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


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


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


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


 
The difference 25 years makes
Portable computers.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


 
Scottish math
What happens with a result like this?


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Wednesday, September 17, 2014
 
Hank Williams Sr.
Hank Williams was born 91 years ago today; he died in 1953 at the age of 29. Here's his hit "Mind Your Own Business":


 
Robert Latimer bail conditions lifted
In 1997 Robert Latimer murdered his disabled daughter. He was sentenced to life in prison. In 2010, he was granted full parole, with conditions, including restrictions on leaving the country. The Canadian Press reports that "A Federal Court judge has overturned a parole board condition that bars Robert Latimer from leaving the country."
There is no limit to my contempt for Robert Latimer. In 2011, I wrote, "A father’s reaction to Latimer’s parole," for The Interim.
Robert Latimer was Tracy’s father. A dad is supposed to protect his daughter, not kill her. A dad is supposed to care and love his little girl, not put her in a truck, pipe deadly gasses into the cab, kill her, put her body back in bed and lie to his family later about killing her. For me, more than anything else, this case is about betrayal. I assume that before he killed Tracy, Robert Latimer loved her and played with her, fed her, held her and did all the other things fathers do for their daughters, only more so because of her increased needs due to her cerebral palsy. So I imagine that as Robert Latimer was preparing Tracy for her death, she assumed that he was taking her somewhere and that all would be all right; she was, after all, with her dad. But there would be no trip to the doctor’s office or school or a relative’s house. She would be alone in that cab, suffocating from fumes and noxious gas. And while she choked to death, she had to think that her father was going to help her, like he always did. But he wasn’t there to rescue her. How can a father do that to his daughter?
I was not happy about Latimer's release in 2010 and liberalization of some of his bail conditions in 2011. I am once again outraged that he is not being punished for what he did. As I wrote three years ago:
One of the things that tires me about so much of political commentary is that everything is treated as a cause for outrage and anger. Few issues truly rise to the level of the outrageous, but a father killing his disabled daughter and using her disability as the excuse to get out of jail early qualifies — as does the sort of society permitting that turn of events.


 
The coming ebola economic crisis for west Africa
Scott Gilmore in Maclean's: "It is not the virus you should fear. It’s what comes after." Gilmore says:
This damage to the infrastructure of West Africa has already maimed the regional economy. Last year, Liberia’s economic growth outpaced China’s, at a staggering 11 per cent. This week, they announced a recession. The IMF is warning that affected countries may soon need international bailouts.
The effects of this will reach across the Atlantic in a way that the virus cannot. Canada is the biggest foreign investor in the African mining sector. While Canadian-owned mines can protect their workforces, they cannot keep the rail yards and ports open to ship their ore abroad.
Hedge funds and institutional investors have been clamouring to enter the African market recently, potentially bringing hundreds of billions of much needed capital. With airports closed, and growth rates dropping, those deals will be delayed or will disappear entirely.
As trade and investment dry up, West Africa will face the real menace of Ebola: unemployment. Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest number of youth in the world. Forty-three per cent of the population is below the age of 15. Every year, millions of these youths enter the workforce. Creating jobs for them is the greatest concern of the political leadership. Even with the historic growth rates of the past decade, job creation was barely keeping pace with birth rates. Now, rising unemployment numbers are inevitable.
This might be exaggerating the economic crisis that will be felt in the region, but it is more than plausible. The point, for Canadians (and other western readers) is that the ebola-affected areas will affect us, by making our mutual funds a little less valuable. For investors directly involved, it will hurt even more.
And as an added bonus, Gilmore says that unemployment could bolster the ranks of jihadist movements in west Africa.


 
Because people are not economically literate ...
Tyler Cowen says, "I remain amazed that we have as much free trade as we do." Cowen links to a Wall Street Journal article about a Pew poll that shows a lot of apprehension about trade. Key finding of the Pew Research survey, as reported by the WSJ: "Out of 44 nationalities surveyed this year, only one — Israelis — tends to believe the basic tenet of economists that increased trade will foster competition and deliver lower prices for consumers."


 
U2's Apple giveaway
Wired.com's Underwire blog: "Apple’s Devious U2 Album Giveaway Is Even Worse Than Spam."


