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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Saturday, August 31, 2013
 
The future of American capitalism
Scott S. Powell, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, writes about the level of government and the 2008 recession, but the information at the introduction of the column is even more worrying:
Just a generation after the collapse of the Soviet socialist system, a recent Pew poll reports that 49% of Americans 18-29 years old have a positive view of socialism, while only 46% have positive views of capitalism.
The ambivalence toward capitalism is due in part to the influence of the information and entertainment class — the mainstream media, Hollywood and the universities — whose biases are entrenched and well known.
Their portrayal of the 2008 financial collapse and the shambles of its aftermath — as being caused by greedy Wall Street bankers who got rich by foisting deceptive loan underwriting practices on ordinary people — reinforces this narrative.
I don't think it's all about the media messages or listening to left-wing professors at school. Data shows that young people (roughly those under 30) are not only eschewing buying cars and homes (and the large items such as furniture and appliances that go in them), but they are not buying into the American dream of car and home ownership. Cellphones and eating out probably can't be the basis for a vibrant free market economy with jobs that pay enough to sustain a family at the beginning of life and a comfortable retirement at the end of it.* I often take shots at the Obamaconomy, but there is also a cultural shift affecting the economy as people radically change their consumption patterns, and this cause as much harm to the free market economy as the President's policies. These changing consumption patterns might be due to an ideological shift, it might be due to a lack of hope about the future, it might be due to a combination of factors. So I wonder if the positive view of socialism is less an endorsement of state intervention than a rejection of what is perceived to be the trappings of a free market (consumerism, instability). Young people have a positive view of socialism at the same rate as they do capitalism, but the former could end up undermining the latter.
* Of course, eating out a lot undermines the ability to afford a family or save for retirement.


 
MLK no saint
The Daily Mail: "The double life of an all too human saint: The other side to the Martin Luther King story." The Daily Mail reports:
That King was a sex addict — though probably no worse than Mrs Kennedy’s husband, JFK — has long been a source of embarrassment in an America that effectively declared him a saint.
Though it is beyond question that King was charismatic, tireless and courageous, it is also indisputably true that this brilliant man had a seamier side, as one of Dr King’s closest associates confirmed ...
Though the subject never makes it into the admiring discussions of King on U.S. breakfast TV, CNN or the pages of the New York Times, the preacher’s serial sexual adultery has been covered in a string of acclaimed biographies.


 
Harper's broken promise suggestion
On August 23, Prime Minister Stephen Harper indicated he wouldn't appoint anyone to the five senate openings any time soon: "I have no immediate plans to do so ... Obviously we’ll keep an eye on whether the legislation, passed by the elected House is able to keep moving. As long as it is, I have no immediate plans to do so."
On Thursday Harper appointed a former Conservative Party candidate, Yonah Martin, to the Senate to fill a British Columbia vacancy.
This has received no attention in the press.


Friday, August 30, 2013
 
Four and down
4. Ed Morrissey notes that when Houston Texans RB Arian Foster was asked what he liked best about living in Houston, and answered that Texas has no income tax. I always took Foster to be a liberal in part because he sometimes takes up liberal positions but mostly due to the combination that he is a vegetarian and the media always labels him as cerebral: sports pundits usually call athletes who mouth liberal platitudes "intelligent," while athletes who offer conservative views are "outspoken."
3. At Kottke, Tim Carmody has a great post, "Standing between harm and others," that looks at the job of the offensive lineman, riffing on John Madden's theory of offensive vs. defensive linemen (starting with what such players were as kids) and other articles and essays on the topic. The post mentions concussions but has nothing to do with the NFL's piddling $765-million settlement with ex-players.
2. I say piddling $765-million settlement not because it is nothing, but it is nothing relative to what the NFL makes every year. The $765-million payment will be given to about 4500 players for their lifetime of suffering. The NFL makes about $9.7 billion a year, and averages a billion dollars from three networks annually (CBS, NBC, and Fox), not including the $1.9 billion-a-year deal with ESPN for Monday night games. I'm not picking a side in this concussion litigation case, just noting that the NFL is trying to make the issue go away for less than what it makes from any one of its four annual television deals. It is also a PR win for the NFL and is much less than what the League would have paid if they lost the case.
1. I wanted to note this last week but forgot: Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco says what no one else has the guts to acknowledge: the pre-game theatrics speeches of retired linebacker Ray Lewis made no sense. Said Flacco: "[I]f you listened to those speeches, a lot of them didn’t even make sense. He meant everything he was saying, but I didn’t know what he was talking about 90 percent of the time."


 
Why should American space policy be any different?
Popular Mechanics: "Space Experts: NASA Is Dangerously Adrift." Instapundit: "Kinda like our diplomacy and defense policy, and our ..."


 
Very cool
The NFL's San Diego Chargers practiced on the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, an aircraft carrier. It was a way to entertain sailors and their families, some of whom even participated in the practice.


 
Anti-war = anti-Right
Michael T. Heaney and Fabio Rojas (pdf) on the partisanship of the anti-war movement:
Drawing upon 5,398 surveys of demonstrators at antiwar protests, interviews with movement leaders, and ethnographic observation, this article argues that the antiwar movement demobilized as Democrats, who had been motivated to participate by anti-Republican sentiments, withdrew from antiwar protests when the Democratic Party achieved electoral success, if not policy success in ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Heaney and Rojas explain that looking at the "mechanisms" that influence people who take part in anti-war protests, "the removal of the threat posed by Bush’s presidency should have dampened antiwar activism more than the opportunities created by Obama’s election should have increased it."
(HT: Reihan Salam)


 
The Obamaconomy is especially bad for minority teens
McClatchy reports:
For the fourth consecutive summer, teen employment has stayed anchored around record lows, prompting experts to fear that a generation of youth is likely to be economically stunted with lower earnings and opportunities in years ahead ...
In 1999, slightly more than 52 percent of teens 16 to 19 worked a summer job. By this year, that number had plunged to about 32.25 percent over June and July.
McClatchy reports, "the picture these teen employment statistics provide looks even worse when viewed through the complex prism of race," noting:
... comparing June and July 2000 and the same two months of 2013. In 2000, 61.28 percent of white teens 16 to 19 held a job, a number that fell to 39.25 percent this summer. For African-Americans, a number that was dismal in 2000, 33.91 percent of 16 to 19 year olds holding a job, fell to a staggering low of 19.25 percent this June and July.
It wasn’t terribly better for Hispanics, who saw the percentage of employed teens fall from 40.31 percent in the two-month period of 2000 to 26.7 percent in June and July 2013.
Reporter Kevin G. Hall says, "One of the more surprising findings of [the] research is that teens whose parents were wealthy were more likely to have a job than those whose parents had less income." Is that really surprising?


 
The Obamaconomy
Powerline: "Labor Force Participation Hits 34-Year Low." John Hinderaker says:
[W]hen only 63% of those who are of working age are actually working, they must support not only the young and the old, but more than one-half of another person of working age who isn’t working. That is a recipe for not just economic, but social collapse.


 
Jon Lajoie's response to the Miley Cyrus controversy
"Miley, You're a Good Girl," by Jon Lajoie.


 
Syria
According to Max Boot President Barack Obama has "three options in Syria," which are bomb, bomb, and bomb. I'm not joking, those are the three option Boot proposes.
At both the Cato at Liberty and The American Interest blog, Doug Bandow says there is no compelling reason to attack Syria.
Reason's Peter Suderman: "How Long Would Limited Strikes In Syria Stay Limited?" He notes: "Those stockpiles are often buried in protected facilities, making them difficult to destroy from the air."


