The Most Important Question U.S. Voters Face in 2012

"It's the economy, stupid," is not the question, although that IS an important one.

No. The really important question is this: Why do so many REALLY, REALLY rich white guys want people to vote for Mitt Romney and/or against Barack Obama? (face it, folks, the way things are structured today, nobody else has a hope...)

I'm not an American voter so I shouldn't say more but I can't quite resist.

Maybe it's because they're such patriots. But I doubt it.
Maybe it's because they want your best. But I doubt that, too.

But think about this question for more than a few seconds before you decide how to vote, please. And don't settle for simple answers either. This is one case where Occam's razor is more likely to slit a throat than give a close shave.


So maybe my MP is reading my mail...

But I don't think he's getting the message. After a long delay, in answer to the letter I posted here, Mr. Moore sent me this not-quite-as-canned-as-usual response:

Mr. Klassen,

Thank you for writing to me about copyright reform in Canada.  I appreciate you taking the time to share your views with me and have noted your concerns regarding the impact that providing legal protection for technological protection measures (TPMs) may have on different parties. I have read your previous correspondence as well.

Copyright is a marketplace framework law.  Accordingly, copyright owners may decide whether to use TPMs for their content and consumers whether to pay for such content.  Detailed information about Bill C-11 is available online atwww.balancedcopyright.gc.ca.

Our government wants legislation that balances both the rights of creators and the interests of consumers.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to write and share your concerns with me. I appreciate the opportunity to respond.


James Moore, PC MP

Unfortunately, it's still about C-11, that's still bad in so many ways that Michael Geist can't keep silent about it to this day. My reply back to him went as follows.

Mr. Moore,

Thank you for what I perceive to be a much more individual reply than previously. I regret to say that your assurances of the law's balance of the different rights at stake do not convince me. Rights holders (often, from many artists' point of view, rights grabbers, frankly) get far too much consideration and rights of fair use, presumption of innocence of the consumer, and a healthy guardianship of a creative commons that should be allowed to grow with orderly expiry of copyrights are not protected adequately.

The RIAA and MPAA and their member organizations have demonstrated graphically and without any ambiguity their willingness to bully individuals into outrageous and financially devastating settlements, to go on fishing expeditions and to do so when their failing profits are more closely related to the sagging quality of their product than to the results of piracy. This kind of behaviour should not be rewarded in the court (and that sort of thing is gradually being stopped) but even more it should not be protected by law.

Academic studies, time and time again, show that the most widely-shared (by any means) artists are the most successful ones. The most stunning cases of these are the careers of Radiohead, Metallica and even the Canadian, Neil Young, who released the whole Living With War album online -- I listened to it several times that way before buying it myself. So the whining of multi-national bullies, who effectively want the right to pillage Canadian families for the meagre improvement of their American bottom line, should not be brooked.

Is there anything even in the latest incarnation of C-11 that comes at the issues from that angle? I think not. Instead this government is intent on defending the privilege and profit of the few on the backs of the many. Fortunately, the best word describing that is highly parliamentary and I cry it out: "Shame! Shame!" Send me a new bulletin when your policies are more in the defense of the people's interests than they are currently, please, and on this subject, not before.


Arthur N. Klassen

Of course, this doesn't even begin to deal with potential privacy concerns but there are limits if you want to conduct civil discourse even over something as uncivil as C-11. There are just too many things about this bill to complain about them all at once without sounding like your shrieking into the void. If my words are consigned to be redirected to /dev/null (computerese for "the void"), at least they'll be uttered in tones that wouldn't remind any listener of fingernails on blackboards.


Letter to my MP about Bill C-11

(and to the other members of the committee reviewing C-11)

to James Moore, MP for Port Moody--Westwood--Port Coquitlam

Dear Mr. Moore,

I have little hope that you pay attention to any of my e-mails any more. With a margin of 10s of thousands in every election, you need not pay attention but I implore you to do so. The digital lock provisions in bill C-11 are too high a price to pay in freedoms for any of the good that might be in the bill and it ought to be quashed now.

