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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Thursday, October 02, 2014
Fox News kicks competitors' asses
The Hollywood Reporter the latest stats for the major cable news channels in the United States and for the last quarter Fox News has had an average primetime viewership of 1.797 million, more than CNN (555,000), MSNBC (557,000) and HLN (352,000) have combined. Hollywood Reporter also notes that repeats of Shark Tank "in heavy off-net rotation on CBNBC" is "outperforming much of cable news and ranking No. 14 in primetime where adults 25-54 are concerned — besting every telecast on MSNBC."

At Small Dead Animals EBD makes the classic mistake of comparing polls from different companies. That is a big no-no. Different methodologies, different questions, different results. It is better to either compare trend lines by a single polling company or, like, do a weighted average. The comment section is full of people complaining that polling companies are biased or wrong -- which is often true but also beside the point -- but one comment is worth noting because the analysis is bang-on:
All polls are not equal. Forum and Ekos aren't worth a damn. Ipsos-Reid is and always has been the most accurate and nuanced over the years. Let me set the questions, and I can give you a poll result producing any answer you want. Forum and Ekos have always been too much interested in shaping the result they want. I-P, not nearly so much. Political polling for them is really just a sideline. Their main business is industry, and those guys want to know what the public really thinks, not just PR puffery.
Frank Graves at Ekos is probably the most biased pollster I've ever seen. Forum Research is all about media coverage. Companies like Ipsos Reid (and Innovative Research Group) care more about accuracy than headlines or point-proving because their primary clients are corporations that need reliable information.
Anyway, back to my main point: do not compare polls from different polling outfits. Just don't.

Will politicians be outed?
Stephen Maher writes about the dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford who challenged Canada's prostitution laws and has threatened to reveal the names of politicians in order to get more publicity for herself press Parliament not to go forward with its Nordic model limits on the selling of sex. Maher reports:
Bedford, who led the legal battle that overturned Canada’s prostitution laws, threatened to name naughty politicians at a Senate hearing last month into C-36, the law the Conservative government is bringing in to make it illegal to buy sex.
“If this law passes I’m going to make you guys forget about Mike Duffy, because I’ve got more information and more proof on politicians in this country than you can shake a stick at, I promise,” she said, smacking the table with her riding crop.
She was ejected from the chamber on the orders of Conservative Sen. Bob Runciman, the committee chairman.
The problem with that report is that it sounds like Bedford was ejected for threatening to blackmail the politicians. But that's not what happened when she testified during the hearings. She was warned that she was over her allotted time and asked to leave when Bedford said she'd expose politicians who used prostitutes. Runciman banged his gavel and talked over Bedford who at first refused to leave. It was a tactic by Bedford to garner more publicity: she was being silenced for threatening to reveal politicians' names. Bedford has always received favourable media treatment so she knew her spin would be repeated.
I'm not against revealing politicians' names. But I'd like to see the list expanded to include journalists, too.

Might term limits solve the problem with Congress
George Will on the decreasing role of Congress:
Obama is demonstrating in foreign policy what he has redundantly demonstrated in domestic policy — that a supine Congress is superfluous to governance. Which makes this autumn surreal: Why are so many people so eager to serve in a negligible Congress? Professor Greg Weiner of Assumption College suggests an answer:
"Aristotle teaches that no one becomes a tyrant to get in out of the cold; in contemporary terms, no one runs for president for the upmarket house and the jet airplane. But increasingly, there is evidence that members of Congress do seek office for something other than the power, for power is something with which they are not merely willing but often eager to part."
This reinforces Congress' self-marginalization: It increasingly attracts people uninterested in reversing its institutional anemia. They are undeterred by the fact that they will not be responsible for important decisions such as taking the nation into war.
As Congress becomes more trivial, its members becomes less serious. It has an ever-higher portion of people eager to make increasingly strenuous exertions to hold offices that are decreasingly consequential.
Will says the solution to this problem is term limits:
The privileges of permanent service too gravely swell the stakes of staying" and "supply reasons for serving other than exercising power. ... Members of Congress who serve for brief periods will have ... every political reason for taking up the power available to them while they can. ... Members so situated will be likelier to defend their branch as a branch." ...
Term limits are Madisonian measures, altering the incentives — the "interests" or "personal motives" — for entering and using public office.
Term limits can define a conservative agenda of taming executive power by enhancing the power of Congress.

