Sobering Thoughts

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

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014
 
McGinnis on White Zombie
Rick McGinnis has photos of White Zombie before they were big and a short write up, including this: "The band were playing the Apocalypse, the sort of amiable shithole of a club that you spend nights in for a couple of years and never miss when it inevitably closes."


 
'Guerrilla street art spotted in the Financial District'
BlogTO reports that an elephant sculpture in downtown Toronto was vandalized/improved. The comments analyzing the meaning of the prank are worth reading.


 
Year-end polls show Liberals ahead and the 2015 federal Canadian election
Canadian polling maven Eric Grenier:
EKOS put it at just a single point, with the Liberals at 32 per cent and the Conservatives at 31 per cent and the NDP trailing at 20 per cent. Forum, on the other hand, gave the Liberals 41 per cent support to 33 per cent for the Conservatives and just 17 per cent for the NDP.
It makes for a confused muddle as Canadians enter a year in which a federal election must be held by mid-October.
A Leger poll earlier this month shows the Liberals with a six-point lead.
What does this all mean? It is better for the Liberals to be ahead than behind, but the Conservatives have been better at getting their polling support up during election campaigns and their voters out on election day in the last decade. That trend could cease, but it's premature to assume that.
I still think the Liberals will tank when Canadians start really paying attention and Justin Trudeau gets his close-up with the electorate. A lot of Liberal support will disappear when people get to know Trudeau. Polls now are indirectly gaging the popularity of the Prime Minister, but what Stephen Harper does very well is make elections about the Liberal leader. My guess is that the shallowness of the Dauphin will come through during the intensity of an election campaign and Canadians will not see the leader-in-waiting they have been hoping for.
All that doesn't mean Stephen Harper cruises to another majority. It is possible that the NDP can hold or gain support and the Liberals improve just enough to bring the Conservatives back down to a minority. A lot can happen between now and election day. In the final days of 1992, nobody saw the governing Progressive Conservatives being reduced to a mere two seats in the 1993 election or the Bloc Quebecois forming the Official Opposition. In the Spring of 2004, despite the early revelations of the Adscam scandal, few people thought Paul Martin's Liberals would be reduced to a minority. In late 2005, when Martin was forced to face another election, the pundits assumed that despite the Gomery commission hearings into Adscam, the electorate would return a Liberal minority, because the voters had already "punished" the Grits by taking away their majority a year-and-a-half earlier; Harper's Conservatives won a minority government after an eight week campaign during which Jane Creba was shot in downtown Toronto on Boxing Day.
So it is possible that my prediction of the Conservatives maintaining power will be proven wrong. My point, however, is that polls that show the Liberals ahead today probably do not matter all that much, and not nearly as much as the election campaign and the dominant news stories of 2015 will.


 
2016 watch (Jeb Bush edition)
Powerline's Paul Mirengoff wonders if Jeb Bush is more like John McCain (2008) and Mitt Romney (2012) or Rudy Giuliani (2008) and Jon Huntsmann (2012). All were favoured by the Republican Establishment, but Giuliani and Huntsmann were deemed insufficiently conservative by the GOP base. Riffing on Nate Silver's latest political piece, Mirengoff thinks Bush falls in line with McCain or Romney. The analogies are not perfect, for as Silver says: "Bush has been more like Hunstman than Romney in explicitly critiquing the direction of his party. That may appeal to general-election voters, but it probably isn’t helpful to him in a Republican primary."


 
If you haven't completely tired of reading about the demise of The New Republic
Ryan Lizza, a former writer at The New Republic, has a long piece in the New Yorker about the demise of TNR. It probably isn't worth reading if you've read more than two articles about TNR already, but I quite liked this:
The editors were hardly opposed to giving greater attention to digital media, but they came to believe that Hughes was losing interest in the actual content of T.N.R.’s journalism and cultural criticism. “The only compliment [owner] Chris [Hughes] or Guy ever said about a piece was that it ‘did well,’ or it ‘travelled well,’ ” one of the staffers who resigned said. “If we had published Nietzsche’s ‘Birth of Tragedy,’ the only question would be, ‘Did it travel well?’ ‘Yes, Wagner tweeted it.’ ”


 
The Laffer curve turns 40
In Investor's Business Daily, Arthur Laffer talks about the "trade-off between tax rates and revenues" and the curve that bears his name. The actual concept is much older than 40, but the dinner at which Laffer, Jude Wanniski, Ronald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney talked about the Ford administration's 5% income tax surcharge occurred four decades ago.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014
 
Green Day?
Green Day is inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in its first year of eligibility. Puke.


 
Lone wolves
Mark Steyn:
At one level, the Aussie authorities screwed up the way the Canadian and US authorities screwed up: These jihadists are less "lone wolves" than, as Patrick Poole says, "known wolves". The Ottawa shooter, the St Jean killer, the Marathon bombers, the Fort Hood major, the pantybomber, all were known to the authorities. So was "Sheikh Haron": Aside from various earlier charges and convictions, he had been charged as an accessory to the murder of his wife, who died in a particularly brutal way, stabbed and set alight in the stairwell of her apartment building ...
Many more will be in the years ahead. It was striking that, even as the siege was beginning, the politico-media class were already firing up what Laura Rosen Cohen calls the "Lone Wolf Story Generator", isolating one man in his own derangement and separating him from any broader currents. Relax, it's not "terrorism" - those reports that it was an ISIS flag he was flying was wrong; it's just a regular ol' Islamic flag. But whoa, it's nothing to do with Islam, either.
I think there are "lone wolves" but they are still connected to a broader Islamic movement, and they are being urged to act on their own by ISIS and other terrorist leaders. So the lone wolf idea is accurate but misleading, and highly irrelevant.


 
The perfect 'I can't breathe t-shirt'
Is noted by Five Feet of Fury.


 
Cash instead of programs
Chris Blattman points to a Center for Global Development study that finds the state spends about twice as much educating a student in India than a private school -- and with worst educational outcomes -- and that concludes that giving families funding for education at the private school level and then giving the rest in cash or vouchers for food would be a highly beneficial program. Blattman says: "would people be better off with cash ... isn’t known for sure, but the evidence is building. I really think we ought to see massive policy experiments comparing public goods and services to cash, vouchers, or even a basic guaranteed income." There is not enough social policy experimentation, and its too bad it is almost always suggested for the developing world.
Charles Murray argued in favour of cash transfers to replace nearly all program spending, including education, in the United States in his 2006 book In Our Hands: A Plan To Replace The Welfare State.


