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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Friday, September 30, 2016
 
Writing political humour is hard
Ostensibly reviewing Eliot Nelson's The Beltway Bible for the Wall Street Journal, former political speechwriter Barton Swaim examines political humour writing:
Writing anything funny about politics—I mean, deliberately funny—is tricky. If you’re interested in doing it at all, you probably have strong political views, but if you don’t keep a pretty tight check on them, you’ll come off as hectoring, ungenerous or just too earnest for comedy. Twenty years ago this tendency was typified by the liberal “humorists” Al Franken and Molly Ivins, writers whose need to prove a political point—generally a tendentious point, too—ruined any ability they once had to make their readers laugh.
Swaim dismisses the likes of Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher -- supposedly talented comedians who are not very good writers -- and critiques Nelson's writing which:
[T]ends toward that logorrheic wittiness so typical of today’s lefty humorists. Rather than create the context in which one or two dead-on quips balance and enliven more serious points about political life, writers of this kind prefer to pack every other sentence with cockamamie metaphors and wild hyperbole and hope that there’s a laugh to be had in there somewhere.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Swaim prefers conservatives who make humorous points about politics:
To make people laugh about politics, a writer has to make politics subservient to his art, not the other way around. Perhaps it’s something to do with my own rightward prejudices, but I find that conservative writers succeed in this regard oftener than their liberal counterparts do. The funniest conservative writers— Andrew Ferguson, P.J. O’Rourke, Mark Steyn—seem content to write well and hit the jokes when the opportunity is right. They aren’t desperate to make their readers conservative or to use every syllable at their disposal to heap scorn on liberals and liberalism.
I'm sure liberals would say the same thing in reverse.


 
Reverse coattails
The Wall Street Journal says that if Donald Trump wins the presidency it could be due to Ohio Senator Rob Portman's ground game. Portman had nothing to do with the Republican National Convention or Trump in July, but is working to get re-elected. Trump has almost no organization in the Buckeye State, without which no GOP presidential candidate has won the White House in the modern era. Portman started recruiting volunteers in March 2015.


 
Trans American army
Ben Christopher at Priceonomics:
In fact, the available evidence suggests that transgender Americans serve at rates well above the national average. Though the data is sparse, studies estimate that trans men and women are anywhere from two- to five-times more likely to join the military as their cisgender (nontrans) counterparts. For all its perceived conservatism and raging heteronormativity, the United States Armed Forces is almost certainly the largest employer of transgender people in this country.
After Christopher notes several of the issues in estimating the transgender population, he presents some numbers:
The most prominent of these estimates comes from the Williams Institute, an LGBT-focused think tank based out of UCLA. In a report from 2014, authors Gary Gates and Jody Herman estimate that approximately 15,500 transgender men and women are serving and that an additional 134,300 trans Americans are veterans. Given a national trans population of 700,000 (another rough estimate), this suggests that over 1-in-5 (or 21.4%) of all transgender Americans are in the military or have served at one point.
Compare this to the average adult American service rate of 10.4%. Transgender Americans, in other words, are estimated to be twice as likely to join the military.


Thursday, September 29, 2016
 
Does Rona Ambrose not know her own schedule?
The Conservative Party fundraising email today includes this line:
#RealChange – we’ve seen scandal after scandal involving improper moving expenses, limo rides, and million dollar overseas trips!
Earlier today, she hopped on a government plane to Israel, joining Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, former prime minister Jean Chretien, and Foreign Global Affairs Minister Stephane Dion for the funeral of former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres.


 
You might not hear a lot from the Left about registering to vote this fall
FiveThirtyEight's David Wasserman says that there are an estimated 47 eligible white voters without a college degree (24 million men, 23 million women) that didn't vote in 2012. Some pundits say this could a silent majority that sends Donald Trump to the White House. Elections are fundamentally about math, and the math says there are more potential white non-voters than Hispanic non-voters that the Clinton campaign is hoping to bring to the voting booth. Wasserman writes:
If Trump were able to activate merely one of every eight of these “missing whites” to vote for him, he would wipe out Obama’s 2012 margins in three states — Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania — and win both the Electoral College and the popular vote. If he were able to activate one of every five, he could add Virginia, Nevada, Iowa and New Hampshire.
Should Hillary Clinton be worried? Maybe not:
Although Trump may be converting plenty of existing voters to his side, there’s really very little evidence that previous nonvoters are coming out of the woodwork in large numbers for him.
According to the Census, 40.2 million eligible whites weren’t registered to vote at all in 2012. That’s much larger than the 14.7 million whites who were registered but didn’t turn out. Therefore, if Trump were truly inspiring an uprising of “missing” whites, we should expect a surge (or at least an uptick) in new registrations in blue-collar white and GOP-leaning places — think a mirror image of the Obama registration boom of 2008.
The lack of a Trump/GOP ground game to register potential votes for their candidate could help elect Hillary Clinton:
[I]t could be that white working class voters are out there to be activated, but Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee have waited until too late to build the analytics and ground infrastructure necessary to identify and register them. That’s where Clinton and the Democrats have excelled.
The absence of a discernible pro-Trump registration spike in key states doesn’t make it impossible that there will be a white, blue-collar “Trump surge” on Election Day. But it means he’d need to build that surge of voters out of the smaller pool of 14.7 million white nonvoters who are already registered, rather than realizing his full potential with the much larger pool of 47.1 million “missing” working-class whites.