America's gambling industry
Card Player Magazine reports on a new study from the American Gaming Association and Oxford Economics. CPM reports:
Overall, casinos in the United States, which include tribal and commercial properties, win roughly $67 billion from gamblers in a year. That is an all-time high.
Total revenues, which include food, beverage and event ticket sales, reached more than $81 billion annually.
Casinos winning $67 billion from gamblers might be more accurately described as gamblers lose $67 billion to casinos.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014
'Rich People, Stop Giving To Harvard!'
Gregg Easterbrook in his politics-and-football TMQ column at on why it makes little sense to donate large sums of money to Ivy League and other elite schools:
Fall is college endowment reporting season, and news is beginning to dribble out -- Harvard's endowment is up to $36.4 billion, for example. That includes two earthquake-style recent transactions: a $350 million gift from Hong Kong businessman Gerald Chan and a $150 million gift from U.S. investor Kenneth Griffin.
Good for them! But since Harvard's endowment is already more than double the GDP of Iceland, do splashy announcements of more money serve a need, or serve the giver's ego?
TMQ contends the rich should not donate to the Ivy League, Stanford or a few other colleges that exist for the elite and already have ginormous endowments. Rather, the rich should give to schools for the average. At such colleges, donations reduce inequality, and make a difference in people's lives. Donations to Harvard only make inequality worse.
Yale is magnificent, but why should average taxpayers subsidize donations to an institution that serves the super-rich? Disbursing about 5 percent a year from an endowment ensures its principal will not shrink over time. At 5 percent, Harvard's endowment would generate $1.8 billion annually in perpetuity. So how can Harvard possibly need more? That sum equates to $2.6 million per undergraduate per year -- almost 50 times the school's sticker price. Harvard already has ample endowment for every undergraduate to attend free, with vast reserves remaining for other purposes. Yet Harvard is in the midst of a capital campaign, demanding another $6.5 billion.
Sums of this nature allow the construction of majestic edifices with donors' names on the archway. They fund high pay and perks to administrative royalty: Harvard's president earns about $1 million annually, while many in the Harvard front office are paid more than the president of the United States. Harvard does permit undergrads from families at or below the median household income to attend at little or no cost. But with a $36 billion endowment, it's not clear why any student should pay anything to Harvard ...
Now back to Gerald Chan and Kenneth Griffin. If they'd given their fantastic sums to any of the colleges where students from average backgrounds struggle with loans -- or to those schools that the Monthly finds offer students the best bang for the buck -- they would have changed the lives of ordinary people. Imagine the impact of either bundle at sainted Berea College, which accepts only students with financial need, amongst other criteria. Chan or Griffin would have become a hero to an entire generation trying to join the middle class. Instead they gave to the university that needs it least, which is the essence of inequality.
One might reply that it was their money to do with as they see fit. Actually only some was their money. Let's consider Griffin, a U.S. citizen. The deductibility of donations to higher education means Griffin really gave Harvard about $100 million, with taxpayers covering the balance. Ordinary people whose children are buried under student loans, and can only dream of attending Harvard, will be taxed to fund the transfer of another $50 million to the Crimson elite ...
There may be no solution to the rich making gifts for ego rather than social benefit. But there is a solution to tax favors for the top of higher education: legislation to end the deductibility of donations to colleges or universities whose endowments exceed $1 million per enrolled student.
Tax policy has good reason to encourage giving to colleges and universities, since these institutions improve society. But the tax favors should go where society will be aided: not to the Ivy League or Stanford, which already have too much money. At $1 million per enrolled student, an endowment should generate $50,000 annually per undergraduate, without loss of principal. Thus once an endowment reaches $1 million per undergraduate, the school no longer has any financial needs of concern to the public. After the $1 million level (indexing for inflation), tax policy ought not reward further gifts that will not be used for education, rather for intergenerational money-hoarding.
About a dozen colleges and universities enjoy endowments that exceed $1 million per undergraduate. Harvard is now at $5.3 million per undergraduate, Yale clocks in at $4.4 million per undergrad. Duke just crossed the lofty $1 million in endowment per undergraduate line, so donations to Duke would cease being deductible under this proposal.
It would be good for society if rich people stopped giving to the Ivy League, Stanford and Duke, redirecting contributions to universities that serve students from families with money problems.
Since most colleges will never reach the $1 million per undergraduate threshold, it would not be onerous to require those few that do annually to announce if their endowment exceeds this level ...
You could still donate all you wished to elite universities under this scheme -- but you'd have to give the entire amount, not two-thirds with the balance coughed up by taxpayers.

Redskins controversy
The Federal Communications Commission could get involved in the issue of the name of the Washington Redskins football team. Reuters reports:
The Federal Communications Commission is considering whether to punish broadcasters for using the moniker of the Washington NFL team, the Redskins, a word many consider a slur to Native Americans, the agency's chairman indicated on Tuesday.
The FCC, which enforces broadcast indecency violations, has received a petition from legal activist John Banzhaf III, asking that regulators strip local radio station WWXX-FM of its broadcasting license when it comes up for renewal for using the name "Redskins."
Banzhaf says the word is racist, derogatory, profane and hateful, making its use "akin to broadcasting obscenity."
"We'll be looking at that petition, we will be dealing with that issue on the merits and we'll be responding accordingly," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler told reporters.
This will probably amount to nothing; all the FCC is doing is politely committing to look a petition that is submitted to them. But still it is disconcerting that noisy activists could even possibly get a peripheral bureaucracy involved in this fight is bad enough.
At The Federalist Ben Domenech wonders: "Why Isn’t The Media Outraged About The Kansas City Chiefs?" He says because the Redskins are in Washington and close to power and the activists, it gets more attention. KC is in flyover country so activists don't care. Maybe. But there are other possible reasons, including the fact that the term Redskins seems to be about skin colour while the Chiefs is obviously not. Racial stereotypes are one thing; skin colour is another. But the Cleveland Indians are slowly getting rid of their Chief Wahoo branding. Activists used to hate the Atlanta Braves tomahawk chop. My guess is that the Redskins are low-hanging fruit: the supposedly worst Indian reference (Redskins), near activists (Washington) and with a terrible and unsympathetic owner (Dan Snyder). My guess is that if the anti-Redskin activists get their scalp in Washington, they're going for the Chiefs, Braves, Chicago Blackhawks and whatever else.
And anyway, Domenech is not entirely correct that people don't care about the Chiefs being potentially offensive. The Kansas City Star reported in August that the team is meeting with restless natives about ensuring the Chiefs don't offend anyone. There is also an argument to be made that there is a substantive difference between the activities of fans dressing up and tomahawk chopping, and the name of team.
For the record, I'm for Washington keeping the name Redskins. And for fans in Kansas City and Atlanta tomahawk chopping. And bringing back Chief Wahoo. That said, I like Gregg Easterbrook's suggestion to rename the team the Washington Handouts ("they never stop") or the Washington Red Tape ("impossible to get through").

Non-binding Catalonia independence vote is off
For now. It may still proceed on November 9, but the campaign is officially off for legal reasons. Pro-independence government officials say private citizens can campaign for independence in the meantime.

'The 5 Best Libertarian TV Shows Ever'
Reason TV has the list of the best libertarian shows and they are not terrible stretches like some people try (Full House as conservative fare, please). Two of them are definitely in my top 10 favourite shows, including my all-time favourite. I have not yet seen House of Cards (either the British or American versions).

'Who Killed Luke's Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru?' -- an intergalactic mystery
At Movie Pilot, Kit Simpson Browne has a highly speculative but entertaining piece on who really killed Luke's Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru in Star Wars (the original).

