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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Sunday, March 31, 2013
Major League Baseball 2013 Prediction
AL East
Tampa Bay Rays: 92-70. A healthy Evan Longoria's bat combined with defensive upgrades SS Yunel Escobar and 1B James Loney that will make the groundball-inducing rotation even better, makes the Rays the class of the division.
Toronto Blue Jays: 87-75. Even with the additions of three-fifths of a very good rotation (Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, R.A. Dickey), perhaps the best shortstop in the game (Jose Reyes) and a player Melky Cabrera that would have qualified for the NL batting average crown if he hadn't been suspended for PED use, the Blue Jays have a long way to go from 73 wins to winning a division. Overall the additions help a lot, but Dickey is unlikely to be as good as he was last year when he won the NL Cy Young, Cabrera is a bit of a question mark after his suspension, and the best producer at the plate for the Jays last year, 1B Edwin Encarnacion, is unlikely to repeat his feat (42 HRs). In a division that could have a lot of close games, having the worst bullpen in the East is a liability.
New York Yankees: 85-77. I have spent so much of the baseball off-season calming down Yankee fans/explaining to Yankee haters that the Bronx Bombers are still a pretty good team with a real shot at the playoffs and even the division title. The fact as a 95-game winner in 2012, they have some room for digression and still be a serious contender. But having spent four months saying that Kevin Youkilis is an approximate replacement for an injured Alex Rodriguez, the loss of Nick Swisher is partly made up for the return of a healthy Brett Gardner, that the starting rotation is one of the three or four best in the AL, the bullpen is probably top three, that the team still has some of the great hitters in the game, and Curtis Granderson's injury will probably see him miss only one month of the season. It is easy to diminish every next problem/challenge that arises. Now Mark Teixeira is hurt, Derek Jeter starts the season on the DL, Granderson is out longer than originally thought, and closer Mariano Rivera has migraines. But the fact is the pitching is still good, the team has the resources to find replacements if they keep it close until the Summer, and last year's team was one of the most injured and they still ended up with an AL-leading 95 wins. At some point age and health will catch up to the Yankees, but predictions of sub-500 ball are premature and it wouldn't totally surprise me to see everyone return and produce at a level that gets them into the playoffs.
Boston Red Sox: 80-82. The Red Sox were the second most injured team last year and when some of their stars did play (2B Dustin Pedroia, CF Jacob Ellsbury) they were nearly career worst performances. A return to health and a return to typical seasons would have Boston a 500-team again. The back of the rotation is a question mark (can John Lackey get his career back on track) and there are questions about the health of free agent addition 1B/C Mike Napoli. Boston starts the season with their best hitter, DH David Ortiz, on the DL.
Baltimore Orioles: 76-86. They were lucky last year: 29-9 in one-run games and 16-2 in extra inning contests. Regression is a bitch. (CF Adam Jones had a career-best year with an OPS of 839 that was 47 points higher than his next best season.) Baltimore's rotation is not very good (Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Tillman, and Miguel Gonzalez are the 2-3-4 starters) and Baltimore ends up at the bottom of a still-tough division. The Orioles need catcher Matt Wieters and 3B Manny Machado to mature/develop quickly into the type of players they were/are projected to be if they want to stay out of the cellar.
AL Central
Detroit Tigers: 96-66. Detroit has the best rotation and best lineup in the division. In Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, the Tigers have two legit Cy Young contenders. In 1B Prince Fielder and 3B Miguel Cabrera the Tigers have two legit MVP contenders and the addition of free agent RF Torii Hunter and return to health of C/DH Victor Martinez, the hitting got even better.
Kansas City Royals: 80-82. The rotation is better with the additions of James Shields, Ervin Santana, and Wade Davis, but they have a slightly below average on-base percentage and slugging percentage and their 131 HRs were the fourth worst in the majors. The Royals won only 72 games so continued progress with the young hitters and the improved starting pitching should have the Royals challenging for 500.
Cleveland Indians: 79-83. The Indians were sixth worst in MLB in both HRs and slugging percentage so the additions of OF Nick Swisher, OF Drew Stubbs, and 1B Mark Reynolds who bring their 2012 61 total homers to Cleveland add some power. Free agent Michael Bourn brings a career 339 OBP and five consecutive seasons of 40+ SB to lead-off position. As much as the lineup is improved, the rotation remains ugly; while Trevor Bauer might develop into a great starter, the total number of starts by pitchers on the 2013 roster with an ERA under 5.00 in 2012 is four.
Chicago White Sox: 76-86. I see the ChiSox has a team capable of winning between 75 and 85 games. They had three comeback player of the year candidates last year so expect some regression with the likes of Alex Rios, Adam Dunn and Jake Peavy. I expect Chris Sale to have a good season but not as good as last year (3.05 ERA in 192 IP his third season) and relievers are notoriously inconsistent so their relief corps should expect regression. Their best hitters are battling age (1B Paul Konerko, DH/OF Dunn) and if they begin to slow down, the ChiSox are in trouble. It is unreasonable for Chicago to expect so many of their players to repeat in exceeding expectations. If they do repeat, the ChiSox is in the hunt for a wild card, but that does not seem a safe bet.
Minnesota Twins: 65-97. Catcher Joe Mauer cannot do it all. Justin Morneau has too many injuries and is no longer an elite first basemen, they lost their leadoff hitter and centerfielder, Denard Span, and leading base-stealer in RF Ben Revere, in trades. The rotation is a mess. The middle infield will be an on-base black hole as SS Pedro Florimon and 2B Brian Dozier combined for a 272 OBP last year.
AL West
Los Angeles Angels: 93-69. I think replacing starters Zack Greinke, Dan Haren, and Ervin Santana with Jason Vargas, Tommy Hanson, and Joe Blanton is a significant downgrade, even factoring in the 5.16 ERA of Santana, but this is still a pretty good rotation headlined by C.J. Wilson and Jared Weaver. The Angels were a different team after they brought up OF Mike Trout, the best player in the Majors, from the minors after a miserable April. With Trout, free agent OF Josh Hamilton and perennial All Star 1B Albert Pujols, the offense is ridiculously good; along with OF Mark Trumbo, the Angels have four players who swatted 30 or more HRs in 2012. The Angels are the best team in the AL period, but being in a tougher division than the Tigers, they end up with an inferior record.
Oakland A's: 84-78. Oakland increased their HR total from 2011 to 2012 by 81 to 195 and some regression is to be expected. Ditto for the AL third best starting ERA (3.80) and second best bullpen ERA (2.94). There is talent on the roster, platooning will help mask some weaknesses, and the progress of LF Yoenis Cespedes in his second year all keep Oakland in contention for the wild card, but this team will have serious trouble replicating their 94-win season.
Texas Rangers: 82-80: The Rangers went from an offensively potent lineup to one that is just slightly above average. Texas won 93 games last year but they lost OF Josh Hamilton and his 43 HRs to a division rival (Angels) through free agency, saw All Star catcher Mike Napoli take his 24 HRs to Boston, and will almost certainly experience regression with their best remaining hitter, 3B Adrian Beltre (321/359/561, 36 HRs). There are numerous injuries in the starting rotation and relief corps and by late Spring we will see how All Star 2B Ian Kinsler or All Star SS Elvis Andrus responds to being moved to make room for one of the best three hitting prospects in baseball, middle infielder Jurickson Profar.
Seattle Mariners: 81-81. First improvement by subtraction, letting go catcher Miguel Olivo (239 OBP in 323 plate appearances) and utility player Chone Figgins (262 OBP in 191 PAs). They added legit bats in DH/1B Kendry Morales (281/331/491 over his career with 67 HRs in his last 2.5 years) from the Angels and OF Mike Morse (295/347/492) from the Nationals as well as reclamation project OF Jason Bay (165/237/299 last year with the Mets but a career 269/363/485). If C/DH Jesus Montero develops into the kind of player everyone expected when he was in the Yankees organization, this lineup could be potent. The rotation is thin after Felix Hernandez, a perennial Cy Young contender, especially after Jason Vargas was traded to the Angels, but they are helped by the best defense in the division if not the league. 500 seems attainable after a 75-win season while posting the worst BA, OBP, and SLG in baseball. They will certainly improve on their horrendous 296 OBP and if breakout candidates such as Montero, 1B Jason Smoak, and 2B Dustin Ackley all have career years, Seattle could find themselves the 2013 version of the Baltimore Orioles.
