Monday, August 13, 2018

Rotten Trade

Let American Produce Rot
One would have to be living pretty deeply under a rock to not know that Canada is being bullied by president #45 of the United States of America. President Trump has unilaterally declared economic war on Canada, and entered into bilateral discussions with Mexico in an attempt to subvert the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). That is, of course, his prerogative. It would seem that Free Trade, as a concept, is completely foreign to Mr. Trump, because he only views a "negotiation" to be a success if he "wins" and the other guy "loses". Free Trade, on the other hand is all about mutual benefit, not winners and losers. As such, I don't expect that NAFTA will have a life until the orange man is out of the white house. While the government of Canada continues to press for mutual respect in negotiations with Washington, we are restricting our tariff activities to "tit-for-tat" adjustments. This is the civilized approach, and our government is wise to do so. However, when dealing with a bullying ape guerilla tactics are in order. It is time for all Canadians to stand on guard for Canada and hit the United States of America where it will hurt most, the pocket book.

I sent a letter today to Prime Minister Trudeau requesting that the product labelling laws in Canada be adjusted to require the provenance of products be displayed, by percentage from each country, on all packaging. For example, if a box of cereal is imported from Mexico but uses wheat from the USA, I may want to consider another brand that uses wheat from Canada. Or in another case, just because a pair of shoes is assembled in Canada doesn't mean that they don't use uppers and soles from the USA. Perhaps the government could certify products that have more than a certain percentage of Canadian content (say 80% or higher).

Such changes however, if chosen, would take a long time to implement. We Canadians must act now. So I am asking that all Canadians contact the grocery chains at the corporate level, and advise them that we will NOT be buying produce from the USA, and request that they identify other sources of produce for their stores.
Grocery Landscape in Canada
Grocery Landscape in Canada (click image to enlarge)
Almost all grocery stores in Canada are owned by one of three companies: either Empire Company Limited, Loblaw Companies Limited, or Metro. Writing to Loblaw Companies Limited one reaches 27 grocery and pharmacy chains. Writing to the Empire Company Limited, will reach 13 grocery chains. Writing to Metro will reach 5 grocery chains in Ontario and Quebec. To the best of my knowledge, there is nothing that is grown in the United States that cannot be either sourced from another country, or replaced with a comparable product from Canada. If the large grocery chains are made to understand that produce from the USA will just rot on their shelves, they will make other purchasing decisions, or they will lose sales to competitors who do.

The time to act is now. Stand up to this bully, and show him what Canadian grit and determination looks like. Call or write today. Don't know what to say? I've drafted some thoughts at the bottom of this page to get you started.

Loblaw Companies Limited

Customer Relations
Hours of Operation
Monday to Friday 8:30 am to 4:30 pm ET
Call toll-free: 1-888-495-5111
Email: customerservice@loblaws.ca

Empire Company Limited

Contact the Board of Directors
You may communicate with the Board of Directors through the Office of the Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary in the following manner:
Doug Nathanson
Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary
Empire Company Limited
115 King Street
Stellarton, Nova Scotia
B0K 1S0
E-mail: board@empireco.ca
Sobeys Customer Care
Atlantic
Call toll-free 1-888-944-0442
Monday to Friday 8:00 am to 5:00 pm (AST)
E-mail: customer.service@sobeys.com
Ontario
Call toll-free 1-888-821-5557
Monday to Friday 8:00 am to 4:30 pm (EST)
E-mail: customer.care.ontario@sobeys.com
West
Call toll-free 1-800-723-3929
Monday to Friday 8:00 am to 5:00 pm (MST)
E-mail: customer.helpline@sobeys.com

Metro

Call toll-free: 7-877-763-7374
or Fill out the web-form here.

Draft Email

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am a loyal customer of [name of chain].

I am very concerned about the situation involving Canada's trade with the United States. As such, I would like to advise you that, until an equitable NAFTA has been renegotiated that is fair to all trading partners, I will not be buying any produce that originates in the USA. I ask that you make sure that you source produce from other countries so that I continue to have the selection to which I am accustomed. If I cannot avoid American produce at your stores, I may have to avoid your stores to find stores that are willing to stand up for Canada.

Thank you in advance.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Stollen Cookies?

CC-BY-2.0 (bamml82, flickr.com)Have you heard that a frog can be cooked without a shock to its system by placing it in a pot with cold water, and gradually turning up the heat? Well, you are the frog, and internet-based mobile applications are the heat.

