Sobering Thoughts

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

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Thursday, November 27, 2014
The real Dr. Seuss
Art Boom has "If Dr. Seuss books were titled according to their subtexts." It's pretty good.

Today I'm thankful I'm not a female. Vice's Arielle Pardes: "I Steam Cleaned My Vagina." Pardes explains:
Vaginal steaming, sometimes called V-steaming by those too squeamish to say the word "vagina", is remarkably similar to making tea. You put a bunch of special herbs in hot water, then – and this is where the tea similarities end – hover over it, allowing the steam to "deep clean" your vagina and uterus.
There are places where you can get it done for $50 per 30-minute session or you can do as Pardes did and go the DIY route.

Property rights and Thanksgiving
It wasn't until people were allowed to keep the fruits of their labour that America was bountiful. E21's Caroline Baum writes about the roots of Thanksgiving using Plymouth Colony Governor William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation: 1620-1647:
After three winters of near-starvation, Bradford and his advisors decided to experiment when it came time for the spring planting. They set aside a plot of land for each family "that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard to trust to themselves."
"This had very good success," Bradford writes, "for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content."
The women now went willingly into the field, carrying their young children on their backs. Those who previously claimed they were too old or ill to work embraced the idea of private property, eventually producing enough to trade their surplus corn for furs and other commodities.
Grateful for their ample harvest in 1623, the Pilgrims set aside a day of thanksgiving. "Any general want or famine hath not been amongst them to this day," Bradford writes in an entry from 1647, the final year of his history.

The New York Sun's Seth Lipsky on to whom or what we give thanks:
[L]et us begin Thanksgiving morning with a reflection on the object of all this gratitude: Whom do we thank? Is it the Indians? The Pilgrims? Nature? Fortune?
It turns out that the record is long, clear, and official. It goes back to George Washington’s first Thanksgiving proclamation, issued on Oct. 3, 1789, here at New York. He called for a day of public prayer and thanksgiving — to God.

The year in review
When he was still at Newsweek, George Will had his year in review in the final edition of the magazine each year. Now he looks back at the previous year at Thanksgiving. Looking at a year of headlines from Obama's America reminds one of Horace Walpole's remark that the world is a tragedy to those who feel and a comedy to those who think. Most of the farce is presented by Big Government, so if you are amused, thank the state and the liberals who run it. Two samples from Will's column:
A severely moral California high-school principal prohibited the football booster club from raising money by selling donated Chick-fil-A meals because this company opposed same-sex marriage. The school superintendent approved the ban because “we value inclusivity and diversity.” Up to a point. At a Washington State community college, invitations to a “happy hour” celebrating diversity and combating racism said white people were not invited.

The tragedy of black-on-black crime
Jason Riley in the Wall Street Journal: "Homicide is the leading cause of death among young black men, and 90% of black murder victims are killed by other blacks." Riley says, "Michael Brown was much more of a menace than a martyr, but that won’t stop liberals from pushing an anti-police narrative that harms the black poor in the name of helping them." He continues:
According to the FBI, homicide is the leading cause of death among young black men, who are 10 times more likely than their white counterparts to be murdered. And while you’d never know it watching MSNBC, the police are not to blame. Blacks are just 13% of the population but responsible for a majority of all murders in the U.S., and more than 90% of black murder victims are killed by other blacks. Liberals like to point out that most whites are killed by other whites, too. That’s true but beside the point given that the white crime rate is so much lower than the black rate.
Blacks commit violent crimes at 7 to 10 times the rate that whites do. The fact that their victims tend to be of the same race suggests that young black men in the ghetto live in danger of being shot by each other, not cops. Nor is this a function of “over-policing” certain neighborhoods to juice black arrest rates. Research has long shown that the rate at which blacks are arrested is nearly identical to the rate at which crime victims identify blacks as their assailants. The police are in these communities because that’s where the emergency calls originate, and they spend much of their time trying to stop residents of the same race from harming one another.
You'd think that liberals, or at least "civil rights leaders" would care about this, but they don't: the Left, says Riley, is "not oblivious to this black pathology, but they are at pains even to acknowledge it, let alone make it a focus. Instead, liberals spend their time spotlighting white racism, real or imagined, and touting it as an all-purpose explanation for bad black outcomes." Furthermore, by attacking the police, they "make low-income communities less safe."

