Sobering Thoughts

Comments on politics, the culture, economics, and sports by Paul Tuns. I am editor-in-chief of "The Interim," Canada's life and family newspaper, and author of "Jean Chretien: A Legacy of Scandal" (2004) and "The Dauphin: The Truth about Justin Trudeau" (2015). I am some combination of conservative/libertarian, standing athwart history yelling "bullshit!" You can follow me on Twitter (@ptuns).

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Sunday, December 11, 2016
 
Tariffs hurt consumers, not just business
The Washington Post reports:
[Donald] Trump has talked often of introducing soaring new tariffs, pulling out of trade agreements, and recently, punishing American companies who move jobs overseas. These moves, he says, would be aimed at encouraging companies to create jobs in the United States by making goods here at home.
If a Trump administration ends up pushing for these or other major policy changes on trade, few industries are likely to feel the jolt more acutely than retail, which sells you smartphones made in China, sneakers made in Vietnam and furniture made in Mexico. With that in mind, it’s worth examining what is at stake in this debate for retailers and consumer goods importers. A sweeping change could alter how they do business and, in turn, could affect the prices or merchandise selection available to you, the consumer.
Unfortunately, the story focuses on the effect on the retail business and companies that have supply chains in multiple countries that might be affected by Trump tearing up the NAFTA agreement. The Post reports that some of Trump's trade policies would fall afoul of World Trade Organization rules and that even if he could implement high tariffs targeting one country (China or Mexico), companies would move operations to other countries with low wages, and not the United States.
The overall effect of raising tariffs is to make companies pay more when they buy goods from abroad, costs that inevitably passed on to consumers.


 
Will on Bob Dylan
George Will says that Bob Dylan may be admired and enjoyed as an artist, but takes issue with classifying his lyrics as poetry or the idea that Dylan is the "defining American artist." But Will is notoriously fussy about such things.
Will approvingly quotes Andrew Ferguson's approving words on Dylan:
The Weekly Standard’s Andrew Ferguson would win the Nobel Prize for Common Sense, if there were one. He notes that by not taking himself too seriously or encouraging others to do so, Dylan has “proved two propositions that seemed increasingly unlikely in the age of media-saturation: You can shun publicity and still be hugely famous, and you can be hugely famous and not be obnoxious about it.” For this, Dylan deserves some sort of prize. Ferguson laments that it is evidently impossible to take Dylan “for what he is, an impressive man worthy of admiration, affection and respect, and leave it at that.”


 
Presidential corruption
From Tyler Cowen's Bloomberg column:
Many of the concerns about [Trump] start with his refusal to disclose much about his income, asset holdings and business interests. Even if he does not put his commercial interests before the national good, it will be harder for him to act with full legitimacy and credibility because he’s left so much to wonder about when it comes to his motives.


Saturday, December 10, 2016
 
BoJo's Saudi remarks
Last week British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said some impolitic and undiplomatic things about British ally Saudi Arabia. The (London) Times reports:
Boris Johnson has made it clear that he will not change his approach to the role of foreign secretary following a meeting with Theresa May to discuss his condemnation of Saudi Arabia for fighting “proxy wars”. The prime minister summoned Mr Johnson to Downing Street on Thursday evening after her spokeswoman issued a public rebuke for his criticism of a key ally.’ Mr Johnson has refused to apologise, however, and has told friends that he believes No 10 mishandled its reaction to the publication of his remarks. Allies also dismissed claims that he could quit.
The Daily Mail editorializes:
This paper well understands why the Prime Minister is tempted to mock Boris Johnson and rebuke him when he fails to toe the official line. But she appointed him Foreign Secretary, knowing his maverick temperament. Constantly slapping him down, while keeping him in high office, reflects well on no one.
That should be read as an endorsement not to dump or shuffle Johnson, but for a certain tolerance of his honesty. The Sun says BoJo is one of the best assets the May government has: "a quick-witted politician with huge public appeal." Prime Minister May shouldn't care a lick that the Left (and red-hued Tories) can't stand him. The Sun editorializes:
Nothing irks Labour and its supporters like the enduring popularity of Boris Johnson ...
And they can’t bear that BoJo backed Leave in the EU referendum, showing the Latin-quoting old-Etonian understands working-class voters better than most Labour MPs.
Intelligent, clever, and popular is a rare combination and the Left is envious. They want BoJo gone; Theresa May has to worry about allies and diplomatic niceties -- or at least appear to -- but she shouldn't worry about what Labourites and their allies at the BBC and Guardian think.


