Sobering Thoughts

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

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Thursday, October 31, 2013
Fraser Institute list of government failures
The "Federal Government Failure in Canada 2013: A review of the Auditor General's reports, 1988-2013," report (pdf) from the Fraser Institute was released today and makes for depressing reading. There is a good chapter on understanding government failure using public choice theory.

Lie. Repeat lie. Lie again. Repeat.
Breitbart reports:
New York Magazine put together a supercut of 23 instances over a few years where, without qualification or even a hint of qualification, President Obama reassured every American that if "you like your private health insurance plan, you can keep your private health insurance plan."
The video is available here or at the Breitbart story.

Hey big (deficit) spender
Terence P. Jeffrey at "President Barack Obama has now presided over five of the six largest annual budget deficits the U.S. government has ever run, according to data released yesterday by the U.S. Treasury." If you are looking for a positive, at least the deficit is under a trillion dollars; fiscal year 2013 ended with a $680.276 billion budget deficit. To put that another way, the United States added $700 billion to its federal debt. Using inflation-adjusted dollars, the $680 billion figure is exceeded by only one pre-Obama budget, 1943, in the middle of World War II.

Sesame Street to allow free advertising
Breitbart reports: "In a deal brokered by Michelle Obama between the Produce Marketing Association and the Partnership for a Healthier America, “'Sesame Street' will now allow produce industry members to advertise for free on the program. Michelle’s 'Let’s Move' campaign was a moving force behind the negotiation." The First Lady is trying to convince kids that fruits and veggies are not only healthy, but tasty.

'The Decline of Wikipedia'
The M.I.T. Technology Review on Wikipedia: "its entries on Pokemon and female porn stars are comprehensive, but its pages on female novelists or places in sub-Saharan Africa are sketchy." I'm a fan of Wikipedia but it can be amusing to see the detail of some entries and lack of almost basic information on others.

'Much-Abused Food Stamp Program Can Be Cut Responsibly'
Investor's Business Daily in an editorial:
The $5 billion reduction set to hit in November is a drop in the ocean for a nearly $80 billion-per-year program serving nearly 47 million people, especially considering how the program has exploded in the last five years, more than doubling from $34.6 billion to $74.6 billion.
Moreover, that relatively small $5 billion cut is a return to normal after a "temporary" increase enacted in 2009 as part of President Obama's and the Democratic Congress' massive stimulus-that-never-stimulated ...
The out-of-control expansion of food stamps since 2008 is yet another case of Democrats turning a safety net into permanent, broad-based government dependency.

David Frum, Obamacare victim
Opinion Journal's James Taranto says "we find [David] Frum's view in 2010 so wrongheaded as to make his difficulty with ObamaCare now an occasion for Schadenfreude." To remind people, Frum criticized Republicans for not making peace with Obamacare. He wanted some Republicans to vote for the Affordable Care Act and promote some compromise amendments to have Obamacare accord more with Republican principles. As Taranto says, considering the ACA passed without any Republican votes it is hard to imagine the Democrats compromising much in order to get their legislation through -- it would have been unnecessary on their part. And now the Democrats own this mess all by themselves. And Frum is grumping about Obamacare, in a way he didn't when it passed.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Putin overtakes Obama as world's Forbes most powerful person
Full coverage and list at

'Once You Worked Full Time' Rush Limbaugh parody
Via Five Feet of Fury.

Ted Gioia: "65 Things We've Learned About the NSA."
There are so many worrying stories, especially the Spiegel Online article on how (as Gioia describes it) "NSA monitors banks and credit card transactions -- sometimes in apparent violation of national laws and global regulations."
(HT: Tyler Cowen)

Coolest. Picture. Ever.
"Walking Dead" creator Robert Kirkman tweets ... Michonne?

Caledonia hero Gary McHale's interview with Michael Coren
Gary McHale, author of the forthcoming book Victory in the No-Go Zone: Winning the Fight Against Two-Tier Policing, was interviewed last week by Michael Coren on Sun News. I recommend watching the full interview but this is worth noting: McHale claims that CBC crews had their truck windows smashed and yet there was no report of the intimidation of their journalists. In other words, either the CBC reporters were successfully silenced or the state broadcaster is so committed to not reporting the Caledonia story in the first place that they are willing to let the attempt to intimidate their own journalists go unreported.

Marriage, work, and the limits of policy
Bill Galston writes in the Wall Street Journal about the phenomenon of declining workforce participation, noting that men have been walking away from it for nearly five decades. His larger message of needing to find the right policy mix is ambiguous enough to be unobjectionable, but I wonder if that places too much faith in politics and not enough understanding of the role of culture. For as Galston himself admits about income (not participation):
But real wages rose for women between 1999 and 2007. It is tempting to speculate that the shift away from marriage may depress work incentives for men and (less intuitively) that the deferral of childbirth may do the same for women. But we don't know for sure.
Part of the reason I am skeptical of government policy fixes is that the decisions that affect participation in the labour market are so complex and intermingled it is unimaginable that this or that policy or set of policies could adequately address them without having unintended consequences that would require new policies to address those effects.
Conservatives should appreciate that there is more to the story than a new-found laziness, the feminizing of men, and government benefits that incentivize not working (although those all appear to be true) and liberals need to understand that a little Keynesian pump-priming the economy isn't going to easily reverse personal preferences and change circumstances at home.
None of this is to deny that having a critical mass of men who are not working hurts the economy and future growth prospects. Obviously it does. Fixing it is not easy.

Good work if you can get it. Unless you are paying for it -- and you are paying for it.
Investor's Business Daily: "Gov't Workers Work Less, Earn More." Government work is less difficult and less productive. We can thank unions for that.

Zimmerman story
At The American Thinker Thomas Lifson writes about Jack Cashill's If I had a Son: Race, Guns, and the Railroading of George Zimmerman and he says it "is a must-read for anyone interested in race, justice and the corruption of the American mass media." Lifson notes:
At the heart of the effort to inject race into a case that was self-evidently a matter of self defense to the police and prosecutors who in initially investigated is what Cashill labels the Black Grievance Industry, or BGI.
[The racial grievance hucksters] assembled what Cashill termed "Team Trayvon," including Sanford attorney Natalie Jackson and an Orlando-based media strategist, Ryan Julison. They served as chief strategists, manufacturing memes. They were aided and abetted by key media outlets, from the Orlando Sentinel, which at first reported in a straightforward manner for a local readership and then ran into the BGI, to The New York Times and especially ABC News, which assisted the BGI and Team Trayvon in manufacturing a false narrative, betraying both their journalistic responsibilities and the cause of justice. Inevitably, Al Sharpton quickly leapt into the fray, followed by Jesse Jackson, fearful of being cut out.
The Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case was a travesty of justice -- but not in the way that the Times and Al Sharpton would claim it is.

Confused or divided
Powerline's John Hinderaker examines the (Rasmussen) polling data carefully and find that Americans are not divided, they are confused. There are many respondents who support Republican positions/oppose Democratic ones, yet vote Democrat. I think it has more to do than being afraid to tell pollsters they want to vote Republican because that is considered socially unacceptable as Hinderaker concludes. I'm convinced that many Americans agree with Republican on most policies but still want the government safety net around "just in case," and that makes them inclined to vote Democrat.

'U.S. Death Penalty Support Lowest in More Than 40 Years'
That's true, but the headline misses the point: capital punishment is still hugely popular among the public. According to Gallup the death penalty still has majority support, 60% compared to 35% opposed.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013
If the interwebs were around for the early 20th century
xkcd has "20th century headlines rewritten to get more clicks." Scientific breakthroughs, the holocaust, and assassinations as click bait.

Turbine can't handle the wind
Photo at Samizdata.

Civility is over-rated
Senator Tom Coburn (R, Oklahoma) called Senator Harry Reid (D, Nevada) an asshole. Interestingly, Coburn said he can work with Senator Chuck Schumer (D, NY). He always seemed like an asshole, too.

