Sobering Thoughts

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

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Saturday, September 30, 2017
Gregg Easterbrook's 1982 column on why autumn is so great: sweaters
Gregg Easterbrook in the New York Times 35 years ago this week sang the praises of the humble sweater:
Wearing of sweaters, I am convinced, actually does assist romance in a true and serious way. The summer wardrobe's emphasis on skin forces men's minds to dwell on one question: Will she deliver the goods? (It can have the same effect, I am reliably informed by female friends, on women when they look at men. Naturally, I was shocked to learn this.)
Fall wardrobes shift the terms of the question to, What's she like underneath? This distinction is vital to any successful relationship, for it leads the mind to wonder ''What's she like underneath?'' in respects more important than physical ones. And so the romances that last begin during fall, not summer. In summer, your main question about a potential love interest can be answered with a yes or no. The kinds of questions you ask in the fall may take years to answer, years of togetherness. The changing seasons make it all possible.

2020 watch (Bustos, Moulton, Ryan edition)
AP reports:
Three rising House Democrats — Illinois’ Cheri Bustos, Seth Moulton of Massachusetts and Ohio’s Tim Ryan — travel to Des Moines on Saturday for a Democratic fundraiser, capping a summer of early activity in the presidential proving ground by more than 10 would-be White House prospects.
There's only one reason for a politician to visit Iowa (or New Hampshire).
That's part of a larger story on how the Democrats are not doing well in a state where Tom Harkin was senator for 30 consecutive years:
Over the same period, Republicans added roughly 37,000 registered voters, a 9 percent increase, and now represent 33 percent of Iowa’s roughly 3 million voters. Registered Democrats are at a 10-year low as their numbers fell by more than 55,000, or 6 percent, and represent barely 30 percent of Iowa voters.

Friday, September 29, 2017
The tax cut pays for itself myth
Bruce Bartlett in the Washington Post: "I helped create the GOP tax myth. Trump is wrong: Tax cuts don’t equal growth." Tax cuts don't pay for themselves, but when dynamic scoring in budgets is done properly it shows that the lost federal revenue is not as large as expected. That has turned into a myth that tax cuts pay for themselves. Bartlett also says conservatives/Republicans forget their 1980s economic/political history when they look at tax revenues prior to the 1981 tax cut and revenue by the end of the Reagan era (other stimulative policies and later tax increases). Also, tax cuts stimulate the economy when they bring very high tax rates lower (like it did in 1981), not when they fiddle with historically modest tax rates.
This is a must-read for those on the right, especially for those who believe tax cuts pay for themselves which has become an article of faith for many conservatives and libertarians.

Linker on post-Hefner liberalism
The Week's Damon Linker examines the not-terribly-surprising paradox that the morally permissive culture sought and desired by the Left still has a rape-culture problem (or at least the Left charges it does):
In response, feminists insist on … more feminism, in the form of consciousness-raising seminars and the imposition of bureaucratic rules regulating interactions between the sexes, along with institutions (Title IX offices) to enforce conformity to the new norms.
For some, this will work. But what about those men who like the sexually liberated world but bridle against the constraints of the new egalitarian moralism?
What if they like their freedom but have no use for equality?
Two points.
1. Permissiveness in satisfying every sexual appetite might not be compatible with equality.
2. There will always be rules. The old moral strictures were replaced by new, bureaucratic regulations. Consent is a good thing but the enforcement of consent might turn ugly. When it does, don't be surprised if there is not universal enthusiasm. See point #1.

What the Left doesn't get about tax policy/minimum wage/rent control/any economic policy
Daniel J. Mitchell at FEE: "Here’s where we get to the economics lesson. When producers aren’t allowed to profit, they don’t produce."

The Deporter-In-Chief
The Washington Post reports that despite candidate Donald Trump's tough immigration stance, deportations are down in fiscal year 2017 (which includes several months at the end of the Obama presidency). The Post reports:
Trump took office pledging to round up as many as 3 million drug dealers, gang members and other criminals he said were living in the United States illegally. But the most recent figures from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) indicate the government may be having a hard time finding enough eligible “bad hombres,” as the president described them, to quickly meet those targets.
As of Sept. 9, three weeks before the end of the 2017 fiscal year, ICE had deported 211,068 immigrants, according to the most recent figures provided by the agency. ICE removed 240,255 people during the government’s 2016 fiscal year.
Yet, the Trump administration could make a case that it is enforcing the border rules more rigorously, as ICE has made 43% more arrests since Trump took power compared to comparable period the year prior. The fastest growth in arrests comes not in the category of criminals, but immigration violations.
So who was the deporter-in-chief? The Post:
ICE removals reached a high of 410,000 in the government’s 2012 fiscal year, when critics of President Barack Obama labeled him “deporter in chief.” In the years that followed, ICE agents were instructed to prioritize immigrants with criminal records, and roughly two-thirds of the agency’s removals were immigrants picked up along the border, including many with existing deportation orders who were caught trying to sneak back in.

Thursday, September 28, 2017
Four week 4 games to watch
Honourable mention: Chicago Bears (1-2) at Green Bay Packers (2-1), Thursday night: This rivalry, going back to the 1920s, is tied 93-93-6. The Bears almost beat the Atlanta Falcons and beat one of this season's favourites, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Packers haven't put together a good game yet despite their winning record. Aaron Rodgers has been missing pieces of his offensive line and the Bears front seven can be pesky. Bears make the Pack earn their victory, but Green Bay will win.
4. Carolina Panthers (2-1) at New England Patriots (2-1), early Sunday afternoon: The Panthers went into week three as one of the best defenses in pro football, but then the New Orleans Saints put 34 points on them last week. How Tom Brady and the Patriots do might depend on which Carolina Panthers D shows up. The Patriots haven't looked great on that side of the ball all year but the Carolina offense has struggled even in their victories. Cam Newton, who is probably playing injured, has two TDs, four picks, and ten sacks with a 69.7 passer rating. By various measures, New England's defense has been the worst in the NFL, but they have faced Alex Smith, Drew Brees and a hot rookie (Deshaun Watson). A hobbled Cam Newton might make the Pats D look a lot better than it's been. The Pats offense has not been struggling as New England has averaged 440.7 yards (first) and 27.6 points (third) per game. New England easily wins at home.
3. Washington Redskins (2-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (3-0), Monday night: Kirk Cousins and Alex Smith might the most underrated QBs in the NFL, so don't sleep on this one. The Chiefs have quietly become an exciting team with Alex Smith averaging 9.21 yards per pass attempt (fourth in the NFL) and KC featuring two of the fastest players in the league: WR Tyreek Hill and RB Kareem Hunt (who has three runs of 50 yards in more in each of his first three games). Cousins averages 8.08 yards per attempt, good for sixth in the league. According to Football Outsiders, KC has the most efficient offense and Washington has the third most efficient defense. Should be an interesting battle in the trenches. KC wins at home.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) at Baltimore Ravens (2-1), early Sunday afternoon: After starting 2-0, both teams lost as favourites last week. One of the great rivalries in the NFL in recent years. Baltimore played in London last week so they might be a little tired. Pittsburgh's offense hasn't been as good as expected (except for Antonio Brown who has been outstanding in all three games), scoring just 21.3 ppg. Baltimore had a shut down defense over the first two week before being lit up by Jacksonville in England last week, and the Ravens are still rated as the best D according to Football Outsiders. The Steelers defense is ranked fourth, so this could be a low scoring affair unless Pittsburgh gets Le'Veon Bell starts running and catching. Pittsburgh by a field goal in Baltimore.
1. Denver Broncos (2-1) at Oakland Raiders (2-1), late Sunday afternoon: This is a tremendous historical rivalry and both teams have legit playoff ambitions. Trevor Siemian looked like he might have turned the corner and become a useful quarterback but then the Broncos lost in Buffalo last week their QB faced a solid D. Oakland's defense is not Buffalo's (Bills are ranked #2 according to Football Outsiders, Raiders #30). Derek Carr is an above average QB facing a top-ranked D. An important battle in the trenches is between Broncos offensive tackle Menelik Watson and Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack. Watson is terrible in pass protection (allowing 6 sacks, 6 hurries, 2 QB hits, 14 total pressures in three games) while Mack has 2 sacks, 6 hurries, a QB hit, and 9 total pressures. Mack will cause trouble for Siemian and Denver will have trouble scoring TDs. Raiders win at home in a low-scoring game.

