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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Wednesday, October 31, 2018
After the sixth overdose ...
The Globe and Mail reports:
Angelica Helpard has had six drug overdoses this year. In the age of fentanyl, the potent synthetic opioid, any one of them might have killed her. She showed up in the busy emergency department of Oshawa Hospital over and over, only to be discharged back onto the streets to use dangerous drugs again.
Her sixth overdose was different. This time, a doctor started her right away on Suboxone, a medication that subdues withdrawal symptoms and prevents overdoses. The hospital connected her with a new clinic, right in the building, that treats and monitors people with opioid issues. Hospital workers fed her a meal, let her take a shower and gave her a fresh set of clothes.
Helpard should have been admitted for treatment, in the same hospital, the first time. If medical professionals did not consider the first overdose a problem, they should have figured it out after the second overdose. Reporter Marcus Gee said the healthcare staff did not want to appear judgmental. It is not judgmental to give an addict much-needed help.

Monday, October 29, 2018
2020 watch (HRC edition)
The Washington Post reported that during a podcast, Hillary Clinton twice denied she was running for president in 2020 before opening the door. After saying there was much to do in 2021 if the Democrats return to the White House, Clinton was asked by Recode’s Kara Swisher if she'd like to be the one facing the challenges the former First Lady and Secretary of State just described. Clinton answered: "I have no idea. . . . I’m not even going to think about it until after we get through this November 6th election about what’s going to happen after that." That's a lot different that the straightforward, unqualified no answers she gave earlier in the same interview. Also, there is no way she has not given this some thought.
The Post helpfully reminds readers that the signaling Clinton might run again is nothing new, reporting:
Longtime aide Philippe Reines told Politico earlier this month that there is a “not zero” chance that Clinton will seek a rematch against Trump.
“It’s curious why Hillary Clinton’s name isn’t in the mix — either conversationally or in formal polling — as a 2020 candidate,” Reines said. “She’s younger than Donald Trump by a year. She’s younger than Joe Biden by four years. Is it that she’s run before? This would be Bernie Sanders’s second time, and Biden’s third time. Is it lack of support? She had 65 million people vote for her.”
If Sanders has run before, then Hillary Clinton has run twice, losing to a first-term senator from Illinois for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 and barely beating Bernie Sanders, who was not even a member of the party, for the nomination in 2016. Hillary Clinton went to lose to a barely qualified, widely reviled Republican candidate that same year. She's had her chance and wildly underperformed every time: she was the prohibitive favourite in each of those three races. And being younger than Trump by a year hardly makes her youthful. Indeed, she lacks vitality (which might have more to do with why she lost in 2016 than not visiting Wisconsin and Michigan).
Like Reines, I'm confused why she isn't included in polling. She is acting like a candidate. She hasn't really ruled out running. The Clintons are fundraising and raising profile. She might not ultimately run, but she appears as likely a candidate as many other potential contenders, and considering the family's ambitions and inability to take no for an answer, perhaps she is a more likely candidate than many others.

Sunday, October 28, 2018
WWE Power Rankings
Worst performance of the week: Shane McMahon (Smackdown): the CEO of the Blue Brand made a rare return to the ring this week to ... I'm not sure, other than make an appearance. There was the usual Evolution boilerplate rhetoric. And then he predicted a Smackdown victory at the utterly meaningless World Cup tournament at the Crown Jewels pay-per-view next week. And then he introduced the participants of the Smackdown main event this week, Jeff Hardy v. Randy Orton, a rematch from last month's PPV Hell in the Cell. When a McMahon shows up, it should be to make a major announcement. Shane McMahon's appearance was a waste of a perfectly good three minutes of air time.
Honourable mention: Daniel Bryan (Smackdown) is probably not going to turn heel, but his jerk-character work toward A.J. Styles is kinda fun and the Bullet Club reference was ... too sweet; Hideo Itami (205 Live) wrestled Mustafi Ali in a pins count anywhere match that was probably the best contest of the week, but came up short; Wolfgang (NXT UK) did not win his match against Tyler Bate, but his spear of one half of Mustache Mountain halfway across the ring was pretty cool; Zack Gibson (NXT UK) had a tremendous promo that established him as one of the biggest personalities on that show and set up a match next week with Noam Dar; Randy Orton (Smackdown) had a comeback victory against Jeff Hardy that included a neat series of countermoves but more importantly marked a return to meaningful matches after a silly mini-fued with Tye Dillinger; Undisputed Era (NXT) was together as a foursome, and Bobby Fish, Rodney Strong, and Kyle O'Reilly were ringside for Adam Cole's unscheduled match with EC3 -- after the match, they beat the snot out of EC3, almost certainly setting up some sort of conflict in the near future (maybe EC3 joining either Ricochet or Peter Dunne War Raiders against Undisputed Era at Takeover next month).
13. EC3 (NXT): The one-percenter beat Adam Cole in an impromptu contest. One might argue this is his most significant victory in NXT (even more important than his August Takeover victory against Velveteen Dream). It wasn't the most impressive in-ring contest, but a win over any member of Undisputed Era while the rest of the faction is ringside is good. The beating he took from the foursome after the match sets EC3 up for his next storyline. It should be good. (Last week: not rated)
12. Aleister Black (NXT): The former NXT world champion returned last week after a two month absence, looking for the wrestling personality that attacked him in August and cost him two months in the ring. This week he was on a mission to exact revenge. For reasons explained below he didn't get that revenge, but now the WWE universe know who his assailant was. But Black's two black mass kicks -- the most devastating kicks in WWE -- against an unsuspecting security guard and then the gigantic Lars Sullivan -- as he headed toward the ring were darn impressive. It's great having Black back. (Last week: not rated)
10. (tied) Usos (Smackdown): For the second week in a row, Jimmy and Jay Uso beat the all star tandem of A.J. Styles and Daniel Bryan. Those victories are more about the World Title contest between Styles and Bryan at Crown Jewel, but the pair of victories keep the Usos highly relevant in the Smackdown tag team division without facing the other top teams in the Blue Brand. Also Jimmy Uso had a nice homage to his cousin during the finisher off the top rope. (Last week: honourable mention)
9. Braun Strowman (Raw): Braun Strowman did not wrestle, but he did interrupt Paul Heyman who was promoing Brock Lesnar for the Crown Jewels PPV. Strowman came down to announce he would wrestle regularly on Raw to defend the championship and grant Roman Reigns a rematch as soon as he returns to the WWE. Both are face moves, so this was one of three face/heel-turns on this week's Raw. Strowman gets too big a pop to remain a bad guy, and unlike some wrestlers who change sides, Strowman's personality doesn't really change. If there is a downside, its that over the past 12 months he has been a heel, a face, a heel again, and a face again. Not a big fan of this sort of booking and I fully expect him to be a heel again by next Halloween. But this was a good week for the Monster Among Men, even if he took another claymore kick from Drew McIntyre. Looking forward to that feud. (Last week: not rated)
8. Ronda Rousey (Raw): "I will end you." Last week, Ronda Rousey's promo earned her the #2 Power Ranking spot. The contract signing between Rousey and her Evolution opponent, Diva Nikki Bella, was okay, but they did one thing well and there was one highlight. The Bella twins were trying to get under Rousey's skin and the women's champion kept her promise not to hit them. No one in that audience that Rousey would keep her calm, but she did. Nice restraint on the part of WWE. Near the end of the promo, Rousey promised Nikki Bella that come Evolution, "I will end you." Not crush. Not kill. Not defeat. End. Excellent writing and good delivery. (Last week: 2nd)
7. Rey Mysterio (Smackdown): Victories the last two weeks against Shinsuke Nakamore and The Miz represents a pretty good return to the WWE. (Last week: 4th)
6. Seth Rollins (Raw): It was tough watching Seth Rollins come out after Roman Reigns announced he had cancer and was hanging up his wrestling boots for a while. Rollins was teary. Later, his promo was merely okay, saying that there are no words, just emotions, in reaction to Reigns's announcement. But when he dedicated the World Tag Team title match with Dean Ambrose against Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre to Reigns, it was unlikely The Shield was going to lose the contest. Rollins and Ambrose won via pinfall to become the new tag champs. Rollins now holds the tag and intercontinental championship. He doesn't need the push, but he got it. That's not all he got, but you'll have to wait for that. (Last week: 7th)
5. Johnny Gargano (NXT): "I'm right here." There was a three-way NXT championship contest at the July Takeover PPV with Tommasa Ciampa, Aleister Black, and Johnny Gargano. Gargano was in the middle of a savage feud with Ciampa that (might have) ended in that night's main event. Black could not compete because he was attacked outside the training center in the weeks leading up to Takeover and has wrestled since due to injury. The "investigation" has taken more than two months and the storyline hasn't been very good, but Nikki Cross, who apparently witnessed the attack, told Aleister Black who did it last week. In this week's NXT, Black interrupted General Manager William Regal's announcement of who would face Ciampa for the title at WarGames, the November NXT PPV. As Black was about to callout his assailant, Gargano emerged from nowhere to knock out Black and announce, "I'm right here." I'm not sure what WWE is doing with Johnny Wrestling, but I'm interested to see where this character goes. The best guess is that Gargano, who was being corrupted by his hatred of Ciampa and in the process became a villain himself, wanted Ciampa to himself and took out the third contender of the Triple Threat match. It is unusual to have a face attack a face, and it would be consistent with the narrative for Gargano to turn into a heel himself, perhaps once again joining his former tag team partner (Ciampa) as a darkside tag team. The story is great and Gargano's return was something special, excellently executed. (Last week: not rated)
4. Mustafi Ali (205 Live): Mustafi Ali recently returned after a brief break following an injury caused by Hideo Itami. The pins count anywhere match against Itami was amazing, maybe the best fight of the week. Ali's 450 off the top rope to put Itami through a table will be long remembered. Immediately after the match, 205 Live General Manager Drake Maverick announced Ali would face Tony Nese in a #1 contender match to face 205 Live cruiserweight champion Buddy Murphy. In many weeks, this sort of in-ring performance in a fantastically fun match that helps make a wrestler a number one contender will be ranked first or second, but this was an amazing week. (Last week: not rated)
3. Elias (Raw): Other than an incredible promo in Seattle which earned him and Kevin Owens a solid seven minutes of boos from fans in Seattle, Elias hasn't had many highs the past few months. This week he beat Apollo Crews and then he came back out to perform another song, Baron Corbin cut off the mic and stopped him. Elias left the stage but returned to smash his guitar over Corbin's back. Following up a win with a face-turn on the same night might return the great promo performer into something more relevant in the ring. (Last week: not rated)
2. Dean Ambrose (Raw): For weeks, the WWE has teased a heel-turn for Dean Ambrose. There have been close calls, with accidents leading to misunderstandings. But when Raw opened the way it did (see #1), there was simply no way the WWE was going to have Ambrose betray his Shield brother, Seth Rollins. Ambrose and Rollins took the tag team championship off of Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre pretty cleanly in a very solid match. And then during their celebration, Ambrose attacked Rollins. After a brief respite, he continued beating on the man he just won the gold with. Rollins pleaded with Ambrose to stop, saying he know where he's coming from, that he was there himself (Rollins broke up The Shield a few years ago). And then the Lunatic threw Rollins outside the ring and continued to savagely beat Rollins. Ambrose removed the floor covering and put a Dirty Deeds on Rollins right on the concrete. And then beat him some more. It was savage. Ambrose appeared emotionally torn over his attack on Rollins and the probably storyline is that he is emotionally volatile after the Reigns announcement. We'll have to see where this goes. For many fans, the attack to close the show, after an emotionally 180 minute program that included a retirement, two face-turns, and seemingly culminating with the fan favourite Shield capturing the championship titles, the heel-turn of Ambrose probably challenged viewers. It was fantastic television. (Last week: 3rd)
1. Roman Reigns (Raw): The WWE has been trying to get Roman Reigns over for three years, and nothing has worked. Knowledgeable fans understand how all of Raw is screwed around with trying to make Reigns not only a champion, but a fan favourite. That's why when Reigns came out and said "My real name is Joe, and I’ve been living with leukemia for 11 years," I was skeptical. I thought it was a new low in story-telling. But it wasn't. It was real And it changed everything. (For now.) This is the best promo Reigns has ever done. I found it moving the third and fourth time I watched it. Whether or not Reigns returns to the ring, it is unlikely he returns with the sort of love/hate relationship that has plagued him the last few years. I can only imagine he returns as a fan favourite. Not that this is the important thing. Beating cancer is. But if he does return, his story and example will change his character and how it is received. (Last week: 4th)

