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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Friday, April 18, 2014
 
CBO: Obama budget does not reduce budget deficit
The Washington Examiner reports:
President Obama's budget would not place the federal debt on a downward path over the next 10 years, according to projections released by the Congressional Budget Office on Thursday.
The CBO, Congress’ nonpartisan budget scorekeeper, projected that if the president’s proposals were to go into effect, federal debt held by the public would rise from $12.8 trillion at the end of fiscal 2014 to $19.9 trillion in 2024, leaving the level of debt as a share of total economic output constant, at roughly 74 percent.
The administration says it will reduce the deficit through higher tax revenue than the CBO predicts, but the Congressional Budget Office estimates lower economic growth than the Office of Management and Budget predicts, and consequently Washington will collect less in taxes.


 
Mankiw dares not call it a conspiracy
Greg Mankiw:
This story about the Census Bureau is amazing to me: The Census is changing its annual survey about health insurance. As a result, the new data will not be comparable to the old, making it much harder to gauge the effects of the Affordable Care Act.
Yet Mankiw doesn't see a "conspiracy to hide the effects of the law" because he has "a lot of respect for the government data producers." He well might, but does he really think the Obama White House is above pressuring the Census Bureau to make a change to mask the effects of his health care changes?


Thursday, April 17, 2014
 
Fundraiser-in-chief
Government Executive reports:
Campaigns are about numbers, so here are a few: After two separate recent events in Houston, President Obama has attended 373 fundraisers during his five-plus years in office. That's just about one every five days or so. Assuming he speaks for close to 15 minutes at each event, that's well more than 5,000 presidential minutes consumed by the dirty business of asking people for money. And that doesn't include the prep, the glad-handing and hobnobbing, the photos, the private asides, the travel...
The president of the United States isn't just the chief executive. He's a one-man industry, a marketing machine, a brand—and his time is divided among the people's business, the party's, and his own.
At this point in his presidency, George W. Bush, a true grip-and-grin guy if there's ever been one, had attended just 200 such events ...
The expected influx of money is yet another mixed blessing for Obama and his party, which likes to wring its hands over the high court and bash the likes of the free-spending Koch brothers—while showing no inclination to unilaterally disarm and stick to the old financial restraints.


 
Economic truths
Mark J. Perry posts the text of Nobel Prize-winning economist Thomas Sargent's two-minute 2007 commencement speech at UC-Berkeley in which he presented 12 economic truths. I highly recommend reading the list. Not understanding #7 hurts many people on an individual basis but not understanding or appreciated #1, #2, #6, #10, and #11 makes them bad voters.
Somewhat relatedly, Jason Brennan of Bleeding Heart Libertarians makes the case for lying to voters, in which Brennan wonders, "suppose we replace the evil wizards consortium with voters, and rather than having magic spells, they have votes." You have to read the full post to appreciate his analogy, of course, but the comparison of voters wielding votes to evil wizards with magic spells, is an amusing one. Sargent might argue that rather than lie to voters, it would be preferable to educate them with economic truths. Good luck with that.


 
'Trudeau caught posing for Flaherty funeral "selfie"'
Of course he does. Sun News Network has the details.


 
Three strikes
1. The New York Yankees shutout the Chicago Cubs in both games of a day-night doubleheader yesterday. The Yankees won the first game 3-0, with rookie starter Masahiro Tanaka pitching a great game: 8 IP, 3 hits, 1 walk, 10 strikeouts, no runs allowed. More incredibly, two of those three hits were bunt singles. Tanaka has 28 strikeouts in 22 innings in his first three starts. New York won the evening game 2-0, although the relievers made it interesting in the ninth, putting runners and second and third (after a Adam Warren wild pitch) with just one out. The Cubs managed just nine hits in the two games.
2. Canada's TSN reports that Yankees became first time a team to pitch shutouts in both games of a doubleheader since the Minnesota Twins did it to the Oakland A's on June 26, 1988. The Yankees last had a pair of shutouts on both sides of a doubleheader on April 9, 1987, when their victims were the Kansas City Royals. The last time the Cubs were shutout twice in the same day was June 27, 1962 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
3. Big League Stew reports something very cool: "Mets minor league team plans Seinfeld night with Keith Hernandez 'loogie' bobblehead."