Donald Boudreaux contemplates the nature of politics after receiving an email from the Republicans with the subject line, "President Trump is working for you, Don":
Receiving this e-mail reminds me of one of the reasons why I so thoroughly detest politics: it insults my intelligence. Even overlooking all of its many other faults, politics remains insufferable because it’s so completely imbecilic. It traffics in assertions that are either hilariously false or utterly meaningless. Politicians and their operatives then expect those of us on the receiving end of their moronic assertions not only to believe these assertions to be true, but also to marvel at the amazingness of the politicians who, we are assured, regularly perform the unbelievable feats described by the assertions.
Politics is unalloyed idiocy treated even by – indeed, especially by – the intelligentsia as if it is a solemn and serious undertaking. But it’s not. Politics is overwhelmingly the domain of megalomaniacal frauds, liars, and con artists.

Global News headline on a Canadian Press story: "Liberals say Harper government to blame for ‘F’ grade on access to information." The CP reports that an audit conducted by News Media Canada of 428 access-to-information searches found that Liberals perform worse in terms of transparency that their predecessors. CP reports:
In their 2015 platform on open and transparent government, Trudeau’s Liberals stated that “transparent government is good government,” the report notes. “It’s a sentiment shared by just about every opposition party that seeks power, but often falls out of favour once power is achieved.”
It also reports:
Jean-Luc Ferland, a spokesman for Treasury Board President Scott Brison, said Wednesday the report “confirms that the Harper government left behind a badly outdated and damaged system.”

Wednesday, September 27, 2017
The Globe and Mail: "Canada’s access-to-information system has worsened under Trudeau government: report." The paper reports:
A freedom-of-information audit from News Media Canada, a national association representing the Canadian news media industry, gives the federal government a failing grade for timely disclosure of information. It also said its performance in this year's audit "was even worse than in the latter years of the former Stephen Harper government."

More on the NFL national anthem controversy
Mark Steyn writes:
It's not a question of what you're free to do, but of what is seemly to do. And a shared sense of what is seemly is vital to keeping any society functioning and, ultimately, free. To see it in terms of legal absolutism - one has the "right" to take a knee, just as one has the "right" to shout "F**k!" during your grandmother's funeral - is reductive, and diminishing.
I agree. The obsequiousness of standing at attention for a national anthem is unseemly. Oh, that's not what Steyn means. He riffs on Lord Moulton on what is good form and I take his point. It's also not good form to question the integrity, decency, and, indeed, patriotism, of individuals who consciously choose to protest the symbols of injustice (to their mind) or not take part in the ridiculousness of what are for millions of others no more than pro forma gestures. Perhaps the good manners thing to do would be to stop forcing the national anthem down the throats of spectators.
It's worth reading Steyn's essay. I understand what he's saying. But we've moved way beyond good manners to more fundamental questions.
Also, as the Bleacher Report's Mike Tanier points out, the protesters have a point they are making about racial inequality and police brutality that is getting lost in the national anthem controversy. Many of those who don't like the form of the protests also have fundamental disagreement(s) about the point of the protests. (Imagine if right-leaning football players took a knee during the anthem to protest Barack Obama and his dangerous foreign policy -- how many conservatives would be upset by the protest?) It would be better to discuss the issues rather than the tactics, although that, too, would unlikely to be edifying.

Puerto Rico's future
Tyler Cowen addresses the idea of Puerto Rico becoming part of an already existing state:
I believe this option warrants serious consideration.
The obvious candidate would be New York State, and of course New York could be given more federal funds to ease the fiscal burden. The state would have more representatives in the House, but there would be no gain of two Democratic Senators for Puerto Rico, which might limit opposition from the Republican Party. Puerto Rico also might be given some special dispensations regarding the Spanish language and some other cultural markers.
I am not sure how Puerto Rico would feel about such an arrangement at this point, but under many alternative arrangements a big chunk of the island’s population simply empties out, and much of it to New York at that.
Puerto Ricans (the public and politicians) would never accept this. Never. But Washington politicians should give this serious consideration if a change in Puerto Rico's status is a serious possibility. However, I can't see Washington debating this without everyone considering the short-term partisan ramifications. Republicans should better understand Cowen's point of the bleeding of population to New York. I don't have a strong opinion on this, but my feeling is that Puerto Rico should be independent, but that's my default for most jurisdictions (Quebec and maybe Newfoundland, Catalonia, Scotland, Friesland, California).

Tuesday, September 26, 2017
There is too much national anthem
At Bloomberg View, Tyler Cowen explains "We’re fooling ourselves to think that current practices are really showing respect for the nation or its military." More importantly, the fetishization of the national anthem (and, I would add, the flag), is a form of right-wing political correctness:
The awkward, hard-to-admit truth is that the American national anthem is a form of right-wing political correctness, designed to embarrass or intimidate those who do not see fit to sing along and pay the demanded respect. I’ve been at sporting events where I’ve seen some people not sing along, and not put their hands over their hearts, only to hear that they will be punched in the face. Whether or not the threat was serious, this is classic “snowflake” behavior from the threat-makers, and should be recognized as such. For all of the right-wing complaints about left-wing political correctness, the right has long had its own version of the practice. It is time to dial it down.
The take-a-knee/national anthem theatrics weaponizes a patriotic symbol. Less politics in sports would be good, and that means fewer displays of superficial patriotism.

We don't need a white Oprah
Hot Air's John Sexton on "Megyn Kelly’s Awkward Attempt To Be The White Oprah." Sexton quotes from the Washington Post's story on the former Fox hosts's new show:
Most of the episode devolved into an intentionally meta hall of mirrors, inviting the audience to admire Kelly as much as Kelly admires Kelly — a morning TV show about the birth of a morning TV show. There was lots of talk about what “Megyn Kelly Today” will be, mostly by way of what it won’t be. (That’s always a bad sign.)
Sexton writes:
[I]t took literally two minutes and 30 seconds before Kelly was sharing the death of her father with her audience. She then turned to her career as a lawyer, as a TV anchor (“which was good, until it wasn’t”). “For years I had dreamed of hosting a more uplifting show, but how, where what?” Kelly said. She then explained how she saw her first interview with NBC as a sign from her dad.

Monday, September 25, 2017
The meaning of Merkel's defeat SfD's better-tan-expected showing
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's popular vote share declined significantly and it's being treated as a huge victory (because it kept the populists at bay). Interestingly, Theresa May increased the Conservative vote share in June (and lost seats and the party's majority) but it felt like a a huge loss. Context matters -- both in terms of system (first-past-the-post vs. proportional representation) and ideological (defeating Labour vs. beating the SfD).
Conservative Home's Paul Goodman has a good article on the German election and the its effect on Britain (Brexit and politics) and there is a takeaway that applies beyond Britain's borders. Goodman writes:
For Jeremy Corbyn, it is: watch your heartlands. Its voters want less immigration and will turn to other parties if you neglect them. For Theresa May, it is: find a credible plan to get migration down after implementation ends. In the meantime, push for more entitlement restrictions during transition, and hold your course on them.
The lesson for the west should be clearer than the pundits are making it: countries that do not adequately patrol their borders risk trouble with their own citizens. I say that as someone who is quite ambiguous about the morality of borders.

Sunday, September 24, 2017
On the German election
Henry Olsen's twitter feed is the source for quality analysis of the election results (looking at specific regions). Key point: the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) won three seats outright (that is, not through proportional representation). Greens have only once won a seat outright.
At Unherd, Olsen writes:
The polls have been showing a trend away from Merkel’s CDU/CSU and toward the AfD all month. I said yesterday that AfD could hit 14% and up to 20% in one or two East German states ... It’s not hard to figure out why this happened. As I wrote recently, world politics is increasingly less about Left v Right and more about Ins v Outs. If you benefit from modern cultural norms and the globalised economy, you’re an In. If not, you’re an Out. Since those with fewer skills and lower formal education tend to be more culturally traditional and economically stressed, they are the prime voter moving toward so-called populist parties.
AfD won 14% nationally and 22% in eastern Germany. Both mainstream parties saw their support drop. Merkel's Christian Democrats were down nearly nine percentage points. The Social Democrats are down five percentage points. Politico EU reports that AfD took a million votes from Merkel's alliance and a half-million votes from the Social Democrats. SDU said it won't join Merkel in a grand coalition again. The Guardian looks at the few coalition options Merkel has left.
Unherd's Peter Franklin:
Now we know the biggest difference between Angela Merkel and Theresa May – about 10% of the electorate. If a vote share in the low forties was a humiliation for the British PM then what would you call a share in the low thirties for the German Chancellor?
Exactly what she deserves, might be one answer. Last week I challenged the idea that Germany is the ‘responsible adult’ of European politics. In fact, Mrs Merkel has presided over a series of disastrous policies that have destabilised Germany’s neighbours – and are now destabilising German politics.
That's right -- Merkely has one-third less support than May did a few months ago.