Thursday, October 25, 2018
Pope Francis and Red China
Last month, the Holy See (diplomatic arm of the Vatican) and Beijing reached a provisional deal that permits the Chinese Communist government to appoint bishops for China's 10 million Catholics. Pope Francis said, "It is not a question of appointing functionaries to deal with religious issues, but of finding authentic shepherds according to the heart of Jesus, men committed to working generously in the service of God’s people, especially the poor and the most vulnerable." David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China and former president of St. Michael's College at the University of Toronto -- in other words, someone who knows both the Chinese and Catholicism -- was skeptical of the deal, writing earlier this month in the Globe and Mail:
But Mr. Xi, who is waging an unrelenting campaign against religious belief and believers, is at the heart of what worries many Catholics and many China watchers about the agreement. State oppression is most ferocious in the country’s far west, where an estimated one-million Muslim Uyghurs have been exiled to re-education camps.
But Christians are also suffering. Under the guise of “sinicizing” Christianity, or making it more Chinese, officials are demolishing churches, stepping up surveillance and censorship, and banning children from services.
Retired Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun writes in the New York Times today and makes a pair of observations to help us understand why Pope Francis would make this deal with the devil:
Pope Francis, an Argentine, doesn’t seem to understand the Communists. He is very pastoral, and he comes from South America, where historically military governments and the rich got together to oppress poor people. And who there would come out to defend the poor? The Communists. Maybe even some Jesuits, and the government would call those Jesuits Communists.
Francis may have natural sympathy for Communists because for him, they are the persecuted. He doesn’t know them as the persecutors they become once in power, like the Communists in China.
I was among those who applauded Francis’s decision to appoint Pietro Parolin as secretary of state in 2013. But I now think that Cardinal Parolin cares less about the Church than about diplomatic success. His ultimate goal is the restoration of formal relations between the Vatican and Beijing.
I think both of those observations/criticisms provide the correct frames by which to consider the apparent sell-out of Chinese Catholics to the ChiComms.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018
William Nordhaus and carbon taxes
Earlier this month, economist William Nordhaus, who pioneered accounting for climate change into economic models, won the Nobel Prize for Economics on the same day that a United Nations panel on climate change put out a scare report. Nordhaus's math has been used to justify the IPCC's dire call for $5500/ton of carbon. No country is proposing a carbon tax of even 10% of what the United Nations says is what is necessary to combat climate change.
Texas Tech University economist Robert P. Murphy has an article at the Foundation for Economic Education about why the Nordhaus economic model does not, in any way, justify the IPCC's policy prescription. More importantly, Murphy critiques the tendency for climate change alarmists to focus on worst-case scenarios, often employ arbitrary estimates and assumptions, and ignore abatement costs (the harm to the economy caused by regulations and taxes). I would add these models also ignore the opportunity costs associated with politicians expending time and resources on climate change rather than other pressing economic or cultural concerns (health care, education, economic growth) and the opportunity costs associated with businesses expending time and resources on compliance or anti-carbon strategies rather than other business opportunities (research, capital investment).
Anyway, the Murphy article is worth reading to understand that the benefits of carbon taxes are often overstated and costs of carbon taxes understated or completely ignored.

Central American migrant onslaught is Donald Trump's Rush Limbaugh
Washington Post lifestyle section columnist Margaret Sullivan (via David Leonhardt):
The president needs a dependable enemy, as he proves constantly in his harsh rhetoric against the news media. But once again, that despised enemy manages to help him at every turn.
Donald Trump is not unique in needing a dependable enemy. President Barack Obama railed against Rush Limbaugh and the Clinton Presidency had the vast right-wing conspiracy. Politicians love bogeymen. The Washington Post and New York Times only notice the rallying against bogeymen when Republicans do it. Rush Limbaugh is a threat to the Republican; invasive immigration apparently is not. (I for one don't have a problem with large numbers of immigrants coming to America, but certainly we are allowed to discuss and debate the policies and principles surrounding immigration. Aren't we?)

