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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Thursday, March 30, 2006

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Here's a test case for the new UN Human Rights Council reports:

"Dozens of Iranian bloggers have faced harassment by the government, been arrested for voicing opposing views, and fled the country in fear of prosecution over the past two years.

In the conservative Islamic Republic, where the government has vast control over newspapers and the airwaves, weblogs are one of the last bastions of free expression, where people can speak openly about everything from sex to the nuclear controversy. But increasingly, they are coming under threat of censorship....

To bolster its campaign, the Iranian government has one of the most extensive and sophisticated operations to censor and filter internet content of any country in the world -- second only to China...."


US politics

In, former Congressman John Kasich details some of the corruption in Ohio. He concludes that the usual saving grace for the GOP -- Democratic ineptitude -- might not be enough this year.

Johnathan V. Last wrote in the Daily Standard yesterday that if the Democrats win back Congress this November, they'll attempt to impeach President George W. Bush. Probably. But that's also the reason the Dems won't win Congress. Policy differences don't need to be settled (or punished) by an impeachment circus.

Another reason Democrats won't win is that they can't be trusted. As a Wall Street Journal editorial noted yesterday, New Jersey Governor John Corzine, elected to lead the state just last year when he promised last year to cut taxes and claimed that tax inreases were not even on his radar screen, now wants to raise taxes. As the WSJ says: "And now Democrats on Capitol Hill are promising they'll also cut taxes if they're elected to run Congress next year. Republicans have certainly given Democrats an opening by their failure to govern. But voters who might otherwise choose Democrats for a change might think twice if they conclude that Mr. Corzine is the canary in the coal mine of real Democratic tax intentions."

The AP reports that former Republican Congressman Asa Hutchinson will face Democratic state Attorney General Mike Beebe to become the next governor of Arkansas. Hutchinson, who served in various capacities in the Bush administration (Homeland Security undersecretary and head of the Drug Enforcement Administration), just filed his papers to officially enter the race and neither face primary opposition. Beebe has raised $2.75 million compared to Hutchinson's $1.26 million.

Earlier this week, Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D) assaulted a police officer as she entered a House office building and refused to stop when asked. McKinney is no stranger to controvesy. In 2002, she was defeated in the Democratic primaries after she implied that the Bush administration knew beforehand of the 9/11 attacks, but returned to Congress in 2004.

Tarantino on Liberal leadership campaign

On hearing that David Orchard might throw his hat into the Liberal leadership ring, Let It Bleed's Bob Tarantino notes:

"If I may be permitted to gently point out the obvious to our Liberal confreres: when you have Bob Rae and Joe friggin' Volpe included amongst the 'serious' contenders, there are no joke candidates."

I've noted before that I think Bob Rae is a serious leadership candidate (probably only one of four likely leadership hopefuls capable of winning and one of the two candidates likely to win it) but that's quite funny. As Quotulatiousness notes, Tarantino "gets this week's award for the 'creative use of a knife' in political commentary."

Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Stop or we'll say stop again

The UN has once again called upon Tehran to suspend its "enrichment-related activities." So after ignoring the E-3, the US, Russia, the IAEA and who else, Iran just might listen to the Security Council. But not likely.

Mountains out of molehills

My friend John-Henry Westen, editor of, finds the statue of Britney Spears giving birth to be not pro-life:

"Whether or not Spears chooses to degrade herself by her sexualized presentations, it is not right for [artist Daniel] Edwards to do it to her. And to do it in the name of the 'pro-life' shows a fundamental ignorance of what it means to be 'pro-life'.

A genuine pro-life attitude respects the dignity of mother and child."

This seems, to me, a non-issue.

Keeping an eye on the developing world

The World Bank has a new Poverty and Growth blog. That's on top of their Private Sector Development blog. Both are daily must-reads. If those interest you, the Center for International Private Enterprise blog should be on your list, too. At the CIPE blog, Aleksandr Shkolnikov pokes holes in Noam Chomsky's view of globalization as a zero-sum game. Good stuff.

Good-bye Reaganites

Peter Schweizer, who co-authored two books with Cap Weinberger, writes at NRO about the former Secretary of Defense. There are some great stories of Cap the Knife's sense of humour. Also, the Forbes family writes about their publisher and chairman, who brought a global vision for the magazine. And Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who worked with Lyn Nofziger on Reagan's 1976 and 1980 campaigns, recalls his former boss. Asked why Nofziger was essential to the Reagan years, Rohrabacher says: "Lyn was essential because he was a committed limited-government conservative. He was pro-freedom, liberty, and justice." Over at The Spectator Online, Nicholas Thimmesch II remembers Nofziger as a Reaganite Conservative.

Remembering the keys

J. Kelly Nestruck:

"I am extremely jealous of this woman who can remember the details of every day of her life. Though, perhaps, she's jealous of me. Still, I'd like to be able to leave the house each morning without spending ten minutes searching for my shoes, wallet, keys and cellphone."

Here's my advice to JKN; it is the advice that my wife gives me every day and which I completely ignore every day. It is this: put your keys, wallet, etc... in the same place when you get into the house. Shoes are simple: leave them by the door. I've got that one mastered (even if our children do not). As for keys, wallet and cell, well, they have new homes every night, a fact to which the daily frantic morning "I-can't-find-my-stuff" routine attests.

Preemies should die

SkyNews reports: "Doctors have provoked controversy by suggesting premature babies should not always be treated because they are 'bed blocking'." Nice attitude from doctors -- considering babies in need of care as "bed blockers." George F. Will wrote in the 1970s that the abortion issue is about much more than abortion when he said: "The issue is not when does life begin but when does life become protectable." Modern bioethics seems to actively seek these boundaries and shrink them.

China E-Lobby leaves the Roman Catholic Church

D.J. McGuire of China E-Lobby says he is leaving the faith because the Vatican is sucking up to the ChiComms. His frustration with the Vatican on this issue is understandable; leaving the Church over (essentially) the Holy See's foreign policy is not.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Caspar Weinberger, RIP

Another Reaganite died. Former Secretary of Defense for Ronald Reagan has passed away at the age of 88.

The Right in Canada

Over at Human Events, Matt Lewis remembers Lyn Nofziger, who passed away yesterday:

"We asked him to tell us about the day Reagan was shot, about what Lee Atwater was like, and about his days as a newspaper reporter. And he was more than generous with his time and his advice.

I honestly can’t imagine a lot of men of his stature taking that much time to mentor us. To us, Lyn Nofziger was more than just a tough and smart politico -- he was a kind and generous man. Today, the conservative movement has lost a good friend."

Does the Canadian conservative movement have people like Nofziger? Does it have enough of them. For all the talk about the need to create and fund conservative think tanks, foundations and periodicals, one of the missing ingredients -- mentors and models -- seem sorely lacking in Canada.

Free the airwaves!

Over at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Jesse Walker writes about, "Why Unlicensed Broadcasting Should Not Be a Crime." Looking at state-level regulations of broadcasting, Walker's argument comes down to three fundamental points:

"1. The penalties are disproportionate to the offense. Even when pirate broadcasting causes problems, making it a felony is akin to sending a SWAT team to enforce an anti-littering law.

2. The laws penalize not just interference, but technically sound operations that serve genuine public needs. A wide array of civic organizations and small-scale entrepreneurs run these stations, and some of them have been transmitting for years. The program content ranges from foreign-language formats aimed at immigrant communities to music that is more closely tuned to local preferences than you will find on some of their larger, licensed competitors.

3. The laws increase political control of the airwaves."

He expands on all these and it is worth reading. And then ponder this: why are governments getting in the way of the private provision of information and entertainment? And consider that by doing so, they are increasing state involvement and thus circumscribing the free exercise of expression. And then ponder this: why aren't liberal incensed at such illiberal activities?

Islamic fundamentalism a greater threat than Nazi Germany, Soviet Communism

So says Dennis Prager -- and with good reason. Essentially it comes down to this:

"A far larger number of people believe in Islamic authoritarianism than ever believed in Marxism. Virtually no one living in Marxist countries believed in Marxism or communism. Likewise, far fewer people believed in Nazism, an ideology confined largely to one country for less than one generation. This is one enormous difference between the radical Islamic threat to our civilization and the two previous ones.

But there is yet a second difference that is at least as significant and at least as frightening: Nazis and Communists wanted to live and feared death; Islamic authoritarians love death and loathe life."

Islam is less a religion than a death cult and as such is much more dangerous than political parties aspiring to power, not matter how extreme they might be. This is not to say that Nazism and Communism were not dangerous; only pointing out Islamofascism is a much greater threat to the West than Nazi Germany or the USSR ever was.

