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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Thursday, February 28, 2013
'Eyes Work Without Connection to Brain'
Science Daily reports:
For the first time, scientists have shown that transplanted eyes located far outside the head in a vertebrate animal model can confer vision without a direct neural connection to the brain.
Biologists at Tufts University School of Arts and Sciences used a frog model to shed new light -- literally -- on one of the major questions in regenerative medicine, bioengineering, and sensory augmentation research.

On economics
Russ Roberts' contribution to "The Future of Keynesianism," in The European calls for more humility in what economists can and cannot claim:
Perhaps our profession should admit that some of the questions people want us to answer simply cannot be answered. One of those questions is whether $820 billion of additional federal spending using borrowed money is a good idea or not. I think it’s a bad idea. But my reasons for thinking so are based on logic and philosophy not fancy statistical analysis ...
Economics isn’t rocket science; it’s a lot harder. We should admit as much and when asked to measure things we cannot measure, we should admit our ignorance.

Modern Family is getting old
Slate's Jim Pagels on the Wednesday night hit Modern Family:
And Modern Family, a show I’ve long loved, can’t seem to draw comedy from anything but misunderstandings and light stereotypes, with the only variation being whether one or both parties are oblivious to the confusion ...
Modern Family is no longer a sitcom. But what it has become is not Cheers or The Cosby Show but something more like Saturday Night Live. It’s essentially a sketch show, with each week’s episode broken up into A, B, and C plots (or sketches) in which the same “Who’s on First”-style misunderstandings are not only repeated over and over, but also repeated every week when the recurring plot (or sketch) is brought back.

Media can spin this but the numbers should trouble them
According to a Rasmussen Reports poll:
Fifty-six percent (56%) of all voters regard the news reported by the media as at least somewhat trustworthy, but that includes just six percent who think it is Very Trustworthy. Forty-two percent (42%) don’t trust the news media, with 12% who believe the news it reports is Not At All Trustworthy.
I guess journalists could say that more than half of voters -- and why just voters? why not consumers of news? -- trust them, but the fact that only about one in 17 respondents think it is "very trustworthy" and that twice as many consider the media "not at all trustworthy," is a strong condemnation of the industry and profession.
The poll finds that more people find reporters more liberal than themselves than respondents who think reporters are more conservative indicating that there might be an element of ideological distrust (the media is untrustworthy because it is partisan), but what the poll does not answer specifically is why the media is not trustworthy. Are journalists biased or are they unreliable in obtaining and reporting the facts? Or both?

Government is greedy, too
The complaint is that corporations and the rich are greedy. No one ever levels that accusation against the state. I would argue that the state is greedy for both money and power. Anyway, in NRO today Bobby Jindal writes about the real Obama legacy:
[T]he Obama years will be remembered as the Era of Government Greed. There isn’t a problem President Obama thinks can’t be solved by more taxes and more spending. His solution is always to take more money out of the American economy and put it into the government.
You can’t grow the economy by taking money out of the economy. Yet that’s the president’s plan, and it’s leading us down a dangerous path. First, the greed of Wall Street crippled our economy, and now, President Obama’s Government Greed is threatening to drown our economy.

Boehner calls taxes theft
The Daily Caller reports John Boehner asked: "You’re talking about how much — you’re asking a question, how much more money do we want to steal from the American people to fund more government? I’m for no more." I am thankful for the rhetoric but it raises an uncomfortable question: if the taxes the state takes from Americans is stealing, shouldn't the government 1) stop doing it completely? and 2) pay back what they stole in the first place? I agree that taxation is theft but I'm not a politician living on money coercively taken from my fellow citizens. So Mr. Boehner, will you back up your honest rhetoric with actions?

Coulter on modern political rhetoric
Apropos of the gun debate Ann Coulter says: "'I don't see why anyone needs ...' is code for: 'I don't do it, so let's ban it.' The corollary is: 'I enjoy this, so you have to subsidize it'."

The Fed turns a century old
George Will on the Federal Reserve:
The Fed, born in 1913, is now the largest buyer of 30-year Treasury securities. And it, not Congress, which supposedly controls the government’s purse strings, funds the $447.7 million Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is headed by a person not lawfully in office. (Richard Cordray was installed by Obama by a process that a court has recently ruled amounts to a spurious “recess” appointment made to vitiate the Senate’s power to advise and consent to presidential appointments.) So before blowing out the 100 candles on the Fed’s birthday cake, consider the perverse result of current Fed policy: Although money is promiscuously printed to keep interest rates low, credit is tight as money flows toward high-return assets. Such as gold.

Sequester in context
Great graphic.

The evolution of the Canadian Left
In a post about Justin Trudeau, the entitled progeny of a former prime minister, Gods of the Copybook Headings has a great line about another political dynasty: "[T]he Canadian Leftist dynasty of David Lewis, Stephen Lewis and Avi Lewis. A family history that charts Leftism's arc from plausibly misguided idealism to grubby featherbedding quite well."

The Obamaconomy
In a Washington Examiner article about "California's green jobs bust," Conn Carroll writes: "President Obama, of course, has completely failed to deliver on this promise of 5 million new green-collar jobs. The entire U.S. economy has created only 1.2 million jobs since Obama was sworn into office, many of them in the fossil fuel extraction, production and distribution sector."

'Subway founder: If I had tried to start Subway today, it would not exist'
HotAir has video of Subway CEO Fred Deluca saying he wouldn't be opening Subway today because of the stifling regulations. Erika Johnsen wonders: "I wonder what types of popular, convenient, and productive job-providing private businesses we’re undoubtedly now missing out on because of the poor regulatory and business climate of the Obama economy?"

Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Liberal leadership race (February 27 edition)
No MPs have endorsed her, but as Leslie MacKinnon reports on Twitter, Senator Celine Hervieux-Payette endorsed Joyce Murray yesterday. And while it is not technically an endorsement, Murray's quest to have the Left put up a united front in 2015 received support from independent New Democrat MP Bruce Hyer (Thunder Bay Superior North).
Joyce Murray also received the endorsement of "rapper and educator" Baba Brinkman in a YouTube video. Brinkman is Murray's son.
Martha Hall Findlay released an open letter to a Liberal MP (Wayne Easter) who has taken issue with her position on Supply Management, effectively reiterating her opposition to them.
Gerry Nicholls wonders if Justin Trudeau can take a political punch and notes that so far he hasn't been tested. Joan Bryden, in this Canadian Press article, would seem to disagree, noting that Martin Cauchon was "joining the gang-up on Trudeau."
A Fredericton, New Brunswick principal cancelled a Justin Trudeau speaking engagement at his high school, worried about the appearance of political bias.
David Bertschi delivered a speech about health policy at Memorial University in Newfoundland. My favourite part is the large notes to self to (pause).

Landsburg vs. Krugman
Steven Landsburg implies there is something foolish with Paul Krugman condemning the foolishness of politicians while calling for more power for politicians.

Woodward criticizes Obama
NewsMax reports:
Watergate journalist Bob Woodward on Wednesday slammed as “madness” President Barack Obama’s decision against deploying an aircraft carrier because of the automatic spending cuts scheduled to begin Friday.
The USS Harry S. Truman, which was supposed to leave for the Persian Gulf earlier this month, has been kept at home on Pentagon orders because of the sequester.
Woodward is the establishment media in D.C. and this criticism -- the second in a week -- must sting the administration.

'Organizing for corruption'
Investor's Business Daily: "The White House denies a report that it is selling access to the president for $500,000 through its new Organizing for Action 'social welfare group.' Frankly, that's not believable, given what's already been going on."

