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.
Sunday, December 08, 2013
1. Cracked.com has "5 Laws That Made Sense on Paper (And Disasters in Reality)," including gun buybacks and bounties on snakes.
2. Quora answers the question: "What is the best design for a popsicle stick bridge?"
3. Wired.com's Underwire blog: "An Obituary for the Letter E."
4. Graphic describing coffee temperatures.
5. From Mental Floss: "The Origins of 15 Delightful Carnival Rides."
6. The Daily Telegraph reports on a life-size gingerbread house that totals 36 million calories.
7. From the animal kingdom. Slate reports, "Birds Will Attack Amazon’s Delivery Drones." Fact Fiend notes, "Children in the Philippines Train Spiders to Fight," which unfortunately does not have video, so check out YouTube. Scientists are always discovering new species, and National Geographic has photos of new creatures found in Antarctica.
8. Science Daily reports on some very cool news: "Vast Freshwater Reserves Found Beneath the Oceans."
9. Townhall.com has "Five times Obama made it all about himself."
10. Boing Boing reminds us of Jewel Pie's "Better way to eat mandarin oranges."
11. Igniter Media has a great video and you don't have to believe in any Higher Being to appreciate the fact we all have a lot for which to be thankful but don't always recognize it.
Math is hard (for journalists)
Math with Bad Drawings has the highly enjoyable "Headlines from a Mathematically Literate World." Among my favourites:
Our World: Local Heat Wave Seen as Sign of Global WarmingMathematically Literate World: Local Heat Wave Not Seen as Meaningful Indicator of Global Trends
Our World: Market Share for Electric Cars TriplesMathematically Literate World: Market Share for Electric Cars Rises to 0.4%
Saturday, December 07, 2013
Quote of the day
Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution: "When the history of how the United States became a dystopian, surveillance state is written no one will be able to say that we were not warned."
Four downs (Week 14 games to watch)
1. Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals: I could have had the Chicago Bears hosting the Dallas Cowboys, the Monday Night contest, and if I did, this list would have featured the top eight seeded teams in the NFC, a very significant weekend of football in terms of the playoff picture and tie-breakers. But this game is intriguing, too for both the game on the field and its implications. Both like they will win their division but they are probably fighting for seeding with the winner getting a giant leg up on the third seed and a chance not to face the Kansas City Chiefs in Wild Card weekend. The Colts have the better QB in Andrew Luck but injuries have taken their toll on the team's offense in recent weeks and Indy has practically no running game. Andy Dalton is capable of great games and real stinkers. There is a lot of different outcomes for this contest even those most predictions have Cincy winning at home. Dalton to A.J. Green is always exciting but Luck is capable of making thrilling plays. Indy gives the ball away about half as often (1.1 per game compared to 2.0 for Cincy). Turnovers could be key. Bengals win by a field goal.
2. Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles: Both teams are capable of scoring. Philly has scored at least 24 points in each of Nick Foles last four full games and they've scored at least 30 points five times this season. The Lions have also scored at least 30 points in five games. The Eagles have not allowed any team to score more than 21 points since the Denver Broncos did it on September 29. Something has to give. Detroit makes a lot of mistakes for a team leading a division and Philly is more disciplined. Playing at home it seems that the Eagles should be an easy pick, but Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson can make aerial magic. Eagles in a blowout, I guess.
3. Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers: Not quite the marquee game that people thought it would be at the beginning of the season when pundits thought this could be the most important game of the season. Seattle and San Fran are two of the best teams top to bottom and no other team has as much talent and game-changing players on both sides of the ball as these two do. Both are top 10 offenses (by scoring) and they are the second and third ranked team by scoring defense. According to the advanced metrics at Football Outsiders, both are top six teams, although Seattle is dominant. The Niners could be fighting for their playoff life in the last scheduled Sunday football game at Candlestick Park (ever) while Seattle secures a first-round bye and the division with a victory. I think Seattle is going to win a close game.
4. Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints: This Sunday night contest is great for two reasons: stakes and on-field play. Both are great teams with two very different QBs. Drew Brees scored just seven points against the second-ranked defense (Seattle) last week and this week faces the top-ranked D. The winner gets a slight advantage for tie-breakers when it comes to the division crown and it could make the difference between a first-second or fifth-sixth seed. Saints are going to win at home, but the fans are going to sweat for a while.
Friday, December 06, 2013
1. As a New York Yankees fan I'm saddened to see Robinson Cano, the best hitting 2B in baseball and the best player on their team the past few seasons, leave the Yanks for the Seattle Mariners. Or at least it appears that Cano is headed west. If the reports are true, Cano is getting $225-$240 million over the next decade and a full no-trade clause. For a perennial MVP candidate, $22.5 million a year (or $24 million) is a steal. Dave Cameron, a Mariners fan, at Fangraphs isn't real excited about this deal although he thinks it worthwhile over the next few seasons before Cano's inevitable decline. Cameron is mistaken, however, to assume that the going rate for each win is going to continue being around $6-7 million and that a $22 million deal in 6-7 years might be the going rate for a slightly above average 20 HR hitter with decent but not great OBP. Cameron is correct, however, to note that this deal would make more sense if Seattle was on the verge of contending, but they are presently a sub-500 team (even with Cano). So as David Schoenfield of ESPN and Matthew Pouliot of Hardball Talk argue, this deal only really makes sense if the Mariners continue to spend money to bring enough talent to town to compete immediately. The speculation is that the Mariners could sign OF Shin-Soo Choo or trade for Tampa Bay Rays ace starter David Price. Or both. Or more. There are more rumours than one can reasonably keep up with. This deal certainly shakes up the baseball world and clarifies a bunch of things, including what kind of money the Yankees will have to play with going forward this off-season.
