Quotulatiousness

August 4, 2017

Harry Potter and the Economic Segregation of Muggles

Filed under: Books, Economics, Liberty, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Published on 3 Aug 2017

Harry Potter contains a ton of incredible lessons about society, authoritarianism, and the power of love and individualism in the face of people who would exclude others based on group identity. But something people don’t think about as much are some of the economic lessons that we can draw from a world segregated into wizards and muggles.

On this episode of Out of Frame, we take a look at what the world might look like if magic and non-magic people were actually allowed to trade and interact with each other without the Ministry of Magic obliviating and arresting people for it.

For a transcript of this episode and more engaging content, visit:
www.FEE.org

The recent machine gun purchase is a great example of how broken our defence procurement system

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

About a week ago, the Department of National Defence announced they were purchasing some new machine guns for the Canadian Army. The new weapon is an improved version of the C6 General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) currently in service. The Ottawa Citizen gave the basic information on the deal in this article:

Canadian C6 GPMG. (DND photo)

The Canadian government will purchase 1148 new C6A1 FLEX General Purpose Machine Guns from Colt Canada, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced Wednesday.

The current C6 machine guns were procured over 30 years ago. Some have been removed from service due to wear and tear and others are reaching the end of their service life, according to the Canadian military.

The new C6A1 FLEX (flexible) is designed to be carried by soldiers or attached to vehicles such as the new Tactical Armoured Patrol Vehicle. The new machine gun will feature a durable polymer butt stock instead of the current wooden style, according to the Canadian Forces. Additionally, soldiers will be able to attach pointing devices and optical sighting systems to the new weapon to help increase their operational effectiveness.

Sounds good, right? Not so fast:

On the face of it this is a good news story. The C6, a 7.62-mm is a fully-automatic, air-cooled, gas- and spring-operated medium machine gun that is well liked by the troops of the many western nations which use some version of this weapon. Based on the Fabrique Nationale (FN) MAG it has been used by more than 80 countries, and is made under licence in several countries, most notably the USA where it is known as the M240. It is many ways the standard machine gun, used by all our allies.

A closer look suggests that this announcement reveals everything that is wrong with Canadian defence procurement.

For our $32.1 million we get 1148 new C6A1 machine guns (with cleaning and repair kits, spare parts and carrying slings), 13 jobs which it seems reasonable to assume are for the length of the contract, i.e. two years, and a production line including engineering validation and certifications. Or perhaps more accurately, Colt Canada gets a production line at the Colt Canada plant.

Even if we accept that the implied a cost of nearly $28,000 per weapon should be informed by the fact that about one-quarter of the contract cost goes toward setting up a production line it still means that each weapon is costing almost $21,000 each.

The price of the equivalent US weapon, the M240, is somewhere between $6,600 US and $9,200 US depending on which model is being purchased. This means that, at current exchange rates, if we were to purchase the weapons from FN’s U.S.plant they would cost us about $10,000 each, in Canadian dollars. This in turn suggests that we would save at least $12,628,000. If you assume that in this case we don’t have to buy Colt Canada a new production line it works out to a savings of almost $20 million dollars.

This is the real cost of those 13 jobs for 2 years, over $750,000 for each job per year.

One would think that jobs that cost taxpayers $750,000 per year would raise questions.

Questions like; do we need to make our own machine guns, especially when we consider that they are almost universally available from a number of our allies and that we have the proven ability to maintain them ourselves?

So, it’s not just that we can’t buy ships or fighter aircraft at a competitive price — because our politicians are addicted to using military spending for partisan purposes — we can’t even buy a slight variant on a bog-standard infantry support weapon without paying through the nose.

H/T to MILNEWS.ca for the link (perhaps we should consider changing that standard section heading from “What’s Canada Buying?” to “What’s Canada subsidizing in the form of procurement?” or “What’s Canada being robbed blind over now?”)

The Battle of Passchendaele – Mutiny in the German Navy I THE GREAT WAR Week 158

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Germany, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 3 Aug 2017

Douglas Haig had been busy since the Battle of Arras came to an end. He amassed huge artillery concentration, got his hands on the new British Mark IV tanks and had a cunning plan that even involved a naval landing along the Belgian coast. And the opening of the battle was definitely more promising than the Battle of the Somme one year earlier. In Germany, a small naval mutiny is put down at the same time.

G.J. Meyer – A World Undone: http://bit.ly/WorldUndoneWW1

Short memories and willing self-deception over Venezuela

Filed under: Americas, Economics, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the Los Angeles Times, James Kirchick took the pundits to task for their adulation of Venezuela’s government as it plunged deliberately into a humanitarian disaster:

Shaded relief map of Venezuela, 1993 (via Wikimedia)

On Sunday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro claimed victory in a referendum designed to rewrite the country’s constitution and confer on him dictatorial powers. The sham vote, boycotted by the opposition, was but the latest stage in the “Bolivarian Revolution” launched by Maduro’s predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez. First elected in 1998 on a wave of popular goodwill, Chavez’s legacy is one of utter devastation.

