Crawl Across the Ocean

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Correlation, Causation, Little Room for Optimism

So I ran across this article the other day. Apparently, the Dutch did some study and found that the most optimistic people out of some group of old men had a 50% lower risk of cardiovascular death over 15 years of follow-up.

Somewhat inevitably, the article (entitled: "Want to live longer? Think positive thoughts") spins this as evidence that being optimistic causes better health results. I can only speak for myself, but my first thought was, 'All those old guys heading for heart failure had good reason to be pessimistic!'

(Second thought: "I'm Screwed!")


But seriously, what is it about people that drives them to automatically attribute this type of result to some mystical, unprovable, power of positive thinking - as opposed to assuming that people have some idea where their life is headed and adjust their outlook accordingly? On the face of it, it seems as though Occam's Razor leaves a little less stubble on my side of the argument, yet people instinctively hew to the more optimistic, less fatalistic viewpoint. Oh well.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Winter Olympics, Historical Perspective

To put Canada's performance at Turino into historical context, here are a couple of charts. The first compares Canada's percentage score with that of Norway, the U.S.A., Germany (adding the West and East scores for the years of two German teams) and Russia (using U.S.S.R. or Unified Team scores for the relevant years). Sweden, Finland, Switzerland and Austria also have a higher historical total than Canada but the graph is cluttered as it is (you'll probably need to click on them to get a good look). After Canada there is a bit of a dropoff to Italy and France.

The second chart is Canada's performance on it's own. I constructed similar charts based on a simple percentage of medals awarded instead of using my own calculation but from this bird's eye view the two sets of charts look very similar so I didn't see a need to post both.

The historical medal winners are available at the official Olympic site here, with a pretty user friendly interface. Of course, if you have questions or are interested in getting a copy of the zip file of the spreadsheets with the historical results leave a comment or send me an email.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Torino Wrap-Up

Final Standings (medal total and breakdown in brackets):

1. Germany 12.4% (29 - 11/12/6)
2. Canada 12.1% (24 - 7/10/7)
3. Austria 9.8% (23 - 9/7/7)
4. U.S.A. 9.3% (25 - 9/9/7)
5. Swizerland 8.0% (14 - 5/4/5)
6. Russia 7.3% (22 - 8/6/8)
7. Norway 6.6% (19 - 2/8/9)
8. Sweden 6.3% (14 - 7/2/5)
9. Finland 5.3% (9 - 0/6/3)
10. China 3.7% (11 - 2/4/5)
11. Italy 3.5% (11 - 5/0/6)
12. South Korea 3.4% (11 - 6/3/2)
13. France 2.2% (9 - 3/2/4)
14. Holland 1.6% (9 - 3/2/4)
15. Czech Republic 1.4% (4 - 1/2/1)

See this post for an explanation of how the percentages are computed.

Pretty much no matter how you look at it, this was Canada's best ever Winter Olympics, even outdoing our 7 medal performance at Lake Placid in 1932.

Some random thoughts:

To put Canada's 13 fourth place finishes in perspective, take a look at the medal standings and note that no single country managed 13 first, second or third place finishes. It bodes well for Vancouver, at any rate.


Credit to the Canadian Women's Hockey Team - the fate of the once unbeatable Americans shows how evitable the Canadian dominance really was. Critics of the Canadian team for winning by too much or of Women's Hockey for not being competitive enough might want to consider this blurb from the official description of the Oslo Olympics (1952), "Canada won the ice hockey tournament for the fifth time, bringing their cumulative Olympic record to 37 wins, 1 loss and 3 ties. In those 41 games they scored 403 goals while conceding only 34."

(for the historically minded who realize that Oslo was the 6th Winter Olympics - the one hockey gold not won by the Canadians up to that point was won by Great Britain in 1936, who fielded a 12 man team which featured 10 players who lived in Canada.)


