Sobering Thoughts

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

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Saturday, December 29, 2018
WWE Power Ranking
Worst performance of the week: Shane McMahon can't act and his half of the conversation with The Miz, who gave a heartfelt speech about failing to live up to his father's expectations and that's why he wants to succeed with Shane O'Mac, was painful. McMahon and The Miz are probably headed toward a mildly interesting story arc -- a rise and eventual breakup culminating in a Wrestlemania match -- but McMahon is a terrible promo and even The Miz can't elevate him.
Honourable mention: Johnny Gargano (NXT) was positioned for a shot against Ricochet for the NXT North American title, courtesy his former partner, Tomasso Ciampa's promo; Ronda Rousey (Raw) retained her Women's World title by beating her friend Natalya; Heath Slater (Raw) beat Jinder Mahal by disqualification when the Sunil brothers inexplicably got involved but at least he was back wrestling and he won; Rhyno (Raw) after being kicked off the roster by former acting general manager Baron Corbin, Rhyno returned to come to the defense of his partner Heath Slater who was getting triple-teamed by Jinder Mahal and the Sunil brothers; The Revival (Raw) lost to the tag champs Bobby Roode and Chad Gable, but the wrong contender was pinned, suggesting they'll get a rematch for the belts.
13. Undisputed Era (NXT): The cocky members of Undisputed Era -- Kyle O'Reilly and Roderick Strong along with Bobby Fish and Adam Cole -- have vowed to be the dominant faction of NXT with the goal of winning all four major titles. Tag champs O'Reilly and Strong defended their title against Heavy Machinery in a good contest, keeping their end of the bargain for their faction. (Last week: not rated)
12. Seth Rollins (Raw): Seth Rollins beat Baron Corbin the main event of the Monday night show, which should finish the mini-feud the two had. A video promo by The Lunatic suggests that the Rollins-Dean Ambrose feud is far from done, but the writers are showing that they can have superstars involved in more than one storyline at a time. (Last week: 10ths)
10. Heavy Machinery (NXT): Otis Dozovic and Tucker Knight lost their title shot against Undisputed Era but had another quality match in NXT's tag division, showing that the team should be able to hold its own when it debuts on Raw or Smackdown, a move that has already been announced. They finish higher than Undisputed Era despite the loss because their call-up has already been announced. (Last week: not rated)
9. Tomasso Ciampa (NXT): In a typically strong promo, the NXT World champ Tommaso Ciampa said his erstwhile partner and then sworn enemy Johnny Gargano looks good and though he doesn't deserve a shot at his title, he does look like a legit challenger for the NXT North American title. Winning that belt, Ciampa says, would see the one-time team of DIY attain their goal of dominating the division. While this makes Gargano look good and positions him for a championship match, it also opens possibilities for continuing the Ciampa-Gargano feud, either immediately or down the road. Or, maybe even better, a reunion. (Last week: not rated)
7. Good Brothers (Smackdown): Last week Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows made a rare appearance on the new Smackdown. The WWE smartly booked them for a match this week, although it probably didn't need to be an eight-man tag team contest, joining the Usos against the Smackdown champs Cesaro and Sheamus and Sanity. Gallows and Anderson put a Magic Killer on Cesaro and pinned him, looking strong in the tag division for the first time in nearly a year. Fans must hope that the Good Brothers get some legit traditional tag matches instead of gimmicks, but at least the WWE is using them and having Anderson and Gallows look good. (Last week: 13th)
6. Elias (Raw): Elias beat Bobby Lashley by pinfall in a Miracle on 34th Street Fight -- basically a hardcore match -- which featured legos, Christmas trees, a mini cello, and a bowling balls as weapons. Nice to see Elias not only get a victory, but some payback against The Almighty, who has put some serious physical beatings on him in the last month or so. (Last week: not rated)
5. Bianca Belair (NXT): Io Shirai, Mia Yim, Lacey Evans and Bianca Belair fought in a Fatal 4-Way match to open this week's NXT to determine the number one challenger to the brand's women's champ. All three announcers on the commentary table agreed that the match was unnecessary because Belair is undefeated in singles action and was easily the #1 challenger without the gimmick match. That said, she beat Evans, who has already been announced to be headed to the main roster sometime soon. Belair, a heel, will be the face at NXT: Takeover when she challenges Shayna Baszler for the title and she has a decent chance to take the gold. Belair, who some might have argued deserved the promotion over Evans, seems like star material in the NXT women's division and the result of this week's Fatal 4-Way makes that undeniable. (Last week: not rated)
4. Mustafa Ali (Smackdown): The new addition to Smackdown has had a super three week beginning: holding his own against the World champ Daniel Bryan in a debut loss, pinning Bryan in a tag team match the following week, and pinning Andrade "Cien" Almas this week. Solid, solid start to Ali's career on the main roster as he's being positioned as leading face on the blue brand. (Last week: 5th)
3. Rusev (Smackdown): The Bulgarian beat US Champion Shinsuke Nakamura in a very strong match to win the title. Good to see gold around his waist once again. (Last week: not rated)
2. Finn Balor (Raw): The Extraordinary Man who Can do Extraordinary Things continued to look strong by pinning Dolph Ziggler in a Triple Threat match that included Drew McIntyre. After months of being underused, Finn Balor is once again one of the stars of Raw. (Last week: 8th)
1. A.J. Styles (Smackdown): We didn't even see the former Smackdown World champ until the final two minutes of the show, but when we did it was a major development even if we don't quite know what direction this story is headed. Vince McMahon confronted A.J. Styles and begged him to let the animal inside out in order to be a better competitor. McMahon then slapped The Phenomenal One, who paused for a moment and then decked McMahon, who fell to the ground. Considering that McMahon accused Styles of having a black hole in his heart, just like himself, some viewers thought the Styles attack was a heel move. But hitting McMahon hardly makes a superstar a bad guy in the eyes of the WWE Universe. I'm not sure where this story is going, but it's intriguing and it'll keep one of the most interesting superstars highly relevant, just a month after he lost the World championship to Daniel Bryan. (Last week: not rated)

Friday, December 28, 2018
2020 watch (Angelina Jolie edition)
A CNN interviewer asked celebrity Angelina Jolie if she would consider running for elected office. She didn't rule it out, and the story became (and what radio programs are talking about tonight) she might run sometime in the future. If you read the full story and not the headline, she said there were other ways she could make a difference so the chances she would challenge Donald Trump are close to zero.

