Sobering Thoughts

Comments on politics, the culture, economics and religion by Paul Tuns -- in short, everything about the human endeavour from a non-hyphenated conservative perspective. I am Toronto-based writer and editor, whose articles, columns and reviews have appeared in more than 35 publications. I am editor-in-chief of The Interim, Canada's life and family newspaper, author of Jean Chretien: A Legacy of Scandal and a regular contributor to the book pages of the Halifax Herald.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014
 
On this day in Canadian history
On August 20, 1976, Gordon Lightfoot released his single, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," from the album Summertime Dream, about the freighter that sank on Lake Superior in 1975. The song reached #2 on the Billboard charts. The song has been covered by the Rheostatics and the Dandy Warhols.


 
A computer scientist, economist, engineer, mathematician, and physicist split a cheque
I found this extremely funny. I have had conversations pretty similar to portions of this.
A snippet:
Economist: Forget it. Taxes are inefficient, anyway. They create deadweight loss.
Mathematician: There you go again…
Economist: I mean it! If there were no taxes, I would have ordered a second soda. But instead, the government intervened, and by increasing transaction costs, prevented an exchange that would have benefited both me and the restaurant.
Engineer: You did order a second soda.
Economist: In practice, yes. But my argument still holds in theory.


 
How dangerous is it to be a cop?
Daniel J. Brier in The Freeman:
In 2013, out of 900,000 sworn officers, just 100 died from a job-related injury. That's about 11.1 per 100,000, or a rate of 0.001%.
Policing doesn't even make it into the top 10 most dangerous American professions. Logging has a fatality rate 11 times higher, at 127.8 per 100,000. Fishing: 117 per 100,000. Pilot/flight engineer: 53.4 per 100,000. It's twice as dangerous to be a truck driver as a cop—at 22.1 per 100,000.
Another point to bear in mind is that not all officer fatalities are homicides. Out of the 100 deaths in 2013, 31 were shot, 11 were struck by a vehicle, 2 were stabbed, and 1 died in a "bomb-related incident." Other causes of death were: aircraft accident (1), automobile accident (28), motorcycle accident (4), falling (6), drowning (2), electrocution (1), and job-related illness (13).
Even assuming that half these deaths were homicides, policing would have a murder rate of 5.55 per 100,000, comparable to the average murder rate of U.S. cities: 5.6 per 100,000. It's more dangerous to live in Baltimore (35.01 murders per 100,000 residents) than to be a cop in 2014.
Brier later corrects his estimate that half of these deaths are homicides; the average rate for homicides is about one-third, not one half.
Also, the trajectory of job-related deaths for police has been in steady decline since the early 1970s and is less than half the rate of the late 1920s and 1930s.


 
Incredible Detroit fact
Mark J. Perry tweets: "The average price of a house in Detroit ($28,000) is less than the average price of a new car ($32,500)."


 
This book is now on my to-read list
Tevi Troy reviews Politics Is a Joke!: How TV Comedians Are Remaking Political Life by S. Robert Lichter, Jody C Baumgartner and Jonathan S. Morris for the Wall Street Journal:
"Politics Is a Joke!" tells the history of late-night shows, beginning in the early 1960s, when Carson took over "The Tonight Show" from Jack Paar, and traces these shows' growing influence on the fortunes of politicians, especially as programs like "Saturday Night Live" (which began airing in 1975) and Bill Maher's "Politically Incorrect" (1993) came on the air. The authors, all academics, have also compiled and analyzed more than 100,000 political jokes told by late-night comedians over the last 20 years. Thus, alongside entertaining anecdotes about politicians' appearances, there are serious discussions of weighted averages, statistical significance and standardized beta coefficients.
Conservatives and Republicans have long griped that late-night hosts are by and large liberal, and the book's balanced and exacting authors have the numbers and figures to back this up. In every election since 1992, the GOP presidential nominee has been the butt of more jokes than the Democrat. Overall, the authors "coded nearly twice as many jokes about Republicans as about Democrats." As they put it: "an unexpected finding was that Republican candidates were joked about more than Democrats." Unexpected? Not for anyone who watches TV. Nevertheless, it is good to have the numbers to prove the point.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014
 
