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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Thursday, July 24, 2014
 
Happy blogging anniversary to Kathy Shaidle
I'm sure the world is a better place and I know my online life is better because of Kathy Shaidle's Five Feet of Fury (and before that, Relapsed Catholic). I check a lot of blogs regularly but FFF is one of the three I refresh repeatedly throughout the day. She says the things most on the right think but are too scared to utter publicly. She has been blogging for 14 years now. Congratulations on maintaining a high level of excellence for so long. And thank you, Kathy, for blogging.
When people ask me how they can support my blog, I always tell them to financially support Five Feet of Fury and Blazing Cat Fur or buy her book. They are still being sued and need the help. Perhaps a modest donation of 14 dollars on the 14th blogversary.


 
Illiberalism
William Anthony Hay reviews Edmund Fawcett's Liberalism: The Life of an Idea in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. Fawcett doesn't understand how modern liberalism became illiberal -- or even that this phenomenon occurred -- but Hay does:
In the 19th century, liberal attacks on authority dismayed the traditionalist members of society. Little could they imagine what was to come—not only, in the modern era, a celebration of radical individual autonomy but a new sort of orthodoxy enforced with Jacobin severity. Mr. Fawcett sees a backlash against liberalism in the anti-immigrant views of Marine le Pen in France and in the views of America's "resentful conservatives," who resist, say, the celebration of multiculturalism or the normalizing of homosexuality and legalizing of abortion. He neglects to mention another sort of backlash: the tendency of "liberals" today to assume that whatever they hold to be in error has no rights—a truly illiberal idea.


 
Don't fly Delta
Michael Munger had terrible flight with Delta when he went first class and it is worth reading his bullet-pointed rant about everything that went wrong. But this is the bottom line and from everything I've experienced and heard from others, this rings true:
Delta is notorious for its indifference to customer service, but this was amazing. If you fly Southwest, you'll notice that they have the door open and people filing out within two minutes of landing. Delta wants to show you who's boss. They are. Apparently, this happens a lot.
I've always had great service with Southwest and I've only taken Delta once but it was lousy. And if memory serves me correctly, Delta is usually more expensive.


 
IRS scandals pile up
First the Internal Revenue Service harasses conservative groups for partisan purposes and then it lies about losing emails that may expose the scandal as being every bit as bad as many of expect it to be. But lost emails? Really? As Investor's Business Daily editorializes: "The IRS is counting on the general public's relative ignorance of computer technology to believe its smoke-and-mirror cover-up." IBD summarizes six basic questions posed by the International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers, experts in the area of computer hardware and date retention:
1. First, what happened to the IRS' IT asset managers who seemingly vanished during this critical period? IAITAM , which runs the only worldwide certification program for IT asset managers, says its records show that at least three IRS IT asset managers were moved out of their positions at the time of the May 2013 inspector general's report that detailed the agency's targeting practices. What can they tell us?
2. The hard drives in question are federal property and cannot be destroyed or recycled without proper documentation. "Proper IT asset management requires clear proof and records of destruction when drives are wiped or destroyed," notes IAITAM President and founder Barbara Rembiesa. Where are these records?
3. IAITAM asks if the drives were destroyed by an outside IT asset destruction unit, a not-unusual practice among federal agencies. If so, it adds an entire second layer of documentation of the destruction of these assets, including who approved it.
4. What are the IRS' specific policies and procedures on document retention when hard drives are damaged or destroyed? In most large private-sector organizations, hard drives and computers are just not tossed in the dumpster or dropped off at the local recycling center until recovery of the lost data is assured.
5. What is the disaster recovery policy at the IRS, an agency responsible for our most sensitive tax information, particularly in light of its statistically implausible number of hard drive crashes?
6. Where are Lerner's emails from her BlackBerry device and what is on the enterprise server? Some have even suggested Lerner may have off-loaded her emails to what is known as a USB flash drive and still has them in her possession, another federal offense.


 
The Obama recovery
John Merline in Investor's Business Daily:
The IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism Index, for example, is lower today (at 45.6) than it was in June 2009, the month that marks the official end of the last recession (when it stood at 50.8).
Just 38% of the public say they're satisfied with the direction of the country, down from 51.5% in June 2009. Just 19% think the economy will improve over the next six months, compared with 34% five years ago.
Even more startling, five years after the recession ended, 45% think the economy is still contracting; more than half (52%) say it isn't improving.
What do these people know that Obama doesn't?
What Obama didn't say in his speech is that the recovery he has overseen — which started six months after he took office — also has been the weakest on record since World War II.
Real per-capita GDP is up just 6% since the recovery started, and if the economy had merely kept pace with the average postwar recovery, total GDP would be $1.6 trillion bigger than it is today.
Job growth is about half the average pace of the previous 10 recoveries — which translates into 7 million fewer jobs than an average recovery would have produced.
Nor did Obama point out that, as a result of this anemic growth, many Americans are doing a whole lot worse than they were when Obama's economic recovery began five years ago.
Real median household income is down almost 4% from where it was when the recovery started in June 2009, according to Sentier Research, which tracks such data monthly.
And Merline goes on and on about how the Obama recovery ain't recovering.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014
 
Sex-positive activist Trish Kelly drops out of race for Vancouver Parks Board after video of her talking about masturbation goes public
Eye on a Crazy Planet responds: "I thought being a jerk-off was a prerequisite for being a politician." Stacy McCain wonders if someone of "solitary" habits can really be part of the LGBT community. As The Interim reported in June, trans issues are important to Vancouver Parks.


