Apple vs Uncle Sam

An American shit storm is brewing, this time it is between the FBI and “the” corporate giant of today’s times, Apple Inc. A heinous terrorist attack on American soil where a radicalized couple, amassed weapons and killed fourteen people happened not so long ago. One of the perpetrators owned an iPhone C.

Apple’s encryption and security features have foiled the FBI’s attempts at breaking into the device. Gaining access to this device is of utmost importance as it may contain important information which will possibly help the investigators learn if the terrorists were working with someone else.

A judge has issued an order directing Apple Inc. to grant access to the phone. So what is the problem here? Why doesn’t Apple just acquiesce to this request? Because it isn’t that simple. The technology to break into this device doesn’t exist. Apple has apparently made a state of the art operating system with advanced security features which even the best of the best can’t break into.

To comply with the orders of the judge, Apple will need to create a new operating system and build weaknesses in it to enable the FBI to use brute force techniques to crack open the phone and unlock the data within. Once this method is devised, it can potentially be used to break any phone. It weakens the defences on all our devices and creates a security threat for anyone worldwide using an iPhone.

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO published an open letter on Apple’s website, roping in the general public into the discussion. He outlined what the FBI and the law had asked of them, he iterated what their company would have to do to comply and then laid out how it would affect everyone else using their Apple devices.

We live in a dangerous world today. America is a bright target for Islamic fundamentalists who have America and its destruction in their sights. They have used the rights and freedoms afforded to Americans as a way to terrorize them. The lax security at airports was infamously exploited as the events of 9/11 unfolded. Those arguing that Apple should do whatever it takes to help with the investigation have this as the crux of their argument.

Let’s face it, most people are law abiding citizens, hence there is relative calm in western countries where the rule of law prevails. Many law abiding citizens tend to think that since they are on the straight and narrow, and have nothing to hide what does it matter if a government agency had access to their records, at least they would be safe.

People also tend to sacrifice their individual rights for perceived collective good.

All these and others are good arguments for granting FBI the access they desire, by asking Apple to compromise the rights and freedoms of millions of people. Or is it?

People on the other side have some great points as well. Individual rights to privacy and security being one of them. According to Apple, once this tool is created, it can be used again and again and again. Even though the FBI’s request and the judge’s order does not call for this.

Government over reach however is not a new ailment. Edward Snowden blew the whistle on mass data collection the government was involved with, listening in to conversations of ordinary Americans who never did anything wrong in their lives. Admittedly, this mass data collection never really amounted to anything in terms of keeping America safe and made everyone vulnerable to abuse.

A noble government is not the only one who can exploit such a tool. Once created, nothing stops the tool from becoming a holy grail quest within the hacker community. On numerous occasions government has been unable to maintain security of its own digital resources, how does it think it can guarantee this tool will not be misappropriated and used against the people?

Looking at both sides I ask myself what is the answer to this very tough question?

On one side we have the families of the people killed in the San Bernardino attack who deserve answers. The FBI who is doing its best to determine if there was anyone else involved and bring them to justice, preventing future attacks.

On the other side, we have our rights, freedom and liberty. Each of us is an individual, born in a free country, who contributes to society and expects that society in turn respect his freedom and leave him alone as long as he abides with the laws prescribed.

As long as there are people on the face of this planet, crime will always exist. There will always be those who are misguided, who think their way is the correct way and they will use violence and intimidation to ensure the rest of us change our ways or die. So when we fight such an ideology, does it really make sense to compromise our individual rights and freedoms? Doesn’t that mean that these heinous criminals have emerged victorious in this ideological war?

In the past few years, when these criminal elements have tested us, we have cowered in fear and afforded government greater powers, powers which compromise our liberties just so that they might keep us safe. But the government is not our parent. Yes, it is tasked with wielding an infrastructure of laws and enforcement to maintain harmony within society, but really we the people are responsible as well.

