrows were supposedly used for.

You and your officers are either grossly incompetent, illiterate in that they couldn’t read the label on the evidence bag or overtly deceitful. Take your pick but I think you know my opinion. The fact the press caught this is nice but also raises the question; did you really not think that the press wouldn’t notice? I knew the crossbow was seized earlier and was unrelated. It made the news. Did you think that the very reporters who covered it would have forgotten in three days? The press should appear more formidable to politicians and police than that.

What happens if your internal investigation finds some real dirt? Perhaps the allegations of police sexually assaulting women are true. Maybe you or a lieutenant gave the order in writing to search everyone in the city regardless of reasonable cause, contrary to our laws. If that information is released there is a chance it could be a “public safety issue”. Maybe riots will start over it; the chance certainly is above zero. By the logic you have presented so far, basically “The ends justify the means” it would be very reasonable to assume you would try your damndest to have the information suppressed.

It goes without saying I denounce those who came to the city and committed violence. That is why we have police to stop criminals and protect the public. We also have something else called the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that exists to protect the public from internal threats. Threats from people like you. People who believe civil liberties are a great thing as long as it doesn’t interfere with security. We don’t have these beacons of freedom in our Constitution to allow someone to complain politely on the state’s terms. We have them so political expression cannot be stifled and a government can be deposed by education and peacefully at the ballot box when they no longer represent us, the people.

The fact that I am focusing on this issue, not the vandals in Toronto is purely a matter of incentives. You have every incentive to charge more people with crimes and the incentive to cover up the crimes committed by your officers. I have no doubt you will try your absolute hardest to bring justice down on the criminals. It is in your interest as well as mine.

Any time civil liberties are suppressed temporarily, and there may be times in the future where they need to be, it needs to be done at the federal government with full accountability. We have the War Measures Act. They will be forced to explain themselves to the people and we can decide whether they get to keep their jobs. It cannot, it must not, take place by an unelected official such as a police chief who has shown himself to be a chronic liar.

UPDATE: As a commenter mentioned Mr. Blair claimed that protesters disrupted repatriation ceremonies. Put up or shut up. This video showed silent protesters and police officers showing the respect our soldiers deserved. If there is evidence of the protesters disrespecting our war dead coming home I will be beyond angry. I believe it should be legal but legal doesn't mean morally right. It would be despicable.

On the other hand if Mr. Blair lied AGAIN, which appears to be the case, and used our fallen soldiers as an objects to his political games this man's convictions and beliefs should be categorized with the lowest rung of our society.

UPDATE II: There is allegations that protesters in black did move towards the repatriation ceremony. I am unsure at this point. My point still stands. I am basing this on available evidence and if any person reading this has more evidence I will gladly post it.

Friday, June 25, 2010


As most people around the world know the G8 and G20 summits are taking place this weekend in Ontario. There has been well over a billion dollars spent on security for this event. I'm not going to comment on that other than that I am quite confused how it can cost many tens of times more than security for other summits. I know it will be expensive and when you start talking in the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars numbers don't mean very much.

Anyways that is a separate issue, what I am venting about the implementation of the Public Works Protection Act as well as parts of the act itself. The entire text can be found here but the relevant parts are as follows:

Powers of guard or peace officer

3.A guard or peace officer,

(a) may require any person entering or attempting to enter any public work or any approach thereto to furnish his or her name and address, to identify himself or herself and to state the purpose for which he or she desires to enter the public work, in writing or otherwise;

(b) may search, without warrant, any person entering or attempting to enter a public work or a vehicle in the charge or under the control of any such person or which has recently been or is suspected of having been in the charge or under the control of any such person or in which any such person is a passenger; and

(c) may refuse permission to any person to enter a public work and use such force as is necessary to prevent any such person from so entering. R.S.O. 1990, c. P.55, s. 3

And the definition of public works is:

“public work” includes,

(a) any railway, canal, highway, bridge, power works including all property used for the generation, transformation, transmission, distribution or supply of hydraulic or electrical power, gas works, water works, public utility or other work, owned, operated or carried on by the Government of Ontario or by any board or commission thereof, or by any municipal corporation, public utility commission or by private enterprises,

(b) any provincial and any municipal public building, and

(c) any other building, place or work designated a public work by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. (“ouvrage public”) R.S.O. 1990, c. P.55, s. 1.