 
'Senate spending down $1 million over same period a year ago'
The Ottawa Citizen reports:
Between March and May of 2013, the Senate’s administration approved slightly more than $5.5 million in expense claims. During the same period this year – the most recent numbers available – the Senate’s finance officials processed slightly more than $4.5 million in claims.
It's amazing what the Senate can save when they aren't paying for Pam Wallin's and Mike Duffy's travel and food. Just joking.
However, as the Citizen also reports, after Senate expense claims initially fell after new audit procedures were imposed in mid-2013, they are rising again.


 
At least they are finally being honest about their agenda
The Daily Caller: "130 Environmental Groups Call For An End To Capitalism." The Daily Caller reports:
“The structural causes of climate change are linked to the current capitalist hegemonic system,” reads the final draft of the Margarita Declaration, presented at a conference including about 130 environmental groups.


 
Help Debra Harrell
Debra Harrell is the South Carolina mom charged with child abandonment after letting her nine-year-old daughter play at the park on her own. Harrell spent a night in jail while her daughter remained in state custody for 17 days. Harrell has been fired by her employer, McDonalds. You can assist Harrell through this website. I hope she wins her criminal case and then sues the hell out of everyone.


 
2016 watch (Michelle Bachmann edition)
Scott Conroy of Real Clear Politics reports:
Though set to retire from the U.S. House after her term expires at the end of this year, Michele Bachmann may not be done with electoral politics.
The Minnesota congresswoman and 2012 Republican presidential candidate told RealClearPolitics on Tuesday that she is considering a second White House run.
Bachmann ran a longshot campaign in January 2012, finishing sixth in the Republican Iowa caucuses six months after winning the Ames Straw poll in August 2011, and she dropped out of the GOP primaries the next day. Conroy does not report what compelling reason there is for Bachmann to run, but she does promise a better campaign infrastructure if she takes a second crack at the nomination in 2016.


 
2016 watch (Paul Ryan edition)
Hot Air's Noah Rothman on Rep. Paul Ryan's rebranding of himself:
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the Republican Party’s bookish former vice presidential nominee, is starting to look like a candidate for the presidency in 2016.
In August, Ryan will publish a book with a distinctly campaign-themed title, The Way Forward. On Tuesday, the Federal Election Commission approved of a nationwide book tour sponsored by Ryan’s publisher and the Political Action Committee the Wisconsin congressman founded, Prosperity Action PAC ...
This development comes as the congressman prepares to deliver a major address on conservative social policy. Preliminary reports indicate that Ryan hopes to shape the conservative approach to a variety of contentious socio-economic issues including poverty, education, tax and regulation policy, criminal justice reform, and the consolidation and streamlining of social safety net programs.
Interestingly, Ryan, a fiscal conservative known for advocating budgetary restraint, will be advocating for smarter spending rather than austerity in his speech.


 
Midterm elections
The National Journal's Josh Kraushaar on the uphill battle for Republicans to win the Senate which would require a net gain of seven seats:
To accomplish that feat, Republicans would need to oust four sitting Democratic senators. Over the last decade, Republicans have defeated only three sitting senators (Tom Daschle in South Dakota, Russ Feingold in Wisconsin, and Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas).
Recent history does not prove that defeating four incumbent Democrats is impossible, but that doing so is highly unlikely, at least within a vacuum. Kraushaar also provides reasons for thinking that 2014 might be different for Democratic incumbents:
I've argued before that the likelihood of 2014 being a wave election has been rising, given the president's consistently low approval ratings and the fact that Republicans are running evenly on the generic ballot (which usually translates into a clear GOP edge) and that the right-track/wrong-track numbers are near historic lows. All these big-picture signs are ominous for the party in power.


 
Wishful thinking?
David Catron at PJ Media: "Obamacare Slowly Succumbs to Its Birth Defects."
Relatedly, Cafe Hayek has several links to commentary on the Halbig decision.


 
Sadly, it's only The Onion
From The Onion: "Palestinians Starting To Have Mixed Feelings About Being Used As Human Shields." It's too bad this isn't true:
Saying they’ve begun to reevaluate their stance as the latest outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian violence has escalated, hundreds of residents of the Gaza Strip told reporters Friday they are starting to have mixed feelings about Hamas using them and their loved ones as human shields. “At this point, I have to say I’m pretty much on the fence about having militants strategically store their missile batteries in and around my home, which Israel will almost certainly want to bomb,” said Azzam al-Salhi, explaining that, while he’s always understood Hamas’ reliance on guerilla tactics to perpetuate the decades-long fight against Israel, he has recently soured on the idea of going to bed every night facing the real prospect of being incinerated by an Israeli airstrike intended for a Hamas arms cache.
Not that a Palestinian who thought this would ever go on the record to state it. But you have to wonder, what do everyday Palestinians actually think and feel about being used as human shields? When I went to Israel in 2008 and talked to Palestinians in and near Bethlehem, they all seethed with hatred for Israel and the Jews and blamed them for everything. And you have to wonder about a culture where we've seen mothers interviewed saying they want their young boys to grow up to be suicide bombers. The Hamas propaganda machine no doubt indoctrinates the locals that Israeli retaliation is actually aggression and the death of a few innocents is a price worth paying to end "Israeli oppression."
Also from The Onion: "Everyone In Middle East Given Own Country In 317,000,000-State Solution." This is funny:
“Given the incredibly complex and volatile sociopolitical landscape throughout the Middle East, a 317,000,000-state solution is the only realistic means of achieving lasting peace,” said U.N. Security Council president Eugène-Richard Gasana, noting that the treaty was reached after lengthy negotiations, which brought together each of the more than 300,000,000 independent factions. “We are pleased to finally come to an agreement that will hopefully stabilize the entire region and adequately satisfy the demands of all parties.”
“We are confident that with every man, woman, and child possessing his or her own autonomous area of sovereignty to run as he or she sees fit, we will avoid many of the conflicts that have plagued this part of the world for centuries and left countless dead,” Gasana added. “This is a bright new future for the Middle East.”


