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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Monday, September 01, 2014
 
A libertarian takes an 'extreme' pro-life view
Tim Worstall mixes science, liberty, and personal responsibility to get to a pro-life position.


 
Brits not fans of multiculturalism
Breitbart reports:
A whopping 95 percent of respondents to a BBC straw poll have said that they think multiculturalism in Britain is a failure. The poll was taken yesterday morning during the BBC’s Saturday Morning Live show, and asked “Is multiculturalism working?” Just 5 percent said “Yes”; 95 percent said “No”.


 
'P.J. O'Rourke on Millennials vs. Baby Boomers'
Nick Gillespie talked with P.J. O'Rourke about his book The Baby Boom: How it Got That Way and It Wasn't My Fault and I'll Never Do it Again earlier this summer at Freedom Fest 2014 in Las Vegas. He explains the economic-based argument about why the Baby Boomers ended up the way they are, which Gillespie suggests is partly Marxist. O'Rourke is correct to say lay part of the blame for the Baby Boomers on the so-called Greatest Generation (their parents). O'Rourke also says the re-election of Barack Obama is evidence that the United States is not becoming more libertarian; he says that social liberalism (gay marriage and drugs) is increasing but are less libertarian "on the fundamental government issues" which "are more important than social issues." By government or political issues, O'Rourke is talking not strictly fiscal issues but about how society is organized and the creation of a system in which everyone is dependent on the state.


Sunday, August 31, 2014
 
A fact that environmentalists should deal with (rather than climate change)
Hans Rosling tweets: "The worst environmental problem in todays world? More than 1 billion people drink their neighbours lukewarm feces ..."
Here is the Tropical Medicine & International Health article, "Global assessment of exposure to faecal contamination through drinking water based on a systematic review." This is a genuine environmental crisis that requires immediate attention.


 
George Will's latest
George Will on Paul Ryan, progressivism, and Barack Obama:
“Society,” Ryan writes, “functions through institutions that operate in the space between the individual and the state,” and “government exists to protect the space where all of these great things occur.” Hence government has a “supporting role” as “the enabler of other institutions.” Progressive government, however, works, sometimes inadvertently but often deliberately, to subordinate or supplant those institutions. This depletion of social capital is comprehensively injurious to the culture. And “all the tax cuts in the world don’t matter much if you don’t get the culture right.”
Progressivism aims to place individuals in unmediated dependency on a government that can proclaim, as Barack Obama does: “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Meaning, people depend on government for what they are and have.
Will makes some good points about Ryan apologizing for castigating the taker class. The problem is that the dependency of Americans, including middle class and conservative voters, needs to be challenged. The bigger problem for Republicans is that challenging dependency looks like an attack on all government programs and that turns off voters (including many middle class, and some conservative, voters). I'm not sure that a conservative movement assault by pundits, think tanks, and activists on the vastness of government, while the GOP's elected officials and candidates remain silent on Big Government -- or worse, contribute to its enlarging -- is a formula that will work. Ryan appears to want to attack the progressive mindset while acknowledging that government (may) have some minimal role to play to help those who need a temporary hand up. Unfortunately, that seems to always play into the hands of the Left and never quite placates the concerns of those who have come to depend on government's largesse.


 
Politico's best summer books
Politico: "Playbook readers' best summer books." The list of contributors is heavy on the parasite class in Washington (staffers, lobbyists) and other than Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story by Jim Holt, there was not one book on the list that I'd want to read that I haven't already. (Ten years ago, there would have been a dozen or more, so maybe this says more about me than the contributors.) Still worth checking out the list if only to find out what is popular in the American capital.


 
Environmentalism leads to a decline in living standards
The Daily Telegraph reports that the European Union may ban "high-wattage hair dryers, lawn mowers and electric kettles" (in total about 30 appliances) and has already banned "powerful vacuum cleaners" all in the name of being eco-friendly. Two points need to be made. 1) When you decrease the power of appliances by 30% (as may happen to hair dryers), it will take longer to get the job done and then some of the saved energy due to the "efficient" technology will be lost due to the increased time the technology will be used because it is less powerful. 2) Making products less powerful lowers the standard of living for people who use those inferior products. So instead of spending three minutes blow-drying one's hair, it will now take four minutes. Instead of going over the carpet once, there will be spots that will need to be done twice.
(HT: Small Dead Animals)


 
Life in prison for selling pot
Aaron Malin, Director of Research for Show-Me Cannabis in Missouri, writes in Reason about the craziness of the war on drugs and cynical and often disproportionate three-strikes laws:
Jeff Mizanskey is serving a life sentence without parole for marijuana. He has been in prison since right after I was born 21 years ago. Jeff is the only person in Missouri sentenced to die behind bars for marijuana, a victim of the state's rather unique three strikes law.
Missouri's three strikes law landed Jeff his life without parole sentence. Around half of states have some type of three strikes law on the books. In almost all of these states the statutes apply to violent crimes—murder, rape, assault with a deadly weapon, etc. In Missouri, Jeff racked up all three strikes without ever committing an act of violence. He was a working class guy with a small side gig as a low-level pot dealer. He never hurt anyone, never brandished a weapon, and never sold to children.


 
Cruz to Obama
Republican Senator Ted Cruz's brilliant gimmick: invite Barack Obama to play golf on the Texas-Mexico border.