Whatcott decision
Blogging is light in part because I'm reading the Supreme Court of Canada's Whatcott decision. Here's a Maclean's story on it and here is Five Feet of Fury on the decision; in the video that FFF links to from Sun News I think that Ezra Levant has missed some of the subtlety of the decision. The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada responds and here are the two takeaways:
“To clarify the objective understanding of hate speech, the court struck out terms used in the hate speech provision in the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code (Code) that concerned something more akin to hurt feelings. The standard is clearer, from the legal perspective, that speech may only be deemed hateful when assessed to be so objectively from the perspective of a reasonable person, with full consideration of the circumstances, and when the expression is likely to expose a person to detestation and vilification on the basis of prohibited grounds of discrimination that are attributable to an identifiable group in the speech at issue. The test essentially begins to boil down to publicly stating that a whole group of people should be marginalized from participating as members of Canadian society.”
If this is the correct interpretation of the decision, it would seem that serious debate on public policy could be curbed as opposition to same-sex marriage or immigration certainly marginalizes a whole group of people from participating as members of Canadian society.

Yousefzadeh reviews Cheney memoir
Pejman Yousefzadeh reviews Dick Cheney's memoir, In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir, in the Texas Review of Law and Politics. It is long (18 pages) but it's focus is on Cheney's view of executive (presidential) power. This is probably my favourite sentence in the review: after noting that Cheney wrote that being called "the Gentleman from Wyoming" while in the House of Representatives was the title of which he was most proud, Yousefzadeh observes, "But his pride notwithstanding, even as a member of Congress, Cheney was a strong advocate of presidential power." And while Cheney is correct to complain about the post-Vietnam (and post-Watergate) "boundless view of Congressional power" that representatives and senators have, he has been a consistent voice for presidential power. Yousefzadeh says in what would be a great conclusion:
Cheney’s propensity to regard executive power with more favor than he has historically viewed congressional authority may paradoxically serve to circumscribe executive authority. Any exercise of executive authority to bypass Congress in pursuit of policy goals serves to cut Congress out as a partner in policy making. At times, cutting Congress out may be necessary, and even if it were not necessary, the Executive Branch may indeed possess the authority to bypass Congress. However, if Congress is not made a partner in policymaking it will not have the same kind of stake in the success of a particular policy. By excluding Congress from the crafting and implementation of a particular policy, the Executive Branch takes upon its own shoulders all of the political risk and pressure involved in ensuring that the policy in question succeeds. Should the policy succeed, then all is fine and good—the Executive Branch is safe from criticism and will likely garner plaudits from observers. But should the policy fail, then the Executive Branch alone is open to olitical criticism and censure, with Congress remaining free from any blame, since it was not involved in the crafting and implementation of policy.

'The Government/Media Complex'
J.T. Hatter at American Thinker on a modern threat to democracy: the so-called mainstream media. Hatter says: "We are witnessing a marriage of the progressive media with a progressive government regime, an unholy alliance in terms of the American ideal. The end result is the certain destruction of freedom and liberty in America."

Watch Canadian senator scurry like a rat
There is video in this Toronto Star story showing Senator Dennis Patterson avoiding questions about where he really lives.
My solution for the scum bag senators (Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Mac Harb, Dennis Patterson) is to make them pay back all the living expenses they wrongly claimed ... but to do so by personally writing cheques to every taxpayer and having to pay for the mailing. The cheque would be for a penny, but the mailing would cost about $10 million. And, of course, signing more than 20 million cheques is itself a real punishment. If they don't, they should be charged with fraud and face real jail time. Living expenses one does not qualify for are not entitlements. I understand why Harb (the Liberal) thinks they are, but Conservatives should view such things differently. Or perhaps they shouldn't. A politician is a politician no matter what colour they wear.

States and federal spending
From Wells Fargo has a map that shows, "Sequestration: Which States Are Most Vulnerable?" The methodology: "We utilize the metric calculated by the Pew Center on the States for federal spending as a percentage of state GDP. We then identify those states that are most susceptible to defense and those most susceptible to nondefense spending cuts." Interestingly, just eyeballing the map indicates that Republican states are more affected. Put another way: Red States are more dependent on federal spending.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Coffee's benefits
PopSci has "7 Reasons Why Coffee Is Good For You." I firmly believe that anything in moderation is okay for you (including whatever other drugs you may enjoy), but the story notes several studies that indicate moderate coffee drinking is associated with several positive health outcomes (lower risk of Alzheimer’s and Type II Diabetes).

Three and out
3. Grantland's Jonah Keri notes that MLB has opened up its vault and has links to a few favourite highlights. One of my favourites is Rickey Henderson getting his 1000th career stolen base -- it was a theft of third base. Interestingly, Henderson also stole third to break Lou Brock's record. Another fave is when Game 6 of the 1986 World Series was interrupted by someone who parachuted into Shea Stadium; the moment is made even better with Vin Scully calling the game. I could lose myself for hours on the site, or as Keri suggests quit the job and ditch the spouse.
2. Interesting article/analysis in the New York Daily News by John Harper on the New York Mets inactivity this off-season. Apparently, GM Sandy Alderson went after or at least wanted two of the better outfielders on the market, Braves free agent Michael Bourn and Diamondbacks Justin Upton, who was on the trading block. The Mets say things just didn't work out but Harper says: "The view from baseball people outside the organization, meanwhile, is more cynical: that Alderson was hoping that Upton or Bourn would fall into his lap, and if not he was content to stand pat and wait until next winter to get serious about trying to win again." With two good veterans, southpaw starter Johan Santana and 3B David Wright, not getting any younger, the window of opportunity for a single upgrade or two to launch the team into contender status might be closing. The notion that Upton or Bourn could make the Mets contenders assumes their minor moves work out and their returning youngish talent takes a collective step forward right away, both dubious propositions. And they'll be trying to do that without their best pitcher from last season, Cy Young winning knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. Reading the Harper article is a useful reminder of why I stopped following the Mets as my National League team a long time ago: they just don't seem to know what they're doing.
1. The New York Yankees are probably as good as any team in the AL East (four teams, not including the Orioles, look capable of winning between 85-90 games) but things won't be easy for them (age and injuries) and it just got tougher: OF Curtis Granderson, one of their two best everyday players, will miss 10 weeks after breaking his arm. Hope it doesn't affect his sweet homerun swing. It is only five weeks of regular season 'ball, so I don't think they need to stoop to signing Johnny Damon, who is offering his services. At, Jay Jaffe looks at the Yankee options, from minor leaguers to readily available free agents and possible trades including Alphonso Soriano and Dominic Brown. I don't think a panic trade is necessary and would prefer to use the chance to look at the youngin's in the minors, regardless of their shortcomings and downsides. In a tight race in the AL East, losing a star like Grandy for a month could make the difference between playing baseball in October and playing golf, but none of the options aren't that great and there's no reason to also compromise the future by taking on a huge contract like Soriano's or giving up minor leaguers to get an unproven talent like Brown. While Jeff Sullivan is correct to note that the "free-agent options are fairly miserable" their only cost is money, and as a bonus they'd be available for a one-year deal. And I like Mike Axisa's idea of possibly using infielder Edwin Nunez at LF or as an outfielder off the bench.

Hagel confirmed
The Senate confirmed Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense by a 58-41 vote. If I were a senator, I probably wouldn't have voted because presidents should generally get the cabinet they want but I find Hagel quite obnoxious. Obnoxiousness does not disqualify one from cabinet posts. The right way to protest such individuals is abstaining from the vote. The four Republicans who voted to confirm Hagel were Thad Cochran (Mississippi.), Mike Johanns (Nebraska), Richard C. Shelby (Alabama) and Rand Paul (Kentucky). Conservative Republicans should not challenge these senators for this vote.

