Sobering Thoughts

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

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014
No Prentice coronation
The Calgary Herald reports on an Insights West poll on the Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership contest:
When provided with a list of 14 politicians often mentioned as candidates for the party’s leadership, 26 per cent of respondents said [Jim] Prentice would be a “good choice” for the top job.
[Doug] Horner, Alberta’s finance minister, was second at 24 per cent, while rookie MLA [Ric] McIver — the province’s Infrastructure Minister — was ranked third with 22 per cent regarding him as a good choice.
Former energy and municipal affairs minister Ken Hughes, the only declared candidate in the leadership contest so far, was fourth at 17 per cent.
There are a few things to remember: neither Horner nor McIver have indicated that they will run and there is a big difference in having two percentage point lead in a 14-person race and what is likely to be a much smaller field. But this poll indicates that Prentice might not be the shoe-in that some have suggested (hoped?).

Gerry Adams was only a politician and not a member of the terrorist group
At least that is what were always told. Today, the Daily Mail reports: "Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams arrested over murder of widowed mother of ten abducted from her Belfast home by the IRA in 1972."

Lee vs crony capitalism
Senator Mike Lee (R, Utah) has a piece at Breitbart, making the case that the Republican Party should stand firmly against crony capitalism:
Cronyism has created a warped economy, increasingly built on connections instead of competitiveness. We see corporations posting record profits and jaw-dropping gains among elites, but slow growth, stagnant wages and limited opportunities for everyone else. Except, of course, in the Washington, D.C. area, home to six of the ten wealthiest counties in the United States.
That is not to say that anti-cronyism should be equated with – or descend into – the cheap, ugly populism of class warfare. We want successful Americans to succeed. All we ask is that they earn their success on a level playing field, subject to the judgment of the market – as truly successful Americans always have.
Cronyist policies come in many shapes and sizes, but the upshot is always the same: making it easier for favored special interests to succeed and harder for their competitors to get a fair shot.
There are direct subsidies, like those that are supposedly necessary to protect family farmers but overwhelmingly go to the top 10% of recipients.
There are also indirect subsidies, like the loan guarantees issued by the Export-Import Bank, which unnecessarily risk taxpayer money to subsidize well-connected private companies that are perfectly capable of securing private financing anywhere in the world.
There are complicated tax code carve-outs and loopholes, as well as complicated regulations, which are all tools the government uses to collude with big business to erect giant walls that guard against free-market competition ...
Cronyist policies violate the conservative principles of free enterprise, equality of opportunity, and the rule of law. It’s time we stand up for economic fairness and fight back against special-interest privilege.
This should not be noteworthy, but it is. For too long Republicans have favoured the capitalists over free market principles (and consumers and taxpayers). As Lee notes:
For three years now, establishment leaders have challenged anti-establishment conservatives to accept political reality, engage the politics of addition, and produce a viable plan to make principled conservatism appealing and inclusive — to grow our movement into a majority.

Three strikes
1. Matthew Kory notes in this Baseball Prospectus symposium on "10 Things We Learned in April" that the Arizona Diamondbacks are on pace to lose 117 games, the Chicago Cubs 110, and the Houston Astros 108. The 'Stros lead the Majors in 2013 in losses, with 111. I would be on all three teams having fewer than 110 losses, but they have all looked truly horrid so far this season.
2. An infographic on all baseball PED-related suspensions from 2005 through 2014. (HT: Baseball Musings)
3. Robinson Cano returned to New York last night to play his first game since signing with the Seattle Mariners, going 1/5, scoring a run, knocking one in, and two strikeouts. The Mariners beat the Yankees 6-3. Jimmy Fallon pranked New Yorkers by having them boo a Cano sign.

The Obamaconomy
Reuters reports:
Gross domestic product expanded at a 0.1 percent annual rate, the slowest since the fourth quarter of 2012, the Commerce Department said on Wednesday.
That was a sharp pullback from the fourth quarter's 2.6 percent pace and was worse than economists' expectations for a slowdown to a 1.2 percent rate.

On this day on Canadian history
On April 30, 1959, Stephen Harper, the 22nd Prime Minister of Canada, was born in Toronto.

'A teaching moment' on race and poverty
Juan Williams in the Wall Street Journal:
Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) is scheduled to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus on Wednesday to discuss his plans to address poverty and his March 12 comments in a radio interview about a "tailspin of culture" in our inner cities where "generations of men [are] not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work." Mr. Ryan's statement sparked liberal accusations of racism. Rep. Barbara Lee (D., Calif.) called it "a thinly veiled racial attack" that "cannot be tolerated" for ignoring that the majority of the poor are white and often live in the suburbs and rural areas.
All this provides what President Obama might call "a teaching moment." For more than a year, Mr. Ryan has been working closely with Robert Woodson, the head of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, to find solutions to generational poverty among inner-city families—many of them black and Hispanic. But because Mr. Ryan is white—and worse, a Republican, he is a "racist" for pointing out how many approaches to poverty alleviation aren't working ...
[A]n opening for honest debate about the true issues behind race and poverty—as well as high rates of black-on-black crime—with the 50th anniversary of the 1965 report titled: "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action." The report, written by a white Labor Department sociologist who later became a U.S. senator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, made the case that it was more than a shortage of jobs that led to high black unemployment. Moynihan, a Democrat, also pointed to the breakdown of the black family, specifically the lack of positive male role models, which led to increased dependence on welfare.
That report was sharply criticized as "blaming the victim" by liberals and black leaders at the time but was later embraced by many rigorous thinkers in both parties. Sadly, the ills that Moynihan pointed to have grown along with minority poverty. It is way past time for new ideas from all quarters about solving a serious problem.

The politics of housing prices
At NRO's The Agenda, Reihan Salam says that "the high cost of housing is absolutely essential to understanding the challenges facing low- and middle-income American families, and that tackling this problem is a crucial test for our political movements." Yet:
It is very hard to get people to care about limits on housing supply as a national political issue, despite the fact that it might be the one of the most important. Liberals are suspicious of applying supply and demand thinking to urban housing markets, though writers like Stephen Smith of The Next City (see his recent article on housing in the Bay Area), Matt Yglesias of Vox, and Ryan Avent of The Economist have done valuable work on this front. Conservatives, meanwhile, are inclined to be sympathetic to the interests of homeowners and property owners more broadly, who benefit from local land-use restrictions that constrain the housing supply in desirable markets and thus drive up house prices and rents. Real estate interests are generally uninterested in broad upzoning cities, as the most successful real estate enterprises are incumbents that have learned to navigate the political and institutional constraints on housing supply. Broad upzoning threatens to undermine their privileged position.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Why isn't anyone commenting on the fact that Donald Sterling has an out-in-the-open mistress
Los Angeles Clippers Donald Sterling is a bigot, but is also a person who cheats on his spouse, and apparently no one cares. Sterling has been married to Rochelle Stein since 1957 and apparently she has been okay with his philandering -- perhaps they have an open marriage -- but I find it sad that this is hardly worth noting by most of the moralizing media. Apparently what he does in private -- never mind that the affair is public -- is nobody's business. Except, of course, when it is.

Milton Friedman's collected works
Are available at the Hoover Institute, including more than 300 his Newsweek columns and 250 academic (and other) papers. At AEI Ideas Mark Perry has a list of some of what is available online at the Hoover Institution’s "Collected Works of Milton Friedman" project.

