Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday.

- The Economist weighs in on the Cons' census debacle:
(I)ntroducing a voluntary census was asking for trouble. The United States once attempted a similar experiment, but abandoned it after determining that data from voluntary surveys are unreliable, since marginalised groups are less likely to fill out the forms. Moreover, in order to keep the sample size constant despite a reduced response rate, the government would have to send out more forms, at an additional cost of C$30m ($29m). Canadians would be paying more money for less accurate information.

As a result, Canada’s statistical gurus staged a rebellion. The government’s chief statistician resigned in protest. Advocacy groups representing Francophone Canadians living outside the French-speaking province of Quebec launched an unsuccessful lawsuit, arguing that programmes for minorities require reliable census data on employment, education and immigration status. The Inuit have made a similar claim. The governor of the Bank of Canada said it uses census data to set monetary policy, and may have to look elsewhere after responses become voluntary. And ministers from Ontario and Quebec say they will no longer know how the labour market is changing and where to target spending on training and education.
Despite the uproar, Mr Harper is standing firm. The forms for the 2011 census have been printed, and the prime minister insists it will go ahead as planned, despite a parliamentary motion September 29th and a private member’s bill introduced the next day asking it to reverse course. The UN website promoting October 20th as World Statistics Day says it is meant to “to help strengthen the awareness and trust of the public in official statistics.” At Statistics Canada, currently without a chief statistician, the words have a hollow ring.
And even yesterday's festivities managed to turn up another example of the Cons' disrespect for Statistics Canada and/or basic math:
The first World Statistics Day was celebrated at Statscan on Wednesday with guest speakers, free coffee and enough vanilla cake to feed 400 of the agency’s 6,000 employees. Statistically speaking, that means 93 per cent of staff had to go without.
- From the "people I don't often agree with" file, I'll gladly concur with at least the first half of Warren Kinsella's sentiment here. Now if only we could get his more progressive partymates to recognize that the same can and should apply on the provincial and federal levels...

- And one more in the same category, as Kevin Gaudet gets this much right as part of his otherwise tedious attack on government generally:
TM: Given that the Harper government has run up the federal deficit, and particularly given recent controversial expenditures on G20 security and fighter jets, do you think the Conservatives are politically wise to be attempting to exploit the Liberals' platform shortfall?

KG: The whole "we’re better fiscal managers" conversation is peculiar in Canada because there’s a branding mythology out there that the Conservative Party is one with a strong fiscal history, except that when they govern they don’t seem to have any evidence of that. We can look to the Mulroney government and this government as well, both of which have run some of the largest deficits we’ve seen...I don’t think voters have much of an alternative between either parties (sic) to be honest with you.
- Finally, Dan Gardner's take on Omar Khadr actually deserves attention for its much wider application:
People are tribal. There is Us and there is Them. Us is always a cut above Them. But when the Them in question is as truly vile as the Taliban and al-Qaeda, modest partiality can become overwhelming bias.

In a telling experiment, psychologists asked some Israeli Jews to judge a peace proposal put forward by Palestinians. They said they didn’t like it. Which was interesting because the proposal had actually been drafted by the Israeli government — and other Israeli Jews, who had been told it was an Israeli proposal, rated it much more highly.

If Russians had treated you and John the way Americans did, and if you and John had been involved with a terrorist group people had never heard of, everyone would agree that you had been horribly abused. Yes, they would say, terrorism is odious and must be fought. But nothing justifies brutality and torture, the removal of fundamental human rights, or the punishment of a child soldier as if he were an adult with a choice.

But Russians didn’t do this to you and you weren’t with some group we’d never heard of. It was Us who did this and you were with Them. So it was right. No matter what.

No comments:

Post a Comment