 
'Women Want Their Boob Jobs Super-Sized, Yet Natural'
The Frisky explains: "To have Christina Hendricks-sized boobs that look like Victoria Beckham’s breasts is nearly impossible."


 
Environmentalist want to shame climate change 'deniers' by naming hurricanes after them
ABC reports that "Environmental activists in the US have launched an online campaign urging the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) to name hurricanes after politicians who are dismissive of climate change." There must be some politicians who would honoured. I would be.


Thursday, August 29, 2013
 
The irony of Honey Boo Boo appearing on The Learning Channel
Charles Hurt at Breitbart on Here Comes Honey Boo Boo:
You would be forgiven if you have never watched this program, and I certainly would not recommend it. I viewed about one half of one episode in preparation for this column.
You will find the program on The "Learning" Channel, which is funny because you actually can feel yourself getting dumber as the episode goes on. Brain cells are literally committing suicide to end the misery. And then about halfway through, you yourself want to end it all. Or, at least, take a hot, soapy shower.
It is, literally, worse than chiggers.
Honey Boo Boo is the main character. She is a little girl who never shuts up and is endlessly exploited by her family in beauty pageants. She is always saying things that her obese mother, grossly overweight sisters, and toothless father apparently find amusing.
These parents, of course, did not marry until well after spawning this nest of fat little rednecks. They live hard up against the train tracks in a small town in Georgia.
The partial episode I saw featured the corpulent mother preparing for her wedding with a full body massage and removal of coarse hairs from her neck flab. Honey Boo Boo got her nails clipped and painted and kept badgering the nice lady working on her fingers to tell her what "menopause" meant. These are people who don't believe in spankings.
It appears that no one on the program actually works for a living, other than to exploit the child in beauty pageants. Now, of course, they are exploiting the whole family with the show on The "Learning" Channel.
The "Learning" Channel, by the way, was founded by the federal government in 1972 to educate the poor masses.


 
The snooping state and the lack of transparency, accountability
The Washington Post reports:
U.S. spy agencies have built an intelligence-gathering colossus since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but remain unable to provide critical information to the president on a range of national security threats, according to the government’s top secret budget.
The $52.6 billion “black budget” for fiscal 2013, obtained by The Washington Post from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, maps a bureaucratic and operational landscape that has never been subject to public scrutiny. Although the government has annually released its overall level of intelligence spending since 2007, it has not divulged how it uses those funds or how it performs against the goals set by the president and Congress.
The article is long and worth reading. I don't find the reasons for secrecy compelling.


 
Not news: Hillary in hot demand in liberal academia
Harvard wants Hillary Clinton. The Daily Caller reports:
Clinton is a sought-after commodity. Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government would like her to join the faculty in whatever capacity she desires. The university has previously invited politicians such as former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to become guest lecturers and visiting professors at the Kennedy School.
Harvard even offers the Angelopoulos Fellowship, a teaching, lecturing and research position designed for leaders transitioning out of politics, according to the Harvard Crimson. Former President Bill Clinton announced the creation of the fellowship in 2011. Former Mexican President Felipe Calderon is currently serving as the first Angelopoulos Fellow, but will leave the position later this year, paving the way for Clinton.
Yale and Baruch also want the former Secretary of State, with Baruch College, at City University of New York, offering to "alter the college’s public policy program and name the new school after Clinton if she agrees to join the faculty."
Universities want to bring in big-name politicos for the same reason elite European soccer clubs buy big-name soccer players: it signals that the organization is a prestigious institution. One wouldn't think that Harvard needed Hillary -- indeed the reverse argument could be made that Hillary needs Harvard -- but these institutions always require the next big name.


 
The snoopy state at the service of the creepy stalkers
Watchdog.org reports:
Of all the revelations about how the National Security Agency collects, sorts, filters, reviews and catalogs the personal information of Internet users, none have been as downright creepy as what the Wall Street Journal reported last Friday.
Some NSA agents have been caught using the government’s super-spy computers to check out love interests and crushes. In fact, it happens so often that the agency has a code name, “LoveINT,” for it – which apparently stands for “Love Intelligence.”
From the Wall Street Journal article:
The “LOVEINT” examples constitute most episodes of willful misconduct by NSA employees, officials said.
But of course this would happen.


 
Wrong
The Daily Telegraph reports, "A woman has furnished her £1 million home for free by renovating items thrown away by other families." Tim Worstall says that statement is wrong.
The Guardian reports, "Climate change could turn Greenland green by 2100. The world’s most sparsely populated country could be covered by swathes of forests instead of barren ice sheet, experts say." Tim Worstall says those statements are wrong.
In both cases, Worstall is correct.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013
 
Toronto Star recycles reports old Rob Ford pot story
The Toronto Star hypes reports a three-year old story about Rob Ford smoking pot because he answered, perhaps in a joking manner ("I’ve smoked a lot of it"), that he smoked pot in the past, just as the Toronto Sun reported back in 2010.


 
'Antiwar Left Stays Quiet On Syria'
Headline comes from a Buzzfeed story, but Rosie Gray, the author of the article, suggests the reason might be less about politics than a lack of resources (financial and manpower). I say the two are related: anti-war groups have a tough time rallying the troops (so to speak) when a Democrat is in the White House. Code Pink was less of an anti-war group than an anti-Bush outfit.


 
Trudeau's appeal to the middle class
Huffington Post reports: "Stephen Bronfman Becomes Liberals' Chief Fundraiser." Bronfman will pitch his fundraising ideas to the Summer caucus meeting of the federal Liberals, which is taking place in Prince Edward Island. HuffPo reports jargon and generalities as insight into Bronfman's plan to kickstart Grit fundraising:
Bronfman told CBC News that he's excited for his new role and that in order for the party to be successful in fundraising, it needs to give Canadians a reason to donate.
"I think Justin is a reason but in this day and age, you have to offer more, so we have to rethink the way we do certain things," Bronfman said. The party has to build on what it's doing well but also do things differently, he added. "I think we're bringing a different group of people, a different level of professionalism. We've learned from the past and today is a new day. We've got a big job to do and I think everyone's pretty jazzed up to do it."
In the age of no-limit and high-limit donations, a guy like Stephen Bronfman (or Peter White for the Tories) could help a lot; I'm not sure the big names in Canadian business are as important today as they were in terms of shaking down appealing for funds. Technology and messaging seems to be the key to effective fundraising in Canadian politics in 2013, so the headline Bronfman name probably is not as important to the Liberals as it would have been 15 years ago.


 
Sex box signs
Business Insider has a bunch of signs used in relation to Switzerland's sex boxes. There are ten altogether, not including the sign used for the stand-fee ticket machines prostitutes in Switzerland and Germany are required to pay (daily prostitution permits dispensed like parking tickets).


Tuesday, August 27, 2013
 
The rise of documentaries
The Economist writes about the growing popularity of documentary films:
The numbers may be small but they are growing. In 2011 documentary films grossed £11m at the British box office. This was only 1% of the year’s total box-office takings but it was a six-fold increase on the year before. Moreover, while the budgets can be high they are still much cheaper to produce than studio features.
But why are audiences increasingly choosing fact over fiction? Perhaps the current dearth of realism (endless comic-book sequels and apocalyptic action movies) is forcing more discerning viewers to choose authentic storytelling over spectacular visuals and far-fetched plots.
Last December, Interim columnist Rick McGinnis made these exact same points introducing his review of The Queen of Versailles:
Thanks to laser-sharp marketing geniuses who regard the perfect moviegoer as a comics-reading teenager with no memory whatsoever of any film made before 2001, feature film production has slipped into only occasionally lucrative irrelevance. As if to compensate, the lowest end of the film production market – documentaries, made for little money with even less expectation of a profit – is managing to provoke and entertain with ever more improbable consistency.
Here's another explanation: many people do not think mere entertainment is a good enough reason to spend two hours watching something and justify watching a film by invoking some sort of educational purpose. I am not dismissing the explanation provided by the magazine and McGinnis; just adding to it.


