Sobering Thoughts

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

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014
 
From the wonkblogs
FiveThirtyEight: "Do April Showers Bring May Flowers?" Not really. More like warm "Warm temperatures in March bring April flowers."
Vox: "Bad news: you probably have herpes and don't know it." Race and marital status matter.
Upfront: "Piketty’s Book on Wealth and Inequality Is More Popular in Richer States." By richer, Justin Wolfers means northeastern liberal, with Washington DC an extreme outlier.


 
Why Rob Ford could win Toronto mayor's race
The Globe and Mail reports:
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford spoke out against the possibility of council pay raises Wednesday, ahead of a debate at the city’s executive committee on giving councillors a 13-per-cent salary hike.
The committee will look at two options presented by city staff Wednesday: to either maintain salaries at the current levels adjusted for inflation, or to raise the mayor’s salary from about $177,000 to $200,000 and councillor salaries from about $105,000 to $119,000.
When asked Wednesday what he’d like to see the committee do, Mr. Ford – who is running for re-election and has made spending at City Hall a key campaign platform – said “nothing. Do you get a 13-per-cent raise? No.” ...
“Councillor expenses are ridiculous,” the mayor said Tuesday evening ahead of that discussion. “ I’m going to talk about that. That’s over the top. These people are expending more than their income”
In some ways the "gravy train" has become a punchline, but not among those who vote for Ford; it is shorthand for something that is very much part of their values, that politicians should be in office for public service, not for the pay or perks. Whether or not Toronto city councilors are underpaid -- and the fact that they are paid "in the 37th percentile of comparable cities and regions" is not proof that they are, if they are doing a worse job -- is beside the point. The fact is Ford is closer to where a large swathe of voters stand than other municipal politicians, and always has been.
Enterprising reporters should ask the other mayoral candidates what they would like to see. Preferably when they are attached to lie detectors.


 
Japanese deaths exceed births
Me at Soconvivium on "Japan continues to depopulate." I conclude the post with the observation/warning: "Once a country begins depopulating, it is very hard to reverse."


 
The great unspoken truth about affirmative action
If some people are underreprestented, others are overrepresented, and it's not always white males. As Instapundit notes, "If you really want balance in college admissions, there need to be quotas for white women, who are hugely overrepresented."


 
On this day in Canadian history
On April 23, 1897, Canada's 15th prime minister, Lester Pearson, was born in Newtonbrook, Ont. He worked in the Department of External Affairs and became ambassador to the United States. In 1948 he was elected MP for Algoma East and was promptly appointed Secretary of State for External Affairs by Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, a post he continued to hold throughout the Louis St. Laurent government, during which he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in creating the UN peacekeeping force in the Suez in 1956. After St. Laurent's defeat in 1957, Pearson sought and won the Liberal Party leadership, beating his former cabinet colleague Paul Martin Sr., and the mayor of Portage la Prairie, Harold Lloyd Henderson, on the first ballot. Pearson would lose his first general election in 1962, but won back-to-back minority governments in 1963 and 1965. In 1968 he resigned from office, replaced by Pierre Trudeau. In 2011, I argued that more than Trudeau, it was Pearson who made modern Canada with numerous new social programs (Canada Pension Plan, universal health care, Canada Student Loan Program, the Canada Assistance Plan, the Guaranteed Income Supplement), new laws (minimum wage, labour code), and new institutions he created (Order of Canada, the national anthem, the Maple Leaf flag, the unified military).


 
Obama and Keystone XL
Jonah Goldberg:
On Good Friday, President Obama made a bad call. The State Department announced that it would delay its decision on the Keystone XL pipeline until after the Nebraska supreme court rules in a case involving the route. The administration insists the decision to punt has nothing to do with politics. Pretty much everyone else thinks otherwise.
Obama, who is rarely reluctant to act unilaterally when it benefits him politically, and who regularly brags about his red-tape cutting, is paralyzed by perhaps the only big shovel-ready jobs project he’s been presented with.
He welcomes the Keystone red tape because he’s trapped between an overwhelmingly popular initiative and an overwhelmingly powerful constituency within the Democratic party opposed to it: obdurate rich environmentalists and the door-knocking minions they employ.


