Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tuesday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your afternoon consumption.

- John Cole points to a study comparing economic choices between psychopaths and stock traders - with even more disturbing results than one might expect:
According to a new study at the University of St. Gallen seen by SPIEGEL, one contributing factor may be that stockbrokers’ behavior is more reckless and manipulative than that of psychopaths. Researchers at the Swiss research university measured the readiness to cooperate and the egotism of 28 professional traders who took part in computer simulations and intelligence tests. The results, compared with the behavior of psychopaths, exceeded the expectations of the study’s co-authors, forensic expert Pascal Scherrer, and Thomas Noll, a lead administrator at the Pöschwies prison north of Zürich.

“Naturally one can’t characterize the traders as deranged,” Noll told SPIEGEL. “But for example, they behaved more egotistically and were more willing to take risks than a group of psychopaths who took the same test.”

Particularly shocking for Noll was the fact that the bankers weren’t aiming for higher winnings than their comparison group. Instead they were more interested in achieving a competitive advantage. Instead of taking a sober and businesslike approach to reaching the highest profit, “it was most important to the traders to get more than their opponents,” Noll explained. “And they spent a lot of energy trying to damage their opponents.”
- Committees pushed in camera so any investigation of the Cons is inaccessible to the public. Gratuitous limits on debate over massive omnibus bills - even as the cost of past legislation reaches jaw-dropping levels. And of course, cabinet ministers hiding for months at a time when it comes to serious questions about their own patronage. I'm pretty sure this is accountability in action.

- So what does the NDP need in a leader to respond to the Cons' attacks on Canada? Duncan Cameron has a few ideas:
The second requirement is to recognize that speaking French (or English) well is not enough. To be successful in federal politics, a party leader has to understand the cultural character (and differences) of both national linguistic communities. To maintain its new standing in Quebec, New Democrats cannot afford to have a leader who (like Stephen Harper) fails this test.

These two requirements are a pre-requisite for the third, which is to be at ease with the complex regional dynamics of Canada. The right leader for the party is the one who can envisage building support in Ontario, and winning seats again on the Prairies, while solidifying the NDP position in Quebec, and creating new opportunities in Atlantic Canada.
A New Democratic leader has to be able to lead a massive membership drive -- Jack Layton wanted one million party members -- so that the party can take full advantage of the political tax credit (give the party $125, and get a credit against tax payable of $100) so as to compete with the Conservative fund raising machine.

For the first time in its existence, the NDP is preparing to choose not just a party leader but someone who Canadians will be consider as a serious alternative to the incumbent prime minister. The right candidate will be the one who can deliver a compelling narrative about what it means to be Canadian today, and what role government can play in improving the lives of Canadians.

The leadership campaign is about finding a candidate who is able to broaden the appeal of the party while articulating its basic values: Canada can only be strong in a world pursuing peace, and practicing global solidarity; individual freedom and social equality go together; and the political direction of the country must come from its citizens, not corporations.
- Finally, Murray Mandryk points out how the Sask Party's decision to fund MS liberation therapy trials while admitting they have absolutely no potential value in testing the treatment serves as the ultimate sign of a decision that's purely political rather than having any basis in sound policy:
(O)ne of the more intriguing and maybe revealing elements came from something raised by NDP health critic Judy Junor. Notwithstanding her concerns about the political timing of the announcement (shouldn't the government at least wait until the research contract was inked?) Junor was generally positive about the announcement and raised the seemingly legitimate issue of having a registry that tracks patients who receive the treatment in other countries. McMorris responded that a registry wouldn't be valid because information would be anecdotal.

Consider what the health minister is saying. After all, we're shipping people to clinical trials in New York, solely based on anecdotal evidence that liberation therapy works. Scientists here are saying success stories are too anecdotal to justify Saskatchewan-based trials. Yet we can't track those who've received the treatment because their stories are too anecdotal?

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