May's cabinet fracturing over Brexit?
The Sunday Telegraph reports:
Boris Johnson has demanded a series of Brexit assurances as the fragile Cabinet truce over Theresa May’s transition plan begins to fracture. The Foreign Secretary wants Britain not to adopt any new EU rules and regulations after it formally leaves in March 2019, the Telegraph has learnt. He believes it is wrong for rulings from Brussels to apply in the UK during the two-year transition because Britain will no longer be involved in the decision-making process. The stance goes further than the Prime Minister – who declined to make the promise on Friday – and puts him on a collision course with the Treasury, which wants a “status quo” transition.
The Guardian reports that supporters of Boris Johnson are claiming victory in having the Foreign Minister successfully persuade Prime Minister Theresa May to alter her Florence speech on Brexit. They say he convinced May from backing the Norway option (access to the single market in exchange for payments and adherence to EU rules) and to dismiss the Chancellor of the Exchequer's desire for a long (four- or five-year) transition. The Sunday Mail reports that there is "all-out war" between BoJo and Hammond. For what it's worth, former UKIP leader Nigel Farage doesn't think May will stick to the two-year transition timetable. National Review's John O'Sullivan says that foremost, May's speech "was bent on removing any doubt that Britain would be leaving the EU — a doubt that apparently still shapes some thinking in Brussels and the British media." This is important to signal to the wishful thinkers abroad, but also the increasingly frustrated pro-Brexit segment of the UK Conservative Party and the majority who voted for Brexit.
We must remember that all this is a negotiation and on Friday May put forward a position that is a starting point. It is unlikely the UK government will get everything it wants. One doesn't start off with the compromise one is willing to accept. May's tough line ensures London will get more of what they are asking for than they would otherwise. Of course, May must negotiate the treacherous waters of domestic politics at the same time, which complicates matters.

Saturday, September 23, 2017
Against outrage over selective outrage
At Quillette, Spencer Case argues that there are in fact very few cases of selective outrage being hypocritical once one takes into account the reasonableness of differences in opinion or priors. (I'm disgusted I just wrote that sentence, but it's true.) And being justifiably and proportionately outraged at all true injustices is not even possible:
The world’s capacity to produce outrages far outstrips the human capacity to respond emotionally to them. If you are psychologically normal and a loved one is wrongly convicted and executed for an atrocity he clearly did not commit, you will be about as outraged as it is possible for you to be. It would be an unreasonable – indeed, incomprehensible – to demand that you be twenty-two times more outraged at the Manchester bombing, 15,000 times more outraged at the number of children who died of preventable diseases and malnutrition that day, 30 million times more outraged at Mao’s Great Leap Forward, and so forth.
I can imagine God expressing outrage at all of the sins of the world in a way that is completely general and proportionate. I can’t imagine a moral human being doing this, certainly not a psychologically normal human being, in a world so full of outrages. And these psychological and emotional limitations are probably a blessing. It would be unpleasant, even debilitating, to have a constant awareness of all of the evil in the world. Thus, the goal of evenly distributing and proportioning our outrage is neither achievable nor desirable.
Case is not talking about faux outrage. I would add that there is also too much genuinely felt outrage over things that not genuine outrages. But this is not an issue of selective outrage, as Case points out, but a disagreement over the reasonable of the opinion itself. The world would be a better place if we were outraged less often.

Walmart is working on a service that will send groceries directly to a customer's fridge with a delivery person having access to a one-time pass code on your home alarm when you're not home. Waiting for deliveries is a waste of time. Technology -- smart locks, online shopping -- should save time. It would be even better if Walmart knew when my refrigerator needed milk, eggs, juice, and yogurt and delivered them without me asking it to.

Friday, September 22, 2017
Why the UN sucks
Douglas Murray has a good essay at Unherd on why the United Nations sucks: democracies have the same legitimacy as the faux-democracies and dictatorships, and everyone pretends its okay. President Donald Trump challenged that polite fiction this week and was criticized for doing so. Murray says the UN is nice in theory, the "physical embodiment of the concept of the 'community of nations'," but there is no community of nations. There are only aligned interests or competing interests featuring some set of countries. What are democratic leaders and dictators -- or their representatives -- supposed to do when they meet? Murray writes:
If the delegates of the world’s democracies at the United Nations were to regularly turn to the world’s despots and remind them of their true moral and representative standing then the business of the UN would break down daily. Instead a form of diplomatic politesse exists, where people listen thoughtfully to the latest eruption from the noble representative of some satrapy or other and grants its emissions a similar weight and judgement as it would accord to representatives who are elected by and accountable to their people.
Some people like the idea of a League of Democracies so that legitimately elected and like-minded countries can work together, but this makes no sense. There is no need for an international body to get Germany and the United States to cooperate because their like-mindedness means they already do.
There is no serious debate about whether or not we need the United Nations. We don't. But no one wants to admit it. The bad ruins whatever limited good it does, but for the most part it does nothing meaningful so everyone can live with it. Some countries (the U.S. and the U.K.) will threaten to audit Turtle Bay's books and maybe even occasionally withhold some funds, but they will never threaten to take their ball and leave the Turtle Bay schoolyard. It's safe to stay as long as no one cares about the UN.

'End-of-life chatbot can help you with difficult final decisions'
New Scientist reports:
Could chatbots lend a non-judgemental ear to people making decisions about the end of their life? A virtual agent that helps people have conversations about their funeral plans, wills and spiritual matters is set to be trialled in Boston over the next two years with people who are terminally ill.
People near the end of their lives sometimes don’t get the chance to have these important conversations before it’s too late, says Timothy Bickmore at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. So Bickmore and his team – which included doctors and hospital chaplains – built a tablet-based chatbot to offer spiritual and emotional guidance to people that need it ...
And it has already seen some success. Bickmore’s team initially tested the chatbot with 44 people aged 55 and over in Boston. Just under half those adults had some kind of chronic illness, and nearly all had spent time with someone who was dying. After spending time talking to the chatbot, most of the participants reported that they felt less anxious about death and were more ready to complete their last will and testament.
For the next stage of the trial, Bickmore plans to give tablets loaded with the chatbot to 364 people who have been told they have less than a year to live. The slightly more souped-up version can also take users through guided meditation sessions and talk to them about their health and medication, as well as conversing on a wide range of religious topics.
The earlier people start considering how they want to die and what they want to happen afterwards, the easier it is for those around them to act on those decisions – for example, ensuring they don’t die in hospice if they would prefer to be at home.
New Scientist does not report whether the chatbot will discuss euthanasia or assisted-suicide options with patients, but it doesn't take much reading between the lines to think that might be the case. Indeed, pro-euthanasia documentarian Avril Furness suggests the chatbot would be a good way to start having what the magazine calls "difficult conversations about death" with Furness saying, "This chatbot isn’t going to judge you."

Business Insider has the list of the best-selling music acts of all-time (defined as "total certified album units sold in the U.S. (including streaming figures)"). Being around in the '70s and '80s helped. YouTube depresses sales. A few surprises (Kenny G, Foreigner, Tupac). Bob Dylan has a lot of albums that did not sell well. Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys count as modern. Lots of country. Rolling Stones are near top of the list but sold a lot fewer than that other band.
Sports on Earth's Matt Brown ranks the top 50 college stadia. Big, loud, history, unique traditions, and nearby landscape count for a lot. Big 10 is well-represented. Love Iowa's new tradition of waving to the children's hospital. Worth clicking on the video links. Would have appreciated more pictures. Not sure how Bryant-Denny Stadium (Alabama) is only 16th.

Thursday, September 21, 2017
What I'm reading
1. Maximum Canada: Why 35 Million Canadians Are Not Enough by Doug Saunders. Weird that a person who attends Planned Parenthood Ottawa fundraisers frets about under-population in Canada. Wants massive immigration increases, silent on abortion and contraception.
2. Could It Happen Here?: Canada in the Age of Trump and Brexit by Michael Adams. His short answer: probably not be we need to be careful. Adams focuses on Canada and US values surveys but doesn't prove that certain views are correlated to populism, which he fails to properly define. So far the book is disappointingly exactly what I thought it would be.
3. Why The Dutch Are Different: A Journey into the Hidden Heart of the Netherlands by Ben Coates. Explores Dutch culture and what makes the country punch above its weight.