Bar Rescue's Jon Taffer's business advice
At Business Insider, Jon Taffer of Bar Rescue notes the five mistakes small businesses make such as not understanding the numbers or the fundamentals of marketing. I would add that marketing that isn't tied to sales is usually a waste of time; in business, awareness doesn't always generate sales. However, this one is key:
Not taking responsibility for failures.
Taffer says the common denominator in every failing business on “Bar Rescue” is an excuse. Business owners will blame the recession, the government, a new competitor, and even construction on their street before they will own up to their mistakes, he says. “Every morning you’ve got someone else to blame, but all of those excuses are bull. We only fail because of ourselves. The minute you take responsibility, everything changes,” he says.
Very seldom do external forces cause a small business to fail; either it wasn't viable in the first place or the owner is not doing what is necessary to succeed, which is almost always a lot of hard work.

Pro-euthanasia group stoops to dishonesty
Wesley Smith: "Phony 'Disability Rights' Pro-Euthanasia Scam." People with disabilities are effective in advocating against euthanasia and many feel that they would be vulnerable to pressures to be killed. Some pro-euthanasia groups in the United States and United Kingdom have resorted to creating astroturf disability groups to promote euthanasia.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions
The New York Daily News reports, "Both major mayoral candidates want to ban horse-drawn carriage rides in Central Park, but the effort to 'rescue' the horses could lead to their slaughter instead." The paper reports:
The economics of rescuing so many horses would be daunting.
It costs at least $200 a month to care for one retired horse, experts say, so the tab for sending 200 horses to live out their days in leafy luxury would start at $480,000 a year.
Based on the average age of the horses clip clopping through Central Park, and their life expectancy, the total cost could climb past $8 million over their lifetimes.
Most horses that go to rescues are mistreated, so the well cared-for horses in Central Park wouldn't qualify and would probably be shipped to slaughter in Canada or Mexico.

Gun ownership: the reason shouldn't matter, because Americans have the right to bear arms. End of discussion.
Breitbart reports on a new Gallup poll about reasons people own guns:
Among poll respondents, 60 percent cited "personal safety/protection" as the reason they own guns. 36 percent said they own guns for hunting, 13 percent for "recreation/sport," and 8 percent for "target shooting."
Other reasons Gallup respondents provided for gun ownership included "Antique/Family Heirloom/Passed Down" (5 percent) and "related to line of work--police, military" (3 percent).
Those who owned guns just because they can--citing their "2nd Amendment right" as a reason--only came in at 5 percent.

Quote of the day
Thomas Sowell: "Those we call 'public servants' have in fact become public masters." That's from a very good column on the political class that seeks to control the general population and keep themselves ensconced in their powerful and comfortable jobs.

Union transparency and accountability
Writing in the Toronto Sun, John Mortimer, president of the Canadian LabourWatch Association, notes that a "new poll shows that working Canadians, including current and formerly unionized ones, remain strongly supportive of laws requiring unions to reveal their tax-free financial activities." He also says that senators are standing in the way of a law that would bring transparency and accountability to unions.
Brian Lilley of Sun News breaks down the poll Mortimer mentions:
The latest poll of working Canadians, including a strong sampling of union members, shows that 83% of all working Canadians agree that unions should be required "to publicly disclose detailed financial information on a regular basis."
Broken down further, the poll showed that 84% of union members back such a law compared to 81% of working Canadians who have never been unionized and 89% of those who formerly belonged to a union.
"We don't see it very often," said Leger vice-president Christian Bourque, when asked about how often eight in 10 Canadians agree on any proposed law.
Those numbers aren't all that different, but notice the slightly larger support for greater union transparency among current and former union members.
The need for transparency and accountability is evident when you read this fact: "It is estimated that unions currently collect $4-5 billion annually but pay no taxes." That is a lot of money that can be misspent.

Tories are not 'third' -- they are statistically tied
David Akin in the Toronto Sun reports:
Ipsos had more bad news for the Conservatives in its poll: When it asked its respondents who they would vote for, just 29% said they'd vote Conservative -- behind the Liberals and NDP who were tied at 31%.
That's the first time in ages the Tories have been third in any "vote intention" poll and certainly the first time the NDP has been anywhere near first since Justin Trudeau became Liberal leader.
Two points separate the three parties. That is within margin-of-error. That means they are effectively tied. The distribution of support is important, so with the Tories far behind in Quebec, they would be ahead in the rest of Canada.
Rather than being a death knell, this poll shows that the next federal election is likely to be a tight race.
Of course, a lot can happen between now and October 2015.

Increasing marriage rates might improve American economy
Gallup notes that "married Americans spend more than their unmarried counterparts." Gallup reports:
Gallup asks Americans to report how much money they spent the prior day, excluding payments for normal household bills and major purchases such as homes or cars. The figure gives an estimate of discretionary spending. The current analysis is based on January through September 2013 Gallup Daily tracking interviews with more than 130,000 U.S. adults.
These results suggest that if more Americans are married, and fewer are single/never married, overall spending might increase. Similarly, if more Americans are in domestic partnerships and fewer are single, that too would appear to be related to higher spending.

Jean Chretien: A Legacy of Scandal
Gerry Nicholls is reading my 2004 book Jean Chretien: A Legacy of Scandal.

Monday, October 28, 2013
Shocking NBC report on Obama & Obamacare. Shocking that NBC is reporting this, not the actual news.
A special report from NBC News: "Obama admin. knew millions could not keep their health insurance." NBC reports:
President Obama repeatedly assured Americans that after the Affordable Care Act became law, people who liked their health insurance would be able to keep it. But millions of Americans are getting or are about to get cancellation letters for their health insurance under Obamacare, say experts, and the Obama administration has known that for at least three years.
Four sources deeply involved in the Affordable Care Act tell NBC NEWS that 50 to 75 percent of the 14 million consumers who buy their insurance individually can expect to receive a “cancellation” letter or the equivalent over the next year because their existing policies don’t meet the standards mandated by the new health care law. One expert predicts that number could reach as high as 80 percent. And all say that many of those forced to buy pricier new policies will experience “sticker shock.”
None of this should come as a shock to the Obama administration. The law states that policies in effect as of March 23, 2010 will be “grandfathered,” meaning consumers can keep those policies even though they don’t meet requirements of the new health care law. But the Department of Health and Human Services then wrote regulations that narrowed that provision, by saying that if any part of a policy was significantly changed since that date -- the deductible, co-pay, or benefits, for example -- the policy would not be grandfathered.
In related news, Mediate reports that even lefty columnist Clarence Page says that Obama lied about Obamacare:
MSNBC contributor and Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page joined conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Monday and admitted that when President Obama said Americans would be able to keep their plans if they like them, he was fully aware he was lying and exaggerating about it.

Quote of the day
Glenn Greenwald: "[T]he kind of traditional New York Times model...I think has neutered and, in a lot of ways, helped to kill journalism as a potent force for checking power."

Inequality and a misspent youth
Tyler Cowen points to "A modern list of things to do before 30" by Eva Vivalt. I especially like "hang out with amazing people who are better than you." I would add to that, "listen and watch carefully." Also, value informal learning (which is part of hanging out with amazing people).
Vivalt's conclusion is insightful: "I feel that with increasing inequality, using your youth well is all the more important." That is because the rate of return on one's decisions (so to speak) is larger for young people. So much of people's circumstances are a result of the choices they make in life (in the whole nature vs. nurture debate, most people forget free will). Make good choices and your life will be better.

If the people are ignorant, libertarianism makes sense; and if you're ignorant, not caring makes even more sense
A. Barton Hinkle: "Small Government Is the Cure for Voter Ignorance." Because, "Limited government will do less damage." Hinke writes about Ilya Somin's new book Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government Is Smarter. But ignorance is rational, for as Hinkle (and Somin) explain:
This is because the cost, in time and effort, of becoming an informed voter is fairly high. And what do you get for it? Precious little. It isn’t polite to say so, but votes usually matter only in the aggregate. Your one vote in, say, a presidential election will have almost no chance of changing the outcome, and therefore roughly zero effect on your life personally. Hence, Somin writes, “For most people, the benefits of devoting more than minimal time and effort to learning about politics are greatly outweighed by the costs.”

