Sobering Thoughts

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

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Who cares

Jack Layton, the Globe and Mail reports, "is refusing to say whether he will stay home, abstain or stand up when the Liberal no-confidence motion comes to a vote Thursday afternoon," despite the fact he has already announced that the Harper government will survive the Liberal chest-thumping confidence vote because the NDP are not ready for an election/want to give this Parliament a chance to work. It doesn't matter how Layton specifically lets the government survive although each possibility and his final decision will no doubt be analyzed and then over-analyzed. Pundits think this is all very meaningful but normal Canadians don't.

Three and out

3. Remember all the stories about the new Yankees Stadium having some architectural flaw that resulted in more homeruns? If you listened or watched Yankee broadcasts in the past month or so, broadcasters were still droning on about the significant advantage the design of the new stadium gives to the Yankees because it helps them hit homeruns (but apparently not visiting hitters, which seemed odd). But according to the Daily News, the homeruns being hit at Yankee Stadium has been decreasing steadily since the end of May. According to Yankees skipper Joe Girardi, it might have had something to do with the Spring weather. The paper notes: that in April and May there were 87 homers hit in 23 games (3.78 per game) and that "since the start of June, there have been 146 homers hit in 57games, an average of 2.56, and since July 17 (the All-Star break) 91homers in 37 games, 2.46 per." It might be the weather, it might be that pitchers have altered what they throw to avoid giving up long fly balls, it could that opposing teams have fewer homerun hitters, it could be any number of factors. It is possible that the two months were an aberration. Who knows, but the story has been overplayed all year and despite the evidence of fewer HRs per game, expect the post-season broadcasts to talk on endlessly about how Yankee Stadium boosts homeruns. All that said there are two explanations for why Yankee Stadium does feature more homeruns, even if the freakishly high homerun rate of the first two months has subsided. One is the obvious reason of the short right-field fence. The other should also be obvious: the Yankees hit a lot of homeruns because they have a lot of homerun hitters.

2. Dayn Perry has a slide show at FoxSports on the players who will be the most under pressure in October. I don't think St. Louis Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin or LA Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw face anywhere near the pressure that Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez and Bronx Bombers ace CC Sabathia are under. But no one is under the sort of scrutiny that Alex Rodriguez is under. A-Rod can, in Perry's words, redeem himself (and presumably his contract) to (unappreciative) fans with a productive post-season (not that he should need to redeem himself).

1. A really good question from Joe Posnanski: "Has there ever been a team that lost 90 games with a starter and closer that had 2.25 ERAs or better. This is built around the Royals, of course. Zack Greinke has a 2.06 ERA. Joakim Soria has a 2.25 ERA. How difficult is it to lose 90-plus games with that combination?" The answer, Posnanski finds, is very difficult. Since 1965, seven teams have had a starter and closer with ERAs under 2.25, when the former accumulates 200 IP and the closer attaining 20 saves. Only one -- the 1996 Florida Marlins -- had a sub-500 record and they were 80-82 and won the World Series the next year. Three of the other six went to the World Series and another (the 1988 New York Mets) lost in the NL Championship. Interestingly, that Mets team lost to a LA Dodgers team that just miss qualifying for this list: Orel Hershiser had a 2.26 ERA. They went on to win the World Series.


It has been four years since Jyllands-Posten published 12 cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammed. Mark Steyn looks at the whole thing here. Steyn says:

I was the subject of an attack in The Phoenix a year or two back. As hit pieces go, it was a pretty feeble effort, and I didn’t feel it was worth driving all the way down to Boston just to kill a few members of staff and burn the building down. But it makes you think. In our multicultural society, the best way to get “respect” from others is to despise them; the surest way to have your views boundlessly “tolerated” is to be utterly intolerant of anybody else’s. Those who think Islam will apply these lessons only to op-ed cartoons or representations of Mohammed are very foolish.
Which is one reason why the International Free Press Society has declared September 30th International Free Press Day. And it is vitally necessary. As the IPFS notes:

Since publishing his cartoon, the now-iconic Turban-bomb Mohammed image, [Kurt] Westergaard, 73, has required state security to protect him from violent retribution for violating the tenets of sharia in Denmark. Such threats have included an assassination plot uncovered by Danish police in February of last year.
In case you forgot what Westergaard did -- and here I'm only doing what so many newspapers and magazines failed to do when reporting the story at the time (excepting, of course, Ezra Levant's Western Standard) -- here is the cartoon depiction of Mohammed.

Four and down

4. has a good video presentation of Jerry's World, aka the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium. It is 1:35 minutes long and it isn't until the final ten seconds that the over-sized hi-def video screen is mentioned, although the ending is a little hyperbolic.

3. Greg Bishops of the New York Times does a great job covering the New York Jets for both the paper and its website. In fact, I can't think of a better football beat writer at any daily newspaper. At The Fifth Down two days ago, he had a great post "nitpicking" the 3-0 Jets but pointed out three noteworthy flaws in their game. The O-line is inconsistent, QB Mark Sanchez struggled on third downs against Tennessee on Sunday for the first time this year, and Sanchez has some ball security issues. The last is the biggest problem, especially considering that Sanchez will play two months in cold, wet and snowy New Jersey. Sanchez has never played in the snow before. He is off to a great start, but as Bishop notes, still has a lot to improve in his game.

2. ColdHardFootballFacts has an article about the three 2008 division winners that have started 2009 by going 3-0 (Tennessee Titans, Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers) by noting that such inconsistency is the norm in the NFL. Those three teams combined for a 36-12 record in '08 but have started this campaign a collective 0-9. That is extreme but not entirely unpredictable. CHFF noted that one sign of their impending drop-off came last January when each was "embarrassed in the playoffs" at home. One reason for fans expecting better from all division winners is that the three model franchises of the past decade -- the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts -- have unrealistically altered our expectations about division winners. Their success "is so constant that we take it for granted," but "We shouldn't. In fact, we should stand in even more awe of them." And not expect the Carolinas and Miamis of the NFL to replicate the unusual success of the Steelers, Pats and Colts. And if sports history tells us anything, it is that the incredible run that these three teams are on will some day end, too.

1. The AP reported that the Steelers are thinking about benching Limas Sweed after he dropped several catches, but the biggest drop would be the one in the end zone that should have secured a Pittsburgh victory on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. If the benching is punishment for dropping a touchdown catch, this would be an over-reaction to something that just happens. The problem is that while Sweed looked like he made some progress in the pre-season, the second-year player has a history of literally dropping the ball, including one in the AFC Championship against the Baltimore Ravens in January. Someone on a Steeler's fan forum called Sweed a "dickheaded cement hands" which isn't grammatically sound but seems to accurately sum up Steeler fans' sentiments. There is a YouTube video entitled "Limas Sweed is garbage." The former second-round pick doesn't have the confidence of his coach, either. Mike Tomlin said: "I don't have a doghouse ... A doghouse is something you have when you let things stew and don't take action. He lacked a little detail in preparation last week ... Young guys have to earn their opportunities. They have to make coaches confident with their ability to execute details of their assignments. He didn't do that to my satisfaction last week and didn't get any playing time on offense as a result. I took action, but I don't take any baggage into this week." That seems sensible and is much more reason to bench or deactivate Sweed than one dropped catch, no matter how important that catch was. The bottom line is that Sweed is not the number three receiver the Steelers need and that Mike Wallace has moved past him on the depth chart.

American Idol on the pages of the Washington Post

"America's Next Great Pundit" is chance to write a WaPo column. Details here.

Frum on Palin's memoirs

Sarah Palin's memoirs will be released in mid-November. David Frum has some questions about Palin's early exit from Alaska politics and the timing of her book's release. Fine, let him speculate. But I had a hard time swallowing this line: "Obviously, we can’t evaluate the book before it’s published." C'mon, everyone knows that David Frum has already made up his mind about Palin's memoirs.

Unparalleled stupidity twice in one week

Well, nearly unparalleled. Warren Kinsella tries to stretch something the Harper Conservatives do into something it is not twice in one week. First, calling the Gordon Landon story "The Reform-Conservative Sponsorship Scandal?" is both desperate and pathetic. But not as desperate and pathetic as saying that releasing an economic report card on Yom Kippur is "either a shocking oversight or a deliberate choice to put politics ahead of openness and accountability to all Canadians - including observant Jews." Releasing the economic report card on Monday was probably a slight oversight, not a shocking one. But to suggest it was a deliberate choice to (Kinsella implies) avoid openness and accountability is irresponsible. Worst case scenario is that observant Jews read about the story in Tuesday's newspaper.


