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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Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Three and out (Trade deadline edition, Part I)
3. The big winner: the sellers. We tend to think about trade winners as the teams that did the most to secure their post-season chances, by improving a weak area to increase the odds of making the playoffs or making a significant upgrade, usually an starting pitcher, who will be a difference-maker in the short playoff series. But with arguably only one marquee name (Zach Greinke) being traded before the non-waiver deadline, the best moves were by teams looking for prospects to reload for future seasons. Starting in June (with Carlos Lee) and earlier this month (the ten player deal with the Toronto Blue Jays) the Houston Astros moved almost everyone they could for prospects. Most of these minor leaguers don't have a lot of upside, but there is value in quantity over quality, hoping that a few make it. A lot of top tier prospects don't pan out, so it is wise to cast a wide net hoping to catch a few players who might contribute to the next winning Astros team in 2014 or later. One wonders why they didn't flip reliever Francisco Cordero and OF Ben Francisco whom they acquired from the Jays July 20 for more young players/prospects, but overall Houston did what it needed to do. The Chicago Cubs did the same thing: trade major league talent that won't be around (SPs Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm)) or are superfluous (C Geovany Soto) for the next time the Cubbies will be competitive for a boatload of prospects, hoping some will be contributors to the next relevant Cubs team. They could have been more aggressive by trading SP Matt Garza earlier (before he was injured) or eating a large portion of OF Alfonso Soriano's salary, but maybe they tried. They had slightly better movable talent and got slightly better prospects than the Astros. Lastly, the Philadelphia Phillies traded OF Hunter Pence and OF Shane Victorino and reloaded a minor league system depleted by earlier trades for Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and (last year) Pence. In addition to beginning to restock their farm system, the Phillies create an outfield spot for disappointing prospect Domonic Brown to see if he actually fits in their future plans and created salary wiggle room to add free agents this Winter to add to a team with a narrowing window of opportunity; the Phillies have about $120 million committed to seven (good to very good) players for next season. One of the players the Phillies got in the Pence deal, Tommy Joseph, needs some work but looks like a credible option to replace catcher Carlos Ruiz after the 2013 season. Philly need not have traded LHP Cliff Lee, but it would have been nice to seem them unload some other free agents to be to buttress the minors with more viable prospects, if not to contribute to future winners, at least to have youngsters of their own to trade if need be next season. It's a shame that infielder Ty Wigginton, outfielder Juan Pierre and starter Joe Blanton are all still wearing a Phillies uniform tonight. Still, overall, the Astros, Cubs, and Phillies did what they needed to.
2. The second biggest winner: The Los Angeles Angels. On the weekend the Angels sent a rookie and a prospect with good upside (SS Jean Seguar and RHP John Hellweg) and a minor leaguer who flashes quality stuff (Ariel Pena) to Milwaukee for ace starter Zack Greinke, who was robbed when he wasn't named to the All Star game earlier this month. The Angels got the best player of all those who were traded which is good and while they gave up a fair booty of prospects, it was not an outrageous price to pay for a three-month rental. Greinke slightly increases the already good chances LA makes it to the playoffs (according to BP's Playoff Odds, they have about an 80% chance of playing into October). The Angels are a very good team and they have three genuine aces in Greinke, C.J. Wilson, and Jared Weaver, which will make them very tough in the short playoff series. If Dan Haren fixes whatever is limiting his effectiveness, the Angels have a rotation that is as good as any in the Majors, including the Washington Nationals. The Greinke deal wasn't about making the playoffs, it was about going to the World Series and making themselves the favourites if they get there.
1. The third biggest winner: Pittsburgh Pirates. All the deadline day deals in the NL West get the attention, but in the past week, the Bucs have made a number of smaller, under-the-radar moves to improve in several areas. Last week, they acquired starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez from the Astros and he is under contract for next season with an option for 2014. With Rodriguez, Pittsburgh dropped struggling starter Kevin Correia and replaces him with a pitcher with a good track record of quality starts. They also acquired OF Travis Snider from the Toronto Blue Jays and even though Snider has never quite achieved the success predicted for him as an uber-prospect and bounced back and forth between the Jays and their Triple A team, he can be average and still represent an upgrade with the bat for the Pirates corner outfielders who are struggling to get on base or hit for power; if the change in scenery helps Snider attain anything near the potential predicted for him, the Pirates will be in great shape, especially considering that he is under team control for three more seasons and until he starts to hit, he'll be relatively cheap. But again, he doesn't have to be a star to make Pittsburgh's outfield better. Today, the Pirates traded CF prospect Gorkys Hernandez, who is blocked at the major league level by MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen, to the Miami Marlins for 1B Gabe Sanchez, whose numbers are not an upgrade over the incumbent he displaced, but who will easily be if he improves over the final two months to something closer to his career averages. More importantly, if Sanchez is just having a lousy year and he bounces back with the change of scenery, he is an option at first who remains under team control for a few more years. Lastly, they traded 3B turned 1B Casey McGehee who is having a poor season (out of position) to the New York Yankees for reliever Chad Qualls. McGehee was superfluous at this point and the Pirates added bullpen depth. Quality move. None of this is spectacular, but they all represent reasonable moves to improve or attempt to improve at four different positions. Perhaps more important, most of the new players are not rentals, and Snider has tremendous upside potential. In other words, the Pirates didn't give up a lot to make themselves better not only this season, but in the future as well.

Milton Friedman: an economist who loved
The editors at National Review Online:
Friedman’s economics was in many ways an economics of the poor. As early as 1955 he was publishing articles about the failure of government-monopoly schools to properly educate the children of the poor and marginalized, and he proposed a system of vouchers to allow the disadvantaged to pursue the same educational opportunities that their better-off neighbors enjoyed.
NRO's Kevin Williamson compares Friedman and Ayn Rand:
The libertarianism of Rand (and she hated the word “libertarian”) was based on an economics of resentment of the “moochers” and “loafers,” the sort of thing that leads one to call a book The Virtue of Selfishness. Friedman’s libertarianism was based on an economics of love: for real human beings leading real human lives with real human needs and real human challenges. He loved freedom not only because it allowed IBM to pursue maximum profit but because it allowed for human flourishing at all levels.
In short you could say Friedman was an economist who loved humanity and that's why he valued liberty so much. This is the moral high ground the Right has ceded to the Left, and we needn't do so. Libertarians and conservatives care, too. Remember, the "market" is people. The problem is that Rand wasn't wrong -- there are moochers and loafers and they rightly deserve our condemnation and they understandably instill resentment. But we must temper our negativity with the sort of pro-individual -- that is, pro-human being -- libertarianism of Milton Friedman.

Every story of leaving Winnipeg has a happy ending
David Henderson's musings on Milton Friedman, including the first time meeting him.

Libertarianism is the decent thing to do
Dan Mitchell says.

It's sad that any country even has a 'Forced Marriage Unit'
Blazing Cat Fur on efforts (or lack thereof) to combat forced marriages in Canada and the United Kingdom. Surprise, surprise: tax-funded Canadian feminist group ignores Muslim connection to forced marriage.

