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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Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Ethicists: noun 1) people who justify the unethical
The Daily Telegraph: "Parents should be allowed to have their newborn babies killed because they are 'morally irrelevant' and ending their lives is no different to abortion, a group of medical ethicists linked to Oxford University has argued." Babies aren't people say ethicists in the Journal of Medical Ethics. Parents should be allowed to kill disabled babies say the same ethicists. The debate has never been when life begins, but when life becomes protectable. Later and later the starting point seems to be.

Bootleggers and Baptists (apples edition)
Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente writes about the genetically modified Arctic apple that doesn't turn brown when you slice it. Sounds like a great advance for the fruit-eating public but not everyone is happy. Anti-GMO activists on the one hand, and farmers and apple-slicers who would have to compete with the new apple product, both want the Arctic apple to adorn the GMO label. This is a perfect example of what Bruce Yandle was describing when he said that the interests of competitors and moralizers will coalesce to demand regulation.

National Post analysis of Ontario's Sunshine List and the 'glass ceiling'
The National Post crunched the numbers for Ontario's Sunshine List of people making more than $100,000 and they find it proof that there is a glass ceiling. Only 21 of the 100 highest paid public sector employees are women. Taking the top 100 is a highly unrepresentative sample of top earners so there are problems with the methodology. There are also good explanations, most likely that the women in middle management (55% of them are female) and senior management (51%) haven't worked their way to the top jobs in the bureaucracy. Also, there is a lag between rising through the ranks in either the private or public sector to a position where one would be considered for the top posts in government.
As for comparing the highest salary among men and women, it's an apples and oranges comparison: of course Tom Mitchell, the president of Ontario Power Generation, is going to be paid more than Catherine Zahn, president of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, but not because he's a man but because OPG is a large, money making business with many more times employees and resources. If a woman was the head of OPG, then in all likelihood, the top paid individual in government would be female.
If you believe that government systemically discriminates against women, then please, please vote against the Liberals who have been in power for the past 12 years. If systemic discrimination against talented and privileged women is still a problem, Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne have had plenty of time to fix it.
One other point. The Post analysis suggests that women are not being paid what they should be. Another possible explanation is that men are being overpaid and instead of increasing the ranks of high-earning women, we should shrink the ranks and pay of high-earning men in the public sector.

Donate to Liberals, get a hand-drawn picture from Justin
The National Post has the story. I'm torn. I usually doubt that politicians sketch these things themselves, but the drawing of the Canadian Human Rights Museum looks shitty enough that Junior probably did draw it himself.
The premium for donating is unlocked if party supporters give a total of $350,000. With a day left the party was more than $50K short.

The Liberals are tanking -- for now
John Ivison in the National Post: "Weak showing in new poll has some Liberals wondering if Trudeau has lost his lustre." A 10-point drop in six months is a lot, but better now (for the Liberals) than in six months. It is hard to imagine Junior performing as badly between now and October as he has since last October: dropping dick jokes in relation to Canada's reaction to genocidal murderers in the Middle East; trying to have it both ways on C-51; embracing turncoat Tory MP Eve Adams. Or perhaps these missteps are not outliers but a sign of the political ineptitude Justin Trudeau will put on display during his closeup with voters in the upcoming federal campaign. Liberals may think they've hit bottom and perhaps they have, but even at 28%, there's still room to fall to where the Liberals ended up on election day 2011. Many Liberals believe they can't do as poorly as they did under Michael Ignatieff. There is lots of time for Justin Trudeau to turn things around and look like he could competently handle the job of prime minister. But there is also plenty of time to bring the Grits back down to Iggy depths of ineptitude and unpopularity.
At the very least, even this most recent Ekos poll -- which, by the way, is one poll that shows the Liberals trailing the Tories by three points -- still indicates a close race.

'Rahm Emanuel and the unraveling of Chicago'
A long but good article by John B. Judis in the National Journal on "The Broken City" and how Mayor Rahm Emanuel isn't helping The Windy City:
If pensions were a small part of a city's budget, then all of this wouldn't matter that much. But pensions represent one of the largest expenditures in Chicago's budget (which is also true of other cities). Of a budget that runs around $8 billion, pension costs will amount to about $1.1 billion in 2015, and will rise to $1.2 billion in 2016 and $1.3 billion in 2017.
The rating agencies have taken note. In 2013, Moody's issued a "super downgrade," reducing Chicago's credit rating three notches. Last February, Moody's took Chicago down another notch, leaving it only three steps from junk-bond status. Lower bond ratings mean higher interest rates, making it more expensive for Chicago to borrow money to cover its deficits. Other cities have faced similar crises, but among major American cities, only Detroit has a lower bond rating than Chicago.
Faced with a budget crisis of this magnitude, Emanuel did make some cuts, shuttering some schools and mental-health clinics. But these measures mainly infuriated the affected Chicagoans while generating few savings. He also opted for a dodgy bond strategy used earlier by Daley called "scoop and toss": He sold new city bonds with high interest rates so that he could buy the principal of bonds that were coming due and use the difference to make up the deficit. The strategy assumed Chicago's imminent recovery from the Great Recession, which would raise revenues, but the city, which depends on lagging business and financial services, still had not fully recovered. As a result, Emanuel's strategy raised Chicago's interest costs and contributed to Moody's 2013 decision.

Samizdata's Perry de Havilland says a car crash could have a totally different meaning in the future.

The bigger danger
Iran or Indiana?

Can't wait
Business Insider: "'The Walking Dead' spinoff may finally tell us how the zombie apocalypse began." Can't get enough TWD, even if Fear the Walking Dead won't have Daryl Dixon in it. Or Carol. (She's become a kick-ass character.)

Online porn studied
Business Insider reprints Justin Lehmiller's examination of a recent study that appeared in Journal of Sex Research on more than 100 hours of heterosexual pornography from four popular websites and classified that acts that occurred to examine gender inequality in such videos. The methodology is well explained and numerous charts present the specific findings, but Lehmiller concludes:
Overall, these findings confirm that gender inequality does indeed exist in the world of online porn, but not on all indicators.
In addition, they challenge the popular view that amateur porn tends to be more progressive with respect to gender-role diversity than professional porn — indeed, this analysis suggests that the reverse may actually be true.
Not certain that "not on all indicators" matters that much to when, in the words of Lehmiller:
When non-consensual sex occurred, men and women were equally likely to be depicted as the victim. When sexual manipulation occurred, women were more likely to be manipulated than men.

Monday, March 30, 2015
Bernanke's blog
Former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke is blogging at the Brookings Institution, and he says: "Now that I’m a civilian again, I can once more comment on economic and financial issues without my words being put under the microscope by Fed watchers." Bet his comments will still be put under the microscope and (to mix metaphors) sometimes amplified. On Twitter he says he will blog economics, finance, and baseball.
His first policy post is on interest rates being so low, and he concludes, "The state of the economy, not the Fed, is the ultimate determinant of the sustainable level of real returns." Not only is Bernanke's commentary on these issues welcome, but the online debate that it encourages.

Money and politics (Canadian edition)
There have been a lot of stories about the nefarious influence of money in Canadian politics lately, especially money from third parties. The very strong suggestion in all these stories is that this favours the Conservatives. Get the feeling that the media is setting the stage for 1) an implicit fear campaign against the Big Bad Tories because they are a Trojan horse for special interest groups, and 2) preparing a narrative for why Justin Trudeau losses the 2015 federal election.

