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).
Friday, November 30, 2018
Not news and not funny
I think it's quite silly how much attention the New York Times and Washington Post give to late-night talk shows and Saturday Night Live, and not just in their entertainment coverage, but their hard news and political reporting. The Times has a daily feature, "The best of late night," which focuses on the political remarks of Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, et al. I get that a newspaper websites do not face the same limitations as a physical paper, so there is pretty close to no limit to what a paper can publish online. I also understand that media outlets consider click bait vitally important to their business models today. But the rants of late-night show comedians [sic] are hardly news and certainly doesn't deserve the prominence these papers provide them. It is not unusual to have multiple stories about SNL highlighted in these papers' respective Sunday morning newsletters and prominent coverage of their websites. Perhaps it is an admission of failure that Jimmy Fallon and Trevor Noah play (at least) as an important role as public affairs commentators as the papers' own columnists. Move over E.J. Dionne Jr., make room for Seth Myers. Ignore David Brooks, here's Jimmy Kimmel. But what gets me even more is how pathetically lame the humour is. The joke highlighted by the Times in its "best of late night" coverage today is a line that is not insightful, amusing, or biting. The paper-of-record leads with Jimmy Fallon ho-hum stab at humour: "It’s been a busy 24 hours for the president. Last night, Trump flipped on the Christmas tree lights, and today, Michael Cohen flipped on Trump." Shrug.
Wednesday, November 28, 2018
Canada doesn't even have the guts to join the cowards at the UN
UN Watch reports that Canada voted against eight United States resolutions condemning Cuba, including a call for the island prison nation to respect gender equality. The resolutions were supported by the US, Ukraine, and Israel, and generally opposed by 110+ countries, with 60-some countries abstaining. Among the abstainers were most European democracies, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the small Pacific island countries, many Latin American countries, and several Gulf states (Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, UAE). These are hardly profiles in courage, but at least they did not side with Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, Myanmar, China, and Russia. Canada did. And the reason for siding with the dictatorship?
According to anonymous Canadian diplomats, quoted in a recent article in Canada’s leading newspaper The Globe and Mail, Canada “considers it strategically important to maintain a comparatively close relationship with Cuba’s Communist regime, for trade and political reasons.” In particular, “They are afraid of upsetting Cuba because of Canada’s bid for a UN Security Council seat,” one diplomat said.
Hillel Neuer notes on Twitter, the substance of the eight resolutions, noting each time that Canada "joined Syria, Iran and North Korea in voting No, thereby siding with Cuba's Castro regime." I guess principles like gender equality, freedom of the press, and standing up for political prisoners is trumped by Justin Trudeau's pet project of winning a Security Council seat. Following the lead of Beijing, Tehran, and Damascus is proof that Canada does not deserve that seat, whatever the Council vote math might say.
Saturday, November 24, 2018
WWE Power Rankings
Worst performance of the week: Drake Maverick (Raw and 205 Live), the manager of Raw Tag Team Champs Authors of Pain, wet himself during The Survivor Series when he was The Big Show face-to-face on the ring apron. It was a dumb gimmick that should not have had any bearing on the match. But it did because it distracted The Bar, seasoned veterans and Smackdown tag champs, who were amused by the (scripted) accident. That was silly, not comical. The distraction gave Rezar and Akam a momentary advantage, who used the distraction to gain the cheap victory. But WWE made it worse during Raw by having a bunch of down-card wrestlers and extras laugh at Maverick during the backstage buffet. The jokes were lame, the laughter unnecessary and puerile. It added nothing for anyone older than eight.
Honourable mention: Brock Lesnar (Raw) had a great match against Daniel Bryan at Survivor Series, but he was the odds-on favourite to win, and he did; Mark Andrews (NXT UK) got tremendous height for his Shooting Star Press against Wild Boar; Randy Orton (Smackdown) beat Rey Mysterio in the main event on Smackdown, the first match between these two legends in more than a dozen years, and the quality contest included the Viper taking the masked man down with an RKO as Mysterio was about to hit Orton with a baseball slide; Pete Dunn, Ricochet, and War Raiders (NXT) who all did Pete Dunn, Ricochet, and War Raiders-like stuff on steroids in the titular match at War Games against Undisputed Era, even if some of it was a tad too spotty for my liking; Lars Sullivan (NXT) was announced to be joining either Raw or Smackdown sometime soon during a promo video at both PPVs.
13. Daniel Bryan (Smackdown): Daniel Bryan held his own against Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series. It took a crotch shot for him to get back into the match that Lesnar was dominating, but despite being completely outclassed for the majority of the contest, Bryan made it seem close. Too bad he followed up that performance with a cruddy promo Tuesday night in which he claimed he won because he had Lesnar beat the weakness out of him. At least the Yes! Movement appears dead. (Last week: 2nd)
12. Rhea Ripley (NXT UK): We know who wins the NXT UK Women's Title because the taping of NXT UK was done in the summer and the winner was acknowledged at last month's all-women's PPV, Evolution. But Rhea Ripley had two good matches this week over a pair of episodes, to earn the right to compete for the title in this Wednesday's episode of NXT UK. In the first she was not really challenged, but the 22-year-old Ripley was physical and nasty in defeating Xia Brookside in the second round of the UK Women's Title tournament. In the second match, she beat Dakota Kai, who was a more challenging opponent. Ripley's attitude is a lot like Shayna Baszler in NXT. It's fun seeing these women wrestle with a bit of a chip on their shoulder. (Last week: not rated)
11. Ronda Rousey (Raw): Took a beating at Survivor Series and some fans showed their disapproval of the MMA-crossover phenom by cheering Charlotte Flair's savage attack on her, calling on the Queen to hit her with the chair "One. More. Time." But she came out the next night, bruised and welted and said she's going to be a fighting champion. She put out an open challenge and beat Mickie James. Good showing the world that she's the "baddest bitch on the planet." She also vowed that the rivalry with Flair is not over, setting up an epic battle sometime in the future. (Last week: 13th)
10. Johnny Gargano (NXT): Johnny Gargano lost to Aleister Black in a terrific match that told a beautiful story of mercy -- both giving and receiving. The Gargano-Black feud is over, but the strong contest, dominated by both wrestlers' kicking game, helps propel each of these NXT stars. The story in this match may even contribute to the resumption of the Gargano-Tommasso Ciampa feud considering how Johnny Wrestling is battling inner demons to not become what Ciampa is. There is a case to be made that the three best WWE matches of 2018 all involved Gargano (versus Ciampa at Takoever in April and August, and against Black). Gargano is set for great things, whether in NXT or in his eventual WWE call-up. (Last week: not rated)
9. Tommaso Ciampa (NXT): Tommaso Ciampa retained his world title in an unexpectedly phenomenal match against Velveteen Dream at NXT Takeover: Wargames. Ciampa is a great character and a tremendous wrestler. Aleister Black's victory over Johnny Gargano means the path is clear for Black to get his rematch against Ciampa. But the Gargano story may not be complete which means there could be another Gargano-Ciampa match to be had. (Last week: not rated)
8. Seth Rollins (Raw): Beat Shinsuke Nakamura at Survivor Series in a good match and then took part in a continuing promo throughout Raw trying to find Dean Ambrose. When he finally got his hands on his former partner in the ring to close the show, Ambrose beat the snot out of Rollins. Looks strong after beating the Smackdown US Title holder and then got some more heat on his feud with Ambrose. (Last week: not rated)
7. Velveteen Dream (NXT): The Dream lost his NXT World title bout against Tommaso Ciampa, but he made it closer than anyone expected and came out stronger for it. Velveteen Dream is a superstar with a great character and, as we saw at NXT Takeover: War Games, some super wrestling skills. That gets lost behind the strong character work, but wasn't in the ring (and, for much of the fight, outside the ring) at War Games. (Last week: not rated)
6. Buddy Murphy (205 Live): Beat Mustafa Ali to defend his 205 Cruiserweight title in a very good match. Second WWE PPV Murphy has been part of in a row. (Last week: not rated)
5. Shayna Baszler (NXT): Beat Kairi Sane two of out three falls to defend her NXT Women's Title. It was probably the worst match of NXT Takeover: War Games and you'd still give it an A. The back-and-forth with Baszler getting Sane to tap for the first fall and Sane delivering her signature move, an In-sane elbow, for the second. Baszler was assisted by Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir, which led Dakota Kai and Io Shirai to help Sane. In some ways, this seemed like a passing of the torch to the next generation of NXT women's wrestlers as the Pirate Princess and the Queen of Spades has done everything they needed to at the developmental level. Baszler beat Sane for the third fall by rolling Sane for a pin in a singular motion after the Pirate Princess came down with another In-sane elbow. Great stuff for both of these women wrestlers but Baszler kept the title and showed the promise of being a major player in the women's division in either Raw or Smackdown. Whenever that happens, Baszler demonstrated she's ready now. (Last week: not rated)