Bizarro politics in New Brunswick
The Canadian Press reports that all three major party leaders are highlighting the importance of the economy in the provincial election that begin in New Brunswick yesterday. That's not a surprise. What is a surprise is the position of the leaders. The Progressive Conservative and Liberal leaders are all about creating jobs -- with Tory David Alward supporting "investments" in energy and the Liberal leader Brian Gallant favouring "investments" in education and training. Still, no surprise. But here is what the CP reports about the NDP leader:
New Democrat Leader Dominic Cardy said the government needs to get its books in order by eliminating the deficit, forecast to be $387.3 million this fiscal year, and reducing a net debt that’s expected to hit $12.2 billion by March 2015.
Cardy said Liberal and Progressive Conservative governments have talked about creating jobs, when the role of government should be to help create a more job-friendly climate.
“Job creation has to come from the private sector that’s given its freedom to do its job, which is to create and sell products and services who want to buy them,” he said, promising to eliminate the small business tax.


 
The right to marry and the right to refuse customers
At Reason.com, gay libertarian Scott Shackford defends both same-sex marriage and the right of individuals and companies not to do business with homosexual couples tying the not:
The belief in freedom of association, therefore, obligates us to respect the right to refuse to associate with certain people, even if bigotry is a possible reason for that refusal. A Christian baker shouldn't have the authority to stop a same-sex couple from getting married. But the couple shouldn't have the authority to require a baker to make them a wedding cake for the ceremony. Freedom of association in the world of commerce requires us to accept the right of both sides to determine with whom to do business. The same right that calls for the government to recognize same-sex marriages also permits the baker to refuse to provide a wedding cake ...
Just as a libertarian's general support for same-sex couples to define their own partnerships and families isn't an endorsement of homosexuality, a libertarian's general support for the right of a business to refuse to engage in commerce with somebody shouldn't be taken as an endorsement of bigotry. In order to restrict a person's right to freedom of association, the damage caused by the outcomes must be very high. Having to select a different bakery or photographer, many of whom would love to do business with gay couples, does not rise to that threshold.
I wouldn't describe (all) people who do not want to be associated with a same-sex marriage as bigots, but Shackford's argument is that tolerance goes a long way to protecting genuine liberty and reducing social friction.


 
Midterm watch (Don't forget the House edition)
Roll Call reports, "The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call ratings in a half dozen House races, all in favor of Republican candidates." Admittedly some have only moved from "Democrat Favoured" to "Leans Democrat" or "Leans Democrat" to "Toss-up/Tilts Democrat." More significantly, two of the races are in California, two are in Illinois, and one each in Michigan and Texas.


 
Quote of the day
Thomas Sowell in his "Random Thoughts" column: "One of the big differences between Democrats and Republicans is that we at least know what the Democrats stand for, whether we agree with it or not. But, for Republicans, we have to guess."


 
The end of vacations
Vox notes Bureau of Labor Statistics that show (in the words of reporter Evan Soltas):
Nine million Americans took a week off in July 1976, the peak month each year for summer travel. Yet in July 2014, just seven million did. Keeping in mind that 60 million more Americans have jobs today than in 1976, that adds up to a huge decline in the share of workers taking vacations.
Some rough calculations show, in fact, that about 80 percent of workers once took an annual weeklong vacation — and now, just 56 percent do.
Soltas also notes:
The average American gets 14 days off from work, according to an annual survey by the travel company Expedia, but actually uses only 10 of those days each year.
There are plenty of theories as to why this is the case (most notably the "career penalty" for taking time off work), and a combination of reasons probably explain it. One that Vox does not explore is that with smaller families (and no-children families), a primary reason for taking a longer vacation has disappeared. Another reason that Vox does not explore is the long-term downward trend in after-tax income which makes longer vacations more difficult.


