Thursday, October 08, 2015

Garnett Genuis from 2012 answers questions for Garnett Genuis in 2015 #shpk #ftsask

Garnett Genuis, Conservative Candidate
Sherwood Park - Fort Saskatchewan
Image taken from
Several days ago, it was reported by David Cournoyer on his blog that there were a number of Alberta politicians who had been endorsed by what he called a "radical anti-abortion group." The Campaign Life Coalition had sent surveys to various candidates for office and published the results of those surveys, as well as taking various other sources of information and coming up with a green-yellow-red coding system to determine how well each politician's views matched those of the Coalition.

Garnett Genuis, whose campaign page can be found here, was one of the candidates that was identified as being a "green light."

On hearing this, I went to the website to see on what basis they had made this decision.

As of the time of writing this blog post, you can go to this site to see the Campaign Life Coalition's bio for Mr. Genuis.  You will see that he is listed as green light, and there is a notation saying that "Garnett is known to be pro-life."  However, there is no other information on how or why he is known that way.  In particular, the questionnaire responses section says "no response" for all of the questions. Here's what the page looks like now.

This was confusing, because David Cournoyer had reported:

These four candidates, along with Mr. Hillyer, responded to a questionnaire from the Campaign Life Coalition affirming their opposition to women’s reproductive rights.

I took to twitter to see what was going on, and found a screenshot someone took of Mr. Genuis' bio page earlier that day.

Screenshot courtesy of @rsellin on Twitter, October 1, 2015.
Those are hard to read.  Here is the text, and the answers:

Do you believe that life begins at conception (fertilization)?  
If elected, will you strive to introduce and pass laws to protect unborn children from the time of conception (fertilization) onward? 
If elected, would you support all legislative or policy proposals that would result in a meaningful increase of respect and protection for unborn human life? 
Are there any circumstances under which you believe a woman should have access to abortion? (note: Medical treatments to save the life of a mother and which result in the UNINTENDED death of her unborn child, are NOT abortions. Eg. in case of tubal pregnancy or cervical cancer)  
If elected, will you oppose any legislative or regulatory measures designed to permit the deliberate euthanasia of a human being or designed to permit "doctor-assisted suicide"? 

So, the same day that the blog post went up, Mr. Genuis' answers came down.

Since then, I have been asking Mr. Genuis on facebook and on twitter to explain how it was that his answers were removed, and whether he has disavowed them, or if Campaign Life Coalition had misinterpreted him, whether he had removed them on the instructions of the Harper camapign, or generally, what was going on.

There has been no response.

I later saw that he (or someone working for his campaign, one presumes) had answered a question about whether former MP Ken Epp had been asked by his campaign to suggest to independent candidate James Ford that he should withdraw from the race.  He replied that Mr. Epp was not on the campaign executive, and had acted independently.  I took this to mean that this was a way that I might have my questions answered, and posted them there.

Not only was my question not answered, but it seems that all of the questions in that section of the facebook page have been removed.  Here's the link to his facebook page, and here is an image of what the visitor posts section looks like now.

So that was disappointing.

So it seems that current-day Garnett Genuis is unwilling to answer my questions.  But by the wonder of the internet, Garnett Genuis from 2012 is willing to answer them.

You see, in 2012 Mr. Genuis was the Vice President External of the Carleton Debate Society.  I hope I'm getting all that right.  During his tenure, the Carleton student's union instituted a policy whereby any student groups that were determined to be seeking to legally limit a women's right to choice with regard to abortion would be disallowed from being associated with the union.

This is exactly the sort of extreme nonsense that student unions are famous for, so it's not exactly surprising.  Mr. Genuis it seems was instrumental in having the debate society take the matter up as a matter of free speech, and oppose the restriction.

In the course of representing the debate society in that cause, Mr. Genuis was asked to be the guest on a radio program or podcast (it's not clear to me which it is) entitled "Bridging the Gap." The site for this program was hosted on a site called, which still exists, though it seems the radio program is defunct.  The download page for episodes of that radio program is here.  His episode, specifically, can be downloaded at this link.