FiveThirtyEight: Kentucky getting past Notre Dame decreased their chances of winning the NCAA tournament
I get how it's possible that the Kentucky Wildcats had a 54% chance of winning the NCAA men's basketball tournament going into the Elite Eight but only a 53% chance after defeating the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. It's possible because other teams, most notably the Arizona Wildcats, had a better chance to defeat Kentucky, than the teams that won or that teams with better chances to defeat Kentucky in the Finals got past their opponents (most notably Duke beating Gonzaga). But it still seems weird that that their odds fell a percentage point after the regional finals weekend when the chances to win the tourney doubled for Michigan State and Wisconsin, with their Elite Eight victories, and increased from 13% to 22% for Duke.
FiveThirtyEight had Kentucky as 83% favourites over Notre Dame. They narrowly won and that game's stats are put into the statistical hopper used to calculate future projections, so that might bring down their percentages a bit. But Kentucky didn't play a bad game and with everything else in the mix, the last minute victory shouldn't hurt Kentucky all that much.
My question for Nate Silver and his crew: if you were forced to bet against Kentucky, wouldn't you want different odds than you would have been given last week?
Also beware that FiveThirtyEight has both Kentucky and Duke as about 2:1 favourites to make the finals, but the Blue Devils play a Michigan State team whose stats from the beginning of the season bring down its projections. Mike Izzo's Spartans aren't the same team it was in November and December -- no team is, but Michigan State is even more so -- and it skews their percentages.

Migration to the American southwest (Part II)
Tyler Cowen has more links about the shift of U.S. population from the northeast to the southwest, focusing on the rise of air conditioning as an important factor and Jeff Biddle's work. A useful addition to this discussion might be Salvatore Basile's Cool: How Air Conditioning Changed Everything which came out last year but only recently added to my list of books to read. Cowen notes that Scott Sumner insists that low taxes are more important in attracting people than the weather, although Cowen -- who says it is not the "main" cause -- suggests low tax states attract wealthier people who are more likely to seek out lower tax jurisdictions.
Three important points from Sumner's post. The first is that people prefer nice weather not hot weather. Second, there is a Sunbelt Myth; low-tax states grow faster (generally) than their higher tax neighbours. The third point is that he thinks "tax differentials will play a less important role in the future."

Sinatra Song of the Century: 'A Foggy Day (In London Town)'
Mark Steyn writes about "A Foggy Day (In London Town)" by George and Ira Gershwin, noting:
Does anyone actually say "London Town"? Oh, well. "Town" turned out to be the key to the whole tune. The additional syllable gave George two symmetrical four-note phrases, which in turn led to the parallel lines "had me low" and "had me down." More than any other of the marquee names of the American songbook, George was partial to repeated notes: "Oh, Lady Be Good!", "Someone To Watch Over Me",, the verse of "They Can't Take That Away From Me"... But on this one, thanks to Ira's addition of "town", they're underpinning the entire song: A fog-gy C-C-C. In Lon-don E flat-E flat-E flat. Same with the next phrase: "I viewed the", all the same note. "The Bri-tish", same same same. You can get away with this device more easily in a spiky, angular rhythm number, but you have to be very assured to do it in a ballad. Here, the repeated notes of the melody and the shifting harmony underneath give the love song a subtly mature and understated quality, as we build toward the climax ...

2016 watch (end the dynasties edition)
Breitbart reports that former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, a potential Democratic challenger to Hillary Clinton, said on This Week: "Let’s be honest here, the presidency of the United States is not some crown to be passed between two families. It is an awesome and sacred trust."
And in a typically Clintonian move, former Democratic Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, a senior advisor to the Ready for Hillary PAC, said, "Martin O’Malley, he’s a very nice guy, and I was thinking he might make a nice member of a President Clinton administration, so he better watch it." She said that at the same time as claiming HRC welcomed a primary challenger.

If this were true, wouldn't there be less conformity
The Pacific Standard reports on Australian research that finds both men and women find non-conformity attractive. Based on several of the five studies the researchers examined, "interesting" might be a more accurate description than "attractive" and the fact that two of the studies had university students answering surveys seems to bias the findings a bit: of course undergrads find non-conformity more alluring, but wait 'til they are seriously considering marriage. This research probably indicates that we like to think of ourselves as more non-conformist than we really are, rather than who we truly find attractive.

After a quarter century of environmentalist movement scaremongering, we're back where we started
The Wall Street Journal: "Americans’ worry about global warming is no higher now than when Gallup first asked about it in 1989." And: "although concern about environmental issues is lower among both Republicans and Democrats since 2000, it is down more among Republicans." If you check the Gallup article, you'll find that it's not just global warming, but worry about a host of environmental issues from air to lakes, from drinking water to rain forests, is lower today than it was in 1989.

'Gay killers tie the knot behind bars in Britain's first known same-sex prison wedding'
The Daily Telegraph reports, "The pair, who are both in jail for homophobic attacks, are thought to have met in the prison library at HMP Full Sutton, East Yorkshire." Both were convicted for murder, one was also a convicted pedophile. I guess they were rehabilitated.

Sunday, March 29, 2015
Migration to the American southwest
Conservatives like to say that it is because of lower taxes in the southwest relative to the northeast. Paul Krugman and Tyler Cowen suggest the invention of air conditioning. Whatever the reason, this migration is a good, as Cowen explains:
[L]ife expectancy is notably higher in warm weather than cold weather. Deschenes and Moretti conclude (pdf): “…The longevity gains associated with mobility from the Northeast to the Southwest account for 4% to 7% of the total gains in life expectancy experienced by the U.S. population over the past thirty years.”

Headline writers need to be careful
Reuters: "Pakistan sends 747 jumbo jets to evacuate distraught nationals from Yemen." Is that multiple 747 jumbo jets or a total of 747 jumbo jets.

Apparently Weatherdongs are a thing
Kids Prefer Cheese has photographic evidence of "weatherdongs" which probably requires a Grade 4 level of humour to appreciate.

Why do Democrats want to give their presidential nomination to Hillary Clinton?
That is essentially the question George F. Will asks, noting that in her last three jobs -- First Lady, Senator, Secretary of State -- Hillary Clinton has been abysmal. As First Lady she led her husband's failed attempt at health care reform. As senator she was so unremarkable that as frontrunner she lost the 2008 Democratic primaries to the lackluster junior senator from Illinois. U.S. foreign policy during her time as Secretary of State was marked by failure after failure. Policy aside, the Clintons have a history of unsavoury behaviour that the country should eschew even if the Democrats are willing to look the other way.

McGinnis on Merchant
Rick McGinnis has a brief write-up and photos (1987 and 1998) of Natalie Merchant. A snippet:
In my circle of friends, Merchant was mostly known for being the closest thing to a girlfriend associated with Michael Stipe from R.E.M. I was grateful that I didn't have to interview her, and all I remember is that we didn't exchange many words, and that her demeanor was demure and awkward - Ally Sheedy from The Breakfast Club.

Most talked about adult beverages
Via Sudeep Reddy, margaritas are the most mentioned or second most mentioned cocktail in major cities according to comments on Yelp.

'UWinnipeg approves mandatory indigenous course requirement'
The CBC: "Students will be required to take at least 1 indigenous studies course moving forward." The CBC reports, Annette Trimbee, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Winnipeg said, "We have taken an important step on the path to a better, more understanding, and inclusive society. The University of Winnipeg is proud to be a catalyst for positive change." Yeah identity politics. Yeah racial pandering. Will Indians be required to take a non-indigenous Canadian history course? Does U of W have a Great Books requirement? Probably not.
(HT: Joseph Quesnel on Twitter)

Saturday, March 28, 2015
In praise of fossil fuels, or Why Earth Hour is wrong
The conclusion of Donald Boudreaux's "Applause for Fossil Fuels" at Cafe Hayek:
Do I believe that fossil fuels are perfect? Not at all. Do I believe that intellectual and political elites overestimate the scope and significance of these imperfections? Yes, absolutely. And do I believe that these same elites underestimate the ability of humans to adapt through the market to these imperfections? Yes again.

Misleading Liberal graph
How you scale a graph can make a big difference in how it is perceived. Start the scale for fundraising at zero and these two parties look pretty similar, or at least close. Starting the graph at $5 million makes it look like the Tories have raised twice as much, which is simply untrue. Are the Liberals worried? Are they preying on the fear of their supporters to squeeze out some extra dough?