 
McDonald's to get wings
Bone-in wings will be temporarily available at McDonald's. I liked this comment:
"Wings is a major move," says Scott Hume, editor of the BurgerBusiness blog, which broke the news Monday. "It's like the Colonel adding a cheeseburger."


 
If the choice is between cheap gas or punishing Syria for using chemical weapons ...
I'm for cheap gas. Notice I didn't say save Syrians. Any mostly symbolic response by the World's Policeman United States would be a reaction to Bashar al-Assad crossing what President Barack Obama calls a "red line." It isn't about protecting civilians. It isn't about affecting the outcome of the civil war. It isn't about destabilizing the regime. It's all about sending a symbolic signal. If the choice is between cheap gas and gestures for Obama to save face, I'm for the former.
Tyler Cowen has a number of links related to the economics of military action against Syria. It should be noted that this is the economic reaction in anticipation of action, not action itself. Of all the links, this is the most important, from the Daily Telegraph: "Saudi Arabia has secretly offered Russia a sweeping deal to control the global oil market and safeguard Russia’s gas contracts, if the Kremlin backs away from the Assad regime in Syria." If this is true, it would not be in the West's interests, either.


 
One down ...
The Toronto Star reports: "Former Liberal senator Mac Harb has resigned but may collect an annual pension of $123,000 for the rest of his life."


 
Obama interview fails to give CNN ratings boost
The Daily Caller reports that Barack Obama gave an interview to CNN's new show "New Day" but it didn't help the channel's ratings:
According to data released by Nielsen, “New Day” average 280,000 in total viewers and under 100,000 (91,000) in the 25-54 demo. It finished in the overall ratings contest in third place behind Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends” and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” and was even beaten by HLN, CNN’s sister network, in the coveted 25-54 demo with 103,000 viewers.


 
Politicians and government workers above the law
In USA Today, Glenn Reynolds writes about special privileges for government workers and politicians get that "ordinary citizens" don't -- "a governing class that believes, in a very real way, that it is fundamentally above the law" -- and his opening paragraph has a number of examples and links. Reynolds says:
And it also seems to me that special privileges for "public servants" that have the effect of making them look more like, well, "public masters," are kind of un-American. Even more, I'm beginning to wonder if they might actually be unconstitutional. Surely the creation of two classes of citizens, one more equal than the others, isn't the sort of thing the Framers intended. Why didn't they put something in the Constitution to prevent it?
Well, actually, they did. Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution prohibits the federal government from granting "titles of nobility," and Article I, Section 10 extends this prohibition to the states -- one of the few provisions in the original Constitution to impose limits directly on states. Surely the Framers must have considered this prohibition pretty important.


Monday, August 26, 2013
 
Trudeau regains lead, probably has nothing to do with admitting he smoked pot
The National Post reports that according to a new Forum Research poll the Liberals have regained a nearly 10-point lead over the Tories after the Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau, admitted smoking pot. While the poll purports to show Canadians are taking a more relaxed attitude about marijuana, we should be skeptical that the bump in the polls is related to any particular issue or event.


 
I thought 'sex boxes' were the prostitutes themselves, not the subsidized place where prostitutes work
In The Corner Mike Potemra notes that only "kooky right-wingers" seem to oppose Zurich's subsidized "sex boxes," locations for prostitutes to ply their trade out of sight of locals. Time reports:
But for the city council and residents alike, the Altstetten facility provides a much-needed alternative for prostitutes working in the riverfront Sihlquai neighborhood, where residents have long complained about the noise, traffic jams, and other disturbances caused by clients cruising — and carousing — in the streets. And though the sex boxes come with a $700,000 per-year price tag for operational costs, the city council argued – and voters agreed – that “this money is spent for harm reduction – protecting both sex workers and the public,” Michael Herzig, the social worker responsible for the Altstetten project tells TIME ...
Tucked away from the city center and residential areas, the new sex boxes – each one large enough for one vehicle to be parked inside — will be organized and regulated with traditionally Swiss precision. The site will be open daily from 7:00pm to 5:00am.
The article has a picture of the traffic sign advertising these, er, facilities.


Sunday, August 25, 2013
 
Obamacare will costs Americans income and health coverage
Breitbart reports:
Delta Air Lines says Obamacare and rising medical costs will explode its healthcare expenses by $100 million.
Delta executives delivered the startling statistic to Obama Administration officials in a private memorandum obtained by RedState.com. Fox News confirmed the letter's authenticity.
"The cost of providing health care to our employees will increase by nearly $100,000,000 next year," the Delta memo said.
The thing is the airline said they will absorb the costs so that they can continue providing quality health coverage to their employees. I would add: for now. But many companies won't or can't do that even for a short while and will either reduce coverage or reduce hours (and therefore income) to avoid the Obamacare requirements. As Breitbart also reports:
Delta is not alone in feeling the Obamacare crunch; several companies are slashing spousal healthcare plans and cutting full-time workers to part-time status to avoid costly Obamacare penalties. United Parcel Services (UPS) has announced plans to drop 15,000 workers' spouses due to Obamacare, and a recent survey of 420 companies found that 40% of businesses are gearing up to change their insurance plans in 2014 when Obamcacare begins.
Companies are not the only ones cutting back; state governments and universities are as well.
On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that "many cash-strapped cities and counties facing the prospect of shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars in new health-care costs under the Affordable Care Act are opting instead to reduce the number of hours their part-time employees work."


 
Liberal priorities
Leslie Eastman at Legal Insurrection notes that when it comes to environmental regulations in California, marijuana gets special treatment: "our states’ bureaucrats are selectively reinforcing regulations, leaving our almond fields bare but ensuring bumper crops of pot." That because, "it seems that in the progressive ranking of priorities, the ability to get high is more important than the need for a clean environment." On the plus side for the Golden State, Red State businesses associated with pot are moving to California.


 
Republicans, conservatives, libertarians should stop claiming Martin Luther King Jr. as one of their own
Rachel Burger at Thoughts on Liberty explains "Why Libertarians Should Stop Calling Martin Luther King Jr. a Libertarian." The first problem is imposing today's labels on historical figures; who knows how MLK's views would have evolved and how he would think about modern issues. More importantly, Burger notes that simply being "pro-freedom" on racial equality is not the same as being libertarian in the sense of getting government off people's backs. As Burger says: "In all reality MLK was a state-organized collectivist. While he fought for social freedoms, he advocated for government redistribution. Martin Luther King Jr. was an enemy of the free market."
Also, we should be careful not to extrapolate entire worldviews from a single speech or utterance:
Americans—not just libertarians—have taken the I Have A Dream speech and used it to personify the entirety of Martin Luther King Jr. This disregards so many of his individual beliefs that it does a diservice to who he was as a whole.
(HT: Kathy Shaidle on Twitter)


 
Democrats don't have a monopoly on sexual indiscretion
The Daily Caller reports: "A California news outlet is reporting that Carl DeMaio, a Republican who once ran against Filner for mayor but is now running for Congress, is now being accused by his former colleagues on the city council of, well, masturbating while on the job."


