Sobering Thoughts

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

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Friday, November 27, 2015
Politics and economics is about property and relationships, but economics is better at it
I don't like the style of this piece, but Michael J. McKay writes for Mises Daily about a point few people understand or truly appreciate:
[I] f you look at politics as simply an argument of how we should organize ourselves, then it becomes obvious that it really boils down to how we know, or don’t know, what property is and how we should deal with it as we relate to each other in life and living.
This is what I was referring to when I said that economics is also about relationships. The connection between economics and politics is how we organize our relationships and whether our ‘shared values’ assume we can have (and want to have) a society based more on peaceful cooperation — or not.
Despite the similarities, economics precedes politics, and politics always too easily invites coercion, including through democratic means.

Evidence that Philadelphia sucks

Red tape closes New Zealand prediction market
Andrew Gelman points out a story from Stuff that illustrates the cumbersomeness of government regulations:
According to the iPredict statement, Associate Justice Minister Simon Bridges refused to grant it an exemption from the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act, declaring that it was a “legitimate money laundering risk” because of the lack of customer due diligence. . . .
Geoff Todd, managing director of VicLink, said the website had been caught in a legal loophole which had caused problems globally.
“Predictions markets aren’t financial markets, and they’re not gambling, but the legislation is very binary. You’re either gambling or you’re a financial market.”
In 2014 InTrade closed after suspending American trading in 2012 because it ran afoul of anti-online gambling regulations.

Foreign policy is hard. Especially for the Dauphin
Michael Petrou of Maclean's comments on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's "vacuous" stance on Syria:
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, at a press conference [Wednesday] in London, was asked whether Russia’s involvement in Syria is helping or hindering the situation there ...
Trudeau began his response, as is sometimes his wont, with a faint and partially suppressed chuckle, as if what he’s about to reveal should be obvious to right-thinking people: “Well, I think one of the most important things that we need to do is establish a level of coherence and cohesiveness even amongst very different actors to ensure that we are moving toward what all of us want, which is greater peace and stability in the region.”
How anyone other than a first-year student at a second-rate university trying to disguise the fact that he hasn’t done the class’s required reading gets away with saying something so utterly vacuous is a mystery one suspects will deepen as Trudeau’s premiership progresses ...
[T]he possible outcomes of the Syrian civil war envisioned by Putin and by opponents of Assad such as Turkey and Canada are fundamentally different. There is no “coherence and cohesiveness,” however much Trudeau might wish it were so.
But there's more:
Trudeau was then asked if he agreed with American President Barack Obama, who after the attack said Turkey has a right to defend its territory, and with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who said NATO members “stand in solidarity with Turkey.”
“I don’t think we’re entirely clear on everything that’s happened right now, and I certainly don’t think that it’s helpful to start off by me choosing to point fingers at one side or the other,” Trudeau said.
He added Canada “absolutely” supports its NATO partner Turkey. But the damage was done. Here was Trudeau seeming to forget that the “one side or the other” in this dispute includes Canada. When the head of NATO says the alliance stands in solidarity with Turkey, we’ve picked a side. Trudeau doesn’t get to stand above the fray and refuse to point fingers.
Justin Trudeau demonstrated his ignorance regarding NATO in 2014, and despite some well-deserved mocking at the time, he hasn't learned from his mistakes. Roland Paris has a lot of work to do, unless Trudeau's foreign policy adviser is part of the problem.
In my book The Dauphin: The Truth about Justin Trudeau, I argue that it is on international issues, in particular, that Trudeau the Younger demonstrates his lack of judgment.

What I'm reading
1. Making a Difference by Dalton McGuinty. Just getting started. It's had lots of media coverage over the past week and will review it for the January Interim. First impression is about the physical book: it is heavy and stately looking. It seems like an impressive and substantial book. Of course, most political memoirs aren't.
2. The Christmas Virtues: A Treasury of Conservative Tales for the Holidays edited by Jonathan V. Last. I should have a review online in a week or so.
3. "Modernizing Regulation in the Canadian Taxi Industry," a Competition Bureau white paper, and its accompanying material. The Toronto Star reported on the white paper and John Pecman, Canada’s Commissioner of Competition, had a column in the Globe and Mail about permitting disruptive technologies in the taxi market.