Donald Boudreaux makes an excellent observation about what the price of Hungry Hungry Hippos indicates about society:
One of the most popular toys for Christmas 1978 was Hungry Hungry Hippos. In 1978 it sold for $8.99 – which in 2018 dollars is $33.47 in 2018 dollars (using the CPI) or $27.04 (using the GDP deflator). Today Hungry Hungry Hippos is available at Walmart for $13.99 – roughly half the real price of 40 years ago.
And I’m pretty certain – although I cannot prove – that the proportion of American children who would today be excited to receive as their main Christmas gift a Hungry Hungry Hippos game is far smaller than was that proportion in 1978. The reason is not that American children have become ungrateful; rather, it’s that our society has become so much wealthier since the late 1970s that mechanical toys are no longer valued as highly as they were when Jimmy Carter toiled away in the Oval Office.
Alternatives to Hungry Hungry Hippos, especially for parents who don't mind their kids spending time on screens. Electronic games for younger children are vastly superior to many of the basic games of yesteryear that people my age think are good. Another reason Hungry Hungry Hippos isn't worth spending much time on is that fewer people have siblings they can play with (or parents that have time for games with kids). But there is another reason that doesn't have anything to do with culture. Hungry Hungry Hippos never had much replayability, a key factor in determining how to use one's board-game dollars. It is possible that consumers finally figured this out.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018
The upside of nastiness
Brian Micklethwait at Samizdata:
People complain about how Twitter and the rest of social media, and the internet generally, have enabled nasty and anti-social people to set aside their inhibitions and to be honestly nasty in what they say and how they say it. But this is a feature as well as a bug. I rejoice that the current state of communications technology has caused, in particular, many leftists to rip off their masks of virtue, and to reveal the sheer savagery and malevolence that used to be hid behind those polite masks.
This is one of the many arguments in favour of free and unfettered expression. We get to learn who civilisation’s enemies are.
I'd prefer that there not be unpleasantly nasty people who are hostile to liberty. But if such people exist, it's good to know who they are.

Monday, December 24, 2018
Merry Christmas
I wish everyone a merry and blessed Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2018
WWE Power Rankings
Note, I will no longer cover NXT UK. Just don't have the time to do it all. From now on the WWE Power Rankings will cover Raw, Smackdown, NXT, and 205 Live.
Worst performance of the week: There are a few changes that we'll need time to watch develop and while there wasn't an obvious terrible week for anyone, I didn't like essentially repeating the beat down Baron Corbin got on Raw the day after he got it from the same gang the day before at TLC. I understand the need for catharsis, but doing it twice was overkill.
Honourable mention: The Bar (Smackdown) beat New Day and the Usos in a three-way contest to keep the tag belts in a pretty solid match at TLC; Hideo Itami (205 Live) beat Noam Dar who hasn't scored a victory recently enough to be the impressive beat WWE makes him out to be; Lars Sullivan, EC3, Nikki Cross, Lacey Evans and Heavy Machinery (NXT) were all announced as the next call-ups to the main roster; fans (WWE) who found out via video packages that both Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens were "returning soon); Buddy Murphy (205 Live) defended his Cruiserweight title against Cedric Alexander at TLC in a very good match, but unfortunately many in the WWE universe missed it because it was on the pre-show; Brian Kendrick and Akira Tozawa (205 Live) beat The Wizard's erstwhile teammate, Drew Gulak and Jack Gallagher, in a street fight match; it was a pretty strong contest and Gallagher/Gulak might have had the best move, namely a dropkick into the sitting duck in a moving chair.
13. The Good Brothers (aka The Club) and Sanity (Smackdown): After virtually disappearing over the past four months, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows had a match against The Usos that ended in a no-contest) and Alexander Wolfe, Eric Young, and Killian Dain (Sanity) attacked Jay and Jimmy. It is great that both teams were a part of the revamped Smackdown. Their presence will improve the tag division of the brand. (Last week: not rated)
12. The Revival (Raw): Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson defeated The B-Team (via pinfall), Authors of Pain and Lucha House Party in a four-way #1 contenders match for the Raw Tag Team Title after Shane McMahon announced that AOP would not be granted an automatic rematch for their title. As a pleasant bonus, The Revival won fair and square. (Not rated)
11. Natalya (Raw): Beat Ruby Riott at TLC and then won the eight-woman gauntlet match at Raw to be declared the #1 contender to the women's champ. She won the gauntlet by beating Ember Moon, Ruby Riott, and Sasha Banks. (Last week: not rated)
10. Seth Rollins (Raw): Seth Rollins may have lost his IC belt, but it was a close contest. He was visibly shaken after being offered Ambrose's fist, reminding everyone of The Shield that the Lunatic broke up just months earlier to kickstart this feud. Rollins exacted his revenge the next night by attacking Ambrose after "hiding in plain sight" ringside as one of Ambrose's masked swat team goons. Rollins will probably continue his feud with Ambrose, but with the belt off him, he's free to take on Raw Universal champ Brock Lesnar, too. (Last week: 1st)
9. Dean Ambrose (Raw): Beat Seth Rollins for the Intercontinental championship at TLC and defended his belt in an open challenge against Tyler Breeze the next night on Raw, before taking a beating from Seth Rollins after the match. The Ambrose-Rollins match at TLC was underwhelming but not as bad as fans thought as they chanted "This. Is. Boring." There is a lot of room between disappointing and boring. (Last week: not rated)
8. Finn Balor (Raw): Good week beating Drew McIntyre at TLC and defeating Dolph Ziggler by disqualification. Two victories in one week, especially beating McIntyre at a PPV is impressive. (Last week: not rated)
6. Aleister Black and Johnny Gargano (NXT): The two faced each other in a cage match after seemingly resolving their feud at NXT Takeover: War Games. It was a quality match with the usual strong story-telling in the ring. NXT champ Tomasso Ciampa slammed the door shut on Black just before he escaped. Ciampa and his nemesis and former tag partner Gargano set up Black for their double kick which guaranteed Johnny Wrestling with the pin, becoming only the second opponent to keep Black's shoulder's down in NXT. The story continues, which is great for fans, with the possibility of a DIY reunion. (Last week: not rated)
5. Mustafa Ali (Smackdown): A week after Mustafa Ali had an impressive showing against Smackdown champ Daniel Bryan, the former 205 Live star was called up to the main roster. More impressively, he pinned Bryan in a tag team match (pairing with A.J. Styles against Bryan and Andrade "Cien" Almas). Good week for Ali. He should be a star on the blue brand. (Last week: 9th)
4. Becky Lynch (Smackdown): Becky Lynch dropped the women's title but wasn't defeated by pin or submission and only lost because of interference from Ronda Rousey. The look on Lynch's face after losing the belt was amazing, she opened the show on Tuesday, and is ready to fight. Incredibly, Lynch lost the belt but might be getting ready for something bigger and better: headlining Wrestlemania and facing Ronda Rousey for the Raw women's title. (Last week: not rated)
3. Ronda Rousey (Raw): Beat Nia Jax with relative ease at TLC and then inserted herself in the Smackdown Women's title by pushing over a ladder with Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch on it, thereby furthering their three-way feud (difficult to do cross-brand). On Raw, Rousey said she wanted to start a new tradition for champions to defend the title the night after a pay-per-view. The powers-that-be (the McMahons) wouldn't let her, but set up a title defense against her friend Natalya this week. The two teased distrust before hugging it out twice in anticipation of the Women's title match. (Last week: not rated)
2. Charlotte Flair (Smackdown): The Queen lost her three-way TLC match for the Women's title but she performed magnificently. Not only good moves, but great sells and she sacrificed her body in some high risks moves. She looked incredibly strong in defeat, and with the now (in)famous finish with Ronda Rousey interfering, is set up to feud with Lynch, Rousey, or Asuka. Plenty of storyline potential. (Last week: not rated)
1. Asuka (Smackdown): Asuka won the triple threat TLC match against Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch in an incredible headliner at TLC for the Smackdown women's title. That was good in itself, but for some reason Vince McMahon granted Naomi a title shot. Asuka defended easily. (Last week: 4th)