For the not-so-historically minded, here's a triumphalist CBC piece on Canada as 'an Olympic powerhouse'. Says the author, "For the first time in a long time, Americans feel Canadians breathing down their necks."

Maybe a long time in dog years, but not in Olympiad years. True, the Americans beat us in the last Olympics, which were, after all, held in America, but Canada outmedalled the Americans 15-13 in Nagano, the games before Salt Lake. Canada tied the Americans in medals 13-13 at Lillehammer in 1994 (albeit the Americans had more of the shiny medals). And at Albertville in 1992, the Americans outmedalled us 11-7, a solid win but hardly a walkover. So I'd say the Americans are pretty used to our footsteps when it comes to the Winter games.


Official bilingualism generally seems like a reasonable enough policy to me but I think that the only time it actually provides me with any tangible benefits is during the Olympics. As always, Radio-Canada provides the best coverage going, although the CBC did a decent job as well. As an added bonus on Radio-Canada, I can't tell what the announcers are saying. As a further added bonus, their announcers don't talk as much during the performances. I especially liked the guy doing the figure skating for them, from whom little more was heard during a skate than a hushed 'formidable!' or two after the jumps.

NBC took it's usual imperial approach to the Olympics, refusing to make anything more than token concessions to the actual schedule of events. Also as usual, when they did deign to provide coverage of an event they had the best graphics and gadgets. For example, their speedskating time counter which showed the skaters gaining and losing time vs. the leader was pretty cool.

I get down on CBC for being too Canada-centric, but the Americans still have them beat for home country focus. Particularly humourous was the final of the short track men's relay when the NBC cameras all but ignored the back and forth battle for the Gold between Canada and South Korea, choosing instead to focus on the all important battle between the Americans and Italians for third. Maybe CBC would pull the same stunts if they had their own cameras, I hope not.


Some other notable performances: Cindy Klassen of course. Brad Gushue's rink curled two of the best games I've seen in a while to make both the semi-final and final games look easy. Jennifer Heil started the team rolling with a great opening day win. Chandra Crawford and the South Korean short track team both proved the value of developing a simple but effective strategy and sticking to it, over and over again. The men's Skeleton team, for coming as close as Canada ever has to a sweep of the podium. Clara Hughes set some history in the women's 5000, and also proved that she understood pacing better than the various network commentators who wrote her off at various stages of the race. And finally, the Norwegian coach, Bjornar Hakensmoen who gave Sara Renner a pole when her own broke during the team sprint in Cross-Country. A noble thing to do at any time, but especially so considering who ended up coming 4th in the race - the Norwegian team.

It was a fun couple of weeks.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Torino - Through Sunday, Feb 19

Posting will probably remain light through the duration of the Olympics, especially if the cold I am battling takes a while to go away. In the meantime, here are the updated adjusted national rankings through Sunday's events (just over halfway in terms of medals awarded):

1. Germany 8.0%
2. Canada 6.6%
3. Austria 5.6%
4. Norway 5.2%
5. Russia 4.6%
6. Switzerland 4.5%
7. U.S.A. 3.9%
8. Italy 2.3%
9. China 2.3%
10. Finland 2.2%

See this post for an explanation of how these numbers are computed.

Taking half of all the Skeleton medals boosted Canada significantly. So far no other country can match Canada's achievement of getting medals in 8 different sports. The Austrians are doing a better job than usual of winning medals outside of Alpine Skiing which is boosting their totals. After a good start, the Norwegians have struggled outside of biathlon and cross country which is holding down their score. Similarly, the U.S. has struggled outside of long-track speedskating and snowboarding events.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Torino - After Day 3

1. Norway 3.3%
2. Russia 2.8%
3. U.S.A. 2.2%
4. Germany 1.4%
5. China 1.4%
6. Italy 1.2%
7. Finland 1.0%
8. Austria 1.0%
9. Canada 0.9%
10. France 0.7%

See this post for an explanation of how these numbers are computed.

