Sobering Thoughts

Comments on politics, the culture, economics and religion by Paul Tuns -- in short, everything about the human endeavour from a non-hyphenated conservative perspective. I am Toronto-based writer and editor, whose articles, columns and reviews have appeared in more than 35 publications. I am editor-in-chief of The Interim, Canada's life and family newspaper, author of Jean Chretien: A Legacy of Scandal and a regular contributor to the book pages of the Halifax Herald.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015
 
The Stanford school?
Tyler Cowen says Stanford is poised to overtake Harvard as the preeminent school for economists. From the comments: "Stanford cannot be separated from the world in which it exists. That’s meant neither as a compliment nor as a criticism, just an observation." The Hoover Institution, based at Stanford, is an impressive think tank. Last week it hosted a panel featuring John Cochrane and John Taylor that examined Federal Reserve reform that is worth listening to.


 
Boston avoids Olympic nightmare, Toronto gets excited about billion dollar boondoggle
USA Today: "Boston out as United States bid city to host 2024 Olympics." The paper reports growing opposition to the bid:
A poll conducted by a local radio station, WBUR, in January put support of the Games at 51%. That same poll reached a low of 36% in March and hasn’t been above 40% support since. In WBUR’s most recent poll, opposition to the bid had reached a high of 53%.
Groups such as No Boston Olympics and No Boston 2024 have used social media and public forums to rally support against the bid. They argue that the Olympics’ would leave taxpayers on the hook for large cost overruns and pull resources and political attention away from more vital issues, including the city’s infrastructure which they argue not currently equipped to handle the Games.
The Toronto Star: "Majority of Torontonians support Olympic bid: poll." According to Forum Research -- so take these numbers will a boulder of salt -- 61% of city residents support an Olympic bid, 30% are opposed, and 9% are undecided. Apparently support is the same in the downtown as the suburbs, although younger respondents tended to be more supportive of the idea. It would be interesting if support would be maintained if costs were explained.


 
Justin Trudeau
Too tired to write a long piece about Peter C. Newman's too-cute essay on Justin Trudeau. There are plenty of clever turns of phrase -- the Liberas are "led by a name instead of a leader" -- but there is not much insight. There are fundamental things that Newman gets wrong, like The Dauphin "promising as little as possible but as much as necessary"; it is more accurate to say he offered too much too late, with extensive policy on political reforms that few people outside the Parliamentary Press Gallery care about.
Newman gropes to a satisfactory point: the Liberal Party is arrogant, as is Trudeau the Younger, but these are hardly original observations: the former has been long remarked about while the latter is obvious to anyone who pays attention to Canadian politics. The electoral game changed in 2011 but few people realized it at the time, the assumption being Justin would restore the natural political balance. It's not happening.


 
Climate-change sacrifices are for the plebs
Via Blazing Cat Fur: "Video Shows Hillary Clinton Boarding Private Jet Just Hours After Launching Global-Warming Push."


 
Capital speaks
Investor's Business Daily reports that the "Stocks fell for the fifth straight session Monday as a sell-off in China's main index sparked fears of a slowdown in the world's second-biggest economy," as shares fell 8%.
From an Investor's Business Daily editorial:
Reuters calculates that the government of Xi Jinping has spent close to $800 billion — or nearly 10% of China's total GDP — trying to halt the market sell-off. But if anything, by increasing investor uncertainty, it's made things worse.
"When Xi Jinping came to power, there were a series of hints that market-based capitalism would be allowed to move forward under his leadership," Evercore Partners founder and former U.S. Treasury No. 2 Roger Altman told CNBC's "Squawk Box." However, "at the first real threat, they've fallen over themselves to impose government control."
We've disagreed with Altman on many things over the years, but on this he is dead-right. Goldman Sachs estimates $761 billion in capital has left China over the last year. That's not exactly a vote of confidence. But behind it all, China's stunning market decline holds a bigger message: The nation's long growth miracle is over.


Monday, July 27, 2015
 
Better off without the endorsement
Vladimir Putin says that former FIFA chief Sepp Blatter deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.


 
What do they feed their pitchers in Los Angeles?
Three of the four longest scoreless innings streaks by Major League Pitchers since 1920 are held by LA Dodgers pitchers, including first (Orel Hershiser) and second (Donald Drysdale). This week Zach Greinke, whose streak ended Sunday, joined the list at fourth after not allowing a run in 45 2/3 IP going back to June 13.


