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).
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Well I hope so
That was my reaction to the conclusion of John Jacobs' column in the Halifax Herald about the $1 billion in spending cuts announced at the end of last month:
"The Conservatives have prioritized tax cuts over maintaining valuable programs. And as tax cuts deplete the federal government’s revenue, we can expect more claims that we have no choice but to cut social programs further."
Of course, to Jacobs, this is a dreaded fear; for me, it is among my dearest hopes.
Earlier in the column, Jacobs, Nova Scotia director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, says that "Government funding that enables community organizations to advocate for their members and constituencies’ interests is fundamental to maintain the independence of non-governmental organizations." Hmmm .... really? How is government funding "fundamental to maintain the indpendence" of anything. Doesn't funding any entity at the very least jeopardize independence? Can't it perhaps create dependence and thus threaten independent critiques of the state? Jacobs seems to have it completely backwards.
College to honour Klein. Twice
From the Globe and Mail:
"Mount Royal College announced yesterday that it is using money from anonymous donors to establish the Ralph Klein Chair in Media Studies at its Centre for Communication Studies.
Mr. Klein, a high-school dropout and former television reporter, has agreed to become the first occupant of the academic chair."
It is one thing to honour a retiring buffoonish premier of Alberta by naming an academic post after him. It is another to honour the retiring buffoonish premier by giving him an academic posting. It is quite another thing to name an academic post after the retiring buffoonish premier and giving him the post. Such an action demonstrates that Klein is perfectly suited for Mount Royal College, and RMC for Klein.
"Proper words in proper places, make the true definition of style."
-- Jonathan Swift, Letter to a Young Gentleman lately entered into Holy Orders
Stat of the day
$57 billion: Saudi Arabia's budget surplus last year.
(Source: The Economist, October 21)
Follow the money
Where the money goes, the party has a chance. If money dries up, the chances have disappeared. This AP story says that the Republican Party is pulling the plug on advertising in Curt Weldon's re-election bid and two open GOP seats (Colorado, Ohio), increasing the money its giving to Senator George Allen (Virginia), giving money once again to Senator Conrad Burns (Montana) and throwing money down the hole in Michigan in a late and I would guess futile attempt to de-throne the inept Senator Debbie Stabenow. The Democrats are now willing to spend money in House races in Kansas and Nebraska, traditionally more Republican states.
Why is the GOP putting money into Allen's race? "CQPolitics.com has changed its rating on the Virginia Senate race to No Clear Favorite from Leans Republican."
Best and worst states for business taxes
Human Events reports, "Every year the Tax Foundation publishes its 'State Business Tax Climate Index,' which, according to foundation, “ranks how ‘business friendly’ the 50 state tax systems are..." The best: Wyoming, South Dakota, Alaska, Nevada, Florida and Texas. The worst: Rhode Island, Ohio, New Joisey, New York, Vermont, and California. It could be noted that Ohio and New York have had Republican governors for the past decade and a half. The full TF study is available here (pdf).
Looking at '08
It's never too soon to skip an election and look two years hence. Over at the Weekly Standard blog yesterday, Daniel McKivergan looks at the possible four-way race for the GOP presidential nomination. Mind you, that was before California Congressman Duncan Hunter said he is exploring the possibility of dipping his toe into the presidential pool:
"It's no secret that a Giuliani presidential run would complicate McCain's primary strategy just as a Gingrich candidacy would complicate Romney’s. Giuliani has obvious strength with independent voters, and he can be very tough on the Democrats. Because he’s not a fan of the liberal media establishment, I suspect Giuliani would pick some fights with them to score points with conservative Republicans turned off by his social views. As mayor, Giuliani frequently battled The New York Times and its editors over his policies. Getting in a fight with the Times and other liberal icons won’t lose him votes in the GOP, and it would put pressure on McCain to do much the same or risk hemorrhaging too many conservative votes to Giuliani.
If Gingrich takes the plunge, Romney’s strategy of becoming the sole conservative alternative to McCain would probably take much longer to achieve. The former speaker would presumably seek to be anti-McCain (with a populist twist) candidate, and I can envision the extremely articulate Gingrich staying on the debate stage for some time. To swing anti-McCain voters to his side, Gingrich would likely portray Romney’s record as governor as far less conservative and innovative than meets the eye and also contrast Romney’s more liberal statements as a candidate for office in Massachusetts with what he is saying today to win the GOP presidential nod.
Though I have trouble seeing candidates Giuliani or Gingrich ultimately capturing the GOP nod, they would surely make the race fun to watch. Stay tuned…"
Monday, October 30, 2006
"Nobody dies from the lack of sex. It's lack of love we die from."
-- Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale
Stat of the day
7%: IMF forecasted growth for total household spending in Asia for next year.
3%: IMF forecasted growth for total household spending in the U.S. for next year.
(Source: The Economist, Oct. 21)
Tonight I picked up my copy of Dr. David Gratzer's The Cure: How Capitalism Can Save American Health Care and plan on reading it over the next few days, perhaps while my wife is in labour. (That's not entirely a joke. I read Ayn Rand's The Virtue of Selfishness in the hospital the day my first child was born, most of Erik Von Kuehnelt-Leddihin's Leftism Revisited: From De Sade and Marx to Hitler and Pol Pot when my second was born, and a bit of Leonard Sax's Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences along with an issue of The Economist when my last one was born; I don't recall what I was reading when number 3 was ready to come into the world but I do remember not being able to read much because Christina was less co-operative -- "rub my back!", "I'm uncomfortable!" -- than usual during labour and didn't much care for me reading. But I digress.)
Anyway, the point is I'll read it within the next week. It appears to be a necessary cure to the rather simplistic view of Canadian conservatives who want Canada to abandon its universal system of healthcare provision in favour of an American-style system. The problem is that both systems have perverse incentives that drive up prices and neither have a sufficient of choice for healthcare consumers. In demonstrating these truths, The Cure might persuade both Canadian proponents and opponents of America's supposed free market approach to healthcare that the U.S. model comes up slightly short of the capitalist ideal. As Milton Friedman says in the foreword, the way to fix America's healthcare system (and one presumes Canada's, too) is to restore the consensual relationship between patient and doctor -- that is to restore choice -- and abandon government controls.
Anyway, here is Mark Milke's Victoria Times Columnist piece about The Cure to America's -- and Canada's -- systemic healthcare woes.
Two nations suffer from a lack of health-care options
Times Colonist (Victoria)
Monday, October 30, 2006
Many Canadians think our health-care system is tops just as some Americans
believe theirs to be superior, though for very different reasons.
Maybe we're both delusional. And maybe the flaws within our systems are
more similar than we realize as are some prospective remedies.
A new book out from a former Winnipeg resident aims to pop our respective
balloons. If you're an American visiting Canada, sorry, but your bubble
goes first. In The Cure, David Gratzer, now a Toronto-New York physician
(who commutes, apparently) tries to explain what's wrong with U.S. health
For example, Gratzer dissects trial lawyers and U.S. Food and Drug
Administration civil servants. Thanks to the deadly combination of
litigators and "meek FDA bureaucrats," the average cost of developing a
prescription drug today is $900 million US. That's up from $138 million US
30 years ago (and yes, adjusted for inflation).
The remedy for health-care hyper-inflation is not for Americans to
re-import drugs from Canada. Re-importation from a less wealthy country
won't change the cost of drug development nor the need to recoup those
The solution, writes Gratzer, is for the American equivalent of Health
Canada to determine more quickly whether a drug is safe, approve it, and
then see how well or if it works.
That way, at least those who otherwise might die while a new experimental
drug works its way through a bureaucratic and potentially litigious maze
will instead have some increased hope of efficacious treatment.
But if speedier experimental drug approvals down south are one way to help
the health-care system, plenty of defenders of status-quo Canadian policy
will hate his subtitle: How capitalism can save American health care.
They should refrain from shutting their minds until they actually get
through the book, at which point, Gratzer will have cured a few naysayers
of their condition.
Think U.S. health care is bad? Full of bean-counters in health maintenance
organizations who look at dollars while people die? Gratzer agrees. But
both the U.S. and Canada have the same core problem.
American health-care penny-pinchers reside deep in the bureaucracies of
HMOs and in government health-care programs. Our equivalents are in
government health ministries.
That such administrators might all be well-intentioned is irrelevant. The
problem is the broken payment link between patient and provider. And that
creates a perverse incentive.
"What would car insurance cost," asks Gratzer, "if people insisted on plans
that had limited deductibles? Or policies that included not just major body
work, but also oil changes and gas and a paint job every time your spouse
got tired of the car's colour?"
American health maintenance organizations insure a lot. Canadian
governments insure almost everything. In the U.S., insured users pay
indirectly through insurance premiums and occasionally up front but even
then only a portion of the true cost.
Here, we pay through taxes. User fees, even for minor treatments, are
outlawed. That third-party payer system in both countries, sensible for
catastrophic events, is not so smart for minor treatments. The practical
result is that we don't investigate treatment options based on quality or
price as we might for dental services, automobile insurance, or food.
To continue the doctor's car insurance example in the Canadian context:
While some American are not insured (far fewer than the 46 million often
touted, a myth Gratzer demolishes), would any of us think we had workable
car insurance, if, after an accident, it took a year or two for our car to
be repaired or replaced? Yet plenty of Canadians wait that long for hip
Gratzer proposes several reforms, sensibly designed, that point to a way
out of Canadian lineups and away from America's private health care
If governments and bureaucracies can often be an impediment to sensible
ideas, they can also on occasion stumble into decently designed reforms.