Ontario economic update
The Toronto Star is painting yesterday's Ontario economic update in rosy terms with Liberal Finance Minister Charles Sousa announcing the province's deficit to come in around $7.5 billion instead of the $8.5 billion estimated in the spring budget. That better-than-expected deficit is a result of the sell-off of 15% of Hydro One, which the Liberal government originally said would go to pay for transit and other infrastructure to reduce gridlock and which brought in about a billion dollars more than estimated when Sousa delivered his budget earlier this year. Now, as the opposition parties have charged, it appears that the Hydro One sale proceeds are going into general revenues to pay for program spending and increasing interest payments (the result of ever-growing debt). The Globe and Mail reports, the Hydro One boost, "is only temporary ... and does not get the province closer to its promise to balance the books in two years."
The media coverage is ignoring the role of low interest rates in the province's ostensibly improving fiscal situation. If interest rates increase -- and they almost certainly have to over the next year or so -- Ontario's declining deficits will turn around quickly. TD Economics in their analysis of the update noted: "A lower-than-expected interest rate environment is expected to save the government roughly $0.6 billion over the next three fiscal years combined." End of story. But low interest rates are also a driver in the inflated housing market, especially in Toronto, which is helping Ontario reap a land transfer windfall. If the housing market cools, that revenue will fall.
The analysis from BMO Nesbitt Burns observes that "program spending is running $400 million higher than the budget plan at $120.9 billion, mainly reflecting new spending in the Green Investment Fund," suggesting the unsustainable and unexpected revenue growth will not be enough for the government to meet its 2017/2018 balanced budget target. Critics on the right will note that the Liberals are not doing enough to control spending. They are doing better than the "recent" average, but probably not enough to meet their 2017 deadline. TD Economics concludes their analysis:
Expenditures in Ontario have grown by an average annual rate of 5.2% since the late 1980’s and by about 2% over the last five years. In light of this, keeping spending growth contained at around 1.3% between FY2015-16 and FY2017-18 – a rate below that of projected inflation – while the economy is growing may be a tall order. As such, getting back to balance by 2017-18 is going to require some hard work on the government’s part.
The Finance Ministry's "2015 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review" has Sousa's statement, a press release, the numbers, and other data (and propaganda). RBC Economics also has an analysis which parrots most of what the other banks said.

Thursday, November 26, 2015
Against certainty
Tyler Cowen reminds us of the Haitian proverb, "if you’re not confused, you don’t know what’s going on." That's true in most cases, but if you think you know when it isn't applicable, you're probably wrong.

Aboriginal women and homicide
The new Statistics Canada homicide numbers (2014) were released yesterday and a focus of it is the stats on aboriginal homicides. The media has covered the disproportionately high number of aboriginal women who are victims of homicide. One quarter of homicide victims are aboriginal, despite being just 5% of the population. Yet the murder rate for aboriginal males is three times higher than among females (10.86 per 100,000 men compared to 3.64 per 100,000 women). What is also notable is that the percentage of cases solved was higher for aboriginals (81%) than non-aboriginal (71%). As with non-aboriginal, more than eight in ten aboriginal victims knew their assailant. Every murder is a serious crime and it appears that the criminal justice system takes aboriginal murders as seriously as they do other murders.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Progressive goals advanced by markets, limited state
Aniruddha Ravisankar,a student at the Paris School of International Affairs, writes a letter in The Freeman to progressives:
There is something incredibly inspiring about caring for others. I share your contempt for the inequities we find within and between countries. It hurts me each time I think about the unnecessary loss of life in the world due to poverty and economic stagnation. I am a classical liberal not because I don’t care for others but because I do. I share your concern for the plight of the poor, I appreciate your desire for change, and I respect your disdain for narrow nationalism and feudalism. It is out of this appreciation that I ask you to come back to your political roots ...
You are right to demand that we be sympathetic to the sufferings of other people and hold up altruism as a virtue. But what is more altruistic than capitalism, which cares not for the color of your skin or your hair but for you as a person? How can you, with such concern for the world’s poor, rally against the international trade that will make their lives better? Isn’t there something incredibly regressive about wanting to slow down capitalist progress?