 
Tape of Labour Lord snorting coke off hooker's breasts
Beats the hell of anything happening in Canadian politics.


 
2016 watch (Jim Gilmore edition)
Former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore makes it 17 official candidates for the Republican presidential nomination. Gilmore was asked why and his answer was that he has a chance: no other candidate has excited the GOP electorate. Hot Air's Jazz Shaw says: "If I were running the Politifact fact checker machine at this point I’d give the governor a 'partly true' rating, which sounds much kinder than 'partly delusional'." Still the question why? What does Gilmore bring to the race that none of the other 16 do?


 
Eve Adams and her future
CBC: "Eve Adams's next step unclear following loss of Liberal nomination." She is suggesting she's not through with federal politics but her future should including going away and shutting up.


 
Is 140 enough for a minority?
Eric Grenier of the CBC/308.com likes to say that 140 is "more than enough" to win a minority government, but is it? Probably, but not necessarily. Let's do some math.
The next House of Commons will have 338 seats. Let's makes some safe assumptions: the Greens hold their seat and the Bloc wins no more than five. That leaves 332. A not so safe but not entirely unrealistic assumption is that the Liberals basically hold steady picking up less than a dozen seats; let's give them only 45 seats. That leaves 287 for the NDP and Tories. 140 seats would leave 147 for the other, meaning 140 seats is not enough to win the election.
Whether or not the Conservatives form the government by winning just 147 seats (compared to 140) is open to speculation and circumstance. The Governor-General need not respect the wishes of the plurality and it might depend on how close the actual vote is. In the case of two parties win 140+ seats, the Tories are likely to be defeated on the first confidence vote and the NDP will get a chance to govern, like David Peterson and the Ontario Liberals did in 1985 when Frank Miller's Progressive Conservative government fell on its first confidence vote.
The assumption that 140 seats is enough to win a minority government is based on the assumption that the Liberals greatly increase their vote count.


 
Putin and polygamy
Julia Ioffe writes in Foreign Policy that the anti-Muslim Right in Europe should rethink its support for Russian President Vladimir Putin because he supports polygamy. Except if you read the article you see that there are many officials in Putin's Russia that want polygamy laws liberalized, at least for Russians, but nothing about Putin's own view on plural marriage. The European Right should rethink its support of Putin not over his (ostensible) support of polygamy, but because he's an autocrat.


 
Anti-bullying in school is cover for pro-gay agenda
Elizabeth Price Foley on how the Safe Schools initiative in Iowa has crossed the line: "there is a huge difference between promoting LGBT tolerance and promoting LGBT sex." But you can't criticize Safe Schools' propaganda because if you are against "lesbian strap-on anal sex" you are for bullying.


Sunday, July 26, 2015
 
First time Justin Trudeau's favoured candidate lost a nomination
Marco Mendicino defeated turncoat Eve Adams for the Liberal nomination for the Eglinton-Lawrence riding. Trudeau enthusiastically welcomed Adams earlier this year and arranged for Tom Allison, a brilliant Liberal strategist, to run her nomination in federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver's riding. Trudeau lost the news cycle back in February when Adams crossed the floor because the move seen as cynical on both their parts (the Liberal leader's and Adams') and local Liberals were not excited about Adams honing in on their turf as Trudeau's star candidate. Global reports that Mendicino won with 1,936 vote to "about 1100" for Adams; it is rare for nomination meetings to release vote totals, but perhaps riding Liberals had an interest showing that Adams -- and by extension Justin Trudeau -- was trounced. It is a rebuke against Trudeau's poor judgement to parachute a deeply flawed and unpopular candidate into the riding.


 
Varoufakis was secretly working on switch to drachma for Greece if bailout negotiations failed
The Sunday Telegraph reports:
A secret cell at the Greek finance ministry hacked into the government computers and drew up elaborate plans for a system of parallel payments that could be switched from euros to the drachma at the "flick of a button."
The revelations have caused a political storm in Greece and confirm just how close the country came to drastic measures before premier Alexis Tsipras gave in to demands from Europe's creditor powers, acknowledging that his own cabinet would not support such a dangerous confrontation.
Yanis Varoufakis, the former finance minister, told a group of investors in London that a five-man team under his control had been working for months on a contingency plan to create euro liquidity if the European Central Bank cut off emergency funding to the Greek financial system, as it in fact did after talks broke down and Syriza called a referendum ...
"The prime minister, before we won the election in January, had given me the green light to come up with a Plan B. And I assembled a very able team, a small team as it had to be because that had to be kept completely under wraps for obvious reasons," he said.
The intrigue sounds nutty enough to be true. Is Varoufakis looking to sell his story to Hollywood?


