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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Sunday, April 19, 2015
Parody: Clinton team strategizes about Chipotle trip
Funny video from Above Average: "Hillary Clinton's Chipotle Order."
My favourite part: "Nate Silver says chicken is the most popular."

Cost of Harvard tuition in 1938
$420 per year, via Classic Pics.

Long-term decline in murder rates
Our World in Data has a graph that shows centuries-long trend to lower homicide rates in five European countries/regions: England, Italy, Scandinavia, Germany/Switzerland, and Netherlands/Belgium. And here's the chart. Notable drop in Italy: in 15th century, murder rate of 73 per 100,000 is down to 0.9 per 100,000 today.

Saturday, April 18, 2015
Bellow's beginnings
My advice to wannabe writers is be a good reader. And if you are not a good reader by the time you are in university, it is probably too late.
Zachary Leader, author of The Life of Saul Bellow: To Fame and Fortune, 1915-1964, has a good article on the author's formative years in The Guardian, including Bellow's pre-teen years:
In Chicago he was part of a precocious circle of high-school intellectuals mad for literature, for politics, for philosophy. The writers they read fell into three broad categories: 20th-century American novelists, 19th-century European (including Russian) novelists and philosophers, and political theorists, chiefly Marxist. The American writers he most valued were linked in their resistance to what Bellow calls “the material weight of American society”, a weight that pressed on him directly through his business-minded father and brothers, for whom he was “a schmuck with a pen”. The Russian influence, both in literature and political theory, was especially strong. “As an adolescent I read an unusual number of Russian novels,” he told an interviewer, “I felt it was the Heimat you know.” “The children of immigrants in my Chicago high school ... believed they were also somehow Russian,” he wrote in a 1993 essay, “and while they studied their Macbeth and Milton’s L’Allegro, they read Tolstoy and Dostoevsky as well and went on inevitably to Lenin’s State and Revolution and the pamphlets of Trotsky.” By nine, Bellow was “a confirmed reader”, having gone through all the children’s books in the local library and graduated to the adult section, where he began with Gogol’s Dead Souls. The breadth and maturity of his early reading in Chicago is astonishing. A lodger in the Bellow household recalled seeing him at the kitchen table reading War and Peace and The Possessed at the age of 10. Almost from the start he was serious about his reading, and he remained so throughout his life, for more than 30 years spending two or three afternoons a week teaching and discussing influential works of literature, philosophy and political theory with colleagues and graduate students at the University of Chicago. Gore Vidal described Bellow to me as “the only American intellectual who read books”.
I am usually dubious of stories like this, but there seems to be enough witnesses to confirm the author's autobiographical claims. Whether it is precisely true or true enough makes little difference in supporting my advice to those who want to write for a living (aside from my advice of "don't!").
I am many years removed from reading fiction, but Bellow was my favourite 20th century American author and most of what I think I know about both American Jewry and Chicago comes from his novels and essays.

We live in an age where parody is not possible presented as legit commentary
BBC interviewed guy who chastises Star Wars for racism, homophobia, and misogyny. Godfrey Elfwick is brilliant. You can follow him on Twitter.

Government at work
In London, England, emergency workers watch boy drown in pond as friends frantically tried to save his life. A journalist, who also watched, reported: "There were police officers and paramedics and firefighters on the bank just standing there watching while the boys dived under." Natalie Solent also reports that a fireman who heroically saved the life of woman from drowning could face disciplinary action for violating procedure.

Maybe we shouldn't ever do anything lest someone be offended
The Daily Caller reports:
An administrator at the University of California, Santa Cruz issued an apology to students after some of their peers made the “poor decision” to include Mexican food at a space-themed event on Tuesday.
In an e-mail sent out to students at UC Santa Cruz’s Stevenson College, Carolyn Golz said the planners of the residential community’s College Night program “made a poor decision when choosing to serve a Mexican food buffet during a program that included spaceships and ‘aliens’, failing to take into account how these choices might be perceived by others.”
“We would never want to make a connection between individuals of Latino heritage or undocumented students and ‘aliens,’” Golz insists, and she is “so sorry that our College Night appeared to do exactly that.”
According to the e-mail, Golz says the inclusion of Mexican food at an event featuring aliens as part of the theme “demonstrated a cultural insensitivity on the part of the program planners and, though it was an unintentional mistake, I recognize that this incident caused harm within our community and negatively impacted students.”

None dare call it an oligarchy
Gary Hart in Time: "If the presidency were to pass back and forth between two or three families in any Latin American nation we would call it an oligarchy."

'Texas set to approve open carry of handguns'
I thought they already were an open carry state. Wall Street Journal via Fox News if you are interested. The headline finishes with "seen as win for gun-rights activists," but I prefer to think of it as a defeat for gun-control activists.

