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, November 30, 2013
A disturbing sign of the times
I note a Thomas Sowell quote at Soconvivium and wonder about the state of a society in which Maury Povich is a successful TV talk show.

Four downs
1. Don't really want to rehash the Thursday night game that the 22-20 Pittsburgh Steelers loss against the Baltimore Ravens -- it is still a painful memory. All the post-game talk is about coach Mike Tomlin getting in the way of the play on the field anyway, and even though he deserved a penalty and will be fined, it didn't appear intentional. It was a close and exciting game in which the Steelers let the Ravens get to a 13-0 first half lead before OC Todd Haley played a go-for-it offense. Conservative play-calling is probably what kept the Steelers off the scoreboard despite long drives in terms of time and plays on their first three possession. The botched field goal didn't help; it looked like a trick play by Shaun Suisham but we've since learned he messed up the count cadence and went to kick early, instead picked up the ball and was tackled for loss, giving the Ravens great field position. The O-line kept Ben Roethlisberger clean for yet another game, no small feat against the Baltimore Ravens. The game came down to a two-point conversion attempt to force overtime but three injuries to the O-line (two starters and the backup left tackle) and starting RB limited their goal-line options. The second half was thrilling to watch, but Pittsburgh dug too deep a hole to comeback.
2. That all leads to the what-might-have-been thoughts for Steelers fans. The loss probably dooms the Steelers chances of making the playoffs, with a win giving them a 50% chance or better of winning the sixth and final AFC wild card to less than a 5% chance. As Scott Brown notes at ESPN, this is the third time since 2009 that the Steelers will miss the playoffs and second in a row after losing several games against bad teams. In other words, the win against the Ravens would have been nice, but might not have been necessary if they beat the Minnesota Vikings or Oakland Raiders earlier this season.
3. That logjam in the AFC is still going be crowded, with the San Diego Chargers and Tennessee Titans possibly able to keep pace with Baltimore and the winner of the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins matching the Ravens 6-6 record. I have my doubts about either the Jets or Fins staying relevant for three more weeks especially considering the former's struggling rookie QB and the latter's O-line problems on and off the field. And it's possible that the Buffalo Bills can get back into it, with their next three opponents combining for seven wins: Atlanta Falcons in Toronto (2-9), at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-8), and at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9). They then face the Miami Dolphins at home and visit the New England Patriots on the final weekend which might be a meaningless game for the hosts. It is not unimaginable to see 4-7 Bills winning four of those five (or better). Of course, they are the Bills so they will be lucky to a pair of them.
4. Just noticing that after the Bills play Atlanta this weekend, they will play all three teams from Florida. Buffalo fans would have wanted to face them in October instead, when all three combined for a 1-11 record and Miami's win came in OT. Lately, they've improved. The Dolphins are 2-2 including that OT win on Halloween, Jax has won two of their last three games, and the Bucs have won three in a row. So maybe it isn't just Buffalo's luck that will have them looking at another six-win season.

'Seven Phony Hate Crimes Trumpeted By The Media'
John Hawkins of has seven phony hate crimes from Tawana Brawley to Matthew Shepherd to Oberlin College. Perhaps if victimhood wasn't rewarded, there would be no incentive to fake hate crimes.
(HT: Blazing Cat Fur)

Friday, November 29, 2013
And now Slovenia
The Economist: "The fight to avoid a sixth euro-zone bail-out reaches a climax." The magazine explains:
The government of Slovenia, insists Alenka Bratusek, the prime minister of eight months, can set its country’s finances to rights without having to seek a bail-out from the euro zone and the IMF. Having seen the harsh conditions imposed on the previous supplicants, she is determined that Slovenia should chart its own course and says that her government can carry out all the necessary reforms on its own ...
[T]he three biggest Slovenian banks are bust, able to keep operating only because of the imminent prospect of recapitalisation.
The banks’ plight arises from mounting losses on their loans. Between the middle of 2012 and of 2013, the ratio of non-performing to total loans rose from 13.2% to 17.4%, which is the highest level in the euro zone after Greece and Ireland (see chart). The bad debts have been incurred predominantly through lending to businesses. Slovenia’s firms are weighed down by debt, which is particularly high in relation to equity ...
Slovenia is a textbook case of the problem that has plagued other parts of the euro zone: the link between weak banks, which governments end up recapitalising at great expense, and weak government finances. It was severe banking crises that pushed Ireland and Spain as well as Cyprus to call for help.
But Slovenia’s predicament also arises from its history. It has been slower to dismantle public ownership than Europe’s other formerly communist countries. Most notably, the three biggest banks are all still state-controlled.

Liberals take six-point lead nationally
This is not a Forum Research poll so you can take it a little bit more seriously: Liberals 35%, Conservatives 29%, NDP 26%. Careful reading of the poll (for what polls are generally worth nowadays and what a poll 23 months before the next scheduled election means) shows two things.
1) The Liberals have solid leads in seat-rich Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia. The could spell trouble but I have some doubts. Other polls show the Trudeau Liberals with huge leads in Montreal and Toronto and thus slightly behind the NDP in the rest of Quebec and the Tories in the rest of Ontario. But regional breakdowns are more important than national numbers and according to Ipsos Reid, the Tories don't have the support in the provinces they need to win a majority.
2) I don't buy into the analysis of polls in which "shifts" are so neatly explained. If the Liberals are up five points, the Conservatives down one, and the NDP down four as they are in the Ipsos poll, it doesn't necessarily follow that all the Tories and NDP flipped to the Liberals. First, unless the poll tracks the same respondents, part of the supposed movement might just be catching other stable supporters. But it is also possible (buying into the representativeness of polls) that some chunk of NDP migrated to the Tories which lost more than a percentage point worth of support (for example, half the NDP slippage went to the Conservatives and thus the Tories lost three points worth of support to the Liberals). It is difficult for us to think of polls this way, but a -4 for the NDP doesn't not mean that they all went to the +5 Liberals.
In the Ipsos Reid press release, the analysis concludes:
With the election still being two years away, the Conservatives have time on their side. But, their own decline coupled with the NDP’s shrinkage makes this the most disadvantageous opinion environment for the Conservatives since just prior to the failed coalition of 2008.
Let me state this a different way: the Conservative Party is at its most disadvantageous position in the polls since they were in the same position at the same point of the election cycle before they won a majority in 2011.

First they come for the child pornographers ...
Then those who hold politically incorrect views. Over at the Adam Smith Institute, Tim Worstall reminds us that just last week he expressed his concern that British plans to have ISPs censor child pornography could eventually be used to regulate political views by censoring so-called "extremism." That "eventually" took about seven days:
The government is to order broadband companies to block extremist websites and empower a specialist unit to identify and report content deemed too dangerous for online publication. The crime and security minister, James Brokenshire, said on Wednesday that measures for censoring extremist content would be announced shortly. The initiative is likely to be controversial, with broadband companies already warning that freedom of speech could be compromised.
Ministers are understood to want to follow the model used to crack down on online child abuse.
Worstall warns, "there is no possibility of determining what is allowable extremism and not allowable extremism that is not just the outcome of personal prejudice on the part of that person doing the determining."

McWynnety's economy
From the 2014 forecast from CIBC Economics, an evaluation on Ontario's economy:
As for Ontario, the boom in US auto sales has failed to translate into a pick-up in vehicle production. Recent line closures only add to the ongoing loss of US market share in that key sector, signalling a diminished correlation between US and Ontario demand. In light of those development, long-standing economic performance gap between western and central Canada has shown few signs of fading.
In other words, the governing Liberals can't really blame the U.S. economy for Ontario's struggling manufacturing sector.

Happy Black Friday
Tyler Cowen's 2011 post, "The economics of Black Friday."
To me every line is a market failure (demand exceeding anticipated supply) and almost every person in line is under-valuing their own time.

