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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Friday, July 31, 2015
Transhumanist summer camp
A report by Reason's Ronald Bailey on socialist and libertarian speakers on topics from music ("music ... has always been transhuma") to wearable clothes (Google Glass can be used by doctors so they don't have to track down records) at the Our Transhuman Futures conference. This article will be interesting to people who are not interested in transhumanism.

Why would you transport eyeballs in your ass? "Wyoming man found with 30 eyeballs in his anal cavity." They weren't human, if that makes the story less weird.
(HT: Kids Prefer Cheese)

I call bullshit
The National Post reports:
A Conservative Party attack ad targeting Liberal leader Justin Trudeau for being “just not ready” to lead the country is actually working to convince Canadians to vote for him, a Forum Research poll has discovered.
The survey found that 32 per cent of Canadians who had seen the ad were now more likely to vote Liberal in the upcoming federal election. The ad is having an adverse effect on NDP supporters as 21 per cent said viewing it made them more likely to support Trudeau.
I'd say this is bullshit even if it wasn't a Forum Research poll, but considering their track record and general ridiculousness of their president's analysis, jumping to unsubstantiated conclusions, it's complete nonsense.
If the pollster isn't wrong, the respondents are lying. There is no reason to give this poll any credence.

Thursday, July 30, 2015
The NDP caucus and oral sex
Eye on a Crazy Planet had a great post yesterday that begins with oral sex and transitions to how several NDP MPs have tongue piercings. He says that you have to be crazy to pierce a tongue and perhaps these self-mutilators shouldn't be anywhere near power. More on-point, he says:
Thomas Mulcair is a smart politician. But the Megan Leslies, Charlie Anguses, Niki Ashtons and similar NDP parliamentarians he has placed in senior positions are indicative of what Mulcair has to choose from among his caucus. Remember in the Austin Powers movies, when Dr. Evil presided over his minions musing, "why must I be surrounded by frickin' idiots?" That's what Tom Mulcair's Cabinet meetings will look like in the event of an NDP election win.

2016 watch (Joe Biden edition)
The National Journal: "For the first time, the vice president looks like a more electable Democrat than Hillary Clinton." Josh Kraushaar says:
And at a time when authenticity is a highly valued asset—for better or worse—Biden boasts the natural political skill set that Clinton clearly lacks. He's a happy warrior who enjoys campaigning and isn't constrained by talking points or rope lines. He's able to ham it up with union rank-and-file, while also giving a stem-winding speech blasting Republicans in Congress. His all-too-frequent malapropisms are endearing at a time when voters are cynical about scripted politicians.
There are also drawbacks, most notably his age. But having not begun formal campaigning, he might have the energy for the later stages of the campaign. Campaigns are grueling and will take their toll on all candidates, especially Hillary Clinton, who is no spring chicken herself. Biden also has had little help from President Barack Obama in preparing for a campaign, with Kraushaar concluding the Clinton scandals will probably have to get much worse before the White House backs a Biden candidacy.

Five things to watch for this federal election campaign
The Toronto Star has a list. Here's a better one.
1. What is the effect of the additional debates (if any) and what is the reaction of voters to a Harperless consortium debate as the campaign nears its conclusion? Most people will say they watched the additional debates but in reality few people outside committed partisans (people interested enough in voting regularly and watching politics closely have strong views and tend to stick with one party) will watch the Maclean's and Munk Center debates closely, but most people will ignore them. Harper will get hammered by the media over not attending the final English and French debates but they usefully clarify who the real alternative to the Harper Tories is. (Hint: it's Tom Mulcair and the NDP.)
2. How soon does Justin Trudeau step in a pile of shit of his own making and can the media explain away his error? I'll take August 6 in the office pool for the first major Justin Trudeau gaffe and while the media will excuse that one, it won't be able to fix the next mess he makes by the end of August.
3. The Toronto Star says that Toronto will be a major battleground, but it's not that simple. There are a number of places where 3-5 seats, cumulatively, will make a difference. Regional races to watch: Will the Liberal advantage completely disappear in Atlantic Canada and will the Tories be able to hold onto their Nova Scotia seats? (Too early to tell, but I wouldn't bet on it.) Relatedly, can the Tories retain most of their New Brunswick seats? (Almost certainly.) Can the Gilles Duceppe Bloc Quebecois make any traction in Quebec? (Probably not.) Can the Trudeau Liberals? (Maybe 2-3 seats in Montreal, but I wouldn't bet much on it.) Ontario has two major question marks: can the Tories keep half of their eight Toronto seats and can they maintain their block of Mississauga and Brampton seats? (yes and yes, and I'll take bets of up to $100 that they win a majority of the Brampton/Mississauga seats, or bets that they take at least four Toronto seats.) In the Prairies, how much will redistribution hurt the Tories in urban Saskatchewan? (Probably a bit.) In Alberta, will the shine of the provincial NDP dull enough to negatively impact their federal cousins? (Yup.) What's happening in British Columbia? (A wide range of possibilities; it's way to early to tell, which is why we have to watch it.)
4. Will Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau continue to get away with saying one thing to Quebec audiences and another elsewhere in the country? An election campaign means more scrutiny so the game the NDP and Liberal leaders have been playing might come to an end. This could hurt both of them, especially on pipelines which might serve as a proxy for responsible economic manager when judging the leaders.
5. When, if at all, do the Conservatives begin attacking Mulcair and the NDP? My theory, mentioned this past weekend, that the Tories care more about eliminating the Liberals than winning, will be given credence if the Tories do not begin their assault on the NDP by the first week of September.

Taxpayer funding of abortion and the legality of abortion are separate issues
The Wall Street Journal editorializes:
Planned Parenthood’s 2013-14 annual report lists $1.3 billion in revenues, including $528 million in “government health services grants and reimbursements.” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, says the “vast majority” of federal funding for Planned Parenthood’s nonprofit health centers is reimbursement for Medicaid visits, and “the rest goes to things like teen pregnancy prevention and evidence-based sex education.”
But money is fungible, and every dollar in taxpayer funding allows Planned Parenthood to use its other funds to finance abortion. This financial two-step evades the fundamental political bargain that Congress has struck since the Supreme Court made abortion a constitutional right in 1973. That bargain, codified in the Hyde Amendment of 1976 and countless times since, is that while abortion is legal, taxpayers should not have to pay for a practice they find morally objectionable ...
The leaders on the cultural left are shouting as usual about limiting health care for women and denying their right to choose. But no such right is in jeopardy. Planned Parenthood can finance all the abortions it wants, but it would have to raise other funds to do it. Surely there are enough rich progressive donors in Greenwich and Silicon Valley.
Here's a new mantra: safe, legal, rare, and unsubsidized.

Minimum wage, dishonest redistribution
National Review's Kevin D. Williamson:
As welfare-state models go, the best ones seem to be the most straightforward: Impose high taxes on one end and write large checks on the other. This template has the added benefit of being honest and transparent, which is why no politician willingly embraces it.
The worst kind of welfare state is the welfare state that is ashamed of itself and therefore feels obliged to pretend to be something it isn’t. Instead of forthrightly taxing individuals and businesses and converting that revenue to welfare benefits in an honest and transparent way, covert welfare statists usually attempt to disguise welfare payments as wages. Artificial wage increases imposed by law perform the same function as ordinary welfare benefits — transferring income from politically disfavored groups to politically favored groups — but the revenue doesn’t show up on the government ledger as taxes and the outlays don’t show up as spending. Everybody in government gets the opportunity to engage in a little delicious moral preening about how they’re doing the right thing for the hardworking people of wherever while maintaining fiscal discipline, as if the underlying facts of the policy — “Patron X shall give Client Y at least Z amount of money” — weren’t fundamentally identical to those in a transparent welfare state. Laws mandating wages and benefits beyond market prices are political money laundering for unpopular welfare payments.
Which is to say, laws mandating wages and benefits beyond market prices are political money laundering for unpopular welfare payments.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015
John Baird's resignation
The National Post is reporting that Anonymous is threatening to release information that will show the real reason John Baird resigned from cabinet earlier this year. I was working on this story a few weeks ago, but I felt there was no compelling reason to report it. Without getting into specifics, it has to do with Canada's policy on Russia. For press gallery types this will confirm Harper's heavy-handedness but it's entirely fair that the Prime Minister expect his Foreign Affairs Minister to uphold key foreign policy principles. Should be interesting to see the political fallout.

