Sobering Thoughts

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

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Saturday, October 31, 2015
Use Halloween as a way to teach your kids about government
Reminds me of Josh Bernstein from 2013: "How Halloween can teach your children about Socialism." Bernstein's advice:
Go out and knock on all the doors you can in your neighborhood. Make your kids walk the neighborhood until their little feet are sore. Depending on their age you may only need to walk for a little more than 30 minutes. Make sure they collect a lot of candy. So much candy that they can barely carry it home by themselves. As soon as you get home dump out all the candy on the table and inspect it. Once you realize that it is all safe to eat tell your kids they did a good job collecting all the candy.
Before they can start enjoying the fruits of their labor immediately take away half of all the candy that they collected. When they complain and ask you why you took away half their candy, tell them because you didn’t have any. Their natural reaction should be to tell you that it is unfair. This is when you teach them the valuable difference between Socialism and Capitalism.
Ask them how they felt having to give up half their candy just because you wanted it but didn’t work for it? Ask them if they think it is fair that everyone must be equal regardless of their work ethic? I think you know what their answers might be. Then when they fully understand the meaning behind this exercise obviously give them back the other half of their candy. Your children will never forget this exercise, and it hopefully will help shape their views long term against the evils of Socialism.
This may seem like a cruel and unusual exercise but it is a necessary exercise that your children will thank you for doing to them later in life. This is a real life, relatable exercise that will teach your kids the absurdity of Socialism.
Bernstein could go further. Every time the kids want to eat some of their remaining candy, they should pay one candy (sales/consumption tax). Take some of the candy and give it the grandparents (payroll taxes for pensions).

Happy Halloween
I could have gone with ten hours of the Halloween theme song, but here's "Bela Lugosi's Dead" by Bauhaus.

The truth about politics
Peter Wehner has a good piece at Commentary about "The Promise of Speaker Ryan," and this is important not just about the new speaker, but about politics in general. Newly elected Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said, "We will not always agree—not all of us, not all of the time. But we should not hide our disagreements. We should embrace them. We have nothing to fear from honest differences honestly stated." Wehner says:
This shows a much deeper and truer understanding of the nature of politics than we often hear, doing away with the mirage that our disagreements will evaporate if only legislators did their job well; that our political conflicts are simply based on cynical partisanship.
That may well be true for some people some of the time. But that’s hardly the complete picture. People are in different parties and hold different political philosophies because they embrace different and often competing worldviews. Their hierarchy of values, the order of their loves, are not identical. Liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans often interpret events and reality through different prisms. These differences aren’t based on one or the other group being comprised of better or more admirable human beings; they are based in good measure on different life experiences and moral intuitions, the way we process information and the people we interact with and are surrounded by. This doesn’t mean that compromise isn’t possible. In our system of government, it is quite necessary. Compromise, after all, is part of our constitutional DNA. But it means that compromise is done in the context of recognizing and working to resolve our differences, with enough humility to know that, while some of us may be closer to the truth than others of us, the best of us only see the truth in part.
Honest differences of opinion. Why is this so hard to understand?

Fixing India: paging Douglass North
Atanu Dey and Rajesh Jain write in Quartz blame poor governance, the residue of colonial rule and extractive policies of that age, for today's economic underachievement:
Economic policies flow from the type of government and its objectives. Growth-oriented governments implement policies that promote economic development. Contrast that with governments that implement extractive policies, which retard or altogether prevent development, primarily because extractive policies are not consistent with development.
It is the constitution that directly determines what kind of government a nation has, and thereby indirectly the economic policies ...
The most salient distinction between the US and Indian constitutions lies in the relationship between the people and the government that the two define. The US constitution places the people as the principal and the government as its agent. This is evidenced in the limits that the constitution imposes on the power of the US Congress. The Indian constitution places the government as the principal and the people as its agent—as can be expected of a government that is essentially colonial in nature. Like the British government before it, the governments of post-1947 India impose what’s known as the “permit, permission, license, quota control raj.”
The deleterious effects of the license-control-quota-permit raj are too evident. Economic policies frame the economic environment and, therefore, the economic opportunities. Competent people who lack economic opportunities vote with their feet—if they are able to—in search of greater economic freedom.
Looked at it this way, Indian Americans are economic migrants and economic refugees. The wealth they create for themselves and their adopted country is huge, but it also represents the wealth that could have been potentially created in India but was lost. The government of India, while celebrating the successes of NRIs, must also do a bit of soul-searching and ask why so many Indians are compelled to leave India.
Real structural change is needed:
India needs a new constitution that is consistent with a nation of free individuals living in a complex, modern, large economy. This modern constitution has to be one that guarantees economic freedom to the individual, prohibits the government from making any laws that discriminate among citizens, guarantees freedom of speech and the press, prohibits the government from entering into businesses that are properly the domain of the private sector, and so on. In other words, India needs a constitution that protects the comprehensive freedom of the individual: economic, social and political.
The political will to make these changes is not easy to muster; inertia is a bitch. But this is easier to change than the traditional reasons for economic stagnation (natural disasters, the lack of natural resources, conflict, lack of human and social capital).
Policy change is possible without widespread political reform. Tim Worstall has a column at "India Aims To Reform The Most Important Part Of A Capitalist Economy: Bankruptcy." He explains:
The point being that yes, the ease of formation of a new business adventure is important (not an area where India currently does well but things are improving) but of much greater importance is how to clean up the mess left by those that fail. As most business adventures will fail. And what we all want to have happen is that the productive assets, whatever they are, left over from a business failure get reallocated off to somewhere else in the economy. That they don’t get left languishing unused: that’s just something that makes everyone poorer.

Ending China's one-child policy
Investor's Business Daily editorializes:
Apart from the immorality of such a policy, it has had far-reaching social and economic impacts that are now being felt.
Back in early 2008, an IBD writer wrote this: "Here's a prediction: China's economic boom will peak about 2015."
That prediction — correct, it turns out — was based on U.N. population projections showing 2015 was the year China's working-age population would begin to decline, due to its one-child policy. It was baked in the cake.
Fewer workers means a smaller economy, unless you can boost productivity. China's productivity is rising but not fast enough.
That's why, not surprisingly, the same day China announced it was ending its one-child policy, it also announced it expected future GDP growth of only 6.5% a year — down more than a third from its 10%-plus rate of growth over the last three decades.
Joel Kotkin says it might be too late to reverse the low fertility rates as the twin issues of high real estate prices and urbanization lead many families to choose small families. Kotkin notes, "a 2013 easing of restrictions on family size in certain circumstances elicited far fewer takers than expected. Barely 12 percent of eligible families even applied." It is difficult to reverse low fertility rates.

Friday, October 30, 2015
What media bias?