 
Some British political reads
I was going to say here are three links I offer without comment, but I could not resist commenting.
James Forsyth in The Spectator: "Welcome to the age of May: The PM has outfoxed her colleagues and now looks set for a long premiership." I'm not thrilled about the prospect of a long May ministry, but things can change quickly.
The Guardian's Sam Knight has a long feature on Daniel Hannan: "The man who brought you Brexit: Britain’s vote to leave the EU was the grand finale of a 25-year campaign by a lonely sect of true believers. Daniel Hannan wrote the script." Grab a beverage.
The Daily Mail: "Crisis-ridden EU on the brink of imploding blasts Liam Fox: Minister launches savage attack on the bloc's catastrophic economic policies." Brexit politicians should not be seen to be cheerleading the EU's troubles, but ... schadenfreude.


 
I'm returning to my theory that Donald Trump doesn't want to be president
Chris Cillizza in the Washington Post:
Then I read this paragraph in a terrific New York Times story headlined "New Debate Strategy for Donald Trump: Practice, Practice, Practice":
The team had primed Mr. Trump to look for roughly a dozen key phrases and expressions Mrs. Clinton uses when she is uncertain or uncomfortable, but he did not seem to pay attention during the practice sessions, one aide said, and failed to home in on her vulnerabilities during the debate.
Now. Go back and read that sentence again. Done? Read it once more. It's that important.
Donald Trump is one of two people who will be president next January. (Sorry Gary Johnson!) Monday night was, inarguably, the most important day of the general election campaign to date. Every person in politics — and not — had circled the first debate as a major moment in the campaign, Trump's best chance to fight back against the narrative that he lacks the policy chops and the temperament to be president of the United States. The audience for the debate was expected to be somewhere between 80 and 100 million, the largest for a political event ever. (It wound up achieving that goal.)
All of these things pointed to the absolute necessity for Trump to perform well. And, what happened? His debate prep team couldn't get him to pay attention. That is, literally, stunning. Put yourself in a comparable situation. You are applying for a job you really want. Your interview is in five days. You hire an interview coach to help you do well. Then you just can't bring yourself to pay attention to the advice he or she gives you.
Another, more plausible theory, is that Donald Trump thinks he is smart enough not to need debate preparation. That's dumb. And I'm of the view that he accomplished the minimum of what needed to do in the debate (which is not screw up badly) and played it to a tie. But he could have won by damaging Hillary Clinton, and he didn't.


 
Vox interviews Tyler Cowen
Of course Tyler Cowen's interview with Vox's Sean Illing is self-recommending. Some highlights.
SI: What would you consider the most dangerous idea in human history?
TC: The idea of progress.
The follow-up to his four-word answer provides an explanation.
Another:
SI: So you’re not worried about utility-maximizing machines wreaking havoc in the future?
TC: We'll destroy ourselves long before anything like that happens.
And:
SI: Do you believe something that you can’t prove?
TC: Most of what I believe I can't prove. I can’t even define what a number is … so how good can you feel about anything you believe?
Playing the game of underrated/overrated:
SI: Milton Friedman?
TC: He's both underrated and overrated. I would say by the median, he's way underrated. But by his partisans, he's way overrated.
And Cowen finds both "America the country" and "America the idea" underrated.


 
Civil forfeiture abuse
Jason Snead, policy analyst in The Heritage Foundation's Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, writes at FEE about a Michigan family whose assets were sold by the county sheriff before their litigation was complete. It is a tragic case and a clear abuse of civil forfeiture by local police. Snead says, "This case should be a clear call to all Americans that it’s long past time to rein in our nation’s abuse-prone civil forfeiture system." He also says that governments must eliminate the incentives for local authorities to take property from suspected criminals and even those convicted of lesser crimes because it means policing pays.


