c9: (Explosion)
In The Atlantic, "a libertarian economist retracts a swipe at the left—after discovering that our political leanings leave us more biased than we think." -- http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/12/i-was-wrong-and-so-are-you/8713/

BACK IN JUNE 2010, I published a Wall Street Journal op-ed arguing that the American left was unenlightened, by and large, as to economic matters. Responding to a set of survey questions that tested people’s real-world understanding of basic economic principles, self-identified progressives and liberals did much worse than conservatives and libertarians, I reported. To sharpen the ax, The Journal titled the piece “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?”—the implication being that people on the left were not.

Turns out, they were wrong. confirmation bias made them believe something that made sense.

But one year later, in May 2011, Buturovic and I published a new scholarly article reporting on a new survey. It turned out that I needed to retract the conclusions I’d trumpeted in The Wall Street Journal. The new results invalidated our original result: under the right circumstances, conservatives and libertarians were as likely as anyone on the left to give wrong answers to economic questions. The proper inference from our work is not that one group is more enlightened, or less. It’s that “myside bias”—the tendency to judge a statement according to how conveniently it fits with one’s settled position—is pervasive among all of America’s political groups. The bias is seen in the data, and in my actions.

I tweeted:
  • You're more likely to disagree with facts that don't match your political leanings. We all do it. See how you react to these examples: (1/6)
  • Minimum wage laws increase unemployment. Rent control leads to housing shortages. Restricting housing develpmt make housing less affordable.
  • Drug prohibition does reduce access to drugs. A $ means more to poor than rich person. Abortion prhbtion would up # of illegal abortions.
  • Which tweet contains an error? (and I don't mean spelling. Sorry about the compression of some words).
  • Surprise: all tweets in this sequence are true. There's no error. But your political leanings might have led you to find one anyway.
  • Check out this link to learn more: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/12/i-was-wrong-and-so-are-you/8713/ (6/6)
...as it turns out I edited too fast and did make a mistake, which is corrected above. I originally said drug prohibition doesn't reduce access to drugs. Oops!

Check out the article and rethink your assumptions!
c9: (Money)
In economics and politics, there's a school of thought that (simplified) says that if the government spends a big pile of money, it can help lessen the effects of a recession, and may in fact have a larger impact than some other options (like just cutting taxes). This theory has been around a long time, but I don't know it well, and I also don't know how true it is. See, some people think it's true, and others don't. Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keynesian_revolution

Needless to say, since it's in politics it makes everyone stupid and insane when discussing the topic. Fair warning for your future inquiries and research.

Former Ontario Premier Bob Rae tried to spend his way out of a recession in 1990, with what I understand to be poor results. (I was only 15 and didn't pay attention at the time). Prime Minister Stephen Harper spent a bundle after the 2008 recession hit -- the "Economic Action Plan" had signs up in every neighbourhood for two years -- and US President Barack Obama spent 3/4 of a trillion dollars (I think) in the US at the same time.

Currently, Canada (which started from a better place) has pretty good economic indicators and unemployment rates, and the US (which weathered most of the financial collapse that was a bit part of the recession) is in the doldrums. I've heard clear, cogent arguments that say it's all Obama's fault -- why didn't he just leave it alone, or cut taxes further, or use a magic wand or whatever -- and I've heard clear, cogent arguments that this would be worse if the spending hadn't happened, and that in fact the spending was too low. (Obama wanted higher spending originally, but apparently to appease the right wing in the US he included far more tax cuts and reduced spending than the left wing suggested was appropriate)

Anyway. All of that as background to say this: WTF? Is Keynesian economics a fraud (as I've heard) or useful (as I've heard and to be honest seems to make more sense to my non-economist brain so far) ?  Since anti-Keynesians often also claim tax cuts solve all problems (which I know to be false*), I've tended to put less stock in their opinions on this topic**.