I have listened to Mr. Genuis' conversation with the host of that program, and I have to say that he spoke very well for himself.  He seems reasonable, and thoughtful. I agree with a number of the things that he said about conflating pro-life positions with misogyny, and the need to avoid allowing official secularism to evolve into the suppression of all religious views.  I also think he artfully avoided endorsing or even acknowledging the host's ageist, prejudiced views about university students in general.  Generally, he expresses a sincere and devout belief in the good that Christian principles and living in accordance with them can do for individuals and society.

But even more interestingly, he said a number of things that would have served, if he still believes them, as answers to the questions I wanted to pose to him now. Please note, I recognize that it's not fair to hold him today to the views that he held in 2012.  As such, I will be perfectly happy to replace any of the following with actual answers that I get from him.  But he refuses to answer my questions, so in the mean time this is the best I can do.

I am editing here.  These are not the questions he was answering at the time.  If you want to know the full context of his statements, please download the entire interview.  I am trying to be fair, and not take words so far out of their context as to seriously alter their meaning.  If I fail in that attempt, let me know.

So here, in Garnett's own words, are his 2012 answers to some 2015 questions.

Please note, the photos are of me, not Genuis, because they come from my soundcloud account.  I would never accuse anyone of looking like me.

Q: What do you think about the idea of having a debate about abortion in Canada?

A: "Good ideas win fair debates. If pro-lifers are so confident about their position, then they should be willing to debate it.  And if pro-choicers, or choose your euphamism, are so confident about their position they should also be willing to debate it."

Q: What do you think about people who shy away from debates about abortion?

A: "If one side of the issue is uncomfortable with the conversation, that might suggest something about how confident they are in their position."

Q: So, Garnet, what would you say is the pro-life view with regard to abortion?

A: "The rights of the unborn child to life outweigh the rights of the mother in terms of significant convenience for that period of time."

Q: What do you think about the Conservative Party of Canada's current policy that it will not legislate on the issue of abortion in Canada?

A: "The position that's often presented within the secular world is that religion is fine for your private life, but don't bring your religion into public activities, be it political lobbying, political expression or any kind of dialogue or debate.  Don't try and talk about your values to other people.  The problem with that is that no religion that I know of, certainly no major religion within our culture accepts a public/private distinction.  Christianity, Islam, Judaism, whatever else, require their followers to do certain things.  And it doesn't matter if you are in a public context or a private context.  If something is right, then you should advocate for that.  If it's right that killing is illegal, then that's right for me, that's also right as a legal principle.  If stealing is wrong, then it's just as wrong for me as it is for someone else.  So it's my obligation as a religious person, then, to encourage the application of that principle in a general legal sense.  So, you know, certainly we should be respectful, certainly we should be loving, and certainly we shouldn't try and force our values on anyone else. But there is no public/private distinction when it comes down to religion, and I think secular society needs to recognize that and come to terms with that."

Q: So it sounds like you are willing to have a real debate about the issue, and let the chips fall where they may.  But it also seems as though you are under instructions from your political party to shy away from the debate.  That must be difficult for you.  What do you think of the Harper campaign team imposing restrictions on what you, as a political candidate, can and cannot talk about?

A: "I guess I would take the position, as someone who believes in freedom of expression, and the values of real tolerance, that we should allow dissenting opinions, and we should protect the rights of people within public space to express their opinions.  Because remember, public space is not the government's space, it's our space."

Q: Why would you support legislating on the basis of Christian principles?

A: "I strongly believe in Christian principles not just because the bible says they are true, but also because I see the benefit of Christian principles in the real world."
"These aren't just theoretical commands to limit our happiness, but [that] God directs us in certain directions for our own benefit."

Q: How might that practical benefit apply to restrictions on access to abortion?