 
On this day in Canadian history
On April 17, 1967, as part of Canada's centenary celebrations, Liberal Prime Minister Lester Pearson announced the creation of the Order of Canada, effective July 1. It would be presented by the Governor General; it's first recipient, Roland Michener, was appointed Governor General on this same day. The Order of Canada is described as "the centrepiece of Canada’s honours system and recognizes a lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation," and it's motto desiderantes meleorem patriam (They desire a better country). There are three levels of honours -- member, officer, and companion -- and so far 6,259 individuals have been honoured.


 
Alison Redford collects salary, but doesn't do work as MLA
The National Post reports:
Since she resigned as Alberta premier last month, Alison Redford has managed to evade a slew of embarrassing and damaging revelations — from the fact that her aide insisted on accompanying her on her ill-fated flight to South Africa in December, to her plans to build a secret penthouse atop a government office building.
But with the exception of a few Twitter comments and one meeting during which she took no questions from media, the former premier has been AWOL for her continuing job as a member of the Legislative Assembly, representing the residents of Calgary-Elbow. As of Wednesday afternoon, she had skipped seven consecutive sitting days in the Alberta legislature — if she misses three more, she could face minor financial penalties.
Yet Ms. Redford continues to collect a handsome salary and her continued position as an MLA adds to her pension allotment.


 
The American debt is dire
Investor's Business Daily editorializes:
The Congressional Budget Office warns of a terrifying, unprecedented level of national debt in the coming decade. That fits nicely with Democrats' objectives, but not with our nation's founding principles.
Andrew Jackson, who in 1835 succeeded in paying off the national debt, was famous for considering debt slavery. The current fiscal path the U.S. is on does indeed lead to slavery, but the slave masters of the future will be well-heeled politicians and federal bureaucrats, not plantation owners.
The CBO's new budget projections contain an eerie warning that we are on path from today's already unfathomable $17.7 trillion in gross federal government debt to more than $27 trillion in 2024. This in spite of finger-crossing projections of tax revenue over the next decade exceeding its 40-year average as a share of GDP.
Debt will reach 78% of GDP by 2024, CBO warns, which is double the 39% average of the past 40 years.


 
Conservatives vs. progressives, liberty vs. democracy
George Will on the difference between conservatives and progressives:
Now the nation no longer lacks what it has long needed, a slender book that lucidly explains the intensity of conservatism’s disagreements with progressivism. For the many Americans who are puzzled and dismayed by the heatedness of political argument today, the message of Timothy Sandefur’s “The Conscience of the Constitution: The Declaration of Independence and the Right to Liberty” is this: The temperature of today’s politics is commensurate to the stakes of today’s argument.
The argument is between conservatives who say U.S. politics is basically about a condition, liberty, and progressives who say it is about a process, democracy. Progressives, who consider democracy the source of liberty, reverse the Founders’ premise, which was: Liberty preexists governments, which, the Declaration says, are legitimate when “instituted” to “secure” natural rights.
Progressives consider, for example, the rights to property and free speech as, in Sandefur’s formulation, “spaces of privacy” that government chooses “to carve out and protect” to the extent that these rights serve democracy. Conservatives believe that liberty, understood as a general absence of interference, and individual rights, which cannot be exhaustively listed, are natural and that governmental restrictions on them must be as few as possible and rigorously justified. Merely invoking the right of a majority to have its way is an insufficient justification.
Once again Will says that conservatives need to reconcile themselves with judicial activism:
Many conservatives should be discomfited by Sandefur’s analysis, which entails this conclusion: Their indiscriminate denunciations of “judicial activism” inadvertently serve progressivism. The protection of rights, those constitutionally enumerated and others, requires a judiciary actively engaged in enforcing what the Constitution is “basically about,” which is making majority power respect individuals’ rights.


 
'23 Global Warming & Climate Change Stories All Americans Should Read Before Earth Day'
IJ Review has a summary and links to 23 stories casting doubt on the anthropological climate change "consensus."