 
Electric cars are not green
The Associated Press reports:
People who own all-electric cars where coal generates the power may think they are helping the environment. But a new study finds their vehicles actually make the air dirtier, worsening global warming.
Ethanol isn't so green, either.
"It's kind of hard to beat gasoline" for public and environmental health, said study co-author Julian Marshall, an engineering professor at the University of Minnesota. "A lot of the technologies that we think of as being clean ... are not better than gasoline."
The key is where the source of the electricity all-electric cars. If it comes from coal, the electric cars produce 3.6 times more soot and smog deaths than gas, because of the pollution made in generating the electricity.


Monday, December 15, 2014
 
Benjamin Levin who?
Small Dead Animals has a Sun News story on the Benjamin Levin Blackout. Michael Coren has written about Levin in The Interim. And this is what The Interim has written about him following his arrest:
Meanwhile, a former deputy minister of education in Manitoba and Ontario faces child pornography charges. After an international sting operation, Benjamin Levin, a University of Toronto education professor and member of Wynne’s transition team, was arrested on July 8 and later granted bail, charged with two counts of distributing child pornography and one count each of making, possessing, and accessing child pornography, as well as counseling to commit an indictable offence and agreeing to or arranging for a sexual offence against a child under 16. The charges have not been proven in court.
Levin served as deputy education minister for the McGuinty government between 2004 and 2009 when the nixed sex ed curriculum was originally developed. Wynne claimed that Levin played no part in making the sex education curriculum and that suggesting otherwise “demonstrates a lack of understanding of how curriculum actually is written.” Fonseca told The Interim it is not credible to believe the deputy minister of education had nothing to do with curriculum development. Christina Blizzard wrote in the Toronto Sun that the charges “raise disturbing questions in general about the way education policy is formulated and who has input.”


 
Do conflict-of-interest rules make sense in our undemocratic Parliament?
The CBC reports:
A Liberal MP is calling on the federal ethics watchdog to investigate whether two Conservative MPs with ties to a mobile campaign app violated the House conflict-of-interest code by voting on an election bill introduced by the government last spring.
In a letter sent to Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson on Monday, Newfoundland Liberal MP Scott Simms says he is "deeply concerned" Conservative MPs Rod Bruinooge and Rob Clarke may have breached the rules that forbid MPs from using their parliamentary position to further their "personal interests."
Last week, CBC News reported that Bruinooge and Clarke are the co-creators of ProxiVote, a smartphone-based voter-tracking app that is being marketed to right-leaning candidates by Proximity Mobile, a company headed by Bruinooge's wife, Chantale.
Both Bruinooge and Clarke have disclosed current interests in the parent corporation, 6317414 Manitoba Ltd.
"The basic purpose of ProxiVote is to help campaigns keep track of who has voted on Election Day," Simms notes in the letter.
"While this is standard practice for all nearly all candidates, the software produced by ProxiVote would expedite the process by allowing data entry directly in the polling station."
Under the new law, the previous prohibition on using electronic devices at the polls has been removed — a change that Simms contends "has had a direct, positive effect on the value of ProxiVote's software."
First, does anyone really think Simms cares about the supposed conflict-of-interest, or is he just trying to score a cheap and meaningless political point?
But I think there is a more fundamental question about the conflict-of-interest rules. When MPs vote by strict party line, can there really be a conflict-of-interest? Sure, they can refrain from voting, but their decision to vote for the government's Bill C-23 which amended The Elections Act was determined for them by the fact that they are members of the governing Conservative Party. Even if voting for it did "further his or her private interests or those of a member of the members' family" as the Conflict of Interest Act stipulates, that that is not reason the trained seals voted for C-23.


 
Cromnibus winners and losers
Betsy McGaughey in the New York Sun:
WINNERS:
Politicians and party operatives: Cromnibus hikes the limits on what can be donated to parties and their committees, which will mean more money for balloons, limos, cocktail parties, and hotels. (Sec. 101) Big banks: Cromnibus repealed a Dodd Frank provision that required bank holding companies to keep 5% of risky “derivative” investments out of FDIC-insured operations. Mrs. Warren claimed the change will “let Wall Street gamble with taxpayer money and get bailed out” but that’s more political posturing than truth. (Sec. 630)
Farmers: The Clean Water Act will not apply to farm ponds and irrigation trenches, and the Environmental Protection Agency won’t be able to count dairy cow and cattle flatulence and belching as greenhouse gases. The White House wanted to cut dairy industry emissions 25% by 2020. (Secs. 419-420)
Cops: No funding for body cameras for police. Cops and cows won. African black marketers and politicians: A whopping $5.5 billion for Obama’s Ebolacare programs, with nearly 90% of the money going to Africa. No safeguards to prevent its corrupt misuse. It’s more money that the U.S. spends on research for cancer, double aid to Israel, and five times what the World Health Organization said is needed. (pp. 98-99,413-414,928-31,1340-45)
Techies: Federal moratorium on state and local internet taxes extended another year. (Sec. 624)
Incandescent Bulb Users: Demand for the cheaper bulbs remains high, and Cromnibus delays new, energy efficiency standards first devised under George W. Bush. (Sec. 313)
LOSERS:
Insurers: Cromnibus says no taxpayer money to bail-out health insurers for losses. Obamacare originally compelled insurers to pay fees into a fund that would then be distributed to offset losses they incur on the exchanges. The administration had promised to sweeten the deal with taxpayer money if the fund fell short. Congress says no. Insurers lose, except the Blues, which got a special deal that will save them a bundle of money. (Secs. 102, 277)
IRS: This agency got slapped with a $346 million budget cut and told to stop targeting tax-exempt organizations based on their politics.
The Obamas: School lunch standards championed by Michelle Obama are relaxed, after protests over the low-sodium, and whole-grain rules. (Sec. 751) President Obama didn’t get the $3 billion he brazenly promised the U.N. for poor countries coping with climate change.
D.C. Voters and Tokers: They passed a referendum legalizing recreational use of marijuana in the district, but Congress says no.(Sec. 809) Sage Grouse: It won’t be put on the Endangered Species List, a gift to oil drillers. (Sec. 122)


 
76-year-old man tasered after police stop for not having a Vehicle Inspection Sticker -- for which the car was exempt
The Blaze has the latest outrage about policing in America in 2015. Comes with video and local news story. Fortunately the officer in question is being investigated and has been taken off the streets until the matter is resolved.


