Interesting stuff – 2016-12-05

Stuff I found interesting recently.

The Alberta government’s spending is out of control. That statement invites reflection, and this article raises two interesting points. First, the observation that Alberta’s spending is out of control is not merely opinion, but rooted in a comparison between Alberta’s situation and the situation in Texas. Texas is also quite reliant on energy, so it has also been impacted by the downturn, but unlike Alberta, Texas is apparently not in something approaching a financial crisis.

Second, Notley is not primarily to blame. Interesting. The article places the blame at the feet of the previous conservative government – post Ralph Klein – that spent like drunken sailors when it could have been prudently saving. The NDP just took a bad situation and, being “progressive,” accelerated the “progress” in that same bad direction.

Interesting read.

Andrew Coyne suggests the immigration might be beneficial to Canada. He lists a number of reasons which could be sources of excellent conversation, but there’s one reason in particular I’d like to focus on.

Countries with larger populations enable people to live larger lives. They open possibilities to talented, ambitious people that are not possible elsewhere — and talented, ambitious people will always seek them out.

Talent and ambition; people with those characteristics will be drawn to Canada.

And so will the Syrians. And refugees from countless other war zones. Not everybody arrives in our nation because they are attracted to Canada, in particular, but because remaining where they are seems impossible.

Now suppose all the refugees are talented and ambitious. For the sake of argument I’m willing to entertain the idea that they all are. In fact, let’s add educated to the mix as well. And experienced; they come with padded resumes. These are the leaders, the thinkers, the best and brightest.

Which leads me to ask, “so who did they leave behind?” If all the best and the brightest have left Syria, then those who are left behind are poor, uneducated, lacking talent and ambition, and leaderless. Is this good for Syria? It seems self-evidently obvious that it is not.

So when Canada goes out of its way to scoop up all the cream-of-the-crop from other parts of the world, is it not obvious that we have contributed to the destabilization of that part of the world? When we let the leaders from war torn nations settle down in Canada, are we not making the situation “back home” even worse than it was when the leaders left?

I’m not opposed to immigration at all. Yes, there are benefits to Canada. I just want to make sure that Canada is not benefiting from immigration at the expense of those nations from which the immigrants came. We get ahead by making other nations suffer?

That would be rather unCanadian, in my estimation.

Here’s some motivation for men to help with the chores, if they want to keep their wives around.

We seem to have a problem with truth these days. As I blogged earlier, the past election showed that the facts have taken a back seat to a good story (thanks to the social justice movement). How bad is it?

Well, Facebook has a fake news problem.

[As an interesting aside, the article claims, “in reading and sharing all those fake news stories about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Facebook’s users believed they were gaining information about their world,” and “All they got was false information that confirmed their worst assumptions about their fellow citizens and distorted their view of the world.” But on what grounds can they confidently assert that those who read those stories actually believed them? Obviously some did, but enough to sway an election? I’m skeptical. Moving on…]

As this article on the Facebook fake news problem describes, the problem with truth isn’t limited to Facebook,

Traditional mainstream media proved to be unreliable in its interpretation of polling data, and the desire for ratings and readers led to an abundance of uncritical reporting on Trump.

The desire for more readers leads to shoddy journalism; sound familiar?

But the problem with fake news is limited to social media, right? Wrong. Here’s a scary news story; New owner of two Canadian medical journals is publishing fake research for cash, and pretending it’s genuine. Yes, you read that right; even medical journals can churn out utter garbage. How bad is it?

But now the company has published an unintelligible and heavily plagiarized piece of writing submitted by Postmedia News to test its quality control.

OMICS claims this paper passed peer review, and presents useful insights in philosophy, when clearly it is entirely fake.

So the fake news problem extends well into the domain of science as well. Though, obviously, this does not mean that all scientific publications are suspect. There are still plenty of excellent resources out there that actually do conduct peer review.

But then we need to ask about the peers. What if some of them are a little nutty, like the scientist who was accused of “crying wolf” (a phrase that is growing increasingly common, it seems to me) about climate change? If those scientist peers have a particular ideological axe to grind, then the articles they peer review could likely be tainted by that ideology.

Am I blowing this possibility out of proportion? A group of sociologists (none of which are conservative) bemoan the fact that the social sciences lack politically conservative voices because the entire field is so obviously left-leaning. Their paper covers a variety of subjects including,

This lack of political diversity can undermine the validity of social psychological science via mechanisms such as the embedding of liberal values into research questions and methods, steering researchers away from important but politically unpalatable research topics, and producing conclusions that mischaracterize liberals and conservatives alike.

The current situation “undermine[s] the validity” of those fields, and is likely to produce conclusions that “mischaracterize” people. In short, there’s something of a truth problem within these scientific fields, and it’s not due to poor publishing standards of the occasional nut job. It is systemic.

Truth, it would seem, has seen better days…

In the discussion of climate change it’s important to consider all the data, even the data that suggests some measures of the earth’s health are actually improving. Like the ozone layer.

Is it just me, or was the “ozone layer” the central feature of every environmental discussion back in the 1980’s – maybe also into the 1990’s – but after that it just disappeared from the discussion? I don’t hear a lot of people talking about it anymore.

After her infamous crossing of the floor from PC to NDP, Sandra Jansen shared some of the vitriol that had been leveled at her online. It’s the usual hateful diatribes you can find in just about all social media, YouTube comments, and just about anywhere that people “interact” without actually being in the physical presence of whoever they are attacking.

You won’t find me supporting this kind of hate-fest – online or in person – but I dare say this is being blown a little out of proportion. She actually got extra security detail, I read, because of the death threats.

The problem with social media is the fact that people take it seriously. When people attack like that through Twitter, Facebook and countless other online modes of communication, I thought it was kind of obvious that they were just attention-seeking losers without any hint of civility. Disgruntled teenagers who finally got permission to use the internet without parental supervision, or grumpy old guys who finally figured out what this “internet” thing is all about.

Jansen’s advice? “Please oppose it. Don’t ignore it. Don’t look the other way.” With all due respect, I beg to differ. This is exactly the type of behavior that should be ignored. Giving it attention – wow, these hecklers were even quoted in the legislature! – only exacerbates the problem. It enables the hatred because now their audience just increased exponentially. All they had was a keyboard, and Jansen just gave them a megaphone.

No, my view is somewhat comparable to Morgan Freeman’s views on racism; stop talking about it.

So there’s an association between trying to live the “high life” of a sexual playboy, and mental health issues. Do the mental health issues drive people to live like Hugh Hefner, or does living like Hugh Hefner lend itself to mental health issues?

I’ll leave that for you to contemplate, but this meta-analysis concludes that the correlation is strong.

I’ve heard people walk away from religion because they have been sexually abused, or they know people who have been. I get it. Although I was never sexually abused, if I had been, and if it had been at the hands of somebody who was supposed to be a spiritual leader, I’m pretty sure I’d have second thoughts about ever darkening the door of any religious institution.

So what about the military? It would seem it has something of a sexual abuse problem of its own.

Yet I suspect most of us would see inherent value in having a military. It’s kind of important because there are a lot of whackos out there that might try to invade if we didn’t have any way of protecting ourselves.

Perhaps part of the reason people walk away from the church is not merely because they were hurt, but because they cannot actually imagine what value religion brings to their lives, or society as a whole. We can see the value of the military, so we try to fix the problem instead of “walking away.” We cannot see the value of religion so we just walk away instead of trying to fix the problem.

Yes, the Western Church has some work to do in terms of the public perception.