Wednesday, April 16, 2014
 
Three strikes
1. The Wall Street Journal reports on the nicknames that New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi has for all his players (except two). I wouldn't have thought that some players (Kelly Johnson) gets new nicknames when they move to a new team; Johnson has had at least three. It is easy to guess who Jeet or Gardy are, but Raccoon?
2. David Pinto of Baseball Musings insinuates that the Houston Astros might be inflating their attendance numbers. Perhaps they won't need to do this if prospect George Springer fulfills his promise; he is playing tonight (batting second) against the Kansas City Royals.
3. Jeff Zimmerman has a great article at Hardball Times on how particular park features play: the Green Monster (Fenway Park), Tal's Hill (Minute Maid Park), Center Field Wall (Chase Field), and the Entire Oakland Coliseum Outfield. They can provide a notable homefield advantage, but how much so? The Houston Astros may be using Tal's Hill in a way that is counter-intuitive by not in that area of the field (or they aren't good enough hitters to knock the ball the 400 feet directly to center).


 
The truth about business school
Gods of the Copybook Headings has a good post about "What To Take In University" but this stands out as (painfully) true:
Business majors are, almost by definition, not entrepreneurial. They go to school so they can work for someone else. B-Schools train corporate bureaucrats, not self starters and independent thinkers.


 
Most things aren't either/or
Robin Chase, co-founder of Zipcar, writes at Atlantic Cities about driverless cars: "[I]t is the fully autonomous car that is going to be game-changing. But it is a future with two trajectories: heaven and hell." Okay, I get that Slate and Buzzfeed and Business Insider and almost everything else on the interwebs eschews subtlety and nuance so headlines typically present X as either the best or worst thing ever. Ever! But most developments (technological, economic, political, etc...) have both upside and downside. If you take Christian theology seriously, heaven is perfectly good and hell is completely bad, so there is very little, if anything, on Earth that could be presented as comparative to either one of those alternatives. Autonomous cars are probably going to be mostly good with some unforeseen negative consequences. That isn't heaven or hell. Also, many developments are good for some people and less good or bad for others. The false dichotomy of heaven/hell or good/bad isn't helpful, and indeed obstructs the proper understanding that there are costs and benefits with everything.


 
On this day in Canadian history
On April 16, 1874, the House of Commons, on a motion put forth by Conservative Mackenzie Bowell, expelled Louis Riel from Parliament; Riel had been re-elected as MP for Provencher in January, but there was a warrant for his arrest in Ontario due to his role in the murder of Orangeman Thomas Scott in Red River, Manitoba. Riel ordered a court martial for Scott, a trouble-making prisoner held in the fort following the Red River riots. Scott was found guilty and was executed in 1870 for insubordination. Riel had planned to plead his own case in Parliament, but decided not to cross the Ontario border from Hull, Quebec, fearing assassination or arrest.


 
Voters are stupid. Or maybe not
Megan McArdle on people who move due to high taxes:
Anyone who spends time reading the comments on this blog will have encountered people complaining about a phenomenon that afflicts low-tax states that border high-tax states: People from the high-tax states (which often have high costs of living in other ways, much of it driven by local regulation) eventually get fed up with how little of their paychecks they get to keep, so they pick up and move to a nearby state with lower taxes and prices … whereupon they vote to replicate the government policies that produced the high taxes, insurance, electricity bills, land prices and everything else that made them so unhappy in their old location. Their new neighbors, who liked things the way they were, end up stuck with the bill for all the new services required to accommodate the newcomers, and pretty soon everyone’s talking again about moving next door, where they can finally keep some of their paychecks.
This seems stupid, but it isn't. As McArdle explains:
The important part to note is that for each voter, this is rational. If you can live in a place with lower taxes and still get 85 percent of the services you used to enjoy, that’s a pretty good deal financially. It’s only when all of this is aggregated over time that it produces irrational results.


 
Mike Bloomberg, heaven-bound (if there is a heaven)
From the New York Times interview with former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg:
Pointing to his work on gun safety, obesity and smoking cessation, he said with a grin: "I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I'm not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It's not even close."
(HT: First Things)