2016 watch (Jim Webb edition)
You often hear about Republican woes, but Democratic woes, including it's ideological rigidity and shrinking white support gets very little coverage. The National Journal's Josh Kraushaar says that former Senator Jim Webb has no chance in 2016 because he is heterodox on social issues:
While lots of ink has been spilled charting the GOP's drift rightward, the Democratic Party's move toward ideological homogeneity has been shorter and swifter. In 2006, the year Webb was elected to the Senate, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel elected dozens of moderate-minded representatives across the country with conservative views on gun control and immigration. Even in 2008, when Barack Obama headed the Democratic ticket, House Democrats won deeply conservative districts in northern Mississippi, suburban Louisiana, and rural Alabama. Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, who lost by 17 points in his bid for a third term, didn't even face Republican opposition six years earlier. This isn't ancient history.
The base of the Democratic Party now finds itself united by cultural issues, not economic ones—and Webb is badly out of step with the changed sentiment. Martin O'Malley's long-shot 2016 presidential play focused on using the Maryland governorship as a socially liberal laboratory on issues ranging from immigration and gun control to the death penalty and medical marijuana. Ousted Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado ran so many ads on abortion and contraception in his unsuccessful reelection bid that the media dubbed him "Mark Uterus" by the end of the campaign. While Elizabeth Warren and Jim Webb share a critical view of Wall Street, his heterodox views on social issues are anathema to the party base. Ultimately, social issues trump economic ones.
Indeed, the space for the "beer track" candidate in the Democratic presidential primary has all but disappeared. John Edwards, pre-sex scandal, filled that void credibly in 2004 and 2008 with his fiery Two Americas sermonizing. Dick Gephardt, the former House minority leader, fought for that political space against Edwards and, to some extent, Joe Lieberman in 2004. When Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992, the majority of the Democratic Party's voters fit the blue-collar billing. Hillary Clinton is facing a much different electorate 26 years later.

Broken windows fallacy
Hit & Run's Robby Soave points out why Matt Bruenig's Gawker article "Actually, Riots are Good: The Economic Case for Riots in Ferguson," is wrong because of the broken windows fallacy.

Steyn on the cops
Mark Steyn:
On Ferguson, I reiterated my long-held belief that American police kill far too many of the citizens they're supposed to protect. I loathe the standard formulation for these incidents: "officer-involved shooting". As I said to John, that's like calling the Lincoln assassination an "actor-involved shooting". No self-respecting reporter should ever type or utter that phrase: the officer is not "involved" in the shooting; he's the shooter. And in far too many of these cases he shouldn't be. If you don't like teenagers with their whole lives ahead of them being shot dead by cops, what about 19-year-old pre-school teacher Samantha Ramsey? She was killed in Boone County, Kentucky, by Deputy Tyler Brockman while leaving a party. But I could just as easily have cited the mentally ill teen whose parents made the mistake of asking the police to help get their son to hospital:
Unsurprisingly, the tasing did not calm down the young man, who, according to his parents, was suffering from schizophrenia and had failed to take his medication. So he was shot to death by a police officer whose last words before pulling the trigger were: "We don't have time for this."
Nobody knows about these cases. Racial hucksters from the evil Reverend Al Sharpton to, alas, the Attorney-General and the President themselves think the shooting of Michael Brown is about racism toward "young black men". But American cops are equal-opportunity shooters. They use lethal force on young, old, black, white, male, female, with gay abandon. They shoot old white codgers who make the mistake of reaching for their cane during a traffic stop just as easily as they shoot black thugs high on marijiuana and the thrills of convenience-store theft.
The problem with American policing is not a race thing, and Obama turning it into one the other night did a real disservice to all the other victims of "officer-involved" officide.

The truth about comedy
Newsbusters: "Dana Carvey: Liberal Satire Is Not 'Edgy,' Dennis Miller Is Edgy -- And He's 'Brutalized' For It." Screw all that truth to power bullshit lefties talk about, modern comedians are court jesters.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014
'What if Guys Acted Like Girls on Instagram?'
"What if Guys Acted Like Girls on Instagram?" is pretty darn funny. Instapundit calls this "Female Privilege" but "Female Stupidity" or "Female Shallowness" might be more fitting. As Kathy Shaidle often notes, the comments are worth reading.

2016 watch (Mitt Romney edition)
The Christian Science Monitor reports on Mitt Romney's baffling, continuing popularity among Republicans:
The latest boost to the draft-Mitt movement comes from a Quinnipiac survey that has the 2012 GOP presidential candidate in the lead for the 2016 nomination. He’s the choice of 19 percent of Republican voters, according to Quinnipiac.
Ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is second in this survey, with 11 percent. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and retired surgeon and political neophyte Ben Carson tied for the bronze medal at 8 percent.
The GOP has a deep bench, even if you don't include former failed candidates like Romney, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and Rick Perry, and whatever Bush the Establishment wants to foist upon the party. Romney had his chance. No need to see whether he'll be the next Richard Nixon or Adlai Stevenson.

Terrible Ferguson editorial cartoon
Hit & Run's Jesse Walker nominates this one from the Toronto Star as the worst editorial cartoon of the week.

