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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Monday, June 26, 2017
Exchanging the asylum for prison was a bad deal
It's a false dichotomy, I know, but the effect of deinstitutionalization has been reinstitutionalization to an institution ill-equipped to help individuals with mental illness.

Privacy concerns
Google gives (sort of). Engadget reports: "Google will no longer scan your Gmail for ad targeting." Yet "the company will still happily gather your data elsewhere."
Amazon takes away. BuzzFeed reports: "Amazon’s New Echo Show Is Very Cool And A Little Creepy." The latest iteration of the new device will tell you when your contacts are active, and presumably inform them you are using Echo.

Somewheres vs. Anywheres
The Guardian reports:
After Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the House of Commons, called for broadcasters to be “a bit patriotic” over their coverage of Brexit, the set of Robert Peston’s ITV show has been jokingly decorated with union jacks.
Peston, who presents ITV’s Peston on Sunday, shared a picture of the studio, making light of Leadsom’s comments, which have come under fire.
Here is Peston's Twitter response:
I'm not pleased with Leadsom's premise that seems to questioning the patriotism of journalists who are asking legitimate questions about Brexit negotiations (during a BBC interview with Emily Maitlis). It might be fair to question their patriotism, although not because they are doing their job. Question their patriotism because of their views on Britain outside of London. But Peston's response is dickish, and proves mine (and David Goodhart's and probably Leadsom's) point about cosmopolitan journalists who think love of country is a joke.

Tuns on Marche
Thanks to everyone who retweeted mine or JJ McCullough's tweet on Stephen Marche. Scroll down to Saturday to see what I wrote about Marche.

Some political truths
Bloomberg View's Jonathan Bernstein points out that anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist and his pro-government opponents are probably wrong when they impart lessons on politics to their children in hopes of turning their offspring into future conservatives or liberals. Bernstein writes:
What political scientists have mostly found is that it works the other way around: People first become Democrats or Republicans, then adopt the policy preferences that their party embraces. And when their party flip-flops on some issue, most voters flip-flop right along with it, often without realizing it -- in large part because most people don't have very strong positions on most public-policy questions.
So how do we wind up in one party or another? Many of us inherit our party identification from our parents. For others, what matters is the group we identify with when it comes to politics. It may be ethnicity, gender, occupation or something else, but of all the groups we belong to, one of them becomes the one that matters for politics -- and we know enough about politics to match that group with one of the major parties.
In his book Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, Bryan Caplan reports on separated-twin studies that indicate twins are closer to each other in voting habits than they are the parents who brought them up, suggesting a genetic element to politics. Still, there is a point to Bernstein's argument that political affiliation is probably not taught.
And now for something completely different ...
Daily Telegraph columnist Juliet Samuel on why a week is an eternity in politics:
Revolutions often end up a long way from where they started. A year after triumphing in the Brexit referendum, many Conservatives learnt this the hard way during a brutally disappointing election night. The rebellious spirit that carried them to victory last June had seemed sure to manifest itself again by lifting the Tories, the newly committed champions of Brexit, to unprecedented heights. Instead, like a train switching tracks, the momentum suddenly turned and took a hard Left. With the Government now in paralysis, Tory Brexiteers are in danger of losing control of the revolution they began. History is full of examples of campaigns and rebellions that, once started, unleashed new political currents and took up new causes. Yesterday it was sovereignty. Today, austerity.

