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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Thursday, August 31, 2017
Stephen L. Miller has a commentary at about the controversy over Melania Trump's footwear. I didn't pay close attention to this controversy. I hadn't realized this: "She walked in them for about 200 feet. From the White House exit to the helicopter and from Marine One to Air Force One." Contra some reports from mainstream media outlets (or their tweeting reporters, which is the same thing), the First Lady did not go to the disaster area wearing her heels. That didn't stop the hot takes: "The New York Times, Washington Post, Vanity Fair and Vogue all ran editorials about the choice of footwear and what it all means in the context of who Melania Trump is and what it means while boarding a helicopter." As I've already joked suggested, many of these reporters are probably foot fetishists. Their kinky interests shouldn't be driving the news cycle, not when there are actual stories of woe and heroism in Houston.

The financial crisis ten years later
Economist Phil Mullan on the causes and aftermath of the 2007/2008 financial crisis:
The swelling debt economy in the West underpinned a phase that was dubbed ‘the Great Moderation’. There was little in the way of dynamic accumulation of wealth, but continued credit issuance sustained economic activity and living standards. Until, that is, the events starting 10 years ago brought this stage to an end, and shattered the sense of complacency.
The significance of the financial crash was that financialisation and debt were no longer able to camouflage the effects of the Long Depression. This crash wasn’t an end to financialisation and debt – the economy proved unable to survive without them. It was, however, an end to the generalised sense of wellbeing that had characterised the second act of the Long Depression.
The crash revealed the limits to living off debt. Not absolute limits, but relative ones. Debt levels can expand indefinitely, but at the cost of occasional implosions. The disconnect between the credit-inflated prices of financial assets and the reality of much more restricted levels of value-creation is like a piece of elastic that every so often snaps back. After the spasm, though, the gap can open up again.
Household, corporate, and government debt levels are back above 2007 levels.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017
Tom Harwood, a student at Durham University, has some good advice at ConservativeHome for UK Tories trying to win over young voters:
Too many in the Conservative Party now believe the only path to winning over more young voters like me is to copy Labour, the party that lost the last election. Blindly replicating the structures of one half of a bitterly divided party just because they happen to be good at social media is a recipe for disaster.
The crucial point about Momentum is that it was formed with, well, momentum. It was born out of a successful and transformative leadership campaign and already had a base of loyal and ideologically driven people. The very founding of the organisation had one goal in mind, to defend the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, and consolidate his power within a party establishment that would fight him at every turn. Hard left activists knew that this was their one shot at taking over the Party, and consequently were incredibly motivated.
Every Conservative Momentum-like organisation that has been touted, on the other hand, just feels stale. There is no excitement, they feel designed by committee, compromising and visionless. We’re at risk of creating camels while the Labour Party has found itself with a horse.

Illegals and Harvey
The New York Times reports on efforts to rescue undocumented immigrants illegal aliens living in the Houston area. It is difficult to help people who do not trust their rescuers. That's not a judgement or commentary, just an observation. And this is noteworthy:
“Most of our clients have ankle monitors, and we don’t know how these devices will withstand being underwater,” said Miriam Camero, a caseworker in Houston for RAICES, an immigrant legal-aid group based in San Antonio.

I hate to be the glass is 0.5% full kind of guy but ...
John Tierney at Instapundit:
Fifteen professors at Harvard, Yale and Princeton have written an open letter urging students to resist campus orthodoxy. “Think for yourself,” they urge. James Freeman at the WSJ calls this good news, and I guess it is these days. But why does this even need to be said? And what about the rest of the professoriate. There are at least 3,000 faculty members (and as many as 8,000, depending on who’s counting whom as faculty) at these three universities, which means the 15 signatories represent, at most, one-half of one percent of the faculty. Maybe the other 99.5 percent could not be reached for comment in their safe spaces.

My review of The Benedict Option
My review of Rod Dreher's The Benedict Option appears in the September edition of The Interim. Here's the introduction:
Journalist Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option is a rarity: a socially conservative book urging Christians be more faithful that spurred a serious discussion in the mainstream media among pundits about the future of the so-called Religious Right and those who comprise it. David Brooks of the New York Times called it the most important religious book of the decade.” It also spurred a not-so-serious discussion, with much mischaracterizing of Dreher’s thesis. After reading literally tens of thousands of words written about The Benedict Option, I had to read Dreher’s work twice to make sure I understood what he was really saying rather than reacting to the caricature of what he wrote, and I’m not entirely sure I have succeeded. That’s not an indictment of his book, but rather the complexity and vastness of the subject, and the state of criticism and commentary today. So here goes my best shot.
The cover of the paper teases: "A guide for Christian renewal, but what about Christian engagement?"

Tuesday, August 29, 2017
The reality-based community and evidence
We all know it's selective. Not often does someone admit its not relevant. Rowan Davis, digital campaigns and communications consultant, in The Guardian: "Spare me the safety statistics. They don’t make flying any less petrifying." I'm not completely insensitive to the anxiety Davis feels. The body tricks our brains into thinking we can't handle situations. I'm just saying I'm not sure how many Guardian contributors would have any time for most people who admit the evidence doesn't matter.

Catholic school to become less Catholic so non-Catholics feel included
LifeSiteNews reports:
A Catholic school in California has removed around 162 icons and statues in an effort to be more "inclusive" and avoid "alienating" non-Catholic students.
San Domenico School, a K-12 boarding and day school, is the oldest independent school in California. It was founded by Dominican sisters, who remain involved in its operations today. It is in the Archdiocese of San Francisco ...
"In our time here, the word 'Catholic' has been removed from the mission statement, sacraments were removed from the curriculum, the lower school curriculum was changed to world religions, the logo and colors were changed to be 'less Catholic,' and the uniform was changed to be less Catholic," Shannon Fitzpatrick wrote in an email to school officials. The [Marin Independent Journal] published some of her complaints.
Non-Catholics who are easily offended by the Catholicity of private Roman Catholic schools could choose not to send their kids to such schools.

Pundit calls for term limits for ... pundits
In July, Naomi Klein had a short BBC video calling for fixed terms for pundits, up to two four-year terms. Klein says it would add fresh perspectives, enliven journalism, and save democracy. It is a mildly provocative idea but completely unworkable. Even if The Guardian or CNN or the New York Times or National Post or BBC decided to implement such a policy, the system breaks down if another news outlet did not agree to such a regime. One might see pundits recycled more frequently, but the same faces would be on TV and same bylines would be in the papers. And why two four-year terms. If a pundit is substandard, why should he or she get a full four-year term. Equating the influence of opinion-leaders like pundits with the power of policy-makers like presidents or legislators is plainly and obviously incorrect. Nice try, Naomi. And would she include herself in the term limited regime? Klein has been pontificating continuously since the late 1990s.

Monday, August 28, 2017
The Left in 2017

No, Americans do not need higher taxes
Stephen Green's response to Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson's argument that the United States needs higher taxes:
Washington enjoys record revenues while saddling us with near-record peacetime deficits, which are set by entitlement law to explode dramatically in the near future, even absent a major war or economic downturn.
Washington does not have revenue problem. It has a spending problem.

A trillion gallons
Put aside whether this is a once-in-a-million years event (which is how some experts describe if any spot experiences 60 inches of rainfall -- some locations had 50 inches, although 15 to 30 inches was more typical), there was a lot of water dumped on Houston this weekend. It is estimated that a trillion gallons of water soaked America's fourth largest city and the neighbouring area. The Washington Post reports that if you made a cube to enclose the rainfall, it would be two miles wide by two miles high (four miles square).