Anti-American, pro-illegal immigration protestors

Michelle Malkin has the photos, noting:

"While the [Los Angeles] Times misleadingly asserted that the Los Angeles rally 'featured more American flags than those from any other country,' its reporters conveniently ignored marchers with extremist signs and banners advocating America-undermining concepts of reconquista and Aztlan."

Photos calling America "stolen land" and declaring "brown is beautiful" are among the highlights. Malkin also reminds readers of a billboard last year that referred to "Los Angeles, Mexico."

Chance to revitalize the White House

Andy Card, the chief of staff since day one of the Bush administration, is leaving, Josh Bolten is replacing him. I like this move but the political perception of the move cuts both ways: President George W. Bush is doing what everyone says he should (shake up his staff, change direction) but it also admits that problems are as bad as the MSM has portrayed them. My guess is that the media and political sharks, having now smelt blood, will be out for another kill.

Kinsella leaves Navigator

Warren Kinsella posted this on his blog on March 27 (scroll down):

"After nearly four exciting years at Navigator, Warren Kinsella has decided to move on to another firm, details of which will become known soon. Warren and Navigator are proud to have helped make Navigator one of the top strategic communications firms in Canada. In the meantime, Warren wishes his friends and colleagues at Navigator continued success, and vice-versa."

Can anyone point to anything Kinsella has done in the past four years that advanced any cause other than that of Warren Kinsella?

Top Tories to watch for dissident behaviour

PoliticsWatch lists the top Conservatives most likely to become "dissidents." I don't think that's the word they really want because James Rajotte and James Moore, and even Maurice Vellacott, Rob Merrifield and Myron Thompson, are not about to openly oppose Stephen Harper, although there may be disagreements. Everyone understands that Harper is moving slowly, re-assuring Canadians that the Conservatives are not frightening. Although Garth Turner showed some early signs of being a loose canon, I doubt that Bill Casey or Norm Doyle is going to openly oppose their party, leader and government simply because they were left out of cabinet and/or are disappointed because David Emerson is. And that seems to be two of the three criteria for being a dissident (the other is being a social conservative). But being a socon to whom the media goes for scary, immoderate and intemperate quotes is not the same as being a dissident. An embarrassment, maybe but not a dissident. The fact that Diane Ablonczy is on the list shows that PW just doesn't know what its talking about.

Who's your daddy?

Eventually it will be impossible to write satire with plagiarizing life. South African newspaper, The Mail and Guardian reports:

"A four-year-old boy died after he was brutally assaulted when he refused to call his mother's lesbian lover 'Daddy,' The Star newspaper reported on Thursday.

Jandre's mother, Hanelie Botha (31), and her partner Engeline de Nysschen (33) appeared in the Vereeniging Regional Court on Wednesday and were found guilty of the boy's gruesome murder.

His father, Jan, sat in court holding the hands of his fiancée, Yolanda Deysel, and listened attentively to Magistrate Rita Willemse, who in her judgement, accepted evidence that among the reasons that led to Jandre's brutal ordeal was his refusal to call De Nysschen 'Daddy,' the paper said."

Best case for the seal hunt I've seen reports: "Morrissey is refusing to take his world tour to Canada in protest against the country's annual seal hunt."

(HT: Dust My Broom)

Monday, March 27, 2006
Support our armed forces in Afghanistan

You can do so here.

The broken record that is Sobering Thoughts on DeWine

I am no fan of Senator Mike DeWine (R) of Ohio and I think it would probably be a rather good thing for him to leave Washington after two terms in the Senate. But I don't think it will happen. One reason for that, er, optimism, is that I think the Republicans, by choosing Kenneth Blackwell as their gubernatorial candidate (among other primary picks) will sufficiently redefine the party as not the GOP of Governor Bob Taft, whose personal approval rating has rebounded to to 16%. According to state-wide polls reported in this Columbus Dispatch story, Blackwell holds a comfortable double-digit lead on his most serious primary opponent, Jim Preto.

Lyn Nofziger, RIP

Long-time Ronald Reagan advisor Lyn Nofziger passed away at the age of 71. What everyone admired about him was his "wit" which was one way to describe a rare commodity in politics: honesty.

UPDATE: A longer AP story on his death is available at the Washington Post.

The UN HRC replaces the UN HRC

It is official: the United Nations Human Rights Commission is dead, long live the Human Rights Council. It's just like the old Commission but slightly smaller. Its composition will be determined by the General Assembly (sort of, maybe) and its first meeting will be June 19 in Geneva. Here's a quiz to see if you've been following UN human rights commission "reform" closely.

Q1: Israel will be able to join the UN HRC:

1) When it stops violating the rights of Palestinians in the occupied territories.
2) When it entirely leaves the occupied territories.
3) When the all land that the Zionists currently occupy is controlled by its rightful owners, the Palestinians.
4) Never.
5) After Iran has obliterated it from the map.

Q2: Iran will be seriously questioned by the UN HRC about its solicitation of anti-Semitic cartoons:

1) As soon as possible.
2) When it incites anti-Jewish hatred.
3) Why would the UN condemn anti-Semitic cartoons?
4) Right after it examines the role Israel played in provoking the solicitation in the first place.
5) After Iran has obliterated Israel from the map.

Q3: The Sudanese government's role in the genocide committed in Darfur will be examined by the UN HRC:

1) As soon as possible.
2) When every last non-Muslim has been driven from the region.
3) At the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide when officials will promise, 'Never again.'
4) When a link between Khartoum and the Zionists can be established.
5) When hell freezes over.

Q4: The United States is:

1) A country that is best left off the UN HRC once every three terms even if it is paying for one-third of the Council's budget.
2) The greatest violator of human rights in the world.
3) The biggest supporter of the Zionists, the greatest violators of of human rights in the world.
4) The Great Satan.
5) The biggest obstacle to world peace, human rights and global harmony.

Q5: Which country will be most seriously scrutinized for its human rights record first:

1) Cuba
2) China
3) Zimbabwe
4) Iran
5) Micronesia

Gerry to Linda: The 1970s called. It wants its politics back

Gerry Nicholls notes this column by Linda McQuaig which complains about the perceived abandonment of progressive principles (some would call it progressive posturing) by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. After noting that several liberal politicians (Tony Blair, Bill Clinton) tack to the centre for middle class votes and eschew most of the far-left agenda, Nicholls concludes his post thusly: "Sorry Linda, but your class warfare style politics are about as dated as mood rings and Nehru jackets."

Agricultural subsidies hurt the world's poor

The National Center for Policy Analysis has a report on the effect of agricultural subsidies in the developed world and finds they "eat up federal revenue and make little, if any, economic sense," "hold back progress in developing countries," and "result in severe environmental damage." Regarding the poor of the developing world, western subsidies simply make them unable to compete in the global marketplace. Max Borders and H. Sterling Burnett say:

"Every dollar, yen or euro poured into the agriculture sectors of rich nations makes developing countries' farm sectors that much less competitive. The 'dumping' of agricultural commodities at prices lower than the cost of production is devastating to developing countries, since most depend almost entirely on only one or a few products. Every year, farm subsidies cost developing countries about $24 billion in lost agricultural income."

By eliminating such market distortions, developing world agriculture could compete to the point that, the authors argue, much of the $50 billion given in aid to the third world each year would be unnecessary. That claim seem extravagant but the point is still valid: the domestic policies of many western nations hurt the developing world (and themselves). Perhaps the aid is better described not as aid but sating the West's collective guilt over harmful agricultural subsidies.

Time for a federal spending cap

The issue has long been not budget deficits or the debt but the level of government spending. Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute, says that the United States needs a statutory spending cap as a necessary symbolic limit so small-government types and deficit hawks can make the case for some spending restraint. Edwards explains how it would work until deep cuts to spending ("scour the budget for program and agencies to eliminate") can be made. Of course, cuts to middle class entitlements are never politically attractive, so in the meantime, limiting government's growth is a necessary tonic.

Quote of the day

"[O]nce one has let oneself be treated like a dhimmi, it becomes hard to protest."
-- J. Peter Pham at TCS Daily

Opening old wounds

The Guardian reports that some victims groups -- victims of the 1994 Rwandan genocide -- don't want Shooting Dogs shown in Kigali, the nation's capital. Shooting Dogs is a film about the slaughter of 2000 Tutsis at the Ecole Technique Officielle (where Belgian "peacekeepers" should have protected them) and some victims are worried that the experience will be too painful. Government officials say it is necessary for "reconcilation" between Hutus and Tutsis. (They no doubt also enjoy the boost to the local economy that filming and showing such movies and documentaries contribute.) I am indifferent to all three arguments; Shooting Dogs (and Hotel Rwanda and Sometimes in April) are all necessary reminders of the genocide, that man is capable of such evil. If it helps Hutus and Tutsis get through their "issues," great but that is not nearly as important as an honest history lesson.