Thursday, December 20, 2018
From the Foundation for Economic Education: "Government Goes from Banning Hemp Farming to Subsidizing It." Of course, it has. Vincent H. Smith, a professor of economics at Montana State University, explains the crony capitalism that is the Congressional agriculture bill, and if hemp can be legally grown, there is no logical reason why it should not have access to the same (market-distorting) subsidized crop insurance as any other ag product.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018
Paul Ryan legacy
The Washington Post has a tough assessment of Paul Ryan, who is finishing up his term as Speaker of the House of Representatives and a leader of the conservative wing of the Republican party. This stood out:
Several longtime friends of Ryan declined to make public comments, citing their private disappointment in him and saying Ryan would be personally hurt if they shared their blunt assessments. “Paul doesn’t want to believe it’s all as bad as it is,” one said.
Ouch. And yet, fair.
Ryan came to Washington full of reformist zeal. He wanted comprehensive tax reform and entitlement reform. He wanted to change the relationship between the state and the citizenry. He wanted to address the legitimate challenges faced by what Theresa May would later call the just-about-managing. His accomplishments, as measured by the goals he set out to achieve, are incredibly modest, a hair above non-existent. He helped usher in some big tax cuts that President Donald Trump gets credit for, but tax cuts are not tax reform. There has been some modest entitlement tinkering during his leadership. But for a reportedly intelligent, ambitious, and reform-minded politician, there isn't much to show for his time in positions of influence since 2012: chairing the House Budget Committee (2011 to 2015), chairing the House Ways and Means Committee (2015), being the ostensible leader of the Congressional GOP as Speaker of the House (2015-2018), and running as Mitt Romney's vice presidential candidate (2012). He had all kinds of opportunities to put forward ideas and fight for them. I won't question his commitment to the reforms he argued for early in his career and I won't charge Ryan with becoming a standard-issue Washington Republican divvying up favours for his K Street pals. Nor do I think he was merely overshadowed by Donald Trump, who sucks all the political oxygen out of the conservative movement. I'll be charitable and chalk up Ryan's underwhelming performance and policy disappointments to being a terrible politician. Granting that he understands policy and sincerely believes the conservative principles he espouses, the best explanation is not cynicism that Ryan is a sell-out, but that he's incompetent. But whatever the reason, Ryan cannot escape the judgment that his time in Washington has been a failure.

Monday, December 17, 2018
The future might not belong to China
Tyler Cowen notes "A new paper with many authors — most prominently Joseph Henrich — tries to measure the cultural gaps between different countries." You should be able to access the paper here. Cowen reports some of the numbers representing the gaps, and unsurprisingly, Canada has the smallest cultural gap with the United States (0.02 compared to 0.17 for China or 0.24 for Egypt). But Cowen observes something quite significant:
Overall the numbers show much greater cultural distance of other nations from China than from the United States, a significant and under-discussed problem for China. For instance, the United States is about as culturally close to Hong Kong as China is.
Culture matters, and the lack of corresponding culture might be a barrier to efficient economic and political cooperation.

