Crawl Across the Ocean

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Western Alienation Rides Again

Looks like Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty isn't the only one with a shaky grasp on the part of the country on the 'other' side of the Rockies. The opening lines of a letter I received today:

"Dear UW Alumnus:

Hello from the Office of Alumni Affairs. Did you know that you are among the nearly 4000 alumni currently residing in the province of Vancouver?"

Now, if it had been a fundraising letter for the Geography department, it would have been clever, but no such luck. Instead, it reads, "I would like to invite you to a uniquely 'Vancouver' tradition - SOAR 2007." I'm not sure why Vancouver is in quotes - maybe because it is the province of Vancouver that is being referred to? And how can SOAR 2007 be a tradition? - I know it often seems like I'm reliving the same year over and over gain, but surely this will be the first instance of SOAR 2007.

One last thing, because I know you are wondering. SOAR? It stands for Southern Ontario (does Laurentian qualify?) Alumni Relations. It's a good job 'alumni' doesn't start with 'U' - that's all I have to say about that.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Irrational Behavior

I've been meaning to write about the sickness in the Economics profession for a long time now but, as they say, good things come to those who procrastinate, so here's a lengthy article by Christopher Hayes in The Nation which makes all the points I wanted to make and more.

In passing, I'm sure I took courses across at least a dozen departments while I was an undergrad, and Economics was a clear outlier in the resemblance of its courses to propaganda rather than education - and I say that as someone who was sympathetic to the mental straightjacket of classical economics at the time (hey, I was still a teenager).

Here's a passage from the Hayes article for those with an irrational fear of following hyperlinks (you know who you are),
"Mafia is probably a tad hyperbolic, but there is undoubtedly something of a code of omertà within the discipline. Just ask ... David Card.


Card, a highly esteemed economist at the University of California, Berkeley, caught flak for his heresy ... on the minimum wage. In 1994 he conducted a study to see whether an increase in the minimum wage in New Jersey had the negative effect on employment that basic neoclassical theory would predict. He found it didn't. In fact, his regression analysis showed that, controlling for other factors, New Jersey gained fast-food jobs after increasing its minimum wage, compared with Pennsylvania, which hadn't raised wages. The paper attracted a tremendous amount of attention and criticism, and Card himself largely abandoned working on the minimum wage. In a 2006 interview, he explained his decision to leave the topic behind this way: "I've subsequently stayed away from the minimum wage literature for a number of reasons. First, it cost me a lot of friends. People that I had known for many years, for instance, some of the ones I met at my first job at the University of Chicago, became very angry or disappointed. They thought that in publishing our work we were being traitors to the cause of economics as a whole."

From the Department of Meaningless Comparisons: A little Pop-Culture-Reference One-Upmanship

1) From 'The Joke', by Milan Kundera:

He said there were two great opposing institutions involved: the Catholic Church with its traditional thousand-year old rites and the civil institutions that must supplant the thousand-year old rites with their own. He said that people would stop going to church to have their children christened or to get married only when our civil ceremonies had as much dignity and beauty as the church ceremonies.


I nodded and asked whether there might not be a more effective way of weaning people away from religious ceremonies, to give them the option of avoiding any sort of ceremony whatsoever.

He said that people would never give up their wedding and funeral. And from our point of view (he emphasized the word "our" as if to make it clear to me that he too had joined the Communist Party) it would be a pity not to use them to bring people closer to our ideology and our State.

I asked our old classmate what he did with people who didn't want to take part in his ceremonies, whether there were any such people. He said of course there were, since not everybody had come around to the new way of thinking yet, but if they didn't attend, they kept receiving invitations, and most of them came in sooner or later, after a week or two. I asked him whether attendance at such ceremonies was compulsory. He replied with a smile that it wasn't, but that the National Committee used attendance as a touchstone for evaluating people's sense of citizenship and their attitude towards the State, and in the end people realized that and came.

In that case, I said, the National Committee was stricter with its believers than the Church was with theirs. Kovalik smiled and said that could not be helped.

2) Via Robert, an article by Andrew Cohen, ponderously titled, "Let's become committed Canadians, strong and proud: For too long, we have been casual and ambiguous about our citizenship"

Says Cohen,
"Stephane Dion has also been ambivalent about his citizenship. When he became leader of the Liberal Party last December, he said he would renounce his French citizenship if he had to - but he wasn't sure that was necessary.

In their ambiguity over their citizenship, Dion and [Michelle] Jean are Casual Canadians.

