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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Saturday, April 25, 2015
 
You might not be a comedian ...
If you hire a cultural adviser to avoid being insensitive. Not that Adam Sandler was funny before.


 
A limit on TFSAs
Economist Kevin Milligan, Armine Yalnizyan, and Finn Poschmann -- who generally skew Liberal, NDP, and Conservative -- agree that a lifetime limit on Tax-Free Savings Account makes sense. As Milligan says, "I think if you have @ArmineYalnizyan, Finn Poschmann, and me agreeing on something, then that policy is worth consideration." Good way for the Tories to win this round: raising yearly limits but capping lifetime contributions would go some way to defusing the class warfare criticism from Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair. The Financial Post explores the idea of a lifetime cap for TFSAs. Last month Yalnizyan touted lifetime limits as one way to ameliorate some concerns she had as a progressive economist.


 
How do the feds know they are getting value in health care?
At the Policy Options blog of the IRPP, William Gardner, a pediatric mental health services researcher who blogs at the Incidental Economist, quotes federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose who said Ottawa and the provinces can't just "throw money" at health care and that they hope "to achieve better value for money." Gardner also notes that the Conservative government has scuttled a number of health care surveys and data-collection agencies and concludes, "taking health care value seriously means measuring it. Otherwise you’re just handwaving." Yes, there was a lot of overlap in health care research, but instead of duplication (as we had before) we're ending up with none.


 
Do they just keep the John Bates Clark Award at Harvard
Roland Fryer has won the John Bates Clark Award for the best young economist. Greg Mankiw notes that the last three winners have a Harvard connection (faculty or PhD).


 
2016 watch (One Tough Nerd edition)
Rick Snyder, a two-term governor of Michigan, is reported to be interested in running for the Republican presidential nomination because he talked to Jewish Republicans in Las Vegas. He is pro-business and socially "moderate," but signed right-to-work legislation. His name hasn't really come up much nor does he appear in most polls of possible contenders. It seems unlikely he will be a serious contender. Snyder's Twitter handle is OneToughNerd.


 
CROP-La Presse federal poll in Quebec
A CROP poll finds that the federal Tories have the support of 42% of decided voters, the NDP 24%, the Liberals 18%, and Bloc Quebecois 12%. There have been reports of Justin Trudeau's declining support in the province, but this seems wrong. We'll see if other polls can confirm this very large shift. The Tories were be doing well in previous polls that had the Liberals and NDP in the high 20s and Conservatives in the low 20s. If they are in the lead, we can talk about a larger Conservative majority.
If this is true, combined with my suspicion that the Liberals only pick up 2-3 seats in the GTA and don't actually sweep Toronto, there is a good chance that the NDP will remain the Official Opposition.


 
Sex club seeking church status
The Associated Press reports, "A Nashville swingers club has undergone a conversion — it says it's now a church — in order to win city approval so it can open next to a Christian school." The Social Club property abuts the Goodpasture Christian School, and to remain open it is making changes, including its name:
The United Fellowship Center's plans are nearly identical to those of The Social Club but with some different labels. The dance floor has become the sanctuary. Two rooms labeled "dungeon" are now "choir" and "handbells." Forty-nine small, private rooms remain, but most of them have become prayer rooms.
As Michael Munger says, "the discretion to classify as a church, or not, is a pretty significant power for the state to have."
A reminder that former British Columbia premier and Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh wants Ottawa to license houses of worship.


 
Omar Khadr is being released and he will be dangerous
Ezra Levant says Omar Khadr is dangerous ... as a propaganda tool.


 
Neo-prohibitionists are upset with ice cream-flavoured beer
At Hit & Run Baylen Linnekin notes that Ben & Jerry's is teaming up with New Belgium to make Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale, "an ice cream infused craft beer." Naturally, there's a group that is upset. An outfit called Alcohol Justice says think of the children while condemning the "crass, corporate greedy move." As Linnekin reminds readers, children are prohibited from buying beer. And Linnekin says if there are worries about ice cream-flavoured beer being a gateway drug, what about coffee-flavoured beer or Ben & Jerry's various homages to drug culture? Or the flavours that promote self-medicating, love-making, and alcohol use?


 
Two on the Ontario PC race
Two articles by me on the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership from the May Interim.
"Exclusive interview with Monte McNaughton."
"Brown the ‘clear choice’ in Ontario PC leadership race."
In both articles McNaughton makes the point that if Christine Elliott wins, the Ontario PCs will become "Liberal Lite" and the province doesn't need "a second Liberal Party."


 
Is Freud dead (enough)?
Tom Leonard in The Spectator: "Why American psychoanalysts are an endangered species":
New figures from the American Psychoanalytic Association reveal that the average age of its 3,109 members is 66, up four years in a decade. More seriously, the average numbers of patients each therapist sees has fallen to 2.75. Some shrinks now never meet patients, dealing with them only via the phone, Skype or email.
Cognitive behavioural therapy, psychotropic drugs, yoga, and meditation are alternatives to sessions on the couch. Is this a bad thing?


 
It's all relative
A Guardian article about a Senate cook who has a second job to earn (an estimated) $44,000 in Washington leads Tim Worstall to note that sum is about "the median income for DC" and $8000 more to qualify for the global 1%.


 
The Mellow Heuristic
Bryan Caplan on choosing sides in intellectual and political debates when you don't know much about the topic:
The Mellow Heuristic is a rule of thumb for adjudicating intellectual disputes when directly relevant information is scarce. The rule has two steps.
Step 1: Look at how emotional each side is.
Step 2: Assume the less emotional side is right and the more emotional side is wrong.
Why should we believe the Mellow Heuristic tracks truth? Most obviously, because emotionality drowns out clear thinking, and clear thinking tends to lead to truth. The more emotional people are, the less clear thinking they do, so the less likely they are to be right ...
Like all heuristics, the Mellow Heuristic is imperfect. If Hannibal Lecter debated one of his traumatized victims, the Mellow Heuristic would probably conclude that Lecter was in the right. But it's a good heuristic nonetheless. On average, the calm are really are more reliable than the agitated.
Excellent rule of thumb.


