Sobering Thoughts

Comments on politics, the culture, economics, and sports by Paul Tuns. I am editor-in-chief of "The Interim," Canada's life and family newspaper, and author of "Jean Chretien: A Legacy of Scandal" (2004) and "The Dauphin: The Truth about Justin Trudeau" (2015). I am some combination of conservative/libertarian, standing athwart history yelling "bullshit!" You can follow me on Twitter (@ptuns).

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Sunday, July 14, 2019
Market failure
Donald Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek:
They [market failures] are mirages created by Progressives’ habit of assuming that everyone has the same tastes and preferences as those of Progressives.
I think there are market failures,* but many of so-called market failures are simply the name slightly economically literate progressives give to outcomes that they, the Left, don't like.
* It is folly to believe that the exchange mechanisms of buying and selling would always produce beneficent results.

Porn is bad for the environment
New Scientist reports:
The transmission and viewing of online videos generates 300 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, or nearly 1 per cent of global emissions. On-demand video services such as Netflix account for a third of this, with online pornographic videos generating another third.
This means the watching of pornographic videos generates as much CO2 per year as is emitted by countries such as Belgium, Bangladesh and Nigeria.
That’s the conclusion of a French think tank called The Shift Project. Earlier this year, it estimated that digital technologies produce 4 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions and that this figure could soar to 8 per cent by 2025.

Qu'ils mangent de la brioche (2019 edition)
The (Sunday) Times reports on the opulent lifestyle of President Emmanuel Macron's Environment Minister, François de Rugy, and his wife, Séverine Servat, following revelations by Mediapart and other French outlets. de Rugy, who used to serve as president of the National Assembly (like the Speaker in a parliament), spent tens of thousands of dollars on lavish parties and renovations of his official residence. The salacious highlight is a gold-leaf encrusted hair dryer for Lady Gala (Servat), but two other details warrant greater attention:
Ouest-France, alleged he had held an “informal” dinner in March for energy industry lobbyists and insisted it not be included in public records.
In a further twist, Mediapart managed to get hold of de Rugy’s financial records, which showed he had managed, through the use of allowances, legally to avoid paying any income tax for 2014.
The first allegation indicates an attempt to avoid accountability, while the second story illustrates the problems of tax codes that allow comfortable politicians to avoid taxes that are foisted upon the commoners.
For now, Macron is backing de Rugy, technically the second most senior official in the administration. Peter Conradi, The Times Paris correspondent, writes, the allegations "threaten to revive the old trope of an overprivileged Parisian political elite highlighted by the gilets jaunes." The trope of the overprivileged Parisian political elite is a not so charming French tradition.

Saturday, July 06, 2019
Hope to return to blogging on or around July 13.

Thursday, July 04, 2019
The joy of flying?
I love the comment by "Faze" at Marginal Revolution on the joy(s) of flying:
I find flying so stimulating that I can't focus on reading - at the airport or in the air. Mostly I look out the window and agree with Joan Didion, who once said, "The most beautiful things I've ever seen have all been from planes.
Everything about flying is too marvelous to read through.
I don't necessarily enjoy the TSA lines, but it's an opportunity to observe fellow human beings in their various clothing, classes, occupations and relationships. I appreciate it as a kind of spiritually beneficial leveling activity - people taking off their shoes, as they do at the door to a mosque.
I love studying the passengers in the waiting area who will soon be joining me in the big tube, and once I'm on the plane, I love their solemn, anticipatory faces as they board. As we taxi and take off, I think about what a privilege it is to experience this amazing thrill being rocketed off the earth. And once we're in the sky, I am exhilarated by the whole Louis C.K. shtick: "Sitting in a chair. In the air!" - something that my heroes from Da Vinci and Samuel Johnson fantasized about.
Zooming along at cruising altitude, I snuggle inside myself, contemplating the fact that statistically, even though I am 40,000 feet in the air, I am in one of the safest environments on or off the planet. Even the turbulence is comforting, inasmuch as it demonstrates the miracle of the aircraft's engineering and resilience.
As the sun slants through the windows, I look around at my fellow passengers, seated in rows like people in a church sharing a temporary communion high up over the earth -- a large, random group of strangers elevated above the clouds.
All of this holds true even when there is a crying child - or as on a recent flight to Florida - a whole kindergarten full of joyously noisy children in the back of the plane. A baby crying! Halfway to space!
All of this is made more poignant by my suspicion that this age of popular air travel will curtailed at some point in my lifetime, probably for environmental reasons or as environmentalist or anti-elitist theater.
We fly in a privileged historical moment, where cheap air travel is available to almost everybody. Much as I love reading, I can't bear to miss a minute of it.
We should all appreciate the wonders and miracles in our lives.

