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, March 27, 2015
2016 watch (social conservatives edition)
The New York Times reports (via Hot Air) on a meeting of evangelical leaders and other social conservatives which have determined that Mike Huckabee is the most viable social conservative candidate Republican presidential contenders:
The session culminated in a vote for “the most viable candidate.” The result, projected on a screen at the front of a conference room, showed Mr. Huckabee, a former Baptist preacher, as the winner. In a three-way tie for second were Mr. Perry, Mr. Jindal and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, according to a cellphone photo of the results shared with The New York Times.
Really? It seems that all the viable Republican candidates, but especially governors Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal and Senator Ted Cruz are all social conservative stalwarts. Rand Paul is as solidly pro-life as any politician in Washington. Former governor Jeb Bush had a great pro-life record during his time in Tallahassee. Of course, there is more to being socially conservative than opposing abortion, but it is generally the best litmus test. Bush has upset socons with support for Common Core. Paul is too libertarian on most other issues. I'm not sure why conservatives don't like Cruz. But Huckabee is not demonstrably more socially conservative or more politically viable than Walker or Jindal. Cruz might be slightly less socially conservative but more politically viable. Maybe the report is wrong. Maybe it was a group of politically dim social conservatives. But the analysis is wrong: Huckabee is not the most electable most socially conservative Republican contender. Period.

Leading world thinkers
Prospect magazine has a list of the top 10 world thinkers. The top four:
1. Thomas Piketty, French economist
2. Yanis Varoufakis, Greek finance minister
3. Naomi Klein, US author
4. Russell Brand, UK comedian and campaigner
Tim Worstall says: "Someone who is wrong, someone who is cocking up mightily, someone who is wrong and someone who is incomprehensible make up the world’s four leading thinkers?"
Worstall could have gone on; economist turned pundit Paul Krugman was number five.

Brazilian-born Medicine Hat basketball player finally allowed to put name on jersey
Guy Carbagiale Fuck. It's pronounced Foo-key.

Thursday, March 26, 2015
The Madness continues
March Madness: the most important games have yet to be played -- and the most important ones will be played next week in April -- but the best part of the NCAA men's basketball tournament is over. The 48 games in four days during the first two rounds (not counting the silly play-in round which is technically round one) might be the best few days of the sports calendar. Upsets and cinderellas and shockingly close contests with almost no break between games creates an intense and intensely fun sports atmosphere. Now, the schedule is saner and there are few upsets (unless Kentucky gets knocked out before the Final Four); sure a 7-seed might upset a 3-seed but the difference between those two is much less than a 14-seed beating a 3-seed. The games matter more now and there should be some great games between teams that are much closer in ability now that the University of Buffalo and Northeastern are out of the tourney. Excluding UCLA which didn't deserve a tournament spot -- and their Sweet Sixteen berth doesn't vindicate the selection committee's decision -- every other team is seeded eight or better and two of the 7-seeds (Michigan and Wichita) were severely under-seeded. So there's lots of good basketball and that should matter more than narrative to sports fans (maybe not so for sports journalists). Outside a North Carolina-Duke final or Kentucky going for perfection, storylines, and your brackets, matter less now than the quality of the game on the court. And we should have some great games. Here are my predictions.
Kentucky (1) vs. West Virginia (5): Kentucky has played a relatively easy schedule (all season) and hasn't faced a team anything like Bob Huggins' Mountaineers who really press with their defense and they lead college hoops in takeaways. Not saying the Wildcats are going to lose, merely that they are going to be challenged in a way that they haven't thus far this year. West Virginia should make this a close contest and anything can happen in a close game, especially a low-scoring one. Kentucky might have "only" an 80% chance of winning, but they haven't faced such long odds in a while. Kentucky wins a game that should be close -- Vegas is off having Kentucky as 13.5 point favourites -- even if the Wildcats pull away at the end as the Mountaineers miss their catch-up treys.
Notre Dame (3) vs. Wichita State (7): Wichita is better than their seeding but Notre Dame is hot and a fast-paced team, meaning that even if they fall behind, they can catch up. The Fighting Irish might present a greater challenge to Kentucky in the regional final by forcing a different pace. Vegas had these teams as even when betting began but the Shockers are a favourite of bettors right now. I'm not sold on it. You have to trust Notre Dame's 12th ranked offense (from probably the best conference in the country) than Wichita's 6th-ranked defense from Missouri Valley. Should be close, and fun to watch.
Regional Final: Kentucky (1) over Notre Dame (3). The Fighting Irish have about a 20% chance of winning, which isn't enough to take Notre Dame. Kentucky is better, but they will be vulnerable in every remaining game. This might be the easiest game they have left assuming they face Michigan State, Duke, or Gonzaga in the finals. Will be fun to watch how the Wildcat D contains the Fight Irish's speedy offense, but Kentucky can sink their share of buckets. Kentucky to the Final Four.
Wisconsin (1) vs. North Carolina (4): Wisconsin and Arizona are the two best teams in college basketball behind Kentucky and significantly ahead of the next best team(s) whether it is Duke, Gonzaga, or Virginia. The Badgers aren't going to have a problem with the Tar Heals who are prone to turnovers and are missing their second best player, forward Kennedy Meeks. Missing Meeks means fans will be robbed of a potentially great match-up in the paint between him and probably the hardest player in the tournament to defend against, Wisconsin forward Frank Kaminsky, who stands seven-feet tall. North Carolina has been frustratingly inconsistent all year and prone to blowing late leads. UNC is bowing out in the Sweet Sixteen to help set up probably the great game in the tournament. More anon.
Arizona (2) vs. Xavier (6): Nothing against Xavier but the Wildcats are the only team with a top 10 offense and top 10 defense not named Wildcats Kentucky, and the difference between Arizona and Kentucky going either way on the court, according to Ken Pomeroy, is negligible. If Xavier can stop Arizona in the paint, they have a chance because Arizona, which should have been a one-seed, has trouble scoring three-pointers. It's their only real weakness. They are especially adept at preventing offensive rebounding, so Xavier will need to be accurate when shooting. There are just too many ways the Wildcats can win. And they will.
Regional Final: Arizona (2) over Wisconsin (1). For what it's worth, I picked Arizona to beat Duke in the finals before the tournament in my brackets, and there is no reason to change that. Wisconsin can win this game. It should be close. It was my pick for game of the tournament. But the Wildcats are a great, and under-rated team. Both are well-coached so there is no advantage there. Wisconsin has looked sluggish in their tournament games; they can be sluggish and still beat UNC, but they can't get away with it against Arizona. I think Wisconsin will break out of their funk but it won't be enough. Remember this though: they faced their largest deficit of the season against Michigan State in the Big 10 tournament final, came back to force the game to overtime and didn't let the Spartans score in the extra period. They can dominate other really good teams. But I just don't see it happening in the Elite Eight game.
Louisville (4) vs. North Carolina State (8): NC State has beaten good opponents this year, but have lost to some terrible ones. They have the talent to beat any team on any day, including Kentucky. However, I actually have them in my Sweet Sixteen, but their journey ends. The Cardinals defense isn't as dominating as previous seasons but it is still one of the best (fifth by Pomeroy's adjusted D) which will be enough to get Louisville to the Elite Eight.
Oklahoma (3) vs. Michigan State (7): I consider this one a coin-flip. Oklahoma is a very good team and would take them to beat anyone else left in in the region, but it's hard to pick against Tom Izzo in March. It's still March, right? The Spartans defense has been spectacular lately, which is why you can't put a lot of stock in the overall ratings. Izzo's squad has been a different team over the past month. Michigan State continues on.
Regional Final: Michigan State (7) over Louisville (4): Anything can happen in a close, defensive battle, but Michigan State is playing extremely well lately if you don't include the final 15 minutes against Wisconsin in the Big 10 Final.
Duke (1) vs Utah (5): You could make a case that Utah is the fifth best team left in the tournament. This contest features strength against strength in the Blue Devils' offense vs. the Utes defense. I'm going with Duke because likely first overall NBA pick Jahil Okafor can take over a game if need be.
Gonzaga (2) vs UCLA (11): The Zags are a great team that doesn't get any respect and the Bruins are over-rated because they've gone on a run beating SMU (#6) and getting lucky in facing Alabama-Birmingham (#14) instead of Iowa State (#3). The Bruins' run ends. Gonzaga puts off "they can't win big games" for another few days.
Regional Final: Duke (1) over Gonzaga (2). It's kinda sad. Gonzaga is clearly one of the six best teams left in the tournament and they might be in the Final Four if they were in the East. But Duke is better.

