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, May 31, 2014
On this day in Canadian history
May 31, 1997, the 13-km Confederation Bridge connecting New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island was officially opened.

Would a non-Christian tweet about celebrating birth of Jesus?
Bonnie Crombie, a Roman Catholic, pandering for votes in the Mississauga mayor's race, tweets:
Delighted to celebrate the birth & enlightenment of #Buddha. Happy #Vesak #Mississauga #vesakcelebration

Canadian foreign aid recipients
Excellent post by Blazing Cat Fur on Canadian foreign aid going to majority-Muslim countries that are among leaders in persecuting Christians. BCF on Nigeria receiving Canadian foreign aid:
#Bringbackourgirls should be renamed #Bringbackourcash

The key is keeping the rat population in check
Probably easier said than done, but Portland, Oregon seems to have reduced rat-related problems by ensuring they don't have easy access to unlimited garbage. The Atlantic reports:
No scientist that has studied rat colonies has allowed only limited amounts of food—the Portland condition. We do have evidence, albeit indirect, that Portland rats are different from rats in cities that allow free access to garbage.
Victims of rat bites are usually children, usually sleeping children, and the wounds are usually to the face and hands.
Emergency rooms in the five boroughs of New York City see at least 400 rat bites a year. Nationwide, ERs treat about 3,000 people a year for rat bites, on average one person per 100,000.
Calculating from that statistic, Portland-area emergency rooms should expect to see 15 patients a year with rat bites. But according to DeBess, the state public-health veterinarian, Oregon registered only 17 rodent bites over the two years from 2010 to 2012, not one of them in or near Portland. When I called a half-dozen local clinics for poor and homeless residents, no clinic employees could remember any rat-bitten patients, ever.
Maybe Oregonians taste funny. (It's probably all that kale.) Or, maybe Portland rats behave less aggressively because they're not densely overpopulated.
I still think any rat is too much rat.

'In the countries where bike helmets are compulsory there has been no reduction in bike injuries whatsoever': neurosurgeon
The Daily Telegraph: "Cycle helmets are useless, says brain surgeon." Certain response from politicians and other doctors: "But if they save even one life ..." Yet Dr. Henry Marsh cites research that may prove helmet-wearing cyclists are at greater risk as drivers get about three inches closer them than others on bikes.

Weekend stuff
1. Five Thirty Eight reports on "The 100 Most-Edited Wikipedia Articles." There are basically two categories: controversial and constantly changing. There is a hug gap between the first- and second-most edited articles.
2. Wired: "The Design Problems Google Must Solve in Its Self-Driving Car."
3. Smithsonian Magazine: "The Cartographer Who Mapped Out Gotham City."
4. Mental Floss has a map of "The Largest Immigrant Population in Each State," for 1910 and 2010. Not quite what I expected for either year. A century ago in New York it was ... Russians.
5. Graph Jam illustrates the Reseacher's Dilemma.
6. Buzz Feed: "26 Real Places That Look Like They’ve Been Taken Out Of Fairy Tales."
7. Quartz provides instructions in "How to stop technology from stealing your sleep." It's probably pretty bad to be on the computer or watch TV just before you try to sleep.
8. The New Yorker reports on a talk about "The History of the Ramen Noodle."
9. From the animal kingdom. Popular Mechanics: "Spiders Hide From Predators by Disguising Themselves as Bird Poop." The Conversation reports on new research about the sex lives of bushcrickets -- it's kinkier than you might imagine. The Daily Telegraph reports and has video of the Asian small-clawed otter at Washington's National Zoo playing the keyboard as part of its environmental enrichment.
10. National Geographic reports on the physics of the new World Cup soccer ball.
11. London's evolution.

Friday, May 30, 2014
Keep on predicting and eventually you might be right
Canadian Business: "The housing-crash bears have been wrong for 6 years." That doesn't stop them from making predictions and for their predictions to be reported as fact or at least credible analysis. But it isn't just the housing "experts." Being wrong never hurt Jeff Rubin.

There is plenty of wealth inequality in Sweden
Tino writes into Marginal Revolution with a long explanation of this:
Sweden is viewed as an egalitarian utopia by outsiders, but reality is complex. In some ways Sweden has less social equality than the United States. While the American upper class is largely meritocratic, the upper class in Sweden are still mostly defined by birth.

The nanny state as nanny
The Cato Institute's David Boaz notes that there is actually a federal program that helps kids walk to school.

Iran tricks U.S. military and diplomatic officials with fake websites
The Christian Science Monitor: "How Iran duped high-ranking US officials with fake website." The CSM reports, "An elaborate online ruse centered on a fake news website tricked some US military and diplomatic officials into divulging password and login information to Iran cyber-spies, a report says." The paper reports:
Dubbed “Newscaster” by iSight investigators, the operation employed a slick but entirely fake site called On the site, the text of actual news stories was plagiarized and credited to fake journalists. Twitter was often used to send links to the articles to victims. Fake web pages of what appeared to be Yahoo, Google, and Outlook Web Access appeared, requiring login information, which was sent to computer servers in Iran.
“The network was principally leveraged against US and Israeli targets in public and private sectors ... with deliberate attempts to connect with certain entities suggest an interest in political, military, diplomatic, and technical intelligence,” the report said. “The majority of personas purport to be journalists, members of the military or defense contractors.”
The fake network, while not especially technically sophisticated, shows that Iran is expanding its offensive cyber-capabilities, experts say.
It's no surprise this happens and some military officials get tricked by such hijinks, but it's also tremendously disconcerting that this happens.

They used to be called dads
The Associated Press: "Obama calls for more mentors for minority boys."

On this day in Canadian history
On May 30, 1975, Parliament passed the Constitution Act (1975), increasing the number of Senate seats from 102 to 104, adding new seats for the territories. Paul Lucier became the first senator for Yukon later that year, and Willie Adams was appointed the represent the Northwest Territories in 1977.

What I'm reading
1. Think Like a Freak by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
2. Our Scandalous Senate by J. Patrick Boyer
3. Room to Grow: Conservative reforms for a limited government and a thriving middle class with essays by Peter Wehner, Yuval Levin, Scott Winship, James C. Capretta, and many others.
4. "Revenue and Distribution Analysis of Federal Tax Changes: 2005-2013," a report by the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer
5. The Spring/Summer edition of the Cato Journal, with a focus on the Federal Researve

Joseph Epstein on trigger warnings
Joseph Epstein in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week:
The trigger warning is another passage in the unfinished symphony of political correctness. If the universities do not come out against attacks on freedom of speech, why should they oppose the censorship implicit in trigger warnings? The main point of these warnings, as with all political correctness, is to protect the minority of the weak, the vulnerable, the disheartened or the formerly discriminated against, no matter what the price in civility, scholarly integrity and political sanity. Do they truly require such protection, even at the price of genuine education?

Thursday, May 29, 2014
So now the UN can sit by and do nothing
Samantha Power, American ambassador to the United Nations, tweeted today: "UN Security Council was briefed today on the Syrian humanitarian crisis. Per @UNOCHA, 20% of displaced persons worldwide are in #Syria." And no doubt the U.S. ambassador at Turtle Bay tweeting this, the administration thinks it has done something meaningful about the refugees in Syria.

Donald Sterling is going to be punished by making approximately $1.2 billion profit on a $12.5 million investment 33 years ago
Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has reportedly been offered $1.8 billion by former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Forbes estimates that the Los Angeles Clippers are worth $575 million.

As usual, Adam Goldenberg doesn't get it (Justin Trudeau's abortion position edition)
Me at Soconvivium on Adam Goldenberg's insistence that Justin Trudeau is right and the bishops are wrong on Catholics in public life.

