Grant Rants

Vic Toews, Jean-Luc Picard and drumheads

- February 16th, 2012

Greetings heathens, zealots, web denizens, and the rest of you!

I had an epiphany the other day. Now, this is going to sound a little ka-ray-zee, but bear with me. I think it will eventually make sense.

Our federal politicians need to take a break for a month and do nothing but watch Star Trek. Not the new movie, although it was pretty geektastic. And certainly not Voyager or the last, trippy season of DS9 (seriously does ANYONE understand the series finale? That thing was Lost before Lost was Lost.)

No, I am talking about the Next Generation. In particular, an episode (my fav. of the series actually) entitled “Drumhead” – named after a particularly ghastly 19th century military tradition in Europe where soldiers were tried on the battlefield in vicious kangroo courts. If you were called to one, well, you didn’t need to worry about polishing your boots ever again.

The basic plot is that there was a traitor onboard the Enterprise, which triggers this crazy witch hunt for more traitors. A kangroo court is convened, and any opposition to the process is regarded as a sign of guilt and treachery. The whole sad affair is finally brought to end by our favorite bald captain (after an innocent person’s career is ruined) with a short but brilliant speech about civil liberties:

 (The key bits from the episode are definitely worth watching, particularly the opening scene.)

So why am I going on about this bit of science fiction fun? Because it seems to me to the writers of Star Trek have a better grip on the balance between safety and privacy than our current crop of election officials.

I’m referring in particular to  federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. This week he brought forward a internet surveillance bill — originally called the Lawful Access Act, but since that sounds slightly sketchy, the name was quickly changed to the much more cheerful  Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act — that caused a whole lot of people go sit up and go “uh, yah, hold the phone.”

Essentially, the bill would force internet service providers to hand data on their customers – name, address, phone number, email address  and IP address – over to the police upon request without a warrant. Internet service providers would also have to install software and hardware to record the activity of its customers so the police could access it, although getting at that would require a warrant.

Needless to say this whole getting access to private info about citizens without a warrant stuff caused privacy experts and web denizens to have a freak out. It’s not that anyone says the police shouldn’t, when justified, be able to get that kind of information in timely manner (Internet service providers already cooperate with police requests something like 94% of the time, making the bill itself moot.) It’s just that they shouldn’t be able to get it willy-nilly. Police cannot come into your home, or get your phone records on a whim, so why should they be able to grab your internet info without a warrant?

All reasonable objections to Toews’ pet project. How did our public safety minister react? Did he take these criticisms seriously? Did he try to explain how the privacy of Canadian’s would not be abused should his bill become law?

No.

What he said was that critics of the bill can “can either stand with us or with the child pornographers.” thestupiditburns

That’s right. According to Mr. Toews,  if you question what the government is doing you are in league with criminal deviants who hunt children.

Clearly, a rational response.

We’ve heard this sort of pygmy minded nonsense from the feds before. Defense Minister Peter MacKay used to use this line with those who disagreed with the government’s plan to buy new fighter jets. If you debated the issue, he’d say, you hurt the morale of our troops and that would get them killed, so just shut the hell up would you?

The internet bill rationale being kicked around gets even more ridiculous, with some saying that, well, if you are not guilty of anything you don’t need to worry about it, do you? Even the writers of a science fiction TV show knew this kind of police state drivel was nonsense. I mean, seriously, how much trouble are we in when Captain Picard makes more sense than our elected officials?

So I am going to say this as plainly as I can before my head explodes out of frustration thinking about this:

Dear Conservative politicians: Canadians who disagree with you are not automatically siding with terrorists and criminals. It is possible to have a policy disagreement with you without being some kind of super-villain. When you suggest the only option is to agree with you or destroy the country, you make us want to lock you all in a room where you have to sit beside someone who is knitting something that isn’t there whilst endless singing the Coconut song. (Just saying that already put the song in your head, didn’t it? So don’t push us.)

If that isn’t clear enough let me try it in words of less than two syllables: Stop it!

So, Mr. Toews and gang, take a break, buy some Star Trek DVDs and maybe you’ll learn something.

Categories: Geekosity, News, politics, the stupid it burns

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