 
Immigration is creating Democrat voters
The Washington Examiner's Byron York:
In stark, partisan political terms, continuing the high level of immigration of recent decades, and certainly increasing immigration as envisioned by many reformers, will result in more Democrats winning more elections in coming years ...
In the [Center for Immigration Studies] report, author James Gimpel, a University of Maryland professor, looks at the immigrants who have come to the United States in recent decades and those likely to come in the future. Through a lot of complicated statistical analysis and close reading of previous studies, he comes to the same conclusion as anyone who has looked through exit polls in the last 30 years: Immigrants tend to vote Democratic.
A 2012 study of 2,900 foreign-born, naturalized immigrants cited in the report showed that about 62 percent identified themselves as Democrats, while 25 percent identified as Republicans, and 13 percent identified as independents. At this moment, according to the report, there are an estimated 8.7 million immigrants in the U.S. who are eligible for naturalization. Not all will become voting citizens, but somewhere between 50 percent and 60 percent will. And it's a sure bet that a majority will identify themselves as Democrats.
Gimpel cites several reasons why future immigration will likely mean more Democrats. The first is that "immigrants, particularly Hispanics and Asians, have policy preferences when it comes to the size and scope of government that are more closely aligned with progressives than with conservatives." Those preferences have expressed themselves in a two-to-one party identification advantage for Democrats in those groups.
I'm generally in favour of immigration because immigration restrictions violate the right of people to move about freely and (again generally) I dislike government interference in people's lives more than I dislike whatever problems immigrants might bring to their new home. This stems from my larger belief that borders are wrong. But this is a philosophical view, and an admittedly minority one. Taking off my philosophical cap and putting on my analytical cap, I wonder why any political party would commit suicide by welcoming millions of potential voters for the other side. Republicans clearly do not share my anti-border or limited-government views, so there is no reason for them to commit political suicide out of principle. Republican leaders might think that future immigrants will be grateful to the party for letting them in and that past immigrants will see Republican support for the idea of immigration as a gesture of goodwill to them, but previous support for immigration (most notably in the 1980s) did not engender support for the GOP among immigrants. What is different this time?
If you read the full CIS backgrounder, "Immigration's Impact on Republican Political Prospects, 1980 to 2012," and (contra Grover Norquist) you'll find that immigrants are generally liberal:
To the extent that immigrant populations have formed opinions based on typically meager policy descriptions, however, they fall largely in line with the views held by liberals in the Democratic Party (Hawley 2012; 2013). In extensive national surveys, major immigrant groups prove to be more liberal than the native-born on matters such as government spending and income redistribution, the government role in healthcare, and government efforts to stimulate the economy. Immigration is but one of a long list of issues on which the foreign-born population is out of sync with the Republican Party (Hawley 2013). On non-fiscal matters, recent surveys suggest that the picture is more mixed, but Hispanics and Asians certainly do not stand out as social conservatives. Hispanic policy views line up so congruently behind the Democrats that prominent Latino scholars say that it is mistaken to consider them swing voters — in fact their Democratic loyalty has been long-standing.
Conservative activist Grover Norquist argues that many immigrants display entrepreneurialism and family values, but studies (such as Gimpel's) demonstrate that this doesn't not translate into policy preferences that align with Republican Party values (or rhetoric). For how Hispanics view social issues, see the 2013 National Journal article, "Hispanics Actually Don't Share Republican 'Faith and Family' Values" -- the title sums it up quite nicely. Whether more more or open immigration policies are right or wrong morally or economically is open for debate. Whether more or open immigration policies are right or wrong politically for the Republicans isn't really up for discussion. Perhaps some party leaders should be applauded for doing what they think is the right thing despite it being against their self-interest. But then their political compromises shouldn't be upheld as outreach.
I don't really care about the Republican Party or its future. But Republicans should. Immigration reform jeopardizes the future viability of the party. The leadership should understand that and act with their eyes open to what they are doing.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014
 
Average American spends 27 hours preparing income taxes
I think that number is probably a little high, but still there is no doubt that people spend a lot of time -- too much time -- preparing their income taxes. Assuming the 27 hours figure is true, the average American spends the equivalent of about three working days on their income taxes. E21 has compiled a list of things you could do with 27 hours. Two of them:
Drive the entire length of Interstate-95, from Miami, Florida to the Canadian border at Houlton, Maine.
Or:
Take the SATs (3.75 hours), the GREs (3.75), the DATs (4.5), the MCATs (4.5) and the LSATs (3.5), all in one sitting, plus have 7 hours for breaks.