Saturday, December 15, 2018
WWE Power Rankings
Worst performance of the week: I'm tempted to say there were too many to mention. Upon further consideration, both The Bar and the Usos sucked at rapping in the Second Ever WWE Rap Off and this segment wasn't just as bad as some of the other miscues, but wasted more time and talent than the other bad performances.
Honourable mention: Rusev (Smackdown) laid a Machka kick on Shinsuke Nakamura and got the pin to win a tag team match that paired wrestlers just beginning feuds (Rusev and Jeff Hardy against Nakamura and Samoa Joe); Tyler Breeze (Raw) returned to NXT and flashed his old superstar self in a loss to the NXT North American champion; Tony Nese (205 Live) always looks great in his losses -- and he has three of them over the past month and a half between 205 Live and NXT; Mia Yim (NXT) beat Reina Gonzalez (who is in development but seldom appears on TV) to qualify for the Fatal Four-Way #1 women's title contenders match next month.
13. Cedric Alexander (205 Live). The former Cruiserweight champion beat Tony Nese in a great contest to score back-to-back victories going into his rematch for his former belt against Buddy Murphy at TLC. (Last week: not rated)
12. Ricochet (NXT): Ricochet successfully defended his NXT North America title against Tyler Breeze, who has been buried on the main roster, in an open challenge. Very good match and Ricochet looks good winning an open challenge against someone who has graduated from the developmental league. (Last week: not rated)
11. Dave Mastiff (NXT UK): Quality win against fellow undefeated superstar Eddie Dennis. (Last week: not rated)
10. Drew McIntyre (Raw): A week after Dolph Ziggler pinned the Scottish Psychopath, Drew McIntyre pinned Ziggler. Getting back the win is good. (Last week: 9th)
9. Mustafa Ali (205 Live): The cruiserweight opened Smackdown Live with Daniel Bryan, interrupting the champion's promo and then credibly wrestling him a loss. Mustafa Ali looked good even though he lost and while his promo skills weren't quite main-roster good, Bryan helped put him over by praising Ali's skills. Not sure if Ali moves from the purple brand to the blue one, but regardless it helped establish him as Smackdown-worthy. (Last week: not rated)
8. Buddy Murphy (205 Live): Defeated Gran Metalik and survived the Lucha's hurricanrana from the barricade and executed a Meteora, part of a trend in recent appearances for the Cruiserweight champ to showcase new moves. The Australian is looking strong going into his rematch with Cedric Alexander at TLC. (Last week: not rated)
6. (tied) Chad Gable and Bobby Roode (Raw): They won the Raw Tag Team belts. Sure, they probably wouldn't have had Baron Corbin not made it a handicap match with the Authors of Pain being joined by their diminutive, non-wrestling manager Drake Maverick. But their victory if not exactly GLORIOUS, put championship gold around their waists and they are on top of a very week tag team division on Raw. (Last week: not rated)
5. Baron Corbin (Raw): Too much to go through, but he has created enemies and set himself up for a dozen possible different storylines and feuds depending on whether he wins the TLC match against Braun Strowman and becomes the permanent general manager of Raw. You can add Seth Rollins to the list of potential enemies after their opening promo exchange (in which Rollins basically blamed the brand's low ratings on Corbin) and bitter TLC match. (Last week: not rated)
4. Asuka (Smackdown): Asuka beat Charlotte Flair by disqualification ahead of their Triple Threat TLC match with Becky Lynch for the Women's title. Flair pulled out a kendo stick and beat the Empress of Tomorrow with it, garnering the DQ. Lynch, who was ringside, grabbed it and beat her former best friend. Asuka then grabbed the weapon and beat both Flair and Lynch with it, before standing tall on the broadcast table. She looks strong and every part of this threeway match going into tomorrow's TLC contest. (Last week: 8th)
3. Drew McIntyre (Raw): After taking his first pin or submission last week at the hands of Dolph Ziggler after Finn Balor's intervention, Drew McIntyre beat Dolph Ziggler decisively after landing a Claymore Kick on him. Yeah, he's still the class of Raw's heels. (Last week: 9th)
2. Daniel Bryan (Smackdown): Strong opening promo in which he criticized the fans by apologizing to sheep for comparing the WWE Universe to these farm animals because the fans are more like parasites. It's a little cheap to attack fans, but it's working, even if the environmentalist persona is a strange one for a bad guy. And Bryan's poke at fans as "fickle" is terrific. Then the Smackdown World champ beat Mustafa Ali in a very good match to open the show. Bryan has been a tremendous heel. The character is believable and fun. And Bryan isn't a shabby wrestler, either. (Last week: 1st)
1. Seth Rollins (Raw): His promo to open the Monday show was amazing. He called out Baron Corbin and he listed the problems with the red brand since Corbin has taken over from Kurt Angle as acting general manager. Seth Rollins then challenged the acting general manager to a TLC match, and when Corbin refused, repeatedly poked him by calling Corbin a coward. Corbin relented but declared the match a title contest. Rollins defeated Corbin in the half-hour main event, the first TLC match on Raw in six years. Great opening promo. Successful Intercontinental title defense. Main evented. Beat the general manager. And closed the night staring down his nemesis Dean Ambrose ahead of their own match at TLC this Sunday. Remind the WWE Universe he is Raw's top face. Great night for the IC champ. (Last week: tied for 10th)

Deconstructing the administrative state (Ontario edition)
And this:
More and faster, please.

Thursday, December 13, 2018
Who is more pro-immigration: Canada or the US?
Pew Research surveyed citizens in 27 countries about immigration, asking respondents whether they wanted more, fewer, or about the same number of immigrants. With the exception of Japan, which has exceptionally low levels of immigration, everywhere people wanted fewer rather than more immigrants; in Spain it was close (28% wanted wanted more, 30% wanted fewer). The United Kingdom is one of the more immigration-friendly European nations, with 16% wanting more (only Spain was higher) and 43% wanting the same number (only the Netherlands supported the status quo at a higher rate). Skepticism about immigration is not only embroiling Eastern Europe (Hungary and Poland) and the South (France, Greece and Italy) but the supposedly more tolerant north (Netherlands, Sweden, and Germany). What is most interesting in these headline numbers is how similar Canada and the United States are. Nearly one-in-four Americans (24%) want more immigrants compared to a little less than one-in-five Canadians (19%); meanwhile 29% of Americans and 27% of Canadians want fewer immigrants. In Canada, a slight majority (53%) want the same number of immigrants whereas a large plurality of Americans (44%) support the status quo. These numbers might mask more nuanced views about immigration, but superficially, at least, American and Canadian citizens are about equally supportive/opposed to immigrants, at least when it comes to numbers.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018
The cure for European concerns about Brussels is not another European Union
Thomas Piketty and others have a Manifesto for the Democratization of Europe outlining their vision to "save Europe from itself." Piketty explains the project in The Guardian:
This is why we, European citizens from different backgrounds and countries, are today launching this appeal for the in-depth transformation of the European institutions and policies. Our manifesto contains concrete proposals, in particular a project for a democratisation treaty and a budget project – and we have made it all publicly available. Our ideas may not be perfect, but they do have the merit of existing. The public can access them and improve them. They are based on a simple conviction: Europe must build a new model to ensure the fair and lasting social development of its citizens. The only way to persuade them is to abandon vague and theoretical promises. If Europe wants to restore solidarity with its citizens it can only do so by providing concrete evidence that it is capable of establishing cooperation and by making those who have gained from globalisation contribute to the financing of public-sector good. That will mean making large firms contribute more than small and medium businesses, and the richest taxpayers paying more than poorer taxpayers. This is not the case today.
Our proposals are based on the creation of a budget for democratisation that would be debated and voted on by a new, sovereign European assembly. This will at last enable Europe to equip itself with a public institution capable of dealing with crises in Europe immediately and of producing a set of fundamental public goods and services in the framework of a lasting and solidarity-based economy. The promise made at the treaty of Rome of “harmonisation of living and working conditions” will finally become meaningful.
This budget, if the European assembly so desires, will be financed by four major European taxes, the tangible markers of this European solidarity. These will apply to the profits of major firms, the top incomes (over €200,000 a year), the highest wealth owners (over €1m ) and carbon emissions (with a minimum price of €30 a tonne). If it is fixed at 4% of GDP, as we propose, this budget could finance research, training and the European universities, an ambitious investment programme to transform our model of economic growth, the financing of the reception and integration of migrants, and the support of those involved in carrying out this transformation. It could also give some budgetary leeway to member states to reduce the regressive taxation that weighs on salaries or consumption.
The issue here is not one of creating a transfer of payments across Europe – taking money from the “virtuous” countries to give it to those that are less so. The project limits the gap between expenditure deducted and income paid by a country to a threshold of 0.1% of its GDP – this could only be increased should there be consensus to do so. This threshold can be raised in case there is a consensus to do so, but the issue is primarily of reducing the inequality within countries, not between them, and of investing in the future of all Europeans. But those calculations would exclude spending that benefits all countries equally, such as action on climate change. Because it will finance European public goods benefiting all countries, the budget for democratisation will de facto also foster convergence between countries.
Because we must act quickly but we must also get Europe out of the present technocratic impasse, we propose the creation of a European assembly. This will enable these new European taxes to be debated and voted as also the budget for democratisation. This European assembly can be created without changing existing European treaties.
The assembly would, of course, have to communicate with the present decision-making institutions (in particular the Eurogroup in which the ministers for finance in the eurozone meet informally every month). But, in cases of disagreement, the assembly would have the final word. If not, its capacity to be a locus for a new transnational political space where parties, social movements and NGOs would finally be able to express themselves would be compromised. Equally its actual effectiveness, since the issue is one of finally extricating Europe from the eternal inertia of intergovernmental negotiations, would be at stake. We should bear in mind that the rule of fiscal unanimity in force in the European Union has for years blocked the adoption of any European tax and sustains the eternal evasion into fiscal dumping by the rich and most mobile, a practice which continues to this day despite all the speeches. This will go on if other decision-making rules are not set up.
For voters across Europe who are concerned about giving up their sovereignty to an pan-European body or voters in other countries, I doubt this would alleviate their worries.