Saturday, August 30, 2014
 
The new world order
Lilia Shevtsova in The American Interest:
Having flipped the global chessboard with his annexation of the Crimea and an undeclared war against Ukraine, Putin effectively ended the most recent period of interregnum and inaugurated a new era in global politics. However, no one yet knows what this era will bring. The global community is still reeling in shock, when it isn’t trying to pretend that nothing extraordinary has in fact occurred.
The full essay is worth reading.
Also, Ole Solvang writes in Foreign Policy about the human cost in eastern Ukraine:
As the morgue and hospital staff explained, the vast majority of civilian deaths and injuries in Luhansk is due to the use of explosive weapons. As a matter of policy, these weapons shouldn't be used in populated areas such as Luhansk because of the risk to civilians. The use of some of the weapons documented here, such as unguided Grad rockets, is a clear violation of the laws of war; combatants cannot accurately distinguish military from civilian targets -- which may amount to war crimes.


 
Steyn on Rotherham. Sort of.
Mark Steyn's essay is not only about Rotherham but the West's reaction and interaction with Islam. There is a lot packed into one column, including how the dangers of Islam continue unabated despite the growth of the national security state:
In an ill advised choice of words, the Prime Minister David Cameron said, "We need to tackle the ideology of Islamist extremism head on" - because trying to do it with your head off doesn't seem to be working out for those poor fellows in Mosul.
But what does "head on" mean? I was listening to Congressman Peter King on the radio the other day discuss the issue of American and other western Muslims sallying forth to fight for ISIS, and his warnings about jihadists with western passports being able to move freely within Europe and North America made a lot of sense. But I had the uneasy feeling, as with Cameron, that the upshot would be a world in which, in five or ten years' time, it will be more difficult and burdensome for law-abiding persons to fly from London to New York a two-day business meeting or from Toronto to Athens for a week in the Greek islands. In other words, the political leadership of the western world will attempt to micro-manage the problem through the panopticon security state.
Underneath the watchful eyes of the digital panopticon, however, the Islamization of the west will continue. Not every Muslim wants to chop your head off. Not every Muslim wants to "groom" your 11-year-old daughter. But these pathologies nest within Islam, and thrive at the intersection of Islam and the west. As long as Islam is your biggest source of population growth - to the point where Mohammed is now the most popular boy's name in Oslo - you're not "tackling" the issue, and certainly not "head on".
In a bizarre column even for the post-Conrad National Post, Afsun Qureshi suggests the best thing you could do to lessen the likelihood of being set upon by Muslims is to learn to recite the shahadah, "a testimony to the identity of Allah as the one true God, and Muhammad as his prophet". She might be right. Wearing a burqa might help, too. Or the shalwar kameez. On the other hand, most of those Syrian men paraded through the desert in their BVDs to their rendezvous with death knew the shahadah, and a fat lot of good it did.
To recite the shahadah when you're accosted on the streets is to accept the basic premise of your attackers - that Islam now has universal jurisdiction. There's way too much of that already. In essence, the entire establishment of a South Yorkshire town accepted that the cultural mores of Islam superseded whatever squeamishness they might otherwise have about child rape.
Just read the whole thing.


 
Even the good news is bad
Stephen Moore in Investor's Business Daily:
President Obama has been celebrating the decline in the budget deficit over the last several years — from $1.3 trillion in 2010 to the still stratospheric $500 billion this year. Somehow borrowing more than $1 billion a day is seen as a fiscal triumph in Washington. Talk about dumbing down the test.
That really is the good news.
Moore notes that spending it going to increase and swiftly:
The real spending problem is that, over the next decade, outlays will explode by nearly $2.3 trillion. Of that increase, 60% will go to income redistribution programs — or what Washington euphemistically calls "entitlements." Another 25% will be interest on the debt. The remaining pittance will be for defense and domestic agencies. National security spending has fallen from nearly 50% of the budget under John F. Kennedy to just 17% — and falling — now.
The nation has been on high alert for at least two decades that the baby-boomer retirement wave was coming and that this demographic hurricane would rip gaping holes in the budget.
Nothing was done. Now 10,000 boomers are retiring every day. This means costs for the big four budget boulders — Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, plus ObamaCare subsidies — will soar. From 2013-2024, nominal spending on these programs will surge 95%.
This is not an Obama issue. For more than 30 years, almost the entire political class has refused to deal with these expensive programs. And any politician who seeks the large-scale necessary cuts in the future will soon be a former politician.
Americans should remember that no great civilization has lasted forever, but the decline of the United States will be made worse and sooner by the decisions (and non-decisions) they've made, both as politicians and voters.


 
Premiers call for a(nother) study of missing and murdered native women
The Winnipeg Free Press reports that since 1996 there have been 40 official and third-party studies, reports, investigations, reviews, royal commissions, and strategic frameworks on the issue of murdered and missing native women. (Unlike for other races, native missing and murdered women are always lumped together.) The issue has been examined by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Statistics Canada, the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women, Assembly of First Nations, provincial/territorial advisory committees, women's groups, native groups, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch. The Free Press also lists them all. As the introduction says, "While this list may not be all-encompassing, it provides a good indication of the extent to which this issue has been the subject of study." While maybe not all-encompassing, it seems unlikely a new inquiry would find anything new to report.
(HT: Small Dead Animals)


 
Conservatives should apply their distrust of government to foreign policy
Donald Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek:
The lesson is clear: government is just as bad at picking winners when intervening in foreign affairs as it is at picking winners when intervening in economic affairs. The same combination of hubris, imprudence, carelessness, misinformation, and myopia that leads government officials to spend other people’s treasure in support of economically calamitous ventures at home (such as subsidies to Solyndra) also leads these officials to spend other people’s treasure - and lives - in support of strategically calamitous ventures abroad (such as subsidies to Syrian rebels).
Government competence does not begin as you cross the border.