'Numerical nonsense' in anti-concealed gun numbers
John R. Lott examines the "numerical nonsense" utilized by the Violence Policy Center to come to its numbers that purport to show that concealed-carry weapon permits lead to more crime:
All in all, the VPC has managed to triple-count claimed cases of permit holders killing people, and the vast majority of cases it includes in its list — such as legitimate self-defense shootings or suicides not related to permitted concealed handguns — shouldn’t be counted to begin with.
It is pretty obvious that the VPC is trying to cook the books, but even if its numbers were legit, they'd be little cause for concern; as Lott concludes:
Yet, put aside all these problems for a moment. Assume, for the sake of argument, that the Violence Policy Center’s claim that concealed-handgun permits were responsible for 636 deaths in seven years is correct. One has to note that there are over 11 million concealed-handgun permits in the U.S. right now. With an annual number of deaths of 90, that means 0.00083 percent of concealed-carry permit holders were responsible for a shooting death each year. Removing suicides from the total reduces the rate even more, to 0.00058 percent.

GOP: stupid, or suicidally stupid?
Investor's Business Daily editorializes:
ObamaCare is failing and more unchecked immigration would ensure Republicans' demise, yet GOP leaders are surrendering on both issues. Poised to win big in November, their best strategy may be to shut up.
Sometimes it seems as if top congressional Republicans have seen the movie "Animal House" one too many times, specifically the hazing scene with Kevin Bacon repeatedly saying, "Thank you, sir. May I have another?" each time he gets paddled on his rear ...
When Democrats accuse the Tea Party of holding a gun to the heads of the GOP, they have it mixed up. Republicans are holding a gun to their own heads. Why? Certain big business interests insist they do this so they can employ the cheap, unskilled labor that our Democrat-friendly immigration policies produce — and that an amnesty-based "reform" would only perpetuate.
If Republicans wish to win — a big if — it's time to stop the self-loathing, demand ObamaCare's repeal and refuse to legalize millions of new Democrats.

Monday, April 28, 2014
Jim Prentice may be the Jim Dinning of 2014
Red Tory and former federal cabinet minister Jim Prentice has thrown his hat into the Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership race. The chatter is that this game-changing. Maybe. Pundits should be reminded that the overwhelming favourite the last two times the Alberta PCs had a leadership race (Jim Dinning in 2006, Gary Mar in 2011) did not win. Prentice could be different, but he has little formal history in the provincial party, won a federal seat three times in Calgary for the Conservative Party of Canada, and he has been out of politics for nearly four years. I'm not saying he won't win the leadership or that the provincial Tories can't win re-election under his leadership, but Alberta leadership politics have proven unpredictable.

Jim Flaherty was a good finance minister ...
Who looked great because he held the job of Finance Minister at a time when Canada became an energy superpower; the country now ranks third in known oil reserves and fifth in oil production.

Trying to change the narrative
The Washington Examiner reports:
“Do Republicans really care less about the person at the bottom of the ladder than Democrats do? To be painfully honest, I would have to say in some ways ‘yes,” [Rick] Santorum writes in his new book out Monday, Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America That Works.
“There are some in my party who have taken the ideal of individualism to such an extreme that they have forgotten the obligation to look out for our fellow man. The rhetoric is often harsh and gives the all-too-willing media an opportunity to tar all Republicans with the same brush,” he writes.
Going aggressively after corporate welfare would could go some way to putting the Republican Party alongside the working class.

They didn't build that
Politico reports:
The Obamacare website may work for people buying insurance, but beneath the surface, is still missing massive, critical pieces — and the deadline for finishing them keeps slipping.
As a result, the system’s “back end” is a tangle of technical workarounds moving billions of taxpayer dollars and consumer-paid premiums between the government and insurers. The parts under construction are essential for key functions such as accurately paying insurers. The longer they lag, experts say, the likelier they’ll trigger accounting problems that could leave the public on the hook for higher premium subsidies or health care costs.

Baseball conservatism
John Hinderaker of Powerline complains that he went to the ballgame between the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers and was very upset there were delays in the game including a review of a blown call that was, in fact, reversed to the correct call. Hinderaker concludes his little rant:
Do umpires make mistakes? Sure. But so what? Correcting one random error per game does almost nothing to achieve some kind of theoretical purity in the result. The old way was better: if the ump says he’s safe, he’s safe. Play ball!
I'm tempted say Hinderaker should love unlimited executive power, and especially President Barack Obama, but I won't take that cheap shot. I will note that many baseball traditionalists point to the fact that baseball, unique among team sports, doesn't have a clock, so I wonder why the addition of a few minutes -- fewer than the five minutes Hinderaker complains about -- upsets them so. I do not understand the argument that there is a tolerable amount of human error if it can be easily corrected and the technology, process, and time (just a minute or two) of the new instant replay regime seems to present an easy correction. I also do not understand why fans would want the mistakes of non-players (umpires) mattering more to a game than what players do on the field than it absolutely must.
I have little patience for the sort of mindless conservatism that wants to keep the things the way they were for no other reason that that's the way it has always been (or at least as long as the opponent of change can remember). Often going with the tried and true makes sense, but sometimes there is progress. The instant replay is an incremental change for the better and should't be resisted by the traditionalists.

Corporate sponsorship of the canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II
NBC reports:
He has railed against the "tyranny" of global capitalism and the "idolatry of money" but even Pope Francis needs a little corporate coin sometimes – as proven by the list of sponsors for Sunday's canonizations.
An oil and gas giant, several banks and Switzerland-based food megacorp Nestle are among more than a dozen financial backers of the Rome event.
The list of sponsors is dominated by Italian corporations, including energy firms Eni and Enel, banking company Intesa SanPaolo and railway network Ferrovie Italiane.

Sunday, April 27, 2014
Catholics more liberal than white evangelicals
Brandon Ambrosino points out at Vox an infographic by the left-wing Public Religion Research Institute which shows that Catholics hold more liberal views on moral and economic issues than white evangelicals, and while that is probably true there is something odd about the comparison. The terms are not defined but usually American polls mean non-Hispanic whites when they say white, however there is no indication that the PRRI research separates Hispanic Catholics, who are generally more liberal, from white Catholics. While non-Hispanic white Catholics probably adhere less to official Catholic moral teaching than do "white evangelicals," the gap might not be 20 points on abortion and 30 points on homosexual activity. Robert P. Jones, CEO of PRRI, says in The Atlantic that "there is more support for official Roman Catholic Church positions among white evangelical Protestants than among Catholics," which is both ironic and a sad reflection of the Catholic faithful today.

Wealthy parents can afford to break/skirt the law for cheaper childcare
Cathy Reisenwitz at
Daycare for an infant is now more expensive than the average cost of in-state tuition and fees at public colleges in 31 states, according to a recent report. Childcare in the U.S. sets a family back $15,000 a year per infant on average. It is more expensive than rent in 22 states. But while many poor women are dropping out of the workforce in part due to these costs, well-to-do families skirt the problem by exploiting loopholes like the U.S. au pair program and by illegally employing undocumented domestic workers to obtain good-quality childcare at below-market prices.
You can thank regulations and licensing rules for pricing child care out of the reach of many lower-income families while leaving wealthier women with gray market or black market solutions.
Reisenwitz explains specifically how regulations make childcare more expensive (which also relates to lower salaries for childcare workers) and how many well-to-do parents flout immigration laws to hire "undocumented workers" to watch their kids.
She also explains how putting kids in childcare affects the so-called 77-cents on the dollar "wage gap" between men and women:
But employers pay a premium to have workers who will work when needed. Research indicates that a huge chunk of the widely-cited 77-cents-on-the-dollar gender wage gap is a result of women's preference for shorter, flexible hours over better pay. Part of the reason moms need shorter, more flexible hours is that day care centers tend to close for weather and holidays, while work still needs to be done. The centers won’t care for sick children, and they charge dramatically more per hour outside of the 9-5 window. All this leads mothers to work shorter, more erratic hours, which contributes to why women without children earn much more than mothers in the United States.