2. I said above I'm sad to see Cano go to Seattle. Or more precisely, I am sad to see him leave the Yankees. But I'm not necessarily disappointed the Yanks didn't re-sign him. As Mike Axisa at River Ave Blues says, "For what is probably the first time in franchise history, a homegrown star is leaving the Yankees as a free agent because the team was outbid." It is good sign for baseball and even the Yankees that New York is more like a normal team, playing within financial limits. There is a very good chance Cano's contract will limit the team's financial flexibility as Cano approached 40. A decade-long contract is a huge risk and the Yankees are smart to limit their exposure to these risks. It isn't easy to let go a homegrown second baseman who hit 309/355/504 and 204 career homeruns so far. If Cano keeps it up, he's bound for Cooperstown. But the Yankees are trying to not spend a quarter billion dollars a year on salary and a transport truck full of dough on the punitive luxury tax. Instead of Cano they have upgraded their catcher from among the worst in baseball to among the best in signing Brian McCann and signed Jacoby Ellsbury, a CF with superior base-running and defensive skills and good OBP that projects to age well. Their two contracts are roughly equal to what Cano is going to get. Those two signings combined and the loss of Cano, along with the fact that the Yankees overplayed their expected W-L record by six games, probably means they are not quite the 85-win team they were lucky to be in 2013, but they are a better team than they were last year. They need a 2B because Kelly Johnson doesn't quite cut it and they need 1B Mark Teixeira to be healthy. I'm not sure why the rumours have them in the mix for a pair of outfielders (Carlos Beltran & Shin-Soo Choo) unless Ichiro Suzuki is going to become a bench player. But they really need pitching, which is why re-signing Hiroki Kuroda, their best starting pitcher from 2013, for $16 mil was so important. But they need more arms and several of the tolerable $10-12 million starting pitching options have already been scooped up (I'm thinking specifically of Ricky Nolasco).
3. The Yankees didn't seem interested in keeping OF Curtis Granderson who was injured most of last season but put up back-to-back 40+ HR seasons the two years before that. Grandy signed a four-year, $60 million deal to join the Mets. At least Yankee fans who want to see Granderson only have to travel across town to watch him play. Great deal for the Mets assuming Granderson returns from freakish hit-by-pitch injuries. Hard to replace his power and I'm not sure why the Yanks are obsessed with replacing him with outfielders that will cost about the same, if not more. The Mets get what they desperately need, a bat that provides significant power. There is some risk (injury, declining centerfield defensive prowess), but its a move that makes a lot of sense for the Mets.
The preemptive nanny state
A report from Iowa:
Mount Vernon city officials are crafting a new ordinance that aims to limit outdoor light pollution. The policy wouldn’t affect anyone in residential zones, but many businesses in town.Officials said excess light can waste energy and be annoying, trespassing onto neighboring properties and distracting drivers on the road. It's not a problem right now, but officials said they’re working on a new city ordinance to stop it before it starts."I think it's a concern for any community," said Truman Jordan, chair of the Mount Vernon Planning and Zoning Commission.Jordan helped draft the policy, which has been in the works for about three years. He said at its core the ordinance requires any new outdoor lights installed by future businesses to follow strict rules. Depending on their purpose, lights would be limited in brightness, the direction they shine, how high they can stand, and more.
Note that "it's not a problem now." So: laws!
(HT: Reason 24/7)
Me on the Duck Dynasty phenomenon
I write about Duck Dynasty in the December Interim and try to explain the show's appeal:
So the answer to the question posed by entertainment writers as to why the popularity, is simple: the show harkens to the innocent and virtuous shows of the past and which is missing in most network and cable fare ...
The television show doesn’t preach faith and family values as much as demonstrates them. The genius of the Robertson clan is that they can promote virtue and faithfulness by depicting normal family life and celebrating its joys: teaching children new skills, working together to finish tasks at both the factory and in the home, enjoying leisure time together (which usually means hunting), and building things. The formula has won millions of fans.
The feature is also a review of the recent DD best-sellers:
The three Robertson autobiographies reinforce and fill in the “characters” from the TV shows. They highlight family life and successful entrepreneurship, which share in common the need for hard work. Happy marriages, like thriving businesses, do not just happen.
But I do note that, "The books are little more preachy than the shows. That makes some sense because the book-buying audience would be a harder-core fan who 'gets' what the Robertsons are all about."
From the Liberals' fundraising email
Mike Crawley, president of the Liberal Party of Canada, writes in an email to supporters:
[T]here's no question the next round of TV attack ads will begin earlier than we think in 2014. The Conservatives have raised over $12-million this year. We've raised just $7-million, meaning they've got millions more than us -- and they're going to spend it attacking Justin.
Crawley is trying to whip up support by scaring supporters, but is it wise to highlight one's own weakness, namely that the Tories can raise more money than the Liberals?
Crawley's pitch includes this graph:
Justin Trudeau liked the Chinese government because they could deal efficiently with environmental issues
Last month Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau expressed his admiration for the Chinese government because of the way it can deal with pressing economic and environmental concerns.
From today's CBC: "Shanghai smog cancels flights, reduces visibility to metres: Pollution almost 25 times the World Health Organization's safety guidelines."
Merry Christmas. Here's a tax.
The Heritage Foundation's Amy Payne notes that the proposed farm bill would tax new Christmas trees at 15-cent a tree to pay for a federal Christmas tree promotion program, a Christmas Tree Promotion Board. Heritage's Daren Bakst says:
A 15-cent tax may not seem like much. However, taxes are a death by a thousand cuts. One of those cuts shouldn’t come from the Christmas tree. One way to actually hurt the image of the Christmas tree is to make it a symbol of taxation during the holiday season.