 
Trump has a point about the Fed
Ruchir Sharma, chief global strategist at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, writes in the Wall Street Journal:
But when it comes to the Federal Reserve, Mr. Trump isn’t all wrong.
In a looping debate rant, Mr. Trump argued that an increasingly “political” Fed is holding interest rates low to help Democrats in November, driving up a “big, fat, ugly bubble” that will pop when the central bank raises rates. This riff has some truth to it.
Leave the conspiracy theory aside and look at the facts: Since the Fed began aggressive monetary easing in 2008, my calculations show that nearly 60% of stock market gains have come on those days, once every six weeks, that the Federal Open Market Committee announces its policy decisions.
Put another way, the S&P 500 index has gained 699 points since January 2008, and 422 of those points came on the 70 Fed announcement days. The average gain on announcement days was 0.49%, or roughly 50 times higher than the average gain of 0.01% on other days.
This is a sign of dysfunction. The stock market should be a barometer of the economy, but in practice it has become a barometer of Fed policy ...
The increasingly close and risky link between the Fed’s easy-money policies and financial markets has been demonstrated again in recent days. Early this month, some Fed governors indicated that the central bank might at long last raise interest rates at its next meeting. The stock market dropped sharply in response. Then when decision time came on Sept. 21 and the Fed left rates unchanged, stock prices rallied by 1% that day.
And:
Fed Chair Janet Yellen did come into office sounding unusually political, promising to govern in the interest of “Main Street not Wall Street,” although that promise hasn’t panned out. Mr. Trump was basically right in saying that Fed policy has done more to boost the prices of financial assets—including stocks, bonds and housing—than it has done to help the economy overall.


 
Labour Party's anti-semitism problem
The Independent: "Momentum vice-chair Jackie Walker says Holocaust Memorial Day is not inclusive enough." The paper reports from Liverpool:
Momentum’s vice-chair is under pressure to resign from the organisation after she appeared to criticise Holocaust Memorial Day for commemorating only Jewish victims.
Jackie Walker, vice-chair of the grassroots organisation set up shortly after Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader last year, reportedly made the comments at a Labour Party anti-Semitism training event.
“In terms of Holocaust day, wouldn’t it be wonderful if Holocaust day was open to all people who experienced holocaust?” she told organisers.
The paper also reports Walker being overheard saying, "I still haven’t heard a definition of anti-Semitism that I can work with."


Wednesday, September 28, 2016
 
Despite paucity of evidence, Ottawa wants to regulate e-cigs
The CBC reported:
Health Minister Jane Philpott will host a national forum early next year to discuss the future of tobacco control.
In an interview Tuesday, Philpott said Canadians will be pleased that the federal government is proceeding with regulatory standards for e-cigarettes and vaping.
"It is a challenging area because, for one thing, we are lacking adequate evidence to completely understand the risks and benefits of e-cigarettes," she said.
In the absence of evidence that vaping causes harm, shouldn't the state avoid regulation? Study it, sure, but let it be if there is no suggestion that it hurts people.


 
'But the judges' argument for Trump
The Washington Examiner's Timothy Carney counters the last conservative argument for voting for Donald Trump (other than he's-not-Hillary-Clinton): deciding who appoints judges. Carney says:
This is just about the only argument conservatives can make these days when trying to convince other conservatives to vote for a pro-choice, thrice-married, serial-philandering, Clinton-donating, factually challenged, eminent-domain abusing, pro-corporate welfare, crony capitalist con-man Donald Trump.
Most recently, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told conservatives to walk the party line in November because Trump — whom he has called a "pathological liar" — has promised to nominate good judges.
Cruz articulated the argument well ... [but] Cruz assumes Trump would appoint justices that conservatives would like. All evidence points to the contrary.
However, there is a problem with this line of argument: "Trump is not with conservatives on the policies where the court matters most." Except on the issue of gun rights, he is a social liberal. Worse, as Carney points out, he doesn't seem to know the role of the judge, saying this past year that they should investigate Hillary Clinton and that they sign bills.
Carney has another pragmatic consideration for the "but the judges" crowd:
But if you're still a single-issue judges voter, Trump winning may be worse than the alternative. If he is a disaster as president, he would cost the party the Senate in 2018, lose the White House in 2020, and devastate the GOP for a decade — which could be far worse than four or even eight years of Hillary.