Thursday, November 28, 2013
Be thankful for television
From Quartz:
Thanksgiving is a day when more than 100 million Americans will observe the most honored of traditions: gathering with family and friends to watch as many as 15 hours straight of TV.
More than any other major American holiday, Thanksgiving has become a TV-centric day, where people seem to spend far more time in front of the television than they do at the dinner table. And the broadcast networks are taking advantage of that rapt audience through marquee programs that last year attracted more than 114 million viewers ...
As TV ratings decline—last season’s number-one show, NCIS, averaged 21.3 million viewers; in the ‘90s, top-rated ER would draw almost twice that amount—Thanksgiving Day, like Super Bowl Sunday, is one of the few times a year that advertisers can depend on a dedicated, sizable audience that will watch TV—and watch it live as opposed to time-shifting on their DVRs.
There is a lot to quibble with in the article, mostly because we don't know if the same people are watching all the parades/dog shows/football games. In fact we don't even know if they are really watching TV. My guess is that it is on in the background as wives cook and kids play. Probably even the football games are noise making conversation among most of the men a little more difficult.
But even if it wasn't background, what is the big deal with cousins watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade together or brothers and brother-in-laws enjoying an afternoon of football on the television?
Whether the TV is background music for the visits you are having with friends and family or whether it is what makes such visits tolerable, be thankful for television.

Liberal priorities
Small Dead Animals notes a Liberal questionnaire that is being used to ask supporters about which issues they most care. As Kate says, "Goodbye energy policy, agriculture, and taxation - hello gender-neutral bathrooms." Also, in the comments, David Southam says:
[The] list exudes the odour of Trudeaupian identity/special interest group politics. At least seven of the eighteen categories, by my read, can be so characterized: channeling Kate's remark, "Economy" is one category, whereas "Arts and Culture", "Status of Women", "Youth", "Aboriginal", etc. are all separate. Really?

You'd think the polling debacle from Monday's by-elections would lead media to reconsider these stories
Or at least the source for these stories. The Toronto Sun: "Tories could topple Wynne: Poll." The polling firm is Forum Research, and they find that the Tories are garnering 38% in Ontario, the Liberals 32%, the NDP 23% and the Greens 6%. Earlier this week the same polling firm had the Liberals ahead by 29 points in Brandon-Souris, a riding the Liberals didn't even end up winning.

A lot of crazy stuff happened this year
George Will looks back at 2013, which provides more material "for amusement than for edification."

Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Four downs (Week 13 games to watch)
1. Cincinnati Bengals at San Diego Chargers: This game barely edges out the Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles and it wouldn't be on the list if Aaron Rodgers was healthy for the Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions tilt. This is a great weekend for pro football. But this game should be great to watch because it features strength vs. strength: according to Football Outsiders, the Bolts have the second-ranked offensive DVOA and the Bengals have the fourth-ranked defensive DVOA. When it comes to scoring, they are close: 24.5 ppg for SD and 25 ppg for Cincy. But the Bengals struggle on the road, going 2-4 so far this season with both victories coming in OT. Cincy is playing for playoff position (third overall will help them avoid the Chiefs or Broncos in the first round of the playoffs) and the Chargers are part of the six-way tie of 5-6 teams battling for the sixth playoff spot, so the implications for both teams are huge. If Andy Dalton has a great game, the Bengals win but that's not a safe thing to count on. Chargers get past Cincinnati by six points.
2. Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs: This game might have been ranked the best game to watch this weekend if both Denver and KC hadn't both lost last weekend. Still, the two sides are battling for what will likely be the number one seed in the AFC. They are tied 9-2 and Denver has the nearly unstoppable offense and KC has the stifling defense. When these two sides met two weeks ago, the Broncs won at home, 27-17 that was in many ways more positive than the score indicates for the Chiefs. And while Denver averages 39 points a game, they have "only" scored 31, 27, and 28 points over their past three games. The Chiefs are averaging 16.3 ppg, but they lost a shootout against San Diego last week. If Kansas City plays the way they did in Denver, with the homefield crowd behind them, they can win. But I think they just come up short.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens (Thursday night): A few weeks ago no one would have had this game as must-watch but it vaults to near the top of the list because of implications and history. Both are 5-6 and part of the six-way logjam for the sixth AFC playoff spot. Both teams are flawed but Pittsburgh seems to be on the way up, winning four of their last six. Baltimore's defense has gotten better as the season has progressed, but ditto for Pittsburgh's offense (with QB Ben Roethlisberger being named AFC offensive player of the month). Neither team has much of a running game, but Pittsburgh needs Le'Veon Bell to have more than 20 carries for more than an average of three yards per rush, if for no other reason than keep the defensive pressure off Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh needs to prevent Joe Flacco from connecting on long passes to Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones and while generally Pittsburgh has done well preventing passes that travel 30 or more yards in the air, Ike Taylor is prone to pass interference penalties. If Flacco can't make the big passes, Baltimore's vaunted home advantage might not be enough and the Steelers should sweep the season series (they beat the Ravens 19-16 on October 20). Most pundits view the winner of this game as the instant favourite to win the second wild card spot, and combining stakes with the hated rivalry in the night game on Thanksgiving should makes this a must-watch game. My heart says the Steelers edge past the Ravens in another close game between these two AFC North foes.
4. New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks (Monday night): You could make a case that these are the two best teams not just in the NFC but all of pro football. They are very close according to the conventional stats ranking second and third in scoring -- 27.8 ppg for Seattle and 27.7 ppg for New Orleans -- and second and fifth in points allowed -- 16.3 ppg for Seattle and 17.8 ppg for New Orleans. Going by DVOA, Seattle is ranked #1 in defense and New Orleans is ranked #3 in offense. Seattle tops the league in takeaways (26) and is second in turnover margin (+11), although New Orleans is more of an average team in these measures (17 and +4 respectively). Seattle hasn't lost at home in 2012 or 2013. New Orleans has Drew Brees which means they can win any game. It appears that these two teams are playing for home-field advantage throughout the NFC finals so the stakes are high. These are two very good teams with a lot to fight for. The Seahawks defense is missing pieces with CB Walter Thurmond suspended and CB Brandon Browner injured/facing suspension but their O-line is finally healthy and WR Percy Harvin could play for the 'Hawks for the first time this season. If any team can beat the 'Hawks in Seattle it's New Orleans and I think they will.

Billionaires should not get taxpayer money to build places for millionaires to play
CBS reports:
The Washington Nationals want to put a roof over the team’s stadium and they want taxpayers to pick up the tab.
Multiple sources tell WNEW Senior Correspondent Mark Segraves that team executives have approached several District officials, including some inside mayor Vincent Gray’s office, to propose the addition to Nationals Park ...
The project would cost roughly $300 million to complete.
District taxpayers put up about $700 million to build the ball park which opened in 2008.
Politicians must say no. My rule for municipal politicians is simple: no tax increases, privatize services, and no money for pro sports facilities.
If taxpayers foot the bill for a stadium or improvements, they should get free tickets.

Modern relationship advice from a mom to a son
Roxanne Jones, a former vice president at ESPN, writes at about the advice she wished she gave her son:
Never have sex with a girl unless she's sent you a text that proves the sexual relationship is consensual beforehand. And it's a good idea to even follow up any sexual encounter with a tasteful text message saying how you both enjoyed being with one another -- even if you never plan on hooking up again.
While Jones didn't give that advice, she didn't have her son go off to college empty-handed:
I filled my son's duffel bag with about 300 condoms and told him watch out for party girls but have fun; meet new people but stay focused on academics.
Mixed message?

On censorship
The Cato Institute has released a 20th anniversary edition of Jonathan Rauch's Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought. An an article promoting the book in the Cato Policy Report, the (unnamed) author describes why it is still relevant: "The fundamental problem with censorship, in other words, is that the censors end up acting on behalf of the politically connected." Instead of allowing a wide-open debate, the state and its various institutions, most notably universities, take sides to determine what is appropriate speech and what isn't.

No surprise here: Hate crime hoaxes at Vassar
The Daily Caller: "Reports of bias incidents at Vassar College that involved hateful messages left on students’ doors were actually elaborate hoaxes — and the perpetrator is none other than the student member of the Bias Incident Response Team, The Daily Caller has learned."

Why my kids think I'm nuts
This week around the dinner table our family has talked about these two famous articles/papers: "The Physics of Santa and His Reindeer," and "The Deadweight Loss of Christmas." It is never too early to teach one's children about physics and economics.