So far, the main difference between these figures and the official medal count is that Holland and South Korea are punished for only getting medals in the medal-heavy speed-skating events.

You Think?

Headline from Yahoo: "Cheney Apparently Breaks Key Hunting Rule".

Given that we're talking Bush cronies here, I can only assume that the rule he broke was shooting his fellow hunter in the front rather than in the back.

The Olympics - Keeping Score

All else being equal, I prefer simplicity over complexity, but let's face it, all else is rarely equal. I have a bit of a theme on this blog of criticizing things which are flawed due to being oversimplified, with our electoral system - a simple but flawed way to translate voting intentions into representation, and GDP - a simple but flawed measurement of our economic status, being just a couple of examples.

Under the miscroscope today is the medal count, a simple but flawed way to compare the relative performance of nations at the Olympics.

I see three main problems with the medal count:

Problem 1) It ranks all medal types the same. For example, a country with 11 gold medals ranks behind one with 12 bronze medals, which doesn't seem right.

Now some people list the countries based first on number of gold medals but this is not satisfactory either. Under this system a country with just one gold medal ranks ahead of a country with 25 silver and 10 bronze (but no gold).

Solution: Countries should be awarded points for each medal received, with the points being distributed to reflect the fact that gold is better than silver and bronze, but not infinitely better. A 3-2-1 point system is the obvious choice, but I think this overstates the value of a gold vs. a bronze somewhat. Are 2 gold medals really equivalent to 6 bronze? Instead I prefer (purely subjectively) a 4-3-2 point system, under which 2 golds are equivalent to 4 bronze, not 6.

Problem 2) All events are weighted equally, but it would make more sense to rank all sports equally. The short explanation is to simply ask if biathlon should really count for 5 times as much as hockey in the medal standings.

A little bit more rigorously, it seems logical that if country A is good at Sport X and country B is good at sport Y then country's A and B are both good at one sport and roughly equal. Just because Sport X has 12 events (and hence 36 medals) and Sport Y only has 2 events (6 medals) doesn't make country A 6 times as good as country B.

Solution: Rather than adding points for each individual medal to the national total, the point totals from each sport should be normalized so that the total points available from each sport is the same. For example, a medal in Alpine Skiing (10 events) would only get 1/5 the weighting of a medal in curling (2 events).

Problem 3) Because the number of events and sports can vary from Olympics to Olympics, the medal counts are not really comparable over time.

Solution: Rather than computing a point total, national scores should be expressed as a percentage of the total points available.

Combining these three items, I will be using the following methodology to rank countries in the Olympics:

1. Assign 4 points for every gold medal, 3 for every silver and 2 for every bronze.

2. In each sport, compute the percentage of total points available for that sport that each country has achieved. For example, if the Americans were to get one gold, one silver and one bronze in Freestyle Skiing, then they would have 9 points out of a total 36 (36 because there are 4 Freestyle Skiing Events, and each event has 9 total points available) for 25% of the total freestyle skiing points.

3. To compute the total score for each country add up the individual scores in each sport for each country (so the U.S. score would be 0.25 (to represent the 25% in freestyle) + their percentage of the points in alpine skiing, + their percentage for biathlon, etc.) and then divide by the number of sports.

This methodology reflects the rank ordering of gold, silver, bronze, weights all sports equally and ensures that the total of all the national scores always adds up to 100%, even if the weightings for the different medal are changed or if the number of events changes of the number of sports changes. Each country's total will represent their percentage of the total points available.

When I get a chance, I'll post the standings for Turin, as per this methodology, perhaps with a comparison to the standard medal count.

Customer Service - Political Version

I'm getting tired of people saying that Emerson's actions are OK, because the voters 'will get to have their say in the next election.'

First of all, no they won't - do you really think Emerson is going to run as a Conservative in Vancouver-Kingsway?

And secondly, that's like me ordering 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire' on DVD and having, 'Kangaroo Jack' show up at my door. And then, when I call to complain, having the company I ordered from tell me that I can't have a refund or make an exchange but it's all OK because I can have my say next time I order something.