The Daily Caller reports that "Global warming gets nearly twice as much taxpayer money as border security," in the United States. Even if you think that the United States worries too much about immigration and terrorism, this seems a misplaced sense of priorities when it comes to spending.

Truth isn't a gotcha moment
George F. Will on Fox News answering Democrats who charge Republicans of wanting Obamacare to fail: "Of course I want Obamacare to fail, because if it doesn’t fail, it will just further entangle American society with a government that is not up to this."

15 years
The National Post turned 15 yesterday. The front page then was on uniting the right, with a picture of Ralph Klein. Today the front page is about how the Conservative government might suspend some of its own party's senators. Progress?

The Fraser Institute's 'Waiting Your Turn' annual report is out
"Waiting Your Turn: Wait Times for Health Care in Canada, 2013 Report," by the Fraser Institute has been released. Key finding:
This edition of Waiting Your Turn indicates that waiting times for elective medical treatment have increased since last year. Specialist physicians surveyed across 12 specialties and 10 Canadian provinces report a total waiting time of 18.2 weeks between referral from a general practitioner and receipt of elective treatment.
Wait times between 2012 and 2013 increased in both the segment between referral by a general practitioner and consultation with a specialist (rising to 8.6 weeks from 8.5 weeks in 2012), and the segment between a consultation with a specialist and receipt of treatment (rising to 9.6 weeks from 9.3 weeks in 2012). While wait times have fallen overall, physicians themselves believe that Canadians wait approximately 3 weeks longer than what they consider is clinically “reasonable” for elective treatment after an appointment with a specialist.
There is also a great deal of variation in the total waiting time faced by patients across the provinces.
This observation is worth remembering when politicians celebrate that some arbitrary benchmark for care is being met: "Canada's physicians tend to have a lower threshold for reasonable wait times than do Canada’s provincial, territorial, and federal governments."

Phony health scares
Ronald Bailey writes in the November Reason about "Five Phony Public Health Scares" including cell phones cause cancer to vaccines cause autism.

Reason review of Hardhats, Hippies, and Hawks: The Vietnam Antiwar Movement as Myth and Memory
Jesse Walker reviews Hardhats, Hippies, and Hawks: The Vietnam Antiwar Movement as Myth and Memory by Penny Lewis in the November edition of Reason. (I hope Kathy Shaidle reviews this book somewhere.) Walker says:
But the image of a pro-war worker in a hardhat punching a privileged protester is enshrined in our cultural memory. It's what the late '60s and early '70s were supposed to look like: college kids who hated the Vietnam War and blue-collar patriots who loved the flag.
In Hardhats, Hippies, and Hawks, her new study of social class and public opinion during the war, the City University of New York sociologist Penny Lewis doesn't destroy that image so much as layer on all of the missing images that supplement and complicate it ...
The very figure of the hardhat is itself a stereotype. Lewis doesn't mention it, but by the 1970s more than a few hardhats were hippies-not in the sense of living in country communes or trying to drop out of mainstream society, but in the sense of growing their hair longer, listening to rock music, maybe smoking a little pot, and otherwise behaving in ways that might have gotten them beaten up at the Hard Hat Riot. While Lewis neglects that cultural convergence, she does delve into the complicated, contradictory strands of working-class politics in this period, crediting the labor historian Jefferson Cowie with the observation that white workers in the '70s were "vigorously left, right, and center." (She misattributes the line-Cowie was quoting Michael Harrington.) This is a favorite topic for scholars of recent American history, who are frequently fascinated by the fact that rank-and-file labor militancy was on the rise at the same time that figures like George Wallace were able to find a blue-collar audience.

American cities are in bad financial situations
The Wall Street Journal reports:
American cities’ fiscal health is lagging behind other sectors of the economy as the recovery slowly takes hold.
Buffeted by steep drops in state aid, rising pension and health-care costs and sluggish property-tax revenue, many urban centers are struggling even several years after the financial crisis ...
Local officials hasten to distinguish their cities from Detroit, which this summer became the largest-ever U.S. municipal bankruptcy case. Most won’t get to that point: just 63 cities, towns and villages, including Detroit, have filed for municipal bankruptcy protection since 1954, said Chicago lawyer James Spiotto, who tracks the sector.
But an analysis by The Wall Street Journal of financial data from the nation’s largest cities shows that many of them are wrestling with the same types of issues that sunk Detroit.
The data the WSJ reports is sobering. Also, bankruptcy isn't likely to help these cities: "Now, bankruptcies—although rare—are more often linked to fundamental problems such as outsize liabilities or stagnant revenue, Moody’s says. Such woes aren’t as easily resolved through bankruptcy."

Four downs
1. The Miami Dolphins took an early lead in New England but the Patriots came back for the victory. The New England Patriots had 24 yards on their first two possessions which took them into the second quarter. There were 10 passing yards on two completed catches on four attempts, and 14 rushing yards on six carries. That's just 2.4 yards per offensive play: less than 2.2 yards per carry and just 2.5 yards per pass attempt. The Fins established an early 14-0 lead. Midway through the second quarter, there was a dubious penalty called against Miami safety Jimmy Wilson that moved the Patriots offense 21 yards downfield and continued a Tom Brady drive that concluded with a field goal but otherwise might have given Miami the ball midfield. Although Miami responded with a field goal of their own to take a 17-3 lead into the half, there was certainly a sense of momentum shift with the New England field goal that gave the home team their first points of the game with 3:43 left in the first half. Back to the Wilson penalty: both broadcasters implied the call suggests that defensive players don't have the right to go for balls in the air. The same thing happened in the Jets-Bengals and Redskins-Broncos games (that I saw). It seems refs are making calls that are making defending more difficult. Tom Brady's offense scored 24 second-half points, but Brady threw for only one touchdown and 116 yards on the day. When the offense isn't working, it helps to have great interceptions -- I mean an absolutely beautiful pick. The result is good for the Pats -- even more so because they were the only AFC East team to win this week -- and yet there is a reason for Pats fans to be concerned despite New England improving to 6-2. Tackle Sebastian Vollmer suffered a leg injury that could have him out for the rest of the season, joining a growing number of important defensive starters on the injured list. As Aaron Schatz tweeted: "Vollmer likely out for year. At this point, just making the playoffs has to be considered a very successful season for Pats."
2. The Dallas Cowboys lost to the Detroit Lions 31-30 when they gave up a six-play, 80-yard drive in the final 62 seconds. That capped off a fourth quarter in which the two sides combined for 41 points. Yet, for all that happened on the field, including 329 receiving yards by Calvin Johnson (just seven short of the record and his 5th career 200+ yard game, tying him with Lance Alworth for the most such games in NFL history), the story from this game will inevitably be Dez Bryant's sideline tantrum. If not for Bryant's behaviour, the lowlight of the game would be Tony Romo throwing three consecutive incompletions on one set of downs to WR Terrance Williams. Games aren't linear, but perhaps things would be different for the 'Boys if they targeted someone other than Williams. This was predictably an exciting, high-scoring game, even if they had us waiting 'til the final quarter to show it.
3. The 15-7 final score in the Giants-Eagles game flatters Philadelphia. Their lone score came on a botched Giants punt which Najee Goode recovered for the Eagles and returned for a touchdown with about four minutes remaining. Too bad half the fans left, because technically Philly was back in the game, behind by a touchdown and two-point conversion. Alas, the Eagles didn't recover the onside kick and even if they did, the offense had been so anemic all day (201 net yards), it probably wouldn't have mattered. The Eagles had no reason to be in this game, but New York wasn't much better; the Giants settled for field goals on their five trips into deep into Philly's side of the field (inside the 30). Neither side deserved to win. The G-Men climb to 2-6, the Eagles are 3-5 (and have lost 10 in a row at home going back to last season); the Dallas Cowboys are 4-4, so superficially, the NFC East is up for grabs. Still, the 'Boys are the best team talent-wise and if they stop finding ways to lose in the final minute, they'd be in a great position.
4. Amazing stat from Al Michaels on the Sunday Night Football broadcast: only three of the 53 players on the Green Bay Packers roster have played for another team; everyone else is homegrown. No other team has even 40 of their 53 players homegrown. The Packers beat the Minnesota Vikings 44-31, although the Vikes weren't that good (they gave up 464 yards and had a mere 243 net yards themselves). The Packers offense was more balanced that it has been in recent years with with 182 yards on the ground compared to 285 in the air. James Starks had 57 yards and a TD while rookie Eddie Lacy had 94 yards and a TD as 42 of 73 plays were runs (of course, they were not necessarily all called rushing plays, but still that is balance).

