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, August 02, 2015
20 great Milton Friedman quotes
Yesterday was the 103rd anniversary of Milton Friedman's birthday and John Hawkins collected 20 great Friedman quotes.
Two of my favourites:
Indeed, a major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it... gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.
If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there'd be a shortage of sand.
And, of course, there is one of Ronald Reagan's favourite quotes:
Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.

Can you microaggress your cat?
A Tumblr Post via Prison Planet on a form of animal abuse I had not, until right now, ever thought about: misgendering your pet. Fuck off.

Election 2015 - it's on
I should have a long post on the gazillion-day election campaign. I don't. About four in ten people don't vote. Those who do are probably committed partisans. I doubt that even one in ten Canadians are 1) truly undecided and 2) still vote. Those who are in that boat probably aren't paying attention to the summer portion of the campaign. Keep that in mind when all the bullshit punditry is unleashed over the next few weeks.

Saturday, August 01, 2015
Crony capitalism and slow economic growth
The Wall Street Journal's Holman Jenkins Jr. on how crony capitalism is anathema to the rule of law and robust economic growth:
Hoover economist John Cochrane, spoke of fears that America is drifting toward a “corporatist system” with diminished political freedom. Are rules knowable in advance so businesses can avoid becoming targets of enforcement actions? Is there meaningful appeal? Are permissions received in a timely fashion or can bureaucrats arbitrarily decide your case simply by sitting on it?
The answer to these questions increasingly is “no.” Whatever the merits of 1,231 individual waivers issued under ObamaCare, a law implemented largely through waivers and exemptions is not law-like. In such a system, where even hairdressers and tour guides are subjected to arbitrary licensing requirements, all the advantages accrue to established, politically-connected businesses. Stagnation is the result.
Another participant, Lee Ohanian, a UCLA economist affiliated with Hoover, drew the connection between the regulatory state and today’s depressed growth in labor productivity. From a long-term average of 2.5% a year, the rate has dropped to 0.7% in the current recovery. Labor productivity is what allows rising incomes. A related factor is a decline in business start-ups. New businesses are the ones that bring new techniques to bear and create new jobs. Big, established companies, in contrast, tend to be net job-shrinkers over time.

Big Abortion: crony capitalism in service of the Culture of Death
An Investor's Business Daily editorial:
The White House has denounced an anti-abortion group's videos of Planned Parenthood's activities as "fraudulent" and circled its wagons to defend the indefensible. What kind of White House is this?
For an institution that might argue that it doesn't have a dog in this fight, the White House sure has stepped into the Planned Parenthood baby-parts selling scandal on the side of the flesh-peddlers ...
At a White House press briefing Friday, [White House press secretary Josh] Earnest called the videos "fraudulent," falsely claimed that they were "heavily edited" when in fact they were released in full, and hemmed and hawed to reporter's questions about whether President Obama had seen the videos, saying only: "I suspect someone has."
"And where are you getting your information of the fact that it's fraudulent, or the fact that they're distorted and edited unfairly?" a reporter asked at Friday's White House press briefing.
"Based on the public comments of Planned Parenthood ...
How can the White House and prominent Democrats such as Clinton continue to reflexively defend Planned Parenthood against all evidence that something appalling is going on?
It might have something to do with the fact that Democrats and Planned Parenthood have been entangled for years. The group's leaders have made no less than 39 visits to the Obama White House since 2009, according to a report from CNS News, a relationship that likely had much to do with why they ended up with $548 million in taxpayer cash.

'No Christian or person of goodwill should vote for Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party'
The Everyday for Life blog has a post "No Christian or person of goodwill should vote for Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party" in which he provides 10 reasons Trudeau is not supportable. He quotes from my book The Dauphin: The Truth About Justin Trudeau in reason #10. Everyday for Life concludes Trudeau "doesn't have the experience nor the good judgement to lead the nation." That's the conclusion in The Dauphin, too.

Friday, July 31, 2015
Transhumanist summer camp
A report by Reason's Ronald Bailey on socialist and libertarian speakers on topics from music ("music ... has always been transhuma") to wearable clothes (Google Glass can be used by doctors so they don't have to track down records) at the Our Transhuman Futures conference. This article will be interesting to people who are not interested in transhumanism.

