Sobering Thoughts

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

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014
This will confuse US hawks
Breitbart: "Russia considers joining the fight against ISIS." Islamists want to "liberate" Chechnya from Russia. Vladimir Putin isn't going to stand for that kind of posturing.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014
'Correlation is not causation'
Greg Mankiw points to some fun examples. My favourites are U.S. margarine consumption and divorce rates in Maine, and "US spending on science, space, and technology correlates with auicides by hanging, strangulation and suffocation."

2016 watch (Ben Carson edition)
Hot Air: He's certainly running.

Inhuman government
Philip K. Howard in The Atlantic: "When Humans Lose Control of Government." The teaser explains, "A decades-long obsession with writing excessively detailed laws had made it impossible for real people to get anything done." Howard writes:
Modern government is organized on “clear law,” the false premise that by making laws detailed enough to take in all possible circumstances, we can avoid human error. And so over the last few decades, law has gotten ever more granular. But all that regulatory detail, like sediment in a harbor, makes it hard to get anywhere. The 1956 Interstate Highway Act was 29 pages and succeeded in getting 41,000 miles of roads built by 1970. The 2012 transportation bill was 584 pages, and years will pass before workers can start fixing many of those same roads. Health-care regulators have devised 140,000 reimbursement categories for Medicare—including 12 categories for bee stings and 21 categories for “spacecraft accidents.” This is the tip of a bureaucratic iceberg—administration consumes 30 percent of health-care costs ...
“Clear law” turns out to be a myth. Modern law is too dense to be knowable. “It will be of little avail to the people,” James Madison observed, “if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.” The quest for “clear law” is futile also because most regulatory language is inherently ambiguous. Dense rulebooks do not avoid disputes—they just divert the dispute to the parsing of legal words instead of arguing over what’s right. Indeed, legal detail often undermines the regulatory goal. “The more exact and detailed a rule, the more likely it is to open up loopholes, to permit by implication conduct that the rule was intended to avoid,” Judge Richard Posner observed.
What’s the alternative? Put humans back in charge. Law should generally be an open framework, mainly principles and goals, leaving room for responsible people to make decisions and be held accountable for results. Law based on principles leaves room for the decision-maker always to act on this question: What’s the right thing to do here?
The reason government doesn't work this way is because lawmakers and regulators have a different question in mind: who's in charge here? Inevitably, they believe, it should be themselves.

Christina Hoff Sommers on feminism
Great six-minute Prager University video by Christina Hoff Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute on feminism vs. the truth. CHS: "Women in America are the freest in the world, yet many feminists tell us women are oppressed. They advocate this falsehood through victim mentality propaganda and misleading statistics, such as the gender wage gap myth."
(HT: Instapundit)

ISIS targets struck
Business Insider reports:
The US and its allies have begun striking Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) targets in Syria, the Pentagon said Monday night ...
The US is joined by five Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, and Jordan. In a statement on Tuesday, the Syrian foreign ministry said the US informed Damascus of the strikes beforehand, the Associated Press reports.
Most of the targets Monday night were hard ones, like buildings, a senior US official told CNN. According to ABC, the strikes targeted up to 20 locations in Syria, most of which were in or around Raqqa, the militants' de facto capital.
Two things.
One, let's not refer to any territory as a "capital" and give the Islamic State any credence as an official body. It isn't a state. It is part of the great history of Islam with its band of murderous marauders. There is no state.
Two, I do fear that U.S. military action will create hundreds of thousands of new ISIS supporters; if U.S. involvement in the Middle East contributes to the radicalizing of an already volatile region and people prone to violence, why poke the hornets' nest with a stick?
Not doing anything doesn't seem like an option, but I'm not sure doing anything actually helps. Foreign policy isn't as easy as the hawks or doves would have us believe. And bombing people, even the bad guys, because it it cathartic is morally obscene. And as I say, maybe counter-productive if it creates more ISIS fighters.
There is great wisdom in Irving Kristol's comment about both Israel and (later) the former Yugoslavia: it is a condition to be endured rather than a problem to be solved. That is unsatisfying to the modern mind which fancies everything fixable if the right minds get together and we just find the resolve to act.
Back in the real world, real problems: Islamic terror against Kurds has worsened the refugee crisis in northern Syria along the Turkish border. The AP reports:
The Islamic State group's offensive against the Syrian city of Kobani, a few miles from the border, has sent 130,000 refugees to seek safety in Turkey in the last few days. The conflict in Syria had already led to more than 1 million people flooding over the border in the past 3 1/2 years.

If NFL playoffs began today
Using point differential as tie-breaker (to make things simple for now), the playoffs would be:
AFC: 1) Cincinnati Bengals, 2) San Diego Chargers, 3) New England Patriots, 4) Houston Texans, WC Baltimore Ravnes, WC Buffalo Bills (no Indianapolis Colts or Denver Broncos).
NFC: 1) Philadelphia Eagles, 2) Arizona Cardinals, 3) Atlanta Falcons, 4) Detroit Lions, WC Seattle Seahawks, WC Chicago Bears (no Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints or San Francisco 49ers).
Bengals are legit contenders for 1 or 2 position in AFC. Patriots look to be AFC East faves. Texans cold hold off Colts but it will be difficult. Could totally see the Chargers upsetting the Broncos as AFC West champs because they way the Bolts have played on the field through three games makes them a top five team in the NFL so far. Ravens have a decent chance holding their spot but the Bills don't. Whoever doesn't win the AFC South (Texans or Colts) will battle Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, and whoever is looking up at the West division winner (either Denver or San Diego) are battling for the pair of wild card spots.
Eagles could land a first week bye. I still expect the 'Hawks to finish in a spot where they get a bye. Cardinals look legit enough to land a wild card, probably displacing the Niners for second in the NFC West (San Fran has had some problems this season, but they are talented enough to right their ship). I see the Lions, Bears and Packers battling for the NFC North all year and injuries will probably end up being a factor. The Saints and Falcons battle for the NFC South. Loser of that race probably gets the second wild card spot.
Next week marks the quarter-way point of the season.