 
No need to stop the presses
The Globe and Mail reports that the Liberal Party will have ethnic candidates run under their party banner to connect with specific ethnic communities to win their votes: "Four ridings around the GTA have Chinese-Canadians candidates, and in sharp contrast to the Conservatives’ top-down ethnic strategy of wooing voters through messaging that appeals to a specific minority, the Mandarin community is fielding its own candidates." Writing about Geng Tan contesting the Grit nomination in Don Valley North, the Globe reports:
In the case of Mr. Geng’s campaign, his website was mostly in Mandarin and was changed to English only after a conversation with The Globe and Mail last week. His membership list, which The Globe reviewed, was composed exclusively of Chinese names.
The Globe's Craig Offman wonders what this all means for democracy: is it the "essence of the multicultural experiment" or "anti-pluralistic"?
As for Geng, he won decidedly over the riding executive and (presumably) Justin Trudeau's favoured candidate, Rana Sarkar, formerly CEO of the Canada-India Business Council.


 
'The people who "explain the news" look like they don't actually read the news'
Writing in the Washington Examiner, T. Beckett Adams takes on Vox:
It would take hours to list Vox's numerous mistakes and errors, so we won't even try.
But it's sometimes worth noting the really silly nonsense as it occurs, to point out when America's self-proclaimed “explainers of the news" are flat-out wrong.
Adams complains that Max Fisher's article on Pope Francis "is, for lack of a more polite word, idiotic" -- or a complete failure at humour -- in explaining that the pontiff is calling for a new crusade in the Middle East.


 
CIA on Twitter
Gregg Easterbrook in his half-not-about-football TMQ column last week:
The CIA got a Twitter account @CIA. Wired magazine writer Steve Silberman had the best line: "In @CIA's case, 'follows you' is redundant."


 
2016 watch (Bernie Sanders edition)
Bill Scher, executive editor of LiberalOasis and a contributor to RealClearPolitics, says independent socialist Senator Bernie Sanders (Vermont), who caucuses with the Democrats, is unlikely to run for the Democratic presidential nomination because the Left isn't going to get behind the senator's campaign soon enough to be a meaningful candidacy:
As Yahoo! News reported, the one thing that would stop Sanders from taking the plunge is a lack of grassroots support and infrastructure. In Sanders’ words, “It's easy for me to give a good speech. … It is harder to put together a grassroots organization of hundreds of thousands … of people prepared to work hard and take on the enormous amounts of money that will be thrown against us.”
If the grassroots doesn’t show up for Sanders soon, he may decide that a run wouldn’t make enough of an impact to be worth the trouble. In other words, pine for [Elizabeth] Warren too long, and you may get no progressive primary challenge at all.
Ostensibly that makes sense, but it might be difficult for someone who is not actually a Democrat, no matter how simpatico with the party, to run for a spot on top of the party's ticket.


 
Don't use an iPhone when committing a crime
It collects evidence that can be used against alleged criminals. The Independent reported last week:
Pedro Bravo, 20, is accused of kidnapping and strangling his friend Christian Aguilar in September 2012 ...
Evidence collected from Bravo’s iPhone includes records of him using the phone’s flashlight function nine times from 11.31pm to 12:01am on the day that Bravo disappeared and asking the phone: “I need to hide my roommate”.
According to evidence reproduced from the trial by local news stations and picked up by Buzzfeed, Siri responded “What kind of place are you looking for?” before offering four options: “Swamps, reservoirs, metal foundries, dumps”.
Police say that Bravo was using the phone’s flashlight function to hide the body in the woods, and say that location data gathered from the smartphone doesn’t fit with Bravo’s account of his movements that evening.
Smart phone, dumb criminal.
(HT: Kids Prefer Cheese)


 
Kink vs. perversion
Newsbusters has a story on how a Slate writer wonders if kink is a sexual orientation. One commenter says:
People used to compare kinky in some ways to being perverted. Not so. Take for instant the guy that tickles his girlfriend with a feather. That would be described perhaps as kinky. However if they are perverted they will probably find something to do with the whole chicken.
(HT: My summer intern)


 
'Ohio man admits to having sex with up to 100 dead women'
The New York Daily News reports, "Kenneth Douglas admitted to having sex with the corpses between 1976 and 1992 when he worked as a morgue attendant." Douglas explained that he had alcohol or drugs before working with the female corpses, "I would just get on top of them and pull my pants down."