Journalists are stupid

Nothing could go wrong with this idea
MIT Technology Review: "NSA Boss Wants More Control Over the 'Net." It reports:
The decentralized nature of the Internet, and the fact that the global network is built from a thicket of independent public and private networks, is limiting efforts to protect against such attacks, said Alexander, because it doesn't allow the NSA or law enforcement to easily track Internet activity.
What could go wrong with having the National Security Agency monitor the internet?
The tinfoil hat brigade asks: you mean the NSA doesn't have control already?
The naive ask: what do you have to fear if you haven't done anything wrong?
(HT: Instapundit)

New Skyfall trailer
Via Grantland.

If robots attacked
What If answers the questions: "What if there was a robot apocalypse? How long would humanity last?"

White House rosy growth predictions
Greg Mankiw has a handy little chart to show that the Obama administration is being excessively optimistic in predicting future economic growth if the "blue chip experts" are to be believed.

The dog-sitter state
Reason magazine gives its nanny-of-the-month dishonor to politicians and cops in New Jersey who want to punish people (up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail) for not buckling up their dogs when driving.

Nurse Bloomberg strikes again
Over at The Interim's blog I note Michael Bloomberg's war on baby formula and the excellent New York Sun editorial on the matter.

Planet of the Apes was not a documentary
But as Kottke points out gorillas seem to be evolving, or if you prefer not to hype the story, are at least learning.

Two more on Milton Friedman
At National Review Online, Thomas Sowell and Kevin Williamson have appreciations of Milton Friedman, who would have turned 100 today. Williamson contrasts Friedman and Ayn Rand and Sowell concludes with a personal anecdote.

Does the Laffer Curve still apply
Arpit Gupta has a guest post at NRO's The Agenda that looks at the Laffer Curve which postulates that tax revenues would increase when tax rates were lowered and tax revenues would decrease at some point when taxes got too high. Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers make the perfectly valid point that when it comes to income taxes, this was true when tax rates were prohibitively high (91%) but isn't true now. That makes sense, but it has become an article of faith among Republicans that lowering tax rates will increase revenues, and that probably isn't true. Indeed the Booth School survey Stevenson and Wolfers point to shows that economists agree. (Although on the question of whether lowering taxes would result in more robust economic growth, the respondents are more divided.) But Gupta points to other evidence that shows in other countries, and with other types of taxes, tax revenue can increase with rate cuts or tax revenue can decrease with rate hikes. Indeed, as Gupta points out, the Laffer Curve still might have some validity in the United States:
Academic research by Emmanuel Saez and Jonathan Gruber has estimated that the tax rates corresponding to the top of the Laffer Curve is 52% — not much higher than the current top marginal income rate taking into account state, local, and other taxes. Other researchers disagree and this issue remains unsettled. But regardless of where the highest feasible rate is, all researchers agree that the closer taxes get to the top rate, the less money the government brings in for a given tax increase; and the rate of tax distortions increases as we get close to the Laffer Curve limit.
In other words, the (social) science is hardly settled and Stevenson and Wolfer's strong (and partisan) claims seem to be exaggerated.

Liberal leadership watch (July 31 edition)
Former candidates Liberal leadership candidates Martha Hall Findlay, Hedy Fry, and Joe Volpe are working with Elections Canada to pay off their 2006 leadership bid debt. Hall Findlay, of course, is considering making another leadership bid, and since she's hinted at a second run she's more than halved her $110,000 debt from the previous race. Could suggesting a new bid be a strategy to pay-off her debt? Under the Canada Elections Act candidates can face a $1,000 fine or a three-month jail term for unpaid expenses. While political fundraising rules in Canada are onerous, there is little excuse for candidates to be owing tens of thousands of dollars six years after the previous race and to have teeth, the regulations should prevent future campaigns until past campaigns are paid for. A fourth former LPC leadership candidate, Ken Dryden, is also still carrying campaign debt, but was not part of the threesome meeting with Elections Canada.

Predicting 2012 in 1987
In 1987 L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future project took a stab of saying what the world would be like a quarter century later (which is now). Most are wrong and even those who make correct or correctish predictions couple them with spectacularly wrong predictions. The writers weren't very optimistic about the future.

Panel on James Q. Wilson
Earlier this year, James Q. Wilson, probably the best conservative public policy mind in America, passed away. Here's a 70-minute video of the Zócalo Public Square panel from June featuring Angela Hawken of Pepperdine, Mark Peterson of UCLA, and Chief Charlie Beck of the LA Police Department, and chaired by Mark A.R. Kleiman of UCLA, looking at his legacy and influence, including what is sometimes misattributed to him.

Americans don't over-react to Colorado shooting
A Pew Research Center poll shows the United States is still evenly divided between people who support the rights of gun owners and those comfortable with the state limiting gun ownership. The numbers are fairly constant compared to the most recent poll (April) and the last high-profile gun tragedy when then Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot (January 2011). Slate has a summary of poll. Also, the chart at Pew shows that support for gun control has declined over the past five years.

There is no such thing as the public interest
A comment at Blazing Cat Fur:
What amazes me is how adroitly the teacher's unions were able to promulgate the lie that teachers possessed some degree of nobility rather than being just another occupation.
Journalists and police officers managed to pull off that trick too.

Milton Friedman
Today, July 31, marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Milton Friedman. Expect a bunch of columns and blog posts today. Starting it all off is Stephen Moore in the Wall Street Journal:
I remember asking Milton, a year or so before his death, during one of our semiannual dinners in downtown San Francisco: What can we do to make America more prosperous? "Three things," he replied instantly. "Promote free trade, school choice for all children, and cut government spending."
How much should we cut? "As much as possible."
YouTube has a number of good videos of the Nobel prize-winning economist, including the 10-part Free to Choose series.
Donald Boudreaux has a column on Friedman's legacy of promoting liberty (starting off with his role in ending the military draft) and concluding that Friedman was not a conservative or even libertarian but a classical liberal.

Metaphor alert*
Daniel Halper at The Weekly Standard blog reports on the too-close relationship between a political reporter and a White House mouth piece:
A deputy press secretary for Barack Obama's reelection campaign married an ABC reporter over the weekend. The ABC reporter, Matthew Jaffe, "covering the 2012 presidential campaign," according to his biography on the website of ABC News. "For the past year he traveled around the country covering the Republican primary, from the Iowa Straw Poll to the various debates to this year's primaries and caucuses."
The deputy press secretary Jaffe married is Katie Hogan. Many members of Obama's reelection team and the press celebrated the wedding together Saturday.
Other political reporters were too busy celebrating the nuptials in Wisconsin to report on the possibility of a conflict of interest, or at least the appearance of impropriety.
* The headline is stolen from Instapundit.

America's failure in Somalia
The Cato Institute's Malou Innocent on 20 years of involvement in Somalia by the U.S.: "America has tried and failed repeatedly to transform Somalia at an acceptable cost." The U.S. is doing almost everything and "African Union forces could be seen as a puppet proxy of Uncle Sam."

Dogs bark, ducks waddle, and governments ...
Political Calculations has a graph showing the number of pages added to the Federal Register each year from 1936 through 2011. The Federal Register grew very quickly after 1970 when the Environmental Protection Agency was created. You'd think that at some point the U.S. government wouldn't have to create tens of thousands of pages of new regulations because almost all the necessary rules would already exist. But government exists to create new rules so that's what it does.

Problems with environmentally friendly toilets
The Guardian reports:
The dry toilets in Inner Mongolia's Daxing eco-community have been quietly replaced after three years of bad smells, health problems and maggots.