There is no one better than each of us to keep us safe. Families need to look within and identify any extremist or violent traits amongst its members, affording the individual affected to prompt mental health counselling and help. We need to get involved with our neighbours and co-workers so we know those around us. This came naturally to our parents, grand parents and our ancestors before them. Society during their time was safer than ours.

Allow me to build an analogy here. Let’s imagine a criminal attacked your neighbour’s home a couple of houses away from yours. The police came and surrounded the home, and then asked the perpetrator to give himself up. He refused and then as the swat team stormed the house, he killed one of the hostages. The swat team had trouble getting in quickly because they couldn’t break down the strong doors that safeguarded the house.

Now, the court looked at this and mandated that a master key be built for every home. It directed these keys be in possession of the nearest police station so that if there ever was a call from your home, they could come out and access it quicker and possibly save your life.

In such circumstance, would you be comfortable in your home knowing that a key to your house was with your nearest police station? Do all cops come with a guarantee that they exist only to serve and protect? Have we never had instances where people in law enforcement have abused their powers? What if a drunk cop decided he liked your daughter, followed her home, then doubled back, grabbed the key to your home and let himself in to rape and murder your child?

This is an accurate analogy of what the court and the FBI are asking Apple to do. Create a master key that can potentially be abused not only by the people in law enforcement, but by people who might steal this technology from law enforcement to wreak havoc in our lives. I am of the opinion that the existence of such technology is a greater risk to me and to the security of my family than the potential threat of a future terrorist attack, so I support the viewpoint that such a backdoor never be created.

What are your thoughts on this subject? What would you like to see happen? Please feel free to leave a comment below.


Posted in In the news, Philosophy, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Cinderella Story.


Richard Gere, Julia Roberts… these two names conjure Pretty Woman. I saw this movie last when I was in my teens. A Cinderella story, played out with glamorous Hollywood as its backdrop.

I was traveling cross country today and Pretty Woman was listed in the Romance section of the inflight movie selection. A pinch of nostalgia, and I decided to watch it. I was able to pick out nuances that I had clearly missed when I was in my teens so it felt as if I was watching the movie for the first time, yet I was surprised by the minute details I remembered.

The polka dot dress that she wears to the polo game, the slimey lawyer embarrassing her, the Rodeo drive shopping scene, so many instances jumped out. What really stood out was optimism. This is the fuel on which we build successes in life.

Today there is so much darkness around us. Specially looking at news and current affairs. The economy is volatile, there is so much unwanted violence perpetrated by religious fanatics, corporations and politicians seem to be in cahoots, choking the goose that lays golden eggs, the middle class and common people. The media seems to want to highlight only the bad, sucking out hope from the millions watching and reading the toxicity they put out.

Circumstances can force people to do things they may not want to. Yet, doing what you must with poise and dignity and respect for yourself can carry a person through the most difficult of situations.

Optimism or hope that there is a path to better oneself, to get out of less than ideal circumstance, a way to move forward in life whatever the situation. If you cannot manufacture hope within yourself, if you cannot bring yourself to believe that the only way is up, you won’t be able to overcome the next obstacle in your path.

When things don’t seem to be going your way after your best efforts, not losing yourself to despair, picking yourself up and trying again, not giving up. All this may seem difficult, but, this is the only real way out of the situation, because going the other way means signing your life over to obscurity.

Do you have a story where you picked yourself up, went against odds and came out on the other side, holding the flag of your principles high, finding success in what you wanted to achieve? What’s your Cinderella story?

Posted in Experiences, Philosophy | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joining Nexus


It isn’t a stretch for me to say I travel a significant bit more than your average recreational traveler. Work demands that I crisscross the skies across North America enough times to earn elite status in a frequent flyer program.

I started business travel in the early 1990’s. I have traveled in Europe, Asia and North America. Traveling in North America was so different. Imagine driving a friend to the airport, parking the car and walking up to the gate to bid adieu. That was reality of travel in America.

