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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Sunday, December 21, 2014
A new study finds that heterosexual men more upset with infidelity than heterosexual women, bisexuals, and homosexuals. Instapundit says that is "exactly as evolutionary theory would predict" because "only heterosexual men risk being stuck raising someone else’s kid."

How to prove consent with 'yes means yes' laws
Ashe Schow of the Washington Examiner asked but did not get any answers from sponsors and supporters of "yes means yes" laws about how to ascertain when there has actually been consent. She concludes:
Outside of videotaping (which might also lead to legal problems), notary witnesses, signed contracts and Breathalyzers, a person accused of sexual assault simply cannot prove they obtained ongoing consent throughout the process of sex and did not rely on silence, past sexual history or their partner's (victim's?) use of alcohol. It is already conceivably possible for any sex act to lead to a rape accusation, but this standard narrows the potential proof one can offer for one's innocence. It requires evidence that is basically impossible to produce, provide, or even (as the lack of answers suggests) imagine.
Under this law, an accusation is as good as evidence. Does every sexual encounter need to be recorded and documented just in case some time in the future one person decides to call it rape? Under these policies, yes.

Worst NYC dining trends
The New York Post has "The 11 worst dining trends of 2014" and while some of it is New York-centric, they all sound about right, especially "Stupid hot dog tricks." Hot dogs are supposed to be wiener, bun, and mustard. That's it. If you are paying $12 for a dog, even in New York City, you are at the wrong place.

Saturday, December 20, 2014
Christmas music: Handel's 'For unto us a child is born'
For the next few days I will be posting some of my favourite Christmas music. Not all of it will be classical or religious, but we kick off with the best, "For unto us a child is born" from Handel's Messiah. While I prefer the version of Sir Georg Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, this one of Sir Colin Davis conducting the London Symphony Orchestra is what I could find does justice to the majesty of the music.

Santa's elves and Santa's sleigh, modern edition
Via Politics and Humour.

About inequality
Economist Kevin Milligan was tweeting a Broadbent Institute graphic on wealth inequality, and he says: "I care about consumption inequality. I care about income inequality because it is decent proxy for consumption possibilities. But wealth?"

2016 watch (ostensibly the Jeb Bush edition)
Writing in the Fiscal Times Ed Morrissey says that Jeb Bush carries baggage, not only of the Bush name, but representing a previous generation of leadership and governance -- he was governor of Florida a decade ago. So Bush has problems, including not being with the party's base on a number of issues today and being unnecessarily antagonistic with them (such as saying Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush couldn't get nominated today, let alone Common Core and immigration). But there is a more important point, an implied point: elections are about status quo vs. change. Usually change means moving forward, but there are times when the change is nostalgic and voters want to embrace the past. The problem for Jeb Bush is that the electorate doesn't seem to want that change; it wants to move forward not backward, even Republicans. Morrissey notes that both candidates, Bush and Hillary Clinton, if early polls are to be believed, would represent the past.

Kathy Shaidle, poet
Blogger Five Feet of Fury links to Eve Tushnet reviews of her earlier work of poety, pre-9/11 and when she still smoked. I don't do poetry -- I just don't get it unless it's Rudyard Kipling or W.H. Auden -- but if you are so inclined, you should take a look. I for one, like the caustic Kathy but I understand why a certain kind of Catholic, even one who might generally agree, wouldn't want to read FFF.

