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).
Saturday, October 22, 2016
Your kids can have more screen time
The Washington Post reports:
For years, the American Academy of Pediatrics set a simple and clear ceiling: no more than two hours parked in front of the TV for any child over the age of two. But at its annual meeting in San Francisco on Friday, the group, acknowledging that some online media exposure can be beneficial, announced that it has radically revised its thinking on the subject.The first big change is in how it defines screen time in the first place. The AAP now says that its limits apply solely to time spent on entertainment and not on educational tasks such as practicing multiplication facts online or reading up on the history of Fort McHenry and the Star Spangled Banner. The entertainment category itself is very broad and can include old-fashioned broadcast TV, streaming services like Netflix, video games consoles and being on social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter. The new recommendations are also more specific to the age of the child and, as a whole, are more generous.For the youngest set — infants and toddlers younger than 18 months — Jenny Radesky, Yolanda Reid Chassiakos, and other authors of the guidelines now explicitly say that video-chatting with grandma and grandpa (or anyone else parents approve of) is okay. But that's it. Period.The guidelines become progressively looser after that. Between 18 to 24 months of age, they say parents "who want to" can introduce snippets of things like educational shows. However, the AAP emphasizes that parents should "prioritize creative, unplugged playtime for infants and toddlers."For 2 to 5 year olds, they recommend a max one hour per day of "high-quality programs" and give PBS and Sesame Network shows as examples. This does not give you permission to use your iPad as an electronic baby sitter! "Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them," the AAP said ...It's at age 6 and older that you see the biggest changes. Instead of offering specific limits on digital media, the guidelines call for "consistent" limits that are up to individual families and advises parents to develop a media plan that fits their lifestyle. The message is one of striking a healthy balance between using media, sleep, physical activity, socializing with friends and other activities. The AAP warned that problems can arise when media use displaces hands-on exploration and face-to-face interaction.
The recommendations are more flexible and realistic, but I think they are still too strict. I appreciate concerns about changes to the brain that affect the ability of children to concentrate or pay attention that exposure to television, computer and tablet screens can cause, but that damage could be mitigated by attentive if parents talk with their children more.
Friday, October 21, 2016
Congressional races to watch
The Cook Political Report has 19 toss-up House races, and 17 of them are Republican (including CA-19, which is currently held by longtime Congressman Darrell Issa). There are 19 other "competitive" seats; 12 currently held GOP seats "lean" Republican. Of the seven races that lean Democrat, four are currently blue seats but three are red. There is just more potential for Republican losses than Democrat defeats. (Also, in the "likely" columns of each party, the GOP appears to have one definite pickup, whereas it is almost certain to lose three to the Democrats.)
Many of the toss-up and leaning seats could go Republican if the party makes the case that a GOP Congress is needed to keep a check on a President Hillary Clinton (two western New York seats, several Florida seats, ones in Iowa and rural Minnesota, the supposedly unsafe Utah seat of Mia Love). But if GOP enthusiasm is hurt by the top of the ticket, which could be a national phenomenon, the Democrats could do very well.
Voting for someone not on the ballot
Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer makes the case against Hillary Clinton. He has vowed not to support Donald Trump. He concludes his column: "The only question is whose name I’m going to write in. With Albert Schweitzer doubly unavailable (noncitizen, dead), I’m down to Paul Ryan or Ben Sasse. Two weeks to decide."
As someone who wrote Stephen Harper's name on my ballot for local MP in 1997 (thereby wrecking my ballot), I endorse Krauthammer's actions. There are people who oppose this. But one vote doesn't make any difference and it permits the voter to live with himself by not violating his own conscience. Voting is ultimately about self-narrative -- how we want to think about ourselves and, if we share information about how we vote with friends, family or the public, how we want others to think about us. Conscience is more important than tribal loyalties, or at least that's the story I prefer.
I would almost certainly write in Ryan's or Ted Cruz's name on my ballot if I were an American voter, but only if I bothered to show up for Republican candidates for the House or Senate (assuming they were worthy of my support).
STIs on the rise in US
The Washington Post reports that three different sexually transmitted infections have hit record numbers:
More than 1.5 million cases of chlamydia were reported last year, up 6 percent from the year before. About 400,000 cases of gonorrhea were reported, a nearly 13 percent increase from 2014. The biggest increase, 19 percent, occurred in syphilis cases, with nearly 24,000 reported, according to the annual report on STDs released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.All three diseases are curable with antibiotics, but gonorrhea is growing increasingly resistant to treatment with antibiotics.
There is a tremendous public cost to the spread of these STIs:
Most STD cases continue to go undiagnosed and untreated, putting people at risk for severe and often irreversible health consequences, the CDC said. The economic burden to the U.S. health-care system is nearly $16 billion a year, according to the CDC.Young people and gay and bisexual men face the greatest risk of infection, and there continues to be a troubling increase in syphilis among newborns, who are infected by their mothers.
In women, untreated gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which can lead to pelvic pain and infertility. Chlamydia also leads to PID and is the leading cause of infertility in women; it can cause sterility in men. Syphilis is the most dangerous because left untreated, the infection spreads to other parts of the body including the brain, heart, internal organs and nervous system.