Houston Astros: 59-103. The question is whether the Astros will be historically terrible or just comprehensively awful. According to most projections they will be lucky to have a starter with an ERA under 4.50 (Bud Norris, maybe) and a single hitter with an OBP above 333 (DH Carlos Pena). There are pundits wondering if Houston reaches 50 wins.
NL East
Washington Nationals: 100-62. A full season of OF Bryce Harper (late call-up in 2012) and starter Stephen Strasburg (late-season shut-down last year), combined with legit lead-off hitter Denard Span makes the MLB 2012 leading winner (98 victories) even better, although they will miss the power bat of OF Mike Morse (18 HRs in 406 ABs). Dan Haren is probably an upgrade for fourth starter over Edwin Jackson. One area of concern is 2B Ian Desmond who likely will not replicate his 292/335/511, 25 HR performance.
Atlanta Braves: 91-71. Adding the two Upton brothers (B.J. and Justin) to the outfield makes up for the loss of 3B Chipper Jones (retirement), OF Michael Bourn (free agency), and utility player Martin Prado (trade). Catcher Gerald Laird is a suitable backup and replacement for injured All Star Brian McCann until he returns in May or June. The starting pitching is good although eventually the Braves will lose a game Kris Medlen starts (23 consecutive wins over two years when he begins a game). The relief pitching is probably the best and most consistent in baseball. The bench is strong and diverse. The Braves are going to win a wild card spot easily.
Philadelphia Phillies: 86-76. The team was riddled with injuries last season and dumped a lot of salary in the Summer and still ended up with a 500 record. Assuming starter Roy Halladay has not forgotten how to throw a fastball (he is struggling to get it into the high 80s, let alone the 90s in Spring Training), with the addition of speedy outfielder Ben Revere and talented reliever Mike Adams, a return to health for Chase Utley, the probable emergence of outfielder Dominic Brown, and the chance for utility player Michael Young to rejuvenate his career, the Phillies are in the hunt for a wild card. A team with two true aces in Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee is going to be tough to beat most nights; if Halladay returns to something like himself, Philly will win a playoff spot.
New York Mets: 73-89. The rotation might be better than average if the young talent plays to potential and quite good once Zack Wheeler gets the call-up but with the news that Johan Santana has re-injured his anterior capsule in his left shoulder and is out for the season is a huge setback. It is surprising that the lineup is slightly better than average in terms of OBP because it looks awful, but the significantly below average slugging percentage confirms this is not a team with potent bats. Beyond 3B David Wright and 2B Daniel Murphy, not a lot of Mets will be picked in 10-team National League-only fantasy leagues. Highly touted catching prospect Travis D'Arnaud is starting the season in the minors. The rest of the team looks dreadful.
Miami Marlins: 58-104. With their salary dump, the team has very little in the way of proven Major League talent beyond RF Giancarlo Stanton in the lineup or Ricky Nolasco on the pitching staff.
NL Central
St. Louis Cardinals: 92-70. Here is the case for the Cards winning about 85 games: Losing Kyle Lohse hurts the rotation and after 15 seasons Carlos Beltran is due for further slow down; his 2012 slash stats were well below his recent numbers. However one through six the Cards lineup is as good as any in baseball, the rotation is very good as long as Lance Lynn and Jaime Garcia do not regress very much. The bullpen is solid.
Pittsburgh Pirates: 87-75. The young talent continues to develop and if the rotation looks more like it did before the second straight late-season collapse, the Pirates will be very good. Because of those consecutive August/September collapses in 2011 and 2012, many pundits do not think they can take the next step. Says here they will.
Cincinnati Reds: 85-77. The youngish lineup and rotation are candidates to improve and/or regress. A full season of Joey Votto adds a win or so, but I doubt that they will have all five members of the rotation start 30+ games again and even if they do, not all members of the rotation will repeat their stellar 2012 seasons: Johnny Cueto is the most obvious candidate for regression (2.78 ERA in 33 starts) but so might Mat Latos (3.48 in 33 starts), Bronson Arroyo (3.74 ERA in 32 starts), and Homer Bailey (3.68 ERA in 33 starts).
Milwaukee Brewers: 77-85. This was an 83 win team last year with Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum combining for about 250 IP. Both are now gone. Staff ace Yovani Gallardo is one of the best starters in the NL, but Marco Estrada and Mike Fier threw almost certainly unsustainably well during their first full chances in the rotation and regression is expected; the signing of Kyle Lohse last week was imperative but insufficient. The Brewers led the NL in runs last season and will have trouble replicating that. I would not bet on second-year Japanese import RF Norichika Aoki replicating his 288/355/433 rookie season or CF Carlos Gomez replicating his breakout 19 HR and 463 slugging percentage. It is reasonable to think that LF Ryan Braun might be distracted by the constant PED questions and MLB's jihad against him. And the Brewers have the scariest experiment in baseball this year with 1B Corey Hart out until at least May and probably longer: using career shortstop Alex Gonzalez (1,559 games at the position) and his 292 career OBP at first. The rest of the division is getting better, the Brew Crew no longer have the Houston Astros to beat up on, and the regression monster will haunt both hitters and pitchers.
Chicago Cubs: 71-91. Not a lot of Major League talent on this squad, but there are so many young and unproven players that striking lightning with several breakouts is almost certain. But they will need a lot more than two or three pleasant surprises (headlined by 1B Anthony Rizzo who is a threat to hit 30 HRs in his rookie campaign) to compete in 2013.
NL West
Los Angeles Dodgers: 92-70. The Dodgers added a lot of salary last year with mid-season acquisitions 1B Adrian Gonzalez, LF Carl Crawford, and pitcher Josh Beckett and they should all put up at least slightly better numbers than they did last year. Another mid-season pickup, Hanley Ramirez is probably the most potent shortstop bat in the Majors. In the off-season they added the best starter on the market Zach Greinke to combine with perennial Cy Young contender Clayton Kershaw and a solid back-end of the rotation that includes Chad Billingsley to put together a starting staff that might be better than San Francisco's. A full year of Matt Kemp -- he missed a month last year in which the Dodgers were under 500 -- and LA has the makings of dominant team. They do not have a lot of bench or bullpen strength and manager Don Mattingly is too by-the-book to make things work if the Dodgers suffer multiple injuries to their potentially All Star-laden lineup.
San Francisco Giants: 88-74. The Giants were last in the Majors in HRs with 103 (13 less than the next most futile team). They will miss Melky Cabrera's 346/390/515 line but they have 2012 mid-season acquisitions RF Hunter Pence and SS Marco Scutaro for the full season, as well as a healthy Pablo Sandoval. Expect Tim Lincecum to bounce back from a poor season (5.18 ERA) but Barry Zito should regress a bit (4.15 ERA). It should even out theoretically, but the Giants still look like a team that will lose a few more games in part because the Dodgers are that much better than last year.
San Diego Padres: 77-85. They are moving the outfield walls in at Petco and who knows how that will affect the team. I say it is a wash, hurting the pitchers slightly and helping hitters like outfielder Carlos Quentin and 3B Chase Headley. Not much changes, although San Diego is a candidate for a number of youngish players making a jump in production and rookie 2B Jedd Gyorko has some pop. The rotation is horrendous and will need a lot of luck not to be the worst in baseball (once numbers are adjusted for the home park pitchers advantage).
Arizona Diamondbacks: 75-87. The rotation is solid if unspectacular and the lineup is good but not great. They lost their highest ceiling player in Justin Upton (trade with Atlanta) and some of their young talent screams regression risk (1B Paul Goldschmidt) as does some of their proven talent (2B Aaron Hill). The outfield defense is the worst in baseball. In many ways this looks like a 500 team, but they will come up short.
Colorado Rockies: 69-93. I think the reason new manager Walt Weiss was only offered a one-year contract is that this is not quite a rebuilding season and the Rox could change directions in 2014 after they get away from Todd Helton's contract. Colorado is a bad team with a terrible rotation and are candidates for 100 losses but it is hard to reach the century mark in defeats with C Wilin Rosario (28 HRs), SS Troy Tulowitzki (who only played 47 games in 2012) and five outfielders who hit double digit homeruns last year including Carlos Gonzalez (career 299/355/518).
Wild Cards:
NL: Giants over Braves
AL: Yankees over Blue Jays
Divisional Playoffs:
Tigers over Yankees
Angels over Rays
Nationals over Giants
Dodgers over Cardinals
League Championships:
AL: Angels over Tigers
NL: Nationals over Cardinals
World Series:
Angels over Nationals
AL: Mike Trout (Angels)
NL: Andrew McCutchen (Pirates)
Cy Young:
AL: Felix Hernandez (Mariners)
NL: Stephen Strasburg (Nationals)
Manager of the Year:
AL: Joe Girardi (Yankees)
NL: Clint Hurdle (Pirates)
Rookie of the Year:
AL: Wil Myers (OF, Rays)
NL: Anthony Rizzo (1B, Cubs)