My government is already culpable trying to gin up support for tighter controls by having the MPAA and RIAA lobby the US to call us a nation of pirates, but you and I know that it is not so and it must be depressing to the agitators that no hysteria has flowed from these attempts.

In fact, it is demonstrable that freely allowing piracy (at least of music) ultimately does more good than harm to both musicians and publishers. Just ask Neil Young how many copies of "Living With War" he sold after freely publishing the whole album on the internet. Just ask Radiohead. And then ask Metallica how much dislike they garnered by siding with the lockdown artists.

We don't need tighter locks, and we don't need to give Multinational bullies more opportunities to pillage Canadian families at many 100s of times the value of any piracy they may have engaged in. This legislation does exactly the opposite of what a government ought to do in this particular vein. A government ought to protect its citizens from bullies but this legislation has the potential to unleash the bullies' unjust wrath against Canadians.

It is a good thing that cries of "Shame! Shame!" fall within parliamentary language, for that is the weakest epithet your government deserves for considering this legislation. Drop the bill. Write something with reasonable protections (at 1000ths of the strength of the current one) for commercial interests but with primary protection for Canadians and for a growing, vibrant public domain. Do not hamper the tinkerers of today when they or their children are sure to become the engineers and innovators of tomorrow.


Arthur N. Klassen


SOPA -- in Canada it's our turn

If you value your digital freedoms and you live in Canada, it's time.

Ireland has already fallen but the rest of Europe is resisting ACTA and even America is taking a second look at it after SOPA and PIPA were stopped in their tracks there. Now it's our turn.

Monday is the beginning of final hearings on Bill C-11 which has in the last stages turned draconian.

Michael Geist's page (click here) tells you what you need to know. I live in James Moore's riding now and so he'll hear from me from both directions -- but I think my e-mail address is on his spam source list. He doesn't reply to me -- that's how a member of parliament rolls in the digital age, I guess. Here's what you should do:

1. Find your MP here (ou ici).

2. Write a polite note expressing your opposition to pre-emptive site blocking, expanded enabler definitions, broad protections for the companies that exploit artists, warrantless subscriber list handovers -- all coupled with a higher iPod tax. And send it individually to the e-mails listed in Michael Geist's page (committee members and ministers) as well as to your own MP.

Just to be sure they get it, write it out on paper, address an envelope and send it to them in Canada WITHOUT A POSTAGE STAMP (for parliamentary mail, that works!) -- but our postal system isn't fast enough to get it to them before Monday's opening.

3. Sign, for instance, the online petition at OpenMedia.ca

4. Do creative things that are outside the control of the corporate gatekeepers of culture.

5. Spread the word, and resist the feeling of impending doom. Keep calm and carry on.


Google's New Privacy Policy

Google, with their new privacy policy, has offered us all a choice: to have everything we've ever googled be remembered for the rest of our lives and beyond, or to stop using all google products in one month. Hello Hobson!

How do we stop this? I don't know if we can, but we can try.

If everyone who uses any google product were to give google one piece of feedback every day objecting to that new policy and stating it plainly to them that:

Any retention of my data, even blinded, for longer than 90 days is an evil and unwarranted potential intrusion into my privacy. Google may still be trying to live up to "Don't Be Evil" but we cannot believe that you will always be able to protect all of our data, no matter what happens to your servers, your company or to the country under whose laws you primarily operate. Please stand down from perpetual storage to "90 days to oblivion".

If this goes viral, google will have to change. Will the rest of the 99% hear my voice and use the people's microphone? It's the only way I can imagine we'll get through to power that still thinks it's not evil so that maybe they'll back off.


Trans-Pacific Partnership and Public Domain in Canada

Earlier today, I saw a post on slashdot about the potential extension of copyright length in Canada as part of a free-trade negotiation called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CBC article):

slashdot (a little overblown, as usual):

The Canadian government is now considering a plan to enter trade negotiations that would extend the term of copyright by 20 years, meaning nothing new would enter the public domain in Canada until at least 2032. The government is holding a public consultation with the chance for Canadians to speak out to save the public domain.

