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 21, 2014
Cost of Thanksgiving dinner
Mark J. Perry of the American Enterprise Institute notes that according to the American Farm Bureau Federation the inflation-adjusted "cost of a Thanksgiving dinner is 1.3% cheaper than last year, 21% cheaper than 1986." The amount of time the average person must work to earn the money to pay for the dinner has held steady for some time. The average turkey dinner will cost just under $50, but just over $30 if you shop at Walmart. Perry concludes:
The fact that a family in American can celebrate Thanksgiving with a classic turkey feast for less than $50 and at a “time cost” of only 2.39 hours of work for one person (and only $32.64 or 1.58 hours of work for Walmart shoppers) means that we really have a lot to be thankful for on Thanksgiving: an abundance of cheap, affordable food. Compared to 1986, the inflation-adjusted cost of a turkey dinner today is 21% cheaper, and 26% cheaper measured in the “time cost” for the average worker.

Same-sex marriage and segregation are not comparable
Gay libertarian Scott Shackford in Hit & Run on Gary Johnson, former New Mexico governor and 2012 Libertarian Party presidential candidate:
Johnson responds that he doesn't believe there should be workplace discrimination against gays, referencing racial segregation and civil rights laws from the 1960s. Jeff specifically asks if there should be laws preventing employers and businesses from discriminating against gay workers or customers. Johnson says the discrimination should be legally prohibited: "There has to be an awareness, and there has to be consequences to discrimination. And there should not be discrimination. This is America."
Unpacking this as a gay libertarian: The first and most obvious observation is that Johnson, like many people who make this comparison, ignores the fact that segregation wasn't entirely voluntary. Much of it was mandated by government. Segregation was law. This is not to downplay that there were certainly many businesses and powerful forces in the private sector that supported, wanted, encouraged, fought to maintain segregation, and instituted it well beyond what the laws demanded. The laws wouldn't have existed if rich and powerful white people didn't want it in the first place. But it's important to note that segregation laws restricted freedom of association by prohibiting it.
The refusal of states to recognize same-sex marriage is again a government-ordered mandate. It has nothing to do with whether individuals or churches or businesses acknowledge the legitimacy of gay marriage. No business serving wedding needs has been forbidden from providing goods and services for gay couples, regardless of whether the state recognizes the marriage. But making private businesses provide these services by government order restricts the right of freedom of association by demanding it ...
I hate the concept of ranking victimization, but the level of private discrimination against engaged gay couples absolutely pales to the culture created by racial segregation. Being denied a wedding cake by one shop out of several choices is not the same as being shut out of entire neighborhoods and centers of commerce. There are many private solutions to the issue of gay couples being denied services, and businesses who engage in discrimination get significant negative attention and publicity. In fact, the relatively small number of cases of consumer discrimination shows how much has society changed primarily from cultural evolution. Undoubtedly a gay couple looking for a bakery to make them a wedding cake in the 1990s would have faced many more rejections ...
We have to have more than the indignity of being rejected by a baker of photographer in order to justify legally forcing these businesses to give up their freedom of association.
I highlighted this to counter the oft-heard argument that the gay rights movement is like the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It isn't.
Shackford's larger point is that libertarians need to defend many liberties (freedom of speech, conscience, association, private property) and not just same-sex marriage. It is odd that a supposed libertarian standard-bearer like Johnson would abandon these other principles so easily to uphold same-sex marriage. It isn't very libertarian; but it very political.

Do you really want these people teaching your kids?
Hit & Run: "Little Boy Suspended for Pointing Finger Like a Laser Gun." First, a finger cannot be confused with a real gun. But even if the 10-year-old had a real laser gun ... oh never mind. Remember this isn't an isolated incident; schools routinely suspend elementary school children for weaponizing items like hands or pop tarts. Also remember that this isn't a lone teacher acting; a teacher usually brings the student to the principal for discipline, thus indicating at least two (so-called) adults thought it was a good idea to suspend the student. As Hit & Run's Robby Soave says, "How paranoid of gun violence do you have to be to consider an imaginary ray gun some kind of threat against other students?"

'Free speech is so last century. Today’s students want the "right to be comfortable"'
Brendan O'Neill in the (London) Spectator: "Student unions’ ‘no platform’ policy is expanding to cover pretty much anyone whose views don’t fit prevailing groupthink." Of the Stepford Students he met at Oxford, he writes:
Their eyes glazed with moral certainty, they explained to me at length that culture warps minds and shapes behaviour and that is why it is right for students to strive to keep such wicked, misogynistic stuff as the Sun newspaper and sexist pop music off campus. ‘We have the right to feel comfortable,’ they all said, like a mantra. One — a bloke — said that the compulsory sexual consent classes recently introduced for freshers at Cambridge, to teach what is and what isn’t rape, were a great idea because they might weed out ‘pre-rapists’: men who haven’t raped anyone but might. The others nodded. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Pre-rapists! Had any of them read Philip K. Dick’s dystopian novella about a wicked world that hunts down and punishes pre-criminals, I asked? None had.
Of course, it isn't just the universities. Earlier this week, Mark Steyn wrote about "A World Stripped of Contraries."

It's Friday!
Stephen Colbert sings "Friday" with Jimmy Fallon and The Roots. I like this more than I should.

Not The Onion
Via Blazing Cat Fur, Salon is worried about "carbon paw prints."

Thursday, November 20, 2014
Buffalo snow storm in pictures
The Washington Post has a gallery of 62 photos. My favourite is #38.

