Interesting stuff – summer 2016

Here are a few things I found interesting recently.

The four tenors changed the words to “O Canada” and received massive negative pushback for doing so. Ok, so it was really just one of the guys who was pushing a specific political agenda when he unilaterally changed the words in a very public manner. A representative of the Canadian government stated, “Mr. Pereira’s change to the national anthem to further his political views is inappropriate and disrespectful,” because, “The national anthem is a treasured Canadian symbol.”

Funny thing, though, when parliament did almost exactly the same thing – also for unquestionably politically motivated reasons – hardly anybody expressed concern. The difference, I suppose, is that parliament was endorsing politically correct views, unlike the “lone wolf” tenor.

A recent poll on Canadian perspectives on social issues reveals that Canadians are generally a pretty progressive lot. This should hardly surprise anybody.

However, because of this, many pundits are advising leaders of conservative parties (both federally and provincially) to steer clear of social issues. After all, one could not realistically expect to win an election by supporting minority groups.

Except, wait, isn’t that an entirely Canadian thing to do? Minority ethnic groups are often front and center. Minority sexual preferences too. Just about every minority group, it would seem, but social conservatives.

This advice, if followed, would undermine the essence of a healthy democracy. In a healthy democracy all views should have their voice in government, even minorities. Even social conservatives.

Unfortunately, our “conservative” parties are taking this advice to heart and are starting to look less and less conservative. Without a strong voice, ready to articulate and defend our minority perspective, we are likely to continue to be drowned out by the “new tolerance” of the majority left.

The debate on raising the minimum wage rolls on, especially in Alberta. Here’s an interesting piece by somebody who benefited from a low minimum wage, and here’s another piece explaining some of the same problems I outlined in For the Love of Alberta.

I was intrigued by this defense of raising the minimum wage for a couple of reasons. First, it was exceptional in its lack of supporting evidence or clear reasoning. He certainly was not opposed to throwing around numbers and statistics, but there was no clear explanation as to how any of those numbers supported his thesis, or the means by which increasing the minimum wage would actually correct these “injustices.” He just kept repeating that increasing the minimum wage would make things better.

Even more intriguing was the answer to the question, “who is this guy, anyway?” At the end of the article it says, “Joel French is executive director of Public Interest Alberta.” Sounds impressive, but who are they? Public Interest Alberta is an organization with a really long list of directors, and a really short list of staff. There are only two people on staff; Joel and his office administrator. Makes you wonder why they need so many directors for, essentially, one guy on staff.

Ok, so the organization is really about Joel. Fair enough; so tell me about this Joel guy. According to the info at the previous link he has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Religious Studies and Middle Eastern and African Studies. It would seem he graduated some time in the last 5 years or so, and immediately dove into politics. So, minimal “work experience” and his degree isn’t exactly in the field of economics.

For an article so lacking in clear reasoning and evidence, one would be inclined to fall back on “trust me” based on the author’s credentials. But, with all due respect to Mr. French, even those seem to be somewhat lacking for this particular discussion. So without decent credentials or a compelling case, I’m not persuaded.

Maclean’s reports some great news: Canadian mothers are able to spend more time with their kids because they don’t have to go to work to make ends meet for the family. Oh, but wait, the article presents that as a bad thing. It would seem we should all be working, to increase the “labour supply,” and those who aren’t working need to be given the means and motivation to do so.

Spending more time with your kids during their formative years, and less time at work (something even I, as a man, have chosen to do) is apparently a bad thing.

What’s interesting is that the study looks at all kinds of factors that might influence the decision. Education, income, cost of day care are all considered, but what is not considered is the very simple question of whether women (and men for that matter, like myself) would rather be with their kids than be in the office. Whether family is more important than career advancement, fatter paychecks and more of the fancy toys.

Speaking of family, here’s an interesting ditty from a couple of philosophers. Intact nuclear families (i.e. biological parents, married, raising their biological kids) represent an “unfair advantage.” Huh?

Plenty of sociological research over the past few decades has consistently shown that the nuclear family is far and away the best arrangement for the long-term health and welfare of children. A very brief internet search popped up this quick summary of some of the data as it relates to divorce (just one of the alternatives). Here’s another one. Children raised in any other arrangement – single parents, common-law, step-families, you name it – are statistically more likely to face various challenges during their childhood and into adult.

This, it is claimed, represents an inequality. And we simply cannot have inequality. Not in our progressive era. Those two enlightened philosophers suggest that we ought to essentially tie one hand behind the backs of parents in nuclear families. Deliberately disable them. Get rid of summer camp. Bedtime stories should be frowned upon. No more inheritance. The list goes on.

I wonder if they would agree that having properly functioning legs represents an “unfair advantage” over people with disabilities. Perhaps we should all start moving around in wheelchairs?

Non-smokers enjoy various “unfair” health benefits over those who are addicted; perhaps smoking should be forced upon every adult?

The quote near the end of the article says it best,

But what really comes to mind for me is C. S. Lewis’ famous epilogue to “The Screwtape Letters,” entitled, “Screwtape Proposes a Toast.” In it, the retired tempter tells graduates of a demonic college to teach humans that good habits—the kind that improve society (kind of like the family does)—are “undemocratic.” Instead of nurturing and encouraging virtues like morality and academic excellence, he says, humans should be trained to resent and destroy them.

We have learned well.

Just how serious are we about heeding the conclusions of scientists? When scientists declare that global warming is “proved,” we all parrot their conclusions, obediently.

But when scientists declare that many GMOs are safe – possibly even highly beneficial – well, it would seem some of those overactive parrots from before become inexplicably unlikely to continue parroting those same sacrosanct scientists as they were before.

It’s a strange love-hate thing we have going on with science, isn’t it? The article at the link is even more impassioned and pointed than my brief summary.

So, about that whole “Stephen Harper was anti-science…” thing. Yeah, maybe not so much.

An economics guy looks at the appropriate price for carbon, if it is to be taxed. He estimates that the appropriate price is in the range of $0/tonne. He is clear, though, that his calculation is not precise, but, “the optimal carbon price would likely be so low as to be not even worth pursuing.”

Part of his rationale is the, “ongoing uncertainties in the climate science.”

Gee, that’s putting it mildly.