Joe DiMaggio
Yesterday was the centenary of Joe DiMaggio's birth. The New York Daily News reports that historian John Thorn considers DiMaggio vastly over-rated. It should be noted that he could be over-rated and still be a great baseball player. I wrote about DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak on the 70th anniversary of that feat. One of the things I note is that even in that different era, DiMaggio was the "quiet, gentlemanly player who cupped his cigarette lest a young fan see his bad habit (ballplayers could smoke in the dugout at the time)." As is too often said, "they don't make them like they used to," but they didn't make many like DiMaggio back then, either.

If economists were cereals
The comments at Marginal Revolution's post "Economist cereal boxes" are fantastic. If you find "Krugman Korn Flakes" or "Ricardo: Corn Law Chex" amusing it is well worth perusing, although you should remember, "economists’ jokes work great in theory but not in practice."

On immigration, Obama is trolling the GOP
Jonah Goldberg:
A more plausible criticism is that Obama is trying to lay down precedents and create facts on the ground that will make it impossible to reverse his ratchet toward amnesty.
I’m sure that’s part of his thinking. Indeed, he says that’s his ultimate goal. He’s insisted several times that all Congress has to do is pass a bill that does what he wants and he’ll stop doing what he wants without Congress.
Which points to why I think he’s trolling. As Robert Litan of the Brookings Institution notes, Obama “could’ve done all this quietly, without making any announcement whatsoever.” After all, Obama has unilaterally reinterpreted and rewritten the law without nationally televised addresses before. But doing that wouldn’t let him pander to Latinos and, more important, that wouldn’t achieve his real goal: enraging Republicans.
As policy, King Obama’s edict is a mess, which may explain why Latinos were initially underwhelmed by it, according to a Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll. But that’s not the yardstick Obama cares about most. The real goal is twofold: Cement Latinos into the Democratic coalition, and force Republicans to overreact. He can’t achieve the first if he doesn’t succeed with the second.
I would only clarify that any reaction by the Republicans would be construed as overreaction.

How to ruin Thanksgiving with the family
NRO's Katherine Timpf notes eight ways liberal outlets are suggesting people challenge conservative relatives on political issues over the holiday weekend. This would be fantastic satire, but unfortunately it's real.

America is a welfare state
Washington Post columnist Robert J. Samuelson:
[J]udged by how much of their national income countries devote to social spending, we have the world’s second-largest welfare state — just behind France.
This is not just conjecture. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) — a group of wealthy nations — has recently published new figures on government social spending. Covered is unemployment insurance, disability payments, old-age assistance, government-provided health care, family allowances and the like. By this measure alone, the United States is hardly a leader. It ranks 23rd in the world with social spending of roughly 19 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). This is slightly below the OECD average of 22 percent. France is the champ at nearly 32 percent. (The data are generally the latest available, including some estimates for 2014.)
But wait. Direct government spending isn’t the only way that societies provide social services. They also channel payments through private companies, encouraged, regulated and subsidized by government. This is what the United States does, notably with employer-provided health insurance (which is subsidized by government by not counting employer contributions as taxable income) and tax-favored retirement savings accounts.
When these are added to government’s direct payments, rankings shift. France remains at the top, but the United States vaults into second position with roughly 30 percent of its GDP spent on social services, including health care. We have a hybrid welfare state, partly run by the government and partly outsourced to private markets.
A welfare state larger than any Scandinavian country, folks.

Most murder is intra-racial
That is Bryan Caplan's observation after looking at the FBI's 2011 crime numbers. That is most white victims are killed by whites, most black victims are killed by blacks, and most "other race" victims are killed by other races. That shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who knows anything about crime patterns. Furthermore, blacks are much more likely to kill whites than whites are likely to kill blacks, but that is because white murders by blacks is about proportionate to population while black victims of white offenders are proportionately lower.
Furthermore, blacks represent about 44% of murder victims but are only about 12% of the population (14% of the under 30 age cohorts more likeley to be murder victims). There is a tragically high number of blacks killing blacks, all out of proportion to their population.
The takeaway from all this is that policies that target violent criminals and criminality disproportionately help blacks.

Canada's health care system: worth waiting for?
The Fraser Institute has released its 24th annual Wait Times report ("Waiting Your Turn: Wait Times for Health Care in Canada, 2014 Report") and they find that the median wait time for Canadians seeking medically necessary surgery is 18.2 weeks, about twice as long as the wait (9.3 weeks) in 1993.

Flag burning
Ray Heard tweets a stupid meme. Apparently some people are upset with rioters burning the US flag.
Flag burning is stupid, but so is being upset at flag burning. If soldiers fought for "our rights" certainly those rights include speech and expression -- like burning a flag.