And then 9/11 happened. A bunch of crazed fanatics commandeered aircraft and crashed them into New York and Washington DC changing air travel in USA forever. Most people who are clued into world affairs, remember where they were the moment the planes hit WTC.

Air travel in North America came to a grinding halt that day. Literally. All aircraft over American airspace were grounded, I don’t even remember for how long. And then new guidelines for air travel security started emerging.

Today air travel security has become a much changed experience. Large lines snake through departure halls as people look at their watches worried if they will make their flights.

These days I travel frequently between Canada and USA. The border protection agencies of both these countries have come up with NEXUS which is a known traveler program to facilitate speedy travel for regular cross border travels by Air, Land and Sea.

For air travellers this program offers self service kiosks at major Canadian and USA airports which allow travelers to pass through immigration and customs quickly. Membership with the program also automatically enrolls the applicant into Global Entry program which allows them to further enter USA using the Global Entry kiosks at an additional 20 international airports in USA.

The biggest plus is that the traveler is also automatically enrolled into PreCheck, the certified traveler program administered by TSA which allows for speedy processing through security lines.  A dedicated lane for TSA precheck members processes them quickly at many American airports. You don’t need to remove shoes, laptops, belts, light jackets and 3-1-1 liquids.

Needles to say, this is a boon for frequent traveler.

The process can be simply started online. You need to navigate to the GOES website and register an account. If you want to register for your family, then you need a separate account for each applicant including minor children. You only need your passport and drivers license if you are a citizen of either USA or Canada. You may apply if you are a legal permanent resident of wither country as well, but additional documents are needed.

After you enter the application, you are prompted to pay $50 and your application goes into review. You can then check back in your account every few days for a status update which in my case was a provisional approval. Once approved, you need to schedule an appointment at an enrolment centre and there are numerous choices available.

Remember, if you have applied for multiple family members, you will have to log into each members account and create an appointment. As long as you book all members on the same day, you don’t need to book times side by side. They will take you all in at the earliest time you have.

Processing at the enrolment centre was simple. I went up to the window where I was given a form to read and sign. Then the Canadian border services guard spoke with me and explained my responsibilities under the program and the benefits. I was then sent back out into the waiting room. Then they called me in to have my fingerprint and IRIS scan after which I was sent to speak with the US border services guard who again explained responsibilities and benefits and advised next steps.

The nexus card is mailed out within 7 to 10 business days of the appointment. This card needs to be activated through your GOES account before you can use it. However, your PASS ID number is issued right away and can be used for TSA PreCheck straight away.

Given how challenging travel has become of late, any advantage to navigate an airport faster with less fuss is definitely worth registering for a known traveler program. They have made registering and enrolling fairly simple so if you are a frequent traveler or live away from home and need to return every once in a while, you might want to look into this.

Posted in Experiences, Reviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Americans released by Iran, would an America under Trump allow them to come back?

When the nuclear deal with Iran was announced, Republican Presidential hopefuls cried themselves hoarse, saying that the release of Americans imprisoned in Iran wasn’t secured by the present government.

Around the same time another topic of fierce discussion was Trump’s policy proposal to call a halt to all Muslims entering America. I have a question, did the Republicans realize that at least three of the prisoners in Iran were Iranian Americans and might be Muslims?

If we were under Trump administration, would he have even tried to secure their release, and if Iran released them, would he have taken them back if they said they were Muslim?

The Obama government actually secured release of these prisoners and they are coming back home free men to practice whatever religion they choose.

Posted in In the news, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Americans get ready to go bankrupt en masse.

rtx1gzcoAmerican middle class has been decimated. A few months ago President Trump upon assuming office proposed a 45% tax on Chinese goods which was approved by the republican house. Since then prices for almost anything one wants to buy at a retail store has doubled.

Tom works in construction and his wife Becky is a nurse. Together they bring in about $75,000 per year. They lived a decent life before President Trump rode his high horse into the White House.

