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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Wednesday, October 22, 2014
2016 watch (John Kasich edition)
The Washington Examiner's Philip Klein:
Ohio Gov. John Kasich's recent comments suggesting President Obama's healthcare law was here to stay and having a positive impact on people's lives generated a lot of attention as marking a potential shift in Republican attitudes toward the program. But the fact that he has since pushed back on the story suggests he's seriously thinking about a run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
On Monday, the Associated Press ran a (since-modified) story quoting Kasich as saying of repealing Obamacare, "That's not gonna happen." He added that opposition "was really either political or ideological" and that "I don't think that holds water against real flesh and blood and real improvements in people's lives." ...
One of my first thoughts after reading his initial comments was that he cannot be serious about running for president in 2016, because there's no way he could win a primary with such a stance ...
"The AP got it wrong," Kasich tweeted. "Ohio said NO to the Obamacare exchange for a reason. As always, my position is that we need to repeal and replace."

Birthday books
Books are the best presents, and my family didn't let me down this year. Among much other loot, I now own the following books, some of which I've read before, some of which I'll be reading soon:
Cost and Choice: An Inquiry in Economic Theory by James M. Buchanan
How Baseball Explains America by Hal Bodley with a foreword by George F. Will
Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed by James C. Scott
Blood Aces: The Wild Ride of Benny Binion, the Texas Gambler who Created Vegas Poker by Doug J. Swanson
The Dominion of Capital: The Politics of Big Business and the Crisis of the Canadian Bourgeoisie, 1914-1947 by Don Nerbas

Twitter wouldn't let me post this message
Twitter tells me "This request looks like it might be automated. To protect our users from spam and other malicious activity, we can't complete this action right now. Please try again later." Me message:
"The [Un]Documented @MarkSteynOnline" is "already in the Politics Top Ten in both Canada and America"
Twitter followers are protected from that malicious announcement. You, dear readers, are not.

Kansas City Royals success in post-season seen as evidence that handouts to teams are worthwhile
Hardball Talk's Craig Calcaterra notes that the Kansas City Star editorializes:
The power of major league sports to bring this entire community together has been obvious in the past few weeks. It’s a big reason taxpayers were told they needed to approve public funding for a renovated Truman Sports Complex in 2006. And it has worked as advertised.
But wait, says Calcaterra, wasn't that money used on non-renovation items? Quoting from a 2012 local radio report:
The Kansas City Royals have requested nearly $17 million of taxpayer money the past five years from the Kauffman Stadium repair and upkeep fund but spent only 9% of the money received on actual repairs and maintenance to the stadium, according to documents obtained by Sports Radio 810 WHB . . . The Royals have received at least $12.7 million from taxpayers that was approved by the Jackson County Sports Complex Authority as part of the RMMO provision of the team’s lease with the county and spent it on full and part time employee salaries, security, cable tv, first aid, utilities, telephones and even payroll taxes. By using the money for payroll taxes, the team literally collected taxpayer money to pay their own taxes.
Royals owner David Glass is estimated to be worth around $2 billion, but is given government money to pay other levels of government what they are owed in tax. This should bring the community together ... in outrage against both local politicians and Royals owner David Glass.

Obama's 'giant orb of ineptitude' surrounded by incompetents
The Investor's Business Daily editorial on President Barack Obama's White House and administration:
In this administration, Obama is a giant orb of ineptitude circled by yes-men and amateurs. He surrounds himself with incompetent people and then wonders why they screw up. But instead of admitting his own poor judgment, he throws his hand-picked appointees under the bus.
IBD then lists the litany of "yes-men and amateurs" from IRS official Lois Lerner to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Economist Christina Romer was a yes-woman and certainly not amateur or incompetent, but was ultimately blamed for the stimulus failure for doing precisely what the president wanted.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014
What Libertarians bring to elections
Reason's Ed Krayewski has "Four Big Issues Libertarians Bring to the Table in Elections" at Hit & Run. Whether "Marijuana Legalization" qualifies as a "Big Issue" is debatable and "Anti-War Foreign Policy" is going to be divisive, but "Civil Liberties" and "Crony Capitalism and Actually Limiting Government" are very important issues that the other parties need to be schooled in. A Senate controlled by neither party and a couple free agent Libertarian senators would be ideal, although an unrealistic expectation at this time.