 
What every churchman needs
The Guardian: "Head of Russian Orthodox church given fighter jet by factory workers." The paper reports, "Patriarch Kirill was presented with SU-35 plane by workers at civilian and military aircraft plant in far east of country."


 
Political lines that cannot be crossed
Via Blazing Cat Fur: Americans do not want to elect a Muslim, transgender, or agnostic/atheist.


 
Important questions
Where does Rowdy Roddy Piper stand on Scottish independence?


 
The Nordic model is pretty darn capitalist
Tim Worstall should have written a book about this, but a blog post will have to suffice. Worstall references economist Scott Sumner calling Denmark "the most free market economy in the world" which comes from this interview with Russ Roberts (search for the term Denmark and read those sections) although it is mildly qualified (according to "eight of ten" categories from the Heritage Foundation/Fraser Institute Economic Freedom of the World index). Worstall's point (and Sumner's) is that there is more to free-market economies than indices like tax rates, redistribution, and levels of government spending; regulations, property rights, and free trade matter, as does entrepreneurial culture.


 
On this day in Canadian history
On September 17, 1984, Progressive Conservative leader Brian Mulroney was sworn in as Canada's 18th Prime Minister. On September 4, the PCs won 50.03% of the vote -- the last time any party would garner a majority of the popular vote -- to take 211 of 271 seats. John Turner's Liberals ended up with 40 seats while Ed Broadbent's NDP won 30. Mulroney would name 40 people to his cabinet, the largest in Canadian history to that point.


 
Political responsibility
New Brunswick Liberal leader Brian Gallant gave incorrect numbers on how many taxpayers would be affected by his tax plan to nail the top 1% of income earners. Initially he said just 200 tax-filers would be affected but later admitted the number would be higher, around 600. What sticks out in CBC interview is not the correction but the phony mea culpa. Gallant said he takes full responsibility for the error but then proceeds to blame an unnamed staffer who was up to 4 am for the mistake. He does this not once, but twice. That shows the sort of person Gallant is. He either doesn't know what taking responsibility means or he is the kind of person who deflects blame while trying to appear noble.


 
Against public schools
I am in total agreement with Laurence Vance at Libertarian Christians:
Conservatives cite the drop in SAT scores. They talk about the dumbing down of our kids. They vehemently express their opposition to Common Core. They talk about high schools graduating functional illiterates. They bewail the decline in discipline and standards. They bemoan the violence that occurs in schools. They are aghast at the increasing number of teachers caught having sexual relationships with students. They expose the anti-Christian bias that exists in many public schools. They express their opposition to the employment of gay teachers. They criticize the teaching of evolution as an established fact. They lament the elimination of prayer and Bible reading in schools. They denounce the power of the teachers’ unions. They condemn school-based “health clinics” for being pro-abortion. They complain about the public schools pushing a liberal agenda. They denounce the bureaucracy in the federal Department of Education.
So, says Vance, it would appear that conservatives should be against public education, but they are not. They don't like what public schools do, but they do not fundamentally question the legitimacy of state involvement in education. Republicans talk about -- or at least they did once upon a time -- of abolishing the Federal Department of Education. Vance says the proper libertarian stance on public education is to abolish state-run schools:
Although libertarians may point out some of these very things, they have nothing whatsoever to do with the libertarian case against public schools. The libertarian case is a simple one. Libertarians oppose public schools because they are government schools. It doesn’t matter if none of the evils of public schools mentioned above even exist. It is simply not the proper role of government to educate children. Neither is it the proper role of government to force Americans to pay for the education of their children in a public school or to pay for the education of the children of other Americans. It is an illegitimate purpose of government to have anything to do with the education of anyone’s children. It is the responsibility of parents to educate their children. How they choose to do that is entirely up to them, but public schooling shouldn’t even be an option.
I am in total agreement with Vance in principle. But there is no way this position gains any political traction and from a policy perspective, extirpating families from a public system would be a practical nightmare. In this regard I agree with the Alliance for the Separation of School and State: "The goal of separation is best achieved one family at a time." Parents should stop passing responsibility for their children off to others, both in terms of educational decisions and who pays.
In related news, the Daily Signal reports that in only one state, North Carolina, the number of homeschooled children exceed the number of students in independent (private) schools. Homeschooling is an amazing option for families that can afford to have one parent out of paid employment. The Daily Signal reports on the growing popularity of homeschooling:
In 1973, there were approximately 13,000 children, ages 5 to 17, being homeschooled in the United States. But according to the National Center for Education Statistics, as of the 2011-2012 school year, that number has grown to almost 1.8 million or approximately 3.4 percent of the school age population. Other sources report numbers well over 2 million.