'What is the relevant bias when Westerners try to predict what Chinese leaders will do?'
Tyler Cowen offers nine possible impediments to understanding Beijing. I think some combination of 2b, 3, and 5 are the most important.

This is no surprise
Damon Linker in The Week: "How liberals are unwittingly paving the way for the legalization of adult incest." Me: The history of sexual liberation 'advances' suggest that eventually everything will be eventually be permitted. Linker's argument rests on the liberal glorification of personal autonomy and self-determination. It can be put clearer: if marriage is not about reproduction and thus open to same-sex partners, then taboos about incest are not a concern because of birth control. It's not that much of a stretch.

The truth about the UN
Instapundit: "Would the world be worse if the UN ceased to exist? I’m not sure it would even be much better. The UN is a fundamentally trivial body, staffed, and admired, by fundamentally trivial people." It is, at best, a talk shop.

Poverty and inequality
Donald Boudreaux:
The two – as John Cochrane so eloquently reminds us – are not at all the same. It is sloppy thinking (especially for economists) to write as if wealth is a lump of goodies whose total mass is fixed in size. Many women in America are poor for a variety of different reasons, none of which is that wealthier Americans are wealthier than they are.

Cameron wants to complete Bevan's vision
The Daily Telegraph reports:
David Cameron is to promise that a Conservative government will increase spending on the NHS to help build a country that “everyone is proud to call home” ...
Addressing the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, Mr Cameron will say that the death of his son Ivan in 2009 made him “understand very personally” the importance of the NHS ...
The NHS’s annual budget of £109 billion will continue to be ring-fenced after the election, but the Government will “continue to invest more”, Mr Cameron will say.
Ed Miliband has said that “saving” the NHS will form the heart of Labour’s election manifesto. In a further attack on Labour, Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, said on Tuesday that it would be the Tory party “that completes Nye Bevan’s vision for the NHS that treats every patient with dignity and respect”.
Thank God for Conservatives.
So David Cameron and the Tories are going to run in the next British election with this motto: Vote Conservative to fulfill the vision of the Labour Minister of Health from Clement Atlees's government.

Rolling Stone: "Swedish Scientists Hide Bob Dylan Lyrics in Scholarly Articles." RS reports:
For nearly two decades, a group of Swedish scientists have been amusing one another by seeing who can conceal the most Bob Dylan lyrics in their scholarly articles before retirement. The competition dates back to a scientific paper about farts titled, "Nitric Oxide and Inflammation: The Answer Is Blowing in the Wind" ...
The competition took off after a librarian alerted the two to another pair of medical professors – at the very same university – who had doubled down on Dylan references for an article titled "Blood on the Tracks: A Simple Twist of Fate." From there, Weitzberg and Jundberg concocted the contest, opening it up to anyone else interested and recruiting one more scientist, who wrote "Tangled Up in Blue: Molecular Cardiology in the Postmolecular Era." The winner gets lunch at a restaurant in Solna, north of Stockholm.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Bill Gates confirms Common Core is about nationalizing education
Hit & Run's Robby Soave notes that Bill Gates, a major financial backer, told a Politico event that Common Core is about setting one set of national standards. He admits he is politically clueless because he didn't think that local autonomy would be "a political issue." Says Gates:
The basic idea of, 'should we share an electrical plug across the country?' Well, you can get partisan about that I suppose. Should Georgia have a different railroad width than everybody else? Should they teach multiplication in a different way? Oh that's brilliant [sarcasm], who came up with that idea? Common Core, the idea that what you should know at various grades, that that should be well-structured and you should really insist on kids knowing something so you can build on it, I did not really expect that to become a big political issue.
Soave responds:
There you have it. Gates views the education system—the many myriad ways Americans could pass on knowledge to their children—as akin to choosing the correct railroad track size. The implication is obvious: after all, there is only one right railroad track size! Similarly, there is only one correct way to teach children, and all children must be taught that way, according to Gates.
This way of thinking goes against everything the reform movement has come to understand over the last few decades about what works in schools: greater standardization is not the answer; schools languish under stifling centralization; every kid is unique and has different educational needs; and local authorities—especially parents—are best suited to the task of plotting their children's educational paths.
Nurturing the mind of a child is an infinitely more complex task than choosing an electrical plug. It's not as simple as plugging the right cord into a child's brain and flipping a switch.

Do you need to drink eight cups of water a day
Nope. At FiveThirtyEight University of Chicago economist Emily Oster has the details after looking at numerous studies. You need to remain hydrated and that includes other drinks (and the water in food). Water is better than pop, of course. For women three glasses of water will easily suffice; five for men. Oster ends with this gem:
Probably the best advice is some I got from a doctor colleague recently: “When my patients ask when is a good time to drink water, I tell them: ‘When you are thirsty.’”

US overtakes Saudi Arabia in petrol production
The Financial Times reports:
US production of oil and related liquids such as ethane and propane was neck-and-neck with Saudi Arabia in June and again in August at about 11.5m barrels a day, according to the International Energy Agency, the watchdog backed by rich countries.
With US production continuing to boom, its output is set to exceed Saudi Arabia’s this month or next for the first time since 1991.
Much of that comes from natural gas from shale gas. As The American Interest says, "What a difference fracking makes."

2016 watch (Alan Grayson edition)
The Young Turks are encouraging people to sign a petition urging far-left Rep. Alan Grayson to run for the Democratic presidential nomination. The petition begins, "If you're disappointed that Hillary Clinton is the presumptive Democratic nominee for President in 2016 and would rather see Alan Grayson as the nominee sign this petition."

Hey women, if you don't want to be raped, don't break traffic laws: police captain
Elizabeth Nolan Brown at Hit & Run:
In less than two months, three Oklahoma police officers have been arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting women while on duty. One of the officers, state trooper Eric Roberts, was accused of raping women he pulled over for traffic violations. In the wake of this, Tulsa news station KJRH interviewed Oklahoma Highway Patrol Captain George Brown about how women can ensure they won't meet a similar fate.
His response?
First and foremost: Do your part, and do what it takes to obey the traffic laws and not get stopped.
This should be huge news. It won't be. We think this is how police in the developing world operate, not in America. Ignorance is bliss.