Secularism will change the culture
Greg Sheridan, foreign editor of The Australian, warns that if God is dead, everything changes:
In abandoning God, we are about to embark on one of the most radical social experiments in Western history. It is nothing short of the reordering of human nature. Short of war, nothing is as consequential.
Human beings create themselves inside a culture. A culture without God will create different human beings. This is a much bigger shift than everything implied by the rise of digital technology, though this is involved in the revolution of the person we are now embarking on. When our culture has exiled God, there will be a radical change to the human personality and all our social institutions and relations.
For a time we will continue to live off the declining ethical and cultural capital of our heritage of 2000 years of Christianity and more than 3000 years of the Judeo-Christian tradition. But as British writer Arnold Lunn once remarked, we are living off the scent of an empty vase. As we cut ourselves off ever more comprehensively from the roots of our civilisation, our civilisation will be damaged ...
[W]e should at least pause for a second to consider how much we are losing as a society by rejecting this Christian tradition. Virtually everything we like in our current society, and in our political culture, derives from Christianity, and before that from the tradition of the Old Testament.
We are living off cultural capital that is being spent. Why should we hold to the old truths, from honesty to the prohibition against killing the innocent, when we shuck the reasons for these old truths? It is certainly possible that many of the virtues and aspirations of the past hold, that they are universal, but there is no reason to be certain they will. (Perhaps these virtues only appear universal.) Take away the Central Figure of the moral order on which western civilization has been built, and do not be surprised if the moral order is not merely tinkered with but uprooted.

Sunday, August 27, 2017
Macron fiddles in eastern Europe while France burns
French President Emmanuel Macron visited Bulgaria and Romania and met the leaders of Slovakia and Czech Republic. While in eastern Europe he criticized the Polish government rejecting European values and that Poles “deserve better” than the current government. Meanwhile, he has yet to address France's intractable economic problems, although during his trip he tried to stem the tide of cheap workers from eastern Europe (in particular Poland). But aren't limits on migration against the values of a united Europe?

Time to bomb the glitter craze
The Mirror reports that putting glitter on one's tongue and posting pictures is a thing on social media after "make-up artist Jacinta Vukovic stumbled upon the look after applying glitter to her lips and accidentally getting some on her tongue." The paper reports that it can lead to digestive problems because glitter isn't edible. The story takes a moralizing attitude to the "craze" although I wonder how many people actually do this. At least it isn't vagina glitter.

Concealed carry fashion show
The New York Post reports that the National Rifle Association held a gun accessory fashion show in Milwaukee:
Forget about using slinky models to show-off the new fangled holsters — the gun organization instead hired guys with big guts and tattooed biker chicks to walk its first Concealed Carry Fashion Show.
The models showed gun accessory products from about 30 companies, including Femme Fatale and Man-Pack, whose products include corset holders and shoulder bags designed for a quick draw.
NRA spokesman Jason Brown said gun makers are “going to pull out all the stops” to promote weapons.

Brexit negotiations get tetchy
The Sunday Mail reports that Brexit Minister David Davis is threatening to end negotiations on the Brexit divorce bill (Brussels is apparently asking for £74billion) until the European Union negotiators provide a legal justification for its demands. (It can't.) The European Commission's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is insisting London formally set out what it is willing to pay in this week's talks. Meanwhile, the other 27 member states have apparently have instructed EU negotiators that it doesn't want them to talk about trade until the divorce bill gets close to settlement on this issue, as well as the rights and status of EU citizens living in the United Kingdom. On Radio 4's Today programme, Foreign Minister Boris Johnson has reiterated the government's previous position that the UK will meet its legal obligations to the EU but "not a penny more."
The Independent reports on a new study from the Corporate Observatory Europe and Global Justice which looked at lobbying records and found that corporate interests could drown out the voices of regular folk (apparently represented by unions according to the two groups). Considering that business wants stability and predictability, that might not be a bad thing (although the paper's tone certainly suggests otherwise).

The Daily Mail reports:
Marketing departments are promoting diversity in their campaigns to 'prevent perceived discrimination', a survey of 500 companies has revealed.
A third of advertisers said they had used fewer white models and straight couples in the last year ...
The study by Shutterstock and reported by The Times found half of marketing departments had increased their use of racially diverse pictures over the past year and third increased their use of gay couples.
The overwhelming majority that used images of gay couples or 'non-traditional' families said they did so even if it did not fit with their brand.
There is nothing wrong with using actors and models that are more representative of society. Some ads, however, seem like they are promoting ideas more than products, especially when it comes to same-sex marriage. Some will argue that selling the idea of tolerance is not a bad thing, but we should remember what advertising dollars are for and whether advertising departments are acting in the best interests of corporate owners (especially shareholders). And when Keren Sachs, content development director of Shutterstock, says that whites won't buy products that eschew minority models, is that based on survey data or friends within her creative class social circles? I'm not against having a more representative images in advertising, but I'd want the decision based on economics not politics; I'm not so sure it is.
By the way, the Daily Mail reports that in 2010 visible minorities were 5% of models in advertisements but in 2011 whites made up 87% of the population. There are no current numbers but I'm sure that whites and straights are under-represented in advertising today.

What I'm reading
I'm giving all these books a quick go.
1. Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom by Condoleeza Rice. Mixes autobiographical tidbits with various national stories (Poland, Colombia) of moving to democracy. I'm skimming and skipping through this one.
2. The Fate of the West: The Decline and Revival of the World’s Most Valuable Political Idea by Bill Emmott
3. The Broken Ladder: How Inequality Affects the Way We Think, Live, and Die by Keith Payne
4. Understanding Eritrea: Inside Africa's Most Repressive State by Martin Plaut. A brief description of Isaias Afwerki's authoritarian, corrupt, and dysfunctional regime.
5. Free People, Free Markets: How the Wall Street Journal Opinion Pages Shaped America by George Melloan
6. Rivals for Power: Ottawa and the Provinces: The Contentious History of the Canadian Federation by Ed Whitcomb
7. The Imprint of Congress by David R. Mayhew. The New Rambler has a thorough review of this good, useful, insightful book.

Saturday, August 26, 2017
Amazon to lower prices, increase convenience
The Globe and Mail reports that, which bought Whole Foods in June, is making moves that will send "shock waves through the North American food retailing industry":
The e-commerce giant on Thursday said it will cut prices on a range of Whole Foods products, from avocados to almond butter, starting Monday. The high-end, organic-focused grocery store will also begin selling food on Amazon’s various websites and installing “click and collect” lockers in stores.
Grocery stocks in the United States slumped this week in response to the news. Kroger shares fell more than 8 per cent on Thursday, while Costco shares declined about 5 per cent. Shares of Wal-Mart, often seen as Amazon’s main retail competitor, fell about 2 per cent. Shares of many North American grocery chains fell sharply in June, when Amazon announced it was acquiring Whole Foods in a $13.7-billion (U.S.) deal.
This is good for consumers, although it isn't great for investors. Markets exist to provide goods and services at the best prices and most convenience for consumers. Profits, returns, and jobs are effected but ultimately not the purpose. So this is good news. While it will reduce the profit margins of competitors, that should spur them to serve their customers better.
The Globe also reports the changes are unlikely to make a large impact on the $80 billion Canadian grocery store landscape because there are only about a dozen Whole Food stores in Canada. That's too bad, even if you are not a Whole Foods consumer (which I'm not).

2020 watch (independents edition)
Hot Air: "Are You Ready For … Kasich/Hickenlooper 2020?." John Kasich is the Republican governor of Ohio. John Hickenlooper is the Democrat governor of Colorado. That's based on reports from Axios and CNN although a Politico reporter doubts it. (Links at the Hot Air story.) Axios, which lists nine reasons the rumours make sense, quotes a strategist who says "Sounds like a No Labels fantasy." Pundits love third-party/independent bids. Voters not so much so.

