Sobering Thoughts

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

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017
The denial of luck and the myth of the (entirely) self-made man
There is a very good ESPN: The Magazine cover story on Tom Brady which focuses on the quarterback's sustained success and his new book The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Peak Performance. There is some tidbits that might be of interest to those who are not football or even sports fans. This is important, however:
BRADY WRITES, "SUSTAINED peak performance isn't about luck" and claims that "much of the success I've been lucky enough to have in my career I owe to a lifelong 'will-over-skill' mindset." However, if Alford had caught the ball Brady threw to him instead of Edelman, or if the ball had followed its natural course and fallen to the turf instead of being held up by a thicket of arms and legs -- or if Pete Carroll had just handed the ball to Marshawn Lynch in Super Bowl XLIX -- we might be having an entirely different conversation about Tom Brady. He wouldn't be an immortal, and instead of talking about the efficacy of the TB12 Method in prolonging prime performance, we'd be shaking our heads about another NFL great reduced to chasing his own ghost. Brady didn't only get good against Seattle and Atlanta, he also got lucky.
I'm not denying that skill and hard work count for much of life's success, but many supposedly self-made men deny the role of luck, circumstance, and other people's decisions in their own good fortune. But this is also a warning about the narratives we create around such individuals. The fact is that Tom Brady would still be a great quarterback whether he had three, four or five Super Bowl rings. After all, he helped get the Pats to seven Super Bowls, and perhaps, with a little luck, to an eighth this season. He helped put them in a position to win with his skill and work ethic.

Pot candy panic
The Washington Post reports:
There are no documented cases of kids being poisoned by marijuana-laced Halloween candy. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
But that isn't stopping officials across the country from issuing dire warnings to parents about the alleged threat of pot candy in kids' Halloween baskets.
Police in California, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and North Carolina have issued warnings to parents to beware of this potential unsubstantiated risk.

Canada's economy 'doing well'
Yesterday: Answering questions about the ethics of Finance Minister Bill Morneau and possibly other cabinet minister, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in the House of Commons yesterday: "The issue the Conservatives and the NDP are attacking, on a personal level, is nothing but a distraction because our economy is doing well because Canadians are benefiting from growth, and they have nothing else to talk about than us."
Today: Bloomberg reports: "Canada’s economy unexpectedly contracted in August, adding to signs of a faster-than-expected cooling following a torrid pace of growth in the first half of this year." And third-quarter annualized growth could fall below 2%.

Monday, October 30, 2017
New Dutch government and Middle East policy
PoliticoEU reports, "After being without a new government since the March 15 parliamentary election, a coalition agreement was reached earlier this month and the new Cabinet will be sworn in Thursday." The article looks at five of them, including foreign trade and international cooperation minister Sigrid Kaag, a member of the left-leaning D66, who is married to Anis al-Qaq, a Fatah (PLO) politician." As part of her post, Kaag is deputy foreign minister. The Netherlands is an ally of Israel so it will be interesting to see how Kaag, who has called Benjamin Netanyahu a "racist," might influence Dutch Middle Eastern policy.

Governing is hard
The CBC: "Canadian peacekeeping proposals out of line with UN priorities: sources."
The Canadian Press: "Liberals to delay billions in planned infrastructure spending."
Add those to the MMIW inquiry problems.
I'm not being facetious when I say governing is hard. It's always easier to oppose and promise than govern. Balancing stakeholders, banging up against reality, and the limitations of government all conspire to get in the way of fulfilling promises. Perhaps humility on the part of opposition politicians would be wise. Perhaps lowered expectations on the part of voters is necessary. Many people think that everything will be fine if only the right people were in charge, but the actors in government need more than good intentions. They need resources and cooperation with other actors. But they also need the will to carry out on promises. While acknowledging that it still wouldn't be easy, Justin Trudeau probably could do more on these files. But the Trudeau government wants to remake so much of Canada in its own image, that it can't focus on a couple of priorities. If everything is a priority, then nothing is. Either international peacekeeping and infrastructure are Trudeau priorities or they aren't. If they are and he still can't deliver, the Prime Minister and the responsible ministers need to explain clearly and honestly why the delay.

What I'm reading
1. Hearts and Minds: The Battle for the Conservative Party from Thatcher to the Present by Tory grandee Oliver Letwin
2. Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919 by Mike Wallace. This book is too big and yet its hard to imagine it shorter than its 1200 pages. Large swathes are highly readable, others more suited for perusal.
3. Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. I'm not sure if I'm not excited about this book because I agree with Tyler Cowen that da Vinci is over-rated or that I think Isaacson is over-rated. I'm sure I've read a brief introductory biography that covers everything one needs to know about da Vinci. I won't read a lot of this too long book (nearly 700 pages).
4. The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won by Victor Davis Hanson. Everything you expect from VDH, both good and bad.
5. The Year of the Pitcher: Bob Gibson, Denny McLain, and the End of Baseball’s Golden Age by Sridhar Pappu. A good book even though I fundamentally disagree that baseball had a golden age.

Sunday, October 29, 2017
Francis Urquhart at 10 Downing
Amid the revelations that a current and former UK cabinet minister are among the "sex pests" being outed this weekend, the Sunday Sun reports: "Government whips keep a 'black book' of sleaze ­allegations against MPs locked away in a safe." And the Sunday Times reports: "Downing Street officials revealed that the prime minister gets weekly updates about the sexual indiscretions of Conservative MPs ... May is given a regular briefing by the Tory chief whip Gavin Williamson on misdemeanours by Tory MPs after the 8.30am planning meeting in No 10." Gavin Williamson may not be Ian Richardson Francis Urquhart; we don't know how this information was used, but it's obvious it wasn't used to get rid of (alleged) wrong-doers. Being a little grabby with women or saying/sending inappropriate and unwelcome things were not cause for dismissal. So what was the information being used for? Was Williamson blackmailing wrongdoers? Was May merely curious about the cads in her cabinet?

JRM on radio
ConservativeHome has the videos of Jacob Rees-Mogg hosting the Leading Britain's Conversation earlier this week for two hours of talk. If JRM is your thing, it's worth watching/listening. CH's Harry Phibbs observes:
[W]hile he is rich he clearly feels strongly about the particular benefit that free trade has for the poor – that Brexit will allow cheaper food, clothes, and footwear – those basic essentials which take up a higher chunk of the budgets of the low paid.
It might seem paradoxical that someone as posh, old-fashioned, and eccentric as Jacob Rees-Mogg should be an effective political communicator in modern Britain. Yet with the public yearning for authenticity and straight answers he has captured the zeitgeist. We in the Conservative Party should be grateful to have such a powerful champion.
It's not all, as Rees-Mogg himself says, a jolly good discussion about Brexit. There is an extended discussion on London's T-charge and Boris Johnson ("he's got a very great brain, but he tries to keep it under wraps") and his recent Chatham House speech. Each topic gets a full hour (42 minutes after commercials). Unfortunately, Rees-Mogg doesn't get to police wearing nail polish, as he teased at one point early in the show.
Sixteen months after Britons voted to leave the European Union, Rees-Mogg is the country's most principled, most articulate spokesman for Brexit.

Boeing vs. Bombardier: battle of the corporate welfare queens
George Will has an excellent column on Boeing complaining to the US government about Canada's Bombardier, and seeking special protection for their product (airplanes). Will reports:
All manufacturers of commercial aircraft, including Boeing, sell their products for amounts substantially below list prices. (Boeing’s 787 lost $29 billion over five years before becoming profitable last year.) Boeing, however, cheekily charges that Bombardier is able to be excessively nice to U.S purchasers because the C Series receives government subsidies, including equity investments, worth under $2.8 billion. This is, however, the Boeing pot calling the Bombardier kettle black.
As Will explains:
Bombardier is indeed subsidized to a fare-thee-well. The Canadian government subsidizes the Montreal-based company, as does the province of Quebec. But the U.S. government essentially provides Boeing with its own financial institution: The company is by far the largest beneficiary of what is known as “Boeing’s Bank” — the misbegotten Export-Import Bank. It provides cheap loans to Boeing’s overseas customers, lowering the real prices they pay. In 2014, 68 percent of the bank’s long-term loan guarantees — its primary business — was on Boeing’s behalf. Boeing also benefits from government contracts — 23 percent of its 2016 revenue; the Defense Department is its largest customer — and from state governments’ incentives worth billions (e.g., $8.7 billion from Washington state).
Still, Washington gave Boeing a hand:
[T]he Commerce Department ... imposed an astonishing 219.63 percent tariff on imports of Bombardier’s C Series, supposedly to compensate for subsidies the company receives, and another 79.82 percent as punishment for not charging Delta, a U.S. airline, more. This 299.45 percent duty — Boeing had suggested 160 percent — would quadruple the planes’ price, effectively closing the U.S. market to them, thereby threatening Bombardier’s survival.
So, let's recount: Boeing, which wasn't competing on the deal about which they sought action, complains that Bombardier is unfairly subsidized while being excessively subsidized itself, and obtains a solution to the problem nearly twice as punitive as they were seeking. Isn't crony capitalism grand?

