…..things that make you go ‘huh’ 001

Not setting your clock correctly might make a criminal out of you.

A sea of greenhouses.

“It is well known that the Vikings traded with the Arab world, and archaeologists have found plenty of Arab coins in Viking settlements.”

Cryptocurrencies for Dummies?

 

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dream big, execute frugally

In a previous post I was less than complimentary about the lukewarm efforts Kingston has implemented to become a bicycle friendly community.  Full disclosure:  I am ambivalent about the whole idea, as for the most part policy seems to have been outsourced to car hating activist led single issue groups, but given that the city has embraced the spirit, if not the practice, perhaps they might consider a few easily implemented ideas to further the vision.

Covered bicycle shelters.   Assuming the city means to increase the number of cyclists, bicycleshelterought it to prioritize covered bicycle shelters?   Failure to consider, let alone implement, such an easy and relatively cheap* piece of infrastructure does bring their commitment under suspicion.    Nearly every European city of similar size to Kingston prioritizes multi-modal transit, and includes  covered bicycle racks proximate to bus and regional rail lines. Continue reading

Freedom

Every socialist / ‘big L’ liberal policy is at heart collectivist and anti individual freedom, requiring the coercive power of the state to enforce compliance from the citizenry.   Sadly, too many Canadians are ‘content’ with this and surrender their freedoms bit by bit….. 

Ghost of a Flea has more…

When Freedom Isn’t Free In Britain, compulsory virtue stifles individual liberty. 14 April 2010 

Liberal reformers, who might once have wished to extend the realm of liberty, now wish to restrict it in the name of compulsory political virtue. 

There was a perfect recent illustration of this in Britain. An evangelical Christian couple, the Wilkinsons, ran a bed-and-breakfast business in a place called Cookham. They refused a middle-aged homosexual couple, Michael Black and John Morgan, accommodation because they believed that homosexuality was wrong; it is condemned in the Bible. 

The spurned couple said that they felt like lepers; moreover, they felt that their legal rights, enshrined in the Equality Act of 2006, which makes it illegal to discriminate in the provision of services on the grounds of “sexual orientation,” had been infringed, and they complained to the police. As yet, no prosecution has followed. But shortly afterward a senior politician, Christopher Grayling, who might be a minister in the next government if David Cameron wins the forthcoming election, said that he thought that the owners of bed-and-breakfasts ought to be allowed to refuse homosexual couples if they so wished. 

From the furious denunciation that Grayling’s remarks attracted, you might have thought that he had advocated medieval punishments for homosexuals. Instead, he was merely pointing out that the law as it stands is tyrannical, and that in a free society not everyone will make the same moral judgments.  It is a necessary condition of freedom that private citizens should be allowed to treat with, or to refuse to treat with, whomever they choose, on any grounds that they choose, including those that strike others as repellent.  Freedom is freedom, not the means by which everyone comes to precisely the same conclusion and conducts himself in precisely the same way. 

  

RTWT

Big Numbers

In light of our ‘fiscally responsible’ ‘onservative government shovelling money out the door for various infrastructure projects, the failure of McGinty’s ehealth ontario initiative, and of course the impending cornucopia of largess known as Obamacare being offered up in the USA, it is worth re-reading Guns, Fraud, and Big Numbers in Canada to remind ourselves of just how often our political masters screw up basic math:

 The following essay won the Letter of the Week award on 2004-02-24 at Mark Steyn’s web site, http://www.marksteyn.com . In honour thereof, Mr. Steyn graciously sent me a copy of his “The Face of the Tiger”, autographed: “Congratulations. A Great Letter.” ]

My Fellow Canadian ~

I once read an excellent Isaac Asimov non-fiction essay on really big numbers. Humans are in general really bad at understanding big numbers. Because of my math / science / engineering background, I’m maybe a bit better than average, but I’m no Asimov. I have though learned a few ways to help me better understand big numbers, so that I can better deal with them when I need to. This essay shows how some of those methods work.

The initial Government of Canada estimate for the gun registry database system was $1 million. Technically, I think that’s probably a bit low. Based on my on three decades of work in the field of distributed multi-user database transaction processing systems like the registry, and on some systems I’m currently working on which are of that type, I think $3 million would have been a better estimate.

