Thursday, April 30, 2009

Missing UWO student.

Just got this via email. Anyone in the London area, if you see or know anything, call police.
London police are seeking assistance from the public in locating a missing female student from The University of Western Ontario. Missing is Yunk Young (Susan) Kim, 20 years, five-foot-five, 130 lbs., long dark hair and brown eyes.

She was last seen wearing a purple hooded sweatshirt.

Police have been searching in the area of the main Western campus, including student residences and especially in the area of Bayfield Hall which is adjacent to Saugeen-Maitland Hall.

Police have expressed concern for her welfare and ask that anyone with information contact 911 or police headquarters at 519-661-5670.

Liberals: stop blaming the NDP for your problems.

This has been said many times before: Liberals got nothing for propping up the Conservatives. Nothing. No concessions. No progressive policies. Nada. The empty sausage.

The NDP have realized that the government can't be defeated as long as the Liberals keep voting to support them, a situation which doesn't seem to be changing any time soon. For the slow amongst you: that means it's your fault that Harper is still Prime Minister. So, what are the NDP to do? The only thing an opposition party can do in a minority parliament: the NDP are trying to apply pressure to the Conservatives to get something useful accomplished. As of yet, the NDP have not done anything to "prop up" the Conservatives -- and may never do so.

Some arithmetic, just for fun. Cons+BQ = majority. Cons+NDP = majority. Cons+Liberals = majority. The NDP and BQ are power brokers in this Parliament, just as the Liberals are. The votes of any of the other three parties would be sufficient to keep the Cons alive. Right now, the Cons have no incentive to deal with the NDP or the BQ, as the Liberals are helping them stay afloat. If the Liberals were to change their minds, though, I'm sure Harper wants to have a backup plan. Smart money would be that we'll see the BQ/Con alliance return, as the BQ's support is not that hard to get. However, the NDP might have an ace in the hole in the form of an informal BQ/NDP alliance, which would get some genuinely progressive policies passed.

Now, there are enough votes between the NDP and the BQ that this could have been a Liberal government. The Liberals have decided to sit this Parliament out, and so it's up to the NDP and/or the BQ to get the Conservatives to do some serious work for Canadians. That's the reality of the situation that the Liberals created when they walked away from the coalition accord. Again, keep in mind: it's your fault that Stephen Harper is still Prime Minister. Trying to blame Jack Layton for your own errors makes your party look ridiculous.

Given that the Liberals aren't polling anywhere near majority territory, I wouldn't be too quick if I were a Liberal to cast aspersions on the NDP and BQ supporting a government in exchange for getting policies they find valuable. After all, it's entirely possible that after another election, the NDP and BQ will decide that Harper as PM is more likely to pass the legislation that they want, and leave Ignatieff out in the cold.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

What Robert said

What Robert said.

Canadian politics seems to be entering one of those regular periods of utter triviality. As if on cue, the vast Liberal unwashed are just bugging the hell out of me with their focus on random (and generally dishonest and/or hypocritical) nonsense.

That said, there is still sanity in Liberal-land: John Laforet, for example, has this nice piece in defense of Ray Lam.

(Late) Friday metal-blogging.

So late it's technically Saturday....

Scar Symmetry, "The Illusionist"

Friday, April 24, 2009

In which I defend Michael Ignatieff.

But just this once.

Over here, we see an article on polling which suggests that, except for Quebec, Canadian voters are less likely to vote Liberal because of Iggy's speculation about tax hikes. Iggy, for once, needs to not wimp out. Canadians have been treated like children for far too long. We can't have a decent, well-functioning society without a sensible tax regime. Decades of right-wing slash-and-burn budgeting will eventually come home to roost and, when it does, we will need to raise taxes or dump huge swathes of public service onto the private sector (with all its attendant disasters). Canadians need to get this, and if Ignatieff is the one who has to do the spadework, so be it.

(Of course, I am slightly biased, in that if Iggy manages to make the idea palatable but the Liberals take the hit on election day, then that would seem to benefit the NDP.)

Daily Twitter

  • 11:50 Everything that exists is a pattern. Does that mean that patterns are all that exist? #
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  • 13:26 The Pirate Bay verdict would be easier to take seriously if the trial had been remotely fair: bit.ly/IOEj0 #
  • 18:36 Tiny portions of food in Japan. You know you want to click. tinyurl.com/cggcqy #
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Another philosophy program under threat.

Subject: Centre for Lifelong Learning Axes its Entire Humanities Provision

Massive Cuts threatened at the Cardiff Centre for Lifelong Learning

Embargo: 21st April 2009

Cardiff University has announced a proposal to close most of the subject areas in one of its oldest and most respected departments only months after publishing a book detailing its history and extolling its virtues. Marian Williams’s A History of Lifelong Learning at Cardiff University, details the 125 year history of the University’s provision of part-time classes throughout south-east Wales as part of a commitment that dates back to the original Royal Charter that established the University.