No surprise about Obama
Breitbart reports: "A new Government Accountability Institute (GAI) report reveals that President Barack Obama has attended only 42.1% of his daily intelligence briefings (known officially as the Presidential Daily Brief, or PDB) in the 2,079 days of his presidency through September 29, 2014." Of course, many of us have found Barack Obama to be a disengaged president.

Who cheer for in the World Series
Craig Calcaterra looks at the American League and National League contenders to help fans determine for whom to cheer if their favourite team isn't playing October baseball. My thinking about whom to cheer for:
Detroit Tigers: Not a chance. They've been in the American League Championship Series the last three years. Calcaterra calls it Tiger fatigue. I'm not against teams being in the playoffs every season -- I'm a Yankees fan after all -- but I'm not rooting for them. I respect them a lot. David Price and Justin Verlander don't seem to be their dominant selves, but this is still a rotation worth watching and they might have the second best hitter in baseball, the reigning MVP Miguel Cabrera (five consecutive seasons finishing in the top five for MVP, including winning the last two). The Tigers deserve success, but I'm not cheering for them.
Baltimore Orioles: They beat the Yankees for the AL East. Fuck 'em.
Kansas City Royals. Nope. The best thing about the Royals is reading Rany Jazayerli's writing about the team. So in some ways, it is worth them going far so I can read more Jazayerli, but I find the team itself boring. I'd rather watch an interesting team and game than read an interesting take on a game in which I have no interest. Also, the Royals have the underdog label for a reason: they have been very poorly run for a long time.
Oakland Athletics: They were unquestionably the best team in baseball at the trading deadline and tanked afterward. Do you really want to see a team who sucked for nearly two months rewarded? On the plus side, there is a terrific roster of players who deserve national attention. I loved the A's of the late '80s and early '90s, but I don't really care for them now, so I'll take a pass.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: They are my backup American League team after the Yankees. Mike Trout is by far the best (position) player in baseball and he deserves the World Series. And fans should have the pleasure of getting a closeup to the superstar. Contra Calcaterra I'd also like to see Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton do well after semi-struggling in recent years. The Angels have only one World Series (2002) so it would be nice for fans there to hoist another flag.
The St. Louis Cardinals: Could theoretically consider it. Great organization but most fans will be tired of them in the playoffs (this will be the fourth consecutive season); I'm not, but there are more compelling National League teams. Also, they just don't seem good enough to win it all and if you're going to cheer for an October team, you want them good enough to go deep.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Yes, if truly once-in-a-generation players is your bag. Some fans won't like them because of their $238 million payroll. But they have the best pitcher in 'ball (Clayton Kershaw), the best second starter (Zach Greinke), and the most exciting young player in baseball (Yasiel Puig). If winning is your thing, I'd get behind the Dodgers.
San Francisco Giants: No, but not for baseball reasons. They've won half of the last four World Series and there is something about cheering for a team from San Francisco. I don't know if hippies like baseball (I rather doubt it) but I don't want them to be happy.
Washington Nationals: Would jump on the bandwagon in other seasons. Great team. Maybe the best four-starter group in baseball. Good mix of young players (Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper) and veterans (Jason Werth and Ryan Zimmerman). Canadians might want to cheer for them because they were once the Montreal Expos. Canadians might not want to cheer for them because they were once the Montreal Expos. A good case could be made that the Nats are the best team in baseball and the best team should win the World Series. The Nats/Expos have never won a World Series.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Definitely. First time in two decades they have made the playoffs. I agree with Calcaterra about Andrew McCutchen, who could be the next big thing. But the reason everyone who loves baseball should want the Pirates to go far is that the more fans see of Pittsburgh's PNC Park, maybe the most beautiful ballpark in the game today. Baseball is better there, even on TV, and October baseball would be even better.

Monday, September 29, 2014
2016 watch (Ted Cruz edition)
Hot Air: "Ted Cruz advisor on 2016: 'At this point it’s 90/10 he’s in. And honestly, 90 is lowballing it'." Hot Air's Allah Pundit notes that foreign policy is the issue that might be the major issue that divides Cruz and Rand Paul:
Per National Journal, Cruz may be planning to jump in as early as the end of this year. Tough, tough break for Rand, who’s been running for president for at least two years now and was hoping to enter the race as the preferred choice of all but the most hawkish grassroots conservatives. Not sure what he does now to refine his message to counter Cruz. Probably nothing: The temptation will be to emphasize his libertarian positions more in the interest of distinguishing himself from Cruz, but there are likely few more libertarian votes to be gained and some conservative votes to lose in doing that. Meanwhile, if he tacks any further right on foreign policy to keep pace with Cruz, he’ll alienate libertarians and gain little respect from conservatives who already question his motives for making hawkish noises lately.
Also noted is that the excitement -- is that the right word? -- for Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney is mostly about preventing Cruz or Paul from becoming the party's presidential candidate in 2016.

What the hell is John Cornyn talking about?
I used to like Senator John Cornyn (R, Texas) but he's become another useless Republican. PJ Media reports he's talking about party unity, which is all fine and good for the party, but what does that do for movement conservatives. If you want the party united, give the base a reason to unite behind the party. Anyway, Cornym says, “We’ve been through a six-year experiment in big government ... We can’t let divisions between conservatives cause us to forfeit elections to big government.” What six-year experiment? It's been an 80-year experiment, John: New Deal, Great Society, Nixon's regulatory state (OSHA to EPA), Bush II's USA PATRIOT Act/No Child Left Behind/Medicare prescription drug expansion. Barack Obama did not invent Big Government. If Cornyn wants to take us back to the pre-Big Government of Bush II, no thanks.