Sunday, October 21, 2018
WWE Power Rankings
Worst performance of the week: Evolution. Since it was announced over the Summer, I've never been excited about the all-women's pay-per-view next week. The truth is women's wrestling is pretty mediocre. The top three or four performers can match the top of the men's side of WWE, but the average women's wrestler, taking into account both in-ring performance and promo skills, is way worse than average men's wrestler. The eye-rolling when giving a promo and silly staring away from the camera to end them, the misses while wrestling and bad sells after these misses, and, finally, the numerous injuries Brie Bella caused to others upon her return all indicate the women's side of WWE is a substandard product. But Evolution did not have to be as bad as it is, and in the last week or so it's gotten worse. The NXT women's championship between Kairi Sane versus Shayna Baeszler is something I've pretty excited about. Ronda Rousey is always fun even if she's early in her wrestling development. Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch are two of the best, and they face each other. But over the past two weeks Raw and Smackdown haven't generated interest in Evolution and their go-home shows before the PPV have given me less reason to be interested than I was a few weeks ago. The matches seem lazily thrown together and the promos haven't mattered. A women's Battle Royale with a cliched stipulation (future championship shot). Check. Throw six women together for no apparent reason than having a six-woman tag match. Check. Bring back some old favourites. Check. Flair and Lynch might be getting boring considering this a two-month rivalry that seems obviously manufactured (beyond the fan's knowledge that this is all scripted) and the crowd isn't buying into Becky's heeldom (to coin a word). Ruby Riott looked like a strong contender against Rousey, but instead there is a meaningless Riott squad six-woman tag match against a manufactured coming-together of Natalya with Bailey and Sasha Banks. Nia Jax is back and is perhaps friends with Ember Moon but thrown into the Battle Royale together. And the Trish Stratus/Lita return is awful. Neither can promo and there is no reason to care about their contest with Alexa Bliss and Mickie James despite a fairly obvious storyline (childhood hero of the two Hall of Famers teamed with a woman they both faced). It is all so lazy. All so atrocious. Pockets of mild interest do not undo the damage done by having such a poorly constructed pay-per-view. Stratus and Lita get further negative power ranking points for adapting Allen Iverson's famous "practice" speech for their promo in Philadelphia and getting almost no reaction. Pathetic.
Honourable mention: Usos (Smackdown) Jimmy and Jay beat A.J. Styles and Daniel Bryan in a relatively meaningless match that is teasing the Styles/Bryan match in Saudi Arabia and gives the Usos a victory over quality opponents even if they are not a regular tag team; War Raiders (NXT) beat Undisputed Era in a world tag title match when Bobby Fish returned to the ring after a year-long absence to save his team-mates. Hanson and Rowe were dominating most of the match when Fish interfered, setting up a future tag team title contest and probably some sort of interesting War Games match at NXT's PPV in November; Drew Gulak, Akira Tozawa, Jack Gallagher and The Brian Kendrick (205 Live) are setting up an interesting little feud (see what I did there?). Gulak and Tozawa have been feuding for a while and the two faced each other again this week. After Gallagher interfered and he and Gulak put a beating on the Japanese cruiserweight, their erstwhile ally came in to protect Tozawa from the onslaught.
13. Batista (Smackdown): Former WWE superstar and current movie star Batista returned to the ring for a promo with fellow Evolution members, Randy Orton, Rick Flair, and Triple H. Batista has, reportedly, been trying to get back into the WWE for years. He was part of the 1000th episode of Smackdown with all of the WWE's typical trip down nostalgia lane. Evolution -- the foursome, not the women's pay-per-view -- was a Big Deal. Their in-ring reunion was a Big Deal. Flair, Trips, and Orton all got the crowd excited in the ways you'd expect them to. But seeing the Animal in the ring after such a long absence was special for fans. In his hometown of Washington, was icing on the cake. He talked about Smackdown's importance and his appreciation of the fans. But what moves Batista from honourable mention to actual ranking is the closing of this promo when he noted that Triple H has done everything in the WWE except beat him. They exchanged distrustful pissed looks and it teased an eventual match (after Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia -- maybe Survivor Series, maybe Wrestlemania next year). I don't think it will happen, but it is fun to fantasize about these things. (Last week: not rated)
12. Pete Dunne (NXT UK): The United Kingdom version of NXT premiered this week and it was pretty good. Mark Andrews and Joe Coffey had a solid opening match, but Dunne, the NXT UK champion beat Noam Dar is a contest that clearly telegraphs what kind of wrestling we can expect from the British developmental product, and did so at a very high level. This match was a fun fight that had the Bruiserweight work over Dar's fingers, from bending them backward to stomping on them. (Last week: not rated)
11. Dave Mastiff (NXT UK): Dave Mastiff is 315 pounds and can really move. Sid Scala was a sacrificial lamb but he served his purpose to make Mastiff look very good. Mastiff will be a serious title contender somewhere in the WWE universe someday. In the short term, he's going to be one of NXT UK's biggest stars -- and not only in size. (Last week: not rated)
10. Dolph Ziggler (Raw): As always, great mic work. Won his World Cup entry match against Dean Ambrose. Brilliantly shoved Seth Rollins into Ambrose in the six-man tag match to get the partners fighting. Unfortunately, he took the pin in the six-man tag contest before getting slammed by Braun Strowman to end the Dogs of War's partnership (probably). More than a solid week's worth of work in one night. Just one question: what's the status of the World Tag Team champs considering that one half of them walked away from the main event match by himself? (Last week: 7th)
8. (tie). The Bar (Smackdown): Sheamus & Cesaro won the tag team titles from New Day after the Big Show interfered. The Big Show looked like he was simply protecting Kofi Kingston from further Bar attacks outside the ring, but then turned on Kofi Kingston. A stunned Big E was then hit by Sheamus with a brogue kick. Sheamus pinned the big man and The Bar are once again champions. It was a good but not great match. It wasn't really a clean ending. And it's The Bar winning yet another championship. But what does make this special is that it was not anticipated. (Last week: Not rated)
7. Seth Rollins (Raw): Won his match against Drew McIntyre for a spot in World Cup tournament for the Crown Jewels pay-per-view in Saudi Arabia. Almost came to blows with his partner Dean Ambrose, but also executed a couple of dual suicide dives with him in the main event against the Dogs of War. As usual, excellent work, and for now The Shield is together and strong. Also, it's always good to win two matches in one night. (Last week: 5th)
6. Kurt Angle (Raw): Last week, wrestling as The Conquistador, vacationing Raw general manager Kurt Angle, won a Battle Royale to earn his way into the World Cup tournament in Saudi Arabia, when he eliminated acting general manager Baron Corbin. This week, Corbin made the visiting Angle face the Authors of Pain as he watched from the entryway. AOP squashed a wrestler dressed as The Conquistador. The mask was removed and it wasn't Angle, who came out and hit Corbin with the Angle Slam on the stage. This is setting up a contest between Angle and Corbin to run Raw. My prediction is that Team Angle faces Team Corbin at Survivor Series, with the winner's team getting the full-time GM job. (Last week: 13th)
5. Tony Nese (205 Live): The cruiserweight has struggled in the last year, but the last month has been fantastic. He held his own in a loss to Johnny Gargano on NXT and then defeated the former cruiserweight champ last week. This week, he won a Number One Contender's five-way contest TJP, Cedric Alexander, Lio Rush, and Gran Metallik. This is obviously the right trajectory and an impressive body of work. It's even more interesting that he will face his sometimes tag team partner, recently crowned cruiserweight champ Buddy Murphy. (Last week: 10th)
4. Rey Mysterio (Smackdown): The former three-time world champ returned after a three-year absence from the WWE, to beat the US champion, Shinsuke Nakamura, in a non-title match to qualify for the World Cup tournament at Crown Jewel. In a night strong on nostalgia and low on quality, this was a quality, feel-good match; not necessarily a great match, but a good one with some really cools moves including a suicide jump slide under the top rope to splash Shinsuke Nakamura on the ground and, of course, Mysterio's 619. It was a solid reintroduction of this character weeks after he signed a mult-year deal to return to the WWE. (Last week: Not rated)
3. Dean Ambrose (Raw): Dean Ambrose wasn't with The Shield when they came out in the opening promo. He arrived in time to help Seth Rollins when he was in trouble in his World Cup qualifying contest against Drew McIntyre. Then he basically told Rollins and Roman Reigns he didn't need their help as he prepared for his own World Cup qualifying contest and was visibly ticked about Rollins implying he is a lunatic despite the fact that's his nickname and he's never had a problem with it before. Ambrose lost to Ziggler in his match and won't be part of the World Cup tournament. So far, not great for Ambrose or The Shield But the night's drama culminated in a six-man tag match between the Dogs of War and Hounds of Justice, the third time the trios faced each other in ten days (Super Show-Down and Raw two weeks in a row). During the match Ambrose and Rollins shoved each other and the Lunatic was ready to Dirty Deeds his partner. He was hit by Ziggler before he could execute his finisher on Rollins. The match turned around and The Shield won. For now, it appears that Ambrose's position in The Shield is set, especially after this storyline now appears to be about Dean McIntyre. But it's probably just a matter of time until Ambrose turns on his partners. That time is a little further down the road now (probably). Also, the six-man tag match was terrific, with a series of exciting moves including double suicide dives. (Last week: 1st)
2. Ronda Rousey (Raw): The one complaint about Ronda Rousey since she joined WWE in January is that she can't promo. Her promo this week was awesome. There can be some niggling complaints about how some lines were corny and how it is out of character that she began weak and whiney about the Bellas's betrayal, but as long as Rousey versus Bellas isn't something that lasts beyond Evolution, this promo provided the heat necessary for the pay-per-view but more importantly was a statement that the former MMA star belongs in the WWE. No doubt the powers that be think this is the promo Rousey-Bella need for the PPV, but reality, it is the promo their top women's star needs.(Last week: Not rated)
1. Drew McIntyre (Raw): Drew McIntyre lost his World Cup qualifying contest by count out to Seth Rollins. That match hardly matters. Drew McIntyre has the in-ring and promo skills to be a top star in the WWE and this week it became clear that the Scottish Psychopath is going to get (another) big push. For weeks, the Hounds of Justice versus of Dogs of War feud has highlighted the conflict between Dean Ambrose and his Shield Brothers. It has also teased unease among the trio of Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre, and Braun Strowman, with the latter threatening the others this week that if they lost they'd "Get. These. Hands." Ziggler took the pin in the six-man tag match and Strowman slammed him as punishment. McIntyre, who had hit the big guy with an accidental claymore kick, hit Strowman with another after the Monster in the Bank flattened the former intercontinental champion. McIntyre's look as he left the ring was fantastic. It is unclear whether he will work in the future with Dolph Ziggler. But the future for McIntyre just became that much more interesting. (Last week: 4th)

