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.
Friday, December 13, 2013
'Why aren't cities taller?'
A few weeks ago Robin Hanson wondered about the density of modern cities isn't great, noting the modern metropolis hasn't become the sort of tall-building cities envisioned in science fiction and other futurists. Considering possible explanations, he blames politics:
Maybe local governments usually can’t coordinate well to build supporting infrastructure, like roads, schools, power, sewers, etc., to match taller buildings. So they veto them instead. Or maybe local non-property-owning voters believe that more tall buildings will hurt them personally. (The big city nearest me actually has a law against buildings over 40 meters tall.)Note that most of these explanations are variations on the same theme: local governments fail to coordinate to enable tall buildings. Which is in fact my favored explanation. City density, and hence city size, is mainly limited by the abilities of the conflicting elements that influence local governments to coordinate to enable taller buildings.Remember those futurist images of dense tall cities scraping the skies? The engineers have done their job to make it possible. It is politics that isn’t yet up to the task.
Google's road map to world domination
The New York Times has a long and very good article on Google's efforts to map the world. A snippet:
In 2005, A9.com, Amazon’s skunk works for search technology, unveiled an innovative feature called Block View. It was meant to be a newfangled Yellow Pages where you could find the phone number and address of a local business — as well as a photograph of its storefront. Block View was discontinued after only 20 months, but not before Microsoft introduced its own version, Streetside, that was essentially identical, except that Microsoft’s pictures of streets and storefronts were seen through a digitally created framing device. Though the photos were taken from car-roof-mounted cameras, they were presented online as if you were looking through a windshield. The result was dorky, but it was one solution to the vexing problem of coming up with a user interface. How do you move through a map made of photographs? Microsoft’s answer: In a virtual car.Google ultimately developed a more elegant user interface. Instead of representing movement along a street as flipping through a filmstriplike series of photographs, as Block View and Streetside did, Google pursued the idea of a panoramic camera — what would become the green orb — and used it to take a panoramic photo every few feet. The effect of hopping from one photo to the next in Street View is one of walking through virtual space.Microsoft’s Streetside debuted in 2006 with a photographic rendering of parts of Seattle and San Francisco. Google’s Street View arrived a year later, with five cities: San Francisco, New York, Las Vegas, Miami and Denver. Google eventually overwhelmed Microsoft with a more aggressive surveying program. Street View now covers 3,000 cities in 54 countries, and it has gone beyond streets and onto train tracks, hiking trails, even rivers. A section of the Amazon was the first river, appearing last year; the Thames made its debut in October; and the Colorado will be available by the end of the year. “We want to paint the world,” Vincent says. When I asked him what level of resolution we were talking about, he said, “About one pixel to the inch.”
The article concludes noting that Google is developing an autonomous car, which will use Google maps, and how Tesla's self-driving car probably won't.
'True unemployment rate 11% or higher in 49 of the last 50 months'
Investor's Business Daily's Ed Carson writes about the real (as opposed to official) unemployment rate, noting:
The official unemployment rate has fallen to a five-year low of 7%. But put away the champagne.That gradual decline reflects a historic drop in labor force participation. Without that drop, joblessness would be 11.3%, holding at 11% or higher in every month but one in the last 50 months.To be considered unemployed, a person has to be out of work but actively looking. So when people give up the job hunt, they reduce unemployment — even if the number of people working hasn't risen.At the start of the recession in December 2007, the labor force participation rate was 66%. It fell sharply, tumbling to 62.8% in October, a 35-year low. It rose slightly to 63% last month.
Carson considers a number of explanations, notably demographics, anemic economic growth, and the "lack of job churn." You could add government policies that lessen the cost of not working.
Regardless, unemployment will decrease again next month:
In the meantime, get ready for more "good" news on unemployment. Extended jobless benefits are set to expire at year-end. That means 1.3 million longtime unemployed who officially are in the labor force could drop out. That could reduce the official jobless rate by up to half a percentage point by some estimates.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Duck Dynasty stars' Christmas album out-sells Britney Spears, Lady Gaga
Breitbart reports that "Duck the Halls: A Robertson Family Christmas sold more copies this week than both Britney Spears' latest album Britney Jean and the sinking fast disk from Lady Gaga, ARTPOP." What is incredible about that fact is it outsold Spears despite the fact that the Robertsons' album was released October 29 and Britney Jean on December 3. We shouldn't be surprised.
Americans' view of government
Emily Ekins at Reason's Hit & Run:
The latest Reason-Rupe poll finds that 54 percent of Americans think government, while necessary for certain functions, is generally burdensome and impedes them more than helps them. Conversely 41 percent view government as primarily a source of good and helping people improve their lives.A majority of Democrats (54 percent) view government as primarily a source of helping people, while 40 percent generally view it as an obstacle. In contrast, majorities of Republicans (69 percent) and independents (57 percent) disagree, viewing government as primarily as burdensome making it more difficult for people to improve their lives. Twenty-six percent of Republicans and 39 percent of independents view government as primarily helpful ...Although majorities of young Americans agree there is more government should be doing, 53 percent view government as primarily burdensome and 43 percent view it as helpful. These numbers are similar to older Americans who feel government impedes people by a margin of 55 to 40 percent.
Libertarians could spin these numbers as either positive or negative. Also, "generally ... burdensome" and "primarily a source of good" is hardly the right binary barometer to measure attitudes toward government. Furthermore, respondents were evenly split on "The less government the better" and "There are more things government should be doing" (48% each). The full poll results are here. Overall it is disappointing to see such high support for government in general.
Nature: "Simulations back up theory that Universe is a hologram." The science magazine reports:
A team of physicists has provided some of the clearest evidence yet that our Universe could be just one big projection ...In one paper, [Japanese physicist Yoshifumi] Hyakutake computes the internal energy of a black hole, the position of its event horizon (the boundary between the black hole and the rest of the Universe), its entropy and other properties based on the predictions of string theory as well as the effects of so-called virtual particles that continuously pop into and out of existence. In the other, he and his collaborators calculate the internal energy of the corresponding lower-dimensional cosmos with no gravity. The two computer calculations match.
So to be clear, the evidence was not observed, but computed and calculated, based on predictions predicated on theory.
Again, I highly recommend Jim Baggott's pro-science book Farewell To Reality: How Modern Physics has Betrayed the Search for Scientific Truth.