Michael Geist:

Based on leaks of the current drafts of the TPP IP chapter, the agreement would overhaul Canadian copyright law far beyond what is contemplated in Bill C-11. In fact, the TPP would require even stricter digital lock rules, extend the term of copyright, restrict trade in parallel imports, and increase various infringement penalties.


Canada's term of copyright meets the international standard of life of the author plus 50 years, which has now become a competitive advantage when compared to the United States, Australia, and Europe, which have copyright terms that extend an additional 20 years (without any evidence of additional public benefits).

I wrote the following e-mail to the the public consultations address, consultations@international.gc.ca, cc-ing it to my Member of Parliament (find yours here -- ask me for help if you need it!):


I am a lifelong innovator as a software developer for the last 25 years. I expect to continue doing this for a further unspecified period and I am committed to seeing the best and the brightest be able to develop to their full potential here in Canada, continuing to produce wealth and competitive advantages for Canada well into the lifetimes of my grandchildren. Because of that, I strongly oppose any trading away of freedom to tinker, to study, to reverse engineer, to learn the State of the Art from existing devices. Bill C-11, while less egregious than its forebears, is still an onerous impairment to that freedom but going further, as the TPP IP chapter negotiations would have us do is an unacceptable further impairment.

I urge my government to stop restricting their geeks from becoming excellent geeks. Broader trade is important, yes. But even more important is the development in Canada, by Canadians, in service of Canadian-owned companies of unique and valuable products that can command market premiums wherever they go, regardless of free trade pacts. And the simplest easy way to enable that is for Canada to insist on preserving for its geeks, present and future, the freedom to tinker, study, reverse engineer and learn for private study even where doing so for profit would represent a theft of others' duly gained competitive advantage.

Just as the right to media-shift, to back up, to maintain personal access to digital assets that individual consumers may have purchased is of inestimable value to the consumer, even more the freedom to tinker for geeks and potential geeks, present and future is of inestimable value to all Canadians. Trading such a birthright in return for the week-of-pottage that a free trade agreement might give is as foolish now as it has ever been.


Arthur N. Klassen

Looking further at the press around this deal, I have to assert, as well, that this agreement looks bad in a bunch of other directions, including opening threats to the high-quality for slightly-higher-price milk and egg market in Canada, so there is no shortage of reasons why an informed Canadian should oppose forging such close ties with all these nations at such a high cost.

Consider writing a letter of some variety to


Garbage Collection -- an idea whose time will never come to C++

Except as part of a boost library if someone wants it that badly. And I'm not sure they would. And that's my insufficiently humble opinion.

I'm frustrated with myself that I wasn't following Herb Sutter's blog closely enough that I could have taken part in the conversation over this blog post on Garbage Collection.

I like Herb Sutter. He's very smart, he speaks articulately about C++, and his effect on the C++11 standard has been good. Still, I confess, I'm annoyed that he has allowed himself to be co-opted by Microsoft to lend any support to the C++/CLI, C++/CX and C# food chains, which if they never crash and burn don't deserve to do anything better than fizzle. Vendor-specific languages are structurally evil (Apple is guilty here, too) and he's smart enough to have figured that out for himself. But in my calmer moments I'm willing to concede that these are things about which reasonable people can (and do) disagree.

So, let me give you my take on "Garbage Collection Synopsis, and C++".

The post opens with the quote: "OK, GC was invented half a century ago. When it is going to land in the C++ world?"

This question is so rife with assumptions that those should be dealt with before the question itself is even touched with a barge pole (which is about as close as GC should come to C++). These would be:

1. "GC is desirable for any language"
2. "Anything half a century old is well-defined enough that bringing it into any language should be easy"
3. "C++ wants/needs GC" (I'm holding my breath already!).

Right aways, Herb enumerates three kinds of garbage collection, the first of which is all that C++ usually needs. It wasn't available in the early days when good pointer-wrapper classes weren't widely available, but it's there now and that should be the end of the story for most of us.

