Sobering Thoughts

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

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Friday, September 30, 2016
'Trump's revolt against vows'
Alexi Sargeant, assistant editor of First Things, writes about Donald Trump's one consistency:
Trump’s policies, such as they are, usually come down to America breaking its promises. In the debate, he doubled-down on his previous pledge to back out of defending our NATO allies (who came to our defense after 9/11). Later in the debate he casually said we can’t defend Japan, another nation with whom we have a mutual defense treaty. This promised perfidy is of a piece with his rhetoric about tearing up deals and starting trade wars. He then brushed off the idea that stop-and-frisk policing was unconstitutional—not by taking the chance to give us any sense of how he understands the Constitution, but with flat denials. It seems that, like America’s treaties, the Constitution is just another document waiting to be renegotiated.
Donald Trump’s appeal is bound up in his transgressive persona. He does what is Just Not Done. But conservatives who spin this as simply “shaking up the corrupt norms of a stale political class” are being naïve or willfully obtuse. Trump does not care from where a norm comes. His consistent approach—as a businessman, as a showman, as a Democrat, and now as a Republican—is to violate whatever norm is in place, as a demonstration of his own power.

What would the world do without Canadian Studies professors?
The Ottawa Citizen: "Canadian Studies profs hold conference on how to stay critical without Harper around." You could substitute the word "relevant" for "critical."

'How Democrats Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Big Donor Money'
That story is in the New York Times and its about how the Clinton campaign and the party are shifting funds around:
Like other candidates for federal office this year, Mrs. Clinton can accept only up to $5,400 from any one donor over the course of her campaign. But after the McCutcheon decision, Mrs. Clinton established an agreement last year with the Democratic Party under which she asked her wealthiest patrons to write checks in excess of $300,000, more than double the old limit, to the Hillary Victory Fund, an account made up of the national and state parties and the Clinton campaign.
That amount is a lump sum equal to the total contributions each donor is allowed to give to her campaign and the Democratic National Committee, along with $10,000 to each of the 38 state party organizations now participating in the arrangements.
Because there are no limits on how much money party committees can transfer to one another, most of the state parties have cycled their share back to the Democratic National Committee. The party then moved the cash into a smaller number of battleground states to prepare for Election Day.
It's all legal, but it's still the sort of money-in-politics the Democrats have railed against for years, especially since Citizens United (which is a different issue). I don't have a problem with the practice, although it pretty clearly violates the spirit of the law if not the letter. Some of us think the Dems never really had a problem with big donors and money-saturated election campaigns. Campaign finance is a bogeyman they hypocritically like to run on.

Campaign managers should not be seen or heard in public
The Ottawa Citizen: "Mastermind behind Kellie Leitch’s Tory leadership campaign defends contentious tactics." It's about Nick Kouvalis, who has an unseemly knack for publicity. Political strategists should have minimal public profile.

Writing political humour is hard
Ostensibly reviewing Eliot Nelson's The Beltway Bible for the Wall Street Journal, former political speechwriter Barton Swaim examines political humour writing:
Writing anything funny about politics—I mean, deliberately funny—is tricky. If you’re interested in doing it at all, you probably have strong political views, but if you don’t keep a pretty tight check on them, you’ll come off as hectoring, ungenerous or just too earnest for comedy. Twenty years ago this tendency was typified by the liberal “humorists” Al Franken and Molly Ivins, writers whose need to prove a political point—generally a tendentious point, too—ruined any ability they once had to make their readers laugh.
Swaim dismisses the likes of Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher -- supposedly talented comedians who are not very good writers -- and critiques Nelson's writing which:
[T]ends toward that logorrheic wittiness so typical of today’s lefty humorists. Rather than create the context in which one or two dead-on quips balance and enliven more serious points about political life, writers of this kind prefer to pack every other sentence with cockamamie metaphors and wild hyperbole and hope that there’s a laugh to be had in there somewhere.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Swaim prefers conservatives who make humorous points about politics:
To make people laugh about politics, a writer has to make politics subservient to his art, not the other way around. Perhaps it’s something to do with my own rightward prejudices, but I find that conservative writers succeed in this regard oftener than their liberal counterparts do. The funniest conservative writers— Andrew Ferguson, P.J. O’Rourke, Mark Steyn—seem content to write well and hit the jokes when the opportunity is right. They aren’t desperate to make their readers conservative or to use every syllable at their disposal to heap scorn on liberals and liberalism.
I'm sure liberals would say the same thing in reverse.

Reverse coattails
The Wall Street Journal says that if Donald Trump wins the presidency it could be due to Ohio Senator Rob Portman's ground game. Portman had nothing to do with the Republican National Convention or Trump in July, but is working to get re-elected. Trump has almost no organization in the Buckeye State, without which no GOP presidential candidate has won the White House in the modern era. Portman started recruiting volunteers in March 2015.

Trans American army
Ben Christopher at Priceonomics:
In fact, the available evidence suggests that transgender Americans serve at rates well above the national average. Though the data is sparse, studies estimate that trans men and women are anywhere from two- to five-times more likely to join the military as their cisgender (nontrans) counterparts. For all its perceived conservatism and raging heteronormativity, the United States Armed Forces is almost certainly the largest employer of transgender people in this country.
After Christopher notes several of the issues in estimating the transgender population, he presents some numbers:
The most prominent of these estimates comes from the Williams Institute, an LGBT-focused think tank based out of UCLA. In a report from 2014, authors Gary Gates and Jody Herman estimate that approximately 15,500 transgender men and women are serving and that an additional 134,300 trans Americans are veterans. Given a national trans population of 700,000 (another rough estimate), this suggests that over 1-in-5 (or 21.4%) of all transgender Americans are in the military or have served at one point.
Compare this to the average adult American service rate of 10.4%. Transgender Americans, in other words, are estimated to be twice as likely to join the military.

Thursday, September 29, 2016
Does Rona Ambrose not know her own schedule?
The Conservative Party fundraising email today includes this line:
#RealChange – we’ve seen scandal after scandal involving improper moving expenses, limo rides, and million dollar overseas trips!
Earlier today, she hopped on a government plane to Israel, joining Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, former prime minister Jean Chretien, and Foreign Global Affairs Minister Stephane Dion for the funeral of former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres.

You might not hear a lot from the Left about registering to vote this fall
FiveThirtyEight's David Wasserman says that there are an estimated 47 eligible white voters without a college degree (24 million men, 23 million women) that didn't vote in 2012. Some pundits say this could a silent majority that sends Donald Trump to the White House. Elections are fundamentally about math, and the math says there are more potential white non-voters than Hispanic non-voters that the Clinton campaign is hoping to bring to the voting booth. Wasserman writes:
If Trump were able to activate merely one of every eight of these “missing whites” to vote for him, he would wipe out Obama’s 2012 margins in three states — Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania — and win both the Electoral College and the popular vote. If he were able to activate one of every five, he could add Virginia, Nevada, Iowa and New Hampshire.
Should Hillary Clinton be worried? Maybe not:
Although Trump may be converting plenty of existing voters to his side, there’s really very little evidence that previous nonvoters are coming out of the woodwork in large numbers for him.
According to the Census, 40.2 million eligible whites weren’t registered to vote at all in 2012. That’s much larger than the 14.7 million whites who were registered but didn’t turn out. Therefore, if Trump were truly inspiring an uprising of “missing” whites, we should expect a surge (or at least an uptick) in new registrations in blue-collar white and GOP-leaning places — think a mirror image of the Obama registration boom of 2008.
The lack of a Trump/GOP ground game to register potential votes for their candidate could help elect Hillary Clinton:
[I]t could be that white working class voters are out there to be activated, but Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee have waited until too late to build the analytics and ground infrastructure necessary to identify and register them. That’s where Clinton and the Democrats have excelled.
The absence of a discernible pro-Trump registration spike in key states doesn’t make it impossible that there will be a white, blue-collar “Trump surge” on Election Day. But it means he’d need to build that surge of voters out of the smaller pool of 14.7 million white nonvoters who are already registered, rather than realizing his full potential with the much larger pool of 47.1 million “missing” working-class whites.