'Former Imam Of Oklahoma Beheader’s Mosque Apologizes ...'
"To ISIS Day After Beheading." WTF? The Daily Caller reports:
The former imam of the Oklahoma City mosque attended by beheading suspect Alton Nolen apologized this week to ISIS for previously criticizing the group.
Suhaib Webb is currently the imam of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, which is part of the same entity under the same ownership as the Islamic Society of Boston, where Boston Marathon bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev worshipped. Webb spoke alongside the late al-Qaida senior operative Anwar al-Awlaki at a Sept. 9, 2001 fundraiser for an Islamic radical who killed two police officers, according to FBI surveillance documents.
Webb previously served as imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where Nolen reportedly worshipped ...
The day after Nolen beheaded a co-worker, and the same day that Webb was publicly linked to Nolen’s mosque, Webb apologized to ISIS in an online column he wrote for the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center entitled “Shame on Me: A Commitment to Discourse Instead of Demonization.”
In that online column, Webb states:
“I woke up the other day and decided to skim through my body of work over the last few years,” Webb wrote. “Boy was I surprised at some of my posts and talks — the tone and the demonization of others — I compared ISIS to Ebola. While I don’t agree with ISIS, al-Qāida, certain progressives and others, I’ve decided to apologize to anyone that I have spoken ill towards or demonized.”

NFL 'abuse scandal' is not hurting ratings. Not even among women
Carl Bialik of FiveThirtyEight looks at the actual ratings rather than repeat the narrative that the NFL's handling of Ray Rice (and other cases) is hurting ratings:
Nielsen ratings suggest even more than 92 percent of NFL fans haven’t let the incident prevent them from tuning in to games. Stephanie DiVito, who conducts audience research for ESPN’s research & analytics group, shared numbers through the first three weeks of each of the last three seasons. (She excluded Thursday night games and removed broadband-only homes to make the numbers comparable despite year-to-year changes in how the NFL is broadcast and how Nielsen measures possible viewers.) She shared live and same-day ratings for 10 demographic groups: males and females in five overlapping age ranges 12 and up. In just two of the groups were ratings down this year: boys age 12 to 17 and women age 18 to 34. Ratings for both groups dropped by 2 percent.
Among all women age 18 and older, ratings were up 2 percent. That’s a slowdown from the increase of 9 percent last year but isn’t consistent with less interest in the league among women.
Ratings are up slightly among all ages for both men and women except males under 18 (down 2%) and women 18-35 (down 2%), including age groupings that overlap amongst that female cohort.

'America's Multiple Partner Problem'
Mitch Pearlstein, president of Center of the American Experiment, writes at The Weekly Standard about NFL superstar running back Adrian Peterson and the American problem of siring children with multiple women (or being baby mama to numerous men). He starts with Peterson:
It’s not irrelevant to matters at hand that Peterson has fathered at least four children with perhaps four different women, including one who’s now his wife. At least one (unconfirmed) report saying he has sired as many as seven children with an unspecified number of women. And it’s decidedly not irrelevant that one of his children—a two-year-old son who he had known nothing about—was murdered last year by a boyfriend of the child’s mother.
To coin a cliché, how could Peterson even begin to be there more than every once in a while for so many geographically dispersed children, no matter how much money he is capable of sending their mothers every month or so? This is but one of many pivotal questions when it comes to scattered seeds, and not just those of a running back in this instance.
Pearlstein quotes Ron Mincy, professor of social work at Columbia University, who says:
“How should we think about establishing child support payments? It gets really, really complex when you recognize that the non-resident father of a child actually has another family, and another family, and another family. How should he be made to divide up a portion of his income across his multiple children?”
Decades of research has consistently demonstrated that the safest environment for children is to live under the same roof with their two biological parents. In contrast, children who live in situations in which men move in and out of mothers’ beds are dramatically more likely to be abused, sexually and in other ways, as well as sometimes killed. None of this should be the smallest surprise. Just one extraordinarily ugly statistic: Although boyfriends contribute less than two percent of non-parental childcare, they commit half of all reported child abuse by nonparents.
While Adrian Peterson makes millions, the parallel universe I’m talking about is mostly poor.
He concludes with a sad but telling anecdote of a mother lamenting the the loss of her murdered high school-aged son:
“I am never going to see him come home and say, ‘Mama, I got some girl pregnant.’”
And thus the tragedy continues.

What it means when voters take their cues from Lena Dunham?
Kevin D. Williamson on Lena Dunham, voting, and what abortion has to do with America's debased, infantile culture. It is a great, incredibly judgemental piece:
It is an excellent fit, if you think about it: Our national commitment to permanent, asinine, incontinent juvenility, which results in, among other things, a million or so abortions a year, is not entirely unrelated to the cultural debasement that is the only possible explanation for the career of Lena Dunham. A people mature enough to manage the relationship between procreative input and procreative output without recourse to the surgical dismemberment of living human organisms probably would not find much of interest in the work of Miss Dunham. But we are a nation of adult children so horrified by the prospect of actual children that we put one in five of them to death for such excellent reasons as the desire to fit nicely into a prom dress.
It’s not for nothing that, on the precipice of 30, Miss Dunham is famous for a television series called Girls rather than one called Women. She might have gone one better and called it Thumbsuckers. (The more appropriate title Diapers would terrify her demographic.)
Williamson also challenges the "fetish of voting": "Voting is the most shallow gesture of citizenship there is, the issuance of a demand — a statement that 'this is how the world should be,' as Miss Dunham puts it — imposing nothing in the way of reciprocal responsibility." Voting for Dunham -- and most people -- is therapeutic, about self-actualization and feeling good about oneself. That's not a reason to impose your wants on the world via voting, but what the heck. The Dunham voters are "adult-children."
Williamson then challenges Dunham's assertion that there are politicians that care intimately about her sex life. He says that conservatives actually want to "extricate ourselves from involvement in Lena Dunham's sex life" by not being forced to pay for her birth control. I"m not sure why the Left doesn't get this (or they do and they are liars).
There is also a description of why democracy is ridiculous and it represents my views exactly, but you'll have to read the piece. Also, the penultimate paragraph on what real civic-mindedness looks like is bang-on.
But the main point is that if a person is convinced to cast a ballot because of Lena Dunham, or thinks anything like this shallow celebrity, the Republic would be better off without that person voting.