Comment on renaming the Redskins
At ProFootballTalk, where the writers are resolutely against the use of the name Washington Redskins but pro-Redskins comments get more thumbs up (generally) than do anti-Redskins comments:
Snyder should make a deal with the “native” Americans, the Redskins agree to change their name only if the “native” Americans agree to stop freeloading off the U.S. government.

Great news for Canadians: internal free trade
The National Post reports:
The Conservative government is in the process of hammering out a comprehensive new agreement on internal trade with the provinces, aimed at lowering barriers estimated to cost the country $50-billion a year. James Moore, the federal Industry Minister, said his number one priority is a new internal trade deal that would supersede the existing Agreement on Internal trade...
The devil is in the details, for sure, but this is almost certainly a step in the right direction. Internal trade barriers are obnoxious, increasing costs for products and services and harming consumers based solely on where they live. Any reduction in these barriers is a good thing (although, again almost certainly, there will still be room for much improvement).
Back in June 2010, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute released it's second (and best) study, "Citizen of One, Citizen of the Whole: How Ottawa can strengthen our nation by eliminating provincial trade barriers with a charter of economic rights." Charles Murray's Losing Ground took more than a decade before its influence was felt on American public policy (though not the American public policy debate).

Dallaire retires
Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire has retired from the Canadian Senate. In 1993 he was named Major-General of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (the UN's "peacekeepers") and he is often hailed as a hero. But he literally watched and did nothing as the genocide was carried out. That's not heroic. He blames the United Nations for failing to act, and it deserves criticism for its inability (or disinterest) to take meaningful action to stop the genocide. But Dallaire and his soldiers were on the ground and had guns when the Hutus slaughtered an estimated 800,000 Tutsis. A human being with the ability and a conscience should have acted to stop it. "I was just following orders" is rightly a discredited defense. Furthermore, Dallaire continues to place his faith in the UN when he should well understand its limitations. Dallaire has been Turtle Bay's useful idiot. His high reputation among Canadians does not align with how he actually accorded himself.

The Obamaconomy
George Will's column is about the historically lackluster "recovery" under President Barack Obama and how his administration is getting in the way of economic growth:
Ronald Reagan lightened the weight of government as measured by taxation and regulation. Obama has done the opposite. According to the annual “snapshot of the federal regulatory state” compiled by Clyde Wayne Crews Jr. of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, four of the five largest yearly totals of pages in the Federal Register — the record of regulations — have occurred during the Obama administration. The CEI’s delightfully cheeky “unconstitutionality index,” measuring Congress’s excessive delegation of its lawmaking policy, was 51 in 2013. This means Congress passed 72 laws but unelected bureaucrats issued 3,659 regulations.
That there are more than 50 regulations issued for every law passed is obscene, but don't blame (just) bureaucrats; legislators empower bureaucrats by creating large, often unconstitutional laws that leave the details to be determined later by unelected government officials.

Maya Angelou is dead. May her poetry and prose die along with her.
Maya Angelou is dead. My guess is that a lot of people who have never read her poetry will be mourning the death of the person famous for often being at Oprah Winfrey's and Hillary Clinton's side, and most famous for reading a poem at Bill Clinton's 1993 inauguration (her best career move).
I cannot recommend Mark Steyn's obit of Angelou enough, but here is a snippet:
Most of her observations were ...not exactly novel. "My breasts," she wrote, "It's better not to mention them at all except to say that they seemed to be in a race to see which could be first to reach my knees." Millions upon millions of put-upon waitresses and sagging checkout clerks have deployed this line, and it doesn't seem like the kind of insight you should have to pay a Tony-nominated, Emmy-nominated professor with over 50 honorary degrees to recycle. But in Miss Angelou's writing it's not only the breasts that can't wait to start heading south. More or less every story wound up below the equator: she liked to begin with a personal anecdote (she fails to recognize the star tackle of the Green Bay Packers) and then move on to a general observation (fame can be like that) before concluding that it all goes to prove the wisdom of the old African proverb ("The trouble for the thief is not how to steal the chief's bugle, but where to blow it.") ...
Miss Angelou spent enough time in Africa to know that there are no African sayings any more than there are "European sayings": there are Ashanti sayings and Mende sayings. But the ersatz portable folk wisdom conjured by the phrase "African saying" sat well with a writing style distinguished by its lack of specifics and individual voices.
I remember some in the right-wing press (Insight, the Washington Times) making hay of the fact that she flashed devil-horns at the Clinton inauguration and was thus a Satanist after some photographer snapped a photo of her from a strange angle when she she gave the "I love you" sign. Oh, the good old days when there was civility in politics. I don't know if there is any reason to really hate Angelou, but I don't quite understand the adulation either. She had a hard life and overcame genuine adversity. Great for her. But her poetry and prose were nothing special. She has plenty of quotes at Brainy Quotes -- more than most people -- but they are mostly banal. And as I said above, I bet most people that are sad today over her passing haven't read a word of her. And as Steyn's critique of her writing suggests, that's probably not a bad thing.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014
We need a 'cooling off' period before legislating after tragedies
Reason's J.D. Tuccille channels Glenn Reynolds for his article "Why New Laws Are an Ineffective Response to Tragedies."
When horrific crimes hit the headlines, many people quickly demand that government "do something." Blunt instruments that they are, politicians act in really only one way: by writing and rewriting laws. "That'll be the end of that," they say, as the ink dries on their latest legislative brainstorm ...
But the truth is that law is a pretty ineffective way to prevent people from doing what you don't want them to do. While laws allow government officials to signal what they consider to be the boundaries of acceptable behavior, and to define the penalties for crossing the boundaries, they aren't very effective at preventing people from stepping over the line ...
Politicians like to propose ever-tighter laws, because that's really all they have to offer. But much of life is just beyond the reach of the law.

Public-sector vs. private-sector work compensation in U.S. states
Last month the American Enterprise Institute released a paper by Andrew G. Biggs and Jason Richwine entitled, "Overpaid or underpaid? A state-by-state ranking of public-employee compensation." I like their methodology, restricting their analysis to "state government workers employed in non-public safety positions," because public safety workers have significantly different working conditions, and limiting their analysis to state workers, not local government employees. They calculate compensation based on salaries, benefits and pensions, and job security. They find that seven states pay a "very large premium" for public sector workers (+20%) and they'd be the states you expect (led by Connecticut which pays 42% more, but also New York, Illinois, and California), followed by 11 states that pay a "large premium" (11%-20% more) and the states are more diverse (Massachusetts and Michigan, but also Louisiana and Wisconsin). Twelve states pay a "modest premium" of +5% to +10% and they includes states such as Texas and Florida, but also Oklahoma and Delaware. Nearly 40% of states (18) pay a "market rate" of -5% to +5% and just one state (Virginia) pays less than market rate (-6% or less).
I don't know if you can call state workers who get paid more than private-sector workers overpaid. It is possible that public-sector workers are paid the "correct" rate and private-sector workers are underpaid. Most readers of this blog will probably agree with me that public-sector workers are overpaid, but pointing out that one group makes more than another does not prove they are overpaid. A free market is the best way to determine the right price for something, but you could apply the market principle to the public-sector worker: a person is willing to work for a certain salary and benefit package and the state is willing to pay it, and as long as that exchange is voluntary, it is in accordance with some market principles. The problem is that the state doesn't face the same market disciplines private enterprise does.