2016 watch (Carly Fiorina edition)
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina obviously has presidential ambitions. Why else was she visiting New Hampshire?

Friday, April 17, 2015
Sometimes you get to sit back and enjoy
The CBC reports: "Canadian author Margaret Atwood and singer-songwriter Sarah Harmer are voicing complaints about the Conservatives' proposed anti-terrorism bill, asking Liberal MPs from their communities to vote against it." It doesn't matter, of course. Adam Vaughan and Ted Hsu might find the courage to not show up for the vote, but in Canadian politics you follow the leader. And even if a handful of Liberals were to oppose C-51, they are powerless to stop it consider the Tory majority. The sad thing for Vaughan is that if he ran for the NDP last year and won, he'd be voting against C-51; it doesn't matter that Adam Vaughan is the MP for Trinity-Spadina, it only matters what colour the riding is on the electoral map. But it can be fun watching the Left go after each other.

Craft beer digression into elitism that leads to a critique of a critique of Harper abandoning fiscal conservatism
Craig Calcaterra has some thoughts about elitism and snobbery before linking to a list of craft beers at Major League Baseball stadia. He begins listing certain hobbies -- immersing oneself in college football for the fall, watching "the latest big Sunday evening prestige TV drama," or squirrel hunting as a kid in West Virginia -- and noting that they all involve some snobbery. By definition every hobby is a minority pursuit. Calcaterra writes:
This isn’t about snobbery necessarily. It’s really a function of the fact that all hobbies, interests and passions are, to some degree, pursuits of the minority. For any given thing you like or do, more people don’t know about it or don’t care about it than do. That’s just how society works. The long tail, and all.
Sometimes we’re aware of this dynamic. That’s when it can be snobbery. Like, say, the fan of the indie band who knows and takes pride in the fact that you probably haven’t heard of them and it makes them feel superior. Or the classic rich guy who likes rich things and just can’t abide something common.
But usually we’re not operating like that, I don’t think. Sure, we may have started in on a new interest based on some appreciation of its exceptional (to us) nature — getting into punk because “screw those jocks!” or getting into fine wine because “I’m rich and I can!” — but once you’re in the scene, as it were, you just sort of get immersed and like it for its own sake. You don’t constantly live with a feeling of “this is MY thing” pride. Unless you’re a jackass, and really, most of us aren’t jackasses. We just get into what we like and then let the bubble form.
All of which is a VERY long way of getting to the subject of craft beer. There is a stereotype of craft beer “snobs,” looking down their nose at people who drink Budweiser or whatever. And, yes, those sorts of people do exist. I’ve met a few of them. Folks who, for some reason, can’t shut up about what they don’t like as opposed to simply enjoying what they like. But most craft beer people — and I’d say I’m one of them, even if I’m not in the upper echelons of craft beer cliques — just like the beer. They may have gotten into it based on some elitist impulse, but that passed a long time ago and now it’s just about liking stuff you’ve come to like and not defining yourself by reference to what you hate. That’s a key distinction that I think is lost on most people. Both those inside any given subculture explaining their passion or those living outside that subculture, criticizing the subculture.
Defining oneelf with a "this is MY thing" pride (as Calcaterra puts it) is off-putting to people outside your tribe, and sometimes to people inside it. It's true of craft beer drinkers, wine snobs, fans of the latest popular show, wearers of specific designers, and activists who define themselves by their causes whether it be conservatism, libertarianism, environmentalism, feminism, or pro-life.
All this bring me to Michael Taube's column in the Toronto Sun in which the former speechwriter to the Prime Minister complains that Stephen Harper is not sufficiently fiscally conservative and tries to explain why. He misses the mark and it's precisely because he is approaching it as a consciously self-defined fiscal conservative. Harper is not as fiscally conservative as some in his base might want but it isn't just about winning election campaigns, it's about the complexity of governing. Ideology shouldn't define a human being. It is a guide. A shortcut way of thinking about the world. But it does not, or at least should not, dictate every action. Ideology is not policy. Ideology can guide policy, but there is always tension because policy must take into account the real lives of human beings in a way that ideology often does not. Governments, unlike pundits and bloggers, do not have the luxury of living in the theoretical world in which ideology, even the better ones like fiscal conservatism, get to trump real-world considerations. It's the poetry of campaigning, the prose of governing. Harper probably doesn't define himself as a conservative anymore because he has a truly elite "this is MY thing" pride. He is a prime minister.

Trudeau and the progressive base
Jamey Heath, an NDP strategist who has been an advocate of progressives cooperating to defeat the Harper Conservatives, is not happy with Justin Trudeau ruling out a coalition. Writing in the National Post he notes that many on the Left are uniting behind a single progressive candidate, but for that to work, the Liberals need to look like they will be cooperating with the NDP (or others). More importantly, Heath says, the Trudeau Liberals can benefit from this strategy. Junior, he says, is "all take and no give when it comes to the progressive base." It is an excellent column that also expresses frustration with those on the Left who haven't spoken up against Trudeau's comments.