 
Quantity vs. quality
Bryan Caplan on converting people to one's side (politically, intellectually):
If your main goal is to convince as many people as possible, you naturally focus on emotional appeals - especially to anger, fear, and disgust. Everyone feels these emotions, so everyone's a potential convert. If you bother making arguments at all, build your case around vivid stories, not step-by-step arguments. Don't bother trying to pass an Ideological Turing Test for opposing views; you'll just confuse your audience. In fact, don't bother anticipating and answering the best objections to your views. Just troll and move on. Why respond to arguments most of your potential converts have never even heard?
In contrast, if your main goal is to improve the intellectual quality of people on "your side," you do the opposite. Start by urging your allies to calm down, because anger, fear, and disgust impede careful reasoning. Then, review popular arguments for your allies' views - and point out flaws in said arguments. Finally, offer better arguments - and more reasonable conclusions. Along the way, you'll eagerly address the best objections you've encountered - and try to present them as skillfully as their best advocates. By the end, most of your potential audience will have wandered away in anger, fear, and disgust. But the few who remain will be better thinkers and better people.
I can't honestly claim to focus solely on quality. Frankly, it gets a little dull. But from where I'm standing, most public intellectuals focus almost exclusively on quantity. This is hardly surprising for slower-witted pundits; maybe they can't do any better. But when I see brilliant minds demagoguing, I'm aghast. Even if they made converts by the boatload, I'd be ashamed to emulate them.
Some thoughts.
1. Caplan can be ruthlessly logical. That's an argument for him being more concerned with quality.
2. I'd bet most public intellectuals would say they prefer quality converts over quantity converts. They are probably lying to themselves or others (or both).
3. I'm not sure quality is always preferable over quantity. Politics is a numbers game. That said, voting is complex and changing some people's views on issues X, Y, and/or Z hardly guarantees they will prioritize them in voting. Still, sometimes quantity matters.
4. Worrying about converts downplays the importance of preaching to the choir.
5. A noble purpose of arguing is not to win converts, but to open minds (admittedly with the possibility of winning converts down the road). Often one of my goals in writing, including writing for the "choir," is to present new ideas or present old ideas in new ways. I want to broaden minds, not directly change them.


Friday, December 09, 2016
 
The art of the deal
Donald Trump brags that no one does deals like he does.
The Blaze reports on the Trump-Carrier deal:
Last week, Trump and Carrier both announced that they had reached an agreement that would keep thousands of jobs in the United States. But it appears the deal, which involved a $16 million investment in the Indiana facility itself, will also fund an automation overhaul for the facility.
CEO of Carrier’s parent company United Technologies, Greg Hayes, confirmed to CNBC this week that it would ultimately mean fewer jobs available at the facility.
“We’re going to … automate to drive the cost down so that we can continue to be competitive,” Hayes said.
Donald Trump should have obtained assurances that Carrier would continue to employ the people the President-Elect vowed to fight for.


