Broken Government & George Will – The Proud Madisonian


As my friends know, I’m a Charlie Rose fan (witness this earlier Charlie Rose post) and a U.S. political junkie. Over the last 15 years, with TiVo at the ready, I have rarely missed an episode.

I’m also an admirer of the Pulitzer price winning, George Will, a level-headed, conservative-leaning, syndicated Washington Post columnist that appears weekly on the ABC Sunday morning news show This Week.  While an ‘admirer’, I often (perhaps, usually) disagree with him. George can fairly be characterized as both a thoughtful and principled Republican pundit. I, on the other hand, would characterize myself as a centrist – a fiscal conservative and social liberal. If I could vote in U.S. elections, I would be an Independent.

On August 9, 2011, Charlie Rose interviewed George Will for the hour (you can watch the full interview here – click on the image of George on that page to start the video).  George happily states that he’s a proud Madisonian – the fundamental characteristic of which is the notion that the U.S. Constitution imposes ‘a government full of blocking mechanisms’ that make it extremely difficult (usually taking a lot of time) for things to change – including for progress to be had and fundamental justice to be realized.

This is one area where I profoundly diverge from George – the belief that this is necessarily or always a ‘good’ thing. At the 18:34 mark in the interview, George states:

“I can think of nothing that the American people have wanted intensely and protractedly that they did not get. The system works!” 

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Hotspot Shield Works in Canada Again–With Some Annoyances

hotspot shield logoBack in May, 2009 I reported that Hulu had managed to defeat Hotspot Shield. As of September 9, 2010 the latest Hotspot Shield seems to be effective at defeating Hulu’s anti-circumvention measures.

At this moment I can access each of:

  • Hulu: I can access full episodes of shows on Hulu now. Below, for example, is Episode 2 of Season 1 of MasterChef:

masterchef on hulu via hotspot shield

  • Pandora: I had happily used Pandora for a long time before they cut off access to Canadians. I’m delighted that I can access it again.

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Large Teen Pregnancy Declines in Canada vs. United States

Canadian and U.S. teen preganancy rates - 2.79% compared to 6.12%

According to a CBC News report that aired on “The National’” on Wednesday May 26, the teen pregnancy rate in Canada has declined 37% in the last 10 years. The report cites improved sex education and access by teens to contraceptives as the primary reasons for this large decline.

Canada now has less than half the teen pregnancy rate of the United States – 2.79% of Canadian teenaged girls 15 to 19 compared to 6.12% of teenage girls in the United States.

There is no better proof that the Bush-era policies of ‘just say no’, abstinence only programs and restricted access to birth control for teens have failed American teens.

Source: The CBC’s source was the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality.

Can the U.S. Stimulus Package Work?

Of late, I’ve heard countless Republicans, Fox News pundits and others emphatically state that:

  • Keynesian stimulus spending has never worked in the past;
  • World War II was the sole impetuous for recovery after the Great Depression – not spending; and
  • the New Deal had no ameliorating effect on the Great Depression’s high unemployment rates.

All of this is said, of course, in argument against the current Obama/Democratic stimulus package.

It is certainly true that World War II proved to be an enormous, if not THE most important, stimulus to post Depression recovery. The chart* below, however, makes it clear that Roosevelt’s stimulus spending did have an important, positive effect on the U.S. economy:

msnbc (Feb 9 2009) - U.S. Gross Domestic Product 1929 to 1941

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U.S. Job Losses – Current vs. Recent Recessions

msnbc (Feb 2009) - job lossess in recent recessions 

This graph speaks for itself! It shocked me!

It puts into perspective the depth of the current economic downturn compared to the most recent 2001 and 1990 recessions. U.S. Job losses are almost double those of the prior two recessions in the same amount of time and already deeper than they were in the worst of the prior two. It is also the first time in my living memory where the unemployment rate in the U.S. is worse than in Canada.

*The chart above was displayed on MSNBC’s Rachael Maddow show on Monday February 9, 2009.