Schools suck because we ask them to do too much
I get his satire, but isn't there some truth to this from "An open letter to America from a public school teacher" in McSweeney:
I had this ridiculous idea that art and music and drama and activity breaks would help my students grow. Maybe it was all those years of allowing my students to be creative. To think, I once had my English class produce a full-length play with original music and student-designed sets. I wasted weeks and weeks on that frivolous project. Sure, my students enjoyed it then, and okay, many of them still e-mail me and tell me that was the highlight of their high school experience, but I know now that if I had only had them sit in rows and practice for the ACT, if I had only given them short passages and had them tell me which of the five choices best described the author’s tone, they’d be so much more fulfilled in their lives.
After all, what did they really learn? How to access their imaginations? Developing original thoughts? Teamwork? I may as well have taught them how to file for unemployment.
Last year, our school district did away with our arts education classes. I was stunned along with the other misguided “professionals” with whom I taught. That was before I came to the stark realization that painting and sculpting and drawing might be nice hobbies to have, but they’re certainly not going to help adolescents as they compete for the jobs of the future.
Education as described in the letter sounds dreary. That's because schools are dreary, industrial-age institutions operating on a model that is a century-and-a-half old. (What is the grade system if not an assembly line.) Schools have to meet the demands of parents which are, in order (if not admitted): watch my kids and keep them out of trouble, prepare them for the "real world" of work, and prepare them for life by making them well-rounded citizens. Parents hand their children to schools for about seven hours a day, but once you take out lunch, recess, and moving from class to class (if your school is on rotary), they might have five hours of classroom instruction. School is largely about credentialing, a hoop through which people must jump to get to the next hoop so preparing students for the next hoop is what education has become. There isn't enough time to do everything so unless parents want a longer school day* the arts will fall by the wayside (or preparing students for the world of work will). The fact is most schools, and certainly most teachers, are not competent to both teach the facts necessary to pass standardized tests, inculcate a love of learning, and unleash the creative potential of their young charges, so asking teachers to do more than one thing is unfair to both teachers and students.
If you want your kid to explore music, drawing, or drama, dammit, do it yourself mom and dad. Or pay for the kind of independent school that has the competency (and resources, which are not always financial and are often simply being free of state-school rigidity) to do all the things you want your kids to do at school.
The problem with education is not simply teaching-to-the-test, but parental expectations. There are limits and trade-offs and sometimes it requires satire, such as the piece in McSweeney, to recognize it. There is an opportunity cost in every minute a student spends playing an instrument or practicing for a play, that is a minute less learning so-called practical skills or at least the info they'll need to pass tests and move on to the next grade (which, for all intents and purposes, is sometimes the limits to their practicality).
* I presume most parents would relish having kids in school for hours that matched their work schedules so I wouldn't want to give parents the (taxpayer subsidized) option.

About the Manitoba NDP's 'balanced budgets'
Earlier this week I suggested that the NDP in Manitoba were better at balancing the budget than NDP governments in Ontario and British Colubmia. Luc Lewandoski corrected this record via Twitter (in four tweets):
Just noticed your brief about NDP balancing budgets. It's a bit misleading with Manitoba's NDP too. Post-budget audits show that...
...As few as five or six years of the last fifteen have actually been revenue-over-expences positive. Several years they...
Raided the savings account begun after the MTS privatization (now depleting it) or raided a provincial Crown and had...
The Crown borrow in order to provide a Gov't budget-balancing dividend.
I thank Luc for this clarification.

'Pro-Tips: If You Have A Grad Student Home for the Holidays'
Via Kids Prefer Cheese, three really good pieces of advice on what to say/not say to grad students.

Friday, December 19, 2014
There's a lot of money in Minecraft
Business Insider: "The Creator Of Minecraft Outbid Beyonce And Jay Z For This Bonkers $70 Million LA Mansion." That's $15 mil less than the asking price for the 23,000-square-foot Beverley Hill mansion.

'Printing Cancer-Killing Viruses'
Alex Tabbarok points to a story about Cell biologist Andrew Hessel who is designing "viruses in software to attack a specific individual’s cancer and then using DNA Printers to create the viruses as a drug." It should be noted that this technology has not yet been tested on humans nor has it been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Still, it is an exciting frontier in regenerative medicine. Hessel also has an equally innovative business model: "I see the business model shifting away from the blockbuster-drug model of the pharma industry–getting the best product for the most people and charging the most for it–to more of a Netflix model, in which you might purchase a subscription for all-that-you-need medicine to manage your cancer." That, too, would be exciting. That said there is plenty of reason to be skeptical that he can deliver. But if not Hessel this time, it might be someone else doing something similar in the future.