Some of this is rather non-controversial. I think most people would agree that a man with his face covered and a backpack on shouldn't be given free access to a municipal building or power station. The last sentence I quoted however I find rather shocking. It basically means that the Ontario government can declare any place in the province as being under this act and thereby waiving your rights to unreasonable search and seizure, your right to not have to identify yourself while walking on public property and curtailing your freedom of movement.

So now within 5 metres of the G20 fencing that is now dominating Toronto this act now applies where it did not before. In early June the Ontario government designated the 5m zone without making a public announcement. It is due to appear in writing July 3rd, after the summit, but available online now. This is ridiculous on a few counts. Secretly changing a law in how the public deals with police is counter-productive from every angle. A man was arrested after he refused to identify himself, the police apparently did tell him a new law was in force but frankly until police can get in serious trouble for lying there is very good reason to be skeptical of such claims. It should have been announced at least a month before so that lawyers will relay these changes to protesters and the public at large who ask and there should be signs on every fence declaring that your rights will be reduced if you are within the zone. Not doing this will create anger and fuel contempt against the police making their jobs harder.

Curtailing rights guaranteed to us by our Charter shouldn't be an issue taken lightly. The police chief said, correctly I may add, that this wasn't new legislation it was using the old Public Works Act. I'm not a lawyer and I won't comment on the legality of the entire act but frankly that is besides the point. What the province did was arbitrarily post a limit where our constitutional rights weaken. Of course we need to have limits on certain freedoms. But doing this in secret I consider to be abhorrent. How far could they have gone? Could they have said 10 or 20 metres? Entire streets? Neighbourhoods? This should have been a public matter and elected officials should have had to have their names behind it.

More arguments could be made for and against the morality and legality of what the legislature did but I think we should all say, with one voice, that we don't want our Charter Right's violated in secret in the name of a security threat. It is an old argument but very valid, if we blindly give up freedoms at the first sign of trouble we really don't have them.

I'm not here saying "police state Gestapo Nazi's are coming to arrest you if you disagree with Harper". If that were the case it would be a more clear-cut fight. Instead we have a more subtle creep of civil liberties being traded for 'security'. As a society we need authorities to be able to execute search warrants, arrest people with evidence, not smoking gun proof, but these infringements of personal freedom are done in the open with oversight. If we give police these sort of powers you have to expect they will use them to their fullest extent. As citizens we cannot count on discretion, especially when parts of the act allow the word of the police to be treated as fact under oath. Look at the newspaper, the RCMP officers (or at least some of them) are right now being accused of lying during the investigation of Robert Dziekanski's death. Police are people, they are generally good but they make mistakes and are now under psychological pressures and constant stress.

Bottom line, I find parts of this act very questionable but what really offends me is that this act is able to reduce our civil liberties and arrest people for expressing them, totally unaware of that change. I would like to blame it partly on incompetence in government but I don't think the evidence points that way. It points to a mob-mentality in police leadership who have been given a blank cheque in resources, both financial and in their conduct.

This doesn't come close North Korea or the former USSR but it is still so very wrong.

UPDATE: Here is a letter sent by the CCLA to Hon. Rick Bartolucci

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Quantum Mechanics Primer

Quantum mechanics is one of the most peculiar, counter-intuitive and interesting physical theories that has ever been developed by science. The world of the very small has only been accessible for approximately one hundred years. This relatively short period has spawned a wealth of knowledge highlighting the elegance and subtlety of the natural world. I am going to go over the history and the very basics of quantum physics before I try to tackle some people who misunderstand (or are simply con artists) and misrepresent the science to suit their purposes.

History and Background

The transition from classical to quantum mechanics began at the turn of the 20th century. Like all paradigm shifts in science new discoveries and thinking led to inconsistencies with current models. In this case it was black body radiation. This radiation is emitted by all objects with a the frequency is directly dependant on the object's temperature. It is the phenomenon that causes stove tops to glow red as the radiation distribution transitions from the invisible infrared regime to visible light.

Stolen from:

The theories at the time didn't match up with observations as the temperature reached the ultraviolet regime. If light was treated classically an infinite amount of energy was predicted to be released as the formulae showed an increase in energy proportional to the square of the frequency. The solution of this problem was to re-examine some of the premises the incorrect theory was based on.

Einstein and Planck developed the idea that instead of being continuous as before light was divided into packets called quanta. Each of these "pieces" of light required a certain amount of energy to be created which increased with the colour. Since it would take a lot of energy to create lets say X-rays they wouldn't be significant until temperatures reached very high values.