Cardiff Centre for Lifelong Learning provides the opportunity for students of all ages and backgrounds to access Higher Education irrespective of background and previous qualifications. The Centre currently runs hundreds of evening and weekend classes in a wide variety of subjects in Cardiff and across the whole SE Wales Region; from Brecon in the North to Porthcawl in the West as far as Caldicot and Monmouth in the East. Many of its students have gone on the take higher degrees and to develop successful careers as scientists, historians, writers, etc.

If the proposal is implemented then this will radically reduce the Centre, scrapping its entire Humanities provision, including literature, history and archaeology, music, creative writing, philosophy, art history, religion, photography and Welsh. The closure of the Centre will leave a huge hole in educational provision for the region with hundreds of adult learners unable to complete their studies and to fulfil their full potential. Neither senior academic staff at the Centre nor representatives of the part-time tutor and student groups were consulted before the announcement of the proposal on Monday 20th April.

The proposal places a question over the commitment of Cardiff University towards community engagement and indeed the value of the humanities more broadly. Essentially the provision is being devastated on the basis of economic projections and not on the viability of the current provision. This decision comes at a time when Lifelong Learning provision across the HE sector is being decimated across the UK by Universities looking to cut costs, flying in the face of Government commitments to provide opportunities for retraining during the deepest recession in decades.

Surprisingly, this proposal comes shortly after the University received a sum believed to be in excess of £2M from the Welsh Assembly Government to support part-time higher education as a result of the Graham Report. It also seems to fly in the face of the University’s declared commitment to community engagement evidenced, for example, by its support for the Beacon for Wales, the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement.

The proposal will undergo a three month consultation period. If it is accepted it will result in redundancies, fewer opportunities for specialist tutors and a substantial reduction of opportunities for adult learners including the retired, the unemployed and members of disadvantaged groups who have benefitted from the Centre’s classes for many years.

Full-time and part-time staff and students at the Centre were said to be shocked and extremely angry at the proposal and the lack of consultation so far in the process.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Save Humanities and Welsh Meeting: Monday 27 April

There will be a meeting on Monday 27 April at 5.30 – 6.30pm in room M1.02. The purpose is to discuss the situation at Lifelong Learning and map out a plan of action. It’s open to anyone who is concerned by the proposal to cut all Humanities and Welsh teaching from the programme. Please come and show your support. There will be opportunities for people to become more actively involved.

BBC Good Morning Wales
BBC Radio Wales is doing a feature on the proposed axing of Humanities and Welsh tomorrow morning (Friday 24 April). It’s on the Good Morning Wales programme, and will probably be broadcast sometime between 7.30 and 9am.

There will be interviews with staff, tutors and students. Our veteran student, Eileen Younghusband has given an interview. In her ninth decade, Eileen is the personification of Lifelong Learning. Her face will be familiar, as she has photographed in the “Choices” brochure and other publicity material for Lifelong Learning.

The Good Morning Wales webpage is here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/radiowales/sites/goodmorningwales/ where you can listen to the programme live online, or catch it later.

Press Release
We’re attaching a press release. Do feel free to circulate it.

Things you can do to help!
1. Come to our meeting on Monday.
2. Write to the Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff University.
3. Write to Jane Hutt.

Write to the Vice-Chancellor!
If the proposed cuts affect you, then tell the university authorities. If you want to start at the top then write to the V-C. Dr. David Grant’s email address is V-C@Cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone 02920 874835

Dr. David Grant,
Vice-Chancellor,
Cardiff University
Main Building
Park Place
Cardiff
CF10 3AT

Write to Jane Hutt!
Jane Hutt AM is the Welsh Assembly Government Minister for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills.

Contact Jane Hutt by email at: Correspondence.Jane.Hutt@wales.gsi.gov.uk or write to

Jane Hutt AM
Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning
Welsh Assembly Government
5th Floor
Ty Hywel
Cardiff Bay
CF99 1NA

Feel free to circulate this email to anyone who may be interested.

Dr David Wyatt
Co-ordinating Lecturer for History & Archaeology
Cardiff University Centre for Lifelong Learning
Senghennydd Road
Cardiff CF24 4AG

t. 029 20875397
e. WyattD1@Cardiff.ac.uk
w. http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/learn/history
http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/learn/archaeology

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Daily Twitter

  • 18:53 Corporate branding of public schools? SERIOUSLY? tinyurl.com/dmp7gg #
  • 18:54 Harper gave the west millions of dollars of our money. And now Ontario is screwed, he's nowhere to be found. tinyurl.com/ccjl7s #
  • 20:46 University of Louisiana at Lafayette discontinues philosophy. tinyurl.com/d8xm6z #
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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Daily Twitter

  • 09:55 BLOG: tinyurl.com/ccue3m #
  • 12:46 Reading Ross.... #
  • 13:03 Hate taxes? Hate government? Well, here's a vacation spot: tinyurl.com/dmc6kk #
  • 13:25 Saved by the Bell started 20 years ago. #
  • 14:57 I think this is the most frightening piece of legislation I've seen: tinyurl.com/d8gns5 #
  • 17:31 Okay, fine. Not really reading Ross. Was thinking about it, but didn't get to it. #
  • 22:04 BLOG: tinyurl.com/dc8nqh #
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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Yesterday...