 
Bringing the 'Nordic model' to Ulster: a liberty issue, but not the one you might be thinking
The Guardian reports that Northern Ireland politicians want to bring the "Nordic Model" to Ulster to fight prostitution, that is to outlaw the buying, but not the selling of sex. This means policing johns instead of hookers. It is a matter of debate whether this works but is it based on the moralizing idea that men are all bastards for wanting to buy sex and women are (willing and unwilling) victims for selling their bodies to these licentious men. In many ways it is rather condescending to what is euphemistically referred to as "sex workers."
But there appears to be a liberty or civil rights issue unrelated to whether the state has a compelling reason to get involved in what is usually an exchange between consenting adults. As the Northern Ireland justice minister says, for this to work they'll need to intercept more telephone calls. I'm sure that if this policy were to pass in Northern Ireland, the police would never, ever bug phones for the purpose of settling religious scores fighting terrorism or any other purpose but clamping down on prostitution.


 
Giant fans are not a viable energy policy
Investor's Business Daily editorializes:
The federal government has spent some $100 billion in taxpayer subsidies on green energy since 2006. Now we are seeing the flimsy and declining returns on that investment.
The wind industry saw its growth tumble by 92% last year, according to a new report from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), and that's off of a very low base to begin with.
Big Wind blames the decline in output on uncertainty over the future of a federal wind industry tax credit — an absurdly generous subsidy of 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour produced.
This handout is what keeps those giant turbines twirling. These subsidies have been thrown at the renewable energy industry for more than a decade and always with the promise by AWEA that profitability is right around the corner. Sure it is.
The reality is that the wind industry is to energy production what Amtrak is to intercity transportation — a perpetual tax-dollar burning machine.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014
 
Three strikes
1. David Pinto of Baseball Musings says that the reaction to the numerous young pitchers going under the knife for Tommy John surgery this year will probably be fewer long-term contracts for young pitchers. Maybe.
2. Tonight Albert Pujols hit two homeruns against the Washington Nationals, becoming the eighth player to hit 500 HRs by age 34. He is 26th all-time on the HR list and if he can hit 22 more over the rest of the season -- very doable -- Pujols will end up 18th overall by the end of the season, surpassing the career totals of great players like Mel Ott and Ernie Banks, Ted Williams and Willie McCovey. Also within sight: Jimmie Foxx (534) and Mickey Mantle (536). The only "active" player ahead of Pujols is Alex Rodriguez, who is serving a one-year suspension and has 654 HRs.
3. SI.com's Tim Newcomb writes about Wrigley Field, which turns 100 this season. A lot of it is well-known to baseball fans, not just Chicago Cubs fans, and much of it is covered in George Will's new book, A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred. But this was new to me: "'There has been only one visitor’s locker room since 1914,' said [park expert Brian] Bernardoni, who has given Wrigley tours for nearly two decades. 'It is where Lou Gehrig dressed before hitting his first home run in high school, the locker room of Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron and Vince Lombardi. There have been more Hall of Famers in this one room than any other facility that exists in sports'."


 
Mae West was wrong: too much of a good thing is not wonderful
Even if you don't read the traditional media's online presences or online news websites like Daily Caller and Breitbart or many blogs, you would be hard-pressed to read everything the new boys on the block -- FiveThirtyEight, Vox, and now Upfront from the New York Times -- are putting online, even though there is much worth reading on them. I counted 20 articles on Upfront on its first day.
The three best articles online at those three sites today:
FiveThirtyEight: "Which Cities Sleep in, and Which Get to Work Early."
Vox: "Everything You Need to Know about the Streetcar Craze," especially "How Expensive are Streetcars?"
Upfront: "The Myth of Swing Voters in Midterm Elections."
In a world with the internet, there is not enough hours in a day.


