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).
Tuesday, July 31, 2018
Aid charities must do more to
Charities like Oxfam are more than involved in scandal; they tolerate -- and perhaps even enable -- immoral behaviour. Scandal is the consequence of getting caught. Better yet for charities to avoid scandal by not allowing the morally dubious and outright immoral conduct to occur in the first place.
The (London) Times reports:
Aid charities must overhaul their entire culture rather than simply “tick boxes” if they are to regain public trust after the sex abuse scandal, the Charity Commission has said.The aid industry has been guilty of “complacency verging on complicity” for decades in tackling the sexual abuse of vulnerable people, according to a report by MPs published today.The report criticised Oxfam for failing to disclose the extent of sexual misconduct by its staff in Haiti. MPs have called for a global register of aid workers to tackle “endemic” abuse across the sector.The inquiry by the international development select committee was prompted by the revelations in The Times this year that Oxfam staff used prostitutes in Haiti in 2010.The report rejects claims from the former head of Oxfam that the charity was sufficiently transparent in reporting misconduct to the government. It calls for an end to the “culture of denial” in the aid sector, for extra funding to help the reporting of abuse allegations, and for the creation of an aid ombudsman to hear appeals from victims.The Charity Commission welcomed the report, but warned: “The charity sector must go further than simply box-ticking against their legal duties or improving processes and policies.” A spokeswoman said that charity bosses have a responsibility to “set an organisational culture that demonstrates zero tolerance for abuse”.
Most box-checking is a public relations exercise. There are only three boxes needed: investigate claims of abuse, report wrong-doers to the authorities for civil action, and punish wrong-doers by suspending aid workers and executives and fire them if they are found guilty (by either internal investigations or by the courts).
Labour's anti-Semitism problem: not surprising and well-earned
CapX's Andrew Lilico looks at the various ways some on the Left truck in anti-Israel and anti-Semitic tropes, and that history is probably well-known among you readers. If it isn't, check out his column. What is novel (to a point) about Lilico's piece is that he says this is entirely unsurprising:
This is not some unfortunate accidental feature of the sort of politics to which Jeremy Corbyn subscribes. Hard left movements will always attract conspiracy theorists, racists, communists and other anti-system types. And generally, if they are to make progress, they cannot afford to be too strict about dissociating themselves from anti-system fellow-travellers. A certain toleration of various forms of unpleasantness, whether communist or racist or conspiracy theorist in nature, is an inevitable feature of hard left politics.
And, Lilico argues, they have found a fellow-traveller in the leader of the Labour Party (and presumptive future Prime Minister of the United Kingdom:
One cannot necessarily, of course, hold a party responsible for all the crazies that endorse it. But Corbyn’s Labour is not endorsed by communists, anti-Semites and conspiracy theorists despite its essential nature, but because of it. Corbyn own positions on a range of issues about foreign policy, the role of bankers and rich business interests are merely the acceptable face of his fellow-travellers’ opinions.In 1991, in “Labour Briefing”, Corbyn wrote (regarding the First Gulf War): “We now know that the Gulf War was a curtain-raiser for the New World Order: the rich and powerful, white and western will be able to maintain the present economic order with free use of all the weapons they wish for.” Later, in 1991, he wrote in Socialist Campaign Group News that “The aim of the war machine of the United States is to maintain a world order dominated by the banks and multinational companies of Europe and North America.”In 2003, for the Morning Star he wrote “Historians will study with interest the news manipulation of the past 18 months. After September 11, the claims that bin Laden and al-Qaida had committed the atrocity were quickly and loudly made. This was turned into an attack on the Taliban and then, subtly, into regime change in Afghanistan.” To his fellow travellers, Corbyn may not be quite telling “the whole story”, but they have no doubt that his heart is where their’s is.Thus the anti-Semitism “problems” Corbyn’s Labour now faces are not some recent accident or a result of his “weakness” in dealing with issues.
Monday, July 30, 2018
David Goodhart, head of demography, immigration and integration at Policy Exchange, has written a report on immigration which will make few people happy and will never be implemented. It calls for both new and lower barriers to entry (more information about those entering the country, lower application fees for citizenship) while instituting "more decisive removals" of failed asylum seekers along with "regularisation of long-term illegals." It is thoughtful throughout, balancing the rights of migrants with the policy and cultural concerns of Britons. Goodhart is one of the more thoughtful liberals in the anglosphere and one who the few who understand that invasive immigration is anathema to working-class Brits.
Friday, July 27, 2018
Left behind. Still.
The Daily Telegraph's business columnist Jeremy Warner writes about how the Brexit debate and negotiations are leaving behind those who voted for Brexit:
Amid the incessant rowing over what kind of Brexit we should be pursuing, an equally important, interrelated question – what kind of economy do we want? – seems to have been almost entirely forgotten.On becoming premier, Theresa May spoke of the “burning injustices” of British society, and her heart went out to the “ordinary working-class families” who “just about manage”. Standing in front of No 10, she promised that “the government I lead will not be driven by the interests of the privileged few but by yours.” Her remarks seemed to recognise that Brexit was more than just a vote to leave the EU. It was a scream of anger, a great venting of pent-up frustrations with our economy and politics. Above all, it was a vote for change, however ill-defined that aspiration might be.Fast forward two years, and what’s been done to answer these simmering discontents? Absolutely nothing. Quite the reverse. Rather than articulating a strategy that might address the “burning injustices” she spoke of, May’s whole approach to Brexit is instructed by a desire to preserve as much of the economic status quo as possible, commensurate with honouring her increasingly compromised “red lines”.The way things are going, we’ll end up with a diminished form of the economic model we already have. She seeks to stay in the single market for manufacturing and agricultural produce, thereby seemingly locking in Britain’s yawning deficit with the rest of the EU in traded goods, and she demands “enhanced equivalence” for financial services so as to preserve as much of their access to EU markets as possible. Brussels will bite her hand off to accept the former, but sensing an opportunity for a land-grab, will vigorously refuse the latter. The way things are going, we’ll end up with a diminished form of the economic model we already have. Nobody, Leavers and Remainers alike, voted for that.
