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, March 31, 2012
 
Prediction #2

Justin Trudeau vs. Senator Patrick Brazeau: Brazeau if there is a knock-out, Trudeau if the boxing match is decided by points.


 
Prediction #1 -- NCAA

Kentucky (#1) is the best team in college ball and they take on Louisville (#4), their state rival and (according to Ken Pomeroy) the best defense in the country. Kentucky should win but it will be their toughest contest of the tourney. Will be hard for this game to match the hype, but just because it's over-hyped and over-rated doesn't mean it can't be a good game to watch,

Ohio State (#2) should eke out the victory over Kansas (#2). According to advanced ratings systems, OSU was the second best team in the country (and was robbed in their seeding). Kansas got lucky with UNC suffering the tourney's worst injury. Should be a quality game, but essentially they are playing for the right to lose to UK in the final (the Buckeyes actually match up better against the Wildcats than the Jayhawks).


 
Complete Libertarian Review now online

You can find the archive here. I especially like the March 1978 edition with reviews of Robert Bork's The Antitrust Paradox and Daniel Bell's The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalsim, Bruce Bartlett's defense if isolationism, Daniel Shapiro's critique of neoconservatism (Kristol's variety, not Bush-era variety, of course), an examination of the journalism of Geraldo Rivera, an editorial on Skokie and free speech, and Thomas Szasz on "The Myth of Psychotherapy." One section reminds me of the existence of the unjustly forgotten What, How, For Whom: The Decisions of Economic Organization by Henry N. Sanborn. Also, Amnesty International is an advertiser, focusing (as it once did) on political prisoners, not fashionable political causes.


Friday, March 30, 2012
 
A better use for human rights commissions

In recent years, some conservatives and libertarians have called for the whole human rights commission industry to be shut down, partly as a response to stories like this one in the Toronto Star:

Two Vancouverites suffering from albinism have launched a human rights complaint against a popular restaurant chain, claiming the name of one of its beers is offensive.

The complaint, which was filed with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal in January, seeks to have a beer dubbed “Albino Rhino” removed from the menu at Earls Restaurants. The complaint also targets the chain’s “albino” chicken wings.

Ikponwosa Loretta Ero and Peter Ash, who both have albinism, say the name of the beer is “demeaning and humiliating” to those who suffer from the rare genetic condition...
That a human rights commission would hear such a case let alone adjudicate in favour of the complainers (let's not use legal terms like complainant) is both comedy and tragedy. The targets of complaints go through hell; David Warren has said the process is the punishment, so even if one is not found guilty, they've still suffered greatly for the crime of hurting someone's feelings. But some of our ire should be reserved for the pathetic human beings who complain. Seriously, what adult looks at a sign for Albino beer and feels humiliated? There is nothing quite so off-putting as those who are so easily offended and make a spectacle of their offense-taking. The proper response to their hurt feelings is not a pseudo-court hearing but mocking.

So this is my proposal for human rights commissions: when a complaint is made, the person doing the complaining gets thrown a pillory for public humiliation. Ideally, members of the public would come to hurl not rotten vegetables, but derogatory epithets. HRCs would exist to weed out the too-easily offended so we can expose these weenies.


Thursday, March 29, 2012
 
What I'm reading

1. The Decline of Politics: Conservatives and the Party System, 1901-1920 by John English (1977)

2. H.H. Stevens: 1878-1973 by J.R.H. Wilbur (1977)

3. Duff Pattullo of British Columbia by Robin Fisher (1991)

4. "The Bennett Administration 1930-1935," a Canadian Historical Association Booklet (1969) by Richard Wilbur

5. "India: The Next Superpower? " a multi-author report from LSE

6. The Spring 2012 issue of National Affairs which includes a 1967 essay from James Q. Wilson on bureaucracy.


 
Twitter feed-printed toilet paper

Shitter. (Via Marginal Revolution)


 
Queering Animal Liberation

I guess there's a reason it's been years since the blog has been up-dated, but a co-worker has found that the Queering Animal Liberation movement is active at Canadian universities. This is and isn't what J. B. S. Haldane meant when he said that "The universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose."


Wednesday, March 28, 2012
 
Very important sentences

Bryan Caplan has a very good post examining the mind is a muscle analogy and says if it is true, like exercise there are limits to education (only marginal improvements after reaching some early optimum). Definitely worth reading. However, his conclusion should serve as advice to help increase personal happiness:

That's why, now that I'm older and wiser, I only do exercise I enjoy. A life of suffering to slightly exceed my natural state isn't worth it.
I would add that the same is true of the food you eat. A life of eating celery sticks is not worth living.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012
 
My review of Elusive Destiny: The Political Vocation of John Napier Turner

I have a review of Elusive Destiny, Paul Litt's excellent biography of John Turner, in the April Interim. It focuses, of course, on Turner's role in broadening the abortion law in 1969 as Pierre Trudeau's justice minister, but the review is much more than that, too. I open the review:

When I first heard that there was a biography of John Turner being published, my reaction was simple: why? Turner was prime minister for the summer of 1984 (Parliament never sat while he was in office) and he did not seem to leave much of an imprint on this country.
Yet, Elusive Destiny is one of the best political biographies and Canadian political books in years. Turner plays a role in a current political narrative:

When Turner returned to politics in 1984 to replace Trudeau as leader and (briefly) prime minister, he defeated Jean Chretien but deepened the chasm between the Trudeau-Chretien wing of the party and that of Turner-Martin. The political infighting continues to this day.
On abortion and Turner's ambition:

Turner was all too willing to do what it took to get ahead, including (if you take Litt seriously) violating his own conscience on abortion and going against his own church’s moral teaching, in order to keep his seat around the cabinet table.
You should read the review and, if you have any interest in Canadian politics, you should also read Elusive Destiny.


 
Why the rush to judgement?

Thomas Sowell has a great column the race-hustler's best friend, Trayvon-the-Victim-of-the-Moment, because he isn't afraid to make points no one else mentions in print, like don't dress like a thug if you don't want to be shot like one. Or don't rush to judgement:

The man who shot the black teenager in Florida may be as guilty as sin, for all I know — or he may be innocent. We pay taxes so that there can be judges and jurors who sort out the facts. We do not need Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton or the president of the United States spouting off before the trial has even begun. Have we forgotten the media’s rush to judgment in the Duke University “rape” case that blew up completely when the facts came out?


 
BCF on Global's attempt to whitewash Muslim barbarity

Blazing Cat Fur notes that Global News has attacked SunTV over latter's reporting on a Muslim wife-beating manual.


Sunday, March 25, 2012
 
Weekend stuff

1. Grantland's Mark Lisanti wonders: "Do zombies poop?"

2. Business Insider has "21 CEOs Name Their Favourite Book." Also from Business Insider: "15 CEOs with Learning Disabilities."