 
2016 watch (Jeb Bush edition)
Hot Air's Allah Pundit on Jeb Bush's email dump:
Drumming up media interest in gubernatorial e-mails is a sly way by Bush to put pressure on Chris Christie and Scott Walker, each of whom has been dragged into a scandal involving staffers and their online communications. Jeb knows who his chief competition is on the center-right and it’s not Rand Paul or Ted Cruz.
Meanwhile, there is a PAC encouraging Mitt Romney to run again. Allah Pundit says Romney is a lot like Hillary Clinton:
They’re both bad at retail politics generally but excellent at making friends with rich people, both disdained by their party’s base but beloved by their party’s establishment for being safe, ostensibly electable counters to grassroots ideologues’ fringier impulses.
I assume Jerry Brown is interested in exploring a 2016 presidential bid. Is Michael Dukakis still alive? Hell, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush only served one term, so they can run again.


 
Crony capitalism
Flanders News reports:
The Belgian authorities made 60 deals involving tax benefits for big multinational companies. The content of those deals is a big secret, De Standaard and Het Nieuwsblad report, although it is a public secret that brewers AB InBev are one of them.
Belgium is offering multinationals the opportunity to negotiate the profit rates on which they are being taxed. In practise, these so-called “excess profit rulings” allow international players to be exempted from paying taxes on a major part of their profits.
Francis Adyns, spokesman for the federal Finance Department ‘FOD Financiën’ admits that the “rulings commission made 60 of those deals since 2005”. It’s the first time a specific number is being mentioned, but the content remains a secret. The rulings commission refuses to give any comment about the companies involved and how much tax they were allowed to evade, citing professional confidentiality.
Broad-based corporate tax cuts are much preferable to individual deals, especially secret deals.


 
New York City cops kill fewer civilians than other cops, and are killing fewer than they did 40 years ago
Reason's Jim Epstein:
[O]ne might get the misimpression that the NYPD stands out among the nation’s police departments in its overuse of deadly force. In fact, New York cops shoot and kill many fewer people than cops in the rest of the country. And fatal shootings by the NYPD have fallen significantly over the years.
In 2013, eight people were shot and killed by the NYPD. New York City had 8.4 million residents in 2013, so that works out to about one fatal shooting per million residents. As Scott Shackford has noted, there are no reliable national stats to compare this to. But even if we accept the FBI's lowball figure of 461 fatal shootings by cops in 2013 (the real figure may be more than double that), that translates to 1.5 people killed by cops for every one million U.S. residents, or a rate that's about 50 percent higher than in New York City.
And the historical numbers demonstrate that—thankfully—ubiquitous cameras and social media are raising public awareness of these issues. In 1971—both an unusually violent year and the first year the NYPD started reporting these stats—93 people were shot and killed by cops in New York City. The city's population was 7.8 million in 1971, so that works out to about 12 killings for every million residents!
There is no optimal number of victims of police shootings, but fewer is better so these are positive trends. And protesters and media are wrong to paint Big Apple police as rogue cops.


 
Justice!
The Hamilton Spectator: "‘I Can’t Breathe’ shirts made by company that pays workers $6 per day." I don't care, but it's the sort of thing that the people wearing them would. Or at least they'd normally care.


 
There is nothing as permanent as a government program job
Nicole Kaeding at the Cato Institute blog:
A new study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that the advantages of government employment include more than just higher compensation. Government jobs are more secure, and employees are more likely to keep their jobs during economic downturns.
The authors of the study, Jason L. Kopelman and Harvey S. Rosen, used data for 800,000 workers from 1984 to 2012 to study the differences in job loss rates between workers in the private and public sectors. They wanted to determine how the differentials changed during recessions. They asked: Are government jobs more secure during recessions?
The results are striking. According to the researchers, “public sector jobs, while not generally recession-proof, do offer more security than private sector jobs, and the advantage widens during recessions. These patterns are present across genders, races, and educational groups.”
The researchers found that private sector workers are 4.2 percent more likely to lose their jobs than federal employees during nonrecession periods. The gap grows during recessions; private workers are 6.5 percent more likely to lose their jobs than federal employees. During the Great Recession, the gap narrowed slightly. Private workers were only 5.3 percent more likely than federal employees to lose their jobs.


 
This isn't going to help Justin Trudeau
Talk of coalition. Frank Graves in iPolitics: "Voters ready to embrace coalition in a tightening race." What Graves has really found is that those who want to replace the Harper government, really, really, really want to replace it. Soft Liberal support however might migrate to the Tories or stay home when a coalition with the NDP seems more than merely theoretical.


 
America's non-existent college rape crisis
Glenn Reynolds writes in USA Today about recent statistics that show how the mantra that one-in-five female college students are raped is bogus -- the actual number is about 1 in 50 -- and that rape against women has declined by half since 1997. So why the phony college rape crisis? Reynolds offers a plausible explanation:
This kind of hysteria may be ugly, but for campus activists and bureaucrats it's a source of power: If there's a "campus rape crisis," that means that we need new rules, bigger budgets, and expanded power and self-importance for all involved, with the added advantage of letting you call your political opponents (or anyone who threatens funding) "pro rape." If we focus on the truth, however — rapidly declining rape rates already, without any particular "crisis" programs in place — then voters, taxpayers, and university trustees will probably decide to invest resources elsewhere. So for politicians and activists, a phony crisis beats no crisis.


Sunday, December 14, 2014
 
From the outfield to diplomatic post
The AP reports "Mark Gilbert, who played seven games in July 1985, has become the first major leaguer to be confirmed as a U.S. ambassador. The Senate approved his nomination to New Zealand and Samoa by voice vote on Friday." He had a banking career after baseball and was, predictably, an adviser to President Barack Obama. There is obviously a Chicago connection: Gilbert played for the White Sox.
In the short article I was surprised by two facts: that the U.S. posting to New Zealand includes Samoa and that diplomats are called "Your Excellency." The first fact is mildly surprising considering they are 3,269 km apart, while the second is obnoxious.


 
Good day for the Steelers, sort of
The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Atlanta Falcons 27-20. That helps, but at least half of the other teams in the 7-6 and 8-5 bunching in the AFC picked up wins, too: the Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, and Kansas City Chiefs all won, with the Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, and Miami Dolphins losing, and the San Diego Chargers playing now against the Denver Broncos. The Bills scored an upset over the Green Bay Packers, but most of the other games finished with the favourites winning. The Steelers play the Chiefs at home next week, which could end up being a tie-breaker if they have the same record at the end of the season, so it will probably be a must-win for both teams (practically if not mathematically. The Steelers will be cheering for Peyton Manning and the Broncos this afternoon, with a San Diego loss meaning Pittsburgh would only have to win one of their last two games to make the playoffs.