Friday, October 19, 2018
Money and politics
The Center for Responsive Politics on the midterm elections and political spending:
The Center for Responsive Politics projects that more than $5 billion will be spent during the 2018 election, making it by far the costliest congressional election cycle in U.S. history.
“We expected to see the numbers climb, as they typically do, but the astonishing spike in campaign donations is a solid indicator of the intensity driving this year’s campaigns,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics.
The 2016 election was the most expensive congressional election, with just over $4 billion spent for House and Senate candidates in total. Only two congressional election cycles have surpassed the $4 billion mark — 2016 and 2010 — when adjusted for inflation.
More than $3.7 billion has already been spent on the 2018 election, including money spent by candidates, parties, committees, PACs and outside groups, for the purpose of the election.
Democratic candidates have a huge lead in spending over Republicans, having shelled out more than $1 billion to Republican candidates’ $720 million. Democrats have raised more than $1.3 billion from individual donors — compared to just under $1 billion for Republicans — as Democratic challengers have raised large masses of funds through small donors.
Looks like Democrats are trying to buy the election.
Just joking.
This sort of analysis suggests massive amounts of money are being spent on politics. The assumption is that the large sums are unseemly. The latter doesn't follow from the former, but I question if the first impression is true. If a campaign is merely marketing of a candidate, $5 billion is not, in fact, a lot of money. The Hershey Company, for example, spent $541.29 million in advertising activities for their chocolate in 2017. American companies spent an estimated $206.77 billion in advertising in 2017. Of course, not all political spending is advertising. My point is simply that if a campaign is a way of making the public aware of a candidate, the money spent on all the political products out there (about 900 Democratic and Republican Congressional candidates) isn't all that much.
When you have government divvying up ever larger sums of money, the amount of money interested parties would spend influencing that decision is likely to increase. Most of that money comes later in the form of lobbying, but some up-front money comes in the form of helping candidates get elected. So here's another frame to determine if the amount of money on campaigns is unreasonable and growing to dangerous levels: calculate campaign expenditures as a percentage of federal spending. My guess is that this ratio is not growing, or growing as quickly. Regardless, it's another way to look at rising campaign costs.

Thursday, October 18, 2018
Hard questions about history
The (London) Times reports:
The Royal Historical Society is spearheading a campaign to make history more diverse. In a foreword to a report released today, its president Margot Finn, a professor of modern British history at University College London, says that society “needs to ask itself hard questions” about “systems of racial and ethnic privilege”.
Is is possible to ask hard questions about systems of privilege and find that concerns about race and ethnicity are overblown? I always find that those who suggest we ask hard question do not actually like being asked hard questions. More importantly, those asking hard questions often assume particular answers. These questioners are not honestly seeking answers but pushing their pre-determined conclusions.
The authors of the Society's report assume that under-represented minorities studying history is evidence that history is being taught incorrectly (too white). Under-representation is assumed to be evidence of injustice. The paper reports:
John Marenbon, a fellow of the British Academy and senior research fellow at Cambridge, said: “If there are low numbers of black and minority ethnic students and academics it may or may not be related to the curriculum content, but it’s no reason to change it.”
Marenbon is a brave soul. It seems to me that the content of history (what is being taught) and who is studying and teaching history are very different issues. The RHS is assuming they are the same thing, and begin with the assumption that it is a problem. Let's ask some hard questions about those assumptions.

Brexit faster, please
The (London) Times reports:
European Union leaders spent more time drinking beer and gossiping into the early hours of this morning on the famous Grand Place than discussing Brexit after hearing Theresa May’s appeal to give her more time to reach a deal.
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor; Emmanuel Macron, the French president; Charles Michel, the Belgian prime minister; and Xavier Bettel, the prime minister of Luxembourg, led the partying at the famous Brussels attraction, which lasted until 1am today.
While they were drinking, two tourists, from Germany and the United States, struck up a conversation with the group of leaders and asked about how discussions on Brexit had gone. “It’s a beautiful evening, let’s not spoil it,” said the German Chancellor.
The drinks in Le Roy d’Espagne bar followed one of the shortest summit gatherings in recent memory, which finished at about 10pm, allowing leaders to spend more time socialising than they had discussing Brexit.
The Times is not a tabloid and is not anti-EU.

Low-cost improvements, not bureaucracy saves houses from Hurricane Michael
The Washington Post reports:
The houses still standing in the storm-ravaged neighborhoods of Florida’s Panhandle are conspicuous for their presence. Sticking up from the rubble like one remaining tooth in a jawful of decay, each one is a haunting reminder of what used to exist around it.
In many cases, they were saved by additional strategically placed nails, some small metal connectors and window shutters that created a sealed package — low-cost reinforcements that determined whose home survived and whose was destroyed by the power of Hurricane Michael.
There are the five Habitat for Humanity houses in Panama City, a waterfront vacation home in Mexico Beach, a house built by a homeowner and a few of his church friends — modest structures that lost shingles and suffered water damage but stand largely untouched overlooking the wreckage of buildings that were shredded and ripped from their foundations.
“We have evidence that we can construct affordable housing that is resilient,” said Leslie Chapman-Henderson, president of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting property from disasters.
After Hurricane Andrew, which hit Florida in 1992, the state instituted a stricter building code in the early 2000s that required new buildings to use tougher nails and have more puncture-resistant walls, among other changes. But industry experts say that homeowners can go further in strengthening their homes without spending tens of thousands of dollars.
“Often the difference between a roof that stays on and one that flies off is the connection method,” Chapman-Henderson said. “A handful of additional nails can mean the difference.”
A few more nails, strategically placed, saves homes. It helps that the people building these houses were the ones who were going to live in these homes. This probably wouldn't happen in mass housing developments. But couldn't a developer advertise "hurricane-resistant new homes with more nails"?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Rick McGinnis interview
Chris Buck has a wide-ranging interview with Rick McGinnis in The Photographic Journal. Here's Rick on being Catholic, going to Mass:
[I]f you’re a misanthropic person like me, when you’re forced to be part of something, to go to mass every week, to take part in this communal ritual, and everything else it entails socially, it kind of forces you out of that negative mindset and makes you think about people and their souls.
They also discuss photography (of course) and Rick's "old blog" Some Old Pictures I Took, family, life choices, and friendship -- specifically theirs:
Chris Buck: You can be very generous. I remember when I moved to New York, you threw me a little party, and I didn’t even realize we were that close. I remember you turned down a shoot with Don Rickles in Las Vegas to host this little event. And, I will tell you, I would not have done the same thing.
Rick McGinnis: I know, haha!
CB: It speaks to who we are as people. And I mean, I don’t think I’m a bad person, but I’m very driven and I think I make my choices.
RM: Which is one of the things that I know about you and one of the things, as your friend, I am comfortable with.
I’ve never really had much of what you call a support structure in my life. So the few people I’ve met that I felt I was sort of sympathetic with, whose tastes I understood or whose outlooks I could understand, actually became kind of precious to me. I’m not emotionally demonstrative or anything, I’m just not.
Maybe it didn’t seem obvious to you, but you were one of the few people I could actually talk to about things. Specifically, there’s this business we were trying to understand and this art that we…
CB: I know I feel close to you and very connected. Partially because of our history, but also the way in which our trajectories have kind of reconnected through our interest in politics and religion, and being married and having kids. But also, I think maybe we both matured in ways that made us more relaxed with ourselves, therefore, more civil to each other?
RM: Yes.
CB: But at the time, I remember very distinctly feeling like you talked to me in a way that was condescending.
RM: Oh yeah, I did that with everybody.
I recommend reading the full interview. Rick has a new blog and some books for sale.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Paul Allen became rich creating a better mousetrap computer experience
From the Washington Post's obituary of Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft:
When Mr. Allen and Gates founded their company, computers were bulky and expensive. Microprocessors had been invented just a few years earlier, and most monitors showed nothing but green or white characters on a black screen.
Technology companies were primarily interested in hardware — developing computers that were faster, stronger and smaller than anything that came before. But Mr. Allen and Gates, before most of their peers, realized that the programs a computer ran were just as consequential as the chips and wiring inside the machine. By the late 1990s, Microsoft operating systems would run on nearly 90 percent of personal computers in the United States.
Bill Gates said "Personal computing would not have existed without him." The Windows system and suite of products, often mocked, streamlined office work, making the lives of workers, especially secretaries in small businesses, easier. Pre-Windows, computers had complex but limited operating systems, and doing even simple tasks such as publishing or accounting on a computer made little sense. After Windows, computers became easier to use and thus more practical for smaller offices and home-use. Allen's obituaries focus on his post-Windows, ostensibly more exciting ventures: buying sports teams, his luxurious yacht, finding WWII shipwrecks, funding a pop culture museum. But he was able to do those things because he made the lives of tens of millions of people better off by selling them or their employer a product that made their lives simpler or more enjoyable.
Microsoft is often held up as a model of a company that seeks both profitability and making a positive contribution to society. But companies are profitable because they have an impact on the world, and the charitable giving or agenda-driving is not the way Paul Allen, Bill Gates, and other entrepreneurs primarily benefit society. Producing goods and services that make the lives of consumers better is the primary benefit to society. We shouldn't lose sight of that.

