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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Friday, November 24, 2017
Beta male sexual harassers
George Neumayr has a very good essay at The American Spectator in which he says that "male feminist pigs," the "rise of beta male sexual harassers," the the "offspring of the unhappy marriage between feminism and the sexual revolution." Neumayr explains:
The growing pile of confession notes — which combine ostensible empathy and promises of sensitivity and submission with strategically placed, lawyerly denials — testifies to the grimly comic dishonesty of the Beta Male sexual harasser. He thought that he could continue to indulge his appetites as long as he adjusted his attitudes, a view that all of the prattle about “systemic change” confirms him in, insofar as it treats his misbehavior as an ideological problem rather than a moral one. Implied in many of the confession notes from the harassers is the ludicrous suggestion that with a little more “education,” with a few more training seminars, with a little more consciousness-raising, they would have behaved virtuously. This pose allows them to escape moral responsibility and painlessly join the “solution.” The sexual revolution’s massive crisis of unchastity is thus turned into a “problem of power” that can be remedied by the hiring of more female executives, the expansion of HR departments, and “better” education ...
In a culture that rejects chivalry, chastity, and the countless prudent safeguards previous generations adopted in light of real differences between the sexes — in a culture that in effect reduces “goodness” to a set of political attitudes — the rise of the Beta Male sexual harasser was inevitable. From the sordid bed of the sexual revolution and crass feminism has come a new creature — the male feminist pig.

What I'm reading
1. Embattled Nation: Canada's Wartime Election of 1917 by Patrice Dutil and David MacKenzie. An important and divisive election that saw a split in Wilfrid Laurier's Liberals and the Conservative Prime Minister run on a Unionist slate. Robert Borden is over-rated by Canadian conservatives and under-rated by Canadians.
2. How Language Began: The Story of Humanity's Greatest Invention by Daniel L. Everett
3. Numbers and the Making of Us: Counting and the Course of Human Cultures by Caleb Everett. This goes along nicely with How Language Began.
4. Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials by Malcolm Harris. They are not all nearly as spoiled and lazy as some of us might want to believe.
5. "Guaranteed Minimum Income in Quebec: A Utopia? An Inspiration for Quebec," the final report from the Expert Committee on Guaranteed Minimum Income

NYT profile of Ben Shapiro
The New York Times has a short article on Ben Shapiro, and while it appears that author Sabrina Tavernise is trying to be fair to her subject, there is a look-at-this-exotic-conservative-who-is-slightly-smarter-than-Rush-Limbaugh-who-appeals-to-millennials tone to it. Shapiro is also described in ways that a liberal never would be; for example, Tavernise quotes a former admirer of Shapiro who says "He’ll never concede anything to the left." If the profile were about a thirty-something liberal, he'd be principled in not compromising but Shapiro comes off as stubborn. More than once Tavernise notes his audience is mostly young, straight, while males. She also delves into Shapiro's anti-Trump and anti-Fox News positions before warning, "he is not a moderate. His views are extremely conservative." She explains what extremely conservative means:
Transgenderism is a mental illness, as per the encyclopedia of mental disorders before 2013. Yes, blacks have been historically discriminated against. No, institutions are not broadly discriminating against them today. The rich pay too much tax. Abortion should be illegal. Social Security ought to be privatized and Obamacare repealed.
Other than privatizing Social Security, many of these positions are hardly "extremely conservative" and would be held by tens of millions of Americans.
There are three missed opportunities in this profile. The Times might ask why young conservatives are attracted to Shapiro. It could have also explored whether he is winning over millennials to conservatism. And lastly, it should have explicitly noted that his often moderate tone can get opponents to think about the more conservative positions he's espousing. But this would have entailed taking Shapiro more seriously than the author or paper intends.