How Facebook is shaping the news
The Kernel's Aaron Sankin on "How Facebook is wrecking political news":
In a media environment where every piece of #content is primed to go viral, this fact isn’t all that surprising. Facebook is a huge driver of traffic, with over 1.3 billion active users looking for something to Like. If Facebook were a country, it would have roughly the same population as China. Not only that, but Facebook has scientifically calculated its system to maximize the likelihood of its users liking and sharing content, which drives readers across the Web.
That’s just how it works in this Facebook-dominated digital world.
Once you stop to think about that, however, the entire system seems insane. If you’re a journalist, or even someone who cares about the role journalism plays in society, it’s utterly terrifying.
The lion’s share of the mechanism for disseminating information from professional news gatherers to readers is now handled almost entirely by a company with a frustratingly opaque method of operation and interests that don’t necessarily dovetail with news organizations or their readers. Publications haven’t just lost control over their distribution models to a decentralized collective—they’ve effectively ceded it to a 30-year-old Harvard dropout in a gray hoodie ...
Pushing out a post on an active trending topic does precisely that. While the actual boost may vary, it can run the gamut from a 50 percent increase over the standard number of people who would normally see it to the rare 20-fold increase. For an online publication, these types of numbers are basically a gold mine.
This scenario encourages the worst kind of journalism. If the window was nonexistent and seeing something on the trending topics sidebar meant it was already too late catch the wave, that would be one thing. It would be another if a trending topic boost lasted for a day or two, giving time for real reporting. But the current sweet spot encourages publications to look for what’s trending and pump out something on that subject as quickly as possible.
Not every story requires an exhaustive reporting process, but a lot of them do.
The article is long but worth reading, even if, like me, you are skeptical that all this is as bad as the author thinks it is.

Bet for the Ebola panic crowd
Bryan Caplan says that closing borders are unnecessary to control Ebola in the United States and is willing to bet it. Commenters make two good points: $100 may not hurt Caplan enough to be a valid indicator of confidence in his own prediction* and that the bet isn't properly structured to adequately account for the sort of catastrophic results the panic crowd is predicting and thus needs a system of odds and a higher threshold (10,000 not 300). However, this sort of criticism and searching for better terms for a bet helps us think more clearly about what might actually happen and to clarify or specify what we mean when predicting gloomy or rosy scenarios.
* However, surely $100 is a surer sign of confidence than the $0 most pundits are willing to bet. Also, there is another cost which is diminished reputation for getting the prediction/bet wrong.

People in cities don't like crowds but it's the crowds that make possible the things they do like
Ipsos Reid polled Torontonians about what they like and don't like about their city and the results are entirely predictable. They like the "diversity," "arts and culture," "the food and restaurants," and "the sports," but don't like the "traffic," "cost of living" or "size." But there wouldn't be the arts and culture or food and restaurants or five professional teams playing in Toronto if there weren't a lot of other people in the city which increases congestion and the cost of living. Choosing to live in Toronto (or anywhere) involves trade-offs: I like my home, the availability of quality independent schools, a plethora of shawarma restaurants, and easy access to 81 pro baseball games each year, and the long commute and high cost of housing/taxes are worth it. But I understand that the choice of good schools and hopping on the subway to baseball games doesn't exist without a customer base of millions. I am not sure if most Torontonians appreciate that fact. Saying they want live theatre and authentic Korean restaurants and numerous cultural festivals throughout the year but not the crowds is child-like, preferring an impossible fantasy world to what actually exists.

Prime ministerial material
Economist William Watson writes in the Ottawa Citizen about the concerns of whether past prime ministerial hopefuls were up to the job of prime minister: Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien, and Stephen Harper. Each of them were in power for at least eight years, were re-elected at least once, and were impactful on the country. Watson reminds us about whom there was no question of being prepared for the job: John Turner and Paul Martin. Maybe Justin Trudeau is prime ministerial material (he certainly doesn't seem so) but Watson is warning political spectators that if the recent past is any indicator, it's that pre-conceived notions of who has the right resume for Canada's top elected political job are often incorrect.

'6 Times Obama Declared Crisis, Then Did Nothing'
Breitbart has the list.

