March 7, 2012

“The EU’s definition of a free society is where people do the authorities’ bidding voluntarily”

Filed under: Economics, Europe, Government, Liberty — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:24

George Jonas who “imbibed too many Molotov-cocktails in his youth” on the European project:

The news comes on a day when market analysts observe “a sea of red.” European bourses are down 1.5%, China’s growth target is lowered from 8% to 7.5%, and the Greek government’s contingent liabilities are likely to exceed a trillion euros. While Europe’s debts are going through the roof, Viviane Reding has her eye glued to the glass ceiling. The European Commissioner for Justice doesn’t like what she sees.

“The European Commission is considering introducing mandatory quotas for female members on corporate boards,” reports Germany’s Suddeutsche Zeitung. The meticulous newspaper leaves no doubt about the reason. “Pleas for companies to voluntarily introduce such quotas themselves produced no effect.”

The EU’s definition of a free society is where people do the authorities’ bidding voluntarily. The EU is socialist, of course, not communist. Socialists consider an intermediate stage of voluntary compliance essential before turning to coercion.

Communists find this a hoot. They say it’s hypocritical and a waste of time. It’s hard to disagree with them. Communists are always nasty, but not always wrong.

Update: Of course, with their top-down, we-know-best approach, it’s no surprise that they were totally astonished when people interpreted their latest pro-expansion video a bit less positively than they expected:

H/T to the Adam Smith Institute blog for the video:

Critics of the EU are often accused of being “Little Englanders”. In the light of rhetoric like this from the EU it’s clear that the mindset behind the EU itself is little more than Little Englanderism writ large across the continent — still preoccupied with keeping out scary foreigners and closing Europe off from alien cultures. If the EU is offering an insular Europe that demonizes and builds walls against foreigners, I would turn it down. There’s a whole world out there to trade and engage with.

Veterans Affairs to face disproportionally big cuts in federal budget

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Cancon, Economics, Military — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:32

That’s what Sean Bruyea thinks. Here’s his piece in the Globe & Mail:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper calls enlisting in the military the “highest form of public service.” Why then is Veterans Affairs, the department which cares for the Canadian Forces when its members are injured, facing the largest proportional cuts of any other public-service department?

The budget axe has been looming over all federal departments. The current “strategic and operational review” is a euphemism for reigning in a federal public service that is out of control. In the last 10 years, the core public service has grown by 34 per cent (versus 12 per cent at Veterans Affairs) and total government program expenses have swelled by 84 per cent (versus 67 per cent at Veterans Affairs).

Perhaps most galling for Canadians who have passed through two recessions in two decades and have seen no real growth in their earnings, public service salaries have increased by 22 per cent over and above inflation.

Few could credibly argue against the need for Ottawa to be managed better.

Wind turbines are “a technology that isn’t ready for prime time”

Filed under: Britain, Economics, Environment, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:20

Andrew Orlowski on the bad economic and technological decision by the British government to put so much reliance on wind power:

Two studies published this week calculate the astounding cost of Britain’s go-it-alone obsession with using wind turbines to generate so much of the electricity the nation needs.

Both studies make remarkably generous concessions that favour wind technology; the true cost, critics could argue, will be higher in each set of calculations. One study reckons that the UK can still meet its carbon dioxide emissions targets and save £140bn — but only if it dumps today’s inefficient hippie technology. The other puts the potential saving at £120bn — pointing out that the same amount of electricity could be generated using open cycle gas plants at one-tenth the cost of using wind turbines.

“There is nothing inherently good or bad about investing in renewable energy and green technology,” writes economist Professor Gordon Hughes — formerly of the World Bank and now at the University of Edinburgh. “The problem is that the government has decided to back a technology that isn’t ready for prime time, thus distorting the market.”

Hughes’ study — Why is Wind power so expensive? An economic analysis — is published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation today, and simply looks at the costs. The other study, by technical consulting group AF-Mercados, specifically looks at how to reduce CO2 in the cheapest manner — by incurring the least collateral economic damage. It’s called Powerful Targets: Exploring the relative cost of meeting decarbonisation and renewables targets in the British power sector. KPMG originally commissioned the study, but then got cold feet. Both come to similar conclusions: wind is astronomically expensive compared to other sources of energy — and consumers and businesses must pay a high price for the privilege of subsidising such an inefficient technology.

Update, 10 March: A lovely little cartoon from Watts Up With That on this topic:

Robot barf

Filed under: Media, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:50

An amusing article at the Guardian about those hard-to-avoid QR codes:

The idea behind a Quick Response (QR) code is pretty simple, even useful, when applied correctly. You snap a picture of a code and your mobile phone whisks you off to a web page — no typing necessary. The problem is that the vast majority of people have no idea what the codes are, or that they are supposed to interact with them.