 
Elections barely matter
Perry de Havilland at Samizdata: "the culture war is in many ways the one that matters most, because everything else follows from it."


 
The Greek bailout is still an issue even if it isn't making front-page headlines
Reuters: "Debt conundrum to keep Greek banks in months-long freeze." The bailout isn't finalized and one of the unresolved issues is bank restructuring. Perhaps depositors will take a hit, perhaps banks will be part of the bailout.
This can't help the already weak Greek economy:
The longer it takes, the more critical the banks' condition becomes as a 420 euro ($460) weekly limit on cash withdrawals chokes the economy and borrowers' ability to repay loans.
"The banks are in deep freeze but the economy is getting weaker," said one official, pointing to a steady rise in loans that are not being repaid.


 
Want to help people, don't become a doctor
Rob Wiblin, executive director of the Centre for Effective Altruism, says:
About 1 in 200 people become doctors, many of them because they want to cure the sick and generally make the world a better place. Are they making the right decision? ...
The conclusion of our research is that most people skilled enough to make it in a field as challenging as medicine could have a bigger social impact through an alternative career.
The best research suggests that doctors do much less to improve the health of their patients than you might naturally expect. Health is more determined by lifestyle factors, and most of the treatments that work particularly well could be delivered with a smaller number of doctors than already work in the UK or USA.
However, medicine is high earning and highly fulfilling, and we expect there are more promising opportunities to help others through biomedical research, public health, health policy and (e.g. hospital) management.
This probably over-states the case against doctors helping others. But doctors do well by status and income compared to, say, researchers and policy experts, out of proportion to the good they do.


 
More valuable dead than alive?
National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez interviews Ramona Treviño, author of Redeemed by Grace: A Catholic Woman’s Journey to Planned Parenthood and Back, and begins with the obvious question about the Planned Parenthood scandal this emerged in recent weeks:
These videos not only expose Planned Parenthood for who they really are, but they help shed light on the gruesomeness of abortion. I’m extremely heartbroken, not only over the continued loss of life, but at the idea that only when babies are dead and their body parts are “sold” do they have any real value. Do these precious babies not have value before then? While still alive in the womb?


Saturday, July 25, 2015
 
New working theory on this election
Based on more than mere speculation (and you're just going to have to take my word on this), here is what I'm now thinking. The election begins either this week or after the long weekend. The Tories want a long election to bankrupt the Liberals. Stephen Harper doesn't care whether the Conservatives win or lose, the goal this election is to wipe out the Liberals. So when the Right goes nuts over Prime Minister Tom Mulcair and Canada's first NDP government, don't blame the voters, blame the Tory-in-Chief.
This theory fits with what has been suggested about Harper many times before that his goal was the creation of a two-party system in Canada, eliminating the Liberals, and what we think we know about long formal election campaigns and how they seem to hurt incumbents.
I only one-quarter believe this working theory, and would still bet on a Conservative minority in the 150-160 seat range, with Harper serving 2-5 more years as Prime Minister.


 
Pixels gets it wrong: the geeks and nerds win
Rick McGinnis didn't really like the movie Pixels, which he reviews at The Rebel, in part because their geek/nerd underdogs don't ring true. Gaming is too mainstream for nerds to be outcasts or underdogs:
You can’t even tag videogames as a loser marker anymore: The industry was growing four times faster than the U.S. economy as of last year, and its market in that country is projected to be worth nearly $20 billion dollars there by the end of the decade. (That’s roughly twice U.S. movie ticket revenues.) Game consoles might be slowing in sales but gaming apps are booming. From this perspective, the persistence of the gamer nerd as a stock character in films like Pixels smacks of sour grapes.
Perhaps related: the New York Times reports that drug testing is coming to e-gaming:
In response to those comments, the Electronic Sports League, one of the most successful leagues in competitive video gaming, said on Wednesday that it would test players for performance-enhancing drugs starting at a tournament in August. E.S.L. said it would work with two international agencies — the same ones that help oversee anti-doping policies for cycling, the Olympics and other sports — to create anti-doping guidelines and a testing program for players.
The announcement is perhaps the clearest sign yet that e-sports, as professional gaming is widely known, is evolving into a mainstream form of competitive entertainment. This year, overall revenue from the global e-sports business is expected to surpass $250 million from more than 113 million e-sports fans worldwide, according to estimates from Newzoo, a games research firm.
It sounds strange, but watching competitive video games isn't really different than watching live sports, when you think about it.