Garett Jones reviews Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century
Garett Jones reviews Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century at, and it is a good review overall, but this is a point I've made often and think needs to be made regularly:
That’s why I propose the creation of the Tenth Commandment Club. The tenth commandment—”You shall not covet”—is a foundation of social peace. The Nobel Laureate economist Vernon Smith noted the tenth commandment along with the eighth (you shall not steal) in his Nobel toast, saying that they “provide the property right foundations for markets, and warned that petty distributional jealousy must not be allowed to destroy” those foundations. If academics, pundits, and columnists would avowedly reject covetousness, would openly reject comparisons between the average (extremely fortunate) American and the average billionaire, would mock people who claimed that frugal billionaires are a systematic threat to modern life, then soon our time could be spent discussing policy issues that really matter.
People who are genuinely materially desperate aren’t the issue here. The Tenth Commandment Club has no qualms with a Jean Valjean stealing bread to feed his family. But the implicit emphasis of Piketty’s Capital is with comparing the 1 percent (or 0.01 percent) to the typical person living in the G-7, a person who is, on average, more fortunate than most of the world’s population and more materially fortunate than almost anyone living in the 19th-century novels that Piketty so loves to discuss.

Robocall obsessed
Small Dead Animals has a graphic from the Sun News Network that shows that two journalists, Stephen Maher (1057) and Glen McGregor (964), have penned the majority of robocall stories in the Canadian media since 2012.
I don't take the tact that Ezra Levant does that there was absolutely nothing to this story; Yves Cote, the Commissioner of Canada Elections, said, "the evidence uncovered in the investigation is not sufficient to give me reasonable grounds to believe that an offence was committed," which isn't the same thing as nothing happened or it wasn't worth investigating. But clearly some journalists was quite zealous chasing this story.

Three strikes
1. Baseball Prospectus has an excerpt of Charlie Wilmoth's new book, Dry Land: Winning After 20 Years at Sea With the Pittsburgh Pirates.
2. SB Nation notes that minor league baseball teams Twitter-troll each other over use of special Star Wars uniforms.
3. Teams with winning records and a negative run differential so far this season: the New York Yankees (14-10, -9) and the New York Mets (13-11, -4).

The disappearing middle class: blame the Democratic coalition
Instapundit: "It’s almost as if the middle class has been targeted for destruction by a coalition of the very rich and the poor."

The Supreme Court's affirmative action decision
Washington Post columnist George Will looks at both the semantic and legal contortions the American political and judicial class must go through to justify anything but colour-blind policies.

Saturday, April 26, 2014
The jerk-off contest is not what you think
Kids Prefer Cheese has scan of story with outrageous headline.

'12 Numbers Which Prove That Americans Are Sick And Tired Of Politics As Usual'
The Economic Collapse has "12 Numbers Which Prove That Americans Are Sick And Tired Of Politics As Usual":
#1 A national Rasmussen Reports survey has found that an all-time high 53 percent of all Americans believe that neither major political party "represents the American people".
#2 According to a Real Clear Politics average of national polls, only 29 percent of Americans believe that the country is heading in the right direction.
#3 According to a Real Clear Politics average of national polls, Americans disapprove of the job that Barack Obama is doing by a 52.2 to 43.7 percent margin.
#4 According to a Real Clear Politics average of national polls, Americans disapprove of the job that Congress is doing by a 77.6 percent to 14.2 percent margin.
#5 52 percent of Americans "do not think the economy is fair to those willing to work hard".
#6 65 percent of Americans are dissatisfied "with the U.S. system of government and its effectiveness". That is the highest level of dissatisfaction that Gallup has ever recorded.
#7 Only 4 percent of Americans believe that it would "change Congress for the worse" if every member was voted out during the next election.
#8 An all-time low 31 percent of Americans identify themselves as Democrats.
#9 An all-time low 25 percent of Americans identify themselves as Republicans.
#10 An all-time high 42 percent of Americans identify themselves as Independents.
#11 60 percent of Americans report feeling "angry or irritable". Two years ago that number was at 50 percent.
#12 70 percent of Americans do not have confidence that the federal government will "make progress on the important problems and issues facing the country in 2014".
Links for each poll/stat at the original post.
I'm do not view this as negative, but rather as a sign of progress that that people don't have faith in politicians.
Here's a related cartoon about the White House's handling of the Keystone XL file.

Redford gets paid for missing days in Alberta legislature while vacationing in Palm Springs
The Sun News Network reports:
Former premier Alison Redford – who’s been MIA since stepping down last month – has apparently been found in Palm Springs, Calif.
That's according to an Albertan who was vacationing in Palm Springs and claims to have seen her on Friday night. Pictures posted to Facebook appear to show Redford was dining at Giuseppe's Pizza and Pasta with her daughter.
Calgary resident Kurt Bowley posted the photos to his Facebook page Friday night. Calls and e-mails to Redford's Calgary-Elbow constituency office were unreturned Saturday morning.
Redford has missed 10 sitting days in the legislature as of Thursday. She's informed Speaker Gene Zwozdesky's office that she will not be attending the remainder of session. Her reason falls under government business, bereavement or illness, which exempts her from having $100 docked from her $134,000 salary for each unexcused absence in excess of 10 days.

'The World's Resources Aren't Running Out'
Matt Ridley in the Wall Street Journal:
How many times have you heard that we humans are "using up" the world's resources, "running out" of oil, "reaching the limits" of the atmosphere's capacity to cope with pollution or "approaching the carrying capacity" of the land's ability to support a greater population? The assumption behind all such statements is that there is a fixed amount of stuff—metals, oil, clean air, land—and that we risk exhausting it through our consumption.
"We are using 50% more resources than the Earth can sustainably produce, and unless we change course, that number will grow fast—by 2030, even two planets will not be enough," says Jim Leape, director general of the World Wide Fund for Nature International (formerly the World Wildlife Fund).
But here's a peculiar feature of human history: We burst through such limits again and again. After all, as a Saudi oil minister once said, the Stone Age didn't end for lack of stone. Ecologists call this "niche construction"—that people (and indeed some other animals) can create new opportunities for themselves by making their habitats more productive in some way. Agriculture is the classic example of niche construction: We stopped relying on nature's bounty and substituted an artificial and much larger bounty.
Economists call the same phenomenon innovation. What frustrates them about ecologists is the latter's tendency to think in terms of static limits. Ecologists can't seem to see that when whale oil starts to run out, petroleum is discovered, or that when farm yields flatten, fertilizer comes along, or that when glass fiber is invented, demand for copper falls.

Weekend stuff
1. FiveThirtyEight: "Are Pro Wrestlers Dying at an Unusual Rate?"
2. "5 Iconic Pop Culture Moments That Weren't in the Original." Alec Baldwin's character from Glengarry Glen Ross and Milhouse from The Simpsons.
3. Priceonomics: "How Dodgeball Became America's Most Demonized Sport."
4. Listverse: "10 Conspiracy Theories About Weather Modification."
5. Nathan Pyle animated a few of the tips from his book NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette.
6. The Wall Street Journal has "Penthouse Views From Across the Globe." I'd pay $3 million for lots of room, but I wouldn't pay $3 million for a nice view.
7. GraphJam: "What Google+ is used for." And Forbes says "Google Will Be Better Off Minus Google+."
8. From the animal kingdom. LiveScience: "Centipede Bursts from Snake's Stomach." UPI reports "Scientists find first ever female animals with penises." Mental Floss: "10 Facts About Archaeopteryx." Smithsonian Magazine: "Chernobyl’s Bugs: The Art And Science Of Life After Nuclear Fallout." The BBC reports, "A new study has found that a quarter of a century on, red deer on the border between the Czech Republic and old West Germany still do not cross the divide."
9. The Daily Telegraph reports: "Iceberg six times the size of Manhattan in open ocean watched by scientists."
10. BBC Music Magazine: "Six of the best: musical settings of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet."
11. Reason TV: "From Guns to Pastries: How 3D Printing Will Change the Way We Make Practically Everything."

