Crawl Across the Ocean

Saturday, September 29, 2007

This is Your Federal Conservative Party on Drugs

Protect nature? Nah, we'd rather spend millions and millions locking up potheads.

I was watching the new show 'Journeyman' the other day, and when the main character finds himself back in mid-80's San Francisco, one of the ways the set directors help let you know it's the 80's is with lots of Reaganesque 'War on Drugs' advertisements in the background. Apparently Harper & Co. must think that the War on Drugs was a big success (which may explain why they were so eager to sign up for the War in Iraq, they must have thought that it would work out just as well as the War on Drugs did - and I guess it has, in its own way)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Ugly Face of the Establishment

I have to say, arguing that voters in Ontario should reject MMP in the upcoming referendum because if they don't the scary brown people will take over, is a new low. Of course, since we're talking about Murray Campbell here, this is no surprise.

Warns Campbell: "Could Mr. McGuinty have resisted the pressure to adopt sharia law if he had needed an Islamist party to govern?"

Via John

Friday, September 21, 2007

Speaking of Being Better Informed...

If you want to be better informed about the situation in Iraq, read this excellent Maclean's cover story by Patrick Graham.

Via Robert.

The Dumbing Down of TD Housing Reports

Once upon a time, Carl Gomez worked for TD Economics, and they produced some of the best reports on the Canadian housing market. But then Carl left to work in the private sector, and now TD produces muddled analysis like this, where the primary argument seems to be that because the bubble hasn't burst yet, there is no bubble.

Read Mohican's post if you want the appropriate sarcastic commentary to accompany your reading of the recent TD report (although if you want to actually be informed, read the earlier one from Carl Gomez instead).

For Once, An Effective Self-Help Book

With the city employees still on strike here in Vancouver, the libraries have been closed for quite a while. And when I walk past the Denman branch, as I do fairly often, my eye is invariably caught by a book which is on one of the swivelling racks and is facing out towards the sidewalk. The part that catches my eye is the two word title which reads - in bold 50 point font - "Outing Yourself"

And I always wonder, is there even any print on the pages inside this book? Or is it simply enough to pick this book up and carry it around in public and consider it a job well done?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Good News for a change

Kung Fu Monkey has the details...

Alan Greenspan

Ian Welsh has his number.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Road to Safer Roads...

Fewer traffic signals, more Medal of Honour.


According to the Globe and Mail:

"Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory vowed yesterday to spend up to $1.3-billion to clean up Ontario coal-fired power plant"


"Then he would close the plants down, if possible by the same 2014 deadline that the Liberals have now targeted."

So he's going to spend $1.3 billion on the plants and then close them? wtf? I'm trying to find the words to express my mystification that someone would advocate this seriously rather than as a satire of stupid political promises, but words are failing me here.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Taking the Low Roads

Way back in this blog's salad days (when it was green in judgement and cold in blood), I took a 'what type of person are you' test which concluded that I was a 'mandarin' and that '[I] think many of the world's problems could be solved if people were more informed and more rational. [I] have no tolerance for sloppy or lazy thinking. It frustrates [me] when people who are ignorant or dishonest rise to positions of power.

Which brings me to two trivial yet irksome recent political events. The first is the unpleasantness in which our federal leaders all managed to combine pandering to the anit-muslim bigotry of Quebecers (there are 3 byelections coming up in Quebec on Monday) with a profoundly anti-democratic and undignified attack on a public servant who, to his great credit, held steadfast to both the law and common sense.

I am referring of course, to this story in which politicians expressed their outrage that Elections Canada would follow the law and allow people to vote without showing their face. The Globe and Mail held an online poll asking if voters not showing their face at the electoral station should be allowed to vote and those who responded were overwhelmingly opposed to the idea. Alas, they did not follow up with a poll the next day asking if Canadian soldiers serving overseas should be barred from voting (since they would have to vote by mail and not be showing their faces at any polling station).

Anyway, in the comments on the story at the Globe and Mail, a number of people argued that Elections Canada was in the wrong because even if the law said one thing it was clear (from the online poll) that popular sentiment said something else and popular sentiment should take precedence over the law.

OK, you might think, that's just the usual folks who have internet connections at their asylum and spend their days posting insane opinions in the globe comment sections. But what amazed me was to wake up the next day, expecting to hear politicians sheepishly retracting their outrage after having it pointed out to them that Elections Canada was just following the law, only to hear our elected MP's making effectively the same argument as the crazy Globe commenters, arguing that what they express now in a committee or what was mentioned in the debate on the law should take precedence over the law as it was written and passed.

All this 'controversy' over a handful of veiled women who have repeatedly indicated that they have no issue with removing their veil to vote and did not raise the issue in the first place. A shameful episode for all involved, with the exception of Elections Canada head Marc Mayrand who deserves great credit for standing his ground.

The second trivial point of contention is this article in the Globe on how B.C. premier Gordon Campbell has decided that urban voters deserve less representation than rural voters after all. B.C.'s electoral boundaries committee had recommended 5 new seats for urban areas and 3 fewer for rural areas, in order to restore the principle of all votes counting equally in the province (currently rural voters are significantly overrepresented). But now Campbell has changed the rules sothat while there will still be the 5 new urban seats that there will be 8 new urban seats, but the commission can't take away any seats so that the rural areas will still be overrepresented.

This is obviously a political decision as there were signs of outrage from the rural parts of the province that they would be forced to have the same level of representation as the people in the rest of the province.

Of course, Carole James, the leader of the opposition NDP, somehow manages to come out of this making Campbell seem like the rational actor.

First, here is what she says about the decision to not remove any rural seats,

"NDP Leader Carole James said it's about time the premier started paying attention to rural communities and the electoral boundaries process.