 
2016 watch (Elizabeth Warren edition)
Jonathan Bernstein at Bloomberg View:
I know, Elizabeth Warren says she’s not running for president, and many find it annoying that people won’t let it go. Even so, it’s time to take a look at this one.
National politicians know how to make Shermanesque statements about the presidency. Warren isn’t doing that, even though she is doing something else that is suspiciously similar to what candidates do: She’s written a campaign-type book, and is hawking it all over.
Her formula when asked (which is constantly, as Ed O’Keefe documents), is to give a quick denial and then move on to her (campaign-like) rhetoric.That's a legitimate way to deal with the question. But her “I’m not running for president,” present tense, leaves plenty of uncertainty that could be dismissed with a more definitive answer ...
I see nothing wrong with interpreting Warren’s answer, along with her other actions, to mean that she’s not going to begin a low-odds effort or a protest campaign against a heavyweight front-runner. But it's reasonable to think that she’s also doing what needs to be done to keep her options open in case a late-developing wide open nomination fight should erupt.
I originally thought this was Jeb Bush's plan on the Republican side because the wide open field had neither a true next-in-line candidate (Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Robert Dole, Bush II, John McCain, Mitt Romney) or type of candidate that could unify the party's increasingly disparate wings. It makes a lot of sense for Warren to do this considering that both of the Democratic front-runners (Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton) might have more negatives than positives.


 
Conservatives lead among likely voters
Angus Reid says that among likely voters -- and important distinction -- the Conservative Party of Canada leads the Liberals and NDP by five percentage points (34%, 29%, 27%). That might represent a bump following the Flahertygasm the media had, but it might also reflect that Justin Trudeau's higher popularity among younger Canadians doesn't translate into actual votes.


 
Political policing
The Daily Caller: "Why are the cops punishing Common Core opponents?" DC reports:
A school district asked the police to prohibit certain students from setting foot on school property because their parents had privacy concerns about Common Core-aligned standardized testing, and wished to opt their kids out.
The incident happened at Marietta City Schools in Marietta, Georgia. The Finney family didn’t want their three children — in third grade, fifth grade and ninth grade — to participate in the state-mandated Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, partly because of the vast amounts of data the government is collecting about their children, and partly because they think the tests don’t serve a compelling educational interest, according to The Marietta Daily Journal ...
The Finney family attempted to opt out of the tests, but administrators were unsure whether they were legally permitted to do so.
And then — at West Side Elementary School — a police officer barred the Finneys from setting foot on school property.
If the kids weren’t going to take the tests, their presence at school was a “kind of trespassing thing,” according to the officer.
And the Finney children won't be welcome at school on the CRCT make-up days, either.
Seems a little heavy-handed.


 
When it comes to income, how much is too much?
Instapundit: "As Megan McArdle noted a while back, the threshold for 'earning too much' is just above what a two-earner journalist or academic couple can plausibly make."


 
Happy Earth Day -- appreciate the Earth for all it provides humanity, and man's resourcefulness to harness it
The American Enterprise Institute's Mark J. Perry in Investor's Business Daily:
To further appreciate the Earth's natural environment on Earth Day, we should celebrate the revolutionary technologies of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling that have allowed us to access previously inaccessible, natural energy treasures trapped in tight shale rock miles below the Earth's surface ...
Mother Nature provides us with an almost infinite abundance of natural resources but without any "instruction manuals" that tell us how to process them into useable products that improve our lives and raise our standard of living.
On Earth Day, let's not forget to celebrate and appreciate the human resources — knowledge, ingenuity, know-how, creativity, entrepreneurship, and imagination, i.e. the "instruction manuals" — that transform otherwise unusable resources like shale hydrocarbons into energy treasures that will power our economy for generations to come.


 
Politicians lie
Investor's Business Daily editorializes:
German physician Anton Delbrueck, about 120 years ago, decided that a new psychological classification — "pseudologia fantastica" — was required after noting that some of his patients were incessant liars. Whether that explains the last two Democrat presidents, today we might need a joint psychological/sociological study of the mass tendency of the country to accept systematic lying from the highest level of government.
I wouldn't limit my criticism to Democratic presidents or even Democratic politicians, and the idea that politicians are liars is nothing new: writers and thinkers from Socrates to Mark Twain made such observations. But IBD says that President Barack Obama is more brazen in his lying than Richard Nixon ever was. Most of the public views Obama as liar (61% told a Fox News poll that "most of the time" or "some of the time" about "important matters") and can lie when warning the public that his political opponents are playing fast and loose with the truth.