 
Harper and the Nobel Peace Prize
The Globe and Mail reports that B’nai Brith Canada has nominated Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for the Nobel Peace Prize for speaking out against Russian aggression and the threat of Islamic terrorism. This is precisely why Harper won't win the Nobel Peace Prize. While Harper would probably look at the Nobel Prize as a nice resume item for the next federal campaign, he shouldn't want to join the company of Yasser Arafat, Frank B. Kellogg, Mohamed El Baradei, Jimmy Carter, Wangari Muta Maathai, and Al Gore and their dubious achievements.


Friday, August 29, 2014
 
The Obamaconomy
An Investor's Business Daily editorial reports that the Bureau of Economic Analysis announced that it tweaked its GDP growth numbers while the Congressional Budget Office updated its long-term economic outlook revising growth estimates significantly downward. IBD says:
In short, what we have is a weak economy that continuously disappoints, along with tax and spending policies that are putting the brakes on long-term growth.
So, go ahead and cheer the ray of good GDP news this week. But unless the country's economic ship changes course, lots of rough weather lies ahead.


 
'Obama Watched Islamic State Grow'
From an Investor's Business Daily editorial:
A new report from the West Point counterterrorism center says the administration ignored warning signs as the Islamic State grew and trained over a four-year period paralleling our withdrawal from Iraq.
As President Obama dithers about whether to strike the Islamic State's sanctuary in Syria, a report by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point shows how we got to this point. Obama simply overlooked the "JV" team until it was ready for terrorism's Pro Bowl.
Instead, he was focused on getting us out of Iraq and creating a power vacuum that the terrorist group was all too willing to fill.
"ISIL did not suddenly become effective in early June 2014," the report states. "It has been steadily strengthening and actively shaping the future operating environment for four years."
IBD notes:
What can be drawn from this report is that the Islamic State could have been stopped in its infancy by a president who was busy drawing red lines in Syria using vanishing ink. The "cancer" that the administration now speaks of could have been surgically removed in its early stages as it trained and prepared in Syria.


 
Rotherham
John O'Sullivan on Rotherham:
We often read or hear from the media that a nation is “shocked” or “horrified” by the revelation of some crime or government scandal. It is almost never true. At best, most people are disapproving or mildly interested in the shocking news. Since Tuesday afternoon, however, Britain has felt real shock and horror over the report that 1,400 young women in the South Yorkshire town of Rotherham had been groomed, raped, prostituted, trafficked, and brutally abused in almost every possible way by a criminal gang for the last 16 years. In addition, the authorities — which in this case are the local government authority, the police, and the child-protection services — had been repeatedly informed of these crimes but had dismissed the reports as false or exaggerated and taken no action to investigate, halt, and punish them ...
No fewer than three official investigations (prior to this one) looked into these crimes. They reported the broad truth that we now know and called for further investigations and arrests. The police and child-protection services did nothing whatever about them ...
What happened is explained by two additional facts: The 1,400 girls were all white and of Christian background and English ethnicity while all but one of their exploiters were Muslims of Pakistani heritage ...
Worse, the report concedes that the estimate of 1,400 victims is a conservative one. (It is the equivalent of about three girls’ schools.) Some of the girls were as young as eleven. And since other (more or less identical) cases of criminal exploitation of young Christian girls by Pakistani Muslim men have been uncovered in cities such as Oldham, Birmingham, and Oxford in the last decade, the total number of victims must be staggering.
The shock and anger is not with the crime, but the politically correct cover-up.
O'Sullivan says that two things are necessary to prevent this from recurring: people need to go to jail -- both the rapists/traffickers and the authorities who did nothing -- and there must be reform of the official understanding of multiculturalism and racism. In other words, these crimes and scandals will continue to occur in England.


 
'Obama’s Irrational Animus for Israel'
Pete Wehner in Commentary:
Think about this for a moment. In a neighborhood featuring Hamas, ISIS, Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran, just to name a few of the actors, President Obama was “enraged” at … Israel. That’s right, Israel–our stalwart ally, a lighthouse of liberty, lawfulness, and human rights in a region characterized by despotism, and a nation filled with people who long for peace and have done so much for so long to sacrifice for it (including repeatedly returning and offering to return its land in exchange for peace).
Yet Mr. Obama–a man renowned for his lack of strong feelings, his emotional equanimity, his disengagement and distance from events, who New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd refers to as “Spock” for his Vulcan-like detachment–is not just upset but “enraged” at Israel.