On Trump's pardon of Apraio
I'm not a fan of presidential pardons (its unseemly in a nation of laws) or ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio (he seems like a charlatan), but I think Paul Mirengoff's observations on this whole legal case and President Donald Trump's pardon is correct:
I think there should be a strong presumption against granting pardons. I would prefer that the judicial system, flawed though it is, have the final word on the fate of those who are, or who may be, before it.
But if presidential pardons are going to be granted, and every modern president has granted them, it seems to me that Arpaio is a good candidate, basically for the reasons set forth by the White House. Sheriffs shouldn’t defy court orders. But in a real sense, Arpaio’s crime consists of being overzealous in combating illegal immigration.
It arose in the context of lack of zealousness on the part of the federal government. According to this account, the judge found Arpaio couldn’t detain those who lack legal status because that’s the federal government’s job. But the feds hadn’t been doing that job.
Arpaio was accused by the Obama Justice Department and other left-wingers of targeting Hispanics. Indeed, the legal case that led to his conviction arose from claims of racial profiling. But in Maricopa County, the illegal immigrant population is overwhelmingly Hispanic. Had the County been plagued by mass illegal immigration by Koreans, chances are Sheriff Joe would have targeted Asians. And he would have been right to do so. Sheriffs shouldn’t be expected to check their common sense at the door.
To be sure, the pardon of Arpaio is, at least in part, a political act by a president who campaigned on a tough-as-nails immigration policy and who received Arpaio’s backing. But there’s a pretty good argument that the prosecution of Arpaio was also political.
It was the highly politicized, left-wing Obama Justice Department that chose to prosecute Arpaio in connection with the hot button political issue of enforcing immigration laws. The judge whose order Arpaio defied apparently was satisfied with civil contempt. Team Obama went criminal on the octogenarian sheriff. And it did so, according to Arpaio’s lawyers, just two weeks before he stood for reelection.
The pardon thus can be said to represent a political end to a political case.
The sheriff's conviction is legally unrelated to the fact prisoners in Arpaio's jails hanged themselves at disproportionately high rates You might find Arpaio despicable, but so was the use of the courts against the former sheriff over a political dispute.

Fight back
PJ Media reports an evangelical ministry is suing the Southern Poverty Law Center and GuideStar over their labeling of D. James Kennedy Ministries as a hate group:
On Tuesday, D. James Kennedy Ministries (DJKM) filed a lawsuit against the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the charity navigation organization GuideStar, and Amazon, for defamation, religious discrimination, and trafficking in falsehood. The SPLC listed DJKM as a "hate group," while GuideStar also categorized it in those terms, and Amazon kept the ministry off of its charity donation program, Amazon Smile.
"We embarked today on a journey to right a terrible wrong," Dr. Frank Wright, president and CEO at DJKM, said in a statement Tuesday. "Those who knowingly label Christian ministries as 'hate' groups, solely for subscribing to the historic Christian faith, are either woefully uninformed or willfully deceitful. In the case of the Southern Poverty Law Center, our lawsuit alleges the latter."
The SPLC has labeled DJKM an "anti-LGBT hate group" for its opposition to same-sex marriage and transgenderism. "These false and illegal characterizations have a chilling effect on the free exercise of religion and on religious free speech for all people of faith," Wright declared.
Conservative Christian groups maintain that their criticism of homosexuality and transgenderism is out of love -- not hate -- for the individuals whose lifestyle choices endanger their souls. That is, the Christian wants everyone to know God's saving graces. One might disagree about whether such an interpretation of Scripture is correct, but one should not doubt the veracity of such beliefs.
Wall Street Journal columnist Kim Strassel goes after the SPLC for its sustained attack on all types of conservatives: "Since the SPLC is a far-left activist group, the map comes down to this: If the SPLC doesn’t agree with your views, it tags you as a hater.” Strassel continues:
Let’s not mince words: By funding this list, J.P. Morgan and Apple are saying they support labeling Christian organizations that oppose gay marriage as “hate groups.” That may come as a sour revelation to any bank customers who have donated to the Family Research Council (a mainstream Christian outfit on the SPLC’s list) or whose rights are protected by the Alliance Defending Freedom (which litigates for religious freedom and is also on the list).
Similarly put out may be iPhone owners who support the antiterror policies espoused by Frank Gaffney’s Washington think tank, the Center for Security Policy (on the SPLC’s list). Or any who back the proposals of the Center for Immigration Studies (on the list).
These corporations are presumably in favor of the SPLC’s practice of calling its political opponents “extremists,” which paints targets on their backs.
The SPLC also goes after conservative commentators like Charles Murray and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. It isn't about hate, for the SPLC, its about ideology.

Friday, August 25, 2017
New NYC bridge
The New York Times reports that a new bridge at the Tappan Zee, the Mario Cuomo Bridge, is the first new bridge to New York City since the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge opened in 1964. The Times reports the numbers, which are staggering:
The new bridge is a symphony of statistics. More than 1,000 cylindrical piles were planted into the Hudson riverbed to create 41 pillars to hold up each span. Some 330,000 cubic yards of concrete were poured in construction, including some 6,000 precast concrete road deck panels. The main decks of both spans are held up by 192 cables stretched among eight 419-foot angled towers. The bridge will handle 140,000 cars a day.
The Empire State's governor, Andrew Cuomo, son of the man whose name will adorn the new structure, is justifiably proud that it has come in on time and under budget:
It cost $4 billion to build, “on time and on budget,” Mr. Cuomo said, because the state took a new approach to the project, putting both the design and construction out to bid, rather than creating its own designs. The winning bid, by a consortium known as Tappan Zee Constructors, came in $1 billion under what the state feared it would cost.
It opens this Saturday.

Reports of the internal combustion engine's death are greatly exaggerated
E21 contributor William O'Keefe says the internal combustion engine isn't going anywhere anytime soon because the alternative, electric vehicles, are nowhere near being practical:
Advocacy shouldn’t be mistaken for reality or fact. Although EVs probably have a bright future, it is not imminent. Without generous federal and state subsidies and California’s extreme emission standards, their future would be dim at best. The reasons are simple. Battery packs are expensive, and in spite of major investments in battery technology, EVs still have limited range and temperature driven performance constraints. Until costs are reduced much more and range extended, EVs will remain middle- to upper- class symbols of environmentalism.
Over the past 10 years, the cost of batteries has declined and energy density needed for range has increased. In spite of this progress, an assessment by Franco Gonzalez of IDTechEX states, “Lithium-ion is the best battery technology we have ever seen… but it will not achieve transformative factors of … cost and performance … because of the inherent material limitations. A new generation of battery technologies will be necessary …to address the existing and future challenges.” That view is consistent with the Energy Department’s 2015 Quadrennial Technology Review, which states, “Despite current promising advances, much more R&D will be needed to achieve the performance and lifetime requirements for deployment of these advanced technologies in PEVs.”

London to take harder line for Brexit negotiations
The Sun reports:
David Davis is preparing to attack Brussels negotiators for being “stubborn and unreasonable” in a bid to create a split between them and EU.
The Brexit Secretary’s broadside is being drawn up after senior British officials revealed they expect a third round of face to face EU exit talks in the Belgian capital next week to again end in bitter stand-off.
And Davis is taking this attack public:
A public showdown in Brussels will raise the stakes further in the intense game of bluff.
A senior Whitehall source told The Sun: “We have been very reasonable and offered up a huge amount of potential solutions to bridge the gaps.
“Barnier has thrown most back in our face, and publicly.
“David thinks the time has come to start pointing this out, so the other 27 EU leaders can see how stubborn and unreasonable the EU Commission is becoming and give them fresh instructions to get on with it.”

France's President
Politico Europe reports that according to Le Point magazine French President Emmanuel Macron spent €26,000 on makeup in his first three months in office. Politico reports:
According to the report, Macron’s personal makeup artist put in two claims for payment, one for €10,000 and another for €16,000, for doing his makeup during his travels and ahead of press conferences.
The Elysée Palace said in response: “We called in a contractor as a matter of urgency.”
Officials say they expect makeup spending to be reduced and Le Point reports that this particular budget item is in line with Macron's predecessor.

Not The Onion
The Guardian: "Turd Reich: San Francisco dog owners lay minefield of poo for rightwing rally." The paper reports:
Hundreds of San Franciscans plan to prepare Crissy Field, the picturesque beach in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge where rightwing protest group Patriot Prayer will gather, with a generous carpeting of excrement.
“I just had this image of alt-right people stomping around in the poop,” Tuffy Tuffington said of the epiphany he had while walking Bob and Chuck, his two Patterdale terriers, and trying to think of the best way to respond to rightwing extremists in the wake of Charlottesville. “It seemed like a little bit of civil disobedience where we didn’t have to engage with them face to face.”
Filthy, filthy hippies.