Monday, July 30, 2012
'Purpose of all production is consumption'
Tim Worstall at the Adam Smith Institute blog elaborates on the point I always make: the economy is about consumers, not owners or employees.

Democrats to include pro-gay marriage plank in platform
LifeSiteNews reports that a committee drafting the Democratic Party platform unanimously backed a plank endorsing redefining marriage to include same-sex partners.

I hope Enbridge sues David Anderson
The Globe and Mail reports:
Former federal Environment Minister David Anderson has ripped into Enbridge as “probably the last company” that should be allowed to build an oil pipeline across British Columbia.
At a news conference in Vancouver on Monday, featuring high-profile opponents of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, Mr. Anderson accused the company of having a “cowboy culture” that is indifferent and careless toward environmental safety.
Enbridge spokesman Paul Stanway makes a great point:
“He’s entitled to his opinion, but I’d be interested to know how his opinion was formed,” Mr. Stanway said. “To my knowledge, he’s never made any enquiries about how we operate as a company.”
You get the impression that Anderson, who has opposed oil tankers traffic off the B.C. coast since the 1970s, just doesn't like oil companies.

India power failure
The Associated Press reports:
A power grid failure blacked out northern India for hours Monday, halting trains, forcing hospitals and airports onto backup power and providing a dark, sweltering reminder of the nation's inability to meet its energy needs as it strives to be an economic power.
While the midsummer outage was unique in its reach — it hit 370 million people, more than the population of the United States and Canada combined — its impact was softened by Indians' familiarity with almost daily blackouts of varying duration. Hospitals and major businesses have backup generators that seamlessly kick in during power cuts, and upscale homes are hooked to backup systems powered by truck batteries.
Nonetheless, some small businesses were forced to shut for the day. Buildings were without water because the pumps weren't working, and the vaunted New Delhi Metro, with 1.8 million daily riders, was paralyzed during the morning commute.

Drought and GMO crops
Jeff Carter on Monsanto creating a drought-resistant seed:
Some seed companies have been working on Genetically Modified seed, or GMO seed. Seed companies have genetically modified seed to grow differently, ripen at different times, and have pesticide and bug resistance. They also have been creating seed that can grow with very little water.
Droughts were at the top of their list when creating this type of seed. The fact is, fresh water is a precious resource in the world, and the less we need for crops mean the more we can have for animals and people.
While opponents of GMO crops are presumed to have the moral high ground, standing in the way of developing crops that can make it easier to feed people) seems ... well, immoral. As Carter concludes:
When the new Monsanto seed is planted broadly in 2013, I hope we don’t have to see a drought like this years to see if it works.

'Ten Ways Obamacare Limits Patient Choice'
Kathryn Nix of the Heritage Foundation says that "Many of the problems in health care today can be traced to the disconnect between patients and decisions that affect their care," yet Obamacare removes limits patient choice in at least ten ways.

Quote of the day
"Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions."
-- G.K. Chesterton

Obama just doesn't get it
Rick Moran at The American Thinker on President Barack Obama:
The objective reality of the market escapes this president and his advisors. He has created a reality where wishful thinking takes precedence over logic which allows him to fiercely believe that all of his alternative energy schemes should produce jobs.
Moran's evidence is something highlighted by James Pethokoukis from The Escape Artists: How Obama's Team Fumbled the Recovery.

Educators as co-parents: Toronto school board vs. families
Blazing Cat Fur has been reporting on the war of the Toronto District School Board against normal families and its dangerous view that they are co-parents. BCF notes:
We've seen in previous posts that the TDSB considers parents to the creators of poisoned environments and thus unqualified to be consulted let alone allowed to make actual decisions regarding their children's education.
Well, BCF has found more evidence of the TDSB acting as official straighteners (to use a phrase from C.S. Lewis):
I present the TDSB's Gender Equity Resource Guide, which informs us that it is up to the Co-Parents of the TDSB to set your poor misguided children straight on matters of gender.
What Is Gender Equity Education? The TDSB is committed to supporting all students. Studies show that families begin to treat their children differently, based on gender, almost from the moment of birth. Educators are influential through their approach toward raising students’ awareness of gender stereotypes and barriers at a very early stage in children’s education. Together, educators and students can move from awareness to understanding, and from understanding to eliminating gender barriers wherever they may be found.
Blazing Cat Fur is doing a remarkable job unearthing this stuff. One of the complaints of many in the traditional print and broadcast media is that bloggers don't do original research. As I've said before, they aren't reading the right blogs.

Why CNN sucks and is tanking
John Hinderaker of Powerline:
CNN represents the passive-aggressive Left. MSNBC is unrestrained id, but CNN can never fully surrender to its liberal impulses. It tries to maintain a fig leaf of neutrality. But CNN can’t get through the day without betraying what it really thinks, often in underhanded ways. Thus, when CNN did a story on Chick-fil-A today, what did it focus on?
Well, Sarah Palin tweeting a photo of herself eating at a restaurant, of course.

'Why Super PACs Make the Best Attack Ads'
Business Week explains that talented and creative ad people don't have to fight with micro-managing candidates:
Outside groups by law can’t coordinate with candidates — which is precisely what makes them attractive to strategists such as [Fred] Davis who want to push the boundaries.

The future of economics
Ali Wyne wondered what the future of economics would look like and asked eight young economists to identify unanswered questions and predict the next big breakthroughs in the field for Big Think.
Peter Leeson of George Mason University answers (in part):
At the moment, most behavioralism avers merely to “fine tune” the rationality engine rather than replace it. But even such tuning can have and, as I intimated a moment ago, I think has already had, a noticeable impact on how a growing number of economists and those following them interpret society. To the extent that economists’ view of, say, markets as reflecting rational vs. irrational systems—or, more specifically, their interpretation of economic crises as the product of markets responding rationally to poor policy vs. the product of endemic irrational decision-making—either directly or indirectly influences public policy, the way in which the status of the rationality postulate is resolved will not merely shape what economists are doing. It will shape the kind of society we inhabit.
Justin Wolfers of the University of Pennsylvania begins his answer:
Economics is in the midst of a massive and radical change. It used to be that we had little data, and no computing power, so the role of economic theory was to “fill in” for where facts were missing. Today, every interaction we have in our lives leaves behind a trail of data. Whatever question you are interested in answering, the data to analyze it exists on someone’s hard drive, somewhere.
(HT: Greg Mankiw)

Gun control in the age of 3D printers
Probably impossible. Mark Gibbs explains at and Sebastian Anthony describes how one prints a gun at Extreme Tech.

'What Living a Green Life Actually Looks Like'
Drew Johnson lists the amenities of your 420 square foot house and concludes: "In other words, your life would suck royally – almost as bad as having to watch The Watch once a day, every day, for the rest of your life." Further explanation at the Chattanooga Free Press.

How worried are Democrats about November?
Worried enough that they think they have to highlight Bill Clinton at the Democratic convention by having the former president place Barack Obama's name into nomination.

Why New York City teachers don't get fired for sexually abusing school children
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Campbell Brown explains the problem:
Here's why. Under current New York law, an accusation is first vetted by an independent investigator. (In New York City, that's the special commissioner of investigation; elsewhere in the state, it can be an independent law firm or the local school superintendent.) Then the case goes before an employment arbitrator. The local teachers union and school district together choose the arbitrators, who in turn are paid up to $1,400 per day. And therein lies the problem.
For many arbitrators, their livelihood depends on pleasing the unions (whether the United Federation of Teachers in New York City, or other local unions). And the unions—believing that they are helping the cause of teachers by being weak on sexual predators—prefer suspensions and fines, and not dismissal, for teachers charged with inappropriate sexual conduct.
Fortunately, New York state is considering changing the law.