Trudeau's $10 billion deficit promise
Did anyone believe Justin Trudeau when he said that a Liberal government would run a series of "modest" deficits -- up to $10 billion a year for the next three years? This $10 billion figure meant that there would be plenty of new spending because current budget estimates suggested a modest surplus, therefore spending would exceed revenues by some $13 billion next year, give or take a couple billion. So Trudeau was not really talking about a new deficit as much as he was talking about new spending. If revenues fell or his programs were costlier than estimated (and Liberal costing was inaccurate, with total new spending, including refugee resettlement likely to hit $20 billion or more), the $10 billion deficit mark would be surpassed in a blink of the eye. With the new Finance Department's monthly fiscal monitor showing a $2.3 billion deficit for August, Trudeau has his promise-breaking excuse handed to him. To be clear, this August fiscal deficit is not Trudeau's fault, but it gives him cover for larger deficits because the new prime minister can claim he was operating under a different set of budget assumptions; there are limits to making this argument because from April to August a $2.8 billion surplus, but many more months like August and the dauphin will be spinning his broken campaign promise.
So what's the over/under for accumulated new debt in Trudeau's first four years? A fair estimate might be $50 billion, in which case I'll take the over. I'd probably take the over on $60 billion, too. I'm willing to bet this prediction if anyone is interested.

Cowen's Keynesian defense of Rubio's tax plan
Paul Krugman writes, "So now we have candidates proposing 'wildly unaffordable' tax cuts," to which Tyler Cowen replies:
But what’s wrong with that? In most demand-side liquidity trap and secular stagnation models, there is a shortage of safe assets and that is a major problem which requires remedy. Rubio’s plan, as I understand it, would raise the budget deficit and by a lot because it is unlikely to prove self-financing in the Lafferian sense. By current Keynesian views, that should be a feature not a bug.
You might rather the deficit be increased by cutting taxes for the middle class, or by building productive infrastructure, but still the Rubio plan would be better than just sitting tight and doing nothing.

Bernie Sanders Monopoly

Gratzer on marijuana use and misuse
David Gratzer looks at a study published in JAMA Psychiatry on "Prevalence of Marijuana Use Disorders in the United States Between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013." The authors find:
The prevalence of marijuana use more than doubled between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013, and there was a large increase in marijuana use disorders during that time. While not all marijuana users experience problems, nearly 3 of 10 marijuana users manifested a marijuana use disorder in 2012-2013.
Gratzer says the study is not sophisticated but it has an unusually large data set. Gratzer makes an important observation and asks a good question.
The observation:
[W]hile marijuana is much discussed in Canada and the United States, little of this discussion seems guided by doctors and public health experts.
The question:
To bring this back to a Canadian context: if Prime Minister-designate Trudeau favours marijuana legislation, should he also favour marijuana research?
Legalization is a liberty issue for many, but certainly medical expertise has a role to play in any public policy discussion and decision, especially for those, like Justin Trudeau, who bleat endlessly about following the science.

'A world without Marx'
Speculation from economist Bryan Caplan. Caplan is honest enough to say "My best guess is highly optimistic," while acknowledging the "upside" of the world that Marx helped create:
There's really only one fact that tempers my optimism: The world with Marx has never had a nuclear war. Altering any major facet of history could plausibly reverse that happy outcome.

2016 watch (Election Betting Odds edition)
The Election Betting Odds website has Hillary Clinton as the overwhelming betting favourite to win the Democratic nomination (86.6%) and presidency (42.6%). Marco Rubio is the odds-on-favourite in the GOP (35.3%), followed by Donald Trump (16.7%) and Ben Carson (8.4%). For the presidency, Rubio runs second (15.9%) followed by Socialist Bernie Sanders (8%). Interestingly, since the last update, Donald Trump's odds of winning the Republican nomination have increased while his chances of winning the presidency have decreased.

Well, it is McWynnety's Ontario after all
The National Post reports: "Ontario’s new Financial Accountability Officer Stephen LeClair says his trust has in the Liberal government has already been 'damaged' after his inaugural report was leaked to the media in advance of his release."

Thursday, October 29, 2015
We can ignore Elizabeth May
John Ibbitson in the Globe and Mail: "it’s hard to understand why, with only one seat and just over 3 per cent of the vote, Elizabeth May gets so much space." For all May's whining, she gets more attention than she deserves.

The rise of Liz May and decline of the Green Party
Scott Gilmore writes in Maclean's that Green Party leader Elizabeth May must go:
Last month, The Environics Institute released a public opinion study on climate change. It found that Canadians have become significantly less concerned about the issue since May took over the Green party. In 2007, 67 per cent of the public was either “concerned” or “extremely concerned” about climate change. This number has declined every year since, and is now reduced to only 50 per cent of Canadians. Meanwhile, scientists at the National Centers for Environmental Information in the U.S. just revealed that 2015 was the hottest summer in 4,000 years. And yet, Environics reports that the number of Canadians who are “not at all concerned” has doubled in the last decade.
It would seem unfair to blame Canadians’ stunning indifference on May. Correlation is not causation. But, at the very least, as Canada’s most prominent environmental advocate, Elizabeth May has been unable to reverse these trends. While her party has languished, so, too, has the movement it is meant to champion.
Unless rivers are catching on fire, most normal people only say they care about the environment; they don't want to do anything about it if there is a real cost. So the numbers Gilmore cites probably don't matter. Environmentalism is a stance, not a principle. That is one issue that the Green Party faces.
The larger issue for the May-led Greens is that under her leadership it has become a party less concerned about the environment. It is about electing Elizabeth May. It is about complaining that May is not included in the leadership debates. Over the past decade, it has been more about opposing the Harper agenda than promoting an environmental agenda. And it worked. It all worked. May is in Parliament, a one-person caucus who gets a disproportionate amount of air time, and Stephen Harper is no longer prime minister.
May isn't going anywhere. She won and damn the party if her success gets in the way of its breakthrough or the ostensible reason it exists (protecting the environment).


The intolerant left and the decline of internet freedom
Breitbart: "The Left's War on Comment Sections." Breitbart reports:
The late Georgina Henry, former editor of the Guardian’s online commentary pages, wrote in 2010 that “journalism without feedback, engagement, dispute and opinion from below the line no longer feels complete to me.” ...
The rise of comments sections coincided with the rise of another high-minded idea: the Crowd. If TED talks from the early 2010s are to be believed, the Crowd was set to revolutionise government, end poverty, and cure cancer. In an age when the Crowd was going to fix the world’s problems, it stood to reason that they should fix public discourse as well.
But the era of Silicon Valley-led optimism is over, at least for the journalists and publications that once eagerly reported on it. Today, the tone is misanthropic, not utopian, and the Crowd – at least as it appears in the comment boxes – is portrayed not as saviour, but as a sort of barbarous horde at the gates of politically-correct progressive society.
“Vibrant online communities? Or cesspits of abuse?” asked the BBC in a recent feature on the closure of comments sections. “Alongside shouting, swearing and incivility, comments sections can also attract racism and sexism,” the article continued.
This refrain can be found in almost every left-leaning publication these days. The Pacific Standard: “Even if [comments sections] aren’t vile and psychologically damaging, most of them aren’t worth your time.”
This has the Left clamouring for more top-down, broadcast-style news, with minimal or no feedback:
For a while online, authoritarian progressives forgot that vanishingly few people in the real world agree with their feverish and silly “hot takes” on current news and their bizarre ideas about racism and sexism. Now the whole population is tech-savvy enough to have their say, authoritarians are scrambling for a return to the era of broadcast news, in which viewers were left with calling up the station and ranting down the phone as their only means of robust criticism.

2016 watch (Marco Rubio edition)
Andrew Stiles notes off-putting Florida Senator Marco Rubio trait might be a political asset:

Lena Dunham's Halloween costume
A Planned Parenthood abortionist.