Four downs (Week 15 games to watch)
1. Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys: If Aaron Rodgers were playing, this might top the weekend's list of games to watch, but with Matt Flynn under center for Green Bay, it is merely one of the better games of a bad bunch. Rodgers might not play again this season, and certainly not if the 6-6-1 Packers lose and their NFC North division rivals win, effectively eliminating Green Bay from playoff contention. It certainly helps Flynn that he is facing an undisciplined Dallas defense. Both teams desperately need a win (Dallas is 7-6 but the Philadelphia Eagles are a hot team right now) and while it is easy to predict that Tony Romo will shred the Packers' D (surrendering 432.3 yards per game over their last three contests), it is also possible to see Flynn slicing through the Cowboys' D (league worst 426.8 yards allowed per game on the season). According to Football Outsiders, Dallas and Green Bay have the third and second worst defenses overall. Green Bay will need rookie RB Eddie Lacy healthy to compete and they'll want to contain Dallas running threat DeMarco Murray who had a phenomenal game last week (18 attempts, 146 yards, 8.1 yards per rush) and has averaged at least 5.6 yards per rush attempt in four of his last five games. Or there's always the Tony Romo can't win in December BS. Dallas in a high-scoring affair, but after a hot start, they'll appear to let Green Bay back in the game. Because that's what Dallas does.
2. New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins: While New England can clinch the division with a victory (and Tom Brady can tie Dan Marino for fourth on the all-time regular season win list), the real stakes are that the Pats are fighting for the second seed in the AFC and the Fins are fighting for the final wild card spot. It will be interesting to see how Bill Belichick game-plans with TE Rob Gronkowski injured once again, although the fatalists should remember that the Patriots were 5-1 without him at the beginning of the season. Stakes are high. Division rivals playing a rare meaningful game against each other in December. And New England has a propensity for falling behind and requiring fourth quarter/last minute heroics to pull off the come-from-behind win (see Patriots vs Broncos, Patriots vs Texans, Patriots vs Browns, Patriots vs. Dolphins). This should be a good, if not great game. Ryan Tannehill has quietly made great strides and then there's this interesting fact reported by Adam Beasely of the Miami Herald: "In Tannehill’s 29 pro starts, the Dolphins have lost by more than a touchdown just six times." That should mean it's close. But in the next line, Beasely reports, "Two of those six blowouts have come at the hands of the Patriots." Tannehill has been playing better as the O-line has prevented opposing defenses from putting pressure on the quarterback and the team is no longer on a record pace for sacks allowed. With the Patriots numerous injuries to their top defensive players (LB Jerod Mayo, DTs Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly), New England has allowed at least 24 points in each of their past five games. At some point the Patriots dig a hole they can't get out of -- they fell behind 17-3 at the half against Miami at home earlier this season before storming back to win 27-17 -- and I think that point is tonight. Miami scores an upset at home.
3. San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos: The 6-7 Bolts are marginal wild card contenders who will kiss their playoff chances good-bye with a loss. The 11-2 Broncos are probably assured of the top seed in the AFC and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs until the Super Bowl. So why bother watching? Both are high octane offenses, with the Broncos averaging 39.6 ppg (and topping 50 points three times this year) and the Chargers averaging 29.3 ppg over their past three games. Even without Wes Welker out, Peyton Manning has numerous targets (Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas each have 11 TDs, Eric Decker has 8, and TE Jacob Tamme able to step up in the slot). If it wasn't for Manning's otherwordly performance this year, San Diego QB Philip Rivers would be having the kind of season that gets noticed: first in completion percentage (70.3%), fourth in passing yards (3882), fourth in yards per attempt (8.4), seventh in QB rating (106.4), 26:9 TD to INT ratio. He has a dynamic rookie receiver Keenan Allen that is worth watching as he begins to make his case for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Both SD and Denver are bottom ten teams in terms of total defense, so there will be plenty of chances to score. By the advanced metrics of Football Outsiders' DVOA, Denver is the best and San Diego the second best offensive teams, but on the other side of the ball, the Broncos are about middle of the table while the Chargers are one of the worst not just this season but historically. If you want to make this game extra exciting, put money on Denver -10.5 (for or against) and watch with the spread on the line. Otherwise, just enjoy the offense (take the over in the 56.5 over/under). The game is the last Thursday night contest of the season but potentially one of the most enjoyable.
4. Baltimore Ravens at Detroit Lions: The Monday night game between 7-6 teams both fighting for the playoff lives features a pair of good but flawed teams capable of a wide range of outcomes. That said, these two sides seem headed in opposite directions with the Lions going 1-3 over their last four and the Ravens riding a three-game winning streak. The Lions are notorious for defeating themselves, but the Ravens are a mere 1-5 on the road in 2013. Matthew Stafford and Joe Flacco are great gun-slingers with arms capable of throwing the ball 50 yards. If the Ravens are going to win they need TE Dennis Pitta to become Flacco's safety blanket once again and for Ray Rice to continue to produce on the ground (through eight games Rice didn't have one game of more than 45 yards or a game in which he averaged more than 3.4 yards per attempt, but in the past four games he has games of 131 and 67 yards, averaging 5.2 and 3.9 yards per rush in those games). The Lions are back indoors (after fumbling seven times in the snow storm in Philadelphia last Sunday), have Calvin Johnson, the best WR in the game, and should have a healthy Reggie Bush in the run game to keep Baltimore honest. Neither team is facing elimination but every win is critical. Detroit should eke past Baltimore unless they take stupid penalties or fumble the ball a half-dozen times.
This is Canada Post's business plan
1. Raise prices. 2. Reduce services. This is usually a recipe for failure and precursor to bankruptcy.
Will on the greatest, smartest president ever
George F. Will in the Washington Post:
The education of Barack Obama is a protracted process as he repeatedly alights upon the obvious with a sense of original discovery. In a recent MSNBC interview, he restocked his pantry of excuses for his disappointing results, announcing that “we have these big agencies, some of which are outdated, some of which are not designed properly” ...The dawn is coming up like thunder as Obama notices the sociology of government. He shows no sign, however, of drawing appropriate lessons from it.
I'm a sucker for columnists who invoke public choice:
Obama, startled that components of government behave as interest groups, seems utterly unfamiliar with public choice theory. It demystifies and de-romanticizes politics by applying economic analysis — how incentives influence behavior — to government. It shows how elected officials and bureaucrats pursue personal aggrandizement as much as people do in the private sector. In the public sector’s profit motive, profit is measured by power rather than money.
From Reason's Jesse Walker: "How to Write a Column About Nelson Mandela, If You Are Thomas Friedman." Walker explains the first step (of three):
1. There's no need to spelunk through the man's life for something to write about. Remember that movie Invictus? The one where Morgan Freeman played Mandela? Talk about a scene from that. You can even quote one of Freeman's lines, because why bother digging up anything the actual Mandela actually said?
Women's only floors
USA Today reports on a hotel in Washington DC that is catering to (maybe) one half of their customers:
Book a room on the 11th floor of the Hamilton Crowne Plaza here, and you'll get special bath salts and body products, a magnifying mirror, nail polish, nail files and a curling iron.In other words, you'll get pretty much anything you need to pamper yourself.They're not exactly the types of amenities that men would go for, but that's the point.The Hamilton Crowne Plaza is one of a small, but growing number of hotels offering floors dedicated to female travelers. These hotels are particularly trying to appeal to female business travelers, who are moving up the career ladder and hitting the road more often.
