Archive for the ‘social issues’ Category

Dumb Slogans

Monday, February 14th, 2011

I am sick and tired of watching the “left” shoot itself in the foot by trying to popularize its position with dumb and reactionary slogans which actually work against (what should be) their core principles.

A recent case in point is the campaign against “Usage Based Billing” for internet access.

Previously we have the BCNDP’s foolish “Axe the Tax” campaign to oppose the idea of a Carbon Tax rather than dealing with the nitty gritty of what was wrong with the Campbell government’s specific implementation of it (a position on which they reversed themselves as soon as it had achieved its apparent purpose of loosing them the election!)

And prior to that was a campaign against the idea of “Contingent Repayment” for student loans just because the plan proposed by the government (for those whose education turned out not to be as remunerative as promised) was just deferral rather than true forgiveness (which is what contingent repayment should have been forced to mean).

It seems all the right has to do to kill a good idea is implement it sub-optimally and then the idiots on the left will decide they never liked it and it will be done for.

Many Views on UBB

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Michael Geist provides some useful links to opinions about the “Usage-Based Billing” issue, and has just expanded on his own view, as has also Teksavvy’s Rocky Gaudrault.(More here, here, and here.)

My take on all this is that it is not the principle of UBB but rather the specific implementation and lack of transparency that are the problem – and that the objections to UBB per se are misguided and actually harmful because they identify legitimate objections to current billing practices with the ill-founded and selfish demands of a greedy minority. (more…)

Collapse of Trade as a Phase Transition

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Prompted by our visiting friend Geoff (the ‘lucky Geologist’ and author of ‘Green Figs’ and other essays), I have recently finished reading ‘The Fall of Rome – and the End of Civilization’ by Bryan Ward-Perkins (OUP2005), wherein the author responds to a recent trend amongst historians to view the fall of Rome as a largely peaceful transition to Germanic rule within a period of positive cultural evolution. (more…)

Should I read ‘The Moral Landscape’?

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

The subtitle of Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values can be read in two ways. One would point to a book I might be interested in reading, the other to one I could dismiss in advance as nonsense. My problem is that the review by Russell Blackford  recommends the book in spite of criticizing it on the grounds that it fits the second interpretation, and Blackford’s criticism is so cogent that his recommendation despite that problem might convince me to be less dismissive. On the other hand Harris’ responses to the review and to others who have expressed the same concern have been so facile as to reinforce my doubt that he has anything useful to tell me.
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More MOOCs

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Massively Open On-Line Courses allow large numbers of people to participate at varying levels of commitment in a process of shared learning. Part of the openness aspect is that there are many avenues of participation and rather than relying on a centralized Course Management System people are encouraged to control their own involvement by contributing comments etc through their own social media and blogs. But rather than let contributions to these courses dominate the flow of my personal thoughts here, I will set up separate blogs for each such course that I join.
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Stop The Meter?

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

I’d like to hear more of what someone like Stephen Downes or Michael Geist thinks about this. (Both have reported the campaign but not really made a clear statement of their own reasons for doing so favourably.)

To me, the logic of true usage-based billing seems very reasonable, and it’s only the implementation that is problematic. (more…)

Muslim Reactions to Violence

Monday, January 10th, 2011

What a contrast between this and this!

Denis Dutton

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

For several years now, Arts&Letters Daily has been my favourite source of on-line stimulation. Sadly, its founding editor, Denis Dutton, died on December 28.

Confounding

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Apparently, religion is no more likely than any other kind of group affiliation to be associated with either charity or emotional well-being.

So the argument that religion provides a positive contribution in these areas may like saying that baseball is the medical panacaea because baseball players are healthier than the population average – even though this may only be due to their getting a bit more exercise than the overall population average (but a lot less than they would if they had played soccer instead)

Superman or Supermoms?

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

Davis Guggenheim, director of ‘Waiting for Superman’ has asked for and received some feedback from teachers.

When I saw the film, what struck me as the most invidious distortion (among many) was the failure to acknowledge that the children on whom miracles were being performed came from very special families. They weren’t just selected from the population at random. By lottery yes, but only from those who wanted to do the extra work and had family support in that endeavour. And given their circumstances, the level of support and committment shown by some of those parents was nothing less than miraculous.

With the kind of selection that’s involved, it’s no surprise that the results were better at the special schools – at least for those lucky enough to have the necessary support. But what about the rest? There was actually no evidence given that the KIPP or other special schools would work for them, and taking out the best students and families from the regular schools might just condemn the rest to an even greater rate of failure.

