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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Friday, November 30, 2012
 
This is a crime?
The National Post reported a few days ago: "On Tuesday, Toronto Police announced that Gustavo Valencia Gomez, 40, of Mississauga, had been charged under Section 365 of the Criminal Code, which prohibits pretending to 'exercise or to use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration'." I get it can be considered fraud -- Gomez wanted $14,000 to lift a curse -- but this is ridiculous.


 
'Respect democracy'
A pro-Rob Ford petition can be found here.


 
Interview with David Freidman
ReasonTV interviews David Freidman. The interview is titled "How to Privatize Everything" but is narrowly about anarcho-capitalism and its differences with minarchism (and how his famous father, Milton, would disagree with him). David Friedman is not as crazy as you might think, although the distinctions between anarcho-capitalism, minarchism, and libertarianism that these people (of which I generally classify myself) make certainly would seem nutty to most people.


 
Good news for Toronto
Judge Charles Hackland has ruled that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is eligible to run in a by-election, if one is called. The downside is that Ford will have an uphill battle to win re-election (if it comes to that), but Ford has long been under-estimated so don't write him off.


 
Obama fiscal cliff deal a joke
Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard reports:
Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, says he “burst into laughter” Thursday when Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner outlined the administration proposal for averting the fiscal cliff. He wasn’t trying to embarrass Geithner, McConnell says, only responding candidly to his one-sided plan, explicit on tax increases, vague on spending cuts.
Barnes also reports that as part of the "balanced" approach the Obama administration is proposing, previously scheduled budget cuts would be delayed a year.


 
Is it Obama or Hagel eyeing the former GOP senator for a cabinet post?
NewsMax reports:
Former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel is being vetted by the Obama administration to possibly take over one of several top national security positions.
The Nebraskan has been mentioned to take over at the Department of Defense or at the State Department, reported Foreign Policy.
Hagel has stayed involved in politics since leaving the Senate, often weighing in on issues publicly and as co-chair of Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board.


 
Best toy stores in Toronto
At BlogTO Rick McGinnis has a list of the nine best independent toy stores in Toronto. Even if you don't have kids or live in Toronto, you'll be interested in the two introductory paragraphs in which he needles modern parents.


 
The anti-Trudeau witch-hunt
The Hill Times with one of their characteristic opening-paragraph-running-as-a-headline header states: "Tories to haul Trudeau before House Natural Resources Committee to explain his Alberta statements, opposition parties call it a 'witch-hunt'." The opposition is correct; Trudeau's comments should be criticized, but in a Conservative viral ad or column/speech from a backbencher or cabinet minister, not in any parliamentary setting. This is an abuse of power by the Tories and is much more offensive than Trudeau's stupid us-versus-them attitudes toward Alberta.


 
A united Maritimes
A few days ago a group of Canadian senators from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island floated the idea of uniting the three provinces to increase their clout within Confederation, be more efficient with their limited resources, and attract investment. (They notably want to unite the Maritimes, not Atlantic Canada, but considering Newfoundland's offshore oil wealth perhaps they could countenance a few Newfie jokes in exchange for a higher standard of living.) Writing at iPolitics, Tasha Kheiriddin says the provinces don't need a political union to achieve the goals outlined by the senators -- a union that would be politically and constitutionally unlikely and probably wouldn't bring the efficiency benefits of amalgamation anyway -- but rather just (just?) an economic union. Kheiriddin is not sure it would solve the provinces' have-not status, but it would be "a good start."


 
'12 Extremely Disappointing Facts About Popular Music'
Don't know how I came across this, but BuzzFeed's "12 Extremely Disappointing Facts About Popular Music" is not merely disappointing, it's depressing.


 
It's not just Grover
Reihan Salam on Grover Norquist's tax pledge:
What I find frustrating is that it has become common to associate resistance to tax increases with one man and his influence, but of course the resistance to tax increases is rooted in the fact that many if not most conservative voters are opposed to tax increases.
Salam's post on the Republican Party's opposition to tax cuts (and its refusal to do anything about Medicare and the Democrats' resistance to entitlement reform) is worth reading in its entirety. But Salam's point about ascribing a whole party's position on an issue to one person's influence speaks to a larger point; when you read any media narrative about almost anything: there is a journalistic need to reduce explanations to simple stories.


 
The Amish mafia
The Daily Mail reports:
Within the rolling hills of rural Pennsylvania, sects of Amish live out a seemingly modest existence, caring for their families and living lives of deep religious significance.
But beneath the veil of their seemingly idyllic lifestyle lies something much more sinister – an Amish mafia, which serves as vigilante justice for the community and exposes infidelity, blackmail, and extortion plots.


 
Deaths from legal abortion
Me at Soconvivium on "American women dying from legal abortion."


Thursday, November 29, 2012
 
Buffet's (almost) hypocrisy
Greg Mankiw notes that billionaire Warren Buffet has again called for tax rate increases which sounds noble, but that Buffet is silent about tax avoidance strategies (which he employs).


 
On human sacrifice
Peter T. Leeson's latest paper is simply titled, "Human Sacrifice," and it begins: "This paper develops a theory of rational human sacrifi…ce: the purchase and ritual slaughter of innocent persons to appease divinities." It is about protecting property and wealth communally and is not as provocative as one might think.


 
Toronto Nativity scene vandalized. Again
LifeSiteNews.com reports that "Vandals in Toronto attacked and damaged the nativity scene placed in front of Toronto’s Old City Hall courthouse by Gethsemane Ministries, a Catholic lay movement," for the fifth time in six years.


 
Three and out (Hall of Fame/morality & politics edition)
3. Very good post by Craig Calcaterra at Hardball Talk about the MLB Hall of Fame ballot. The ballot will be an interesting one for all the usual reasons plus this: Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, and Roger Clemens are all HoF eligible. All four are also tied to the use of performance enhancing drugs. Expect endless moralizing from some baseball scribes. You could make the case that Mark McGwire was a marginal case for the Hall despite his gaudy homerun totals because he didn't have a particularly great average or on-base percentage, was a liability defensively, and wasn't overwhelmingly the best at his position during his Major League tenure. The same can't be said for Bonds, Sosa, Piazza, and Clemens. But Bonds is one of the two or three best hitters of all time (this really should be inarguable -- first in HRs and first in walks, sixth in on-base percentage and slugging percentage) and one could make a similar case for Roger Clemens (this time with arguments for his inclusion or exclusion). A Hall of Fame without the all-time homerun leader is a sham. A Hall of Fame without the most dominating pitcher since WWII is a sham. Piazza is probably the best hitting catcher of all-time and Sammy Sosa has a very strong case. MLB could have but didn't act against PEDs earlier but Organized Ball tolerated (and perhaps more than merely tolerated) the homerun boom after baseball's reputation took a hit from the 1994 World Series-cancelling strike. And while journos like to moralize now, they should look in the mirror. Scott Miller of CBSSports.com said that if the commissioner, players, and players' union all dropped the ball (or "looked the other way") during the late 1990s and early 2000s, that "only increases the obligation for somebody, somewhere, to stand up for what's right." The problem with that view is that journalists, who had access to the locker rooms and would certainly have known about it, chose not to expose the cheating at the time. In many ways, what the baseball beat reporters did was worse; when baseball players cheated (again, perhaps with the winked permission of their teams and MLB) they were doing it to carry out their job of helping win games -- but how did reporters advance the cause of their job by remaining silent? Anyway, Bonds (who won more MVPs than any other player) and Clemens (who won more Cy Youngs) were clearly among the best players in 'ball long before they are have said to use PEDs (Bonds was part of the 400-400 club of homeruns and stolen bases before there was any hint of cheating and Clemens won three Cy Young awards before the Mitchell Report alleges he started experimenting with PEDs). It is also ridiculous that some of these players will have to wait as the baseball writers who vote on the Hall set themselves up as enforcers of morality in the sport and decide to keep some worthy inductees out of the Hall for a few years as a punishment. Either Bonds and Clemens deserve to be in the Hall or not; either they deserve to be in the Hall in 2013 or never. It is one thing to be influenced by a genuine debate and change one's mind, it is another to think that there is such a thing as first-ballot worthiness and later-ballot worthiness.
2. Several articles worth reading on the Hall of Fame: SI's Jay Jaffe on PEDs and the Hall. Fangraphs' Dave Cameron on expanding the ballot. Grantland's Jonah Keri, who believes in an expansive ballot, muses on several of the topics noted above and says that the integrity and sportsmanship clause should be used as a tie-breaker on marginal cases not slam dunks like Bonds; he also examines the candidacies of several players untainted by PED allegations/admissions. Hardball Talk's Craig Carcaterra has an excellent article examining the Hall of Fame credentials of Barry Bonds. Dan Peschong makes the case for Craig Biggio at the Houston Chronicle's Astros blog. Here are charts on how Biggio rates among 2Bs and while he has impressive numbers, many are tied to his longevity (which itself is a consideration).
1. Speaking of the Hall of Fame, it is a shame that Marvin Miller died earlier this week before being enshrined, not that I expect he ever will be given a plaque at Cooperstown. There is no argument that Miller, who was the executive director of the MLB Players Association when free agency was introduced, greatly altered the course of baseball, and its hard to argue that it is for anything but the better; baseball has thrived, there has been some semblance of competitive balance for teams that spend their money wisely (whereas as previous generations saw a handful of dynasties), and attendance and viewership regularly smashed records in recent years. Miller was repeatedly shafted by the Hall voters, including at one time a panel comprised of several people who had personal vendettas against Miller (they colluded against players and Miller successfully sued them). In 2008, Miller wrote to the Hall of Fame selection committee: "The anti-union bias of the powers who control the Hall has consistently prevented recognition of the historic significance of the changes to baseball brought about by collective bargaining." It is almost Soviet how the Hall (and its voters) are preventing the presentation of this important history. Miller asked not to be nominated again. You might disagree with what he did and his tactics and you might think ballplayers (and athletes in general) are overpaid, but he did his job well and changed MLB and all of sports. Before the anti-union types get upset, think about what free agency does in terms of employment and not merely compensation; pre-Miller and Curt Flood, players were essentially permanently owned by teams -- imagine not being able to change employers without the consent of your present employer. It was unfair and he forced MLB (through the courts) to tackle the injustice. (If only players' unions could get rid of the patently unfair draft system that forces young athletes to join teams that pick them rather than letting them choose their own employer, like other university graduates do.) Miller's influence on the sport merits inclusion in the Hall of Fame (Emma Span at Sports on Earth makes the case for Miller being one of the four most influential people in sports over the past century); his successes in negotiating for the players their numerous victories deserve the thanks of fans who are enjoying a sport many times better than it was before he came along.