 
UK Supreme Court's Article 50 case
The Guardian has a decent summary of the hearings on their live blog of the case. Yesterday,Financial Times law correspondent David Allen Green wrote about the final day's key argument, which is important:
So far the submissions have focused on matters of high constitutional law and practice: the prerogative power of the crown, the sovereignty of parliament, and the relationship of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom. This morning, the focus shifted to the individuals and their families who may be affected by the consequences of an Article 50 notification. One powerful set of submissions were made by Manjit Gill QC on behalf of EU citizens in the UK. He contended, with evident passion, that such citizens face deportation on Brexit. This, of course, would be the case unless, as is likely, arrangements were put in place: but this cannot be assumed. If Mr Gill is correct then there could be no doubt that rights, including the rights of children would be affected.
Green's point is correct, but also a minor one (as is Gill's contention). As Hugh Bennett of BrexitCentral says, "The major issue now confronting the Supreme Court is the principle ... [that] the judiciary is not able to trespass on the business of Parliament by compelling it to pass legislation." It would be brazen judicial activism for the Court to demand this. No matter how you dress up the legal argument, this is what the case is about. The Guardian reported:
The politically sensitive dispute, which began in the high court, is over whether the government or parliament has legitimate authority to trigger Brexit by giving formal notice to Brussels under article 50 of the Treaty on European Union of the UK’s intention to depart. The lower court backed the claimant, finding that parliament should give the final approval to begin the process.
Considering that the House of Commons endorsed leaving the EU by a 448 to 75 margin, I don't see how this case is relevant anymore. Or as government lawyer James Eadie argued, that vote is "legally relevant" to the case being heard and Lord Neuberger seemed to agree.
That said, I think there is a 50% chance the Supreme Court tells Theresa May's government they need an explicit vote to invoke Article 50.


 
Post-Brexit economy
The (London) Times reports:
McDonald’s is to move its international headquarters from Luxembourg to Britain in a boost to the country’s status as a centre for trading after Brexit. The American fast-food chain will use its new base to collect royalties from most of its 22,000 hamburger restaurants outside the United States, paying UK tax on profits. McDonald’s makes two thirds of its money outside America and, assuming that the company pays the top rate of corporation tax, the arrangement is likely to generate tens of millions of pounds a year for the Treasury … The chain said yesterday that its reasons for relocating "were sound before Brexit and remain so beyond it — these strengths are unlikely to change as the UK negotiates leaving the European Union."
London can keep and attract corporate headquarters by keeping its corporate tax rates lower than those of EU member states. UK corporate taxes are currently at 20%, will be 19% next year, and are scheduled to be reduced to 17% by 2020. Belgian, French, German and Italian corporate rates are above 30% (with higher pension and health liabilities), while the Dutch rate is 25% and Luxemburg's 29%.
Lowering the top income tax rate would also incentivize top-flight professional and managerial talent to advocate for their companies to headquarter in the United Kingdom; currently top British rates are competitive with most of the other large countries in the UK and slightly higher than many other members.


 
How to drain the swamp
Writing in the Washington Post, Senator Ted Cruz and Rep. Ron DeSantis argue for term limits:
Term limits will change the calculus of those who serve in Congress.
Without term limits, the incentive for a typical member is to stay as long as possible to accumulate seniority on the way to a leadership post or committee chair. Going along to get along is a much surer path for career advancement than is challenging the way Washington does business.
With term limits, we will have more frequent changes in leadership and within congressional committees, giving reformers a better chance at overcoming the Beltway inertia that resists attempts to reduce the power of Washington.
A permanent political class is anathema to a vibrant democracy.


 
Re-distribute the swamp doesn't have quite the same ring to it
Glenn Reynolds in USA Today:
Donald Trump ran for president on the slogan “Make America Great Again!” And he’s also promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington. But maybe the way to do that is to make Washington a little less great. Because as Washington has prospered over the last several decades — to the point where people are making Hunger Games comparisons — the rest of the country hasn’t done as well.
So perhaps it’s time for a role-reversal. I propose that over the next several years, we transfer a lot of federal employees out of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, to parts of the country that aren’t doing so well economically. This would provide a boost to places like Buffalo, New York, or Quincy, Illinois, or Fresno, California, while getting federal bureaucrats out of the D.C. bubble.
Reynolds describes some fancy restaurants and warns:
This increased “vibrancy” is great for people who live in Washington — well, it’s great for the ones who live there and have a lot of money — but it’s not a good thing for the country. The nation’s capital shouldn’t be a place of extravagance and vibrancy, because those are basically byproducts of graft. It should be boring.