Four week 8 NFL games to watch
Honourable mention: Denver Broncos (3-3) at Kansas City Chiefs (5-2), Monday night: Three weeks ago, this might have been the game of the week. Both teams have lost two in a row. Broncs were shutout last week and have scored just 42 points in the past four games. Ignore the Jamaal Charles returning home narrative. Chiefs rookie RB Kareem Hunt is an exciting playmaker and the league-leading rusher, the Broncs allow a league-low 3.0 rushing yards per attempt and second-best 71.8 rushing yards per game. That should be a good matchup to watch. But the Chiefs should win easily as Trevor Siemian is not living up to the early promise of the first few weeks. Siemian's 82.5 passer rating is three points behind Blake Bortles and his Total QBR is 27th overall (35.6) just behind Jay Cutler. Chiefs grind out a victory over the Broncs in a low-scoring affair.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) at Detroit Lions (3-3) Sunday night: Lions are coming off a bye a week after a messy 52-38 loss against the Saints. They do not to seem to have their fourth-quarter magic anymore and their middling offense faces the #2 defense according to Football Outsiders. The Steelers offense (ranked fifth by FO) is a lot of fun to watch now that Le'Veon Bell is running and Ben Roethlisberger is finding his targets (excluding Martavis Bryant, who won't be playing Sunday). Watching this Steelers offense is getting fun again, and if its close-ish, Lions fans will expect a Matthew Stafford-led comeback. I wouldn't bet on it as the Detroit O-line, which has allowed 17 sacks in the last three games, will have trouble stopping T.J. Watt and Bud DuPree (Steelers are second in sacks with 24 in seven games). Pittsburgh wins.
3. Dallas Cowboys (3-3) at Washington Redskins (3-3), late Sunday afternoon: It looks like both teams are going to have trouble keeping up with the NFC-leading Eagles, and the Skins, who have already lost a pair of games against Philadelphia, will be down almost all tie-breakers within the division. Kirk Cousins is playing behind a banged up O-line and will have to face DeMarcus Lawrence, second in the NFL in sacks. If Cousins does avoid pressure, he shouldn't have much trouble against the Cowboys secondary. So there is a strength (Cowboys' pass rush) vs. weakness (Washington's O-line), and if Washington overcomes that, it's strength (Cousins' arm) vs. weakness (Dallas secondary). It seems that both of these teams are underperforming. Football Outsiders has Washington as okay but not good offense and defense, however it has Dallas as the fourth most efficient offense. However, with rain expected in DC, Dak Prescott might be challenged. Dallas is probably the better team, but go with Washington eking out a home victory.
2. Los Angeles Chargers (3-4) at New England Patriots (5-2), early Sunday afternoon: The Bolts have won three in a row and they have a dominant pass rush. Joey Bosa -- who has 18 sacks in his first 19 pro games -- and Melvin Ingram have become one of the best pass rush duos, but the Chargers will need to find a way to get to Tom Brady up the middle. The key to beating Brady isn't pressure from the edges but pressure from the A-gap. The Patriots have surrendered 300+ yards to every QB they've faced until they played Matt Ryan last week; Philip Rivers should be able to carve up the Pats defense. New England's D is improving but they are still a below average defense. The Pats should still win, but it will be uncomfortably close (three of LA's four losses were by three points or less).
1. Houston Texans (3-3) at Seattle Seahawks (4-2), late Sunday afternoon: It is difficult to imagine a more important, more interesting inter-conference game at this point of the season. Houston is chasing both Tennessee and Jacksonville in the AFC South, while Seattle is trying to keep pace with the Los Angeles Rams. The Seahawks have won three in a row and are always tough at home. Seattle's D has allowed 33 points in those three games. It faces arguably the best QB in football right now, rookie Deshaun Watson (league-leading 80.8 Total QBR). Watson has 12 passing TDs over his past three games plus a rushing touchdown. Watson vs. Seattle's D is the weekend's best matchup. It will be difficult for Houston to win in Seattle, but their defense has been is able to pressure opposing QBs even without J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, so Russell Wilson's offense might have some trouble moving the ball behind an incredibly porous and banged-up O-line. I'm too chicken to predict a Houston upset, so I'm predicting Seattle hometown mojo helping the Seahawks edge past the Texans.

Saturday, October 28, 2017
Two recent links
On Friday, Tyler Cowen linked to this Rolf Degen tweet and asks: "Do people have more sympathy for puppies than adult humans?"
On Saturday, Tyler Cowen linked to this Seattle Times story about euthanizing people with mental illness in Belgium.

Thursday, October 26, 2017
Republicans divided over taxes
Geography and ideology means the Big Tent GOP is having difficulty uniting behind a tax plan to pass in Congress. Republican congressmen and senators from states like New York cannot support a bill that reduces or eliminates the state and local tax (SALT) deductions which will predominantly hit voters in Blue States. Others are more concerned about the impact tax cuts will have on the deficit, and are looking at ways to reduce retirement savings deductions. The New York Times reports that there is not only a chasm between Congress and the White House or the leadership and their fellow legislators, but the party's lawmakers and its voters:
Polling suggests Republican voters subscribe less to the tax cut philosophy than their elected representatives. A report this week from the Pew Research Center, based on polling in August, found that “Republicans were not especially unified in support of tax cuts,” said Carroll Doherty, the center’s director of political research.
A September poll from the online survey company SurveyMonkey found that three-quarters of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents approve of cutting corporate taxes, which is the centerpiece of the tax plan. But that poll, and a related one in October, found a divide: Republican voters who approve of Mr. Trump were far more likely to approve of corporate tax cuts and to say that they believe their individual taxes will fall next year than those who have turned against the president.
The governing of philosophy of the Republicans can be summarized as "tax cuts, tax cuts, and tax cuts." But various GOP lawmakers have different taxes they want cut. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the inability of members of the same party to make compromises amongst themselves is a bad omen that they are unlikely to get a filibuster-proof cross-party consensus to pass tax cuts any time soon.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017
2020 watch (Biden edition)
Joe Biden is interviewed in the December edition of Vanity Fair. He tells the magazine: "I haven’t decided to run, but I’ve decided I’m not going to decide not to run. We’ll see what happens." He also says: "I've got too much more to do to write an autobiography. For real. I don’t consider my attempt to contribute to the public square finished." I think there a 100% chance he'll talk about running until summer 2019 and less than a 10% chance he'll actually run.

Pregnant people
The Daily Telegraph reports:
Expectant mothers should be called “pregnant people”, the Government has suggested in a submission to amend a UN treaty.
The proposed amendment is to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the UK has been a signatory of since 1976.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s submission suggests the term “pregnant people” to avoid excluding “transgender people who have given birth”, The Sunday Times reported.
An FCO spokesman said: “The UK does not object to the use of the term 'pregnant woman'. We strongly support the right to life of pregnant women, and we have requested that the Human Rights Committee does not exclude pregnant transgender people from that right to life.”
The Foreign office is following the lead of the British Medical Association which earlier this year advised doctors to reference pregnant people, not pregnant mothers. Last year the University of Chicago Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, made a similar pronouncement.
It is also strange that the government which support legal abortion and expanding international abortion services, references a right to life in their expansive definition of individuals who may be pregnant.

McCullough on Rafe Mair
J.J. McCullough writes a nice tribute to the late Rafe Mair, a British Columbia politician and longtime radio host, for C2C Journal which concludes:
Canada does not produce many truly independent political thinkers, men and women capable of viewing this country and its rulers with the sort of distance and detachment required for deep and creative insight. Here in British Columbia, the province as physically far from Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal as it’s possible to be while still remaining in the same country, we did.
I recommend reading the full essay.