1. I was surprised by a lot of facts in "10 Billboard 200 Milestones" from Mental Floss -- for example, that Jackie Gleason's Music for Lovers Only spent the most weeks on the top ten (153 compared to 78 for Michael Jackson's Thriller).

2. Listverse has "Top 10 Bizarre Medical Treatments."

3. The New York Times reports that evolutionary progress probably can't be reversed.

4. has "5 Reasons You Secretly Want a Zombie Apocalypse."

5. Gerry Nicholls has a humorous post on what candidates from the five major federal Canadian political parties would say if they were honest.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Three and out

3. Are wins a useless statistic by which to measure a pitcher? Rays Index looks at the question and comes to the mostly sensible conclusion that those who say a win-loss record is irrelevant are missing something. Playing with some of the numbers that stat-heads like (ERA+), Rays Index finds that over time "better pitchers win more games" -- especially when measured by winning percentage. The problem with the win as a statistic is that it comes from a small sample size (25-33 starts) whereas ERA (or ERA+ or whatever) has 5-9 data points per game (each inning). That is an unusual insight but one that makes sense. Still, once you understand that with some notable exceptions, "better pitchers win more games" the conclusion that "in the absence of other stats, Wins is a very good, if not great, indicator of a pitcher’s value," is a valid -- or at least defensible -- statement.

2. Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel blames the schedule for the fact his team is slumping -- or more accurately, that the Atlanta Braves are surging -- and therefore the Phillies might miss the playoffs. C'mon, is he serious. If it is too difficult now (or too easy for the Atlanta Braves now) then it was disproportionately easier for the Phillies earlier (or harder for the challengers in the first part of the season). That is, perhaps the Phillies created a comfortable cushion by beating up on easy teams in July and August rather than September. Blaming the schedule is a silly excuse and actually an unnecessary one. After going 16-3 over the past 19 games -- including easy series against the New York Mets, Houston Astros and Washington Nationals -- the Braves closed the gap to five wins with six games remaining. It is highly unlikely the Phillies will find themselves out of the playoffs. Fortunately for the Braves, they are now part of the wild card race, 2.5 games behind the Colorado Rockies.

1. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig denies that the Pittsburgh Pirates are trading away talented, but more expensive players in order to make a profit. In other words, the Pirates are maintaining a losing but inexpensive team. The fact that Bud Selig even has to answer a question about this indicates that Major League Baseball has the wrong economic system and incentives. Teams that consistently lose over time should not be profitable, but because of revenue sharing and the "tax" on teams with high payrolls, the Pirates can make money while losing ballgames. Due to revenue sharing, if the Florida Marlins keep payroll in the $25-40 million range, they can turn a profit before they sell even a single ticket to a spectator. This is not only strange but unfair. Unfair to their fans and unfair to successful teams that are forced to subsidize losers.

Four and down

4. Yesterday I said the Arizona Cardinals were one of four 2008 division winners to begin '09 0-3. I have no idea why I made that mistake because the Cards are, in fact, 1-2.

3. The headlines on the New England Patriots "sluggish" start is that the defense is letting down the team. So I took a closer look at the stats and found that in three games the Pats have surrendered just five offensive touchdowns. Only six other teams have allowed fewer points (50). That's pretty good, actually. Sure, some of the defense problems contribute to not having the offense on the field enough or issues of field position, but it is hard to pin the blame for New England's D.

2. Nor is it necessary to worry about the complete collapse of Tom Brady. Headline from "Tom Brady's had a storied career, but what if he never gets back?" One thing I can't stand about so much of sports journalism is the extremism of the writers, by which I mean that players are the best or they are goats, they are on top of the world or in steep decline, teams are Super Bowl-bound or on the verge of worse collapse ever, etc... Sometimes a few bad games are just a few bad games and while Tom Brady had an impressive record of sustained success, I'm sure that he had a few middling games over the course of a season. It might be that he is having such a run of bad luck and/or lacklustre games in consecutive contests and, worse, at the beginning of the season. But remember that Brady hadn't played a meaningful game in more than a year. He is likely to be a tad rusty. The Pats should keep an eye on it, but hysterics about "never getting back" his mojo seems more like lazy journalism than insightful commentary.

1. One gets the distinct feel when reading anything written about the Dallas Cowboys or listening to broadcasters talk about them, that the team is in serious trouble. Every game is a big game for them. Tony Romo loses the home opener in a contest decided by three points and the football pundits are treating it like he dropped a snap in a playoff game. It gets a little much but as one announcer said during the Monday Night Football broadcast -- in a game where the Cowboys went into the half-time down 7-0 against the Carolina Panthers but came back to win 21-7 -- winning games is not enough for Jerry Jones and the storied Cowboys franchise, they must win championships. Tony Romo has been so over-rated for so long that the backlash against him is about to make him under-rated. He is a very good QB prone to mistakes and he hasn't won the big games. Football pundits are now treating him like he is Trent Edwards or JaMarcus Russell. Here is a general rule about consuming football coverage of the 'Boys: whatever is said is over-stating the case. By the way, the Cowboys are 2-1 and have the fourth most points in the NFC.

NYT doesn't get it

A headline from the New York Times about the victory of Angela Merkel and the electoral failure of the socialist left in Western Europe: "Europe’s Socialists Suffering Even in Downturn." Perhaps the left suffers because 1) the Left is seen as responsible for policies that either exacerbate the downturn or even contributed to it or 2) the Right is not nearly as threatening to the welfare state. Anyway, the gist of the headline (if not actually the article) is that socialists have the answers in times of recession. The voters seem to disagree.

Charles Murray on three great men of the right

Charles Murray notes that within three years, the Right lost Milton Friedman, William F. Buckley and Irving Kristol. He knew all three and remembers them fondly, noting how they were different from the "important" people of today. For nostalgia sake, it is worth reading, but the conclusion is important:

The comparisons with the voices of the Right today are unavoidable (The Left’s no better, but they’re not for me to worry about). There are many exceptions in print and some on radio and television. But who got on the cover of Time magazine the same week as Irving died? Glenn Beck, sticking his tongue out. He and others like him comprise far too much of the public face of the Right today—crudely sarcastic when they are not being angry, mean-spirited, and often embarrassingly ignorant. The antithesis of Friedman, Buckley, and Kristol.

I expect to be told that I’m too squeamish. We’re in a battle for America’s soul at a pivotal moment. But the very truth of that statement—we are indeed in a battle for America’s soul—makes it a good idea to stop and think about when the American Right was truly influential. It didn’t start after right-wing talk shows got big. It started in the 1960s, as Friedman, Buckley, and Kristol were hitting their stride. It flowered in the 1970s, then reached its apogee in the 1980s when their ideas were given political force by Ronald Reagan—another man of civility, good humor, and optimism. Don’t tell me that we have to put up with the Glenn Becks of the world to be successful. Within living memory, the Right was successful. The Right changed the country for the better—through good arguments made by fine men.
Murray's lament for an intelligent and less angry conservatism raises many of the same points that the NewMajority-ites make but without David Frum's douchebaggery. Part of that is because Murray understands there is a difference between Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

Political credentials

Mark Dyrholm wrote a letter to the editor of the Calgary Herald refuting the claim by Michael Taube that he (Dyrholm) doesn't have the political credentials that Danielle Smith, his opponent for the Wildrose Alliance, has. Dyrholm writes:

... Taube resorted to misinformation about my experience. I feel obligated to inform him and others of my qualifications and experience. Politically, I have served on several campaigns including: Preston Manning, Stockwell Day, Stephen Harper, Ric McIver, Rob Anders, Craig Chandler, Steve Chapman, Ron Liepert and Ted Morton, just to name a few. I have volunteered on several boards for the Reform party, Canadian Alliance and the Alberta Progressive Conservatives. I have also drafted policy for various parties including the Wildrose Alliance.

I am also the former VP of the Progressive Group for Independent Business (PGIB), Calgary's largest business and taxpayer organization. The difference with the PGIB is you can't lobby for them unless you own a business. The PGIB requires real life experience such as signing the front of a cheque, meeting payroll, creating jobs, managing budgets and managing people. I was also the VP of the Alberta Chiropractic Association.
I'm not writing this to be critical of Dyrholm (whom I support in the WA leadership race), but I have problems with what he trumpets as his political experience -- "served on several campaigns" doesn't tell you much. How did he serve? How senior was the position? Did he have regular contact with senior members of the campaign or the candidate himself? I've met too many people in politics who talk about their entry- or mid-level campaign experience as if they were developing the policy platform, writing speeches for the candidate, coordinating an army of volunteers, and devising campaign strategy. Stuffing envelopes, erecting signs, knocking on doors to distribute pamphlets, and answering phones are all part of serving on a political campaign, too. But experience with some jobs might better prepare a candidate for a leadership position than others.

