January 3, 2013

Better late than never, the annual stats post

Filed under: Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 14:09

Despite seeing lots of folks posting their annual traffic counts over the last few days, I forgot to even look at the Quotulatiousness stats page until just now. On the numbers, I think it’s safe to say that the blog continues to grow (but don’t ask me why):

Quotulatiousness visits 2009-2012

Quotulatiousness hits 2009-2012

Those are the internal WordPress numbers, starting from 10 July, 2009 when I switched over from the original site. Notional nationality breakdown, courtesy of Flag Counter:

Quotulatiousness Flag Counter 20130103

Generally speaking, every other visitor to the blog is American, one in five is Canadian, one in 20 is British, and the rest of the world combines for the remaining quarter. No wonder I have so many stories with American angles…

The old site still gets some traffic, but you’ll notice that the total traffic there (including from sometime in the late summer of 2004 down to today) doesn’t add up to a particularly large number:

Quotulatiousness old site stats 2004-2013

Rhode Island’s 38 Studios the new poster child for crony capitalism

Filed under: Business, Gaming, Government, Media, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 11:14

The 2012 bankruptcy of Rhode Island-based video-game developer 38 Studios isn’t just a sad tale of a start-up tech company falling victim to the vagaries of a rough economy. It is a completely predictable story of crony capitalism, featuring star-struck legislators and the hubris of a larger-than-life athlete completely unprepared to compete in business.

Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, an iconic figure in New England after anchoring a historic playoff comeback which ended a legendary 86-year title drought, founded 38 Studios near the end of his baseball career in the hopes of becoming a big shot in the intensely competitive multi-player gaming world.

Since 2006, Schilling invested millions of his own fortune into 38 Studios, and with the self-assured bravado he exhibited as a major league baseball player, set out to find investors to infuse his company with the roughly $50 million needed to complete 38 Studios’ first game. Although Schilling is the kind of local legend who could get a meeting with every venture capitalist in New England, Massachussets VCs passed on 38 Studios. WPRI-TV’s Ted Nesi reported that one such potential investor said “it would have taken a lot of babysitting to do a deal with Schilling because he was inexperienced and the management was inexperienced.”

Enter Gov. Donald Carcieri (R-R.I.), term-limited and searching for a legacy after presiding over one of the worst state economies in the U.S., featuring long spells of double-digit employment and frequent last-place finishes in rankings of business friendliness. In a classic spasm of “do something, anything” government desperation, Carcieri made it his mission to lure 38 Studios from its headquarters in Maynard, Massachusetts to Rhode Island.

Using his bully pulpit as both governor and chairman of the Rhode Island Economic Devlopment Corporation (RIEDC), a quasi-public agency whose mission is to promote business in the state, Carcieri pushed hard for 38 Studios to receive a $75 million taxpayer-guaranteed loan.

Each loan guarantee must be approved by the Rhode Island legislature, and when the votes were cast in 2010, only one lawmaker voted against it. Rep. Bob Watson (R-Greenwich) noted “a lot of red flags” in a “very risky” deal that was “too fast, too loose, and frankly, a scandal waiting to happen.” Watson added “more often than not, politicians are very poor when it comes to making business decisions.”

Comitology and the EU

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Europe, Government, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:58

Alexandra Swann notes that the great C. Northcote Parkinson predicted the EU’s decision-making mechanics with great accuracy:

If we listen to Daniel Guéguen, Professor of European Political and Administrative studies at the College of Europe, the Europhile madrassa, the equation spells the downfall of the European Union.

Guéguen has worked as a Brussels lobbyist for 35 years; he is a full time federast and one of the remaining true believers in the EU. Given his commitment to the EU project, when he deems its system of governance, comitology, “an infernal system” perhaps it’s time to listen.

The concept of Comitology was invented by the incomparable Professor C Northcote-Parkinson in his seminal work Parkinson’s law of 1958. It was meant as a satire but, like many of the best jokes, they either get elected or, in this case, embedded in the bureaucracy. Here is the Professor explaining the comitology and his equation:

    x=(mo(a-d))/(y+p b1/2)

    Where m = the average number of members actually present; o = the number of members influenced by outside pressure groups; a = the average age of the members; d = the distance in centimetres between the two members who are seated farthest from each other; y = the number of years since the cabinet or committee was first formed; p = the patience of the chairman, as measured on the Peabody scale; b = the average blood pressure of the three oldest members, taken shortly before the time of meeting. Then x = the number of members effectively present at the moment when the efficient working of the cabinet or other committee has become manifestly impossible. This is the coefficient of inefficiency and it is found to lie between 19.9 and 22.4. (The decimals represent partial attendance; those absent for a part of the meeting.)

This beautifully encapsulates the terrifying silliness of what is going on in the tubular steel and stripped Swedish pine chairs of Brussels, and for anyone with an interest in transparency or good governance, it is a serious concern. After all, under various estimates upwards of 75 per cent of our laws, the laws that govern the minutiae of our lives are made in the sterile Committee rooms of the Breydel, Berlyamont, Justis Lupsius and other buildings in the EU quarter of Brussels. That this cosmic joke now governs our lives is just a factor of the brobdingnagian reality of our membership of the EU.