The Guardian notes the significance of the title: "The film's title refers to the UN troops' habit of firing at the dogs feasting on human corpses in the capital during the genocide while ignoring the perpetrators of the carnage." There's a lesson, there, too, considering that French forces evacuated westerners from the Ecole Technique Officielle (after Belgian, i.e., UN forces left) whilst leaving 2000 Rwandans to be killed by the Interahamwe.

You can't get away with plagiarism anymore

The Guardian reports: "A former Bush administration aide has resigned from his new role as a blogger for the Washington Post after evidence emerged that much of his previous journalistic work had been the result of plagiarism." Ben Domenech was canned after just three days blogging for the Post. Jim Brady, executive editor of the Post's website, said the paper did "a fair amount of checking" into Domenech but added: "We could have and should have done a better job."

There was a time when journalists didn't worry about plagiarism because ... well, many of them did it and if you exposed Journalist A, at some point another journalist was going to point out that you did it, too. But bloggers are not limited by such collegial niceties. And with many more bloggers than journalists, and because bloggers seem to have a curiosity sorely lacking in MSM journalists, not to mention a desire to bring town the goliaths in the media, there is even less chance of getting away with it. You would think that after Jayson Blair, journalists, especially blogging journalists, would understand that.

Conservatives debate online poker

Over at Human Events, Michael L. Bolcerek, president of the Poker Players Alliance, and Charmaine Yoest, vice president of the Family Research Council, make the cases pro and con, respectively, for legal online poker gambling.

Bolcerek's case rests on five main arguments: poker is uniquely American, current legislation imposes costs on private companies to monitor online gaming, banning online poker is tantamount to censorship, it is wrong to ban a victimless activity -- and doing so could lead to a slippery slope of greater government regulation. The only arguments he really develops (the victimless crime argument you have to read between the lines for) is that private companies would incur costs associated with monitoring the prohibition and that poker is an American institution that shouldn't be banned. Bolcerek quotes John Lukacs who recently said of poker: "the game closest to the Western conception of life where free will prevails over philosophies of fate or of chance, where men are considered moral agents, and whereÂ?at least in the short runÂ?the important thing is not what happens but what people think happens." While Bolcerek does not say where he stands on the issue of online gambling in general, he certainly believes that poker should be allowed, perhaps uniquely: "Poker deserves to be seen as the unique game of skill it truly is. It is clearly distinct from thoughtless games of chance where the odds are stacked against the little guy. There's no little guy in poker, just like thereÂ?s no little guy in America."

Yoest says that online gambling is the gateway to trouble as easy to understand as ABC: "Addiction, Bankruptcy and Crime." Gambling, Yoest notes, is addictive and the internratchetshes up the stakes, especially in terms of easy access. This results in an increase (or likely increase) in bankruptcies. Yoest notes, "the latest research finds that personal bankruptcy rates are 100% higher in counties with casinos than in those without" What will happen when any home can become a casino and instead of chips, a virtually unlimited supply of credit is used to bet? And lastly, Yoest trots out the "well-established" link between gambling and crime. I agree but I don't think the link is so well-established that evidence need not be provided. Yoest says it is time for Congress to get serious about curtailing gambling and give law enforcemeofficialsals the necessary tools to combat online gambling.

Sunday, March 26, 2006
Sowell interviewed by WSJ

There is no way to summarize or excerpt this wonderful interview by the Wall Street Journal's Jason Riley with Thomas Sowell. Just read it. The highlights include the fact that his book, On Classical Economics, was just released and that he is working on two books: a collection of correspondence (how many letter to and from Walter Williams?) and one on intellectuals. And here's a great quote on why classical economics is important: "If classical economics is relevant, than Mill and Marx are relevant. Why is classical economics relevant? I guess it's relevant because there are people who study it, and if they're going to talk about it they ought to know what they're talking about, which is a requirement sometimes overlooked." As I said, just read it.

Steyn on Abdul Rahman

Mark Steyn in his Chicago Sun-Times column on Afghanistan's persecuted Christian, Abdul Rahman, and a model for what the Western reaction should be:

"In a more culturally confident age, the British in India were faced with the practice of 'suttee' -- the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. General Sir Charles Napier was impeccably multicultural:

'You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows.You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.'

India today is better off without suttee. If we shrink from the logic of that, then in Afghanistan and many places far closer to home the implications are, as the Prince of Wales would say, 'ghastly'."

Watch Ohio

That's George F. Will's advice to those who want to know which party will control the Senate after November. Will highlights the strengths and weaknesses of Senator Mike DeWine (R) and his Democratic challenger, Rep. Sherrod Brown, who, according to the American Conservative Union, has a more liberal voting record than Dennis Kucinich. (Want proof? Consider this political gimmick as reported by the Washington Post: "For the past five years, Brown has worn a lapel pin that shows a canary in a cage. It represents birds that alerted miners to dangerous gases in mine shafts. He says the pin signifies the continuing struggle for workers' rights and social justice.") Will's point is that despite polls that show the Democrats with a 16-point lead on the generic who would you vote for in Congressional elections? question, Senate races are essentially local races.

Private healthcare neglects needs of the elderly

Oops, that isn't private care but Britain's publicly run system, the National Health Service. The Independent reports:

"Britain's elderly are being neglected, poorly treated and marginalised by the country's health system, according to a shocking study published today.

The scathing report, by three Government inspectorates, criticises the 'patronising and thoughtless' manner in which NHS hospitals and care institutions treat older patients. It also identifies a catalogue of sins and omissions practised by hospitals, that are condemning the elderly to second-class status in Britain's hospital wards."

GOP in trouble

A friend of mine who is trying to convince me how wrong I am in arguing that the Republicans will hold onto both houses of Congress sends me this Time article. The gist is this: all the indicators suggest the GOP will lose and even Republicans are realizing this. For example:

"Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who masterminded the 1994 elections that brought Republicans to power on promises of revolutionizing the way Washington is run, told TIME that his party has so bungled the job of governing that the best campaign slogan for Democrats today could be boiled down to just two words: 'Had enough?'"

The problem for Democrats is that the counter slogan is "Are you ready for Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton?" and Americans will recoil from the thought of handing Congress to the Irresponsible Party.

Time suggests that Bush is a drag on the party: corruption, incompetence, bungling in Iraq. Even if none of this is true, there is the perception that it is and that's all you need to sink a party's chances. Thus candidates from Ric Keller (a fantastic unhyphenated conservative Congressman from the area just west of Orlando) and Tom Kean Jr. (a New Joisey state rep. running for governor) are distancing themselves from the administration, most notably by taking digs at or refusing to appear with Dick Cheney while he headlines their fundraisers.

But the GOP saving grace is this, as Rep. Tom Reynolds, chairman of the GOP House campaign committee, told Time (in the magazine's words): "the picture is more promising race by race than it is nationally." Gerrymandered congressional districts, the power of incumbency (Time reports that while there is an anti-Congress mood, 63% of respondents to their poll say they support their local Congressman), the strength of the Republican victories in 2004 in the open seats, would all suggest the Republicans are not as vulnerable as the conventional wisdom has them.

There is hope

In Italian Serie A play yesterday Juve and Roma drew 1-1 and Milan beat Fiorentina 3-1 to close the gap between the rivals to eight points. Still a longshot but for dedicated fans of any club, the slightest morsel is reason for hope. Milan's municipal rival, Inter, lost to Parma 1-0 and remains in third place. Standings can be seen here.

Saturday, March 25, 2006
Welcome home dad

These are a few weeks old but here are some photos of members of the U.S. navy coming home and seeing their children for the first time. Ever.

(HT: Irish Elk)

10 Downing Street illustrates benefits of economic liberalization

The Daily Telegraph reports that Tony Blair sang the praises of economic freedom by noting that his residence is supplied mostly by non-English companies. The paper reports:

"To highlight the benefits of liberalisation, Mr Blair said No 10 was already a shining example of the benefits of open markets and the benefits of free competition across Europe.

'The electricity in Number 10 Downing Street is supplied by a French company. The water by a German company. The gas is supplied by four companies, three of which are not British.'

In common with most households in central London, Downing Street is thought to buy its electricity from London Energy, owned by the French company EDF.

Thames Water is owned by RWE, a German utility, while gas supplies for most London homes are controlled by British Gas (owned by Centrica); Powergen, owned by the German utility E.ON; Npower, owned by RWE; and EDF.

The fact that consumers had such a wide choice meant healthy competition between businesses and resulting lower prices, the Prime Minister said."

Apparently French President Jacques Chirac was not amused.