 
On this day in Canadian history
On July 23, 1935, Walter Lea's Liberal Party returned to power after a four-year absence, winning all 30 seats in the legislative assembly. It is the first time in the British Commonwealth that a government would face no opposition in an elected chamber and one of only two times in Canadian history (Frank McKenna's Liberals won all 58 seats in New Brunswick in 1987).


 
David Warren challenges media to cover anti-Christian persecution in Muslim Middle East
David Warren has a tremendous essay on news judgments: Kim Kardashian's dress gets more coverage than the "final solution" for Christians in Iraq. He writes about the lazy cliches that journalists use to describe persecution by Muslims rather than digging and understanding atrocities. And he concludes with a thought experiment:
The area and population of the territory the “Caliphate” now controls in Syria and Iraq being currently roughly equal to that controlled by the government of Israel, let us imagine what the “coverage” would be, had the Israelis told all Muslims to run for their lives; had they announced that everything Muslims owned now belonged to the Israeli government; and that any Muslim still found within Israel’s de facto borders after twenty-four hours would be put to the sword. Questions:
Do you think this story might make the front page?
Do you think the media would seek more information?
Do you think the matter might remain news for more than one day?


 
Rick McGinnis covers the Honda Indy
Rick McGinnis writes about the Honda Indy at his photo blog and BlogTO. Great pics and reporting; from his BlogTO piece:
The Pirelli series was a particular crowd pleaser, filled with Mustangs, Lambos, Ferraris, Audis and even a couple of Kias, painted in colour schemes that ranged from restrained to gaudy, driving in a dense pack that sometimes didn't make it through the turns intact. A pair of Cadillacs announced their presence before they could be seen with a howling engine noise that could be felt from your chest to your fillings, but the prettiest car by far was the GT Class-winning Dodge Viper raced by Montreal's Kuno Wittmer. In bright red with two wide white stripes running down the hood, it proved when it comes to race car liveries, you can't beat the classics.


 
'Underpunishment and overincarceration'
Reihen Salam at NRO's Agenda has a thoughtful column that should lead conservatives to rethink some of its tough-on-crime approach that isn't working and can lead to underpunishment and too much government:
How can we both have underpunishment and overincarceration? Several mechanism are at play. Mandatory minimum sentences all but guarantee that prison sentences for some offenders are longer than is strictly necessary to incapacitate potential offenders or to deter future crime. Other perpetrators, meanwhile, get away with their crimes because crime-fighting resources are stretched thin and the residents of violent-plagued communities often fail to cooperate with the police out of fear of reprisals or the belief that doing so is futile, an attitude that contributes to underpunishment.


 
'It’s Time for Conservatives to Stop Defending Police'
Conservative writer and lawyer A.J. Delgado in NRO:
For decades, conservatives have served as stalwart defenders of police forces. There have been many good reasons for this, including long memories of the post-countercultural crime wave that devastated, and in some cases destroyed, many American cities; conservatives’ penchant for law and order; and Americans’ widely shared disdain for the cops’ usual opponents. (“Dirty hippies being arrested? Good!” is not an uncommon sentiment.) Although tough-on-crime appeals have never been limited to conservative politicians or voters, conservatives instinctively (and, it turned out, correctly) understood that the way to reduce crime is to have more cops making more arrests, not more sociologists identifying more root causes. Conservatives are rightly proud to have supported police officers doing their jobs at times when progressives were on the other side.
But it’s time for conservatives’ unconditional love affair with the police to end.
Let’s get the obligatory disclaimer out of the way: Yes, many police officers do heroic works and, yes, many are upstanding individuals who serve the community bravely and capably.
But respecting good police work means being willing to speak out against civil-liberties-breaking thugs who shrug their shoulders after brutalizing citizens.
She has a very short list of representative examples of police violations of the property rights of non-suspects and innocent bystanders and Delgado rightly notes that one positive development in the Right's new-found questioning of the police is the Tea Party's "emphasis on constitutionalism" which has "refocused attention on the Bill of Rights."


 
Opportunity feminism vs. gender feminism
Ravishly interviews Christina Hoff Sommers, author of the new book Freedom Feminism, in which the author makes an important distinction:
Classical equality of opportunity feminism (I call it “freedom feminism”) is a legitimate human rights movement. There were arbitrary laws holding women back. Women organized and set things right. But, as I try to show in my writings, that reality-based movement has been hijacked by male-averse, conspiracy-minded activists. (I call them “gender feminists"). American women happen to be among the freest, most self-determining people in the world, but the gender feminists seek to liberate them from an all-encompassing “patriarchal rape culture.” What is their evidence that such a culture exits? They point to their own research as proof. But most of that research, including their famous statistics on women’s victimization, is spurious. Gender feminism is the opposite of an evidence-based movement—it’s propaganda based. Social movements fueled by paranoia and fantasy tend to be toxic.
When I work with female students I always recommend CHS's 1994 Who Stole Feminism?, for which I am usually thanked.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014
 
Police behaving reasonably
It shouldn't be news, but it is. Lenore Skenazy relates a good news story about police exercising common sense in dealing with the mother of a child who wandered near the road and the officer who was extra kind and went beyond the call of duty.