 
Housing First
The New Yorker's James Surowiecki back in September on Utah's Housing First anti-homeless strategy:
Housing First isn’t just cost-effective. It’s more effective, period. The old model assumed that before you could put people into permanent homes you had to deal with their underlying issues—get them to stop drinking, take their medication, and so on. Otherwise, it was thought, they’d end up back on the streets. But it’s ridiculously hard to get people to make such changes while they’re living in a shelter or on the street. “If you move people into permanent supportive housing first, and then give them help, it seems to work better,” Nan Roman, the president and C.E.O. of the National Alliance for Homelessness, told me. “It’s intuitive, in a way. People do better when they have stability.” Utah’s first pilot program placed seventeen people in homes scattered around Salt Lake City, and after twenty-two months not one of them was back on the streets. In the years since, the number of Utah’s chronically homeless has fallen by seventy-four per cent.
Of course, the chronically homeless are only a small percentage of the total homeless population. Most homeless people are victims of economic circumstances or of a troubled family environment, and are homeless for shorter stretches of time. The challenge, particularly when it comes to families with children, is insuring that people don’t get trapped in the system. And here, too, the same principles have been used, in an approach called Rapid Rehousing: the approach is to quickly put families into homes of their own, rather than keep them in shelters or transitional housing while they get housing-ready. The economic benefits of keeping people from getting swallowed by the shelter system can be immense: a recent Georgia study found that a person who stayed in an emergency shelter or transitional housing was five times as likely as someone who received rapid rehousing to become homeless again.
The Globe and Mail reported recently that Medicine Hat mayor Ted Clugston campaigned against Housing First before embracing it and "solving" the small Alberta city's homeless problem.
It should be noted that Housing First is not a panacea, but old models to deal with addictions, mental illness, and homelessness aren't working very well at all. That said, U.S. federal grants for local homeless programs are now tied to whether the community initiatives use the Housing First model, and that can lead to cookie-cutter programming; government money can be a useful carrot for program reform, but for all the inertia in government, they can also get caught up on policy fads. I do have questions about scale, with the most notable successes coming in Medicine Hat and Salt Lake City. Would it work in Toronto and New York, Vancouver and Chicago? The homeless veteran problem in America's sixth-largest city seems to be solved using Housing First and that's obviously positive.
(HT to David Gratzer on Twitter for the New Yorker and Globe and Mail links.)


 
You don't get to complain
Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat, explaining his life philosophy to Mike Wise of the Washington Post, via SB Nation:
"Listen, you get paid $12 million a year, there is no way you can have a bad day. You can’t have a bad day. There is so many people having problems in the world. What it is your problem? Coming to practice and work out for two, three hours? Is this your problem? I mean, come on, man, let’s be honest. You know what I’m saying? There shouldn’t be any problems if you set up things in your private life and family environment the right way, then you don’t have problems with your team and your team is winning.
Gortat is providing wisdom not only for pro athletes, but nearly everyone in the West with a job.
Here is my advice to people: get your life in order and don't a fuck about other people around you. I don't mean their well-being, I mean their dramas. Do give a fuck about people in the developing world. And a good charity is Give Directly, which gives needy families a year's worth of income -- once; GD also has rigorous third-party experimental evaluation to ensure that donations benefits its intended recipients.


 
'Made in China'
Josh Gelernter at NRO on China's slave labour camp system that is very much part of Chinese exports:
A hundred and fifty years ago, the United States finally stamped out its scourge of slavery. Most of the civilized world either had beaten us to the punch or would follow soon after. China has officially abolished slavery several times — in the 14th century, in the 18th, and again in the 20th. But it never really took: China’s Communist dictators operate more than a thousand 1,000 slave-labor camps.
The camps are called “laogai,” a contraction of “láodòng gǎizào,” which means “reform through labor.” They were conceived under Mao; unlike Stalin’s gulags, they never closed — though the CCP has tried to abolish the name “laogai.” In the Nineties, it redesignated the camps “prisons.” The conditions, though, don’t seem to have changed.
Our picture of life in the laogai is murky, but here’s what has been reported: The prisoners are given uniforms and shoes. They have to purchase their own socks, underwear, and jackets. There are no showers, no baths, and no beds. Prisoners sleep on the floor, in spaces less than a foot wide. They work 15-hour days, followed by two hours of evening indoctrination; at night they’re not allowed to move from their sleeping-spots till 5:30 rolls around, when they’re woken for another day of hard labor. Fleas, bedbugs, and parasites are ubiquitous. The prisoners starve on meager supplies of bread, gruel, and vegetable soup. Once every two weeks they get a meal of pork broth.
The camps currently billet between 3 and 5 million convicts — real criminals along with thought criminals guilty of opposing Communism, promoting freedom, or practicing religion — though the process doesn’t wait on conviction; Chinese law permits the police to hold anyone for four years before judicial proceedings. At any given time — according to the Laogai Research Foundation — 500,000 Chinese citizens are in “arbitrary detention.” If a prisoner does get a hearing, he enters a legal system controlled, capriciously, by the Communist Party ...
According to an article published in Human Events by a man named Michael Chapman, a large proportion of Chinese exports originate in the camps — a quarter of China’s tea, tens of thousands of tons of grain; “ . . . prisoners mine asbestos and other toxic chemicals with no protective gear, work with batteries and battery acid with no protection for their hands, tan hides while standing naked in vats filled three feet deep with chemicals used for the softening of animal skins, and work in improperly run mining facilities where explosions and other accidents are a common occurrence.” And that work finds its way into American and European stores.


 
Good song choices and bad song choices
Tim Worstall points to a study of British surgeons that show most like to listen to music while cutting open patients and that "Stayin' Alive" is strongly preferred to "Another One Bites the Dust." (The patients or the doctors?) Worstall and his commenters humorously wonder about the appropriateness of other songs.


 
Never too young to be outraged. Or exploited.
Blazing Cat Fur points to a story about a six-year-old girl being outraged that a boxed toy of the movie Planes does not feature any girls. BCF's Frau Katze says, "Like other cases of this nature, I strongly doubt that a six-year-old would say this without coaching. It is indoctrination, if not exploitation."