I hate to disagree with Burkean Canuck

Russ Kuykendall is a friend of mine and I seldom disagree with anything he's posted. The few times there has been a disagreement, I usually come around to his way of thinking upon further reflection/thought. Here's his post on the Christian peace-nuts (they aren't peacemakers, are they? what "peace" have they brought about?), after which I offer my criticism:

"Rondi Adamson, aka 'Wonkitties,' makes a telling point, here, and here, on the Christian Peacemakers' refusal to acknowledge a debt of gratitude they owe certain, Western armed forces in Iraq.

This is a classic case of cognitive dissonance, writ large. A pacifist, anti-military group relies, first, on armed forces for their rescue, then are moved to a safe area of Iraq secured by armed forces, then they are given transport by armed forces back home. Meanwhile, people from among those they traveled to Iraq to help, first, kidnapped them, held them virtually incommunicado in threat of their lives, killed one of their number, and held them some more.

And yet, these same people have nothing but thanks and appreciation for their captors, and nothing at all for their rescuers and protectors.

They have nothing to say . . . worth hearing."

I agree that the peace-nuts (and their relatives and fellow travelers) have nothing to say worth hearing but that isn't because their offensive don't-thank-their-liberators-but-sympathize-with-their-captors stance is a result of cognitive dissonance, but because they have ideological blinders on. Cognitive dissonance is a psychological condition and until the American Psychological Association or some like organization classifies liberalism as a mental illness, I'm afraid that the Christian Peacemakers and their ilk are simply being bone-headed in their politics rather than suffering from some mental problem greater than an unwillingness to think clearly. For further evidence, read the Daily Telegraph's story on their unwillingness to cooperate with an intelligence unit sent to debrief the erstwhile hostages.

More idiocy from the Religious Left

Stephen Pollard (HT: Jay Nordlinger) notes that Radio 4's recent Thought of Day came from Rev. Alan Billings who said, "Paying taxes is how love operates at a distance."

Comeback player of the year

Yahoo! Sports columnist Jeff Passan provides his individual Major League Baseball player predictions (awards, homerun leaders, comeback player of the year, future MVPs, etc...). Some make a lot of sense (Roy Oswalt winning the NL Cy Young; Albert Pujols winning the NL MVP), some follow the herd (both Rookie of the Year winners are as close to a consensus as there can be even though there are always rookie disappointments and rookie breakthroughs), and some are unimaginatively safe (Johan Santana winning the AL Cy Young even if Roy Halladay looks healthy and Barry Zito is playing in his final pre-free agency season; David Ortiz winning the AL homerun race even though Jim Thome switched leagues). But my biggest problem is with his comeback player of the year. Passan picks Milton Bradley who was traded from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Oakland A's.

Bradley played in a pitchers park for the past two seasons when he was actually playing. Bradley only appeared in 75 games last year and made something of a modest comeback despite off-field distractions (fighting with team-mates, accusations of partner-abuse). Playing in Cleveland in 2003, Bradley played 101 games and hit 10 homeruns while compiling slash stats (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) of 321/421/501. That quite impressive for a centerfielder. In his first year in Dodger blue, Bradley played 141 games with a 267/362/424 line and 19 homeruns. That's a big drop in production. Last year he improved slightly: 290/350/484 with 13 dingers in 75 games. He improved his BA and SLG markedly but walked a lot less for a 12-point drop in OBP. While sportswriters and fans will remember the off-field excitement and missed games, he is already well on his way to a comeback. There is also the bias in thinking that says that the change of scenery is responsible for improvements (or declines) even though age and other factors also come into play.

A much better candidate for comeback player of the year is Carlos Beltran who was mediocre in his first season with the New York Mets. His career numbers: 282/350/479 including 267/367/548 and 38 homeruns in 2004 split between the Kansas City Royals and Houston Astros. Last year, Beltran hit 266/33/414 with 16 homeruns, continuing his pattern of up-and-down years. In 1999, 2001 and 2003 Beltran hit 293, 306 and 307 respectively but in 2000, 2002 and 2004 he hit 247, 273 and 267. His on-base percentage and slugging percentage show the same pattern. (In terms of homeruns, he is relatively consistent: between 1999 and 2003 he hit between 22 and 29 homeruns in four of five seasons.) If Beltran returns to form, he'll have impressive numbers. If he has another 2004 with nearly 40 homeruns, he's comeback player of the year material.

Friday, March 24, 2006
The sickening Religious Left

Over at No Left Turns, Joseph Knippenberg reproduces part of a message he received from the Sojourners in response to the news of the raid that freed three Christian peace activists held by terrorist captors. Then he comments:

"They love and forgive their colleagues’ captors, but say nothing about the troops who liberated them. "The pain that has been the daily bread of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis" seems to refer in this case to current conditions in Iraq, but would seem to apply much more truly to Iraqi captivity under the murderous Saddam Hussein regime. Mere intellectual honesty would require them to condemn their captors and the vicious ideology they represent for their own suffering, not to mention those of the ordinary Iraqis who are daily subject to random attacks by al Qaeda and Baathist thugs."

Peace activists want to stand with their Iraqi brothers -- and that's fine. But where were they when Saddam Hussein was the cause of Iraqi suffering? How come Western activists only stand up for those elsewhere when they are perceived to be victims of Western policy and not the hands of their own brutal dictators? Just wondering.

Tricky politics

I meant to write about this early in the week but I've been busy and blogging has been light (and will be on and off for the next week probably). The Hill Times reported that two Liberal MPs, Diane Marleau and Marcel Proulx, confirmed that they are "actively seeking support for the position" of House Speaker to challenge Liberal MP Peter Milliken. Conservative Garth Turner is considering a run for the job. What's this all about? If Milliken becomes the speaker, the Grits have one less seat in the House during regular votes (although his vote would break ties). If more than one Liberal enters the race, dividing opposition votes, it increases the chances that a candidate from another party will win, presumably Mr. Turner. That scenario decreases the Tory vote by one. While the media has often ripped into Milliken for failing to control the House and criticized the nasty tenor of the debates, many MPs from the various parties have nothing but praise for him and political staff I've talked to say he is most helpful. Assuming they would be allowed to vote freely -- not a safe assumption -- a number of Conservatives would gladly vote for Milliken for speaker. The Liberals know that and need to divide the pro-Milliken vote in their own ranks.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Unintended consequences

As this Daily Telegraph story illustrates, policy ideas of smug, self-congratulatory Westerners have real-life consequences for the world's poor:

"James Chance slept in a tent for four months when he arrived to farm the bush country of Zambia.

Having lost his farm in Zimbabwe, Mr Chance leased 4,400 acres in its northern neighbour and was 'exhilarated' to have a second opportunity to till Africa's soil.

Yet his hopes and those of 200 other white farmers, all fugitives from Zimbabwe, have been shattered almost overnight.

Most of their farms have lost their viability at a stroke because in the past three months Zambia's currency, the kwacha, has risen by a third against the US dollar.

The farmers grow tobacco and maize for export at prices in dollars. But their costs are paid in the local currency so they must find more dollars to survive. Mr Chance estimates that his annual costs have grown by about $20,000 (£11,400).

No one predicted the kwacha's sudden rise or budgeted for this increase. For a new, heavily indebted and relatively small-scale farmer, such a burden could spell the difference between survival and collapse.

... Only by cutting costs can Mr Chance survive, so he must lay off 30 of his 120 workers. Every labourer supports about 10 relatives, so about 300 Zambians will be impoverished by the crisis on this one farm alone.

The kwacha's surge makes everything produced in Zambia more expensive abroad. It has damaged not only commercial agriculture but every other exporter as well.

There are many reasons for the currency's climb. One is the decision by the G8 group of rich countries, among them Britain, to write off Zambia's foreign debt last year and double aid. In January, Zambia was among the first 19 poor countries to benefit from 100 per cent debt relief and allow its government to spend money on health and education that would have repaid loans."

But at least Bob Geldolf and his merry band of G-8 do-gooders, especially Tony Blair and Paul Martin, can feel good about themselves.

Water for Life

The Globalization Institute has released an excellent report, "Water for Life: The case for private investment and management in developing country water systems." Particularly important is its rebuttal of the argument that privatizing water delivery infrastructure "neglects the poor" (or more properly, doesn't benefit the poor). On pages 11-12 this argument is eviscerated. Several key counter-arguments:

1) There are so many poor people in the developing world that private companies are sacrificing too much of their market by ignoring them. They may be poor but they still have commercial value.

2) Price caps could be implemented that would ensure the poor are not denied access to water. If those caps are too high, governments could provide a subsidy. (How is this different from government-run water infrastructure? Easy. The pitfalls of bureaucracy and indifference to customers are avoided but the state still ensures the taps remain open, quite literally, for the poor.)

3) Many of the problems for the poor and water access are rooted not in not affording water but in the widespread lack of property rights.

4) The government can mandate extension targets (to poor communities) as part of any deal to the private providers of water.