Sunday, October 27, 2013
The GOP Obamacare opportunity
Noah Rothman at Mediate: "An Army of Newly Uninsured: A New GOP Coalition, If They Can Keep It."

Lou Reed, RIP
Lou Reed has died at the age of 71. I'm not a Reed fan but I listen to the "Very Best of the Velvet Underground" fairly regularly. "Sweet Jane" is a great song, but my favourite song of theirs is probably "I'm Waiting For The Man" (see below). Matt Welch has a post at Reason entitled, "How Lou Reed Inspired Anti-Communist Revolutionaries and the Rest of Us," that is worth reading.

David Suzuki is not the most admired Canadians
Ezra Levant challenges the poll that claims David Suzuki is one of Canada's most admired Canadians, noting that the list respondents could choose was cherry-picked to include the current political leaders, disgraced senators like Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin, and a number of CBC journalists and retired politicians that most people would have forgotten (Belinda Stronach and Stephen Lewis but not Preston Manning). It is notable that no athletes were on the list; Sidney Crosby or Wayne Gretzky might have done a better job of challenging Suzuki as most admired if they were on list. The poll almost certainly would be different if Angus Reid had respondents offer their own names rather than asking their opinion (positive or negative) from a predetermined list designed by a non-pollster.
I would make a point that Levant doesn't, and that is the logical leap from saying David Suzuki is the most admired Canadian from the question, "How much do you admire or not admire each of the following Canadians?" If you asked people to name the Canadian they most admire and let them have one choice, I doubt Suzuki would top the list.

'The folly of resentment'
Theodore Dalrymple at Taki Magazine:
Still, hatred of the rich, which people do not hesitate to express as if it were a virtue to do so, rests fundamentally on two human connected emotions, both of them unattractive: envy and resentment. It also rests on the primitive notion of an economy as being a cake of a fixed size to be sliced up according to some plan, just or unjust as the case may be. On this view, a crumb in one man’s mouth is a crumb taken from another man. Poverty is the result, therefore, of wealth: which is true enough if you define poverty as being a certain percentage of the average or median income, as is all too often done. If you define poverty as the lack of subsistence or even physical ease, it is quite otherwise.
Dalrymple talks about French support for confiscatory rates of taxation:
The 75% tax appeals to similar low emotions as racism: I am poor because they are taking from me something that I deserve to have. It used to be said that anti-Semitism was the socialism of fools, but socialism is the anti-Semitism of intellectuals.
He also notes that when people say they don't like the salaries of athletes, they are really saying they don't like the entertainment tastes of their compatriots. The same could be said for the salaries of movie stars or pop singers.

Some LA criminals would rather spend time in jail than in home dentention or work-release programs
The Los Angeles Times reports:
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has for years tried to reduce jail overcrowding and the early release of inmates by placing low-level offenders into home detention and work-release programs.
But these programs have largely failed to make a dent, forcing the department to consider more expensive ways to address the problem, such as contracting with other detention facilities to house L.A. County inmates.
The most high-profile program required some inmates to serve out their sentences at home wearing electronic monitors. Sheriff Lee Baca even got special legislation approved in 2007 to allow counties to operate the program. Baca put the cost at up to $20 a day per inmate while county jail costs about $118 a day.
But some inmates quickly concluded that staying in jail for a short stint before being released early was better than spending their entire sentence in home confinement. So they sidestepped the program by claiming they were homeless, with no place they could be confined outside of jail, according to the Sheriff's Department ...
Inmates also have been reluctant to sign up for a similar program in which they are released but must work in a supervised job, usually manual labor. In March 2010, 448 were on the work-release program. On Tuesday, the figure was 204.
"There is a portion of the population that would rather sit on their fanny in jail than report somewhere every day and work," said Sheriff's Capt. Mark McCorkle.
The Times reports that a sheriff, Steve Whitmore, acknowledges, "People were gaming the system." Really? Can't authorities confirm whether the criminals have homes or apartments?

The unfairness of Obamacare: pregnant woman loses health insurance
The Los Angeles Times on the cost of caring: lost insurance for innocent third parties. The Times reports:
Fullerton resident Jennifer Harris thought she had a great deal, paying $98 a month for an individual plan through Health Net Inc. She got a rude surprise this month when the company said it would cancel her policy at the end of this year. Her current plan does not conform with the new federal rules, which require more generous levels of coverage.
Now Harris, a self-employed lawyer, must shop for replacement insurance. The cheapest plan she has found will cost her $238 a month. She and her husband don’t qualify for federal premium subsidies because they earn too much money, about $80,000 a year combined.
“It doesn’t seem right to make the middle class pay so much more in order to give health insurance to everybody else,” said Harris, who is three months pregnant. “This increase is simply not affordable.”
(HT: RedState)

Hypocrites on the Left
Glenn Beck on Russell Brand, who according to is worth $15 million and who has called for the "redistribution of wealth": "If you thought Russell Brand was a total and complete moron before, here he is sitting in a very expensive hotel room talking about how much he hates the rich."
(HT: Five Feet of Fury)

Government shutdown hurt the economy
In a report to the President, the Council of Economic Advisors state that the (smallish partial) government shutdown had a significant effect on the economy:
[T]he Weekly Economic Index which is consistent with a 0.25 percentage point reduction in the annualized GDP growth rate in the fourth quarter or a reduction of about 120 thousand jobs in October, based solely on the indicators available covering the period through October 12th. These estimates could understate the full economic effects of the episode to the degree it continues to have an effect past October 12th -— as it most likely would.
I'd be skeptical of these claims, but if true, there is more than enough blame to go around.

2016 watch (George Will on Rick Santorum)
George F. Will writes about Rick Santorum and the 2016 Republican primaries and presidential election. Santorum is correct that if Republicans want to win they need to talk to blue collar workers, need to have a more hopeful message, and can't avoid talking about social issues. I'm not sure the party or its standard-bearer can do all three (try being hopeful with a we are going to hell in hand-basket socially conservative message) nor am I convinced Santorum is the candidate to do that. Santorum probably best represents the predominant strand of National Review conservatism (socially conservative, hawkish foreign policy, and for limited government*) in the GOP.
This is important:
Santorum says that if Republicans will not speak for the many millions of voters concerned about social issues, “We’ll be more competitive in states we lose and will lose states we should win,” and “we will become the Whig Party and be done.”
Of course, even if this is true (and I think it is) it goes against what many in the media and too many strategists are counseling: drop the social conservatism to win women and blue states. But as Santorum says, it could cost the Republicans red states and only narrow, not win, other demographics or states.
* Although Santorum is more comfortable with government programs than most other likely Republican candidates for president will be or the Republican base.

Two on driverless cars
M.I.T. Technology Review: "Driverless Cars Are Further Away Than You Think."
M.I.T. Technology Review: "Data Shows Google’s Robot Cars Are Smoother, Safer Drivers Than You or I."