“We've been involved in the boundaries commission hearings since the beginning as New Democrats,” Ms. James said.

“Our MLAs have been out carrying the message that we shouldn't be losing rural representation. The premier and the MLAs in the Liberal party were nowhere to be found, so about time that they started paying attention.”"

Now, here is her reaction to Campbell's decision to still go ahead and add the 5 seats in the urban areas,
"She [James] said she's concerned about “how far the premier has gone in saying there'll be legislation to propose increasing the number of MLAs to 87.”

Ms. James said she hasn't heard the public calling out for more politicians."

One minute the NDP is out on the barricades helping out the rural folks who are desperate to have more representation.

The next she is dismissive of adding seats to urban areas because, "she hasn't heard the public calling out for more politicians"

It's enough to drive an old mandarin around the bend...

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Vancouver Notes

I was up at City Hall today, and it occurred to me that maybe the reason the municipal strike is still ongoing in the city while it has been settled in all the suburbs is because everyone involved is just so cranky due to the remarkable levels of noise, chaos and congestion surrounding city hall due to the Canada Line construction.

If everyone involved could just take a couple of weeks to go hang out in East Sooke and have a few barbecues, I'm sure the whole thing could be quickly resolved.

Meanwhile, I agree with Paul Wells that Canada could and should spend more on infrastructure, but this post was a pretty careless way to express that.

OK, yes, England finally finished building 109km of high speed track to link them to Paris, connecting two cities with a combined population of about 2/3 of Canada's. But I fail to see what that has to do with the roads being busy in Vancouver on the day after labour day. Trust me, the roads here are nothing compared to the roads in London or Paris. And Vancouver, the one place in Canada where commute times are dropping, with a multi-billion dollar transit expansion in progress, along with various hundreds of millions for a new bridge over the Fraser, twinning of an existing bridge (the Port Mann), new roads along the North and South of the river, and a widening / general improvement of the road North out of town, seems like a poor point of comparison for the argument. I mean, if the population of Vancouver was 8 million and it was one of the worlds financial capitals, and the population of Seattle was 8 million and it was one of the most famous, most visited cities in the world and the Americans had already built high speed track from Seattle to within 100 km of Vancouver, then maybe we could round up the cash to finish the route sometime in the next decade, but that's not quite the situation out here.

A high speed rail corridor from Toronto to Montreal certainly seems like a good plan, but beyond that I'm not sure I see too many places in Canada where it would be worth the cost.

As an aside, I had the football game on (Indy sure looks good early!) in the background and afterwards the local U.S. affiliate started up with their news before I bothered to change the channel, and their very first story was a report on the carnage in the local (Michigan) housing market. Things sure have changed down there in the last couple of years. Could never happen here, of course.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Apparently a) my life is boring...

...and b) that may be for the best.

Reasons and Rationalizations

Summer's over (not that it ever really happened in Vancouver), so time for a thought experiment. Say I put to you the following question:

Adults these days say that the younger generation lives in a world more technologically advanced and filled with material comforts than the world they grew up in. But their parents said just the same thing when today's adults were young.

Does this demonstrate:

a) That the world is constantly advancing technologically and providing more material comforts than before, so both generation were right to think that the next one along had it better than they did


b) That the world is not advancing technologically, it's just a natural human reaction to look back and say that you had it tougher than the previous generation.

Which seems more plausible, A or B?

Now, say I put a slightly different question:

Adults these days say that the young generation has looser morals and is more degenerate than they were when they grew up. But their parents said the same thing when they were young.

Does this demonstrate:

a) That our society has been degenerating and having looser morals for generations, so both generations were right to think that the next one along was less morally constrained than they were.


b) That society is not changing, it's just a natural human reaction to look back and say that things have gone downhill since the previous generation.

I guess my point is that I often see people argue B in the second case, even though they would never argue B in the first case. But what is the logical difference in the strength of the argument between the two cases - none that I can see. It makes me think that argument B is more of a rationalization than a reason for believing something, and that the real reason for belief is buried a little deeper.

When talking about abstract topics like politics where the reasons we have for believing things are not quite as clear as they are in daily life (e.g. why did you turn up the heat? I was cold.) I think we encounter these rationalizations posing as reasons a lot more than you might think (or more than I would have thought if you'd asked me back before I started blogging).

I see it all the time in arguments over electoral reform. Opponents to reform often trot out arguments which are easily disproven and shown to be nonsense (MMP will turn Canada into Italy!) but fighting these arguments and demonstrating their pointlessness does little or nothing to change the minds of opponents to reform. Because those arguments are just the public face hiding the real reasons beneath. Why the true reasons might be hidden likely varies from situation to situation.

While deliberate conscious deceit is a possibility (paid shills arguing against global warming or the harm cause by tobacco, for example), I suspect the majority of cases are less deliberate, with the people in question hiding their true reasons almost instinctively or unconsciously, perhaps because their reasoning is not suitable for a typical 'rational' blog post or column format (I personally believe that many opponents of electoral reform are simply afraid of changing the system at some gut level but don't feel this is a 'worthy' reason to put into an argument). Other times the true reasons are selfish and thus counter-productive to admit to (Liberals support the current electoral system because it gives them absolute power with 40% of the votes and marginalizes alternative parties).

It makes for a difficult proposition sometimes. It may be relatively pointless to respond to the publicly stated reasons (kind of like sending weapons inspectors to Iraq, I suppose) but it is a bit of a dodgy business to try and determine an author's true motives and respond to them when they haven't and won't admit that those are their real reasons, and you may indeed be incorrect in your guess as to what is animating their incorrect arguments.

Anyway, if this gets any more abstract, I'm going to start sounding like Michael Ignatieff, and that's never good, so I'll leave it at that.