Good-bye to entrepreneurialism
At AEI Ideas, James Pethokoukis notes that there are fewer and fewer young companies (defined as one year old) as a percentage of total businesses in America. And you can't blame President Barack Obama because the decline has been fairly steady since the early 1980s. Writing at NRO in March, Pethokoukis said, "there’s more to blame than the tax hikes and heavy-handed regulation of Obamanomics." And there are ramifications to fewer start-ups. As Pethokoukis wrote in March:
Start-ups generate the “disruptive innovation” that creates new goods, services, and jobs. And they force established businesses to try to match them. Without competition from new companies, old ones will pursue only the sort of “efficiency innovation” that makes production cheaper, often by replacing people with machines. The U.S. still generates lots of innovation overall, but maybe too much is of the job-killing sort rather than job-creating kind that marks a dynamic economy.
Fewer new companies means fewer jobs and less innovation, and it incentivizes crony capitalism:
While free and frequent entry by start-ups is critical, so is exit by incumbents. Established players can’t be allowed to win through lobbying what they can’t achieve in the marketplace ... Other ways government sides with Big Business over entrepreneurs include overly stringent patent and copyright laws and a subsidy-ridden corporate tax code.

Math gets in the way of a good feminist/political narrative
Mark J. Perry at AEI Ideas: "If only 12% of campus sexual assaults get reported, then only 1 in 32 women at Ohio State are sexually assaulted, not 1 in 5." Perry explains:
White House Statement 1. Sexual assault is a particular problem on college campuses:1 in 5 women has been sexually assaulted while in college.
White House Statement 2. Reporting rates for campus sexual assault are also very low: on average only 12% of student victims report the assault to law enforcement.
There’s a huge, irreconcilable statistical problem here. Using actual reported crime statistics on sexual offenses at almost any US college and applying the White House claim that only 12% of campus sexual assaults actually get reported, we have to conclude that nowhere near 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted while in college. Alternatively, if the “1 in 5 women” claim is true, the percentage of sexual assaults that don’t get reported to the campus police would have to be much lower than 12%. In other words, the claims that the White House uses don’t work together and they therefore both can’t be simultaneously correct.
Perry has a handy chart that is easier to follow than these paragraphs. The point is that the White House and its feminists allies can't use both these numbers and that the 1 in 5 claims strains credulity when you see precisely how many unreported sexual assaults there would have to be. Just follow the math.

Harvard Sex Week
The schedule is posted here. I found this, "What What in the Butt: Anal Sex 101," interesting:
Come learn everything about anal sex from the experts of Good Vibrations, a sex-positive store located right in Brookline! They will dispel myths about anal sex and give you insight into why people do it and how to do it well. They will cover a wide variety of topics, including: anal anatomy and the potential for pleasure for all genders; how to talk about it with a partner; basic preparation and hygiene; lubes, anal toys, and safer sex; anal penetration for beginners, and much more! Learn the facts about this exciting yet often misunderstood form of pleasure, find out the common mistakes people make, and get all your questions answered!
The reason I found this interesting is that while often students and academics are skeptical of private enterprise, the organizers of Harvard Sex Week are okay with a store providing information to students about sex. Might Good Vibrations have an agenda, or even worse, a commercial agenda?

Price controls don't work and the Left doesn't care
Thomas Sowell:
People who believe in government-set price controls — whether on interest rates charged for loans, rents charged for housing or wages paid under minimum wage laws — seem to think that this is the end of the story ...
Yet there is remarkably little concern on the political left as to the actual consequences of the laws and policies they advocate. Once they have taken a stance on the side of the angels against the forces of evil, that is the end of the story, as far as they are concerned.
Sowell briefly mentions the numerous negative repercussions of state-controlled prices on loans, rents, and wages, noting there is a vast literature in each area, and yet the economically illiterate Left doesn't seem to care.

US map
In units of Canadian population.
(HT: Suzanne Fortin on Twitter)

Monday, October 20, 2014
Four ways longer lifespans would change the economy
The Week: "How 1,000-year lifespans could remake the economy." Productivity, labour markets, and financial planning would all be affected. Author Nicholas Warino predicts retirement benefits would be replaced by a more broad-based redistribution of wealth to all adults; he also thinks there will be health care savings because the re-engineered human being won't face as many chronic illnesses, but that is highly speculative; it is just as plausible that people would consume more health care if they lived longer.