Dyrholm also notes his business experience, which he calls "real life experience" which includes "signing the front of a cheque, meeting payroll, creating jobs, managing budgets and managing people." I get tired of conservatives highlighting meeting a payroll as a qualification for running for high office. Governments can tax people or borrow endlessly to meet its obligations. Making sure that a business doesn't run out of money isn't the same thing as balancing a budget. Furthermore, prime Ministers and premiers have large staffs to figure out the details and manage people further down the ladder. And no prime minister or premier will ever need to sign a (real) cheque. Being the sole boss of a small business probably doesn't provide any experience that high level politicians will need, which is a leadership style that is more collegial and is less focused on the bottom line. Perhaps that is what is wrong with politics and government, but Mark Dyrholm isn't going to change that.

The coming Liberal crack-up

Liberal flack Robert Silver at yesterday:

Today's announcement by Denis Coderre that he is resigning as Quebec lieutenant and defence critic is lots of things, but it is certainly not a sign of the return of the era of different camps and mass division within the Liberal Party. If anything, it is the opposite.

First off, the Liberal Party is in opposition. Henry Kissinger said "university politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small." Well guess what, internal regional Liberal politics right now are a small step above university politics. Arguably.
I'm not sure what I think of Silver's argument, at least not exactly. I tend not to believe it and see it as wishful thinking. Honest wishful thinking, but wishful thinking nonetheless.

I don't think that the Denis Coderre-Martin Cauchon battle is an opportunity to rebuild, as Silver suggests. The Coderre-Cauchon battle might represent other things (Can the Quebec wing of the party be run from Toronto/Ottawa? Does it expose Ignatieff as the second coming of Stephane Dion?) but it does not represent opportunity. Nor does the Coderre-Cauchon nomination battle suggest that the old Chretien-Turner/Martin split continues today. Sometimes a nomination battle is just a nomination battle. The media is making a mountain out of something bigger than a mole hill -- maybe a slight incline that goes up for 30, 40 yards.

To the extent that the nomination contest represents anything, it is this: a contentious situation for a party that already has its problems. The biggest problem is this: the Liberals are untethered from reality because they can't believe that they are out of power. The party desperately wants not to rebuild but to be elected back into government. The Liberals do not realize they must do the former to achieve the latter.

The situation is volatile. Combine a contentious nomination battle, an inept leader and a party that is both desperate and pathetic and you have a recipe for something that is combustible. It doesn't help that the media is exaggerating the importance of this story.

The Liberals are unwilling to do the difficult heavy lifting of remaking the party by rebuilding the organization; it is the kind of mistake that comes from hubris. The party is not on the verge of rebuilding, let alone being elected into office, but rather it is on the verge of self-destruction. Stephane Dion was only the beginning. Michael Ignatieff is Dion II. The Coderre-Cauchon battle need not be part of this story, but probably will be, reinforcing the weaknesses the public notices.

Last night on the CBC, David Herle, a former advisor to Paul Martin, said that no one in the Liberal Party wants a leadership race and that everyone supports Iggy. That's probably true, but they may not soon have a choice.

No, no, no, no, no, no

The Hill Times reports that Elizabeth May wants into the leadership debates and if she is excluded she will sue. Single digit polling and no seats means neither she nor her party deserve to be there. Period.


1. Grab a coffee and read "Can the Right Kinds of Play Teach Self-Control?" by Paul Tough from this weekend's New York Times Magazine.

2. The (London) Times has the "10 greatest con-men of all time." Bernie Madoff is only #10 and Charles Ponzi #5. My favourite is Gregor MacGregor who invented a country ("Poyais") and sold land to investors.

3. Try this quiz: "Ben and Jerry's flavour or Pottery Barn paint colour?" I got 10 of 12.

4. June Thomas has a multi-part series on "The American Way of Dentistry" at Slate. First three parts: "The Story of My Teeth," "The Disappearing Dentist," and "The Oral Cost Spiral."

5. Business Pundit has "The 25 Worst Business Failures in History," and the Edsel is only 23. (HT: Newmark's Door) I have some problem calling companies that had a long life (Woolworth's) or longish life (Polaroid) and eventually faded a business failure in the same sense that self-destructively bad ideas (Enron), failed products (Edsel) or dangerous products (Sharper Image's Ionic Breeze) or a combination of all three (Premier Smokeless Cigarette) are business failures.

Monday, September 28, 2009
A description that doesn't describe

From the September 24 The Daily, a compendium of research released by Statistics Canada each day, reports on a new study that examines "Neighbourhood characteristics and distribution of police-reported crime in Toronto":

Rates of property crime ... were higher in areas of the city of Toronto with high commercial activity such as shopping centers and certain residential neighbourhoods, most often located near the city centre.
Certain residential neighbourhoods? What a useless description. Remember when partial-birth abortion was referred to as "a particular abortion procedure" by the mainstream media in the United States, in order to be less clear about what the procedure was. Isn't journalism supposed to be clear?

Anyway, want to guess which neighbhourhoods The Daily might be alluding to? To be fair, The Daily article does note that violent crime is higher in the "east and northwest areas of the city" -- Scarborough and Jane-Finch -- but that line "certain residential neighbourhoods" reminds me of the Toronto Star policy a few years back to not report details about the location when a crime was committed in the Jane-Finch neighbourhood.

Funniest thing I've read all day

From the comments section of a post by Tyler Cowen soliciting advice on who to follow on twitter: "[I]t's not the size of the asshole you worry about, it's how much shit comes out of it." That's from:

'If Air Travel Worked Like Health Care'

A fictional conversation as imagined by the National Journal's Jonathan Rauch.

Four and down

4. The Denver Broncos man-handled the Oakland Raiders (23-3) and improved their record to 3-0. That is impressive and it is better to win than lose, but their winning will likely come to an end. They beat the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Raiders, three pretty awful teams and Denver's easiest opponents this year (not including the Kansas City Chiefs). The Broncs now have four difficult games against the Dallas Cowboys and New England at home and then off to San Diego for a Monday night game, a bye-week and then East to play the Ravens in Baltimore. Records matter but so does the opponents that a team plays. A middling team should have a winning record against the Bengals, Browns and Raiders and if you remember the first week, the Broncs needed a fluky deflection for a comeback win in the final seconds. It is much too early to plan playoff games in the Mile High City quite yet.

3. Three of last year's division winners are 0-3 (Tennessee Titans, Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals) and another, the Carolina Panthers, could go 0-3 if they lose tonight in Dallas. The Fins benefited last year from an extremely easy schedule and they have one of the most difficult in '09; that explains a lot (see point four above). The Titans were 10-0 to begin '08 but finished 3-3 before losing their playoff game; if you are having difficulty with the math, Tenny is 3-7 in the last 10 games that mattered. The Cards defense was supposed to be better but isn't and their offense is off a bit, so Arizona looks to be in trouble. Starting zero and three is a big hole to dig out of but ... the Cards are in a weak division and should have the talent to turn it around quickly, the Titans might be good enough if they right their ship quickly especially if the Fins and Houston Texans continue to struggle and Miami will need help from an under-performing New England Patriots to play any part of the playoff picture.

2. One more thing about the Titans. Everyone was wondering whether they would miss DT Albert Haynesworth, who left for a big contract with the Washington Redskins. Perhaps, considering the breakdown of so much of its defense, they are missing defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who left to coach the Detroit Lions. I'm just suggesting that perhaps losing the guy who ran the entire defense might be more important than the loss of one piece of the defense.