Scalia interviewed on Fox
In The Corner, Pat Horan reports on an exchange of Justice Antonin Scalia and Chris Wallace on Fox:
The 76-year-old justice declined to answer any questions about whether Chief Justice John Roberts switched sides in the decision regarding Obamacare. Scalia told Wallace, “I don’t talk about internal court proceedings ... A reporter who reports that is either a) lying, which can be done with impunity ... or b) that reporter had the information from someone who was breaking the oath of confidentiality, which means that’s an unreliable person.”
In other words, be skeptical about what you read/hear regarding the inner workings of the Supreme Court (or Congress, the White House, Parliament, etc).
Right Scoop has video of the full interview.

Sunday, July 29, 2012
My all-time favourite photo (that is not of a family member)
Terrible towel in Afghanistan, via a Pittsburgh Steelers tweet:

Four and down
34. You can usually ignore Sports Illustrated's Peter King MMQB column, but last week's edition has a speech from Paul Brown to his 1973 Cincinnati Bengals at the beginning of training camp. Usually the pre-game speech by coaches or other "leaders" are BS. They provide a narrative for sports journalists, never mind that the losing team or uninspiring performance is also preceded by a pre-game speech. But this Paul Brown speech is a great insight into coach's approach to the game and his expectations of players. In some ways it appears dated but it also shows he was ahead of his time on some issues. The speech is well worth reading; it start's here.
3. Grantland's Bill Barnwell looks at the reasons that bad teams from one season make the playoffs the next, from changing coaches or quarterbacks to being healthy to the the Pythagorean Theorem. Considering that, "since 1990, better than 25 percent of the teams who finished 6-10 or worse in the previous season have followed their dismal season by making the playoffs," there are actually a lot of different reasons. Interestingly, Barnwell merely mentions strength of schedule arguments.
2. There are now confirmed reports that Jimmy Haslam III, a Tennessee businessman and Pittsburgh Steelers minority owner, is trying to buy the Cleveland Browns. ESPN reports, "when it leaked that Jimmy Haslam, a minority owner, was negotiating to buy Randy Lerner's majority shares of the Cleveland Browns" a Steelers fan tweeted, "haven't the Steelers owned the Browns for years?"
1. Mike Tanier is leaving Football Outsiders. He's headed to Sports on Earth, a project of USA Today. The first half thanks his readers. The second part is loosely about the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal and the scandal at Penn State, which is really about making school and sport safe for kids. The second part is worth reading.

Newsweek calls Mitt Romney a wimp
Ed Driscoll says:
At the Tatler, Rick Moran has his own thoughts on Newsweek’s hit piece and writes, “I thought these desperation tactics would have waited until later in the campaign.” But at this rate, the print edition of Newsweek might not be around that long.

Three and out
3. ESPN Stats & Info says that the Tampa Bay Rays have twice shutout the Los Angeles Angels on back-to-back days this season: May 9-10 and this weekend.
2. Matt Klassen of Fangraphs says that 2009 was so long ago: Paul Konerko looked like he was winding down his career, Grady Sizemore looked like he was having a down year, Joe Mauer was the MVP, Tim Lincecum looked like he was going to dominate for years, and there was a debate about who was better: Jason Bay or Matt Holliday. One thing that is the same: A.J. Burnett was a useful part of the pitching staff on a playoff contender.
1. David Pinto at Baseball Musings says the Atlanta Braves are a great July team. Not just this year (16-8) but quite often since 1991. Their 667 winning percentage thus far this July would tie them for only the team's seventh best July in the past 21 seasons.

'Why is the World Bank so much less accountable than Penn State?'
A very short post on the World Bank by William Easterly from a few weeks back (HT: Cafe Hayek):
The charge was that they financed a project in Uganda in which poor people had their homes, cattle, and crops destroyed as the project forced them off their own land. The World Bank promised an investigation, which inspired us to post a clock beginning at the time of the promise.
The clock is now at 294 days, 17 hours, and 54 minutes. The investigation has been repeatedly stonewalled. Unlike Penn State, no World Bank executives faced any consequences. Unlike Penn State, the victims have not been compensated. Unlike Penn State, no institutional reforms have taken place to make it less likely to happen again.
Of course the cases are different, but Easterly's explanation that we in the West don't care about Africans isn't quite good enough to describe the different levels of outrage. US college football is much more popular with Americans than is ... well, almost anything that happens beyond its borders. But it shouldn't only be American public reaction that gets change. The World Bank should care as much about the people they harmed as did Penn State. The difference is that the World Bank's reputation isn't going to take as much as a hit as the university's did, so they have less impetus to do the right thing. Also, one case involved sex, which will get more ink and broadcast time.

Castro's billions
Jan Narveson at the 12th annual Liberty Summer Seminar on Fidel Castro's estimated net worth (of about a billion dollars): "There's egalitarianism in action, folks!"

Guy Earle case
Five Feet of Fury: "Can you believe this case is almost five years old?" Here's various stories and commentaries about the case which is now before the B.C. Supreme Court.

CNN's high journalistic standards
CNN plays "Stupid Girls" over Sarah Palin going to Chick-fil-A.

I have no idea what to think about Nexen
Chinese CNOOC Ltd wants to buy Canadian energy company Nexen Inc. You can find background at Google News. The issue is not an easy one. Unusually Sun columnist John Robson doesn't help. He concludes:
Malcolm Muggeridge wrote in his journal after witnessing Stalin’s famine that killed millions in the Ukraine and elsewhere: “Whatever else I may do or think in the future, I must never pretend that I haven’t seen this.”
It’s not obvious what we should do about the murderous, aggressive dictatorship in Beijing. But we must never pretend we have not seen it. Not even for $15.1 billion.
I appreciate Robson's humility: "It's not obviouse what we should do..." is not something we often hear from pundits (or politicians). I share the ambivalence. I am deeply uncomfortable with Red China buying up big Canadian energy companies. I agree that we must bear witness to China's beastly behaviour (see me at Soconvivium here and here). But I don't like limiting foreign direct investment and don't know what to do about state-run firms buying private enterprises in free market economies; it seems contradictory to not allow the investment, but private enterprise cannot easily compete with state-run (and financed) companies.
Pankaj Mishra, author of From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia, wrote for Bloomberg Views this week does give us something to think about when it comes to state capitalism:
Certainly, Friedrich List seems more prescient than Adam Smith in having recognized that the enlightened self-interest of individuals cannot be a useful principle for national economies that have to compete with one another even in an era of unrestricted trade and capital flows.
That makes so-called state capitalism (and state capitalists) not only a contradiction in terms, but distinctly different from market capitalism (and private enterprise) in an important motivation for economic activity (enlightened self-interest).

Full stadia have been 'an absolute priority'
So said one of the Olympic organizers. But as the Chicago Tribune reports, organizers messed up:
Dispiriting images of rows of vacant rows at football stadiums, Wimbledon, the aquatic center and beyond has angered Britons who tried and failed to buy tickets in the buildup to the Games having been told they had sold out.
Here's the proverbial picture worth a thousand words.