Why would you transport eyeballs in your ass? "Wyoming man found with 30 eyeballs in his anal cavity." They weren't human, if that makes the story less weird.
(HT: Kids Prefer Cheese)

I call bullshit
The National Post reports:
A Conservative Party attack ad targeting Liberal leader Justin Trudeau for being “just not ready” to lead the country is actually working to convince Canadians to vote for him, a Forum Research poll has discovered.
The survey found that 32 per cent of Canadians who had seen the ad were now more likely to vote Liberal in the upcoming federal election. The ad is having an adverse effect on NDP supporters as 21 per cent said viewing it made them more likely to support Trudeau.
I'd say this is bullshit even if it wasn't a Forum Research poll, but considering their track record and general ridiculousness of their president's analysis, jumping to unsubstantiated conclusions, it's complete nonsense.
If the pollster isn't wrong, the respondents are lying. There is no reason to give this poll any credence.

Thursday, July 30, 2015
The NDP caucus and oral sex
Eye on a Crazy Planet had a great post yesterday that begins with oral sex and transitions to how several NDP MPs have tongue piercings. He says that you have to be crazy to pierce a tongue and perhaps these self-mutilators shouldn't be anywhere near power. More on-point, he says:
Thomas Mulcair is a smart politician. But the Megan Leslies, Charlie Anguses, Niki Ashtons and similar NDP parliamentarians he has placed in senior positions are indicative of what Mulcair has to choose from among his caucus. Remember in the Austin Powers movies, when Dr. Evil presided over his minions musing, "why must I be surrounded by frickin' idiots?" That's what Tom Mulcair's Cabinet meetings will look like in the event of an NDP election win.

2016 watch (Joe Biden edition)
The National Journal: "For the first time, the vice president looks like a more electable Democrat than Hillary Clinton." Josh Kraushaar says:
And at a time when authenticity is a highly valued asset—for better or worse—Biden boasts the natural political skill set that Clinton clearly lacks. He's a happy warrior who enjoys campaigning and isn't constrained by talking points or rope lines. He's able to ham it up with union rank-and-file, while also giving a stem-winding speech blasting Republicans in Congress. His all-too-frequent malapropisms are endearing at a time when voters are cynical about scripted politicians.
There are also drawbacks, most notably his age. But having not begun formal campaigning, he might have the energy for the later stages of the campaign. Campaigns are grueling and will take their toll on all candidates, especially Hillary Clinton, who is no spring chicken herself. Biden also has had little help from President Barack Obama in preparing for a campaign, with Kraushaar concluding the Clinton scandals will probably have to get much worse before the White House backs a Biden candidacy.

Five things to watch for this federal election campaign
The Toronto Star has a list. Here's a better one.
1. What is the effect of the additional debates (if any) and what is the reaction of voters to a Harperless consortium debate as the campaign nears its conclusion? Most people will say they watched the additional debates but in reality few people outside committed partisans (people interested enough in voting regularly and watching politics closely have strong views and tend to stick with one party) will watch the Maclean's and Munk Center debates closely, but most people will ignore them. Harper will get hammered by the media over not attending the final English and French debates but they usefully clarify who the real alternative to the Harper Tories is. (Hint: it's Tom Mulcair and the NDP.)
2. How soon does Justin Trudeau step in a pile of shit of his own making and can the media explain away his error? I'll take August 6 in the office pool for the first major Justin Trudeau gaffe and while the media will excuse that one, it won't be able to fix the next mess he makes by the end of August.
3. The Toronto Star says that Toronto will be a major battleground, but it's not that simple. There are a number of places where 3-5 seats, cumulatively, will make a difference. Regional races to watch: Will the Liberal advantage completely disappear in Atlantic Canada and will the Tories be able to hold onto their Nova Scotia seats? (Too early to tell, but I wouldn't bet on it.) Relatedly, can the Tories retain most of their New Brunswick seats? (Almost certainly.) Can the Gilles Duceppe Bloc Quebecois make any traction in Quebec? (Probably not.) Can the Trudeau Liberals? (Maybe 2-3 seats in Montreal, but I wouldn't bet much on it.) Ontario has two major question marks: can the Tories keep half of their eight Toronto seats and can they maintain their block of Mississauga and Brampton seats? (yes and yes, and I'll take bets of up to $100 that they win a majority of the Brampton/Mississauga seats, or bets that they take at least four Toronto seats.) In the Prairies, how much will redistribution hurt the Tories in urban Saskatchewan? (Probably a bit.) In Alberta, will the shine of the provincial NDP dull enough to negatively impact their federal cousins? (Yup.) What's happening in British Columbia? (A wide range of possibilities; it's way to early to tell, which is why we have to watch it.)
4. Will Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau continue to get away with saying one thing to Quebec audiences and another elsewhere in the country? An election campaign means more scrutiny so the game the NDP and Liberal leaders have been playing might come to an end. This could hurt both of them, especially on pipelines which might serve as a proxy for responsible economic manager when judging the leaders.
5. When, if at all, do the Conservatives begin attacking Mulcair and the NDP? My theory, mentioned this past weekend, that the Tories care more about eliminating the Liberals than winning, will be given credence if the Tories do not begin their assault on the NDP by the first week of September.