Winning Earth Hour
As Mark Perry notes on Twitter, North Korea will likely be the "winner" again.

How the media covers Obama
Political Humour on how the media would react if President Barack Obama ate puppies on live TV: "Obama makes world safer for cats."

A bet for the Christine Elliott campaign
The Christine Elliott campaign has come up with an analysis of the membership lists and created a map that purportedly shows widespread support with ridings colour-coded for 60+ point support, 30-60 point support and less than 30 point support. (Their legend is 10-30, 30-60, and 60-100 which is sloppy, double-counting the numbers 30 and 60.) The Elliott campaign is claiming that she has 60+ support in about two-thirds of the ridings. I'm calling bullshit. It is possible with this configuration to not win a first-ballot leadership race, but unlikely. So: I'll make a $100 bet with two people on the Elliott campaign that she does not win on the first ballot. If you believe this analysis to be accurate, I should have takers. Email me at paul_tuns [AT] or send me a message by Twitter at @ptuns. Put "PC LEADERSHIP BET" in the subject line.
Bet your predictions helps keep people honest and proves that they aren't just bloviating. Bet your analysis is even better. Prove you have faith in your numbers. Or that you are telling the truth. What do Sobering Thoughts readers think is more likely? That they made a mistake in analyzing the membership numbers or that they are deliberately misleading PC supporters about the level of her strength?
Bullshit like their map would be more difficult to pull off if the party would have released the number of memberships sold by each campaign and directly through the website but reportedly the Elliott campaign threatened to sue sent a lawyer's letter to prevent the PC Party of Ontario if they disclosed numbers. It seems strange that she would do that.
Also, as the Patrick Brown campaign notes, the "analysis" was released less than a half hour after the party released the membership lists. That's seem awfully quick.
Elliott's campaign is predicated on 1) she can win the leadership contest and 2) she can win a general election. Instead of telling Ontario PCs what she would do, she's making unprovable claims backed up by bogus claims -- she can win is proven by an analysis that is highly questionable (at best) and a complete fake (at worst).
I'm not saying Elliott isn't going to win, although I still think she is only a 50-50 proposition to be the next leader, with a 10% chance of finishing third. These desperate attempts to project strength suggest I'm right, or over-rating her chances.

'Every TV News Report on the Economy Ever'
Alex Tabarrok featured this video at Marginal Revolution because it's economics, but it is a perfect satire of television news reports in general. I recommend watching the video until the end. It explains why I stopped watching television news years ago.

I would have so bought one of these 10 years ago
"The Official GOP Cheney Cowboy Hat."

Friday, March 27, 2015
Human Achievement Hour
Tomorrow night millions of do-gooders will mark Earth Hour. That's where we get to live like poor people for an hour by spending an hour in the dark, unless you go out which a lot of people do. Because that saves electricity. But at least the "conservationists" get to be smug.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute suggests ways to acknowledge Human Achievement Hour, an optimistic counter to the deplorable Earth Hour, which recognizes, "reliable electricity as one human achievement people can celebrate by keeping their lights on for one hour." Or, "You can also celebrate by chatting with friends or family on your telephone or computer, watching the news on TV, listening to music, or even taking a shower thanks to indoor plumbing."
If you are going to celebrate Earth Hour, remember to charge your phones, laptops, and other devices beforehand. Be part of the redistribution of electricity use, rather than its conservation.

Alberta and Quebec budgets
Budget analysis from:
BMO Capital Markets on Quebec.
CIBC Economics on Quebec.
Scotia Bank Global Economics on the pre-budget statement.
RBC Economics on Quebec.
KPMG on Quebec.
BMO Capital Markets on Alberta.
CIBC Economics on Alberta.
Scotia Bank Global Economics on Alberta.
RBC Economics on Alberta.
KPMG on Alberta.
Usually TD Economics provides the best summaries of budgets, but I can't find theirs yet; they had a Fiscal Outlook for the province earlier this month that focused on what Premier Jim Prentice had been telegraphing he was doing. Also the Canadian Taxpayers Federation doesn't have anything posted about either provincial budget.
Generally, the banks like the budgets although they find the economic assumptions for the Quebec budget a tad cautious. By predicting lower economic growth than the banks have (by about a half point in most cases), the Liberal government in Quebec City is being more aggressive about cutting spending in order to balance the budget than they might otherwise needed to be. Of course, there is nothing wrong about a surplus in that happy circumstance if the banks' forecasters are correct and the government's are wrong.
The Quebec budget doesn't increase taxes and promises very modest corporate tax cuts beginning in 2016 in order to attract investment, but a four-year plan to reduce them to 11.5% by 2020 (from 11.9%) might not be enough tax relief to attract new businesses. Halving the small business to 4% is a great step that should incentivize the creation of new small businesses and provide a little extra revenue for struggling starting businesses. Other significant measures include eliminating the health contribution tax beginning in 2017 and limiting spending increases in health (1.4%) and education (0.2%) next year, which when inflation is taken into account means a per capita spending decrease. Some people will be upset by that, but Quebec needs to control spending to balance the budget next year (the government's stated goal). Continuing the hiring freeze (2% reduction in workforce through attrition) helps achieve those spending limits. The government says it is committed to looking at the Godbout report in the future, but it would be surprising if many of the significant recommendations were heeded.
Stephen Gordon says in Maclean's that there is a lot to like in the Quebec budget. If you are interested in the extent of the problem of tax expenditures (favours) that Gordon complains about, read the KPMG report which lists many of them.
The Alberta budget is a bit more complicated and problematic. Progressive Conservative Premier Prentice is increasing taxes: moving away from flat tax of 10% to a three-tier system with differentiated rates for over $100K and $250K; a new Health Care Contribution Levy that starts at $200 per year for people making $50K, and more for higher earners; increases on dozens of fees and fines; immediate increases in fuel and tobacco taxes; decrease in charitable tax credits. It is notable that despite Prentice's recent talk about an Alberta sales tax there is no hint of one ... yet. The government is borrowing from the "Contingency Account" (which along with the Heritage Fund has been labelled the Rainy Day Fund) for program spending and traditional borrowing for capital investments. Much of this borrowing and "revenue enhancement" is due to declining oil prices, so raiding the Rainy Day Fund makes some sense. Despite the increased taxes and Contingency Account reserves being drawn, there will be a $5 billion budget deficit this year, the largest in more than two decades. Another $3 billion projected deficit for the following year before oil prices bring the province's budget back into surplus in 2017/18. It would be worse but they managed a modest spending decrease of 0.7% (larger cut when population growth and inflation are taken into account, of about 3%-3.5%). This seems to mostly come in the form of job cuts (2000 full-time this year) and the expectation that departments "absorb" costs with the goal of bringing Alberta's profligate government in line with other provinces' program costs.
The most interesting feature of the budget, however, is a future shift in the use of royalty revenues. Beginning in 2018, the amount of resource revenues being used for program spending will be limited to 75% of royalties, with a further decline to 50% by 2020. This will make the province's fiscal picture less susceptible to variations in oil prices. The rest remaining royalties will go to the Heritage Fund. This shift is being widely praised, but it will likely result in increases in income or corporate taxes or the introduction of a provincial sales tax. This is not stated in either the budget or the analyses of the budget. For a good review of how resource royalty revenue volatility adds to government spending uncertainty, see Sarah Dobson's paper "Peering into Alberta's Darkening Future: How Oil Prices Impact Alberta's Royalty Revenues," for the Calgary School of Public Policy released earlier this week.

Former NDP leader who opposed Thomas Mulcair as insufficiently progressive says progressives need to vote NDP
Ed Broadbent, looking a lot like a Latin American Dictator at the Progress Summit sponsored by his namesake "think tank" (that doesn't produce studies but does a lot of partisan activity), says that voting for Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party is insufficient for Canadians that want to replace Stephen Harper with a progressive alternative. He singled out Trudeau's failure to oppose C-51, the government's security and anti-privacy terrorism bill. This is a good time to remind people that Broadbent endorsed Brian Topp in the 2012 NDP leadership because he was concerned that Mulcair was going to move the party to the center. There is nothing wrong with changing one's mind or Broadbent could believe that Mulcair's NDP is the best of a bad bunch or his prediction about the party moving to the middle was wrong. But it is useful to remember that a lot of politics is theatre and the concerns the former NDP leader had about the future NDP leader were always going to be ephemeral.

