2015-01-26

The Cornell Movie Project

Even if you aren't a student, you probably couldn't go wrong tracking down and watching these movies:
Week IX: Beowulf & Grendel (2005)

Director Sturla Gunnarsson’s adaptation of Beowulf was filmed with an international crew in Iceland – which doesn’t look a thing like Denmark or Geatland (presumed to be somewhere in southeastern Sweden) but has a raw, early-medieval feel to it. There is no CGI-enhanced Angelina Jolie here; on the other hand, Iceland’s real landscapes and weather sometimes seem just as surreal. The script is by Andrew Rai Berzins.

2015-01-25

Hingis/Pennetta vs Chan/Zheng

Pictured: the reason I'm watching the Hingis/Pennetta vs Chan/Zheng doubles match. Women's Doubles seems like an ideal mix of hotness and quantity: indeed, Hingis is still quite the hottie. Pennetta not so much, but she is the master of the camel toe shot.

Their opponents, the pair of Yung-Jan Chan and Jie Zheng, aren't even close to being the hottest asian girls I've seen in the past 24 hours (that honour goes to the girl in the ever-so-short dress at Atha B's last night). Chan is in a low-cut top, I guess that will have to do.

Meanwhile, doubles tennis in general remains absolutely horrible.

2015-01-24

"Immigration is a serious issue that we should carefully examine and...no, nevermind, somebody took an offensive picture, back to the status quo!"

The leader of Pegida, the rapidly growing German organization that is dedicated to fighting Islamisation, quit earlier this week over photos he took of himself as Hitler.

Lutz Bachmann at first dismissed the incident as a joke but stepped down on Wednesday after state prosecutors opened a criminal investigation for suspected incitement to hatred over the picture and remarks, which appeared on his Facebook page.

Kathrin Oertel, the Pegida spokesperson, confirmed Mr Bachmann had resigned from all his responsibilities.

The controversy raises new questions about the Dresden-based group’s far-right leanings and its future. Mr Bachmann, 41, who founded Pegida last year, had been its natural leader — both on the podium and in committee meetings.
Bachman is also in trouble for referring to asylum seeker as "cattle" and "waste", though it's probably worth noting that the media accounts fail to mention whether or not he was speaking about all asylum seekers or about a specific group of asylum seekers; for example, was he talking about Serbians on fake passports, or asylum seekers with criminal records, or perhaps this guy?

You see, the German Grand Coalition (the government) is cracking down on false asylum seekers, a growing problem across Europe. Are false asylum seekers not waste? Germany has been monitoring them after all. If it seems a little incredulous that discussing possible criminals and groups under investigation by government authorities using less than polite language is a scandal worthy of a resignation, you're probably right. Such a topic of such interest to policymakers and voters forced to live under those policies may be worth a discussion or twelve.

Which makes one of the passages in the article I quoted above look even curiouser.
state prosecutors opened a criminal investigation for suspected incitement to hatred over the picture and remarks
In December, Pegida had 15,000 people march in favour of its cause in Dresden and post-Charlie Hedbo another 25,000 man march took place. It's become so prevalent a force that authorities have banned the latest march (on, surprise surprise, security grounds). No word yet whether Bachmann's resignation will change the ban seeing as how the rationale given was death threats against Bachmann. A movement with thousands of supporters is under investigation for "incitement" and almost certainly, the fact that its [former] leader received death threats will be the proof positive that they were right to do so.

But yeah, the real issue is a guy being accused of acting like Hitler trolling by taking a joke photo dressed up as Hitler.

Yes that's right kids, it's a return visit of our old friend the Heckler's Veto

2015-01-23

Who doesn't want to watch Eugenie Bouchard twirl?

A little bit of uncomfortableness at the 2015 Australian Open this week when "http://www.cbc.ca/sports/tennis/eugenie-bouchard-asked-to-twirl-by-on-court-presenter-1.2921644">Eugenie Bouchard was awkwardly hit on by the old guy presenter after beating butterfaced Dutch midrange player Kiki Bertens in straight sets (and in under an hour).

What's the timer setting on when we should queue up the silly talk about how this is all about "rape culture" or something and wait, that ship already sailed a year ago?? What will Laura Bates say when she discovers this blog has been ranking female tennis stars based on their single most interesting characteristic for almost a decade now? -ed

The Daily Mail, God bless 'em, has provided some photos from Genie's win (and a rapidly deleted comment? A guy who wants those legs wrapped around his face. Here here!). But while feminists bemoan the sexism in the sport, Genie Bouchard is desirable and therefore watching her is desirable. Roberta Vinci? Not so much. (though she cleans up enough to be decent looking on standard definition television).