...I noted this, finishing with:
FWIW, I fully realize that not all Liberals are as unprincipled and irrational as BigCityLib, Steve V, and the usual rabble.
Given the continuing self-congratulation of Liberal commentators, I may have to revise that opinion.

Here's a challenge for you Liberals: why, in your minds, is there no difference between voting to support the Harper government when an alternative was available, and trying to cut deals with the Harper government when no alternative is available? 'Cause I can spot at least two obvious differences -- and that's without really trying.

I don't seriously expect replies, by the way. It's starting to seem that if Liberals were honest, both with themselves and with others, they'd be either Conservatives or New Democrats.

Daily Twitter

  • 13:02 Aaand... I'm done with digg. The dogmatic libertarian streak has gotten on my last nerve. #
  • 13:10 Apparently, Reaper is dead and gone. Nuts. #
  • 13:15 It seems that it's okay if you're a (BC) Liberal: tinyurl.com/cy3p2z #
  • 16:27 Interesting post on what needs to be done to improve Canada's communications infrastructure: tinyurl.com/ccxjlt #
  • 16:44 Why I will never run for office, reason #158349: if you slightly mess up, your party leader won't help. tinyurl.com/dfn9r6 #
  • 18:47 Wonderful. Chrysler took out more expensive private loans because they didn't want to cut executive pay. tinyurl.com/cvkwzc #
  • 20:15 BLOG: tinyurl.com/dfp35w #
  • 21:16 Ah, Liberals. Always good for a laugh. If not for them, I'd be constantly raging at the Conservatives. #
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Philosophy major at University of Louisiana at Lafayette being eliminated.

Late last week (which was also our Spring break), we learned that our Board of Regents is considering terminating the Philosophy major, here at The University of Louisiana at Lafayette. A Committee of the Regents meet at 1pm on Wednesday this week (the 22nd) and the immediate termination of the Philosophy program is on the agenda. They propose making philosophy a mere service program.

The reason this action is being considered is because of the small number of philosophy majors graduating from our program. This was an issue several years ago, has been addressed and our numbers are now steadily rising. Indeed, a few years ago a similar threat to the program arose, but was not acted upon, because the Board of Regents deemed a Philosophy program to be essential for a Doctoral II University. Now, it appears that they have changed their minds.

The Board of Regents Committee Agenda for their meeting can be found at http://www.regents.state.la.us/Board/Agenda/2009/04/aacomm.htm The staff comments can be found under Item III “Staff Recommendations Relative to the Review of Select Low-Completer Programs”; the Philosophy program is discussed on p. 71, (p. 93 of the .pdf).

The current situation is troubling for a number of reasons. First, the Regents staff report that,

"...one cannot help but recognize that Philosophy as an essential undergraduate program has lost some credence among students. This is reflected in decreasing numbers not only in this program, but others across the country.” (p. 72/ p. 95 of the .pdf).

Unfortunately, the claims here do not accord with the evidence. To cite a single example, *The New York Times*, a year ago ran an article describing the recent increases in philosophy enrollments (see http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/06/education/06philosophy.html?_r=2&scp=1&sq=Philosophy&st=nyt&oref=slogin). It is also strange how the Regents staff have some kind of 'privileged access' to “credence among students”.

A second puzzling feature about this decision is that it cannot be motivated by cost factors. Our philosophy program is one of the most efficient programs on our campus and the potential savings are, at most, a few thousand dollars.

The final reason that this proposed termination of our Philosophy major is worrisome, is due to the fact that it throws some uncertainty into the future of the PHILOSOP mailing list. If they succeed in downgrading our program, then the activities that will continue to be supported are unclear. It is perhaps a strange irony that the two Philosophy programs in the world which host major mailing lists, with PHILOSOP here, and PHILOS-L at Liverpool, should both come under attack within a month or so of each other.

We are fortunate that our university administration appears to be supportive of the Philosophy program. The Regents are the ultimate authority, though. For these reasons then, may I politely suggest that the Board of Regents be made aware that their assessment of philosophy, as a declining academic discipline, is incorrect. Any other related thoughts might also be useful. Probably the best method of doing this is to send messages to Dr. Sally Clausen, who is the Commissioner of Higher Education. Her e-mail address is sclausen@uls.state.la.us. The last time they tried to take away our major, we were able to generate a petition with over 1,500 signatures from people around the State of Louisiana. This time we do not have the time to organize such an effort. So, support from philosophers around the world would be very much appreciated. However, as the time is short, please act as soon as you can.