Berlusconi's back
Politico Europe reports that ahead of next year's general election, the right-wing parties are making breakthroughs in Italian municipal elections:
Center-right parties scored a resounding victory in mayoral elections across Italy on Sunday, dealing a blow to the ruling center-left Democratic Party (PD) led by Matteo Renzi ...
[I]n the left-wing stronghold of Genoa, the mayoral candidate for the center-right — led by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and the leader of the anti-immigrant Northern League, Matteo Salvini — won with more than 55 percent of the votes. That marked the first victory for the center-right in left-wing stronghold of Genoa in the last 50 years.
Center-right candidates also prevailed in another leftish bastion, La Spezia, in L’Aquila, the capital of the central Abruzzo region, and in many of the cities up for grabs in the northern Lombardy region.
Sunday’s runoffs of Italy’s municipal elections, in which more than four million people were eligible to vote to elect mayors in 110 municipalities, were the last key electoral test ahead of the next general elections, due by the spring of 2018.
The strong performance of the center-right marks a comeback for Berlusconi, who campaigned strongly on television in the weeks before the vote, while Salvini hit most of the Italian towns called to the polls in his electoral tour.
A few things.
1. It is remarkable that this story refers to a coalition that includes Salvini's Northern League as both center-right and populist. That is possible, even likely, but many, if not most journalists equate populism with extremism.
2. It is remarkable that four years after being booted from Parliament on tax evasion charges, the 80-year-old billionaire broadcast magnate and former prime minister, Berlusconi is still politically relevant. His party, Forza Italia, usually contends for third place in most national polls.
3. Doing well in local elections may not indicate much for national elections next year. The British Tories did phenomenally well in local elections in May, one month before losing their parliamentary majority in the general election. This is not to say the center-right won't emerge stronger from their municipal victories, but that there is a lot of politics between now and next May (or earlier).
4. Renzi has already suffered a blow to his leadership. He felt it necessary to resign as prime minister in December after his government lost a constitutional reform referendum (to remake Parliament). While some view the move as a necessary first-step to rebuilding political capital and another run for the prime ministership, obviously resigning from the top elected office in the land is a step backward.
5. Looking ahead to 2018, Renzi versus Berlusconi would feature two former prime ministers who have resigned in disgrace.

Sunday, June 25, 2017
Instapundit on hack-proof voting
Glenn Reynolds writes in USA Today that "in a democratic polity, people have to believe that their votes are counted honestly, or the legitimacy of the system collapses." He briefly explains that both parties are now raises concerns about Russia or others intervening in electronic voting, and suggests a return to the paper ballot:
Well, we could try to boost our cybersecurity, but given that the NSA, the FBI and the CIA are leaking important secrets on a daily basis, maybe we’re not up to that job. So, once again, let me suggest that we return to something that, by its very nature, can’t be hacked by a guy in St. Petersburg: Paper ballots.
In some ways, paper and ink is a super technology. When you cast a vote on a voting machine, all that’s recorded is who you voted for. But a paper ballot captures lots of other information: Ink color, handwriting, etc. If you have access to a voting machine that’s connected to the Internet, you can change all the votes at once. To change a bunch of paper ballots takes physical access, and unless you’re very careful the changed ballots will show evidence of tampering. Paper ballots aren’t fraud-proof, of course, as a century of Chicago politics demonstrates, but they’re beyond the reach of some guy sitting at a computer in a basement halfway around the world. And there are well-known steps to make Chicago-style fraud harder ...
Perhaps it’s time to mandate paper ballots, and to also legally require other steps to ensure election integrity. Vote-counting systems should be transparent, and regularly audited ...
It’s time, and past time, to get serious about ballot security. Because today’s paranoia and division is just a minor taste of what could happen next time, if we remain unprepared. America can’t afford that.
If there were any sanity in government, jurisdictions that have or are considering online voting will abandon those dangerous experiments. As Reynolds says, paper ballots can be miscounted or manipulated, but its harder to do and easier to discover. It's time for a return to paper ballots.
One need not be a conspiracy theorist to question the integrity of machines counting votes; there is such a thing as computer error. And conspiracy theorists are happy to point out that computer error is a great cover for actual manipulation, as Homer Simpson well knows:

A Koch brother teams up with an NFL Hall of Fame cornerback to fight poverty
The Dallas Morning News reports that Charles Koch's Stand Together charity is working with Prime 5, a Dallas charity run by former Cowboy great Deion Sanders. The paper's story doesn't say what the new partnership will do, although Stand Together works with 20-40 groups annually in communities across the country to promote education and combat poverty. The local NBC affiliate's report gives a hint what the partnering will do:
Specifically, the partnership announced Saturday would help fund Dallas-based organizations that address issues such as chronic joblessness, education failure, addiction, personal debt and family breakdowns, said Evan Feinberg, who leads the Koch-backed organization Stand Together.
The Morning News reports that Sanders has no problem working with the controversial entrepreneur and philanthropist: "I saw firsthand how wonderful and gracious and giving and kind the Koch family was in regards to really trying to make this country a better place for everyone." Some reports suggest the pairing is unusual, but as one pastor told NBC, politics doesn't matter when trying to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless. Or does it? Direct help is good, and Charles Koch's libertarian vision is not anti-poor but anti-government; libertarians support private sector solutions, including charities, addressing problems that are inefficiently handled by government programs. But for those who believe that government is the right answer to all (or almost all) of society's problems, then having Koch come in to fill a void does indeed undermine their worldview. The problem, I would suggest, is that they are more interested in promoting their ideology than helping the poor. Thankfully, whatever the politics of "Prime Time" Deion Sanders, he is focused on helping those in poverty.