Monday, July 01, 2019
Best. Headline. Eva.
From PJ Media: "Thanks, HGTV: Americans VASTLY Overestimate the Gay Population in U.S., Gallup Finds." Good story, too.
PJ Media's Paula Bolyard's article begins by rehearsing the origins of the propaganda campaign to normalize homosexual behaviour, which Bolyard says has been fantastically successful. For as Gallup finds, "Americans Still Greatly Overestimate U.S. Gay Population." Gallup reports:
U.S. adults estimate that nearly one in four Americans (23.6%) are gay or lesbian. Gallup has previously found that Americans have greatly overestimated the U.S. gay population, recording similar average estimates of 24.6% in 2011 and 23.2% in 2015. In each of the three polls in which Gallup has asked this question, a majority of Americans estimated this population to be 20% or greater.
Americans' estimate of the proportion of gay people in the U.S. is more than five times Gallup's more encompassing 2017 estimate that 4.5% of Americans are LGBT, based on respondents' self-identification as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Happy Birthday Canada
Mark Wegierski has an essay, "In Search of Canadian Identity," online at The Interim. His argument is that Canada has a pre-1967 history, a story that predates the two Trudeaus. Here's a snippet:
In the last 40 years, Canada has experienced a massive repudiation of traditional notions of national identity, which had flourished for hundreds of years before. The English-Canadian and French-Canadian nations had indeed existed long before the formal establishment of the Dominion of Canada in 1867. However, today Canada is a cultural laboratory, having severed its roots – in history, Christianity, and the countryside. While it may not be surprising that British identification has melted away since the collapse of the British Empire in the 1950s, there has been little attempt to construct a more positive identity for English-speaking Canadians.

Sunday, June 30, 2019
Happy Birthday Thomas Sowell
Thomas Sowell turned 89 today. Mark Perry of The American Enterprise Institute pays tribute to economist and columnist who has influenced several generations of conservatives:
In my opinion, there is no economist alive today who has done more to eloquently, articulately, and persuasively advance the principles of economic freedom, limited government, individual liberty, and a free society than Thomas Sowell. In terms of both his quantity of work (at least 46 books and several thousand newspaper columns) and the consistently excellent and crystal-clear quality of his writing, I don’t think any living free-market economist even comes close to matching Sowell’s prolific record of writing about economics. And as I’ve mentioned previously on CD, as a writer Thomas Sowell is truly the “Master of Idea Density” – he has the amazing talent of being able to consistently pack more ideas, insight, and wisdom into a single sentence or paragraph than what typically takes an entire essay or book for even the best writer!
As Perry notes, 22 of those books have been published since 2002. Sure, some of those books get a tad repetitive, but that's still impressive. Perry has 15 of his favourite Sowell quotes in the aforementioned tribute, including (probably) my favourite:
The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.
I also like Jeff Jacoby's favourite Sowell quote: "Intellect is not wisdom."
Four of my most heavily marked up books are Sowell's A Conflict of Visions, The Vision of the Anointed, Knowledge and Decisions, and The Quest for Cosmic Justice, and I strongly recommend young conservatives read the first two.