The egomaniac president
Breitbart: "WH marks Mandela's death with pic of Obama in Mandela's cell." Breitbart notes: "Even in paying tribute to a historic figure, President Obama couldn’t help but make it about him." Of course, this is not the first time.
Thursday, December 05, 2013
Apparently women are sexist
I noted this morning that MSNBC is reporting that some Democrats are trying to position opposition to Obamacare as sexist because of contraception. Because, you know, the Obama administration interfered with one-fifth of the U.S. economy because of contraception and abortion. Anyway, the National Journal reports:
The Kaiser poll, which has been conducted monthly since Obamacare’s inception, shows the law has never been a big hit with white women. But this group’s opinions took a sharply negative turn in the November results.According to Kaiser, 40 percent of college-educated white women hold a “very unfavorable” view of the law—10 points higher than a month ago. An additional 10 percent view the law “somewhat unfavorably.” A month ago, those two groups together totaled just 42 percent ...
Democrats should be far more worried about white women who do not have a higher education. The numbers are astounding: In the latest Kaiser poll, 50 percent have a “very unfavorable” view of the law—9 points higher than in October. An additional 13 percent view it “somewhat unfavorably.” Indeed, antipathy among blue-collar white women runs even deeper than the most conservative white demographic group, blue-collar white men (59 percent of whom hold an unfavorable view, Kaiser found).Remarkably, only 16 percent of blue-collar white women have a favorable view of Obamacare. They disapprove of it by a 4-1 ratio.
Obamacare as a women's issue
MSNBC reporter Irin Carmon dutifully repeats Democratic talking points talks about how birth control is the key to defending Obamacare:
“In recent weeks in the debates about the working of the federal exchange, a lot has gotten lost,” said Rep. Diana DeGette, Democrat of Colorado, on a press call featuring female members of Congress. “The Affordable Care Act is already working for millions of Americans.”The amount of attention given to the website launch might make it seem that Obamacare started on October 1. But the required preventative care provisions, including birth control without a co-pay, kicked in way back in August 2012, and an estimated 27 million women are already benefiting from them. Those provisions, however, are among the most controversial in the ACA, even as they are politically popular with the Democrats’ base.On the same call, Rep. Jan Schakowsky cited a study in which nearly half of young women said they hadn’t used their birth control as directed because they wanted to cut down on costs. “For women, contraception isn’t a matter of ideology, it’s a matter of health,” she said.But it is, in fact, a matter of ideology for plenty of people, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the dozens of for-profit and non-profit companies that have sued the Obama administration seeking an exemption from covering some or all forms of contraception on their employee health plans. Last week, the Supreme Court said it would hear two such cases from for-profit companies who object to contraception and say that contributing to paying for birth control for their employees violates their religious liberty.“If this court is really about what it’s supposed to be about, standing up for individual rights, they will back the individual rights of the employee to make decisions about their health care,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer of the Supreme Court taking up the case. ”What if your boss believes you should just pray your way to health?”
Three quick points:
1. Making birth control the centerpiece of women's health is insulting to women.
2. While Schakowsky says that opponents of birth control coverage under Obamacare provisions "is a matter of ideology," she ignores the fact that same is true for proponents.
3. While Boxer champions the individual rights to make birth control decisions, she ignores the fact that the Supreme Court could also respect the individual rights of company owners and shareholders by protecting their conscience and religious rights (not to mention property rights) by overturning specific Obamacare provisions.
Buyer's regret? Younger voters turn on Obama
An Investor's Business Daily editorial notes the declining support for President Barack Obama among those under 30:
Just 41% approve of the job he's doing, down from 52% just before the 2012 election. Most disapprove of his handling of the economy (61%), health care (61%) and the deficit (66%). Only 14% think the country is headed in the right direction.
Few think Obamacare will help them and even fewer want to enroll in the government health schemes, perhaps because they've figured out that Obamacare represents a transfer of wealth from generally poorer young adults to generally wealthier seniors.
Williamson on Sarah Silverman
At NRO, Kevin D. Williamson says that if the New York Times is praising your "edginess" then you're not as transgressive as you think. Sorry Sarah Silverman.
Is this for fans or opponents of JFK?
The description from Historical Rail:
A replica of the presidential parade vehicle - a 1961 Lincoln Continental X-100 - in which President John F. Kennedy was riding on that fateful day in Dallas on November 22, 1963, this 1/24 scale, die cast model features a detailed engine; an opening hood, trunk and doors; a fully-outfitted interior with two foldable jump seats, carpeted floorboards, and a glazed windshield; parade flags and floodlights; free-rolling wheels with working steering and real rubber tires; an authentic paint scheme; and more. It even includes the presidential seal on the inside of the rear doors! 10" long.
The latest mega-ship launched
Take the Empire State Building, lay it on the ground and add another 150 feet. Then put it out to sea. That’s essentially what Shell did today with the launch of the 1,601-foot Prelude mega-ship.At 600,000 tons and 243 feet wide, when the Prelude left its dry dock in South Korea after a year-long build, it unseated the Emma Maersk (1,302 feet) as the world’s largest ship. But calling it a ship is almost a misnomer. The Prelude is a floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) facility that will be posted off the coast of Western Australia and will stay there for the next quarter-century.
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
What I'm reading
1. Newton's Football: The Science Behind America's Game by Allen St. John and Ainissa G. Ramirez
2. Shrug, Trudeau in Power by Walter Stewart, an early take (1971) on the Liberal prime minister from a left-wing journalist.