When Tony Soprano does it, it's called a shakedown, but when the government does it, it's called getting their fair share
A provincial panel is going to tell the Ontario government that the three beer companies that run the beer-selling monopoly in Ontario should be charged more for the privilege of their monopoly power. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is more than open to the panel's suggestion, excited at the opportunity to squeeze some more revenue out of private interests to pay for more government spending. The monopoly should be ended, not protected after a government shakedown of the beer companies. This is the kind of thing the mob does. And, unfortunately, governments. But when the state does it, all is fine because the funds will go to projects like transit. But the principle is the same.
If the beer companies profit is too large, it should be shared with customers and other companies through competition, not handed over to the government. And the idea that these costs can't and won't be passed onto customers is ridiculous.

Trying not to look not up to the job
The Ottawa Citizen reports: "Liberal leader Justin Trudeau says he will impose greater discipline on himself to avoid making off-the-cuff remarks that his opponents can use against him." From their interview with Trudeau the Younger, the paper elaborates:
He said he’s convinced Canadians will want to hear the thorough arguments he presents on a variety of issues. But he also said he needs to find the “right balance” when expressing his message. When asked how he’ll do that in next year’s election, he responded: “Discipline.”
The self-restraint will come after “hard-learned experience of the fact that when I am trying to say something clever that tickles my own wry sense of humor, all too often it gives material for my opponents to drag us off track in the direction that is unhelpful,” Trudeau said.
In other words, Trudeau will try not to be himself in an effort to fool Canadians that he is up to the job of prime minister.

'Cool' if it's women, sexism if it's men
Pundit's Guide tweets:
Three women to direct #elxn42 national campaigns: @Jenni_Byrne for the #CPC, @OttawaAnne for the #NDP, and @telfordk for the #LPC. Cool.
Will "men's issues" be ignored?

Public choice in action
Instapundit: "[A]ll that regulation — while making the country much poorer — has vastly enriched the parasite class. They have a bigger slice of a smaller pie, and they like it that way because it makes them feel important."

Every president's favourite adult beverage
The New York Post lists every president and his favourite drink. Wine and whiskey are popular.

Harvard profs vs. new campus sex laws
Cathy Young at the Daily Beast:
The increasingly contentious debate about the proper response to sexual assault on college campuses took a new turn on Oct. 15, when The Boston Globe ran an op-ed signed by twenty-eight current and retired Harvard Law School professors expressing “strong objections” to the school’s new Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures. The sharply worded statement not only slammed the university administration for forcing the policy on all of Harvard’s schools without adequate discussion but also charged that the new procedures for handling complaints of sexual misconduct “lack the most basic elements of fairness and due process [and] are overwhelmingly stacked against the accused.” It even went so far as to urge Harvard to defy federal guidelines on addressing such complaints and “stand up for principle in the face of funding threats.” This is the latest, and biggest, volley in a mounting revolt against the overreach of government-led initiatives to curb campus rape—coming from unusual suspects.
Thus, the Harvard signatories include not only noted criminal defense attorney Alan Dershowitz, who has long been viewed as right of center in the culture wars, but preeminent African-American law professor and Barack Obama’s mentor Charles Ogletree and several renowned female jurists such as veteran civil rights attorney Nancy Gertner, constitutional scholar Martha Field, and feminist legal theorist Janet Halley. This protest is not easy to dismiss as a right-wing anti-woman backlash.

'Humanitarian Aid Going to ISIS'
The Daily Beast reports: "Not only are foodstuffs, medical supplies—even clinics—going to ISIS, the distribution networks are paying ISIS ‘taxes’ and putting ISIS people on their payrolls." Jamie Dettmer explains the dilemma:
The aid—mainly food and medical equipment—is meant for Syrians displaced from their hometowns, and for hungry civilians. It is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, European donors, and the United Nations. Whether it continues is now the subject of anguished debate among officials in Washington and European. The fear is that stopping aid would hurt innocent civilians and would be used for propaganda purposes by the militants, who would likely blame the West for added hardship.
Yeah, but it's ISIS.