Rachel Carson's credibilty
David Burge tweeted yesterday: "Rachel Carson was to DDT what Jenny McCarthy is to measles vaccine."
(HT: Small Dead Animals)

Pollsters should be careful analyzing their own polls
I've long been a critic of pollsters not so much for the data they present than the analysis they provide, which all too often strays into opinion that is not backed up by the data. Case in point is the Research Forum poll reported by the Toronto Star suggesting that Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party's slight decline in support is a function of the controversy over abortion that has raged the past two weeks, despite the fact that the poll did not even ask about abortion. It might be related or it might not -- we don't know. But it is a typical example of what pollsters do in their press releases: report a small shift in opinion and say it is related to something that is happening in the news.
Eric Grenier makes the same point today about the Star story/Research Forum poll at
This wasn't entirely the fault of the Star, however, as the headline and the lede were merely echoing what the analysis included with the poll was saying.
Unless they are expressing their opinions as close observers of politics separate from the analysis of a poll, pollsters must limit themselves to what their own numbers show. Otherwise, they are giving their opinion the semblance of authority, of evidence-based observation, when that is not the case.
Which brings me to my next complaint. Grenier doesn't blame the Star because it was just "echoing" the "analysis" (read: attention-grabbing press release issued by the polling firm). But is it too much to expect political reporters to be a little skeptical of what they read in a press release or, better yet, find another source to provide analysis of the polling results? Echoing the analysis sounds like transcribing, which isn't really journalism. I am not singling the Star or its reporter Donovan Vincent for this practice as it is more widespread than we realize or want to admit.
A huge problem with polls is how we -- the polling industry, journalists, the public -- impose a narrative on them to help the data make sense. We should have much more humility when it comes to making bold pronouncements of what the data says or suggests. And that starts with the pollster themselves.

Huge headline considering the shift is within the margin of error
The Toronto Star: "Justin Trudeau, Liberal support, dip over pro-choice stance." According to a new Research Forum poll, the Liberals have seen their support drop from 39% to 36% since last month, and Justin Trudeau's approval fell from 46% to 43%. The Star reports that Lorne Bozinoff, president of Research Forum, said: "It appears Justin Trudeau’s restrictions on Liberal candidates with pro-life views has peeled off a small but important tranche of support for not only him, but, incrementally, his party. I’m not sure that there is a corresponding upside, in that those who support pro-choice views are already in his court." All that is true (if it is true, it is a Research "Brandon-Souris" Forum poll after all) but considering most polls have a margin of error of two to three points, there might not be any change at all. Justin Trudeau has been hammered in the media for two weeks over his abortion position and the shift isn't really all that significant. The poll suggests the equally pro-abortion NDP, up three percentage points, is the beneficiary of Trudeau's abortion misstep.

On this day in Canadian history
On May 28, 1934, the Dionne Quintuplets -- Annette, Cecile, Emilie, Marie and Yvonne -- were born in Callender, Ontario. Nine months after they were born, the government of Liberal Premier Mitch Hepburn passed the Dionne Quintuplets' Guardianship Act, 1935 making them wards of the state, during which they were put on display and became one of the country's most popular tourist attractions.

Social media a non-factor in Ontario election
The most interesting item in the new long and detailed Abacus Data poll on the Ontario election is about the use -- or non-use -- of social media. On page 17 of the report there is this question: "Please indicate all the ways the [political party] contacted you." Among the options is social media, with examples such as Facebook and Twitter listed. Just 1% report receiving information about the campaign from both the Liberals and PCs and 2% say they have seen something from the Liberals by social media. In other words, practically nobody is getting information about the parties, from the parties through social media; in all likelihood these are core supporters who sign up with the party to get information alerts. It isn't going to persuade anyone. On the next page, Abacus asked, "In the past week, have you encouraged anyone to vote for one of the political parties running in the Ontario election in any of the following ways?" Fewer than one-in-three did so at all, but just 10% used social media to encourage friends, family or whoever to support a political party (less than half as many who did so in face-to-face conversations). When it comes to politics, social media is over-hyped in general; it is practically non-existent in the Ontario election campaign.
The smartest people in politics will tell you that social media is not terribly important, except to communicate with or signal to journalists and maybe with hardcore supporters. But there is almost zero chance of engaging people who are not intensely interested in politics through social media.

The Daily Caller reports: "CNN news anchor Carol Costello — who frequently demonstrates an inability to understand that anchors don’t inject personal political commentary into their broadcasts — proved Tuesday that she’s confused about a lot of things after claiming that First Lady Michelle Obama 'signed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act into law'."

Last week the media was declaring the end of the Tea Party
This week in the Texas Republican primary runoffs, Tea Party-backed former U.S. attorney John Ratcliffe defeated 18-term Congressman Ralph Hall and Tea Party-backed state senator and radio show host Dan Patrick defeated longtime Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Said Patrick in his victory speech: "Salute the tea party of Texas!"

Tuesday, May 27, 2014
GOP tsunami?
John McLaughlin and Jim McLaughlin, Republican strategists and partners in the national polling firm McLaughlin & Associates, say at National Review Online that 2014 could be a good year for Republicans:
From January through April. Democrats held a slight, one- or two-point edge. Each month, one in six voters were undecided. Most of these undecided voters disapproved of the job the president is doing, but they couldn’t bring themselves to say they’d vote Republican for Congress. In fact, among those who disapproved of the job the president was doing, four in ten voters were actually saying they’d vote Democratic for Congress.
But this month, they appear to be breaking for Republicans. Even though the decisive plurality of voters in our national polls is Democratic, Republicans now lead on the generic ballot for Congress, 43 percent to 41 percent. Not a great lead and a long way from a trend, but the gravity of the president’s negative job rating, the parallel opposition to Obamacare, and the strong desire to put a check on the lame-duck president is beginning to create political momentum that could put Democrats under another tsunami ...
Can it get worse for the Democrats — a strong double-digit House gain for Republicans and a Republican Senate tsunami? A further analysis of the undecided vote says yes.
One in six voters, 16 percent, are still undecided for Congress, but those voters disapprove of the job the president is doing 30 percent to 67. They disapprove of Obamacare 29–62. They want a Republican congressman to be a check on President Obama 42 percent to 17.
The Republicans could take six in ten of these undecided voters and have a national majority vote for Congress of about 52 percent.
But a warning: "We wish the election were next week. November 4 is a long way away, and time allows Republicans to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory."

The Obama administration is one excuse after another
Townhall's John Hawkins: "The 6 Lamest Excuses For Failure From The Obama Administration." He's never willing to take responsibility for his failures.

How long does John McKay get to remain party of the Liberal caucus?
Note: I corrected the quote. Originally this post said McKay called Trudeau's policy as "bimbo eruption" when, in fact, he called it "bozo eruption." I apologize for my sloppiness.
Liberal MP John McKay said Justin Trudeau's ban on pro-lifers as future candidates for the Liberal Party was a "bozo eruption" and evidence that the policy was not well thought out. Or, worse, it was thought out and the Trudeau Brain Trust didn't realize their position could alienate people of faith. Anyway, it will be hard for McKay to sit with that leader and his caucus mates for much longer.

There is less to this overdue policy shift than appears to be the case
The Canadian Press reports:
The federal government is changing regulations to permit the use of video games, tablets, computers and cameras at any time during a flight, including during takeoff and landing, Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said Monday.
“We’re going to be allowing passengers to use portable electronic devices during takeoff, ascent, descent and landing provide that the airlines have met certain safety conditions,” Raitt told a news conference at the Ottawa airport.
Travellers still won’t be allowed to use cellphones or access WiFi, or use any device that hasn’t had its transmitting functions disabled, since such activity can interfere with aircraft systems, she added.
But as long as a device is in “airplane mode” and unable to send or receive a signal, its use will be permitted “gate to gate” — a change Raitt said is meant to strike a better balance between safety and passenger comfort.
Under the regulation exemption, airlines will also have to demonstrate that their aircraft are not affected by the devices and that passengers can still be made aware of crew instructions during emergencies.
The exemption takes effect immediately, although it will be up to individual airlines to determine when they are ready to adopt the change, said Raitt.
Companies will drag their feet on this. Remember, private businesses like to control people just like government does. People will happily surrender their liberty in exchange for the feeling of safety. On the plus side, at least airlines can no longer blame the government for denying passengers their electronic toys.
Cell phones need to be allowed, too. With the correct technology, they're safe to use on planes.