4. Drew McIntyre (Raw): The Scottish Psychopath was part of the winning team at Survivor Series (with a strong three members remaining at the end of the contest) and was part of the nearly one hour opening that included a six-man elimination match between McIntyre, Baron Corbin, and Bobby Lashley against Finn Balor, Elias and Braun Strowman. It ended up a no-contest and McIntyre was disqualified for hitting the Monster Among Men with a chair. The beating the three heels gave to Strowman once he was the last man standing for the faces continues or rekindles several feuds and let fans know that the Strowman-McIntyre dust-up during The Shield drama isn't being forgotten. At no point has McIntyre looked weak in recent weeks, even when getting disqualified. The great thing about McIntyre is that while he is a great heel, he doesn't display many classic heel qualities like cowardice and being weaselly -- he is willing to confront the Monster Among Men directly, instead of opting for lesser opponents in the six-man tag match. He is a boldly strong WWE villain, and that's refreshing. (Last week: 4th)
3. Aleister Black (NXT): Great match (see Johnny Gargano), with Black's kicks and resilience just simply being better than Johnny Wrestling's. Black is now next in line for a world title match against Tommaso Ciampa. (Last week: not rated)
2. Braun Strowman (Raw): Braun Strowman was on the winning (dominating) Raw Survivor Series five-on-five team. That earned him the right to face Baron Corbin with any condition he wants and a shot against Universal champion Brock Lesnar. On Monday, commissioner Stephanie McMahon said the terms have changed: if Strowman beats Corbin at TLC next month, then he gets to face Lesnar at Royal Rumble for the title. Strowman accepted the new condition. He was then part of a six-man tag team elimination match which was ruled no-contest, and was beaten by three heels with chairs, a belt, and the stairs to the ring. Strowman has an elbow injury that needs to be taken care of before TLC, and they wrote that into the storyline in a way that adds heat to his feud with Corbin. (Last week: 8th)
1. Charlotte Flair (Smackdown): Something snapped at Survivor Series and Charlotte Flair beat Ronda Rousey with two kendo sticks and a chair; she also assaulted several referees who got in her way as she tried to pummel Rousey some more. Rousey was left bruised and bleeding. The fans loved it. We don't know why Flair became a needlessly sadistic attacker on the cross-brand contest, but it gives a reason for the booking of the dream match between these two at Wrestlemania. On Tuesday, Flair wrestled both members of Iiconics -- beating Billie Kay in a pinfall before beating Peyton Royce by DQ. It seemed unnecessary and it was probably intended for Becky Lynch, but it was Flair who was standing on the announcers' table, arms held high after the match. Not sure what Creative does with the Flair-Lynch conflict and the reasons for the heel-turn might not make sense, but Flair is once again an interesting character for Smackdown. (Last week: honourable mention)
Quote of the day
Stephen Taylor on Twitter:
The greatest trick the Liberals ever pulled was to convince Canada that their partisanship didn't exist.
Wednesday, November 21, 2018
Forest. Trees. Canadian foreign and defense policy.
Headline in The Hill Times: "Canada working to close the gender gap for women in peace operations." The article is by Liberal MP and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Defense Serge Cormier. Peace-keeping operations are important and complex. Soldiers put their lives on the line in foreign lands to protect vulnerable people. The fact that an equal number of men and women -- or a more equal number of men and women -- are putting their lives at risk seems the least important thing about peacekeeping. To be fair, the article is about much more than the peacekeeping gender gap. It's about a long series of Liberal foreign/defense policy announcements.
The article is representative of the problem with the federal Liberals, especially on defense and foreign policy: the touting of a laundry list of announcements and commitments, without having anything to show for those promises. Below is an example of the Liberal habit of confusing announcements with actually doing things:
Canada recently announced that the Canadian Armed Forces will work with Ghana to get more women into military roles. The RCMP will also work with Zambia to encourage more women in police roles. These partnerships will allow our three nations to work meaningfully together to advance gender equality in peace operations. Our government is committed to ensuring that all children are safe from harm and have every opportunity to grow and learn.Another important initiative that came out of the UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial was the launch of the Vancouver Principles on Peacekeeping and the Prevention of the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers. The Vancouver Principles were developed in partnership with the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative and represent member states’ firm commitment to work together to enhance the training, planning, and conduct of their own forces as they relate to the recruitment and use of child soldiers. To date, 68 member states have endorsed these Vancouver Principles and the number continues to grow.
"Announced." "Will also work." "Encourage." "Partnerships." "To work meaningfully." "To advance." "Is committed." "Ensuring." "Important initiative." "The launch." "In partnership with." "Firm commitment." "To work together." "Have endorsed." These are meaningless if not backed with specific action. Too often they are not.
Trumpeting a laundry list of announcements when they are not backed by meaningful actions is like giving oneself a participation award. The Trudeau Liberals are very good at this.
Monday, November 19, 2018
We can't get to 100% renewable energy any time soon. And by soon, we mean decades.
Writing in the New York Post, Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the producer of a forthcoming documentary on electricity, explains the problem with the goal of getting to 100% renewable energy: it's not remotely realistic. Bryce explains:
But the hard facts show that renewables simply cannot provide the massive quantities of energy the world demands.The fundamental problem is scale. Renewables aren’t growing fast enough to even match the torrid growth in global electricity demand, much less displace significant quantities of hydrocarbons.Let’s do the math. In 2017, according to the latest data from BP, global electricity production grew by about 522 terawatt-hours. That one-year jump is roughly equal to the historical average.Between 1997 and 2017, global electricity output climbed an average 571 terawatt-hours per year. Put another way, for the last two decades, the world has been adding one Brazil’s worth of electric consumption (the country used 590 terawatt-hours of juice in 2017) to its total every year.What would it take to keep up with the growth in global electricity demand by using solar energy? We can answer that by looking at Germany, which has more installed solar-energy capacity than any other country in Europe — about 42,000 megawatts.In 2017, Germany’s solar projects produced 40 terawatt-hours of electricity. Thus, merely keeping pace with growth in electric demand would require installing 14 times as much photovoltaic capacity as Germany’s entire installed base, and it would have to do so every year.Prefer to use wind? OK. Let’s look at China, which has far more wind capacity than any other country: about 164,000 megawatts.To put that in perspective, by itself, China accounts for about 32 percent of global wind capacity. It also has about twice as much wind capacity as the United States.In 2017, China’s wind sector produced 286 terawatt-hours of electricity. Recall that global electric use is swelling by about 571 terawatt-hours each year.Thus, just to keep pace with growth in demand, the world would have to install twice as much wind-energy capacity as now exists in all of China, and it would have to do so annually.And keep in mind that electricity use represents only one facet of ever-growing global energy demand. Oil consumption is also surging.
Friday, November 16, 2018
WWE Power Ranking
Worst performance: Raw tag team division. Outside the Raw Tag Team Champions Authors of Pain and the team of Drew McIntyre and Dolph Ziggler, the red brand's tag division sucks. The battle royale amongst the five tag teams that will take part in the Survivor Series featured teams that no one could care about and have either achieved nothing (Ascension, Gable & Roode), underachieved (The Revival), or are roster filler (Lucha House Party, because Raw needs five tag teams at Survivor, and former fluke Tag Team Champions, the B-Team). It is truly sad that champs from earlier this year -- Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas, the B-Team -- are completely irrelevant to the brand's tag division. As if to underline the fact these are nobodies, Braun Strowman interrupted the first of the two battle royales and leveled every single competitor. When one guy, no matter how big, can take out 11 competitors (Lucha House Party inexplicably was allowed to enter three members into the tag battle royale), it illustrates how terrible the lot of them are.