'No 1 albums: from the Beatles to Amy Winehouse' in the UK
The Guardian has a list of interesting (and not-so-interesting) facts about the 1000 albums that have been number one in England, including this:
Between May 1963 and April 1965 the only No 1 albums were by the Beatles, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. This run was broken by Bob Dylan, who was then knocked off No 1 by Bob Dylan. Three months later, the Beatles were back at No 1, unseated by the Beatles, then the Rolling Stones, then the Beatles.
And this is amazing: "the South Pacific soundtrack spent 70 consecutive weeks – including the whole of 1959 – at No 1, and 115 weeks at No 1 in all." So is this: "Four of Abba's nine No 1 albums were Greatest Hits albums."
Frank Sinatra had the first #1 album and Robbie Williams and Elvis both had 11 albums top the charts, Madonna 12, and The Beatles 15.

More proof that the government isn't very good at picking economic winners
In 2010, Fisker Automotive Inc. received $529 million in government loans. Vice President Joe Biden said, "This is seed money that will return back to the American consumer in billions and billions and billions of dollars in good new jobs."
In 2011, the company moved manufacturing to Finland. Good-bye American jobs.
In 2013, the company declared bankruptcy. Good-bye loan that won't be repaid.
For details see Doug Powers at

Obama the incompetent pragmatist and lying ideologue
Jonah Goldberg says that President Barack Obama doesn't tell the truth about his left-wing ideology and provides numerous quotes and anecdotes from generally Obama-friendly media to back up this assertion. Goldberg also makes a great point about Obama's pragmatism, which is the President's claim that he can deliver non-ideological competent government:
The irony for Obama is that he’s great at playing the role of disinterested technician, but he’s anything but one in real life. He can talk a great game about providing a website that works like Kayak or Amazon, but he’s embarrassingly out of his depth when it comes to delivering one.

Online shopping hurting impulse buys
Reuters: "No checkouts, no chocolate: Online shopping hits impulse buys." The data (from England) indicates that shoppers spend more when visiting a store than when they make purchases online. The reporters explain:
For consumers, one of the great things about shopping online is bypassing the queue to check out. For producers of the candy, magazines and drinks often sold there, it’s a problem ...
[O]nline shoppers search for what they need, usually sticking close to their shopping lists. They don’t spontaneously buy magazines they opened while waiting to pay, or chocolate to eat on the go.

Keep government out of Thanksgiving dinner
Breitbart: "Bloomberg's Mayors Group Gives Kids Gun Control Placemats for Thanksgiving." Mayors Against Illegal Guns wants it to be a conversation-starter for families. Lame.

Bailey on police cams
Ronald Bailey in the December edition of Reason magazine: "Requiring law enforcement to wear video cameras will protect your constitutional rights and improve policing."
Bailey describes the policies that would make them effective and protect the rights of citizens:
In order to make sure that both the public and police realize the greatest benefits from body-cams, however, a number of policies need to be implemented.
For example, police officers should be subject to stiff disciplinary sanctions if they fail to turn their cameras on each time they interact with the public. In addition, items obtained during an unrecorded encounter should be deemed a violation of the subject's Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure and excluded as evidence, unless there were extenuating circumstances, such as a broken camera. Similarly, failure to record an incident for which a patrolman is accused of misconduct should create a presumption against that officer.
Officer-worn video cameras do have the potential to violate the privacy of citizens. After all, the police frequently deal with people who are having one of the worst days of their lives. Police often enter people's houses to investigate disturbances and disputes. In such cases, video of someone's metaphorical (or literal) dirty laundry is nobody else's business.
Consequently, [Jay Stanley, a policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union] argues that strong rules regarding the retention, use, and disclosure of videos from police-worn cameras must be established and enforced. For example, videos should be retained for no more than 30 to 60 days, unless flagged. Of course, if the video contains evidence of a crime it should be retained just as any other evidence would be. Flagging would also occur for any incident involving force or that produces a citizen complaint. With the appropriate privacy protections in place, very little of police-recorded video would ever be retained or viewed.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013
You can follow me on Twitter
I go by the unimaginative name of ptuns. People do, however, like my avatar.

Environmental conferences for their own sake
Gregg Easterbrook often writes about politics and space in his football column and he notes this week that international gatherings of greens don't accomplish much:
The latest global conference on climate change just ended in Warsaw, with no agreement except that thousands of officials will expend fossil fuels again for the next meeting. "Delegates agree to the broad outlines of a proposed system for pledging emissions cuts" -- the New York Times final dispatch. The broad outlines of a proposed system of nonbinding pledges! Every global greenhouse gas conference since the original Earth Summit in Rio in 1992 has come to no conclusion stronger than that delegates will keep meeting. As Churchill said, better to jaw, jaw than war, war. But a subculture has developed of climate delegates who have important-sounding jobs and jet around the world accomplishing little other than sustaining their important-sounding jobs, while causing greenhouse emissions.
Easterbrook believes in man-made global warming but acknowledges there is "no political consensus" in the United States or globally on doing anything about it. His solution:
So the way ahead is to give up on the expensive, pointless international conferences and have the United States enact domestic legislation establishing a profit incentive for finding ways to reduce greenhouse gases. Smog and acid rain are declining almost everywhere in the world, though no international treaty governs either. They're declining because the United States developed the fixes for both problems, and then gave the fixes away. We can do the same for greenhouse gases.
And no more international conferences to jaw-jaw.

Bitcoin can't be accepted for donations to political organizations
ABC News reported last week that in reply to the Conservative Action Fund the Federal Election Commission ruled that political organizations cannot receive donations in Bitcoin. It is unclear whether individual candidates can accept digital currency donations.
(HT: Gregg Easterbrook)

Grade inflation nation
The Daily Caller: "‘A’ for effort! Wild grade inflation at most colleges." DC reports:
The average college student’s GPA rose from 2.52 in the 1950s to 3.11 in 2006. At many universities, the most common grade is an ‘A' ...
Is it a problem if the average college student receives above average grades? Stuart Rojstaczer, a former Duke University professor who studies grade inflation, thinks so.
“In a fair grading system, you reward people for their outstanding achievements,” said Rojstaczer. Grade inflation “lowers the intensity and intellectual level in many classes.”
And elite universities inflate more than other institutions of higher learning.
Me: To be fair to Harvard and other such institutions, students are clients who get what they pay for, namely credentials not learning.

Remy: 'If You Like Your Plan You Can Keep It: The Rap'
Remy: "Selling hope is like selling soap ... you can't make either one without a little bit of lye." Brilliant.

Don't read too much into by-election results
Just want to point to the two Manitoba by-elections as warnings not to read too much into them and certainly not to put too much weight in the percentage shifts.
In Provencher in the 2011 General Election, Vic Toews won with 27,820 votes out of nearly 40,000 cast. In yesterday's by-election there was a total of 22,413 votes cast. The Liberals gained about 5,200 votes but overall the highly motivated opposition to Stephen Harper's government increased their vote total by just 1,500 votes. This doesn't seem to correspond to the dominant media narrative of a backlash against the government over the Senate scandal.
In Brandon-Souris, the Tories barely held on, winning by less than 400 votes. But the non-Tory vote fell from 15,405 to 12,739 with the total collapse of the NDP from about 8,800 to just over 2,000. Never mind the local issue regarding the controversy within the Conservative Party; the Liberals were close but if the voting public was so outraged about the Senate scandal, why did the total opposition vote totals decline so much?
Turnout for by-elections are generally lower than general elections (about 60% of GE totals). Pundits talk about people moving from one party to another based on changing percentages, but the total number of votes are less, probably indicating that there aren't many swing voters. In all likelihood, the Tories didn't lose many votes to the Liberals in Brandon-Souris, although the Green and NDP did.
Keep all this mind in the by-election post-mortem and suggestions of Justin Trudeau's momentum.

Thank God for official reports: Adam Lanza broke the law in Sandy Hook massacre
Breitbart: "Sandy Hook report: Adam Lanza broke laws to acquire guns, broke more laws using them." Breitbart reports:
A report released Monday by Connecticut's Attorney for the District of Danbury says all the guns and ammunition involved in the heinous crime at Sandy Hook Elementary were legally purchased by Nancy Lanza and then stolen by her son, Adam.
The report lists "a number of crimes" Lanza committed with the stolen guns—including the crime of "Murder Under Special Circumstances," which was committed twenty-six times—and the report says Adam Lanza "was solely criminally responsible" for all these crimes ...
All of the guns were lawfully purchased by Lanza's mother, as was all the ammunition. Lanza then bypassed all gun control by stealing the firearms before using them to carry out his heinous crimes.
The focus of most stories (see, for example, Business Insider) on the "Report of the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Danbury on the Shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School and 36 Yogananda Street, Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012," is that investigators couldn't find any motive for Lanza's murderous actions, highlighting that he seemed to have "significant mental health issues" that were left untreated. The fact that he stole the guns that were legally purchased is ignored in most coverage of the report.