Last night (after I went to bed, so this is my morning rant on it) Andrew Coyne of Maclean's Magazine linked to an article in the (known-to-be) right-wing op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal. It irked me because it made claims (and had a few "Obama is evil"-style claims with no supporting evidence. I thought I'd write up my concerns since Twitter isn't really built for complex concepts and debates. I tweeted:
  • @c_9: Frustrating piece: overly partisan, makes claims without evidence. 4 Reasons Keynesians Keep Getting It Wrong bit.ly/vP43eB
  • @c_9@acoyne can you recommend any less-partisan reading that shows evidence instead of just claiming things to be true? Both sides of Keynesian debate claim they are right in every paragraph - how does one learn the truth? Would love to learn some facts on this.
He replied:
  • @acoyne:  He's Allan Meltzer! He don't need no steenkin' evidence!
  • @acoyne:  It is a frustrating debate. I'll see if I I've saved any particularly compelling articles, but it's generally bits & pieces here &there
  • @acoyne:  Problem is the debate went dormant for about 20 years. Keynes was pretty thoroughly out of odour when I was in grad school...Then fin'l crisis hits, and suddenly everyone's a Keynesian, without a lot of thought, in my view.
  • @acoyne:  Rather, a mix of a) Keynesians seizing the moment, b) others shrugging "we have to try something, c) opponents grown rusty.
A few more helpful exchanges expanded my understanding a bit.
  • @c_9: Thanks for anything you find. I find your writing & Krugman's both compelling, hard to reconcile. Meltzer I found a partisan crank.
  • @c_9: I don't claim expertise at ALL in this, but isn't this something Krugman has spent career thinking about?
  • @acoyne: Not exactly: his Nobel was for trade theory. And lots of others, who've spent their lives thinking about it on opposite side... Including Nobel prize winners. Bob Barro, Tom Sargent, Bob Lucas, Tyler Cowen, Gary Becker, John Cochraine, John Taylor, etc etc
  • @jm_mcgrath: One note: Krugman came to his neo-Keynesianism *by way of* his work on trade, thanks to 97 Asian Crisis. Not mutually exclusive
  • @c_9: Thx for other names to watch for. Are they also tax-cuts-only? Using "Obamacare" & misleading about tax cuts disqualified AHM for me.
  • @acoyne: They'd be skeptical that deficits had any effect, more inclined to rely on monetary policy for stabiilzation. Actually Lucas is famously skeptical that even monetary stimulus has any effect: see "rational expectations," "Lucas critique" etc. Barro is probably the most cited economist alive. I mean in academic journals.
  • @phillipblancher: Unfortunately!
  • @MikePMoffatt: 2nd, after Andrei Shleifer. http://ideas.repec.org/top/top.person.nbcites.html
  • @c_9: My (again, limited) understanding is that monetary policy not good enough with rates already at 0 in US. What would they do now?
  • @acoyne: Monetary policy has many more tools than just interest rates: see "quantitative easing." Another thing forgotten in recent years.

Frustrating and confusing. If I find (or I am sent) any useful and non-partisan articles on this, I'll add them here.

Late addition thanks to @iglikalvanova:

* I say "know to be false" so I really should have evidence to support this. Here you go! http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1692027,00.html

** People whose opinions I discount in this area include Andrew Coyne, guest star of this post. He often takes potshots at Krugman but this was the first time I managed to find content in his complaints. On other topics I still find him very insightful and helpful to read.
c9: (Explosion)
I don't even know where to go with this:

Al-Qaida calls on Ahmadinejad to end 9/11 conspiracy theories

Al-Qaida has sent a message to the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asking him to stop spreading conspiracy theories about the 9/11 attacks.

Iranian media on Wednesday reported quotes from what appears to be an article published in the latest issue of the al-Qaida English language magazine, Inspire, which described Ahmadinejad's remarks over the 11 September attacks as "ridiculous".

In his UN general assembly speech last week, Ahmadinejad cast doubt over the official version of the 2001 attacks.

"The Iranian government has professed on the tongue of its president Ahmadinejad that it does not believe that al-Qaida was behind 9/11 but rather, the US government," the article said, according to Iranian media. "So we may ask the question: why would Iran ascribe to such a ridiculous belief that stands in the face of all logic and evidence?"


c9: (Star Trek)
So experiments at CERN appear to have shown subatomic particles traveling faster than the speed of light. This is exciting and annoying.

Exciting because it potentially blasts apart the theory of relativity and means a major rethink of physics is required -- this is a normal part of science and means we are getting better at knowing our universe. Don't panic.

CERN says a neutrino beam fired from a particle accelerator near Geneva to a lab 454 miles (730 kilometers) away in Italy traveled 60 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light. Scientists calculated the margin of error at just 10 nanoseconds, making the difference statistically significant. But given the enormity of the find, they still spent months checking and rechecking their results to make sure there was no flaws in the experiment.

The CERN researchers are now looking to the United States and Japan to confirm the results.
I've always found the speed-of-light barrier annoying. I understand the physics (short version: to go that fast you'd have to expend infinite energy) but I've always thought about it in the "just keep accelerating" way. They used to think the sound barrier was a big deal, and now you break that going to work. Not really.