Thursday, November 23, 2017
Saving liberalism from itself
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat on the sliver of hope that (classical) liberalism can save itself (from modern liberalism):
What will save the liberal order, if it is to be saved, will be the successful integration of concerns that its leaders have dismissed or ignored back into normal political debate, an end to what Josh Barro of Business Insider has called “no-choice politics,” in which genuine ideological pluralism is something to be smothered with a pillow.
In Angela Merkel’s Europe right now, that should mean making peace with Brexit, ceasing to pursue ever further political centralization by undemocratic means, breaking up the ’60s-era intellectual cartels that control the commanding heights of culture, creating space for religious resistance to the lure of nihilism and suicide — and accepting that the days of immigration open doors are over, and the careful management of migrant flows is a central challenge for statesmen going forward.

'Justin Trudeau blocked from entering Scarborough mall event after being mobbed by fans'
That Global headline is misleading. If you make it to the end of the story you will learn it was not a "mall event" but a Liberal campaign event for Jean Yip, the party's candidate in the December 11 Scarborough-Agincourt by-election. There is no doubting that the Prime Minister has rock star status, but Global was delinquent in both its headline and reporting about the nature of the partisan crowd that mobbed him.

It's not just the Telegraph
Charles Glasser at Instapundit:
The Telegraph (UK) is good at finding “scientists” who will say anything.

Republican tax plan panned
The Initiative on Global Markets at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business regularly polls economists from across the ideological spectrum about economic issues (and asks them their confidence about their answers). IGM recently asked their panel: "If the US enacts a tax bill similar to those currently moving through the House and Senate — and assuming no other changes in tax or spending policy — US GDP will be substantially higher a decade from now than under the status quo." One of the 42 respondents agreed the tax plan would boost GDP; 22 disagreed (disagreed or strongly disagreed) and 15 were uncertain. The others did not respond. Furthermore, not one of them disagreed with the statement that the tax measures would substantially increase the debt to GDP ratio. It is possible that these particular economists think the Republican tax plan has other benefits that IGM did not inquire about.

Giving thanks for the carnival of American culture
George Will's annual Thanksgiving column looks at the absurdity of the human drama in America. An excerpt:
In toney and oh-so-progressive Malibu, the city council voted to become a sanctuary city. The councilwoman who made the motion for protecting illegal immigrants said: “Our city depends on a Hispanic population to support our comfortable lifestyle.” In more-progressive-than-thou Oregon, where you can get state-subsidized gender reassignment surgery at age 15 without parental permission, the Legislature made 21 the age at which adults can buy cigarettes.