Theresa May reads 'riot act' to UN
The Sun reports on Prime Minister Theresa May's speech at the UN this week:
Reading the riot act to the world organisation during her podium speech to its General Assembly, the PM called on it to first win back the UK’s trust before she agrees to release the final 30% of the government’s £2bn in annual contributions.
In her podium set piece, Mrs May warned of a global “crisis of faith” that could be disastrous for everyone.
The PM told world leaders at the UN’s annual meeting major global challenges such as mass migration and globalisation are putting serious strain on the old world order.
But Mrs May also demanded major reforms to the UN to ensure its shortcomings don’t undermine crumbling faith in it any further.
She argued: “We should also acknowledge that throughout its history the UN has suffered from a seemingly unbridgeable gap between the nobility of its purposes and the effectiveness of its delivery”.
Wasteful aid spending and needless bureaucracy must be stopped, the PM demanded.
The United Nations is the foremost example of people judging an organization by its objectives rather than its outcomes. Theresa May called out the international organization for failing to live up to its lofty ideals. Unfortunately, it will not matter as the bureaucrats and NGOs that populate Turtle Bay would rather talk about what are rightly domestic issues -- some of which were endorsed by May -- than solve actual conflicts. But it was nice to see a British prime minister draw attention to this fact and back up the criticism with consequences.

Hard to believe the French elected a snotty elitist as president
Politico EU reports that French President Emmanuel Macron is facing criticism after calling opponents of his mild but necessary proposed labour reforms and social spending cuts "slackers" and "people who are nothing." I think people who are nothing is French for deplorable. Macron has accurately described France as a country where it is difficult to enact change because of entrenched interests and an abiding belief among the citizens that their work week should be significantly shorter than other Europeans or that they are entitled to their government handouts. Macron is right to propose small, incremental reforms to change the way these issues are talked about in France and show that real change is possible, that government programs are not a ratchet that moves only one way. But Macron's arrogance, often manifested through a politically toxic mix of condescension toward the working class while enjoying the finer things in life, will not help him achieve his reformist agenda. Macron's allies say the controversies will not derail the President's agenda. We'll see. Real protests begin this weekend and the political class does not have a stellar history of resisting massive street demonstrations. Everything changes when farmers are blocking the highways into Paris.

We're fucked
Mark Steyn writes about America and the rest of the west today and its lack of civilizational confidence, manifested in both its unwillingness to tackle the threat of Islam and its zeal to tear down statues:
A culture that will not defend its past is unlikely to defend its future. Indeed, it may be so obsessed with contempt for its past that it can no longer even discern threats to its future. Or, come to that, threats to its present. We see this in the urge to flush attempted mass murder on the London Tube down the memory hole as swiftly as possible. Why exactly is it so necessary to cast the Parsons Green terror attack out of your mind?
Because any useful conversation on the subject would necessarily involve "refugee" policy, and broader questions of immigration and assimilation.
And that's controversial because you'll get accused of being a racist.
And that's career-ending because you come from a country where H G Wells said some beastly things about brown people a century ago.
And that's utterly shameful because, although your nation gave to the world Magna Carta and Common Law and Shakespeare and a Royal Navy that did more than any other institution to expunge slavery from the planet, and notwithstanding that even in the crappiest crapholes like Zimbabwe almost everything that still just about works in that dump comes from your country, your history is less than 100 per cent perfect.
And that's cringe-worthy because you've been raised in a culture that doesn't teach you about any of the good stuff, only to spasm reflexively when accusers cry "racist!" or "imperialist!", "Islamophobe!" or "transphobe!"
And that's life-threatening because, after a generation or two, it seems entirely normal to accept that, as penance for crimes you have never committed, it is necessary to surrender your civilization to barbarians.
Karl Marx said of capitalism: "the rule of the bourgeois democrats, from the very first, will carry within it the seeds of its own destruction, and its subsequent displacement by the proletariat will be made considerably easier." I sometimes wonder if the same might be said of western-style democracy itself.

Four week 3 NFL games to watch
Runner-up: New Orleans Saints (0-2) at Carolina Panthers (2-0) early Sunday afternoon: There are reasons to believe that the Drew Brees offense is not what we thought it would be but assuming that attrition hasn't left the QB with too few weapons, this could be a great strength match-up: Saints offense against the dominant Panthers D (12 points and no touchdowns allowed). If the Saints had played the 49ers and Bills like the Panthers have instead of the Vikings and Patriots, they might be 2-0. Cam Newton hasn't looked good. Should be a close divisional game and best chance for the Saints to turn their fortunes around. I predict they do.
4. Dallas Cowboys (1-1) at Arizona Cardinals (1-1) Monday night: Dak Prescott had a tough game last week in Denver, the type of games that challenge rookie QBs but the sophomore didn't face last year: the opposition gets off to a lead and then the defense loads up the box and forces the young QB to throw. Sophomore RB Zeke Elliott ran for less than 10 yards and Prescott didn't pass his test. Dallas and Prescott will need to bounce back but they do so against a strong D. Cards CB Patrick Peterson defending WR Dez Bryant should be a good matchup. Arizona should win their home opener.
3. Houston Texans (1-1) at New England Patriots (1-1) early Sunday afternoon: The Texans are good at getting pressure on opposing QBs, but generally Tom Brady isn't bothered by pressure unless it comes up the middle. The Pats O-line has been good at preventing that from happening in the previous two games. That said, J.J. Watt is no regular edge rusher and Watt vs. Brady is a battle between this generation's best defensive player versus this generation's best QB. No rookie QB has beaten Bill Belichick in Foxborough so Deshaun Watson is battling history, but he faces a Pats defense that hasn't shined thus far this season. It will be tough for Houston to upset New England, but the Texans can give the Pats a scare.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) at San Diego Chargers (0-2) later Sunday afternoon: Classic AFC West rivalry. Bolts need to win if they have any chance to make the playoffs ... or want to fill their soccer-sized stadium any time soon. Both of their losses were close and winnable: San Diego lost their games by a combined five points. The Chiefs have been solid on both sides of the ball with Alex Smith throwing downfield and third-round pick RB Kareem Hunt making an early case for offensive rookie of the year. According to Football Outsiders, the Chiefs have the best offense in the NFL, by a fair bit. That said, FO has San Diego as the 7th most efficient offense; ESPN's FPI has them as third and eighth respectively in offensive efficiency. Expect scoring. San Diego has suffered too many injuries to beat a Chiefs team that is looking like one of the three best squads in the NFL. Chiefs edge the Chargers in LA.
1. Atlanta Falcons (2-0) at Detroit Lions (2-0) early Sunday afternoon: Only game featuring two 2-0 teams this week. The Falcons are a complete, deep team with loads of talent. The Lions look better than they are having edged out a lackluster Arizona Cardinals team and the even more lackluster New York Giants. Lions schedule gets tougher and there is a good chance if this game is in December no one would care. Football Outsiders has Atlanta as the fourth-best offense and Detroit as the fourth-best defense, so this could be an interesting match-up. Matt Stafford against Matt Ryan is a matchup of top QBs. Falcons are trying to bury their Super Bowl defeat in which they blew a 25-point lead; Lions have nine come-from-behind victories in 2016 and thus far in 2017. But that's a dangerous game and doing so against a Falcons team with a running back tandem that should be able to run the clock will not be easy. Falcons win Detroit.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, middle class champion
CBC reports that amidst the controversy that he and his Finance Minister have 11 numbered companies between them while they seek to increase the taxes on small business owners, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, "I no longer have dealings with the way our family fortune is managed." Family fortune, eh?
Trudeau also says that "I have been open and transparent about that, and have been entirely consistent in my desire to not be perceived to be bending or breaking any rules." Perception is important to most politicians, but few admit it. Also, not to be perceived as bending or breaking rules is not the same thing as avoiding doing those things.

2020 watch (Democrats edition)
Powerline's John Hinderaker writes about Hillary Clinton's What Happened -- Hillary happened -- and the lessons it has for everyone:
Here’s the rub: the Trumpist movement turned out to be stronger than I, and most others, initially understood. But Trumpists were, and remain, a minority. Trump probably would not have won if he had not been running against a uniquely inept and unpopular opponent.
That is how history works, of course–Ronald Reagan, to take just one example, benefited from running against the rather pathetic Jimmy Carter. So Trump is our president and he should exercise his powers vigorously. But Republicans also should understand that their victory owed at least as much to their opponent’s weakness as to their champion’s appeal.
The good news is that the Democrats don’t obviously have anyone much better than Hillary on the horizon for 2020.
There are candidates that are much better than Hillary Clinton, but they are still terrible candidates. The floor is pretty low with HRC.

