Author Archive: Tony Coyle

I'm a technophile with an enduring interest in almost anything real or imagined. I suffer fools badly, and love trashy science fiction, plot-free action movies, playing guitar, and baking (especially scones. You haven't lived 'til you've eaten my scones. I've recently undertaken bread, and am now in danger of gaining in a matter of weeks the 60 pounds I've lost in the past 2 years). My wife & I are Scottish, living north of Atlanta, GA, with two children, one dog, and a growing collection of gadgets. I work for a living.

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Civilised Debate!

| May 8, 2009 | Reply
Civilised Debate!

I’d forgotten how refreshingly loud British government debates could be. Prime Minister’s Question Time is a classic opportunity for any MP to question and challenge the Prime Minister directly. I wonder how the US congress or senate would handle such a debate. If CSpan was this much fun, it would be prime time TV.

[viaAndrew Sullivan at The Daily Dish]

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MPAA to teachers – fair use needs a VCR!

| May 8, 2009 | 3 Replies
MPAA to teachers – fair use needs a VCR!

According to the MPAA the fair use provision in our copyright laws is flawed and needs to be qualified. During the continuing DCMA hearings they have again surfaced the claim that ripping a DVD shouldn’t be allowed, since the teacher can copy the video using a video camera pointed at the TV screen.

Seriously!

That’s as ludicrous as requiring that teachers may only copy from a photocopy, and not from the original book!

They even created a video to demonstrate the process. Anyone concerned about fair use and copyright should be aghast at this blatantly stupid, but well financed, attack on rights. This ‘process’ is not only more cumbersome and time consuming (but teachers have loads of free time, right?) but also significantly more costly (you need a camcorder, tapes, and a tripod – in addition to the equipment you already have).

MPAA shows how to videorecord a TV set from timothy vollmer on Vimeo.

via [Ars Technica]
video after the fold

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In honor of Maine, and Gay Marriage

| May 6, 2009 | 40 Replies
In honor of Maine, and Gay Marriage

This week marks another turning point in gay rights (go Maine, and we’re hoping New Hampshire’s Governor signs, too). A little reminder that there is still a lot of opposition from certain quarters, but with friends like John Stewart I’m certain things will continue to work out!

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Ann Coulter Free? – sadly not!

| May 6, 2009 | 8 Replies
Ann Coulter Free? – sadly not!

I was browsing the interwebs when I saw an ad that said “Ann Coulter Free”.

thought – that’s good – this must be an idiot free zone! Then I saw it was an ad for her blog, which is free! They should pay you to read it – the resultant therapy bills must be quite high. Although I’m certain that reading Ann Coulter would free your mind – more than few paragraphs and I’m certain mine would be running for the hills.

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The GOP are for Healthcare reform! Honest!

| May 6, 2009 | Reply
The GOP are for Healthcare reform! Honest!

Frank Lutz, in yet another sterling example of Republican doublespeak, calls on the GOP to ‘support Healthcare Reform”. Only one problem with that statement – the GOP has absolutely no proposals to reform healthcare. Not one! The only perspective he offers is how to sound like you are for reform, yet offer no proposal of your own. From the article:

“You simply MUST be vocally and passionately on the side of REFORM,” Luntz advises in a confidential 26-page report obtained from Capitol Hill Republicans. “The status quo is no longer acceptable. If the dynamic becomes ‘President Obama is on the side of reform and Republicans are against it,’ then the battle is lost and every word in this document is useless.
“Republicans must be for the right kind of reform that protects the quality of healthcare for all Americans. And you must establish your support of reform early in your presentation.”
Instead, Luntz says Republicans should warn against a “Washington takeover” of health care, and insist that patients would have to “stand in line” with “Washington bureaucrats in charge of healthcare.”

That would be instead of standing in line waiting for a ‘for profit’ bureaucracy to determine your fate.

As it currently stands, the current proposals are too limited, since none of the current proposals on the table include single-payer, as used in most of the developed world. In fact, at recent senate hearings physician activists in favor of single payer were removed from the chamber and arrested for interrupting the proceedings, while the committee went on to hear solely from industry lobbyists in favor of industry-based solutions.

[via Politico]

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The myth of the American Elite

| May 5, 2009 | 4 Replies
The myth of the American Elite

I came across a wonderful post at firedoglake today, a few days after it posted.

Dean Baker, writing about the Fiat-Chrysler merger, highlights the growing disparity between so called ‘knowledge workers’ and the blue-collar manufacturers who have so often been at the sharp end of outsourcing. As he states

The media coverage of the auto bailouts has focused on the need for union autoworkers to take big pay cuts, causing them to once again miss the real story. The Fiat-Chrysler deal shows that the pay problem is at the top, not the bottom. At the end of the day, the new Chrysler is still likely to be producing most of its cars in the United States. What the new company will be getting from abroad is technology and top management.
[...]
While this story of the US becoming a high skills center in the world economy may have been comforting to the elites, and was widely promoted by economists and the news media, there was never much truth to it. Highly skilled professionals did well in recent decades not because they succeeded in international competition, but rather because they were largely sheltered from it.