 
The Islamic State clarifies rules about sex slaves with new pamphlet
The Washington Times reports:
The Islamic State has made clear its justification for the rape and enslavement of non-Muslim women and children with a color-printed pamphlet “Question and Answers on Female Slaves and their Freedom,” being distributed in Mosul.
Armed men handed out the pamphlet in the militant occupied Iraqi city on Friday after sunset prayers, several residents told CNN on Saturday.
The document explains the terrorist group’s policy on having sexual intercourse with female slaves — even those who haven’t reached puberty — citing the Koran for justification.
“If she was a virgin, he (the owner) can have intercourse with her immediately after the ownership is fulfilled,” the pamphlet explains, CNN reported. “If she was not a virgin, her uterus must be purified (wait for her period to be sure she is not pregnant.)”


 
Physics stories of the year
Physics World named the Rosetta comet landing their 2014 Breakthrough of the Year, and they also have nine runner-up stories. Click on the runner-up story headline for original stories. I would have picked "Data stored in magnetic holograms" or "Quantum data are compressed for the first time," ahead of the Rosetta story because they are more likely to spur further significant scientific advances with practical applications (eventually).


 
Politics is stupid
Steve Landsburg has no patience for Rep. Trey Gowdy's questioning of Jonathan Gruber:
There’s a lot Gowdy could have asked, like “So, is it actually the case that a tax on insurers is equivalent to a tax on the insured?” or “Can you explain why those taxes are equivalent?” or “Are there any important ways in which the two policies are not equivalent?” or “Why do you think a tax on `Cadillac plans` was good policy in the first place?”
Instead, all he can think of to ask — over and over and over and over and over and over and over again — is, “Why did you call the American people stupid?”, as if there were anything useful to be learned from the answer.
I see one possible explanation here. Apparently Gowdy believes his constituents prefer mindless bullying to policy enlightenment. In other words, he acts on the assumption that the American voters are fundamentally stupid. Maybe someone should spend six and a half minutes asking him why.


Saturday, December 13, 2014
 
Happy 12/13/14 -- today is the last sequential date for nearly a century
The Washington Post (via the Concord Monitor) reports:
A skim of your calendar or a glance at the corner of your computer screen or a mention from a clever pal:
“Oh, Saturday is 12/13/14.”
“Oh, cool.”
No, no, this is more than cool. It’s the very last sequential day of the century. We are already out of triple dates, the 11/11/11s and 12/12/12s, and tomorrow we run out of 1/2/03s and 4/5/06s.
There is no 13/14/15! And there won’t be anything like it until the year 2101!
“Oh, cool.”
No, no, dear reader. Journalists have been reporting on these special dates – calling wedding planners and casinos and numerologists and “scientists” – for 14 years.


 
Real rape culture
Prison. And it's mostly men. Writing in The Week, Michael Brendan Dougherty says, "rape is treated as a feature of our justice system when it happens to prisoners, rather than what it is: another grave crime." Dougherty explains:
In prison, men may become the victim of repeated gang rapes. Prisoners can be locked into cells with the men who prey on them. Some live under the constant threat of sexual assault for decades. Their efforts to report their rape are ignored or even punished, both by prison personnel and an inmate culture that destroys "snitches." The threat of rape is so pervasive it causes some inmates to "consent" to sex with certain prisoners or officers as a way of avoiding rape by others.
Most people don't care, but they should:
Acceptance of prison rape is a stinking corruption. No conception of justice can include plunging criminals into an anarchic world of sexual terror. And obviously it thwarts any possibility of a rehabilitative justice that aims to restore criminals to lawful society. Inmates are not improved or better integrated into society through physical and psychological torture.


 
Steyn on phony rape allegations
Mark Steyn has an excellent post on the fake rape allegations by the University of Virginia's Jackie and actress Lena Dunham which Steyn says is "setting fire to truth, and justice, and civilization." But the most excerptable part of the post on the trendiness of transgenderism and anti-maleness:
Rather than an epidemic of campus rape, there seems to be some sort of psychological inversion of "white flight", in which untold numbers feel the need to flee their bland middle-class suburbs and pitch up in edgier ghettos. You'll have noticed the recent uptick in news of the transgendered - indeed, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, author of the now discredited University of Virginia gang-rape story, was previously reporting on the epidemic of trans rape (Ms Erdely appears to be the Rape Correspondent of Rolling Stone). I note there are some three times as many male-to-female transgenders as there are female-to-male. So all that "gender fluidity" is a vast net transfer from the male brutalizer sector to the female victim sector. At some point it would seem likely to become a flood. After all, it's not so difficult to imagine, a fake gang-rape story or three down the line, elite universities requiring gender reassignment as a condition of continued male admission. In some sense, the swollen ranks of the transgendered seem to have intuited that the jig is up for guys. Might as well check out of the guy business entirely. I'm thinking of pitching Marvel Comics a new superhero group featuring a transwoman, an ambigender, a pangender, an intergender, a bigender and a 2-spirited called Ex-Men.


 
2016 watch (Romney edition)
Allah Pundit at Hot Air:
Every Romney story lately revolves around some nonsense about how he thinks the field — which consists of exactly zero candidates at the moment — is too unsettled, how his 20 or so prospective opponents are all conveniently fatally flawed, and therefore, goshdarnit, he might have no choice but to run to save the GOP. Let’s cut to it: The guy wants to run. He’s been running for 20 years. Whether that’s because his ambition is unquenchable, because he feels obliged to live his old man’s dream, or because it bugs him to see Jeb Bush and Christie supplant him potentially as de facto leader of the Republican establishment, I don’t know. I don’t begrudge him his personal psychodrama; he’s entitled to rationalize this impulse however he likes. But the media doesn’t need to play along with the “Romney as selfless savior” narrative.
The latest justification, aimed at Bush, is even more feeble than the idea that a field that includes Christie, Paul, Cruz, Walker, Jindal, and either Jeb or Marco Rubio, plus another half-dozen well known former governors or senators, can’t make Republican dreams come true like Mitt Romney, landslide loser of the last election, can.


 
Sensational headline is not even close to accurate
The Daily Beast: "Post Office Robbers More Wanted Than ISIS." DB explains:
John Joseph Wilson’s a middle-aged stickup goon who for three years was known to pack heat when he snatched loot from postal workers to grocery clerks throughout Maryland.
Massachusetts native Ahmad Abousamra is accused of turning against his country and landed on the FBI’s notorious “Most Wanted Terrorist” list for becoming a loyal member of the ruthless jihadi group ISIS. He’s now alleged to be masterminding the savage group’s slick propaganda machine from Aleppo, Syria.
While Wilson was captured recently, both he and Abousamra were simultaneously wanted by the federal government and splashed on posters to prod the public to bring them to justice for a sum of $50,000.
Which means that the robber was not more wanted but as wanted.
And the story compares just these two guys, even though there are other terrorists listed in the article who have million dollar bounties.