 
Make politicians who file unjustified expenses pay back taxpayers ten times their reimbursed claims. And then apply tar and feathers.
The Toronto Star reports:
An internal audit of questionable expenditures filed by Toronto District School Board elected officials, obtained by the Star, includes scores of reimbursed claims that are not allowed or for which it is “unclear” as to how they relate to the job of trustee.
The list is infuriating. Four trustees expensed a stay at a Toronto hotel for a conference when they all live in the city, one of them seven kilometers from the hotel. Another claimed 265 km for a 76-km trip to the airport. Hand lotion and nuts. There was an eerial tour of the oil sands and a walking tour of Israel. One trustee booked two hotel rooms in Whistler, B.C. during a conference just in case the first reservation fell through. Thousands of dollars in cell phone roaming charges. A $28 cookie. Parking near one trustees place of business. But my favourite is Mari Rutka purchasing an iMac Air for $1,771.11, because she didn't like the "Dell purchased under board contract, as required by spending policies to keep costs down," because it "was too heavy for her to carry around."
Not surprisingly, many trustees are opposed to measures to bring some semblance of transparency to expenses.


 
ISIS wants to kill Pope Francis
And plant their flag in the Vatican. Story at the National Post. The West should respond by blowing Mecca to smithereens and leveling the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Old Jerusalem.
(HT: Small Dead Animals)


 
The Dalt returns
To lobby. Kevin Gaudet tweets: "Dalton McGuinty has registered to lobby in ON for ON firm his gov gave a $4.25 mill grant in 2011." The company is Desire2Learn.


 
Further evidence that Rick McGinnis can make anything he writes about interesting
Rick McGinnis on film trimmings. Really.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014
 
Priorities!
Investor's Business Daily editorializes about how voters don't think green too much at election time:
The world is aflame in violence and barbaric acts of terrorism, and Secretary of State John Kerry is running around warning one of the biggest problems facing the planet — ranking "right up there" with "terrorism, epidemics, poverty (and) the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction" — is global warming. Good thing almost no voters agree with him.
Politico's latest poll shows just 2% of likely voters in competitive House and Senate races listed the "environment" as the issue that "concerns you most." Not surprisingly, top-ranked concerns among likely voters were "the economy" and "jobs," combined at 25%, and "national security" and "terrorism," at 19%.
Just because voters don't list the environment as the issue that concerns them "most" doesn't mean that voters don't care about the issue at all, just that it isn't a priority. Unlike the White House who sees non-existent global warming as a serious problem.


 
The most ridiculous tweet ever?
Might belong to Alan Johnston. Even by the standards of politicians' tweets this is dumb.


 
Is there room for two major(ish) wrestling promotions?
Thomas Golianopoulos writes at Grantland on Total Nonstop Action Wrestling from a business standpoint. I don't watch wrestling (anymore) and have never seen TNA, but the story is interesting throughout. Competition between major promotions should theoretically make sports entertainment better. Article does not look at impact on WWE if TNA undergoes demise.


 
Not surprising
Kathleen McKinley tweets:
(Bubble) "@politico: Rosie O'Donnell says she has never heard of Charles Krauthammer http://politi.co/1r4Bv3z ”


 
Seriously?
Piece of KFC looks like Britain without Scotland. Terry O'Neill said of his chicken discovery: "I didn't notice it at first, but the closer I looked the more it just looked like the UK - well, England and Wales - but with no Scotland."