Saturday, August 24, 2013
 
Not The Onion
Came across this BBC story from 2006 while doing some research:
A student who called a mounted policeman's horse "gay" will not be prosecuted, it has been revealed. But police have stood by their decision to take Sam Brown to court for making "homophobic comments" despite the Crown Prosecution Service dropping the case.
Mr Brown, 21, a student at Oxford University, had said to an officer: "Excuse me, do you realise your horse is gay?"
Police took the case to court after Mr Brown refused to pay a £80 fine.
Mr Brown, who made the comment during a night out with friends in Oxford after his final exams, was arrested under section 5 of the Public Order Act for making homophobic remarks.



 
Tribute to Liberty
On Black Ribbon Day, Canada's government announces location and support for the Tribute to Liberty, remembering the victims of communism. Why today? Kenney explains:
“It was on this day in 1939 that Nazi Germany and the Communist Soviet Union signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact – the notorious non-aggression treaty that ultimately led to the Second World War.
“The pact paved the way for Nazi and Soviet cooperation in the violent occupation of the lands of many Central and Eastern European countries. The suffering inflicted on the people of these countries by both regimes was so horrific, that this part of Europe has since been referred to by many as the ‘Bloodlands.’


 
Weekend stuff
1. This week everyone seems to be linking David Foster Wallace's "classic" Gourmet 2004 article, "Consider the Lobster," which raises ethical questions about eating what is essentially an ocean cockroach. I found Business Insider's "The Remarkable Story Of How Lobster Went From Being Used As Fertilizer To A Beloved Delicacy," more interesting.
2. World Geography has "15 Really Strange Beaches." I'm not a beach person but I'd like to visit the majority of these.
3. Discover: "16 Things BuzzFeed Doesn’t Know About The Ocean."
4. The Daily Telegraph has "The World's Ugliest Hotels." Many are charming or neat, not ugly.
5. Australia News Network reports, "People with a poor aim are to be fined if they miss their mark when using public toilets in the Chinese city of Shenzen..."
6. Tyler Cowen on "How to eat well in Jakarta." On eating at the buffets: "The key to eating well from them is to choose those dishes which require outside aid for their assembly."
7. Listverse has "10 abortion survivors."
8. From the animal kingdom. The Guardian's Morven Crumlish says "Guinea pigs are the lowest form of pet." As an owner of two guinea pigs I don't disagree. From Scientific American: "New Glue-Spitting Velvet Worm Found in Vietnam." From Science Daily: "Wolves Howl Because They Care: Social Relationship Can Explain Variation in Vocal Production."
9. Gawker has the loud party/vermin index for New York City. It notes that "like income" complaints to 311 about loud parties/music and rats are not evenly distributed.
10. Mental Floss: "9 Famous Works Written in Exile." Includes the likes of Victor Hugo's masterpiece Les Miserables and the Rolling Stones album "Exile on Main Street."
11. Epic Meal Time makes a 47,000-calorie meat castle with a working draw bridge.


 
There is no Great Stagnation (Yo-yo tricks edition)
Kottke has videos of yo-yo tricks "through the ages" (1979-2013). They have become much more complex.


 
Why universities cost so much
The Wall Street Journal interviews Ohio University's Richard Vedder (who is also associated with the American Enterprise Institute) about the rising costs of education, costs that put post-secondary education out of reach of many lower-income Americans:
[O]nly about 7% of recent college grads come from the bottom-income quartile compared with 12% in 1970 when federal aid was scarce. All the government subsidies intended to make college more accessible haven't done much for this population, says Mr. Vedder.
Vedder blames the growth in government subsidies for the rising cost of a university education. The numbers seem to reinforce this. Subsidies allow universities to spend money on non-instruction, especially administration. Despite the subsidy, the higher costs of education are then passed onto the students (as it should be), even though the state has ostensibly helped pay for their schooling. Money that should be going to classroom instruction or labs are going to some staffer ensuring the cafeterias have locally grown food. In other words universities are in much more than the business of education:
Universities, Mr. Vedder says, "are in the housing business, the entertainment business; they're in the lodging business; they're in the food business. Hell, my university runs a travel agency which ordinary people off the street can use."


 
Liberals and libertarians can't be in common cause
Jonah Goldberg in his Goldberg File (an emailed newsletter):
[T]he truth is that what we call liberals today -- a.k.a. progressives -- simply aren't libertarian even on most of their "libertarian" issues. As I've written before, being a "social liberal" isn't the same thing as being a libertarian:
Your typical liberal Democrat says she's liberal on social issues but that doesn't make her in any meaningful way a libertarian. For instance, the vast majority of the libertarians I know hate things like speech codes, smoking bans, racial quotas, and the vast swaths of political indoctrination that pass for "education" today. They tend to oppose gun control, think fondly of homeschooling (if not always homeschoolers) and are generally split on the question of abortion. They do not, however, think that the government should be steamrolling religious institutions with Obamacare or subsidizing birth control. Liberals tend to loathe federalism or states' rights (though there's been some movement there), libertarians usually love the idea. The liberals who don't like it fear that states or local communities might use their autonomy to live in ways liberals don't approve of. Libertarians couldn't care less.
Sure, there's overlap between liberalism and libertarianism on things like gay marriage. But the philosophical route libertarians and liberals take to get to that support is usually very different. Libertarians are disciples of thinkers like Hayek and von Mises. Liberals descend from thinkers like John Dewey. The former believed in negative liberty, the latter positive liberty. And therein lies all of the difference. As a gross generalization, libertarianism advocates freedom to do whatever you like (short of harming others). Liberalism supports freedom to do whatever liberals like; everything else is suspect.


Friday, August 23, 2013
 
Porn actress doesn't understand how she could have gotten AIDS
LifeSiteNews.com: "Porn industry halts all production following AIDS outbreak." LSN reports:
Actress Cameron Bay, 28, was diagnosed with HIV this week after a second test confirmed an earlier screening that had come back positive for the disease.
“When I got the call, I was obviously extremely distraught and in disbelief because there's no way that it's possible in my eyes,” the porn star told industry news site AVN after the first test came back positive. “I don't sleep around, I don't do anything crazy, and I keep track of the people that I've worked with.”
Bay, who does porn, says she doesn't sleep around.


 
Drones vs. mosquitoes
Reuters reports: “The Florida Keys agency charged with keeping the island chain's mosquito swarms at bay might become the nation's first to use drones to spot remote breeding grounds as part of efforts to eradicate the insect.”


 
Detroit's growth industry
Stray dogs. Bloomberg reports:
Poverty roils the Motor City and many dogs have been left to fend for themselves, abandoned by owners who are financially stressed or unaware of proper care. Strays have killed pets, bitten mail carriers and clogged the animal shelter, where more than 70 percent are euthanized.
“With these large open expanses with vacant homes, it’s as if you designed a situation that causes dog problems,” said Harry Ward, head of animal control.


 
Voting with their feet: taxpayers can't afford liberalism
Walter Russell Mead:
Blue states like California and Illinois are struggling meeting obligations for their own public pension funds, so they certainly don’t need this latest bit of news—their tax bases are shrinking drastically. A new study on state-by-state income migration from the Tax Foundation (h/t WSJ), found that New York, California, and Illinois—the largest blue states in the country—led the country in income flight during the last decade. New York was hit particularly hard, losing $46 billion dollars of taxable income to people leaving the state over the past ten years. And these states were not alone: blue stalwarts like Maryland, New Jersey, and Massachusetts were not far behind.
Red and purple destinations like Florida, Texas, Arizona and North Carolina led the pack of states benefiting from this migration, each gaining over $10 billion in taxable income due to new migrants from other states.
All that said, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, North Dakota, and Nebraska are among the states losing annual income due to migration.
Click on to enlarge.