 
The electoral politics of hyper-immigration
Investor's Business Daily editorializes:
And the politics behind all this continues. Homeland Security Department sources tell PJ Media's J. Christian Adams that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is "sending letters to all 9 million green card holders urging them to naturalize prior to the 2016 election."
On top of that, as the Washington Times' Stephen Dinan reported last week, deportations of illegals "have plummeted by another 25% so far this year," with just 117,181 immigrants deported in the six months since October.
As a landmark report from Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum last year concluded, the annual flow of 1.1 million legal immigrants under the current system means more than 5 million new potential voters by 2024, and more than 8 million by 2028.
Since most who vote support Democrats, "the influx of these new voters would reduce or eliminate Republicans' ability to offer an alternative to big government, to increased government spending, to higher taxes, and to favorite liberal policies such as ObamaCare and gun control," Schlafly has warned.
She further argues that "there is nothing controversial about the report's conclusion that both Hispanics and Asians, who account for about three-fourths of today's immigrants, generally agree with the Democrats' big-government agenda," and therefore "vote two-to-one for Democrats."


Friday, April 24, 2015
 
Isn't this above (even) her pay grade?
The Daily Caller reports that Hillary Clinton said, "deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases [about abortion] have to be changed." The New York Times' Ross Douthat is surprised she didn't make this comment about same-sex marriage.


 
The kitchen sink of hot button issues in one headline
The Washington Times: "ACLU sues feds to force Catholic charities to provide abortions for illegal immigrants."
(HT: Hit & Run)


 
The Ontario budget Link-o-Rama
The Ontario Ministry of Finance has the budget, speech, and press release. Enterprise Canada has a handy bulleted list of the major budget items.
The Globe and Mail with the most important story on the budget: "Ontario’s debt continues to climb, but investors will still buy it." This is a budget unlikely to move credit agencies, at least not yet.
Other notable media coverage. The Toronto Star has a good overview of the budget. CP24 says the main budget action is not on the taxes or spending side, but the sale of assets. The Globe and Mail reports that the budget spends on transit and scrimps on health and education. Also in the Globe and Mail, David Parkinson says the province misses the opportunity to tackle the deficit. The Windsor Star reports at how the budget affects the region (mega hospital, sports facility funding, possibility of extending high-speed rail to Windsor) including the possibility of an auto strategy. The Sun's coverage focuses on net debt (approaching $300 billion), growing infrastructure spending, and interest payments ($11.4 billion climbing by another $2 billion within four years). The Waterloo Region Record reports that the budget falls flat with local businesses and labour groups. The Toronto Star claims that everything you need to know about the budget is in their six charts. The CBC reports that budget contained no surprises.
There are four takeaways: a commitment to bring in an Ontario Retirement Pension Plan but no details, a commitment to enact a cap-and-trade system for carbon but no details, lots of infrastructure spending especially in large cities (and $100 million out of $130 billion over ten years for small cities, rural areas, and northern Ontario), and a balanced budget before the 2018 provincial election.
Oh, and this, from Anthony Furey on Twitter: "It took 150 years for Ontario to rack up the first $150 billion in debt. It took the Libs less than 15 yrs to double it."
TD Economics says the budget is more of the same: on track to balance the budget by 2018 is aided by more robust economic growth.
CIBC Economics says that economic growth helps the province stay on track of balancing the budget by 2018.
BMO Nesbitt Burns says that the budget is all about the province's credit rating. While the province appears on track, asset sales do not address structural problems.
RBC Economics Research the budget is mostly about infrastructure with a dash of deficit reduction.
KPMG looks at the province's tax regime, noting minimal changes in taxes. No changes in income or corporate tax rates. Changes in minor items like a reduction in the Ontario Production Services Tax Credit, a more significant reduction in the the Apprenticeship Training Tax Credit, and a shift in the taxation of trusts and estates. Media reports erroneously state that the only tax increase was on beer.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce calls the budget a "mixed bag," applauding the investment in infrastructure but lamenting the lack of action on other burdens facing businesses (especially the "plowing ahead with the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan").
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation condemned the tax-and-spend budget, and noted that there are cap-and-trade carbon and Ontario Retirement Pension Plan payroll taxes coming.
The NDP doesn't have a statement on their website. The PC Party says the budget doesn't deal with the debt or deficit.
The Ontario Medical Association is complaining that the 1.9% growth in health care spending is a "cut" that will continue the "drastic" underfunding of the health care system in the province.
Unifor sees reasons for optimism and concern: they like the money for transit and promise of an Ontario pension plan, but are skeptical of selling off parts of Hydro One.
Notable commentary. In the National Post, Andrew Coyne says there are numerous similarities between the federal and Ontario budget, except for fighting the deficit. Two folks from the Fraser Institute write in the Financial Post that the Liberal government once again postponed its tough decisions. The Toronto Sun's Christina Blizzard says that the government is raising more questions by their budget than they are answering them, as the Finance Minister and Premier offer "bafflegab" when challenged on their policies.
CP24 has a list of budget "winners and losers." The Toronto Star reports on significant reform in the Ontario Student Assistance Plan. The Canadian Press (via the Hamilton Spectator) suggests the Liberal government used a balanced approach. The CBC reports on the lack of movement to get insurance rates under control, other than a break for people who put on winter tires.
Hill and Knowlton has a cute approach examining the Liberal government's Progressive Conscience and Fiscal Conscience dueling in the budget.


Thursday, April 23, 2015
 
FYI to Christine Elliott and her supporters
Saying winning a lot is not a plan to win or vision to win.


 
Still no plan
Justin Trudeau's email to Liberal supporters:
A Liberal government is committed to investing in jobs and growth for the middle class. We will make investments that will produce real growth, particularly through infrastructure, trade, post-secondary education, and skills and innovation.
To accomplish this we will cancel Stephen Harper's $2 billion tax break for those who need it least.
We will reverse the Conservative's decision to double the limit on tax-free saving accounts at the expense of tens of thousands of dollars in Old Age Security for seniors. The increased limit does nothing for the middle class, and only helps the rich.
Does this sound like the plan for you, friend? It won’t happen on its own, we need you to pitch in.
So we know what he's against, but still have no idea what he would do. The Conservative budget announced spending on infrastructure, trade, skills, and innovation, priorities for the Liberals. Do the Liberals support how the Tories would do it, or do they have a different plan? Or just a different price tag?
Justin Trudeau talks about OAS but how would he change it, other than reverse the government increasing the age of eligibility by two years (and thus ignore the demographic facts that people live longer than they did when Old Age Security was first implemented).
And if the TFSA is so wrong, why isn't Trudeau promising to reduce RRSP limits, also?
Saying you have a plan and saying what you are against is not the same thing as having a real plan that Canadians can look and consider: specific and costed details about what a Trudeau government would do to help the middle class.