Some British political reads
I was going to say here are three links I offer without comment, but I could not resist commenting.
James Forsyth in The Spectator: "Welcome to the age of May: The PM has outfoxed her colleagues and now looks set for a long premiership." I'm not thrilled about the prospect of a long May ministry, but things can change quickly.
The Guardian's Sam Knight has a long feature on Daniel Hannan: "The man who brought you Brexit: Britain’s vote to leave the EU was the grand finale of a 25-year campaign by a lonely sect of true believers. Daniel Hannan wrote the script." Grab a beverage.
The Daily Mail: "Crisis-ridden EU on the brink of imploding blasts Liam Fox: Minister launches savage attack on the bloc's catastrophic economic policies." Brexit politicians should not be seen to be cheerleading the EU's troubles, but ... schadenfreude.

I'm returning to my theory that Donald Trump doesn't want to be president
Chris Cillizza in the Washington Post:
Then I read this paragraph in a terrific New York Times story headlined "New Debate Strategy for Donald Trump: Practice, Practice, Practice":
The team had primed Mr. Trump to look for roughly a dozen key phrases and expressions Mrs. Clinton uses when she is uncertain or uncomfortable, but he did not seem to pay attention during the practice sessions, one aide said, and failed to home in on her vulnerabilities during the debate.
Now. Go back and read that sentence again. Done? Read it once more. It's that important.
Donald Trump is one of two people who will be president next January. (Sorry Gary Johnson!) Monday night was, inarguably, the most important day of the general election campaign to date. Every person in politics — and not — had circled the first debate as a major moment in the campaign, Trump's best chance to fight back against the narrative that he lacks the policy chops and the temperament to be president of the United States. The audience for the debate was expected to be somewhere between 80 and 100 million, the largest for a political event ever. (It wound up achieving that goal.)
All of these things pointed to the absolute necessity for Trump to perform well. And, what happened? His debate prep team couldn't get him to pay attention. That is, literally, stunning. Put yourself in a comparable situation. You are applying for a job you really want. Your interview is in five days. You hire an interview coach to help you do well. Then you just can't bring yourself to pay attention to the advice he or she gives you.
Another, more plausible theory, is that Donald Trump thinks he is smart enough not to need debate preparation. That's dumb. And I'm of the view that he accomplished the minimum of what needed to do in the debate (which is not screw up badly) and played it to a tie. But he could have won by damaging Hillary Clinton, and he didn't.

Vox interviews Tyler Cowen
Of course Tyler Cowen's interview with Vox's Sean Illing is self-recommending. Some highlights.
SI: What would you consider the most dangerous idea in human history?
TC: The idea of progress.
The follow-up to his four-word answer provides an explanation.
SI: So you’re not worried about utility-maximizing machines wreaking havoc in the future?
TC: We'll destroy ourselves long before anything like that happens.
SI: Do you believe something that you can’t prove?
TC: Most of what I believe I can't prove. I can’t even define what a number is … so how good can you feel about anything you believe?
Playing the game of underrated/overrated:
SI: Milton Friedman?
TC: He's both underrated and overrated. I would say by the median, he's way underrated. But by his partisans, he's way overrated.
And Cowen finds both "America the country" and "America the idea" underrated.

Civil forfeiture abuse
Jason Snead, policy analyst in The Heritage Foundation's Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, writes at FEE about a Michigan family whose assets were sold by the county sheriff before their litigation was complete. It is a tragic case and a clear abuse of civil forfeiture by local police. Snead says, "This case should be a clear call to all Americans that it’s long past time to rein in our nation’s abuse-prone civil forfeiture system." He also says that governments must eliminate the incentives for local authorities to take property from suspected criminals and even those convicted of lesser crimes because it means policing pays.

Trump has a point about the Fed
Ruchir Sharma, chief global strategist at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, writes in the Wall Street Journal:
But when it comes to the Federal Reserve, Mr. Trump isn’t all wrong.
In a looping debate rant, Mr. Trump argued that an increasingly “political” Fed is holding interest rates low to help Democrats in November, driving up a “big, fat, ugly bubble” that will pop when the central bank raises rates. This riff has some truth to it.
Leave the conspiracy theory aside and look at the facts: Since the Fed began aggressive monetary easing in 2008, my calculations show that nearly 60% of stock market gains have come on those days, once every six weeks, that the Federal Open Market Committee announces its policy decisions.
Put another way, the S&P 500 index has gained 699 points since January 2008, and 422 of those points came on the 70 Fed announcement days. The average gain on announcement days was 0.49%, or roughly 50 times higher than the average gain of 0.01% on other days.
This is a sign of dysfunction. The stock market should be a barometer of the economy, but in practice it has become a barometer of Fed policy ...
The increasingly close and risky link between the Fed’s easy-money policies and financial markets has been demonstrated again in recent days. Early this month, some Fed governors indicated that the central bank might at long last raise interest rates at its next meeting. The stock market dropped sharply in response. Then when decision time came on Sept. 21 and the Fed left rates unchanged, stock prices rallied by 1% that day.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen did come into office sounding unusually political, promising to govern in the interest of “Main Street not Wall Street,” although that promise hasn’t panned out. Mr. Trump was basically right in saying that Fed policy has done more to boost the prices of financial assets—including stocks, bonds and housing—than it has done to help the economy overall.

Labour Party's anti-semitism problem
The Independent: "Momentum vice-chair Jackie Walker says Holocaust Memorial Day is not inclusive enough." The paper reports from Liverpool:
Momentum’s vice-chair is under pressure to resign from the organisation after she appeared to criticise Holocaust Memorial Day for commemorating only Jewish victims.
Jackie Walker, vice-chair of the grassroots organisation set up shortly after Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader last year, reportedly made the comments at a Labour Party anti-Semitism training event.
“In terms of Holocaust day, wouldn’t it be wonderful if Holocaust day was open to all people who experienced holocaust?” she told organisers.
The paper also reports Walker being overheard saying, "I still haven’t heard a definition of anti-Semitism that I can work with."

Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Despite paucity of evidence, Ottawa wants to regulate e-cigs
The CBC reported:
Health Minister Jane Philpott will host a national forum early next year to discuss the future of tobacco control.
In an interview Tuesday, Philpott said Canadians will be pleased that the federal government is proceeding with regulatory standards for e-cigarettes and vaping.
"It is a challenging area because, for one thing, we are lacking adequate evidence to completely understand the risks and benefits of e-cigarettes," she said.
In the absence of evidence that vaping causes harm, shouldn't the state avoid regulation? Study it, sure, but let it be if there is no suggestion that it hurts people.

'But the judges' argument for Trump
The Washington Examiner's Timothy Carney counters the last conservative argument for voting for Donald Trump (other than he's-not-Hillary-Clinton): deciding who appoints judges. Carney says:
This is just about the only argument conservatives can make these days when trying to convince other conservatives to vote for a pro-choice, thrice-married, serial-philandering, Clinton-donating, factually challenged, eminent-domain abusing, pro-corporate welfare, crony capitalist con-man Donald Trump.
Most recently, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told conservatives to walk the party line in November because Trump — whom he has called a "pathological liar" — has promised to nominate good judges.
Cruz articulated the argument well ... [but] Cruz assumes Trump would appoint justices that conservatives would like. All evidence points to the contrary.
However, there is a problem with this line of argument: "Trump is not with conservatives on the policies where the court matters most." Except on the issue of gun rights, he is a social liberal. Worse, as Carney points out, he doesn't seem to know the role of the judge, saying this past year that they should investigate Hillary Clinton and that they sign bills.
Carney has another pragmatic consideration for the "but the judges" crowd:
But if you're still a single-issue judges voter, Trump winning may be worse than the alternative. If he is a disaster as president, he would cost the party the Senate in 2018, lose the White House in 2020, and devastate the GOP for a decade — which could be far worse than four or even eight years of Hillary.

