Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Skjærtorsdag (II)

School Teachers at the demonstration

On the local level, a Rouge Valley National Park of approximately 10,000 acres is about to be created. This will be the first near urban wilderness park in Canada and accessible by car or public transit in under an hour from Toronto. The Rouge Park Alliance wants to add another 5,000 acres but the Conservative candidate, Paul Calandra, wants to preserve the land for farm production by reducing the park to a much smaller size than even the original concept. I suspect that he really wants to allow his real estate constituents to develop the land for housing. As Oscar Wilde said, “The cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing"

 I don’t want Canada to imitate America and I believe that the States is on a path to a Mexican style of governance where a plutocracy of wealthy families in conjunction with a political oligarchy controls the majority of the net worth of the country and the political process. Obama is a one term president and will triangulate himself into oblivion. The current Republican frontrunner according to the polls is Donald Trump who struts about like a Manhattan Mussolini.  He’s going to make the trains run on time but as for the middle class, “You’re fired!”  In a Washington Post article on Tuesday, columnist Richard Cohen reported about a 1990 Vanity Fair profile story which revealed Ivan Trump told her divorce lawyer that her husband read a book of Hitler’s collected speeches, “My New Order” which he kept in a cabinet by his bed. The majority of American society will be poor, desperate and crime ridden. A necessary but not sufficient precondition for this situation to occur in America is the diminution of critical reasoning which the loss of tenure for academics, a major current thrust, would accentuate. The political discourse in America has been reduced to a series of logical tautologies (in the original Greek sense) and non-sequiturs packaged into sound bites.  A more appropriate term for the Right’s game plan is a coalescence of parallel interests rather than a conspiracy and the role of the low information voter as the central actor is critical. Education is not synonymous with job training as both the Republicans and Democrats infer. Just to give you an example the Tea party loves Trump and hates taxes. Donald says he wants to put a 25 percent tariff on Chinese goods. A tariff is a form of value added tax which is passed onto consumers in the form of higher prices so he is really creating a massive increase in taxes.
This is where I segue into the plodding and pedantic section. With respect to political voting heuristics, there are three basic methodologies for the analysis of voter preference using inductive, deductive and reductive reasoning. A person who makes a “choice based on reductive statements” is using reductive reasoning- an attempt to explain a complex effect through a simple cause. Let’s call this the Harper school of voter preference since I can’t find anyone in the literature that ascribes to this point of view except to use it as a foil. The second paper which I referenced ( Conservatism as a closed belief system - I’ll get to this in another post) uses deductive reasoning on the part of the voters since they apply general principles, the core conservative ideology to reach specific conclusions based on the particular situation and disposition “to manage uncertainty and threat.” There is a school of thought that uses inductive reasoning in voter preferences. Lupia and McCubbins in the book “The Democratic Dilemma” : Cambridge University Press (1998) use inductive reasoning, a form of reasoning that makes generalizations based on individual instances using a traffic light analogue. The following is from a wiki summary:
“Driving through an intersection would require perfect information about where all the other cars are going, but we use a traffic signal as a substitute for all this information. We can still make a rational, reasoned choice without perfect information. In politics, we frequently hear that people (voters especially) lack the information required to make good decisions; this criticism has led to serious critiques of democracy. Yet politics has much in common with this traffic signal: "Using similar logic, it follows that limited information precludes reasoned choice only if people appear to be stuck at complex political intersections and lack access to effective political traffic signals" (page 12, in chapter 1). This book's main claim is that people do have access to "effective political traffic signals."
If you know about Latino culture, you’ll like the following quote:
“This is largely a formalization and experimental analysis of Popkin's (1994) arguments about cue-taking and information shortcuts. For example, Popkin uses the vignette of Gerald Ford's ignorance of how to eat tamale. As Lupia and McCubbins point out, it is significant that this gaffe didn't hurt Ford everywhere, only among those voters who (1) knew how to eat tamale and (2) connected ignorance of Latino culture with ignorance of Latino issue concerns.”
The debate on deductive versus inductive reasoning for voter preferences continues to this day with no clear winner. I find that the deductive school is more apocalyptic and pessimistic about the future than the inductive school which is more populist and positive about “low information voters.” I suppose this could explain why the academics in the deductive school had their federal grants cut after the relevant authorities on Capitol Hill read their report. Subtext comparisons to Stalin and Pinochet don’t play well with Conservatives. One of the “effective political traffic signals” is university professors. If you can control them by eliminating tenure then you gone a long way to controlling the political process. How much humility and altruism was displayed by the academic bureaucrats who fired Princeton University Spanish teacher Antonio Calvo? The bald truth is very little.