Low information looters
Steve Sailer on how the Left is responsible for the post-Ferguson riots:
Months of egging on the mob in Ferguson, Missouri by the Obama Administration, the Democratic Party, and the national media in order to goose turnout in this month’s midterm elections have culminated in the Night of Undocumented Shopping ...
The executive branch, the Democrats, and the press had flogged the narrative of yet another white racist killer stalking baby black bodies to enrage low information potential voters. To their credit, large numbers of respectable black voters stayed home on election day, perhaps depressed that this latest media obsession over white male racist violence had once again turned out to be a factual fiasco.
High memory voters -- white, working middle class voters who worry about crime and the disintegration of American society -- will remember the post-Ferguson riots are going to vote Republican in 2016.

Governing vs. gridlock with intention
Jay Rosen has an excellent piece on strategy for the Republican Party that counters the popular narrative that Republicans need to use the next two years to prove they can govern. I lean toward the Republicans providing good policy to show they deserve power: the White House and both houses of Congress. But there is merit in the political argument that the GOP can put forward legislation that will be filibustered or vetoed, and then go to the American public in 2016 with a clear alternative to the failed agenda offered by the Democrats.
The problem with Rosen's argument is that it makes politics an end in itself; that the only point of elections is to get elected. However, the United States has real problems and while I'm dubious that government can solve them, at the very least the state needs to stop adding to the mess.
That said, Rosen makes a great observation about the media in general, when he says of the trope offered by political reporters that the Republicans need to do X; Rosen calls it "a reporter’s wish masquerading as an accepted fact." That is too often true, not just in this particular case.
(HT: Newmark's Door)

When Obamacare meets illegal immigrants: shocking but not surprising
The Washington Times: "Obamacare offers firms $3,000 incentive to hire illegals over native-born workers." The Times reports:
Under the Affordable Care Act, that means businesses who hire them won’t have to pay a penalty for not providing them health coverage — making them $3,000 more attractive than a similar native-born worker, whom the business by law would have to cover.

Obama and his immigration Executive Order
In the pages of the Wall Street Journal, William Galston of the Brookings Institute assures us: "History may judge the president unwise, but he is on firm ground going back to FDR." Well, fuck, that's as good as constitutional.

'What if Our Money Were Designed to Celebrate Science Instead of Presidents?' on Travis Purrington's Basel School of Design (Switzerland) master's thesis on global currency redesign:
The familiar faces of Lincoln, Jackson and the rest are gone, replaced by a more colorful set of images. Purrington wanted to introduce imagery that had to do with systems, rather than dated iconography, because that’s really what money is about. It’s the connecting synapse between a huge number of systems that keep our country churning day by day. Each of the bills (Purrington’s redesign includes the $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 notes) has two very different sides: one side is a muted, Escher-esque drawing of a technical or scientific subject matter. The other side has a colorful, real world manifestation of the black-and-white reverse.
For example: one side of the $10 note sports an illustration of a bucky ball. Its other side has a drawing of gleaming skyscraper. The $50 note has a labyrinthine drawing of a circuit board; flip it over, and there’s an astronaut’s helmet, reflecting a view of the space station. “I wanted to play on things that we might not always think about, like neurons being involved in farming or agriculture,” Purrington says of his $5 bill design.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014
NYC community gardens are dangerous
The New York Post reports:
Herbs and vegetables grown in New York City community gardens are loaded with lead and other toxic metals, a startling state study shows.
Tainted vegetables — some sold in city markets — were found in five of seven plots tested, according to data obtained from the study by The Post through the Freedom of Information Law.
Most of the root vegetables sampled far exceeded safe thresholds for lead, with the most toxic being a carrot at the Hart to Hart community garden in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
It contained 1.95 parts per million of the toxic metal — nearly 20 times the level considered safe, according to state Health Department data.
Take that, hipsters.

Against political dynasties
Kevin D. Williamson:
Political offices should not be handed down through families like heirlooms, or bequeathed to wives like life-insurance benefits. About 50 widows have been elected or appointed to their late husbands’ House and Senate seats over the years. They have not, for the most part, been a terribly impressive group, though Mary Bono Mack was a reliable legislator who might have remained in office had she not been married to what her rainbow-bedecked Palm Springs constituents considered the wrong half of Sonny and Cher.
Wives ascending to their husbands’ congressional offices have, for the most part, had the decency to wait until they died, but not so Deborah Dingell, who takes over her husband’s former seat in January. John Dingell Jr., the longest-serving member of Congress in history, has been representing environs west of Detroit for nearly 60 years, since the Eisenhower administration. (The vagaries of redistricting have put him in three different districts over the years.) He inherited the seat from his father, John Dingell Sr., who was elected to it in 1932. Mrs. Dingell, who was in diapers when her husband was first elected to the House, just turned 61 a few days ago, and appears to be in excellent health. If she serves 18 years in the House — a fraction of what her husband did — then the Dingells will have had a stranglehold on the office for a century. Dingell rule, which already has lasted longer than did the Austro-Hungarian Empire, will have lived longer than did the Aztec Empire.
Hillary Clinton seems singularly unqualified for the job of president were it not for her famous name:
The career of our recently retired secretary of state has been an odd one: a feminist icon whose main role in life has been that of accessory to her husband, whose understanding of sex roles is as thoroughly traditional as Warren G. Harding’s. Jeb and George W. Bush may have been born into political dynasties, but each proved himself as an excellent governor before seeking the White House or contemplating it. Herself, on the other hand, has had many opportunities to show her quality: in the Senate, where she was a mediocrity, and as secretary of state, where she presided over the serial disasters of the Obama administration’s foreign policy.