Cowen interview with Summers
Tyler Cowen interviewed Larry Summers, an economist who served in senior roles in the Clinton and Obama administrations and a former president of Harvard (audio, video and transcript available here). Some excerpts:
COWEN: Who’s innovating in higher education right now, and what are they learning from this innovation?
SUMMERS: Not enough people are innovating enough in higher education. The place to start is, General Electric looks nothing like it looked in 1975. Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or Stanford look a lot like they looked in 1975. They’re about the same size to within a factor of two, they’re about the same number of buildings, they operate on about the same calendar, they have many of the same people or some number of the same people in significant positions.
The main thing to say is that, for something that’s all about ideas and for something that’s all about young people, the pace of innovation in higher education is stunningly slow. We’re still on a system where the break is in the summer. The reason we’re on that system is that when everybody went to pick the plants, that was the natural way to organize school, and it’s still going that way.
Summers, a pro-immigration Democrat, talks about how to build support for immigration:
The right broad deal on immigration is yes, there should be immigration but at least my view is the idea of the melting pot, which has become unfashionable in many circles, is actually a good idea.
The understanding should be that if you immigrate to the United States you’re immigrating to the United States to become an American. That reflects acculturation, one crucial part of which is speaking English and understanding that you’re going to be learning English and that you’re going to be carrying on your life in English. If we had more acceptance of the idea that immigration was about becoming American, we would have more acceptance of higher levels of immigration than generate comfort right now.
Summers on the optimal rate of tax on capital income?
Closer to the tax rate on other income than to zero would be my answer to that. A fair amount of capital income reflects rents of one kind or another. Capital income is substantially held by those at the high end. There’s a fair amount of what’s really capital income in the form of unrealized capital gains that never gets taxed.
So I think the right aggregate capital income tax rate is closer to what would go with a comprehensive income tax than it is to the alternative idea that capital income taxation is just a way of taxing future consumption, and therefore you should tax future consumption and present consumption at the same rate and the tax rate should be zero.
Summers on philanthropy to cities or other levels of government:
[Y]ou need to be very careful to make sure that whatever you think you’re buying is what you’re actually buying. If you give more money to the health budget of the city and the city responds by reallocating its own money from healthcare to other things then you’ll have demonstrated fungibility; you won’t have spurred healthcare. So have a strategy for addressing fungibility.
He also warns philanthropists to avoid "cannibalization" when trying to help and "impose a replicability constraint."
The full interview is self-recommending even if there is no over-rated/under-rated.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017
'FedEx ordered to pay woman $740 after horse semen delivery delay'
That's an actual headline, from CBC Halifax. Explanation: "N.S. woman's horse failed to get pregnant after 'priority overnight' package arrived late." Thank God for the national broadcaster.

PM May sorta backs BoJo
Reuters reports that a Sky News journalist tweeted Prime Minister Theresa May's response to being asked about her foreign minister, Boris Johnson: "Boris is doing good work as Foreign Secretary." She's correct, but that statement is terse enough for BoJo to worry about his future in cabinet if that's indeed something he cares about. At this point, he probably doesn't.

Markets in everything (deer piss edition) and regulatory capture (deer piss edition)
The New Yorker reports:
There are roughly ten thousand deer farms in North America, and some thirty per cent are owned by the Amish. The deer are usually raised for venison or hunting, but Lapp found another specialty: he is one of America’s premier producers of deer urine.
Walk into Walmart or Cabela’s and go to the back, near the rifles, and you’ll find a wall display of deer urine. It comes in small squirt bottles that hunters spray on the ground to hide their scent. Some hunters spend extra for urine collected from does in heat, which, they believe, attracts bucks. Industry groups estimate that deer urine is a hundred-million-dollar business, with players like Tink’s, Wildlife Research Center, and Top Secret, which for some reason packages its urine in wine bottles. Lapp sells his, wholesale, in three-hundred-and-twenty-gallon vessels, to the big manufacturers, and also runs a small business selling directly to hunters. He is not rich, but he makes a solid living for a young Amishman, and has plans to move his wife and their newborn baby into a larger house.
In an effort to combat chronic wasting disease that is plaguing some deer species, the state of New York has banned deer urine from infected areas, although it has not banned bringing butchered meat from such parts of the country. Curiously, meat is higher risk than urine. As New Yorker's Adam Davidson explains:
[T]he New York deer-hunting industry, which is dominated by firearm hunters, brings in more than one and a half billion dollars a year, and is supported by retailers and a passionate population of hunters. The deer-urine industry, on the other hand, is most vocally supported by bow hunters, who are comparatively few, and is predominantly represented by people like Lapp, small farmers with few resources.
The plan’s disparate treatment of urine and meat is an example of what economists call regulatory capture: the process by which regulators, who are supposed to pursue solely the public interest, instead become solicitous of the very industries they regulate.

Black pride okay. White pride not so much.
Taryn Finley, associate editor at HuffPost Black Voices, echoes Issa Rae's "Rooting for Everybody Black" in an essay for the New York Times, explaining:
[E]xpressing black pride is not the same as being racist toward whites ...
Ms. Rae’s critics don’t understand that when it comes to racial pride, the playing field is not level. Black pride does not carry the power to shut others out as white pride does.
The race-conscious left needs to understand if a lot of people, who aren't actually racist, react no so friendly to such double-standards.

Indian is not an offensive team name
The Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby comes to the defense of the Cleveland Indians, and other professional sports franchises with Indian-theme names:
No sports team adopts a name or symbol in order to bring contempt upon itself ... team names typically suggest traits associated with heroes and winners: the speed of jets, the ferocity of bears, the aggressiveness of predators, the tenacity of cowboys.
That explains the abundance of Indian-themed team names in American sports at every level. Braves, Warriors, Blackhawks, Redskins, Indians — they are nods to a common view of native tribes as brave, tough, noble, and intimidating. If that’s a stereotype, it is a flattering one. It may not be historically accurate, but it could hardly be less of an example of invidious racism.
Jacoby also comes to the defense of Chief Wahoo, the symbol Cleveland barely uses anymore:
But there is no negative stereotype of wide-eyed, laughing Indians. Chief Wahoo doesn’t reflect contempt for Indians any more than Bugs Bunny reflects contempt for rabbits or than the Boston Celtics logo reflects contempt for the Irish.
Chief Wahoo is not and never has been the “grinning face of racism.” Like Fred Flintstone, Dudley Do-Right, or the bat-swinging, tonsured monk of the San Diego Padres, he is a cheerful, playful cartoon character, nothing more. The Chief Wahoo logo doesn’t hint at any bigoted subtext. Demonizing it as a racist emblem may feel good to those who enjoy parading their liberal sensitivity, but it does nothing to combat actual bigotry or promote tolerance.

Monday, September 18, 2017
Trudeau makes HUGE promise to UK
The Express: "Brexit trade deal with Canada will be EVEN BETTER than EU's Ceta agreement says Trudeau." This looks big. And Brussels might not be happy about it. One might argue it violates Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's promise to the EU to respect its trade rules which do not allow for London to negotiate separate trade agreements until after it has left the European Union (that is, after March 2019). But these are only words and as we've seen the Liberal leader says a lot of things and doesn't follow through (electoral reform, tiny temporary budget-deficits). Negotiations for a post-Brexit free trade deal won't conclude until after the October 2019 federal election which means the final agreement could be decided by a different prime minister and government.
Trudeau said, "we will be able to move forward in a way that benefits in a smooth transition that keeps the essence of Ceta applicable to the UK in ways that will respects the EU's requirements and rules." Not sure how that works, and neither does anybody else in Ottawa or London at this time. Certainly Canada's Prime Minister doesn't know what that looks like. But he mouthed words so all is good.
90% of the time I think these things are said in the same spirit as people asking how others are doing: most of the time the inquirer doesn't care about the answer, it's just the polite thing to say. Except that when politicians talk, it can affect markets, negotiations, and politics.