Istvan Berkeley.

Istvan S. N. Berkeley Ph.D
Philosophy and Cognitive Science E-mail: istvan@louisiana.edu
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette
P.O. Box 43770 Tel: +1 337 482-6807
Lafayette, LA 70504-3770 Fax: +1 337 482-5002
USA http://www.ucs.louisiana.edu/~isb9112

Monday, April 20, 2009

Dear Liberals...

...your ability to grasp at straws and ignore your own hypocrisy never ceases to amuse. Enjoy your coalition. What exactly did you get out of it, again?

FWIW, I fully realize that not all Liberals are as unprincipled and irrational as BigCityLib, Steve V, and the usual rabble. But I continue to suspect a significant majority are -- hence why I really can't take the party seriously. For the serious few who actually have principles and can think their way through an argument, note that the NDP are doing what they always have done (and what the Liberals -- indeed, all parties -- should do). They are setting priorities and working seriously to attain what they consider most important and most achievable. The idea that this is worthy of criticism is frankly juvenile, and exposes a serious problem with Canadian politics.

Daily Twitter

  • 18:00 Well this is freaking depressing. tinyurl.com/c9s552 #
  • 18:01 Can we put some teeth in international law yet? tinyurl.com/dy9nbk #
  • 21:35 If you're going to make a new Bob & Doug McKenzie cartoon, would it be too difficult to make it... y'know... good? #
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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Am I back?

Got flagged as a spam blog a few days ago, somehow. Just checking to see if all is working as it should be.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday metal-blogging.

I did not forget. Sentenced, "Killing Me, Killing You"

Daily Twitter

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DeSmogBlog still biased. (And water still wet.)

Elevating out of the comments, though, we can see why here. Short answer: the guy who runs DeSmogBlog is a BC Liberal supporter and his firm has received contracts from the government.

Keep that in mind when you read the latest disingenuous screed. They're wrong on the merits, and dishonest to boot. I'm done with them; and you should be, too.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Something you won't read on DeSmogBlog.

(Given that DeSmogBlog has clearly thrown its support behind the BC Liberals, come what may.)

Still, we can rely on the good folks at the Progressive Economics Forum to give a more even-handed analysis. Full thing is here, but here's a highlight:
In the big picture, BC emissions in 2006 were a total of 1.5 Mt higher than in 2001, an increase of 2.5%. That means other sectors of the economy stayed flat or even decreased their emissions slightly, while fossil fuel emissions surged. So yes, the carbon tax is nice and deserves applause, alongside other good initiatives. But the notion that the BC government is green is a large stretch, and new emissions from planned expansion will dwarf any beneficial impacts of the carbon tax.

Daily Twitter

  • 10:12 Happy Wednesday, world. #
  • 13:47 Signs: another terrible movie. I have a -lot- of terrible movies. #
  • 14:34 About Schmidt: much better. I really don't care for voiceover as a technique, though. Seems lazy. #
  • 15:21 BLOG: tinyurl.com/d2bkdq #
  • 18:16 The more things change.... tinyurl.com/ccnr83 #
  • 19:23 Great. Ontarians: avoid all propane sites unless you're damn sure they're safe. tinyurl.com/ckcrom #
  • 19:40 Apparently, there is no low Republicans won't sink to. Why can't they just lose? tinyurl.com/c2sfhb #
  • 19:54 Good movies never have commercials with release dates displayed as a chyron. On an unrelated note, Beyonce apparently has a movie. #
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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The dishonesty continues at DeSmogBlog.

This time, Richard Littlemore gets in on the act. Littlemore reproduces, verbatim, the BC Liberals' account of the "Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Cap and Trade) Act", and quotes a David Suzuki Foundation representative. Nowhere do we see any discussion of why the BC NDP voted against the act; instead it is asserted that they opportunistically opposed the act in order to put the same ideas forward during their election campaign.

Upon reading the Hansard link that Littlemore provides, what does Shane Simpson (BC NDP MLA) say in defense of the NDP position?
... But, at this point, they're moving ahead with bringing this bill forward, and they're going to pass this bill through without dealing with the issues and the concerns raised by the Information and Privacy Commissioner. ...

It is that cap-and-trade, a system that is important and is going to hopefully be a critical piece of our strategy related to climate change, that is uncertain in terms of its framework and uncertain in terms of what it actually means. All of the substantive questions will be answered within regulation, not within the bill itself and not open to legislative scrutiny or oversight. That's a big concern.

