Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

When 99% is really 0.01%

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

The Tyee ( Wall Street Occupiers, Don’t Forget Ballot Box) says it rather too gently. The protesters and their direct supporters are more like a 0.01%  than 99%, and the other 99% of the real 99% were too stupid to do anything in the various elections where all of them have had plenty of chances to do so in the years since 2008 (let alone in all of the many decades before that).

One value of the protests though is that they may help move one edge of the frame in which those without minds of their own always try to center themselves.  When everyone starts repeating the mantras of “counterproductively asymmetric risk-rewards systems”, and it becomes commonly believed that everyone understands them, then perhaps the electorate will venture to try out policies and tax systems which encourage a fairer distribution of wealth. I hope it happens soon, but I won’t be holding my breath.

More Media “levy” Madness

Friday, May 13th, 2011

Howard Knopf doesn’t like the idea of extending the tax (or calling it one).

I didn’t like having to pay a tax, or “levy”, on the CDs I bought years ago to store photos and backup my HD, but I don’t see any difference between that bit of theft and this one. In fact, although I resent the presumption that the tax, or “levy”, is a fee for some service that I have no intention of using, I can live with the idea of a tax on media being used to support creative activities if that is the collective will of the nation.

Just don’t call it a “levy”, and interpret it as a fee for service, unless

(a)it entitles me to fill it with unlimited personal use copies of any works that I do buy, and

(b)there is some provision for levy-free media which are precluded from being used for copyright material (like the coloured tax-free fuel that is available in some places for farmers).

Time for a Change

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

OK today must be the start of a four year campaign to reach agreement between the NDP, Greens, and remaining Liberals to:

  1. Support an electoral reform which will provide for proportional representation – NOT based on party lists but on something more democratic like STV or some other preferential balloting system
  2. Educate the Canadian public as to the acceptability, efficiency, and desirability of “coalition” governments – even (or perhaps especially) when not including the party which happens to have the most seats in parliament
  3. Commit to endorsing strategic voting in the next Federal Election in order to achieve these ends

Only Obama

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Only Obama Succeeded Where Bush Failed (“Great shot sir!”)

Only Obama can deal with the financial collapse caused by  the right wing libertarian attitude towards proper regulation of financial institutions

Only Obama could persuade us that the Lion King was born in Hawaii

But Only Limbaugh could come up with the slogan which will should drive the great Democratic election sweep of 2012



Goodbye CBC

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

As a complement to today’s federal leaders’ debate the CBC had a group of first time voters watch and comment. But while the clear majority felt that the NDP’s Jack Layton was the winner (as demonstrated by holding up pictures) there was no identification made for those that couldn’t clearly see and interpret the photos and the segment was edited so that the only leaders or parties mentioned by name were Harper and the Liberals. While this token item may be small in its actual impact, it may be one of the most blatant examples of media distortion I have ever seen in Canada and unless it is corrected I will no longer be a “Friend of the CBC”

Retail Internet Pricing – Without Slogans

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

All sides in the debate on “Usage Based Billing” are off base. The issue is quite complicated and not helped by the use of simplistic slogans which often either ask for the impossible or run counter to the interests of those tricked into reciting them. (more…)

UBB – How Should Cost and Price be Linked?

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Michael Geist is concerned because internet service providers do not match price of service at all levels to its actual cost.

But when a commodity is in short supply, selling at the cost price will lead to shortages. (In the internet billing situation, users downloading tons of movies will degrade the quality of my own less demanding service)

What the ISPs are doing is aggressively penalizing heavy use in order to keep the total demand within the capacity of the system (or perhaps just to make a lot of extra money). It should be noted that despite the rhetoric this is NOT “Usage Based Billing”. It is a differential pricing scheme set to penalize both high and low usage rates.

Perhaps a fairer idea is to have true Usage Based Billing with the uniform unit price matching what the cost of  supply would be if supply were extended to meet all demand (and then get on with actually providing that extended service).

Anti-Nuclear Inflation

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

I was disappointed to see Geoff Olson’s citation  of a totally bogus figure for the number of deaths due to Chernobyl in his anti-nuclear panic piece in the Vancouver Courier on Friday.

The particular figure, which he quoted fourth hand (from another journalist’s report of a translation of a collection from various other sources), is a hundred times higher than the World Health Organization estimate. This is so far from anything remotely plausible that one suspects it may even be a misprint.

In fact the New York Academy of Sciences explicitly denies editorial endorsement of the book in question (which consists of translations from a wide variety of Eastern European sources), saying “The expressed views of the authors, or by advocacy groups or individuals with specific opinions about the Annals Chernobyl volume, are their own.”  It may have been legitimate for the NYAS to bring these materials to the attention of the Western scientific audience for consideration and assessment, but for Olson to report their most extreme assertions as fact was totally irresponsible.