2016 watch (Geriatric Democrats edition)
The Washington Examiner's Byron York on the likely Democratic field:
There are five Democrats who have either declared or are thinking about running for president. Three — Joe Biden, Bernard Sanders, and Jim Webb — will be over 70 years old on Inauguration Day 2017. Frontrunner Hillary Clinton will be nine months short of 70. Only Martin O'Malley, who will turn 54 a couple of days before the 2017 swearing-in, has not reached retirement age already.
Reagan was about a month shy of his 70th birthday during his first inauguration. Biden, Sanders and Webb would all be the oldest president if they got the nomination and won, HRC would be the second oldest.
By comparison, York notes the Republicans:
The average age of the Republican field is far below the Democrats, with every candidate younger than Clinton. The most senior is Jeb Bush, who will be 64 on Inauguration Day. Scott Walker will be 49; Marco Rubio will be 45; Ted Cruz, 46; Rand Paul, 54; Chris Christie, 54; Mike Huckabee, 61; Bobby Jindal, 45. Although Bush is in the older range, they're all in the career sweet spot to win the White House.
Jeb Bush would be the fourth oldest president if he won the nomination and general election (behind Reagan, William Henry Harrison, and James Buchanan).
It's a little curious that York didn't mention Senator Elizabeth Warren. She's about a year older than Bush, so comparably a spring chicken in the Democratic field.
If the Democrats don't win, they can go with youth next time. Chelsea Clinton is already 35. She could run this time if her mother wasn't standing in the way.

'It’s time to stop subsidizing fossil fuels'
Bjorn Lomborg, head of the Copenhagen Consensus think tank that looks at the opportunity costs of various interventions to determine the most efficient way to help the largest number of people in the developing world, writes in the Globe and Mail:
Each year, the world spends $548-billion subsidizing fossil fuels, according to the International Energy Agency. That’s $548-billion that could have been spent much better.
Fossil fuel subsidies are concentrated in the developing world. In Venezuela, you can typically get gas for less than 10 cents a gallon ...
A disproportionate share of the subsidies goes to the middle class and the rich – after all, they are the ones who can afford a car in poor countries. And the subsidies make fossil fuels so inexpensive that consumption increases, thus exacerbating global warming ...
Our analysis by economists Isabel Galiana and Amy Sopinka shows that phasing out subsidies for fossil fuels would be a phenomenal target. It will slash waste, reduce inequality, and cut CO2 emissions. The economists estimate that every dollar spent (you still need to help the most vulnerable to energy access) will create benefits for society and the environment of more than $15. The billions of dollars that governments could save from phasing out fossil fuel subsidies could be spent on providing better health, education and nutrition, which could benefit hundreds of millions of people.
He says phasing out fossil fuel subsidies should be one of the next development goals of the United Nations.

Trudeau should coalition with Harper: Globe columnist
John Ibbitson in the Globe and Mail: "A coalition? Why Trudeau has more in common with Harper than Mulcair." Ibbitson claims: "Under Mr. Trudeau’s leadership, the Liberals on most major files have become virtually indistinguishable from Stephen Harper’s Conservatives." This is too cute by half and presumes that Junior is being honest with voters when he says he won't raise taxes on the middle class (whoever they are) or corporations. Yes, Justin Trudeau's policy of letting the provinces deal with so-called climate change policy is what Prime Minister Stephen Harper is allowing to happen, but the former would push for it harder. Yes, Trudeau backs Keystone XL, but not the other pipelines. Yes, the Liberals supported C-51 but they have promised changes. It's a bit of stretch to say that the Liberals do not support the NDP's daycare scheme when Ibbitson admits they are silent on it, and even that isn't totally true: the party also supported a national system of monitoring and standards for child care at its 2014 biennial convention. Ibbitson says, "Ideologically, then, it would make far more sense for a minority Conservative government to seek the support of the Liberals on a case-by-case basis, than for the NDP and Liberals to seek common cause." It's a bit much to suggest the Grits and Tories are ideologically sympatico -- more like on a particular set of policies, the Liberals, absent their own clear platform have defaulted to positions closer to the Tories than the NDP. That might not be true once the party platform is out.
Ibbitson says, "it profits the NDP leader to remind the 60 per cent of Canadians who want to see the back of Mr. Harper that the NDP is prepared to do whatever it takes to oust the Tories, but Mr. Trudeau won’t go along." That's not quite true, either. At this time Trudeau says he won't go along with the idea and he says that for two practical reasons: it might scare away coalition-wary voters and he has to look like he's trying to win the votes of all progressive Canadians. A formal or informal coalition could be worked out after the election depending on the results, a point that Ibbitson makes based on the vote percentage. The seat count will matter, too. If the Tories win a minority but still have 150-160 seats, it would be hard to justify ousting them. If, on the other hand, the Tories win 135 and the Liberals 130 and the NDP hold most of the rest, there is a much stronger case for the left-wing parties to defeat a Conservative government quickly and ask the Governor General to appoint them government, or seek government immediately after the election.
But there is another possibility that Chantal Hebert raised on the At Issue panel last night on the CBC: the Liberals might like being in a position where the NDP have to decide when to pull the plug on the government and then go for a majority in the next year or so. Although Hebert didn't say this, one advantage of this strategy is that it would allow Trudeau to have some more time to win over Canadian voters that might consider him unready for the job quite yet. Andrew Coyne referenced the backroom boys in the party, and that, too, raises an interesting angle. Keith Davey and Mitchell Sharp are no longer around and Trudeau doesn't listen to Senator David Smith and its unclear if John Rae and Eddie Goldenberg are even in the picture anymore. Who knows what the new generation of Liberal advisers like Katie Telford and Gerald Butts will counsel Junior to do. (And will he listen?) Jean Chretien would almost certainly push for some form of cooperation between the Liberals and NDP as would current Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and probably former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty. Most of the Liberal premiers are probably in the same camp. There will be tremendous pressure for the Liberals and NDP to work together to prevent another Harper ministry.
And absent a crisis in which a unity government would clearly be in the country's best interests (think World War I and Robert Borden's Unity Government), there is simply no reason to ponder a Conservative-Liberal coalition. Except to fill column space.