We have this situation around the blank cheque to cabinet. As I pointed out earlier, there are four or five critical questions around a cap-and-trade system. I'm hoping that when we get to committee stage and start to delve into some of these discussions, the minister might have an answer or two — we'll see — around the questions related to auction versus allocation, the issue around thresholds and scope, the parameters related to offsets, the monitoring in regulatory issues and the questions of penalties. ...
And those are just a few of the problems with the bill that Simpson outlines.

In other words, rather than -- as Littlemore characterizes it -- the BC NDP opposing cap-and-trade and then supporting it, the BC NDP opposed a particular bill because of problems with that bill. And said explicitly they thought cap-and-trade was important. But you wouldn't know that from anything he said.

For reference, honest commentary looks something like this.

Evaluation procedures.

I've been thinking about different ways to approach evaluation of students. Here's what I know about and have tried. If there's any suggestions y'all might have in blog-land -- either things you've tried or things you've experienced as a student -- I'd appreciate the suggestions. Generally, I'm looking for things appropriate to a humanities course (but could be more formal, as in logic or critical thinking), that will cut down on the need to check for plagiarism/cheating, and will fairly assess what students know without stressing them out unduly or killing me with grading. (I'm willing to do more marking than I am, but there needs to be a tangible benefit to either the quality of the assessment, or to the students' learning.)

(1) standard test/quiz/exam

We all know how this one works. Student sits down in front of a question paper and answers questions. I've tried open-book versions, notes-based versions (students can bring in some notes, not a full book), and closed-book. I think the median is the best in terms of reducing student stress and accurately measuring what they actually know. It's not effective for all courses, though, particularly critical reasoning and formal logic.

(2) in-class essay

Basically a variant on the above, except the question(s) is/are entirely essay-based. Generally, I like this one, except for the fact that it makes the students do a lot of writing. It also ends up being less coherent than a take-home essay.

(3) take-home essay

This brings in the problem of cheating. Any time they do anything without me looking over their shoulder, someone will cheat. And catching that is very taxing and time-consuming. However, they do have time to think about what they're trying to say, and that results in better work.

(4) essay in stages (proposal, draft, etc.)

Cuts down on the cheating problem. It's hard to cheat when I can see the work progressing. However, it's not practical for large groups (30+), as it becomes too much marking. Given that they don't actually look at what I say on the proposals or earlier drafts, that is. I'd do the marking if I thought it was generally helping. Not sure how to correct that problem.

(5) problem sets/critical comments

Problem sets are appropriate for critical thinking or logic. Not for anything else. The gist is simple: they are assigned questions which they complete at home, then bring in for grading. The completion rate is terrible, but I think I can improve it by increasing the cost of failing to do them (i.e., increasing how much each is worth).

Critical comments, like the problem sets, are small evaluations done regularly in order to assess understanding of material. It applies to courses other than critical thinking and logic. The idea is that students will do the reading and then write a very short response or question about the reading, which is brought to class. Again, response rate is terrible, but this could probably be improved by increasing the cost of not completing it.

One thing I haven't done that I would, if the class were small enough (so, probably 20 or less) is an in-person interview. The idea would be to give them something to read -- beforehand, in the case of something like intro or intro to ethics or some such; in the interview, in the case of critical thinking or logic -- and bring the students in individually to discuss it. In principle, I like it, as I think it would not be unduly stressful for the students, and it could save me the need to wade through limp and awkward prose. However, I can see this being a problem for students who don't like to talk, and I can see this taking a significant amount of time on my part. (Which I would be okay with if I were really convinced this was a potentially good idea.)

Thoughts, anyone?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

First I've heard of this.

Good thing? Bad thing? Freakish overreaction? I'm not sure what to think.

Daily Twitter

  • 09:10 Nice. tinyurl.com/cgvspl #
  • 15:53 Managed to get my paper down from 12,000 words to 5000 words. But it needs to be 3,500 or less. This may get painful. #
  • 17:14 I don't entirely follow why people object morally to US of Tara. Surely the better objection is aesthetic, vis-a-vis the uneven writing. #
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  • 19:13 Entertain me, internet. #
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  • 21:29 I'm finding it more plausible that this is a troll, possibly by weev (or he's meta-trolling). #amazonfail #
  • 21:30 It just doesn't have the same structural features as when Amazon dumped all the Cooper Lawrence one-star reviews. #amazonfail #
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It gets worse.

Kevin Grandia's bad enough. But MJ Murphy has gone... I don't know, what's further than off the deep end?

I can only surmise that Murphy is being deliberately dishonest. I can't imagine that he doesn't understand the BC Liberals are not affiliated with the federal Liberals (ideologically, they're closer to the Conservatives), and also doesn't understand that the BC NDP does have an environmental platform. (Whether it's effective is a separate question.) What I don't grasp is why he's doing it. More secret ties to the governing party?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Hrmph.