Democratic crowd doesn't stay for Obama portion of rally
Reuters reports:
President Barack Obama made a rare appearance on the campaign trail on Sunday with a rally to support the Democratic candidate for governor in Maryland, but early departures of crowd members while he spoke underscored his continuing unpopularity.
With approval levels hovering around record lows, Obama has spent most of his campaign-related efforts this year raising money for struggling Democrats, who risk losing control of the U.S. Senate in the Nov. 4 midterm election.
Most candidates from his party have been wary of appearing with him during their election races because of his sagging popularity.
Not so Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown of Maryland, who is running for governor ...
"You've got to vote," Obama repeated over and over at a rally for Brown in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, near Washington ...
A steady stream of people walked out of the auditorium while he spoke, however, and a heckler interrupted his remarks.
(HT: Powerline's John Hinderaker)

Choice isn't (and this has nothing to do with abortion)
Spiked's Brendan O'Neill:
Nannies, nudgers and various other adherents to what the UK Labour Party calls ‘the politics of behaviour’ have done a lot of bad stuff in recent years. Their smoking ban hollowed out pub life. Their fearmongering about fatness did more than any fashion mag to convince young people that chubbiness is sinful and skinniness is next to Godliness. Their jihad against junk food in schools deprived today’s kids of some of childhood’s great pleasures: having a Mars bar in your blazer pocket and taking bites out of it in between scoring goals in the playground or sharing a fizzy strawberry lace as you natter about last night’s TV.
But even worse than all that has been the way this fun-allergic lobby has warped the meaning of the word choice. Almost singlehandedly they have transformed the c-word. They have turned ‘choice’ from something individuals do for themselves, using our free will and moral autonomy to decide on a course of action that we think is best suited to our lives, into something that is done for us, by others, and which we have to be guided towards. They talk about the ‘right choice’, the ‘informed choice’, the ‘healthy choice’, and about their determination to shove us donut-scoffing plebs towards that ‘choice’. They have turned choice utterly on its head: when they say ‘choice’, what they really mean is ‘less choice’.
Consider Lord Darzi’s proposals, published this week, for how to make London a healthier city. He wants mayor Boris Johnson to ban smoking in Trafalgar Square and other squares and parks; to ban the siting of junk-food shops near schools; and to give Oyster Card users a discount if they get off their lazy butts once in a while and walk part of the way to work. It is standard, soul-destroying lifestyle-policing fare. But what was most striking was Darzi’s insistence that through restricting certain forms of behaviour - smoking in public, buying chips near a school - he is boosting people’s ability to make a choice. He says he wants us all to make what he calls ‘the healthiest choice’, but that choice isn’t ‘always easy [or] obvious’, so we have to be assisted in the making of it. Labour’s Tessa Jowell also used the c-word in a super-weird way in her backing for Lord Darzi. ‘We need to make the healthier choice the easier choice for Londoners’, she said.
(HT: Samizdata's Perry de Havilland)

Sunday, October 19, 2014
Politics in the age of Ebola
Not what you think. The Daily Caller: "Man Claiming To Have Ebola Tries To LICK Conservative Protesters Outside Hillary Rally." DC reports:
An elderly man calling himself a progressive socialist accosted a group of about two dozen conservative students who were protesting outside a building where former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was speaking. He then said he had Ebola and tried to lick the students.
Matt Vadum tweets: "Dem scum lucky he wasn't beaten to death."

Goldberg on Obama
Jonah Goldberg captures the disconnect between Barack Obama's (over)promises and reality, and how the President deals with it:
Every president claims the mantle of confidence and competence, and rightly so. That’s what leaders do and what we expect of them. But Obama was really something different. From the earliest days of his presidential run right through to today, Obama has exuded a boundless faith in his own competence and in the ability of government to tackle any problem. We all remember this sort of thing:
“I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters,” Mr. Obama told Patrick Gaspard, his political director, at the start of the 2008 campaign, according to The New Yorker. “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m going to think I’m a better political director than my political director.”
Finding other examples of Obama setting the bar impossibly high for himself are as easy to find as examples of Joe Biden putting squirrels in his pants (I mean that figuratively, not literally, the way Joe Biden means “literally”). The sheer arrogance of a foreign policy based on “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff”; the notion that you could vow the seas would stop rising thanks to your nomination and not eventually be mocked for it; his declaration that “I actually believe my own bullsh*t”; his assurance to a congressman that the 2010 midterms won’t turn out like they did in 1994 because “you’ve got me”; his claim that cynicism was his only opponent, as if he personified hope like a character from Pilgrim’s Progress; his determination not to be like Bill Clinton but instead be a “transformative” president who would “make government cool again.”
But most of these familiar examples go to the man’s psychology more than his ideology, and I find the ideology more interesting — but not unrelated. After all, when you believe “l’état, c’est moi,” it’s unlikely you will follow up that thought with a painful concession that L’état est un caniche obèses incompetent (which Google translate tells me is the “state is an obese incompetent poodle”). In other words, it is very hard for Obama to countenance the idea that the government he embodies isn’t as awesome as he is. This in part explains why Obama loves to say “I” and “me” whenever things (allegedly) go well, but it’s always “them,” or “they” or — very rarely — “we” when things go poorly.
I don't get how Obama is not mocked and ridiculed mercilessly by comedians, pundits, and, really, everyone. Okay, I get why he isn't. But he should be. Obama makes Jimmy Carter look like Ronald Reagan on leadership and Bill Clinton on fiscal issues.