Obama playing politics with sequester and immigration
The Daily Caller reports: "[T]he Department of Homeland Security has already started releasing illegal immigrants from detention centers around the country — a move Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions believes is due to politics, not necessity." Anyone surprised the Obama administration is playing politics with the release of illegal immigrants?

ABC edits out Michelle Obama error
Washington Examiner reports: "ABC broadcast edits out Michelle Obama claim that Chicago teen was killed by an ‘automatic weapon’." Handgun, automatic weapon, what's the difference?

Unlocking cellphones gains steam from unlikely source
Derek Khanna writes at about the Competitive Carriers Association -- the trade association representing every carrier except Verizon & AT&T -- has come out for cellphone unlocking. Khanna writes:
The statement by CCA demonstrates clearly how this ruling is a clear example of crony-capitalism, where a few companies asked for the law to be changed to their pecuniary benefit despite the invasion of our property rights, its impact upon consumers, and its impact upon the overall market. This decision creates higher thresholds to entry for new market participants, which hinders competition and leads to less innovation.

Is paid content working?
Despite the generally negative report at PaidContent, it seems to be that Andrew Sullivan's model is working, even if he's one-third away from his annual goal. I wouldn't spend $20 a year for The Dish, but I didn't read it when it was free. I don't understand why people who only read 4-7 stories a month -- 7 is the free threshold -- would pay for unlimited access, even if the threshold was lower.
However, newspapers like the Boston Globe can't possibly survive with 28,000 digital-only subscribers (in a metro area of 4 million people) signed on over 18 months. While some paid a 99-cent a week rate and others get online subscriptions for free with their dead tree delivery, the Globe wants to sell online weekly subscriptions for $3.99. As PaidContent reports, "Ken Doctor, an analyst of newspaper economics, said by phone that the Globe’s 28,000 figure is actually good compared to other papers." Yikes.

Minimum wage and poverty
Writing in the Globe and Mail's Economy Lab, Mike Moffatt says that raising the minimum wage is not the best way to increase the income of the poor:
An hourly wage rate is a poor proxy for yearly household income, because it fails to include the number of hours worked, income from other jobs and investments, income of other household members, or even if the person has a job to begin with.
For an anti-poverty measure to be successful, it needs to target total annual family income, not hourly personal labour income. There are methods for this, including increased GST/HST credits.

Senators and expenses
The Toronto Star has a neat little graphic in which you can scroll over the faces of senators to reveal their travel and living expenses. Twenty senators had travel expenses of $200,000 or more over the past two years. While I'm sure it is not inexpensive to travel back-and-forth between Ottawa and British Columbia or the nation's capital and the east coast, how much of their travel is partisan or semi-personal? I think the populist outrage at politicians' expenses is often misplaced, but the numbers say something about the senators, even if it is not clear what they are saying. Enterprising Parliament Hill journalists might want to start asking questions.

Liberal leadership race (February 26)
George Takach, who had no chance of winning, dropped out of the leadership race and endorsed Justin Trudeau. He says he will run for MP in 2015 in the GTA.
Jesse Helmer, director of communications and development at Canadian Merit Scholarship Foundation, supports Martha Hall Findlay because "she is the best candidate to put liberty back at the centre of the Liberal Party of Canada," who can win over the disgruntled former Liberals who are now voting Conservative. I'm not sure a carbon tax and the responsibility to protect is part of the pro-liberty agenda that includes tackling supply management boards and the heavy-handed get-tough-on-crime approach of the Tories.
Speaking in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Martha Hall Findlay bravely says it is time for Liberals to stop ignoring Alberta. Of course, Albertans may continue to ignore Liberals.
A Forum Research Poll finds that the Liberals under Justin Trudeau could win seats in Toronto, southwestern Ontario, and northern Ontario.

Jim Geraghty tweets:
In New York state, possession of an 11-round magazine now has a tougher legal penalty than "persistent sexual abuse":

Texas high school students don burqas, learn Islamic terrorists are freedom fighters
The Daily Caller reports:
[A] teacher allegedly encouraged high school girls to dress up in full-length Islamic burqas and then instructed the entire class that Muslim terrorists are actually freedom fighters.
The incident occurred in a world geography class at Lumberton High School in the small town of Lumberton, Texas. The general topic of the class that day was Islam.
An unnamed student informed WND that the teacher said, “We are going to work to change your perception of Islam.”
Apparently, it is all part of a left-wing curriculum calles CSCOPE, which World Net Daily writes about:
CSCOPE has been facing criticism over its alleged Islamic and anti-American bias. It is a “curriculum management system” now used in 80 percent of Texas classrooms. It recently was the subject of a heated inquiry that culminated in hearings conducted by the Texas Senate Education Committee chaired by state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston ...
CSCOPE has been heavily criticized by parents and teachers for other controversial content. One lesson from a CSCOPE social studies unit teaches students that communism is the highest attainable economic system and that capitalism is merely an evolutionary step on the ladder. The lesson calls communism a system in which “all people work together for everyone” It shows a man climbing stairs towards a communist pinnacle. Capitalism is defined as a system in which “all people strive to fulfill their own needs and wants” and is at the bottom of the included handout.
When I read something like this, I wonder if such schemes are meant to distract the public from the lousy job a jurisdiction is doing teaching children math, science, reading, and writing. According to the 2009 Science and Engineering Readiness Index, Texas rates 31st and according to 2010 SAT scores, Texas rates 46th in critical reading, 38th in math, and 47th in writing. So even if dressing up like Muslim women and calling terrorists freedom fighters wasn't an offensive in itself, it would be a offensive use of time.
Is there any chance that Texas has the offensive CSCOPE curriculum because as a Students First report notes, Texas rates an "F" in empowering parents? If parents had more control of their children's education, perhaps the educrats wouldn't be as crazy.

C. Everett Koop, RIP
C. Everett Koop, Ronald Reagan`s Surgeon General, has passed away. Bernard Nathanson reviewed Koop`s 1992 autobiography, Koop: The Memoirs of America's Family Doctor, in First Things, noting that although Koop was pro-life he was strategically in favour of much compromise (rape, incest, defective children) and critical of the pro-life movement. Koop was also an early proponent of so-called safe sex (condoms) and Nathanson practically labeled the doctor a dupe of the homosexual movement. It is a very good review, but does not do justice to the importance of Whatever Happened to the Human Race? which was one of the intellectual spurs to the pro-life movement in the early 1980s. (He also authored The Right to Live, The Right to Die in 1976.) And while Koop said he would have accepted an abortion compromise that permitted it in cases of genetic defects, paradoxically he was a advocate for newborn babies with disabilities. Taking a close look at Koop`s record on tobacco (eight reports on the dangers of second-hand smoke), health care (he plumped for Bill Clinton`s health care reforms in the early 1990s), and AIDS (he accepted theories of homosexual victimization and promoted a broader gay agenda than was necessary to combat AIDS), he might not have been much of a conservative. Even if Fr. Richard John Neuhaus called Koop a "very doubtful friend of the pro-life movement," he was enough of a friend early on when it mattered and there were few high-profile pro-life advocates. And anway, as Aaron Goldstein says in The American Spectator blog: "Not since Abraham Lincoln has anyone worn a Dutch beard with such distinction." Dr. C. Everett Koop dead at the age of 96.

