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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Monday, November 30, 2015
Secretary Clinton and candidate Clinton
The Associated Press examined then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's calendar:
As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton opened her office to dozens of influential Democratic party fundraisers, former Clinton administration and campaign loyalists, and corporate donors to her family's global charity, according to State Department calendars obtained by The Associated Press.
The woman who would become a 2016 presidential candidate met or spoke by phone with nearly 100 corporate executives and long-time Clinton political and charity donors during her four years at the State Department between 2009 and 2013, records show. Those formally scheduled meetings involved heads of companies and organizations that pursued business or private interests with the Obama administration, including with the State Department while Clinton was in charge.
The AP found no evidence of legal or ethical conflicts in Clinton's meetings in its examination of 1,294 pages from the calendars. Her sit-downs with business leaders were not unique among recent secretaries of state, who sometimes summoned corporate executives to aid in international affairs, documents show.
But the difference with Clinton's meetings was that she was a 2008 presidential contender who was widely expected to run again in 2016. Her availability to luminaries from politics, business and charity shows the extent to which her office became a sounding board for their interests.
1. What a tangled mess. It might not matter. But it could and it should.
2. Yes, "everybody does it," but that doesn't make it right. And the Clintons seem to do it more.
3. You would think that Hillary Clinton would be more discrete, more cautious.
4. There is too much government and therefore justifiably a lot of interest on the part of private interests in currying favour with those in power.
5. There is a lot of money in politics and therefore justifiably great interest on the part of so-called public servants in currying favour with those with wealth.

Sunny ways

Steyn on 'Theme from New York, New York'
"Send in the Clowns" and "Theme from New York, New York" are my two favourite Frank Sinatra songs, the latter edging out the former because of the many memories of leaving Yankee Stadium to it, which is looped and joined in by thousands of fans (which is quite the experience). Mark Steyn looks at "one of the biggest Sinatra recordings of all time." A snippet:
I believe the very first time Frank Sinatra sang "New York, New York" was at the Waldorf-Astoria on October 13th 1978, at a benefit for the Mercy Hospital. The eleven months between that first performance and the eventual recording were spent Sinatrafying the song, until he'd got it just the way he wanted it. As Vincent Falcone recalls:
At one point he said to me 'We will never record a song again until we have done it on stage for four or five months' - because he wanted to have the opportunity to fully develop the idea of the song, until he got it to the point that he wanted it.
There are references to the interconnecting stories of the Yankees, Liza Minnelli, and the critically acclaimed but unwatched Arrested Development.

Good question

Worstall questions the math on size of Greece's prostitution industry
The number of shags doesn't quite compute, says Tim Worstall, regarding what one source estimates is a €600 million sex trade industry in Greece, while prices have declined since the financial crisis to as low as €2 a pop.

Carbon pricing and crony capitalism
The Toronto Sun's Lorrie Goldstein: "Why business loves carbon pricing: Because, as in the case with Ontario and Alberta, they’re getting billions of dollars in government subsidies to support it." About Alberta's ostensible climate change policy, Goldstein writes:
Trevor Tombe, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Calgary, tweeted that Notley’s $30-a-tonne carbon tax will raise roughly $6 billion annually in 2018 and that the money will be disbursed in the following ways.
About $2.9 billion, or 49%, will go to large industrial emitters of greenhouse gases in what Tombe described as a “huge” output subsidy program.
And about Ontario's carbon scheme:
As a government working paper puts it, the Wynne government “is proposing all industrial and institutional sectors will have an assistance factor of 100% in the first compliance system period ... of 2017 to 2020.” In the first year of cap-and-trade in 2017, the Wynne government, which estimates it will take in $1.3 billion annually to start, will set the emission cap at what it forecasts will be Ontario’s total emissions that year, without any reduction, meaning a zero decrease in emissions while consumer prices rise.
The problem with public subsidies paid to big polluters in any carbon pricing scheme is that they directly undermine its ostensible purpose, which is not to deliver undeserved, windfall profits to business, but to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Sunday, November 29, 2015
I thought this would end after Harper was defeated

The Right has its own dumb memes/talking points

2016 watch (Trump edition)
The Atlantic reports:
“I have got my mind made up, pretty much so,” says Michael Barnhill, a 67-year-old factory supervisor with a leathery complexion and yellow teeth. “The fact is, politicians have not done anything for our country in a lot of years.” ...
Barnhill is wearing a button he just bought from a vender outside the convention center. It says “TRUMP 2016: FINALLY SOMEONE WITH BALLS.”
I hope he runs with that as his official slogan ... as someone who thinks The Donald is joke but the slogan isn't.

Media slobbering over Maurice Strong
Misses key story in obits.

Value gap in politics
Patrick Ruffini's explicit argument in a series of tweets is that American candidates and parties spend less than what they should on winning.

The administrative state
A few weeks ago I noted Charles J. Cooper's article in National Affairs on the unconstitutional growth of the administrative state, in which the bureaucracy establishes rules without legislative oversight or approval, and increasingly (until recently) little judicial oversight. Justice Clarence Thomas is pushing back against the administrative state. George Will provides the 750-word precis of the article and the issue today. Will, Cooper, and Thomas argue that Congress (nor the presidency) should delegate powers to unelected bureaucrats:
Particularly, it should prevent Congress from delegating to executive agencies the essentially legislative power of formulating “generally applicable rules of private conduct.” Such delegation, Thomas says, erases the distinction between “the making of law, and putting it into effect.” This occurs when Congress — hyperactive, overextended, and too busy for specificity — delegates “policy determinations” that “effectively permit the president to define some or all of the content” of a rule of conduct.
Today, if Congress provides “a minimal degree of specificity” in the instructions it gives to the executive, the Court, Thomas says, abandons “all pretense of enforcing a qualitative distinction between legislative and executive power.” As a result, the Court has “overseen and sanctioned the growth of an administrative system that concentrates the power to make laws and the power to enforce them in the hands of a vast and unaccountable administrative apparatus that finds no comfortable home in our constitutional structure.”

Trudeau summed up by foreign journalist without the fawning
The Hill in a story on Canada's Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau: "Trudeau, the center-left son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, is a former actor, teacher and model who won a resounding majority win despite limited political experience."
(HT: J.J. McCullough)

Saturday, November 28, 2015
2016 watch (HRC edition)
Michael Walsh, author of The Devil’s Pleasure Palace: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West, writes in the New York Post about Hillary Clinton being a congenital liar, from claiming she was named after Sir Edmund Hillary to renewed claims about trying to sign up for the U.S. marines before becoming First Lady of Arkansas. My problem with this criticism is that everyone in America knows that Hillary Clinton is a liar, and they don't care. She's been lying for nearly a quarter century on the national stage. Some are white lies, others are whoopers, but it never matters. Clinton might be vulnerable on criminality (email scandal) and incompetence (name it), but she seems immune to any harm that her dishonesty might cause most other presidential contenders.

Ridding campus of 'racist' statues
Slate reports that some students at some universities are unhappy that Thomas Jefferson is honored with statues and are putting yellow sticky notes labeling him a racist and rapist.
The Ryersonian reports that the Black on Campus Coalition at Ryerson University in Toronto is calling for, among other demands, removal of an Egerton Ryerson statue from Gould Street "because of his ties to the residential school system." Never mind that Ryerson was an early advocate for public education in Upper Canada (Ontario). How long until the BCC (or others) call for changing the name of the school?