Every Cleveland Browns loss since 1999 ranked
Incredible history of failure by a lackluster franchise by the blog Subway Record. CBS Sports calls the exercise "daunting and depressing." You do not need to be a Cleveland Browns fan to appreciate the effort. A lot of the top losses come against the Pittsburgh Steelers, including the only Browns playoff appearance -- a loss, of course -- since '99, and what seems to be a disproportionate number of Jacksonville Jaguars games.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Media reports the obvious about Justin Trudeau promises ... nine days after the election
CBC: "Justin Trudeau's promise to take 25,000 Syrian refugees this year 'problematic'." The CBC reports and wonders:
During the election campaign, Liberals said they'd accept 25,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq by the end of the year.
But is that even possible? And how would it work?
That's a great fucking question that should have been asked last month when Justin Trudeau was making an impossible promise. Logistically, it is not possible to prepare for or move 25,000 refugees from Syria (or, more likely, Europe) to Canada. Chris Friesen, the president of the Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance, says 25K is possible, but instead of over the next two months, the next 14.

The revenge of the Laurentian elites and other under-appreciated explanations of the 2015 federal election
The University of Calgary's Barry Cooper in the Calgary Herald on the Liberal coalition that vaulted Justin Trudeau to power:
First came the revenge of the Laurentian elites, exemplified by the media party. The journalists’ union, the Canadian Media Guild, for example, registered as an anti-Harper Super-PAC with Elections Canada. Nor was it a surprise that southern Ontario, and especially Toronto, went solidly Liberal. A decade of self-inflicted pain in Ontario was blamed on the West.
Quebec, the linchpin of Laurentian Canada, restored its tradition of tribal voting. Including Justin Trudeau, for 50 of the past 70 years, the prime minister has come from Lower Canada.
A second factor was the revenge of what the leading literary critic of Maritime fiction, Janice Keefer, called the “loser ethos.” The Conservatives reduced the presence of bureaucrats in Canadians’ lives. In Atlantic Canada, they reduced citizens’ dependence on pogey. Thus, the red wave began in the part of the country most addicted to chunky-style pork barrelling.
The third element in the resentment coalition was provided by the most disempowered and miserable sub-population in Canadian society, the First Nations. The Conservatives thought greed and poverty were connected, so they passed the First Nations Financial Transparency Act. The clan bosses, now styled as grand chiefs, hated it.
(HT: John Ibbitson)

J.J. McCullough's new project
J.J. McCullough:
Here’s something new. Every morning I am watching the first and last episodes of a television series I have never seen before. I am then summarizing the entire show based on what I have seen.
So far, he has done Full House, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Gilmore Girls. The sacrifices he makes for the public ...
McCullough makes these shows sound so much better than they were, from my limited exposure to them, at least.

Campus freedom index
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms released its "2015 Campus Freedom Index" on the state of free speech at 55 Canadian universities. It's not good (the state of free speech, not the report):
With 220 grades awarded to 55 campuses, Canada’s universities and student unions in 2015 have received only eight ‘A’ grades—only three more ‘A’ grades than were awarded in 2014. Conversely ‘F’ grades were earned 41 times: 15 times by universities, and 26 times by student unions.
To be honest, I'm a bit surprised that with 55 institutions being graded on several criteria, that there were only 41 "F" grades.
It is sad but unsurprising to see that student unions are less tolerant of free speech than school administrations.

The downside of driverless cars
Tyler Cowen looks at "Three counterintuitive scenarios for driverless vehicles," which focuses on possible negatives associated with autonomous vehicles and the ways government could screw up the benefits (through bad planning or laws). Cowen might be underestimating the negatives when he says, "maybe we’ll get a bad version of driverless cars." With government, the chances are higher than maybe.

Apple U
Alex Tabarrok says that Apple, with $205 billion in cash, should buy and rebuild a university:
Apple is a for-profit corporation not a charity but there are plenty of ways to make money from a non-profit university. Aside from the tax breaks and other deductions, Apple University would be a proving ground for educational technologies that would be sold to every other university in the world. New textbooks built for the iPad and its successors would greatly increase the demand for iPads. Apple-designed courses built using online technologies, a.i. tutors, and virtual reality experimental worlds could become the leading form of education worldwide. Big data analytics from Apple University textbooks and courses would lead to new and better ways of teaching. As a new university, Apple could experiment with new ways of organizing degrees and departments and certifying knowledge.
Tabarrok says that Apple is already doing some of this, but not nearly to the degree to be truly transformative. He concludes:
More than a century ago Stanford, Carnegie, and Rockefeller used their industrial-age fortunes to build some of our best universities. Isn’t it time for another great university built for the information age?
The comments are worth reading, but this one is worth noting:
[W]ould Apple promote itself (which is its mission as a for profit corporation) or would Apple promote education (the mission of a not for profit college)?

Negative interest rates
The IMF has a new working paper on negative interest rates, "Breaking Through the Zero Lower Bound." For a document of less than 40 pages, it covers a range of issues. It's very brief section on the costs and benefits of negative interest rates goes well beyond the most important: "The direct benefit of being able to have negative interest rates is an additional option for economic stabilization. An indirect benefit is that of being able to lower the inflation target." But that is important so it seems silly that the paper, or at least section, does not lead with this consideration. Overall, a good overview of the issue, including how to introduce the concept and what to do with paper currency under such a regime.
(HT: Miles Kimball on Twitter)

Stories about unelected young'uns running all politics from the PMO will take a four-year hiatus
But not because it's no longer true.

The word 'too' is sexist
National Review's Katherine Timpf points to a Cameron Schaeffer article in Huffington Post about the problems with the word "too":
After a quick exchange of opinions about my hair, our conversation ended with, "Well you don't want it to be too short or too long." What she said was harmless, but it still caused an epiphany.
There is no proper way for a woman to cut her hair, let alone do anything right in this world. There seems to be an unobtainable one-millimeter-wide mark of perfection, and none of us can reach it. Everything is too this or too that. We see it every day in the tabloids. For example, one day a female celebrity is too revealing and the next day she is too matronly.
In my experience, I rarely hear too thrown around about men. You hear someone say, "He's short," but you seldom hear "too short." I hear women and men alike each day describing women as too something. But what does it really mean when you call a woman too? I asked myself, "too what?" I have determined that too means you're calling a woman too far away from your idyllic vision of what a woman should be.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Wall's response to Red Tory advice for Conservatives to resemble old Progressive Conservative Party
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, who could run for the Conservative Party leadership depending on the timing of the contest, reminds people that the old Progressive Conservative Party ended with the electoral disaster of Kim Campbell and a caucus that could "meet on an ATV."

Marriage and home-ownership rates
Alex J. Pollock of the American Enterprise Institute says that as marriage rates fall, so do home-ownership rates. This might be counter-intuitive: fewer people living together should mean more (separate) households. The problem is that marriage often leads to the sort of stability that leads to people settling down and buying homes. Although Pollock only hints at it, this sociological shift may be a contributing factor to long-term low economic growth, with people less interested in big ticket items -- the houses and the furniture and appliances that go with home ownership. Personal stability is good for the economy; people who are not in stable relationships purchase experiences (restaurants, entertainment, travel) and do not invest or buy the sorts of manufactured goods that employee workers at higher wages. As Mark Steyn says, social conservatism is an important ingredient in the economic conservatism pie.
Last week, W. Bradford Wilcox, reported that numerous studies indicate a strong correlation between family structure and upward economic mobility, with a greater prevalence of married parenthood being correlated to "higher levels of growth, economic mobility for children growing up poor, and median family income, along with markedly lower levels of child poverty."