 
All politics is self-serving
But especially liberalism. Matthew Continetti in the Washington Free Beacon last week: "So much of contemporary liberalism reeks of a scheme by which already affluent and influential people increase their margins and extend their sway."


 
The Obamaconomy
Investor's Business Daily: "The Black-White Wealth Gap Has Widened Under Obama." IBD editorializes:
President Obama's subpar economic recovery has been bad for almost everyone, but it's been especially brutal to blacks and Hispanics, who've seen their wealth decline since he took office ...
Using data from Federal Reserve's once-every-three years Survey of Consumer Finances, Pew found that the median net worth of blacks dropped 34% during the Obama recovery, going from $16,600 in 2010 to $11,000 in 2013.
That's a steeper decline than occurred from 2007 to 2010, when blacks' net worth fell 13.5%.
In other words, black families suffered a bigger drop in net worth during Obama's recovery than they did during the Bush recession ...
Likewise, Hispanics saw their wealth erode under Obama, dropping 14.3% from 2010 to 2013. Their real median net worth is roughly back where it was in 1992, the researchers found.
In contrast, white wealth climbed — albeit only slightly at 2.4% — during Obama's recovery.


 
Exodus: Gods and Kings
Whenever Tyler Cowen reviews a movie, I want to see it, even if I didn't before even though Cowen begins his comments about Exodus: Gods and Kings: "Call me strange, but if I were casting for the character of Moses, I would not have selected Christian Bale."
I think his best review is of Her.
Not that I have seen these movies, but I want to see them.


Friday, December 12, 2014
 
One of the best headlines of the year
Quartz: "Strikes are slowing the already unhurried pace of Italian life."


 
What the hell?
Gizmodo: "Julian Assange Is Crowdfunding a Life-Size Statue of Himself."


 
Thought of the day
Rick McGinnis: "It's easy to forget that photography really isn't about what you're shooting but how light is reflecting back at a lens."


 
Journalists and double standards
An email dispatch from Progressive Conservative MPP Randy Hillier notes the Liberal government in Ontario has "introduced many [bills] this fall" and that Kathleen Wynne's government has "also stifled debate using time allocation motions in an unprecedented fashion," by putting "time allocations on close to half the bills." The Parliamentary Press Gallery has taken Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government in Ottawa to task for employing this tactic (and rightfully so) but this is the first I've heard about it occuring at Queen's Park. The QP Press Gallery is, obviously, made up of a different group of journalists, but it is curious how when the federal Tories restrict debate it's front-page news, yet when the provincial Liberals do it there isn't a peep. In both cases the government deserves condemnation, but in only one does it become an issue. The fact that it is such a big issue for one group of journalists should put it on the media radar elsewhere. Perhaps the Queen's Park reporters just don't care about the niceties of democracy. Or it could be that provincial political reporters just aren't as enterprising as their federal cousins and don't go looking for these types of stories. Or maybe, just maybe, it has to do with partisan bias.


 
Living with climate change
Bryan Caplan, in his on-going exploration of Alex Epstein's The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, says it is possible to believe in anthropormphic global warming and still support fossil fuels (as Epstein does):
It's a question of magnitudes, of course. Massive warming is deadly; modest warming is fine. Epstein thinks the magnitude of warming has been - and will remain - modest.
Caplan then briefly excerpts The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels to examine climate change models, indirectly raising an important question suggested by Alex Epstein: should we trust "internationally renowned" scholars who don't know what a "logarithmically decreasing effect" is? It's important to know that the science indicates "increasing CO2 warms at a decreasing rate." Climate change scholars and activists should be aware of that fact and its implications.
But back to Epstein's broader point: we can manage a little global warming and it looks like that's what we're going to get.


 
The practical side of talking about unrealistic ideas
The current Cato Unbound looks at the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, and while that sounds "out there" Jason Kuznicki explains the benefits of exploring a seemingly abstract or impractical topic:
Much more interesting to me at least is that SETI can serve as a springboard for discussing all kinds of important concepts in public policy. Our contributors this month - David Brin, Robin Hanson, Jerome H. Barkow, and Douglas Vakoch - have talked about the open society, cost-benefit analysis, evolutionary psychology, the hubris of experts, the narcissim of small differences, and even Pascal’s Wager (and what’s wrong with it).


 
Dumbest gift idea ever
Peepeeface.com is selling urinal cake screens with your favourite -- or least favourite -- team logo on it. My first thought: who has a urinal in their house? You can also urinate on Barack Obama, Osama bin Laden, Hillary Clinton, and George W. Bush, if that's your thing.


 
Slaves or citizens
The British government is looking into the National Health Service's reliance on foreign medical workers and the Daily Mail reports that some MPs are wondering whether the NHS should pay developing countries for taking their health workers? Tim Worstall wisely says no "Because people are not slaves of the country they happen to have been born in, not property for which compensation is payable."


 
Being offended is stupid
Illustrated in a greeting card by Political Humour.


 
'The pilots of Instagram'
Quartz: "beautiful views from the cockpit, violating rules of the air." But they are nice pics.


 
Shift in support against gun control
Andrew Malcolm of Investor's Business Daily notes a flip in support of gun rights and against gun control over the last two years:
This month Pew found 52% said protecting gun ownership rights was more important than restricting ownership, which 46% said was more important.
That's a substantial swing in 23 months. In the immediate emotional aftermath of Newtown, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden launched a major drive to push more gun ownership restrictions through Congress. Back then, gun control drew 51% support while gun rights drew only 45%. But the administration's plans still failed on Capitol Hill.
I'm not sure that is all that substantial. That's about evenly divided with one side or the other gaining a slight, temporary advantage.


 
2016 watch (Pataki edition)
New York Observer national political correspondent Lincoln Mitchell writes about former New York governor George Pataki as a possible Republican presidential nomination candidate:
Mr. Pataki’s chances would depend on who else runs. If Mr. Romney and Jeb Bush both run, the space for moderate establishment Republicans will be relatively limited, but if they both choose not to run Mr. Pataki will be in a much stronger position. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie would likely be a direct competitor, but Mr. Pataki probably sees himself as more polished, experienced and free of scandal than Mr. Christie. It is therefore possible that Mr. Pataki figures that if Romney and Bush don’t run, Christie will likely self-destruct leaving Pataki as the last moderate standing in a field of rightists or radical Libertarians.