Steyn on UKIP, Farage
A very good piece by Mark Steyn on Nigel Farage as "normal bloke" and his United Kingdom Independence Party as a party of actual substance. It is self-recommending, but the conclusion -- which is by far not the best part of Steyn's post -- is worth highlighting:
The Westminster system is implicitly designed for two players: one to be the Government, one to be the Loyal Opposition. Until the 20th century, other than the various transient Irish Home Rule parties, there were literally only two parties. In that 1910 election, a fledgling Labour came fourth. Within a decade and a half, they'd displaced the Liberals as the alternative to the Tories, and the Libs never again held power until Cameron so bungled the last election that he was forced to form a coalition with them. It's obviously premature to suggest that Ukip will replace the Conservative Party, but I'd say we're now in for an era of four-party politics at Westminster.
And the reason for that is that (per Boris) in their "arrogance", "remoteness" and "endless condescension" the other three parties all sound the same.
So in a way it's still a two-party system.

Celebrate Memorial Day
By saying eff the troops. Charming.

Monday, May 26, 2014
Feds hire more illegal aliens than anyone else
Vox: "How the government became the single biggest employer of unauthorized immigrants." Dara Lind reports:
At least 60,000 detainees have been used as cheap labor while they wait for an immigration court to hear their case. Many of these detainees will ultimately lose their immigration court cases — which determine whether someone has a claim to legal status or not — and eventually get deported from the country. As ACLU lawyer Carl Takei told the Times, "This in essence makes the government, which forbids everyone else from hiring people without documents, the single largest employer of undocumented immigrants in the country."
Seems like exploitation to me.

European elections and change
Boris Johnson says in his Daily Telegraph column that European voters are pushing back against the Euro project which is nothing less than statism:
There is a kind of peasants’ revolt going on, a jacquerie. From Dublin to Lublin, from Portugal to Pomerania, the pitchfork-wielding populists are converging on the Breydel building in Brussels – drunk on local hooch and chanting nationalist slogans and preparing to give the federalist machinery a good old kicking with their authentically folkloric clogs. There are Greek anti-capitalists and Hungarian neo-fascists and polite German professors who want to bring back the Deutschemark. They are making common cause with Left-wing Italian comedians and Right-wing Dutch firebrands and the general slogan is simple: down with technocracy, down with bureaucracy, and give power back to the people ...
This European election is an expression of revulsion and discontent and it is a mandate for reform. Across the EU, mainstream politicians like Nicolas Sarkozy are now saying what we Conservatives have been saying for years: that the EU needs to do less, to cost less, and to be less intrusive in the way it does it. There is only one government in Europe that has been campaigning solidly for the renegotiation that is needed, and that is David Cameron and the Conservative-led Coalition.
Now is the time for France, Germany and others to listen to Mr Sarkozy, and recognise that he is right. It isn’t good enough just to circle the wagons and tell the people of Europe to get stuffed, because next time the frustration of the electorate may be uncontainable. The message of the people to the Euro-nomenklatura is simple: changer ou mourir!
I hope that this is the beginning of revolt, but somehow I doubt it. Too often, political anger peters out.

Kids don't like healthy food schools foist upon them
The Atlantic has a story that should surprise no one: kids in the Los Angeles school system are resisting healthy food options and bringing junk from home to eat. Olga Khazan reports:
But a new study suggests ... students are still beelining toward carbs and meat and avoiding fruits and vegetables.
For the study, published in the April issue of Preventative Medicine, researchers examined the lunch trays of 2,000 randomly selected Angeleno middle schoolers over five consecutive days. Though the students are offered a fruit and a vegetable each day, 32 percent of students did not take the fruit from the line, and almost 40 percent did not take the vegetables. Among those who did take a fruit or vegetable, 22 percent threw away the fruit and 31 percent tossed the vegetables without eating a single bite ...
Salads were the most common vegetable to be left untouched, while whole fruits, like apples and oranges, were far less popular than fruit cups or juices. Girls were both more likely to take fruits and vegetables from the line and were less likely to waste them.

Even good news is bad news for environmentalists
Tim Worstall notes that European Union targets for recycling aren't going to be met in the United Kingdom because people are using less -- and thus recycling less -- glass and paper, the most common forms of garbage and recycling. This should be cause for celebration, but recycling advocates are unhappy. Repeat after me Tim: "the total weight of waste is falling. Which is, you would think, a good thing by the standards used to measure these things." In politics, targets are more important than actual outcomes, so the U.K. will probably be fined for reducing waste.

Time for that biennial favourite of media coverage of European politics: far-right makes gains
It seems that every European election, whether of the European Parliament or national campaigns, produces stories about the rise of the far-right. Here is a sampling from the weekend after four days of Euro-voting for the EP:
The Associated Press, via Time: "Far Right, Euroskeptics Make Big Gains in EU Vote."
BBC: "Eurosceptic 'earthquake' rocks EU elections" and "Hungary's EU election: Right and far-right sweep vote."
Reuters: "French far right in 'earthquake' win as Europe votes."
Financial Times: "Earthquake but damage limited."
The Guardian: "Far-right takes victory in Danish European elections."
The Independent: "Far-right parties flourish across Europe in snub to austerity."
Wall Street Journal: "Anti-EU, Far-Right Parties Post Strong Gains in European Elections."
The New York Times: "Fringe Groups Gain in European Voting." (Not all of them are right-wing.)
Global Post: "Greek EU vote bolsters radical left, neo-Nazis."
Deutsche Welle: "EU vote sees boost for right wing in France, Austria and Greece."
This has been a staple of European political coverage since Jean-Marie Le Pen was elected to the French National Assembly in 1986. If the right-wing extremists are making inroads every election, shouldn't they have taken over by now?
UKIP finished first in the United Kingdom; the Liberal Democrat MEPs were almost entirely wiped out. It will be interesting to see if the party becomes more than the Nigel Farage Show -- not that it was a bad thing, but now the party might be forced to act more like a political party. That might be a bad thing for the cause of euro-skepticism.
Overall, though, as Guido Fawkes says, "Herman van Rompuy, Jose Manuel Barroso, Jacques Delors, Cathy Ashton, Peter Mandelson, Ken Clarke, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg, your boys took one hell of a beatin ..."
Also, smaller parties of all stripes made gains in Germany (Pirates, among others) and Spain (where supporters of the left-wing coalition and bipartisanship were big winners).

Sunday, May 25, 2014
General Jaruzelski dies 45 years too late
General Wojciech Jaruzelski has died at the age of 90. Jaruzelski was Poland's defense minister in the 1960s and 1970s and president in the 1980s. His army took part in the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, he was charged with ordering the shooting of shipyard workers in Gdansk and Gdynia in 1971 where 44 were killed and more than a 1000 Poles were injured, and he imposed martial law on the country in 1981. It is sad that a communist butcher like Jaruzelski got to live so long and die in peace?

Thailand and coups
Vox's Max Fisher notes "Thailand has endured 12 successful coups (plus seven attempted coups) since 1932." Fisher explains: "There is a self-perpetuating cycle in which one coup leads to another. There is a king who is just powerful enough that people expect him to intervene over political disagreements but just weak enough that he doesn't."

Education in a nutshell
"As you can see, I have memorized this utterly useless piece of information long enough to pass a test question. I now intend to forget it forever. You’ve taught me nothing except how to cynically manipulate the system. Congratulations." -- Calvin, from the comic "Calvin and Hobbes" via "Sixteen Things Calvin and Hobbes Said Better Than Anyone Else."