The abortion-industrial complex and the Left
Mark Steyn:
And, putting aside whether one is "pro-life" or "pro-choice", the nature of the abortions in those other countries is different: again, as I told Sean, in France abortion is legal up to 12 weeks; Italy, 13 weeks; Norway, 18 weeks, but it requires the approval of a government commission. Nowhere else in the western world takes 39-week-old "fetuses", delivers them sufficiently to preserve the commercially valuable parts and then crushes the non-sellable parts in order to preserve a technical denial of infanticide. That is a uniquely American evil, and Americans should be utterly ashamed of it. American liberals ought to understand that in far more left-wing societies (Scandinavia, the Netherlands, France) they do not do this - because it's not a left/right thing, it's a good/bad thing, and Planned Parenthood's abortion-industrial complex is on the wrong side of that divide.
The American Left -- and increasingly, the Canadian Left -- can't countenance any limitation on abortion because it is a sacrament in the Church of Feminism. To most people, abortion is a necessary evil, but to the academic/political/media elite, feminism is an unquestioned good without which the liberation of women (from what?) would be impossible.

University craziness
Campus Reform reports that the University of New Hampshire's "Bias-Free Language Guide" on its website says the term American should be eschewed. CR's Peter Hasson explains:
Saying “American” to reference Americans is also problematic. The guide encourages the use of the more inclusive substitutes “U.S. citizen” or “Resident of the U.S.”
The guide notes that “American” is problematic because it “assumes the U.S. is the only country inside [the continents of North and South America].” (The guide doesn’t address whether or not the terms “Canadians” and “Mexicans” should be abandoned in favor of “Residents of Canada” and “Residents of Mexico,” respectively.)

2016 watch (Rand Paul edition)
Reason's Brian Doherty says pundits should stop writing the political obituary of Rand Paul, the Kentucky senator and Republican presidential aspirant, who is the standard-bearer for libertarianism in the race. Doherty says:
The vast majority of potential voters likely have no clear idea of what Rand Paul stands for right now, and not being as into the fun and games of multi-year presidential races as pundits and bloggers, don't care. The debates coming soon might be a first chance for Paul to really educate a wider range of voters as to what he's all about.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015
With a name like Responsible for Equality And Liberty you know they don't support liberty
Jeffrey Imm heads up an organization called Responsible for Equality And Liberty that wants the musical "The Producers," to stop showing in a Maryland city after the shooting in a Louisiana movie theatre last week by a Nazi sympathizer. PJ Media's Walter Hudson says:
Imm went on to declare, “We cannot laugh about that.” The irony of protesting fascism with a blanket declaration of what can’t be laughed at appears to be lost on Mr. Imm.
The intent behind The Producers can be easily discerned, if not from the material itself, then from the man who wrote it. Mel Brook’s is a Jew. So there’s that. Were that somehow not enough, Brooks has been explicit regarding his feelings toward Hitler, the Nazis, and the Holocaust. Spoiler alert: he’s against them.

The Stanford school?
Tyler Cowen says Stanford is poised to overtake Harvard as the preeminent school for economists. From the comments: "Stanford cannot be separated from the world in which it exists. That’s meant neither as a compliment nor as a criticism, just an observation." The Hoover Institution, based at Stanford, is an impressive think tank. Last week it hosted a panel featuring John Cochrane and John Taylor that examined Federal Reserve reform that is worth listening to.

Boston avoids Olympic nightmare, Toronto gets excited about billion dollar boondoggle
USA Today: "Boston out as United States bid city to host 2024 Olympics." The paper reports growing opposition to the bid:
A poll conducted by a local radio station, WBUR, in January put support of the Games at 51%. That same poll reached a low of 36% in March and hasn’t been above 40% support since. In WBUR’s most recent poll, opposition to the bid had reached a high of 53%.
Groups such as No Boston Olympics and No Boston 2024 have used social media and public forums to rally support against the bid. They argue that the Olympics’ would leave taxpayers on the hook for large cost overruns and pull resources and political attention away from more vital issues, including the city’s infrastructure which they argue not currently equipped to handle the Games.
The Toronto Star: "Majority of Torontonians support Olympic bid: poll." According to Forum Research -- so take these numbers will a boulder of salt -- 61% of city residents support an Olympic bid, 30% are opposed, and 9% are undecided. Apparently support is the same in the downtown as the suburbs, although younger respondents tended to be more supportive of the idea. It would be interesting if support would be maintained if costs were explained.

Justin Trudeau
Too tired to write a long piece about Peter C. Newman's too-cute essay on Justin Trudeau. There are plenty of clever turns of phrase -- the Liberas are "led by a name instead of a leader" -- but there is not much insight. There are fundamental things that Newman gets wrong, like The Dauphin "promising as little as possible but as much as necessary"; it is more accurate to say he offered too much too late, with extensive policy on political reforms that few people outside the Parliamentary Press Gallery care about.
Newman gropes to a satisfactory point: the Liberal Party is arrogant, as is Trudeau the Younger, but these are hardly original observations: the former has been long remarked about while the latter is obvious to anyone who pays attention to Canadian politics. The electoral game changed in 2011 but few people realized it at the time, the assumption being Justin would restore the natural political balance. It's not happening.

Climate-change sacrifices are for the plebs
Via Blazing Cat Fur: "Video Shows Hillary Clinton Boarding Private Jet Just Hours After Launching Global-Warming Push."

Capital speaks
Investor's Business Daily reports that the "Stocks fell for the fifth straight session Monday as a sell-off in China's main index sparked fears of a slowdown in the world's second-biggest economy," as shares fell 8%.
From an Investor's Business Daily editorial:
Reuters calculates that the government of Xi Jinping has spent close to $800 billion — or nearly 10% of China's total GDP — trying to halt the market sell-off. But if anything, by increasing investor uncertainty, it's made things worse.
"When Xi Jinping came to power, there were a series of hints that market-based capitalism would be allowed to move forward under his leadership," Evercore Partners founder and former U.S. Treasury No. 2 Roger Altman told CNBC's "Squawk Box." However, "at the first real threat, they've fallen over themselves to impose government control."
We've disagreed with Altman on many things over the years, but on this he is dead-right. Goldman Sachs estimates $761 billion in capital has left China over the last year. That's not exactly a vote of confidence. But behind it all, China's stunning market decline holds a bigger message: The nation's long growth miracle is over.

Monday, July 27, 2015
Better off without the endorsement
Vladimir Putin says that former FIFA chief Sepp Blatter deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.

What do they feed their pitchers in Los Angeles?
Three of the four longest scoreless innings streaks by Major League Pitchers since 1920 are held by LA Dodgers pitchers, including first (Orel Hershiser) and second (Donald Drysdale). This week Zach Greinke, whose streak ended Sunday, joined the list at fourth after not allowing a run in 45 2/3 IP going back to June 13.

Tape of Labour Lord snorting coke off hooker's breasts
Beats the hell of anything happening in Canadian politics.

2016 watch (Jim Gilmore edition)
Former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore makes it 17 official candidates for the Republican presidential nomination. Gilmore was asked why and his answer was that he has a chance: no other candidate has excited the GOP electorate. Hot Air's Jazz Shaw says: "If I were running the Politifact fact checker machine at this point I’d give the governor a 'partly true' rating, which sounds much kinder than 'partly delusional'." Still the question why? What does Gilmore bring to the race that none of the other 16 do?

Eve Adams and her future
CBC: "Eve Adams's next step unclear following loss of Liberal nomination." She is suggesting she's not through with federal politics but her future should including going away and shutting up.