Stoffer on NDP reform
According to Canadian Press, defeated NDP MP Peter Stoffer has said his party should drop the "N" from its name -- the New Democratic Party is more than a half-century old -- and formally end the party's relationship with the Canadian Labour Congress. This is not why the party lost last week, but the NDP, at least according to Stoffer, needs to have mature discussions about what it is, and that means revisiting even superficial aspects of the party such as the now silly adjective that begins its name.

2016 watch (HRC watch)
William McGurn in the Wall Street Journal:
[H]er victories are less about defeating opponents than making sure the serious ones are removed before the contest has begun.
Start with the money. Back in the spring we learned that Mrs. Clinton and her outside supporters were aiming to raise $2.5 billion for her campaign even as she decried the role of money in politics. To put that $2.5 billion in perspective, it’s more than Barack Obama and Mitt Romney spent combined in 2012.
Certainly this money will be an advantage in next year’s race. But it has already done what it was really designed to do: scare off serious challengers for the Democratic nomination.
She was never "inevitable." In 2008, Hillary Clinton was beaten in the Democratic primaries by a first-term U.S. senator with a record of no major accomplishments. Some mid-level brand name -- bigger than the "independent" Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders -- should have been able to enter the race and knock off the former first lady. Even now, she could be vulnerable to Sanders or (perhaps) a late Elizabeth Warren entry.

Internal trade barriers
TD Economics says "numerous non-tariff barriers continue to impede trade flows across provinces," in a report about reducing internal trade barriers. Quoting other sources, the authors say removing non-tariff barriers -- explicit, direct tariffs are forbidden between provinces -- could "boost Canadian real GDP by 3-7%." Overall, federal, provincial, and municipal regulations cost the Canadian economy about $37 billion annually.

Better yet, rename Pearson and Trudeau for non-politicians

Police brutality
Reason's Robby Soave comments on a South Carolina school cop's disproportionate response to a disobedient high school student:
I suggest watching the two videos. It may be true that the girl was in trouble, and she certainly disobeyed a police command. But it’s impossible to justify the act of violence that followed her refusal to move; the officer knocked her backward out of her desk and dragged her across the floor. To say she could have been seriously injured in the struggle is an understatement.
The officer can also be heard threatening to arrest students for complaining about the girl’s treatment. “I’ll put you in jail next,” he said in response to a student who quite reasonably exclaimed, “what the fuck?”

Microaggressions run amok
The Washington Free Beacon reports: "MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry derailed a conversation about potential Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) Saturday to admonish a guest for calling him a 'hard worker,' arguing it demeaned slaves and working mothers 'in the context of relative privilege'."

2016 watch (Chris Christie edition)
Politico reports that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was kicked off an Amtrak "quiet car" for talking on his phone.

Monday, October 26, 2015
First world problem: live-streaming NFL games isn't always TV quality.


The New York Times reports:
Congressional leaders and the Obama administration are close to a crucial budget deal that would modestly increase domestic spending over the next two years, make cuts in social programs and raise the federal borrowing limit. The accord would avert a potentially cataclysmic default on the government’s debt and dispense with perhaps the most divisive issue in Washington just before Speaker John A. Boehner is expected to turn over his gavel to Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin.
While congressional aides cautioned that the deal was not yet clinched, officials briefed on the negotiations said the emerging accord would increase spending by $80 billion, not including emergency war funding, over two years above the previously agreed-upon budget caps.
Those increases would be offset by cuts in spending on Medicare and Social Security disability benefits, as well as savings or revenue from an array of other programs, including changes to the nation’s strategic petroleum reserves.
We could rightly argue that the spending increases are unnecessary, but it's good to see Congress doing its job and agreeing to a budget.
While both sides (the Congressional Republican leadership and the White House) deny any deal is done, the Times speculates on its political fallout:
An accord to lift the debt ceiling and settle the spending impasse before then would free Mr. Ryan to begin his speakership with a clean slate, and potentially empower him to pursue some of the bold ideas he has put forward previously on tax and budget policy that helped catapult him to prominence and led to his being chosen as the Republican vice-presidential nominee in 2012.
A Paul Ryan-led Republican Party pursuing tax policy reform or other budget changes would be most welcome.

Advice to Stephen Harper on how to be a former prime minister
Stephen Azzi of Carleton University has some good advice for Stephen Harper as he enters his post-political life. Some of it is mundane -- don't attempt a comeback, go make some real money to live a comfortable retirement -- but some of it is much more important. I don't care much for the advice on how to "contribute abroad" and that doesn't seem very much like Harper (although he could continue pushing maternal health in the international arena). The best advice Azzi gives is about writing a memoir: use a ghost-writer and be honest, don't settle scores but let readers see your side of the story, take time before publishing it and write for posterity (historians) not short-term sales (the public); be more Pearson than Diefenbaker, and avoid being Trudeau. Harper should remember that prime minister's reputations are decided in part by historians which are influenced by memoirs. That last point is exaggerated -- politics plays a larger role -- but that doesn't mean it's not true up to a point.

Selling out principle for political victory
John Robson says it's a bad idea, but it's even worse when it doesn't work. The smart strategists tell us politics isn't "about principle, it's about winning," but as Robson observes, "they didn't win." The main problem of pragmatism over principle is that "the dictates of amoral political manoeuvring soon have you hiding them [conservative principles] from even yourself." Abandoning fiscal prudence and broad-based tax cuts, gutting the military and silencing social conservatives, got Canada a Trudeau back into 24 Sussex (at least figuratively, for now). As Robson observes, the conservative party wins majority government about once every quarter century, so they should do something substantial with it.

Sunday, October 25, 2015
The Toronto Star: "Justin Trudeau hailed for his bhangra dancing skills."

What I'm reading
1. The Big Blue Machine: How Tory Campaign Backrooms Changed Canadian Politics Forever by J. Patrick Boyer
2. Open Standards and the Digital Age: History, Ideology, and Networks by Andrew L. Russell. Got this last year and am just getting around to it.
3. "Feasible Pharmacare in the Federation: A Proposal to Break the Gridlock," a C.D. Howe Institute study by Åke Blomqvist and Colin Busby
4. "US Medical Devices: Choices and Consequences," a Mercatus Center study by Richard Williams, Robert Graboyes, and Adam Thierer
5. "Beyond Repair? America’s Infrastructure Crisis Is Local," a Manhattan Institute study by Aaron M. Renn
6. "The Making of a Prime Minister: Inside Trudeau’s epic victory," the cover story in this week's Maclean's

Ready for the job?
The CBC:
But as the son of the man who led the country for almost 16 years, Trudeau has more experience in the upper echelons of Canadian political power than most rookie PMs — certainly more than Stephen Harper did when he became prime minister in 2006.
So, to be clear, the state broadcaster thinks that spending time at 24 Sussex Drive up to the age of 12 gives the Dauphin "experience in the upper echelons of Canadian political power." He spent time near that power, even as a baby in car seat on the table as cabinet deliberated, but to consider that meaningful is ridiculous.
The lessons Justin claims to have learned about his father's style in making decisions (listening to his advisers) 1) doesn't jibe with has been written about Pierre's style by those who worked around him and 2) smells like a deliberate attempt to create a narrative that he is ready for the job of prime minister. But as University of Toronto political science professor Nelson Wiseman told the CBC, Justin Trudeau probably didn't learn that much being around powerful people at an age when he was likely playing on those trips abroad. It is one thing meeting foreign leaders and being around political power, quite another to learn lessons in childhood that stick in adulthood.