3. LifeSiteNews.com reports, "Star Wars video game to allow characters to have homosexual romances."

4. Mental Floss answers the question: what is the difference is among billiards, pool, and snooker.

5. Mad Men returns on Sunday. Kottke has an assortment of interesting links to get you in the mood.

6. Extreme. 101-year-old woman who paraglides (there should have been video). And bungee-jumping in a wheelchair (with video).

7. Candwich -- canned sandwiches.

8. Science Daily: "Venice Hasn't Stopped Sinking After All."

9. Patterns you can use to win Pac Man. (HT Kottke)

10. Juggling hammers.



Friday, March 23, 2012
 
Bitcoin's future

From the M.I.T. Technology Review:

A digital currency without a central bank could be ideal for economies where the mobile phone is king but the banking systems are weak.


 
Brave and truthful journalist

Waterloo Region Record columnist Luisa D'Amato remembers a recently departed colleague, Matt Walcoff:

He went down to Caledonia in 2006 and took some pictures of the Six Nations protesters standing at the barricades. A few of them forced Matt to temporarily give up his camera, then deleted his pictures. Meanwhile, Ontario Provincial Police officers stood and watched the whole thing without moving a muscle.

Matt was outraged, and struck back the way a writer does, by telling the world about it. “What is going on in Caledonia is not a noble struggle of members of an oppressed minority asserting their civil rights,” he wrote. “This is not a 1960 sit-in at a Georgia Woolworth’s lunch counter. This is a gang of militant thugs victimizing the law-abiding citizens of Haldimand County, emboldened by the timidity of a province and country paralyzed by political correctness and the fear that one of the occupiers might get hurt.”
Taking on the Indians was brave, but the fidelity to truth -- telling the story of what went on in Caledonia when so many journalists ignored what was happening -- requires a form of courage too much lacking among our reporter class.


 
Me on media bias

From the March issue of The Interim, the subtitle explains what I'm getting at: "The sources of media bias go beyond ideology." While the article is about abortion, my arguments apply more broadly. The bottom line for me is that yes some journalists are left-wing ideologues, but many reporters are just stupid and lazy. Based on speeches I gave last Fall to a pair of pro-life confernces, the article is long but I hope worthwhile.


 
Me on religious freedom

My blog post at Soconvivium on religious freedom at home and abroad.


 
Big Litigation vs. Big Tobacco

I haven't commented on the lawsuit in Quebec of 90,000 plaintiffs who had "smoking related illnesses" and 1.8 million Quebeckers who are/were addicted to tobacco products against Imperial Tobacco Canada, Rothmans, and Benson and Hedges. I'm with the tobacco companies on this one: there is no reason why any living human being in the past half century would not know that tobacco is harmful to the user's health. Lorne Gunter captured the essence of this issue a few week's ago in the National Post:

I am no fan of the tobacco companies, but I hope the smokers lose, big-time. I’ve known all my life that smoking is deadly and so has everyone reading this page. No one under the age of about 105 could claim they didn’t know about the dangers of smoking or that tobacco companies had successfully hidden the truth and by so doing had duped them into taking up the habit.

So a victory for the smokers in this case would be a victory for personal irresponsibility. It would encourage everyone else who doesn’t want to blame themselves for foolish lifestyle choices they’ve made.

Even before there was a well-established link between smoking and cancer (1964), the ill effects of smoking were widely known. Cigarettes were first referred to as “coffin nails” in the late 19th Century. By the 1950s, most Americans believed there was a smoking-cancer link even though cigarette-makers were doing everything the could (including featuring doctors in their ads) to reassure everyone that smoking was safe.

The point is, even though tobacco companies denied the adverse health effects of their products for years after the science proved cigarettes were deadly (and still, to some extent, have not come fully clean), it is not their fault that smokers smoke. Yes, their ads are effective at glamorizing smoking. True, they make smoking appear cool or manly or pleasurable. But the decision to smoke is the smoker’s.
It is wrong to incentivize irresponsible behaviour or blame-shifting and a victory for the plaintiffs in this case would do precisely that.

Furthermore, this isn't going to punish the tobacco companies, but it will hurt taxpayers. As Meredith Bacal and Reuben Zaramian note at thecourt.ca:

The irony of this litigation is that, regardless of how the case is decided, taxpayers will end up footing the bill. If the plaintiffs lose, taxpayers will pay for healthcare-related costs associated with smoking. If the plaintiffs win, Big Tobacco will go after the federal government. Regardless of the outcome, taxpayers will pay what will inevitably be high litigation fees.


Thursday, March 22, 2012
 
Why do progressives hate progress?

Excellent George F. Will column on creative destruction. Wal-Mart replaced Sears, but was itself displaced by Amazon. There are political and cultural implications, but Will points to the irony that so-called progressives resist change and so-called conservatives favour dynamism.

The column also notes two older books that shouldn't be forgotten: Virginia Postrel's The Future and Its Enemies and Daniel Boorstin's The Americans: The Democratic Experience.


 
March Madness (Sweet sixteen and elite eight)

Didn't have a great Round Three. I picked too conservatively and there were plenty of "upsets" and, of course like everyone else in the world, I lost a pair of #2 seeds in their first games. The number of close games -- even a few that ended up not looking close on the scorecard where competitive until the final few minutes -- made for an exciting weekend of basketball. Still, as SI's Luke Winn has pointed out, so far this tourney there hasn't been one buzzer beater, although a few attempts have been missed. Looking at the Sweet Sixteen:

East

Sweet Sixteen

Wisconsin (4) edges Syracuse (1): I originally had the Orange beating the Badgers in this round, but I've changed my mind. (No matter who wins, I can claim being right.) We've seen Syracuse struggle in their opening game to just get past NC-Asheville and then take care of Kansas State with relative ease. The loss of Fab Melo, the Big East Defensive Player of the Year, hurts but maybe not against Wisconsin; the Badgers take a disproportionate number of treys and don't charge the basket. Furthermore, Syracuse surrenders a lot of threes with their zone defense. But I'm counting on Wisconsin playing their usual stifling defense and would even bet they win on their final possession.

Ohio State (2) over Cincinnati (6): According to advanced rating systems, the Buckeyes are the second best team in the NCAA. Don't bet against them; they vastly over-match the Bengals.

Elite Eight:

Ohio State (2) over Wisconsin (4): A great defensive team like the Badgers should be able to gum up the Buckeyes, but I'm not counting on it being enough to advance to the Final Four.

West

Sweet Sixteen


Michigan State (1) over Louisville (4): Battle of legendary coaches (Tom Izzo vs. Rick Patino) and a dozen other storylines including Louisville's incredible defense vs. the best player in college ball (Draymond Green), but this is what the contest comes down to: Cardinals terrific defense matching well against the Spartans super offense on one side, and Louisville's middling offense being stymied by Michigan's stellar D on the other. Unless the Cards have an unusually good night shooting the ball, Michigan State makes the Elite Eight again.