Not The Daily Mail
The Evening Standard: "Young Chinese are 'too fat and masturbate too much to pass army fitness tests'." The direct quote in the headline is taken from the People’s Liberation Army Daily, Red China's state-run military newspaper.

Thursday, August 24, 2017
What was and is Buffalo
Buffalo, New York, was once a great and bustling city, a large manufacturing center because of it's geographic location (on the Great Lakes before the south and southwest grew in both population and importance). Buffalo was the eighth largest American city at the turn of the century (1900). It's population approached 600,000 after World War II but has fewer than half that many people now. It had a lot of money as entrepreneurs thrived there and its factories supported a growing middle class. Today, it has the image of a has-been Detroit without the glamour. That might not be fair.
Rick McGinnis has a pair of stories in the Toronto Star about Buffalo as a vacation spot. The first is about where to eat in the city -- I'll have to remember these for the next time I head down to a Bills game. The second story focuses on its architecture:
House museums like the Martin complex and Graycliff are a reminder of just how wildly prosperous Buffalo was in its heyday, when not only Larkin Soap but the steel mills and grain silos and docks made the town hum with commerce. It was a profoundly middle-class city, where the homes of managers and executives lined the leafy parkways planned by Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of Central Park, while the city’s tycoons lived in mansions on Delaware Ave.
That prosperity is all over the downtown, which has one of the finest collections of architecture in any city this size — a greatest hits collection, from Louis Sullivan’s Prudential Building and Daniel Burnham’s Ellicot Square Building to the gold domed Buffalo Savings Bank, the nearby Electric Tower, the beautifully restored Market Arcade on Main Street and a magnificent art deco City Hall.
Buffalo’s post-war decline kept most of it intact, which has been a gift now that the city is reviving itself with walkable districts like Elmwood Village and countless architectural tours.
Despite the 1950 demolition of Frank Lloyd Wright's Larkin Administration Building, the city still has "five or six more Wrights in and around Buffalo, which is five or six more than most cities."

Sir John's Echo
There seems to be some call for cleansing the Canadian public square of the country's first prime minister. History teacher J.D.M. Stewart responds to a snarky anti-John A tweet noting "Principal legacy of Sir John A. is the Dominion of Canada." Obviously.
I had a brief review of John Boyko's Sir John’s Echo: The Voice for a Stronger Canada in the summer edition of The Interim in which I summarize the author's thesis:
Sir John’s Echo ... presents the story of Canada since Confederation as a struggle between Ottawa and the provinces, with the central government often asserting itself as a force for national cohesion and necessary change in the country. Boyko says this is the legacy of our first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, who viewed “our federal government (as) a positive force that helps define and then enhance the greater good,” and therefore it must have “sufficient power to unite, build, and speak for Canada.”
I think Boyko takes the book's thesis too far but consider his slim volume a decent political history of Canada.

I wouldn't bet on that
Gavin McInnes in his farewell column at TakiMag:
I tried to keep it light in the summer, which I believe is a good lesson for the right. We need to include bubblegum culture in our rants. As Nick Gillespie once said, “Nobody can remember the speaker of the house back in 1935 but everyone knows who Shirley Temple is.”
I'd bet against "everyone" knowing about Shirley Temple.

Disease fact of the day
The New York Times reports on the increase incidents of syphilis in the United States, focusing on its spread in Oklahoma. It's an important story and I highly recommend reading it, but this stood out:
Nearly five times as many babies across the country are born with syphilis as with H.I.V.
We are still talking about relatively small numbers; according to the Centers for Disease Control: "During 2015, 487 cases of congenital syphilis were reported, compared to an estimated 128 cases of perinatal HIV infection during 2014." Still, HIV is on people's minds and syphilis is not. It's tests are cumbersome, there is an antibiotic shortage, and few doctors have recent experience with the drug because it was on the decline. But not any longer and apparently innocent newborns are among its victims.

How Yemen became the world's worst humanitarian crisis
The New York Times reports in its photo essay from Yemen:
In March 2015, Saudi Arabia and a coalition of Arab nations launched a military campaign aimed at pushing back the Houthis and restoring the government.
The campaign has so far failed to do so, and the country remains split between Houthi-controlled territory in the west and land controlled by the government and its Arab backers in the south and east.
Many coalition airstrikes have killed and wounded civilians, including strikes on Wednesday around the capital. The bombings have also heavily damaged Yemen’s infrastructure, including a crucial seaport and important bridges as well as hospitals, sewage facilities and civilian factories.
Services that Yemenis have depended on are gone, and the destruction has undermined the country's already weak economy. It has also made it harder for humanitarian organizations to bring in and distribute aid.
The Saudi-led coalition has also kept Sana’s international airport closed to civilian air traffic for more than a year, meaning that merchants cannot fly goods in, and sick and wounded Yemenis cannot fly abroad for treatment. Many of them have died.
Neither of Yemen’s two competing administrations has paid regular salaries to many civil servants in over a year, impoverishing their families as there is little other work to be found. Among those affected are professionals whose work is essential to dealing with the crisis, like doctors, nurses and sewage system technicians, leading to the near collapse of their sectors.
Damage from the war has turned Yemen into a fertile environment for cholera, a bacterial infection spread by water contaminated with feces. As garbage has piled up and sewage systems have failed, more Yemenis are relying on easily polluted wells for drinking water. Heavy rains since April accelerated the wells’ contamination.
Pre-existing problems with malnutrition mades the population more susceptible to cholera and the bodies of affected victims less capable of fighting the disease.

Not a parody
Caroline Randall Williams, author of Lucy Negro, Redux, takes to the New York Times to beg former president Barack Obama to speak up in these troubled times. She writes:
It’s time for you to come back.
I love that, after you posted on Twitter about the violence in Charlottesville, Va., you set a record for the most-liked tweet. But my joy at the news of your weighing in was complicated by your using a quotation, even one from Nelson Mandela. I looked to you for your good words. I’ll keep waiting because I know they will be worth it. But where are they? ...
By 2009, my president was black, and the House majority was blue.
My generation graduated from college, got our first jobs and became adults all under the auspices of that truth. We learned to experience politics through the lens of your eloquent presence in the White House. In this respect, you raised us. So we are unaccustomed to all of this wildness. Just because we’re grown doesn’t mean we don’t need to hear from the man who brought us up.
If I hadn't seen the byline or processed a few autobiographical details, I would have guessed Stephen Marche had written this.

What I'm reading
1. Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert M. Sapolsky. Some interesting tidbits, but mostly disappointing. Large sections can be casually perused.
2. Reinventing America's Schools: Creating a 21st Century Education System by David Osborne. Pro-charter schools and the numerous different models they offer families.
3. Beyond Test Scores: A Better Way to Measure School Quality by Jack Schneider. This is a more important educational policy issue than charter schools.
4. The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote by Sharyl Attkisson

Wednesday, August 23, 2017
I can't believe I favourably tweeted David Axelrod

People will die!
Michael Tanner begins his National Review column on the benefits of economic growth with a brief criticism of the political ploy (used mostly on the Left) of claiming "people will die" if there chosen policy prescriptions are followed or funded. Tanner says:
While in some cases this argument is debatable and in others it’s ridiculous, it is always politically potent. Who wants to argue about economic incentives when lives are at stake?
Tanner's larger point is that many advocates of Big Government, anti-growth policies don't take into account the opportunity costs when determining whether policies are beneficial.
Reason's Remy amusingly tackled "people will die" political rhetoric in song earlier this year.

Mike Rowe responds to a snarky comment
I checked out this Mike Rowe Facebook post because of a comment he made about celebrities offering political opinions (he's against the practice). But then he said: "I’m going to talk instead about my belief that comments like yours pose a far greater threat to the future of our country than the existence of a memorial to Thomas Jefferson, or a monument to George Washington." It's about how making casual connections to link the benign to the toxic (Rowe's efforts to support the trades to the alt-right) is the beginning of a noxious campaign to ensure a divided America doesn't talk to one another.

