A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘politics

[ISL] Peter Rukavina on the Rise of the Cyberneticists on Prince Edward Island

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Peter Rukavina has a thoughtful essay about interesting new trends in Prince Edward Island politics, drawing from Norbert Weiner and the Island’s own history..

It was impossible not to think of cybernetics while watching Premier Wade MacLauchlan’s address to senior provincial public servants yesterday, The Premier as Public Servant Leader.

In his address, MacLauchlan clearly demonstrates that he is, at heart, a cyberneticist – a “steersman,” if you will – and that he views his role as Premier to manage a complex system of people, resources, and motivations to, as he references several times, “move the trend lines” of prosperity, demographics, revenue, and expenses.

The Premier’s construction of “ten lenses” through which policy will be regarded – collegial, people, prosperity, engagement, ethical, strategic, rural, frugality, entrepreneurial, small is big – surely equips his office, and his government, with a set of tuned “organs” that Weiner describes:

Much of this book concerns the limits of communication within and among individuals. Man is immersed in a world which he perceives through his sense organs. Information that he receives is co-ordinated through his brain and nervous system until, after the proper process of storage, collation, and selection, it emerges through effector organs, generally his muscles. These in turn act on the external world, and also react on the central nervous system through receptor organs such as the end organs of kinaesthesia; and the information received by the kinaesthetic organs is combined with his already accumulated store of information to influence future action.

This approach to Prince Edward Island as a cybernetically-governable system is echoed when MacLauchlan discusses his “strategic lens”[.]

Written by Randy McDonald

March 5, 2015 at 11:32 pm

[DM] “The Tragedy of Canada’s Census”

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At Demography Matters, I linked to Aarian Marshall’s CityLab article examining the consequences and the causes of Canada’s census mayhem. Reducing the amount of hard data reduces the ability of governent to deal with issues. That might have been the whole point.

Rosana Pellizzari, the medical officer of health of Peterborough, Ontario, knows a thing or two about bad data. The public health office she oversees is charged with running policy-driven health programs and services for the mid-size city and county, population 123,000, which makes it the 33rd largest metro in Canada, if that country’s most recent census is to be believed.

Trouble is, she’s not sure it can be. In 2010, with little fanfare or preparation, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s conservative government decided that the next long-form census, completed in Canada every five years, would not be mandatory. As officials told the story, without citing any specific polls, the public had expressed concerns about their privacy when filling out the long-form census, as well as the threat of jail time should they decline to fill it out.

“We were all shocked,” says Marni Cappe, who in 2010 was the president of the Canadian Institute of Planners. “It sent a ripple through the community … They did it on a [June] afternoon when they thought, ‘Who would be paying attention?’”

So in 2011, Statistics Canada, the governmental body responsible for collecting and analyzing all of Canada’s statistics, sent out two versions of the census. The first, a mandatory short-form questionnaire, asked Canadians about their about age, sex, marital status, mother tongue, and the languages spoken at home. The second was the National Household Survey (NHS), a 40-page voluntary survey sent to 30 percent of Canadians. Munir Sheikh, then the head of Statistics Canada, resigned over the change in policy. “I want to take this opportunity to comment on a technical statistical issue which has become the subject of media discussion … the question of whether a voluntary survey can become a substitute for a mandatory census,” he wrote. “It can not.”

Today, four years after Canada’s first voluntary long-form census, and one year away from what looks to be its second, Rosana Pellizzari is still wondering how to deal with the dearth of data. Thirty-six percent of Peterborough residents sent the voluntary survey did not return it, which gave the metro the lowest NHS response rate of all Canadian cities.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 3, 2015 at 4:01 am

[LINK] Edwin Lyngar of Salon on the problems of libertarianism in Honduras

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Edwin Lyngar at Salon has written a widely-shared travelogue of how, in his view, his visit to Honduras where a libertarian city-state is set to be established demonstrates the terrible weaknesses of that ideology on the ground.

Is this fair? It could be argued that, given a predatory state, a libertarian hands-off policy might be better. (Might.)

People better than I have analyzed the specific political moves that have created this modern day libertarian dystopia. Mike LaSusa recently wrote a detailed analysis of such, laying out how the bad ideas of libertarian politics have been pursued as government policy.

In America, libertarian ideas are attractive to mostly young, white men with high ideals and no life experience that live off of the previous generation’s investments and sacrifice. I know this because as a young, white idiot, I subscribed to this system of discredited ideas: Selfishness is good, government is bad. Take what you want, when you want and however you can. Poor people deserve what they get, and the smartest, hardworking people always win. So get yours before someone else does. I read the books by Charles Murray and have an autographed copy of Ron Paul’s “The Revolution.” The thread that links all the disparate books and ideas is that they fail in practice. Eliminate all taxes, privatize everything, load a country up with guns and oppose all public expenditures, you end up with Honduras.

In Honduras, the police ride around in pickup trucks with machine guns, but they aren’t there to protect most people. They are scary to locals and travelers alike. For individual protection there’s an army of private, armed security guards who are found in front of not only banks, but also restaurants, ATM machines, grocery stores and at any building that holds anything of value whatsoever. Some guards have uniforms and long guns but just as many are dressed in street clothes with cheap pistols thrust into waistbands. The country has a handful of really rich people, a small group of middle-class, some security guards who seem to be getting by and a massive group of people who are starving to death and living in slums. You can see the evidence of previous decades of infrastructure investment in roads and bridges, but it’s all in slow-motion decay.