 
New WaPo venture
The Washington Post launched Storyline:
The Washington Post today launches ‘Storyline’, a new digital initiative led by economics writer Jim Tankersley examining how U.S. public policy is affecting the lives of Americans across the nation. Storyline will feature a mix of narrative writing, data journalism and visual storytelling to explore big questions like: who’s being lifted by the economic recovery, and who’s left waiting for it to kick in? How are Americans adapting to life under Washington’s immigration deadlock?
I am of three minds on this one. First, stories can show how the human side of larger issues. Second, anecdote is not actually the singular of data. Three, by their very nature anecdotes are very selective and can thus mislead and they can mislead with conscious or unconscious bias.


 
Steyn on the Malaysian air tragedy and Ukraine
Mark Steyn in the same piece noted below (Steyn on Hamas) discusses shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17:
The least worst explanation for what happened to MH17 is that "pro-Russian separatists" mistook it for a Ukrainian military transport and blew it out of the sky: A horrible accident in the fog of war. If that was the agreed storyline, you'd be anxious to make yourself respectable again in the eyes of the world as quickly as possible: You'd seal off the crash site until the international investigators and representatives of the governments who'd lost citizens could get there and retrieve the black boxes and recover the bodies. Instead, as I discussed on Rush on Friday, the "separatists" immediately refused to allow anybody near the site and began looting and defiling the bodies, stealing cash and credit cards and trophies and leaving what's left decomposing out in a field for anyone with a cellphone to shoot souvenir snaps of. As Greg Gutfeld says, "That field is no longer a war zone. It is an international crime scene."
Why? Why would you do this? Why, having "accidentally" shot down a passenger jet, would you then deliberately desecrate and dishonor the dead?
In his columns, blog posts, and radio appearances (as guest and host), Mark Steyn routinely makes observations and asks questions that no other journalist does.


 
Steyn on Hamas
Mark Steyn: "In the Sixties and Seventies, many anti-colonial movements used terrorism to advance their nationalist goals. Hamas uses nationalism to advance its terrorist goals." Or as Kathy Shaidle says: "Muslims: Even worse than the Irish!"


 
U.S. post-recession unemployment
Despite the hope and change delivered shortly after the 2008 financial crisis and accompanying recession, the current recovery is by far the worst American recovery in terms of duration of unemployment since World War II.


 
The Washington Redskins and busy-body politicians
The National Journal has a story on how few politicians, especially Democratic politicians, are willing to publicly defend the name of the NFL's Washington Redskins or even the right of the team owner, Dan Snyder, to run his business without politicians telling him what to name it. Except the story has a long list of Democrats who won't stick their nose in the NFL's business including a caucus of Virginia lawmakers, a local city councilor, and the governor of Virginia. Yet according to the article, a notable exception to the growing anti-Redskins tide in the party is Democratic operative Ben Tribbett -- the man who made hay of Senator George Allen using the term macaca. This quote from Tribett is important: "The only people I've ever heard called 'redskins' in my life are members of the Washington Redskins." I've heard a few racial epithets in my time and I've never heard the term redskin used to describe Indians. Never. So how derogatory is it if no one uses it in an inflammatory way?
Peter King of Sports Illustrated says he thinks the 'Skins will be renamed by 2016, which Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio says is not just a guess but probably a musing following King acquiring some piece of insider information. According to the PFT comments (as always) the fans seems to side pretty strongly against those who want change.


 
The welfare-weed state
NRO's Jillian Kay Melchior:
For the past six months, welfare beneficiaries in Colorado have repeatedly withdrawn their cash benefits at marijuana retailers and dispensaries, according to a new analysis by National Review Online. Such apparent abuses have caught the eye of Colorado’s executive and legislative powers alike, and the state has launched an effort to curb them.
At least 259 times in the first six months of legalized recreational marijuana in Colorado, beneficiaries used their electronic-benefit transfer (EBT) cards to access public assistance at weed retailers and dispensaries, withdrawing a total of $23,608.53 in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash, NRO’s examination found.
In 2012, the latest fiscal year available, Colorado used $124 million in TANF money from the federal government, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Withdrawals at marijuana establishments represented only a tiny fraction of the more than 500,000 total EBT transactions that have occurred since recreational weed became legal in Colorado on January 1. And it’s impossible to determine how much of that welfare money actually was used to buy pot, given that cash benefits are fungible and some of these establishments also sell groceries.
Nevertheless, welfare withdrawals at weed stores are coming under increasing scrutiny, and Colorado’s legislators and bureaucrats are beginning an effort to restrict abuses.


 
Would you like some f---ing fries with that?
The Parents Television Council released its 2014 list of "Top Sponsors of Sexual Content, Suggestive Dialogue, Foul Language, and Violence," that exposes the companies that buy commercial time on the most offensive broadcasted content and surprisingly McDonalds is at the top of the list for sexual content, suggestive dialogue and foul language, while Subway is the top sponsor of violent content (and McDonalds isn't even on that item's top ten list). The PTC suggests that the family-friendly fast food chain's earnings have declined because it has moved to buying commercials during shows that feature more "adult" fare.


 
On this day in Canadian history
On July 22, 1950, former prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King died from pneumonia. King is the longest serving prime minister at 21 years, 154 days over three stints from 19201-1948.