A liberal dissents on Obama immigration EO
Damon Linker in The Week: "On immigration, Obama is flirting with tyranny." Linker writes:
Now let me be completely clear: I'm all in favor of immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for immigrants already living in the United States. I think the refusal of the House Republican majority to pass an immigration reform bill — or, really, to do much of anything at all — over the past two years is a disgrace. I fear that with the GOP now in control of the Senate as well, Washington may well grind to a standstill — and that this heightened level of dysfunction in the nation's capital may well redound to the benefit of Republicans, who use disgust at Washington as fuel for their anti-government furies.
That's bad.
But what Obama is proposing is worse. Much worse.
The rule of law is far more about how things are done than about what is done. If Obama does what he appears poised to do, I won't be the least bit troubled about the government breaking up fewer families and deporting fewer immigrants. But I will be deeply troubled about how the president went about achieving this goal — by violating the letter and the spirit of federal law.
To grasp precisely what's so galling about Obama's proposed actions, it's necessary to reflect on the nature of executive power and its permanent potential to become despotic.
I assume that the potential to become despotic, or at least bypass Congress on important issues, is why Republicans, who will probably win back the White House some time, care little to press President Barack Obama on the blatant misuse of the Executive Order.

(The beginning of) 21st century relationships
Craig Calcaterra tweets: "At a bar. Patron hitting on attractive bartender by offering to let her have his Netflix password. This is really happening."

That actually a thing on Twitter right now.

Obama's immigration Executive Order makes him The Boss
John Kass in the Chicago Tribune: "Obama Plays Boss of America on Immigration." Kass writes:
Some critics call Obama a monarch. Others say he acts more like an emperor. Still others prefer the old-fashioned term king.
As President Barack Obama prepares to lay out what he can do within his "lawful authority" to improve the immigration system, Congressional Republican leaders brace for a showdown. (Nov. 20) All these are royal positions and involve flowing purple robes and bejeweled crowns of the sort worn by that creepy Burger King in TV commercials. But for years Obama has gone out of his way to inform supporters and critics alike that under our system of divided government — a system developed by our founders to protect the liberty of all Americans — the president can't very well use his executive powers to make up laws just because he feels like it.
Couldn't do whatever he wanted until he does.

Professional cuddling is not prostitution
The Independent reports on a Portland, Oregon woman who charges $60 per hour for cuddling, which includes "hair strokes, hand-holding, and a plethora of different cuddle positions." It isn't adult-oriented in any way says "professional cuddler" Samantha Hess. The headline says she had 10,000 customers the first week, but the story says she received 10,000 emails in one week. To service 10,000 customers in a week, she would have to cuddle each person for one minute, without sleep, and then she'd have an hour and 20 minutes for herself.

Executive orders by president
FiveThirtyEight has the complete list of presidents and the number of Executive Orders per year in office. Not surprisingly, Franklin D. Roosevelt tops the list, and they were most commonly employed from Teddy Roosevelt through Harry S Truman. But not all EOs are equal; some expand congressional intent, others defy it.

The opportunity cost of fighting climate change
Bjorn Lomborg does not doubt anthropormorphic climate change. But he does doubt the benefits of spending large sums of money fighting it. Writing in the New York Post, Lomborg points out that the $3 billion President Barack Obama is committing to combatting global climate change could be used to save 30 million children from dying of malnutrition or 3 million people from malaria. For $3 billion, however, there is only a miniscule delay in global warming. And that assumes global warming is 1) happening, 2) man-made and thus preventable, and 3) harmful. But spending $3 billion on nutrition or anti-malaria programs will definitely save people.

Stupid rules/changing culture
Lenore Skenazy at Free Range Kids discusses trying to pick up her niece after an emergency evacuation. Skenazy is the emergency contact for her niece who happened to be substitute-teaching at the school that day:
I went to sign her out (evacuation is considered early release and requires sign out) and I was refused — by my coworkers and friends who have known me a decade. I was informed that they could not release my niece to me, despite her mother’s written consent in the form of emergency contact release, because they hadn’t spoken to her mother.
What is the point of an emergency contact if it isn’t “someone to call when you can’t reach the parent/guardian”? What if the emergency were that her parents were in a serious car accident?
This is an extension of the bizarre cell phone culture that we live in that assumes all people are reachable at all times.
Skenazy's broader point is that many institutions, especially schools, are so rules-based that common sense and plain human decency are scuttled to abide by the regulations. It's dumb. And inhumane and unhuman.
But the point of how our expectations about always being able to reach others is also important (says the guy who gave up his cell phone in 2001).

Warren Kinsella might run in the 2015 federal election
Kathy Shaidle has the must-read post. Will he nursing-home-cat his own nomination?

Demolishing an old house
Rick McGinnis has charming pictures and a nice essay on tearing down a tiny house in his neighbourhood. One can feel nostalgic for the old homes and the people who lived there and still welcome the (often necessary) change that requires demolishing these relics. From the McGinnis essay:
Cities always change. If you don't enjoy this essential fact about urban life, you probably shouldn't live in one. They might get better or they might get worse - and your definition of "better" or "worse" might not be the same as mine, of course - but life in a city is never static. And more often than not each wave of change is heralded by heavy construction equipment ...
Watching an excavator at work demolishing a house is truly remarkable, no matter what you might feel about the work at hand. The man at the controls began by taking tiny bites out of the roof, like a kid eating the white from the middle of a crusty roll. With the teeth of the bucket, he'd delicately pull off bits of siding and nudge roof beams away from the neighbour's wall, then with the enormous weight of the steel jaws, he began pulverizing the contents of the house, punching them into the basement.
The fourth and fifth pictures are likely to elicit very different feelings about tearing down the "quaint" house between two new, larger houses. One is charming, a home where someone lives, the other is derelict, waiting for the excavator.