The Halperin effect
Buzzfeed's Eve Fairbanks uses the sexual harassment allegations which cost Mark Halperin his ABC gig as a reason to write about the "insidious" effect Halperin had on political journalism and the way consumers of political news think about politics:
I want to talk about the deeper, subtler, more insidious effect Mark Halperin had on our politics — one which we’ll be paying for for years to come.
The Note purported to reveal Washington’s secrets. In fact, its purpose was the exact opposite: to make the city, and US politics, appear impossible to understand. It replaced normal words with jargon. It coined the phrase "Gang of 500," the clubby network of lobbyists, aides, pols, and hangers-on who supposedly, like the Vatican's cardinals, secretly ran DC. That wasn't true — power is so diffuse. But Halperin claimed he knew so much more than we did, and we began to believe it.
Once you believe that, it’s not hard to be convinced that politics is only comprehensible, like nuclear science, to a select few. There were those chosen ones — the people who'd flattered Halperin to get a friendly mention in his newsletter, the ones he declared to be in the know — and the rest of us. Halperin wrote about Washington like it was an intriguing game, the kind that masked aristocrats played to entertain themselves at 19th-century parties: Everyone was both pawn and player, engaged in a set of arcane maneuvers to win an empty jackpot that ultimately meant nothing of true importance.
At the same time, The Note made it seem that tiny events — a cough at a press conference, a hush-hush convo between Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell in a corridor — held apocalyptic importance. Cloaked in seriousness, with the imprimatur of Peter Jennings' ABC News, in reality The Note was not news but simple gossip.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Four NFL games to watch (Week 12 edition)
Honourable mention: Green Bay Packers (5-5) at Pittsburgh Steelers (8-2), Sunday night: This would be the #1 game of the week if Aaron Rodgers was playing. But he isn't. Brett Hundley has been awful in Rodgers' stead, but the Steelers play down to opponents and it is hard to imagine the Packers will play atrociously on the national stage in prime time so there is a non-zero chance that this game will be closer than the conventional wisdom suggests. But if Green Bay and Hundley play terribly, it could be fun watching the Steelers' D tee off on them: Pittsburgh is second in sacks and fourth in interceptions. Hundley has thrown seven interceptions and been sacked 17 times in five games. This game would have been flexed out of prime time if the 5-5 team playing their backup was not Green Bay. Steelers win comfortably. Non-Steelers fans might choose the Houston Texans (4-6) at Baltimore Ravens (5-5) on Monday night. These teams are part of the nine teams separated by one game in the AFC battling for the sixth playoff spot and this game could be a tie-breaker at the end of the season. Again, this game would be one of the top games of the week if Deshaun Watson was leading the high octane offense against the top-ranked Ravens defense. But alas, Watson is out for the season.
4. Los Angeles Chargers (4-6) at Dallas Cowboys (5-5), later afternoon, Thursday: Thanksgiving games are fun. Teams headed in the opposite direction are fun. Dealing with injuries and Ezekiel Elliott's suspension, Dallas has lost two in a row and been outscored 64-16. After losing their first four (three of them by three points or less), they are 4-2. Parity means mediocrity, which means that at 4-6, the Bolts are just one game out of a playoff spot. San Diego is an average team (12th in offense and 11th in defense according to Football Outsiders) and is a tough out; at the very least they play compellingly close games. The Cowboys have played terribly with left tackle Tyron Smith out the last two games, Dak Prescott was sacked 12 times (he was sacked 10 times in the previous eight games). Prescott will face the defensive end duo of Mark Ingram (8.5 sacks) and Joey Bosa (10.5) sacks. This would be a tremendous match-up if Cowboys O-line were healthy but it's almost unfair if Smith doesn't play (no decision yet). Chargers win in Dallas and spoil the Cowboys' 50th Turkey Day game.
3. Buffalo Bills (5-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (6-4), early Sunday afternoon: Neither team has looked great in recent weeks. Tyrod Taylor has been reinstated as the starting Bills QB. The narrative is that after losing his starting job last week to fifth round pick while the Bills were in the middle of the playoff hunt, perhaps Taylor is playing with a chip on his shoulder. Not that will necessarily help a lot; Buffalo is averaging 302.1 yard per game, good for 27th in total offense, just behind the Chicago Bears. They are 30th in passing yard, throwing for just 184.4 yard per game. Facing the Bills' anemic offense will help right the Chiefs ship. That doesn't sound exciting, but this game has major playoff ramifications and some great play-makers. The Chiefs are hoping to build a lead in the AFC West and the Bills are trying to either move ahead of the Baltimore Ravens or keep pace with them for the sixth playoff spot. After averaging more than 121 rushing yards per game over the first five games and having five plays (rushing or receiving) of 50 or more yards in those five games, rookie RB Kareem Hunt has averaged 52.8 ypg in the last five games and has had no play of more than 50 yards and only one game with more than 75 rushing yards total. On the plus side for Hunt, he is facing a Bills defense that is allowing 212.7 yards per game on the ground over the last three contests. If Hunt doesn't ramp up his game, WR Tyreek Hill and TE Travis Kelce are exciting play-makers. After discovering the deep pass early in the season, Alex Smith turned back into traditional Alex Smith, completing short passes and letting his receivers find the extra yards while hardly ever turning over the ball. Yards after catch can be as thrilling to watch as out-pacing the cornerback to pull in a 30-yard catch. Playoff implications and exciting players makes this a must-watch game. That said, I don't see the result in question. The Bills are 1-4 on the road this year and going into Arrowhead. Kansas wins handily.
2. Minnesota Vikings (8-2) at Detroit Lions (6-4), early Thursday afternoon: This game is more important than you think. Never mind that the Lions beat the Vikings at home last Thanksgiving. Detroit beat the Vikes in Minnesota earlier this season. A Lions win this week and they are just a game behind Minnesota but they'd hold the first tie-breaker to win the division. A Detroit win not only puts them in contention for the division, but puts distance between themselves and nearly a half dozen marginal playoff contenders like the Cowboys and maybe the injury-depleted Seahawks, and probably turns the wild card chase into a three-way race amongst themselves, the Panthers and the Falcons. While anything is possible, the Vikings have to be favoured. They have scored a touchdown in each of their last nine trips into the red zone; the Lions are famously not as proficient inside their opponents' 20-yard line. Lions kicker Matt Prater has one of the best legs in football, but Detroit relies on it too often: Matthew Stafford has led one TD drive of 75 yards or more this season. The Vikings red zone defense is rated third best according to points per red zone trip allowed, whereas Detroit's defense is 23rd. This doesn't even seem like a fair fight. The Vikes are 8-2 because of their revamped O-line. Last year, they were amongst the worst offensive lines (in part due to injuries) so even moving up to league average would be a huge improvement. The fact that the Vikings O-line is amongst the very best in the NFL is a very big reason Minnesota is tied for the second best record in the NFL and that Case Keenum is leading a very good offense. After a solid start, Detroit is having trouble winning the war in the trenches whether they are playing offense and defense. The Vikes are favoured and they should win. If it's close, you'll hear plenty about how Stafford led the Lions on eight game-winning fourth-quarter drives in 2016. But he won't do it again Thursday.
1. New Orleans Saints (8-2) at Los Angeles Rams (7-3), late Sunday afternoon: The Rams took the most proficient offense into Minnesota last week and scored just seven points. The Saints are on an eight-game winning streak and have kept six of their eight opponents to 17 points or less over that stretch. If the Rams lose back-to-back against division leading Minnesota and then division-leading New Orleans, their narrative will change from "contender" to "can't beat good teams" which might be true, but it's too early to know. New Orleans can beat opponents with defense, with the running game, or as Drew Brees showed when the Saints came from 15 behind to beat the Redskins in overtime, with the passing game. The Rams have a pesty front seven which can get pressure on the quarterback but can't do much against the run. I expect Brees to hand the ball to the best running back combo in the NFL today, Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara. The Saints are also great against the pass, but below average against the run, so Jared Goff is likely to favour Todd Gurley over airing out the ball. But both coaches will add wrinkles that make this a fascinating chess match. I'm excited to watch this game regardless if its a video game-style high-scoring contest or a close low-scoring affair. I trust Brees more than I trust Goff to make the necessary plays to pull out the victory, so I'm going with the Saints in a close one.