 
2016 watch (millionaire's desire edition)
A CNBC poll of 500 millionaires found that 31% of them want Democrat Hillary Clinton to be president in 2016, followed by Republican Jeb Bush (18%), Republican Chris Christie (14%), and independent socialist Bernie Sanders (11%), who is rumoured to be considering a run for the Democratic presidential nomination.
(HT: Breitbart)


 
From 'Game On' to 'Bum Steers 2015'
The Daily Caller notes that the Texas Monthly has certainly changed its tune about former Texas state senator Wendy Davis. Love the new TM cover art.


Thursday, December 11, 2014
 
NFL Week 15
By my count 14 games have playoff implications this week, although unlike those great seven games in Week 14, they are not always between contenders. The New Orleans Saints take on the Chicago Bears in the Dikta Bowl next Monday night, but even though Da Bears and the 'Aints have identical 5-8 records, Chicago cannot make the playoffs while New Orleans is still the odds-on favourites to win not lose the NFC South. Therefore that is one of the games that have playoff implications. (Only two contests do not: New York Giants hosting the Washington Redskins and the New York Jets at Tennessee Titans, although that game between a pair of 2-11 teams is important for the race to the bottom to get the first pick overall in 2015.) If you count the San Francisco 49ers as a playoff contender (8.3% chance per Football Outsiders, 3% per 538), there are eight games between teams with a shot at the playoffs. If you don't count the Niners, that is still an important game, as San Fran travels to Seattle* where the Seahawks are making a late drive for the NFC West division title. Here are the four most best (read: a combination of significant and good) games of the weekend. If I didn't include good as part of the criteria, I'd put the Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams Thursday nighter on the list because this might be the easiest game left on the Arizona schedule and they could either clinch or begin a horrific decline down the stretch (or delay the inevitable, I guess). But a battle of Shaun Hill vs. Drew Stanton doesn't interest anyone, especially as they face some of the NFL's best defenses.
4. Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts: The surging Texans are a bit of a longshot to make the playoffs and yet if they beat the Colts they have a shot at the AFC South division title. This game is exciting because the Texans vastly improve their chances with a victory, the Colts clinch a playoff berth with a win, and the the contest between Houston's pass rush (with DE J.J. Watt) against Indianapolis QB Andrew Luck. Houston is 4-2 in their last six, with their four victories all double-digit wins (albeit over weak opponents). When Houston and Indy met in October, the Colts won 33-28 in Texas. Ryan Fitzpatrick can't throw it 25 times, so they'll need RB Arian Foster to have a good game. Fortunately for them, Indy's defense against the run (according to Football Outsiders) is ranked 27th in the league. This should be a close, meaningful game.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers at Atlanta Falcons: The Steelers have scored at least 30 points in more than half their games (7 of 13), but often struggle against weaker opponents. In the last four years, the Steelers have a losing record when favoured by more than seven points -- not a losing record against the spread, a losing record. This is a battle between good offenses (Pittsburgh is 3rd according to Football Outsiders, Atlanta is 9th) and terrible defenses (Pittsburgh is third last, Atlanta dead last according to Football Outsiders). The Steelers face three teams with legit playoff ambitions down the stretch and this contest against the 5-8 Falcons on the road rates as the easiest, so it is one they need to win to make the last two weeks a tiny bit more comfortable. The Falcons are tied with New Orleans and a half game ahead of the Carolina Panthers, so any win counts. Both of these teams have division titles in their sites, but unlike the Falcons, the Steelers have the safety valve of the wild card. The Steelers can win this game easily with the nearly unstoppable offense of QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Le'Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown up against the worst D in the NFL, but they probably just scrape out a late win.
2. Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers: The Bolts can still win the AFC West, but needs to win out and Denver needs to tank. That probably won't happen. San Diego needs this win more than Denver because it's tie-breakers are a mixed bag and the wild card has half of the conference involved at this point. Denver has its eyes on first overall in the AFC and probably needs to win out because they are on the wrong side of the tie-breaker with New England (they could also slide out of a first-round bye, but that seems unlikely). San Diego's overall ratings are not as impressive as the team has been lately and the beginning of the season because of their three-game slide in the middle. But Philip Rivers is capable of beating Denver in southern California. Denver, on the other hand, is statistically a great team (second overall in offense, third overall in defense) but lately a little turnover prone (11 in their last six games). Should be a great game on the field, with seeding implications for one team and simply making the playoff implications for the other.
1. Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles: The two NFC East rivals are tied 9-4, with the Eagles winning two weeks ago in Dallas, so the 'Boys need a victory in the City of Brotherly Love to not be on the wrong side of the first tie-breaker. Mark Sanchez showed Sunday that he might not have turned his career around and that he is nothing more than a thoroughly mediocre QB. Injuries are piling up for Philly. Dallas, on the other hand, has a great offense but a defense that has been exposed as poor in recent weeks, allowing 28 points or more in four of their last five games (the exception being the anemic Jacksonville Jaguars) and, of course, one of those were the Sanchez-led Eagles. Stat-wise, these two teams are probably quite close, but the hometown advantage puts the Eagles ahead by a hair. That will set up the Eagles for a decent chance at a first round bye and have the Cowboys fighting for a wild card spot with the Detroit Lions, whoever doesn't win the NFC West between the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks, and possibly the San Francisco 49ers. If Dallas scores the upset, the the wild card becomes a four/five game race with two of them battling for divisional supremacy, too, but opening up the bye possibilities for several teams. Romo and Sanchez on prime time opens numerous choke/embarrassment narratives, not all of them true, but all very entertaining. Philly by a field goal.
* It's funny that the Sunday night game between the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers, which should be a good game, and was so highly anticipated before the season starts, would rank as the sixth best game this weekend at best. The Cincinnati Bengals hosting the Cleveland Browns (with Johnny Manziel starting) and New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins -- all teams that still have playoff hopes -- would have claims to the sixth best game of the weekend. So the Niners-'Hawks might only be the eighth best game of the weekend, and yet it should be a great game, silly storylines (coach Jim Harbaugh being traded) notwithstanding).
Correction: The 49ers and Seahawks are not the Sunday night game, the Cowboys-Eagles are. My bad. Still, everyone considered this a marquee game before the season started.