We are all criminals now
Washington Post columnist George Will tells the story of the U.S. government going on fishing expedition against scientist: the marine biologist cooperated with authorities and Washington bureaucrats use far-fetched charges to go after Nancy Black. You have to read Will's column for the four paragraph story; it is, as Will says, surreal. Unfortunately it is not uncommon:
In 1980, federal statutes specified 3,000 criminal offenses; by 2007, 4,450. They continue to multiply. Often, as in Black’s case, they are untethered from the common-law tradition of mens rea, which holds that a crime must involve a criminal intent — a guilty mind. Legions of government lawyers inundate targets like Black with discovery demands, producing financial burdens that compel the innocent to surrender in order to survive.
The protracted and pointless tormenting of Black illustrates the thesis of Harvey Silverglate’s invaluable 2009 book, “Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent.” Silverglate, a civil liberties lawyer in Boston, chillingly demonstrates how the mad proliferation of federal criminal laws — which often are too vague to give fair notice of what behavior is proscribed or prescribed — means that “our normal daily activities expose us to potential prosecution at the whim of a government official.” Such laws, which enable government zealots to accuse almost anyone of committing three felonies in a day, do not just enable government misconduct, they incite prosecutors to intimidate decent people who never had culpable intentions. And to inflict punishments without crimes.

What do health care and fighting crime have in common?
Robert at Small Dead Animals:
Whenever a problem arises in Canada, an age-old trick to avoid doing anything is to just mouth the words "We don't need American style solutions" to any & all proposed solutions. All discussion then comes to a screeching halt.
Calling something an "American solution" is like crying racism in America: it stops the discussion.

Saturday, July 28, 2012
What I'm reading
1. The 4% Solution: Unleashing the Economic Growth America Needs, edited by Brendan Miniter and featuring chapters by Gary Becker, Vernon Smith, Michael Novak, Amity Shlaes, Nick Schulz, W. Michael Cox, and many others.
2. Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson
3. The Locovore’s Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000-Mile Diet by Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu
4. The Jazz Standards by Ted Gioia. More of a perusal book. Here's a good review of the book in the Wall Street Journal.
5. "Corporate Welfare in the Federal Budget," by Tad DeHaven, a Cato Institute Policy Analysis.
6. "The Economics and History of Crony Capitalism," by David Henderson, a Mercatus Center research paper.
7. The July-August edition of Convivium, featuring articles on Toronto’s World Youth Day 10 years later and Ian Hunter on King Lear (focusing on Cordelia, my favourite Shakespeare character).

'You didn’t build that' and policy
Keith Hennessey on "The policy consequences of 'you didn’t build that'." Basically, the view that individuals are reliant on government to make things, justifies Big Government. We all knew that, but Hennessey does a nice job explaining it all.

'You will know them by their fruit'
The Salt Lake City Deseret News reports that according to a Pew Research Center poll fewer Americans (49%) now know that President Barack Obama is Christian than knew this in 2008 (55%). Someone might see this as evidence that there is a segment of the U.S. population who believes that Obama is a Muslim and indeed 17% of respondents think so. A better reason for this ignorance would be that there is little evidence of Obama's Christian faith. His policies on moral issues (abortion, gay marriage) are at odds with historical Christianity and Scripture. Furthermore, he is never seen going to church. Is it any wonder that Americans don't know Obama is a Christian?

Sign of the times
Christian Science Monitor headline: "Hotel swaps the Bible for – 'Fifty Shades of Grey'?" CSM reports:
The Damson Dene Hotel in Crosthwaite in the United Kingdom decided to put copies of “Fifty Shades of Grey” in their rooms rather than the Bible because of the popularity of the book.

Friday, July 27, 2012
Three and out
3. Derek Jeter's mansion. From the photo gallery of the construction of the English manor-style waterfront home, you'll learn: "The entire house has more square footage than a regulation baseball infield."
2. What a great debut against the Arizona Diamondbacks for New York Mets starter Matt Harvey last night: 5.1 IP, six baserunners, no runs allowed, 11 strikeouts.
1. Fangraphs has more evidence that Mike Trout is incredible, joining a club that includes Alex Rodriguez, Ted Williams, and Mickey Mantle.

Quote of the day
"Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavours to live at the expense of everybody else."
-- Frederic Bastiat, Essays on Political Economy

Thank God for Al Gore creating the internet
Star Wars Call Me Maybe -- very well done.

This is not really surprising
Via Small Dead Animals, I found this story: "Human Waste Plagues BART Escalators." BART is the Bay Area (San Francisco and Oakland) public transit system. This is pleasant: "copious amounts of human excrement" are gumming up the systems.

The politics of Dark Knight Rises
I like what Jonathan Chait says about both the political reaction of pundits to The Dark Knight Rises and New York City (despite going through hell, people would rather stay in Gotham/The Big Apple than move somewhere else).

Documentary about UN holds it up to ridicule
Looking forward to watching the documentary UN Me. They had me at "the UN is a joke." Documentary maker Ami Horowitz is interviewed by Brian Lilley of Sun News Network. Below is the must-watch trailer. Please pay to see the documentary to support this worthy endeavour.

Not just the tabloids
This is a very long and interesting article in New York magazine on the Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes breakup. I have no idea why I read it but I'm glad I did, in part because of Benjamin Wallace's treatment of Cruise's rumoured sexuality and in part because of this:
If at times the narrative has seemed to run on autopilot, that’s because it has. “How the tabloid magazines work is they make a judgment about what the audience already thinks about a celebrity story—Angelina stole Brad, and Jennifer is miserable about it—and they just keep repeating the story because it reassures people that what they already think is true,” says Ben Widdicombe, former “Gatecrasher” columnist for the Daily News. “With Katie and Tom, it’s, ‘She was this poor innocent lost bride, and Tom was her jailer.’ That certainly rings true to me, but that’s as deep as tabs go, so it ­becomes a self-fulfilling story.”
I would suggest that this is how most of journalism works, not just the tabloid variety. You've seen it: story just breaks such as a crime, political gaffe or celebrity death and the news report leads with not the event but the reaction -- city shocked or country stunned or whatever. It isn't even usually subtle; the media is always telling viewers/readers how they should react to a story.
Okay, here's how Wallace begins his section on Tom Cruise's alleged homosexuality:
Everybody knows that Tom Cruise loves to suck dick. Everybody knows that the creepy Church of Scientology “auditions” wives for him, and that his marriages are based on secret contracts written to conceal his sexuality in exchange for cash and the promise of fame. Right?

Thursday, July 26, 2012
The issue is crime, not crime rates
The Ottawa Citizen headline accurately represents the story but the story misses the point: "Despite falling crime rates, many Canadians believe justice system too lax: pollster." Here's the short version of the story: the Canadian government had focus groups done to see what the priorities of Canadians are and when crime came up, people thought Ottawa should do more to combat crime and punish criminals. Many commentators think that just because crime is going down* Canadians shouldn't want to punish criminals harshly or that fear of crime is irrational. Indeed, the pollster found that Canadians think crime is rising -- they are probably wrong, but the facts are open to debate -- but their misperceptions doesn't mean that the government shouldn't do a better job capturing criminals and meting out a just punishment. People are not afraid of and offended by crime rates; they don't like crime. We can debate what resources and trade-offs should be made to prevent crime, apprehend criminals when they've broke the law, and even what should be defined as crime. But those are different issues from what is a proper and just punishment. And the crime rate is largely irrelevant to all these issues.
* Crime rates are probably declining but there is a debate about how well the official statistics capture the reality of crime because there is some level of non-reporting by victims.