Sunday, October 14, 2018
The future of #NeverTrump and conservatism
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat says post-Trump Trumpism will change conservatism and briefly explores some ways it might happen. The new conservatism means some "conservatives" will move to the Democrats or (more likely) become centrist independents. Douthat correctly says that not all #NeverTrumpers are the same, but an intellectually important group of the past four decades (neoconservatives) will almost certainly not fit into a party that is more nationalist and less enthusiastic about free trade:
But an important group of NeverTrumpers identified with the right on a very specific set of issues — support for the 1990s-era free trade consensus, Wilsonian hawkishness, democracy promotion — that are unlikely to animate conservatism again any time soon no matter how the Trump presidency ends. These intellectuals and strategists aren’t particularly culturally conservative, they’re allergic to populism, they don’t have any reason to identify with a conservatism that’s wary of nation-building and globalization — and soon enough, they won’t ...
People in this camp will remain interesting, as converts and apostates often are. But observers trying to imagine what a decent right might look like after Trump should look elsewhere — to thinkers and writers who basically accept the populist turn, and whose goal is to supply coherence and intellectual ballast, to purge populism of its bigotries and inject good policy instead.
I'm not optimistic that the post-Trump Trumpism of conservatism is going to easily shuck its nastier elements, but getting rid of the Jennifer Rubins and Max Boots might actually help. Douthat doesn't make this point, but a Trumpist movement that does not feel the need to pushback against what were once called RINOs, might not be as reactive and shrill. It might make debate within the movement possible without appearing like it is giving up on the broad goals. Again, I'm not optimistic, but it is possible. What that debate might look like is tackled in the current Time cover story by Sam Tanenhaus, who writes about "intellectuals working to build the intellectual scaffolding to support Trump’s movement long after he leaves power." Tanenhaus writes:
Too few in number to form a movement, they’re also young and as yet not well known, though some wield surprising influence. One reason is they have big ideas. Another is that they have taken a key lesson of Trump’s rise–the rhetoric of economic populism–and are trying to do the unthinkable: turn the President’s impulses into a constructive, long-term effort to reform the American economy. They count among them economists, law-school grads, magazine editors and former Tea Party activists.
Dispersed throughout Washington, clustered in Senate offices–on the staffs of Marco Rubio and Mike Lee, among others–and congregating at think tanks and in small journals, these insurgents are starting to find a warm welcome from a rising class of party voices, including Senators Tom Cotton, Ben Sasse and Tim Scott. They point as well to 34-year-old Representative Mike Gallagher from Green Bay, Wis., a Princeton graduate and former Marine captain who was elected in the Trump wave and promptly joined the leadership of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus ...
The new wave right is cresting in conservative media too. Not on Fox News or talk radio, but in idea and argument hatcheries. You can find its often erudite commentary in the American Conservative and Modern Age, the surprising left-right combinations thrown by the National Interest, in the almost wickedly contrarian American Affairs and on the website American Greatness.
A common thread is facing up to the challenges of globalization, and the fact that many working class Americans are being left behind. This is not merely an economic problem. George Will writes about Senator Ben Sasse's new book, Them: Why We Hate Each Other — and How to Heal, which also touches upon an under-appreciated problem: loneliness and social isolation. Will writes:
Repairing America’s physical infrastructure, although expensive, is conceptually simple, involving steel and concrete. The crumbling of America’s social infrastructure presents a daunting challenge: We do not know how to develop what Sasse wants, “new habits of mind and heart . . . new practices of neighborliness.” We do know that more government, which means more saturation of society with politics, is not a sufficient answer.
Which does not mean there are not political answers. And conservatives, like Sasse (and Douthat and Will) are in position to talk about the non-political solutions to this problem. But at the very least, future conservatives should be thinking about how to not make the problem of social isolation worse. There must be more to conservatism than tax cuts, being tough on crime, and foreign military adventures. If Donald Trump prods the Republican Party and conservative movement to be broader in its thinking and policy prescriptions, his presidency could be more transformative than, say, the makeup of the Supreme Court that many on the Right were hoping for. And more consequential.

Saturday, October 13, 2018
WWE Power Rankings
This is week 3 of my WWE Power Rankings, covering the WWE Universe (Raw, Smackdown, 205 Live, NXT, but not the Mae Young Classic or the Mixed Match Challenge). It'll be the top 13 with honourable mentions and then the bottom ranking for the worst performance/storyline of the week. Wrestling and promos are considered, looking at performance, entertainment value, and narrative. Tag teams may be considered as units or individuals, and be listed taking one or two spots. I'm changing the format slightly going forward. Instead of an honourable mention that is essentially #14, the honourable mentions will be personalities who got some consideration to make the list but came up short.
Worst: Lio Rush (Raw): I understand that as Bobby Lashley's hype-man, he was trying to generate heat for the heel-turn, but talking into the mic and over the speakers throughout a match was not merely distracting but annoying. I was tempted to not only fast-forward the match, but turn off the show. It is one thing to get the fans to hate the actors, but it's bad to get us to hate the show. Rush crossed that dangerous line. Big misstep here by the WWE.
Honourable mentions: New Day's (Raw): Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods had a quality opening match against The Bar at the Super Show-Down. The finishing move used by New Day (the backstabber double stomp) was incredible; Bobby Lashley (Raw) turned heel on Raw and a little unconventionally by beating up another heel, Kevin Owens, but this will help his character which has been a giant energy-suck as a face; Valveteen Dream (NXT), one of the best promos in the WWE, challenged Tomasso Ciampa to open NXT; Adam Cole and Pete Dunne (NXT) for being part of the one best matches of the year.
13. Kurt Angle (Raw). The still vacationing Raw general manager, Kurt Angle, beat acting general manager Baron Corbin in a Battle Royale of "international superstars" that no one had ever heard of, except the masked Conquistador, which has been played by various wrestlers over the years. When Corbin thought he eliminated all his opponents, the Conquistador entered the ring and after a few brief moves, threw Constable Corbin over the top rope to win a spot in the World Cup tournament to be held at Crown Jewel, the glorified house show/PPV next month. The Conquistador removed his mask to reveal himself: Kurt Angle. I think this sets up a Survivor Series contest between Team Angle and Team Corbin with the winner getting the job of general manager. It is this storyline and Angle's return to ring that put him on the Power Rankings, because his performance in the ring was wooden, even by Angle's standards (Last week: Not rated)
12. Cedric Alexander (205 Live): He may have lost the Cruiserweight title against Buddy Murphy at the Super Show-Down, but it was the best fight of the week and there is no dishonour in losing to Murphy in his hometown for his first defeat in a year. Alexander is one of the most exciting performers in the ring and he is strongly positioned to regain his title back on American soil. However, "four" days after dropping his title to Murphy in Australia, Alexander lost to Tony Nese on 205 Live. In an earlier promo, Alexander dismissed Mustafa Ali's concerns that he is returning to the ring too soon. The commentators referenced the travel schedule. If Alexander's only loss was to Murphy, he'd still be top five, but taking two defeats in a week after not losing a single's contest in a year signals weakness. That sets up an interesting story, even if we don't know what it is yet. (Last week: Not rated)
11. Tomasso Ciampa (NXT): Having the NXT championship on one of the great braggadocios is terrific. Having him out-promo the vain Velveteen Dream was wonderful. This better set up a title defense against the Dream, which is logical booking. Staring at the insane Nikki Cross as she interfered in the promo was just bonus. (Last week: Not rated)
10. Tony Nese (205 Live): Last week, he gave Johnny Gargano a run for his money on a special appearance on NXT. This week, he defeated Cedric Alexander. 'Nuff said. (Last week: not rated)
9. Roman Reigns (Raw): Right now, the Dogs of War v. Hounds of Justice is THE STORY in Raw. That storyline is a device for the Dean Ambrose story (see below) and Reigns and the others are playing the supporting roles well. (Last week: 6th)
8. Braun Strowman (Raw): Right now, the Dogs of War v. Hounds of Justice is THE STORY in Raw. Reigns, Ziggler, Rollins, McIntyre, and Strowman are playing their supporting roles well. Braun rates better than Reigns because 1) he caught Reigns by the throat as the Universal champ was going to superman punch the monster among men and 2) his bossing around Drew McIntyre & Dolph Ziggler to stop the bickering and get with the program, namely to help him win the Universal championship, sets up some potential storylines. (Last week: Not rated)
7. Dolph Ziggler (Raw): Dolph Ziggler got called out by his tag team partner for being the weak link in the Dogs of War and taking the pin at the PPV, but his team won the six-man tag team re-match Monday. It appears that Ziggler is being set up as the Dogs of War equivalent of Dean Ambrose, a possible turncoat on the team. That's not going to happen, but it's good storytelling. (Last week: 7th)
6. Charlotte Flair (Smackdown): Charlotte Flair beat Smackdown ladies champion Becky Lynch in Australia Saturday by disqualification. In a rematch three days later, they were both counted out after the former champ followed Lynch who tried to leave the contest for the second match in a row. After appearing weak for most the past month, Charlotte took out Lynch by spearing the fan-favourite heel through the video screens where the wrestlers come out. Seldom do fans get to witness such brutality in the women's division. The two face each other at the all-women's PPV, Evolution, later this month, in a last-woman standing match. (Last week: Not rated)
5. Seth Rollins (Raw): Great in-ring performance in two six-man tag matches that are part of the most important storyline in the WWE today, the teasing of Dean Ambrose's turn against The Shield. (Last week: Not rated)
4. Drew McIntyre (Raw): The Scottish Psychopath has planted the seed of doubt in Dean Ambrose's mind about his place in The Shield, he was a dominating presence in the ring during two six-man tag team matches in three days, and he pinned Ambrose in the match on Raw Monday night just one week after he beat Seth Rollins in an non-title match. McIntyre is a not only one half of the current Raw tag champs but a legit threat to both the Universal champ (Roman Reigns) and Intercontinental champion (Rollins). Not many people dominate both singles and tag matches, but McIntyre does. (Last week: 4th)
3. Dean Ambrose (Raw): Dean Ambrose is THE Raw storyline right now. He was part of the winning six-man tag team in Australia but took the pin two days later on Raw. He was convincing in leaving the ring Monday night as someone who did not know his position in The Shield. While the WWE is building this story as a possible betrayal, the actual story is Ambrose figuring out how he fits in with the Hounds of Justice, if at all. I predict WWE will keep in The Shield in the immediate future, but either way he's done a good job in and out of the ring telling this story. (Last week: 2nd)
2. Buddy Murphy (205 Live): Captured the Cruiserweight title in a phenomenal match in his hometown of Melbourne during the PPV Down Under. Murphy had moves that got fans in our house out of their seats in enjoyment. Bonus was the promo shot in Melbourne and played on 205 Live that explained he wasn't on the show this week because the champ does what he wants. (Last week: Not rated)
1. Ricochet (NXT): The North American champion pinned Pete Dunne in a triple-threat match that included Adam Cole. This contest was a half-hour long and no lull in the action. It was one of the best matches of the year, let alone the week. As always, lots of exciting moves, almost-pins, and nothing cheap. As Dunne was about to pin Cole to win the NA title, Ricochet came flying off the top rope with a 630 splash that Dunne could not evade. Ricochet gets the pin. But the highlight was Ricochet's double hurricanrana that flipped both Dunne and Cole off the top rope. (Last week: not rated)