Marquette (3) over Florida State (7): Everything in me wants to pick the Gators, who have outscored opponents by more than any other team in the tourney (+70). But Marquette is not Virginia or Norfolk. Florida State's defense is probably the worst left in the tournament and Marquette is playing extremely well. Florida State needs to sink a disproportionate number of three pointers to have much chance and while it's possible, it isn't something one should bet on.

Elite Eight

Michigan State (1) edges past Marquette (3): Marquette is capable of winning and I'll cheer for them to beat Izzo's team, but I just can't see the Spartans losing to the Eagles unless they have an off night.

Midwest

Sweet Sixteen


North Carolina (1) over Ohio (13): At this stage, the probable loss of guard and court general Kendall Marshall hurts but isn't fatal. The Tar Heels are a talented team up front but depleted at guard yet they still have enough to end the Cinderella campaign of the Bobcats (one of four teams from Ohio among the final 16). The injury means upset is possible but not likely.

Kansas (2) over North Carolina State (11): Kansas has a lot of talent up front and their guards are capable of taking over a game with perimeter shooting. The Jayhawks have underperformed in the NCAA tournament in recent years but they should be able to handle an 11-seed and they caught a lucky break when UNC's Marshall broke his wrist.

Elite Eight

Kansas State (2) over North Carolina (1): This is a reversal of my original prediction. UNC should have made the finals, but the loss of Marshall, who sets up so much of the play for the Tar Heels, is too much. Of course, if Marshall plays and at his usual level, I'll reverse myself again.

South

Sweet Sixteen


Kentucky (1) over Indiana (4): The young Hoosier team has played extremely well but the Wildcats are hands down the best team in the tournament. Indy isn't going to stop UK. The fact that Indiana dealt Kentucky their only defeat this season isn't relevant. Big difference between playing at home and at a neutral site.

Baylor (3) over Xavier (10): Baylor presents match up problems for Xavier and they have a tremendous amount of talent. This is the game in the Sweet Sixteen most likely to be a blowout.

Elite Eight

Kentucky (1) over Baylor (3): I can see Baylor beating any other team in the tournament to make the Final Four, but not Kentucky. UK is simply the best team in college basketball and if they aren't NCAA champs, it's because they blew it not because they were beaten.


 
Will the real Mitt Romney please stand up

Very well done.



Wednesday, March 21, 2012
 
Best idea in years

Kathy Shaidle:

Liberals have to start calling themselves the "Oh, But That’s Different"s.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012
 
The progress has been amazing

Life is better for everyone -- shareholders richer and customers happier -- because visionary entrepreneurs dared to dream. Read this excerpt from Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry on Jeff Bezos.


Monday, March 19, 2012
 
Tories vs. Rae

I'm not entirely in agreement with Gerry Nicholls about the goal behind the attacks on Bob Rae but it is an argument worth considering. Nicholls says:

It's simple. By attacking Rae from the right, as they do in this ad, the Tories are likely hoping left-leaning voters will rally around the embattled Liberal leader. The Conservatives, in other words, want leftists to react thusly: "Hey, if that right-wing, reactionary, robo-calling Prime Minister is so much against Rae, them I am for Rae!"

It's psychology 101.

Naturally, if this ploy works the net result will be to drive "progressive" voters away from the NDP and towards the Liberals. Hence, the anti-Rae ad is really about strengthening the weaker Liberals and weakening the stronger NDP.
That might be too cute by half. The timing of the attack ad (and to be clear, I have no problems with truthful attack ads) is interesting and both works for and against the Nicholls argument: today is by-election day in Toronto Danforth, where the NDP will win handily. The anti-Rae ad is perfectly designed to do what Nicholls describes if there were a couple more days for it to take effect. I can't see the necessary viral-spread and reaction occurring in such a narrow time-span. On the other hand, the NDP leadership convention is this coming weekend and while the anti-Rae ad could be designed to provide a boost for the Liberals at the expense of the NDP when the NDP will be hogging all the media oxygen, that is precisely the problem: the NDP will lay claim to the attention of anyone on that side of the political spectrum this week, so the Conservative ad is likely to be ignored. If Nicholls is right, the Conservatives' timing was awful. They should have waited for the first mistake the new NDP leader makes later this Spring or (better) the next time the Conservatives trip up, so the Left could focus their anger around the intended object of the Conservative prop-up.

Most likely, the ad is an attempt to deflect attention from either robocalls or (most probably) the fact that they are not a part of the story today in the Toronto Danforth by-election. The pundits are talking about the Tories tonight and wouldn't have otherwise.

I have a problem with the Conservative attack on Bob Rae, specifically the criticism of Rae's largest deficit in Ontario history. That's true, but why bring it up? The Harper government has produced the largest budget deficits in Canadian history. Glass houses, my Tory friends, glass houses.


 
Four and down (not just Peyton Manning edition)

4. It's all over but the contract (which is no small matter) and it appears that Peyton Manning will be joining the Denver Broncos. Not sure if it was a "stunning decision" as Will Brinson of CBS Sports claims. Broncs fans and pundits should calm down because as Kerry Byrne pointed out a few weeks ago, it is highly questionable whether Manning (with four injuries, a year away from the game, and turning 36 next week) is a large improvement. Coles Notes version of this caveat: there is some risk and nothing is guaranteed. One wonders if Peyton Manning wants to win a Super Bowl. The finalists for Manning's services seemed to be the Broncos and Tennessee Titans. Neither team has much in the way offensive weapons to help the future Hall of Famer and Denver has a terrible defense to boot. According to ESPN's John Clayton the AFC West has become much more interesting. (Warning: more than half of his article is speculation.) If Manning is healthy and if he returns to 75% of his old self, he is an upgrade over Tim Tebow, but that's a huge if. And about Tim Tebow ...

3. When you read the media reports, it is a given that Tim Tebow will be traded or let go. That is certainly the wrong move for the Broncs and the speculation seems premature. Here's the football case for Denver keeping Tebow, which comes down to four points: 1) Manning isn't healthy and Tebow is a proven serviceable backup who can start if Manning gets hurt, 2) Tebow could learn a lot as Manning's apprentice and be Denver's long-term QB, 3) Tebow can come off the bench as an option quarterback for gadget plays, which are strategically beneficial and will give Manning some rest, and 4) the Broncs need a backup quarterback and Tebow's 2012 salary is a mere $1.1 million. Throw into the mix that Denver would probably be lucky to get as much as a fourth-round pick for him, and it doesn't make sense for Denver give up on Tebow quite yet. The jury is still out whether Tim Tebow can be a good starting quarterback, but considering the situation (mostly Manning's health and age), Tebow is an ideal backup quarterback.