If the youth are our future, we're screwed
Ashe Schow in the Washington Examiner:
With all the attention being paid to college-aged social justice warriors and microagressions, one has to ask: What happens when all these delicate snowflakes enter the workforce?
The latest, as noted here yesterday and reported by Schow, is that clapping is intimidating.
And Schow points out what is happening Brown, an Ivy League school:
In another recent example, New York Times opinion writer Judith Shulevitz described a special "safe space" at Brown University, a room with "cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma."
Why is such infantilization of grown college students necessary?
You know that companies will follow suit when they hire these children.

'Mulcairmania in Alberta?'
That's a question in the comments to Eric Grenier's look at the NDP in Alberta when the author thinks the NDP might have a chance at three seats, two in Edmonton (projected NDP) and Lethbridge (close but no cigar). There are several theories as to why this is happening:
1) A federal numbers bump influenced by the popular new provincial NDP leader, Rachel Notley.
2) The belief that Albertans won't vote for Justin Trudeau (I would add, "outside Calgary").
3) Combined with #2, those who want to get rid of the Harper Conservatives could coalesce around one party, therefore the NDP.
The NDP will win one, maybe two in Edmonton, a city that is, on the provincial level, voting more NDP. I doubt they win Lethbridge or that it will be all that close (within 3-5 points) on election day even if the sitting MP is running in another riding; the Conservatives beat NDP by almost 30-points in 2011, and that's a lot to make-up.
If winning a pair of seats in a riding counts as some sort of NDP surge or Mulcairmania, the Tories are doing okay.

Inefficient water markets
Marginal Revolution's Alex Tabarrok looks at the misallocation of water resources in California, a misallocation that occurs because water is close to free and is therefore used inefficiently. Tabarrok notes:
At the same time as farmers are watering their almonds, San Diego is investing in an energy-intensive billion-dollar desalination plant which will produce water at a much higher cost than the price the farmer are paying. That is a massive and costly misallocation of water.
In short, we are spending thousands of dollars worth of water to grow hundreds of dollars worth of almonds and that is truly nuts.
The chart from Mother Jones that Tabarrok highlights also illustrates why household water conservation schemes will barely make a dent in California's overall water use: more water is used to produce pistachios for export than by homes and businesses in San Francisco, more water is used to produce walnuts for export than by homes and businesses in Los Angeles, and more about three times more water is used to produce almonds than is used by people in LA. And that's just producing nuts. Pricing water, especially for agriculture, is an urgent need in much of the American west.

'We interrupt this lovefest for Lee Kwan Yew with this important message'
Chris Blattman has an excellent post and link with two major points. The first is really important: "I’m used to people trading off someone else’s freedom for GDP growth." GDP growth is good, but not at the cost of liberty. Too many on the Right look at GDP growth as a story that speaks for itself. It doesn't. Blattman's second point is that the narrative of "Third-world-to-First-World" is misleading considering that Singapore was in pretty good shape at the beginning of Lee Kwan Yew's reign due to the system of stability he inherited from British rule.