Disclaimer: I usually like DeSmogBlog. But Kevin Grandia has gone off the deep end in criticizing the BC NDP's environmental platform.

The BC NDP certainly aren't covering themselves in glory defending their environmental platform. But this sort of nonsense needs to stop.

Exhibit A:
It's insulting to an academic like Jacaard to be accused of dishonesty and being in collusion with government. What makes it even worse is that Simpson fails to mention that Jaccard has also been an advisor to previous NDP government's -- so much for his conspiracy theory.


Just because it's insulting doesn't mean it's not true (consider, for example, well-known academics Tom Flanagan and Michael Ignatieff). And, am I the only one who notes that these two sentences contradict each other? If it's insulting for an academic to be associated with government, then to associate him with the 90's NDP government is an insult.

What should have been said: Why did the NDP like Jaccard in the 90's if he's a critic of theirs? That's a reasonable point, which should have put the NDP on point to defend or retract their claim that Jaccard is being dishonest.

Exhibit B:
The election campaign here in BC hasn't even begun and the NDP are already spinning hard to put lipstick on their "axe the tax" pig.


I've read Jaccard's report, kindly posted at DeSmogBlog. Nowhere does he say that a carbon tax is better than cap-and-trade; in fact, he says at least once that the two policies can be equivalent. His objection is that the BC NDP plan exempts 65% of GHG emissions. Classing this as having anything to do with removing the carbon tax per se is nonsense. I don't even follow why Grandia is so high on a carbon tax anyway. Surely what he should be high on is reducing emissions; the method should be "whatever works".

(Incidentally, given that the BC Greens will not be forming government any time soon, the only reasons to complain about the BC NDP's platform are to try to get them to improve it and/or to ensure an NDP/Green coalition/consensus government. Defending the BC Liberals' platform against the NDP's is madness; the BC Liberals are a disastrously bad government, as I knew when I left BC in 2002.)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Carbon taxes and cap-and-trade.

I think Peter Kelly is right over here to be suspicious of the BC Liberals' carbon tax. It certainly makes sense to revisit the policy, particularly for the NDP, whose federal party platform includes a cap-and-trade policy, not a carbon tax. (Personally, I think we should use both tools. But a non-cynical cap-and-trade is better than a cynical carbon tax any day.)

But, that aside, here is an amazingly stupid argument against the BC NDP's plan. In essence, Mason argues that a carbon tax increases the cost of heavy polluting technologies, while cap-and-trade does not.

I know it's de rigeur in some leftie circles to be economically illiterate, but come on. Cap-and-trade with a hard cap increases the cost of pollution just as a carbon tax does. Those who need to buy allowances/credits/what have you will transfer the cost to consumers; those who sell allowances/credits/what have you can reduce their prices to consumers. Consumers, insofar as they are economically rational, will pursue the latter's products and avoid the former's. Hence, exceeding the hard cap imposes an economic cost just as a carbon tax would. Indeed, a cap-and-trade system includes a reward for those who can get their emissions below the cap, while a carbon tax hits everyone regardless of levels of use. Prices of products made using polluting technologies would all go up under a carbon tax -- hence why Dion's Green Shift had various targeted tax breaks, to try to make it revenue-neutral -- while prices of products made using excessively-polluting technologies would go up under a cap-and-trade scheme.

This is basic. While there may be reasons to prefer a carbon tax to cap-and-trade, that cap-and-trade doesn't increase the cost of pollution is not one of them. This is simply wrong.

Mason's blathering about the need for a North American cap-and-trade market is similarly wrong, but for the more obvious reason that, if this were a successful argument, it would hit back on a carbon tax just as well as cap-and-trade. This is a logical issue more than anything: it's a clear non sequitur.

(I think he may have a point about the lack of detail in the BC NDP's plan, but that argument is severely undeveloped.)

Naturopathy, quackery, and medicine.

Deriving from discussions here. Incidentally, the below applies, mutatis mutandis, to chiropratic, homeopathy and acupuncture.

(1) If you're going to say that naturopaths are experts, then they have to have some actual knowledge. So what is their knowledge? Grant that it's not the same as medicine. So what is it? What do they know? Naturopathy is quackery, based on the only criterion that matters: it doesn't work. Medicine works.

(2) This epistemic point has nothing to do with any ethical point. Medicine is not undermined epistemically because some of its practitioners have ethical problems. (That would be like saying nuclear physics is undermined because some nuclear physicists developed nuclear weapons.) This is also irrelevant to the point at hand. Any problems with the pharmaceutical industry and its connections to medicine suggests a need for better regulation, not giving quacks more power.

(3) The claim that medicine focuses on treatment rather than prevention is both wrong and confused.

Prevention and treatment aren't independent of each other. Indeed, from a certain perspective, they're the same thing. Treatment can prevent recurrence; prevention can pre-empt the need for treatment. So, if you like, the distinction is between ex post -- treatment -- and ex ante -- prevention. That's why the claim is confused.