'A Pro-Family, Pro-Growth Tax Reform'
Republican Senators Mike Lee (Utah) and Marco Rubio (Fl) in the Wall Street Journal: "Two simple income-tax brackets: 15% and 35%. End the marriage penalty and increase the child tax credit." Lee and Rubio explain:
Today, parents are, in effect, double charged for the federal senior entitlement programs. They of course pay payroll taxes, like everyone else. But unlike adults without children, they also shoulder the financial burden of raising the next generation of taxpayers, who will grow up to fund the Social Security and Medicare benefits of all future seniors.
This hidden, double burden on parents isn't offset anywhere else in the system, and so true conservative tax reform needs to account for it. Children aren't consumer goods—they are investments parents make in their futures, and in the future of America, and therefore deserve to be treated as such in our tax code.
Our proposal would account for this and level the playing field for working parents by augmenting the current child tax credit of $1,000 with an additional $2,500 credit, applicable against income taxes and payroll taxes—i.e., the taxes that most burden lower- and middle-income families. The credit would not phase out, and would be refundable against income tax and employer and employee payroll tax liability.
I'll take it.
And three cheers for the senators challenging the mindless mantra of growth for growth sake:
Some conservatives we respect wonder if such tax relief for families would do enough to promote growth. But it bears remembering that the end goal of economic policy isn't simply growth, but freedom—clearing the obstacles from each American's unique pursuit of happiness. Millions of Americans up and down the income scale choose to invest their personal economic freedom in children and not just in commerce—in human and social capital rather than just financial capital. We believe it is wrong to punish such a choice.
I'm all for economic growth, but there are other worthy goals of government policy.

Why aren't climate change activists targeting China?
Investor's Business Daily editorializes:
Amid all the hoopla over the "world's largest march against global warming," one question went unasked: Why aren't the protesters carping about the real culprits behind the recent rise in CO2?
It makes no sense. America is a global warming success story, for those who believe in such things. CO2 emissions are on the downtrend in this country. In fact, they are lower today than they were two decades ago. When you account for all the economic and population growth over those 20 years, that decline is even sharper ...
China is a completely different story. It's tripled the amount of CO2 it pumps into the air each year over those same two decades, to the point where it now emits almost twice as much CO2 as the U.S.

Monday, September 22, 2014
Man wrongfully imprisoned for 23 years dies eight months after being set free
Reason's Jacob Sullum:
In 1989 William Lopez was convicted of killing Elvirn Surria, a Brooklyn crack dealer, with a shotgun while robbing him. Since there was no physical evidence linking Lopez to the murder, the Kings County District Attorney's Office relied on the testimony of two eyewitnesses. One was a courier for Surria whose description of the gunman did not match Lopez and who could not point him out in court. The other was a crack addict facing a drug charge who agreed to testify against Lopez in exchange for lenient treatment and later recanted.
Last January, responding to a habeas corpus petition filed by Lopez, a federal judge overturned his conviction, calling the prosecutor "overzealous and deceitful," the defense attorneys "indolent and ill prepared," the trial judge's decisions "incomprehensible," and the jury's verdict "bewildering." Lopez was released from prison a week later. On Saturday morning, The New York Post reports, he died of an asthma attack at the age of 55, having enjoyed eight months of freedom after serving 23 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Lopez had filed a lawsuit against New York City, seeking $124 million in damages. The trial was supposed to begin this week.
I don't like $123 million lawsuits, but what price does one put on losing all of one's adult life (apparently) and punishing the kind of half-assed prosecutions that go on like this. We need limits on civil suits like this, but I would favour adding criminal trials for cops and prosecutors that pull this kind of shit. More cops and prosecutors in prison would be a good thing.

Asking the wrong person
Sun News personality, one-time important Grit, and all-around blowhard Ray Heard wants to know if Hillary Clinton knows that Canada's Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has offered a chance to meet her at an Ottawa event next month to entice donors to give to the Liberals as part of their most recent fundraiser. Heard demands that the media ask Trudeau about this. But if Heard really cares if Hillary knows, shouldn't the media ask her?

The problem with media
In a single picture.

Lessons from Edmund Burke
Historian Gertrude Himmelfarb (and William Kristol's mom) writes in The Weekly Standard about what we can learn today about the war on terror from Edmund Burke's "Letters on a Regicide Peace," published in 1796, on the statesman's warning about making peace with the authors of the Reign of Terror. Burke warned about "false reptile prudence, the result not of caution but of fear." There's wisdom in that, although I'm not sold there is a lesson to be learned. Perhaps there's something to chew on, which is one of the benefits of history. And that's fine, too.