Four downs
1. It is stupid beyond words to drop the Denver Broncos to fourth on the Pro Football Talk Power Rankings. A close loss last week to a another 6-1 team is hardly reason to drop from first to fourth. The Broncos have the best scoring differential by a fair margin (+101 compared to +88 for the second-best, Kansas City Chiefs) and are first in overall DVOA, an all-encompassing advanced metric from Football Outsiders that measures offense, defense, and special teams. (In fact through seven weeks, they are the 11th best team since at least 1990.) The Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts, and Seattle Seahawks are all very good teams and as Denver showed in their game against Indy on Sunday, they are far from perfect. These four teams should be among the favourites, along with the New Orleans Saints, to make it to the Super Bowl. But Denver is a little bit better than them because even when the offense looked shaky, as it did last week, Peyton Manning's offense can still put 33 points on the scoreboard -- the worse showing for the Broncos offense all year. That means opponents must score the equivalent of five touchdowns to have a chance against them. I get that Power Ranking authors hate putting a team behind teams that just beat them. But ask yourself this: if you had to choose any team not to face in a playoff game, wouldn't Denver still be that team? The one case for having Denver behind the others would be strength of schedule, but then you still wouldn't have the Chiefs ahead of the Broncs as both teams have only beaten one team with a 500 or better record. But I'd still put their dominating wins over the victories of the Chiefs and Seahawks (alhtough maybe not the Colts).
2. Adrian Peterson has been almost totally ineffective the past two games (admittedly the two games since his illegitimate son was killed). Against the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants (two of the top ten teams defensively as measured by opponent yards per rush attempt) AP has had 90 yards on the ground on 23 carries; take out the gain of 31 and it is a very unimpressive 59 yards on 22 carries or less than 2.7 yards per carry. Indeed, this season, if you take out the four longest runs, AP is averaging 2.75 yards per carry. Announcers treat the Vikes loses as the result of poor quarterback play, but the severe decline in the defense and Peterson's running game are as much culprits.
3. Some interesting stats from the Carolina Panthers. Their QB Cam Newton has been passing well as he has completed 35 of his 43 passes the past two games (81.4%). That might be against the New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (combined 1-13) but still. Also, the Panthers have won three in a row, scoring at least 30 points in each game and keeping opponents between 10-15 points. In fact, all four Carolina wins have seen them score at least 30 and allow no more than 15. Carolina is +96 in scoring differential in their four wins. I predicted before the season started that Carolina was a sleeper.
4. I struggled not listing the Pittsbrugh Steelers at Oakland Raiders as one of the four games to watch this week. This isn't the rivalry it was in the '70s when the two sides faced each other five times in the AFC Championship* but in recent years, the lowly Raiders have frustrated the Steelers, beating them three times in their last five meetings; furthermore, the Steelers are 0-3 in Oakland since 1995. The Raiders website has a brief write-up about this rivalry. For the Raiders, this game is about pride -- avenging the Immaculate Reception and other 1970s slights -- but for the Steelers a win means they can get back into the playoff hunt. Both sides are 2-4, but Pittsburgh has won two in a row. Both quarterbacks, Terrelle Pryor and Ben Roethlesberger, are good scramblers, and even if (or especially if) the defenses can pressure on the QBs, there should be excitement. I agree with Ryan Heckman of Rant Sports that the key for the Steelers will be to get rookie RB Le'Veon Bell to establish the run, but he'll have to do that against a better-than-expected defense that is 10th overall vs. the run. Roethlisberger is best when the Steelers do not need to rely on him for all the offense and a series of steady drives might be enough to gas the veteran Oakland defense. As for Pryor, I think he will have trouble against a Pittsburgh defense that will probably need a few turnovers to win in Oakland. This might be more like 1970s football than most other contests this weekend.
* I can't wait for the release of Gary M. Pomerantz's Their Life's Work: The Brotherhood of the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers, Then and Now later this week.

Weekend Stuff
1. The Atlantic has a gif that shows the most popular girls name by state since 1960.
2. Gizmodo: "How Close Are We to Building a Full-Fledged Cyborg?" Adam Clark Esties says, "it's not a matter of if. It's a matter of when."
3. Travel & Leisure has "Europe's Most Beautiful Villages." There are some stunning photos.
4. Slate says that Jeff Bezos is King Midas in reverse.
5. Popular Science: "David Hu's 'Law of Urination' says nearly all mammals empty their bladders in the same amount of time." From elephants to cows, dogs to (probably) people, mammals take 20-40 seconds to pee.
6. The Draw the Simpsons Tumblr is pretty neat with characters from TV shows, pop music, and video games, including Game of Thrones, The Wire, Breaking Bad, and Mad Men. Story about it at Underwire.
7. Human Events has "The Top 5 Brawls in American Political History."
8. From the animal kingdom. Smithsonian Magazine has "The Science Behind Why Pandas Are So Damn Cute." Real Clear Journal Club: "First Venomous Crustacean Sucks Out Prey's Insides." From Live Science: "Can Oarfish Predict Earthquakes?" Listverse has "10 Animals Known For Gigantic Swarms." My Amazing Earth has a video of a giant underground megalopolis ants built.
9. Atlas Obscura has "A Terrifying Tour of the World's Most Dangerous Road," in Bolivia, which has an estimated 200-300 falling deaths each year.
10. From "9 Horrifying Foods You Won't Believe People Actually Eat."
11. You know the song, "What Does The Fox Say" -- well here is Morgan Freeman reading the song lyrics. At the end of the vid (beginning at 3:10) there is a mashup of Freeman and the original music video. Kevin Kline giving a dramatic reading a One Direction song is also enjoyable.

Saturday, October 26, 2013
Death panels and state-run health care
Adam Goldenberg, a former speechwriter to Michael Ignatieff, wrote in defense of death panels this week in Slate. Walter Hudson highlights part of Goldenberg's essay at PJ Media and says, "Everything wrong with the Left’s view of economics, morality, and healthcare in particular can be observed in that passage." Hudson then eviscerates Goldenberg's arguments, beginning with saying, "The Canadian government manufactures Goldenberg’s 'public bottom line' by exceeding its rightful role in the first place."