Thursday, August 28, 2014
 
Retiring Toronto politicians could result in more left-wing city council
Gloria Lindsay Luby joins the ranks of Toronto city councillors who are not seeking re-election, joining Karen Stintz, Doug Ford, and Mike Del Grande. At some point in their political careers all four of these people would be considered on the right of city council although Lindsay Luby was more in the middle and went whichever way the wind blew (that is, with her council colleagues most of the time -- she once had ties to the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party but was also part of left-wing mayor David Miller's Executive Committee). Stintz became a pain in the ass for Rob Ford, but she was an original choice for his team when he first became mayor and once led the Responsible Government Group, a centre-right coalition at city hall. Ford and Del Grande really looked out for the taxpayer. Even with Lindsay Luby and Stintz's questionable credentials as part of the council's centre-right, it is easy to see TO city council moving leftward with their departure (although Mike Del Grande's incredibly sensible son John is seeking to replace him). Why won't Mike Layton, Gord Perks, and Joe Mihevc retire from elected politics?


 
Some numbers
The Toronto Sun's Christina Blizzard notes some numbers: In 2003/04 there were 1,966,570 students in Ontario's two taxpayer-funded school system; in 2013/14 there were 1,845,665 students. In 2003/04 the total cost of Ontario's public schools was $15.23 billion; in 2013/14 the total cost of Ontario's public schools was $20.97 billion. And over the past five years, mathematical proficiency is getting worse. On the plus side, literacy is improving. Ontario taxpayers, parents, and kids are not getting their money's worth.
Blizzard blames the education system's embrace of whatever teaching fad excites educators, and that may be part of it. But the Ottawa Citizen's David Reevely makes a more important point, that we treat reading and writing as essential but elevate math to something only the nerds or brainiacs are good at: "Most people would hide it if they couldn’t read but claim an inability to estimate sales tax as a charming quirk. Treating math competence as part of being a functioning adult, not a mystery practised only by people in certain occult professions, is part of the solution."


 
Ikea: Swedish for fakery
Tyler Cowen notes, "An amazing 75% of the images in an Ikea catalog are not photographs but CGI."


 
Vice report: 'Al Sharpton is a huge fraud'
While not without its problems (cheap shots at New York's cardinal, criticism of New York's effective stop-and-frisk policies), Michael Tracey's Vice article deserves praise for challenging the privileged position Al Sharpton has attained considering his history:
“Sharpton has a long and well-documented history of leveraging his civil rights profile for his own benefit,” journalist Wayne Barrett, who chronicled his travails for 37 years at the Village Voice, wrote on the sordid occasion of Sharpton’s 2011 ascension to the 6 PM MSNBC time slot ...
At times, Sharpton has certainly helped provide needed services to traumatized, grieving, and financially despondent victims of NYPD violence. But he has all too frequently used such endeavors to promote lies and slander, always to the convenient effect of heightening his own stature. The 1988 Tawana Brawley disaster is among Sharpton’s most high-profile scams, and is cited on a regular basis by the conservatives he purposely enrages. During that shameful saga, Sharpton served as lead spokesman for a batty team of NYC lawyers that claimed the Ku Klux Klan, Irish Republican Army, and other dark forces were involved in covering up the rape of a 15-year-old black girl. The entire story was ultimately exposed as a hoax, and the district attorney Sharpton falsely accused of being one of the attackers successfully sued for defamation.
Sharpton also thrust himself to the fore of Eric Garner’s police-caused death this summer. NYPD officers threatened, surrounded, and then seized Garner in an illegal choke hold, in broad daylight, for doing nothing more than standing on a Staten Island sidewalk. The coroner’s office declared it a homicide; locals were distressed. Given Sharpton’s longtime residency and activism in the city, that he would intervene after such an incident may seem reasonable enough.
Well. At the Garner funeral service on July 23, which I attended, Sharpton delivered a bombastic address. In it, he paid special attention to the individual who recorded Garner’s fatal police altercation, which showed incontrovertible proof of officers’ unprovoked aggression. Sharpton invited the young man up to the altar of Bethel Baptist Church in Downtown Brooklyn and heralded his courage—the only problem was that he kept misstating the man’s name as “Ramsey Ortiz” instead of “Ramsey Orta," indicating just how little attention Sharpton apparently pays to the pesky details of the causes he inserts himself into ...
Sharpton infamously lavished his then girlfriend, who was also executive director of NAN, with luxury hotel stays valued at $4,000 per night—not to mention “a Mercedes, a Caddy, a $7,000 Rolex, mink coats, David Yurman jewels, and a Trump apartment.” ...
From the Donald Sterling affair, to the 2004 Haiti coup d’état, to the 2000 Florida recount—Sharpton apparently feels that he has a constructive role to play in virtually every major world controversy. But if anything is impressive about Sharpton, it’s the sheer breadth of his hypocrisy. That so many powerful actors are eager to countenance his bullshit really sucks, most of all for the besieged people of Ferguson. Meanwhile, the sleazy “reverend” keeps laughing all the way to the bank.
None of this is new to those of us who have followed this charlatan's career, but it is worth re-stating, especially considering his prime time perch at MSNBC. Indeed, this report could have delved deeper into Sharpton's scandals; there is no mention of the Crown Heights riots he helped incite which led to the murders of Yankel Rosenbaum and Anthony Graziosi or Sharpton's anti-Semitism.
Tracey explains the problem of Sharpton having credibility:
Despite the outsize importance that black voters assign to criminal justice issues, national Democrats have virtually ignored the policy preferences of their surest constituency in this arena. Sharpton’s primary function appears to be misdirecting black folks’ absolutely justifiable fury into votes for politicians who might systematically neglect their concerns but nonetheless pay requisite homage to “the Rev.”
Therein lies the danger of Sharpton injecting himself into situations like Ferguson: His unwieldy rants have the effect of inflaming tensions, and not the productive kind of tension that might eventually manifest in substantive change. Instead, he fosters an aura of cheap partisanship, which only reduces the likelihood that marginalized communities suffering under violent police regimes will secure any meaningful amelioration of their hellish predicaments.
(HT: Hot Air's Jim Treacher)