Friday, October 12, 2018
Who's running for president
FiveThirtyEight's Perry Bacon Jr., looks at who might be running for the Democratic presidential nomination. He notes:
"The 7 Signs That Someone Might Be Running For President in 2020”: whether a candidate appeared at a political event in an early primary state (Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina), whether they were profiled for a major magazine, whether they campaigned for their party’s candidates for senator or governor, whether they released a book during this campaign cycle, and whether they’re being included in polls of the Democratic field.
Some of this is mutually reinforcing. Once a candidate begins campaigning in early primary states, they'll get included in national polls. Strange that neither Hillary Clinton nor Michelle Obama are listed at all -- both published books in the time between the 2016 presidential election and 2018 midterm period considered. Interestingly, septuagenarians Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden lead the field for number of indicators they check off.

Alternatives to the Kavanaugh effect to explain why GOP will keep the Senate
According to FiveThirtyEight, the Republicans now have an 80% chance of maintaining control of the Senate. The conventional wisdom is that this has something to do with Republican voters coming back home because of the Kavanaugh confirmation fiasco. Jay Cost presents another theory: Republican voters are just coming back home:
The historical context here is important. As we all know, Senate elections run in six-year cycles, which means that the seats up this year (collectively known as Class 1) have recently been up for reelection in 2012, 2006, 2000, and 1994. The 1994 election was a good year for Republicans. The party picked up a net of nine seats, in places like Arizona, Michigan, Maine, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.
Six years later, in 2000, there was some payback. The Democrats netted four seats off the Republicans, claiming victories in Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, and a few other places. In 2006 things went from bad to worse for the GOP, as Republicans lost a net of six seats, with defeats in Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere. And 2012 was a cycle of lost opportunities, as Republicans failed to pick up some obvious targets and overall lost another two seats on net.
If you were keeping track in the above paragraph, you should have 9 – 4 – 6 – 2 = –3. In other words, over the last quarter century, the Democrats have outrun the Republicans by three seats in Senate Class 1. When we consider that, overall, the Republicans have run even or ahead of Democrats for total control of the Senate, it is clear that Class 1 has been the weakest link for the GOP’s Senate caucus.
This implies two crucial points. First, the seats that the GOP is defending this cycle are seats that it has typically won even when it is losing overall. In some places, such as Arizona, Tennessee, and Texas, that is due to the natural partisan tilt of the states. In Nevada, it is due to the fact that Heller is well known and a good fit for the state.
Second, the Democrats are defending seats that, to be honest, they have no real business holding in the first place. Republicans really botched their comeback effort in 2012, which yielded needless losses for the GOP in Indiana, Missouri, Montana, and North Dakota. Luck, such as it is, has consistently been on the Democratic side with Senate Class 1 for many cycles. But this time it doesn’t seem to be favoring the Democrats as much. That leaves them more vulnerable than they would be with any other Senate class.
Math and maps. Or math, maps and Kavanaugh. Or something else.
Consider that "voters" are actually discrete groups within different states with unique candidates, and not a single entity making up its mind about one decision. It's inaccurate to think the states behave as a bloc. In North Dakota, incumbent Democrat Heidi Heitkamp looks to be in trouble, at least in part due to Kavanaugh, but also because ND is a more Republican state. (This would reinforce Cost's argument, but perhaps Joe Manchin would win re-election in the Peace Garden State because he's more conservative, and not merely because he voted for Kavanaugh.) Democrat Claire McCaskill has fallen behind in polls, but statewide Missouri races always seem close. Maybe Republican Senator Dean Heller was a stronger candidate that previously assumed in Nevada. Former Tennessee governor Phil Bredesen's lead has disappeared, which might just be a result of voters in the state starting to pay attention to this race in the final month-and-a-half, whereas Bredesen led in early polls based on name recognition. Beto O'Rourke, media fascination aside, was never likely to win in Texas. Many of these races easily support Cost's argument, but align roughly with the Kavanaugh thesis. Or it just might be a bunch of unique races with distinct issues and personalities. Journalists and strategists impose narratives on elections, but such explanations obscure the fact that elections are the results of millions of people making millions of decisions for countless reasons.

Thursday, October 11, 2018
Plastic waste problem is over-stated and misunderstood
Ben Pile writes about the BBC propaganda piece Drowning in Plastic for Spiked-Online, noting that the "single-use" plastic products used by folks in the developed world do not end up in the ocean because we have proper waste management systems:
For places that can afford it, waste is very easy to deal with. The cleanest and most effective way of disposing of most waste is incineration, especially when it comes to plastic, which has a high energy content. The controlled burning of waste allows toxic elements to be captured and the useful energy component to be recycled as heat and electricity.
But this simple solution does not appeal to eco-miserablists. Indeed, the group most likely to raise spurious health and environmental objections to waste incineration is, of course, greens. It was greens that objected to the use of landfill and emphasised recycling. The consequences of this have been a substantial rise in fly-tipping and fires at recycling centres that spew thousands of tonnes of toxic smoke into the atmosphere, which are now a near daily occurrence in the UK. Meanwhile, we have to export a great deal of non-recyclable waste to be incinerated in parts of the world where environmental standards are lower.
In the rich West, banning straws and plastic begs is gesturism. Poor countries need development so they can afford to dispose of garbage properly:
Most plastic waste finds its way into the oceans when it is disposed of in places where poverty is the norm and local governments lack the resources to provide basic services like refuse collection and processing. In these places, waste of all forms is simply dumped in waterways.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018
Tokyo Olympics already cost three times more than projected and double estimates from 10 months ago
The CBC reports on the least surprising development in the world:
The price tag keeps soaring for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics despite local organizers and the International Olympic Committee saying that spending is being cut.
A report just released by the national government's Board of Audit shows Japan is likely to spend $25 billion US to prepare the games, and the final number could go even higher.
This is nearly a four-fold increase over Tokyo's winning bid in 2013, which the report said projected costs of 829 billion yen, or $7.3 billion at the current exchange rate of 113 yen to the dollar.
Tracking Tokyo costs is getting more difficult as work speeds up, deadlines near, and disputes arise about what are — and what are not — Olympic expenses. Complicated accounting also makes it difficult to figure out who pays for what, and who profits.
Last December, the Tokyo organizing committee said the Olympic budget was about $12 billion. So costs have doubled in less than a year. At this rate, the cost for the Tokyo Olympics will exceed $100 billion. I'm being facetious. Costs won't double every ten months. But costs have a way of spiraling out of control, especially when, as the IOC contends, non-Olympic spending is getting added to the totals. And that's why many of us have problems with cities hosting international events (World Cup is another): non-event costs get tacked on. Perhaps a city needs transportation upgrades, but then municipalities should be honest and fund them as part of on-going capital investments, not hide the cost as part of doing Olympic business. Some will argue that if hosting the Olympics gets important infrastructure built, so be it. But taxpayers/voters are sold the idea of the Olympics -- or whatever -- costing X, but get stuck with a bill for 3X or 4X; perhaps the voters/taxpayers would have rejected hosting the event if they knew the true cost of holding them. I hope Calgarians are taking note of the Tokyo fiscal fiasco.