 
The foil to the Harlem Globetrotters
Louis Herman 'Red' Klotz died this week. He was the founder and coach of the Washington Generals (and various other teams that lost to the Globetrotters), as well as the third-shortest person to play in an NBA game. Joe Ponsnanski wrote a wonderful essay on Klotz that is worth reading, but below is a nice description of the Generals:
The Washington Generals always lose: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. They lose on indoor basketball courts and outdoor courts. They lose on ships, they lose on aircraft carriers,they lose in prisons, and they lose on the back of trucks. They lose in front of popes, in front of kings, in front of queens, in front of dictators, in front of presidents. They lose in Beijing, and they lose in Moscow, and they lose in Rio, and they lose in Mumbai, and they lose in Tulsa. They lose as the Washington Generals, mostly, but they also lose under different names like the Boston Shamrocks or the Atlantic City Seagulls or the Baltimore Rockets or the Chicago Demons or the New Jersey Reds or New York Nationals or an all-encompassing name of losers: The International All-Stars. In the end, aren’t we all International All-Stars just trying to win one time? They even lose on ice. Last year, the Generals played the Harlem Globetrotters in a basketball game on an ice pond in Central Park, and before the game their coach and founder Red Klotz, perhaps rashly, boasted: “We excel on ice.” They lost, of course. The Washington Generals always lose ...
There are rules for being a Washington General (to use their most general name).
1. The Generals are allowed — expected, even — to play completely legit on offense. There are no limitations. If they can beat the Globetrotters defense, they can score every single time down the court.
2. The Generals are allowed to play defense as hard as they want when the Globetrotters are not in one of their reams. For about 40% of every Globetrotters game, the basketball is straight up.
3. When the Globetrotters DO go into one of their reams, it is the Generals’ responsibility to play the stooge and make the Globetrotters look as good as possible. They are expected to play their roles with gusto and verve. Red Klotz had his pants pulled down thousands of times — he would always take pants duty first few games of every tour to give the other players time to settle in. He always tried to look as shocked and embarrassed as possible. In his mind, Red often said, his job was to play Ginger Rogers to the Globetrotters’ Fred Astaire, that is to do everything the Globetrotters did with the same joy and expertise but to do it going backward.
The Globetrotters might tell you that making them look good was the Generals’ No. 1 job, but Klotz never saw it that way. That’s what he meant by “play to win.” Their job was to bring the best out of the Globetrotters — the best basketball, the most inspired effort, the most intense joy, the most heated competition. He told his players that if the Globetrotters got sloppy passing the ball around in their famous weave offense, the Generals should “slap the ball away.” He told them if the Globetrotters got lazy on defense, they should drive the ball right down their throats. Klotz once tried this himself many years before. He sensed some sluggishness in the Globetrotters man-to-man defense, and he attacked the basket, and he was in the clear, and he shot a layup — only then he looked up and saw a giant hand way above his head. The giant hand caught the ball in midair before it reached the rip and held it there for a moment.
Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight looks at the statistical probability of going 6-14,000 (approximately) as Klotz's teasms, did.


 
Free New Yorker online for the Summer
The New Yorker has a new design and everyone can access it for the next month:
Beginning this week, absolutely everything new that we publish—the work in the print magazine and the work published online only—will be unlocked. All of it, for everyone. Call it a summer-long free-for-all. Non-subscribers will get a chance to explore The New Yorker fully and freely, just as subscribers always have. Then, in the fall, we move to a second phase, implementing an easier-to-use, logical, metered paywall. Subscribers will continue to have access to everything; non-subscribers will be able to read a limited number of pieces—and then it’s up to them to subscribe ...
The new design also allows us to reach back and highlight work from our archives more easily. Beginning this week, every story we’ve published since 2007 will be available on newyorker.com, in the same easy-to-read format as the new work we’re publishing.


 
'Is Globalization Reducing Absolute Poverty?'
Yes, Andreas Bergh and Therese Nilsson, a pair of Swedish academics, answer in the forthcoming edition of World Development. In other words, free markets help the poor. Some of Nilsson's previous work suggest that globalization increases tolerance. And Bergh's new book on the Swedish welfare state interests me a lot.


Monday, July 21, 2014
 
Steyn remembers Garner
Mark Steyn on the television, movie, and commercial career of the late James Garner.


 
2016 watch (Joe Manchin edition)
In The Corner Joel Gehrke notes that Senator Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) isn't ruling out the possibility of running for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. He's way too moderate to win the Democrat nod, but he would be a refreshing voice to have in the field. He could very well be right in his analysis of 2016: "There's a lot of good people. You're going to see a lot. It's going to be, I think, an exciting time, I think, more so than people think." In other words, don't get ready to crown Hillary Clinton quite yet and her challengers may well number more than Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden.


 
Apparently reindeer like global warming
Small Dead Animals points to a study that a population of Norwegian reindeer increased by 30% in a single year and they are "thriving because of rising temperatures" which follows a trend in which "the population of reindeer in Svalbard had increased in close parallel with winter warming in the last 35 years, growing from an average of around 600 animals in the early 1980s to an average of around 1,000 today." I'm sure that eventually climate change worriers will suggest that growing animal populations will be a bad thing if found to be the result of global warming. The article at Phys.org reports, "This is one of only a very few studies on animal populations and climate change that involves animals being physically counted annually rather than estimated." I'm not against the use of estimates although many are based on models which might have built-in biases whereas head-counting tends to be more accurate and bias-free.


 
Blood Feud
I read fewer books on current U.S. politics than I did five, ten and 20 years ago (there has been a steady decline) but I'm intrigued and may read Edward Klein’s Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. The Obamas. Klein is interviewed by PJ Media's Ed Driscoll and it was the second interview by the author that both impressed me and aroused my curiosity. While the book seems a little gossipy, his previous offerings on Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and various Kennedys provided insights and revelations that were often later confirmed.