Comic book capers of expatriate Americans

Filed under: Media, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:17

Wendy McElroy on Superman’s renunciation of American citizenship:

How do you know when the content of a nation’s character is bankrupt? One way is to examine the dynamic symbols that embody its character and which shift in reaction to circumstance. These symbols are often found within literature and other cultural expressions.

In last year’s Action Comic #900, Superman declared an intention to renounce his US citizenship. The Man of Steel explained, “I’m tired of having my actions construed as instruments of US policy. ‘Truth, justice, and the American Way’ – it’s not enough any more.” Many readers were outraged because, despite being an illegal alien in the most literal sense, Superman epitomized the American Way.

[. . .]

As it happened, Action Comic #900 was issued only days before the killing of Osama bin Laden. Afterward, there was a surge of general patriotism and of sharp criticism directed at Superman. The comic book publishers retreated faster than a speeding bullet. The mainstream media and elites were once again able to settle comfortably into the notion that only villains, cynics, and the irredeemably selfish would abandon US citizenship for a global identity.

And, yet, people on the street then and now sensed that something else was going on. When Forbes ran an expat article, an obviously knowledgeable commentator wrote that leaving America was not […] fundamentally about taxes for most people. “[T]he larger issue is the complete betrayal by one’s country in an attempt to gouge for money to make up for the horrific [US] debt…It is high time…Americans learn that the country they grew up in, no longer exists. The ‘American exceptionalism’ that we were taught to believe in, needs to be seen for what it has become, an excuse for the government to do whatever it wants with no concern for the consequences. ALL Americans lose in this process.” The United States has become what it used to denounce – a fascist police state. To love America (the ideal), you must now leave America (the reality) — either physically or spiritually.

It is wise to do so quietly because the very hint of ‘going expat’ can drive some people into fury. In his article “Citizenship is a problem to be solved,” Phil Hodgen addressed the ‘furious’. He admonished them, “Put down your pitchforks. The point of…an article like this is not to answer with ‘You’re right!’ or ‘You’re wrong!’ The point of the article…is to explore the ideas. There are some important concepts here that transcend taxation…

The Avro Arrow model hunt

Filed under: Cancon, History, Military, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:00

Updating an old story (original posting at the old blog from 2004) on the search for the scale models used to develop the Avro Arrow:

Andrew Hibbert knows they’re down there somewhere. At the bottom of Lake Ontario, with more than 50 years’ worth of zebra mussels clinging to their hulls, sit nine models of the Avro Arrow.

The models were part of a program to test the hull design of the legendary Canadian plane, cancelled before it could truly soar. Strapped to high-powered booster rockets, the 10-foot models weighed nearly 500 pounds and flew over Lake Ontario at supersonic speeds. Their onboard sensors — revolutionary for the 1950s — relayed information back to the launch site at Point Petre, in Prince Edward County.

The models represent a key part of the development of the scrapped plane project.

The Avro Arrow made its first flight in 1958. The interceptor was widely regarded as ahead of its time in terms of aerospace technology. Its Malton plant employed nearly 15,000 people.

But development was cancelled abruptly in 1959, after five Arrows had flown. All were ordered destroyed, along with any documentation and related equipment.

The models, however, were safe from the scrubbing, protected by 30 metres of water.

Eleven models were tested in total: nine at Point Petre and two in Virginia. None has been recovered yet, but that hasn’t stopped so-called “Arrowheads” from hunting for them, often at great cost of both treasure and time.

The Arrow story has shown up a few times on the blog before.

Update: Colby Cosh is always good for summarizing:

I put it in a more wordy form in an earlier posting:

Even people who care less than nothing about aircraft or military technology seem to have opinions about the Avro Arrow (usually allowing them to take free shots at former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker for the decision to scrap the plane). It’s far enough in the past that the facts are more than obscured by the myths of the cottage conspiracy theory industry (artisanal Canadian myth-making, hand-woven, fair-trade, and 100% organic).

Irish newspapers want to be paid when you link to them

Filed under: Business, Europe, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:20

Ireland is an odd place, if this little brainstorm from their newspaper industry is any indication:

This is not a joke.

I have started with that clarification, because as you read this you will find yourself asking “Is this some kind of a joke?” I thought I would be helpful and put the answer right up at the start, so you can refer back to it as often as you require.

This year the Irish newspaper industry asserted, first tentatively and then without any equivocation, that links -just bare links like this one- belonged to them. They said that they had the right to be paid to be linked to. They said they had the right to set the rates for those links, as they had set rates in the past for other forms of licensing of their intellectual property. And then they started a campaign to lobby for unauthorised linking to be outlawed.

These assertions were not merely academic positions. The Newspaper Industry (all these newspapers) had its agent write out demanding money. They wrote to Women’s Aid, (amongst others) who became our clients when they received letters, emails and phone calls asserting that they needed to buy a licence because they had linked to articles in newspapers carrying positive stories about their fundraising efforts.

These are the prices for linking they were supplied with:

1 – 5 €300.00
6 – 10 €500.00
11 – 15 €700.00
16 – 25 €950.00
26 – 50 €1,350.00
50 + Negotiable

They were quite clear in their demands. They told Women’s Aid “a licence is required to link directly to an online article even without uploading any of the content directly onto your own website.”

The rational response here is to honour their request … by pretending they’ve dropped off the internet altogether and never linking to any of the Irish newspaper websites.

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