Sunday, December 09, 2018
WWE Power Rankings
Worst performance of the week: The Raw writers, specifically the story they are giving Dean Ambrose. He doesn't like what The Shield was. Then he doesn't like what The Shield has become. He doesn't like the fans. He doesn't like germs. Stick to a single explanation for his heel turn and stick with it.
Honourable mention: Fabian Aichner (NXT UK) had an impressive win against Mark Andrews in his debut on the brand and he had one of the nicest back-breakers I've ever seen; Undisputed Era (NXT) had a nice promo with Adam Cole, Roderick Strong, Bobby Fish, and Kyle O'Reilly taking turns talking about how EC3 and Heavy Machinery are not real challengers to their dominance; Travis Banks (NXT UK) called out Wolfgang and the Coffey brothers in one episode and (a little surprisingly) beat Wolfgang in the next; Samoa Joe (Smackdown) distracted Jeff Hardy during his match with Randy Orton when a video promo broadcast showing Joe at a bar mocking Hardy's past addiction issues; Cesaro (Smackdown) lost a threeway contest with Jey Uso and Xavier Woods but looked super strong when he put the New Day member on his shoulders and then took Uso for an airplane spin, just before taking the pin (see 1:20 of this video); Punishment Martinez (NXT) debuted in the WWE and the former Ring of Honor Television Champion looked strong despite taking the loss against Matt Riddle.
13. (tie): Jay Uso and Xavier Woods (Smackdown): Taking part in a triple threat match against Cesaro as a teaser for the three-way tag team match for the Smackdown tag championship at TLC, Jay Uso and Xavier Woods, who have been part of terrific tag matches against each other over the years, cooperated a number of times and had a neat series of counters and reversals. Both looked good and teased an angle (cooperation) that will either be short-lived or non-existent when the gold is at stake. The Smackdown tag championship is the most difficult contest at TLC to predict, with a case for all three coming out of the pay-per-view with the belts. (Last week: 11th and not rated respectively)
12. Shayna Baszler (NXT): The Queen of Spades beat Dakota Kai in a non-title match, savagely focusing on her opponent's arm. At the end of the contest, Baszler's former MMA mates, Jessamyn Duke, and Marina Shafir, joined in the assault on Kai. Io Shirai came to Kai's defense, and got a little offense in against Baszler, before the NXT Women's champion hightailed it out of the ring. Baszler's next storyline is likely a factional feud, not necessarily a focus on the title. (Last week: not rated)
10. (Tie) Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins (Raw): The Lunatic came out with a squad of defenders, with both him and his entourage wearing gas masks to shield themselves from the germs carried by the fans and Seth Rollins. Dean Ambrose continued to offer various explanations for his heel turn and to needle Seth Rollins ahead of their IC title match at TLC. Rollins attacked, entering from the audience. He fought off several of Ambrose's goons, then attacked Ambrose. Ambrose got the upper-hand before Rollins was distracted by more of Ambrose's bodyguards. Ambrose tried to leave through the audience but Rollins caught up to him. They fought among the crowd. They fought ringside. Ambrose got a Dirty Deeds on Rollins on the ground and threw him into the ring and put his signature move on him again. You could make the argument that the routine is getting boring, but I thought it took the conflict to the next level and left fans ready to the TLC pay-per-view. It would have been perfect for a go-home show heading into the PPV, so I'm not sure what the WWE has planned for these two Monday night. (Last week: not rated and 1st respectively)
9. Drew McIntyre (Raw): Drew McIntyre did not have a stereotypically good week. He suffered his first pin or submission since returning to the WWE in April. He broke up with his tag partner, Dolph Ziggler. And his Drew McIntyre Appreciation Day and medal presentation was interrupted. But all this happened because McIntyre's story is the second biggest thing on Raw after the Seth Rollins-Dean Ambrose feud. McIntyre is part of Baron Corbin's faction and Corbin is the brand's general manager (acting or elect, depending on your allegiance). He broke up with Ziggler, telling him that while they rose to tremendous heights this year, it was all McIntyre -- who was both the brains and brawn of the pairing. It was a great promo. He then only lost to Ziggler because Finn Balor interfered in the match. McIntyre got his revenge of Balor later, attacking him behind the scenes after the Extraordinary Man Who Does Extraordinary Things won his contest with Jinder Mahal. It's pretty obvious that McIntyre is getting his push and his character is the most interesting on the red brand right now. (Last week: 7th)
8. Asuka (Smackdown): Asuka was teamed with one of her TLC opponents, Charlotte Flair, in a tag match against Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose. Flair accidentally kicked the Princess of Tomorrow on the ring apron and Asuka returned the favour -- most definitely not by accident -- to cost them the victory. It was a nifty bit of storytelling to make Asuka's inclusion in the Triple Threat TLC match with Flair and Becky Lynch for the Smackdown Women's title a little more meaningful. (Last week: 4th)
7. Elias (Raw): Elias came out to promo and just as he started his song, Bobby Lashley and Lio Rush interrupted. Elias had enough and marched up the ramp to confront the heel duo. After a little back and forth, Elias reversed Lashley's attempt to throw him into the video screen where wrestlers come out. Lashley was on the ground and cowardly in backing away from Elias as he chased The Almighty one with his guitar. It made Lashley look uncharacteristically weak, which in turn made Elias look strong. As a bonus Finn Balor caught Lio Rush, threw him onto the ramp, where Lashley's hype-man was vulnerable to Elias's attack and wound up on the receiving end of guitar over the back. (Last week: 5th)
6. Dolph Ziggler (Raw): The Show Off needed Finn Balor's help but Dolph Ziggler scored the first pin or submission against Drew McIntyre since the Scottish Psychopath returned to the WWE in April. Ever since the two appeared together in the Spring, it's been assumed the two would sooner-rather-than-later break-up. In recent weeks, McIntyre has been working with Baron Corbin and Bobby Lashley. It would not have been surprising if the WWE writers just forgot or moved on from the Ziggler-McIntyre partnership, but having McIntyre dress down his former partner during Drew McIntyre Appreciation Day and tell him that he's moved on because their partnership served its purpose was a nice way to develop this story (rather than an in-ring betrayal). Ziggler shouldn't become a babyface, but a Ziggler-McIntyre feud might be precisely what the latter needs for a push to the next level. (Last week: not rated)
5. Finn Balor (Raw): Finn Balor has been buried for most of the last year. When he headlines, it is part of being a credible star that joins a tag team or six-man tag match. He should be a superstar, or at least a borderline one, but he isn't booked like one. This week, he got closer to where he should be. The Extraordinary Man Who Does Extraordinary Things interfered in a match, involved himself in the Elias versus Bobby Lashley/Leo Rush conflict, and then headlined the second-to-last contest on the Monday show. The match made little sense and wasn't that interesting but beating Jinder Mahal still means something story-wise, which he did despite Mahal sidekicks interjecting themselves in the contest. Balor has a long way to go to reach his potential, but he is on the right trajectory for a change. It seems that his match against Drew McIntyre at TLC is a bit more meaningful that it was last week. (Last week: not rated)
2. (tie) Tommaso Ciampa, Aleister Black, and Johnny Gargano (NXT): The NXT champion came out to gloat about his Takeover: War Games victory over Velveteen Dream and complained about how he is underestimated. Aleister Black emerged to insist that Ciampa is undeserving of his championship and demanded his rematch from dropping the title to Ciampa. Johnny Wrestling interrupted the interruption, saying that there are unresolved issues between himself and Black. This might be setting up a threeway contest (as was scheduled for Takeover: Brooklyn). Ciampa slipped out to the ring apron and impishly egged stirred the pot (presumably thinking he could get out of the rematch against Black). Ciampa suggested Black and Gargano settle their conflict inside a steel cage. It was a masterful and fun performance and you can view it here. Whether it sets up a threeway match or merely allows another Gargano-Black contest, this was a brilliant and meaningful promo. (Last week: not rated)
1. Daniel Bryan (Shakedown): Great heel work during his promo on The Miz Show. His taunting of the fans as "Fickle. Fickle. Fickle" is one of the best in the business. I found it strange that this newly minted villain is taunting the WWE Universe's "sin" of not caring for the environment, but it did get heat from the fans so apparently being green can make someone a bad guy. After the main event match of The Miz against A.J. Styles, Bryan attacked the former champ. I wasn't a Bryan fan, but his heel-turn is winning me over. His character is one of the most compelling in any brand right now. (Last week: 10th)