The Brexit referendum was not about the root causes of the feeling of being left behind by many in Britain's economic distressed regions, but Prime Minister Theresa May correctly highlighted their worries after becoming leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. There was hope that in articulating concern about those "just about managing," that she would lead a government that would address some of their struggles. May's government has focused on Brexit -- both negotiating a deal with Brussels on leaving the EU while simultaneously negotiating her short-term survival as leader of the party and country. That focus has meant that most of domestic policy has been ignored. Maybe this was inevitable, but the glimmer of hope May's early comments provided only highlight the disappointment that comes with her eventual casting aside those who have financial and psychological trouble getting by. It makes matters worse that the probable Brexit deals focus benefits on London and do nothing to address the problems in the northern and (former) manufacturing regions.
Not The Onion
The Daily Telegraph: "Brussels plots emergency no deal Brexit plans for British cats, dogs and ferrets." The paper explains:
Brussels bureaucrats are drawing up emergency Brexit plans for British cats, dogs and ferrets after Jean-Claude Juncker took a personal interest in how “no deal” could damage the EU’s pet passport scheme.About a quarter of a million British pets travel to the continent every year using the scheme, which give the animals a ‘passport’ of good health so they don’t have to go into quarantine. However, if Britain was to crash out of the European Union without a deal, it would also fall out of the scheme and those cats, dogs and ferrets could face being caged in foreign pounds or simply turned away at the border.“President Juncker has personally mentioned the issue several times. It is something that is very close to his heart. We are not only for the free movement of people but for the free movement of pets,” Mina Andreeva, the deputy chief spokeswoman of the European Commission told The Telegraph in Brussels on Friday.
There are issues of disease-free animals traveling within the continent that border services are justifiably concerned with, even if sometimes those worries are exaggerated and enforcement is too ham-fisted. But this story takes on parodic features with the Andreeva quote about the "free movement of pets" in the same breath as the "free movement of people."
Thursday, July 26, 2018
Not good numbers for Trump's re-election
It's early, but these numbers might be cause for concern for Donald Trump's re-election team:
You could fault Matt McDermott with cherry-picking numbers. From the same NBC News/Marist poll, the gap in Trump's approval/disapproval numbers is much smaller. For example, in Michigan, which the President won by fewer than 11,000 votes, Trump's approval is 36%, while his disapproval is 54%. That isn't good, but looks less ominous than the 28%-62% spread on the question of whether he deserves to be re-elected. (Also, "give new person a chance" isn't quite the same thing as asking whether Trump does not deserve to be re-elected.) In Wisconsin, his approval is 36% and disapproval is 52%. That's a far cry from 63% saying they want to give a new person a chance versus 30% who say the President should be re-elected. Curiously, Minnesota, the only one of the three midwest states this poll looked at that ended up in the Democratic column, gives the President the highest approval/lowest disapproval of the three: 38%-51%.
Maybe the numbers McDermott, a pro-resistance pollster, highlighted in his tweet are more meaningful, even at this early juncture in the election cycle. Maybe not. Taken as a whole, this isn't great news for Donald Trump. But the poll had data points that were not quite as starkly anti-Trump as the ones McDermott focused upon in his tweet. Pundits and the public need to be careful about how we consume the overtly opinionated pollsters. (For Canadian readers, McDermott is basically Frank Graves.)
Wednesday, July 25, 2018
The complications of polyamory
Buzzfeed's Rachel Cromidas: "When You Have 3 Boyfriends, Getting An IUD Is Complicated." Cromidas explains:
Polyamory is one popular term for when you date multiple people at the same time, you’re honest about it with everyone, and you think you could fall in love with any or all of them, too. This network of connections dictates almost everything we do together in some way, whether it's a matter of who's having sex with whom, who gets the bigger bedroom on date night, or how the heck you share your time and process your feelings when all of your friends are sleeping with each other.Often, it's not even about sex. You should hear a group of poly people try to divvy up the rights to something as mundane as watching a popular TV show. It’s like, Yes, of course you can have sex with my wife in our bed while I'm out with my girlfriend this evening, but could you please not stream the next episode of Game of Thrones without me there? If you want to do it with one person, it has the potential to affect what you do with everyone else. The same goes for unprotected sex.Polyamorists call the decision to stop using condoms “fluid-bonding.” The act gets a special term because the health consequences of barrier-free sex, particularly intercourse, are certainly higher than, say, simply making out with someone you just met at a party. And many polyamorists think it's common sense to keep a strict limit on whom you're doing it raw with.Some use their fluid-bond status to protect their relationships as much as their health, regarding it as a symbol of status or a marker that they are special. I was a slut, not a romantic, and I didn't want it to be so significant. My loves knew this, but still, they knew I had never done this with someone before, and they had questions.For Charlie, a quiet introvert who relishes his alone time and practiced impeccable, unwavering safer sex (if you can get him talking, he’ll brag about how much fun he can have with a latex glove), the decision to put my sexual health in the hands of a man I’d only known for a few months called into question my sense of self-preservation. And Daniel, my best friend and confidante in all matters since we’d fallen in love a year ago, wanted to know why I had never asked to go barrier-free with him. I thought the answer was obvious: He and his other girlfriend had been fluid-bonding since before I even met them, so the option had never seemed real. Her needs and preferences usually came first, and I didn’t want to step on her toes or let myself be disappointed ...“Would you ever consider getting a vasectomy?” [the doctor] asked Daniel [who joined the author for the removal of a IUD], casually. We both stared blankly at her like deer in front of a semi, too tired to explain that no, this man wasn't the one I was barebacking with, either.
The story about the improperly inserted IUD is horrible. But so is the story of the network of relationships this woman endures. I remind readers that this month marks the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae.