 
Libertarians and drug legalization
P.J. O'Rourke talks about libertarians in general and has this line, not uncommon for libertarians: "And we lost the drug war. Let’s surrender gracefully (and grab legalization tax revenue ...)." I find that line odd, okay for self-styled liberals but not for libertarians who should be more anti-tax than to base an argument for something on its tax revenue possibilities.


 
On this day in Canadian history
On July 21, 1911, communication theorist Marshall McLuhan was born in Edmonton, Alberta. A devout Catholic, he taught at the University of Toronto's St. Michael's College from 1946 through 1979 save for one year at Fordham, and founded the Centre for Culture and Technology. He is the author of books such as Understanding Media and The Mechanical Bride and is famous for phrases such as "the medium is the message" and "the global village."


 
Merit-based school admissions = rich-get-richer: de Blasio
The New York Post reports:
New York’s specialized high schools, including Stuyvesant and the equally storied Bronx High School of Science, along with Brooklyn Technical High School and five smaller schools, have produced 14 Nobel laureates — more than most countries.
For more than 70 years, admission to these schools has been based upon a competitive examination of math, verbal and logical reasoning skills. In 1971, the state legislature, heading off city efforts to scrap the merit selection test as culturally biased against minorities, reaffirmed that admission to the schools be based on the competitive exam.
But now, troubled by declining black and Hispanic enrollment at the schools, opponents of the exam have resurfaced. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has filed a civil-rights complaint challenging the admissions process. A bill in Albany to eliminate the test requirement has garnered the support of Sheldon Silver, the powerful Assembly speaker.
And new mayor Bill de Blasio, whose son, Dante, attends Brooklyn Tech, has called for changing the admissions criteria. The mayor argues that relying solely on the test creates a “rich-get-richer” dynamic that benefits the wealthy, who can afford expensive test preparation.
The Post provides evidence that counters the rich-get-richer narrative. It also reports that Asians make up 13% of New York City's population but comprise 73% of the elite school population.


 
Israel defending itself
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this weekend: "We are in a war for our home. Our forces are active now in the field, acting with professionalism, determination, great power—great firepower and great spiritual power. I am aware of your fears. We share them. We are doing everything to safeguard the lives of our civilians and our soldiers. Nobody in the world except for Iran and Qatar supports Hamas."
Breitbart reports that 13 members of the Israel Defense Force were killed this weekend, including seven "when an anti-tank missile was reportedly fired from a house, according to Israel’s Channel 10 news." Hamas is using civilians as shields and are striking from civilian bases, which makes Israel's job harder and guarantees the Jewish nation will face criticism when it (rightly) retaliates. The Western press needs to do a better job exposing the Hamas tactics.
Meanwhile the Jerusalem Post reports: "Hundreds of mainly Islamist Jordanian protesters burnt Israeli flags in Amman on Sunday as demonstrators called on Palestinian Hamas militants to step up rocket attacks against Israeli towns and cities to avenge civilian deaths caused by Israel's offensive in Gaza." I assume that the press in Arab and Muslim countries is not going to report the reasons for those civilian deaths.


 
2016 watch (Hillary Clinton edition)
Newsbusters: "Former NYT Editor: Hillary Expects Journalists To Be '100 Percent In Her Corner,' Especially Women." Most conservatives would think the media would be in the bag for Hillary Clinton, but for the Clintons, it isn't enough to receive favourable coverage; journalists must do their bidding, as well.


 
The government wants private companies to snoop on its behalf
Tech Dirt reports:
Back in March of last year, we were somewhat disturbed by UPS agreeing to forfeit $40 million to the US government for shipping drugs from "illegal internet pharmacies." Not that such drugs or pharmacies should be legal (that's a whole different discussion), but it's insane to pin the blame for the shipments on the shipping company, whose sole job is to get packages from point A to point B. In fact, we don't want shipping companies to be liable for what's in packages, because then they have not just the incentive, but the mandate to snoop through all our packages.
Apparently, FedEx was unwilling to fall on its sword and cough up a similar amount to the US government, so the DEA and DOJ have announced they've gotten a grand jury to indict the company for delivering drugs associated with internet pharmacies ...
FedEx's job is to deliver packages, not examine everything inside those packages to make sure they're legal. Even in some of the cases -- as described in the indictment -- where FedEx becomes aware that some of the companies ran into trouble with the DEA for selling drugs illegally, it's hard to see how that means FedEx should automatically drop all business connections with those entities. Presumably, a firm that was caught selling drugs illegally could have other legitimate business to continue and would make use of services like FedEx going forward. It's not FedEx's job to examine everything in those packages.
This is, quite literally, blaming the messenger.


Sunday, July 20, 2014
 
On this day in Canadian history
On July 20, 1945, the first family allowance cheques were mailed to 1.5 million families, providing a "baby bonus" for 3.5 million children. Critics said the universal program was a bid to buy Quebec votes were Catholics had larger families, but the legislation creating the program was passed unanimously in 1944. The payment increased for older children ($5 for under five-years, up to $8 a month for teens 13-15) and the average payment was $5.94.


 
UN rearms with Hamas
The Times of Israel reports: "United Nations agency that last week found rockets in a Gaza school operating under its auspices has handed that weaponry over to Hamas, Israeli officials said Sunday, accusing the organization of actively helping the terrorist organization potentially attack Israeli civilians." WTF?
(HT: Hot Air)


 
'Ten Reasons to Abolish the Export-Import Bank'
A list from the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
(HT: Cafe Hayek)


 
Crazy enough for MSNBC?
Conspiracy theorist and former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, Powerline notes, believes the Malaysia Airlines flight over Ukraine crashed because it was hacked by Israel. As Steven Hayward says, give the woman an MSNBC show.