Political fundraising appeals are stupid
The Liberals sent out an email asking for donations. It begins:
We have them worried friend, but they're pushing harder than ever. And that's exactly why we can't slow down.
Read this excerpt from a recent Conservative fundraising email then let’s do everything we can to gain even more ground on them early in this all-important election year.
As the Conservative Party’s Executive Director, I cannot forget to tell you that the end of winter also means the end of our first fiscal quarter. It’s the first time this year that we publish our fundraising results.
In the last quarter, the Liberals were hot on our heels.
Will you help us keep a cash advantage over the Liberals by making your 2015 gift today?...
...Our analysis tells us that the Liberals are seeing increasingly positive success in their fundraising efforts.
Except every party does this: so-and-so is on our heels. It is rhetoric. Stir up the base with phony appeals that the evil other side has almost caught up in fundraising. If the Tories are worried, it is about what the Liberals will do, probably with the acquiescence of the NDP in an informal coalition, if they were to win power in October. The fear for Tories is not losing; it's the cost to Canada in having Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Shit, even typing those words gives me the shivers.)
So Liberal campaign co-chair Mrs. Rob Silver does what anyone asking for money will do: ramps up the fear that the other side is going all out and raising money hard: "they're pushing harder than ever." Of course they are. As are the Liberals. Because it's 2015 and there's a federal election. Because money is important. Like real important. It helps pay the salaries of campaign co-chairs.
Implicit in noting that the Conservatives are "pushing harder" is that Liberals are worried they will lose ground to the Tories in raising money. The next Conservative email should say: "We have them worried friend, but they're pushing harder than ever. And that's exactly why we can't slow down." How do the Conservatives know the Liberals are worried? Oh, shit, it's an endless cycle of stupid rhetoric. I miss the good old days of twice a year appeal letters that arrived by mail. Back then there was an attempt to make the case for supporting the party in question, instead of ginning up silly fear narratives.
As for "our analysis" quoted from the Tory fundraising email, all that means is that someone at the CPC headquarters can read a news story that says the Liberals are getting better at fundraising and then glances at the quarterly reports with Elections Canada to see that the fundraising gap between the two parties is shrinking. But analysis sounds like somebody doing something smart. And that somebody needs to get paid.
Here's my appeal. Don't give money to political parties. The parasite class doesn't need the money. Give the money to charity. Or take your parents out for dinner. Just stop rewarding stupid political fundraising appeals.

An obstacle to development
The Wall Street Journal explains that for many people in India, dealing with a loan shark is easier than dealing with a bank. Of course, formal banking negates some of the benefits of the "informal economy."

Mulcair vs. Harper
Both NDP leader Thomas Mulcair and Prime Minister Stephen Harper were being kind of pissy during Question Period yesterday, and yet I admire both of their answers. Perhaps I like it because it will tick off the delicate Bruce Anderson.

'Right to Try' passes in Indiana, Utah
The Tenth Amendment Center notes that Right to Try laws granting terminally ill patients access to drugs not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration have passed in two states: "In Indiana, HB1065 passed 50-0 in the Senate and 92-0 in the House. In Utah, HB94 passed 26-0 in the Senate and 69-3 in the House." Typically any law that passes unanimously or near-unanimously should be viewed with skepticism; it usually indicates a fashionable cause that politicians want to be seen supporting and such bipartisanship is usually the political equivalent of collusion. But Right to Try seems the correct policy, if only to put pressure on the FDA to stop taking its sweet time approving potentially life-saving drugs.
In a post looking at the possibility of a turf war between the states and the feds, Hot Air's Ed Morrissey notes Right to Try looks like human experimentation without the testing protocols of the FDA to determine a drug's efficacy. But, Morrissey wonders, "is it any more ethical to watch people suffer and die while red tape ties up treatments that could prevent either or both?"

Partly cloudy vs. partly sunny
The Cliff Mass Weather Blog explains the differences between "party cloudy" and "partly sunny." The most important is time of day: "partly cloudy" is used for nighttime percentage cover of the sky and "partly sunny" for daytime. Interestingly, though, the percentages don't line up. "Partly cloudy" aligns with "mostly sunny," in which case 26-50 of the sky is covered. "Partly sunny" aligns with about half the nighttime designation "mostly cloudy" which is 51-69% cover of the sky.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015
A nation of pussies
Reason's Nick Gillespie: "Finally: An Anonymous, Online, Geo-Tagged System to Report Microaggressions at College!" Gillespie says that simply reporting that fact he might be committing an microaggression.
In related news, some feminists do not like clapping because it can trigger anxiety.
Normally I think that in the long run we'll be fine, but increasingly I think we're fucked.

Educating African kids
Richard Walker has a short CapX essay on elementary schooling in Africa, focusing mostly on the work of James Tooley, professor of education at Newcastle University. The gist is that private schools can often educate kids in Africa at a cost comparable to parents that state-run schools do (because "public" schools have fees for uniforms, books, and incidentals) and often with comparable (or better) results. Unfortunately, education policy on the continent doesn't takes private schools into proper account in part due to aid agencies like Oxfam and ActionAid that are ideologically hostile to private schooling and that ignore data about their benefits.

Obsession or obstruction?
This story is from yesterday's CBC: "Ontario opposition parties are finally moving on to other business at Queen's Park after lobbing 131 straight questions at the Liberal government about the Sudbury byelection scandal." This sounds a tad much, but perhaps they wouldn't have had to ask 131 consecutive questions about the Sudbury byelection scandal if Kathleen Wynne's government actually answered any one of the questions on this subject. So another angle is not just 131 straight questions, but 131 non-answers. Sure, the opposition parties were point-scoring as much as information-seeking, but just imagine if the government provided any information.

A terrible term but probably a useful description of a segment on the American Right. Charles C. W. Cooke, author of The Conservatarian Manifesto: Libertarians, Conservatives, and the Fight for the Right's Future, has a good description of what he means, in an interview with ReasonTV: "These are the people who say when they are around libertarians they feel conservative, and when they are around conservatives they feel libertarian." That's often me. Of course, I also feel a little bit anarchist when with either tribe. Try raising the issue of "why do we have borders at all?" with either group.

