February 23, 2010

Why do people pirate DVDs and Blu-Ray discs?

Filed under: Law, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 16:45

Because of this kind of crap:

Click to see original

But maybe I’m misunderstanding why they all do it: instead of trying to warn me off from illegal activity, perhaps they’re actually trying to get me so irritated that I’ll go ahead and pirate it — and then they’ll swoop! It’s a society-wide legal entrapment scheme!

H/T to BoingBoing.

BBC accused of bias in euthanasia debate

Filed under: Britain, Health, Liberty, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 13:00

The BBC’s decision to broadcast Terry Pratchett’s speech on euthanasia tribunals is cited as evidence that the corporation is acting as an advocate on this highly emotional issue:

The Care Not Killing Alliance accused the BBC of flouting impartiality rules and adopting a “campaigning stance” in an attempt to step up pressure on the Government to legalise assisted suicide.

The decision to broadcast Sir Terry Pratchett’s speech advocating “euthanasia tribunals” in full earlier this month was an example of unbalanced reporting, the alliance claimed.

Lord Carlile, chairman of the alliance and the Government’s independent reviewer of terror legislation, has demanded a meeting with BBC bosses to seek answers over the “biased” coverage.

In a letter to Sir Michael Lyons, the chairman of the BBC trust, the Liberal Democrat peer also raised questions over the corporation’s failure to inform police that a veteran presenter had confessed to killing his lover on one of its programmes.

H/T to Elizabeth for the link.

Statistics can tell a lot . . . but not always truthfully

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Europe — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:46

Brian Lilley looks at a recent report which critiques the federal government’s claim that women earn only 84% of the wages that men earn. The report uses a different set of statistics to show that women only earn 70 cents for every dollar a man earns in Canada:

Were this true it would be a shocking and appalling state of affairs, the type of thing that government regulations must be called upon to rectify. I truly do not know anyone who would advocate that a man earn 42% more than a woman for working the same job, for the same number of hours. Of course this is not the case.

The report, dubbed a reality check by its authors, looks at the government’s claim that women earn 84 cents for every dollar a man makes and they dismiss it. Their reason for doing so? The government does not use the correct data. In the government report, the 84 cents on the dollar claim is arrived at by looking at wages on a dollar per hour basis using Statistics Canada’s July 2008 Labour Force Survey. In July of 2008 women earned an average of $19.14 per hour while men earned an average of $22.80 per hour, thus the 84 cents on the dollar figure.

In any argument over statistics, the chosen measurement is always the one that best supports your argument. This is fair play, when the statistics are comparable. It isn’t when your choice of stat measures something quite different:

The collective report by the labour and activist groups does not use dollar per hour compensation to show that women earn less than men, they use total year compensation. It is easy to understand why the group uses this formula, it will always show that women are being discriminated against while the other formula is showing improvements. A quick look at Stats Canada’s monthly Labour Force Survey shows one reason why men make more money than women; they work more hours. While this may not justify a difference in hourly wages, it would justify a difference in year end compensation. In the report cited by the government, men worked an average of 38.7 hours per week, a full five hours more than women who clocked in for 33.7 hours. For full-time workers, rather than all workers combined, there was still a difference, men working 40.7 hours per week to 38 hours for women. In reviewing several months of these reports over the past two years a consistent pattern emerges, men in full-time jobs work two to three hours more per week than women.

There may still be parts of the economy where male bosses or business owners irrationally discriminate against women (equally, there may be other forms of prejudice in play). Where laws exist to prohibit this, they should be enforced. However, trying to paint the numbers to show discrimination where it does not exist does not help anyone, and it makes it harder to achieve truly equal rights.

Update, 21 October: Ilkka at The Fourth Checkraise mentioned a related story from Finland:

Speaking of the male-female wage gap, I don’t know how I could forget the recent study by the Finnish emeritus researcher (who is thus free to speak his mind) Pauli Sumanen about this very issue. It concluded that Finnish men earn more on average (again, not the median) than Finnish women simply because they work more: if you control for actual hours worked, women get paid more than men so that a woman’s euro is not 80 cents but closer to 104. And if you look at the net salaries after the heavily progressive taxation, and include the fact that women live and receive pensions seven years longer on average (Finnish women pay 45% of total health care costs yet use 59% of health care), these numbers become vastly more dramatic for women.

Own the podium? Pwned!

Filed under: Cancon, Sports — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:39

The much-criticized, so-called unCanadian “Own the Podium” dream is done, stick a fork in it:

Own The Podium has officially gone from a winning blueprint to wishful thinking.

Chris Rudge, CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee, conceded Monday the goal of finishing first in the medal standings at the Vancouver Games is not going to happen.

“There’s going to be a lot of questions asked about Own The Podium,” Rudge acknowledged. “We will eviscerate this program in every detail when we’re finished. It’s painful to go into the autopsy while the patient is still alive and kicking.

“We’ll quantify the success of the program in terms of total medals after the Games are over. We’re still working as hard as we can to make sure these athletes get the support they need and know we are behind them.”

The Canadian public invested heavily in OTP. Of the $117 million invested in athletes, $66 million of it was taxpayer dollars. VANOC, the organizing committee for the Games, covered most of the remainder through corporate sponsorships.