Customer Service - Random Thought

You know what would make me happy? Debit machines where it doesn't matter which way your card is facing when you swipe it. C'mon, how much more expensive would that really be?

Customer Service: In Case You Hadn't Noticed...

Today's date is February 13th. Please take any necessary preparatory measures.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Well If Peter MacKay Says Its OK...

OK, I'm beating this to death, but is Peter MacKay really the person you want out there talking about the ethics of lying in order to get people's votes?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Is it Time For a Pre-Nup?

Kevin G asks the question, "Is there any reason that an MP should not have to seek a re-validation from their constituents before crossing the floor?"
and Dean replies, "How about an MP who doesn't vote the way you like?
How about an MP who doesn't vote with his or her party?
How about an MP who campaigns on an explicit promise not to vote with the party, and then does so anyway?
How about changes in circumstance? Who decides what is material and what isn't?
How about a Party that fails to fulfill an election promise?"

An interesting initial question and some fair questions in return.

The truth is, I am not a big fan of having a law which mandates a by-election when an MP changes parties and I do see reasons why such a law would be a bad idea.

For starters, Dean's point about the difficulties of imposing party-centric rules on our individual-centric parliament. What if someone doesn't officially change parties but just chooses to vote against the party they ostensibly belong to, and with another party. What if the party wants to twist someone's arm and threatens to kick them out of the party just to force the candidate to go through a by-election? These are just a couple of examples of the games people could play with a rule forcing by-elections on floor crossers.

Last parliament there was a vote on this exact question and it was defeated 189 - 60. If you look at who supported the bill, it was the people at the extremes, the NDP on the left, and the old Reformers on the right. This is not coincidence, because this sort of rule, which attempts to enforce simplicity on what is a complicated situation currently monitored by tradition and ethical considerations, is one of the hallmarks of the ideologue.

One reason why this tends to be the case is that by imposing such rules, one runs the risk of changing a situation where people try to stay within the spirit of what is morally accepted, to one where people feel that the ethics have been encoded in the rules and so any action which does not officially break the rules is now acceptable.

Beyond the complications caused by the party vs. individual question, a main reason that there is no rule requiring a by-election for floor-crossing is that there are situations in which floor-crossing is justified. Imagine someone in the last month of a parliament who has had a significant falling out with their party on an important issue and who has good reason to believe that their constituents are against their current party on this issue. If this person then switches parties to sit in the backbenches on the other side, I think calls for a by-election would be muted.

There are a number of factors which go into a decision as to how unethical any particular floor-crossing is. How long it has been since the election. Whether the crosser stands to achieve personal gain by the move. Whether there is some personal conflict between the member and their party. Whether there is a credible case that the constituents have a stance on an important issue which would require switching/voting against the party. To what extent the constituents typically support the party which is being switched to.

What all these different rules get back to, at root, is an acknowledgement that it is unethical for an MP to campaign under one platform and then switch to supporting another one unless that switch is reasonably supported by their constituents. Each of the criteria mentioned above speaks to the issue of how likely it is that the constituents would support the switch.

Supporters of a rule forcing a by-election just want to formalize this process, since, after all, there is no better way to ensure the constituents support a switch than by getting them to specifically endorse it. Traditionalists, on the other hand, would argue that because of the complexities involved and the risks of trying to impose a one-size-fits-all rule, it is better to allow MP's freedom of action and rely on their ethical judgement (and fear of repercussions) not to take undue advantage of this freedom.

Recently, I have seen some people argue that, because Belinda Stronach, Scott Brison, John Nunziata and Keith Martin were all re-elected after switching parties, this proves that voters don't mind if an MP switches parties, so it is OK under all circumstances. I would turn that around and say that the high success rate of re-election for floor-crossers instead shows that MP's have shown respect for the tradition of only crossing the floor when there is a good case to be made that their constituents support it. With respect to the current situation, I would be very surprised if David Emerson ever again attempts to face his constituents at the polls.