2020 watch (Kirsten Gillibrand edition)
The New York Times writes about the possibility of New York state's senior senator, Kirstin Gillibrand, running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020:
While Ms. Gillibrand has made her name and reputation on fighting for women’s issues, especially around sexual assault and harassment — “60 Minutes” favorably branded her “The #MeToo Senator” earlier this year — she has spent recent months injecting her portfolio with a dose of the kind of economic populism that infused Senator Bernie Sanders’s campaign in the 2016 presidential primary.If that sounds like the fundamental planks of a 2020 presidential campaign, Ms. Gillibrand, who is running for re-election in November, demurred. “For me, it’s all about 2018,” she insisted.She was among the first this year to endorse a federal jobs guarantee that is newly in vogue on the left. She was the first senator to introduce legislation to require that every post office in the country offer retail banking services in an effort to curb the predatory payday loan industry. She has announced a push to provide training to help those who lose their jobs to automation, embraced legalizing marijuana, pushed to tax drug companies for prescription drug price hikes, backed the Wall Street tax and announced that she would reject all future corporate political action committee money.“Labels are hard,” Ms. Gillibrand said in a wide-ranging interview about her agenda. “But I’m comfortable with ‘populist.’”Her leftward thrust on economics — coming on the heels of her progression from a first-term congresswoman with an A rating from the National Rifle Association and guns under her bed to a gun-free senator with an F rating — is likely to resurrect questions about where her convictions end and political convenience begins.
For a party enthralled by the likes of Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren, at the age of 51, Gillibrand is practically leading the Democratic youth wing.
New York City in the 1980s? Chicago today?
What Frank Graves says is patently untrue.
Tuesday, July 24, 2018
If Boba Guys wanted to stop using plastic stars they could voluntarily do so
Reason's Christian Britschgi writes about a San Francisco bubble tea company that threw its support behind the city's ban on single-use plastic straws and flatware. One of Boba Guys's restaurants was the location for the city supervisor's announcement unveiling the news straw ban. Said Boba Guys co-founder Bin Chen, ""We see this as a huge opportunity to lead the way on making sustainable business decisions." Except as Britschgi said, Chen didn't read the fine print of the municipal bylaw:
Following the press conference, Boba Guys started hunting for replacement straws, eventually settling on ones made of polylactic acid (PLA), a kind of bioplastic derived from corn starch.These straws are financially and functionally inferior to their traditional plastic brethren. They cost six times as much, fall apart in high heat (a problem for shipping overseas), and become brittle and unusable after 16 months of storage. Some bloggers have raised concerns about their effect on people with food allergies.PLA straws do have environmental advantages. Because they're made from corn, they are compostable. Because they aren't derived from petroleum-based products, they reportedly break down faster in natural environments and are less toxic when they do.For this reason, both Seattle's active straw ban and a proposed one in New York City (where Boba Guys has a location) exempt PLA straws. Unbeknownst to Boba Guys, however, San Francisco's pending ban does not.According to the San Francisco Chronicle, when Boba Guys co-founder Andrew Chau called up city hall to relay the good news that the company had snagged replacement PLA plastic straws, he was told those too would not work out. To make matters worse, the Chronicle reports, there are currently no commercially available alternatives for Boba Guys.The company Aardvark does make suitable paper straws, but it reportedly has a huge backlog and will not be able to supply Boba Guys with straws in time. Two other potential alternatives, including one made of a seaweed plastic, are in the works, but neither will be ready in the quantities needed by Boba Guys (or the city's other boba merchants) by the time San Francisco's ban goes into effect in July 2019.
Companies should not be in such a hurry to virtue-signal that they don't read the fine print.
Better yet, if such action is legitimately virtuous, just do it without being forced to by the state.
Monday, July 23, 2018
The romance of 20-something urban living gives way to the reality of parenthood
The Toronto Sun's Anthony Furey has a thoughtful column on leaving his downtown condo after an incident in his building where the gritty streets invaded his living space. Furey has mixed feelings about moving to someplace a little safer for him and his family:
Downtown living’s been good to me over the years. Will I still be able to browse through music stores in the evenings? Go to midnight movie showings? Raid through the recycling bins of the likes of author Jane Jacobs whenever I passed by her house, because she subscribed to all the best magazines and there was always something great to read?No, I won’t. But these questions are moot anyway. It’s pure nostalgia talking.Like almost everyone else, I don’t really buy music anymore. I haven’t been inside a record store in ages. All I do now is get misty eyed whenever I hear Steven Page come on the radio singing “drove downtown in the rain…” It’s been over a decade since I’ve been to a midnight screening of Rocky Horror or The Dark Knight. And it’s been even longer since the famous Jacobs passed away and I stopped going to the theatre that had me regularly pass by her old house.These urban experiences just don’t exist anymore. At least not for me they don’t. I’m too old. I’m a dad. I go to bed early.No, when you grow up and have kids your urban perspective suddenly shifts from a care-free one that’s almost blind to the grit of the city to one focused on protecting your offspring from what you suddenly realize is ever-present decay.
Furey goes on to make a number of important observations and provocative points ("We may soon be like those science fiction movie cities where a polished elite class in white robes live in pristine towers above while the great unwashed stumble about below, fighting over the scraps"), and I highly recommend reading the full column. But the excerpt above gets to something I've talked to a lot of people about and what many urbanists miss when they talk about making downtown cores more family friendly: the lifestyle that large urban centers allow for that is attractive to many young people when they are single is not necessarily compatible with parenthood, and for many, living downtown has less to do with living a particular lifestyle than remaining connected to a past one.
Sunday, July 22, 2018
Trump's record-high support (with caveat, but this is significant)
The Wall Street Journal reports that a new poll shows President Donald Trump has a 45% approval rating. That doesn't sound very good, but this number is significant:
Underpinning Mr. Trump’s job approval was support from 88% of Republican voters. Of the four previous White House occupants, only George W. Bush, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, had a higher approval rating within his own party at the same point in his presidency.
If you read the New York Times, you get a relentless stream of news and analysis about how unpopular the President is. Coverage vacillates among widespread gloating on the part of various Times writers that Trump is historically unpopular, widespread celebration that many Republicans do not support the President (even if they won't speak out against or cross him), and widespread fretting that so many Republicans continue to support the President. My guess is that challenging international institutions and Trump's conservative Supreme Court appointments is keeping him popular with the base, and broad grateful support by GOP voters, along with The Left's anti-Trump overkill, will go a long way to ensuring Trump goes into the 2020 election without a serious primary challenge and the ability to the unite a broad coalition to win re-election that year. A lot can change in the next 18 and 28 months, but right now Donald Trump is sitting quite comfortably.
Saturday, July 21, 2018
Are Republicans hypocrites?