I got a Twitchy mention
My tweet about Ted Cruz's facial hair made Twitchy's reaction coverage to Slate's article on the Texas senator's semi-hot beard. Kinda cool.

Friday, December 07, 2018
The good news is that there is good news. Lots of it.
The journalist Gregg Easterbrook likes to remind readers that the media, like politicians, prefer people believe we are perpetually in a state of crisis, and thus seldom covers good news. I think that's true to a point, but there is also the fact that most good news is, generally speaking, the continuation of long-standing positive trends that are difficult to report on regularly. But whatever good reasons there are for editors choosing not to cover positive developments, the sense that everything that is happening is bad inevitably leads us to (mistakenly) believe that we live in a particularly tumultuous, unjust, and violent world. The fact is, for most people, most of the time, things are getting better, but the progress is not easily measured, and less easily noticed, year by year.
Vox notes four positive trends that do not get enough attention: "Extreme poverty is falling," "Child mortality is falling," "We’re getting better at preventing preventable diseases," and "Clean energy is getting cheaper." The benefits of these developments have already accrued to the middle class in North America, Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand (a little backsliding among some demographics in recent years); it's happening in the rest world now and that's worth celebrating. But it's hard to celebrate if people don't know/care that it's happening.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018
Travel writing is bad
Tyler Cowen:
The most painful sections of a bookshop to have to read through would be the management books, self-help, and also the travel books. Yet management, self-help, and travel are all very important and indeed extremely interesting matters, so I am wondering why these books are so bad ...
My biggest complaint is that travel books seem not to discriminate between what the reader might care about or not ...
Is travel like (some) sex, namely that you can’t write about it because it is viscerally exciting in a “you had to be there” way? Why cannot that constraint be overcome by shifting the focus to matters more factual?
Too many travel books seem like an inefficient blending of memoir, novel, and travel narration, and they are throughout too light on information.
Cowen provides examples of poor travel writing by examining Jedidiah Jenkins' To Shake the Sleeping Self: A Journey from Oregon to Patagonia, and a Quest for a Life with No Regret, which does not deserve to be singled out, but nicely illustrates the problem(s). One example:
I wait. I drink some more water. It sit in the grass and chat with the others. I have a few false starts: “Ooh, I’m feeling it…just kidding, no I’m not.” “Okay, now I am! No, that’s an ant on my ankle.”
Cowen asks, "What are the microfoundations for this failure in the quality of travel books?" From the example above and from the limited amount of travel writing I've read (not including guide books, which serve a specific purpose), I'd say the problem is that these writers want to be novelists rather than reporters. But that only begs the question: why does travel writing veer to that sort of narrative storytelling rather than something akin to history writing. Cowen says, "Ideally I want someone with a background in geography, natural history, or maybe urban studies to serve up a semi-rigorous account of what they are doing and seeing."
Travel writing might be better suited to journalism (newspaper, magazines, websites) than books. Because I agree with Cowen's prescription, I find Rick McGinnis to be a great travel writer, formerly for the Toronto Star (see here and scroll down). Whether he was writing about Ireland, the Calgary Stampede, the Stratford festival, or various cities in upstate New York, McGinnis is more interested in telling you about the location than his experience about the place.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018
Nine-year-old freedom fighter
The Associated Press reports on a battle for liberty in Severance, Colorado:
A 9-year-old boy has convinced the leaders of a small northern Colorado town to overturn a nearly century-old ban on snowball fights, and he already knows whom his first target will be — his little brother.
Dane Best, who lives in the often snow-swept town of Severance, presented his arguments at a town board meeting Monday night, and members voted unanimously to lift the ban.
“I think it’s an outdated law,” Dane said in the lead-up to the meeting. “I want to be able to throw a snowball without getting in trouble.”
Dane’s mother, Brooke Best, told the Greeley Tribune her son had been talking about snowballs since he found out about a month and a half ago that it was illegal to throw them within town limits. The last time it snowed, Dane said, he and his friends looked around for police and joked about breaking the law.
Kyle Rietkerk, assistant to the Severance town administrator, said the rule was part of a larger ordinance that made it illegal to throw or shoot stones or missiles at people, animals, buildings, trees, any other public or private property or vehicles. Snowballs fell under the town’s definition of “missiles.”
“All of the kids always get blown away that it’s illegal to have snowball fights in Severance,” Rietkerk said before the meeting. “So, what ends up happening is (town leaders) always encourage the kids with, ‘You have the power, you can change the law.’ No one has.”
Yes, Dane Best did the right thing here, but city officials could have just ignored the law. The story does not say whether anyone has been arrested or punished for throwing a snowball, but even if it technically violated the law, it would have been ridiculous for a police officer to harass a child or his/her family for doing so. Common sense should be allowed to prevail.
Common sense seems in short supply in Severance and perhaps Dane Best should continue his heroic work on behalf of liberty. The AP reports, "Dane has a guinea pig, which is illegal in Severance, too." The law in this city defines pets as cats and dogs.