What I'm reading
1. Bill Davis: Nation Builder, and Not So Bland After All by Steve Paikin
2. Campaign Confessions: Tales from the War Rooms of Politics by John Laschinger
3. Asymmetric Politics: Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats by Matt Grossmann
4. The City: London and the Global Power of Finance by Tony Norfield

Corbyn's middle finger to his base
The Daily Mail: "Labour leader defies Brexit vote to back unlimited EU immigration." The paper reports on Corbyn's plan:
Ruling out curbs on free movement, he will tell his party’s annual conference: ‘We will not sow division or fan the flames of fear.’
Instead he will unveil plans for a ‘migrant impact fund’ to build schools and hospitals in under-pressure areas.

Schools are run for the benefit of adults
I am convinced that schools are not primarily about the education of its students but the employment of teachers and convenience of parents (essentially state-run babysitting). Even the schedule of school fits the adult world of work rather than the optimum time for students to learn.
The Daily Mail provides further evidence of my theory that schools are mostly about adults:
Catherine Hutley, principal at Philip Morant School and College, in Colchester, Essex, claims scrapping after-school work will allow staff to use the time to plan better lessons.
Schools which have previously scrapped homework have made the move to reduce mental health problems among pupils. Some have extended school hours instead.
Marking homework is too much stress on teachers.
For the record, I'm not a fan of regular homework for elementary school children.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Caplan's 'apolitical reasons for hating politics'
Bryan Caplan says he would hate politics even if libertarianism was politically successful because "I hate the way people think about politics, independent of the ultimate outcome." In a link-filled post, Caplan explains:
I hate the hyperbole of politics. People should speak literal, measured truth or be silent.
I hate the Social Desirability Bias of politics. People should describe reality as it is, not pander to wishful thinking.
I hate the innumeracy of politics. People should focus on what's quantitatively important, not what thrills the masses.
I hate the overconfidence of politics. People shouldn't make claims they won't bet on, and shouldn't assert certainty unless they're willing to bet everything they own against a penny.
I hate the myside bias of politics. People should strive to be fair to out-groups, and scrupulously monitor in-groups, to counteract our natural human inclination to do the opposite.
I hate the "winning proves I'm right" mentality of politics. Winning only proves your views are popular, and popular views are often wrong.
Last but not least:
I hate the excuses people make for each of the preceding evils.
Caplan extrapolates on the last point and provides links for all the others. He is talking mostly about partisans, but recall he is the author of The Myth of the Rational Voter, so his observations might have more application to the general public.

Good observation about the debate
The Wall Street Journal had several of their staff score the debate and declare the winner. Daniel Henninger:
Hillary Clinton’s primary goal in the debate was to get Donald Trump to restate what he’s said before about Muslims or Hispanics and his presumably misogynistic attitudes toward women. The stuff that upsets people. Her do-or-die goal was to cut down Mr. Trump among doubtful white upper-middle-class voters. These are the battleground-state Americans who live in suburban Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Columbus and in North Carolina, Colorado, Virginia and Wisconsin. With the rest of the white vote locked up, these upper-middle-class Republicans and independents will make or break the Trump candidacy.
Hillary needed either to convince them that Donald Trump is unfit or induce Mr. Trump to do it for her by “scaring” these crucially important voters.
Donald Trump needed to give these same people a “get out of Trump jail” card—a reason to look past his flaws and just vote for him rather than the other three options available—her, a Libertarian, or stay home—all votes they really don’t want to cast.
And the winner of the first abominable debate is?
Trump. In what was—shifting metaphors—a photo finish. It shouldn’t have been close. If we know anything, it’s that this is a change election. I couldn’t hear a single element of change in Hillary’s outpourings. “Investments” means familiar spending. ISIS? Drop more bombs.
Did Mount Trump erupt? Not quite.
Trump might have won be exceeding the ridiculously low expectations set for him and not being the monster he is often (and correctly) portrayed as.
In the same article, William McGurn says:
But all this may miss each candidate’s real appeal. Mrs. Clinton had her numbers and her programs and her zingers lined up. Along the way, she invoked the great progressive god of fact-checking, a way of appealing to people who have no faith in the ability of ordinary Americans to think for themselves.
Perhaps she did thump him. But democracies can be unruly things, and Mr. Trump isn’t running on policy detail or finesse. He’s running on “Making America Great Again”—and against Washington and political correctness.
Joseph Rago said there nothing special about either candidate's performance. Kimberley A. Strassel said Trump missed the chance to hammer Clinton on ethics. It's too bad the Journal didn't have Peggy Noonan comment.

German business leader predicts UK will thrive under Brexit
The Daily Mail reports:
Britain will thrive outside the European Union as the bloc turns inward, a top German business leader has said.
Mathias Döpfner, chief executive of media giant Axel Springer, said the UK would be ‘highly attractive’ to investors after it left.
He believes Brexit will see the nation embrace a truly free market, while the EU becomes a ‘transfer union’ in which money is funnelled from rich states to poor ones.
Mr Döpfner said he expected a short-term economic slowdown for Britain, but argued that within three to five years, ‘England will be better off than continental Europe’.

Ponnuru on the debate
Writing in The Corner, Ramesh Ponnuru on the debate:
She made more points tonight, but he may have scored more points. The anti-Trump way to look at the contrast is that he has less to say, because he knows less and has thought less about government; the pro-Trump way to look at it is that he’s a hedgehog.
The effect of that contrast, I think, was that viewers had a stronger sense of where he stood. He thinks we’re losing at international trade, that our allies are taking advantage of us, that we aren’t being respectful enough about the police, that she has been part of every problem for a long, long time. I don’t think where she stood came out nearly as clearly.

Telling exchange between Trump and Clinton
I found most of the debate excruciating. I disagree with Donald Trump on NAFTA and trade, but notice Hillary Clinton's trite, non-responsive response:
TRUMP: Your husband signed NAFTA, which was one of the worst things that ever happened to the manufacturing industry.
CLINTON: Well, that's your opinion. That is your opinion.
Notice HRC did not defend NAFTA. She had praised Bill Clinton's economic record earlier in the debate, but she did not, in fact, defend NAFTA.

Monday, September 26, 2016
Government in a nutshell
The Toronto Star reports on problems with Toronto transit's smart ticketing system:
The transit agency has stated publiclythat fewer than 1 per cent of its new Presto fare card readers are out of service at any given time. But an audit the TTC conducted last week revealed that at least 5 to 6 per cent of the devices on its streetcar fleet aren’t working, and the real number could be higher.
According to TTC chief customer officer Chris Upfold, it’s difficult to know how many devices are misfiring, because the cellular system that is supposed to automatically detect when they malfunction isn’t working properly.
“Frankly, it might be higher (than 5 to 6 per cent). I wouldn’t be surprised if it was,” Upfold said in an interview.
Read that again: "it’s difficult to know how many devices are misfiring, because the cellular system that is supposed to automatically detect when they malfunction isn’t working properly." In other words, the mechanism to ensure everything is working properly isn't working properly. Predictable. I'm not saying that everything functions perfectly all the time in the private sector but 1) it gets fixed quicker and 2) the problems don't cost everyone (taxpayers) money.