Adios to Carrier jobs then president-elect Trump 'saved'
Vox: "Layoffs start next month at the Carrier plant Trump 'saved' last winter." Vox's Matthew Yglesias writes:
The Carrier plant in Indianapolis that Donald Trump mentioned frequently on the campaign trail and famously returned to during the transition is preparing to lay off 600 manufacturing workers next month, according to CNBC’s Scott Cohn, who observes that the “deal” Trump and then-Gov. Mike Pence struck to save the plant “is not living up to the hype.”
The production work is shutting down, not because there isn’t demand for the products but because the company has determined that it is more profitable to do the work in Mexico.
Per the terms of the deal, Carrier will continue to employ slightly more than 1,000 people at the location. But of those, only 700 are the manufacturing jobs the argument was about — “the rest are engineering and technical jobs that were never scheduled to be cut.” In exchange, Carrier is getting $7 million in state incentives, which it is pairing with $9 million of its own money to make a $16 million investment in the facility. Trump characterized that investment as being about creating jobs, but “United Technologies CEO Greg Hayes told CNBC in December that the money would go toward more automation in the factory and ultimately would result in fewer jobs.”
No one should be surprised.

Saturday, June 24, 2017
Nonsense from Stephen Marche
Stephen Marche is the most ridiculous mainstream English-language writer around. I read him for the same reason I read Dalton Camp years ago: because I'm a masochist. So it is with a sick (dis)pleasure that I read his New York Times article, "Canada Doesn’t Know How to Party." While Marche's writing appears clever, it is actually twaddle. He writes, "The irony is that Canada, at the moment, has a lot to celebrate. Our prime minister is glamorous and internationally recognized as a celebrity of progressive politics." Should glamour be a source of national pride? Despite sharing left-liberal politics, Marche doesn't praise Justin Trudeau's policies and principles, but his coolness. I won't fisk Marche's entire essay; I'm not that much of a masochist. This, however, requires noting:
None of what I have written should be taken to imply that Canadians don’t love their country, or that I don’t love my country. I do. Most Canadians do, too. They just love it quietly. They don’t want to make a big fuss.
Dude, you're writing in the New York Times about your love of Canada. That's making a big fuss. In this Marche is typically Canadian, displaying the self-unaware habit of making a big fuss about not making a big fuss about their national pride.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is a rock star.
And Jacobin.
It is fair to assume Corbyn is imploring the masses take from others, but how? Through democratic means? And is theft through government all that much better? Why isn't Corbyn's radical populism ever condemned as dangerous?

Friday, June 23, 2017
What I'm reading
1. The Retreat of Western Liberalism by Edward Luce
2. A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century by Paul Kengor
3. Miracle Cure: The Creation of Antibiotics and the Birth of Modern Medicine by William Rosen
4. Cincinnati Red and Dodger Blue: Baseball's Greatest Forgotten Rivalry by Tom Van Riper
5. "Divided Landscapes of Economic Opportunity: The Canadian Geography of Intergenerational Income Mobility," by Miles Corak
6. "Manufacturing and the 2016: Election: An Analysis of US Presidential Election Data," a Peterson Institute for International Economics by Caroline Freund and Dario Sidhu