The paper also reports on similar arrangements at hotels in Singapore and London, with one of them saying their nine dedicated rooms are so popular that 30% of their customers are women and many request the special women's only accommodation. I don't have a problem with providing this service, but just imagine the howls of outrage if a hotel provided rooms with products and amenities for men only.
Bitcoin is not a bubble -- or a lot of things people think it is
Tyler Durden at Zero Hedge: "Haters gonna hate, but the 'Bitcoin bubble' meme has become the financial equivalent of a viral online cat video – wildly popular but pretty vacuous." He then posts "11 Bitcoin myths" and their rebuttals from ConvergEx's Nick Colas, including "Bitcoin is a major problem in dealing with drugs and terrorism" and "Bitcoin is huge." This must all be taken in the context of ConvergeEx being bullish for Bitcoin.
Conservatives will lose in 2015
My guess is that although it is not a government policy, people will be upset with "Ottawa" due to Canada Post's plan to cut urban home delivery of mail over the next five years. Being upset with Ottawa means voting against the Tories.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
The most effed up family tree ever
The Daily Mail reports on the tragic story from Australia about a "horrifying incest 'cult' with four generations of in-breeding found living deformed, filthy and mute in scenic valley."
[T]he 'family cult' was a throwback to a pair of great-great grandparents who were a brother and sister. Down through the generations, the family continued to regenerate itself, the children beginning to have sex with one another as soon as they were old enough.The result, the court documents revealed, was that some of the children seemed developmentally delayed, cognitively impaired or physically handicapped - the shocking result of sex between brothers and sisters, uncles and nieces and fathers and daughters.According to the documents, the children were sexually involved with each other and only one - a five-year-old girl, the youngest - had parents who weren't related to each other ...The five family groups comprised sisters Rhonda, 47; Martha, 33; and Betty Colt, 46, who slept every night with her brother, Charlie. There were also two of Betty's daughters who each had children who proved to be from unions of related parents ...On July 18, 2012, police and social workers removed 12 children from the valley - and after careful questioning, harrowing tales emerged.Kimberly told of sexual contact with her uncle, Dwayne, who was 9 years old, while her aunt, Carmen, 8, watched. Sisters Ruth, 7, and Nadia, 9, had sexual touching with their brothers Albert, 15; Jed, 14; and Karl, 12. In one sad story, social workers were told how three brothers aged 14 and under tied their sister, 8, and niece, 13, naked to a tree.The court documents revealed that clinicians and geneticists who took mouth swabs from the children deduced five of them had parents who were themselves 'closely related' to one another while another five had parents who were 'related'. But the complex tale of intimate relations was found to go back to Betty, Martha and Rhonda's maternal grandparents, who had been brother and sister.Betty had 13 children, some of whom were probably fathered by her father, Tim, and her brother, Charlie. Along the way one of Betty's daughters, Tammy, 27, died from a genetic disease known as Zellweger syndrome.
The inbreeding and atrocious living conditions (no running water) contributed to physical malformations and intellectual limitations. It is a terribly sad story.
The Daily Mail reports: "Dope-smoking ex-boyfriend strangled estranged lover and her seven-month-old baby - then announced it on Facebook."
'The Onion’s 2013 Holiday Gift Guide'
From "volcanic rock from Pompeii in the shape of an agonized child" to a "crate full otters," The Onion's holiday gift guide made me smile/laugh.
The Daily Caller reports that the Obama administration is bragging that "365,000 people selected commercial health care plans from state and local Obamacare websites by the end of November," although that is weasel wording. DC wonders: "how many people have pushed their way past faulty and missing software, to actually sign contracts with the insurance companies for the expensive and restricted plans permitted by the Obamacare network"? Before the October launch of the health care exchange websites, it was predicted there would 1.2 million sign-ups by the end of November, with another 1.8 million by the end of December. Of course, selecting a plan and signing up for the plan are different things and it now appears highly unlikely that the goal of 7 million people signed onto new health plans by the end of March is not going to happen.
Trade is another name for cooperation
Leonard E. Read pointed out in "I, Pencil" that no one person can make a pencil. Likewise no one person can make a jar of Nutella. The Atlantic reports: "Popular hazelnut and cocoa spread Nutella has become such a global product that the OECD decided to use it as a case study in its latest report on global value chains." The map is worth a look, but even then it doesn't do the product justice as the inputs for the plastic jar and adhesive label are not included.
Thoughts on Harper resigning soon and the cat that predicts death mimicry
I seriously doubt speculation dressed up as reports and analysis that Prime Minister Stephen Harper will resign sometime soon, or any time before the scheduled 2015 federal election. This is the third round of Harper-is-going-to-retire speculation since he became prime minister, so a healthy dose of skepticism is in order. There are plenty of reasons to doubt the stories, and recent news of the PM surrounding himself with long-time loyalists such as Dimitri Soudas and Jenni Byrne is about as much evidence as anyone should need to question the reports of him leaving. Also, it just isn't in Harper's personality to be pushed out on anything but his own terms and leaving now looks like an admission of defeat or, worse, failure. There is also hubris, the belief that whatever the political climate might indicate now can be overcome and perhaps only someone such as himself cab defeat Justin Trudeau in 2015. Harper is also smart enough to know that whatever the political climate is now will almost certainly be different than when the election is actually is held in October 2015 (or earlier if the Prime Minister wants).
However, I read in today's Toronto Sun that Warren Kinsella predicts that Harper will stick around and that should be enough to convince anyone that Harper will be leaving very soon. Kinsella is almost always wrong in his political analysis and he has a terrible track record on predictions and endorsements (Five Feet of Fury calls it the "reverse Midas touch" and likens him to the nursing home cat that predicts death). Kinsella's reasons for guessing that Harper will be around for the next election are mostly the same as mine, so I'll have to re-examine everything I think I know about Stephen Harper and Canadian politics. While yesterday I would have given great odds to anyone who wanted to bet Harper is resigning in the next few months, today those odds have evened out. That's the Kinsella effect.
Unintended but totally predictable consequences
The Toronto Sun reports:
According to auditor general Bonnie Lysyk’s report released Tuesday, students are eschewing the “healthy food options,” mandated by the provincial government — and heading to local fast food restaurants for lunch.After introducing healthier food choices, secondary school cafeteria sales plummeted between 25% and 45%.Sales from school food vending machines sank 70%-85%.
Canada's claim to the North Pole and Justin Trudeau's indifference on the matter
Kathy Shaidle at PJ Media:
Canada considers the North Pole and its environs part of its sovereign territory.We’ve been printing our maps that way for over a century, even before anyone realized that this godforsaken region boasted trillions of dollars worth of natural resources.Not surprisingly, not everyone agrees on who owns what, so the matter’s been turned over to the UN. That means the matter won’t be resolved for years, if ever.Asked what he thought about the issue, Liberal Party leader (and presumed future Canadian Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau shrugged that he’d leave it for “scientists” and “experts” to decide, and added that he didn’t want to turn it into a tawdry “political” matter.Wow, what inspiring leadership! And hey, what could be less “political” than… the borders of your own country?