'Stop Defending Phil Robertson'
NRO's Katherine Kempf:
Phil Robertson is an embarrassment, not a hero, and the socially conservative movement needs to distance itself from him immediately.
Don’t get me wrong — I agree that our culture is experiencing a terrifying shift towards censorship. People have become so easily offended that it’s almost impossible to say anything without someone getting upset about it; and concepts like trigger warnings, safe spaces, and microaggressions are threatening free speech.
But none of this changes the fact that Phil Robertson is an ignorant buffoon, and that many of his comments — despite the fact that he does have every right to make them — are not ones that anyone should ever want to be associated with.
Robertson wondered whether being victims of a horrible crime would help atheists find God. It is a stupid argument. He has always be inelegant. But that is plain dumb. Duck Dynasty is a great show, especially for Christian conservatives looking for traditional, pro-family fare. But as a speaker on the Christian Right circuit, Phil Robertson has become an embarrassment. Kimpf asks whether you want his ranting to be the face of Christianity? If not, stop defending him.
This is not an argument against being bold and in other's faces. But be smart about it. Not sure if Robertson's tact is one that brings people to Jesus. It is probably repelling them. Pope Francis seems a better evangelist.

Climate change to lead to increased prostitution
Breitbart reports:
On Wednesday, California Democrat Barbara Lee proposed a resolution in the House of Representatives that claims women will eventually be forced into prostitution in order to obtain life-sustaining food and water for their families.
Lee introduced House Concurrent Resolution 29, warning that women will be forced into “transactional sex” to get enough food and clean water — all because global warming will create “conflict and instability” in the world.
“Women will disproportionately face harmful impacts from climate change,” Lee’s resolution reads. It continues claiming, “Food insecure women with limited socioeconomic resources may be vulnerable to situations such as sex work, transactional sex, and early marriage that put them at risk for HIV, STIs, unplanned pregnancy, and poor reproductive health.”
Maybe we can combine International Women's Day and Earth Day to get them over with at once.

2016 watch (social conservatives edition)
The New York Times reports (via Hot Air) on a meeting of evangelical leaders and other social conservatives which have determined that Mike Huckabee is the most viable social conservative candidate Republican presidential contenders:
The session culminated in a vote for “the most viable candidate.” The result, projected on a screen at the front of a conference room, showed Mr. Huckabee, a former Baptist preacher, as the winner. In a three-way tie for second were Mr. Perry, Mr. Jindal and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, according to a cellphone photo of the results shared with The New York Times.
Really? It seems that all the viable Republican candidates, but especially governors Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal and Senator Ted Cruz are all social conservative stalwarts. Rand Paul is as solidly pro-life as any politician in Washington. Former governor Jeb Bush had a great pro-life record during his time in Tallahassee. Of course, there is more to being socially conservative than opposing abortion, but it is generally the best litmus test. Bush has upset socons with support for Common Core. Paul is too libertarian on most other issues. I'm not sure why conservatives don't like Cruz. But Huckabee is not demonstrably more socially conservative or more politically viable than Walker or Jindal. Cruz might be slightly less socially conservative but more politically viable. Maybe the report is wrong. Maybe it was a group of politically dim social conservatives. But the analysis is wrong: Huckabee is not the most electable most socially conservative Republican contender. Period.

Leading world thinkers
Prospect magazine has a list of the top 10 world thinkers. The top four:
1. Thomas Piketty, French economist
2. Yanis Varoufakis, Greek finance minister
3. Naomi Klein, US author
4. Russell Brand, UK comedian and campaigner
Tim Worstall says: "Someone who is wrong, someone who is cocking up mightily, someone who is wrong and someone who is incomprehensible make up the world’s four leading thinkers?"
Worstall could have gone on; economist turned pundit Paul Krugman was number five.

Brazilian-born Medicine Hat basketball player finally allowed to put name on jersey
Guy Carbagiale Fuck. It's pronounced Foo-key.

Thursday, March 26, 2015
The Madness continues
March Madness: the most important games have yet to be played -- and the most important ones will be played next week in April -- but the best part of the NCAA men's basketball tournament is over. The 48 games in four days during the first two rounds (not counting the silly play-in round which is technically round one) might be the best few days of the sports calendar. Upsets and cinderellas and shockingly close contests with almost no break between games creates an intense and intensely fun sports atmosphere. Now, the schedule is saner and there are few upsets (unless Kentucky gets knocked out before the Final Four); sure a 7-seed might upset a 3-seed but the difference between those two is much less than a 14-seed beating a 3-seed. The games matter more now and there should be some great games between teams that are much closer in ability now that the University of Buffalo and Northeastern are out of the tourney. Excluding UCLA which didn't deserve a tournament spot -- and their Sweet Sixteen berth doesn't vindicate the selection committee's decision -- every other team is seeded eight or better and two of the 7-seeds (Michigan and Wichita) were severely under-seeded. So there's lots of good basketball and that should matter more than narrative to sports fans (maybe not so for sports journalists). Outside a North Carolina-Duke final or Kentucky going for perfection, storylines, and your brackets, matter less now than the quality of the game on the court. And we should have some great games. Here are my predictions.
Kentucky (1) vs. West Virginia (5): Kentucky has played a relatively easy schedule (all season) and hasn't faced a team anything like Bob Huggins' Mountaineers who really press with their defense and they lead college hoops in takeaways. Not saying the Wildcats are going to lose, merely that they are going to be challenged in a way that they haven't thus far this year. West Virginia should make this a close contest and anything can happen in a close game, especially a low-scoring one. Kentucky might have "only" an 80% chance of winning, but they haven't faced such long odds in a while. Kentucky wins a game that should be close -- Vegas is off having Kentucky as 13.5 point favourites -- even if the Wildcats pull away at the end as the Mountaineers miss their catch-up treys.
Notre Dame (3) vs. Wichita State (7): Wichita is better than their seeding but Notre Dame is hot and a fast-paced team, meaning that even if they fall behind, they can catch up. The Fighting Irish might present a greater challenge to Kentucky in the regional final by forcing a different pace. Vegas had these teams as even when betting began but the Shockers are a favourite of bettors right now. I'm not sold on it. You have to trust Notre Dame's 12th ranked offense (from probably the best conference in the country) than Wichita's 6th-ranked defense from Missouri Valley. Should be close, and fun to watch.
Regional Final: Kentucky (1) over Notre Dame (3). The Fighting Irish have about a 20% chance of winning, which isn't enough to take Notre Dame. Kentucky is better, but they will be vulnerable in every remaining game. This might be the easiest game they have left assuming they face Michigan State, Duke, or Gonzaga in the finals. Will be fun to watch how the Wildcat D contains the Fight Irish's speedy offense, but Kentucky can sink their share of buckets. Kentucky to the Final Four.
Wisconsin (1) vs. North Carolina (4): Wisconsin and Arizona are the two best teams in college basketball behind Kentucky and significantly ahead of the next best team(s) whether it is Duke, Gonzaga, or Virginia. The Badgers aren't going to have a problem with the Tar Heals who are prone to turnovers and are missing their second best player, forward Kennedy Meeks. Missing Meeks means fans will be robbed of a potentially great match-up in the paint between him and probably the hardest player in the tournament to defend against, Wisconsin forward Frank Kaminsky, who stands seven-feet tall. North Carolina has been frustratingly inconsistent all year and prone to blowing late leads. UNC is bowing out in the Sweet Sixteen to help set up probably the great game in the tournament. More anon.
Arizona (2) vs. Xavier (6): Nothing against Xavier but the Wildcats are the only team with a top 10 offense and top 10 defense not named Wildcats Kentucky, and the difference between Arizona and Kentucky going either way on the court, according to Ken Pomeroy, is negligible. If Xavier can stop Arizona in the paint, they have a chance because Arizona, which should have been a one-seed, has trouble scoring three-pointers. It's their only real weakness. They are especially adept at preventing offensive rebounding, so Xavier will need to be accurate when shooting. There are just too many ways the Wildcats can win. And they will.
Regional Final: Arizona (2) over Wisconsin (1). For what it's worth, I picked Arizona to beat Duke in the finals before the tournament in my brackets, and there is no reason to change that. Wisconsin can win this game. It should be close. It was my pick for game of the tournament. But the Wildcats are a great, and under-rated team. Both are well-coached so there is no advantage there. Wisconsin has looked sluggish in their tournament games; they can be sluggish and still beat UNC, but they can't get away with it against Arizona. I think Wisconsin will break out of their funk but it won't be enough. Remember this though: they faced their largest deficit of the season against Michigan State in the Big 10 tournament final, came back to force the game to overtime and didn't let the Spartans score in the extra period. They can dominate other really good teams. But I just don't see it happening in the Elite Eight game.
Louisville (4) vs. North Carolina State (8): NC State has beaten good opponents this year, but have lost to some terrible ones. They have the talent to beat any team on any day, including Kentucky. However, I actually have them in my Sweet Sixteen, but their journey ends. The Cardinals defense isn't as dominating as previous seasons but it is still one of the best (fifth by Pomeroy's adjusted D) which will be enough to get Louisville to the Elite Eight.
Oklahoma (3) vs. Michigan State (7): I consider this one a coin-flip. Oklahoma is a very good team and would take them to beat anyone else left in in the region, but it's hard to pick against Tom Izzo in March. It's still March, right? The Spartans defense has been spectacular lately, which is why you can't put a lot of stock in the overall ratings. Izzo's squad has been a different team over the past month. Michigan State continues on.
Regional Final: Michigan State (7) over Louisville (4): Anything can happen in a close, defensive battle, but Michigan State is playing extremely well lately if you don't include the final 15 minutes against Wisconsin in the Big 10 Final.
Duke (1) vs Utah (5): You could make a case that Utah is the fifth best team left in the tournament. This contest features strength against strength in the Blue Devils' offense vs. the Utes defense. I'm going with Duke because likely first overall NBA pick Jahil Okafor can take over a game if need be.
Gonzaga (2) vs UCLA (11): The Zags are a great team that doesn't get any respect and the Bruins are over-rated because they've gone on a run beating SMU (#6) and getting lucky in facing Alabama-Birmingham (#14) instead of Iowa State (#3). The Bruins' run ends. Gonzaga puts off "they can't win big games" for another few days.
Regional Final: Duke (1) over Gonzaga (2). It's kinda sad. Gonzaga is clearly one of the six best teams left in the tournament and they might be in the Final Four if they were in the East. But Duke is better.