Why do I say that? Well if we go back and look at the criteria for determining when a floor-crossing might be supported by the constituents, we see that Emerson has broken pretty much every one - in fact the Emerson case is almost as pure an example of a 'bad' floor-crossing as you can find. It effectively occurred one day after the election before a single parliamentary vote was held. It was made for significant personal gain. There was no personal conflict between Emerson and the Liberal party. And rather than sitting as an independent or switching to the party which came second in the riding, Emerson switched to a party that came a distant third and has very little traditional support in the riding.

I find it ironic that people defend Emerson's actions on the basis of respect for tradition ('because that is how our system works'), when it is the cynical, selfish abuse of this tradition by David Emerson (and Harper) which does far more to undermine it and to make the case for the imposition of a hard simple rule than anything I or anyone else could ever do. The only way to preserve tradition now is for Emerson to receive a punishment significant enough to deter anyone from following his tawdry example. So those who support Emerson on the basis of tradition are actually undermining the very tradition they seek to defend.

Let's consider the case of an impoverished man who marries a wealthy bride and then 2 days later files for divorce and walks away with half his wife's money. In response, many people naturally argue that this shows why we should never get married without a pre-nuptial agreement. But others say, no, a pre-nuptial agreement isn't needed, that is what the vow of 'till death do us part' is for. To which the only reply is, tell that to the groom, not me.

In my opinion, the wedding with a pre-nup is inferior to one that does without, because how can you expect a relationship to last forever when there is not even trust at the outset? Contractual rules are a poor substitute for lost trust. Similarly, I decry the need for a contract between voters and their representative to replace what has traditionally been accomplished through a mutual trust that one would not abuse the other. But unless Emerson and the Conservatives are forced to pay a heavy political price which will act as a deterrent for any future gold-digging, I see no choice but to push for legislation to protect voters from such cynical manipulation.

Emerson Just Doesn't Get It

Yeah, I know, I'm harping on this, but I think it's important. James MacDuff does a good job explaining why it's worth pursuing:

"Emerson's arrogant and presumptive behavior calls out for a strong response, if only to serve as a cautionary tale for future opportunists who need to see consequences attach to such cynical behavior. If he gets away with this move relatively untouched, truly anyone can rely on any excuse to plop comfortably into cabinet, for whatever reason tickles the fancy."

Meanwhile, I'm not sure it's necessary, but if you want an explanation of exactly why the assertion by Harper and Emerson that they know what's best for the voters in Vancouver-Kingsway better than the voters themselves do is so offensive, the Canadian Cynic spells it out in detail (starting in the second half of the post with, "The most popular talking point these days..").

On the news front, we hear worries that Emerson may be too personally involved with Canfor to work on any matters which directly affect them, which raises questions about the ethics of him being involved in the softwood lumber dispute - but Emerson's expertise on this file is apparently one of the reasons why he was made Minister of Trade.

On the other hand, we also hear accusations that, "David Emerson defected to the Conservatives this week carrying a multi-billion dollar softwood lumber deal that Liberals, for political reasons, didn't finalize before the federal election."

Since his defection, Emerson has done nothing but make things worse with his comments, from hiding behind his children, to expressing his shock that politics could be so dirty, to his whining about how nobody understands how he suffers on our behalf by being in politics, but I think the comment which annoyed me most was this one:

"Emerson, whose defection was greeted as good news by Premier Gordon Campbell and business leaders, said he expects anger directed at him will linger, but doesn't expect it will impact his work.

"There are some people who are angry at me and cannot shake it. That may have an impact. But I'm not aware of people who are in the positions that are relevant to what I have to deal with and feel that way.

"In fact, I've had an awful lot of very positive support with the people involved on the issues that I'm working on."

