Wednesday Night #1511

Computer Wins on ‘Jeopardy!’: Trivial, It’s Not

The Prologue

Congratulations to our good friend and Wednesday Nighter Robert Landori – “Havana Harvest” is #1 on Amazon’s List of Fantastic International Fiction – we can’t wait for his novel set around Wednesday Night. Surely there is an ample cast of characters for him to draw on.
Egypt and the repercussions in the Middle East and Western capitals remains the dominant story, with twists and turns perhaps only fully understood by the inscrutable Sphinx.
Of all of the news, analyses and opinion pieces, there are two we believe of special interest (although we could add many others).
Arab Women Lead the Charge
(IPS) –  … Mahfouz is a member of a new lot of Arab women activists who are shedding their typical conservative image to lead or inspire a wave of pro-democracy protests that are reshaping the political future of several countries in the Arab world.
Alan Hart: Crunch time coming for US in Mideast?
(Arab News) … there’s one question above all others America’s policy makers will have to ask themselves.
Who do we need most if America’s own real interests are to be best protected – the Arabs or Israel? And that, of course, begs the mother and father of all questions for them: Is Israel our most valuable ally in the region or our biggest liability?
There’s not much funny about the uprisings from Algeria, Bahrain and Iran to Yemen, but we do love Ron Meisels’ contribution:
Posted on Facebook by an Israeli:
“Dear Egyptian rioters,
Please don’t damage the pyramids.
We will not rebuild.
Thank you.”

Amidst all of the commentary on President Obama’s 2011 U.S. budget proposals, we would call to your attention Paul Krugman’s recent column: Eat the Future in which he concludes that the Republicans had no choice but to put forward a plan that “would save remarkably little money but would do a remarkably large amount of harm.” What makes the column of particular interest is that he references a new survey by the Pew Research Center, in which Americans were asked whether they favored higher or lower spending in a variety of areas. The only point of agreement among all of the other commentary on the budget proposals that we have seen seems to be that this is going to be a singularly nasty fight in Congress – not exactly groundbreaking analysis.

And now to Canada. We leave aside the latest pickle into which Minister Oda has got herself (don’t miss Gary Clement on the topic) and the overlooked (in the excitement of the HuffPost/AOL deal) Ex-Quebec premier named head of Oil and Gas Association: Lucien Bouchard will champion controversial natural energy sector, shale gas exploration?
Our hot Canadian topics – at least as of writing – are immigration, the LSE/MTX merger and the latest CRTC story.
On the former, the news that Immigrant visas to drop 5%: records  with cuts [which] would most affect overseas parents, grandparents has brought forth reactions including from [Former Wednesday Nighter and active member of Wednesday Night’s West Wing] Richard Kurland [who] called the government’s position disingenuous, since it has attracted some newcomers, so-called economic immigrants, with a promise their parents and grandparents will soon be able to follow. We believe that serious consideration should also be given Sharry Aiken’s argument that restricting family reunification visas will only make it harder for those who immigrated legally to adapt to Canada, “The presence of family, which is one of those softer variables – it’s very hard to quantify – can make a huge difference as to whether someone settles here and integrates effectively”.
Although there are cases of system abuse, the presence of a family unit supporting young professionals is certainly stabilizing in a number of ways, especially for those coming from cultures where the older generation actively participates in the rearing of children and maintaining of the home. Before plunging into a new immigration policy with broad socio-economic impacts, it would be helpful to have some statistics on the contribution (both positive and negative) of family reunification. We are willing to wager that there are more positives.
On the TMX-LSE merger, it seems that there will be a typically Canadian regulatory review at both fed and prov levels. Reuters helpfully offers a list of all the hoops to be jumped through and the Financial Post elaborates. According to the Montreal Gazette ‘Lukewarm’ reception for merger , Dubai, which owns 20% of the LSE is not exactly enthralled – that would be the same Dubai with which Stephen Harper has been having a personal spat? The Economist also paints a pretty dreary picture of the track record for exchange mergers
We are also disturbed by news of the latest CRTC foray into deregulation at the government’s behest: CRTC plan to lift ban on false news prompts political investigation . According to Embassy Magazine “The CRTC opened a consultation on Jan. 10 that said it intends to amend a regulation prohibiting the broadcasting of false and misleading news so that it will instead be a prohibition on ‘any news that the licensee knows is false or misleading and that endangers or is likely to endanger the lives, health or safety of the public’.” But it turns out that the CRTC isn’t in favour of the amendment, which was spearheaded by a parliamentary committee.
The issue of false or misleading news – and its impact on the public perception – is vividly laid out in Bill Moyers’ keynote speech at the History Makers 2011 convention on January 27 – aside from the fact that he pays homage to Fred Friendly, one of our personal heroes, this short excerpt should motivate you to read it all.
As Joe Keohane reported last year in The Boston Globe, political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency “deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information.” He was reporting on research at the University of Michigan, which found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in new stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts were not curing misinformation. “Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.”
We wonder whether this trait is not more universal than limited to Americans.
There are, of course, many topics equally worthy of examination and no doubt you will bring them to our attention.

One Comment on "Wednesday Night #1511"

  1. A Wednesday Night economist February 16, 2011 at 3:14 pm · Reply

    Immigrant cohorts (as measured by immigrants landing every 5th year on a census year) have progressively had worse labour market outcomes (unemployment, wages, tenure) since 1971, with the exception of the 2000 cohort if memory serves (as they benefited from general low unemployment at the time).
    Immigration policy changes in the late 60’s/early 70’s welcomed more refugees and removed priority given to those with established communities/families. The result was significant change in the proportion of immigrants by source country, with higher immigration from Southern and Eastern countries (mostly Asian) than from traditional Western (mostly European) countries. For fun, I tested this using the 2008 Labour Force Survey: 2/3 of immigrants who entered the labour force before 1981 were from traditional Western countries, however 2/3 of those entering on/after 1981 were from Eastern countries.
    You basically had two effects in play. The first you could call generational (Western immigrant communities were established over time, whereas these new Eastern immigrants for the most part did not have established communities to assist them in their integration).
    The second you could call racial (this combines visible minority as well as opinions attributed to work experience and education achievement in Eastern vs Western labour markets and educational institutions).
    This last point was explored in an academic paper presentation at Statcan by Professor Mikal Skuterud. He concluded (at least in the presentation I saw) that while both effects contribute to poor immigrant labour market outcomes, it appeared that racial bias, especially toward more visible minorities (he referred to black men in particular) persisted over generations, precluding integration, as the main reason for continued relatively poor labour market outcomes.

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