Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bill Black to the Bank of Canada

Bill Black is a great man. Razor-sharp, he graduated from Dalhousie with two degrees at 19. He then started his long and methodical ascent to the top of Maritime Life, a company of which his great-grandfather was a founder but which was long since owned by The John Hancock. He became President and CEO in 1994 and led the company through incredible expansion (He can spellbind you with his acquisition tales). When Hancock (and thus Maritime) was bought out by Manulife, Bill chose to stick it out in Halifax. He left business with a record paralleled by few and a loyalty among employees rivalled by even fewer.

Bill entered politics about a year ago, seeking the nomination in his Halifax riding, and then running for the leadership of his party when John Hamm resigned. I left school to work full-time on his campaign. Bill took a gamble on having a kid from Montreal who knew politics by the book but not by practice write his campaign plan and help him set up his ground organization. I can't say the gamble paid off. He lost a close race when the party closed ranks. The merits of that party's choice are now pretty apparent, I should like to think. One can't know for certain. But I can know this for certain: Bill Black is one of the smartest people I have ever met and one of the most decent. He is unfailingly proud and loyal to his family. He has ethics of the highest order. He is incredibly demanding of those who work for him but incredibly forgiving of mistakes made in good faith. And he's a decent golfer (though I think it was a draw between he and Andrew and I at Mahone Bay this summer). So, this is a great appointment. Well done on Jim Flaherty.

Big Crocodile Tears

P.W. Botha died today. Die Groot Krokodil was, as far as we know, unrepentent to the end. I remember an old girlfriend's father - a wonderful man who moved to South Africa as a young man before moving to Canada - describing Botha as the toughest politician he had known. But those unbending in the face of truth lose more than they win, for turning or not. So, let's cry some crocodile tears for the old man. And let's remember who won in the end.

Wells on Lapierre: Blackmailer-in-chief

Paul Wells has just said everything that needs to be said about Jean Lapierre. The man doesn't understand the first thing about civilized democratic dialogue: that you cannot threaten to take your marbles and go home everytime you don't like an outcome. Democracy depends on the losers' consent and it would be helpful if Lapierre and all others who prefer knives to throats over proper dialogue could learn this.

By the way, that applies to Dion as well when he claims that any talk of a fiscal imbalance is separatist rhetoric.

In other news, those who have figured out how to discern the Book of Revelation can now take on an infinitely more difficult task: keeping up with Cherniak's seventy-eight condition metaphor on the leadership race and Quebec.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

So long, Schumacher

Michael Schumacher retired last weekend. In my estimation, he is among the greatest athletes in modern history. He dominated F1 racing with his unmatched combination of absolute aggression and perfect technique. There isn't a driver who approaches the corners faster or who can find a better line through a crowd. And in the rain - the great equalizer - he is unmatched and well-deserving of the title Regenk├Ânig. He won more races, more championships, and more in a row than any other driver.

My brother made me a F1 fan and a partisan of Schumi. We watched him win in Montreal in 2003 and place second in 2001. The affection for him runs so deep that our family dog is named after him. So, it was with some sadness that I watched him finish in second place overall last weekend. The world has lost a great sportsman. And a gentleman, too.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Calling Stephen Taylor

I presume that a posting from Stephen Taylor is just around the corner pointing out that CTV news didn't note that Kory Teneycke, now shilling for the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association, is a (young) old Reformer. Now, I don't actually think that the media has to mention everyone's past, but Stephen does, so I'll be waiting for his post.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A final post for today...

This is a clip I watch when I want to be reminded of the singular power of a logical mind.

Canada may never, I think, see another politician of his skill.

On Dion's Academic Work

This is a nice piece on Dion's academic work in the Tyee (which I was pointed to by Cherniak). I should lay out my bias: I study in Dion's former department, my advisor was a frequent coauthor of his and I aspire to publish in the same types of journals he did. More than that, he is empirically rigorous and dedicated to setting aside seductive but ultimately wrong arguments. This is what made his letters to Bouchard so compelling, and so unsurprising to those who knew him in the academy. Whether it makes him smarter than other candidates is quite beside the point. I leave you the article.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

And in Quebec...

...Bouchard does him one better.

Meanwhile, in Britain...

... Tony Blair is showing what happens when you're freed from the need for reelection.