3. Philanthropy Under Fire by Howard Husock
4. "Policy reforms in Australia and what they mean for Canada," by Stephen Kirchner, with commentary by Jason Clemens and Sean Speer, a research study from the Fraser Institute
5. "How States Talk Back to Washington and Strengthen American Federalism," a Cato Institute Policy Analysis by John Dinan
1. Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin will have to pay a $100,000 fine for getting in the way of Jacoby Jones on the field during a kick return in last Thursday's game. That seems about right. But the NFL said the Steelers might also lose a draft pick or picks, but the League won't make a final decision until the draft order has been determined. That seems too arbitrary because any punishment should be based on Tomlin's breaking of the rules in last week's game, not how the teams finish at the end of the season. If the organization has to be punished also, it seems that a fine equal to Tomlin's would be in order.
2. Two stats from Gregg Easterbrook's TMQ column: "The Giants and Jets, the New Jersey teams, are first and second for giveaways, combining to turn the ball over 58 times." And "[The Jets lead] the league in quarterback turnovers for the second consecutive season (Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith)."
3. Incredible stat from Cold Hard Football Facts: "Peyton Manning has more touchdown passes this year (41) than the Vikings, Raiders, Jets and Jaguars do COMBINED (40)."
4. Mike Tanier writes about Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles at Sports On Earth, noting that Chip Kelly's QB is not only throwing 19 TDs against 0 interceptions, but is in pace to break the single-season QB passer rating record (currently 125.2, more than two points better than Aaron Rodgers' 2011 record). Tanier says: "Nick Foles is not Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers. He does not have a record breaker’s skill set or resume. Watch him play, and you will be impressed but not blown away. That may be why Foles’ numbers and performance have not gotten much attention. We lack proper language to describe what Foles does for Kelly and the Eagles." Looking for a language to describe Foles, Tanier borrows from basketball. Highly recommended.
The snoopy state
From the Washington Post via Twitter:
#BREAKINGNEWS: NSA is gathering 5,000,000,000 records per day on locations of cellphones around the world http://wapo.st/1aAhrca
Six Breitbart stories on the media
"Buzzfeed, HuffPo's new business model: Drive traffic with hoaxes." Related: "Andrew Sullivan: Buzzfeed has no 'journalistic soul'."
Work for Obama's hypocritcal advocacy group for free
The Daily Caller reports:
Despite consistently beating the drum for an increased minimum wage, President Obama’s highly organized grassroots organization is offering jobs that don’t pay at all.“OFA is now accepting applications for full-time and part-time HQ Interns for the Spring 2014 and Summer 2014 HQ Internship Programs in Chicago, IL,” reads the job posting listed at Organizing for Action’s site, BarackObama.com.“This is a 14-week, unpaid internship program,” continues the listing.OFA, which describes itself as the nonprofit organization established to advance the national agenda Americans voted for when they re-elected President Obama in 2012, says it seeks candidates “with a strong commitment to changing the world.”But these unpaid gigs touted by OFA sit in stark contrast to the organization’s position — also held by President Obama and many Democrats — on the minimum wage. “No one who works full time in America should have to live in poverty,” reads another OFA advertisement which encourages people to “tell Congress to raise the minimum wage.”
If a dead tree returns to the magazine shelf, will anyone care
Newsweek will return to print in "January or February." It ceased its print edition earlier this year after merging with the Daily Beast but before being sold to IBT Media. The magazine lost its best contributors (George Will, Robert J. Samuelson) when it separated from the Washington Post in 2010 and it will take a lot for it to become what its new editor Jim Impoco hopes it will be: a "premium product." While there is certainly room for intelligent commentary delivered on dead tree in a weekly, biweekly, or monthly format (National Review, The Atlantic Monthly, The Weekly Standard, The New Republic), the name of the magazine is Newsweek and last week's news is very old. Perhaps it will consider a name change: CommentaryWeek. I predict failure.
Arrested for ... standing there?
A report out of Rochester:
Three Edison students who were charged with disorderly conduct pleaded not guilty in court.The boys were with about a dozen basketball teammates Wednesday morning on Main Street waiting for a school bus to take them to a scrimmage at Aquinas. There was no school that day and their coach had arranged for a pick-up at a central meeting spot.An officer asked the boys to disperse and they refused. The young men say they tried to explain to him they were waiting for a school bus. The officer arrested three of the players.
The police would certainly have another view of the situation. The students could have been belligerent or rude, but you have to wonder if the police were not being overly zealous about enforcement. Or if the teens were arrested for being black.
(HT: Hit & Run)
Drone might not fly, but it will help Amazon's sales soar
Tim Worstall on the Amazon Octocopter (drone):
I suppose it could be a moonshot idea.Personally though I took it to be a very good bit of PR in the American prime shopping season.
Tamny on The Seven Fat Years
John Tamny has a long article at Real Clear Markets praising Robert Bartley's The Seven Fat Years as one of the best economics books ever written. It is a good book but that is quite the claim, as is Tamny's contention that Bartley not only explains the economic boom during the Reagan years, but the problems of today:
It says here that Robert Bartley wrote one of the best economic books of all time in 1992. For readers who want to understand why the ‘70s and ‘80s were so different economically, including the seven fat years from 1983-1990, they should read his book. Even better, for those who want to understand what happened in the 2000s on the way to an inevitable crack-up, they should also read Bartley's book. History rhymes, and Bartley told the story of the 2000s in 1992.