Monday, August 18, 2014
 
Nicholas Kristof on the poor
Bryan Caplan points to a Nicholas Kristof column on the poor in the developing world in which the New York Times columnist says: "[I]f the poorest families spent as much money educating their children as they do on wine, cigarettes and prostitutes, their children's prospects would be transformed." Kristof notes a Congolese family that cannot afford mosquito nets or the $2.50-a-month school tuition for each kid, while the father nurses a dollar-a-night bar habit several times a week. So much of poverty has to do with bad choices, even in Africa.


 
On this day in Canadian history
On August 18, 1843, George Brown, a Scottish-born journalists and politician, began publishing The Banner newspaper, a four-page Presbyterian paper with a "Religious Department" (ran by his father Peter) and a "Secular Department," run by the son. Brown took up the Reform cause but due to the paper's predominantly religious orientation, he opened the Toronto Globe the next year. Brown used his journalistic influence to command the Clear Grit (later Liberal) faction and became an important political leader, including senator, premier of the Province of Canada, and Father of Confederation.


 
Urban 'experts' don't care about average people
The under-rated Joel Kotkin, Roger Hobbs Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University, in the Washington Post: "The people designing your cities don’t care what you want. They’re planning for hipsters." Kotkin begins his column:
Their current conventional wisdom embraces density, sky-high scrapers, vastly expanded mass transit and ever-smaller apartments. It reflects a desire to create an ideal locale for hipsters and older, sophisticated urban dwellers. It’s city as adult Disneyland or “entertainment machine,” chock-a-block with chic restaurants, shops and festivals.
Overlooked, or even disdained, is what most middle-class residents of the metropolis actually want: home ownership, rapid access to employment throughout the metropolitan area, good schools and “human scale” neighborhoods.
A vast majority of people — roughly 8o percent — prefer a single-family home, whether in the city or surrounding communities. And they may not get “creative” gigs at ad agencies or writers collectives, but look instead for decent-paying opportunities in fields such as construction, manufacturing or logistics.
You wouldn't find the vastly over-rated Richard Florida write something like this:
Of course, few urbanists wax poetic about Dallas or Des Moines. They lack Brooklyn’s hipster charm, and often maintain some of the trappings of the suburbs. But these “opportunity cities” offer what Descartes called “an inventory of the possible” — urbanity as an engine of upward mobility for the middle and working classes.
Opportunity cities (as Kotkin calls them) in the Sun Belt are growing, with STEM jobs leading to more growth for municipalities that Florida's vaunted Creative Class.
Kotkin also notes that "luxury cities" (New York, San Francisco, Boston -- Creative Class havens) have more inequality and are driving out black populations.
What works is eschewed by the experts, who, despite growing evidence that their models don't work quite as claimed, cling to their (hipster) values.


 
The future of sex
Robots, says Glenn Reynolds in USA Today. While this separates reproduction from sexual intercourse, Reynolds also argues that the future of reproduction could separate the sexes: women won't need men to have a baby, but perhaps the opposite will be true, too. Not all progress moves humanity forward.


Sunday, August 17, 2014
 
I love this kind of exercise
Vox: "How we'd cover Ferguson if it happened in another country." It would be seen as a major sign of political unrest and the country's dysfunction, and how other countries react -- and possibly intervene -- would be important. We would probably recognize the police state aspect to the story.
A snippet:
Missouri, far-removed from the glistening capital city of Washington, is ostensibly ruled by a charismatic but troubled official named Jay Nixon, who has appeared unable to successfully intervene and has resisted efforts at mediation from central government officials. Complicating matters, President Obama is himself a member of the minority sect protesting in Ferguson, which is ruled overwhelmingly by members of America's majority "white people" sect.
America is obsessed with race relations, but for other countries, it becomes various ethnic groups. Does viewing racial differences as sect or ethnic divisions instead change the narrative?