 
'Settled science'
No real scientist would ever call science settled. It betrays the very idea of a scientific approach.
Bruce Dowbiggin writes to Mark Steyn to remind us about recent challenges to scientific orthodoxy:
Re Dr Mann and his obsession with the legitimacy of his work and stifling any and all dissent: When I was a student at University of Toronto in the 1970s, our president was J. Tuzo Wilson. Besides being an amiable person around campus he was also a man who didn't mind tilting at the windmills of "settled science". In his case the field was plate tectonics, also known as continental drift. Along with several scholars, especialy Alfred Wegener, Arthur Holmes and Samuel Carey, Dr. Wilson postulated the theory that the planet's plates were moving and had done so for millions of years. The position of the continents today did not reflect their position over history.
Needless to say, the Dr. Manns and Al Gores of the day were having nothing of it.


Monday, April 21, 2014
 
Interview with James Delingpole
At PJ Media, Ed Driscoll interviews James Delingpole, author of The Little Green Book of Eco-Fascism: The Left's Plan to Frighten Your Kids, Drive Up Energy Costs, and Hike Your Taxes, which includes his take on "the appalling" Michael Mann's lawsuit against Mark Steyn.


 
Ford should be considered the favourite
This CBC story still misses the point about Rob Ford when it says that he could win the Toronto mayoral race. It talks about the "power of forgiveness" and that Ford has an easily understood message (he returns calls, he respects taxpayers), but misses the more important political point: people like Ford and what he stands for. It's not just that his message is simple, but that it resonates. He represents, or at least appeals to, the values of what I usually call "normal people" -- married couples with kids, a mortgage, and a car, and those who aspire to that ideal. They generally don't go to art exhibits, prefer Austin Power movies and James Bond over anything at TIFF, and actually don't have a problem with gay couples but find the Pride Parade a little off-putting. Rob Ford isn't "weird" like the downtown candidates, especially the other two front-runners, Olivia Chow and John Tory. Chow and Tory support the arts, think that "fighting poverty" is the most important aspect of "fighting crime," and think that funding special interests is an important part of building "community" when many voters just want the garbage picked up on time, the potholes filled, and our tax dollars not to be wasted. Ford is not an effective messenger, he has an effective message. And after four years of the Left's war against him, he might have became the message himself. I am convinced that the polls understate Rob Ford's support, which is probably in the 35%-40% range and as long as there are two major candidates running against him (Chow with 35% and Tory with 20%-25%) and a handful of minor candidates that can all garner 3%-5% (Sarah Thomson, Karen Stintz, David Soknacki) the non-Rob Ford vote should break in a way to re-elect Rob Ford. What the other candidates and media don't understand is that every attack on Ford at this point is also an attack on the voters themselves.
My guess is that a lot of voters have taken my tact regarding the mayor's personal foibles: Ford's action are not defensible, but he is still very much supportable. If an election were held today, Ford would win; we don't know who will drop out or if voters will gravitate toward one candidate as part of a stop-Ford wave, so I can't predict his victory in October, but it is still very likely. The key to Chow winning is that John Tory drops out, and I think that there is a 33% chance of that occurring, or his support falls to single digits, in which case she picks up the lion's share of his voters.


 
Canada's official gift shop for Ottawa's political elite
The Canadian Press reports:
Canada's official gift shop is tucked into the fourth floor of a government building in nearby Gatineau, Que., but you won't see any tourists lining up at the cash register to buy coffee mugs adorned with Mounties.
This taxpayer-funded store carries only high-end souvenirs, reserved for the elite ranks of the federal government.
The so-called Gift Bank is routinely raided by cabinet ministers, heads of Crown corporations, even Supreme Court justices, whenever there's an opportunity to impress foreign dignitaries at home and abroad with a distinctively Canadian memento.
The story focuses on the gifts that politicians and bureaucrats have purchased and their price tags, but I'm more interested in how the store operates with the most important questions being: are prices reflective of market rates or do taxpayers subsidize these gifts.