Ignore Tamny's hyperbole and his column, like the book, is a useful guide to the economy of the 1970s and 1980s. I'm always a little leery of comparing different economic periods. Yet, it is important to learn from past errors:
Bartley would understand our present situation well simply because George W. Bush, like Nixon and Carter in the ‘70s, sought a weak dollar. The markets complied owing to the historical truth that presidential administrations always get the dollar they want. It staggers this writer to this day that so many otherwise smart people ascribe nominally expensive oil to OPEC and foreign demand much as smart people felt this way in the ‘70s. It's particularly unsettling that so many on the right who generally believe in free markets buy into this falsehood. Implicit there is that an oil market dating back to the 1860s still hasn't figured out how to match supply with demand. More to the point, when the right incorrectly tie expensive oil to scarcity they are explicitly suggesting ‘market failure' on the part of the energy industry. It would be funny if it weren't so sad.
It is a long and thought-provoking article.
Police stand by and do nothing as feminists assault Catholics protecting cathedral from pro-abortion protesters
Hot Air's Ed Morrissey: "Video: Pro-abortion protest against Catholics in Argentina as classy as you’d expect." Feminists spray paint in the faces and crotches of Catholics who defended the cathedral from an attack by pro-abortion feminists. Predictably the police did nothing -- as they usually do when the annual National Meeting of Women treks down to vandalize the cathedral.
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
1. The New York Jets were defeated by the Miami Dolphins 23-3. Rookie QB Geno Smith was benched in the second half and Matt Simms got some playing time for the second time in three games. He wasn't much better: Simms was 9/18 for 79 yards and an interception while Smith was 4/10 for 29 yards and a pick. It is possible that the Jets will be looking for its third franchise quarterback in six NFL drafts come May. Smith has been terrible, often throwing the ball into coverage and making other bad decisions. But part of the problem is that the receivers are often covered, and for whatever reason Smith isn't throwing the ball away. Another problem is the play-calling. Usually rookie QBs have more screen passes so they can make safer short passes, but for whatever reason the Jets coaching staff isn't taking this approach with Smith. Watching the Jets the last seven games, Smith has thrown one TD and 11 interceptions; his last TD pass came on October 20., and his last three games' passer ratings have been 8.3, 22.3, and 10.1. Smith might not be good enough to be a starting QB in the NFL, but his coaches are not putting him in a position to succeed. The Jets have fallen one game off the pace for the sixth AFC wild card and are tied with four teams one game behind the Fins and Baltimore Ravens. The Gang Green have lost three in a row and four out of five, and with Smith playing the way he is and Simms not looking like the answer to their problems, it is unlikely New York is going to stay in the mix for long.
2. The Washington Redskins got off to an early 14-0 lead and lost 24-17 to the New York Giants on Sunday night. In their first three drives, the Skins and Robert Griffin III were fantastic in the no-huddle offense, scoring TDs on two of them. And then ... it just stopped being effective. Perhaps the Giants D made adjustments and the Skins didn't. In the first half RGIII was 12/13 for 149 yards and a TD, and he also ran seven times for 53 yards. Washington's blocking was fantastic and Griffin had a clean pocket in which to operate. RG3's troubles this year has been attributed to the read option being magically rendered ineffective to flaws in the QB's character, but the biggest problem is the O-line which has been porous, so the second-year quarterback has been playing under pressure often this season. In the first half of Sunday's game, when the Giants blitzed Griffin he was able to hit an open receiver or run for gain. Then the O-line got leaky and five of their next possessions were three and outs. It wasn't all poor blocking, as Redskins receivers and tight ends dropped five catches and had a fumble in the second half. The controversy at the end of the game with the refs messing up the downs count which affected the play-calling should have never been an issue if Washington had held onto their lead and it might not have been an issue if Fred Davis could have held onto the ball on a deep pass on the second last 'Skins play or if Pierre Garcon wasn't stripped of the ball on their final play. But if the 'Skins can fix their O-line problems and the receivers can hold onto their catches, Washington in the no-huddle offense will be 1) fun to watch this year and 2) return to competitiveness next season.
3. The Buffalo Bills in Toronto lost to the Atlanta Falcons 34-31 in OT. The Bills were in a position to win it but 1) helped the Falcons tie the game by stretching their final drive with four penalties, 2) missed the chance for a doable game-winning field goal when WR Stevie Johnson fumbled the ball at the 30-yard line, and 3) gave the Falcons great field position in overtime after WR Scott Chandler had the ball knocked out of his grasp on the Bills' first OT possession. Buffalo didn't have a home-field advantage with the crowd of less than 40,000 being roughly split between the Bills and Falcons, and the game being played indoors instead of outside at the Ralph in Buffalo. But critical errors late in the game deprived the 20,000 or so Bills fans at the game a chance to see their team win. Instead of getting a victory that would have put them on the fringes of the playoff race, Buffalo lost to a team that had won just twice this season, and will now need to win their final four to reach 500.
4. There are a number of points that could be made about the other games. The Indianapolis Colts were not all that impressive in their 22-14 win over the Tennessee Titans, settling for five field goals before a late-TD that made their victory look more impressive on paper than it was on the field. That New England Patriots dug a hole (again) in Houston, before coming back to defeat the Texans. What the Seattle Seahawks 34-7 beating on the New Orleans Saints means, if anything, other than to show how great Russell Wilson is. What an incredible stretch the Philadelphia Eagles are having (four straight wins) with QB Nick Foles, who hasn't thrown an interception all season (19 TDS: 0 picks), although he had a pass intercepted negated by a penalty against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. The questions about the Kansas City Chiefs D, allowing 103 points over the past three games; admittedly two of those games were against the Denver Broncos, but their dominant defensive stats were built against opposing back-up and third string quarterbacks (five of them through the first nine games). But the thing that really amazed me from the weekend was the performance of Josh Gordon, thee second-year WR for the Cleveland Browns. He had 261 receiving yards against the Jacksonville Jaguars, making it two weeks in a row he caught for 230+ yards (237 yards last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers). What is more amazing: breaking the record for most receiving yards in consecutive games (498, edging past Calvin Johnson, who broke the record with 484 in October) or that Gordon's team lost both games? Or it is more amazing that he is doing that with Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell throwing the ball? Browns fans should be excited about what Gordon could mean for their team in the future.