Gun control is not the answer
Because the issue is safety not peace of mind. That's how I'd summarize Sheldon Richman's column, "Don’t Let the Aurora Shooting Curtail the Right of Self-Defense."

Advertising the decline
The CBC has a story on an American tourism campaign that rebrands the U.S. as multicultural rather than "militaristic." That said, I'm not sure how "the Empire State building, Mount Rushmore, [and] Disneyland" -- all of which are gone -- are militaristic.

Blazing Cat Fur links to me ...
... And literally doubles my daily traffic in one morning. Thanks BCF. For those frustrated by the lack of proper permalinks, I'll be taking care of that soon. For now, if you've come for the linked story you'll have to scroll down to "Jack Layton: How did his message of hope inspire you?" that ran yesterday.

Here's a headline you don't see everyday
Jakarta Post on June 12: "Bali Teenager Passes Out Marrying Cow He Had Sex With."
(HT: Radley Balko)

Only an Ontarian who thinks his province IS Canada could say this
Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae tweeted:
Interprovincial bickering is what happens when federal government shows no leadership and contempt for co-operative federalism.
Wrong. Interprovincial bickering happens when provinces have different interests on certain issues or their premiers have starkly different ideological stands.

Unplanned does not mean unwanted
Slate's Amanda Marcotte wonders: "Why Are So Many Births Unplanned?" It's complicated, she says, and indeed it is. Any pregnancy, especially for an unmarried woman (but even for a married one) brings with it a bouquet of mixed emotions from fear to joy, anxiety to exhilaration. But it should be noted that an unplanned pregnancy does not mean it is unwanted when it occurs.

The best thing since 1928
The Atlantic's Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg (I think that's her Bond name) has a brief history of sliced bread.

No excuse to be surprised by this anti-Semitism
Rabbi Daniel Korobkin recently wrote in the Jewish Tribune that he was surprised to discover that the black author Alice Walker (The Colour Purple) is an anti-Semite. Why? The radical Left is full of anti-Semites. In fact, I probably would have been more surprised if Walker wasn't anti-Semitic despite her biography (Jewish professor, Jewish husband).

The charming, tolerant Left
Roseanne Barr hopes Chick-fil-A customers get cancer.
Here's a good backgrounder by Michelle Malkin on why the Left hates the chicken fast food chain. Hint: they're run by Christians who take their faith seriously.

I hope the state of Pennsylvania is successful
Powerline's John Hinderaker looks at "the battle for ballot integrity in Pennsylvania." The ACLU and demagoguing Democrats are against a law passed in March requiring photo identification to vote. As Hinderaker properly notes:
The idea that a photo ID requirement constitutes a “voter suppression tactic” is ridiculous. I have to show an ID to buy beer at a liquor store. Is that a “beer suppression tactic?” Is it a “travel suppression tactic” when I have to produce identification to board an airplane? I am required to show ID to shoot a firearm at our local range; is that an insidious form of gun control? Should Eric Holder be investigating to see whether the Second Amendment is violated by such requirements?

'Six Policies Economists Love (And Politicians Hate)'
NPR's Planet Money has "Six Policies Economists Love (And Politicians Hate)" and it should be noted that politicians hate them because 1) it would mean either less money for them to spend or fewer favours to dispense among voters, and 2) the voting public hates them. I fully endorse four of six but am hesitant to support a move from income taxes to consumption taxes and would prefer to see a very low, flat rate income tax (in the single digits) to force the government to stop funding most of what it funds right now, including (make that especially) health care and education. If carbon emissions are bad, they should be taxed, but only if such a tax is coupled with a halving of income tax rates.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Terrible tie-breaker method for elections
In Brazil, the older candidate wins in municipal elections in which there is a tie. Ditto to break a tie in civil service exams. Details at Fruits and Votes.

Stop the discrimination against smokers
Santa Monica votes to ban smoking in apartments and condos, requiring them to designate smoking and non-smoking rooms and making them permanently non-smoking once designated. Newmark's Door's comments: "First they came for the smokers ..."

Four and down
4. The 2012 NFL season begins six weeks from today when the New York Giants begin their Super Bowl defense by hosting the Dallas Cowboys. Can't wait.
3. Training camps for all 32 teams open this week. NFL Network is becoming essential TV again.
2. The NFL lockout ended one year ago today.'s Albert Breer offers his reflections on the first year (of, we're told, ten) labour peace.
1. Elliot Harrison of the NFL Network is probably right to say that offenses won't put up gaudy numbers this year as defenses will have sufficient time to work together before the season starts. In short, without the time to prepare as a team, the quarterback was an even more valuable player than usual. Correction due in 2012. That said, passing offense will still be important as we're not headed back to 1970s style defense and ground games any time soon.

'Jack Layton: How did his message of hope inspire you?'
That's the question Sarah Layton, the former NDP leader/Toronto city councilor's daughter, asks in the Toronto Star. Perhaps the better question would be: "How did his massage of hope inspire you?"

Must-reads and must-views at Five Feet of Fury
Kathy Shaidle's blog Five Feet of Fury is simply amazing and I assume you all read it. If you don't, shame on you. Here are today's highlights.
"Rush Limbaugh explains: Gov’t didn’t actually invent the internet (but the net built conservative talk)"
A bunch of video on Nicholas Cage.
"John Lott: Would you put a ‘Gun Free Zone’ sign on your own front door? (video)"
Jack Layton -- not FFF's header. Hers is much, much better.
Support Kathy's blogging by purchasing the stuff advertised on it and buying from Amazon through her links.

Not news
Nanos Research says that Canadians rate health care as their top priority issue. Not really a surprise because Nanos always finds health care to be the top priority of respondents to his polls. Nanos also concludes that the things that most directly affect the lives of Canadians are their top priorities, which is almost not worth mentioning because ... well, why would it be any other way. That is why foreign policy and even the environment and government debt almost never are a top priority for the average person unless the headlines force people to think about these issues, and then the effect is only temporary.

Baby names are getting worse
A really fun article on baby names by Drew Magary at Deadspin. I laughed out loud at the opening paragraph on Parents magazine before getting to the topic at hand. Magary says:
Now, you and I both know that Americans of all stripes have grown progressively worse at naming children. It's not enough for your child to have a normal name and then try to stand out on their own merits down the road. No, no, no. Every parent now wants every child to be unique and special from the moment the doctor wipes all the amniotic fluid off of it, even though all babies look alike and contribute nothing to society.
There's a bizarre assumption that if you can make your child's name unique, the child will be unique. And that's NEVER the case. Chances are, if you name your kid Braxlee, he or she is gonna end up bent over the sink in the back of a TGI Friday's, offering tail in exchange for a better skim off the tip pool.
But people are stupid and happily ignore this fact. You would think that baby names have reached their apex of ludicrousness. But you would be wrong.
Magary's comments on specific names, such as Luxx, are priceless.
(HT: Steven D. Levitt, who has a great chapter on this topic in his book Freakonomics -- see excerpt here.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Talking inequality
Normally I wouldn't bother with an hour-long interview with Joseph Stiglitz on his new book The Price of Inequality, but the interviewer is Russ Roberts.