He just doesn't understand the concept of democracy at all, does he? Sure the little people who voted for him are pissed off, but it won't affect his work, which is making deals with business people. Emerson now says he has regrets about his going into politics. So do I.

The online petition to recall Emerson and have a byelection in Vancouver-Kingsway is here.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

I'm Sure it was All Perfectly Above Board

The whole Airbus-Mulroney-Schreiber scandal is one I know little about (although Andrew Coyne links to his previous columns on the matter here) but this latest bit sure doesn't sound too good,

"Former prime minister Brian Mulroney received $300,000 from a secret Swiss bank account after he left office because he was strapped for cash, German businessman Karlheinz Schreiber has told The Fifth Estate."

Keep in mind that Schreiber himself is wanted facing fraud charges and is deeply involved in the whole thing, but still.

Also, can anyone explain why Mulroney would have been strapped for cash?

The Commercial that Made my Heart Sore

Do you ever go back and read the first month of posts on your blog and realize that it is much better than your last month? I don't know what that says exactly, but it's not encouraging.

Anyway, a scene from the couch tonight...

A commercial comes on, cue the inspirational music and excited announcer: "Go buy the one DVD that will make your heart soar"

Girlfriend: "Ugh" - has that look on her face normally reserved for political ads and the worst American Idol singers

Me: "They should really be more careful with homonyms"

A little later during another commercial break we switch over to the Grammy Awards where Mariah Carey is singing, wearing a low cut dress which reveals a substantial portion of her unnatural and borderline disturbing 'cleavage'1

Me: "Now there's a heart that's ready to soar!"
Girlfriend: "That's not her heart"
Me: "Well something looks ready to float away"

While I'm on the topic, is there any award show which is more out of touch with what is actually good than the Grammys?

On the plus side, it was another great episode of Veronica Mars.

1 Trust me, the use of 'scare' quotes here is fully justified.

Cause What He's Doing, He's Doing For Me

Maybe I've been too hard on David Emerson. Perhaps I should think of the children. Maybe I can make it up to him by making a suggestion for the David Emerson theme song, courtesy of Bobby Brown (or Britney, for all you kids out there in the audience):

"Everybody's talking all this stuff about me
Why don't they just let me live (Tell me why)
I don't need permission
Make my own decisions, oh
That's my prerogative (It's my prerogative)

It's my prerogative
It's the way that I wanna live (It's my prerogative)
I can do just what I feel (It's my prerogative)
No one can tell me what to do (It's my prerogative)
Cause what I'm doin'
I'm doin' for you

Don't get me wrong
I'm really not zooped
Ego trips is not my thing
All these strange relationships
Really gets me down
I see nothin wrong with
Spreading myself around"


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

This federation's not going to dismantle itself, you know!

Over at POGGE's place, Tim has the inside scoop on Harper's first cabinet meeting - funniest thing I've read in a while.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Some Floor Crossers are More Equal than Others

And some other things to remember now that the pigs are loading up the vans to move into the farmhouse:

No unelected politicians should be appointed to the Senate - permanently
No industries should be subsidized - without cause
No politician should partake in entitlements - to excess

Perhaps we may even find out that Harper was always in favour of windmills but had to pretend to oppose them to get rid of the Liberals. But somehow they'll never end up getting built.

But if all that seems too complicated, just remember Right-Wing Good, Left-Wing Bad. It's simpler that way. And if it doesn't seem to be working, just bleat louder.

Once you can look back and forth from Harper to the next Liberal leader without seeing the difference, you'll know that things have run their course - seems to be getting closer every day.

And yes, I know, I'm just being an ass, but sometimes I can't help myself.

Vancouver Sun Embarrasses Themselves

The newspaper situation in Vancouver really is pretty grim. I walked by the Vancouver Sun box on the street this morning and saw a big headline, "A Cabinet Built in the West", underneath smiling photos of a bunch of Western MP's including, if I recall correctly, Jay Hill, Jason Kenney, Diane Ablonczy and maybe more people who are, you know, *not in the cabinet*.