'Sen. Romeo Dallaire falls asleep, crashes car on Parliament Hill'
CTV reports that Liberal Senator Romeo Dallaire fell asleep at the wheel of his car and crashed it on Parliament Hill. But it's okay because he has an excuse; CTV reports:
Speaking in the Red Chamber, Dallaire apologized to his fellow senators Tuesday afternoon, saying he didn’t sleep much last night.He said he’s been troubled by the upcoming 20th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide, as well as recent suicides by three Canadian Forces members.“On my way to work this morning, I fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a barrier near the East Block with my car,” he said.“I am very thankful that nobody was injured, or worse, by me not being more attentive to the level of fatigue that I’ve been experiencing.”Dallaire, 67, is a retired lieutenant-general who served as commander of the ill-fated UN peacekeeping mission to Rwanda prior to and during the 1994 genocide.
During that Rwanda genocide he wasn't attentive to others and hundreds of thousands were maimed or murdered. If in Rwanda he was being attentive, he did nothing, claiming he was just following orders (because that's a valid excuse) from the UN to stand down while a slaughter occurred under his watch. There have been few people so singularly unworthy of a senate appointment as he.
As for the driving while fatigued, he is likely to escape any criticism. But driving fatigued is as bad as driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs; he should be castigated for the poor example he has set in cavalierly endangering his fellow man.
David Brooks on the proper view of politics
New York Times columnist David Brooks returns from a three-month break from column-writing to discuss to what degree an intelligent and healthy citizen should be thinking about politics. Functionally* I agree with almost everything he says, even if I don't quite follow his advice**. Here is his conclusion:
So one’s attitude toward politics should be a passionate devotion to a mundane and limited thing. Government is essential, but, to switch metaphors ridiculously, it’s the stem of the flower, not the bloom. The best government is boring, gradual and orderly. It’s steady reform, not exciting transformation. It’s keeping the peace and promoting justice and creating a background setting for mobility, but it doesn’t deliver meaning.I figure that unless you are in the business of politics, covering it or columnizing about it, politics should take up maybe a tenth corner of a good citizen’s mind. The rest should be philosophy, friendship, romance, family, culture and fun. I wish our talk-show culture reflected that balance, and that the emotional register around politics were more in keeping with its low but steady nature.
I highly recommend reading the entire column.
* I say functionally because I disagree at a fundamental level that politics is necessary because I question the necessity of a state; but political conversation should mostly be about what's possible and practical and there is no way that we are returning to a anarchic state of nature.
** Part of the reason I follow politics and write about it compulsively is because expertise in this field is easy to attain and I wasn't very good at math in high school.
Abortion Barbie can't answer questions about issues she's running on
Breitbart: "Wendy Davis Unprepared for Food Stamp Interview." John Sexton reports:
State Senator Wendy Davis appeared on a local Texas news station to express her support for food stamps last week, but she appeared unprepared for serious questions on the topic.After making some general comments about working families and the "broken" system, Davis was asked about a bill introduced by State Rep Terry Canales to prevent SNAP benefits from rolling over month after month. The question caught Davis off guard."I'm not familiar with the balance rolling over. Um, I do think obviously where people are receiving assistance for their food or health services it shouldn't be in excess of what they need" Davis offered.Having come on television to take a swipe at Republicans for a 5 percent cut, Davis wound up admitting there might be a need to rein in the program. Not exactly a successful appearance.
Against the Transportation Security Administration
Glenn Reynolds in USA Today:
[T]he TSA's army of unionized federal employees is no better, and perhaps worse, than private screeners.This should come as no surprise. When, as was the case before 9/11, security screeners were contractors employed by airlines, they had every incentive to do a good job: Airlines don't want their planes hijacked or blown up. And they also had every incentive to be speedy and pleasant: Airlines don't want to irritate their customers, or to make flying an unpleasant experience in general.Federal employees have no such incentives, and it often shows. If people miss their flights, or just give up on flying because it's too much hassle, the TSA doesn't suffer. Even if bombs or hijackers get through, the most likely consequence isn't a bunch of higher-ups at TSA losing their jobs -- when does anybody in the government get fired for failure these days? -- but rather an increased budget and more staff "to make sure this won't happen again." The incentives don't align.Most other advanced nations use private screening services, and their security is just fine -- and, according to most accounts, less of a hassle for travelers.
I have a finger (puppet) for you, Nation magazine
The Daily Caller reports that The Nation is selling a magnetic finger puppet of Che Guevara on its publication's store website ... because toys of murderers is so cute.
Tabarrok on the real costs of virtual money
Alex Tabarrok reminds us that Bitcoin has costs, just like gold (mining) and fiat money (printing): electricity. That said, it is less than extracting gold from the ground or trucking around paper money.