Food Stamp Nation
Jason Riley of the Manhattan Institute writes in the Wall Street Journal about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as the U.S. food-stamp program, paid for by Washington but jointly administered by federal and state governments. Originally an anti-hunger program, it has slowly become an entitlement enjoyed by 47.6 million people -- a population the size of Spain and about 2.5 times as many people who qualified for SNAP in 2000 as Riley points out -- and includes large swathes of the middle class. Riley is less worried about the $80 billion price tag (four times the cost in 2000) than the human cost in making food an entitlement. Nearly six in ten recipients are on SNAP for more than five years, indicating it has become "an open-ended income-supplement program." He charges the Obama administration with manufacturing demand and recruiting new mouths to feed, as the number of SNAP recipients grew 69% between 2008 and 2013 while the poverty rate only increased 16.5%. Riley says Democrats "use handouts to increase voter support" and "consider greater dependence an achievement."
The problem among the poor, though, is not hunger but obesity. SNAP intends to increase food consumption, not healthy eating. Riley says, "In a sense, Michelle Obama’s fitness initiatives are trying to address a problem that is exacerbated by her husband’s food-stamp policies."
But the outcomes of the program matter little and too few in government care about the long-term effects of dependence. Republicans seem only to care about costs. Democrats seem only to care about getting re-elected. SNAP was exempted from the 1996 welfare reform but Riley says bringing the sort of "stringent time limits and work requirements" that other program recipients faced after 1996 could go some way to offer relief to taxpayers, end incentives to treating the program as a form of permanent income relief, and stop the practice of vote-buying through government programs. While Riley doesn't say so, the program then could be fine-tuned to provide the sort of nutritional support that poor families need, rather than giving the kids of middle class families a free school lunch or breakfast.

Obama, Hillary, and the high-schoolization of American politics
Thomas Sowell on the similarities between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton:
They attract the votes of those people who vote for demographic symbolism — “the first black president” to be followed by “the first woman president” — and neither is to be criticized, lest you be denounced for racism or sexism.
It is staggering that there are sane adults who can vote for someone to be president of the United States as if they are in school, just voting for “most popular boy” or “most popular girl” — or, worse yet, voting for someone who will give them free stuff.

Trudeau, Liberals, and R2P
iPolitics reports:
One expert in genocide and war said the government motion neatly manoeuvred Trudeau into repudiating his own party’s foreign policy legacy.
“I think now from a political perspective this is a bigger wedge issue because Liberals were the ones who helped bring about responsibility to protect (R2P), that said we must do more to protect human security. They are now basically turning their backs on that notion,” said Kyle Matthews, senior deputy director at the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies with Concordia University.
Matthews isn't quite correct. Trudeau didn't repudiate the party's foreign policy. As leader whatever he says is party foreign policy becomes the party's foreign policy. What he did is arguably worse: he repudiated the party's liberal principles. Or worse yet, he believes that the Responsibility to Protect can be met with hugs and blankets.
It could be argued that repudiating the endless pit of R2P is good policy, but it probably isn't good liberal foreign policy.

2016 watch (Ben Carson edition)
Reason's Matt Welch notes that Ben Carson is not ready for prime time -- he said that "Andrea Mitchell's husband" is his favourite secretary of the treasury. And that Rupert Murdoch is not a fan of the former neurosurgeon.

New Mexico moves to end government shakedowns
Kerry Jackson of Investor's Business Daily:
Civil asset forfeiture looks more like a criminal enterprise than criminal justice. Under civil asset forfeiture laws, police and other law enforcement authorities are free to seize private property without charging the owner with any crime. It has truly grown into a racket.
The New Mexico legislation "abolishes this practice, and now before police may seize an individual's property they must convict that person of a crime and prove that the property being seized was used in the commission of that crime," reports the Jurist, a Web-based legal news and legal research service.
"Additionally, the bill directs any monetary gains from the seizure of property to the state's general fund instead of the police budget. This is thought to remove any incentive police may have to seek out opportunities to seize property."
Adam Bates, writing in Cato's At Liberty blog, reports that "the New Mexico bill requires a criminal conviction for forfeiture actions, bolsters the 'innocent owner' defense by requiring that the owner know that his/her property was being used illegally, ... and limits the ability of state and local law enforcement agencies to circumvent state law by utilizing the federal equitable sharing program."
The government abuses that have occurred under the protection of civil asset forfeiture laws are infuriating and should never happen in our country.
It appears the New Mexico law would be a model for other states. And not soon enough.

Obama vs. Israel
The Wall Street Journal editorializes: "Obama’s Israel Tantrum: The leader of the free world takes revenge on an ally." The WSJ says:
You’ll have to forgive President Obama. The leader of the free world is still having difficulty accepting that the Israeli people get to choose their own prime minister, never mind his preferences ...
Obama was counting on Mr. Netanyahu to be defeated in last week’s election, and the President did what he could to help that defeat along. But Mr. Obama’s overt hostility backfired. In the normal course of things, this would be the time for the White House to soften the rhetoric and seek to restore relationships.
Instead, the President and his team seem out for revenge. So while Mr. Netanyahu has clarified his comment about his opposition to a Palestinian state (he says he supports a two-state solution but now is not the time) and apologized to Arab Israelis for his remarks about their votes during the waning hours of the election, the President and his team have been escalating.
And unnamed administration officials are calling Netanyahu a coward.
Investor's Business Daily editorializes:
And how about the irony of this observation, also buried deep in [another] Journal story: "As secret talks with Iran progressed into 2013, U.S. intelligence agencies monitored Israel's communications to see if the country knew of the negotiations" — in other words, the U.S. was spying on Israel.
Not only that, but as we know, the administration also actively sought, through former campaign aides, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's defeat in last week's election. That's not undermining Israeli diplomacy, but rather Israeli democracy.
This administration is presiding over unprecedented domestic surveillance, including phone calls and emails of perfectly innocent U.S. citizens. It listened in on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and it greatly reduced if not eliminated the information about the Iran talks it was giving Israel.
Now the White House enlists the media to libel Israel as it struggles to survive. In seeking a grand pact with an enemy power, President Obama is going to war with arguably our most loyal ally since World War II.
IBD says that "we're close to a de facto state of war" with Israel, which is a little over the top. But relations between the U.S. and Israel are certainly at their worst since the Eisenhower administration, when the Americans sided with Egypt in the Suez Crisis.