 
'Copyright is out of control'
At Marginal Revolution Alex Tabarrok talks about the use of photos and textbooks, in which he makes two general observations:
The general lesson is that strong IP shrinks the public domain not just because it keeps things out of the public domain but also because it makes the public domain appear to be uncertain and dangerous. It’s as if clean, mountain spring water were freely available but people bought from the bottlers instead out of fear of contamination.
Copyright law is one of the forces behind the rise of the mega-bundlers. Mega-bundlers benefit from economies of scale in cataloging IP but there are also economies of scale in dealing with the legal system and insuring against/for lawsuit. It’s probably no accident that two of the largest bundlers, Corbis and Getty, are owned by Bill Gates and (Getty heir), Mark Getty respectively. (FYI, Piketty should have said more about this kind of 21st century rentier in Capital).


 
Single-parent families and inequality
Robert Maranto and Michael Crouch of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas write in the Wall Street Journal:
More than 20% of children in single-parent families live in poverty long-term, compared with 2% of those raised in two-parent families, according to education-policy analyst Mitch Pearlstein's 2011 book "From Family Collapse to America's Decline." The poverty rate would be 25% lower if today's family structure resembled that of 1970, according to the 2009 report "Creating an Opportunity Society" from Brookings Institution analysts Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill. A 2006 article in the journal Demography by Penn State sociologist Molly Martin estimates that 41% of the economic inequality created between 1976-2000 was the result of changed family structure.
Earlier this year, a team of researchers led by Harvard economist Raj Chetty reported that communities with a high percentage of single-parent families are less likely to experience upward mobility. The researchers' report—"Where Is the Land of Opportunity?"—received considerable media attention. Yet mainstream news outlets tended to ignore the study's message about family structure, focusing instead on variables with far less statistical impact, such as residential segregation.


 
Government busy-bodies
Tim Worstall on the limitless sources of state-involvement: "there’s no area of life too trivial for them to try and plan either."


 
Pet freedom
Reason TV has a five-and-a-half minute video on Ohio's onerous animal-ownership restrictions hurriedly passed after the 2011 Zanesville tragedy. As Maurice Thompson, director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, says: "If the animals cause harm or if the animals are even loose and roaming the streets then you throw the book at these people. Punishment or the prospect of punishment has a deterrence effect, and you have to rely upon the court system rather than over-the-top regulations to accomplish these goals."


Sunday, April 20, 2014
 
20?? watch (endless Clinton edition)
Why stop with Chelsea considering she's pregnant. The real question is whether Baby Clinton will run in 2052?


 
Three strikes
1. At FoxSports Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs studied the actual data on whether ace-level veteran pitchers get called strikes from the umpires that less experienced or lesser pitchers don't. His conclusion is that they in fact do get 2-6 more strikes per 200 innings pitched, which is negligible. But fans, especially those of opposing teams, will still see 2-6 supposedly undeserving called strikes per game.
2. Yesterday Tampa Bay Rays 3B Evan Longoria became the all-time leader homerun in team history with 164. In many ways that is not all that surprising and before long he'll probably be the leader in most offensive categories for the Rays. What might be a little surprising, as the broadcast team on the Yes Network noted today, Longoria is the only active homerun leader on any team at this time.
3. I could write an essay on Washington National's manager Matt Williams benching Bryce Harper in their game against the St. Louis Cardinals due to the young outfielder's "lack of hustle" running to first. Instead some points to consider: 1) Williams in a first-year MLB manager and he needs to establish he's the boss. 2) Williams' explanation that the new application of the "transfer rule" meant that hustling was necessary but Harper was the first batter in the inning, meaning that explanation was mostly bogus. 3) Bryce Harper is 21 years old and it is doubtful that Williams would have benched a veteran player to make his point. 4) Bryce Harper Harper has a tight quad. 5) Bryce Harper hustles often, to turn singles into doubles and balls hit near the wall into highlight reel catches, so it is doubtful that Harper needs to learn a lesson about hustle. 6) If Bryce Harper hustled and re-injured his quad, everyone, probably including Williams, would be talking about how he needs to mature and learn when to ease up a little. 7) In a close game, the Nats manager took his best player out of the game in the sixth and in the ninth inning, Washington had Kevin Frandsen at the plate instead of Bryce Harper; Williams blamed Harper for the situation, like the skipper had no choice in the matter. Overall I don't think Williams handled it well and, in fact, hate the move. It made the Nats a worse team for the remainder of the game and it was a form of grandstanding and blame deflection (cast doubt on the young superstar's work ethic in a loss). Williams could have taken Harper aside and quietly talked about the supposed lack of hustle. But Williams wanted to make a point. He did. Everyone now knows Matt Williams is a bit of a jerk.