Thanks to Chavismo’s vast social welfare schemes (initially buoyed by high oil prices), cronyism and corruption, a country that once boasted massive budget surpluses is today the world’s most indebted. Contraction in per capita GDP is so severe that “Venezuela’s economic catastrophe dwarfs any in the history of the U.S., Western Europe or the rest of Latin America” according to Ricardo Hausmann, former chief economist of the Inter-American Development Bank. Transparency International lists Venezuela as the only country in the Americas among the world’s 10 most corrupt.

Socialist economic policies — price controls, factory nationalizations, government takeovers of food distribution and the like — have real human costs. Eighty percent of Venezuelan bakeries don’t have flour. Eleven percent of children under 5 are malnourished, infant mortality has increased by 30% and maternal mortality is up 66%. The Maduro regime has met protests against its misrule with violence. More than 100 people have died in anti-government demonstrations and thousands have been arrested. Loyal police officers are rewarded with rolls of toilet paper.

The list of Western leftists who once sang the Venezuelan government’s praises is long, and Naomi Klein figures near the top.

In 2004, she signed a petition headlined, “We would vote for Hugo Chavez.” Three years later, she lauded Venezuela as a place where “citizens had renewed their faith in the power of democracy to improve their lives.” In her 2007 book, The Shock Doctrine, she portrayed capitalism as a sort of global conspiracy that instigates financial crises and exploits poor countries in the wake of natural disasters. But Klein declared that Venezuela had been rendered immune to the “shocks” administered by free market fundamentalists thanks to Chavez’s “21st Century Socialism,” which had created “a zone of relative economic calm and predictability.”

Chavez’s untimely death from cancer in 2013 saw an outpouring of grief from the global left. The caudillo “demonstrated that it is possible to resist the neo-liberal dogma that holds sway over much of humanity,” wrote British journalist Owen Jones. “I mourn a great hero to the majority of his people,” said Oliver Stone, who would go on to replace Chavez with Vladimir Putin as the object of his twisted affection.

Experimental Lightweight Browning High Power

Filed under: Britain, Cancon, History, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 3 May 2017

One of the handguns that resulted from the post-WW2 interest in standardizing arms among the future members of NATO was a lightweight version of the Canadian produced Browning High Power. Experiments began in 1947 to create first a lightened slide by milling out unnecessary material, and then additionally with the use of machined and cast aluminum alloy frames. The first major batch of guns consisted of six with milled alloy frames, with two each going to the Canadian, American, and British militaries for testing.

This would reveal that the guns were in general quite serviceable, except that the locking blocks tended to distort their mounting holes in the alloy frames under extended firing. The cast frames were generally unsuccessful, suffering from substantial durability problems. The program was cancelled in 1951 by the Canadian military, and the last United States interest was in 1952. The example in today’s video is one of the two milled frame guns sent to the US for testing.

QotD: Shakespeare’s sonnets

Filed under: Books, Britain, History, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The Sonnets were published late in Shakespeare’s career (1609) — by a clever and unscrupulous man. His name was Thomas Thorpe. He ran what was for the times a unique publishing business, playing games with “copyright” that were often unconscionable but, usually, this side of the law. He owned neither a printing press, nor a bookstall — two things that defined contemporary booksellers — subcontracting everything in his slippery way. Indeed, I would go beyond other observers, and describe him as a blackguard; and I think Will Shakespeare would agree with me. Though Shakespeare would add, “A witty and diverting blackguard.”

He collected these sonnets, quite certainly by Shakespeare, but written at much different times and for quite various occasions, from whatever well-oiled sources. Thorpe had a fine poetic ear, and knew what he was doing. He arranged the collection he’d amassed in the sequence we have inherited — 154 sonnets that seem to read consecutively, with “A Lover’s Complaint” tacked on as their envoi — then sold them as if this had been the author’s intention.

We have sonnets not later than 1591, interspersed with others 1607 or later. In one case (Sonnet 145), we have what I think is a love poem Shakespeare wrote about age eighteen, to a girl he was wooing: one Anne Hathaway. (She was twenty-seven.) It is crawling with puns, for instance on her name, and stylistically naïve, but has been placed within the “Dark Lady” sonnets (127 to 152) in a mildly plausible way. It hardly belongs there.

Indeed, once one sees this it becomes apparent, surveying the whole course, that there is rather more than one “Dark Lady” in the Sonnets, and that like most red-blooded men, our Will noticed quite a number of interesting women over his years. But Thorpe has folded them all into one for dramatic effect.

David Warren, “Dark gentleman of the Sonnets”, Essays in Idleness, 2015-05-11.

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