 
Cameron faces backbench revolt over buying off the Scots
The Daily Telegraph reports:
David Cameron faces a “bloodbath” at the hands of Tory MPs after all three parties pledged to continue high levels of funding for Scotland if it rejects independence.
The Prime Minister is facing mounting dissent among English backbenchers after promising that Scotland’s special funding arrangements will continue even when the country is given control over its own taxation and spending.
One Tory MP said the promise to Scottish voters, issued by Mr Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg in the Daily Record newspaper, “smacks of desperation”.
Under the Barnett formula, devised in the 1970s by Labour Treasury minister Lord Barnett, spending is allocated according to population size, rather than the amount each country actually needs.
Critics say this gives Scotland an unfair share of government spending and even Lord Barnett has called for it to be replaced.
According to research at Stirling University, England loses around £4.5 billion of public spending every year because the money is handed to Scotland instead.
Whatever the British government negotiates with the new Scotland -- and it is a new Scotland regardless of whether they vote for independence or not -- there will be ramifications for Scottish MPs and the UK government:
Bernard Jenkin, the chairman of the Public Administration Select Committee and one of the Prime Minister’s most vocal backbench critics, today said the plans to grant Scotland fiscal autonomy would mean no Scottish MP could become Chancellor.
“We could never have a Scottish UK chancellor setting English taxes in England at the annual budget but not in his or her own constituency. So Parliament will have to consider how to establish an English executive, with an English first minister and finance minister,” he said in a letter to The Times.
Another senior Tory said it would be "easier if Scotland votes for independence" because it would resolve what role Scottish MPs should have in Parliament and Government.
I don't agree with Tyler Cowen that Cameron "allowing this referendum to go forward likely will go down as one of the greatest unforced errors in recent times." But he is right to say that "this story will not end with a 'no' vote from Scotland, unless it is strongly decisive." Four decades of Quebec politics -- from the rise of the Parti Quebecois in the 1970s and two separation votes to the 2014 Quebec provincial election --attest to this.
For more about the possible future economic arrangements between the UK and Scotland, and the Barnett formula, read Dan Hodges in the Telegraph: "The English want Scotland to remain part of the Union. But not at any price."


 
2106 watch (Jindal edition)
At NRO, Eliana Johnson on Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal: "Can a wonk win the nomination?" Johnson begins:
Bobby Jindal is making a bet, according to someone familiar with is thinking: “Ideas and smarts are going to be crucial in winning the presidential nomination.”
Jindal’s nascent 2016 campaign will be an exploration of the validity of this belief.
Ideas and smarts about policy, yes. But also tone. Jindal can do both, many of the Republican frontrunners can't. That's not a Jindal endorsement, just an observation.


 
2016 watch (Veep edition)
The American Spectator's Hal G.P. Colebatch likes Ben Carson for vice president: "He is a fine speaker, and his background is, unlike Obama’s, an open book. He even (an unfortunately relevant consideration in the modern age) looks presidential." Colebatch says:
But with all the very powerful positives going for him Ben Carson has, apart from the fact that he has not yet thrown his hat into the ring, an Achilles’ heel: a lack of political experience. Going from a childhood in a black ghetto to head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins certainly implies political experience and expertise of a sort, but a President Carson now would carry the stigma of amateur, and America and the world cannot afford two amateur presidents in succession ...
Vice President is a different matter. Vice President Carson might well attract the African-American vote or a significant portion of it to the Republican ticket, help heal the racial tensions and divisions Obama has willfully exacerbated, and hold up an exemplar of achievement and a fine man to American youth of all races.
My guess is that Carson would need to run a positive, clean campaign in the primaries that garners at least 15% of the delegates and a couple key states to be taken seriously as a running mate by whoever wins the Republican presidential nomination. That sounds like a doable, even modest achievement, but it isn't.
And to address the obvious, two questions: If he weren't black would we be talking about Ben Carson as material for the GOP ticket? If he weren't black, would discussion be more about the top rather than the bottom of the ticket? I'm not being facetious. Nor is Carson's colour irrelevant, for some of the reasons that Colebatch raises, although I doubt that a black on the ticket brings the black vote to the Republican ticket.


 
'City of brotherly love and sisterly affection'
Five Feet of Fury points to this 1849 pocket guide to the brothels of Philadelphia, "A List of Gay Houses and Ladies of Pleasure." A sample. At No. 4 Wood St.: "We do most sincerely assure our readers that Miss Josephine is an accomplished lady," whose girls are "all beautiful, accomplished, and bewitching." It also comes with warnings of which houses employ black prostitutes, which are to be avoided if one did not want a venereal disease. (It's warning, not mine.)