Meanwhile, and I don't mean to single out the Australian Open for this since all tennis championships have the same issue, is there anything on God's green earth harder to navigate than their website? No, go check it out and ask yourself the first question any casual fan would wonder: who has progressed in the tournament?

The "Scores & Stats" tab would seem the logical place to start. Here you can check out live scores, which is great. You can look at completed matches. Again, quite handy, good to have: on Day 2 Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchová defeated China's Saisai Zheng in straight sets (6-4, 6-4) on Court 8. It would be nice to know the pre-tournament rankings for each player, by the way. This shouldn't be too hard to add in. I can click a link and see the match stats as well. I can swing over to the "IBM Slamtracker" which pops up a slow-running Flash animation (is there any other kind?) that gives me detailed information about the matches in progress. It even gives me the Twitter hashtags commonly used by fans of the individual players. The "social leaderboard" tracks Twitter to show me the most popular players at that individual moment and why do I care and why isn't this on the "Social" tab? You are perhaps dimly aware that we don't actually decide the winner of tennis matches based on how many #geniearmy hashtags are posted? Finally we have the "results archive" which shows us the rounds from previous years and...hey, look! This is exactly what I want to know for this year: who at any individual round was still in. Okay, but it doesn't seem available. The "Stats" side of the "Scores and Stats" tab gives us a nice page showing stats leaders, etc. etc. As always, "photos and videos" are available, and Eugenie Bouchard is almost always showing a video or two.

The "Schedule" tab, then! There's a "Schedule of Play" section, that understandably enough shows what upcoming matches are going on today (unacceptably in the age of globalization, there's nowhere you can program it to give you the start times in your local timezone). You can see practice schedules too (here I would wager you don't care unless you're physically attending, no timezone adjusting should be required). There's even the schedule for the entertainment, so if you are wondering who's playing the Heineken Live Stage on January 28th (answer: Gossling, from 6-7pm) you're covered. There's also a TV schedule and...well, it's Australian-specific: advising you when you can watch various events in Perth or Adelaide or Melbourne. There is an international broadcasting page which shows you where your broadcast partner is in Australia, Asian Pacific, Europe, Middle East, Africa, and finally Americas. I'm no expert in the subject, but while technically true (TSN is owned by ESPN), the Americas page should have the TSN logo alongside the ESPN logo. Technically. I quibble. I continue to quibble when I note that, in the country-by-country listing, the entry for Canada not only is not TSN, but in fact is ESPN Deportes, the Hispanic version of ESPN that is intended for the domestic (ie. United States) market but also spills over into Mexico. How does the Australian Open get this so horribly, horribly wrong? I can imagine ESPN Deportes does indeed cover markets like Dominican Republic, Grenada, El Salvador, and Paraguay (though Wikipedia says ESPN International covers Central and Latin America). It certainly doesn't cover Canada, so big disaster to finish off the "Schedule" tab.

Fortunately, our nightmare is finally over. What do you want to know? Look kids, it's the "Draws" tab. After three hunt and pecks, we finally see what every casual tennis fan wants to know. Andreja Klepac and Klaudia Jans-Ignacik advanced to Round 2 after defeating Queen of the Butterfaces Jelena Jankovic and Arantxa Parra Santonja in a three set classic featuring two tiebreakers rounds. No links to it on the main page, but we've finally come across what we were looking for. It took a couple no-go tries, and navigating a field of cluttered ads and links to videos and "hot stories", but there it is. There's what almost everybody will want to know.

Now let's reward ourselves with more tennis photos.












Alberta is a land of taxation that was founded to avoid taxation

Cities aren't "partners" with the provincial government.

Let's get that out of the way right now before we get into the comments by far-left Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi's comments about potential changes to the province's Municipal Government Act.

“It commits to dates. We’ve been talking about an … amendment at least since I’ve been mayor. The fact they are committing to move forward, it really means the government of Alberta is being serious about the need for legislative reform.”
The "legislative reform" Nenshi wants is, unsurprisingly, more powers to tax the citizens of Calgary in order to fund his sick agenda.

Prentice, having already had his plan to increase Albertan's tax bills stymied, has now switched to the backdoor method of taxation: giving socialists like Nenshi and Don Iveson the coward extra powers to tax people, along with increased funding from provincial coffers which serves to demonstrate how the province needs to "raise more money" to cover the increased spending this legislation will require.

If you weren't already sure, here's Nenshi the left-wing extremist again:
“A debate we are continuing to have is does it make more sense for municipalities to levy their own taxes, or does it make more sense for municipalities to have a guaranteed share of provincial revenues?”

The man just doesn't stop. (By which, obviously, I meant Prentice, so Nenshi isn't giving up this horrible quest either, is he?)

Untrue Patriots


Yesterday I tweeted about how Patriots coach Bill Belichick is drawing straight from the "South Park" parody of his methods: cheat, get caught, and say you "misinterpreted the rules".