 
E-cigarettes and state regulation
George Will notes that the state, which benefits from taxing cigarettes, might have a conflict-of-interest when it regulates e-cigarettes because every smoker who finds an alternative to tobacco means less tax revenue for the government. Of course we don't ever apply conflict-of-interest criticisms to the state, but it is an example of Bootleggers and Baptists (marketeers and moralists) who have a mutual benefit in banning an activity that is, for one, an evil, and the other, a competitor. In the case of states regulating e-cigarettes, the government is both Bootlegger and Baptist.


 
Don't let it be said that Stephen Harper is not a conservative
Some of my friends on the Right question Prime Minister Stephen Harper's commitment to conservatism, whatever the hell that means. (I've partook in this game myself at times.) One view of his conservative credentials is to see that he is making government smaller by reducing social program spending (as a percentage of GDP) and, perhaps more importantly, making it harder for the next prime minister to introduce any grandiose schemes of his own. Maclean's Paul Wells has long argued that Harper wants to starve the beast of state and he returns to that theme with this week's budget. Wells concludes his column:
Stephen Harper wants a federal government that does less, especially in social programs, than it did when he arrived in Ottawa. He will not compete with other parties for grandeur of vision. He will call their grandeur reckless. His discipline is formidable. Last week, the parliamentary budget officer said this budget will mark five years of continued reductions in federal direct program spending as a fraction of GDP. That decline in Ottawa’s share of the economy is unprecedented, the PBO said. Tuesday’s budget projects that the trend will nearly double in length, through 2019-20. If you don’t like it, if you think this trend line marks the frittering away of Canada’s collective ambition, then you know, more clearly than ever, whom not to vote for. Stephen Harper has laid his bet for the toughest election of his life.
Some of us would prefer the Conservative government to gut transfers to the provinces or take an ax to federal spending. Ideally, the Tories would slash taxes. But none of that is going to happen. But perhaps something almost as good in the longer term is happening.


 
'Where Are the Pro-Life Utilitarians?'
Economist Bryan Caplan has a thoughtful and provocative post, "Where Are the Pro-Life Utilitarians?" Caplan, who is neither utilitarian nor pro-life, does believe human life is such a good that there should be people who think that the inconvenience of an unwanted pregnancy is trumped by the net positive benefit of being alive because even below-average lives are usually excellent. The reason there are few pro-life utilitarians is not so much because most pro-lifers hold that life is sacred, but because there are actually few utilitarians. Caplan suggests the few that actually exist might be inconsistent in their views by not being pro-life.
Caplan provides two utilitarian arguments for women not to have abortions. He says that "due to the endowment effect, unwanted children often become wanted by their birth mother once they're born." Also, "pregnant women who think 'A baby will ruin my life' are, on average, factually mistaken."
The comments are worth reading, too. One commenter points to an essay at Less Wrong that touches on some utilitarian arguments about abortion, "Compartmentalizing: Effective Altruism and Abortion," that considers the issue through the quality-adjusted life years prism. An important point in that piece is "many people make short sighted decisions that implicitly assign very little value to the futures of people currently alive, or even to their own futures." It is not surprising, then, that the preborn child's future is neglected. The difference between Caplan's proposed utilitarian pro-lifer and actual pro-lifers is that the latter consider human life to be a good in and of itself, whereas the former should acknowledge that life lived would be good.
When I have proposed utilitarian pro-life arguments to my fellow pro-lifers, they usually recoil in horror. It is often (rightly) seen as an attempt to secularize the pro-life view.
If you are interested in discussing this, email me at paul_tuns [AT] yahoo.com. I might be looking for a column along these lines for The Interim, Canada's pro-life newspaper.


 
Resist clickbait
This is Indexed has a wonderful graph on why we should resist the ridiculous OMG clickbait.


 
MOOC experiment to get new people into university
The Wall Street Journal reports:
Arizona State University is teaming up with edX, a nonprofit platform for massive open online courses, to offer a full freshman-year curriculum to the public as it seeks to expand its student base and improve college attendance and graduation rates.
The program, Global Freshman Academy, will award up to a full year of academic credit to people who successfully complete eight web classes on general education subjects such as astronomy and Western civilization, designed and taught by Arizona State faculty.
Students can take the classes for no fee, or—after passing final exams—pay up to $200 per credit hour, or about $4,800 for the full year of credit. Those who finish the course sequence, which includes a mix of required and elective classes, would be able to apply to Arizona State for admission with sophomore standing.
Though the $4,800 price tag is a far cry from free, it is still significantly more affordable than a year of tuition at many U.S. colleges.
MOOCs -- massive open online courses -- generally are not used as on-ramp courses, so ASU's experiment is exciting. Considering there is some evidence for the declining value of a post-secondary education, a cheaper introduction to university for some students could be an important reform in higher education. The evidence, however, suggests it will be a challenge for the school to have this model work.


 
2016 watch (Carly Fiorina edition)
The Wall Street Journal reports that former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina will announce she's running for the GOP presidential nomination online on May 4. A CNN poll found that she has just 2% support, behind 12 other candidates. Reminder to Fiorina: the presidency is not an entry-level political job. Voters generally want someone with electoral experience.


 
Where do Americans get their news
Quartz has an interesting GIF which shows that television is the most popular source of news for all age groups. Interestingly, millennials 26-31 read newspapers (print and online) at a slightly higher rate than Baby Boomers and Gen X ans significantly higher than younger millennials. Social media is almost as popular among younger millennials as television. Social media platforms and non-newspaper online sources are generally more popular with younger media consumers.


 
Our upside-down world
Foreign Policy wonders whether two New York "Chimps have more rights than a woman in Saudi Arabia?" Women in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan are treated beastly while a New York state court is considering treating a pair of beasts in captivity as legal persons.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015
 
I hate when I agree with liberals
Gregg Easterbrook says that the United States needs a "resign to run law" as eight Republican officeholders "shirked their duties to promote selves."