5) Currently there are millions without access to water and in almost all the developing world this is due not to privatization but bad governance. Indeed, where privatization has occurred, access to water increases.

Monday, March 20, 2006
African infrastructure and economic growth

I have peeked at this book several times the past two days and look forward to being able to tackle it in some depth: Africa in the World Economy: The National, Regional and International Challenges (pdf file), edited by Jan Joost Teunissen and Age Akkerman. (HT: PSD blog) Especially notable is this chapter, "Infrastructure, Regional Integration and Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa," by Benno Ndulu, Lolette Kritzinger-van Niekerk and Ritva Reinikka. The authors say that private investment is lacking because there is little return on investment among other problems. But there must be infrastructure investment before there is real economic growth. Without access to global markets, Africa will remain in a rut. As the authors note (page 11 of 21 within the chapter), "For most African countries distance from their primary markets and high transport costs of their products inhibit their participation in the global economy." The transport disadvantage is exacerbated by the poor or non-existent infrastructure. The authors also point to studies that found that companies in areas without a consistent supply of electricity do not invest in growing their company.

The catch-22 is this: without infrastructure, neither the local nor national economy can create the economic growth necessary to pay for the development of the needed infrastructure. In other words, it becomes a viscous cycle.

The authors suggest that one way forward is for regional co-operation to exploit natural resources, the great lakes, for example, create uniform legal and regulatory frameworks, or fighting diseases that do not respect national boundaries. While the authors favour increased government involvement in the creating of some infrastructure projects, they note that regional co-operation is more an issue of political will than financial resources. Getting over the political bumps will enable parts of Africa to overcome its geographical disadvantages but it won't be easy.

Japan and robotics

The Globalist has an interesting article on Japan possibly rivalling India and China has the world's largest economy due to the robotics technology that it is developing. That seems a stretch but the article is worth reading for the description of robotics advances. Perhaps more interesting than the actual robotics (that part of the article will most interest science fiction nerds) is the economic rationale for this development: "these robots were intended to assist particularly an ageing society in Japan." But Prabhu Guptara, the author, is on less solid ground when he argues that these robotics will "more or less completely eliminate the middle class from the world economy." Perhaps at times wrong but, as I said, interesting.

GOP Senate troubles?

I was talking to a friend about this earlier today: who realistic is it for the Republicans to lose six Senate seats and thus control of the Senate? Kate O'Beirne reports in The Corner that it might be closer than many think:

"Just spoke to an experienced GOP analyst who is fretting that the Democrats have a real chance of picking up 3 to 4 seats this November. He sees Ohio, PA and RI as "gone," noting that Chafee has three chances to lose it for Republicans - the primary, the general, and should he be re-elected when he refuses to support a Republican majority leader. He thinks that both MT (Burns has Abramoff troubles) and MO (with Talent trailing for months) are really "tough" for the GOP. He allows that winning a sixth seat looks difficult at the moment because there would have to be an upset in either TN or AZ. GOP opportunities? MN, WA, and NE."

A few things:

1. Lincoln Chafee "losing" Rhode Island after November is a cute and clever comment but it doesn't actually cost the GOP control of the Senate. Unless he commits a Jim Jeffords.

2. There would have to be a large swing for the GOP to lose even five seats. Pennsylvania should tighten up but will probably turn Democrat. Rhode Island is too close to call but could very likely go Democratic. I have long argued that Ohio Senator Mike DeWine is safer than anyone thinks and that he should hold onto his job. Montana and Missouri may tip Democrat but a lot can change between now (when voting Democrat is theoretical) and November. But notice this: with the exception of Jim Talent in Missouri, every other vulnerable Republican is vulnerable not because of party affiliation but because of factors related to the candidate/particular race: Burns has ties to Abrahamoff; the Rhode Island Republicans are going through a brutal primary; Santorum is considered too extreme and/or the Dems may neutralize his socon base by nominating a pro-life candidate of their own; DeWine is hurt by state-level GOP politics and the scandalously awful Governor Bob Taft.

3. Even if the Republians lose all five vulnerable states, if they lose because of local factors, they could win one or two of the vulnerable Democratic seats, most likely Minnesota and Nevada (in that order). Indeed, the GOP are more likely to pickup Minnesota than they are to lose Ohio.

4. I have long predicted that Tennessee will be extremely close and may represent the Democrats's best chance to pick up a seat outside Pennsylvania.

5. Arizona's Republican Senator Jon Kyl is not at risk of losing his seat.

Quick prediction: GOP lose four but win one, for a net loss of three. But in my gut I still think that is too optimistic for the Democrats who have proven themselves unworthy of control of the Senate. Ironically, because of the unseriousness of the Democrats, the more likely it looks that they could win control of the Senate the less likely many fence-sitting voters, especially in Ohio, Montana and Tennessee, will mark the ballot for the party.

Daifallah on Iraq and the 'neocon failure'

Adam Daifallah counters the MSM argument that after three years in Iraq it is obvious that the neocons were wrong. Wrong! Says Daifallah:

"The one point I do want to make, which I feel very strongly about, is that I am getting tired of hearing in the media that the aftermath of the war is a failure for neoconservatism. That the hawks who led America into war were wrong, their plan failed, and they are responsible for the mess now ripping that country apart. Nothing could be further from the truth; in fact, it is the exact oppositie. It is precisely because the hawk's plan for post-Saddam Iraq was not adopted that we are in the mess we are in today.

Their plan -- to transfer power to interim government immediately to put an Iraqi face on the invasion -- was discarded by Paul Bremer and his State Department advisors. It is mainly because of the way the first year after the war ended was handled by Bremer et al that we have the dreadful situation of today."

Sunday, March 19, 2006
Worst SNL cast members

Here's a list of the worst cast members of Saturday Night Live (via The Galley Slaves). I like Jimmy Fallon and Horatio Sanz, especially when they are together. Professional? No. Funny? Yes. Because they were not professional. And I don't completely agree that Colin Quinn should be on the list. As host of the Weekend Update segment, by all means. He was comprehensively awful in a way that I didn't think was possible. (He is the reverse of Dennis Miller, who is the standard by which all Weekend Update anchors must be judged but who admitted himself that he ought never to appear in the skits.) Likewise, Tim Meadows and Garret Morris do not deserve honourable mentions.

This is not easy list because there are so many other deserving candidates for this list. How the "1981 cast" only made honourable mention is beyond comprehension. The ten worst cast members have to be (in approximate order of worst to tenth worst): Melanie Hutsell, Gilbert Gottfried, Charles Rocket, Ellen Cleghorne, Tim Kazurinsky, Robin Duke, Gary Kroeger, Victoria Jackson, Will Forte and Julia Sweeney. Cheri Oteri and Molly Shannon get dishonourable mentions.

Rethinking Iraq on the third anniversary

I find it increasingly difficult to disagree with George F. Will's assessment of the attempt to democratize the Middle East by creating a democratic beach-head in Iraq. As he concludes in his Washington Post column today:

"Conditions in Iraq have worsened in the 94 days that have passed since Iraq's elections in December. And there still is no Iraqi government that can govern. By many measures conditions are worse than they were a year ago, when they were worse than they had been the year before.

Three years ago the administration had a theory: Democratic institutions do not just spring from a hospitable culture, they can also create such a culture. That theory has been a casualty of the war that began three years ago today."

I don't think the United States should abandon Iraq but Will is probably onto somethign when the suggests new tactics for Bush -- PR tactics, that is. Will says:

"First, concentrate the public's mind on the deepening dangers beyond Iraq. Second, regarding Iraq, accentuate the negative and eliminate the positive -- that is, emphasize the dangers of failure and de-emphasize talk about Iraq's becoming a democracy that ignites emulative transformation in the Middle East."

The dangers include the mullahcracy to the east, the grow instability in Afghanistan and the desire of Islamists to take control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons and Saudi Arabia's oil fields. So while Iraq might be a mess, it is vital that American doesn't just leave, either. But victory can be theirs by redefining the goal which was the original reason for liberating Iraq in the first place: making the world safer. Take on the terrorists and jihadists. Maybe that means democraticizing Iraq, maybe it doesn't. But if it doesn't, that should not be counted as failure.
Stubbornly sticking to the goal of democracy in Iraq if that goal is unattainable, however, would be a failure, not to mention completely foolish. It is tempting to accept Kenneth Pollack's seemingly middle-ground proposal to "do Iraq right" (see his February Brookings Institute report, A Switch in Time: A New Strategy for America in Iraq), but increasingly impossible to embrace. Ultimately, a hallmark of conservatism is realism and the facts on the ground, while exaggerated by the MSM, are not good. (See the Iraq Index of the Brookings Institute, last updated March 16.)

