Get rid of irrelevant attributions in ‘word-salad’ statements

Leonard Mlodinow notes in The Drunkard’s Walk, that two facts can be correct at the same time where one is relevant and the other is irrelevant 1].  In this sense, there can be errors of relevance where an argument using the wrong base rate is not incorrect but has little meaning in a chosen context. Daniel Kahneman refers to this as ‘denominator neglect’[2]. Another instance of irrelevance occurs where there is no base rate and where denominator neglect is not strictly present.  For example, something that is attributable to the whole is irrelevant because it has no meaning, not because it is strictly breaks a base rate rule. Common examples use the thought experiment of 'everything being green'. If there was only one colour and that colour was 'green' then…
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“It could have been me” Why rooming houses must be legalized – Guest blog from Yvonne Yuan

In the middle of a mid-summer night in June 2013, I was forced out of a rooming house.  I had nowhere to go. I was an 18-year-old sophomore at the University of Toronto, Scarborough campus. Two girls I knew had found the house and invited me to live there. Judging from the outside, it was a perfectly maintained detached house that sat near an intersection within walking distance to the campus.  I shared a washroom with 2 other girls and a shower with 7 other girls. The basement also housed more tenants and all of us shared a kitchen and three fridges. My rent was $450 per month. I paid cash. We each signed one-year contracts with the landlord that still had 2 months to go. Then something unexpected happened.…
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Am I still worth it? Self-worth and worthiness in the age of Covid-19

“The most influential books are always those that are not read.” - Michael Dunlop Young [1] “The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually slaves of some defunct economist.” - John Maynard Keynes [2]   Self-worth and Worthiness are attributes we all understand but they have been undergoing much scrutiny as richer countries believe themselves to emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic. Millions of people got sick and died. Our long term care facilities had catastrophic experiences leading most of us to believe that, as a society, we do not sufficiently value…
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A romantic tale of inadvertent discovery

“There’s something happening here; but what it is ain’t exactly clear” - Buffalo Springfield, For What It’s Worth “If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else.”  - Yogi Berra The Neighbourhood Change Research Partnership has published a presentation on the correlation between Covid-19 infection patterns and households with mutually dependent adults[1]: COVID-19 & Mutually Dependent Populations in the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area. This study used custom datasets to illustrate how higher household sizes containing mutually dependent adults correlate closely to the levels of Covid-19 infections. No other correlation to Covid-19 even comes close, except for the combination of overcrowded conditions and mutually dependent households -- a correlation we also explored. If we are right – and we have very good evidence to support our conclusions…
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Thirty six years since an Ontario PC Government last raised social assistance rates

It’s early 1985 and Premier Bill Davis is on his way to retirement. He has been Premier since 1971 and his party has been in power for 42 consecutive years ever since Liberal Mitch Hepburn lost to the PC’s in 1943. Davis called for a youth movement but the party leadership was won by Frank Miller, a man who was 2 years older than Davis. Miller assumed the mantle on July 2, 1985 and lost the next election a little more than 4 months later on November 22, 1985. A coalition of Liberals and NDP members formed government under David Peterson. No one in Ontario had experienced anything other than progressive conservative governments since World War II when George Drew narrowly defeated an upstart CCF, the forerunner of today’s NDP.…
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New personal tax deduction wrongly favours the well-off

I have to admit to thinking that a columnist for the Toronto Star was misinformed when I read that there would be a new personal tax deduction of $400 for employees working from home. As Rosa Saba noted in the Toronto Star: “Now all employees who worked from home more than half the time over at least four consecutive weeks during 2020 due to the pandemic will be eligible. As well, the government clarified that eligible employees can claim $2 for each day they worked from home, up to a maximum of $400. Employees claiming expenses this way will not need to track their expenditures, provide receipts, or submit a form signed by their employer.[1]” I thought to myself: that’s funny; most government of Canada tax credits announced over the…
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Happy Birthday? Anxious pandemic times for people living in poverty

About a year ago, my father passed away. This left me to deal with all the things one must do to put a loved one’s affairs in order: many visits to Service Canada; letters and phone calls to Veterans’ Affairs; memos to lawyers’ offices and to a funeral home to procure original documents. No scans are allowed. Every piece of paper must be an original. I can only wonder what it’s like during a pandemic when there are more deaths and offices are closed. I can imagine that paperwork for births must be just as challenging although more joyous. But there are a whole set of other obstacles for low income people who would otherwise celebrate important birthdays during a pandemic. Let’s think about a couple of them. Turning 18…
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Aspiring to thrive: Building a shift to a new political economy

Monica Da Ponte & John Stapleton The moment For a brief moment at the beginning of the COVID19 crisis, our principal political and economic paradigms converged. Without any significant controversy, the government moved to provide new benefits that quickly became the largest income security intervention in Canada’s history. Every region in the world today struggles to emerge from the pandemic crisis. At the same time, there is broadening awareness that we live in an era of entrenched and increasing economic inequality. In this pandemic time, many have also awoken to the ugly ways that racism operates in our society. There is a collective recognition that we need to create a new normal. Although Canada is frequently ranked as one of the best places to live, poverty and inequality are deeply…
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A new Canadian Disability Benefit modelled after the GIS? What does that mean?

The 2020 Speech from the Throne contained the following passage: “COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Canadians with disabilities, and highlighted long-standing challenges. The Government will bring forward a Disability Inclusion Plan, which will have: A new Canadian Disability Benefit modelled after the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) for seniors[1].” At best, I believe that a Canadian Disability Benefit (CDB) can place a new floor underneath current programs of every sort except for social assistance programs. Social assistance programs have always successfully installed themselves as last payer. Unless, of course, the new benefit replaces social assistance. But before we get into all that, let’s read the tea leaves. If the CDB is going to be like GIS as the Throne Speech says, we can only hope that it doesn’t look too much like…
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Amnesty or no amnesty: a CERB clawback hangover is in the cards for 2021

Who would benefit from a CERB amnesty? Many progressive voices have been calling for a CERB amnesty for low income Canadians. This would mean that specified recipients of the CERB would not have to pay back the CERB – either all or in part – even if they are found ineligible for the benefit. There are a variety of reasons for supporting an amnesty including: Many social assistance recipients across Canada – likely ineligible for the benefit - were instructed by officials to apply for the CERB just in case they might be eligible;CERB rules kept changing after the first announcement of eligibility rules;Many low income people faced the difficult choice between exposing themselves to COVID19 or staying safe in isolation with  CERB financial help;Many thousands applied not really knowing…
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