Is 140 enough for a minority?
Eric Grenier of the CBC/ likes to say that 140 is "more than enough" to win a minority government, but is it? Probably, but not necessarily. Let's do some math.
The next House of Commons will have 338 seats. Let's makes some safe assumptions: the Greens hold their seat and the Bloc wins no more than five. That leaves 332. A not so safe but not entirely unrealistic assumption is that the Liberals basically hold steady picking up less than a dozen seats; let's give them only 45 seats. That leaves 287 for the NDP and Tories. 140 seats would leave 147 for the other, meaning 140 seats is not enough to win the election.
Whether or not the Conservatives form the government by winning just 147 seats (compared to 140) is open to speculation and circumstance. The Governor-General need not respect the wishes of the plurality and it might depend on how close the actual vote is. In the case of two parties win 140+ seats, the Tories are likely to be defeated on the first confidence vote and the NDP will get a chance to govern, like David Peterson and the Ontario Liberals did in 1985 when Frank Miller's Progressive Conservative government fell on its first confidence vote.
The assumption that 140 seats is enough to win a minority government is based on the assumption that the Liberals greatly increase their vote count.

Putin and polygamy
Julia Ioffe writes in Foreign Policy that the anti-Muslim Right in Europe should rethink its support for Russian President Vladimir Putin because he supports polygamy. Except if you read the article you see that there are many officials in Putin's Russia that want polygamy laws liberalized, at least for Russians, but nothing about Putin's own view on plural marriage. The European Right should rethink its support of Putin not over his (ostensible) support of polygamy, but because he's an autocrat.

Anti-bullying in school is cover for pro-gay agenda
Elizabeth Price Foley on how the Safe Schools initiative in Iowa has crossed the line: "there is a huge difference between promoting LGBT tolerance and promoting LGBT sex." But you can't criticize Safe Schools' propaganda because if you are against "lesbian strap-on anal sex" you are for bullying.

Sunday, July 26, 2015
First time Justin Trudeau's favoured candidate lost a nomination
Marco Mendicino defeated turncoat Eve Adams for the Liberal nomination for the Eglinton-Lawrence riding. Trudeau enthusiastically welcomed Adams earlier this year and arranged for Tom Allison, a brilliant Liberal strategist, to run her nomination in federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver's riding. Trudeau lost the news cycle back in February when Adams crossed the floor because the move seen as cynical on both their parts (the Liberal leader's and Adams') and local Liberals were not excited about Adams honing in on their turf as Trudeau's star candidate. Global reports that Mendicino won with 1,936 vote to "about 1100" for Adams; it is rare for nomination meetings to release vote totals, but perhaps riding Liberals had an interest showing that Adams -- and by extension Justin Trudeau -- was trounced. It is a rebuke against Trudeau's poor judgement to parachute a deeply flawed and unpopular candidate into the riding.

Varoufakis was secretly working on switch to drachma for Greece if bailout negotiations failed
The Sunday Telegraph reports:
A secret cell at the Greek finance ministry hacked into the government computers and drew up elaborate plans for a system of parallel payments that could be switched from euros to the drachma at the "flick of a button."
The revelations have caused a political storm in Greece and confirm just how close the country came to drastic measures before premier Alexis Tsipras gave in to demands from Europe's creditor powers, acknowledging that his own cabinet would not support such a dangerous confrontation.
Yanis Varoufakis, the former finance minister, told a group of investors in London that a five-man team under his control had been working for months on a contingency plan to create euro liquidity if the European Central Bank cut off emergency funding to the Greek financial system, as it in fact did after talks broke down and Syriza called a referendum ...
"The prime minister, before we won the election in January, had given me the green light to come up with a Plan B. And I assembled a very able team, a small team as it had to be because that had to be kept completely under wraps for obvious reasons," he said.
The intrigue sounds nutty enough to be true. Is Varoufakis looking to sell his story to Hollywood?

Elections barely matter
Perry de Havilland at Samizdata: "the culture war is in many ways the one that matters most, because everything else follows from it."

The Greek bailout is still an issue even if it isn't making front-page headlines
Reuters: "Debt conundrum to keep Greek banks in months-long freeze." The bailout isn't finalized and one of the unresolved issues is bank restructuring. Perhaps depositors will take a hit, perhaps banks will be part of the bailout.
This can't help the already weak Greek economy:
The longer it takes, the more critical the banks' condition becomes as a 420 euro ($460) weekly limit on cash withdrawals chokes the economy and borrowers' ability to repay loans.
"The banks are in deep freeze but the economy is getting weaker," said one official, pointing to a steady rise in loans that are not being repaid.

Want to help people, don't become a doctor
Rob Wiblin, executive director of the Centre for Effective Altruism, says:
About 1 in 200 people become doctors, many of them because they want to cure the sick and generally make the world a better place. Are they making the right decision? ...
The conclusion of our research is that most people skilled enough to make it in a field as challenging as medicine could have a bigger social impact through an alternative career.
The best research suggests that doctors do much less to improve the health of their patients than you might naturally expect. Health is more determined by lifestyle factors, and most of the treatments that work particularly well could be delivered with a smaller number of doctors than already work in the UK or USA.
However, medicine is high earning and highly fulfilling, and we expect there are more promising opportunities to help others through biomedical research, public health, health policy and (e.g. hospital) management.
This probably over-states the case against doctors helping others. But doctors do well by status and income compared to, say, researchers and policy experts, out of proportion to the good they do.

More valuable dead than alive?
National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez interviews Ramona Treviño, author of Redeemed by Grace: A Catholic Woman’s Journey to Planned Parenthood and Back, and begins with the obvious question about the Planned Parenthood scandal this emerged in recent weeks:
These videos not only expose Planned Parenthood for who they really are, but they help shed light on the gruesomeness of abortion. I’m extremely heartbroken, not only over the continued loss of life, but at the idea that only when babies are dead and their body parts are “sold” do they have any real value. Do these precious babies not have value before then? While still alive in the womb?

Saturday, July 25, 2015
New working theory on this election
Based on more than mere speculation (and you're just going to have to take my word on this), here is what I'm now thinking. The election begins either this week or after the long weekend. The Tories want a long election to bankrupt the Liberals. Stephen Harper doesn't care whether the Conservatives win or lose, the goal this election is to wipe out the Liberals. So when the Right goes nuts over Prime Minister Tom Mulcair and Canada's first NDP government, don't blame the voters, blame the Tory-in-Chief.
This theory fits with what has been suggested about Harper many times before that his goal was the creation of a two-party system in Canada, eliminating the Liberals, and what we think we know about long formal election campaigns and how they seem to hurt incumbents.
I only one-quarter believe this working theory, and would still bet on a Conservative minority in the 150-160 seat range, with Harper serving 2-5 more years as Prime Minister.

Pixels gets it wrong: the geeks and nerds win
Rick McGinnis didn't really like the movie Pixels, which he reviews at The Rebel, in part because their geek/nerd underdogs don't ring true. Gaming is too mainstream for nerds to be outcasts or underdogs:
You can’t even tag videogames as a loser marker anymore: The industry was growing four times faster than the U.S. economy as of last year, and its market in that country is projected to be worth nearly $20 billion dollars there by the end of the decade. (That’s roughly twice U.S. movie ticket revenues.) Game consoles might be slowing in sales but gaming apps are booming. From this perspective, the persistence of the gamer nerd as a stock character in films like Pixels smacks of sour grapes.
Perhaps related: the New York Times reports that drug testing is coming to e-gaming:
In response to those comments, the Electronic Sports League, one of the most successful leagues in competitive video gaming, said on Wednesday that it would test players for performance-enhancing drugs starting at a tournament in August. E.S.L. said it would work with two international agencies — the same ones that help oversee anti-doping policies for cycling, the Olympics and other sports — to create anti-doping guidelines and a testing program for players.
The announcement is perhaps the clearest sign yet that e-sports, as professional gaming is widely known, is evolving into a mainstream form of competitive entertainment. This year, overall revenue from the global e-sports business is expected to surpass $250 million from more than 113 million e-sports fans worldwide, according to estimates from Newzoo, a games research firm.
It sounds strange, but watching competitive video games isn't really different than watching live sports, when you think about it.