Getting it Right on Crime
Megan McArdle interviewed Steven Teles, co-author of Prison Break: Why Conservatives Turned Against Mass Incarceration, for BloombergView. I recommend reading Prison Break, one of the best political/policy books of 2016, and the full interview. McArdle asks: "Can you give them a sense of how big a shift there has been in the conservative movement on crime?" Teles replies:
Well, an awful lot depends on how you define “big shift.” There are two ways to do that, which are changes in positions and changes in actions.On positions, there’s been a huge shift. Not much more than a decade ago, the pretty-well-consensual conservative position on crime was hard-line: longer sentences, stricter policing, unquestioning defense of what goes on in prisons, and so forth. Today there’s a very wide swath of conservative politicians who feel entirely comfortable taking positions in the opposite direction.One example sort of makes the point. When Texas made its big criminal-justice reform in 2007, which kicked off the process of state-level reform, Governor Rick Perry had to be pulled into supporting it -- he had opposed a similar reform just two years before. By the time he ran for president in 2016 (remember that?), he was advertising how wonderful the “Texas Model” of reducing reliance on incarceration is, and using the issue to show that he was a different kind of Republican.Perry is now part of a huge group of conservatives who are part of the “Right on Crime” movement. This shows you how broad the change in position-taking is.In terms of change in policy, on actions, it’s variable -- both between states and between the states and the federal government. Our argument is that you tend to see really big reforms, and more significant change in positions, in states where Republicans are solidly in the majority.In Texas, Georgia, Mississippi and other bright red states, Republicans have now done multiple waves of reform. Our explanation is that once Republicans really take over a state lock, stock and barrel, they don’t need the crime issue to beat up on Democrats anymore. So that gives them an ability to step back and look at the issue more analytically, and to reflect on whether their political values really support spending so much on prisons.By contrast, in states like Virginia, lots of Republicans in the state legislature sound like they haven’t changed at all since 1988 -- because in purple states, they’re just very hesitant to give up on an issue that might get them some electoral juice.
When Republicans don't need to cynically use crime as a wedge issue, they are free to bring "their positions on criminal justice into alignment with their positions on everything else." The conservative wing of the Republican Party has begun to question mass incarceration not as a systemic problem in the same way that the Left does -- as an injustice in itself -- but as unnecessarily costly, ineffective in reducing crime, and incompatible with their more libertarian beliefs about the competence of the state.
Good interview, good book, and a good cause. A leader in the criminal justice reform movement on the conservative side of the political spectrum is Right on Crime.
Rising housing costs
The Wall Street Journal reports on a new Zillow analysis that despite pledges of big city mayors in the U.S. to build new housing, construction is unlikely to keep up with demand:
Faced with an affordability crisis, mayors across the country have pledged to build thousands more units of housing. But a new analysis shows to meet those targets, many would have to exceed the construction pace reached at the height of the housing boom.Cities such as Los Angeles, Boston and New York would have to build more homes per year than they did from 2000 to 2010—a decade that includes an unprecedented national building boom, although also some of the ensuing bust.Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has called for the construction of 100,000 new units of housing by 2021, or about one for every two additional adults expected to move to the city. That’s about a 25% jump from the decade between 2000 and 2010, when the city added some 76,000 units — less than one for every two additional adults ...Boston Mayor Marty Walsh says the city would add 53,000 units in 15 years to accommodate an estimated 91,000 new residents. From 2000 to 2014, the city added about half that, or nearly 22,000 units, according to Zillow.
Several days ago, the Journal reported on a new study by Daniel Shoag, an associate professor of public policy at Harvard University, and Peter Ganong, a postdoctoral fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research, which found that land-use regulations are increasing housing costs, and that the higher price of homes are preventing some workers from moving to pursue higher income jobs:
Moving to a wealthier area in search of job opportunities has historically been a way to promote economic equality, allowing workers to pursue higher-paying jobs elsewhere. But those wage gains lose their appeal if they are eaten up by higher housing costs. The result: More people stay put and lose out on potential higher incomes.Many of the cities with the stiffest demand for housing, and thus the highest prices, are on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. They also tend to be the cities that impose the strictest rules on land use.
Shoag and Ganong conclude that high housing prices that prevent mobility to higher income areas are contributing to inequality.
Noonan on Trump
Peggy Noonan says the various forms of wishful thinking that justify support for GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump are all misplaced:
I get the Reagan fantasy—big guy with a nonstandard résumé comes in from the outside, cleans out the stables, saves the day. But it’s a fantasy and does not apply to this moment. I get the Jacksonian fantasy—crude, rude populist comes in from the hinterlands and upends a decadent establishment to the huzzahs of normal people with mud on their boots. But it’s a fantasy, and doesn’t apply.Because he’s not a grizzled general who bears on his face the scars of a British sword, and not a shining citizen-patriot. He’s a screwball. Do you need examples? You do not, because you’re already thinking of them. For a year you’ve been observing the TV funhouse that is his brain.I offer an observation from Newt Gingrich, Trump friend and supporter, on David Drucker’s Washington Examiner podcast. Mr. Gingrich lauded Mr. Trump because he “thinks big” and is a transformational character. But he spoke too of Trump’s essential nature. The GOP nominee “reacts very intensely, almost uncontrollably” to “anything which attacks his own sense of integrity or his own sense of respectability.” “There’s . . . a part of his personality that sometimes gets involved in petty things that make no sense.” He found it “frankly pathetic” that Mr. Trump got mad because Paul Ryan didn’t call to congratulate him after the second debate.Mr. Gingrich said he hopes this will change. But people don’t change the fundamentals of their nature at age 70.
Thursday, October 20, 2016
Political fact of the day
Card Player reports: "Around £20 million is expected to be bet on the U.S. election before it’s over." Almost all recent betting has been on Hillary Clinton, although at "online bookmaker William Hill, there was a £10,000 bet made on Donald Trump on Saturday." Paddy Power's odds has Clinton 2/11 and Donald Trump 9/2; that's precisely in line with FiveThirtyEight's 85% chance of a Clinton victory.
Medical mass-killing of the mentally ill
Washington Post columnist Charles Lane writes about the "morality crisis" in Europe, namely that of euthanizing the mentally ill:
Once prohibited — indeed, unthinkable — the euthanasia of people with mental illnesses or cognitive disorders, including dementia, is now a common occurrence in Belgium and the Netherlands.This profoundly troubling fact of modern European life is confirmed by the latest biennial report from Belgium’s Federal Commission on the Control and Evaluation of Euthanasia, presented to Parliament on Oct. 7.Belgium legalized euthanasia in 2002 for patients suffering “unbearably” from any “untreatable” medical condition, terminal or non-terminal, including psychiatric ones.In the 2014-2015 period, the report says, 124 of the 3,950 euthanasia cases in Belgium involved persons diagnosed with a “mental and behavioral disorder,” four more than in the previous two years. Tiny Belgium’s population is 11.4 million; 124 euthanasias over two years there is the equivalent of about 3,500 in the United States.The figure represents 3.1 percent of all 2014-2015 euthanasia cases — and a remarkable 20.8 percent of the (also remarkable) 594 non-terminal patients to whom Belgian doctors administered lethal injections in that period ...This, regarding a Belgian medical system that over the past two years administered lethal injections upon the request of five non-terminally ill people with schizophrenia, five with autism, eight with bipolar disorder and 29 with dementia — an increasingly common condition in the aging Western world — as well as 39 with depression, according to the report.