If someone from the Government of Canada can provide me with a simple accounting showing some component of the system that I’ve missed, I’d be more than happy to adjust my analysis of the situation to take that data into account. My current analysis is based on the numbers I have collected from the public media over the last few years.

Given how important it is for state monopolies to serve citizens to the highest possible ethical standard, let’s throw in a factor of three-ish over my base estimate and call it $10 million, to be as careful as possible.

Now, say you had such a $10 million contract with some customers. And then, say you spent three times that: $30 million. Does it occur to you that your customers (in this case, we citizens) might be, oh, shall we say, somewhat angry? Ok, let’s say it’s another factor of three: $90 million. How are your customers doing now? Fine. Let’s throw in another factor of three, so we’re now up to $270 million. How angry are your customers now? In more primitive times than we live in, would you still be alive? But wait, there’s more. How much would we pay for another factor of three? Oh, about $810 million. Say, that’s interesting, the gun registry database system has, according to the CBC, cost $750 million.

It didn’t cost 3 times as much. Or 3 times 3 times as much. Or 3 times 3 times 3 times as much. It cost 3 times 3 times 3 times 3 times as much.
Continue reading

no one to blame but themselves

Updated – Aug 28 2009:

Oops.  Either it’s time to buy newspaper stock on the theory that it can’t get much worse, or maybe its all over.

Newspapers’ financial woes worsened in the second quarter as advertising sales shrank by 29 percent, leaving publishers with $2.8 billion less revenue than they had at the same time last year.

It’s the deepest downturn yet during a three-year free fall in advertising revenue — newspapers’ main source of income. The magnitude of the industry’s advertising losses have intensified in each of the last 12 quarters.

The numbers released Thursday by the Newspaper Association of America weren’t a shock, given the dramatic erosion mirrored the advertising losses that the largest U.S. newspaper publishers already had reported for the April-June period.

Still, the statistics served as a stark reminder of the crisis facing newspapers as they try to cope with a brutal recession and advertising trends that have shifted more marketing dollars to the Internet.

___________

Aug 21 2009:

As far as I am concerned the parochial print and TV news media can’t die off fast enough.  Recently a couple of news items have highlighted for me exactly why journalists are out of touch with the real world – a complete lack of professionalism, disregard for fact checking and suppression of news:

First off:  last week much of the shrieking on both left and right concerned a black man who attended a Health Care

crazy?

crazy?

 rally in Arizona openly carrying an AR-15 rifle, and pistol holstered at his hip.  All legal, no threatening gestures made towards anyone in the crowd or anyone else for that matter.   In fact judging by the demeanor of those around him, they certainly didn’t perceive him to be a threat least of all to themselves.    CNN posts:” Obama at risk from gun-toting protesters?”  MSNBC then aired cropped video  footage of the same man yet cast him as a white man (36 seconds in), while the talking heads go on about how racist angry protesters might take a shot at Obama. 

not crazy? never happened?

not crazy? never happened?

Apparently the MSM’s memory hole has obliterated any recollection of  the New Black Panthers openly sporting shotguns at the 2000 Republican Convention in Houston TX.   Where was the concerned pontificating about crazy militias (isn’t that what the Black Panthers are?) endangering the safety of GW?  What?  There wasn’t any?   In last weeks ‘reporting’  there wasn’t even a semblance of impartiality – no mention of similar events – as if the armed protests by the (presumably liberal) Black Panthers had never occurred.    

Matt Welch at Reason Online summarises what is happening…..

Meanwhile, I can predict the kind of “hate” that will escape attention by the new desk. It’s the kind that assumes, lack of evidence notwithstanding, that we are always–but especially now that liberal Democrats run the country–on the verge of a race war. It’s the kind that takes a surface look at current events, luxuriates in historically ignorant alarmism, then proclaims that America itself is “delusional,” “irrational,” “hysterical.” You can’t get away with hating a (Democratic) president’s policies, or even a single policy, but hating on the country as a whole for failing to get on board? Well, that’s just journalism!

Secondly:  The sound of insects chirping as the MSM with the notable exception of the Wall Street Journal suppresses or at best ignores a ‘good news’ story coming out of the west bank via the International Monetary Fund.  It would seem that Palestinians living in the West Bank have won the economic lottery (real wage increases of up to 24% [!] and economic growth of 7%), whilst those lobbing rockets from the Gaza strip have not.  Or is it perhaps because security measures put in place by the Israeli’s have put an end to suicide bombers originating in the West Bank, coupled with a desire by Palestinians to get on with their lives, leaving the wreckage which is Gaza to the fascist Hamas?   Hmm….