2016 watch (Condi Rice edition)
Hot Air's Allah Pundit wonders why former secretary of state Condoleeza Rice isn't being considered a front-runner for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination:
The 2016 field is “insanely wide open,” after all, and she’s got plenty to commend her — sterling academic credentials, years of diplomatic experience at the highest level, popularity among both wings of the GOP, and a trailblazer narrative that can trump even Hillary’s. She’d be seen, rightly or wrongly, as the “adult” in a field of Republican neophytes, someone whose gravitas all but the most Bush-hating doves within the other party respect. If Jeb ends up passing on the race, Bushworld will be desperate for a familiar face to rally behind. What sounds better — Romney 3.0 or Condi?
I think that's the answer right there. The GOP and America wants to get past its disastrous Bush years. Dubya might have been better than Obama, but that ain't saying much.
There is another reason that Allah Pundit considers and takes care of too easily. She's pro-choice on abortion. I don't share the Pundit's view that she could easily mollify social conservatives with the promise to appoint pro-life judges. The more obvious problem for Rice is Iraq. Whatever the fallout of Barack Obama's getting the United States out of that hellhole, and even if Americans seem to want to do something about ISIS, bringing back one of the faces of that foreign policy disaster should be a non-starter.
There are also personal reasons, perhaps. Allah Pundit concludes:
Exit question: Is her reluctance about running mainly about not wanting to field “How come you aren’t married?!” questions for the next six years? I think the media would tread lightly there, but they’d tread.
Again I don't share Allah Pundit optimism. I think the insinuations would be unignorable.
There could be one other personal reason: she doesn't want to be president. She saw what the job does to someone (George W. Bush) about as close as one can without experiencing it. Perhaps, just perhaps, that makes her disinclined for the job.

Why we can't debate climate change
Adam Sterling tweets: "Precisely how much cost we are *willing* to bear to produce precisely how much benefit re climate change is a legit debate." And then in his next tweet he dismisses many of those who would take part in the debate. His first point is true about most things and is worth remembering.

Iranians sentenced to jail and lashes for dancing to Pharrell's 'Happy' in a YouTube video
Sun News reports:
Six Iranians appearing in a YouTube video singing the popular pop song 'Happy' were given suspended sentences of 91 lashes and six months in prison for "obscene behaviour."
Another defendant who faced heavier charges was given a suspended sentence of one year in prison and 91 lashes ...
The sentences are suspended for three years, meaning that if any of the seven are found guilty of committing a similar offense, the punishment is carried out.
The suspended sentence part should not fool you, this is a heavy-handed sentence for doing nothing particularly wrong. What does the regime fear from having citizens dance to a crappy (if catchy) song?
(HT: Eye on a Crazy Planet)

'The Rape Epidemic Is a Fiction'
After offering all the requisite all-sexual-assault-is-wrong mantra, Kevin D. Williamson notes:
It is probably the case that the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses is wildly exaggerated—not necessarily in absolute terms, but relative to the rate of sexual assault among college-aged women with similar demographic characteristics who are not attending institutions of higher learning. The DoJ hints at this in its criticism of survey questions, some of which define “sexual assault” so loosely as to include actions that “are not criminal.” This might explain why so many women who answer survey questions in a way consistent with their being counted victims of sexual assault frequently display such a blasé attitude toward the events in question and so rarely report them. As the DoJ study puts it: “The most commonly reported response — offered by more than half the students — was that they did not think the incident was serious enough to report. More than 35 percent said they did not report the incident because they were unclear as to whether a crime was committed or that harm was intended.”
If you are having a little trouble getting your head around a definition of “sexual assault” so liberal that it includes everything from forcible rape at gunpoint to acts that not only fail to constitute crimes under the law but leave the victims “unclear as to whether harm was intended,” then you are, unlike much of our culture, still sane.
Not only that, but "Sexual assaults today are a third of what they were twenty years ago."

'Blitzing the NFL With Moral Preening'
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Joseph Epstein hardly whitewashes the seriousness of the issue of NFL players and their propensity for violence (which, was noted on this website on Friday, is less likely than the general public), but does note that the moral preening about the NFL is a little much, too:
Nora O'Donnell, the co-anchor with Charlie Rose on CBS's "This Morning," has already had her go at Commissioner Goodell. Watching her interview him about his knowledge of the security video showing the Baltimore running back Ray Rice punching his then fiancée (now wife) in an elevator, one notes that Ms. O'Donnell is wearing her game-face. This is serious stuff, that face is saying, as its owner, having dropped her fabulous frozen smile, digs to find points of contradiction in Mr. Goodell's account of what he knew and when.
Two minutes later, of course, she and the heavy-breathing Mr. Rose, having shed seriousness, will be laughing at a bit of film about a baby panda trying to eat an ice-cream cone. This past Friday, at a news conference with Mr. Goodell, their media colleagues had an opportunity to exhibit their own impeccable virtue by asking one inane question after another, which Mr. Goodell fended off with equally empty answers. A sample question: Was he, Roger Goodell, himself ever guilty of domestic violence? ...
Now, of course, more of it is being found. An Arizona Cardinals running back named Jonathan Dwyer is accused of aggravated assault in separate incidents with his wife. The Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall has been dragged into the current mess by a former girlfriend, and her father, for violence allegedly done to her in 2006; they've turned the case over to Gloria Allred, who specializes in protecting women's rights, or at least those of women who are well-known or likely to become so. The sharks, one senses, smell blood.

