Chinas economic growth and world GDP

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Here’s an interesting article about Chinas economy and how it will affect the world.

Big Enough to Know Better

This led me to look up some data on GDP by country. List of countries by GDP (nominal)

I was suprised at some of the rankings. Canada is #9, but what shocked me is that Canadas is 40% higher than India. As undeveloped as India still is I had always figured it’s pure output would have been higher given the population. Also suprising to me was how far Russia was down the list. I wonder how much theirs has been affected by the shock of switching economic systems? Their GDP must have been higher back in the 60s-80s to be able to maintain their arms race with the US. Perhaps that was sustainable (at the time) if all production power was directed towards the military.

Looking at the data per capita is also interesting: List of countries by GDP (nominal) per capita. I was suprised to see the US not at the top of this list, with the highest ones being some of the smaller European nations.

If I were a judge I’d be scared of Robertson

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Today some sanity prevailed in the US court system. The case of the Dover school district forcing Intelligent Design into the curriculum was just decided. The court ruled that it was unconstitutional to teach ID in a public school.

Interestingly, the 8 school board members who tried to push that through were recently all voted off the school council in an election. This led our favourite, and of course absolutely sane, televangelist Pat Robertson to declare that Dover is off his gods protected list: Televangelist Robertson warns town of God’s wrath. Apparently his all-loving-all-forgiving god has a special exception for when people vote in a democracy.

So, to the judges involved in this case, beware of Pat!

Are you ready to die? What if we call it being “saved”?

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I had some fun tonight poking around on this site: Rapture Ready. It’s funny, but sad as well. I wonder how crappy life must be when you spend so much effort being ready for your “saviour” to come at any time and kill you.

Here’s something funny, take this test: Check your spiritual health. The test obviously thought I didn’t place the their beliefs above all others, so took me to this page: Most other religions have the same amount of truth which proceeds to tell me “The supremacy of Christianity over all other faiths is not based on arrogance. It is simply based on facts. … God has plainly said that Christianity is superior to all other faiths”

Huh? The “facts” that “prove” this god is above all others are from the book that is the basis of the faith? Even if someone didn’t have a firm grasp of logic I can’t see how this passed their filter. It is completely analgous to me writing a book about how penguins can fly and then citing myself as proof. The transitive law does apply to logic: you can’t prove something by basing your argument on something that hasn’t been proven.

The first debate

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Watched the first (english) debate last night. My take on it:

- Jack Layton seemed to think every one of his turns was a TV commercial. He’d end each one with “… and send a message by electing NDP MPs, a voice for change.” Yes, great, we got that message after about the 1,000th time.
- Duceppe had a very funny moment. The question was about gay marriage and Harper started off by saying he would reopen the issue for a free vote in parliament. Duceppe said “this issue is done, it’s had a free vote, let’s not revisit it.” I found this hilarious because even though we’ve had free votes on it he still wants more referendums on separation.
- None of the “opposition leaders” said anything except about the ad scandal, which personally I thought made Martin come off well. Martin was the only one talking about positive things and a positive vision. I can understand why they’re harping on it, mostly because Canada has done really well over the last decade.

So, did this influence me at all? To be honest the fact that the opposition parties talked only about the ad scandal made me care less about it. I do care, mildly, but I’m not going to let the other parties use it as a political tool.

Canada: who to vote for?

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Over the next few weeks I’ll need to decide who to vote for here in Canada. The first thing I’ll note is that it’s a nice change from the US 2-party system. As an Ontarian I have 3 “official” choices, not counting smaller parties, which does make a big difference in the choice.

After zero real research I’ll outline my thoughts, and then update as I go with better data.

Conservatives
The conservative position in Canada has historically been against public health care, against gay marriage and in favour of following the US around on their sometimes violent attempts at new-age imperialism. I’m interested to see how they’ve tried to moderate their message now, since most Canadians are not in favour of any of those things.

Example: In todays CBC headline story Tories would bring back airborne troops the quote is “A Conservative government would boost Canada’s ability to project its values around the world with more military aircraft and a new airborne battalion, Leader Stephen Harper said on Tuesday.”