Former MPPs seeking return to Queen's Park
The Toronto Star reports that eight former MPPs are trying to win back their old jobs, and some have been away from provincial politics for a while (Red Tory Phil Gillies last represented Brant in 1987). Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock has a contest of three current and former MPPs (Laurie Scott the Conservative incumbent who returned to Queen's Park in 2011 after being a former MPP herself, Ron Johnson the Liberal she beat in 2011, and Don Abel who used to represent Wentworth North in the early 1990s). I find something a little pathetic about returning to elected politics two decades after being defeated.

On this day in Canadian history
On May 25, 1993, John Savage's Liberal Party won 49.7% of the vote and 40 of the legislative assembly's 52 seats, thus ending 15 years of Progressive Conservative rule.

Tyler Cowen on the legacy of slavery and who benefits
Tyler Cowen, who says there is a moral case for reparations aside from the economics of the issue, says:
I would suggest that most living white Americans would be wealthier had this nation not enslaved African-Americans and thus most whites have lost from slavery too, albeit much much less than blacks have lost. For instance it is generally recognized that freer and fairer polities tend to be wealthier for most of their citizens. (We may disagree about what “fair” means for many issues, but slavery and its legacy are obviously unfair.)
More specifically, many American whites benefited from hiring African-American labor at discrimination-laden discounted market prices, but many others lost out because it was more costly to trade with African-Americans. That meant fewer good customers, fewer eligible employees, fewer possible business partners, fewer innovators, and so on, all because of slavery and subsequent discrimination. The wealth-destroying effects are surely much larger here, even counting whites alone. And the longer the time horizon, the more likely the dynamic benefits from trade will outweigh the short-run benefits from discriminating against some class of others.
Empirically, I do not think whites in slavery-heavy regions have had especially impressive per capita incomes. And a lot of the economic catch-up of the American South came only when the region abandoned Jim Crow.
We also can look at how many white Americans have had ancestors who, at least for a while, had zero or near-zero net wealth. The returns from slavery may have been compounding for some heirs of Mississippi plantation owners, but not for most of us. My father, when he was thirty, had just gone bankrupt from an unsuccessful attempt to manage a New Jersey pet store. In what sense was he, or later I, reaping compound returns from a legacy of slavery?

Man fights back against apparently fraudulent racism charge
The Daily Mail reports:
A Tennessee man who was accused of using a racial slur on a receipt at a Red Lobster restaurant last year is suing the restaurant chain and the waitress who cashed in on the incident after she posted a copy of the receipt on the Internet.
Devin Barnes, 21, claims he never wrote the racial slur on the receipt, and that the negative attention he received as a result of the way Toni Christina Jenkins - the waitress who claims to have received the slur - publicized the incident is slanderous.
In Barnes' suit, filed in Williamson County Circuit Court, he claims Jenkins slandered him by misusing his personal information, and that Red Lobster's 'willful and malicious ... omissions to act' by failing to prevent Jenkins from using his name and information 'to gain publicity and money' has caused lasting damage to his reputation ...
In the weeks following Jenkins' posting the photo on the web, the left-wing blog started an online fundraiser for her that raised more than $10,000 - money Jenkins later said she planned to use to buy a car ...
The handwriting analyst found that 'no significant handwriting characteristics similarities' were found between the questioned 'total' entry line and the handwriting samples provided by Barnes and his wife, the Tennessean reports.
(HT: Blazing Cat Fur)

Libmaid scandal
The Ontario Tories have a petition demanding that Kathleen Wynne make public which cabinet ministers are implicated in a kickback scheme where the government was over-billed for cleaning services and three cabinet ministers had their homes cleaned for free. There are already convictions against three public officials in this under-publicized scandal.

Steyn on Hotel Rwanda
Mark Steyn revisits the movie Hotel Rwanda on the 20th anniversary of the 1990s' version of never again (Rwanda), which occurred before the next never again (Darfur), and concludes:
Today, the real-life Paul Rusesabagina lives in Brussels. Back in Rwanda, they no longer speak French, and indeed, somewhat bewilderingly for us old-school imperialists, have joined the Commonwealth, so disgusted were they by the Quai d'Orsay's part in what happened. As for Don Cheadle, he joined George Clooney in taking up Darfur as a cause, and wrote a book about it called Not On Our Watch, in connection with which he was a guest of mine when I was sitting in for Sean Hannity on Fox News a few years back. A fine actor and a friendly fellow. But his "activism" on Darfur was in the end as passive as that UN mission's was in Rwanda. So Darfur went right ahead on our watch, as Rwanda did and as the next one will. Any day now, we're about due Hotel Darfur.
The movie has its purposes; we used in our household to teach our older kids about the uselessness of the United Nations.

Saturday, May 24, 2014
Ducky Dynasty clan meet Governor Bobby Jindal
Robertson family photo.

Outside Washington, Republicans are Republican, Democrats are Democrat
Patrick Gleason, director of state affairs at Americans for Tax Reform, writes at about Democrats delivering higher taxes at the state level while Republicans reduce their states' tax burden:
With state governments across the country under unified partisan control to the greatest degree in decades, this space has frequently covered how this dynamic has resulted in blue and red states moving in completely opposite directions in terms of public policy. Since the beginning of 2011, Democrat-controlled states have been busy raising taxes and growing the size of government, while Republican-controlled states have been cutting taxes and reducing or streamlining regulations.
This week, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) tabulated the total dollar amount of tax increases signed into law by Democratic governors since 2011, with that amount coming to $58 billion in higher taxes for blue state residents. This stands in stark contrast with what Republican governors have done with their tax codes during that same period. As ATR pointed out in a report released at the end of 2013, Republican governors have cut taxes by more than $38 billion since 2011.

Weekend stuff
1. Vox has "The surprising history of the cubicle and the rest of the modern office," including the filing cabinet.
2. Business Insider: "The Most Selective College In Each State."
3. Wired's GameLife has a graphic presentation of the history of arcade games.
4. Mark Harris at Grantland asks: "Are We at Peak Superhero?" Is there a comic book bubble?
5. Thank you Photoshop. Sports Balls Replaced with Cats.
6. Jupiter's red spot is shrinking.
7. From the animal kingdom. The Verge: "Science explains why octopus arms don't stick together." Science reports that whales and dolphins might only be able to taste salt. The Daily Mail reports that "zoo trips boost literacy" among school children. Today is the first World Fish Migration Day and The Smithsonian has a gallery of "Wonderful Migratory Fish." The Verge: "
8. Mental Floss has "The Great Emu War of 1932."
9. This is Indexed compares an open bar at a wedding to falling down the stairs.
10. A painting: "Chewie Knievel."
11. Rodents on Turntables -- extremely cute and no animals were harmed.

Rodents on Turntables - @LiveNation from Division of Labor on Vimeo.

On this day in Canadian history
On May 24, 1918, Parliament passed Conservative Robert Borden's government Act to confer the Electoral Franchise upon Women giving white women the right to vote in federal elections. Six provinces had already extended the franchise to women, beginning with Manitoba in 1916. Due to the Wartime Elections Act (1917), mothers, sisters, widows, and wives of soldiers serving overseas could already vote in the federal election.

'Ten lessons for the sons of single moms'
From "You're not special" to "Play fighting is just playing," from "Don't lie" to "Become a dad," Gavin McInnes has "Ten lessons for the sons of single moms," at Taki Magazine. Highly recommended, but the easily offended will consider McInnes a misogynist.

The conservative double-standard on distrust of the state
Don Boudreaux's letter to the Wall Street Journal:
On economic matters you consistently and correctly explain that government’s capacity to gather enough knowledge to intervene productively is weak and that its incentive to promote special interests (including its own) at the expense of the public interest is strong. Yet, as in your defense of NSA spying (“Honey, I Shrunk the NSA,” May 22), on national-security matters your mature skepticism of government is replaced by a childish faith that government officials are wise and trustworthy.
Of course, this is true of many on the Right.