Honourable mention: Bobby Lashley (Raw) beat Elias in order to join the Raw Survivor Series team; NXT UK -- the entire promotion -- had a good week over two shows by responding to the challenge by Mustache Mountain to develop some tag teams and the announcement of the NXT Women's Title (which occurred months ago and was referenced to in the Women's Evolution PPV last month, but they are catching up on TV); Hanson (NXT) lost against Kyle O'Reilly in the Takeover go-home show for NXT, but he showed fans moves that people his size should not humanly be able to make; Charlotte Flair (Smackdown) was picked by Becky Lynch to be her replacement at Survivor Series to face Ronda Rousey.
13. Ronda Rousey (Raw). Her first promo, in the ring, was forced and unconvincing, and the crowd turned against her and for Smackdown heel Becky Lynch ahead of Survivor Series. But in a backstage interview, Rousey has a tremendous critique of Lynch for being hyper-senstive, avocado-eating millennial. Opinion was divided in our house, but I think it worked enough to generate some heat for the match that WWE had hoped would headline the Survivor Series. More about that shortly. (Last week: not rated)
12. Wolfgang (NXT UK): There were two NXT UK shows this week, and Wolfgang asserted his dominance in the brand by beating Ashton Smith in one show and joining the Coffey Brothers to beat up Mustache Mountain in the other. Wolfgang is one of the two pre-eminent heels in NXT UK. He looks strong (physically and booking-wise) and is the leader of the most interesting faction on the brand right now. (Last week: not rated)
11. Finn Balor (Raw): Finn Balor interrupted Drew McIntyre's promo and ended up fighting Dolph Ziggler, whom he beat. It was a good match, but more importantly, it gave Balor a quality victory and set up a potential storyline with either McIntyre or Ziggler. The WWE has under-utilized Balor throughout most of 2018. This is a step in the right direction for this character. (Last week: not rated)
10. Kyle O'Reilly (NXT): One half of the NXT Tag Team Champions faced Hanson from War Machine in a contest to win an unrevealed advantage for their respective team at NXT Takeover: War Games. The veteran Kyle O'Reilly is an under-appreciated wrestling talent who would be a big star if he any charisma or could promo even a little. He used in-ring craftiness (falling to the mat) to negative Hanson's size and strength advantage. The Undisputed Era and Ricochet, Pete Dunn and Rowe clashed outside the ring to allow O'Reilly to hit Hanson with the belt while the referee wasn't looking -- why he was paying attention to the fighting outside the ring rather than inside is dubious -- and O'Reilly scored the tainted victory. It was a fun match that added heat to this weekend's War Games contest. (Last week: not rated)
9. Zach Gibson (NXT UK): Zach Gibson is the #1 heel in NXT UK and this week he fought against Trent Seven in what has been probably the most even contest between two quality grapplers in the young promotion. Gibson has a signature win on his way to (presumably) an eventual NXT UK title match with Pete Dunn. (Last week: not rated)
8. Braun Strowman (Raw): Braun Strowman came out during the opening promo looking for Raw acting general manager Baron Corbin. It began with Strowman taking on every individual from the five tag teams that will represent Raw in the Survivor Series tag elimination match, and doing so handily. Strowman chucking one Lucha into another was one of the highlights of the week. Raw commissioner Stephanie McMahon came out and told him he had to be a good team player ahead of Survivor Series next Sunday, the Monster Among Men demanded some conditions: a universal title match against Brock Lesnar and a match against Corbin with whatever stipulations he wants. McMahon agreed as long as Strowman does not touch Corbin until after Survivor Series. This sets up several, simultaneous storylines, including possibly Stephanie McMahon's breaking her deal with Strowman. (Last week: not rated)
7. Cedric Alexander (205 Live): The former Cruiserweight champ ended his losing streak and delivered Lio Rush's first defeat on 205 Live in a phenomenal, closely fought contest with a lot of exciting moves. Alexander's Lumbar Check on Rush was intense and well-executed. (Last week: Not rated)
6. Rey Mysterio (Smackdown): The Miz didn't want Rey Mysterio as part of the blue brand's Survivor Series side but Paige wouldn't let the captain kick him off the team, so instead The Miz would get his way if he beat Mysterio. He didn't. It was a good contest, different enough from their match a few weeks ago to warrant another round on TV so soon. Mysterio will be part of Survivor Series. And after the match concluded, Mysterio dodged an RKO out of nowhere, in what is almost certainly a precursor to a Randy Orton-Rey Mysterio feud. (Last week: honourable mention)
5. Elias (Raw): This week Elias wrestled Bobby Lashley for the last spot in the men's Survivor Series. Before the contest, Elias pretended to call children's protective services because he feared for Lio Rush's safety. It was pretty amusing. Elias held his own in a physical contest against Lashley which is impressive and lost on a count-out because Rush emerged from underneath the ring to hold Elias' feet. This protects Elias while keeping him out of -- and getting Lashley into -- the Survivor Series. (Last week: 1st)
4. Drew McIntyre (Raw): Drew McIntyre had a terrific and long promo in which he recalled his brutality last week against Kurt Angle and declared that he was taking over the WWE and there would be "no more nostalgia acts." Fantastic. When Finn Balor came out to defend Angle's honor and challenged McIntyre to a match, the Scottish Psychopath threw Dolph Ziggler under the bus saying that if the Extraordinary Man who Can Do Extraordinary Things could beat his partner, he could earn the right to face him. Ziggler didn't like this, so the WWE is once again teasing dissension within this tag team. McIntyre clearly thinks he is better than Ziggler, and this week sort of proved it. Also, McIntyre delivered a Scottish Kiss (headbutt) that was believable and devastating. (Last week: 9th)
3. Dean Ambrose (Raw): The Lunatic appeared via video from outside the stadium, sitting on the hood of his car beside a garbage can fire, to answer Seth Rollins' question: why did he betray The Shield? He teased various answers, suggested neither the fans nor Rollins deserved answers, and then provided it: he is weaker with The Shield. He then threw his Shield gear into the fire. It was a deeply satisfying -- in part because of the delay over weeks -- explanation of Ambrose's actions. Rollins left the ring visibly angry. This feud is ready to go. (Last week: 4th)
2. Daniel Bryan (Smackdown): Paul Heyman interrupted the opening A.J. Styles promo and insisted that while the Smackdown World Champ is very good, he's not Daniel Bryan good. The WWE universe wants Bryan-Brock Lesnar, not another Styles-Lesnar match, Heyman claimed. Bryan emerged, angry that Styles was saying his name. That was odd. There was a lot of talk, Bryan smashed Styles in the face, and before you know it, the powers that be sanctioned a World Title contest for later that night, just six days before Survivor Series. The main event contest was nearly 30 minutes of incredible action and the final three minutes were ... phenomenal. A.J. hit the referee with a Phenomenal Forearm. Bryan took advantage of the ref being down to kick Styles below the belt. Bryan pinned the champ. In case anyone thought it was an accident, after Bryan savoured his title victory and began to look crazed, he brutally beat Styles by repeatedly kicking him in the face. This was an entirely unpredictable heel-turn. If you said you saw this coming, you're lying. Excellent storytelling. Great match. New narratives. I'm disappointed to see Styles lose the belt, but this should shakeup the blue brand. Any other week, Daniel Bryan would be #1. (Last week: not rated)