Thursday, April 16, 2015
Government gets in the way of helping the needy
From Hit & Run: "This week MySanAntonio reports on a fully licensed food truck operator arrested cited because they used a vehicle other than their licensed one to give food away to hungry homeless in San Antonio's Maverick Park." Bureaucrats and cops suck.

North Korea
Tyler Cowen briefly examines North Korea Confidential: Private Markets, Fashion Trends, Prison Camps, Dissenters and Defectors by Daniel Tudor and James Pearson, and notes "The basic message is that North Korea is far more (black) marketized — and more corrupt — than most outsiders realize."

George Will's column today is on the sustainability movement in academia, which he describes as being like a fundamentalist religion:
Like many religions’ premises, the sustainability movement’s premises are more assumed than demonstrated. Second, weighing the costs of obedience to sustainability’s commandments is considered unworthy. Third, the sustainability crusade supplies acolytes with a worldview that infuses their lives with purpose and meaning. Fourth, the sustainability movement uses apocalyptic rhetoric to express its eschatology. Fifth, the church of sustainability seeks converts, encourages conformity to orthodoxy, and regards rival interpretations of reality as heretical impediments to salvation.
Furthermore, "Sustainability, as a doctrine of total social explanation, transforms all ills and grievances into environmental causes, cloaked in convenient science," and is thus an all-purpose excuse to plan and ration. In other words, it's cover for progressives to do what they've always wanted and which the larger public, until sufficiently scared by fearmongers in the environmental movement, resisted.

The Fed and prediction markets
Scott Sumner has a post on the Federal Reserve creating GDP prediction markets to help them make forecasts. He concludes:
Sometimes when I travel to DC I meet Congressional staffers, who ask me how they could help. Here's one good area. It would be great if we could get some important Congressional figures to go on record as supporting the concept of the Fed setting up prediction markets to ascertain useful market forecasts, which could help make monetary policy more scientific. The cost is trivial and the potential benefits are huge.
PS. In my view it would be better if Congress said it was OK with them, but up to the Fed. Why not have Congress mandate these markets? I think as soon as you go down that road things get very politicized, and people become much more worried about a loss of independence. I find it hard to believe that the Fed wouldn't want to do at least a pilot study, if they had a clear go-ahead from Congress.
The Treasury, Sumner says, could also benefit from futures markets in GDP growth.
Related, last year BuzzFeed had an excellent article on prediction markets: "The Fall Of Intrade And The Business Of Betting On Real Life."