Sue. The. Schools.
The New York Post reports:
Multiple sources claim Dewey is cutting corners by passing kids with the help of a shady “credit recovery” program that students sarcastically call “Easy Pass.”
The system allows failing pupils to get passing grades by playing games, doing work online or taking abbreviated programs that critics argue lack academic rigor.
In one alleged grade-booster, kids got science credit for watching “Jurassic Park,” sources said.
At the very least, suing teachers and school administrators who claim to provide some semblance of an education, could be sued for fraud.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Income taxes paid
The Washington Examiner has a graph on who pays how much income tax. Those earning $250,000 -- just 2.4% of income tax filers -- pay nearly half of all income taxes (48.9%). Those earning less than $30,000, representing 45.9% of filers, pay 1.7% of all income tax.

Old hippie David Crosby hits jogger with his Tesla
Kathy Shaidle wonders: "Is this an attempt to squeeze the last 50 years into one news story?" The story is here if you are interested.

How can you tell if Hillary Clinton's lying?
Her lips are moving. Natonal Review Online has the best headline of the year (so far): "Hillary Doesn’t Take Questions After Speech Promising Open Relationship with Press." NRO's Katherine Timpf says: "Now, forgive me for my cynicism, but her refusal to take a single question from a reporter or audience member right after promising to be more open makes me think that she just might not mean it."

Top story at the Toronto Star
Today there was a parliamentary about the Canadian military mission fighting ISIS in the Middle East and a major delay on the main subway line due to environmental concerns, but the most read story at the website of Canada's largest paper is "Angelina Jolie has her ovaries removed" (for medical reasons).

Canada's spy agency says pro-lifers are responsible for 1/12th of terrorism
LifeSiteNews reports:
Canada’s pro-life movement wasted no time dismissing as “absurd” a Canadian Security Intelligence Service internal memo asserting that 8 percent of so-called “lone wolf” terrorism attacks are the work of extremist pro-lifers.
The claim was made in a briefing note prepared for CSIS second-in-command Michael Peirce before his testimony last October to the Senate national security committee. It was obtained by the Toronto Star through a freedom-of-information request ...
The note blamed white supremacy and other ideologies of the extreme right for 17 percent of “lone-wolf” attacks, Islamic extremism for another 15 percent, left-wing radicalism and “black power” for 13 percent, and “anti-abortion” extremism for eight percent, citing, as the Star put it, “recent academic research” rather than any inside intelligence.
I haven't seen the memo, but Campaign Life Coalition policy researcher Paul Lauzon said CSIS links the Canadian pro-life movement to violence committed in the culture wars in the United States. Pro-lifers point to the fact that CSIS ignores violence committed against pro-lifers, although that probably wouldn't fall within the agency's definition of terrorism. What none of the news coverage reports is that pro-life leaders always condemn anti-abortion violence.

No Tory help for Doug Ford
Weird how the guy former mayoral candidate Doug Ford called a spoiled rich kid won't help him out pay off nearly a million dollars in campaign debt.

Ted Cruz is the George Zimmerman of presidential politics
NPR referred to Republican Senator Ted Cruz as a "White Hispanic," which leads to a comment by Popehat and this observation by Instapundit: "The 'White Hispanic' thing is a case of dog-whistle othering, telling people that the target is outside the protection of the Democrats’ racial coalition and thus can be freely attacked. By engaging in such signalling, NPR is also signalling that it’s a full-blown part of the Democratic Party apparat, though that’s not really news."

On oral history of UHF
AV Club has a very long oral history of UFH, Weird Al's movie featuring, among others a pre-Seinfeld Michael Richards and Anthony Geary during his eight years away from General Hospital. (Geary played Luke Spencer on GH, the man who raped Laura and later married her.) If you like UHF or oral histories of movies generally, this is a good one.
This from Geary, who is pretentious despite being an actor whose major credits is a crappy soap and UHF, seems like good advice for actors:
In those days, I didn’t know how to audition for film. I still don’t. But my idea at the time was that you go in as the character, because I had had a lot of stage training, and I’ve worked with Lee Strasberg for four years. And he always said in an audition you’re going to get one shot, so go in with a point of view. What I didn’t understand at the time is it’s a point of view about yourself—not about the character. Because when they’re doing a film, they’re usually looking for what they can get out of you as a human being. They’re not looking for you to come in and show them the full-blown character—especially a character like that. But I didn’t know that. So I just went full out. I think I painted my teeth dark, and I just went full mad scientist. And that’s what got the role.

Monday, March 23, 2015
Blatchford on Trudeau's handling of Andrews, Pacetti
Christie Blatchford has a column in the National Post on due process, or lack thereof, in Justin Trudeau's handling of the allegations of sexual harassment by (at least) a pair of unidentified NDP MPs against Scott Andrews and Massimo Pacetti, two former Liberal MPs. Blatchford juxtaposes the due process afforded the VIA train terror plotters by the legal system to the lack of due process afforded Andrews and Pacetti in the political arena by their former leader, which is unnecessarily incendiary and beside the point: the Liberal MPs are not, at least yet, facing criminal charges. Still the column is worth reading, but this is worth highlighting:
In Ottawa, Mr. Trudeau issued a brisk press release saying his own hired gun, human rights lawyer Cynthia Petersen, had done a bang-up job investigating the allegations against Messrs. Andrews and Pacetti (her report was not made public), that he accepted their decisions to sit as independents and not to seek Liberal nominations in their ridings, and that the matter was now closed.
Two thoughts.
1) Do not the people of Avalon and Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel deserve to know the allegations and findings that cost them MPs within a party caucus. Understanding that technically citizens vote for an MP and not a party, the fact is most votes are cast for the party brand and leader, not the MP. The people of Avalon and Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel voted for a Liberal MP and now they don't have one. They have a right to know why.
2) If Andrews and Pacetti accepted the findings, they are in, at least some way, accepting some wrong-doing. (If not, they are fools for accepting banishment from the party.) Perhaps the full House of Commons should know what happened lest they want to sanction these two beyond stripping them of a party label. In other words, why is whatever it is these two did a matter only for the Liberal Party and not the House of Commons. If these two did anything wrong, why is the punishment merely losing the right to caucus with the Liberals? To believe that sufficient punishment for any serious form of sexual harassment is to inflate the importance of being a Liberal above the importance of being an MP.