Gas taxes
Michael Bargo Jr. writes in American Thinker that in Illinois there are eight different taxes on a gallon of gas, from state sales to environmental taxes. And it's illegal for gas stations to provide a listing of them all.

The trend line reflects ...
1. People like a winner.
2. People want to give their new leader a chance.
3. Justin Trudeau hasn't screwed up massively.
4. Justin Trudeau has a large pool of Liberal, NDP, and Green voters from which to draw support until the next election.
5. The Conservatives are effectively leaderless.
6. The blowjob coverage of the Trudeau government/Trudeau family over the past month.
7. All of the above.

Friday, November 27, 2015
Politics and economics is about property and relationships, but economics is better at it
I don't like the style of this piece, but Michael J. McKay writes for Mises Daily about a point few people understand or truly appreciate:
[I] f you look at politics as simply an argument of how we should organize ourselves, then it becomes obvious that it really boils down to how we know, or don’t know, what property is and how we should deal with it as we relate to each other in life and living.
This is what I was referring to when I said that economics is also about relationships. The connection between economics and politics is how we organize our relationships and whether our ‘shared values’ assume we can have (and want to have) a society based more on peaceful cooperation — or not.
Despite the similarities, economics precedes politics, and politics always too easily invites coercion, including through democratic means.

Evidence that Philadelphia sucks

Red tape closes New Zealand prediction market
Andrew Gelman points out a story from Stuff that illustrates the cumbersomeness of government regulations:
According to the iPredict statement, Associate Justice Minister Simon Bridges refused to grant it an exemption from the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act, declaring that it was a “legitimate money laundering risk” because of the lack of customer due diligence. . . .
Geoff Todd, managing director of VicLink, said the website had been caught in a legal loophole which had caused problems globally.
“Predictions markets aren’t financial markets, and they’re not gambling, but the legislation is very binary. You’re either gambling or you’re a financial market.”
In 2014 InTrade closed after suspending American trading in 2012 because it ran afoul of anti-online gambling regulations.

Foreign policy is hard. Especially for the Dauphin
Michael Petrou of Maclean's comments on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's "vacuous" stance on Syria:
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, at a press conference [Wednesday] in London, was asked whether Russia’s involvement in Syria is helping or hindering the situation there ...
Trudeau began his response, as is sometimes his wont, with a faint and partially suppressed chuckle, as if what he’s about to reveal should be obvious to right-thinking people: “Well, I think one of the most important things that we need to do is establish a level of coherence and cohesiveness even amongst very different actors to ensure that we are moving toward what all of us want, which is greater peace and stability in the region.”
How anyone other than a first-year student at a second-rate university trying to disguise the fact that he hasn’t done the class’s required reading gets away with saying something so utterly vacuous is a mystery one suspects will deepen as Trudeau’s premiership progresses ...
[T]he possible outcomes of the Syrian civil war envisioned by Putin and by opponents of Assad such as Turkey and Canada are fundamentally different. There is no “coherence and cohesiveness,” however much Trudeau might wish it were so.
But there's more:
Trudeau was then asked if he agreed with American President Barack Obama, who after the attack said Turkey has a right to defend its territory, and with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who said NATO members “stand in solidarity with Turkey.”
“I don’t think we’re entirely clear on everything that’s happened right now, and I certainly don’t think that it’s helpful to start off by me choosing to point fingers at one side or the other,” Trudeau said.
He added Canada “absolutely” supports its NATO partner Turkey. But the damage was done. Here was Trudeau seeming to forget that the “one side or the other” in this dispute includes Canada. When the head of NATO says the alliance stands in solidarity with Turkey, we’ve picked a side. Trudeau doesn’t get to stand above the fray and refuse to point fingers.
Justin Trudeau demonstrated his ignorance regarding NATO in 2014, and despite some well-deserved mocking at the time, he hasn't learned from his mistakes. Roland Paris has a lot of work to do, unless Trudeau's foreign policy adviser is part of the problem.
In my book The Dauphin: The Truth about Justin Trudeau, I argue that it is on international issues, in particular, that Trudeau the Younger demonstrates his lack of judgment.

What I'm reading
1. Making a Difference by Dalton McGuinty. Just getting started. It's had lots of media coverage over the past week and will review it for the January Interim. First impression is about the physical book: it is heavy and stately looking. It seems like an impressive and substantial book. Of course, most political memoirs aren't.
2. The Christmas Virtues: A Treasury of Conservative Tales for the Holidays edited by Jonathan V. Last. I should have a review online in a week or so.
3. "Modernizing Regulation in the Canadian Taxi Industry," a Competition Bureau white paper, and its accompanying material. The Toronto Star reported on the white paper and John Pecman, Canada’s Commissioner of Competition, had a column in the Globe and Mail about permitting disruptive technologies in the taxi market.

Ontario economic update
The Toronto Star is painting yesterday's Ontario economic update in rosy terms with Liberal Finance Minister Charles Sousa announcing the province's deficit to come in around $7.5 billion instead of the $8.5 billion estimated in the spring budget. That better-than-expected deficit is a result of the sell-off of 15% of Hydro One, which the Liberal government originally said would go to pay for transit and other infrastructure to reduce gridlock and which brought in about a billion dollars more than estimated when Sousa delivered his budget earlier this year. Now, as the opposition parties have charged, it appears that the Hydro One sale proceeds are going into general revenues to pay for program spending and increasing interest payments (the result of ever-growing debt). The Globe and Mail reports, the Hydro One boost, "is only temporary ... and does not get the province closer to its promise to balance the books in two years."
The media coverage is ignoring the role of low interest rates in the province's ostensibly improving fiscal situation. If interest rates increase -- and they almost certainly have to over the next year or so -- Ontario's declining deficits will turn around quickly. TD Economics in their analysis of the update noted: "A lower-than-expected interest rate environment is expected to save the government roughly $0.6 billion over the next three fiscal years combined." End of story. But low interest rates are also a driver in the inflated housing market, especially in Toronto, which is helping Ontario reap a land transfer windfall. If the housing market cools, that revenue will fall.
The analysis from BMO Nesbitt Burns observes that "program spending is running $400 million higher than the budget plan at $120.9 billion, mainly reflecting new spending in the Green Investment Fund," suggesting the unsustainable and unexpected revenue growth will not be enough for the government to meet its 2017/2018 balanced budget target. Critics on the right will note that the Liberals are not doing enough to control spending. They are doing better than the "recent" average, but probably not enough to meet their 2017 deadline. TD Economics concludes their analysis:
Expenditures in Ontario have grown by an average annual rate of 5.2% since the late 1980’s and by about 2% over the last five years. In light of this, keeping spending growth contained at around 1.3% between FY2015-16 and FY2017-18 – a rate below that of projected inflation – while the economy is growing may be a tall order. As such, getting back to balance by 2017-18 is going to require some hard work on the government’s part.
The Finance Ministry's "2015 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review" has Sousa's statement, a press release, the numbers, and other data (and propaganda). RBC Economics also has an analysis which parrots most of what the other banks said.