Northern California vs. southern California
Two excellent, broader observations made by Steve Sailer as he weighs in on the on-going debate on northern California vs. southern California.
The first concerns claims about the internet:
[A] lot of it is just the winner-take-all nature of geographic concentrations of industry, which the Information Superhighway was supposed to obviate. Instead, the Information Superhighway made Silicon Valley immensely rich.
The second is about liberalism:
But, yeah, a big reason that Southern California’s per capita income is so much lower today than Northern California’s today is because of Moynihan’s Law of the Canadian Border. Northern California figured out how to mask elitism with liberalism earlier.
And, of course, when it comes to California's standard of living, proximity to the Mexican border and invasive immigration is an issue, too.

Criminal justice reform
George Will has a good column examining the facts and arguments in U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Alex Kozinski's Georgetown Law Journal article listing the numerous problems with traditional evidence in criminal justice cases: everything from eye witness testimony to coerced confessions contribute to an intolerable level of error in convictions. As Will notes: "If the error rate is 1 percent, 22,000 innocent people are in prison. If the rate is 5 percent, the number is 110,000." Either number is way too many; police and prosecutors -- the state -- needs to do better.

Contrary to some reports, the Catholic Church is not changing fundamental moral teaching
Francis X. Rocca in the Wall Street Journal reports on the Synod in Rome:
Catholic bishops handed Pope Francis an embarrassing defeat Saturday by withholding support for one of his signature initiatives— a pathway for Catholics who have divorced and remarried to receive Communion—thus showing the strength of conservative resistance to the pope’s liberalizing agenda ...
The final report of a bishops’ meeting on the family, called a synod, omitted any mention of the Communion question, the most fiercely debated topic during five weeks of discussion over the course of a year. Instead, the document called for greater integration of divorced-and-remarried Catholics in the church while “avoiding every occasion of scandal,” suggesting that such Catholics might be allowed to play a larger role in worship, education and other church activities. Divorced-and-remarried Catholics currently face restrictions on a range of activities, including serving as godparents and performing special roles at Mass.

Saturday, October 24, 2015
Sunny ways
Richard Anderson at The Rebel:
The theme of Trudeau Junior's victory oration was toleration and "sunny ways." Yet the origin of Laurier's famous phrase is quite specific and grounded in a vital moment in Canadian history. Trudeau uses Laurier's catch phrase as an expression of vapid optimism. By contrast Laurier originated the phrase when advocating a specific political strategy to resolve a national crisis.
The crisis was the Manitoba schools crisis, and Laurier persuaded Manitoba Premier Thomas Greenway to accept a compromise. Anderson says that the Trudeaus seem to prefer coercion over persuasion.

Whole Foods vs. other grocery stores
Market Watch reports on a price comparison at four San Francisco grocery stores for a dozen products and found that Whole Foods is not always that much more expensive that its competitors. Two problems with this report: not all products are identical so some stores might be offering better quality for the higher price and San Fran is not the typical city as grocery prices are on average 12% higher there (which might bring other stores closer in line with Whole Foods).

David Warren on Justin Trudeau's election
Essayist and erstwhile journalist David Warren at the Manhattan Institute: "The Triumph of Drivel." Warren writes:
Perhaps I should explain what I mean by “drivel.” I could write “lies,” but these are only possible to those who have criteria for the truth. Drivel is what people talk who have no such criteria. The fact that what they’re saying may be true, or untrue, is of no significance to them. It is enough that it sounds plausible. The truthful man knows when he is lying; the postmodern man neither knows nor cares. He can believe himself “good,” as drivellers will do, because truth doesn’t come into it.
The old-style politician told knowing lies. The new-style politician doesn’t know what “lies” are. He uses the term rhetorically, against anything he doesn’t want to hear. The old-style politician would back down when confronted with the truth. The new-style politician doesn’t know what you are talking about. He assumes you are only trash-talking him.
“The people” believe in drivel, too, as they have just proved. As I’ve mentioned before, a growing percentage of the general voting population has been morally and intellectually debilitated—“idiotized” is my preferred term—by postmodern media and education, and by spiritual neglect within (often broken) postmodern homes.

After Harper
Paul Wells says in Maclean's that some Tory MPs are not pleased that former Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper plans to stay on as MP. Of course some Conservative MPs, staffers, and strategists will be unhappy, but one assumes that unlike John Diefenbaker, Harper isn't sticking around for years afterwards. No one was pleased when Jim Prentice resigned his seat the night the Alberta Progressive Conservatives lost government back in May, and if Harper resigned his seat immediately or in the days after, he would be attacked for quitting so soon. It is easy to imagine that Harper will resign in six months or a year, seldom showing up in the House of Commons. But if he wants to remain MP, he would add a lot to the intellectual firepower of the opposition benches. Whether it is good politics is another question. As for the difficulty that Harper's presence in the first caucus meetings presents in terms of having an honest discussion of what went wrong, that's the problem of those MPs too afraid to speak the truth, presumably to confront the man they'd blame behind his back.

Cultural barbarians
At Taki's Magazine, Theodore Dalrymple writes about the production of Hamlet at the National Theatre starring Benedict Cumberbatch:
The text of the play was considerably hacked about, but of course it is always shortened in performance because, if not shortened, it would take about five hours to perform. No doubt the choice of which passages to cut will never please everyone, but I and many others could not help noticing with displeasure the omission of Polonius’ famous lines addressed to his son, Laertes, as he departs for university:
Neither a borrower nor a lender be
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
Why, we may ask, were these lines omitted? Could it be coincidence that the National Theatre is entirely dependent on government subsidy, a government that itself runs the highest deficit in the Western world, and that the principal political controversy in the country concerns its attempts to reduce that deficit? Polonius’ speech from which these lines were omitted is generally taken to be pompous and ridiculous precisely because it consists of truisms dressed up in sententious language. But truisms are truisms because they are true: Thus it is true that loan oft loses both itself and friend (vide Greece) and borrowing does dull the edge of husbandry (vide Greece). This is not necessarily a message that people dependent for their livelihood on subsidies from profligate borrowers would want bruited abroad.
And the play concluded with an appeal to "a disingenuous charity," Save the Children, "a department of state, or at least of the politico-bureaucratic class."
(HT: Five Feet of Fury)

Scientific American reports on an Australian team of doctors who reattached a severed spinal cord, enabling a 16-month-old boy to walk again within weeks. Medical advances are generally under-appreciated improvements to human welfare.

The rich got sicker
Research at the University of Southern Denmark found that wealthy and urban people in the Middle Ages were sicker and died earlier due to increased exposure to lead and mercury.

