Friday, August 20, 2010

Heading West

And by west I mean Winnipeg.

Today was my last day of work at the market research firm where I've been for the past 3 years. It was a halfday of wonderfully enjoyable inbox and desk cleaning. Then it was off to the Sir John A pub (Hooley's was closed) for a Hoegaarden and some fish and chips.

There's nothing quite as refreshing as voluntarily leaving a job. I now have a week in Winnipeg to relax. I've never been, but I doubt I'll be disappointed. It'll be a week of cottages and golf leading up to a friend's wedding next Friday. I come back to Ottawa Sunday and then it's a month of "reading" and "research" until I board a plane for London, England to join all the radical socialists at The London School of Economics. Life's good just now.

So silence from me for the next week. Anyone reading this should also consider a break from the intertubes to enjoy the rest of this wonderful summer in Northland. See you in a few!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Next Level: Harper Takes on the CRTC

All I can do is echo impolitical's thoughts on the matter.

You can't put too fine a point on it. If Martin's reporting is correct, the Prime Minister is looking to establish a must-carry network dedicated to the Conservative Party of Canada. I'm at a loss. "Disturbing" doesn't begin to describe it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What Keynesians Would Say

I just saw this tweet from Andrew Coyne from two days ago. It links to a post from Cafe Hayek holding up the robustness of the German economy as proof that austerity pays off and all you dirty commies don't know what you're talking about.

My response is that Keynesians would first point out that the German and American economies are incredibly different. They would then point out that the Germans suffered nowhere near as badly as the Americans did in the recent recession. Finally, they would point to Ireland and just as arrogantly ask "What say you libertarians?"

That's what Keynesians would say. This type of absurd argument is common place, indeed it's the basis for just about all economic arguments. I remember reading a Krugman post a few weeks ago lamenting the current ideological warfare in economics. It is pretty disturbing. There is no more, or at least very little, truth seeking in modern economics, just a constant tug of war between saltwater and freshwater schools.

National Post vs. Sun Meida

Chris Selley calls out Sun Meida on yesterday's nutty "Lock n' Load" story.

But I don't want to focus on teh crazy from Sun Meida. In fact I've decided to stop linking to their articles, no matter how insane. Instead, I was wondering whether there's any significance to the National Post calling out Kory's lemonade stand.

Could it be possible that Canada is heading for a split in the Conservative 'movement' along the lines of what we've seen in the United States? There's an, uh, interesting comment from MIKEMURPHY in the National Post link there, where he suggests Sun Meida may "take over the NP's place as a real Conservative voice". That's the kind of stuff we're used to from the American Tea Baggers. It puts the National Post in a bizarre situation. Do they hope the non-crazy element of the right in Canada is big enough to keep them afloat, or do they take part in a race to the bottom?

Entirely possible that I'm reading way too much into one man's opinion, but I do see a bit of a divergence since the census story broke.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Experts!

It's been amazing watching anti-intellectualism come to the fore in the CPC since the census story broke. Some of the comment boards at my regular haunts have me sitting slack-jawed at my desk. The theme continues today in the G&M. That's right, in order to get to the bottom of this issue the CPC is going to call Mike from Canmore to testify about the census. I hope to God Public Works is installing a gong in the chamber. What a joke.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Night Beer: Ontario Beer Revolution

I'll be meeting up with some friends visiting from the Yukon tonight and I'll be drinking my go-to: Flying Monkey's Hoptical Illusion of Barrie.

No review this week, but this is a fun read from Steve Beauchesne of Beau's Brewery east of Ottawa. A what-if Ontarians started drinking good local beer scenario using some simple economic calculations. Worth a read. Consider spending that extra 40 cents a beer, or $3 a six pack this weekend on something local.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mario Laguë

This morning I walked by a traffic accident on my way to work. I, like my neighbours, stopped a second to see what happened. It was a particularly bad one, as motorcycle accidents so often are. I noted the black SUV that seemed a rather odd addition to the group of responders on site. Thought nothing more of it and went on my way, making a mental note to call my girlfriend to see if she saw it. I had forgotten all about it by the time I got to my desk. I was going to say it's strange how these brushes with events leave you more touched when the headline hits, but it's not strange at all.

From all the accounts I've seen, Mr. Laguë was a good man, well-liked in this town. It's a shame that this is the closest I know that I have ever come to him. Thoughts and prayers with his family.

CP Blames Statcan for Bad CP Reporting

If one thing has been made clear during this whole census kerfuffle, it's that journalists aren't that great with numbers. Not to say that this wasn't clear already, but watching them report on something as number and method heavy as statistics gathering just puts a giant exclamation point on the fact. This story adds another exclamation point, followed, perhaps, by a "WTF?".

The headline suggests that Statcan is just rotten at its job. The first half of the article suggests that economists throughout the land are exasperated by Statcan's economic reporting. The damned bureaucrats don't know what the hell they're doing. Presumably, and I may have my partisan goggles on here, the author would like the reader to think that the government is right to give the agency a quick kick in the arse... even if the kick is poorly aimed and the government ends up on its behind.

Then you get halfway down and find out that actually it isn't really an issue. Real economists take individual job surveys "with a grain of salt" and pay attention to wider trends from multiple sources. This is followed by this hilarious line:

"That is what private sector economists also advise, but the caution often gets lost in the headlines about jobs created and lost."

And then it all becomes clear. It isn't that Statcan is doing a poor job. It's that the media doesn't know what they're doing and that an issue that isn't particularly new is now big news because of another completely unrelated story.