Is this because politicians truck in cliches?
The National Journal reports:
The question that data scientists at Quorum, a political analytics firm, sought to answer was this: Can computers use a similar process to come to the same conclusion? Could they teach a computer to predict political party from speech?
They found that "about 80 percent of the variation in the difference between what representatives say in Congress can be explained by party affiliation."
The list of favourite words is mostly predictable: Republicans use the words bureaucrats and Obamacare while Democrats talk about the wealthiest and inequality. Interestingly, Republicans used the term "raise taxes" frequently while Democrats talk about "tax breaks" indicating that members of both parties talk about the opposition's ideas than they do their own.

The Clinton email scandal nicely summarized
Reason's Matt Welch summarizes the Hillary Clinton email scandal:
A quick recap: Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, violated guidelines from the National Archives and her own State Department by using her own private email server for professional correspondence, and then destroying whatever messages she deemed destructible.
At first Clinton claimed that she needed a single non-governmental email account for "convenience," because she only had one phone. That claim turned out to be provably false. Next, she claimed that it didn’t matter much, because "The vast majority of my work emails went to government employees at their government addresses, which meant they were captured and preserved immediately on the system at the State Department." The latter half of that claim turned out to be provably false, too. She further insisted that none of the emails contained classified information, a claim that many people with intimate knowledge of such things—such as a former senior State Department official—described with phrases like "hard to imagine." And her assertion in a CNN interview this month that she went "above and beyond" the email disclosure requirements was—wait for it—false.
In sum, the Democratic Party's 2016 presidential frontrunner brazenly violated government transparency policy, made a mockery of the Freedom of Information Act, placed her sensitive communications above the law, and then just lied about it, again and again. Now comes word that, unsurprisingly, two inspectors general are recommending that the Department of Justice open a criminal inquiry into the matter. One of their findings was that the private server, contrary to Clinton's repeated claims, contained "hundreds of potentially classified emails."
The original has links to the evidence when Welch says HRC's claims are false.
Transparency is for plebs.
And it probably doesn't matter. As Welch says, it doesn't matter at all for Democrats.

Small Dead Animals unleashes (much deserved) tirade against Alberta Human Rights Commission
Just read it.

Special Olympic World Games
The (London) Spectator's Rod Liddle: "Isn’t it all a bit condescending?" Yes it is.

Amazon makes money reports:
Amazon made a $92 million profit last quarter, or about 19 cents per share. That’s peanuts compared to other tech giants like Google, which netted $3.93 billion last quarter, or eBay, which made $682 million. But analysts expected Amazon to lose 14 cents per share. In fact, it’s unusual that Amazon, a 21-year-old company, actually turns a profit at all.
This is very big news. The profits have made Amazon stock more valuable, so as Quartz reports:’s market value whizzed past that of Walmart in after-hours trading Thursday, as investors increased their bets that the future of the US retail sector will be dominated by Jeff Bezos’ online behemoth.

Friday, July 24, 2015
Isn't it strange to see ESPN reporting on pro wrestling?
I know they do it, but sports entertainment is more entertainment than sports. The ESPN article doesn't mention Hulk Hogan's racist rant but does reference a WWE statement on respecting diversity as the wrestling company and its former superstar (who is now 61 years old) had parted ways. I was more NWA and the Four Horsemen than WWF and its cartoon characters in my adolescent years, but when it came to the more popular promotion, I cheered for Roddy Piper, Macho Man Randy Savage, and whoever was in Bobby "The Brain" Heenan's stable at the time.

Good economic analysis, bad ethics
Cafe Haeyk's Donald Boudreaux says "in our bootleggers and Baptists policy world" the advocates of minimum wage understand the raising it would price competition to entrenched interests out of the market, but that position is morally reprehensible.

Rent control: always and everywhere a bad idea
Alex Tabarrok points to a letter from a Stockholm resident to the city of Seattle urging officials and citizens to resist rent control. Rent control has led to queues for affordable housing in the Swedish capital. Economist Peter Navarro wrote in the Public Interest in 1985 that "the economics profession has reached a rare consensus: Rent control creates many more problems than it solves." Yet policy-makers have repeatedly ignored the consensus against rent control.

The NDP in Quebec
The Globe and Mail's Adam Radwanski: "Low funds could hinder re-election prospects for Quebec New Democrats." He reports that only three NDP incumbents have money enough in their riding associations to fund anywhere near the limit for their local campaign. Insufficient funds shouldn't be a problem considering that they famously won in 2011 without even really campaigning.

Obama's race relations legacy
Instapundit notes that a NY Times poll finds about four in ten Americans think race relations have gotten worse during the Obama era.

2016 watch (Fucked-up GOP edition)
Perry de Havilland at Samizdata on Donald Trump leading in the GOP primary polls: "So a guy who has in the past contributed funds to Barack Obama, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry is leading the ... Republican pack?"

Krauthammer on PP's scandal and the abortion debate
Charles Krauthammer:
The issue is less the sale of body parts than how they are obtained. The nightmare for abortion advocates is a spreading consciousness of how exactly a healthy fetus is turned into a mass of marketable organs, how, in the words of a senior Planned Parenthood official, one might use “a less crunchy technique” — crush the head, spare the organs — “to get more whole specimens.”
Many pro-lifers would disagree with Krauthammer on the idea that unlike most issues, abortion is one of the few in which the trend has not been toward liberalization, considering that abortion is minimally restricted in America (women can have an abortion at any time for any reason, although some states have minor impediments like a waiting period or requirement that women be informed about fetal development). That said, pro-lifers need to be intelligent about getting the public to take notice of the humanity of the preborn child.

Thursday, July 23, 2015
Useful exercise
Bryan Caplan:
Nowadays, gender roles are pretty flexible. Ideological roles, in contrast, seem more rigid than ever. Hence, the main role reversal I'd like to see: For just one day, criticize people on "your" ideological side instead of "their" ideological side. All day. Full sincerity. No irony. No mischief. No Strauss. Just candid independent fault-finding, written as politely as you usually address your ideological opponents.
Another exercise, which I regularly try with my colleagues, is to honestly understand why one's ideological opponents believe/think as they do. People suck at this, because most people think that those who differ when them is stupid or evil.
None of this is to say that ideological positions are wrong, but rather to notice one's side's own weaknesses and to take the other side as serious.

The Financial Post
Tyler Cowen has some thoughts on the Financial Post, which was sold today (Nikkei is buying it), and why it works better online than most other newspapers. Cowen's post describes not only why the FP works digitally but why most newspapers are better read on dead tree and therefore the FP model might not work for other publications without a radical rethink of their product.

Obama's disappointing Africa legacy
Todd Moss of the Center for Global Development has a column at on how little President Barack Obama has done for Africa. The first term was a complete failure and the second term is a combination of mixed results and missed opportunities. Lots of promise, but very little delivery with some small-time photo-op programs more fitting the FLOTUS than POTUS as Moss says, and the failure of the first black president to fight for a Congressional commitment to a difference-making energy program that could bring electricity to 60 million Africans.

Nathan Cullen, an advocate of electoral cooperation among Canada's left-of-center parties, is talking up the possibility of a coalition NDP-Liberal government, saying, "We’ve walked the talk, so Canadians can trust us when we say we’re willing to do whatever it takes to see the end of Mr. Harper." He added: "If Trudeau’s willing to turn to Liberal supporters and say, ‘My dislike of the NDP is greater than my dislike of the Conservatives,’ then let him make the argument." He is obviously needling Trudeau in a fight for the anti-Conservative vote, but he has also introduced the c-word into this campaign.
As I note in my book, The Dauphin: The Truth About Justin Trudeau, the Liberal leader said earlier this year that he is opposed to a coalition government with an NDP led by Tom Mulcair, but that was back in the spring. Considering his rhetoric against the Harper Conservatives, how can Trudeau the Younger not do everything in his power to displace the government? Does anyone really believe Trudeau, who has a history of saying one thing here and another thing there, when he appears to rule out a coalition? My guess is that he would play word games, clever McGill debate club fellow he is, and call whatever agreement the Liberals and NDP come up with a cooperative government rather than a coalition.