McInnes on Trudeau
At Rebel Media, Gavin McInnes explains "Canada has elected a retard for prime minister." And "his whole persona is his stupidity." It is the end result of "multiculturalism run amok." And we ended up this way because of "the pompous douche, Pierre Trudeau." Looking at the Trudeaus Elder and Younger, "it will be fun quantifying who's worse?" And now "Canada is a fucking mess" which will be "great fodder" for people like Gavin McInnes.

Friday, October 23, 2015
2016 watch (Jeb Bush edition)
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush is cutting salaries and staff, which Hot Air reminds us is what former Texas governor Rick Perry did before dropping out, leading AllahPundit to comment: "Bush told Megyn Kelly last night that he’s in this race for the long haul. We’ll see about that." He also says:
It’s hard to believe the donors are going to be that patient, though, especially if Jeb underwhelms at the third debate next week. I’ve been babbling for a month now that Wednesday night realistically is probably his last chance to keep most of his wealthiest donors in the fold. If he does poorly and Rubio does well, why would anyone continue to stick it out with Bush? Today’s news only compounds the problem. Poll-wise, financially, in every conceivable way ... he looks like a candidate whose campaign is dying. Wednesday could be the coup de grace.
It's the beginning of the end.

Cowen on free college tuition for all (or nearly all)
Tyler Cowen on the politics of free tuition:
It could be the goal is not “college for more people” but simply to redistribute income to students who otherwise would have debt burdens. But they, with their above average human capital, are not the most deserving recipients of additional redistribution. Might a cynic wonder if this is simply a way to reward a constituency which often votes Democratic? Or a way to make the Republican Congress look like meanies?
And after considering the economics of it, Cowen says:
In the short run higher ed quality will go down, and in the longer run the move away from tuition support will imply more fiscal starvation for these institutions rather than less.
In sum, let’s not do this.

Most racism isn't
James Lileks at NRO: "The Twitterverse Strikes Back against the Phantom Menace of Anti–Star Wars Racists!" Lileks says:
Some people will always be mad at something for not being something else, and mad at you for not being as mad as they are. Every day is a festival of fuming. It’s fun! Gives you the illusion of purpose.
This is why I don't care when people are offended by something. Being offended is not about the offense or the offender, but the offended. It's narcissism.

Thursday, October 22, 2015
Economic fallout of Trudeau's victory
BMO economists Douglas Porter and Benjamin Reitzes analyze the market reaction to the Liberal majority victory on Monday (hardly any at all) and the likely economic impact of the Liberal promises:
Note that the fiscal boost is even a bit bigger than $10 billion (or 0.5% of GDP), since finances are assumed to have started in a small surplus over the next two years. For instance, the Liberal plan looks for a budget deficit of $9.5 billion in FY2017/18, but was assuming a starting point of a $2.2 billion surplus, for a net swing of $11.7 billion (close to 0.6% of GDP).
The net measures are roughly evenly split between $5 billion of additional infrastructure spending (itself split between public transit, social and green project) and a wide variety of measures including an enhanced child benefit, spending on the environment, veterans, culture, indigenous peoples, health care and jobs training. Note that new revenue measures (i.e. tax hikes) will almost exactly offset any tax relief measures in the Liberal platform, indicating that any net new fiscal stimulus will almost entirely fall on the spending side of the ledger. The overall thrust of the tax measures is redistribution. From an investor perspective, the concern could be whether the government could in fact begin to rein in the deficit three to four years down the line. After all, it’s easy to start spending, but it’s much tougher to unwind that spending.
The net fiscal boost—and we can all debate the appropriateness of running deficits—will give at least a short-term lift to economic growth, with most of the impact landing in 2016. We do not believe that there is a significant multiplier effect to fiscal policy in Canada, given the openness of the economy and relatively high taxation rates. At best, the stimulus would lift GDP growth by a bit more than 0.5% next year ...

2016 watch (Joe Biden edition)
Vice President Joe Biden announced he will not run for the Democratic presidential nominee. Hot Air says, "With him goes any mystery about who the Democratic nominee will be." Investor's Business Daily editorializes that the fix was in and the nomination is going to Hillary Clinton. The Wall Street Journal editorializes that Biden was unable to do the one thing he needed to take Hillary Clinton out:
Lacking a policy rationale that isn’t Mrs. Clinton’s, the Veep might have run as a more authentic, populist heir to Mr. Obama. But to steal the nomination, he would have inevitably had to challenge her ethics and character, as his boss did in 2008. If Mr. Biden wasn’t cold blooded enough for a grim, grind-it-out slog against the Clinton machine, his entry may well have spoiled a third Obama term.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Trudeau pal Kathleen Wynne's MO

A few thoughts on the Tory leadership race
I certainly have my favourites and list of potential leaders I don't want to see run to head up the Conservative Party of Canada, and while there is a great deal of discussion about this and perhaps even a few meetings already, it's too early to analyze anyone's chances or hop on a bandwagon quite yet.
But there is four items worth observing.
The rules and timing of the contest will make a big difference, especially for someone like Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, who has a provincial campaign next Spring.
Doug Ford will talk a lot about being a candidate and he'll point to the Conservative shutout in Toronto and massive loss of seats in the 905 around Toronto, and claim he could win those back. Remember, however, Doug Ford talked a lot about running for the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership earlier this year but ultimately did not throw his hat in the ring. Doug Ford talks a big game, but that's all he is: talk. He should be ignored. I'm not saying he needs the media attention and adulation of Ford Nation, but the ratio of Doug Ford achievement to Doug Ford media coverage is not one that should encourage his entry into the contest.
If the Trudeau Liberals enact electoral reform for the next election, the Conservative leadership might not be a prize worth winning for many potential candidates. Of course, Team Trudeau knows this. The leadership race will come before electoral reform, but it will be on some candidates' minds.
Lastly, Conservatives should ignore the talking heads on TV, especially network journalists, who advise the party to become "more progressive." Robert Fife and Don Martin do not have the interests of the Conservative Party in mind when offering advice. Maybe the party needs to downplay moral or cultural issues (I'd disagree) but Conservatives should not take their cues from hacks.

Me on Canada's prime minister-designate
I'm quoted in the LifeSiteNews coverage of the Canadian election:
Offering an equally bleak assessment of the eldest son of former PM Pierre Elliott Trudeau was Paul Tuns, the editor of the national pro-life newspaper The Interim.
“Like his father, Justin Trudeau is a left-wing ideologue who wants to remake Canada in his own radical image,” said Tuns, who recently published “The Dauphin: The Truth About Justin Trudeau.”
The Liberal leader will try “to foist upon the country social change that will include expanded abortion, permissive euthanasia, easy access to drugs, and other departures from moral sanity and our cultural tradition, all under the guise of promoting Canadian values and the Charter of Rights,” Tuns predicts.
Moreover, “he’s the most pro-abortion politician I’ve every seen.”

Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Me on Harper
Jeremey Lott interviewed after the election last night for an AMI article. The material concludes the report:
A Trudeau skeptic says Harper's record since he took over in 2006 “is a record of conservative achievement” that might be hard for the Liberals to efface any time soon.
“Despite some large deficits in the midst of the great recession, [the Conservative Party under Harper] opened up Canada for business,” Paul Tuns, author of the critical biography “The Dauphin: The Truth About Justin Trudeau,” told AMI.
Speaking late Monday night after it was clear the Conservatives had lost, Tuns said Harper “successfully challenged the assumption that Canada was a fundamentally liberal country” and proved that “a great number of Canadians hold conservative economic and social values.”