The myth of the coat-hanger abortion
British writer Ann Farmer, author of By Their Fruits: Eugenics, Population Control, and the Abortion Campaign, writes in Mercatonet about the myth of the coat-hanger abortion:
[I]t is interesting to see pro-abortionists brandishing coat hangers as a warning against restricting legal abortion. Now they are ubiquitous thanks to high street dry cleaners, but in the 1960s most abortions were done in hospital under 1930s case law.
When in 1938 Britain established the Birkett inquiry into illegal abortion, wooden hangers were prized possessions; the one I inherited was covered with my uncle’s dire pencilled threats against any brother who dared to ‘borrow’ it. Most poor people hung their clothes on a nail on the door or wall, or on a chair; best outfits would be pressed not in a dry cleaner’s but under the mattress.
Illegal abortionists did use foreign objects, but as eminent Birkett witness, pathologist Sir Bernard Spilsbury insisted, the most effective method was injecting fluid into the womb – dangerous, and also difficult for women to perform on themselves; even modern feminists have agreed.
Spilsbury suggested that after trying allegedly abortifacient “remedies” that did not work, women would seek – or more often were taken to – an illegal abortionist.This was no easy matter, unlike in the film Vera Drake, since owing to their tendency to kill and maim they usually kept on the move ...
Backstreet abortionists did not use coat hangers, and pro-abortion feminists did not brandish them in 1960s protest marches because there was no active feminist movement and no pro-abortion marches – only anti-abortion protests by nurses. Over the years, however, the myth has bolstered the campaign for legal abortion to avoid a ‘return’ to something that never happened.
At a pro-choice conference on abortion in Canada at the University of Toronto several years ago in which several abortionists spoke, several doctors admitted that illegal abortions were committed in hospitals and filed as hysterectomies or other surgeries for the purpose of billing and avoiding criminal sanction. Administrators and doctors knew what was going on in the sorts of hospitals were doctors were willing to do abortions, which were few but still readily available in large cities. Illegal abortions were not carried out in the back alley with coat hangers but in hospitals with proper, sterilized equipment. Coat hangers were political imagery, not medical reality.

Australian crony capitalism
Alan Moran writes in Quadrant about the specific policy approaches of the major business lobby groups and finds them uncomfortably comfortable with statist intervention, especially clean energy programs:
Once and not so long ago, bodies such as the Business Council and Australian Chamber of Commerce were champions of deregulation and free markets. These days they are part of the problem, supporting the ruinous absurdity of renewable energy while jockeying for handouts and favours.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017
What I'm reading
1. WTF? An Economic Tour of the Weird by Peter T. Leeson. Isaac Moorehouse says of WTF?: "It’s like Ripley’s Believe it Or Not; enjoyable as much for entertainment as enlightenment."
2. End of Its Rope: How Killing the Death Penalty Can Revive Criminal Justice by Brandon L. Garrett. I am not unsympathetic to Garrett's argument that ending capital punishment could lead to other improvements in the criminal justice system. I am unconvinced by his insistence that the public mood in America has turned against the ultimate punishment and that executions are on their way out.
3. Legends: The Best Players, Games, and Teams in Football by Howard Bryant. Came out last year, just reading it now. Lots of lists. Lots of fun.

Just say no -- to jail for non-dangerous offenders
As Harvey Silverglate has pointed out the average American commits three felonies a day. The United States has too many laws. There is a way to protect Americans from being criminalized for non-violent offenses. Writer and entrepreneur David Gornoski, who recently launched a project called A Neighbor’s Choice "which seeks to introduce Jesus’ culture of nonviolence to both Christians and the broader public," wrote in The American Conservative about the incredible responsibility of jurors in upholding individual freedom against the tyranny of the state:
But one thing most jurists are not is aware. They are not aware of the lawful intention of the creation of the jury system as a check on collective oppression against the individual. They are not aware of their power to “just say no” to the easy catharsis of going along with a collective attack against a nonviolent misfit. They are not aware of the violence, alienation, and resentment that is escalated by laws against nonviolent actions ...
If a person is not accused of theft, fraud, harming a minor, or physical violence, there is no place for them in a cell. If we show our neighbors this truth, perhaps we will turn the lights onto the ridiculous tragic comedy of state laws against nonviolent persons.

Math is racist
Campus Reform reports:
A math education professor at the University of Illinois argued in a newly published book that algebraic and geometry skills perpetuate “unearned privilege” among whites.
Rochelle Gutierrez, a professor at the University of Illinois, made the claim in a new anthology for math teachers, arguing that teachers must be aware of the “politics that mathematics brings” in society.
“On many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness. Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as White,” Gutierrez argued.
Gutierrez also worries that algebra and geometry perpetuate privilege, fretting that “curricula emphasizing terms like Pythagorean theorem and pi perpetuate a perception that mathematics was largely developed by Greeks and other Europeans."
Furthermore, Gutierrez argues that mathematics perpetuates white privilege because it is a skill "our economy places a premium on." Hmmm. Trashing math in the eyes of visible minorities is not likely to help them, then.
(HT: Stephen Green at Instapundit)

2020 watch (Mark Cuban edition)
The Washington Post reports speculates about Mark Cuban challenging Donald Trump for the presidency, perhaps even in the GOP primaries. It focuses on the on-again, off-again friendship between the two billionaires. I don't believe most famous people are friends in the way most normal people use the term. They are high-powered acquaintances: they share a class (Silicon Valley, Hollywood, pro-athletes) and some (self-)interests, but they probably don't confide in each other. Their dinners are half-business. They share life experiences completely foreign to most others, including journalists and other rich people, but they don't share their deep feelings about them. Perhaps I'm cynical. But the idea of these two friends facing each other in the electoral arena is more narrative than reality.
None of this background -- the Twitter feud, the insults over TV shows, the compliments Trump pays Cuban when they have a joint business venture -- is new, but it's useful to have it collected in one story. It also shows that Trump has always been Trump, that it isn't a political mask. It might be a mask, but it is not a new one created for the 2016 presidential cycle.
The Post reports:
And when Trump’s government was struggling to aid a hurricane-decimated Puerto Rico (and Trump was feuding with a mayor on the island), Cuban was using the Mavericks team plane to ferry supplies to the island, the Morning News reported.
If anyone saw political aspirations in Cuban’s actions, the Mavericks owner did little to deny the notion. Cuban spoke openly of a possible run against Trump in Austin in March, in Georgia two weeks ago and again on Friday in his interview on Fox with Levin.
On Friday, Cuban told Harvey Levin: "You need somebody who can connect to people and relate to people at a base level and appreciate what they’re going through. I think I qualify on each of those." He then "teased his plan for health-care reform." I doubt Cuban will run, but I didn't think Trump was serious about running either. Perhaps the the House has become little more than a vanity project for billionaires, a prize in a long-running feud. We should expect a lot more celebrity (Mark Zuckerbrg, Oprah Winfrey) speculation in the next two years in the lead-up to the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary in less than 28 months. Once these famous people put the kibosh on political rumours, they won't be interviewed on the cable news network shows, and more than money and power these people crave attention.

Monday, October 23, 2017
Budgets are about choices
Washington Post columnist Robert J. Samuelson has a "quick rundown" of the U.S. budget. The main takeaway is that the public and its representatives must make choices: what to spend money on, how much, and how to pay for it. There is a lot of entitlement spending that too many politicians and voters don't want touched. There is a lot of declining military spending that not many politicians and voters want to pay for. There is a lot of discretionary spending that too many politicians and voters are loathe to cut deeply. Taxes might be too high but are not covering the costs of government spending. Economic times are relatively good now which is when difficult decisions about spending priorities should be made, but politicians and the public don't want to discuss choices. The U.S. budget is a mess and going to get worse, with worse meaning harder and harder to pay for.
It is important to note that neither Republicans nor Democrats are serious about making the long-term budget of the United States manageable. They all seem to think budgets will balance themselves, or at the very least that the political reckoning will be much later or for the other side.
This is the most important line from the column: "Given the magnitude of existing and projected deficits, there is no plausible rate of economic growth that, if attained, would balance the budget." Again, the budget will not balance itself.

2017 in three paragraphs
The National Post reports:
Don’t call young people “millennials,” because they find the term offensive, the federal government has been told.
In focus groups conducted for Employment and Social Development Canada, researchers determined earlier this year the word elicits “strong negative connotations” and is “considered derogatory and insulting to this generation.”
Less than a month later, however, the department posted on its website an infographic, complete with a motif of a baby next to a tablet, called “Understanding & Attracting Millennials.” A list of “millennial traits” on the graphic includes that they’re “tech natives,” “socially responsible,” “want to actively participate” and “want to be heard.”
Two points reflect Canada perfectly in 2017.
1. Young people are easily offended.
2. The Trudeau Liberals pretend to listen to expert advice and then do what they want anyway.