It may be that the KIPP strategy of applying triage to the community is actually the best strategy for overall improvement. And it may be that the current teaching strategies are not optimal for those left behind. But neither of these is demonstrated in the film.

As an ex union member, I must also object to the disgusting ploy of trying to make a political point against unions out of the requirement to discuss and attempt to reach agreement on all aspects of a contract before presenting a unilateral ultimatum to be voted on.

Overall, in the end I felt that the stories of some truly inspiring parents, children, and teachers had been tainted by a dishonest presentation.

Bishop Explains Christmas as Myth

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

In his annual Christmas message the Rt Rev John Davies, Bishop of the Church in Wales diocese of Swansea and Brecon, complained about atheists timing their contrary message so as to “coincide with two of the church’s greatest festivals, Christmas and Easter” and claimed that their criticisms were in any case based on a misunderstanding.
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Hitchens on Assange

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

According to Christopher Hitchens, the WikiLeaks founder is an unscrupulous megalomaniac with a political agenda, and should “turn himself in” in order to accept the consequences of his “civil disobedience”. The character assessment may or may not be true, but Hitchens’ argument that Assange should “turn himself in” on those grounds is nonsense.
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Al Sharpton vs Christopher Hitchens

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

This old debate (which came up when I looked up Al Sharpton in response to Obama’s use of his name in contrast with James Dobson) is quite good, but Hitchens’ failure to take up Sharpton’s (repeated) invitation to raise things to a higher level is disappointing. (more…)

Obama Speech on Religion

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

This comes from before he was president. But note that (at 2:30 on the tape) he says “politics involves compromise” and perhaps that is being applied also to the very principles advocated in this speech.

PLENK2010

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Over the last three months I spent a considerable amount of time following the #PLENK2010 Massive Open OnLine Course organized by Dave Cormier, Stephen Downes, Rita Kop, and George Siemens.
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One Bandwidth Rate for ALL Content

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

The concern expressed here, and here and here, is much more valid than that about usage-based billing. It is not the possibility of having to pay for bandwidth that is problematic, but that of being charged differential rates depending on who owns the content.

For each level of connection service quality (ie combination of speed, latency, reliability etc) there should be one bandwidth rate that applies equally to regular TV and internet. But I suspect that allowing infrastructure owners to also own or control content will always give rise to an irresistable temptation to favour their own material and to give inaccurate or misleading reports about relative costs so it may be necessary to force an arms-length separation of functions in order for the goal to be achievable.

The Inheritors of What?

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

A new book by Eric Kaufmann entitled Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?: Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century is Posted in biology, religion, sustainability | No Comments »

Letter to Tony Clement

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Here’s what I wrote re Net Neutrality and Usage-Based Billing:

The public internet has provided a wonderful stimulus to the economic and cultural life of our country and the entire world. But that stimulus depends on its equal accessibility to all users including small innovators as well as large existing corporations. Net “throttling” and other practices of the infrastructure owners threaten that equality of access and provide them with unfair economic advantage.

The introduction of Usage-Based Billing eliminates the argument about a few heavy users overloading the system at the expense of others, and so also eliminates the case for “throttling” of certain traffic types as well. So I urge you to continue on the path of eliminating that practice entirely.

But in addition to throttling certain parts of the internet relative to others, there is also a risk that utility companies will throttle the public internet as a whole in favour of their own privtely controlled content.

So protection of the internet requires also that the bandwidth cost rate that is applied to public internet traffic does not exceed that aplied to CableTV and other private traffic controlled by the owners of the infrastructrure (who are licensed to use public space and radio bandwidth for its implementation).

People must be able to buy video (and other content) from independent producers for the same delivery cost as they get it from the TV networks.

Please make sure to address this aspect in your supervision of the industry and the CRTC.

Thank you,
sincerely
Alan Cooper

What’s Wrong With Usage-Based Billing?

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

OpenMedia.ca wants to Stop The Meter On Your Internet Use. But if all kinds of bandwidth were charged at the same rate (so that the carriers couldn’t favour one type of content, such as cable tv over another, such as internet) then usage based billing would be perfectly fair and would undermine the arguments usually given for “throttling”. So why is this considered a problem (except for heavy users who want me to subsidize their bandwidth)?

The Myth of Separate Magisteria | Big Questions Online

Monday, November 15th, 2010

The Myth of Separate Magisteria | Big Questions Online.

The main problem (aside from its pretentious name) with Stephen Jay Gould’s concept of “Non-overlapping Magisteria” as a resolution of the “conflict” between science and religion is the fact that many religions fail to respect the purported boundary. Sam Harris (and followers like Susan Jacoby) would like to make a counter invasion, but they are wrong. (more…)