Bell & Telus Announce Canada-wide HSPA/GSM Network Starting 2010

bell logo  telus logo

Bell and Telus have announced the joint development of a long-rumoured, fast, nation-wide, HSPA wireless network to begin service as early as 2010.

In the near term, the network will support both existing CDMA mobile handsets used by current Bell and Telus customers, plus GSM–based handsets.  GSM is the global standard currently used by Rogers in support of the iPhone, among other mobile devices.

Over the longer term, this 4G network could ramp Canadian wireless download speeds to as fast as 100 Mbps. Current Canadian 3G networks have 7 Mbps maximum download speeds.

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Canada’s National Do Not Call List Starts Sept 30, 2008

stop calling me - Canadian National Do Not Call LIst If you dislike getting unwanted telemarketing calls, starting Tuesday Sept 30, 2008, Canadians will be able to sign up for the new “National Do Not Call List”. The list Is modelled after the U.S. National Do Not Call Registry established in 2003.

[Oct 1 Update: The service is working intermittently right now.]

Once you put your number on the list, telemarketers (with exceptions listed below) cannot call you. If they do, you can report them. They face fines from $1,500 to $15,000 per infraction.  The do not call list will not, however, stop calls from:

  • registered charities seeking donations
  • newspapers looking for subscriptions
  • political parties and their candidates, and
  • companies with whom you have an existing commercial relationship; for example, if you have done business with a company in the previous 18 months––such as a carpet-cleaning company––that company can call you.  The biggest offenders like your bank, telephone company, cable company etc. can still call and harass you. Grr!

Unfortunately your registration lasts only three years. Mark your calendar to register again three years from now.

Questions and answers about the national do-not-call list are available on this government website. For more info, you can read about it here on Wikipedia or here on Michael Geist’s site.

iOptOut Option

ioptout Canadians may also wish to register with Michael Geist’s free “iOptOut” service which allows Canadian consumers to opt-out of calls from those organizations mentioned above that are otherwise exempt from the national list (click thumbnail for larger view).  iOptOut’s FAQ is here.

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A Week of Wimbledon in HD

2008 Wimbldeon - in HD on NBC

Ah …. Finally …. Wimbledon in HD!

I’m happy to report that NBC lived up to its promise to provide high def coverage of Wimbledon for the first time this weekend. And, surprisingly, they’ll be broadcasting all of the second week at Wimbledon in HD too.

With the U.S. Feb 17, 2009 digital cut over deadline looming, my bet is that the 2009 Australian Open will be carried in HD too, making all four grand slams available in HD in North America for the first time.

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French Open 2008 First Week

French Open 2008 - NBC HD - Nadal There’s not much to love about this year’s French Open – so far. There wasn’t one memorable match in the first week.

Two of my favourites, Davenport (not playing for ‘personal reasons’) and Roddick (out for a rotator cuff injury) are not participating. Three time French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten, one of my all-time favourites, formally retired from professional tennis this week after an early round loss (I’ll miss Guga). Clijsters’, Henin’s, & Agassi’s retirements have left big holes in the sport. Hingis was forced out of professional tennis due to a cocaine scandal. Baghdatis, Fish, Mauresmo, Safin, Blake, and V. Williams’ were all early round losers. Significant rain delays resulted in the poor already Super Signal coverage (see below) being even worse than usual.

On a happier note, it was a pleasure to see Hewitt go down to Ferrer and Serena Williams go down (once again with little grace or class) to Srebotnik. I was a Hewitt fan in his earlier years. But his success made him too cocky and arrogant for my tastes. Serena’s always been in my bad books with rarely a kind word for anyone.

French Open 2008 - NBC HD - FedererPerhaps I was spoiled with the terrific first week of tennis at the 2008 Aussie Open. The early round Roddick-Kohlschreiber and FedererTipsarevic matches there were probably some of the best matches I have seen in years.

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Net Neutrality Rally on Canada’s Parliament Hill – May 27, 2008

net neutrality

On Tuesday May 27, 2008 between 11:30 am and 1:30 pm, the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa, and other prominent supporters  such as Michael Geist, will be sponsoring a Net Neutrality Rally on Canada’s Parliament Hill.