The Guardian reports:
The study of 80,000 voters in five US states found that Democrats used the Ashley Madison adultery website substantially less than Republicans, Libertarians, Greens and unaffiliated voters. Libertarians consistently ranked as the site’s most frequent clients.The results highlight an apparent paradox where those with more conservative views and supposedly stricter attitudes towards sex seem happier to hop into bed with someone outside their relationship than more liberal types.“Our results are perhaps the strongest evidence yet that people with more sexually conservative values, although they claim to act accordingly, are more sexually deviant in practice than their more sexually liberal peers,” the researchers write in Archives of Sexual Behaviour.
The paper reports on what researchers say may be possible explanations for this apparent hypocrisy:
The study does not shed light on why Republicans might be more likely to have affairs than Democrats, but Arfer has a couple of theories. The first is that, thanks to more restricted sex education and discussion, right-leaning people may be less well-informed about sex and sexuality, and so have poorer sexual self-control. The second is that people who are more interested in taboo activities declare themselves Republicans, and profess to have stricter attitudes, to deflect suspicion.But another explanation is possible. Political party allegiance may simply be a proxy for wealth, and Republicans tend to be better off than Democrats. “It stands to reason that wealthier people should be more likely to use Ashley Madison, which can be expensive,” Arfer said. “So the party effect we observed could be driven by income instead of, or in addition to, ideology.”There is always the possibility that some Ashley Madison clients are plunged into turmoil by the realisation that their behaviour is in direct conflict to the standards they hold most dear.
It is possible this is all there is to the story. Perhaps Republicans and Libertarians are the most likely to cheat on their wives. Charles Murray in his book Coming Apart pointed to research that showed Democrats are more likely to live personally socially conservative lives (getting and staying married, having children in wedlock) than are Republicans. But there are other possible explanations.
The study examined voters in just five states: California, Florida, Kansas, New York and Oklahoma. That looks like an interesting cross-section of America -- middle America (Kansas and Oklahoma), two coastal liberal states (NY and California) and a southern swing state (Florida) -- but not necessarily a representative group.
The study is not an exhaustive examination of marital infidelity, but rather Ashley Madison clients. Obviously there is overlap, but perhaps Democrats are more likely to use their own networks to cheat on spouses whereas Republicans prefer to go outside their peer groups (in part because they are not living up to their own moral standards).
There are many types of Republicans. Research shows that in the aggregate, GOP voters are more socially conservative than are Democrats, but there are many socially liberal/libertarian Republicans. It is possible that GOP voters who are Ashley Madison clients are not hypocrites, after all.
There is without doubt some segment of hypocritical Republican voters who are cheating on their spouses despite espousing socially conservative views on sexual morality and marriage. But the researchers are themselves very moralizing in their comments about this supposed hypocrisy and one wonders whether they were that interested in digging for explanations to understand the phenomenon they were describing or whether they were more interested in scoring partisan gotcha points over a party's base of support.
And even if the researchers are correct, we should be careful not to paint all Republican voters as hypocrites. The number of Ashley Madison clients is very small. In California, just one in 560 voters had an account with the infidelity-enabling website; in Oklahoma, it was just one in 943. In Oklahoma, Republicans were twice as likely to be a registered user of Ashley Madison than were Democrats, but it was still just one in 700 GOP voters. So the vast majority of voters (approximately 99.85%) do not use this particular website. You can't really generalize from such a small sample size.
7 million Britons are on anti-depressants
The (London) Times reports:
NHS data obtained by The Times reveals for the first time that one in six adults in England used antidepressants last year — an increase of almost half a million since 2015.The figures include more than 70,000 people under 18 and almost 2,000 children of primary school age. Experts think that such pills rarely work in children, with one saying that doctors were “medicalising adolescence”.
Seems like rather a lot. It begs the question: why so many? The Times reports: "The scale of Britain’s reliance on antidepressants has fuelled concerns about overuse of the drugs as a first resort and a reluctance by some doctors to take people off pills despite side-effects." The extensive use of drugs as a first resort is a serious problem. The UK already has a highly successful Cognitive Behavioral Therapy program (CBT is described by Canadian doctors David Goldbloom and David Gratzer as "a brief therapy that focuses on how thoughts affect mood and behaviour"), the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies initiative, that assists about 900,000 people a year. Obviously the target of 1.5 million adults being treated with CBT by 2020 is not enough. The program needs funding to grow. More importantly, the psychiatric profession needs to change so that pills are not the first resort. The headline of 7 million Brits on antidepressants should scare the government into action. It won't, but it should.