Friday, April 25, 2014
Unread Capital
At the Hit & Run blog, Ed Krayewski links to a CBS Money Watch story and notes: "A 700-page economics text about income inequality, Capital in the 21st Century, is now at the top of Amazon's best seller list. However, it has only garnered 57 reviews, suggesting a significant amount of buyers aren't finishing the book, or maybe even reading it." CBS's Aimee Picchi says, "The book may end up as one of those doorstoppers that people like to tote around as a way to demonstrate their seriousness." I tried to read Thomas Pickett's book but didn't finish it as it was a difficult and unenjoyable read, and I read a lot economics.

Three strikes
1. David Pinto of Baseball Musings notes that the games in which the starting pitcher has 10 strikeouts (in games before May 1) is at the highest rate since 1966. This year 4.9 games per 100 starter sees a pitcher throw 10 Ks, the first time since 2001 the rate is above 4.0. In 1966, a completely different era, saw 6.0 games per 100 with 10 Ks for the starer. In most years, the number of such games per 100 starts is between 2.5 and 3.5. It doesn't seem like much of a difference, but it is.
2. has an neat infographic: "Masahiro Tanaka’s Performance Against Every Batter He Has Faced in His Three Victories." Excluding his MLB debut against the Blue Jays, he has allowed back-to-back baserunners just once in his other two winning starts. This is also an amazing stat: in his three wins he walked just one batter.
3. New York Yankees starter Michael Pineda has been suspended for 10 games following his ejection after using pine tar in the game against the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday. That's fair. He broke the rules and flaunted the rule by having the pine tar smeared on his neck in clear view. Jeff Bradley looks at the science and says that pine tar helps reduce spin which makes the ball drop quicker.'s Cliff Corcoran says it is time to permit the use of pine tar by pitchers and offers several possible rule changes, concluding, "If pitchers are going to use this stuff anyway, and almost every one within the game is okay with it, and it is an ongoing practice that dates back decades, then baseball should adjust the rule book to reflect that fact. That way pitchers like Pineda, whose worst crime is getting caught, aren’t forced to pay a significant penalty for doing something everyone else is also doing."

On this day in Canadian history
On April 25, 1959, the St. Lawrence Seaway opened. The 650 kilometer waterway from Montreal to Fort Erie, includes seven locks between Montreal and Lake Ontario and the Welland Canal link between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. It is considered an engineering marvel and it helps increase trade by enabling ocean vessels to travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the western most end of Lake Superior.

California paying Planned Parenthood to recruit clients for Obamacare reports:
According to the California Health Benefit Advisers, as a certified “enrollment entity,” [Planned Parenthood] receives $58 for each new person it signs up for ObamaCare, another $58 for each dependent, and $25 for each successful renewal. A total of 38 Planned Parenthood facilities in the state are currently listed as “enrollment entities,” alongside labor unions, community organizing groups, and others approved for the kickback-style program.

Italy's 'big babies'
Maclean's reports:
This year a Eurofound report revealed that 48 per cent of European adults between 18 and 30 now live with their parents, an increase from 44 per cent at the onset of the economic crisis in 2007. But the highest number is in Italy, with 79 per cent. That’s up from about 60 per cent a few years ago, according to a separate report. Since Italians are notoriously slow about seeking independence, in 2007 the economy minister proposed a tax refund of around $760 a year for this group, whom he famously referred to as bamboccioni, or big babies, to help push them out of the house. Clearly, it has had no effect.

Thursday, April 24, 2014
2016 watch (veep edition)
At Bloomberg View Ramesh Ponnuru says that Rand Paul is the GOP front-runner for 2016 -- for the second spot on the ticket.

Rick McGinnis reviews P.J. O'Rourke's The Baby Boom
Rick McGinnis reviews The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way And It Wasn’t My Fault And I’ll Never Do It Again in the April Interim. McGinnis concludes his review:
What Baby Boomers have done, however, is build a world that presumes that dissent from the revolution they claimed as their own is a step backwards into a dark age, and that nothing will ever be as hip or fashionable as a set of aesthetic standards and moral judgments made when less than 50 per cent of US households had colour television, by a group of people who’d just barely reached voting age. It’s no wonder that many of us feel that the world is being held to a set of rules made by an angry older sibling who didn’t understand why they had to pay for the broken parking brake in the family car they took for a joyride without permission.

Three strikes
1. Matt Borcas at Grantalnd on Michael Pineda using pine tar -- all too obviously. Ian O'Connor makes the same point for ESPN New York: it is one thing to cheat, it is another to do so blatantly. There might be an unwritten rule that pine tar to better grip the ball is tolerated, but you cannot flout it.
2. Tony Blengino of Fangraphs looks at BABIP, strike and walk rates, and percentage of balls that are pop flies/line drives/groundballs to determine which hitters we might start worrying about. Brett Lawrie, Curtis Granderson, Billy Butler, Kolten Wong and (soon) Robinson Cano are candidates to have disappointing seasons. This is bad news for each team as the Toronto Blue Jays, New York Mets, Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Cardinals, and Seattle Mariners need these guys to contribute more than they have to either contend (Jays and Royals), regain their spot as top dog in the division (Cardinals) or justify their large free agent signing (Mariners and Mets). It is fanciful for John Harper of the New York Daily News to say that the Mets can only contend if Granderson starts to hit; they have a lot of holes in the lineup and even Grandy at his best (which he is never going to be again) will not enough.
3. Sammy Sosa was not at the 100th anniversary celebrations of Wrigley Field and Grant Brisbee of SB Nation is confused by the slight of a once great, although now PED-tainted superstar by the Chicago Cubs. Brisbee says there are only two reasons: "It's a short-sighted PR decision made out of some odd fear" or "There's a behind-the-scenes tinkling match." Explaining the latter Brisbee says, "That last one, translated: Guy in a suit got mad at guy in a uniform, and guy in a uniform hasn't shown the proper deference yet." Sosa upset some important person in the Cubs organization or Organized Baseball and has not genuflected to his betters and is thus shut out of official team events. Pro sports can be like high school. Brisbee says that introducing Sosa would likely bring rounds of cheers from the Cubs faithful, but something kept that from happening. It is either stupidity or pride preventing the fans from getting what they would probably savour.

Alison Redford, entitled to her entitlements
The Calgary Herald reports:
Former premier Alison Redford has notified the Alberta legislature Speaker’s office that she has a legitimate excuse for not attending the legislative assembly.
Redford’s staff advised the Speaker she is declaring her absence under rules that exempt MLAs from being docked pay if they can’t attend due to illness or injury, bereavement, or public or official business outside the legislature, said a spokeswoman for the Speakers’ office.
The spokeswoman said she wasn’t aware of the specific reason for the absence.
The former premier, who is continuing to sit as MLA for Calgary-Elbow, has not attended the legislature since resigning from her office March 23.
Premier Dave Hancock said he wasn’t concerned about Redford’s lack of attendance in the house.
“It’s not my duty as premier to police attendance in the legislature,” he said Wednesday. “I am not about to question how any given MLA represents their constituents. ... People can make their own judgments with respect to that.”
So Redford has a good excuse for skipping work but constituents and taxpayers do not get to hear it, and the Tory premier has no problem with this state of affairs.

