Canadian Healthcare and Economics of Relationships

Wouldn’t it be great if you could pay some extra money to move to the front of the line in those long waiting lists for Canadian healthcare? Marginal Revolution describes the case of one guy who is trying to buy a spot in line from someone closer to the front. The economic implications are very interesting; auctions like this are a win-win rather than a zero-sum situation.

Another post today on Marginal Revolution discusses the Economics of Relationships. It’s a contrived analogy, but sort of fun, and you should be able to extend the analogy far beyond the boundaries of the examples (for example, is there an equilibrium point if the person with the shorter clock has more suppliers? are certain demands interchangable or ?fungible? like in CPI? and so on…)

Decibel Festival

Now that Detroit’s Electronic Music Festival (DEMF/Movement) is officially in trouble, the local Detroit scene is struggling, and three generations of Detroit talent have moved to Europe; there is no reason not to try having our own ?Northwest Electronic Music Festival? here in Seattle. Next Saturday, the first annual Decibel Festival hosts some of the best Detroit DJs ever, as well as lots of local talent playing house, funk, and techno.

Of course, I’m a bit skeptical about the ?death of Detroit electronic?, since the size of the music was never measured by club attendance or articles in Metro Times (or attendance at ?Movement? for that matter). And when DJs like Magda claim that they are staying in Europe because it’s too much of a hassle having police shut down parties in Detroit, I have to wonder if they even remember where they came from. But if all of this is an excuse for bringing Twonz to Seattle, that’s great. Supposedly the venue on Capitol Hill holds a lot of people, so it should be really good.

Paxahau has DJ sets from most of the Detroit DJs if you want to listen online and get a feel for the styles. One of my favorites from outside Detroit or Northwest is Dylan Drazen, who has hundreds of hours of DJ sets from live appearences over the past 4 years online for download to your iPod.

Vote!

For residents of Washington: Tomorrow we hold primary elections for the State of Washington. There are several interesting races, including Governor, one Senator, and Supreme Court Justice. If you aren’t yet registered to vote, you still have 15 days or so to get registered for the November general elections: http://vote.wa.gov.

Rather Scary

When I read Bernie Goldberg’s book, “Bias”, a couple of years ago, I remember thinking, “This guy really hates Dan Rather!” Goldberg paints a picture of “The Dan” being a sort of old-school strongman, driven by ego and paranoiasimilar to that of thedictators he covered. Goldberg discusses at length Rather’s obsession with Nixon, but describes Dan as being rather like Nixon himself. I always felt that Goldberg was being a tiny bit dramatic and unfair, though I started subconsciously to notice a resemblence between ?The Dan? and a certain other dictator.

This week, however, The Dan has deployed the full might of CBS in a Nixonesque attempt to cover up, deny, and avoid blame for running primetime news based on obviously forged documents. In a news report which could have had (and was intended to have) a direct impact on the outcome of a presidential election, Rather has blown the credibility of the network he helped create. And like all good strongmen, he won’t go down easily. Maybe Goldberg had a point.

Russian School Seige

If you read the newspapers, you would think that the recent terrorism in Russia is simply a side-effect of Russia’s policies in Chechnya and the failure to make peace with the rebels of that region before the elections.

However, I think there is a lot more going on here than Chechan elections, and especially so in the case of the school seige that recently ended. The newspapers are leaving out a ton of details which are probably relevant.

The school seige took place in North Ossetia. Ossetia is a muslim region split between Russia and Georgia; Russia controls North Ossetia and Georgia controls South Ossetia. Interestingly, the region of South Ossetia has been threating to secede from Georgia (and in fact currently claims to be independent) and join North Ossetia to become part of Russia. Georgia responded by moving troops into South Ossetia, and Russia indirectly supported the South Ossetians. Over the past few months, several hostile actions and troop buildupshave brought Russia and Georgia to the verge of war. Less than two weeks ago, on August 24, the president of Georgia told his people that war was imminent and they should prepare.