The case for letting all 16 candidate debate
Curt Anderson, a Republican media consultant, writes in the Wall Street Journal that all 16 declared candidates for the GOP presidential nomination should be on the stage for the first debates:
The Republican Party should be looking forward instead of backward—and seeking every opportunity to feature its roster of excellent candidates, rather than trying to find ways to constrict the field. The voters will do that, as is their prerogative. The simple truth is that competitive primaries usually make a party stronger, not weaker.
Of course, one of Anderson's clients is Bobby Jindal, who would not be among the 10 included in a debate due to poor poll numbers.

Alberta follows Ontario
The Rebel Media reports that Moody's signals to the new NDP government of Alberta that their credit rating could fall.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Quote of the day
Tim Carney: "The robots are definitely lobbying for a minimum-wage increase."

Air conditioning reduces energy use on net
So argues Megan McArdle, noting that the move from temperate northern cities to hotter southern cities increases air conditioning but decreases heating which uses more energy (18F to 70F takes less fuel, McArdle says, than going from 95F to 70F).

Why does the future always need to be subsidized?
Finance Minister Joe Oliver, Tory MP Mark Adler, and Toronto Mayor John Tory are pleased to announce federal funding for an aerospace project at Downsview which will provide high tech jobs for the future.

Best article of the year. So far
Maclean's: "The tiny islands where Canada and America are at war." War isn't quite the right word regarding two disputed islands, North Rock and Machias Seal, between New Brunswick and Maine. It is the last remaining land dispute between Canada and the United States and while the politicians don't seem to care, the local lobstermen do. One American lobsterman says: "Canadians are like Vikings. They’ll rape and pillage and not give a s–t because they can still go home." Another American lobsterman has lost a thumb. Rising lobster prices are raising the stakes over the waters surrounding the islands, which don't have any minerals or full-time population (save a few thousands puffins).

'How early is too early to drink?'
I don't know, anyone younger than five years old?
Seriously, excellent advice from Deadspin on when one can begin drinking: 5 pm unless you have actual responsibilities. "If you are actively mixing the enjoyment of alcohol with your most critical responsibilities as a human being, you’re drinking too early. I only like drinking when my shit is DONE." Also, good advice about washroom etiquette: don't watch videos on your mobile device because it violates the "no ambient noise" rule.

Michael Den Tandt doesn't get Harper or politics. But most pundits don't.
I don't mean to pick on Michael Den Tandt, but his Post Media column shows he just doesn't understand either the Conservatives or politics. That is not meant to be inflammatory, merely an observation. Most pundits don't get the Tories because they are, after all, outsiders to that tribe. (And, yes, I do mean to suggest that many journalists are not outsiders to the Liberal tribe and, to a lesser degree, the NDP.) But as a professional observer of federal politics, a person who makes his living commenting on national affairs, Den Tandt shouldn't be so clueless.
Today Den Tandt is puzzled as to why the Tories would put their unlikable pitbull Pierre Poilievre front-and-center in their campaign with election day less than three months away and not have the Prime Minister out stumping like the other party leaders. The better question is why would Stephen Harper campaign three months before the election? Harper is not like the other party leaders: he's the prime minister, he has the job, he can do more to set the agenda, and he doesn't have to advertise himself to people because voters know what he is. If Poilievre screws up, he can be replaced. A misstep by Harper, as unlikely as that would be, would sink the Tories. Harper has everything to lose and very little to gain by campaigning at this stage. As much as the media has declared the unofficial campaign officially begun more than a dozen times since last year's Throne Speech and most recently with the UCCB cheques being mailed out, the fact is the campaign doesn't really begin until the writ is dropped or the early August Maclean's leaders debate, whichever comes first.
More importantly, Harper understands that people get tired of political parties and leaders. Most governments have a shelf life of about a decade. Harper will be Prime Minister for a decade next January if he wins re-election. Harper knows that highlighting himself now risks voters getting tired of him before October 19. With more than now days to go before E-day, Poilievre is red meat for the base, the base that will provide donations and volunteer hours in the campaign ahead. There is plenty of time for Harper to make the case for the Tories and no need to do it in mid-July when the tiny number of undecided voters aren't paying attention anyway. Now that seems paradoxical, you might say: if voters aren't paying attention, Harper has no fear of having them tire of him. But even people who aren't paying attention see the face on the cover of newspapers and in the background on the television and hear relatives and friends talk about him. No need to alienate these people in mid-summer.
Den Tandt concludes by saying that the Tories are fighting for their political lives, or should be. The fact that they seem not to be might suggest that the polls or the standard analysis of them is incorrect. Maybe it's hubris on the part of the Conservatives, or maybe they have more or better data and are comfortable with where they are. When I break down the numbers and look at specific ridings and demographics, the Tories should be in the 150-160 seat vicinity, just short of a majority but well ahead of the other parties. But Den Tandt just becomes silly when he says "perhaps [Harper] is biding his time -- or has made his peace with moving on?" The Parliamentary Press Gallery has never understood Harper. They had him zigging when he was zagging, not because he was outsmarting them, but simply because they do not "get" the Conservative leader. They have had him resigning before the next election more often than I could keep track. He's been written off numerous times, beginning when he was first elected leader of the Conservative Party in 2004 and there was no chance he'd ever be prime minister. It's a little early to declare the end of the Harper Era just because the columnists and talking heads do not understand why the Conservative campaign is not doing what they (the journalists, brilliant strategists they believe themselves to be) think the professional campaigners and strategists should be doing.

Question for Justin Trudeau: Why stop with the UCCB?
The Toronto Star: "Justin Trudeau won’t accept his family’s child-care benefit." The Star reports:
Justin Trudeau is putting his money where his mouth is when it comes to the Conservative government’s newly enhanced universal child-care benefit (UCCB).
Child-care benefits should go to families who need the help, “not families like mine or Mr. (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper’s,” Trudeau told The Canadian Press.
“When it comes to child benefits, fair doesn’t mean giving everyone the same thing, it means giving people what they need.”
Trust-fund Trudeau should also refuse his Canada pension when he turns 65 and refuse the deductions for which he eligible when he pays income tax.

'ADHD and Overdiagnosis'
I'm late to last week's reading by David Gratzer is on a Canadian Journal of Psychiatry article "Is Adult Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Being Overdiagnosed?" It raises important issues for psychiatrists and Gratzer is unsure about the public policy implications but seems open to exploring a sunshine law that requires doctors disclose compensation from drug companies? Grazter properly praises the paper for going beyond criticizing the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) for its "flawed and impractical" definition of adult Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder to explore other explanations:
Medicalizing Attention: “Society increasingly demands a high level of performance on tasks that require sustained attention and multitasking. Thus social forces, such as competition in school settings, can motivate patients to seek stimulant prescriptions, which, in turn, require a diagnosis of ADHD.”
Disability Benefits: “Receiving a diagnosis of ADHD may make it possible for some adults to be considered disabled, and to receive benefits.”
They then outline two non-patient factors: First, researchers have an incentive to overdiagnose in an effort to win grants. Second, pharmaceutical companies aggressively market the diagnosis (and treatment) to maximize profit.
Dr. Gratzer has a reading each week which raises clinical and/or health care policy questions, usually in psychiatry. It is accessible to laymen (such as myself) and I highly recommend it.

The Obama legacy
The slow destruction of the Democrats. The Wall Street Journal reports:
After two presidential victories, Mr. Obama presides over a Democratic Party that has lost 13 seats in the U.S. Senate and 69 in the House during his tenure, a net loss unmatched by any modern U.S. president.
Democrats have also lost 11 governorships, four state attorneys general, 910 legislative seats, as well as the majorities in 30 state legislative chambers. In 23 states, Republicans control the governor’s office and the legislature; Democrats, only seven.
Outside the northeast, the only Democratic states (stat legislature and governor) are Oregon, California, and Hawaii. Notably, such "blue states" such as Washington, New York, and Illinois, do not have Democratic control of both houses of the legislature and the governor's mansion. Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Arkansas has flipped from full Democrat control to full Republican control.
This doesn't mean that Republicans will prevail in 2016. The national media has more influence over the political narrative in a presidential campaign than in state-level elections or even mid-terms.