The appalling mess that coincided with the decline of traditional moral norms
Ben Shapiro write at National Review about what works (erstwhile moral strictures) and doesn't (virtue-signaling) to ensure men don't behave beastly to women:
This is the trendy new habit on Twitter when another prominent man is outed for sexual harassment and sexual assault: Virtue-signaling men rush to the medium to repent on behalf of their sex. Men, they say, are disgusting creatures — but they know that, since they’re men. So leave them alone, ladies. They’re on your side.
All of this is galling. That’s because it ignores a fundamental fact about human life: All human beings are capable of sin. And that means that the antidote to human frailty and brutality isn’t issuing broad-based mea culpas in behalf of groups, but working to instill virtue in individuals through prophylactic rules. But the leftist rubric forbids such inculcation, because that would be culturally oppressive and judgmental ...
In order to combat piggish behavior, conservatives have advocated for certain rules and a certain educational framework, built up over the course of centuries. Some of those rules include: social expectation that sex would be connected with marriage, thus cementing the connection between sexual activity and commitment; encouragement of marriage prior to sexual activity, thereby providing objective evidence for positive consent from the woman before an entire community of witnesses; carefully cultivated rules of conduct between men and women, including, in many religions, proscribed physical contact; expectation that men would protect women in chivalrous fashion.
All of these rules have fallen under heavy attack.
I do not disagree with the thrust of Shapiro's argument although I have an issue with this line of criticism, namely that it implies everything as fine back in some non-existent Golden Age. It wasn't. But the norms were upheld as ideals to which one aspired and in doing so it certainly encouraged many men to behave decently. Modern morality is predicated almost entirely upon consent, which is a poor substitute for a thorough system of rules that serve as checks and balances on men's appetites.