The highly regulated life of a trucker
Fascinating, confusing, and sad article at The Federalist by trucker Matthew Garnett on the regulations with which he must abide (the excerpt is long but worth reading):
For starters, let’s talk “logs” and “hours of service.” While you’re only fighting one clock on your morning commute, a truck driver is fighting five clocks. Like you, he’s fighting real time. You have to be at work by 9:00 a.m., and he has a 9 o’clock appointment at the local distribution center. It’s 8:45 and I-40 is a parking lot. In addition to this, he has four other clocks to worry about: the “eight-hour break” clock, his “14-hour on-duty, not driving” clock, the “11-hour on-duty, driving” clock, and the “70-hour weekly on-duty” clock. For simplicity, I will call each of these the “eight,” the “14,” the “11,” and the “70.”
Now I’ll explain what’s known in the transportation industry as the “Hours of Service” regulations. The Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCA) requires drivers to log everything they do, where they did it, the duration of the task, and when the specific tasks were done. The biggest principle to keep in mind is that when any one of the “clocks” runs out, you can no longer drive legally. Once you start the clock by going on-duty, you have eight hours before you must stop driving and take a 30-minute break.
Also, once you start your clock, you have now started a nonstop 14-hour window in which you must get all the driving done you need to for that day. If you get stuck at a shipper for three hours, you now have only 10 hours to drive. Which brings us to your “11”: In any given 14-hour on-duty period, you are only allowed to drive legally for 11 hours within that 14-hour period. In addition, in any eight-day period, you are only allowed to be on-duty (not driving and driving) for a total of 70 hours. Hence, your “70.” (This week, I made it back home with only one hour on my 70… I was cutting it close.)
Clear as mud? Basically, as I said in the outset, the FMCA (that is, Uncle Sam/ Big Brother) not only wants to know when I’m sleeping, resting, and driving—it tells me when I can sleep, rest, and drive.
Even now, as I write, I am being monitored. I am on the “off-duty” line of my logs. If I get pulled over next week by a “diesel bear” (a state trooper dedicated to enforcing FMCA regs), he’s going to want to know where I was and what I was doing at this very moment, and whether the FMCA does or doesn’t allow that. For instance, even though my logging computer says I’m “off duty,” if it were found out that I’m writing an article for The Federalist instead of “resting,” I’d be in violation. I’m technically not supposed to be doing any work right now. I’m not supposed to mow the grass, or take out the trash. I definitely would be in violation if I got a part-time job on the weekend while I was supposed to be “off duty.”
I’ve heard horror stories on this. A colleague of mine was once cited for a log violation because he sent an email to his dispatcher while he was in the “off duty” status. The penalty for that? Well, if the judge wants to throw the book at you, he can send you to jail for six months in some states. The fines are at least $500. So if it were determined by the powers that be that I was “working” during my off-duty time, I could be jailed for that. (Just in case my boss reads this, I consider writing a leisure activity.)
Now back to the logs/clocks, and I’ll show you what I mean when I say Big Brother tells us when to drive, rest, and sleep. Once a truck driver’s “eight” runs out, he has to take a 30-minute break before he can drive again. When his “14” expires, he must take a 10-hour, off-duty rest period. Once he’s driven for 11 hours, he must stop and take a 10-hour break.
But say you get stuck at a shipper for three hours: you can log two hours of off-duty time, which can serve as part of a later 10-hour break, but then you must take the remaining eight hours on the “sleeper-birth” line of your logs. This is called a “split sleeper.” After your eight hours in the sleeper, you will get the time back you had while you were stuck at the shipper, minus any time you used after the two hours, but before you took eight hours in the sleeper birth.
Simple, right? I’ve been driving trucks for a while, and these are aspects of the log system I still don’t completely understand. My outfit uses electronic logs, so basically when that computer tells me to stop driving, I stop. When it says go, I go.
These regulations incentivize unsafe driving because speeding is the easiest way to beat the clocks. These regulations disincentivize entrepreneurism because some truck-driving entrepreneurs will blanch at having every minute of their lives scrutinized by the state.

Sunday, September 17, 2017
There was a time when robot reporter could have been a cool sci-fi beat
Now it describes AI doing the job of reporting and writing. The Washington Post's AI reporter has filed 850 stories over the past year on subjects as diverse as high school sports, the Rio Olympics, earnings reports, and gubernatorial elections. The stories received 500,000 clicks. Important point: the robot reporter is supplementing the coverage provided by human reporters not replacing it. So far.

Jacob Rees-Mogg at Conservative conference
The Sunday Express reports:
The MP for North East Somerset is to give no fewer than nine speeches in 48 hours to the party faithful next month according to the Telegraph. He will be addressing everything from Brexit and the Conservative Party to the importance of free markets and the resurgent hard-Left.
The paper doesn't report this, but most of those speeches will be at so-called fringe events during the October 1-4 party conference in Manchester. The speculation is that JRM is building support among future leadership voters by talking to the most committed membership. He is just as likely ensuring that the party sticks to its guns on Brexit ("either you are in or you out") and enthusiastic support for free markets (after some of Theresa May's criticism of business).

BoJo blowback
The Sunday Telegraph reports that some of Boris Johnson's cabinet or caucus colleagues are asking Prime Minister Theresa May to sack the Foreign Minister. Boris Johnson's allies insist his Saturday Telegraph essay was not meant to reignite his leadership bid or weaken May's position ahead of her Brexit speech in Italy later this week. The Sun on Sunday came to the defense of BoJo in an editorial: "Our Foreign Secretary is sick of being ignored and has spoken out." The paper says, that without Johnson's persona and rhetoric, Brexit would have lost and it behooves the Prime Minister to listen to Johnson's Brexit vision. Andrew Gimson writes in the Sunday Mail that the May government will need Johnson around to sell whatever Brexit deal is eventually negotiated with the EU. On Twitter, Johnson said: "Looking forward to PM's Florence speech. All behind Theresa for a glorious Brexit." You can read BoJo's article on Facebook if you don't have a Tele subscription.

HRC: lots of blame to go around, from Bernie Sanders to those damn voters
Sean Collins at Spiked-Online on Hillary Clinton's What Happened?:
Hillary’s list of those people (other than herself) to blame for her loss is much longer than we’d previously thought. Bernie Sanders is a particular target of her scorn. ‘Bernie’s presence in the race meant that I had less space and credibility to run the kind of feisty progressive campaign that had helped me win Ohio and Pennsylvania in 2008’, she writes. She seems to be saying: if I had no opposition, I would have won. It was exactly this sense of entitlement, that it was ‘her turn’, that she deserved a coronation not an election, that turned many off.
She refers to ‘Clinton fatigue’ being a factor she had to overcome, but she doesn’t fully appreciate how many voters didn’t like that the establishment Democrats had turned to the wife of a previous president (just as the establishment Republicans had turned to Jeb Bush, the son and brother of previous presidents). The idea of family legacies appears monarchical, and just doesn’t fit with a democratic republic. Hillary’s building-up of her daughter Chelsea in the book – clearly being positioned for future office – doesn’t help her appear less aristocratic, either.
What Happened also makes clear that, of all of those apparently to blame, the people she is most upset with are the backward masses who voted for Trump – those who ‘saw the world in zero-sum terms, believing that gains made by fellow Americans they viewed as “other” – people of color, immigrants, women, LGBT people, Muslims – were not earned and must be coming at someone’s expense’. In other words, the ‘deplorables’ who she infamously declared ‘irredeemable’ during the campaign. She gives a quick, half-hearted apology for the ‘deplorables’ comment, before going on to spend pages of text defending her use of it and effectively doubling down on it: ‘Too many of Trump’s core supporters do hold views that I find – there’s no other word for it – deplorable.’
She simply cannot hide the fact that she looks down on the electorate.
Hillary Clinton hates the average American and the average American reciprocates.
God save us from a Chelsea Clinton presidency. Although it would be kind of amusing to see Bill and Chelsea win but Hillary Clinton rejected. HRC is uniquely awful.

Saturday, September 16, 2017
Mingardi on Gertrude Himmelfarb and the Fabians
Writing at EconLog, Alberta Mingardi stresses an observation that historian Gertrude Himmelfarb makes in her most recent collection of essays, Past and Present, namely that many reformers who argue for state intervention to solve some particular problem just want to control others.

Quote of the year
"Nobody wants to sit through a Chelsea Clinton speech on diarrhea in Africa if her mom isn't going to be president." -- Mark Steyn in a radio interview John Moore, via Five Feet of Fury.

Cement exports
Here is a list of the top cement-exporting countries. China, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates top the list. Japan is eighth, Canada ninth, and the U.S. 13th. Most of the top exporting countries also imported some cement. Tyler Cowen expresses my sentiment on this: "I find it remarkable that cement is exported at all." David Ricardo lives.

BoJo's manifesto
This weekend in the Telegraph, Boris Johnson has a long essay marking his policy territory for a leadership bid vision for post-Brexit Britain. It is hard to improve upon Paul Goodman's comprehensive analysis at ConservativeHome. Key points:
1. Echoing Prime Minister Theresa May's Lancaster House speech in which she said that no deal is better than a bad deal, Johnson strongly criticizes the growing conventional wisdom that no deal is the worst possible scenario.
2. A trade deal is desirable but not essential as Johnson asserts trading under WTO rules is workable.
3. Johnson insists on no payment for access to the post-Brexit EU market.
4. His hard line on Brexit could buck-up demoralized Brexiteers within the party. It could also win him back support that he is thought to be losing in the unofficial campaign to replace May as Tory leader by giving so-called hard Brexit MPs a champion they have been lacking (save for Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has no Moggmentum among his colleagues at Westminster).
5. Johnson returns to his long-held pro-growth views on Britain becoming a low-tax, low-regulation country after leaving the EU (a point Goodman doesn't make in his bullet-point analysis).
6. BoJo commits to massive new funding for the NHS, a sort of Brexit dividend he talked about during the referendum, reiterating the questionable (discredited?) £350 million per week figure for what the UK will save when it doesn't have to send money to Brussels.
7. He raises a plethora of new domestic policies on everything from housing to the VAT on feminine hygiene products.
8. There are whispers that the column in his old writing haunt was the draft of a speech 10 Downing prevented him from giving. Interesting.
9. Johnson's essay is meant to destabilize May a month ahead of the party conference, thus putting pressure on her tenuous hold on the Conservative leadership and 10 Downing.
10. This article will reinforce the idea that BoJo puts his personal ambition ahead of both this party and his country.