That the former teacher turned Canada Liberal Party leader thinks that "science" speaks definitely on every issue is very notable although it is unclear what it might reveal about Justin Trudeau's thinking: he is either an idiot who doesn't understand what science is (to quote Wikipedia science is "a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe") or he is shockingly lacking in courage and the ability to make judgments and decisions. I guess there is a third possibility: he is lying, punting answers about difficult questions to avoid staking position that might offend potential voters. Shaidle says Trudeau is "a world class bumbler" and he might be. Or he might be conniving, perhaps even too cute for his own good. Either way it is odd that Canadians would want him to lead their country.
'Spooks off the Leash'
NRO's Kevin D. Williamson on unrestricted surveillance state:
There is a certain amount of entertaining swagger in military and intelligence logos. I’ve always liked the naval-intelligence patch featuring an eagle wearing a headset over the motto: “In God We Trust — All Others We Monitor.” But it was all a lot more fun when the spooks were spying on Cold War Communists and Sheik Yerbouti.Instead of, you know, us ...
Today the police, military, and intelligence worlds are closely interconnected. And they are, collectively, a menace. The Soviet Union was a much more credible geopolitical threat than Islam-in-arms will ever be, but during the Cold War, we met allegations that Americans were working with Communist insurgents — and some of them were — with hearings, investigations, and trials. We did not assassinate them. But between the so-called wars on drugs and terror, we have let that monster off the leash, or at least given it a leash so long as to be practically useless ...[The National Reconnaissance Office motto] Nothing Is beyond Our Reach. It was funny when we trusted you. It isn’t funny any more.
Here is the logo of the National Reconnaissance Office, and, no, it isn't from The Onion.
Government shuffles money around -- that's what it does
I always find it amusing when conservatives and libertarians complain that the state is redistributing wealth, because that's about all it does. Even police and military spending diverts money from some taxpayers and gives it to military and police personnel in the form of salary and the resources to their job. But it seems to be getting worse and more blatant. An Investor's Business Daily editorial notes:
[A] new Congressional Budget Office report shows that the government is already a massive wealth redistribution machine.The CBO study breaks down the country by income into five equal groups, or quintiles. It found the top 40% paid more than 100% of all the income taxes, while the bottom 40% had a negative income tax. These families got more money through various refundable tax credits, on average, than they paid in income taxes.Even when you include payroll and other federal taxes, the poorest group paid just 0.4% of all federal taxes, while the wealthiest paid 70%.And this doesn't include transfer programs like food stamps, disability, welfare, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. These too are heavily tilted to the poor.All together, the CBO found that families in the lowest income group earned an average of $8,100 on their own. But they received an average of $22,700 through federal transfer programs, net of taxes. In other words, the federal government more than tripled their income.The next income group netted more than $12,000, on average, from government — a 41% boost to income.
Norway runs out of prison space, asks Sweden to house prisoners
Jess Remington at Reason's Hit & Run:
Sweden, which recently made headlines for closing down four of its prisons in response to dropping incarceration rates, has been asked to house inmates from neighboring Norway.Norway is suffering from an overcrowding problem: there are currently 1,200 people for whom jail space is needed. So rather than continue their current policy of releasing criminals, Norway's Justice Minister has asked to rent out some of Sweden's increasingly spare prison space.
Norwegian Justice Minister Anders Anundsen admits he is unsure whether this is possible but points to Belgium's renting Dutch prison space as a possible model.
Remington reports the incarceration rates of Norway (71 inmates per 100,000 people) and Sweden (67) and compares it to that of the United States (716), which is in Remington's words, "jaw-dropping."
David Brooks on 'which mental abilities complement mechanized intelligence'
New York Times columnist David Brooks considers the sort of mental types which will be useful in the highly mechanized future (per Tyler Cowen's Average is Over). While briefly describing more than a half dozen kinds of intelligences that could thrive in the near future, Brooks also notes, "The bottom 85 percent is likely to be made up of people with less marketable workplace skills. Some of these people may struggle financially but not socially or intellectually," because of the internet which brings the world inexpensively to the masses. This is a very good column.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
1. The Dallas Cowboys lost 45-28 to the Chicago Bears. Da Bears scored on each of their first eight drives, only taking a knee on their final possession with six seconds left on the game clock. Despite the sub-freezing temperatures there was a lot of offense, much of it on the ground. The two teams top pair of running backs combined for 55 rushes and averaged 6.2 yards per carry, or 339 total yards. Part of that is because the Bears run defense has been awful all year and the Cowboys were sloppy in their tackling (which I fear from watching them several times this season is actually a habit at this point). Chicago looked like a real playoff contender with their backup QB Josh McCown having another tremendous game: 348 yards, 4 TDs, 141.9 passer rating -- and yet Jay Cutler will be the starter when he returns.
2. The NFL has flexed the Chicago Bears-Philadelphia Eagles game into the Sunday Night slot for Week 16, bumping the New England Patriots-Baltimore Ravens game to the 4:25 slot. Should be pretty meaningful and both teams have large markets/fan bases. Nick Foles will get the big stage. Too bad Cutler will be back for Chicago. It could be fun watching Eagles RB LeSean McCoy chew threw Da Bears non-existent run defense. Hope it's another snow game.
3. We've been hearing a lot lately than Peyton Manning can't win in cold weather games. The Denver Broncos beat the Tennessee Titans 51-28 on Sunday in a game that had a kickoff temperature of 18 F (11 F with wind chill). Manning's scoreline: 39/59, for 397 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs. That should kill the narrative that Manning can't perform in the cold.
4. On Sunday, as part of the Denver Broncos scoring onslaught, Matt Praeter kicked a record 64-yard field goal. Even taking into account the altitude in Denver, that' impressive. Peter King claimed in his Monday Morning Quarterback column, "No one’s ever proven the altitude helps the kicks in Denver." But as Kissy Suzy Kolber pointed out, both Wired.com and Advanced NFL Stats. Last year at Wired.com Rhett Allain explored the science of kicking at altitude and found that the gravitational field probably helps kickers in Denver. And earlier this year, Advanced NFL Stats' Brian Burke found that the "thin air" of Denver at 5,200 feet above sea level gives a boost of about five yards to field goal kicks. It's possible that the "thin air" is the wrong explanation, but Burke's comparisons between Denver and the rest of the league (excluding Arizona) is capturing something real. I lean to thinking gravitational field explains it better than thin air, but regardless, contra King, altitude helps kicks in Denver. And as KSK implies in his snark, it is odd that King wasn't aware of Burke's brief study considering he quotes Advanced NFL Stats regularly.
Hookers for Obamacare
LifeSiteNews.com: "Nevada prostitutes praise Obamacare: law will force insurers to cover them regardless of risk." LSN reports:
[T]he women at Bunny Ranch told KRNV-TV that Obamacare is “truly a blessing” for prostitutes like them, because under the law they cannot be refused coverage, even though they put their health at risk every day by having sex with strangers.“Having this profession, we aren’t exactly offered group health insurance,” prostitute Taylor Lee told KRNV-TV. “It’s hard because I do have a pre-existing condition so I really support Obamacare. I’m excited.”