Thursday, December 08, 2016
 
What I'm reading
1. The Supreme Court on Trial: Judicial Activism or Democratic Dialogue by Kent Roach
2. The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis. A good look at the lives and careers of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Good column about it by David Brooks a few weeks back that convinced me to read it. In the running for one of the best ten books of the year.
3. "The Limits of Economic “Stimulus”: How monetary and fiscal policy have sown the seeds of the next crisis," a Macdonald-Laurier Institute study by Philip Cross
4. "Pipelines for Oil: Protecting Our Economy, Respecting Our Environment," the interim report of the Standing Senate Committee on Transportation and Communications. Reports like this are the best thing that the Canadian Senate does, and that is not intended as a backhanded compliment.
5. "Policing in America: Understanding Public Attitudes Toward the Police. Results from a National Survey," a Cato Institute Working Paper by Emily Ekins


 
Four NFL games to watch (Week 14)
Honourable mention: Dallas Cowboys (11-1) at New York Giants (8-4): You could pick the high-octane New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, one of the hottest teams in the NFL (winners of six of their last eight, just flexed into prime time for Week 15); TB is tied with Atlanta by record, but is currently in the wild card position and New Orleans has a flicker of hope they can still play into January. You could pick Denver Broncos at Tennessee Titans in a meaningful game for both teams and how Marcus Mariota does against the best defense according Football Outsiders. You could pick the Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts who are tied at 6-6 atop the AFC South, with the winner pacing the division with three games to go. This is a great week with numerous games that are meaningful to both sides. The Cowboys-Giants might have been #1 on this list if New York beat Pittsburgh last week. But with three games separation and four games left, the 'Boys seem ordained to win the division even if they haven't quite clinched. The Giants handed the 'Boys their only loss of the season back in the opener (by one point, in Dallas). NFC East contests in prime time are always a lot of fun and this game features two exciting WRs (Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham Jr.). But the Giants record is larded with narrow wins -- gritty victories if you're a Giants fan -- against weak teams. Dallas exacts their revenge in the Big Apple.
4. Seattle Seahawks (8-3-1) at Green Bay Packers (6-6): In recent years, the 'Hawks-Packers games have been epic. GB has had its struggles this season, mostly due to its injury stack (four running backs, three cornerbacks), but Aaron Rodgers has been stellar in his last three games: 7 TDs, no picks, three games of 108.9 passer rating or better. Rodgers versus a Seattle Seahawks defense sans Earl Thomas will be fascinating. Seattle's D allows an NFL-best 16.2 ppg but that's partly because of the flexibility the defense due to the versatility of the best safety in the league; now that Thomas is out for the season, it will be interesting to see how the 'Hawks adjust. Seattle can solidify their second seed with a victory and the Packers can keep their tiny playoff hopes with a win. Three weeks ago A-Rod said the Packers probably have to win out to make the playoffs. They should win their third straight in the tundra at Lambeau.
3. Baltimore Ravens (7-5) at New England Patriots (10-2): The Monday Night Football game features one of the best defenses in the league taking on Tom Brady's offense. Baltimore has put their season back together winning four of their last five (the sole loss being against the Dallas Cowboys). Perhaps notable, those four wins all came at home. Interestingly, the Ravens and Patriots are tied for the second best defense in terms of points allowed (17.2 ppg), but the Ravens allow more than 23 per game on the road. I have to go with the superior offense, even if Brady is missing Rob Gronkowski. Joe Flacco has only three multiple TD games this season. Pats win a close one.
2. Oakland Raiders (10-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (9-3): AFC West division contest on Thursday night with all sorts of implications. Chiefs would move into first with a victory and the tie-breaker with a sweep of the Raiders. Oakland needs to create some space between them and Kansas City. A victory would give either team a shot at the first overall seed, too; Oakland would love to play the Patriots (presumably) at home for the AFC Conference Championship, rather than travel to the east coast. The Raiders have won six in a row and haven't lost since they last played the Chiefs. KC has gotten better since then with the return of linebacker Justin Houston, which only improves the Chiefs D. (Indeed, tonight's contest will be only the third time this season that Houston, Tamba Hali, and Dee Ford play together.) KC's offense gets a boost this week, too, with the return of WR Jeremy Maclin. I don't put a lot of credence in stats like "Alex Smith is 8-1 in his career against the Raiders." LB Khalil Mack is coming off the Defensive Player of the Month (November) and is making a case for Defensive Player of the Year (10 sacks, 58 tackles, four forced fumbles). He closed the last two games with forced fumbles. Seeing MVP candidate Derek Carr face a defense that can terrorize quarterbacks will be very exciting, and perhaps go some way to cementing Carr's MVP bona fides or taking the young QB down a notch or so in the award conversation. Carr has thrown an NFL-record five game-winning TD passes in the fourth quarter or overtime this season, so as long as Oakland keeps it close, there will be hope. It is hard to see either team breaking it open (although KC won their week six matchup 26-10) in the freezing cold at Arrowhead. Oakland ekes out a win on the strength of coach Jack Del Rio's bold play-calling.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) at Buffalo Bills (6-6): This shouldn't be the best game of the week, but I'm going to see the game live (early Christmas gift). That said, it is a top four game. The Steelers are battling for the AFC North title (they have a 54.1% chance to win the division and 5.7% chance for the wild card) and the Bills are fighting for their playoff lives (9.9% chance for the wild card). The Bills have a dynamic rushing offense but second-year Buffalo starting QB Tyrod Taylor has never thrown a 300-yard game. Pittsburgh's offense has hinted at its too often elusive explosiveness in recent weeks, but more importantly their defense has been solid (30 points over the past three games). The Steelers might be the most balanced team as they are ranked eighth in both offensive and defensive DVOA (no other team is in the top ten in both). It's always fun to watch Ben Roethlisberger make plays, LeVeon Bell run for first downs and then some, and Antonio Brown pull in deep catches. They face the 21st-ranked D in Buffalo, and while this game will probably be closer than recent Steelers games, Pittsburgh should win their fourth in a row and a Bills team that has won just one contest against a team in the playoff hunt (week four's victory over the Brady-less Patriots).