Under-stated headline
Huffington Post headline on an AP story: "Man Accused Of Beheading Coworker 'Acted A Little Odd'."
(HT: Tim Worstall)

'Conservative Review' Congressional scorecard
Breitbart reports on a new project, the Conservative Review, which will grade members of Congress. It sounds like the American Conservative Union, but marks much, much tougher. Breitbart reports:
“One of the things I’ve learned coming off of an election season is that every candidate wants to project a conservative image on the campaign trail," [Daniel] Horowitz, the group's senior editor, told Breitbart News. “Yet when they get to Washington, they use smoke and mirrors from a complex legislative process to hoodwink voters into thinking they are conservative. CR will help expose the players, process, and legislative issues that are helpful or harmful to the conservative cause. Too many politicians are trying to redefine conservatism to comport with their political agenda; we seek to anchor current policy challenges in timeless constitutional conservative principles.”
They say the organization will feature scorecards for members of Congress, similar to the widely-known conservative scorecards from groups like FreedomWorks or Heritage Action or Club For Growth. This group’s scoring, however, is generally much harsher—there are hardly any As—and is designed to encompass the entire conservative movement. FreedomWorks, for instance, focuses its energies on specific parts of the movement often aligned with libertarian thinking. The Club For Growth similarly hones in on what's in the interest of true free market capitalism, and Heritage Action hammers members on a variety of issues, especially cronyism.
What the Conservative Review is trying to do, the group says, is help those other facets of the conservative movement coordinate its messaging better to correctly define what being a “conservative" actually is—and help people across America understand what their members Congress are actually doing rather than just what they’re saying.
Thus far, only three senators warrant an A grade (in the 90s): Mike Lee (Utah), Ted Cruz (Texas), and Rand Paul (Kentucky). (I presume there is no need to mention they are Republicans.)
There are only six B grades (in the 80s): Tim Scott (S.C.), Jim Inhofe (Oklahoma), Jim Risch (Idaho), Tom Coburn (Oklahoma), Mike Crapo (Idaho) and Jeff Sessions (Alabama).
If you check their website, both John McCain and Harry Reid get F grades, although McCain has a 55% vote record and Reid 2%.
Unfortunately you have to register to check profiles of individual members. You can follow CR on Twitter.
There is no shortage of conservative infrastructure in the U.S. Not sure if this really helps; there are plenty of ratings systems and I'm not sure what the GOP needs right now is a hardcore ideological litmus test. (I think original policy thinking that speaks to the needs of an anxious U.S. middle class is the Republican priority.) And yet any conservative organization that has Lee, Cruz, and Rand as the top three senators according to its Liberty Score is fine by me. And it's notable that Lee is among the most notable original thinkers among elected Republicans and he tops CR's list. Conservative Review will be worth following.

Sunday, September 28, 2014
Patrick Brown makes it four
Federal Tory MP Patrick Brown has entered the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership contest, joining a trio of Ontario PC MPPs: Christine Elliott, Vic Fedeli, and Monte McNaughton. I would guess that another MPP, Lisa McLeod, will join the race and that'll be it. Brown says that he wants to grow the PC Party membership so it has the base and organization to win elections, modelling the provincial party on its more successful federal cousins:
"With 10,000 party memberships right now, we're too small. We don't have the depth of an organization that we have to have to succeed," he said. "I want to grow the reach of our party in a huge way. I want to bring thousands of new people into the party so we can have that competitive organization.
"I look at the prime minister and the success he'd had in Ontario where he won 44% of the votes and over 70 seats in Ontario in place like Kenora and Scarborough and Toronto: all over the place.
"The lesson there is you expand the reach of your party. My goal is to invite (new party members) to participate in the leadership and to still stay involved after that."
The Barrie Examiner story quotes invisible backbench MPP Garfield Dunlop, who represents a neighbouring riding provincially but who supports undeclared candidate Lisa McLeod, saying, “He’s a federal member who’s made no headway whatsoever in the Harper Government in the eight or nine years he’s been there. How could I possibly think he could come to Ontario and do a good job when he couldn’t even make cabinet in Ottawa?” Coming from a complete nobody in a party of losers, this is quite something. Maybe it is this mentality that explains why the provincial Tories lose elections.

Two items about poverty from completely different sources
Economist Scott Sumner looks at the Guaranteed Annual Income, a solution to poverty he really, really, really wants to like, but can't come around to endorsing. He doesn't think the numbers add up. The fundamental question is this: How does the GAI not incentivize not working? Sumner says that no American would pick vegetables in the hot sun so the society created with a GAI would look like this:
1. An underclass of illegals doing the hard stuff, and living in shantytowns.
2. Tens of millions of poor Americans watching TV, and giving zero incentive to their kids to study hard in school, because they’ve got the GAI awaiting them too.
3. The upper class, in their gated communities.
At PJ Media, Kathy Shaidle writes about Linda Tirado's Hand To Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America and her story (well, not exactly, for as Shaidle says, Tirado leaves out a lot biogrphical details). Shaidle says of Tirado:
But she made some really stupid decisions, and actions have consequences. I’m still paying “residuals” on some of mine.
Whining about “the system” feels good, but accomplishes nothing, and let’s you divert blame away from where it so often belongs:
Shaidle links to Walter Hudson's "5 Ideas You Need To Rise From Poverty To the Middle Class," which includes two indispensable pieces of advice: "Understand Value and How to Create It" and "Live within Your Means." Needless to say, you won't find a lot of Hudson's ideas in Tirado's book.