'The pornification of Hollywood'
Rick McGinnis wrote about the movie 50 Shades of Grey for the March Interim and has this wonderful line: "What hasn’t been discussed, though, is the simple fact that no one watches porn for the story while no one really watches a movie for the sex."

Nominated candidates
According to Pundit's Guide on Twitter the Liberals have 228 candidates nominated (67%), compared to 222 Conservatives (66%), 172 NDP (51%), and 73 Greens (22%). Does this make it more or less likely that bored political journalists will write Spring election stories? Or is it even relevant? (To the speculation, not an actual election.)

Privilege or good genes
Tyler Cowen points to stunning statistics in the New York Times:
An American male is 4,582 times more likely to become an Army general if his father was one; 1,895 times more likely to become a famous C.E.O.; 1,639 times more likely to win a Pulitzer Prize; 1,497 times more likely to win a Grammy; and 1,361 times more likely to win an Academy Award. Those are pretty decent odds, but they do not come close to the 8,500 times more likely a senator’s son is to find himself chatting with John McCain or Dianne Feinstein in the Senate cloakroom.
When looking at inequalities, few people want to consider the role of genetics.
That said, the political class might be an unfortunately accurate term.

Darn, now I have to buy Harper's
I see that Harper's has an article by Rebecca Solnit called "Abolish High School." I'm sure the headline is deliberately provocative, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. A debate about educational reform requires an examination of fundamental questions, like how much schooling is necessary and in what environment is it best delivered. Tinkering over more money for public schools or enabling more choice for parents might be -- almost certainly is -- missing the point if we do not reexamine the premises and assumptions of education itself.

GOP 'cage match'
Legal Insurrection has a poll up until midnight tonight (March 23) on Texas Senator Ted Cruz vs. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. It's close, with Walker leading. In an ideal world, Senator Mike Lee and Rep. Paul Ryan would be running, but it's politics so compromises have to be made. Among those interested in climbing the greasy poll to the White House, the Republicans almost certainly couldn't do better than a race between these two, unless (maybe) one of them was replaced by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. I've said before that Cruz is a serious thinker who elevates and broadens the public debate. Walker is a fighter with impressive policy and political accomplishments. Either would be infinitely better than either contender from Florida (Bush 3.0 former governor Jeb Bush or the Republican version of Barack Obama, Senator Marco Rubio). Rand Paul would be great despite some serious shortcomings simply because he would expand the political debate 20 yards down the field, but the GOP Establishment isn't going to let a libertarian opponent of the Permanent War State win the Republican nomination.

'Two ripe targets for GOP'
Glenn Harlan Reynolds in USA Today:
The Republicans have a real opportunity to connect with voters and win big in 2016. But to do so, they'll have to get over their traditional love for Big Business. Will they be smart enough to do that? The prospects don't look especially bright.
Republicans could take on the crony capitalists by challenging work visa rules that benefit the wealthy and harm American workers or amending property rights in a way that benefits consumers rather than Big Hollywood. But the GOP won't.

Talking about race
Instapundit: "The primary purpose of race-talk in America today is to allow elite whites to silence and shame non-elite whites." And: "Talk about race ... has become almost entirely a tool whereby elite whites bully and shame non-elite whites for transparently self-serving purposes."

Sunday, March 22, 2015
Spring election. Remember when that was a thing?
Rob Silver tweeted: "Remember when (sorta) serious people were convinced there'd be a spring election? So many memories..."

The internets has been amazing for sports writing -- and thus sports fans
Never mind that data sharing for analytics needed the internet to make the giant leap forward and mainstream a whole generation of Bill Jameses. No dead tree publication would have printed a "Third-base coach rankings" like Sports On Earth did based on "the extra base factor."

California is not running out of water
The Los Angeles Times explains why the Golden State is not going to run out of water despite worries that the reservoir system has only about a one-year supply of water remaining: "Reservoirs provide only a portion of the water used in California and are designed to store only a few years' supply." Groundwater supplies have decades worth of water. Snow and rivers will replenish the reservoir. At a single moment the reservoir system had a one year supply of water but that is not the same thing as California having a one year supply of water.

'My Mom's Nursery School Is Edgier Than College'
Robby Soave at Hit & Run:
Caving to students' demands for trigger warnings and safe spaces is doing them no favors: it robs them of the intellectually-challenging, worldview-altering kind of experience they should be having at college. It also emboldens them to seek increasingly absurd and infantilizing restrictions on themselves and each other.
As their students mature, my mother and her co-workers encourage the children to forego high chairs and upgrade from diapers to "big kid" toilets. If only American college administrators and professors did the same with their students.
Soave's post is full of good links and quotes.

Cowen on Israel. And 'progressives.'
Tyler Cowen's observations about Israeli's election and commentary about post-election Israel:
What I find striking is how unready many critics are to confront what has happened, not just in the “Plan B” sense but also rhetorically. The possibility that civil rights progress, peace progress, and self-governance and democratic progress simply have stopped, and won’t be back any time soon, is before us. If anything, matters might become worse yet, especially once you contemplate Gaza. Yet Western commentators don’t know where to turn, because the prevailing progressive narrative is one, not surprisingly, of progress. The common progressive remedy is one of moral exhortation, but at this point it doesn’t seem like another lecture to Israeli voters is going to do the trick.
Cowen says the disproportionate place that Israel holds in the worldview of many western commentators is creating an intellectual crisis precisely because nothing is happening -- at least nothing that many people want. Cowen doesn't go far enough. The Left believes in the inevitable and unceasing march of progress and the fact that the Two-State Solution isn't moving forward, despite the fact it was already moribund, does not compute. This election was supposed to get rid of Benjamin Netanyahu, the supposed impediment to moving the Two-State Solution closer to reality. That didn't happen and because their worldview was challenged they think the world is falling apart.