PMJT's historic debt-load
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has famously broken his promise of running modest deficits for four years before getting back to balance. Trudeau will incur more debt than any prime minister not facing a war or recession/depression. The Fraser Institute has a brief report extrapolating on this important point:
[O]f the prime ministers who did not face a global conflict or economic downturn during their tenure, the analysis finds that by the end of his term in 2019, Justin Trudeau is expected to be the largest debt accumulator (5 percent). The only other two prime ministers to increase federal debt without fighting a world war or experiencing an economic downturn are Sir Mackenzie Bowell and Sir John Abbott who both served in the late 19th century.
There have only been eight prime ministers that did not experience either a global conflict or economic downturn. And some that did face calamities, like Stephen Harper, continued running debts long after the downturn ended (and, arguably, incurred larger deficits than even Keynesians thought were economically necessary).
The Fraser study shows that William Lyon McKenzie King reduced the per capita debt immediately after the Depression and World War II. Furthermore, Louis St. Laurent reduced per person debt despite facing two recessions and massive spending on infrastructure in the 1950s. You might say it was an age of unusual economic growth (it was), but Canada under Justin Trudeau is a G7 leader in economic growth and even if it is lower than it was six decades ago, it is still higher than most economists expected when Trudeau made his deficit promise in the 2015 election campaign. So what is Canada getting over the long-term for Trudeau's deficits? The Trudeau infrastructure bank isn't up and running yet. Nothing of national import is being built.

Story interrupted
A group of Washington Post reporters have a story on how Donald Trump isn't that great of a dealmaker. It's nothing new. He reverses course, he's unpredictable, he has no ideological underpinning or partisan loyalty. There is some advice on how to win a negotiation with the President. Best to flatter Trump, be the last person to talk to him, and give him something to claim victory. (This advice applies to most people, not just Trump.) What is odd about the article is that it reports the President phoned Senator Lamar Alexander (R, Tenn) and interrupted dinner with his wife. It also reports the President called Senator Chuck Schumer (D, NY) and interrupted his workout at the gym. Is it now policy for the Post to report when communications between members of the executive branch and legislators interrupt their on-goings? I assume this happens frequently and I'm not sure what the authors are trying to do. Are they suggesting that the President doesn't mind intruding on the private lives of lawmakers? Are they showing he works hard when others are not? It doesn't matter that Trump's calls interrupted a dinner or a workout. I've never had a meal with a politician or staffer that was not interrupted by a call, so I'm not sure what the big deal is. The communication, not the interruption, is part of the deal, unless Trump is deliberately calling these legislators at inconvenient times. But that is an assumption and the Post doesn't make clear what these details are supposed to illustrate. My guess is that the response to these interruptions will be tribal; Democrats will see this as the President being rude while Trump Republicans will see them as evidence the President is always working for America. The problem is these bare details do not add to the story, but allow readers to read-in what they want.

The fertility industry. And why isn't the Left condemning designer babies?
The Washington Post reports on the search for good genes that is helping the assisted reproduction business. Some stats about the state of the industry:
The multibillion-dollar fertility industry is booming, and experimenting with business models that are changing the American family in new and unpredictable ways. Would-be parents seeking donor eggs and sperm can pick and choose from long checklists of physical and intellectual characteristics. Clinics now offer volume discounts, package deals and 100 percent guarantees for babymaking that are raising complicated ethical and legal questions.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 percent of American women 15 to 55 — 7.3 million — have used some sort of fertility service; the use of assisted reproductive technologies has doubled in the past decade. In 2015, these procedures resulted in nearly 73,000 babies — 1.6 percent of all U.S. births. The rate is even higher in some countries, including Japan (5 percent) and Denmark (10 percent).
Most couples use their own eggs and sperm, turning to doctors to facilitate pregnancy through techniques such as in vitro fertilization (IVF). But the use of donor gametes is on the rise. The donor-egg industry, in particular, has taken off in the past decade with the development of a safe and reliable egg-freezing process. The number of attempted pregnancies with donor eggs has soared from 1,800 in 1992 to almost 21,200 in 2015.
Skeptics of in vitro fertilization have long warned that eventually scientists would screen for positive traits. The Post reports that it isn't just scientists but entrepreneurs:
Prospective parents can filter and sort potential donors by race and ethnic background, hair and eye color, and education level. They also can get much more personal information: audio of the donor’s voice, photos of the donor as a child and as an adult, and written responses to questions that read like college-application essays.
Want your sperm donor to have a B.A. in political science? Want your egg donor to love animals? Want the genes of a Division I athlete? All of these are possible. Prospective parents overwhelmed by all the choices can leave it to the heavens and pick a donor by astrological sign ...
Fertility companies freely admit that specimens from attractive donors go fast, but it’s intelligence that drives the pricing: Many companies charge more for donors with a graduate degree.
Talent sells, too. One cryobank, Family Creations, which has offices in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Austin and other large cities, notes that a 23-year-old egg donor “excels in calligraphy, singing, modeling, metal art sculpting, painting, drawing, shading and clay sculpting.” A 29-year-old donor “excels in softball, tennis, writing and dancing.”
The Seattle Sperm Bank categorizes its donors into three popular categories: “top athletes,” “physicians, dentists and medical residents,” and “musicians.”
And the Fairfax Cryobank in Northern Virginia, one of the nation’s largest, typically stocks sperm from about 500 carefully vetted donors whose profiles read like overeager suitors on a dating site: Donor No. 4499 “enjoys swimming, fencing and reading and writing poetry.” Donor No. 4963 “is an easygoing man with a quick wit.” Donor No. 4345 has “well-developed pectorals and arm muscles.”
It's funny that we don't hear from the left-wing crowd that frets about inequality. They should strongly oppose the upper middle class and better choosing offspring that are more talented to go along with their class advantages.

Friday, October 20, 2017
Post-Brexit trade for UK
Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith writes in the Daily Mail: "Of course, in all negotiations there’s a moment similar to this when each side tries to figure out how far the other will go, or whether they will capitulate." The UK and EU have reached that point on trade. IDS writes that London must prepare to be a leader for free trade outside the EU, but that the UK can be pro-trade with the EU at the same time. These goals are not mutually exclusive. He explains:
If the UK continued in the European regulatory environment or customs union, then we would suffer because other countries would think we were not serious about free trade.
To achieve our aims, five things are vital.
First, the UK and EU must have identical regulatory systems from day one of Brexit. Second, our relationship must be based on WTO rules. Third, while we would accept the common external tariff on all imports from outside the EU, we would be free to lower tariffs when and where we choose.
Fourth, we should immediately lobby the WTO to liberalise financial and other services – something which has seen little progress for 20 years.
Fifth, Britain must take the lead in many other areas such as electronic commerce.
This should be our ambition, to lead in global organisations setting key standards.
This is why it is vital we now show how optimistic we are about the possibilities available to us. For its part, the EU must decide quickly which arrangement for Britain it wants.

Ignore Brexit talk pessimists
Henry Newman, director of Open Europe, writes in The Guardian:
The European council’s decision to tell Theresa May to, in effect, “Go back, try harder” is no surprise. It always seemed overwhelmingly likely that the 27 heads of government would rubber-stamp the recommendation of their lead negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier, that the UK has not yet made “sufficient progress” to talk trade. And (whisper it) EU leaders seem to be rather enjoying the theatre of all this – why release the pressure when you can keep the squeeze on the Brits?
But the simple truth is that there is probably relatively little that the UK could have done that would have persuaded the EU to green-light trade talks at this summit. Officials had already determined the outcome of the summit weeks ago. So the British team should be thinking Keep Calm and Carry On rather than crying May day.
A lot has already been agreed in the negotiations. Angela Merkel’s comments yesterday that she has “no doubt” a Brexit deal will be secured are helpful. Yet in our divided post-referendum political landscape there is all too often an unfortunate tendency to abandon critical faculties when considering statements from Brussels, while rightly cranking them up to full dial when following government utterances ...
Meanwhile several of Open Europe’s contacts at the London embassies of EU member states have confirmed to us that they are pleased with developments in the talks. One embassy is even sending the message back to their capital that the UK had moved about as far as it could at this stage of the talks and there is a danger of backing the prime minister into a corner – precisely what May herself is now saying.
In other words, despite difficulties the Brexit talks are better than European officials are letting on publicly. Remember, this is a negotiation and the naysaying on the continent is a tactic the E27 will use to get a better deal.
As part of Britain's negotiating tactics, they are leaking the most recent preparations of leaving the EU without a deal. The (London) Times reports:
David Davis is to present an upbeat assessment of a “no-deal” Brexit to the cabinet in a big shift in Britain’s negotiating strategy. The Brexit secretary has ordered officials to step up the preparations for a failure to strike a deal with the EU, The Times has been told. He is expected to outline the benefits of the scenario in a presentation on Hallowe’en, a move that will alarm some pro-Remain colleagues.