The net neutrality rally is intended to foster greater Internet competition, innovation and consumer rights:

1. Competition:

  • To stop vertical market leveraging at the expense of new entrants
  • To prevent incumbent cable/telco duopoly control of the Internet

(see, for example Geist’s Bell’s Throttling Plan a Threat to a Competitive Net)

2. Innovation:

  • To promote an environment conducive to the development of new and innovative content and web services by Canadian entrepreneurs

3. Consumer Rights:

  • to promote ISP transparency
  • to promote consumer privacy
  • to demand that ISPs provide the advertised Internet quality of service that consumers pay for

If you live or work in the Ottawa/Hull area, please consider participating.

Here’s Amber MacArthur’s April 2, 2008 “Net Neutrality in Canada” Video Update:


Below is the complete exchange (partially included in Amber’s piece above) on ‘net neutrality between MP Charlie Angus and Canada’s Minister of Industry Jim Prentice during Parliament’s Question Period on April 2, 2008. The conservative government has chosen to punt the issue despite significant known net throttling, deep packet inspection, traffic shaping and seemingly arbitrary bandwidth/usage capping by Canadian ISPs.

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Global Begins HD Broadcasting in Canada

Global HD

Canada’s national television network, Global, is now broadcasting in HD in the Metropolitan Toronto and Golden Horseshoe areas of Ontario on their Hamilton (CHCH) and Toronto (CIII) affiliates. Global is Canada’s last major nationwide network to start broadcasting in HD. It was facing a June 2008 hard deadline imposed by the CRTC to begin broadcasting. It had missed previous CRTC-imposed deadlines.

Global (CHCH on 11-1 and CIII on 41-1) follows CTV (CFTO on 9-1), CBC (CBLT on 5-1), CityTV (on 57-1), SunTV (on 66-1), Omni1 (CFMT), Omni2 (CJMT) and CRC (CBC French) all of which had been broadcasting in HD for some time. TV Ontario is not yet broadcasting in HD.

Depending on their southern exposure, Torontonians can also expect to receive ABC (WKBW on 7-1), CBS (WIVB on 4-1), NBC (WGRZ on 2-1), Fox (WUTV on 29-1), PBS (WNED on 43-1), Think Bright (on 43-3),  CW (WNLO on 23-1), RTN (retro TV on 7-2) and other U.S. networks broadcasting in HD from up-state New York.

All these channels are available free to anyone in Metro Toronto that has an inexpensive UHF antenna and an HDTV or other settop box with an ATSC tuner (a.k.a. HDTV tuner). Many HDTVs have ATSC tuners built in as do TiVo HD and TiVo Series 3 units.

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CRTC Rejects Independent HD Broadcaster

Text of Decision

In yet another example of Canada’s broken broadcasting policy, Canada’s national broadcasting regulator, the CRTC, today denied John Bitove’s (XM Canada’s founder) HDTV Network Inc’s application for an eight city Canadian HDTV broadcast network. The network was to be backed by Microsoft founder and Charter Communication’s chairman, Paul Allen.

Most Canadian cities have few or no digital broadcasters. Global has repeatedly missed the CRTC-imposed deadlines to launch its terrestrial HD broadcast system in Canada. Here, a proven entrepreneur was denied the right to do that which a national Canadian broadcaster is unwilling or unable to do.

Why? Because the network was not committing to broadcast enough local Canadian content. Content that most Canadians neither want nor watch.

It was heartening to see one commissioner, Len Katz, dissent.

Canada’s broadcasting policy is in need of top to bottom reform with an emphasis on market-driven competition and integration with U.S. broadcast and telecom policy. Until then, Canadian consumers are left with an increasingly sub-par and antiquated broadcast  system.

Cross-posted to ZNF here.

Update: The San Francisco Chronicle picked up this post here.

Related Posts:

Using the TiVo Series 3 in Canada (October 15, 2006)

Sources: | Financial Post | Canadian Press | Digital Home Canada | Globe & Mail | inside the cbc