2016 watch (Rand Paul edition)
Rand Paul wants to scrap the tax code in favour of a flat tax, and he wants to know how you want to get rid of the 70,000-page monstrosity that is the current tax code: burn it, woodchipper it, chainsaw it. I vote toss the code into the woodchipper.

2016 watch (John Kasich edition)
National Journal says that Ohio Governor John Kasich could end up being the 2016 version of Jon Huntsman. Ouch. Specifically, Kasich tells the truth, media loves it, Republican voters do not.

2016 watch (The Donald vs. the losers)
Maclean's has the lengthy list of people that Donald Trump has called loser.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Calling Green Party leader Elizabeth May "classy" strains all credibility.

Best 25 college football teams of all-time
The final installment of the Sports on Earth top 100 college football teams of all-time features mostly teams from the 1940s and 1970s, including a lot of Oklahoma, Michigan, Notre Dame, and Army. The West Point and Fighting Irish squads of the 1940s are five of the top six and six of the top eight. Fighting Irish coach Frank Leahy's dynasty has three of the top five teams of all-time. Army (and to a lesser degree, for a while, Navy) had a good run in the 1940s because top recruits were at the school during the War. Also, six teams from the '73 season are in the top 100 (in fact, the top 53), including three in the top 25 (Michigan, Oklahoma, and Ohio State), none of which were the season's co-national champs. Georgia Tech's 1917 team is ranked #17 and had a ridiculous season with wins of 63-0, 83-0, 48-0, and 98-0. (The year before, they beat Cumberland 222-0 in the most lopsided game in college football history.) Knute Rockne's only season represented on the list checks in at #14 (1930 Notre Dame). The best team of all-time did not have a perfect season, but did face one of the toughest schedules of all-time.
This Sports on Earth list of the 100 best college football teams -- out of 13,000 evaluated by the Simple Rating System Matt Brown employed for this exercise -- was one of the best pieces of sports journalism in quite a while.

Mulcair teases Chow may be candidate
The Toronto Star reports that Tom Mulcair's comments about Oliva Chow are leading to more speculation (by the Toronto Star) that Chow could return to federal politics. Mulcair said:
There are discussions and I’m just grateful that they will be positive, because I think Olivia Chow brings a great deal to the political game in our country ...
I know that Olivia has had occasion to speak with a lot of people who are close to me over the past couple of years, and yes it has come up a couple of times when I have met her at different occasions across the country and it would be, for us, great if Olivia would throw her hat back in the ring.
That's not a lot on which to base a new round of speculation for a matchup of Olivia Chow vs. Adam Vaughan in Spadina-Fort York. Also, Chow is starting a three-year term at Ryerson and students are signing up for her course, but she's quit her job before, like in 2014 when she resigned as MP to run for Toronto mayor, forcing an expensive by-election in her downtown riding -- the same riding she would run in against Vaughan in October if she returns to the federal arena.
Chow vs. Vaughan? Tough choice. Both would be considered cabinet material and while Chow would make the worse cabinet minister, Vaughan's party is less likely to form government.

Iran fact
Tyler Cowen points to an Economist article that reports there are more members of the Iranian cabinet than U.S. cabinet that have American PhDs.

Questioning the 'under-represented minorities' narrative on campus is a microagression
Heather Mac Donald writes in the summer City Journal about the effort in the University of California system to address alleged sexism and racism on campus and the even greater effort to silence critics who ... well, point to facts and make entirely defensible philosophical comments:
The “Fostering Inclusive Excellence: Strategies and Tools for Department Chairs and Deans” seminar presumes that University of California faculty are so bigoted that they will refuse to hire the most qualified candidate for a professorship if that candidate happens to be female or an “underrepresented minority” —i.e., black or Hispanic. Attendees at the seminar were subjected to an “interactive theater scenario” called “Ready to Vote?” that showed white male computer-science professors on a fictional hiring committee belittling females and failing to “value diversity.” The author of the scenario, a professor of performance studies and ethnic studies at the University of California, San Diego, seems never to have attended a faculty-hiring committee meeting in her life. Nor, it would seem, has Janet Napolitano. How otherwise could they not know that every faculty search in the sciences, far from shunning females and URMs, is a desperate exercise in tracking down even remotely qualified female and non-Asian minority candidates who haven’t already been snapped up by more well-endowed competitors? Females in the sciences are hired and promoted nationwide at rates far above their representation in applicant pools. (Too few URM science Ph.D.s exist to have inspired many reliable studies analyzing their hiring chances.)
The “Fostering Inclusive Excellence” seminar supplemented the patent fictions in “Ready to Vote?” with an equally specious handout, “Identifying Implicit Bias,” which claims that females and URMs are required to meet higher academic standards than white males and that their work is scrutinized more closely by hiring committees. This conceit was preposterous 30 years ago when it first became widespread and is even more so today. True, there is a double standard in hiring, but it redounds to the benefit of females and URMs, as anyone with the remotest exposure to academic culture should know. An entire subspecialty of diversity agitation argues that nontraditional forms of scholarship, such as personal memoirs or the collective editing of anthologies, should be viewed as equivalent to publications in peer-reviewed journals during tenure evaluations, when URMs and females are performing those activities. The advocacy for nontraditional credentials for “diverse” candidates has largely succeeded, especially in the social sciences and humanities.
To voice these realities, however, is to commit a microaggression, according to University of California diversity enforcers. Another handout inflicted on “Fostering Inclusive Excellence” attendees presents a long list of microaggressions, categorized by “Theme” and “Message.” The “Myth of Meritocracy” “theme” includes such statements as: “Of course he’ll get tenure, even though he hasn’t published much—he’s Black!” The “message” conveyed by this particular microaggression, according to UC’s “Recognizing Microaggressions Tool,” is that “people of color are given extra unfair benefits because of their race.” Now where would anyone get that idea? Well, you might ask any high school senior, steeped in his class’s SAT rankings, if it’s true that “people of color” are given “extra benefits” in college admissions. He will laugh at your naïveté. A 2004 study of three top-tier universities, published in Social Science Quarterly, found that blacks were favored over whites by a factor of 5.5 and that being black got students an extra 230 SAT points on a 1,600-point scale. Such massive preferences for URMs are found at every selective college and graduate school. Every student knows this, and yet diversity protocol requires pretending that preferences don’t exist. The race (and gender) advantage continues into the academic workplace, as everyone who has sat on a hiring committee also knows. But President Napolitano is determined to brand anyone who violates that collective fiction as a closet racist, someone who targets “persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership,” in the words of the “Microaggressions Tool.”
Other alleged microaggressions include uttering such hurtful words as “I believe the most qualified person should get the job” or “America is the land of opportunity” on a UC campus. Someone who has been through the “Fostering Inclusive Excellence” seminar may call you out for giving voice to such ideas. Why exactly saying that the most qualified person should get the job is a microaggression is a puzzle. Either such a statement is regarded simply as code for alleged antiblack sentiment, or the diversocrats are secretly aware that meritocracy is incompatible with “diversity.”
Equally “hostile” and “derogatory,” according to the “Tool,” is the phrase “Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough.” Such a statement is obviously an insult to all those career victims whose primary occupation is proclaiming their own helplessness and inability to accomplish anything without government assistance.
Many purported microaggressions arise from the contradictions in diversity ideology. Authorities in a diversity regime are supposed to categorize people by race and ethnicity—until that unpredictable moment when they are not supposed to. Assigning a black graduate student to escort a black visiting professor, for example, is a microaggression, per the “Tool.” But wasn’t the alleged need for role models and a critical mass of “persons of color” a key justification for “diversity”? Describing a colleague as a “good Black scientist” is another microaggression. But such a categorization merely reflects the race-consciousness and bean-counting that the campus diversity enforcers insist upon.
Color-blindness constitutes an entire microaggression ...
To highlight: "A 2004 study of three top-tier universities, published in Social Science Quarterly, found that blacks were favored over whites by a factor of 5.5 and that being black got students an extra 230 SAT points on a 1,600-point scale." And: "Other alleged microaggressions include uttering such hurtful words as 'I believe the most qualified person should get the job' or 'America is the land of opportunity' on a UC campus."