2016 watch (Karl Rove on the field)
In the Wall Street Journal Karl Rove looks very briefly at 23 potential candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, a list that curiously does not include Mitt Romney. Isn't Romney a more credible candidate than Allen West or George Pataki?
The list of nearly two dozen candidates brought this thought to my mind: what is the over/under for formally declared candidates in 2016 for the Republicans? And for Democrats? I'm going with seven and three respectively.

Thinking about inequality
John H. Cochrane, professor of finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, has an excellent column about inequality in the Wall Street Journal. It covers a lot of issues surrounding inequality. A snippet:
Americans stuck in a cycle of terrible early-child experiences, substance abuse, broken families, unemployment and criminality represent a different source of inequality. Their problems have proven immune to floods of government money. And government programs and drug laws are arguably part of the problem.
These problems, and many like them, have nothing to do with a rise in top 1% incomes and wealth.
Cochrane's main point is that inequality fuels demands for redistributionist programs which politicians like because it increases their power. Public choice theory tells us that politicians do not put the public interest before their own self-interest, whether it be votes or prestige or the exercise of power.
Power begets more power:
Cronyism results when power determines wealth. Government power inevitably invites the trade of regulatory favors for political support. We limit rent-seeking by limiting the government’s ability to hand out goodies.
So when all is said and done, the inequality warriors want the government to confiscate wealth and control incomes so that wealthy individuals cannot influence politics in directions they don’t like. Koch brothers, no. Public-employee unions, yes. This goal, at least, makes perfect logical sense. And it is truly scary.
Tongue-in-cheek, but perceptively, Cochrane says that instead of taxes and the redistribution of wealth, there are alternative policies:
Is eliminating the rich, to eliminate envy of their lifestyle, really the best way to stimulate savings? ... If lifestyle envy really is the mechanism, would it not be more effective to ban “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”?
Anyway, Cochrane's wide-ranging column is provocative and a handy primer on the inequality issue.

States face fiscal crisis
Investor's Business Daily editorializes "States In Danger As Pension Underfunding Of $4.7 Trillion Threatens Their Fiscal Health." According to a report from State Budget Solutions, the per person liability across the U.S. is more than $15,000. IBD says:
But not all states are equal: Three big, heavily unionized, mostly Democratic states account for 30%, or $1.4 trillion, of the pension underfunding — California, Illinois and New York. Because of chronic mismanagement and the power of public sector unions in these and other states, millions of citizens face a grave financial risk they might not even know about.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014
'From civil asset forfeiture to eminent domain ...'
"How the Government Steals from Citizens," by A. Barton Hinkle at Reason. Hinkle says:
“Government,” as Barney Frank and other progressives are fond of saying, “is just another word for things we choose to do together.” Like rob people blind.
If you follow politics at all, then you’ve run across the term “gangster government.” For the past few years, it’s been used by conservatives as an epithet to describe the current administration in Washington and its abuses of power generally. But the term is more aptly applied to cases in which agencies shake down ordinary, law-abiding citizens through extortionate policies.
Asset forfeiture provides one example. Sandbagging property owners is another. It’s high time both kinds of highway robbery were brought to a screeching halt.

Keystone XL
Paul C. Knappenberger at the Cato Institute blog:
Enough already!
Why is Congress, the President, or anyone else, still talking about the Keystone XL pipeline?
This project is so small in the grand scheme of anything it boggles the mind anyone outside of those directly involved in building and operating it gives it a second thought.
That a discussion of the pipeline is still consuming government resources some six years after it was originally proposed epitomizes the grand waste of time and money that characterizes the current Administration when it comes to anything it thinks causes dreaded global warming.
In this case, the fault lies squarely with President Obama.
Obama killed have killed KXL six years ago or approved it. Instead, he let it drag on. Knappenberger is right in one way: the economic benefits are miniscule to the U.S. in terms of the larger American economy. But as a symbol, this battle is worth having -- for both sides. Pretending to do something about pretend climate change is an animating feature of the Left; giving lip service to economic growth is what the Right is all about.
Approve Keystone XL because there is no legitimate reason for continuing to hold it up or for nixing it. Approve and move on.

US teachers unions upset with banks lending money to school boards
The Daily Caller reports:
A heavily union-funded organization called The Alliance to Reform Our Schools has mounted a campaign to vilify financial institutions that have lent money to public school districts and local governments around the country.
The American Federation of Teachers is using the term “toxic deals” to describe transactions involving school districts that received huge sums of money in exchange for promises to repay that money with interest and fees.
“These deals are robbing schools and kids of desperately needed resources at a time when budgets have been cut to the bone and our schools are already being asked to do more with less,” AFT president Randi Weingarten proclaimed in a press release the union sent to The Daily Caller.
Possibly unaware that creditors and debtors have a vested interest in painstakingly recording the terms of large financial arrangements, Weingarten demanded “basic transparency and accountability” from creditors and from school officials ...
The AFT is blaming unnamed financial institutions for the truly terrible bets made by school district officials in a host of cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia (which faces a $161 million loss).
Various teachers union honchos are also tossing around phrases such as “predatory lending schemes” and accusing “Wall Street banks” of “rigging the game in their favor.”
So the ATF is upset with normal banking practices and with their own employers conducting normal business. If ther terms were unfavourable to the school boards, the ATF's beef is with the boards not the banks.