A: "I like to talk about freedoms.  I think people should be free to express their opinions, free to be happy, free not to have a lot of personal baggage that limits their enjoyment of life down the road."

Generally, I think people who agree with him will agree with him no less, and people who disagree with him will disagree with him no less as a result of this imaginary interview.  But I think, and evidently Mr. Genuis thinks, or thought once, it's one that we ought to be willing to have in public. That's what openness and transparency require.  That's what's healthy for our democracy.  People electing people and knowing what those people believe, and how those people can be expected to behave.

There's a lot I disagree with in what he says, but there is just one aspect of what he says that I can't allow to go without comment.

I think characterizing what the woman loses when abortion is not available as "significant convenience" is just monumentally wrong. I'm sure, as Mr. Genuis is now a father of two, he would not now characterize the experience of pregnancy and childbirth as an "inconvenience."  But given his questionnaire answers indicate that he believes today that abortion should never be available, he still must underestimate what it is a woman loses when, for example, she is forced by the state to gestate and deliver the child of a rape.

I will also say that it is shameful that I had to go through this exercise in order to have any hope that people in Sherwood Park - Fort Saskatchewan might know what their almost-certainly-future-MP thinks on a topic of importance to him, and of importance to his constituents, because of what I can only presume is an edict from political party that evidently does not share Mr. Genuis' expressed belief in the value of fair debate.  That he is willing to supplant their views for his own on this matter is disappointing.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Prototype Agenda for Virtual Firm Meeting - what do you think?

One day, maybe soon, maybe not, Round Table Law will be more than one lawyer.  And it will be a virtual firm, which means the members will not see each other as a matter of course.  For that reason, it's going to have regular firm meetings, and the firm meetings are going to be a little unusual.  They will probably be hosted over Google Hangouts.  And here's how I imagine the agenda will look:

  1. Welcome/Invocation - probably a statement of the vision and mission.
  2. Firm Goals and Progress Report
  3. News
  4. Follow-Up - are past decisions, implemented, in progress, or abandoned?
  5. Decisions - all decisions include, who, what, when, and are added to the follow-up list for future meetings.
  6. The Round Table - each staff person and lawyer must answer the following questions:
    1. What is your name?
    2. What is your quest?
    3. [Question of the week]?
    4. What was the worst mistake you made last week, and what did you learn from it?
    5. What are you trying to learn right now?
    6. What are you working on this week?
    7. What can you help someone else with this week?
    8. What made you happy this week?
  7. Learning Time - a short educational presentation on a topic chosen by the presenter, everyone takes turns.  10 minutes maximum.
  8. Accountability Time - a time to pay compliments and offer constructive criticism on something you observed in someone else at the meeting.
Accountability Time is the greatest meeting idea I've ever seen in action.  I'll do another post just on that.

I'd love to hear the comments of people who have experience running virtual organizations. This is just a first draft. Would this work?  What effects would it have? What Question of the Week would you suggest?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Nothing good ever came from playing games incessantly... except this

My family and some close friends are holding a 24-hour marathon gaming event on November 7, 2015 as a fundraiser for the Stollery Children's Hospital Foundation.

It's a part of the Extra-Life fundraising event.

My fundraising page is here, and it would mean a lot to me if you could spare a quarter for each hour that we are planning on celebrating life in the hopes of extending young lives.  That works out to $6, and the donation page has a convenient $6 donation ready to go.

Full disclosure, the donation page is in USD.

Donations of $20 CAD or larger will receive a tax receipt in the mail from the Foundation.  Click this link to find out how much you would need to donate today to qualify for a receipt.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

@GoClio Cloud Conference 2015 Brag Sheet

Clio Cloud Conference is coming up in Chicago.  I'd love to be there, but it's not in the cards this year.  Here's my little contribution to the conversation for anyone going, as a source of inspiration of what you can do with Clio and the other cloud-based tools out there.