 
Three strikes
1. As David Pinto at Baseball Musings provides evidence for, most of the time, given time, things even out.
2. Jack Moore of Sports on Earth had a very good article yesterday on how dominant the Milwaukee Brewers have been through two weeks and how they've done it. They probably aren't going to dislodge the St. Louis Cardinals as NL Central division champs, but they might be more than fringy wild card contenders.
3. Jonah Keri's "The 30" is up at Grantland and one of the teams he looks at is the Brewers. Dominant pitching has been a major factor in their hot start: through the first 12 games, no starter allowed more than three earned runs and the bullpen has a 0.82 ERA in 33 IP. That kind of pitching will win you a ton of games, and is entirely unsustainable. So what does this all mean for the Brew Crew and their post-season possibilities? Keri says, "I talked about the gambler’s fallacy last week, but here’s a quick refresher on why you should avoid falling into that trap by overreacting to early starts: If you thought the Brewers looked like an 81-win team entering the season, their 10-2 start shouldn’t automatically cause you to reconsider their worth. Instead, that fast start means you should now view the Brewers as an 85-win team, since that’s where a .500 record from this point on would put them at season’s end." They will need to be a couple of games better than 500 the rest of the war to contend for a wildcard spot.


 
Political elite and their entitlements
It's not just a Liberal thing. The Calgary Sun's Rick Bell: "Ex-premier Alison Redford took daughter on 48 provincial flights and the PCs couldn't care less." Records show that taxpayers picked up the tab to send Redford and her daughter Sarah, and one of Sarah's friends, and an assistant, for the weekend to Jasper for "meetings with government official." The current Premier, Dave Hancock, is no hurry to find out what government business his predecessor was doing near the resort park. Bell reports that almost all of Redford's flights with her daughter was for the purpose of meeting with a government official.


 
A century of income tax is enough
Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute, last fall:
The Jeffersonian view held sway for decades, but by the late 19th century the growth in government and concerns about high tariffs led to calls for new revenue sources. The first income tax was imposed to fund the Civil War and lasted until 1872. Another income tax was imposed in 1894, but it was struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.
At the turn of the 20th century, the rise of Progressivism and the Democratic opposition to high tariffs generated support for an income tax. President William Howard Taft proposed a Constitutional amendment for an income tax in 1909. It was passed by the House and Senate, and then ratified by the states in early 1913. Congress got to work on legislation, and the modern income tax was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson exactly 100 years ago today, October 3, 1913.


 
New Hampshire is not becoming North Massachusetts
Patrick Brennan in The Corner about migration from The Bay State to The Granite State:
[C]onsider who’s leaving Massachusetts: people fed up with the state’s massive and incompetent government, high real-estate prices, and onerous taxes. These are precisely the kind of people, it seems, who’d abandon their culturally liberal leanings to vote for someone who was a sensible fiscal conservative. That’s what the Globe found when they conducted a poll of the state.


 
Thomas Sowell on the wage gap
Thomas Sowell notes that comparing men's and women's incomes is akin to comparing apples to oranges. This is very interesting because even when you seem to be comparing like to like, it isn't always true:
For example, some women are mothers and some men are fathers. But does the fact that they are both parents make them comparable in the labor market? Actually the biggest disparity in incomes is between fathers and mothers. Nor is there anything mysterious about this, when you stop and think about it.
How surprising is it that women with children do not earn as much as women who do not have children? If you don’t think children take up a mother’s time, you just haven’t raised any children.
How surprising is it that men with children earn more than men without children, just the opposite of the situation with women? Is it surprising that a man who has more mouths to feed is more likely to work longer hours? Or take on harder or more dangerous jobs, in order to earn more money?
And this is important:
More than 90 percent of the people who are killed on the job are men. There is no point pretending that there are no differences between what women do and what men do in the workplace, or that these differences don’t affect income.


