The site uses cookies that you may not want. Continued use means acceptance. For more information see our privacy policy.

Reading the TPP

Some notes from a skimming of the Trans-Pacific Partnership text.

Probably not much use, but I skimmed the TTP and noted some things along the way.

  1. Rules of origin decide whether and how much of a product came from a country. Important because stuff gets made over many steps and things like tariff classification may depend on it. Often companies try to cheat on this, so that they can avoid tariffs. The cheating, in some circumstances, is referred to as a spaghetti bowl effect, due to the criss-crossing and subterfuge involved.
  2. The obvious remark that legal documents themselves often suffer from the spaghetti bowl effect, insofar as they (see annex IV.3 of subchapter 0x0b9) are half-constructed of references to other sections, documents, etc. Reading any legal document (law, treaty, or otherwise) often requires reading every other legal document in existence (in triplicate).
    I do wonder whether there are any formal studies done of this, and whether there is some sort of mathematical law describing the length of a document to the length of a document’s references/incorporations.
  3. The amount of effort involved in tracking the origin of goods would seem to suggest that the system is ripe for augmentation with information such as the wage-of-creation-to-poverty-level information that could result in economic pressure for better wages across the globe.
  4. Emergency measures for a variety of causes including large swings in volume of import/export of food and other goods in cases of famine, ability to protect in cases of health, safety, civil war, etc.
  5. “For Peru, all distilled spirits with less than 10% alc/vol must have a date of minimum durability.” That’s a footnote which seems to contradict the language it’s noted on (that “[n]o Party may require… a date of minimum durability… except… on account of their packaging… or the addition of perishable ingredients…”). Shrug.
  6. Can’t require a producer of commercial software to give up their private key as a condition of sale (unless it’s being sold to a government). But: doesn’t stop law enforcement from requiring they decrypt, either.
  7. Can’t require sale or financial data on pharmaceuticals (and should “endeavor not to require pricing data”) when determining whether drugs can be sold.
  8. British English: “programme” keeps coming up, which I always read as an invitation to brainwash the writer.
  9. Some anti-spam stuff (among other consumer protection measures), but we’ll see how much it helps.
  10. Can’t require source code for importation, except for critical infrastructure.
  11. “The Parties recognise the importance of a rich and accessible public domain.” And yet, they do nothing to strengthen it. They even use the cliche “fallen into the public domain” instead of something more appropriate like, “lofted up into the public domain, now unfettered by the mortal whims of the fools that created it.”
  12. Chapter 20, “Environment,” mentions the ozone layer, but nothing about climate change.

Well, that was fun.

News Snippets for 26 September 2015

A look at the news of the week.

Candidates Dropping Like Flies

Just as quickly as candidates joined the GOP field for the nomination for president, they are dropping out. At this rate, the GOP field will run a deficit by Thanksgiving. The party is seeking a stopgap measure to keep the Republican meat market from insolvency.

From March to June, 17 major candidates signed up, a rate of about four per month. So far September has seen two drop out, bringing the total left to 15. As no new entries have come, the entrance rate has already dropped to about 2.5 per month, and it will fall below the exit rate in November unless something changes. Assuming the trend continues, the field will be entirely depleted by next May, well ahead of the July 2016 Republican National Convention.

Do Volkswagens Ever Win?

The axiom that ‘cheaters never win and winners never cheat’ is undergoing more scientific scrutiny as carmaker Volkswagen concludes its emissions testing experiment. The CCO (Chief Cheating Officer) of the corporation announced early results are inconclusive, stating, “We sort of got away with it, for awhile. We made a lot of money. We’re not sure if it’s a long-term strategy, though. Further tests will be needed.”

Trump Considering Run for Papacy

Donald Trump has publicly attacked Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church, calling him several names and saying he is not flashy enough to turn around the falling attendance rates. Trump says he may make a bid to become the Bishop of Rome, if things don’t pan out with his current presidential campaign. “Make the House of God Great Again” is on the short list for his potential slogans.

An alternative plan would see Trump move to Rome and only visit the USA every once in awhile. “I noticed that everyone made such a big deal about the Pope coming, and one of my servants told me about this whole ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ thing. I might have to try that,” Trump said. Fingers crossed.

Pope to Readdress Congress

The Pope, saying he is pretty sure they didn’t get the message the first time, is hoping to give a second address to Congress. “I think a lot of them just saw it as another day, another motivational speaker. A glorified pep rally. But I was trying to get them to pull their heads out of their asses. I am doubtful it worked,” the Vicar of Christ said.

“I get it,” he added. “All that money and power goes to their heads. It swells their heads up, inside their rectal cavities. At this point, I don’t think a few words of warning from me will get the job done. I feel I need to go back and try again. With lube and forceps, this time.”

One exception to the phenomena may have been John Boehner, who unexpectedly announced his resignation following the Pope’s address. Boehner, a Roman Catholic, has been criticized in recent months by some in his own party for not being heartless enough for their tastes.

Practicality Takes Time

Making something practical takes a lot of time and effort. The future is coming, but we must be patient.

Image of sharp and smoothed stones.
Image of sharp and smoothed stones. Original photographs by Jim Barton and Des Colhoun under CC-BY-SA-2.0 licenses.

We often see amazing scientific discoveries and readers lament, “but how long until I, in my kitchen, can smash an atom with it?” But practicality takes time.

Look at the automobile. Been around for over 100 years, and we’re still trying to get rid of some of the downsides to it, like deaths from crashes. We overhauled our entire road system for it, built more bridges and roads than ever before, and the whole thing remains a work in progress.

Electronic cigarettes are a similar story. Patents and designs for various models go back 50 years, but the modern ecig only has its origins about ten years back. And the current state-of-the-art devices are really rooted in the past five years of development. And even then, they stand to be further improved.

My go-to metaphor for this sort of thing is a sharp stone being worn down until it is smooth. Society thrives off of the process of smoothing stones out, until they fit our hands and do not cut us.

A couple of things are involved in why an advancement is not instantly realized. One is economies of scale, the notion that for a new process to be cheap enough for widespread distribution requires enough units to be produced. This is likely the bulk of the time-to-practicality issue. It encompasses several related issues:

  • Price-per-unit
  • Knowledge of the advancement
  • Adaptability of the advancement to many different products
  • Generational product planning

It needs to be cheap enough not just to justify the switchover, but to cover the cost of switching in some reasonable timeframe. The option to use the new thing has to reach a wide enough audience. It has to be adjustable to the individual products that can use it.

And it needs generational support. The new-and-expensive of today needs top tier customers, while the older-and-cheap needs lower tier customers. The consumers need to be proportioned in what is roughly a pyramid shape.

But supporting technologies are also needed. We have decent designs for hydrogen-based electric generation, but we’re still developing production and storage. In theory we will rely on hydrogen instead of batteries for anything that requires a large capacity of electric power, while traditional batteries will remain for low-power scenarios.

But it could turn out that once we have hydrogen storage down to an art, it will be easier to move hydrogen than use batteries, so where the line of high and low capacity will be drawn will take some shaking out.

And that’s the norm for competing technologies. And it’s healthy if you don’t have the sort of economic leverages that block real competition. In the case of renewables versus carbon fuels, you have those anti-capitalist behaviors blocking price competition in favor of carbon.

What these anti-capitalist practices amount to is a lag to practicality for their competitors. In extreme cases, the lag can be as long as it takes for some tectonic shift in the economic and political landscape.

There is another side to the maturation of technologies, which is a burst of overuse once a technology is sufficiently mature to be very inexpensive. We’re already seeing this with some technologies like Bluetooth, but we will likely see another wave of this as the Internet of Things becomes more mature.