Friday, September 15, 2017
Is George Osborne a politician or a journalist?
The Guardian's Gaby Hinsliff on the former chancellor of the exchequer and current editor of the Evening Standard:
The trouble is that it’s still unclear which side of the fence George Osborne is on. Is he genuinely a journalist now? If so, he ought to be above petty emotional vendettas? Or is he still a politician at heart, using this job as a way of continuing politics by other means? In a world where the line between activism and journalism, driving events and reporting them, is already dangerously blurred, this is surely an ambiguity too far.
Yes, it was thrilling at first to see Osborne replaying old cabinet battles in public, spilling the beans about what went on behind closed doors. For many remainers, it has been deeply comforting too to see his paper making such a sparky case for the benefits of immigration and openness to the world, trying to hold the centre ground and giving the Eurosceptic tabloids a run for their money.
Talk of Osborne now having a gun and not being afraid to use it against old enemies will, meanwhile, seem like jolly spectator sport to many on the left. What’s not to like about Tories fighting among themselves? Some will think it hopelessly naive, in a world where Steve Bannon can describe returning to Breitbart from the White House as getting “my hands back on my weapons”, to imagine the liberal media shouldn’t fire back.
But as time wears on, the nagging feeling that no good can come from allowing newspapers to be used like this grows. Osborne is right to argue that the British press (although not British broadcasters) have always been openly partisan vehicles for expressing their editors’ and proprietors’ personal views and influencing political decisions. What is new, however, is the appointment of an editor who has so much personal skin in the game. If journalism is the first draft of history, then the history of seven years of Tory rule, and its consequences for Britain, is being edited in front of our eyes by someone who was far too deeply involved to have any sense of objectivity.
Osborne lacks the integrity to do the right thing and commit to one (politics) or the other (journalism). Indeed his new position serves his political aims, which are not so much about returning to politics and eventually winning the Conservative leadership -- he may have sunk those chances with the Esquire profile -- but his more immediate political goal of harming the Prime Minister. But his vendetta is so obvious by this point that his journalism (and everything published at the ES) should be questioned. For whatever reason, nearly everyone treats what is published by his hacks as the gospel truth about internal Tory matters rather than one side of a protracted and bitter feud.

The fate of the world, or at least east Asia, rests in the hands of The Worm
The Guardian reports:
It sounds surreal, but with tensions rising between the two countries thanks to North Korea’s growing nuclear weapons program, there’s a very real possibility that [Dennis] Rodman, a man who once married himself, ends up playing a key role in preventing armageddon. Rodman himself certainly believes he will. In an interview with Good Morning Britain, the five-time NBA champion offered to “straighten things out” between Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, emphasizing that he considers both men friends.
I get Hunter Felt, a sports writer that appears to take a stab at humour, might be saying this tongue-in-cheek, but it should be labeled humour by The Guardian:
As North Korea expert Ken Gause said to Time that “he’s not the best ambassador we could have but it’s who we have.”
In just about any other situation, Gause would be correct in describing Rodman as an utterly inappropriate ambassador – as the man himself admits “[Kim and I] ride horses, we hang out, we go skiing, we hardly ever talk politics and that’s the good thing.” Rodman also fundamentally lacks the tact and restraint required in most diplomatic situations, and has a tendency to make events all about himself.
Oddly enough, all of these traits might make Rodman the perfect ambassador to North Korea. These are characteristics he shares with both Trump and Kim, which could go a long way to explaining how he became the only high profile individual with a direct line to both leaders.
The problem is that Felt's articles sometimes veer weird but he never writes humour columns per se. So this article will generate clicks and perhaps some "what-if" discussion and that might stoke Rodman's ego. But no one should think that basketball/celebrity diplomacy is all that's standing between an armed conflict between the Norks and Americans.

Australian craziness
The Daily Mail reports: "Australia Day is scrapped in Melbourne because it is deemed offensive to Aborigines and compared to 'celebrating the Holocaust'." It actually is not Melbourne, but the suburb of Moreland, which became the third municipality in Victoria to choose not to recognize the January 26 national holiday that commemorates the arrival of the first British settlers in 1788. The move was condemned by Liberal Party Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's government with Assistant Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke calling the move "extreme and divisive" and maintaining that "Australia Day is a recognition of our shared history and the Turnbull government, along with the vast majority of Australians, indigenous and non-indigenous, fully support Australia Day remaining on January 26."

Bai on What Happened
Reliably liberal Matt Bai, formerly of Rolling Stone and now with Yahoo!, has a very good essay on Hillary Clinton's What Happened. This is exactly correct:
As others have noted, Clinton blames a lot of other people for her loss. As ever, she is really good at declaratively stating that she takes responsibility for things that go wrong, but she doesn’t get what it actually means to take responsibility for things that go wrong.
Invariably, at an interval of what feels like every two pages, Clinton’s momentary mea culpas are followed by a “but,” and then by an explanation of why someone else — the media, the FBI, the Russians, the voters — was really at fault.
Many on the Left do this: say they take responsibility as if saying it is all they have to do. In Canada, Kathleen Wynne did this a lot in the past although I haven't heard it say it recently. But saying one is taking responsibility without consequences or correction isn't the same thing as taking responsibility. Mouthing words are cheap and we should recognize it as such. Kudos to Bai.
Bai also deserves kudos for saying something most pundits are loathe to mention: while Clinton blames sexism for her defeat and conceding that sexism played a role in some of the opposition to HRC, Bai says it is also probably true that the former first lady and secretary of state benefited from being a woman. Bai notes that Clinton barely did worst among some groups than recent male Democrat presidential candidates and even lost among white women, "which at least complicates the gender argument." Bai notes that Clinton had a lot of negatives and her gender was almost certainly not at the top of the list (a list that begins with her "perceived" sense of entitlement, her family's scandals, her age). Bai writes:
In fact, you could make a reasonable case that, just as race actually helped Obama by giving white voters a chance to feel they were turning the page on an ugly historical chapter, gender probably benefited Clinton to some degree, too.
A lot of women who weren’t so excited by her personally were nonetheless inspired to support her candidacy anyway, because of the change she symbolized. That passion, more than anything else, probably enabled her to hold off Bernie Sanders’s ideological insurgency in the primaries.
HRC's slogan "I'm With Her" certainly worked on some people. It might have turned off others. Bai is simply pointing out the obvious that Clinton was a terrible candidate who won some votes because she had ovaries. The standard 2016 narrative -- especially the one being peddled in What Happened -- ignores that fact.