The adolescent president
Washington Post columnist George F. Will on President Barack Obama, who came to Washington promising to elevate political debate:
[H]e talks like an arrested-development adolescent.
Anyone who has tried to engage a member of that age cohort in an argument probably recognizes the four basic teenage tropes, which also are the only arrows in Obama’s overrated rhetorical quiver. He employed them all last week when he went to the White House briefing room to exclaim, as he is wont to do, about the excellence of the Affordable Care Act.
First came the invocation of a straw man. Celebrating the ACA’s enrollment numbers, Obama, referring to Republicans, charged: “They said nobody would sign up.” Of course, no one said this. Obama often is what political philosopher Kenneth Minogue said of an adversary — “a pyromaniac in a field of straw men.”
Adolescents also try to truncate arguments by saying that nothing remains of any arguments against their arguments. Regarding the ACA, Obama said the debate is “settled” and “over.” Progressives also say the debate about catastrophic consequences of man-made climate change is “over,” so everyone should pipe down. And they say the debates about the efficacy of universal preschool, and the cost-benefit balance of a minimum-wage increase, are over. Declaring an argument over is so much more restful than engaging with evidence.
A third rhetorical move by argumentative adolescents is to declare that there is nothing to argue about because everything is going along swimmingly. Seven times Obama asserted that the ACA is “working.” That is, however, uninformative because it is ambiguous. The ethanol program is “working” in the sense that it is being implemented as its misguided architects intended. Nevertheless, the program is a substantial net subtraction from the nation’s well-being. The same can be said of sugar import quotas, or agriculture subsidies generally, or many hundreds of other government programs that are, unfortunately, “working.”
Finally, the real discussion-stopper for the righteous — and there is no righteousness like an adolescent’s — is an assertion that has always been an Obama specialty. It is that there cannot be honorable and intelligent disagreement with him. So last week, less than two minutes after saying that the argument about the ACA “isn’t about me,” Obama said some important opposition to the ACA is about him, citing “states that have chosen not to expand Medicaid for no other reason than political spite.”

The Obamaconomy
As Instapundit notes, under under President Barack Obama the rich get richer and everyone else suffers.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Four downs (four games likely to be flexed out of prime time)
1. November 2, Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers: It isn't so much that Baltimore or Pittsburgh are going to be out of it by week 9, but that the hype for Brady-Manning XVI will be too great to pass up. I'm predicting New England at Denver gets flexed into the prime time spot. Also, the Ravens and Steelers meet in another prime time contest, in the season's first Thursday Night Football tilt. This would also increase the chances NBC shows one of the two Pittsburgh Steelers-Cincinnati Bengals contests in the final three weeks with the AFC North on the line, neither of which are yet scheduled for prime time.
2. December 7, New England Patriots at San Diego Chargers: There is a really good chance this game would have little implication for the playoffs which will be just three weeks away. The Bolts are unlikely to repeat their charmed season and should realistically be out of the playoff picture and the Pats could have the AFC East wrapped up by now. Week 15 features games crying out for an evening slot including an aforementioned Bengals-Steelers contest, the Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles as both could still be chasing playoff spots, and if the Carolina Panthers continue their winning ways, their road trip to New Orleans in what might be a decisive contest for the NFC South. I guarantee we won't be watching the Pats and Bolts in the evening on December 7.
3. October 12, New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles: Two big markets with large national followings, but I wouldn't be surprised to see one of these teams 1-4 come week 6. The Giants didn't look that great last season and Philly is due for regression (I'm not sure that Nick Foles can repeat his nearly error-free quarterbacking). If the New York Jets are any good, it might be possible to put them and Denver in prime time (except that could give the Broncos six prime time contests). But if the Atlanta Falcons or Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a rebound season, they have games that might attract a national audience (against the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens respectively). I rather doubt that the NFL and NBC will take out a New York-Philly game in the first half of the season, but there are three other games that might cry out for a national audience.
4. December 21, Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals: There is a pretty good chance that the Cards won't be contending for a playoff spot come the end of December and I count at as many as seven games with the potential to be compelling on this second last Sunday: Baltimore Ravens at Houston Texans if the latter has a remarkable but not unimaginable resurrection season, Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears with at least a wild card spot on the line, Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints assuming the Falcons bounce-back, Green Bay Packers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers if the Bucs right their ship in 2014, Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers between two potential playoff-bound teams, New England Patriots vs New York Jets with Darrelle Revis returning to New York in a Pats uniform and possibly playoff implications for both sides, and Indianapolis Colts vs. Dallas Cowboys if the 'Boys are once again hovering around 500 in a mediocre NFC East. It is really hard to predict the meaningful game for week 16 before the season starts.

From the wonkblogs
FiveThirtyEight: "Do April Showers Bring May Flowers?" Not really. More like warm "Warm temperatures in March bring April flowers."
Vox: "Bad news: you probably have herpes and don't know it." Race and marital status matter.
Upfront: "Piketty’s Book on Wealth and Inequality Is More Popular in Richer States." By richer, Justin Wolfers means northeastern liberal, with Washington DC an extreme outlier.

Why Rob Ford could win Toronto mayor's race
The Globe and Mail reports:
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford spoke out against the possibility of council pay raises Wednesday, ahead of a debate at the city’s executive committee on giving councillors a 13-per-cent salary hike.
The committee will look at two options presented by city staff Wednesday: to either maintain salaries at the current levels adjusted for inflation, or to raise the mayor’s salary from about $177,000 to $200,000 and councillor salaries from about $105,000 to $119,000.
When asked Wednesday what he’d like to see the committee do, Mr. Ford – who is running for re-election and has made spending at City Hall a key campaign platform – said “nothing. Do you get a 13-per-cent raise? No.” ...
“Councillor expenses are ridiculous,” the mayor said Tuesday evening ahead of that discussion. “ I’m going to talk about that. That’s over the top. These people are expending more than their income”
In some ways the "gravy train" has become a punchline, but not among those who vote for Ford; it is shorthand for something that is very much part of their values, that politicians should be in office for public service, not for the pay or perks. Whether or not Toronto city councilors are underpaid -- and the fact that they are paid "in the 37th percentile of comparable cities and regions" is not proof that they are, if they are doing a worse job -- is beside the point. The fact is Ford is closer to where a large swathe of voters stand than other municipal politicians, and always has been.
Enterprising reporters should ask the other mayoral candidates what they would like to see. Preferably when they are attached to lie detectors.

Japanese deaths exceed births
Me at Soconvivium on "Japan continues to depopulate." I conclude the post with the observation/warning: "Once a country begins depopulating, it is very hard to reverse."

The great unspoken truth about affirmative action
If some people are underreprestented, others are overrepresented, and it's not always white males. As Instapundit notes, "If you really want balance in college admissions, there need to be quotas for white women, who are hugely overrepresented."

On this day in Canadian history
On April 23, 1897, Canada's 15th prime minister, Lester Pearson, was born in Newtonbrook, Ont. He worked in the Department of External Affairs and became ambassador to the United States. In 1948 he was elected MP for Algoma East and was promptly appointed Secretary of State for External Affairs by Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, a post he continued to hold throughout the Louis St. Laurent government, during which he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in creating the UN peacekeeping force in the Suez in 1956. After St. Laurent's defeat in 1957, Pearson sought and won the Liberal Party leadership, beating his former cabinet colleague Paul Martin Sr., and the mayor of Portage la Prairie, Harold Lloyd Henderson, on the first ballot. Pearson would lose his first general election in 1962, but won back-to-back minority governments in 1963 and 1965. In 1968 he resigned from office, replaced by Pierre Trudeau. In 2011, I argued that more than Trudeau, it was Pearson who made modern Canada with numerous new social programs (Canada Pension Plan, universal health care, Canada Student Loan Program, the Canada Assistance Plan, the Guaranteed Income Supplement), new laws (minimum wage, labour code), and new institutions he created (Order of Canada, the national anthem, the Maple Leaf flag, the unified military).