But here's an interesting old tidbit: last May, multiple players also say the team is cheating when they put bad players on injured-reserve.

It may be time for Eric Cartmanez to come out of retirement.

2015-01-21

The truth about who the 1% is and the inevitability of inequality

With Oxfam pushing headlines about their prediction that half the world's wealth will be owned by the 70 million richest humans, it's only natural that the excitable class over at The Guardian would reply with this drivel:

The rich, via lobbyists and Byzantine tax arrangements, actively work to stop redistribution. Inequality is not inevitable, it’s engineered. Many mainstream economists do not question the degree of this engineering, even when it is highly dubious.
The funny thing about these "Byzantine tax arrangements" is that when the left isn't denouncing them like Moore is here, they are busy demanding them: from Edmonton's second most offensive politician to President Monkey. As has been discussed on this blog earlier this month, when the chance to force everybody from the rich to the poor to shoulder an equal tax burden (in the temporal sense, the only way that makes sense) arises, it's the left who is the fastest to jump up and down and screech.

Moore isn't done mischaracterizing what has actually happened over the past decade either, in case you were curious.
The contortions that certain pet economists make to defend the indefensible 1% are often to do with positing the super-rich as inherently talented and being self-made. The myth is that everyone is a cross between Steve Jobs and Bono; creative, entrepreneurial, unique. The reality is cloned inherited wealth and insane performance-related pay, eg. the bankers who continue to reward themselves more than a million a year after overseeing the collapse of the industry.
Suzanne Moore probably couldn't come up with specific names of economists who think this. Instead, she's merely falling for the celebrity mythos herself: the idea that on one side or another need to be rock stars. Inherited wealth and performance-related pay are instead symptoms of a far more insidious nature, one that Moore assumably wants denied from the rich but not herself: the people who have money decides what happens to it. That this simple concept eludes her is tragic, but its not clear why the world's economic engines need to be shut down just because she thinks she knows better than the bank president how much the vice president of operations should get paid. While she's ranting about "austerity measures", at no point is she asking herself how the alternative -- gross amounts of public debt which ensure that year after year less tax money is spent on British citizens and more goes to fund interest payments that keep these rich bankers in positive cash flow -- is going to achieve her goals faster. The Greek example is just the canary in the welfare state's coal mine: there's nothing special about the UK that prevents it from having the same problem as Greece where the world decides that its government isn't worth lending money to. Like Greece, the only thing Britain would find worse than all these "1%-ers" kicking around would be for them to depart. Moore's class warfare rhetoric falls apart the moment it turns out that the system the rich have used to get super-rich is the one where they convince governments to pay them interest rates on trillions of dollars of debt year after year.

(in Alberta, one remembers, relieving of government debt led to all sorts of extra cash to waste on social programs)

Where the money actually comes from is one of Moore's particularly weak points.
There are always those who will side with the powerful against the powerless, and economists specialize in this. No wonder Prof Gregory Mankiw’s Harvard students walked out of his class following his ludicrous insistence that the system is not gamed for the rich. Such “theorists” flatter the rich by granting them some superpower, which is why they like rock star comparisons. In fact, international finance is peopled by interchangeable guys who are essentially just paying themselves double what they were 10 years ago. They may need to think of themselves as special. We don’t have to.
The only one attributing "superpowers" to the rich is Moore herself, in this passage right here. If the interchangeable guys over in international finance are only "paying themselves double" then how on earth are they getting wealthier? Try that as an experiment sometime: give yourself a $10 bill out of your wallet. Next, give yourself a $20 bill out of that same wallet. How much richer were you the second time around? Of course we all know where these international financiers are getting paid from: the people who are giving them boatloads of money to manage their portfolios. Paradoxically, the only time that hedge fund managers get paid more than good times when they are swimming in profits is the bad times when people are anxious to reward those who can make silk purses from sow's ears.
When we talk of neoliberalism, we are talking about something that has fueled inequality and enabled the 1%. All it means is a stage of capitalism in which the financial markets were deregulated, public services privatised, welfare systems run down, laws to protect working people dismantled, and unions cast as the enemy.
Moore is out to lunch again with this next paragraph: for one, the financial markets (and the banks!) weren't deregulated. For another, the United States just finished a massive government takeover of 1/6th of the economy which was previously in private hands. Finally, as Thomas Sowell has pointed out on many occasions; unions are the enemy, public sector unions in particular. Again, why are bankers so rich? Besides the legitimate services they provide the private sector, they are collecting interest on governments that have let their unions run rampant as Moore demands.
Oxfam’s suggestions at Davos are attempts to claw back some basic rights, with talk of tax, redistribution, minimum wages and public services.
The Oxfam suggestions are individually ludicrous, and collectively destructive. "Redistribution" is even denounced by Moore's own ideological cousins (not to mention those more in tune with the realities of the productive class). Minimum wages, as Learn Liberty shows in this great video, are job killers. Killing jobs means less employment and less employment income and less tax money available to governments (who are then forced to borrow) to spend on the third category of public services (are you writing all this down, Suzanne?).
The poor are always with us. And now the deserving and undeserving super-rich are too? That’s just the way things are? No. This climate can also change.
We've seen the world where this climate changes. It ain't pretty.