Thursday, November 26, 2015
Against certainty
Tyler Cowen reminds us of the Haitian proverb, "if you’re not confused, you don’t know what’s going on." That's true in most cases, but if you think you know when it isn't applicable, you're probably wrong.

Aboriginal women and homicide
The new Statistics Canada homicide numbers (2014) were released yesterday and a focus of it is the stats on aboriginal homicides. The media has covered the disproportionately high number of aboriginal women who are victims of homicide. One quarter of homicide victims are aboriginal, despite being just 5% of the population. Yet the murder rate for aboriginal males is three times higher than among females (10.86 per 100,000 men compared to 3.64 per 100,000 women). What is also notable is that the percentage of cases solved was higher for aboriginals (81%) than non-aboriginal (71%). As with non-aboriginal, more than eight in ten aboriginal victims knew their assailant. Every murder is a serious crime and it appears that the criminal justice system takes aboriginal murders as seriously as they do other murders.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Progressive goals advanced by markets, limited state
Aniruddha Ravisankar,a student at the Paris School of International Affairs, writes a letter in The Freeman to progressives:
There is something incredibly inspiring about caring for others. I share your contempt for the inequities we find within and between countries. It hurts me each time I think about the unnecessary loss of life in the world due to poverty and economic stagnation. I am a classical liberal not because I don’t care for others but because I do. I share your concern for the plight of the poor, I appreciate your desire for change, and I respect your disdain for narrow nationalism and feudalism. It is out of this appreciation that I ask you to come back to your political roots ...
You are right to demand that we be sympathetic to the sufferings of other people and hold up altruism as a virtue. But what is more altruistic than capitalism, which cares not for the color of your skin or your hair but for you as a person? How can you, with such concern for the world’s poor, rally against the international trade that will make their lives better? Isn’t there something incredibly regressive about wanting to slow down capitalist progress?

Liberal calls out Wynne for abusing 'racist' label
The Vancouver Sun reports that former NDP B.C. premier and federal cabinet minister Ujjal Dosanjh has replied to current Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne:
In response to Wynne being quoted saying “what we can’t give into, I think, is allowing security to mask racism,” Dosanjh responded that “in one fell swoop” she was labelling as racist the 67 percent of Canadians who disagree with the government’s “artificial” timeline to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada in the next five or six weeks.
Of course, this is the standard Liberal/liberal MO. During the federal election the Dauphin implied the majority of Canadians who were skeptical of the niqab's place in Canadian society were bigots.

Childhood reading
The Millions has "Six Authors on Their Childhood Reading." There are the standards: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Robinson Crusoe, Moby Dick. I didn't read any of these until university. Excluding The Hobbit and the The Chronicles of Narnia, I didn't read much fiction unless it was assigned by the English teacher and even then I usually got by without reading the assigned books (with the exception of Shakespeare, which I did read). My introduction to Ayn Rand came after I turned 16, and I completed her works before I graduated high school. Until I was 16, I read encyclopedias, comic books, Mad, our regional newspaper The London Free Press, The Economist from the public library, whichever weekly newsmagazines my parents were subscribing to (Newsweek, Time or Maclean's), various hockey and baseball magazines to which I subscribed, and beginning when I was 16 National Review and The Spectator, which my conservative English and Religion teacher introduced to several of us right-leaning students. At some point in high school I read a bunch of Marx, Trotsky, Lenin, and Marcuse and thought I understood it. No fiction stands out as influential (even Rand -- I preferred her essays, and still do). I was reading the paper, newsweeklies, Baseball Digest, The Hockey News, and Hockey Digest before I was ten, but have no recollection of reading books. I do recall my parents, both teachers, reading to me every night as a young child, but nothing that would count as literature.
I don't feel like a missed much because I "caught" up quickly in university, yet an appreciation of literature at a young age is something worth inculcating in kids, and we do with our children. My four oldest, which span Grade 5 to 25 years old, are all voracious readers of both fiction and non-fiction, and some of those books have been influential, dare say formative, to who they are. I don't regret not having this experience, but I do regret not having a story about such an experience.

Stupid polls
Public Policy Polling asked which candidate seeking the GOP or Democratic presidential nomination would ruin Thanksgiving. No prize for guessing who won. Hillary Clinton finished second and Bernie Sanders third, but together they still wouldn't "win." Clinton finished first for the candidate respondents would most like to have over for dinner, followed by Ben Carson and Donald Trump.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015
State lotteries vs. fantasy sports
BuzzFeed reports:
In New York’s legal complaint against DraftKings last week, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman dropped this data nugget: “DraftKings data show that 89.3% of [daily fantasy sports] players had an overall negative return on investment across 2013 and 2014.” That is: Just 10.7% of players broke even or made money.
New York, of course, is no stranger to gambling: It runs the country’s largest state lottery. So, BuzzFeed News wondered, how do daily fantasy sites’ odds stack up against New York’s state-sanctioned betting? ...
We simulated the outcomes for hypothetical New Yorkers who purchase a $1 Mega Millions ticket 50 times — or, approximately weekly for one year. Across 1 million simulations, approximately 99.4% of players lost money.
Of course, Mega Millions is just one of the many lottery platforms the Empire State runs, but you get the point: if part of the government's rationale for going after the fantasy leagues is that they produce so many more net losers than net winners, then government should shut down their own lotteries.

Ontario government announces climate change strategy

Because it's 2015
In his column in the Ottawa Citizen, William Watson suggests some other changes that are long overdue because it's 2015:
1. Let's get rid of throne speeches. Or at least not make the Governor General read it. Or just get rid of them completely.
2. Standing up to vote in the House of Commons; electronic voting by push-of-the-button.
3. Eliminate guilds, central planning, and rationing. Mostly looking at marketing boards, but also occupational licensing.
4. Cease government control of television content.
5. Stop the "crusading journalism" in search of nonsensical conspiracies.
6. Let's not demonize political opponents, especially those who are concerned about a hasty refugee resettlement policy.
7. Lessen the politically correct "ideological hyperventilation."
This is a good start. I'd even settle for numbers three, four, and either six or seven which seem closely related.

The disappearance of the Chretien Consensus
Three economists with the Fraser Institute write in the Financial Post about how the Chretien Consensus -- "balanced budgets, value-added government spending and tax competitiveness -- delivered sustained economic growth and fiscal health for a decade, and yet it is being abandoned today in Ottawa by the Trudeau Liberals and every province (with the possible exception of British Columbia). In the same pages, Jack Mintz writes about Ottawa and the provinces returning to their old tax and spend ways, which studies suggest retard economic growth.

Monday, November 23, 2015
You would think Oxford students would be made of sterner stuff
A student has taken offense -- of course -- that Magdalen College at Oxford is having a Great Gatsby-themed ball because the university the year in which it was set, 1926, did not admit women or "people of colour" as students. Law student Arushi Grag said she was "uncomfortable with the advertising" because her demographic does not want to nostalgically recall the 1920s when people like her were excluded from the elite university.