Lane notes that an official Belgian report defends the killing of the mentally ill or those with cognitive disorders, saying the process with its longer waiting periods than for exterminating the terminally ill guarantees the "true will" of these patients. But as Lane says, "this ignores the essential objection, which is that, by definition, the mentally ill may be less capable of forming a “true will,” or, at least, that their intentions are intrinsically more difficult for a doctor — or anyone — to establish with the necessary certainty upon which to base a life-or-death decision."
The problem with "safeguards" or "limitations" on euthanasia is that they are essentially a form of discrimination. If we allow so-called mercy killing for some people -- if it is their "right" to have medical assistance to die -- by what rationale do we deny it to others. Killing the terminally ill will eventually lead to killing other people who are sick (physically or mentally) but who are not terminal, and then to people who are not sick at all.
If anti-free traders were consistent, we'd have the state bossing us around much more
Donald Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek:
I close my recent “Elemental Case for Free Trade” with the following ethical argument: “if you work and earn income honestly, that income is yours to use as you choose. You may use it to buy tomatoes from your neighbor or to buy tomatoes from a farmer in Mexico. It’s your money. It belongs neither to the state nor to any domestic producer. Yet protectionist arguments rest on the premise that your tomato-growing neighbor has some positive claim on your income. If you are prohibited from buying tomatoes from Mexico, or – more commonly today – penalized with a tariff for doing so, the state is insisting that domestic tomato growers have an ethical claim on part of your income.”You disagree with my argument. That is, you apparently believe that the state acts ethically if, in its efforts to increase sales made by existing domestic tomato growers, it penalizes you for using your own income to buy foreign-grown tomatoes. Do you, then, also believe that the state would be acting ethically if, in its efforts to increase sales made by those same domestic tomato growers, it penalized you for using your own income to buy potting soil, fertilizer, and tomato seeds that you use to grow your own tomatoes?If you believe that there’s nothing ethically objectionable about Uncle Sam penalizing you for spending your income in ways that cause the sales of some domestic producers to be lower than otherwise, surely you then have no objection to Uncle Sam penalizing you for growing your own tomatoes. Nor must you object if Uncle Sam were to penalize you and other Americans for buying used rather than new cars (or, indeed, for putting off buying new cars by keeping your existing cars in good repair) ...
I would add that protectionism is not also anti-liberty, but also fundamentally a form of bigotry. By what moral grounds do we favour our neighbours or fellow countrymen over those from another country when it comes to trade? What is wrong with the labour of a worker in China, Mexico, or Kenya, that prevents me from trading them them as an equal to a worker in Calgary, Montreal, or Kitchener?
On every level, protectionism is repugnant.
The Times of London reports:
MPs will be given a chance to derail the exit deal from the European Union, the government said yesterday, but only after it is too late to stop Britain from leaving altogether. Senior sources confirmed that MPs would be asked to ratify any agreement between Britain and the other 27 member states at the end of the Brexit negotiations. They will not have the power to amend the deal, however, and if parliament chose to veto the plan, Britain would still leave the EU — but without any new trading or co-operation arrangements in place.
This is fair and sensible. It respects the right of Parliamentarians to have a say while still respecting the wishes of British voters.
'Britain posthumously pardons thousands of gay and bisexual men like WWII code-breaker Alan Turing'
The Daily Mail reports:
Thousands of gay and bisexual men convicted of abolished sexual offences are to be posthumously pardoned.The 'hugely important' move will see those convicted for consensual same-sex relationships before laws were changed formally pardoned ...Announcing the new plan, Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said the Government would seek to implement the change through an amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill.Anyone living who has been convicted of the now abolished offences can currently apply through the Home Office to have their names cleared through the disregard process. This removes any mention of an offence from criminal record checks.
Alan Turing and others suffered terrible injustices at the hands of the state over their sexual relationships. Turing received a royal pardon several years ago, which served as an impetus to this new policy. My problem is that there is something very Soviet about erasing these criminal records, revising the past to fit today's worldview. Yes criminalizing homosexual acts and stripping people of their livelihoods was unjust by today's standards, but the criminal convictions reflected the moral standards of the day. Why change history? Often these pardons come with compensation, as was recently announced in Germany. While laws are frequently overturned, only certain privileged classes have recourse to compensation when society changes its collective mind about what should and shouldn't be illegal. If old laws are unjust, by all means overturn them, but let's not mess with official records or seek to rectify every wrong carried out by those who preceded us.
It's good to be nice
Arthur Brooks writes in the Wall Street Journal about the benefits for individuals who are nice. It's better to be kind, but for many, simply being pleasant will improve their happiness and well-being:
In 2010, two British researchers looked at the effects of engaging in small daily acts of kindness. Their results, published in the Journal of Social Psychology, show clear causal evidence that kind acts, systematically deployed, raised the participants’ self-judged happiness.
George Will on the war on free speech on today's university campus:
That purpose, as Hanna Holborn Gray, a former president of the University of Chicago, once said, is not to make young adults comfortable, it is to make them think. Since 1975, however, universities have embraced the doctrine that speech that offends people actually harms them, mentally and even physically. The decision to treat young adults as fragile and perpetually vulnerable to victimization coincided with academia’s turn away from the world: Fifty years ago, student assertiveness concerned momentous issues of war and civil rights. Today, students have macro-tantrums about micro-aggressions (e.g., sombreros). Time was, students rebelled against universities acting in loco parentis. Today, they welcome having their sexual and other social interactions minutely subjected to government regulations administered by Pecksniffs with Ph.D.s.