The problem for Democrats
Everyone focuses on the problems within the Republican Party because the party establishment and opposition media alike recognize those problems. Few people are talking about the problems within the Democratic Party because its elite and their media allies are in denial. At Conservative Review, Steve Deace does a good job describing the Democratic predicament:
Then there’s the Democrats, who converted the ‘hope and change’ of eight years ago into the most unstable civic and racial relations in decades. Progressivism may have always been unhinged, but now it was completely unleashed.
That meant the next Democrat candidate for president either needed to be as radical as the mob that was marking its territory in every corner of the culture or be the most shameless and truth-averse politician that could possibly be imagined, ready and willing to say and do anything – and I mean anything – to finally grasp the ring of power for herself.

Billionaires and the presidential election
Bloomberg: "Hillary Clinton Is Outraising Trump 20-to-1 Among Billionaires." Bloomberg reports:
Former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has collected $21.1 million for her campaign and its supporting political action committees from 17 U.S. donors on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Republican Donald Trump has received $1.02 million from 12 members of the group.
That sounds like a lot, but it isn't in the grand scheme of things. Contributions from billionaires account for just 3% of the $708 million the two candidates have raised (according to the most recent Federal Election Commission filings). And nearly half of the total value of the donations from billionaires ($11.9 billion) was given by one person, George Soros. Queue the conspiracy theories. If you take out the highly ideological (or self-serving) Soros, 28 billionaires have given under $10 million to the two presidential campaigns. That's not a lot of money from billionaires.
A more interesting angle than buying influence is the fact that the candidate of the middle class is the clear favourite of the wealthiest Americans, whether you include Soros or not.

November winner might face economic limits to their campaign wish-list. Or not.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
Whoever wins in November will enjoy far less latitude to spend money or cut taxes than any president since World War II.
Not since Harry Truman will a new leader enter office with a higher debt-to-GDP ratio. And for the first time in decades, the new president will face the specter of widening deficits despite a growing economy.
I'm not so sure -- when has economics got in the way of a politician? The Journal says that if the economy dips, there will be even less room. I doubt it would much bother Hillary Clinton: she belongs to a party that has no qualms with a Keynesian approach to the economy, and given the limits of monetary policy, they will depend on fiscal stimulus. And Donald Trump seems clueless about how economies work; his adviser Peter Navarro predicts dynamic economic growth, resulting in a massive revenue boost to federal coffers, once Trump's (anti) trade plan is implemented.
The moral of the story is not that ballooning deficits and a sluggish economy will constrain politicians, but that they are no impediment at all to the ideological preferences of either presidential candidate and their respective parties. Democrats will continue to spend, while Trump pursues a suicidal trade policy and Republicans insist on indiscriminate tax cuts. Indeed, politicians will insist that economic uncertainty buttress the arguments for their preferred economic agendas.

Journal unimpressed by Cruz endorsement of Trump
The Wall Street Journal editorializes that Senator Ted Cruz refused to endorse Donald Trump when the billionaire was behind in the polls but backed him as the national polls indicate a close race:
Mr. Cruz’s machinations won’t matter much in November but they are worth keeping in mind after the election. If Mr. Trump loses, the GOP will have to rebuild from the rubble of a third straight presidential defeat. Mr. Cruz is already planning his 2020 campaign and he will try to cast himself as the only true conservative. The Texan’s shape-shifting regarding Mr. Trump reveals his true political character ...
Republicans of good conscience can differ on the Trump candidacy given his sometimes incendiary comments and his changeable policy views. The way Mr. Cruz has handled the choice is a clinic in political cynicism.
It is very difficult not to view Cruz's decision as anything but crass political calculation. Unfortunately, whatever his motivations, the Texas senator has hurt his position in Congress as a conservative leader in opposition to a President Hillary Clinton or working with a President Donald Trump, and, more importantly, has further damaged his credentials to be the principled conservative leader among Republican hopefuls in 2020 if Trump loses in November. As the Journal noted, all the reasons Cruz gave for endorsing Trump this week were true in July when he refused to do so. If I were an American, I would be willing to overlook Cruz's apparent political maneuvering, but I understand why many conservatives wouldn't.

Trump meets with Netanyahu
The joint statement following meeting between Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Trump Towers concludes:
Mr. Trump acknowledged that Jerusalem has been the eternal capital of the Jewish People for over 3000 years, and that the United States, under a Trump administration, will finally accept the long-standing Congressional mandate to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the State of Israel.
The meeting concluded with both leaders promising the highest level of mutual support and cooperation should Mr. Trump have the honor and privilege of being elected President of the United States.

Remember Obama's 2009 Nobel Peace Prize?
The Guardian's Natalie Nougayrède calls out President Barack Obama:
In his 2009 Nobel prize speech, Obama said that inaction in the face of mass slaughter “tears at our conscience and can lead to most costly intervention later”. As Syria turned into hell on earth, the president repeatedly made the case that any intervention would be either futile or dangerous.
More specifically:
As his presidency comes to a close, the fact is that Obama has little to show the world on Syria. With an estimated half a million deaths, the Middle East in flames and European allies destabilised by the impact of refugee flows, he will pass on a festering crisis to his successor.
Russia was always going to be a stumbling block, not least because Putin long ago identified Obama’s reluctance to do more – such as arming the rebels decisively, upholding his self-proclaimed “red line” or setting up a no-fly zone (before Russian intervention made that impossible). There is a long list of missed opportunities that might have forced Assad to the negotiating table.

Before there was Tiger Woods, there was Arnold Palmer
Yesterday Arnold Palmer passed away at the age of 87. Golf Week says:
No one did more to popularize the sport than Palmer. His dashing presence singlehandedly took golf out of the country clubs and into the mainstream. Quite simply, he made golf cool.
His fans, many who apparently had little interest in golf before Palmer came along, is called Arnold's Army. Vin Scully once said, "In a sport that was high society, Arnold Palmer made it 'High Noon'."
Palmer was presented with the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999 and Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004.

Sunday, September 25, 2016
Toronto's St. Michael's cathedral to re-open this week
The Catholic Register editorializes about the role of cathedrals, and specifically St. Michael's cathedral in downtown Toronto:
Construction methods have evolved but cathedrals are still about experiencing something bigger than mankind. They are deliberately spectacular, combining the best in architecture, stonework, sculpture, painting and song to form sacred, inspiring settings to bring us closer to God. Through their grandeur, cathedrals evoke the eternal truths of faith that are truly grand.
Cathedrals such as St. Michael’s also offer a response to the false cathedrals, the sports arenas, stock markets and malls, that dot the city. St. Michael’s provides a holy ground of tranquility and prayer amid a bustling material culture that can be dismissive of the spiritual realm. St. Michael’s also speaks to history and the substantial Catholic contribution to the life of Toronto.
The $128-million renovation would be justified on this grounds alone, but as the Register notes, there was no choice:
Designated as a heritage site by the City of Toronto, St. Michael’s could not be torn down. And, structurally unsound, the building was unlikely to attract a buyer willing to invest the tens of millions needed to keep it standing. That meant a full restoration — doing it right, to last for generations — was the only sensible option.
I look forward to seeing the restored cathedral on Thursday.
Full Register coverage is available here, with special note on the restoration of the ceiling.

Conversations, not safe spaces
Reason's Robby Soave tells the story of a Young Americans for Freedom event at the University of Kansas that was disrupted by radical students upset with YAF's event -- so upset that they had to physically attend and engage the conservative students. Soave says that the demand for safe spaces to protect progressive students from dissenting viewpoints made the case against safe spaces:
The leftists used extremely hurtful and offensive language, and were even occasionally physically intimidating. The conservatives said things that the leftists thought were offensive, too.
And yet that conversation clearly needed to happen. It needs to happen many more times, in fact. It's going to be ugly, it's going to be offensive, it's going to be uncomfortable, and it's going to be hurtful. But it clearly needs to happen.
For what it's worth, I think the leftists raised a number of good points, even if their delivery was hyperbolic. One of the leftists, a black woman of color, talked about the myriad ways in which her high school failed to prepare her for college. I have no doubt that some of the privileged members of YAF could benefit from hearing that.
But here's the thing: If the left's vision of a safe space was enacted throughout campus, they could have never had that discussion. The leftists continuously screamed insults and hurtful words at the members of YAF: what if YAF had responded by saying you make us feel unsafe? Would that have shut them up? Should it have shut them up?
I'm a little surprised, in fact, that more conservatives have not yet begun to use the language of the left for their own purposes. There is no doubt in my mind that a conservative involved in that discussion could have easily felt "unsafe" in the leftist sense—the triggered sense—at various points.
This is why it's so critically important to stop public spaces on university campuses from being made "safe" (to the extent that safe is a synonym for comfortable). There are a lot of difficult discussions that need to be had...