2015-01-20

The ghosts of record labels will watch Netflix

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has recently made headlines by making the bold claim that by 2030, broadcast television will be dead.

“The age of broadcast TV will probably last until 2030," Hastings said at a Netflix promotional event in Mexico City, as quoted by the Hollywood Reporter.

As streaming services like Netflix explode in popularity, many analysts say the writing is on the wall for broadcast TV.

Here in Canada, evidence of cord-cutting — cable and satellite subscribers ditching their TV services — is beginning to accumulate.

The most recent earnings reports from Rogers and Shaw showed them losing cable customers at a rate of nearly 200,000 per year.
It's a semi-bold prediction: by 2030 so much technologically will have changed, it will be hard to imagine the broadcast network model remaining highly popular. The vaunted demographic group of 18-34 in 2030 have just finished being born! What will the TV viewing habits be of people born between 1996 and 2012? Will their children, who all have yet to be born, have their attention spans so blasted by on-demand video of the entire history of the universe that content providers can satisfy them by spitting out an hour of entertainment a week at a time?

Probably not. But speaking from personal experience, I still will watch TV just to discover what is on. (Most of it is dreck, but that's a separate issue). Case in point: last week Pirates of the Caribbean was on TV. The first one. I have it on digital download. I can watch this movie any time I like. I can skip parts I find boring. If I miss a good action scene or joke because I'm doing the laundry or making out with a hot asian chick, I can go back and catch the scene. Yes, strictly speaking I can do that on the TV version thanks to my PVR, and then skip forward during commercials -- but I'm still stuck watching commercials. I have every single episode of NCIS from Season 1 to Season 11 downloaded as well. I can literally go to my computer or stream through my TV and watch every episode of the show ever. Yet often when NCIS is on TV, I'll start watching the episode even if I miss the first part of it. There's a certain comfort of those TV shows just being on and available.

Is there a lot of demand for this? Some, I'm sure. Will it alone be enough to keep the number of stations we have now profitable? Almost certainly not. But there is a mechanism you can see by which broadcast TV remains viable. Broadcast radio has remained viable for decades, even though music let you own on-demand high-quality versions right from day one. The technology will change, adapt, and ensure that it stays relevant to as many people as possible. Again, will broadcast TV exist in 2030? For that, we turn to MC Lars.

In 2006, the Berkeley California based rapper recorded probably his most well known track: "Download This Song" was featured on CBC, charted in Australia, and is probably the reason any of you would have ever heard of this guy. You may also have heard how MC Lars's label, Vancouver based Nettwerk Group, helped a Texas man accused in court of downloading music due to his situation mirroring one of the lyrics in "Download This Song".

But the lyrics also speak to the dangers of being too bold in predicting the future.
Hey Mr. Record Man
The joke's on you
Running your label
Like it was 1992
Hey Mr. Record Man,
Your system can't compete
It's the New Artist Model
File transfer complete
I've got G5 production, concept videos
Touring with a laptop, rocking packed shows
The old-school major deal? It makes no sense
Indentured servitude, the costs are too immense!
Their finger's in the dam but the crack keeps on growing
Can't sell bottled water when it's freely flowing
Record sales slipping, down 8 percent
Increased download sales, you can't prevent
Satellite radio and video games
Changed the terrain, it will never be same
So far, so decent: physical sales have been slipping, it's true: though now digital downloads are in decline too. (I'll freely grant, of course, that MC Lars's finer point here is still fully intact: the music industry keeps changing and the sellers of content can't keep clinging to yesterday's model whether its a download or a streaming service)

Unfortunately, what comes next was maybe pushing it a bit:
Did you know in ten years labels won't exist?
Goodbye DVD's, and compact disks!
Compact discs are, worth noting, almost dead. CD sales fell 19% between 2013 and 2014, and the hit was oddly highest at mass merchants like WalMart where you'd figure the old people would still be wanting to buy a physical thing they can hold in their hand. DVDs, similarly, are dead. Hell, BluRay is dead and it was barely getting off the ground in 2006. DVDs, despite a recent boost, aren't likely to be very popular in 2016. ("Disclosure": I technically have a big enough TV that I should notice the difference between DVD and BluRay, but in practice I don't really. I prefer DVDs because they are cheaper: on my BluRay player they get upconverted to 1080p anyways, and I watch enough pre-Avatar movies that the difference in picture quality is negligible).