P.J. O'Rourke on John Hughes and The Breakfast Club
Writing in the Daily Beast to mark the 30th anniversary of the movie The Breakfast Club, P.J. O'Rourke remembers his former National Lampoon colleague John Hughes as something of a conservative and observes that the movie has conservative ideas:
To make them conservative, they immediately start operating upon the three basic principles in The Wealth of Nations by that conservative fundamental block builder Adam Smith: Pursuit of self-interest, division of labor and freedom of trade.
No member of the Breakfast Club questions pursuit of self-interest, though it takes the five of them the whole movie to figure out where their self-interests lie. Even apparently self-destructive Allison Reynolds abjures from mind-altering substances, her mind being altered plenty enough already. And manifestly self-destructive John Bender declines to take a fatal punch at assistant principle Vernon, no matter how well-deserved.
Division of labor is the theme of the movie. Each kid discovers what’s valuable in the others. And—cue sentimental conservative favorite “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds—what’s valuable in him or her self.
Freedom of trade is the message of the movie. Albeit the trade is conducted in the coin of the adolescent realm, love.
I haven't see the whole movie (and it's been years) so I don't know if O'Rourke is right. I do know that I'm not a fan of calling movies "conservative" just because there are some conservative ideas in them. Still, the lesson is there, and that's good.

Netanyahu and the race card
David Remnick in The New Yorker on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: "He went racist." Of course he did. That's the only way conservatives can win according to the Left. Apparently noting that being surrounded by people committed to your destruction is not a legitimate matter for political discussion. Apparently noting that people have different values is verboten (unless it's your side noting the differences). Racism is left-wing code "other values" and it isn't always about race. But if the Left can't win an election, they'll try to delegitimize the conservative victory with the ugly accusation of right-wing racial appeals.

The fix for 'privilege' in the enlarging of opportunity
George Will writes about the "check your privilege" phenomenon:
Those favored by genetics, and by family acculturation the acquired social capital (the habits and dispositions necessary for taking advantage of opportunities), tend to go to school and then to work together. And they marry one another, concentrating advantages in their children.
Hence today’s interest in what is called “privilege theory,” which takes a dark view of the old couplet, “All men are by nature equal, but differ greatly in the sequel.” The theory leaps from the obvious to the dubious. Obviously some people are born with, and into, advantages, congenital and social. What is dubious is the conclusion that government has the capacity and duty to calibrate, redistribute, and equalize advantages.
Joy Pullmann, writing at the Federalist, a conservative website of which she is managing editor, notes something else obvious: This agenda is incompatible with freedom. Furthermore, although some individuals have advantages they did not earn, “very often someone else did earn them” — by, for example, nurturing children in a stable family. It is hardly an injustice — an invidious privilege — for nurturing parents to be able to confer on their children the advantages of conscientiousness. The ability to do so, says Pullmann, is a powerful motivation for noble behavior that, by enlarging society’s stock of parental “hard work, self-control and sacrifice,” produces “positive spillover effects for everyone else.”
Will says that "enhancing equality of opportunity is increasingly urgent," but it must be done so without "damaging freedom." Paradoxically, enhancing opportunity could harm the incentives to better oneself.

Best comment on polls showing massive support for Harper's position on niqab
Three different polling firms -- Ipsos, Leger Marketing, and Forum Research -- have shown that two-thirds to three-quarters of Canadians share Prime Minister Stephen Harper's opposition to Muslims wearing the niqab during the citizenship swearing-in ceremony. Gerry Nicholls had the best comment on these polls: "Poll shows only Canadians who oppose PM Harper's niqab policy are Justin Trudeau & the Parliamentary Press Gallery."

Rex Murphy on Trudeau's handling of Andrews, Pacetti
Rex Murphy addresses the meaning of the fiasco of Justin Trudeau's handling of allegations of sexual harassment against Scott Andrews and Massimo Pacetti. Murphy says there is a problem with "justice" -- if indeed this is justice -- that is not seen to be done. The fact is the public has no idea of what is happening in this whole affair which due to the actions of the Liberal leader, is shrouded in secrecy. Being MPs, the public has a right to know what is going on:
The whole affair has been a marsh gas of fact and rumour, hearsay, leaks and speculation. The substance of the charges, identity of the accusers, the inquiry itself, what it found to be true, what it found not to be true — all are wrapped up in secrecy and non-disclosure. Rarely has a matter of such substance involving members of Parliament and the public’s concept of justice and accountability been handled so closely, so arbitrarily, so tidily as it concerns the political parties involved.
If this is a workplace harassment issue, the House of Commons and the Speaker of the House, Andrew Scheer, should be adjudicating the case not the Liberal leader. Instead, Justin Trudeau put political convenience above the rights of MPs and fundamental justice, as well as the issue of sexual harassment. Murphy stresses this point, but also insists that all MPs and the Speaker should be standing up for the larger issues involved: "It suggests that the entire process of justice as it applies to every citizen can be bypassed when the political parties see bypassing it as convenient." While Trudeau looks like his is tough on the mistreatment of women, he is in fact participating in a cover-up. It is shameful and few people get to the crux of the matter involved like Rex Murphy.

This cracked me up
Fox News: "Fire extinguisher factory destroyed in massive blaze."

Saturday, March 21, 2015
Justin Trudeau out of step with his own party over niqab
Ipsos Reid has polled Canadians about the niqab -- whether it is appropriate garb during the citizenship swearing-in ceremony and whether it is rooted in a culture that is anti-woman -- and while the results are stark with about 70% of people supporting Prime Minister Stephen Harper's position on it, it also shows that at least six-in-ten Liberals disagree with Justin Trudeau on the issue. Trudeau said Harper is fear-mongering over the niqab, but 85% of Liberals feel that people should show their face in citizenship ceremonies, 60% of Liberals disagree with allowing Muslim women to wear either a niqab or burka while being sworn in as citizens, and 66% of Liberals agreeing that these coverings are "symbols of oppression and rooted in a culture that is anti-women." What will Junior do with these numbers? Will he double-down, playing to the Parliamentary Press Gallery that is convinced the Liberal Way is the only way, or will he quiet down and risk alienating Canada's million-strong Muslim population that is in love with Trudeau the Younger?