If the youth are our future, we're screwed
Ashe Schow in the Washington Examiner:
With all the attention being paid to college-aged social justice warriors and microagressions, one has to ask: What happens when all these delicate snowflakes enter the workforce?
The latest, as noted here yesterday and reported by Schow, is that clapping is intimidating.
And Schow points out what is happening Brown, an Ivy League school:
In another recent example, New York Times opinion writer Judith Shulevitz described a special "safe space" at Brown University, a room with "cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma."
Why is such infantilization of grown college students necessary?
You know that companies will follow suit when they hire these children.

'Mulcairmania in Alberta?'
That's a question in the comments to Eric Grenier's look at the NDP in Alberta when the author thinks the NDP might have a chance at three seats, two in Edmonton (projected NDP) and Lethbridge (close but no cigar). There are several theories as to why this is happening:
1) A federal numbers bump influenced by the popular new provincial NDP leader, Rachel Notley.
2) The belief that Albertans won't vote for Justin Trudeau (I would add, "outside Calgary").
3) Combined with #2, those who want to get rid of the Harper Conservatives could coalesce around one party, therefore the NDP.
The NDP will win one, maybe two in Edmonton, a city that is, on the provincial level, voting more NDP. I doubt they win Lethbridge or that it will be all that close (within 3-5 points) on election day even if the sitting MP is running in another riding; the Conservatives beat NDP by almost 30-points in 2011, and that's a lot to make-up.
If winning a pair of seats in a riding counts as some sort of NDP surge or Mulcairmania, the Tories are doing okay.

Inefficient water markets
Marginal Revolution's Alex Tabarrok looks at the misallocation of water resources in California, a misallocation that occurs because water is close to free and is therefore used inefficiently. Tabarrok notes:
At the same time as farmers are watering their almonds, San Diego is investing in an energy-intensive billion-dollar desalination plant which will produce water at a much higher cost than the price the farmer are paying. That is a massive and costly misallocation of water.
In short, we are spending thousands of dollars worth of water to grow hundreds of dollars worth of almonds and that is truly nuts.
The chart from Mother Jones that Tabarrok highlights also illustrates why household water conservation schemes will barely make a dent in California's overall water use: more water is used to produce pistachios for export than by homes and businesses in San Francisco, more water is used to produce walnuts for export than by homes and businesses in Los Angeles, and more about three times more water is used to produce almonds than is used by people in LA. And that's just producing nuts. Pricing water, especially for agriculture, is an urgent need in much of the American west.

'We interrupt this lovefest for Lee Kwan Yew with this important message'
Chris Blattman has an excellent post and link with two major points. The first is really important: "I’m used to people trading off someone else’s freedom for GDP growth." GDP growth is good, but not at the cost of liberty. Too many on the Right look at GDP growth as a story that speaks for itself. It doesn't. Blattman's second point is that the narrative of "Third-world-to-First-World" is misleading considering that Singapore was in pretty good shape at the beginning of Lee Kwan Yew's reign due to the system of stability he inherited from British rule.

Political fundraising appeals are stupid
The Liberals sent out an email asking for donations. It begins:
We have them worried friend, but they're pushing harder than ever. And that's exactly why we can't slow down.
Read this excerpt from a recent Conservative fundraising email then let’s do everything we can to gain even more ground on them early in this all-important election year.
As the Conservative Party’s Executive Director, I cannot forget to tell you that the end of winter also means the end of our first fiscal quarter. It’s the first time this year that we publish our fundraising results.
In the last quarter, the Liberals were hot on our heels.
Will you help us keep a cash advantage over the Liberals by making your 2015 gift today?...
...Our analysis tells us that the Liberals are seeing increasingly positive success in their fundraising efforts.
Except every party does this: so-and-so is on our heels. It is rhetoric. Stir up the base with phony appeals that the evil other side has almost caught up in fundraising. If the Tories are worried, it is about what the Liberals will do, probably with the acquiescence of the NDP in an informal coalition, if they were to win power in October. The fear for Tories is not losing; it's the cost to Canada in having Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Shit, even typing those words gives me the shivers.)
So Liberal campaign co-chair Mrs. Rob Silver does what anyone asking for money will do: ramps up the fear that the other side is going all out and raising money hard: "they're pushing harder than ever." Of course they are. As are the Liberals. Because it's 2015 and there's a federal election. Because money is important. Like real important. It helps pay the salaries of campaign co-chairs.
Implicit in noting that the Conservatives are "pushing harder" is that Liberals are worried they will lose ground to the Tories in raising money. The next Conservative email should say: "We have them worried friend, but they're pushing harder than ever. And that's exactly why we can't slow down." How do the Conservatives know the Liberals are worried? Oh, shit, it's an endless cycle of stupid rhetoric. I miss the good old days of twice a year appeal letters that arrived by mail. Back then there was an attempt to make the case for supporting the party in question, instead of ginning up silly fear narratives.
As for "our analysis" quoted from the Tory fundraising email, all that means is that someone at the CPC headquarters can read a news story that says the Liberals are getting better at fundraising and then glances at the quarterly reports with Elections Canada to see that the fundraising gap between the two parties is shrinking. But analysis sounds like somebody doing something smart. And that somebody needs to get paid.
Here's my appeal. Don't give money to political parties. The parasite class doesn't need the money. Give the money to charity. Or take your parents out for dinner. Just stop rewarding stupid political fundraising appeals.