Farrakhan endorses Hagel
Breitbart reports: "At the Nation of Islam Annual Saviours' Day Convention, keynote speaker Louis Farrakhan took his usual Anti-Semitic tone with a current affairs twist. Farrakhan endorsed Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense saying Hagel's controversial 'Jewish lobby' comments were a good thing that will save America from war for Israel." My first thought: Farrakhan is still alive?

Sequester cuts will not cause flight delays
Investors Business Daily editorializes that Obama administration claims that sequester cuts will result in massive delays at airports is probably false, noting:
Back in 2000, the FAA handled 23% more air traffic with fewer flight controllers than it employs today, according to the Department of Transportation's own inspector general, who added this raises "questions about the efficiency of FAA's current controller workforce."
And about Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, IBD says:
And while LaHood ominously talks about closing 100 control towers, what he doesn't say is that these towers should have been closed long ago.
In fact, Bloomberg News reports the FAA itself identified more than 100 "zombie towers" that handle so few flights they should be cut back or closed.

Muslims vs. gays at Cornell
The Daily Caller reports that according to a Cornell Sun story, a Muslim sermon last week was filled with anti-homosexual invective. The school has been slow to respond:
Cornell’s dean of students, Kent Hubbell, told The Sun that the administration plans to release a “Cornell Responds” statement concerning the incident. Hubbell asserted that the delayed response is a result of the “principles of freedom of expression” involved, “especially in a religious context.”
“We wanted to be very thoughtful about how we responded to it,” Hubbell told The Sun.

Johnny Cash's birthday
He was born 81 years ago today. Lee Habeeb has a great article on Johnny Cash's Christianity at NRO. Russell D. Moore wrote about Cash's faith for Touchstone back in 2005. Rolling Stone magazine looks at the artist's legacy, noting that Cash is a member of both the Country Music Hall of Fame and Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.
A classic: "Ring of Fire"
Gospel music: "Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord)"
Something new(ish): "Hurt"

Monday, February 25, 2013
What I'm reading
1. The Insanity Offense: How America's Failure to Treat the Seriously Mentally Ill Endangers Its Citizens by E. Fuller Torrey
2. Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Catholic Church by George Weigel. Here's an Economist interview with the author.
3. The Winter 2013 issue of the Cato Journal
4. Various baseball preview magazines, including from Athlon, Lindy's, and The Sporting News.
5. "Bitter pill: Why medical bills are killing us," by Steven Brill in the current Time magazine.
6. "The House of Pain: Can Eric Cantor, the Republican Majority Leader, redeem his party and himself?" by Ryan Lizza in the current New Yorker

Best college professors in America
Steven Hayward launches the best 100 college professors in America, the Power Line 100. The first pair on the list includes a liberal historian, Sidney Milkis -- not that there's anything wrong with that. Indeed, I will probably grab a copy of Milkis' Theodore Roosevelt, the Progressive Party, and the Transformation of American Democracy.

Is Obama Swahili for narcissist?
Why was the First Lady announcing best picture winner at the Oscars? Breitbart on "FLOTUS Interruptus": "President Barack Obama is no longer running for office, yet the permanent campaign shows little sign of slowing. With this media appearance, the First Couple crossed the line into propaganda, their Cult of Personality act taking an ugly turn." At PJ Media, Roger L. Simon says: "[A]sking Michelle Obama to help present the Best Picture Oscar at the Academy Awards this year was pretty Bush League. And it was equally Bush League for the First Lady to accept." And Lefty film review Richard Roepper tweets: "Question from this card-carrying liberal: if Mitt Romney had won in 2012, would the Academy have invited Ann to present Best Picture?" I disagree a bit with Breitbart's Christian Toto that this is all politics; it is part permanent campaign, but the the campaign is also partly about Barack and Michelle rather than mere trendy urban liberalism.

Velvet Touch Way?
Jack Layton gets his tribute. As Sun News reports: "The Don Jail Roadway was officially named Jack Layton Way as at least 100 people looked on Sunday." Small Dead Animals has another idea. For those who don't know what's at 787 Dundas W, check out this Toronto Sun story.

Liberal leadership race (February 25 edition)
In what is the biggest news that will not amount to anything Marc Garneau has challenged front-runner Justin Trudeau to a one-on-one debate, saying "The leadership of the Liberal Party is too important a position to hand to an untested candidate hiding behind a carefully crafted public relations campaign." Joyce Murray and Martha Hall Findlay might be wondering why Garneau should be the one facing Trudeau the Younger. There is no way the Shiny Pony will give any opponent the chance to score points against him in a two-candidate debate. But kudos to the Spaceman for trying. Oh, wait. Sun News reports Trudeau said ... no.
According to the Canadian Press Justin Trudeau may not be the wealthiest candidate in the Grit leader's race. That title might go to Joyce Murray, who along with her husband could be worth north of $5 million.
George Takach says the Liberal don't need a coronation -- who is he talking about? -- but does think the Liberals need business jargon: "We can use our best practices to actually, actively, listen to Canadians."

America needs more Coolidge
Calvin Coolidge should be the model for the American presidency/conservative movement/Republican Party. At Public Discourse Gregory J. Sullivan reviews Amity Shlaes' new book Coolidge and notes:
Shlaes also skillfully describes the easily overlooked subtleties of Coolidge’s accomplishments. She notes that at one point, a newspaper parodied Coolidge as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. Shlaes’s reflection on this predictable depiction is a masterly summary of the Coolidge presidential record:
Yet if Coolidge was a Scrooge, he was a Scrooge who begat plenty. Coolidge served for sixty-seven months, finishing out Harding’s term after Harding died in early August 1923 and remaining until early March 1929. Under Coolidge, the federal debt fell. Under Coolidge, the top income tax rate came down by half, to 25 percent. Under Coolidge, the federal budget was always in surplus. Under Coolidge, unemployment was 5 percent or even 3 percent. Under Coolidge, Americans wired their homes for electricity and bought their first cars or household appliances on credit. Under Coolidge, the economy grew strongly, even as the federal government shrank. Under Coolidge, the rates of patent applications and patents granted increased dramatically. Under Coolidge, there came no federal antilynching law, but lynchings themselves became less frequent and Ku Klux Klan membership dropped by millions. Under Coolidge, a man from a town without a railroad station, Americans moved from the road into the air.
Sullivan says of Shlaes' work: "A presidential biographer who is conversant with economic history, Shlaes puts her finger on the source of this extraordinary commercial flourishing: 'Coolidge kept government out of the way of commerce'."

Losing India to the Muslims
Blazing Cat Fur links to a very interesting Gates of Vienna story about how northern India is becoming Muslim. This has historical roots:
The Moghul invasion of India began early in the 16th century and advanced steadily across the subcontinent until the British arrived in the early 18th century and put a stop to the expansion. The British did not object to Islam per se — and they were shrewd at encouraging the Hindus and Muslims against each other to facilitate their own rule — but the spread of Islam in India by warfare was halted by the British presence until they left in 1947.
And then in 1947 when India won its independence:
Before the partition of India, Indian Muslims had pushed for a corridor across northern India that would connect the two halves of the new Islamic state. However, the Muslim population in those regions was not considered sufficient to warrant its inclusion, and the corridor never materialized.
Now, more than sixty years later, the idea of an Islamic corridor has returned. In the intervening decades the Muslim portion of India, as everywhere else, has increased relative to the non-Muslim population. Devout Muslims in the subcontinent have refloated the idea of a corridor connecting Pakistan and Bangladesh. It would include heavily Muslim regions in Northern India, southern Nepal, and coastal Burma. The proposed name for resulting Islamic superstate would be “Mughalistan”, echoing the glory of the Moghul Empire before the arrival of the British.
The Gates of Vienna quotes a Noisy Room story about more recent attempts to Islamize the north (and elsewhere):
Islam has totally infiltrated India. India has 29 member states and 7 union territories. Kashmir now has a population that is 97% Muslim. This has happened by highly aggressive conversions, marriages and brutal violence. Muslims now own around 100 districts in India and what they don’t own, they are now trying to take by converting owners to Islam, by using violence to drive the Hindus out or by outright theft.