Now they can’t even afford to buy basic necessities to survive. “I used to pay $20 for a shirt at Wal-Mart, now I am in luck if I can buy something for less than $50. My pay hasn’t increased, but my costs to buy everything from a pencil to a refrigerator have almost doubled? Where am I going to get the money from?” she complains.

John loves his gadgets, used to upgrade his phone every year, now he hasn’t bought a new phone in over two years. Why? Because a basic smartphone now costs over $1500. Businesses are feeling the pinch as costs of computers, telephone systems, stationary, pretty much everything they need to work has gone up over a 100%.

This is just the state of the middle class, those who didn’t have much when Donald took office now have nothing. The above average income earners are now the new middle class. Their high income and lower tax rate leaves more money in their pocket, but buying expensive goods reduces the amount they have left in their pockets.

Trump’s wealthy friends are laughing their way to the bank. The increase in prices of almost anything found in a store doesn’t dent their lifestyle at all as they are making astronomical sums of money since Trump reduced taxes.

The biggest gainer in all of this is The Donald himself. His businesses are thriving. Running for this election boosted his brand value and anything with his name on it is now virtually gold! Suck it people, Donald’s made a killing and in the process has killed the American dream forever!

Posted in Politics, Satire | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Hunt for Tarantino

originalQuentin is in trouble for a stand he recently took and some remarks he made.

According to a news report on MSNBC, Tarantino made a comment during a seven hour long rally in New York. This particular comment is being burned like the witches of Salem by the police unions.

“I am a human being with a conscience, and when I see murder I cannot stand by and I have to call the murdered the murdered and the murderers the murderers.”

The police is calling for the boycott of Tarantino’s movies after branding him a “cop hater” and are threatening to “hurt” him financially between now and the release of his upcoming movie.

There are so many things wrong with this picture! Tarantino is a celebrity, but then he is a citizen of the USA as well. He has as much right as any other citizen to go out and voice his opinion and join a protest.

Isn’t it murder when an unarmed man is shot and killed? And isn’t it all the more shocking when those charged with protecting the innocent, the general population abuse their power to kill?

It is fair to be outraged at this, but every side has a story. Sure, there are some bad cops, but mostly there are good cops, cops who stick their necks out every time they put on their uniform and go out on duty.

But Tarantino isn’t the only human being. Cops are human beings too…they have families and they want to go back to those families after their shift. So when they are out, on a suspicious call and the protagonist doesn’t comply with what they are asking him to do, isn’t it only human for the cop to be the first one to use force?

Let’s pause and think about America for a second. This is a place where mentally deranged people are able to go out and freely buy a gun, not only that, they can build veritable arsenals. So every person a cop is engaging has the potential to kill that cop.

If I am a cop, faced with such a situation, I am sure I would try to use force before my adversary does. This is just common sense, even a reflex, this is why the police in the USA have gotten so militarized, because they have to contend with an armed and dangerous population.

The Americans are vociferous in protecting an archaic second amendment right, which was writ into law in the 1700’s in which time the evolution of weapons into automatics with the capacity kill tens and hundreds of people with a single gun was unfathomable.

The real issue is not being discussed as both sides in this ongoing debate fail to realize that neither is really at fault. At fault is this old fashioned law which has brought the American populace to a crossroads. Brought them to a place where they might be looking down the barrel of a civil war sparked by race relations which is based on perceived brutality by law enforcement agencies. Not to say that real brutality against a visible minority doesn’t actually happen.

It is time for Americans to really ask themselves, is this tattered old law worth protecting by sending their country into a spiral from which it will be unable to recover?

So to the police unions, stop blaming people like Tarantino and start talking about getting weapons away from citizens. If you want to be able to do your duty with fewer to zero casualties, your citizens should not be allowed to carry dangerous weapons.

And to people like Tarantino, organize and protest the real problem, the illogical second amendment law that allows ordinary citizens to carry deadly weapons. It will be a tough nut to crack, but if you start chipping away at it now, you might be able to blow this conversation open in a few years.