Monday, October 08, 2018
Nobel Prize in Economics
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences to William Nordhaus and Paul Romer, two popular predicted picks in recent years. Last week I suggested Nordhaus was a frontrunner but had a hard time believing Romer would win for his (eccentric?) association with the idea of charter cities. I don't quite understand giving them the Nobel in the same year, and the suggestion by the RSAS seems a stretch:
William D. Nordhaus, Yale University, New Haven, USA, “for integrating climate change into long-run macroeconomic analysis”
Paul M. Romer, NYU Stern School of Business, New York, USA, “for integrating technological innovations into long-run macroeconomic analysis”
I guess the connection is enlarging "long-run macroeconomic analysis." Both are deserving winners, but I think they deserved separate recognitions, although Nordhaus could have shared the prize with any number of environmental economics specialists. The committee's background papers "Integrating nature and knowledge into economics" (eight pages) and "Scientific Background: Economic growth, technological change, and climate change," (52 pages) are worth reading.
The Washington Post's coverage nicely captures Romer's importance: "His research demonstrated the importance of investing in people and ideas to foster growth, when economists had previously believed that it was impossible to influence the rate of innovation in technology." Yet most of the coverage focuses on Nordhaus, who was the first to model the interplay of the economy and climate change and is considered the father of carbon taxes, probably because climate change is the more fashionable issue; heck, the same day Nordhaus wins an overdue Nobel Prize in Economics, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issues a report sounding the alarm that the world essentially has just 12 years to act on climate change. The New York Times story comes close to "and Paul Romer also won" in its coverage. So does the Daily Telegraph's story.
Tyler Cowen addresses both economists and provides copious links to and about both William Nordhaus and Paul Romer. It is hard to add anything to his extensive treatment. I highly recommend both lengthy posts and also suggest clicking on the links. Cowen also links to items not directly related to the reasons they won the Nobel Prize and I particularly like the understated description of Romer's "complicated tenure" as chief economist at the World Bank. I agree with Cowen's assessment that Nordhaus's "splendid and still-underrated paper ... on the economics of light." Today, graphics showing light concentrations are popular memes, especially with regards to North and South Korea; that's based on a Nordhaus insight.
Romer has been interviewed by Russ Roberts at EconTalk three times. I recommend his 2007 EconTalk interview about economic growth. They are all worth a listen if you enjoy economics podcasts. David Henderson will have his annual article on the Nobel winners in tomorrow's Wall Street Journal.

Saturday, October 06, 2018
Cowen predicts Nobel Prize in Economics again
Tyler Cowen, who has never correctly predicted a winner in the year s/he has won, gives it another try:
[T]his year I am in for Esther Duflo and Abihijit Banerjee, possibly with Michael Kremer, for randomized control trials in development economics.
Maybe they are too young, as Tim Harford points out, so my back-up pick remains an environmental prize for Bill Nordhaus, Partha Dasgupta, and Marty Weitzman.
Harford is right. Young economists do not win the Nobel Prize in Economics. RCTs have been an important contribution to the field of economics and Duflo and her husband Banerjee are deserving but while he is youngish at 57, it is very difficult to imagine Duflo winning it at 45.