 
Jay Rockefeller in trouble in West Virginia?
Nate Cohn writes in The New Republic that Democrat Jay Rockefeller will have a difficult road to re-election if he does seek another term despite never winning re-election by less than 27 percentage points (he was first elected in 1984). Cohn says the model Democrat is former governor and current senator Joe Manchin who won after running an ad of him shooting a copy of the cap-and-trade bill; Cohn's argument is that in West Virginia and in coal country across the borders of Pennsylvania and Ohio, the radical environmentalism of the anti-coal Democrats is electoral death. This analysis is too simplistic, but perhaps if Rockefeller realizes his past pro cap-and-trade votes will hurt him, he will decide its time for a quiet retirement rather than a difficult re-election campaign.


 
The 'poor'
The Heritage Foundation's Robert Rector on the poor of America:
Only 2 percent of the official poor are homeless. According to the government’s own data, the typical poor family lives in a house or apartment that’s not only in good repair but is larger than the homes of the average non-poor person in England, France or Germany.
The typical “poor” American experiences no material hardships, receives medical care whenever needed, has an ample diet and wasn’t hungry for even a single day the previous year. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the nutritional quality of the diets of poor children is identical to that of upper middle class kids.
In America, about 80 percent of poor families have air conditioning, nearly two-thirds have cable or satellite TV, half have a computer and a third have a wide-screen LCD or plasma TV.
That isn't to say they don't struggle to get by; many middle class people do, too. But obviously they live with certain comforts and that serious needs are not going unfulfilled. Even many libertarians and conservatives would support some state provision to help individuals deprived of basic necessities such as foot, shelter, and life-saving medical care, but clearly the nearly 50 million people classified as poor in America are not missing out on these basic needs.


 
Immigration and welfare
Jillian Kay Melchior, a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, writes about immigration and welfare at NRO in a must-read article. Melchior notes that "immigrants are more likely to start a business — and they’re also more likely to depend on welfare." That raises tricky challenges for immigration policy: how to permit the entrepreneurial to enter, but not those likely to become dependent upon the state. After presenting the statistics (more than 1.6 million non-citizens on food stamps, 36% of immigrant households receiving at least "one major welfare benefit") and several distressing facts about how Washington promotes welfare programs to immigrants, Melchior notes that immigrants are not properly screened for what the law requires: keeping out those who are likely to become a "public charge." Furthermore, the feds do a poor job assessing the educational qualifications of those coming to the United States. As Melchior explains:
The National Research Council once found that on average, college-educated immigrants contribute $198,000 more in taxes than they receive in benefits. However, immigrants without a high school-education draw $3 in benefits for every $1 they add to the public purse...
Of course, education correlates for productivity and dependency for both native-born and immigrants, but the government has more control over the latter. Melchior's point is that immigration policy is not attracting the "best and brightest" and it is contributing to America's dependency, entitlements, and fiscal problems.


 
I'd be more surprised if this didn't happen
New York Post: "NYC hotel rooms for Sandy victims paid for with public money have been vacant for weeks: report."


 
America in denial
Hot Air's Ed Morrissey comments on this Washington Post/ABC poll on the fiscal cliff which finds that the only thing the average American wants to do about it is raise taxes on "the rich" which would (at best) solve only 10% of the problem. Morrissey says:
If we could trade marginal tax-rate increases for real cuts in spending and actual entitlement reform that would end the long-term problems in Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, I’d take that trade, if somewhat reluctantly. This poll shows that Americans still have not come to grips with the scope and size of the problem … or even basic math.
Despite my own anti-tax position (all taxation is theft), I agree with Morrissey that I would accept tax rate increases in exchange for genuine, non-gimmicky spending cuts. But neither politicians nor the public is even close to ready for an adult conversation about that.


 
Liberal leadership race (November 29 edition)
Blast-off! Marc Garneau is in. So is e-candidate George Takach. Justin Trudeau is shaking in his boots.
Chantal Hebert is someone people in Ottawa insist must be read, but she reeks of the conventional wisdom with a little bit more understanding of Quebec than the average pundit covering federal politics. Still, this is interesting: "At the outset of a long-shot Liberal leadership bid, former astronaut Marc Garneau’s biggest liability is not that he is so strikingly different from the political rock star he seeks to beat but that he is too much like Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff." This captures my thoughts on Garneau perfectly: 1) while he is treated as a top-tier candidate, he really isn't because 2) he's boring and supposedly cerebral without the political smarts to survive the elbows-up world of federal politics. Hebert later makes the points that Garneau is running to be Plan B, the candidate everyone turns to if Trudeau the Younger fails spectacularly. In that way, Garneau is (again) very much like Dion, who won the 2006 leadership after everyone assumed either Ignatieff or Bob Rae would capture the crown.


 
PETA doesn't like Paul Ryan
The Washington Examiner reports that PETA is upset with Rep. Paul Ryan because he took his daughter deer hunting. PETA says that makes him a "bad dad." Instead of hunting, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk suggested in a letter to the former vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan should have taken Liza Ryan canoeing, bird watching or "clearing the woods of hunters' beer cans." That sounds like fun.


 
The truth about the Bush tax cuts
John Merline writes in Investor's Business Daily about the "5 Dirty Little Secrets About the Bush Tax Cuts," including the rich paid more. Part of the issue pertinent to today, however, is that due to increased tax credits, about 8 million people were pushed off the tax rolls entirely. That's good for millions of families but bad for Uncle Sam's bottom line.


 
Will on the fiscal cliff
George Will in the Washington Post:
With a chip on his shoulder larger than his margin of victory, Barack Obama is approaching his second term by replicating the mistake of his first. Then his overreaching involved health care — expanding the entitlement state at the expense of economic growth. Now he seeks another surge of statism, enlarging the portion of gross domestic product grasped by government and dispensed by politics. The occasion is the misnamed “fiscal cliff,” the proper name for which is: the Democratic Party’s agenda.
Will concludes: "Washington’s contentiousness about the 'cliff' is producing a blizzard of numbers. The argument, however, is not about this or that tax rate but about the nature of the American regime." Thus Republican intransigence is not only justifiable, says Will, but required.