And this matters:
And what happens on campuses does not stay on campuses. According to the Pew Research Center, American Millennials (ages 18 to 34), fresh from academia, “are far more likely than older generations to say the government should be able to prevent people from saying offensive statements about minority groups.” Forty percent of this cohort think government should be empowered to jettison much constitutional law concerning the First Amendment in order to censor speech offensive to minority groups.
Universities, Will says, should promote viewpoint diversity, not suppress unpopular or unfashionable points of view.
Meanwhile, YouTube has taken steps to censored 15 benign PragerU videos by "restricting" them because some people are offended by their political content. The Wall Street Journal editorializes:
[M]ore than 15 videos are “restricted” on YouTube, a development PragerU announced this month. This means the clips don’t show up for those who have turned on filtering—say, a parent shielding their children from explicit videos. A YouTube spokesperson told us that the setting is optional and “based on algorithms that look at a number of factors, including community flagging on videos.” Yet it’s easy to imagine a flood of users reporting a political video—microagressed college students have a lot of free time—and limiting a viewpoint’s audience ...YouTube is free to set its own standards, but the company is undercutting its claim to be a platform for “free expression.” If anyone there would like to brush up on the concept, Mr. Prager has a video about it.
You can, and should, view the six-minute video featuring Greg Lukianoff of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education who notes that the trend is not to protect freedom of speech, but freedom from speech that the easily offended don't like.
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
This would be amazing if 1) true and 2) it holds up.
Only the Left gets to complain about voter fraud and rigged elections
The mainstream media says it is wrong, even dangerous, to promote the idea that the U.S. presidential election is beyond repute. Even the President of the United States is castigating Donald Trump for charging the election is rigged.
This newfound faith in the electoral system is hardly surprising. When one's side loses elections, better to blame the system than the candidate or his or her ideas. It's been done before, and by both sides. Here is a selection of books, mostly from and about the George W. Bush era that took me less than five minutes to find:
Bush v. Gore: The Question of Legitimacy by Bruce Ackerman (2002)
Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election & Why They'll Steal the Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them) by Mark Crispin Miller (2005)
What Happened in Ohio: A Documentary Record of Theft And Fraud in the 2004 Election by Robert J. Fitrakis, Steven Rosenfeld and Harvey Wasserman (2006)
Hacked! High Tech Election Theft in America - 11 Experts Expose the Truth edited by Abbe Waldman DeLozier and Vickie Karp (2006)
Loser Take All: Election Fraud and The Subversion of Democracy, 2000-2008 by Mark Crispin Miller (2008)
Election Fraud: Detecting and Deterring Electoral Manipulation, a Brookings Institute study (2008)
Proving Election Fraud: Phantom Voters, Uncounted Votes, and the National Exit Poll by Richard Charnin (2010)
Matrix of Deceit: Forcing Pre-Election and Exit Polls to Match Fraudulent Vote Counts by Richard Charnin (2012)
Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps by Greg Palast (2012)
Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy by David Daley (2016)
I don't recall lectures on CNN about upholding the results of the 2000 or 2004 elections.
Donald Trump: is 'pro-life' the last reason to support the GOP presidential candidate?
Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman says that many conservatives are settling for Donald Trump if for no other reason than the abortion issue. Chapman thinks this is a mistake:
Last year, Trump had positive things to say about Planned Parenthood, the single largest provider of abortions in this country. He once acknowledged he may have given money to the organization. He's been on the cover of Playboy. He's talked lasciviously on radio about his sex life. And there is his alleged practice of forcing himself on women.Trump could not be further removed from the values of most people in the anti-abortion movement, who tend to prize sexual restraint, traditional morality and reverence for the sanctity of life. But these days, distinguishing the pro-life movement from the Trump parade is devilishly hard ...The pro-life forces are not in an enviable position. In this election, they have a choice between a Democrat who is a staunch advocate of abortion rights and a Republican who claims to share their views but whose life suggests he has nothing in common with them.
But Hillary is worse, the Trump supporters say. Maybe. Chapman writes:
But the pro-lifers' allegiance to Trump requires a huge leap of faith. In the first place, why do they trust that he'd keep his word? In the 1990s, he described himself as "very pro-choice." This year, asked about abortion, he said, "At this moment, the laws are set. And I think we have to leave it that way."He is practically at war with House Speaker Paul Ryan and several other prominent Republicans. Who's to say that as president, he wouldn't reverse himself on abortion to make a deal with Democrats?
These are political judgements, and I understand why some people might take the risk that Trump will make better judicial appointments and hope he would sign pro-life legislation into law. Hillary Clinton will promote abortion and the best that can be hoped for with Trump is that he doesn't stump for more abortion (or euthanasia) and that he won't appoint relatively young justices to the Supreme Court who will fight to uphold Roe for decades to come. If Trump did not have character issues, I could appreciate this line of thinking, but as Chapman also notes:
But the bigger reason pro-lifers shouldn't associate themselves with Trump is that the key to the ultimate success of their cause is not political or judicial but cultural.The pro-life movement is one of the few voices in our society for elevating certain inviolable moral obligations above utilitarian needs. It believes the life of the unborn should take priority over the needs and preferences of the adults whose choices produced that life. It has said that even miraculous medical advances do not justify destroying innocent life.The humane principles underlying those beliefs are not popular in a modern culture that places personal happiness and fulfillment above all else. They have a chance of eventually gaining broad acceptance only if they come from advocates whose lives demonstrate their deepest values.
The hedonistic lifestyle of the debaucher-in-chief cannot plant the seeds for the Culture of Life necessary to begin the cultural renewal that would make pro-life successes a political reality.