I get off my bus at Tunney's Pasture every day and walk past Statcan's office on my way home. Lately, if you listen very carefully, you can hear the cries of pain as mild-mannered statisticians pull their hair out.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Language Question No Longer Intrusive

Funny how this works. So the long form census is scrapped because it's intrusive. This included questions on language skills and the language most often spoken at home. Suddenly though, word comes down from on high that no, those questions in particular are not intrusive and shall be added to the totally not intrusive short form census.

Now if CPC supporters were at all honest in their position on this issue, they would be quite outraged at this Big Brother-esque move by the government. HOWEVER, it really is a victory for liberty and freedom because the government will put forward legislation to decriminalize the regular census. So really, asking those questions about language is not a big deal anymore because the non-threat of jail is gone. The other questions on the long form though? Still totally intrusive, jail or no jail.

The knots these folks are tying themselves in would make even the most badge-winningest boyscout run for the hills. I notice that in the general discussion of the issue on the web, most intelligent Conservatives have climbed off the ledge and are now settling for "Maybe it's not the bestest policy move ever, but it's not that serious. Can we talk about something else?" So the only people left on the government side of this issue are the raving lunatics, week old talking points firmly in hand.

Friday, August 6, 2010

PM sticks head out of hole, sees media, six more weeks of census talk

Read Taber's description of Harper's first "scrum" after his self-imposed exile from the planet (by the way, does anyone remember the furor over Ignatieff's apparent disappearance awhile back? And he wasn't even the guy supposedly running the place!). Now go check out Paul Wells' tweets starting at about 10AM, culminating in this.

EDITED TO ADD: Also, tangentially related, a new meme was born this day. Sun Meida is on the rise!

Future of the CPC

Must read columns from both Wells and Hébert this week. I lean towards Hébert's take on the summer's events, but maybe that's just wishful thinking.

I think the key thing to take away from all this is that discontent within the CPC is Harper's biggest threat. Yes, he has a firm base of true believers that the Liberals don't. Yes, the CPC goes into an election in an incredibly strong position, from an organizational and financial perspective. No, the Liberals have not done themselves many favours lately. Yes, Harper could probably govern forever from a minority position with no opposition. Yet it's not really all up to Harper. The Conservative Party wants a majority government. While the PM seems like he would be perfectly happy to nibble away at the edges of Canada's institutions forever, the rank-and-file are looking for a wrecking ball.

I think when Harper went for the census, it marked a point where he said "screw it" to a majority. I can't really blame him. Despite the accepted narrative that the LPC is dead in the water, and Harper is always just one election away from destroying them, the CPC still can't get above that 40% mark for long. His complete refusal to wade into a debate over the issue, despite the cries from both sides of the political spectrum, just reinforced that view for me. Hébert is absolutely right on when she says the census was essentially this year's equivalent if the culture cuts, but in Ontario instead of Quebec. I can't believe that Harper expected to fly the census change in under the radar. He had to know that there would be more than a few people on Bay Street, Elgin Street, and quadrangles around the country that would speak up.

Add to this the sudden reappearance of Maxime Bernier on the scene, shooting for the hearts of the grassroots crazies of the CPC, and I just can't buy the master plan angle of Wells. To me, it adds up to trouble ahead within the ranks, or a Harper that's sick of the job.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Survey Says: Not Very Much! Part II

I love looking at the way polls are reported on. I work in a sector of market research where I'm lucky in that I rarely do the marketing stuff. I can't remember the last time I had to write a torqued headline for a dull press release. It's nice because I can get up on my high horse when the media puts out truly craptacular stories like this one from, you guessed it, QMI:

QMI poll: Half would tell truth on census

Oh my! Well that's disturbing, isn't it? Maybe I, and so many others, have been wrong in our assumption that Canadians, by and large, reply to census questions truthfully. Could it be true that 1 out of every 2 of those people walking by outside, 50% of the folks reading this post, have a deep-seated hatred of Statistics Canada and go out of their way to lie on the census? Um, no.

Read a bit farther (and I'm curious about how many in QMI's audience do) and you'll see that the headline is extraordinarily misleading. First, the question wasn't "Would you tell the truth on the census?", it was:

"If the mandatory Canadian census form contained questions that you considered to be very personal and embarrassing, what would you be most likely to do?"

So right off the bat, we see the question is garbage. However, even with the silly question, the results are not as simple as QMI let on in their headline:

54% said they would tell the truth
24% said they would leave embarrassing questions blank
5% said they would lie
15% said they didn't know

So even if the question is very personal and embarrassingy , like "boxers or briefs?" or "honestly, do you read the Sun?", only 5% of survey respondents said they would lie. Just think, you're going to be able to get this kind of top notch story on TV soon!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Only Politics Article You'll Ever Have to Read

'What if political scientists covered the news' from Slate.

"Prospects for an energy bill, meanwhile, are looking grim, since Obama has spent all his political capital. He used to have a lot. Now it's gone. Why winning legislative battles builds momentum but saps political capital, I have no idea. Just go with it."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Real Prisons for Imaginary Criminals

Okay, so let's give Minister Day the benefit of the doubt on unreported crimes. Let's go with this idea that Canadians are just tired of reporting things like, uh, murder.

Now how does it follow that the solution to this problem is more prisons? How do you put someone who has committed an unreported crime behind bars?

Or, a better question, are these seriously the guys running the country?