 
2016 watch (Mitt Romney edition)
Breitbart reports:
According to the new USA Today poll, 35 percent of likely GOP voters in Iowa would pick Mitt Romney as the next GOP nominee.
None of the other Republican candidates thought to be running for president in 2016 even got into double digits in the poll.
Good grief. Former Arkansas governor and 2008 GOP insurgent candidate Mike Huckabee is a distant second with 9%. Good grief. Yet the poll was of 170 caucus voters, so sample size is an issue. As is the timing of the poll: it is 18 months until the caucus and there are no declared candidates.


 
Tory, Ford lead as Chow tanks in the polls
The Toronto Star reports that Forum Research has the Toronto mayor's race becoming a two-man contest as John Tory narrowly leads Rob Ford 34%-32% with one-time front-runner Olivia Chow falling back to 24%. I am surprised by this and would cheer were it not for the fact this is a Forum Research poll, the company that predicted a 29-point lead for the Liberal in the Brandon-Souris by-election last November that the Tories ended up winning. Still, there are reasons to believe these poll numbers: Chow has run an invisible campaign counting on her name recognition rather than a clearly articulated vision of where to take the city, and Tory has benefited by being the most viable non-Ford candidate; also, Ford's poll numbers in the 20s never made sense as he seems to have a hard floor of the mid-30s. For Ford to win, Chow needs to stop bleeding support and maintain at least a quarter of the vote but there is a chance if she doesn't seem like a winner some (more) of her support will migrate to Tory to prevent a Ford re-election.
What does all this mean (if the results hold)? The narrative has generally been a divided right (Ford and Tory) and the left (Chow). I have never bought that storyline. Tory attracts a lot of centrist support and Ford wins over typical NDP voters, and Tory isn't much of a conservative. If Tory wins, expect more city funding of gay theatre and that type of thing. It seems strange that in Toronto, the two supposedly right-wing candidates are taking fully two-thirds of the vote. But if Tory wins, you can count on pundits explaining why Toronto is not backing a a right-leaning mayor but simply embracing the anti-Ford (an accurate explanation, in my view) and that Tory has no mandate to counter-act the left-wing city council.


 
The benefits of play
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Peter Gray, a research professor of psychology at Boston College and author of Free to Learn, and Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids, discuss the benefits of play and warn that kids need unstructured time to play:
They've got their backpacks and glue sticks, and they're off—to erase the gains made over the summer. While educators bemoan the "summer slide" when children ostensibly forget lessons they learned at school, we should be more concerned about the "September slide." That's when the gains children made in summer slip away. "Back to school" too often spells "No more play."
Play—"free play" initiated and directed by children—is not the opposite of learning. It is learning at its most powerful, nature's way of teaching children the big lessons they need for a happy, productive life. Yet play gets shoved aside by reading logs and essay prompts and today's misguided view that résumé building is more valuable. One large-scale study found that children age 9 through 12 spent just more than an hour a day playing, mostly indoors. That's not enough.
Those benefits include cooperation, self-control, paying attention, innovation and creativity, managing difficult tasks, learning to practice, and solving problems and taking responsibility.


 
Journalists: your moral and intellectual superiors
Felix Salmon tweets: "So @SteveCollNY, Dean of Columbia Journalism School, is simultaneously on the Conde Nast payroll?"


 
'Privately Educated Still Dominate Top U.K. Jobs: Report'
Bloomberg reports:
Britain’s claims to being a land of fairness and opportunity have been thrown into question by a survey revealing the majority of people in influential jobs went to private school.
The survey of 4,000 people in powerful positions showed that 71 percent of senior judges, 62 percent of senior armed forces officers, 55 percent of permanent secretaries, 53 percent of senior diplomats and 50 percent of members of the House of Lords went to independent, fee-paying schools, while only 7 percent of the population as a whole attended such institutions. Members of the cabinet were five times as likely to have attended private school as the general public were, according to the survey conducted by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, an advisory group sponsored by the Department for Education.
This report illustrates that 1) private schools offers a superior education, 2) private schools offer networks that help people rise in various institutions, 3) the British government is still elitist, or 4) possibly all of the above.


 
Europeans are poorer than Americans
The United Kingdom would be the second poorest state if it were part of the United States. The Washington Post reports:
If Britain were to join the United States, it would be the second-poorest state, behind Alabama and ahead of Mississippi.
The ranking, determined by Fraser Nelson, an editor of The Spectator magazine, was made by dividing the gross domestic product of each state by its population, and it took into account purchasing power parity for cost of living.
Other European countries were also included in the per capita GDP rankings, and the top nation, Norway, would rank as the ninth wealthiest state, behind Massachusetts and in front of New Jersey.