2016 watch (Chris Christie edition)
Hot Air's Allah Pundit on New Joisey Governor and presumptive 2016 GOP presidential aspirant Chris Christie who says he will enforce federal drugs laws in states that have okay marijuana:
When it comes to deciding whether marijuana’s too dangerous for the citizens of a state to sell, he’ll happily trump your state legislature and local PD. And to think, they call him a big-government Republican.
The weird thing is, as Allah Pundit observes, is that Christie is to the left of most Republicans on the issue of drugs. So he's likely over-correcting with this new position, which polls indicate, is out of step with even most Republican voters.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015
New book on economic Freedom, entrepreneurship, and economic growth
Don Boudreaux has edited a new book from the Fraser Institute, What America’s Decline in Economic Freedom Means for Entrepreneurship and Prosperity and has a post about it, including the five chapters (authors and titles) at Cafe Hayek:
1. Liya Palagashvili, “Entrepreneurship, Institutions, and Economic Prosperity”
2. Russell Sobel, “Economic Freedom and Entrepreneurship”
3. Robert Lawson, “Economic Freedom in the United States and Other Countries”
4. Roger Meiners & Andrew Morriss, “Special Interests, Competition, and the Rule of Law”
5. Clyde Wayne Crews, “One Nation, Ungovernable? Confronting the Modern Regulatory State”
The book comes out this week.
Today, the Fraser Institute released a Research Bulletin, "Entrepreneurship, Demographics, and Capital Gains Tax Reform." The authors argue that Canada's highish capital gain taxes discourage start-ups. They say this is imperative because 1) small, new businesses are a key driver of growth and employment, and 2) as Canada ages, older risk-averse Canadians are less likely to start up new businesses, therefore impeding economic growth.

Headlines that would be impossible 10 years ago ... for so many reasons
The Daily Mail: "German ISIS rapper threatens his home nation with a Charlie Hebdo-like attack in music video filled with horrific footage of beheadings and executions."

2016 watch (GOP edition)
Conservative Review's Robert Eno has a balanced look at Senator Marco Rubio but this tidbit is very important more generally:
Conservative Review contributor Steve Deace may have said it best on Facebook ... : “All you need to know about the GOP establishment -- it tried to defeat the first three Republicans to announce their presidential campaigns in their U.S. Senate primaries.”
The GOP is a "next-in-line" party but it is also a party whose base is moderately conservative. That bodes well for someone like Jeb Bush and is a problem for Rubio, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz.

2016 watch (HRC edition)
Bloomberg's Megan McArdle: "Hillary Clinton Isn't Inevitable." In fact, McArdle is bearish on Clinton for a number of reasons: she's old, she probably can't bring many more women voters over to the Democrats but probably won't bring out the black vote like Barack Obama, there could be a recession in the next year that will hurt Democrats, she carries some Obama administration baggage, she's got Clinton baggage, a desire for change that makes it unlikely Democrats will win three presidential elections in a row, and much more. McArdle questions the "emerging Democratic majority" thesis but there are structural advantages in the Electoral College that Dems have. But the best point might be, as McArdle says, "she's not a particularly good candidate."

Victory for the old farts in baseball
Los Angeles Dodger Yasiel Puig, one of the most exciting and excitable young players in the game, famously flips his bats after homeruns. It is purely energy as he insists it is not to show up anyone. But the scolds of baseball finger wag about the young whipper-snapper's lack of respect and now Puig says he will try not to flip his bat anymore. I'm with Craig Calcaterra that this is "tragic." Let Puig be Puig. Someday, says Calcaterra, he'll grow out of it because he'll get older or worse and with age or deterioration of skill it will become unseemly. But it will be him, like flipping his bat now is him. Instead, he's trying to please people who just can't enjoy the great game of baseball unless it's played "the right way" which more often than not is the way they wrongly remember it being played in the good old days.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Well Junior won't be the most vacuous person at the debate table this Fall
iPolitics: "Green Party Leader Elizabeth May to participate in campaign debates." As Rex Murphy explained on the weekend, Justin Trudeau's endorsement of Liz May's inclusion was a low-risk, high-reward gambit that made him look good and kindly, added another left-wing voice to the debate to attack Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and brings someone to the table who might make him look better by comparison.

Coalition if necessary, but not necessarily coalition
The HuffPo headline on a Canadian Press story: "Trudeau Might Be Open To NDP Coalition, But Not With Mulcair As Leader." The lead: "Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says he might be more open to the idea of forming a coalition with the NDP — if Thomas Mulcair was not its leader." Three paragraphs down: "Trudeau is reiterating six months before the federal election he is ruling out the idea of forming a coalition with the NDP." But he isn't ruling it out if he's open to the idea. Either Junior is talking nonsense again or the reporter -- whose byline does not appear on the story -- can't get the point across that the Liberal leader is trying to make. I assume it's the former.

Econ 101
Michael C. Munger at Kids Prefer Cheese: "Markets are the best we can do, and they are actually pretty good."
As for the public sector, as Newmark's Door points out, "if you pay good money to people to solve problems, they have a vested interest in making the problems bigger." That's called public choice.

Baseball Prospectus goes local
BP Bronx is amazing. There is also BP Boston and BP Wrigleyville because "sports in innately local." I assume this is just the beginning.