If Ayn Rand reviewed children's movies
The New Yorker has a funny parody piece entitled, "Ayn Rand reviews children's movies" and while it is a bit of a caricature at times, I found some it laugh-out loud funny.

The most popular Financial Times stories of the year has a list of the 12 most popular stories from their publication on the year. I highly recommend all of them, but Tim Harford on Big Data stands out (#1)*, as does their in-depth critique of Thomas Piketty (#4). The Right will enjoy, and the Left should read, "The riddle of black America’s rising woes under Obama" (#10), and the Left will like and the Right could learn from the entrepreneur's curiosity in "FT interview with Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page" (#12).
* If you don't have an FT sub, you can read Harford's piece on his website.

Government pays for fake news to be distributed to real media
From Blacklock's Reporter: "Feds Pay $1.25M For ‘News’ Handouts To Media Editors." Reporter Tom Korski has the details:
Public Works Canada is awarding a $1.25 million contract to a publicist to distribute government-vetted “news” to publishers and radio and TV stations. The budget for handout “news” increased 25 percent from a previous contract. The department said it wanted to “inform and educate Canadians on public issues”.
The publicist, News Canada Ltd., said it gives editors handout stories free of charge bearing a “News Canada” credit – “just like Canadian Press,” said president Shelley Middlebrook. “We help distribute content,” Middlebrook said. “Journalists either pick it up or they don’t”; “Nobody pays to publish this. We follow Canadian Press-style rules of writing, and articles have to be marked as ‘News Canada’ just like CP.”
Handouts include standard 400-word newspaper stories for dailies and weeklies, and prepackaged broadcast items downloaded from the company’s website. Recent articles scripted for the Government of Canada and other clients include, “Supersize Your Tax Refund”; “Farmers Are Interested In The Environment”; “Food & Beverage Industry Raises the Bar On Nutrition”; and “Hey New Graduate, Check Out The Insurance Industry!” ...
Samples of pro-government TV handouts including one item lauding the Canadian Space Agency, including “interviews” with two officials; and another celebrating cabinet’s record on Aboriginal land claim settlements.
At least the Liberals didn't have to pay for the fawning treatment they got from the press.
I wonder whether any of the major media outlets will pick up on this? Or will they try to avoid embarrassment because some of their titles further down the corporate ladder -- a small city radio station or weekly newspaper -- were among those duped by News Canada?

Jack Kennedy, jerk
The Daily Telegraph has an article on President Barack Obama's (overdue) loosening of trade restrictions with Cuba, the island prison, so that travelers to Cuba will can now return to the United States with up o $100 worth of alcohol and tobacco products with them. The story includes this anecdote:
President John Kennedy, who implemented the embargo, famously ordered 1,200 hand-rolled Cuban cigars just hours before it went into effect. Legend has it that he waited for word that the cigars had been purchased before signing the order which meant his countrymen would no longer be allowed to buy them.

Graphic shows NDP government balance budgets
Nic Slater has a graphic on Twitter that (purports) to show that since 1980 half of NDP provincial governments have balanced their budgets or had a surplus. Only about a third of Conservative/Progressive Conservative provincial/federal governments and just over a quarter of Liberal governments. The problem is that the NDP governments in Manitoba and Saskatchewan weren't like the NDP governments in Ontario, British Columbia, and Nova Scotia. The Liberal governments in Ontario weren't like the Liberal federal governments of the 1990s. Ditto the federal Tories today and the Mike Harris government of the late '90s. The time frame is too broad and regional issues can come into play. But nice try to paint the NDP as fiscally responsible.

Shouldn't be blogging, should be writing
Re-starting big project. Announcement in a few days.

'Is String Theory About to Unravel?'
Good article on string theory at The Smithsonian mag by Brian Greene. Loved this line: "As Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg has said, the universe doesn’t care about what makes theoretical physicists happy."