Modi and India
There is a good evaluation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in this week's Economist, the gist of which is he has done a good job governing since being elected three years ago, but hasn't delivered the reforms the country desperately needs. The magazine states:
Mr Modi has shown that he is an astute administrator of the economic machinery he inherited. Corruption seems to have abated, at least at the highest levels of government. But he has demonstrated little appetite for the reforms which would bring sustained growth of the sort that could transform the lives of India’s 1.3bn citizens. The few Mr Modi has carried out must be weighed against those he has botched, the areas that have gone without reform, and the sticking plasters that cover up the effects of bad policy rather than deal with their causes.
Not to take anything away from governing competently in the unwieldy country*, but the focus of this article is correctly on the lack of necessary reforms. A goods and services tax seeks to replace a complicated tangle of tariffs that if properly implemented could boost economic growth by removing layers of regulatory compliance for companies, but it is still too cumbersome and complex:
Most countries with a value-added tax settle on a single rate for many goods and services. India has opted for six, ranging from zero to 28%. Officialdom decrees, for example, that shampoo, wallpaper and fizzy water are luxuries to be taxed at 28%; eyeliner, curry paste and plain water will attract an 18% levy. Restaurants will pay 12%, unless they are small (5%) or air-conditioned (18%).
Sub-optimal tax reform is still preferable to the status quo in India. Unfortunately, labour, land, and capital reform -- strict limits on all currently exist -- has been a non-starter. India could be an economic miracle if entrepreneurs were allowed to easily start businesses and grow them. Economic flourishing could enable human flourishing, if the state would get out of the way. We're not talking Ayn Rand-like changes, merely simplifying layers of bureaucracy that make it impossible for businesses to be nimble and productive.
* There are two caveats to praising Modi for governing well. The first is explored by The Economist: the country's finances and general economy have benefited from a nearly 50% decrease in the price of oil since Modi became Prime Minister. This is beyond the government's control, but it helps everyone's bottom line, making Modi look better. The second is that Modi appears to have forced Raghuram Rajan, the head of the country's central bank, out of his position last year. Rajan successfully kept prices in check with the bank's aggressive inflation-targeting. Inflation was kept under control by the decline in oil prices, but it is also a result of the bank's policies. Modi shouldn't have sacked Rajan and it reflects poorly on the Prime Minister that he did so. This should have received more attention from the magazine.

We'll never stop hearing from Obama
The Washington Post reports on former president Barack Obama's latest foray into the political arena:
[In January] Obama explained that he wanted to afford respect to Trump to pursue his own agenda, citing the precedent set by George W. Bush’s infrequent public statements after Obama took office in 2009. Instead, since Trump’s inauguration, Obama has made clear that he does not intend to stay on the sidelines as Trump, with help from Republican lawmakers, seeks to dismantle his legacy.
Obama spoke out in January after Trump implemented a travel ban on citizens of seven majority-Muslim nations, declaring that “American values are at stake” and that he was “heartened” by protests across the country. This month, Obama criticized Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord that his administration signed in 2015, ruing “an absence of American leadership.”
But it is on health care that Obama has perhaps the most to lose and, with his lengthy Facebook statement, has signaled his intention to have the most political influence. Though he opened his message with an attempt to elevate the debate — emphasizing the need to listen to those with opposing points of view — he quickly framed Republican motivations as purely partisan.
“I recognize that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act has become a core tenet of the Republican Party,” Obama wrote, suggesting that the GOP is acting simply to undo “something that Democrats did.”
When other ex-presidents left the White House, they also left Washington, both literally and figuratively. The distance from the nation's capital helps keep them away from politics, or at least above the fray. Bill Clinton and his family's "charitable" foundation at least pretended to rise above domestic politics by focusing primarily on global issues. But Obama remained in DC. It was not an accident. The narcissist must insert himself to the country's political life. Such criticism of the Republican health care bill might be justified if the Democrats were not making the exact same point (see Elizabeth Warren), but complaints that Republicans are mean-spirited is nothing new or unusual.
Get ready for a lifetime of this sort of meddling in politics. There is no way that Obama is going to deny America -- or at least its political reporters and leftist activists -- of the great gift of himself.

McArdle on Senate's health care bill
Bloomberg's Megan McArdle does an excellent job briefly describing what's in the Senate health care bill. It is probably the best short read on what's actually in the bill and I highly recommend reading it. And then she offers her measured assessment:
Well, you know, if you tilt your head to one side and squint a little, you can sort of see … Obamacare. I called the House health care bill “Obamacare Lite,” but compared to the Senate bill, the House was offering a radical new taste sensation. The Senate bill touches very little of the underlying architecture of Obamacare; all it does is eliminate the insurance mandates, cut spending and give states somewhat more autonomy in how those dollars are spent. Repeal Obamacare, you say? They’re barely even worrying it ...
But while there are a few things to like in this bill, overall, it’s a mess. All of the problems created by Obamacare’s architecture remain, and some of the problems will get worse, because lower subsidies, higher deductibles and no mandate penalty probably means that a lot of people will exit the exchanges. Those people are likely to be the folks we most need to stabilize those exchanges: healthy youngsters who don’t use much health care. Which means that the exchanges will be at further risk from the death spirals we’ve already seen in some states.
To be sure, the insurance mandate does not seem to be working very well -- hence the death spirals we’ve already seen in some states -- but the elimination of the mandate is probably even worse for the insurance market than a weak, toothless one has been.
So it doesn't really reform health care. But it does cut taxes for the wealthy. That's not good health care policy, regardless of your views on the proper level of taxes for the upper end of income earners and wealthy.