 
How to read books
Tyler Cowen has advice on how to read big, important books like Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century. I totally endorse skipping difficult parts, asking (talking to) people about that which you do not understand, and writing notes/reviews because that helps you think about what you've read. I often re-read books or re-peruse books, but seldom right away. Cowen doesn't include the advice he gives in Discover Your Inner Economist to walk away from books (and movies) you started but are not enjoying.


 
An Easter essay
David Warren defies excerpting and his Easter essay worth reading in its entirety, from hot cross buns to St. John's gospel.


 
A blessed Easter to everyone
From Handel's Messiah, "I know that my Redeemer liveth."


 
Regulating political speech: who decides what is a 'false statement'?
Washington Post columnist George Will on a case being brought before the U.S. Supreme Court:
Occasionally, the Supreme Court considers questions that are answered merely by asking them. On Tuesday, the court will hear arguments about this: Should a government agency, whose members are chosen by elected officials, be empowered to fine or imprison any candidate or other participant in the political process who during a campaign makes what the agency considers “false statements” about a member of the political class or a ballot initiative?
The case is a complaint by former Rep. Steve Driehaus (D, Ohio) who argues that pro-lifers said he violated his pro-life views by supporter Obamacare. These are legitimately points of contention and should be debated in the political arena, not in front of bureaucrats who must make a determination about the truthfulness of political rhetoric.


 
College suspends professor for posting picture of daughter wearing Game of Thrones t-shirt
Ricochet reports: "Bergen Community College in New Jersey has placed professor Francis Schmidt on leave and is requiring him to meet with a psychiatrist before returning to campus—all for posting this picture of his daughter in a T-shirt quoting the popular HBO television show Game of Thrones." Administrators are concerned the quote from the TV show indicates he wants to bring an AK-47 and shoot up the school.


Saturday, April 19, 2014
 
Charming
Small Dead Animals notes that a comedian Joe Mande is willing to pay "anyone $100 if they fling a wad of cum at Ted Cruz's face."


 
How to think about 3D-printed guns
Glenn Reynolds has an informative and wise article at Popular Mechanics on the issues surrounding homemade 3D-printed guns, concluding that they are unlikely to be the problem gun-worriers suggest because "Frankly, there are much easier ways for a criminal to acquire a weapon, and a much higher quality weapon at that." Reynolds also makes a larger, more important point:
If the rise of 3D-printed guns doesn't pose much of a danger in itself, it does serve as a reminder that new technologies are enabling individuals to do things that previously seemed inconceivable. Most of those things will be beneficial or at least harmless, but some of them won't be. For good and for ill, these trade-offs are likely to be a hallmark of the 21st century.


 
'Liberalism unrelinquished'
Daniel Klein is trying to get people (mostly libertarians) to sign onto his project, Liberalism Unrelinquished, to reclaim the historical meaning of liberalism. After at least two generations of misuse and abuse of the term liberalism, it bears no relation to classical liberalism and it seems a little silly to try to correct people's understanding of the term at this point. Like the designated hitter rule, after some point the new tradition has ingrained itself enough to properly be understood as normative. David Henderson explains why he signed on, and why it's unwise to bet against Klein.


