Interesting stuff 2016-12-12

The interesting stuff just keeps pouring in (in part thanks to inputs from readers).

Ah, there’s nothing like some good, old-fashioned hypocrisy in politics when it comes to energy. As this article points out, we are eager to wean ourselves off of coal – at great cost, no less – but we are equally eager to make a boatload of money selling boatloads of the stuff to other countries.

While it’s true that if Canada stopped transporting coal, other nations such as Australia would step in to fill the gap, what moral high ground are we occupying with such a disjointed position?

If coal really is that bad (a disputable point) then we should neither use it nor sell it to others to use. Let’s be consistent, right?

Now that Trudeau is in power it seems people are more interested in working for the public sector.

Now Ottawa seems to be investing in its public service employees, and Trudeau’s big budget means greater job opportunities. So while some might attribute the reason for students’ renewed enthusiasm to a “sunny ways” Prime Minister, the spike in interest for public policy and administration programs isn’t always altruistic.

Shepherd credits the sputtering economy as a common thread he hears from students looking for public service work. “[Students] see government as being a relatively stable way to anchor themselves,” he says. “Back in the 1980s, that’s what I was thinking too. The economy sucked and I saw government as having a stable career.”

Given Notley’s refrain that the public sector will never have to deal with icky things like “cut backs” is it any wonder people might be drawn to stability?

But there is a problem.

As this study shows (see, in particular, table 4) there is a tendency of people working in the public sector to vote for left-leaning political parties. This shouldn’t come as any surprise, as left-leaning parties have rarely met a government they think is too big or inefficient, nor have they met a problem they don’t believe the government can solve. If you worked in the public sector would you be more inclined to vote for a party that promised to expand the role of government in society, or used the dreaded phrase “budget cuts?” Naturally, for those drawn to the public sector because of its stability, one would be more inclined to vote for a party that favours an ever-expanding government. Talk about job security!

And as the government expands, the number of voters who work for the government also expands. As the number of voters working for the government expands, the likelihood that the big-government-favouring party will win in the subsequent election also grows. With time, and subsequent elections, the big-government party becomes entrenched in a population that increasing works for the same government it elects.

Conflict of interest, anyone?

It’s a cycle, and the cycle inherently favours whichever party favours big governments with big budgets and a tendency to increase taxes instead of (plug your nose) “cutbacks” and “spending restraint.”

About that equality thing…

If a movie theatre were to refuse to screen a documentary about woman’s rights, do you suppose there would be an uproar in response? My guess is there would be. What’s wrong with that movie theatre? Don’t they understand the struggles of women?

So what if it refused to screen a documentary about men’s rights? Same uproar?

Well, that happened. And the documentary doesn’t appear to be the product of some extremist group either.

The Red Pill was made by Cassie Jaye, a self-described feminist and award-winning documentary filmmaker.

Yeah, ok, but anybody can describe themselves however they want to. It’s not as if you can expect me to believe somebody just because they “self identify” as feminist.

[Reference ongoing conversation about transgender population that “self identifies” as such-and-such and we are expected to believe them. But I digress.]

The Mayfair had agreed to rent out its space to the Canadian Association for Equality, a group committed to achieving not only gender equality but “equality for all Canadians, regardless of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, family status, race, ethnicity, creed, age or disability.”

Ok, that sounds pretty politically correct to me. When you visit their website it becomes clear that their concern is largely related to men. They report about violence against men, the elevated suicide rate among men, and other issues. Which, it seems to me, are fair game to discuss.

The article had a couple of golden quotes. This one from the theatre that refused to screen it.

“I’m not censoring anything. The movie still exists,” he said. “And it really isn’t about money.”

Can you imagine if the wedding cake makers who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay wedding used that line of reasoning? No, in today’s world there is no room for personally held convictions that do not tow the politically correct party line.

Unless, of course, political correctness does not extent to men’s rights, it would seem…

Trottier said the decision by the theatre and others to silence dialogue actually does more harm than good.

“It brings out the radical components within all social movements … when you silence debate you drive people towards that radical side of the spectrum.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? When will people learn that protests and censorship (even for the sake of “safe spaces” and what have you) only make things worse?

Marginalization is the first step to radicalization.

I’ve been concerned, as of late, with the level of hostility that seems to permeate so much of public discussion these days. At least, online and on tv. Here’s one writer who thinks we need to do things differently. His suggestion is that social activists should think more like venture capitalists. He argues,

…progressive social change is still possible if those who pursue it keep calm and embrace complexity.

I’m not a “progressive” (in case you didn’t already notice) so there are elements of this fellow’s politics I do not agree with, but there is much I find in common with him. For instance, he recommends that we all adopt the following mindset,

“I have to be sure of myself—in a conditional way, always being open to the possibility that I’m wrong.”

I couldn’t agree more.

So, about math, for a minute. Two news stories came up recently about math. First, from the lady in charge of revising Canada’s election system from the “first past the post” system we currently have,

Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef called the [Gallagher] index an “incomprehensible formula”

If you don’t know what the Gallagher index is, here’s a Wikipedia article about it. Is it “incomprehensible?” Hold on to that thought.