What about separation of church and state
The Washington Post reports that Prince George's County (Maryland) churches are reducing their state "rain tax" by having pastors provide sermons advancing environmentalism. The Post reports:
After months of negotiation with county environmental director Adam Ortiz, the pastors emerged with a rebate deal that will significantly cut the ["stormwater remediation fees"] if churches adopt programs and equipment that will curb runoff, lessen pollution and help bolster the environment.
So far, about 30 churches have applied. Forestville Redeemer was the first. They are planning to install rain barrels, build rain gardens, plant trees and, perhaps, replace their blacktop with permeable pavement. The government will cover most of the cost. In return, a fee that was estimated at $744 a year will be reduced to “virtually nothing,” Ortiz said.
[Rev. Nathaniel B.] Thomas and other pastors also have agreed to start “green” ministries to maintain the improvements at their churches, and to preach environmentally focused sermons to educate their congregations.
Terrible, frightening precedent. The pastors shouldn't have agreed (or, more likely, proposed) to become a government propagandist. Preaching the government's fashionable causes in exchange for savings of less than $800 is surrender on the cheap. What else might governments pressure churches on in the future?
What is also frightening is how secularly topical these churches are. Numerous sources tell the Post that typically their sermons deal with jobs and poverty and that adding environmentalism ("good stewardship") is just a piece of that larger social justice puzzle. Fine. But aren't churches supposed to help people with their souls? What about preaching about morality? When the time comes for the state to spread a little propaganda about same-sex marriage or sex ed or transgender rights, will the government be ready to shake down the churches again? And will pastors once again cave?
(HT: Paul D. Ellington)

Stanton's $325 million-contract
On Monday Grantland's Ben Lindbergh had a long analysis of why the Miami Marlins signed All Star outfielder Giancarolo Stanton to a 13-year, $325 million contract extension and why Stanton signed it. The underlying reasons are many and complex, including the Marlins track record of not even attempting to be competitive by selling young talent the moment they become pricey and Stanton's injury (beaned in the face) at the end of the 2014 season. Lindbergh doesn't think Stanton will be a Marlin for those 13 years with it being highly likely the superstar opts out of his contract in 2019. If you are interested in baseball or sports finances, this is a must-read article. My single criticism of the article is that there could have been more info about the Marlins' current, disadvantageous television contract and how Stanton's long-term deal might affect renegotiating it for better terms for the baseball team.

Paul Ryan gets a promotion
The Daily Caller says that Rep. Paul Ryan being named chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee is a promotion from the job of chairing House Budget Committee meetings. Patrick Howley explains:
Ryan has wanted the Ways and Means chairmanship for a long time. The economic policy wonk distinguished himself by turning the House Budget Committee, traditionally an afterthought, into one of the more effective forces of Capitol Hill opposition to President Obama’s spending priorities. With expanded power now on Ways and Means, and coming off a Republican midterm win, Ryan will have a better opportunity to put up resistance to Obama on budget battles that the president has traditionally won over the past six years.
Howley is correct to infer that by taking this position, Ryan probably isn't running for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

The math doesn't add up
Tim Worstall doubts some recent claims about prostitution. He doesn't think there is as much paid-for sex as some experts claim, probably because many hookers are part-time.

'The menace of civil forfeiture'
Andrew C. McCarthy in the Washington Times:
Like many government initiatives that grow harmful owing to inevitable mission creep, forfeiture seemed like a fine idea at the start. That was the early 1970s, when the nation faced a record crime wave driven by organized crime and narcotics-trafficking gangs. These enterprises can be very difficult to prosecute: Key leaders are insulated, witnesses are afraid to come forward and lavish profits enable mobsters and kingpins to hire top-flight lawyers and corrupt judicial processes.
Civil forfeiture was one clever way of attacking the problem. Rather than targeting the thugs through criminal prosecution, the civil approach targeted the instrumentalities that facilitated crime and the assets that were its proceeds — either cash or the things that money can buy. Although government prosecutors brought the cases, they were civil in nature, not criminal ...
Civil forfeiture thus became a powerful staple of the government’s arsenal against predatory criminal enterprises. In the ensuing decades, however, Congress vastly expanded it. Nearly half a century later, it has so metastasized that asset forfeiture is now available for virtually every offense of the federal criminal law.
It was understandable that the dismantling of criminal syndicates that were tough to prosecute was a high priority in an era of high crime. But the dragnet that civil forfeiture has become has had the unintended consequence of depriving ordinary citizens of due-process rights. In effect, though their property is targeted because of suspected criminal activity, they are compelled either to abandon the property without challenge or litigate government seizures without such protections as the presumption of innocence, the right to counsel and the right to have the government prove every element of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Perhaps just as worrisome, asset forfeiture now warps government incentives. It is one thing if assets that investigators seize in civil litigation are simply turned over to the public treasury for general public purposes — such as, say, paying down government debt (stop snickering). Yet, with no small prompting from the Justice Department, asset forfeiture has become something of a bounty for investigative agencies, used as prosecutors and agencies see fit to buy equipment, pay sources, underwrite investigative initiatives, and generally make more cases.