 
Is this because politicians truck in cliches?
The National Journal reports:
The question that data scientists at Quorum, a political analytics firm, sought to answer was this: Can computers use a similar process to come to the same conclusion? Could they teach a computer to predict political party from speech?
They found that "about 80 percent of the variation in the difference between what representatives say in Congress can be explained by party affiliation."
The list of favourite words is mostly predictable: Republicans use the words bureaucrats and Obamacare while Democrats talk about the wealthiest and inequality. Interestingly, Republicans used the term "raise taxes" frequently while Democrats talk about "tax breaks" indicating that members of both parties talk about the opposition's ideas than they do their own.


 
The Clinton email scandal nicely summarized
Reason's Matt Welch summarizes the Hillary Clinton email scandal:
A quick recap: Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, violated guidelines from the National Archives and her own State Department by using her own private email server for professional correspondence, and then destroying whatever messages she deemed destructible.
At first Clinton claimed that she needed a single non-governmental email account for "convenience," because she only had one phone. That claim turned out to be provably false. Next, she claimed that it didn’t matter much, because "The vast majority of my work emails went to government employees at their government addresses, which meant they were captured and preserved immediately on the system at the State Department." The latter half of that claim turned out to be provably false, too. She further insisted that none of the emails contained classified information, a claim that many people with intimate knowledge of such things—such as a former senior State Department official—described with phrases like "hard to imagine." And her assertion in a CNN interview this month that she went "above and beyond" the email disclosure requirements was—wait for it—false.
In sum, the Democratic Party's 2016 presidential frontrunner brazenly violated government transparency policy, made a mockery of the Freedom of Information Act, placed her sensitive communications above the law, and then just lied about it, again and again. Now comes word that, unsurprisingly, two inspectors general are recommending that the Department of Justice open a criminal inquiry into the matter. One of their findings was that the private server, contrary to Clinton's repeated claims, contained "hundreds of potentially classified emails."
The original has links to the evidence when Welch says HRC's claims are false.
Transparency is for plebs.
And it probably doesn't matter. As Welch says, it doesn't matter at all for Democrats.


 
Small Dead Animals unleashes (much deserved) tirade against Alberta Human Rights Commission
Just read it.


 
Special Olympic World Games
The (London) Spectator's Rod Liddle: "Isn’t it all a bit condescending?" Yes it is.


 
Amazon makes money
Wired.com reports:
Amazon made a $92 million profit last quarter, or about 19 cents per share. That’s peanuts compared to other tech giants like Google, which netted $3.93 billion last quarter, or eBay, which made $682 million. But analysts expected Amazon to lose 14 cents per share. In fact, it’s unusual that Amazon, a 21-year-old company, actually turns a profit at all.
This is very big news. The profits have made Amazon stock more valuable, so as Quartz reports:
Amazon.com’s market value whizzed past that of Walmart in after-hours trading Thursday, as investors increased their bets that the future of the US retail sector will be dominated by Jeff Bezos’ online behemoth.


Friday, July 24, 2015
 
Isn't it strange to see ESPN reporting on pro wrestling?
I know they do it, but sports entertainment is more entertainment than sports. The ESPN article doesn't mention Hulk Hogan's racist rant but does reference a WWE statement on respecting diversity as the wrestling company and its former superstar (who is now 61 years old) had parted ways. I was more NWA and the Four Horsemen than WWF and its cartoon characters in my adolescent years, but when it came to the more popular promotion, I cheered for Roddy Piper, Macho Man Randy Savage, and whoever was in Bobby "The Brain" Heenan's stable at the time.


 
Good economic analysis, bad ethics
Cafe Haeyk's Donald Boudreaux says "in our bootleggers and Baptists policy world" the advocates of minimum wage understand the raising it would price competition to entrenched interests out of the market, but that position is morally reprehensible.


 
Rent control: always and everywhere a bad idea
Alex Tabarrok points to a letter from a Stockholm resident to the city of Seattle urging officials and citizens to resist rent control. Rent control has led to queues for affordable housing in the Swedish capital. Economist Peter Navarro wrote in the Public Interest in 1985 that "the economics profession has reached a rare consensus: Rent control creates many more problems than it solves." Yet policy-makers have repeatedly ignored the consensus against rent control.