Second story,

The triennial Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015 report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) shows Canada’s education system consistently beats the competition in science, reading and on equity issues like gender balance. Compared to the United Kingdom and the United States, which came 15th and 25th overall respectively we’re doing particularly well. Canada was second in the world in reading, behind only Singapore, and our nation was 10th in math.

Compared to the rest of the world, we are going pretty well in math, it would seem. But the article raises concerns,

However, the PISA report, which this year focused primarily on science, again highlights the lack of progress in math scores in Canada, even if we still rank well overall. The 2012 report showed the performance of many countries, Canada among them, declining performance since 2006. While things haven’t gotten worse, and we still do well overall, math education experts say the report — based on the test scores of students who were 15 in 2015 — shows math remains a cause for concern.

So we may be holding our own relative to other countries, but that’s only because everybody is sliding downward together. That would be a problem, I agree. One expert comments,

“We have a very good tradition in North America of reading to our kids at home, but how many of us do math with our kids at home?” Ian VanderBurgh, director of the centre for education in mathematics and computing at the University of Waterloo, told the National Post in September. “There’s lots of math phobia out there and it’s very easy to pass it along to our kids.”

“Math phobia.”

Really. Now that’s an interesting concept. Do we see any examples of “math phobia” around us?

Why, yes, we do. The right honourable Maryam Monsef labeled a fairly simple math equation as “incomprehensible.” The equation is relatively straightforward (the previously linked Wikipedia article actually runs through some examples), and should be within the conceptual reach of just about any adult who went through public education.

Yes, even public education is of high enough quality to cover this material. This kind of math is not limited to those in private schools, or home schooled.

[I have to say that, we have so many teachers in our family.]

So when a minister of the government stands up in front of the entire country and declares that fairly straighforward math is “incomprehensible” then I would say that Canada does, in fact, have something of a “math phobia.” Whether individual citizens teach math at home or not, our government officials are apparently terrified of the stuff.

And somehow the government budgets rarely balance.


Carbon tax doesn’t work. Ask the Aussies.

“At least four party political leaders lost their job over the issue. It cost the Australian economy $8 billion a year for two years, it raised electricity prices by 25 per cent … and contributed to higher prices at the supermarket.”

Ultimately, Berg said, it was individual taxpayers and smaller businesses facing the trickle down effect of the carbon tax who shouldered the brunt of the financial burden, with little to no impact on global climate change.

I previously blogged about the problems faced by the mainstream media. I didn’t realize it was this bad. Apparently it is considered “legitimate journalism” to fly around in Google Earth flight simulator and record video of yourself doing so. And they didn’t even buzz the tower, which is always more exciting than flying up high where you will never crash into anything.

Man, I need a job as a journalist. I promise I would have made those videos WAY more interesting…

A friend of mine pointed me to this article: How conservatives out-intellectualized progressives. Interestingly, my friend definitely leans far further toward “progressive” than I do, so perhaps he’s reconsidering? The article begins,

Worthen writes as a liberal who admires the way the American right has built an infrastructure of programs and institutes where young conservatives receive instruction in the history of political philosophy from Aristotle and Xenophon on down to James Madison, Adam Smith, and beyond.

Then the author notes (my emphasis),

she writes, somewhat defensively, that liberals “can’t afford to dismiss Great Books as tools of white supremacy.” And why would they be tempted to do that? Because most so-called liberals today aren’t liberals at all. They’re progressives — and progressivism is an ideology that has little if any interest in learning from the greatest books, ideas, and thinkers of the past. And that’s because, as the name implies, progressivism is a theory of historical progress.

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “right side of history” then this brief summary of progressivism will sound familiar.

Ok, so why would a theory of historical progress not care about the past? I’m passionate about the future too, but I still try (not as much as I ought to) to learn from the past. In fact, wouldn’t those who are passionate about being on the “right side” of history want to actually know a little bit about the history of which they are, allegedly, on the “right side?”

The past, for a progressive, is something to be sloughed off, jettisoned, moved beyond, transcended. That doesn’t mean progressive-minded scholars don’t study the past. Many do. But when they do, it is often in a spirit of antiquarian curiosity about how the oppressor classes and benighted masses of past ages managed to defend the indefensible — the atavistic prejudices about race, gender, and other forms of identity that permeated the past and that “we” have now come to see as obviously, indisputably repulsive.

[My emphasis]

Well, that is interesting. And more than a little concerning. It is said that, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” But I do not expect most progressives to be familiar with this quote because, not surprisingly, it was uttered by some old dead guy, from history.

The author ends on a hopeful note,

Liberal Bill Galston has recently gotten together with conservative Bill Kristol to encourage precisely this kind of rethinking and defense of liberal premises in the face of the populist challenge. Even more promising might be the efforts of classical liberal political theorist Jacob Levy and liberaltarian author Will Wilkinson, who will be pursuing their own similar projects through the libertarian Niskanen Center.

What I find most hopeful about that is the fact that these projects are taking place between people with differing perspectives. A liberal and a conservative are working together. A liberal is working with a libertarian center. It would almost seem as though they are talking to each other. Perhaps even finding common ground.

There is hope!