 
Sign of the apocalypse
Full House could be revived. Apparently conservatives should be happy.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014
 
Bill de Blasio's New York
National Review's Kevin D. Williamson on rising crime in the Big Apple:
It’s been a year since New York City adopted Local Law 71 with the enthusiastic support of Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who is now mayor of the city. Local Law 71, the so-called Community Safety Act, used the possibility of endless civil-rights litigation to gut the city’s “stop, question, and frisk” procedure for dealing with street-level crime, and Mr. de Blasio campaigned energetically on the issue, charging that the New York Police Department had “unfairly targeted young African-American and Latino men.” ...
The number of vagrants on the streets, and their aggression, is on the rise. The number of people sleeping in the City Hall and 33rd Street subway stations, the endpoints of my daily commute, is visibly higher, as is the level of vagrancy in Penn Station and Grand Central. The squeegee men are back, and their like-minded colleagues are setting up shop in churches. Violent crime around the city is up significantly. Central Park muggings and casual, racially motivated assaults are back in the news. In a city in which it is well-nigh impossible for me to carry a gun legally (I have held concealed-carry permits in other jurisdictions), shootings are up 12 percent. We are seeing increasingly Chicago-style headlines: Over one mid-August weekend, 21 people were shot.
In 2012, there were no rapes in Central Park. By September of 2013, a month after the Community Safety Act was passed, there had been a half dozen, and felonies in the park were up 10 percent. Misdemeanor sex crimes in the park rose by 100 percent. Concession-stand workers were robbed at knifepoint, and this past weekend a woman was shot in the head with an airgun by a gang of black teens shouting, “White people suck!”
In terms of the experience of street-level disorder, New York City already is a markedly different place from what it was when I arrived here only a few years ago. Criminals may not get the letter of the law, but they understand the mood and the message. They know when the police are on a short political leash and when they are not.


 
Ebola bad for west African economy
Tyler Durden at Zero Hedge on Ebola's effects on the economies of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Nigeria:
Reuters reports, is "causing enormous damage to West African economies and draining budgetary resources." In fact the damage from Ebola to Africa is already so acute, it is expected that economic growth in the region will plunge by up to 4 percent as foreign businessmen leave and projects are canceled, according to the African Development Bank president said.
"Revenues are down, foreign exchange levels are down, markets are not functioning, airlines are not coming in, projects are being canceled, business people have left - that is very, very damaging," African Development Bank (AfDB) chief Donald Kaberuka said in an interview late on Tuesday.


 
The big news story in Canada today is ...
Unsubstantiated reports that the NHL wants to expand by four cities by 2017, including returning to Quebec City and putting a second team in Toronto (or the Greater Toronto Area), plus Las Vegas and Seattle. (Other possible cities include Portland (Oregon) and Kansas City, with TSN being the sole source saying there are potential owners interested in Hamilton, Ont.) The Toronto Sun reports that the NHL (and its owners) could pocket $1.4 billion in expansion fees. I'm not a pro hockey fan so I don't care, but every serious analyst already considers the game watered down with talent that doesn't belong in the North American pro league, so this would further decline the quality of the NHL game. But owners don't care about the quality of the game on the ice (or they would have eliminated several teams or institute changes to the game). ESPN reports, "And the fact that expansion fees -- which could run $300 million or more, depending on location -- do not count as hockey-related revenues and therefore don't have to be shared equally with the players also contributes to expansion fever." That's quite an incentive to make the game suck even more. A number of teams in the American south have floundered in terms of financial stability (see Atlanta and Phoenix, perhaps the Florida teams), so the wisdom of adding Las Vegas is questionable (at best), but those floundering teams "need" the expansion revenue. Arenas are already being built in Las Vegas and Quebec City. The original reports have Las Vegas as "a lock" and that the only question is whether Sin City will be the only expansion team or one of two (or four), but ESPN says that's not true; in fact their "sources" deny the whole expansion story.
ESPN raises some serious questions about Las Vegas netting an NHL team:
There's a reason Vegas doesn't have a pro sports team. There are lucrative television deals in the NHL, but it remains a gate-driven league and there are questions about whether a city with a population just north of 600,000 could sell 10,000-12,000 season tickets.
Maybe, but the workforce in Las Vegas is different than that in any other NHL market. With so many people working so many different shifts, would the ability of fans to attend games be affected? And the notion that Vegas casinos would buy large blocks of tickets to give away to fans runs against casino practice, which is to keep patrons in your own building rather than send them elsewhere.
Would casinos invest in suites for high rollers? Perhaps, but being such a transient marketplace -- in terms of both residents and visitors -- casts a huge shadow over the potential viability of the city.
While adding four teams seems like a lot, The Sporting News reminds fans:
The NHL adding more than two fits historically. This is how the league has operated the past 40-plus years:
1967: Next Six, to join with the Original Six.
1970-74: Six, to continue Western expansion and to compete with the WHA.
1979: Four, as the league absorbed the surviving teams of the dying WHA.
1991-93: Five, as the Sun Belt strategy took hold.
1998-2000: Four, as part of the league's reunion tour (Atlanta, Minnesota, Ohio).
It hasn't always worked in the past, and if they choose poorly (again), it is easy to see the NHL needing to expand again, if only for the expansion fees to finance struggling teams in the future.


 
British police refuse to investigate racially and religiously motivated sex crimes for feat of being labeled racist
Legal Insurrection notes a inquiry report and media coverage of a British policing scandal:
In Rotherham, England, a group of Pakistani immigrants and others of Pakistani descent deliberately targeted white teenage girls for sexual exploitation, with a religious angle to the targeting.
The authorities knew of the exploitation, but were fearful of talking about it or going public with it for fear of being called racist or Islamophobic.
So the abuse continued for over a decade, with approximately 1400 girls gang raped and otherwise sexually abused. It’s all detailed in The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham, 1997 – 2013.
Ann Althouse says "'fear of being thought as racist' ... sounds like a confession of deliberate law enforcement paralysis." Instapundit comments: "Perhaps they need to consider the possibility that there are worse things than being thought racist. Of course, if that idea were to spread, a powerful tool of social control would vanish."