 
The internet and the illusion of knowledge
Tyler Cowen points to a Journal of Experimental Psychology article, "Searching for Explanations: How the Internet Inflates Estimates of Internal Knowledge," which finds, "searching the Internet for explanatory knowledge creates an illusion whereby people mistake access to information for their own personal understanding of the information." That is because many people do not appreciate "Cowen's First Law" which states, in part, "until you have found the major flaws in an argument, you do not understand it." I have long found that a little book knowledge -- knowing a lot of facts -- and a dash of clever snark fools a lot of people into thinking one is intelligent. At least it works for me.


 
Cowen on trigger warnings
Tyler Cowen employs trigger warnings in his Law and Literature class, and tries to do so discreetly. Cowen says: "I don’t doubt that trigger warnings may be misused in some situations by some professors, but overall they seem to me like another small step to a better world. I do agree we need to liberate trigger warnings from the strictures of the PC movement, no argument there." At the same time he applauds his school, George Mason, attaining FIRE's highest ranking for free speech. Are these -- trigger warnings and free speech -- compatible? I'm doubtful.


 
There is literally no end to the number of different sexual orientations
NRO's Katherine Timpf questions whether sapiosexual is a sexual orientation, noting that personality traits are really orientations. Timpf writes:
See — I had thought that simply saying you find intelligence attractive was a good enough way to convey that you find intelligence attractive, and that the phrase “sexual orientation” was reserved for describing something a little more integral to your identity than what you could flippantly mention as “recovering” from.


 
Federal budget Link-o-Rama
The Department of Finance has the "budget plan," budget highlights, news release, speech, among other documents about the budget.
The Globe and Mail has the best overview of the budget. If you like charts, the Globe also has "Seven charts that explain the budget" -- or at least gives it context. According to the Ottawa Citizen, if there is a theme to the budget, it's financial relief for families and seniors. The Canadian Press reports on some of the smaller "social initiatives" like student loan changes, education for natives, and compassionate care leave. Maclean's has a look at what the budget means for Canadians.
The opposition parties are not impressed. The NDP: "Conservative budget stubbornly spends billions on wealthiest few." The Liberals: "Stephen Harper’s budget helps those who need it least."
CIBC Economics says that the federal budget is more of the same with promises of spending coming four or five years down the road.
TD Economics focuses on how oil prices have effected the federal budget: balanced despite lower revenues.
BMO Nesbitt Burns looks at the modest shifts in policy, few outside of family benefits and tax measures which will affect most people.
Scotia Bank Global Economics focuses on the balanced budget and the beginning of repaying some of the debt. Scotia Bank GE also a brief summary of Ottawa's debt management strategy.
RBC Economics Research parrots the government's claim that it is a responsible fiscal manager.
KPMG lists all the tax implications of the budget for individuals and companies.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business thinks the budget is very good for small businesses, giving it an A.
Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters applauds the job training, research, and trade support programs in the budget.
Mike Moffat, an economist who serves on Justin Trudeau's council of economic advisers, says the budget is a good one for the manufacturing industry.
Polytechnics Canada is pleased with the federal government's support of skills enhancement and innovation programs.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation applauds the balanced budget, likes the tax relief, but is worried about the growth of spending.
The United Food and Commercial Workers goes all Occupy with their analysis complaining that the "Budget balances the needs of the 1% against everyone else." UNIFOR takes a more moderate tact to make the same point: "Budget fails to help struggling Canadians."
The anti-poverty group Oxfam says not enough is being done for the poor in Canada or around the world, calling on Ottawa to increase foreign aid and funding for reproductive health abroad.
The Toronto Sun editorializes that it is a "safe but prudent budget." The Toronto Star editorial complains that the Conservative budget prioritizes Tory priorities.The National Post editorial says there is no hidden agenda in the budget: modest government.
Two columns in the National Post worth reading. Andrew Coyne: "Tory budget not proposing smaller government but big government that lives within its means." John Ivison: "Conservatives achieve balanced budget with disciplined spending and a dose of pixie dust."
Post Media's Stephen Maher serves as the Liberal stenographer in claiming the budget helps the rich and has nothing for the middle or working classes.
John Geddes of Maclean's points out the obvious: the budget is also a political document. It's almost like there is an election in six months. The Globe and Mail editorializes that the budget could be politically advantageous for the Conservatives. The Toronto Star's Chantal Hebert reminds readers that a feel-good budget today is no guarantee of electoral victory in October, especially if voters are getting tired of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Jason MacDonald of Hill & Knowlton puts the budget-as-election-document in context: it frames the debate in the Prime Minister's favour. Hill & Knowlton also looks at the "electoral influence" on the budget.
The Montreal Gazette reports that Quebec's Liberal government doesn't think Ottawa gave enough money to the provinces. The Toronto Sun reports that the Ontario Liberals have the same complaint. The Star-owned Hamilton Spectator has a similar story: crumbs, says Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa. The Canadian Press reports that New Brunswick's Liberal government wanted more generous transfer payments. According to another CP story, British Columbia's Liberal government seems okay with the budget and what it does for the western-most province. The Regina Leader-Post reports that the Saskatchewan government was expecting more money for instrastructure. The Winnipeg Free Press reports that Brian Bowman welcomes the federal public transit fund, even if he doesn't know how much Winnipeg will get from it. Even Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi applauded the public transit funding.
The Canadian Press lists the supposed budget winners and losers. Among the losers, both "climate change' and "oil and gas industry."
A key point is that the balanced budget is possible because Ottawa continues to collect about $3-4 billion more annually in Employment Insurance premiums than it pays out in benefits. The Halifax Chronicle Herald reports on the recent habit of the government raiding the EI surplus to balance the budget. And yet the best line about the budget comes from the National Post's editorial: "simply restoring Ottawa’s finances to the point where the size of the budget balance is a matter about haggling over accounting practices is a real achievement."


Tuesday, April 21, 2015
 
Christine Elliott talks inclusion, Patrick Brown practices it
The problem with Red Tories is that they are always talking about inclusion. Not that inclusion is necessarily a bad thing (depending on who you are including). But that's all it is for these Tories: talk. Christine Elliott uses inclusion as a talking point. This long article from the Barrie Advance demonstrates how Conservative MP and Ontario PC leadership hopeful Patrick Brown has been inclusive: reaching out to and listening to the concerns of front-line public sector workers like nurses and firefighters (not typical Tory supporters), and visiting and taking part in Toronto's various ethnic community celebrations. Politics is often about relationships and half of that is just showing up. At the very least Brown shows up. For Elliott and her Bay Street buddies and professional consultants, the closest they get to the ethnic communities is ordering Chinese food.
Brown wants to bring new blood into the party by opening up the membership to people who have never been involved in the Ontario PC Party, and often people who haven't been active in politics. This, no doubt, frightens the PC Party establishment which is comfortable whether the party wins or loses, as long as they are in control. They prefer to win, of course, but more than that they want to be in control. Adding thousands of ethnic voters to the membership rolls means a loss of control. Inclusion is not in the interests of the Jaime Watts of this world. But then again, maybe their idea of inclusion is much narrower than Brown's.


