in Photo of the day



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“A lot of people talk about expecting the best but preparing for the worst, but I think that’s a seductively misleading concept. There’s never just one “worst.” Almost always there’s a whole spectrum of bad possibilities. The only thing that would really qualify as the worst would be not having a plan for how to cope.”

Hadfield, Chris. “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth.” New York; Random House. 2013.


Geoff Dembicki has a piece out about how Trudeau’s method is to promise substantive reforms to voters, while privately comforting business with the understanding they won’t really be meaningful:

So on climate, for instance, he was presented as this kind of river-paddling environmental Adonis. He promised that fossil fuel projects wouldn’t go ahead without the permission of communities. But the Liberals create these public spectacles of their bold progressiveness while they quietly assure the corporate elite that their interests will be safeguarded. So at the same time Trudeau was going around the country and convincing people that he was this great climate hope, the Liberal party had for years been assuring big oil and gas interests that there would not be any fundamental change to the status quo.

The Liberal climate plan essentially is a reworking of the business plan of Big Oil and the broader corporate lobby. Most Canadians probably wouldn’t realize this because of the nature of coverage in the mainstream media and the polarized political debate about the carbon tax, but overwhelmingly there is an astonishing consensus among the corporate elite in support of a carbon tax.

The plan is to support a carbon tax and to effectively make it a cover for expanded tarsands production and pipelines. That was a plan hatched by the Business Council of Canada back in 2006, 2007. For 20 years oil companies had resisted any kind of regulation or any kind of carbon tax and fought it seriously. But they started to realize that it would be a kind of concession that they would have to make in order to assure stability and their bottom line not being harmed. The climate bargain that Trudeau went on to strike with Alberta of a carbon tax plus expanded tarsands production was precisely the deal that Big Oil had wanted.

For a long time, Canadians prioritizing climate change have had no effective political option. Under first-past-the-post Green and even NDP votes are often counterproductive protests. I’m wary about criticism of the Liberals increasing the odds of a Conservative win, but I don’t think we should lie either.


I hadn’t heard about this weird distortion in the US medical system, where pharmaceutical companies use tax-exempt charities to manipulate the co-payment system used by health insurers for prescription drugs:

Half of America’s 20 largest charities are affiliated with pharmaceutical companies.

Pharmaceutical companies will often claim that helping patients with their co-payments is a way of making costly drugs more accessible. But it has the fortunate consequence of making their customers price-insensitive, because insurance companies will often use high co-payments to nudge their customers into opting for generics over costlier branded drugs: no co-pay, no incentive to save money.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (sec) is also looking more closely at independent charities that are sometimes sponsored by pharmaceutical firms. One independent charity offered co-pay support only for a specific type of “breakthrough pain” for cancer patients, a condition its sponsor had a 40% market share in treating. An sec probe has already settled claims with some pharmaceutical firms, though none has admitted wrongdoing. United Therapeutics has settled the biggest claim, worth $210m, with the Department of Justice. Lundbeck, a Danish drugmaker, and Pfizer have settled smaller claims. “Pfizer knew that the third-party foundation was using Pfizer’s money to cover the co-pays of patients taking Pfizer drugs,” according to Andrew Lelling, a us attorney, “masking the effect of Pfizer’s price increases.” Johnson & Johnson, Astellas, Gilead Sciences, Celgene, Biogen and others face investigations.

America’s health system is convoluted to the point of being surreal, as well as manipulated by the huge influence of the pharmaceutical industry on legislators.


Given how much I have been thinking about ‘the summer’ as a unit, September might have been expected to arrive with a feeling like a sonic boom experienced from the ground or the tolling of an ancient clock bell.

The temporary life reorganization arising from my mother’s short visit blurred the transition, as I had set aside the regimen of PhD work which had become the skeleton for my life for three days anyhow.

I haven’t won any teaching assistant positions for now, so the thesis can continue as a pretty exclusive focus. I may try to get a 50-75 hour grading position in one of the later emergency rounds.

I am aiming to complete my data analysis as soon as possible, while working at a sustainable rate, and then moving on promptly from that to submitting a formal manuscript to my committee members for the largest substantive stage of their comments and review.

Back in August 2017 I said: “The aim now is to get ethical approval by October and finish writing and defending the dissertation by September 2019.” Given that there will be 3-4 months of time spent by the committee reviewing my manuscript while I work on other things, aiming to defend by the end of 2019 seems appropriate and plausible.


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An item from The Economist’s “Politics this week” recently:

Ambassadors from 37 countries signed a letter praising China’s “contribution to the international human-rights cause”, including in its restive western region of Xinjiang, where China has locked up perhaps 1m people, mostly Muslim Uighurs, in “vocational training” camps. The signatories were all from authoritarian regimes with dodgy human-rights records. An earlier letter condemning the camps was signed by 22 democracies.

It’s certainly strange to see the concept of human rights subverted in this way.


It’s 4:41am and I am in my 10 1/2th hour of thesis work since I last slept. For weeks I have been working my way through my notebooks, compiling interview reports based on my discussions with campus fossil fuel divestment organizers in Canada. I have been paying special attention to getting the details from this interview, reviewing more of the raw audio than normal. That’s because it seems like an especially valuable account which speaks informatively on many of my key research questions.

That is making me feel that despite all the frustrations and sacrifices which have been involved in the project, it has been worthwhile to seek these organizers out and get their direct accounts of what happened and what it meant to them. Even if the project ends up being of limited theoretical interest to academics, there is an undeniable empirical value about having collected this information while people still have fresh memories of their involvement. Similarly, even if activist readers of the dissertation find my analysis unconvincing, being exposed to these direct accounts will enrich their understanding of what happened, reinforcing some of what they already believed with new evidence and perhaps challenging some of what they believe by showing that people had other experiences and reactions.

I have 17 interview reports left to write. Then I will move on to coding their contents by theme, finishing my literature review, producing my first complete draft manuscript, and then beginning the process of review by committee members and making changes in response to their comments.