But as for the other claim, that by 2016 labels won't exist anymore? That's really pushing it.

Like the 2030 Netflix claim, it's possible (and increasingly so), but unlikely. In 2013, the death of the record label was "premature":
“What I know for sure is that most artists want to make music and connect with fans; they did not sign up to be the CEO of their business,” said Mr. Bolza.

So who will do it? “It will be a record company, it might just not sell records. If you think about it differently, if you think about us not as a company but as a collection of skills that you can buy. The market has created choice.” Other companies could assemble the various skills possessed by record labels but, if they did that, they would, in effect, just be launching their own modern-day record label.
Record labels may still die (and Taylor Swift may kill them), but the dreams of a swift death to the record label are probably unfounded.

Just like Hasting's prediction. 2030 is longer away than 2016 was in 2006[citation required], so lots can happen. It may come true, it may not. We'll have to wait and see. We'll have to wait and see about MC Lars's prediction as well, of course. That's coming up in under fifteen months, and while none of us can predict the future there's a good chance that this blog will still be around. So stay tuned, we'll check up on this later.

Funnybot runs on Sony hardware

As you may recall, before the whole The Interview fiasco, there was a leaked email exchange about President Monkey and how he might like black man movies.

As is usual, South Park did it first.

2015-01-19

Whither Target? Can they sell you a mop?

Last week Target Canada announced they were ceasing operations, and planning to retreat back to Fortress America. As I wrote at the time:

By now everybody knows the big problem with Target: they couldn't keep much stock, and their much-ballyhooed low prices turned out to be a phantom. Last summer I swung by the Bonnie Doon Target store and did some minor price checking: the prices were all higher than WalMart, almost all higher than Superstore, and in many cases higher than Canadian Tire or Home Depot. They were cheaper than IKEA or Mexx. Yay.
Well, here it is a few days later and Claire Cameron in the National Post has put up her own thinkpiece about the fall of Target. Her editor even gave it a catch and attentive title:"The answer to why Target is closing lies in the question: Where do you buy a broom?"

What follows is some of the most insipidly banal meandering I've ever seen, and one that never gets to its central question:
After a longer and lonelier time in the aisles of Home Depot, we managed to corner a man in the paint section. His shift was ending, but he took pity on the lost Canadians. “A mop? You’re in the wrong store. Go to Target.”

“Target?”

“Yeah, T-a-r-g-e-t,” he said it extra loud and slow.

Target did have a mop. The name made my Mom giggle. And that night at dinner, we told my Californian husband about our adventure. He didn’t really get it. “You don’t know where to buy a mop?”

My husband’s words rang through my ears years later when he immigrated to Toronto. Once again, we were embroiled in the light chaos of a move. We didn’t have a broom. I asked him to go and buy one. He left and two hours later, came back empty handed and was mumbling something about Loblaws and that the hardware store was closed. How could he not know where to buy a broom?

“Did you go to Canadian Tire?” I asked.

“Nah,” he waved me off. “We need a broom.”

My husband loves living in Canada. There are many things he’s come to enjoy about our culture, like health care and our need to agree even when we don’t. But, he’s taken a long time to come around to the idea of Canadian Tire. For years he didn’t think to go there for anything other than snow tires or windshield wiper fluid.
Okay, so the answer to why Target closed was because an American didn't know what products they have at Canadian Tire? Is this what Cameron thinks? That Canadians were just too dumb to know what Target had? (The answer: of course, was that they had nothing. Their empty shelves were one of the major issues). Yet after all this cute story about how years ago a Canadian had never heard of Target and an American had never heard of Canadian Tire, it doesn't say a word about why a major retailer that had significant buzz failed in its launch.
Why is Target closing in Canada? It’s because we all navigate our lives using our culture as a guide. Our past experiences guide our future choices. And our culture is moulded over the years — many more than two. The border is thin, but there are still some things that show the gulf between us and our sisters to the south, like Target.

The answer to why Target is closing lies in the question: Where do you buy a broom?
Uh, no? It doesn't answer the queston, at least not the bizarre way Cameron phrases it. We don't necessarily "navigate our lives using culture as a guide". WalMart is doing boffo business in Canada, thank you very much. Forever 21 (or XXI as shoppers would know it is still alive and well in Canada: Mexx is shutting down. Some US invasions went well, some went badly. You can't use "culture" as the catch-all excuse.

Target failed for a lot of reasons. Customers who entered found it was just like Zellers used to be: you had to wander forever to find a mop. And then there was only 2 types still in stock. And both were 15% higher than a higher quality mop at Walmart that had another dozen other mops of varying prices and quality next to it. Cameron is asking an interesting question. It's a shame she has such a banal answer.