 
#Budget2015
My comments/links/snark can be found on Twitter. I'll probably have a link-o-rama tomorrow. I generally like this budget. As an economic action plan it gets a B and as a political document a A-.


 
Canada's Finance Minister tweets: 'Hard at work on budget day'
Four questions/comments about the Finance Minister's tweet.
1) Isn't he hard at work every day?
2) Isn't almost all the hard work done before budget day?
3) How hard is it to practice reading the budget speech for which he will have notes, a few last times?
4) Not working so hard that he doesn't have time to pose for picture and tweet it out.
I say all this as a moderate fan of Joe Oliver and the government's direction with the budget (at least what we know about it from all the teasing of its elements the last few weeks).


 
Fine line between helping people and disincentivizing work
Patrick Tyrrell at the Daily Signal: "Why Are Many Former Workers Not Even Applying for Job Openings?" Tyrrell notes:
More people who want jobs are finding them, but there is something else going on as well. The labor force participation rate for prime age workers has continued to decline. Fewer of them are working or actively looking for work than before.
How can job openings stand at 14-year highs, but the labor force participation rate for prime age people hover around levels not seen since 1984?
The short answer is government programs that reduce the cost of not working. Tyrrell notes that University of Chicago economist Casey "Mulligan calculates that the marginal tax rate, that is the extra taxes paid, and government subsidies foregone on an extra dollar earned working if taking a job rose from 40 percent to 48 percent within two years of the onset of the Great Recession."
Milligan says, "The more you help unemployed people, the more unemployed people you’ll have." That's the problem when the difference between a job and not working is just $2 an hour.


 
Tim Tebow is an Eagle. What and how to think about that fact.
Tim Tebow has signed with the Philadelphia Eagles after a two-year absence from an NFL playing field. When he last played, he was terrible, unable to displace the atrocious Mark Sanchez from the New York Jets starting job, with just eight pass attempts in the 2012 season. Given the chance to win a spot on the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick, the smartest football mind in the pro game, decided to cut him. In his "good" partial year he landed the starting QB job after Kyle Orton lost it, and the Denver Broncos made the playoffs. They did so despite Tebow not because of it: an improved defense down the stretch, a fair bit of luck, better special teams play in the final few games. They won despite a 29.18 QBR and 46.5 completion percentage.
Some Christians think Tebow was ran out of the NFL because he was so openly Christian. But there are many players open about their faith. The guys who publicly profess faith in Christ and can throw accurately, catch the ball with regularity, break tackles, tackle, or block, get to keep their jobs. Those who can't do any of those football actions don't. There is no conspiracy. NFL teams generally want talented players on their rosters. In the last decade only one player has thrown 250+ passes and completed less than half of them: Tim Tebow. That's just not good enough to play in the NFL.
Then all-of-a-sudden the Philadelphia Eagles sign Tebow. Mike Freeman of the Bleacher Report says this is all about Eagles coach Chip Kelly's ego. It's notable that Mark Helfrich, Kelly's understudy and replacement at Oregon, said, "I think it’s unfortunate I’ve had to answer this question more than once: Chip Kelly is not insane." Kelly isn't insane. He is, as Freeman says, a "meglomaniac." All coaches have ego, but Kelly hasn't done enough in the NFL to warrant it. But if Kelly can turn Tebow's career around, the coach will look like a genius. Heck, even Belichick wasn't able to do that (although he has won more Super Bowl rings than Kelly has NFL playoff games.) If Kelly can't fix what's wrong with Tebow, well, the young quarterback was never good enough for the NFL anyway. It's cruel to Tebow and his fans, but that's pro sports.
It is easy to mock the decision, but it is also incumbent on sports pundits and fans to understand that there could be a football angle to this beyond Kelly's ego. If Kelly thinks he can fix Tebow, or at least create the right circumstances to succeed, we need to appreciate the football facts. Nobody does that better than Grantland's Bill Barnwell, who wonders: "Just in terms of the skills Tebow has exhibited on the field, does he fit as a possible quarterback in Kelly’s vaunted offensive scheme?" The answer: "Yes. And no. And, more than anything: It depends." If you care about the Tebow story as more than a Tebow story, then this is the column to read. Barnwell explores how Tebow fits Kelly's scheme: decent arm strength but has some accuracy issues, which the Eagles might be able to live with considering the height of their receivers; some issues avoiding turnovers, especially fumbles; good runner but not really a read-option quarterback; serious questions about Tebow's ability to play in an up-tempo offense. That adds up to Tebow being a questionable signing. There is also opportunity cost: "Every minute that Kelly, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day spend working on Tebow is another minute they could have spent coaching up Bradford or Sanchez."
There were Dallas Cowboy fans on Twitter thanking Kelly for signing Tebow. It is hard to disagree that this move sets the Eagles back, at least a little, even if Tebow never plays. There is practically no financial cost if Philly cuts Tebow before the season, but those aren't the only costs teams incur. Kelly, who ran a fiefdom when he was a college coach, has had complete control of the Eagles personnel in just his third season in the NFL. That now seems a mistake for the organization. Tebow is a sideshow in the Kelly circus. It's almost enough to make you feel sorry for Eagles fans. Almost.
In 2010 I wanted Tim Tebow to succeed in the NFL, just as I want every prospect to succeed in the NFL. It's incredible for young men to play college football to have their professional dreams come true. It doesn't work out for everybody. It doesn't work out for most of them. From a distance Tebow seems better suited to handle a non-playing life than most, but it is also hard to give up on the dream. Sadly, Kelly's stunt is likely Exhibit D in "Tebow sucks" for the haters.