Unions vs. Walmart
Breitbart reports on how unions and their Leftist fellow travelers are targeting Walmart. Related, Diana Furchtgott-Roth at Real Clear Markets: "Unions Hate That Workers Highly Covet Wal-Mart Jobs." Furchgott-Roth explains:
The worker centers' goal is for 500 Walmart employees to strike and join the protests. Walmart employs 1.3 million workers in the United States, so 500 workers constitute less than half of one percent of the Walmart workforce. This is far from a grassroots, worker-driven movement. Call it AstroTurf.
Unions are desperate because only 11 percent of American workers, including 7 percent of private sector workers, have chosen to be represented by a union. For years they have tried to unionize Walmart to reverse the trend ...
They pick on Walmart and fast food chains, but are not picketing Apple, which has bigger profits and also employs low-paid part-time staff.
She also explains how these "worker centers" are funded and operated by the United Food and Commercial Workers International, the Service Employees International Union, and the AFL-CIO, and how Big Labour uses these centers to get around the law:
Worker centers are doing the dirty work that unions are not allowed to do. Since unions are regulated by a series of laws, including the 1935 Wagner Act, the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, and the 1959 Landrum Griffin Act, they have certain obligations.
Unlike worker centers, unions must hold supervised elections so that members can elect union officials as representatives. Unions must file annual financial disclosure forms with the Labor Department, specifying how they spend their money. And they are not classified as tax-exempt 501 (c) 3 charities.
The threat of labour action might be harmful to current Walmart employees:
Since worker centers have no elected officials, there is no guarantee that they represent employees. In fact, the Black Friday protests work against the interests of Walmart employees. Many shoppers might reasonably decide to stay home and shop online, reducing the need for staff in stores.
I doubt that, but DFR's point is correct: you don't help employees by hurting their employers.

Countering the by-election over-reaction: Monday was a big victory for regression, not Justin Trudeau
Canadian Press: nothing changes but Justin Trudeau is still the big winner. The Liberals held on to their pair of seats although there were feats last night that Toronto Centre would flip to the NDP in a battle of star candidates. Conservatives held on to their pair of seats despite the fact that Forum Research had the Grits taking one of them by 29 points a few days ago. The makeup of the House of Commons is exactly the same as it was six months ago. But Justin Trudeau has the "momentum."
Here is how the CP gauges the momentum:
Beneath the surface, however, the byelections have roiled Canada's political waters, suggesting the Senate expenses scandal has badly hurt the Tory government and that Trudeau's Liberals are the ones who stand to benefit.
The Liberals increased their share of the vote in all four ridings — dramatically so in two Manitoba ridings where they were all but invisible in the 2011 election, coming within a whisker of an upset victory in Brandon-Souris.
There are other ways to read the results, namely that without Michael Ignatieff dragging down the party, the Liberals had nowhere to go but up. In Provencher, the non-invisible Liberals had barely half the vote total of the Tories (58%-30%). In Brandon-Souris, the polling lead of the Liberals was illusory or evaporated but regardless it was close more because of a local controversy within the Conservative Party than the Senate scandal. And in Toronto Centre, the Liberals won their "stronghold" by 13-points but they had to fight like heck to keep it.
The story of this election is not momentum but regression back to historical norms: the Liberals generally improved after their terrible 2011 showing under Michael Ignatieff and the NDP generally declined without Jack Layton as leader (falling from second to third in both Manitoba ridings).

Monday, November 25, 2013
I smiled at Stephen Lautens being a jerk
Stephen Lautens tweets:
Why do places with oil & coal (a product & direct proof of extinct life) have the most trouble with evolution?

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
Breitbart: "Cops: On Duty Officer Raped Young Woman On Squad Car." An 11-veteran of the San Antonio police was arrested after stopping a 19-year-old girl for a traffic offense during which he got the teenager to stand behind her car and allegedly sexually assaulted her. Kudos to the San Antonio police for swiftly pursuing this case.

The militarization of the police
John W. Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute and author of A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, has an article entitled "Drones, Tanks, and Grenade Launchers: Coming Soon to a Police Department Near You." Whitehead notes:
In addition to being an astounding waste of taxpayer money, this equipping of police with military-grade equipment and weapons also gives rise to a dangerous mindset in which police feel compelled to put their newly high-power toys and weapons to use. The results are deadly, as can be seen in the growing numbers of unarmed civilians shot by police during relatively routine encounters and in the use of SWAT teams to carry out relatively routine tasks.
(HT: Gates of Vienna)

This is the definition of perverse incentives
The Daily Caller on a new World Health Organization report: "Half of new HIV cases in Greece from 2009-2011 self-inflicted to get benefits." Would you trade your health in exchange for €700 per month in additional benefits?

Four downs
1. The New York Jets went to Baltimore to face the Ravens and it was 9-3 at the half for Baltimore. CBS "analyst" Dan Dierdorf spouted some nonsense about the Jets being praised for their D but it was Baltimore's that was dominant in the first 30 minutes. Er, not really. First, both teams allowed single digits in the first half, which is pretty good. More relevant to Dierdorf's comments, is the fact that the Jets offense couldn't get anything going (81 total yards, three first downs). Sometimes it is hard to separate a dominant and stifling defense from an inept or non-existent offense. Sunday wasn't one of those games: the Jets offense didn't show up. I didn't like Geno Smith's game at all. It was not just a failure to execute but bad decision-making; he repeatedly tried to force passes into tight spaces and ignored the coverage on his targets. I'm not sure if Smith is making his progressions or he doesn't see much of the field or over-estimates his own abilities, but whatever the reason, he was lucky to intercepted only twice. Ravens won 19-3 and while the Baltimore D had a great game on paper, watching the game they were assisted by the terrible game Smith played. You'll read a lot about the rookie QB's confidence which is moralizing rather than analysis. Bad decision-making can be a sign of any number of things including immaturity or inexperience or lack of confidence, but sometimes it is a sign that a quarterback doesn't have a lot of smarts. Too early to tell what it is, but the last three games (25 completions) doesn't give the Jets or their fans much reason to be confident in the team's future with Geno Smith as quarterback.
2. Another point to make about the Ravens-Jets game. Joe Flacco hasn't been able to throw deep much this season, but on Sunday he threw a pair of long passes -- 60 yards to Torrey Smith and 66 yards to Jacoby Jones. Baltimore was able to only score one TD on those drives, but it has to excite the Ravens fans who have watched an anemic offense all season: a running game that often averages about three yards per run attempt and a Flacco that has thrown a lot of picks but not a lot of deep passes. Of course, perhaps those 60-yard plus plays need to an asterisk: the Jets defender who gave up the deep pass is slow-poke veteran (and former Raven) Ed Reed, who was released two weeks ago by the Houston Texans and picked up this week by Rex Ryan. Regardless, it is better to see those big pass plays than not see them.
3. Denver Broncos visited New England and blew a 24-0 half-time lead by surrendering 31 points on the Pats first five drives after the half (four consecutive TDs before Tom Brady's side settled for a field goal). What is surprising is how small a role Peyton Manning played in accumulating those first-half points. The Broncs took advantage of some Pats first half sloppiness. RB Stevan Ridley fumbled on New England's first possession of the game, and LB Von Miller returned it for a touchdown to give the Broncos an early 7-0. Patriots get the ball back and Miller tackles QB Tom Brady to force a fumble that Denver recovered. They scored on their drive, putting the Broncos ahead 14-0. New England fumbled a third time in the first half (thanks LaGarrette Blount). Perhaps the freezing cold and wind mattered. The Broncos got off to a huge lead, but Peyton Manning didn't have a huge half (150 yards on the game), with Denver's D and RB Knowshon Moreno (more than 100 yards in the first half) helping build up the team's lead. Then Brady and company roared back with 31 straight points, scoring four consecutive touchdowns. They also took advantage of sloppiness, scoring six times on eight fumbles after the second half (including their own and a botched punt that gave the Pats an easy field goal at the end of overtime). It also helped the Pats that CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie suffered a shoulder injury on the final play of the first half, and was out the rest of the game; Denver was already without starting CB Champ Bailey and starting safety Rahim Moore. It certainly helped Brady that his targets were being covered by defensive backs and safeties that aren't good enough to start every game. Give credit to Peyton Manning for his 10-play, 80-yard, go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter, although the Pats tied it up with a field goal to force overtime. It was one of the most exciting games and despite all the pre-game hoopla, it wasn't really Manning vs. Brady, although the former engineered an important drive and Brady was incredible in the second half and OT. Last night, the elements, the defense, the running backs (both good and bad) were more influential in this contest. I will watch that game again later this week, it was that good.
4. Bill Belichick was in for some criticism from the broadcast team and on Twitter when he elected to kick in OT after winning the coin toss. Even his players thought he was nuts. Once the Pats won, he was applauded because the result seemed to justify his strategy, but he deserves praise for making the right decision, regardless. It was better to have Peyton Manning throw into the wind and Tom Brady to throw with it. Period. It is just common sense. According to Quirky Research there is no great disadvantage to kicking instead of receiving as six of 11 teams (including last night's Patriots) doing so since 1962 have won. That's not a huge sample size, but it tells you something, namely that Belichick had some idea of what he was doing and that history proves the strategy is not suicide. What I fault Belichick for, however, is benching running backs Stevan Ridley and LaGarrette Blount after they fumbled in the first half. I hate that because I don't think it does anything. It's not like running backs don't know they shouldn't drop the ball. Benching the player has the appearance of doing something -- here player X, learn your lesson -- but it doesn't really do anything but embarrass the player and make the team short-handed. If it is a brilliant way to deal with players, why didn't Belichick bench Tom Brady after his fumble? Does Brady know he shouldn't fumble, but Ridley and Blount need a timeout to understand that fumbling and losing the football is bad? Just saying that aloud should make one understand how ridiculous benching is. Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin does it, too, and I hate it. The next time a coach makes a mistake that the whole world knows is a mistake, he should send himself to the locker room. That will surely teach him not to make the same mistake again.