Climate change politics is not about climate change
Liberal-leaning economist Yoram Bauman, quoted in the David Roberts article on carbon taxes in Washington state at Vox:
I am increasingly convinced that the path to climate action is through the Republican Party. Yes, there are challenges on the right — skepticism about climate science and about tax reform — but those are surmountable with time and effort. The same cannot be said of the challenges on the left: an unyielding desire to tie everything to bigger government, and a willingness to use race and class as political weapons in order to pursue that desire.
Bauman says that the Left ties everything to bigger government. The goal is not combatting climate change, but expanding the state. Roberts describes the left-wing campaign against Initiative 732, the state's "revenue-neutral" carbon tax, and that's part of the problem: Democrats and their client groups want new revenue streams to fund government programs.
Postrel on Clinton
Virginia Postrel has an excellent column on Hillary Clinton and the reaction against her. Much of the column focuses on HRC's sense of entitlement to the nomination and presidency, but this, on being a female candidate, is important:
“Drawing attention to [Clinton’s] looks or age is an implicit way to draw attention to her gender,” wrote Vox’s Liz Plank. Maybe. Writing countless articles about how she’s mistreated because she’s a woman is an explicit way of doing exactly the same thing.Making Clinton the representative of Every Woman Ever may seem like good politics, especially against a guy like Trump, but turning every criticism of Clinton into evidence of misogyny strains credulity and harms serious political discussion. In the likely case that Clinton is elected president, it will make running harder for other women in the future by tainting them with all of Clinton’s flaws. It reduces a real person, with individual strengths and weaknesses, to the one and only representative of Women in Public Life, obscuring the achievements of other women.
If it's fair for Clinton to run on being a woman ("I'm with her"), it's fair to make that part of your judgement about the candidate. It works both ways. But as Postrel argues, by making any criticism of HRC about sexism, the Left is poisoning the political waters for all women.
Trump's path to victory: non-existent
Stuart Rothenberg writes in the Washington Post:
Trump is and has been a disaster as a presidential nominee, and that will not change in the campaign’s final days. Nor is there any reason to believe that voters from important demographic groups will warm to him. He continues to play only to his core supporters ...The newest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll shows Trump doing worse against Clinton than Mitt Romney did against President Obama with almost every demographic group, including men, women, whites, Latinos, Republicans, voters with household incomes of more than $100,000 per year, voters with a college degree, voters with a postgraduate degree and voters 65 and older ...It would be a mistake to call Trump’s current path to an electoral-college victory narrow. It is nonexistent. Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, once part of the Trump scenario, have never been “in play,” and he is not competitive in states Obama won only narrowly in 2012, such as Virginia and Colorado. Trump is more likely to lose North Carolina than win it, which would put him under 200 electoral votes.Frankly, the writing has been on the wall for months about this race. You simply needed to look at the candidates, their campaign teams, the map and the voters.
Five Thirty Eight's Harry Enten says 2016 probably isn't going to replicate 1948:
We’re getting to that point in the presidential campaign — with one candidate leading by a lot — when the losing candidate’s supporters start to bring up the 1948 election — the one with the famous “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline when the polls were supposedly way off. Democrat Harry Truman, of course, defeated Republican Thomas Dewey, and Truman has been the patron saint of candidates trailing in the polls ever since.It’s a neat little story with a nice moral: Never count the underdog out.
Enten says that Truman wasn't that much of an underdog, and that almost seven decades later we have more and better polls. And as Rothenberg goes to great length to illustrate, Trump is a terrible candidate.
Nobel Peace Prize-winning President Barack Obama
The Wall Street Journal editorializes:
An eternal law of global affairs is that weakness invites aggression that can lead to war. The latest validation of this truth is that in the eighth year of the Obama Presidency the tide of war is building on multiple fronts and the U.S. can’t escape the consequences.
The conflicts include combat in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Afghanistan, and cyber-security threats from Putin's Russia. Obama has utterly failed to respond to any of these conflicts. When he ran for the presidency in 2008, Barack Obama vowed to get U.S. troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Eight years later, the American military is still there and will be for the foreseeable future; furthermore, the United States is fighting the Islamic State, which rose, in part, in response to Obama's foreign policy failures.
After two terms of Obama, the world is less safe: ISIS, a more destabilized, and resurgent and aggressive Russia.
EU and tariffs
The Economic Policy Centre released The Essential Guide to EU Import Tariffs 2016 yesterday and launched a fascinating data-base of tariffs. EPC executive director Dan Lewis explains:
It’s a safe bet that at least a few of you have never drunk unfermented coconut water or even knew 2.7% tariff on tennis balls or a 10.20% tariff on tomato ketchup. Bthere was such a fruit as a Bitter Melon. And it’s almost certain that you are completely unaware that in the few months since the Brexit referendum, the EU has introduced substantial import tariffs on both – 17.6% and 12.80%.These tariffs and 12,649 others tell us a story, sadly: on trade, Europe has been – and is still – moving in the wrong direction. And that is the theme of a new paper, The Essential Guide to EU Import Tariffs 2016, and accompanying interactive website www.eutariffs.com that we at the Economic Policy Centre are launching today.It first has to be understood that as part of our membership fee to the Single European Market, we must adhere to the Customs Union. So the UK pays over £3 billion a year in import tariffs on 12,651 goods and must then levy VAT at 20% on almost everything except food and a few other exceptions. With a net increase of 1,494 tariffs since 2009 and revenues growing by 2.6% per annum since 2000, the cost has been high.
Some of those tariffs include tennis balls (2.7%) and ketchup (10.2%).
Lewis said that access to the Common Market means accepting the EU's tariffs and VAT. Norway has a higher VAT (25%) but about one-tenth of the tariffs. Lewis says, "But as the depth and scale of the tariff wall became clear to me, the greatest issue of all struck me as the lack of democratic accountability behind these tariffs. Who decides, and on what basis, which tariffs are introduced, increased or even reduced?" The point is the United Kingdom should make these decisions, not bureaucrats in Brussels.
Higher tariffs are hurting British (and other European consumers). British politicians should be decided how much extra British consumers should be paying for imports.