1. Becky Lynch (Smackdown): Scripting for Becky Lynch was incredible this week. An accident made it better and, at the same time, risked derailing her momentum. But even a concussion and busted face can't prevent Lynch from being the best thing happening in the WWE today. The probable main event for Survivor Series was a battle between the women's champions, Raw's Ronda Rousey and Smackdown's Becky Lynch. This battle has been given a fair bit of heat in recent weeks, and it was amped up way past eleven on Monday. Lynch attacked Rousey on Monday in the dressing room and put her in a Dis-Arm-er as a prelude to their respective promises to rip the other's arm off. Then she went ringside to lead a Smackdown invasion against Raw's women's division. It is always odd to see one brand's faces and heels work together to attack another brand's faces and heels. But Lynch was the leader of this attack and there is nothing out-of-character with The Irish Lass Kicker ready to take on the entire world. During the brawl, she took a (real) Nix Jax punch to the face that caused a nose bleed and cut near her left eye. That didn't stop her. Rousey came out and leveled a few Smackdown women until Lynch stopped her with a chair. Lynch hit Rousey several times before circling her victim. The crowd cheered "one more time" and Lynch obliged. The Smackdown women left through the audience and there was an extended shot of Lynch looking down on the carnage in the ring with satisfaction, bloodied herself from the battle. It set up an incredible, believable, meaningful feud between two wrestlers from the different brands. It probably set in motion an all-women's main event for Wrestlemania between Rousey and Charlotte Flair with rumours that the Survivor Series contest would result in Horsewomen v. Horsewomen standoff between Lynch, Flair, Sasha Banks, and Bailey against former UFC competitors Rhonda Rousey, Shayna Baszler, Marina Shafir, and Jessamyn Duke. But the Rousey-Lynch feud need not take second fiddle to the presumptive writers' favourite narrative of Rousey v. Flair; indeed, this week showed that Rousey v. Lynch might be even better. The fans want to see Lynch succeed, even against Rousey. But we'll have to wait. We found out Tuesday that Jax seriously injured Lynch, who has a concussion and either a broken nose or broken bones in her face (for real). Charlotte Flair will replace Lynch at Survivor Series, expediting a return to friendship between the two former Horsewomen. It has been clear for some time that Lynch is the star of the WWE right now. Announcing that she wasn't cleared by medical to fight on Sunday, Lynch bragged she could still beat Rousey. We will have to wait for that battle. We don't know if Lynch's injuries may necessitate a longer break and perhaps even her belt being vacated. What we do know is that Lynch is a bankable star and that she had a phenomenal week even though she didn't have a sanctioned match and was removed from the forthcoming pay-per-view. (Last week: 3rd)
Thursday, November 15, 2018
2020 watch (Bob Casey Jr edition)
Based on a number of recent interviews (Politico, NBC News), the Washington Examiner reports that Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey Jr. might run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. Casey's answers are far from stating any real interest; all he's really doing is observing the conventional wisdom that there will be a large field and "we'll have to see what happens" or "I want to be open to all possibilities." That is not much upon which to base this kind of speculation. Casey has no constituency within the party and the idea that Pennsylvania is electorally important just doesn't carry any weight.
My Brexit politics thoughts
Are on Twitter with a long thread.
Wednesday, November 14, 2018
I don't have time to read or write everything I want about Theresa May's Brexit deal. The Prime Minister will speak outside 10 Downing any minute now. Her comments to reporters follow a five-hour cabinet meeting. As Lib Dem leader Vince Cable tweeted, "If Theresa May is still struggling to get this deal past her own cabinet in No. 10, how will it win support in Parliament or the country?" Jacob Rees-Mogg is leading Tory and DUP opposition to May's Brexit. That should be enough to kill May's deal with the EU.
Two columns about the deal, made public earlier today.
Cap X's Andrew Lilico says no deal is better than this deal:
Was this what Conservative MPs entered politics for? So they could gift Northern Ireland to the indefinite jurisdiction of a foreign power and have the rest of the United Kingdom’s social, environmental, economic, competition and state aid laws made for it in another land with our having no influence over the key laws that govern our everyday lives, until that power graciously decided it didn’t fancy doing so any more? When they are old and their great grandchildren ask: “So, when you were an MP, what was the most important thing you did?” do they want to say: “I voted to break up my country and make the remains subject to laws set by others”?
The Daily Telegraph's Tom Harris says "Mrs May's deal is as good as it gets." Harris supported Leave and is unhappy that Brussels will have as much control of British policy as May has conceded. He also thinks that some of the open-ended agreements means that people will be able to read "if" or "when" greater independence from the EU will be achieved, depending on their preferences. Harris writes:
When we’re very young, we’re told fairy tales and encouraged to believe that everything works out in the end, that living happily ever after is only what we should expect. And then we grow up and we learn that sometimes – most of the time, in fact – we have to settle for the least bad option, that we have to compromise with people with whom we do not agree. It’s annoying but it is also a fact of life.And since when was politics exempt from grown-up rules? I would prefer a withdrawal agreement that gave us full control of our laws, as well as full control of our seas and our borders. I would prefer an immediate right to forge trade deals with other countries. I also want to be 30 pound slighter than I am, but we can’t always get what we want. That isn’t an admission of failure, it’s an acceptance of reality.
Negotiating Brexit was never going to be easy. But Theresa May, who never faced a vote of her caucus or the Tory membership before becoming leader, made it more difficult that it needed to be. Her calculations were always based on domestic political survival rather than negotiating the best deal with Brussels. Now we'll see if she can survive the political fallout of the deal she was cornered into signing because she was committed to any deal despite her 2016 rhetoric that no deal was better than a bad deal.
The policy question for MPs (as opposed to the political calculus for opposition and Conservative MPs) is whether this deal is worse than no deal. I'd vote against May's deal if I were an MP. If the government falls, it falls. This deal is bad enough to risk a Jeremy Corbyn government. The reason is best described by Anne McElvoy in The Evening Standard:
[T]he quest to “take back control” is now rapidly sliding into vanishingly little control of anything outside of EU immigration and a few matters of which flag flies where. Most of the other decisive stuff will be rubber-stamped by the body we are trying to leave.
Is Corbyn really worse than the eurocrats? Are a few years of Corbynite socialism really worse than continued surrender of sovereignty?
Tuesday, November 13, 2018
'I'm from the government and I'm here to help'
The Kansas City affiliate of Fox reports:
The Kansas City Health Department threw away and poured bleach on food meant for homeless people.The food was going to be distributed by a group called Free Hot Soup KC. The Kansas City Star said that the food, which included home-cooked chili, foil wrapped sandwiches and vats of soup, was destroyed on Sunday, Nov. 5, during a coordinated sting at several parks where volunteers had gathered.The Health Department said the group did not have a permit and was putting people at risk."E. coli or salmonella or listeria can grow in the food," department director Rex Archer said. "And then you give that to homeless people who are more vulnerable, they will end up in the ER and even die from that exposure."The mayor also agreed with the Health Department, tweeting that "Rules are there to protect the public's health, and all groups must follow them, no exceptions."
Yes, improperly stored food can cause food poisoning -- there are about 70,000 E. coli 0157 cases a year in the United States. It is not clear how many are caused by soup kitchens and other charities helping the homeless or otherwise indigent. But the alarmist worries about death are a little much. E. coli causes about 60 deaths a year in the United States, and even if the homeless are at greater risk, the possibility of poisoning should be weighed against the benefits of providing a meal to those who need it. There is never any indication that a cost-benefit analysis of potential risks measured against the very real benefits are ever considered. Instead, we get city officials raising hypothetical cost-cost alarm bells while destroying what might well be perfectly good food.
2020 watch (HRC edition)
The (London) Times reports that Clinton family pollster and confidant Mark Penn says Hillary is in for 2020:
Mrs Clinton, 71, will “take down rising Democratic stars like bowling pins” in the race for 2020, said Mark Penn, who worked closely with her when she lost to Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination in 2008.There was a widespread expectation that Mrs Clinton would win the 2016 election and two years after her defeat to Mr Trump she is preparing to embark on a six-month speaking tour with her husband Bill. She has given mixed signals about a return, both ruling it out and musing on how she would like to be president.“She will not allow this humiliating loss at the hands of an amateur to end the story of her career. You can expect her to run for president once again,” Mr Penn wrote in a joint article in the Wall Street Journal with Andrew Stein, 73, a Democratic politician and former New York City Council president.
Yet polls still do not include Hillary Rodham Clinton among their potential 2020 Democratic contenders. Respondents to the Politico/Morning Consult survey find Dems prefer other septuagenarians, Joe Biden (26%) and Bernie Sanders (19%), who top the list, followed by Beto O'Rourke (8%) and Elizabeth Warren (5%), who will be 71 on Election Day 2020. But HRC's name does not appear among the options.