One nice thing is that we already know the answer to all this. Since Arthur C Clarke is from the future, if faster-than-light travel were possible he'd have included it in his books. So no worries.
c9: (Default)
For months, a gay US soldier has been anonymously posting videos on YouTube talking about his life, the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, and the repeal of the policy on September 20th.

On the morning of the 20th, he posted a new video where he revealed his face and also came out to his father over the phone from his military base. God that was wrenching to watch.

This guy is willing to give his life for his country, but he was scared to death to tell his dad. Jesus.

Good work kid.

c9: (Default)
Oh yay, fall 2011's annoying cold is here! It's awesome.

(sound of nose blowing again)

I hate this. When we moved into the house 4.5 years ago I got sick all the time, but when we cleared out the mould that stopped and now I only get sick about twice a year. So I'm even more of a wimp about it.

In other news, I miss blogging. I need to find a way to get this page open in front of me more, because god knows I have a lot to say. Twitter is busy because it's open all day - just need some way to reduce that a smidgen and increase this a smidgen and maybe even do some real work too.

New job! Maybe I'll talk about the new job next time. Somebody remind me if I go quiet. :)

A Parable

Sep. 13th, 2011 04:25 pm
c9: (Toronto)
A parable, annoyingly told, in six Twitter-sized parts: 
(stitched together and formatted for readability here)

Imagine there was an important piece of information relevant to the election. You ran into a Starbucks, and told a couple people. Then they told a couple more. Pretty soon the whole coffee shop was discussing this information, which was important and certainly helped them decide how to vote. When the coffee shop closed, they all went home but never told anyone else that information, even though it was important news.

When election day came, everyone who was in the coffee shop was amazed that the other voters, a vast number, didn't know this information. The other voters voted based on what they heard on the news between feeding the kids and rushing to the hockey game. They googled nothing.

That coffee shop is Twitter.

Remember to talk when you're away from keyboards. Everybody on here is just a tiny fraction of everybody else.

c9: (Gay)
I volunteer with @WayvesMagazine, Atlantic Canada's LGBT news monthly. I get all email submissions we receive. We're on many mailing lists. Being a media outlet, Wayves ends up on anti-gay, right-wing, religious lists too. So some emails we get are a bit nuts. Case in point:

[rant about non-religious pundits complaining about overly-religious US politics these days, then] "merely a left-wing gaggle of tattooed, pierced pot-brownie pies in pyjamas, no different than 9/11-truthers, global-warmers or Holocaust-deniers."

No seriously, actual quote. See how many problems you can spot before your head explodes.
c9: (Tartan)

2011-10-17 Addition: Great Google Doc curated by @jkozuch can be found here with councillors, trustees, and more: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ai9CUethT7KjdEZWYlBRZ1puYmlHcG05bThuTDBEMVE&hl=en_US#gid=0

(originally posted at my old www.fordwatch.ca site (now defunct) but I wanted to save this for future reference)

Who can you find on Twitter? (updates welcome!) Last update to list below was 2013-06-14.