Ineffective and hypocritical "consumer protection" legislation in Ontario


A London Ontario city councilor wants new legislation to regulate and limit door to door salespeople via a registry.

+1 goes to John the Discus commentator with the immortal line:
We are 100% more likely to be ripped off by a politician, than any door to door salesman. Perhaps a $10,000 licence for politicians would be a good start.
It's worth noting that the much ballyhooed provincial legislation from 2013 apparently didn't fix the problem. Also worth noting that the provisions of that law -- limiting the fees consumers are charged, requiring clear contacts explaining the impact of the company's activities on the consumer's credit rating, and a 10 day "cooling off period" to give consumers a chance to change their mind -- don't apply to door-to-door political campaign stops.

This day in (blog) history

Six years ago, on January 19th 2009, we brought you the news that terrorist prisoner Omar Khadr (as he was then known) confirmed that Maher Arar was also a terrorist.

As Rob Breakenridge says, can we check if Arar has cashed the cheque yet?

Since then, Arar has been a little on the quiet side: I wonder if that money the Canadian government paid him has found its way back over to Syria. Meanwhile, of course, Omar Khadr, a confirmed and convicted terrorist, wants the Canadian government to give him $20M -- for him to slush back to the Middle East where his fellow terrorists would love the cash.

I was right, these idiots were wrong. You'd think I would get tired of it, but I don't.

How horrible are the Greens?

The Spectator's Tim Stanley on why the Green Party spells disaster everywhere it comes to power.

And he doesn't even mention Wi-Fi!

2015-01-18

Leftwing Britons should stick to A-1

The Guardian attacks HP sauce as racist and imperialist

One Nation (no longer) Under CCTV

Is the CCTV experiment in the United Kingdom coming to a close?

That's the story the BBC is giving us this week.

The UK has one of the largest CCTV networks in the world. But as cash-strapped councils look for cost-saving measures, the effectiveness of public CCTV is under scrutiny.
We've covered the British CCTV network before: Back in 2009 I related from personal experience that I was able to piss on the sidewalk without the dreaded CCTV network stopping me at the border. I discussed how CCTV was considered a fiasco in 2008. What I hadn't mentioned at the time was the craziest part about my trip to London: you may have seen the ridiculous number of CCTV cameras (32 within 200 yards) around George Orwell's old London apartment. I've personally sat in Orwell's favourite pub: Compton Arms, Islington. Guess what was right above my table looking down at me while I had a pint? That's right, another CCTV camera. The telescreens were literally coming for you, George.

And now CCTV may be on its way out. The reason? Turns out its ridiculously expensive, for one...
Other areas are scaling back. Birmingham's 250 CCTV cameras will no longer be monitored around the clock and CCTV managers across the country face redundancy.

Police are under similar financial strain. Thames Valley Police could reduce its CCTV funding for the city from £225,000 annually, to as little as £50,000 by 2018.

A Freedom of Information request by Labour MP Gloria de Piero in March 2013, found that one in five councils had cut the number of CCTV cameras on the streets since the last election.
Additionally, the effectiveness is basically zero and those who claim otherwise pick the most ludicrous examples:
Supporters of CCTV point to the success of cameras in identifying suspects in high-profile cases, such as Robert Thompson and Jon Venables in the murder of toddler James Bulger, the Boston Marathon bombing, the London 7 July 2005 attacks and the 2011 UK riots. CCTV was crucial in the hunt for the Charlie Hebdo attackers.
Really? Really? The Bulger case is probably the strongest argument, a woman recognized one of the boys from a slightly enhanced but grainy CCTV image. Even then, most of the CCTV coverage was useless and even misled detectives as to the ages of the perpetrators. As for the other examples, the 2011 Vancouver riots were able to identify people based on just good old cameras operated by the general public, so I'm not sure how the Brits can think CCTV is what saved their bacon that same year. The other two examples are in fact massive failures of wasting money on CCTV services. The tube bombings and the Charlie Hedbo attacks aren't sneaky missions by men wanting to remain in the shadows. The tube bomber sent his videotape of his 'confession' and his pride at carrying out the attacks to al-Jazeera while the Charlie Hedbo killers were identifying quickly when they left their ID in the car: though it turned out that at least Amedy Coulibaly had also recorded a video for distribution proclaiming his name.