Will on the War on Women attacks against the GOP
George Will notes the silliness of the War on Women attacks made by the Democrats against Republicans:
One of the wonders of this political moment is feminist contentment about the infantilization of women in the name of progressive politics. Government, encouraging academic administrations to micromanage campus sexual interactions, now assumes that, absent a script, women cannot cope. And the Democrats’ trope about the Republicans’ “war on women” clearly assumes that women are civic illiterates.
Access to contraception has been a constitutional right for 49 years (Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965). The judiciary has controlled abortion policy for 41 years (Roe v. Wade, 1973). Yet the Democratic party thinks women can be panicked into voting about mythical menaces to these things.
Will goes on to explain how the WOW theme might not be working for the Democrats in the Senate race to keep Mark Udall's Colorado Senate seat from Republican challenger Rep. Cory Gardner:
Senator Mark Udall, is now uncomfortably known here as “Mark Uterus.” He is seeking a second term by running such a relentlessly gynecological campaign that the Denver Post, endorsing his opponent, Representative Cory Gardner, denounced the “shocking amount of energy and money” Udall has devoted to saying Gardner favors banning birth control.
Actually, Gardner favors over-the-counter sales of oral contraceptives.
In losing Colorado’s 2010 Senate race, the Republican candidate carried men by 14 points but lost women by 17. This 31-point gap will not be replicated this year. In a recent Fox News poll, Gardner trailed Udall among women by just five points while leading among men by 17. Independents favored Gardner by 15 points.

Apple and Google will encrypt new cell phones, FBI wants to stop it
Vice's Motherboard and Time both report that FBI director James Comey isn't happy with the plans by Apple and Google to encrypt information on the latest versions of their cellphones. Comey told an audience at the Brookings Institute, "Both companies [Apple and Google] are run by good people, responding to what they perceive is a market demand. But the place they are leading us is one we shouldn’t go to without careful thought and debate." He strongly implied that only "bad guys" would want encryption. Never mind that people actually care about privacy and that a free people rightly recoil at the thought of government surveillance of law-abiding citizens. Comey claims, "We want to use the front door, with clarity and transparency, and with clear guidance provided by law." But as Danny Crichton at Tech Crunch notes:
Now, with U.S. government agencies actively hacking the cloud infrastructure of America’s top technology companies, the line between legal and extralegal activity is not so easy to discern.
Indeed, Comey’s request for transparency is precisely what the world has been clamoring for ever since the Snowden revelations revealed just how cavalier the U.S. government had become in treating the personal communications of American citizens (let alone citizens in other countries). Comey leads the country’s top law enforcement agency, and as such, he is looking to create the due process needed to bring criminals to trial, and ultimately, to put them behind bars. Most American citizens and companies are not opposed to this use case.
The challenge is that so long as companies hold consumer data, they are a target for all kinds of difficult security situations. End-to-end encryption isn’t just good marketing for technology companies peddling their services to wary consumers, but also a means to absolve these companies from having to deal with the very real politics at the heart of data and national security.
Crichton describes how subordinating corporate interests to local politics -- and that is what American law enforcement is -- the U.S. government is putting these companies at risk of alienating markets they need to grow (most notably China, but also South Korea and other countries). He also notes that decentralization of information is what the internet was supposedly about in its early stages (never mind its military roots). Crichton says that private interests should work with the government to ensure data that can be utilized legally but with limits to fight security threats, but that it might work best narrowly, on a case by case basis although how that might be achieved is not clear at this moment. What isn't helpful are Comey's comments, including the implication that Apple and Google are siding with America's enemies.
As Jason Koebler concludes his Motherboard article: "It also might be time to ask: Are the people chosen to run our law enforcement agencies so out of touch with the American people that they believe that only 'bad guys' want privacy?"