Diversity in the age of global multiculturalism
It is often observed that regardless of where one travels in America, the malls and restaurants are all the same. The same is true of the West's diverse cities, and not only in the names of stores, but the people who populate them. Mark Steyn begins his essay today quoting the most recent Rod Liddle Spectator column and noting, "That last line is a reference to Samuel Johnson, who said if a man is tired of London he's tired of life." Then Steyn reflects on London, and elsewhere:
So I doubt most contemporary Londoners have heard of Samuel Johnson and, if they have, assume he's Boris Johnson's dad. I feel for the most part as Rod Liddle does about the vibrant, diverse "City of Boris". But it's the same in almost any western capital these days. You get off the train at the gare centrale, assuming you've picked a day when it isn't in lockdown for some Allahu Akbar type of eternally mystifying motive, and you walk past the soldiers with their automatic weapons, and you buy a cappuccino and slice of pizza from someone who might be a slightly corpulent Pushtun or an unusually svelte Tongan. But what's the difference? The more diverse we get, the more everything's the same. I miss the Europe of my childhood, when you could drive an hour in any direction from my mum's home town in Belgium and (in a way that for young 'uns is exciting in both the jolly and unnerving senses) be presented with entirely different cuisine, entirely different bathroom fixtures, entirely different mores. The homogeneity of multiculturalism is a complete crashing bore.

Thank you minimum wage activists
CNBC reports:
McDonald's shares hit an all-time high on Tuesday as Wall Street expects sales to increase from new digital ordering kiosks that will replace cashiers in 2,500 restaurants.
Cowen raised its rating on McDonald's shares to outperform from market perform because of the technology upgrades, which are slated for the fast-food chain's restaurants this year ...
Andrew Charles from Cowen cited plans for the restaurant chain to roll out mobile ordering across 14,000 U.S. locations by the end of 2017. The technology upgrades, part of what McDonald's calls "Experience of the Future," includes digital ordering kiosks that will be offered in 2,500 restaurants by the end of the year and table delivery.
A minimum wage is of no help to people who don't work. Minimum wages: a robots best friend.

Thursday, June 22, 2017
Organic common law vs. deliberate planning
Donald Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek:
Appreciation for the spontaneous and abstract character of the common law has always been rare, and it is getting even rarer. The counsel to follow abstract rules that are the result of human action but not of human design appears to the typical intellectual to be primitive. Far more sophisticated and “progressive” (it is believed) is our deferring to the conscious and discretionary commands of that particular group of human beings who have been elected to exercise power. And yet as Hayek (and a few others, such as A.V. Dicey, James Coolidge Carter, and Bruno Leoni) taught ... one of the many great advantages of governance by the abstract common law is that [it] governs with far more detailed and nuanced knowledge than can possibly be used to inform legislative and administrative dictates.
To state the point differently, relying for governance upon abstract, evolving common-law rules is to rely upon a far more accurate and complete method of the weighing of costs and benefits of alternative courses of actions and social arrangements than is available when “cost-benefit” analyses are carried out by politicians, bureaucrats, or econometricians.