Understanding Rob Ford's support
My old colleague at the Toronto Free Press, Arthur Weinreb, writes at Canada Free Press in reply to journalists like Globe and Mail sports writer Jeff Blair, who doesn't understand the persistent support for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford:
Ford supporters are not generally supportive of people who smoke crack or drink and drive. They are sick and tired of mayors like David Miller who sucked up to the unions, only to land the city in a lengthy garbage strike in the middle of a sweltering summer. They are sick and tired of having their hard earned money spent on every special interest group in the city or having it used in a silly attempt to end global warming. They are sick of the philosophy that only an overpaid and underworked city employee can take their trash away. And they are sick of being hit with higher taxes and user fees just because it is a new year.The elites will never understand that when they do articles like the one Blair did, they are not just taking shots at Ford; they are insulting a significant number of hard working Torontonians who are fed up with the tax-and-spend left. On the other hand, maybe they do understand and just consider Ford supporters to be second-class citizens, unworthy of living in a city that would become a utopia if only the left would control it.
As I've said before, I can't defend Rob Ford. He's a buffoon and he has serious personal problems. Trying to explain those problems away or complaining about double standards is just silly at this point and beside the point. Sure George Smitherman was a drug user and Justin Trudeau admits to being one now -- that doesn't justify supporting Rob Ford (and if you're on the Right and defend Rob Ford, please shut the fuck up about Smitherman's and Trudeau's drug use). Rob Ford is not what one of the good guys should look like. It's hard to defend the notion that character doesn't matter at all. The parts of Rob Ford's character that I like and think make him one of the more honourable politicians out there, does not negate what is a serious character problem (acting like a child in city council meetings, puffing up his chest and standing in front of other city councilors or running into them) and alleged serious problems (the extent of his drug and alcohol problems, the abuse of staff, the cheating on his spouse).
Yet, while I can't defend him, I will still vote for him. I want him to succeed.
But at this point I'm less pro-Ford than I am anti-anti-Ford. I don't want the anti-Ford forces to succeed. They are ideologically committed to things I don't think are good for this city (extreme green politics, funding special interests, strengthening unions) and ideologically opposed to things I do think are good for this city (privatization and lower taxes).
As long as there is a Left in this city -- and I count John Tory and Karen Stintz as on the Left because he buys into many of the cultural biases of the Downtown Left -- I'm supporting Rob Ford.
Monday, December 02, 2013
First ever Icelandic police shooting?
The Associated Press reports:
Police in Iceland said Monday they shot dead a gunman — the first time armed police have killed someone in the nation.Iceland, which has a tiny population of around 320,000, has a low crime rate and gun violence is extremely rare. Its regular police force does not carry firearms.Haraldur Johannessen, National Commissioner of the Icelandic Police, said Monday's incident was unprecedented.
(HT: Conor Friedersdorf on Twitter)
Minimum wage: robbing the poor to pay the poor
Steven Landsburg argues against Paul Krugman's contention that raising the minimum wage doesn't affect the employment rate, and that raising it helps low-income workers and has negligible adverse effects. Landsburg concedes the first, an empirical question about which economists disagree. But the negligible adverse effects are another matter. Landsburg says, "If the minimum wage has no effect on employment, then it’s basically a pure transfer of resources. Which means that the costs and the benefits are equal." In other words, minimum wage increases are "pure transfers," but from whom? Landsburg explains:
The minimum wage takes from the (mostly) relatively poor people who buy a lot of fast food and gives to the (mostly) relatively poor people who serve it. When I go into McDonald’s in the morning, most of the customers strike me as less well off than the nice lady who serves me my Egg McMuffin. Why does Krugman want to take money from their pockets and put it into hers? And as for me — if my breakfast is going to cost me an extra dime every morning, then much as I like that nice lady, I’d far prefer that dime be sent to a starving child in Africa.And if I do want to transfer a dime to the nice lady, I don’t need minimum wage legislation to enable it. That’s what tip jars are for.It’s easy to say “Look how good it would be if Group A had more income.” But to jump from there to “It would be good to transfer funds from Group B to Group A” — without every asking whether those funds might better come from Group C, D or E, and without ever asking whether they might better be directed toward Group F, G, or H —- that’s a leap I’d expect to see from only two kinds of people, namely the thoughtless and those who are out to bamboozle them.
Deregulate and let market decide cell phone use
Jerry Brito at Reason.com says worry about the Federal Aviation Administration relaxing rules on personal electronic devices and the Federal Communications Commission announcing that it to was reconsidering its in-flight cell phone use ban is seriously misplaced. Brito says one-size-fits-all state rules can be replaced by the flexibility made possible by letting the market decide:
The New York Times, USA Today, and many other news media ran opinion pieces with the consistent theme that flying was already a pretty miserable experience and that cell phones would only make it worse. And the flight attendant’s union also opposed changing the rules calling such a move potentially “unsafe” and noting in a statement that “flight attendants, as first responders and the last line of defense in our nation’s aviation system, understand the importance of maintaining a calm cabin environment.”Tom Wheeler, the new chairman of the FCC, found himself in crisis communications mode just a couple of weeks into his tenure, saying in a statement that he too would rather not see any calls on planes. The FCC’s ban on in-flight cellphone use, however, is a technical one meant to address radio interference, not politeness. “[A]dvances in technology likely no longer warrant—on a technological basis—the prohibition of in-flight phone use with the appropriate on-board equipment,” Wheeler said ...The FAA’s move to allow use of electronics during take-off and landing worked the same way. Airlines can still decide not to allow device use on their airplanes, and indeed it took a while for each airline to change its rules to permit device use. Deregulation just means airlines now have the option. This means that if the FCC were to change its cellphone rules, folks like Sen. Alexander could nevertheless fly airlines like Delta, which announced that in response to customer demand it won’t ever allow calls.If that demand is there, as it certainly seems to be, airlines will respond with private rules and bans on cellphone use without government’s help. And private rules have the advantage of being much more varied and flexible than the difficult-to-change, one-size-fits-all rules we can get from government.