Damon Linker get spontaneous order wrong, especially his defense of Obama's you 'didn't build that'
Damon Linker, Stephan Livera at Peace and Markets notes, gets a lot wrong about libertarianism and spontaneous order. Just one example, Linker says: "President Obama got a lot of flack during his 2012 campaign for re-election for saying that wealthy business owners 'didn’t build that' all by themselves, but his point was indisputable." Livera responds:
Actually, it is disputable. Firstly, absent the state, we would see private entrepreneurs providing all sorts of services – it’s just not so easy to see this currently because the government (whether intentionally or not) blocks it. This can be through regulation, taking resources that could be used to do it (crowding out) or outright outlawing competition to entrench itself as the monopoly. The efforts of the private sector can also be denied via regime uncertainty as Robert Higgs writes about.
Secondly, see Don Boudreaux’s article, Government didn’t build that – essentially making the point that all sorts of infrastructure is privately built -“FedEx, privately built oil and gas pipelines, private schools, private insurance companies, privately built skyscrapers.” And yet you don’t see people running around saying that Amazon ‘owes’ its success to the existence of FedEx. Government provided infrastructure might be important (in the current world) – but the existence of government infrastructure is not responsible for business people’s successes. Besides, there’s also the equivalent opposite argument – government wouldn’t have anything to tax (steal) if it weren’t for productive members of society.
HT: Cafe Hayek)

Decline of college football
John U. Bacon, author of Fourth and Long: The Fight for the Soul of College Football, has a long read at Yahoo's Post Game, "Michigan Wolverines Football: From Sellouts To Handouts In Just 4 Years." Michigan's $150 million football program is in trouble. (Yeah, you read that right.) Bacon notes "Michigan can boast the most wins in college football and the longest streak of 100,000-plus crowds, running 251 games, all the way back to 1975," but they are doing it with gimmicks: "The department has resorted to desperate measures to keep the streak going, selling deeply discounted tickets on Groupon, Livingsocial and Amazon, and dumping thousands of free tickets on local schools, churches, camps, the ushers, Michigan golf club members and the student-athletes -- and yes, through Coca-Cola giveaways -- urging them all to come to the games." Bacon says that while season ticket holders are happy with the team, the student fans are becoming indifferent. If you are interested in college sports or sports economics, this is worth reading.

Will on Iowa Senate race
George Will on the Iowa Senate race to replace retiring Senator Tom Harkin (D) between Republican state senator Joni Ernst and Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley:
Although outspent by her chief opponent 10-to-1 in the first quarter of this year, she won a five-candidate primary with 54 percent of the vote, propelled by an ad in which she said that having grown up castrating pigs, she would be able to cut Washington spending. She does, however, genuflect at the altar of Iowa’s established religion, the Church of Ethanol, a federally mandated Iowa sacrament made from corn.
The Ernst of the primary season talked about the Harley in her driveway, the pistol in her purse, and the possibility of impeaching the president. Today her less exotic persona talks about the feeble economy, the perils of Obamacare, and Braley’s record, including his pride in having given in the House the culminating argument for Obamacare, which he still thinks is splendid.
Here's the Ernst ad Will mentions and which I featured on this blog earlier this year:

Fun new photo blog by a friend of mine that is subtitled, "I love cars. But probably not yours." Don't have to be a card nerd to enjoy this blog. I love the pic of the house with a V-8 Audi S4 in the driveway and 90s Lotus Esprit in the garage.

Saturday, September 27, 2014
Democratic senator wants to discriminate against workers with student debt who take private-sector jobs
The Daily Caller reports:
[T]he average college graduate under 40 who carries student debt currently has a median net worth of just $8,700. The Washington Post recently advised newly-minted college graduates to give up hope and go live in their parents’ basements.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wants to help.
Eschewing efforts to create the private-sector jobs that drive economic growth and wealth creation, the progressive Senator instead proposed a new law this week that would generously forgive the student loans of government workers and employees at qualifying nonprofits.
“Teachers, police officers, public health workers and other public servants should be applauded and supported — and not drowned in debt to pay for the degrees many such jobs require,” Blumenthal declared in a press release obtained by Red Alert Politics.
“The current Public Service Loan Forgiveness program should be expanded — and made more flexible — to enable student debt to be worked down or off completely,” the Senator added.

Religion and science
A Rice University study of scientists and religion:
The surveys and in-depth interviews with scientists revealed that while 65 percent of U.K. scientists identify as nonreligious, only 6 percent of Indian scientists identify as nonreligious. In addition, while only 12 percent of scientists in the U.K. attend religious services on a regular basis — once a month or more — 32 percent of scientists in India do.

Men smoking pot and playing video games vs. 'worthwhile' activities
Instapundit pot-smoking gender gap, which is a thing if you believe Slate:
The thing is, with the rewards for studying harder and socializing seeming less clear, men are rationally less motivated. Call it being “on strike,” or call it the loss of the “patriarchal dividend” that made men work harder at socially-approved activities to attract and support a wife, there’s just less reason now. And feminists can thank themselves for creating a society where firing up a joint and playing Call of Duty is a rational response.

Best comment on Trudeau vs. Levant
Lorrie Goldstein tweets: "Dear Justin: If you ever become PM, Vladimir Putin is going to be a lot tougher to deal with than Ezra Levant. Just so you know."

Polo beat Columbus?
The Daily Telegraph reports:
Conventional wisdom that the Americas were discovered by Christopher Columbus has been cast into doubt by centuries-old maps and documents suggesting that Marco Polo got there first.
According to Smithsonian magazine, a fresh analysis of 14 parchments by experts has prompted speculation that Polo could have set foot on Alaska during his 24-year odyssey through Asia in the middle of the 13th century.

Therapist rats out parent for non-crime
Lenore Skenazy: "Mom Tells Therapist About Briefly Leaving Kids Alone, Shrink Calls Cops." What the fucking fuck? Read the whole story, in which a toddler and eight-year-old stayed home fro 20 minutes alone and nothing bad happened -- except for the two-year ordeal with Child Protective Services. Skenazy says:
The laws in 48 states make therapists and other professionals—doctors, social workers, etc.—mandated reporters. If a professional has reason to suspect a child is in real danger from a truly abusive parent, it is his/her job to report the case to the authorities.
Since when is it the professional's job to snitch on a mom who confesses to one imperfect parenting moment? Only when imperfect parenting becomes illegal. Sadly, that's the moment we are in now.