  • Electronic filing system: No generating new files for my clients, or copying subfolders. Clio automatically creates folders for all my new matters.  I have a Google Apps script that checks every hour for new folders, and builds the standard sub-folder structure underneath them.
  • Dealing with emails: No printing or saving emails and putting them into the right file. I have a Zapier zap that creates a Gmail label every time a matter is created.  I have another Zapier zap that takes new emails added to that label and saves them to the Clio matter as communications, and also creates a text file version of the email and saves it to the communications folder for the matter.
  • Time Management: I record my time moment-by-moment in an app called Toggl, which I love. I have a zap that creates a new Toggl Project named for each of my new matters as soon as it is created. Once the time entry is created, another zap transfers it up to Clio, and it appears as a time entry on the next invoice I generate.
  • Task Management: I record matter-related tasks in Clio, to make sure everything is in the same place.  I like to use Wunderlist to combine client, administrative, and personal tasks to manage my moment-to-moment priorities.  I have a zap that automatically creates a task list in Wunderlist for every matter, and another that automatically adds new Clio tasks to that task list.
  • Document Generation: I use a Cognito Form to input data to generate new documents like retainer agreements. That data is sent to an UltraDox workflow, which generates the document, saves it to the client file, and sends it to me for approval.  Ultradox will also automatically send a trigger to a Zapier zap which will add the document to CudaSign and send a request to the client to have it electronically signed.
It's amazing what you can do with technologies that are often free, and always more affordable than the systems that your big firm competitors are using.  Have fun, I'll be watching on twitter.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Homomorphic Encryption for dummies

Imagine being able to translate a document from English to French without reading it.

No, seriously.

OK, let's back up.

Here's how public key encryption works:

Imagine a box, with a door on one side, and another door on the opposite side.  One door allows you to put things in, and the other door allows you to take things out.  Each door has a key.  One of the keys is public, and there's an infinite number of copies, but people can tell whose box it belongs to, and the other key only you have a copy of.

If you want to send someone a message that only they can read, you ask them for the public key to a box of theirs.  Use that to put the message into the box.  Now the message is hidden from everyone else, until they use their private key to open the other side.

If you want someone to know that a message came from you, you use your private key to put it in the box, and let people use your public key to get it out.

If you want to send a secret message that could only have come from you, and can only be read by them, you use two boxes.  Use your private key to put the message in a box that proves it's from you.  Then put that box in a box that can only be opened by them.

These "boxes" are infinite in supply, infinitesimal in cost, and are digitized.

That's public key encryption, the sort of run-of-the-mill encryption that we use every day on the Internet, and that's awesome enough.

Now, what's homomorphic encryption?

Imagine you wanted someone to be able to do something to the contents of the box, but you didn't want them to be able to open the box and see the contents.

Say you have a bunch of boxes containing secret numbers, and you want someone to add all those secret numbers together and create a new box holding the secret sum.  But you don't want them to know what the numbers, or the sum, actually are.

Homomorphic encryption lets you do that.

What is it good for?

Well, for example, it has been used to implement completely transparent voting systems.  A completely transparent voting system is a system in which you vote by adding your vote to a public list of encrypted votes.  The system can then add those votes together to find a winner without knowing what they are.  You can also make sure that your vote was in there, and that it was recorded correctly, without revealing which one is yours or who it was for.  And, you can double-check the counting of the ballots, without learning anything about any of the individual votes other than your own.

What could it potentially be used for in the future?

One major benefit might be encryption-in-place.  Right now, there is a risk associated with uploading your documents to, say, Google Drive, because Google, which owns the server, needs to have the ability to actually read that document in order to do things with it, like display it to you on a browser.  If you want to encrypt your data so Google can't see it, you can.  But then Google can't do things like let you search the contents of your files, or display the contents of files, or let you edit your files through a web browser.

With sufficiently advanced homomorphic encryption, that changes.  It becomes possible for Google to show you your document, and also have no ability to read your document.  As strange as it sounds, Google could take a document written in English, and translate it into French, but never have any ability to actually see the contents of the document in either language.

No, really!