Diversity requires generosity. That is a reminder for liberals, not conservatives
Jonathan Haidt has a good post on the on-going political battles at American universities that begins with an under-appreciated point: "Diversity is inherently divisive." Multiculturalists believe that harmonious diversity is possible, and indeed it is but it is not easy. Haidt could have just as easily begun his essay, "Diversity is inherently difficult." But the sort of diversity that Haidt believes in is the only diversity that really matters: intellectual or viewpoint diversity. Progressives only give lip service to viewpoint diversity, but they prefer a phony multicultural diversity of ethnic foods and music shorn of cultural (often religious) meaning.
It is easy to enjoy some thai food or bang the djembe, and not be essentially challenged in one's comfortable assumptions about the world. True diversity requires something deeper:
[O]ne reason it’s so hard is that campus diversity programs rarely begin by extolling the essential precondition for tolerance: Generosity of spirit. Social life always contains misunderstandings. Diversity multiplies them by ten. Modern social media multiplies them by ten again. Training students to react to “micro-aggressions” (small and often unintentional slights) multiplies the misunderstandings still further.
In other words, civility in political discourse (broadly defined) is incredibly difficult today.
Haidt reiterates the point:
Diversity is inherently divisive; it takes work to reap its benefits. And as we argue here at HeterodoxAcademy, the most valuable kind of diversity of all is also the most divisive: viewpoint diversity. Without generosity of spirit and a dash of humility, the diversity project — indeed, the American project — is doomed to fail.
I don't think conservatives are very good at generosity of spirit, either. But conservatives are losing, almost everywhere: in North America and Europe and the churches, in politics, the culture, and the media. Conservatives don't get to prohibit the other view, don't get to punish heterodoxy. But the liberal ascendancy, which has been going on for more than a century, has not been accompanied by much liberal magnanimity. And it is liberals who preach tolerance while showing a remarkable disinclination to practice it to those with whom they disagree.
Generosity of spirit would make elected politics, campus politics, and Twitter better places.

Bravo Mr. Reynolds

For journalists, there is no more interesting story than themselves
The Hill Times: "‘Fun is back’ for Hill media with improved access." Not sure "fun" is the standard for whether journalists are doing their job.
Says Manon Cornellier, a reporter for Le Devoir and president of the Parliamentary Press Gallery:
For us, it’s really interesting when you now can ask questions [of ministers] … Everything we did in the last 10 years [to get stories], digging and everything, there’s no reason to stop doing it, but at least the work is more complete when you’re able also to get feedback from the government you’re covering, that you’re able to question what they’re doing and get answers maybe—it gives a more complete portrait.
I am sure they will have more fun over the next four years, I'm not so sure about the digging and complete portraits.

Et tu, Calgary Chamber of Commerce?
A series of tweets in response to Alberta Premier Rachel Notley's tough new policy to punish all carbon emitters, in order:

Classical liberalism vs. modern liberalism
Nich Cohen has a good essay in The Guardian on what he calls traditional liberalism and multiculturalism, in which he notes that traditional (or classical) liberals oppose "political Islam":
It is oppressive in its attitude to women, freethinkers and gay people, dogmatic in its intolerance of believers in other religions and none, and contemptuous of democracy and human rights. In Saudi Arabia and Iran, it mandates theocracy. In Syria and Nigeria, it justifies slavery and the mass murders of unbelievers.
But most modern liberals, or self-described progressives, are multicultural extremists. Shadi Hamid wrote in The Atlantic that illiberalism must be tolerated: "a liberal society cannot truly be liberal without allowing citizens to express their own personal illiberalism, as long as they do so through legal, democratic channels." Cohen says:
Which is true, as far as it goes, but must surely apply to white conservatives accused of sexism, racism and homophobia and, if Hamid is being consistent, of Islamophobia too. They are the way they are, too, and we must respect them as long as they are peaceful.
Except, of course, it doesn't. Progressives barely tolerate dissent from orthodoxy on their own side; there is little chance they will tolerate differing points of view from mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging conservatives. It is strange to see the Left tolerate sharia-mandated segregation of women at public events while condemning as fear-mongering and divisive any conservative/classical liberal criticism that there just might be a problem with tolerating illiberal and non-democratic tendencies in some cultures, most notably in Islamic ones.

Campus mayhem
The Wall Street Journal editorializes about the zaniness at various universities, which begins:
By now you’ve heard that the insurrections at Yale University and the University of Missouri have spread to campuses from California to New Hampshire. The grievances and student demands for safe spaces vary, but the disease is the same: Faculty and administrators who elevate racial and gender diversity above all other values, including free speech.
The latest is Princeton:
But most redolent of our times is Princeton University. Last week students invaded the president’s office insisting that the school expunge references to Woodrow Wilson because he was a racist who supported segregation. Wilson was Princeton’s president before he ascended to the White House.
Current President Christopher Eisgruber agreed to kick off discussions about Wilson’s legacy, among other concessions. Colleges used to take pride in the accomplishments of their alumni, but now students want to rewrite American history if it doesn’t suit contemporary political mores. Then again, given the politicized way American history is taught these days, maybe it’s best to drop it as a discipline. Mr. Eisgruber should be embarrassed for conceding that hijacking campus buildings is a way to get what you want.
It almost validates Richard Klagsbrun's observation: "Liberal Arts degrees aren't about knowledge. They're for brats having their biases confirmed while picking up a piece of paper for a resume." Or as the Journal says, less caustically: "The post-1960s progressives who run universities today celebrated free speech in their salad days, so why don’t they now? Perhaps because holding up the First Amendment is an admission that Western civilization, which produced the luxury of university life, is worth defending."
Tyler Cowen has some thoughts on renaming institutions. He seems to be of two minds: we shouldn't forget our history while conceding there is room for renaming buildings and schools (in favour of donors). Still, this seems like a reasonable compromise:
I don’t mind if an institution names itself after a person of mixed moral quality, or allows such a name to persist, provided the institution, in both its framing of the name and its pursuit of its broader mission, is self-conscious about that person’s drawbacks and invests resources toward that self-consciousness beyond the usual rhetorical statements.
But that wouldn't satisfy the mobs on campus today.

Sunday, November 22, 2015
Sinatra's 'Send in the Clowns'
Mark Steyn examines one of my three favourite Frank Sinatra songs, "Send in the Clowns." Steyn explains its enduring popularity of Stephen Sondheim's best-known song:
But gosh, that tune is beguiling. What's "Send In The Clowns" about? It's about three minutes long, and the music always sounds pretty. Sondheim is said (at least according to one rather dry conference on his work I attended) to favor "non-functional" harmony: in this song he doesn't go for chord changes but he does use harmony as a way of deepening the colors of the melody and drawing the ear to the progression of the tune. Why it became so uniquely popular for a Sondheim composition is something of a mystery: It's conventionally diatonic and, in contrast to the spiky lyric, almost a lullaby. And yet, without the words, it's also rather unvarying and dull.
Steyn also writes of the almost "tricksy" conceit employed by Sondheim:
Sondheim composed something for what he calls Glynis Johns' "nice little silvery voice". "I wrote it for her voice," he said, "because she couldn't sustain notes. Wasn't that kind of singing voice. So I knew I had to write things in short phrases, and that led to questions." So he wrote the song as a series of four-syllable questions:
Isn't it rich? / Are we a pair..?
Isn't it bliss? / Don't you approve..?
Don't you love farce..?
Isn't it queer..?
Irving Berlin wrote a famous song that was also a series of questions, questions that are answered by other questions. Which sounds like too clever a conceit for its own good. But it's not
Steyn also examines whether or not this or any Sondheim song can be classified as a "standard" and is baffled by what the song actually means. This is probably Steyn's best essay on the 85 Sinatra pieces he's done so far.