1. I have a lot to say about the Buffalo Bills who lost 27-7 to the New Orleans Saints, although the game was close until the fourth quarter. The Bills put a lot of pressure on Saints QB Drew Brees who was less dangerous than usual and they forced New Orleans to go with more of a running game. Brees was 16 for 29 for a mere 172 yards, as he was hurried most of the game. Bills DE Chris Kelsay was a big part of the disruption, totaling eight tackles, a sack and quarterback hit. Fellow DE Aaron Schobel had a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery. The Bills D did their job despite missing key components due to injury (three starters including CB Leodis McKelvin left the game and they were already missing LB Paul Posluszny). The defense can carry their heads high. The offense, however, can't. It was abysmal. The only scoring came off a touchdown pass from punter Brian Moorman on a fake field goal; he passed to defensive end Ryan Denney for a 25 yard TD. It is not uncommon for a kicker to be responsible for more points than a quarterback, but it is uncommon for a punter to account for all a team's scoring. Trent Edwards can't make plays. He was 20 for 35 for 156 yards. The running game is overly reliant on Fred Edwards who had good moments, but this team needs more from the run than his 71 yards. Edwards ran for 15 yards and there was only one other carry all game. But the real problem were that the wideouts -- Lee Evans and Terrell Owens -- were non-existent. Evans caught four balls for 31 yards; Owens snapped his streak of 185 games with a catch -- the third highest total in history. Worse, TO looked like he wasn't trying. That is a horrible thing to say and I don't usually think athletes are lazy. But there were three passes he might have gotten to that were not necessarily easy but were the sort of big play that the Bills signed him in order to make. If he makes one of them, the Bills might have had some momentum. One long pass might be placed on Edwards' shoulders (he admits to throwing harder into the wind than he should have), but for another pass, TO wasn't even paying attention. There was never any hustle and his answers in the post-game interview showed he was not emotionally with the team. His answers were ritualistic, not even cliched; rather he droned a variation of the same answer to every question: "we were going with the plays that were called." Part of the problem is Edwards, who very mechanistically surveys the field quickly and goes with the easy play; if the pass wasn't going to TO or Lee Evans as part of the plan and neither were open, Edwards isn't going to pass to them. But the biggest disappointment in the game came with 7:41 left in the fourth, the Bills down 17-7 needing two scoring drives to tie the game, on their own 28th with a four-and-one. The Bills needed to get that one yard and continue their drive but according to the Dick Jauron/Ralph Wilson ultra-conservative playbook, the situation called for a punt. In other words, when they needed to try to score they gave away the ball. Sure, if the Bills didn't make it they were losing the ball inside their own 30, but if the are giving away the ball, it doesn't matter if the Saints were up by 10, 13 or 17. The fans turned on the home team at that point -- and deservedly so. The Bills all but announced they had no faith in their offense, they had given up and giving away the game didn't matter. Bills fans deserve better.

Saturday, September 26, 2009
Four and down (Best weekend, non-division games)

4. New Orleans Saints at Buffalo Bills: It was a toss-up between this game and the struggling Miami Dolphins and their wild cat offense headed to San Diego to face the Chargers. I went with the nearly unprecedented season-opening, Drew Bree-led offense. It is supposed to rain which dampens the Saints offense, but as I said earlier this week, even the improved Bills D is prone to big and costly mistakes. I wonder whether coach Dick Jauron will employ the no-huddle; the Bills should want to slow the game down and keep Brees on the bench as much as possible.

3. San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings: It is the first Vikings home game and their first real challenge. The Niners are 7-2 in their last nine regular season games. San Fran is grittier under Mike Singletary and will present a much bigger challenge than either the Detroit Lions or Cleveland Browns.

2. Tennessee Titans at New York Jets: The Titans are 0-2 but they have lost by a total of just six points. The Jets have a competent rookie under center (Mark Sanchez) and a suddenly superior offense. Rex Ryan and the new defensive imports have worked their magic a lot faster than anyone thought they could. I expect Sanchez to be as effective as he's been in the previous two games as he faces a Titan's pass defense that has been abysmal (107.8 Defensive Passer Rating).

1. Indianapolis Colts at Arizona Cardinals: The teams both have an important receiving target out with an injury (Anthony Gonzalez for the Colts, Steven Breaston for the Cards) and both teams have some problems on defense. But this is essentially Kurt Warner vs. Peyton Manning and that is a marquee matchup.

Chutzpah alert

David Frum in a post on Thursday at New Majority entitled "Me, Me, Me, Me, Me," points to his own column in The Week that begins:

Increasingly, Barack Obama’s speaking style inspires a reaction borrowed from the narrator of the Raymond Chandler novel, The Long Goodbye: “You talk too damn much, and too damn much of it is about you.” Of the first seven sentences Obama delivered to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, the presidential “I” was the subject or direct object of five.
That is a little much for a guy who runs a website, the focus of which is his feuds with other conservatives -- not debates, but feuds. Less than an hour after the aforementioned post, Frum wrote:

In a fiery debate, editor David Horowitz accuses NewMajority’s David Frum of “scorched-earth attacks on Glenn Beck.” Frum replies...
The next day, Frum notes:

John Hawkins’ poll at Right Wing News names the people on the right most disliked in the right-wing blogosphere…

David Frum tied with Lindsay Graham for 3rd place, just behind John McCain, but beating David Brooks. (Olympia Snowe ranked first.) Nobody wishes to be disliked of course, but at least the company on the disliked list represents a big improvement over the “most respected” list, which is headed by Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin.

Thursday, September 24, 2009
Another case for abstinence and monogamy

AFP reports:

The average British man or woman has slept with 2.8 million people -- albeit indirectly, according to figures released on Wednesday to promote awareness of sexual health. A British pharmacy chain has launched an online calculator which helps you work out how many partners you have had, in the sense of exposure to risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STIs).

The "Sex Degrees of Separation" ready reckoner tots up the numbers based on your number of partners, then their previous partners, and their former lovers, and so on for six "generations" of partners.

The average British man claims to have actually slept with nine people, while women put the figure at 6.3, giving an average of 7.65.

"When we sleep with someone, we are, in effect, not only sleeping with them, but also their previous partners and their partners' previous partners, and so on," said Clare Kerr, head of sexual health at Lloydspharmacy.
To many of us, that may sound gross and creepy. The Sun provides a different take that might excite some people:

Using the 'Six Degrees of Separation' theory, boffins at Cambridge University have calculated every person in the UK is linked to a star through their sexual partners — with just three steps separating the average person from a steamy celeb romp.
I have my doubts about all this. (I'm also sickened by the idea of having sex with Russell Brand or any other number of celebs.)

If you go to the Sex Degrees of Separation calculator and put in that you have had one sexual partner (of the opposite sex) it comes up with 167,347 direct and indirect sexual partners. Colour me incredulous; assuming that two people delay sex until marriage (which is a factor the calculator didn't ask about) and that both are monogamous, the number is off by 167,346. That miscalculation affects all their other calculations because it assumes that everyone has maximum exposure; if they don't, the multiple effect is severely reduced.

On the same page as the calculator is "information" on sexual health services and products. Might there be a financial incentive for the pharmacy to scare people about sexually transmitted infections to increase business?

Four and down (An eye to the weekend edition)

4. Florida teams are 0-6 so far this season and none of the teams has an easy game this Sunday: Jacksonville Jaguars are in Houston, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play host to the New York Giants and the Miami Dolphins are visiting the San Diego Chargers.

3. Three division winners from 2008 are 0-2: the Dolphins, the Tennessee Titans and the Carolina Panthers. All of them face tough opponents this week: the Fins vs. Bolts, the Titans visiting the New York Jets and the Panthers are in the Monument to Excess facing the Dallas Cowboys.

2. I'm looking forward to the Sunday night game between the Indianapolis Colts and Arizona Cardinals, or as the announcers will not doubt focus on, Peyton Manning vs. Kurt Warner. Both QBs are coming off great games: Warner broke the record for a accuracy in a single game, making 92.3% of his passes, and Manning was incredibly efficient in beating the Dolphins when the Colts had possession for less than 15 minutes of the game -- the first time since time of possession has been tracked beginning in 1977 that a winning team has been out-possessed 3:1 in regulation time and won.

1. I'll be listening to that game on the radio and watching it on TV later because I'm in Buffalo for the game against the New Orleans Saints. New Orleans is the first team since the '68 Oakland Raiders to score more than 45 points in their first two games and they are on pace to beat the 2007 single season team record for points held by the New England Patriots. It probably won't happen but I like their odds of another big game with Drew Brees shredding the mistake-prone Bills defense. Brees has 9 TDs in his first two games.

It's really too early for this stuff but ...

Andrew Gelman looks at recent generic poll results for Congress and concludes: "[I]f the generic polls remain this close, the Republican Party looks to be in good shape in 2010." Or, put another way: "[T]he numbers now definitely do not look good for the Democrats."