Last night, I was working on a blog post that had remained in draft mode for far too long, and part of what I did was to look for appropriate imagery using my phone. I started looking for "Tug of War" images on flickr.com before changing my search to "Sumo wrestling".

Today, Facebook magically showed me a "sponsored" post from NHK Japan for "GRAND SUMO LIVE". I have NEVER searched for sumo until last night, and that search was on the Flickr website.

Screenshot of sponsored postThe way cookies are supposed to work is that they are only accessible to the website that issued them. So, it would make sence for Flickr to keep track of my searches using cookies. But if I search for something on Google and then visit Amazon, Amazon shouldn't know anything about my activities on Google. Clearly, this is not the case with the Facebook Android app. My search history on Flickr should not be visible to any other site, and since I don't have a Flickr account, I don't think Flickr sold Facebook the data. Somehow, either through an astronomical coincidence, or some other means, Facebook managed to figure out that, at least right now, I have an interest in SUMO.

I'm not suggesting that you start making tinfoil hats. Nor have I deleted the Facebook App... yet. The point of this post, however, is that it truly is possible that this is just coincidence. However, Facebook's track record on matters of privacy is not that great. As a result, I am inclined to think that they are harvesting cookies from my phone. Do I have proof? No, but this is an example of what I have written extensively about: Ethical Debt. Because ethics do not seem to be high on the priority list for facebook, one tends to assume that every questionable event is somehow done in the shadows. Companies MUST hold themselves to a higher standard, because the consumer will stop granting credit if the ethical debt gets too high.

WR

Sunday, July 8, 2018

CISSP Common Body of Knowledge - Domain One, a study aid

The Common Body of Knowledge (CBK) for the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) is a lengthy document with a lot of terminology that may be new to those studying it. As part of my preparation for the exam, I started a list of keywords that jumped out at me. As that list expanded, it occurred to me that this would be an excellent basis for a series of crossword puzzles. To that end, here's the first one.

Note, this is by no means a definitive list of keywords. These are just some keywords that came to the fore as I studied. You might find others. I might create another crossword as I continue working through Domain One.


Across

4 An inspection that ensures that expectations and standards are met.

5 The stability of the state of something over a period of me.

6 To isolate dues so that they must be performed by more than one person.

7 Laws or by-laws enacted by governing bodies to control the activities of a subordinate group.

9 A violation of established law.

10 The assurance that the information accessed is correct and free from unauthorized modification.

12 The individual planning or perpetrating an event.

14 The foundational elements that guides one's thoughts and actions.

15 An uncertain event or condition that, if it occurs, has the potential to negatively impact the organization.

20 The assurance that only those individuals with appropriate permission can access information.

24 To ensure that the latest software is in use.

25 The means of ensuring that an activity is being performed with appropriate permission.

27 To observe what is taking place in real-me.

28 A firm belief in the reliability or truth of something.


29 In the case of Information Security, an unauthorized restriction placed on a system.

Down

1 A safeguard that protects against a specific threat.

2 The leadership and organizational structures and processes that ensure that the organization achieves its strategies and objectives.

3 A plan that demonstrates expected reaction to stimulus.

4 Something of value (to an organization in this case).

8 The means of ensuring that the source or destination of a communication is truthfully conveyed.

9 An unscheduled, and unexpected termination of a process or system.

11 To aect the application of core security principles.

13 An event or situation that, if it occurred, would prevent the organization from operating in its normal manner, if at all.

16 The assurance that systems and information required, can be accessed when needed.

17 The acronym that refers to the various stages of a system's existence.

18 A copy of information.

19 The opinion generally held by those external to an organization.

21 The importance given to dierent elements in a collection.

22 A system for gathering and maintaining information.

23 To improve the application of core security principles.


26 A negative action taken against an organization or system.

Monday, June 4, 2018

A step towards tighter airport security, or more invasion of privacy?

Researchers at the University of Manchester in collaboration with the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain have developed an artificial intelligence system that can be used to identify individuals based on the way they walk. The researchers envision usages in airport security and healthcare.

I applaud the researchers for  their work. After all, both security and healthcare are important areas that require continued advancement. Here's the question though: do you agree with their claims that since this is "non-invasive" it is not subject to the same privacy concerns as fingerprints or retinal scans?

Though the current technology requires the subject to walk on a specialised mat, people could be led across such a mat without their knowledge or consent to the scan. Furthermore, is it not conceivable that an evolution of this technology will be possible with multiple camera angles?