Monday, November 24, 2014
Regulation nation
The Daily Caller: "White House Quietly Releases Plans For 3,415 Regulations Ahead Of Thanksgiving Holiday." A total of 189 rules will cost at least $100 million.
In related news, the Competitive Enterprise Institute reported: "The Federal Register Topped 70,000 Pages Today." 70,052 to be exact.

New York Times: 'A Deep 2016 Republican Presidential Field Reflects Party Divisions'
I would say diversity instead of division, but that wouldn't fit the paper's narrative. The Times article says there is no front-runner and that is because (as no one appears willing to explicitly acknowledge) the Republican Party's so-called divisions reflect a base that is not as uniform in its political priorities as the Democrats. I'm not convinced this is as much of a problem as many pundits and certainly most strategists think it is.

Government by a thousand cuts
Reason TV: "America's 3 Most Fee-Ridden Cities" in which Walter Olson makes the provocative observation that "Government is not just a revenue source. It should be an engine of justice." That's because cities and counties will find a way get their money frm citizens. In some jurisdictions, 40 percent of municipal revenue is collected in fines and fees.

Steyn on Obama's New Democratic Voter Strategy immigration policy
Mark Steyn:
All western immigration systems are problematic, thanks mainly to chain migration. But, unlike Australia's or Canada's, America's now explicitly exists to favor the unskilled and ill-educated over high-value economic contributors. Or as Daniel Greenfield puts it:
Immigration requires opportunity. We still have it, but less of it than we used to. Our immigration system is not based on opportunity. It's based on a migratory flow of Democratic Party voters.
Which will have catastrophic, transformative consequences. Last Thursday Obama didn't just proclaim himself king, he proclaimed the rest of you guys peasants. That's why it was necessary to do it a few days after the election - just to rub it in.

Five Feet of Fury points to a stunningly magnificent New York Times correction.
My reaction: it sometimes seems that it is the only job of editors at major papers today to write the corrections for when their reporters file complete bullshit and its runs. It should be noted that the editors didn't catch the untrue story in the first place.
My second reaction: journalists who get fooled by satirical websites should lose their jobs.

'What is a conservative?'
I generally find "What is a conservative?" columns boring, but G. Tracy Mehan III's American Spectator post on what Evelyn Waugh can teach modern American conservatives is a worthwhile read. Waugh could teach modern Canadian conservatives something, too. This is also vital to remember: "A distinction must be made between conservatives and Republicans who are not always the same."

Cowen's best non-fiction of 2014
Isn't it too early for "best of the year" articles and posts? I think so.
Tyler Cowen's list of best non-fiction books of 2014 (non-economics) is up. There almost no overlap among his best books of the year and books I've read which is strange considering that he inspires a disproportionate share of my non-Canadian politics/history reading. Jurgen Osterhammel's The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century has moved to the top of my list of to-read books although at nearly 1200 pages I doubt I'll find the time anytime soon. This was not a great year for new books, especially in sports writing (which Cowen doesn't cover) or public policy. Cowen does list the notable economics books of the year (on which there is complete overlap) although he did not include Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.
Most of my reading this year was older Canadian history and political science, and the works of Stephen Leacock. Off the top of my head, I don't think I read more than maybe 15-20 new books.

The unread Piketty
Deirdre McCloskey has a long review of Thomas Piketty which, if you aren't tired of Piketty's Capital in the Twentieth Century yet is worth reading. But his is worth highlighting and is relevant even if you don't care about the economics of inequality:
Readers of a certain age will remember Douglas Hofstadter’s massive Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (1979), which sat admired but unread on many a coffee table in the 1980s, and rather younger readers will remember Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time (1988). The Kindle company from Amazon keeps track of the last page of your highlighting in a downloaded book (you didn’t know that, did you?). Using the fact, the mathematician Jordan Ellenberg reckons that the average reader of the 655 pages of text and footnotes of Capital in the Twenty-First Century stops somewhere a little past page 26, where the highlighting stops, about the end of the Introduction. He proposes that the Kindle-measured percentage of a book apparently read, once called the Hawking Index (most readers of A Brief History stopped annotating it at 6.6 percent of the book), be renamed the Piketty Index (2.4 percent).3 To be fair to Piketty, a buyer of the hardback rather than the Kindle edition is probably a more serious reader, and would go further.

