Monday, July 16, 2007

Godwin's Law and Ellison's Dishonesty

Rep. Keith Ellison, the first moslem Congressman in the US House of Representatives suggested yesterday that the Bush administration may have been complicit in 9/11. He also compared Bush to Hitler. But that seems old hat by now. We all know Godwin's law is as true as the rising sun.

I want to try out an argument on you, fair readers. Can we believe that Rep. Ellison actually believes it possible that the American government was involved in 9/11? Put more precisely, would someone who actually and honestly believed that a democratic government was so capricious and brutal that it would kill 3000 of its own citizens actually feel comfortable stating that in public? Consider this thought experiment. If you were to go to the Congo, how loudly and comfortably would you declare that the government is guilty of human rights abuses? How about in Khartoum? How about, to use Mr. Ellison's example, in Nazi Germany. Clearly, Mr. Ellison is either dishonest or he is crazy and suicidal. Surely it's not the latter.


I saw SiCKO tonight. I was affected. And I was pleased that Michael Moore has finally made a movie which appeals not to smugness, distaste for the less intelligent, or intellectual superiority. Instead, he gets right down to the crux of the question: why hasn't American solved the collective action problem of universal health coverage the way everyone else has? Put more bluntly, why is America the only developed country in the world which subjects so many citizens to so much hassle, trouble, trial and effort to get what is their due as humans?

I generally dislike Moore's docs, though I appreciate their quality. But he has overcome my most fundamental objections. He finally seems genuinely caring and shocked by what he sees and makes us see. It's a film worth watching. For all its exaggerations, it gets the central story right and puts the challenge to those who revere American health care.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Bush-league RCMP

Wouldn't it be just as wise to recommend that RCMP officers make it a policy to not shoot those they arrest in the back of the head? Or that they not treat a body any differently even if its theresult of a killing by a fellow officer?

I wish William Elliot all the luck in the world. And I wish Paul Koester a lifetime of sleepless nights.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Hand it to Layton, at least he's linguistically consistent when he betrays his internationalism.

Watch the second and third questions in this press conference and then ask yourself whether Jack Layton's internationalism has ever meant a thing.

UPDATE: J Kay says everything I wanted to here.

UPDATE2: If you want to see the heroes who were killed today, go here. You can go here if you want to see people who don't understand for a minute why these heroes served - probably with chests full of pride.

UPDATE3: I am reminded of this hilarious post.

UdeM denounces boycott of Israeli universities

I am a proud student of the political science department at the Universite de Montreal. I am also a constantly annoyed customer of the institution. But, I must say that this makes me very proud. It is the right thing to do.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Speeding in Ontario

As a social scientist, I found this article very interesting. The article overviews an emerging debate about whether to reintroduce photo radar in Canada. I think it nicely illustrates how poor public policy can be made. The basic story is that there have been a number of recent highway deaths in Ontario related to excessive speed. Obviously, then, speed needs to be reduced. So the minister of transportation has suggested limiting the speed of truckers to 105 km/h. And the Canada Safety Council and the Hamiton Chief of Police have suggested reintroducing photoradar. It's all justified, as the minister of transportation observes, because ""There's no question that there is a correlation between speed and crashes and collisions."" This seems quite obvious. What is not obvious is that introducing video cameras on the highway will break this connection or reduce speed more generally. And it's also not obvious that restricting the speed of transports is in the public interest.

For me, some questions still remain. First, is there actually an appreciable increase in street racing and related deaths ? I mean, aside from the increased media attention on it? In other words, are we really facing an epidemic? And, if we're not, then why is now the time to focus resources on addressing this? Second, does photo radar work? In the cited article, at least, advocates present no evidence that it actually works. Quite the contrary, the article presents evidence that it only slows down drivers when there is an obvious radar van around, and then it does so because drivers (and radio stations, too) don't mind warning one another that there is a van near by. Unless one parks these vans on every street, then there is unlikely to be an appreciable general decrease in speeding. Third, Emile Therien notes that it was politics and not safety that lead to the abolishment of photo radar in 1995. This seems correct. But is it relevant? And, if it is, isn't it relevant that it's politics and not safety which is allowing his calls for a reintroduction?