I can't recall ever going to a physician where I wasn't instructed in methods of improving diet, exercise, etc. in order to prevent disease and disability. I've also worked for physicians who habitually move between immediate intervention to cure disease or treat disability, and anticipatory interventions to ensure disease and disability do not occur (or worsen). My experience didn't strike me as particularly uncommon, so I take it that it generalizes. That's why the claim is wrong.

(4) Any claim that naturopathy somehow prevents disease/disability and makes people healthier is just not true. Naturopathy just doesn't do that. Naturopathy doesn't do anything; it's never stood up to a scientific test to show it has any measureable, objective effect whatsoever.

(5) If people want to waste their time and money on nonsense, that's their business. But I don't see any reason for the government to encourage it. I also see good reason against it, insofar as it might lead to broadly damaging consequences. It's one thing to allow people to do stupid things that only harm themselves; it's quite another to allow them to do stupid things that might harm everyone. (Again, compare to the issue of people refusing vaccinations for their children; past a certain point, that choice puts everyone at risk.)

Let me see if I'm following.

According to the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, international obligations trump the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, so we don't have to bring a citizen home. So, by that argument, all Canadians have all the rights guaranteed under the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Including, say, Article 13.2: "Everyone has the right to leave any country, including their own, and return to their country". Correct? International obligations trump domestic ones? Isn't that the position?

(Of course it isn't; this is yet another bit of selectively rationalizing nonsense from the Conservatives. But it is so transparently selective that I'm unsure as to why they bothered.)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Daily Twitter

  • 00:43 I think I'm officially sick. #
  • 10:13 Time to finish the stupid reader -- photocopying day! #
  • 11:55 Republicans need new talking points. Only 53% of Americans prefer capitalism to socialism. tinyurl.com/czs5dd #
  • 18:08 -Still- working on this stupid reader! AGH! #
  • 20:41 Okay. Photocopying finally done. Now, to edit the images (minimally) and put together the sources list for the bookstore. #
  • 22:05 BLOG: tinyurl.com/cldn6e #
  • 00:07 Well -this- has been a -fascinating- day. #
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Friday, April 10, 2009

Well, here's a reason not to go back to BC.

They've licensed quackery. There's good reason to expand the abilities of nurses and even midwives (who, AFAIK, have some scientific basis for their interventions). But naturopaths? Utter nonsense.

To be fair, they have to get certified and all they can do is prescribe hormones, vitamins, minerals and amino acids (as well as, probably, some others kinds of regulated substances). So, no actual medicines as such. But given that naturopaths are trained in pseudoscience, I'm not hopeful about this power being used responsibly. We've already seen the after-effects of the spread of anti-vaccination woo -- reduction of herd immunity. What's going to happen when the naturopaths don't have to go through real doctors to dump chemicals into someone's body?

H/T Chrystal Ocean.

Easter weekend thrash metal-blogging.

Megadeth, "Peace Sells"


Sacred Reich, "The American Way"


And, unfortunately, all of Testament's classic stuff is copyrighted by Warner, and WMG are whiny bitches who don't want any of their stuff on YouTube. So, here's some newer Testament, "More Than Meets the Eye"

Daily Twitter

  • 03:05 This reader is taking far too much time. #
  • 13:45 Was ordinary language philosophy responsible for the conceit that philosophy can be done apart from science? #
  • 14:57 Finally, I have the readings I need for the reader. Now, I must photocopy them. *cries inconsolably* #
  • 19:32 Remind me not to complain about taking the bus in winter ever again. tinyurl.com/dl2v42 #
  • 19:48 Christopher Hitchens is damn good when he's sober. Blackwell doesn't realize how stupid he's being. tinyurl.com/cf2cd3 #
  • 20:21 Philosophers will find this interesting. It's a piece on John Rawls' religion: tinyurl.com/djtofm #
  • 22:28 The Sadly No! guys fixed that anti-gay marriage ad that's making the rounds. -Now- it makes sense. tinyurl.com/dhhxgq #
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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Daily Twitter

  • 12:49 Just found out that the GameBoy -- the original, that is -- is 20 years old. I'M OLD! #
  • 13:23 Interesting discussion of the recent SCC decision to allow the RCMP to unionize: http://tinyurl.com/cljln9 #
  • 15:30 Off to campus. Time to get books that I can pillage for this cursed reader. #
  • 17:31 Our ethics must be an ethic for people. Hence, we must start with how people are. #
  • 21:08 Watching The Goonies. I hate this movie. #
  • 21:45 I wonder if students would appreciate readers more if they realized the work that goes into making them. (Probably not.) #
  • 23:28 I find it hard to take libertarianism seriously. (I'm not alone -- many philosophers reject it.) But it's "inalienable". Not "unalienable". #
  • 23:31 Apparently, the AP is in a deathmatch with the RIAA for stupidest media company on the planet: http://twurl.nl/87vy44 #
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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Governor-General declares a republic is inevitable.