A surprisingly good longread about pallets from Cabinet magazine by Jacob Hodes that I discovered through Tyler Cowen. Interesting throughout. (Then again, I'm the kind of guy who gets excited about container boxes -- photos like this one are basically porn to me.) Two interesting stats from just the first two paragraphs. First, Hodes begins by noting that "There are approximately two billion wooden shipping pallets in the United States." That seems like a lot, but probably isn't. That's about six pallets per American. Hodes concludes his second paragraph, "Studies have estimated that pallets consume 12 to 15 percent of all lumber produced in the US, more than any other industry except home construction." But what other industry would use so much wood? Not sure I would have guessed those numbers, but they seem perfectly reasonable. Most of the article is about how the excessive number of pallets left behind after moving goods created its own recycling industry. As I said, interesting throughout.
Highly recommended even if the author erroneously says "many experts consider the pallet to be the most important materials-handling innovation of the twentieth century." No that would be the container box, which is not only the most important materials-handling innovation of the last century, but probably one of five or six most important innovations ever. Trade connects people, and that's good.

Thursday, December 18, 2014
2016 watch (Romney edition)
The Washington Examiner quotes "one resident of Romneyworld" describing the source of Mitt Romney's support: "I don't really think you can objectively chalk it up to name ID. People are saying, 'He was right.' I think that has happened in so many different ways that people are looking at it with a fresh perspective." That seems an accurate description of both why Romney supporters think their man is popular and why so many Republican voters consider him the best candidate for 2016 (according to numerous polls). But that is his support now. Who was right in 2012 will not be the ballot question for Republicans in the 2016 primaries or the electorate in the 2016 general election.

'By now there is, believe it or not, a body of license-plate law'
George Will on the attempt by the Texas Department of Transportation to violate the free speech rights of Sons of Confederate Veterans by preventing them from having a state-sanctioned specialty license plate:
The Texas SCV’s design caused a commotion because the organization’s logo includes the Confederate battle flag. The Texas DOT committee that approves specialty plates approved the SCV plate — before it disapproved it because an official considered the plate “controversial.” The Texas Transportation Code says the state may refuse to create a plate “if the design might be offensive to any member of the public.” Yes, any.
Will says the case law favours the SCV.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014
McGinnis on White Zombie
Rick McGinnis has photos of White Zombie before they were big and a short write up, including this: "The band were playing the Apocalypse, the sort of amiable shithole of a club that you spend nights in for a couple of years and never miss when it inevitably closes."

'Guerrilla street art spotted in the Financial District'
BlogTO reports that an elephant sculpture in downtown Toronto was vandalized/improved. The comments analyzing the meaning of the prank are worth reading.

Year-end polls show Liberals ahead and the 2015 federal Canadian election
Canadian polling maven Eric Grenier:
EKOS put it at just a single point, with the Liberals at 32 per cent and the Conservatives at 31 per cent and the NDP trailing at 20 per cent. Forum, on the other hand, gave the Liberals 41 per cent support to 33 per cent for the Conservatives and just 17 per cent for the NDP.
It makes for a confused muddle as Canadians enter a year in which a federal election must be held by mid-October.
A Leger poll earlier this month shows the Liberals with a six-point lead.
What does this all mean? It is better for the Liberals to be ahead than behind, but the Conservatives have been better at getting their polling support up during election campaigns and their voters out on election day in the last decade. That trend could cease, but it's premature to assume that.
I still think the Liberals will tank when Canadians start really paying attention and Justin Trudeau gets his close-up with the electorate. A lot of Liberal support will disappear when people get to know Trudeau. Polls now are indirectly gaging the popularity of the Prime Minister, but what Stephen Harper does very well is make elections about the Liberal leader. My guess is that the shallowness of the Dauphin will come through during the intensity of an election campaign and Canadians will not see the leader-in-waiting they have been hoping for.
All that doesn't mean Stephen Harper cruises to another majority. It is possible that the NDP can hold or gain support and the Liberals improve just enough to bring the Conservatives back down to a minority. A lot can happen between now and election day. In the final days of 1992, nobody saw the governing Progressive Conservatives being reduced to a mere two seats in the 1993 election or the Bloc Quebecois forming the Official Opposition. In the Spring of 2004, despite the early revelations of the Adscam scandal, few people thought Paul Martin's Liberals would be reduced to a minority. In late 2005, when Martin was forced to face another election, the pundits assumed that despite the Gomery commission hearings into Adscam, the electorate would return a Liberal minority, because the voters had already "punished" the Grits by taking away their majority a year-and-a-half earlier; Harper's Conservatives won a minority government after an eight week campaign during which Jane Creba was shot in downtown Toronto on Boxing Day.
So it is possible that my prediction of the Conservatives maintaining power will be proven wrong. My point, however, is that polls that show the Liberals ahead today probably do not matter all that much, and not nearly as much as the election campaign and the dominant news stories of 2015 will.