 
The NDP in Quebec
The Globe and Mail's Adam Radwanski: "Low funds could hinder re-election prospects for Quebec New Democrats." He reports that only three NDP incumbents have money enough in their riding associations to fund anywhere near the limit for their local campaign. Insufficient funds shouldn't be a problem considering that they famously won in 2011 without even really campaigning.


 
Obama's race relations legacy
Instapundit notes that a NY Times poll finds about four in ten Americans think race relations have gotten worse during the Obama era.


 
2016 watch (Fucked-up GOP edition)
Perry de Havilland at Samizdata on Donald Trump leading in the GOP primary polls: "So a guy who has in the past contributed funds to Barack Obama, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry is leading the ... Republican pack?"


 
Krauthammer on PP's scandal and the abortion debate
Charles Krauthammer:
The issue is less the sale of body parts than how they are obtained. The nightmare for abortion advocates is a spreading consciousness of how exactly a healthy fetus is turned into a mass of marketable organs, how, in the words of a senior Planned Parenthood official, one might use “a less crunchy technique” — crush the head, spare the organs — “to get more whole specimens.”
Many pro-lifers would disagree with Krauthammer on the idea that unlike most issues, abortion is one of the few in which the trend has not been toward liberalization, considering that abortion is minimally restricted in America (women can have an abortion at any time for any reason, although some states have minor impediments like a waiting period or requirement that women be informed about fetal development). That said, pro-lifers need to be intelligent about getting the public to take notice of the humanity of the preborn child.


Thursday, July 23, 2015
 
Useful exercise
Bryan Caplan:
Nowadays, gender roles are pretty flexible. Ideological roles, in contrast, seem more rigid than ever. Hence, the main role reversal I'd like to see: For just one day, criticize people on "your" ideological side instead of "their" ideological side. All day. Full sincerity. No irony. No mischief. No Strauss. Just candid independent fault-finding, written as politely as you usually address your ideological opponents.
Another exercise, which I regularly try with my colleagues, is to honestly understand why one's ideological opponents believe/think as they do. People suck at this, because most people think that those who differ when them is stupid or evil.
None of this is to say that ideological positions are wrong, but rather to notice one's side's own weaknesses and to take the other side as serious.


 
The Financial Post
Tyler Cowen has some thoughts on the Financial Post, which was sold today (Nikkei is buying it), and why it works better online than most other newspapers. Cowen's post describes not only why the FP works digitally but why most newspapers are better read on dead tree and therefore the FP model might not work for other publications without a radical rethink of their product.


 
Obama's disappointing Africa legacy
Todd Moss of the Center for Global Development has a column at CNN.com on how little President Barack Obama has done for Africa. The first term was a complete failure and the second term is a combination of mixed results and missed opportunities. Lots of promise, but very little delivery with some small-time photo-op programs more fitting the FLOTUS than POTUS as Moss says, and the failure of the first black president to fight for a Congressional commitment to a difference-making energy program that could bring electricity to 60 million Africans.


 
Coalition
Nathan Cullen, an advocate of electoral cooperation among Canada's left-of-center parties, is talking up the possibility of a coalition NDP-Liberal government, saying, "We’ve walked the talk, so Canadians can trust us when we say we’re willing to do whatever it takes to see the end of Mr. Harper." He added: "If Trudeau’s willing to turn to Liberal supporters and say, ‘My dislike of the NDP is greater than my dislike of the Conservatives,’ then let him make the argument." He is obviously needling Trudeau in a fight for the anti-Conservative vote, but he has also introduced the c-word into this campaign.
As I note in my book, The Dauphin: The Truth About Justin Trudeau, the Liberal leader said earlier this year that he is opposed to a coalition government with an NDP led by Tom Mulcair, but that was back in the spring. Considering his rhetoric against the Harper Conservatives, how can Trudeau the Younger not do everything in his power to displace the government? Does anyone really believe Trudeau, who has a history of saying one thing here and another thing there, when he appears to rule out a coalition? My guess is that he would play word games, clever McGill debate club fellow he is, and call whatever agreement the Liberals and NDP come up with a cooperative government rather than a coalition.