The pre-existing conditions are obviously often incurable STDs.
Your crazy government stat of the day
Sterling Beard in The Corner: "Only 574 Hawaiians have signed up for Obamacare – at a cost to the federal government of roughly $348,000 apiece."
The Obamaconomy, where the rich get richer
Zero Hedge on the latest figures from the Federal Reserve that finds net household wealth increasing:
The reason for this increase, and why we say a "subset" is because virtually all of the net worth increase was the result of a $1.5 trillion bounce in financial assets (read: capital markets) to a new all time high of $63.9 trillion. As most know by know, the bulk of the exposure to this asset class is held by the ultra wealthy, particularly in the form of Corporate Equities, the category which rose by the single largest amount in the quarter, or $600 billion.
Zero Hedge's Tyler Durden notes: "putting it all together, when looking at the assets and liabilities of the US household on a very simplified basis, recall what Citigroup pointed out recently: 'the rich hold assets, the poor have debt'."
The McWynnety Economy
The London Free Press reports that the Kelloggs cereal plant in that city will close, eliminating 500 jobs. Last month, Heinz announced it was shutting its Leamington plant, vanquishing 740 jobs. Also last month, CCL Industries Inc., announced it was closing its aerosol manufacturing plant in Penetanguishine in 2015, eliminating 170 jobs. In recent years, John Deere (Welland) and Caterpillar (London) plants have been closed, eliminating 800 and 450 jobs respectively. Ontario's taxes, energy costs, and unionized workforce are making manufacturing untenable in Ontario.
Sowell's advice for Christmas book-giving
Thomas Sowell suggests Harry Stein's Why We Won't Talk Honestly About Race, Scott Walker's Unintimidated, and Choosing the Right College.
The basics first
At Slate, Matthew Yglesias responds to President Barack Obama's call for everyone to learn to code by suggesting perhaps we should bring everyone's ability to read basic English up to par first, saying, "literacy is a good foundational tool for learning how to write computer software." Or as the the cutline on the story's photo says, "Tablets are great, especially if you can read."
The New Criterion on MOOCs
The New Criterion has a brief piece on Massive Open Online Courses, and it seems to strike the right note about the likely impact of MOOCs:
Math, science, and business are easier to teach online than liberal-arts subjects like English and philosophy that rely more heavily on in-class discussions.” According to Mead, only 7 percent of today’s students major in the humanities. If one believes in the importance of the humanities as the purveyor of civilization from one generation to the next, that statistic may be far more disturbing than the advent of new, technologically sophisticated means of teaching such subjects as nursing, accounting, engineering, or math. One thing, we think, is certain: The higher education establishment in its current form is on the threshold of enormous change. MOOCs are not a panacea. They will not completely replace traditional liberal arts education. But they will supplement it, and in some subjects they will compete heartily with the current, unsustainable model of what post-secondary education has become.
Why Rob Ford can win in 2014
Socialist Studies reports on the priorities of one downtown city councilor:
The OISE doctoral candidate behind this, who is working with [councilor] Kristyn Wong-Tam on this project, wants mandatory homosexual cultural sensitivity training for all homeless shelter workers. Which includes "proper pronoun use", because apparently "he" and "she" are transphobic I guess.
HT: Blazing Cat Fur
The hollowing out of Detroit
The Wall Street Journal has density and residential vacancy maps for 1970, 1990, and 2010 for the metropolitan area of Detroit. The problem is not limited to the city's downtown as the suburbs are losing density/increasing vacancies.
At Harvard, they are almost all 'A' students
The Harvard Crimson reports:
The median grade at Harvard College is an A-, and the most frequently awarded mark is an A, Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris said on Tuesday afternoon, supporting suspicions that the College employs a softer grading standard than many of its peer institutions.Harris delivered the information in response to a question from government professor Harvey C. Mansfield ’53 at the monthly meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.“A little bird has told me that the most frequently given grade at Harvard College right now is an A-,” Mansfield said during the meeting’s question period. “If this is true or nearly true, it represents a failure on the part of this faculty and its leadership to maintain our academic standards.”Harris then stood and looked towards FAS Dean Michael D. Smith in hesitation.“I can answer the question, if you want me to.” Harris said. “The median grade in Harvard College is indeed an A-. The most frequently awarded grade in Harvard College is actually a straight A.”
Kaiser Fung of Numbers Rule Your World (the book and the blog) has a few thoughts about how to interpret what Harris really means before moving onto larger philosophical questions:
Meritocracy is supposedly an important part of American culture. In some fields, this appears to be the case. For example, in sports and entertainment, we pay our top stars multiple orders of magnitude more than other athletes or actors. In business, it is controversial that we pay CEOs and other executives hundreds of times more than the rank and file. (The controversy surrounds the fact that management "performance" is not really measurable.)By contrast, in education, meritocracy is not allowed. We must not differentiate between exceptional academic performance and average academic performance. Everyone must be above average - in fact, everyone must be exceptional. While Harvard is being singled out here, this "grade inflation" phenomenon is really prevalent across all top schools.
Fung reports that Princeton has been promoting a grade deflation policy, although it is going to be reviewed, presumably with an eye to bringing back the A.
Slate's Dear Prudence recently answered this letter:
Dear Prudence,Our daughter "Amanda" lives in another state and has been married to "Jacob" for several years. Theirs is an open relationship, and I have always known that. My husband, however has kept his head in the sand regarding this. My daughter has a boyfriend, "Tom,” whom Jacob knows about and has a great friendship with. They are all planning to come to our home this Christmas, but my husband insists that Tom (who has visited us previously) is not welcome. Do I tell our daughter, son-in-law, and daughter's boyfriend to make other holiday plans? My opinion is that they are all consenting adults, there are no children involved, and always behave appropriately in public.—Stuck in the Middle With Him
Unbundling cable packages
Businessweek reports on the potential unintended consequences of forcing cable companies in the U.S. to unbundle the packages of channels they sell consumers:
In a report that attempts to quantify the costs of an à la carte pricing for cable television, Needham & Co.’s Laura Martin estimates that $45 billion of TV advertising would be at risk under such a change, along with 1.4 million jobs, $20 billion in taxes paid by such cable operators as Comcast and Time Warner Cable, and $117 billion in market capitalization. And maybe you wouldn’t miss the Christian-themed Smile of a Child channel or Jewelry Television, but if you love any of those niche networks you could almost certainly kiss them goodbye for lack of financial support.The notion of “unbundling” cable television packages and allowing consumers to choose only those channels they want has long tantalized frustrated subscribers, who pay about $720 per year in the U.S. for an average of 180 channels. The average viewer watches somewhere from 16 to 20 of those, according to Needham, and the gap infuriates millions as they write monthly checks to cable companies.Martin argues in her report this week that à la carte pricing would lead to higher TV bills: “The notion of creating value through unbundling may be a laudable goal from a public policy point of view, but the world this premise describes can never exist.” That’s mainly because for every $1 of subscriber revenue, advertisers pay $1.24. Those payments totaled $101 billion last year, and $56 billion came from advertisers.