People's climate march/UN climate summit
Iowahawk tweets about the climate change march thing that happened somewhere:
1 Earth is warming
2 because of humans
3 and this is bad
4 so let's drum circle
5 to give more power & money to government
Drum circles aren't the only silly things seen at the People's Climate March; has video. And Small Dead Animals points out the trash on the streets left behind by these environmentalists.
It isn't just the protesters that are engaged in a silly waste of time. The Wall Street Journal editorializes on the summit at Turtle Bay:
Tens of thousands of environmental protestors paraded through New York City on Sunday, in a "people's climate march" designed to lobby world leaders arriving for the latest United Nations climate summit. The march did succeed in messing up traffic, but President Obama won't achieve much more when he speaks Tuesday at this latest pit stop on the global warming grand prix.
Six years after the failure of the Copenhagen summit whose extravagant ambition was to secure a binding global treaty on carbon emissions, Mr. Obama is trying again. The Turtle Bay gathering of world leaders isn't formally a part of the international U.N. climate negotiations that are supposed to climax late next year in Paris, but the venue is meant to be an ice-breaker for more than 125 presidents, prime ministers and heads of state to start to reach consensus.
One not-so-minor problem: The world's largest emitters are declining to show up, even for appearances. The Chinese economy has been the No. 1 global producer of carbon dioxide since 2008, but President Xi Jinping won't be gracing the U.N. with his presence. India's new Prime Minister Narendra Modi (No. 3) will be in New York but is skipping the climate parley. Russian President Vladimir Putin (No. 4) has other priorities, while Japan (No. 5) is uncooperative after the Fukushima disaster that has damaged support for nuclear power. Saudi Arabia is dispatching its petroleum minister.
While the march and summit might be a waste of time because they will not achieve anything, the Journal also asks why they are necessary:
Rather than debasing economics, perhaps the climate lobby should return to the climate science and explain the hiatus in warming that has now lasted for 16, 19 or 26 years depending on the data set and which the climate models failed to predict even as global carbon dioxide emissions have climbed by 25%. Their alibi is that the new warming is now hidden in the oceans, an assertion they lack the evidence to prove.

'How not to use birth control, as illustrated by stock photos'
A lot of stock photography is dumb (stock photos are by definition lowest common denominator). Vox illustrates stupid stock photos of birth control.

Sunday, September 21, 2014
Profile of Peter Thiel
The London Telegraph has a profile of PayPal co-founder and libertarian philanthropist Peter Thiel. I liked this part best:
Almost the first thing Thiel does after we have been introduced is to ask what are the three most interesting things I’ve encountered in the past year. He might learn something new, he explains, ‘and it gives me a better idea of the kind of things you might want to explore.’
Truly intelligent people ask questions -- lots of them. And they ask better questions. They generally don't accept bullshit and wonder why the world is the way it is and how it can be changed for the better.
There is also an article on the Thiel Fellowship winners. The fellowships are the result of asking a simple question: is university always the best thing for a young, intelligent, ambitious person. Nearly 100% of people think it is. Thiel puts his money where his mouth is to provide a different answer.

On this day in Canadian history
On September 21, 1911, Robert Borden's Conservatives ended Wilfrid Laurier's 15-year reign of power in Canada. The Tories won 134 seats compared to 87 for the Liberals, and five other independent or minor party MPs. The major issue was reciprocity, or free trade with the United States, which the Laurier Liberals supported. Borden's Tories won 51% of the popular vote after arguing that the treaty would weaken Canadian ties to Britain and risked having the Canadian economy subsumed by the American market. Borden would remain in office for nearly nine years.
Patrice Dutil and David MacKenzie argue in their 2011 book, Canada 1911: The Decisive Election that Shaped the Country, that the Laurier-Borden contest and defeat of the reciprocity treaty was one of the most significant elections in Canadian history.

Paying Bribing citizens to vote
George Will has a good column on the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission asking City Council to examine the feasibility of paying residents to vote through some form of lottery. Will says another name for paying voters is bribing voters. Is this wise? Probably not, even if it is poetic:
One suggested measure to conquer nonvoters’ lassitude is to create a special lottery and give everyone who shows up at the polls a chance to win, say, $100,000. Lotteries thrive on the irrational hopes of people not thinking clearly about probabilities, which is why governments love lotteries to raise funds. And why there would be nice symmetry in using a lottery to further decrease the reasonableness of our politics.
Will also says that this is a solution to a problem created by government: supposedly too few people vote because the primary system sets up uncompetitive and uninteresting general election races; in the last mayoral race, Los Angeles voters could chose between two liberal Democrats. Maybe lack of meaningful choice drove down voter turnout?
Will wonders, why bring lower quality voters into the political process:
If money is necessary to lure certain voters to the polls, those voters will lower the quality of the turnout: They will be those people who are especially uninterested in, and hence especially uninformed about, public affairs. Why is it intelligent public policy to encourage their participation?
I've never understood why politics and, more importantly, governance, would improve by having apathetic or low-information voters cast ballots. One might question the agenda of those in power if that is the goal.

Saturday, September 20, 2014
Gondola system for New York City: hideous and gross
Wired's Autopia: "The Totally Serious Plan to Connect Brooklyn and Manhattan by Gondola." It would never be profitable. For the private sector to make money, it would have to be so expensive, people wouldn't use it. (You know what I mean.) I thought as a tourist attraction it could have its charms, but 1) it is not in a touristy part of the Big Apple and 2) it sounds like an alternative to using the subway and relieve over-crowding on mass transit. Skyline gondolas would not be able to move enough people to matter. My bigger concern, even more than either the government taking over the operations or bailing it out, is aesthetics; it would wreck the skyline.

The difference 25 years makes
Portable computers.

Getting the population analysis wrong by confusing causality and correlation
Tim Worstall says the demographer who studied population numbers for the UN gets his own analysis wrong:
It’s a well known finding that access to contraception drives, at most, 10% of changes in fertility. It’s the desire to limit fertility which, unsurprisingly, drives changes in fertility. And the education of girls and women, while highly desirable, is a correlate, not a cause, of declining fertility. Economies that are getting richer can afford to educate women: economies that are getting richer also have declining fertility. It’s the getting richer that drives both.

Excellent article about bullpen usage
Ben Lindbergh has a very good, very long article at Grantland: "The Relief Ace: Where Dellin Betances’s Season Ranks Historically, and What It Teaches Us About Bullpen Strategy." The title indicates it's about Yankees "ace" reliever Dellin Betances -- and it mostly is -- but is about bullpen strategy through the lens of comparing how the New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals manage their bullpen.