 
George Will on the ever-grasping, ever-growing tentacles of the state
George Will has a very good column on the grandstanding of politicians against corporate "inversions" but within the column is a terrific paragraph that explains the modern state and much of modern politics:
This is the progressive premise in action: Because government provides infrastructure (roads, etc.) affecting everyone, and because government-dispensed money flows everywhere, everything is beholden to the government, and more or less belongs to the government, and should be subordinated to its preferences, which always are for more control of the nation's wealth. Walgreens retreated, costing its shareholders, employees and customers billions.


 
Praying before meals brings discount at North Carolina diner
Tyler Cowen links to the BBC story:
For the past four years, Mary’s Gourmet Restaurant in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, had been surprising customers with a 15% discount if they prayed or meditated before meals.
“It could be anything – just taking a moment to push away the world,” says Mary Haglund, the owner. “I never asked anyone who they were praying to – that would be silly. I just recognised it as an act of gratitude.”
Predictably, once the story went public, it caused outrage. However, this is really no one's business but the owner's. This is not about freedom of religion (or lack thereof) but the rights of property owners to conduct business how they wish.
It is also important to note that they are not rewarding status (a religion), but an activity (prayer). And from Haglund's description, it need not be prayer, but a moment of reflection. Taking offense at this is a sign of serious anti-religion sentiment.


 
Mental health as public policy failure
Toronto physician David Grazter has a thoughtful, non-hysterical column in the Friday Globe and Mail about mental health as a public policy failure. You do not have to buy into the numbers he quotes about the extent of the problem (number of people affected or the costs) to understand that it is a tragedy that more is not done to help people with mental health problems. And there might be some (relatively) low hanging fruit, with some simple and low cost (for health care) ways to help. This sentence deserves much more consideration -- columns, discussion, experimentation -- than most lines in any column: "In the age of Google and apps, the practice of psychiatry needs to move past the face-to-face interactions of the era of Freud and couches." That is not merely a failure of public policy but professional imagination and culture.


 
Big Government and the police
We desperately need to demilitarize the police.
Senator Rand Paul in Time:
Not surprisingly, big government has been at the heart of the problem. Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies—where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement.
This is usually done in the name of fighting the war on drugs or terrorism. The Heritage Foundation’s Evan Bernick wrote in 2013 that, “the Department of Homeland Security has handed out anti-terrorism grants to cities and towns across the country, enabling them to buy armored vehicles, guns, armor, aircraft, and other equipment.” ...
When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury—national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture—we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands.
One Democrat is proposing to do something about this (I cannot see many brain-dead Republicans climbing on board this common-sense proposal):
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) announced Thursday that he plans to file legislation aimed at stemming the militarization of local police -- something on full display this week in Ferguson, Missouri, where officers in riot gear have been showering largely peaceful protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets.
In a letter to his Democratic colleagues, Johnson asked for support for his bill, the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act. The measure would rein in a Defense Department program that provides Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, M16 assault rifles and other surplus military equipment to local law enforcement, free of charge.
"Our main streets should be a place for business, families, and relaxation, not tanks and M16s," Johnson says in his letter.
Steven Hayward blames liberalism (or, more properly, the "liberal administrative state") but this ignores the role that conservatives have played, especially by stoking fear about crime for political gain. Conservatives, if they really believe in limited government and a smaller state, should get behind efforts to reduce the militarization of the police. Saying that cops do not need tanks and anti-mine equipment (and especially a militaristic mentality) is not siding with criminals or rioters.