Even if you question some of those numbers or assume they are exaggerated, the point is that requiring cable companies to radically alter the way they deliver their product to consumers is unlikely to not affect the industry. Either the price of basic cable packages will increase to cover losses or there will be some loss of service, or there will be some combination of both. Don't believe for a minute that cable providers are going to eat the losses. My guess is that basic cable goes up slightly and that cable providers will bundle choice packages of mid-size channels or channels that cater to preferred demographics (sports channels, kids channels, lifestyle channels for homemakers) but that many channels with small markets or undesirable demographics will find themselves without customers and dropped completely. They should shut down. The point is that there is a cost in giving consumers choice. And those costs will trickle down to the channels that are either closed or are paid lower fees resulting in job losses and missing taxes.
More extreme weather predicted. Again
An editorial in Investor's Business Daily notes that the British Daily Star and the European Academies Science Advisory Council are predicting deadly extreme weather over the next three decades:
The British Daily Star reports that Britain is in for 30 years of extreme "killer winter storms" due to climate change. There is, of course, no way anyone can know this for sure. But that's never stopped the alarmists.In its "Extreme Weather Events in Europe" report issued last week, the European Academies Science Advisory Council bedeviled the populace about a future of deadly heat waves, floods, droughts and deep freezes.
This is nothing new, as dangerous extreme weather has been predicted for decades:
Maybe another name change is in the works since the data show there hasn't been much change for at least 16 years and that the predicted superstorms haven't materialized.It doesn't matter what they call it, though. By any other name, the conjecture has always been wrong. The weather more than 20 years into what was supposed to be an era of catastrophic climatic events has been nothing out of the ordinary.The alarmists would say we are deniers. But that's a term better suited for them.
'Thrifty Obamas make do with 24 Christmas trees'
That's down from the 54 trees the Obamas used last year. Andrew Malcolm of Investor's Business Daily examines the Obama family's largesse in the age of economic slowdown and government austerity.
Monday, December 09, 2013
1. In the last six games, the Indianapolis Colts have been outscored 114-24 in the first half, and they were down 14-0 in the first half against the Cincinnati Bengals and eventually lost 42-28. The focus has been on the fact that after a strong 5-2 start, they've been 3-3 in the games since WR Reggie Wayne got injured. The offense gets the blame. Indeed, Indy started their fifth different offensive line against Cincy. Trent Richardson is one of the worst running backs in the NFL, and he had just 20 yards on six carries in Sunday's game (admittedly the Colts fell behind the Bengals 21-0 and went to the aerial game). But Indy's problem is defense. In their three losses since Wayne's been hurt, the Colts gave up an average of 40 points per defeat and not less than 38 points, and they are averaging giving up more than 30 ppg over their last six games after surrendering just 18.7 ppg in their first seven. The Colts have no rush against the quarterback of which to speak, which is weird considering that LB Robert Mathis leads the league in sacks, but he's the only one getting pressure on opposing QBs. Against Andy Dalton, Indy had no sacks and no quarterback knockdowns. (Mathis also had only one tackle in this game.) Second-year QB Andrew Luck is capable of great stuff -- he threw for 326 yards, four touchdowns, and no picks against a Bengals D that is pretty good. Nor was he sacked. The game against the Bengals demonstrated that the conventional wisdom about Indy's recent struggles is wrong: it is the defense, not the Wayne-less offense, that is going to prevent them from going far in the playoffs. On the plus side, when the Denver Broncos beat the Tennessee Titans 51-28, the Colts clinched the AFC South and therefore at least the fourth seed in the playoffs. Losing to Cincinnati makes winning the third seed a little more difficult.
2. A comment about the CBS broadcasting team covering the Bengals-Colts (Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf) who were absolutely incredulous that referee Jeff Triplette overturned the decision that Bengals RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis was down by contact, and instead ruled the law firm (as BJG-E is affectionately known) made the end zone and scored a touchdown. All the panel shows reinforced Double G and Double D's incredulousness with the consensus (other than by Triplette) being that nose tackle Josh Chapman of the Colts grazed Green Ellis' foot before he lunged toward the goal line and thus was stopped short of the goal line. Gumbel and Dierdorf thought it was so obvious they questioned 1) why the officials upstairs even called for a replay and 2) why it took so long for Triplette to make to make a decision. When the referee announced his decision, Dierdorf wondered what Triplette thought Green Ellis tripped on, although if you watch the replays and 1) you don't actually see Chapman touch the runner and 2) Ellis Green begins tripping a step after he was supposedly touched. I'm not sure there was enough to overturn the decision on the field, but it was not as obvious as the announcers, analysts and other talking heads claimed it was. So Gumbel, Dierdorf and Boomer Esiason on the CBS half-time show needed to chill.
3. The Pittsburgh Steelers lost 34-28 and at the end of each half they nearly scored -- at the end of the game more so than at the half. The Steelers might have been able to score on a returned missed field goal at the 14:40 mark of the second quarter but it was never likely. Here's video of the series of laterals that made the end of the first-half more exciting than it usually is when there is a missed three-pointer. In an another unlikely series laterals, the Steelers appeared to score at then end of the game that would have tied it 34-34 before the PAT, but Brown touched the sideline on his apparent TD run. I couldn't find video, but the ESPN description captures the play fairly well. The Steelers D disappeared at times during this game or Pittsburgh wouldn't have needed the miracle play to win, so they have no one to blame but themselves.
4. The Wall Street Journal reported that yesterday was the snowiest day in the NFL since at least 1991. SB Nation has pictures and gifs from various snow games. Snow is being blamed for Philadelphia Eagles QB Nick Foles throwing his first interception of the season.
Drones might be the end of other drones
Ars Technica: "Flying hacker contraption hunts other drones, turns them into zombies." AT reports:
Newtown sank Obama's second term
The National Journal's Alex Seitz-Wald argues that Barack Obama, re-elected in November 2012, was set to push what it thought to be a winnable immigration reform bill, but in December 2012 Adam Lanza shot-up an elementary school and the Left pivoted to go try to score a gun control victory:
That meant immigration would have to wait. The clock was ticking on both gun control and immigration, but Democrats moved ahead with gun control first, recognizing that as the memory of the tragedy at Sandy Hook faded, so too would the impetus for new laws. The Senate spent months on a bill, which eventually got whittled down to a universal background-check provision, before it finally died at the hands of a Republican filibuster in mid-April.In the process, the administration fatally, and irrevocably, antagonized the populist libertarian Right, the same people whom mainstream Republicans and Democrats needed to stay on the sidelines for immigration reform to succeed. By engaging in such an emotional, polarizing issue so early on, Obama poisoned the (admittedly shallow) well of goodwill and the willingness to compromise by Republicans before his term even began in earnest. When a comprehensive immigration bill eventually did pass the Senate in late June with GOP support, the House opposition made clear that the bill had little hope of becoming law.Even in hindsight, it's almost impossible to imagine the president choosing a different path; the clamor of the victorious Left for gun-law reform was just too strong. But the ripple effect has disrupted Obama's entire year. In April came the Boston Marathon bombing, which occurred just two days before gun control officially died in the Senate. In May came a trio of mini-scandals: new revelations about Benghazi; the alleged IRS targeting of tea-party groups; and then the Justice Department's snooping on reporters. A month later, Edward Snowden's first leaks started emerging and have yet to stop. Many of these developments deepened partisan resentments.
