Thursday, June 28, 2007

I can drink to that....

Apparently, people attempting to bring liquids and gels onto planes is delaying air traffic. Of course, it's the fault of passengers, not the fault of either stupid regulations or arbitrary enforcement which just encourages people to push the rules. I wonder what a solution to this might be? Getting rid of the assinine regulation, perhaps?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Prime Minister's Question Time

I do believe I will be spending a lot of time here in the future. Blair is unmatched on his feet. If for no other reason - and make no mistake, I think there are many reasons - it's a shame he's gone.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Political Futures Markets

Slate is running a political futures market, which is an aggregator of four different presidential prediction markets. Political stock markets allow individuals to buy a future which typically pays off $100 for the predicted outcome, i.e. you can pay $20 to bet Obama will win the nomination, and it pays off $100 if he does. By comparing current prices, one can get a sense of the wisdom of crowds on which candidates are favoured.

This has been similarly applied in Canada at the UBC Election Stock Market to great success. They outperformed every pollster in 2006 save SES. A betting person would suggest they will in the future.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Not my job...

And once again a Quebec union leader shows himself to be of unimpeachable judgment. Who honestly uses the "it's not my job" excuse when a man is beating a woman about the head? Apparently we'll have to bargain for basic humanity among STM guards in their next contract.

Crosbie and Martin on the Atlantic Accords

There is a lot wrong with John Crosbie and Roland Martin's opinion piece on the Atlantic Accords in today's Globe. I will limit myself to two short objections.

First, they claim that the Atlantic Accord is an "economic development" deal, like the auto industry in Ontario or aerospace in Quebec. This is a faulty analogy. In both of those cases, there is an argument that these industries would not exist if they were not subsidized. In the case of Nova Scotia, the offshore industry already exists. It doesn't require a subsidy to thrive. Indeed, nothing in the Atlantic Accord is about supporting an offshore industry, it is merely about letting NS keep all of the spoils. When Ontario is allowed to deduct auto industry revenues from its fiscal capacity, then the analogy will hold.

Second, they tell the reader not to worry, because if NS is not an equalization receiving province in 2011-12, then the Accord will run out. But honestly, who among us believes that if you don't count resource revenues, that NS won't be receiving equalization in four years? The obviously will. Despite the claims of Rodney and Co. that the federal government wishes to consign them to permanent have not status, it is in fact the opposite that is true. NS wants to be equalization receiving for as long as possible, which it will be as long as resource revenue is kept out of the equation.

Update: Jason Hickman, in his fair and reasonable comments to my post, notes that Alberta was allowed to receive both the benefits of its oil revenues as well as equalization payments in the beginnings of the equalization formula. One often hears this stated, but with little explanation. After doing a modicum of reading, this is the reality (which is not far off Jason's point, except in its implication). When equalization was formally introduced in 1957, a national average was used and fiscal capacity was calculated using personal, corporate and inheritence taxes. This changed five years later when natural resource revenues were added. Alberta was then dropped from equalization.

The implications of this are clear: it is not true that Alberta was given exceptional treatment. Instead, it was given the same treatment as every other province under the equalization formula of the day. When that formula was changed, Alberta no longer received equalization. Whether it did so with or without kicking and screaming is besides the point. The empirical reality is that no exceptions were made. It seems fair enough to ask that those who invoke Alberta's first experience with equalization as instructive would also embrace the second.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Am I going to cheer for McLaren?

If Lewis Hamilton wins one more race and/or does one more thing like this, I think I am going to start cheering for McLaren (though I should admit I was rooting for him at Montreal). This guy appears to be the real deal: an exceptionally talented driver and a true sportsman. Let's hope this is enough to goad the Rain King out of retirement.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Three Non-Random Thoughts

1.) I've just returned from a couple of days in Wisconsin. I gave a little talk on collective action problems and global health at the World Affairs Seminar. Ten years ago, I attended the Seminar as a high school student. It was a great and important experience then, and returning now was equally important. It easily borders on cliché to suggest that today's youth are the hope of tomorrow and then to assert that the future is in good hands. But, after a couple of days around whip-smart high school kids, all of whom have their hearts in the right place, I am closer to believing the cliché is true.

2.) This is an extremely counter-intuitive but convincing paper. It argues that to maintain trade openness in the United States - to defeat the protectionist racket - greater wealth distribution is required. There is an easy knee-jerk reaction to this argument, but I encourage you to read the paper. It's thought-provoking if nothing else.

3.) Dan Leger has more courage than ninety-nine percent of other journalists. He sets aside some serious myths in today's Chronicle-Herald regarding the current debates over equalization. I've avoided blogging on the topic, though I've had some great back and forth with some of my smarter friends in Nova Scotia. For the time being, let me say that Leger captures my sentiments, as does this piece by Coyne.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Party Switching in Malawi

I am neither here nor there on the proper etiquette of floor-crossing. If forced to choose, I'd say MPs are free to sit in whichever caucus they want; their voters can pass judgment at the next election. So, I merely note with interest that Malawi's Supreme Court disagrees, and has empowered the speaker of that parliament to expel MPs who switch parties. This ruling could effectively topple the Malawian government. It kind of puts Garth Turner and Peter Van Loan's ongoing spat into perspective.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The final episode

I just finished watching the final episode of the Sopranos. I am not sure I will ever see another television show of this calibre. It was simply breathtaking.