European Court of Justice advises Brussels to show utmost contempt for British voters
The (London) Times reports:
The European Union should “open a third way” for MPs to cancel Brexit without any costs or political conditions imposed, according to legal advice issued to the European Court of Justice today.
Theresa May has told MPs that a “meaningful vote” in the Commons on Tuesday next week involved the stark choice of accepting her controversial withdrawal deal or crashing out of the EU with no agreement.
In a victory for campaigners seeking to reverse Brexit, an advocate general to the EU’s highest court has recommended giving the British parliament the right to unilaterally revoke the withdrawal process.
Manuel Campos Sánchez-Bordona, one of the ECJ’s advocate-generals, whose advice is usually followed by the full court, made it clear that he intended to “open a third way, namely remaining in the EU in the face of an unsatisfactory Brexit”.
The EU and their eurocrat allies within each member nation have often shown contempt for voters, ignoring the democratically expressed will of the people (France and the Lisbon Treaty establishing a "European constitution) or requiring countries to revote if the desired outcome is not achieved (Denmark and the Maastricht Treaty, Netherlands and Ireland on Lisbon, Ireland on Nice).
The EU routinely ignores its own rules, the most egregious examples being that most countries simply do not abide the Stability and Growth Pact's requirement that deficits not exceed 3% of GDP.
The advice of Campos Sánchez-Bordona suggests that the EU ignore the will of voters in Britain who voted to withdraw from the European Union in June 2016 and that it ignore EU rules which state fairly clearly (as understood before the Brexit vote) that once Article 50 is invoked and notice of withdrawal is made, it cannot be rescinded. The (new) untested opinion of legal experts in Europe since Brexit, to the degree it makes sense to speak of it in the singular, is that countries can rescind their notice of intention to leave the EU. But this conventional wisdom is novel, a reaction to the tumultuous Brexit vote and negotiations. That it now has a face and name as respected among EU-types as Campos Sánchez-Bordona does not make it any less a grotesque violation of democracy and opportunistic re-writing (re-understanding?) of EU norms.
In related news, Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg told the Daily Express, "politicians ought to listen more to the wisdom of electors rather than thinking the establishment knows best."

We often hear politicians refer to their call to public service. I believe they believe they are serving the public, but in actuality, they are serving their need to control the lives of others. (In fact, I think most people want to control others and that controlling others could be part of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, but that outside of parents, teachers, and some bureaucrats and bosses, most people will never realize the sort of control the typical politician can wield.) Understanding this desire to exert something between influence and control, Donald Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek explains the motivations of those who enter politics:
But most people who successfully pursue careers in politics are people who pursue those careers precisely to interfere in the affairs of other people. These are people who are unusually greedy for attention and fame, as well as control, and who satisfy their greed by prominently ordering other people about.
This is as true for conservatives as liberals. Note: there are some issues worth interfering about, but for too many people on both the Left and the Right, there is an overly broad definition of what the state should do to ensure liberty, peace, order, and security. What we as voters should never do, however, is forget that politicians want to control us.

Monday, December 03, 2018
The internet is full of important facts
Tom Whitwell learned 52 things in 2018. My favourites:
10. In 2015, the Billboard top 200 featured twice as many acoustic guitars as electric guitars.
16. Times Newer Roman looks almost exactly like Times New Roman, but each character is 5–10 wider. That means a 15 page, 12pt document contains just over 5,800 words. The same page count in Times New Roman would require over 6,600 words.
35. Using a middle initial makes people think you’re clever.
37. The average age of viewers of Vice Media’s ‘Viceland’ TV channel is 42.
39. 54 percent of Chinese born after 1995 chose “influencer” as their most desired occupation.
47. In New York City, there are around 1,000 crosswalk buttons. In 2018, only 100 are functional, down from 750 functional buttons in 2004.
Each point has link to original story. Worth your time. #7 is weirdly interesting, while #22 and #23 could have public policy implications in health care.

Project Fear (BoE No Deal worst case scenarios edition)
Daily Telegraph columnist and former chancellor of the exchequer Norman Lamont on Mark Carney's wild speculations about the British economy if there is No Deal:
Economists behind desks are in no better position than anyone else to forecast short-term psychology and their previous efforts in this respect – all kinds of horrors after a vote to Leave in 2016 – signally failed to materialise. The economy kept on growing and unemployment falling.
Of course, this was “a worst case scenario”. There is always a “worst case scenario”, but it is not what is expected to happen. One could argue that with the present high levels of indebtedness in the UK economy and elsewhere in the world, a worst case scenario is that we will experience another crash on the scale of 2008 any time. But that is not actually what most people expect and Governor Carney would not thank one for speculating in that way.
So it was surprising that when it came to Brexit he appeared in a never ending interview on the Today programme last week to wallow in the gloom while sheltering behind the lame excuse the Commons had asked for the figures. The Governor needs to be careful if no deal by any chance does happen that he has not created a self fulfilling prophecy. That would not look clever.
An old joke about economists has it that they put a decimal point in their forecasts to show they have a sense of humour. The Treasury’s forecast differences in economic growth for all the alternative relationships with the EU were in the short term remarkably small, much less than one per cent a year.
But these small differences were then multiplied by 15 to produce a more observable measurable figure over the medium term, namely 15 years – a positive aeon in economic terms. These 15-year figures were then the ones broadcast by the BBC and others. But no one, not even economists, seriously believes that anyone can predict the economy over 15 years.
The gloomy forecasts are nonsense, and the media should not, as it did last week, focus on the highly speculative worst-case scenarios.