MSNBC host claims term 'Obamacare' is racist
Melissa Harris-Perry, the MSNBC host who once wore tampon earrings on air, claims that the word "Obamacare" is a racist term made up by rich, white men. Legal Insurrection has the actual history of the term, which comes down to convenience for a headline and highlighting the differences between the "health care overhaul" among different candidates, including John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, and Barack Obama. Obama won and therefore his health care overhaul gets the coverage, hence Obamacare.
When will Olivia Chow and John Tory resign from their day jobs
George Smitherman has endorsed federal NDP MP Olivia Chow for Toronto mayor. No surprise there, even if Chow hasn't officially announced she's running for the top political job in TO. Question: shouldn't Chow resign from her job as MP now if she's already collecting endorsements? And John Tory should be forced to resign his radio job soon, too, if he's running for mayor; most media companies have policies that prevent journalists from continuing to work once they are announced candidates. Chow and Tory are unofficial candidates, but continue to benefit from their privileged positions by not technically registering as candidates.
Post-apartheid South Africa
At Reuters, Reihan Salam notes that South Africa's economic performance since transitioning from apartheid hasn't been that great:
Since 1994, when South Africa held its first authentically democratic and multiracial national elections, the ANC has won every national election by substantial margins, and there is good reason to believe that it will win the election that will be held next spring. Yet after almost two decades of ANC rule, the country suffers from shockingly high levels of poverty, unemployment, and violent crime. Hundreds of thousands of educated South Africans — white, black, and Asian — have emigrated in search of opportunity in Britain, Australia, the U.S., and elsewhere. Many middle-income countries that were in the same economic ballpark as South Africa in 1994 in terms of GDP per capita — like Poland, Malaysia, Chile, Mauritius, and neighboring Botswana — have raced ahead in the years since. When we compare South Africa to China or South Korea, the contrast is more dismal still.One of the key reasons for South Africa’s weak performance is that while high-growth countries saw large numbers of workers shift from low-productivity sectors, like subsistence farming, into high-productivity sectors like export-oriented manufacturing, South Africa’s high-productivity sectors have seen little growth. There are many theories as to why this has been the case. Some will attribute this to the rigidity of South Africa’s formal labor market while others will attribute it to a failure on the part of South Africa’s government to pursue a more ambitious industrial policy. Regardless of the answer, what is striking is that despite South Africa’s economic woes, the same political party keeps winning election after election.
There are legitimate questions about the one-party state that South Africa has become since Nelson Mandela and his African National Congress took power in 1994. The country certainly has corruption issues, ranking 72nd in 2013 according to Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index. Using different metrics, TI rated South Africa 32nd in 1998 and tied for 38th in 2001. The slow economic growth might be tied to crony capitalism endemic in one-party states, which enrich small groups of well-connected friends of the government but which doesn't "trickle down" to the middle class and poor.
Mandela was lucky to be an old man when he was first elected, thus serving just one term. As a consequence of his brief time in power, he does not have the failures of post-apartheid South Africa governance tied to his legacy.
The Mandelagasm occurring in the media wants to paint the South Africa of the past two decades as a success story, but it quite clearly hasn't been. If one believes that his opposition to apartheid trumps all other considerations of the man when foisting Nelson Mandela upon a pedestal, then there is no need to misrepresent the current state of South Africa politics and economics. But an honest accounting of his legacy requires a look at the complete record, and not all of it is that great.
Tech company push-back on surveillance state
The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf relates a potentially positive news story: "Google, Apple, and Microsoft Agree: NSA Spying Undermines Freedom: A total of eight prominent tech companies are urging President Obama and Congress to rein in the surveillance state." The open letter to Washington from these eight companies, assuming it isn't just a PR exercise to restore faith in their products (Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo, LinkedIn, and AOL), has a strong set of principles worth fighting for:
1) Limiting Governments’ Authority to Collect Users’ InformationGovernments should codify sensible limitations on their ability to compel service providers to disclose user data that balance their need for the data in limited circumstances, users’ reasonable privacy interests, and the impact on trust in the Internet. In addition, governments should limit surveillance to specific, known users for lawful purposes, and should not undertake bulk data collection of Internet communications.2) Oversight and AccountabilityIntelligence agencies seeking to collect or compel the production of information should do so under a clear legal framework in which executive powers are subject to strong checks and balances. Reviewing courts should be independent and include an adversarial process, and governments should allow important rulings of law to be made public in a timely manner so that the courts are accountable to an informed citizenry.3) Transparency About Government DemandsTransparency is essential to a debate over governments’ surveillance powers and the scope of programs that are administered under those powers. Governments should allow companies to publish the number and nature of government demands for user information. In addition, governments should also promptly disclose this data publicly.4) Respecting the Free Flow of InformationThe ability of data to flow or be accessed across borders is essential to a robust 21st century global economy. Governments should permit the transfer of data and should not inhibit access by companies or individuals to lawfully available information that is stored outside of the country. Governments should not require service providers to locate infrastructure within a country’s borders or operate locally.5) Avoiding Conflicts Among GovernmentsIn order to avoid conflicting laws, there should be a robust, principled, and transparent framework to govern lawful requests for data across jurisdictions, such as improved mutual legal assistance treaty — or “MLAT” — processes. Where the laws of one jurisdiction conflict with the laws of another, it is incumbent upon governments to work together to resolve the conflict.
There is probably zero chance of governments granting the companies much policy ground on these requests, so the next move might be corporate civil disobedience -- no cooperation with the state in watching citizens. But I doubt Microsoft or Google would go so far. The Guardian also reports on the letter.
Quote of the day
Abby Johnson tweets:
When I see young guys getting pedicures, I think to myself, "stop being a woman, get your feet out of that bowl and go grow a beard."
Hollywood is a foreign country
Two from Forbes.com that illustrate how Hollywood works, or doesn't.
"Movie sequels nobody wants (at least in America) but Hollywood is making anyway." I understand that that the international market can help drive decisions. Apparently, diminishing returns doesn't frighten too many studio execs, though.
"Adam Sandler Tops Forbes' 2013 List Of The Most Overpaid Actors." Paying top actors is a crap-shoot and their presence on a movie's top billing doesn't guarantee success.