 
What I'm reading
1. Bill Davis: Nation Builder, and Not So Bland After All by Steve Paikin
2. Campaign Confessions: Tales from the War Rooms of Politics by John Laschinger
3. Asymmetric Politics: Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats by Matt Grossmann
4. The City: London and the Global Power of Finance by Tony Norfield


 
Corbyn's middle finger to his base
The Daily Mail: "Labour leader defies Brexit vote to back unlimited EU immigration." The paper reports on Corbyn's plan:
Ruling out curbs on free movement, he will tell his party’s annual conference: ‘We will not sow division or fan the flames of fear.’
Instead he will unveil plans for a ‘migrant impact fund’ to build schools and hospitals in under-pressure areas.


 
Schools are run for the benefit of adults
I am convinced that schools are not primarily about the education of its students but the employment of teachers and convenience of parents (essentially state-run babysitting). Even the schedule of school fits the adult world of work rather than the optimum time for students to learn.
The Daily Mail provides further evidence of my theory that schools are mostly about adults:
Catherine Hutley, principal at Philip Morant School and College, in Colchester, Essex, claims scrapping after-school work will allow staff to use the time to plan better lessons.
Schools which have previously scrapped homework have made the move to reduce mental health problems among pupils. Some have extended school hours instead.
Marking homework is too much stress on teachers.
For the record, I'm not a fan of regular homework for elementary school children.


Tuesday, September 27, 2016
 
Caplan's 'apolitical reasons for hating politics'
Bryan Caplan says he would hate politics even if libertarianism was politically successful because "I hate the way people think about politics, independent of the ultimate outcome." In a link-filled post, Caplan explains:
I hate the hyperbole of politics. People should speak literal, measured truth or be silent.
I hate the Social Desirability Bias of politics. People should describe reality as it is, not pander to wishful thinking.
I hate the innumeracy of politics. People should focus on what's quantitatively important, not what thrills the masses.
I hate the overconfidence of politics. People shouldn't make claims they won't bet on, and shouldn't assert certainty unless they're willing to bet everything they own against a penny.
I hate the myside bias of politics. People should strive to be fair to out-groups, and scrupulously monitor in-groups, to counteract our natural human inclination to do the opposite.
I hate the "winning proves I'm right" mentality of politics. Winning only proves your views are popular, and popular views are often wrong.
Last but not least:
I hate the excuses people make for each of the preceding evils.
Caplan extrapolates on the last point and provides links for all the others. He is talking mostly about partisans, but recall he is the author of The Myth of the Rational Voter, so his observations might have more application to the general public.


 
Good observation about the debate
The Wall Street Journal had several of their staff score the debate and declare the winner. Daniel Henninger:
Hillary Clinton’s primary goal in the debate was to get Donald Trump to restate what he’s said before about Muslims or Hispanics and his presumably misogynistic attitudes toward women. The stuff that upsets people. Her do-or-die goal was to cut down Mr. Trump among doubtful white upper-middle-class voters. These are the battleground-state Americans who live in suburban Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Columbus and in North Carolina, Colorado, Virginia and Wisconsin. With the rest of the white vote locked up, these upper-middle-class Republicans and independents will make or break the Trump candidacy.
Hillary needed either to convince them that Donald Trump is unfit or induce Mr. Trump to do it for her by “scaring” these crucially important voters.
Donald Trump needed to give these same people a “get out of Trump jail” card—a reason to look past his flaws and just vote for him rather than the other three options available—her, a Libertarian, or stay home—all votes they really don’t want to cast.
And the winner of the first abominable debate is?
Trump. In what was—shifting metaphors—a photo finish. It shouldn’t have been close. If we know anything, it’s that this is a change election. I couldn’t hear a single element of change in Hillary’s outpourings. “Investments” means familiar spending. ISIS? Drop more bombs.
Did Mount Trump erupt? Not quite.
Trump might have won be exceeding the ridiculously low expectations set for him and not being the monster he is often (and correctly) portrayed as.
In the same article, William McGurn says:
But all this may miss each candidate’s real appeal. Mrs. Clinton had her numbers and her programs and her zingers lined up. Along the way, she invoked the great progressive god of fact-checking, a way of appealing to people who have no faith in the ability of ordinary Americans to think for themselves.
Perhaps she did thump him. But democracies can be unruly things, and Mr. Trump isn’t running on policy detail or finesse. He’s running on “Making America Great Again”—and against Washington and political correctness.
Joseph Rago said there nothing special about either candidate's performance. Kimberley A. Strassel said Trump missed the chance to hammer Clinton on ethics. It's too bad the Journal didn't have Peggy Noonan comment.