Saturday, November 10, 2018
John Cochrane on carbon taxes
Hoover Institute economist John Cochrane looks at possible ways to "sell" a carbon tax to voters. Here is one intriguing possibility: give citizens themselves carbon emissions which they can in turn sell:
Rather than a tax, give each American a right to, say x tons of carbon emissions that they can sell on a carbon market. That also gives everyone an incentive to vote for the system. And it states the issue squarely. You, a voter, are having your air polluted. You have a right to collect on that damage. It makes it clear that carbon is a fee, a penalty, not a "tax." The point is to disincentivize the use of carbon, not to raise revenue for the government to spend. "Tax" is a loaded word in American culture and politics. Carbon rights takes the whole discussion away from "tax."
A key point being lost amongst pro-carbon tax politicians, especially in Canada but also in other jurisdictions: if the carbon tax is being sold as a market mechanism used to incentive lowering emissions, the trade-off really needs to include a reduction in environmental regulations:
[P]air the carbon tax and fee with a trade: A hefty fee, in return for elimination of all the other carbon subsidies and regulations. To those who don't believe in climate change: ok, but our government is going to do all sorts of crazy stuff. Let's cut out the rot and just pay a simple fee instead. No more electric car subsidies -- $15 k from taxpayers to each Tesla owner in Palo Alto -- HOV lanes, windmill subsidies, rooftop solar mandates, washing machines that don't wash clothes anymore (hint: do NOT buy any washing machine built since Jan 1 2018), and so on and so forth.
As Cochrane says, voters in Washington state said no to a carbon tax that was designed to pay for further green initiatives. Voters quite correctly are skeptical of government-financed boondoggles (and crony capitalism) that seem to go hand-in-hand with many environmental programs. Economists who favour a "price" mechanism to lower carbon emissions view carbon taxes as an efficient alternative to regulations and subsidies. Whatever debate there is about the science of climate change, the debate over policy has been plagued by dishonesty and intellectual error.
In theory, I for one would trade a modest carbon tax (even though I think them unnecessary) in exchange for scrapping all environmental regulation tied to climate change, including the elimination of HOV lanes; the costs of regulations are still borne by citizens and the system can be gamed by clever consumers or companies that can afford lobbyists. My opposition to carbon taxes is based on the practical reality of how politicians work: the rates will go up or will not reflect the cost of "climate change," regulations will stick around or return, and in the case of "revenue-neutral" carbon taxes, that regime only lasts as long as politicians want it to.
WWE Power Rankings
Worst performance of the week: The Raw bookers. I understand that there a slew of injuries that the WWE is currently dealing with, but three consecutive weeks of a pointless Finn Balor-Bobby Lashley non-feud is brutal. Combined with back-to-back weeks of Ember Moon-Nia Jax on the heels of several weeks of Moon-Jax variations and yet another iteration of Riott squad vs. Bailey, Sasha Banks and Natalya that did not even conclude (suggesting more of these matches) is incredibly trying for viewers. Most wrestling pundits thought this week's Raw was boring. I almost couldn't watch the show. Yeah, there are injuries, but it seems that the writing team is so focused on the Seth Rollins-Dean Ambrose narrative, that they can't dream up any other storylines.
Honourable mention: Rey Mysterio (Smackdown) won his first round World Cup match at Crown Jewel and beat Andrade "Cien" Almas in an excellent match on Tuesday, as he continues to impress and earn a spot for the blue brand's Survivor Series match with Raw; Samoa Joe (Smackdown) beat Jeff Hardy to earn a spot on the Survivor Series Smackdown team before attacking Daniel Bryan who, as co-captain of the brand's five-man team, was ringside for the contest; Heavy Machinery (NXT) beat The Forgotten Sons in a fast-paced, quality match between two teams on the edge of seriously competing for the NXT Tag Team Titles; Lince Dorado (205 Live) teamed with Kalisto to beat TJP and Mike Kanellis is a funnish contest to kickoff the cruiserweight show, but the highlight was the Lucha star pulling out a new mask after TJP again de-masked him in the ring; Eddie Dennis (NXT UK) defeated the promotion's jobber Sid Scala to introduce this new talent to the WWE Universe -- looks like an interesting character who is wiry but mean; Pete Dunne (NXT UK) defeated Danny Burch in a perfectly serviceable NXT UK Championship defense; Mandy Rose (Smackdown) came out to point out why each of four women who appeared on the Tuesday show who will represent the blue brand at Survivor Series does not belong on the team and that as someone who beat her tag team partner Sonya Deville in the Battle Royale at Evolution, setting up (or at least teasing) a potential breakup; Daniel Bryan (Smackdown) did some good work the blue brand's Survivor Series team ready with co-captain The Miz, much of comic and goofy, but WWE is supposed to be fun and this week's Smackdown was downright entertaining in now small part because of The Miz and Bryan.
13. Brock Lesnar (Raw): If you win a title, you should probably automatically be in the power rankings. The Beast returned to the WWE to recapture the Universal title. He F5ed Braun Strowman five times to get the quick pin against the Monster Among Men who never got any offense in against Lesnar because acting Raw general manager Baron Corbin attacked Strowman with the belt before the bell rang. Strowman never recovered. Lesnar didn't win clean which is why he's so low on this list. Also, it means the WWE Universe will hardly get to see the champ on TV and the title won't even get defended at all pay-per-views. (Last week: not rated)
12. Jinny Couture (NXT UK): NXT UK had two shows again this week. In one, a brief video introduced fans to Jinny Couture and she looked like a potentially interesting character. In the second show, Couture attacked Dakota Kai and then informed the audience and Toni Storm that "this is my NXT UK." The sneak attack demonstrated that the fashionista is more than a diva. NXT UK's division is looking potentially quite good and Couture could be a star on the brand. (Last week: not rated)
10. (tie) Authors of Pain (Raw): Akam and Rezar beat Seth Rollins for the Raw Tag Team Championship. It's always good to win the titles, but beating a single wrestler -- Rollins' partner Dean Ambrose did not join him in defending the belts -- made them look weaker than they should have considering how dominant they have been over the past month or so. I understand that the story in this match is more about Seth than Akam and Rezar, but AOP was a casualty of the Rollins-Ambrose feud. I expect them to be Raw's top tag team for a while so its good to get the titles on this dominating tag team even if the way the WWE did it wasn't great. It would have been better to have them beat Rollins a little more easily. (Last week: not rated)
9. Drew McIntyre (Raw): Drew McIntyre beat Kurt Angle in the main event of the Monday show. Perhaps there is nothing special in that, but he won by employing two Angle finishers -- the Angle slam and ankle lock -- to defeat the Hall of Famer in his return. (Last week: not rated)
8. Dolph Ziggler (Raw): Dolph Ziggler won two matches in the Crown Jewel World Cup, cleanly against Kurt Angle although he had Drew McIntyre's help against Seth Rollins, but lost in the finals against Smackdown CEO Shane McMahon who didn't wrestle until the final match. On Monday night, Ziggler gave a great promo about how it went down unfairly (which is true, unusual for a heel) before being interrupted by Elias, whom he went on to face in a good match although he lost. Pretty good week for Ziggler and he made Elias look pretty good.(Last week: not rated)
7. Nikki Cross (NXT): When Smackdown Women's Champ Becky Lynch said she was ready to fight on Tuesday night and issued an open challenge, Sanity's music played and the male trio made their first appearance on the show in months. Then came out their NXT mate, Nikki Cross, who repeatedly asked the champ is she wanted to play. Lynch said she doesn't play, she wrestles. The two had a good match. Cross was a strong challenger against one of the two best female talents on the main brands. That's good for Cross' future in the WWE. Her character is interesting, she's a tough wrestler, and she can go toe-to-toe against the best. This match might mean Cross is coming to the main roster, but it definitely demonstrated she's ready. Here's hoping she's reunited with Sanity because when the men and women interact (without wrestling), sometimes it works; in NXT, this combination worked magic. (Last week: not rated)