2016 watch (Jeb Bush edition)
Powerline's Paul Mirengoff wonders if Jeb Bush is more like John McCain (2008) and Mitt Romney (2012) or Rudy Giuliani (2008) and Jon Huntsmann (2012). All were favoured by the Republican Establishment, but Giuliani and Huntsmann were deemed insufficiently conservative by the GOP base. Riffing on Nate Silver's latest political piece, Mirengoff thinks Bush falls in line with McCain or Romney. The analogies are not perfect, for as Silver says: "Bush has been more like Hunstman than Romney in explicitly critiquing the direction of his party. That may appeal to general-election voters, but it probably isn’t helpful to him in a Republican primary."

If you haven't completely tired of reading about the demise of The New Republic
Ryan Lizza, a former writer at The New Republic, has a long piece in the New Yorker about the demise of TNR. It probably isn't worth reading if you've read more than two articles about TNR already, but I quite liked this:
The editors were hardly opposed to giving greater attention to digital media, but they came to believe that Hughes was losing interest in the actual content of T.N.R.’s journalism and cultural criticism. “The only compliment [owner] Chris [Hughes] or Guy ever said about a piece was that it ‘did well,’ or it ‘travelled well,’ ” one of the staffers who resigned said. “If we had published Nietzsche’s ‘Birth of Tragedy,’ the only question would be, ‘Did it travel well?’ ‘Yes, Wagner tweeted it.’ ”

The Laffer curve turns 40
In Investor's Business Daily, Arthur Laffer talks about the "trade-off between tax rates and revenues" and the curve that bears his name. The actual concept is much older than 40, but the dinner at which Laffer, Jude Wanniski, Ronald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney talked about the Ford administration's 5% income tax surcharge occurred four decades ago.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Green Day?
Green Day is inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in its first year of eligibility. Puke.

Lone wolves
Mark Steyn:
At one level, the Aussie authorities screwed up the way the Canadian and US authorities screwed up: These jihadists are less "lone wolves" than, as Patrick Poole says, "known wolves". The Ottawa shooter, the St Jean killer, the Marathon bombers, the Fort Hood major, the pantybomber, all were known to the authorities. So was "Sheikh Haron": Aside from various earlier charges and convictions, he had been charged as an accessory to the murder of his wife, who died in a particularly brutal way, stabbed and set alight in the stairwell of her apartment building ...
Many more will be in the years ahead. It was striking that, even as the siege was beginning, the politico-media class were already firing up what Laura Rosen Cohen calls the "Lone Wolf Story Generator", isolating one man in his own derangement and separating him from any broader currents. Relax, it's not "terrorism" - those reports that it was an ISIS flag he was flying was wrong; it's just a regular ol' Islamic flag. But whoa, it's nothing to do with Islam, either.
I think there are "lone wolves" but they are still connected to a broader Islamic movement, and they are being urged to act on their own by ISIS and other terrorist leaders. So the lone wolf idea is accurate but misleading, and highly irrelevant.

The perfect 'I can't breathe t-shirt'
Is noted by Five Feet of Fury.