 
Lotteries are taxes on stupid people
Breitbart reports:
States across the nation rely on poor suckers to fund their spending. No, we’re not talking about taxpayers – we’re talking about lottery ticket purchasers. According to new studies, households earning $13,000 per year spend almost $1,170 per year on lottery tickets – 9 percent of total income. As it turns out, many people living in poverty make poor financial decisions.


 
Tax the rich and they will leave
The Daily Caller: "As UK millionaires flee country over tax hikes, British treasury loses billions." Along with the wealthy, the United Kingdom has lost about $10 billion in revenue since 2010. You can only raise rates and expect more money if you couple it with a ban on emigrating.


 
Four and down (Week 13 games to watch)
4. Seattle Seahawks at Chicago Bears: A non-division contest between two teams currently poised to make the playoffs. Bears need a win to stay atop the NFC North while the 'Hawks will need a victory to remain in the Wild Card spot. So this game is meaningful. Should be a good defensive contest as the Bears are the second best at keeping opponents of the scoreboard and the Seahawks are third. Don't expect much scoring, but do expect excellent coverage and pressure on the quarterback.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens: This would be the top game if Ben Roethlisberger were healthy (he practised this week, but is still iffy for Sunday). Still the Pittsburgh defense will keep the contest close, especially considering Joe Flacco is struggling lately even if he is winning. Steeler seems like they are fighting for their playoff lives while Baltimore is eyeing a first-round bye for the playoffs. And these teams hate each other.
2. New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons have lost once all year and it was against the Saints. Tonight, Atlanta tries to exact revenge and keep New Orleans from reaching 500 and force the Saints to be playoff participants. Both teams have exciting offenses with lots of weapons. Will be fun to watch as the Saints (fifth) and Falcons (seventh) are among the league leaders in pass attempts per game and they are effective at it (Atlanta is averaging 7.6 yard per pass attempt, while the Saints average 7.2.
1. New York Giants at Washington Redskins: If the G-Men win, it is difficult to see them losing the division; if the Skins win, the division becomes wide open (with Dallas still possibly in the picture). The Giants have one of the most exciting receivers in the game (Victor Cruz) and RGIII is the most exciting player in the league. This has the potential to be a back-and-forth thrilling Monday Night Football contest. Washington defense is getting better and could give Eli Manning some trouble, while New York's defense seems to be feast or famine.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012
 
Power Rankings (Week 12)
Rank, team, last week's ranking, record, this week's score
1. Houston Texans: (1, 10-1) Texans 34, Lions 31 (OT)
They've looked okayish the past two weeks with another overtime victory over a sub-500 team (first the Jags, then the Lions -- it might just be a big cat thing) and with another close contest we can begin to wonder about how dominant they really are, but for now they are the most complete team in the NFL. But the gap is narrowing ...
2. Denver Broncos: (2, 8-3) Broncos 17, Chiefs 9
Peyton Manning has improved Denver's passer rating from 75.1 to 104.5. And Denver's D has limited opponents to an average passer rating of 79.7 (9th overall), compared to 95.6 last year. According to Cold Hard Football Facts, the Broncs D is second against the run, third rushing the passer, and fourth on third-down.
3. New England Patriots: (6, 8-3) Patriots 49, Jets 19
Four incredible stats about the Pats scoring: 1) they are averaging 48.3 ppg over their last three games; 2) after putting 49 on the board on Thanksgiving, they had scored 108 points in 103 hours; 3) their 37 ppg is more than a full touchdown ahead of the second best scoring teams (Texans, 29.7 ppg); 4) this year a team has scored 49 or more points a in a game five times and three times that team was New England. Also, the Pats three losses have been for a combined four points: by one against both Seattle and Baltimore, and a pair against the Cards (when they were winning four in a row.)
4. San Francisco 49ers: (3, 7-2-1) 49ers 31, Saints 21
Colin Kaepernick has been very good in his two starts (133.1 and 90.6 passer ratings, three touchdowns and one pick, averaging about an unsustainable 10 yards per pass attempt). Alex Smith is fine, but Kaepernick has more big play potential, making the Niners a dangerous team.
5. Green Bay Packers: (4, 7-4) Giants 38, Packers 10
For once it showed that Aaron Rodgers is missing WR Greg Jennings. The D is missing cornerback Charles Woodson and linebacker Clay Matthews. No shame in losing to the G-Men. Still think they are a top five team who could beat any team in the NFL on a neutral field, but perhaps injuries have caught up to the Pack.
6. Atlanta Falcons: (5, 10-1) Falcons 24, Buccaneers 23
Five of their 10 victories have been by four points or less. Two other victories were by a possession. That's living dangerously.
7. Baltimore Ravens: (7, 9-2) Ravens 16, Chargers 13 (OT)
Ravens have won four in a row despite injuries, but when you watch them, Baltimore does not impress. The offense has scored one touchdown the past two weeks.
8. Chicago Bears: (8, 8-3): Bears 28, Vikings 10
According to the Cold Hard Football Facts, De Bears are in the top five in all of their defensive Quality Stats. According to Football Outsiders, Chicago's defense is the best in the NFL -- and by a wide margin; there is more of a gap between the Bears and second place 49ers than there is the Niners and 15th-ranked Dallas.
9. New York Giants: (12, 7-4) Giants 38, Packers 10
As goes Eli Manning, so goes the G-Men: Against the Pack, their starting QB had a 114.4 passer rating and threw three TDs and no picks. In previous three games, Manning had no touchdowns, four interceptions, and no game with a passer rating over 60.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers: (9, 6-5) Browns 20, Steelers 14
The Steelers D is best overall -- and they've allowed just one offensive TD in the last 11 quarters of football -- but without Ben Rothlisberger, Pittsburgh's offense is non-existent. Fact is, Steelers lost by just six points against Cleveland despite turning over the ball eight times and being -7 on turnovers. Rothlisberger's absence proves his case for MVP.
11. Seattle Seahawks: (10, 6-5) Dolphins 24, Seahawks 21
By now everyone knows the 'Hawks win at home and can't get the job done on the road. 5-0 at CenturyLink Stadium and 1-5 elsewhere, although they almost beat the Fins after travelling diagonally across the country. The Seahawks have a great secondary (at least until the suspensions of CBs Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner) and have the fourth best passer rating differential based on their third ranked opponents passer rating (75.4).
12. New Orleans Saints: (11, 5-6) 49ers 31, Saints 21
The Saints D is improving but still needs to get better; despite being fifth in scoring 28 ppg, they are 16th in average scoring margin (+0.4 ppg).
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: (13, 6-5) Falcons 24, Buccaneers 23
Bucs almost beat an Atlanta team that was 9-1 going into the game. They are winning by putting points on the board as the fourth most prolific scoring team in the NFL (28.2 ppg).
14. Cincinnati Bengals: (17, 6-5) Bengals 34, Raiders 10
Cincy has won three in a row and has done so by beating opponents by an average of 21.3 ppg. That said, two of those teams were the Chiefs and Raiders, who have combined for four wins.
15. Washington Redskins: (18, 5-6) Redskins 38, Cowboys 35
RGIII has 8 TDs and one pick in the last two games, with passer ratings of 158.3 and 132.6. The Skins are in the playoff picture (looking up) but might be winning the NFC East if the defense could stop anything: 390.5 ypg and 25.9 ppg.
16. Indianapolis Colts: (16, 7-4): Colts 20, Bills 13
Don't pay attention to the 7-4 record; look at the bottom-ranked defense according to DVOA and the quality of wins, beating such QBs as Blaine Gabbert (twice), Matt Hasselbeck, Mark Sanchez, Ryan Tannehill, and Brandon Weeden.
17. Dallas Cowboys: (14, 5-6) Redskins 38, Cowboys 35
The 'Boys almost overcame a 28-3 deficit at home but come up a field goal short. Dallas fans ride a rollercoaster every week watching their team.
18. Miami Dolphins: (19, 5-6) Dolphins 24, Seahawks 21
The good news: competent defense (20.5 ppg) keeps them in games. The bad news: Rookie QB Ryan Tannehill isn't scoring to reward the D's work: 7 TDs, 12 interceptions, 72.9 passer rating including five games under 51.
19. Minnesota Vikings: (15, 6-5) Bears 28, Vikings 10
The Vikes can't beat good teams, going just 1-4 against teams that are better than 500 (so-called Quality Teams), and their next two are against Da Bear and the Packers.
20. Detroit Lions: (20, 4-7) Texans 34, Lions 31
Lions coach Jim Schwartz cost their defense a touchdown and perhaps the game. That's bad.
21. Cleveland Browns: (25, 3-8) Browns 20, Steelers 14
They are a tough team to beat, mostly because of their defense is opportunistic, including 1.2 picks per game (8th overall). But eight turnovers (against the Steelers) is freakish, not freakishly good; there is a lot of luck in recovering all five fumbles. With a +7 turnover differential, the Browns should have won by more than six points. The offense is still a problem: 19.0 ppg.
22. Arizona Cardinals: (21, 4-7) Rams 31, Cardinals 17
The bad news is that Arizona has lost seven in a row. The good news is that according to advanced metrics, the Cards have the third best defense overall.
23. San Diego Chargers: (23, 4-7) Ravens 16, Chargers 13 (OT)
Only a Norv Turner team could surrender a successful fourth-and-29 play.
24. St. Louis Rams: (26, 4-6-1) Rams 31, Cardinals 17
The Rams are mostly a pretty dreadful team capable of occasional good plays on both sides of the ball, such as the pair of pick sixes by NFL Defensive Player of the Week Janoris Jenkins. Half of the Rams' victories this season have come against the Cardinals during that team's seven-game losing streak.
25. New York Jets: (22, 4-7) Patriots 49, Jets 19
Superfans are supposed to be fans no matter what. That's what makes them superfans. Fireman Ed, though, has quit the team for the season. Do you blame him? In the final game he watched at Metropolitan Life Stadium, the Jets allowed the Pats to score 35 points in the second quarter, nearly double what New York scored during the entire game. At home.
26. Philadelphia Eagles: (24, 3-8) Panthers 30, Eagles 22
The Eagles aren't the worst team in the NFC, but they do have the worst record in the conference and no one thinks Andy Reid is going to coach in Philly in 2013 and it's becoming a question of whether he'll finish the season there. Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk says it would be wiser to wait until January to can their 14-year coach. Agreed.
27. Tennessee Titans: (27, 4-7) Jaguars 24, Titans 19
A few seasons ago the Titans had a defense that stopped opponents. Not so much any more. They have the league worst 30.5 ppg allowed and fourth worst total defense (391.3 ypg).
28. Buffalo Bills: (28, 4-7) Colts 20, Bills 13
The Bills allow the third most points; at 29 ppg allowed, they essentially turn every opponent into the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos.
29. Carolina Panthers: (30, 2-9) Panthers 30, Eagles 22
The Panthers won on Monday night against the only other NFC team with fewer than four wins: the Eagles. Cam Newton looked like the rookie phenom he was in 2011 with a 125.0 passer rating, 306 passing yards, 52 rushing yards, two passing touchdowns, and two running touchdowns.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars: (31, 2-9) Jaguars 24, Titans 19
With Chad Henne under center for the past two games (609 aerial yards, 6 TDs), the Jags have moved up four spots (from last) in scoring after putting 61 points on the board. They had not scored more than 23 points in any game prior to Henne's starts and have now done so in consecutive games.
31. Oakland Raiders: (29, 3-8) Bengals 34, Raiders 10
Not only do the Raiders have a four-game losing streak, but they've allowed at least 34 points in every contest and have lost each game by at least 10 points.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: (32, 1-10) Broncos 17, Chiefs 9
All 32 voters in the NFL.com Power Ranking poll put the Chiefs dead last. In other words, it isn't even close how much worse they are than other teams.