Jack Layton: The NDP's answer to Paul Wellstone
The Ottawa Citizen headline reads: "Jack Layton tribute being planned to mark his death." I think it should have read: "Jack Layton tribute being planned to milk his death."
In case you don't get the Wellstone reference.

'How Containerization Shaped the Modern World'
A short video (less than five minutes) on Malcom McLean, who made the world a much better place by inventing the shipping container. According to Harold Evans, the narrator, the container era's legacy is "shrinking our world and enlarging human choice." If you are interested in this topic, I highly recommend Marc Levison's The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger, which is one of my favourite books.

The coming generational warfare
Nick Gillespie & Veronique de Rugy in the August/September Reason on the unsustainable entitlement state:
The entitlement state, whatever its intentions and past successes, is like a starter home that has been expanded and renovated so many times that it has no architectural coherence or structural integrity. The country has grown much wealthier and much grayer since the starter home was built. Whether the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. ObamaCare) supersedes Medicare or simply adds to its costs, publicly funded spending on retirement and elder care will skyrocket as baby boomers start retiring en masse.
Noting that seniors are generally wealthier than those just beginning to work, Gillespie and de Rugy say:
It is hard to know which is more depressing: the punishing and sure-to-rise price that younger Americans are forced to pay for a system that steals from the relatively poor to give to the relatively rich, or the smugness with which champions of this patently unfair system insist on its righteousness.
It is a long article but definitely worth reading.

Monday, July 23, 2012
Three cheers for creative destruction
Business Insider has "The 11 Most Disruptive Startups." I love the fact that Twitter is disruptive to social media. I hope 2tor is wildly successful in disrupting the higher education racket.

Breaking Bad
Greg Mankiw almost has me convinced I should watch it.

Che Guevara
Must-watch video featuring Nat Hentoff. Don Boudreaux has a great anecdote about Tom Palmer and a Che-wearing med student.

Good advice for the Green Party
From former journalist Paul Adams. Key points:
1) Protect Elizabeth May's seat because she has disproportionate profile (and perhaps influence) to what one seat should provide.
2) Contest just a handful of federal seats (half dozen, perhaps) to maintain profile.
3) Focus on municipal politics.
If I were advising the Green Party on how to influence public policy, I'd give the same advice as Paul Adams. Because I want the Green Party continues to flail about in irrelevance, I hope it ignore's the sensible advice of Adams. I'm positive May's end-game is to stick around long enough to be invited to sit with the Liberal caucus if they ever return to government or even become a Liberal cabinet member.

Follow the math (if you can) ... and if you can't, shut up
Nick Leghorn has a very good piece entitled, "Why People Are Over-Reacting to the Midnight Movie Massacre (Mathematically Speaking)" (HT: Five Feet of Fury) in which he notes:
117 people died from mass shootings… in the last DECADE (source).
From a straight analytic standpoint, there’s no reason to be concerned about mass shootings. None whatsoever. The probability that you will be involved is so small that my calculator switches to scientific notation when I try to compute it.
By comparison, about 100 people die every day in car accidents. If the general public and policy-makers reacted proportionately to collisions as they do nearly non-existent mass shootings, we'd lower the speed limit to 10 mph and ban left-hand turns.

Saturday, July 21, 2012
Obama's view of success being dependent on the state
Brad Smith has two excellent posts at Divison of Labour (see here and here) on President Barack Obama's denigration of individual achievement by claiming the state makes it all possible. Two key takeaways (among many):
1) Smith points out that Obama's words are extremely revealing and not only about the President's worldview but his own achievements.
2) Even if Obama is correct about the role the state plays in making individual achievement possible, considering what proportion of the total budget such programs represent, we can cut spending (and taxes) and still enjoy the human flourishing Obama claims is predicated on state involvement.
Jonah Goldberg notes that Obama's views are par for the course for progressives, noting that Herbert Croly once said the "individual has no meaning apart from the society in which his individuality has been formed."
Of course, today Mark Steyn devastates Obama's "you-didn't-build-that" speech.

Friday, July 20, 2012
Obama's priorities
In the past six months President Barack Obama has had more than 100 fundraisers and golfed 10 times but his jobs council hasn't met once. Info verified by PolitiFact.

Nation profile of David Frum
Mark Oppenheimer has a very long piece in The Nation about David Frum's journey from stringent right-winger to "unpredictable centrist" and the author seems at times conflicted about Frum moving closer to his own side of the political aisle. To be fair, Frum hasn't moved that far over on the political spectrum, but it's telling that a piece on Frum exploring what the Left labels "growth" on the part of a conservative can appear in The Nation. I'm sure Frum is proud.

Five Feet of Fury notes that Mark Steyn hosts for Rush Limbaugh today.

Liberal leadership race (July 20 edition)
Read the opening two paragraphs of Lawrence Martin's column about Justin Trudeau and its hard to believe that the Quebec MP hasn't planned on running for the Liberal leadership all along. However, this may be the kiss of death.
In other news, one presumes that David Merner and Deborah Coyne are shaking hands at BBQs.

Woman regrets having drunken sex (multiple times) with husband
The writer of this letter to Slate advice columnist Dear Prudence is pretty messed up. Emily Yoffe's response demonstrates why she is the only advice columnist worth reading:
Your approach, however, seems to be to treat your sex life as if it is subject to regulatory review by the Department of Health and Human Services. Your prim, punctilious, punitive style has me admiring your put-upon husband’s ability to even get it up, given the possibility he’ll be accused of rape—or turn himself in for it!—if one of you fails a breathalyzer test. Living in terror that expressing one’s perfectly normal sexual desire could end one’s marriage, and freedom, is itself a form of abuse. Stop acting like a parody of a gender-studies course catalog and start acting like a loving wife. If you can’t, then give the poor sap a divorce.

Thursday, July 19, 2012
Attack ads
Gerry Nicholls on one of his favourite topics, negative ads. He begins:
Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so too is negativity. At least, that's true when it comes to so-called negative attack ads.
One person's attack ad is another person's honest assessment of an opponent. These things tend to be partisan judgments. And really, what's wrong with calling a lying, son-of-a-bitch a lying son-of-a-bitch if the subject of the criticism is one? Essentially attack ads are what one's opponents do. Such subjectivity makes suggestions that attacks ads be banned laughable.

Ontario Finance Minister admits $190 million campaign stunt
The Canadian Press on Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan: "Duncan admits Liberals cancelled Ontario gas plant when behind in polls." CP reports: "Duncan says it was a Liberal campaign team idea that was not discussed by cabinet until after the election." Again, this was a campaign decision, not a government decision. Cost to taxpayers nearly $200 million. I think the Liberal Party of Ontario should reimburse provincial taxpayers and it be counted against the party as a campaign expense.

I hate it when conservatives get all stupid
Rush Limbaugh sees a conspiracy when it comes to the name of the villain (Bane) in the new Batman movie because it is similar to the name of the company at which Mitt Romney controversially worked at before his life in politics. Says Rush: "Do you think that it is accidental that the name of the really vicious fire-breathing four-eyed-whatever-it-is villain in this movie is named Bain?" Yes, I do because the villain was created nearly two decades ago, but why let facts get in the way of a good rant against Hollywood. (Now Limbaugh says he isn't saying there is a conspiracy.) Or why not make the conspiracy bigger: perhaps Obama's Democratic party rigged the GOP primaries to instill a Republican presidential candidate who could be aligned with the bad guy in a Summer blockbuster. There is enough legitimate crap to complain about that the Right doesn't need to make up bogeymen.