I think that a few examples would be useful at this point.
Stockwell Day, the Canadian minister of corrections, stated in June of 2010 that it would be necessary to spend billions of dollars on correction facilities due to an increase in unreported crime. If the crime is unreported then how can anyone draw conclusions as to a change in the volume of crime?
The Conservative government in Canada eliminated the long census form for 2011. If the census data doesn’t support the assertions on which you base your policies then eliminate the census. I’ll argue my anecdotal evidence and ideological stance against your anecdotal evidence and ideological stance!
Niall Ferguson, MA, D.Phil., is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University and William Ziegler Professor at Harvard Business School. He is one of the luminaries who support the slashing of federal government spending in America to reduce the long term debt. An unstated effect of this policy would be an increase in the income disparity of the wealthy with the rest of society. In a recent conference, he argued his point on the fact that a linear projection of the current increase in debt implies that by the year 2080 the total debt would be three and a half times the GDP of the country and the Interest payments alone would absorb the entire federal budget. The math is impeccable but anyone who makes a seventy year linear projection is either a fool or disingenuous. 
In recent TV commentaries (not just Fox news), President Obama is presented as a secret Muslim with socialist aspirations who is simultaneously a corporate lackey and a tool of big business. The Donald says he was really born in Kenya. What can I say?
I don’t have a problem with people who make these statements. They’re only trying to advance their own agendas and I suppose it could be argued that I’m cherry picking in order to advance my thesis. I do have a problem with people who have the responsibility to their profession to query these assertions instead of soft ball questions and rapt attention. Pollsters say that CNN’s rating are dropping because it relies on facts rather than staking out an ideological stance and having more opinion. For 2011 the number one cable news channel in America is “fair and balanced” Fox news.
 I’m a science guy rather than humanities person but I do have analogues. In undergraduate school, I remember that the dosage levels for drugs were implied to have been handed down from God or in more measured form that the pharmaceutical companies had done their “due diligence” and based their dosage range on careful, extensive and statistically valid studies.  Later on in life I discovered that a lot of these ranges had been based on the results derived from studies on a rather small group of white, healthy, middle class males. When your non white, sickly, poor female did not show the expected response to the dosage, it was not biological variability or patient non compliance but a normal aspect of a systemic faulty analysis of the data. The patient in this case is the body politic and we desperately need people to objectively analysis the situation and offer solutions to very important questions which go beyond the usual boundaries of academia. On this day of reflection the world of Harper and Trump has no humility or altruism.

Final Comment

1 comment:

  1. This is very interesting. The reason why I asked for your perspective on this is that my entire family is planning to vote Conservative in these elections. Even my sister, who is a passionate feminist and has very Liberal views, will vote for them. The explanation they give is "Of course, harper is a jerk but he got us so well through the economic crisis. Let's just allow him to keep doing it."

    I obviously don't want my family to vote Conservative. But when they start giving me the argument that Canada did get through the recession very well, the housing market wasn't destroyed by plummeting prices and the situation on the job market is quite good, I don't know what to respond. Because all that is right.

    I've lived outside Canada for a while, so I have no idea how to respond. Do you have any suggestions?