 
Will on the intellectual poverty of liberalism today
Ed Driscoll calls attention to George Will's comments:
[L]iberalism has a kind of Tourette’s Syndrome these days. It’s just constantly saying the word racism and racist. It’s an old saying in the law; if you have the law on your side, argue the law. If you have the facts on your side, argue the facts. If you have neither, pound the table. This is pounding the table. There’s a kind of intellectual poverty now. Liberalism hasn’t had a new idea since the 1960s except ObamaCare and the country doesn’t like it. Foreign policy is a shambles from Russia to Iran to Syria to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And the recovery is unprecedentedly bad. So what do you do? You say anyone criticizes us is a racist. It’s become a joke among young people. You go to a campus where this kind of political correctness reigns and some young person will say looks like it’s going to rain. The person looks and says, you’re a racist. I mean it’s so inappropriate. The constant implication of this is that I think it is becoming a national mirth.
As Driscoll notes, this is essentially what Lionel Trilling said about conservatism in the 1950s. Driscoll says: "Will’s noting that “liberalism has a kind of Tourette’s Syndrome these days” is a marvelous shorthand way of saying the same thing. I hope it catches on as a rejoinder, wherever leftwing Tourette’s Syndrome flares up next."
Kathy Shaidle wonders: "So how long before the Tourette Syndrome Foundation calls for the firing of George Will?"
As evidence that Will is correct, read the Daily Caller story on how teachers' unions in Chicago say that taking steps to improve failing black schools is racist.


 
This day in Canadian history
On April 15, 1947, Donald Gordon resigned as chairman of the Wartime Prices and Trade Board, which had control over wages and prices in Canada during World War II. Gordon, an executive at the Bank of Nova Scotia, would later become deputy governor of the Bank of Canada when it was established in the 1930s before being named chairman of the Foreign Exchange Control Board and, later, from 1941 to 1947, head of the WPTB. The board, which had 13 regional and 100 local offices, regulated all aspects of the Canadian economy, from the sale of the necessities of life to their stockpiling to professional credentialing, in order to control wartime inflation. The federal agency closed its doors in 1951, six years after the end of the war. After a short time back at the Bank of Canada, Gordon would become president of the Canadian National Railways (1950 to 1966).


 
Happy Tax Day to our American friends
Here's Remy's tax day video, "Crappy."


 
Higher education bubble
Bloomberg reports:
“There will clearly be some institutions that won’t make it and there will be some institutions that will be stronger because of going through these difficult steps,” said David Warren, president of the Washington-based National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.
Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen has predicted that as many as half of the more than 4,000 universities and colleges in the U.S. may fail in the next 15 years. The growing acceptance of online learning means higher education is ripe for technological upheaval, he has said.
“I’m not sure a lot of these institutions have the cushion to experiment with how to stay afloat,” said Michelle Weise, a senior research fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, a think tank the Harvard professor helped establish in San Mateo, California.
(HT: Zero Hedge)


 
Libertarianism in a nutshell
Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks has an essay in Investor's Business Daily adapted from his new book, Don't Hurt People and Don't Take Their Stuff, which is as good as any attempt to reduce a political philosophy to a bumper sticker slogan. He concludes: "We should be left free to speak our minds and pursue our own dreams, as long as we don't hurt other people, or take their stuff."


Monday, April 14, 2014
 
Three strikes
1. My first rule of baseball analysis is to remember that the sport is supposed to be fun. It is easy to get caught up in the numbers and think that everything can be reduced to statistics, but first and foremost baseball is entertaining. The New York Mets are, right now, entertaining. Mets fan Tomas Rios writes for Sports on Earth on how the Mets aren't lovable losers, but an immensely fun team to watch. Bartolo Colon, Kyle Farnsworth, and Jose Valverde all pitching, long after anyone would have thought their pitchable days were behind them and pitching with improbable success. They have Ike Davis and his ugly, ugly swing and centefielder Juan Lagares and his magic in the outfield (do yourself a favour and google "Juan Lagares catch"). I didn't say baseball was always pretty -- although with Lagares it can be. But if you want to behold beauty in a Mets uniform, watch the young pitchers (although Matt Harvey is out this year after Tommy John surgery) including the minors. This isn't baseball on "in the background" but baseball to be watched closely. You'll find something incredibly fun, something you'll want to see again, something that might make you cheers even if you're not a Mets fan.
2. It says a lot about the Arizona Diamondbacks that they need have a swimming pool in their outfield. The most important detail about the pool-side seats is missing from the SI.com story: the cost.
3. Grantland's Jonah Keri explores some of the possible reasons why the number of Tommy John surgeries is on pace to smash the record for most TJs in one season. The fact is no one knows why so many pitchers are getting torn ulnar collateral ligaments at (seemingly) higher rates, but the most plausible explanation is that the kids are in too good shape too early in their careers (high school) and that their muscles are developing larger than the rest of their body can handle. Some coaches would like to see more balanced muscle exercises rather than just lifting weights. However, even teams that are cautious in the training regiment they use (the Tampa Bay Rays and Pittsburgh Pirates) have seen their pitchers undergo Tommy John surgery or are candidates for such surgery sometime soon. As a fan, I'm disappointed that we are being robbed of a season or more of some really fantastic young pitchers (Matt Moore in Tampa, Matt Harvey in New York). The problem, says Keri, is that team evaluators are going to continue judging young pitchers by the speed of their fastballs so high school pitchers will continue training in ways that promote that skill, sometimes at the cost of future professional (and amateur) seasons.