2. Matt Flynn has started only a pair pro games and done extremely well in those two contests and done even better in leveraging those two games into a three-year deal worth up to $25 million with the Seattle Seahawks ($10 mil guaranteed). It's worth the risk that Flynn is half as good as he showed in the season closer against Detroit when he smashed Packer QB records to a team that desperately needs a legit quarterback. In all probability, the 'Hawks are paying league average salary for a league average quarterback, which represents an upgrade for them from last year when they used Tavaris Jackson. What flabbergasts me is that media reports say that annual average salary being offered to former San Francisco QB Alex Smith is in the same vicinity. The 49ers might have to pay a little more for Smith after their dalliance with Manning, but with the Miami Dolphins being shut out of their first choices for quarterback they might swoop in to obtain the man under center for the NFC West-winning Niners. Still, you'd think that the quarterback who started for the 13-3 Niners last year would get a significantly better offer than the backup to Aaron Rodgers. If Smith re-signs with San Fran -- or anywhere but Miami -- expect the Fins to be the subject of countless (unfounded) Tebow to south Florida rumours.

1. The Pittsburgh Steelers have been busy this off-season renegotiating contracts and cutting players to make room under the salary cap with the hope of re-signing WR Mike Wallace. (Possible Manning angle: ESPN's Jamison Hensley says that Denver will have cap room and the need for a receiver for Peyton to throw to, so the Broncs might pursue Wallace.) No reason to worry yet, but they are the only team in the AFC not to sign or re-sign a free agent. The only team in the NFC not to sign or re-sign a free agent? The Green Bay Packers.


Sunday, March 18, 2012
 
Weekend stuff

1. Someone asks "What do all the controls in an airplane cockpit do?" and pilot Tim Morgan provides a 9000-word response. (HT: Kottke)

2. From Education News: "North Carolina to Let Students Rate Teachers."

3. Forbes.com reports on the best jobs for young people. Nearly half are in medicine and many of them do not need a BA.

4. March Madness including for non-sports fans. Mental Floss has an interesting fact about every school in the NCAA tournament. You don't have to be a sports fan to enjoy it or this one: Slate has an article subtitled, "If the NCAA Tournament were a fight to the death between mascots, who would win?" As for the real tournament: The odds of picking a perfect NCAA tourney bracket? About one in 200 trillion. And Joe Queenan, writing in the Wall Street Journal, is wrong about college basketball being worse than the NBA.

5. Cracked.com has "Six stupid things pet owners need to stop doing now."

6. The M.I.T. Technology Review's Hello World blog reports on an app that can turn sign language into text.

7. Tim Carmody of Wired.com's Epicenter blog says Windows, not Wikipedia killed Encyclopedia Britannica.

8. Wall Street Journal Magazine reports (too briefly and with not enough photos) on an incredible dollhouse "fit for a queen" that features original works by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Rudyard Kipling.

9. Best thank you note ever? It's gone viral for good reason.

10. Every Itchy and Scratchy episode:



Saturday, March 17, 2012
 
The 'Toronto liberal artsy bubble'
Or, life is too short to read Dave Bidini


Kathy Shaidle comments:

Two guys in the Toronto liberal artsy bubble, getting up on their hind legs on behalf of — two guys in the Toronto liberal artsy bubble.

I thought latte lefties were all about KONY 2012 and cycling lanes and gay abortion rights and “ironically” collecting old board games from their childhoods and shit, but as it turns out, their highest priority is scanning the internet for each other’s names then penning shocked & appalled emails when one of their own is attacked, even mildly.
I only started reading Dave Bidini's National Post columns (which are the journalistic equivalent of masturbation) a month ago because a friend of mine told me how awful they were and how angry he gets after reading them. So he reads Bidini for the same reason some of my friends read Dalton Camp before he officially died: to watch the train wreck. I can now officially close the door on reading Bidini.


 
The challenge for modern American fiction

Tyler Cowen observes:

Contemporary American fiction faces an ongoing problem of what to write about. Yuppie life in Brooklyn doesn’t have the gravitas, suburban ennui is long since overdone, and so much of American life — mostly for the better — doesn’t face serious moral choices.


 
Round two recap

I had a terrible Round Two, correctly predicting a mere 20 for 32, which is just under 63%.

In the South and Midwest I was 4 for 8 and in the West and East I was 6 for 8. I also lost three of my Sweet Sixteen (Duke, Missouri, San Diego State) and one of my Elite Eight and Final Four (Missouri).

As a North Carolina fan I was very happy to see Duke dispatched. My second favourite college team is Missouri, so that was disappointing.

Some notes on some of the contests I watched (in whole or in part).

Like everyone else in the world, I was wrong about #2 Missouri beating #15 Norfolk and #2 Duke beating #15 Lehigh. Both were great games. I did, however, say this about Mizzou: hard to trust a great offense, middling defense team like the Tigers. I predicted them to go to Final Four but I thought they were vulnerable to an early upset but not that early. Missouri lost 86-84. Prior to Friday, only four times has the second seed lost to the 15th seed and then it happens twice in one day. You could say it makes the tourney interesting but the big winners are the #1 seeds (Kentucky and Michigan State) who saw their biggest obstacles to a Final Four appearance eliminated and #3 seeds who have a clearer path to the Final Eight.

#2 Kansas must have been afraid to face #15 Detroit after two other 2-seeds were eliminated in their opening game earlier in the day. They were solidly in control in what might have been the most boring game of Round Two. Very workman-like for the Jayhawks; in other words, it was a typical Kansas game.

I was totally wrong about #14 Belmont upsetting #3 Georgetown. The Hoyas won by 15. Don't know what I was thinking.

I was totally right about #6 Cincinnati edging #11 Texas. The Longhorns were losing 31-17 at the half but became a totally different team in the second half and lost by a mere six points.

#13 Ohio upset #4 Michigan in a contest that was close with both teams trading leads. I don't feel embarrassed about being wrong when a fourth-seed gets upset.

Every time #1 Michigan State looked like they would pull away for good, #16 Long Island would score a bunch of points (usually by sinking several treys) to keep within reach. At least until halfway through the second half.

I predicted an upset by #10 West Virginia over #7 Gonzaga citing the Mountaineers pressure defense (and, although I didn't mention it as a factor, the fact WV had to travel an hour on bus to Pittsburgh while Gonzaga made the cross-country trip). Unfortunately for the semi-home town crowd, that D didn't show up and the 'Zags scored 77 and won by 23.

I predicted that the #5 Wichita vs. #12 VCU could be the best game in the first round. It was certainly the best game on Thursday so I'll count myself half-right. I predicted Wichita would win. I was wrong. VCU won 62-59.

#8 Creighton overcame an 11-point deficit to defeat #9 Alabama in an exciting contest the Jays won by a single point, 58-57. Best game of the tournament so far.