The annoying part of the rest of the article including most of its comments, was the utter lack of effort made in identifying and highlighting those situations for which that option was insufficient, and why. @sim82 mentioned that phylogenetics regularly has circular-referenced nodes that make ordinary pointer-wrapping insufficient but didn't elaborate why the weak_ptr/shared_ptr pattern wasn't enough to solve the problem, either.

Martin Vejnár made the interesting observation about putting off memory releases until later (due to processing burden) to which another major commenter, David Abrahams, answered some'at about it being hard to do memory allocation without locking the world. And that has me wondering if in our wonderful multi-core world, there wasn't a way to do this by other means. Let me post on that idea soon.

Two other things annoyed me about the article. One was the "run, don't walk, to watch this video on Garbage Collection" in the main article. The video, while erudite and informative about how garbage collection worked, failed to convince me that it was good for anything other than allowing programmers to be more lazy. The additional specious was made that because C# had it, ASP was a better web-app-server environment than anything else out there. The other was in Herb's answer to three questions that got wrapped up in why any feature (including GC) should perhaps not be included in a computer language at all:

a) How likely will the feature be abused more than used well?
b) How often is the feature needed at all?
c) What cost or how viral is the feature? (does it force itself on those who might not want it)

His answers to these questions failed to convince me that GC belonged in C++, although mentioning Booch's comments on multiple inheritance raised an important point. Still, since C++ is so expressive, things that are actually in other languages, for instance named parameters (native in Python, in boost, here) can be brought in without including it in the language. The chap who raised these questions also asked if Herb's support for GC was related to his position with respect to C#, C++/CLR and C++/CX and here alone was something that remotely convinced me there was some need. After admitting his complicity in those projects (while denying the connection to wanting GC in C++), he goes on to say:

Note that for several years now I've been writing and teaching about Effective Concurrency in all the major languages — C++, Java, C#, and C+pthreads – and in the lock-free code section I keep having to add comments about how certain examples are easy/easier in Java and C#, and hand-wave about what it would take to do them in C++. I hate that.

I'd hate that, too -- but it'd be nice if Herb could have pointed to one of the examples he's talking about. I'm still none the wiser. Looking at the ABA problem, the other concrete item he mentions, it looks like the sort of thing that could be solved by a ZooKeeper-style version#-along-with-data paradigm, which shouldn't be hard to implement inside a library either, in a multi-threaded (thanks C++11), no-lock, portable way, never mind the somewhat trivial solution of thin-wrapping ZooKeeper!

But it's too bad that so much noise clouded what could have been an informative discussion. And I admit that if I had jumped in, it's eminently possible that I would have missed, in the moment, the way to ask a follow-on question that would have turned it to more useful ends.


Haiku correction...

Let me correct that Haiku:

We are the techies.
We create the job makers'
Chances to dream dreams.

Who are we?

I am many things, including one who wants too badly to talk on too many topics. One of the things I am is a techie. In forwarding a video of a talk to my Member of Parliament I came up with the following sloca -- which as you have not heard, I will now proceed to relate:

"we are the techies, not the entrepreneurs and without us, the entrepreneurs can't dream,
let alone hatch their dreams into wealth and jobs"

which I think reduces nicely to a haiku...

We are the techies.
We create the job makers'
Chances to dream.

And the video? I found it at boingboing, it's hosted at youtube, and it's called "The Coming War on General Purpose Computing" by Cory Doctorow to 28C3, the Chaos Computer Congress. As I told my MP, "If you can spare the time, the 54 minutes you might spend watching Cory Doctorow hold forth on the topic, you will be rewarded well, possibly in two ways: amusement, and (hopefully) enlightenment. Why do I speak passionately about encroachment on my freedom to diddle, innovate and for my children (and grandchildren) to learn? Cory explains this and I commend to you this YouTube video..."

Consider sending this to your representative -- if you have the unbelievable treasure of a representative (or two) who must face your ballot again in a finite period of time.

(I also acknowledge the Kipling fragment in the first paragraph. Rhinoceroses beware!)