Taxpayer funding of abortion and the legality of abortion are separate issues
The Wall Street Journal editorializes:
Planned Parenthood’s 2013-14 annual report lists $1.3 billion in revenues, including $528 million in “government health services grants and reimbursements.” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, says the “vast majority” of federal funding for Planned Parenthood’s nonprofit health centers is reimbursement for Medicaid visits, and “the rest goes to things like teen pregnancy prevention and evidence-based sex education.”
But money is fungible, and every dollar in taxpayer funding allows Planned Parenthood to use its other funds to finance abortion. This financial two-step evades the fundamental political bargain that Congress has struck since the Supreme Court made abortion a constitutional right in 1973. That bargain, codified in the Hyde Amendment of 1976 and countless times since, is that while abortion is legal, taxpayers should not have to pay for a practice they find morally objectionable ...
The leaders on the cultural left are shouting as usual about limiting health care for women and denying their right to choose. But no such right is in jeopardy. Planned Parenthood can finance all the abortions it wants, but it would have to raise other funds to do it. Surely there are enough rich progressive donors in Greenwich and Silicon Valley.
Here's a new mantra: safe, legal, rare, and unsubsidized.

Minimum wage, dishonest redistribution
National Review's Kevin D. Williamson:
As welfare-state models go, the best ones seem to be the most straightforward: Impose high taxes on one end and write large checks on the other. This template has the added benefit of being honest and transparent, which is why no politician willingly embraces it.
The worst kind of welfare state is the welfare state that is ashamed of itself and therefore feels obliged to pretend to be something it isn’t. Instead of forthrightly taxing individuals and businesses and converting that revenue to welfare benefits in an honest and transparent way, covert welfare statists usually attempt to disguise welfare payments as wages. Artificial wage increases imposed by law perform the same function as ordinary welfare benefits — transferring income from politically disfavored groups to politically favored groups — but the revenue doesn’t show up on the government ledger as taxes and the outlays don’t show up as spending. Everybody in government gets the opportunity to engage in a little delicious moral preening about how they’re doing the right thing for the hardworking people of wherever while maintaining fiscal discipline, as if the underlying facts of the policy — “Patron X shall give Client Y at least Z amount of money” — weren’t fundamentally identical to those in a transparent welfare state. Laws mandating wages and benefits beyond market prices are political money laundering for unpopular welfare payments.
Which is to say, laws mandating wages and benefits beyond market prices are political money laundering for unpopular welfare payments.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015
John Baird's resignation
The National Post is reporting that Anonymous is threatening to release information that will show the real reason John Baird resigned from cabinet earlier this year. I was working on this story a few weeks ago, but I felt there was no compelling reason to report it. Without getting into specifics, it has to do with Canada's policy on Russia. For press gallery types this will confirm Harper's heavy-handedness but it's entirely fair that the Prime Minister expect his Foreign Affairs Minister to uphold key foreign policy principles. Should be interesting to see the political fallout.

The abortion-industrial complex and the Left
Mark Steyn:
And, putting aside whether one is "pro-life" or "pro-choice", the nature of the abortions in those other countries is different: again, as I told Sean, in France abortion is legal up to 12 weeks; Italy, 13 weeks; Norway, 18 weeks, but it requires the approval of a government commission. Nowhere else in the western world takes 39-week-old "fetuses", delivers them sufficiently to preserve the commercially valuable parts and then crushes the non-sellable parts in order to preserve a technical denial of infanticide. That is a uniquely American evil, and Americans should be utterly ashamed of it. American liberals ought to understand that in far more left-wing societies (Scandinavia, the Netherlands, France) they do not do this - because it's not a left/right thing, it's a good/bad thing, and Planned Parenthood's abortion-industrial complex is on the wrong side of that divide.
The American Left -- and increasingly, the Canadian Left -- can't countenance any limitation on abortion because it is a sacrament in the Church of Feminism. To most people, abortion is a necessary evil, but to the academic/political/media elite, feminism is an unquestioned good without which the liberation of women (from what?) would be impossible.