Two-thirds of refugee children in UK are adults
The Daily Express reports that a Home Office study has found that 65% of refugees who entered the United Kingdom in the year ending September 2015 as children were probably over the age of 18 according to evidence from new documents (371 of 574 "child' refugees). In the previous decade, just over 40% of refugees who entered as children were later determined to likely be adults (4828 of 11,121).
PoliticsHome reports that British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson answered a question in the House of Commons -- a question about Italians living in the UK -- in Italian. Or at least he began his reply in Italian, and apparently it wasn't all that bad:
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Interest-taking and sin
Richard M. Ebeling explains at the Foundation for Economic Education why historical Christian opposition to charging interest on loans was wrong. He begins by describing the movement to accept and embrace private property before moving on to explain the Thomas Aquinas approach to charging interest:
To charge someone for the use of a loaf of bread and for the bread itself, Aquinas reasons, would be charging twice for the same thing – and would, thus, be unjust. Since money is a medium of exchange, and is “used up” in the spending of it on the market for something else, the use of a sum of money cannot be separated from the money itself. Thus to charge interest on the money borrowed is to demand a double price for its use.
This essentially had been the view of the Catholic Church: "In the year A.D. 325, the Catholic Church declared that members of the clergy were forbidden to take interest on a loan. By the end of the twelfth century, it was forbidden to laity as well. In 1311, interest on loans was declared absolutely sinful and illegal." Jews were exempt from giving interest-bearing loans because (it was thought) they were destined to go to hell anyway.
But the theological principle against interest remained: in a situation without default risk, or without inconvenience and without foregone opportunities (such a situation in the “real world” being logically impossible), then the taking of interest on a loan would still be “unequal” and therefore a “sin.”Of course, the one essential reason behind the paying of interest is time preference, that is, the existence of differing valuations of the use and consumption of resources and goods in the present versus the future, and that the future is discounted against the present. But this was never considered or taken seriously by these Medieval thinkers, including Aquinas.If the issue of time as (opportunity) cost was raised in some form, the reply given was that the proponent wished to “sell time,” but time belonged to no one but God.However, the correct theoretical understanding of the basis and origin of interest on a loan was not fully explained until the late nineteenth century when the Austrian economist Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk formulated the time preference theory of the rate of interest in his master works, Capital and Interest (1884) and The Positive Theory of Capital (1889). In the meantime, the ethical condemnation of “usury” remained the prevailing position for hundreds of years.
To be fair to Aquinas (and others), opportunity cost and the "cost" of time are generally poorly understood concepts.
Gorillas are people, too
The Independent: "Veteran British naturalist David Attenborough has called for gorillas in zoos to be kept behind walls with peepholes rather than glass panels, in order to respect their privacy." Says guy who films animals for a living, violating their privacy.
Build a wall!
The New York Times reports on the other American border:
While the Southern border with Mexico, about 2,000 miles, attracts much more attention, the 5,500-mile Northern border with Canada offers more opportunity for illegal crossing. In many places, like this Vermont border town, there are few signs of where one nation ends and another begins. Some homes, farms and businesses even sit astride the two countries; in other areas, a small white obelisk is the only marker of a border. In the past year, agents made 3,000 apprehensions along the Northern border, compared with 100 times that many along the Southwestern border with Mexico. They also seized 700 pounds of marijuana and cocaine in the North, compared with 1.6 million pounds along the heavily gated Southern border.But the authorities acknowledge that they cannot say with certainty how much criminal activity occurs as a result of Northern border crossings because their means of detection are so limited ...This area is a haven for smugglers and cross-border criminal organizations. Each year, Border Patrol agents catch hundreds of drug smugglers and human traffickers who use the sparsely populated and heavily wooded areas along the Vermont-Canada border to bypass the agents, cameras, sensors and other electronic devices that the Department of Homeland Security has installed to make up for the lack of personnel.The expanse and remoteness of much of the Northern border, which includes Alaska, make the task of law enforcement daunting, said Norman M. Lague, who leads the Border Patrol station in Champlain, N.Y., one of the eight stations in the Swanton region that oversee border security operations in Vermont, upstate New York and New Hampshire.
How can the area be a "haven" for criminal activity when authorities "cannot say with certainty have much criminal activity occurs"?
Wynne government's good move
The Globe and Mail reported that the way correctional facilities use segregation will be reformed with Correctional Services Minister David Orazietti cutting the maximum number of consecutive days inmates can be placed in isolation from 30 to 15, announcing that other incentives/disincentives being prioritized over isolation, and calling for the creation of weekly segregation review committees in every provincial jail. These are excellent moves that will curtail solitary confinement, an abusive and dangerous practice in Ontario's jails that serves no or limited penological purpose.
Civil forfeiture reform now
Jason Snead of the Heritage Foundation:
For eight years, Michiganders Gerald and Royetta Ostipow have been fighting the seizure and forfeiture of hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of their property.Last month they prevailed when a judge ordered the return of virtually everything that had been taken from them. But the Ostipows’ victory was short-lived, for they soon discovered that the Saginaw County Sheriff’s Office had sold their property years ago, while their forfeiture case was still being actively litigated.So, it’s back to court for the Ostipows. The couple filed a federal lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, seeking damages for the wrongful theft of their property ...
A Saginaw County assistant prosecuting attorney, the late George Best, initiated civil forfeiture proceedings against the Ostipows’ property. According to the Ostipows, Best told them simply to give him a list of the property they wanted to have returned to them. They did so, but Best used this against them, arguing that their handwritten list was not a proper answer to the complaint for forfeiture and that, therefore, they had waived their right to assert an innocent owner’s defense. The trial judge agreed and ordered the Ostipows’ property forfeited by default.