'Scientists are "baffled" by the planet's stubborn refusal to submit to their climate models'
In The Corner, Mark Steyn notes that the Earth is not cooperating with the climate change models that indicated just a few short years ago the Arctic would disappear and melting ice in Antarctica would endanger mankind. In fact, the opposite of what global-warming scare-mongers said is true: there is actually more ice.
12 Days of Christmas inflation
Every year PNC calculates the cost of assembling the gifts in "The 12 Days of Christmas" and this year the price has gone up 7.7%, or 6.9% if you calculate the cumulative costs of each repetition (364 gifts for a total of $114,651.18).
Fiddle around the website, it's a lot of fun, from the yearly toy index charts to building and qualifying for a chance to win 3D-printed versions of your customized gift sets.
Who is more desperate?
Disgraced senator Patrick Brazeau joins Frank magazine.
Against the concept of a 'living wage'
The Washington Examiner has a very good editorial on the whole idea of a living wage, noting:
But there is a big lie behind this seemingly reasonable argument, namely that the employer is responsible for providing a person's basic needs, not the individual himself. The falsehood is further illuminated by this question: Who is responsible for providing for the employer's basic needs? If the answer is the employer, then society has two classes and equality is just a politically convenient myth.The practical reality is that when employers are responsible for providing a living wage, sooner or later, it becomes the government’s duty to guarantee it. The choice then is between the dependence society encouraged by the living wage or the free society that results when individuals are primarily responsible for themselves.
Web access in the classroom
From the Salt Lake City Tribune: "Web access in schools leads more teachers to access porn." The Trib reports:
At least 57 Utah educators have been suspended from teaching or had their licensed revoked for downloading porn or accessing sexually oriented websites, according to a Tribune review of nearly 400 teacher misconduct cases dating back to 1993. Porn cases account for a larger share of teacher-licensing sanctions than they did before 2007, analysis shows. The upward trend has coincided with the spread of wireless Web access in Utah schools.
Apparently these educators were insufficiently stimulated by their work:
One teacher told licensing authorities that viewing adult materials led him to lose interest in preparing lesson plans and grading papers. "His patience was shorter with his students,’’ investigators wrote. "He explained that his trigger for viewing inappropriate materials was boredom.’’
Liberals have a scarf fundraiser
I don't think the broader idea of essentially raffling off tickets for the chance to win a Justin Trudeau scarf is necessarily a bad concept for a fundraiser although it might be difficult to raise a million dollars that way. But the gifs to the left of the promo page raise a question: is the Liberal Party a high school drama club or a government-in-waiting?
Surveillance state/Litigation nation
The Washington Post reports that Maurice Owens claims he fell on a banana peel that wasn't cleaned up by Washington D.C.'s Metro custodians and sued the city's transit system. Unfortunately for him -- and fortunately for taxpayers -- there was surveillance video that shows that before he entered the elevator in which he slipped, the floor was clean and his fraud was caught on tape. There are over 2500 claims made against Metro each year, with the Post reporting:
[T]he case is one of the roughly 225 claims Metro’s Third Party Claims office receives each month. Most seek compensation for slips and falls on station platforms, stairs, escalators, elevators and buses, or while getting on and off trains.Fewer than half of those claims result in a settlement from Metro, and the average payout is less than $2,500, Stessel said.
Cheap drone delivery
Tyler Cowen very briefly (too briefly) considers how cheap drone delivery could change some of our consuming behaviour and notes that "importance of gang 'turf' would fall."
Cowen doesn't get into this, but the greatest threat to cheap drone delivery is government regulation and police enforcement. Commercial drone use will be an interesting new field of litigation and insurance in the not-so-distant future.
The Daily Mail: "Transsexual computer programmer enters Deal Or No Deal to fund surgery ahead of sex swap." Game shows. Sex change. Sounds like a reality show in the making.
The state has no business doing this
The Daily Telegraph reports:
A pregnant woman has had her baby forcibly removed by caesarean section by social workers.Essex social services obtained a High Court order against the woman that allowed her to be forcibly sedated and her child to be taken from her womb.The council said it was acting in the best interests of the woman, an Italian who was in Britain on a work trip, because she had suffered a mental breakdown.The baby girl, now 15 months old, is still in the care of social services, who are refusing to give her back to the mother, even though she claims to have made a full recovery.
I guess if there is an upside to this story its that the state did not force an abortion on the woman, so evidently British bureaucratic authorities are a tad less barbaric than those in China.
Christopher Booker also wrote a column in the Sunday Telegraph about this case and it makes vivid how tragic it all is. But the greater tragedy is that no doubt there are many people who think cases like this are impossible in western democracies and would have difficulty believing these reports.
'My week as an Amazon insider'
The Observer's Carole Cadwalladr writes about her experience working at a British fulfillment center for a week and if you can put up with the anti-capitalist snark, there are plenty of interesting details, even if some of them are patently untrue; there is no way that "the first item I see ... is a package of dog nappies," and "the second is a massive pink plastic dildo." I have no doubt she saw those things, I just doubt that they were the first two things that she glanced at in the giant Swansea warehouse. But aside from the exaggeration for effect and anti-capitalist sentiment, she gets something else egregiously wrong. I have no doubt that Amazon wants to minimize the taxes it pays, but Cadwalladr's complaint that they are obsessed with "tax avoidance" also ignores the fact that Amazon is not a profit-making enterprise; their margins are low so they will create a loyal customer base and so far that hasn't resulted in the windfall profits that their large sales might imply. As one comment notes, taxes are on profits, not turnover.