Cash instead of programs
Chris Blattman points to a Center for Global Development study that finds the state spends about twice as much educating a student in India than a private school -- and with worst educational outcomes -- and that concludes that giving families funding for education at the private school level and then giving the rest in cash or vouchers for food would be a highly beneficial program. Blattman says: "would people be better off with cash ... isn’t known for sure, but the evidence is building. I really think we ought to see massive policy experiments comparing public goods and services to cash, vouchers, or even a basic guaranteed income." There is not enough social policy experimentation, and its too bad it is almost always suggested for the developing world.
Charles Murray argued in favour of cash transfers to replace nearly all program spending, including education, in the United States in his 2006 book In Our Hands: A Plan To Replace The Welfare State.

Electric cars are not green
The Associated Press reports:
People who own all-electric cars where coal generates the power may think they are helping the environment. But a new study finds their vehicles actually make the air dirtier, worsening global warming.
Ethanol isn't so green, either.
"It's kind of hard to beat gasoline" for public and environmental health, said study co-author Julian Marshall, an engineering professor at the University of Minnesota. "A lot of the technologies that we think of as being clean ... are not better than gasoline."
The key is where the source of the electricity all-electric cars. If it comes from coal, the electric cars produce 3.6 times more soot and smog deaths than gas, because of the pollution made in generating the electricity.

Monday, December 15, 2014
Benjamin Levin who?
Small Dead Animals has a Sun News story on the Benjamin Levin Blackout. Michael Coren has written about Levin in The Interim. And this is what The Interim has written about him following his arrest:
Meanwhile, a former deputy minister of education in Manitoba and Ontario faces child pornography charges. After an international sting operation, Benjamin Levin, a University of Toronto education professor and member of Wynne’s transition team, was arrested on July 8 and later granted bail, charged with two counts of distributing child pornography and one count each of making, possessing, and accessing child pornography, as well as counseling to commit an indictable offence and agreeing to or arranging for a sexual offence against a child under 16. The charges have not been proven in court.
Levin served as deputy education minister for the McGuinty government between 2004 and 2009 when the nixed sex ed curriculum was originally developed. Wynne claimed that Levin played no part in making the sex education curriculum and that suggesting otherwise “demonstrates a lack of understanding of how curriculum actually is written.” Fonseca told The Interim it is not credible to believe the deputy minister of education had nothing to do with curriculum development. Christina Blizzard wrote in the Toronto Sun that the charges “raise disturbing questions in general about the way education policy is formulated and who has input.”

Do conflict-of-interest rules make sense in our undemocratic Parliament?
The CBC reports:
A Liberal MP is calling on the federal ethics watchdog to investigate whether two Conservative MPs with ties to a mobile campaign app violated the House conflict-of-interest code by voting on an election bill introduced by the government last spring.
In a letter sent to Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson on Monday, Newfoundland Liberal MP Scott Simms says he is "deeply concerned" Conservative MPs Rod Bruinooge and Rob Clarke may have breached the rules that forbid MPs from using their parliamentary position to further their "personal interests."
Last week, CBC News reported that Bruinooge and Clarke are the co-creators of ProxiVote, a smartphone-based voter-tracking app that is being marketed to right-leaning candidates by Proximity Mobile, a company headed by Bruinooge's wife, Chantale.
Both Bruinooge and Clarke have disclosed current interests in the parent corporation, 6317414 Manitoba Ltd.
"The basic purpose of ProxiVote is to help campaigns keep track of who has voted on Election Day," Simms notes in the letter.
"While this is standard practice for all nearly all candidates, the software produced by ProxiVote would expedite the process by allowing data entry directly in the polling station."
Under the new law, the previous prohibition on using electronic devices at the polls has been removed — a change that Simms contends "has had a direct, positive effect on the value of ProxiVote's software."
First, does anyone really think Simms cares about the supposed conflict-of-interest, or is he just trying to score a cheap and meaningless political point?
But I think there is a more fundamental question about the conflict-of-interest rules. When MPs vote by strict party line, can there really be a conflict-of-interest? Sure, they can refrain from voting, but their decision to vote for the government's Bill C-23 which amended The Elections Act was determined for them by the fact that they are members of the governing Conservative Party. Even if voting for it did "further his or her private interests or those of a member of the members' family" as the Conflict of Interest Act stipulates, that that is not reason the trained seals voted for C-23.