This is using the levers of the state against civilians who, yes, has allegedly committed crimes, but often have yet to be found guilty; furthermore, the punishment for crimes is not having property stolen by the state, but incarceration, fines, and other sanctions set out in criminal law. Civil asset forfeiture was originally intended to combat drug kingpins, but has morphed into something much larger and dangerous:
Over time, however, that narrow focus has been replaced by a broad grant of authority to seize and forfeit property from virtually anyone for a host of alleged crimes.In federal law alone there are more than 400 statutes that authorize the seizure of property. And, per forfeiture laws at the federal level and in many states—including Michigan—law enforcement agencies get to keep the proceeds of successful forfeitures. This directly incentivizes them to seize property and use forfeiture as a revenue-generating tool.This incentive structure has distorted the priorities of law enforcement officials in the past, and Gerald and Royetta Ostipow allege in their lawsuit that a lust for forfeiture profits did the same to the Saginaw County sheriffs.
Reforms are necessary, and some states, including Michigan have taken modest steps to ending the abuse of civil asset forfeiture. Real reform should feature three changes:
1) The list of crimes for which authorities can take an individual's good must be limited to those for whom maintaining those assets would almost certainly permit the continuation of the crimes (allegedly) committed, like drug or human trafficking;
2) Assets must be securely maintained by the authorities until the individual charged with a crime is found guilty;
3) Police forces cannot be allowed to profit from civil asset forfeiture because it is an obvious incentive to charge individuals in the first place, and take their stuff.
Monday, October 17, 2016
Favourites? Definitely. Cheating? Yes. Rigging. Not possible.
Donald Trump, as everyone knows, is complaining that the election is "rigged." I hear this a lot from people I know. The fact that large segments of the population is opposed to Trump, or even the Republicans or conservatives, is not proof the system is rigged. It is how democracy works, with people taking sides. That many opinion-leaders and celebrities and people of influence side with Hillary Clinton is not proof the system is rigged. It could be proof that Trump is an asshole. Or that they are liberals. Or any number of things. But it happens every election. And certainly there will be a not insignificant amount of cheating. There is voter fraud, and it usually occurs where one side is powerful enough to get away with it (the Democrats in urban precincts, Republicans in heavily rural ones). But cheating isn't the same thing as rigging an election. Rigging suggests that something systemic will ensure the loser will win an election.
National Review Online makes the case against the election being rigged:
The electoral process, from bottom to top, is managed by citizens and governed by a dense body of election law. Vote-counting is heavily scrutinized by party officials and independent monitors, and irregularities are subject to legal challenge. The voting equipment used is tested prior to Election Day and carefully monitored before, during, and after. None of this is to say that voter fraud does not exist, or that errors don’t occasionally affect vote totals. But to “rig” an election at the national scale would require logistical know-how seen only in Hollywood capers. To think that the same Clinton campaign that had trouble putting away Bernie Sanders has now arranged to steal an election on a continental scale defies logic — to put it mildly.
Trump has said that the Electoral College, which provides for the possibility of a someone who doesn't win a plurality of the vote to win the presidency, is part of the rigged system. It is, in fact, the system, and always has been. Perhaps Trump doesn't understand the constitutional architecture of America -- he almost certainly does not -- but his inability to comprehend the system in which he hopes to become president doesn't mean it's rigged; it probably means Trump is an idiot. Or a sore loser; Trump routinely runs against the established set of rules because he doesn't do well playing by the rules.
Running up the score in politics
The Washington Post reports:
But some once-solidly Republican states — notably Arizona, Georgia and Utah — now also appear to be in play.Clinton aides said they see advantages to running up the score in the electoral college, where 270 votes wins the White House. Victories in unexpected places could boost that total, handing her more of a mandate come January and decreasing the potency of Trump’s complaints of a “rigged” election.But victories in core battleground states such as Pennsylvania and New Hampshire would almost assuredly cut off Trump’s path as well. Those states are also home to key down-ballot races that will determine control of the Senate, an important factor in how much support Clinton would have while launching an agenda in January.
Even the Clinton campaign has a limited resources and must make choices. Georgia and Arizona might be in play, but as the Post also reports:
Clinton is running television ads tailored to seven states: Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Florida, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio and Iowa. Because they cost millions of dollars to sustain, such ad purchases are the clearest clue about which states are a campaign’s top priority.
One Post analysis already had Clinton winning big: "The Post’s blog The Fix, projects that Clinton would win 341 electoral votes to Trump’s 197 if the election were held today." There are reasons why, if a campaign can, it should run up the score.
1) Establishing individual voting patterns: social science research suggests that once voters mark an X beside a political party two or three times, they become lifelong supporters of the party. Many young people have voted Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, and HRC could enlarge that pool of lifetime supporters.
2) Improve the mandate: I don't buy that a larger victory gives any more of a mandate than a narrow one, but to most people it will. Some members of Congress are less likely to oppose the White House agenda if Hillary Clinton reaches a more decisive victory (380-400 in the Electoral College).
3) Change the political map in the future: because of the first point, HRC could turn red states into purple states. This forces the Republicans to fight for more Electoral College votes in the future. The nightmare for the GOP is that eventually Texas becomes a swing state (due to immigration reform). The Republicans don't need to be another 20 EC votes behind by losing Arizona and Georgia.
4) Help the party down-ballot: just as campaigning in the swing states helps down-ballot candidates on the ticket, it will help in states that are borderline swing states.
I don't want a massive Hillary Clinton victory, but presumably the candidate and party should.
Hillary Clinton might not want to risk redistributing resources from swing states to help other Democrats and her party in the future; this campaign is about her winning the presidency. (As it should be for any presidential candidate.) But David Wasserman of the "Cook Political Report" says in the New York Times:
States like Arizona and Georgia may have a supporting role in a Clinton victory this year — if she carries either state, she will have already won in a landslide.But in future cycles, these states may be on a trajectory for a starring role — assuming America survives this election.