 
2016 watch (Romney edition)
Mitt Romney tells Hugh Hewitt he is not running, stop asking, but circumstances might chance and he might run. He sounds like a person who is not running but doesn't want to completely eliminate the possibility of running. Romney is smart enough to know that he probably doesn't get another chance. He's not Richard Nixon or Adlai Stevenson and 2016 is not 1968 or 1956.


 
'Using Homer Simpson To Explain Why Inequality Doesn't Matter'
At Cafe Hayek Donald Boudreaux shares an email about how The Simpsons demonstrates that "there sure isn’t any stagnation" because despite staying in the same job and having one income, the Simpson family enjoys an improved standard of living (larger television, second car, more gadgets) as the years pass. At Forbes.com Tim Worstall that concerns about inequality are overblown because money (income) doesn't matter as much as living standards and The Simpsons illustrates, "those physical living standards of the average family have continued to rise." The point is not that a fictional show -- a cartoon -- disproves Thomas Picketty, but that what money can buy is more important than the money itself, and that a show that attempts to accurately portray a lower middle class household illustrates that it buys more than it used to. As Worstall says:
The first being that we do, obviously, have widening inequality of cash or money incomes. But we’re also seeing something of a shrinkage in inequality in terms of consumption.
The latter matters more to people's actual lives, and the happiness (or contentment) that greater consumption brings.


 
On this day in Canadian history
On August 27, 1793, John Graves Simcoe, the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, moves the capital of the Province of Upper Canada from Newark (Niagara Falls) to York, and renames the settlement after the Duke of York. His first choice was London, Ont., because of its strategic position between lakes Erie and Huron, but it was vetoed by Governor-in-Chief Lord Dorchester. York was renamed Toronto in 1834.


 
'The welfare state is us'
The Cato Institute's Michael Tanner:
One hundred ten million! That’s how many Americans now live in households that receive some form of means-tested welfare benefit from the federal government. According to a report from the Census Bureau released last week, that’s the highest absolute number in American history, and it represents 35.4 percent of the American population. Think about it — more than one out of every three Americans live in households that are now on welfare. Looked at another way, America’s welfare state now has nearly three times the population of the largest actual state.
Because many of these households include more than one person, the number of individual households is smaller, but still a record – roughly 33.5 million, more than a quarter of the country’s households. Worse, 10.5 million households receive benefits from three or more separate programs.
Furthermore, "the welfare rolls have actually grown by nearly 4 million households since the end of the recession."
And don't (just) blame the Obama administration:
[W]elfare also increased during the Bush administration: The proportion of households receiving SNAP (food stamps), TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families), or SSI (Supplemental Security Income for the disabled) increased 36 percent during his presidency.
Shockingly, these numbers do not include all "welfare" programs, just the means-tested ones:
[N]one of these numbers include the middle-class social-welfare programs like Medicare and Social Security. Counting these programs, more than 153 million Americans, nearly half the population (49.5 percent), are living in households now dependent on government for a significant portion of their income.
Call it Taker Nation or Dependency Nation, but the U.S. is on the wrong and unsustainable track with so many people receiving government largesse (and that doesn't include government employees). Tanner notes:
According to calculations by Harvard’s Greg Mankiw, based on data from the Office of Management and Budget, roughly 60 percent of Americans receive more in government benefits than they pay in federal taxes. A Tax Foundation study suggests that as many as 70 percent of Americans are net recipients of government largesse. Those numbers will only grow worse in the future.
This will have political ramifications, as the growing number of recipients, especially dependents, will have little interest in voting for parties or candidates who want to shrink government.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014
 
The importance of economics
Donald Boudreaux teaches economics at George Mason University and he makes the case "that principles of microeconomics is the most important economics course any student can ever take. Ever. By far." Boudreaux explains, "If taught properly, and learned with an open and critical and attentive mind, a principles of microeconomics will impart to the student more understanding of the operation of economies than will all other economics courses combined – and I include here even well-taught PhD econ courses."
Peter J. Boettke also teaches economics at GMU and he has an excellent post about "The Role of Principles in Economics and Politics," in which he quotes Frank Knight, who said in 1951: "The serious fact is that the bulk of the really important things that economics has to teach are things that people would see for themselves if they were willing to see." As much as some people want to teach you how to think like an economist (or a freak as two of them famously put it), I tend to agree that economics (and thinking like an economist, which means understanding incentives), is something that anyone can do but few try. Moralizing is easier than understanding.


 
The state of American polling
A long, intelligent, data-filled survey of the polling scene in the United States by FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver. He notes the problems with surveys (fewer people agreeing to take polls, more expensive to get a representative sample). But it might surprise people that -- at least by the metrics Silver uses -- polling is generally more accurate than it was in the 1990s.


 
Stop over-arming the police
Glenn Reynolds in USA Today: "Police officers act like they're in a war zone, forgetting they face citizens, not enemies." This is something conservatives should, but do not, care about.