Author Richard Gwyn calls this "the unbearable lightness of being Canadian." It means that we are not terribly fussed about citizenship. When immigrants arrive in Canada, we tell them that acquiring citizenship is "a right" rather than a privilege."


"Our insouciance about citizenship comes into sharp relief as Canada welcomes about 250,000 immigrants a year. Many live in what novelist Yann Martel calls "Hotel Canada," where they (and we) retreat to separate rooms and share little common space.

As we pay deference to the deity of multiculturalism, we are disinclined to resist ethnic nationalism in favour of civic nationalism, rooted in the rule of law, human rights, pluralism and democracy.

How to address this? Make citizenship harder to obtain. Ask more of all of us, new and old Canadians, through mandatory national service at home or abroad. Create a new civic liturgy in which we study our past, display our symbols, and embrace national projects.

In this way, one day, the Casual Canadian might become the Committed Canadian, strong, clear and proud."

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Catching up on some of my blog reading, I see that Paul had a post a couple of weeks ago, measuring the relative frequency of the words 'he' and 'she' on various blogs (as measured by doing a google search for 'site:blog url he' (and 'she', of course).

Paul listed the ratios of a few sites:

Le Revue Gauche “he”/”she” ratio = 83%/17%

Dr. Roy’s Thoughts “he”/”she” ratio = 81%/19%

Accidental Deliberations “he”/”she” ratio = 81%/19%

Stageleft “he”/”she” ratio = 77%/23%

Calgary Grit “he”/”she” ratio = 72%/28%

Jason Cherniak “he”/”she” ratio = 73%/27% “he”/”she” ratio = 86%/14% “he”/”she” ratio = 79%/21% “he”/”she” ratio = 78%/22% “he”/”she” ratio = 64%/36% (most “she” references refer to Elizabeth May)

News Media:

Far Right:

CanWest Global ( ”he”/”she” ratio = 76%/24%

Right-Wing: ”he”/”she” ratio = 72%/28%

Globe and Mail “he”/”she” ratio = 77%/23%


Toronto Star ”he”/”she” ratio = 67%/33%


Democracy Now! “he”/”she” ratio = 48%/52%

Paul got the idea from this earlier post at Uncorrected Proofs, which had some more breakdowns: 69% HE vs. 31% SHE 72% HE vs. 28% SHE 73% HE vs. 27 SHE 71% HE vs. 29% SHE 81% HE vs. 19% SHE 86% HE vs. 14% SHE 79% HE vs. 21% SHE 78% HE vs. 22% SHE 64% HE vs. 36% SHE

Uncorrected proofs, in turn, got the idea from this site, where you can punch in your url and it will do the google search for you.

So with all that as background I, naturally, checked the ratio for CAtO:

16% He, 84% She

Not what I was expecting, that's for sure. I did the actual google search just to check, and it seems accurate. It's possible I've just devoted an unhealthy amount of time to debunking Margaret Wente's nonsense, but I feel that there has to be more to it than that. Perhaps I refer to women as 'she' whereas with men I use their names? It's odd, anyway.

Have you noticed the female dominated nature of discourse here at CAtO?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Setting A Bad Example

Someone (from outside North America) asked me today why many Canadians seemed to have a strong dislike for the U.S. And of course there are a lot of answers to that question, but one of them is simply that the U.S. is a bad influence.


Yeah, I'm still here, and things are still busy. But I read this post by Glenn Greenwald just a few minutes ago, all about how the eavesdropping on American citizens that was taking place in the years after September 11 was so egregious that only when all the top people in the justice department threatened to resign did President Bush concede to make changes to the program (which remained illegal).

And then I went to and looked at the headlines:

The latest top stories were a story from Gaza, a story about Prince Harry not going to Iraq, and then we have a woman lucky to survive an accident, a health update on Bo Didley, an update on Paris Hilton, an update on American Idol, a story about how CNN did not interview Paul Wolfowitz, one American politician calling another a 'Breck Girl', some kids who almost got hit by lightning, and last but not least, a story about how having women in bikinis can help sales. These are the top stories at 11pm pacific on May 16, 2007, according to CNN.

I'm not saying anything new here, or anything that you don't know already, assuming you aren't entirely clueless, of course. But sometimes even something you already know can become shocking again, simply through sheer magnitude.

Every now and then I take a step back and I wonder to what extent things have always been this way (generally speaking, not just the current disconnect between news and 'news' media) - it's hard to really get any perspective when you haven't lived through too many years. Is our society in decline the way it often appears to be or is that just a personal lens I see things through. After all, nothing is more cliché than the person who misses the good old days or says things aren't like they used to be. A topic for another day, perhaps.