Do you need another reason to know why Clarence Thomas is awesome?
According to The Atlantic, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas thinks that legal decisions should be accessible to the layman. Justice Thomas says:
What I tell my law clerks is that we write these so that they are accessible to regular people. That doesn't mean that there's no law in it. But there are simple ways to put important things in language that's accessible. As I say to them, the beauty, the genius is not to write a 5 cent idea in a ten dollar sentence. It's to put a ten dollar idea in a 5 cent sentence.
That's beauty. That's editing. That's writing.

Weird stuff going on in Methodist Church
Clayton Cramer notes that his Methodist Church in Idaho will host an "awakened deeksha." As Cramer says: "When Christian churches drift off into New Age ideas, they are no longer Christianity."

Gun companies put principles ahead of profits in New York
70 gun manufacturers won't sell their wares to New York City and New York State, with "The minimum standard to be included is a pledge not to sell anything to a State or local government agency that can’t be sold to a resident of that state or locality." Unfortunately, none of the Big Three, which are the only firearms on-duty NYC police officers can use, are on board.

The Hollywood elite
Breitbart on the Oscars: "One Percenters Get Swag Bag Worth $47,802." Not bad for showing up, even if the Oscars are dreadfully boring. But can't these people buy their own acupuncture and trips to Australia?

Odd Senate pairings
The National Journal has three states with unusual Senate pairings: a Left Democrat and Right Republican. It took a while but I eventually got two of the three, but couldn't come up with Iowa. You can have fun with this interactive map of senators and their voting records (rank as a liberal or conservative, along economic, social, and foreign policy).

Sunday, February 24, 2013
Last pitch to help liberty-defending bloggers
Blazing Cat Fur and Five Feet of Fury still need your donations. And: "Mark Steyn has generously donated copies of his book Lights Out, as thank-you gifts to anyone who donates $200 or more!" Even if you already have a copy of Lights Out, you certainly know someone who could use one. And if $200 is too steep, every little bit helps.
In the video below Mark Steyn explains why BCF (and websites like his) are so important:

Substitute minimum grade with minimum wage
Donald Boudreaux and Mark Perry both try their hand at satire, substituting a federally mandated minimum wage with a minimum grade. It is a testament to the looniness of modern liberalism that it took me a moment to realize this wasn't satire (the reference to Senator Bernie Franken).

Your aid money at work
Daily Mail reports: "Nigerian president 'spent $1million of aid money meant for poverty-stricken country on star-studded festival featuring Beyoncé and Jay-Z'." Money from a "poverty alleviation fund" was used to pay for the stars to attend inaugural ThisDay Music Festival. Celebrities, including Kim Kardashian ($500 K for an appearance), should question the morality of taking large appearance fees in the developing world.

Frum on Frum (self-fellating as journalism)
David Frum asks perhaps the dumbest political question of the year: "How Will Republicans Win in 2024?" His answer: by becoming more like Democrats by being "pro-gay marriage," "pro-environment," and "pro-gun control." I think it is amusing to guess what a political party will look like a decade from now, but Frum and hubris go hand-in-hand. According to the Vox Populi article about himself, he approvingly quotes this: "Frum views his role in this process of change as being the one who could potentially speed it up, so that the Republicans 'modernize' their positions before 2024."

Taxes and Detroit
High property taxes are linked to the exodus of people from Detroit and are now so high that the Detroit News is wondering if further increasing taxes would actually do any more harm:
For a generation, Detroit has levied as many property taxes as it legally could on its citizens.
Now, after decades of plummeting population and property values, some wonder if that was such a good idea. Few officials defend Detroit's tax rate, which is tops among big cities nationwide. Fewer still have any solutions.
"Of course property taxes are too high, but what do you replace them with?" asked City Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown.
Detroit is past the tipping point where taxes become so high they backfire, become a disincentive to invest, produce fewer revenues and lead to weaker city services, said Alan Mallach, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who studies Detroit.
Here are some good pictures of the symbol of Detroit's decay: the abandoned Michigan Central Station.
Perhaps related, Louis C. Miriani, the last Republican mayor of Detroit, was elected during the Eisenhower presidency and left office in 1962 before LBJ's Great Society. So Democrats own Detroit.
Perhaps related, Breitbart notes that Forbes finds Detroit to be the most miserable city in America, but also in the top 10 are New York and Chicago, which seems kinda wrong. And shouldn't Cleveland be worse than 17th?

The Toronto Star reports that Sutton District High School in York Region north of Toronto, Ontario, has banned the confederate flag symbol from the school, whether it be on an article of clothing, on a lighter, or in the window of a vehicle a student might bring to school. The story is unintentionally amusing because educators say the reason for this is that they are not doing their job a lack of education. Someone associated with black history says that the desire to use such symbols comes from a lack of historical knowledge, but I would argue quite the reverse: it is precisely because they know the history of the confederate flag that it is proudly adorned to protest politically correct bullshit shoveled at the students in school. No doubt that students are allowed to bring things to school that have Che Guevara or a hammer-and-sickle on them. As offensive as these symbols might be, they do not offend the sensibilities of teachers and principals.

Nanny Bloomberg will make going out in groups more expensive
The New York Post reports that Michael Bloomberg's restrictions on large-size soda mean that restaurants won't be able to sell pop by the pitcher or large bottle, forcing families and birthday parties to buy a larger number of smaller drinks.

The Obamaconomy
The Wall Street Journal reports on how Obamacare creates perverse incentives to not hire new employees and limit part-time workers with anecdotes that some hamburger flippers are working 20 hours at McDonalds and then 20 hours at Burger King:
Welcome to the strange new world of small-business hiring under ObamaCare. The law requires firms with 50 or more "full-time equivalent workers" to offer health plans to employees who work more than 30 hours a week. (The law says "equivalent" because two 15 hour a week workers equal one full-time worker.) Employers that pass the 50-employee threshold and don't offer insurance face a $2,000 penalty for each uncovered worker beyond 30 employees. So by hiring the 50th worker, the firm pays a penalty on the previous 20 as well.
These employment cliffs are especially perverse economic incentives. Thousands of employers will face a $40,000 penalty if they dare expand and hire a 50th worker. The law is effectively a $2,000 tax on each additional hire after that, so to move to 60 workers costs $60,000.
A 2011 Hudson Institute study estimates that this insurance mandate will cost the franchise industry $6.4 billion and put 3.2 million jobs "at risk."

Saturday, February 23, 2013
Nate Silver predicts the Oscars
The Telegraph reports that Nate Silver has made his Oscar predictions: "His formula included 16 precursor awards events, each of which were given a rating according to their success in predicting Oscars results over the past 25 years." Argo and Anne Hathaway are the runaway faves to win in the best movie and best supporting actress categories. Among Silver's less confident about the best director category.

Stunning picture of zebras in the snow
The Telegraph's weekly gallery of the best animal pics is always worth perusing, but the picture of a pair of zebras in the snow of a Russian zoo is magnificent.