Washington DC politician wants to honor Putin victim, Russian democracy movement
The Hill reports:
Local officials in Washington, D.C., are considering renaming the street in front of the Russian Embassy after a prominent political opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin who was assassinated in 2015.
The block of Wisconsin Avenue in northwest would be renamed “Boris Nemtsov Plaza" if the legislation passes.
Councilmember Mary M. Cheh (D), whose council ward jurisdiction includes the Russian embassy, rolled out the legislation to rename the street, telling The Washington Post in an article published Tuesday that it was important for the U.S. to honor Russia's democracy movement.
This is a great idea, but I assume it won't get very far for diplomatic reasons. Here is the Wikipedia entry for Nemtsov, who "was an active organizer of and participant in Dissenters' Marches, Strategy-31 civil actions and rallies 'For Fair Elections'." He was gunned down in February 2015. Senator Marco Rubio (R, Florida) supports the gesture.

Free the internet
Senator Ted Cruz (R, Texas) and Federal Communications Commission commissioner Michael O'Rielly write in Roll Call:
The Constitution’s Commerce Clause provides Congress with the power to regulate interstate commerce. Given that the internet permits consumers and businesses to connect to others in different states (as well as countries), broadband services are inherently interstate services and must therefore be protected from state and local interference. As the FCC rolls back the Obama-era regulations on the internet, it should also take the opportunity to affirmatively recognize this ...
Imposing public utility regulations — which have their roots in the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 — on the internet is not the right policy to keep America globally competitive. Now is the time to end government micromanagement of the internet and let it thrive without federal, state, or local meddling. The United States’ continued leadership in the 21st Century digital economy rests on getting this policy right.
For these reasons, it is imperative that the FCC establish a strong deregulatory federal framework for broadband regulations and preempt state and local regulators from having the opportunity to implement the next internet power grab.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Taxpayer-covered fund for victims of sexual harassment to protect politicians on the Hill
Vox reports:
On Monday night, BuzzFeed broke the story that Michigan Rep. John Conyers paid a former staffer thousands of dollars in a settlement in 2015 after sexually harassing her and other women in his office and then firing her for refusing his advances.
He likely isn’t the only member of Congress to settle a harassment case. Since 1997, Congress has paid at least $15 million to settle complaints about sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act under the umbrella of the Congressional Accountability Act (CAA) of 1995.
The payments made to Rep. Conyers’s alleged victim came out of his taxpayer-funded office budget. Generally, though, these payments aren’t made by members of Congress or their offices. They’re made by a special section of the Department of the Treasury established under Section 415 of the CAA — and ultimately by the American taxpayer.
The process by which victims of sexual harassment on the Hill seek justice is long and arduous — it takes up to three months before a formal complaint can be filed. If a settlement is reached, it’s kept secret. The source of the money in the fund is excluded from the standard appropriations budget made public by Congress each year. There’s no process by which voters — or potential employees — can find out who the harassers in office are, what they’ve been accused of, or if they’ve settled with victims before.
There are legal and privacy issues involved in this slush/hush fund for political pervs. But at the very least, this part of the CAA must be revised to eliminate covering up sexual harassment and protecting (alleged) perpetrators.

Trifecta of very good Henry Olsen columns
National Review yesterday: "What Happened to the ‘Libertarian Moment’?" The constituency for liberty/small government within the Republican Party might be 25% of the base. More of a small-tax, traditional values party. I'd add that values matter more than economics for most voters, with values defined very broadly.
New York Times today: "Whatever Happened to Trump’s Populist Agenda?" The populist agenda has stalled because the four faces of the Republican Party -- the GOP problem is that it is a truly Big Tent with diverse interests and values -- can't agree on tax reform or health care reform. Olsen says that the old Reagan coalition of "non-Republican populists, fiscal conservatives and business Republicans" should be able to agree on taxes and health care with just a little imagination and compromise. But the donor class dominated GOP politics and it is opposed to an agenda that would help working-class Americans. Olsen also says that Reagan provides a model on trade and entitlements, but those seem more difficult terrain on which to find common ground.
Unherd today: "Evangelicals are still voting for Roy Moore: how populism beat decency." It begins with a line that would be unimaginable six months ago: "Populism and pedophilia don’t often mix." The American version of Protestantism is different than European Protestantism, because it is an evangelical strain that is both highly politicized and reactionary. But like European populist movements, it seeks redress for its perceived marginalization.