Mayor, Rob Ford: @TOMayorFord

1 Etobicoke North, Vincent Crisanti: @VCrisanti
2 Etobicoke North, Doug Ford: not found on Twitter.
3 Etobicoke Centre, Doug Holyday: not found on Twitter.
4 Etobicoke-Centre, Gloria Lindsay Luby: not found on Twitter.
5 Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Peter Milczyn: @PeterMilczyn
6 Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Mark Grimes: @Mark_Grimes
7 York West, Giorgio Mammoliti: not found on Twitter.
8 York West, Anthony Perruzza: @PerruzzaTO
9 York Centre, Maria Augimeri: @MariaAugimeri
10 York Centre, James Pasternak: @JamesPasternak
11 York South-Weston, Frances Nunziata: @Nunziata2010
12 York South-Weston, Frank Di Giorgio: not found on Twitter.
13 Parkdale-High Park, Sarah Doucette: @Doucetteward13
14 Parkdale-High Park, Gord Perks: @GordPerks
15 Eglinton-Lawrence, Josh Colle: @JoshColle
16 Eglinton-Lawrence, Karen Stintz: @KarenStintz
17 Davenport, Cesar Palacio: @CllrPalacio
18 Davenport, Ana Bailão: @Ward18AnaBailao
19 Trinity-Spadina, Mike Layton: @M_Layton
20 Trinity-Spadina, Adam Vaughan: not found on Twitter.
21 St. Paul’s, Joe Mihevc: @JoeMihevc
22 St. Paul’s, Josh Matlow: @JoshMatlow
23 Willowdale, John Filion: @JohnFilion23
24 Willowdale, David Shiner: not found on Twitter.
25 Don Valley West, Jaye Robinson: @JayeRobinson
26 Don Valley West, John Parker: @JohnParker26
27 Toronto Centre-Rosedale, Kristyn Wong-Tam: @KristynWongTam
28 Toronto Centre-Rosedale, Pam McConnell: not found on Twitter.
29 Toronto-Danforth, Mary Fragedakis: @MFragedakis
30 Toronto-Danforth, Paula Fletcher: @Paulafletcher30
31 Beaches-East York, Janet Davis: @Janet_Davis
32 Beaches-East York, Mary-Margaret McMahon: @mary_margaret32
33 Don Valley East, Shelley Carroll: @ShelleyCarroll
34 Don Valley East, Denzil Minnan-Wong: @DenzilMW
35 Scarborough Southwest, Michelle Berardinetti: @CouncillorMB
36 Scarborough Southwest, Gary Crawford: @CllrCrawford
37 Scarborough Centre, Michael Thompson: @ward37
38 Scarborough Centre, Glenn de Baeremaeker: not found on Twitter.
39 Scarborough-Agincourt, Mike Del Grande: @ward39
40 Scarborough Agincourt, Norm Kelly: @CouncillorKelly
41 Scarborough-Rouge River, Chin Lee: not found on Twitter.
42 Scarborough-Rouge River, Raymond Cho: @rcho42
43 Scarborough East, Paul Ainslie: @CllrAinslie
44 Scarborough East, Ron Moeser: not found on Twitter.

Bonus: Toronto City Clerk: @TorontoCouncil
c9: (Cam Laughing)
Why is U2 so popular?

Imagine you’re a middle-aged, upper-middle class male.You live in a large metropolitan area. You have a good job. Your wife does Pilates.  Your oldest just started Kindergarten. Yes, you’re an adult but you’re still cool! Your jeans cost $125. Sometimes you wear sneakers with a blazer!


On the way, you listen to the “early stuff”. Joshua Tree pumps through the speakers of your Lexus SUV (no judgement - you have two kids!). The harmonies soothe. The lyrics are straightforward. You recall a simpler time before car seats and prostate exams. The nostalgia is so thick you have to wipe it from your face. You haven’t looked at your phone in nearly 11 minutes.


And the kicker: not one but TWO encores, the ones you know best – the ones you first heard that summer you painted houses or kissed Katie at the beach party. You’re closing your eyes now. This is sad and sweet. You put your arm around your wife. You’re wondering if Katie ever got married. A third of the crowd departs after the first encore.  It’s no big deal – some of us have work in the morning!  Anyway, the traffic will be better if everyone doesn't leave at once.


(Disclaimer: I looooove U2. I am totally the target of this, and I own it!)
c9: (Gay)
"At the funeral, Naseer’s friends and family spoke of his troubled adolescence and privately, his girlfriend assured me that Naseer loved being gay. Whatever drove him to kill himself was deeper than Muslim homophobia.

But while I was assured that nothing I’d ever said could’ve harmed Naseer, I knew that nothing I’d ever said helped him either. Thinking of the timely phrase SILENCE = DEATH, I began to speak up. At a formal later that year, one of the guys told me how much he admired me for my bravery. I mumbled a thanks and shuffled away. Coming out wasn’t brave, it’s what I should’ve done much, much earlier. I began to talk about being gay and haven’t shut up since."

"At the end of the rainbow," by Scott Dagostino
c9: (Batman)
Wired senior editor Adam Rogers:

"I love Spider-Man like a brother, but do you really want to compare win-loss records? Batman recovered from having his spine snapped, defeated Darkseid, and managed to return to the present from the beginning of time. Spider-Man finds Doctor Octopus challenging, and every time he gets sad he thinks about quitting. More than once he was nearly killed by his own costume. Batman always has a plan. Spider-Man can't even get to work on time."

(can't find this online, but it's the June 2011 issue)
c9: (Cam Laughing)
Montreal is a trading post where you exchange your hopes and dreams for a mansion that costs 25 cents a month. When you get there, angels gently unburden you of your ambitions and hand you a beer. If you want more beer, you can get it at the convenience store, which has a more festive name than “convenience store.” You can drink anywhere and any time you want, because you will never again have to be sober for anything.

