What benefit can there be in allowing him to speak?

In the view of a Canadian "Human Rights" Commission’s former longtime investigator, when faced with a person with who he clearly and vehemently disagrees:

What benefit can there be in allowing him to speak?

Apparently in Canada the right to speak exists at the whim of "human rights" commissions that answer to nobody. Rights for some, but not for others.

Via small dead animals.

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Evil US corporations.

In an article in my local paper about potentially deceptive "green" labels, I caught the following quote:

"Consumers need to weed out the truth, but consumers are also pressed for time,” said St. Jacques. "So the best advice is to shop locally whenever you can. That way you keep the profits in your own community rather than shipping them off to head office somewhere in the U.S. It also means you can have a dialogue with the store owner and really know if the business is green or just greenwashing.” [emphasis mine]

Yes, because all local companies are good while all head offices in the US are inherently evil.And an article about deceptive marketing has become an article about where the profits go, as opposed to how to weed out the truth about green-ness. If the products are not deceptive, why does it matter where the profits go?

That wasn’t the best part though. This was my favorite:

With the "alternative land use services” concept, farmers, who own large swaths of land, can produce environmental products such as clean air, greenhouse gas reductions and clean water to protect fish, wildlife and pastoral landscapes on top of the crops they grow — and be paid for it.

Farmers can now actually produce clear air and water – though I’m not sure how anyone can do that – and get paid for it.

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Lies Dalton McGuinty told.

There is no shortage of places to read about lies told by Dalton McGuinty, Premier or Ontario, Canada. But I could kick myself for not writing down my prediction about the property tax assessment not even two years ago.

April 22, 2006 in the Ottawa Citizen (responding to an Ombudsman’s report [PDF] on the credibility crisis of the Municipal Property Tax Assessment Corporation):

I’ll fix property tax system, premier vows

McGuinty says government is ‘seized’ with fixing problem, but it will take ‘some time’

June 30, 2006 in The Globe and Mail (deferring the problem until after an election):

TORONTO — The Ontario government is freezing property tax assessments for the next two years, all but guaranteeing that the controversy surrounding homeowners’ skyrocketing tax bills will not become an issue during next year’s election campaign.

Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara announced yesterday the cancellation of tax reassessments for 2006 and 2007 to give the embattled agency that assesses residential property values enough "breathing space" to overhaul the system. He said he expects the Municipal Property Assessment Corp. can implement the changes by 2009.

March 23, 2007 in the National Post (I wrote about it too):

The McGuinty Liberals yesterday introduced changes to the province’s much-maligned property tax system, slowing the pace of assessments to every four years in a move labelled by some as insignificant.

[...]

Beginning in 2009, annual assessments will be scrapped and will instead occur every four years. Rate increases would be phased in slowly over four years. Decreases would apply immediately.

Today in The Globe and Mail (safely past the election):

Double-digit jumps in assessments and resulting property tax increases are going to stun some homeowners this year, the president of the Toronto Real Estate Board warned yesterday, as a provincial freeze on new property assessments nears its end.

And from CityNews:

"You have to wait to see your assessment," explained City Budget Chief Councillor Shelley Carroll. "We’re a bit surprised because the current value assessment system is unfair. That’s why it was frozen in the first place. The freeze seems to be lifted without any improvement. [emphasis mine]

Lie before the election, get elected, then go about business as usual. Sounds familiar. Could’ve seen that one coming a mile away.

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Choking the bandwidth.

The IFPI (Europe’s RIAA), having failed to stop music downloading through every other avenue, is now pushing the problem on to ISPs, saying that ”Copyright theft has been allowed to run rampant on their networks under the guise of technological advancement".

The IFPI claims that P2P is a huge problem, choking the bandwidth of ISPs using the ridiculous argument that the infrastructure is collapsing, and they want those ISPs to filter that content.

They note that legal digital downloads grew 53% last year and album downloads grew by over 40%, for a total of $2.9 billion in sales, an increase of 40% year over year. But I guess that isn’t enough for them.

Strangely, if they got their wish and every single download was legal, that would choke the bandwidth even more. I suppose it isn’t a problem them as long as the cash is flowing in.

Digital downloads have near zero cost – there are no manufacturing, shipping, or inventory costs and the artists are paid a fraction of what they are for a physical CD – yet the record companies still charge 99 cents for a download. So the only motive can be greed.

If I were them I would just shut up about the whole thing and be happy that any money is still rolling in because pretty soon artists are going to realize that they don’t need a record company anymore.

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Moore’s Law in reverse.

In general, over time the performance of technology increases, while the costs of that technology decrease. Except when it comes to telecom/cable providers.