 
German business leader predicts UK will thrive under Brexit
The Daily Mail reports:
Britain will thrive outside the European Union as the bloc turns inward, a top German business leader has said.
Mathias Döpfner, chief executive of media giant Axel Springer, said the UK would be ‘highly attractive’ to investors after it left.
He believes Brexit will see the nation embrace a truly free market, while the EU becomes a ‘transfer union’ in which money is funnelled from rich states to poor ones.
Mr Döpfner said he expected a short-term economic slowdown for Britain, but argued that within three to five years, ‘England will be better off than continental Europe’.


 
Ponnuru on the debate
Writing in The Corner, Ramesh Ponnuru on the debate:
She made more points tonight, but he may have scored more points. The anti-Trump way to look at the contrast is that he has less to say, because he knows less and has thought less about government; the pro-Trump way to look at it is that he’s a hedgehog.
The effect of that contrast, I think, was that viewers had a stronger sense of where he stood. He thinks we’re losing at international trade, that our allies are taking advantage of us, that we aren’t being respectful enough about the police, that she has been part of every problem for a long, long time. I don’t think where she stood came out nearly as clearly.


 
Telling exchange between Trump and Clinton
I found most of the debate excruciating. I disagree with Donald Trump on NAFTA and trade, but notice Hillary Clinton's trite, non-responsive response:
TRUMP: Your husband signed NAFTA, which was one of the worst things that ever happened to the manufacturing industry.
CLINTON: Well, that's your opinion. That is your opinion.
Notice HRC did not defend NAFTA. She had praised Bill Clinton's economic record earlier in the debate, but she did not, in fact, defend NAFTA.


Monday, September 26, 2016
 
Government in a nutshell
The Toronto Star reports on problems with Toronto transit's smart ticketing system:
The transit agency has stated publiclythat fewer than 1 per cent of its new Presto fare card readers are out of service at any given time. But an audit the TTC conducted last week revealed that at least 5 to 6 per cent of the devices on its streetcar fleet aren’t working, and the real number could be higher.
According to TTC chief customer officer Chris Upfold, it’s difficult to know how many devices are misfiring, because the cellular system that is supposed to automatically detect when they malfunction isn’t working properly.
“Frankly, it might be higher (than 5 to 6 per cent). I wouldn’t be surprised if it was,” Upfold said in an interview.
Read that again: "it’s difficult to know how many devices are misfiring, because the cellular system that is supposed to automatically detect when they malfunction isn’t working properly." In other words, the mechanism to ensure everything is working properly isn't working properly. Predictable. I'm not saying that everything functions perfectly all the time in the private sector but 1) it gets fixed quicker and 2) the problems don't cost everyone (taxpayers) money.


 
The problem for Democrats
Everyone focuses on the problems within the Republican Party because the party establishment and opposition media alike recognize those problems. Few people are talking about the problems within the Democratic Party because its elite and their media allies are in denial. At Conservative Review, Steve Deace does a good job describing the Democratic predicament:
Then there’s the Democrats, who converted the ‘hope and change’ of eight years ago into the most unstable civic and racial relations in decades. Progressivism may have always been unhinged, but now it was completely unleashed.
That meant the next Democrat candidate for president either needed to be as radical as the mob that was marking its territory in every corner of the culture or be the most shameless and truth-averse politician that could possibly be imagined, ready and willing to say and do anything – and I mean anything – to finally grasp the ring of power for herself.


 
Billionaires and the presidential election
Bloomberg: "Hillary Clinton Is Outraising Trump 20-to-1 Among Billionaires." Bloomberg reports:
Former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has collected $21.1 million for her campaign and its supporting political action committees from 17 U.S. donors on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Republican Donald Trump has received $1.02 million from 12 members of the group.
That sounds like a lot, but it isn't in the grand scheme of things. Contributions from billionaires account for just 3% of the $708 million the two candidates have raised (according to the most recent Federal Election Commission filings). And nearly half of the total value of the donations from billionaires ($11.9 billion) was given by one person, George Soros. Queue the conspiracy theories. If you take out the highly ideological (or self-serving) Soros, 28 billionaires have given under $10 million to the two presidential campaigns. That's not a lot of money from billionaires.
A more interesting angle than buying influence is the fact that the candidate of the middle class is the clear favourite of the wealthiest Americans, whether you include Soros or not.