Obama and Keystone XL
Jonah Goldberg:
On Good Friday, President Obama made a bad call. The State Department announced that it would delay its decision on the Keystone XL pipeline until after the Nebraska supreme court rules in a case involving the route. The administration insists the decision to punt has nothing to do with politics. Pretty much everyone else thinks otherwise.
Obama, who is rarely reluctant to act unilaterally when it benefits him politically, and who regularly brags about his red-tape cutting, is paralyzed by perhaps the only big shovel-ready jobs project he’s been presented with.
He welcomes the Keystone red tape because he’s trapped between an overwhelmingly popular initiative and an overwhelmingly powerful constituency within the Democratic party opposed to it: obdurate rich environmentalists and the door-knocking minions they employ.

Bringing the 'Nordic model' to Ulster: a liberty issue, but not the one you might be thinking
The Guardian reports that Northern Ireland politicians want to bring the "Nordic Model" to Ulster to fight prostitution, that is to outlaw the buying, but not the selling of sex. This means policing johns instead of hookers. It is a matter of debate whether this works but is it based on the moralizing idea that men are all bastards for wanting to buy sex and women are (willing and unwilling) victims for selling their bodies to these licentious men. In many ways it is rather condescending to what is euphemistically referred to as "sex workers."
But there appears to be a liberty or civil rights issue unrelated to whether the state has a compelling reason to get involved in what is usually an exchange between consenting adults. As the Northern Ireland justice minister says, for this to work they'll need to intercept more telephone calls. I'm sure that if this policy were to pass in Northern Ireland, the police would never, ever bug phones for the purpose of settling religious scores fighting terrorism or any other purpose but clamping down on prostitution.

Giant fans are not a viable energy policy
Investor's Business Daily editorializes:
The federal government has spent some $100 billion in taxpayer subsidies on green energy since 2006. Now we are seeing the flimsy and declining returns on that investment.
The wind industry saw its growth tumble by 92% last year, according to a new report from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), and that's off of a very low base to begin with.
Big Wind blames the decline in output on uncertainty over the future of a federal wind industry tax credit — an absurdly generous subsidy of 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour produced.
This handout is what keeps those giant turbines twirling. These subsidies have been thrown at the renewable energy industry for more than a decade and always with the promise by AWEA that profitability is right around the corner. Sure it is.
The reality is that the wind industry is to energy production what Amtrak is to intercity transportation — a perpetual tax-dollar burning machine.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Three strikes
1. David Pinto of Baseball Musings says that the reaction to the numerous young pitchers going under the knife for Tommy John surgery this year will probably be fewer long-term contracts for young pitchers. Maybe.
2. Tonight Albert Pujols hit two homeruns against the Washington Nationals, becoming the eighth player to hit 500 HRs by age 34. He is 26th all-time on the HR list and if he can hit 22 more over the rest of the season -- very doable -- Pujols will end up 18th overall by the end of the season, surpassing the career totals of great players like Mel Ott and Ernie Banks, Ted Williams and Willie McCovey. Also within sight: Jimmie Foxx (534) and Mickey Mantle (536). The only "active" player ahead of Pujols is Alex Rodriguez, who is serving a one-year suspension and has 654 HRs.
3.'s Tim Newcomb writes about Wrigley Field, which turns 100 this season. A lot of it is well-known to baseball fans, not just Chicago Cubs fans, and much of it is covered in George Will's new book, A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred. But this was new to me: "'There has been only one visitor’s locker room since 1914,' said [park expert Brian] Bernardoni, who has given Wrigley tours for nearly two decades. 'It is where Lou Gehrig dressed before hitting his first home run in high school, the locker room of Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron and Vince Lombardi. There have been more Hall of Famers in this one room than any other facility that exists in sports'."

Mae West was wrong: too much of a good thing is not wonderful
Even if you don't read the traditional media's online presences or online news websites like Daily Caller and Breitbart or many blogs, you would be hard-pressed to read everything the new boys on the block -- FiveThirtyEight, Vox, and now Upfront from the New York Times -- are putting online, even though there is much worth reading on them. I counted 20 articles on Upfront on its first day.
The three best articles online at those three sites today:
FiveThirtyEight: "Which Cities Sleep in, and Which Get to Work Early."
Vox: "Everything You Need to Know about the Streetcar Craze," especially "How Expensive are Streetcars?"
Upfront: "The Myth of Swing Voters in Midterm Elections."
In a world with the internet, there is not enough hours in a day.

2016 watch (Elizabeth Warren edition)
Jonathan Bernstein at Bloomberg View:
I know, Elizabeth Warren says she’s not running for president, and many find it annoying that people won’t let it go. Even so, it’s time to take a look at this one.
National politicians know how to make Shermanesque statements about the presidency. Warren isn’t doing that, even though she is doing something else that is suspiciously similar to what candidates do: She’s written a campaign-type book, and is hawking it all over.
Her formula when asked (which is constantly, as Ed O’Keefe documents), is to give a quick denial and then move on to her (campaign-like) rhetoric.That's a legitimate way to deal with the question. But her “I’m not running for president,” present tense, leaves plenty of uncertainty that could be dismissed with a more definitive answer ...
I see nothing wrong with interpreting Warren’s answer, along with her other actions, to mean that she’s not going to begin a low-odds effort or a protest campaign against a heavyweight front-runner. But it's reasonable to think that she’s also doing what needs to be done to keep her options open in case a late-developing wide open nomination fight should erupt.
I originally thought this was Jeb Bush's plan on the Republican side because the wide open field had neither a true next-in-line candidate (Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Robert Dole, Bush II, John McCain, Mitt Romney) or type of candidate that could unify the party's increasingly disparate wings. It makes a lot of sense for Warren to do this considering that both of the Democratic front-runners (Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton) might have more negatives than positives.

Conservatives lead among likely voters
Angus Reid says that among likely voters -- and important distinction -- the Conservative Party of Canada leads the Liberals and NDP by five percentage points (34%, 29%, 27%). That might represent a bump following the Flahertygasm the media had, but it might also reflect that Justin Trudeau's higher popularity among younger Canadians doesn't translate into actual votes.

Political policing
The Daily Caller: "Why are the cops punishing Common Core opponents?" DC reports:
A school district asked the police to prohibit certain students from setting foot on school property because their parents had privacy concerns about Common Core-aligned standardized testing, and wished to opt their kids out.
The incident happened at Marietta City Schools in Marietta, Georgia. The Finney family didn’t want their three children — in third grade, fifth grade and ninth grade — to participate in the state-mandated Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, partly because of the vast amounts of data the government is collecting about their children, and partly because they think the tests don’t serve a compelling educational interest, according to The Marietta Daily Journal ...
The Finney family attempted to opt out of the tests, but administrators were unsure whether they were legally permitted to do so.
And then — at West Side Elementary School — a police officer barred the Finneys from setting foot on school property.
If the kids weren’t going to take the tests, their presence at school was a “kind of trespassing thing,” according to the officer.
And the Finney children won't be welcome at school on the CRCT make-up days, either.
Seems a little heavy-handed.

When it comes to income, how much is too much?
Instapundit: "As Megan McArdle noted a while back, the threshold for 'earning too much' is just above what a two-earner journalist or academic couple can plausibly make."

Happy Earth Day -- appreciate the Earth for all it provides humanity, and man's resourcefulness to harness it
The American Enterprise Institute's Mark J. Perry in Investor's Business Daily:
To further appreciate the Earth's natural environment on Earth Day, we should celebrate the revolutionary technologies of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling that have allowed us to access previously inaccessible, natural energy treasures trapped in tight shale rock miles below the Earth's surface ...
Mother Nature provides us with an almost infinite abundance of natural resources but without any "instruction manuals" that tell us how to process them into useable products that improve our lives and raise our standard of living.
On Earth Day, let's not forget to celebrate and appreciate the human resources — knowledge, ingenuity, know-how, creativity, entrepreneurship, and imagination, i.e. the "instruction manuals" — that transform otherwise unusable resources like shale hydrocarbons into energy treasures that will power our economy for generations to come.