Rogers, a Canadian cable company, is raising their rates across the board:

Rogers, for example, will be raising prices for three of seven high-speed packages – claiming the new rates are being introduced “so we can continue to bring you improvements through innovation, now and in the future”. (Rogers is also raising the price for many of its cable packages, while increasing the “system access fee” for its telephone service by more than 30% to $5.95/month from $4.50.)

The costs never seem to decrease, even though the cable plant probably hasn’t seen much change. I’m not sure what they consider innovation either, because the only new things they’ve introduced are traffic shaping and bandwidth caps, which save them money and do nothing positive for me.

I wonder too why the mobile phone rates never drop either. Is it possible that these companies are just greedy?

I can remember when we paid ridiculously steep prices for long distance service. Then we saw some competition and magically the prices dropped. Perhaps a little competition in this area might help.

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My internet prediction.

Time Warner is going to start charging by the byte so to speak for internet usage:

Time Warner Cable this week said it will move away from the “buffet” model of broadband and start experimenting with a “metered” model. The cable operator is rolling out a trial program in Beaumont, Texas, in which customers will be charged based on the amount of bandwidth they use.

Of course this will put the US even further behind in broadband adoption while countries such as Japan have no problem providing speeds in excess of 100Mbps for less.

Though I predict that when Time Warner decides to provide their own TV/movie/content delivery service there will suddenly be plenty of bandwidth for every paying subscriber.

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Content and context.

Tim Wu thinks that AT&T’s proposal to filter content is crazy based on the fact that it opens them up to all kinds of potential litigation:

Here’s the kicker: To maintain that immunity, AT&T must transmit data "without selection of the material by the service provider" and "without modification of its content." Once AT&T gets in the business of picking and choosing what content travels over its network, while the law is not entirely clear, it runs a serious risk of losing its all-important immunity. An Internet provider voluntarily giving up copyright immunity is like an astronaut on the moon taking off his space suit. As the world’s largest gatekeeper, AT&T would immediately become the world’s largest target for copyright infringement lawsuits.

He also thinks this might be there way to avoid net neutrality:

It may be that AT&T so hates being under the current network neutrality mandate that it sees fighting piracy as a way to begin treating some content differently than others—discriminating—in a politically acceptable way.

I would have another concern. How does AT&T judge whether the content that is being sent is legal or not? How does it know the difference between a movie I purchased on iTunes versus one on YouTube? How does it know that CBS didn’t intentionally put an episode of CSI on YouTube? What if I’m watching hulu.com?

Will there pick and choose based on the source website? What happens if a new company licences content for distribution?

Does that mean that every new video company must ask permission from AT&T to operate? And AT&T now gets to pick the winners and losers?

Even if I had the tiniest bit of faith that AT&T could get this right, I would still be very concerned about them essentially controlling what happens on the internet.

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What is “driving distance”?

According to the National Post:

This week, the (Canadian) federal government announced that Parks Canada, the NAC and TSO have reached an agreement to explore the possibility of building the amphitheatre on a stretch of property in Niagara-on-the Lake, Ont.

The ever-present consultant’s report suggested that the best location was Niagara-on-the-Lake because, among other things:

There are already a number of wineries, food producers, hotels, high-end restaurants and theatre (the Shaw Festival) in the region. They also figured there are about 70 million people within driving distance. [emphasis mine]

Now Niagara-on-the-Lake is a pretty place. I grew up about 10 minutes away from it. But it’s about 90 minutes from Toronto, Canada’s largest city, and several hours from the closest major American city. I am not counting Buffalo as a major American city.

So where exactly are these 70 million people? Let’s just call that about one-third of the population of Canada PLUS one-fifth of the population of the US.

Driving distance to me means how far I would drive to go somewhere for the day. Anything beyond a five hour drive doesn’t seem to qualify as driving distance.

Then again, I’m sure they justified the whole project by saying "just imagine if 1% of those 70 million people came".

This study does suggest that the Niagara Region sees millions of overnight visitors annually, but I still think that 70 million is overdoing it a bit.

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Ignorance is no excuse.

For some reason yesterday I encountered a number of completely ridiculous situations but none beat the discussion I has when I went to get a new license plate sticker.

The clerk looked at my ownership and said "It’s not signed. That’s a $110 fine.". Then she noticed it was and said "No, you’re ok."

When I asked how I was supposed to know that she said that the police would inform me when they gave me the $110 ticket. When I told her that I was unaware of the requirement, given that it says nothing of the kind anywhere on the ownership slip, she told me that the police feel that ignorance of the law is no excuse.

An internet search on this turned up nothing either.

So basically, If you don’t sign your ownership, even though there is absolutely know way you could know that you have to, the police will issue you a $110 ticket and then tell you about a law that you didn’t know about.

Yeah, that seems fair.

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