 
November winner might face economic limits to their campaign wish-list. Or not.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
Whoever wins in November will enjoy far less latitude to spend money or cut taxes than any president since World War II.
Not since Harry Truman will a new leader enter office with a higher debt-to-GDP ratio. And for the first time in decades, the new president will face the specter of widening deficits despite a growing economy.
I'm not so sure -- when has economics got in the way of a politician? The Journal says that if the economy dips, there will be even less room. I doubt it would much bother Hillary Clinton: she belongs to a party that has no qualms with a Keynesian approach to the economy, and given the limits of monetary policy, they will depend on fiscal stimulus. And Donald Trump seems clueless about how economies work; his adviser Peter Navarro predicts dynamic economic growth, resulting in a massive revenue boost to federal coffers, once Trump's (anti) trade plan is implemented.
The moral of the story is not that ballooning deficits and a sluggish economy will constrain politicians, but that they are no impediment at all to the ideological preferences of either presidential candidate and their respective parties. Democrats will continue to spend, while Trump pursues a suicidal trade policy and Republicans insist on indiscriminate tax cuts. Indeed, politicians will insist that economic uncertainty buttress the arguments for their preferred economic agendas.


 
Journal unimpressed by Cruz endorsement of Trump
The Wall Street Journal editorializes that Senator Ted Cruz refused to endorse Donald Trump when the billionaire was behind in the polls but backed him as the national polls indicate a close race:
Mr. Cruz’s machinations won’t matter much in November but they are worth keeping in mind after the election. If Mr. Trump loses, the GOP will have to rebuild from the rubble of a third straight presidential defeat. Mr. Cruz is already planning his 2020 campaign and he will try to cast himself as the only true conservative. The Texan’s shape-shifting regarding Mr. Trump reveals his true political character ...
Republicans of good conscience can differ on the Trump candidacy given his sometimes incendiary comments and his changeable policy views. The way Mr. Cruz has handled the choice is a clinic in political cynicism.
It is very difficult not to view Cruz's decision as anything but crass political calculation. Unfortunately, whatever his motivations, the Texas senator has hurt his position in Congress as a conservative leader in opposition to a President Hillary Clinton or working with a President Donald Trump, and, more importantly, has further damaged his credentials to be the principled conservative leader among Republican hopefuls in 2020 if Trump loses in November. As the Journal noted, all the reasons Cruz gave for endorsing Trump this week were true in July when he refused to do so. If I were an American, I would be willing to overlook Cruz's apparent political maneuvering, but I understand why many conservatives wouldn't.


 
Trump meets with Netanyahu
The joint statement following meeting between Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Trump Towers concludes:
Mr. Trump acknowledged that Jerusalem has been the eternal capital of the Jewish People for over 3000 years, and that the United States, under a Trump administration, will finally accept the long-standing Congressional mandate to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the State of Israel.
The meeting concluded with both leaders promising the highest level of mutual support and cooperation should Mr. Trump have the honor and privilege of being elected President of the United States.


 
Remember Obama's 2009 Nobel Peace Prize?
The Guardian's Natalie Nougayrède calls out President Barack Obama:
In his 2009 Nobel prize speech, Obama said that inaction in the face of mass slaughter “tears at our conscience and can lead to most costly intervention later”. As Syria turned into hell on earth, the president repeatedly made the case that any intervention would be either futile or dangerous.
More specifically:
As his presidency comes to a close, the fact is that Obama has little to show the world on Syria. With an estimated half a million deaths, the Middle East in flames and European allies destabilised by the impact of refugee flows, he will pass on a festering crisis to his successor.
Russia was always going to be a stumbling block, not least because Putin long ago identified Obama’s reluctance to do more – such as arming the rebels decisively, upholding his self-proclaimed “red line” or setting up a no-fly zone (before Russian intervention made that impossible). There is a long list of missed opportunities that might have forced Assad to the negotiating table.


 
Before there was Tiger Woods, there was Arnold Palmer
Yesterday Arnold Palmer passed away at the age of 87. Golf Week says:
No one did more to popularize the sport than Palmer. His dashing presence singlehandedly took golf out of the country clubs and into the mainstream. Quite simply, he made golf cool.
His fans, many who apparently had little interest in golf before Palmer came along, is called Arnold's Army. Vin Scully once said, "In a sport that was high society, Arnold Palmer made it 'High Noon'."
Palmer was presented with the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999 and Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004.


Sunday, September 25, 2016
 
Toronto's St. Michael's cathedral to re-open this week
The Catholic Register editorializes about the role of cathedrals, and specifically St. Michael's cathedral in downtown Toronto:
Construction methods have evolved but cathedrals are still about experiencing something bigger than mankind. They are deliberately spectacular, combining the best in architecture, stonework, sculpture, painting and song to form sacred, inspiring settings to bring us closer to God. Through their grandeur, cathedrals evoke the eternal truths of faith that are truly grand.
Cathedrals such as St. Michael’s also offer a response to the false cathedrals, the sports arenas, stock markets and malls, that dot the city. St. Michael’s provides a holy ground of tranquility and prayer amid a bustling material culture that can be dismissive of the spiritual realm. St. Michael’s also speaks to history and the substantial Catholic contribution to the life of Toronto.
The $128-million renovation would be justified on this grounds alone, but as the Register notes, there was no choice:
Designated as a heritage site by the City of Toronto, St. Michael’s could not be torn down. And, structurally unsound, the building was unlikely to attract a buyer willing to invest the tens of millions needed to keep it standing. That meant a full restoration — doing it right, to last for generations — was the only sensible option.
I look forward to seeing the restored cathedral on Thursday.
Full Register coverage is available here, with special note on the restoration of the ceiling.