#10 Purdue and #7 St. Mary's had one of the more thrilling finishes with the Gaels rallying from a 66-55 deficit with four-and-a-half minutes left to take the lead in the final minute. But outscoring the Boilermakers 14-2 in less than a four-minute span wasn't enough as St. Mary's didn't score in the 44.2 seconds and Purdue answered with six more points. Final score: 72-69 for Purdue. I correctly called this game.

#12 Harvard made it close near the end, coming within five points in the final minutes, but #5 Vandy held on for a nine-point victory.

I like #4 Wisconsin's defense. They held #13 Montana to just 0.86 points per possession.

#2 Ohio State won by 19 over #15 Loyola (Maryland) and were never not in control, but it also never had a blowout feel to it, either.

Was expecting the defending champs, #9 UConn to beat #8 Iowa State. The Huskies did not grab their own offensive rebounds and were handed a decisive 77-64 defeat.

#4 Indiana beat #13 New Mexico by 13. Classy move at the end of the game as Aggie senior Wendell McKines was permitted a curtain call and received a standing ovation after a 15-point effort and solid collegiate career.

#4 Louisville looks like they fended off #13 Davidson 69-62, but the lower seed scored a number of late three-pointers to make this game look closer than it really was.

#14 BYU stormed back from a 15-point half-time deficit in the play-in game (or Round One as the NCAA insists on calling the first four games) to beat Iona and earn the right to play #3 Marquette. In that game, BYU fell behind by 15 at the half again, stormed out of the gates in the second half and cut the lead in half (to eight). It was never that close again.


Friday, March 16, 2012
 
80's flashback Friday

Van Halen does "Jump" which is cheesy, but dang were they fun.



Thursday, March 15, 2012
 
March Madness predictions

South

Second Round

Kentucky (1) beats West Kentucky (16): UK is the best team in the tourney.

Connecticut (9) beats Iowa State (8): Nine seeds win 51% of games vs. eight seeds and UConn is the defending champ.

Wichita State (5) edges VCU (12): No second Cinderella trip for the VCU but the up-tempo Shockers might have trouble with the grinding Rams so this has the potential to be the best second round game.

Indiana (4) over New Mexico State (13): Hoosiers make 43.2% beyond the arc, but they are inexperienced: no Indiana player has been in the tourney before.

UNLV (6) over Colorado (13): The Buffaloes are making their first tournament appearance since 2003 and while improving, are not good enough to beat the Runnin' Rebels.

Baylor (3) defeats South Dakota State (14): If you take out losses to Kansas and Missouri, the Bears were 26-2.

Xavier (10) ekes past Notre Dame (7): The Fighting Irish are 2-3 over their past five including an anemic win over sub-500 Providence.

Duke (2) over Leigh (15): Blue Devils have the most difficult path of any #2 seed to the Final Four and they are suspect on defense. Once they get past Leigh they play the winner of Xavier/Notre Dame and then, presumably, Baylor and Kentucky.

Round Three

Kentucky (1) over U Conn (9)
Wichita State (5) edges Indiana (4)
Baylor (3) over UNLV (6)
Duke (2) ekes past Xavier (10)

Sweet Sixteen

Kentucky (1) over Wichita State (5)
Baylor (3) over Duke (2)

Elite Eight

Kentucky (1) over Baylor (3)


West

Second Round

Michigan State (1) over Long Island (16): The combination of coach Tom Izzo (nine of 14 times his teams have made the NCAA tourney, they've gone to the Sweet Sixteen) and their elite defense (59 ppg allowed, 12th best in the nation), makes them an Elite Eight finalist, at the very least.

Memphis (8) edges St. Louis (9): Flip a coin. Memphis will lose the rebound battle and their 26-8 record was against a soft schedule, but St. Louis put up good numbers (7th best defense in the country) against an even weaker sked.

New Mexico (5) over Long Beach State (12): LBS might be the best 12 seed, but New Mexico's superior defense (59.1 ppg allowed, 38% shooting) should get them far.

Louisville (4) over Davidson (13): Louisville is inconsistent but they are good enough to beat a 13-seed.

Murray State (6) beats Colorado State (11): Murray State went 30-1 (they were the last team to suffer a loss this season) and are aggressive and athletic. Seem under-rated at sixth.

Marquette (3) over BYU (14): Decent depth but they will be out-rebounded by most opponents beyond the Second Round.

Florida (7) edges Virginia (10): The Gators should be good enough to get past the tough defense of the Cavaliers.

Missouri (2) over Norfolk State (15): Mizzou might be the best team that isn't ranked #1, they are the most prolific scoring team in the nation, don't commit turnovers and are great at the foul line.

Round Three

Michigan State (1) beats Memphis (8)
New Mexico (5) over Louisville (4)
Murray State (6) edges Marquette (3)
Missouri (2) over Florida (7)

Sweet Sixteen

Michigan State (1) over New Mexico (5)
Missouri (2) beats Murray State (6)

Elite Eight

Missouri (2) edges Michigan State (1)


East

Round Two

Syracuse (1) over NC-Asheville (16): The Bulldogs scored at least 80 points 16 times and were perfect when doing so, but the 31-2 Orange have a zone defense that frustrates opponents not used to seeing it. But Syracuse could be vulnerable after Round Two with the loss of center Fab Melo who was ruled ineligible.

Southern Mississippi (9) edges Kansas State (8): Another coin flip and while Kansas State is probably the better team, Southern Miss is the more balanced team with six players averaging nine points a game.

Vanderbilt (5) over Harvard (12): This will be a closer game than you'd expect because the Commodores under-achieve (three consecutive opening game losses as third or fourth seed over the past four years) and the Crimson are better than most Ivy League teams, but Vanderbilt breaks the losing streak.

Wisconsin (4) beats Montana (13): The Badgers have a mediocre offense but their D slows down play and stifles opponents. Should go far in the tourney.

Cincinnati (6) edges Texas (11): Another coin flip. Four Cincy players average double digit scoring but it is the Bearcats' scrappy defense should keep the Longhorns from advancing.

Florida State (3) over St. Bonaventure (14): The Seminoles have a strong defense (that can also prevent opponents from sinking treys) and offensive punch off the bench. FSU are good enough to make the Final Four

West Virginia (10) over Gonzaga (7): The Mountaineers are tough defensively.

Ohio State (2) over Loyola (15): If you take the average ranking of the six advanced ranking systems, Ohio State is the second-best team in the nation after Kentucky -- they have a deep roster and are one of the best rebounding teams. Expect them to go far.

Round Three

Syracuse (1) over Southern Mississippi (9)
Wisconsin (4) over Vanderbilt (5)
Florida State (3) beats Cincinnati (6)
Ohio State (2) over West Virginia (10)

Sweet Sixteen

Syracuse (1) edges Wisconsin (4)
Ohio State (2) ekes past Florida State (3)

Elite Eight

Ohio State (2) over Syracuse (1)


Midwest

Round Two

North Carolina (1) beats Vermont (16): The Tar Heels have three starters likely be top 12 picks in the NBA draft, they scored 82.3 ppg and out-rebounded opponents by 11 per game. They should go to the tournament final.