 
Mark Steyn's song of the week
"Rock Around the Clock." Was it almost called "Dance Around the Clock"? Mark Steyn doubts it.


 
The GOP Lawmaker Principle
Last month in Slate, David Weigel wrote about the "GOP Lawmaker Principle":
As the national electoral plight of Democrats increases, so does the incidence of stories about obscure state Republican lawmakers.
Sure, state lawmakers are important. One of the grand ironies of politics is that people are more likely to know the politicians they're distant from (the president) than the ones with portfolios that cover them at the micro level (school board members). Every Congress contains a substantial number of former state legislators, and in this age of declining local media, not many of them have been scrutinized.
But as a rule, if you see the phrase "GOP lawmaker" in a headline, your click will usher you into a world of back-benchers from Bismarck and Jackson and Dover and Sacramento, not the people currently threatening to take the Senate back from Democrats. The Lawmakers are anonymous until they screw up, and when they do, they are often easier to grab hold of then, say, front-running South Dakota U.S. Senate candidate Mike Rounds. If the lawmaker were famous, his name might make it into the hed. But he's not famous, so the story is about right-wing insanity that happens to come from a politician who may or may not represent you—click to find out.
(HT: Instapundit)


 
New York City as model for welfare reform
Robert Doar, former commissioner of the New York City Human Resources Administration, writes in the current National Review about the model of welfare reform that pre-Bill de Blasio New York provides for the United States -- and conservatives:
[F]rom 1995 until this past December, the people who worked in New York’s principal social-services agency were leading one of the most conservative and successful welfare offices in the country ...
From 1995 until the end of 2013, New York City’s cash-welfare caseload shrunk from almost 1.1 million recipients to less than 347,000 — a drop of more than 700,000 men, women, and children.
The achievements of welfare reform in New York City were about more than reducing the number of people on cash welfare. There were also big increases in work rates for single mothers (up from 43 percent in 1994 to 63 percent in 2009) and large reductions in child poverty (down from 42 percent in 1994 to 28.3 percent in 2008). Even in the wake of the 2008 recession, child poverty in New York City in 2011 was almost ten percentage points lower than it had been the year before welfare reforms started.
Welfare-caseload declines, work-rate increases, and child-poverty declines all happened largely because, for eight years under Mayor Giuliani and twelve years under Mayor Bloomberg, New York City required welfare applicants and recipients to work, or look for work, in return for benefits. We aggressively detected and prevented fraud and waste (although we didn’t stop all of them); and we enforced these requirements with a vigilance that every day led to hundreds of case closings and welfare-grant reductions as we made clear that welfare came with responsibilities.
The bulk of the article is "ten lessons" on how welfare can be better for the poor, and most of it is related to encouraging them to work and tying programs to either work or looking for employment.


 
Anti-Semitism in America
Jonathan S. Tobin at Commentary:
While much of our chattering classes remain obsessed with the fear of Islamophobia and are determined to keep alive the myth of a post 9/11 backlash against American Muslims, FBI hate crime statistics continue to show that anti-Jewish attacks outnumber those directed at Muslims by a huge margin. In every year since 9/11, the numbers show that attacks on Muslims are far less frequent than those on Jews. This is especially important to remember not just because of the sad violence in Kansas City but because so much of the media and other institutions are so heavily invested in the myths about Islamophobia while not taking strong stands against non-violent forms of anti-Semitism, such as the movement to wage economic warfare against the State of Israel.