I'm not turning on Bush, at least not yet. I agree with William Kristol and the Weekly Standard crowd that the administration has not done what is necessary to win in Iraq and I'm getting tired of other conservatives serving as cheerleaders. But it would be nice to see the President pursue a policy that would be fair to post-Saddam Iraq and would make the world a little safer and commit the resources, including his leadership, to those goals.

This guy is still writing books?

Kevin Phillips is one-time Republican who has ridden a wave that began with the prescient 1969 book, The Emerging Republican Majority. But other than the unjustifiably criticially acclaimed The Politics of Rich and Poor: Wealth and the American Electorate in the Reagan Aftermath, what has Phillips done to deserve his reputation as a vital observer of American politics, someone that Alan Brinkley calls in the New York Times, "a prolific and important political commentator in the decades since" The Emerging Republican Majority. How about this? Because Phillips was a one-time Republican who left the party; in other words, the MSM's favourite type of Republican. Well, Phillips has another book that everyone can ignore: American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century. It's the must-not political read of the season.

Can we apply Kyoto to the stars?

A Canadian scientist says that climate cycles are the result of cosmic rays from stars. WorldNetDaily reports:

"In explaining the mechanism for a 'celestial climate driver,' the professor says cosmic rays hit gas molecules in the atmosphere, forming the nucleus of what becomes water vapor. The resulting clouds reflect more of the sun's energy back into space and leave Earth the cooler for it.

During times when more cosmic rays are striking the atmosphere, Earth is cooler. A dearth of rays results in climatic warming.

Veizer argues that Earth has cycled between warm and cold periods many times as our solar system has traveled through different parts of the galaxy. Younger stars give off most of the rays striking Earth's atmosphere."

Of course, this is just a theory, but even University of Ottawa science professor Jan Veizer, who came up with the idea, admits as much. At least he has such humility. According to WND, Veizer told the Edmonton Journal: "Look, maybe I'm wrong. But I'm saying, at least let's look at this and discuss it. Every one of these things (parts of his theory) has its problems. But so does every other model." Oh, if other scientists were so honest.

Another advantage Rae has as Liberal leader

I forgot this one on Friday but was reminded of it reading the Kitchener Record's editorial on the Liberal leadership race: "Rae (and [Michael] Ignatieff, too) would bring to the race a squeaky clean Liberal slate." The paper means that neither Rae nor Ignatieff were members of the divisive camps that have plagued the Liberal Party for the past 15 years where everyone has either been a Chretienite or Martinite. But there is a more important "squeaky clean" that Rae (and Ignatieff) bring: neither are tarnished by Liberal scandal. Scott Brison is apparently tainted by the income trust scandal, Blahlinda is tainted by the opportunism of her jump into the Liberal cabinet and other potential leadership contenders were cabinet ministers, chairs of parliamentary committees, or caucus mates of cabinet ministers during Adscam. Rae was not part of the Liberal rot in Quebec and Quebec Liberals, and other Canadians, will appreciate that.

As for the party switching, there seems to be more tolerance for NDPers jumping to the Liberals (Chris Axworthy, anyone?) than Tories jumping to the Liberals, considering that both parties are on the Left.

The Herald's excellent UN HRC editorial

The Halifax Herald is one of the few papers that don't have a decidedly conservative bent that is looking askance at the new UN Human Rights Council, even if it says that the new body is worth giving a test drive. In its the editorial, the paper revisits the flaws with the old Human Rights Commission and says the new Council can't be much worse than its predecessor. But (sober-minded people know there's always a "but"), the paper says:

"[T]he real question is how truly effective the new council can be in exercising the long-admired, but seldom realized mandate envisioned for such bodies: censuring nations guilty of violations and promoting the strengthening and the spread of human rights globally."

How likely is that to happen? Noting that the General Assembly balked at more substantial reforms, the paper says the likelihood of criticizing and punishing human rights abusers would have been greater if the UN accepted Kofi Annan's original proposal (which is what John Bolton, US ambassador to the UN, has been arguing for) but is non-committal for any other prediction. The paper notes that the reforms might not address how members of the new council are chosen if regions appoint the same number of candidates from the continent or geographic/political region as there are slots to be filled. Under the old system, regions selected the countries to fill the regionally available seats but under the new plan, the GA must vote on the countries that regions suggest. But what if the number of nominees matches the number of open spots? What other political games can be played, such as not publicly naming the candidates until the vote? The Halifax Herald has asked much tougher questions of the UN than papers such as the New York Times and Los Angeles Times. And they have a very tough conclusion that other papers have shied from making:

"Given the high profile debacle that the old commission became for the UN’s credibility, the new council will serve as a canary in the coal mine – at least, for the many legions of UN critics and cynics – in measuring the life and robustness of Mr. Annan’s desperately needed attempts to reform the United Nations."

Cheerleading bad

The Independent has an article (for some reason -- it's not clear) on cheerleading in America, which apparently is an evil thing: skimpily clad teens (when did liberals oppose skimpily clad teens?) risking life and limb for what use to be "frivolous fun" but what has itself become a major sport. Why should this raise the ire of a British journalist? There is only one reason to publish this article and that's to slam the United States. Indeed, early on, "reporter" Rupert Cornwall states that cheerleading is "shallow, regimented, sexy and narcissistic -- a metaphor, perhaps, for American popular culture."

Government has no business in the ... where to you pick baby names?

The Sunday Times reports that Beijing is cracking down on unusual names and characters used in names:

"The Ministry of Public Security has drawn up new rules and babies’ names must in future be drawn from a database that excludes thousands of rare Chinese characters. Out go indecipherable names. With the introduction of electronic identity cards, the authorities will register only names that they decide to include on their database."

Fortunately, the paper reports, there is "an enormous range to choose from. Ancient poems are a popular source of inspiration and the 18th-century Kangxi Dictionary, the authoritative work for the Chinese language, contains 50,000 words."

Not everybody hates Hillary

The Daily Telegraph reports that Senator Hillary Clinton, a likely and thus-far undeclared candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, has already raised $20 million for the race. She is expected to bag $100 million before the first primary in 2008.

The Labour minister, the canon and his daughter

After reading this Daily Telegraph article, I don't know who offends me more: whether Home Secretary Charles Clarke, MP to Canon Phillip McFadyen, refused to answer the clergyman's question about why there had been no public inquiry called into the July 7 terrorist attacks, or the fact that Canon McFadyen, whose daughter survived the London attacks, was (in the words of the paper) "close to crying and felt unable to take part in a communion service with Mr. Clarke." Clarke was rude but McFadyen was infantile. Jesus suffered much worse persecution and indignities that being rebuffed by a politician. Suck it up minister.

But it gets worse. Clarke wrote a letter to McFadyen saying that he regretted causing offense and conceded: "Of course I do agree that it was entirely appropriate for you to ask a direct question to me as both your Member of Parliament and Home Secretary." Well, how magnanimous of Clarke to recognize the right of plebes to ask him questions even if he refuses to provide answers. McFadyen said he appreciated the letter: "Most people don't expect a politician to say they're sorry, but he seems to have moved to a position where we can have some dialogue on this." Well, isn't that nice; the two can go off and dialogue on this all they want.

Oh, but it's not done there. Rachel North is Canon McFadyen's daughter. North, who started the King's Cross United support group, has welcomed Clarke's apology, praising him for the "opportunity for a dialogue on this matter" (the matter being a public inquiry). But such an inquiry seems to have political motivations, as evidenced by North's blog (Rachel from North London). In one of the post-Clarke/McFadyen confrontation, North describes some of the answers she is looking for:

"I would like to know whether the British Government's policies on Guantanomo, Abu Ghraib and other places of prisoner abuse, their position on extraordinary rendition, torture and holding detainees without charge, and whether they consider if such policies are formenting rage, feeding the anger? For terror needs anger, needs hatred to feed and to give itself the cover of a 'cause', one that young men feel they could die for. Terror is a sickness that feeds on anger and fear. What about being tough on the causes of terror? What about truth, compassion, stepping back from this madness and violence? Does it have to be this way?"

There are, of course, valid questions, too, including why it took so long for emergency vehicles to get to the victims. But North is not believable when she says, "this is not about making cheap political points" when she has so many unrelated political questions to raise.