'More Redistribution, Less Income'
A Wall Street Journal editorial goes over recent economic numbers and concludes:
The main lesson in these statistics is not about dependence on government. Rather, it is a verdict on Obamanomics. Presidents who put reducing inequality above increasing prosperity end up with less growth and opportunity that benefits everyone, and thus with more inequality.

Sunday, November 23, 2014
McGinnis reviews Jason Reitman's Men, Women & Children
Rick McGinnis in The Interim:
To be sure, there are ways that the world of 2014 is different from that of 1994, but if we want to say that it’s worse and blame it on social media, the truth is that there’s simply more access to what has troubled us, and not that we’ve somehow invented new problems and vices.
I couldn’t help thinking about this while watching Men, Women & Children, the latest film from director Jason Reitman (Juno, Up In The Air,) a film explicitly about the “new world” created by social media and – perhaps not coincidentally – the biggest box office bomb of the season. Set in a typical American suburb, it’s the story of a quintet of families whose relationships are either strained or enabled through texting, gaming, Facebook, Tumblr, online porn or dating sites ...
There’s too much about social media to say in a single column, so I’ll be exploring it all a bit more in my next column, but there are two things Men, Women & Children put onscreen that show Hollywood making socially conservative points quite against their will. The first is the most tragic story in the film – that of Chris, emotionally crippled by a surplus of online porn before he’s old enough to vote, a condition apparently so common in Hollywood – a place where the line between porn and mainstream moviemaking has been unguarded for years – that it’s woven without question into a story about the quotidian middle class.

Why The View doesn't work
PJ Media's Ed Driscoll on problems at The View and the show's tanking ratings:
The formula for a successful TV talk show isn’t that much different than the formula for a successful TV sitcom or drama, and has been the same since the medium took off in the 1950s. (That’s why they call it a formula.) A network talk show casts an appealing straight-shooting everyman and surrounds him with wacky, offbeat sidekicks for leavening. In the 1960s, the boyish Johnny Carson was flanked by big drinking heavyset Ed McMahon and the psychedelically-attired Doc Severinsen. In the 1980s, long before he became churlish and partisan in his dotage, David Letterman was a fratboy variation on the same theme, another Midwestern everyman, this time with postmodern zaniness swirling around him. Fictional TV has long used the same formula, with Star Trek’s JFK-esque Captain Kirk surrounded by the pointy-eared Spock and Mencken-esque Dr. McCoy. Happy Days had clean-cut WASP Richie Cunningham, surrounded by Fonzie the Italian greaser and Ralph Malph the class cut-up. And M*A*S*H ran for a million years with Alan Alda’s Hawkeye character surrounded by oddball characters such as Radar, Klinger, Frank Burns, etc.
The View was a distaff variation on the same formula, with Barbara Walters the veteran journalist and everywoman surrounded by zany offbeat showbiz types such as the caustic Joy Behar, loony conspiracy theorist Rosie O’Donnell, and the far left Whoopi Goldberg. With Walters now retired, there’s no center of gravity to the show, no one to reign in the lunatics inside the asylum.

I'm surprised it's taken this long
The College Fix reports, "Elon University has dropped the term “freshman” from its vocabulary and replaced it with 'first-year,' a move made official this fall and implemented in everything from its website to orientation workshops." You would have thought that rampant political correctness on campus would have addressed this serious injustice two decades ago.

Rent-seeking bastards at Unilever
Reason's Baylen Linnekin: "Hellman's Sues to Protect Its Mayo-Monopoly." Why does the Food and Drug Administration define what can be legally called mayonnaise?

Will on Rockefeller
George Will says be glad that Barry Goldwater beat Nelson Rockefeller in 1964's GOP presidential primaries, and more importantly, that Goldwater's ideas won in the Republican Party:
Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman — Rockefeller served both in significant offices — urged him to become a Democrat. A longtime aide said, “He wasn’t a liberal. He was a problem solver.” But Rockefeller insisted, “There is no problem that cannot be solved.” So he was a liberal, with a progressive’s reverence for “experts.” He gave the impression, his sympathetic but clear-eyed biographer says, of having “more ideas than convictions.”

Saturday, November 22, 2014
'In any area where judgment was required, Cosby chose very poorly'
That is Tyler Cowen's comment on The Bill Cosby Collection that is on display at the National Museum of African Art. Overall this is Cowen's judgement:
The works by lesser-known creators are mostly sentimental junk with lots of gloppy paint and hackneyed historical themes, or perhaps a maudlin portrait of some kind.
My hypothesis is simple: in any collecting area where price is a sufficient statistic for quality, Cosby did well by paying top dollar, or at least by letting himself be “mined” by his buyer agent, who probably had a financial incentive to pay top dollar. In any area where judgment was required, Cosby chose very poorly.