Know the new leader of Canada
In June I published The Dauphin: The Truth about Justin Trudeau. You can order the ebook through Amazon for $9.99. You can order the paperback through the Campaign Life Coalition website for $21.95 plus shipping. (CLC supported about 90 Conservative candidates, and about 50 of them won.)

2016 watch (Jim Webb edition)
National Review political reporter Brendan Bordelon says that former Virginia senator Jim Webb doesn't like the way he's being treated in the Democratic primary, where he is polling 1% nationally, and may run as an independent candidate. Webb is largely irrelevant except in one important way: Virginia is a swing state that both parties covet and his presence on the ballot could make the difference there, where he is still popular. Webb is a bit of an uneasy fit with the Democrats, especially with his pro-gun stand and on some foreign policy issues. He could make life difficult for a Democrat in 2016.

I wish, like Rick McGinnis, I spoiled my ballot
Today, for only the fourth time in my life, I cast a ballot for a candidate in a federal or provincial election. On the same day, apparently I was an inspiration for Rick McGinnis to spoil his ballot:
My friend and editor Paul Tuns was the first person who ever told me that spoiling my ballot wasn't just an option, but a principled one. He ended up voting Tory this time around, but his rationalization included a thought that made the conspicuous gesture of a spoiled ballot seem almost creative.
No sooner had I voted than I regretted it. I wish I spoiled my ballot, for mostly the same reasons Rick explains:
It wasn't fun. I hope I never have to do it again, but that would mean a future with better politicans and superior politics, and I can't see that happening. Staying at home would be a franchise wasted; making the effort to dig up my papers and identification and walk to the polling place to say "none of the above" isn't apathy, but it is an admission that I've slipped away from the apparent majority of the population who can express joy or disappointment at the results of an election. I can still complain, but without much passion or outrage; this time around, I didn't think anyone had a better idea.
I disagree with one thing: spoiling one's ballot can be fun, or at least certainly more fun than putting an "X" beside the name of a bloody politician, even if they half deserve it.

Don't expect miracles
A good article in Maclean's about how Justin Trudeau won't turn around the economy overnight, mostly because Canada is susceptible to global economic forces. There is only so much ramped up infrastructure spending can do.

What pundits aren't talking about
In previous elections, there was much talk about how the popular vote didn't match each party's seat count and therefore maybe Canada needed electoral reform. There was talk about how the majority of voters cast ballots against the Conservatives and once you took into account non-voters, only about a quarter of Canadians backed the Harper government, thereby implicitly questioning their rule. None of that talk this time. Just about 26% of eligible voters cast a ballot for the Liberals. Six in ten voters backed a party other than the Liberals. The Liberals won a majority of seats with just 40% of the vote. None of this matters, but at one time it did matter to a certain type of voter.
But it will be interesting to see if there is still Liberal enthusiasm for electoral reform. Earlier this year, Justin Trudeau promised this would be the last election under the first-past-the-post rules. I hope it isn't, and this is one promise I look forward to Justin Trudeau breaking. (I'm afraid he'll keep all the dumb promises and break the defensible ones.)

And don't forget about Craig Oliver

The Trudeau Party
If you don't include Jean Chretien's three victories when the political right was divided in Canada, the Liberals have not elected a majority without the aid of a Trudeau at the top of the party, since Louis St-Laurent won in 1953.

Monday, October 19, 2015
Amending my prediction
Fixing my model for turnout, momentum, new inside info (from Liberals and Tories) I'll take 30 seats away from the NDP and 10 from Conservatives and give the Liberals a majority: 195+ seats and 40% nation-wide.

My model based on the better polls (national, regional, and riding), inside information, and my own tweaks has the Conservatives with a narrow minority and less than a one-percent advantage nationally. My gut says that is unlikely with a sizable Liberal minority (150 seats), and yet I wouldn't be surprised to see that voter turnout around 68% which helps give the Liberals a comfortable majority.
My model:
Conservatives: 139 seats (35.3%)
Liberals: 134 seats (34.6%)
NDP: 57 seats (21.7%)
Bloc Quebecois: 8 seats (4.9%)
Green: 1 seat (3.5%)
Liberals win most of Toronto. Conservatives max out at two (Scarborough Center and York Centre). NDP win Davenport and Danforth and maybe Trinity-Spadina. Conservatives win majority of 905 seats with significant losses in Mississauga and Brampton.
Close three-way race in Quebec among Liberals, NDP and Conservatives, which each winning at least 20 seats in the province. CPC does well in Quebec City, Liberals take most of Montreal.
Conservatives escape with at least four in New Brunswick but max out with four in Atlantic Canada.
Liberals make only modest breakthrough in Manitoba.
NDP picks up one in Edmonton. Liberals pick up one in Calgary.
My gut.
Liberals: 156 seats (37.1%)
Conservatives 110 (32.4%)
NDP: 65 seats (22.5%)
Bloc Quebecois: 6 seats (4.8%)
Green: 1 seat (3.2%)
Conservatives lose all but two seats in New Brunswick seats in Atlantic Canada.
Conservatives lose half of Kitchener and Ottawa seats.
Liberals sweep all but two in Toronto and sweep Mississauga and Brampton. Liberals make major breakthrough in Manitoba. Liberals take 3-5 in Calgary.
I know this seems like hedging my bets. But my instincts and data are at odds.

#Elxn42 whining, griping, snark, rejoicing
Tonight I'll mostly be on Twitter. Follow me.

This picture is gross, and McCullough's sentiment is exactly right.

Prime Minister Trudeau?
Gerry Nicholls in the Toronto Sun:
If you’re a conservative you likely find the idea of “Prime Minister Trudeau” only slightly less horrifying than a zombie apocalypse.
But should it really scare conservatives that a left-wing, ex-drama teacher with little life experience and even less governing experience could soon be calling the shots at 24 Sussex Drive?
And that he’ll be charting our nation’s course through uncertain economic waters in an increasingly dangerous world?
Nicholls says the inexperience and platitude-driven Trudeau is not likely to help Canada on the economic and foreign policy files.
Every wonder if political reporters and pundits salivate at the idea of a Trudeau II Ministry not because they are themselves liberal (and Liberals), but because the shitshow that will be Ottawa politics will just be so much more fun to cover?

The beautiful thing about freedom is the liberty to do -- and don't
At the Fraser Institute blog, economist William Watson says vote if you want to, don't if you're not inclined to politics or are indifferent.
For me, I'm generally indifferent to the results and am knowledgeable enough (as is Watson) to understand that my vote doesn't matter when it comes to determining who wins. Voting matters for most people as part of their self-narrative (and often as part of their smug satisfaction that they are better than the one-third of people who are rationally disinterested in politics). That said, self-narrative is why I'm voting this time: to put into action my contempt for the low and despicable Liberal campaign to bully people into feeling guilty about their skepticism over the niqab. I will be voting Conservative. Liberals and their allies in the media and academia attacking the Conservatives for dog-whistle politics, as they did, was implicitly and disgustingly an attack on voters. So my vote today is a giant "fuck you" to them. Not that it matters. Next year everything I hate about government will still be in place: I will have to pay confiscatory income taxes, I will be compelled to justify my border-crossings to strangers, I won't have the freedom to buy private health care coverage, the state will continue to be indifferent to the killing of preborn children, and the list goes on and on. Almost nothing will be better, although if the Liberals are elected things might get much worse over time and my children will have to pay higher taxes to pay for Team Trudeau's vanity that they know how to spend money better than Canadians themselves do. So it's illogical that I'm voting, but that, too, is the beauty of freedom: it doesn't have to make sense.
I also do this with some trepidation, as it weakens my self-narrative about being a non-voter.