 
Epic rant
Deadspin is offering cash for anyone with uncensored audio of Cincinnati Reds' manager Bryan Price's rant against the Cincinnati Enquirer for accurately reporting the fact that the team's catcher was not with the Reds on Sunday. Apparently Price uses the f-word 77 times. Price is of the view that the hometown paper should not report details that might assist opposing teams. (Too bad, buddy, that's journalism.) Timothy Burke is more focused on the fact that the Gannet-owned Enquirer did not initially release the audio and when it did, only provided a censored version. That's too bad.
The best obscenity-filled manager rant still belongs to Los Angeles Dodgers' skipper Tommy Lasorda after Dave Kingman hit three homeruns against the Dodgers in 1978.


 
If it saves just one drop it's worth it
Tim Worstall points out that a bunch of nutters in California is petitioning against Nestle's Golden State water bottling activities. Worstall does the math and finds that the 700 million gallons a year Nestle and other companies take is just 0.005% of the state's total usage (38 billion gallons per day). He has unkind but not inaccurate words for those protesting Nestle.


 
Conservatives will out-breed Liberals
I hate most of this Kurt Schlichter Townhall column, "Sexy Conservatives Will Out-Breed Barren Liberals," but I liked this line:
And as far as liberal men go, well, just look at them. It’s hard [to] muster raw sexual energy when you think foreplay consists of sobbing to your life partner about how you can’t bear the weight of your undeserved phallocentic privilege.
The rest of the column is overly contemptuous and dismissive, both of which have their place, but it doesn't let up. Even though Schlichter has a point about the talentless Chelsea Clinton, by the time the author makes it, it's lost in the overly caustic bile. Ann Coulter would have done a much better job with the same topic but with just the right amount of derision.


 
Leishman reviews Gairdner's The Great Divide
Interim columnist Rory Leishman reviews William Gairdner's The Great Divide: Why Liberals and Conservatives will Never, Ever Agree in the April edition. A snippet:
Finally, in “Stage four,” this “equality liberalism” has been supplanted by “The New Synthesis: Libertarian Socialism.” Gairdner observes that instead of upholding the traditional principles of Judeo-Christian morality, most people in libertarian-socialist regimes insist upon “freedom of individual will for all things personal and private – especially those having to do with sex and the body, such as abortion rights, easy divorce, homosexual rights, contraception rights, transgender rights, pornography rights, gay marriage, and soon euthanasia rights and more, made available to all equally in the name of freedom, many of them subsidized or free of charge.”
At the same time, the will-o-the-wisp pursuit of equality of results in libertarian-socialist countries has led to the development of stagnant “tripartite states” where one third of the people is employed by government, another third subsists on significant annual government handouts and only the remaining third relies on productive, private-sector employment.


Monday, April 20, 2015
 
These shoes were made for campaigning
Turncoat MP Eve Adams tweets a picture of her shoes and challenges Finance Minister Joe Oliver, the Tory she will face in Eglinton-Lawrence if she wins the Liberal nomination: "Shoes which are NOT tax-payer funded. Any chance we can hit the sidewalk for a bit with those taxpayer-funded kicks?" That line of attack would normally be appreciated in these corners but Adams was the candidate who tried to claim the Davinci Salon and Spa and dry cleaning as campaign expenses. While grooming and dry cleaning are listed in the Elections Canada candidate's guidebook as legitimate personal expenses, they are capped at $200; Eve Adams claimed more than $900 in such expenses for reimbursement, not including childcare expenses.


 
According to the Conservatives it's okay to support the budget without seeing it, but not to oppose it
Second time today the Finance Minister has displeased me. Scroll down to the next post for my comments on the shoe-buying tradition for finance ministers.
An email from the Conservatives asking recipients to sign up to support the budget:
Tomorrow, I will stand before our Parliament and announce that, as promised, Canada’s books are balanced.
This is a great accomplishment, and the result of years of hard work. It could not have happened without the strong, focused, and experienced leadership of Prime Minister Harper.
Sign your name to share your support for this historic budget.
Thank you,
Joe Oliver, Minister of Finance
PS – Before they have even seen it, Justin Trudeau and his Liberals are already planning to vote against this important budget.
But the Tories are asking me to support the "historic budget" that I haven't seen.


 
I were finance minister I'd end this stupid tradition
The Canadian Press reports:
In keeping with a pre-budget tradition, federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver purchased a pair of new shoes Monday, opting for sneakers from the “New Balance” brand.
Oliver bought the black shoes, trimmed in Tory blue, at a store in north Toronto while a throng of journalists looked on.
I assume that the finance minister's office picks up the cost of the shoes. It is a cost ($80 to $250) that can be saved. The tradition makes no sense. The Tories like to say that the government is like households so it shouldn't run a deficit because families have to make ends meet. I don't know any family that goes out and buys new shoes when they sit down to plan the family budget.
It's horrible that my first thought was that New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc must have donated to the Tories in exchange for the photo-op (except it is an American company so it shouldn't have).
And is Tory blue an actual hue?


 
Commutes aren't clean unless you walk
Earth Day Canada tweets: "Do you buy carbon offsets when you fly, like M.P. @ElizabethMay? Celebrate #EarthDayEveryDay with a clean commute." But the flight still produces the same amount of carbon. Carbon offsets don't cleanse a commute, they cleanse the conscience.


 
The senior's vote
The Huffington Post's Althia Raj tweets: "Approx 70% of all seniors vote, CARP spokesman Susan Eng says at meeting of seniors group laying out election demands." But seniors don't vote as a bloc, even if they do tend to vote more for the Conservatives. Which raises another issue. Eng was on the left in Toronto city politics in the 1980s and early 1990s. Why is she heading a group that purports to represent seniors who tend to hold right-of-center views?