 
The case for letting all 16 candidate debate
Curt Anderson, a Republican media consultant, writes in the Wall Street Journal that all 16 declared candidates for the GOP presidential nomination should be on the stage for the first debates:
The Republican Party should be looking forward instead of backward—and seeking every opportunity to feature its roster of excellent candidates, rather than trying to find ways to constrict the field. The voters will do that, as is their prerogative. The simple truth is that competitive primaries usually make a party stronger, not weaker.
Of course, one of Anderson's clients is Bobby Jindal, who would not be among the 10 included in a debate due to poor poll numbers.


 
Alberta follows Ontario
The Rebel Media reports that Moody's signals to the new NDP government of Alberta that their credit rating could fall.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015
 
Quote of the day
Tim Carney: "The robots are definitely lobbying for a minimum-wage increase."


 
Air conditioning reduces energy use on net
So argues Megan McArdle, noting that the move from temperate northern cities to hotter southern cities increases air conditioning but decreases heating which uses more energy (18F to 70F takes less fuel, McArdle says, than going from 95F to 70F).


 
Why does the future always need to be subsidized?
Finance Minister Joe Oliver, Tory MP Mark Adler, and Toronto Mayor John Tory are pleased to announce federal funding for an aerospace project at Downsview which will provide high tech jobs for the future.


 
Best article of the year. So far
Maclean's: "The tiny islands where Canada and America are at war." War isn't quite the right word regarding two disputed islands, North Rock and Machias Seal, between New Brunswick and Maine. It is the last remaining land dispute between Canada and the United States and while the politicians don't seem to care, the local lobstermen do. One American lobsterman says: "Canadians are like Vikings. They’ll rape and pillage and not give a s–t because they can still go home." Another American lobsterman has lost a thumb. Rising lobster prices are raising the stakes over the waters surrounding the islands, which don't have any minerals or full-time population (save a few thousands puffins).


 
'How early is too early to drink?'
I don't know, anyone younger than five years old?
Seriously, excellent advice from Deadspin on when one can begin drinking: 5 pm unless you have actual responsibilities. "If you are actively mixing the enjoyment of alcohol with your most critical responsibilities as a human being, you’re drinking too early. I only like drinking when my shit is DONE." Also, good advice about washroom etiquette: don't watch videos on your mobile device because it violates the "no ambient noise" rule.


 
Michael Den Tandt doesn't get Harper or politics. But most pundits don't.
I don't mean to pick on Michael Den Tandt, but his Post Media column shows he just doesn't understand either the Conservatives or politics. That is not meant to be inflammatory, merely an observation. Most pundits don't get the Tories because they are, after all, outsiders to that tribe. (And, yes, I do mean to suggest that many journalists are not outsiders to the Liberal tribe and, to a lesser degree, the NDP.) But as a professional observer of federal politics, a person who makes his living commenting on national affairs, Den Tandt shouldn't be so clueless.
Today Den Tandt is puzzled as to why the Tories would put their unlikable pitbull Pierre Poilievre front-and-center in their campaign with election day less than three months away and not have the Prime Minister out stumping like the other party leaders. The better question is why would Stephen Harper campaign three months before the election? Harper is not like the other party leaders: he's the prime minister, he has the job, he can do more to set the agenda, and he doesn't have to advertise himself to people because voters know what he is. If Poilievre screws up, he can be replaced. A misstep by Harper, as unlikely as that would be, would sink the Tories. Harper has everything to lose and very little to gain by campaigning at this stage. As much as the media has declared the unofficial campaign officially begun more than a dozen times since last year's Throne Speech and most recently with the UCCB cheques being mailed out, the fact is the campaign doesn't really begin until the writ is dropped or the early August Maclean's leaders debate, whichever comes first.
More importantly, Harper understands that people get tired of political parties and leaders. Most governments have a shelf life of about a decade. Harper will be Prime Minister for a decade next January if he wins re-election. Harper knows that highlighting himself now risks voters getting tired of him before October 19. With more than now days to go before E-day, Poilievre is red meat for the base, the base that will provide donations and volunteer hours in the campaign ahead. There is plenty of time for Harper to make the case for the Tories and no need to do it in mid-July when the tiny number of undecided voters aren't paying attention anyway. Now that seems paradoxical, you might say: if voters aren't paying attention, Harper has no fear of having them tire of him. But even people who aren't paying attention see the face on the cover of newspapers and in the background on the television and hear relatives and friends talk about him. No need to alienate these people in mid-summer.
Den Tandt concludes by saying that the Tories are fighting for their political lives, or should be. The fact that they seem not to be might suggest that the polls or the standard analysis of them is incorrect. Maybe it's hubris on the part of the Conservatives, or maybe they have more or better data and are comfortable with where they are. When I break down the numbers and look at specific ridings and demographics, the Tories should be in the 150-160 seat vicinity, just short of a majority but well ahead of the other parties. But Den Tandt just becomes silly when he says "perhaps [Harper] is biding his time -- or has made his peace with moving on?" The Parliamentary Press Gallery has never understood Harper. They had him zigging when he was zagging, not because he was outsmarting them, but simply because they do not "get" the Conservative leader. They have had him resigning before the next election more often than I could keep track. He's been written off numerous times, beginning when he was first elected leader of the Conservative Party in 2004 and there was no chance he'd ever be prime minister. It's a little early to declare the end of the Harper Era just because the columnists and talking heads do not understand why the Conservative campaign is not doing what they (the journalists, brilliant strategists they believe themselves to be) think the professional campaigners and strategists should be doing.