Gratzer trumpets two: In Colorado, the severely disabled poor can "choose a
program that empowers them with health dollars; participants are able to
hire and fire their own caregivers, and to use moneys for life-enhancing
equipment," writes the physician-author.
On the insurance side, the physician praises a U.S. federal government plan
as the perfect model because it offers employees "a choice from more than
240 competing plans." The result is cost-containment driven by employees,
not HMO heads, and even though it covers in more detail the big-ticket
items insurance should cover: long-term care, catastrophic events, and
In short, and in addition to reformed drug approvals, Gratzer argues for
more choice above and below the 49th parallel: Individual health care that
is portable, smarter taxpayer-targeting for those in need, and RRSP-style
health-care savings accounts with possible contributions not only from
individuals and families, but employers and taxpayers where necessary. (The
latter reform would help bust the otherwise soon-coming, baby boom crack-up
in health care.)
Revolutionary but useful, readable tomes on public policy such as health
care don't often come from gentlemen wearing white lab coats. The Cure is a
Steyn on the anti-human environmentalist, de-population movement
Or, why we need people
Mark Steyn from one portion of his three-part interview with Human Events Online:
Human Events: And why do you think the birth rate or the birth of the 300 millionth American is something to celebrate while the mainstream media continue to say that it’s something that we need to be upset about?
Mark Steyn: Well, to start, America has one of lowest population densities in the world. I think there’s 200 nations in the world and I think America is 172nd on that list. This is a big empty country. I’m astonished at the fetishization of open, so-called open space—no matter how hideously ugly it is. I mean that’s like [the] Alaska wildlife refuge is as bleak and unattractive as any real estate on earth. It’s a breeding ground for the world’s biggest mosquito herd, it’s a place of—the idea that it’s a kind of bucolic area that has to be preserved at all costs against your economic interests or against your population’s interests is ridiculous.
My state—my town is like 95% forested. People worry about deforestation—it’s the most absurd, ludicrous thing! I wouldn’t be able to see through to my laptop if there were any more trees in my town—they’re like everywhere. And so I think this idea that there’s a pressure on space in America is complete, absolute driveling nonsense. Three hundred million Americans is a great thing because human capital is the most important. And basically a lot of what we worry about is anti-human.
You know, people talk about sustain—when [Thomas] Malthus—it’s worse than Malthus. You know, 200 years ago when Malthus did his thing worrying about overpopulation, he worried that we would have so many people on the planet that there wouldn’t be enough food them, so they would starve to death. Now, if you’re going to worry about overpopulation that seems a reasonable way to frame it. We don’t even worry about that now. We don’t worry about people starving to death. We worry that we might slightly impinge on the breeding ground of some insect nobody’s ever even heard of in the middle of the desert. I mean, it’s like, it’s crazy there—everyone knows that this country can support 300 million, 400 million, 500 million, 600 million—and the idea that the way to go is to follow Europe and it’s demographic death spiral is ludicrous.
HE: Can you talk a bit about what you call 'the developed world’s most critically endangered species'?
MS: Well that would, that would be man. You know I just don’t understand how—and in a way it’s a tribute to the way these environmentalists have succeeded in almost imprinting this thing upon us—we think it’s virtue, it’s virtuous. We get worried. You know they talk about—it’s like in my part of the world you’ve got peregrine falcons. They were on the endangered species list for a while and then they get all excited, you know, because we’ve got two peregrine falcons and their breeding and they’ve had a baby and they’ve had another baby. Whereas, we think that’s great for the peregrine falcons and then for us, we think: 'Oh, it’s irresponsible, you know, to have too many children. It’s terrible. It’s the wrong thing to do. Man shouldn’t have those terrible precious…' And it’s not at all.
Man is the indispensable resource."
Later he says that to be an influence in the world, you need people. The world can't have more Canada if there are not Canadians. What's Germany's role in global affairs when there is on German-speaking citizen left?
Here's another tidbit:
"HE: Do you see parallels in anyway between President Ahmadinejad’s call for an increase in population and Hitler’s call for reproduction in Nazi Germany?
MS: No, I think every society—regardless of whether it’s a totalitarian dictatorship, or it’s fascist, or it’s communist, or it’s Muslim theocratic, or it’s a liberal Western democracy—needs people. And people get—you make that point that you think there’s something creepy about the state urging you to have children for the state. I don’t think it is.
The treasurer of Australia has a slogan. He says, he’s recommending—he’s offering great tax incentives—but he’s recommending that people have three kids. He goes: 'One for mum, one for dad, one for Australia.' And I think that’s actually a good way of looking at it. I don’t put him in the same category of either President Ahmadinejad or Adolf Hitler. And I would rather live in a world where there were more Australians and fewer subjects of the Third Reich. I think calls to reproduce are a good idea for any state. How good those citizens are depends on the state they’re raised in."
US election stuff
Some of this is a few days old, but no less timely.
The Wall Street Journal looks at the Democrat's agenda if they win and sees a major shift in favour of regulation.
Michael Medved makes the case for conservatives caring about the midterm elections (judges, immigration, giving the middle finger to the enemy).
David Barton makes the case for Christians to vote Republican in the midterm elections. He doesn't explicitly say vote Republican, but he highlights 12 recent political issues and noted, "Over the last four years, Christian voter turnout increased 82 percent, and the result of that increase has been apparent in the changed composition of Congress."
Linda Chavez holds her nose to vote Republican; after describing the GOP mess, she says: "But none of these issues will make me stay home, much less vote Democratic. The fact is I don't trust the Democratic Party to lead this country in a time of uncertainty and war." I guess that is what the party is counting on most Americans to do.
The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg wonders how next Tuesday's results could still be in question considering the public's mood about the administration and Congress before finding the answer: there is a structural bias in favour of the GOP.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Winning the World Series is all that matters
Who cares how many games you won during the regular season, it's the number of games (11) that you win in October that count. Consider what the Baseball Analysts say:
"Who'da thunk four weeks ago? The Cardinals barely made the playoffs, holding off the Houston Astros on the final weekend of the season to capture the National League Central title. St. Louis (83-78) entered postseason play with the third-worst record ever and emerged as the World Series champ with the lowest winning percentage of all time.
Better to get pinned with that label than to win 116 games like the Seattle Mariners in 2001 and the Chicago Cubs in 1906 and not win the World Series. Flags fly forever. The number of victories just becomes a piece of trivia. Quick, how many regular-season games did the 1982 St. Louis Cardinals win on the way to their last championship? The answer is 92 but nobody really cares anymore.
There are only two things that matter: (1) making the postseason and (2) winning your last game. Do both of those and you can call yourselves World Series champs."
I said earlier that winning the WS is all that matters. That's not true. Winning by overcoming adversity -- the injuries in the regular season and post-season, the underdog label, an inferior starting rotation, etc... -- is more impressive. More impressive, yet, is winning it with class, which is what the Cardinals did. They worked hard, came together as a team, shared the credit for victory. Now I have always had a soft spot for the Cards and they are, with the New York Mets, my "National League team." (and have been since the early '80s), but I think they way they won, they've earned the respect of true baseball fans, regardless of their 83-win season. They won 11 hard fought games in October, especially the grinding series with the Mets. Fans should not begrudge their accomplishment.
Jonathan Kay reviews Mark Steyn's America Alone in the New York Post, beginning thusly:
"BEING funny is hard. Being funny while writing about suicide bombings, apocalyptic fatwas, beheadings and all the other calling cards of murderous Islamists is just about impossible. In fact, there is only one columnist on the face of the planet who can do it.
His name is Mark Steyn, and he lives in New Hampshire. Steyn's usual stock-in-trade is the breezy skewering of Jacques Chirac, Kofi Annan, Ted Kennedy or whomever else the news cycle serves up as the liberal jackass-de-jour. But as he shows in "America Alone," Steyn is also capable of sustaining a serious, original argument at book length, complete with statistics and even a chart or two."
Kay quotes a line that Steyn returns to often in his columns: "You don't need to fly jets into skyscrapers ... If you frame the issue in terms of multicultural 'sensitivity,' the wimp state will bend over backward to give you everything you want - including, eventually, the keys to those skyscrapers." To which Kay responds, "Don't know whether to laugh or cry? Welcome to Mark Steyn's world." I am rather fond of Horace Walpole's quote, "The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think." I gather that Steyn is guided more by thought than feelings, but he, like most thoughtful people, are combination of the two approaches. Steyn's America Alone is a great tonic to those who are often tempted to cry when reading the news.
Fire this prosecutor
The Associated Press reports on the Duke University stripper rape case:
"The district attorney prosecuting three Duke lacrosse players accused of raping a woman at a team party said during a court hearing Friday that he still hasn't interviewed the accuser about the facts of the case.
'I've had conversations with (the accuser) about how she's doing. I've had conversations with (the accuser) about her seeing her kids,' Mike Nifong said. 'I haven't talked with her about the facts of that night ... We're not at that stage yet.'
... Nifong said none of his assistants have discussed the case with the woman either and only have spoken with her to monitor her well-being. They have left the investigation of the case to police, he said."
You have a high profile, extremely sensitive alleged rape case and the accused charged five months ago and the prosecutor's office haven't interviewed the accuser. I understand the desire to be sensitive to the alleged victim, but as Jonah Goldberg says, 'Wow!'
The beginning of a great point
Jonathan Chait's column in the Los Angeles Times is the embryo of a great column but he can't get past his visceral hatred of the Republicans to properly develop it and instead creates a bogeyman of his own (GOP gay-baiting). His larger and correct point is that while the Democrats want the midterm vote to be a "referendum election" on the Republican control of Congress, Republicans have made tried to make this a "choice election" between the agendas of the two parties. Chait says (again correctly) that the problem for the Republicans is that they haven't offered their agenda, content, instead, to merely rail against the Democratic agenda. Republican candidates don't even bother rebutting Democratic ideas anymore, they merely attack the mere mention of raising the minimum wage or suggest that if the Democrats win there will be another 9/11 the next day. So the GOP have no answer, whether it be their own agenda or a intelligent critique, to what the Democrats have on offer.
There are two problems with Chait's analysis. The Democrats have thrown out a few ideas (minimum wage and government funding for embryonic stem cell research seem to be the big ones) but they, too, have criticized the administration and Republican Congress on issues without stating what they would do differently. Iraq and balanced budgets, two extremely important issues, come to mind. And some issues are a little esoteric for voters: new rules on lobbyists, enacting all the recommendations made by the 9/11 commission, "pay-as-you-go" budgeting, and direct government negotiation with pharmaceutical companies to lower drug prices for Medicare patients. I doubt many voters know specifically what each of those entail.
But the biggest problem is that Chait would rather demonize the Republicans that critique them. He rather sarcastically dismisses a GOP ad worrying about Nancy Pelosi advancing the gay agenda if she become Speaker ("I can just see it if the Democrats win Â? all those gay Wal-Mart employees, cackling with glee as they use their fat $7.25-an-hour salaries to pay off their suddenly puny college debt"), but isn't that his complaint about the Republicans?
More Lennon than Lenin
The Washington Post has a handy chart about Daniel Ortega, past and likely future president of Nicaragua, and the differences between the current and Sandinistan version. He was formerly a full fledged Marxist; now he welcomes foreign investment. He once had the backing of Bianca Jagger; now she supports one of his (more left-leaning) opponents. He used to backed by the Soviet Union; now he counts Hugo Chavez among his friends. If you don't count trading in military fatigues and an A-K 47 for a white dress shirt and Nicaraguan flag, the only real big change is that rather than persecuting Catholic priests he now attends Mass "regularly." And although the Post doesn't report it, Ortega now backs further restrictions on abortion, closing a loophole for the life of the mother. He may have saved his soul, but considering his socialism lite and friendship with the Venezuelan leader, he is still a danger to the people of Nicaragua. Anyone who uses lyrics from a John Lennon song as a campaign theme would be.
Myths about low voter turnout
Michael McDonald, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution and assistant professor at George Mason University, writes in the Washington Post about five myths about voter turnout that is well worth reading just to undo the predominant and mistaken media-driven narratives about elections. The myths include the Republican's superior GOTV efforts win elections, higher registration leads to higher turnout, negative advertising depresses turnout and turnout is indicative of the vitality of a democracy. The most important and common myth, however, is that increasing voter apathy leads to lower turnout. I would have tackled the issue by also looking at how do we (social scientists, journalists, a concerned public) ascertain voter apathy, but otherwise McDonald's cursory exploration is quite excellent:
"This is the mother of all turnout myths. There may be plenty of apathetic voters out there, but the idea that ever fewer Americans are showing up at the polls should be put to rest. What's really happening is that the number of people not eligible to vote is rising -- making it seem as though turnout is dropping.
Those who bemoan a decline in American civic society point to the drop in turnout from 55.2 percent in 1972, when 18-year-olds were granted the right to vote, to the low point of 48.9 percent in 1996. But that's looking at the total voting-age population, which includes lots of people who aren't eligible to vote -- namely, noncitizens and convicted felons. These ineligible populations have increased dramatically over the past three decades, from about 2 percent of the voting-age population in 1972 to 10 percent today.
When you take them out of the equation, the post-1972 'decline' vanishes. Turnout rates among those eligible to vote have averaged 55.3 percent in presidential elections and 39.4 percent in midterm elections for the past three decades. There has been variation, of course, with turnout as low as 51.7 percent in 1996 and rebounding to 60.3 percent by 2004. Turnout in the most recent election, in fact, is on a par with the low-60 percent turnout rates of the 1950s and '60s."
Child labour in Africa
Here's an excerpt a powerful New York Times story on forced child labour in Africa:
"Mark Kwadwo is 6 years old. About 30 pounds, dressed in a pair of blue and red underpants and a Little Mermaid T-shirt, he looks more like an oversized toddler than a boat hand. He is too little to understand why he has wound up in this fishing village, a two-day trek from his home.
But the three older boys who work with him know why. Like Mark, they are indentured servants, leased by their parents to Mr. Takyi for as little as $20 a year.
Until their servitude ends in three or four years, they are as trapped as the fish in their nets, forced to work up to 14 hours a day, seven days a week, in a trade that even adult fishermen here call punishing and, at times, dangerous."
Now the trafficking of people is an ugly, unfortunate business, but is it really wrong that these children are working? It smacks of forcing Western notions of childhood onto African society to say that parents should not have the right to sell their child's labour. Sure, $20 seems exploitive; but it also might make a world of difference for the rest of the family. In most of West Africa, too many families live on a dollar a day. An increase of $20 in family income is significant. We may not like the idea of an under-nourisehd six-year-old child working a dangerous fishing job or working in mines, but as the Times noted, "the notion that children should be in the care of their parents is not a given in much of African society." Many parents would rather their child learn a marketable trade.
The problem is when parents are duped. Some are lied to about educational opportunities for their children or for how long they will be seperated from their children. Others are not selling their child's labour but rather the child himself to become, in effect, a slave. And the slave-like conditions of 100-hour weeks and routine beatings should be outlawed. Indeed, many African countries are strengthening anti-trafficking laws and international organizations are pitching in on enforcement and monitoring.
But as long as their is extreme poverty, some African parents will sell their children. There is an urgent need for development -- free markets and entrepeneurship, infrastructure to support a formal economy, the rule of law. Perhaps Kofi Quarshie can be the poster child for this cause. The Times reports that 10-year-old Kofi was told that he labour provides income for his mother to eat, but he assumes his family has another motive: "They didn’t like me," he tells the Times reporter. That is sad. It is especially tragic considering that failed Western notions of development aid and kleptocratic African tyrants have combined to utterly fail the people of Africa and create the conditions where families feel they have little choice but to sell their children.
"Men's minds are very ingenious in palliating guilt in themselves."
-- Livy, History of Rome
Stat of the day
35: The number of U.S. college football coaches that are paid more than $1 million annually.
(Source, George F. Will, Washington Post, October 25, 2006)
Saturday, October 28, 2006
The World Series
It was an exciting if not extremely well played World Series. A lot of sloppiness by both teams. And it wasn't just the errors, whether it be five errors by the Detroit Tiger pitchers over five nights (by comparison, the Cincinatti Reds pitchers made just four errors all season) or the two outfield errors in game five by St. Louis Cardinals' rookie rightfielder Chris Duncan. It was also the way the Tigers throughout the series and the Cards against Kenny Rogers swung at bad pitches -- not just pitches on which they were fooled, but pitches quite clearly outside the strike zone. And then there was the lack of control by game five starter Justin Verlander who threw four pitches in the dirt against one batter in the first inning yesterday and past backstop Ivan Rodriguez numerous times. Like I said, sloppy.
But despite the media analysis today that the Tigers lost because of their "error-prone" pitchers -- errors that were more the result of inexperience and youth than a defeciency in talent -- it was the Tigers batters who let them down. The predominant Tigers narrative of the regular season and the post-season was the dominance of their pitching staff, just like the Chicago White Sox in 2005. But like the ChiSox, it was also hitting for power that got the Tigers to the post-season. And it was their hitters' inability to get on base that cost them the World Series. The first three spots in the batting order combined to reach base five times in 44 plate appearances. You need a miracle to win a short series with that kind of (non) offense. The Tigers batters beat the New York Yankees and Oakland A's in the divisional and league championship series because they didn't swing at bad pitches, forced their opponents to throw in the strike zone, aggressively swung at those pitches and then ran aggressively when they reached base. But if the batters don't do that first thing -- lay off bad pitches -- nothing else in that game plan comes into being. The result: a dearth of runners on base when the heart of the order came up to bat.
Many will look at the St. Louis Cardinals, their lowly (and pathetic) 83 wins and the hot Tiger team over the previous seven games going into the World Series and conclude that the Cards were lucky or don't deserve it. They may have been lucky, but they do deserve their World Series. Any team that can put the reigning and likely repeat MVP and Cy Young winners (Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter respectively) on the field has a decent chance at winning the championship. Pujols is the best hitter in baseball and Carpenter has the best stuff of any pitcher not on the Minnesota Twins. They are surrounded by a decent supporting cast: veterans like Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds (excellent fielding combined with moderate power), the best defensive catcher in the game (Yadier Molina), a quality shortstop with a hot bat (World Series MVP David Eckstein), a few hot starters (Jeff Weaver, Jeff Suppan), a diverse and effective bullpen, a solid bench and a smart manager and strong coaching staff. With that talent you have as good a chance as anyone else to win it all. And the Cards did. Some of the baseball punditry has the Tigers losing the World Series rather than Cardinals winning it. Such baseball writers have a bit of a point; the Tigers bats went cold, the team made bush league mistakes, the pitchers couldn't get their job done, skipper Jim Leyland didn't manage his team effectively. But on the other hand, after Spring training, an 162-game schedule, and three rounds of post-season play, there is no such thing as a team winning the World Series that does not deserve it. (One exception: unless they were the beneficaries of repeated blown calls -- the Minnesota Twins over the Cards in 1987, for example.) Congrats to the Cardinals, they deserve and should enjoy their victory for the next four months. In February, ballplayers, coaches and their managers will head to Florida and Arizona and the Tigers and 29 other teams will all have another shot at becoming World Series champions.
Now the second best season in sports begins: the baseball off-season. On the first day after the World Series, 59 players filed for free agency. And the Cardinals have some decisions about their campaign to repeat as champs, with five important pieces of their team eligible for free agency, including Weaver, Suppan and Edwards.
Friday, October 27, 2006
Rae wins over former Iggy co-chair
Liberal MP Susan Kadis, former co-chair of Michael Ignatieff's Liberal leadership bid, has joined the campaign of Bob Rae, because they share the same principles and all that: "He [Rae] is ready for the rigours of leadership and has demonstrated a strong commitment to the progressive vision that Liberals believe in as opposed to the Harper government." Of course, on the issue that was enough to drive Kadis from the Ignatieff campaign -- Israel -- Harper is closer to Kadis than Ignatieff is. Or Rae for that matter.
Great news for the People's Republic of Saskatchewan
Must be election prep time in the dreary Praire province; the NDP government there has announced a 1% reduction in the provincial sales tax.
Lying Michael J. Fox
There has been a lot of discussion -- mostly heat, little light -- about Rush Limbaugh's comments about the liar Michael J. Fox's advertisement for pro-ESCR (embryonic stem cell research) Democratic politicians. The bigger point is that Fox is not telling the truth about the "promise" of ESCR to find cures for various diseases and ailments including Parkinsons; not only are somatic (adult) stem cells less ethically problematic than ESCR, there are providing treatment now in nearly 600 clinical trials; ESCR has not successfully treated one patient in a clinical trial. There are other medical reasons to eschew unethical ESCR, namely that embryonic stem cells cause tumours which seriously calls into question their applicability for treatment.
The media has gotten a lot of its Rush Limbaugh coverage wrong so he's set up a page dedicated to Rush's FoxGate. You can listen or read and it is well worth the time to do so. Then again, the media often gets its stem cell research stories wrong. For example, not differentiating between embryonic and adult stem cell research, conflating the issue in the public's mind so that ESCR is synonymous with stem cell research.
And lastly, here's the anti-cloning/ESCR ad featuring various celebrities (Jeff Suppan, Kurt Warner, Patricia Heaton, Jim Caviezil).
Why vote GOP
If I lived in the United States, I'm not sure I'd vote the week after next. Sure, I'd prefer the Republicans win but compared to, say, playing with plastic zoo animals with my little girls or getting an extra 30 minutes of FIFA 2007 with one of my boys, going to the polling station on election day just can't complete and I'd probably stay home. That's not to say that I want the Republicans to lose; for most Congressmen and senators, I just wouldn't want any part of their winning. There are exceptions: Senator James Inhofe, Rep. Mike Pence, Rep. Bobby Jindal, Rep. Ric Keller, Rep. John Shadegg, Rep. Thomas Tancredo, Senator Jon Kyl, Senator Jim Talent. That is not, of course, an exhaustive list, but there truly are not a lot of other standouts. And I'd go out and vote constitutional amendments that enshrined real marriage or private property rights and against any that sought to legalize cloning under the guise of funding embryonic stem cell research; while in the voting booth I'd mark a ballot for any Congressman or senator with an ACU rating of 80 or better.
I have this attitude because I'd rather vote for something than against something. I want my Republicans not to be perfect but at least mostly conservative. But then you consider the alternative -- Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House or Senator Teddy Kennedy chairing the Education and Labour committee hearings. That's what Mona Charen does in her list of 13 reasons to vote Republican. Ther are four of note:
"5) There has not been another terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11. Who would have predicted that on 9/12?...
8) John Roberts and Samuel Alito sit on the U.S. Supreme Court...
11) Democrats would like to eliminate the terrorist surveillance program.
12) If Democrats achieve a majority in the House, Barney Frank will chair the Financial Services Committee, Henry Waxman will head the Government Reform Committee, and Alcee Hastings will chair the Intelligence Committee."
That is persuasive. Almost. Then there is the Republican record: the massive debt, the debacle in Iraq, the failure to reform social security, Congressional hearing on steroids in baseball ...
"A man should keep his little brain attic stocked with all the furniture that he is likely to use, and the rest he can put away in the lumber room of his library, where he can get it if he needs it."
-- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Five Orange Pips"
Stat of the day
US$916 billion: Total foreign direct investment worldwide in 2005, up 29% from 2004.
(Source: World Investment Report, UN Conference on Trade and Development)
Good news: Don Mattingly, the hitting coach for the New York Yankees and a long-time popular first baseman, has been named the new bench coach. The move is seen as a signal that he will eventually replace Joe Torre, presumably after the 2007 season when Torre's contract expires. Or perhaps at the first sign of trouble next year, although Torre has twice over the past two seasons turned the team around after a slow start.
Bad news: RF and temporary 1B Gary Sheffield is upset that the Yankees have picked up his $13 million option. He is not keen on the idea of playing 1B all year or, alternatively, being traded. Sheffield (298/355/450, six homers, 25 RBIs in 39 games) wants a multi-year deal and doesn't relish of going anywhere for a single season. The Yankees may have done this, however, to prevent him from joining the Boston Red Sox. YES Network talks to Shef, who says he is willing to negotiate, although he indicates that he wants to test the free agency waters this winter and to do so as a right-fielder. Steve Goldman at the Pinstripe Bible blog says the teams interested in Sheffield include the Angels, Orioles, Cubs, Giants, Astros and Rangers, although the Yanks probably won't get much more than a mid-level, outside-chance-of-pitching next year, pitching prospect.
Expensive news: The New York Daily News reports that the cost just to negotiate with
Japanese pitching phenom Daisuke Matsuzaka will be $18-20 million (just to talk!) and that his price tag has gone up with his signing of Scott Boras as his agent.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
What a gem
The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Detroit Tigers 5-0 to take a 2-1 lead in the World Series. Cards starter Chris Carpenter threw the best game of the post-season, going 8 innings, allowing just three hits, no walks and fanning 6. In many games this post-season, a pitcher's impressive stats haven't reflecting the true quality -- or lack of quality -- of the start, including the game one and two winners of this series. But Carpenter's line from last night probably under-estimates his performance. Carpenter never got to three balls against any of the 26 hitters he faced. Incredible control. Beautiful stuff. And with only 82 pitches thrown (55 of them strikes), he's available for the seventh game if necessary.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
New NCC website
The National Citizens Coalition has a new, cleaner, user-friendly website.
Monday, October 23, 2006
Greg Staples wonders how the Liberals will do in the London Centre North by-election now that long-time Liberal MP Joe Fontana is not the candidate. Staples says: "Joe Fontana consistently took this riding with ease (40% 2006, 43% 2004 , 54% 2000, 60% 1997)..." That is consistently taking the riding with ease; it is also consistently declining. Although I have long contended that the city is trending left and that the NDP are becoming the default party, the Tories might nominate popular former mayor Diane Haskett. With that kind of name recognition, the consistent decline of the Liberals in London Centre North might continue. At least, one hopes.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
NP on MacKay calling Belinda a dog
The Tory MP owes dogs an apology. That is the conclusion of the National Post's editorial on Saturday:
"In fact, as far as we can tell, if anyone deserves an apology, it is the dogs. They are often referred to as "man's best friend," a testament to their proverbial loyalty. This is a quality in which Ms. Stronach has been found wanting, at least as a politician."
And, of course, also outside the realm of politics. Two divorces! Out partying instead of knitting or caring for her children on Friday nights!
Blogging, book writing, etc... will be light
I'll get to the story about the delay in my book in another post at some time. But for now, blogging will be light for a while. First, and most importantly, my wife has been on bed rest for the past few weeks as the countdown to Number 5 has begun. Due date is October 26. That has meant an increase in household responsibilities for me even though some combination of mother-in-law and parents have been down helping watch the kids. Second, yesterday I turned 34 and woke up to a great gift from my eldest which was also a gift to himself: FIFA 2007 for Game Cube. He began a league with Arsenal and I began one with AC Milan. He has perfected the untimely loss or tie that is Arsenal's hallmark. I, on the other hand, have been able to do what the "real" AC Milan hasn't: score and win. Third, my wonderful wife's gift to me was the five seasons of Dallas that have thus far been released. Watched a couple episodes last night after the ballgame and my eldest loves the show; my parents are also hooked. Considering we have 6000 minutes of shows and extras to watch, that doesn't leave a lot of time for blogging, book writing, etc... And, of course, there is real baseball, which sadly ends in a week. In comparison to an incredibly exciting post-season and final month of 'ball, some really fun pretend soccer, enjoyable old TV shows, pleasure reading (America Alone and the dozen magazines that find their way into my mailbox regularly), and attending to wife and children, readin' and writin' about politics just can't compete. Fortunately my publisher is understanding. More about that another time.
World Series prediction
I had picked the Detroit Tigers to win in five over the St. Louis Cardinals. Here's what I emailed a friend of mine on Friday as part of a quickie analysis:
"The time off will help the Tigers in the same way it helped the ChiSox last year, giving the starting pitchers time to rest. Considering that a few of the Tigers' starters (especially Bonderman) are flame-flowers (1133Ks on the season), such rest might make the difference between a short series and a longer one. I don't accept the argument that the Tigers have lost "momentum" because I doubt that there is such thing as momentum in baseball, it being an extraordinarily episodic game to begin with, and with the pitchers rotating starts. And even if there were such thing as momentum, there is also such a thing as scouting which the team has had time to do. While the Cards were busy playing the Mets, the Tigers had time to view tape, read reports and, most importantly, watch the Cards play all this week. Leyland is a near great manager, Dombrowski (sp?) has put together a very good team, the rotation and bullpen are hot (can Kenny Rogers keep up what he has going?) and the starting lineup efficiently, aggressively and somewhat luckily scoring runs. It is hard to see the Series not being a short one."
And this is what I would have added before last night's game if I didn't have problems with blogger:
The series starts tonight with a pair of rookies opening the World Series for the first time ever. Anthony Reyes (5-8, 5.06) for the Red Birds against Justin Verlander (17-9, 3.63) for the Tigers. Huge advantage for the Tigers. Not only is Verlander the better pitcher and rested, but about two-thirds of the balls put into play by Reyes' opponents are flyballs. Considering that the Tigers lineup is full of power hitters -- they are the first team in playoff history to play seventh, eighth and ninth place hitters who each hit 24 or more homers (although they are not going with that lineup tonight) -- the Cards can be expected to be hit hard tonight. The American League is on a World Series roll, winning three of the last four, but I think that the DH/no DH rule will be less of a factor. Normally the best pinch hitter/bench player that assumes the DH role is of no comparison to the real full-time DH the American League team carries, but whoever Tony LaRussa uses (Chris Duncan, Preston Wilson or So Taguchi) will easily match the slightly hobbled Sean Casey. When the teams travel to the new Busch Stadium, having pitchers hit will only matter if the game tying or go ahead run is on base and the AL team needs to get him 90 feet closer to home with the pitcher at bat; AL pitchers can't even bunt. Fortunately for the Tigers, I don't recall this situation ever arising.
Whoops. On Game 1, I got that wrong.
Here's an interesting fact. Since divisional play began in 1969, the team with the worst regular season record has won 20 of 36 World Series. That is hardly of any predictive value, especially considering that the Cardinals have the second worst winning percentage of any team to make it to the post-season and clearly the inferior team to the Tigers. Or are they? Aside from their record and their pitching (although the team WHIP and strikes per 9 innings are near identical), the Cards and Tigers are incredibly well matched.
BA: Detroit 274, St. Louis 269
OBP: Detroit 329, St. Louis 337
SLG: Detroit 449, St. Louis 431
SB: Detroit 60, St. Louis 59
Considering that the Cardinals pitching staff is full of flyball pitchers, I still think that this powerful Tigers team can still win. Not that history, or at least a series from nearly 40 years ago, is any indication, but the Tigers were down to Cards 3 games to one in '68 and came back to win the while enchilada.
For those who watched the game on Saturday and saw an entirely different Tigers team from the one that dominated their opponents over the previous seven games, a little reminder: one game does not a series or breakdown make. Yes, the Tigers looked pathetic. They made stupid errors. But worse than that, they weren't swinging well -- in fact they weren't swinging that much, a shift in tactics or execution for the Tigers who have attacked the strike zone very aggressively so far this post-season. Reyes pitched a pretty close to incredible game, assisted, as I just noted, by a tentative Tigers lineup: 8 IP, 4 hits, 2 BB, 2 ERs. Good and surprising stuff. Could he do that again in game five? We'll see but I wouldn't bet on it. As for Verlander, until the total meltdown of the whole Tigers team in the sixth inning, he looked great through five innings, including his three run third inning.
Tonight's game should be good. Jeff Weaver and Kenny Rogers are both pitching a heck of lot better than either truly is. True, Cardinals' pitching coach Dave Duncan has seemed to do with Weaver what he has done with the likes of Mike Moore, Mike Welch, Dave Stewart and Chris Carpenter -- turn a talented pitcher into a very good pitcher -- but a half season of respectable Weaver doesn't mean that he's turned around and won't end up breaking your heart. (Ask Yankee fans about Weaver.) As for Rogers, he just isn't as good as his post-season stats indicate: 15 IP, 7 H, 4 BBs, 14 Ks, no runs.
I think the Tigers should come out and play much more competitive ball tonight and the rest of the series. It was doubtful that they were going to win their eighth game in a row, even with the week long layoff. All they have to do is play like they were: aggressive at the plate, aggressive on the base paths, aggressive pitching. Last night, Verlander did the latter but no one was doing it on offense. If they can remember to do that, they should be able to win the World Series, although probably not in five anymore. But if they don't do that, the Cards are a good enough and tested enough team to pull the "upset."
Friday, October 20, 2006
Cards win the NL penant. Will it be '34 or '68 redux
After an incredibly exciting game in which the St. Louis Cardinals get a two-run homer in the top of the ninth from light-hitting Yadier Molina to beat the New York Mets 3-1, it is the Cards and Detroit Tigers in the World Series. Will the final result be like 1934 or 1968?
Only the Yankees (26) have won more World Series than the Cardinals (9); the Tigers have four and would move into a six-way tie for fourth most World Series championships if they bring the prize home this year. My guess is that after their seven straight victories and long rest, the Tigers will be considered prohibitive favourites, but I don't know if you can count the Cards out. While the Tigers swept the Oakland A's, several of those games were close even if it always seemed that Detroit was dominating; in none of the four games did the run differential exceed four and in three of them, the Tigers won by only three runs. Tony LaRussa, although an over-rated manager (all those World Series appearances but only one championship) is a decent match for Jim Leyland and the lineups match relatively evenly (even if the Cards are banged up), although the Tigers have a clear advantage in both starting and relief pitching. My prelimary prediction is that the Tigers win in five, mostly hard-fought, close games.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
I have a new-found respect for the Member of Parliament of Central Nova
"After a Liberal MP asked how the new clean-air rules would affect MacKay's dog, he pointed to Stronach's empty chair and responded: 'You already have her.'
'Mr. Speaker, this is clearly shameful and the minister owes an apology to this House,' said Liberal MP Mark Holland. 'It is a shameful display that he absolutely must apologize for'."
As Larry the Cable Guy says, that's funny, I don't care who you are.
Things that make you go hmmmmmm.
"Why is a petition with 4m signatures to save rural post offices being delivered to 10 Downing Street by hand?......."
Terrorism against NFL is a hoax
The supposed threat to bomb the sites of this weekend's NFL games is a hoax. If it were real, there were two problems, as noted by commenters at Reason's Hit and Run blog.
Jeff P. noted: "How islamic terrorists will get through a parking lot full of fans tailgating and grilling pork ribs and sausages is beyond me..."
And Thomas Paine's Goiter: "Do the terrorists think that people are going to show up at the 4:00 PM games (Seattle, Oakland, Cleveland) after they bomb the 1 PM games?"
David Kuo, useful idiot or trojan lefty
Over at his BeliefNet blog, David Kuo, President George W. Bush's former deputy director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, says that Amy Sullivan "gets it right" in writing about his book, Tempting Faith. What Sullivan is in essence saying, though, is that the Left should use Kuo's book to strategically "depress turnout by stoking evangelical anger at the Bushies" by stoking further cynicism about the administration that evangelicals are already feeling. So the question for Kuo is this: what has Sullivan gotten "right"?
While I like the idea of listing the 10 dumbest Congressman, RadarOnline's list seems a little partisan at times: certainly it is not completely verboten to criticize Vietnam veterans (as GOP Rep. Jean Schmidt has done) or critique the global warming crowd (as Republican Senator James Inhofe has).
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Ramadan: 'tis the season for killing
Wikipedia on Islam's Ramadan, the festival that marks, among other things, the day that the first verse of the Koran was revealed to Muhammad: "It is considered the most venerated, blessed and spiritually-beneficial month of the Islamic year. Prayers, fasting, charity, and self-accountability are especially stressed at this time; religious observances associated with Ramadan are kept throughout the month." No where in there is there anything about butchering people different from you. Already this month, a Syrian Orthodox priest, Fr. Boulos Iskander, was kidnapped and killed near Mosul, Iraq, his "severed head lay atop his chest. His severed arms and legs were placed around his head." Keith Roderick of Christian Solidarity International has other gory details of others -- Assyrians, Chaldeans, Mandaeans, Turkomen, Yazidis, and Shabak -- killed, tortured, mutilated and raped by various Muslims during this holy month. So apparently this is the rule about Ramadan: Track and field is not allowed but killing is permissible.
Frum outlines concerns of faith-based initiatives
In a larger post answering David Kuo's allegation that the administration never had any real interest in the faith-based initiatives candidate George W. Bush pushed in the 2000 campaign, David Frum expresses some valid concerns about the program's likelihood of success:
"i) Faith-based charity often works better than secular because it demands a deep change of heart in the drug addict/ex-convict/wife abuser/etc: a religious conversion. But of course government money cannot lawfully be used to pay for the propagation of religion. So to qualify for government funding, religious social service providers must eschew the very thing that makes their work more successful than that of secular providers...
iii) Many researchers believe that black churches do especially good work reaching out to troubled people. But these churches seldom keep careful financial records. Putting large amounts of government money in their hands almost guarantees an eventual financial scandal.
iv) Last and most fundamentally, the research that supported the effectiveness of faith-based social services all begged this question: 'OK, this method works very well when done by 50 super-dedicated churches led by 50 charismatic pastors. Does it follow that it will continue to work equally well when done by 50,000 churches and 50,000 pastors'?"
And a correspondent of Frum's adds two more:
"v) Because we really can't expect that the same bureaucrats who have avoided giving money to these organizations in the past and have a vested interest in the organizations to which they have been giving money will suddenly turn on a dime and rank these new organizations higher in procurement competitions or ('competitions') than the old, failed organizations.
vi) Because some bureaucrats either have prejudices against religion or because even many reasonable people and their lawyers don't understand how the Supreme Court has broadened the opportunities for faith-based organizations by weakening the 'entanglement' prong of the aptly-named Lemon test and the government agencies are afraid of being sued."
Here's a neat little chart regarding the 2003 Bush tax cuts prepared by Dan Clifton of the American Shareholders Association (via Club for Growth blog):
2003 Bush Tax Cut: By The Numbers
Historic Tax Cut Boosts Growth, Lifts Stock Market, and Increases Jobs
$14,374,330,000,000: Total Increase in Household Wealth Since April 2003
$5,700,000,000,000: Total Increase in Shareholder Wealth Since May 20, 2003
$863,654,000,000: Total Amount of Tax Cuts Enacted Since Fiscal Year 2003
$783,890,000,000: Total Amount of Additional Tax Cuts to be Returned to Taxpayers Through 2010
$625,000,000,000: Total Increase in Federal Tax Revenues Since FY 2003
$207,788,000,000: Reduction in the Deficit in the Past 29 Months Due to Stronger Economic Growth
$98,600,000,000: Combined Income Gains for Shareholders From Dividend Increases & Tax Savings 03-05
$62,000,000,000: Surplus of Capital Gains Tax Revenue Not Accounted For By Revenue Estimators
$60,000,000,000: Deficit REDUCTION Since the Tax Cut Was Signed Into Law
300,001,643: Total Number of Americans benefiting from President Bush’s Tax Cut
91,000,000: Number of Individuals Owning Shares of Stock in America
23,000,000: Number of Small Businesses Benefiting from Income Tax Reductions
6,600,000: Number of Jobs Created Since the Tax Cut Was Signed Into Law
12,000: The Magic Number of the Dow Jones Industrial Index is an Arms Length Away
$2,092: Tax Increase for a Family of Four With $50k of Income if Tax Cuts Are Repealed
164.0%: Increase in the Dividend Tax Rate if the Income and Dividend Tax Cuts Expire
123.0%: Increase in Dividend Income and Share Repurchases Since 2003 Tax Cut
91.0%: Increase of Stock Ownership in the Bottom Quintile of Income Distribution Since 1995
65.0%: Percentage of Voters Who Were Investors in the 2004 Elections
51.2%: Percentage of Total Tax Cut "Cost" That Has Been Recouped From Higher Levels of Growth
14.0%: Margin of Victory for Republicans From Investor Voters in 2002 Elections
4.6%: Unemployment Rate Which Continues To Disprove the Constant Economic Pessimism
3.7%: Average Quarterly GDP Growth Since Tax Cut Was Enacted
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
How were rights acheieved before the Court Challenges Program?
From Girl on the Right:
"Want a good laugh? The CCP website has a section on your 'rights' that reads as follows...
Did You Know That...
* Until the 1920's, no women in Canada were allowed to vote, and that it wasn't until the 1960's that all Canadian women could vote?
* Aboriginal children were forced to go to residential schools where they were stripped of their culture and their language?
* In the 1940's, Japanese Canadians were put in prison camps in Canada just because they were of Japanese ancestry?
* Until the 1970's, there were laws in Canada that allowed governments to sterilize women and men with disabilities without their knowledge or consent?
Yet the CCP had absolutely nothing to do with changing any of the above. Most of those changes were organized and driven privately, or the government simply changed them on their own. The Court Challenges Program didn't even exist for most of that time!"
Hillary reaches out
By wearing a cross. At least occasionally.
Hey we're not all geeks
Dean Barnett (at Hugh Hewitt) in his political roundup:
"Jim Geraghty quotes his guru Obi Wan Kenobi saying in so many words, 'Cannot trusted the polls may be.' (I know that’s Yoda, but give me a break. Unlike most bloggers, I can’t stand the Star Wars movies and literally never played Dungeons and Dragons I my life.)"
For the record: I adored the original three Star Wars, can tolerate the the last three and did play D&D and AD&D growing up. Yet I still look down on people who play War Hammer.
"It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window."
-- Raymond Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely
Stat of the day
$2 billion: Amazon's total investment in technology.
(Source: The Economist, October 7)
Note on the GOP implosion
A strategist working in Indiana sends a note with the following conclusion: House probably safe as furor over Foley subsides, Senate in huge trouble. Maybe, but there is less sense of crisis than there was a week ago. Another note I received, a memo from a national level strategist, says that something must be done to get the agenda on GOP issues and states that the Democrats will pick up every toss-up seat including Virginia if the Republicans do not regain control of the agenda. I talked to journalist friend of mine in the mid-West and he says that for the first time, the Senate seems "quite in trouble" and the House is "likely to go Democrat." He said he knew that Congress was going to "tip" Democrat when former Virginia Governor Mark Warner dropped out of the race, the theory being that the follow-Hillary-to-the-middle strategy is seen to be working and that because she will become the de facto leader of the new Democratic Congress there is little use in challenging for the party's presidential nomination.
Monday, October 16, 2006
Whether or not the Republicans lose the Senate is less important than the possible political realignment that Michael Barone argues is not happening. It is interesting to note that according to Stuart Rothenberg's Political Report on Friday, only half (7 of 14) Republican Senate seats are considered safe, compared to two-thirds of the Democrat's seats (12 of 18). It is also important to note that Montana is a vulnerable Republican seat and that Arizona's GOP seat is rated the less secure "clear advantage." When so many Republicans are in danger, relatively so few Democrats, and Montana is up for grabs, there are shifts in the political landscape that go beyond being upset with Foleygate or the war in Iraq; there is a fundamental questioning of the competence of the Republicans, some of it quite deserved.
In the Calgary Sun, Ezra Levant writes about Michael Ignatieff and how he cashed in his principles in exchange for a shot at the Liberal leadership:
"That's what has corrupted Michael Ignatieff and that's why he has transformed himself from a once-consistent, even thoughtful, voice on foreign affairs into a dithering, flip-flopping fool."
Last week, the BBC released its style book guidelines as they relate to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is well worth reading to better understand their bias. Take for example its attempt to be scrupulously fair to terrorists:
Note the BBC producer guidelines which state: "We must report acts of terror quickly, accurately, fully and responsibly. We should not adopt other people's language as our own. Our credibility is undermined by the careless use of words which carry emotional or value judgements. The word 'terrorist' itself can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding. We should try to avoid the term, without attribution. It is also usually inappropriate to use words like 'liberate', 'court martial' or 'execute' in the absence of a clear judicial process. We should let other people characterise while we report the facts as we know them. We should convey to our audience the full consequences of the act by describing what happened. We should use words which specifically describe the perpetrator such as 'bomber', 'attacker', 'gunmen', 'kidnapper', 'insurgent' or 'militant'."
Nobel laureate Muhamad Yunus explained in the Wall Street Journal how microloans have can help helped Bangladeshis which might provide a model for the flood-ravaged victims of Katrina:
"I started the Grameen Bank 30 years ago by distributing about $27 (no typo here!) worth of loans among 40 extremely poor Bangladeshis. Since the bank officially opened in 1983, it has loaned $5.7 billion in microfinance. Today, Grameen has 6.6 million borrowers in Bangladesh alone, borrowing $500 million a year in loans that average just over $100 each. The loans are entirely financed by borrowers' deposits and the bank recovers 98.85% of all money loaned. Notably, Grameen Bank has been profitable in all but three years since its launch. Our largely poor customers save $1.008 for every dollar they borrow, so the poor are truly funding the poor.
The bank supports businesses such as small services, stores, direct sales, furniture-making, cell phone stations and milling, all of which support the local economy. And it works. More than half of our borrowers have moved out of poverty, mainly through their own efforts. Most importantly, when you lend money to disadvantaged people, it gives them a sense of pride, rather than the humiliation they may feel over a handout. And just as helpful as the money is the guidance they get from the bank. Training and connecting poor, inexperienced workers to a reliable and ethical lending and savings service is a huge advantage for them that only gets stronger after a disaster. This is particularly true of women, who are often constrained by social and financial barriers."
Saturday, October 14, 2006
"Thou art so fat-witted, with drinking of old sack and unbuttoning thee after supper and sleeping upon benches after noon, that thou hast forgotten to demand that truly which thou wouldst truly know."
-- Prince Hal to Sir John Falstaff in William Shakespeare's King Henry IV, Part 1
Stat of the day
76,000,000: The increase in world population in 2004. 133 million people were born that year, 57 million died. The industrialized world contributed less than 1/15th of the growth.
(Source: "A burgeoning world population," USA Today, March 2005)
Behold the Democrats
They may not have many ideas but they got the hotter candidates. That is roughly the gist of this Washington Post piece, or at least my take on the article. New York Democrat Michael Arcuri has "piercing Italian eyes and runner's physique." Tennessee Democrat Harold E. Ford Jr. is "a lean and stylish 36-year-old" who "has drawn admiring looks." Connecticut Democrat Diane Farrell has let her blonde hair hang down for a "natural, relaxed look." There is also:
"Brad Ellsworth, a swaggering Indiana sheriff; businesswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, who has chiseled features and rides a motorcycle; and Heath Shuler of North Carolina, a strapping former quarterback for the Washington Redskins."
But do six candidates make a trend? And reporter Shailagh Murray doesn't name unattractive Republicans, although Arcuri's Republican opponent Raymond A. Meier, who wears glasses and has thinning brown hair, is described as "pleasant but nondescript." (Isn't that a description?)
The more serious point that the article makes, with studies and quotes from learned persons to back it up, is that image matters. So who cares if Democrats raise taxes as long as they let their hair down?
If you ever wanted to know why Gloria Galloway's reporting is so biased
This is a few days old but deserves wide distribution. Stephen Taylor notes that Globe and Mail deputy national editor "Gloria Galloway is married to Liberal communications strategist, Mark Dunn." In the post Taylor notes how Galloway did not report on the partisan history of a Conservative government critic.
Liberal leadership race
I asked a pollster this week, "when all is said and done, who will be the anyone-but-Ignatieff candidate?" His response: "How the hell should I know?" Remember that this is a guy with a ridiculous amount of data at his fingertips. And when you talk to people in the Rae, Dion or Kennedy campaigns and ask them if their candidate will be the anyone-but-Iggy candidate, they say its too early to tell. (I understand, too, that no candidate wants to be the un-someone else and rather believe they'll win on their own merits, but...) Throw into that mix the fact that Ken Dryden and Joe Volpe are both vowing to stay in the race (Dryden baffles me and I doubt he'll be on the final ballot), and there is still a lot of politics between now and the convention. One candidate's low level volunteer had what I consider the soundest analysis: we won't know who the stop Iggy candidate is until the first ballot has been counted. Perhaps, but with a provisio. We'll see if there is a swelling of support for the second-place finisher from the first ballot to the second ballot. If there isn't, Ignatieff stands a good chance of siphoning off enough of the various losing candidates' support to win the Liberal leadership. The idea that anyone but Ignatieff, or even Ignatieff, can win on the second ballot, Dion's claim to the contrary notwithstanding, can be dismissed with a laugh. Until then, as I said, there is a lot of politics to be had in the party between now and December. And man, is it getting interesting:
CP: "Liberals squabble over B.C. delegates: Battle to exclude Rae supporters"
CTV: "Ignatieff camp urges negation of Rae delegates"
CP: "MP's [Colter's] wife quits over Ignatieff gaffe"
Michelle Oliel: "My Resignation"
James Travers: "Two Liberal front-runners carry risks"
Toronto Star: "Can anyone stop Michael Ignatieff?"
CP: "Dryden vows to stay in Liberal leadership race"
Clifford Orwin (from Thursday): "Mr. Ignatieff's sorry version of even-handedness"
Thursday, October 12, 2006
"Decline toward the worst cannot be an ongoing constant in the human race, for at a certain stage in that process it would wipe itself out."
-- Immanuel Kant, quoted in Josef Pieper's Hope and History
Stat of the day
>2000: The number of abortion clinics in the United States in the early 1990s.
<750: The number of abortion clinics in the United States today.
(Source: Family News in Focus)
The more things change, the more human rights violators can relax
The UN's brand, shiny new and improved Human Rights Council, which earlier this year replaced the Commission on Human Rights, gets criticized in this Washington Post editorial:
"Western human rights groups sought to focus the council's attention on Darfur, where genocide is occurring, and on Uzbekistan, where a dictator refuses to allow the investigation of a massacre by his security forces. Their efforts have been in vain. Instead, the council has treated itself to report after report on the alleged crimes of the Jewish state; in all, there were six official 'rapporteurs' on that subject in the latest session alone. One, Jean Ziegler, is supposed to report on 'the right to food.' But he, too, delivered a diatribe on Israeli 'crimes' in Lebanon.
This ludicrous diplomatic lynch mob has been directed by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which accounts for 17 governments on the 47-member council and counts on the support of like-minded dictatorships such as Cuba and China. Council rules allow an extraordinary session to be called at the behest of just one-third of the membership, making it easy for the Islamic association to orchestrate anti-Israel spectacles. Several Muslim governments that boast of a new commitment to democracy and human rights -- including Jordan and Morocco -- have readily joined in this willful sabotage of those values."
Three professional soccer players, including Ronaldinho, juggle the soccer ball. Worth watching. Others, not quite as good, here.
Cory Lidle, RIP
Cory Lidle, a "star" pitcher with the New York Yankees as CNN put it, died in a plane crash in New York City yesterday, but truth be told, he was, at his best, a third-spot starter and mostly belonged in the back 40% of the rotation. (New York Times story here.) He never had a league and park-adjusted ERA under 4 and had a career 4.48 adjusted ERA. Regardless of his contribution to the game, it is sad to see a young person (he was 34) die so unexpectedly and horribly. That said, here is part of an insensitive email from an economist friend of mine in the States:
"My heart goes to his family, friends and team-mates and indeed the whole fraternity of ball players ... [But still] the only thing I could think of when I heard the news (after it was confirmed that it wasn't a terrorist attack) was that mid-grade pitchers who make $5-$8 million per year are probably a little happier. Their annual compensation probably rose a quarter million dollars with one less pitcher competing with them in the free agent market ... how many owners said 'ah shit' when they heard the news not because it was a tragedy but because they will have to fork out more to get slightly better than mediocre talent."
So who would the winners in the Lidle slammed into the side of apartment sweepstakes? Randy Wolf, Miguel Batista and Jeff Weaver. But leave it to an economist to watch smoke billow out the window of a burning apartment building and ponder how it affects the supply of pitching talent in the Majors and the consequences for salaries.
1. Terry Teachout has a great list of songs that he listens to when he needs to "upgrade" his mood.
2. NRO is 10 years old (congratulations!) and asked some eminent conservatives how the world has changed and what hasn't changed over the past decade. Read especially Claudia Rosett's contribution to this symposium.
3. The UN complains that most member states do not have laws against domestic violence. Why are the domestic laws of its members any of the UN's business? This is not to say that countries should permit domestic violence but rather that the issue seems to fall quite outside Turtle Bay's mandate.
4. The Fraser Institute's study on auto insurance rates across Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom finds that jurisdictions that have state-run insurance programs fail to deliver the quality or choice that competitive auto insurance markets do.
5. I was going through some old files on North Korea and there was a Time magazine article from 1994 fretting about North Korea's impending nuclear arsenal.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
"A bodily disease, which we look upon as whole and entire within itself, may, after all, be but a symptom of some ailment in the spiritual part."
-- Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
Stat of the day
11,000: "Children in Democratic Republic of Congo [who] were still in the hands of rebel or militia gangs or unaccounted for three years after the end of a war in which they were captured and forced to fight."
I have noted the worrying emails from GOP pollsters, consultants, etc... regarding their party's fortunes in November with a growing number of them predicting the GOP losing the House of Representatives and probably the Senate. If I were to average the predictions, I'd say that the expectation is a loss of 20 Congressman (the Democrats only need to pick up 12 House seats to gain control) and four Senators (the Dems need six, assuming that Lincoln Chafee doesn't pull a Jim Jeffords, which I'm told he might if 1) he wins and 2) the Republicans and Democrats are tied after election day).
Over the years, I've had the opportunity to interview a good number of Congressional staffers and for the most part I've stayed in touch. They are a great source of inside information but I always take it with a grain of salt. You never know when they are providing spin. There is also the problem that their are overly partisan, loyal to their bosses, looking for new bosses and clueless to the world outside Washington. It seems to me that in regards to the 2006 midterm elections, all this is coming into play in the correspondence I've received from GOP staffers in Congress. Not one of the half dozen that have contacted me in the past few days think the Republicans will lose either the House or the Senate. Most think that they will lose 4-6 Congressional seats and one or two Senate seats, tops. On that I talked to on the phone this morning suggested that it is quite possible to pick up seats in the House and possibly in the Senate (he's convinced that the GOP will pick up Minnesota and New Jersey and will likely lose only Ohio); his argument is that Americans are tired of the partisanship of the Democrats and see Foleygate as nothing but a desperate non-issue injected into the national discussion to distract Americans from the fact that the party has no plan for Iraq, Iran or North Korea.
Perhaps my GOP contacts in Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, New York and Florida, are too pessimistic, but it seems that those who work in the Congressional fishbowl are way too optimistic. I trust those Republicans that work closer to where the voters are and feel sorry for those stuck with partisan blinders. Yes, the Mark Foley story has been blown out of proportion by an opportunistic Democrat leadership with little to offer in the way of a real agenda and yes the media has jumped all over this story in a way they never would if Mark Foley had been Barney Frank, but the GOP leadership messed up and they did so in a way that only offends Democrats but security moms and other party-switchers, as well as the Republican base. That's bad politics and rightly or wrongly, it seems to me, there will be repercussions. My guess is that Dennis Hastert won't be Speaker of the House come January not merely because he handled the Foley scandal poorly but because by doing so he cost the Republicans at least one and perhaps both halves of Congress.
North Korea: none of US's business?
A madman with a bomb is none of America's business, argue Anatol Lieven, research fellow at the New America Foundation, and John Hulsman, scholar in residence at the German Council on Foreign Relations, in the pages of the Los Angeles Times. They say that North Korea is a regional not global problem, there is no compelling US national interest say Lieven and Hulsman. If Korea, then what, they wonder: "What next, we wonder? Massive U.S. involvement in a Chilean-Argentine conflict over control of the Beagle Channel? A huge commitment of U.S. energy and resources to help Paraguay recover the Gran Chaco?" They say that being a regional matter that the US can play a "sympathetic" but "distant" role in the collapse of Kim Jong-Il's regime and the reunification of the two Koreas but that China should take the lead. And Hitler's Germany was only a matter for France and Holland and Poland; the holocaust an issue only for the Jews. Part of the issue is that the US is over-stretched and the Iraq debacle has diminished its credibility. But that is not a reason for the US to be bumped from vitally important global hot spots. Lieven and Hulsman say that by letting Beijing that the lead in de-escalating the crisis it would establish Red China's prestige and influence but one must wonder whether the Chinese regime would be pressing Pyongyang at all were it not for Washington's lead.
I'm leaning this way
Ralph Peters in the New York Post:
"By refusing to adequately increase active-duty numbers in the early phases of this struggle, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ground down our Army and Marines - both the flesh-and-blood troops and their gear. We must not ask the understrength forces who've carried the burden of this fight to shoulder yet more weight.
Make no mistake: Were our nation directly threatened, our ground forces would surge to respond powerfully and effectively. But as far as Iraq goes, they've given their best. They're willing to die for our country. But we should never ask them to give their lives to postpone a political embarrassment."
I'm not there yet but the adventure in Iraq was poorly executed and might not salvagable. I'm also concerned about what effect this will have on the military (not just the troops but the machinery which, although not widely reported, probably will not be in any shape for use in the future and will just be kept in Iraq) and the budget (guns and butter -- and prescription drugs, federal involvement in schools, home alarms for federal judges and a million other programs -- is not affordable). I am also concerned about America's place in the world, its reputation for both the nation and its ideals. It is nice to think that America can go it alone but it can't. I'm not sure that the Arab Islamic world is ready for democracy although I'm pretty sure that it can't be imposed. I'm afraid that democratizing the Middle East might be for conservatives what communism was for the Left: a nice theory that has absolutely no practical application. I don't want to sound like a Troskyite saying that the effort to democratize failed simply because it was never perfectly implemented; I don't want to say that proof of George Bush's prescience is that 50 years from now his vision still hasn't been implemented but there is always tomorrow. I haven't given up, but I do have severe doubts, doubts born of love of America, a deep desire to see it win and, if necessary, to carry the torch for Western Civilization in the future. Bush acknowledges that the War on Terror -- the War against Islamofascism -- will be long and I'm not sure the U.S. is properly pacing itself. I am open to being persuaded that I should return to my hawkish neocon roots, and even typing these words are painful. But conservatives, unlike liberals, inhabit the real world and everything is not rosy in Iraq. Those who supported the liberation of Iraq must look at this project and give it an honest assessment and that is all these concerns are: looking at the implications of making Iraq the central battlefield in the War on Terror and the distinct possibility of losing there.
This is not the point of Ralph Peters' column. Rather, the point he is making is not that this is time to surrender but rather that it is time for Iraq to stand on its own two feet. And that I agree whole-heartedly with that assessment.
From October 4 through October 10, David Frum had 16 posts about Bob Woodward's new book, State of Denial.
Torre sticks around for 12th campaign: looking at 2007
The big baseball news of the day, which sadly is not the Tigers-A's game: the Bronx soap opera sort of comes to an end with confirmation that Joe Torre will be back for another season. The soap opera will continue due to speculation about Alex Rodriquez's future with the team and the perhaps media driven feud between A-Rod and Mr. Yankee, Derek Jeter. This is bigger problem for the Yankees than Torre's strategic and tactical incompetence. You can't have the best player in baseball (A-Rod) and the deserved American League MVP and team captain (Jeter) fighting, or even perceived to be fighting. Off-the-field distractions are simply not affordable for teams chasing the World Series; that Jeter hasn't come to the defense of his struggling team-mate (both in the game on the field all year and at the plate in August and October, and in the clubhouse and in the media when he was criticized) and even participated in the Sports Illustrated lynching of him is a huge problem. (That Torre sanctioned the SI hit piece is even more disturbing and Exhibit A in the case against bringing the skipper back for a 12th season.) GM Brian Cashman says that A-Rod isn't going anywhere, but we'll see. I don't think the Yankees organization or their fans deserve Alex Rodriguez considering the media's usually baseless criticism of him, the fans booing their superstar and Torre's childish showing-him-who's-boss routine in the playoffs that included slotting A-Rod into the number eight spot in the lineup. I say this not as a fan of Alex Rodriguez, I'm not. There are at least a dozen players I like more; if you include coaches, hot dog sellers and the guy who makes the team's travel arrangements, A-Rod probably isn't even among my 20 favourite people within the organization. But he is simply one of the best five players to ever play the game; the people at Baseball Prospectus project him to become the all-time homerun and perhaps runs leader by the end of his career. He is too good to be treated the way he has been. It will be very difficult for him to stay and I'm not sure why he says he won't waive his no-trade clause. The one thing Torre did extremely well throughout his tenure, until this season, was deflect criticism of his players and juggle the egos of multiple superstars on one roster. He isn't even doing that anymore and has thus outlived his usefulness to the Yanks.
So what do the Yankees do now? Simple: do what every team does (or should do) every Winter -- improve in the areas that need improvement. For the Yankees, that means an up-grade at first base, some bench help for the outfield (assuming they don't pick up Gary Sheffield's option or re-sign Bernie Williams) and begin looking for the eventual replacements for Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, and possibly Derek Jeter. Six regular starters in the lineup are over the age of 32, seven if you include Bernie Williams; Johnson is 43, Mussina (if he returns) is 38, Rivera will be 37 next season. The Yankees are a team in transition -- they have to stop living in the glory years of the 1990s when they had the incredible up-the-middle young combination of Posada, Jeter, Williams and Chuck Knoblauch. Those times are over. But with Chien-Ming Wang, Robinson Cano, Phillip Hughes and Melky Cabrera on the roster next season, all talented and developing players, a Yankees transition and development still has the team in contention for the post-season if -- and this is a big if -- they fix what ails them most: starting pitching.
The team actually has a pretty good if misused and abused bullpen. (You can blame Torre for over-using his relievers and burning them out by late Summer.) But they desperately need starters. If you look at the Divisional Series with the Tigers, the Yanks won the game in which they had their best pitcher (Chien-Ming Wang), were close in the game in which they had their second best pitcher (Mike Mussina, who was kept in the game for two batters too long (again blame Torre)), and were clobbered in the two games in which they used a baseball geriatric with a herniated disc (Randy Johnson) and the oft-injured and inconsistent Jaret Wright. Next year, the team will have Wang and Hughes; they won't exercise Mussina's option but they might bring him back at a cheaper price. If I were The Boss, I'd pay Johnson his $16 million salary to cheer for the team from the bleachers. That won't happen but it would be worth it to free up the spot for a pitcher who can get his fastball into the mid-90s which 43-year-old Randall David Johnson had trouble doing all year; next year, his fastballs might look like changeups. Considering that nobody is likely to take him off their hands, the realistic best case scenario for the Yanks is that Johnson is forced onto the DL due to back problems, thus freeing up his spot in the rotation. The Yanks will almost certainly sign one of the two most sought-after pitchers of the Winter: Oakland A's southpaw Barry Zito or Japanese phenom Daisuke Matsuzaka. Zito is the surer bet and will probably come cheaper but Matsuzaka is only 25 and might be worth the risk to try to fit him into their long-term goals of simultaneoulsy rebuilding and competing. A rotation of Wang, Zito or Matsuzaka, Mussina, Hughes and some development project that can be replaced at the trading deadline, would be an incredible improvement over the current rotation.
The permanently injured Carl Pavano ($10 million for each of the next two seasons before they can buy him out) and the fragile five-inning starter Jaret Wright ($7.667 million for 2007 unless the Yanks can get out of it due to an injury provision in the contract) are write-offs. Wright will be the over-priced fifth starter impeding the opportunity of some talented minor leaguer if they can't get out of their obligation to him, but like Johnson, it would be money well spent to keep him a spectator rather than a starter.
For all the Yankees' problems, it should be noted, as Tim Marchman did in the New York Sun on Monday, that there is no shame in losing to the Detroit Tigers. For much of the season, they were the team with the best record in the Majors. Detroit had the best pitching and defense of any team in the playoffs and as state-of-the-art analysis at Baseball Prospectus has discovered, ace starters, a great closer and strong defense is what is most needed to win in the post-season. The Tigers also had timely hitting. As much as Yankee fans such as myself sometimes believe it is our birthright to win the World Series every year, the Tigers deserve to be where they are (the AL Championship Series) and the Yankees deserve to be where they are (on the golf course). But this should be said, too, and not to denigrate what the Tigers have achieved: many of their hits in their last four games (three against the Yanks and last night against the A's) were "lucky." It is not always a skill to hit'em where the fielders aren't, often it is luck. Against both the Yanks and the A's, Tiger hitters were slapping the ball just outside the reach of the infielders and just in front or between the outfielders; there is a huge element of luck in this as hitters don't have that much control over where the ball heads once the bat has made contact with it. The Tiger luck was compounded by the fact they would string a few such hits in a row, or at least before registering three outs. The team capitalized on their luck by running aggressively and advancing an extra 90 feet when many other teams would have played more cautiously and thus would not always been in a position to score. The Tigers, on the other hand, were usually in a position to score. This does not cheapen the Tigers' accomplishment or excuse their opponent's failings (the pitchers letting the hitters make decent contact, the fielders may not be ideally positioned), but it does, partially, explain Detroit's success.
If the Yankees had much better pitching than they were had on the roster this October, it would have been very different. That isn't sour grapes, just an acknowledgement of the proven track record that it is very difficult to win in the post-season with sub-standard pitching.