The Left in Europe
Paul Goodman on the problem facing Labour in the United Kingdom:
What is happening to Labour is not unique. Conventional parties of the Left are in trouble in Spain, Greece, France – almost everywhere you look. In very simple terms, the gap over immigration between the politicians who run them and the voters who elect them has become a gulf.
Labour in Britain is thus really two parties. The first is the Labour of parts of London: Camden, Greenwich, Islington, Lambeth, Haringey: pro-immigration, prosperous, pro-globalisation, largely middle class. Then there is the rest of the party, based largely in the Leave-voting, anti-migration midlands and north.
Many pundits say the Right has political challenges uniting their diverse elements (especially in the United States), but the same could be said of the Left (especially in Britain and France, but also elsewhere in Europe). I think that Canada's Left and Right will be immune to realigning challenges, at least in the medium term.

Corbyn wins Labour Party vote
Labour leader Jeremey Corbyn keeps his job as leader of the party after winning nearly 62% of the vote on Saturday. More than half a million Labour Party members voted with Corbyn taking 313,209 votes to Owen Smith's 193,229. Some Corbyn supporters are calling for what amounts to a purge of MPs who opposed the leader -- the political term is deselection -- although Corbyn himself appears to be taking the high road by saying that constituency boundary changes mean all MPs will have to run again for nominations. Perhaps his margin of victory leads Corbyn to believe his people will win nominations and his opponents won't. It's the right thing to say right now even if Corbyn expects to make life difficult for some opponents within the party later. I expect many will leave on their own considering, whether on principle or the belief they'd lose anyway in 2020.
It does seem silly that Momentum activists want anti-Corbyn MPs deselected; the focus should be on defeating their Conservative opponents in three-and-a-half years. Isabel Hardman writes in The Spectator that any peace at the Labour conference in Liverpool is very shallow, perhaps even phony. The Labour infighting reminds us of the probably apocryphal story of Winston Churchill's conversation with a rookie Conservative MP. Sitting on the government side of the House, the rookie MP pointed to the other side and said that's where the enemy sits. Churchill corrected him: "No, son, that's the opposition," and pointing to their own benches added, "that is the enemy."
Conservative Home's Paul Goodman says that Labour MPs opposed to Corbyn -- and remember that a majority of them called a review of Corbyn's leadership -- have choices to make regarding how they proceed under their reaffirmed leader:
They can try to make their peace with Corbyn, and hope for a front-bench job. Or they can form themselves into a new grouping, inside Parliament and maybe outside it. Or they can sit tight and hope that something turns up. The third is the most risk-free option, and many will presumably take it.
Too many political observers scoff at Corbyn and his wing of the party, but a lot can happen between now and 2020. Labour is not likely to win the next election, assuming nothing changes between now and election day. But Brexit negotiations, a new prime minister without an elected mandate, and events means the United Kingdom has a lot of politics going on in the next three-plus years. It looks impossible today, but the election isn't today. Labour could win, but they handicap themselves if they continue the infighting.

Saturday, September 24, 2016
Canada cozies up to Red China
The Prime Minister's Office released a statement today: "Prime Minister announces increased collaboration with China." Not surprising considered his admiration for their "basic dictatorship."
I am no fan of the regime in Beijing and its deplorable human rights record. I was a critic of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's visits to China. But no country in the world is going to risk offending the communist leadership of a country with 1.5 billion consumers. Canadian prime minister's are in a no-win political situation domestically when they make deals with Beijing, but I'm not sure castigating China will do any good.

The case for Clinton
Kids Prefer Cheese:
My own preference would be for HRC to be prez but the republicans continue to hold both legislative branches. Her brand of lawlessness I think is more amenable to congressional checks than the Trumpster's.
Kevin Grier will still probably vote for Gary Johnson, and hope for divided government.

Vin Scully's last series
Vin Scully has a typically classy letter to fans on the last weekend of his nearly seven-decade broadcasting career. I highly recommend reading it. It is brief -- six paragraphs that begin by explaining how he became a Giants fan -- and humble:
You were simply always there for me. I have always felt that I needed you more than you needed me and that holds true to this very day. I have been privileged to share in your passion and love for this great game.
Dayn Perry says: "Eighty years of loving the game of baseball and 67 years of telling us stories about it. The pleasure has been ours, Mr. Scully." Indeed.

'Claims of an epidemic of race crimes since the referendum are simply false'
The Daily Mail reports that a claim that there has been an 57% increase in hate crimes since the Brexit vote is based on one reporting mechanism in the four days after the referendum. The likely unrepresentative few days has since taken a life of its own with it being repeated as fact for the months since Brexit was okayed by British voters. Indeed, a National Police Chief Council press release said there was "no major spikes in tensions" in the aftermath of Brexit. Hate crimes haven't increased, but anti-hate crime activism has. The Daily Mail reports:
For the more you investigate, the more it turns out to be a deeply cynical industry where dishonesty and hysteria reign, truth has been replaced with Left-wing dogma, and verifiable facts no longer count for very much at all.
On paper, Britain is a remarkably tolerant country. London has just elected a Muslim mayor by a whacking majority. Gay marriage is not just legal but supported by a comfortable majority of adults. Children from ethnic minorities consistently outperform white working-class counterparts at school and in university.
Surveys by the respected and politically neutral think-tank Pew Research, along with the prestigious British Social Attitudes Survey, show racial prejudice in long-term and perhaps terminal decline.
Yet despite such trends, we are routinely described as being in the grip of a hate crime ‘epidemic’ where a few high-profile incidents — such as the appalling recent murder of a Polish immigrant on the streets of Harlow (which may or may not eventually prove to be race-related) — are said to represent the tip of a sinister iceberg.

Ted Cruz 'endorses' Donald Trump
On Facebook Senator Ted Cruz (Texas) states his reasons for voting for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, and encourages others who oppose Hillary Clinton's radical agenda and Barack Obama's third term to vote Trump, too. He is not really endorsing Trump as much as he is voting against Clinton, and that's fair. My first reaction was disappointment. Supporting Trump wouldn't be my choice -- I would do what I usually do and abstain from voting -- but considering that the Senator has to work with other members of his party and perhaps a Trump White House, it is understandable and probably even defensible.
The Washington Examiner reports that Senator Mike Lee (Utah) says he will not be joining his friend Cruz in supporting Trump. I presume that means Lee is off the list of potential Supreme Court judicial appointees Trump is talking about.
The Resurgent's Erick Erickson makes a political argument against Clinton and Christian argument against Trump which is reprinted in the Washington Post. He says Clinton is anti-American but Trump is un-American and, worse, an unrepentant sinner:
I think Hillary Clinton will do lasting damage to the country. I cannot vote for her.
Having fully weighed my opposition to Trump, I think Donald Trump will do lasting damage to the witness of the Church in America and I therefore cannot vote for him.