2008 Obama victory keepsake papers virtually worthless
Amusing story at the Daily Caller: "How Much Is Your Historic Barack Obama Post-Election Newspaper Worth?" George W. Bush victory papers are worth more.

The Obama administration moves from incompetent to insane
Judicial Watch: "Obama Plans to Let Ebola-infected Foreigners Into U.S. for Treatment."

Saturday, October 18, 2014
Quote of the week
From Mark Steyn:
If you let liberalism become the default societal setting on the 364 days of the year there's no election being held, what happens on election day is going to be pretty unimportant. So, if you're not playing on the big cultural battlefields, you're going to lose.

Doctors vs. Obamacare
The Hill reports:
The Physicians Foundation made shockwaves last month when it released its 2014 Survey of America’s Physicians. The survey’s top-line finding: Of the 20,000 doctors surveyed, almost 50 percent stated that Obamacare deserves either a “D” or an “F.” Only a quarter of physicians graded it as either an “A” or a “B.”

Instapundit's tweet of the week

Ebola and sex
The inevitable articles on "should you have sex if you have Ebola" and "how long after a person recovers from Ebola before they have sex" are appearing. The Washington Post says no sex or condoms for Ebola victims and for three months after recovery. It seems to be more of an issue during recovery because, as the Post says, "since Ebola victims can infect others only when they are showing symptoms -- high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness and aches -- physical intimacy probably isn't a common way of transmitting the disease."

Best discussion of the supposed changes happening in the Catholic Church
Hot Air's Ed Morrissey has the must-read post on the synod going on in Rome. Ostensibly about Cardinal Raymond Burke being demoted, Morrissey touches on a number of issues, including, importantly, that Pope Francis cannot change Church teaching on homosexuality (in regard to its morality). The problem with the synod and the media coverage of the leaks (and official documents, because many journalists do not understand how the Catholic Church works) is that it is causing confusion among the laity and larger public (and probably many priests). Morrissey is the antidote to that confusion.

Friday, October 17, 2014
Not exactly inspiring confidence
A White House spokesman on new Ebola czar who has a ton of political experience but no medical experience: "What we were looking for was not an Ebola expert, but rather an implementation expert." In other words, the position is about PR/damage control and not controlling Ebola.

'DMV with test tubes'
That is Mark Steyn's description of the Centers for Disease Control in his essay on the CDC and Ebola, which is, of course, a must read.

Scrapping civil liberties
Charles Krauthammer says that public safety trumps civil liberties in battle against Ebola. I'm torn, but that is the issue leaders struggle with and I wouldn't want anyone in charge of anything that automatically takes the Krauthammer view without a lot of (at least) internal debate first.

Some Australian daycare centers are banning nursery rhyme
"Baa Baa Black Sheep" has been deemed racist and sexist according to the Daily Caller. It's neither, of course, but the sexism charge is really a stretch ("one for the little boy who lives down the lane"?). One black parent complained to the local paper, “I am a person who has black skin. Can we please stop with the political correctness, it’s becoming a joke. The song is called baa baa black sheep. No need to change it!”

Good football reads
Grantland's Bill Barnwell makes the case that the New England Patriots acquiring Bill Belichick from the New York Jets is the best trade in NFL history.
Bleacher Report's Mike Tanier says the Detroit Lions defense is really, really good.
Grantland's Robert Mays ranks every player who has caught a Peyton Manning touchdown pass.
Sports Illustrated's Don Banks defends the existence of ties during the NFL's regular season.

Why there should be no minimum wage
Tim Worstall says something most people either don't have the guts to admit or simply don't understand: "there are people not worth the minimum wage."

New York is Ebola free ... so far
The Washington Examiner reports:
Federal health officials are focusing their attention on New York as a key potential Ebola point of entry, with a new report warning: “Ongoing transmission of Ebolavirus in West Africa could result in an infected person arriving in NYC.”
The report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that New York is key entry point for those coming in from West Africa, but apparently so far Ebola free.