 
Tax reform and reduction. Now please.
James Pethokoukis at AEI Ideas: "The Tax Foundation has put together a Tax Competitive Index, which finds "the United States has the 32nd most competitive tax system out of the 34 OECD member countries'." At least the U.S. is ahead of France and Portugal. Canada ranks in the bottom third. Estonia tops the list.
Overall, the U.S. is ranked in the bottom three (of 34) in corporate taxes, property taxes, and international tax rules, and 26th in individual taxes.


 
538 says Democrats might hold Senate
Nate Silver:
When we officially launched our forecast model two weeks ago, it had Republicans with a 64 percent chance of taking over the Senate after this fall’s elections. Now Republican chances are about 55 percent instead. We’ve never quite settled on the semantics of when to call an election a “tossup.” A sports bettor or poker player would grimace and probably take a 55-45 edge. But this Senate race is pretty darned close.
How did that happen? Basically the Republicans no longer look very strong in the "Highly competitive purple states" of Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, and North Carolina. Silver explains:
These are the five competitive Senate races — all seats are currently held by Democrats — in states generally considered presidential swing states. It’s here where Democrats have gained ground. There have been numerous recent polls in North Carolina, including two released on Monday, showing Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan ahead. Her odds of holding her seat have improved to 68 percent from 46 percent when the model launched. Colorado has followed a similar path, with Democratic Sen. Mark Udall’s chances of keeping his seat improving to 69 percent from 47 percent.
Of course, this all presumes that polls in mid-September are accurate barometers of what will happen in six weeks in the midterms. GOP should be happy with a 55% chance of taking the Senate, but it'll probably be closer to 60% by election week.


 
On this day in Canadian history
On September 16, 1992, by a vote of 99-62, the Mulroney government passed a bill that ended the Family Allowance or baby bonus system. In 1945, the Liberal government established a universal program of baby bonus payments of $5 to $8 per child under 16 to help families pay for basic needs such as food, clothing, and medical expenses. It was Canada's first universal program (although it excluded Indian children in residential schools or hospitals) and Brooke Claxton, Canada's first Minister of National Health and Welfare, trumpeted the program as both an economic boon and a guarantor of equality for children. The Mulroney government replaced it with a targeted program to help low-income families. Mulroney said it made no sense to provide baby bonuses to "bank presidents making $500,000 or $600,000."
The definitive history of the family allowance program, including its origins and demise, is Raymond Blake's sympathetic account of the program, From Rights to Needs: A History of Family Allowances in Canada, 1929-92.


 
Steyn on Scotland
Mark Steyn favours the right of a people like Scotland (or southern Ireland) to secede from the United Kingdom or Quebec from Canada (or Pennsylvania from the United States), even if it isn't always wise. But he nicely summarizes what the Scottish independence vote is all about:
The Scottish people are being invited to decide whether their cradle-to-grave welfare state will be more flush as a semi-devolved entity dependent on subventions from Westminster or as a reborn Kingdom of Scotland dependent on subventions from the European Union.
Maybe the English should be allowed to vote on whether they want to keep Scotland.


 
Politics on the sports pages
Steve Sailer has an excellent post, "Why Are the Dumber Sportswriters So Liberal?" But it's not just the dumb (and dull) sportswriters. It is even worse among the online analytical community who are universally left-wing, yet they are among the best, most insightful sports writers (I'm thinking especially of Craig Calcaterra, Jonah Keri, Mike Tanier).


 
TSA making the skies safer
By searching passengers who've already flown. Story and video at Boing Boing of how after flying from Minneapolis to Denver, the TSA wanted to screen the body and bags of Kahler Nygard. After the flight was completed. There is simply no reason to do it at that point, even if, as is claimed, the TSA didn't do a proper screen before the flight. Didn't the plane land safely?


 
Execution by euthanasia
A healthy Belgian rapist/murderer wants to avoids life in prison by choosing euthanasia.


Monday, September 15, 2014
 
Scotland won't be the first country to declare independence from England
Great map of countries -- including Canada and the United States -- that have declared independence from England. People generally think borders should be forever the way they are now, but they change often.