Obama incompetent, dishonest
Reuters reports on a CNN/ORC poll that found that 53% of Americans said President Barack Obama is honest or trustworthy and that just 40% thought he was able to manage the government effectively. It gets worse: the poll also "found that 56 percent of respondents said they did not admire Obama, disagreed with him on important issues and said he does not inspire confidence, while 53 percent said they do not see him as a strong and decisive leader, CNN said."

Woman at center of false rape accusations at Duke convicted in murder
Charlotte Hays of the Independent Women's Forum uses the conviction to revisit the injustice of the original case and explain why it became a national case:
Crystal Mangum, the former stripper on whose word hung the 2006 rape case against the falsely accused Duke Lacrosse team, has been sentenced to fourteen years for the 2011 stabling death of her boyfriend.
It’s a sad and sordid story. This dreadful end is not to say that somebody already with a checkered life—Mangum—should not have been listened to when she lodged her accusations against the Duke team. But the Lacrosse players should have been listened to also, especially as Mangum's story was flawed and she changed it during the course of the scandal. The case eventually was dropped but not before the accused were dragged through the mud ...
It was in this elite academic world that faculty members and the press were so blinded by their own prejudices that they would not ascertain who the real victims were.
Roger Kimball comments anew on the case:
But there are at least two other aspects of the case that deserve comment. One is the role of the media, which pounced on the story with unseemly delight. Oh, how the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and countless other bastions of liberal self-satisfaction loved it! Race. Class. Sex. Victimhood. It was the perfect morality tale. Those white jocks at “the Harvard of the South” just had to be guilty. And what a good time we were all going to have lacerating the malefactors while at the same time preening ourselves on our own superior virtue!

Something happened so people are offended
That could be a daily headline. Apparently Katy Perry's performance at the American Music Awards was "offensive" because she dressed up as a Geisha. The New York Post says there was controversy and noted that "one Twitter user" complained, "This is the performance equivalent of an offensive Halloween costume." New rule: if you take offense, you are the problem. New rule for media: find a critical mass of people (25% of Twitter users that employ a particular hashtag or something) before implying the backlash was anything more than a handful of malcontents.

First they lied about you can keep your insurance. Now they're lying about lowering health care costs.
E21's Charles Blahous: "No grounds for claim that Obamacare lowers healthcare costs." The White House claims that the Office of the Actuaries at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has lowered "its forecast of medical spending" for later this decade, but Blahous says that according to the CMS, Obamacare (ACA) is not responsible for any existing or anticipated decreases in medical spending:
Here are the factors CMS cited, and the percentage of the improvement each was responsible for:
1) Medicare/Medicaid/other programs “unrelated to the ACA” (50.7% of improvement).
2) Other factors “unrelated to the ACA” (26.1%).
3) Updated data on historical spending growth (21.8%).
4) Updated macroeconomic assumptions (6.1%).
Now, that adds up to 104.7% of the total improvement. The reason these four factors add to more than 100% is that a fifth factor, the “impact of the ACA,” worked against the improvement. Per CMS, adjusting the April 2010 projections for the subsequent impact of the ACA shows it further increasing spending over ten years (equal to and opposite from 4.7% of the total change).

Over-reaction Monday
There are four by-elections in Canada today: Bourassa (Quebec); Brandon-Souris (Manitoba); Provencher (Manitoba); Toronto Centre (Ontario). I'm looking forward to the by-election in Toronto Centre being over so the media can stop over-reporting the battle between income-gap fetishists Chrystia Freeland (Lib.) and Linda McGuaig (NDP). Whatever the results, expect too much to be read into them. If the Liberals win three of four (as polls indicate), there will be talk of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and how the Senate scandal is killing the Tories. If somehow McGuaig overcomes the double-digit polling deficit, there will be questions about whether Justin Trudeau can lead the Liberals to government if the party is losing safe seats in downtown Toronto. Polls indicate that Brandon-Souris is the only riding likely to shift from one party to another, with the Liberals holding a 29-point lead according to Forum Research (which means the lead is probably 12-15). Too much will be read into Tory troubles nationally even though the likely reason for the switch is Tory troubles in the riding. If the Liberals lose Toronto Centre and gain Brandon-Souris, watch pundits' heads explode tonight -- it just doesn't compute. In by-elections there are all sorts of factors at play that skew results as both the local candidates matter more and turnout matters more. Sometimes a by-election is just a by-election and not a portent of things to come.
Pundits have to fill a lot of air time and space on the page. It is hard work analyzing the reasons why voters make the decisions they do and generalizations from their aggregate are sometimes nothing better than guesswork. Pundits would rather read into the results some predetermined narrative that predicts the future because it is quick and easy. Trying to understand four different ridings in all their complexity and localness (I know it's not a word) is much harder than making sweeping but unsubstantiated comments. But for the most part, expect more along the lines of this: by-elections send message. The problem is that it's far from clear what that message is.

New weekly 'alternative' newspaper in London (Ont.)
Alternative usually means lefty, but when you are the alternative to the London Free Press ...
The Yodeller is available in dead tree and by email, and it looks very promising.
(HT: Five Feet of Fury)

None dare call it redistribution
The New York Times examines how the White House knew their health care plan was redistributive but went out of their way to describe it thusly:
Mr. Obama’s advisers set out to pass the law in 2009 fully aware that fears among middle-class voters sank President Bill Clinton’s health initiative 16 years earlier. So they designed the legislation to minimize the number of people likely to be hurt.
Instead of a sweeping change to a government-run “single-payer” system favored by Democratic liberals, members of the administration sought to preserve the existing system of employer-provided health insurance while covering the uninsured through the expansion of Medicaid and changes to the individual insurance market.
They also added benefits available to any family, such as the ability of children up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ health plans.
But throughout the process, they knew that some level of redistributing wealth — creating losers as well as winners — was inescapable.
They were nonetheless acutely aware of how explosive the word could be.