 
Why trade deficits don't matter
Kevin D. Williamson writes about trade deficits at NRO. Williamson says that trade deficits reflect both consumer and investor preferences. We buy goods from other countries but they don't buy so much from us. But America is a great place to invest, so a lot of that money comes back in the form of investments. Williamson explains, "In economics terms, what this means is that the trade deficit is a mirror image of the capital surplus."
But even if there wasn't a capital surplus, trade deficits wouldn't matter. Focusing on the consumer preference side of the equation, Williamson describes the benefits of voluntary exchange:
Trade does not happen between countries (which is why “trade deficits” are kind of a mirage, anyway, a chimera of aggregation) but between buyers and sellers, each of whom stands to gain from the exchange — if it were otherwise, the exchange would not happen.
And that's why trade deficits are not really a matter of concern for governments, or at least, shouldn't be. Washington or Ottawa or London doesn't actually owe money to another country. Goods, and increasingly services, move across borders between companies and they'll find a way to benefit from that exchange.


 
A infrastructure agenda for Republicans
"A Conservative Approach to Infrastructure Investment," by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry makes the case for an infrastructure agenda that will help the economy: "upgrading existing infrastructure," reducing red tape, improving high-speed broadband, building nuclear power plants, and prizes for moonshots. Also, avoid pork-laden infrastructure or projects that appear to meet today's needs but not tomorrows. This is especially a problem when the permission phase of projects can take a decade or more and the building of infrastructure is either way behind or too late.