 
Gerry Nicholls on the new Kathleen Wynne ad
Communications consultant Gerry Nicholls has a good analysis of Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne's anti-Tim Hudak ad which can be neatly summarized: "her ad is almost a textbook case of what not to do."


 
Weekend stuff
1. FiveThirtyEight has "A Statistical Analysis of the Work of Bob Ross."
2. National Geographic reports on a Cornell study on where bee stings hurt the most. Money quote: "if you're stung in the nose and penis, you're going to want more stings to the penis over the nose, if you're forced to choose." And Slate has what it's like to be bitten by a black widow spider.
3. Timeout surveys more than 100 experts in the field an animation to create a list: "The 100 best animated movies."
4. Weird Asian News -- yeah, there's such a website -- has story and video of "Human Poodle Shows Off Weird, Scary Aerobic Sessions." And this TopTenz title is half wrong: "10 Interesting Facts About Japan You Probably Don’t Know." I knew nine of ten items on the list, but I'll grant that they are interesting.
5. At Sports on Earth, Aaron Gordon remembers the Hartford Whalers.
6. From the animal kingdom. Cracked.com has "5 Animals That Look Like Cartoons (Until They Kill You)." American Scientific says that it is probably a myth that "People Swallow 8 Spiders a Year While They Sleep." And Slate reports that wolves don't howl at the moon.
7. Vox has "11 board games you should be playing as an adult." I can vouch for the near endless fun that Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, and, most of all, Dominion, has brought to the grown members of our family. 401 Games near Yonge and Wellesley in Toronto is by far the best place to buy board games for both price and selection.
8. The Motley Fool on the three "Peculiar Traits of Rich People." And from Fortune: "Is your business persona working for you?"
9. Listverse: "10 Obscure Inventors And Their Wonderful Inventions," from Vaseline to surfboards.
10. Two maps about U.S. population. Nik Freeman shows the 47% of America where nobody lives. And MyLife has the "U.S. map distributed by population."
11. Idiocracy is under-appreciated as social commentary. One of its better scenes is "Brawndo's got what plants crave."


Friday, April 18, 2014
 
Three strikes
1. Tim Newcomb of SI.com continues his series on ballpark quirks with "San Francisco’s McCovey Cove at AT&T Park." It is quite neat how the architects incorporated the bay into the park's plans to make something very special.
2. Scott Eden of ESPN has a long article on smuggling baseball players out of Cuba detailing the very seedy business.
3. This Billy Hamilton swing is ugly.


 
On this day in Canadian history
On April 18, 1876, John Ross Robertson founded the Toronto Evening Telegram newspaper. It was the voice of working class Protestants and eventually became the largest circulation daily newspaper in Canada until the 1930s. In 1918, the Winnipeg Daily Tribune said of the Evening Telegram's political power: "it was practically a death-knell to the aspirations of any public man in Toronto to have Mr. Robertson and his newspaper opposed to him." The name was chosen by Robertson to stress the immediacy of the news, but that part of the paper's name was dropped in 1949. In 1971, it was closed down after losing about $1.5 million over the previous two years. Many of its editors and reporters were part of the upstart Toronto Sun although its other assets including subscriber list and downtown offices were sold to other newspapers.


 
On the public nature of our sex lives
Tim Worstall:
[The details of your sex life are as interesting as descriptions of the methods by which you poop.
Really, that things are done is one thing, that things are talked about another.
Earlier this week a co-worker proclaimed that ours is the most debauched culture in human history. Maybe, but more likely, I suggested, is that the behaviour hasn't changed, just the openness about it.
A linguist might argue there is nothing wrong with the details of intimacy being made public considering that the Latin origin of intimate is intimare, to announce,
And its probably quaint that sexual activity is referred to as intimacy as it suggests a close personal relationship, both physical and emotional. So much of publicly shared sex seems quite devoid of those qualities.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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