 
Greek default
Tyler Cowen riffs on Finanical Times columnist Wolfgang Münchau's musings on Greek default:
As Wolfgang Münchau suggests (and I think many agree), Greece should default to the IMF but stay inside the eurozone, or alternatively the IMF can just let Greece off the hook. The economics of that argument make sense. But does the IMF have enough embedded political capital to let Greece off the hook, when they deny credit to much poorer countries? Does the IMF have enough capital and credibility to relieve Greece of that debt, and then return to its previous policies of simply not accepting any defaults? What about the poorer countries in the eurozone — poorer than Greece — who do not receive comparable breaks? How is this all supposed to work? Or is it simply asking too much of the IMF?
We are about to learn how much embedded political capital is in the IMF. I say 70-30 this cannot work, it is too late to suddenly turn the IMF into what it ought to be, one problem of many being that the United States simply has not cared enough.
Tim Worstall has some thoughts at Forbes.com about Greek defeault and Greek exit from the euro. Worstall admits biases (that I share) against both the euro and European Union, but says that either could happen and would be desirable, but neither are necessary. As Cowen indicates, the issues are larger than Greece and are more about institutional failure than the policy and economic failures of any particular country. Worstall focuses on the EU rather than the IMF:
I’m also along with the straight majority view that either a default or at the very least a haircut on Greece’s debt burden is a sensible idea. When a debt burden can’t be paid the sensible thing to do is to cut it rather than try to impose some vast amount of unproductive pain and suffering. With a company this is bankruptcy (and it’s the defining feature of well operating capitalism to have a swift, possibly even brutal, system to deal with the inevitable failures) and with a country it’s some form of sovereign default and or debt haircut. That’s just what has to be done and if it wasn’t for this pesky euro that’s what would have been done with Greece three and four years ago.
The major worry was, of course, contagion.
Avoiding default or a haircut at all costs to protect the euro/EU has only caused more pain and with no payoff. A few years ago, C. Fred Bergsten and Jacob Funk Kirkegaard of the Peterson Institute for International Economics had a policy brief on containing the Greek crisis which began: "At each critical stage of the crisis, both Germany and the European Central Bank have demonstrated they will pay whatever is necessary to preserve the euro area and avoid defaults." So far it has worked, but bond yields suggest the markets don't believe they will forever. Worstall is probably correct to predict a "mistake" ending this all:
What I think is actually going to happen is that someone, along the line, makes a mistake. Some slip between what was meant as a bargaining position and what is thought of as a red line and Greece then slips into Grexit as the banking system falls over.
And then what? Delay -- avoiding tough decisions, including a debt haircut early on -- have only raised the stakes of political and policy failure. As GoldCore says (via Zero Hedge):
Contagion is an increasing concern. The IMF's Poul Thomsen warned “Nobody should think that a Grexit would not be without problems.” Bank “holidays” and capital controls are likely.
It is highly unlikely that the ECB has enough "buffers in place."


 
PC election
The National Post's Jen Gerson is trying to make the case that the Alberta provincial election has been about "nothing" except pie and penis. In fact, the voters seem ticked off with Jim Prentice's budget that hiked taxes and promised more tax hikes in the future. Some voters might also be upset with the effective decrease in government spending on some core programs (a multiyear freeze cuts the per capita costs of programs). There is also the track record of recent Progressive Conservative governments which has been none too impressive. Even if these issues aren't being talked about by the leaders and columnists, they are what this provincial election is about.


 
If the Conservative Party did not exist, it would be necessary to invent it
Two recent examples from Gods of the Copybook Headings on how the Conservative government looks a lot like the opposite of a Conservative government:
Exhibit A:
The Government of Canada has provided the Willow Creek Cowboy Poetry and Music Society with $2,000 in funding through the Building Communities Through Arts and Heritage program in support of the 15th edition of the Willow Creek Gathering.
John Barlow, Member of Parliament (Macleod), announced this today on behalf of the Honourable Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages.
Exhibit B:
Rodney Weston, Member of Parliament (Saint John), on behalf of the Honourable Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, today announced that Symphony New Brunswick is benefiting from a boost of $143,571 to its fundraising efforts through the Symphony New Brunswick Foundation.
Those excerpts are from government press releases bragging of spending money on local projects that as David Akin once observed, should be funded by the property taxes of locals.


 
Good grief
Will sustainability be the new climate change?


 
Balanced budget laws
They are often bogus and allow easy ways around running a budget deficit. Here is an example from New Jersey in a Washington Post story about Chris Christie:
Although Christie has balanced the state budget for five years — as required by New Jersey law — he has resorted to many of the financial maneuvers used by some of his predecessors: reducing state payments to pension plans, shifting money out of trust funds dedicated for specific purposes and borrowing to patch chronic budget gaps.
Read that sentence again: there were balanced budgets that had chronic budget gaps. And how is government borrowing to patch a gap different than running a deficit?
Or is this just sloppy reporting? Possible, but many states resort to such tricks and gimmicks to "balance" the budget.


 
Highest grossing US restaurants
Celebrity Net Worth has "100 highest grossing independent restaurants in America." The highest grossing restaurant takes in as much as the next two combined. Also, Las Vegas has more in the top 20 than New York City, although the Big Apple has more in the top 100. Also, very few restaurants are in California outside of San Francisco on the list.
(HT: Marginal Revolution)


Sunday, April 19, 2015
 
Finance!
Faith Goldy tweets: "Russia gives Greece $, which Greece uses to repay IMF, which uses the Greek $ to fund a loan to Kiev, which uses the IMF loan to pay Russia."


 
2016 watch (14-year rule edition)
Jonathan Rauch wrote in National Journal in 2004:
With only one exception since the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, no one has been elected president who took more than 14 years to climb from his first major elective office to election as either president or vice president.
George W. Bush took six years. Bill Clinton, 14. George H.W. Bush, 14 (to the vice presidency). Ronald Reagan, 14. Jimmy Carter, six. Richard Nixon, six (to vice president). John Kennedy, 14. Dwight Eisenhower, zero. Harry Truman, 10 (to vice president). Franklin Roosevelt, four. Herbert Hoover, zero. Calvin Coolidge, four. Warren Harding, six. Woodrow Wilson, two. William Howard Taft, zero. Theodore Roosevelt, two (to vice president). The one exception: Lyndon Johnson's 23 years from his first House victory to the vice presidency.
Wait a minute: zero? Right. The rule is a maximum, not a minimum. Generals and other famous personages can go straight to the top. But if a politician first runs for some other major office, the 14-year clock starts ticking.
"Major office" means governorship, Congress, or the mayoralty of a big city: elective posts that, unlike offices such as lieutenant governor or state attorney general, can position their holder as national contender.
It has held since. Notice this rule is for winning the presidency, not either party's nomination.
Rauch says that "2016 is a hard test for the 14-year rule as Jeb and Hillary are both stale and fresh candidates are weaker."
(HT: David Frum)