Thursday, October 19, 2017
Xi Jinping's address
The Guardian reports on the Chinese communist leader's speech to the party: "Xi Jinping tests eyelids – and bladders – with three-and-a-half hour speech." The Washington Post editorialized about Xi Jinping's speech and the direction Red China has taken in recent years:
In perhaps the most important speech of his career, Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Wednesday promised “a new era” that “sees China moving closer to center stage” as “a leading global power” with a “world-class” military. Given how else he described the regime he intends to fashion over the next few years, that prediction ought to concern the world’s democratic nations.
A decade and more ago, the United States and other Western leaders were urging China to become a global “stakeholder.” But the superpower that Mr. Xi intends to lead doesn’t look like the cooperative partner and gradually liberalizing society they imagined. Instead, China’s 64-year-old ruler, having concentrated power in his own hands, now seeks to reinforce the authority of the Communist Party in all areas of life, at the expense of the rule of law, political dissent, private enterprise and even privacy itself: A new system of social monitoring will minutely record and rate the activities of every citizen, while storing their facial images for easy recognition.
Advocates of more and freer trade with China in the 1990s said that trade and technology would inevitably result in a more open, tolerant, and democratic China. Those predictions have not come to fruition. Indeed, as the Post suggests, the dictatorship is worse.

'I am woman, hear me roar, but pay for my birth control'
Denver Post columnist Krista Kafer wrote last week about the entitlement mentality and birth control:
The idea that women should not or cannot be expected to contribute financially to their sexual health is pernicious because men are expected to do so. That women must be given “free” things in order to thrive undermines the very principle of equality. “I am woman, hear me roar, but pay for my birth control” is not a statement of power but weakness.
Kafer also says it is weird that birth control would be covered when so many other expensive, necessary, life-saving medical interventions are not.

Four week 7 NFL games to watch
Honourable mention: New Orleans Saints (3-2) at Green Bay Packers (4-2) would have been top four if Aaron Rodgers was healthy, but Drew Brees vs. Todd Hundley doesn't have quite the same marquee value. If you love one-sided offensive games, this is must-watch football as Brees should be able to tear apart the soft Packers D. Instead of watching Rodgers match Brees drive for drive, however, you'll get Hundley playing behind a banged-up O-line. You should probably want to see what Hundley can do in his first career start and how much Mike McCarthy changes things up for his inexperienced starter. However, the Kansas City Chiefs (5-1) at Oakland Raiders (2-4) on Thursday evening is worth watching. After laying an egg against Pittsburgh on Sunday, the Chiefs are looking to rebound. The Raiders are looking for their first victory in a month. Oakland will be effectively eliminated from the playoffs if they drop to 2-5. I'd bet on that happening.
4. Arizona Cardinals (3-3) at Los Angeles Rams (4-2), early Sunday afternoon, from England: Divisional contest and it the way the Cards are slogging along and the breakthrough second-year QB Jared Goff has made makes it feel like that these two teams are separated by more than a single win. Arizona allows just 3.3 yards per rush attempt (fourth best) so RB Todd Hurley might not be able to take much pressure off of Goff. I'm not sold on the Cardinals after their geriatric squad had a great single game last week (Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, and Adrian Peterson are all in their 30s). The Rams front seven should be able to stop Peterson and get to Palmer. LA will have just enough offense to edge past Arizona across the pond.
3. Atlanta Falcons (3-2) at New England Patriots (4-2), Sunday night: The narrative will become nauseating: Super Bowl rematch, blown Falcons lead. Both teams seems like they are underperforming. Falcons have lost their last two. If you remember their opening game, they were a dropped catch away from losing in Chicago. Giving up 20 second-half points to the hapless offense of Miami last week is reminiscent of their Super Bowl loss. Football Outsiders rates New England with the second most efficient offense, Atlanta as the fourth. Falcons QB Matt Ryan should look good facing a Patriots defense is allowing a league worst 440.7 yards per game, 26.5 ppg (3rd worst in the NFL), and is dead last in FO's defensive efficiency; every opposing QB has thrown for more than 300 yards in every game this season. Matt Ryan will, too. In Atlanta, I could pick the Falcons, but it's hard to see the struggling team beating Tom Brady in Foxborough, even if New England has already lost twice at home. This game will be a lot of fun to watch if you play a version of the drinking game for every mention of Atlanta's Super Bowl meltdown.
2. Cincinnati Bengals (2-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2), late Sunday afternoon: Both of these teams seem to be on the upswing after disappointing starts. Cincy famously did not score a touchdown in their opening two games and then fired their offensive coordinator. Since then, they's scored 75 points (and allowed just 50), and their only loss was in overtime against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Pittsburgh has been underperforming on offense all year, but last week the Steelers beat the best team record-wise last week (the Chiefs) following seven days of questioning if Ben Roethlisberger's career was bottoming-out. The Bengals and Steelers are ranked second and third in total yards allowed per game (under 273) and their defenses are ranked third and fourth respectively according to Football Outsiders. Cincinnati's run defense is about average, which might allow the Steelers offense to be diverse enough to be dangerous. Le'Veon Bell has averaged 4.1 yards per rush or more in three of the past four games and ran for 144 yards against Baltimore and 179 against KC, two decent defenses. When Pittsburgh establishes the run, it opens up their speedy receivers. The Bengals come off a bye but they are playing in Pittsburgh. Steelers end the Bengals winning streak at two.
1. Washington Redskins (3-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-1), Monday night: Philadelphia appears to be the class of the NFC with Aaron Rodgers out (Football Outsiders has them with a 91% chance of making the playoffs -- no other team is at 70% -- and a 60.9% chance of winning a bye). The Eagles have already beaten the Skins once this year. A win would put Philly well ahead in the division and have them owning the tiebreaker against Washington. The Eagles and Skins have the fifth and eighth ranked offenses according to Football Outsiders, but both have middling defenses. Should be a game with sufficient scoring to keep it interesting. Washington is a popular upset pick this week, but I don't see Kirk Cousins beating Carson Wentz, if only because the Philly pass rush is pretty strong and Washington's D is missing key pieces: its best cornerback (Josh Norman) is recovering from a fractured rib (so even if he plays, he won't be 100%) and best defensive lineman (Jonathan Allen) is out a few more weeks. Eagles go to 6-1 and the Redskins fall to 500.

Victimhood is coveted status
I'm not saying that people want to be a victim, only that people enjoy the status which is a privileged one. Stephanie Gutmann at Spiked-Online:
Here’s the problem with #MeToo-ism and the chortling over Weinstein (even if he was a big Hillary donor, etc, etc): they have become an excuse for a feeding frenzy. The mantle of victimhood is too tempting to pass up, so accusation and grievance is spreading.
Gutmann's essay is worth reading for a number of other points she makes, including raising the issue of whether heightened "sexual energy translated into productive energy," as Helen Gurley Brown surmised. Gutmann also warns about making the story of one man -- the vile Harvey Weinstein -- a story about all men. Gutmann also recalls a not entirely unwanted attention she received as an intern that would likely not occur today because of heightened sensitivity about sexual harassment.