 
Vasectomies and prostrate cancer
The New York Times Well-Being blog reports, "Men with vasectomies may be at an increased risk for the most lethal form of prostate cancer, researchers have found. But aggressive cancer nonetheless remains rare in these patients." Two things: 1) this type of story will generally be under-reported but 2) as with most "increased risk" stories, the increase is statistically significant yet most people still don't really have to worry. If you read beyond the 20% increased risk for deadly prostate cancer it works out to 19 in 1000 cases rather than 16 in 1000 cases. In other words, the chances of some getting such cancer with a vasectomy is 1.9% instead of 1.6% over a 24-year period.


 
No laughing matter
Rich Lowry in the New York Post:
President Obama styles himself a wit, and some of his best material lately has to do with his abuse of his powers.
“As long as they’re doing nothing, I’m not going to apologize for doing something,” Obama riffed to a crowd at the Georgetown Waterfront Park in Washington, DC, on July 1, referring to Republicans. “So sue me.” Hilarity ensued.
He cracked them up in Austin, Texas, last week. “You hear some of them,” he said, “ ‘Sue him.’ ‘Impeach him.’ Really? Really? For what? You’re going to sue me for doing my job?” ...
It takes a truly blithe spirit to play the constitutional deformation of his office, and the ensuing congressional reaction, for laughs.
The Constitution’s injunction that the executive “take care that the Laws be faithfully executed” is not a suggestion. It is a requirement. It is designed to prevent the executive from unilaterally suspending laws, as English kings claimed the right to do.


Saturday, July 19, 2014
 
Anti-Israel protesters chanted 'kill the Jews' ... in Calgary
Blazing Cat Fur reports that several pro-Israel demonstrators were injured after being assaulted by pro-Palestinian forces in Calgary, whilst the latter chanted "kill the Jews." The pro-Israel crowd was identified as Jewish and Christian, but their opponents were "an angry mob" whose religious affiliation is not noted.


 
A jury of his peers will never convict
Hot Air: "Florida dad beats the living hell out of man who allegedly sexually assaulted his son, then calls the cops." Allah Pundit says the law is clear and the father had every right to beat the alleged pedophile to within an inch of his life, but regardless of what the law says no jury of 12 parents would convict.


 
Western Muslims selective care about their brethren
Douglas Murray in the (London) Spectator: "London's pro-Palestine rally was a disgusting, anti-Semitic spectacle." Says Murray:
They marched though the centre of the city before congregating to scream outside the Israeli Embassy in Kensington. It was interesting to watch this rather non-diverse crowd pass. Most of the women seem to be wearing headscarves or the burka, while their men-folk were naturally more appropriately dressed for a sweltering summer day.
But what a picture. These are the people who stayed at home throughout the Syrian civil war, stayed at home when ISIS rampaged across Iraq, stayed at home when Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab carried out their atrocities across central Africa and showed no concern whatsoever when the Muslim Brotherhood was running Egypt into the ground. Yet they pretend to care about Muslims.


 
May says Green Party would do better if it got more media coverage
Green Party leader Elizabeth May is whining about the amount of coverage her party gets, but as the leader of a caucus of two we hear from her a lot.


 
Weekend stuff
1. At Grantland, Bill Barnwell and Shea Serrano have "The Battle for the Best Sports Movie Villain of All Time" and before getting to their top ten list debate topics such as "Villain With the Best Chance to Turn It Around and Become Likable" and "Best Villain Line."
2. Graph Jam on why people get up in the morning.
3. At Cracked Chris Hadfield explains, "6 Ways Movies Get Space Wrong" including "Going to the Bathroom in Space Is Awesome." Even if you believe that Hadfield is an over-exposed celebrity (as I do), this is worth reading. And Quartz reports "Spacesuit technology is making its way into high-end dress shirts so men sweat less."
4. Telmo Pieper took drawings he made when he was four and digitally fleshed them out. Proportions are sometimes scary.
5. Sports on Earth rates the gifts each team is giving New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter during his farewell tour.
6. The History Channel has "8 Things You May Not Know About the Hollywood Sign."
7. From the animal kingdom. Science Daily reports "Atlantic salmon show capacity to adapt to warmer waters." National Geographic magazine has "Life Under the Arctic." TopTenz has "10 Surprising Jobs Outsourced to Animals."
8. Wired's Brain Watch blog: "How Becoming a Father Changes Your Brain."
9. The Wall Street Journal has pics and brief write-ups of "Great Lakes Around the World."
10. The Atlantic on wedding drones (from picture takers to ring bearers).
11. Making 48 pancakes in just over 2 minutes. Check his flipping technique and how his wrist hardly moves.


 
On this day in Canadian history
On July 19, 1948, John Bracken resigns as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party. Bracken, who served as premier of Manitoba for nearly 21 years before becoming the PC leader in 1942, won just 66 of 245 seats in the 1945 election. A western populist who led the United Farmers of Manitoba and Progressive Party of Manitoba from the 1920 through 1940s, he agreed to lead the Conservative Party in 1942 only if it added "Progressive" to its name. When his riding of Neepawa was merged with Brandon for the 1949 election, he lost his seat garnering just 35% of the vote.