Climate change memoirs
At Taki Magazine Kathy Shaidle looks at the almost-trend (so far there are just two) climate change memoirs:
The very notion of “climate change memoirs” provides minutes of fun. One eagerly awaits the release of Confessions of a (Locally Sourced, Organic) Opium Eater and Go Ask Alice (About Bee Colony Collapse.)
Now, my trendspotting track record is mixed. I’ve been predicting (nay, wishing for) the end of the vampire, tattoo and body-piercing “fads” for nigh on two decades, which means they aren’t fads anymore. I gave up shouting about “Peak Zombie;” it’s the craze that refuses to die. Ditto yelling (silently) “Burberry is DEAD!” at oblivious, beige-plaid-wrapped passers-by every year between October and March.
But occasionally I’m ahead of my time. So I hope I’m correct that the “climate change memoir” will quickly be laughed into the remainder bins, alongside all the “true,” trendy, junk science, female-generated “moral panic” sob stories of times past, like Sybil and When Rabbit Howls – ideally, before they do as much damage as those books did.
Alas, climate change memoirs are not written from the perspective of the supposedly warming planet -- that might be fun (and ridiculous) -- but rather angsty memoirs written by people concerned about medium-term one-degree changes in the temperature.

Why do we even bother electing parliamentarians?
The Canadian Press reports:
The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the Harper government's law requiring mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes is unconstitutional.
By a 6-3 margin, the high court has upheld the 2013 Ontario Court of Appeal ruling that labelled the law cruel and unusual and struck it down.
The ruling is a setback for the government's tough-on-crime agenda.
The ruling said the mandatory minimum sentence could ensnare people with "little or no moral fault" and who pose "little or no danger to the public." It cited as, an example, a person who inherits a firearm and does not immediately get a license for the weapon ...
The appeal court struck down both the three-year mandatory minimum for a first offence of possessing a loaded prohibited gun, as well as the five-year minimum for a second offence.
It does seem harsh to jail someone for three years for having a loaded people he or she did not use in the commission of a crime. But unconstitutionally cruel and unusual? That's seems a stretch, too.
Mandatory minimums are a terrible idea. Studies indicate that judges and juries are slightly less likely to convict when there are mandatory minimums that might not take into account mediating circumstances. And despite a handful of sensational cases, there is little evidence that judges are particularly lenient on convicted criminals in sentencing for violent crimes.
But it is within the purview of governments to pass unnecessary and even bad laws. In fact, they do it all the time (minimum wage laws, cross-border shopping limits). The McLachlin Court seems to live to overturn laws passed by the Conservatives so why not just eliminate the middle man of government and let the robed dictators rule?

Equal pay day
Diana Furchgott-Roth, director of Economics21 at the Manhattan Institute, at MarketWatch:
April 14 is feminists’ misconceived Equal Pay Day.
That’s the day of the year, they say, when all women’s wages, allegedly only 78% of all men’s, “catch up” to what men have earned the year before. The fairy tale is that women have to work those extra months to get their fair share ...
American women are winners, although it’s hard to believe from the Equal Pay Day rhetoric. Department of Education data show that in 2012, the latest available, they earned 57% of bachelor’s degrees, 60% of master’s degrees and 51% of doctorates, as well as almost half of doctor of medicine and law degrees. The unemployment rate for adult women, at 4.9%, is now lower than that for adult men, at 5.1%.
The latest figures show that comparing men and women who work 40 hours weekly yields a wage ratio of 90%, even before accounting for different education, jobs or experience, which brings the wage ratio closer to 95%. Many studies, such as those by Professor June O’Neill of Baruch College and Professor Marianne Bertrand of the University of Chicago, show that when women work at the same jobs as men, with the same accumulated lifetime work experience, they earn essentially the same salary.
Some people are paid less than others because of the choices they make about field of study, occupation and time on the job. Compared with men, women tend to choose more college majors in the lower-paid humanities rather than in the sciences, and take more time out of the workforce for child-raising.
If women were really paid 78-cents on the dollar that men are paid, businesses would be firing men and hiring women to save 22% on their labour costs. But they're not. The 78% figure is not a comparison of similar cases.