An obstacle to development
The Wall Street Journal explains that for many people in India, dealing with a loan shark is easier than dealing with a bank. Of course, formal banking negates some of the benefits of the "informal economy."

Mulcair vs. Harper
Both NDP leader Thomas Mulcair and Prime Minister Stephen Harper were being kind of pissy during Question Period yesterday, and yet I admire both of their answers. Perhaps I like it because it will tick off the delicate Bruce Anderson.

'Right to Try' passes in Indiana, Utah
The Tenth Amendment Center notes that Right to Try laws granting terminally ill patients access to drugs not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration have passed in two states: "In Indiana, HB1065 passed 50-0 in the Senate and 92-0 in the House. In Utah, HB94 passed 26-0 in the Senate and 69-3 in the House." Typically any law that passes unanimously or near-unanimously should be viewed with skepticism; it usually indicates a fashionable cause that politicians want to be seen supporting and such bipartisanship is usually the political equivalent of collusion. But Right to Try seems the correct policy, if only to put pressure on the FDA to stop taking its sweet time approving potentially life-saving drugs.
In a post looking at the possibility of a turf war between the states and the feds, Hot Air's Ed Morrissey notes Right to Try looks like human experimentation without the testing protocols of the FDA to determine a drug's efficacy. But, Morrissey wonders, "is it any more ethical to watch people suffer and die while red tape ties up treatments that could prevent either or both?"

Partly cloudy vs. partly sunny
The Cliff Mass Weather Blog explains the differences between "party cloudy" and "partly sunny." The most important is time of day: "partly cloudy" is used for nighttime percentage cover of the sky and "partly sunny" for daytime. Interestingly, though, the percentages don't line up. "Partly cloudy" aligns with "mostly sunny," in which case 26-50 of the sky is covered. "Partly sunny" aligns with about half the nighttime designation "mostly cloudy" which is 51-69% cover of the sky.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015
A nation of pussies
Reason's Nick Gillespie: "Finally: An Anonymous, Online, Geo-Tagged System to Report Microaggressions at College!" Gillespie says that simply reporting that fact he might be committing an microaggression.
In related news, some feminists do not like clapping because it can trigger anxiety.
Normally I think that in the long run we'll be fine, but increasingly I think we're fucked.

Educating African kids
Richard Walker has a short CapX essay on elementary schooling in Africa, focusing mostly on the work of James Tooley, professor of education at Newcastle University. The gist is that private schools can often educate kids in Africa at a cost comparable to parents that state-run schools do (because "public" schools have fees for uniforms, books, and incidentals) and often with comparable (or better) results. Unfortunately, education policy on the continent doesn't takes private schools into proper account in part due to aid agencies like Oxfam and ActionAid that are ideologically hostile to private schooling and that ignore data about their benefits.

Obsession or obstruction?
This story is from yesterday's CBC: "Ontario opposition parties are finally moving on to other business at Queen's Park after lobbing 131 straight questions at the Liberal government about the Sudbury byelection scandal." This sounds a tad much, but perhaps they wouldn't have had to ask 131 consecutive questions about the Sudbury byelection scandal if Kathleen Wynne's government actually answered any one of the questions on this subject. So another angle is not just 131 straight questions, but 131 non-answers. Sure, the opposition parties were point-scoring as much as information-seeking, but just imagine if the government provided any information.

A terrible term but probably a useful description of a segment on the American Right. Charles C. W. Cooke, author of The Conservatarian Manifesto: Libertarians, Conservatives, and the Fight for the Right's Future, has a good description of what he means, in an interview with ReasonTV: "These are the people who say when they are around libertarians they feel conservative, and when they are around conservatives they feel libertarian." That's often me. Of course, I also feel a little bit anarchist when with either tribe. Try raising the issue of "why do we have borders at all?" with either group.

Food Stamp Nation
Jason Riley of the Manhattan Institute writes in the Wall Street Journal about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as the U.S. food-stamp program, paid for by Washington but jointly administered by federal and state governments. Originally an anti-hunger program, it has slowly become an entitlement enjoyed by 47.6 million people -- a population the size of Spain and about 2.5 times as many people who qualified for SNAP in 2000 as Riley points out -- and includes large swathes of the middle class. Riley is less worried about the $80 billion price tag (four times the cost in 2000) than the human cost in making food an entitlement. Nearly six in ten recipients are on SNAP for more than five years, indicating it has become "an open-ended income-supplement program." He charges the Obama administration with manufacturing demand and recruiting new mouths to feed, as the number of SNAP recipients grew 69% between 2008 and 2013 while the poverty rate only increased 16.5%. Riley says Democrats "use handouts to increase voter support" and "consider greater dependence an achievement."
The problem among the poor, though, is not hunger but obesity. SNAP intends to increase food consumption, not healthy eating. Riley says, "In a sense, Michelle Obama’s fitness initiatives are trying to address a problem that is exacerbated by her husband’s food-stamp policies."
But the outcomes of the program matter little and too few in government care about the long-term effects of dependence. Republicans seem only to care about costs. Democrats seem only to care about getting re-elected. SNAP was exempted from the 1996 welfare reform but Riley says bringing the sort of "stringent time limits and work requirements" that other program recipients faced after 1996 could go some way to offer relief to taxpayers, end incentives to treating the program as a form of permanent income relief, and stop the practice of vote-buying through government programs. While Riley doesn't say so, the program then could be fine-tuned to provide the sort of nutritional support that poor families need, rather than giving the kids of middle class families a free school lunch or breakfast.

Obama, Hillary, and the high-schoolization of American politics
Thomas Sowell on the similarities between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton:
They attract the votes of those people who vote for demographic symbolism — “the first black president” to be followed by “the first woman president” — and neither is to be criticized, lest you be denounced for racism or sexism.
It is staggering that there are sane adults who can vote for someone to be president of the United States as if they are in school, just voting for “most popular boy” or “most popular girl” — or, worse yet, voting for someone who will give them free stuff.

Trudeau, Liberals, and R2P
iPolitics reports:
One expert in genocide and war said the government motion neatly manoeuvred Trudeau into repudiating his own party’s foreign policy legacy.
“I think now from a political perspective this is a bigger wedge issue because Liberals were the ones who helped bring about responsibility to protect (R2P), that said we must do more to protect human security. They are now basically turning their backs on that notion,” said Kyle Matthews, senior deputy director at the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies with Concordia University.
Matthews isn't quite correct. Trudeau didn't repudiate the party's foreign policy. As leader whatever he says is party foreign policy becomes the party's foreign policy. What he did is arguably worse: he repudiated the party's liberal principles. Or worse yet, he believes that the Responsibility to Protect can be met with hugs and blankets.
It could be argued that repudiating the endless pit of R2P is good policy, but it probably isn't good liberal foreign policy.

2016 watch (Ben Carson edition)
Reason's Matt Welch notes that Ben Carson is not ready for prime time -- he said that "Andrea Mitchell's husband" is his favourite secretary of the treasury. And that Rupert Murdoch is not a fan of the former neurosurgeon.