Does Paul Ehrlich exist solely so we can mock him?
Just wondering. Not only is he always wrong, he is also always outrageous.

Melting glaciers can help reduce climate change
Tim Worstall at the Adam Smith Institute blog:
The latest news on the climate change front is that those melting glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland actually, by melting, aid in reducing the effects of climate change. Which is an interesting little thing we can pick up from our observation of the natural world around us. The reason is that the water, as it gushes over the rock underlying the ice, picks up a certain amount of iron. And we also know that there are areas of the oceans which do not have enough iron to sustain life (much of the deep ocean is actually a "desert" in that is has next to no life at all). So, iron in meltwater meets iron deficient areas, plankton blooms and some of that sinks to the ocean floor to, in time, become the sort of rock that Beachy Head is made out of.
Worstall also wonders why if climate change is a thing that so many on the Left worry about, don't they support artificial iron boosts for the oceans, which is a relatively cost effective way to reduce CO2 emissions?

Friday, May 23, 2014
Do we need an asteroid defense system
In 2008, Gregg Easterbrook wrote in The Atlantic about the need for a defense system to guard against asteroids: "The odds that a potentially devastating space rock will hit Earth this century may be as high as one in 10. So why isn’t NASA trying harder to prevent catastrophe?" Elsewhere (in his football column) he claimed it could cost "as little as $2 per life saved," which is a ridiculously low estimate. Capitalist Imperialist Pig disagrees with defending against asteroids:
[T]here is a chance one might kill you!
An extremely unlikely chance, says Mike Brown. About 1 in 74 million, meaning that there are 73,999,999 other ways that are equally likely to knock you off.

2016 watch (Democratic nomination edition)
If not, Hillary, who? Jay Cost has an excellent piece in The Weekly Standard looking at the Democratic coalition (which is itself worth reading) and how it might play out in 2016 among possible challengers to Hillary Clinton:
A Beltway fixture for more than 40 years, Vice President Joe Biden lacks much of an electoral bond with any Democratic constituency group. He could poach some of Clinton’s white working-class vote and raise some cash from Wall Street, but it is hard to see him breaking through.
Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont could both play effectively to upscale white liberals; as a woman, Warren might attract some of the voters Clinton would otherwise win for identity-based reasons. Still, both would scare the bejesus out of Wall Street, where Democrats go to subsidize their anti-Wall Street demagoguery. And it is hard to see how either would have appeal for minority voters.
Former senator Jim Webb of Virginia and former governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana might attract the white working class, but the power of Bill Clinton to appeal to these voters cannot be overestimated. It is hard, too, to see how they would win over minority voters or raise substantial sums from wealthy Democrats.
What about Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York? He might raise substantial money, but who in the Clinton coalition would bolt for him? Ditto Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland.
That leaves two primary concerns for Team Clinton. The first is Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick. As an African American, he would be a threat to Clinton with the black vote, which would virtually guarantee a real race. And he might be able to raise substantial money; it is no coincidence that in the last 26 years, Massachusetts has supplied 3 of the 10 nonincumbent major party nominees.
The other concern for Team Clinton would be an interactive effect amongst these candidates. Suppose, for instance, that Schweitzer, Patrick, and Warren all attracted significant support from their electoral bases, at Clinton’s expense.
I have long thought that Cuomo would be the nominee but he's had plenty of missteps and as Cost suggests, his base is Hillary's. That's why I think he'll be a candidate, or ready to be a candidate, just in case Hillary doesn't run. Either way, though, the Democratic presidential nominee will be from New York.

Health care is not a product
As Tim Worstall reminds us, it's a service.

Game show host politics
Rebecca Dana in The Daily Beast: "Why Game-Show Hosts Vote Republican." It's not just Pat Sajak. Dana explains:
“Generally the ideology of acquiring money and achieving fortune through luck goes along pretty well with a certain basic capitalist attitude,” [game show expert Olaf] Hoerschelmann said. There also seems to be an element of free enterprise involved. Many hosts have other independent ventures— Chuck Woolery sells branded fishing equipment; Wink Martindale operates Wink’s World, which attempts to spread a patriotic message—and many own a piece of their shows.
Colour me skeptical, but Dana lists a lot of game show hosts who have supported Republicans over the year.

Thursday, May 22, 2014
Pubic hair is like eyebrows: Janeane Garofalo
Instapundit wonders if this is the most anti-clickbait headline ever: "Watch Janeane Garofalo Declare Her Support For Pubes."

America's shrinking attention span
NBC begins its online story on America's shrinking attention span with an infographic.

Ontario Liberals projected to win, maybe a majority:
Eric Grenier's projection for the Ontario election has the Liberals likely winning 55 seats, a one-seat majority. (A minor-majority?) It is more likely that the Liberals will maintain a minority government, albeit a few seats smaller than what they had last time. There is still three weeks to go and the projection incorporates a lot of weird -- some might say impossibly compatible -- polling results, but this can't be anything but bad news for the Tories. I thought that Ontario votes would turn against the Tories due to their plan to cut government jobs, and that seems to have occurred. (I also said this would have after the Victoria Day long weekend, and that seems to be when some sort of pivot in the electorate occurred.) There is definitely an openness to change, but maybe not an appetite for it, and it might be trumped by a desire to avoid a repeat of the tumult of the Harris years. This is an opportunity for the NDP who might take advantage of the high number of people who say it is time for a new government, but maybe not; the Liberals have effectively set the parameters of the campaign debate so far: a Liberal-led government saving civilization as we know it vs. the Hudak-led anti-government barbarians at the gate. This election, like the 2012 presidential election in the U.S. is about the role of government and the relationship between state and citizen. It seems that Kathleen Wynne's Liberals are winning that argument. There is still time for Tim Hudak's Tories to turn this around and regain a lead (if they had really ever had it, or if they have really lost it). The polls have been all over the place and projections are difficult. The debate might matter. This is far from done, or the final result might already be preordained. What is baffling is that after 11 years of McWynnety mismanagement, lies, and scandals, it looks like it could be a status quo election, with Grenier's projections indicating the likely high-water mark for the Tories to be in line with the likely low-end for the Liberals. A lot of voters are probably wondering, WTF Ontario?

Conservative comedians
Frank Rich in New York magazine: "Can Conservatives Be Funny?" It's a look at conservative comedians. I didn't get far because Rich thinks that South Park is conservative when it's actually libertarian. And it's Frank Rich so I feel like sticking knives in my eyes after about two paragraphs. I look forward to what Kathy Shaidle has to say about this; indeed, I'm counting on it.
Without reading the article, though, I suspect that what Rich is actually asking is whether Conservatives can get a mass audience or -- and this is a different question -- be funny to liberals like himself. Dennis Miller and Nick DiPaolo are funny but I assume Rich would not agree. And, again making an assumption about an article I haven't largely read, Rich might point to the fact that these "conservatives" are not as commercially successful as say Louis CK or Sarah Silverman, but that might have more to do with risk-averse or politically motivated entertainment executives than the appeal or quality of conservatives comedians.

Dave Meslin, campaign director of the Friends of the Reform Act, and this struck me:
Michael Chong's Reform Act is just five days away from Second Reading in Parliament! This is a historic opportunity to re-balance power in Ottawa, giving a stronger voice to you and your MP.
We have an impressive list of diverse endorsements from coast to coast, including Hugh Segal, David Suzuki, Elizabeth May, Jian Ghomeshi, Bob Rae and many more.
Hugh Segal is a Red Tory and the rest of the names Meslin lists are Lefties. Diverse endorsements? (I won't comment on whether Ghomeshi and May qualify as "impressive.") Sure, if you click on the link there is more diversity, including former Reform leader Preston Manning, Andrew Coyne, the Globe and Mail editorial board, and numerous sitting Conservative MPs. But then why highlight the most moderate Tory and a bunch of lefties and call them diverse? Is it because Meslin knows his pro-Reform Act audience is mostly on the Left? It needn't be, as Chong's bill has much to be lauded (and some elements that can be criticized). Either Meslin's list of "diverse" endorsees speaks to his target audience or he actually considers David Suzuki, Elizabeth May, and Bob Rae to be diversity. Even if you don't use an ideological test and look at occupations, you have three political types and two guys associated with the CBC.