Desperate or stupid

The Liberals as highlighted by Warren Kinsella. Keep this up and the Grits will lack the credibility of even an Elizabeth May.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Government ads

I have one quibble about Gerry Nicholls' post on government ads that double as party promotional pieces, such as the latest federal government ad on Ottawa's economic action plan. (See the CP story if you don't know what I'm talking about.) Like Gerry, I had this reaction: "When I first saw the ad on TV I fully expected the Tory logo to pop up at the end." As offensive as I find these ads, I agree with Gerry about this:

The problem is this kind of abuse is hard to control. Governments have an overwhelming temptation to use tax dollars to promote themselves in the guise of “informing Canadians.”

Where do you draw the line between providing information (here’s how to sneeze into your arm) and propaganda (thanks to the great and glorious government I now know how to sneeze into my arm)?

Who decides?

The only answer as far as I can see, is get government to spend less and do less.

Maybe if government was doing less it would have less to brag about.
My quibble? There isn't much for government to brag about, period.


1. A spreadsheet of meat consumption by country from 1961-2002.

2. For those inclined to care, Slate looks at what is better for the planet: beer or wine. Interesting fact: the World Wildlife Fund is in favour of the use of natural cork because it encourages forest conservation.

3. From BoingBoing: "The NYC Resistor hackers have installed an MP3 player in a decommissioned training hand-grenade, because they could, and because it is the kind of deliciously bad idea that is hard to resist."

4. has 25 fairly humorous examples of "If Product Placement Invaded Everyday Life."

5. New Scientist answers: "How far could you travel in a spaceship?" The answer: very far. The problem is coming back.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Essay on economics and ethics

I just perused "Economic Justice and the Spirit of Innovation"
by Edmund Phelps in the October First Things and I have niggling complaints about a sentence here and there (such as Phelps' statement that the market doesn't need economists to defend it). But the essay is worth reading and the conclusion is worth remembering:

Well-functioning capitalism, where it is attainable, is of undimmed value because it allows human beings to realize their true nature as creators and innovators.

Kathy Shaidle's free advice to anti-porn crusaders

Here. In summary:

1. Be male.

2. Don't be female.

3. Try to sound a bit current and non-prudish.


1. Gawker reports on a novel promotion: the printing of thousands of fake New York Post newspapers to promote The Age of Stupid, a film about environmentalism. Think about that for a moment: thousands of fake newspaper printed to promote a film about environmentalism. (HT: Wonder Woman)

2. "The 6 Most Frequently Quoted Bullshit Animal Facts," from If you can get past the f-word, there is a lot of info there looking at how some myths came to be popularized and why they aren't true, including "piranhas will strip a cow to the bone in under a minute" (it's all about Teddy Roosevelt), lemming mass suicides and ostriches sticking their heads in the sand.

3. MentalFloss has "11 Things Wal-Mart Has Banned." The list includes Megan Fox.

4. Jason Kottke notes three odd economic indicators he has seen reported recently.

5. DJ Roc Raida (born Anthony Williams) died on September 19 from complications from an injury suffered earlier this year. He was one of the best turntablists in the world and won the 1995 DMC World DJ Championship. looks at his innovations and influence on turntablism. Here is the YouTube video of that winning performance -- it is really worth watching.

Population growth and poverty

Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek:

On what basis do the reporter and Mr. Potts believe that a larger population is necessarily incompatible with the eradication of poverty? The standards of living of at least 4 billion of the approximately 6.8 billion people alive today are incomparably higher than were the standards of living for nearly everyone who lived prior to the industrial age – and the living standards of today’s other 2.8 billion are not obviously worse than were those of the great majority of our pre-industrial ancestors. Yet world population until the industrial age was no higher than one billion.

Empirically, it appears as if poverty eradication is quite compatible with population growth, and perhaps even a result of this growth as much as it is a cause of growth.

Monday, September 21, 2009
Getting rid of Down Syndrome babies

Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Seminary, has an excellent column examining anti-Down Syndrome practice of detecting and destroying pre-born babies with the syndrome. The news peg for this is the story on the work of Dr. Brian Skotko, a clinical genetics fellow at Children's Hospital Boston, who has found that fewer and fewer Down Syndrome babies are being born. Dr. Mohler writes:

With the new technologies of prenatal diagnosis so close on the horizon, Skotko now sees a "true collision" on its way. "More women will be going through the testing process, which could lead to a lot of difficult, uncomfortable conversations between physicians and expectant patients."

The reason for the decrease in the number of babies born with Down syndrome comes into clearer focus when The Washington Post cites Skotko's research indicating that 92 percent of women who learn they are carrying a baby with Down syndrome choose to abort the pregnancy. That is more than nine out of ten.

The dimensions of the "collision" Dr. Skotko sees coming now come into view. If these percentages hold, the development of these new tests will almost certainly lead to a vast increase in the number of babies aborted after the diagnosis of Down syndrome.
One word for such a phenomenon is eugenics. The problem is that pregnant women are routinely tested to see if their child has a genetic anomaly for which there is no treatment. Doctors, who can't stand to do nothing, offer what they can: abortion to get rid of the "problem". This leads to a vicious cycle; I've talked to doctors who are concerned that with fewer Down Syndrome children being born, there is less impetus to do the type of research which could enrich the lives of those who survive the womb for nine months because there isn't enough demand. Future lack of resources to help parents of Down Syndrome children will only encourage more parents to abort such children in the future.

The Interim editorialized about this in 2002:

More importantly, as Gilbert Meilaender, a professor of theological ethics at Valparaiso University in Indiana, has noted, we fail the most important Christian virtue, that of love, when we substitute love of those with genetic defects with the faux medical treatment of abortion. Josef Pieper, Meilaender notes, said love is one way of saying to another "It's good that you exist; it's good that your are in this world." Prenatal screening, as it is routinely practiced today, is in direct conflict with the virtue of love.

Neutering the watchdogs

President Barack Obama is open to the idea of providing tax breaks for news outlets that restructure as non-profits. The Toledo Blade quotes the president saying, well, not very much at all:

"Journalistic integrity, you know, fact-based reporting, serious investigative reporting, how to retain those ethics in all these different new media and how to make sure that it's paid for, is really a challenge ... But it's something that I think is absolutely critical to the health of our democracy."

Libertas Post reprints my Ontario by-election post

Gerry Nicholls has a new venture, the conservative/libertarian website Libertas Post. He has re-posted my take on the Ontario by-election.


1. Stewart O'Nan writes in the pages of the Wall Street Journal about one of my favourites cities. Hint: 20 world leaders are gathering there this week despite being, in O'Nan's words, "maybe the least international city in the U.S."

2. Can't go wrong with a list entitled, "Top 10 Fascinating Facts About Cheese." Interesting fact: Britain might have more local cheeses than either Italy or France.

3. Neat interactive map of unemployment by state. Michigan is approaching a Newfoundland-like 16% unemployment.

4. Mark Steyn is in the puppy selling business. Retriever pups for sale and they're related to Steyn's dog.

5. Roger Ebert's 312 favourite movies, listed alphabetically and with links to his reviews. (HT: Newmark's Door)

Saturday, September 19, 2009
Irving Kristol, RIP

Irving Kristol has passed away at the age of 89. He should be as big and famous on the U.S. conservative stage as William Buckley and Ronald Reagan, but isn't. Yet his influence on the movement might be as great. He founded the Public Interest and National Interest journals, was an editor of the British literary magazine Encounter, was a regular columnist with the Wall Street Journal for a quarter of a century, a revitalizer of the American Enterprise Institute in the 1970s, and creator of the Institute for Educational Affairs which funded conservative campus publications, to name just a few of the ways he helped the conservative movement. His name will be forever attached to the neoconservative persuasion although because of his efforts, by the end of the Reagan administration, the adjective became superfluous. He is invariably called the "godfather of neoconservatism" and yet is the least representative of the predominant stereotype of neoconservatism, namely displaying a near obsession with Jewish identity and Israel. He explained numerous times that he was a "neo-orthodox Jew" -- "a nonobservant Jew, but not a nonreligious one." (From "An Autobiographical Memoir," in Neo-Conservatism: Selected Essays 1949-1995) He seems even to have struggled with the existence of God. But despite being an empiricist, he was too honest to deny God's existence.

In an essay in The Neoconservative Imagination: Essays in Honor of Irving Kristol, Michael Novak said of Kristol: "One always feels in reading him that he has kept his worldly eyes open." What marked the neoconservatism of the Public Interest and the liberals who left the Democrats in the late '70s and early '80s (such as William Bennett and Jeane Kirkpatrick), was a deep desire to seek policy solutions that accorded with the real world, not the theories of the ivory tower. Kristol famously said a neoconservative was a liberal mugged by reality. The conservative movement is better for so many erstwhile liberals being mugged, and from none more so than Irving Kristol.