Conservatives should want to work with NDP to stop Liberals from regaining power
I have the feeling it won't matter, but ...

Sunday, October 18, 2015
What I'm reading
1. Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction by Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner
2. Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle
3. Red, White, and Kind of Blue?: The Conservatives and the Americanization of Canadian Constitutional Culture by David Schneiderman

2016 watch (Joe Biden watch edition)
Howard Fineman has a column at Huffington Post on the unending speculation of whether Vice President Joe Biden and his wounded heart will finally actually decide to run for the Democratic presidential nomination. Fineman is clearly fed up with Biden's constant mentioning of his dead son Beau, concluding, "Either way, Biden looks less and less like a father stalled by grief and more and more like a manipulative politician. So in that sense he has already lost, no matter what he decides." I'm not sure many people would agree, or if it would matter if Biden is the one who can stop Hillary Clinton and save the Democrats their chance for a rare third consecutive term.
I also didn't realize that Howard Fineman was still a thing.

You can beat city hall school board bureaucrats
Samizdata notes a story on a British father who fought back against officials who fined him for taking his daughter to Florida during classes and thus violating Section 444 of the Education Act 1996 which says, "(1)If a child of compulsory school age who is a registered pupil at a school fails to attend regularly at the school, his parent is guilty of an offence." Samizdata's Mr. Ed says that the courts have sensibly decided that regular attendance does not mean total attendance.
Note to parents: taking your kids out of school lessens the child abuse known as compulsory, universal, public education. Withdraw them from classes often.

Study on sleep: questioning the eight-hours of sleep standard
Hot Air reports on a study of three tribes -- Hadza of Tanzania, the San of Namibia, and the Tsimane of Bolivia -- which found incredibly similar sleep patterns: they sleep just under 6.5 hours a night, don't nap, don't go to sleep immediately after dark, spend more time in bed than they sleep. The patterns are similar to those in industrial nations. Hot Air's Jazz Shaw concludes: "Maybe we’re not built to sleep eight hours every night."
Me: Sleep is for people who have nothing better to do.

Is Transspeciesism a thing?

Will on inequality
Excellent column on inequality by George Will:
The fundamental producer of income inequality is freedom. Individuals have different aptitudes and attitudes. Not even universal free public education, even were it well done, could equalize the ability of individuals to add value to the economy. Besides, some people want to teach, others want to run hedge funds. In an open society, rewards are set not by political power but by impersonal market forces, the rewards of which will differ dramatically but usually predictably. Beyond freedom’s valuable fecundity in producing unequal social outcomes, four other facets of today’s America fuel inequality.
The other four causes: "the entitlement state transfer[ing] wealth regressively," "regulatory government ... serves the strong," zero interest-rate policy [which has] not restored the economic dynamism essential for social mobility," and "family disintegration." All of these causes are elaborated upon. Will also quotes from Harry G. Frankfurt’s new brief book On Inequality: "It is misguided to endorse economic egalitarianism as an authentic moral ideal." Yet, paradoxically, the Left, which claims to care about inequality -- at least many progressives never shut up about it -- promote policies and ideologies that exacerbate income inequality.

Are you ready for Trudeau-Wynne?

The case against Trudeau

Saturday, October 17, 2015
Public sector more likely to violate pollution regulations
A study highlighted by Tyler Cowen finds that public facilities are more likely to break federal pollution regulations than private facilities:
For power plants and hospitals, public facilities were on average 9 percent more likely to be out of compliance with Clean Air Act regulations and 20 percent more likely to have committed high-priority violations.
For water utilities, public facilities had on average 14 percent more Safe Drinking Water Act health violations and were 29 percent more likely to commit monitoring violations.
And of course, they were more likely to escape severe punishment:
Public power plants and hospitals that violated the Clean Air Act were 1 percent less likely than private-sector violators to receive a punitive sanction and 20 percent less likely to be fined.
Public water utilities that violated Safe Drinking Water Act standards were 3 percent less likely than investor-owned utilities to receive formal enforcement actions.

2016 watch (Jeb Bush edition)
The former Florida governor's Wall Street donors haven't written off Jeb Bush. The Wall Street Journal reports, "Of the top 10 employers listed by Mr. Bush’s donors, half are financial firms: Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Neuberger Berman and Barclays." And Bush raised about $200K in the third quarter from financial firm employees, which is not only less than he raised in his first 15 days as a candidate, but a little more than half of what Mitt Romney raised in the third quarter of 2011. This is important:
Tea Party leader Mark Meckler, president of Citizens for Self-Governance, noted that Wall Street—which typically gets behind candidates viewed as likely winners—isn’t lurching toward the candidates at the top of the polls. Instead, the financial industry is spreading its money around the GOP field, with the most going to Mr. Bush.

Not sure why selling ads on front page is different than selling inside the paper?

The rich are getting richer ...
But the poor are also improving their standard of living. At Chelsea German says that as products get better, a dollar buys more than it used to and the well-being of the poor is improving.

Why we need to be skeptical of global studies
Open Data: "Only Half of Countries Have Reliable Poverty Data." It was only one study but there is a reason the World Bank is working with poor countries to improve their data collection capabilities.

Friday, October 16, 2015
Apparently Canadian newspaper endorsements are dumb but endorsements from washed-up British celebrities are welcome

Vote for Harper and against hate
The Financial Post's Peter Foster has a good column on what some call Harper Derangement Syndrome, noting that the hate-on the Left has for Stephen Harper is both baseless and ugly. The animus against Harper is based on, Foster notes, what Gerry Nicholls calls the "not one of us" snottiness of the elites. Read the whole column.

Quote of the day is warning to Canadian voters
Samizdata highlights Polish central bank governor Marek Belka's quote: "Reason goes to sleep during election campaigns. Sometimes it is said elections are like the fiesta of democracy, which is true, but electoral campaigns are like bachelor parties which culminate in huge hangovers and sometimes culminate in disasters." The quote is about Polish politics, but applies everywhere, maybe especially Canada right now.

Newspaper endorsements
I'm reminded by Stephen Taylor that this weekend we will be looking at which newspapers endorse which parties. They may not sway votes but they are part of the political discussion among the country's elite. Wikipedia tracks such endorsements, with this year's list here and the 2011 endorsements here. The Winnipeg Free Press, and Toronto Star-owned papers in Hamilton and Kitchener will endorse the Liberals. The Ottawa Citizen will likely endorse local candidates. The Post/Sun papers will largely either endorse the Tories outright, back the idea of a chastened Conservative minority, or not endorse. We should expect more papers to explain that they are not endorsing and why. Partisans will, of course, hype their own endorsements why claiming they don't matter as they dismiss the endorsements of their opponents/whine about media bias.