Saturday, August 16, 2014
 
The forgotten Italians of liberalism
Classical liberalism that is. Alberto Mingardi has a post at EconLog that examines a number of Italian liberals (mostly economists) and sadly very few will be known by English-speaking readers. Mingardi is reading Liberalism. The Life of an Idea by Edmund Fawcett and finds that the author focuses too much on the Anglo-Saxon, German, and French portion of the story, but there are liberty-loving intellectuals everywhere.
Of course, Vilfredo Pareto is well-known, but most of the others are not. So I am excited to learn more about some of these thinkers, especially Luigi Einaudi, an Italian politician who started out as a socialist in university.
One with which I was also familiar was Fr. Antonio Rosmini Serbati, a vigorous defender of private property, who is controversial within Catholic circles and in 2001 required an official statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that did little to clarify whether his position was consistent with Catholic teaching (it is, but it is not the teaching of the Church). He was one of the first Catholic thinkers to embrace the free market in the 19th century, evident most especially in his work The Constitution Under Social Justice.


 
The world is full of good news that does not get reported
Matt Ridley in his (London) Times column: "In a time of widespread violence and disease, good news is no news." Ridley explains:
Remember the media does not give a fair summary of what happens in the world. It tells you disproportionately about the things that go badly wrong. If it bleeds, it leads, as they say in newspapers. Good news is no news.
So let’s tot up instead what is going, and could go, right. Actually it is a pretty long list, just not a very newsworthy one. Compared with any time in the past half century, the world as a whole is today wealthier, healthier, happier, cleverer, cleaner, kinder, freer, safer, more peaceful and more equal.
The average person on the planet earns roughly three times as much as he or she did 50 years ago, corrected for inflation. If anything, this understates the improvement in living standards because it fails to take into account many of the incredible improvements in the things you can buy with that money. However rich you were in 1964 you had no computer, no mobile phone, no budget airline, no Prozac, no search engine, no gluten-free food. The world economy is still growing every year at a furious lick — faster than Britain grew during the industrial revolution.
The average person lives about a third longer than 50 years ago and buries two thirds fewer of his or her children (and child mortality is the greatest measure of misery I can think of). The amount of food available per head has gone up steadily on every continent, despite a doubling of the population. Famine is now very rare. The death rate from malaria is down by nearly 30 per cent since the start of the century. HIV-related deaths are falling. Polio, measles, yellow fever, diphtheria, cholera, typhoid, typhus — they killed our ancestors in droves, but they are now rare diseases.
We tell ourselves we are miserable, but it is not true.
Ridley points to the excellent Our World In Data which shows how things are improving, almost everywhere, over time.


 
Gene Simmons advice to immigrants
Breitbart reports that former KISS frontman Gene Simmons said in an interview with the Huffington Post that the way for immigrants to succeed in America is to learn English and assimilate. Simmons came to the United States when he was eight years old.


 
2016 watch (Ben Carson edition)
The Daily Caller reports:
In an interview with The Daily Caller on Friday, a close friend and adviser to Ben Carson said he believes it is likely the neurosurgeon will run as a Republican for president in 2016.
“I think he’s very, very serious,” said Terry Giles, who recently agreed to serve as chairman of the campaign if Carson pulls the trigger on a run. “If it were on the big board in Vegas, I’d probably be betting in favor of the fact he’s going to run.”
And I would bet big that he will not win the GOP nomination. It is very difficult to run for a presidential nomination if one has not held elected office before. For better or worse, the presidency is not an entry level position.


 
On this day in Canadian history
On August 16, 1979, former prime minister John Diefenbaker died at the age of 83. The Progressive Conservative was prime minister from 1957 through 1963.


Friday, August 15, 2014
 
On this day in Canadian history
On August 15, 1974, the Metropolitan Toronto Zoo officially opened to the public. It is one of the largest zoos in the world by area, number of species, and total number of animals. In 1998, it dropped "Metropolitan" from its name. The Toronto Zoo attracts about 1.3 million visitors a year. Five animals that were part of the zoo in 1974 are still on display: two gorillas, an orangutan, a dwarf crocodile, and a royal python.