Jonathan Kay on the war in Iraq

Jonathan Kay lays bare his misjudgement on the war in Iraq in today's Post. His piece is a clear-eyed account of what he believed to be right and what he found to be true. Given that the two do not match up, he has changed his mind on Iraq. It's a fine piece of journalism and especially worth the read if you're someone (like me) who believed that good could come from the invasion of Iraq, but now see that it was all for naught.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Phelps on Rawls and economies

This article confirms that one does not have to be efficient with language to win a Nobel in economics. Nonetheless, it's a nice piece, especially in its treatment of Rawls.

My Two Sheckles

For what it's worth, I think Dion gave the best closing today I have yet heard in the Liberal debates. In fact, I think it's the best closing I have heard in a long time. Liberals should learn something Conservatives learned in the 1990s. You can make a lot of mistakes in government and still be proud of your achievements. And other candidates should learn something relatively fundamental about political communication: rather than blather on about Mats Sundin, pose a series of questions and present yourself as the answer to them. Dion did that well today. And have a good text. That way you won't have to deal with Dominic LeBlanc's stopwatch.

On another note, Ignatieff was quite right on Afghanistan on two fronts. One, we can only realize our objectives to the degree that they have a credible commitment to military action undergirding them. This is as important for our allies as it is for our enemies. Second, Rae clearly has adjusted his position, for which it is reasonable to call him to the carpet.

A final question. Could someone please remind Bob Rae that it doesn't reflect terribly well on him to continue to remind people that he had no expectation of becoming Premier in 1990 and that he had no idea what to do when he did? It's not the comment of a man who has yet come to terms with the depth of his failure as Premier.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Twins and Turnout

Political scientists are late to the game in the use of twins to understand the genetic components of behaviour. Psychologists have been doing this for years, and biologists, of course, have been doing it for centuries (though not with humans).

But we're catching up, and this paper is a great example of using comparisons of monozygotic (identical) and dyzygotic (fraternal) twins to understand how much a behaviour is attributable to genetic characteristics and how much is due to environment. In this case, Fowler et al are interested in whether there is a genetic basis to voter turnout. Their paper is a fairly good first indication that there is. Something to think about over the weekend, if nothing else.

For a guy who's not running on ideas, this is a good one

Over at Daifallah's Blog, Adam trots out Bob Rae's polluter pays proposal as an example of the desire for Liberals to tax anything that moves. Of course, he doesn't acknowledge that Rae concurrently proposes an equivalent cut in income taxes, and he more or less ignores the empirical evidence that cogestion charges do reduce congestion.

Frankly, Bob's idea is a good one, and it's not terribly out of line with what the vast majority of economists believe (even or especially conservative ones). You know, the ones who accept that taxes are more or less a reality, and that you can use them to incent some behaviours and discourage others. Economists like this guy, this guy, this guy, and this guy. You know, the types who win Nobels and Clark and lead organizations like the IMF. Rather than the type of analysts who ignore facts for politics.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Bridges don't have fainting spells

This is a fairly inauspicious start to Porter Airlines' ferry service.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

LeDrew this yourself?

Either Stephen LeDrew thinks he's running for high school president or this is the most brilliant political website ever. I honestly can't tell which is true.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

On the Liberal Leadership Race

Let me be the thousandth person to admit to pressing refresh endlessly on the Liberal delegate counter. And let me be the third or fourth to observe that those numbers represent only earned delegate spots, which must be filled according to the relevant demographics and allow for only two substitutes. They have pretty wide margins around them. And if you couldn't organize your troops enough to win the close ones this weekend, you likely can't organize your troops well enough to carry your numbers to Montreal. Keep that in mind when you're thinking wishfully.

Back to writing about experiments and wishing - but not really - that I was a Blackberry-Wielding Operative.

Shout Out Loud

Amos Lee released his new album today. It's a fine piece of work. His phrasing and melodies are subtle, and the backing - including his own guitar work - is very subtle and layered. I am a fan. And I am green-haired with jealously when I think that he is just a year older than me.

Freedom is the kind of song John Mayer would write if he were more self-aware. Careless is a soul-piercing and reflective recounting of infidelity. And Supply and Demand captures the rat race as well as any of the other million songs that try. Lee is an Old Soul worth your $9.99 on iTunes.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Qu'est-ce que tu pense, Gerard?

Suppose a candidate for the leadership of the Liberal party didn't really speak French. Would this disqualify him, at this time, from leading the party of official bilingualism? Perhaps not, especially if he could demonstrate that it was not an issue for the one-third of Canadians who speak French. But, suppose he won less than 50 delegates among the French-speaking regions of Canada. Is this the stuff of a qualified candidate? I should think not.