 
GQ's list of least influential people of 2012
Mitt Romney tops the GQ 25 "The Least Influential People of 2012" list. It's listed as a humour piece but judge for yourself; from the write-up for Michelle Obama: "we're still all hopeless corpulent shits. You tried, Mrs. Obama. You really did. Sorry we're such poor listeners." Also on the list, Madonna, Lance Armstrong, Billy Crystal, Jerry Sandusky's lawyer, and whoever directed John Carter.


 
Iran doesn't like Canada pointing out its human rights abuses
Robert Spencer at Jihad Watch: "Iran blasts Canada as 'racist' for pointing out its human rights abuses." And, of course, spicing their complaint with a dash of anti-Semitism.


 
Reverse discrimination
I hate the term, but you know what I mean: the cost of affirmative action. Tyler Cowen notes this Ron Unz piece in The American Conservative on "The Myth of American Meritocracy," (and the corruption of Ivy League university admissions) and observes:
"[T]here is massive and quite unjustified bias against Asian and Asian-American students in the U.S. admissions process. Yes, I already thought that but it turns out it is much worse than I had thought. Yet many people support this aspect of our current admissions systems, either directly or indirectly."


 
Intrade
The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission is taking on Intrade, and the prediction market has told U.S. customers to close their accounts. I'm against the CFTC's actions (obviously) for reasons outlined by Alex Tabarrok and Bryan Caplan. I'm a fan of Intrade although I don't disagree with Jonah Goldberg's criticism: "It seems to me they don’t really measure the likelihood of anything so much as the prevalence of certain aspects of conventional wisdom." A number of notable economists (including Kenneth J. Arrow, Thomas Schelling, Robert Shiller, Vernon Smith, Philip Tetlock) think there is more utility in prediction markets than mere measuring of the CW; the economists also suggested in 2008 that to be exempt from CFTC regulation, prediction markets be limited to the non-profit sector (universities, the government, research organizations. Intrade is based in Ireland, presumably to avoid the onerous anti-gambling laws of the United States.
Intrade has the following message on their website:
We understand yesterday's announcement was met with surprise and disappointment by our US customers, but this in no way signals the end of Intrade in the US. In the near future we'll announce plans for a new exchange model that will allow legal participation from all jurisdictions - including the US. We believe this new model will further enhance Intrade's position as the leading prediction market platform for real time probabilities about future events.
For our non-US customers, we will continue to offer real-money prediction markets. In the coming weeks and months we plan to implement a number of improvements to the Intrade website. These include expanding our market categories, adding more convenient funding options and a new and improved trading interface. We’ll keep you posted on these initiatives as they develop.


 
Rhode Island almost worse than California
Legal Insurrection: "Via Yahoo Finance (h/t Danelle), California is the worst-run state, with Rhode Island just behind..." If you click on the Yahoo Finance link, you'll find the best run states are small and smallish mid-western and mountain West states: North Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Utah, and Iowa.


 
Sowell on Who's The Fairest of Them All?
Thomas Sowell on Stephen Moore's Who's The Fairest of Them All?:
But this little gem of a book exposes, in plain language and with easily understood facts, the whole house of cards of assumptions, fallacies and falsehoods which constitute the liberal vision of the economy.
Yet that vision triumphed on election day, thanks to misinformation that was artfully presented and seldom challenged.


 
Work doesn't pay
Powerline's John Hinderaker: "In today’s America, it is reasonable to conclude that unless you make a great deal of money, you are a sucker if you work hard." Government programs are a disincentive to earning money the hard way: work. My opposition to Big Government is not merely the cost and threat to liberty but what it does to individuals and their souls. Hinderaker says welfare is not only "wasteful, but because by devaluing work it threatens to cripple not merely our economy, but our culture."


 
Looking at 2014
No one has announced their retirement but Politico looks at senators who might or might not run for re-election in 2014. Democrat Tom Harkin (Iowa) is 50-50 to go (and he's hired an internet fundraiser) and most Republicans other than Thad Cochran (Mississippi) are ready to run. Most senators aren't saying anything, although a few have announced they are running for re-election. Two potential GOP pickups if the incumbents decide not to run: Louisiana (Mary Landrieu is non-committal) and West Virginia (Jay Rockefeller has yet to announce his intentions).


 
Paying for an hour with Sandra Fluke
It's not what you think, and it still isn't worth it.