 
Don't let your kids play outside alone
At Hit & Run Lenore Skenazy reports: "Children's book author Kari Anne Roy was recently visited by the Austin police and Child Protective Services for allowing her son Isaac, age 6, to do the unthinkable: Play outside, up her street, unsupervised." It all started when a neighbour brought Roy's son home after seeing him alone on a park bench 150 yards from the family's home and visible from the author's porch. So after the nosy neighbour returned the obviously safe child, the police and later CPS came to the home, asking intrusive questions of the kids, including an older daughter, and frightening them; these types of incidents are traumatic for children who begin to wonder about dangers that do not exist or are relatively uncommon. While all ended without further incident as no adult was arrested nor any child was taken from the family, when Roy asked a Child Protective Services investigator "What do I do know?" after the case was officially closed, the investigator replied: "You just don't let them play outside."


 
Obama is Nixon redux
Breitbart reports:
A new Gallup poll finds Americans' distrust in the Executive Branch just three points shy of the all-time low rating just months prior to President Richard Nixon's resignation.
"After a sharp drop from last year, trust in the executive branch is the lowest it has been during President Barack Obama's tenure, at 43%," reports Gallup. "The historical low of 40% was measured in April 1974, months before Richard Nixon resigned amid the Watergate scandal."


 
Et, tu Basque Country, Catalonia, South Tyrol and Veneto
The American Interest notes that several Spanish and Italian independence movements might be emboldened by Scotland's vote. Why the interest in secession now? But why?
As Walter Russell Mead noted on Friday, Europeans “increasingly find the post-War social-democratic order bland, remote, and overbearing.” One way to shake things up is to embrace local independence movements. These offer the thrill of a campaign against the odds and the frisson of (often semi-forbidden) nationalism, while staying safely within the larger European framework.
That WRM piece is long but worth reading. Mead says that the largish nation-state isn't working, isn't delivering what people want:
There was something very retro about the atmosphere of the campaign. Europe is filled with small nations (in Africa, they would be called tribes) who are part of larger states: Flemings, Catalans, Scots and Basques, for example. There are also countries like Italy where deep regional divisions create a desire among more prosperous regions to secede. Up until very recently, the post-cold war era of relative world peace and the apparent success of the European Union created a strong and rational case in favor of small peoples nationalism in Europe. If there are no big external dangers, and if the EU is replacing national governments with great success, then there is much less need for small units to remain part of larger ones.
But that’s no longer the world that we live in. The EU is failing on a growing scale, and it looks less and less capable of setting up the kind of supra-national union many of its architects hoped for. The EU is failing on a growing scale, and it looks less and less capable of setting up the kind of supra-national union many of its architects hoped for. Small nations trusting to EU institutions to protect their interests are likely to be disappointed, and EU policymaking is not working particularly well for them these days. Worse, the world is becoming a much less secure place, and it is likely that strong nation states will again be needed to provide the security on which peace and safety depend.
I support separatist movements everywhere. Scotland. Catalonia. South Tyrol. Quebec. California or Nebraska. Smaller units of government are preferable to larger ones because their mistakes are less costly (in dollar and human terms). Secede away, everyone.


 
Well, they are Scots
The Daily Mail: "'Nationalists are running a misogynistic campaign': Labour bruiser John Reid accuses Yes supporters of deliberately 'abusing' female unionists such as JK Rowling and Michelle Mone."
And the paper reports that one Scot who is not qualified to vote is seeing an omen in the clouds.


 
Cops become robbers
Jacob Sullum at Hit & Run: "Three features of civil forfeiture law and five Supreme Court decisions make it easy for police to take money from motorists." Most people don't know -- or care to believe -- that under civil forfeiture law "the government" (read: the police) "does not have to charge you with a crime, let alone convict you, to take your property."


 
Obama does not have a serious long-term plan to balance the budget
James C. Capretta, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, writes at E21 about the "Three Shaky Pillars of Obama Fiscal Policy." Capretta says of President Barack Obama's long-term plan to balance the budget and stop deficit financing:
Instead of serious entitlement reform, he would rely on three policies to close future deficits: steep and unprecedented defense cuts, lower payments for services in the Medicare program, and higher taxes.
Recent events and data make it clear that this approach to fiscal consolidation is, at best, a risky bet for the U.S. economy.
Capretta explains why each of Obama's three policies are not serious solutions to America's fiscal mess: the defense budget hasn't been as low as Obama projects since before World War II, no one believes that that Medicare spending will brought under control because "enforcement of payment rate reductions [are] widely considered unrealistic," and the Treasury will not raise the necessary funds through taxes because the White House is assuming unrealistically high economic growth (in other words, the tax revenue won't be there).