Happy anniversary Justin Trudeau
Junior became the Liberal leader two years ago today. The first 18 months was smooth sailing, but then ISIS happened and Trudeau screwed up his handling of a real issue. Or at least that's how the narrative goes. In fact, his numbers began to decline last August, nearly two months before his ill-considered "trying to whip out our CF-18s and show how big they are" comment about Canada becoming involved in the war against the Islamic State. But since last October, the Liberals have seen their polling numbers slide consistently and the Tories gain enough so that this is basically a tied race right now.
It's fair to assume that unlike Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff, Justin Trudeau was raising support for the battered Liberal brand whereas with the previous two leaders, the Liberal brand, as damaged as it was, buoyed the lackluster leadership of the two academics-turned-politicians. But the luster of the nicely coiffed Liberal saviour is apparently wearing off. Global News reports on an Ipsos Reid poll that finds on the question of who would make the best prime minister, Stephen Harper leads with 38% followed by the NDP's Thomas Mulcair (31%) and Trudeau (30%). Global reports that on most of the indicators, Trudeau has fallen in support since February:
Areas in which Canadians’ opinions on Trudeau fell, compared to February 2014 data, include:
Someone you can trust (down seven points)
Someone who wants to be prime minister for the right reasons (down seven points)
Someone who has a vision for Canada you can support (down seven points)
Someone who will best represent Canada on the world stage (down seven points)
Someone who has what it takes to lead Canada (down five points)
Someone who will support an open and ethical government (down five points)
That's a significant drop across the board. In only one of the 11 leadership attributes did Trudeau gain: does he have a secret agenda?
With his gains, Harper now leads in each of the 11 leadership attributes measured in this poll, save for one; he came in last, but only one point behind Trudeau and two behind Mulcair, when respondents were asked whether they believed he would provide an open, responsible and ethical government.
In an era of leadership-driven politics, this is bad news for Justin Trudeau. But if Trudeau can screw up his advantage over six months, Harper can mess up his between now and the October election.

HRC hypocrisy
Reuters reports on the launch of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign: "Striking a populist note, Clinton, who announced on Sunday she was running for president in 2016, said American families were still facing financial hardship at a time 'when the average CEO makes about 300 times what the average worker makes'." Tim Worstall responds:
Says the bird who charges a publicly funded university $300 k for a one hour speech. Or was it $250k?
Seriously honey, fuck off, OK?

'Tutors aren’t just for underachieving kids anymore. They’re the new normal.'
Maclean's says everyone is using tutors and Rebecca Eckler reports one (unnamed) parent claims to spend $700-800 per month on the extra help. I'm calling bullshit, but if it's true why not just spend the money on a private school (some schools' tuition start under $10 K per year). It's a huge indictment of the modern education system if so many kids need tutors, starting with how their parents were (mis)educated. And aren't teachers available for extra help anymore?
If you really think your kid needs a tutor, try the Khan Academy videos, they're free on both YouTube and the Academy's website (click on the "subjects" button on the top).

The George W. Bush record
I'm not a fan of George W. Bush's presidency but Moe Lane reminds us of the good ole days:
Gas prices were low.
So was unemployment.
The labor participation rate was higher.
Minority representation in the middle class was increasing.
We had a manned space program.
We had elections in Iraqi towns, instead of slave auctions.
Our allies in Europe trusted us.
Our rivals worldwide were wary of us.
And our enemies did their absolute damnedest to hide from us. Well. The ones still breathing, at least.
(HT: Instapundit who says "those were the days.")

Wisdom about politicians
At Cafe Hayek Donald Boudreaux introduces a snippet from Reason's Nick Gillespie on GOP presidential contender Rand Paul thusly: "Gillespie seems to be about as impressed with Rand Paul as it is possible for any sensible person to be impressed with any successful politician." If an individual is electable, we should temper our enthusiasm about that individual.

Family Circus was a terrible comic
But Time is a Flat Circus is brilliant. I especially liked this one:

Monday, April 13, 2015
The Alberta election
Eric Grenier crunches the numbers and says that Wildrose is likely to win the most seats if leader Brian Jean and his candidates don't frighten away supporters. There seems to be a lot of undecided voters this time around and I assume they are trying to figure out whether it is worth abandoning the Alberta Progressive Conservatives, who just delivered a budget that raises taxes, for the Wildrose Party. In other words, I'm guessing that either or both the Wildrose and PCs' real numbers are significantly higher once you redistribute the undecideds (assuming they show up to vote) and consequently the proportion of "decided" voters for the NDP will be lower. The leadership numbers suggest the PCs have problems because Premier Jim Prentice "is starting this campaign from a position of real weakness." With all due respect to the NDP and it's leader Rachel Notley, this is still a two-way race and it will come down to whether Prentice or Jean convinces the public they deserve to lead government.

Technology that aids and abets helicopter parents
At Reason, Lenore Skenazy and Jim Epstein have a short article and video on "5 Insane Devices for Monitoring Your Kids," including a diaper that monitors babies' "output" and a device that monitors if children fall down. About another product Skenazy says: "Why are we treating healthy babies like they need neonatal intensive care?"