 
Samantha Power has a 'freshman seminar view of the world': Tucker Carlson
The Daily Caller reports that after Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador the UN, missed an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council about Syria, DC editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson talked about the issue on a Fox News panel and said:
“[I] have to say, I’m sure wherever she is, Ambassador Power is just dying that she is not here. She has very much a freshman seminar view of the world — a quiver with a moral outrage all the time. ‘People are doing bad things, we have a moral obligation to intervene now, now, now!’ ...”


 
'Why Harper says he's running again — and why he might not'
The CBC's Greg Weston says that party insiders are split on whether Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper will run in the next federal campaign or step down before the next election. Read the longish article and you will discover that there is not much reason that Harper is not going to run unless you count an impressive list of accomplishments and assume Harper does not have much left to achieve. Silly piece of journalism.


 
You know what Detroit needs? Put up your hand if you said 'subsidized hockey arena'
Scott Beyer at City Journal:
Just a week after the city declared bankruptcy, a state board approved a $450 million bond issue for a new Red Wings hockey arena near downtown. To help finance it, Detroit would pay $284.5 million in subsidies and an additional $12.8 million annually on bond interest. In return, Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch, who also owns the Detroit Tigers, MotorCity Casino Hotel, and Little Caeser’s pizza, would chip in $365.5 million for the arena and several mixed-use projects. The new complex would represent an upgrade from the dated Joe Louis Arena, where the Red Wings play now, and—boosters say—would potentially revitalize the Midtown area, which is already gentrifying somewhat.
Earlier promises that a new taxpayer subsidized football stadium and new taxpayer subsidized baseball stadium, would revitalize the downtown, just a few blocks from where the proposed new hockey arena would be located, have proved wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong. I have been to the neighbourhood and except for about two blocks along one side of the adjacent stadia, the area is a vast wasteland. Even if Detroit had the money it would be a bad investment; in the state the city now finds itself, it is utter madness to waste at least $300 million on a new stadium for the Tigers billionaire owner.


 
Two pieces of great Russell Roberts news
He is going to return to blogging at Cafe Hayek and he is writing a book about Adam Smith to be published in October 2014.


 
UK pols get strange requests
Isabel Hardman of the (London) Spectator writes about the requests for assistance that British politicians get:
Constituency surgeries are normally quite doleful affairs, with local people in dire straits turning to their MP for help with an impossible housing situation, a tangled immigration case, or a row with social services. Depending on the sort of MP you are, you either love your constituency casework so much that it’s the main reason you’re in Parliament, or you secretly think it a bit of a bore and long to return from a lengthy discussion about the bad smell from the local sewer (a favourite topic of angry local tweets from MPs of all leanings) to the safety of Westminster.
Most cases have to do with immigration or welfare benefits, but some have nothing to do with government policy and are sort of amusing. An example of some of them:
This week, Conservative chairman Grant Shapps was called by a constituent who wanted him to help load and unload their removal van as they moved house. Similarly, his colleague Alun Cairns was asked to arrange for a constituent’s dog to be fed. Both said they were happy to help, although Shapps pointed out that he still hasn’t fully unpacked from his own house move more than a decade ago and might not be much use. Cairns found a neighbour to feed the dog.
Other slightly less feel-good requests include a constituent asking Enfield MP David Burrowes to sort out a dead pigeon he had seen on the top of a bus shelter. Therese Coffey, more accustomed to dealing with requests for help with housing cases in her Suffolk Coastal constituency, was asked if she could recommend a good dating agency. And while family breakdown can lead to problems that an MP really can help with, East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton was left at a loss when he was asked by one local for advice on how to make the man who had dumped her change his mind about their affair. But that wasn’t the strangest case Loughton has had to deal with. Another constituent enlisted his help in retrieving a bearskin rug that had been impounded by customs on the advice of John Prescott’s office. The owner of the rug threatened to shoot two more bears in Canada – which he had a license to do – unless his rug was released.
I say this is a better use of their time than interfering in the lives of citizens.


Thursday, August 22, 2013
 
Oberlin racism hoax
The Daily Caller reports that racist, anti-gay, and anti-Semitic messages at Oberlin College in Ohio earlier this year were committed by Obama-supporting Democrats. They weren't real; the trouble-makers were just pulling a prank/just trying to get a discussion going. The problem is that the police and university have long known that some of the most salacious details (a KKK sighting was actually a girl in a blanket) were not true but were never corrected. Legal Insurrection's William A. Jacobson asks: "What did the Oberlin Board of Trustees know about the racism hoax, and when did it know it?" Jacobson says that Oberlin's silence prevented the fact that it was all hoax from coming to light. In another post, Jacobson notes the politics surrounding the original controversy and how the New York Times (and the university as the Daily Caller reports) used it as a teachable moment/opportunity to bash conservatives.


 
Justin Trudeau provides fodder to critics
He's smoked pot since becoming an MP but doesn't drink coffee.


 
Media's priorities
John Nolte at Breitbart:
For some reason I know all about a rodeo clown, Nixon's tapes from over 40 years ago, and a typo on a Tea Party candidate's campaign website, but as Newsbusters points out, "In the media’s wall-to-wall Egypt coverage, one important facet of the ongoing crisis has gotten short shrift: the deadly plight of that nation’s Christians."
Newsbusters reports that, in retaliation for backing the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood's Morsi, Islamists have targeted upwards of 80 Christian schools, churches and convents. Looting, arson, and the targeting of Christians for beatings and murder are now rampant.
The media, however, yawn.


 
Safe, legal, and rare (Chemical abortion edition)
Neither surgical nor chemical abortion is rare or safe, but it's legal everywhere in the United States. There have been plenty of reports on the dangers of surgical abortion in the wake of the Kermit Gosnell case, but not as much has been done about the dangers of chemical abortion. Well ... LifeSiteNews.com reports: "42 botched chemical abortions reported in Ohio." Planned Parenthood has been routinely ignoring FDA guidelines and perhaps as a result there have been a number of botched abortions and complications for women: "Thirty-five total cases involved incomplete abortions. Women were required to return to the abortion clinic to have the abortions completed surgically."


 
Obama's educational reform
Barack Obama has some ideas about how to make universities more affordable. In short there will be a government rating system and grants will be more closely tied to the ratings and there might be some new tough-love requirements. I agree with most of Tyler Cowen's criticisms, especially this: "Overall the ideas here strike me as underdeveloped in terms of logic." A key problem is that there are already numerous ratings systems for post-secondary education and it is unclear what the government-run ratings will add for consumers or that they are rating the right things to incentivize educational reform or helps students make the right decisions. There is also the problem of whether Obama's proposal will end up getting the financial aid to those who most need it (probably not).


 
The evidence against gun control/for guns
Investor's Business Daily editorializes:
The White House asked the Centers for Disease Control "to research the causes and prevention of gun violence." We're pretty sure that what the CDC found wasn't what the White House was looking for ...
"Almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals," says the report, which was completed in June and ignored in the mainstream press.
The study, which was farmed out by the CDC to the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council, also revealed that while there were "about 300,000 violent crimes involving firearms in 2008," the estimated number of defensive uses of guns ranges "from about 500,000 to more than 3 million per year."