Thursday, October 16, 2014
Charles Murray on Ayn Rand
Charles Murray reviews two biographies on Ayn Rand and he focuses on her life (which was hypocritical in the extreme) and art (and its beautiful message). On the former, Murray takes Rand to task for her self-delusions despite her refrain of "not faking reality." About the latter, Murray has a generous but defensible reading of Rand's novels which display "the glory of human achievement" and the "delight a human being ought to feel at watching another member of our species doing things superbly well." Reading Murray's review makes me want to re-read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

Chicago is the most rat-infested city in America
Rodents, not politicians. There are huge problems with the methodology as the list of the 20 most rat-infested cities is based on one pest control company's number of treatments, which would disadvantage large cities and places where Orkin has the largest commercial presence.

Thank God we have Conservatives in power
Conservative MP brags about spending taxpayer money to promote the outdoors.

Tennessee voters get chance to ban state income tax
The Associated Press reports on a November 4 referendum in the Volunteer State:
Tennesseans are getting ready to vote on a proposed constitutional amendment that would bar lawmakers from ever imposing a state income tax ...
The last serious attempt to impose a state income tax failed in 2002 amid raucous Capitol protests that included a brick being thrown through the window of the governor's office and demonstrators banging on the doors of the Senate chamber while lawmakers sought to conduct their business within.
The Legislature instead passed a 1 percentage point increase to the state's sales tax rate to generate $933 million in new revenue, which was the last time the state passed a general tax increase.
The income tax was championed by then-Gov. Don Sundquist, a Republican, joined by Democratic leadership in the Legislature. The public backlash against the proposal led several supporters to retire from office or to their defeat in re-election campaigns ...
As for the constitutional amendment, it says "the Legislature shall not levy, authorize or otherwise permit any state or local tax upon payroll or earned personal income or any state or local tax measured by payroll or earned personal income."
It also says the prohibition does not apply to "any tax in effect on January 1, 2011, or adjustment of the rate of such tax." That provision allows continuation of the state's Hall tax ...
State Sen. Brian Kelsey, a Germantown Republican, sponsored the resolution putting the amendment on the ballot and heads the "Yes on 3" committee urging its ratification. He said not having an income tax makes Tennessee "more fiscally responsible" and that permanently banning one would appeal to businesses.
"Not having an income tax has already brought jobs to Tennessee, and permanently banning an income tax will bring even more jobs to the state," Kelsey said.
Generally economists prefer consumption taxes to income taxes. I don't care really as long as taxes are low. Really low. And creating new taxes is something we should take out of the arsenal of politicians. And taxing people's productive work (income tax) is really obnoxious. I hope the initiative passes overwhelmingly.

Parenting style and inequality
Matthias Doepke and Fabrizio Zilibotti have an article at VoxEu entitled, "Tiger moms and helicopter parents: The economics of parenting style." In it they have a graph, "Income inequality measured by Gini coefficient versus importance of emphasising ‘working hard’ in raising children across OECD countries." Tyler Cowen says of the graph: "[it] can be interpreted in a variety of ways, with causation running either way or perhaps not at all."

'Houston Already Backing Off Its Church Sermon Subpoenas'
Yesterday I noted that the city of Houston had subpoenaed churches asking for their sermons on homosexuality, gender identity, and criticizing (lesbian) mayor Annise Parker. Hit & Run's Scott Shackford reports that it appears the city is backtracking.

The illiberal Left
George Will has an excellent column of the dangers of using state power to curtail use of the term Redskins for Washington's NFL team. Within the column, Will makes a larger point:
Today many colleges and universities have “free-speech zones” — wee spaces to which the First Amendment is confined. Such institutions are run by educators whose meager educations did not teach them that the Amendment made America a free-speech zone. Campuses are habitats for progressives, and the distilled essence of today’s progressivism is the use of power to limit speech. The fact that censorship is progressivism’s default position regarding so many things is evidence of progressives’ pessimism about the ability of their agenda to advance under a regime of robust discussion. It also indicates the delight progressives derive from bossing people around and imposing a particular sensibility, in the name of diversity, of course.

Meet Elbert Guillory
NRO profiles Elbert Guillory, the black Louisiana Republican state senator who wants to lead his fellow blacks off the Democratic plantation. I recently highlight his anti-Mary Landrieu ad.