Politicians lie
Investor's Business Daily editorializes:
German physician Anton Delbrueck, about 120 years ago, decided that a new psychological classification — "pseudologia fantastica" — was required after noting that some of his patients were incessant liars. Whether that explains the last two Democrat presidents, today we might need a joint psychological/sociological study of the mass tendency of the country to accept systematic lying from the highest level of government.
I wouldn't limit my criticism to Democratic presidents or even Democratic politicians, and the idea that politicians are liars is nothing new: writers and thinkers from Socrates to Mark Twain made such observations. But IBD says that President Barack Obama is more brazen in his lying than Richard Nixon ever was. Most of the public views Obama as liar (61% told a Fox News poll that "most of the time" or "some of the time" about "important matters") and can lie when warning the public that his political opponents are playing fast and loose with the truth.

'Settled science'
No real scientist would ever call science settled. It betrays the very idea of a scientific approach.
Bruce Dowbiggin writes to Mark Steyn to remind us about recent challenges to scientific orthodoxy:
Re Dr Mann and his obsession with the legitimacy of his work and stifling any and all dissent: When I was a student at University of Toronto in the 1970s, our president was J. Tuzo Wilson. Besides being an amiable person around campus he was also a man who didn't mind tilting at the windmills of "settled science". In his case the field was plate tectonics, also known as continental drift. Along with several scholars, especialy Alfred Wegener, Arthur Holmes and Samuel Carey, Dr. Wilson postulated the theory that the planet's plates were moving and had done so for millions of years. The position of the continents today did not reflect their position over history.
Needless to say, the Dr. Manns and Al Gores of the day were having nothing of it.

Monday, April 21, 2014
Interview with James Delingpole
At PJ Media, Ed Driscoll interviews James Delingpole, author of The Little Green Book of Eco-Fascism: The Left's Plan to Frighten Your Kids, Drive Up Energy Costs, and Hike Your Taxes, which includes his take on "the appalling" Michael Mann's lawsuit against Mark Steyn.

Ford should be considered the favourite
This CBC story still misses the point about Rob Ford when it says that he could win the Toronto mayoral race. It talks about the "power of forgiveness" and that Ford has an easily understood message (he returns calls, he respects taxpayers), but misses the more important political point: people like Ford and what he stands for. It's not just that his message is simple, but that it resonates. He represents, or at least appeals to, the values of what I usually call "normal people" -- married couples with kids, a mortgage, and a car, and those who aspire to that ideal. They generally don't go to art exhibits, prefer Austin Power movies and James Bond over anything at TIFF, and actually don't have a problem with gay couples but find the Pride Parade a little off-putting. Rob Ford isn't "weird" like the downtown candidates, especially the other two front-runners, Olivia Chow and John Tory. Chow and Tory support the arts, think that "fighting poverty" is the most important aspect of "fighting crime," and think that funding special interests is an important part of building "community" when many voters just want the garbage picked up on time, the potholes filled, and our tax dollars not to be wasted. Ford is not an effective messenger, he has an effective message. And after four years of the Left's war against him, he might have became the message himself. I am convinced that the polls understate Rob Ford's support, which is probably in the 35%-40% range and as long as there are two major candidates running against him (Chow with 35% and Tory with 20%-25%) and a handful of minor candidates that can all garner 3%-5% (Sarah Thomson, Karen Stintz, David Soknacki) the non-Rob Ford vote should break in a way to re-elect Rob Ford. What the other candidates and media don't understand is that every attack on Ford at this point is also an attack on the voters themselves.
My guess is that a lot of voters have taken my tact regarding the mayor's personal foibles: Ford's action are not defensible, but he is still very much supportable. If an election were held today, Ford would win; we don't know who will drop out or if voters will gravitate toward one candidate as part of a stop-Ford wave, so I can't predict his victory in October, but it is still very likely. The key to Chow winning is that John Tory drops out, and I think that there is a 33% chance of that occurring, or his support falls to single digits, in which case she picks up the lion's share of his voters.

Canada's official gift shop for Ottawa's political elite
The Canadian Press reports:
Canada's official gift shop is tucked into the fourth floor of a government building in nearby Gatineau, Que., but you won't see any tourists lining up at the cash register to buy coffee mugs adorned with Mounties.
This taxpayer-funded store carries only high-end souvenirs, reserved for the elite ranks of the federal government.
The so-called Gift Bank is routinely raided by cabinet ministers, heads of Crown corporations, even Supreme Court justices, whenever there's an opportunity to impress foreign dignitaries at home and abroad with a distinctively Canadian memento.
The story focuses on the gifts that politicians and bureaucrats have purchased and their price tags, but I'm more interested in how the store operates with the most important questions being: are prices reflective of market rates or do taxpayers subsidize these gifts.

'Copyright is out of control'
At Marginal Revolution Alex Tabarrok talks about the use of photos and textbooks, in which he makes two general observations:
The general lesson is that strong IP shrinks the public domain not just because it keeps things out of the public domain but also because it makes the public domain appear to be uncertain and dangerous. It’s as if clean, mountain spring water were freely available but people bought from the bottlers instead out of fear of contamination.
Copyright law is one of the forces behind the rise of the mega-bundlers. Mega-bundlers benefit from economies of scale in cataloging IP but there are also economies of scale in dealing with the legal system and insuring against/for lawsuit. It’s probably no accident that two of the largest bundlers, Corbis and Getty, are owned by Bill Gates and (Getty heir), Mark Getty respectively. (FYI, Piketty should have said more about this kind of 21st century rentier in Capital).

Single-parent families and inequality
Robert Maranto and Michael Crouch of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas write in the Wall Street Journal:
More than 20% of children in single-parent families live in poverty long-term, compared with 2% of those raised in two-parent families, according to education-policy analyst Mitch Pearlstein's 2011 book "From Family Collapse to America's Decline." The poverty rate would be 25% lower if today's family structure resembled that of 1970, according to the 2009 report "Creating an Opportunity Society" from Brookings Institution analysts Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill. A 2006 article in the journal Demography by Penn State sociologist Molly Martin estimates that 41% of the economic inequality created between 1976-2000 was the result of changed family structure.
Earlier this year, a team of researchers led by Harvard economist Raj Chetty reported that communities with a high percentage of single-parent families are less likely to experience upward mobility. The researchers' report—"Where Is the Land of Opportunity?"—received considerable media attention. Yet mainstream news outlets tended to ignore the study's message about family structure, focusing instead on variables with far less statistical impact, such as residential segregation.

Government busy-bodies
Tim Worstall on the limitless sources of state-involvement: "there’s no area of life too trivial for them to try and plan either."

Pet freedom
Reason TV has a five-and-a-half minute video on Ohio's onerous animal-ownership restrictions hurriedly passed after the 2011 Zanesville tragedy. As Maurice Thompson, director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, says: "If the animals cause harm or if the animals are even loose and roaming the streets then you throw the book at these people. Punishment or the prospect of punishment has a deterrence effect, and you have to rely upon the court system rather than over-the-top regulations to accomplish these goals."

Sunday, April 20, 2014
20?? watch (endless Clinton edition)
Why stop with Chelsea considering she's pregnant. The real question is whether Baby Clinton will run in 2052?