 
'How to cripple your state in five easy steps'
Many states' finances are a mess. National Review's Kevin Williamson describes in some detail how state governments can be downright suicidal because as Travis Brown says, money walks:
1. Make work expensive.
2. Attack lifetime savings.
3. Run up your state’s long-term liabilities.
4. Tax fanciful things.
5. Don’t just be crazy — be California crazy.
Williamson explains why each is a problem, but also why it wasn't always issue but is now:
There was a time — and it really wasn’t that long ago — when if you were a financial firm, you had to have an office in Lower Manhattan, when film studios had to have offices in Los Angeles, and high-tech firms really needed to be in Silicon Valley. If Travis Brown’s big data set shows us anything it is that those days are done.


 
'Court orders administration to follow nuclear waste law'
George Will: "Nowadays the federal government leavens its usual quotient of incompetence with large dollops of illegality." Great point in general, and the column writes about this truism as applied to the Obama administration's handling of nuclear waste in Nevada, as well as the views and actions of Senator Harry Reid, who represents the state. Will concludes: "This episode is a snapshot of contemporary Washington — small, devious people putting their lawlessness in the service of their parochialism and recklessly sacrificing public safety and constitutional propriety."


 
Bradley Manning's future
The Washington Post reports:
Bradley Manning, the Army private who was sentenced to 35 years in military prison for giving classified documents to WikiLeaks, told the “Today” show in a statement on Thursday that he wants to live his life as a woman.
The 25-year-old former intelligence analyst said he identifies as female, and has since childhood. His statement said he wants to undergo hormone therapy to help his body transition from male to female — treatment that cannot be provided at Fort Leavenworth, the prison where he is likely to be sent, a spokeswoman for the facility told Courthouse News Service.
“As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me,” Manning said in the statement.
Aside from the cheap jokes this invites, it will make it impossible for there to be a discussion about leaks, journalism, and national security without reference to Manning's personal life.


 
Toronto's best yogurt
Consider this a public service to readers in the Toronto area: BlogTO has "The Best Frozen Yogurt in Toronto," which lists 12 establishments.


 
Worstall takes on anti-human trafficking claims
Tim Worstall says that the Sunday Times and special interest groups battling human trafficking are liars:
[T]here aren’t 100,000 tarts in the entire nation. Let along 100,000 Vietnamese tarts and most especially not 100,000 Vietnamese child sex slaves.
This is just another attempt to get around Nick Davies’ wondrous use of Operation Pentameter to explode the fantasies of Bindel, MacShane etc.
And of course in addition to the above flat out lying these people are confusing the two meanings of the word trafficking again. There is unwilling movement across a border leading to the repeated rape of sex slavery. This is disgusting, vile, highly illegal, grossly immoral and also, thankfully, extremely rare.
Then there is the willing movement of people across borders illegally to work in nail bars and yes even in prostitution. For there are indeed people perfectly content (not perhaps happy or overjoyed, but content with the choice) to sell sex to strangers in return for cash. And not surprisingly those willing to do so from poor countries would prefer to do so in rich countries where the pay is better. Thus they cross the borders illegally to do something they’re content to do. This is also being called trafficking.
But confusing the two meanings of the word is just the usual NGO bollocks.
Human trafficking is, as Worstall says, not only a crime but reprehensible and repugnant; it should be condemned and prosecuted. But exaggerating the extent of the problem doesn't actually help anyone.


 
Culture war at Kickstarter -- the Left battles amongst itself over GMO
At Time, Virginia Postrel writes about a conflict over producing genetically modified glow-in-the-dark plants:
The result was a culture war that has nothing to do with the usual red state--blue state split. It's a conflict between two cultural tribes within the generally left-of-center "creative class" that constitutes Kickstarter's core audience. On one side are the expansive techies, represented by the organizers and backers of the glowing plant. This tribe believes in the power of ingenuity and artifice to solve problems and generate delight. They embrace world-changing entrepreneurship and DIY tinkering. They tend to favor open-source solutions that share intellectual property--whether computer code or new DNA sequences--so that others can build on and improve new creations. This tribe supports such big-money Kickstarter projects as the 3-D printer that raised $2.9 million, and it accounts for Kickstarter's frequent coverage on such high-traffic websites as Wired and TechCrunch.
On the other side are the hipster artists, represented by Kickstarter's founders. While the techies hack bits and atoms, the artists hack culture, telling stories, making pictures, singing songs, cooking meals. They too have a DIY ethos, but it's driven less by a desire for mastery (though that's there) than by a suspicion of distant specialists. They value localism and small-scale enterprise, instinctively opposing disruptive technologies and global commerce. One of their most lucrative projects, which raised more than $1 million, was a hoodie designed to last a decade--an antifashion statement about history, craft and permanence. Among this tribe, genetically modified organisms are a food taboo, embodying anticorporate values and ideas of natural purity common in their circles, not the next wave of DIY innovation.
In the future Kickstarter won't allow genetically modified organism to be given away as premiums or rewards, although GMO projects are still allowed to be funded. Postrel says this is picking sides in the culture war over GMOs because "everyone knows that rewards are crucial to success."


 
There will not be enough pension to fund retirement
You don't have to share the pessimism of Jim Quinn (via Zero Hedge), to reckon there is a slight problem for the coming generation who has not saved enough and are counting on government pensions to finance their retirement years:
The entire country has bought into the ”live for today” mantra.
We have trillions in unfunded Social Security obligations that won’t be paid. Cities and States have trillions in unfunded pension and health benefits that won’t be paid. The government and its citizens have lived above their means for decades and haven’t saved for a rainy day or their futures. Wait until the 40% stock market crash does a number on these figures in the next year.
There is no possible scenario where this ends well or can be solved by another government solution. It’s too late.
The post's accompanying graph clarifies how dire things could be for many people.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013
 
Will the Right view this as half-empty or half-full?
The Toronto Star reports that Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has said the the government agenda following this October's Throne Speech will not include tax breaks or new spending.
I would have loved to see the Conservative government justify prorogation and a Throne Speech by announcing the government will balance their budget by 2014 and that tax cuts will be introduced next year. That was probably always wishful thinking. So what will be the new Conservative agenda? Senate reform? Is that enough?


 
Anti-oil protester farts in Faith Goldy's face
Story and Ezra Levant's interview with Sun News colleague Faith Goldy regarding Line 9's court date and how the only response she got from any of them was a "noxious emission." Levant said it says a lot about the protesters that "they thought the smartest thing they could do is fart at you."


 
Fannie and Freddie mask billions in losses
Reuters reports: "Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are masking billions of dollars losses because of the level of delinquent home loans they carry, a federal watchdog said in an internal report, and it said the companies should be required immediately to recognize the costs of some bad mortgages."


 
Not fitting the post-Zimmerman narrative
The Daily Caller reports that Oklahoma black teens who killed a white baseball player posted racist tweets before committing their crime.


 
I like Duck Dynasty
Short treatment at The Interim blog Soconvivium. I will have a longer article when I review the books and show in the paper later this year.


 
Privacy and the importance of saying no to the state
Jim Otteson has a short video (less than two minutes), the bottom line of which is that citizens need to be able to create a "boundary of freedom." It is very disturbing how few on the Right give a shit about this boundary.


 
Happy birthday to Tyler Cowen & Alex Tabarrok
Marginal Revolution turns 10 today. I check out several blogs several times daily and MR is one of them. Tyler Cowen says he could have but didn't write a retrospective post on how the blog and he changed over the past decade. I could have, too. One comment to the anniversary post says the blog "stimulate[s] my mind and enrich[es] my life," which is true for me, too. The same commenter calls MR fun, which is also true. While blogs are free, Cowen has had a major influence on my bank account (and bookshelf space) as probably about a quarter of the books I've bought in the past decade have been suggested by him.


