Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Blowing my horn and others'

A touch of self-promotion and some recognition of a couple of friends. First, Andre Blais and I recently converted some of our research into a report for Elections Canada on youth electoral engagement. At the end, we recommended that, among other things, Elections Canada experiment with online registration and voting in a by-election. They appear to be going forward with this advice. It's nice when one's work has some influence!

More importantly, a couple of friends are up to great things. My colleague at UCSD, Chris Dawes, was recently awarded the Peggy Quon Award for the PhD student most likely to contribute to the scientific study of politics. You'd never know that Dawes was a graduate student by looking at his publication record (e.g. Nature, PNAS, APSR, JOP, Economic Letters, QJE, PRQ) but it is true. He does wonderfully interesting research, so he's well deserving of the award. I should like to note that it's been won previously by very notable political scientists, including Jamie Druckman (the first winner) and my colleague Ben Nyblade

Second, my friend Ben Rusch is about to release an album. He wrote every song and played every instrument. He's incomprehensibly talented and creative. You can watch a first cut of the first video of his album here. It's shot in the wonderful Hampstead Heath near his home. 

Monday, July 06, 2009

Pearl versus Rubin on Causation

Andrew Gelman has a nice post here reviewing a Judea Pearl paper taking on Rubin's causal model. This stuff is probably too heavy before six coffees, but it's a nice and thoughtful review. And it's a nice reminder of how much I still need to learn about causation.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Dave Batters, depression, and the toll of politics

Dave Batters, a former MP not yet 40, committed suicide last week. Batters had been an honourable member from 2004 until last fall when he announced he would not run again on account of his deep and debilitating anxiety and depression. He was overcome by this last week. 

Stephen Harper gave a moving speech at his funeral yesterday. Bourrie presents it in full and speculates, quite reasonably, that Harper has probably struggled with the black dog as well. 

We ask a lot of our politicians. We expect them to work hard for us, to fawn over us when we meet them, to live lives free of foibles, and to do all of this under the ignobility of assumed dishonesty and selfishness. It is a terrible burden. We should not be surprised that those lacking self-awareness and not lacking in ego are perhaps overrepresented in our hallowed chambers. But it should also not surprise us that politics often destroys people's lives. 

I am not sure it did in the case of Batters, by the way. Quite the opposite, he is likely a testament to how individuals burdened with depression can still achieve greatness, and do so against obstacles more difficult than most can even begin to comprehend. It takes a special strength to struggle against the dark every morning and still make something of one's life. Batters' life, however short, is a testament to this. But also, quite sadly, to how far we have to go in understanding the pervasiveness of depression. Not to mention its treatment and the prevention of its more terrible ends. 

At times like this, one hopes more than anything that Batters' family is fully acquainted with the admiration others held for their husband, son and brother. 

Friday, July 03, 2009

Apparently, politics as usual...

...involves finishing jobs one was elected to do. It just keeps getting more silly in Wasilla