 
The religion of pieces
A report last week from Nigeria: "Barely 24 hours after over ten people were slaughtered in Maiduguri, twenty ladies in mini skirts and trousers were yesterday slaughtered in their separate homes in the metropolis by yet to be identified terrorists." Boko Haram is thought to be behind the religiously motivated murders.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012
 
'Normalizing bestiality'
I comment at Soconvivium on normalizing bestiality in Germany where animal prostitution is the next step on the road to hell.


 
Decorum
Being polite does not trump telling the truth. Andrew Klavan at PJ Media:
Leftists of good will (and don’t write in to say there aren’t any because it only proves you don’t get out enough) profess themselves appalled by what I’ll call the lack of decorum of right-wing commentators. Ann called someone a retard! Rush called someone a slut! Glenn or Sean called some radical a radical! Who says such awful things??? It doesn’t seem to matter to these lefties that Chris Matthews routinely slanders people as racist who are not; that Paul Krugman blames right wingers for violence they didn’t commit; that network news anchors attribute foul motives and actions to a peaceful and patriotic Tea Party while glorifying the violent and anti-semitic Occupy movement. These left-wing commentators may lie like dogs — but they have decorum!


 
Person of the Year
Time nominates Sandra Fluke for Time Person of the Year. My nominee would be Julia.


 
10 reasons to oppose Susan Rice as Secretary of State
Very good list from Breitbart: "Top Ten Reasons to Oppose Susan Rice." While this is a reason to oppose her to the post, at the same time such evasion perfectly qualifies her for the job:
9. Refused to call Rwanda genocide a "genocide," for political reasons. According to Obama advisor Samantha Power, Rice urged the Clinton administration not to call the Rwandan genocide what it was, for fear of the political impact on U.S. congressional elections in 1994. She and others worked to sanitize references to the genocide, scrubbing government memos to remove words such as "genocide" and "ethnic cleansing."


 
Syria
Apparently endless bombing and mayhem will leave parts of Syria looking like Mogadishu after a decade of militia-rule. The Los Angeles Times has the story in "Conflict has left Syria a shell of its former self."


 
Krugman and Sweden
Just found the Super-Economy blog by Tino Sanandaji, a Research Fellow at the Institute of Industrial Economics who studied economics at the University of Chicago. Yesterday, he began a great post thusly:
Paul Krugman is profoundly inspired by Sweden. He has stated that the ideal society he dreams of is Sweden around 1980. Since Krugman is working to transform the United States in the image of another society, we would expect him to put a lot of effort in understanding his utopia. Unfortunately this does not seem to be the case.
He says Krugman doesn't understand what made Sweden possible (a largely homogeneous and functioning society). America is becoming more liberal not because it was persuaded to do so, but because "Liberals triumphed through the twin forces of demographics transformation and social breakdown."
While I might not agree with everything at this blog, it is thought-provoking.


 
Lots of questions for the President about Benghazi
NRO's Peter Kirsanow has suggested numerous questions for the press and Congress to ask President Barack Obama regarding Benghazi. Here are some key ones:
Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin reports that former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Ty Woods were ordered to stand down from securing our personnel three times during the attack. Is this true? If so, who gave such orders in violation of your directive? Why? Have they been disciplined? If not, why not?
... Have any personnel been discharged or disciplined for the evident failure to follow your directive to do whatever’s needed to secure our personnel? If not, why not?
The President's stories and the facts don't mesh very well. The President should want this straightened out (unless he has something terrible or embarrassing to hide) and the American public deserves to know.


 
More guns = safer streets
Virginia has seen an increase in gun sales and decrease in crime. (HT: Instapundit)


 
Nature does not automatically mean good or safe
Geoffrey Kabat at Slate: "Natural Does Not Mean Safe: Herbal supplements are unregulated, overhyped, and potentially deadly." Kabat reports:
Between 1994 and 2008, the number of dietary supplement products on the market increased from 4,000 to 75,000. In the first 10 months of 2008, the FDA received nearly 600 reports of serious adverse events (including hospitalization, disability, and death) from these products and 350 reports of moderate or mild adverse events. However, the FDA believes that these reports are drastically underreported and estimates that the annual number of all adverse events is 50,000.
I'm not saying, as Kabat does, that the alternative medicine industry needs to be heavily regulated. But it clearly is not as safe as people assume. And it's funny that the Left, which typically endorses regulation, has not embraced it for dietary and herbal supplements.


 
It's easy to fall for numbers that confirm your bias
In article about his erstwhile porn addiction, a LifeSiteNews.com editor cites this stat: "the average age of exposure to hardcore pornography is now 11 years old." It's sourced, but I was suspicious. With a quick search I found that in 2005 Forbes.com debunked it, noting how an off-the-cuff comment was turned into something of an authoritative sounding statistic. That number should have set off alarm bells as implausible, but LSN like numerous other sources have cited it as proof that the internet traps unsuspecting youth into porn addictions. A good BS detector is essential because porn isn't the only thing you'll find on the internet; there is a great deal of untruth.


 
More on Ford being turfed by judge
Excellent comments by Ezra Levant on Justice Charles Hackland forcing Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to evacuate his office. Levant says Ford is "so damned middle class" and not some effete, wine-sipping, art gallery-hopping, fashionable-cause activist so he's intolerable to the city's liberal elite. Levant at his best is as good as Rush Limbaugh at his best.
Also, as Blazing Cat Fur notes, "This is a very sad day for the people of Toronto and a very good day for the parasites who will bankrupt this city."


 
Avoid death spiral states
Forbes: "Don’t buy a house in a state where private sector workers are outnumbered by folks dependent on government ... Ranked on the taker/maker ratio, our 11 death spiral states range from New Mexico, with 1.53 takers for every maker, down to Ohio, with a 1-to-1 ratio." Other death spiral states include California, New York, and Illinois.


 
GOP hurt by policy success
Crime rates are down, taking a winning issue away from the Republicans. Charles Lane explains in the Washington Post:
In 2010, Americans were less than a third as likely to be victimized by violent crime as they had been in 1994; the murder rate had declined by roughly half. Today we are approaching the low murder rates of the 1950s.
For the Republican Party, this is a triumph — and a disaster, as the 2012 election results proved.
It is a GOP triumph, because the enormous decline in crime over the past two decades coincided with the widespread adoption of such conservative ideas as “broken windows” policing and mandatory minimum sentences.
Whether such policies actually caused the crime decline is a separate, and much-debated, social-science question.
In the 1990s, welfare and crime were two very potent social issues that favoured the Republicans and forced many Democrats to the middle, at both the federal and state level. Not so much now.


 
Carney goes to England
Ryan McCarthy of Reuters has a short post with numerous useful links on the announcement that Mark Carney will go from running the Bank of Canada to head up the Bank of England. Here's the conclusion:
Carney’s approach, according to this 6,000-word Euromoney profile from October, has been reformist, but not radically so. Carney was willing to spar with Jamie Dimon over capital requirements, but he isn’t necessarily a fan of breaking up big banks and he has criticized the Volcker Rule. He’s described as “finance’s new statesman”, but he also has a “zeal for regulation and government supervision”.
Martin Wolf writes that Carney will need that love of government — he’s entering a job that’s “inescapably political.”


 
'10 Most American-Made Cars Of 2012'
MainStreet has the "10 Most American-Made Cars Of 2012" and number one is the Toyota Avalon.


Monday, November 26, 2012
 
Man is the ultimate resource
Donald Boudreaux: "It bears repeating – and repeatedly repeating – that there is no such thing as a truly natural resource. All resources that have market value possess that value only because of human creativity and effort."


 
By-elections
I don't care what happens in Victoria and can't expect anything but the NDP retaining the seat. I hope the Tories keep Durham; it will be sweet for them to maintain the seat after the embattled Bev Oda resigned and I don't think I'll be disappointed with the decision of the voters tonight. But I hope to see the Liberals beat the Tories in Calgary Centre because it would do the Conservative well to lose on their home turf (hubris is a bitch) and I would love to see all those Tories who said they needed a moderate like Joan Crockett to win in the riding. Moderation, schmoderation. Crockett has been a disastrous candidate. That said, the mouths of David McGuinty and Justin Trudeau, expressing genuine Liberal distaste for the entire province of Alberta, probably sank any chance the party had in the riding. If any seat changes hands, which seems unlikely, expect way too much bullshit from pundits who should know much better.