Happy Easter
Late tonight I will have my Major League Baseball predictions for 2013. Until then I will be celebrating Easter with the family. For your enjoyment, below is I Know My Redeemer Liveth by Handel.

Saturday, March 30, 2013
Peter Kormos, RIP
Former NDP MPP and provincial cabinet minister Peter Kormos has died at the age of 60. I have no pleasant memories of him. He was obnoxious in the legislature and when I debated him on CHCH in 2006 on the issue of organ donation -- he favoured assumed consent to harvest organs, I argued against -- he actually physically pushed me just before we went on air and poked me during the discussion. When I asked him which standard of brain death we would use as there were more than 20 different standards used in various jurisdictions in Canada, the United States, and Europe, he said we would use the best one and dismissed the question. He had a breezy indifference to facts, but he was a great debater because he had a powerful presence and appeared to care about average folks; he also wore cowboys boots so he would be taller than most people he talked to. I just knew before checking that Warren Kinsella would love this kind of jerk. Politics is poorer because loudmouths who favour theatrics over substance win the emotion game.

Cheating educators
Breitbart reports that nearly three dozen teachers, principals, and administrators in Atlanta, including a former Superintendent of the Year (2009), were charged with conspiracy, making false statements and theft after they helped students cheat in standardized tests. The tests were the basis for judging teachers and bonuses were tied to student success so there are clearly incentives for teachers to cheat (as Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner write about in Freakonomics). This is the great dark side of standardized testing that the political Right does not want to acknowledge: tying accountability to a system that teachers can thwart so easily is a bad idea. But beyond the fraud perpetuated by educators, there is the terrible toll on innocent kids (this is why I advocate class action suits against teachers, their unions, and school boards):
The other student cited by [Fulton County District Attorney Paul] Howard was a third-grader who failed a benchmark exam and received the worst score in her reading class in 2006. The girl was held back, yet when she took a separate assessment test not long afterward, she passed with flying colors.
Howard said the girl's mother, Justina Collins, knew something was wrong, but was told by school officials that the child simply was a good test-taker. The girl is now in ninth grade, reading at a fifth-grade level.
This should be criminal. And finally, in Atlanta, they are treating it as such.

Could Canadians get the Cyprus treatment
Brian Lilley reports that the most recent federal budget calls for changes to permit banks have bail-in schemes in which depositors will be forced to pay to prop up too-big-to-fail financial institutions. Lilley says, "Canada has a new regime for possible bank failure and it looks exactly like Cyprus." Not likely to ever happen you say? Lilley says: "Some think that is a probability that will never happen but obviously the Finance Department thinks it could happen or it would not devise rules."

Friday, March 29, 2013
Good Friday
Haydn's "The Seven Last Words of Christ" (Part 1) based on the Seven Last Sayings of Christ on the Cross.

Thursday, March 28, 2013
I'm conflicted about Dale Peterson
Dale Peterson, star of a number of campaign ads that went viral in 2010 when he ran for Alabama Agriculture Commissioner, has been arrested for eating 22-cents worth of peanuts. The Daily Caller reported:
Peterson confirmed to TheDC that he was taken to jail after shopping Wednesday afternoon at a Sam’s Club. Store security accused him of stealing after he ate a handful of cashews from a jar and then returned the nuts to a shelf an hour-and-a-half later after deciding not to purchase them.
Charging him seems excessive. But it is theft (and stupid) to consume food while shopping and returning the container to the shelf. Even though Peterson didn't win office, it almost seems that he has an inflated sense of entitlement.

Francis bio ready within two weeks
From Ignatius Press: Francis: Pope of a New World by Andrea Tornielli. Comes in hardcover and ebook.

Three games to watch in the Sweet Sixteen
3. Indiana (1) vs. Syracuse (4): 9:45 Thursday, East Region. One could see either of these teams winning two more games to make it to the Final Four or either of them flaming out tonight in a heap of terrible play. Contrary to earlier reports, 'Cuse coach Jim Boeheim has said he will continue coaching, taking away the drama of this possibly being his last game on the sidelines. The Orange play a beguiling 2-3 defense that often throws off tournament teams, but Indiana has had all week to prepared. Plus the Hoosiers shoot about 40% from beyond the arc which is the best way to beat the Syracuse defense. If Indiana has a cold night from a distance and is not sinking treys, this game will be very close because Syracuse is capable of shutting down the number 1 ranked Indiana offense. While the Orange have trouble scoring when they play half-court basketball, they should get their opportunity to put points on the scoreboard in the transition game off of Indiana's up-tempo style of play. In other words, the Hoosiers are a good match-up for the Orange. These are two elite basketball programs and one of them ends their season tonight.
2. Michigan State (3) vs. Duke (2): 9:45 Friday, Midwest Region. The focus of the commentators on TV will be how this is a battle between two of the best coaches in the game, but this is much more than a contest between Tom Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski. Two of the bluebloods of college basketball, this is a great contest between two sides capable of winning it all and playing for the right to face tournament favourite Louisville, and the two very good teams on the court. Ken Pomeroy has them ranked as the sixth and seventh best team in the country, with Michigan State's strength being defense and Duke's being offense, although they both rank in the top 25 for Adjusted Efficiency in both categories. Neither team is going to make the kind of mistakes to lose a game (although anyone can have an off night), so the better team should win this one. And it should be very close. I would be surprised if these two teams are separated by more than 2-3 possessions with two minutes remaining.
1. Florida Gulf Coast (15) vs. Florida (3): 9:57 Friday, South Region. Unfortunately this contest is all about narrative, even if one doesn't get into the personal life of FGCU coach Andy Enfield (pro shooting coach, married a Maxim model, became a tech entrepreneur, has been coaching for two years, is facing Billy Donovan under whom he was an assistant coach). The Spartans vs. Blue Devils is college basketball royalty. The Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, not so much so. FGCU is the most Cinderella team of the tournament, the first 15-seed to make the Sweet Sixteen. America loves an underdog and all that and if that's why you want to cheer for the Eagles as they get ready to face a genuine member of the college hoops aristocracy, go ahead. When Florida was winning the first of back-to-back NCAA tournaments in 2006, Florida Gulf Coast was still a half decade away from playing Division I basketball. But that's not the reason why people who are tuning into this contest rather than Michigan State/Duke will be rewarded. Another reason to watch this game, and to cheer for the the FGCU Eagles, is that they play an entertaining, up-tempo style of basketball with a lot of alley-oops (they have been dubbed Dunk City by fans). Teams that can't keep up, get beat. Florida Gulf Coast has beaten two high seeds by precisely ten points each (#2 Georgetown and #7 San Diego State University) and beat ACC regular season and tournament champion Miami back in November. The Eagles are a narrative favourite and it is fun cheering for a Cinderella, especially when that team has played only two seasons in Division I, but they play a game that is supremely fun to watch. They now face a team that Ken Pomeroy's computer determines to be the best so far this year and thus he figures the Eagles are the only team with less than a 10% chance of moving on to the next round. I'm not so sure, even if the Gators just had what Basketball Prospectus called "the most statistically dominant season [we have] ever witnessed from a major-conference team" including last year's Kentucky team that won it all. The Gators should win this one, but the Eagles can't be written off and should make this contest really fun to watch. Fast-paced games can be wild. Florida will be thrown off their game as they are one of the most plodding teams this season (about 60 possessions per game, similar to Georgetown and about 10 less than Florida Gulf Coast plays). Florida has famously not won a game decided by less than 10 points all year; that doesn't mean they can't win a close game, but we'll see what they'll do if its a tight contest Friday night. If the narrative gets you in front of this game, the basketball will keep you there.

Feds fund snail sex study reports:
The National Science Foundation awarded a grant for $876,752 to the University of Iowa to study whether there is any benefit to sex among New Zealand mud snails and whether that explains why any organism has sex.
The study, first funded in 2011 and continuing until 2015, will study the New Zealand snails to see if it is better that they reproduce sexually or asexually – the snail can do both – hoping to gain insight on why so many organisms practice sexual reproduction.
I would propose that if scientists are interesting on the sex habits of slimy creatures they study Congressmen.

Will Justice Roberts be Bush II's David Souter?
Chief Justice John Roberts looks to be the weak link swing vote on the marriage question before the U.S. Supreme Court. But while Roberts has looked and acted like a conservative in the past, former Justice David Souter didn't ever show much inclination to judicial modesty, originalism, or conservative ideas. Instead of being ideologically centre-left John Roberts seems to be easily intimidated by the Left. Breitbart reports that the Left is targeting Roberts as a bigot in hopes of moving his vote:
This time, the charge is being led by the left media, including Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post, who penned a front-page article attacking Roberts for his past rulings on race and discrimination. Roberts's Obamacare decision, or his support for overturning most of Arizona's allegedly discriminatory immigration law (another 2012 debacle) apparently earned no points from Grim, who castigates Roberts for ignoring race.
This kind of thing shouldn't work, but it does. Justice Clarence Thomas has said he doesn't read the New York Times or socialize with Washington's elite because he does not want to care what they think about him. It is excellent advice in general and if Chief Justice Roberts is prone to such pressure, he should make such an example his own imperative.

I didn't know white people hated the Miami Heat
That's not fair -- it is Chicago fans celebrating ending the Bulls ending Miami's 27-game winning streak and you don't often see visible minorities in the front rows of sporting events -- but this SB Nation article is hilarious: "White people celebrate Heat loss in exceedingly white fashion." Picture is great. Comments are better.

Build a better condom: the priorities of Bill Gates and the media
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funds the Grand Challenges on Global Health which is currently offering a prize if someone can build a better condom. The CBC reports: "The foundation is offering $100,000 in grant money to fund any group that can come up with a prototype 'that significantly preserves or enhances pleasure, in order to improve uptake and regular use'." Impatient Optimists thinks this is a splendid idea; of course, Impatient Optimists is an official blog of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It says plenty about our society that all the news coverage on the five Challenges the Foundation is funding is about the "next generation of condoms" and not "New Approaches for Detection, Treatment, and Control of Selected Neglected Tropical Diseases."