Liberal leadership race (July 19 edition)
Not much as happened the past week so pundits are reduced to creating bullshit issues to talk about. Today, Bob Hepburn of the Toronto Star wonders if Trudeau the Younger is too young to lead the party. Note to Hepburn: Stephen Harper was never leader of the Reform Party.
In other news, the Liberal Party leadership may not be worthless after all. If you believe Nanos Research, support for the Liberals is inching up and support for the NDP is sliding so now there is less than four percentage points separating the two left-of-center parties. Nanos also found a significant bump for the Grits in Quebec which is being attributed to Bob Rae's swan song tour.

More proof (as if it were necessary) that politicians are liars
Remember the automatic and supposedly deep cuts to government spending, especially military spending, that are going to occur if Congress doesn't come up with a plan to slow the growth of spending that was part of last Summer's deal with the White House to thwart the United States from defaulting when it hit the (artificial and financially disastrous) debt ceiling? Yeah, it aint' going to happen. Bloomberg's Caroline Baum explains:
"The sequester wasn't meant to be implemented," Jeffrey Zients, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, said in a July 10 op-ed on "It was designed to cause cuts so deep that just threatening them would force members of Congress to agree on a big, balanced package of deficit reduction."
The stick was about as terrifying as the carrot was tempting. The supercommittee failed to reach an agreement on spending cuts, or, more correctly, cuts in the growth of government spending. Now lawmakers insist that the sequester can't happen, with Republicans warning of the risks from gutting the military, and Democrats whining about slashing domestic programs. Zients agrees, saying the cuts "would be terrible for our country" and "don't have to happen."
In other words, Congress isn’t accountable for its actions.
In other words, there was no intention of following through. And the media co-operated with this lie, if for no other reason than repeating it often without noting that the actions of one Congress cannot bind a future Congress to specific actions, such as automatically cutting spending. The November election is a reset button for politicians. Not they need it, because, again, they did not intend to follow through on the deal.
Foreign Policy's The Cable blog also notes that efforts to thwart the sequestration deal is a bipartisan effort.

Economics memes
Art Carden has about 60 of them. This is one of my favourites but it can't beat this Futurama one on human capital vs. signalling.

There is no 'I' in government
Thomas Sowell counters Barack Obama's argument that individuals are not responsible for their own success as the President claims their achievements are built upon the public goods society (read: the government) has made. Sowell concludes:
Personal responsibility, whether for achievement or failure, is a threat to the whole vision of the left, and a threat the left goes all-out to combat, using rhetoric uninhibited by reality.

Evangelicals and Catholics Together, again
Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College, and John Garvey, president of Catholic University of America, writing in the Wall Street Journal:
On Wednesday, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the trustees of Wheaton College joined The Catholic University of America in filing a lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services. They did so because the HHS mandate requiring the college to provide and subsidize insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs violates the conscience of the school and its members, and denies their First Amendment freedom of religion.
When Catholic University began its own legal action on May 21, it asserted a moral and a constitutional right to practice its religion without government interference. Defending liberty is also deeply rooted in Wheaton's identity as a Christian liberal arts college, founded by abolitionists on the Illinois prairie at the outset of the Civil War.
Ostensibly fighting for religious freedom, these ecumenical partners are fighting for every American's liberty.

Any excuse for more government spending
A drought bailout for farmers.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Shaidle review of The Tower of Babble
Kathy Shaidle reviewed The Tower of Babble: Sins, Secrets and Successes Inside the CBC by Richard Stursberg in the July edition of The Interim. Shaidle writes:
Reading The Tower of Babble, one is surprised that Stursberg lasted as long as he did. I wore out a pen underlining horror stories I’d hope to include in this review; space restricts me to two representative excerpts...
You have to read the review for the pair of examples.

Unaffordable government
Over at's Hit & Run, Peter Suderman notes that some states are using various gimmicks to get around balanced budget requirements. Not really surprising. His conclusion, however, it vitally important:
[T]he economic crisis only exacerbated the deep-rooted fiscal problems that already existed in a lot of states.
The current economic crisis that is throwing government budgets into disarray is an opportunity to force governments to do what they should have long ago done: shrink the size of the state. Not that austerity is really resulting in smaller government, but eventually the crisis will get worse and politicians might not have any choice. From curbing excessive public sector pay and pensions to finding market alternatives to the delivery of health and education, the state must find less expensive alternatives to the way they are currently doing things0.
Relatedly, here's a video on the dependency agenda.

Like all good men, Steyn hates Woody Guthrie and 'This Land Is Your Land'
Mark Steyn comments here. Also at NRO, Lee Habeeb writes about the singer and his song.

'Evidence-based' observation that environmentalism is a religion
Kids Prefer Cheese has the abstract and link.

Tolerance is not the same thing as respect
Perry de Havilland briefly discusses the important difference at Samizdata:
Do I have 'equal respect' for Islam? Or socialism in all its 'left' and 'right' forms? Or racism? Hell no. I do not respect them at all as I do not respect any religion or any intrusive collectivist political order. But I will tolerate adherents of things I think are wrong if they tolerate me, which means not imposing their wishes on me by force.

Elephant air
Pat Derby, co-founder of the Performing Animal Welfare Society elephant sanctuary in California to which the Toronto Zoo is sending three pachyderms, describes what the airplane ride will be like for the animals and why they don't need sedation:
"The experience itself will stimulate them ... They will be talking to each other, and it probably will be the equivalent of us wondering, 'Where are we going?' and 'What is this'?"
To the extent that the animals are thinking anything at all, it will probably be the elephant equivalent of WTF.

This. Is. Not. Sustainable.
John Hinderaker at Powerline notes that last month "more Americans went on disability than found jobs. That is, apparently, the end point of the welfare state."
(HT: Small Dead Animals)

It's not actually a mashed potato and gravy Slurpee ...
But it's close. Singapore 7/11 sells mashed potatoes and gravy served from a Slurpee-like machine and will begin selling them in the United States. Make sure you check out the video.

Smuggling Kinder Eggs
This type of thing happens a lot -- Mark Steyn has written about it before: the Vancouver Sun reports that two Seattle men were detained for several hours when they were caught bringing Kinder Eggs into the United States. It is illegal to import the chocolate eggs with cheap plastic toys inside because the American government has deemed them unsafe for children. The rule is ridiculous but not as offensive as its enforcement. You'd think that merely taking the eggs away and letting the offending travellers on their way would suffice.
The Sun reported: "The agency says it seized more than 60,000 Kinder Eggs from travellers' baggage and international mail shipments in fiscal 2011." So do the guards eat the chocolate loot themselves or bring them home as treats for their own kids. I assume the confiscations increase around Halloween and Easter, just as airport security confiscations of valuables such as fancy pens increase around Christmas.

Those who forget history and doomed to put their foot in their mouth
What is it about Canadian defense ministers not knowing French history? In 2002, Liberal defense minister John McCallum conflated Vimy and Vichy. The current Conservative defense minister, Peter MacKay, tells French audience their country fought alongside British against Americans in War of 1812. Is MacKay an ignoramus, an opportunist, or a liar?