Four downs (Week 8 games to watch)
1. Buffalo Bills at New Orleans Saints: A team playing its third-string QB facing a Saints team coming off a bye week following its first loss. Should be no contest, right? Buffalo plays close games with five of their seven decided by three points or fewer and only one game decided by more than a converted touchdown. The Bills are playing so much better than its 3-4 record indicates. Their reputation is one of good defense but they are allowing 25.4 ppg, which is worse than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and slightly better than the St. Louis Rams. The secondary seems to be doing its job, limiting opponents to completing just 55.11% of their pass attempts (second in the NFL) and they have the sixth best opponents QB passer rating (77.6). They are about middle of the pack in yards allowed per game and per pass attempt. It's been a while, but Bills coach Doug Marrone used to be the Saints offensive coordinator teaming with coach Sean Payton and QB Drew Brees from 2006-2008, so he might be able to prepare his D for the duo. The Saints were favoured by 11.5 earlier this week. I would have taken Buffalo and nervously watch for the Bills keep it within 10. Games with the Saints are fun to watch, and facing DE Mario Williams, who is on pace to break the single-season sack record (he won't) means Brees should be under pressure most of the game. It is hard to imagine the Saints losing at home, but Buffalo might make New Orleans work for it. Perhaps I should have picked the Pittsburgh Steelers edging out the Raiders in Oakland in ugly fashion for this list, but I shouldn't be picking the Steelers every week.
2. Dallas Cowboys at Detroit Lions: Interestingly, this is one of only two games this week featuring two teams with records above 500. Coming into this week, the 'Boys and Lions are ranked in the top eight for scoring, with 28.6 ppg for Dallas and 26.6 ppg for Detroit. They are both in the top eight in passing yards per game. In terms of total yards allowed, they are ranked second and fourth worst, allowing at least 393.9 yards per game. Looks like dangerous offenses facing suspect defenses. Using advanced metrics like Offensive and Defensive DVOA from Football Outsiders, these two teams are situated more in the upper tier of the middling squads, ranking 10 through 14 in either offense or defense. Paradoxically, that makes for a great game, with both sides fairly evenly matched and either Tony Romo or Matthew Stafford capable of sustaining scoring drives. The range of outcomes and scores is probably the greatest for this game of all the contests this weekend. It is easy to imagine a Cowboys vs Broncos-style shootout but also a game in which one or both sides is forced to settle for field goals. Often these teams are their own worse enemies, making untimely errors that help their opponents sustain drives, not that either really needs the assistance. Neat stat via Cold Hard Football Facts: both Romo and Stafford have thrown for 15 TDs and both WRs, Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant, has caught 6 TDs. And both teams are -5 in turnover differential. Detroit is one of three NFC North teams with four wins, so they will desperately want to keep pace. My prediction is that Dallas wins with either a game-winning two minute drill at the end or a stop of Detroit's attempt to do the same.
3. New York Jets at Cincinnati Bengals: This is the other game this week between two teams playing better than 500 football. It looks like the most intriguing games of the week with two teams that play close games: both Gang Green and Cincy have five of their seven games decided by seven or fewer points, with a combined eight games decided by four or fewer points. The 5-2 Bengals look like they are going to run away with the AFC North even though few pundtis seem to trust QB Andy Dalton although he is finally connecting with A.J. Green. In the last two weeks, Green has 258 yards and 2 TDs, following four weeks in which he combined for 199 yards and just one score. The Jets are looking like the most credible AFC wild card team outside the West, and if the Pats are as anemic as they have looked the past three games (one passing TD), a possible contender for the AFC East division title. That said, despite being one of only six teams with a 500 or better record in the AFC, they are -28 in point differential. Rookie QB Geno Smith is prone to turnovers (14 in 7 games), but he shows great poise in close games and relishes the chance to lead his team to victory with four game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or OT. According to Defensive DVOA, the Bengals have the 7th best D, the Jets the 4th. The Jets allow the fewest yards per run attempt and fourth fewest yards per pass attempt. Should be a close and tightly played game, with the home team winning with late-game theatrics.
4. Washington Redskins at Denver Broncos: After last week's 45-41 victory over Da Bears, RG3 has temporarily silenced critics who wondered whether last year was a fluke, he isn't the same following the knee injury suffered in January, or if opponents figured out how to defend his read option offense. A better explanation might be that it took a while for Robert Griffin III to get comfortable after missing the pre-season (even Peyton Manning and Tom Brady take snaps in August) and coach Mike Shanahan finally unleashed his second-year franchise quarterback (the offensive game plan looked like they were scared to get RG3 hurt and didn't call plays that took advantage of his legs and read option abilities). Or it might have been the cheerleader professionalism of the Redskins cheerbabes who despite cold temperatures wore two piece outfits throughout the whole game. (ESPN's Gregg Easterbrook theorizes that teams that have cheerleaders who dress scantily when cold weather arrives do better than those who cover up because football karma rewards their professionalism, or something like that). Will Denvers' cheerleaders demonstrate the same level of professionalism and help the Broncos win? An unleashed RG3 makes the whole Redskins offense better. The defense isn't as good as it was last year -- and it won't help that neither starting safety is suiting up for this game -- so they'll need to score. And in Denver, they'll have to outscore Peyton Manning and a Broncos team that is putting 42.6 ppg on the board, more than 12 points more than the next best team -- the Bears team that Washington beat last week. The Broncs are without CB Champ Bailey, and LB Vonn Miller, who returned last week to make practically no impact, needs to assert himself. Indeed, Miller vs. Griffin is an intriguing matchup. Denver will win, but Washington can make it close.

If anyone who loses health insurance dies as a result of non-coverage can we chant 'Obama lies, people die'
Remember when President Barack Obama said, "If you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance." San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders notes on her "Token Conservative" blog at the paper that 600,000 Californians are going to lose their health insurance due to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

Rick McGinnis & Brian Lilley on family friendly and unfriendly television
Interim columnist Rick McGinnis was on Sun News last night talking about the dreadful Fall television lineup and why Duck Dynasty is a success, riffing on his column from the October issue of The Interim.
I'm writing a feature on the Duck Dynasty phenomenon for the December edition of the paper and am tempted to name the Robertsons Family of the Year.

Stupidity and dishonesty are prerequisites for being a politician because people are dumb and envious
Tim Worstall notes that David Cameron is an idiot because he thinks it is morally wrong for energy companies to raise prices by more than the wholesale costs of their inputs. Why are most politicians ignorant of economics? Or to answer that question with another question: why do politicians say patently dumb things to suck up to voters? I come up with two answers. The first is that politicians attracts stupid people and liars. That is probably the more charitable explanation. The second answer is that most of the voting public is ignorant, stupid, lazy, and envious. But if we believe that politicians are leaders (I wish we wouldn't, but we do) then it is their job to not cater to such ignorance, stupidity, laziness, and envy. Politics becomes a vicious circle of the blind leading the blind.

I wouldn't even give this kid an A for bullshit
Breitbart reports:
A 19-year-old gay student is planning to lose his virginity in a gallery full of spectators for an art project he's calling: "Art School Stole My Virginity." The deflowering of Clayton Pettet is scheduled to take place January 25 in Hackney, London in front of an audience of between 50 to 100.
Clayton will reportedly engage in safe sex with a friend until completion, after which he will ask the audience questions related to his performance. He hopes to earn accolades for challenging the idea of sexuality.
Clayton, who is a second-year student at Central Saint Martins art school in London, has been planning the event for three years ...
This is not nearly as transgressive as Clayton thinks.

The Obamaconomy
Terence P. Jeffrey of CNSNews notes that welfare recipients outnumber full-time workers in America. He says:
Americans who were recipients of means-tested government benefits in 2011 outnumbered year-round full-time workers, according to data released this month by the Census Bureau. They also out-numbered the total population of the Philippines ...
[T]here were about 1.07 people getting some form of means-tested government benefit for every 1 person working full-time year round.
Investor's Business Daily editorializes about this shift from full-time work to benefit recipients:
This is a real danger for the U.S. — the danger of dependency. Anytime more people are being paid not to work than to work, it imperils our democracy. No one votes to cut his own welfare benefits. So welfare grows.

Friday, October 25, 2013
What I'm reading
1. Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets by Peter Schweizer
2. Economics without Frontiers by Gordon Tullock. I'm perusing parts of a book I like to return to frequently.
3. Happy, Happy, Happy: My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander by Phil Robertson
4. The Duck Commander Family: How Faith, Family, and Ducks Built a Dynasty by Willie Robertson
5. Si-cology 1: Tales and Wisdom from Duck Dynasty's Favorite Uncle by Si Robertson
6. The Duck Commander Devotional by Alan Robertson
7. Now I Know: The Revealing Stories Behind the World's Most Interesting Facts by Dan Lewis

Congressional can-kicking
Roll Call reports:
Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday that he expected little more from the formal House-Senate budget conference than some relief from automatic spending cuts under sequestration.
The Nevada Democrat called the suggestion of a "grand bargain" including an overhaul of entitlement programs "happy talk."

Unintended but foreseeable consequences of Obamacare
Or President Barack Obama is a liar (or both). The Washington Examiner reports:
CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield is being forced to cancel plans that currently cover 76,000 individuals in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., due to changes made by President Obama's health care law, the company told the Washington Examiner today.
That represents more than 40 percent of the 177,000 individuals covered by CareFirst in those states.
Though Obama famously promised that those who liked their health care coverage could keep it under his program, in reality, the health care law imposes a raft of new regulations on insurance policies starting Jan. 1 that are forcing insurers across the country to terminate existing plans.