 
Canada's low-tax business environment
Mark J. Perry of the American Enterprise Institute notes Canada has a low corporate tax environment especially compared to US, Germany, Japan, and France ("all taxes levied on corporations including income taxes, property taxes, capital taxes, sales taxes, miscellaneous local business taxes, and statutory labor costs (statutory plan costs and other payroll-based taxes)"); slightly lower than United Kingdom and Mexico.


 
Banning e-cigarettes at work could be lead to more cigarette smoking
Toronto city council voted overwhelmingly (36-2) for a Board of Health recommendation which would prohibit e-cigarette use in all City of Toronto workplaces. Lance at Small Dead Animals notes that banning e-cigs at work would lead him back to real cigarettes: "I can guarantee you that if Saskatchewan jurisdictions start along the same road I'll probably be back on cigarettes when I work in those areas. You don't get anywhere near the nicotine dose from electronic nicotine delivery as you do from smoking. When working on-site it's more efficient to puff a cigarette for 5 minutes than to vape for 30." He also says that these electronic devices, which get people off cigarettes, are "at risk because people say it looks like smoking and have absolutely no facts supporting any serious health issue." PeterJ comments: "These kind of rulings have nothing to do with health or smoking. It all about the power trips that took them into politics in the first place."


 
'IRS: Oh, those Lois Lerner emails, yeah they’re backed up'
Legal Insurrection points to a Judicial Watch reveals:
Department of Justice attorneys for the Internal Revenue Service told Judicial Watch on Friday that Lois Lerner’s emails, indeed all government computer records, are backed up by the federal government in case of a government-wide catastrophe. The Obama administration attorneys said that this back-up system would be too onerous to search. The DOJ attorneys also acknowledged that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) is investigating this back-up system.
Of course they were backed up. And of course the Obama administration would have lied about it.


 
Round-up of elite liberal opinion against Rick Perry indictment
Michael Barone in the Washington Examiner:
The basis for the indictment is, in the words of liberal New York Magazine writer Jonathan Chait, “unbelievably ridiculous.” The first count says that Perry violated a vaguely worded statute by threatening to veto an appropriation. That, even though the Texas Constitution gives governors the veto power and the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment protects their right to free speech.
The second count states that it was illegal “coercion” to demand the resignation of Rosemary Lehmberg, head of the public integrity prosecution unit whose funding Perry vetoed, after she was arrested for drunk driving with blood alcohol content three times the legal limit.
“To describe the indictment as ‘frivolous’ gives it far more credence than it deserves,” Chait said. Liberal Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz agreed. Perry’s actions, he said, are “not anything for a criminal indictment,” adding that the indictment is reminiscent of “what happens in totalitarian societies.”
The editorial writers of the Washington Post and the New York Times agreed. A “tendentious prosecution,” the Post wrote, noting that it was not the first one launched in Austin. The Texas town also produced the 2006 campaign finance indictment of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay that was finally ruled invalid last year.
The Times, after making clear its distaste for Perry (“one of the least thoughtful and most damaging state leaders in America”), wrote that “the indictment appears to be the product of an overzealous prosecution.”
(HT: Instapundit)


 
On this day in Canadian history
On August 26, 1875, John Buchan, 1st Lord Tweedsmuir, was born in Perth, Scotland. On the recommendation of Prime Minister R.B. Bennett, Buchan was named the 15th Governor General, a position he held from 1935 to 1940. An author of more than 50 books, including biographies and action adventure novels, he inaugurated the Governor-General's literary awards.


 
Let's restore constitutional order and not allow presidents to interpret laws as they wish
Allan Meltzer, University Professor of Political Economy at the Tepper School, Carnegie Mellon University, writes in the Wall Street Journal:
Most of us learned in grade school that the Constitution parcels legislative, executive and judicial power into separate branches of the government. This separation of powers—the system of checks and balances—is to prevent tyranny and ensure that all citizens enjoy equal protection under the law. How true are these time-honored precepts today? Unfortunately, as some colleagues at the Hoover Institution's program on regulation and the rule of law are finding, the answer is less and less.
With regard to presidential power, the Constitution is explicit: Congress is authorized to make laws, and the president must execute them. The Constitution does not authorize the executive branch to change the laws or decline to enforce them for its own convenience.
Yet President Obama has waived the requirements of laws such as the Affordable Care Act and some laws on immigration—effectively rewriting them. This practice is constitutionally dangerous: Unless it is checked, there is not much short of impeachment to prevent a future president from issuing his own laws by reinterpreting existing laws.
The Supreme Court has been loath to prevent the president from going beyond his authorized responsibility. But Speaker John Boehner has led the House to pass a resolution authorizing a lawsuit challenging the president's actions on the grounds that his actions infringe on Congress's legislative power.
Regardless of the outcome of this lawsuit, Congress has other ways to protect the rule of law. Article III of the Constitution authorizes Congress to make rules for the judiciary. It can—and should—directly change the scope of standing to permit courts to restrain the president from rewriting laws ...
To help strengthen the rule of law, Congress could require that all regulations above some specified cost be approved by both houses. That would provide oversight by elected officials who could reject special privileges and cronyism. It could also insist that all spending by any agency for any purpose requires direct congressional authorization, a fundamental principle of the Constitution.
I bet there are plenty of Republicans who don't want this challenge against the President won; it will be handy for them to be able to decide which laws they want to enforce and tweak in the future.