Thursday, May 31, 2007

Marching with the Hollywood jackboots

Hollywood is on a mission to change Canadian copyright law to its benefit. It continually misrepresents statistics, calling Canada a haven for piracy, and has engaged the U.S. government at the highest levels to do its bidding. Regrettably, Stephen Harper has fallen in line.

After Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with Mr. Schwarzenegger in Ottawa Wednesday, the Conservative government gave official notice to the House of Commons Wednesday night that it plans to table a bill to combat video piracy. A new federal law will target the growing ranks of video pirates with camcorders who copy first-run films at movie theatres. Officials said the law will go beyond existing copyright protections to make camcording a crime.


Canada's copyright laws prohibit selling unauthorized copies of films. But theatre owners say police will not arrest individuals caught copying films because it is almost impossible to prove they intend to sell illicit copies.

For two years, Doug Frith, president of the Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Association, has railed that the theft of intellectual property is treated as a “soft crime.”

Yesterday, Mr. Frith said this “is really the first step – not only for the movie industry – where the government has shown it will seriously address the whole area of intellectual-property theft.”

The piracy issue heated up in January after The Globe and Mail reported that Fox's Hollywood-based president of domestic distribution had sent a blistering letter to Ellis Jacob, the Toronto-based chief executive of Cineplex Entertainment, Canada's biggest cinema chain. Spitting mad after pinpointing Canadian theatres as the source of illegal camcording, Fox threatened to stop sending copies of all its films to Cineplex's 130 movie houses, or push back Canadian release dates.

“All of us in the Canadian film industry have been working together to get the laws changed,” Mr. Jacob said yesterday. “We are obviously delighted to hear the news that the government is acting to put a stop to film piracy and make it a criminal offence.”

Canadian copyright law already provides the tools for Hollywood to assert its intellectual property rights. If the movie studios think camcording is such a threat to their revenues, why not take a few of the vendors of these shoddy, camcorded DVDs, available at flea markets and other questionable venues, to court? The legal remedies are already at hand. This is nothing but special treatment for Hollywood.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Good thing we have Kyoto

In recent years, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide—one of the most important greenhouse gases in the atmosphere—have been increasing at a rate of about 0.5 percent annually. Because anthropogenic (human-caused) emissions of carbon dioxide result primarily from the combustion of fossil fuels for energy, energy use has emerged at the center of the climate change debate. World carbon dioxide emissions continue to increase steadily in the IEO2007 reference case, from 26.9 billion metric tons in 2004 to 33.9 billion metric tons in 2015 and 42.9 billion metric tons in 2030, an increase of 59 percent over the projection period [emphasis added].

From 2003 to 2004, carbon dioxide emissions from the non-OECD countries grew by almost 10 percent, largely because of a 17-percent increase in coal use in non-OECD Asia, while emissions from the OECD countries grew by less than 2 percent. The result of the large increase in non-OECD emissions was that 2004 marked the first time in history that energy-related carbon dioxide emissions from the non-OECD countries exceeded those from the OECD countries—although by only about 8 million metric tons (Figure 7). Further, because the projected average annual increase in emissions from 2004 to 2030 in the non-OECD countries (2.6 percent) is more than three times the increase projected for the OECD countries (0.8 percent), carbon dioxide emissions from the non-OECD countries in 2030, at 26.2 billion metric tons, are projected to exceed those from the OECD countries by 57 percent.

From the U.S. EIA International Energy Outlook.

Not enough MBAs

Yeah right.

This is what's known as talking your book:

Canada is experiencing a serious gap in management talent that is a major contributing factor in its lagging prosperity compared with the United States, says a new study co-written by one of the country's leading business school deans.

The study, produced by Ontario's Institute for Competitiveness & Prosperity and co-written by University of Toronto management dean Roger Martin, says Canada is placing undue emphasis on science and technology talent, while neglecting management skills that are in short supply.


One shortfall is the lack of MBAs at the top of major Canadian companies, the report says. Figures for 2004 show that 37 per cent of CEOs for the 100 largest U.S. companies had MBAs, compared with 24 per cent of CEOs for the 100 largest Canadian companies.

To that, all I can ask is what if Bill Gates got an MBA instead of starting Microsoft?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

What to do about high oil prices

With those greedy oil companies gouging us at the pumps again, what are poor consumers to do?