Ontario debt larger than California's
Which is a big problem because 1) Ontario has about one-third the population and 2) the Liberal government plans to borrow $130 billion for infrastructure spending over the next decade (it supposedly doesn't "count" as debt according to the provincial government because its capital investment rather than program spending). The total Ontario debt is $307 billion, or about $22,400 per person. More than half that debt has been accumulated since the McGuinty/Wynne Liberals too over in 2003. The Financial Post reports that Ontario is now "the world's most indebted sub-sovereign borrower" -- that is it is more in debt than any other province, state, or city, in the world, despite there being much larger jurisdictions that Ontario. The government pretends that somehow the addition of $130 billion in new debt from infrastructure spending doesn't count because the roads and mass transit projects will be public-private partnerships, ignoring (or hiding) the fact that they are still paid for by government borrowing, which means on the backs of future taxpayers. Credit rating agencies worry that Ontario's rating will continue to fall as debt accumulates (therefore increasing borrowing costs). Mario Angastiniotis of Standard and Poor says of the P3s "it's not free debt ... the P3 is just an alternative vehicle for financing, it's not a different way that cost you anything. You're still adding to your debt."

'Uber Serves the Poor by Going Where Taxis Don't'
Megan McArdle at Bloomberg View:
I've always thought that in terms of letting you do something you couldn't do before, Uber provides the biggest benefit to people who live in lower-income neighborhoods, not in rich ones. That's where dispatch is often unreliable, where street hails are rare, and where many residents don't have a car. A new study suggests that in low-income areas, this benefit of Uber is potentially very large. (Uber paid for the study, which was executed independently by respected researchers.)
Researchers hired people from a temporary staffing agency to stand on the street in pairs, one of them calling for a taxi, the other one calling for an UberX. They each proceeded to an agreed-upon destination and recorded how long it took them to get there from the time they picked up their phone to the time they stepped out of the vehicle. The results were striking: Ubers arrived substantially faster, and were significantly cheaper, than the taxis.

2016 watch (Jeb Bush edition)
RINO favourite Jeb Bush runs as anti-Establishment candidate. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Boasting of reforms to “Mount Tallahassee’’ during his two terms as Florida governor, Republican candidate Jeb Bush on Monday vowed to shake up the status quo in Washington, D.C. if he is elected president.
“I was a governor who refused to go along with that establishment. I wasn’t a member of the club, and that made all the difference,” Mr. Bush said, according to his prepared remarks given at Florida State University in Tallahassee. “Should I win this election, you will not find me deferring to the settled ways of ‘Mount Washington,’ either.”
Back in February, the Journal reviewed Bush's gubernatorial record as a conservative reformer, and if he becomes president and accords himself as he did as governor, he would be a good president. It's just too bad about the surname.

Macroeconomics is hard
Business Insider on July 8: "Interest rate forecasters are shockingly wrong almost all of the time." From 2010-2015, "forecasters were wrong most of the time."

Monday, July 20, 2015
College 'debate'
Five Feet of Fury has video on her post on affirmative action meets college debates. I challenge anyway to watch that video and either not cry or laugh.

'White Privilege Tax'
PJ Media has the Mike Dice video of getting people to sign a petition supporting the "White Privilege Tax" which Dice explains is "just a 1% tax on the Caucasians" to help equalize everything. Says one person to Dice, "you're the kind of white person I like."

2016 watch (Holy shit edition)
The Washington Post/ABC poll has billionaire clown Donald Trump at 24% followed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at 13% and former Florida governor Jeb Bush at 12%. The poll includes a final day in which Trump's support collapsed following his comments about John McCain. Many GOP voters are pushing back at the media's treatment of Trump, but that probably won't last (whether or not the final day's drop-off is true and indicative of anything lasting). Still Trump has about as much support as his two main rivals at this point.
Not good for Walker is that his support is highest among the self-identified "most conservative" voters, a demographic that seldom prevails in the Republican primaries.
Support for seven other candidates polled range from 3-8%, which seems like a little high for several of them.

2016 watch (Republican foreign policy edition)
The Weekly Standard reports on the foreign policy back-and-forth between governors Scott Walker and Jeb Bush. Hot Air's AllahPundit looks at the policy rather than politics (nothing can be done if the deal isn't blocked). There are a lot of hawks in the GOP but too many political strategists and candidates worry about what Weekly Standard/National Review writers think, ignoring that Americans are war-weary. If the debate in 2016 is about foreign policy and about invading/attacking other countries -- or if the GOP talking points, whatever they may be on the Iran deal, sound like they could lead to war on a new front -- the Republicans will lose.

More best all-time college football teams
Sports on Earth continues its series on the best college football teams of all-time, with numbers 26-50. The two things I love about this series is how it provides a mini-history of college football and sheds light on several controversial seasons (like undeserving or close-call national champions). It gives credence to the complaint that Notre Dame gets more than its share of votes in the AP and coaches rankings in close calls (save for 1970 when it came up short as three other teams took a share of the national champion title). That said, the SRS system is one metric and only one so there are controversies on this list, and author Matt Brown admits it. For example, the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers team is the highest rated team of the past four decades at #33 all-time, mostly because they have a supposedly weaker strength of schedule. But on a more subjective list, or by some other numbers or set of numbers, it would have a top 10 claim (as would the 45th-ranked 2001 Florida Gators), if not the top spot overall; the Huskers dominated every opponent in 1995, and it is, by a order of magnitude, better than any other team in my lifetime. Controversies aside, this series is fantastic and a must-read for football fans.

New study says birth order isn't important
David DiSalvo of reports:
If you believe that the birth order of siblings is a major factor in personality development, you’re not alone. Shelves of popular books have been written on the topic, with titles like “The Birth Order Advantage” and “Born to Rebel” and “The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are”. This is a pop psychology topic that’s sold a lot of books and filled a lot of talk show time, and many have assumed that it’s solid science. But according to the results of the largest study ever conducted on birth order and personality, it’s all much ado about nothing.
Researchers studied 377,000 high school students to find out how much birth order affected their personality development and intelligence. They found that first borns do have slightly higher IQs than their later-born siblings, but only one point higher – a statistically significant but practically meaningless difference ...
Overall, the association between birth order and personality was statistically .02, which is well below the level of perception.
The theories behind birth order is that parenting styles change, earlier children get more attention, the order helps dictate the different roles within the family, and children develop coping mechanisms for how they are treated. But this environmental explanation ignores the most important factor, namely that the kids share the same genes, and another, almost completely ignored factor in the (false) binary debate of nature vs. nurture, free will.

'No hipsters were injured!'
Sadly, the London fire department apologizes after supposedly offensive tweet following fire at trendy restaurant.

Greek bailout vote political fallout
Global Research: "PM Tsipras Banishing Ministers Opposing Sellout to Creditors, Syriza Sharply Divided." Sadly, former video game company economist Yanis Varoufakis resigned as finance minister.

CEO pay
John Tamny, author of Popular Economics, writes in the Wall Street Journal that CEOs are paid, like NFL quarterbacks, not only for performance, but with the hope they will be superstars. That analogy is apt, but the question remains, should either CEOs or QBs be paid in anticipation of great performance. Probably not.

The important journalistic questions
Slate's Amy Waldman explores the intricacies of come vs. cum, coming up with a list of when one must use come, should use come, and when cum is permissible.

Sunday, July 19, 2015
Kyle Smith's Acculturated review of Amy Schumer's Trainwreck: "the movie is more or less an updated Taming of the Shrew, only with oral sex jokes and Lebron James." Smith on the comedy it-girl of the moment: "Schumer hasn’t quite thought through the implications of her comedy persona: Is being a drunken slut something women should be ashamed of, or not?"