Wednesday, March 27, 2013
11 NCAA observations and comments so far
1. Everyone agrees that college hoops isn't as good today as it was 5, 10, or 20 years ago. Sure. But the NCAA Tournament is still fantastic with numerous upsets and a 15-seed team making it to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in tourney history. The games were fun. Loved watching it.
2. Oregon was under-seeded at #12 in the Midwest region but if the Ducks had been seeded higher they might not have made it to the Sweet Sixteen and if they had been seeded 8 or 9, they would have faced Louisville in Round Three. So the "dis" has actually helped them. With convincing wins over #5 Oklahoma State 68-55 and then upsetting a sleeper favourite St. Louis (#4) 74-57. OSU has a tough contest against probably the best team in the country, but they are capable of beating the Louisville Cardinals and advancing to the Elite Eight. The run has been exciting whatever happens this weekend.
3. Gonzaga was a controversial #1 seed, but the fact that they were beat in their second game is not proof that they did not deserve their seeing. They had a narrow victory over Southern (six points, one better than #1 Kansas did against #16 Western Kentucky), but followed that up with a 76-70 loss to #9 seed Wichita State. Losses happen. The 'Zags were 31-2 in a weak conference and the West Coast Conference tourney winner and while I would have chosen Duke as a one-seed, I don't think there is a great injustice in putting Gonzaga over the Blue Devils (after Louisville, Kansas, and Indiana, you could make an argument for each of Gonzaga, Duke, and Miami for the final #1 seed). The 'Zags losing in Round Three to a very good #9 seed is no more evidence they didn't deserve their #1 seeding than Georgetown losing to upstart Florida Gulf Coast 78-68 in Round Two proves the Hoyas didn't deserve their second seed.
4. That North Carolina and Kansas game was awful. The first half was exciting, but not because it was great basketball. It was back-and-forth, but precisely because neither team was playing all that well. The Tar Heels got off to an early 10-point lead, the Jayhawks roared back to tie it up, and still found themselves behind by nine points at the half. It was the third consecutive poor half for Kansas in this tournament. They -- and UNC -- missed three out of four shots, and there were sloppy turnovers galore. It really seemed that UNC could win but it was unlikely that #1 Kansas was going to hit one a quarter of their shots or hand the ball over so easily so often. In the second half, Kansas played like a top seed and ran away with the game. If the Jayhawks played like they did in the second half, they can win the tournament, but if they struggle like they had in the other three halves, they will have trouble beating the higher, remaining seeds (Michigan, the winner of Florida vs. Florida Gulf Coast, the winner of the East region (their top four seeds), and then presumably Louisville, Duke or Ohio St).
5. Georgetown has been inconsistent and Gonzaga has its weaknesses and was untested, so the biggest upset in my mind was defensive powerhouse Wisconsin (#5) losing by 11 points to #12 Ole Miss. I thought the Badgers could ride their defense deep into the NCAA tournament and their opening game defeat surprised me. A close second for biggest upset was #4 St. Louis (one of the top 15 teams in the country) losing to Oregon by 17. The Billikens are a top 10 defense and I didn't see them giving up 74 points in a loss to the Ducks. And of course there was that Harvard (#14) opening victory over New Mexico (#3)
6. Want to beat Syracuse? Stop them in the paint. More than a quarter of their points (26.7%) come off dunks. The second most dunk-dependent team is Louisville, at 19.4%.
7. If you like favourites moving on, the East is your division. Only two upsets by seed and neither is that big of a deal: #9 Temple beat #8 North Carolina State and #12 Cal over #5 UNLV in what was practically a home game. I don't consider either an upset. But the final four from the region are the #1 (Indiana), #2 (Syracuse), #3 (Miami), and #4 (Marquette) seeds. Not that it was easy; Marquette moved on but didn't make it easy, beating Davidson and Butler by a total of three points. They beat Davidson with three treys in the final minute despite being a lousy three-point team. That's why they call it March Madness.
8. The other three regions each have a 12-seed or worse still in the tournament: Florida Gulf Coast (#15) in the South, La Salle (#13) in the West, and #12 Oregon (Midwest). All three have a decentish chance to move on as Florida GC has a potent offense, La Salle plays #9 Wichita State, and Oregon, even though they face Louisville, is a very good team. It is possible that in the West, the Elite Eight match-up could have either La Salle or Wichita State facing #6 Arizona. Every other region could have a first seed playing a second or third seed.
9. The Wall Street Journal reports that teams with bird names are doing well, but historically dogs and cats do better (and horses worse).
10. It is possible that my predictions for the Elite Eight could come true in three of four regions, with only one of my final eight being bounced so far (I had #5 Wisconsin in West making it that far). I maintain my Final Four predictions: Indiana (#1 in the East), Florida (#3 in the South), Ohio State (#2 West), and Duke (#2 Midwest), with Duke beating Ohio State and Indiana over Florida, although I'm less confident about the latter (and less confident that the Blue Devils get past the Cardinals in the Midwest). I like that Indiana won both games ugly, showing they can still win games in which they do not dominate. Good teams find ways to win.
11. This is weird: it is possible (but highly unlikely) that the Final Four come from the Big 10 conference: Indiana, Michigan (South), Michigan State (West), and Ohio State. Only once has a conference sent three teams to the Final Four, when the Big East sent Georgetown, St. John's and Villanova in 1985. It is possible for an all-Michigan final. It is also possible to have an all-Kansas final (Wichita State vs. Kansas).

Called it
A few months ago I called bullshit on a story about a looming chicken wing shortage. Ends up there is no shortage. But the wings are getting bigger. I don't see a problem. Time magazine says this is a problem because restaurants are paying more per pound but they typically sell wings by the unit. Obvious solution: raise the price of wings. I imagine advertising that the wings are bigger would be a huge bonus for sales so a 4% bump in price will be no concern to consumers. Again, journalism sees a crisis where none exists because the small "problem" will be self-corrected by the market.

Human Achievement Hour a huge success in Edmonton
Small Dead Animals points to this story from Edmonton: "EPCOR also measured power consumption from 7:30 p.m. to the start of Earth Hour at 8:30 p.m. The result? Edmontonians actually used more power during Earth Hour than in the hour that preceded it."
This is interesting and brings into question the "successes" of Earth Hour in other cities:
Comparing the Earth Hour figures against the totals recorded a week earlier during the same time period showed a three per cent decrease in energy consumption. However, it is unclear how much of that reduction was due to energy conservation efforts, according to [EPCOR spokesman Nikki] van Dusen. “It’s hard to say,” she said. “It is normal to see a variation of plus or minus 10 per cent when comparing any given hour’s power consumption to the previous week’s figure.”

Is Sarah Thomson breaking the law?
I don't have a huge problem with unpaid internships, but they are generally illegal in Ontario. Sarah Thomson's The Women's Post has posted an advertisement for an unpaid internship at the publication. No pay but lots of those "sweet, sweet bylines." Can people eat bylines? Can people sleep in a byline? (No Sarah Thomson jokes please.) Youth and Work has the ad, some commentary, and informed and interesting comments.
(HT: Blazing Cat Fur)

Me on the Conservative Party and abortion
One of Conservative MP Mark Warawa's colleagues wants him punished for raising the abortion issue. I have some thoughts at Soconvivium.

Blogging SCOTUS and SSM
Ed Whelan is doing a great job explaining the legal/constitutional issues being considered by the Supreme Court of the United States in all matters Prop 8/DOMA at NRO's Bench Memos. Rewards frequent checking.

Great quote
David French in The Corner reminds Christians that there can be (and should be) a cost for holding true to our beliefs: "Jesus didn’t die to become our therapist, and God is not our life coach." We cannot abandon principle because it is not easy or there is some high personal cost.

Liberal leadership race (March 27 edition)
Justin Trudeau impersonates Kim Campbell.
More than a month after Deborah Coyne made her response to the National Women's Liberal Commission Questionnaire public, Karen McCrimmon has released her answers to the Liberal Women's Caucus. National Women's Liberal Commission. Liberal Women's Caucus. No wonder the party is in trouble. Reminds you of the People's Front of Judea (NSFW).
Continuing the heated debate from the weekend debate, Joyce Murray wants electoral cooperation on the left. Martha Hall Findlay doesn't. MHF calls the electoral cooperation plan "dangerous" because it could elect NDP leader Thomas Mulcair prime minister. The Hill Times reports that some Liberal MPs are upset with Hall Findlay for her criticism of Murray, which suggests there is more openness to the cooperation plan than we're led to believe, although their stated reason for opposing MHF is that it makes the Liberals look weak. I assume that Carolyn Bennett and her ilk would rather unite the Left behind Mulcair than live with Harper as Prime Minister.
Last week Eric Grenier at looked at the endorsement race, which is being handily led by Justin Trudeau. Grenier says: "No one with any reputation within the party has decided to stand behind either Martin Cauchon or Martha Hall Findlay, and Joyce Murray still has a very small list of endorsers compared to Trudeau. Her highest profile endorsers, actually, come from outside the party."

CNN to get worse
Breitbart reports that CNN is considering teaming Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin for a show. The last time the two worked together was awkward and weird, and gave a whole new meaning to CNN sucks.

Is there a 'leave me alone' coalition?
Echoing Grover Norquist, Ricochet's Troy Senik calls for a a "leave me alone" society:
I want a "leave me alone" society — one where Christian schools can turn people away for rejecting their doctrine, just as gay rights groups can reject those who don’t share their beliefs. I don’t want us all to get along — not because I’m misanthropic (well, not just because I’m misanthropic), but because I know that "consensus" is usually a fancy word for muting minority viewpoints. I want us all to be free to be annoyed with each other from our separate corners. Is that too much to ask?
I would be willing to sign onto Senik's idea -- although I prefer Kurt Schlichter's term for it -- even in realms in which I disagree (same-sex marriage) if we would do this across the board. The problem is that the state cannot leave you alone -- it would mean the surrender of power for politicians and bureaucrats. As Schlicter says, nothing is going to change because "too many sort of-cons sort of like the idea of unlimited governmental power."
(HT: Ed Driscoll)

The left is pro-choice on only one thing: abortion. This cartoon explains it all.