Chicago cancels perfect Obama metaphor
A Chicago plan to name a new high school after President Barack Obama has been reversed. The Daily Caller reports:
On Thursday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel kicked Obama down even further by announcing that that the city has abandoned plans to name a new selective enrollment high school after the president.
Chicago’s Barack Obama College Preparatory High School is no more, Emanuel said. The school, scheduled to open in the fall of 2017, will likely still be built, but it will now be called something else, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Problems with the name arose immediately after Second City officials breathlessly announced plans to build the $60 million top-tier high school.
Criticism has come primarily from Chicago’s black community. Detractors have called the new school’s North Side location — just west of the ritzy Gold Coast neighborhood — a slap in the face to poor residents on the South and West sides of the city.
Certainly, the point is a fair one. The school will sit atop the remains of the former Cabrini-Green public housing project on a site that is now convenient mostly to wealthy white people and just a few blocks from the still-gleaming Walter Payton College Preparatory High School.

Cornucopiasts won't be concerned
Tyler Cowen points to a paper that suggests world population will continue to grow to at least 2100. Says the abstract in Science: "Analysis of these data reveals that, contrary to previous literature, world population is unlikely to stop growing this century. There is an 80% probability that world population, now 7.2 billion, will increase to between 9.6 and 12.3 billion in 2100." I'm not worried. We just need another Norman Borlaug.

'Repeal The Oil Export Ban'
It sounds weird that the United States bans the export of anything. But the 1970s energy shock led politicians to do dumb things. Bernard L. Weinstein, associate director of the Maguire Energy Institute, makes the case in the Investor's Business Daily that it is time to lift the ban:
[B]ecause the price of oil is determined (more or less) by global supply and demand, keeping U.S. oil in the U.S. will not confer any benefits to consumers. On the other hand, exporting some of our oil can help sustain the energy boom that has created hundreds of thousands of jobs in recent years against the backdrop of a less-than-robust economic recovery from the Great Recession.
Weinstein admits there are obstacles:
First, politicians, the media and the public must recognize that oil is simply a commodity. Just as we export rice and wheat at the same time we import rice and wheat, there's no reason we shouldn't do the same with oil.
Second, most mainstream environmental groups oppose oil exports for the same reason they oppose natural gas exports, offshore drilling and the Keystone XL pipeline. To them, any of these developments will bring about more fossil fuel production and more fossil fuel consumption. That's bad for the planet, end of story. But they exist outside of reality.
The problem is that most people do not understand the benefits of trade.

Occupational licensing gone mad
Mark Steyn describes a Florida story that ... well .. includes this phrase: "'license inspection' that involves handcuffing the barber." As Styen says, that's not just Big Government, "That's tyrannous."

CBC wants more of your money 'to even the playing field'
Via Small Dead Animals, Brian Lilley explains the additional special favours the CBC wants.

Friday, September 19, 2014
Not the National Felon League
Neil Irwin at the New York Times' The Upshot looked at arrest data for all NFL players from 2000 to 2014 and found:
One N.F.L. player in 40 is arrested in a given year. There are 32 teams, each with 53 players on its roster plus another eight on its practice squad (plus more players who show up for training camp but do not make the team, but we didn’t attempt to account for them). Thus over the nearly 15 years that the USA Today data goes back, the 713 arrests mean that 2.53 percent of players have had a serious run-in with the law in an average year. That may sound bad, but the arrest rate is lower than the national average for men in that age range.
With the exception of weapons' charges, NFL players are less likely to be arrested for crimes than the general population. When you break it down to adult males, the same holds. If you broke it down to a similar demographic comparison equalizing for race and age, you'd certainly find that NFL players commit for far fewer crimes than the same demographic within the general population.
It should also be noted that DUIs make up by far the largest portion of NFL arrests, a little bit less than the combined drug, assault and battery, and domestic assault arrests combined.

Scotland's example
The Cato Institute's David Boaz: "More Governments Should Follow the U.K.’s Example of Self-Determination." The end of a country as it is at a particular point in time is not the end of the world.

Where Was Justin
Great new website from Ezra Levant on Justin Trudeau.

Republicans need middle class voters
Politicians pander to the middle class so much nowadays it is either a joke or cliche, but there is a reason for it: most people are middle income earners, aspire to be, or think of themselves as such. The Weekly Standard's Jay Cost says, "Pundits throw out all sorts of numbers to explain the Republican defeat in the 2012 presidential election. So here’s our number: $65,000. That is a rough estimate of the household income of the average 2012 voter." Republicans won these voters, but not by the margins they need to in order to win elections. Cost says it is time to start paying attention to middle class voters, as opposed to the Republican obsession with small business owners (as beneficial as they are, including to the middle class). Cost says:
These middle class Americans have some but not a lot of property, who fret about the effects of economic forces outside their control, who worry about whether their kids will enjoy a decent standard of living, and who have been struggling one way or another since the recession of 2001-02.
Say what you want about George W. Bush’s domestic agenda, it was geared toward these people. Whether the policies were sound, Bush’s middle-class tax cuts, his “ownership society,” No Child Left Behind, and private Social Security accounts were all about making these people more prosperous and secure.
Republicans and conservatives like to think that offering income tax cuts can win over middle class voters, but they're wrong. It isn't 1980 anymore. People aren't paying half of their income in income taxes. No, most working Americans are hit hardest on payroll taxes such as Social Security and Medicare taxes. Cost says any attempt to win over middle class voters must address these costs:
Congressional Republicans would have better spent their time drawing up a middle-class agenda. They could start by adopting the perspective of families that make about $65,000 per year. These people’s economic situation is uncertain, and they pay a goodly portion of their income to the IRS—not so much through the income tax, but through Social Security and Medicare taxes, which flow into the federal government’s general revenues. So a middle-class agenda would aim to make these voters more secure and stop the government from wasting their money.
Increasingly elections are coming down to the two As: affordability and anxiety. The latter is about the former. Cost puts it in more specific terms: "Economic security for this group primarily means lowering the cost of education, health care, and energy." Democrats and liberals offer "free" stuff -- Obamacare! What is more affordable than free. Republicans and most conservatives aren't even part of this discussion. Cost says that Republicans usually talk about reducing government programs that middle class voters like. At some point these have to be tackled, but first go after corporate welfare. Not only is ending crony capitalism a good policy in itself, it would signal to the middle class that Republicans are willing to fight for their interests and not always side with the fat cats voters presume the GOP is in bed with. More than curtailing government handouts to business is necessary to secure an electoral victory -- cutting payroll taxes would put money in the pockets of voters right away and win votes now -- but going after corporate welfare would reduce government spending and corruption while winning votes. It's not always that right policy and right politics align, but in this case it does.