Friday, September 18, 2009
Networks under-estimate viewer desire for real news

John Stossel explains why he is moving to Fox Business (which I think is a mistake -- he needs to get his message to ABC viewers) but I found this interesting:

Years ago, ABC hired me to do consumer reporting. When I wised up, deciding consumer "advocates" usually did more harm than good, that horrified some of my colleagues.

When I did my first TV special, I pointed out that regulation itself, by stifling innovation, can make life less safe. Two producers angrily objected, saying, "No respectable journalist would say that." The senior producer on the program smugly told me, "You just can't say that on network TV."

ABC's (now NBC's) research director, said: "Why do a show on risk assessment? You should do something on diet or breast implants—something we know people will watch."

But give ABC credit. After bitter arguments, it ran the show, titled, "Are We Scaring You to Death?" A news division's vice president said, "I don't agree with you, but it's a valid intellectual argument that deserves to be made."

We were all surprised when 17 million Americans watched. We got 3,000 letters, many from scientists who wrote: "Thank God, somebody's finally saying these things. I can't believe I saw that on network television."

So I kept doing those kinds of reports.
That's precisely why he helps the cause more at ABC than Fox. What are the chances that ABC will try to find their next John Stossel? Close to nil?

Four and down (best weekend, non-division games)

4. New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles: Donovan McNabb or no Donovan McNabb, the Eagles are a great team and the main reason for that is their stout defense. Saints phenom Drew Brees isn't going to throw for six TDs this Sunday. Close, exciting, back-and-forth game with Philly edging out the visitors by three.

3. Indianapolis Colts at Miami Dolphins: Too many pundits are claiming that 2008 was a mirage after the Fins opened poorly in Atlanta. They are looking to bounce back. (They lost last year's road opener, too, then went 11-4 the rest of the way.) Peyton Manning is the most fun QB to watch because he makes unbelievable plays. Miami knows that going down 0-2, even against tough opponents, makes a return to the post-season more difficult while the Colts are trying to prove that they are the same team that has won 12 games or more in six consecutive years, even if they are without coach Tony Dungy. Colts win by seven but they'll be pushed hard.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers at Chicago Bears: Really interesting matchup of two physical games even before the first week developments but the loss of safety Troy Polamalu for 3-6 weeks precisely when they face Jay Cutler, who gave up four picks in the Bears opener in Green Bay, gives this game even more story lines to watch and plausibly gives Chicago a chance to win. I still like the Steelers, though, because disrupting a passing game isn't all about the secondary and the combo of James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley will put pressure on the quarterback who he will be forced into mistakes. I'm not predicting four picks again, but Cutler likes to force passes down field and against the Steelers he will be hurried in doing so. The Chicago defense, already on the decline, will be harder pressed to disrupt the game of Ben Roeshlisberger with the loss of Brian Urlacher. Steelers win by a score, beating the three-point spread with some ease.

1. Baltimore Ravens at San Diego Chargers: The irresistible force faces the unstoppable object. The Ravens had the second best defense in 2008 and the Chargers had the third best offense. QB Joe Flacco led a 501 total yard offense last week, and while such a game is impressive, it gets discounted a bit having come against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Bolts have an improved defense this year with the return of OLB Shawne Merriman. This game could be a preview to an AFC playoff game (wild card, divisional, conference) and has the potential to be the best game period all weekend. Bolts hold off Baltimore and covers the three-point spread.

Ontario by-election -- what it means

The Liberals trounced the Progressive Conservatives (48%-28%) in the upscale downtown riding of St. Paul. This despite the Tories having a star Jewish lesbian candidate, whose identity was a selling point and evidence that the PCs weren't too unPC. The by-election offered new leader Tim Hudak his best opportunity to embarrass the Liberal government and he made this a by-election a referendum on the harmonized sales tax ("the Dalton Sales Tax" as Hudak and the Jewish lesbian, Sue Ann Levy, liked to call it), a referendum on a government that raised taxes after it said it wouldn't (that was in Dalton's first mandate, so the referendum on that was the 2007 provincial election), and a referendum on the seemingly endless scandals the bureaucracy has been involved in (choose one: 1) it was the bureaucrats not the politicians that were inept and/or corrupt, or 2) there were too many to keep the details straight, or 3) they were so insignificant it wasn't worth keeping the details straight). That was three referenda on Dalton McGuinty's tax-raising, promise-breaking, corruption-laden Liberals and still the Liberals won. The lesson seems to be that Dalton is made of Teflon -- see the Toronto Star's Jim Coyle and Levy's former Toronto Sun colleague Christina Blizzard.

Blizzard draws two lessons. First, the people of Toronto -- not the St. Paul riding, but all of Toronto -- have no problem with corruption and taxes. Second, the Tories might as well give up on the idea of winning an urban seats anywhere. "Ever." That one word sentence -- "Ever." -- is a direct quote, and it is typical pundit over-reaction.

I hate to say this but I found Coyle's column much more convincing and better argued. (Read the last half, which is even better but not pertinent to this post, specifically questioning why Dr. Eric Hoskins would want to be in politics rather than somewhere he could do some good). Coyle explains:

In fairness, McGuinty's side did have considerable home-field advantage in a riding as urban as it gets, solidly red for a decade, and so affluent as to be only mildly price-sensitive on the harmonized sales tax front.

In his typically phlegmatic way, the premier had dismissed suggestions the by-election was a referendum on his proposed HST.

He'd have been surprised if some votes hadn't been cast against it, he said.
Instead of whining about St. Paul voters being ignorant (or worse), Coyle seeks to understand them. What Coyle says between the lines -- the "considerable home-field advantage" -- is that St. Paul is an extremely left-leaning riding and that Levy and the Tories were never likely to compete there, let alone win. His point about the the affluent not being worried about the HST is also an observation I haven't seen elsewhere. I don't think the HST has much traction as an issue because 1) voters think that it is a done deal and 2) Hudak will not commit to undoing it once it is implemented.

I would add that is a mistake to draw large lessons about the broader political landscape from low-turnout by-elections, especially in ones that are atypical of the province.

So what does the Liberal by-election victory mean? Nothing.

Robson on taking Israel's enemies -- and ours -- seriously

Ottawa Citizen columnist John Robson:

There comes a point where it's OK to stop accumulating examples; how many times does someone have to shout "Slaughter the Jews" before you abandon attempts at dialogue on a two-state solution? But to get there you need to spend some time on the Palestinian Media Watch website and learn what "Itbach al Yahud" means.

Some people ignore such chants due to a corruption of the will rather than merely a clouding of the intellect. Everyone else needs to take ideas seriously and read the sources in horrified amazement.
And to take them seriously, we must understand the Islamists:

Christians holding "John 3:16" signs in football end zones agree with Jews who believe Genesis 1:31 ("God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good."). Suicide bombers do not. They hate this world and everything in it, so offering them more of life's good things is not just ineffective but feeble-minded.

When Islamists say they are in love with death, we need to believe them before we do anything else. Their deaths are as sweet to them as ours and it dictates their strategy and tactics.

Justin Trudeau, the unaccomplished Conrad Black of Canadian politics

Publius at Gods of the Copybook Headings -- one of the few required reading blogs in Canada -- says of star Liberal MP Justin Trudeau, son of a former prime minister:

One of the standard digs, well before he found himself a guest of the American government, at Conrad Black was that he was a son of privilege. Born with a sliver spoon his rise to power and influence was no more than a modest hike up. What of Justin Trudeau then? Lord Black's career in business and non-fiction make him one of the most remarkable Canadians of his generation. The third largest newspaper publisher in the world at one point, he is definitely "world class." Aside from showing up, what has Justin Trudeau done to deserve to become Prime Minister?


1. The Guardian has the 50 best foods and where to get them. Various restaurants in New York City get the nod for best hamburger, deli sandwich, ravioli and pork belly and some place in California has for the best tomato juice. The best place to get olive oil? The Turkish embassy electrical supplies in London.

2. reports that researchers have found that scary music is more frightening when you close your eyes and that this insight might lead to treatment of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

3. The always interesting (but not always correct) Tom Vanderbilt wonders: "Could iPhone apps change the way we travel?" This time he's right.

4. "Top 10 Cutest Creatures Ever," from Listverse. I don't think this is a very good list other than the kiwi and African pygmy hedgehog. Most are downright ugly and caterpillars should never appear on a list of cutest animals regardless of how furry they are. And where is the fennec fox and koala?