Great comment on Tom Friedman
Chris Blattman:
All of this exposed my ignorance of Lebanon and Palestine, and so I’ve been reading Tom Friedman’s From Beirut to Jerusalem just to catch up. I bought it in spite of my disinterest in his column. I now understand why he got the position he has today.

The on-going Euro crisis
The Wall Street Journal's weekend interview is with Bernard Connolly, a top pre-Euro bureaucrat in the European Commission's Monetary Affairs Committee.
Seventeen years ago, Bernard Connolly foretold the misery that awaited the European Union. Given that he was an instrumental figure in the EU bureaucracy and publicly expressed his doubts in a book called "The Rotten Heart of Europe," he was promptly fired. Mr. Connolly takes no pleasure now in having seen his prediction come true. And he takes no comfort in the view, prevalent in many quarters, that the EU has passed through the worst of its crisis and is on the cusp of revival.
As far as Mr. Connolly is concerned, Europe's heart is still rotting away.
Connolly predicts the future of Europe:
Either Germany pays "something like 10% of German GDP a year, every year, forever" to the crisis-hit countries to keep them in the euro. Or the economy gets so bad in Greece or Spain or elsewhere that voters finally say, " 'Well, we'll chuck the whole lot of you out.' Now, that's not a very pleasant prospect."
And the current lot will be replaced by political extremists according to Connolly.
Connolly also says:
The official view is that the bailouts of Greece, Ireland and Portugal—and maybe soon Spain—are aberrations, and that once those countries get their budgets on track, their economies will follow and the bad patch will be a memory. Mr. Connolly calls this "propaganda."
The problems are much more fundamental and will need both fiscal retrenchment and massive banking reform to address because past bubbles created unrealistic expectations of what "Europe" can deliver. The bigger problem is that few people in power recognize or acknowledge this. The Eurobureaucracy and Europe's leaders are committed to an inherently broken and unstable system. Either the voting public will eventually tire of the phony but costly solutions -- austerity is needed, but that won't address the fundamental problems -- and elect dangerous demagogues or Germany will have to pony up forever. That leads to another problem: it is unlikely that Germans will want to fund everyone else in perpetuity.
One might say that the Euro is not in crisis, but is the crisis.

Goldberg on the sequester
Jonah Goldberg has a good column on the sequester noting that both sides share blame:
The great game in Washington is who will get the blame for something both House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama agree will be calamitous for the country. It is an argument so idiotic, it could pass for seriousness only in Washington.
As Goldberg reminds readers, Obama proposed the sequester to get a debt-ceiling deal in August 2011 and the Republican leadership agreed to it. Of course, Obama probably knew, as David Brooks suggests, the GOP would cave because they would lose the public relations battle with the White House.

Will on the sequester
George Will calls President Barack Obama the Hysteric in Chief and notes that, "The sequester has forced liberals to clarify their conviction that whatever the government’s size is at any moment, it is the bare minimum necessary to forestall intolerable suffering." And then there's this about the advisability of employing the sequester to cut the rate of growth in spending:
The sequester’s critics correctly say it is not the most intelligent way to prune government; priorities among programs should be set. But such critics are utopians if they are waiting for the arrival of intelligent government. The real choice today is between bigger or smaller unintelligent government.
I would amend that slightlty: "The real choice today is between bigger or slightly smaller unintelligent government."

44 gun manufacturers put principle ahead of profit
The Blaze has the list of 44 gun companies that refuse to sell to law enforcement agencies in anti-Second Amendment states. As Citizen Arms, one of the 44, explains: "We're very appreciative of the sacrifices made by the law enforcement community but we're even more appreciative of the right guaranteed to all law-abiding US citizens by the Second Amendment to the US Constitution." Many of the companies explain their decision on their corporate websites, which are linked to at The Blaze.

End Hollywood's special tax treatment
Glenn Reynolds writes in the Wall Street Journal about the $1.5 billion Hollywood gets in tax breaks across the country, as 45 states not curry favour with studios with various inducements.
[Y]ou're not likely to hear stars bringing up taxes at this weekend's Academy Awards show. But the tax man ought to come out and take a bow anyway. Of the nine "Best Picture" nominees in 2012, for example, five were filmed on location in states where the production company received financial incentives, including "The Help" (in Mississippi) and "Moneyball" (in California). Virginia gave $3.5 million to this year's Oscar-nominated "Lincoln."
The opportunity cost?
The $1.5 billion in subsidies that states provide, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "would have paid for the salaries of 23,500 middle school teachers, 26,600 firefighters, and 22,800 police patrol officers."

The Obamaconomy
Breitbart: "Today, Americans are spending $900 more annually on gas than they did in 2009." The price of a gallon of gas has doubled. Ed Morrissey has video explaining that gas prices will eventually decline.

Friday, February 22, 2013
'A City of Cheats and Whores'
Gods of the Copybook Headings on Ottawa. Not why you might think.

Stop blaming the Tea Party and Todd Akin
David Weigel in Slate: "George Allen didn't lose by 6 points because Loudon County independents got spooked about Todd Akin."

Howard Kurtz on MSNBC hiring David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs: "Is NBC's cable channel turning into an Obama administration in exile?" And: "the network may seem like a off-campus adjunct of the West Wing." Never mind all the other Democrats (Al Sharpton, Howard Dean, Ed Rendell, and Karen Finney).

More billionaires graduate from Harvard than any other university
CNBC reports that "Harvard has graduated some 52 billionaires, with a collective fortune of $205 billion, to lead Wealth-X's global list of universities ranked by alumni worth $1 billion or more." No surprise there. (That does not include non-graduate who attended like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg (combined wealth of $45 billion).) But the university with the second most graduates to go on to become billionaires is a bit of surprise. I would have guessed Berkeley, UCLA or another Ivy League school. I would have been wrong.

Barstool ski racing
Instapundit says barstool ski racing is now his favourite sport. My favourite quote from the story:
“It’s kind of like NASCAR,” said barstool racer Brandon Kelvin. “You watch it for the wrecks.”

'All because I bought a pizza for a stranger'
Kathy Shaidle points to a truly great story from Derek Silvers, and the lesson he learned from the incident. Here's the important takeaway:
I know much of success is luck, but I never realized how much the mindset of success comes from who you know.
Luckily, who you know is up to you, not luck.
Talking about the most connected people he knows, Silvers says they are well-connected because "they reach out to say hello to the people they admire."

Isn't Sandra Fluke's 15 minutes up?
According to the Daily Caller, Sandra Fluke, the country's most famous advocate of subsidized contraception, is now calling for the military to accept transexual recruits.

The case for sequester cuts
I am agnostic on whether the government should implement cuts through sequester (many cuts are necessary but sequester is a blunt instrument), but a good primer seems to be Ted DeHaven's "Why the Areas Affected by Sequestration Should be Cut" at the Downsizing Government blog of the Cato Institute. It covers a lot of ground from housing subsidies to defense, and even federal funding of firefighters.