Saturday, March 18, 2006
Weekend list

Eight baseball books that I'm hoping to finish before Opening Day

8. Fantasyland: A Season on Baseball's Lunatic Fringe by Sam Walker

7. Clearing the Bases: Juiced Players, Monster Salaries, Sham Records, and a Hall of Famer's Search for the Soul of Baseball by Mike Schmidt, Glen Waggoner

6. Shades of Glory: The Negro Leagues & the Story of African-American Baseball by Lawrence D. Hogan

5. The Mind of Bill James: How a Complete Outsider Changed Baseball by Scott Gray

4. Winners: How Good Baseball Teams Become Great Ones (And It's Not the Way You Think) by Dayn Perry

3. Baseball Prospectus 2006: Statistics, Analysis, and Insight for the Information Age edited by Steven Goldman and Christina Karhl

2. Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game is Wrong edited by Jonah Keri

1. Mind Game: How the Boston Red Sox Got Smart, Won a World Series, and Created a New Blueprint for Winning edited by Steven Goldman

Letting others do the blogging for me

I don't feel like blogging tonight -- too many baseball books to read. So in my absence, I suggest going over to Gods of the Copybook Headings. Topics in this weekend's assorted links post include the MSM line on Stephen Harper's spare tire, economics & Manhattan, ChiComms, "Allah and Man at Yale," sacking Steyn, Conrad Black and a bunch of other things.

Friday, March 17, 2006
Why Relapsed Catholic is the best

Under the headline, "What would we do without editors...?" Kathy Shaidle notes that John Robinson, editor of the Greensboro News & Record, had to admit: "my daughter was in the paper this morning. We misspelled her name."


With the direction that David Cameron is taking the Conservatives (left! left!), this might not need prodding: the Speccie reports that Kenneth Clarke, the man the Tory leader chose to lead his Democracy Task Force, has called for a formal coalition between the Tories and the Liberal Democrats. Clarke has done this type of thing before, when he was junior whip for the defeated Edward Heath. It was undignified then -- a losing prime minister holding onto power. But proposing it now signals to the electorate that the Tories lack the ability to form the government on their own and psychologically it is difficult for voters to mark their ballots for a party that cannot win. To be fair to Clarke, he is saying that the Tories should enter into such a coalition if the Conservatives win a plurality of the votes but still fail to win the most seats; it might then be necessary to form a coalition with Sir Menzies Campbell to remove the Labour Party from power. But such negotiations are better done in private and when such events transpire, not three to four years before the next election.

I cannot resist noting that if Cameron continues to take the party down the path he has led them so far, the Lib Dems might not have far to move to accept a coalition with the Tories.

Butler in Berlin

Eamonn Butler of the Adam Smith Institute is in Berlin and laments the disapperance of the Berlin Wall:

"The Berliners were so keen to 'tear down that wall' (as Ronald Reagan told the Soviet premier to do), that very little of it is left. That I find sad, because the wall was so brutally obscene that a bit more of it left standing in the centre of the city would have made the best possible monument to the barbarism that created it."

Likewise, walls which once had bullet holes, reminders of the Cold War, are now being "fixed" or as Butler might prefer to think of it, purged of history. So Berlin, a key location in the Cold War now has Starbucks but few visible reminders of the battle between good and evil.

UN envoy: there's a problem, let's make another UN agency

Stephen Lewis, the special UN envoy for AIDS/HIV, is repeating his call for a special UN agency for women to fight discrimination and thus fight the diseases. Citing statistics such as the 40%+ infection rate among Swaziland women, the UN news service reports:

"Mr. Lewis said that such a 'terrifying' HIV prevalence rate among this age group of pregnant women was a stark reminder of 'the meaning of gender inequality,' adding that these and similar grim statistics gave rise in both countries to an overwhelming 'deluge of orphans.'

He decried the 'legacy of inequality which drives the virus and leads to the devastation of the women and girls of the continent' calling it 'an omnibus catalogue of women’s vulnerability: rape and sexual violence, including marital rape; domestic violence.'

An impassioned Mr. Lewis declared that 'if there was a powerful international force for women, we would not be in this galling predicament, if there was an international agency for women'."

Ah, yes, if at first you dont' succeed -- the UN already has the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the Division for the Advancement of Women, the UN Women's Commission, and Convention for the Elimination of Discrimation Against Women (CEDAW), to name just five such women's agencies/organizations/committees/commissions off the top of might head -- try, try again. It is folly to think that if UN bureacurats pass resolutions declaring men and women to be equal before the law that women in Africa will not be infected by their cheating husbands. The issue is not a lack of UN proclamations but rather African culture. But the impeccably politically correct Stephen Lewis -- or for that matter, anyone at the UN -- is not going to say that. It is not the United Nations that will grant women in Africa the right to say no; Africa must do that herself.

Harper's most excellent adventure

Adam Daifallah saw a political benefit to Stephen Harper's trip to Afghanistan that everbody else missed: "There's been solid media coverage all week for Harper during and after his Afghanistan visit. Fawning, actually. But the more I think about it, the more I think commentators missed a key after-effect of the trip: he shored up his base." It's a clever observation and Daifallah explains why, here.

Bob Rae's possible return to politics

Several commentators -- Charles Adler and Greg Staples to name just two -- think that the Liberals are going to be making a big mistake if they embrace former Ontario NDP premier Bob Rae as their leader. Maybe, but probably not. Yes, Rae was an abysmal failure but there are five reasons why that may not matter.

1) It is not the same Bob Rae. This is now Corporate Bob, not Tree-Hugging Bob. From 1990-1995 he was really still an opposition party leader masquerading as premier of Canada's largest province but a decade later he's helping Iraqis craft their constitution. Strangely, considering that many Bay Streeters see Blahlinda as a pathetically weak candidate and considering the large number of pathetically weak candidates considering entering the Liberal leadership race, Rae might end up being Bay Street's candidate.

2) It is not the same Ontario. A lot has changed. The 905 belt has ... what? doubled its population with waves of new immigrants and people escaping Toronto. And Rae presided over an NDP caucus that was almost evenly split on the government's own gay rights bill; today, SSM is the law of the land. As radical as Rae was, the country has moved to some of his positions.

3) Political memories don't necessarily last that long. He'll hurt the Liberals most where they didn't have that great a chance anyway and may do some damage in cities like Kitchener which are ready to tip Conservative anyway, but Torontonians (liberals) love him for all the same reasons conservatives hate him: he is a liberal.

4) The next election is not about Ontario anyway, but Quebec. I'm told that Rae is adored in Quebec by federalists, that during the various constitutional wrangles in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Rae was always on the side of Quebec federalists. While the Liberals can afford to lose some seats in Ontario, in the long-term they cannot be seen as the (distant) third party in Quebec. Liberals can rebound from self-destruction in Ontario but Quebecers, who have longer political memories, are less forgiving and the party must remain competitive in la belle province.

5) Aside from all else, Rae now has Elder Statesman Status.

None of this is to say that Rae is the best candidate (although I think he probably is, from the perspective of the Liberal Party) but rather suggesting that the shabby job he did more than a decade-and-a-half ago as premier may not be as relevant as some conservatives would like it to be.

Chretienite PMO

Over at The Shotgun, my thoughts on Stephen Harper's PMO's discipline regime/restricting cabinet ministers rules. It's a fine line and one that the Tories have crossed.

I told you so

Lefties abandon Hillary Clinton because the grassroots and activist Left care more about their principles, for what they're worth, than power. (Part of that is because they control -- that is, have power -- in so many other arenas such as the media, entertainment industry, academia, etc...) Here's Susan Sarandon on the former first lady: "I find Hillary to be a great disappointment ... She's lost her progressive following because of her caution and centrist approach. It bothered me when she voted for the war. There were brave people who didn't. She's not worse than other politicians, but I hoped she would be better. What America is looking for is authentic people who want to go into public service because they strongly believe in something, not people who are [just] trying to get elected."

(Via Nealenews)

Thursday, March 16, 2006
Jays make fantasitc move

I still haven't posted the analysis of the Blue Jays I promised a week or so ago (I've started but it is more complex than the run-of-the-mill look at who-they've-signed-and-who-they-traded-away story that passes as analysis in most sportwriters's columns). But I will say this: today's signing of the Roy Halladay to a three-year, $40 million contract extension is 1) a great move in and of itself, 2) a real investment in the Blue Jays contending in both the short- and medium-term future and 3) a denial of what the New York Yankees most coveted: a youngish, genuine ace. The speculation was that the Yankees were ready to make Halladay, consistently one of the best three starters in the American League, the highest paid pitcher in the game when his contract ended in 2007. Whatever changes the Jays made this off-season, even if they don't pan out now, may have been enough to keep Halladay in a Jays uniform longer than many expected him to be -- Halladay now knows he will be part of a team serious and probably capable of winning or at least contending in the near future. This doesn't make up for getting rid of the best defensive middle infielder (Orlando Hudson) in the American League (if not the majors) in exchange for a hitting machine (Troy Glaus) with awful defensive numbers and propensity for the DL and who contributes to the logjam of mediocre talents at the corners, but Halladay's signing is a positive long-term step for a ball club that has shown no interest in fielding a winning team for some time now.