Which companies do the best job at satisfying customers?
According to the 2014 Temkin Survey of customer satisfaction, the best companies were banks, fast-food restaurants, grocery stores, and retailers like Amazon, Nordstrom's, QVC, and Costco. The worst included numerous numerous wireless, cable, and health insurance companies. With the exception of Hyundai, car companies do not make the top or bottom of the list.

The 'inessentialism of Vox'
Great tweet on how all those cutesy stories at Vox have been done before. There is only so much data to go around for click-bait stories.

Dalrymple on psychology
Spencer Case reviews Theodore Dalrymple's new book Admirable Evasions: How Psychology Undermines Morality, which argues that psychology, or more properly the reduction of "all human behaviour to physical processes," is an impediment to "human self-understanding" which Case says, "has led to a culture of self-obsession and a diminution of personal responsibility" as evidenced by the "drastic expansion of the number of professionally recognized mental disorders." Saying that Dalrymple has a point Case also comes to the defense of psychiatrists, not all of whom are "technocrats of the soul, eager to pump their patients full of happy pills to relieve their existential angst." (All the above quotes are from Case, not Dalrymple.) Case's point is that Dalrymple is correct to say that medicalizing every problem as mental illness trivializes real mental illness, but the trick is not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Flanagan documentary to premiere on Rebel.Media on Sunday
Tom Flanagan, one of the great academics to enter to practical world of politics, is the subject of a documentary that will premiere on Ezra Levant's Rebel Media. Below is a trailer. Flanagan suffered a "self-inflicted" wound over a perfectly debatable point, or as Kathy Shaidle says "He’s the guy who helped built Canada’s conservative movement — then got 'under-bussed' out of nowhere by the same folks he helped get elected." Flanagan was a victim of North America's "outrage culture" in which the political and livelihood consequences far outweigh the supposed wrong. The documentary should be interesting. I also highly recommend his semi-autobiographical Persona Non Grata: The Death of Free Speech in the Internet Age which looks at the phenomenon of silencing political opponents by the reprehensible practice of deeming too many issues out of bounds of legitimate discussion.

'The children of migrants are just as British as anyone else'
Alex Massie, a libertarian-leaning conservative, writes in The Spectator about what he considers the obnoxious Migration Watch. He complains about the type of British Tory who considers Migration Watch the sort of organization that has something useful to say about immigration and the children of migrants. Massie is as nasty about them as he claims they are about foreigners, advising that the Tories turn their backs on supporters who might not be thrilled about invasive immigration. As political strategy, that's suicide. But aside from the politics and morality of it all, I have a question: do migrants consider their children as British as anyone else? My guess is no. Holding up Boris Johnson as an example of such kids because one of his own parents was born outside of England (although both were English) is misleading.

British journalists
Matthew Parris has a long piece in The Spectator about anti-Muslim sentiment in England as evidenced by the comments sections of online newspaper. If that is the sort of thing you want to read 800 words about, go ahead. What struck me was this, not an atypical line from a British journalist: "As a matter of fact I live during the working week in London borough of Tower Hamlets ..." The borough is, of course, very Muslim. That's not important. What strikes me is how many British journalists have two residences.

Shelby Steele, 'disgrace to the Negro profession'
That would be an honour to the black conservative writer. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Joseph Epstein reviews Shelby Steele's new book Shame: How America's Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country, and while the review of the polemic against liberal social policies and their illusion of benevolence is important, the lead-up is important about the state of black American leadership today:
‘You,’ a character in Ossie Davis’s 1961 play “Purlie Victorious” says to another, “are a disgrace to the Negro profession.” The line recurs to me whenever I see Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson making perfunctory rabble-rousing remarks in Ferguson, Mo., Madison, Wis., current-day Selma, Ala., or any other protest scene where their appearance, like Toni Morrison on a list of honorary-degree recipients, has become de rigueur. I wonder if Shelby Steele has also been called “a disgrace to the Negro profession,” and this for diametrically opposite reasons. Had he been it could only have been by people who, despite their endless cries for social justice, in one way or another have a deep emotional if not financial investment in keeping black Americans in the sad conditions in which so many of them continue to find themselves.
Shelby Steele is one of the very few writers able to tell home truths about the plight of black Americans. Telling truth to power used to be a sign of intellectual courage, but today, when the Internet has made this no great feat, what takes courage is telling truth to listeners who have grown accustomed to thinking themselves victims, have accepted the ultimately inadequate benefits of victimhood and, touchier than a fresh burn, take offense at the least criticism. Mr. Steele has taken on this thankless job with, as I suspect he would agree, less than happy results. Still, he shows no sign of letting up.

Germany, France vs. Uber
A German court ruled that Uber isn't allowed to operate in the country. French police are investigating Uber ... just because. Samizdata's Perry de Havilland observes: "The state really hates it when their Permit Raj and compliant patron rent-seekers get threatened. Next thing you know, uppity consumers sick of overpriced taxies might start thinking state state involvement was not necessary!"

Good-bye 'Glee.' No one will miss you
FiveThirtyEight notes that the show "Glee" hasn't really had many viewers in recent years. Excluding a Super Bowl bump in Season 2, the show never broke 15 million viewers and averaged about 10-12 million for most of season two. Since then, it hasn't broke 10 million for any episode, averaged about 5-6 million per show for their fourth season, and in the last two years averaged about 2 million viewers per episode.

Political staffers don't always agree with their bosses
Derek Hunter, former press secretary for Senator Conrad Burns, on the "controversy" over Governor Scott Walker hiring Liz Mair, who disagrees with Walker on several issues, as his nascent presidential campaign's social media director:
[S]he is a professional and excellent at her job. To be subjected to this sort of stupidity under the guise of 'news' is an insult not just to her and Gov. Walker, but to every campaign and campaign worker.
As Hunter said: "Having been a press secretary in the U.S. Senate, I didn’t always agree with the votes my boss, Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., made, but it was my job to sell them."
The idea that everyone on a campaign, or in an office, or administration, is on the same page is silly, as is the idea that they should be.