I smell a rodent of unusual size….

afghan elections

UPDATED: Aug 21 2009.

Well, that was hardly unexpected;  the Red Star can barely offer up a grudging acknowledgement that things weren’t all that bad in Afghanistan.   Featuring a column entitled  “millions of afghans vote,  but is it enough“, one rather gets the impression that Ms Dimanno was hoping for a disaster.   

_______

afghan womenWell, the Afghan elections seem to have gone quite a bit better than predicted hoped by the prophets of doom.   26 Afghans were killed exercising their right for freedom from oppression by the agents of the mad mullahs – that’s it, that’s all. 

Terry Glavin has it summarised nicely here.  Speaking of which, he notes and debunks some weirdness appearing on the socialist worker site.  These loons are right off the rails:

Bush and his coterie of crooks and warmongers told us that only a military invasion could liberate the people, and especially the women, of Afghanistan from the brutal, misogynistic and “medieval” Taliban movement.  

There was no mention, of course, of the substantial support offered to the Taliban regime in the late 1990s when Clinton was president and in the early days of the Bush presidency, nor of the long and ugly history of U.S. intervention in Central and South Asia, which was an important precondition for the rise of Islamism. (WTF? Vietnam, Cambodia = Islamism?)

Ordinarily I wouldn’t give more than about two seconds to contemplate this kind of drivel, but our writer at SW was convinced that even slick willy was in on the whole thing, so I got to thinking.   I understand that Hillary’s long suffering husband wasn’t above execising the Leeden doctrine*, especially when special prosecutors were poking around his habit of poking around –  but  just how much ‘support’ did the Clinton administration supposedly offer to the Taliban, as claimed by ‘Nick’ at SW?  According to the SIPRI database, none, zero, nada.  As in not one dollar of evil imperialistic military industrial complex support delivered to the Taliban / Afghanistan between 1993 and 2000.    Records produced by Defense Department also show nothing in the way of miltary contracts or assistance for period of the Clinton administration.

And as for Dubbya – the entire deliveries of major military equipment to Afghanistan between 2001 – 2008 consisted of 188 M113 Armoured Personnel Carriers (I’m thinking ‘hangar’ queens) and in the neighbourhood of about 4000 up-armoured HUMMVs. 

Myth – busted.

*“Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.”

savage compassion – or what’s wrong with progressives

Quite a few self identified leftists are distancing themselves from the recent and disgusting habit of many of their more ‘progressive’ brethren of aligning themselves alongside the islamosfacists.   Most notably Bernard-Henri Levy  (identifying reflexive anti-Americanism as only one of the hatreds at the heart of the new left) and Nick Cohen (describing his disappointment with the apologists of islamic terror);  and now Yacov Ben Moshe has produced a short essay which summarises most eloquently the reasons why, while I often feel that I hold classically liberal values, I cannot under any circumstances find common cause with the progressives amongst us:  

Savage Compassion:

The progressive demands that we believe his claim that he serves a higher truth and a loftier goal.  He tries to force us to accept the idea that his ideas are unassailably good. And, even if they fail to be good, his virtuous pretentions are supposed to indemnify him from guilt or shame.  Even if he make mistakes, behaves badly or cause harm, virtue will save him from blame.  His “caring and good intentions” are supposed to trump the fact that he cares about the wrong things in the wrong way and his intentions are a humbug. Virtue is more than a sham- it is the prim, ruthless face of coercion. It is aimed outward, at others, as a self-justification; an accusation and, above all, a yearning for Utopia.

 

Utopia is an attack on the individual.  There has never been a Utopia that could survive for long without crushing the individual.  That is why “selflessness” is considered a key element of virtue.  Hannah Arendt foresaw the destructiveness of progressive virtue many years ago.  In her work On Revolution she wrote:

“Virtue has indeed been equated with selflessness ever since Robespierre preached a virtue that was borrowed from Rousseau, and it is the equation which has put, as it were, its indelible stamp on the revolutionary man and his innermost conviction that the value of a policy may be gauged by the extent to which it will contradict all particular interests, and that the value of a man may be judged by the extent to which he acts against his own interest and against his own will.”
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

RTWT