Friday, July 20, 2018
50 years of Humanae Vitae
I have a longish cover story in the July/August Interim on the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI's encyclical reasserting Christian teaching on contraception. Here's an excerpt about the costs (to society) of ignoring Humanae Vitae:
By almost any measure, the signs of unfettered sexual license tell a disturbing tale. For most of the last three decades, Canada has killed about 100,000 preborn children annually; in the United States, the number is about a million annually. While the number of surgical abortions have decreased in recent years, there is an unknowable and dramatically rising number of chemical abortions.According to the U.S. National Health Statistics Report, 99 per cent of American women aged 15-44 have used at least one contraceptive method in their lifetime, and 62 per cent of all women of reproductive age are currently using some contraceptive method; that number jumps to 77 per cent of married women. Even if those numbers are inaccurate, they paint a picture in which contraception is commonplace. In Canada, there are more than one million prescriptions for oral contraceptives dispensed every year. According to the market research firm Reportbuyer.com, the global condom market is expected to reach US$11 billion by 2022.Sexually transmitted infections have increased precipitously in recent years. In Canada in 1998, there were 39,372 new cases of chlamydia; in 2015, there were 116,499 new cases. Likewise, the number of gonorrhea infections increased from 5,076 to 19,845 over the same time frame. New cases of syphilis, thought to be on the verge of being eradicated in North America a decade ago, rose from 501 in 1998 to 4,551 in 2015. American numbers tell a similar story.While generally trend lines show decreases in teenage pregnancy rates and divorce in recent years, that followed a boom in both phenomena in the 1970s.Humanae Vitae was prophetic. Many of its critics were not. Proponents of contraception, even within the Christian churches, have promoted the idea that it prevents abortion; some went so far as to predict contraception would render abortion obsolete and some critics of the pro-life movement advise that it accept contraception as the lesser of two evils (with the prevention of children presumably less evil than the killing of them). But as Mary Eberstadt, a senior researcher at the Faith and Reason Institute, wrote in First Things in April, the “empirical reality” is that the easy availability of contraception led to more abortion. Eberstadt observed that, “rates of contraception usage, abortion, and out-of-wedlock births all exploded simultaneously.” Contraception leads to more pregnancy because it theoretically lowers the cost of having sex – the social and economic costs – through the perception that it will prevent pregnancy (and in the case of condoms, sexually transmitted diseases). The perception of lower risk of pregnancy and the responsibilities that come with it, researcher Scott Lloyd has pointed out in the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, incentivizes sexual relationships that might not otherwise occur. Furthermore, as economists George Akerlof, Janet Yellen, and Michael Katz, wrote in a 1996 Quarterly Journal of Economics article, “by making the birth of the child the physical choice of the mother,” due to abortion, “the sexual revolution has made marriage and child support a social choice of the father.” That is, the expectation of women to forego children because of the possibility of abortion and contraception, has altered the expectations of men. Contraception and abortion are two sides of the same coin.Furthermore, as Eberstadt writes, far from making women happier, the age of free love has gone hand-in-hand with higher rates of dissatisfaction with their intimate relationships (both those they have and those they cannot find), making special note of the degradation of women through pornography and popular entertainment. The #MeToo movement has shone a light on the problem of sexual harassment, and even if the phenomenon is exaggerated, very clearly the “sexual revolution licensed predation” in Eberstadt’s judgment.Paradoxically, the freedom to engage in premarital sex with seemingly no consequences, may have made the choice to abstain from sex before marriage difficult. Kathryn Jean Lopez wrote in Crisis magazine in 2001, that “the possibilities seemingly open to young women in their ability to control their fertility have made deciding not to have sex before marriage look like an eccentric choice to most.” As the sociologist James Q. Wilson has observed, when many men can find sex outside of marriage with great ease, some girls feel it necessary to “put out” just to find or maintain a boyfriend. Contraception has therefore changed not only behaviour, but attitudes and expectations, and with a terrible toll. All of this was predicted by Pope Paul VI.
I quote Janet Smith saying that the Holy Father did not intend to write a prophetic document, but rather a clarifying one. It is, in fact, both. The article briefly examines the context in which the encylical was was created (the '60s), how it was divisive within the Church (too bad) and that many Protestants have eventually come on board. There is a lot of ground covered. I hope you will read it.
Thursday, July 19, 2018
You can't milk a nut
Yesterday, Twitchy reports, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that the administration will crack down on calling nondairy products like soy and almond drinks "milk." Gottlieb said: "An almond doesn’t lactate."
2020 watch (HRC edition)
A Morning Consult/Politico poll of nearly 2000 register voters found that while most people, including Democrats, don't think that Hillary Clinton should run for the Democratic presidential nomination, nearly half of Democratic women say she should. It found that 63% of all voters say HRC should run again, while just 25% said she should. Nearly half of Democrats say she should forego running again (46%), while about four in ten (41%) say she should give it another go. Democratic men goose the anti numbers: 55% of them say she shouldn't run. But among Democratic women, 45% say Hillary Clinton should run, while 39% say she shouldn't. HRC looks like a candidate; last weekend, she was the American Federation of Teachers National Convention and she has recently been a vocal critic of Trump's immigration policy and relationship with Vladimir Putin. Lanny Davis, a long-time Clinton-family supporter, said earlier this month, he would advise her against running. Michael Graham of Inside Sources said last week that in a crowded Democratic field HRC has the name-recognition, fundraising ability, and campaign infrastructure to be a credible candidate. According a Vox Populi Poll last month, 52% of Democrats would consider voting for Clinton in 2020 while 35% say they would not consider voting for her, twice any other potential Democrat contender listed. It is difficult to give up one's dream to be president, especially when one wins the popular vote and one believes she lost the presidency to someone as undeserving as Donald Trump. I have no doubt that HRC wants to run again. I'm not convinced she will. She remains relevant as long as she signals she might run for president but is less so if she eschews running again. There might be more of a chance that the Clinton family is putting their considerable election machine to work for Chelsea Clinton, who could seamlessly step into the role if her mother decides not to go for it again in 2020.
Wednesday, July 18, 2018
2020 watch (The Audacity of Hope II)
The New York Times reports:
Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat of California, has not officially entered the presidential race for 2020, but a new piece of publishing news strongly suggests she might.Penguin Press has announced it will publish Ms. Harris’s “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey,” in January 2019. The memoir and current-events primer, in a mixture well-known to campaign books, will include sketches of both Ms. Harris’s upbringing and her governing principles.
If Harris is not running for the Democratic presidential nomination, or at least flirting with the idea, there is no reason for anyone to care about her autobiography/blueprint-for-America, no matter how "authentic" her voice might be or how compelling her mother's backstory is. This type of book is as much a part of the ritual of running for president as visiting New Hampshire is.
Monday, July 16, 2018
In the ebb and flow of sports popularity, kids losing interest in soccer
The New York Times reports:
Over the past three years, the percentage of 6- to 12-year-olds playing soccer regularly has dropped nearly 14 percent, to 2.3 million players, according to a study by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, which has analyzed youth athletic trends for 40 years. The number of children who touched a soccer ball even once during the year, in organized play or otherwise, also has fallen significantly.In general, participation in youth sports nationwide has declined in the past decade, as children gravitate to electronic diversions and other distractions.Yet in recent years, while soccer continued declining, baseball and basketball experienced upticks, buoyed by developmental programs begun by Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association.“It’s lost more child participants than any other sport — about 600,000 of them,” said Tom Farrey, executive director of the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program. As he pointed out, that’s enough to fill every stadium on any given match day during the 2026 World Cup, which the United States will host with Mexico and Canada.The decline has been felt everywhere: recreational leagues in longtime soccer hotbeds here; high-profile traveling teams from Maryland to California; programs targeted at Latino and immigrant populations in South Texas. High burnout rates from pushing children into travel soccer too young as well as the high costs of programs have also contributed to the lower numbers.