Liberal leadership race (February 22 edition)
In the big news of the day, David Suzuki endorsed Joyce Murray. The Globe and Mail headline on the Canadian Press story says he gives her a "big boost" and if anyone can on the Left it is presumably Suzuki, but still, does it matter all that much for a candidate trailing by a factor of ten?
Supporters of Joyce Murray on Twitter and Facebook are promoting the website which seeks Liberals, Greens, and NDP to sign up for the Liberal Party leadership before March 3 (the supporter/member cut-off date for voting for leader). The website is a project of Lead Now, a left-wing group whose advisers include Judy Rebick and Jim Stanford, which has no stated or formal relationship with the Murray campaign.
The Hill Times reports on a new indicator of candidate strength: candidate campaign greet-and-meet events. The Hill Times says "as the contest heads into its final two months, appears to be dividing the pack of nine candidates into at least two tiers—those who have jammed schedules, and those who do not." Justin Trudeau is way ahead followed by Martha Hall Findlay and Martin Cauchon. That little tidbit should indicate that the candidate meet-and-greets might not be that meaningful of an indicator. The paper reports that the rest, including Marc Garneau, "have vacant or nearly vacant calendars."
The Toronto Sun's lede on Justin Trudeau's speaking fees can't be improved upon: "Justin Trudeau says Parliament is less relevant nowadays and ethics rules governing MPs allow him to skip his duties to freelance as a high-priced gabber on the speakers' circuit."
Marc Garneau does not like Trudeau the Younger's views on Quebec. The Canadian Press lede on the story is fantastic: "Liberal leadership hopeful Marc Garneau has added inexperience and immaturity to the list of front-runner Justin Trudeau's alleged shortcomings."

Unlocking your cell phone should not be illegal
A couple of weeks ago, Derek Khanna wrote about why it is illegal to unlock your cell phone (in order to use it with other providers). In his Reason TV interview Khanna says it is "a basic question of property right: who owns your phone at the end of the day." As a matter of policy, the current law is (according to Nick Gillespie) an example of crony capitalism and Khanna says it hurts competition and innovation. A petition to the White House, "Make Unlocking Cell Phones Legal," is up.

Nicholls on Economic Action Plan ads
Gerry Nicholls has a column in the Ottawa Citizen on those ubiquitous government Economic Action Plan advertisements (commercials, newspaper ads, billboards) are bad for both taxpayers and democracy. Nicholls says:
Technically such government ad campaigns are classified as “informational,” but it’s pretty obvious they come much closer to being something far less innocuous: taxpayer-financed pro-Conservative propaganda.
But why is it bad for democracy? Nicholls explains:
[W]hen an incumbent government has the power and the willingness to tap into the public treasury to pay for partisan-style ads, it possesses an overwhelming advantage over opposition parties.
I'm not sure I like Nicholls' solution of empowering the auditor general (or some other federal body) to "prohibit government advertisements whose primary objective is 'to promote the partisan political interests of the governing party'," the AG in Ontario has the power to do. But it is obvious that this abuse of taxpayers and democracy must end.

Big Labour and Big Business crawl into a Big Bed
The Washington Examiner reports, "The Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO have been working together for several weeks now in an effort to come up a temporary guest worker program they can both back as part of a comprehensive immigration reform bill."

Republicans protect perks of corporate pals
Oh, not quite. ABC News: "Senate Democrats Protect Corporate Jet Loophole"

The Obamaconomy
The Wall Street Journal and Breitbart report that the demand for used cars is skyrocketing, increasing 5% last year. Part of the reason is that declining manufacturing means less supply for leasing.

Thursday, February 21, 2013
Andrew Cash
Most people don't know who Andrew Cash is. They're lucky. Kathy Shaidle explains the NDP MP/failed singer-songwriter's douchebaggery. I totally forgot Cash was involved with Catholic New Times.

CNN just got a whole lot better
There will be a whole lot less Soledad O'Brien. O'Brien might be the worst journalist since Walter Duranty.

Ontario Liberals are going to be in trouble
Project Vapour has legs. The Toronto Star reports new Energy Minister "Bob Chiarelli admits finding more secret documents on gas plants." Wasting taxpayer money is one thing. Hiding it is another. Having the story drip, drip, drip for a year will be disastrous. The only question is who -- Tim Hudak or Andrea Horwath -- can best take advantage of it. I don't see the Progressive Conservatives with the kind of ground game and presence to pick up many seats in the GTA, never mind Toronto, and I'm not sure where the NDP pick up enough new MPPs outside Toronto and Windsor. I assume the next government will be a minority, with there being a 60% chance it Tory, 35% chance its the NDP and 5% chance Kathleen Wynne's Liberals play the homophobe card all the way to re-election. Also, today's Chiarelli revelation doubles the odds of an election before next September to something like 60%. The opposition can smell victory.

'E Pluribus Duo'
The Manhattan Institute's Heather MacDonald notes that "America is fast becoming two nations—one English-speaking and one Spanish-speaking." She says:
Open-borders conservatives might cite a second justification for their nonchalance: Yes, the country is becoming bilingual, but so what? Again, such a position well may be right, but one would like to hear the argument. Language is inextricably linked to culture. If politicians felt compelled to speak Arabic to reach Muslims living in the U.S., or if every consumer phone call triggered an Arabic prompt, would conservatives be so sanguine about assimilation? Without question, Americans should learn more foreign languages. But it should not be necessary to do so to communicate with their fellow Americans ...
Conservatives have traditionally stressed the unum rather than the pluribus in our national motto (which originally referred to the unification of the states into a single nation, not to our contemporary notion of “diversity”). If the reality on the ground looks more and more like “E pluribus duo,” shouldn’t we care?

Coulter to Republicans: do not commit suicide on immigration
Ann Coutler:
I understand the interest of business lobbies in getting cheap, unskilled labor through amnesty, but why do Republican officeholders want to create up to 20 million more Democratic voters, especially if it involves flouting the law? Are the campaign donations from the soulless rich more important than actual voters?
Without citing any evidence, the Rubio Republicans simply assert that granting 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens amnesty will make Hispanics warm to the GOP. Yes, that's worked like a charm since Reagan signed an amnesty bill in 1986!

Screw Reagan, we need Coolidge
Joseph Postell has a paper on Calvin Coolidge, "forefather of our conservatism," for the Heritage Foundation. I doubt Coolidge, my favourite president, could win the presidency today. But read here what Postell says and see if this isn't what is necessary today:
Perhaps most alarming in Coolidge’s view was the cynicism that Progressivism produced about the motivations of businessmen and corporations. In the past, Americans had always praised those who did well economically and understood that it is a good thing when businesses thrive, but Progressivism argued that it was evil to do things for profit and that inequalities of wealth were harmful to the country. Coolidge constantly fought against these claims.
I highly recommend the eight-page paper by Postell. I'm looking forward to Charles C. Johnson's Why Coolidge Matters: Leadership Lessons from America's Most Underrated President which comes out in March and need to make time for Coolidge by Amity Shlaes which was just released last week. Avoid David Greenberg's Calvin Coolidge (2006). One can debate the merits of Coolidge's policies but blaming him for the Depression, as Greenberg does, is incorrect; but Coolidge's rhetoric (which Postell focuses on), tone, and demeanor are, for me, the model for what a president should be. It should be noted that while Ronald Reagan's rhetoric was often similar to Coolidge's, Reagan's administration was much more statist. America, and the U.S. conservative movement, needs more Calvin Coolidge.

March edition of The American Spectator
From the table of contents, it looks like a good one. I'm especially looking forward to Donald Boudreaux's obit on economist James Buchanan and Matthew Walther's feature, "Rock and Roll Is (Mostly) Noise Pollution: And now book publishing is choking on it, as rock enters its 'memoir' phase."