 
Western countries get together. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
An excerpt of the joint statement "from the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States on the situation in Aleppo":
We urge all parties in Syria to adhere to international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has spoken about war crimes being committed in Syria. There must not be impunity for those responsible. We call on the UN to investigate respective reports and gather evidence to hold the perpetrators of war crimes to account. We are ready to consider additional restrictive measures against individuals and entities that act for or on behalf of the Syrian regime.
At the same time, Russia is blocking the UN Security Council, which is therefore unable to do its work and put an end to the atrocities. The regime’s refusal to engage in a serious political process also highlights the unwillingness of both Russia and Iran to work for a political solution despite their assurances to the contrary. We support the efforts of the UN Special Envoy (Staffan) de Mistura to resume the political process through negotiations. Only a political settlement can bring peace for people in Syria.
Some thoughts.
1. It's cute how these world "leaders" still claim to have faith in the UN as an answer to regional problems. I hope that British Prime Minister Theresa May is merely showing support for her colleagues and this does not represent her real thinking.
2. Terror regimes like Syria's and fundamentalists like ISIS do not respond to "political" solutions.
3. One could argue that Syria is within Russia sphere of influence (maybe), but that no other country can do that unless they are protecting Israel's existence or the free flow of energy.
4. Yes, there is a humanitarian angle to this. The West is virtually powerless to do anything about it, or unable to pay the tremendous costs of doing anything. See #2.
5. It is naive to think that the UN could do anything but wag its collective finger even if Russia was not in the way of a supposed "solution."
6. UN bodies like the Security Council are meaningless until the parties involved in conflict are ready to stop using violence to attain their goals. When one side has lost too much or the other has gained what it wanted, or the costs of continuing the conflict are too great for both sides, they'll get together under the auspices of some international body or figurehead peacemaker who'll take the credit for negotiating peace. By this point, though, it's theatre.
7. UN toffs view talking and politics not as a means to an end, but a goal in itself. See also #1, #5 and #6.
8. Barack Obama and Justin Trudeau are fundamentally not up to the job of standing up to Vladimir Putin. I don't think Theresa May or Donald Trump are either.
9. Is Putin laughing or shrugging at this statement?
10. Once again, Francis Fukuyama is proven wrong. There is no new liberal world order.


Wednesday, December 07, 2016
 
Theresa May's brilliant move
The Daily Telegraph reports:
MPs will be asked to back the Government’s plan to formally serve Article 50 by the end of March 2017. Mrs May also committed to revealing the official plan for Brexit before the process begins. The unexpected announcement came after months of the Government refusing to give a “running commentary” on Brexit, or formally to allow Parliament a vote on the process.
The (London) Times reports:
Mrs May’s move has fended off – for the time being – a confrontation with pro-European Tories but that may not last. One of them, Neil Carmichael, suggested that his colleagues would keep up the pressure on her. “Pleased the government has accepted the need for a Brexit plan – good for business confidence and international reputation, but there is more to do,” he said.
While there is no guarantee it works, The Guardian's Matthew D'Ancona thinks there is a touch of brilliant politics:
Whether or not the Commons will agree to this amendment has yet to be seen. But May has certainly caught the remainers off guard with this tactic, agreeing to a concession that they expected would be much harder to secure. It edges the PM closer to the moral high ground, and strengthens her claim to be the authentic champion of democracy. She signals that she respects both the referendum and representative democracy, and challenges MPs to follow suit. As a holding position, it is a cunning plan.
It might also buy some time to deal with several non-Brexit issues.


 
Two good Bloomberg columns
Megan McArdle says that in the long-run, broad, principle-based, and often unseen rules are better than the sort of gimmicky "browbeating and cajoling and subsidizing" of private enterprise to keep (favoured) businesses open. It's a must-read column with a challenge to those of us who favour seemingly abstract economic principles over (limited) results-oriented politics.
Tyler Cowen says that seasteading is not merely some "self-indulgent Silicon Valley utopianism" -- or what I prefer to call the libertarian wet-dreams -- as he makes the communitarian case for autonomous "governance units" on the high seas, and elsewhere. Cowen suggests that rather than becoming a "vehicle for political liberty" they could become settlements for seniors. It's Cowen's call for "better clustering."