Jonah Goldberg on Obama's incredible stupidity
Jonah Goldberg:
[M]y jaw dropped when I heard Obama’s reaction to the beheading of Peter Kassig.
“ISIL’s actions represent no faith,” Obama said, “least of all the Muslim faith which Abdul-Rahman adopted as his own.”
Abdul-Rahman was Kassig’s Muslim name, which he adopted only while being held captive by Islamists. Perhaps the conversion was sincere, though I suspect Kassig did it to stay alive and certainly under duress and I can begrudge him it. Either way, there’s something disgusting about using Kassig’s Muslim name in order to score a propaganda point.
It’s even worse when that propaganda point is so incandescently stupid.
As Mona notes (and as I argued here), no one except Barack Obama thinks it’s a revelation that the Islamic State kills Muslims. No Kurd, no Shia, no moderate Sunni stays in his home when the Islamic State is at the gates, and says “Hey, we’re Muslim and Muslims don’t kill Muslims. We’ve got nothing to worry about.”
But it’s the phrase “least of all the Muslim faith” that is truly infuriating. Least of all? Really? So other faiths are more implicated in this atrocity than Islam? Which ones? Does he really mean to be suggesting that while the Islamic State’s actions “represent no faith,” if we have to assign blame, Islam is the least culpable? Could a team of rhetoricians, theologians and logicians working around the clock in some Andromeda Strain bunker beneath the Nevada desert come up with an argument that puts even a scintilla more blame at the feet of, say, the Lutherans or Quakers? On the one hand we have a bunch of dudes who shout “Allāhu Akbar!”, memorize the Koran, and rape and murder in the name of the Islamic State. On the other hand, we have a grab bag of Buddhists, Jews, Seventh Day Adventists, and Southern Baptists. And the one faith least implicated here is Islam? Really.

Time for another green revolution
Norman Borlaug, one of the greatest human beings to ever serve his fellow man, led the first green revolution, in the late 1960s and '70s, when green referred to agriculture and the advances in (especially wheat) farming helped feed the growing global population. As I noted when Borlaug died, he proved Malthus wrong.
The Wall Street Journal talks to the person who is trying to engineer the next great agricultural step forward:
Robert Zeigler is an environmentalist, but he is also a plant scientist. And that has led him to question the motives of an environmental movement that opposes genetically modified crops despite overwhelming evidence that they are safe.
As director general of the International Rice Research Institute, Mr. Zeigler is pushing the development of “golden rice,” a genetically modified variety that began in the lab about two decades ago. Geneticists inserted a gene into the rice plant that allows it to produce beta carotene, which makes its grains yellow.
Because the human body converts beta carotene to vitamin A, golden rice has the potential to dramatically improve the lives of millions of people around the world, particularly in Africa and Southeast Asia, where vitamin A deficiency is an especially common malady that can cause blindness and increases the risk of death from disease. Children are particularly vulnerable ...
It if not particularly baffling that the modern green (environmental) movement is anti-genetically modified food if their real motivations are not really protecting the environment but opposing human flourishing (freedom, free markets, private property) and even human itself.

Is this a parody?
The Karl Marx credit card.

Thought provoking
In a Deadspin article about ESPN write Keith Law's Twitter exchange about evolution with former baseball pitcher Curt Schilling, someone commented: "I would be very interested to see what a crowd-sourced bible would look like." I would love to see a gifted writer who was not anti-religion write a parody crowd-sourced bible.

Friday, November 21, 2014
Advances in teleportation
Alas not teleportation of any larger than photons, but still significant. Popular Mechanics reports:
NASA scientists have traveled a new record distance in a strange frontier: quantum teleportation. They used this weird phenomenon to transmit information 15.5 miles via fiber optic cables and with a dash of quantum entanglement ...
The new record shatters the previous record of just under four miles via optical cable.
This will have massive implications for encryption.
It is a longshot that it could lead to discoveries that might end up advancing teleportation of something larger than elementary particles.

Cost of Thanksgiving dinner
Mark J. Perry of the American Enterprise Institute notes that according to the American Farm Bureau Federation the inflation-adjusted "cost of a Thanksgiving dinner is 1.3% cheaper than last year, 21% cheaper than 1986." The amount of time the average person must work to earn the money to pay for the dinner has held steady for some time. The average turkey dinner will cost just under $50, but just over $30 if you shop at Walmart. Perry concludes:
The fact that a family in American can celebrate Thanksgiving with a classic turkey feast for less than $50 and at a “time cost” of only 2.39 hours of work for one person (and only $32.64 or 1.58 hours of work for Walmart shoppers) means that we really have a lot to be thankful for on Thanksgiving: an abundance of cheap, affordable food. Compared to 1986, the inflation-adjusted cost of a turkey dinner today is 21% cheaper, and 26% cheaper measured in the “time cost” for the average worker.