Liberal calls out Wynne for abusing 'racist' label
The Vancouver Sun reports that former NDP B.C. premier and federal cabinet minister Ujjal Dosanjh has replied to current Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne:
In response to Wynne being quoted saying “what we can’t give into, I think, is allowing security to mask racism,” Dosanjh responded that “in one fell swoop” she was labelling as racist the 67 percent of Canadians who disagree with the government’s “artificial” timeline to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada in the next five or six weeks.
Of course, this is the standard Liberal/liberal MO. During the federal election the Dauphin implied the majority of Canadians who were skeptical of the niqab's place in Canadian society were bigots.

Childhood reading
The Millions has "Six Authors on Their Childhood Reading." There are the standards: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Robinson Crusoe, Moby Dick. I didn't read any of these until university. Excluding The Hobbit and the The Chronicles of Narnia, I didn't read much fiction unless it was assigned by the English teacher and even then I usually got by without reading the assigned books (with the exception of Shakespeare, which I did read). My introduction to Ayn Rand came after I turned 16, and I completed her works before I graduated high school. Until I was 16, I read encyclopedias, comic books, Mad, our regional newspaper The London Free Press, The Economist from the public library, whichever weekly newsmagazines my parents were subscribing to (Newsweek, Time or Maclean's), various hockey and baseball magazines to which I subscribed, and beginning when I was 16 National Review and The Spectator, which my conservative English and Religion teacher introduced to several of us right-leaning students. At some point in high school I read a bunch of Marx, Trotsky, Lenin, and Marcuse and thought I understood it. No fiction stands out as influential (even Rand -- I preferred her essays, and still do). I was reading the paper, newsweeklies, Baseball Digest, The Hockey News, and Hockey Digest before I was ten, but have no recollection of reading books. I do recall my parents, both teachers, reading to me every night as a young child, but nothing that would count as literature.
I don't feel like a missed much because I "caught" up quickly in university, yet an appreciation of literature at a young age is something worth inculcating in kids, and we do with our children. My four oldest, which span Grade 5 to 25 years old, are all voracious readers of both fiction and non-fiction, and some of those books have been influential, dare say formative, to who they are. I don't regret not having this experience, but I do regret not having a story about such an experience.

Stupid polls
Public Policy Polling asked which candidate seeking the GOP or Democratic presidential nomination would ruin Thanksgiving. No prize for guessing who won. Hillary Clinton finished second and Bernie Sanders third, but together they still wouldn't "win." Clinton finished first for the candidate respondents would most like to have over for dinner, followed by Ben Carson and Donald Trump.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015
State lotteries vs. fantasy sports
BuzzFeed reports:
In New York’s legal complaint against DraftKings last week, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman dropped this data nugget: “DraftKings data show that 89.3% of [daily fantasy sports] players had an overall negative return on investment across 2013 and 2014.” That is: Just 10.7% of players broke even or made money.
New York, of course, is no stranger to gambling: It runs the country’s largest state lottery. So, BuzzFeed News wondered, how do daily fantasy sites’ odds stack up against New York’s state-sanctioned betting? ...
We simulated the outcomes for hypothetical New Yorkers who purchase a $1 Mega Millions ticket 50 times — or, approximately weekly for one year. Across 1 million simulations, approximately 99.4% of players lost money.
Of course, Mega Millions is just one of the many lottery platforms the Empire State runs, but you get the point: if part of the government's rationale for going after the fantasy leagues is that they produce so many more net losers than net winners, then government should shut down their own lotteries.