Young people admit to not watching over-rated, shitty movies
The New York Post reports:
A new survey polling 1,000 millennials and 1,000 Americans over the age of 50 conducted by, reveals that looking back into the history of cinema isn’t the preference of youth today, with millennials exponentially more likely to have binged on films of the last 15 years than on classics from bygone eras.
Less than half of millennials have seen the likes of “Gone with the Wind,” “The Sound of Music,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” or even “The Shawshank Redemption” — rated the greatest film of all time on IMDB.
Only 28 percent have seen “Casablanca,” 16 percent have watched “Once Upon a Time in the West” and only a measly 12 percent have seen the Hitchcock classic “Rear Window” – though the director’s “Psycho” fares moderately better at a rate of 38 percent.
On the other side of things, some over-50s appear to have the tendency to stick to their old classics and ignore new cinema altogether with one in ten admitting they aren’t sure if they have seen a film newer than 2010 – and eight percent straight up saying no, they have not.
Four thoughts.
Classic movies are largely over-rated. Anything with Jimmy Stewart is unwatchable. That said, there is something to be said for cultural literacy.
If "Shawshank Redemption" is classic, I'm getting (really) old.
I'm no longer surprised by millennials I talk to who don't know the original "Star Wars" trilogy. Youth today are ignorant of anything preceding them. (I am really old.)
And shouldn't "Gone with the Wind" be taken out of circulation or digitally altered to remove Confederate flags. Millennials are dodging a bigoted bullet with that film.

How easily is the Left parodied?
Easily enough that even the Left falls for the parodies. The Daily Mail reports:
A rising star of the Labour Party who is a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn shared a Twitter post telling sex abuse victims of the Rotherham scandal to ‘shut their mouths for the good of diversity’.
Naz Shah, who represents Bradford West, shared and liked the post by a parody account of newspaper columnist Owen Jones.
It said: ‘Those abused girls in Rotherham and elsewhere just need to shut their mouths. For the good of diversity.’
It comes just days after Ms Shah, 43, penned an open letter attacking fellow Labour MP Sarah Champion for writing an article stating ‘Britain had a problem with Pakistani men targeting vulnerable white girls’.
Tolerating crime for the sake of diversity isn't something that should be easily parodied. That a Labour MP falls for such a joke says much about the state of the Left in the UK today.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Brendan O'Neill on the war against monuments
If you were to highlight a print version of this Spiked-Online article by Brendan O'Neill on the Orwellian war against history, the every line would be covered in yellow ink. Read the article. It's excellent. It begins comparing the monument-smashing in the United States, Britain, and Australia -- by both identity politics protestors and compliant gutless governments -- to ISIS noting the "history erasers" share an "irrational fury against inanimate objects." And then the author really gets going.
O'Neill makes two key points. The progressive Left, like Islamic fundamentalists, seek "the punishment of historical figures ... for not sharing our exact modern world view." Furthermore, this "PC paternalism" -- protecting so-called victims from unpopular views and those who held them -- is deeply problematic:
It's disturbingly ironic: this treatment of certain groups as fragile, as needing to have public life sanitised on their behalf in the way a new mum might baby-proof her home, is riddled with racist assumptions of its own.
I'm going to call opposition to historical monuments baby-proofing from now on.

Liberalism, pansexualism, and transhumanism -- or the pursuit perfectibility of man
A few weeks ago, Sean Haylock had an essay at Crisis titled "Sexual Liberation and the Emergence of Transhumanism," which explains the interconnectedness of philosophical (classical) liberalism, pansexualism, and transhumanism:
At the root of the connection between sexual liberation and transhumanism is the political ideology of liberalism. Thomas Pfau is interrogating the core assumption of liberalism when he asks, “Can one plausibly identify as the Archimedean point for a just and ethical community a being defined above all by its claim to autonomy from all other such individuals and aspiring to live its life within a cocoon of economic, political and personal rights and preferences?” This is what I have in mind when I speak of liberalism, that political ideology for which “the only viable conception of human agency [is] constitutively self-enclosed, self-seeking and self-legitimating.” Sexual liberation and transhumanism are characteristically liberal in that they share these same background assumptions about what humans are. Liberation in the modern sense is the attempt to make this particular picture of the human being a reality.
Transhumanism is distinguished from other liberation movements by its explicit technophilia and its frankly eschatological aims. Transhumanists believe technology, not God, to be the path to transcendence. They expect the rapid advance of computer technology to make it possible, sooner or later, to upload our minds onto more robust hardware. They subscribe to a theory of mind that regards the brain as essentially a computer, and human consciousness as essentially the most sophisticated computer program in existence. Artificial Intelligence, when it is achieved, will be reverse-engineered consciousness. And if we can reverse-engineer consciousness then it will be a simple matter to build brains that don’t suffer from the design flaws evolution has so far failed to correct. The most glaring flaws, which we should urgently attempt to fix, are our vulnerability to harm and our finite life spans. Our bodies are just flimsy containers for transporting our minds, and human suffering is a result of the fact that we haven’t yet managed to devise more durable and efficient containers for our selves.
Transhumanists know above all else that they don’t want to die. If humans die, then transhumanists don’t want to be human. They want to construct the means to opt out of humanity. If the rest of the human race is reasonable then they would join in the exodus. Transhumanists don’t think humans are worthless, they think that humans have worth only insofar as we reach beyond humanity towards the post-human future that computers herald. Humans are valuable and interesting and right just to the extent that they desire to cure themselves of their humanity.
Transhumanism is also connected to the essence of modern liberalism (progressivism) in that the latter firmly believes that under the right conditions humankind is perfectible -- albeit, according to transhumanism, perhaps not in human form. Zoltan Istvan, writing (as a libertarian) recently in The American Conservative, states as much: "Transhumanists want more guarantees than just death, consumerism, and offspring. Much More. They want to be better, smarter, stronger -- perhaps even perfect and immortal if science can make them that way." Kai Wess of the Hayek Institute responds, saying transhumanism is not the perfection of man, but an abomination: "it would be the end to all religion, to human cooperation overall, in all likelihood to liberty itself, and even the good-bye to humanity. It would be the starting point of the ultimate dystopia." The things that make us human and humane, including vulnerability and kindness, would be shucked aside for the self-actualized, self-sufficient mechanized humanoid.

There will be no US civil war
Jesse Walker, a Reason editor and author of The United States of Paranoia, writes in the Los Angeles Times to debunk recent headline-grabbing stories suggesting that America is on the cusp of a bloody civil war. Walker notes on US Civil War historian who says another civil war is "not inconceivable." As Walker says, "That’s a low bar." Violence and overwrought political rhetoric combine to give the appearance that America is particularly ripe for conflict, but that is wrong says Walker:
These “new civil war” stories frequently take a bait-and-switch approach. They invoke the violence at demonstrations like the rally in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend, where a man reportedly sympathetic to Nazism drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a woman. In the same breath, they discuss the broad divisions separating “red” America from “blue” America. If you flip quickly between small violent clashes and big political disagreements, those big disagreements will look bloodier.
But that’s an optical illusion. The polarization between alt-right fascists and antifa leftists is not the same as the polarization between Republicans and Democrats.
As Walker points out, the divisions even among Red States and Blue States overhypes the politics of perhaps 15% of the population. Most people don't care. And intemperate language might be a safety valve that releases pressure rather than spurs conflict.
Journalists prefer the conflict of campaigns and political opposition over the boring details of governing and policy. And now they've ratcheted up the conflict to a shit show of fake news, a civil war (says Walker) that has as must chance of happening as a war with the moon.

Military training in the Age of Feelings
Fox News reports on the at-sea collision this week and interviewed an unnamed member of the navy and military expert Ralph Peters:
An active-duty Navy officer echoed the concerns to Fox News, questioning the level of training for young officers.
"It’s not the same level of training you used to get," the officer said.
Peters called out the military, especially in the Obama administration, for turning the armed services into a "social engineering experiment."
"Those sailors did not have the basic seamanship skills, but by God, they got their sensitivity, race relations and sexual harassment training," said Peters, adding that sailors can't fight without adequate navigational skills.