Stop the presses!
The federal Conservatives are asking supporters to donate to the party as the Tories are preparing for the 2015 election now.
In tomorrow's news, Justin Trudeau or Thomas Mulcair disagree with Stephen Harper's government over something.

On this day in Canadian history
On May 22, 1979, Joe Clark led the Progressive Conservatives to electoral victory over Pierre Trudeau's Liberals, winning a minority government and ending 16 years of Liberal rule. The Tories won 136 seats, the Liberals 113, the NDP 26, and the Social Credit 6. The Clark government lasted nine months after the Conservative budget was defeated in December 1979 and the Liberals were returned to power with a majority in March 1980.

'What Schoolhouse Rock left out'
This Vox video should have been titled, "Updating Schoolhouse Rock!" -- the facts of modern gridlock weren't "left out" of the original Saturday morning educational short; politics has changed a lot since then and its clear that the folks at Vox don't like it.

Too big to change
Investor's Business Daily reports:
The Federal Reserve's exit from its massive monetary stimulus program is coming into sharp focus as officials differ over how to normalize policy amid a still-sluggish economic recovery.
Minutes from the central bank's April 29-30 meeting out Wednesday showed policymakers brainstorming ways of raising interest rates, although they stressed such a step was not imminent.
"Because the Federal Reserve has not previously tightened the stance of policy while holding a large balance sheet, most participants judged that the Committee should consider a range of options and be prepared to adjust the mix of its policy tools as warranted," the minutes read.
Separately, several policymakers this week offered competing views on risks to the economy, and a few proposed entirely new policy strategies.
Once the Fed became so involved -- it was, of course, always involved in the economy, but the post-financial crisis stimulus was unprecedentedly large -- it should have been obvious to everyone it would be difficult, if not impossible, to extricate itself from the role it took on in the economy.

Will on Minnesota's campaign finance laws
George Will on Minnesota's stupid limits on political donations:
Linda Runbeck is a Republican state legislator who is allowed to spend in her campaign — most spending finances dissemination of speech — only $62,600. She is not challenging this speech limit, although it is so low it prevents her from advertising on this city's television stations, whose broadcasts reach many of the state's voters.
Rather, she is challenging the "special sources" provision that makes even more onerous the $1,000 limit on what any person can give her.
Once she has received $12,500 in contributions of between $500 and $1,000, the $1,000 contribution limit is cut in half: All subsequent contributors can give a maximum of $500.
When a contributor gives more, Runbeck must return the money or contact the giver and ask if it can be divided as two contributions coming from the giver and his or her spouse.
Van Carlson is one of Runbeck's constituents. He is only moderately affluent, but he wants to be able to give at least the permissible $1,000 to legislative candidates.
If, however, 12 others have already given $1,000 to one of them, he can give only $500 to that candidate. As [Minnesota's Institute for Justice, Anthony] Sanders says, "No other state restricts what ordinary people can give to candidates because of what other ordinary people have already given."
Class solidarity unites incumbent politicians of all stripes, and all the laws that ever have regulated campaigns, or ever will regulate them, have had or will have one thing in common: They have been, or will be, written by incumbents. This is why such laws are presumptively disreputable and usually unconstitutional.
Earlier this week, a federal court halted enforcement of this unconstitutional law.

I'm not sure that wearing a condom in porn qualifies as a 'free speech' issue
Breitbart reports:
On Tuesday, a delegation of porn stars known as The Free Speech Coalition traveled to Sacramento to protest purported first amendment violations inherent in a newly proposed California bill.
According to the LA Weekly, AB 1576 could prescribe criminal penalties for not using condoms by actors on sets and force producers to keep logs of all performers’ sexual activities.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014
'Should Paid "Menstrual Leave" Be a Thing?'
Emily Matchar in The Atlantic: "Some countries mandate a legal right to leave for women during their periods. Is that reverse sexism or the right thing to do?" Some employers will ask women to prove it.

The new journalism is a lot like the old journalism and even Vox's slogan is recycled
James Taranto in The Spectator on Ezra Klein's Vox:
Vox touts this sort of “explanatory journalism” as if it’s something new. In reality, it’s a dumbed-down version of a long-extant mode of reporting. Explanatory journalism has been a Pulitzer Prize category since 1985, awarded for work “that illuminates a significant and complex subject, demonstrating mastery of the subject, lucid writing and clear presentation, using any available journalistic tool.” Traditional explanatory journalism means deep original reporting, not the kind of simplistic synthesis that characterizes a Vox card stack.
But Vox isn’t all cards, all the time. The site also publishes opinion articles, and one of them quickly became the most talked-about piece in the site’s brief history. On April 10 Klein wrote a 467-word item titled “Kathleen Sebelius Is Resigning Because Obamacare Has Won.”
That seemed counterintuitive: “This guy is not joking!” tweeted Fox News’s Brit Hume. And at the end of the post, Klein revealed that his standard of victory was a low one: “The law has won its survival.”
Along the way he touted the White House’s enrollment claims, which he couldn’t quite bring himself to endorse: “The evidence has piled up in recent weeks that the strategy worked. Obamacare’s first year, despite a truly horrific start, was a success. More than seven million people look to have signed up for health insurance through the exchanges.”
A week later, the White House raised its claim to eight million. An army of liberal journalists and commentators continued to hail Obamacare’s success, taking the administration’s self-serving numbers at face value. In fact, Klein was right to distance himself, if subtly, from the claim. To “sign up” for an Obamacare policy is not to acquire one; that requires paying a premium. The administration had no figures, or at least none that would release publicly, on how many had done that.
In the end, apart from the provocative headline, there was little to distinguish Klein’s Obamacare cheerleading from that of legions of other liberal writers. Many of them work for more conventional outlets, including Klein’s former employer, the Washington Post.
In his TAS column, Taranto also mocks Vox's unoriginal slogan "All you need to know."

Rare courage from a Republican
Republican politicians talk a lot about freedom and less government, but seldom do they actually push the agenda forward. The Washington Examiner's Tim Carney:
A Republican congressman bashing “crony capitalism” and “corporate welfare” is no longer a new thing. A Republican congressman actually trying to do something about corporate welfare, however, is nearly unprecedented.
So it's a sign that the GOP could go in a new direction when the Republican chairman of the House Financial Services Committee sets out to derail some of Wall Street's favorite federal gravy trains and “reform the corporate welfare state.”
Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling, who chairs the House banking panel, gave a call to arms at the conservative Heritage Foundation on Tuesday afternoon, imploring his colleagues to “reject the Washington insider economy and embrace the Main Street competitive economy.”
“Business's interests are not necessarily freedom's interests,” said Hensarling, who laid out an anti-corporate welfare agenda.
He called for tax reform, an end to subsidy-filled farm bills, maintain the ban on earmarks, saying no to lobbyists, and letting the Export-Import Bank of the United States expire. Maybe this is still talk, but it is harder hitting talk than usual and as chairman of the financial services committee, he can be held accountable to try to do something.
Ken McIntyre of the Heritage Foundation highlighted this from Hensarling's talk:
“The Main Street competitive economy relies upon hard work, creativity, perseverance and ‘can do’ optimism to create wealth,” Hensarling said. “The Washington insider economy, in contrast, relies on earmarks, regulatory barriers to entry, subsidies, tax preferences, and political influence.”
Republicans can win over voters by taking on the entrenched interests in Washington. The problem is that too many GOP legislators are too cozy with those interests, and are a permanent part of that coterie. But Republicans won't have the moral authority to cut government programs that affect the middle class until they end the privilege of the pigs at the trough in Washington.