Ontario government announces climate change strategy

Because it's 2015
In his column in the Ottawa Citizen, William Watson suggests some other changes that are long overdue because it's 2015:
1. Let's get rid of throne speeches. Or at least not make the Governor General read it. Or just get rid of them completely.
2. Standing up to vote in the House of Commons; electronic voting by push-of-the-button.
3. Eliminate guilds, central planning, and rationing. Mostly looking at marketing boards, but also occupational licensing.
4. Cease government control of television content.
5. Stop the "crusading journalism" in search of nonsensical conspiracies.
6. Let's not demonize political opponents, especially those who are concerned about a hasty refugee resettlement policy.
7. Lessen the politically correct "ideological hyperventilation."
This is a good start. I'd even settle for numbers three, four, and either six or seven which seem closely related.

The disappearance of the Chretien Consensus
Three economists with the Fraser Institute write in the Financial Post about how the Chretien Consensus -- "balanced budgets, value-added government spending and tax competitiveness -- delivered sustained economic growth and fiscal health for a decade, and yet it is being abandoned today in Ottawa by the Trudeau Liberals and every province (with the possible exception of British Columbia). In the same pages, Jack Mintz writes about Ottawa and the provinces returning to their old tax and spend ways, which studies suggest retard economic growth.

Monday, November 23, 2015
You would think Oxford students would be made of sterner stuff
A student has taken offense -- of course -- that Magdalen College at Oxford is having a Great Gatsby-themed ball because the university the year in which it was set, 1926, did not admit women or "people of colour" as students. Law student Arushi Grag said she was "uncomfortable with the advertising" because her demographic does not want to nostalgically recall the 1920s when people like her were excluded from the elite university.

Diversity requires generosity. That is a reminder for liberals, not conservatives
Jonathan Haidt has a good post on the on-going political battles at American universities that begins with an under-appreciated point: "Diversity is inherently divisive." Multiculturalists believe that harmonious diversity is possible, and indeed it is but it is not easy. Haidt could have just as easily begun his essay, "Diversity is inherently difficult." But the sort of diversity that Haidt believes in is the only diversity that really matters: intellectual or viewpoint diversity. Progressives only give lip service to viewpoint diversity, but they prefer a phony multicultural diversity of ethnic foods and music shorn of cultural (often religious) meaning.
It is easy to enjoy some thai food or bang the djembe, and not be essentially challenged in one's comfortable assumptions about the world. True diversity requires something deeper:
[O]ne reason it’s so hard is that campus diversity programs rarely begin by extolling the essential precondition for tolerance: Generosity of spirit. Social life always contains misunderstandings. Diversity multiplies them by ten. Modern social media multiplies them by ten again. Training students to react to “micro-aggressions” (small and often unintentional slights) multiplies the misunderstandings still further.
In other words, civility in political discourse (broadly defined) is incredibly difficult today.
Haidt reiterates the point:
Diversity is inherently divisive; it takes work to reap its benefits. And as we argue here at HeterodoxAcademy, the most valuable kind of diversity of all is also the most divisive: viewpoint diversity. Without generosity of spirit and a dash of humility, the diversity project — indeed, the American project — is doomed to fail.
I don't think conservatives are very good at generosity of spirit, either. But conservatives are losing, almost everywhere: in North America and Europe and the churches, in politics, the culture, and the media. Conservatives don't get to prohibit the other view, don't get to punish heterodoxy. But the liberal ascendancy, which has been going on for more than a century, has not been accompanied by much liberal magnanimity. And it is liberals who preach tolerance while showing a remarkable disinclination to practice it to those with whom they disagree.
Generosity of spirit would make elected politics, campus politics, and Twitter better places.

Bravo Mr. Reynolds

For journalists, there is no more interesting story than themselves
The Hill Times: "‘Fun is back’ for Hill media with improved access." Not sure "fun" is the standard for whether journalists are doing their job.
Says Manon Cornellier, a reporter for Le Devoir and president of the Parliamentary Press Gallery:
For us, it’s really interesting when you now can ask questions [of ministers] … Everything we did in the last 10 years [to get stories], digging and everything, there’s no reason to stop doing it, but at least the work is more complete when you’re able also to get feedback from the government you’re covering, that you’re able to question what they’re doing and get answers maybe—it gives a more complete portrait.
I am sure they will have more fun over the next four years, I'm not so sure about the digging and complete portraits.