Regulators and politicians are always reacting to the most recent problem
Tyler Cowen has some thoughts about the Volcker Rule and makes this observation which is very useful to remember not only in the context of financial institution regulation, but politics and government in general: "Today the bugaboo is 'big banks' but once it was 'small banks' and for a while 'insufficiently diversified banks.' Maybe it really is big banks, looking forward, or maybe we just don’t know."
Math is hard (for think tanks)
According to the Daily Telegraph, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has found "There are more working families living in poverty in the UK than non-working ones for the first time." Tim Worstall responds: "If you reduce poverty among pensioners, the disabled and those not working, then the proportion of those in poverty who are working will rise."
Misleading language from the Left
Paul Krugman in his December 9 New York Times column: "Ask yourself how, exactly, ending unemployment benefits would create more jobs."
Economics21 responds: "No one is talking about ending unemployment benefits, they are talking about reducing the duration back to 26 weeks, or 6 months, the standard pre-recession level."
That's part of a short piece on how unemployment benefits are a disincentive to work.
Conservative hypocrites on wasteful spending
It is too easy for voters to get too upset with the nickels of politicians wasting money and ignore the waste of dollars on wasteful social programs like health care and education, but politicians still deserve criticism for wasteful spending. The Toronto Star reports on the hypocrisy of some members of the Conservative caucus/cabinet:
At least two more key Conservatives got gold-embossed business cards, contrary to long-standing government rules against fancy stationery.Tony Clement was given his gold cards shortly after being promoted to Treasury Board president in the May 2011 cabinet shuffle, following the election of a Conservative majority.And colleague Laurie Hawn, an Edmonton MP appointed temporarily to a cabinet committee looking at cost-cutting, got his own set of gold-embossed cards at the same time.The Arms of Canada on both sets of cards was highlighted in gold foil.They joined John Baird, whose staff demanded the new foreign affairs minister receive a set of forbidden English-only cards that also violated the rules in several other ways, including having a gold-coloured coat of arms ...Clement’s department, the Treasury Board, sets out the rules for all ministers’ stationery, which specify that Canada’s coat of arms on business cards must be in black. The only colour permitted is the red of a small Canadian flag above the Canada wordmark ...A 2011 invoice for the bilingual Clement-Hawn cards refers to “gold foil business cards” for $715 plus 13 per cent HST, with the quantities blacked out. They were ordered by Mathew Nepssy, Clement’s office manager.Nepssy ordered a second set of gold-foil cards in 2012 for the minister and Hawn at what appears to be the same price as for the 2011 order.
Here's a Tory slogan for 2015: "Austerity for thee but not for me."
Sunday, December 08, 2013
1. Cracked.com has "5 Laws That Made Sense on Paper (And Disasters in Reality)," including gun buybacks and bounties on snakes.
2. Quora answers the question: "What is the best design for a popsicle stick bridge?"
3. Wired.com's Underwire blog: "An Obituary for the Letter E."
4. Graphic describing coffee temperatures.
5. From Mental Floss: "The Origins of 15 Delightful Carnival Rides."
6. The Daily Telegraph reports on a life-size gingerbread house that totals 36 million calories.
7. From the animal kingdom. Slate reports, "Birds Will Attack Amazon’s Delivery Drones." Fact Fiend notes, "Children in the Philippines Train Spiders to Fight," which unfortunately does not have video, so check out YouTube. Scientists are always discovering new species, and National Geographic has photos of new creatures found in Antarctica.
8. Science Daily reports on some very cool news: "Vast Freshwater Reserves Found Beneath the Oceans."
9. Townhall.com has "Five times Obama made it all about himself."
10. Boing Boing reminds us of Jewel Pie's "Better way to eat mandarin oranges."
11. Igniter Media has a great video and you don't have to believe in any Higher Being to appreciate the fact we all have a lot for which to be thankful but don't always recognize it.
Math is hard (for journalists)
Math with Bad Drawings has the highly enjoyable "Headlines from a Mathematically Literate World." Among my favourites:
Our World: Local Heat Wave Seen as Sign of Global WarmingMathematically Literate World: Local Heat Wave Not Seen as Meaningful Indicator of Global Trends
Our World: Market Share for Electric Cars TriplesMathematically Literate World: Market Share for Electric Cars Rises to 0.4%
Saturday, December 07, 2013
Quote of the day
Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution: "When the history of how the United States became a dystopian, surveillance state is written no one will be able to say that we were not warned."
Four downs (Week 14 games to watch)
1. Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals: I could have had the Chicago Bears hosting the Dallas Cowboys, the Monday Night contest, and if I did, this list would have featured the top eight seeded teams in the NFC, a very significant weekend of football in terms of the playoff picture and tie-breakers. But this game is intriguing, too for both the game on the field and its implications. Both like they will win their division but they are probably fighting for seeding with the winner getting a giant leg up on the third seed and a chance not to face the Kansas City Chiefs in Wild Card weekend. The Colts have the better QB in Andrew Luck but injuries have taken their toll on the team's offense in recent weeks and Indy has practically no running game. Andy Dalton is capable of great games and real stinkers. There is a lot of different outcomes for this contest even those most predictions have Cincy winning at home. Dalton to A.J. Green is always exciting but Luck is capable of making thrilling plays. Indy gives the ball away about half as often (1.1 per game compared to 2.0 for Cincy). Turnovers could be key. Bengals win by a field goal.
2. Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles: Both teams are capable of scoring. Philly has scored at least 24 points in each of Nick Foles last four full games and they've scored at least 30 points five times this season. The Lions have also scored at least 30 points in five games. The Eagles have not allowed any team to score more than 21 points since the Denver Broncos did it on September 29. Something has to give. Detroit makes a lot of mistakes for a team leading a division and Philly is more disciplined. Playing at home it seems that the Eagles should be an easy pick, but Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson can make aerial magic. Eagles in a blowout, I guess.
3. Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers: Not quite the marquee game that people thought it would be at the beginning of the season when pundits thought this could be the most important game of the season. Seattle and San Fran are two of the best teams top to bottom and no other team has as much talent and game-changing players on both sides of the ball as these two do. Both are top 10 offenses (by scoring) and they are the second and third ranked team by scoring defense. According to the advanced metrics at Football Outsiders, both are top six teams, although Seattle is dominant. The Niners could be fighting for their playoff life in the last scheduled Sunday football game at Candlestick Park (ever) while Seattle secures a first-round bye and the division with a victory. I think Seattle is going to win a close game.
4. Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints: This Sunday night contest is great for two reasons: stakes and on-field play. Both are great teams with two very different QBs. Drew Brees scored just seven points against the second-ranked defense (Seattle) last week and this week faces the top-ranked D. The winner gets a slight advantage for tie-breakers when it comes to the division crown and it could make the difference between a first-second or fifth-sixth seed. Saints are going to win at home, but the fans are going to sweat for a while.