Thursday, June 27, 2019
The Democratic presidential debate (Part 1)
I didn't watch it. I might get around to it later, but it seems like it was precisely what one would expect it to be. Some of the commentary on the debate -- or as Roger Kimball calls it, the "debate" -- worth reading is highlighted below.
John Podhoretz in the New York Post:
Section 1325! Section 1325! For a few crucial minutes in the middle of the first Democratic presidential debate, Julián Castro (polling average: 0.8 percent) took over the proceedings by challenging his fellow candidates to endorse the repeal of Section 1325 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act.
What’s it about? Don’t ask.
He yelled at Beto O’Rourke about it and expressed his deep disappointment that O’Rourke wasn’t joining him in supporting the repeal of Section 1325.
O’Rourke is at 3.3 percent in the Real Clear Politics polling average, so you can see why Castro thought it was so important to nail him. If he really cuts into Beto’s support, Castro might rise to a whole 1.5 percent.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren — poll average 12.8 percent — could barely get a word in edgewise.
Later, Tulsi Gabbard (0.8 percent) got into a kerfuffle with Tim Ryan (0.6 percent) on whether we should even have gone into Afghanistan in the first place. Gabbard, who seemed to be bidding for the goth vote with her dramatic shock of gray hair, said the Taliban didn’t attack us, al Qaeda did. Ryan’s expression was like Mugatu in “Zoolander” asking if he’d been taking crazy pills.
Meanwhile, Warren — remember, with a poll average of 12.8 percent — still wasn’t getting a word in edgewise.
And Roger Kimball in The Spectator:
The best comment I heard tonight came from my 11-year-old daughter. Walking into my study at one point and overhearing something Elizabeth Warren said about ‘corporations’ or ‘Medicare for All,’ she asked ‘does she know about a thing called money?’ We exchanged a meaning glance because it was clear that neither Sen. Warren nor her Democratic colleagues know the first thing about money, a prerequisite for the job of president of the United States. Which is a major reason why none of them will have that title on their resumes, and thank God for small mercies.
More Kimball:
Because the entertainment that was beamed out tonight from NBC was not a debate. It had nothing to do with debate. It was an exhibition — partly pathetic, partly amusing in a surreal sort of way — of sclerotic virtue-signaling.
At The Bulwark, Jonathan Last comments on every Democrat's performance. This is disappointing, or at least should be for Democrats: "Amy Klobuchar: Was she even there?" This, too, was disappointing because it is such as Bulwarkian comment: "John Delaney / Tim Ryan: Any chance one of these guys wants to switch up and go as a Republican running to primary Trump? Because they’d get a lot more votes that way." According to Last, last night's winners were Joe Biden, Donald Trump, and Mitch McConnell. The big loser: America.
Lastly, a headline from The Corner: "Democrats Lurch Left on Abortion, Immigration, and Health Care in First Debate." that seems to capture what happened (gleaned from the coverage I've read). This is hardly news. The party seems to be drifting leftward so it is hardly news that the party's "debate" for the party's activist and voter base. In other words, Bernie Sanders won the 2016 Democratic primary.
That said, progressives don't think the candidates are Left enough, at least on the environment. See Emily Atkin's New Republic essay, "The First Democratic Debate Failed The Planet." (Psst: a debate cannot save the planet.)

Saturday, June 22, 2019
Thank God for polls
A ComRes poll for the Sunday Telegraph finds that Conservatives like Boris Johnson and Brexit and dislike Jeremy Corbin:
Boris Johnson is more than 20 points ahead of Jeremy Hunt among grass-roots Conservatives, a new poll suggests.
A ComRes survey for The Sunday Telegraph found that 61 per cent of Tory councillors intended to vote for Mr Johnson in the party's leadership contest, compared to 39 per cent planning to back the current Foreign Secretary.
The poll also reveals an overwhelming preference for a no-deal exit from the EU if the next Conservative leader fails to secure a better deal with Brussels.
Some 83 per cent of councillors said the next Conservative leader must deliver Brexit on or before October 31, when the extended Article 50 notice period is due to expire, while 80 per cent said that if the EU refuses to make any further concessions the UK should leave without a deal.
Some 77 per cent disagreed that the next Tory leader must extend Brexit if the alternative is a no-deal exit, compared to 23 per cent who agreed. Meanwhile, 62 per cent said they would support an electoral pact between the Conservatives and Nigel Farage's Brexit Party if it was likely to keep Jeremy Corbyn out of Downing Street.

Grade 8 student didn't know about Hitler
The Toronto Star reports on an incident involving a school's graduation display:
A Catholic elementary school has removed a quote attributed to Hitler that was part of a Grade 8 graduation picture display — after it hung in the gym for nearly two days.
Staff at Holy Rosary Catholic School were made aware of the quote — “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. (Adolf Hitler)” — after basketball players, who use the gym for evening games, complained ...
She said staff at the school, located near Bathurst St. and St. Clair Ave. W., spoke with the student who is “deeply apologetic,” adding, “We believe the student made an honest mistake.”
I think this is pretty innocuous. Probably shouldn't use a quote from Hitler in school displays, but the quote itself wasn't offensive or reflective of Hitler's actions or ideologies. But I find the explanation deeply problematic:
The boy had searched online for an inspirational quote and didn’t know who Hitler was, the board spokesperson said. He didn’t know Hitler’s German Nazi regime was responsible for the murder of 6 million Jews — and millions of others, including Gypsies and homosexuals — in the Second World War.
This is quite the indictment of the school.