New Mexico moves to end government shakedowns
Kerry Jackson of Investor's Business Daily:
Civil asset forfeiture looks more like a criminal enterprise than criminal justice. Under civil asset forfeiture laws, police and other law enforcement authorities are free to seize private property without charging the owner with any crime. It has truly grown into a racket.
The New Mexico legislation "abolishes this practice, and now before police may seize an individual's property they must convict that person of a crime and prove that the property being seized was used in the commission of that crime," reports the Jurist, a Web-based legal news and legal research service.
"Additionally, the bill directs any monetary gains from the seizure of property to the state's general fund instead of the police budget. This is thought to remove any incentive police may have to seek out opportunities to seize property."
Adam Bates, writing in Cato's At Liberty blog, reports that "the New Mexico bill requires a criminal conviction for forfeiture actions, bolsters the 'innocent owner' defense by requiring that the owner know that his/her property was being used illegally, ... and limits the ability of state and local law enforcement agencies to circumvent state law by utilizing the federal equitable sharing program."
The government abuses that have occurred under the protection of civil asset forfeiture laws are infuriating and should never happen in our country.
It appears the New Mexico law would be a model for other states. And not soon enough.

Obama vs. Israel
The Wall Street Journal editorializes: "Obama’s Israel Tantrum: The leader of the free world takes revenge on an ally." The WSJ says:
You’ll have to forgive President Obama. The leader of the free world is still having difficulty accepting that the Israeli people get to choose their own prime minister, never mind his preferences ...
Obama was counting on Mr. Netanyahu to be defeated in last week’s election, and the President did what he could to help that defeat along. But Mr. Obama’s overt hostility backfired. In the normal course of things, this would be the time for the White House to soften the rhetoric and seek to restore relationships.
Instead, the President and his team seem out for revenge. So while Mr. Netanyahu has clarified his comment about his opposition to a Palestinian state (he says he supports a two-state solution but now is not the time) and apologized to Arab Israelis for his remarks about their votes during the waning hours of the election, the President and his team have been escalating.
And unnamed administration officials are calling Netanyahu a coward.
Investor's Business Daily editorializes:
And how about the irony of this observation, also buried deep in [another] Journal story: "As secret talks with Iran progressed into 2013, U.S. intelligence agencies monitored Israel's communications to see if the country knew of the negotiations" — in other words, the U.S. was spying on Israel.
Not only that, but as we know, the administration also actively sought, through former campaign aides, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's defeat in last week's election. That's not undermining Israeli diplomacy, but rather Israeli democracy.
This administration is presiding over unprecedented domestic surveillance, including phone calls and emails of perfectly innocent U.S. citizens. It listened in on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and it greatly reduced if not eliminated the information about the Iran talks it was giving Israel.
Now the White House enlists the media to libel Israel as it struggles to survive. In seeking a grand pact with an enemy power, President Obama is going to war with arguably our most loyal ally since World War II.
IBD says that "we're close to a de facto state of war" with Israel, which is a little over the top. But relations between the U.S. and Israel are certainly at their worst since the Eisenhower administration, when the Americans sided with Egypt in the Suez Crisis.

Sue. The. Schools.
The New York Post reports:
Multiple sources claim Dewey is cutting corners by passing kids with the help of a shady “credit recovery” program that students sarcastically call “Easy Pass.”
The system allows failing pupils to get passing grades by playing games, doing work online or taking abbreviated programs that critics argue lack academic rigor.
In one alleged grade-booster, kids got science credit for watching “Jurassic Park,” sources said.
At the very least, suing teachers and school administrators who claim to provide some semblance of an education, could be sued for fraud.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Income taxes paid
The Washington Examiner has a graph on who pays how much income tax. Those earning $250,000 -- just 2.4% of income tax filers -- pay nearly half of all income taxes (48.9%). Those earning less than $30,000, representing 45.9% of filers, pay 1.7% of all income tax.

Old hippie David Crosby hits jogger with his Tesla
Kathy Shaidle wonders: "Is this an attempt to squeeze the last 50 years into one news story?" The story is here if you are interested.

How can you tell if Hillary Clinton's lying?
Her lips are moving. Natonal Review Online has the best headline of the year (so far): "Hillary Doesn’t Take Questions After Speech Promising Open Relationship with Press." NRO's Katherine Timpf says: "Now, forgive me for my cynicism, but her refusal to take a single question from a reporter or audience member right after promising to be more open makes me think that she just might not mean it."

Top story at the Toronto Star
Today there was a parliamentary about the Canadian military mission fighting ISIS in the Middle East and a major delay on the main subway line due to environmental concerns, but the most read story at the website of Canada's largest paper is "Angelina Jolie has her ovaries removed" (for medical reasons).

Canada's spy agency says pro-lifers are responsible for 1/12th of terrorism
LifeSiteNews reports:
Canada’s pro-life movement wasted no time dismissing as “absurd” a Canadian Security Intelligence Service internal memo asserting that 8 percent of so-called “lone wolf” terrorism attacks are the work of extremist pro-lifers.
The claim was made in a briefing note prepared for CSIS second-in-command Michael Peirce before his testimony last October to the Senate national security committee. It was obtained by the Toronto Star through a freedom-of-information request ...
The note blamed white supremacy and other ideologies of the extreme right for 17 percent of “lone-wolf” attacks, Islamic extremism for another 15 percent, left-wing radicalism and “black power” for 13 percent, and “anti-abortion” extremism for eight percent, citing, as the Star put it, “recent academic research” rather than any inside intelligence.
I haven't seen the memo, but Campaign Life Coalition policy researcher Paul Lauzon said CSIS links the Canadian pro-life movement to violence committed in the culture wars in the United States. Pro-lifers point to the fact that CSIS ignores violence committed against pro-lifers, although that probably wouldn't fall within the agency's definition of terrorism. What none of the news coverage reports is that pro-life leaders always condemn anti-abortion violence.

No Tory help for Doug Ford
Weird how the guy former mayoral candidate Doug Ford called a spoiled rich kid won't help him out pay off nearly a million dollars in campaign debt.

Ted Cruz is the George Zimmerman of presidential politics
NPR referred to Republican Senator Ted Cruz as a "White Hispanic," which leads to a comment by Popehat and this observation by Instapundit: "The 'White Hispanic' thing is a case of dog-whistle othering, telling people that the target is outside the protection of the Democrats’ racial coalition and thus can be freely attacked. By engaging in such signalling, NPR is also signalling that it’s a full-blown part of the Democratic Party apparat, though that’s not really news."

On oral history of UHF
AV Club has a very long oral history of UFH, Weird Al's movie featuring, among others a pre-Seinfeld Michael Richards and Anthony Geary during his eight years away from General Hospital. (Geary played Luke Spencer on GH, the man who raped Laura and later married her.) If you like UHF or oral histories of movies generally, this is a good one.
This from Geary, who is pretentious despite being an actor whose major credits is a crappy soap and UHF, seems like good advice for actors:
In those days, I didn’t know how to audition for film. I still don’t. But my idea at the time was that you go in as the character, because I had had a lot of stage training, and I’ve worked with Lee Strasberg for four years. And he always said in an audition you’re going to get one shot, so go in with a point of view. What I didn’t understand at the time is it’s a point of view about yourself—not about the character. Because when they’re doing a film, they’re usually looking for what they can get out of you as a human being. They’re not looking for you to come in and show them the full-blown character—especially a character like that. But I didn’t know that. So I just went full out. I think I painted my teeth dark, and I just went full mad scientist. And that’s what got the role.

Monday, March 23, 2015
Blatchford on Trudeau's handling of Andrews, Pacetti
Christie Blatchford has a column in the National Post on due process, or lack thereof, in Justin Trudeau's handling of the allegations of sexual harassment by (at least) a pair of unidentified NDP MPs against Scott Andrews and Massimo Pacetti, two former Liberal MPs. Blatchford juxtaposes the due process afforded the VIA train terror plotters by the legal system to the lack of due process afforded Andrews and Pacetti in the political arena by their former leader, which is unnecessarily incendiary and beside the point: the Liberal MPs are not, at least yet, facing criminal charges. Still the column is worth reading, but this is worth highlighting:
In Ottawa, Mr. Trudeau issued a brisk press release saying his own hired gun, human rights lawyer Cynthia Petersen, had done a bang-up job investigating the allegations against Messrs. Andrews and Pacetti (her report was not made public), that he accepted their decisions to sit as independents and not to seek Liberal nominations in their ridings, and that the matter was now closed.
Two thoughts.
1) Do not the people of Avalon and Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel deserve to know the allegations and findings that cost them MPs within a party caucus. Understanding that technically citizens vote for an MP and not a party, the fact is most votes are cast for the party brand and leader, not the MP. The people of Avalon and Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel voted for a Liberal MP and now they don't have one. They have a right to know why.
2) If Andrews and Pacetti accepted the findings, they are in, at least some way, accepting some wrong-doing. (If not, they are fools for accepting banishment from the party.) Perhaps the full House of Commons should know what happened lest they want to sanction these two beyond stripping them of a party label. In other words, why is whatever it is these two did a matter only for the Liberal Party and not the House of Commons. If these two did anything wrong, why is the punishment merely losing the right to caucus with the Liberals? To believe that sufficient punishment for any serious form of sexual harassment is to inflate the importance of being a Liberal above the importance of being an MP.