It seems to me that the protection of privacy is not only a question of the invasiveness of the scan, but rather the informed consent of the subject being scanned. Make no mistake, any system that can be used to uniquely identify an individual must be treated with the highest level of respect for the protection of privacy. This system is no different.

wr

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Minimum Wage - Another Piece of Straw

I read "Restaurants 'taking from Peter to pay Paul' amid minimum wage hike" by CBC Marketplace and thought "here we go." I knew that the minimum wage hike was not going to have the desired effect, but I am quite disappointed that businesses are taking their hardship out on their employees. Once again, those who can least afford to pay, are going to shoulder the burden for everyone. Maybe this is the time to review wages across the board.

Now, I can hear the business owner's cry out "yes, but it's not our fault, the government saddled us with this burden, and s**t rolls downhill." I'm sorry, that is not acceptable. The actions shown in this Marketplace report, and those of certain Tim Horton's franchisees are unethical. Not only should you not be surprised when the public blames you, should should be ashamed for having tried it in the first place. I have written extensively on Ethical Debt in the past, check it out if you don't understand. The citizens of Ontario need to be made to see this for what it is, an increased tax on business. Like all tax increases, it will work its way through the entire supply chain, and end with the person purchasing the final item.

If business owners feel hard-done-by, why don't you take it out on Kathleen Wynne? When June 2018 rolls around, the populous of Ontario will vote, and the Wynne government will be unaffected (or even rewarded) for this tax because people will not see the long-term impact of her actions. Any rage that is generated, will be directed to businesses who are seen to be greedy by those with little or no knowledge of the true costs of entrepreneurship.

Instead, I suggest that you embrace this increase, and propagate it throughout your organisation... and quickly. Ask yourself, why do some people make more money than others? Does the person who makes more than minimum wage really add more value? If so, how much more? Then adjust her or his wage accordingly. If not, this becomes a training opportunity. This is an opportunity to begin paying people based on the value they provide, rather than the minimum that is required. It may seem trite, but if you care about your people, they will care about your business.

Obviously, these increases will have to be reflected in the prices of goods and services. After all, you are in business to earn a profit, not as a charity. However, I am not proposing that you have carte-blanche to gouge the consumer, but it is appropriate that your expenses are covered. And when the consumers are upset by the hit on their pocket-book, they will direct their anger to the person who initiated the hit, Kathleen Wynne. If you hold off, and try to survive, you will not only be putting your business at greater risk, but you will be letting the Wynne government get away with this attack on your livelihood.

We are all camels here. Each one carrying a burden for the values that our society holds dear. Let us be careful not to transfer our straw to our neighbouring camels, but rather refuse any additional straw that is placed on us just to win votes.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Fair Taxation?

CTV News reported on a town hall meeting in Kelowna, British Columbia, and the push back that Prime Minister Trudeau had to endure. It seems that some in the Liberal caucus, and the Prime Minister himself are a bit surprised that the country isn't jumping on this taxing small business bandwagon. Maybe it's because most people understand that the truly wealthy people of Canada will be unaffected by this change, and the people who are only "comfortable" will be hit, and in some cases hit hard.

You want a fair tax system? Get rid of income tax, and focus on a consumption tax like the GST. Don't single out the one segment of the population that is taking the biggest risk to create jobs. It is my opinion that if we'd raise the GST by somewhere around 5% to 7%, we could abolish income tax all together. Then, the government would be taxing the people with money, and not taxing the poor.

When the GST was introduced, there was a surplus. It seems obvious to me that this surplus was the result of the government basing its GST needs on the income tax ledgers. Once it was introduced, the government started taxing people who were otherwise not paying tax... or at least not all of the tax that the rest of us paid.

Of course, there could be no tax on children's clothing, food, books, cars under $10K or $15K, and a few other "essentials". But when someone goes out and buys a 60 inch TV? Damn straight they should be taxed. Someone buys a new car... absolutely? But someone buys school books or clothes? Not a chance. If you don't have money, you're not going to spend the little you have on the latest technologies and luxury items. But those people with money tend to replace these things at an alarming rate.

Fair taxation? Give me a break. The current tax rules in Canada are so complicated that only people with money, such as Mr. Trudeau, can take full advantage of all the loopholes. The rest of us file our income tax and HOPE we haven't left too much meat on the bone.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Democrazy

Maybe it's time we re-think this whole "Democracy" thing. I am not proposing Communism (though in its pure form would be better than Democracy), and I am not proposing Anarchy (which in its pure form is better than Communism). However, it seems obvious to me after watching the turmoil surrounding the Arab Spring, the Brexit vote, the Trump victory, and numerous Canadian elections, that "Democracy", as it is currently implemented, is broken. It is time to move away from party politics and embrace direct representation.