Regulating online veterinary advice
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a challenge to a Texas law outlawing online veterinary advice. George Will writes about the odious nature of much occupational licensing:
Students of contemporary government will instantly understand that this was not done to protect pets, none of whom has complained about, or been reported injured by, people like Hines. Rather, the legislature acted to protect those veterinarians who were vocally peeved because potential customers were getting online advice that, even when not free, is acquired at less expense and more conveniently than that gained from visits to a veterinarian’s office.
This is rent-seeking, the use of public power to confer private benefits on one economic interest by handicapping another interest. Rent-seeking is what the political class rewards when it is not brooding about why people think the political class is disreputable.
Will says often occupational licensing takes the form of over-reaching restrictions on freedom of speech (like vets giving advice online or, perhaps in the future, doctors giving advice in radio call-in shows):
Even if the court remains reluctant to take notice of blatant rent-seeking through speech restrictions, the time is ripe for a clarifying ruling to give maximum protection to speech that, although related to licensed occupations, bears no demonstrable relation to a legitimate government interest in public health and safety. And the ruling should limit the latitude government has to evade First Amendment scrutiny by simply declaring that when it regulates occupational speech it is really regulating conduct.

NR turns 60
Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby marks the 60th anniversary of the launch of National Review:
In a column some years ago, I characterized NR, which was launched by William F. Buckley Jr. in 1955, as “the publication that blew the wind into the sails of American conservatism.” I wrote of first discovering the magazine as a 17-year-old college sophomore, and of my exhilaration at encountering in its pages “words and arguments that gave shape and coherence to my own inchoate political beliefs,” packaged in a style that was “feisty, smart, playful, elegant.”
The same was true for hundreds of thousands of young conservatives, including abroad. I have had a subscription since high school, although I jointly credit NR and columnist George Will for giving coherence to my political beliefs (I was at the time escaping from flirtations with Marxism and supporting Jesse Jackson in the 1988 Democratic primaries).
While I have since become much more libertarian in my writing -- rules are for autocrats -- even their 1993 book on writing, The Art of Persuasion: A National Review Rhetoric for Writers by Linda Bridges and William F. Rickenbacker, influenced my writing style (don't be afraid of long sentences, foreign words, punctuation -- it's the anti-The Elements of Style by Strunk and White (no first names necessary).
Jacoby briefly examines the back-section of the anniversary edition which is dedicated to the books that influenced prominent conservatives today, before concluding:
National Review’s 60th birthday is a milestone not just for a magazine, but for an ongoing commitment to the conviction that ideas matter, and that good writing can change lives.
Which got me to thinking about the decline of serious magazine writing in the age of the internet and, more importantly, the age of infantile partisanship. National Review influenced the Republican Party, but was usually not a blind follower (it could be argued it became too much so under Rich Lowry for some of the Bush II presidency, which began a period of decline for the magazine). Ideas, not political parties, should matter; too much opinion magazine writing today either ignores or conflates this. Considering the hyper-partisanship of American politics, one could reflect on whether NR's time has passed and if, ultimately, it has failed.

Saturday, November 21, 2015
What I'm reading
1. The Only Average Guy: Inside the Uncommon World of Rob Ford by John Filion. Filion is my city councilor, and my most enthusiastic votes in my lifetime is for whoever is facing him. That said, this is a good book and a fair book.
2. Mayor Rob Ford: Uncontrollable: How I Tried to Help the World's Most Notorious Mayor by Mark Towhey and Johanna Schneller. You are never sure how much covering one's own ass a staffer does in these books. It seems like a lot.

WSJ interview with The Donald
Recently the Wall Street Journal made a fair comment about Donald Trump, Trump insults the Journal, paper and candidate make up and he agrees to an interview, paper publishes interview which is exceedingly fair and while being so makes The Donald look like an idiot.
A snippet from the Journal:
Trump speaks in lengthy recursive loops that fold back on themselves, over and again, and he rarely makes a point once when seven or eight times will suffice.
Trying to pin Trump down on free trade is an adventure:
Mr. Gigot noted that “you said in the last debate you’re a 100% free trader but you just don’t like some of the deals that have been negotiated.”
Mr. Trump: “Correct.”
Mr. Gigot: “So is there an example of a deal, trade deal, that we’ve done in the past that you like, that you point to as a model?”
Mr. Trump: “Not many. Nafta was a disaster. Not many. We could have great deals.” He then detours into corporate inversions, made-in-Japan backhoes, currency devaluation, Chinese hotel furniture, the recent GOP debate and the editorial he disliked. For the record, Mr. Trump always knew China wasn’t a party to the Pacific pact.
Mr. Gigot tried again: “But you said you don’t like the big deals, so you like bilaterals. But is there an example of one that the U.S. has negotiated or signed that you like in recent history?” Mr. Trump: “No.”
Mr. Gigot: “The Colombia deal, the Korea deal, the Australia deal?” Mr. Trump: “No, I don’t like any of them. I think we’re bad negotiators.”
Mr. Trump tells us “I totally, I totally, like free trade,” but the contradiction is that his campaign hasn’t tapped a protectionist vein so much as the mother lode. As he tells it, his objection isn’t to trade deals per se but the disinclination of the U.S. government to leverage tariffs to obtain terms more favorable to the U.S.—and especially to take on the Chinese, Trump-style.
Trump does not seem to share my enthusiasm for free trade and distrust of free trade agreements, the latter often adding new layers of regulation to domestic economies.
Anyway, if I was a political reporter in Washington, at least 10% of me would want Trump to be president.

McGuinty's cynicism
Chris Selley writes about Dalton McGuinty's memoirs, Making a Difference and focuses on his the former Ontario premier's many regrets. The conclusion is a magnificent take-down:
“I have always been very idealistic and positive in my approach to politics,” McGuinty writes. “Some may find that hard to believe, given the expediency and self-interest cynics would have us believe characterize all politics today.” Not “all politics,” no. But Dalton McGuinty’s, certainly.
Readers will say, well, surely this is the sort of nonsense politicians always pack into their memoirs. And they will be right. But it is remarkable to come face to face with someone so utterly convinced of his own idealism, or so cynical as to insist upon it, so soon after he irrefutably demonstrated his lack of it — by squandering billions of dollars for a few seats the Liberals would probably have won anyway, proroguing the legislature to derail inquiries into same, and summarily resigning to watch the various police investigations unfold from afar.

For Trudeau, style is substance

How did I miss this
From March of this year, Brian Albrecht of Econ Point of View: "What Football Taught Me About PhD Economics." This seems true of almost everything going into university:
The game is completely different at the college vs. the high school level. If you come into the college level thinking it is still high school, you will get crushed. It's not only a higher level, but a different game. What works in high school does not work in college, so players are better off forgetting what they learned. (Of course, if you are a true FREAK, which I was not, you can do whatever you want.)