GM foods
Chris Bullivant has a tremendous article defending the benefits of genetically modified foods at Unherd. In short, GM foods will allow us to feed a lot of people with less land. It is the only sustainable way to feed a growing population. Bullivant makes the point that while being GM-free is a lifestyle choice in the west, it is a life-saving source of food for people in the developing world.
Putting aside the moral arguments of whether virtue-signaling westerners should be allowed to starve to death the poor, out-of-sight people of Africa and south Asia, there is also the issue of hypocrisy how ill-informed the anti-GM set is. Bullivant explains that food does not have to be produced by Monsanto to be genetically modified and that campaigns against GM food dressed up as mere information ignore a lot of altered foods:
Humans have been altering the genetic composition of foods for thousands of years. The orange carrot is not natural. Afghan farmers turned carrots yellow from white 1,100 years ago. 500 years ago Europeans bred them orange, popular among the Dutch wishing to venerate their royal family, the House of Orange. Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower have been developed by humans since 1400 from a wild mustard plant. The history of maize, corn, sweetcorn, is one of 10,000 years’ un-natural selection, begun in present-day Mexico. North American Indians introduced sweetcorn to Europeans in the 18th Century, and the process to create super sweet sweetcorn and popcorn today are all the result of human interference in the natural process of breeding and in the growth cycle of the plant. But even if we accept that some human interference is necessary or acceptable or an historic reality, at least with organic food no-one has interfered with DNA unnaturally, in the lab, right?
Wrong. Ruby red grapefruits came onto the market in the 70s and 80s. They were produced by mutagenesis, the process of randomly scrambling genes by exposure to atomic radiation or soaking in chemicals. It’s an attempt to speed up the evolutionary process by creating accidental mutations on a quicker scale than can be achieved over 10,000 years of human intervention, as with sweetcorn. It is clearly not natural, but it is the process by which some 3,000 crop varieties have been created, including wheat that goes into pasta.
So while there is labelling for GMO foods for the sake of ‘transparency’, there aren’t labels on organic foods to say they are unnatural because Aztecs bred them, or fake because a lab in Texas nuked seeds with gamma rays to see what it would do.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Fruits of the one-child policy
Reuters doesn't explore the issue as much as features the story of one Chinese woman, but this is the important part of the story:
Her stepfather was dying from pulmonary heart disease in an intensive care unit on the other side of the country and Zheng Yue had to rush to the airport to catch a flight to see him ...
The trip was important for her. She said she never really knew her biological father, who died when she was two. Her mother’s second husband was abusive, and she and her mother left him. This husband was better, and she developed genuine feelings for him as a father.
Now, she said, she was feeling the pressures of what lay ahead for her and her family, a common worry among the generation that sprang from China’s one-child policy.
“Being an only child means that down the line you’ll have to support the whole family,” she said.
Zheng's father died, and while this may be harsh, her brief response seems to betray relief at not having to be responsible for him.

D.C. Museum of the Bible
The Washington Post reports on the Green family funded Museum of the Bible opening in Washington D.C.:
The Museum of the Bible, a massive new institution opening next month just south of the Mall, is just as notable for what it ­includes — vivid walk-through re-creations of the ancient world, one of the world’s largest private collections of Torahs, a motion ride that sprays water at you, a garden of biblical plants — as for what it leaves out.
The $500 million museum, chaired and largely funded by the conservative Christian family that owns Hobby Lobby, doesn’t say a word about the Bible’s views on sexuality or contraception. The museum doesn’t encourage visitors to take the Bible literally or to believe that the Bible has only one correct form. And on floor after gleaming floor of exhibitions, there is very little Jesus.
I understand a Bible museum being silent on contraception. I don't get a Bible museum that ignores Jesus Christ. Except that the museum isn't what it set out to be originally -- and that's okay. Instead of being a tool for Christian evangelism, the project evolved to become a history of the influence of the Bible. It sounds like the original plan of the Green family a decade ago was to have a museum that would take part in America's culture wars. The Post seems upset that the Museum of the Bible's mission has evolved. The museum's director, Seth Pollinger, says "our goal isn't to give answers but to arouse curiosity." That's a good mission for any museum, but I wonder how many open-minded visitors it will attract. My guess is that it becomes a destination for American evangelicals looking for a safe, self-affirming place while visiting the nation's capital, and that's about it.

Cowen's conversation with Mary Roach
Author Mary Roach is very over-rated. I want to like her books, but they are just okay. Same with her conversation with Tyler Cowen (transcript and podcast). But her description of the Mary Roach production function -- how she writes -- is noteworthy:
I am essentially a massive filtration system. So when I begin a project, I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t know what will be in the book. I know that my job is to cherry-pick the most interesting, surprising, funny, bizarre material within this quite broad topic that I’ve selected ...
So 99 percent, I suppose, of what I come across I’m jettisoning, isn’t making the cut. And that whole process helps me figure out what it is that this book is about. I don’t know for the first few months, really, even six months, I don’t really know what this book should contain, what fits and what doesn’t fit.
It’s not very good advice to give anybody, to feel comfortable with randomness and chaos — because I think that is the healthy first stages of a book — well, for me anyway.
There are some interesting tidbits on space travel, if that's your thing. She isn't very good at Cowen's game of over-rated/under-rated, although I think I like her answer about New Hampshire.

Are free markets and liberty compatible with Christianity
Reason has responses from 13 Christian writers on "Are Free Minds and Free Markets Compatible With Christianity?" Lawrence Reed, Kevin Williamson, Emily Ekins, and Fr. Robert Sirico, among others weigh in. Gerard Casey, philosophy professor emeritus at University College Dublin and associated scholar at the Mises Institute, says:
If God, who from our perspective is the creator of the universe—he has literally made us, and in that sense, if anybody owns anything, God owns the universe—and indeed, from our theology, having died on the cross for us, he owns us again. So God, who owns us twice over, and who in a 'my house, my rules' way has the right, if anyone has the right, to tell us what we may and may not do and indeed to force us not to do it—if he's not willing to do that, how can anyone have the right to do it?
God gave us freedom, yes, but He expects us to do good. Or as Fr. Richard John Neuhaus said, to do good and to do well.

McGinnis on Richard Florida's mea culpa
Rick McGinnis in the October Interim on Richard Florida's new book, The New Urban Crisis:
In 2002, Richard Florida published his book The Rise of the Creative Class and made a career for himself as an urban theorist, traveling the world lecturing and advising on how struggling, economically challenged cities could revive themselves. His “creative class” – a loose coalition that included artists, tech workers, academics and, interestingly, gay men and women – were rebuilding decimated downtown neighbourhoods and could do the same almost anywhere, provided cities were willing to attract them with the cafes, concert venues, art galleries, public transit, and other urban amenities they required.
With his new book, The New Urban Crisis, Florida concedes that he might – just might – have overstated his case. The gaps between the rich and poor have increased, particularly in the case study cities that Florida described and, later, championed as an advocate of his pet theory. The so-called creative class has transformed cities, mostly by colonizing the most attractive districts, aggregating most of the wealth around them, and increasing house prices exponentially, driving the less fortunate classes – Florida’s “service class” and an equally distinct and diminishing working class – into insalubrious neighbourhoods, often at the city’s fringes.
A friend of mine once said that Florida "built a career on stating the obvious." McGinnis might add, "and ignoring the obvious, too."

Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Sumner on Warsh and Taylor as Fed chair
Scott Sumner opposes the idea of Kevin Warsh being named chairman of the Federal Reserve but is much more supportive of John Taylor being nominated for the post by President Donald Trump:
I had several problems with Warsh. He doesn’t have expertise on monetary economics, he didn’t do well during his stint at the Fed, and I worried that he might be more “political” than Bernanke and Yellen.
I have much less concern about Taylor. I believe that Taylor (and most other conservatives) missed the boat during the Great Recession, and was excessively worried that QE would lead to high inflation. But he is also extremely smart and well-qualified, and a person who is likely to keep the Fed out of politics. While the Taylor Rule is not the specific policy I favor, he’s a strong advocate for a rules-based approach.
In five further points, Sumner elaborates why Taylor would be a good choice. If you are interested in the Fed or monetary policy, it's worth reading.

The celebrification of politics
The Guardian reports: "Fresh from packing them in at the Conservative party conference, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson’s profile is set be further raised with an appearance on a celebrity episode of The Great British Bake Off." She's raising money for cancer, and her profile.

The conservative's guide to the 2017/2018 season
David French has his "The conservative's guide to the 2017/2018 season." I don't watch pro basketball nor the interest to do so. If you like basketball it might be worth reading, but I honestly don't know. But the names of the divisions are priceless for anyone with any interest in American politics. There is the Hillary Clinton division: "These teams lose. They’re boring. Please go away." And the Bernie Sanders division: "These teams lose, but they lose with attitude." And Ted Cruz division of teams that are "Still around, but no one talks about them anymore." There are about another half-dozen divisions, including ones named for Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, and William F. Buckley.