Creative destruction
George Will discusses the changing grocery store landscape, from the time consumers handed their lists of desired items to the clerk for fetching to Amazon's purchase of Whole Foods, and finds it reaffirms the truth about the creative destruction inherent in free market economies to improve people's lives:
In the accelerated churning of today’s capitalism, changing tastes and expanding choices destroy some jobs and create others, with net gains in price and quality. But disruption is never restful, and America now faces a decision unique in its history: Is it tired — tired of the turmoil of creative destruction? If so, it had better be ready to do without creativity. And ready to stop being what it has always been: restless.
Americans just now are being plied with promises that the political class can, and is eager to, protect them from the need to make strenuous exertions to provide for themselves in an increasingly competitive world ...
This is a profound truth: The interacting processes that propel the world produce outcomes that no one intends. The fatal conceit — fatal to the fecundity of spontaneous order — is the belief that anyone, or any group of savants, is clever and farsighted enough to forecast the outcomes of complex systems. Who really wants to live in a society where outcomes are “meant,” meaning planned and unsurprising?
There are always winners and losers in the turmoil of any industry, but when you take into account the (massive) benefits to consumers, there are far more winners. The economy exists to provide goods and services to consumers, not profits for company owners or labour for employees.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017
'The Liberal government has become a pro-China propaganda machine'
PostMedia columnist Terry Glavin skewers the Liberals for their Sinophilia. Glavin writes:
When it comes to the cause of browbeating reluctant Canadians into subscribing to the sleazy proposition that an ever-more intimate relationship with the thuggish police state in Beijing is in Canada’s national interest, you’ve got to hand it to them. These people just won’t quit.
Glavin's must-read column describes the water-carrying the Liberal government does for Beijing. For example, he says that Pascale Massot of Global Affairs has advised the Trudeau government to convince Canadians that "China should be understood not as the vast, cyber-hacking, dissident-jailing, Tibetan-murdering captive labour sweatshop that it really is, but rather as a 'potential collaborator in the pursuit of the many goals Canada is seeking to achieve'." And, sadly, they have eagerly done so.
At least European countries just tuck their tails between their legs and don't become apologists for Red China's brutality.

Liberal MPs attempt to 'intimidate' senators on budget vote
Dale Smith at Routine Proceedings:
As the spring sitting of Parliament draws to a close, and the Commons is getting tired and cranky as MPs are restlessly looking to get back to their ridings, all eyes are on the Senate to see if they’ll pass the budget bill unamended so that MPs can leave, or if they’ll be forced to stick around to deal with delays. It looks like the latter is going to happen after the Senate voted to adopt changes made at the committee that would remove the automatic escalator on beer and wine taxes ...
So while this means that the Commons wasn’t able to rise last night, and may have to stick around until Thursday, depending on whether or not they pass it at Third Reading tonight, and how fast it takes the Commons to turn around a vote on accepting or rejecting (almost certainly the latter) the amendment.
But that’s not the only curious part of this tale. Apparently when the vote was about to happen, all manner of Liberal MPs and ministers arrived in the Senate to watch the vote happen – but not in the gallery. No, they were instead on the floor of the Senate, behind the bar at the entrance.
While this attempt at intimidation is quite unseemly in and of itself, I’ve also been hearing complaints that Senator Peter Harder, the Leader of the Government in the Senate – err, “government representative,” is admonishing senators not to amend bills this late in the game because recalling the House of Commons to pass or reject those amendments “is expensive.”
I. Can’t. Even.
Telling Senators not to do their constitutional duties of reviewing and amending legislation because it might inconvenience a few MPs is gob-smacking in and of itself, but couching it in dollar terms is beyond the pale. Apparently, we can only have parliamentary democracy if it’s done on the cheap.
Intimidate might be a little strong; Senator Linda Frum called it pressure. Whatever it was intended to be, the actions of the Liberal MPs are less offensive than Senator Harder's comments.

New Ken dolls
The CBC reports:
After producing the toy for more than five decades with the same basic body structure, Mattel is introducing 15 new versions of its Ken doll, looks that include new skin tones, body shapes and hair styles.
Barbie got a similar treatment about a year ago, and the move to makeover Ken is part of the toymaker's plan to market the dolls to a new diverse group of children and collectors ...
The new doll comes with three basic body types: slim, broad and original. But each body type comes with many other options, including seven skin tones, eight hair colours, nine hairstyles and modern fashions.
One of the new 15 iterations of (Cactus Cooler Ken) will feature a man-bun. No word whether Ken is finally going to get a penis.