Friday, November 20, 2015
How a $1.6b surplus turned into a $3b deficit in six months
It didn't. Writing in Maclean's Stephen Gordon questions the Economic and Fiscal Projections released by the Liberal government today and says Finance Minister Bill Morneau is setting the stage for deficits with an eye to blaming the Tories. Gordon says he shouldn't get away with it:
It seems pretty clear that the goal of the EFP is to prepare the ground for the deficits the Liberals plans to run; it will be easier for the government to do so if it can credibly claim that it inherited a deficit situation in the current fiscal year.
Based on the information made available so far, I don’t think that claim would be credible. I don’t doubt that the government will produce a deficit for 2015-16 if it wants one, but it would be the Liberals’ deficit. They should take ownership of it.

If you think the Ontario economy is great, wait to see what Trudeau does to Canada
At iPolitics Tasha Kheiriddin looks at a recent left-wing report on the state of employment and poverty in Ontario (hint: it's not good) and blames the Dalton McGuinty-Kathleen Wynne tax-and-spend policies of the past dozen years. Kheiriddin concludes: "Trudeau should pay attention to Ontario’s tale of woe, because the same people who ran the McGuinty government are now helping him run his own."

The unmitigated success that is Obamacare
Tyler Cowen excerpts a story about rising insurance premiums amidst insurance companies' declining profitability, but then notes:
But that is not all the news. There is also:
In many Obamacare markets, renewal is not an option
Shopping for health insurance is the new seasonal stress for many
Health care law forces business to consider growth’s costs
and my own Obamacare not as egalitarian as it appears
All four are from the NYT, the first three being from the last two or three days, the fourth from last week. They are not articles from The Weekly Standard…
The Affordable Care Act is so bad that even the New York Times must take notice. Links at Marginal Revolution.

Liberals to set table for larger deficits
Or what is technically being called an economic update.

Question for conservatives
Is it more likely a terrorist will be let into Canada or the United States under the guise of refugee status than an actual American citizen be forced abroad under Donald Trump's plan to deport 11.4 million illegal aliens over two years? Assuming a government incompetency rate of just 1%, which policy, asylum or deportation, presents the greatest threat to freedom?

De-incarceration in California
At Powerline, Steven Hayward notes that over-crowding in California prisons, which has been declared a constitutional violation by the courts, has led to letting prisoners go. Hayward reports that some of these (proposed) prisoners are violent criminals. Hayward doesn't mention that tough-on-crime sentencing, most notably three-strikes-and-you're-out laws, are putting tremendous pressure on prisons and forcing the release of first- and second-time violent offenders. That said, several repeat violent offenders also make the list.

Police steal more than burglars
Investor Business Daily's Kerry Jackson:
Last year, police seized $4.5 billion in cash and property through civil asset forfeiture laws. They had a better year than burglars. The value of all property stolen in burglaries during 2014 added up to just $3.9 billion, according to FBI data.
The trend that got us to this point began decades ago. Between 1989 and 2010, "U.S. attorneys seized an estimated $12.6 billion in asset forfeiture cases," reports Armstrong Economics. The average annual growth rate during that period was 19.4%, with a 52.8% jump from 2009 to 2010, says Armstrong.
You don't need to be a critic of civil asset forfeiture to find that this degree of confiscation is excessive.

Can't America handle more than one foreign policy file at a time?
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in Investor's Business Daily: "Forget Putin And Assad — Focus On ISIS." The California Republican makes the case that ISIS is not merely the focus but the singular foreign policy issue with which Washington must concern itself. One can agree that Vladimir Putin is an ally in the war against ISIS and still be uncomfortable teaming with the Russian leader even if there are analogies between modern and World War II alliances of convenience.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Natural governing party is not the embodiment of Canada
Examining the question of federal government buildings having pictures of our head of state -- Queen Elizabeth II -- on their walls, and, of course, the broader issue of Canada's ties to its past vs. embracing some nebulous future, the National Post makes an even broader point: "the Liberal party’s values are not universal Canadian values." The editorial concludes:
Canada isn’t “back.” Canada never left. It’s the Liberals who are back, with roughly the same percentage of public support as the recently defeated Conservatives won a mere four years ago. And not every Canadian sees Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ascension as a restoration of some sort. The Liberals have every right to change the pictures on the wall, but they should not deceive themselves into believing that they hold the monopoly on our shared values, or what it means to be a Canadian.
This needs to be repeated often because the mindset is appalling. Even if you believe the Ekos numbers that in many cases most Canadians seem to align with Liberal Party/liberal values, it is no small part of the nation that disagrees (one-quarter to one-third) with (supposedly) liberal ideas.

What I'm reading
1. The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece by Josiah Ober
2. "The Policy Effects of the Partisan Composition of State Government," by Devin Caughey et al. It looks likely to be the most interesting study I've read this year.
3. "Building Better Budgets: Canada’s Cities Should Clean Up their Financial Reporting," a C.D. Howe Commentary by Benjamin Dachis and William Robson
4. "Cutting Red Tape in Canada: A Regulatory Reform Model for the United States?" a Mercatus Center paper by Laura Jones

'If You May Do It for Free, You May Do It for Money'
In this month's Cato Unbound, Jason Brennan and Peter Jaworski, authors of Markets without Limits, make the case that if something is moral, it is moral to do it for money. They specifically debunk the main objections to this argument: Exploitation, misallocation, corruption, harm, and semiotic. Benjamin R. Barber has a broad objection ("Free Markets Aren’t") and Ilya Somin a narrow one ("Markets with Just a Few Limits"). Brennan and Jaworski counter many of the basic repugnance arguments, but Somin adds critiques of internal inconsistencies of many free market critics. I'm sympathetic to arguments about commodification of, for example, the human body (prostitution, sale of organs/tissue), but it would be naïve to think we haven't already commodified human beings. These are challenging but rewarding reads on the limits to free markets.

2016 watch (Fall of the governors edition)
Hot Air's Allah Pundit commented on Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal exiting the race to become the Republican presidential standard-bearer for 2016:
He’s not kidding when he says it wasn’t his time. Carson and Cruz gobbled up the evangelical vote, leaving him without a base in Iowa. Meanwhile, governors have fared mysteriously poorly throughout the campaign. Rick Perry dropped out early, followed by Scott Walker; Jeb Bush has flailed since Trump got in this past summer; Christie, despite forging ahead, just got bumped from the main debate stage to the undercard due to poor polling. There’s every reason to believe that the final four for the nomination will be Trump, Carson, Rubio, and Cruz, four men with collectively zero experience as executives in public office. It’s even somewhat possible that Bush, Christie, and Kasich will poll so poorly for the next month that we’re left with a race without a single semi-credible governor still running come New Year’s Day. Why that is, I don’t know. I guess you have to blame Trump: Governors trade on their command and authority and Trump projects all the alpha-male command that any voter could need. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that Perry and Jindal, the two loudest Trump critics in the race, are also among the first to exit.