Gingrich vs. the Republican Establishment Strategist Class
Breitbart reports that Newt Gingrich has attacked Karl Rove and his ilk:
On Wednesday, Former House Speaker and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich blistered Republican consultant Karl Rove, saying Rove's new super PAC that was created to wage war against conservatives and Tea Party candidates in GOP primaries should be "repugnant" to every conservative and Republican.
Gingrich, in his weekly newsletter, writes of Rove, "no one person is smart enough nor do they have the moral right to buy nominations across the country" and that a "bunch of billionaires financing a boss to pick candidates in 50 states" is "the opposite of the Republican tradition of freedom and grassroots small town conservatism."
"That is the system of Tammany Hall and the Chicago machine," Gingrich writes.
Gingrich says in his newsletter, "Republicans need to drop the consultant-centric model and go back to a system in which candidates have to think and consultants are adviser and implementers but understand that the elected official is the one who has to represent the voters and make the key decisions." That's true. I just wish someone other than Newt was making this point. Gingrich also takes a nice jab at Rove for ignoring seven of nine winnable Senate seats the GOP lost in which the political strategist has no Tea Party candidate to blame.

NRO interview with Jonathan Last
Jonathan Last is The Weekly Standard's version of National Review's Mark Steyn: the house demographics bore. Last is interviewed by NRO today about his new book What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster. I'm uncomfortable making Big Picture arguments for having more children -- Bryan Caplan does a fine job on the selfish reasons to have more kids, which I find more persuasive -- but it is worth noting the marco reasons why voluntarily eschewing children is not a good thing for society. Here's Last on this point:
All of that said, children are — as high-minded economist types will note — both public and private goods. And society can’t function very well, or for very long, without a certain number of them being born. So whatever people decide to do at the individual level, there are macro effects to consider. I would just note that it’s a little weird that certain types of people are happy to consider the macro effects of individual behavior when it comes to smoking, or drinking soda — but say that we’re not allowed to notice these things when it comes to kids. I mean, it’s only the entire future of Western civilization we’re talking about.

Government protecting us from free trading
The Financial Times reports that since the U.S. government crackdown on InTrade last year, the number users has dropped from a peak of 112,000 to 509, of which 498 were guests. Alex Tabarrok says:
The government failed to protect the public from CDOs plumped up with bad mortgages or from swindlers like Bernie Madoff but don’t worry when it comes to the markets that Arrow, Schelling, Smith, Hanson, Wolfers et al. said have “great potential for improving social welfare” the government has got it covered. Call me cynical but I suspect Intrade would have been better treated had it been a project of Goldman Sachs.

Teachout on his writing life
Critic and author Terry Teachout has been writing about writing a bit recently and yesterday he wrote about how blessed he is to make a living writing. The longish post defies excerpting, so I highly recommend clicking the link and reading it.

Against solitary confinement
I'm not sure that George Will is saying that solitary confinement should never be used (although that seems to be his position), but it's pretty clear it should be used very sparingly:
In an article (“Hellhole”) in the March 30, 2009, issue of the New Yorker, Atul Gawande, a surgeon who writes on public health issues, noted, “One of the paradoxes of solitary confinement is that, as starved as people become for companionship, the experience typically leaves them unfit for social interaction.” And those who are most incapacitated by solitary confinement are forced to remain in it because they have been rendered unfit for “the highly social world of mainline prison or free society.” Last year, the New York Times reported that of the prisoners sent to solitary confinement in California’s Pelican Bay prison because of gang affiliation, “248 have been there for 5 to 10 years; 218 for 10 to 20 years; and 90 for 20 years or more.”
Furthermore, "Most persons now in solitary confinement will someday be back on America’s streets, some of them rendered psychotic by what are called correctional institutions."

I don't think so
The Daily Caller reports: "Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is heading to the must-win presidential state of Ohio ... Cruz’s possible presidential ambitions have already become a subject of speculation, even though he is only two months into his first term in the Senate." Except that Cruz was born in Calgary, Canada, making him ineligible for the presidency and presidential speculation about every trip or position he takes worse than premature.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013
The internets: 1% excellent + 4% 'entertaining rubbish' + 95% crap = 100% worth it
Robert Cottrell, editor of The Browser, writes about the internet in the Financial Times:
I don’t pretend that everything online is great writing. Let me go further: only 1 per cent is of value to the intelligent general reader, by which I mean the demographic that, in the mainstream media world, might look to the Economist, the Financial Times, Foreign Affairs or the Atlantic for information. Another 4 per cent of the internet counts as entertaining rubbish. The remaining 95 per cent has no redeeming features. But even the 1 per cent of writing by and for the elite is an embarrassment of riches, a horn of plenty, a garden of delights.
Not everything online worth reading is a blog, but Cottrell says of blogging:
Businessmen and politicians make the worst bloggers because they do not like to tell what they know, and telling what you know is the essence of blogging well. They also fear to be wrong; and, as Felix Salmon, Reuters’ finance blogger, insists and sometimes demonstrates: “If you are never wrong, you are never interesting”.

Is this something Canadians should be proud of, or embarrassed?
Unlikely Words: "A thief in Guelph, the safest city in Canada, recently surprised a family by returning the stolen goods with an apology note and $50 extra for the ripped screen."
(HT: Chris Blattman)

Mitt at CPAC. Why?
At Hot Air, Vodka Pundit notes that Mitt Romney will speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference "for some reason." Don't blame Romney, blame the organizers. Vodka Pundit: "Everyone will applaud politely, of course, but there’s no way to avoid the ineffable awkwardness that will surround this speech. Then again, if there’s one thing Romney does well, it’s ineffable awkwardness."

'Why is there a National Cotton Council but no National Anti-Cotton Council?'
Jonathan Rauch reviews Gunnar Trumbull's Strength in Numbers: The Political Power of Weak Interests which sets out to refute Mancur Olson's ground-breaking 1965 book The Logic of Collective Action. Olson examined the asymmetry of incentives that generally lead to small but concentrated interests to trump broad but diffuse interests in terms of rent-seeking public policy. Trumball says that there are times when broader interests prevail (seniors' benefits and entitlements, consumer protection law). How? Rauch explains:
[A]ccording to Trumbull, Olson underestimates diffuse groups’ ability to develop compelling narratives about how they serve the public interest. In fact, weak, diffuse groups have a paradoxical political advantage: precisely because they are weak and diffuse, the public sees them as less self-interested and thus comparatively trustworthy.
Trumbull offers three other reasons why diffuse groups can be (or seem) victorious over stronger, more concentrated interests (read the review). Rauch wonders what Olson would say to Trumball and suggests three responses, including this:
[Olson] would graciously accept Trumbull as a useful reminder that the world is a complicated place where single-cause theories are always wrong. Olson did not say diffuse interests cannot organize, any more than Newton’s gravitational theory says you can’t walk uphill. He said it is harder, other things being equal, for diffuse interests to organize. But, of course, other things are not equal. Policy entrepreneurship, public opinion, ideological motivation, public-interest narratives, coalition politics, and many other things also matter. Of course!
I hate to conclude that both Trumball and Olson are correct, depending on the circumstances and issues, because that seems indecisive; it might depend on the issue, the party in power, events affect public perception, the popularity of proposals, and much more because as Rauch suggests Olson saying, "the world is a complicated place where single-cause theories are always wrong" -- or often wrong. But Trumball might end up being more correct in the future; as Rauch notes, "Since then, the cost of organizing has dropped by orders of magnitude. Just think about what a single Facebook page can do," and thus "the advantage of interest concentration has eroded." And that's a good thing -- why should everyone be $6 poorer to make big corporations $125,000 richer (read the review if you don't know what this means). I would make one other point: I'm not sure seniors are a weak and diffuse group or that so-called consumer protection was won merely on the strength of concern for consumers as much as animus to private enterprise or large corporations.
Anyway, the review and Olson's classic book are worth reading, as too, it seems, is Strength in Numbers.