From the island prison

Guillermo Fariñas Hernández began a hunger strike on January 31 to protest the Cuban government's outlawing of the internet in the homes of its citizens. Mr. Hernandez has taken a turn for the worse. You can read all about it here. (HT: Jay Nordlinger). The Information Bridge Cuba-Miami says:

"May this urgent SOS for the life of this valiant Cuban activist be heard and acted upon by all men and women of goodwill around the World. We cannot allow our brother Guillermo Fariñas Hernández to die due to the unyielding, insensibility and arrogance of the totalitarian Cuban government."

The organization has a list of people and organizations that could be contacted to highlight the plight of Hernandez. I wonder what Ottawa's position on this would be? I wonder if Peter MacKay could think a little more clearly on the right of citizens to access the internet without state interference than he did on The Cartoon issue?

Piling on

Deroy Murdock worries about the leftish posturing of British Conservative [sic] leader David Cameron and concludes his fact-laden column with this gentle reminder from former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey: "When we act like us, we win; when we act like them, we lose."

Casey annoys the liberal base and the lesson to be learned

Bob Casey Jr., the presumptive Democratic canidate to challenge Republican Senator Rick Santorum, is facing a lot of hostility from the party base for two reasons: he is pro-life and, they feel, he is being foisted upon them by the party elite. I think that New York Post columnist Abby Wisse Schacter, even whilst admitting that Casey is the still the likely nominee, is making too much of the notion that he may be vulnerable -- or least "bloodied" after the Pennsylvania primaries. But she is right to note that the party faithful and activists, unlike the party leaders (such as Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman Charles Schumer and Governor Ed Rendell), are not willing to win at the cost of abandoning core Democratic principles. Such as abortion. That's why I think that Hillary Clinton, while the favourite, is not the automatic nominee for the Democrats in 2008 and even if she is, whether the base will come out for her. Pro-aborts loathe the fact that the former first lady is attempting to find some middle ground on abortion and the hate-America peacenik base hates her hawkishness. This are probably just political postures on her part, but they annoy the base who believe that liberalism is nothing of which to be ashamed. The win-at-all-costs embraced by the elite of the party will not be a winning formula if it pushes the Democratic base away from the party's senate or presidential nominees.

Great choice for Interior Secretary

President George W. Bush nominated Idaho governor Dick Kempthorne to the job of Interior Secretary. As governor he has done some things that would annoy free marketeers but this should cheer conservatives up: his League of Conservation Voters rating during his six years in the Senate was 1%.

As governor he has been a strong advocate of the right of states to manage their own forestry and wildlife affairs. As senator he authored a bill to end unfunded federal mandates on local and state governments. I certainly hope that he respects such a division of responsibility in his new role as Secretary of the Interior.

Sunday, March 12, 2006
One last post

I know I said earlier that I won't be blogging until the end of the week but you must read this column by George F. Will on Barry Bonds. It touches upon the nature of journalism, Bonds' incredible pre-steriods record, and how history should judge him (harshly, people who love baseball hope).

If this issue interests you at all, also read Thomas Boswell's Friday Washington Post column on baseball reaping what it has sown. It wanted the long ball, it got it. And it isn't always good to get what you wish for, as the Barry Bonds saga is now illsutrating.

Blogging self-exile

I'll be back to regular blogging near the end of the week.

Bigger is not always better

The Edmonton Sun reports, "Council is now contemplating expanding to 14 councillors from 12 to keep up with Edmonton's rapid population growth." (HT: CTF blog) There are a few problems with this.

First, it is a recipe for continuous growth of city hall. Imagine what city council for Toronto, Mississauga and Markham could look like in a decade or so.

Second, the cost is not merely two more city councillors. Added onto the new salaries and benefits is additional support staff and changes to council chambers. Furthermore, although the story doesn't raise these concerns, are the costs of redrawing wards and public information campaigns about the changes.

Third, what difference does a few thousand additional constituents make to the quality of representation. Coun. Kim Krushell said, "I do think we are struggling a bit with the size of our wards right now." Perhaps if the city did less -- that is, intervene less in people's lives and just fill in the potholes and provide police with the resources to do their jobs -- the councillors would have more time to deal with constituents.

Lastly, expanding city council by two would result in an average of 50,885 constituents per politician compared to 59,342 now. Does that make a big difference. In 1999, Edmonton city councillors were responsible for roughly 55,000 people each. By comparison, Calgary's average is 68,291, while Toronto is at 55,835 and Winnipeg is at 41,303. Is there any evidence that Winnipeg city councillors are more responsive to their constituents than Edmonton's councillors? Or that Torontonians are less happy with their city councillor than Calgarians?

Five favourite Canadian cities

5. Summerside, PEI -- I have pleasant memories of two vacations there. It is a pleasant, slow-paced, charming town.

4. Victoria, BC -- Beautiful city with a British feel. What is there not to like?

3. Kitchener -- Went to school there and while it's street patterns don't make any sense, it has a certain charm. Great used bookstores. The city's politics aren't as crazy as many similarly sized cities. The downtown was deserted but not taken over by hoodlums -- at least during the day.

2. Calgary -- The Calgary Zoo is Canada's best. The city is (or at least was) clean. The university's political science department is synonymous with conservatism.

1. Toronto -- I am almost loathe to admit it, but I like the city. Despite plans to only live here for a year or so, I've now called the city home for a decade and I have no plans to leave. In fact, I cannot imagine myself living elsewhere: no paucity of quality used bookstores, great independent schools, my favourite Canadian clothing store, it is the only Canadian city where you can see the New York Yankees nine times a year, lots to do with the kids (parks, zoos, museums, the science centre, a fort, etc...), easy to drop in on Fraser Institute events, the list goes on and on.

Saturday, March 11, 2006
Get rid of the ethics commissioner and bring back impeachment

The CBC's "From the Right" columnist Tom Velk says that Canada doesn't need an ethics commissioner but that it should return to our parliamentary roots and bring back impeachment:

"The real problem is the existence of the office. It's not needed. There's a better, older, more sophisticated political tool available: impeachment.

We think of it as an American practice, but impeachment is an ancient part of the Mother of Parliament's balance of powers. (The Brits themselves have neglected the impeachment mechanism. The last high profile impeachment in Westminster was that of Warren Hastings in the 18th century, who was accused (by Burke among others) of misgoverning India -- a high crime indeed.) Today's Parliaments rely upon resignation, votes of confidence and elections to keep ministers straight. But as we have seen, it's a slow and imperfect process."

In today's politically charged environment, this might be dangerous. But it would be preferable to the farce of recent ethics commissioners/counselors.

Why I don't like London (Ont)

Gods of the Copybook Headings links to my last weekend list (scroll down) and wonders why I put London on top of my list of least favourite Canadian cities. Oh, let me count the ways. In a nutshell it comes down to two things.

1) The downtown, where I go when in London because of one of Canada's best used bookstores, is a hole. It is dirty. There are drunks walking on the streets in mid-day. I haven't felt safe downtown in 20 years.

2) The north and south edges of the city, where I go for shopping when visiting relatives in the area, are identical big box store areas. There is simply no charm to the city.

To be fair, I am not familiar with the area around the university and I hear it is nice but I have driven through that part of town maybe twice in my life. The rest of city, which I have been visiting for nearly 30 years (that I remember, at least) has nothing much to recommend it. And really, the downtown, I cannot stress enough, is the most frightening place I've been to outside Mexico and Jamaica. One of my college instructors said he wouldn't let his wife go to downtown London by herself during the day. Perhaps that is an over-reaction, but one that is based in some heart-felt and understandable perceptions of the city.

I am no longer qualified to speak about the city's politics, but my memories of reading the London Free Press growing up in nearby Woodstock did not inspire confidence that many city councilors were Rhodes Scholars. Or knew what a Rhodes Scholar was. The people I know from London are all great people although I don't think many of them are London-born and raised.

NYT overkill

The New York Times editorializes against South Dakota's abortion ban (what took so long?) and has this paragraph:

"Gov. Mike Rounds, who signed the bill into law, said that the 'true test of a civilization' was how it treated 'the most vulnerable and helpless,' including "unborn children." But his state has hardly been a leader in protecting vulnerable children who have left the womb. The nation's three worst counties for child poverty at the time of the last census were all in South Dakota, according to the Children's Defense Fund. Buffalo County, home to the Crow Creek Indian Reservation, was dead last."

Well, well, well. First, the one point has nothing to do with the other. If it did, the New York Times would support both poverty-reducing programs for the affected South Dakota areas and oppose abortion. But it doesn't because they are separate issues. The paper is being disingenous.

But the paper not only assaults logic but decent writing. It repeats itself: "The nation's three worst counties for child poverty at the time of the last census were all in South Dakota, according to the Children's Defense Fund. Buffalo County, home to the Crow Creek Indian Reservation, was dead last." If South Dakota is home to the three worst counties for child poverty it stands to reason that one of them would be "dead last."