Bird flu spreading in Asia
The New York Times a few days back: "Bird Flu Is Spreading in Asia, Experts (Quietly) Warn." This is merely a pretense to (again) post this Obama-era/Ebola-era Remy video.
And Taylor Swift is not alt-right.

Monday, November 20, 2017
GMOs to the rescue of Africa
(London) Times columnist Matt Ridley explains why genetically modified agriculture could reap huge benefits for Africa, and the environment:
The average yield of an African maize crop is less than a quarter of that of a North American crop, even before the effect of the fall armyworm. This is largely down to a lack of fertilisers, pesticides, hybrid seeds and biotechnology, and frequent drought. Hybrid seeds alone, produced by conventional breeding, can deliver improvements in yield of 20 to 30 per cent, I’m told. Drought-resistant varieties, also conventionally produced, can double the yield. But neither helps against the fall armyworm [a bacteria that destroys maize] ...
Agriculture is an arms race against the other species, and newer techniques should keep us easily one step ahead, so long as we do not prevent them.
The next technology to help farming will be gene-editing, different from the transgenic technique that produced Bt maize, and involving the introduction of no foreign DNA, the thing that critics say they most object to. A tweak to the genes of maize can make it resistant to maize lethal necrosis, a viral disease hurting yields in parts of Africa. There is an opportunity for Britain here. Freed from Europe’s deadly precautionary principle, British plant scientists could be well placed to support their colleagues in Africa.
Those who think poverty a price worth paying for nostalgia say we should go back to traditional agriculture, in better harmony with the land. Not if we want wildlife. Globally, if we had the yields of 1960 we would need more than twice as much land to feed today’s population. In which case, you could kiss goodbye to all rainforests, nature reserves and national parks.

New York subway fact of the day
From the New York Times story on the neglect of New York City's subway system:
More than 90 percent of trains reached their destinations on time on most subway lines in 2007. Ten years later, that figure is less than 70 percent for many lines.
NYC's subway system is among the oldest in the world and one of the few that run 24 hours a day. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the whole region's (southeast New York state) public transit system, has responded to consistent underfunding by cutting back on maintenance, which leads to delays.

Trump more popular than Europe's Big Three leaders
Popular opinion or job approval polls are a staple of political news coverage, but FiveThirtyEight and the New York Times' David Leonhardt can't go a week without pointing out how historically unpopular President Donald Trump is. Most (non-Rasmussen) polls find that Trump's approval rating hovering in the 38%-40% range, and it's true that no president in the age of frequent approval polling (going back to Nixon) has been so low in his first four months, six months, or year in office. But what if instead of comparing Trump to previous presidents at this stage of their presidency, Trump was compared to his contemporary peers. The Washington Examiner reports on a Zogby poll that finds Trump on par with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (40% approval, 49% disapproval) and besting French President Emmanuel Macron (28% approval, 52% disapproval), and British Prime Minister Theresa May (28% approval, 61% disapproval).