Third part of money-losing Atlas Shrugged movie coming soon
Reason's Hit & Run has details and links about Part III, which is likely to come out in the Summer of 2014. Please do not count the header of this post as part of what Brian Doherty calls the "snickering irony" from critics that the movies loses money in contradiction to the caricature of Ayn Rand as a "prophet of profit." Well, maybe a little bit.

Obama is not up to the job of governing
Investor's Business Daily headline says it all: "Obama Leads From Behind On The Budget." Barack Obama is now 50 days past the legal requirement for the president to submit his budget to Congress. He talks endlessly about a "balanced approach" and campaigned on balancing the budget, but no plan is forthcoming.

Is social science homophobic?
George Mason University law professor Nelson Lund, echoing George Will's column* from last week, writes in the Wall Street Journal today that social science cannot be used in support of permitting same-sex marriage:
The claimed right to same-sex marriage is not in the Constitution or in the court's precedents, so the court must decide whether to impose a new law making marriage into a new and different institution. The justices are unlikely to take so momentous a step unless they are persuaded that granting this new right to same-sex couples will not harm children or ultimately undermine the health of our society.
A significant number of organizations representing social and behavioral scientists have filed briefs promising the court that there is nothing to worry about. These assurances have no scientific foundation. Same-sex marriage is brand new, and child rearing by same-sex couples remains rare. Even if both phenomena were far more common, large amounts of data collected over decades would be required before any responsible researcher could make meaningful scientific estimates of the long-term effects of redefining marriage.
Lund explains that researchers who have claimed gay and lesbian parents have had no deleterious effects on children were found by Loren Marks' 2012 meta-analsyis to have drawn "inferences that were not empirically warranted." Social science isn't really science, because as George Will noted, "Unlike the physical sciences, the social sciences can rarely settle questions using 'controlled and replicable experiments'." That led Nathaniel Frank, author of the forthcoming The Anti-Gay Mind, to label Will "homophobic." But if social science is to be meaningful, it must have what every fan of baseball knows is important: a decent sample size of data. A few years worth of data on the social experiment of homosexual marriage and parenting is insufficient. Or is the lack of evidence, one way or another, homophobic?
* Will's column is largely based on the amicus curiae brief authored by Lund.

Kinsey Report was wrong
Live Science reports that in 1948 the Kinsey Report claimed 69% of American men had used a prostitute (paid for sex) at some point in their lives, but new research by folks at the National Opinion Research Center found 14% paid for sex during their lifetime and 1% had done so in the last year. I doubt that prostitution use has changed all that much in just over six decades. Researcher Christine Milrod of the University of Portland said, "there is no credible evidence to support the idea that hiring sex workers is a common or conventional aspect of masculine sexual behavior among men in the United States." And thank God for researchers: while most men who have used prostitutes are not that different than men in general, men who pay for sex more frequently ("hobbyists") make more money and think about sex much more often than do most guys.

Sarah Thomson confirms she offered to sleep with Conrad Black in exchange for an interview
But, Sarah Thomson tells the Toronto Star, it was a joke ... because publishers of serious newspapers jokingly offer sex to billionaires in exchange for interviews.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Maybe Ted Cruz is eligible to run for president
I've been saying that Ted Cruz cannot run for president of the United States because he was born in Calgary, Canada. National Review's Eliana Johnson says that because he was born an American citizen (his mother was American), he can run for president. I'm not so sure Johnson is correct in arguing that the Founding Fathers did not define "natural-born citizen" and it is vague enough for Cruz to qualify. It would be great if Eugene Volokh is correct -- Cruz was "a citizen at birth, and thus a natural-born citizen — as opposed to a naturalized citizen, which I understand to mean someone who becomes a citizen after birth" -- but I think there is room enough for an interpretation and getting the courts involved, even if the courts have been reluctant to rule on the issue.

If you're going to micro-micro pork, do it where it counts
Gods of the Copybook Headings seems baffled with the Conservative government's assistance to La Passerelle – Intégration et Développement économique, "promoting minority (i.e. non-white) francophone women in Toronto, a city where Greek is a more economically important language than French." GCH notes:
This is micro-micro pork, pandering to the smallest imaginable constituency. Whereas much of the pork handed out by the Tories is to curry support with people who might vote their way, pandering to minority francophone women in Toronto is something else. It's unlikely these women will ever vote Conservative. Even if they do it's unlikely their support could swing a riding.

Interesting book titles
Bloomberg reports on the the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title. Inaugurated in 1978, there have been some truly odd ones over the years. This year's winner is Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop, and past winners include How to Avoid Large Ships, The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-Milligram Containers of Fromage Frais, If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs, and the inaugural winner Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice. Most of the titles are Monty Pythonesque; how does one not read reek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers in anything but John Cleese's voice. How did the report not mention my favourite title is How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art? Wikipedia has a complete list of winners.

The Obamaconomy
Reuters reported last week:
Sarah Raskin, a member of the Fed's board of governors, said monetary policymakers are doing all they can to promote stronger economic growth and beef up hiring, and cited improving labor market conditions. But she added interest rates are a blunt tool that cannot help direct the types of jobs that are created, noting one quarter of workers are now considered low-wage ...
"Our country cannot achieve prosperity without addressing the powerful undertow created by flat wages and tenuous financial security for so many millions of Americans," Raskin said in remarks to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition's annual conference.
"Government policymakers need to focus seriously on (these) problems, not simply because of notions of fairness and justice, (but) because the economy's ability to produce a stable quality of living for millions of people is at stake," she said.
Here's Raskin's speech.

Canada's Conservative government works with left-wing think tank
An announcement from Veteran's Affairs Canada:
The Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister for La Francophonie, will speak at the “Military Families Matter” event, a collaborative initiative between the Vanier Institute for the Family and the Military Family Services Program.
I don't begrudge the government doing what it can to help military families (within reason) but why is it collaborating with the Vanier Institute? Are there not conservative think tanks that deal with family issues?

Free the Kinder Eggs
Jennifer Marsico writes at the Daily Caller about how the American nanny state protects children from the dangers of Kinder Eggs. Marsico notes that the rules on what is permissible (Choco Treasure is allowed) and what is not (Kinder Eggs) is a little arbitrary. I think banning the chocolate eggs with small toys embedded inside is an admission that American children are dumb as dirt and that the state does not trust parents to look out for the best interests of their children. Two years ago Mark Steyn wrote about the seizure of these dangerous chocolate treats at the border; imagine, a one-time superpower afraid of chocolate with plastic toys embedded inside them.
America is scared of Kinder Eggs.

The Cyprus Russian billionaire bailout
Reuters reports:
As new President Nicos Anastasiades hesitated over an EU bailout that has wrecked Cyprus's offshore financial haven status, money was oozing out of his country's closed banks ...
No one knows exactly how much money has left Cyprus' banks, or where it has gone. The two banks at the centre of the crisis - Cyprus Popular Bank, also known as Laiki, and Bank of Cyprus - have units in London which remained open throughout the week and placed no limits on withdrawals. Bank of Cyprus also owns 80 percent of Russia's Uniastrum Bank, which put no restrictions on withdrawals in Russia. Russians were among Cypriot banks' largest depositors.
Felix Salmon takes a contrary point of view, seeing the bailout as bad for Russian billionaires, Russia, and Cyprus, but good for the European Union. The EU now exists to prop up itself and its phony currency, the euro.

Great idea for new legislation
Glenn Reynolds has written about this before, but it is worth repeating. In his USA Today column Reynolds makes the case for a waiting period for new laws: "Efforts to push legislation through while emotions are high mean that the legislation doesn't get the kind of scrutiny that legislation is supposed to get." Michael Bloomberg seems to agree (which is not reason enough to dismiss the idea), saying "We just got to start to thinking a little bit more about the implications of things before we rush to legislate and rush to legislate everything."

A great endorsement
Tyler Cowen is enjoying Jeremy Adelman's Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschmann, and says, "I am pleased that this book has 740 pages and I am wishing for more."

So we can call Sarah Thomson a prostitute
In 2002 Sarah Thomson apparently offered Conrad Black sex in exchange for an interview. Why would she think this would work? Did she think Lord Black was all that desperate?
(HT: Five Feet of Fury)

It's like Penn and Teller's Bullshit in a diagram
Venn Diagram of Irrational Nonsense. I don't believe all of the items are irrational or nonsense.

Monday, March 25, 2013
Not satire
Blazing Cat Fur: "Teachers hand a special needs student razor blades so they could self-harm 'safely'." As BCF says: "Not The TDSB For A Change." Full story at Daily Mail.

Salon: "David Gregory irate about soda, meh on civil rights: In national interviews, Mayor Bloomberg gets grilled about beverage sizes. His stop-and-frisk policy? Not so much." Media hates civil liberties for regular folk.