Over the past ten years those elites have gained in accelerating salaries and in a lower tax burden (see also my earlier post on the rich/poor tax divide) while the blue collar workers wages have largely stagnated, and fallen behind in real terms. As Baker says

If we compare wages for assembly-line workers in Europe and the United States, there would not be much difference between the pay of UAW members and their counterparts in Europe. However, there would be a very large difference between the multi-million dollar pay packages of the top executives at the US companies and their European counterparts. The pay gaps persist among the more highly paid engineers and management personnel.

The remaining differences are that European workers do not need to reserve a significant portion of their weekly wage to cover healthcare costs, that they receive many more vacation days (between four and eight weeks for most Europeans), and that their supervisors, engineers and management are not a world apart in terms of salaries, benefits, and lifestyles.

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Growing opposition to Obama’s Tax Haven clampdown

| May 5, 2009 | 14 Replies
Growing opposition to Obama’s Tax Haven clampdown

Opposition to President Obama’s plans to close the fiscal loophole of Tax Haven’s is under increasing pressure from business, lobbyists, and the media. You can be sure many Senators and Congressmen, worried about their campaign contributions in the run up to 2010, will be conveying this sense of alarm to the President.

Bloomberg ran with a story this morning, quoting some very influential Democrats including Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Representative Joseph Crowley, a Democrat on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, and Senator Barbara Boxer.

This latest attack follows a lot of negative, primarily republican generated, commentary since last Monday, including the expected outrage from the Republican caucus and their media friends (particularly Fox). One of the most telling, however, was a seemingly innocent comment from CNBC’s Erin Burnett, during an interview on Morning Joe last week. She basically said that ‘avoiding taxes’ is a perfectly acceptable and legal practice and is basically the fault of our 35% corporate tax rate. To Ms Burnett, and all of the other people who think that tax avoidance is perfectly acceptable, I’ll share another quote that I discovered while following this story – posted on a discussion thread

“My Lords, of recent years much ingenuity has been expended in certain quarters in attempting to devise methods of disposition of income by which those who were prepared to adopt them might enjoy the benefits of residence within this country while receiving the equivalent of such income without sharing in the appropriate burden of British taxation. Judicial dicta may be cited which may point out that, however elaborate and artificial such methods may be, those who adopt them are “entitled” to do so. There is, of course, no doubt they are within their legal rights, but that is no reason why their effort, or those of the professional gentlemen who assist them in the matter, should be regarded as a commendable exercise of ingenuity or as a discharge of the duties of good citizenship.”

Lord Simon, L.C., Latilla v Inland Revenue Commissioners (1943)

Video and more details after the fold

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Humans are so well designed!

| May 4, 2009 | 5 Replies
Humans are so well designed!

I saw this snippet on my New Scientist RSS feed. Some researchers, investigating methods to improve IVF success rates, have discovered that contrary to popular belief, chromosomal abnormalities, and hence miscarriages, are not abnormal occurrences, but are in fact the norm.

As women age, their eggs are more likely to have the wrong number of chromosomes, which can lead to miscarriages. But when Joris Vermeersch from the Centre for Human Genetics in Leuven, Belgium, and colleagues examined 23 embryos from nine young, fertile couples who were undergoing IVF for screening purposes, they found that 21 had chromosomal abnormalities, suggesting these are in fact the norm (Nature Medicine, DOI: 10.1038/nm.1924).

I can only presume god was just being mean when he said ‘go forth and multiply’ – since he must have known that our ability to multiply was broken.

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Culture and Copyright in the 21st Century

| April 30, 2009 | 5 Replies
Culture and Copyright in the 21st Century

On 24 March, 2009 Lawrence Lessig delivered the keynote speech, Getting the Network the World Needs, at the OFC Conference in San Diego, CA. This is a revision of a REMIX talk, distinguishing between parts of the 20th Century that were Read-Only and parts that were Read-Write.

His brilliantly delivered thesis discusses how culture prior to the 20th century was essentially read-write, everyone consumed and created the culture interactively. During the 20th century centralization and control of media and distribution transformed our culture to a read only – where creation was almost exclusively the province of professionals and professional distribution channels (tv, movies, music).

He then suggests that the 21st century brings the promise and the demand for building a read-write culture once more, and for moving far beyond the mash-up of the past decade. He also discusses the necessary legal and infrastructural changes needed to accommodate this changed reality.

Warner Music has tried to serve a DCMA takedown, based on his inclusion of some music and media clips – despite the obvious and clear “fair use”.

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