I firmly believe that it’s neither Canadas job nor moral right to “project our values.” This speaks to things much different than peacekeeping and sounds like rhetoric from the mouth of Bush.

Summary: if you could sum up the exact opposite of my political views, this would be it.

Liberals
The Liberals seem decently close to my political leanings on the major issues. Obviously I’m put off by the ad scandal, but haven’t seen good evidence anyone major was involved. I don’t like Martin (I did like Chretien), but I think it’s better to vote for a party and not one person, except in extreme cases.

NDP
I’m looking forward to digging into their platform. They may be the closest to me of the major 3 parties, I don’t know yet. But, I’ve also always had this impression that the NDPs platform was “social programs at the expense of fiscal responsibility” (don’t know why I have that, it may be completely wrong). I did hear that Laytons position does include fiscal responsibility, so that’s encouraging.

At this point my decision seems like “Do I vote for the Liberals, even if I prefer another, to stop the Conservatives from getting into power?” I don’t like having to think that way, but we’ll see how my answer develops.

Will there be a cure for aging?

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Good article that’s a Q&A with a doctor on various topics. One of the questions was about whether we’ll eventually have a cure for aging.

Given the pace of medical research, and especially now that nanotechnology is gaining speed, I do imagine that at least significantly slowing the aging process will become possible. The nanotech part is also the key, which should also significantly increase research speed.

Whether slowing/stoping aging is a good thing is another question.

Here’s the article: Beyond the Horizon

Why can the military discriminate?

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Saw this good point about discrimination against homosexuals in the military. Apparently some law schools had banned military recruiters from their campuses because of the military’s discriminatory policies. Now, the federal government is pushing back by threatening to withdraw funding from those schools (the US government uses this threat all the time and it’s a really back-handed way of forcing the policies of states and smaller entities).

The Dean of one school had a great comment:
“If it (the military) were a private employer who discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation, race or gender, we wouldn’t allow them here on campus”

UI affected by Supreme Court case

Energy efficiency is so easy

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Found this interesting project based in Ottawa. It’s called Project Porchlight

The aim is to get every household in Canada to switch one incandescent bulb to a compact fluorescent. The best quote on the site puts it all into perspective:

“If every household in Canada replaced just one regular light bulb with a compact fluorescent, the reduction in pollution would be the equivalent of taking 66,000 cars off the road.”

They’ve already given out over 13,000 CF bulbs for free in Ottawa.

Great idea, great work.

David Cross vs. Larry the Cable Guy

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Found this letter written by David Cross to Larry the Cable Guy. I guess David made a comment in an interview for Rolling Stone and then Larry ended up talking about it in a book.

An open letter to Larry the Cable Guy

It’s a good read and touches on some points, like:
- Does selling yourself as a “blue collar” guy conflict with trying to make tons of money off selling lots of random crap?
- Is is racist to say “Let me ask some of these commie rag head carpet flying wicker basket on the head balancing scumbags something!” ?
- What is going on with this whole anti-intellectual movement?

Death Penalty

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The recent headlines about the “1000th execution in the US since the Death Penalty was reinstated in 1976″ got me doing some reading.

One good point about the situation in the US that I was suprised to see is that apparently the number of executions has declined quite a bit over the last 5 years. This site has some good info on the subject: www.deathpenaltyinfo.org.

I’m also curious about the argument that it’s an effective deterrent. This site claims it’s not The Case Against The Death Penalty. I agree on the grounds that one of the primary criteria for a deterrent needs to be that it’s administered consistently. Few cases that are eligible for the death penalty actually get it. It may be a sufficient deterrent in countries like Iran or Singapore where it is used very consistently. Plus, while I personally wouldn’t care as much about the execution of someone I knew raped and killed a bunch of people, the fact that a conviction for a crime doesn’t correspond 100% to being guilty is important.

To me this seems like yet another policy in the US that attempts to “make people feel better” but doesn’t actually do anything. Another example of this is the “war on drugs”. They spend billions of dollars every year trying to catch somebody smoking a joint in their backyard. They should be spending their money on things that actually cause large-scale harm to their society like violent crime, super-high divorce rates, etc.