Cromnibus winners and losers
Betsy McGaughey in the New York Sun:
Politicians and party operatives: Cromnibus hikes the limits on what can be donated to parties and their committees, which will mean more money for balloons, limos, cocktail parties, and hotels. (Sec. 101) Big banks: Cromnibus repealed a Dodd Frank provision that required bank holding companies to keep 5% of risky “derivative” investments out of FDIC-insured operations. Mrs. Warren claimed the change will “let Wall Street gamble with taxpayer money and get bailed out” but that’s more political posturing than truth. (Sec. 630)
Farmers: The Clean Water Act will not apply to farm ponds and irrigation trenches, and the Environmental Protection Agency won’t be able to count dairy cow and cattle flatulence and belching as greenhouse gases. The White House wanted to cut dairy industry emissions 25% by 2020. (Secs. 419-420)
Cops: No funding for body cameras for police. Cops and cows won. African black marketers and politicians: A whopping $5.5 billion for Obama’s Ebolacare programs, with nearly 90% of the money going to Africa. No safeguards to prevent its corrupt misuse. It’s more money that the U.S. spends on research for cancer, double aid to Israel, and five times what the World Health Organization said is needed. (pp. 98-99,413-414,928-31,1340-45)
Techies: Federal moratorium on state and local internet taxes extended another year. (Sec. 624)
Incandescent Bulb Users: Demand for the cheaper bulbs remains high, and Cromnibus delays new, energy efficiency standards first devised under George W. Bush. (Sec. 313)
Insurers: Cromnibus says no taxpayer money to bail-out health insurers for losses. Obamacare originally compelled insurers to pay fees into a fund that would then be distributed to offset losses they incur on the exchanges. The administration had promised to sweeten the deal with taxpayer money if the fund fell short. Congress says no. Insurers lose, except the Blues, which got a special deal that will save them a bundle of money. (Secs. 102, 277)
IRS: This agency got slapped with a $346 million budget cut and told to stop targeting tax-exempt organizations based on their politics.
The Obamas: School lunch standards championed by Michelle Obama are relaxed, after protests over the low-sodium, and whole-grain rules. (Sec. 751) President Obama didn’t get the $3 billion he brazenly promised the U.N. for poor countries coping with climate change.
D.C. Voters and Tokers: They passed a referendum legalizing recreational use of marijuana in the district, but Congress says no.(Sec. 809) Sage Grouse: It won’t be put on the Endangered Species List, a gift to oil drillers. (Sec. 122)

76-year-old man tasered after police stop for not having a Vehicle Inspection Sticker -- for which the car was exempt
The Blaze has the latest outrage about policing in America in 2015. Comes with video and local news story. Fortunately the officer in question is being investigated and has been taken off the streets until the matter is resolved.

2016 watch (Jeb Bush edition)
Hot Air's Allah Pundit on Jeb Bush's email dump:
Drumming up media interest in gubernatorial e-mails is a sly way by Bush to put pressure on Chris Christie and Scott Walker, each of whom has been dragged into a scandal involving staffers and their online communications. Jeb knows who his chief competition is on the center-right and it’s not Rand Paul or Ted Cruz.
Meanwhile, there is a PAC encouraging Mitt Romney to run again. Allah Pundit says Romney is a lot like Hillary Clinton:
They’re both bad at retail politics generally but excellent at making friends with rich people, both disdained by their party’s base but beloved by their party’s establishment for being safe, ostensibly electable counters to grassroots ideologues’ fringier impulses.
I assume Jerry Brown is interested in exploring a 2016 presidential bid. Is Michael Dukakis still alive? Hell, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush only served one term, so they can run again.

Crony capitalism
Flanders News reports:
The Belgian authorities made 60 deals involving tax benefits for big multinational companies. The content of those deals is a big secret, De Standaard and Het Nieuwsblad report, although it is a public secret that brewers AB InBev are one of them.
Belgium is offering multinationals the opportunity to negotiate the profit rates on which they are being taxed. In practise, these so-called “excess profit rulings” allow international players to be exempted from paying taxes on a major part of their profits.
Francis Adyns, spokesman for the federal Finance Department ‘FOD Financiën’ admits that the “rulings commission made 60 of those deals since 2005”. It’s the first time a specific number is being mentioned, but the content remains a secret. The rulings commission refuses to give any comment about the companies involved and how much tax they were allowed to evade, citing professional confidentiality.
Broad-based corporate tax cuts are much preferable to individual deals, especially secret deals.