I guess if you decided to buy the paper you could read the smaller print which tells you that when they wrote the story, "A Cabinet Built in the West", the cabinet hadn't been formed yet. Given that many of the Westerners they pictured are not in cabinet after all, is it time for a retraction?

Maybe the next time the Sun devotes its front page not to news, but to its own (poorly informed) speculation, they could at least do us the favour of adding a question mark to the end of the headline.

Liberal, Tory, same old, uh, People?

Well, if Harper wanted to send a clear signal that a Conservative government would run just like a Liberal one (and that all the self-righteous people who proclaimed the Conservatives would be 'different' were either liars or suckers) I can't think of a better way to do it.

Not only do we have a Liberal crossing the floor to sit in cabinet, we have an unelected cabinet minister appointed from Harper's staff to run Public Works (and I know how we all hate sole-source contracts in Public Works!).

You know what I think would have been funny? If, on the night of the election, after Emerson was elected, he had gone up to the stage to give his 'I won, yay for me' speech, and had his staffers bring down the curtain to reveal a big Conservative banner. He could have announced the switch right there. After all, nothing has changed since then. That would have shown some real guts, especially the part where he explained right to his supporters faces how he played them for fools. And the looks on their faces as they realized that all their hard work to elect a Liberal candidate had backfired would have made for great TV.

Anyway, I find it amusing that a riding in which the Conservatives got less than 19% of the vote, a riding which hasn't elected a Conservative since 1958, is now represented by a Conservative cabinet minister. Go Democracy Go!

One final thought, having far-right social conservative Jim Flaherty as finance minister doesn't reassure me one bit about the Conservatives intentions, nor does having Bev 'funded by industry lobbyists' Oda as Minister of 'Heritage' or Vic Toews in charge of Justice.

Update: Ahab's Whale digs up what must be just one of many now hilarious (for cynics) Emerson quotes,
"I'm going to be Stephen Harper's worst enemy. We're going to stir the pot and you better believe we are going to make a heck of a lot of noise."

Hey with enemies like that, who needs friends?

Saturday, February 04, 2006


Blogging Tory #1:

"Jackonomics is starting to inflict damage on the Canadian economy. Last spring when the Liberal party was doing anything to stave off a confidence vote in parliament, Jack Layton demanded the reversal of corporate taxes reductions and an increase in social spending as the price the Liberals had to pay for the NDP's parliamentary support.

Now, several months later, firms are starting to flee Ontario faster then suspected leadership candidates are fleeing the Liberal party."

Blogging Tory #2:

The time has come to honor the man who, more than any other, set into motion the policies that pulled a debt-ridden Canadian government balance sheet out of the red and set us on the road to reducing the national debt.

His policies were responsible for the sustained economic growth we've enjoyed and the historically low levels of Canadian unemployment for much of these past 12 years.


Alan Greenspan.


So you've got that? The Liberals get no credit for anything that happened during their 12 years in power, but the recent struggles in Ontario are all Jack's fault.

I look forward to a rational debate between the various Blogging Tories about how much influence the government has over the economy. So far the consensus seems to be that M.K. and Kate are both right, a consistent position which can be characterized as: 'Right Wing Good, Left Wing Bad, nyah nyah nyah'.

Not So Fantastic Four

(this is the third time I've posted this, Blogger is really getting annoying).

So Tim has tagged me with the 4 things meme, and the first one is a tough one:

Four vehicles you've owned:

The only vehicle I own currently is a cheap Canadian-tire special bike which I haven't ridden in years. In fact, my lack of respect for this vehicle is so great that I once left it locked up outside on campus for an entire year before remembering that I had left it there (but that's another story).

I also had a somewhat more respected bike back when I still lived in Ontario.

Prior to that my memories get hazy. I assume that I must have had a bike or two as a kid but I've always preferred keeping my feet on the ground so I doubt it/they got much usage, and they don't occupy much of a place in my memory.