Friday, September 26, 2014
Small is beautiful
Catalan president Artur Mas will sign a decree this weekend that calls for a vote to secede from Spain -- the Catalonian parliament passed the law permitting a referendum last week and the vote will be held on Nov. 2. I'm all for secession votes anywhere for five reasons: 1) smaller states should have smaller governments, 2) governments of smaller states should theoretically be more connected to their people, 3) smaller states screw up fewer people when government policies go awry (which they usually do), 4) theoretically it is easier to let small states fail, and 5) chaos in the political order is desirable as the political order today in most of the West is corrupt or stagnant.

America is falling behind on drone-flown package delivery
Reason's Zenon Evans notes that a German company is experimenting with delivering medical supplies with a drone and the United States is falling behind in this technological advance due to government regulations and other hindrances:
Amazon and Google are conducting tests, but not actual deliveries. Even though they're American-based companies, those trial runs are happening in Canada and Australia, respectively.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is weighing down the industry in The Land of the Free ...
There's a growing litany of airborne operations shut down by the FAA: taco deliveries, crop dusters, wedding photographers, and even a charitable search and rescue team. I've previously highlighted that even Russia has drone pizza delivery services, something prohibited in the U.S.
But the agency isn't just playing favorites with certain sectors, it's flatout inept and shortsighted.
Even though the worldwide drone industry is projected to be worth $89 billion over the next 10 years, the administration even shut down a college program geared at educating the first wave of America's drone-related workforce.

Good enough for me but not for thee
The New York Sun editorializes about Paul Krugman's complaint that the super-rich today live more ostentatiously than the elite did in the 1950s. The Sun takes issue with this assertion by noting at least one notable exception, the extravagant lifestyle of the Sulzbergers. The editorialist concludes with this delicious line: "the heirs to Arthur Sulzberger are hiring Paul Krugman to sneer at the newly minted masters of the universe, who aspire to live like the Sulzberger paterfamilias once did."

'What happened to the environment the last time people with radically anti-capitalist views had access to real power?'
Kevin D. Williamson:
Under a system that imposed heavy government regimentation upon the economy, direct government ownership of the “commanding heights” of the economy (and the commanded heights, too), a socialist vision of property, etc., the environmental results were nothing short of catastrophic.
It's not just communism -- see the Aral Sea disaster, Chernobyl, and the Door to Hell -- but state-run oil companies (Pemex has killed people and fish). Williamson concludes:
Everybody has a theory about what the future could look like, but if we look at the actual record — the record of history — capitalism wins, hands down, over socialism and other state-run economic models when it comes to environmental measures. There is no contest. And at the moment, many of the most interesting ideas about environmental protection are coming from explicitly free-market thinkers. It wasn’t socialism that saved the white rhino.

The Peace Prize President
Townhall: "Awkward: Pres. Obama Has Bombed Seven Countries Since Accepting Nobel Peace Prize." They are Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. I facetiously want to ask what he has against Muslims, but the real joke is that Obama, in the first year of his presidency was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."

'Lonely potato syndrome'
Dean Burnett in The Guardian on "how I invented a mental disorder." An amusing story about a serious issue, Burnett concludes:
What’s the point of this anecdote? Just to illustrate how easy it was to make people think they had a potential psychological problem. Many personality quirks or habits are actually manifestations of known conditions, but then it often goes too far; you get people who claim to be “a little bit OCD” if they’re a bit overly-neat, or the confusion between being “a bit miserable” and actual depression, or just anyone attributing some aspect of their behaviour to symptoms of a mental illness.
This isn’t to say they’re doing it on purpose; they may genuinely believe what they say, or see no harm in it if they don’t. But the potato story just serves to illustrate how difficult it must be to pin down an actual, clinical mental health issue, with people like me (and less bumbling but more cynical “pop” psychologists) out there spreading guff about it and having it believed due to some perceived authority.

Thomson Reuters and their Nobel picks
"Thomson Reuters Predicts 2014 Nobel Laureates, Researchers Forecast for Nobel Recognition." Good picks throughout, but one pair of their economics choices is long overdue: William J. Baumol (Professor of Economics and Harold Price Professor of Entrepreneurship, New York University) and Israel M. Kirzner (Emeritus Professor of Economics, New York University) "for their advancement of the study of entrepreneurism." The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, in its section on entrepreneurship, talks about Kirzner's contribution to the idea:
In contrast to Schumpeter’s view, Kirzner focused on entrepreneurship as a process of discovery. Kirzner’s entrepreneur is a person who discovers previously unnoticed profit opportunities. The entrepreneur’s discovery initiates a process in which these newly discovered profit opportunities are then acted on in the marketplace until market competition eliminates the profit opportunity. Unlike Schumpeter’s disruptive force, Kirzner’s entrepreneur is an equilibrating force. An example of such an entrepreneur would be someone in a college town who discovers that a recent increase in college enrollment has created a profit opportunity in renovating houses and turning them into rental apartments. Economists in the modern austrian school of economics have further refined and developed the ideas of Schumpeter and Kirzner.
The most relevant Kirzner book is Competition and Entrepreneurship for its criticism of traditional "perfect competition" theory which does not exist in real life and ignored real human beings.

Crime in Spain is about 5% of what it is in Italy
Quartz reports that drug trafficking, prostitution, smuggling, and illegal gambling accounts for $11.4 billion in Spain (0.9% of the economy) as compared to $230 billion in Italy. Italy's population and economy are both larger than Spain's, but 20 times bigger.

Assisted suicide's last report fantasy
Wesley Smith says, "Many supporters of assisted suicide are well-meaning, really thinking that it would only be done in the proverbial 'last resort' scenario. But that’s a fantasy ..." Smith then offers nine counter-arguments/facts to refute the idea that assisted-suicide is a last resort. For instance:
7. The most common reasons for committing assisted suicide in Oregon/Washington are not wanting to be a burden, worrying about losing the ability to engage in enjoyable situations, etc..These existential issues are very important and certainly need attention of caregivers–but they are not “last resort” problems, at least as that term is commonly understood.
Too often assisted suicide and euthanasia become the path of least resistance, not the option of last resort.