April 7, 2012

Arizona’s internet-trolls-go-to-jail bill

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Media, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:21

Interestingly, aside from the occasional mention of the Arizona Cardinals, almost every post I’ve marked with the Arizona tag over the last three years is about stupid laws or bills that infringe constitutional rights. What up, Arizona?

“[Dalton] McGuinty … has led Ontario from the commanding heights almost to the low-rent district of the Canadian economy”

Conrad Black, on the dangers of regional politics played out at the national and international level:

One of the points I was trying to make in last week’s column, in general support of Pierre Trudeau’s efforts to make both official languages present in all parts of the country, was that in any federal state, some concessions to particular regional concerns are necessary or the country will fall apart, or even atomize. In a little over a century, this fate has split Norway from Sweden, Singapore from Malaysia, Bangladesh from Pakistan, the Czechs from the Slovaks and, most painfully, the Sudanese and South Sudanese.

This was what made the Quebec separatist threat so dangerous; though there was never much prospect of heavy violence, there was a danger of the permanent diminution of the country after a prolonged and immobilizing constitutional crisis. Of course, the separatist leaders greatly and treacherously underestimated the complexities and problems of any such step, and aggravated the problem with trick referendum questions about seeking authority to negotiate sovereignty and association with Canada: Simultaneously to eat and retain the same rich cake.

[. . .]

The Copenhagen Environmental Conference of 2009 was probably the most inane and redundant international conference in all history, as every climate alarmist capable of crawling to a television studio or buttonholing a journalist (except perhaps for Canada’s inimitable Gwyn Dyer), competed in foreseeing the imminence, almost literally, of the fall of the sky. But more demeaning by far at Copenhagen was the spectacle of the premiers of Canada’s two most populous provinces, Dalton McGuinty and Jean Charest, attacking Alberta’s oil sands in that over-suggestible ideological environment infested by kooks and charlatans.

The oil sands must be developed, and a pipeline built either into the U.S. or to the West Coast to transport the oil to market. These projects must be managed with great care for the environment. But Canada’s manifest destiny as an energy exporter cannot be held hostage by eco-terrorists, nor by the economic growth of one Canadian region being stunted by the slovenly dependence of other regions on an artificially depreciated Canadian dollar. Intra-Canadian partisanship and regional rivalries must end at the border and the water’s edge.

The antics of McGuinty, who has led Ontario from the commanding heights almost to the low-rent district of the Canadian economy, blaming the prosperity of Alberta for raising the value of the Canadian dollar and inconveniencing Ontario, is an outrage. The new federal NDP leader, Thomas Mulcair, has been uttering something perilously close to the same inexcusable flimflam. Alberta, per capita, has done more than any other province to carry the cost of federalism, including oceanic largesse to Quebec. And all Canadians should rejoice at the prospect of Canada becoming a world energy giant, especially as it entails the prosperity of Newfoundland after centuries of economic struggle, and also the flowering of the hydroelectric wealth and technical sophistication of Quebec.

Xander’s latest photos

Filed under: Randomness — Tags: — Nicholas @ 10:45

I’m feeling remarkably lazy today, so when I got a couple of photos from Clive, I decided they’d be useful blogfodder for today. He was trying out a brand new (and very expensive) lens on his DSLR at our place last weekend:

He’d picked up the lens that morning, on his way over to our house. I didn’t want to deny him the joy of trying it out (even though we had business to get down to), so Xander was kind enough to be a model for a couple of shots.

I don’t remember the specifications of the lens, but it looks like the kind of thing that needs to be transported on its own railway car and pointed in the general direction of Paris.

Rationing is not the optimal solution to shortages

Tim Harford on the recently imposed “hosepipe bans” in parts of southern England:

But it was chucking down with rain this week. It was snowing, too. How can we be talking about drought?

Water isn’t like electricity: it can be stored, within limits. You don’t get a water shortage if you have a dry week and you don’t cure a water shortage with a few April showers. You get water shortages after a couple of years of low rainfall.

And how do you cure water shortages?

Hosepipe bans, apparently.

Is that a good idea?

Probably not. It’s appealing for the water companies because the revenue they receive is capped by the regulator. They can’t make more money by supplying as much water as possible to as many joyful customers as they can reach. It’s easier to just yell at customers to stop watering their lawns. It might be annoying but the water companies don’t lose much as a result.

[. . .]

You’re not suggesting a “flushing the toilet ban”?

I am not suggesting any kind of ban. It’s the idea of the ban that’s problematic. A new article by economists Jeremy Bulow and Paul Klemperer analyses the advantages to consumers of rationing schemes rather than simply raising the marginal price. The bottom line: the advantages are typically illusory. Rationing reduces supply, relative to what could be provided if prices were higher. It also misallocates resources — there’s no reason to expect that the people who get the scarce product are the ones who value it most. And rationing encourages all kinds of fun and games to try to get around the rules.

So you just want water to become more expensive.

I hope water will become cheaper, on average. But I certainly want it to be expensive to use lots of water at a time of shortage. We want everyone to have an incentive to save some water and the obvious way to do this is through water metering.

Project Glass: brilliant or cracked?

Filed under: Media, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 09:41

Howard Baldwin and Ed Oswald discuss the arguments for and against Google’s most recently announced project:

Here are two opposing viewpoints on Google’s Project Glass eyewear. PCWorld contributor Howard Baldwin argues the pro side of the argument while PCWorld contributor Ed Oswald represents the naysayers.

PRO – People have been trying to build wearable computers for years. Project Glass puts the technology into something people already wear.

CON – Easily breakable? While I understand Google’s desire to make these glasses as unobtrusive as possible, they look awfully fragile. Consumers will use these in situations where they may be dropped or come loose. These are no doubt going to be expensive, so people will want some assurance that these won’t easily break.

PRO – Who doesn’t love hands-free computing? Maybe these will help us bypass those nanny-state laws and let us talk while we’re driving again.

CON – Using the glasses will likely be more distracting than texting currently is. Google glasses places the data in front of your line of sight so that you probably will focus on the data rather than what’s around you. This could be more dangerous than texting or using your cell phone while driving.

In the same way that Bluetooth headsets made it hard to distinguish between the homeless guy arguing with the voices in his head and the investment banker screwing his Muppets, Project Glass may help to weed out the easily distracted amongst us. An updated version of what I referred to as the Darwinator app:

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