Monday, October 16, 2017
Two headlines from The Hill Times
The Hill Times covers Canada's Parliament and government, and page two is usually reserved for lighter stories, including book releases, media appearances, charitable endeavours, birth announcements, staffers moving to GR firms, and strategists moving back to government work, and the like. Two of the five brief stories today are:
Jagmeet Singh's hair is better than Trudeau's?
Battle of sex appeals: Andrew Scheer vs. Justin Trudeau vs. Jagmeet Singh
In the second of those two brief articles, based on a National Post article by Tristan Hopper, Shruti Shekar summarizes a Conservative staffer: "it is more appealing to be serious rather than being a celebrity." Journalists should give seriousness a try, too.
Democracy dies in levity.

2020 watch (Kasich edition)
Ohio Governor John Kasich was asked on some Sunday morning yak-show yesterday about 2020:
Chuck, I don’t know what I’m going to do tomorrow. You know, I will tell you this. The other day, with all the chaos going on, my wife said to me one morning, she said, “You know, John, I wish you were president.” That’s how I knew the country was in trouble.
Hot Air's Taylor Millard says:
I suppose it’s a teeny bit better than someone waking up and saying, “You know…I wish I were president,” but that depends on your point of view. It also means Kasich probably is thinking about running in 2020 because most politicians cite their spouses on whether a run for office is worth it.
Millard also says, "His website also looks like someone who’s planning at 2020 run." It sure does. The question, Millard says, is for which party would Kasich run? Kasich has done little to shoot down rumours he could run on a bipartisan third-party ticket, but he also makes the right statements about wanting to fix the GOP. Millard makes too much of Kasich's supposed RINO credentials; occasional forays into big government would disqualify almost every Republican; as for Ohio's Medicare expansion, it's popular with GOP voters in former industrial states so what is Kasich to do? (I still haven't seen a satisfactory Republican/conservative/libertarian response unless you count denying there is a health care access/affordability problem as the only right response.) Millard concludes Kasich probably runs for the GOP nomination because of the systemic difficulty of getting a third-party campaign off-the-ground. Kasich probably wouldn't dislodge Trump from the nomination but if Trump doesn't run (for whatever reason) and Kasich gets to take on Pence, then anything could happen.
There is another possibility and one that few pundits acknowledge: Kasich must pretend to be interested in running in 2020 to keep his opinions relevant to any political discussion beyond Ohio's borders. As 2020 approaches, he will find a reason to gracefully bow out rather than harm his reputation running and losing again.

Modern sexual morality poisons everything
David French has a very good column at National Review Online on the problem with consent being the end-all-and-be-all of modern sexual morality. He writes:
You can sum up the sexual ethic of the sexual revolutionary in one sentence: Except in the most extreme circumstances (such as incest), consenting adults define their own moral norms. One-night stands? Fine, so long as there’s consent. May/December relationships. Fantastic, so long as there’s consent. Workplace liaisons between boss and subordinate? No problem, with consent. Adultery? Yes, there are tears, but the heart wants what it wants.
The practical result of consent-focused morality is the sexualization of everything. With the line drawn at desire alone, there is no longer any space that’s sex-free. Work meetings or restaurants can be creative locations for steamy liaisons. Not even marriage or existing relationships stand as a firewall against potential hookups.
The problem, of course, is that people don’t walk around broadcasting their desires. We don’t have a flashing “yes” or “no” that hovers over our heads. So someone has to make the ask. Someone has to make the move. Consent is determined by the request, and in a completely sexualized culture, the request can come at any time, anywhere, and from any person you encounter — regardless of the power imbalance or the propriety of the location.
And for powerful people in particular, the ask so often has fruitful results — sometimes out of genuine desire, sometimes out of fear, and sometimes out of a sense of intimidated resignation — that the ask quickly blurs into expectation, and expectations can yield demands. But the pressure of course doesn’t simply come from those with corporate or political clout. Power is defined by more than wealth or fame. People who seek companionship and love feel sexual pressure to initiate or preserve relationships. Sometimes people want to simply fit in with the dominant culture, to feel included rather than excluded.
When everything is sexualized and virtually every woman is subject to the potential “ask,” scandals like those that rocked Hollywood, Fox News, and — yes — the Trump campaign become inevitable. And they’re replicated countless times on a smaller scale in schools and workplaces across the land. Desire is elevated over fidelity and certainly over propriety, so bosses bully, spouses stray, hearts break, and families fracture.
It virtually goes without saying that the sex drive is incredibly powerful. Sex is also a remarkably intimate act that often has a profound emotional impact. An ethic that indulges that drive while also denying the emotional significance of sex will inevitably wreck lives.
Consent alone is an insufficient moral limit on this powerful drive that leads man (and woman) into temptations that impact not merely themselves, but their loved ones and colleagues. French says the Christian Church has done a lousy job making the case for sexual morality, especially fidelity and self-discipline, and the cost of that is not merely lost souls, but wounded bodies and psyches, with a concomitant deleterious effect on individual and societal human flourishing.

D'Ancona on Hammond hatred
I thoroughly dislike the highly unlikable Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond. I am generally bullish on Brexit. But I quite like much of Guardian columnist Matthew D'Ancona's column defending Hammond against his pro-Brexit detractors in the Conservative Party. D'Ancona writes:
By something close to constitutional convention, the chancellor is the government-of-the-day’s Dr No. Whoever holds this great office of state must personify prudence, protect the public finances, resist all harebrained schemes that will jeopardise jobs, or otherwise imperil prosperity. That, at least, is the job description. So it is innovative, not to say extremely stupid, to insist that Hammond suddenly pick up the pom-poms of the cheerleader and whoop that “Brexit totally rocks!” Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather not have a chancellor who behaves like the man on the bungee launchpad paid to say “jump”.
Not that we should be surprised. In politics, each action usually has an equal and opposite reaction, and the present calls for Hammond’s head are the symmetrical consequence of the briefing against Boris Johnson during the Conservative conference. In Manchester, the foreign secretary declared it was time to “let the British lion roar”. Now his fellow Brexiteers want the lion to bite off Hammond’s head.
The latest charge levelled against the chancellor concerns his alleged failure to prepare with sufficient enthusiasm and application for a “no-deal” outcome. All departments have been instructed to make contingency plans for the collapse of David Davis’s negotiations with Michel Barnier. But Hammond’s foes want to see the public coffers opened, and money splashed out to make Britain ready for the cliff-edge. Of Hammond’s refusal to spend, former chancellor Lord Lawson said last week: “What he is doing is very close to sabotage.”
I disagree with D'Ancona's assessment that leaving the EU without a deal in place will be calamitous. It will be difficult. D'Ancona's probably correct that there is little stomach for Britain becoming a "Singapore of the West," but that's conjecture at this point. If the Prime Minister -- or a future one (ahem, Boris Johnson) -- made the case for low taxes and low regulation with the trade-off for economic growth being necessary large cuts in the welfare state, perhaps that vision could win over Brits. It's Hammond's job to sell that vision, and he wouldn't be the right person to do it even it was. D'Ancona says Hammond shouldn't and can't, but he doesn't think that message is salable, period. But D'Ancona is correct to say that Hammond's hard Brexit opponents should stop complaining the Chancellor isn't doing more to make a deal-less Brexit possible. Assuming there are quiet preparations going on at Whitehall, it's best for the Chancellor to stay above the political fray. Of course, that means Hammond should be mostly silent about Brexit except to dutifully parrot the public line of the PM and Brexit Minister and be extremely careful not to venture his own opinions. He hasn't always been good at that, which perhaps convinces the Brexiteers to go after him. Which brings us back to D'Ancona's point: the Chancellor should be Dr. No, prudent even stoic. It is not only Hammond's critics that must appreciate that point, but the Chancellor himself.

Sunday, October 15, 2017
What I'm reading
1. Religion and Canadian Party Politics by David Rayside, Jerald Sabin, and Paul E.J. Thomas
2. Resilient Gods: Being Pro-Religious, Low Religious, or No Religious in Canada by Reginald W. Bibby
3. How the Right Lost Its Mind by Charles J. Sykes
4. Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History by Katy Tur. It was awful and unfinishable. The narrative is difficult to follow and too much of the commentary is the reporter's emotional but unexplained responses to candidate Donald Trump.
5. At the Edge of the World: The Heroic Century of the French Foreign Legion by Jean-Vincent Blanchard. Surprisingly readable while being thoroughly informative.