Three strikes
1. At FoxSports Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs studied the actual data on whether ace-level veteran pitchers get called strikes from the umpires that less experienced or lesser pitchers don't. His conclusion is that they in fact do get 2-6 more strikes per 200 innings pitched, which is negligible. But fans, especially those of opposing teams, will still see 2-6 supposedly undeserving called strikes per game.
2. Yesterday Tampa Bay Rays 3B Evan Longoria became the all-time leader homerun in team history with 164. In many ways that is not all that surprising and before long he'll probably be the leader in most offensive categories for the Rays. What might be a little surprising, as the broadcast team on the Yes Network noted today, Longoria is the only active homerun leader on any team at this time.
3. I could write an essay on Washington National's manager Matt Williams benching Bryce Harper in their game against the St. Louis Cardinals due to the young outfielder's "lack of hustle" running to first. Instead some points to consider: 1) Williams in a first-year MLB manager and he needs to establish he's the boss. 2) Williams' explanation that the new application of the "transfer rule" meant that hustling was necessary but Harper was the first batter in the inning, meaning that explanation was mostly bogus. 3) Bryce Harper is 21 years old and it is doubtful that Williams would have benched a veteran player to make his point. 4) Bryce Harper Harper has a tight quad. 5) Bryce Harper hustles often, to turn singles into doubles and balls hit near the wall into highlight reel catches, so it is doubtful that Harper needs to learn a lesson about hustle. 6) If Bryce Harper hustled and re-injured his quad, everyone, probably including Williams, would be talking about how he needs to mature and learn when to ease up a little. 7) In a close game, the Nats manager took his best player out of the game in the sixth and in the ninth inning, Washington had Kevin Frandsen at the plate instead of Bryce Harper; Williams blamed Harper for the situation, like the skipper had no choice in the matter. Overall I don't think Williams handled it well and, in fact, hate the move. It made the Nats a worse team for the remainder of the game and it was a form of grandstanding and blame deflection (cast doubt on the young superstar's work ethic in a loss). Williams could have taken Harper aside and quietly talked about the supposed lack of hustle. But Williams wanted to make a point. He did. Everyone now knows Matt Williams is a bit of a jerk.

How to read books
Tyler Cowen has advice on how to read big, important books like Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century. I totally endorse skipping difficult parts, asking (talking to) people about that which you do not understand, and writing notes/reviews because that helps you think about what you've read. I often re-read books or re-peruse books, but seldom right away. Cowen doesn't include the advice he gives in Discover Your Inner Economist to walk away from books (and movies) you started but are not enjoying.

An Easter essay
David Warren defies excerpting and his Easter essay worth reading in its entirety, from hot cross buns to St. John's gospel.

A blessed Easter to everyone
From Handel's Messiah, "I know that my Redeemer liveth."

Regulating political speech: who decides what is a 'false statement'?
Washington Post columnist George Will on a case being brought before the U.S. Supreme Court:
Occasionally, the Supreme Court considers questions that are answered merely by asking them. On Tuesday, the court will hear arguments about this: Should a government agency, whose members are chosen by elected officials, be empowered to fine or imprison any candidate or other participant in the political process who during a campaign makes what the agency considers “false statements” about a member of the political class or a ballot initiative?
The case is a complaint by former Rep. Steve Driehaus (D, Ohio) who argues that pro-lifers said he violated his pro-life views by supporter Obamacare. These are legitimately points of contention and should be debated in the political arena, not in front of bureaucrats who must make a determination about the truthfulness of political rhetoric.

College suspends professor for posting picture of daughter wearing Game of Thrones t-shirt
Ricochet reports: "Bergen Community College in New Jersey has placed professor Francis Schmidt on leave and is requiring him to meet with a psychiatrist before returning to campus—all for posting this picture of his daughter in a T-shirt quoting the popular HBO television show Game of Thrones." Administrators are concerned the quote from the TV show indicates he wants to bring an AK-47 and shoot up the school.

Saturday, April 19, 2014
Small Dead Animals notes that a comedian Joe Mande is willing to pay "anyone $100 if they fling a wad of cum at Ted Cruz's face."

How to think about 3D-printed guns
Glenn Reynolds has an informative and wise article at Popular Mechanics on the issues surrounding homemade 3D-printed guns, concluding that they are unlikely to be the problem gun-worriers suggest because "Frankly, there are much easier ways for a criminal to acquire a weapon, and a much higher quality weapon at that." Reynolds also makes a larger, more important point:
If the rise of 3D-printed guns doesn't pose much of a danger in itself, it does serve as a reminder that new technologies are enabling individuals to do things that previously seemed inconceivable. Most of those things will be beneficial or at least harmless, but some of them won't be. For good and for ill, these trade-offs are likely to be a hallmark of the 21st century.

'Liberalism unrelinquished'
Daniel Klein is trying to get people (mostly libertarians) to sign onto his project, Liberalism Unrelinquished, to reclaim the historical meaning of liberalism. After at least two generations of misuse and abuse of the term liberalism, it bears no relation to classical liberalism and it seems a little silly to try to correct people's understanding of the term at this point. Like the designated hitter rule, after some point the new tradition has ingrained itself enough to properly be understood as normative. David Henderson explains why he signed on, and why it's unwise to bet against Klein.

Gerry Nicholls on the new Kathleen Wynne ad
Communications consultant Gerry Nicholls has a good analysis of Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne's anti-Tim Hudak ad which can be neatly summarized: "her ad is almost a textbook case of what not to do."

Weekend stuff
1. FiveThirtyEight has "A Statistical Analysis of the Work of Bob Ross."
2. National Geographic reports on a Cornell study on where bee stings hurt the most. Money quote: "if you're stung in the nose and penis, you're going to want more stings to the penis over the nose, if you're forced to choose." And Slate has what it's like to be bitten by a black widow spider.
3. Timeout surveys more than 100 experts in the field an animation to create a list: "The 100 best animated movies."
4. Weird Asian News -- yeah, there's such a website -- has story and video of "Human Poodle Shows Off Weird, Scary Aerobic Sessions." And this TopTenz title is half wrong: "10 Interesting Facts About Japan You Probably Don’t Know." I knew nine of ten items on the list, but I'll grant that they are interesting.
5. At Sports on Earth, Aaron Gordon remembers the Hartford Whalers.
6. From the animal kingdom. has "5 Animals That Look Like Cartoons (Until They Kill You)." American Scientific says that it is probably a myth that "People Swallow 8 Spiders a Year While They Sleep." And Slate reports that wolves don't howl at the moon.
7. Vox has "11 board games you should be playing as an adult." I can vouch for the near endless fun that Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, and, most of all, Dominion, has brought to the grown members of our family. 401 Games near Yonge and Wellesley in Toronto is by far the best place to buy board games for both price and selection.
8. The Motley Fool on the three "Peculiar Traits of Rich People." And from Fortune: "Is your business persona working for you?"
9. Listverse: "10 Obscure Inventors And Their Wonderful Inventions," from Vaseline to surfboards.
10. Two maps about U.S. population. Nik Freeman shows the 47% of America where nobody lives. And MyLife has the "U.S. map distributed by population."
11. Idiocracy is under-appreciated as social commentary. One of its better scenes is "Brawndo's got what plants crave."

Friday, April 18, 2014
Three strikes
1. Tim Newcomb of continues his series on ballpark quirks with "San Francisco’s McCovey Cove at AT&T Park." It is quite neat how the architects incorporated the bay into the park's plans to make something very special.
2. Scott Eden of ESPN has a long article on smuggling baseball players out of Cuba detailing the very seedy business.
3. This Billy Hamilton swing is ugly.

On this day in Canadian history
On April 18, 1876, John Ross Robertson founded the Toronto Evening Telegram newspaper. It was the voice of working class Protestants and eventually became the largest circulation daily newspaper in Canada until the 1930s. In 1918, the Winnipeg Daily Tribune said of the Evening Telegram's political power: "it was practically a death-knell to the aspirations of any public man in Toronto to have Mr. Robertson and his newspaper opposed to him." The name was chosen by Robertson to stress the immediacy of the news, but that part of the paper's name was dropped in 1949. In 1971, it was closed down after losing about $1.5 million over the previous two years. Many of its editors and reporters were part of the upstart Toronto Sun although its other assets including subscriber list and downtown offices were sold to other newspapers.