Klavan on whether the Islamic State is Islamic
Andrew Klavan at Truth Revolt:
Always determined to get at the revolting truth, I personally assigned a crack team of seasoned investigators to find out if the president’s statement is true. Is ISIL Islamic?
Yeah! The I - it stands for Islamic. It’s like the first letter in their name. I for Islamic.
I have two theories on why the Left does not believe the I stand for Islamic in ISIS, ISIL, or IS. Actually it is only one theory, with two possible rationales. They cannot believe anyone practices truth in advertising and they hold that belief because they grew up in an era skeptical of consumerism and advertising (while being consumerist and prone to advertising -- but that's another issue) or they themselves believe others lie because they themselves resort to lying to cover up their true motivations.
Anyway, Klavan is his usual snarky self. The video is better than the transcript.

Battling antibiotic overuse and resistence
Time magazine reports that President Barack Obama's executive order yesterday doesn't go far enough to fight antibiotic overuse and its related issue of antibiotic-resistant illness. But of course that is what critics would say. Tyler Cowen comments on Obama's initiative:
This initiative — or its failure — is potentially a more important health issue than Obamacare, yet it will not receive 1/1000th of the attention. Without reliable antibiotics, a lot of now-routine operations would become a kind of lottery ...
I would note it is difficult to judge such a plan at the current level of detail. It is better than nothing, but any initial plan is going to be not nearly enough, relative to an ideal.
To understand why this issue is important, read the President Council of Advisors on Science and Technology report on antibiotic resistance and Cowen's previous Marginal Revolution post on the issue. The Wall Street Journal has a good article on Obama's initiative.
It is obviously a concern that Obama resorts to using an executive order, but there simply is no political interest in addressing the issue and with Congressional gridlock it is unlikely any law would pass both the House and Senate. One of the criticisms of Obama's EO is that the Food and Drug Administration is requesting, not requiring, drug companies to voluntarily phase out antibiotics in growth regiments for farm animals, but conservatives should appreciate the not heavy hand the White House uses here.

Scotland stays. For now.
Scottish voters rejected independence, voting 55.5% to stay in the union. This is hardly a resounding defeat for the idea of separation. In 1980, Quebec voters rejected independence 59.56% to 40.44%. Within 15 years there was another vote to separate, which was much closer. Quebec separatism is declared dead every few years, including earlier this year when Quebec voters replaced the Parti Quebecois with the Liberals after the PQ made separatism the issue in the campaign. So we should not expect the Scottish separatist movement to just give up and go away.
Meanwhile Boris Johnson, mayor of London and presumptive front-runner for Tory leader once David Cameron steps down, has criticized the British Prime Minister for making a "reckless" promise to ramp up spending in order to buy Scottish affections. If Scotland won't leave on their own, they can always be pushed out.

Drag queens vs. Facebook
The Daily Mail reports:
San Francisco drag queens are sparring with Facebook over its policy requiring people to use their real names, rather than drag names such as Pollo Del Mar and Heklina. But the world’s biggest social network is not budging from its rules.
For Facebook, the real names policy is not just meant to keep people accountable. The company and other website operators argue that requiring people to use true identities can reduce online vitriol and bullying. Real names also help Facebook target advertisements to its 1.32 billion users.
(HT: Blazing Cat Fur)

Thursday, September 18, 2014
Money is money. Well, yes and no.
Nick Kouvalis, a campaign operative for John Tory, tweeted, "Money is money. "@annhui: Chow says Mr. Tory has confused operating & capital budgets for TTC -- 'that's very, very concerning' #topoli"
That is technically true. But Rosalind Robertson rebuts Kouvalis in three tweets on why the difference matters:
#1. "WOW. So, yeah. Knowing the difference between capital and operating budgets in public governance is REALLY FUCKING IMPORTANT, @johntoryTO"
#2. "That the @johntoryTO echo chamber/camp thinks that knowing the difference isn't hugely important is ridiculous."
#3. "If you cross your operating and capital budget wires, you'll bankrupt your organization lickety-split. It's really important."

Iranian justice
An British-Iranian woman has spent 80 days (and counting) in jail for watching a volleyball game in Iran. There might be more to the story. Or maybe not. Disturbing lack of interest in this case by the British government.

Scottish math
What happens with a result like this?

Oklahoma woman has driver's license picture taken ...
With a colander on her head. Kevin Blaine Grier seems cheesed off that it is some sign of the collapse of civilization. I say why not. Mocking the official documents process is a good thing.