This discovery led to the first major revolution in the physical sciences since Newton. Many other well known scientists jumped into the fray and completely transformed our view of the physical world.

Photons were now seen as a particle. However the theory also had to reconcile with previous observations that showed, without ambiguity, that light also had wavelike properties. The answer turned out to be that indeed photons and, as was later discovered all matter, has properties of waves as well as particles. It is hard to picture this simply because our brains evolved to do different things than study QM. It would be rather anthropocentric for us to think that nature has to behave in ways that we can comprehend intuitively. Instead math provides us the gateway to learn, make predictions, test and ultimately utilize the world of the very small.

All matter therefore is "fuzzy". Instead of saying a particle is at a certain location we can only give a range of probabilities of its location. Another interesting emergent property is that particles can tunnel through barriers forbidden by classical physics. A decent analogy of this would be to imagine a ball rolling in a frictionless half-pipe getting near but never past the lip. Classical physics says that this ball will roll forever but quantum mechanics says there is a non-zero chance that the ball will tunnel through the half-pipe. It is important to not take this analogy to literally as macroscopic objects don't do this. The probability of this happening on an actual half-pipe is effectively zero. Many electrical process however have to take into account this tunneling current especially now that transistors on some silicon chips are around 45nm in size. The fact of the matter is that at the macroscopic scales we live in these effects are no longer apparent as the large number of particles are "smoothed out" and the wavelike property doesn't exist for all practical purposes.

Quantum Mysticism

Unfortunately due to the relative complexity of the math behind even basic quantum mechanics (2nd order PDE's) it typically isn't taught until the second or third year of an undergraduate physics program. This leaves the vast majority of the population in dark when claims are being made about the subject. It is a perfect storm, hard-to-understand theories and people ready to take advantage of that; most people don't believe that you can fall through your chair, you can co-exist in two places at once or that your thoughts can directly affect reality until the word quantum is brought into the sentence.

The popular docu-drama "What the Bleep do we Know?" is probably the most notable example on film. It blends real science, analogies and pure bullshit. When you start digging deeper the movie begins to unravel. The main individuals behind the movie are all from Ramtha's School of Enlightenment. A sort of new-age school/cult founded by J.Z. Knight. This person claims to channel the spirit of a Lemurian named Ramtha who led an army of 2.5 million to battle the Atlanteans 35 000 years ago. Yeah...

Of course their background doesn't necessarily make their claims false. Instead their backgrounds and fundamental beliefs are wholly inconsistent with reality as we understand it, dead people don't talk to living people and the estimated human population was around half of the size of the army he supposedly led. This should lead you to more skepticism of their claims. Maybe they have discovered the secret to life, the universe and everything but until they actually drop down some real evidence their claims are just crackpot assertions.

Now looking at the actual thesis of the movie, namely that because of the laws of quantum mechanics you can control the world around you with your thoughts. The basic law they are butchering is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. It states that in nature some quantities cannot be known with arbitrary precision at the same time as certain other quantities. It extends to more than this but lets look at the most common case, momentum and position. The more you know about one quantity the less you can know about the other. This isn't a limitation on technology it is a fundamental law of nature the more precise in one measurement, the less precise the other is.

A basic explanation of this can be thought of by incorporating the act of measuring. When we look at a ruler we only get information because light is transmitting it. Now imagine the ruler was much much smaller. If each particle was a marking on the rule the light may actually have enough energy to push the particle and change its state. The act of measuring the system, the transmitted photon of light has caused the system to change. But remember a person doesn't have to be present, all that has to happen is particle interaction.

The movie takes this and tries to elevate this concept to consciousness. They take "observer" and link it to a human being. This is a huge leap and ultimately a non-sequitor. Quantum mechanics says nothing about human consciousness influencing measurements. They made it up. Their argument disintegrates when the primary premise of the movie, that we can change reality with our thoughts is shown to be based on, instead of established science, pure conjecture.

I haven't gone through most of the movie, if you are interested there are plenty of skeptical take downs of it. I only want to get people thinking about how others will take advantage of complex scientific topics such as QM and consciousness. They are both fascinating topics on their own, you don't need to make shit up. The fact that we don't fully comprehend the two doesn't mean we won't understand them in the future or that quantum mechanics won't play a roll. If there is a significant link between quantum mechanics and the brain I am quite confident it will be much more subtle and elegant than this magical thinking.