Canada finished Monday with 10 medals (5-4-1), in fifth place and far behind the Americans with 25. The Germans were second with 21 followed by Norway with 14 and Russia with 11.

In some ways I’m surprised that nobody is winding their collective watches over the “dearth” of bronze medal performances by Canadian athletes: of the 10 medals won so far, only one of them was bronze. If you’re looking for silly things to worry about, isn’t that a good placeholder?

Update: Adriana Barton talks about the odd phenomena where bronze medal winners are often happier than silver medallists.

Third-place winners have upward thoughts (“at least I won”) that increase satisfaction, researchers have found, whereas those who come in second tend to have downward “if only” thoughts that decrease happiness.

Canadian women beat Finns 5-0, will face Team USA for gold on Thursday

Filed under: Cancon, Sports — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 07:48

Photo by Julie Jacobson

Finland provided much more challenge for Canada, with excellent goaltending turning back many shots, but eventually they broke through. Cherie Piper scored the opening goal on a pass from Meghan Agosta, while Agosta broke the single Olympics scoring record with her ninth of the games. Haley Irwin scored twice, and Caroline Ouellette got the other goal for Canada.

They will face Team USA on Thursday for the gold medal. This matchup was expected, as both Canada and the US have been dominant in their respective games through the preliminary and semi-final rounds, tallying 86 goals between the two teams, and allowing only 4.

Update: Colby Cosh is pessimistic about the men’s team making it all the way to the top podium:

Even on the explicit, historically derived premise that Canada has the strongest team in the tournament, it would be hard to peg our chances of winning gold at much higher than 25%. On Desjardins’ pretty reasonable estimates of underlying national team strength, the figure is not close to 25%. I crunched the numbers, leaving room for the possibility of being helped somewhere along the way by an upset of a strong rival, and I get about 19%. That’s assuming we have a 100% chance of beating Germany tonight, when the real figure is probably more like 93-95%.

Step aside, Stonehenge

Filed under: History, Middle East, Religion — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 07:33

Turkey is apparently the place to be for cutting-edge archaeological work:

Standing on the hill at dawn, overseeing a team of 40 Kurdish diggers, the German-born archeologist waves a hand over his discovery here, a revolution in the story of human origins. Schmidt has uncovered a vast and beautiful temple complex, a structure so ancient that it may be the very first thing human beings ever built. The site isn’t just old, it redefines old: the temple was built 11,500 years ago — a staggering 7,000 years before the Great Pyramid, and more than 6,000 years before Stonehenge first took shape. The ruins are so early that they predate villages, pottery, domesticated animals, and even agriculture — the first embers of civilization. In fact, Schmidt thinks the temple itself, built after the end of the last Ice Age by hunter-gatherers, became that ember — the spark that launched mankind toward farming, urban life, and all that followed.

Göbekli Tepe — the name in Turkish for “potbelly hill” — lays art and religion squarely at the start of that journey. After a dozen years of patient work, Schmidt has uncovered what he thinks is definitive proof that a huge ceremonial site flourished here, a “Rome of the Ice Age,” as he puts it, where hunter-gatherers met to build a complex religious community. Across the hill, he has found carved and polished circles of stone, with terrazzo flooring and double benches. All the circles feature massive T-shaped pillars that evoke the monoliths of Easter Island.

Though not as large as Stonehenge — the biggest circle is 30 yards across, the tallest pillars 17 feet high — the ruins are astonishing in number. Last year Schmidt found his third and fourth examples of the temples. Ground-penetrating radar indicates that another 15 to 20 such monumental ruins lie under the surface. Schmidt’s German-Turkish team has also uncovered some 50 of the huge pillars, including two found in his most recent dig season that are not just the biggest yet, but, according to carbon dating, are the oldest monumental artworks in the world.

More market-rigging to favour Government Motors

Filed under: Economics, Germany, Law, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 07:09

If you’re a fan of German sports cars, this might be a swan song for your preferred makes and models:

In a few years, by 2016 to be exact, P.J. O’Rourke’s “ass-engined Nazi slot car” may be history in the U.S.A. Gone. By that time, Porsche needs to have a Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) of 41.4 mpg — if President Obama gets his wish. Mission impossible, says Porsche. Jack Baruth, stock up. Porsches will be extinct.

On May 19, 2009 President Barack Obama proposed a new national fuel economy program. If signed into law in May this year, as currently planned, the law will throw a nasty punch, beginning in the model year 2012.

Porsche-Lobbyist Stefan Schläfli talked to the German Edition of the Financial Times, before taking off for Washington for a last ditch effort to save the endangered species. Says the FTD: “Hardest hit will be German producers of premium brands which sell big-engined large cars. Critics in the German camp don’t think this is a coincidence. The formulas used to calculate the maximum permissible values are tailor-made for U.S. manufacturers. Basis for the calculation will be wheel base and track width — highly unusual criteria.”

A short and compact Porsche is faced with much stricter limits than a Corvette. Not to mention a pick-up. Large manufacturers turn into a CAFE-society, and can offset their thirsty oinkers with smaller cars. Porsche doesn’t have that option. Neither does Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and other eclectic brands.

Now that the government has a major financial stake in GM and Chrysler, they don’t even need to pretend to be even-handed in their regulatory fixes.

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