 
Conversations, not safe spaces
Reason's Robby Soave tells the story of a Young Americans for Freedom event at the University of Kansas that was disrupted by radical students upset with YAF's event -- so upset that they had to physically attend and engage the conservative students. Soave says that the demand for safe spaces to protect progressive students from dissenting viewpoints made the case against safe spaces:
The leftists used extremely hurtful and offensive language, and were even occasionally physically intimidating. The conservatives said things that the leftists thought were offensive, too.
And yet that conversation clearly needed to happen. It needs to happen many more times, in fact. It's going to be ugly, it's going to be offensive, it's going to be uncomfortable, and it's going to be hurtful. But it clearly needs to happen.
For what it's worth, I think the leftists raised a number of good points, even if their delivery was hyperbolic. One of the leftists, a black woman of color, talked about the myriad ways in which her high school failed to prepare her for college. I have no doubt that some of the privileged members of YAF could benefit from hearing that.
But here's the thing: If the left's vision of a safe space was enacted throughout campus, they could have never had that discussion. The leftists continuously screamed insults and hurtful words at the members of YAF: what if YAF had responded by saying you make us feel unsafe? Would that have shut them up? Should it have shut them up?
I'm a little surprised, in fact, that more conservatives have not yet begun to use the language of the left for their own purposes. There is no doubt in my mind that a conservative involved in that discussion could have easily felt "unsafe" in the leftist sense—the triggered sense—at various points.
This is why it's so critically important to stop public spaces on university campuses from being made "safe" (to the extent that safe is a synonym for comfortable). There are a lot of difficult discussions that need to be had...


 
The Left in Europe
Paul Goodman on the problem facing Labour in the United Kingdom:
What is happening to Labour is not unique. Conventional parties of the Left are in trouble in Spain, Greece, France – almost everywhere you look. In very simple terms, the gap over immigration between the politicians who run them and the voters who elect them has become a gulf.
Labour in Britain is thus really two parties. The first is the Labour of parts of London: Camden, Greenwich, Islington, Lambeth, Haringey: pro-immigration, prosperous, pro-globalisation, largely middle class. Then there is the rest of the party, based largely in the Leave-voting, anti-migration midlands and north.
Many pundits say the Right has political challenges uniting their diverse elements (especially in the United States), but the same could be said of the Left (especially in Britain and France, but also elsewhere in Europe). I think that Canada's Left and Right will be immune to realigning challenges, at least in the medium term.


 
Corbyn wins Labour Party vote
Labour leader Jeremey Corbyn keeps his job as leader of the party after winning nearly 62% of the vote on Saturday. More than half a million Labour Party members voted with Corbyn taking 313,209 votes to Owen Smith's 193,229. Some Corbyn supporters are calling for what amounts to a purge of MPs who opposed the leader -- the political term is deselection -- although Corbyn himself appears to be taking the high road by saying that constituency boundary changes mean all MPs will have to run again for nominations. Perhaps his margin of victory leads Corbyn to believe his people will win nominations and his opponents won't. It's the right thing to say right now even if Corbyn expects to make life difficult for some opponents within the party later. I expect many will leave on their own considering, whether on principle or the belief they'd lose anyway in 2020.
It does seem silly that Momentum activists want anti-Corbyn MPs deselected; the focus should be on defeating their Conservative opponents in three-and-a-half years. Isabel Hardman writes in The Spectator that any peace at the Labour conference in Liverpool is very shallow, perhaps even phony. The Labour infighting reminds us of the probably apocryphal story of Winston Churchill's conversation with a rookie Conservative MP. Sitting on the government side of the House, the rookie MP pointed to the other side and said that's where the enemy sits. Churchill corrected him: "No, son, that's the opposition," and pointing to their own benches added, "that is the enemy."
Conservative Home's Paul Goodman says that Labour MPs opposed to Corbyn -- and remember that a majority of them called a review of Corbyn's leadership -- have choices to make regarding how they proceed under their reaffirmed leader:
They can try to make their peace with Corbyn, and hope for a front-bench job. Or they can form themselves into a new grouping, inside Parliament and maybe outside it. Or they can sit tight and hope that something turns up. The third is the most risk-free option, and many will presumably take it.
Too many political observers scoff at Corbyn and his wing of the party, but a lot can happen between now and 2020. Labour is not likely to win the next election, assuming nothing changes between now and election day. But Brexit negotiations, a new prime minister without an elected mandate, and events means the United Kingdom has a lot of politics going on in the next three-plus years. It looks impossible today, but the election isn't today. Labour could win, but they handicap themselves if they continue the infighting.