Prayer request
I know the person who was involved in this serious car accident near Stratford, Ont. this morning. Prayers are requested by the family.

Restaurant fact of the day
Boer Deng in Slate: "More than 43,000 Chinese restaurants dot the country, which means they appear on street corners with greater ubiquity than McDonald’s." Of course, most of the stuff they serve (which I love) is not really Chinese food, but that's beside the point.

88-year-old male busted for prostitution
Edwin Venn prostituted himself to women in their 20s and 30s. Five dollars a shot and that included a lollipop for when they were done. Tyler Cowen is skeptical.

Midterm watch (Advantage Democrats edition)
The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page tweets this fact from a Karl Rove column: "Since Sept. 1, Democrats have run or placed $109 million in TV ads to the Republicans' $80 million." That include PACs and other third-parties, although not all media buys have been completed. But when you look at the numbers in Rove's column, in a number of close races the Democrats are buying a lot more ad time. That could be an indication of how worried they are.
Also, as Rove explains, "I help American Crossroads/Crossroads GPS raise funds on a volunteer basis." This column could be seen as a way to encourage donors to give money by creating a sense of urgency to match Democrat/liberal media buys. For that reason alone, if I were an editor at the Wall Street Journal I wouldn't run the column. Is Rove offering analysis or making a fundraising pitch? I don't know but the fact that question can be raised should raise flags about his piece.

'How can anything be left standing in Iraq?'
Gregg Easterbrook in his TMQ football-and-politics column on Iraq:
During the 1980s, the United States backed Saddam Hussein and subsidized Iraq's government; then from about 1990 to 2003, worked feverishly to destroy Iraq's government, saying its advanced weapons made it a threat to international security; now the United States is working feverishly to support Iraq's government, including by selling it advanced weapons and sending back U.S. troops.
Whatever one thinks of that sequence of events, just think about the degree of warfare Iraq has endured in the past 30 years. Iran and Iraq were at war from 1980 to 1988, a conflict that involved extensive use of chemical weapons and bombing of civilian areas, killed an estimated 1 million people and caused untold damages. From 1986 to 1988, Iraqi military forces systemically murdered ethnic Kurds in northern Iraq, including by shelling Kurdish civilian areas. In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. In 1991, a U.S.-led coalition destroyed Iraq's army in Kuwait while extensively bombing Iraq, dropping about 88,500 tons of bombs, about 20 times the tonnage of the Dresden raid in World War II.
Through the early 1990s, Iraq's Sunni government bombed Kurdish and Shia towns, sometimes using chemical weapons. In June 1993, the United States fired cruise missiles into Iraq in retaliation for Hussein's attempted assassination of the elder George Bush. In 1998, the United States extensively bombed Iraq for violation of the United Nations agreements that ended the 1991 Gulf War. From 1999 to 2001, the Air Force and RAF regularly attacked Iraqi air-defense installations (sometimes using bombs containing no warhead, just concrete). In January and February of 2003, U.S. aircraft conducted an all-out bombing campaign against Iraq. In March 2003, U.S. Army and Marine units invaded Iraq, obliterating the country's army and destroying much of Baghdad and Basra. In 2004, the Marines staged offensives against Iraqi cities resisting U.S. control. From 2004 to 2007, the United States conducted at least 2,000 airstrike missions in Iraq. In 2007, the United States began a surge of soldiers and heavy weapons into Iraq. In 2011, most U.S. forces departed. In 2014, Sunni militias invaded Iraq, hoping to smash its now-Shia government, while Syrian warplanes bombed Iraq. In 2014 the United States began bombing Iraq again, sometimes picking targets in conjunction with Iranian militia.
How can there be any semblance of normalcy in Iraq? Any military-age males still alive? Any prospects for the young? And since all previous bombings of Iraq have led to more bombings, why should we think this series of attacks will fare any better? The 2003 invasion and its aftermath were rationalized partly as an effort to improve life in Iraq, which hasn't happened. Maybe there's still a threat there that is relevant to U.S. national security. All we can be sure of is that more bombing means more misery for average people in Iraq.

Crony capitalism is a bipartisan problem
In his football-and-politics TMQ column, Gregg Easterbrook often draws attention to the problem of crony capitalism as a regular critic of governments funding billionaires by subsidizing new stadia and stadium improvements: public funding but all the profits to wealthy team owners. But he also points to non-football stories in his ESPN column, including these recent examples of crony capitalism:
Tesla's agreement with Nevada to build a battery factory is expected to create about 6,000 jobs in exchange for $1.25 billion in tax favors. That's about $208,000 per job. More jobs are always good. But typical Nevada residents with a median household income of $54,000 per year will be taxed to create very expensive jobs for others. Volkswagen is expanding its manufacturing in Tennessee, which is good. But the state has agreed to about $300 million in subsidies for the expansion, which will create about 2,000 jobs -- that's $150,000 per new job, much of the money coming from Tennessee residents who can only dream of autoworkers' wages. The median household income in Tennessee is $44,140, about a third of the tax subsidies per new Volkswagen job. The Tesla handout was approved by the Democratic state legislature of Nevada; Tennessee's Republican-controlled state government approved the Volkswagen corporate welfare deal.

Buying life insurance
Megan McArdle has what seems like good advice when buying life insurance. Key point: don't wait 'til you're sick or in your 50s. Actually, her key point is buy life insurance, especially if your family has just one income-earner or depends predominantly on one income-earner.