 
On this day in Canadian history
On April 14, 1871, Parliament passed the Uniform Currency Act. Previously, each province could make its own money and they traded at different rates, but in 1871 the Canadian government standardized currency in denominations of dollars, cents and mills (tenths of a cent) and reinforced the 1853 statutory exchange rates with both England and the United States. Ontario and Quebec were already using the Dominion or Canadian dollar, but British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and (until 1874) Prince Edward Island had their own currencies. The Bank Act of 1871 rescinded any provincial currency laws that violated the Uniform Currency Act.


 
Oops
The AFP reports on a case of a woman being impregnated with the wrong baby during IVF treatments:
A woman who underwent fertility treatment at a clinic in Rome became pregnant with the twins of another couple after their embryos were mixed up, press reports said Sunday.
Italy's health ministry said it was launching an investigation into the mix-up, which was only discovered when the woman was three months pregnant.
The mistake happened on December 4, when four different couples were receiving treatment at a specialist fertility unit at the Sandro Pertini Hospital in Rome, La Stampa newspaper reported.
It is not clear whether the mistake led to any of the other women becoming pregnant with the wrong baby.


 
Huckabee: North Korea freer than America?
Townhall.com reports:
Sometimes politicians speak without thinking. Former Arkansas Governor and GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was a perfect example of this on Saturday when he bizarrely claimed that he's "beginning to think there's more freedom in North Korea sometimes than in the United States." Huckabee was speaking in Manchester, NH at AFP's Freedom Summit.
Then why doesn't he move there?
Well, one reason Huckabee wouldn't move to North Korea is that he wants to make American more free, and that's fair. But he shouldn't get the chance if he's going to make ridiculous statements comparing the state of liberty in the United States to that in North Korea.


Sunday, April 13, 2014
 
Speaking out about Bush fatigue
The Hill Times quotes senators Jim Inhofe and John McCain and Rep. Jeff Flake about how Jeb Bush may be qualified but that the family name could be a hindrance.


 
Confessions of a Failed Slut interview
At PJ Media, Ed Driscoll interviews Kathy Shaidle about her new ebook, Confessions of a Failed Slut. It's 29 minutes long and every minute is worth listening to. In the first five minutes Shaidle explains about how she is out-of-step with "casual attitudes about intimacy" and why The Love Boat traumatized her.


 
Cafe Hayek
Turns 10. Congratulations to a great blog and team of liberty and economics bloggers.


 
The Conservative Party becomes a little less conservative, a little less interesting
Red Tory Ron Liepert, who signed up Liberals and NDP as temporary Tories, won with a "comfortable majority" in his challenge to sitting MP Rob Anders for the Conservative nomination in Signal Hill. I bet that those who made up the comfortable majority for Liepert won't vote Tory in the 2015 general election. This is considered a safe Conservative seat so the fact that Liepert's current supporters won't be future supporters won't really matter. But the Tories have lost a true conservative who isn't afraid to speak out on issues he cares dearly about. At a time when the press gallery complains about the tight control of messaging by the Prime Minister's Office, the mainstream media should be mourning the (future) loss of a principled MP who wasn't afraid to ignore the party's and government's marching orders.


Saturday, April 12, 2014
 
Weekend stuff
1. At Grantland, fanboy Chuck Klosterman has a really long article about KISS which includes a rating of all their albums.
2. Real Clear Science has "7 Psychology Facts That Sound Like Myths, But Aren't."
3. Rolling Stone has "50 Greatest 'Saturday Night Live' Sketches of All Time."
4. Open Access Maps at the New York Public Library. And Kottke notes that "Vatican to scan all their manuscript."
5. Mental Floss: "The Most Expensive Properties in 11 Special Edition Monopoly Games."
6. Slate has "Striking Designs From the World’s Typewriter Artists."
7. The M.I.T. Technology Review has a chart with the nuclear capacity of nations and its percentage of its total power.
8. From the animal kingdom. NPR has a story on the power of whale poop. Listverse has "10 Fascinating Pets Of Powerful World Leaders." Scientific American's Tetrapod Zoology blog on "Turtles that eat bone, rocks and soil, and turtles that mine."
9. Nature reports on the "Bacterial tricks for turning plants into zombies."
10. The Wall Street Journal reports on what staff at Garden and Gun magazine wear in their corporate offices in South Carolina.
11. Winnie the Pooh does Darth Vader. (HT: Boing Boing)