Creighton (8) over Alabama (9): Creighton is a dangerous foe as the nation's top shooting team (over 50%) and fifth most accurate three-point shooting team (42.5%). If they didn't face NC in Round Three, they could make the Sweet Sixteen or better.

Temple (5) edges South Florida (12): Temple is lucky to be a perfect 5-0 in overtime and South Florida won more than its share of close games but the Owls should advance.

Michigan (4) beats Ohio (13): The Wolverines have a quick team and are great at controlling the ball.

San Diego State (6) edges N.C. State (11): The Aztecs defense keeps opponents to less than 40% shooting while the Wolfpack hits more than 46% of their shots, so the game should be close.

Belmont (14) edges Georgetown (3): Hoyas struggled often this year and Belmont is hot (14-game winning streak) and are a top 30 team in most ratings systems.

Purdue (10) over St. Mary's (7): This might be over-valuing Purdue's past successes, but the Gaels' are susceptible to tougher defenses.

Kansas (2) edges Detroit (15): As good as Kansas is -- and they should win the Midwest -- Detroit will be a tough out.

Round Three

North Carolina (1) over Creighton (8)
Michigan (4) beats Temple (5)
San Diego State (6) over Belmont (14)
Kansas (2) defeats Purdue (10)

Sweet Sixteen

North Carolina (1) over Michigan (4)
Kansas (2) over San Diego State (6)

Elite Eight

North Carolina (1) over Kansas (2)


Final Four:

Kentucky over Missouri
North Carolina over Ohio State


Final

Kentucky over North Carolina


Four observations:

1) I think any of the top four seeds in the East could go to the Final Four so I'm not confident of either pick I make in the Elite Eight.

2) I don't like picking Mizzou in the West because of a good but not great defense, but their offense is just too damn good to bet against.

3) Choosing between the Tar Heels and Jayhawks in the Midwest final is the toughest game to pick after Round Three.

4) Too many top six teams make the Sweet Sixteen -- I only pick teams seeded 1 through 6 -- and surely there will be a couple lower seeded squads going that far. Just hard to see which ones but the best candidates to score upsets to get there are # 11 Texas in the East and #12 Long Beach State in the West.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012
 
GOP primaries

A few thoughts.

1. Rick Santorum looks like a serious contender for the vice presidential nomination. He is winning in the South and Midwest and would serve the same role as Dan Quayle did for George H.W. Bush: buttressing the conservative credentials for the man at the top of the ticket for a reluctant base. The primaries are a math game that Santorum can't win without Newt Gingrich dropping out very soon and even that might not be enough.

2. It appears that calling a second-place finish in his own backyard -- a second-place finish in which he was essentially tied with Mitt Romney who came in third in Mississippi and Alabama -- is good enough to declare victory for Newt Gingrich and justify his Quixotic campaign. At some point his intransigence should become an issue.

3. About Ron Paul: it isn't about him but rather the place of principled libertarianism within the Republican Party. AEI's Andrew Rugg concludes his post on the GOP's attitude toward Ron Paul with this observation:

Competing for the Republican nomination, including participating in the seemingly endless debates, has been an enormously powerful vehicle for Ron Paul’s message. It has allowed him to broadcast his views to a large audience and has forced GOP leaders to take his libertarian message seriously. But the cost has been enormous disapproval among GOP voters.

This estrangement threatens any future electoral cooperation between the two groups at a time when Republicans and the Ron Paul libertarian coalition need each other more than ever. Ron Paul has brought young, independent, and new voters into the Republican primaries and caucuses. This is something the other GOP candidates have failed to do. At the same time, it’s clear that Ron Paul’s views are not shared by a majority of Americans, particularly in the South. At the age of 77, it’s unlikely that Paul will run for president again. But how Republican leaders deal with his libertarian supporters remains a crucial question for GOP’s electoral success in 2012 and beyond.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012
 
Canadian poll on public attitudes about politicians misses the most important point

This PostMedia report of a Manning Centre-sponsored survey on Canadians' attitudes toward politicians is fairly heartening: Canadians do not have a favourable view of politicians and do not think they are honest. This isn't a bad thing if the public is finally understanding that our elected officials do not deserve our respect. (I wonder how the results might be different if instead of labelling them politicians, the pollster used the term elected officials or Members of Parliament? The thieving liars would probably have been viewed in a slightly more positive light.) When you parse the results, though, it isn't as bad for the politicians as the headline finding indicates. While only 1% have a "very favourable" view of politicians, more than one in five respondents have a "favourable" view. Also, 42% of respondents think that politicians are principled and only 58% think they are unprincipled. That means roughly half of those who think they are principled still don't have a favourable view. That's strange and a sign that we are giving politicians more credit than they probably deserve.

However, I did not like this question:

Q: Would you describe politicians in Canada as: More Concerned With MONEY Or More Concerned With PEOPLE?
90% said politicians are concerned with money than people. Here the respondents got it wrong, as did the pollster. For the average MP, there isn't a lot of money in politics. The fact is politicians are more interested in people but not in some altruistic sense; rather they are interested in telling people what to do and how to live their lives. The question should have been are politicians more concerned about people or power (or people, money, or power). Politicians are most interested in getting elected and staying elected (being in power) and controlling other people's lives (exercising power) than either money or people.


Saturday, March 10, 2012
 
Gearing up for March Madness

Correction: Basketball Prospectus on which teams to expect to see in the tournament.


 
Weekend stuff

1. Tyler Cowen on how to be a good teacher. Sounds very sensible, at least for the university level; not sure about high school. The comments are worth reading, too.

2. BBC on "Could Britain still defend the Falklands?" in an accessible chart format.

3. Absolutely No Machete Juggling has a post on the optimal order of viewing the Star Wars movies. (Via Marginal Revolution) His suggestion of IV, V, II, III, VI (no I) isn't bad.

4. Just enjoy don't over-analyze.

5. In The Smithsonian magazine, Teller (of Penn and Teller) shares some trade secrets on how magicians manipulate the minds of audience members.

6. The Wall Street Journal on how video games are good for you. The article is entitled, "When Gaming Is Good for You: Hours of Intense Play Change the Adult Brain; Better Multitasking, Decision-Making and Even Creativity."

7. Slate on "How has Oreo been able to dominate the cookie market for a century?"

8. An "invisible" car.

9. Grantland has a March Madness-inspired Wire bracket. It's been fun, but with McNulty in the Final Four, there is only one Clay Davis-inspired response:



Friday, March 09, 2012
 
'Let’s do for Canadian property rights what we did for free speech'

Read Kathy Shaidle. Property rights are more important than free speech rights. Support the efforts of Randy Hillier and Scott Reid to enact property rights.