I took a van trip across the country, starting in Copan (where there are must-see Mayan ruins), across to the Caribbean Sea to a ferry that took my family to Roatan Island. The trip from Copan to the coast took a full six hours, and we had two flat tires. The word “treacherous” is inadequate—a better description is “post-apocalyptic.” We did not see one speed limit sign in hundreds of kilometers. Not one. People drive around each other on the right and left and in every manner possible. The road was clogged with horses, scooters and bicycles. People traveled in every conceivable manner along the crumbling arterial. Few cars have license plates, and one taxi driver told me that the private company responsible for making them went bankrupt. Instead of traffic stops, there are military check points every so often. The roads seemed more dangerous to me than the gang violence.

The greatest examples of libertarianism in action are the hundreds of men, women and children standing alongside the roads all over Honduras. The government won’t fix the roads, so these desperate entrepreneurs fill in potholes with shovels of dirt or debris. They then stand next to the filled-in pothole soliciting tips from grateful motorists. That is the wet dream of libertarian private sector innovation.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 2, 2015 at 10:13 pm

[LINK] “Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov shot dead in Moscow”

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The Guardian‘s Shaun Walker reports on the assassination of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov.

What will this mean?

Prominent Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov has been shot dead in Moscow. Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and a sharp critic of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, was reportedly shot four times in the chest by a killer in a passing car.

The killing took place in the very centre of Moscow late on Friday evening on a bridge near St Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin, two days before Nemtsov was due to lead a major opposition rally in Moscow.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the president would take the investigation into Nemtsov’s death under “personal control”, and that he believed the killing to be a provocation.

“Putin noted that this cruel killing has all the signs of a hit, and is a pure provocation,” said Peskov. He said Putin offered condolences to Nemtsov’s family.

Nemtsov, 55, was deputy prime minister during the 1990s in the government of Boris Yeltsin. He had written a number of reports in recent years linking Putin and his inner circle to corruption, and was one of the most well-known politicians among Russia’s small and beleaguered opposition.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 28, 2015 at 12:00 am

[ISL] “Wade MacLauchlan: P.E.I.’s optimist-in-chief”

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Aaron Wherry’s article in MacLean’s takes a closer look at Prince Edward Island’s new premier, Wade MacLauchlan.

Some years ago, Donald Savoie, the influential scholar of public administration, was playing golf with Wade MacLauchlan, then president of the University of Prince Edward Island. “I said, ‘Wade, you should go into politics. You could be premier of P.E.I. You’d be good at it,’ ” Savoie recalls. “He said, ‘Ah, no, no, that’s not for me, I’m at UPEI, I’ve got work to do there.’ ”

Yes, well, that was then. MacLauchlan, now 60, says he remained steadfast until last fall, when Robert Ghiz announced his intention to resign as premier and the P.E.I. Liberals found themselves in need of a new leader.

“In a very short period of time, I would say in the order of a week, there were many conversations, most of them not initiated by me, which started out with me saying that I thought I could contribute in other ways,” MacLauchlan says. “And then through a process that I can chronicle almost hour-by-hour, I moved toward the point of no return.”

And so now he is the 32nd premier of Prince Edward Island, not merely as an outsider to the practice of professional politics but as a particularly historic figure—becoming both the first openly gay man and the first member of the Order of Canada to become premier.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 26, 2015 at 11:14 pm

[BRIEF NOTE] On the undeniable eloquence and political chops of Kathleen Wynne

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Yesterday, Kathleen Wynne had a crowning moment of awesome as she defended her government’s proposed new sex education curriculum.

Progressive Conservative Monte McNaughton is openly critical of the updated curriculum and says it’s not the job of the premier — “especially Kathleen Wynne” — to tell parents what is age appropriate for their children.

Wynne, who is openly gay, responded by pointedly demanding that McNaughton explain why he feels she is not qualified to set standards for kids in schools.

Her response was wonderfully eloquent.

“What is it that especially disqualifies me for the job that I’m doing? Is it that I’m a woman? Is it that I’m a mother? Is it that I have a master’s of education? Is it that I was a school council chair? Is it that I was the minister of education? What is it exactly that the member opposite thinks disqualifies me from doing the job that I’m doing?”

And today, PC MPP Rick Nicholls came out about his disbelief in evolution.

Who these days remember that Kathleen Wynne was supposed to be a Liberal placeholder before an inevitable Progressive Conservative government in Ontario?

Written by Randy McDonald

February 26, 2015 at 3:29 am

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

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  • blogTO notes that Yorkville’s Lettieri is shutting down.
  • Crooked Timber starts a debate as to who won the latest Greece/Eurozone confrontation.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper suggesting a new way to analyze carbon-rich exoplanet atmospheres.
  • The Dragon’s Tales observes that India is hoping to build its next aircraft carrier quickly.
  • Languages of the World’s Asya Perelstvaig announces that people can now apply for her online Stanford course.
  • Marginal Revolution argues that antibiotics are of underestimated value.
  • Spacing reviews an interesting-sounding book, The Language of Space.
  • Towleroad notes an anonymous college lacrosse player who has just published a book of love poems to his boyfriend.
  • Window on Eurasia argues that Russia wants to weaken Baltic faith in NATO and suggests that everyone, detractors and supporters alike, overestimate Putin.
  • The Financial Times‘ World blog notes that apparently Russia was unhappy with being ignored, so explaining in part why it went into Ukraine.

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