Why Americans won't get real education reform
HotAir's Mike Antonucci notes:
A few years ago, I attempted to create a comprehensive accounting of the National Education Association’s political campaign spending, but concentrated on a single election cycle. Using the data compiled by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, I decided to check on NEA’s total direct campaign spending since 2000.
NEA and its state affiliates spent more than $310 million in direct contributions on political campaigns for candidates and issues in that 12-year period. That figure does not include independent expenditures or issue advertising. Almost $53.4 million came from NEA national headquarters, while another $257.1 million was spent by affiliates.
I'm surprised the contributions were this balanced: "About 86.3% of those were Democrat-affiliated, and 11.5% were Republican-affiliated." And NEA-backed candidates won 73.2% of the time.

(Potentially) Great news for those who fly
Time reports that the Federal Aviation Administration might let tablets be used during takeoff and landing. This is a huge victory for liberty because airlines and the state colluded to keep them out of the hands of passengers for no apparent reason; there was no evidence that such devices interfered with the plane's navigation or communications equipment.

Porn for the Religious Right
Sarah Palin in a Chick-fil-A shirt.

Who cares about trade deficits
Lots of people do but no one should.

Might be nothing
Slate reports: "Chief Justice Roberts' Lesbian Cousin Will Attend This Week's Prop 8 Hearing as His Guest." For what it is worth, Jean Podrasky is optimistic her cousin will do the right thing.

Shrinking presidency?
Breitbart's Mike Flynn has "4 Signs of Obama's Incredible Shrinking Presidency." Shouldn't the Right stop under-estimating Obama's political skills? Hasn't it learned that lesson yet? The Obama administration is on the offensive on numerous policy fronts and has the media and Hollywood on its side while the Right is concerned about whether or not a gay group gets a table at their annual circle jerk and it's the president that is small? That's almost as silly as reporting where the Obama daughters are spending their Spring break.

Environmentalist: 'We don't have a movement'
The Daily Caller reports that M. Sanjayan, lead scientist at the Nature Conservancy, has told a Louisville, Kentucky newspaper that the environmental movement was failing: "We don’t have a movement. We have a niche. It’s mostly mono-chromatic in culture, in political belief, and in socioeconomic status." What an admission. Of course, environmentalism is a powerful niche because the movement has celebrities and public schools on its side, so whether or not it has facts or a real reason for existence, the environmental movement has a powerful public relations and recruiting mechanism at its disposal to attract low information voters and school children. If the environmental movement is failing it is because the public at large realizes green activists are feeding them bullshit.

Reynolds beats Sunstein
Glenn Reynolds has the most downloads among law professors, beating the likes of Cass Sunstein (#4), and it's not even that close. Orin Kerr of the Volokh Conspiracy ranks 10th. Mark A. Lemley, a critic of the current patent regime, is second.

Earth Hour: Clearly less interest, WWF spins it as a success
The Toronto Sun reports:
Toronto Hydro reported that this year’s Earth Hour — held between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Saturday — resulted in a 7% decrease in demand. And while that translated to the removal of about 92,000 homes from the power grid, it was a far cry from Earth Hour 2009, when that event resulted in a 15% drop in demand.
The World Wildlife Fund, which is behind the Earth Hour gimmick, says it is still popular and worthwhile. The WWF's Josh Laughren said people are still participating but turning fewer appliances and lights off, explaining that the Earth Hour "novelty [is] wearing off."

Cowen on Cyprus
Tyler Cowen ten thoughts on Cyprus -- technically nine thoughts on Cyprus and one on Slovenia -- including this one:
Output on the island could easily decline by 25% or more, and I don’t think that will involve much subsequent mean-reversion. There will be a deflationary shock, an uncertainty shock, an “austerity shock,” a credit contraction shock, and a few other negative shocks as well. The Cypriot government will not be fiscally well situated to support the safety net or automatic stabilizers.

The Obama agenda
Gays and guns. I thought Americans voted for Barack Obama's re-election because of the economy?

Questions that never get asked
Ann Coulter wonders if health and safety is always so much of a concern why doesn't Nanny Bloomberg (or others on the left) ever go after gay bathhouses?
(HT: Blazing Cat Fur)

Sunday, March 24, 2013
Earth Hour should cost you
People smugly turned their lights off for an hour last night and thought it made the world a better place. If self-congratulatory gestures are your thing, shouldn't it hurt a bit? A comment left at Samizdata: "Why has this [Earth Hour] not expanded into a day when toilets go unflushed?" I suggest a Saturday without a car -- but still maintaining a normal Saturday schedule (get groceries on public transit or walking). Or not using anything that's rechargeable for the entire day.

American politics is f---ed up
And the improvements envisioned by the Republicans probably won't help. George Will explains that fiddling with the process isn't the solution:
[T]inkering with the party’s political process is no substitute for improving the party’s political substance. No nominating process featuring an array of candidates as weak and eccentric as the Republicans’ 2012 field would have produced a much better result. So the party must begin whatever 2016 process it devises by fielding better candidates, which should not be so difficult.

Today's three must-watch games
3. Ole Miss (12) vs. La Salle (13): 7:40, West. Not often you get two double digit seeds facing each other in the Round of 32. Ole Miss has more scoring potential and plays a fast-paced game. Should be exciting as one of these teams will be over-achieving by making it to the Sweet Sixteen.
2. Creighton (7) vs. Duke (2): 9:40, Midwest Region. Two strong offenses face off against each other; Duke is rated third in the nation in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted offense, Creighton sixth. Duke has five players averaging 10 ppg or more, led by one of the best players in college basketball, Mason Plumlee (17.2 ppg). Creighton has just one playing in double digits, Doug McDermont, whose 23.1 ppg was second in Division I basketball this year.
1. Kansas (1) vs. North Carolina (8): 5:15 South Region. The Roy Williams Bowl. This battle between the team Roy Williams is coaching (Tar Heels) and the team he used to coach (the Jayhawks) features some upset potential. UNC is probably playing better basketball than Kansas over the past four to six weeks. It will definitely be considered an upset if UNC wins, but Kansas is there for the taking.

Saturday, March 23, 2013
Today's three must-watch games
3. Arizona (6) vs. Harvard (14): 6:10, East Region. No illusions that this is a great game, but Harvard beat third-seed New Mexico in a close and fun game to watch Thursday night to get its first ever NCAA tournament win. The Lobos are better than the Wildcats so there is some reason to think that the Crimson could keep this game close and win again. From no tournament victories to Sweet Sixteen in the same year? It is possible and it would be fun to watch if it happens. I wouldn't bet money on it occurring but if Harvard keeps it close, the energy in the arena will make this worth watching. And if you can, watch while following a combination of basketball reporters/bloggers and political pundits on Twitter. Bonus stat: According to Ken Pomeroy, Harvard has increased their chances of winning the NCAA tournament (by a factor of five) and now stand at 1 in 22667.
2. Butler (6) vs. Marquette (3): 7:45, West Region. Both programs have good recent pedigree but many basketball pundits predicted upsets in this bracket with neither of these teams making it to the Round of 32. According to Ken Pomeroy's adjusted offense and adjusted defense, this is a close contest with Marquette having a slight advantage on offense. This game is a coin-flip and one of these under-estimated teams is going to the Sweet Sixteen. Unlike Arizona-Harvard, these teams can play hoops.
1. VCU (5) vs. Michigan (4): 12:15, South Region. The only contest out of the south region today features Wolverines guard Trey Burke vs. the havoc defense of Virginia Commonwealth. That misses the point the havoc defense (unusually heavy press defense from start to finish) also effectively defends against Burke by preventing the ball getting into his hands in the first place. Michigan must keep VCU off the scoreoboard in a low-scoring game to win. This game also features strength vs. strength: the Rams are best in the country at forcing turnovers (19.7 per game) and the Wolverines turn it over less than anyone (9.2). If VCU can continue to force turnovers, they'll win. Either side can come out on top but I think VCU ekes past Michigan.

Liberal leadership race (March 23)
The Canadian Press reports on the latest financial numbers from the race and, surprise, Justin Trudeau raised the most: $1.3 million, about $400,000 more than the leadership spending limit. The CP says, "His team is particularly pleased that he's raised the money largely through small donations from more than 7,500 donors" with an average donation of $155. It highlights that 3,000 donors contributed $20 or less, which accounts for only $60,000, meaning a lot of the donations are medium to larger donations. The story also notes that Martha Hall Findlay has raised %150,000 (although some $35,000 goes to paying off previous leadership debt from the 2006 race), Marc Garneau $123,000, George Tackach $106,000 (who has dropped out), Joyce Murray $57,000, Karen McCrimmon $20,000 and Deborah Coyne $16,000. No numbers are reported for David Bertschi or Martin Cauchon.
Ezra Levant (video) notes the Liberals haven't signed up as many people to vote in their leadership race as the NDP did in 2012, a comparison many others in the media are not bothering to make.
MP Ted Hsu has endorsed Joyce Murray. Also, Murray responds to the federal budget.
Deborah Coyne released her questionnaire answers to Queer Liberals.
Martha Hall Findlay notes recent leadership candidates who have won despite not having a seat in parliament, from Jean Chretien, Jack Layton, and Brian Mulroney to Christy Clark, Joe Clark, and Ernie Eves.