Saturday, September 24, 2016
 
Canada cozies up to Red China
The Prime Minister's Office released a statement today: "Prime Minister announces increased collaboration with China." Not surprising considered his admiration for their "basic dictatorship."
I am no fan of the regime in Beijing and its deplorable human rights record. I was a critic of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's visits to China. But no country in the world is going to risk offending the communist leadership of a country with 1.5 billion consumers. Canadian prime minister's are in a no-win political situation domestically when they make deals with Beijing, but I'm not sure castigating China will do any good.


 
The case for Clinton
Kids Prefer Cheese:
My own preference would be for HRC to be prez but the republicans continue to hold both legislative branches. Her brand of lawlessness I think is more amenable to congressional checks than the Trumpster's.
Kevin Grier will still probably vote for Gary Johnson, and hope for divided government.


 
Vin Scully's last series
Vin Scully has a typically classy letter to fans on the last weekend of his nearly seven-decade broadcasting career. I highly recommend reading it. It is brief -- six paragraphs that begin by explaining how he became a Giants fan -- and humble:
You were simply always there for me. I have always felt that I needed you more than you needed me and that holds true to this very day. I have been privileged to share in your passion and love for this great game.
Dayn Perry says: "Eighty years of loving the game of baseball and 67 years of telling us stories about it. The pleasure has been ours, Mr. Scully." Indeed.


 
'Claims of an epidemic of race crimes since the referendum are simply false'
The Daily Mail reports that a claim that there has been an 57% increase in hate crimes since the Brexit vote is based on one reporting mechanism in the four days after the referendum. The likely unrepresentative few days has since taken a life of its own with it being repeated as fact for the months since Brexit was okayed by British voters. Indeed, a National Police Chief Council press release said there was "no major spikes in tensions" in the aftermath of Brexit. Hate crimes haven't increased, but anti-hate crime activism has. The Daily Mail reports:
For the more you investigate, the more it turns out to be a deeply cynical industry where dishonesty and hysteria reign, truth has been replaced with Left-wing dogma, and verifiable facts no longer count for very much at all.
On paper, Britain is a remarkably tolerant country. London has just elected a Muslim mayor by a whacking majority. Gay marriage is not just legal but supported by a comfortable majority of adults. Children from ethnic minorities consistently outperform white working-class counterparts at school and in university.
Surveys by the respected and politically neutral think-tank Pew Research, along with the prestigious British Social Attitudes Survey, show racial prejudice in long-term and perhaps terminal decline.
Yet despite such trends, we are routinely described as being in the grip of a hate crime ‘epidemic’ where a few high-profile incidents — such as the appalling recent murder of a Polish immigrant on the streets of Harlow (which may or may not eventually prove to be race-related) — are said to represent the tip of a sinister iceberg.


 
Ted Cruz 'endorses' Donald Trump
On Facebook Senator Ted Cruz (Texas) states his reasons for voting for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, and encourages others who oppose Hillary Clinton's radical agenda and Barack Obama's third term to vote Trump, too. He is not really endorsing Trump as much as he is voting against Clinton, and that's fair. My first reaction was disappointment. Supporting Trump wouldn't be my choice -- I would do what I usually do and abstain from voting -- but considering that the Senator has to work with other members of his party and perhaps a Trump White House, it is understandable and probably even defensible.
The Washington Examiner reports that Senator Mike Lee (Utah) says he will not be joining his friend Cruz in supporting Trump. I presume that means Lee is off the list of potential Supreme Court judicial appointees Trump is talking about.
The Resurgent's Erick Erickson makes a political argument against Clinton and Christian argument against Trump which is reprinted in the Washington Post. He says Clinton is anti-American but Trump is un-American and, worse, an unrepentant sinner:
I think Hillary Clinton will do lasting damage to the country. I cannot vote for her.
Having fully weighed my opposition to Trump, I think Donald Trump will do lasting damage to the witness of the Church in America and I therefore cannot vote for him.