Amateur sociologists among the pundit and political class might look at declining soccer participation rates among youth and wring their collective hands over the 2018 equivalent of Bowling Alone or dangers of technology ("kids and their video games" or "kids and social media") that is a threat to the fabric of society. But the growing popularity of baseball and basketball suggests that placing most of the blame on something outside soccer is probably misplaced. Just as television ratings and live audience numbers rise and fall for professional sports, usually not in unison (right now NFL and NASCAR are down, NBA is up), reflecting momentary upticks in interest for one sport or another (and momentary decline in interest for others), it is natural that the level for youth participation is likely to ebb and flow. No need to worry about the kids, at least due to declining soccer league enrollment.
Remainers just as much a threat to May as Brexiteers. Can May survive 'til Thursday?
From the Daily Telegraph's Front Bench newsletter:
It’s become quite clear this morning that the Chequers deal has enemies on all sides. That’s no surprise when it comes to the Brexiteers, who are ramping up their efforts to fight it – more on that in a moment – but now prominent Remainers are making their feelings clear.Justine Greening, the former education secretary, has written in The Times to call for a second referendum that offers May’s deal, no deal, and staying in the EU to voters. She reportedly has the backing of former Cabinet colleagues Amber Rudd and Damian Green.That will worry Downing Street, because, while the Prime Minister's deal was always going to create some rather angry Brexiteers, the more dangerous Remainer rebellion looked to have been killed off, and even the likes of Anna Soubry were embracing the Chequers plan ...However much either side coordinates their campaigning, only one thing remains clear – there is no majority in Parliament for a hard Brexit, but as May looks set to discover, there is no majority for any other kind of Brexit, either.Still, at least there’s one thing to reassure the PM. This week is her last PMQs before recess, followed by an end-of-parliamentary-term speech to the backbench 1922 Committee. The Guardian reports that Thursday’s meeting is the informal deadline for triggering a vote of confidence in May.Only four sleeps until (temporary) survival.
The Conservative majority is in peril. There are rumours that Boris Johnson could resign as MP, making it more difficult for the Tories to hold onto their parliamentary majority (with DUP) if he begins an exodus. He probably won't, but the numbers game doesn't look in May's favour any way you look at it.
Sunday, July 15, 2018
Better information in baseball has produced more boring baseball, but it is hardly reason to impose new rules
George Will has a column that perfectly represents my view on what's happening in baseball and the reaction against it:
What baseball people call “analytics,” and less-scientific people call information, has produced all this: Particular hitters have particular tendencies; defenses adjust accordingly. Now, let us, as the lawyers say, stipulate that more information is always better than less. But for the moment, information is making offense anemic. So, there is a proposal afoot — this is fascism — to ban shifts, to say that there must be two infielders on either side of second base, or even that as the pitch is delivered all infielders must be on the infield dirt. This would leave some, but much less, ability to manage defenses. It would, however, short-circuit market-like adjustments.Incessant radical shifting will persist until it is moderated by demand summoning a supply of some Rod Carew-like hitters. A Hall of Famer, Carew was a magician who wielded a bat like a wand, spraying hits hither and yon, like Wee Willie (“Hit ’em where they ain’t”) Keeler. The market is severely meritocratic, so some hitters who cannot modify their tendencies and learn to discourage shifts by hitting away from them might need to consider different careers.Baseball — the game on the field, not just the business side — resembles a market system because constantly evolving strategies create demands for different tactics, and thus different skills, which are then supplied by people and teams eager to excel in the new forms of competition. Before restricting managers’ and players’ interesting choices by limiting shifts (and certainly before softening the ball; or moving the pitcher more than 60 feet, 6 inches from the plate), give the market — freedom for fan-pleasing ingenuity and adaptation — a chance.
There is plenty of interest among the sports punditocracy and Official Baseball to tinker to "improve" baseball. Modern man cannot see a problem without wanting to fix it. Sometimes, the fix makes problems worse, so (sometimes), as Will says, if it is broken, don't fix it; sometimes, the problem will fix itself over time. More information about what happens on the field led to new strategies, which incentivized players to adapt. It makes sense to let the "market" fix this by having smart coaches and players react to the changes that are supposedly ruining the game today by taking advantage of inefficiencies in the game. The next adaptations will make baseball more fun again.
Saturday, July 14, 2018
Even the media's mistakes are biased
Twitchy: "isn’t it strange that when a reporter gets something wrong, it’s always something intended to make the Trump administration look bad, uninformed, or uncaring? Why is it that mistakes in reporting never go the other direction?" The most charitable answer is confirmation bias. "Facts" that confirm the preconceived notions of reporters are likely to be repeated without double-checking whereas facts that do not are likely met with skepticism and thus an endless searching for validation.
Liberal policy on 'asylum-seekers'
The Liberal policy on what was once called refugees is to call critics of their ham-fisted handling of the issue unCanadian and imply they are bigots: Immigration Minister calls Ontario minister unCanadian and the Prime Minister's principal adviser calls critics alt-right. Both of them can sod off.
Friday, July 13, 2018
Ledeen: Left loses and turns against itself
I don't agree with Michael Ledeen, but it doesn't strike me as far-fetched as my generally "things-won't-get-that-bad" inclination would typically react against:
If I had to predict near-term American politics, I’d forecast an anti-leftist electoral rout this fall, with a nasty period of infighting and restructuring of the Democrat Party to follow. To be sure, it’s a very volatile world and lots of unexpected things can take place, but for the moment the Dems look like big-time losers. It seems that the leftist takeovers of the media and the education system are running out of steam. I’ll not be astonished at violence in the streets over the Kavanaugh nomination, but I don’t think it will lead to mass protests of the sort that accompanied the McGovern disaster. Worst of all for the Dems and their “intellectual” fellow-travelers, their distortion of the history of the past couple of centuries has caught up with them, and they are now speaking and writing on behalf of the modern world’s biggest losers.
I don't think conservatism is in good shape in most of the West, but the Left is probably in a worse way. The Left is a crusading political movement in most of its forms, and is ripe for turning on itself. Superficially, the conditions appear favourable for a victory for the extreme Left and when they come up short, it is not implausible they turn inward amongst themselves. If this happens -- even if it is something short of "violence in the streets" -- conservatives should not take the self-immolation of the socialists, progressives, and modern liberals as a sign that the Right has won. Electoral victories are both 1) ephemeral and 2) possible despite the flaws and shortcomings of the victorious side. And electoral politics are not made better when one side is irrationally disconnected from issues that affect and concern large swathes of voters.