I think it is time for "Democracy 2.0".

Before I go further, let me stress two things:
I am a layman. I have no political training whatsoever.
I don’t want to lead you. I have no political aspirations whatsoever.
What I do have is a desire to see mankind live in peace, and to see governments actually represent their people.

If you continue to do what you’ve always done, 
you will continue to see what you’ve always seen.

What’s wrong with the status-quo? When I reflect on the lack of direct representation in democracy, there is one thing that repeatedly jumps out at me: The Party Political Model. Under the party model, one person is appointed leader (or assumes leadership) of the party. This leader establishes the platform that the party rallies behind. The party then goes out into the country (or province), and places a candidate in each electoral district (or riding) that they can afford to. On Election Day, you (the people) then choose the party (and its leader) whose platform closest relates to your personal set of priorities. In Canada, this usually boils down to a decision between Liver & Onions or Onions & Liver. The local politician has very little say as to what issues are important, and is often bullied into voting the party line, especially on issues of significance. Your voice is heard only once every four years.
Based on photo by Arthur Chapman CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
In English, when one wants to say that something is out of order, one often says that “the cart is before the horse.” This is the current state of Democracy. As long as the leader of government is chosen before the members of government, the members will represent the leader before their constituents. This may have been needed at a time when most people had no way of knowing what a particular candidate’s opinion on the issues was. So, the party was trusted to assemble like-minded representatives. However, with the advent of the internet, and even more so Social Media, a constituent can know everything there is to know about a candidate. Fancy a life in politics? You had better keep your digital footprint clean.

Democracy 2.0 in Action

What would Democracy 2.0 look like? For starters, the size of the constituency would be based on the number of people an average representative can actually represent. I don’t know what that number is, that would require further research. But think of it this way, if a representative were to speak with a different constituent every half hour, seven hours a day, every week day for fifty weeks of the year, s/he could hear the opinions of 3,500 constituents. If the size of the constituency is 100,000 people, the opinions of those 3,500 constituents would reflect the entire population of the constituency 95% of the time with a 1.63 margin of error. (As an aside, the average population of Canadian federal ridings is 99,034.)

In Canada, we have a situation that doesn’t occur everywhere, but must be addressed in all countries where it does occur. Since the formation of Canada was the result of colonialization, we have an indigenous population. Our indigenous population is known as the “First Nations.” Due to the sleight of hand and wordsmithing skills of the colonial forces (not to mention military might), the First Nations are not represented equally in government. Under Democracy 2.0, each Nation of the First Nations would have a seat in government. We cannot undo the past, but we can fix the future.

So, now that we’ve nailed down the size of the constituency, let’s discuss candidates. All candidates that wish to represent a constituency must actually be from that constituency. Under the party model, it is not un-common for a party to move a candidate to a constituency where they cannot, or will not, field someone local. That person knows nothing about life in that area, and cannot possibly have a vested interest in the wellbeing of that community. If we remove the parties, we open the door to direct representation. The electorate focuses their decision making on choosing the candidate that best represents their beliefs and concerns.

You might ask: what about Leadership, and Opposition? How would that work? I would reply: ask yourself this: what do you expect the Opposition to do? Oppose. But what should they do when the law being debated has merit? Do you really want someone to sit in opposition to something they know to be right? Under Democracy 2.0, all members of the House of Representatives are members of the Government, and all members of the House of Representatives are members of the Opposition. Under Democracy 2.0, they are all expected to consider each bill or act (or whatever you call them in your context) under its own merit. Each representative can propose a bill for consideration by his or her peers, but there is no one person who is sitting in a position of authority over them. As such, there is no one person who influences their vote.

The role of Leader would be occupied by a member of the House of Representatives chosen by his or her peers. For this, I like the British term “Prime Minister.” This would be the first among equals, the Head of State. One must note however, that this position is external facing. As each representative is accountable to his or her constituency, this Prime Minister would be accountable to the House of Representatives, and would be expected to represent their beliefs and concerns on the world stage.

A Brave New World

The beauty of the Democracy 2.0 model is that it would scale really well. The same model could be applied to local governments, provincial (or state) governments, even to multilateral organizations like the United Nations. The challenge is making it a reality. The political machines that drive democratic implementations around the world are protectionist in nature, and are not likely to change from the inside. It would take a true statesman or stateswoman to give up power once granted the majority required to make Democracy 2.0 happen. But I can always dream.