Gary Johnson: insufficiently libertarian, depending on your perspective
Reason's Matt Welch noted several days ago:
[I]ndependent conservative presidential candidate Evan McMullin, who is having the best week of his campaign, took a potshot at his competitor from the Libertarian Party. "If Gary Johnson were a real libertarian," he said, "I probably wouldn't be doing this." The paper cited Johnson's positions on religious liberty and consumption taxes as reasons for McMullin's skepticism.Last week the #NeverTrumper former CIA agent, Goldman Sachs investment banker, and House Foreign Affairs Committee policy advisor made similar comments to the Libertarian Party presidential runner-up, Austin Petersen, adding that he would have "probably" supported Petersen had the former Freedom Watch producer beat Johnson for the nomination.
Welch then dissects McMullin's critique and notes that McMullin isn't much of a libertarian himself. None of this really matters other than to observe that (political) libertarianism isn't ideologically pure or, more charitably, that it comes in several flavours just like conservatism (and liberalism) does. To put this vividly, Welch says that Peterson's policies and priorities do not make him "a libertarian's Libertarian, they make him a conservative's Libertarian." And both are those are actual political tribes.
Trump vs. Romney
Donald Trump raised $100 million last month. Mitt Romney raised nearly $200 million in 2012. And don't say the difference is that Trump is self-funding his campaign, because he isn't.
Sunday, October 16, 2016
Brexit campaign continues
ConservativeHome's Paul Goodman notes:
Christmas will mark six months or so on from the referendum, but a pattern of debate about Brexit is already taking shape. Article 50 will be moved at the end of March. Until then or thereabouts, Theresa May and company will say as little about the detail of their negotiating position as they can, for obvious reasons. This necessarily denies her Government much of its offensive capability. But it will simultaneously be on the defensive in a new way. The Prime Minister is faced by what George W.Bush might have called an axis of Remain campaigners – ranging from some of the banks to much of big business to some Conservative MPs to Tim Fallon to Keir Starmer to the commanding cultural heights of the elites in academia, law, the media and the arts who made up a slice of the 48 per cent.
Responding to this onslaught is a handful of MPs and ministers and the editorial pages of the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph. On online newspaper Brexit Central has been created and a formal campaign, Change Britain, has been launched. The institutionally powerful Remain forces must not remain unmet:
Who is counter-attacking the attackers? If a politician who forecast economic collapse in the summer now forecasts economic collapse next year, where is the push on social media to highlight his record? If a group of pro-EU academics puts out a dossier reporting that academics are leaving Britain, where is the project that will research the figures separately? If a business claims that Brexit will be a disaster, but contributed funds to the official Remain campaign, where is the briefing to remind journalists of this inconvenient fact?
Goodman makes a second, and to him, more important, point: the constant attack on the Leave mandate could weaken the government more generally than the cause of Brexit itself: "Brexit is less vulnerable to the Remain campaigning than is the Prime Minister." That's a rallying cry to Tories to support the still active campaign for Brexit.
'The Euthanasia Deception'
Check out the trailer for "The Euthanasia Deception," a documentary created by Dunn Media and the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. Better yet, rent or download the full video.
Falling pound unrelated to Brexit
Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens says that the falling pound reflects underlying economic problems in Britain, not political and economic uncertainty tied to the decision to leave the European Union. Several years ago, Hitchens warned the pound was susceptible to a precipitous decline:
Since then they’ve grown worse – enormous state debts, enormous private debts, a disastrous balance of trade and a devastating current account deficit, which measures how much we owe abroad.Add to that the £435billion of funny money pumped into the economy by the Bank of England since 2009 in so-called ‘quantitative easing’, the smooth modern way of printing cash which is backed by thin air.
US budget deficit grows by nearly $150 billion
The New York Times reports:
The Obama administration confirmed on Friday that a six-year run of declining annual budget deficits had halted: The shortfall for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 was $587 billion, an increase over last year in dollars and as a percentage of the economy ...The $587 billion deficit for fiscal year 2016 is equivalent to 3.2 percent of the gross domestic product, the measure of the overall output of the economy. The previous year’s deficit was $438 billion, or 2.5 percent of G.D.P. — a reduction of three-quarters from the level amid the recession at the end of the George W. Bush administration.
Tax cuts are part of the cause, but the shrinking deficits were scheduled to grow again in a few years due to programs for the elderly (Medicare and Social Security).
The paper notes that neither presidential candidate has much of a plan to tackle deficits: Hillary Clinton is proposing tax hikes on the rich while Donald Trump is promising massive tax cuts.
A Republican agenda (besides Trump)
The Wall Street Journal editorializes in favour of Paul Ryan's vision for the Republican Congress, regardless of who wins the White House:
As it happens, the GOP has a political and policy alternative, which the House calls “A Better Way.” The consensus product of months of work by the congressional committees, the 213-page manifesto outlines smart, substantive reforms from a pro-growth tax overhaul to rebuilding the military to replacing ObamaCare with more robust private insurance markets and competition.A particular focus is upward mobility, alleviating poverty and lifting incomes. The U.S. will spend about $700 billion on means-tested programs in 2016, and the GOP wants to maintain a safety net while changing the incentives to work and move up the income ladder. One idea is to reduce the marginal tax-rate cliffs where earning another dollar in income means losing more than a dollar in benefits. Another idea is to devolve more control to the states for local experiments. Republicans even want to measure programs by their outcomes rather than how much money they spend.As a governing document, the “Better Way” is more comprehensive and specific than most presidential campaigns, this unusual year’s included. The plan is also optimistic and realistic in an election where both candidates prefer the apocalyptic and nostalgic ...If Mr. Trump does somehow win and Republicans keep control of Congress, the “Better Way” would become the reform foundation of the next four years. Some of the sections are already being drafted as legislative language.The “Better Way” is also an appeal to voters to return a Republican House and Senate to Washington in 2017. The plan translates principles into tangible solutions to meet the problems of the era, but the principles will also serve as a check for whatever Mrs. Clinton is preparing in her pre-presidential boiler room. On the basis of the “Better Way,” voters can trust Republicans will be more principled than their nominee.
Paul Ryan was pushing this agenda at a speech in his home state. The Republicans need to publicize this plan nationally, to have a mandate for reform if Donald Trump wins or a mandate for opposition if Hillary Clinton does.