Most people look at a QR code and see “robot barf”, but marketers seem to think they are a must-have technology for their advertising campaigns. In their minds, eager consumers wander around with their smartphones, scanning square codes wherever they appear. As a result, the codes appear just about everywhere, and often in some really absurd places.

Being strangely fascinated by their misuse, we decided to collaborate on a Tumblr, wtfqrcodes, to document this ridiculous trend. We started the blog with about a dozen of our own pictures and invited visitors to submit their pictures as well. That’s where we’ve gotten some of our best stuff – we’ve been amazed at some of the places QR codes show up. It’s obvious that most companies just don’t understand the technology … and that’s a recipe for some very funny posts.

Used as they were originally intended, you encounter a bit of robot barf like this one:

You take a picture of it and it opens a URL or provides other encoded information. If it’s in a printed ad or on a billboard, you probably have an idea where it’ll take you. Encountering them outside their “natural habitat”: just the bare QR code with no other information, you don’t know where it’ll take you or what kind of content it’ll provide.

Perhaps the NFL doesn’t want too many people watching the 2009 NFC championship game right now

Filed under: Football, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:03

I retweeted a post from the Daily Norseman yesterday to the effect that the NFL Network had, without warning, pulled a scheduled re-broadcast of the 2009 NFC championship between the New Orleans Saints and the Minnesota Vikings. Gregg Easterbrook perhaps explains why:

The Vikings-Saints NFC title game two years ago may have been where the Saints’ deliberate rule-breaking was worst. Immediately after that game, I wrote, “Saints players came after [Brett] Favre so hard — four times slamming him in ways that invited late-hit or roughing penalties, only two of which were called — Williams [seems to have] told his charges something along the lines of, ‘Pound Favre every time you can; we will take a couple of roughing flags in return for making an old guy worry about the next hit.'”

So did I do a good job by noting two years ago what is suddenly considered obvious? No, I did a terrible job. Yesterday I watched every New Orleans defensive snap of that game and found four, not two, instances in which unnecessary roughness should have been called against the Saints but was not. In retrospect, my column should have led with dirty play by the Saints. The four unnecessary roughness penalties that were not called:

  • On the game’s first snap, Favre handed off, turned away from the play and was hammered with a forearm to the chin by New Orleans linebacker Scott Fujita. Not only should a personal foul have been called — Fujita should have been ejected on the game’s first offensive snap. Instead, no call. Scott, were you paid for behaving like a street thug?
  • At 6:14 of the first quarter, after Favre released a pass he was hit with a forearm to the chin by safety Roman Harper. No flag. Roman, were you paid for delivering that cheap shot?
  • At 4:15 of the first quarter, Favre released a pass and then Darren Sharper slammed him in the chest with a foreman. No flag. Darren, were you paid for having low standards?
  • At 13:29 of the second quarter, Favre released a pass and then was hurled to the ground by Bobby McCray. No flag. Bobby, were you paid for doing something you should be ashamed of?

Reviewing the tape, another aspect of the game jumped out at me that I missed when watching live, and so far as I can tell, all sportscasters and commentators missed, too. Beginning midway through the first quarter, whenever Favre handed off, he immediately ran backward 10 yards — to get away from New Orleans late hits.

And the assistant coach who ran the bounty operation? What a piece of work he is:

Gregg Williams has a classy first name, but may be a man of twisted values. Monday on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” Mike Pesca dug up audio of Williams speaking after the Saints’ Super Bowl win. Williams says, “My whole life … I’ve been trying to get people to play nastier.” Can he seriously think lack of aggression is a problem in football? Williams also had this to say about his two sons’ youth football days: “I told their little league coaches my kids will play fast, they’re going to play nasty, they’re going to play tough. Tell the rest of the babies around them to speed up.”

What kind of a man boasts that his sons are nasty and denounces as “babies” 10-year-olds who want to participate in a sport safely? Williams needs to take a long look in the mirror — and by his distorted values, he has forfeited any claim to a leadership role.

The NFL has a bigger problem than figuring out how to discipline the New Orleans Saints players and coaching staff. Perhaps that is why no penalties have yet been announced. The bigger problem for the NFL is that they need to retain the aggression and the passion, yet clearly enforce and be seen to enforce the rules against deliberate attempts to harm other players. If they miss this opportunity, expect politicians (in an election year where media exposure is even more important than usual) to jump in and start trying to do it for them.

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