Et tu, Calgary Chamber of Commerce?
A series of tweets in response to Alberta Premier Rachel Notley's tough new policy to punish all carbon emitters, in order:

Classical liberalism vs. modern liberalism
Nich Cohen has a good essay in The Guardian on what he calls traditional liberalism and multiculturalism, in which he notes that traditional (or classical) liberals oppose "political Islam":
It is oppressive in its attitude to women, freethinkers and gay people, dogmatic in its intolerance of believers in other religions and none, and contemptuous of democracy and human rights. In Saudi Arabia and Iran, it mandates theocracy. In Syria and Nigeria, it justifies slavery and the mass murders of unbelievers.
But most modern liberals, or self-described progressives, are multicultural extremists. Shadi Hamid wrote in The Atlantic that illiberalism must be tolerated: "a liberal society cannot truly be liberal without allowing citizens to express their own personal illiberalism, as long as they do so through legal, democratic channels." Cohen says:
Which is true, as far as it goes, but must surely apply to white conservatives accused of sexism, racism and homophobia and, if Hamid is being consistent, of Islamophobia too. They are the way they are, too, and we must respect them as long as they are peaceful.
Except, of course, it doesn't. Progressives barely tolerate dissent from orthodoxy on their own side; there is little chance they will tolerate differing points of view from mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging conservatives. It is strange to see the Left tolerate sharia-mandated segregation of women at public events while condemning as fear-mongering and divisive any conservative/classical liberal criticism that there just might be a problem with tolerating illiberal and non-democratic tendencies in some cultures, most notably in Islamic ones.

Campus mayhem
The Wall Street Journal editorializes about the zaniness at various universities, which begins:
By now you’ve heard that the insurrections at Yale University and the University of Missouri have spread to campuses from California to New Hampshire. The grievances and student demands for safe spaces vary, but the disease is the same: Faculty and administrators who elevate racial and gender diversity above all other values, including free speech.
The latest is Princeton:
But most redolent of our times is Princeton University. Last week students invaded the president’s office insisting that the school expunge references to Woodrow Wilson because he was a racist who supported segregation. Wilson was Princeton’s president before he ascended to the White House.
Current President Christopher Eisgruber agreed to kick off discussions about Wilson’s legacy, among other concessions. Colleges used to take pride in the accomplishments of their alumni, but now students want to rewrite American history if it doesn’t suit contemporary political mores. Then again, given the politicized way American history is taught these days, maybe it’s best to drop it as a discipline. Mr. Eisgruber should be embarrassed for conceding that hijacking campus buildings is a way to get what you want.
It almost validates Richard Klagsbrun's observation: "Liberal Arts degrees aren't about knowledge. They're for brats having their biases confirmed while picking up a piece of paper for a resume." Or as the Journal says, less caustically: "The post-1960s progressives who run universities today celebrated free speech in their salad days, so why don’t they now? Perhaps because holding up the First Amendment is an admission that Western civilization, which produced the luxury of university life, is worth defending."
Tyler Cowen has some thoughts on renaming institutions. He seems to be of two minds: we shouldn't forget our history while conceding there is room for renaming buildings and schools (in favour of donors). Still, this seems like a reasonable compromise:
I don’t mind if an institution names itself after a person of mixed moral quality, or allows such a name to persist, provided the institution, in both its framing of the name and its pursuit of its broader mission, is self-conscious about that person’s drawbacks and invests resources toward that self-consciousness beyond the usual rhetorical statements.
But that wouldn't satisfy the mobs on campus today.