6. The Miz (Smackdown): The Miz won two matches at the World Cup at the Crown Jewel but was forced out of the final contest against Dolph Ziggler due to "injury" setting Shane McMahon up for the win in the finals to be declared the Greatest Wrestler in the World. (That whole thing was silly.) Two wins in one show is impressive. On Tuesday night, The Miz was named co-captain of the Smackdown team for Survivor Series, alongside his nemesis Daniel Bryan. This is a great way to continue the feud storyline without having them fight each other in the ring. There is also some comic play here and the gimmick gave fans the chance to see The Miz in non-wrestling action even more than usual; considering promos are his strength both The Miz character and the WWE Universe benefit. (Last week: not rated)
5. Dean Ambrose (Raw): The Lunatic came out this week after Seth Rollins lost the(ir) Tag Team belts to Authors of Pain and met him in the ring. He asked Rollins if he wanted answers, Seth said yes, and Ambrose hit his erstwhile partner with Dirty Deeds. Ambrose leaves the ring, leaving both Rollins and fans in suspense. This is a great way to put heat on this feud without them actually fighting and keeping everyone wondering why he turned against his Shield brother. (Last week: 3rd)
4. Seth Rollins (Raw): At Crown Jewel, Seth Rollins beat Bobby Lashley in the first round of the World Cup and lost to Dolph Ziggler in the second round after Drew McIntyre interfered in the contest. On Monday night, acting general manager Baron Corbin made Rollins defend the World Tag Team championship alone against the Authors of Pain. Rollins lasted almost 10 minutes against a very strong tag team and I had some problem with how it was done. It would be one thing if Rollins held on for 10 minutes, but he did more than survive: he got in a lot offense and a handful of pin opportunities against AOP. That makes the new tag champs look weak. I understand that the point was to make Rollins look strong, but I don't think the WWE writers thought about the totality of the narrative in the ring. That said, Rollins remains near the top of the WWE despite losing the tag belts. (Last week: 4th)
3. Becky Lynch (Smackdown): Great promo saying she doesn't want to beat Ronda Rousey at Survivor Series, she wants to break her arm off. Then she faced NXT women's competitor Nikki Cross and was pushed but was ultimately victorious making them both look strong. Lynch is one of the top two or three absolute stars in WWE and showed why this week. Unlike the Rollins vs. AOP match on Raw, this contest made Lynch look strong but not at the expense of her opponent, who, even in victory, Lynch helped put over. Nice work. (Last week: 2nd)
2. Johnny Gargano (NXT): In a very strong promo, Johnny Wrestling admitted to attacking Aleister Black in August in order to have Tommaso Ciampa all to himself for the NXT Title at Takeover in Brooklyn. Gargano said that Black stood between himself and Ciampa and that he wanted to win the title (and presumably beat up Ciampa) on his own. Gargano said he's the same guy -- suggesting he is still a babyface -- but employing classic heel behaviour in justifying his actions as necessary for the larger good. If you remember the story that Gargano-Ciampa told in the ring at Takeover, this promo is even better, part of Gargano becoming just like the ruthless Ciampa -- becoming the person he hates. It's basically a Greek tragedy. Admitting he is not afraid of the dark was a nice touch, teasing a full heel-turn. (Last week: not rated)
1. Elias (Raw): Let's be honest: having a wrastler come out and sing and play the guitar weekly is silly. Or it should be. But Elias is a great character. The fans in Manchester were totally into the gimmick and the interaction between him and the WWE Universe as he strummed Seven Nation Army was marvelous. A great Elias promo puts him in the middle of the Power Ranking or higher, but this week he faced Dolph Ziggler, who just three days earlier, was in the final at the Crown Jewel World Cup. I'm not sure if the two lacked chemistry or the misses were part of the story, but it worked. More importantly, Elias, who usually only wrestlers briefly, went toe-to-toe with The Showoff for nearly 15 minutes. It was a great week for the fresh babyface. (Last week: not rated)
Friday, November 09, 2018
VDH on WWI
Victor Davis Hanson at American Greatness on November 11, 1918, and its aftermath:
What can we learn from the failed armistice of 1918?Keeping the peace is sometimes even more difficult than winning a war.For an enemy to accept defeat, it must be forced to understand why it lost, suffer the consequences of its aggressions—and only then be shown magnanimity and given help to rebuild.Losers of a war cannot pick and choose when to quit fighting in enemy territory.Had the Allies continued their offensives in the fall of 1918 and invaded Germany, the peace that followed might have more closely resembled the unconditional surrender and agreements that ended WWII, leading to far more than just 20 years of subsequent European calm.Deterrence prevents war.Germany invaded Belgium in 1914 because it was convinced that Britain would not send enough troops to aid its overwhelmed ally, France. Germany also assumed that isolationist America would not intervene.Unfortunately, the Allies of 1939 later repeated the errors of 1914, and the result was WWII.
It was bad enough that a Liberal MP "fixed" the Maclean's cover and it should have been embarrassing for so many Liberals to retweet it. But then Catherine McKenna made it worse.
What the Minister of Environment is describing is more like the "elite consensus" than the resistance. What a silly, silly person she is.
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Good luck fixing health care
I've talked to a lot of Republican voters in recent years (and GOP supporters outside America) who express a fair bit of frustration about the party's inability to come up with a health care fix despite controlling the White House and both houses of Congress in the first half of the Trump presidency. It won't get any easier now that Congress is divided between a Republican Senate and Democratic House of Representatives. But the divide goes beyond partisanship. The (London) Times reports on exit polling done yesterday in the midterms to see what voters want done with Obamacare:
Healthcare was the main reason for Democrat supporters to vote but there is no clear view among Americans about how to improve it. A quarter of voters said that the Affordable Care Act, known as “Obamacare”, should be repealed in full and another quarter said that parts should be scrapped. About a third of voters said that it should be expanded and one in ten wanted it left as it is.
Repeal was never a serious option, but reform is tricky, too, when the populace is seriously divided. Over the past two years, surveys of Republican voters show a wide variety of views on how to proceed on the health file. Putting aside the myriad views of those in Congress, it will be extremely difficult to do anything big on health care when both the political class and voters can't get behind one idea or a set of compatible ideas.
I've had this chat with strangers and acquaintances several times, and it always gets the same reaction
A few hours ago at the Detroit airport a bubbly young woman struck up a conversation with me as we both waited in line to buy coffee. “Where’s your ‘I Voted’ sticker?!” she asked with great enthusiasm as she pointed to the one she sported. “I don’t vote,” I told her. She literally looked as though I confessed to being afflicted with necrophilia.“This makes me so sad. So sad. Why don’t you vote?,” she pressed, with a tone that revealed that she truly felt pity for me. I really wasn’t interested in having such a discussion then and there with this stranger, but she kept asking. So I eventually answered: “I don’t wish to legitimize politics by participating in its formal ceremonies.”“But elections aren’t ceremonies; they matter!!!” Her verbally expressed exclamation points grew in number.I replied that I agree that elections do indeed determine which individuals hold political power. But this fact for me is irrelevant, for two reasons. The first is that even if I did (which I don’t) strongly prefer one group of candidates over another group, because the prospect of my vote swinging an election one way or another is practically zero, I would waste my time if I voted. And my time is valuable. I refuse to waste it on futile activities such as voting.Second and more importantly, I detest politics and all but a tiny handful of politicians. And so by voting in an election I would play along with the dangerous romantic myth that insists that “leaders” who are chosen democratically thereby legitimately gain the right to order me and other peaceful individuals about. Election winners certainly do gain the power to order me and other peaceful individuals about, but I’ll be damned if I believe that they are ethically entitled to do so. I obey their commands for the same reason that I would hand my wallet and car keys to a thug who presses a knife to my throat.I’d gotten into the spirit of the conversation and ended by telling her that, while I do not judge her for feeling elevated and proud of herself for having voted, were I to vote I would feel compromised, unprincipled, grimy, and ashamed of myself.The young woman, of course, wasn’t close to understanding where I was coming from. She was, as you can imagine, horrified.
Voting is for people who are not good at math and who enjoy virtue signaling or having a particular narrative about him- or herself.