5. Not-so-cute road kill plush animals.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

1. The headline in the Wall Street Journal is a bit misleading: "What's the Point of Cheerleading?" The article is really about how dangerous cheerleading is and whether it is worth the cost to the bodies and health of young people. Still, it is an interesting article; I quite like the motto of one gym, Xtreme Tumbling: "Motrin and ice, ladies, let's go."

2. Mental Floss has "10 strange and wonderful umbrellas." Wonderful is probably a stretch.

3. From files: "Prison Gambling Associated With Crime, Substance Abuse When Offenders Re-enter Community: Study"

4. Ipsos Reid has the worst poll ever: "Canadian women are being forced to compromise in their undergarment selection, according to a new Ipsos Reid poll conducted on behalf of Always. Seven in ten (69%) women aged 15 to 50 ‘agree’ that their monthly menstrual cycle influences their undergarment selection, and four in ten (37%) confess that their clothing choice is impacted by having to wear a panty liner."

5. Video of remote control helicopter tricks.

Three and out

3. Joon Gang Daily has an article on corporal punishment in the clubhouse in Korean baseball. My guess is that a smallish number of incidents are being painted in a way to make it seem like clubhouse violence is ubiquitous. One story -- a serious one, to be sure -- dates back to March 1979 when a university student struck a team-mate on the head with a baseball bat. The assaulted player needed more than two weeks of "treatment" and his father requested a release from the team so his son could transfer schools. The article reports that more than a year later, the Korea Baseball Association stepped in to mediate, but due to "the sense of hierarchy" in Korea "and the tradition of corporal punishment so embedded in the sport that both father and son ended up making a formal apology to Yonsei [university] for having caused such a fuss."

2. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported on one of its sports blog a few days back that manager Bobby Cox might not return in 2010. The Braves without Cox as its skipper will seem strange; he has managed the team for 25 seasons and although he said three years ago he planned to retire in the 2008 season (but didn't), seeing another person call the shots from the dugout will take getting use to. Interesting possibility (though not a probability): 3B Chipper Jones has hinted he might not play out the final year of his contract. Might he be interested in managing the team he has played for since 1993?

1. Joe Posnanski does a great job critiquing Ken Rosenthal's asinine column that took numerous cheap shots against the sabermetric community. I don't get Joe's favourable nod to Ken's writing at the beginning, but everything else there is gold.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009
More on Norman Borlaug

Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe:

Instead of the worldwide famine so confidently predicted by population alarmists of the time, Borlaug’s agricultural miracle sent wheat and rice harvests soaring, outstripping the growth in population. The result was a world in which food became more abundant and affordable than it had ever been.

“In 1950 the world produced 692 million tons of grain for 2.2 billion people,’’ journalist Gregg Easterbrook wrote in a profile of Borlaug for The Atlantic in 1997; “by 1992 production was 1.9 billion tons for 5.6 billion people - 2.8 times the grain for 2.2 times the population.’’ Even more remarkable, this burgeoning of the world’s harvests barely affected the amount of land under cultivation. Between 1950 and 1992, cropland increased by less than 1 percent.
Gregg Easterbrook in the Wall Street Journal:

Often it is said America lacks heroes who can provide constructive examples to the young. Here was such a hero. Yet though streets and buildings are named for Norman Borlaug throughout the developing world, most Americans don't even know his name.
The Investor's Business Daily editorial:

Borlaug was known as the father of the Green Revolution, but he was no environmentalist. Unlike the greens, he was actually concerned about the condition of man.
The San Fransisco Examiner editorial:

The obituaries for Norman Borlaug, the plant expert who unleashed the Green Revolution, which boosted worldwide crop yields, come with a "yes-but" tone that diminishes his towering achievements ... As Borlaug noted, he didn't have any skinny critics. Thanks to his work, his doubters never worried about their next meal. The same couldn't be said of the farmers he first worked with in the 1940s.
The Wall Street Journal editorial:

In saving so many, Borlaug showed that a genuine green movement doesn't pit man against the Earth, but rather applies human intelligence to exploit the Earth's resources to improve life for everyone.
Michelle Malkin on her blog:

Please teach your children about Borlaug. This is what a true environmental hero looks like.
We have. My eleven-year-old son has an English assignment (Grade 7) that involves writing a dedication to the "hero" David Suzuki; he is lobbying his teacher to see if he can do it on Borlaug instead.

Canadians for Care

Canadians for Care is an excellent website for those opposed to legalizing euthanasia and specifically Bill C-384, Francine Lalonde's private members bill headed for Second Reading this Fall. There is a letter for doctors (and other concerned citizens) to sign. I encourage any medical professionals who are uneasy with legal euthanasia/physician-assisted suicide to become a signatory to the letter. There is also a very good FAQ about the issue of euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, and end-of-life care.

Here is the letter in it's entirety (emphasis added):

Re: Bill C-384 which proposes the legalization of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide

To Members of Parliament and fellow Canadians,

On May 12th 2009, bill C-384 was introduced into the Canadian Parliament with the objective of creating an exception within the Canadian Criminal Code allowing doctors to intentionally end the lives of their patients by legislating an exception to society’s current prohibitions of homicide. We, the undersigned physicians do not support this bill. The passing of this bill into law would undermine important foundational principles and values of the medical profession and Canadian society more broadly.

Euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide and refusal/withdrawal of care are frequently spoken of interchangeably in the debate surrounding bill C-384. This is incorrect and confuses the discussion.

Patients have always had the right to refuse care, even when it would result in their death, and physicians have no ethical or legal obligation to continue medically futile care which, therefore, can be withdrawn.

Physician-assisted suicide involves a physician instructing a person in how to commit suicide or providing them with the means to kill themselves. The person uses that information or those means to commit suicide.

Euthanasia involves a physician or other authorized person acting with the primary intention of ending the life of a patient who then dies as a result of that act.

It is difficult to overestimate the damage that would be caused to the medical profession, physicians and society, if physicians were to abandon their absolute rejection of killing. Medicine would no longer be able to uphold the foundational societal value of respect for life and public trust in the medical profession would be damaged. The Netherlands’ thirty-year experience with permissible euthanasia, demonstrates that abuse cannot be prevented and that a “duty-to-die” and “death-on-demand” emerge in such systems. As well, euthanasia would be seen as an easy, inexpensive alternative to high quality end-of-life care, which would become less available as a result.

We challenge the validity of the self-serving pro-euthanasia argument that because euthanasia and assisted suicide are already taking place illegally, maintaining a law against it is pointless or a dangerous form of denial. Even if that claim were true, the simple fact that people break a law is not in itself a reason to change the law – after millennia of stealing despite laws against stealing, we continue to prohibit it because we remain convinced that stealing is harmful to individuals and society, and we want to uphold the values that a prohibition of stealing establishes. We believe that it is never acceptable to legalise euthanasia or assisted suicide and, in particular, to authorize Canadian physicians, nurses and hospitals to participate in them.

Therefore, we the undersigned affirm that euthanasia and assisted suicide are not forms of medical treatment or care; rather, they represent a failure to care for patients. We further assert that a wide spectrum of resources must be directed at the development and provision of improved palliative and pain management care, as well as improved training in these areas for medical students, practitioners and other relevant healthcare professionals.

Tony Dungy's normal life

I just got around former NFL coach Tony Dungy's Wall Street Journal interview which includes his picks for this coming season (they are all safe, even his "surprise" picks) and Dungy's mentoring of Michael Vick. I thought the story, much like Dungy's pre-game analysis on NBC Football Night in America, was rather banal. Yet one particularly banal part of Dungy's story struck me as extraordinary because we are often told that all family life is dysfunctional:

Now 53, Mr. Dungy was raised in a stable middle-class home in Michigan, the son of educators. Mr. Dungy says he was never around alcohol until he got to the University of Minnesota, where he starred at quarterback. "Being around the drug culture was, again, something that I never saw," he says, thinking about prominent athletes who've gotten into trouble and asking for some understanding.

"For so many of these young people growing up nowadays, seeing it on the streets, seeing it around, it's not like it's so scary as it is for us, [drugs] is part of the way they grew up. It's an education process that we can sometimes take for granted, 'Well everyone should know that, nobody should get involved with that.' But they've done it. And I think that was Mike's case. The dog-fighting culture is something that I haven't seen but wasn't foreign to him." The head of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, says Vick told him he was first exposed to dog fighting in Virginia at the age of eight. He was born to teenage parents and raised in the projects. His dad was not a positive influence on the family, Mr. Dungy says.