Same-sex marriage and segregation are not comparable
Gay libertarian Scott Shackford in Hit & Run on Gary Johnson, former New Mexico governor and 2012 Libertarian Party presidential candidate:
Johnson responds that he doesn't believe there should be workplace discrimination against gays, referencing racial segregation and civil rights laws from the 1960s. Jeff specifically asks if there should be laws preventing employers and businesses from discriminating against gay workers or customers. Johnson says the discrimination should be legally prohibited: "There has to be an awareness, and there has to be consequences to discrimination. And there should not be discrimination. This is America."
Unpacking this as a gay libertarian: The first and most obvious observation is that Johnson, like many people who make this comparison, ignores the fact that segregation wasn't entirely voluntary. Much of it was mandated by government. Segregation was law. This is not to downplay that there were certainly many businesses and powerful forces in the private sector that supported, wanted, encouraged, fought to maintain segregation, and instituted it well beyond what the laws demanded. The laws wouldn't have existed if rich and powerful white people didn't want it in the first place. But it's important to note that segregation laws restricted freedom of association by prohibiting it.
The refusal of states to recognize same-sex marriage is again a government-ordered mandate. It has nothing to do with whether individuals or churches or businesses acknowledge the legitimacy of gay marriage. No business serving wedding needs has been forbidden from providing goods and services for gay couples, regardless of whether the state recognizes the marriage. But making private businesses provide these services by government order restricts the right of freedom of association by demanding it ...
I hate the concept of ranking victimization, but the level of private discrimination against engaged gay couples absolutely pales to the culture created by racial segregation. Being denied a wedding cake by one shop out of several choices is not the same as being shut out of entire neighborhoods and centers of commerce. There are many private solutions to the issue of gay couples being denied services, and businesses who engage in discrimination get significant negative attention and publicity. In fact, the relatively small number of cases of consumer discrimination shows how much has society changed primarily from cultural evolution. Undoubtedly a gay couple looking for a bakery to make them a wedding cake in the 1990s would have faced many more rejections ...
We have to have more than the indignity of being rejected by a baker of photographer in order to justify legally forcing these businesses to give up their freedom of association.
I highlighted this to counter the oft-heard argument that the gay rights movement is like the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It isn't.
Shackford's larger point is that libertarians need to defend many liberties (freedom of speech, conscience, association, private property) and not just same-sex marriage. It is odd that a supposed libertarian standard-bearer like Johnson would abandon these other principles so easily to uphold same-sex marriage. It isn't very libertarian; but it very political.

Do you really want these people teaching your kids?
Hit & Run: "Little Boy Suspended for Pointing Finger Like a Laser Gun." First, a finger cannot be confused with a real gun. But even if the 10-year-old had a real laser gun ... oh never mind. Remember this isn't an isolated incident; schools routinely suspend elementary school children for weaponizing items like hands or pop tarts. Also remember that this isn't a lone teacher acting; a teacher usually brings the student to the principal for discipline, thus indicating at least two (so-called) adults thought it was a good idea to suspend the student. As Hit & Run's Robby Soave says, "How paranoid of gun violence do you have to be to consider an imaginary ray gun some kind of threat against other students?"

'Free speech is so last century. Today’s students want the "right to be comfortable"'
Brendan O'Neill in the (London) Spectator: "Student unions’ ‘no platform’ policy is expanding to cover pretty much anyone whose views don’t fit prevailing groupthink." Of the Stepford Students he met at Oxford, he writes:
Their eyes glazed with moral certainty, they explained to me at length that culture warps minds and shapes behaviour and that is why it is right for students to strive to keep such wicked, misogynistic stuff as the Sun newspaper and sexist pop music off campus. ‘We have the right to feel comfortable,’ they all said, like a mantra. One — a bloke — said that the compulsory sexual consent classes recently introduced for freshers at Cambridge, to teach what is and what isn’t rape, were a great idea because they might weed out ‘pre-rapists’: men who haven’t raped anyone but might. The others nodded. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Pre-rapists! Had any of them read Philip K. Dick’s dystopian novella about a wicked world that hunts down and punishes pre-criminals, I asked? None had.
Of course, it isn't just the universities. Earlier this week, Mark Steyn wrote about "A World Stripped of Contraries."

It's Friday!
Stephen Colbert sings "Friday" with Jimmy Fallon and The Roots. I like this more than I should.

Not The Onion
Via Blazing Cat Fur, Salon is worried about "carbon paw prints."