Posted in In the news | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

I just proved Stephen Harper wrong!

Every_vote_counts“Nobody votes strategically, you and I both know that,” he said. “People vote for what they think is best for them.”

This is what Stephen Harper had to say about strategic voting. Guess what Mr. Harper, I just proved you wrong! I voted strategically in my riding and voted against you and your party! And I am not the only one! It was so good to see fellow citizens scores of them, on a comment thread telling Harper they just had!

A country isn’t just a piece of land, it isn’t just borders, it is a living breathing collective of human consciousness. Here are a few of the things that makes Canada number one in my books.

A welcoming people: One truly appreciates Canadians when crossing over from the American border into Canada. It is a breath of fresh air. Knowledgeable, helpful and kind Canadians make me proud.

Fair: I have had business dealings around the world and again it makes me proud to say that Canadians tend to be fair in their dealings. There are bad apples everywhere, but Canadians seem to bring their A game as far as ethics are concerned.

A melting pot: A country that embraces newcomers, and invites them to bring their cultural heritage with them. People don’t look at another person in a funny way if they look different. This social experiment video in Hamilton went viral and shows what Canadians are truly like. Stephen Harper is like this guy who is selling fear on the streets, it is time for voters to punch him out!

We want our Canada back Stephen Harper!

Let me know what you think after you’ve seen this video. Do you want Harper out?

Posted in In the news, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Lot To Be Thankful About!

thanksgivingThe Great White North celebrates Thanksgiving on Monday. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about Canadian Thanksgiving:

Thanksgiving (FrenchAction de grâce), or Thanksgiving Day (Jour de l’action de grâce) is an annual Canadian holiday, occurring on the second Monday in October, which celebrates the harvest and other blessings of the past year. On January 31, 1957, a proclamation was issued stating Thanksgiving was to be “A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed.

I identify with the original sentiment, celebrate the harvest and blessings of the past year. Life is a series of ups and downs, and I am actually thankful for both. In November of last year, I became a proud Canadian Citizen. At that moment I was thankful to a person who orchestrated the downfall of a business I had worked hard to establish for twenty years!

Those family and friends who know me were amused! ‘Really, you’re happy? Why?’

My reason was pretty simple. I would never have left my native country and ventured into Canada had this person not been in my life. I ran a successful family business, my company exported products to various well known retailers in North America. In the early 2000’s we bought into a manufacturer who made a complimentary product and gave them shares in our company, becoming partners.

Within three years of working together, we decided that I should move to North America which was by far our largest market. This gave me the opportunity to be closer to my customers, interact with them more frequently and hence grow the business. So off I went into the unknown. My family followed within a year. My partner was left to run the business back home.

I worked hard, grew sales and increased margins, but we always seemed to come up short. I had to seek funding from my family to keep the business going. Seven years after getting in bed with this partner, a phone call from a cousin who had helped me out inspired me to pull the plug on my partnership. It didn’t end well. I found that there were financial irregularities at my partner’s end, it seemed his family had been siphoning off sums of money while I toiled.

My position was quite transparent, I asked him to bring in his fair share of the losses, with me having brought money in earlier so we could call it quits and move on with our lives. I have never believed in prolonged litigation as a means to resolving differences. He obviously had no such desire and was willing to make it difficult for me.

In the middle of a severe Canadian winter, I had gone overseas to meet with him and sort things out, he refused to meet me for days on end, while my family faced the winter days without me. My wife didn’t drive, my daughter was young, I thought this was his most cruel deed. So finally, we lost money, six figures, not exactly chump change.

The point of writing all this here? I am still thankful to this man. Had he not come into my life, I would have never ventured to Canada. Had he and his family not cheated me and put me through an excruciatingly difficult time, I wouldn’t have rebuilt a bigger and better business.