University craziness
Campus Reform reports that the University of New Hampshire's "Bias-Free Language Guide" on its website says the term American should be eschewed. CR's Peter Hasson explains:
Saying “American” to reference Americans is also problematic. The guide encourages the use of the more inclusive substitutes “U.S. citizen” or “Resident of the U.S.”
The guide notes that “American” is problematic because it “assumes the U.S. is the only country inside [the continents of North and South America].” (The guide doesn’t address whether or not the terms “Canadians” and “Mexicans” should be abandoned in favor of “Residents of Canada” and “Residents of Mexico,” respectively.)

2016 watch (Rand Paul edition)
Reason's Brian Doherty says pundits should stop writing the political obituary of Rand Paul, the Kentucky senator and Republican presidential aspirant, who is the standard-bearer for libertarianism in the race. Doherty says:
The vast majority of potential voters likely have no clear idea of what Rand Paul stands for right now, and not being as into the fun and games of multi-year presidential races as pundits and bloggers, don't care. The debates coming soon might be a first chance for Paul to really educate a wider range of voters as to what he's all about.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015
With a name like Responsible for Equality And Liberty you know they don't support liberty
Jeffrey Imm heads up an organization called Responsible for Equality And Liberty that wants the musical "The Producers," to stop showing in a Maryland city after the shooting in a Louisiana movie theatre last week by a Nazi sympathizer. PJ Media's Walter Hudson says:
Imm went on to declare, “We cannot laugh about that.” The irony of protesting fascism with a blanket declaration of what can’t be laughed at appears to be lost on Mr. Imm.
The intent behind The Producers can be easily discerned, if not from the material itself, then from the man who wrote it. Mel Brook’s is a Jew. So there’s that. Were that somehow not enough, Brooks has been explicit regarding his feelings toward Hitler, the Nazis, and the Holocaust. Spoiler alert: he’s against them.

The Stanford school?
Tyler Cowen says Stanford is poised to overtake Harvard as the preeminent school for economists. From the comments: "Stanford cannot be separated from the world in which it exists. That’s meant neither as a compliment nor as a criticism, just an observation." The Hoover Institution, based at Stanford, is an impressive think tank. Last week it hosted a panel featuring John Cochrane and John Taylor that examined Federal Reserve reform that is worth listening to.

Boston avoids Olympic nightmare, Toronto gets excited about billion dollar boondoggle
USA Today: "Boston out as United States bid city to host 2024 Olympics." The paper reports growing opposition to the bid:
A poll conducted by a local radio station, WBUR, in January put support of the Games at 51%. That same poll reached a low of 36% in March and hasn’t been above 40% support since. In WBUR’s most recent poll, opposition to the bid had reached a high of 53%.
Groups such as No Boston Olympics and No Boston 2024 have used social media and public forums to rally support against the bid. They argue that the Olympics’ would leave taxpayers on the hook for large cost overruns and pull resources and political attention away from more vital issues, including the city’s infrastructure which they argue not currently equipped to handle the Games.
The Toronto Star: "Majority of Torontonians support Olympic bid: poll." According to Forum Research -- so take these numbers will a boulder of salt -- 61% of city residents support an Olympic bid, 30% are opposed, and 9% are undecided. Apparently support is the same in the downtown as the suburbs, although younger respondents tended to be more supportive of the idea. It would be interesting if support would be maintained if costs were explained.

Justin Trudeau
Too tired to write a long piece about Peter C. Newman's too-cute essay on Justin Trudeau. There are plenty of clever turns of phrase -- the Liberas are "led by a name instead of a leader" -- but there is not much insight. There are fundamental things that Newman gets wrong, like The Dauphin "promising as little as possible but as much as necessary"; it is more accurate to say he offered too much too late, with extensive policy on political reforms that few people outside the Parliamentary Press Gallery care about.
Newman gropes to a satisfactory point: the Liberal Party is arrogant, as is Trudeau the Younger, but these are hardly original observations: the former has been long remarked about while the latter is obvious to anyone who pays attention to Canadian politics. The electoral game changed in 2011 but few people realized it at the time, the assumption being Justin would restore the natural political balance. It's not happening.