In what universe is CCTV to be credited for the law enforcement reaction to these attacks? Good working identifying these guys who either:
a) already were busy proudly identifying themselves for their cause
b) were already identified by methods which have been available to investigators for decades

As for the more humdrum examples of CCTV, when both the Daily Mail and The Guardian say its ineffective, it's worth a listen (even though The Guardian is courtesy of certified idiot Cory Doctorow). If the defenders get to point to Charlie Hedbo as a positive example of CCTV, surely its not unfair that I bring up vandalism of Christmas trees in Oswaldthistle (yes, that's a real place name), where specific trees have been continually targeted and the CCTV system setup directly across the road to catch them has continually failed to do so. How about this very helpful CCTV footage which shows a man covering his face and hands before robbing a parkade in Westminster (the heart of London), preventing any identification? Or police officers not even bothering to use the CCTV camera footage that may be available (let alone other methods like taking fingerprints or collecting evidence, can we use that to discredit the 'value' of expensive CCTV systems? (If they aren't going to be used, even if they were 100% effective when used, why spend the money?) What about the twin hydras of failures of policing in Britain, where CCTV footage is withheld for months in the case of a disappearing man, and then his father is arrested for daring to complain about it?

Britain may mourn the "death of CCTV". It's not going to be a full-out death, as many areas of property crime do benefit from having specific video surveillance. But as budgets tighten and the failure of CCTV to do what it was promised to do becomes more and more apparent, perhaps one day you can have a quiet private drink at Compton Arms again.

2015-01-17

Photo radar assholes coming to the land where they can't hide behind geographic features

The wondrous Saskatchewan licence plate exemption for Alberta photo radar seems to be a thing of the past. Saskatchwan has started a pilot project to bring the anti-freedom devices east of Lloydminster.

SGI recorded 21,677 speeding violations across the province during December. Saskatoon recorded 3,961 speeders, Regina recorded 6,117 and Moose Jaw was responsible for 5,058 violations. The two highway locations nabbed 6,541 speeders.

If the violations resulted in fines, the minimum amount the province would net would be $2,882,710, based on the minimum amount of the tickets issued. Instead, warning letters are being sent out until Feb. 8.

A base fine for speeding is $110, plus $1 for every kilometre per hour over the 90 kilometre-per-hour limit. In school zones, the fine is increased to $190 plus $2 for every kilometre-per-hour over the posted limit.

Driving even a single kilometre an hour above the posted speed limit in a school zone could result in a ticket of up to $192.

If a ticket was mailed to the fastest speeder in the province — that dubious honour went to a driver going 186 km/h in Saskatoon on Circle Drive — they would be on the hook for $206.
So much nonsense condensed into just a couple short paragraphs. Let's start at the top: "speeding violations" is such a nonsense phrase that it should have even been allowed into the story, and the lazy investigation of authors Chris Morin & Emma Graney should justify their immediate dismissal. How many drivers were there? What percentage of drivers does this 21,677 make up? I'm guessing it was probably a pretty high number. As discussed many a time before, the vast majority of drivers drive at perfectly acceptable speeds that bear little resemblance to what some idiot cop or civil servant believes to be acceptable. As a result, if 21,000 people were all in "speeding violations" at roughly the same speed, it's simply an obvious reveal that the speed limits are set artificially low: usually by the same mess of corrupt cops and sleazy politicians who are so anxious to collect the revenues covered in the second paragraph.

In the third paragraph we learn the most outlandish aspect of the whole thing: we're talking about a 90km/hr limit on a highway. Look, I know that the shape of Saskabush roadways means that you take your life in your own hands if you break 75 in a rural area, but seriously? The natural speed limit on most highways is in the neighbourhood of 130km/hr (160km/hr on 4-lane roads). This goes back to what we suspected in the beginning, that these "limits" being violated are unacceptably low.

That Saskatchewan is thinking of single kilometre penalties in school zones is ridiculous times a thousand. School zones are some of the worse offenders for limits being set far too low over far too large an area encompassing far too much time. Add into that the fact that photo radar units have confirmed accuracy issues.

Finally we get to the "worst driver in the universe" category, a guy driving 186km/hr on Circle Drive in Saskatoon. Here's a picture of Circle Drive in Saskatoon:
I probably wouldn't go 190 on this road, particularly in December, but in the summer I'd have no problem doing 140. At this speed I'll see lots of rule-following morons like Brian LaBelle or Chris Neuman driving 50km/hr slower than me, so why would I be bothered when the reverse is true?
All of the school zone speeding violations — 4,712 of them, in the case of Regina — happened at a single school in each city.

SGI officials won’t say which schools those were, though, calling it an issue of public safety.

“We don’t want people to know where the camera is, or where it was,” says spokeswoman Kelley Brinkworth.
Fortunately, Kelley Brinkworth isn't nearly as smart as Regina Post photographer Don Healy, who took the photo which accompanied the article: it showed the camera system setup on Agyle Street in Regina, which is near Archbishop M.C. O’Neill High School.
Although the fastest speed recorded by the cameras on Circle Drive in Saskatoon, it was those traveling past the speed camera at the Trans-Canada and 9th Avenue in Moose Jaw who were, by far, the most likely to be speeding on a highway (5.73 per cent were in violation of the limit).