Friday, October 05, 2018
WWE Power Rankings
Last week I started a WWE Power Ranking, covering the WWE Universe (Raw, Smackdown, 205 Live, NXT, but not the Mae Young Classic or the Mixed Match Challenge). It'll be the top 13 with an honourable mention when warranted and then the bottom ranking for the worst performance/storyline of the week. Wrestling and promos are considered, looking at performance, entertainment value, and narrative. Tag teams may be considered as units or individuals, and be listed taking one or two spots.
Worst performance of the week: Paige (Smackdown): Smackdown general manager Paige is a weak leader, often pushed around by wrestlers in the blue brand. Maybe not so much pushed around as easily convinced to change course. After last week's closing promo of Samoa Joe at the door of champion AJ Styles's house and the presumed threat to his family it presented, Paige had to act. She said the police were dispatched and nothing happened but still called it the most "dastardly" event in WWE history, which is something considering what has happened in real life (Chris Benoit's double-murder and suicide) and everything in Kayfabe (necrophilia, for starters). She then said she had no choice but to fire Samoa Joe. However, AJ Styles told her not to fire Joe because he wanted to take care of him at the Super Show-Down pay-per-view in Australia Saturday. Understanding none of this is real -- in fact, it is scripted -- threatening a co-worker's family is a criminal matter and firing offense, not something to be taken care of by the boys on their own. The general manager's ineptitude and weakness isn't meant to be part of the storyline, but it should be. It should be a firing offense. (Last week: not rated)
Honourable mention: Konnor (Raw): Kinda strange to see Chad Gable create a tag team with Bobby Roode only for the competitors to face Ascension's Konnor in back-to-back singles matches. The Ascension was okay in NXT but has been lost and buried in the big leagues. Konnor won both contests against Gable and Roode, and cleanly. Not sure what WWE is doing with this. My guess is that it's more about Gable and Roode than Ascension, but the fact that the face-painted tag team isn't losing, and Konnor is getting promo time, is a big plus for them. Let's give him his due while the winning lasts. (Last week: Not rated)
13. Authors of Pain (Raw): As I noted last week, the Authors of Pain were one of the most exciting things in NXT and have almost completely disappeared since moving to Raw in the shakeup in April. The best they do is win squash matches against local jobbers which only gets a team so far. Last week they held their own -- and at times dominated -- against The Shield. This week they attacked former tag champs B Team after Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel beat the Revival. Good move and it may be the beginning of a series of matches with an established Raw-level tag team. Wasn't thrilled with acting general manager Baron Corbin congratulating AOP after their post-match attack, but that probably indicates Corbin is eyeing something bigger for them which is only good. (Last week: 3rd)
12. The Miz (Smackdown): He joined the broadcast team to comment on the Daniel Bryan-Shelton Benjamin match and was his usual fantastic self on the microphone. After the match, he beat the snot out of Bryan outside the ring. This weekend the two face each other at the Super Show-Down with the winner getting a world championship match. The Smackdown beating is meant to weaken Bryan before the pay-per-view contest. Entertaining and meaningful, rather than boring and contrived like so many storylines right now. (Last week: Not rated)
11. Shelton Benjamin (Smackdown): If you don't include the Randy Orton-Tye Dillinger match that never officially started, there were three contests in this week's Smackdown go-home show that ran for a total of 22 minutes (over the two-hour show). Asuka defeating Peyton Royce in about 3.5 minutes was one of them, and a mixed-tag team contest with almost no storyline was another. That left Shelton Benjamin's contest with Daniel Bryan as the only real men's match. The storyline is that Benjamin called out Bryan on social media, whose nemesis The Miz called on general manager Paige to grant the match. The Miz joined the broadcast team for the match and that doesn't happen unless the visitor someone inserts himself into the contest. Benjamin, a former tag team and world champion, more than held his own against Bryan, but took advantage of The Miz distracting Bryan to win the match. It was a solid 10-minutes of wrestling with good kicks and counter-moves, with Benjamin getting his first televised victory since the shakeup in April. (Last week: Not rated)
10. Randy Orton (Smackdown): I have mixed feelings about putting The Viper on the list this week. I liked his attacks on Jeff Hardy, including the difficult-to-watch sadistic pulling of the earring-holes. I like the new legend-killer Randy Orton. But fighting Tye Dillinger seems to be both fighting below one's weight and broadening the definition of legend a little more than is necessary. If Orton is going to target legends, Daniel Bryan and A.J. Styles should top the list, not someone whose last victory on Smackdown was ... when? I don't remember. Still, the sadistic attack on Dillinger's finger, which implied it was broken, moves the character's story: not only is Orton taking on legends, he's taking out opponents. This would be much higher if his victim was someone other than Tye Dillinger. (Last week: Not rated)
9. TJP (205 Live): Really good match with Kalisto as part of TJP's feud with every luchador on the roster. TJP lost, but fought back after a fast Kalisto start. It always felt like TJP was going to win, especially after he kicked out of the pin following a late-match twisting sunset flip powerbomb. Unlike his other outings against other Mexican products, TJP didn't win but he still ripped off the lucha mask. Good feud (against a whole genre of wrestling?), great match. (Last week: Not rated)
8. Kalisto (205 Live): Great match and was victorious even if the win was cheapened by being a roll-up. I assume the next step in this broad feud is TJP finding a partner and facing multiple luchadors. (Last week: Not rated)
7. Dolph Ziggler (Raw): Solid match with Roman Reigns in a non-title contest, won by the reigning champion, which meant that the Hounds of Justice and Dogs of War sort of split their go-home show matches with a victory each (Reigns and McIntyre in their respective matches against Ziggler and Seth Rollins) and a disqualification (between Braun Strowman and Dean Ambrose). Ziggler looked like the weak link creating a very minor hint that he could be the odd man out (of the Dogs of War) rather than Dean Ambrose at the Super Show-Down. But Ziggler doesn't look weak losing to the champion. Most importantly, it was just a good fight between two of the more important characters on Raw. (Last week: 6)
6. Roman Reigns (Raw): See Ziggler, but Reigns won so he gets the edge. (Last week: Not rated)
5. Johnny Gargano (NXT): Great match with Tony Nese, who took part on NXT instead of 205 Live this week, probably the best wrestling all week. Gargano had some high-flying moves, Nese demonstrated his power, both sides sold well, and some terrific counter-moves. From a pure wrestling standpoint this was fun. There was no controversial ending or seeds for a feud, so this fight probably served no other purpose than to give Gargano a quality win because he's a terrific wrestler and his feud with Ciampa is over and he isn't part of any title scene. Thought this match could provide the reason for Gargano to be called up to 205 Live, but there is no obvious reason for him to face Nese again. (Last week: Not rated)
4. Drew McIntyre (RAW): Drew McIntyre beat Seth Rollins in a non-title match. Tag partner Dolph Ziggler interfered in the match as a distraction, but the Scottish Psychopath had the upper-hand throughout much of the contest. Some really good wrestling in the ring, including a number of new or rarely used counter-moves on both sides. Both did a great job, but McIntyre gets the nod for the rankings because he won. (Last week: 10)
3. Ruby Riott (Raw): Ronda Rousey has been phenomenal since joining the WWE in January. In the few televised and PPV matches she's had she's looked unbeatable. Really, who can beat Rousey cleanly? Nix Jax might be powerful enough but she was about to lose the title to Rousey in Money in the Bank when Alexa Bliss interfered with her cash-in. Charlotte Flair is almost certainly good enough to beat Rousey, but she's on the blue brand. Maybe Becky Lynch, but she's also on Smackdown. I don't see Sasha Banks or Bailey quite being up to the job. The fact is Rousey is going to dominate the women's division for some time, unless there is some kind of shenanigans. At least that's the way it looked until this week. Ruby Riott had Rousey looking weak in a non-title match in the go-home show before the Riott squad faces Rousey and the Bella twins in this weekend's pay-per-view. Riott was ultra aggressive and never relented in beating on Rousey. The champ stopped the assault at one point with counter-strikes but Riott regained the upper-hand. Suddenly, Rousey countered with one of her mega-powerful throws (she needs to learn to let up a little because in wrestling, unlike MNA, the opponent will help out) and patented armbar for a fast submission. Riott got four or five pin attempts on the champ and on one close two-count, I was convinced Rousey was going to lose. Give us more Rousey-Riott, sans the Bellas and Riott's squad. (Last week: Not rated)
2. Dean Ambrose (Raw): For the second week in a row, the Raw storyline has been almost entirely about Dean Ambrose’s place in The Shield and the question of whether he will turn on his brothers before or at the Super Show-Down in Australia this weekend. The storytelling has been very good and I’ve heard from a few people who thought I should have rated Ambrose first last week (or, at least near the top). Probably should have. The reason I didn’t is that most of the story was propelled by his antagonists Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler, and his allies, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. This week, however, it was all Dean. There were still interactions between Ambrose and his Shield brothers, or Ambrose and the Dogs of War. I loved the part where acting general manager Baron Corbin gave Dean Ambrose a choice amongst title shots against Rollins or Reigns for the intercontinental or universal championships respectively, or a match against Braun Strowman. Ambrose chose Strowman, although historically The Shield has fought one another without incident when glory was on the line (Royal Rumble, for example). Other than from a narrative perspective, there was no need for Reigns and Rollins to “save” Ambrose in that match, but the interference provided predictable tension that the moody Ambrose would pushback against needing their help. The promos in the rest of Raw teased the possibility of Ambrose thinking about betrayal. I’m hoping for a swerve and Ambrose stays with the Shield for a few more months. There is room for that. For now, the will-he/won't he storyline continues, at least until this weekend’s “global pay-per-view.” And Ambrose is at the center of that storyline and doing a superb job. His typically brooding character tailor-made for a story about being torn between helping his long-time pals who ostensibly do not appreciate his contribution to their team and either going it alone in search of gold or joining the Dogs of War. Great storytelling but not the best thing about Raw this week. (Last week: 9th)
1. Elias (Raw): Elias came out with at least 45 minutes remaining and perhaps two matches (including a brief women’s contest) to go until the end of the show. He was joined on stage (in the ring, but it was a promo, so stage works) by Kevin Owens. Two great heals. Two great talkers. They’d do the mutual admiration society, insult the home-town crowd, and get ready for Owens to face Bobby Lashley, probably with a little banter with Lashley hype guy Lio Rush. What happened was amazing. Owens is good at getting heat. So is Elias. But when Elias insulted the Seattle fans with about the John Cena/Bobby Lashley tag team he and Owens will face in Australia make about "as much sense as a basketball team in Seattle," it began a symphony of boos that lasted seven minutes. Elias and Owens sat and enjoyed the shower of opprobrium and when they continued their banter, they had to yell to be (barely) heard over the speaker system. The smirk on Elias’s face showed he was both surprised and pleased with the heat they were getting. Every heel hopes to get this kind of heat. Nothing Rowdy Roddy Piper did got seven minutes of sustained boos. Insulting the local sports team is the cheapest way to get heat, but this was special, hitting a particular sore spot with the Seattle faithful. This will probably end up being one of my three favourite wrestling moments of the year. (Last week: Not rated)

Sorry I couldn't write, but life was happening ...
From the New York Times review of Life in Culture:
Nearly all the letters in “Life in Culture: Selected Letters of Lionel Trilling,” edited by Adam Kirsch, begin with apologies and small arias of explanation for delay. Most of these explanations have to do with course- and committee-work at Columbia University, where Trilling taught for most of his career. Sometimes the excuses were existential. My favorite appears in a 1951 letter, in which Trilling tells Norman Podhoretz that “nothing less than the totality of The Modern Situation, the whole of Democratic Culture, has kept me from writing to you.” Kids, do not try this excuse at home.
Love that. Trilling was a liberal and sometimes very nasty about conservatives (Podhoretz wasn't a conservative yet in 1951), but he was intelligent and a joy to read, as evidenced by his apology above. This is the sort of book I would have bought and read immediately upon publication but is now probably something I'll ask for as a gift and read when I get around to it. I hope Joseph Epstein reviews the Trilling letters; I'll be eagerly checking the Weekly Standard and New Criterion.
Sort of related to Trilling's excuse is something mentioned in David Warren's latest online essay: "As an old Czech friend used to say, 'Always, there is something going on. For this I do not need newspapers'." The totality of the whole modern situation matters much less when we ignore it. Today ended a three-week fast of the hardcopy editions of the four Toronto dailies. I already miss not getting them.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018
Nobel Economics Prize
Predicting the Nobel Prize for Economics is a mug's game. A few years ago Tyler Cowen noted he has not once been correct. In recent years, some deserving winners have passed away and the prize cannot be awarded posthumously (on top of the list is William Baumol, but there are others). Frankly, I cannot believe the committee never recognized Baumol for his cost-disease hypothesis and extensive work on the the economics of culture and on entrepreneurship. So here is who I think will win when the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel is announced in Sweden on Monday.
Two possible environment economics scholars probably top this list: Yale's William Nordhaus (modeling the economics of climate change) and Harvard's Martin Weitzman (wide range of environmental issues, notably maintaining diversity with his 1988 Noah's Ark Problem). I've thought Nordhaus was top of the list for the last few years. Some year I'll be correct. Nordhaus could win this on his own, but if Weitzman would be a co-winner with Nordhaus or another environmental economist.
Stanford's Robert Hall for his work on labour, recessions and unemployment. I'm not sure if his work with Alvin Rabushka on the flat tax will hurt him for consideration. But his work popularized the idea of labour turnover.
Harvard's Robert Barro (economic growth) and Harvard's Dale Jorgenson (productivity) will probably be on the shortlist.
These are three deserving winners who I do not think will garner serious consideration:
University of Chicago's Raghuram Rajan has done great theoretical work on corporate finance and good practical work as chief economist at the IMF and Governor of the Bank of India. But not a lot of economists who held important and influential government or international organization positions get recognized. There is an argument for that to change and that argument is Rajan. However, Richard Thaler, another Chicago economist, won it last year.
Stanford's John Taylor is a leading monetary-policy scholar but I assume the fact he was reportedly short-listed by Donald Trump for Federal Reserve chair doesn't help him. Most recently, his empirical research suggests demand-side stimulus doesn't work (questioning multipliers).
NYU's Paul Romer for his extensive work on economic growth. He is a former chief economist at the World Bank and is a promoter of charter cities (see his TED talk).