And yes, a good part of my professional life is spent encouraging people to become politically engaged and voting for particular candidates. There is a difference between persuading hundreds or thousands of people to do something and doing something oneself. And, anyway, as Boudreaux says, I feel compromised, unprincipled, grimy, and ashamed when I vote. That's the story I like to tell about myself.
Purple wave could be what America needs
Instapundit Glenn Reynolds has a very good column in USA Today that has an amusing observation and two important points.
Observation: The midterm elections were a purple puddle, not a blue wave.
Point #1: The result of the purple puddle could be gridlock or cooperation. Either is a good thing. Gridlock is good because it prevents Big Government from doing more harmful things to people. Cooperation is good because it can lend legitimacy to the good things government should be doing to address serious problems (infrastructure, trade) that might be too difficult for a unified government to do. I am not optimistic that cooperation and compromise is possible in the age of zero-sum politics.
Point #2: There is too much politics and we care too much about it, and we wouldn't if government were smaller and less intrusive.
Tuesday, November 06, 2018
Costly midterms. So what?
J.J. McCullough has an excellent NRO article on the costly midterm elections. McCullough is correct to challenge the notion that merely reporting the campaign costs of an election cycle (about $6 billion for these midterms) represents anything meaningful. Other "facts" do not speak for themselves, either, like the OpenSecrets favourite stat that in about 90% of House races in 2016, the candidate who spent the most money won. These sort of facts ignore context, which McCullough very briefly explores. Contexts can include incumbency or competitiveness. Money raised and spent by safe incumbents, or the 13 candidates that had no opponent, can be superficially perplexing and may undermine the dominant media narrative about buying election wins. In reality, much of his political donating and spending represents something other than the electoral influence of money. They speak to what McCullough describes as politics as an identifiable industry: "it's a showy game that provides careers and livelihoods to a vasty array of people associated with building and sustaining all the razzle-dazzle" of "overproduced entertainment for candidates and voters alike."
Kathleen Murphy, director of communication at the Illinois Opportunity Project, writes at National Review Online about the political machinery of Illinois and the self-serving collusion among government officials (elected and non-elected), business, and unions. It's a longish article worth reading for the details of Illinois politics, but this is a great definition of "business policy" that applies far beyond the Land of Lincoln:
“Business policy” in Illinois refers — almost exclusively — to heavy regulation and the occasional sweetheart deal or tax carve-out for politically powerful corporations. The same deals and carve-outs are unavailable to independent business owners.
Business policy is the outcome of crony capitalism.
Monday, November 05, 2018
It is hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys
Science Daily reported that a new academic paper finds that good guys in superhero movies are more likely to commit violence than are the villains. Science Daily reports:
An abstract of the study, "Violence Depicted in Superhero-Based Films Stratified by Protagonist/Antagonist and Gender," will be presented on Monday, Nov. 5, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. Researchers involved in the study analyzed 10 superhero-based films released in 2015 and 2016. They classified major characters as either protagonist ("good guy") or antagonist ("bad guy") and used a standardized tool to compile specific acts and types of violence portrayed in the films.The researchers tallied an average of 23 acts of violence per hour associated with the films' protagonists, compared with 18 violent acts per hour for the antagonists ..."Children and adolescents see the superheroes as 'good guys,' and may be influenced by their portrayal of risk-taking behaviors and acts of violence," said the abstract's lead author, Robert Olympia, MD, a Professor in the Departments of Emergency Medicine & Pediatrics at Penn State College of Medicine and an Attending Physician at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center/ Penn State Children's Hospital. "Pediatric health care providers should educate families about the violence depicted in this genre of film and the potential dangers that may occur when children attempt to emulate these perceived heroes," he said.The most common act of violence associated with protagonists in the films was fighting (1,021 total acts), followed by the use of a lethal weapon (659), destruction of property (199), murder (168), and bullying/intimidation/torture (144). For antagonists, the most common violent act was the use of a lethal weapon (604 total acts), fighting (599), bullying/intimidation/torture (237), destruction of property (191), and murder (93) were also portrayed.
There are more murders by heroes than by villains (168 compared to murder), which is stunning. If you don't including bullying and intimidation, the violence gap grows even wider.
I'm not wild about the recommendation made by the authors. I'm not sure if it is the job of pediatricians to talk to parents about movie violence and how it is portrayed. I'm pretty sure that children who go to pediatricians (usually under 12 and most of them under 10) shouldn't be watching violent superhero movies.
Friday, November 02, 2018
WWE Power Rankings
Worst performance of the week: Jinder Mahal (Raw): No one was a disaster this week, but there is no shortage of characters who had problematic developments or poor in-ring performances (like Trish Stratus missing her opponent by 6-9 inches on some moves at Evolution or Alicia Fox missing her scripted interruption of Stratus's three count on Mickie James in said match). But the scripting of Mahal has taken a turn not just to the worse, but the inconsistent. A year ago Mahal was the Smackdown champ. This year, he's the supposedly quality heel that faces beat to establish themselves of a certain quality. There is no shame in that. My problem is that two weeks ago he lost to Zach Ryder in the pre-TV event that airs on Main Event. This week he lost to Elias after laying a backstage beating on him. It's hard to be the quality heel that helps put babyfaces over when there is nothing but dismal losses. Yet that alone is not my problem. Over the past few months, the Mahal returned to his 2016 character as the Man of Peace, foregoing the ultra-angry villain to a more serene, meditative heel. Yet on Monday, he viciously attacked Elias backstage for no apparent reason than to create a pretense for a match between the two. The spiritually and mentally balanced Mahal was a more enjoyable character and it was never going to last. But there was no reason for it to end the way it did this week, although I suspect that Mahal will slip back into the Man of Peace persona without explanation. This week's likely relapse was just poor scripting. But that makes little difference to how terribly buried the Jinder Mahal character is in the WWE right now.
Honourable mention: Bobby Lashley (Raw) lost by disqualification to Finn Balor one week after losing to Balor in a roll-up pin, but acting general manager Baron Corbin was impressed by the fact that Lashley put a whopping to Balor and had Lashley replace John Cena in the Crown Jewel PPV in Saudi Arabia this Friday (after Cena dropped out because he can't countenance wrestling in Saudi Arabia); Zach Gibson (NXT UK) won a back-and-forth longish contest with Noam Dar to establish himself as perhaps the preeminent heel in the UK division; War Raiders (NXT) savagely attacked the Undisputed Era and after a few minutes of fighting in the parking lot, they were joined by Pete Dunne and Ricochet, leading NXT general manager William Regal to announce the eight would face off in a War Games match at the Takeover PPV in three weeks (which is no surprise, but finally official); Matt Riddle (NXT) made his WWE developmental debut and was warmly received by the fans.