Coren on Rob Ford
Michael Coren in the New York Daily News:
I know Ford fairly well and in many respects consider myself a political ally. But I’m not an apologist for a host of failures he has brought upon himself. I think he has worn out his welcome and should step down already.
That having been said, this should also be a moment to issue a bit of a corrective because, like Ford’s own problems, our collective political pile-on is also a dangerous addiction.
So many urbane, urban liberals have relished the man’s downfall. It was predictable; after all, he’s the boorish simpleton who has governed Toronto with a conservative streak, happily poking the eyes of the center city’s out-of-touch planning elites.
How very rude of him — and how very typical of the rest of us to tear down a leader who doesn’t play the role we would like him to lead.
Ford's worst crime was not sharing the urbane prejudices of Downtown Toronto.
(HT: Five Feet of Fury)

Sunday, November 24, 2013
I thought Michael Taube was a libertarian-conservative
A few weeks ago I took issue with Michael Taube's column at NRO on Rob Ford, calling his piece an example of "mushy liberalism" from a Canadian conservative. One reason I thought he betrayed conservatism was in saying, "Ford’s antics have also turned Toronto, the fourth-largest city in North America, into a laughingstock, which could put the city’s economic viability at risk if this gong show continues for much longer." There might be some effect on the margin but believing that the mayor's personality and the media' reaction to it matters all that much to the "economic viability" of any jurisdiction is not something those on the Right should be believing; it ignores that most of the economy is affected by the decisions that producers and consumers make that have very little do with politics. Conservatives and libertarians might generally believe in the Great Man Theory of history but they should also put politics in its proper perspective.
Earlier this week Taube had a column in the Providence Journal saying it was wrong for Barack Obama not to go to Pennsylvania to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, saying the President should have been at the historic site to mark the occasion. I like the fact that Obama thought the moment didn't need his presence to be special. That the President let Lincoln's words be the focus on the anniversary, not whatever Obama would offer in homage. If Obama went, he'd be criticized if not by Taube by another conservative for politicizing the anniversary. And I am puzzled by this statement: "Mr. Obama’s direct involvement would have allowed Gettysburg to have rightfully received the attention it so richly deserved." There was plenty of coverage and the Gettysburg Address doesn't need an Obama speech to highlight it. I applaud Obama's modesty in not using the moment for a cheap photo-op.
What I find worrying is Taube's belief that politicians are central to the economy or recognizing a historic moment; neither Toronto's economy nor acknowledging the importance of the Gettysburg Address is dependent on any living politician. Sounds very state-centered to me.

Four downs
1. The New York Giants have famously started 0-6 and have now won four in a row and are just two wins out of first place in the NFC East. Numerous pundits are saying Tom Coughlin's crew could still make the playoffs, but it seems very unlikely. Strength of schedule comes into effect here. The six losses were all by teams that are now 500 or better: Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Carolina Panthers, Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, and Chicago Bears. Every one of those teams is still a viable contender and barring something very strange happening, four or five of them will make the playoffs. That might say something about a good team being hidden by the record. But the four wins have come against the Minnesota Vikings and Oakland Raiders who both occupy the basement of their respective divisions and the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers when they either started or played their third-string quarterback for most of the game. Those are games that even average teams could have won. When you look at the product on the field, and the stats back this up, it isn't very good. Eli Manning is throwing picks left, right, and center; there is no running game; both the D-line and O-line are leaky. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is regaining some semblance of his old self, but that's about it for positives. Down the stretch New York faces the Cowboys (5-5), NFC North division leader Detroit Lions, the 10-1 Seattle Seahawks, the San Diego Chargers with Philip Rivers who is playing like a poor man's Peyton Manning this year, and two games against the Washington Redskins. The G-Men would be very lucky to be 500 in those six games and 7-9 isn't going to win the division.
2. Cold Hard Football Facts notes that the only team the Carolina Panthers have never beaten is the Miami Dolphins (0-4). Today the Panthers face the Fins in south Florida. Miami isn't really a 500 team at this point, so the Cats should end their futility streak.
3. Other storylines for today's Denver Broncos at New England Patriots game, AKA Brady-Manning XIV. Pro Football Talk: "Peyton has been less-than-perfect in the cold." And as the New York Post notes, Wes Welker facing his old team and the slot receiver who replaced him.
4. Mike Tanier's bit on the Dallas Cowboys not getting WR Dez Bryant the ball more is worth reading. Scroll down to the second section on the Cowboys-Giants game at his Week 12 Game Riffs column at Sports on Earth.

Government officials asks Facebook's Zuckergberg to stop political advocacy until they meet
Breitbart reports: "While billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is scheduled to appear on ABC News's "This Week" on Sunday morning, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) National Council president Chris Crane is calling on Zuckerberg to suspend his amnesty lobbying efforts until he meets with law enforcement." The most charitable view of this situation is that Crane wants to educate Zuckerberg about the agency's view of amnesty, and that appears to be true, with Breitbart reporting, "Crane believes that Zuckerberg and those other CEOs are unaware of the effects pushing a bill like the Senate’s 'Gang of Eight' immigration bill–or something like it from House GOP leadership–would have on the country’s safety." Breitbart takes the position that Zuckerberg isn't being asked by the media "about his failure to respond to the law enforcement officials’ requests for a meeting." I'm not sure that he owes "law enforcement" a response in regards to lobbying efforts. Though it would be great for Zuckerberg and other CEOs to be informed of ICE's concerns, I doubt they would care (or perhaps they know their concerns and still think amnesty is a trade-off worth making). The point is that government officials might be intimidating citizens from taking part in the political process (advocacy) and Breitbart seems to be taking the government's side.

The unraveling Obama presidency
George Will in the Washington Post:
The place to begin understanding the unraveling of his presidency is page 274 of “The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama.” The author, David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, quotes Valerie Jarrett, perhaps Obama’s closest and longest-serving adviser, on her hero’s amazingness:
“He knows exactly how smart he is. . . . I think that he has never really been challenged intellectually. . . . He’s been bored to death his whole life. He’s just too talented to do what ordinary people do. He would never be satisfied with what ordinary people do.”
Leave aside the question of whether someone so smitten can be in any meaningful sense an adviser. About what can such a paragon as Obama need advice? (Although he did recently say, “What we’re also discovering is that insurance is complicated to buy.” Just to buy.) It is, however, fair to note that what ordinary people ordinarily do is their jobs, competently. Obama’s inability to be satisfied with anything so banal has plunged him into Jimmy Carter territory.
But as his presidency unravels, the dictatorship grows:
Obama responded like a ruler of a banana republic unfettered by constitutionalism and the rule of law. Although no president has even a line-item veto power (which 44 governors have), this president asserts the power to revise the language of laws by “enforcement discretion,” and suggests no limiting principle.

Saturday, November 23, 2013
You don't need college: Mike Rowe
The Daily Caller reports that Mike Rowe, host and creator of Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe, told the Charles Koch Institute’s Diploma Dilemma panel that college is not necessary to get a job and succeed in life:
Mike Rowe has some good news for American parents: Your 23-year-old kids don’t need to live on your couch anymore. That is, if they skip college, learn a skill and work hard.
Because college isn’t for everyone. Hell, it isn’t for most people. And that’s OK, because the Bureau of Labor and Statistics points out that 75 percent of jobs created over the next decade won’t take a diploma.
Rowe blames the culture, the education blob, and parents:
“When’s the last time you saw a plumber or a guy who knows how to fix a refrigerator really portrayed on TV without a work belt or a yard of butt crack showing?” he said. “‘American Idol’ is our number one show. What’s the message there? ‘I’ll have my fame please and I’d like that now. I’d like that now.’”
But it’s not just pop culture: Parents and counselors share the blame when a kid chooses. The American cult of self esteem plays a large role. ”‘Somebody told me I was a precious snowflake,’” Rowe feigned, “‘and I took the test and I’m smart and I went to college and now where’s my job?’”

The Obamaconomy is Barry's real scandal and legacy, not the Obamacare failure
The Wall Street Journal's Daniel Henninger:
For many Americans, the Obama leadership meltdown began five years ago. In fall 2008, the U.S. suffered its worst financial crisis since the Depression. That wasn’t Barack Obama’s fault. But five years on, in the fall of 2013, the country’s economy is still sick.
Unemployed middle-aged men look in the mirror and see someone who may never work again. Young married couples who should be on the way up are living in their parents’ basement. Many young black men (official unemployment rate 28%; unofficial rate off the charts) have no prospect of work.
Washington these days kvetches a lot about what is doing to the Obama “legacy.” Far worse than ObamaCare, though, is that the 44th president in his second term presides over a great nation that is punching so far below its weight that large swaths of its people have lost heart.
For five years, news stories have chronicled the social and economic deterioration in America of people with no jobs or weak jobs.
Here’s a headline over a Gallup report: “In U.S. Fewer Believe ‘Plenty of Opportunity’ to Get Ahead.”
Two from The Wall Street Journal recently: “Parents Serving as Emergency Support for Adult Kids,” and “Workers Stay Put, Curbing Jobs Engine.”
President Barack Obama inherited a mess, but he vowed to turn things around and his fixes have made things worse.
If Obama were white, history will remember his failed presidency as Jimmy Carter II.