 
Ford forced out
The punishment of removing Mayor Rob Ford from the top job in the city of Toronto is disproportionate to the crime of conflict of interest in which the politician sought donations for a charity on his city council letterhead and then taking part in a vote against him. The judge had some leeway and certainly Justice Charles Hackland would not have forced David Miller. I'm not saying Ford didn't do anything wrong, simply that whatever the law says, the outcome of this is disproportionate. I hope someone goes through the lives of Justicee Hackland, lawyer Clayton Ruby, and citizen complainant Paul Magder.


 
'Autism and traffic pollution linked, study finds'
When you read that Toronto Star headline, doesn't it read as if autism causes traffic pollution.


Sunday, November 25, 2012
 
'The next Cyber Monday will be taxed'
Glenn Reynolds on how traditional retailers want online retailers punished with the same burdensome taxes they are. Reynolds has a solution: a uniform tax to replace the different local rates. I can see both sides: I support tax fairness (treating like industries alike) but also oppose new taxation. The goal should be to put government on a diet but starve it to death. Solution is simple: get rid of the sales tax for bricks and mortar stores. I said the solution is simple, not easy.


 
Will on Twinkies
Never has a crappy pseudo-cake garnered so much attention. George Will is the latest to weigh in on the (probably exaggerated) reports of the Twinkies' death:
[T]he crisis of Hostess Brands Inc., the maker of Twinkies, involves two potent lessons.
First, market forces will have their way. Second, never underestimate baby-boomer nostalgia, which is acute narcissism.


Saturday, November 24, 2012
 
Forbes advice: raise taxes
Steve Forbes argues that Republicans should propose to the Democrats (Obama and Congressional leaders) that they will agree to raise taxes to Clinton-era levels, but only if Democrats to Clinton-era levels of spending and regulations. There are good reasons for not doing so (see earlier post about Grover Norquist saying Democrats want to share blame for raising taxes with the GOP), but I think it could theoretically be worth calling the Democratic bluff to try to get meaningful spending reductions. There is less than a 10% chance the Forbes proposal would ever be made by the Republican leadership and even smaller chance that Democrats would accept it.


 
Shaidle on Israel
Reading Kathy Shaidle's "4 Places to Visit in Israel Once Its Safe to Go Back (Part I)" at PJ Media, I'm feeling quite nostalgic about my trip there four years ago (I have pictures (Nov 22-24, 2008) and observations (Nov. 21) here at Sobering Thoughts and an article in The Interim). Jerusalem is quite unlike any other place I've been. I loved the time spent around Tiberias (Sea of Galilee, Capernaum) and didn't really enjoy Bethlehem; a Catholic should not miss the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. If you ever plan a trip to the Holy Land save Shaidle's articles, they will come in handy.


 
British foster parents stripped of children & humiliated for UKIP membership
The Daily Telegraph reports: "A couple had their three foster children taken away by a council on the grounds that their membership of the UK Independence Party meant that they supported “racist” policies." UKIP leader Nigel Farage, the Telegraph reports, "described the actions of Rotherham borough council as 'a bloody outrage' and 'political prejudice of the very worst kind'." As usual Glenn Reynolds says the officials responsible for the outrage should be tar and feathered, an appropriate punishment that I would bring back and reserve for government officials that inconvenience citizens with politically motivated and petty decisions.


 
Party house leaders conspire against democracy
Several Conservative MPs have criticized the three party house leaders for agreeing to stifle debate on a bill that would permit single game gambling. I favour the bill passing, but there is nothing wrong with more than an hour in debate and hearing from more witnesses than the Canadian Gaming Commission.


 
Conservatives talk about recapturing the culture
Ed Driscoll talks to Rob Long, James Lileks, and Roman Genn during the National Review cruise about, among other topics, "How can conservatives recapture pop culture?"


 
The importance of upholding Grover Norquist's tax pledge
From the Grover Norquist interview with the Wall Street Journal:
I ask why the Democrats and the left are so obsessed with burying his tax pledge. Mr. Norquist replies that their main goal is not to lower the deficit or avoid a stock-market selloff. Rather, "Democrats want to spend and spend and spend. Obama did that with the stimulus, TARP II, ObamaCare. But they desperately need Republicans to validate that spending by raising taxes. Republicans could be counted on to do that when they were a minority party in the 1950s, '60s and '70s, and during two momentary lapses in 1982 and 1990." The Republicans became, as Jack Kemp used to put it, "the tax collectors for the welfare state."
Mr. Norquist adds that "even more than getting more revenues, they want Republican fingerprints on tax increases so they can smash Republicans in the next series of elections."


 
Arnold Kling is blogging again
Here.


Friday, November 23, 2012
 
Good-bye metrosexuals
Salon reports that Erynn Masi de Casanova, a University of Cincinnati sociologist, "assures us metrosexual has run its well-groomed course." Salon says they have been replaced by hipsters, who themselves have been "eulogized repeatedly."


 
Against software patents
Kevin Drum of Mother Jones:
We already know what would probably happen if software patents didn't exist. That's because, for the most part, they didn't exist until the early 70s, and thanks to fights between the courts and the patent office, they didn't become common until the late 80s. And yet, the era from the 50s through the 80s was about as dynamic and innovative as you could possibly imagine. Lack of patents simply doesn't seem to have had the slightest effect on the growth of the software industry.
This argument might be overly simplified and even a bit simplistic, but that doesn't mean it is fundamentally incorrect.
Drum links to Timothy B. Lee's criticism of David Kappos, the head of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, who (of course) defended software patents. Lee gets to the nub of the issue:
[T]he central question in the software patent debate: do patents, in fact, provide a net incentive for innovation in the software industry? Many entrepreneurs say that just the opposite is true: that the disincentive to innovation created by the threat of patent litigation dwarfs any positive incentive effects created by the ability for a firm to get patents of its own.


Thursday, November 22, 2012
 
Recession, life expectancy, and health outcomes
Neal Emery writes in The Atlantic about how the recession saw health outcomes worsen even as life expectancy increased. It seems paradoxical. Emery explains, "Beyond harm caused by loss of insurance, unemployment and job insecurity directly diminish peoples' health." But, "despite the harmful aspects for workers, overall death rates fall and people live longer during recessions." Part of the reason is that consumption of tobacco and alcohol increase in a robust economy, as do obesity rates. Pollution decreases during economic contraction. (You would think that it would take time for their effects to filter through to mortality rates.) And nursing homes are better staffed during economic downturns (which is counter-intuitive, but there is an increased willingness to take low-status jobs when the economy is performing poorly); more nursing home staff is good for seniors, the portion of the population knocking on death's door. Interesting article throughout.


 
11 things to know about Black Friday to make you a better shopper
The Atlantic's Derek Thompson has a very good list and remember this: Black Friday is a big shopping day because stores want it to be, which means its good for them. Be a smart shopper by knowing the economics of Black Friday.