 
Rae: let's not talk about coalition ...
Until after the election. Don't voters deserve to know about the possibility of the parties cooperating either formally or informally? Why is former NDP premier/former Liberal leader Bob Rae suggesting that voters should not have this information? Why is he against transparency?
Justin Trudeau in his book Common Ground notes that many Liberal voters distrust the NDP on economics and would vote Tory before voting NDP (p. 260). That's the voters, of course. Party people -- MPs, advisers, staffers who would get nicer offices working for ministers -- might be more open to a coalition. Those Liberal voters who would rather switch to Conservative than NDP over economics, especially considering the importance of "the economy" to voters, deserve to have a clear and honest discussion of the possibility today. Can't help but think that Justin Trudeau's approach to accepting a coalition with the NDP is like Barack Obama's approach to same-sex marriage: of course he's in favour of it, but he can't let people know about it now. (Recall that Obama opposed SSM in 2008 but few people in politics and the pundit class believed him even if voters might have.)
Rae is right about two things. He says, "there will not be a coalition before the election," which is both obviously true and completely irrelevant. The issue if coalition after the election. Rae also admits it's bad politics when he notes that Stephen Harper had "field days" attacking the Liberals and NDP over the possibility of a coalition in the past. The Liberals, especially leader Justin Trudeau, talk a lot about transparency. For the sake of transparency Trudeau should spell out his precise plans in terms of all forms of cooperation and, if serious about his words this week that he is ruling out a coalition, pledge not to enter one. There is plenty of wiggle room because there are non-coalition forms of cooperation, but the Governor General can take into account a politician's promise now when determining whether to accept a coalition or cooperation agreement later. If Trudeau breaks his promise, Governor General David Johnston can, and should, refuse to appoint Junior or any member of his party as prime minister.


 
Texas about to join majority of America
Only six states do not allow open carry, wither with or without a permit. Texas is about to join the 44 states. Said it already: surprised Texas wasn't among the 44 open carry states. The remaining five will be: California, New York, Florida, Illinois, and South Carolina.


 
Helicopter parenting deleterious to kids' health
Ross Pomeroy at the Newton Blog makes the case against over-parenting based on the social science research:
Letting kids be kids is something that seems to be happening less and less these days, replaced by overprotective "helicopter" parenting (so called for parents who incessantly "hover" overhead). While parenting could once be as simple as telling kids to "do their homework" and "be back in time for supper," today it's hallmarked by child locks, tracking devices, never-ending praise, and enduring parental oversight.
Ironically, all that extra attention seems to benefit parents far more than children. Helicopter parents report living happier and more meaningful lives than hands-off parents. Contrast that with a plethora of studies examining the effects of overbearing parenting on kids: A study from Ohio State University found that excessive praise can cause children to develop over-inflated egos and narcisstic tendencies later in life. College students with controlling parents report significantly higher rates of depression and less satisfaction with life. Another survey found that students with helicopter parents have reduced psychological well being and are more likely to use anxiety medications.
Overprotective parenting isn't always salubrious for kids' physical health either. For example, many parents commonly withhold potentially allergenic foods from their young kids, lest they by some chance suffer a severe reaction. But, as landmark research published earlier this year demonstrated, preventing kids from eating those foods may be contributing to the rise in allergies! According to the CDC, food allergies among children increased approximately 50% between 1997 and 2011. Hyper-parented kids also exercise less and are more likely to be bullied.
What's strange is that all this worry about the safety of our children has arisen during one of the safest times in history to be a child growing up in the developed world.
All of this is good, but two words of warning and a final comment.
First, social science isn't science even if the research seems pretty persuasive.
Second, perhaps children are safer today partly because of helicopter parenting. That said, crimes against children are declining at a time when most other crimes are declining, too. We also live in an age of incredible information and basic common sense that leads us to eschew risks at the margins that can have enormous advantages which have nothing to do with helicopter parenting (for example putting truly dangerous household items out of the reach of children).
If helicopter parenting truly does increase the happiness of parents, that is a real advantage that could outweigh the extra work that does not provide real advantages. But would it lead to increased happiness if they were cured of their ignorance that all their work and expense at best makes no difference and, at worst, could be harming their children?


 
Parody or real (Hookers for Hillary edition)
I hope this isn't falling for a parody, but it appears that the Bunny Ranch Sex Workers in Las Vegas have endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. It's probably real but less about politics than advertising for the Bunny Ranch. Brilliant and good for them. As marketing it's brilliant. As politics, it's questionable. The prostitutes support HRC for four reasons including her "foreign policy experience" and "protecting health care reform," but the fourth reason is economics. The hookers explain:
*Prevention of a return to supply side economics
Bill Clinton presided over the most prosperous time in Bunny Ranch history, which coincided with a tax increase on the wealthiest Americans such as brothel owner Dennis Hof. The Bunnies recognize that thriving economies are built from the bottom up, where the vast majority of their clients originate. A return to relying on the disproven theory of trickle-down economics would only serve to exclude the vast majority of hard-working Bunny Ranch clients from having the discretionary income to enjoy with their favorite Bunny.
(HT: @CharterLaw)


 
Steyn on Donnie Brosco
To mark Al Pacino's 75th birthday which is nearing, Mark Steyn reprints his review of the actor's last good movie, Donnie Brasco (1997). A snippet:
Brasco is a gangster movie, but in a vaguely post-modernish yet just-the-right-side-of-annoying way, both transcends and comments on genre: Al Pacino as Lefty, a sagging minor mafioso, and Johnny Depp as Donnie, the undercover Fed who wins his confidence, are sort of playing at gangsters, trying to be the kind of hoods they've seen in movies. Lefty is punctilious about gangland's courtly etiquette and the proper use of gangster vernacular; Donnie explains in great detail to his FBI colleagues the various meanings with which a hoodlum can imbue the phrase "Fuhgeddaboudit"; on the other hand, Donnie's wife, unaware of what he does for a living, is mystified by the way her college-educated husband is suddenly going around saying "dese" and "doze".


 
Parody: Clinton team strategizes about Chipotle trip
Funny video from Above Average: "Hillary Clinton's Chipotle Order."
My favourite part: "Nate Silver says chicken is the most popular."


 
Cost of Harvard tuition in 1938
$420 per year, via Classic Pics.


 
Long-term decline in murder rates
Our World in Data has a graph that shows centuries-long trend to lower homicide rates in five European countries/regions: England, Italy, Scandinavia, Germany/Switzerland, and Netherlands/Belgium. And here's the chart. Notable drop in Italy: in 15th century, murder rate of 73 per 100,000 is down to 0.9 per 100,000 today.