2016 watch (Iowa debates)
Hot Air brings news that candidates for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination will be invited to a debate "chat" on January 24 at the "inaugural" Iowa Freedom Summit. Already booked are Senator Ted Cruz, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, and former senator Rick Santorum.

2016 watch (Iowa odds edition)
In the Washington Times, Steve Deace provides "odds" of each Republican winning Iowa, from former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (2-1) to Senator Rand Paul (15-1) to Senator Marco Rubio (30-1) to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (500-1). Jeb Bush is "off the board" right now. I think Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (5-1), Dr. Ben Carson (10-1) and Donald Trump (100-1) are all way too high at this point.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Modern slavery
Scott Shackford at Hit & Run: "Why Is California Fighting the Release of Non-Violent Inmates? Cheap Labor." Shackford says:
California has had a prison overcrowding problem for years and has been ordered, repeatedly, to reduce the problem, so bad it has been determined to be cruel and unusual punishment ...
The Los Angeles Times reported ... this rather interesting explainer of why the state was resisting letting prisoners out early:
Most of those prisoners now work as groundskeepers, janitors and in prison kitchens, with wages that range from 8 cents to 37 cents per hour. Lawyers for Attorney General Kamala Harris had argued in court that if forced to release these inmates early, prisons would lose an important labor pool.
Prisoners' lawyers countered that the corrections department could hire public employees to do the work.
So, yeah, that's a pretty horrifying argument for keeping people in overcrowded prisons.
The Times reports: "The state has been meeting periodic benchmarks set by the judges, but was also supposed to be making other changes that would produce a long-term, 'durable' population reduction." They don't really seem to have an incentive to do this with all that cheap labour available to them. Although once you include the cost of running (over-crowded) prisons, the cost of the "cheap" labour rises. So perhaps it isn't all about dollars and cents, but control. The state loves controlling people.

2016 watch (de Blasio edition)
The National Journal reports -- and this gets complicated -- the New York Post reporting that Ed Cox, son-in-law of former president Richard Nixon and New York state GOP chairman, saying a "Democratic lobbyist" claiming first-term New York Mayor Bill de Blasio will be the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee. The rationale is apparently that there will be a progressive champion for the Dems to win the party's presidential nod from Hillary Clinton. But as NJ reports, there is no shortage of potential progressive champions within the party (Senator Elizabeth Warren and independent Senator Bernie Sanders to name just two from New England). Also, as NJ explains, de Blasio will only be in the third year of his first term when the nominating convention is held and the mayor is close to HRC (having been her 2000 Senate campaign manager).

I wish this were true
ReasonTV interviews Martin Masse on "Canada's Emergent Libertarian Movement." Canada having a slightly freer economy than the United States hardly makes for an emergent libertarian movement. Canadians are still mostly statist in their worldview.

Ebola in India
Time: "India’s First Ebola Patient Has Been Quarantined." From the story it seems like a good precaution. While the story does talk about avoiding oral sex if one can after testing positive for Ebola, it doesn't talk about that the country's population density and cultural aversion to toilets make Ebola and India a lethally risky mix.

Polls closer to election day should be more accurate's Eric Grenier on the by-election results and pre-E Day polling:
In terms of the polls, Forum [Research] should have quit when it was ahead. The polls of November 11 that I wrote about below were quite close, but their election eve polling of November 16 was worse. And in the case of Yellowhead, much worse.
Of course, not Brandon-Souris worse.
Can't we all admit that Forum Research polls are the least reliable. Forum Research gets blowjob media coverage because Lorne Bozinoff releases municipal and other local polls (like by-elections) and polls on party leadership campaigns more often than anyone else. But while frequency makes for regular copy, with Forum Research practice does not make perfect. Or even close.
Part of the problem with polls that are as inaccurate as Forum Research's is not merely that they set up false expectations, but that those expectations become central to the pre- and post-election analysis and thus the political narrative. As Pundit's Guide explains:
By the time all the ballots were counted Monday night, former Whitby mayor Pat Perkins held Whitby-Oshawa for the Conservative Party with nearly 50% of the vote.
You could be forgiven for thinking this result was unlikely, given the extent to which Liberal talking points penetrated the media's pre-game analysis, egged on by some torqued analysis from the only pollster willing to give away his work for free anymore.