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
There is no such thing as a labour shortage
The number of small business that aren't able to find enough workers has matched the highest level ever recorded.The percentage of small companies not able to fill open positions hit 36 percent in June, according to the NFIB Research Center, matching the survey's record high set in November 2000. (The data goes back to 1973.)“Labor markets are very tight, for both skilled and unskilled workers,” wrote William Dunkelberg and Holly Wade, chief economist and director of research at NFIB, respectively. “More firms are looking for workers than workers looking for a job. And the hiring strength is in industries that pay well: construction, manufacturing, and financial services.”
To CNBC's credit, the phrase labour shortage does not appear in the story. Often it will in these types of articles. But there is no such thing as a labour shortage. Dunkelberg, who is quoted, gets to the heart of the matter: pay. Hiring strength is in industries that compensate labour well. Instead of saying there is a labour shortage, it is more accurate to say that firms can't fill positions at the wages they are willing to pay. That's a different thing. Companies shouldn't be so parsimonious. As Austan Goolsbee, former chairman of President Barack Obama's Council of Economic Advisers and current economics professor at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, tweets:
Monday, July 09, 2018
It sounds like President Donald Trump has decided that the next Supreme Court Justice (assuming Senate approval) will be Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, or Raymond Michael Kethledge. My preference is Coney Barrett, mostly for political and personality reasons, although Kavanaugh would be an excellent choice, too. (Coney Barrett now famously has seven kids, which would make her an heir to Scalia's spot on the court in a different way -- he had nine children.) I simply do not know enough about Kethledge to have an opinion. J.D. Vance had Kavanaugh at Yale law school in 2011 (and his wife later clerked for him) and wrote in the Wall Street Journal this weekend to endorse his former teacher:
His judicial record spans just about every important area of the law, and conservatives should be happy with the results. He sided with the Trump administration in rejecting the American Civil Liberties Union’s demand that the government facilitate an immediate abortion for an illegal-alien teenager in federal custody. He rejected the Obama administration’s attempt to coerce religious groups to provide contraception to employees. He stood by Scalia’s strong originalist interpretation of the Second Amendment and rejected balancing tests designed to undermine the right to keep and bear arms. He upheld labeling requirements on foreign-made products designed to protect American manufacturers and farmers. He has protected police officers acting in good faith against unwarranted damage verdicts, most recently in a case in which the Supreme Court vindicated his position in a 9-0 opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas.A Justice Kavanaugh could also be influential beyond the bench. Like a lot of conservative law students, I acquired my conservative constitutionalism after reading Justices Scalia and Thomas rebut their more progressive colleagues. The conservatives simply have the better of the argument, I often thought. Persuasive power requires not only sound principles but intellectual strength, rhetorical skill, and a willingness to engage with an opponent’s best arguments. From the way he worked in the classroom to his 12 years on the D.C. Circuit, Judge Kavanaugh regularly reveals those qualities.
It seems that both Coney Barrett and Kavanaugh would be fine choices, but it wouldn't be a bad idea to have a female vote joining the conservative majority. That's blatant politics, but SCOTUS has become a highly politicized institution. That said, I don't really like Ross Douthat's political analogy in the New York Times this weekend: Kavanaugh is "the traditional establishment-front-runner role," Coney Barrett is the "social conservative insurgent," and Kethledge is the "populist dark horse."
If I had to make a prediction I'd pick Kethledge. The other two were early "front-runners" and quite often the actual pick is not an early favourite. Douthat also reported that Coney Barrett's interview with the president didn't go well. Furthermore, Trump might be inclined to pick a non-Ivy League-educated judge as part of his own populist image, although the President does seem impressed by credentials like Ivy League education.
Sunday, July 08, 2018
2020 watch (HRC edition)
The New York Post reports that Hillary Clinton's PAC is active:
Five times in the last month alone, she sent e-mails touting her super PAC’s role in combating President Trump. Most seized on headline events, such as the family-separation issue at the southern border.
And the day after Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, Clinton introduced a newly minted resistance partner. Called Demand Justice, it promises to protect “reproductive rights, voting rights and access to health care” by keeping Senate Democrats united in opposing any conservative Trump nominee.The instant, in-house nature of Demand Justice was reflected by the name of its executive director: Brian Fallon, Clinton’s campaign press secretary.In truth, Fallon’s role doesn’t tell us something we didn’t know. Onward Together, formed in May of 2017, is a Clinton 2020 campaign vehicle in waiting.Its homepage says the group “is dedicated to advancing the vision that earned nearly 66 million votes in the last election.”
HRC was never going to retire quietly. Her campaign infrastructure is a valuable asset that could be employed on behalf of a key Clinton ally, kid, or herself. I think there is more chance that Chelsea (she will be 40 in 2020) runs than Hillary (she'd be 73 on election day), but you never know with the former first lady's ambition.
Koko and other gorillas (probably) do not have faculty for language
Oliver Kamm in The Times:
Here’s the opening sentence of a report we published last month: “Humans around the world were last night mourning a gorilla who used sign language, played the recorder and once befriended the comedian Robin Williams.”It’s about the death of a gorilla called Koko, aged 46, who reputedly had broken the barrier separating communication between humans and non-human primates. Koko was born at San Francisco Zoo and lived at a research facility in California. According to our report, Koko “captivated the public when she began communicating with humans through a modified form of American Sign Language”.It’s a tantalising notion that the faculty of language may be attainable by other species. However, the case of Koko does not demonstrate this. Our report, by Ben Hoyle, scrupulously injected this note of caution: “Some experts questioned the extent to which people projected human feelings on to messages from Koko and the handful of other primates who learnt sign language . . . Others insisted that the animals had broken down barriers between their world and ours.”The sceptics are right. The people making extravagant claims about Koko are typically not linguists. This matters not just because they lack expertise but because they misunderstand the communication that the primates are supposedly using. The cognitive scientist Steven Pinker pointed this out in his great book The Language Instinct (1994). American Sign Language (ASL), like any other sign language, isn’t a system of gestures and pointing. It’s a complete system of grammar with a full range of meanings. The gestures by Koko and other primates were just that: signals that the researchers read messages into ...The crucial bit in all the stories about Koko is that she was not, in fact, using any recognised sign language. Kluger claims without qualification that Koko had been taught ASL but this is not true. Other reports (including ours) refer to Koko having acquired a “modified form of ASL”. That caveat matters. All human languages, whether spoken or signed, and all dialects of those languages, have syntax. Koko’s “language” didn’t. It’s well known that some non-human species can communicate among themselves (bees do it by movement) but the claim that some non-human primates have acquired language is huge and I know of no evidence for it. Journalists should responsibly report expert opinion rather than spin quasi-mystical fantasies.