 
Why be against food banks?
Whenever a poverty group issues a report on food bank use, the implication is that food banks represent a breakdown of society and a failure of the state to provide sufficient payouts through redistribution for families and individuals to buy their own food. (See, for example, the Ontario Association of Food Banks 2014 Hunger Report.) I don't get it, and neither does Tim Worstall who says that there is no reason to favour the state over private charity:
A more general answer would be that what is this insistence that rights, whatever they are, must be supplied by the state? The right to a family life does not mean that David Cameron has to find me a comely wife does it? ... In fact, we don’t care in the slightest who provides whatever it is that enables a right to be enjoyed: only that that right can indeed be enjoyed. And so it should be with food.
It’s simply astonishing that people are regarding food banks as some bad idea. They are instead a glorious example of the way in which us humans are sociable, societal, beings who really will go out of our way to help our fellow. What the heck is wrong with Burke’s little platoons anyway, why this insistence that what people will happily do unprompted must be replaced by bureaucrats?
Food banks are indicative of a good thing in society (some folks recognizing the Biblical injunction to be their brother's keeper), rather than a failure of society.


 
It's not a wardrobe malfunction
A slit in a skirt that potentially exposes the vagina is an outfit that is almost certainly going to be problematic to sit it. There is no reason for celebrities who wear this outfits to be surprised at the potential for immodesty. Actress Olivia Munn is the latest victim of what journalists insist on calling wardrobe malfunctions, but are actually clothes operating the way they are supposed to. In the video embedded in the Daily Caller story, Munn looks genuinely concerned that she cannot sit without exposing herself, but she should have known that the moment she put on that dress.
If I could retire one term, it would be wardrobe malfunction.


 
Tight jeans are unIslamic
Tight jeans are the latest victim of jihad in Indonesia. Asia News, via Blazing Cat Fur, reports:
A new extremist Islamic group active in Aceh, in particular in the district of North Aceh, and going by the name of Tadkiiratul Ummah, has shot into the limelight recently thanks to its “new” campaign of “moralization” according to the dictates of sharia, Islamic law. Its members are “striking out” at girls and young women who are guilty of wearing “too tight pants”. Instead of limiting themselves to a warning, as had already occurred in the past in the region, the militants spray the offender’s pants with indelible color spray and paint.


 
We should be allowed to record what police do
Kevin D. Williamson says that the public, including those being arrested by the police, should have a right to take a video or audio recording of the interaction:
Pass a law explicitly recognizing the right of citizens to record police officers. It is important to note that such a law would recognize a right rather than create one: Government has no legitimate power to forbid free people from using cameras, audio-recording devices, or telephones in public to document the business of government employees.
As Williamson says, police do not have an expectation of privacy when carrying out their duties.
Williamson also says there is no valid argument against recording the actions of the police:
There is no legitimate reason to stop citizens from documenting their encounters with police. The only rationale for doing so — not that the politicians will ever say so — is to eliminate evidence of police misconduct before it exists, giving police forces greater freedom in bullying and browbeating citizens who may or may not have committed a crime. While it may be the case that only a tiny minority of police officers engage in such misconduct, such abuses are not really all that rare, and not nearly so rare as we would like them to be ...
[O]ur rights have to be actively defended every minute of every day. Recording our encounters with the agents of the state is one way to do that, a sensible one that if made universal — for example, by mandating police body cameras — would do a great deal to demystify events such as the Michael Brown shootings, to say nothing of the million less dramatic encounters between citizen and state that transpire every day.
Liberty needs to be protected, and one way of doing that is to allow the recording of the police.
Williamson also has scorn for the type of conservative who instinctively defends the police and the "unfortunate tendency" of their "assumption that the only thing to do when a police officer gives you an order is to comply — immediately, obediently, and meekly." Those are not the actions of free citizens. Williamson rightly says that "boot-licking" is not part of the American tradition which conservatives seek to conserve. I think that most conservatives are hypocritically complacent about the abuses of police because they really have no problem with the state harassing poor and black people, who in the conservative worldview are the only people who break the law; the problem is, as the state grows ever larger, the interactions between police and citizens are more likely to include fine, up-standing, white, middle-class individuals. But the view that police are the defenders of civilized values who would never abuse their power is so ingrained in the conservative DNA, that the Right is too often callous about the victims of police misconduct. Perhaps if there were more recordings of police, including the routine recording through mandated police body cameras, conservatives would see for themselves that not every police interaction with suspected criminals is so benevolent.


 
Too much government means full prisons
George Will:
Overcriminalization has become a national plague. And when more and more behaviors are criminalized, there are more and more occasions for police, who embody the state’s monopoly on legitimate violence, and who fully participate in humanity’s flaws, to make mistakes.
Harvey Silverglate, a civil-liberties attorney, titled his 2009 book Three Felonies a Day to indicate how easily we can fall afoul of America’s metastasizing body of criminal laws. Professor Douglas Husak of Rutgers University says that approximately 70 percent of American adults have, usually unwittingly, committed a crime for which they could be imprisoned. In his 2008 book, Overcriminalization: The Limits of the Criminal Law, Husak says that more than half of the 3,000 federal crimes — itself a dismaying number — are found not in the Federal Criminal Code but in numerous other statutes. And, by one estimate, at least 300,000 federal regulations can be enforced by agencies wielding criminal punishments ...
Society needs laws; therefore it needs law enforcement. But “overcriminalization matters” because “making an offense criminal also means that the police will go armed to enforce it.” ...
The scandal of mass incarceration is partly produced by the frivolity of the political class, which uses the multiplication of criminal offenses as a form of moral exhibitionism.


 
Beyond their competency
BBC: "group of Catholic bishops call for end to fossil fuels." The BBC reports that ahead of a UN meeting in Lima, a group of bishops from Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America are calling for action on climate change:
The Bishops say that solving the climate challenge with a new treaty will be a key step towards a new economic approach.
"In viewing objectively the destructive effects of a financial and economic order based on the primacy of the market and profit, which has failed to put the human being and the common good at the heart of the economy, one must recognise the systemic failures of this order and the need for a new financial and economic order."
Just shut up. Neither economic systems nor the environment is within the purview of Catholic teaching.


 
Three cheers for Ted Cruz
Breitbart reports that Ted Cruz said, "Torture is wrong, unambiguously. Period. The end. Civilized nations do not engage in torture and Congress has rightly acted to make absolutely clear that the United States will not engage in torture." I guess that means he won't get the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.


 
Barack Obama gets a tough (but silly) question
Legal Insurrection notes that Univision asked President Barack Obama why he hasn't tackled white privilege.