 
'5 lies that have shaped the Obama presidency'
Writing in the New York Post Jack Cashill has one of the best short pieces I've ever read on Barack Obama:
If past presidents are remembered for their signature achievements, Obama will be remembered for his signature lie: “If you like your health care plan, blah, blah, blah.” The reader knows the rest. Although the most consequential of Obama’s lies — it got him re-elected — it’s far from his only prevarication.
I’ve counted 75 significant lies since his campaign for president began, but that doesn’t begin to tally the casual fibs and hyperbole he spouts seemingly every day. Here are five that illustrate just how much Obama’s presidency is built on falsehoods.
They are:
5. “My father left my family when I was 2 years old.”
4. “The Fast and Furious program was a field-initiated program begun under the previous administration.”
3. “Not even a smidgen of corruption.” [Regarding the IRS scandal]
2. “We revealed to the American people exactly what we understood at the time.” [About Benghazi]
1. “Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”
The 75 lies list would make a great book. Oh, apparently it is: You Lie! The Evasions, Omissions, Fabrications, Frauds and Outright Falsehoods of Barack Obama, comes out October 7.


 
David Warren on Scottish independence
Essayist David Warren offers thoughts on the idea of Scotland leaving the United Kingdom, including the sound notion that smaller states are better than bigger ones:
[I]t makes sense to leave people to their own resources in the smallest practicable territorial units. For the larger the unit, the easier to mesmerize public observation of cause and effect; the easier to confuse the perception of local realities, and give the appearance of solving problems by transferring them to those not responsible for their creation.
The conclusion seems about right:
If the entire political class are convinced that Scottish independence will be a disaster, then I think we can be reasonably certain it will prove a boon — for England now, in a small way, but for Scotland in a larger, over time.


 
Separatism is spreading?
Business Insider interviewed Matthew Bennett, editor of The Spain Report, who says that Spain's Catalonia could be the next region to want to break away. Fingers crossed.


 
Confusing talk with action
Don't get too excited about 30 countries coming together in Paris to talk about doing something about ISIS. Yet there are signs of hope there will be real action. Says an unnamed "senior Western source" to The Guardian, "There is a very real possibility that we could have the Saudi air force bombing targets inside Syria. That is a remarkable development, and something the US would be very pleased to see."


 
Politics is entertainment for snarky people
P.J. O'Rourke says: "This coming Thursday the Scots will vote on whether to make Scotland an independent nation. And I hope they do because it will be a disaster." But perhaps not completely:
The one thing the Scottish don’t have is a ridiculous dictator. The Scots exhibit many of the Third World shit-hole qualities that foreign correspondents prize, but a penchant for ridiculous dictators is not among them.


 
Ebola update
The Washington Post reports that an Oxford study says Ebola could spread to 15 more countries.


 
Shit, I agree with Kofi Annan
Kofi Annan tweets: "Drugs have harmed many people. Wrong governmental policies have harmed many more. KA #NoMoreDrugWar #Reformdruglaws."


 
Gosnell was not an anomaly
National Right to Life News Today on "The trial of abortionist Robert Alexander." Of course, almost no media coverage. NRTL reports:
Last week the notorious abortionist Robert Alexander was on trial in front of an administrative law judge because of allegations of incompetency and negligence stemming from the closure of his Muskegon clinic in December of 2012 by the fire marshal. On behalf of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, an assistant attorney general laid out a stunning amount of evidence and expert witness testimony detailing the egregious conditions that were uncovered during an investigation of a break-in at Alexander’s clinic on Dec. 26, 2012.
Those who have followed Alexander’s career weren’t surprised to hear the allegations. But even seasoned investigators seemed distressed by the dozens of health and safety violations which were found at the clinic.
The prosecution presented 87 photos showing used needles on the ground, unsterilized surgical tools, rusty equipment, biohazard bags stacked up in procedure rooms, unsecured patient files, buckets of fluid containing “fleshy” substances and dozens of fire hazards.