Now, it is interesting that the muslim terrorists raided a school on the Russian side of a territory that is in a dispute between these two powers at the verge of war. But this doesn’t mean that the terrorists were acting at the behest of Georgia.

But consider this. Very shortly after 9/11, Russia complained mightily that U.S. special forces were on the ground in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge near the Russian border. At first this was denied, then admitted. The story is that the U.S. was helping Georgia hunt down Chechan terrorists. Soon after, Russia and Georgia announced that they would be working together to clean out the Chechan terrorists in Georgia; no need for American help. However, it didn’t take long for Russia to raise questions about Georgia’s sincerity in fighting the Chechan terrorists. For the past two years, Russia has accused Georgia of secretly tolerating, even harboring, the Chechan terrorists; while Georgia protests that it’s just too difficult to control the Pankisi Gorge.

Then, last fall, Georgian president Shevarnadze was deposed in a bloodless revolution. The new president, U.S. educated lawyer Saakashvili admitted to Russia in Januarythat Georgia had been harboring some Chechan terroristsandhe promised to put an end to it. In May, Saakashvili acquired the status of a legend by ending a 13-year old conflict and averting civil war in another bloodless coup; this time convincing the leader of renegade Ajara region, Aslan Abashidze, to step down.

But ever since, Ossetia has been challenging Saakashvili’s image as a diplomatic superman. Georgia has been dragged ever closer to war with Russia over Ossetia, and Saakashvili doesn’t seem all that reluctant to use military force.

Back in early 2002, the general wisdom was that the tensions between Russia and Georgia were caused by U.S. interference in Georgia. Georgia and Armenia are neighboring Christian republics at the edge of central asia, surrounded by muslim neighbors. The Armenian lobby in America works behind the scenes, but has been extraordinarily effective. Although Georgia and Armenia have disputes, it seemed that the U.S. would be attempting to extend the Armenian sphere of influence into Georgia for various strategic and ?war on terror? reasons.

However, Georgia and Russia were supposedly working together, and the U.S. had been pushed out. So Irecently read the theory in TOL that the most recenttensions are caused by Russian expansionism — that the Russian people are in the mood to expand territory. But there is also the fact that the new premier of Georgia has U.S. ties, and just last month he replaced the Russian-educated head of Georgia’s military with someone who was eductedat the U.S. college of war.

But whatever the reason, it is a fact that Russia and Georgia have been hurtling toward war over Ossetia. And it is a fact that Chechan terrorism has been used as a pawn in this conflict. I think that both of these facts ought to bear at least some mention in the stories about the school seige.

Don’t Call it Shorthorn!

A number of years ago, when I first met Seth Russell and William Loughborough, Seth talked about his visions of a personal semantic store. Although WinFS is not based on RDF quads, it is a contextual triple-based store. I felt that WinFS was a big step forward and could help bootstrap many ?semantic web? applications. I’ve been looking forward to the day when I could finally tell Seth, ?we shipped a V1 of your personal semantic store?.

Unfortunately, during our lunch last Friday, Microsoft released the news that WinFS would not be shipping as part of Longhorn. I still think WinFS is one of the coolest things that Microsoft has done in a long time, and I hope it will eventually make it into developer hands, but I am disappointed that it won’t be anytime soon. I think that WinFS can spark a huge rennaisance in the ISV community.

On the other hand, things like this tend to make the investors happy, to the contrary of what many people might think.Decisions like thismean that the product can ship more predictably and start drawing revenues, and most large customers are conservative about adopting major bleeding edge innovations anyway.

~

Joyce Park (TroutGirl) was canned from Friendster?for blogging?. Apparently forproviding fodderto the JSP vs. PHP holy wars. Now, if she had slammed on Sun or Oracle, I could imagine some powerful sales execs escalating to her management. But in this case, it was just one open-source product vs. another. It’s not as if she was overtly critical of JSP, and I think most people realize that architecture has more to do with scalability than technology, so I really doubt that her blog caused any damage to JSP ?sales?. On the other hand, none of her other blog posts seemed controversial either, so it’s puzzling. Maybe I better shut down my blog.