 
The farce that is the United Nations Human Rights Council
Jonathan S. Tobin in Commentary on how the UNHRC can make itself more of a farce (and of course, it's about Israel, because it's the UNHRC):
But just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, the choice of a man to head a UN Human Rights Council probe of the fighting in Gaza who has already called for the prosecution of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demonstrates just how ridiculous the anti-Israel farce there has become.
That the UN Human Rights Council, whose membership is made up of many of the worst dictatorships and human-rights offenders in the world, wouldn’t give Israel a fair hearing was already a given. The Council devotes most of its attention to attempts to undermine the Jewish state’s legitimacy or to promote libelous attacks on its policies. While a lot of the attention on this panel was devoted to the decision of George Clooney’s fiancée to decline participation in the probe, the appointment of Canadian law professor William Schabas demonstrates that the Council is not even interested in the appearance of fairness.
Schabas has already demonstrated his animus for Israel and actually called for Netanyahu to be hauled before the International Criminal Court in The Hague for prosecution. Lest anyone think he takes sides in Israeli political debates, he also advocated the prosecution of Shimon Peres in a comment in which he compared Israel’s actions in Gaza to the genocide in Darfur.
The organization UN Watch, which performs the tiresome yet essential task of monitoring the unfortunate doings of the Human Rights Council, assembled this collection of quotes and dubious positions from Schabas. A dive into his record shows that he is not only an avowed foe of Israel but also something of an apologist for Iran.
When you click on that UN Watch link you'll find gems like when, in 2009 at the farcical Durban II conference, Schabas defended Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but condemned Israel: "Israel and its friends, who have manipulated the truth about the nature of the work of the United Nations by gross exaggeration of the role and intervention of certain fanatics." Sounds like an unprejudicial choice to oversee the UNHRC probe of the fighting in Gaza.
Commentary's Tobin says, "Israel should not have anything to do with a commission headed by a person whose view of the conflict is already a guarantee of bias." I think its response should be more direct, maybe just two words.
(HT: Small Dead Animals)


 
Maybe the Tories didn't pare back StatsCan enough
The Canadian Press reports:
The once-stellar reputation of Statistics Canada took a huge hit Friday with the release of a correction to one of its flagship reports.
The national statistical agency wrongly reported a week ago that the economy gained a paltry 200 jobs in July — raising the eyebrows of economists who though the number would be closer to 20,000.
But it turns out that figure was way off the mark. The revised July jobs report shows a net gain of a whopping 42,000 jobs.
When the report came out last week that the Canadian economy created just 200 jobs last week I was going to mock the Harperconomy, but there was something about the number that seemed way off, especially considering expert predictions prior to the release of the report.


 
Snow days for everyone
The Toronto Star reports: "The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario has voted this week to recommend boards close schools whenever busses are cancelled for bad weather, to spare staff having to drive on dangerous roads." The policy makes sense, but it really looks like teachers pining for more days off.


 
The anti-science Left
Kids Prefer Cheese: "The crude anti-scientism of the left is actually more dangerous than that of the right." Being anti-GMO and anti-vaccine does more damage than being pro-evolution.


Thursday, August 14, 2014
 
2003 was so long ago
From Tyler Cowen's assorted links.


 
On this day in Canadian history
On August 14, 1958, the first Canadian Football League game was played in Winnipeg as the Blue Bombers defeated the Edmonton Eskimos 29-21 in front of 18,000 spectators. The Bombers would go on to win the Grey Cup in November.


 
A reminder about low prices
They are great for consumers, not always good for producers/distributors. And that's the way it should be because markets exist to provide goods and services to customers, not to create jobs for workers or profits for business owners.
CTV reports that local gas stations in Guelph, Ont., are feeling the pain of Costco (supposedly) selling gas below its costs, as a loss-leader to get people into their stores. Good for consumers, lousy for local gas stations. And that's fine. As "gas expert" and former MP Dan McTeague says, it's probably not a long-term strategy for Costco, but if it is, isn't it great that customers can buy cheap gas. (Notice the story doesn't list any prices.)


 
Is Washington D.C. cool?
Tyler Cowen wonders if Washington D.C. is really America's coolest city, or is it Forbes cool? Those are different things.