And They have the guns!

Friday, March 25th, 2011

From Discover Magazine:

Don’t Stop Darlington

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Here is my (slightly edited) version of the Greenpeace Letter.

Dear Premier McGuinty:

I’m writing to support your plan to maintain the nuclear option by continuing with the development of new  reactors at Darlington and to encourage you not to be swayed by ill-informed fear mongering.

Like so many others, I am saddened by the tragedy taking place in Japan, but I am also awed by the fact that 40 year old reactors have withstood the worst natural disaster imaginable without contributing significantly to the resulting loss of life. The experience at Fukushima, I believe, will provide lessons that should enable even safer designs and protocols to be applied in the future and so should encourage you to continue with your plans for new reactors.

For this reason, I oppose the calls by Greenpeace and others to stop all approvals of new reactors.

The environmental assessment hearings set to begin next week will provide an opportunity to address the capability of the proposed designs to resist the impacts of a major geophysical catastrophe and I encourage you to proceed with those hearings in order that we can have an informed public evaluation the cost and risks of building new reactors.

Most importantly, we must seriously look at continuing our use of the nuclear option as the most viable high baseline source of non-combustion-based energy.


Alan Cooper

Looking a Gift Horse

Friday, March 18th, 2011

(via Michael Geist) Some have objected to restrictive license terms on our nation’s new “Open Data Portal” which would stop someone from using the data “in any way which, in the opinion of Canada, may bring disrepute to or prejudice the reputation of Canada.” Treasury Board Secretary Stockwell Day responded to the concern by indicating that was not the intent and that the out-of-date language would be addressed. In the light of our nation’s new name, the language will be corrected to preclude any use which  “in the opinion of Harper, may bring disrepute to or prejudice the reputation of Harper.”

This Must be Said

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

In the light of the apparent opinion of Conservative MP Ed Fast that the mere presence of a digital lock trumps virtually all other copyright rights it must be said that the only appropriate response to passage of Bill C-32 without a Fair Dealing Circumvention Exception is to advocate and support widespread defiance of the law. It needs to be made clear that if the public is expected to support the law and facilitate or at least not obstruct its enforcement then that law needs to be fair and to be seen to be fair. In its presently proposed form it meets neither of those conditions.

Obama Leadership “Tested” by Egypt

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

A good part of my recent visit to Toronto was spent glued to the news coming out of Egypt. Then on Thursday, Mubarak finally addressed the  nation –  and failed completely  to satisfy the demonstrators. But by the time I read the headline in the Globe and Mail on Friday announcing that he would stay, the announcement that he would actually quit had already been made (sometime while I was in the air the previous evening and apparently too late to make the morning paper). Subsequent news stories were all about the celebrations and implications of the “new regime” with surprisingly little about the timing and process of the change of heart – though I eventually did find a blow by blow account on the BBC website.

Of course, any enthusiasm for the result must still be tempered by uncertainty about what will really happen and whether or not the democratic spirit will survive the stresses of inevitable failure to fully meet the expectations of all and to actually solve the structural economic problems (many of which are due to external causes beyond any national control).

But what does not need to be tempered is our admiration for the way the people of Egypt have handled themselves so far. The thuggery that  has occurred has been little beyond what one would expect of disappointed British soccer louts or Canadian hockey fans, and the restraint of the military (both soldiers and leaders) has provided a model that could improve the behaviour of our own guardians of “order” at events like the G20 last year.

A couple of factors worth noting by way of partial explanation (but without significantly detracting from the huge amount of credit due to both protesters and militars in Egypt) is the almost complete absence of serious weaponry outside the control of the military and the dependence of that military on American approval for funding. Despite appearances (and his last ditch attempt at defiance), Mubarak’s power has always been subject to military approval and the military has always been highly dependent for both resources and training on its American counterpart. And so Obama’s pleas for restraint on all sides may well have helped ensure the victory of progressive elements in any debates that occurred within the regime side of things. An anti-colonial cynic might say that Obama was “running” the military and Google was “running” the protesters, but I prefer to believe that they were all just significantly more humane and enlightened than some of their contemporaries in other places.

Remarkably some idiots in the US media are now second-guessing the public pronouncements of the Obama administration (notwithstanding their complete ignorance of whatever was being said in private) – even to the extent of believing in some cases that he had “told”  the Egyptian administration to have Mubarak to resign (or for those who did not hear him that way wishing that he had been firmer about it). Of course any such “telling” would have been totally inappropriate and an almost inevitable cause of future resentment, so anyone who thinks he did so would actually be best advised to say as little as possible about it.

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…)

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!

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.

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.

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,
Alan Cooper