The camera there also recorded the most number of drivers exceeding the posted limit by more than 30 km/h.
Finally we get some numbers. Actually the 6% violations seem rather low. That doesn't jive with any research on the topic, so I'm wondering if this has already factored in the "grace limit" that for years kept violations between 1 and 13 km/hr off the books in Alberta: photo radar operators know that if they go after such speeders and lose too often in court, the precedent will prevent them from ever collecting another dime.

As usual in this, of course, you get some power-hungry cop mad as hell that we aren't ignoring a silly law that doesn't do what he thinks it does.
Sgt. Cliff Froehlich with the Moose Jaw Police was surprised “that people aren’t paying attention to the sign or adhering to the limit.”
Why so surprised? Your limits have serious problems. It's why we ignore them. Make new limits, we ignore those too.

Totally Unforseen Shocking Unpredictable Surprise Revelation: Chocolate milk edition

File under duh: banning chocolate milk makes students less healthy.

This is, of course related to bike helmets. Wearing a helmet may increase your chance of getting into an accident and increase the severity of it. But more critically, forcing kids to wear bike helmets reduces their cycling rates. Fewer biking kids means more Xbox360 kids, and that means fatter kids. What was supposed to be helping them is instead hurting them.

Likewise chocolate milk. I love chocolate milk, myself. I usually can suck back a 4L jug of it within days. White milk? My 1L usually gets half thrown out long after the expiration date has come and gone. White milk tastes sort of disgusting. Chocolate milk tastes delicious. It has some more calories than non-chocolate milk, fine. But seeing as how it also has protein and contains two appetite suppressors, maybe kids getting a few extra milk calories to offset the Snickers bar calories they were going to have later isn't such a bad idea?

The research backs this up: Cornell University discovered that kids drank less milk, wasted more milk (nobody can finish an entire 250mL tetra-pack of milk without vomiting, that's basic science), and lost out on nutrients when "the swap" occurred.

Just like helmet laws, these policy changes are going to be described in the media as "well-intentioned". That's absolute rot. These aren't "well-intentioned" changes at all: they are despicable changes made by liberals, who are despicable people. They are trying to take away freedom of choice in order to serve some fascist tendency.

Even if it worked, it would be contemptible and beyond acceptable. But it doesn't even do that. Send First Lady Monkey packing, and let your kids have chocolate milk and no bike helmets.

See other blog entries under this recurring theme.

2015-01-16

Au revoire, Frederick.

Hot off yesterday's trade sending Third Edge of the Sword favourite Maurice Price to Ottawa, today the Eskimos made the long-feared move and traded Fred Stamps to Montreal in return for Kenny Stafford.

Stamps, 33, has registered 496 catches for 7,932 yards and 49 touchdowns over eight CFL seasons.

"Fred Stamps has been one of the top receivers in the CFL over the last five years," Montreal GM Jim Popp said in a statement. "This addition adds strength, character, and another high-level performer to our solid receiving core."

Stamps recorded five straight 1,000-yard seasons with Edmonton (2009-13) and was named a CFL all-star four times over that span. He led the league in receiving yards in '09 and '13 with 1,402 and 1,259, respectively.
We'll certainly miss Fred Stamps...I can already fast-forward in my brain to later tonight on Whyte Avenue, where K'mpec will tell us the story of when he saw Fred Stamps minus the afro at Diamond's. Actually, since we're on Whyte we may have to Uber down in his honour.

The good news, if there is much (Stafford recorded 11.5 yards per carry last season, Stamps is 16.0 in his career, 16.5 is his disappointing season this past year), is that the initial rumours pegged Stamps going to the Argonauts (that is what K'mpec texted me earlier today, fortunately the real news wasn't far behind). Even though they're getting older and past their prime, the combination of Fred Stamps and Ricky Ray wasn't something anybody in the CFL was looking forward to. (In 2007 and 2008, Ricky Ray had a 101.6 and 101.9 QB rating).

We're sad to see Stamps go. We're just glad he didn't go to Calgary.

Post #2200 Baby!

Yes, you read that right, this is now two thousand two hundred posts here on Third Edge of the Sword.

It's been a while since we went in-depth on these things and it isn't going to start right now, but I did find it neat that two thousand posts ago I referenced the faggy fiddler with the femmy name.

Well the famous east coast fiddler with the Scottish surname who likes dick but is actually a woman, Natalie MacMaster, is playing a concert next Wednesday at the Winspear. It's fate, I guess.

Fuck You, It's January!

The Oscars were announced yesterday, and the talk is all about how bad it is that the lame negro movie wasn't nominated. I don't have much to say about the crop of movies, I haven't seen any of them.

But, since we're talking movies...go peek at a calendar!