The lesson I learned is, I am thankful not only for the positive things that have happened to me, but also for those which have seemed negative at some point. Because it is the sum of our experiences that propels us through life; the good, the bad the ugly. Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted in Experiences, Philosophy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Niqab-Citizenship ceremony – A Letter to Prime Minister Harper

I read an article yesterday on CBC. Now, I am not Muslim, I am just an ordinary citizen of Canada, and Mr. Prime Minister I disagree with you. For a minute, I invite you to look at this from the perspective of the devout Muslim woman whom you are asking to give up a fundamental right.

This woman has come to Canada with her family, broken ties with her native land for better opportunities for her children. It is likely she comes from a country where she is being persecuted for her religious beliefs. She has read about Canada, a great and free land, which promises in its Charter of Rights, fundamental freedoms which she doesn’t have in her country, including freedom of conscience and religion.

Becoming a Canadian citizen for most is a moment of pride, of achievement, of belonging and acceptance. So imagine the mental torture inflicted on this woman when at this moment she is asked to either subvert her conscience and her religion or forego Canadian Citizenship, a goal she and her family have sacrificed for. You must remember that this woman has probably worn the niqab for most of her adult life, never taking it off in front of strangers, specially men. Your direction for her to remove this piece of clothing is akin to asking her to disrobe.

I don’t understand Mr. Prime Minister why you think that most Canadians would want to see this woman remove her Niqab? If she believes she is following her religion then most Canadians would want to defend her Charter Rights because that means they are defending their own rights as well. Why would they want to allow you, your ministers or any other member of government to decide what constitutes their religious beliefs.

If this was only a matter of identifying this woman, to make sure it is indeed the same person who is mentioned in the documents, this can be done in private with a female official from CIC and then the woman in question can continue to the ceremony keeping her dignity and religious beliefs intact and go on to be a law abiding Canadian citizen.

I urge you to reconsider your decision to appeal this ruling as you are wasting tax payer money to impose your will upon Canadian citizens and affect their Charter Right to freedom of conscience and religion.

To my fellow Canadians I will say this, today these ministers, instead of upholding the law and protecting our Charter of Rights, are creating division based on their personal bias and views. Tomorrow, they may not like something another group of us does and they will apply that same baton to that group. This is not just about a Muslim woman and her Niqab, this is about upholding our Charter of Rights, so please let these politicians know that we will not tolerate this.

Posted in In the news, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Stop Cop Brutality

arton3214To serve and protect, this is what the police force is supposed to do. But in the recent past, police brutality has been highlighted in various high profile incidents, from Ferguson, to New York and recently to Philadelphia.

Najee Rivera was framed by two officers of Philadelphia PD. They charged him for aggravated assault when they were the ones who assaulted him. A video found by his girlfriend proved beyond a shadow of doubt that the police officers had falsified their report and brutally beaten up this man.

Najee settled with the PD for $200k and the DA has committed to prosecuting the police officers to the full extent of the law. Despite the damning video evidence, the police officers through their lawyers are looking to prove their innocence in court.

I understand that the police has to deal with an extreme amount of pressure on the streets. Gang wars, drugs, thieves and carries, however that is no excuse to mistreat the very people they have sworn to serve. To be fair, till date I haven’t been on the receiving end of mistreatment from the police, however these instances leave me unnerved.

Citizens shouldn’t have to feel unnerved when dealing with the police. They need to be comfortable enough to approach officers for help when required. To me the problem is proper recruitment, psychological assessment and training. This can ensure that only people with the correct mental makeup are ever made officers. The other part is complete transparency. Cops should wear cameras at all times, that record their encounters with everyone they come in contact with.

In today’s advanced technological age, accomplishing this is not difficult, it just needs willingness. From our politicians, from the police department and commitment from the good officers who are sullied by the actions of the few rogues out there.

The other part towards a better situation is interaction with the community. An ongoing outreach program encouraging dialogue between cops and community will also go a long way to fostering goodwill.

We really need a police force that respects the citizens that actually employ them. Let’s make a change.

Posted in In the news | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment