Sobering Thoughts

Comments on politics, the culture, economics, and sports by Paul Tuns. I am editor-in-chief of "The Interim," Canada's life and family newspaper, and author of "Jean Chretien: A Legacy of Scandal" (2004) and "The Dauphin: The Truth about Justin Trudeau" (2015). I am some combination of conservative/libertarian, standing athwart history yelling "bullshit!" You can follow me on Twitter (@ptuns).

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Thursday, April 30, 2009
Bad news

New York Times reports:

Justice David H. Souter has indicated that he plans to retire at the end of the term in June, giving President Obama his first appointment to the Supreme Court, three people informed about the decision said Thursday night.
Says Matthew J. Franck at Bench Memos: "Quietly back to New Hampshire will go one of the great mistakes of George H.W. Bush's administration."

How to deal with a possible swine flu pandemic

Tyler Cowen in a paper for the Mercatus Center provides nine steps to "combat a possible swine flu pandemic":

1. The single most important thing we can do for a pandemic—whether swine flu or not—is to have well-prepared local health-care systems. We should prepare for pandemics in ways that are politically sustainable and remain useful even if this turns out not to be a flu pandemic.

2. Prepare social norms and emergency procedures that would limit or delay the spread of a pandemic. Regular hand washing and other beneficial public customs — like not going to work when feeling sick — may save more lives than a Tamiflu stockpile.

3. Decentralize our supplies of anti-virals and treat timely distribution as more important than simply creating a stockpile.

4. Institute prizes for effective vaccines and relax liability laws for vaccine makers. Our government has discouraged what it should have encouraged.

5. Respect intellectual property by buying the relevant drugs and vaccines at fair prices. Confiscating property rights would reduce the incentive for innovation the next time around.

6. For the case of a truly serious pandemic, make economic preparations to ensure the continuity of food and power supplies. The relevant “choke points” may include the check-clearing system and the use of mass transit to deliver food supply workers
to their jobs.

7. Realize that the federal government will be largely powerless in the worst stages of a pandemic and make appropriate local plans.

8. Encourage the formation of prediction markets — speculative markets that make forecasts on policy topics — in a flu pandemic.

9. Reform the World Health Organization and give it greater autonomy from its government funders.
We are already doing #2; #3 makes a lot of sense; #4 and 5 are important in terms of maintaining an ability to deal with future pandemics; my guess is that #6 is an on-going project anyway; #7 is hard to admit nor will it stop government from doing some things that will waste resources and not help; #8 can't hurt; #9 is a bad idea. I generally distrust giving international organizations, like WHO, more power and David Brooks already made the case this week for localizing dealing with pandemics ("Subsidiarity works best").

More questions from readers

More reader questions. If you have a question, please send it to me at paul_tuns[AT]

Q: What is your favourite movie?

I don't know. The movies I like to watch (and re-watch) most are the original three Star Wars, the Godfather trilogy, the Lord of the Rings trilogy (see a theme), and all the James Bond movies. If I had to choose one, it would probably be Godfather II or Goldfinger.

Q: If you were sentenced to die and could choose the method of execution, what would you pick?

I have had several occasions to think about and discuss this very question recently and I'd want to go with a lethal injection. Electric chair and (probably) the gas chamber are much more brutal than people realize. I say that as a capital punishment supporter.

Q: If you could read only one newspaper, what would it be?

Seven months ago I wouldn't have hesitated to answer the (now defunct) New York Sun. Today I don't know and I'm tempted to say if I could read only one newspaper I'd rather not read newspapers. But I'd guess it would be The Interim -- considering I have to read it to edit it.

Q: How much time do you spend watching sports, reading sports blogs, blogging about sports?

Too much and not enough. Last year I took a much more serious interest in the NFL and (honestly) spent 19-25 hours a week watching games and reading about football. Wish it could have been more. I would watch 10 hours of football on Sundays and spend 2-3 hours reading about it on Monday and another three hours watching MNF. I probably spend a little more on baseball but it is more evenly distributed throughout the week.

Q: Do you have a favourite place to read?

The funny thing is that after a decade in the house I live in, I still don't have a place I really like to read. Most of my reading is done in bed, even during the day, and on the subway. And while I don't think this is quite what the question is asking, my favourite place to read is on a park bench in Central Park or while waiting at an airport.

Q: What is your dream car?

I don't dream about cars.

On torture

Ken Adelman at's Shadow Government blog:

The conservatism of Goldwater, like all American conservatism, stressed limited government -- not only in programs and budgets, but also in the power and reach of the state. Hence it leads to firm stands on civil liberties, perhaps even stronger than among the liberal left (though there continues to be lots of overlap). The staunch conservative Bill Safire, for instance, was just as staunch a civil libertarian. We didn't want government strong enough to control, or even poke around, in our personal lives -- let alone having enough power to torture citizens.
Ditto what Adelman said. I don't understand pro-torture conservatives, who seem to put fighting the war on terror above any other principle -- you know, the principles we are fighting for.

Lester Hunt at Liberty & Power:

Wouldn't we torture a terrorist who knows where a ticking H-bomb is? Sure. I would pull a few fingernails myself.

There is no need to legalize torture -- law or no law, we know it will be used in such unthinkably extreme circumstances, and so do our enemies.

But, you may say, if we don't change the law and allow torture, aren't we ensuring that people who are doing things -- thing that are horrible and perhaps even unjust, are nonetheless necessary things -- will be punished for trying to protect us?

No, we aren't...

People who want to legalize torture want the legal system to be flexible and adapt to changing times and circumstances. There is no need to abandon some of the most fundamental values of our system in order to be rationally flexible. Time-honored legal concepts like "justification," "excuse," and "extenuating circumstances" already give the system the flexibility it needs. Changing the law in light of these "changing times" would be a disaster. As they say, "hard cases make bad law."
Of course, the ticking nuclear bomb is Hollywood's contribution to public policy debate. But think about it: what are the chances of finding a terrorist who would know about the bomb, that there would be the opportunity to interrogate him before the bomb goes off, and that we would know the terrorist has pertinent knowledge of such an impending catastrophe. It is highly unlikely. But if it were to happen, we could all turn a blind eye in this extreme and impossible situation.


1. History of Penguin (the publisher) science fiction covers. Click on a book for greater detail and information about the covers. (Warning: this sucks up time like a vacuum.)

2. Over at Big Money, Nate DiMeo says that Ulysses S. Grant should be taken off the $50 bill. DiMeo says Grant's economic performance doesn't merit the honour. He suggests Frederick Douglass as a replacement. Key quote: "He's got that great profile and personal style just made for 19th-century lithography."

3. Property prices in Dubai fell 41 percent in the first quarter of 2009.

4. Some Kenyans are using malaria nets as fishing gear or wedding dresses. Local officials hope to apprehend and prosecute those who use the nets for anything other than their intended purpose. (HT: Wayne Easterly)

5. At the Wall Street Journal website, Padma Lakshmi, host of Top Chef and Salman Rushdie's ex-wife, has tips for wearing jewelry, based on this philosophy: "You notice the jewelry more than you notice her smile or her face. Jewelry should not upstage you."

Moderate conservatism defined

Brian Darling at RedState on David Frum's 'center-right' New Majority website: "conservative with caveats."

Three and out

3. Patrick Schuster is a senior at Mitchell High School near Tampa who has pitched four consecutive no-hitters.

2. has the top five baseball rivalries. I agree with putting the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Fransisco Giants ahead of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox in terms of historical rivalry because the Yankee-Red Sox feud is more modern. Although the Yankees-BoSox feud is probably more intense today and has been for the past decade, it was largely non-existent for the second half of the 20th century, 1978 notwithstanding. (John Perrotto at Baseball Prospectus (subscription required) says that the players don't feel the rivalry the way they did a few years ago, concluding: "Perhaps the fans and media have puffed up the games between the Yankees and Red Sox to such a degree that the two teams have bonded in an odd sort of way because of it.") But I disagree with not including the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs, which is intensely felt among fans and in the midwest despite not being very competitive today. And while it isn't a rivalry now, the Toronto Blue Jays and Detroit Tigers in the late mid-1980s was intense.

1. Driveline Mechanics looks at what DHs are worth the cost. Adam Lind of the Toronto Blue Jays is a tremendous bargain and projects to be so for some time. I'm not entirely convinced about some of the conclusions and indications, but neither is the author. Just something to think about and the beginning of what should be a good discussion. What is notable, is that many DHs are well past their peak and are paid a lot, but because of their age, they are often a declining commodity.

Four and down

4. Looking at the receiving corps for the New York Giants there is plenty of potential -- so much so that a trade for Braylon Edwards (Cleveland Browns) or Anquan Boldin (Arizona Cardinals) doesn't make sense. But there is a good chance that much of that potential won't pan out, either. Domenik Hixon was great at times after Plaxico Burress shot himself, but a month's worth of games is too small a sample size to go on; Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden are rookies; David Tyree displayed heroics in the 2008 Super Bowl game against the Patriots but missed all of the '09 season; Steve Smith is a great second receiver but didn't step up after Burress left the team and there is no indication he can be the number one target Eli Manning needs; Sinorice Moss has been a huge disappointment; Mario Manningham had an injury plagued rookie year and played just seven games in which he made four catches in '08. Enough talent there to spread the ball around but they appear to lack a go-to guy, a game-changing player.

3. Sporting News Today reports that the Chicago Bears confirmed they were willing to trade a second round pick (49th overall) to the Cardinals for WR Anquan Boldin. No wonder the Cards didn't take it. One year of Boldin is probably worth more than a player that has a 50-50 chance of making the roster next year and who probably not be as good as Boldin or even half as good. But no wonder the Bears were interested. They need targets for new QB Jay Cutler. Darrell Jackson and Nate Jackson, both of whom played with Cutler in Denver last year, are still on the free agent market if the Bears are desperate.

2. LB Larry Foote was released by the Pittsburgh Steelers in favour of Lawrence Timmons. Good move which will save the team nearly $3 million in salary cap space and probably not hurt them on the field. Foote made 86 tackles in 16 starts last year, (fifth most on the team), while Timmons made 71 despite not starting. The Detroit Lions and Indianapolis Colts are possible destinations for Foote.

1. Don Banks has a positional list of impact rookies for 2009. This kind of thing is always risky, but I have a serious problem with Larry English, the new OLB in San Diego being put on the list. Is he going to dislodge Shawne Merriman or Shaun Phillips. I'm tempted to say, 'only if he changes is name to Sean or Shawn.'

Wednesday, April 29, 2009
What I'm reading

1. The Fathers by Pope Benedict XVI, a collection of his Wednesday addresses in 2007-2008 on the early Church Father from Augustine to St. Jerome, St. Basil to St. Justin Martyr, St. Irenaeus to Pope Clement.

2. "Transhumanism and the Limits of Democracy," a talk by Ronald Bailey at Arizona State University's Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict Workshop on Transhumanism and the Future of Democracy last week.

3. "First Life and Next Life: Synthetic biology is a new field, but it's targeting an old question: How did life begin?" by David Deamer in the May/June M.I.T. Technology Review.

4. "Hellhole," by Atul Gawande in the March 30th New Yorker. The subtitle is: "The United States holds tens of thousands of inmates in long-term solitary confinement. Is this torture?"

5. Emerging Markets, Emerging Models: Market-based Solutions to the Challenge of Global Poverty by Ashish Karamchandani, Michael Kubzansky and Paul Frandano and published by the Monitor Group.

Just wondering

Wonder Woman:

While traffic remains blocked in the heart of Canada's largest city for the third day, some of us taxpayers (who are expected to foot the bill for this show of civil disobedience) are wondering why so many members of the largest ex-pat Tamil constituency don't have jobs they need to be at, for three days running.

Of course, I'm sure it's racist of me to ask...

Good news for the Grits

CTV reports:

According to the La Presse/CROP poll, the Liberals have the support of 37 per cent of Quebec voters, up seven per cent from one month ago, while the Bloc sits at 31 per cent, down four per cent.

The Conservatives are in a distant third at 15 per cent support, down three per cent from a month ago.
The first time in five years -- essentially since Jean Chretien left federal politics -- that the Liberals are ahead of the Bloc Quebecois. I bet it won't hold; Michael Ignatieff isn't one of their tribe and the province doesn't vote for foreigners.

Just showing up is half the battle?

Andrea Mrozek:

The beauty of being a woman who is pro-life is that it is fairly easy to annoy my opponents simply by showing up.
That's true, but it gets better. Mrozek doesn't need sophisticated arguments she just needs to say:

I don’t get it. And I don’t believe it. And by the way–that’s your opinion, not a fact.

Must-watch video that explains Obama's $100 million proposed spending cut

Hint: It ain't much.

(HT: Division of Labour)

David Frum sucks

He is officially my least favourite person, outpacing Warren Kinsella -- and that's hard to do. They are both so self-righteously annoying. Here's Frum on Arlen Specter:

Let’s take this moment to nail some colors to the mast. I submit it is better for conservatives to have 60% sway within a majority party than to have 100% control of a minority party. And until and unless there is an honored place made in the Republican party for people who think like Arlen Specter, we will remain a minority party.
So, to be clear, Frum wants an honored place for a Republican with a life-time 40 ACU rating, a Republican who voted liberal more often than he voted conservative, and the kind of Republican who opportunistically bolts the party. Yes, we must honor those types of Republicans. The party will be so much better with those types of Republicans. The going is getting tough, so they'll bail; honor them before they do. All hail Arlen!

And another thing: there was a time when Frum would have wanted a majority Republican Party where conservatives had 60% sway and he would have been part of the 60%.


1. The New York Post looks back at 100 days, 100 mistakes. But the biggest mistake was their own: "Due to an editing error, a portion of this piece originally was improperly credited to Sarah Palin, when it should have been attributed to Meghan Clyne." That's quite the correction.

2. Gangsta babies toys.

3. Rick McGinnis reviews The Wrestler.

4. The Daily Mail on "The phone that lets you send long-distance smooches to loved ones."

5. In a story about what meat is the least environmentally friendly, Slate reports that, "A typical cow might drop 22,000 pounds of patties a year; assuming a high yield of 625 pounds of edible meat, that's about 35 pounds of manure incurred per pound of saleable beef." But it is worse than that because a cow doesn't mature into the size animal that produces 625 pounds of edible meat in one year. If you care about the meat you eat causing a carbon footprint or impacting the environment in some way, you probably shouldn't eat meat. I, for one, enjoy my steaks, pork roast and lamb chops even more knowing that some envirozealot is upset with my dinner selection.

Three and out

3. Without committing to one position or another, Ken Rosenthal says that New York Yankees starter Joba Chamberlain might be headed to the bullpen to help solve the Bombers' terrible relief pitching situation. But that would create a hole in the rotation once every five days, which isn't good either. For mostly irrational or sentimental reasons (the cheers at Yankee Stadium when he enters in the eighth inning) I like Chamberlain in the bullpen but if the choice is between 180-200 innings of quality starting pitching or 60-75 innings of quality relief, the decision should be easy.

2. In the same Rosenthal column, this incredible statistic: going into Monday's game, the Arizona Diamondbacks were hitting 223 and had a 297 OBP. Both were National League lows. I can't comprehend how a team has an on-base percentage below 300.

1. When Dan Haren pitches, Arizona thinks it doesn't need to score. Despite an ERA of just 1.54, the D-backs starter is 2-3. (This is, in part, why judging pitchers on their win-loss record is stupid.) Haren pitched a gem on Monday night for the D-backs, going the distance and giving up three hits, no walks, two runs and striking out ten. And he did it against one of the NL's better lineups, the Chicago Cubs. One reason he is so good is that he doesn't throw balls; 80 of 111 pitches were strikes. Just one last thing to note: he pitched a complete game, allowed two runs and his ERA went up, while improving his record to 2-3. As I said, W-L records are poor indicators of pitching quality.

Four and down

4. Kevin Hassett, former economics advisor to John McCain, says in his Bloomberg column that according to a model he came up with that analyzes the NFL draft, the New England Patriots and New York Giants will meet in next year's Super Bowl. Wouldn't they have been two of the top four favourites anyway?

3. reports that most of the Kansas City Chiefs scouting staff were let go after the weekend draft. As PFW says, the scouts "knew they were on borrowed time when [Scott] Pioli was hired to replace Carl Peterson earlier this year, but they were kept on to at least get the club through draft weekend ... Pioli now will look to bring in his own staff of scouts, a younger group that shares his vision when it comes to evaluating and selecting talent." I find this understandable but strange. Pioli came on too late to put his own people in place before the draft, but at the same time he depended on the scouting reports of people he either does not believe are competent or who do not share his football philosophy. Either way, why use them? Does that undermine the 2009 draft for the Chiefs? Other than trade away most of their picks, what else could they do?

2. I don't know why I didn't think of this earlier, but does the Denver Broncos picking RB Knowshon Moreno with their first selection signal a vote of non-confidence in Kyle Orton, the QB they received in return for Jay Cutler. Peter King has droned on and on about how new coach Josh McDaniels really believes in Orton, apparently thinking he'll do for Orton what he did for Matt Cassels last year in Foxboro. But I think that getting a running back suggests that McDaniels isn't going to rely on Orton's arm, or at the very least wants a backup to the air game.

1. The gentlemen at ColdHardFootballFacts were asked to blog the draft at and they did a good job despite the fact that blogging is not their forte; serious, fact-filled, stats-based analysis doesn't lend itself to quick reaction blogging. Apparently, though, the big complaint from CHFF fans was that the boys sold out: "Believe it or not, we've got a few e-mails from folks essentially accusing us of selling out for working with the likes of, given our general disdain for the traditional sports media and the way it does business. These e-mailers are donkeys."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009
The road to ruin is painted green

Charles Lane in the Washington Post:

GM wouldn't be in quite so deep a hole if it had not sunk a billion dollars, and much of its corporate reputation, into a not-very-realistic plug-in electric hybrid vehicle known as the Chevrolet Volt.

Likely to cost consumers more than $30,000 even after a big government tax rebate, the little four-seat Volt "is currently projected to be much more expensive than its gasoline-fueled peers and will likely need substantial reductions in manufacturing cost in order to become commercially viable," President Obama's automobile task force reported on March 30.

Translation: Unless and until gas prices shoot up, you'd be crazy to buy one of these much-ballyhooed vehicles, which will run 40 miles on a single charge if GM can overcome difficult battery-engineering issues.

To be sure, the green-leaning Obama administration has not ruled out allowing a restructured GM to continue pouring (federal) money into the Volt. But I hope it won't. The Volt and other electric vehicles could gobble up more subsidies than ethanol.

UnGreen celebs

GetBack has the list of the 11 least environmentally friendly celebrities and there are a number of big-time hypocrites on the list (Madonna, John Travolta and The Guvernator). Here is the write-up about Arnold Schwarzenegger:

Sure, he claims to be the anti-global-warming politician, and he even traded in his Hummers for some more eco-friendly cars. The only problem: Arnold hardly ever drives. In fact, he commutes 380 miles every day from Los Angeles to Sacramento by private jet. His mode of transport does more environmental damage in one hour than a small car does in a year. The California governor claims to offset his carbon dioxide with "pollution credits" (funding efforts to reduce greenhouse gases). You just can't plant enough trees to offset this kind of hypocrisy.

Of pandemics and panic

The New York Post review of Philip Alcabes' Dread: How Fear and Fantasy have Fueled Epidemics from the Black Death to the Avian Flu:

In 2006, fear of bird flu reached fever pitch in the American media. According to one poll, 35% of Americans felt they would be infected with the virus over the next year, and 50% of those felt that someone they knew would die from it. Laurie Garrett wrote about how the altered terrain of the modern world rendered it an instant breeding ground for killer scourges, while Dr. Michael Osterholm pointed out the similarity between the 1918 Spanish flu virus that killed more than 50 million and the then-current H5N1 bird flu virus.

Slowly the hype and hysteria died down, as it became apparent that predictions of a massive bird flu pandemic by soothsayers and hysterics were overblown.

Specter flip

Arlen Specter joins the Democrats and will run for the party in next year's primaries and, if he wins, for re-election to the Senate. Pat Toomey was running ahead of Specter in early polls (by 21 points as of last week), so there is a sense of desperation about the move even if Specter is correct to say that he was not defined by his party label (no shit, RINO). Jim Geraghty has a good question: Will the Pennsylvania Democrats embrace as one of their own a senator with a life-time 40 ACU rating? Geraghty has some ideas worth looking at on how a Democratic challenger could give Specter some real trouble. And here is what is important to know about Specter (as related by Geraghty): "April 9, Specter was telling Newsweek, 'I'm a Republican and I'm going to run in the Republican primary and on the Republican ticket.' Good to know his word is his bond."

And one last thing: nice going National Republican Senate Committee for endorsing Specter over Toomey. Great call on that one.

One other last thing. About a month ago, Specter told The Hill that he wasn't going to switch because in a healthy democracy, there should be a Republican Party that can (he appears to say) prevent a fillibuster-breaking Democratic majority:

To be clear, here is what he says: "I think each of the 41 Republican Senators, in a sense, and I don’t want to overstate this, is a national asset, because if one was gone you would only have 40. The Democrats would have 60 and they would control all of the mechanisms of government." His word is his bond.


1. "Are Zoos with Foreign Animals Unpatriotic & Un-American," and other animal-related questions for protectionists from Mark Perry.

2. Reuters reports that Zoran Bulatovic, a Serbian union official, cut off his finger and ate it in protest over low and unpaid wages. He said that consuming his own finger was symbolic of the claim that workers could not afford to feed themselves. Said Bulatovic: "It hurt like hell."

3. Audi vs BMW in an apparent billboard war in Santa Monica that is mildly amusing. More interesting, though, is seeing an ad being put up.

4. The seven secrets of lucky companies from the Boston Globe a few weeks ago. Too many on the right want to attribute all success to smarts and hard work, but sometimes a lucky break can be involved, too. The argument can be taken too far (and the authors Drake Bennett examines might) but it is hard to argue with the conclusion: encouragement might often be as useful as advice.

5. If you are into movies, MakingOf, co-founded by Natalie Portman (don't let that prevent you from going there) might be interesting. MakingOf looks at "provides an intimate, fresh look into the process of creating entertainment by the insiders themselves." It can be a little full of itself, but there are enough things of interest to warrant checking back.

Local solutions to global problems

David Brooks in the New York Times:

The bottom line is that the swine flu crisis is two emergent problems piled on top of one another. At bottom, there is the dynamic network of the outbreak. It is fueled by complex feedback loops consisting of the virus itself, human mobility to spread it and environmental factors to make it potent. On top, there is the psychology of fear caused by the disease. It emerges from rumors, news reports, Tweets and expert warnings.

The correct response to these dynamic, decentralized, emergent problems is to create dynamic, decentralized, emergent authorities: chains of local officials, state agencies, national governments and international bodies that are as flexible as the problem itself.

Swine flu isn’t only a health emergency. It’s a test for how we’re going to organize the 21st century. Subsidiarity works best.
Fortunately, one of the things government has done really well in the 20th century is public health. There is little reason to think that rich, democratic countries won't keep fatalities to a minimum.

Three and out

3. It is outrageous that security took a sign away from a fan a Citi Field, home to the New York Mets. The sign said "Fire J. Manuel," the manager of the Mets. Second time in a week that the goose-stepping security got out of hand and such a trend portends a serious concern for those who want to peacefully and sometimes playfully express themselves.

2. It is really great to see that the fans in San Francisco give all-time homerun leader Barry Bonds a standing ovation and that the team paid tribute to him with a show of his greatest homeruns on the big screen at AT&T Park.

1. David Pinto at Baseball Musings says the Washington Nationals should change their name to the Washington Lears, explaining: "My favorite Shakespeare play to read is King Lear. Shakespeare takes Lear from the heights of royalty to the depths of despair. Things get bad at the beginning, and time after time, just as you think Lear’s life can’t get any worse, it gets much worse."

Four and down

4. The Mr. Irrelevant title for the last person drafted is strange little football tradition. Ryan Succop went 256th overall, will be invited to join the Kansas City Chiefs for their training camp, and will be honoured with the Irrelevant Week festivities, including a banquet and parade in Newport. Does he have to go through the humiliation of being 'honoured' as Mr. Irrelevant? Unlike many of his fellow seventh-round draftees, however, Succop, a kicker, has a decent enough chance to make the team. Last year, KC used Connor Barth, a rookie, in the second half of the season which should indicate that the job is up for grabs even though Barth went 10 for 12 in FG attempts. Succop made 20 of 30, but was kicking with a sports hernia. Of the injury, Succop said: "Kicking is the thing that bothers it most."

3. Undo deference to Denver. By almost all accounts on the blogosphere, Denver had a bad draft, utterly failing to get the players they really need. The criticism by broadcast and print journalists doing some on-air analysis was less severe. If there was any criticism, the analysts would say that Josh McDaniels and the Denver organization must know what their doing, so perhaps the genius of their questionable picks will be evidenced on the field in the future. Really? The rationales, at times, were ludicrous. Denver is a great drafting team. Sure, but there is a new regime there. McDaniels is a good football guy. Sure, but he hasn't been responsible for drafting, only coaching the offense. The deference shown by so-called journalists and analysts who are scared of upsetting teams and limiting their access was a little much. Such access is worthless if the analysis is not honest enough to call it like they see it.

2. When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded up in order to draft QB Josh Freeman, the broadcast team at the NFL Network analyzed the move but tip-toed around an important point. They said that the team needed a QB but never explored why. One of the panelists was Jon Gruden, the former coach of the Bucs, and it appeared that they went out of the way not to criticize him for failing to develop just one quarterback over his eight-year tenure in Tampa. If he had done that, they wouldn't have had to trade up for Freeman. That little fact should have been part of their analysis.

1. John Harris of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has a nice line about analyzing the Pittsburgh Steelers' draft: "Watching the Steelers navigate through the NFL Draft is like shopping at Sam's Club. When you shop at Sam's, it isn't enough to simply buy a product. At Sam's, you buy in bulk at a discount ... Of the Steelers' top six picks, five were described as playing multiple positions in college." Also, like shopping at Wal-Mart you store some of what you bought until you really need it; the Steelers don't typically use their draft picks much in their first year in the NFL, with many of them becoming understudies only to be used in an emergency.

Monday, April 27, 2009
Three and out

3. New York Mets starting lefty Oliver Perez is having a horrible season: 9.31 ERA in four starts and 23 hits and 15 walks in 19.1 IP, allowing almost two baserunners per inning. On the plus side, he has 18 Ks, indicating he has something going for him. I agree with Tim Marchman that a trip to the minors to help Perez pitch strikes more consistently is probably what he -- and the Mets -- need. Sure Perez could refuse the assignment to Buffalo but he'd be forfeiting a three-year, $36 million deal in doing so. You could argue that is perhaps what the Mets want: to get out of a dubious medium-term contract, but the fact is the Mets need starting pitching and fixing Perez's mechanics to have better control benefits everyone. Perez can have electric stuff and I'd hate to see him prematurely ineffective.

2. The New York Yankees were swept by the Boston Red Sox at Fenway on the weekend and there are some quarters worrying about the Bronx Bombers. It is better not to be swept by a division rival but 1) it happened on the road, 2) the first game was in extra innings, 3) the second game was back and forth until the final few innings, and 4) game three wasn't exactly horrible with the pitching giving up just four runs. What is troubling is that the Yankees, who some thought had the best rotation in baseball before the season started and who seemed to have solved their bullpen issues, are dead last in the majors in ERA (6.26). This might (should?) correct itself over time; they won't give up 16 or 22 runs every Saturday. In fact, they given up 10 runs or more in four games, which will skew an ERA terribly over an 18 game stretch. Anyway, BP's PECOTA system still has them in a virtual tie with the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers for predicted won-loss record in the Majors and tied with Boston for the team most likely to make the playoffs in the American League. In other words, it is still early and these things should correct themselves.

1. In Sunday night's game, BoSox CF Jacoby Ellsbury stole home against Yankee southpaw Andy Petite. It is not hard to do against Petite (I saw the Blue Jays do it last year in Toronto). Anyway, it is always worth re-watching, although I think the curtain call was a little much.

An equation is worth a 1000 well-written columns

From New Math by Craig Damrauer.

Not a finalist for mother of the year

The Canadian Press reports:

A woman in Lakeshore, Ont., has been charged with sexually assaulting her young child and dog and broadcasting the acts over the Internet via a webcam ... She is charged with bestiality, sexual assault, sexual interference and sexual exploitation, and police say she could face additional charges.

The glass-is-half-full view of the recession

The recession has resulted in greater equality among the regions of Canada. Of course, this happens by bringing the top down.

100 days in the long stream of history

George F. Will in the current Newsweek writes about the non-stop Obama:

Ordinary politicians cannot comprehend that it is possible for the public to see and hear too much of them. In this sense, Obama is very ordinary. A few leaders of democracies have understood the importance of being economical with their demands for the public's attention. Charles de Gaulle believed that remoteness nurtures a mystique that is an essential ingredient of leadership. Ronald Reagan, an actor, knew that the theatrical dimension of politics requires periodic absences of the star from center stage. He spent almost an eighth — a year — of his presidency at his ranch. But when he spoke, people listened. If Obama, constantly flitting here and there, continues to bombard the nation with his presence, he will learn how skillfully Americans wield the basic tool of modern happiness, the TV remote control with its mute button.
And that won't be a bad thing, unless with fewer eyeballs on him, Obama can get away with more. As Will notes, the big loser thus far into the Obama presidency has been Big Labour. But if people weren't watching, would he move to the left -- or, perhaps more accurately, clearly move to the left.

It is important to remember that presidents are just that: presidents. They can do only so much damage and few are of real consequence. Will reminds readers:

The trajectory of Obama's presidency might have been determined by what he did in his first 100 days. His budget calls for doubling the national debt in five years and almost tripling it in 10. If the necessary government borrowing soon causes a surge in long-term interest rates, the result will be the 1970s redux—inflation and stagnation. If so, the 44th president will be remembered not as the second iteration of the 32nd (Franklin Roosevelt) but of the 39th (Jimmy Carter).

There were 43 presidents before the current one and there will be many more than that number after him. The nation that elects the 88th probably will remember little about what the 44th did. This does not mean Obama is unimportant. It does mean that he is in the middle of the broad, deep river of history, where the current is strong and will not be much bent by him.


I am going to break up the questions you have sent me into several sets of three to five. If you have a question, please send it to me at paul_tuns[AT] Here were go and I'm going start by grouping three similar questions into one.

Q1: If you didn't live in Toronto where would you live?
Q2: If money or employment was not an issue where would you live?
Q3: You were raised in Woodstock [Ont.]. Will you ever move back?

I do not ever plan nor desire to move back to Woodstock. When I got married in the mid-1990s, the plan was to eventually move to Kitchener, a medium-sized city nearer our parents, but with more amenities than the city of 30,000 that I (and my wife) grew up in. But I look at Kitchener now and wouldn't consider moving there. I can't imagine living anywhere other than Toronto. I'm often asked why I don't try to get a job with the Conservatives (like they'd want me) and I explain that I do not want to live in Ottawa -- anything smaller than Toronto is out of the question.

If means were not an issue, I'd move to New York in a minute. And despite my aversion to small cities, I really like Pittsburgh and Washington has things I to do (weekly CATO talks). But I have no plans to move nor can I see doing so.

Q: Give me a certain prediction for the next ten years, a near certain prediction and a long-shot prediction.

My certain prediction is that a Republican will win the White House in 2012 or 2016. My near-certain prediction is that the Liberals will return to power in Canada within the decade. My long-shot prediction is that Stephen Harper is gone after the next federal election.

Q: If you weren't a journalist what would you be?

I have no idea. I thank God I ended up writing and editing for a living because I simply can't think of anything else I'd want to do or would be very good. If skill wasn't a limitation, I'd like to play shortstop or centerfield for the New York Yankees.

Q: What is the one place in the world you haven't visited that you would like to?

There are only three: The Vatican, New Zealand and London (England). If I had to choose one, it would be the Vatican. But I'm happy taking holidays in America's northern rust belt cities (Buffalo, Rochester, Cleveland, Pittsburgh) with an annual excursion to Florida.

Q: When are you moving to electronic books? What do you think of Kindle?

I have thought about it but I quite enjoy reading dead tree books. I open up a book and I smell it. I can't imagine sniffing a Kindle. That is not to deny the tremendous advantages of convenience (being able to carrying numerous books at once, saving on shelf space, lower costs and instant downloading). But my house would be much emptier with a Kindle on the book shelf rather than thousands of volumes.

Four and down

4. Unnoticed big improvement from the draft: New Orleans Saints getting CB Malcolm Jenkins (#14). The Saints desperately needs to get better in the secondary and Jenkins can play either CB or safety. Good move.

3. Worst first round drafting: Three way tie among the Detroit Lions, Buffalo Bills and Denver Broncos. The Lions in taking TE Brandon Pettigrew at #20 when they desperately needed defense or could have taken OT Michael Oher demonstrate that they don't understand the concept of value or their own needs. The Bills traded left tackle Jason Peters to the Philadelphia Eagles earlier this off-seaon and they don't take Oher? Insane. The Broncs needed defense and they picked a RB with their #12 (Knowshon Moreno) which was questionable itself but it forced them to trade one of their first round picks in 2010 to get #37 overall in the second round from Seattle to draft CB Alphonso Smith.

2. Worst drafting overall: Broncos. Their draft strategy was questionable (glaring need for defense and they don't draft for defense in the first round, they trade away a future first rounder for the fifth pick in the second round and later trade a pair of third rounders to the Pittsburgh Steelers for the last pick in the second round. And what do they do with it? Drafted a tight end (Richard Quinn). I don't get what Denver is doing, but as someone who is inclined to cheer for the San Diego Chargers, I like that Denver is being so self-destructive. Ten picks and only five were defensive players.

1. Best first day drafting: Green Bay Packers' woes this year were not due to first-year QB Aaron Rogers but rather a shakey defense. They picked DT B.J. Raji with their own #9 and traded for the New England Patriots' #26 to take LB Clay Matthews. I think they overpaid for Matthews (a second rounder and a pair of third rounders, although they also received the Pats' fifth round pick). But the Packers appeared to address their biggest weakness.

Sunday, April 26, 2009
The false choice between principle and pragmatism

Andrew Coyne's address to the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives April 20th has some good advice, at least in theory:

I’m aware that, as a mere commentator, unsullied by actual political experience, I may be accused of having a bias in the other direction: towards an impractical idealism. But they’re not such different games, politics and journalism. Each of us, in our own way, are in the business of persuasion. We’re trying, or at least we ought to be trying, to bring people over to a point of view they don’t already hold. If that’s not what we’re doing — if all we do is confirm people in their own opinions, or yell “boo” at those who disagree with us — then we’re not changing anyone’s minds, and we’re not doing our jobs.

All of us in the persuasion game are obliged to ask ourselves three questions, three reality checks:

One, obviously, is it right? Is it possible we could be wrong? Or could policies that were once right need adjusting, in light of changing circumstances?

Two, is it relevant? It may be the right answer, but not to a question the public is asking. To be sure, leadership sometimes means putting questions to the public that had not occurred to it until now. But a party that prefers its own hobbyhorses to issues the public cares about will soon find no one is listening.

Three, is it a priority? There are always lots of things that need doing. But there is only so much that can be done at one time, and the public’s appetite for change is not infinite.

But clearly that only takes us so far. It gives us a compass, but not a map.

How, then, do we steer between these two treacherous shores — too devoted to principle, such as to put power beyond reach, or too quick to compromise, such as to empty power of purpose? My answer is that it’s a false choice. The notion that there is an absolute contradiction between principles and power, that you can have one only by discarding the other, is a comforting falsehood, as beloved of ideologues as of opportunists: indeed, it is the one thing they agree on.

I think, rather, it depends what your principles are: whether they pass those three tests I just mentioned, for starters. If you are trying to sell policies that don’t work, or aren’t relevant, or fall down the list of priorities, then yes, you will probably have a hard time winning elections.
This is true in theory but the question is how to draw these lines. How does one decide what is right and relevant? I'm not for or against selling out one's principles, it is really just a matter of pricing. I think too many politicians sell out too low because they haven't gotten the lines right. It should also be remembered that radio hosts (Rush Limbaugh) and bloggers (such as myself) can be 'purists' because we aren't seeking office. It is the job, however, of the purists, to raise the cost of selling conservative principles too cheaply. The persuasion that the commentariat does can make it more difficult for politicians to slide too far one way or another.

To repeat I'm not against pragmatism; I'm against cheap political whores practicing pragmatism.


1. "Can You Tell the Difference Between Amish and Mennonite?" are among the "4 Things to Consider Before You Try to Join the Amish," by Maggie Koerth-Baker.

2. Eight accidental discoveries -- or as Mental Floss calls it, "8 Brilliant Scientific Screw-ups."

3. 100 trillion currency note on sale at ebay for about $160 with an hour to go. Of course, it is from Zimbabwe. (HT: Freakonomics)

4. Pictures from the Ithaa Undersea restaurant in the Maldives.

5. Wired's blog has a story/interview on "The Geomagnetic Apocalypse — And How to Stop It." It will be interesting to people who think about the end of the world -- and how to stop it, or those who, like myself, like to egg them on.

Four and down

4. I correctly predicted that the Oakland Raiders would pick WR Darrius Heyward-Bey with their seventh round pick even though better wideouts Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin were still available. Al Davis likes speed and he got his speed. Heyward-Bey doesn't have the skills -- hands, route-running -- that Crabtree and Maclin have. We'll see how that works out for the Raiders. Interestingly, Crabtree ends up across the bay in San Fransisco.

3. My other predictions: 1) I was right to say that the New England Patriots would not trade to get a pick in the top 10 despite Peter King repeatedly reporting that they would; 2) I was wrong to say that there would not be a (big) trade in order for any team to move up in the first round. The New York Jets traded up to get the fifth overall to land QB Mark Sanchez, the player they hope will be their franchise quarterback; 2b) there were five trades to move up in the draft although most of the moves resulted in improving their slot only two spots; 3) I was correct predicting that the Washington Redskins would not trade up to land Sanchez; 4) I was wrong predicting that the Seattle Seahawks would take Sanchez if he was available when they picked at number four (they took OLB Aaron Curry, probably the most NFL-ready player in the draft); 5) correctly predicted that WR Michael Crabtree would not go in the top eight (he went 10th).

2. The two biggest surprises (to me) was that WR Jeremy Maclin was available at 19, where the Philadelphia Eagles traded to get him and that OT Michael Oher, subject of Michael Lewis' excellent The Blindside: The Evolution of the Game, lasted until number 23, where the Baltimore Ravens traded to get him. Both the Eagles and Ravens moved up two spots to get the player they wanted. While the Ravens certainly needed to make additions to their O-line, the Philly move puzzles me. They already have DeSean Jackson, a second-year receiver/kick returner with very similar skills. On the other hand, you don't let a talented player who should have been drafted much higher get by you.

1. I think that the Detroit Lions made a huge mistake by drafting QB Matt Stafford first overall; only about a third of first round QBs pan out and they've taken a big and expensive risk taking Stafford. They compounded the error because they thought they needed to get him an offensive toy, leading them to make a second mistake later in the first round (#20) when they choose TE, Brandon Pettigrew. They needed defense and they picked two offensive weapons. I don't get it. The Lions might not only finish last in 2009, but might be fighting to stay out of the cellar in 2010, too.

Britain does have talent

It's not all about Susan Boyle. Celebrate, em, Diversity -- a really fun dance troupe. There is a shorter version here.

Saturday, April 25, 2009
Green investments

Bjorn Lomborg says in the New York Times that immediate cuts in carbon output are unrealisitc and even harmful to the developing world where coal is by far the most efficient fuel source:

No green energy source is inexpensive enough to replace coal now. Given substantially more research, however, green energy could be cheaper than fossil fuels by mid-century.
Lomborg says:
Fortunately, there is a better option: to make low-carbon alternatives like solar and wind energy competitive with old carbon sources. This requires much more spending on research and development of low-carbon energy technology. We might have assumed that investment in this research would have increased when the Kyoto Protocol made fossil fuel use more expensive, but it has not.

Economic estimates that assign value to the long-term benefits that would come from reducing warming — things like fewer deaths from heat and less flooding — show that every dollar invested in quickly making low-carbon energy cheaper can do $16 worth of good. If the Kyoto agreement were fully obeyed through 2099, it would cut temperatures by only 0.3 degrees Fahrenheit. Each dollar would do only about 30 cents worth of good.

The Copenhagen agreement should instead call for every country to spend one-twentieth of a percent of its gross domestic product on low-carbon energy research and development. That would increase the amount of such spending 15-fold to $30 billion, yet the total cost would be only a sixth of the estimated $180 billion worth of lost growth that would result from the Kyoto restrictions.

Kyoto-style emissions cuts can only ever be an expensive distraction from the real business of weaning ourselves off fossil fuels.
I don't entirely accept the argument that we need to funnel $30 billion into alternative fuel research, but Lomborg's point that a vigorous cost-benefit analysis is true and it is mildly surprising that such an argument is being made on the op-ed page of the New York Times.

ACLU -- still what it has been for decades

John Leo reviews Wendy Kaminer's Worst Instincts: Cowardice, Conformity, and the ACLU for the Wall Street Journal. Kaminer was once a member of the American Civil Liberties Association and she has written a scathing critique of the organization. Leo mentions some egregious examples of ACLU dishonesty and inconsistency and concludes his review thusly:

Only at the end of the book, in a section that seems almost tacked on, does Ms. Kaminer get to the core of the problem: that the many troubling decisions and strange moves undertaken during Mr. Romero's tenure actually reflect a decisive shift in the ACLU's sense of mission. "The ACLU," she writes, "began describing itself as a 'social justice organization,' and its non-partisan commitment to civil liberty shrank -- especially its commitment to free speech -- while its vision of equality expanded."

New organizations with a stronger commitment to free speech and freedom of assembly now do the jobs that the ACLU declines to do. These groups include the Alliance Defense Fund and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Ms. Kaminer sums it up: "The ACLU is becoming just anther liberal human-rights, social- justice advocate that reliably defends the rights of liberal speakers." The trajectory is a common one, affecting once-neutral organizations, including the Sierra Club, the Ford and MacArthur Foundations, the Modern Language Association, Amnesty International and, now, the ACLU.
But this is nothing new; the ACLU shilled for abortion and behalf of the Soviet government since (at least) the 1970s, nor has it really spoken up on behalf of groups or individuals with which it disagrees when their voices are shut down on university campuses. Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership candidate told me in an interview a few weeks ago that everyone is a libertarian "because everyone wants to be free." But the test of whether you support liberty is not whether you want it for yourself but whether you will defend it for others. On this count, the ACLU is hardly the defender of civil liberties which it claims to be.


1. Best sport you never heard of: cup stacking.

2. In 2009 this passes as positive economic news: "Ford posts $1.4 billion loss, burns through less cash while restructuring without gov't aid."

3. The Dow as a roller coaster ride via the Economix blog at the New York Times.

4. Best real estate markets with big returns from

5. From the department of you thought you've heard it all: Studying llama blood to help soldiers in biochemical attacks.

Four and down (NFL draft day edition)

4. QB Mark Sanchez will have a better a career for whoever drafts him than first overall pick Matt Stafford will for Detroit. Stafford might have the better arm, but the NFL has seen plenty of arms become the type of footnote that says great arm but complete bust. I'm looking at Jeff George but there are others. Teams that want Sanchez will have to trade ahead of the Seattle Seahawks at number four who almost certainly are looking for Matt Hasselback's eventual replacement.

3. I don't believe's Peter King when he reports/predicts that the New England Patriots are going to trade for the eighth or ninth pick. I don't see the team incurring the cost in both treasure (the cost of a top 10 pick is more than a late first round pick) or additional picks for a moderate gamble when the team is so good finding talent with their late first round and second and third round picks. The object of their affection is reportedly DE Tyson Jackson and I think several teams in the top eight would be making a big mistake passing him by.

2. Michael Crabtree should be a top five pick and there are plenty of teams that should trade up to get a guy who could be an impact wideout next year. But I can't see him going in the top eight and could fall back to 12th or 13th. (This will be the second biggest mistake teams will make, the first being to pass over OLB Aaron Curry who should improve any team's offensive line and there isn't a team in the top five that couldn't use him.) I think that the Oakland Raiders will pick WR Darrius Heyward-Bey because of his speed. That will be a mistake but Al Davis will have fallen in love with DH-B's quickness. Bonus prediction: Crabtree will probably win the 2009 Rookie of the Year Award.

1. I am doubtful that there will be a big trade to move a first rounder unless the on-again, off-again Cleveland Browns-New York Giants deal for WR Braylon Edwards is finally consummated for the G-Men's 29th pick overall, but that will only happen if there is a good wideout available when its New York's turn to draft. Talk about the Washington Redskins trading up for Sanchez will turn out to be just that -- talk. But then again, you never know with Washington.

One last thing to remember and it is this wisdom from Football Outsiders:

Great players are made, not born. If there's anything that eight years of draft analysis has taught me, that's it. Great players become great when they reach the NFL. They don't become Pro Bowlers or Hall of Famers in college, at the Combine or at the draft. They enter the NFL as raw material. They become players -- good, great, exceptional, legendary -- later in their lives.

Friday, April 24, 2009
Cool things on YouTube

Pelican eating a pigeon

Sports analysis meets rating girls. Killjoys will find this sexist but the lads are really making fun of broadcast sports commentary.


Lego Silence of the Lambs musical (has copious f-words).

Worst opening pitch ever
Or, the mayor was probably a Democrat.

Philosophy of life vs. rationalizations

Dilbert creator Scott Adams on his blog:

The downside of planning so far ahead is that you worry more, and you probably enjoy today less. The upside is that your golden years might be a bit shinier. I’m not saying my approach is the best, but I don’t think it’s fair to call the “live for today” approach any kind of philosophy unless you’re also quitting your job, having unprotected sex with strangers, and snorting coke. Junkies have a philosophy. You have rationalizations.

It's easy being green

Ryan Sager on being green and the massive being green love-in on Earth Day:

I’m of the opinion that most “green” personal choices are already completely about moral vanity — their scale makes them meaningless while endowing the environmentalist with a great sense of self-worth. So, the real effect of Earth Day, I think, is for this smugness to get a significant one-day boost. Which, the research would suggest, gives the green-conscious an internal license to be total bastards in some other area of their lives.

Wedding with a feminist-makeover

Writing in The Guardian, Jessica Valenti tells us about making her wedding more feminist. She seems pretty anti-marriage so I can't quite understand why she wants to join the club. Her poor husband. On the plus side, me thinks Andrew and Jessica will be together for three, four years tops.

Valenti writes about people mocking her feminazing up her nuptials and says that the criticism has drawn her and Andy closer together. (Honey, he has to pretend to be closer, that's how the game is played or he'd never hear the end of it from you.) Valenti says: "Andrew took a renewed interest in his wedding-planning tasks, recognising that it wasn't just important for the sake of my sanity, but as a political statement too." That's great: the marriage as a political statement, but that is to be expected from a couple that didn't want to get married until homosexual couples were allowed to get married, too.

First Things gets more things

The First Things website is growing. They note on their blog On the Square:

Today, we are pleased to announce the first of these new features with the additions of two blogs, Postmodern Conservative and Icons & Curiosities.

Icons and Curiosities, a shopping blog hosted by contributing writer Sally Thomas and editor Joseph Bottum, explores the curious and kitschy subculture where religion meets consumerism. At Postmodern Conservative a cadre of intriguing bloggers grapple with the “interworkings of political life, public philosophy, and religious faith” in the age of postmodernity.
They also have a fourth blog, clevered titled "blog". On the Square is really their daily article. Anyway, at Icons and Curiosities you can learn about Vaticanopoly. I am both excited and daunted by the amount of new reading FT is imposing on my life.

About incest

Ottawa Citizen columnist John Robson says that Parliament should just pass a law prohibiting incest and use the notwithstanding clause if courts strike such legislation down. Of course everyone knows that incest is revolting and offends human dignity, which is why Canada will legalize it within the decade. Remember in 1999, many Liberals who voted for same-sex 'marriage' in 2005 were opposed to extending marriage rights to homosexuals and said it would never, never, never happen. Let's start a pool on when incest will be legalized. I'll take November 2013. Ten bucks if you want in on the bet.

In all seriousness, if gays can marry why can't sibling or parents and children have sex. Same-sex 'marriage' wasn't the beginning of a slippery slope but the bottom of the hill and now the law has to catch up and permit all kinds of perversions. I'm not happy about that but we live in a society unable to make distinctions about right and wrong, or as Robson would call it Right and Wrong.

Interesting issue

The ladies at ProWomanProLife are discussing this story about Stan Musil, a California man who "has signed papers to symbolically 'adopt' and give his last name to his wife’s two aborted fetuses" in order to help his wife Lisa heal from the pain of those abortions. Both sweet and creepy, but I don't get how legally this can be done. Can one adopt a dead person? Well, no, as the story reports there is no mechanism for doing so. Strange all around.

Three and out (Bonus second edition)

3. Matt Snyder at Fanhouse on booing the home team.

2. New York Mets starter Johan Santana has a unique handshake for each team-mate.

1. Joseph Epstein once remarked of an author who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction after winning the Nobel Prize for Literature that it must be like drinking a cold cup of coffee. I thought of that comment when I saw that earlier this week Vin Scully was inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. It is surprising that the long-time Dodgers broadcaster isn't in the NAB Hall of Fame, considering that he has been in the Baseball Hall of Fame since 1982.

Three and out

3. Joe Posnanski breaks down the count. Amazing sports journalism and if you like baseball at all, it is worth investing the time it will take to drink a cup of coffee to appreciate the subtleties of the game a little better. Notable statistic: batters hit 338/344/547 on first pitches but 162/173/236 on 0-2 counts.

2. At Hardball Times Dan Turkenkopf has the first of a two-parter building on Posnanski's article on when pitchers 'waste' a 0-2 pitch (mostly trying to get batters to 'chase' low and outside) although he won't have the answer to whether this is a high percentage play until (probably) Monday. My guess, based partly on the high out rates Posnanski finds (OBP of just 173 when the next pitch results in an action play) indicates a high number of outs, presumably strikeouts.

1. The New York Post is trying to fan the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry ahead of their three-game series this weekend in Boston. (It doesn't need fanning.) It reports that BoSox DH David Ortiz has warned Joba Chamberlain to avoid pitching at their 1B Kevin Youkilis. In the past 20 months, Chamberlain has hit or nearly hit Youkilis four times. After Ortiz's unsolicited advice, I'd make it five, although by doing so, Chamberlain risks suspension.

Thursday, April 23, 2009
Four and down

4. Atlanta Falcons trade a second round pick in 2010 to the Kansas City Chiefs for 33-year-old TE Tony Gonzalez. Great move for both teams: KC is rebuilding and don't need the expensive tight end, whereas the Atlanta Falcons want to win now. The move gives second-year QB Matt Ryan another target and frees the Falcons to draft a defensive upgrade in the first round rather than risking a pick on a TE.

3. I have no idea who new Chiefs QB Matt Cassel is going to throwing to in Kansas City next season.

2. The Carolina Panthers signed QB Jake Delhomme to a five-year, $42.5 million extension. I don't like this at all. Delhomme is an aging quarterback, who has had a few poor seasons, and is in decline. Delhomme won't be Carolina's QB of the future so I'm not sure why their investing in him like he is.

1. Interesting fact from 2008 season in Greg Easterbrook's column on the draft (in which he argues persuasively for a rookie salary cap): "The top three offensive teams last season -- New Orleans, Denver and Houston -- did not make the playoffs. The top three defensive teams last season -- Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Philadelphia -- all made the playoffs."

What Earth Day means to Donald Boudreaux

Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek explains that his six-year-old son was assigned an essay "What Earth Day Means to Me," which inspired him to write his own on the topic:

Earth Day, to me, means an opportunity to express thanks for all the ways that capitalism makes our lives and environment cleaner and healthier.

I'm thankful for the automobile, which has cleaned our streets and highways of animal feces, which is both foul and filthy itself, and that attracts flies that spread it into our homes and workplaces.

I'm thankful for the automobile also because it allows us to travel in a cleaner environment than we had when we traveled on horseback or in buggies. Modern automobiles cool or heat the air immediately surrounding their passengers, making these passengers comfortable and, in summer, less sweaty and stinky.

I'm thankful for air-conditioning that keeps our interior environments not only comfortable but more healthy, as it allows us to better keep insects out of our homes, shops, factories, and offices -- and also, in humid places, to dramatically reduce the growth of mold and mildew in our homes.

I'm thankful for indoor plumbing. (The anti-polluting properties here are too obvious to spell out. Ditto for disposable diapers -- yet another product for which I'm most grateful.)

I'm thankful for the inexpensive soaps, shampoos, toothpastes, dental floss, toilet tissue, and plastic bandages and other first-aid items that make it possible for us to de-pollute our persons regularly.

I'm thankful for electronic appliances, such as those that (along with modern detergents - for which I'm also thankful) allow us to clean our used clothing and dirty dishes -- clean these more deeply and more thoroughly than was possible in the past without spending multiples of the time on such tasks that we spend on these tasks today. These appliances enable us to recycle our clothing and our dishes for many reuses.

I'm thankful for electricity for making these appliances possible - and for enabling us to light our home without dirty candles, and for enabling us to heat our homes without coal, wood, peat, or other filthy substances.

I'm thankful for plastics, which very effectively and at very low costs allow us to keep bacteria confined. A plastic storage bag, for example, keeps food bacteria confined to the interior of the bag.

I'm thankful for refrigeration for retarding the growth of bacteria and, hence, keeping our foods cleaner and healthier.

I'm thankful for chemical fertilizers that increase the productivity of the earth's soil, and thereby helps to prevent malnutrition -- which, in turn, better enables each of our bodies to succeed at fighting off diseases that are more likely to sicken, or even kill, malnourished persons.

I'm thankful for factories (and the fuels that power them) that make possible things such as modern textiles -- modern textiles that enable even poor people in market societies to own many changes of clean clothing.

I'm thankful for modern insecticides and cleansers that help to protect us from bugs and bacteria that would otherwise pollute our environments.

I am, in short, thankful for private-property markets that are the main driving force behind these (and many other) anti-pollutants -- a force so powerful that we today enjoy the incredible luxury of being able to worry, should we so choose, about very distant and very speculative forms of environmental problems such as species loss and global warming.

Three and out

3. Forbes slide show on the valuation of Major League Baseball teams and the accompanying story. Guess who's number one?

2. A highly technical analysis at Hardball Times of pitch types and how they affect the hitting of homeruns.

1. Tim Marchman has a post on the nonsense that Randy Johnson will be the last 300-win pitcher we'll ever see that in some respects is almost identical to something I wrote April 8. Two weeks ago I wrote: "I wouldn't bet on any particular pitcher reaching 300 wins but I would bet on one of them doing it, and if not one of the four I mentioned, then someone else." Among the four I listed was Johan Santana and Roy Halladay. Marchman says after looking at five pitchers, including Santana, Halladay, and CC Sabathia, "I wouldn't bet on any one of these five to win 300. I would bet that at least one of them will." Marchman includes these numbers which are quite illuminating: "CC Sabathia ended his age-27 season last year with 117 wins. Roger Clemens had 116 wins through the same age, Greg Maddux had 115, Tom Glavine had 95, and Johnson had 37. Sabathia, it might be noted, compares eerily well to Maddux at the same age."

Are Catholics more likely to believe in anthropomorphic global warming?

Commenting on a Gallup poll of world opinion on the source of global warming (man-made vs. non man-made), Nate Silver points out that predominantly Catholic countries are more likely as a whole to say that human activity causes global warming. Notably Catholic and Buddhist countries are the most accepting of the theory that global warming is the result of human activity, whereas countries that are predominantly Protestant, Muslim and tribal religions are (slightly) more skeptical. As Silver notes, Catholics within the US are also more willing to blame man for climate change and that might be decisive in future debates on policies such as cap-and-trade.

Watch Coren tonight

Rick McGinnis, my favourite entertainment writer, is on Michael Coren on CTS tonight as part of the show's culture panel. Here a clip from McGinnis' last appearance.

Numbers of the day

Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute reports that there are 1,804 federal subsidies programs in the United States. The catalogue of the programs is 2,205 pages long.

Hope and change and budgeting

Hope that they'll make cuts. Small change is what it might amount to if they are successful. (They won't be.) The budget grows -- and grows and grows and grow.

President Barack Obama has instructed his cabinet to cut $100 million in spending. To most people, $100 million sounds like a lot of money, but as George Will notes in his Washington Post column it is minuscule in the grand scheme of government spending:

Monday morning the government braced for austerity, as the government understands that. Having sent Congress a $3.5 trillion budget, the president signaled in advance -- perhaps so his Cabinet members could steel themselves for the new asceticism -- that at the first meeting of his Cabinet he would direct the 15 heads of departments to find economies totaling $100 million, which is about 13 minutes of federal spending, and 0.0029 percent -- about a quarter of one-hundredth of 1 percent -- of $3.5 trillion.
The whole column is worth reading. See also the Heritage Foundation blog which has a graphic to show exactly how small the proposed $100 million cuts would be and which includes Greg Mankiw's analogy of a family making similar cuts to the household budget.

This will make the green alarmists mad

Environmentally speaking, things aren't as bad as environmentalists would like them to be. Read, as I was yesterday, Steven Hayward's 14th Index of Leading Environmental Indicators (2009). Among the good news: there is more rainforest, more of the 'good' ozone, lower levels of airborne heavy metals and better water monitoring/management. It's not all good news, but a lot of the bad news isn't as bad as the public perception has it. Most importantly, the most severe environmental problems are associated with poverty (not development) and thus can be cured with capitalism.

Ten years later

I wonder if John Robson would compile the same list of 100 books worthy of a desert island if he were to undertake the exercise today. His original list appeared in the Ottawa Citizen on April 23, 1999. I fundamentally disagree with having to read Edgar Allen Poe; Robson's rational that a person should understand what the phrase "it was like a scene out of Poe" means does not militate the damage done wasting time on adolescent literary interests. And I would trade the Travels of Marco Polo for Freya Starks' excellent and under-appreciated Rome on the Euphrates. I also would not have made the agonizing choice between Augustine and Aquinas -- there's room for both. But these are relatively minor quibbles with an excellent list which is distinctly not the best 100 books (where is Marcel Proust, Henry James, and Anthony Powell?) but 100 books a cultural literate person has read (Ian Fleming, Dale Carnegie, and the aforementioned Poe). It is sort of sad, however, that Proust, James and Powell are not part of the canon of cultural literacy. Read the article, scan the list and set a decade-long goal to complete Robson's list.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Happy Earth Day

First read Wesley Smith's NRO article on the anti-human life element within the environmental movement. It is good throughout. Then read Kathy Shaidle's post on Earth Day founder and girlfriend killer Ira Einhorn. Shaidle quotes Ken Anderson, who wrote:
"After bludgeoning his girlfriend of five years to death, fracturing her skull in a dozen places, Ira stuffed her body into a trunk, which he packed into a closet where it remained until discovered by the police nearly two years later."
To which Shaidle adds maybe he "took the whole 'recycling' thing a little too far when he 'composted' his girlfriend’s remains in a trunk in his closet..." The post also covers the socialist origins of Earth Day. (Hint: It's V.I. Lenin's birthday.)

Crap from NewMajority

John Murdock says conservatives need to get over their hatred of Al Gore and embrace greenery. He concludes by talking leftist:

After all, we are only leasing this Earth from our children. Let’s return it to them in better shape than we found it, and let’s instill the love of nature that they will need when they then lease it from our grandkids.
I agree with Murdock on how marvelous the television series Planet Earth is and I, too, fondly recall watching Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. But he is talking pure nonsense when he says that we are leasing the Earth from future generations. Perhaps we should change the terms of the lease. What, we can't? Why? Because future generations can't negotiate a lease agreement. I wonder why so many people who think we have a duty to those yet conceived care little for the unborn. I'm not saying that is Murdock's view, I'm just pointing out a common confluence of views.

There's more crap from NM. David Jenkins blames former Club for Growth president Pat Toomey for the fact that Nancy Pelosi is the Speaker of the House -- not the wildly unpopular war in Iraq, not out-of-control government spending, not Republican corruption and incompetence. It's all Pat Tommey's fault. Is the NewMajority project an attempt to reinvigorate conservatism or is it only about giving the middle finger to other conservatives. Back at you FrumCons.

Two views on the torture memos

National Review's Rich Lowry:

Rightly considered, the memos should be a source of pride. They represent a nation of laws struggling to defend itself against a savage, lawless enemy while adhering to its legal commitments and norms. Most societies throughout human history wouldn’t have bothered.
The Cato Institute's Gene Healy:

Conservative legal analyst David Rivkin, one of Bush's most reliable defenders, insists that "any fair-minded observer" would conclude that the documents prove that "the Bush administration did not torture." But it's hard to understand how anyone could call what the administration did by any other name.
Healy says, "But anyone who understands the issue ought to feel some remorse over the damage our policy did to the rule of law and American interests abroad." Lowry, on the other, cheer leads for those who gave the most latitude to diminishing America's reputation: "[W]e carefully parsed each of our techniques to ensure it wouldn’t cause 'severe physical or mental pain or suffering.' This touchingly legalistic exercise at times took on a comic aspect." Speaking of a comic aspect, you are welcome to read Lowry's shilling for the Bush administration's darkest moments. This is what conservatism has become: a defenders of the state using barbaric methods to solicit information from barbaric people. That might sound right to the untutored ear, but as Healy quotes General David Petraeus' instruction to his troops warning against the use of torture: "Adherence to our values distinguishes us from our enemy." Exactly. We don't torture because it is beneath us.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

1. Q&A about pirates.

2. video of a day in the life of an NBA equipment manager (Phoenix Suns' Jay Gaspar).

3. Wall Street Journal rates the food at the two new Big Apple baseball stadia and it seems Citi (Mets) has the edge over Yankee Stadium. I don't know how they give Nathan's hotdogs a single, though; they're classic stadium fare.

4. NewScientist column on how carbon trading won't solve global warming. (Me: How do you solve a non-problem?)

5. "A Slate contest of precision and brevity and sport: Explain the game of baseball in 150 words or less."

Now blind people can enjoy me book

CNIB has my 2004 book Jean Chretien: A Legacy of Scandal on tape and Daisy CD (page 26 in the catalogue). You can also purchase the paperback through the publisher at Freedom Press (as well as other conservative books including Gerry Nicholls' Loyal to the Core). Apparently since FP reduced the price to $15.95, it has been selling again.

A combination of cheesy and morbid that is hard to pull off

Trillium Gift of Life's online campaign to promote organ donation is called and features a recycling box full of ... human organs. Keeping it classy.

(HT: ProWomanProLife)

Cat fight over gay marriage

The Daily Mail reports on the Miss USA pageant where Miss California, in reply to a question on gay marriage, said she was personally opposed to redefining marriage to include same-sex couples. Gay gossip monger Perez Hilton, a Miss USA judge, called her a "dumb bitch" and said that had she won he would have hopped on stage to rip off her tiara. The Mail says that Carrie Prejean, one of 15 finalists when she was asked the controversial question, probably lost the competition because of her answer. She was the first runner up to Kristen Dalton (Miss North Carolina).

Unfortunately, Prejean's answer is not very articulate and she sort of apologizes for her views. Notably, however, the audience reaction is mixed, a combination of cheers and boos.