Best JFK tweet/post/column/comment
Small Dead Animals.

When will Republicans realize they can't win without base
Breitbart reports:
Tea Party Express chairwoman Amy Kremer said it does not matter whether those "bullies" and "punch them in the nose" remarks [Senator Mitch] McConnell made on the call were specifically aimed at Senate Conservatives Fund or whether they were general to the grassroots movement; the conclusion Tea Partiers should take away is the same.
“An attack on SCF or any Tea Party organization or Ted Cruz or Mike Lee is an attack on all of us,” Kremer said in a phone interview Friday afternoon.
It is a little much for Tea Party Patriots national coordinator Jenny Beth Martin to say that McConnell is "threaten[ing] us with physical violence" -- it was obviously metaphorical not literal.
The Republican Establishment may not like the base, but actively pushing it away is political suicide. If Karl Rove and Mitch McConnell and others don't want Tea Party supporters, the Tea Party support oblige them and stop voting Republican. Of course, what the GOP Establishment really wants is for the Tea Party (and the Religious Right) to be loyal voters who shut up and don't influence party policy or tactics. They want silent partners who can be safely ignored. That's a bad deal because Rove gets a nice paying consulting job, McConnell gets a nice paying political job, and voters get their priorities ignored. The base isn't going to accept it.

Disability benefits nation
Investor's Business Daily editorializes:
Amid reports of a spike in welfare spending and millions leaving the labor force comes more troubling news: The number of people on disability has leapt 20% under Obama as the U.S. jobs disaster worsens ...
No doubt about it: the numbers are alarming. When President Obama entered office, some 7.44 million Americans were receiving federal disability checks, according to data from the Social Security Administration. By October of this year, the number had swollen to 8.94 million Americans, a 20% gain. Total spending on disability has likewise risen by $31.3 billion to $140.3 billion, an increase of 29% ...
Why is this happening? One obvious reason is that going on disability is an obvious and easy choice for many middle-aged and older Americans who can't find jobs in Obama's slow-growth economy. Yes, many are truly disabled. But the idea that a 20% jump in disability would take place in just four years strains all credulity.

Friday, November 22, 2013
What I'm reading
1. Shopping for Votes: How Politicians Choose Us and We Choose Them by Susan Delacourt
2. Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? by Alan Weisman
3. Dumbing Down the Courts: How Politics Keeps the Smartest Judges Off the Bench by John R. Lott Jr.
4. Double Down: Game Change 2012 by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann
5. "Canadian Family Class Immigration: The parent and grandparent component under review," a Fraser Institute study by Martin Collacott

Four downs (Week 12 games to watch)
1. Take your pick. The Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants because NFC East, NFC East, NFC East, rivalry, rivalry, rivalry. The glamour division games are always fun and ostensibly both teams have a shot at the playoffs despite the Giants starting the season 0-6 before winning four straight (I'll try to write about that this weekend and why the optimism is wrong). You could make a case for San Francisco 49ers at Washington Redskins in a battle of young read-option QBs who seem to be flaming out (they're not). You could make a compelling case for San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs where the Philip Rivers 2013 habit of sustaining drives until he reaches the red zone and then sputtering out and thereby having the Bolts settle for field goals might be enough to beat the Chiefs with their anemic offense. You could make a strong case for the New York Jets at Baltimore Ravens because of the playoff implications between inter-division mini-rivals with 5-5 and 4-6 records respectively in battle royal for the sixth AFC playoff spot (currently held by the Jets but they are losing to teams they'd probably need the tie-breaker win against). I'd certainly pick the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns game because 1) I'm a Steelers fans and 2) the AFC North rivalry combined with playoff hopes for the winner between these 4-6 teams. I also like the decision that Steelers OC Todd Haley has to make, having Ben Roethlisberger pass on a sneaky good secondary led by CB Joe Haden or the woeful Pittsburgh running game against a leaky Browns D-line. None of these are marquee games but in terms of anticipation you could rate any of them a B-. My pick would be the Steelers-Browns.
2. Go back to #1 and take a second pick. I think the Chargers will upset the Chiefs, handing them their second defeat in a row. If Colin Kaepernick or RG3 has a breakout game, it will be worth watching. The Jets defense should give the turnover-prone Joe Flacco and non-existent ground game more trouble than they can handle. But the game to watch is the 'Boys at Giants featuring a Dallas team capable of frustrating self-destruction and a Giants team quarterbacked by an Eli Manning that leads the league in picks (17). Manning also has 36 touchdowns in 18 career games vs. the Cowboys. Which one shows up? I predict TDs against an injury-plagued and often inept Dallas D, but also enough picks to help Tony Romo get his Cowboys to victory.
3. Indianapolis Colts at Arizona Cardinals: A few weeks ago this game wouldn't have made the list because the Colts were beating quality opponents and the Cardinals are the Cardinals and no one outside the Grand Canyon State could possibly care about the team. It looked lop-sided and it lacked implications as it appeared Arizona had no playoff hope in the NFC and Indy was probably cruising to the #2 seed in the AFC. Now the Colts are 7-3 and looking vulnerable after a shocking 30-point loss against the St. Louis Rams and a three-point victory over the Jake Locker-less Tennessee Titans. The Cards have kept four of their past seven opponents to 14 or fewer points and according to Football Outsiders, they have the best overall defense in the NFL. The offense is nothing special and QB Carson Palmer is playing about league average according to most traditional metrics, with the exception of interceptions: last week was the first time this year Carson wasn't picked. He also threw for 419 yards, the only 300+ yard game since Week 1. Arizona's formula of okayish offense and a freakishly good defense is good enough to beat most teams on most days. Is Arizona like most teams? Lately yes. Andrew Luck has struggled without WR Reggie Wayne, who is on injured reserve; Luck has just one TD pass in the past two games and three interceptions. Indy's second-year quarterback is capable of beating Arizona's defense, but it won't be easy. Indy's habit of falling behind in the first half -- they've trailed the Houston Texans 21-3, St. Louis Rams 28-0, and the Tennessee Titans 17-6 at half-time the past three weeks -- will be a liability against a defense like Arizona's. Arizona wins. Also, ignore all the hype about Chuck Pagano facing his friend and former coach-mate Bruce Arians (Arians, Indy's former offensive coordinator, took Pagano's place when he, Pagano, was recovering from cancer last year). The game is about the players on the field and you don't need phony narrative to make this game exciting.
4. Denver Broncos at New England Patriots: Manning vs Brady, playoff seeding, AFC Championship preview. No shortage of narratives. But the reason to watch this game is simply that it should be very good as the Broncs and Pats are probably two of the three best teams in the AFC. Tom Brady seems to have the offense going (averaging 34 points a game over the last three contests, buoyed by the 55-point beating they put on the Pittsburgh Steelers). The Denver Broncos are averaging almost 40 points a game. For the first time in years, the Pats are underdogs at home. Hate to bet against the Patriots in New England, but I think Denver edges the Pats.

A few days ago I was wondering if Chi Chi Rodriquez was still alive?
Yes he is. He is giving golf lessons. And sometimes it doesn't work out the way you want.

Mitch McConnell, ready to fight
The Tea Party. I actually like(d) McConnell for his principled and long-time stand against campaign finance regulations. He hasn't been a great Senate leader although he may have the impossible task of hearding cats. And it is disappointing that he is so belligerent against people who should be his natural allies. The American Conservative Union is not the end-all and be-all barometer of conservatism, but McConnell had a 100 rating in 2012 and a 90.19 lifetime ACU rating.
Meanwhile, his potential Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Daily Caller reports, "looks SMOKING HOT shooting a rifle." If that's the ballot question, McConnell is toast.