The future of teaching
Making Sense of University Finances has a fascinating post, "Not Going, Not Listening Either: Lecture recording did not kill the live lecture." Interesting data is included in lecture attendance, the gist of which is:
On average, two thirds of students are not attending and not downloading lectures beyond week three. This pattern shows up regardless of the size, age or condition of the lecture theatre, or indeed whether it has decent wireless coverage or not. Nor does the discipline matter, or the level of the course taught.
MSUF explains the need for better teaching by understanding of how students learn:
Back in July, I published a blog on the sunk cost of live, on campus lectures, and concluded that the largest—forgotten—cost is the ongoing impact on teaching staff. I have been quite moved by the staff who have got in touch with me to express relief that dwindling attendance at lectures is not their fault. More than a few have described the feelings of isolation and anxiety they have felt in failing to become a ‘star performer’.
Charisma is not the silver bullet for lecture attendance because it is not an individual’s problem to solve. What we are experiencing is a systemic change, not a personality problem. Students are deserting live lectures in droves ...
[W]e need to stop assuming that everyone is OK with education as is, and that ours is a nation driven by evidence-based educational engagement.
What does work is something we need to work harder at establishing. I enjoy anecdotal reports of teaching success as much as the next person, but results at individual course level—data based or not—can’t provide a steer for the whole sector. Nor does putting live lectures online and calling that elearning. The large datasets of MOOC providers like edX have already indicated that the optimal length for a recorded talk is 6–8 minutes, not 50. As we continue the rollout of thermal counters to tutorial and seminar classrooms, and consider intersecting data sets such as library footfall, we may be able to hone on the impact of our efforts and not conflate hours talking with outcomes. That is, not confuse listening with learning.
I was going to call this post the future of higher education or the future of learning, but it is about more than university and it is really about how classes are presented rather than consumed. Salman Khan in his 2012 book The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined talks about the need to turn elementary and high school education upside down, presenting lectures online to be digested by students at their pace while providing competence-level support and applications during a shorter school day (getting rid of formal, age-dependent classes in which the teacher presents material and supporting exercises are done by students as homework). This is, I think, is what MSUF is getting at.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015
It would probably be better if citizens weren't allowed near the Parliament buildings at all
Is it really surprising that Senator Vernon White supports police-state tactics? He is a former chief of police, after all.

Does this mean that math is over-rated or under-rated?
Reviewing Hive Mind by Garett Jones, Bryan Caplan says, "most people already use far less math on the job than they learned in school." Previously Caplan has explored whether algebra passes a cost-benefit analysis. An erstwhile friend of mine who used to work in government and public relations once told a Grade 8 class on career day that 90% of them had already learned all the math they will ever need to know. Probably true, but he wasn't invited back to speak again.

Flight of the investors
Bloomberg reports:
Foreign investors are fleeing the debt of Canada’s provinces at the fastest pace on record amid persistent budget deficits with the national economy still sluggish.
International investors sold a net C$11.1 billion ($8.3 billion) in provincial bonds over the past year, the largest divestment on record, according to Bank of Montreal.
Related, Ontario is unlikely to balance its books on schedule, according to the province's Financial Accountability Office. It is fair to assume the same of Justin Trudeau's plan to run three tiny little budget deficits before a 2019 budget surplus. And it isn't just reduced resource prices hitting government revenues, it's government's inability to control spending, especially in Ontario (and soon Alberta and Ottawa).

Silencing MPs
Lawrence Martin bangs the drum for a Michael Chong Tory leadership and in his Globe and Mail column says:
Many Tories, [Joe] Clark noted, showed a tougher line to fit with the leader’s positions. But now they are free to speak their minds.
I'm not picking on Martin. Many journalists use this formulation: Conservative MPs are free to speak their mind now that the evil, dictatorial Stephen Harper is gone. Harper and his PMO certainly controlled the message while the party was in power and his operatives definitely attempted to intimidate MPs from straying too far from the party line. But MPs chose to give into the control and intimidation. Members of Parliament have a platform and a mandate from their constituents and personal judgement and therefore personal responsibility. Yes, they need to be team players, but if they felt strongly about something, whether it was tactics or principles, they could speak up. If it mattered enough, it was worth risking their seat at the caucus table. The worst case scenario is being booted from the party (at least until the next election, at which point principled politicians who became independents are generally defeated and they lose their jobs). The point is too many MPs all too easily surrender their dignity and discretion to the control of party leaders, and almost certainly will continue to do so in the future, the current round of hand-wringing notwithstanding.
The media should also look in the mirror to see its role in incentivizing the heavy-handedness of the political center and the response of cowardly MPs. Depending on the issue, MPs are criticized for freelancing if they voice their own concerns, or those of their constituents. Some pundits/reporters view any deviation from the standard talking points a repudiation of party leadership. And parties get criticized for sending confusing messages of not being on the same page or tolerating supposedly extreme views. Political coverage needs to be improved to treat independent voices as normal.
Still, despite the power of political leaders and the media, MPs are ultimately silenced because they choose self-censorship.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Veganism in Israel
The Atlantic reports that up to 5% of Israelis are vegan, and the Israel Defense Forces "is also issuing leather-free combat boots and wool-free berets to soldiers who register as vegan, so they can march into battle knowing that no living creature has been harmed in their provisioning."

American magazine covers Justin, Canadian media wets itself
This is less about the Dauphin than the Canadian psyche that requires approval from south of the border. And, holy shit, it's Vogue!

William Easterly flashback
In 2011, when al-Qaeda was the big Islamic threat, economist William Easterly wondered: "is there an association between inability to understand Bayes’ theorem with ethnic prejudice?" To which everyone else responds with blank stares or complains that math is hard.
Also, a point I've made often: "One other probability you may want to consider is that Al-Qaeda’s recruiting will become more successful by a δ >= 0.0007 percent after you have persecuted the 99.9993 percent of Muslims who are innocent." When I made this point in September 2014 regarding ISIS, one of my co-workers asked me if I was an Islamic State apologist.

The word of the year is not a word. Fuck you, Oxford
Oxford has chosen the tears of joy emoji as their word of the year.

Anonymous vs. ISIS
Anonymous has announced it will go after ISIS following the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris. TechInsider's Ben Gilbert describes the way Anonymous could target ISIS, explaining each one:
Release of private information: retrieval and dissemination of information considered private by ISIS.
"Doxxing" members: revealing personal, private information about members of ISIS.
"DDoS" attacks: flooding servers with information requests.
Hack accounts: Take over social media accounts used by ISIS.
"Google Bomb" / "Googlewashing" searchable terms with links to anti-ISIS websites.
Prank calls: flood ISIS phone networks with spam phone calls.
Ideally, the hacking collective would release private info:
Anonymous could outright access the private networks of ISIS and disseminate battle plans, operative names, and countless other pieces of vital information that assists in military action. There's no doubt that world governments are already attempting this themselves, though a hacking collective with a bone to pick may apply methods that are outside of what world governments (and international laws) consider respectable behavior.