Can't blame Ayn Rand for Charleston church shooting
Guest posting at Instapundit Ed Driscoll explains why racists can't draw inspiration from Ayn Rand: racism is a form of collectivism. (It's the quote that greatly influenced me when I was a teenager.)

The media and strategist obsession with ballot questions and single cause narratives in elections miss the point: elections are the result of millions of people making millions of decisions for multiple reasons, including one the Liberal Party's co-chair Katie Telford did not see coming. Telford tweets: "Would not have anticipated that! #unscripted RT @Shawn_Jeffords: Woman asks Trudeau to bring penny back, is currently reading poem about it."

The Donald's Christianity
Essentially Donald Trump doesn't feel the need for God's forgiveness, not because he doesn't make mistakes but because "I don't bring God into that picture," and he tries to fix it himself. That and "When I drink my little wine -- which is about the only wine I drink -- and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness."

Ontario is not a manufacturing-friendly jurisdiction
The Toronto Sun has a very good article on how manufacturing companies, especially car plants, don't want to be based in Ontario because is not hospitable to doing business; high energy costs and regulations are a bigger culprit than high taxes.

The Left's unflattering view of the poor and uneducated
Tyler Cowen has a post on wage stickiness and views of the poor:
It is common for left-wing progressives to complain that conservatives serve up unflattering accounts of the unemployed and poor, such as by calling them “moochers” and the like.
But many versions of the standard Keynesian account, once we deconstruct them a bit, don’t paint such a flattering picture of the unemployed either. In one Keynesian scenario, many of the unemployed have lacked jobs for years because they have sticky nominal wage demands. Under one scenario, they could find jobs for $x an hour but won’t take the work. If government policy could reflate the economy enough, those jobs in nominal terms would offer more and the unemployed would be in essence fooled into taking the offer. The job would be paying the same in real terms, so the ex ante stubbornness is a big mistake, at least under this account of the matter.
Such a mistake is made throughout years of material suffering and psychological deprivation, including serious problems for one’s children. Yet a mere nominal trick, by boosting pride just a bit, will move them back into a job ...
Left-wing Keynesians are reluctant to acknowledge their own implicit unflattering treatment of the poor, which I should add came (in part) from snobby and elite British economists, including Keynes.
There are less standard accounts of wage stickiness that "paint a not unfavorable picture of the jobless," but unfavourable does not mean more accurate.

What I'm reading
1. Humans 3.0: The Upgrading of the Species by Peter Nowak
2. A History of Money by Alan Pauls
3. End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun) by Mary Katharine Ham and Guy Benson
4. The Man Who Couldn't Stop: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought by David Adam
5. The summer edition of The Journal of Private Enterprise. I highly recommend Jared Meyer's "Beyond Utility: Providing a Moral Foundation for Capitalism," and the two essays on James Buchanan.

Brad Wall would make an excellent premier for Alberta
Lorne Gunter in the Calgary Sun:
While Alberta Premier Rachel Notley was off in Quebec City this week, cap in hand, apologizing for Alberta providing energy and economic growth to the rest of the country, and begging for Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard’s blessing for pipeline projects to get western oil to refineries in central and eastern Canada, Wall was pledging that Saskatchewan will not grant other provinces a veto over pipeline construction.
Wouldn't most Albertans trade Notley for Wall?

2016 watch (Al Gore edition)
Salon: "It’s time to draft Al Gore: If Democrats want to win, it’s clear neither Hillary nor Sanders is the way." Sean Illing says, "Gore may not be new, but his candidacy would feel that way." Probably not.
Does Salon exist simply to troll the Right?

Saturday, July 18, 2015
The 'predictable' Chinese stock market
Scott Sumner takes issue with Slate declaring a recent two-day decline in the Chinese stock markets "predictable" noting that it is too erratic to be predictable over any short period of time (two days up, two days down, two days up) and if it was predictable, why did Slate only say so after the decline? He concludes with wise advice:
I recommend that people ignore all predictions of the future movement of asset prices, whether it is from the media, professional economists, or Wall Street stock pickers. There is no evidence that these forecasts are useful.

Politics is stupid
Democratic presidential candidate wannabe Martin O'Malley has apologized for uttering the words "all lives matter" because, apparently, only black lives matter. Or at least not all lives matter.

Those green wind farms
Instapundit points to a Public Secrets story about wind farms contaminating water supplies in Scotland, which includes this comment:
So we’ve gone from wind farms chopping up birds to poisoning the water supply. They’re not economically viable without public subsidy, they never meet their promised power generation or reliability, but, hey, they do give you diarrhea. And maybe kill your unborn child.

Gulags are known. The laogai, tragically, is not.
ReasonTV has a brief four-minute video on the laogai, China's secret labour camp system, including an interview with its most famous victim, Harry Wu. It notes:
At the age of 23, Wu was imprisoned in the Laogai system simply because his father was a banker. While the official numbers are a state secret, at the height of Mao's reign, Wu estimates there were "1,000 labor camps and probably more than 40 million people in the prison camps."

Free markets and capitalism
Tim Worstall has a post on the "usual confusion among the British left of equating markets and capitalism," noting "of the two it’s markets and competition which are the vastly more important." Almost everyone on the Left confuses the two and many on the Right don't know the difference either. Adam Smith said in An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public." That's a capitalist activity, not a free market action.

'Political books that can make you a better voter'
Susan Delacourt's Toronto Star column this weekend is about political books that will help Canadians make an informed vote in October. She missed the most important book voters could read: The Dauphin: The Truth about Justin Trudeau.

The Donald: even when he's right, he's wrong
The New York Post reports:
Donald Trump says there was nothing heroic about the 5 1/2 years Sen. John McCain spent in a brutal North Vietnamese prison.
“He’s not a war hero,” Trump told an audience of Iowa conservatives on Saturday. “He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
I don't entirely disagree with Trump. Being captured does not make one a hero (nor does being killed in the theatre of war). Courageously surviving might be. Thriving afterwards could be. We too easily bandy about the word hero for the victims of war when it may or may not qualify. That is a valid point. Trump made the point in the dumbest possible way.

The women's college in the age of transgenderism
Daniella Greenbaum, a Robert L. Bartley Fellow at the Wall Street Journal and a student at Barnard, has a good column in the Journal: "The Transgender Challenge for Women’s Colleges: With gender lines blurred, single-sex schools try to figure who can apply—and where they’re going to sleep." Raises numerous issues and concludes: "Given the 80% decline in women’s colleges over the past half-century, why undermine the only selling point you’ve got left?"

Affordable Care Act. Less affordable. Less care.
An Investor's Business Daily editorial reports:
Before ObamaCare, it would've been hard to find a health plan that combined a huge $6,000 deductible, few in-network doctors, and sky-high premiums. Today, thanks to ObamaCare, it's hard not to.
A new report from Avalere Health finds that enrollees in ObamaCare plans have access to 34% fewer providers than those who buy a commercial plan outside the exchange. On average, it found, ObamaCare enrollees had 32% fewer primary care doctors and 24% fewer hospitals from which to choose.
Worse, ObamaCare plans covered 42% fewer oncologists and cardiologists than non-ObamaCare plans.
What this means is that lots of patients will end up going out of network to get the care that they need, which means paying far more out-of-pocket costs.
Deductibles are steeper under ObamaCare, too. In ObamaCare's first year, the average deductible for a low-cost Bronze plan was 42% higher than before the law went into effect, according to HealthPocket. Deductibles climbed again this year and are expected to go up the next ...
[B]efore ObamaCare, consumers accepted these high deductibles in exchange for very low premiums. In Iowa, for example, a $5,000-deductible plan could cost as little as $442 in annual premiums. Not anymore.
The average Bronze plan today costs more than $3,500 a year in premiums while imposing a $5,181 deductible.
These facts should make it easier to rescind or drastically curtail Obamacare if Republicans 1) keep control of Congress and 2) win the presidency next year (big ifs). But GOP leaders are going to need to remind people of these facts constantly to build a consensus that the Affordable Care Act lies about two-thirds of its name.