Climate-change sacrifices are for the plebs
Via Blazing Cat Fur: "Video Shows Hillary Clinton Boarding Private Jet Just Hours After Launching Global-Warming Push."

Capital speaks
Investor's Business Daily reports that the "Stocks fell for the fifth straight session Monday as a sell-off in China's main index sparked fears of a slowdown in the world's second-biggest economy," as shares fell 8%.
From an Investor's Business Daily editorial:
Reuters calculates that the government of Xi Jinping has spent close to $800 billion — or nearly 10% of China's total GDP — trying to halt the market sell-off. But if anything, by increasing investor uncertainty, it's made things worse.
"When Xi Jinping came to power, there were a series of hints that market-based capitalism would be allowed to move forward under his leadership," Evercore Partners founder and former U.S. Treasury No. 2 Roger Altman told CNBC's "Squawk Box." However, "at the first real threat, they've fallen over themselves to impose government control."
We've disagreed with Altman on many things over the years, but on this he is dead-right. Goldman Sachs estimates $761 billion in capital has left China over the last year. That's not exactly a vote of confidence. But behind it all, China's stunning market decline holds a bigger message: The nation's long growth miracle is over.

Monday, July 27, 2015
Better off without the endorsement
Vladimir Putin says that former FIFA chief Sepp Blatter deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.

What do they feed their pitchers in Los Angeles?
Three of the four longest scoreless innings streaks by Major League Pitchers since 1920 are held by LA Dodgers pitchers, including first (Orel Hershiser) and second (Donald Drysdale). This week Zach Greinke, whose streak ended Sunday, joined the list at fourth after not allowing a run in 45 2/3 IP going back to June 13.

Tape of Labour Lord snorting coke off hooker's breasts
Beats the hell of anything happening in Canadian politics.

2016 watch (Jim Gilmore edition)
Former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore makes it 17 official candidates for the Republican presidential nomination. Gilmore was asked why and his answer was that he has a chance: no other candidate has excited the GOP electorate. Hot Air's Jazz Shaw says: "If I were running the Politifact fact checker machine at this point I’d give the governor a 'partly true' rating, which sounds much kinder than 'partly delusional'." Still the question why? What does Gilmore bring to the race that none of the other 16 do?

Eve Adams and her future
CBC: "Eve Adams's next step unclear following loss of Liberal nomination." She is suggesting she's not through with federal politics but her future should including going away and shutting up.

Is 140 enough for a minority?
Eric Grenier of the CBC/ likes to say that 140 is "more than enough" to win a minority government, but is it? Probably, but not necessarily. Let's do some math.
The next House of Commons will have 338 seats. Let's makes some safe assumptions: the Greens hold their seat and the Bloc wins no more than five. That leaves 332. A not so safe but not entirely unrealistic assumption is that the Liberals basically hold steady picking up less than a dozen seats; let's give them only 45 seats. That leaves 287 for the NDP and Tories. 140 seats would leave 147 for the other, meaning 140 seats is not enough to win the election.
Whether or not the Conservatives form the government by winning just 147 seats (compared to 140) is open to speculation and circumstance. The Governor-General need not respect the wishes of the plurality and it might depend on how close the actual vote is. In the case of two parties win 140+ seats, the Tories are likely to be defeated on the first confidence vote and the NDP will get a chance to govern, like David Peterson and the Ontario Liberals did in 1985 when Frank Miller's Progressive Conservative government fell on its first confidence vote.
The assumption that 140 seats is enough to win a minority government is based on the assumption that the Liberals greatly increase their vote count.

Putin and polygamy
Julia Ioffe writes in Foreign Policy that the anti-Muslim Right in Europe should rethink its support for Russian President Vladimir Putin because he supports polygamy. Except if you read the article you see that there are many officials in Putin's Russia that want polygamy laws liberalized, at least for Russians, but nothing about Putin's own view on plural marriage. The European Right should rethink its support of Putin not over his (ostensible) support of polygamy, but because he's an autocrat.

Anti-bullying in school is cover for pro-gay agenda
Elizabeth Price Foley on how the Safe Schools initiative in Iowa has crossed the line: "there is a huge difference between promoting LGBT tolerance and promoting LGBT sex." But you can't criticize Safe Schools' propaganda because if you are against "lesbian strap-on anal sex" you are for bullying.