While there is always the temptation to let the politicians "solve" the problem (after all, they did such a good job with the gun registry), perhaps we could fix things ourselves.

I don't know, maybe we could try:
  1. driving less;
  2. switching to smaller, fuel-efficient cars;
  3. riding a bicycle;
  4. taking public transit; and
  5. moving closer to work.
If none of these ideas help, then let's just put all our pension savings into oil stocks.

Friday, May 18, 2007

A good reason to buy a Honda

I bought a new car last fall. Although I've owned a Honda before, this time I went with a Toyota Camry. I just thought the styling was fresher. Still, there is little doubt that Honda builds high-quality cars.

My choice might have been different had I known this:

[Honda] is also one of the few auto makers that does not accept government financial assistance to finance plant construction.

No subsidies! That is quite something. With Buzz and the Detroit-based automakers continually pleading for help, and usually getting it, Honda focuses on designing and building good cars, and people snap them up.

I think my next car will be a Honda.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Foreign Takeover of Canada

Cardinal47 is not alone in worrying about a possible foreign takeover of Canada. There has been a lot of hand wringing about it of late. But really, is "Where is Pierre Trudeau when we need him?" the best we can come up with?

If you look at sheer numbers, you could probably make the case that Canadian firms are taking over more foreign firms than the number of foreign takeovers of Canadian firms. However, since Canadian takeovers tend to be considerably smaller in size, in dollar terms, it is probably the other way around.

Now the curious thing about all this is that Canada is running a big surplus on the current account, which means we are exporting capital. The problem is that Canadian foreign investment tends to be of the portfolio variety, not direct investment which gives one effective control.

What is it that makes our corporate elites so timid and risk averse? I would suggest it is past policies like FIRA and other measures that have shielded our businesses from competition. As a result, we just aren't very good capitalists.

Raising the shields is not going to make us better. Quite the opposite. However, in bringing down the barriers, we are likely to get a little bloody. It won't be pretty at first. But we are going to have to learn to compete globally or get used to being second rate.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Free offsets for your carbon-profligate lifestyle

Feeling guilty about your carbon-profligate lifestyle?

Thought not.

But if you do, there is no need to buy carbon offsets from yourself like Al Gore. Now you can get your carbon offsets for free at Free Carbon Offsets.

From their FAQ:

We at feel strongly that carbon offsets should be available to everyone, regardless of ability to pay. We will take the steps to see that the offsets that you acquire through us are properly channeled. We can do it because we care.

Q: What exactly will you do for my carbon offsets?

A: There are several steps we will take to do our part to help the environment, based on your level of participation:

  • 1-100 offsets: We will try our hardest to turn off the water for an extra ten seconds while we brush our teeth.

  • 101-1000 offsets: We will think about possibly using one less square of toilet paper every time we use the rest room. So you don't have to!

  • 1001-10000 offsets: At this level, we will think about not going out to lunch for one day. Gas savings, plus savings on one less burger made that day!

  • 10000+ offsets: Premium offsets. We will consider not taking a shower for a whole week!

h/t: Versus The Mob

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Justin Trudeau is right about segregated schools

The National Post takes Justin Trudeau to task for his recent criticism of segregated schools, suggesting he read the charter of rights.

...Justin Trudeau's Friday outburst at a meeting of New Brunswick academics raises a more bizarre possibility: that even a child of the Charter's chief architect may not know what is actually in the document.

How else can one explain the incredible timing of Mr. Trudeau's rumination? If you had to choose a venue in which to suggest that the existence of separate anglophone and francophone school systems was obsolete, divisive and costly, you'd be halfcrazy to even put New Brunswick on the list. It's a place where the surviving linguistic minority was not only conquered, but terrorized and dispersed. It's the only province where linguistic equality and linguistically separate school systems are guaranteed explicitly in the Charter -- a document that devotes more of its length to language rights than it does to due process or voting.

Yet despite Trudeau's apparent ignorance of the charter's provisions on linguistic school boards in New Brunswick, fundamentally he is right. Whatever it says in the charter, segregating public school students on the basis of language is as objectionable as segregating students by race.

You can teach French in English schools and English in French schools, but most kids will finish their schooling functionally unilingual without sufficient exposure to native speakers of the language they are trying to learn. Consequently, most of the money we spend in this country on English and French second-language training is wasted.

Why not put the French and English kids together in the same school and teach them to become proficient in both French and English as Trudeau suggests?