Obamacare follies were made for The Onion
The Onion: "New, Improved Obamacare Program Released On 35 Floppy Disks." My favourite part:
"[F]inding the right health care option for you and your family is as easy as loading 35 floppy disks sequentially into your disk drive and following the onscreen prompts," President Obama told reporters this morning.

Kling on what's wrong with the Obamacare health insurance exchanges
Arnold Kling has a good post on the problems with Obamacare -- or more precisely the website and the health insurance exchanges -- which is worth reading in its entirety, but two similar points are worth highlighting:
This is not a technical screw-up, and it will not be fixed by technical people. It is an organizational screw-up. And until that is recognized, it probably will get worse ...
I suspect that the technical problems are mere symptoms. Probably what is fundamentally messed up in this health insurance brokerage business is the org chart.
(HT: Marginal Revolution)

I'm speechless
Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland talks about employment in Canada with Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and she says that "sadly" increasingly a person's job prospects is correlated to the job his or her father had.

Dependency and voting behaviour
At the American Thinker, David Waciski explores whether dependency on government programs influences voting behaviour based on data from the 2012 presidential election. He admits that whether we are talking about federal or state spending might affect the outcomes somewhat, but Waciski concludes:
The precinct level examination of the 2012 election results shows a strong correlation between the saturation of federal assistance received in a community and the voting behavior of its residents. Furthermore, claims that federal assistance does not correlate with voting behavior based on state level comparisons are either intentionally deceptive or statistically worthless. Unsurprisingly to those who understand human nature, the recipients of federal aid have a strong propensity to support the politicians who provide that aid.
This explains why the Left has an incentive to expand federal programs and introduce new ones -- they are shopping for votes. But why won't the Right do more to cut these programs and wean voters off the state's largesse? Or have they figured they can get in on the vote-buying, too?

Dershowitz says abortion isn't protected by the U.S. Constitution
Live Action News reports that pro-abortion lawyer Alan Dershowitz acknowledges that abortion is not in the U.S. Constitution. He also says that not everything he favours is "necessarily constitutionally based."

Thursday, October 24, 2013
New Anchorman 2 trailer

Three cheers for Canada's free trade agreement with Europe. And three cheers for Stephen Harper
Duncan Hood of Canadian Business on the Canada-EU free trade agreement:
The deal is not yet ratified, and the text has not been released, but on the basis of what has been made public, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement is one of the most beneficial agreements Canada will ever sign. In some ways, it is more important than NAFTA ...
Canada will be allowed to export more cars to Europe, and we’ll pay less for a Mercedes assembled in Germany. The pork and beef markets of Europe—all but inaccessible until now—could soon be worth a billion dollars a year. Our ice wine will find new fans in Luxembourg, and Canadian shoppers will finally (finally!) pay more reasonable prices for wine from Italy, France and Spain. For that alone, I would support the deal.
But the freer trade of goods and services is only half the picture. Much of CETA is aimed at reducing barriers to the flow of skilled labour and capital between Canada and Europe. The agreement will streamline the recognition of professional qualifications, making it easier for Canadian engineers to work in Sweden, and for Austrian accountants to work in Canada. It will encourage EU nations to pump foreign direct investment euros into Canada to take advantage of our easy access to the U.S. market. It will help Canadian executives get temporary work permits overseas. All in all, the agreement, slated to be in place by 2015, could boost our GDP by $12 billion and help create some 80,000 jobs.
So despite not being perfect, there is a lot of good in the deal -- a lot of good. Stephen Harper's government has done something that will make Canada better off. Much better off. And as Hood says, if we are lucky, it will lead to free trade deals with our Asian trade partners.

The linear calendar
The linear calendar is a project on Kickstarter, promsing, "The first calendar to depict an entire year on a single, uninterrupted timeline." It is probably cooler in concept than practice although I don't really get the problem with "breaking time into a grid format."

The government Americans have entrusted to run health care ...
Needs five years to develop the website and two years to test it, according Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.

Daniel Greenfield on the easy throwing around of racism charges by Christopher Matthews and guests: "MSNBC is the McDonald's of McRacism. It makes it cheaply and distributes it to everyone."

Halloween III -- I'd call it the worse of the Halloween movies if it were actually one
Halloween is my favourite horror series and it is easily better than the other slasher flicks of the '80s like Friday the 13th (which I enjoy) and The Nightmare on Elm Street (no time for it). Five Feet of Fury has a number of observations and links about Halloween III: Season of the Witch, which "contains no Mick Meyers, no witches." To me that's false advertising and while I agree with Kathy that the movie isn't bad, I would have been more amenable to it if it was called Killer Masks or even Season of the Witch, something, anything that wouldn't have led me to believe that it was part of the Halloween franchise. I'd like to think that like Kathy I'm not "uptight" about it being "non-canonical" but I feel like the producers tried to pull a fast one on me. And I won't let them. I rewatch most of the Halloween series each October but I've only seen Season of the Witch once. If it was just called Season of the Witch, I'm sure I'd be able to view again without getting pissed off.

Does this really need to be studied?
The Wall Street Journal earlier this week: "The Real Reason Couples Have Sex." There are two studies to figure it out. Two!

The Obamaconomy
Investor's Business Daily editorializes: "Any lingering doubts about the deficiencies of Obamanomics can be dispelled with one piece of data: The U.S. has spent $3.7 trillion on welfare in the past five years, with virtually nothing to show for it."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Three and out (World Series edition)
1. I want the St. Louis Cardinals to win. I strongly dislike the Boston Red Sox and the Cardinals are an excellent organization. And it's time that Carlos Beltran won the World Series.
2. I am predicting the Red Sox to win. I wouldn't bet on it because betting on baseball is stupid. Anything can happen in a game or short series. Even though on paper these two teams seem incredibly evenly matched, Boston just seems like they are going to win. Their players just seem like they are going to produce some magical moments -- a grand slam homerun by David Ortiz, a freakishly great defensive play by Dustin Pedroia, or two perfect innings in relief by closer Koji Uehara.
3. Analysis doesn't make a lot of sense in a four to seven game series. But here is the Coles Notes version. The Red Sox have a stacked lineup with absolutely no holes. The Cards will have two iffy bats in the lineup: SS Pete Kozma (217/275/273), 3B David Freese (258 BA vs. RHP), and OF Jon Jay vs lefty starter Jon Lester (306 BA vs LHP). When the series goes to St. Louis the BoSox will lose something on offense as either Mike Napoli or David Ortiz will have to sit out as there will be no DH. Boston's bench is vastly superior, too, especially in St. Louis with either Napoli or Ortiz available to pinch hit. Boston has a great running team -- not just stealing bases but making smart decisions on the basepaths as when to take an extra base and when to resist it. In a close game in a close series that might make the difference. At the very least, it means Boston is unlikely to cost themselves baserunners and give up one of the precious 27 outs. Cards catcher Yadier Molina might put the brakes on Boston's stolen bases. St. Louis has the better starting rotation and bullpen. I find this incredible: rookie pitcher Michael Wacha has started eight games since Labour Day and this is how many runs he has allowed in each game: 0, 0, 2, 4, 0, 1, 0, 0. In 21 innings in the playoffs so far, he has allowed one run, eight hits and four walks. That probably has to end at some point. The Red Sox love to work the count, but with the stacked Cards bullpen, it might not make much difference if they knock the starters out early. When it gets late in the game, the St. Louis closer Trevor Rosenthal (96.4 mph fastball) and setup man Carlos Martinez (97.6 mph) have electric stuff. I hope to watch Sox slugger after Sox slugger whiff swinging for the fences facing this duo. For the first time since 1995, the teams with the best records in each league are facing each other in the World Series. Although Boston had 70 more runs than St. Louis, they both led their league in runs scored. St. Louis famously has the best batting average with RISP in baseball history, but that's more luck than skill so they shouldn't count on timely hitting. While Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz has struggled in the playoffs (10 runs in 17 IP), the top of the rotation for both teams are capable of throwing gems. I expect a close series. I don't understand the indifference to this pairing even if I appreciate that the fun of watching either team win their third World Series in a decade isn't as thrilling as it would have been to see the Pittsburgh Pirates or Tampa Bay Rays competing for baseball's top prize. But there are a lot talented players in this series, some veterans chasing the dream for perhaps the last time and a lot of young players looking to taste the ultimate victory in the sport they play. I don't really care about storylines, like Boston's rise from the ashes or whatever. I do care about great baseball. And I expect to see it over the next week. Boston in seven. Or six. Or perhaps St. Louis can pull it off. But as I post this, Boston is leading 3-0 in the first. Go Cards!