 
Media focuses on the cloud, not the silver lining

The Toronto Star reports that the warmer/non-snowy weather has resulted in fewer vehicular collisions -- about 5000 fewer compared to the previous winter. (There are other factors, too, such as the cell phone ban and the economy.) Good news, at least for some. The Star takes up the cause of the body shops that have lost business. This article comes perilously close to the Broken Window Fallacy* which states that disasters and wars are good for the economy. The Star doesn't look at the economic activity that occurs when drivers don't have to pay for repairs either directly or through higher insurance premiums and thus can purchase new products and services.

* Not to be confused with the Fixing Broken Windows Theory of reducing crime.


 
Four and down (Peyton Manning edition)

4. It is sad to see a player leave a team that he's been with for 14 years, especially when that player is the face of the franchise and expected/hoped to play his entire career with the organization. That's sentimental and romantic, but nonetheless true. That isn't to say that the Indianapolis Colts were wrong to let Peyton Manning go, but rather that it would have been nice to see this story end another way. That said, this is probably the right move as Indy needs to build for the future and by taking Sanford's Andrew Luck they have the chance to do something no other team has done: draft a second franchise quarterback with a first-overall pick. They did it in 1998 with Peyton and history is likely to repeat as Luck is considered the best player coming out of college since ... Peyton Manning.

3. Kerry Byrne warns teams considering signing Peyton Manning: "Manning will probably make any team that signs him better. But if we're being very honest, here's what a team will be chasing in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes: an aging player, fresh off a catastrophic injury, whose production has declined in recent years, in a sport in which players hit the wall in their mid-to-late 30s, and who has always struggled outdoors and in the playoffs." This advice will not be heeded.

2. If I posted this yesterday I would have said the Washington Redskins are the most likely destination (about a 40% chance) but these reports are believable and while no one is ruling out the Skins, they seem improbable now. Manning will probably avoid soap opera situations so he won't sign with Washington because it means a pair of games against the New York Giants; for the same reason, he won't sign with the New York Jets because the media circus would be insane. Washington is also a bad fit because Mike Shahanan's playbook is not like the one Manning uses and Shanahan is unlikely to change; that said, Washington has the cap space to sign Manning and whatever wide receiver he wants to play with and owner Dan Snyder has demonstrated a willingness to spend on his team. Word is Peyton Manning wants to play in the AFC and play for a contender. But other than the Jets, the contenders have settled quarterback situations. (As Kerry Byrne notes for the Cold Hard Football Facts, the Baltimore Ravens are a healthy Peyton Manning away from taking the next step but as he readily admits, that won't happen.) Another problem for the Jets is that Rex Ryan is too much of a loudmouth for Manning; can't see that working out and it is far from clear that the Jets are ready to have Mark Sanchez ride the bench. I don't see the Miami Dolphins making the high-risk move (cost and injury risk) with former Green Bay offensive co-ordinator Joe Philbin, who is now Miami's head coach, probably salivating at the chance to bring Packer backup Matt Flynn to south Florida. The Kansas City Chiefs have cap issues and no wide receivers and the Denver Broncos don't feel right although Tim Tebow could use Manning as a mentor. So the the two (or perhaps three) most likely destinations are in the NFC West: the Arizona Cardinals (has an elite WR in Larry Fitzgerald and is the only domed team looking for a QB, although the St. Louis Rams should be), Seattle Seahawks (on the cusp of being competitive, have cap space enough to sign a free agent WR such as Reggie Wayne or Vincent Jackson) and the San Francisco 49ers if they can't re-sign Alex Smith (the Niners are already serious contenders although they don't have the wide receivers). I think Manning is most likely to voluntarily or involuntarily retire (30%), followed by signing with the Cardinals (25%), Seahawks (20%), Redskins (10%), Niners (5%), Miami Dolphins (3%), Jets (1%), some other team (6%). Logically -- money, post-season opportunity, playbook and personnel -- Seattle makes the most sense, but these things often do not follow the theoretical logic that presents itself because there are a million facts that neither the casual fan nor the informed pundit sees.

1. If I were Peyton Manning I would retire. No need to risk one's health after a Hall of Fame-worthy career. Does he want to have the kind of season Brett Favre finished with in Minnesota as the last thing fans remember? But leaving the game, one's livelihood, is easier said than done. Can't blame him if he tries to hold on, but few athletes have played with the grace he has and it wouldn't be surprising to see him decide to hang up his helmet for a headset either on the sidelines or the television studio.


Thursday, March 08, 2012
 
Intellectuals and Society

Thomas Sowell's book Intellectuals and Society is out in paperback this week. It is revised and enlarged (by about 200 pages), which means even if you have the hardcover version, this is worth getting, too. Here's Sowell's latest Ricochet interview is about the book and much more.


 
Save Cato

Cato's anti-Koch webpage.


 
The app industry

Reihan Salam makes an important and under-appreciated point in this more broad-ranging column about open platforms and what he labels "against manufacturing fetishism":

Many observers note that the iPad’s supply chain is global, and that it is workers in East Asia and not workers in the U.S. who actually assemble it. That is true. But last month, Michael Mandel of the consulting firm South Mountain Economics estimated that the app industry is responsible for almost 500,000 jobs in the United States, a sharp increase from zero in 2007. And jobs in the app industry tend to be more lucrative and more fun than jobs that involve painstakingly assembling delicate electronic components. To be sure, jobs in the app industry also tend to require skills that fairly few people have and that not everyone can cultivate, at least not yet.


 
Against technocrats

Arnold Kling addresses the problem with technocrats in his latest post about the Cato-Koch dust-up:

My problem with the typical technocrat (I do not mean to make this personal vis-a-vis Ezra Klein) is that he or she has never had to assemble as many as five hand-picked people to implement a tiny little project, much less undertaken to steer something as enormous and entrenched as a government agency into implementing some genius technocratic solution. Technocrats see solutions fail and say, "Well, that was their program. My program is based on sounder principles." In this way, they can be clever relative to particular policy mistakes but at the same time deeply unwise in the grand scheme of things.


Wednesday, March 07, 2012
 
Far-from-super Tuesday

It wasn't really super for anyone. Mitt Romney looks weak even if his nomination is all but assured. Rick Santorum did well enough to continue the long fight, but without Ohio, not well enough to prevent Romney from winning. Worse, for him, Newt Gingrich did just well enough to justify continuing his Quixotic campaign. But Newt can't win and his continued presence prevents Santorum from overtaking Romney in the vote count. The NRO symposium has two contributors worth pointing reading. Jay Cost describes the math that favours Romney:

I think Romney will win Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island in the Northeast; D.C., Delaware, and Maryland in the South Atlantic; Illinois in the Midwest; and California, Hawaii, New Mexico, Oregon, and Utah in the West. All in all, I think Romney is a favorite in primaries and caucuses worth about 600 delegates.