The killing of Walter Scott
National Review's Kevin D. Williamson, as usual, says it best:
The Left wants this controversy to be about racism, but it is in fact about the nature of government power. The police problem is the political problem.
The Right has trouble with this, too, because conservatives are so darn pro-cop. Williamson says:
The progressive tendency, and a great deal of conservative thinking, too, is rooted in the dismal moral calculus of Thomas Hobbes: The world is chaotic, and the only cure for that chaos is Leviathan, the all-powerful state. We can try to put a leash on Leviathan with laws and constitutions, elections and other democratic institutions, the formal freedom to criticize the state, etc., but in the end the alternative is so dreadful — bellum omnium contra omnes — that we must bear not only the state’s general torpor, its waste and peccadillos, but also its crimes. In the 800 years since the ratification of Magna Carta, we have not managed to come up with a political solution that does not in the end present us with a choice between servility and revolution. The Left, being schizophrenic, wants revolution and servility simultaneously: smashing store windows on Saturday night, cashing a welfare check on Monday.
As an alternative to that, the Right proposes . . . what?
The usual right-wing limited government schtick doesn't work on security, so conservatives mindlessly take the side of police even when there are injustices crying out for correction.

Günter Grass, RIP
The New York Sun hits the right tone remembering Günter Grass, the novelist and former darling of the Left who was once a member of the Waffen-SS, who died today.

2016 watch (HRC edition)
Iain Martin at CapX wonders what Hillary Clinton believes in:
Big and very active government, of course. And she is a standard bearer for the now aged generation of liberals who were youngsters in the 1960s. The ambitious radicals of that period evolved, becoming corporate leaders, financiers and even First Lady in the case of Hillary. Love, it turned out, is not all you need. Money helps a lot too.
But does Hillary Clinton even want to be President? She doesn’t look particularly enthusiastic about the prospect herself.‎ It is as though she feels she should be doing this because others want her to, because she embodies the fading hopes and ambitions of that generation of 1960s radicals that is now embracing retirement. She looks, in short, like the past, not the future.
So HRC doesn't have a track record of achievement if you don't count her two-for-the-price-of-one husband's presidency (her words in 1992) and her ideas are from the 1970s. But she represents a generation that settled down, bought homes, made money, had families, and (therefore) vote. A case of nostalgiagasm could help propel her (back) to the White House.
As a few commentators have been observing, if her opponent is not Jeb Bush, Hillary Rodham Clinton is the conservative candidate in 2016.

The Reagan tax record
Republican Senator Rand Paul said: "Ronald Reagan … said we’re going to dramatically cut tax rates. And guess what? More revenue came in, but tens of millions of jobs were created." Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler gave Paul "Three Pinocchios" for the claim. The Cato Institute's Alan Reynolds does a great job looking at the Reagan record over the course of his entire presidency: when the rates changed and how revenues increased. Kessler is guilty of three fudges: 1) not accounting for the lag between rate changes and revenue increases, 2) not accounting for recessions and their effects on government revenue, and 3) changing the subject from revenue growth to revenue as a percentage of GDP. The last is important; if tax cuts spur economic growth, revenue increases but at a rate lower than economic growth (due to high growth and the lower tax rates). Anyway, the lesson is not just about the Reagan record on taxes, but to be cautious of journalistic fact-checkers.
Another point for the Right today: it might not be easy to replicate the lower taxes-higher revenue phenomenon. Income and corporate tax rates were much higher in the early 1980s than they are today and it is possible we are at the low end of the Laffer curve where decreased rates will not result in higher revenues and might even lower them. (That's not necessarily a bad thing, either.) Tax reform that keeps money in the pockets of people must include reducing payroll taxes, but that will decrease revenue for government unless it incentivizes a lot of people who aren't working back into employment. That's a big if.

Is The Pill making men soft
Savage Sense has a theory on why there are so many beta males:
The National Academy of Science reports that “wives who were using HCs [hormonal contraceptives, i.e., birth-control pills] when they formed their relationship with their husband were less satisfied with their marriage when they discontinued HCs if their husband had a relatively less attractive face, but more satisfied if their husband had a relatively more attractive face.”
That means that women don’t really care about men’s faces (and presumably other cues of genetic fitness) when they are on the pill—which makes sense: The pill essentially fools women’s bodies into thinking they are already pregnant, thus preventing them from conceiving. A pregnant woman—unlike an ovulating woman—disregards “hard” male features that signal genetic fitness, and instead prefers “softer” male features.
But once they’re off the pill, if the man they are with is masculine, they report greater relationship satisfaction—but if the man’s features aren’t masculine, women get thrown into a downward spiral of relationship dissatisfaction.
So what does this mean.
It means that women on the pill will tend to pick “softer” men, unthreatening men, unaggressive men—men more like Pajama Boy.
Is the pill radically changing our society in ways that we aren’t ever realizing—but which are apparent everywhere we look?
More educated women—like the ones on the coasts, the ones in the creative classes—tend to be taking contraceptive pills.
Thus it is to men’s advantage among the creative classes to be “softer”, less masculine, less threatening. By being less threatening—less male—they will get laid more easily and more often.

Disproportionate wealth
No one talks about how disproportionately wealthy the American northeast is. A lot of that would be tied up in land.