Thursday, September 14, 2017
Four week 2 NFL games to watch
Runner-up: Houston Texans (0-1) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-1), Thursday night: Both teams had awful games in week one. Cincy QB Andy Dalton was picked four times because he performs poorly under pressure. Houston has an elite pass rush. Houston should win regardless of who starts, but if rookie DeShaun Watson gets his first start, it could be a very exciting and one-sided game. Or the rookie could struggle and still have a decent chance to win. I'm on the verge of making this a game to watch.
4. Dallas Cowboys (1-0) at Denver Broncos (1-0), late Sunday afternoon: The Broncs defense didn't look like it's missing departed defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, but I'd like to see them do it again. Denver's elite pass rush versus Dallas' elite offensive line is a great battle. Trevor Siemian had three decent quarters last week against San Diego. Denver will be dangerous if he develops into a competent QB. It's important that he does well against the 'Boys okayish D. I think Denver can hold on in a low-scoring game at home.
3. Minnesota Vikings (1-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0), Sunday early afternoon: The Steelers offense wasn't what it was billed in the off-season. Cleveland's D not only kept the Pittsburgh offense off the scoreboard in the first half, but didn't allow a Steeler first down in the first 30 minutes. Minnesota has a great defense that stopped Drew Brees and company in the opening week, so this should be a battle of strength against strength. It might also show us what Pittsburgh might actually be. That said, RB Le'Veon Bell didn't play in the pre-season so if the rust is off, Pittsburgh is dangerous. The Vikes O-line looked good against New Orleans on Monday night, but the Saints pass rush isn't that strong so it will be interesting to see what it can do against the Steelers as they bring pressure. Sam Bradford looked pretty good in the opening week, but again against a Saints defense that has rated worst or second worst in the last three seasons in defensive efficiency (per Football Outsiders). Steelers by a touchdown although it will feel like a more comfortable win.
2. New England Patriots (0-1) at New Orleans Saints (0-1), Sunday early afternoon: The standard narrative is that no one wants to face the Pats the week after they lose because Brady & Belichick will be angry. Truth is, no one wants to face the Patriots, ever. Drew Brees is 3-1 against Tom Brady in his career. The game probably means more to New Orleans than New England (tougher division, less capable of coming back after a 0-2 start). Considering that the Patriots couldn't stop Alex Smith, the sky is the limit for Brees (even if he's playing indoors). Adrian Peterson may have been a distraction in the Saints opener in Minnesota, but none of the three RBs performed in that contest: three different running backs had six or seven carries and not one had more than 20 yards. Take the over whatever it is -- it's a safer bet than predicting who comes out on top of a high-scoring game. I flipped a coin and it came up bet the over. Just enjoy the game.
1. Green Bay Packers (1-0) at Atlanta Falcons (1-0), Sunday night: Tapped as a possible NFC Championship previewh, the game features two of the best teams and quarterbacks in football. Green Bay has a potent offense because of QB Aaron Rodgers and his cast of receivers, while Atlanta is coming off a historically prodigious scoring season. That said, Green Bay struggled to get something started against Seattle. Atlanta barely held on against one of the NFC dregs, beating the Chicago Bears 23-17 last week when the Bears had the ball on the five-yard line and QB Mike Glennon threw the ball to a receiver in the end zone or just outside it three times only to have the ball bounce out of or through the hands of his target. In other words, Atlanta is lucky to be 1-0. The Falcons defense looked fine and the Packers defense kept the Seattle Seahawks out of the end zone last week. Both teams have solid offensive lines. It will be hard to beat Atlanta at home, but Green Bay is capable of doing it. This should be a great game despite both teams coming off subpar victories in week one. Now that they are less rusty, we should expect to watch a much higher level of football on both sides by both teams. This is the most evenly matched contest featuring quality teams this week and no fan of the game should want to miss it. I'm picking a Green Bay upset.

Washington has a rat problem. And no, I'm not talking about the politicians
The Washington Post reports:
The city’s booming human population, along with hundreds of new restaurants and bars, means more trash. Recent mild winters mean fewer rats die from frigid temperatures. And construction across D.C. has disrupted subterranean burrows, sending the creatures scurrying onto sidewalks, into residential yards and [...] into homes.
Complaints to the city’s 311 phone line concerning rats are at a four-year high. There have been 3,286 calls this fiscal year, up 64 percent from fiscal year 2015, according to data from the Health Department.
Part of the solution is new technology:
The 25 solar-powered cans [located in 'rat hot spots'] compact trash so it does not overflow and spill onto sidewalks, providing a buffet of rotting treats for rats. The 32-gallon cans, installed in the Barracks Row and Eastern Market neighborhoods, can compress content up to eight times their size, a spokesman for the Department of Public Works said.
The city also launched a pilot program that dispersed 400 trash cans with lids and sensors that alert the Department of Public Works when the cans need to be emptied.
And an old technology solution:
In January, the Humane Rescue Alliance launched Blue Collar Cats, which pairs feral cats that would otherwise likely be euthanized with businesses and residents struggling with rats. The “employers” agree to provide the feral cats with food, water and outdoor shelter, in exchange for their rodent control services.
The program, which has placed 40 cats and has a wait list, has been a success so far, said Erin Robinson, community cat program manager at the Humane Rescue Alliance.

Buses > rail
E21's Emily Top notes that intercity bus revenues are growing much faster than passenger train revenues. Buses have several competitive advantages including more ability to experiment with services and routes. They can also respond more nimbly to consumer demand. Rail requires the building of infrastructure which takes both time and money. Buses require a bus and driver, which can use existing infrastructure. Furthermore, intercity bus services have the ability (and willingess) to test new tech platforms that allow scheduling and stops to reflect demand rather than supply. Rail has its advantages, but it sucks up almost all federal transportation money, and even then it is having trouble competing with a growing number of intercity bus companies. Amtrack will use that fact as an excuse for more money, but politicians should consider letting the market decide this one.

Why 'drain the swamp' is a real thing
The Daily Caller reports:
Former President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign advertising agency received nearly $60 million in federal contracts after he took office, according to an analysis by The Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group.
The gravy train for the Washington, D.C.-based agency, GMMB, hasn’t slowed since President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the analysis found. The liberal Democratic communications powerhouse was awarded nearly $15 million in a new contract in June, after Trump entered the Oval Office.
GMMB received a total of $58.4 million in federal contracts from 2009 to 2017, according to USASpending, which tracks federal spending through contracts, grants, loans and other forms. GMMB’s annual revenue is an estimated $32.6 million, according to D&B Hoovers, a private business research and rating firm ...
Obama’s presidential campaign, “Obama for America,” disbursed to GMMB upwards of $700 million in media buys for his 2008 and 2012 campaigns combined, according to filings reported by the Federal Election Commission ...
The overwhelming majority of the $58 million funneled to GMMB came from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) created by Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren in 2011. The CFPB awarded the agency a whopping $43.7 million, about 75 percent of GMMB’s total federal funding stream.
GMMB was created in the 1980s by Democrats Jim Margolis and Frank Greer. Margolis is a Democratic media strategist who was a top advisor to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama's campaigns. He also worked for the Hillary Clinton campaign last year. Margolis produced the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Democratic National Conventions and was co-producer of both Obama inauguarations. And their company was richly rewarded for their work (by Democrats who complain there is too much money in politics).

Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Esquire profile of an asshole George Osborne
The British edition of Esquire has an interview with former chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne. Osborne has been a prick since being unceremoniously dumped from cabinet within minutes of Theresa May becoming prime minister. Tit for tat, you might say, but she dumped him because he was incredibly nasty to her when they were cabinet colleagues in the David Cameron minority government. Since leaving cabinet he has taken a number of jobs including editor of the Evening Standard, from whose pages he and his allies have waged a bitter war against the current Conservative government. While a political leader might want to keep her friends close and her enemies closer, his behaviour since getting the boot has demonstrated she was not wrong to rid her government of that snake.
Anyway, this quote from the profile is getting a lot of attention, and rightly so: "Osborne has told more than one person that he will not rest until [May] 'is chopped up in bags in my freezer'." I have heard too many politicians and their hangers-on talk like they are in the mafia, but they seldom rise above backbench MP or, in one case, a junior cabinet post. One did become an important organizer in his party. Osborne is not a nobody, though. Osborne is the editor of a daily British paper and former chancellor. Talking like a thug is for show, and it shows he's an asshole. But as one source told Esquire, "He doesn't want people to think he's an asshole, because he's not an asshole." Another sycophantic aide from his Downing Street years told the magazine: "[H]e's got a gun now. One thing people in the Conservative Party will realise is: 'you mess with George Osborne at your peril'." I don't know. He kinda sounds like an asshole.

Allan J. MacEachen, RIP
Allan MacEachen, a long-time Liberal MP, senator, and cabinet minister, passed away yesterday. MacEachen was an MP from 1953 to 1984, save for four years during the Diefenbaker majority. He was also Canada's first deputy prime minister, a post created by Pierre Trudeau, and was interim leader in 1979 when Trudeau briefly thought about leaving politics. MacEachen was instrumental in the creation of the modern Canadian welfare state, serving as Lester Pearson's minister of national health and welfare from 1965-1968 when medicare was launched. He also was a cabinet supporter of the Canada Pension Plan. A few years ago I wrote a column for the Ottawa Citizen saying that while many people think it was Trudeau the Elder who remodeled Canada into a European-style welfare state, it was mostly Lester Pearson. The column was history not polemic, although long-time readers of this blog would know that I was not a fan of the Pearson-Trudeau revolution. My column did not betray my bias; MacEachen sent me a hand-written note thanking me for acknowledging Pearson's contribution, lamenting that few people recognize Lester Pearson's influence on modern Canada. It was a short, sweet note, and I appreciated the gesture even if he was incorrect in appearing to assume some sympathy on my behalf.
You have to take what is written in political memoirs with a grain of salt, but the leaders and cabinet ministers from that period praised their colleague MacEachen as a man of integrity and intellect, a model of what public service should be. I won't begrudge that. But for better or worse, he also created Canada's welfare state. I wish public service did not always mean enlarging the reach of the state. Unsurprisingly, Justin Trudeau has praise for MacEachen