Toyota's 'car of the future' will still depend on good ole government to attract buyers
Reuters reports:
Toyota Motor Corp on Monday said it will introduce its first mass-market fuel cell car in the United States next year, hoping to replicate the success of its Prius hybrid with a vehicle that runs on hydrogen instead of gasoline.
The four-person sedan named Mirai, the Japanese word for "future", will be at California dealerships in the fourth quarter of 2015. Only 200 will be available in the United States next year, with volumes increasing to 3,000 by 2017, executives said at a press conference in Newport Beach, California.
The Mirai will cost $57,500, which could drop to $45,000 after federal and state incentives.
So the future might be near ...
Wait, not so fast. At, Mark Rogowsky says: "Toyota's Quixotic Plan To Sell Hydrogen Cars Feels Almost Real." He explains:
U.S. electric car sales are finally beginning to tally something noticeable ... Suddenly, the notion of several hundred thousand primarily or fully electric cars being sold by 2020 seems close to certain.
The prospects for hydrogen are less so. Fuel-cell vehicles offer some clear advantages over battery-powered models: They can be fueled quickly, in just a matter of minutes and they offer “up to” 300-mile range. The larger battery Tesla is a 265-mile range vehicle today unless you opt for the more expensive and more efficient all-wheel-drive model. It can be charged at over of the 129 Supercharger stations in North America where it can recover 170 miles of range in 30 minutes.
But those speedy refills for the Mirai, and for Hyundai’s fuel-cell based Tucson, are based on finding somewhere to get hydrogen. Today, that’s absurdly challenging with just 3 stations open to the public, according to Toyota. It says the number in California will increase to 20 next year and 48 the year after. In 2016, it also expects to see 12 stations opened in the northeast. With such a light density of stations, a new kind of range anxiety – where can I actually get hydrogen? — will occur.
So the problem with electric cars is range; the problem in the foreseeable future for hydrogen cars is finding a place to get refueled. That is no small problem. It is an infrastructure problem and the more alternatives to regular old gasoline there are, the more expensive it will be to service them all. (There is also the environmental costs of creating multiple infrastuctures, but that's a whole other issue.)
The lesson is this: it is very, very difficult to replace an existing system of anything. Convincing hundreds of millions of people to change cars, driving habits, and refueling expectations will take more than government bribes in the form of purchase subsidies. But for the dreamers of a utopian future, that's the beginning.
I'm all for people using technological fixes to save money on gas. But they shouldn't get a government handout to do that. And if the determining factor is environmental reasons, it's probably entirely unnecessary.

Legacy of slavery liberalism
Thomas Sowell:
Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said there were “phrases that serve as an excuse for not thinking.” One of these phrases that substitute for thought today is one that depicts the current problems of blacks in America as “a legacy of slavery.”
New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof asserts that there is “overwhelming evidence that centuries of racial subjugation still shape inequity in the 21st century” and he mentions “the lingering effects of slavery.” ...
Kristof’s other “overwhelming” evidence of the current effects of past slavery is that blacks do not have as much income as whites. But Puerto Ricans do not have as much income as Japanese Americans. Mexican Americans do not have as much income as Cuban Americans. All sorts of people do not have as much income as all sorts of other people, not only in the United States, but in countries around the world. And most of these people were never enslaved.
If we wanted to be serious about evidence, we might compare where blacks stood a hundred years after the end of slavery with where they stood after 30 years of the liberal welfare state. In other words, we could compare hard evidence on “the legacy of slavery” with hard evidence on the legacy of liberals.
After 30 years of the welfare state, the decline in the poverty rate for blacks has slowed, the vast majority of black children are raised by single parents, and black neighbourhoods are less safe than they were before the so-called "civil rights era." Between the end of slavery in the 1880s and the growth of the welfare state in the 1960s, black neighbourhoods had intact families and a sense of community, not a sense of victimhood. Sowell concludes: "If we are to go by evidence of social retrogression, liberals have wreaked more havoc on blacks than the supposed 'legacy of slavery' they talk about." But the Al Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons of this world are race-based poverty pimps and the only remedy they can bring to any social problem or apparent injustice is a call for more government. Liberalism has failed blacks, especially poor ones.

Unexpected good news from Congressional Republicans
The Wall Street Journal reports that the House Republican caucus defeated an attempt by some in the party to reinstate earmarks. WSJ reports:
In introducing his repeal of the earmark ban on Friday, Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers pitched another favorite argument: That reviving these “sweeteners” will help the leadership buy votes for tough-to-pass legislation. That may sometimes be true, but to his credit Speaker John Boehner helped lead opposition to the measure, which lost 67-145. That margin will make it harder for Senate Republicans to [cave].

Under-reporting reported crime
The Daily Telegraph: "A million crimes reported by public left out of police figures." The Telegraph reports:
Almost a million crimes a year are disappearing from official figures as chief constables attempt to meet targets, a study by the police watchdog has disclosed.
Its report exposed “indefensible” failures by forces to record crime accurately, and said that in some areas up to a third of crimes are being struck out of official records.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary said violent crimes and sex attacks were particularly vulnerable to being deleted under “inexcusably poor” systems ...
It means violent criminals and even rapists are not investigated, potentially allowing offenders to strike again ...
Overall, almost a fifth of crimes failed to appear in the figures for England and Wales, the inspectorate concluded, but in some forces the proportion was as high as a third. Overall, police failed to record a quarter of rapes and a third of violent crimes across England and Wales.
So it looks like crime is going down, but it isn't. You'd think that the police would have would have the incentive to increase crime to get more government money and thus bigger police budgets. But plaudits are also benefits that police may desire. If crime numbers are decreasing, the police get a pat on the back.

2016 watch (Clinton-Warren watch)
Investor's Business Daily's Andrew Malcolm:
Here's a Democrat ticket to ponder for 2016: Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren ...
The thinking of that faction, according to a provocative analysis by Jim Newell, is that Hillary Clinton is pretty much the inevitable Democrat nominee but is incapable of adequate progressivism.
"She is," Newell writes, "of the generation of Democratic politicians who found temporary success in turning the party into the hollow, neo-liberal vehicle that’s now running on fumes." And cites her 'marriage' to known centrist Bill Clinton as further proof of her untrustworthiness ...
Newell predicts Hillary "will pay just enough lip service to progressive causes to get through the Democratic primary, and that probably won’t require much. But her presidency will not lead to a rethinking of the ideas that have gotten Democrats into this horizonless state.

Gruber commentaries
Newmark's Door has six of the best Jonathan Gruber commentaries of the past week, including James Bovard and Ron Fournier.