 
An example of left-wing ideology driving a proposed national food policy


Tuesday, December 06, 2016
 
Did the Pentagon waste $125 billion?
The Washington Post reports:
The Pentagon has buried an internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations amid fears Congress would use the findings as an excuse to slash the defense budget, according to interviews and confidential memos obtained by The Washington Post.
Pentagon leaders had requested the study to help make their enormous back-office bureaucracy more efficient and reinvest any savings in combat power. But after the project documented far more wasteful spending than expected, senior defense officials moved swiftly to kill it by discrediting and suppressing the results.
There is plenty of waste, but the headline numbers are misleading. Read on and you'll find that the Pentagon report identifies $125 billion in potential savings over five years, and it's almost all personnel. The study suggests lowering the number of bureaucrats, because as the Post reports:
The data showed that the Defense Department was paying a staggering number of people — 1,014,000 contractors, civilians and uniformed personnel — to fill back-office jobs far from the front lines. That workforce supports 1.3 million troops on active duty.
The study also recommends better use of technology and more competitive bidding for contracts to save on administration costs.
When people hear about Pentagon waste they will often think about $800 hammers, not some guy in accounting. Perhaps it's wasteful and the Department of Defense can do a better job utilizing its resources. With nearly one in four DoD dollars going to "overhead and core business operations" rather than troops and equipment, there is plenty of room for more prudent spending. It's a reminder not that government is wasteful (although it is), but that big government programs are expensive and overmanned. And the military is a Big Government Program.


 
Best comment on Trump 'saving' the Carrier jobs in Indiana
The Hoover Institute's John Cochrane has a lot to say and excerpt on the issue, but this is Economics 101: "If it's profitable to build air conditioners in Mexico, then someone else will do it and that Carrier plant is toast anyway." It's not just that the deal reeks of crony capitalism and opening the door to everything potentially politically sinister about that phenomenon; it's bad economics.


 
Incentivizing juvenile behaviour
ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio comments on the fact that two shirtless men were running around topless on the field during the Indianapolis Colts-New York Jets game. Florio says:
For decades, TV networks have refused to broadcast those images.
Why is that? I mean, I know why — the networks don’t want to encourage similar behavior. But why do they care? And why do they think that people who see drunk guys run on the field will suddenly aspire to go to a game, get drunk, and run around on the field? ...
[W]hile Sean McDonough and Jon Gruden had no qualms about discussing it, ESPN refused to show it.
Meanwhile, every fan in attendance had the ability to record the incident with their phones and post it on social media. And some did.
So maybe the time has come for the networks to revisit an outdated policy that never made much sense and broadcast the game authentically, showing the fans at home everything that 60,000 or so fans can not only see but also individually broadcast. Maybe seeing the images of the drunk guy getting leveled by security won’t encourage more to do the same; maybe indisputable visual evidence of the outcome will be a deterrent.
It's a good question: does showing people (illegally) running around the field encourage such behaviour? We don't know, but I'd lean toward no. I'm not sure that seeing the possible consequences of being tackled by security is a disincentive, however. But showing fans who get on the field could still lead to a deterrent. One thing social media does very well is over-the-top, no-sense-of-proportion shaming; let the online world loose on jackasses who disrupt the play and perhaps we'll discourage such behaviour. Or maybe not. Should this even be a consideration for broadcasters? Perhaps networks should just end the paternalistic policies of preventing the home audience from seeing a relatively harmless albeit illegal act, which to be quite honest, is often enjoyed by the fans in the audience. Such paternalism is certainly outdated when any fan -- or tens of thousands of fans -- can broadcast the shenanigans themselves.
And why deny Jets fans the one thing the home team did right on Monday Night Football?