 
Elmore Leonard, RIP
Novelist Elmore Leonard, "the Dickens of Detroit," has passed away at the age of 87. The Los Angeles Times reports in its obituary that "The Michigan author scored more than his share of fans in Hollywood, where most of his novels were optioned or bought for films." The best piece on Leonard is George Will's introduction to the author's collection Dutch Treat (the title refers to Leonard's nickname, Dutch, which apparently the author didn't enjoy). Will says: "Leonard’s insistence that he is just a storyteller expresses pride, not humility. He has a craftsman’s pride that being a fine craftsman is good enough, thank you."
Here is the Wikipedia entry. Hollywood Reporter has 10 quotes from Leonard about the movies based on his stories.
Leonard had a list of 10 (really 11) rules of writing. It applies to fiction, but some of it applies to non-fiction writing, too. I fully endorse his dislike of exclamation points and adverbs. His rule about "said" applies not only to the writing of dialogue in stories, but to journalism. Use the NYT version because it includes explanations of the rules (and an exception for being economical with exclamation points) that other online sources of the list do not; please note there is a second page of the list.
My favourite Leonard quote comes from my favourite Leonard book, Freaky Deaky: "It doesn't have to make sense, it just has to sound like it does." His best books are Freaky Deaky, La Brava, Swag (which has a list of the Golden Rules of Armed Robbery), Get Shorty, and Rum Punch. I'm not usually a crime/thriller reader, but I enjoyed these books quite a bit and most libraries have a good selection (they have 45 from which to choose). Warning, of the perhaps dozen that I read, I don't recall any happy endings.
Will in his introduction to Dutch Treat retells one of my favourite literary anecdotes:
A reviewer once said of [Elmore Leonard], "The aesthetic sub-text of his work is the systematic exposure of artistic pretension." Leonard retaliated. In his novel LaBrava, the protagonist, a photographer, refers to an exhibition of his pictures: "The review in the paper said, 'the aesthetic sub-text of his work is the systematic exposure of artistic pretension.' I thought I was just taking pictures."
In The Corner, Otto Penzler, owner of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City, remembers his friend, Dutch Leonard: "After dinner, it was common for him to want to go to a bar for a nightcap, though he hadn’t had a drink in 40 years. He drank non-alcoholic beer but he really liked bars."
For me, a handful of books provided me a great pleasure, but I didn't need to read his complete works and it has been a while since I've picked up anything he's written. But I'm saddened that he won't be writing any new books. The world was a little better off for Elmore Leonard and it's a little worse off now that he's gone.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013
 
Care about education? Check out new blog Socialist Studies.
There is a new blog called Socialist Studies. Their mission in a sentence (as stated in their opening post): "The purpose of this blog is to expose the high level of socialist indoctrination, cultural Marxism, and other distasteful ideologies in public education and on university campuses, particularly in Canada."


 
Too bad Bo wasn't in Libya
Investor's Business Daily: "Prez Pets Get The Air Support Benghazi Didn't." As IBD editorializes:
Some have suggested this is a nonstory, that Bo did not fly alone but with staff, Secret Service and other personnel required for the trip. We think there is a story here, considering that a couple of Ospreys loaded with Marines or any other military personnel would have been useful in Benghazi.


 
Ted Cruz vs. New York Times
Breitbart has video of Ted Cruz challenging the New York Times, saying he must be doing something right if the paper of record is hysterical about him. Love that Cruz pushes back against the Times.


 
Gritty = black
The AP reports on three youths who murdered an Australian baseball player. Two of the three youths are black -- an apparently white teen was charged as an accessory -- but because they are black and their victim is white, race doesn't get mentioned. But if you read between the lines ...:
Two teenagers, 15- and 16-year-olds from the gritty part of the town, were charged with first-degree murder and ordered held without bond.
(HT: Instapundit)


 
'Certificate of Need' is worse than occupational licensing
Cato's Ilya Shapiro: "You Shouldn’t Have to Ask Your Competitors for Permission to Start a Business." Seems obvious but several states have really stupid laws. Cato adjunct scholar Timothy Sandefur discusses "Conspiracies Against Trade" in a forthcoming law review article by examining the Missouri moving industry.


 
Ouch!
The Daily Mail reports, "Doctors have removed a 10cm long steel fork from inside a man’s penis, after a sexual adventure went horribly wrong." The Australian man "admitted that he had inserted a piece of cutlery into his urethra in an attempt to pleasure himself." I bet that wasn't too pleasurable. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, what is one X-ray worth? Horrifying photo accompanies the story which mercifully doesn't not describe in too much detail the extraction that required forceps and "copious lubrication."


 
Greenwald's partner's detention
Charlie Beckett, author of Wikileaks: News in the Networked Era, writes about the detention of Glenn Greenwald's partner by UK security forces. (HT: Five Feet of Fury) Beckett says:
Like a lot of people I objected to the treatment of David Miranda at the hands of the UK security officials and I was worried by the pressure put on The Guardian, as related by editor Alan Rusbridger. But I am not so sure about the Orwellian conspiracy/victim framing of the narrative by some on the open Internet side of things.
I've resisted blogging about this issue because the story and the issue is probably more complicated than most people's ideological filters can handle, including my own libertarian/borderline anarchist ones. I have a lot of time for the Julian Assanges, Bradley Mannings, and Edward Snowdens of the world. More transparency is needed and the permanent-war state should be resisted. But there are laws being broken and some military secrets can jeopardize lives and missions, so journalists and leakers should be careful. What is more obvious is the Big Picture, which is changing; what isn't obvious, is how media and the state will cope with those changes. Beckett concludes:
Political journalism has always been and always will be a struggle between those who have power and those who seek to expose its workings. I don’t know how you measure who’s winning at the moment but certainly the rules of engagement are changing because of new technologies and globalisation.
I should add that the public should be very wary of a state that tries to intimidate journalists, even if reporters and editors are breaking the law. Beckett says something quite sensible: "I think it was entirely reasonable for security forces to question someone linked to security breaches. I just think that doing it under terror laws was wrong, especially as Miranda is part of a journalism team."
Beckett is also correct to note that a lot of the David Miranda/Guardian story just doesn't make sense. It will take some time to clarify and the early hysteria from both sides may be justified, but right now the commentary is based on ideology, not the facts of the case and value judgments about those facts.
Also, I thought Hot Air's Jazz Shaw's argument that Greenwald is not a real journalist was stupid.


 
Schools vs. male students
Christina Hoff Sommers in Time: "School Has Become Too Hostile to Boys." Noting a number of recent examples of teachers and schools who have punished students for simulating shooting motions with weapons like pencils and pop tarts. CHS says, "In the name of zero tolerance, our schools are becoming hostile environments for young boys." She explains:
Across the country, schools are policing and punishing the distinctive, assertive sociability of boys. Many much-loved games have vanished from school playgrounds. At some schools, tug of war has been replaced with “tug of peace.” Since the 1990s, elimination games like dodgeball, red rover and tag have been under a cloud — too damaging to self-esteem and too violent, say certain experts. Young boys, with few exceptions, love action narratives.
Me: Part of it is the left-wing ideology that infects the education establishment but it is also partly that female teachers, especially young and new women teachers, cannot handle the rambunctiousness of little boys; growing up in small families and having no or small families of their own, they don't know what young boys are like.


 
Politicians lie. Reporters should do a better job labeling their utterances as such.
Oliver Knox at Yahoo!: "Everyone knows politicians lie. Why don’t reporters say so?" I wouldn't want journos throwing that term around too much and the standard should be as one source tells Knox when it is obvious that a politician "knowingly" uses "wrong information."