Network television is awful and NBC is the worst
At Grantland Andy Greenwald notes that things aren't going well (again) at NBC:
In an attempt to stop the bleeding of what has been yet another disastrous fall in a decade of them, NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt has made the decision to try to salvage his heavily hyped throwback sitcoms Sean Saves the World and The Michael J. Fox Show by giving them the best lead-ins possible. Which, in this case, means sacrificing a few months of the beloved Parks for weeks of stunt programming based on the network's twin successes, The Voice and Saturday Night Live. The hope being, I suppose, that viewers will forget to change the channel once these relatively higher-rated shows have ended, thus goosing Sean and Michael's numbers back to respectability. (Or, as they call it on Univision, respetabilidad.) The truth is, there's no reason to think this "shiny object" strategy will work. What's worrisome is that Greenblatt has no other immediate fix that might conceivably work any better.
NBC's big success is Sunday Night Football but even with Bob Costas it is hard to screw up football ratings. As Greenwald says, "The only thing keeping NBC from falling to CW levels of relevance is football. And the problem with football — at least as far as Bob Greenblatt is concerned — is that it ends after the Super Bowl." Few of the peacock network's scripted shows work. Interim culture columnist Rick McGinnis predicted as much in his October column about the Fall lineup in general; condescension, dreariness, and stupidity is a hard sell.
Greenwald offers five ideas to fix NBC:
1. Send the Comedy Department Packing.
2. The Blacklist Is Working? Boom. There's Your Brand.
3. Law & Order Is Your Rushmore, Your North Star, Your Guiding Light.
4. Horror Night Done Right.
5. Limit Yourself and Go Big.
It might work. It might not. But what is surprising for an industry with so many (ostensibly) creative minds, is how uncreative they are at adapting their ways. Television is a strange industry and I won't even pretend to understand how it works. It doesn't seem to operate on the same market principles as most other industries. Yet for all its political liberalism, it is staid and conservative in how it operates, ultra slow to adjust to changes in viewer habits. You would think for the billions of dollars being piped into Hollywood, someone would have a clue how to stanch the bleeding -- or at least have the dough to buy a clue. NBC's stupidity is subsidized by football. How long can that last?

Obama is no technocrat
At The Federalist Ben Domenech notes President Barack Obama's love of leisure time (golf, watching sports on TV) and says it defies the narrative of Obama as a technocrat:
The Obama-as-Technocrat arc fascinates me. The idea that he was some kind of technocratic, cool-under-pressure Vulcan always seemed off. Technocrats tend to be fussy, hands-on operators, taking over their own speechwriting (Romney) and struggling with delegation (Gore). Obama’s activity in both of these threads seems more to be that of a detached ideologue, frustrated with the problems of executive leadership, the lack of control over the storyline of his presidency, and ready to move on to something more pressing.
I agree with Domenech that the Obama-spends-too-much-time-golfing complaints on the Right are overblown, but he does seem oddly detached from actual governing.

NBC in bed with anti-Redskins activist
The Daily Caller reports:
The disputed Indian leader pushing to change the Redskins team name had already entered into an undisclosed television agreement with NBC Sports when Bob Costas delivered his on-air editorial condemning the Redskins name.
The Oneida Indian Nation’s Turning Stone Casino in upstate New York, overseen by gaming mogul and disputed Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter, will host its first NBC “Fight Night” production November 16 with the IBF heavyweight title fight between Tomasz Adamek and Vyacheslav Glazkov.
NBC already had the deal in place to broadcast from Turning Stone when Bob Costas delivered a halftime editorial during NBC’s October 13 primetime broadcast of the Cowboys-Redskins game.
Considering that Bob Costas has used his podium on Sunday Night Football to promote his pet liberal causes, it is no surprise that he joined the drumbeat for a Redskins name-change. But these revelations raise uncomfortable questions about the ethics of journalists at NBC.

State-run childcare is bad for your family
Brian Lilley of Sun News talks to Andrea Mrozek of the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada about the Left's push for control of your family through a state-run daycare system.

Left-wing techies
Patrick Ruffini writes at The Foundary about how could discredit liberalism. Maybe. But his introduction is important for reasons much broader than the current president or his signature policy (failure):
The Internet does weird things to people. One of those weirdnesses comes from the tech-savvy community on the left, who sincerely embrace an agile, entrepreneurial, bottom-up culture in their professional and voluntary pursuits, yet forcefully argue for the top-down paternalism of forcing people to buy health insurance, imposed by a bureaucracy that can’t build a website.
Why this is so is probably not easily answerable but my guess is that it has to do with some combination of Creative Class BS, easy money, and too much education.

Technology could make health care cheaper by reducing our reliance on doctors
In his USA Today column Glenn Reynolds applauds technological progress in medicine that won't quite usher in a do-it-yourself era of health care, but will greatly reduce our dependence on doctors, a driver of health care costs. Eventually, it might be possible to have machines flag difficult to diagnose health problems or future susceptibilities.

Beck vs. Norquist
I simultaneously like and dislike both Glenn Beck and Grover Norquist, appreciating what they've done for the conservative movement and understanding the ways they make it more rigid and weirder in unpleasant and impractical ways. Kathy Shaidle has a World Net Daily column about Beck going after Norquist, the founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform. Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy, used to share office space with Norquist and says he (Norquist) routinely met with Islamists including the Muslim Brotherhood. Norquist dismisses the complaint saying that Gaffney "also says I am gay," which seems like an odd way to shrug off a criticism. Blogger Pamela Geller says that Norquist influenced George W. Bush to believe that Islam is a religion of peace. There has been no discernible political benefit to the Republicans in their soft touch with Muslims.
Norquist has an out-sized influence within the Republican Party and perhaps Beck's making the conservative movement more aware of the establishment figure's unsavory connections will accomplish what the liberal mainstream media has been trying to do for years: take Norquist down. Certainly Beck has more influence within the conservative movement and Republican Party than does CNN or the New York Times.

Is there anyplace that can be sex-free?
The Daily Telegraph: "Parenting website Mumsnet 'hijacked by sex discussions'." The Telegraph reports: "Joanne Baxter complained: 'It's not what Mumsnet is there for. It should be a tool to help parents bring up their kids and not for people to talk about their sex lives'." The website is usually a forum where mothers can solicit advice on parenting matters, but it appears that a small minority of moms are looking for advice or information on more risque topics.

Not The Onion
From BlogTO: "This is what a lesbian haunted house looks like."

Sprott's letter to the World Gold Council: demand is being insufficiently tracked
Eric Sprott of Sprott Global Resources writes to the World Gold Council (via ZeroHedge) complaining that their data is not quite right: "the massive imbalance between supply and demand is not reflected in prices because available statistics are misleading." He says that the WGC "consistently misrepresent reality, mostly with regard to demand from Asia," as the Chinese ease gold importation restrictions and many non-Western central banks move toward using gold rather than American currency to bolster their reserves. Sprott concludes his letter:
I urge the leaders of the World Gold Council, for the benefit of their own members, to improve the quality of their data and find alternative sources than the GFMS, which paints a misleading picture of the real demand for gold. This lack of quality information has certainly been one of the driving factors behind the lack of investors’ confidence towards gold as an investment. Gold has been one of the best performing asset classes since 2000, and the World Gold Council should be promoting it accordingly.