The problem vetting refugee claims
John Hayward at Breitbart:
There is no way to come up with the number of refugees Obama wants, as quickly as he demands, if we limit ourselves to only those asylum-seekers with good paperwork. Even if we could, would the Europeans welcome American authorities skimming the “cream of the crop” and leaving them with the least well-documented Syrians? It’s more likely that American officials would accept questionable vetting from the Europeans and wave through everyone they vouch for.
The demographic reality of the Syrian migration is another consideration. Western media labored mightily to hide the truth for as long as possible, but the vast majority of the Syrian refugees are single military-age males. Not only is this the riskiest possible refugee profile, but many of those military-age males will soon attempt to bring their dependents over, multiplying the number of refugees ultimately accepted in the U.S. far beyond the number we think we’re agreeing to now. Those additional migrants won’t be vetted any more carefully than the original arrivals.
We don’t have to speculate on the security risks posed by refugees, because recent history provides many unfortunate examples – most notably the Boston Marathon bombers, the Tsarnaev family, which could not be described as grateful to the nation that granted them refuge. It’s also notable that the Tsarnaevs made frequent visits back to the region they sought refuge from. Our immigration system isn’t exactly good at identifying desperate people whose very lives depend on fleeing to the United States.
The same problems apply to Canada's rush to bring in 25,000 refugees by the end of the year.

Sowell's random thoughts
Thomas Sowell has another of his random thoughts columns, and while they are getting weaker than they once were, there are two that should be highlighted:
It is bad enough to hear someone boasting about his past achievements. What is truly repulsive is hearing someone boasting about the future achievements he thinks he is going to have, as Donald Trump does repeatedly.
Racism is not dead. But it is on life-support, kept alive mainly by the people who use it for an excuse or to keep minority communities fearful or resentful enough to turn out as a voting bloc on Election Day.

Monday, November 16, 2015
Getting the state out of the business of killing
Reuters reports that executions and death sentences are at their lowest mark since the early 1990s. Part of the reason is that prosecutors are not pursuing the death penalty as often, part of it is anti-capital punishment backlash. This is progress assuming that life sentences are really life sentences for the worst criminals.
Most opponents of capital punishment are opposed to the idea of punishment as retribution and incapacitation, focusing instead on rehabilitation and restitution, and will, in principle, oppose long sentences as well. Canada abolished the death penalty in 1976 with then-solicitor general Warren Allmand saying it was unnecessary because the country had life sentences; the next year, the Liberal government made most "life sentences" 25 years minus time for good behaviour.

Does anyone really believe Brad Wall isn't running for CPC leadership?
He'd be a great choice. He is saying things that lead you to believe he has an eye on Ottawa.

If university students want to act like spoiled little children ...
Take away their vote. Writing in USA Today, Glenn Harlan Reynolds (Instapundit) notes that in 1971, in the middle of the Vietnam War, Congress changed the voting age from 21 to 18 because, well, if kids can join the army, they might as well be able to choose the political leaders that will send them to their death (or something like that):
To be a voter, one must be able to participate in adult political discussions. It’s necessary to be able to listen to opposing arguments and even — as I’m doing right here in this column — to change your mind in response to new evidence.
This evidence suggests that, whatever one might say about the 18-year-olds of 1971, the 18-year-olds of today aren’t up to that task. And even the 21-year-olds aren’t looking so good.
Reynolds reports on the anti-free speech zealotry of many students at American universities (Yale, Missouri), and observes:
This isn’t the behavior of people who are capable of weighing opposing ideas, or of changing their minds when they are confronted with evidence that suggests that they are wrong. It’s the behavior of spoiled children ... And spoiled children shouldn’t vote.
Or what about tying one's right to vote before the age of 25 to not going to university? I'm kidding. Mostly. But kids who enter the workforce after high school don't seem to be so worried about being offended that they seek real and imagined offenses at every opportunity.

Is Trudeau trying to tank the Canadian economy?
Hot Air's Jazz Shaw notes Canada's exports:
The top exports of Canada are Crude Petroleum ($80.5B), Cars ($45.9B), Refined Petroleum ($18.6B), Petroleum Gas ($12.6B) and Vehicle Parts ($10.7B), using the 1992 revision of the HS (Harmonized System) classification.
Since Justin Trudeau has become Prime Minister he has effectively killed off the Northern Gateway, saw the Obama administration kill Keystone XL, and witnessed Energy East suffer several setbacks. Canada will have a problem getting its oil to market. Jazz Shaw says to Canada:
You have, by a small margin, a positive trade balance which is good news for any nation. But of your $438B in exports, $111.7B of it was petroleum based. That’s one quarter of your entire economy on the export front. If you cut your throats on petroleum exports you are going to be staring a massive trade deficit square in the eye. I can assure you, the good times sitting around Tim Horton’s won’t be nearly as sunny with that big of a gaping hole shot through your economy.
Admittedly, $111 billion in exports will not disappear and in the grand scheme of a $1.8 trillion economy, the slowing growth in the petroleum sector will hardly be an economic disaster. But it will be a major setback.

Best comment on Trudeau's overseas adventure

Quote of the day
Tim Worstall: "Female good looks plus sex appeal equals winning at Darwinism." And the next sentence specifically responds to feminists opposed to Victoria's Secret shows: "And lacy underwear helps, which is why it sells."
A close runner-up for quote of the day also comes from Tim Worstall, responding to advocates of lowering the voting age to 16: "When a 16 year old is considered sufficiently mature to buy a beer, smokes, and pay for them by performing a blow job on screen, then we can indeed say that they’re old enough to aid us all in deciding which brand of thief will rule us."

Sunday, November 15, 2015
Macroeconomic frameworks
Last week at The Money Illusion Scott Sumner described why he rejects the standard New Keynesian business cycle model in favour of the "The Musical Chairs model," which is more dynamic and "seems to fit the stylized facts quite well." Tyler Cowen responded with his own "My macroeconomic framework circa 2015." Lots on business cycles and employment/unemployment, but he reiterates his rule, "All propositions about real interest rates are wrong." That deserves a longer post. Arnold Kling also offers his macroeconomic framework, which begins: "Ditch the concepts of aggregate supply and aggregate demand. Thinking of the economy as if it were a single business, what I call the GDP factory, is misleading." His view that "all recessions are adjustment problems" is probably mainstream among economists today. Ryan Avent also states his macroeconomic framework. Beginning with the idea that "supply-side policy is hard," but should not be ignored, Avent says: "With supply-side policy, the precision of a policy action is not the problem; accuracy is. With demand-side policy, it is the opposite: it is pretty easy to meet broad policy goals, so long as you're not too concerned about hitting them square on the nose."
I would like to see Greg Mankiw, John B. Taylor and John Cochrane state their macro frameworks, as well as Canadian economists like Mike Moffat and Stephen Gordon (Nick Rowe has posted his). Not that it will ever happen, but I'd love to see finance ministers and central bankers explicitly state their frameworks.

Why the Left prefers freedom from speech rather than freedom of speech
George Will explains why there is a storm of silliness in the modern American university:
Where progressivism reigns, vigilant thought police will enforce a peace of wary conformity. Here is why:
If you believe, as progressives do, that human nature is not fixed, and hence is not a basis for understanding natural rights. And if you believe, as progressives do, that human beings are soft wax who receive their shape from the society that government shapes. And if you believe, as progressives do, that people receive their rights from the shaping government. And if you believe, as progressives do, that people are the sum of the social promptings they experience. Then it will seem sensible for government, including a university’s administration, to guarantee not freedom of speech but freedom from speech. From, that is, speech that might prompt its hearers to develop ideas inimical to progress, and might violate the universal entitlement to perpetual serenity.