13. Nia Jax (Raw): The former Raw women's champion won the women's Battle Royale at Evolution and beat Ember Moon, the second last woman in the Battle Royale Sunday night, on Monday's Raw. They also continue to tease a potential Nia Jax v. Tamina feud, as well as a possible heel-turn if Jax betrays her friend Ember Moon. After missing three months with an injury, Nia Jax has quickly reestablished herself as a force in the women's division, although she seems destined to lose to Ronda Rousey again sometime soon. (Last week: not rated)
12. Tony Nese (205 Live): Tony Nese dominated most of his match against an injured Mustafa Ali in what was billed a #1 contender match. Nese has unmatched strength for a cruiserweight and what he does in the ring is terrific and fun to watch. He could hold his own in the red or blue brand. Nese has had a very good month of wrestling. Perhaps 205 Live will stop burying him or he gets the call to the main roster. Lately, he has shown he deserves more of the spotlight. (Last week: not rated)
11. Toni Storm (Mae Young Classic): Toni Storm beat Io Shirai to win the Mae Young Classic, the WWE's women's tournament for wrestlers not already signed with the promotion. It was a quality match, although these two have chemistry from a feud that took place in Japan prior to the tournament. Both are going to be special competitors on NXT over the next year or so. Storm has superstar looks and the talent to match, and I expect her be a serious contender for the NXT UK women's title very soon. This match was quick -- both relatively short and up-tempo, with a lot happening in a short time span as Storm and Shirai traded offense throughout the contest. (Last week: not rated)
10. Randy Orton (Smackdown): The show closed with a tag team match showcasing Smackdown's half of the Crown Jewel World Cup bracket: Jeff Hardy and Rey Mysterio teamed to face The Miz and Randy Orton. The match was fine, but at the end as Hardy and Mysterio celebrated their victory, Orton RKOed Hardy then RKOed Rey Mysterio as he came flying off the top rope. The Viper than RKOed The Miz for good measure. This triple RKO establishes Orton's bona fides when it comes to quickly beating anyone on the roster. He's a threat to win the World Cup later today. (Last week: honourable mention)
9. Mustafa Ali (205 Live): Last week Mustafa Ali had a great match with Hideo Itami on 205 Live, earning him a contest with Tony Nese to determine the number one contender for the cruiserweight champion, Buddy Murphy (Nese's friend and training partner). Ali's ribs were taped following last week's beating and Nese targeted them throughout the match. Nese probably had the upper hand for the majority of the contest and was physically dominant, but Ali scraped back into it. It was not a dominating win -- Ali caught Nese off guard as he was trying to rip the tape of Ali's ribs. But Ali gets a shot against Murphy for the Cruiserweight title sometime soon and he appears ready to take over as primary face from Cedric Alexander on 205 Live. (Last week: 4th)
8. Samoa Joe (Smackdown): With the Daniel Bryan-A.J. Styles contest being moved from Crown Jewel to Smackdown's Tuesday night show, the WWE needed an opponent for Styles. Enter Samoa Joe, who was wrestling-injured a few weeks ago and returned out of nowhere to sneak-attack Styles after the victory. This is a plausible continuation of their feud from the summer and the two have a chemistry so booking a rematch between Samoa Joe and A.J. Styles makes sense. It is unlikely that Samoa Joe picks up the title in Riyadh, but he belongs near the top of the card. (Last week: not rated)
7. Shayna Baszler (NXT): Shayna Baszler became the first to hold the NXT Women's Championship twice after beating Kairi Sane. It wasn't the best match that these two have put on (that would be the Mae Young Classic final in 2017), but showcased two talented women competitors and provided a sneak peak at the brutality that Baszler will bring to the WWE one day. It also gave fans a glimpse of Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir, two former MMA competitors, who interfered in the match and could set up a faction in either NXT or the main roster some day with Baszler (and maybe Ronda Rousey if they are brave enough to turn her heel). The highlight was Baszler standing on the second turnbuckle and picking up the waifish Sane by the arm, showing off not only great strength but the sort of ruthlessness that makes her a fierce and unrelenting competitor. Either Raw or Smackdown will get a big boost in quality when Baszler is brought up to the main roster. (Last week: not rated)
6. Daniel Bryan (Smackdown): Daniel Bryan's match with A.J. Styles is described below. Great contest even if Bryan came up short. Going toe-to-toe with the world champ for a half-hour in a high-quality match reminds us why Bryan is a superstar, even without a belt around his waste. (Last week: not rated)
5. Ronda Rousey (Raw) (Last week: 8th): The Raw women's champion beat Nikki Bella fairly easily at Evolution, the highlight being Rousey lifting both Bella twins onto her shoulders before dumping the pair on the mat. Impressive strength and a tremendous demonstration of dominance over the entire women's division. It was not the best match of the night, nor even the second or third, but it was a rousing way to end the first all-women's PPV and proved beyond any doubt Rousey's ability to headline the WWE's marquee shows. (Last week: 8th)
4. Seth Rollins (Raw): Seth Rollins does not have the best mic skills in the WWE, but his calling out Dean Ambrose a week after the Lunatic betrayed The Shield was one of his better promos. The WWE writing team prepared a great script for Rollins, having him wondering if Ambrose harboured ill will over Rollins's own betrayal of The Shield four years ago. When Ambrose emerged in the audience, mocking The Shield (in Rollins's words) both wrestlers progressed through either a series or escalation of emotions to get to a point where dialogue was impossible; Ambrose never spoke, further frustrating Rollins. The intercontinental champion called Ambrose a "soulless lunatic" and a "cold-hearted bastard," which only closed down the volatile Ambrose. Superior writing and quality execution allows a promo between two wrestlers in which one doesn't speak at all to add a tremendous amount of heat to a simmering conflict. Well done. (Last week: 6th)
3. Dean Ambrose (Raw): Dean Ambrose's confrontation with his erstwhile friend, partner, and brother is described above. His brooding was apropos, and Ambrose's body language, facial expressions (excluding a cartoonish snarl), and silence combined to reinforce that he is conflicted about betraying Rollins last week after winning the Raw tag team title and is a whirl of emotions after the news that Roman Reigns has leukemia. The mental instability angle allows some hope that Ambrose walks back from his betrayal although that's unlikely. By not providing answers to Rollins, this feud gains heat but also buys time. There is no need to rush into a series of matches, and the WWE has demonstrated its willingness and ability to take its time on this one. Well done. (Last week: 2nd)
2. Becky Lynch (Smackdown): The last person standing match -- the first on the main WWE rosters for women -- between Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair for the Smackdown women's championship exceeded all expectations and was one of the best contests of the year (men or women), and it showed some things we haven't seen in a while (Flair and Lynch throwing endless chairs into the center of the ring, to some comic effect until they were used). Lynch won and that should put her feud with Charlotte on ice for a bit although it is easy to imagine it flaring back up at some point. It was strong on moves and brutality, and the loss didn't weaken Charlotte Flair's status and the victory helps establish Becky Lynch as one of the top women wrestlers of all time, which she needs for her next match. On Tuesday night, Lynch demonstrated her mic skills with a strong promo that didn't last more than two minutes (more brief promos, please) when she confidently predicted victory over Ronda Rousey at Survivor Series. After her performance at Evolution, it is plausible that Lynch could win and she easily presents the most serious challenge to Rousey in her young WWE career. (Last week: not rated)
1. A.J. Styles (Smackdown): A.J. Styles called out Daniel Bryan to open Smackdown and after some jawing, the two agreed not to wait until Crown Jewel to wrestle. Out came Shane McMahon to sanction the match. It went down this way because Bryan reportedly refused to wrestle in Saudi Arabia, and the result of this solution to that problem, fans were treated to a great contest. This was a half-hour match that was one of the best on TV this year. Of course, this was supposed to be a PPV battle, so it's not quite fair to compare it to the usual television fare. This was a phenomenal contest that could have headlined Wrestlemania and the last three or four minutes featured a number of thrilling moves and countermoves. Styles is scheduled to face Samoa Joe at Crown Jewel after the sneak-attack and its hard to believe that the backup plan for Saudi Arabia results in a Smackdown title change. A.J. is firmly established on the top of the Smackdown mountain. (Last week: not rated)
Thursday, November 01, 2018
Madeline Grant of the Institute of Economic Affairs had an excellent column on the National Health Service in the (London) Times yesterday describing its shortcomings in detail, noting that mere tinkering is not enough to make the British healthcare system work the way it should considering its exorbitant costs. I recommend a subscription to the paper anyway, but this column is worth the cost of the weekly subscription. This paragraph, however, is stunning:
Increased funding for the NHS must go hand in hand with reform of a system which favours bureaucrats over frontline staff. Despite a growing shortage of nurses, the number of managers on the payroll had risen by almost a quarter in four years. Our health service lags behind others in the uptake of new technologies — a report last year revealed it was “the world’s largest purchaser of fax machines”.
Envy is a shitty political motivation
Financial advisor Jon Henschen at the Foundation for Economic Education:
Unfortunately, envy saps happiness and satisfaction, robbing the individual of the ability to enjoy and be grateful for good fortune. This state of mind not only harms the envier but those toward whom the envy is directed.But envy has been made into a virtue by politicians, who recognize it as a way of gaining power and control over unsuspecting populations. Rather than focusing on improving themselves, the envious believe their path to happiness is tied to the fate of those they envy. In essence, their happiness will be increased if they can pull others down, an attitude which runs counter to a prosperous society and hinders social progress.
Too much of politics panders to envy, especially much of the political torquing of the issue of inequality. Envy is a deadly sin and can only tear down, not build up. It has no place in the strategies of politicians and their professional advisors, nor among the motivations of voters.