New York City cops kill fewer civilians than other cops, and are killing fewer than they did 40 years ago
Reason's Jim Epstein:
[O]ne might get the misimpression that the NYPD stands out among the nation’s police departments in its overuse of deadly force. In fact, New York cops shoot and kill many fewer people than cops in the rest of the country. And fatal shootings by the NYPD have fallen significantly over the years.
In 2013, eight people were shot and killed by the NYPD. New York City had 8.4 million residents in 2013, so that works out to about one fatal shooting per million residents. As Scott Shackford has noted, there are no reliable national stats to compare this to. But even if we accept the FBI's lowball figure of 461 fatal shootings by cops in 2013 (the real figure may be more than double that), that translates to 1.5 people killed by cops for every one million U.S. residents, or a rate that's about 50 percent higher than in New York City.
And the historical numbers demonstrate that—thankfully—ubiquitous cameras and social media are raising public awareness of these issues. In 1971—both an unusually violent year and the first year the NYPD started reporting these stats—93 people were shot and killed by cops in New York City. The city's population was 7.8 million in 1971, so that works out to about 12 killings for every million residents!
There is no optimal number of victims of police shootings, but fewer is better so these are positive trends. And protesters and media are wrong to paint Big Apple police as rogue cops.

The Hamilton Spectator: "‘I Can’t Breathe’ shirts made by company that pays workers $6 per day." I don't care, but it's the sort of thing that the people wearing them would. Or at least they'd normally care.

There is nothing as permanent as a government program job
Nicole Kaeding at the Cato Institute blog:
A new study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that the advantages of government employment include more than just higher compensation. Government jobs are more secure, and employees are more likely to keep their jobs during economic downturns.
The authors of the study, Jason L. Kopelman and Harvey S. Rosen, used data for 800,000 workers from 1984 to 2012 to study the differences in job loss rates between workers in the private and public sectors. They wanted to determine how the differentials changed during recessions. They asked: Are government jobs more secure during recessions?
The results are striking. According to the researchers, “public sector jobs, while not generally recession-proof, do offer more security than private sector jobs, and the advantage widens during recessions. These patterns are present across genders, races, and educational groups.”
The researchers found that private sector workers are 4.2 percent more likely to lose their jobs than federal employees during nonrecession periods. The gap grows during recessions; private workers are 6.5 percent more likely to lose their jobs than federal employees. During the Great Recession, the gap narrowed slightly. Private workers were only 5.3 percent more likely than federal employees to lose their jobs.

This isn't going to help Justin Trudeau
Talk of coalition. Frank Graves in iPolitics: "Voters ready to embrace coalition in a tightening race." What Graves has really found is that those who want to replace the Harper government, really, really, really want to replace it. Soft Liberal support however might migrate to the Tories or stay home when a coalition with the NDP seems more than merely theoretical.

America's non-existent college rape crisis
Glenn Reynolds writes in USA Today about recent statistics that show how the mantra that one-in-five female college students are raped is bogus -- the actual number is about 1 in 50 -- and that rape against women has declined by half since 1997. So why the phony college rape crisis? Reynolds offers a plausible explanation:
This kind of hysteria may be ugly, but for campus activists and bureaucrats it's a source of power: If there's a "campus rape crisis," that means that we need new rules, bigger budgets, and expanded power and self-importance for all involved, with the added advantage of letting you call your political opponents (or anyone who threatens funding) "pro rape." If we focus on the truth, however — rapidly declining rape rates already, without any particular "crisis" programs in place — then voters, taxpayers, and university trustees will probably decide to invest resources elsewhere. So for politicians and activists, a phony crisis beats no crisis.