How air travel changed baseball
Jack Moore, writing at The Score, notes that "travel from New York to San Francisco and back would have been untenable by rail within a major league schedule," so once air travel began to "catch on" in the 1940s, it was only a matter of time until existing teams moved West and expansion teams were created west of the Mississippi.

This story wasn't credibly possible five years ago
The Montreal Gazette reports Virgin Galactic will accept the virtual currency Bitcoin as payment for their space flights.

Stop the presses! Former Liberal MP endorses his Liberal replacement
Bob Rae in National News Watch: "Why I’m Supporting Chrystia Freeland In Toronto Centre." Rae is the former Liberal MP in the riding. Freeland is the current Liberal candidate. Was there ever any doubt who Rae was supporting?
That said, Rae is correct to point out the NDP's hypocrisy on implicitly criticizing Freeland as a carpetbagger:
The NDP has run a textbook negative campaign, and this time has elements that make it even worse. It starts with the poster at the bus stops -”Linda McQuaig – from Toronto, for Toronto”. Sounds innocent enough, but the edge and message are clear, Chrystia Freeland is an outsider, and Linda McQuaig is an insider, “one of us”.
Toronto Centre has dozens of people who move here from outside Toronto, or from outside the country, every day, thousands a year. Are they somehow not eligible to vote or run for office ? Since when did the fact that someone has travelled widely as a Canadian journalist become a barrier to joining the political process ? Why would the New Democratic Party, which as always prided itself on having tolerant views on human rights and mobility, now turn itself into a party that basically says “outsiders stay away”.

Walter Olson: ALCU takes wrong side in free speech vs. same-sex marriage case
The Cato Institute's Walter Olson:
The ACLU of all groups should have no reason to see this as a “difficult choice” or as a conflict of constitutional values. Free speech and expression rights, which extend to the right not to engage in expression on behalf of a cause one deplores, are central constitutional values and the ACLU is the very first organization people turn to to defend them. Equal treatment of gay couples by private actors, on the other hand (as distinct from by the government itself) has no clear status as a constitutional value at all.
Shame on the ACLU for selling out civil liberties principle in favor of its current notions of civil rights. As Jacob Sullum points out, if it “cannot bring itself to stand up for Huguenin’s rights, it should at least have the decency to sit this one out.”
As Sullum suggests, the case is actually about "The Constitutional Right to Conscript a Wedding Photographer," even though it seems obvious no such right exists. Free expression rights do exist, however. The ACLU got this one wrong.

C.S. Lewis also died 50 years ago today
James Como in National Review Online: "Christian apologist, novelist, public intellectual — Lewis spoke to his own time and ours in many voices." I like this line: "He was a Christian apologist whose conception of church is the theological equivalent of one of Heisenberg’s uncertain quantum particles."

Maclean's Power List
Maclean's rates the 50 most powerful people in Canada. Of course Prime Minister Stephen Harper is first. But here are three reasons that the list if BS.
1. Anne Merklinger, CEO of Own the Podium, is #24, three spots ahead of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.
2. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is #2.
3. Stephen Poloz, the governor of the Bank of Canada is ranked #32, behind two premiers, the head of the Canadian Olympic hockey team, and Preston Manning, head of the Manning Centre for Building Democracy.

Thursday, November 21, 2013
Wish this story had video
"Newfoundlanders save shark choking on moose."

Williamson on the minimum wage
National Review's Kevin D. Williamson considers a number of the arguments in favour of minimum wage and debunks them. He concludes:
Most of the arguments for raising the minimum wage are variations on “I like poor people and I feel sorry for them,” which is fine, but the country and its low-income citizens would be far better off in the long run instituting something like Milton Friedman’s negative income tax than by monkeying around with the numbers, mostly after the decimal point, on low-income workers’ wages.

The problem with Obamacare
Russ Roberts at Cafe Hayek:
The real problem with ObamaCare isn’t the web site. The real problem is that ObamaCare tries to manipulate the insurance market in ways that people didn’t expect and don’t like.
Roberts predicts that voters and consumers won't tolerate this: "Either ObamaCare is going to be dismantled or the government is going to take over the insurance industry."

Defund Amtrak
Blazing Cat Fur: "Amtrak goes tribal: special sites for blacks, Hispanics and LGBT." BCF's Frau Katze explains the publicly funded train service:
... has announced the launch of three microsites targeting specific segments of the population:, and In an Amtrak news release, the government-funded intercity train service company says the new websites launched last week, “provide connections to Hispanic, African and LGBT travellers.”

Evidence does not support Obama's preschool program
Grover J. "Russ" Whitehurst of the center-left Brookings Institute: "New Evidence Raises Doubts on Obama’s Preschool for All." Whitehurst explains:
Last week legislation was introduced in the Senate and House to create federally funded universal pre-k for 4-year-olds. The details of the legislation are largely consistent with the White House proposal, called Preschool for All, that was announced in the president’s state of the union address in February ...
Unfortunately, supporters of Preschool for All, including some academics who are way out in front of what the evidence says and know it, have turned a blind eye to the mixed and conflicting nature of research findings on the impact of pre-k for four-year-olds. Instead, they highlight positive long term outcomes of two boutique programs from 40-50 years ago that served a couple of hundred children. And they appeal to recent research with serious methodological flaws that purports to demonstrate that district preschool programs in places such as Tulsa and the Abbott districts in New Jersey are effective. Ignored, or explained away, are the results from the National Head Start Impact Study (a large randomized trial), which found no differences in elementary school outcomes between children who had vs. had not attended Head Start as four-year-olds. They also ignore research showing negative impacts on children who receive child care supported through the federal child development block grant program, as well as evidence that the universal pre-k programs in Georgia and Oklahoma, which are closest to what the Obama administration has proposed, have had , at best, only small impacts on later academic achievement.
Targeted interventions work for those in extreme poverty and in dysfunctional households (where extreme neglect and abuse occur), but that is not what liberal politicians want. Perhaps they know there isn't voter support for programs that are less than universal because everyone wants a piece of government pie. Or perhaps they have a different agenda, namely putting kids in institutional care where they can be indoctrinated or so their parents can be free to work (whether they want to or not). The point is the Left often equates social science as science and insists that science be the basis of public policy. If that is true, the social science strongly suggests that a universal pre-kindergarten program is of minimal to no benefit for its enormous costs.

Vancouver run by door knobs
Vancouver has banned door knobs. Instead, new buildings must install levers, which are apparently easier to use, especially for the elderly and people with their hands full. The new regulation does not apply to existing homes. Howard Gerry, an academic who specializes in design welcomes the change: "I say, good riddance. It never functioned well. I don’t view it as a good piece of design." If people want levers because they are easier, the market will move builders to install levers instead of door knobs. It is, as one developer calls the new rules, heavy-handed to impose them on all new buildings.

Me in the Ottawa Citizen: The Liberals and the three free trade elections
Today marks the 25th anniversary of the 1988 free trade election. I have a column in the Ottawa Citizen noting that it was the third free trade election, along with 1891 and 1911, and I focus on the evolution of the Liberal Party's view on free trade. I note that the Liberals have been on the losing side each time.

Federal Tory scandal not as sexy as Rob Ford, doesn't get international attention, might not matter at all
Two from the CBC:
"PMO staff tried to use party ties to Deloitte to derail Duffy audit."
"Wright, Duffy accused of bribery, fraud in new RCMP documents."
The Harper Conservatives are a lot like the Chretien Liberals. Chretien was able to weather those political storms, which I point out in my book Jean Chretien: A Legacy of Scandal, and is the focus of a Gerry Nicholls made in his Hill Times column (subscription required) a few weeks ago:
The bottom line is voters fear having an incompetent leader more than they dislike scandalous political behaviour.
And when you think about it, that makes sense.
Political scandals, after all, don’t usually have a negative impact on a voter’s day-to-day life, but inept leadership could.
In 2015, Mike Duffy and Nigel Wright (and maybe now Irving Gerstein) might not matter. Unless, of course, one of the Prime Minister's opponents can make the case that they are more competent than Stephen Harper, in which case all this scandal will sink the Conservatives.
Objectively speaking, however, what Duffy, Wright, and Gerstein are alleged to have done are all worse than Rob Ford's indefensible indiscretions. There is a real abuse of power and the public purse in the actions of the senators and PMO staff. But don't expect Anderson Cooper to send a reporter to Ottawa or the late-night comedians to crack jokes about the federal scandals.