Neil Young is boycotting Starbucks of their anti-anti-GMO position
Rolling Stone reports that Neil Young wrote on his website to announce his boycotting of Starbucks:
"I used to line up and get my latte everyday, but yesterday was my last one," Young wrote. "Starbucks has teamed up with Monsanto to sue Vermont, and stop accurate food labeling."
Vermont passed a law last spring that requires all food products containing GMOs to be labeled as such by July 1, 2016, with the exception of dairy products, meat, alcohol and food served in restaurants. Shortly afterward, four food industry organizations filed a lawsuit against the state that challenged the law's constitutionality. Among the plaintiffs is the Grocery Manufacturers Association, whose more than 300 members include both Starbucks and Monsanto.
(HT: Hit & Run's Robby Soave)

Monday, November 17, 2014
More about self-aggrandizing celeb charity songs
Earlier today I linked to Five Feet of Fury's post on "Do They Know It's Christmas?" And now Slate: "'Do They Know It’s Christmas?' Was Terrible the First Time and It’s Terrible Now." Aisha Harris says:
But it remains fundamentally unchanged—and the video captures the awful condescension so often present in such star-driven projects: It opens with footage of an Ebola-stricken black body being carried away by rescue workers in hazmat suits, then cuts to rich, smiling celebrities exiting a limo in a flash of paparazzi cameras to “do good” by recording a song.
Earlier this year, economist William Easterly explained in Slate "The trouble with Live Aid, Live 8, and pop star condescension":
Insulting stereotypes of Africans are at the heart of why celebrity famine relief gets the whole problem so badly wrong, not only in 1984 but still today. The celebrities promote a worldview in which “they,” Africans, are unable to help themselves in preventing famine, and so passively await rescue from “we” Western famine experts, a category that apparently includes rock stars. The big question is: Why are Africans so unable to help themselves? The old view that Africans were just racially inferior is thankfully no longer acceptable, but there seems to still be plenty of less explicit condescension toward Africans behind the whole enterprise.
There is an alternative view, that famine in Africa tends to happen in places where the victims are oppressed by local dictators. As Amartya Sen famously pointed out, democracies don’t have famines. If autocracy is the problem, the insulting stereotypes perpetrated by celebrities make the problem worse rather than better.

Inside Policy
November edition of Inside Policy from the Macdonald-Laurier Institute is now available. It focuses on internal trade.

6%-annual increases in health care spending are not cuts
There are no cuts in health care spending under the Harper conservatives. Emmett Macfarlane explains in the Policy Options blog:
I agree it is easier to say “cuts” as opposed to “reductions in annual increases over time,” but this is not mere nitpicking over semantics. The average Canadian knows very little about how the country’s health care funding actually works – using the term cuts is therefore intentionally misleading.

When it comes to trade/free agent rumours, sports journalism is bullshit
Just yesterday Ken Rosenthal tweeted/reported that the Chicago Cubs were the "clear front-runner" to land free agent catcher Russell Martin. Today Martin reportedly signed a five-year, $82 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays to return to his native Canada. During the Hot Stove League, the Jays were mentioned as a possibility but never considered a likely destination for the former Pittsburgh Pirate catcher who was always thought to be headed to Chicago and remain in Pittsburgh. Whenever Toronto was linked to Martin, it was because of his connection to Canada, so it was mere speculation; in all likelihood, the length of the deal (five years for a 31-year-old catcher is a long guarantee) is what convinced Martin to return home and yet no baseball writer suggested anything remotely like what just happened.

The Obamaconomy
The Washington Free Beacon reports that despite 47 million food stamp recipients in America, "Food banks across the country are reporting shortages as the holidays approach and the underemployed and the long-term unemployed are utilizing them to stave off hunger."

Sarah Thomson.

I'm not a fan of self-aggrandizing charity songs, either
Must-read Five Feet of Fury post on the latest "Do They Know It's Christmas."

Isn't theology above the President's pay grade?
The White House issued a statement by President Barack Obama following the murder of U.S. aid worker Peter Kassig (who converted to Islam and changed his name to Abdul-Rahman at ) the hands of Islamic State terrorists. Obama said, "ISIL's actions represent no faith, least of all the Muslim faith which Abdul-Rahman adopted as his own." I wouldn't say "least of all." That kind of emphasis highlights the lie.
(HT: Breitbart)

Obamacare's declining popularity
Gallup: "As the Affordable Care Act's second open enrollment period begins, 37% of Americans say they approve of the law, one percentage point below the previous low in January. Fifty-six percent disapprove, the high in disapproval by one point." Gallup explains:
Approval has been in the low 40% or high 30% range after a noticeable dip that occurred in early November 2013. This was shortly after millions of Americans received notices that their current policies were being canceled, which was at odds with President Barack Obama's pledge that those who liked their plans could keep them. The president later said, by way of clarification, that Americans could keep their plans if those plans didn't change after the ACA was passed.

Questions that are too seldom asked
Helen Smith at PJ Media:
Are public schools now using boys for their nefarious purposes? I sometimes think so as I read the news and what boys are going through in government-run schools. Of course, private ones can be just as bad, but at least there is a bit less government interference. The PC rules that boys are subject to seem to run the gamut from being charged with being a sexual harasser at the age of eight or younger to being subject to unfair discipline practices and institutional racism.
I sometimes wonder if sending a young boy to public school should be considered child abuse ...