In Australia.

Toronto, ON - April 7, 2009 - Canadian republicans are applauding Friday's news from Australia that their Governor-General agrees with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd that Australia will become a republic.

When asked by a reporter from the national broadcaster ABC Radio about her views on a future republic, Governor-General Quentin Bryce said, "I think that that will happen in the future, yes."

Australia's representative of the Queen also remarked that the eventual removal of the colonial link to Britain was "part of the development of our democracy."

In Canada, despite public opinion polls rivaling Australia's in majority support for ending the monarchy, Bryce's candid comment contrasts sharply with public attitudes in Canadian government circles, where the issue, with the odd exception, is considered taboo.

The world is passing us by. The Commonwealth prime ministers of Australia, Barbados, Jamaica and New Zealand have all openly predicted the end of their countries' ties to the British monarchy. Now we also see a sitting governor general declaring the same.

Here in Canada, unless we start seeing more of our representatives’ reflecting the views of their constituents and, equally as important, stating their own true views about the future of the monarchy, we seem destined to share with tiny Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands, status as a last bastion of the British Empire.


Full release from Citizens for a Canadian Republic is here.

Well, this is a surprise.

From here.
York and CUPE 3903 reach tentative settlement for new collective agreement

York University and Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3903 reached a tentative settlement for a new collective agreement with the assistance of a mediator on Tuesday evening, April 7. The tentative settlement will be subject to a ratification vote, to be scheduled by CUPE 3903.
Apparently, no one saw this coming and no one in the membership is really sure what's in this deal.

Daily Twitter

  • 08:34 Heading to Ryerson this morning to meet regarding the course I'm teaching this spring. #
  • 11:35 Rethinking the outline of the course.... #
  • 11:40 Badass. The chair of Western's econ department quit as chair rather than make staff cuts. tinyurl.com/cgoctc #
  • 17:11 Having a hard time finding intro-level sources for the course reader. Dammit. #
  • 21:11 Playing Shadow of the Colossus #
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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Daily Twitter

  • 13:52 I actually have nothing of interest to say today. Shocking, I know. #
  • 14:25 I just looked out the window. There's snow on the ground. THERE'S SNOW ON THE GROUND. In APRIL. #
  • 18:24 This is a ridiculously slow day. #
  • 19:32 What exactly is the difference between the Canadian PM, a provincial premier, and a king? De facto, not de jure. #
  • 20:01 Paul Krugman is an evil man. He enjoys scaring me: tinyurl.com/dft6dt #
  • 21:31 Given: in the Aufbau, Carnap defines constructivism as creation from assumptions that are, because assumed, a priori. #
  • 21:32 Pragmatism would then take institutions and practices as unanalyzable -- neither a priori nor a posteriori. #
  • 21:32 Realism, finally, holds that morality (say) is either robustly a priori (rationalism) or a posteriori (naturalism). #
  • 21:41 Does pragmatism then revisit the notion of the given? Or are the institutions and practices left as unknowable? #
  • 21:49 Or does constructivism reintroduce the given as what is taken as given? #
  • 22:42 Even if morally right actions do not require a moral good, they may still require a practical good. #
  • 23:08 Apparently, first-year students in Ontario, per the opinion of profs, are unprepared for university. Also, water is wet. #
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Monday, April 06, 2009

Daily Twitter

  • 08:37 Bus station. Haven't been to one in years. Forgot that parolees take the bus home. #
  • 12:41 Last time I was in the Buffalo bus terminal, it was under renovation. The reno's done, but I don't see much difference. #
  • 13:32 There is nothing wrong with looking at the vast expanse of human achievement and saying: "a flaming skull would really make this." #
  • 14:34 Successfully across the border. No dogs, no search. Now for a scenic tour of southern Ontario before back to the big smoke. #
  • 14:58 We all live in worlds of our own creation. We can do so through passive acceptance or active choice. Which is better? #
  • 21:43 You don't have to like the facts. Bu tyou do have to face them. #
  • 21:43 CD review: Strapping Young Lad, "The New Black". Disappointing. I'd heard it was a grand return to form, but Dev just sounds tired. #
  • 21:45 CD review: Satyricon, "The Age of Nero". Frost is getting faster. Satyr is repeating himself, but rips off the great "Rebel Extravaganza" . #
  • 23:12 Canadian politics seems to be running par for the course -- about four years behind the US, give or take a year. I eagerly await our Obama. #
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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Credit where credit is due.

McGuinty finally got off his butt and provided some serious money for transit in and around Toronto. Good for him. It's still not enough, but it's a good start.