Sunday, November 22, 2015
Sinatra's 'Send in the Clowns'
Mark Steyn examines one of my three favourite Frank Sinatra songs, "Send in the Clowns." Steyn explains its enduring popularity of Stephen Sondheim's best-known song:
But gosh, that tune is beguiling. What's "Send In The Clowns" about? It's about three minutes long, and the music always sounds pretty. Sondheim is said (at least according to one rather dry conference on his work I attended) to favor "non-functional" harmony: in this song he doesn't go for chord changes but he does use harmony as a way of deepening the colors of the melody and drawing the ear to the progression of the tune. Why it became so uniquely popular for a Sondheim composition is something of a mystery: It's conventionally diatonic and, in contrast to the spiky lyric, almost a lullaby. And yet, without the words, it's also rather unvarying and dull.
Steyn also writes of the almost "tricksy" conceit employed by Sondheim:
Sondheim composed something for what he calls Glynis Johns' "nice little silvery voice". "I wrote it for her voice," he said, "because she couldn't sustain notes. Wasn't that kind of singing voice. So I knew I had to write things in short phrases, and that led to questions." So he wrote the song as a series of four-syllable questions:
Isn't it rich? / Are we a pair..?
Isn't it bliss? / Don't you approve..?
Don't you love farce..?
Isn't it queer..?
Irving Berlin wrote a famous song that was also a series of questions, questions that are answered by other questions. Which sounds like too clever a conceit for its own good. But it's not
Steyn also examines whether or not this or any Sondheim song can be classified as a "standard" and is baffled by what the song actually means. This is probably Steyn's best essay on the 85 Sinatra pieces he's done so far.

Regulating online veterinary advice
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a challenge to a Texas law outlawing online veterinary advice. George Will writes about the odious nature of much occupational licensing:
Students of contemporary government will instantly understand that this was not done to protect pets, none of whom has complained about, or been reported injured by, people like Hines. Rather, the legislature acted to protect those veterinarians who were vocally peeved because potential customers were getting online advice that, even when not free, is acquired at less expense and more conveniently than that gained from visits to a veterinarian’s office.
This is rent-seeking, the use of public power to confer private benefits on one economic interest by handicapping another interest. Rent-seeking is what the political class rewards when it is not brooding about why people think the political class is disreputable.
Will says often occupational licensing takes the form of over-reaching restrictions on freedom of speech (like vets giving advice online or, perhaps in the future, doctors giving advice in radio call-in shows):
Even if the court remains reluctant to take notice of blatant rent-seeking through speech restrictions, the time is ripe for a clarifying ruling to give maximum protection to speech that, although related to licensed occupations, bears no demonstrable relation to a legitimate government interest in public health and safety. And the ruling should limit the latitude government has to evade First Amendment scrutiny by simply declaring that when it regulates occupational speech it is really regulating conduct.

NR turns 60
Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby marks the 60th anniversary of the launch of National Review:
In a column some years ago, I characterized NR, which was launched by William F. Buckley Jr. in 1955, as “the publication that blew the wind into the sails of American conservatism.” I wrote of first discovering the magazine as a 17-year-old college sophomore, and of my exhilaration at encountering in its pages “words and arguments that gave shape and coherence to my own inchoate political beliefs,” packaged in a style that was “feisty, smart, playful, elegant.”
The same was true for hundreds of thousands of young conservatives, including abroad. I have had a subscription since high school, although I jointly credit NR and columnist George Will for giving coherence to my political beliefs (I was at the time escaping from flirtations with Marxism and supporting Jesse Jackson in the 1988 Democratic primaries).
While I have since become much more libertarian in my writing -- rules are for autocrats -- even their 1993 book on writing, The Art of Persuasion: A National Review Rhetoric for Writers by Linda Bridges and William F. Rickenbacker, influenced my writing style (don't be afraid of long sentences, foreign words, punctuation -- it's the anti-The Elements of Style by Strunk and White (no first names necessary).
Jacoby briefly examines the back-section of the anniversary edition which is dedicated to the books that influenced prominent conservatives today, before concluding:
National Review’s 60th birthday is a milestone not just for a magazine, but for an ongoing commitment to the conviction that ideas matter, and that good writing can change lives.
Which got me to thinking about the decline of serious magazine writing in the age of the internet and, more importantly, the age of infantile partisanship. National Review influenced the Republican Party, but was usually not a blind follower (it could be argued it became too much so under Rich Lowry for some of the Bush II presidency, which began a period of decline for the magazine). Ideas, not political parties, should matter; too much opinion magazine writing today either ignores or conflates this. Considering the hyper-partisanship of American politics, one could reflect on whether NR's time has passed and if, ultimately, it has failed.