Monday, August 21, 2017
Speccie review of Arcade Fire
Great excerpt from a scathing review of Arcade Fire. But I'm a little disappointed that The Spectator reviews Arcade Fire (and I say that as someone who listens to Arcade Fire).

The White House revolving door
The New York Times has a list of senior staff and cabinet officials who have left the administration. It seems like a lot but without a comparable list from previous administrations it is hard to know. I don't recall a president canning both a chief of staff and deputy chief of staff within six months of assuming office, but my memory might be wrong. It is possible that between social media and a media obsessed with White House personnel that it only seems more chaotic than is typical and is, in fact, business as usual. One could make an argument that many staff are not good fits for their jobs and presidents replace an inordinate number of staff in their early days as they and their subordinates figure out what they are doing. Governing is a learning process. The learning curve would be steeper for Donald Trump who had no history in Washington and seemed to pick a higher than usual number of staffers who had no or little DC experience. All that said, I do think there is more high-level turnover than there typically is. It is also interesting that both Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus are gone within seven months of Trump being sworn in. Who would have bet on both losing their power struggle?

Let's erect fake monuments
Stephen Green: "Maybe we could erect generic statues of fake people of various ethno-gender groups, like the nonexistent European-style monuments which adorn euro bills."

Caplan on anti-terrorism measures
Bryan Caplan returns from a month-long visit to France, his first such trip to the country in a decade. Among a longer list, his first three observations:
1. The biggest change is the ubiquitous police and military presence. Teams of militarized police and policified military patrol every tourist site and every public function, plus numerous random locations. It wasn't just Paris; even small cities like Bayeaux were on guard. I've never seen anything like this in the United States, even on September 12, 2001.
2. France's massive effort still looks like security theater to me. None of the major terrorist attacks of recent years targeted high-profile locations, and endless unguarded targets remain. Any fanatic who can drive could kill dozens of people with ease. So why isn't it happening every day? Because suicidal fundamentalists are thankfully very very rare.
3. The behavioral economics of crime inspires some lingering doubt. If ordinary people can be fooled by security theater, could would-be terrorists be fooled as well? But given recent high-profile vehicular attacks, I can't take my lingering doubt seriously. Terrorists may be dumb, but they're not that dumb.
Security theatre is not benign.

Sunday, August 20, 2017
Like all other political operatives, Bannon is over-rated
Matthew Continetti, editor in chief of the Washington Free Beacon, writes in the New York Times about Steve Bannon's departure as senior advisor to President Donald Trump:
Mr. Trump’s supporters are wrong to worry. Mr. Bannon is the latest in a long line of political advisers whose reputations are inflated after an election victory. Mr. Bannon may have given much thought to traditionalism and populism, may have publicized its themes as chairman of, may be able to name drop René Guénon, Julius Evola, Jean Raspail, Neil Howe and William Strauss. But President Trump’s inflammatory response to the clashes and killing last week in Charlottesville, Va., made it clear that it is he, and not Mr. Bannon, who maintains a gut connection with his most die-hard supporters. The most important culture warrior in this administration sits at the Resolute Desk.
Mr. Bannon’s reputation is overrated. Yes, he transformed Breitbart from an irreverent blog into the iconoclastic tribune of nation-state populism, the anti-elitist ideology of border walls, travel bans and political incorrectness.
But his career as a political consultant has been short and checkered ...
[H]e is a terrible colleague. His unprompted interview last week with the editor of a liberal magazine not only demonstrated a naïve willingness to forge alliances with the economic left on trade and infrastructure. It also confirmed everything that has been said about Mr. Bannon: He disparages his co-workers behind their backs; he postures as the force behind personnel decisions; and he pretends to know more about national security than James Mattis, John Kelly, H. R. McMaster and Joseph Dunford (not to mention Donald Trump).
Strategists and advisors are important but over-rated. All of them (unless they are anonymous). My theory is that pundits can't imagine themselves as political leaders but easily see themselves advising on political strategy. They romanticize strategists and exaggerate their influence and importance.

NAACP takes a stand for mediocrity
CBS Sports: "NAACP's Atlanta chapter calls for boycott of NFL until Colin Kaepernick gets signed." CBS Sports reports:
Gerald Griggs, the vice president of the NAACP's Atlanta chapter, said this week that his group is planning a boycott of all things NFL and will continue to boycott the league as long as Kaepernick remains a free agent.
"There will be no football in the state of Georgia if Colin Kaepernick is not on a training camp roster and given an opportunity to pursue his career," Griggs recently told Fox 5 in Atlanta. "This is not a simple request. This is a statement. This is a demand."
Colin Kaepernick is simply not that good: 186.8 ypg, a completion percentage under 60%, and a Total Quarterback Rating of 55.2 -- the player closest to him was Brock Osweiler, whom the Houston Texans sent along with a top draft pick to the Cleveland Browns to take. Considering what he's made before, Kaepernick's salary demands are probably in the realm of unrealistic without the controversy, but pricey, below average, and controversial is a mix teams understandably avoid. It's not racism or concern over controversy that's keeping Kaep out of the NFL; it's that he's not good enough to take that risk for.
Meanwhile, former cop Frank Serpico was among the only whites to join a mostly visible minority group of police officers that said #imwithkap.

Why we want the Chinese and Indians to get rich
Alex Tabarrok writes about medical advances or lack thereof in the United States and notes possible spillover effects of China and India becoming wealthier:
In my [2009] TED talk I argued that the richer China and India are the better it will be for US cancer patients because the bigger the market the greater the incentive to research and develop new drugs. US patients may also get a second benefit. China is big enough to move world R&D which previously was true only for the US and to a lesser extent (because of price controls) the EU. Since the US haa by far the largest pharmaceutical market the FDA is a regulatory hegemon. With China we may get to see for the first time a serious alternative to the FDA. And according to some observers, China’s approval process is less-risk averse.

Brexit: out is out
The Independent on Sunday reports:
Theresa May is to unveil five new Brexit negotiating position papers in the coming days amid reports that cabinet ministers privately fear a decision on progressing on to trade talks with the European Union could be delayed until Christmas.
In her first full week back in Downing Street following her three-week holiday, the Prime Minister will release formal papers on key elements of the talks, including the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), data protection, and goods and services after Brexit.
Brexit Minister David Davis said the papers are part of the government's "imaginative and creative solutions to build a deep and special partnership with our closest neighbours and allies." They are intended to demonstrate the workability of post-withdrawal Britain and to avoid renegotiating aspects of Brexit.
I'm torn between the necessity to make the May government's position clear and settling The City's concerns on one hand and the need to avoid negotiating in public. A good case could be made for these papers or against, but I lean toward the good they can do as long as they aren't dismissed as a pure PR exercise.
Meanwhile The Guardian reports that Davis is pushing back against the EU's insistence that there be no trade talks until withdrawal talks are complete. Davis says it is difficult to negotiate the terms of leaving before understanding what the future relationship might look like. That seems like common-sense, which means Brussels will resist it. The Guardian also has an analysis about the European Court of Justice and how the UK will need a compatible system of justice if it wants a close relationship with the continent.
Peter Hitchens says in the Mail on Sunday it might be time to consider the Norway Option:
So to David Davis and Liam Fox and Philip Hammond, may I suggest what is known as the Norway Option? You are all blundering around as if you've never even heard of it. Yet it answers all major questions.
It does not require long years of detailed negotiation. We can lift it off the shelf, take it out of the box, and switch it on. It will work straight away.
It doesn't get us completely out of the clutches of the EU. We'd still have to pay some money every year (nothing like as much as now) and accept their regulations when we traded with them, which is reasonable. But we can, if we wish, govern ourselves in all other matters.
I'm not sold. The vote in June 2016 was for out of the European Union, or as Tim Montgomerie says in The Sun, Brits voted to "take back control." Out meant out. I don't think it will ultimately mean completely out, but the Norway Option is still too in. The difficulty for London is that Brussels doesn't want other countries to have the British Option when Brexit is over, whatever that might look like.