Are cable provides wussies or hypocrites?
Breitbart reports:
Comcast Cable, "the nation's largest cable provider," has decided it will not accept firearm and ammunition advertisers in the future. This decision comes after Comcast has been running ads for some gun and hunting groups for decades. Comcast chose this new position after purchasing NBCUniversal, which has a long-standing ban against firearm, ammunition and firework advertisements. This move brings Comcast in line with its competitors, Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications.
If guns are so evil, will they also ban television shows that have guns in them?

Friday, March 22, 2013
This doesn't pass as conservative or moderate in my books
Five Feet of Fury: "Canadian 'conservatives' say yes to tranny-friendly bathrooms, no to banning sex-selective abortions." To be fair to the Tories, only about 10% of the caucus voted for the tranny-friendly bathrooms. Possible slogan for 2015: "Vote Tory. We're 10% transgender friendly." Does that win votes? From anyone?

Today's three must-watch games
3. Creighton (7) vs. Cincinnati (10): 2:45, Midwest Region. Good but flawed teams and with Cincinnati not being the efficient defense they were earlier in the season, Creighton looks likely to win. This is a classic strength vs. strength, with Cincinnati being a top 15 team defensively and Creighton a top 10 team offensively. Creighton doesn't really force turnovers and if they lose the rebounding battle, they're vulnerable. The Wildcats have upset capability, but the Blue Jays will probably get to play a second game. Cincy's defense should keep this a close game bring beginning to end.
2. Wisconsin (5) vs. Ole Miss (12): 12:40, West Region. The Badgers a great defensive team and like to play a plodding game. In 15 of 21 conference Big Ten games (including tournament), they kept opponents to under 60 points. The Rebels average nearly 80 ppg and play a fast-paced game. One of these teams will be forced to play at a pace in which they don't excel. Wisconsin should win a low-scoring affair, but they are in trouble if the number of possessions increase because they can't really trade baskets.
1. North Carolina (8) vs. Villanova (9): 7:20, South Region. UNC can win, but both these teams got better as the season went on. What makes this game fun is that both play a real fast-paced games -- UNC averaged 68.8 possessions per game this year in conference play, 'Nova 65.7 -- but they play different styles: Villanova likes to attack the paint, while North Carolina plays four guards and they take a lot of shots from distance. Close call and since the turn of the calendar UNC is the (slightly) better team. Cheering for the Tar Heels.

A graph that explains why education spending rises but literacy, numeracy doesn't
From Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute: "Administrative bloat in US public schools." Since 1950 the number of non-teaching staff has increased seven times faster than the student population.

How would the CBC handle this?
Five Feet of Fury: "Wouldn’t it be hilarious if Brian Lilley’s anti-CBC book won a CBC book award?" Support Lilley's CBC Exposed for best Canadian book of 2012, a contest run by the CBC.

Vain symbolism and counter-productive
The Investor's Business Daily editorializes: "For 60 minutes Saturday night, those living in the shallows of our culture will kill their lights during Earth Hour to increase awareness of climate change. Some will feel self-righteous. Nothing will be achieved." I endorse IBD's endorsement of following the advice of the Competitive Enterprise Institute: Celebrate Human Achievement Hour (HAH) by turning on lights that aren't "needed" Saturday night.

The Supreme Court and same-sex marriage
Former federal judge Michael McConnell writes in the Wall Street Journal on how the Supreme Court of the United States should decide the question of same-sex marriage, which is not what a lot of social conservatives would want but which does respect both the Constitution and the principle of judicial restraint:
The court has held that "regulation of domestic relations" has "long been regarded as a virtually exclusive province of the States" (Sosna v. Iowa, 1975). In the past, the court has recognized a "domestic relations exception" to federal judicial power. Although the legal question is close, the court could take the same path in Windsor—holding that DOMA improperly intrudes on the reserved powers of the states.
If the court dismisses the Proposition 8 case on standing grounds and strikes DOMA down on federalism grounds, the combined effect would be to reaffirm America's democratic, decentralized decision-making process without imposing an answer—one way or the other—to the same-sex marriage question.
By taking such a path, the court would be spared from imposing a single nationwide definition of marriage as a matter of constitutional law, and from having to rule, for all time, that there is or is not a constitutional right to same-sex marriage—a momentous step that some justices might be reluctant to take. It would leave the issue to the states, at least for the time being. This course might appeal to centrist justices like Anthony Kennedy, John Roberts and Stephen Breyer—and perhaps could even command a unanimous court, which would have a welcome calming influence on the nation's culture wars.
Considerations of these sorts have long been part of the virtue of judicial modesty, too often undervalued by partisans on both sides. In this instance, modesty requires no more than that the justices follow the technicalities of the law.

Thursday, March 21, 2013
Federal budget
Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty presented the 2013 federal budget, which the government invariably calls an economic action plan, today. Here's Flaherty's budget speech.
News coverage:
National Post
Sun News, and Sun News on new money for Indians.
Toronto Star, and the Star's focus on six budget items.
Some analysis from the banks:
BMO Economics
RBC Economics
Scotia Bank Economics
Some commentary:
Stephen Gordon in Maclean's on "The conservative agenda in the numbers of budget 2013." And another Gordon article: "The incredible shrinking conservative deficit."
Andrew Coyne of the National Post hates the budget, but is is everything we expected.
Terence Corcoran of the Financial Post is unimpressed: "history will record that Canada rode through a global financial tsunami despite the Conservatives’ seriously un-conservative budgets."
Paul Wells of Maclean's says the budget "changes the government’s communications more than its direction."
Jeffrey Simpson of the Globe and Mail says that age and health costs looms large over the budget.
David Akin for Sun News says that infrastructure spending is preventing the Conservatives from reducing spending.
Peter Hadekel of the Montreal Gazette says Quebec businesses like the budget.
Canadian Taxpayers Federation likes the baby steps toward a balanced budget and tax relief.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce likes the focus on meeting Canada's skills deficit.
The National Citizens Coalition is disappointed, saying the government missed opportunities to reduce entitlement spending in order to get closer to balancing the budget on schedule.
Sun News reports that Ontario is not happy.
The Liberals. And the NDP.
I think the most interesting thing in this budget is getting rid of the Canadian International Development Agency, which will be folded into Foreign Affairs.
Derek Fildebrandt of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is a dedicated analyst.

Winning life's lottery
I hate the phrase life's lottery. Liberals use it a lot. They should know. Ace of Spades: "I'd be very, very interested in seeing a survey of family wealth of liberal writers vs. family wealth of conservatives ones. I have a strong feeling I know what it would show."

Liberal leadership race (March 21 edition)
In a bury-the-news day, another Liberal quits the leadership race. David Bertschi's exit leaves Karen McCrimmon in undisputed last place territory. Speaking of which, McCrimmon tweets "sincere appreciation" of Bertschi.
Egghead Deborah Coyne talks new Quebec Liberal leader and the Constitution in something like an unpublished op-ed at her website.

Three must-watch NCAA games today
3. Oregon (12) vs. Oklahoma State (5): 4:40, Midwest Region. The Ducks are not being given the respect they deserve with a 12 seed and while not many people are predicting an upset, this game should be very competitive.
2. Bucknell (13) vs. Butler (6): 12:40, East Region. This contest features a widely predicted "upset" but Butler has recent NCAA pedigree. Should be a good game with the outcome truly in doubt; Mark Titus predicts the game will be decided on the final play. Either team could make it to the Sweet Sixteen or be one-and-done.
1. South Dakota State (13) vs. Michigan (4): 7:15, South Region. It is no exaggeration to call Trey Burke vs. Nate Wolters the best match-up of the round of 64. Both are capable of putting up huge numbers. SD State wins win Wolters puts up points and the Wolverines win when they Burke is not hogging the ball. VCU's havoc defense can completely shut down either guard in the next round, so this is the game to see them shine.

Richard Florida is 'full of crap'
Five Feet of Fury has the links.