Friday, September 23, 2016
Money for people, not programs
The Saskatchewan Ministry of Social Services announced earlier this week:
Social Services Minister Tina Beaudry-Mellor today announced the future implementation of a self-directed funding (SDF) model for individuals who experience intellectual disabilities to give them greater choice over their life decisions. Self-directed funding allows individuals experiencing intellectual disabilities to choose supports that meet their needs and help them reach their goals.
Currently, funding to clients goes through community-based organizations, but under SDF, goes directly to the individual. This allows individuals and their support team to decide which supports and services they access depending on their own unique needs and aspirations. Minister Beaudry-Mellor joined participants of the SDF Demonstration Project and their families to celebrate the positive impact and successes of this approach ...
A self-directed funding option was one of the recommendations put forward by the Valley View Centre Transition Steering Committee in 2013. The Committee recognized that some individuals were unable to access certain supports through the former funding model, and that a funding model with more choices and autonomy would personalize the supports and services available to individuals transitioning from Valley View Centre into communities across Saskatchewan. The self-directed funding model will be implemented province-wide beginning April 1, 2017.

What I'm reading
1. Creating Canada’s Peacekeeping Past by Colin McCullough. The McMaster historian examines how peacekeeping worked domestically to foster a Canadian identity.
2. Trudeaumania: The Rise to Power of Pierre Elliott Trudeau by Robert Wright. I'm also looking forward to reading Paul Litt's Trudeaumania, which comes out in December from UBC Press.
3. "Crowding Out Culture: Scandinavians and Americans Agree on Social Welfare in the Face of Deservingness Cues," by Lene Aaroe and Michael Bang Petersen
4. "Less Ottawa, More Province: How Decentralization Is Key to Health Care Reform," a new Fraser Institute paper by Ben Eisen, Bacchus Barua, Jason Clemens, and Steve Lafleur.

'Visual History of Global Health'
Incredible graphs/maps from Our World in Data showing the "History of Global Health." All good news. Some are interactive and it is rewarding to spend some time on each slide. Max Roser's work is similar to Hans Rosling's.

Brexit schedule announced by BoJo, denied by May
The Guardian reports:
The UK government is likely to trigger article 50 and begin the process of the country’s formal departure from the European Union early next year, Boris Johnson has said.
In a rare hint of the government’s concrete plans for Brexit, the foreign secretary told Sky News that ministers would also set out the principles for departure at that time, and suggested the exit procedure could take less than the scheduled two years.
However, Downing Street pointedly declined to back up Johnson’s contention. Theresa May has previously made clear her frustration with ministers expressing views on how a Brexit deal or process might look.
Meanwhile, The Guardian is tracking the UK economic performance as part of on-going Brexit coverage, from the referendum through negotiations with the EU, and it finds that Project Fear was way off in its predictions:
But since the Bank [of England] stepped in with a package of measures to shore up the economy, much of the economic news has defied expectations and many analysts have toned down their post-referendum gloom.
Now the picture of early resilience is bolstered in the first snapshot of post-referendum Britain in a new Guardian project that will track the economy as the Brexit talks begin and progress, and as more data on the economy becomes available.
The Guardian has chosen eight economic indicators, as well as the value of the pound against the dollar and euro, to illustrate the state of the economy.
While there are warning signs of possible problems ahead, the dashboard shows a better than expected performance in four of the eight categories analysed. Two were as expected and inflation came in below forecasts, defying expectations for a post-referendum pick-up in price rises. Public borrowing was a little worse than forecast, at £10.5bn in August, compared with the £10bn predicted by economists.
The Daily Mail reports "In a damning assessment of the scaremongering by the Remain camp, the Office for National Statistics declared that there had been no post-referendum economic shock."

US police killing civilians is not rising
The Washington Post reports that American police are on pace to fatally shoot slightly fewer than the 990 civilians killed in 2015:
Yet even as demonstrations and anger have erupted in cities across the country in recent years, pushing this issue firmly into the national consciousness, the actual pace of deadly shootings remains unchanged.
Police in the United States are on pace to fatally shoot about as many people this year as they did last year, when officers shot and killed nearly 1,000 civilians, according to a Washington Post database.
Officers have shot and killed at least 706 people so far this year.
This is not a good news story.
It seems like 2016 is more violent because, "There is one big difference in the shootings this year, though: More of these incidents are being captured on camera."

Right to try
Senator Ron Johnson (R, WI) argues in the Wall Street Journal for right-to-try laws:
But safety is not the FDA’s only mandate. The agency also must establish a drug’s effectiveness before potential breakthroughs are allowed on the market. This risk-averse approach results in an approval process that on average takes 14 years, according to a 2014 study from Tufts University, and costs nearly $2.6 billion for a single drug ...
A growing national movement believes terminally ill patients deserve the right to try safe but experimental drugs and treatments. Thirty-one states now have enacted laws to give terminally ill patients the legal right to access drugs and treatments that have demonstrated safety but not yet received FDA approval. At a time when national politics are often divided, right-to-try laws are passing with nearly unanimous support.
But the Obama administration’s posture on these laws is unclear. Doctors and pharmaceutical companies rightly fear professional and legal consequences if they administer experimental treatments. In my Senate committee, I’ve attempted to get the FDA to speak clearly on whether it will respect these state laws.
Johnson supports the Trickett Wendler Right to Try Act of 2016 which "requires the federal government to abide by the right-to-try laws in the now-31 states that have adopted them." It has the bipartisan support of 42 senators and there is similar legislation in the House of Representatives. As Johnson says, "No one can guarantee a miracle cure. What we can and must do is give patients and families the freedom to decide for themselves how to fight their illness. With no other options, they at least have the right to hope."

Reproductive freedom and climate change
Colin Hickey, Travis N. Rieder, and Jake Earl write in the October Social Theory and Practice on the need for "population engineering" in order to combat climate change:
Contrary to political and philosophical consensus, we argue that the threats posed by climate change justify population engineering, the intentional manipulation of the size and structure of human populations. Specifically, we defend three types of policies aimed at reducing fertility rates: (1) choice enhancement, (2) preference adjustment, and (3) incentivization. While few object to the first type of policy, the latter two are generally rejected because of their potential for coercion or morally objectionable manipulation. We argue that forms of each policy type are pragmatically and morally justified (perhaps even required) tools for preventing the harms of global climate change.
Shannon Roberts writes at Mercator that it is unnecessary and potentially dangerous:
For a start, according to Oxfam research late last year, the richest 10% of people produce half of Earth’s climate-harming fossil-fuel emissions, while the poorest half contribute a mere 10%, making it hard to say that emissions are an over-population problem. Oxfam said late last year that its analysis “helps dispel the myth that citizens in rapidly developing countries are somehow most to blame for climate change.”
Aside from that, one only has to consider the far-reaching effects of the one child policy in China or do any research into the human toll of the population reduction and sterilisation targets operating in numerous countries in the 1970’s and 1980’s to see the negative effects of population engineering. For instance in 1983 - the year the United Nations actually gave China a population award and money for its establishment of family planning programmes - a record number of birth control surgeries were performed in China, including 16.4 million female sterilisations and 14.4 million abortions – many of them forced. Let's not go back there.

Thursday, September 22, 2016
Jason Kenney's first speech in the House of Commons in 1997
Next week, for the first time in 19 years, Jason Kenney will not be an MP. CPAC tweeted his maiden speech in the House.