 
Question for Justin Trudeau: Why stop with the UCCB?
The Toronto Star: "Justin Trudeau won’t accept his family’s child-care benefit." The Star reports:
Justin Trudeau is putting his money where his mouth is when it comes to the Conservative government’s newly enhanced universal child-care benefit (UCCB).
Child-care benefits should go to families who need the help, “not families like mine or Mr. (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper’s,” Trudeau told The Canadian Press.
“When it comes to child benefits, fair doesn’t mean giving everyone the same thing, it means giving people what they need.”
Trust-fund Trudeau should also refuse his Canada pension when he turns 65 and refuse the deductions for which he eligible when he pays income tax.


 
'ADHD and Overdiagnosis'
I'm late to last week's reading by David Gratzer is on a Canadian Journal of Psychiatry article "Is Adult Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Being Overdiagnosed?" It raises important issues for psychiatrists and Gratzer is unsure about the public policy implications but seems open to exploring a sunshine law that requires doctors disclose compensation from drug companies? Grazter properly praises the paper for going beyond criticizing the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) for its "flawed and impractical" definition of adult Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder to explore other explanations:
Medicalizing Attention: “Society increasingly demands a high level of performance on tasks that require sustained attention and multitasking. Thus social forces, such as competition in school settings, can motivate patients to seek stimulant prescriptions, which, in turn, require a diagnosis of ADHD.”
Disability Benefits: “Receiving a diagnosis of ADHD may make it possible for some adults to be considered disabled, and to receive benefits.”
They then outline two non-patient factors: First, researchers have an incentive to overdiagnose in an effort to win grants. Second, pharmaceutical companies aggressively market the diagnosis (and treatment) to maximize profit.
Dr. Gratzer has a reading each week which raises clinical and/or health care policy questions, usually in psychiatry. It is accessible to laymen (such as myself) and I highly recommend it.


 
The Obama legacy
The slow destruction of the Democrats. The Wall Street Journal reports:
After two presidential victories, Mr. Obama presides over a Democratic Party that has lost 13 seats in the U.S. Senate and 69 in the House during his tenure, a net loss unmatched by any modern U.S. president.
Democrats have also lost 11 governorships, four state attorneys general, 910 legislative seats, as well as the majorities in 30 state legislative chambers. In 23 states, Republicans control the governor’s office and the legislature; Democrats, only seven.
Outside the northeast, the only Democratic states (stat legislature and governor) are Oregon, California, and Hawaii. Notably, such "blue states" such as Washington, New York, and Illinois, do not have Democratic control of both houses of the legislature and the governor's mansion. Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Arkansas has flipped from full Democrat control to full Republican control.
This doesn't mean that Republicans will prevail in 2016. The national media has more influence over the political narrative in a presidential campaign than in state-level elections or even mid-terms.


 
2016 watch (Rand Paul edition)
Rand Paul wants to scrap the tax code in favour of a flat tax, and he wants to know how you want to get rid of the 70,000-page monstrosity that is the current tax code: burn it, woodchipper it, chainsaw it. I vote toss the code into the woodchipper.


 
2016 watch (John Kasich edition)
National Journal says that Ohio Governor John Kasich could end up being the 2016 version of Jon Huntsman. Ouch. Specifically, Kasich tells the truth, media loves it, Republican voters do not.


 
2016 watch (The Donald vs. the losers)
Maclean's has the lengthy list of people that Donald Trump has called loser.