The 2018 Illinois gubernatorial election
George Will has a column on the race for governor in Illinois featuring Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and likely Democrat nominee J.B. Pritzker, an heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune. Will says that Rauner's real opponent is Michael Madigan, the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, who was first elected when Richard Nixon was president and rose to Speaker during Reagan's first term in the White House. Madigan, whom Chicago Magazine has called "the Real Governor of Illinois," is a political thug closely tied to the public-sector unions, which are bankrupting the state. Will describes the state of Illinois:
Unfunded state and local government retirement debt is more than $260 billion and rising. Unfunded pension liabilities for the nation’s highest-paid government workers (overtime starts at 37.5 hours) are $130 billion and are projected to increase for at least through the next decade. Nearly 25 percent of the state’s general funds go to retirees (many living in Texas and Florida). Vendors are owed $9.5 billion. Every five minutes the population — down 1.22 million in 16 years — declines as another person, and an average of $30,000 more in taxable income, flees the nation’s highest combined state and local taxes. Those leaving are earning $19,600 more than those moving in. The work force has shrunk by 97,000 this year. There has not been an honestly balanced budget — a constitutional requirement — since 2001. The latest tax increase, forced by the legislature to end a two-year budget impasse, will raise more than $4 billion, but another $1.7 billion deficit has already appeared.
The blue state model is untenable and Will says voters in this bluest of blue states will reach a verdict on the model 12 months from now.

Sunday, November 19, 2017
Bernier memoir
CBC reports that Maxime Bernier will pen a memoir which could be published in early 2019. Bernier says: "The book will be about my vision of the country. What's wrong with our country and how we can fix it." It will also cover his time in Stephen Harper's cabinet and the 2017 Conservative leadership race. Bernier says he won't really get into supply management because he promised the party he would not advocate the ending of the Soviet-style command-and-control system supported by the Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, but he also says he will explain his "strategy" for focusing on the free market issue in the leadership race. That sounds either duplicitous or disappointing. He sort of denies the book indicates he will run again for the leadership saying that he already had his chance. Brian Mulroney and John Diefenbaker ran for the Progressive Conservative leadership more than once. No doubt that there will be more questions about Bernier's motives and future when the book is released. The problem for Bernier is that he either writes a libertarian book that will raise uncomfortable issues for his party in the months leading up to the October 2019 federal election or he will write an unsatisfying book that hides the strong free market principles Bernier has promoted his entire adult life.

What I'm reading
1. Continental Ambitions: Roman Catholics in North America by Kevin Starr
2. The Infidel and the Professor: David Hume, Adam Smith, and the Friendship That Shaped Modern Thought by Dennis C. Rasmussen
3. Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency by Joshua Green. A little too knee-jerk anti-Breitbart, but Green takes Bannon's views and political acumen seriously.
4. Playing With Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics by Lawrence O’Donnell

Saturday, November 18, 2017
UK debt after the Age of Austerity
At CapX, Lee Rotherham explains that the idea the UK has experienced "austerity" is a joke, as the Cameron-May governments have piled on debt with years of reckless deficit spending. The United Kingdom has now accumulated £1.9 trillion in national debt. What would that debt buy?
Train buffs might reflect on the costs of HS2. There remains considerable dispute on what the final bill will be for this, but one reasoned estimate currently puts the price tag at £48 billion just for Phase 1. With of length of some 140 miles, that makes for an eyewatering £342 million a mile. But at those rates, £1.9 trillion would lay track from London to Beijing. That would make quite some latterday silk road ...
At the time of writing, the gold price is about £31 million a tonne. Setting aside again the obvious and inevitable discrepancies that arise with such flights of fancy relating to market disruption and so on, £1.9 trillion would get you over 61,000 tonnes of gold – variously estimated at between 1/3rd and 2/5ths of all the gold ever mined. What could you do with it? To quote Goldmember, Shmelt it! Factor in relative metal densities, play short cuts with gravity and architecture, and you could rival Easter Island with glittering colossoi.
Our imminent level of national debt would be able to buy us 68 Statues of Liberty, made out of gold. We could line them up on the White Cliffs of Dover to greet travellers, and maybe even stick some turbines on them to keep the Green lobby happy.
What does the United Kingdom have as a result of years of deficit spending. Not trains. And not statues made of gold. As wasteful as such statues would be, there would be something to show for the spending.

'Justin Trudeau Now Has A Craft Beer Named After Him'
Story here. It is available in Ukraine. Other world leaders to have a beer named after them: Angela Merkel and Donald Trump. Bet this review for Corona Light applies to Trudeau magnum pale ale.