Four games to watch (Week 3 edition)
4. Pittsburgh Steeler (2-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (2-0): Two perfect Pennsylvania teams. Steelers have a potent offense that is always fun to watch and their defense -- especially their front seven -- is quite good. Eagles rookie QB Carson Wentz, who would be described as competent if his team's record was 1-1 instead of 2-0, goes against the toughest defense he will have faced in his short career. Wentz has beaten the Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears, two of the worst defenses in the NFL (Chicago partly because of injuries). Philly has had a conservative game plan for Wentz and we'll want to see what he can do against a more aggressive D. I'm biased, of course, but any game that has Ben Roethlisberger throwing to Antonio Brown is going to provide highlight reel plays. Steelers should dominate through the first three quarters but the win will make appear close as they notoriously give away points in the fourth quarter.
3. Houston Texans (2-0) at New England Patriots (2-0): This Thursday Night contest would probably be number one if Tom Brady or Jimmy Garoppolo were starting instead of third-stringer rookie Jacoby Brissett. This could be a preview of a post-season game, including the AFC Championship, but that game will be different because, presumably, Brady will be playing in January. That said, tonight's contest could determine seeding once the season is over. Garoppolo has played well so its no wonder the Pats are tying to have him ready for tonight, but that seems unlikely and unwise. I'm not sure an injured Garoppolo facing the inhuman pass rush of the Texans is the best plan. It will be interesting to see what Pats coach Bill Belichick does with Brissett. It is often assumed that breaking in a new QB benefits opponents, but is also difficult to prepare for third-string quarterbacks for whom there is little game tape. Too close to call but if I had to be, I wouldn't bet against Belichick.
2. Washington Redskins (0-2) at New York Giants (2-0): The Giants are 2-0 but have outscored opponents by just four points. The Giants D was expected to better this season, but they won't continue allowing a mere 16 points a game. That said, the defense is better. There are two great cornerback-receive matchups in this game: Janoris Jenkins vs. DeSean Jackson and Josh Norman vs. Odell Beckham Jr. Thus far this season, Jenkins has played better as Washington's coaches have had Norman taking opposing team's number two wide receiver as they stubbornly keep him on the right side of the field. Perhaps the only players more talked about as an underachiever this year than Norman is Kirk Cousins who is making the Redskins brain trust look brilliant for not signing the fifth-year QB to a long-term deal. Cousins might just be having two bad games or he could be returning to his old ways of throwing picks. You have to figure that Washington would be out of the playoffs with a third consecutive defeat to open the season (and second division loss), while New York would pace the NFC East with its third straight victory. But the individual storylines (Cousins, Norman) and matchups, as well as Eli Manning throwing to Beckham and Victor Cruz, who looks rejuvenated after missing most of the last two seasons, makes this a must-watch game. Cousins continues throwing picks and Manning continues connecting with Cruz and the Giants win easily.
1. Denver Broncos (2-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-1): The Broncs defense is otherwordly. More specifically, Von Miller is a sack machine. You want to watch in this contest is whether Cincy QB Andy Dalton can get the ball thrown downfield to A.J. Green before Miller breaks protection. My guess is not enough. Denver pulls off a minor upset against the Bengals in a game with plenty of playmakers on both sides of the ball on both teams.

'Why is Milk in the Back of the Store?'
The standard, moralizing explanation is that grocery stores are trying to trick you into buying other products after being forced to walk to the back of their establishment. Economist Russell Roberts says it might have to do with where milk can be conveniently and efficiently stored in refrigerated units that can be easily restocked.

Parental rights in education (school lunch edition)
Five Feet of Fury points out a story in The Guardian about schools in Italy -- first Turin and now Milan -- where students have to eat the school lunch. Turin parents won the right to send their kids to school with home-packed lunches, leading parents in Milan to call for the same right. One child who took a healthy whole-grain sandwich to school was segregated from the student body. The Guardian reports:
For Anna Scavuzzo, who is in charge of school food policy in the city, packed lunches represent a threat to student safety.
“If you permit everyone to bring their own food, how can you be sure that something won’t happen?” said a spokeswoman for Scavuzzo’s office, pointing to the prevalence of food allergies, infections, intolerances and other problems.
Bringing food from home, she said, compromised the values the schools are trying to teach students about food and nutrition. “Lunch is an educational moment. They need to learn to sit together, to have proper, safe and organic food, and that they can’t just have potato chips and chocolate. They are in school and that means community,” the spokeswoman said.
Milan’s publicly-funded school system serves about 80,000 student lunches every day. Parents pay for the lunches according to their wealth, with most paying about €2.60 per day.
There are numerous issues tied together in this case: safety, nutrition, food politics (privileging organic, local foods), class, and community, not to mention freedom. (Food fascism?) Scavuzzo's office found the segregation of the student heavy-handed and said the policy has been clarified: in the future, illicit food will be confiscated and the student will be forced to eat a government meal.

Central banks not doing the job
The Wall Street Journal editorializes that the central banks of Japan and the United States (and, it could add, Europe) are experimenting in policies that are not having the intended effect of spurring economic growth. The Journal says that governments need to stop relying on monetary policy and look to tax cuts and regulatory reforms to grow the economy.
Focusing central bank activities on short-term bond purchases and setting interest rates is not only necessary for economic growth, but to ensure investors have the correct information:
Setting interest rates along the range of different maturities could have unintended consequences. A steepening yield curve usually means that more growth and inflation are expected. But an artificial curve without those expectations could encourage more long-term saving, worsening deflation. It could also make Japan’s inefficient banks complacent about restructuring.
Prices are knowledge.

Three cheers for globalization
And a cheer-and-a-half for infrastructure.
George F. Will notes:
Upstate South Carolina suffered when, beginning in the 1970s, Asian imports devastated the textile industry. But in that decade, Charleston’s port was one reason Michelin (France) began manufacturing tires there. Since then, four other tire companies have come — Giti (Singapore), Continental (Germany), Bridgestone (Japan), and Trelleborg Wheel Systems (Sweden). South Carolina manufactures 89,000 tires a day, and exports more tires than any other state. In the 1990s, BMW built an automobile assembly plant and this March exported its 2 millionth X-model vehicle through the Port of Charleston. Without the port, Mercedes and Volvo would not be building plants in South Carolina. Without the port, Mercedes and Volvo would not be building plants in South Carolina.
Operators of the cranes that load the containers onto the ships often earn, with overtime, six-figure salaries. Every day, 3,500 trucks — 70 percent owner-operated — deliver and depart with containers. Do today’s anti-trade politicians wish that South Carolina was still making towels and T-shirts for Americans rather than cars and tires (and Boeing aircraft, manufactured by more than 7,500 South Carolinians) for Americans and the world?
The Charleston port needs to be made deeper to facilitate larger ships. Congress delaying approval and funding has cascading effects: a one month delay in approval means a year delay before budgeting for the project which puts off dredging for a year. Government funding for infrastructure is all the rage, and yet important projects are being postponed:
There is no controversy in Congress about this project. But unless Congress acts on it before the end of the year, the deepening will not be in the president’s 2018 budget and will be delayed for a year, with radiating costs — inefficiencies and lost opportunities. This a mundane matter of Congress managing its legislative traffic, moving consensus measures through deliberation to action. It will illustrate whether or not Congress can still efficiently provide public works to enhance private-sector efficiency.

Bryan Caplan on not voting
Bryan Caplan (HT: Cafe Hayek):
I do not vote. Since I'm an economist, the parsimonious explanation is that (a) I know the probability of voter decisiveness is astronomically low, and (b) I selfishly value my time. But that's hardly adequate. I spend my time on many quixotic missions, like promoting open borders. So why not vote?
My honest answer begins with extreme disgust. When I look at voters, I see human beings at their hysterical, innumerate worst. When I look at politicians, I see mendacious, callous bullies. Yes, some hysterical, innumerate people are more hysterical and innumerate than others. Yes, some mendacious, callous bullies are more mendacious, callous, and bully-like than others. But even a bare hint of any of these traits appalls me. When someone gloats, "Politifact says Trump is pants-on-fire lying 18% of the time, versus just 2% for Hillary," I don't want to cheer Hillary. I want to retreat into my Bubble, where people dutifully speak the truth or stay silent.
I know this seems an odd position for an economist. Aren't we always advising people to choose their best option, even when their best option is bleak? Sure, but abstention is totally an option. And while politicians have a clear incentive to ignore we abstainers, only remaining aloof from our polity gives me inner peace ...
I refuse to traumatize myself for a one-in-a-million chance of moderately improving the quality of American governance. And one-in-a-million is grossly optimistic.
I know that traumatizing feeling. I always feel dirty after voting, the few times I have (in general elections; leadership races are different). Always have.
I understand why some people vote, so they have a story to tell about themselves. I guess the same is true, however, of non-voters. But people who think they are making a difference are delusional.