Saturday, August 19, 2017
Arthur Finkelstein, RIP
Conservative political strategist Arthur Finkelstein passed away yesterday at the age of 72 after losing a long battle with cancer. In January, Craig Shirley wrote a wonderful appreciation of Finkelstein for National Review when his condition worsened; too often these appreciations appear after a person dies. Shirley wrote:
Long before anyone else in the modern age, Arthur taught Republicans how to win. At one point in the early 1980s, maybe half of the GOP senators were Finkelstein clients and even more in the House. He was a modern Prometheus, bringing fire to Republicankind.
Without Finkelstein, the Reagan Revolution -- tax cuts and the military buildup -- might not have been possible. Finkelstein ensured there were Reagan coattails. Mostly famously, he helped an obscure local politician, Alfonse D'Amato, topple left-wing GOP Senator Jacob Javits in the Republican primary. Often Finkelstein clients simply attacked their opponents as liberal. One academic said he had five lines of attack: "ultraliberal, superliberal, embarrassingly liberal, foolishly liberal and unbelievably liberal.”
To many, he was the "merchant of venom," famous for his attack ads. Michael Harris writes in his awful anti-Stephen Harper screed Party of One, about the gay Jewish conservative strategist: "Finkelstein's modus operandi was always the same: Pinpoint polling aimed at exposing a weakness in an opponent; then use a trenchant, repetitive advertisement to exploit the candidate's Achilles heel." This is hardly new -- Lynton Crosby does it, too -- but he was the first to perfect it. The Washington Post obituary quoted a political scientist who said, "He uses a sledgehammer in every race." He worked on several successful Jesse Helms campaigns in which the crotchety old southern senator came out on top when pundits had predicted his demise after Helms and his team hit his political opponents particular hard. Going negative worked. Finkelstein -- a gay libertarian (one early mentor was Ayn Rand) -- worked with several favourite candidates of the Religious Right, including Helms, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, and Oklahoma Senator Don Nickles. He was strongly anti-communist and he backed Cold War hawks.
Attack doesn't mean untruthful. One of my favourite Finkelstein campaigns was the 1996 Israeli election in which Benjamin Netanyahu attacked the Labour prime minister with "Peres will divide Jerusalem." Despite the Canadian punditocracy's hysterical speculations, Finkelstein's advice in recent years was mostly in the ears of eastern European and Israeli politicians. Ha'aretz describes his advice to Likud politicians over the past two decades.
Also, read Barney Keller's tribute, who concludes:
Arthur liked his coffee black, his shoes off, his shirts blue, his steak medium rare (preferably at his beloved Peter Luger in Brooklyn) and his Gimlets strong. His greeting to all was “Good Morning” as it was always morning some place in the world. Arthur was one of kind. He made a difference. He changed politics. He sought to make the world a better place, and to spread the power of freedom. He will be missed but never forgotten.

The Japanese have created ice cream that doesn't melt for hours. As often occurs, the impetus was disaster:
According to the Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese daily newspaper, scientists at Biotherapy Development Research Center Co. in Kanazawa stumbled upon the miracle-working method by accident earlier this year. Researchers had reportedly asked a pastry chef to create a dessert using polyphenol liquid, extracted from strawberries, in an effort to help out strawberry farmers whose crops were suffering after the earthquake and tsunami in eastern Japan in 2011. The frustrated chef told scientists that "dairy cream solidified instantly when strawberry polyphenol was added," and although he believed there was "something suspicious" about the polyphenol, one researcher at the center immediately realized the natural compound's potential for greatness.
(HT: Marginal Revolution)

Friday, August 18, 2017
Celebrate August 20
August 20 is World Mosquito Day. As the New York Times daily newsletter explains: "It commemorates the 1897 discovery of the role that the insects play in transmitting malaria, a disease that has long bedeviled humanity, killing an estimated 429,000 people in 2015, according to the World Health Organization." Ronald Ross won a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery, which would eventually lead to public policy that combatted the spread of the often deadly disease including preventive measures taken during the construction of the Panama Canal. There has been tremendous success over the past twenty years, with a nearly 60% decrease in malaria fatalities from 2000 to 2015. There is still much work to be done and no doubt campaigners will use the day to urge more spending for this or that program (many of them worthwhile). But we should also acknowledge progress and much has been made.

Opioid crisis reaction has led to sub-standard pain management for some patients
Physicians Stefan Kertesz and Sally Satel write in Slate about the opioid crisis and the (welcome) educational response to it leading to a misunderstanding or over-cautiousness from doctors which has resulted in some patients not being properly treated for their pain:
In the face of an ever-worsening opioid crisis, physicians concerned about fueling the epidemic are increasingly heeding warnings and feeling pressured to constrain prescribing in the name of public health. As they do so, abruptly ending treatment regimens on which many chronic pain patients have come to rely, they end up leaving some patients in agonizing pain or worse ...
It is no secret that one contributing factor to the current opioid crisis is the overreliance on and, at least in retrospect, irresponsible use of opioid-based pain medication. Promiscuous prescribing by physicians gained momentum in the early 1990s and continued for much of the next decade. Aggressive marketing by makers of long-acting painkillers, along with unfounded reassurances that they were safe, played a role in the explosion of prescribing—as did the culture of medical practice which rewarded hospitals based on patient satisfaction ratings, hurried visits, and a dearth of ready insurance-covered alternatives.
It should be noted that the chief risk of liberal prescribing—that is, giving a month’s worth of pills when two days were needed; prescribing opioids when extra-strength aspirin and a heating pad would do—was not so much that the patient for whom painkillers would become addicted or overdose. That can happen, particularly when the patient is also depressed, chronically anxious, or has a history of substance abuse, but it is not especially common ...
As the pill problem has grown, physicians, medical centers, and state health authorities sought to bring prescribing under better control with education, new norms, and prescription registries that pharmacists and doctors could use to detect patients who “doctor shopped” for painkillers and even forged prescriptions. To a welcome degree, this worked ...
The pendulum has swung back in the other direction. We are now experiencing the painful backlash to overzealous prescribing of opioid painkillers (that was itself a backlash to the undertreatment of unremitting noncancer pain). The bad news is that many patients treated with high opioid regimens have been caught in the crossfire. Amid regulations, pharmacy payment restrictions, and intimations that doctors are the major culprits in this epidemic, doctors are increasingly sensing pressure to reduce doses, even among patients who are benefiting from the medication and using it responsibly.
Kertesz and Satel report tragic cases of patients who were not properly treated taking their own lives because they couldn't stand the pain they were being forced to endure.

NIH grant to watch gay people drink
The Free Beacon: "Feds Spend $438,699 Studying If ‘Gender Norms’ Make LGBTQ People Get Drunk." Why not?

Because we need good stories
The Winnipeg Free Press: "After years of IS captivity, Yazidi boy reunited with family in Winnipeg." The paper reports:
After three years apart and more than 9,700 kilometres of travel, a Yazidi mother and son locked eyes again for the first time in Winnipeg Thursday morning.
Emad Mishko Tamo was held by his mother early Thursday morning at Winnipeg's James Armstrong Richardson International airport, a month after a photo of the 12-year-old boy circulated on social media following his liberation from Islamic State by Iraqi soldiers.
Until that point, his mother and four siblings — government-sponsored refugees living in Winnipeg — did not know whether he was alive.
I can't imagine what Nofa Mihlo Rafo and her family went through these past few years wondering about their son. I can't imagine what Emad Mishko Tamo went through as both a ISIS victim and a young child refugee alone. We should all be very happy for them.