 
The letter about the autistic kid
LifeSiteNews reports: "The family of an autistic boy is reeling after the child’s mother received an anonymous hate letter that suggested the family move or 'euthanize' him." The letter is disgusting, if true. Big Blue Wave doesn't think an adult wrote it despite being signed off as "one pissed off mother," suggesting instead that a "frustrated kid" probably penned it. Part of me wonders if it's a hoax, but even if it isn't, I agree with BBW that "I suspect we're making a bigger deal out of this than it really is."
One note to BBW who wrote "What adult writes sentences full of exclamation marks?" At The Interim we get letters and emails with numerous exclamation marks with alarming regularity.


 
If we followed the science on IVF, we would stop the practice
LifeSiteNews.com: "3.8 million human embryos created to produce 122,000 live births – success rate of 3.2%."


 
Dolly Parton's 'Jolene' slowed down
I don't think any cover of Dolly Parton's "Jolene" comes close to the original. Here is her version slowed down from 45 RPM to 33 RPM.


 
Press Council to hear complaint about Toronto Star's Ford crack story
The Canadian Press: "Press council to hear complaint over Mayor Rob Ford 'crack video' article."


Monday, August 19, 2013
 
Review of Plamondon's Trudeau
I reviewed Bob Plamondon's The Truth about Trudeau in the August Interim. A snippet:
Few Canadians understand how thoroughly Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau remade the country in liberalism’s image. Plamondon focuses on Trudeau’s role and diminishes Pearson’s, because his agenda in the book is to aggressively attack Trudeau. That is all fine, but results is an incomplete political history. This book still comes highly recommended for the author’s otherwise thorough examination of the Trudeau years, and how his policies refashioned the country, in many ways for the worse, and which threatened the unity of the nation. From energy policies to a repatriated constitution that did not include Quebec, Trudeau’s four terms in office literally threatened the existence of Canada.
Most of the review focuses on Plamondon's treatment of moral issues.


 
Three and out
3. The Wall Street Journal has assembled the "All-Average team for 2013" and it includes some pretty mediocre players, some formerly great players having down seasons, and, somewhat surprisingly, two 2013 All Stars.
2. Not everything has gone rotten for the Toronto Blue Jays this year (bottom of the AL East by a large margin and likely to stay there). As Matt Klaassen at Fangraphs points out, OF Colby Rasmus is having a fine season -- the kind of season you'd expect from a one-time first-round pick. Klaassen explains why Rasmus is doing better but warns, "the Jays still probably need to be cautious in their hopes for Rasmus." Yet, he flashes the sort of bat that the Jays will need to be a contender; not every player needs to be a 30 HR batter, but teams need to avoid black holes in their lineup and a Colby Rasmus playing centerfield with the sort of pop he's displayed this season (478 SLG, 18 HRs in 439 ABs so far) would be a definite asset in the future.
1. Joe Posnanski talks about WAR (Wins Above Replacement), notes that counting errors as outs on batting average is really dumb, and predicts that whatever the stats say Miguel Cabrera will win another MVP and Mike Trout won't.


 
The economics of journalism
Felix Salmon of Reuters has a very good three-part series* on the economics of journalism, including today's installment on the economics of providing content. Key 'graph:
Back in Henry Luce’s glory days, big publishers could easily absorb spiraling editorial costs because there was so much money at the end of the rainbow: once you achieved a certain level of circulation, you basically became a license to print money. The online world, by contrast, has no magical rainbows: no matter how big a news site becomes, it will never be so big that advertisers will clamor to appear on it, whatever the cost.
Media revenues have less to do with consumers than it does with advertisers; companies can now niche pitch more efficiently and (with technology) know if their ads are being seen, rather than inefficiently advertise to the audience provided by newspapers and the evening news. But as Salmon explains in some detail, it costs money to do a lot of quality journalism.
* The first parts of Salmon's series were published February 21 and March 3.


 
Jean Bethke Elshtain, RIP
Joseph Bottum remembers Jean Bethke Elshtain:
Along the way—and what a way, producing 21 books and more than 600 journal articles in her fields of theology and political theory—she helped bring up her grandchildren and planned her courses and delivered lectures everywhere from a visiting professorship at Baylor to the famous Gifford Lectures in Scotland. When she slipped away on Sunday, August 11, dying of congestive heart failure at age 72, American public life lost what had seemed almost a force of nature. And nearly everyone who knew her lost a friend.
R.R. Reno in First Thoughts:
Jean grew up in a small town in Colorado, and from that experience she drew a basic truth: Society flourishes only insofar as people share something of their lives with each other. Put differently: Justice is a virtue, not a system.


 
Ashton Kutcher urges teen audience to work hard. Senator Cruz endorses that message.
Here's a headline I wasn't expecting to read this morning. Or ever. Washington Examiner: "Ted Cruz endorses Ashton Kutcher’s Teen Choice Award speech." Kutcher said, "I believe that opportunity looks a lot like hard work." Cruz endorsed the message in a tweet. Hey, millennials need the message, too.
(Video via Five Feet of Fury)


 
One way to look at this story: Mother Nature voted and she's not a Green Party fan
The Local reports:
The Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens took a more environmentally-friendly approach to campaigning for the upcoming German election, by opting out of using the classic wooden boards for their candidate posters.
The SPD paid a seven-figure sum for the “Eco-Wave” posters, made by a firm in Sölingen, newspaper the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung reported on Monday.
And despite being told by the company that they were “particularly waterproof”, the SPD told the paper that they had to replace around 10 percent of their 900,000 posters plastered across the country.
The Greens also opted for eco-friendly posters made by a Berlin-based company. It promised “at least 50 days of durability”, yet the party's posters are already sliding off walls and lampposts in bad weather.
Let this serve as a warning about all the promises of better, more environmentally friendly products and systems in the future. If greens can't get waterproof signs right, why trust them with anything of importance?
(HT: Blazing Cat Fur)


 
UN needs to own up to its responsibility for bringing cholera to post-earthquake Haiti
Celso Perez and Muneer I. Ahmad, two academics and members of the Transnational Development Clinic, write in The Atlantic:
In a new report, Peacekeeping Without Accountability, which was released Tuesday, members of the Transnational Development Clinic at Yale Law School (YLS) and the Global Health Justice Partnership, an initiative of YLS and the Yale School of Public Health, provide scientific evidence showing that the UN brought cholera to Haiti and argue that the organization's refusal to hold itself accountable to the Haitian people is both immoral and illegal. As we detail, international law, including the UN Charter, human rights treaties, and status-of-forces agreements (SOFAs), requires that the UN provide individuals affected by its peacekeeping operations with mechanisms for bringing claims against the organization. The failure to provide remedies in Haiti is part of a recent pattern of the UN neglecting its legal and moral responsibilities in peacekeeping operations worldwide. A continued refusal would further undermine the organization's claim to promote the rule of law and human well-being in its missions.
According to extensive documentation by scientists and journalists, including Armin Rosen at The Atlantic, peacekeeping troops belonging to the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) inadvertently but negligently brought cholera into the country several months after the January 2010 earthquake. That October, troops from Nepal carrying the disease were stationed at a military base near the town of Méyè. Because of inadequate water and sanitation facilities at the base, cholera-infected sewage contaminated the Artibonite River, the largest river in Haiti and one the country's main water sources. As locals consumed the contaminated water, cholera spread across the country. Absent from Haiti for over a century, cholera is now projected to plague the country for at least another decade.