Panama is the happiest place on earth says study. It must be the inequality says Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall at
We’ve the slightly surprising news that Panama is actually the happiest country in the world, overtaking the former global nirvana of Denmark. I look forward to the slew of articles under preparation even now at all sorts of left leaning newspapers and sites telling us that it must be the inequality that makes Panama such a happy place. Must be, for when Denmark held the title there was such a slew of pieces telling us that it was the equality of Denmark that made it happy. And they wouldn’t have been saying so just because it was convenient, would they? ...
As I say, for years now the Danes have been topping this listing. And it always has been put forward that the equality of the place is the reason for the cheerfulness. You know, if there’s not much difference in incomes then everyone’s all rather happy and not jealous at all? But it can’t be the equality that makes Panama so happy ...
It can’t be the equality because Panama’s not a very equal place. With a gini of over 0.5 it’s more unequal than any of the advanced industrial countries (yes, more unequal than even the US) ...
Now no, I don’t think that being not very rich and in an unequal country makes people happy. But if we apply the logic formerly applied to Denmark that should be true. For we really have been told for years now that Denmark is happy because of the equality. Which means that if there’s a happier place then it must be the levels of equality/inequality that makes it so. Or, alternatively, it wasn’t Denmark’s levels of equality that made it a happy place.
You won't see this explanation because the happiness study story is going to ignored this year; it doesn't fit a favoured narrative. And no one really cares about Panama.
When you look at the study, you'll find the top of the table dominated by Latin American countries (and Denmark and Canada). South and Central American societies are among the most unequal in the world (see map in this Atlantic story).

Unions committed to defeating federal Tories
The Canadian Press: "Union puts defeat of Harper’s Tories ahead of support for NDP." Where have we seen this before? In Ontario, unions mostly united behind the Liberals in an effort to keep the Tim Hudak Progressive Conservatives out of power. Twice, in 2011 and 2014. Then, between elections, many of these same unions return to the NDP and push them to positions that make them unelectable, after which they will inevitably head back to the Liberals who have a better chance to beat the Tories. While grassroots conservatives and party Conservatives/Progressive Conservatives will hate unions for doing this, the NDP should re-examine their relationship with their less than fair-weather friends.

'Remember #BringBackOurGirls? This Is What Has Happened In The 5 Months Since'
Huffington Post reports that sweet dick all has happened, at least nothing positive. The world moved on from their feel-good hashtag activism of the day and Boko Haram is still beastly. If anything, HuffPo fails to capture how desperately tragic the situation remains today.

Corporal punishment
I'm a spanking-rights kind of guy, but less so all the time. I agree with Nancy French that the Left is exploiting the Adrian Peterson controversy to move public opinion to their side. Ian Tuttle is correct to say that not all corporal punishment is child abuse. But as Mike Tanier of Bleacher Report -- yes, a liberal sportswriter -- points out, the evidence is overwhelmingly against spanking. And he is correct to mock the argument that "I was spanked and I turned out okay" because it is actually really, really stupid. (We rode without seat belts and ate food that ought to be refrigerated after it sat on the counter all day, but that doesn't mean it is not better to wear a seat belt or to put milk back in the fridge when we're done with it.) It is certainly possible to find studies to support spanking, but Tanier sums it up quite nicely:
Decades of nearly unanimous research indicates that spanking—"usual" spanking, not leaving lasting welts with a hunk of wood—"increases the probability of many serious and life-long psychological and social relationship problems," according to Murray A. Straus, co-director of the Family Research Laboratory and co-author of The Primordial Violence and other books on child discipline.
Scholarly studies dating back to the 1930s overwhelmingly reach the same conclusion. "The research speaks loud and clear, and pretty unanimously," according to Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, associate professor at University of Michigan's School of Social Work. "Down the road, you're going to see a lot of mental health and adjustment problems in kids." Those problems include anxiety, depression and aggression problems of their own.
"Pretty unanimous" does not mean fully unanimous. Straus surveyed over 100 studies for his recent book and found that 87 percent agree that spanking has serious long-range consequences. Researchers like Robert Larzelere of Oklahoma State found that an approach called "conditional spanking" can be effective for curbing antisocial behavior without exceptional long-term risks.
But conditional spanking—open-handed swats on the buttocks for two- to six-year-olds, applied only when the child has defied milder punishments—is a long way from the switch.
And 87 percent agreement is substantial in a field that relies on self-reporting to analyze multifaceted behaviors. "The high degree of agreement between studies is rare in any field of science and indicates the confidence that can be placed in the results," Straus said.
Within libertarian circles, there is a debate about whether the non-aggression principle applies to children. There is simply no reason why it shouldn't. In my perfect world, the state would mostly turn a blind eye to how parents discipline their children (with the obvious exception being when it results in real and lasting physical harm) but that parents would understand that there are probably long-term development problems attached to the use of this punishment and therefore not resort to it. We don't live in a perfect world and I'm not terribly happy with whatever position I end up holding. But I'd like parents to carefully consider the evidence that Tanier marshals in his very long article on violence. Whether we consider spanking justifiable or defensible or not, we shouldn't ignore that fundamentally corporal punishment is violence. And when we face up to that fact, perhaps the debate on punishing children by striking them will change in a way that changes hearts and minds.
And no, I'm not turning into a bleeding heart. I'm just trying to apply libertarian principles as consistently as possible.

Why no global warming
Watts Up With That has a running tally of (so far) the 52 excuses reasons that the two decade pause in global warming.

It's too bad universities didn't have this in the 1960s
Reason's Patrick Hannaford notes that some colleges are acquiring grenade launchers under the Pentagon's 1033 program. Why do universities need grenade launchers?
P.S. I'm joking about the headline. It is utterly ridiculous for schools to acquire military equipment, even if they had to face down hippies.