'The pornification of Hollywood'
Rick McGinnis wrote about the movie 50 Shades of Grey for the March Interim and has this wonderful line: "What hasn’t been discussed, though, is the simple fact that no one watches porn for the story while no one really watches a movie for the sex."

Nominated candidates
According to Pundit's Guide on Twitter the Liberals have 228 candidates nominated (67%), compared to 222 Conservatives (66%), 172 NDP (51%), and 73 Greens (22%). Does this make it more or less likely that bored political journalists will write Spring election stories? Or is it even relevant? (To the speculation, not an actual election.)

Privilege or good genes
Tyler Cowen points to stunning statistics in the New York Times:
An American male is 4,582 times more likely to become an Army general if his father was one; 1,895 times more likely to become a famous C.E.O.; 1,639 times more likely to win a Pulitzer Prize; 1,497 times more likely to win a Grammy; and 1,361 times more likely to win an Academy Award. Those are pretty decent odds, but they do not come close to the 8,500 times more likely a senator’s son is to find himself chatting with John McCain or Dianne Feinstein in the Senate cloakroom.
When looking at inequalities, few people want to consider the role of genetics.
That said, the political class might be an unfortunately accurate term.

Darn, now I have to buy Harper's
I see that Harper's has an article by Rebecca Solnit called "Abolish High School." I'm sure the headline is deliberately provocative, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. A debate about educational reform requires an examination of fundamental questions, like how much schooling is necessary and in what environment is it best delivered. Tinkering over more money for public schools or enabling more choice for parents might be -- almost certainly is -- missing the point if we do not reexamine the premises and assumptions of education itself.

GOP 'cage match'
Legal Insurrection has a poll up until midnight tonight (March 23) on Texas Senator Ted Cruz vs. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. It's close, with Walker leading. In an ideal world, Senator Mike Lee and Rep. Paul Ryan would be running, but it's politics so compromises have to be made. Among those interested in climbing the greasy poll to the White House, the Republicans almost certainly couldn't do better than a race between these two, unless (maybe) one of them was replaced by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. I've said before that Cruz is a serious thinker who elevates and broadens the public debate. Walker is a fighter with impressive policy and political accomplishments. Either would be infinitely better than either contender from Florida (Bush 3.0 former governor Jeb Bush or the Republican version of Barack Obama, Senator Marco Rubio). Rand Paul would be great despite some serious shortcomings simply because he would expand the political debate 20 yards down the field, but the GOP Establishment isn't going to let a libertarian opponent of the Permanent War State win the Republican nomination.

'Two ripe targets for GOP'
Glenn Harlan Reynolds in USA Today:
The Republicans have a real opportunity to connect with voters and win big in 2016. But to do so, they'll have to get over their traditional love for Big Business. Will they be smart enough to do that? The prospects don't look especially bright.
Republicans could take on the crony capitalists by challenging work visa rules that benefit the wealthy and harm American workers or amending property rights in a way that benefits consumers rather than Big Hollywood. But the GOP won't.

Talking about race
Instapundit: "The primary purpose of race-talk in America today is to allow elite whites to silence and shame non-elite whites." And: "Talk about race ... has become almost entirely a tool whereby elite whites bully and shame non-elite whites for transparently self-serving purposes."

Sunday, March 22, 2015
Spring election. Remember when that was a thing?
Rob Silver tweeted: "Remember when (sorta) serious people were convinced there'd be a spring election? So many memories..."

The internets has been amazing for sports writing -- and thus sports fans
Never mind that data sharing for analytics needed the internet to make the giant leap forward and mainstream a whole generation of Bill Jameses. No dead tree publication would have printed a "Third-base coach rankings" like Sports On Earth did based on "the extra base factor."

California is not running out of water
The Los Angeles Times explains why the Golden State is not going to run out of water despite worries that the reservoir system has only about a one-year supply of water remaining: "Reservoirs provide only a portion of the water used in California and are designed to store only a few years' supply." Groundwater supplies have decades worth of water. Snow and rivers will replenish the reservoir. At a single moment the reservoir system had a one year supply of water but that is not the same thing as California having a one year supply of water.

'My Mom's Nursery School Is Edgier Than College'
Robby Soave at Hit & Run:
Caving to students' demands for trigger warnings and safe spaces is doing them no favors: it robs them of the intellectually-challenging, worldview-altering kind of experience they should be having at college. It also emboldens them to seek increasingly absurd and infantilizing restrictions on themselves and each other.
As their students mature, my mother and her co-workers encourage the children to forego high chairs and upgrade from diapers to "big kid" toilets. If only American college administrators and professors did the same with their students.
Soave's post is full of good links and quotes.

Cowen on Israel. And 'progressives.'
Tyler Cowen's observations about Israeli's election and commentary about post-election Israel:
What I find striking is how unready many critics are to confront what has happened, not just in the “Plan B” sense but also rhetorically. The possibility that civil rights progress, peace progress, and self-governance and democratic progress simply have stopped, and won’t be back any time soon, is before us. If anything, matters might become worse yet, especially once you contemplate Gaza. Yet Western commentators don’t know where to turn, because the prevailing progressive narrative is one, not surprisingly, of progress. The common progressive remedy is one of moral exhortation, but at this point it doesn’t seem like another lecture to Israeli voters is going to do the trick.
Cowen says the disproportionate place that Israel holds in the worldview of many western commentators is creating an intellectual crisis precisely because nothing is happening -- at least nothing that many people want. Cowen doesn't go far enough. The Left believes in the inevitable and unceasing march of progress and the fact that the Two-State Solution isn't moving forward, despite the fact it was already moribund, does not compute. This election was supposed to get rid of Benjamin Netanyahu, the supposed impediment to moving the Two-State Solution closer to reality. That didn't happen and because their worldview was challenged they think the world is falling apart.

P.J. O'Rourke on John Hughes and The Breakfast Club
Writing in the Daily Beast to mark the 30th anniversary of the movie The Breakfast Club, P.J. O'Rourke remembers his former National Lampoon colleague John Hughes as something of a conservative and observes that the movie has conservative ideas:
To make them conservative, they immediately start operating upon the three basic principles in The Wealth of Nations by that conservative fundamental block builder Adam Smith: Pursuit of self-interest, division of labor and freedom of trade.
No member of the Breakfast Club questions pursuit of self-interest, though it takes the five of them the whole movie to figure out where their self-interests lie. Even apparently self-destructive Allison Reynolds abjures from mind-altering substances, her mind being altered plenty enough already. And manifestly self-destructive John Bender declines to take a fatal punch at assistant principle Vernon, no matter how well-deserved.
Division of labor is the theme of the movie. Each kid discovers what’s valuable in the others. And—cue sentimental conservative favorite “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds—what’s valuable in him or her self.
Freedom of trade is the message of the movie. Albeit the trade is conducted in the coin of the adolescent realm, love.
I haven't see the whole movie (and it's been years) so I don't know if O'Rourke is right. I do know that I'm not a fan of calling movies "conservative" just because there are some conservative ideas in them. Still, the lesson is there, and that's good.