 
Power Rankings (Week 11)
Rank, team, last week's ranking, record, this week's score
1. Houston Texans: (1, 9-1) Texans 43, Jaguars 37 (OT)
The Texans are in the top six in numerous traditional, meaningful offensive and defensive stats and at the top of the Cold Hard Football Facts Quality Ratings.
2. Denver Broncos: (2, 7-3) Broncos 30, Chargers 23
The Broncs have won five in a row, and are doing it with a combination of great quarterback play (Peyton Manning) and a stellar defense (allowing just 96 points over their five-game winning streak). What difference does Manning make? In 2011, Denver scored 19.3 ppg. Through ten games this season, they are averaging 30.1 ppg.
3. San Francisco 49ers: (6, 6-2-1) 49ers 32, Bears 7
Niners are on top of Football Outsiders DVOA ratings, second in overall offense and sixth in defense.
4. Green Bay Packers: (5, 7-3) Packers 24, Lions 20
Remember how in September pundits were worrying about Green Bay and if they could make the playoffs? The Pack have won five in a row and look likely to cruise to the NFC North title.
5. Atlanta Falcons: (4, 9-1) Falcons 23, Cardinals 19
The last three games the Falcons have looked pedestrian, and have outscored opponents by a mere four points in going 2-1. Falcons are a solid team, but they don't dominate opponents: six of their nine wins have been by a touchdown or less.
6. New England Patriots: (8, 7-3) Patriots 59, Colts 24
The Pats score points. That's what they do. They've scored 141 points over their last three games. According to Kerry J. Byrne, New England is on pace to score 573 points, 16 short of their 2007 record.
7. Baltimore Ravens: (10, 8-2) Ravens 13, Steelers 10
Ravens barely beat the Roethlisbergerless Steelers, with the defense scoring the only touchdown as Baltimore's offense was limited to a pair of field goals. The win puts Baltimore in good shape to win the AFC North and perhaps even a first round bye, but it was hardly impressive.
8. Chicago Bears: (3, 7-3): 49ers 32, Bears 7
With or without Jay Cutler, the offense has been anemic the past two weeks, scoring just 13 points in total.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers: (7, 6-4) Ravens 13, Steelers 10
The Steelers defense did their job Sunday night restricting Baltimore to 211 total yards of offense, but Pittsburgh's own offense missed QB Ben Roethlisberger. Steelers backup QB Byron Leftwich was injured on the first play and remained in the game, but this week they go to the backup backup, Charlie Batch.
10. Seattle Seahawks: (9, 6-4) bye
The 'Hawks have a defensive quarterback rating of 73.76, which essentially turns the average opposition quarterback into Mark Sanchez.
11. New Orleans Saints: (12, 5-5) Saints 38, Raiders 17
The Saints defense needs to get better -- they are allowing 462.8 ypg, almost 90 more per game than last season -- and maybe they are: they are allowing 27.3 ppg this season, but just 19 ppg over their past three. And even though they score six points per game less than they did last season, at 28.7 ppg, New Orleans is still a formidable scoring threat.
12. New York Giants: (11, 6-4) bye
The defense has been hit or miss, and lately Eli Manning is all miss in the passing game: 0 TDs and 4 picks over the past three games.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: (14, 6-4) Buccaneers 27, Panthers 21 (OT)
Third-year QB Josh Freeman had 16 TDs all 2012. He has that many touchdowns in his last six games (and just three interceptions).
14. Dallas Cowboys: (16, 5-5) Cowboys 23, Browns 20 (OT)
Squeaked by Cleveland at home after falling behind 13-0 to the Brandon Weeden-led Browns.
15. Minnesota Vikings: (15, 6-4) bye
All the advanced stats say the Vikes are a bottom third team despite the impressive (and surprising) 6-4 record. They will be tested by a much more difficult final six games that includes both the Bears and Packers twice and the Texans in Houston.
16. Indianapolis Colts: (13, 6-4): Patriots 59, Colts 24
Don't discount Indy because they were beaten badly by the Pats. Discount Indy because they are 27th in the Cold Hard Football Facts Quality Stats rankings and 28th in the Football Outsiders overall DVOA rankings (ranking dead last in overall defense).
17. Cincinnati Bengals: (18, 5-5) Bengals 28, Chiefs 6
Cincy has outscored their past two opponents 59-19, flashing some of the offense pundits predicted out of Andy Dalton and A.J. Green.
18. Washington Redskins: (19, 4-6) Redskins 31, Eagles 6
The defense is scary bad (partly due to injuries) but RG3 is scary good: fifth overall in QB rating (101) and fourth in yards per pass attempt (7.92).
19. Miami Dolphins: (17, 4-6) Bills 19 Dolphins 14
Three weeks ago not only there was talk about the Fins making the playoffs but how with a couple of breaks, they could challenge the Patriots for the AFC East division title. Now, not so much.
20. Detroit Lions: (20, 4-6) Packers 24, Lions 20
The Lions have the 27th ranked defensive quarterback rating with 94.49, which essentially turns opposing QBs into Matt Ryan (94.8)
21. Arizona Cardinals: (22, 4-6) Falcons 23, Cardinals 19
Cards almost pulled off the upset by defeating the team with the best record going into their game. But almost doesn't go in the win-loss column. While the Cards have used three QBs so far this season in search for some spark on offense, according to Football Outsiders, Arizona has the fourth best defense in the NFL.
22. New York Jets: (25, 4-6) Jets 27, Rams 13
Jets probably shouldn't move up three spots for beating the hapless Rams. Some of New York's woes, however, are the result of missing their All Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis. A bigger problem, however, is the fact Mark Sanchez is their starting quarterback. Not saying Tim Tebow would be better, just saying that Tim Tebow is not Mark Sanchez.
23. San Diego Chargers: (21, 4-6) Broncos 30, Chargers 23
Bolts started the year 3-1 and looked to be very much part of the playoff picture, likely saving the job of coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith. They have since gone 1-5, putting them both on the hot seat again. But is either Turner or Smith responsible for QB Philip Rivers and his 17:14 TD to pick ratio. Rivers has thrown an interception in all but two games this season, and has thrown a pair of picks (or worse) in four games. Not going to win when you are literally regularly throwing the ball away.
24. Philadelphia Eagles: (19, 3-7) Redskins 31, Eagles 6
Andy Reid's tenure as Eagles coach is coming to an end, according to his own players. But at least Lincoln Financial Field is the most PR-gimmicky environmentally friendly NFL stadium. Philly has lost six in a row.
25. Cleveland Browns: (26, 2-8) Cowboys 23, Browns 20 (OT)
Browns are capable of playing most teams close, but they have trouble closing the deal. Cleveland rallied from a 13-0 deficit to take a 17-13 lead before giving up a tying score down the stretch and a game-winning drive in overtime. Moral victories = 0 real victories.
26. St. Louis Rams: (23, 3-6-1) Jets 27, Rams 13
Accentuate the positive: the Rams will always have that tie against San Francisco in Week 10.
27. Tennessee Titans: (27, 4-6) bye
Tennessee could not lose in Week 10.
28. Buffalo Bills: (30, 4-6) Bills 19 Dolphins 14
Buffalo spent a tonne of money upgrading their defense in the off-season and it has yielded (according to Football Outsiders) the fourth worst defense.
29. Oakland Raiders: (28, 3-7) Saints 38, Raiders 17
Raiders have allowed 135 points over the past three games. At least Oakland didn't go crazy in the free agent market signing players for the defensive side of the ball last off-season.
30. Carolina Panthers: (29, 2-8) Buccaneers 27, Panthers 21 (OT)
The Panthers look like the team that opponents will stomp over each week for the rest of the year, and then you look at their schedule: Chiefs (1 win), Eagles (3), Raiders (3), Chargers (4). There is real hope that the Panthers, who desperately need to rebuild, might win two more games, and move further down the draft board next April. Even by winning, Carolina loses.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars: (31, 1-9) Texans 43, Jaguars 37 (OT)
The overtime loss to the best team in football, might be the Jax highlight of the season. First-round pick, WR Justin Blackmon has been largely a bust this year, but against one of the best defenses in the NFL, he caught seven passes (from second-string QB Chad Henne) for 236 yards and a TD.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: (32, 1-9) Bengals 28, Chiefs 6
The Chiefs have perfected ineptitude, having failed to score more than 16 points in any of their past six games. Seven of their nine losses have been by 10 points or more. Interestingly, the only close defeats were against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens.