 
'Saris, samosas and steel drums'
The (London) Times reports:
The “misogyny and patriarchy” in some ethnic minorities is contributing to widening social division in the UK, the government’s cohesion adviser warned yesterday. Dame Louise Casey took aim at critics for ignoring problems that had often resulted in difficulties being allowed to fester. Her report on social integration said that increased diversity in Britain had led to less, not more, integration. The report said her team had been told that there are up to 100,000 Sharia marriages in the UK, many of which are not recognised and leave women without full rights on divorce…She dismissed ministerial attempts to boost integration as amounting to little more than “saris, samosas and steel drums for the already well-intentioned.”
Here is coverage from The Guardian and the Daily Mail, which take very different approaches to Dame Louise Casey's review.
Dame Casey's 199-page review was released about a month after a brief report by academic Ted Cantle was released, which described white flight in some British neighbourhoods, with the Daily Mail recently reporting Cantle telling them, "Some of those families made no bones about it - they are moving out because 'they' are moving in." This is nothing new, but rather the continuation of a long-term trend; 15 years ago, the Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship warned about the ineptitude of official multiculturalism policies in the face of strong cultural preferences when it comes to school segregation. (Indeed, these issues are decades, if not centuries old; the progressive mindset that they have been or can be easily overcome is fanciful.) Rhetoric about diversity on the one side and calls for loyalty oaths from the other are insufficient in the face of radically different cultures bumping up against each other and (at least) one side deciding they'd rather not have to deal with the other.


Monday, December 05, 2016
 
Sustainable Development Goals
The Brookings Institute has a study, "How close to zero," that examines the 193 UN member states and their "country-level trajectories" for six of the Sustainable Development Goal targets by 2030. The authors have found that 154 countries will miss at least one target (fully 80% of members) and that six high-income countries, including Canada, are on a trajectory to miss two targets. While Canada is close to reaching the targets for access to clean water and access to sanitation, it has been stuck at 99.8% access for some years and these figures look unmovable. Meanwhile, many African countries will need a drastic uptick in fortune to meet their thresholds.
There is also a disturbing lack of data for many countries that make exercises such the SDGs disingenuousness from the start. For example, the researchers say nearly 80 countries lack adequate data on undernourishment while 57 countries have incomplete information about access to primary school completion. The data for eliminating extreme poverty is so insufficient, the Brookings researchers didn't even bother studying that goal.
These goals are aspirational rather than hard targets. But the United Nations and many governments signal they are not serious about the problems national governments and international organizations should be striving to address when basic statistics about the scope of the problems are not available.


 
Let's get America building again
Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan (R) writes in the Wall Street Journal about several egregious delays in the building and repair of infrastructure in America due to costly and time-consuming regulations. Sullivan reports that one wag observed that it took longer to build a new runway at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport than it did to build the Great Pyramids of Egypt (four years to construct but 15 years to get the permits). Sullivan has offered regulation-reducing bills before, and he'll do it again next month:
After Congress convenes in January, I will introduce the Rebuild America Now Act. It would establish strict time limits so that if permits aren’t approved or denied for good cause within a specified time, then the project is deemed approved. The law also creates a one-stop shop for environmental reviews and permitting to ensure that projects don’t get bogged down by agencies pursuing different agendas. Agencies would be required to abide by the RED Tape Act, a version of which would be part of the new law.
Having lost the election, progressives are already preparing litigation and protests to stop American infrastructure and energy projects. My bill would limit sue-and-settle practices that abuse the judicial system, as well as stopping groups that oppose economic development from needlessly delaying or killing much-needed projects. It would also have a builder’s and worker’s bill of rights, which would include timely permitting decisions and transparency in agency decision-making to spell out exactly why a permit is denied.
It is easy to see Democrat senators once again standing in the way of regulatory reform, as they have with a pair of previous efforts by Sullivan.
These delays have consequences. A plan first floated during the Reagan administration to deepen the harbour in Jacksonville was not approved until June 2014. Similarly, delays for Charleston's harbour have been a competitive disadvantage for South Carolina manufacturers. One might be forgiven for cynically believing that the jobs infrastructure projects prioritize are those of bureaucrats.


 
It's 2016 so this should not be surprising
Porn star Jenna Jameson hearts Benjamin Netanhayu:
And David Duke disapproves:
There's a good chance this is the first time I'm blogging about Jameson or Duke. I wouldn't have ever thought I'd be blogging about them in the same story.
Does Duke really think he will turn Americans against Jews by linking the latter to the porn industry?