Before that again we are really reaching. I know that I had a giant plastic hot-dog with wheels that I used to drive around in my youth, so I guess that makes four.

Four jobs you've had:

Hmm, I've worked as an Operations Research Analyst, as A Credit Risk Analyst, an Energy Risk Analyst and as a Business Analyst.
Hey, I'm nothing if not versatile.

Four places you've lived:

Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver.

I'm starting to see that all these questions are connected. When you live in big cities you don't need a car, and when you're applying to analyst positions, the classified section of, say, the Peterborough Examiner, makes a quick read.

As an aside, after the election some people suggested the Conservatives did poorly with Urban voters because they didn't win any seats in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver. To which some people replied, "What's Calgary, an overgrown village?"
But the thing is, Calgary is a nice place, but yes, it is an overgrown village.

OK, moving on.

Four vacations you've taken:

Hmm, I went to Peru and Bolivia a few years ago, that was pretty fascinating. Played some pickup soccer at an elevation of nearly 13,000 feet, giving me an early insight into how I would feel playing in my thirties.

Visited Australia & New Zealand. Alas my camera died on the South Island, taking with it photos of Milford Sound without a cloud in the sky, the world's steepest street, and some albatrosses (had to check the pluralization there). But at least, unlike my old bike, those I still remember (for now).

I've also been to Istanbul (home to the world's strangest sounding cats) and the Turkish Aegean coast.

More recently, we took a trip down the coast to San Francisco, stopping in at beautiful Cannon Beach along the way, and eventually at least getting a photo of the 'world's crookedest street'. I think if I had to move to the U.S. but could live anywhere I wanted I'd probably go to Oregon.

That's it - don't you feel like you know me better now?

OK, Time for a tag, just one this time, Greg at Sinister Thoughts.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Actions Speak Louder

Some quotes from a Globe and Mail editorial (subscriber only) on the controversy surrounding Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper which published 12 offensive pictures of the Prophet Mohammed last fall:

"Arab countries have urged the Danish government to punish Jyllands-Posten. Syria and Saudi Arabia have recalled their ambassadors to Copenhagen. Libya says it is closing its embassy. Thousands of Palestinians marched in protest. Bomb threats forced Jyllands-Posten to evacuate its newsroom."


"European governments and media must not cave in to such bullying. The protesters betray a fundamental misunderstanding of how free societies work."


"In the democratic world, things work differently. Newspapers and other media cannot allow themselves to be silenced, cowed or intimidated by the fear of upsetting one group or another. By publishing those 12 drawings, the editors of Jyllands-Posten were aggressively asserting their right to publish, come what may."

So the obvious question is, does the Globe have the courage of its convictions to follow in the footsteps of other newspapers like France Soir which have published the same or similar images in support of Jyllands-Posten?

Update: As always, it's best to see for yourself what the fuss is about, the cartoons in question can be viewed here.

My 183 Cents

Andrwe Coyne has an interesting post up on how to improve the federal election process.

A lot of what he says I agree with, including that the debate rules should be formalized as part of the election laws, that the electoral system needs changing and that a higher tone (less mud) would be appreciated.

The one major point I disagree with is his opposition to the campaign finance rule which allocates $1.83 of funding annually to political parties for each vote they received in the last election.

Says Coyne,
"If the principle is that elections should be a matter between the parties and the voters, and therefore that parties should have to appeal to the choices of free individuals, for funds as well as votes, this seems a contradiction, to say the least."

I guess I don't really see the contradiction, so maybe I am missing Coyne's point here. But what I do know, is that I like to see our MP's focus on lawmaking and on serving all their constituents equally - not spending most of their time fundraising and currying favour with people who can help them with their fundraising. I don't want to see the development of single (or multi) issue political action committees which wield significant unaccountable influence due to their ability to round up the numerous individual donations which are needed to raise money when institutional and large individual donations are banned but no public money is provided to fill the gap.

That is all.