JO'S on populism
Few people understand populism as well as John O'Sullivan, former editor of National Review. He has a long piece at NRO, a speech delivered in Australia in August, that says populism is not a threat to democracy but its savior.
A couple points worth highlighting:
Consider the textbook accounts of populism. Among other things, it supposedly describes a movement that is personalist, rooted in a leader-principle, hostile to the “regime of the parties,” and based on blending Left and Right in a vague new synthesis.
Yet, as JO'S observers, French President Emmanuel Macron is never labelled a populist. Which brings us to O'Sullivan's second important point:
As generally used, therefore, populism is not a neutral, dispassionate description but a “boo” word employed to discredit those called populist or at least to indicate disapproval of them. This definition of populism seeks to end debate before it begins rather than to advance or clarify it.
JO'S says that populism must also be understood in the context not merely of liberalism -- a supposed backlash against specific policies and postures -- but liberal democracy itself:
In recent years, however, liberalism has come to mean the proliferation of liberal institutions — the courts, supra-national bodies, charters of rights, independent agencies, U.N. treaty-monitoring bodies, etc. — that increasingly restrain and correct parliaments, congresses, and elected officials. This shift of power was questionable when these bodies merely nullified or delayed laws and regulations. But more recently they have taken to instructing democratically accountable bodies to make particular reforms and even to impose them on the entire polity through creative constitutional and treaty interpretation. Their decisions have concerned a wide range of official powers from welfare rules through gay marriage to regulations on migration and deportation (of, among others, convicted terrorists). Liberal democracy under this dispensation becomes the undemocratic imposition of liberal policies...
Elites at the national level, O'Sullivan points out, have happily acquiesced with this shift in power when they are not actively cheering it on.
O'Sullivan says mainstream parties can reassert their relevancy by not only addressing the underlying issues through policy but reasserting their own relevance in the making of policy by ensuring that laws reflect national and regional interests, not the preferences of international organizations.
O'Sullivan's speech is worth reading in full.

'How is Turkey still a member of NATO?'
Jordan Schachtel, national security correspondent for Conservative Review, writes:
Instead of reinvigorating relations with its NATO allies, Turkey has embraced the countries that seek to bring down the West.
It has partnered with Iran and Iraq to bully the Kurds into submission, coordinating military action with the theocratic regime in Tehran to strip away the possibility of a new free state in the Middle East. Ankara has also rapidly increased military cooperation with Russia, a principal adversary of NATO.
The sitting Turkish government is openly supportive of the global jihadist Muslim Brotherhood and experts allege that high-ranking members of the government are actively supporting ISIS.
Their continuing anti-U.S. actions and rhetoric are impossible to ignore. Before engaging in a coming Syria operation, Turkish special forces were seen on camera taunting the American military, chanting in Turkish, “Wait for us, American Johnny’s, we are coming to get you.”
As a member of NATO, Turkey has special access to highly sensitive information regarding the enemies of the West. Turkey has already abused this privilege, threatening in July to spill classified positions of U.S. special forces operating in the Middle East.
At what time do NATO members declare that enough is enough, and boot the Islamic authoritarian menace out of the alliance for good?

Trump doesn't understand economics
Everything is interconnected. The Trump administration apparently wants China to receive fewer World Bank loans. Admitting that China has trillions in reserves, Tyler Cowen says:
As I understand it, the World Bank makes money on these loans and there is a cross-subsidy of other Bank activities, most of all aid. A World Bank that stopped such loans would be poorer and less skilled, and over time could devolve into one of the poorer, less effective poverty-fighting parts of the United Nations, without much of a political power base at that.
It is possible that President Donald Trump doesn't care about the work the World Bank does or helping alleviate poverty in the developing world.

Saturday, October 14, 2017
PC policies
Earlier this week, the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party released its list of 139 policy proposals for consideration amongst the membership. The Ottawa Citizen's David Reevely has a good column on the release of the proposals, noting it is "more a list of vision statements than a set of plans for how to achieve them." A few examples:
PC Party policy is to improve [senior's health] service delivery through review and implementation of innovative technologies to provide cost-effective, timely, and peace of mind care to patients and caregivers ...
PC Party policy is to improve the environmental regulatory process so that it is less burdensome ...
PC Party policy is to ensure innovative funding, and private sector expertise is used to make infrastructure investments more affordable and sustainable for taxpayers.
Most of them are motherhood statements that could supported by the majority of members in the PCs, Liberals or NDP. They are safe. They are boring. They border on meaningless.
To be fair, the policy commitments of a political party are often pretty meaningless. Neither the party nor the leader is bound to them and only sometimes are they reflected in the platform on which the party campaigns on.

Friday, October 13, 2017
The Hollywood-DNC industrial complex
Stephen L. Miller at FoxNews explains how the Democratic Party "has been tied to Hollywood, using them as messengers to push their agenda out to the mass public," and why many leading Democrats are now reticent distancing themselves from celebrity predators:
The late night hosts who only last week were happy to help Chuck Schumer push the Democrats’ gun control message are suddenly mute when it comes to Weinstein. And this is exactly where the Democrats find themselves in a bind. The party has depended on celebrity messaging for the better part of eight years, and were clearly planning to depend on it heading into the 2018 and 2020 elections (remember Maxine Waters appearing to raucous applause as a voice of The Resistance™ at the MTV Movie Awards?).
But the days of happy backslapping with Ben Affleck and George Clooney are coming to an end for a party that now has to distance itself from celebrity-spokespeople who were content to lecture the rest of the country about their religion, their guns or their politics – but who couldn’t seem to bring themselves to clean up their own house by calling out one of their closest friends and business colleagues for preying upon vulnerable young women – for years.
From promoting Obamacare to Get Out the Vote, Democrats have relied on Hollywood's celebrities to activate people. That might become untenable. Still, Dems don't want to risk a reliable ally.

The New York Times reports:
It is one of the iconic moments in modern economics: A young professor named Arthur Laffer sketched a curve on a bar napkin in 1974 to show an aide to President Gerald R. Ford why the federal government should cut taxes.
The Laffer Curve became famous; the Republican Party became the party of tax cuts; and, in 2015, the Smithsonian announced that it was putting the napkin on display.
But the napkin now celebrated for starting a tax revolt is not, in fact, the original napkin, according to the people who were at the fabled meeting at what was then the Two Continents restaurant in Washington. In an interview this week, Mr. Laffer said it was most likely a keepsake created a few years later.
Among the clues: It is cloth, while the original napkin was paper. It is dated 9/13/74, while the original meeting took place after the November 1974 midterm elections. And it is inscribed to Donald H. Rumsfeld, then Ford’s chief of staff. Mr. Laffer met with Dick Cheney, Mr. Rumsfeld’s deputy.
Mr. Laffer said he did draw on the Smithsonian’s napkin, but he most likely did so several years later, at the request of the journalist Jude Wanniski, who wanted a keepsake of the famous moment.
It's an ex post facto creation, and that's okay. What isn't okay is the continued GOP mythology that tax cuts are self-financing.

Ferguson on Will
Andrew Ferguson has a nice tribute to "the dean of conservative journalists," George Will, in this week's Weekly Standard. There is some biographical anecdotes and comments on Will's style, but this observation on Will's role in the age of Trump is important:
At this particular moment in his long career, Will is best known as a ferocious critic of President Trump. He comes at him from the right. Will’s revulsion isn’t really about ideology, since the president has none. It is aesthetic, and aesthetics, Will says, have a place in politics. “Manners matter,” he says. “Appearances matter. Many people, including him, seem not to understand this. It simply won’t do to say, ‘Well, we like his program but not his persona.’ The two are now inextricable.”
The president’s vulgarity to one side, Will puts his finger on something more crucial about Trump’s rise. Virtually alone among Trump critics, he recognizes that the president is a bastard child not so much of the right as of the left—of the dominant “mainstream” culture and its obsession with individual autonomy: its sexual libertinism and moral relativism, its disdain for traditional propriety and distrust of the very idea of objective truth. “The Trump people talk of ‘alternative facts,’” he says. “If the Nietzscheans at the Modern Language Association were paying attention, they’d say, ‘Ah, yes, Nietzsche told us about this; there are no facts, only interpretations.’ They would have given Trump tenure, for Pete’s sake.”
The one thing I would have liked Ferguson to have explored is Will's libertarian turn. He was once a thorough Hamiltonian, but is now much more Madisonian.
Will is the pinnacle of what a newspaper columnist should be: insightful, entertaining, principled, not partisan. Reading his biweekly articles in Newsweek and the quadrennial collections of his columns in book form is what made me want to be a writer when I was a high school student. Three decades later Will's writing still delights, and he rates alongside only Mark Steyn and John Robson as must-not-miss columnists.