Saturday, November 21, 2015
What I'm reading
1. The Only Average Guy: Inside the Uncommon World of Rob Ford by John Filion. Filion is my city councilor, and my most enthusiastic votes in my lifetime is for whoever is facing him. That said, this is a good book and a fair book.
2. Mayor Rob Ford: Uncontrollable: How I Tried to Help the World's Most Notorious Mayor by Mark Towhey and Johanna Schneller. You are never sure how much covering one's own ass a staffer does in these books. It seems like a lot.

WSJ interview with The Donald
Recently the Wall Street Journal made a fair comment about Donald Trump, Trump insults the Journal, paper and candidate make up and he agrees to an interview, paper publishes interview which is exceedingly fair and while being so makes The Donald look like an idiot.
A snippet from the Journal:
Trump speaks in lengthy recursive loops that fold back on themselves, over and again, and he rarely makes a point once when seven or eight times will suffice.
Trying to pin Trump down on free trade is an adventure:
Mr. Gigot noted that “you said in the last debate you’re a 100% free trader but you just don’t like some of the deals that have been negotiated.”
Mr. Trump: “Correct.”
Mr. Gigot: “So is there an example of a deal, trade deal, that we’ve done in the past that you like, that you point to as a model?”
Mr. Trump: “Not many. Nafta was a disaster. Not many. We could have great deals.” He then detours into corporate inversions, made-in-Japan backhoes, currency devaluation, Chinese hotel furniture, the recent GOP debate and the editorial he disliked. For the record, Mr. Trump always knew China wasn’t a party to the Pacific pact.
Mr. Gigot tried again: “But you said you don’t like the big deals, so you like bilaterals. But is there an example of one that the U.S. has negotiated or signed that you like in recent history?” Mr. Trump: “No.”
Mr. Gigot: “The Colombia deal, the Korea deal, the Australia deal?” Mr. Trump: “No, I don’t like any of them. I think we’re bad negotiators.”
Mr. Trump tells us “I totally, I totally, like free trade,” but the contradiction is that his campaign hasn’t tapped a protectionist vein so much as the mother lode. As he tells it, his objection isn’t to trade deals per se but the disinclination of the U.S. government to leverage tariffs to obtain terms more favorable to the U.S.—and especially to take on the Chinese, Trump-style.
Trump does not seem to share my enthusiasm for free trade and distrust of free trade agreements, the latter often adding new layers of regulation to domestic economies.
Anyway, if I was a political reporter in Washington, at least 10% of me would want Trump to be president.

McGuinty's cynicism
Chris Selley writes about Dalton McGuinty's memoirs, Making a Difference and focuses on his the former Ontario premier's many regrets. The conclusion is a magnificent take-down:
“I have always been very idealistic and positive in my approach to politics,” McGuinty writes. “Some may find that hard to believe, given the expediency and self-interest cynics would have us believe characterize all politics today.” Not “all politics,” no. But Dalton McGuinty’s, certainly.
Readers will say, well, surely this is the sort of nonsense politicians always pack into their memoirs. And they will be right. But it is remarkable to come face to face with someone so utterly convinced of his own idealism, or so cynical as to insist upon it, so soon after he irrefutably demonstrated his lack of it — by squandering billions of dollars for a few seats the Liberals would probably have won anyway, proroguing the legislature to derail inquiries into same, and summarily resigning to watch the various police investigations unfold from afar.

For Trudeau, style is substance

How did I miss this
From March of this year, Brian Albrecht of Econ Point of View: "What Football Taught Me About PhD Economics." This seems true of almost everything going into university:
The game is completely different at the college vs. the high school level. If you come into the college level thinking it is still high school, you will get crushed. It's not only a higher level, but a different game. What works in high school does not work in college, so players are better off forgetting what they learned. (Of course, if you are a true FREAK, which I was not, you can do whatever you want.)