 
Four and down (Week 12 games to watch)
4. Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys: It is a toss-up between this one on Thanksgiving and Sunday afternoon's Vikings-Bears contest. This should be more entertaining (who would you rather watch, Christian Ponder or RGIII?) The 'Boys can be tied for the NFC East division lead come Monday if they beat the Skins and the Packers beat the Giants on Sunday. Dallas scraped by Cleveland last week at home, further evidence that even the games they should win are too close for comfort. Robert Griffin III is an order of magnitude (or several) better than rookie Browns QB Brandon Weeden, so Dallas will need to have a better game plan and execute better than they did earlier this week. Washington travels to Texas on a short week, but Dallas doesn't make the most of its homefield advantage. Since Dallas won the division in 2009 (when they went 6-2 at home at then new Cowboys Stadium), they've gone 7-13 at home, so there is no reason. Washington's pass defense has been horrendous all year, in part due to injuries, but got its act together against the Eagles and Philly's rookie quarterback last week. It will be important for them to replicate their performance against Tony Romo, which is easier said than done. Washington probably can't get back into the playoff picture, but with RGIII they are both in every game and play thrilling to watch football. Dallas can be fun to watch when they do well, but are even more fun when they self-destruct. The 'Boys are playing to position themselves not only for a playoff appearance but division title. Watching the two teams gives you two very different senses: the Skins can win any game and the Boys can lose any game. Should be an enjoyable game at 4:15 today. By the way, Romo is 21-3 in November games, almost completely negating the Dallas suckiness at home. Dallas edges Washington for the win. But then again, it could play out as Bill Simmons suggests: "every casual fan asking the die-hards during the third-quarter break between Thanksgiving courses, "So, are the Cowboys always this bad, or is this just a bad game for them?" But that would be fun, too.
3. Green Bay Packers at New York Giants: The G-Men are struggling lately, with Eli Manning throwing just no touchdowns (and four interceptions) over his past three games, while averaging just 177.3 ypg over that span. Meanwhile, Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers has played out-of-this-world football over the Packers five-game winning streak: 17 TDs, two picks. Green Bay's defense is improving while New York's is hit or miss. If the Giants D shows up Sunday, the game could be very close, but if they don't it won't. That said -- and I hate this type of analysis -- Manning won't be this bad for long so it's possible he's due. New York can't win against a Packers team that looks Super Bowl ready unless its defense and Manning are at the top of their respective games, and that doesn't look likely. There are many game-changing talents on both teams and both sides of the ball and considering the major playoff implications of this contest, it is a must-watch game. And it's close; the ESPN experts are divided 7-7 on who will win this one.
2. Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Interesting thing about this contest between a 9-1 team and a 6-4 team: they are both 5-1 since the beginning of October. While the Falcons are good, they aren't dominant. Tampa is beating teams, but only one of those five wins came against a team 500 or better (the Vikings, who probably aren't as good as their record indicates). QBs Josh Freeman and Matt Ryan are both playing at a high level: Ryan has had a passer rating over 100 in seven of ten games this season (although it was 40.5 against the Cardinals last week when he became the first quarterback to throw five picks in a game and not to throw a TD and still win since Bart Starr did it for the Packers in the 1960s); Freeman had a five-game streak of a passer rating over 100 snapped last week. Either QB is capable of orchestrating a winning drive and both teams have a balanced enough offense to force opposing defenses to be honest: Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers are averaging just 3.6 yards per rush, but they are capable of big rushing plays, while Tampa's rookie running back Doug Martin looks like a freakish talent. The Falcons are trying to set up homefield advantage through to the NFC Championship and Tampa is trying to put room between itself and the rest of the NFC wild card contenders. As a bonus, Ryan has three legit and exciting targets in WRs Julio Jones and Roddy White, and TE Tony Gonzalez. If this game was at the Georgia Dome Atlanta would be a comfortable pick, but on the Gulf Coast, it is probably a toss-up.
1. San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints: While the Saints have a terrible D on the season, they are just averaging 19 ppg allowed over the past three. The Niners didn't miss starting QB Alex Smith with Colin Kaepernick under center because of Jim Harbaugh's incredible game plan. Harbaugh is to football what Joe Maddon is to baseball: an intelligent and creative coach/manager not afraid to take risks with high rewards. Watch the game closely to appreciate the brilliance of the Niners coach. Watch it also for the brilliance of Drew Brees expertly dispatching the ball to what seems to be New Orleans' million different targets. Opportunistic Niners defense against the superb aerial game of Brees and the Saints is a fun matchup, as is Kaepernick against a Saints D that still doesn't quite inspire confidence. Niners are eyeing the possibility of a first-week playoff bye while the Saints are thinking about a possible playoff ticket despite their 0-4 start. The stakes are huge for both these talented teams.


 
15!
The Washington Times reports 15 Republicans are privately mulling a 2016 bid for the Republican presidential nomination: "Don’t expect them to officially announce or even officially decide for many months. But Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) are doing nothing to disguise their presidential ambitions." In all actuality, there are probably dozens thinking about it, including every GOP senator and governor, not to mention numerous Congressman, former politicians and ex-cabinet members, and a handful of business types. The idea, though, that anyone will officially decide in the next few months is ludicrous.


 
'The pill is like communism'
Andrea Mrozek comments at ProWomanProLife, and her conclusion is nicely summarized: "The Pill ain’t great." I return to the joke that the fact the contraceptive pill is the one known as The Pill says so much about society's priorities.


 
Is 'entitled to his entitlements' a legal defense?
London mayor and former Liberal MP Joe Fontana has been charged by the RCMP with breach of trust by a public official, fraud and uttering forged documents after he paid for his son's wedding with taxpayer funds.


 
The universe is not only queerer than we suppose, it is queerer than we can suppose
That, if I remember the quote correctly, was uttered by e.e. cummings (or was it J. B. S. Haldane?), and it's what came to mind reading George Will's column on the absurdities of the past year. The column, predicated on being thankful for life's pleasures this Thanksgiving, including the absurdities that prove God has a sense of humour, is similar to the ones he used to write for Newsweek at the end of the year. Speaking of which, one item Will noted was this: "Tina Brown applied her editor’s magic to Newsweek, R.I.P. If only she now could become editor of the New York Times."


 
Liberal leadership campaign (November 23 edition)
The countdown continues on Liberal MP Marc Garneau's presumed leadership announcement. What are the chances take-off is aborted?
In other leadership news, Justin Trudeau did things and people fawned, while the other candidates aren't Justin Trudeau.


 
The end of an era
Rick McGinnis at his Zero to Sixty blog on the tearing down of the last motel along the Lake Shore in Toronto:
When they knocked down the Beach, there weren't many people there to mourn it besides a handful of local historical preservation types taking a big, bitter gulp from the bottomless well of dismay that fuels and defeats them. In a strictly municipal sense, the death of the Lakeshore strip was inevitable, but what made me sad was the end of a kind of travel and all the local attractions - those hokey, cheesy, solemn or just plain weird places of interest - that benefited from a populace traveling at the speed limit, with bathroom stops and a guidebook and a week to kill before they were due at grandma's or Disneyland.
McGinnis also wrote about demolishing the Beach Motel for BlogTO last week.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012
 
Conspiracy or legit reason to worry
All Voices says it is possible that President Barack Obama could run for a third term:
Swinging the court to the extreme left would then slam the door wide open for a ruling on the 22nd amendment in favor of the president if he found himself in a situation where he could possibly lay the groundwork to ask for another term ala Michael Bloomberg the Mayor of New York City. One of the more likely events that may trigger a call for a third term for Obama would be an attack on Iran. According to Faheem Younus a clinical associate Professor at the University of Maryland, if Obama is given the opportunity by his own party to continue as commander-in-chief while the US or Israel bombs Iran and this conflict evolves into a global catastrophe - he will not decline. The professor goes on to say that Repealing the 22nd Amendment -which was never properly vetted - is not unthinkable.
This seems far-fetched, but considering the President has made recess appointments when the Senate is not in recess, who knows. The constitution is clearly not an impediment to Obama fulfilling his wishes.


 
Just defund it
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada has released a discussion paper, "Provincial Decisions: Abortion Funding in Canada," which says that provinces have the right to defund abortion. The EFC states:
A provincial government may refuse to fund abortion procedures for its citizens. By means of The Constitution Act, 1867, a province has the constitutional jurisdiction to manage health care generally. As such, a provincial Minister of Health may determine which medical practices are funded within the province.
If the feds disagree, they can initiate a process to mediate the conflict, although it is the considered opinion of the EFC that "Provincial governments are not required to conform to the position of the federal government on the medical necessity of abortion procedures."
LifeSiteNews.com has a news story on the paper, here.


 
Warren Rudman, RIP
Aaron Goldstein at The American Spectator says of former senator Warren Rudman (R), who has passed away: "Rudman was not a conservative but he was a conscientious and diligent public servant who conducted himself honorably." Probably. The absence of conscientious moderates* probably makes bipartisan (which is usually over-rated) solutions to the nation's problems (which are desperately needed in the face of the fiscal cliff) nearly impossible. Yet, considering the fiscal mess the United States has been in for decades -- only Bill Clinton and the Republican Congress has balanced the budget with consistency -- one must wonder what good the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Balanced Budget Act really did.
* Principled middle-of-the-road moderates as opposed to politicians who have no coherent world view and find themselves opportunistically shifting alliances to bolster their "moderate" credentials.