Minimum wage increases might be incentivizing robots for fast-food restaurants
Ira Stoll in the New York Sun:
Nextep Systems, a Troy, Michigan-based firm that specializes in touch-screen self-order systems, says its sales for 2013 were up 50% from the prior year. At some point, you won’t even need the kiosk — you’ll be able to order from an app on your smartphone, maybe even before you arrive at the restaurant ...
For the restaurants and customers, the technology has potential benefits besides savings on labor costs. Accuracy is supposedly improved, and the restaurants seem to hope they can sell more food to customers who don’t have to worry about being embarrassed when they ask out loud for that supersize fries.
For some, this is the march of progress, and it could very well be. But for entry-level and low-skill workers, this is going to hurt, and yet those who profess to care for such low-income individuals may be making things worse. In all likelihood, technology was going to replace human employees at some point, but artificially raising wages (minimum wage and "living wage" laws) is certainly speeding up the process. Stoll quotes Bill Gates: "If you raise the minimum wage, you're encouraging labor substitution, and you're going to go buy machines and automate things."

On this day in Canadian history
On May 21, 1986, Canadian trade negotiator Simon Riesman begins Canada-U.S. free trade talks in Washington D.C.. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney tapped Reisman for the job after the former civil servant (1946-1975) sent him a memo advocating free trade with the United States. Derek Burney, a former ambassador to the U.S., called the memo "the best job application anyone has ever written." On October 4, 1987 negotiators concluded the Canada–United States Free Trade Agreement which was signed on January 2, 1988 by Mulroney and U.S. president Ronald Reagan. In 1994, the deal was superseded by the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Roger L. Simon blames the tenured radicals
At PJ Media Roger L. Simon writes about the decreasing tolerance for other points of view by so-called liberals in today's universities. In many cases noisy students (and student unions) lead the calls for silencing those with different (read: conservative or libertarian) points of view, but Simon doesn't blame the kids because ... well, folly of youth and all that. Instead, he blames the so-called adults on campus who haven't moved on from their 1960s mentality:
Some protest in youth is normal, but if the older generation is still taking up so much of the playing field, you leave the younger with no place of their own but the more bizarre and outré extremes. Therefore someone like Hirsi Ali, who should be an international hero of human rights, becomes a villain. And, as it did recently at Dartmouth, the word “fiesta” used by an Anglo for a heart disease benefit becomes an instrument of supposed racial oppression.
We have to put an end to this ASAP. That starts with putting pressure on that arrested faculty and their administration enablers. And the ones to do it are the parents paying a fortune for this nonsense.

The climate change 'consensus'
NewsMax: "Climate Change Remains Unsettled, Say 31,072 Scientists." NewsMax reports:
While the United Nations and the Obama administration assert that climate change is settled science and requires dramatic regulatory oversight, 31,072 U.S. scientists have signed the Petition Project, saying the issue remains decidedly unsettled.
"There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will in the foreseeable future cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate," the petition says.

Could the NBA close due to the Sterling controversy?
Washington Times columnist Michael Taube says that the Donald Sterling controversy could lead to the National Basketball Association's "untimely demise." Taube suggests that NBA players could withhold their services in protest which lead to a decline in revenue and possible devaluation of franchise values. But that's not it, as Taube paints an even worse outcome to the litigation between Sterling and the NBA:
There’s something even more dramatic that could happen. Many NBA owners could become sick and tired of this situation, and simply bolt and form their own basketball league (or leagues). While this would easily get rid of the Sterling problem and the disgusting scent of racism, it could also bring down the 68-year-old NBA — all because of the stubbornness and bigotry of one owner.
This is highly unlikely; actually this possibility is so far-fetched it is not even worth mentioning. In fact if anyone thinks the NBA might close down in the next five-ten years due to teams leaving over the Sterling controversy, I'd be glad to take a $100 bet on it. I'd also take a $20 bet on whether more than five players withhold services for as much as a single game next year. And finally, a $20 bet on NBA total revenues in 2017 being no less than 90% of what they are today. The fact is that there is so much money in the NBA for owners* and players** that there is zero chance they will walk away from it. Even with the taint of Sterling the NBA brand will continue to have tremendous value.
* The league has total annual revenues of more than $5 billion and the average NBA team is worth more than $600 million (according to Forbes).
** The average player earns more than $3.5 million and 355 of them make more than a million dollars per year.

Goldberg on 'trigger warnings'
Jonah Goldberg begins his column:
Trigger warning: I am going to make fun of "trigger warnings."
Of course, if you're the sort of person who takes trigger warnings very seriously, you probably don't read this column too often. So maybe my mockery will miss its target, sort of like making fun of the Amish on the Internet — it's not like they'll find out.
I was hopeful that trigger warnings were mostly a media invention, an exaggeration of a relatively small phenomenon, and it might be. No matter how real trigger warning hysteria -- both for and against -- the phenomenon deserves mocking and Goldberg does a good job. Once again, Goldberg notes, "common sense is barely a speed bump for the steamroller of political correctness."

Tuesday, May 20, 2014
What I'm reading
1. A Literary Education and Other Essays by Joseph Epstein. His familiar essays are pure joy.
2. Fidel & Religion: Conversations with Frei Betto on Marxism & Liberation Theology by Fidel Castro
3. Her Worship: Hazel McCallion and the Development of Mississauga by Tom Urbaniak. For a long time the media and the Left treated her like they do Rob Ford today, but Mississauga needed her (like Toronto does Ford).
4. Marriage and Civilization: How Monogamy Made Us Human by William Tucker
5. "The Effect of Wait Times on Mortality in Canada," a Fraser Research study by Bacchus Barua, Nadeem Esmail, and Taylor Jackson

Kathleen Wynne being positive
@LibPressSec tweets:
@Kathleen_Wynne on @timhudak's job killing scheme: "It would be maternity leave and don’t come back because you’re fired" #voteon #onpoli

Penny-rounding and riches
The CBC reports that a Montreal man is 89-cents richer on 365 cash transactions after a year of penny-rounding. Assuming that his time is worth minimum wage, the time calculating his gain probably means he's poorer.

Three strikes
1. Jonah Keri of Grantland looks at the 10 best months players have had in baseball history. Five of the ten belong to Barry Bonds.
2. At Hardball Times Frank Jackson looks at the pitchers in MLB history who games in which they allowed no hits, no runs, and had no strikeouts. Needless to say, it is very rare -- it has happened only three times. There is a reason, Johnson concludes, that the all-time strikeout leader is also the all-time no-hitter leader.
3. At Hardball Talk Craig Calcaterra responds at length to a moronic column by Bob Ryan in the Boston Globe on the old and endless debate on statistics in baseball. Ryan is against the statheads setting up ridiculous arguments against them: they do not love the game on the field, they second-guess everything managers do, they do not appreciate the "narrative" or "inside" reporting, etc... None of this is new so I am not sure why Ryan feels the need to write about it again, unless Calcaterra is correct to say it is red meat for his meathead readers. The what-happens-on-the-field/statistical analysis is not mutually exclusive. I would add that many of the old-school appreciators of the game often throw out silly stats ("so-and-so is 7 for 12 against pitcher X so he really has his number") that are useless mostly due to sample size or lack of context to tell us anything meaningful. Also, while I have seen plenty of statheads describe what goes on in a game combined with solid analysis to explain it (Calcaterra, Jonah Keri, and Joe Sheehan, and Tim Marchman when he wrote about baseball), I have not seen old-school watchers employ stats in a meaningful way. It is rather sad that the statheads still need to respond to the criticism that the likes of Ryan still throw out there in their tired baseball columns.