Friday, July 18, 2014
 
Forbes family sells media empire
The Globe and Mail reports that Forbes Media has been sold to Hong Kong-based Integrated Whale Media Investments and while neither the price nor other terms were made public, Steve Forbes, grandson of Forbes magazine founder B.C. Forbes, will remain chairman and editor-in-chief (for now). Steve Forbes says:
While today marks a fundamental turning point in this 97-year-old company founded by my grandfather, it should be seen as an opportunity to continue and strengthen our mission. I look forward to staying actively involved as Chairman of the Board and Editor-in-Chief and to working with my colleagues and our new partners to take us to new peaks of success.
My guess is that he'll have no more responsibility than an honorary but meaningless title and regular column by this time next summer.


 
On this day in Canadian history
On July 18, 1959, the federal government established the National Energy Board, an independent federal agency that regulates the construction of international and interprovincial pipelines and power lines, and the export and import of natural gas, oil, and electricity.


 
McGinnis on Steve Buscemi & taking pictures of celebrities during the film festival
Rick McGinnis:
The routine back then was simple - I'd be assigned to meet a writer in one of the hotels, we'd be given fifteen minutes with some actor or director, and hopefully they'd be kind enough to give me five minutes at the end to get a roll of photos. Sometimes it would just be two or three minutes. After a while the publicists would start carving the time finer and finer, and well before your fifteen minutes were up you'd catch them out of the corner of your eye making chopping motions to let you know it was time to wrap it up.
There was no point bringing lighting, so you got good at boosting your ISO, finding the sweet spot of light in the room, and holding your camera steady at low exposures. After a few years - I shot at the film festival for 25 of them - you had the layout of each hotel and its rooms memorized, and simply walked to the sweet spot and cleared a bit of furniture. The limitations were brutal but sometimes - sometimes - you'd get something brilliant.
You might find the picture of Steve Buscemi amusing. I don't remember him looking so young in Reservoir Dogs.


 
'Capital Needed: Canada Needs More Robust Business Investment'
That the title of a new C.D. Howe e-brief, which finds "It is time for Canadian policymakers – especially in Ontario and Quebec – to refocus their attention on boosting private-sector investment." Canada is falling way behind the United States in private capital investment, and the authors explain why it is important:
Business investment is critical to economic growth. Capital spending produces the new tools that workers use on the job, the structures they work in, and the engineering infrastructure that makes them more productive.


 
Keep the state out of the tech labs of the nation
Clyde Wayne Crews Jr., policy director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, in Forbes: "A Case for the Separation of Technology and State." Crews says that the internet was never the freedom-loving frontier we often think it is, and things will probably get worse (meaning more regulated, more interfered with):
I never meant to be all weepy and and utopian about the Net, but I was. I felt it represented a demonstration project for spontaneous order, a chance to show that minimal regulation does work. I've been disappointed in politicians of both parties.
Now, the frontier sectors that define the new economy like robotics and custom manufacturing are even more vulnerable to political predation. Uber was just a sample.
Pressures will intensify, especially if the tech sector is further seduced by government “help” through federal “investment” and “steering” like President Obama’s “manufacturing hubs” announced in North Carolina’s Research Triangle and in Chicago.
The technological geniuses in Silicon Valley and elsewhere help pull America’s economic wagon, but ill-conceived and predatory interventions from the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communication Commission and over 50 other departments and agencies could mangle things with mandates and uncertainties.


 
Progressivism infects Star Wars fan Twitter fiction
A New York Times writer Jacob Harris wondered on Twitter "What if Mos Eisley wasn't really that wretched and it was just Obi Wan being racist again?" and Tim Carmody collected the conversation.


 
Best, bravest press release headline from an academic
Via Instapundit, Professor John Banzhaf of the George Washington University Law School (who campaigns against cigarettes and e-cigarettes): "Illegals Crossing Border Have More Rights Than College Students Accused of Rape."


 
Israel vs. Hamas
Breitbart: "5 Reasons Israel is Good and Hamas is Evil." Even if the facts are cherry-picked, there is no moral equivalency between the two sides. Also, when you consider the danger Hamas presents to Palestinians it is unfathomable how pro-Palestinian sympathizers could side with Hamas; as Investor's Business Daily editorializes: "Gaza Would Be Better Off Under The Israelis They Hate."


 
The future of work?
Kids Prefer Cheese highlights a recent want ad.


 
'Cops are bureaucrats with guns'
There are a number of good articles about criminalizing parental behaviour that was not only normal, but typical 40 years ago such letting nine-year-olds play in parks unaccompanied by adults or leaving toddlers in cars for a few minutes while a parent runs into a store: see Lenore Skenazy at Reason, Megan McArdle at Bloomberg, and Art Carden at EconLog. Carden says:
"Kids dying in hot cars" looks to me like the 2014 version of the 2001 "Summer of the Shark" hysteria. It plays to some of our worst fears. It could happen to anyone. It ranks pretty low on the list of mortality risks, though.
Since 1998, 623 kids have died from heatstroke from being left in cars and while "one is too many" that is a terrible way to legislate, police, or think about an issue. As Carden notes, fewer kids have died after been left in cars over the past 16 years than die annually from poisoning.
Mark Steyn adds to McArdle's article, noting:
As Kathy Shaidle likes to say, cops are merely bureaucrats with guns. And they share the defining characteristic of the great suffocating micro-regulatory American bureaucracy of the 21st century - which is an utter lack of proportion. If bureaucrats had any kind of objection to harassing citizens for things that were perfectly legal in 1972, 90 per cent of them would be out of a job.
The talk radio audience seems to agree we have become wimps who don't let our kids live and that might be true, but more importantly we have become servile, letting the state criminalize small risks.