NCAA Tournament predictions
Louisville (1) over NC AT&T (16): The Cardinals play stifling defense and good enough offense and are the first seed overall. They are the favourites to win the tournament and will coast to the Elite Eight.
Missouri (9) over Colorado State (8): 8s vs 9s are almost always a coin flip. Heads, Tigers win.
Oregon (12) over Oklahoma (5): Trendy 'upset' pick and the trend is right. Oregon is under-seeded, although it will be close.
Saint Louis (4) over New Mexico State (13): Saint Louis is good enough to win the tournament, and will easily dispatch opponents until it meets up with Louisville.
St. Mary's (11) over Memphis (6): St. Mary's has not lost to a team other than Gonzaga (a #1 seed) since before Christmas.
Michigan State (3) over Valparaiso (14): Foolish to bet against Tom Izzo teams during March Madness, even though the Spartans have had a few unexpected early exits in recent years. It seems Michigan State is either a serious contender for the Final Four or they get upset early. They should get to the third round (technically now the fourth round with the play-in games considered the first round).
Creighton (7) over Cincinnati (10): Not comfortable with this pick because Creighton is slightly over-estimated and Cincy is slightly under-estimated, but the Bluejays actually do seem the better team.
Duke (2) over Albany (15): The Blue Devils have one loss with Ryan Kelly healthy enough to play. If they weren't bounced early from the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, they would be a #1 seed.
Third Round:
Louisville (1) over Missouri (9): Louisville is probably the best team in college basketball right now.
Saint Louis (4) over Oregon (12): Saint Louis is the hottest team in college basketball right now.
Michigan State (3) over St. Mary's (11): Michigan State is too much for the over-matched Gaels.
Duke (2) over Creighton (7): Duke is one of the five best teams in the tournament.
Fourth Round (Sweet Sixteen):
Louisville (1) over Saint Louis (4): An upset is not out of the question as the Billikens are good enough to win it all, but the Cardinals defense gives them a lot of room to win if their offense is cold.
Duke (2) over Michigan State (3): Duke is one of the five best teams in the tournament and there is no reason think Izzo's Spartans will stop them in the Sweet Sixteen.
Regional finals (Elite Eight):
Duke (2) over Louisville (1): More than half of all hoops pundits I've seen are predicting Louisville to win it all. I love the Cardinals basketball program. But with a healthy Ryan Kelly, I just don't think it will be easy to beat Duke. The Louisville defense keeps it very close and low-scoring, but the Blue Devils get by. This has the potential to be the best game of the tournament.
Gonzaga (1) over Southern University (16): The 'Zags are a bit of controversial pick for a #1 seed, but they played solid basketball all year, were the AP #1 ranked team at the end of season and tournament play, and deserve the shot to prove they've earned their spot. They shouldn't have trouble getting past the opening weekend.
Pittsburgh (8) over Wichita State (9): Normally 8-9 match-ups are too close to call, but Pitt is better than an 8 and Wichita State wasn't really deserving of a 9.
Wisconsin (5) over Mississippi (12): The Badgers play suffocating defense and it'll get them far.
Kansas State (4) over La Salle (13): Kansas State might be considered a #2 seed were it not for its defeats at the hands of Kansas. Won't be close.
Arizona (6) over Belmont (11): Some people like the upset here. I don't see it.
New Mexico (3) over Harvard (14): An Ivy League team ain't going to win their game in the NCAA. How is Harvard a 14-seed? Enjoy the Lobos while you can; they are an exciting team -- emphasis on team -- to watch.
Iowa State (10) over Notre Dame (6): I won't be surprised to be proven wrong, but the Fighting Irish have laid some real eggs this year and the Cyclones can be dangerous. This prediction is more than a hunch, but not much more than a hunch.
Ohio State (2) over Iona (15): Ohio State has Final Four potential, especially in this region.
Third Round:
Gonzaga (1) over Pittsburgh (8): Score will be close but the game won't be. Gonzaga gets out of the opening weekened unscathed.
Wisconsin (5) over Kansas State (4): I hate making this pick because Kansas State is very, very good and could easily make the Elite Eight. But Wisconsin's defense is going to be a tad too much for the Wildcats.
New Mexico (3) over Arizona (6): Should be a good game to watch considering they are conference rivals. NM is the better team. By quite a bit.
Ohio State (2) over Iowa State (10): Buckeyes are good and they won't really be challenged in the opening weekend.
Fourth Round (Sweet Sixteen):
Wisconsin (5) over Gonzaga (1): I hate this pick. The Badgers often come up short in tournament play and their offense can go cold, but they proved they can beat very good teams (the Hoosiers in the Big Ten) and I like the chances of their D holding an iffy #1 seed off the scoreboard. I also feel confident that I'll look stupid in a week when I'm proven wrong.
Ohio State (2) over New Mexico (3): This should be a fun game to watch, but the Lobos aren't good enough to run with the Buckeyes in this tournament.
Regional finals (Elite Eight):
Ohio State (2) over Wisconsin (5): If the 'Zags make it this far, I wouldn't be confident picking Ohio State, but their offense should be the first team to really give the Badgers' D any trouble.
Kansas (1) over Western Kentucky (16): WKU is not going to be the first 16-seed to upset a 1-seed. And that proposition will never been in question.
North Carolina (8) over Villanova (9): 'Nova is a popular pick, but the Tar Heels are playing great basketball lately with their four guard offense. I'm not just picking North Carolina because they are my favourite team. At this point, despite Villanova's improvements as the season progressed, UNC is the better the team.
VCU (5) over Akron (12): VCU has the talent to make a surprise trip to the Final Four. They won't have trouble getting rid of Akron.
Michigan (4) over South Dakota State (13): Because of match-ups, I think this is the most likely candidate for upset among any of the top four seeds in the tournament. But actually predicting a Wolverines loss is too risky.
Minnesota (11) over UCLA (6): I don't know how much the off-court distraction of talk that coach Ben Howland being fired will hurt UCLA's chances. I do know that it is tough to lose the second-best scorer on the team. Losing Jordan Adams sinks the Bruins ... and coach Howland.
Florida (3) over Northwestern State (14): The Gators could make a case for being the best team in the region and under-seeded at 3.
Oklahoma (10) over San Diego State (7): I think San Diego is a better team. This isn't analytics but I know there are upsets against better seeds and this is as good a place as any to predict one.
Georgetown (2) over Florida Gulf Coast (15): Hoyas looked like a possible #1 seed a month ago. They are very good and they'll make FGS's first trip to the NCAA a short one.
Third Round:
Kansas (1) over North Carolina (8): The Tar Heels are capable of beating the Jayhawks, but if I picked North Carolina, I know it would be my heart choosing. I hope I'm wrong.
VCU (5) over Michigan (4): I think Michigan's vulnerabilities manifest themselves against the Rams.
Florida (3) over Minnesota (11): Minnesota can be good. Florida almost always is.
Georgetown (2) over Oklahoma (10): The Aztecs could give the Hoyas a run for their money, but regardless of opponents, I can't see Georgetown bowing out of the tourney on the first weekend.
Fourth Round (Sweet Sixteen):
Kansas (1) over VCU (5): This game should be very close. Jayhawks fans will be scared during this game, but thrilled when it's over.
Florida (3) over Georgetown (2): You could analyze this and come up with any number of results. At this stage, any one of these four South region finalists could make it to the final four. The Gators seem the most complete team, capable of out-scoring any opponent they face.
Regional finals (Elite Eight):
Florida (3) over Kansas (1): There would be no surprise if the Jayhawks went to the Final Four, but the Gators are definitely capable of beating Kansas. It's more fun to pick brackets with upsets.
Indiana (1) over James Madison (16): The Hoosiers would be NCAA favourites if they made it to the Big Ten final. Now pundits don't trust them but as long as coach Tom Crean doesn't making the kind of coaching mistakes he's prone to, Indiana should go to the Finals. Barack Obama predicts them to win the whole thing.
North Carolina State (8) at Temple (9): NC State is very good and Temple's reputation has them over-valued. Good chance to get a leg up on other people in the office pool.
California (12) over UNLV (5): Cal will have home advantage as this contest will be played in San Jose. Bad scheduling by selection committee. Will be enough to help sink the Runnin' Rebels.
Syracuse (4) over Montana (13): The unique 2-3 zone defense employed by the 'Cuse will baffle opponents from other conferences.
Bucknell (11) over Butler (6): I'm going with the crowd on this trendy pick.
Marquette (3) over Davidson (14): I'm not going with the crowd on the trendy pick of Davidson. Betting against a #3 seed is usually unwise and I think the problems of the Golden Eagles are exaggerated. Also, Davidson's 17-game winning streak is overly dependent on three-point scores, so if the distance shooting goes cold, the Wildcats are in trouble.
Illinois (7) over Colorado (10): Many are picking Colorado in part because the Illini were 8-10 in conference play. Of course that conference is the Big Ten. I think the game is a toss-up so I'll take the seeding favourites.
Miami (2) over Pacific (15): Two weeks ago Miami looked like a potential 1-seed. This still do, but there can only be four #1 seeds. Now the Hurricanes are playing with a chip on their shoulder. At least that will be the narrative.
Third Round:
Indiana (1) over NC State (8): Indiana will eke by, but this will be close for a 1-8 match-up.
Syracuse (4) over California (10): The unique 2-3 zone defense employed by the 'Cuse will baffle opponents from other conferences.
Bucknell (11) over Marquette (3): I hate this pick a lot. But maybe Maquette's problems aren't that exaggerated.
Miami (2) over Illinois (7): It probably won't be close.
Fourth Round (Sweet Sixteen):
Indiana (1) over Syracuse (4): The Hoosiers will have several days to prepare for Syracuse's defense. It will be enough.
Miami (2) over Bucknell (11): Bucknell is outclassed at his point of the tournament.
Regional finals (Elite Eight):
Indiana (1) over Miami (2): Indiana is probably one of the three best teams in the tournament and despite exploitable flaws, deserve the benefit of the doubt until at least the Final Four. They could lose before the regional finals in Atlanta, but it would be foolish to bet on it.
*FINAL FOURS (National semi-finals)*
Duke (2) over Ohio State (2): Duke is championship caliber and Ohio State isn't.
Indiana (1) over Florida (3): Here is an interesting fact about Florida this year: Everyone win (and a single loss) came by double digits but they didn't win a "close" game all season decided by nine or fewer points. There is a good chance they will win a close one in this tournament before the Final Four. But they'll lose another close one against the Hoosiers at this stage.
Duke (2) over Indiana (1): I feel stupid not having Louisville in this game. But Duke with Ryan Kelly should be good enough to win it all. With an assist from Indiana coach Tom Crean who will make a critical coaching error in the final game.