 
Modern media and modern outraged culture explained
Matt Forney in Taki Mag:
In 2002, a failed British journalist named Nick Denton started Gawker, a bitchy gossip blog run out of his Manhattan apartment. Over 10 years later, Gawker and its sister sites have become the biggest names in clickbait “journalism,” pulling down millions of visitors a month and making its owner a millionaire several times over. The secret to Denton’s success? He took the aggressive, lynch mob mentality of British tabloids, which specialize in ruining people’s lives, and injected it into America’s comparatively placid, Oprahfied media market.
In particular, Gawker, Jezebel, Valleywag, and their sister sites specialize in witch hunts: digital vigilantism against those who fail to keep up with leftist orthodoxy. Geoffrey Miller, Pax Dickinson, Justine Tunney, Violentacrez: the list of people whom Gawker has garroted for “racism” or “misogyny” could fill a phone book. With an army of Twitter twits behind it, Gawker Media truly is the moral majority of the left, instigating mob action against those who sin against the religion of tolerance.
(HT: Five Feet of Fury)


 
A (dubious) libertarian plan to win over black voters
I'm skeptical, but Instapundit notes a Facebook post that suggests reining in the power of the police state will win over black votes:
“This presents such a great opportunity for libertarians to flip a significant fraction of blacks from big government to limited government. If Rand Paul wants to do outreach to the black community, get there now. Preferably with some other libertarians. Talk about drug war, killing men for cigarette taxes, drones, NSA spying, out of control cops, and how the problem that the government is making up dumb reasons to abuse its authority, not that this abuse would be better if applied in a more evenhanded way. Then sponsor national reform and try to mobilize these non traditional allies. Big opportunity just sitting there.”
Maybe it's worth a try but there are reasons to be skeptical about this as a political strategy (as compared to libertarians winning over black converts):
1) Polls suggest blacks already distrust government, but their voting patterns do not reflect that distrust.
2) Voters act on values not necessarily specific policies.
3) Voters are incredibly tribal, and it is folly to believe that even if you could convince blacks that statist policies are against their interests, that it translates into ditching the statist Democrats.
4) Winning over some black voters could come at the cost of losing middle class whites who would see any agenda questioning the police state as soft on crime.


 
'How Justin Trudeau would run this country'
Maclean's has an interview with Justin Trudeau, but it's not a preview of how Trudeau the Younger would run the country; it's a list of platitudes that demonstrates either the shallowness of his thinking or the lengths by which he will go to hide what he wants to do once prime minister.
Here is the short answer to how Trudeau would run the country: incompetently, with a dose of radicalism.


 
Obama's 'Vacuous Middle East Policy'
George Will:
The Islamic State uses crucifixions to express piety and decapitations to encourage cooperation. These are some of the “folks” — to adopt the locution Barack Obama frequently uses to express his all-encompassing diffidence — Obama was referring to when talking to the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman. “That’s exactly right,” Obama said when Friedman suggested that Obama believes all Middle East factions must agree to a politics of “no victor, no vanquish.” It will be interesting watching Obama try to convince the crucifiers and the crucified to split their differences.


 
The injustice of civil asset forfeiture
Investor's Business Daily editorializes:
Few Americans are probably aware that law enforcement authorities are free to seize their property even when they've done nothing wrong. But it's a growing racket that needs to be shut down now ...
In recent years, policing for profit — which looks a lot like a criminal enterprise — has raked in the spoils. The Justice Department's forfeiture fund has gone from $94 million in 1986 to more than $1 billion today. State and local authorities also benefit richly, but it's hard to know to what extent, as not all report their "profits." We do know Philadelphia alone takes in about $6 million a year.
Conservatives are schezophrenic: they are both "tough on crime" and anti-government. Fortunately the sensible libertarian wing of the GOP, Senator Rand Paul and Rep. Tim Walberg, have introduced bills to rein in civil asset forfeiture abuses. I doubt that the conservative movement will get behind it because it will make them look weak on crime. Republicans (in the U.S.) and Conservatives/Progressive Conservatives (Canada) would rather appear tough on crime than do something actually constructive.