Thursday, August 17, 2017
Today Robert E. Lee. Tomorrow George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
Once you give in to liberal vandals there is no end. Hot Air reports:
“Are we going to take down statues to George Washignton? How about Thomas Jefferson?” Trump asked during his press conference Tuesday. Two days later a number of progressives have embraced the idea, i.e. maybe statues of Washington and Jefferson should go too.
The Washington Free Beacon highlighted this clip of CNN political commentator Angela Rye making Trump’s case. “I don’t care if it’s a George Washington statue or a Thomas Jefferson statue or a Robert E. Lee statue. They all need to come down,” Rye said. Another member of the panel, the Daily Beast’s John Avlon, cut Rye off and warned she was “feeding into Steve Bannon and Trump’s talking points,” but Rye didn’t back down.
And if it's not Washington or Jefferson, it's Abraham Lincoln. Will the progressive Left demand demolishing Mount Rushmore?
Meanwhile the Boston Red Sox ownership says it might be time to get rid of Yawkey Way. Why not erect a plaque that tells the whole story so that future generations of Boston baseball fans will know the former Red Sox owners tardiness to the sports integration?

Against tearing down Confederate statues
National Review's Kyle Smith had an excellent essay a few days ago at NRO against getting rid of supposedly or truly offensive monuments. I recommend reading the whole thing but this is the important takeaway:
If a statue that has been standing in your city for years suddenly sends you into paroxysms of destructive rage, you are really determined to create a problem for yourself, and you’ll create another problem when it’s gone.
Smith makes two other arguments worth noting: there will be no end to demands to excise anything and everything that offends the mob and that even if these monuments do deserve to be removed, it is best to do so following sober debate and not the heat of mob reaction to them.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Conservatives without the conservatism
Unherd's Peter Franklin briefly examines the call from liberal Jeff Jarvis for a new, conservative media outlet that would report facts without the sensationalism and divisive culture war stuff. Franklin says there are plenty of serious, sober-minded conservative publications such as First Things and New Criterion (that definitely enter the culture wars fray), but I think what Jarvis is calling for isn't commentary but reporting. Fair enough. The issue here is not so much what we talk about when discussing journalism but what do we mean when talking about conservatism. Jarvis says: "For the purposes of this venture, what does it mean to be conservative? I would return to basics: a belief in fiscal conservatism, smaller government, support for business, support for trade, and a strong military. Leave the culture wars aside as an invention of the divisive edge." Franklin rejects such an empty conservatism:
This is the weakest point in Jarvis’s argument. There’s a lot more to the basics of conservatism than economic liberalism with aircraft carriers. Serious conservative arguments on social policy need to be heard every bit as much as they do on economic or defence policy. To characterise conservative views on the family, immigration or education as “an invention of the divisive edge” is to forget how the divisions opened up in the first place. If liberals want an end to culture wars then they should be willing to enter into a respectful dialogue instead of demanding the silent surrender of the other side.
According to Jarvis' definition of conservative, Tony Blair qualifies. To a lesser degree, so might 1990s Bill Clinton. The essence of conservatism is maintaining the best of the old order. When liberals want to vandalize the culture, it is the job of conservatives to defend the permanent things. Conservatism under Jarvis would be unilateral surrender on most political fronts.

Generation snowflake: Scripps U intern pic with Pence triggers schoolmates
The Daily Caller reports that McKenzie Deutsch, a junior at Scripps University in California, upset her fellow students when she posted a picture of herself with Vice President Mike Pence on Facebook. Students said Pence was an existentialist threat to people like themselves. One commented: "I don’t know if you understand that Pence want me and the people I love to be erased by any means possible. I don’t know how to express to you how it feels to see a fellow Scrippsie in this photo with someone who has shown himself so willing to commit institutional violence." Another posted a comment saying she felt unsafe because of the FB post. As the Daily Caller reported, the picture occurred 2,636 miles away. Scary. The best part of this "controversy" -- and proof that some people seek out being offended -- is this: "A few people even added Deutsch as Facebook friends precisely so they could send her nasty messages, she said."
Deutsch went to the Claremont Independent, the student newspaper, to explain her ordeal: “It is as if every student must follow an understood uniform code of conduct and speech — as if I must share the liberal politics of my peers in order to be treated with respect or considered a decent person. Their lecturing about diversity apparently does not extend to diversity of thought.”

Brexit won't get in the way of maintaining peace in Northern Ireland
The first UK government Brexit future partnership paper was released yesterday: "Future customs arrangements." It's brief but wide-ranging and clear, and sets out a clear line about where there should be no line: the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The paper states:
The border between Northern Ireland and Ireland is the UK’s only land border. We must avoid a return to a hard border, and trade and everyday movements across the land border must be protected as part of the UK-EU deal. The Government welcomes the clear commitment made in the European Council’s negotiating guidelines and the European Commission’s directives to work with us on “flexible and imaginative” solutions to achieve this. Ahead of those discussions, this paper includes proposals that are first steps to meet our objective of trade across that land border being as seamless and frictionless as possible, but further steps will be necessary. The Government will publish a paper relating to Northern Ireland shortly.
The Sun reports an unnamed government source saying, "Top of our list is to agree upfront no physical border infrastructure — that would mean a return to the border posts of the past and is completely unacceptable to the UK." It would be foolish for the EU27 to insist on measures that would risk peace in Ulster.
The Guardian reports that few people are satisfied with the customs proposal, especially Brussels. And domestic critics suggest its a "cake and eat it" proposal with London wanting the same rights as being in the current customs union without formally being within that structure. That seems like a non-starter. That said, this is the start of negotiations and both sides will have to give up some of their wish list.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017
Eliminating Down syndrome children
CBS reports:
With the rise of prenatal screening tests across Europe and the United States, the number of babies born with Down syndrome has significantly decreased, but few countries have come as close to eradicating Down syndrome births as Iceland.
Since prenatal screening tests were introduced in Iceland in the early 2000s, the vast majority of women -- close to 100 percent -- who received a positive test for Down syndrome terminated their pregnancy.
While the tests are optional, the government states that all expectant mothers must be informed about availability of screening tests, which reveal the likelihood of a child being born with Down syndrome. Around 80 to 85 percent of pregnant women choose to take the prenatal screening test, according to Landspitali University Hospital in Reykjavik ...
The law in Iceland permits abortion after 16 weeks if the fetus has a deformity -- and Down syndrome is included in this category.
The story focuses on eliminating Down syndrome, but Iceland -- nor any other country -- is doing any such thing. Doctors are eliminating preborn children with Down syndrome. In Iceland, CBS reports, one or two children are born with Down syndrome each year. Other countries also have "termination" rates of children identified with Down syndrome through prenatal testing (France has a 77% rate, in the United States it's 67%, Denmark 98%). Paradoxically, Dr. Anthony Lejeune, who discovered the chromosomal anomaly that causes the syndrome was opposed to abortion. In a 2002 Interim editorial we warned that abortion is not a cure. I am also worried that as fewer people are born with the genetic anomaly there will be less impetus for Down syndrome research -- why study an increasingly irrelevant "problem."
Of course, Down syndrome need not be viewed as a problem. Two months ago, Krista Ewert, author of This is Ella, was interviewed by Convivium, in which the author describes the dignity and humanity of her Down syndrome daughter:
What I did not know, however, was how full, beautiful and, quite frankly, normal Ella’s life would be. I did not realize that despite her challenges, Ella would have the potential to achieve many of the milestones her peers eventually would such as being surrounded by wonderful friends, graduating from high school or college, playing soccer, living on her own or having a job.
Ewert says that recognizing the humanity of so-called flawed children expands the bounds of our tolerance and diversity:
One shade of blue on a canvas is lovely in and of itself, but how much more beautiful is a canvas filled with vibrant reds, serene greens, cool blues and vivacious purple. To each canvas in life, whether it be our families, our workplace, classroom, or church, we bring the colours of our personality, our abilities, and our talents. As I have worked to ensure Ella’s contributions are not only recognized, but welcomed in her community, I have also become acutely aware of how I judge other’s contributions in my own life.
Our editorial noted that "Malcolm Muggeridge commented on this trend more than two decades ago when he said we are entering an age when abortion will be used to eliminate the less than 'perfect blooms' – people who are not beautiful, intelligent, skilled." That sounds like eugenics and the abdication of love. Eliminating Down syndrome children is not an accomplishment and Iceland should be not celebrated for their achievement of near zero Down syndrome children.