Of course, he is probably an underdog in states totaling about the same number of delegates (with another 200 or so being too hard to estimate). But California’s and New York’s delegates are allocated on a winner-take-all basis (the latter if the victor scores a majority), while Texas is proportional. So that is another huge advantage for Romney ...
Henry Olsen also addresses the primary math, but also explains the coalition behind that math:

Romney’s coalition combines moderates and somewhat-conservatives in the East, Midwest, and West with the educated and well-off in the South. With the movement conservatives split between Newt and Rick, Romney can win in the Midwest and West while not getting trounced in the South. This pattern has started to congeal, and primary history teaches that once coalitions congeal they are very hard to break apart. Romney’s coalition may comprise only 35 to 40 percent of the GOP outside the South, but that’s enough to win in a three- or four-man race.
Read that again: "primary history teaches that once coalitions congeal they are very hard to break apart." Olsen notes this all changes if Newt Gingrich drops out soon. Olsen says Santorum is winning just enough and will stay in long enough to warrant consideration for the vice presidency.

On the plus side, Dennis Kucinich lost his primary in a redistricting battle with fellow leftist Democratic Congressman Marcy Kaptur. I'd say good riddance, but apparently he is considering moving to Washington state to run for Congress there.


 
What's wrong with the World Bank

Bill Easterly criticizes the World Bank by way of explaining why he wouldn't be a candidate to head the organization:

I would not lead the World Bank by assembling an expert task force of my fellow social scientists, natural scientists, and random unemployed politicians. I would not ask such a well-qualified expert task force to answer the question “What must we do to end world poverty?” — especially if we forget to answer the question “Who put us in charge?”

I would not lead the World Bank to ever use the words “civil society.” I would not emulate my deservedly respected non-predecessor as World Bank president by giving a speech on the Arab Spring without using the word “democracy,” even in a purely descriptive sense. I could not possibly attain a remarkable record of five years of speeches without ever using the word d_m_cr_cy at all.

I would not appoint U.S.-educated elites vetted by their autocratic home governments to represent the underrepresented peoples of the world. I would not negotiate the contents of World Bank reports with governments in either the West or the Rest, except possibly for correcting typos.

I would not lead the World Bank by perpetuating the technocratic illusion that development is something “we” do to “them.” I would not ignore the rights of “them.” If the New York Times should happen to report on the front page that a World Bank-financed project torched the homes and crops of Ugandan farmers, I would not stonewall the investigation for the next 165 days ...
Reuters economics blogger Felix Salmon explains the institutional impediments to Easterly's desired World Bank by way of defending the organization. I side with Easterly.


Tuesday, March 06, 2012
 
Wire Madness

Grantland has brackets to determine the best character from The Wire. Cutty went to round 2 but won't get any further because he's up against the best (and most over-rated) character in the series, Omar Little. Anyway, too bad Cutty didn't have another pairing.



Monday, March 05, 2012
 
How long has it been since Brimelow appeared on Canadian television?

Michael Coren talks to Peter Brimelow on The Arena about immigration, multiculturalism, and the lack of civility in political discourse ("the Left is able to maintain this [double standard] because they completely control the culture ... the Left is used to doing whatever it wants and [they're] like spoiled children").



 
The press gallery's priorities are not the public's priorities

From the Globe and Mail:

A month of controversy over pensions, privacy and Pierre Poutine has failed to dent support for the Conservative Party, according to a new poll by Nanos Research.

Support for the Tories remained exactly the same – at 35.7 per cent – compared to a month earlier.
For now the average Canadian doesn't care, but the public ignores such scandals until it doesn't. We shouldn't think the Tories are made of Teflon. However, the larger point remains valid: the media has hammered away at apparent policy missteps and provides saturation coverage on what appears to be a serious scandal (how the media can provide excessive coverage while failing to delve into an issue is quite a feat) and yet the Tories remain relatively popular. Maybe people are tuning out television news and not buying papers because the media is out-of-touch when it comes to determining which political issues are important.


 
Is John Wayne indirectly responsible for murder?

Wayne is a popular middle name for killers. The John Wayne link is speculated upon by the author, Chuck Shepherd.


 
Profits vs. non-profits

Arnold Kling weighs in on the Cato and the Koch brothers drama and he makes a point less about the institution in question than the field of not-for-profit institutions in general:

With non-profits, the metrics are determined by the donors. I have higher regard for the for-profit sector where the metrics are determined by customers. This is one of my more against-the-grain views -- thinking that the for-profit sector is morally superior to the non-profit sector.


 
Cato and the Kochs

Donald Boudreaux has a must-read post about what is happening with the Cato Institute and their largest shareholders, the Koch brothers. The post has less to do with the technical legal arguments* than the role of ideas in political advocacy and how the Koch brothers' judgement might harm the liberty movement. Jonathan Adler has various links at the Volokh Conspiracy and he agrees with Boudeaux, making this point: "I’ve seen lots of libertarian-types come out against the Kochs’ efforts, but hardly any in support. Even those who have received Koch money and would hope to again are saying this a bad move. Even more are saying this in private. That should say something."

* In another post Adler makes the point that the conflict is about a lot more than mere rule of law or legal niceties.


 
Rally for Rush Limbaugh

Writing for the American Spectator, Jeffrey Lord has a very good in-depth article on the campaign to blacklist political commentators who deviate from the standard left-liberal line and how it has turned against Rush Limbaugh. What is ostensibly strange is how several of Limbaugh's biggest sponsors are also supporters of various George Soros projects.


Friday, March 02, 2012
 
41 JQW articles from PI

James Q. Wilson was published in The Public Interest 41 times (and once in National Affairs). You can access his articles here. As Yuval Levin notes in his appreciation of the late James Q. Wilson in NRO's The Corner, Wilson put forth ideas that got enacted but he also taught conservatives how to take public policy seriously, especially on race, poverty, crime, and bureaucracy. In an article about crime and culture in the Winter 1983 Public Interest Wilson said, "We often get better answers by asking better questions. In no area of inquiry are we more in need of better answers than in the effort to explain the relationship between crime and the conditions of American life." In numerous areas of public policy, we now have better answers because James Q. Wilson asked better questions than most scholars and pundits. You'll see what I mean by perusing the archives of the Public Interest.


 
Death on the Right

James Q. Wilson, a scholar and conservative sociologist, has passed away at the age of 80. Various links are available here, but the remarks by George F. Will, Arthur Brooks, and Charles Murray at a recent AEI event are worth reading. Yesterday, a much younger conservative, Andrew Breitbart, passed away at the age of 43. (Five Feet of Fury has various links and videos and James Taranto has a good write-up about Breitbart's role.) The conservative and libertarian movement needs both the rabble-rousing activist and thoughtful intellectual to do battle with the Left and forces of statism.