In coaching, Mr. Dungy saw the impact of the breakdown of families, all those missing dads, among his players. "I get the new guy and ask him, 'Tell me about your family, tell me what's going on,' to try to get a sense of where they are and where they're going to need to go forward. So many of them, for whatever reason, it's blended families, different families, and it's just not the way it was when I grew up."
That last paragraph goes a long way to explain why so many professional football players get into trouble, probably much more than the standard explanations that brutish and anti-social behaviour is part and parcel of "sports culture" or the world-on-a-platter life of elite college athletes.

Four and down

4. In this week's FoxSports Power Rankings Adrian Hasenmeyer gives the glass is half-full, half-empty take on every team. In the half-empty take on the New England Patriots, Hasenmeyer writes: "Against a Buffalo team considered generally the fourth-best team in the AFC East, it took two TDs in the last 2:06 and a gift fumble after a stunningly bad decision at the two-minute warning to give the Pats the win." Yeah, the Pats looked sluggish and the Bills were competitive, but I question the conventional wisdom about the Bills making a mistake in having CB Leodis McKelvin run back the ball on a kickoff with just over two minutes remaining instead of taking a knee. While fans and pundits can criticize the execution -- no one should fumble the ball on a return -- the strategy made sense. It was all about clock management and getting the ball as far away from the Bills end zone as possible. Indeed, McKelvin was able to get the ball all the way back to the Bills 30-yard line because the field was fairly open and he saw a lane. The Patriots had three timeouts remaining and the two minute commercial timeout approaching. By running, the Bills took another five-six seconds off the clock, which could have been important to the Patriots when they got the ball back. There would be no criticism of either McKelvin and the Bills if they didn't fumble the ball and lose control. The criticism would be mild, even non-existent, if Tom Brady didn't throw a TD pass to Benjimin Watson right afterward. But the strategy was sound even if the execution was not.

3. Bills fans are really upset with McKelvin, with one going so far as to vandalize the lawn of his Hamburg, N.Y., home. Obviously that goes too far. The AP story also has the obligatory twitter comment from a team-mate.

2. Like everyone else in football world I was impressed with the New York Jets in their victory over the Houston Texans. However, I'm not going to jump to conclusions yet; it was one game. The Texans, though a good team, had a bad game: their elite receiver, Andre Johnson, had one catch, the defense was dismal despite upgrades in the off-season, the O-line was porous, and QB Matt Schaub was pedestrian. So don't writer off Houston quite yet, nor should you adjust your post-season brackets to the include the Gang Green quite yet. Perhaps the Jets are as good as they showed on Sunday. I was impressed with their defense, which was excellent. Everyone predicted it would get better under new coach Rex Ryan, the former defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens, and with a number of changes he made in both personnel and strategy, most notably bringing LB Bart Scott with him from Baltimore. Few people expected it to be so solid so quickly. Let's see how much of that improvement is real and how much of it was a bad game by the Texans -- in other words, did the Jets disrupt the Texans offense last weekend or was the Texans offense off all game. It's probably a bit of both. More impressive was rookie QB Mark Sanchez. He started off tentative, but by his second time on the field he looked confident and made plays when he had to, going 10 of 18 on third down. It should be noted that just as the Jets defense might look better than it really is because the Texans were poor on offense, likewise Sanchez might have had a solid game facing Houston's lackluster defense. The problem in assessing squads, players and teams is that one game is too small a sample size to matter but it is almost the only thing we've got to make judgements about. The lesson might be don't make any judgements about '09 based on kickoff weekend. If Sanchez can execute again like he did on Sunday and the defense is once again as good as it indicated it was on the weekend, the Jets are part of the playoff picture. We'll have a better idea after their next game which is against the New England Patriots, the presumptive AFC East division winner.

1. Gerard V. Bradley has a good article on authentic Catholic post-secondary eduction in America at NRO. I will vouch for nothing more than the campus of Saint Vincent's College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, about an hour southeast of Pittsburgh, which is absolutely beautiful. It is also where the Steelers train in the Summer and it is free to watch their practices. The team moves to a high school stadium downtown for Friday night scrimmages, and they cost a dollar or two (depending on your age) to watch. Steeler's training camp is rated the best pre-season fan experience by many football observers.

Three and out (nothing about the Bronx Brawlers edition)

3. Rob Neyer interviews Joe Posnanski about the latter's new book The Machine, about the 1975 Cincinnati Reds. There are some interesting tidbits in the interview (and the book promises to be very good) including some of the friction between Ken Griffey Sr. and the rest of the team and the confirmation that Joe Morgan was distracted by baserunners stealing bases with him at the plate.

2. At Hardball Times, Chris Jaffe has the 10 greatest Pittsburgh Pirate moments during their 17 consecutive losing seasons. My favourite is a June 2008 interleague game with the Toronto Blue Jays that the Bucs won 1-0 in extra innings. Roy Halladay pitched seven shutout innings and the Pirates won on an error in the 12th by John McDonald, a "feisty" no-bat player broadcasters always praise for his glove.

1. Just hang up your spikes, Mike. Veteran pitcher Mike Hampton will will miss the rest of this season and all of 2010 after undergoing shoulder surgery. He also missed all of 2006 and 2007 and pitched in just 16 games in 2008. As the AP reports, "Hampton is 148-115 lifetime with a 4.07 ERA in 2,264 career innings despite spending considerable time on the disabled list with groin, calf, back and forearm problems." I understand that it is difficult to athletes to retire but Hampton's body just doesn't seem able to handle the vigour of pitching.

Fact of the day/hypocrisy alert

From the October Harper's Index via Marginal Revolution: Chance a U.S. household that owns a Prius also owns an SUV: 1 in 3. Commenter valuethinker has an explanation: "It's optimal for a high income family. Prius for running about town and utility (high fuel economy), SUV for weekends, moving the kids to soccer games etc." Maybe, but there is also the advantage of signalling to others that you are environmentally conscious/being smug about one's consumer choices. And it will work as long as those who see you in a Prius do not also see you in a SUV.


1. InformationIsBeautiful has "The hierarchy of digital distractions." As Craig Newmark says, "I'm guess I'm lucky I have just e-mail and blogging." Ditto.

2. Kid wins two cars on The Price is Right on his 19th birthday.

3. Malcolm Gladwell has a new book coming out, a collection of previously published essays entitled What the Dog Saw. Jason Kottke has links to all the original essays and damns while praising the new book: "Some really great stuff in there. Even though it's all available online for free, this is a sure airport bestseller for years to come."

4. From "5 Popular Zombie Survival Tactics (That Will Get You Killed)." Good to know. By the way, I'm looking forward to this movie.

5. Incredible animated graphic in the New York Times of "How the Giants of Finance Shrank, Then Grew, Under the Financial Crisis." (HT: Newmark's Door) Watch it once and then go back and read the sidebar descriptions of what was happening.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Sowell on paying for health care the old fashioned way

Which is the modern way for everything else: on credit. Here is Thomas Sowell:

What did we do, back during the years when most Americans had no medical insurance? I did what most people did. I depended on a “single payer” — myself. When I didn’t have the money, I paid off my medical bills in installments.

The birth of my first child was not covered by medical insurance. I paid off the bill, month by month, until the time finally came when I could tell my wife that the baby was now ours, free and clear.

In a country where everything imaginable is bought and paid for on credit, why is it suddenly a national crisis if some people cannot pay cash up front for medical treatment?

That is not the best way to do things for all people and all medical treatments, which is why most Americans today choose to have medical insurance. But millions of other people choose not to — often young and healthy people, sometimes deadbeats who use emergency rooms and don’t pay at all.

Is this ideal? No. But if every deviation from the ideal is a reason to be panicked and stampeded into putting dangerous arbitrary powers into the hands of government, then go directly to totalitarianism, do not pass “Go,” do not collect $200.

PETA nuttiness

From a September 14 PETA press release:

This morning, PETA sent a letter to Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine offering to rent the Botetourt Correctional Center building, which is slated to close because of budget concerns, and turn it into America's first chicken empathy museum.
Chicken empathy museum? It gets better. According to the letter PETA sent Gov. Kaine, the museum will feature a restaurant with veggie options:

Delicious faux-chicken drumsticks will be available in the Chicken Empathy Restaurant along with chickenless pot pie and a host of other tasty vegetarian foods. And as a gift from PETA, each visitor aged 12 or under will receive a plush chicken with a tag reading, "I Am Not a Nugget!"
God put PETA on Earth to humour sensible people.

(HT: Hit & Run)