Archive for June, 2015

Affirmative Action can be harmful

June 24, 2015

Canadian federal governments already exercise affirmative action (AA) when cabinets are formed to ensure regional representation, Anglophone and Francophone members, as well as those from racial minority groups. The proposal to require certain levels of gender representation in cabinets creates another dimension of AA. Once gender is added, other groups emerge to argue for similar representation.


This happened in university hiring for faculty members. First AA was instituted for the hiring of women, then other groups such as aboriginals and the physically disabled argued that they should be accorded preference. Earlier groups were not enthusiastic about those who came later, and questions were raised about how to establish priorities between the groups, and what this might do to the quality of the educational experience.


Consider another venue. What happens in so-called national soccer leagues?  The only thing English about some of the clubs in the English Premier Soccer League is the name of the team, with owners, coaches and players coming from abroad. In order to form the best teams, which provide the best entertainment for spectators, players are recruited from anywhere in the world. AA is not applied. In world cup competition AA does occur in that players have to be associated with their national team.


My point is that AA is present in all kinds of activity, but its presence means that it will affect the performance of the activity in ways which may not be beneficial to others. Once one group is given preference others will seek the similar treatment which will ultimately adversely affect the performance of the activity.


It may make sense to have AA re gender equality in the Canadian federal cabinet, but how do you achieve this when less than half the elected members of any party are of one gender, and when it merely entices other groups to argue for some form of preference. At some point the quality of decision making will suffer even further,



Finding Reliable News

June 16, 2015

The combination of social media and the 24 hour news cycle has lead to the manufacture and distribution of poor quality news and commentary, making it harder to separate the chaff from the wheat.  The consumer is faced with the challenge of finding the good stuff.


Blogs abound, some written by informed commentators, many with a particular bias or point of view.  News organizations in countries like Canada, the US and UK are caught up in this rat race. CBC/Radio Canada, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC compete for audiences, resulting in the distribution of a mass of worthless or often low quality content. Motivated by advertising revenue where audiences are sold to advertisers, these organizations compete to keep audiences tied to their output.


As for many other activities, communications technology has had an impact on the news media. Today, print and especially broadcast news media are fashioned as entertainment. Many consumers no longer put aside time to read a daily newspaper and listen to or view a daily broadcast, they access news 24/7 in a variety of ways which news organizations try to supply.


How can the consumer access quality (factual and unbiased) news reporting and commentary? The offerings are as varied as that of restaurant menus in a large city. My choice for quality news includes amongst others the following:


  1. Newspapers – Globe and Mail, New York Times, Financial Times, Economist
  2. TV – PBS The News Hour and Charlie Rose, TVO The Agenda with Steve Paquin. What appeals to me about these programs is that the anchors are informed and ask tough questions, but do not insert their own views into the content. That is not the case for the 24 hour news channels.
  3. Blogs – The Conversable Economist, Arts and Letters Daily, Thought du Jour


This may seem a short list, but since there are only 24 hours in a day and each of these items, especially the blogs, lead to further reading, they can consume a lot of time. The bad news is that there is a mass of low quality news distributed daily, often by organizations which once had a reputation for good journalism. The good news is that today’s communications technology allows for the distribution of high quality content, but this requires the user to spend time in searching for it.