Sunday, December 02, 2018
WWE Power Rankings
Worst performance of the week: Raw writers. It was terrible. Many of the promos made little sense. Dean Ambrose is delivering well, but his scripts have been awful and lame. Drake Maverick urinated on Bobby Roode's expensive robe. Baron Corbin tests the patience of viewers by constantly changing the terms of the matches. A pointless open forum that was obviously designed to provide an opportunity for heels to attack Sasha Banks and Bailey (why not just have a match?). A typically terrible Nia Jax promo while Tamina just intensely stared at her partner. Dave Meltzer called this week's Raw the most boring episode ever. There have been a lot of uninteresting Raws over the last few months, but this one actively pissed this viewer off.
Honourable mention: Zach Gibson and James Drake (NXT UK) are a newly formed partnership and they beat Kenny Williams and Amir Jordan to help establish themselves as a quality tag team in NXT UK, which unfortunately probably takes Gibson out of singles action but develops another tag team on the show; Alexa Bliss (Raw) was tapped by acting general manager Baron Corbin to run the red brand's women's division, which should lead to a number of interesting storylines in the short-term before the heel general manager; Jeff Hardy and Samoa Joe (Smackdown), the former who had a nice tribute to mark 20 years in the WWE (and which he pointedly noted was not a retirement speech), the latter who interrupted the celebration by referencing the Charismatic Enigma's past substance abuse issues, thus setting up these two superstars' storylines.
13. Cedric Alexander (205 Live): The former Cruiserweight champ won his tag team match with Mustafa Ali against the current champ Buddy Murphy and Tony Nese. The contest was a good tag match and Alexander, who has been losing lately, looked strong by pinning Murphy following his Lumbar Check on the champ. (Last week: not rated)
11. (tied) Jey and Jimmy Uso (Smackdown): Beat the Smackdown Tag Team champs Cesaro and Sheamus to earn a title shot against The Bar. (Last week: not rated)
10. Daniel Bryan (Smackdown): The blue brand's World champ did not even appear this week, but the A.J. Styles promo getting heat on their upcoming TLC rematch made Daniel Bryan look like a nasty heel. The producers interspersed video of Bryan beating Styles two weeks ago with the former's promo last week explaining his heel-turn. Very well done reminding the WWE Universe that Daniel Bryan flipped and why -- and why it worked. This is the first time that a contender makes the list in a week that he or she was not present during the show. (Last week: 13th)
9. Randy Orton (Smackdown): The Apex Predator came out to explain why he de-masked Rey Mysterio last week. Randy Orton said he doesn't care about the Lucha tradition, that, in fact, he doesn't even know its history. Instead, Orton just wanted to humiliate Mysterio. Mysterio came out and they fought, with Orton being on the receiving end of two 619s. Yet, he got up to stop Mysterio from continuing the attack with a chair and he turned the tables to put a beating on Mysterio again. Randy Orton is being touted as a legend-killer, a ruthless heel. This put heat on the Orton-Mysterio feud, leaving the fans wanting more. Lots more. (Last week: honourable mention)
8. Rhea Ripley (NXT UK): Rhea Ripley beat Mae Young CLassic Toni Storm to become the first NXT UK Women's champion. She's a great wrestler with a nasty streak and confident persona, which is why I didn't really like her shocked look when she won the championship. But otherwise, she was strong throughout the match and will make a dominating women's champ. (Last week: 12th)
7. Drew McIntyre (Raw): The Scottish Psychopath demonstrated his dominance twice Monday night without being booked for a match. He was on stage for most of the first hour and then he played a role in the final half hour of the show. He was part of the opening promo with Baron Corbin and Bobby Lashley and then got involved in the attack on Elias when Corbin declared it a no-DQ match. In the closing contest, McIntyre joined Corbin taking on Finn Balor when the acting general manager declared the match a handicap contest. McIntyre is getting a push, even when he isn't booked to take on Raw's biggest stars in his own matches. (Last week: 14th)
6. Pete Dunn (NXT UK): The Bruiserweight beat Jordan Devlin to defend the NXT UK title on one of the show's two episodes this week and in the other joined in the melee when Trent Seven and Tyler Bate were getting beaten by the Coffey Brothers and Wolfgang; this is the culmination of weeks of the embryonic development of a feud between the factions. It should be fun going forward. (Last week: not rated)
5. Elias (Raw): Elias interrupted acting general manager elect Baron Corbin's speech about how all members of Raw must choose whether they want to "be on the right side of history" or not -- ie, backing Corbin or not. Elias has a great promo, insulting Corbin (boring talker), Bobby Lashley (Bobby Trashley) and Lio Rush (being a child). Then Elias faced Lashley and would have beat him had Rush not pulled the ref out of the ring as he was finishing his three count. After the referee disqualified Lashley, Corbin announced it was a no-DQ match, and Corbin, Lashley, and Drew McIntyre put a beating on Elias for several minutes outside the ring. Lashley then pinned Elias. But the near-victory demonstrated that Elias can beat big opponents and he did so with some neat, poppy, face moves: a running drop-kick to Lashley who was standing outside the ring and a Randy "Macho Man" Savagesque elbow from the top rope. He is one of top faces on the red brand. (Last week: not rated)
4. Asuka (Smackdown): Asuka beat eight opponents in a Battle Royale, eliminating four of her competitors herself, to earn the right to face Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch for the women's title at TLC. (See #2.) After being buried since coming over to Smackdown after Wrestlemania, it was good to see Asuka get this chance. (Last week: not rated)
3. Charlotte Flair (Smackdown): See #2. (Last week: 1st)
2. Becky Lynch (Smackdown): The Raw women's champ and former champ (and erstwhile friend) shared a promo. A week after skipping Smackdown Live, Becky Lynch called out Charlotte Flair and said that while The Queen's beating of Ronda Rousey at Survivor Series was impressive, The Champ would have ensured her Raw counterpart wouldn't have gotten back up and appeared the next day to fight again. Lynch accused Flair of copying her and Flair retorted that Lynch is living in her shadow. This promo provided heat to the Flair-Lynch, Lynch-Rousey, and Flair-Rousey feuds all at once. That's quite an accomplishment. Smackdown general manager Paige said she loved the emotion and granted Flair a Women's World title rematch at TLC, in the first-ever women's tables, ladders, and chairs match. After the rest of the Smackdown women's division came out to complain, Paige said she liked their passion, too, and announced that a battle royale would determine which superstar would join Flair and Lynch in the championship match at TLC. Lynch got the biggest pop, but it was good to see the crowd wooing along with and for Flair. (Last week: not rated)
1. Seth Rollins (Raw): Seth Rollins temporarily moved on from his feud with former partner Dean Ambrose to issue an open challenge to defend his Intercontinental belt. Dolph Ziggler emerged and the two fought. Ziggler had the upper hand for much of the match as Rollins' head was clearly still on Ambrose, but Rollins was ultimately victorious after rolling up the challenger. Rollins defending the championship and gearing up to fight Ambrose at TLC later this month means he's on top of the men's division in WWE again. He's still The Man. (Last week: 8th)