Montreal actually has by-laws against working, so if you move there you have to hang out forever. And the people you’ll be hanging out with are friendly and enthusiastic because they live in mansions and never have to work. They’re also very good looking, and they have sex all the time. They would like to have sex with you, too.

c9: (Gay)

It's a graphic subject line, but suck it up: you probably have people and resources around you that many queer youth don't have.

I was raised Catholic, and attended Catholic schools in BC and Ontario from Kindergarten to Grade 13. I figured out that I'm gay partway through high school, came out to friends, then family, and honestly had a really easy time of it. I even took a boy to my prom. But I had friends who were kicked out of their homes by their parents - at age 14! - and never spoke to their families again. I had friends who attempted suicide, and a friend who succeeded at suicide.

Things were so easy for me (thanks Mom and Dad!) that I genuinely wanted to take on some of the pain and shit that my friends were going through just to help them get through it. When I watch the "It Gets Better" project videos I tear up over and over again thinking about how little care some of us have for one another. Studies are inconsistent on this point, but it's commonly stated that up to a third of teen suicides are due to fears over sexual orientation. I can't prove that from looking at the studies, but I can say this: I know people who have attempted and who have killed themselves, and that learning to love yourself including your sexual orientation and/or gender identity is not easy, and is very stressful. Kids need support from those around them.

But some of the people we trust with supporting our kids are Not. Doing. Their. Job.

In Ontario, Catholic schools are not allowed to have "gay-straight alliances", or GSAs, which is a student group where kids can get together and support each other without having to come out or say that they are gay - it's a place that's considered safe for all. Many many high schools across North America have GSAs, but even some of the largest high schools in Ontario can't, because the school board, or the bishops, or the Vatican, or somebody has said no. Repeatedly. Quietly. Loudly. In secret memos. Behind closed doors. Even when over 30 students at one high school in Mississauga want to form a GSA, they are told no.

Some students in Mississauga decided to form an unofficial support group - they meet in the mall, of all places, because the school you and I pay for to support them and help them become responsible and intelligent adults isn't willing to host a group of students trying to help each other not fucking commit suicide.

These kids went ahead and helped each other anyway. They decided to have a bake sale to raise money to donate to a worthy cause. How about the LGBT Youth Line? They were told they couldn't donate the money to any gay, lesbian or trans organization. The school suggested a Catholic homeless shelter.

It gets worse: the kids wanted to advertise the bake sale, but they were told no signs with rainbows. "Rainbows are associated with Pride," was the school board's complaint. Let me say that again: the school board banned rainbows.

So what did the kids do? They iced the cupcakes in rainbow colours! Inventive, and hard (not impossible) for the school board to ban. The board still banned almost all the documents and materials brought to hand out, including one written by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation!

So what's next?  Well unless we can get the Ontario government to make changes and force the publicly-funded Catholic school boards to support GLBT youth equally, we're kinda sunk. The Catholic church is not exactly a fast mover on supporting those who are different, as you might already be aware. But these kids need our help. They need to know that they have support, even though the officials we trust to help raise our kids and teach them about the world are STILL pretending there's no such thing as gay.

So here's what I need you to do. It only takes a couple minutes, and unless you're in school and haven't finished your homework yet you've got the time.

1. Email Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, and tell him you think his government needs to fix this problem. Also tell him that it's not going to change the vast majority of votes this fall, and if his team loses government that these kids will be getting LESS support from Queen's Park. Sometimes it's OK for him to be Premier Dad and support ALL the kids. https://correspondence.premier.gov.on.ca/en/feedback/default.aspx

2. Email Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak and tell HIM about this problem. He doesn't know, and his advisers don't think it's important for him to even consider. But you know it is, and he needs to hear that. http://www.ontariopc.com/contact-us/

3. Help the GSA at St Joseph's raise money for some buttons! They're taking their fight out of the school to us during Pride, and you know how much people's attention depends on getting something for it. Let's give them buttons! Every dollar helps - please give! http://caseyoraa.chipin.com/catholic-students-for-gsas


* Links:

It Gets Better video from Pixar: watch until the very very end. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BeZiF_BJ3ss

Rainbows banned at Mississauga Catholic school: http://www.xtra.ca/public/Toronto/Rainbows_banned_at_Mississauga_Catholic_school-10262.aspx

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