Kamm points out that when reporters say a gorilla can communicate with humans, they are making a scientific claim for which there is little evidence. We like cute stories, but both journalists and the public should not sacrifice facts for the sake of a nice story.
Friday, July 06, 2018
The Daily Telegraph: "No 10 warns taxis on standby for ministers who resign today over Brexit as May exerts authority." The paper reports: "Number 10 has told ministers arriving at Chequers that business cards for local taxi firms are in the foyer of Chequers so they can make the 40 mile journey back to London if they resign and lose the right to use their ministerial cars." It also reports that unnamed Downing Street sources insist Prime Minister Theresa May can survive the resignation of one or two ministers. We'll see.
The meeting at the prime minister's official country residence -- was it held there so minister's wouldn't resign and be awkwardly stuck so far from the city -- and dust-up is being noticed in Brussels. And in a way that may not hurt Britain. The Guardian reports:
The EU is prepared to change its Brexit position if Theresa May softens her negotiating red lines, Michel Barnier has said.The offer from the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator could be seen as a strategic olive branch coming just as the prime minister tries to strike a deal between the warring sides of her cabinet at Chequers.
Thursday, July 05, 2018
Brexit means Brexit. Or not.
The Telegraph reports:
At least six Cabinet ministers are expected to confront Theresa May on Friday after it emerged that her Brexit plan will tie the UK to EU rules for the foreseeable future and put any US trade deal in jeopardy.On Thursday afternoon the Prime Minister's plans were finally sent to the Cabinet who learned that Mrs May was proposing that Britain sign a legally-binding agreement to follow EU standards on many goods after Brexit, including food.The Telegraph also understands that British judges will have to follow rulings from European judges "when relevant", under the plans.
The cabinet ministers could include Boris Johnson, David Davis, Michael Gove, Liam Fox, Andrea Leadsom, Penny Mordaunt, and Esther McVey, all of whom were present for a meeting convened by BoJo. I expect that Johnson and Gove are also meeting with backbenchers who could be ready to revolt.
There's a cabinet meeting on Friday. It should be tense. It is premature to say May is going to knocked off her perch as leader, but her hold becomes more tenuous by the day.
Tuesday, July 03, 2018
Deconstructing the administrative state
The Brookings Institute has a short report on "Where and why has agency rulemaking declined under Trump?" and finds that overall there are significantly fewer "major" and "non-major" rules being proposed by the Trump administration compared to the first years of the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations. For the record: Bush enacted 54 major rules and a total of 3,374 rules in his first year, Obama enacted 69 major rules and a total of 2,024 rules, and Trump enacted 30 major rules and 1,293 total rules. (Not stated in the report is that most administrations impose more rules near the end of their administration.) While not possible to tell from the numbers, which the Brookings' authors admit, the gap in rulemaking might be even larger than the numbers suggest as it is likely more of the Trump administration's rule changes include eliminating existing regulations, which gets counted in the tally.
Wimbledon's near ballboy shortage
In 1969, the New York Times reported on the fact Wimbledon almost did not have enough ballboys to work the tennis tournament. (Girls were not allowed to chase balls and roll them back to the sidelines until 1977.) The story is quaint for two notable reasons: the unironic sympathetic reporting that tennis players might have to chase their own stray balls and the description of the source of many of the teenage boys -- "children who are orphans or from inadequate families" -- who were co-opted to help.
Democracy in America
The New York Times reports that until this year, 20 members of the House of Representatives have not faced a primary challenge going back to 2006, and 13 of them haven't faced a primary challenger since 2004. Of those who haven't faced a challenger since John Kerry was the Democratic presidential candidate, 11 are Democrats. Of the seven who haven't faced a primary challenger since 2008, three are Republicans. The Times reports:
Some House members have run unopposed for nearly three decades. Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, for example, has never faced an in-party primary opponent since being elected in 1990.Less than 10 percent of incumbents get a serious primary challenger, though it’s higher for Republicans, at 20 percent, according to Robert G. Boatright, a political science professor at Clark University.
Notably, six of the 20 Congressmen faced a primary challenger this year, and Joseph Crowley (D, NY) lost last week, illustrating a growing dissatisfaction with the political establishment. Of the 20 candidates who haven't faced a challenger since 2008, Crowley is the only incumbent to lose.
Monday, July 02, 2018
America among most dangerous places in world for women says report; immigrants suggest otherwise*
A Reuters report finds the United States is the 10th most dangerous country in the world for women. Jezebel reports:
A 2018 survey of 548 women’s issues experts (aid professionals, academics, healthcare staff, non-government workers, policy-makers, development specialists, social commentators, etc.) conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation found India to be the most dangerous country in the world for women.Afghanistan and Syria followed in second and third, respectively—and the only Western nation to break the top 10 is where I’m presently seated: the United States of America. The U.S. ranked “joint third” with Syria when participants were asked where women are most at risk for sexual harassment, violence and coercion, which Reuters attributes to the #MeToo movement—more American women are coming forward with their stories of abuse ...The Reuters Foundation poll focused on six key areas: healthcare, discrimination, cultural traditions, sexual violence, non-sexual violence and human trafficking. India topped half of the categories: “the risk of sexual violence and harassment against women, the danger women face from cultural, tribal and traditional practices, and the country where women are most in danger of human trafficking including forced labour, sex slavery and domestic servitude.”
Even if the United States did crack the top 10, it would be an order of magnitude difference from the top of the table.
Writing for CNBC, Rashmi Singh takes issue with the methodology, noting that the survey is just an opinion of a bunch of perhaps unrepresentative and often self-appointed experts.
*A little more than half of immigrants in recent years have been women.