What the Ossoff loss means
Maybe the special congressional election last night matters, maybe it doesn't.
Republican Karen Handel beat Democrat Jon Ossoff in the Georgia 6th Congressional District runoff, 52.1%-47.9%. The seat has been held by the GOP since Newt Gingrich first won it in 1979. Democrats had high hopes of taking the seat that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution called "the most expensive U.S. House contest in history." Democrats and their media allies were hoping for a Republican loss; the fact the special election required a runoff -- Ossoff won the 18-person open race a few months ago but without winning the requisite 50% to take the seat -- was being spun as a rebuke to President Donald Trump. The New York Times said an Ossoff victory "would be a powerful sign of Republican vulnerability as the Trump presidency unfolds." Sometimes a special election isn't all that special. A Republican victory in a Republican congressional district isn't really all that big of a deal.
Yet if the Democrats had a chance to win this district -- and the fact Ossoff nearly won half of the vote twice suggests they can -- there might be lessons for the party. Matthew Yglesias at Vox on what Ossoff's loss means for the future of Democrats:
Jon Ossoff’s narrow loss in the Georgia House special election seat will come as a crushing emotional blow to Democrats even though it hardly dooms their hopes to take back Congress next year.
To gain a majority, Democrats need to find a way to win races in districts like this one — traditional Republican bastions endangered by Donald Trump’s weakness with college graduates — but they don’t need to sweep them all by any means ...
The fact that the district was competitive is a sign that the GOP majority is at risk; the question is simply what can Democrats do to put themselves over the top?
One thing they might want to try is developing a substantive policy agenda to run on. They came close this time, and they’ll just need to put forth an attractive package for voters in the 2018 midterms ...
Ossoff’s effort to stay bland and inoffensive let hazy personal and culture war issues dominate the campaign — and even in a relatively weak Trump district, that was still a winning formula for Republicans.
If 2016 proved anything, it is that Democrats, at least for the time being, will lose elections fought on identity politics and culture wars. They need to get serious about their domestic agenda beyond merely opposing Trump and the Republicans.

Perhaps my favourite tweet of all-time

Justin Trudeau's MO
I meant to note this last week: a href="">Martin Lukacs in The Guardian on the Canadian Prime Minister's modus operandi:
Trudeau’s coronation as a champion of everything fair and decent, after all, has much to do with shrewd and calculated public relations. I call it the Trudeau two-step.
First, he makes a sweeping proclamation pitched abroad – a bold pledge to tackle austerity or climate change, or to ensure the rights of refugees or Indigenous peoples. The fawning international coverage bolsters his domestic credibility.
What follows next are not policies to ambitiously fulfill these pledges: it is ploys to quietly evacuate them of any meaning. The success of this maneuver – as well as its sheer cynicism – has been astonishing.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017
British Tories: calm down and get behind May
Iain Duncan Smith, who was ruthlessly dispatched as Tory leader himself a generation ago, at ConservativeHome:
Whatever one’s views of the campaign we fought, and I will come back to this, most in the Party understand the need to create a stable government. The only possible alternative, a Labour-led government with Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister, is grave indeed.
However there remain some – a small band, to be fair, but nevertheless a vocal group – who seem determined to sound off about what they want us to do, regardless of the circumstances. Sunday was a good example. The morning papers were full of the views of some in this group about the Prime Minister’s future, even in the shadow of the terrible tragedy of Grenfell Tower.
The media are, of course, desperate for the Party to turn in on itself, and are baying at us for that reason.
IDS explains:
[W]e need to get the support for our key measures from the DUP, which will allow us to pass the Queen’s Speech and make real progress on the Brexit talks. That requires us to support the arrangements Theresa May makes with them.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose
The Guardian reports that new French President Emmanuel Macron has lost two cabinet ministers in two days due to ethics problems:
France’s newly appointed defence minister Sylvie Goulard has resigned from government after a magistrate launched a preliminary investigation into allegations her party misused European parliament funds.
Goulard, who only took up her post in Emmanuel Macron’s administration a month ago, stepped down on Tuesday. She is the second high-profile minister to go in less than 24 hours.
President Macron has pledged to clean up French politics and public life after a series of scandals that have damaged voter confidence in their elected representatives. A “moralisation bill” that bans politicians from employing family members and obliging them to declare their personal interests when in office is expected to be one of his government’s first pieces of legislation.
On Monday, Richard Ferrand, minister for territorial cohsion and the general secretary of Macron’s fledgling political party La République en Marche (La REM – Republic on the Move) resigned after he was put under preliminary investigation for nepotism and financial impropriety.
Politico Europe reports: "Macron, who vowed during his campaign to make French politics more ethical, resisted calls for Ferrand and others to step down prior to the election."