Revising Brexit economic forecasts
Back in April, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development warned that Brexit would be bad for the British economy. Now, three months after the Brexit vote, the OECD has raised growth projections for the UK economy by 0.1% to 1.8% in a report that predicts slower global economic growth.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Great photo essay from the weekend's game. Photos by Benjamin Rasmussen, words by D.J. Dunson. Don't have to be a Steelers or Bengals fan to appreciate the photographs.

Post-Brexit free trade with EU
The Daily Mail reports:
Theresa May told the EU’s posturing leaders yesterday that they will have no choice but to agree a trade deal with Brexit Britain.
In a defiant blast delivered en route to a summit of world leaders, the Prime Minister said it was firmly in the interests of the 27 remaining members of the Brussels club to conclude successful talks with the UK.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox added that the Britain is a net importer from the EU.

The Clinton Foundation scam
Austin Bay in The Observer:
The Clinton Foundation, with its plethora of kind strangers, foreign and domestic, is proving to be a problem. It won’t stop the clock, but clock watchers should beware: prostituting the State Department isn’t minutia. It’s the precisely the kind of sleazy, self-serving political class revelation that ticks people off. People get it. Everyone knows what “on the take” means and the Clinton Foundation certainly looks like a global bribery and crony access scam run by a former a president and a first lady who is a presidential candidate ...
[E]ven The Boston Globe wants the Clintons to stop accepting Foundation donations if Hillary is elected president.
See, taking cash from donors when you’re president is, well, so unseemly. There’d be constant gossip, innuendo, wild tales of scandal that Boston Globe editors just don’t want to hear—and don’t want to be forced to ignore.
It appears The Boston Globe’s editors don’t have the guts to call the Clintons what they are: corrupt. Their editorial plea called the Foundation a “distraction.” Distraction? C’mawn Beantown media bigshots—it’s their business and it’s a big business. When Hillary was secretary of state the Clinton Foundation accepted shady donations. Those moral, ethical and perhaps criminal failures should be investigated, right?

Government staff get relocation reimbursements
The Globe and Mail reports:
The Liberal government paid more than $200,000 to move two members of the Prime Minister’s Office to Ottawa, part of a $1.1-million tab picked up by taxpayers to relocate political staff after last year’s federal election, newly released documents show.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to name the two members of his inner circle who racked up the costs – with one staffer charging $126,669 and the other $80,382 for moving expenses, according to the documents tabled in the House of Commons ...
Other costs outlined in the documents show one staff member at Global Affairs Canada was paid a total of $119,825 to relocate, and a total of just over $146,000 was spent on nine employees. Another at Environment and Climate Change Canada was reimbursed almost $76,000 to relocate; while one staffer at Innovation Science and Social Development was paid $113,799 in total.
This is not a Liberal thing; employees of the previous government not only made relocation claims, but the Conservatives brought in the law. It is not unusual for private or public sector employers to pay relocation costs, although many universities, for example, cap such reimbursements to $5,000 or less. I'm sure the PMO would claim that they are attracting top talent and there's a cost to doing so. But $126,669 is a lot of money above and beyond a salary to bring in the precise person the PM wanted. The policy should be changed to provide a (low) ceiling for relocation reimbursements.
It should also be noted that employees who move more than 40 km to new jobs can deduct relocation expenses on the following tax year.

The bad news is that the good news comes from the UN
The Guardian: "UN agrees to fight 'the biggest threat to modern medicine': antibiotic resistance." The paper reports:
The declaration routes the global response to superbugs along a similar path as the one used to combat climate change. In two years, groups including UN agencies will provide an update on the superbug fight to the UN secretary general.
It is estimated that more than 700,000 people die each year due to drug-resistant infections, though it could be much higher because there is no global system to monitor these deaths ...
Scientists warned about the threat of antibiotic resistance decades ago, when pharmaceutical companies began the industrial production of medicine.
Antibiotic resistance might be the most important issue facing humanity. Unfortunately, the UN doesn't have a great track record of success.
I didn't know that concerns about antibiotic resistance were raised from the first days of penicillin:
The inventor of penicillin, Alexander Fleming, cautioned of the impending crisis while accepting his Nobel Prize in 1945: “There is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant”.

Trump's hyperbole
The Washington Examiner reports on Donald Trump's outreach to blacks:
Speaking in North Carolina, the Republican nominee claimed African-American communities "are absolutely in the worst shape that they've ever been in before, ever, ever, ever."
Considering Trump's Southern venue, one might conclude that this was at least a bit hyperbolic. After all, black American history has included slavery, the Fugitive Slave Act, the marauding of the Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow, among other injustices and indignities.
It's the latest Trump paradox. He has begun to do the kind of minority outreach promoted by Republicans from Jack Kemp to Rand Paul yet he retains a tin ear on race.
Trump probably forgot about ... most of American history.

There is no such thing as a 'must-win' state
FiveThirtyEight's Harry Enten:
Notice that Florida is the most pivotal, but it’s only the tipping-point state 16 percent of the time. After Florida, there’s a big drop-off to Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio, which each prove decisive in about 11 percent of our simulations.
There are, however, states that Clinton or Trump win in the vast majority of cases in which they win the election, according to our model’s simulations. But that’s not quite the same thing as a must-win state. Trump has to win Arkansas, for example, but not because Arkansas’s six electoral votes are so valuable. Instead, if Trump is losing in ruby-red Arkansas, he’s likely losing in most other states. The states aren’t independent. So the truly “must-win” states tend to be the noncompetitive ones, and they don’t guarantee Trump or Clinton a win — they simply preclude a loss (most likely).
According to FiveThirtyEight, Clinton has a 51.9% chance of winning. I like the prediction that Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson will win 0.3 Electoral College votes.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016
In defense of surge pricing
Russ Roberts defends Uber's practice of surge pricing:
A lot of people wanted to get out of the area and get out quickly. Surge pricing encouraged drivers to face potential danger. It also signaled to potential passengers whose desire for a ride was not urgent to step aside and make room for those whose need was very urgent indeed. The beauty of prices is that these people do not have to know what is going on. The higher price sends them a message.
For those who are offended by surge pricing at a time of crisis, please tell me your preferred method for getting some people (drivers) to head toward danger when everyone else prefers to head in the other direction. And then tell me how you are going to get people who are heading out to the grocery or are thinking of going out for a drink to postpone or cancel their plans.
Surge pricing provides superior information and coordinate desires better than any other system out there. Period.

Government wants to regulate autonomous vehicles
The Washington Post reports:
Federal officials say they intend to aggressively shape the emergence of driverless cars, increasing their role well beyond the traditional recalls of cars when they prove defective.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx spelled out that determination Monday in issuing a long-awaited policy paper that details 15 points he expects automakers to comply with as they rush to put autonomous cars on the road.
Aggressively shape. That means regulate the shit out of.
The Transportation Secretary says:
“You have to remember that the United States’ approach to automobile-safety regulation is a self-certification approach, so automobiles today are supposed to meet our federal motor-vehicle-safety standards [and] the manufacturers self-certify that they do,” Foxx said in an interview after the conference call. “We’re putting out the idea that in this emerging arena, there should be conversation about pre-market approval, the idea that additional authorities could be given to NHTSA to evaluate a technology and to essentially have to approve its use before it’s put on the marketplace.”
Many people raise objections to self-driving cars that they will injure or kill pedestrians, that they will not be perfectly safe. The standard, however, is that they should be as safe or safer than human-driven cars.