Black's history of Canada
Conrad Black explains why he wrote his massive Rise to Greatness, The History of Canada From the Vikings to the Present:
When I was in school, the explorers (Jacques Cartier, Samuel de Champlain, La Salle, La Verendrye, and some of the soldiers and traders such as Frontenac and d’Iberville), were presented as adventurous people. Their stories were compelling and it was relatively easy to remember some of their exploits.
But the history of Canada was mainly a recitation of a sequence of dates of events, and there was not much interpretation or glamorization of the events, nor much effort to connect them sequentially in a causal way. The milestones of Canadian history just happened, as if as flukes: As the U.S. Civil War ended and that country emerged with the largest army and greatest generals in the world and looked somewhat covetously at Canada again, as they had in the War of 1812, the British colonial office threw the settlements strung along the northern side of the U.S. border together and called them a country, as the best chance of keeping Canada out of the hands of the Americans. There is some truth to this muddling-through history of Canada, but it is not the whole, nor even, in my opinion, the principal part of the story.
The National Post is excerpting the book this week.
Some quick thoughts on Rise to Greatness:
Because of its size, I'm perusing the book rather than reading it (with pencil or highlighter as I usually do). At nearly 1200 pages, it is not physically an easy book to read, nor one to carry around with you to read.
The emphasis in the 20th century is on international affairs and Quebec/Rest of Canada relations. Also, throughout there is a heavy focus on politics and Canada-foreign relations (England, France, United States).
There is a very good bibliography.

Family structure and inequality -- and no one is talking about it
Fraser Nelson in the Sunday Telegraph on family structure and inequality:
We also discovered an unequal distribution of fathers, a direct correlation between wealth and kids having dads at home. Fatherless households are three times more common in the poorest neighbourhoods than in the richest. In theory, wealth should have no bearing on family cohesion, but the economics of British family life are complicated. And made more so by the “couple penalty” whereby the welfare state can make families better off if the father leaves. If all households were promised the father’s income without his presence, how many middle-class marriages would survive?
Nelson extrapolates on the connection between family structure and inequality in the pages of the London Spectator:
The Office for National Statistics conducts surveys every three months, asking Brits about every aspect of their lives and dividing workers into seven social categories. At the top comes ‘higher managerial’ — the likes of company directors, military officers and university lecturers. At the bottom come the ‘routine occupations’ such as cleaners, builders and waiters. Marriage data is not normally published, but supplied upon request.
It shows that there was already a pronounced marriage gap in 2001, when the figures start, with those in the top category 24 per cent more likely to marry than those at the bottom. That figure now stands at 48 per cent ...
[I]f the rich are more likely to marry the rich, the inequality problem becomes worse.
This inequality of marriage ought to concern the left. There has been far more family breakdown over the last four decades, but it’s the poorest who are being most affected. There are no absolutes in this argument — successful families do come in all shapes and sizes — but figures do show a broad trend. Fewer than one in ten married parents have split by the time a child is five, but a third of unmarried parents do so. As Tony Blair said, ‘A strong society cannot be morally neutral about the family.’ ...
The result is a creeping social segregation which is not being discussed, far less addressed. The marriage agenda has fallen foul of a new cross-party consensus: that the toughest questions in politics are, nowadays, best avoided.

On state-run education perpetuating inequality
Fraser Nelson explores inequality and finds that state-run schools in England exacerbate the problem:
Perhaps the most shocking discovery was the near-perfect relationship between pupils’ postcodes and exam results. The plusher the neighbourhood, the better a pupil’s exam results – and the poorest are three times as likely not to leave school with five decent GCSEs. To be sure, poorer pupils can start with a disadvantage. But shockingly, the attainment gap actually widens as the children make their way through the state education system. Pupils on free school meals struggle a bit more with phonics in primary school, but they’re half as likely as other pupils to attain two A-levels.
Much time is wasted blaming private schools for inequality in Britain. The state sector teaches 93 per cent of pupils, and it is here that the harm is being inflicted. If you can afford a house near the right school, the state will educate your children so well that you’d never need to go private. But if you’re in a council estate, your children are far more likely to be failed by school – and so become poor as well. It’s hard to think of a surer recipe for ingrained inequality.
Nelson says that inequality need not be a problem, but it is a problem that government policies are contributing to inequality.

Thank God for the 1% (or 20%)
Fraser Nelson in the Sunday Telegraph: "The top 3,000 pay more than the lowest-paid nine million taxpayers put together." The details:
Labour may want to change their mind about how useful it is to bash the rich, rather than worry about the poor. I submitted a Freedom of Information request asking about the best-paid 0.01 per cent, the ones we’re led to believe pay no tax. They earn 1.4 per cent of salary paid in Britain yet stump up 4.2 per cent of all income tax. That is to say, the top 3,000 pay more than the lowest-paid nine million taxpayers put together. Not a figure you’re likely to hear in a Miliband speech any time soon.
That's part of a column on inequality in Britain. As Nelson says, inequality is not in itself a bad thing.
The American Enterprise Institute's Mark J. Perry: "New CBO study shows that ‘the rich’ don’t just pay a ‘fair share,’ they pay almost everybody’s share." Perry explains:
For each of the three lower income quintiles, their average government transfer payments exceeded their federal taxes paid by $8,600, $12,500, and $9,100 respectively, and therefore the entire bottom 60% of US households are “net recipients” of government transfer payments. Averaged across all three lower income quintiles, we could say that the lowest 60% of American households by income received an average transfer payment of about $10,000 in 2011. And because the government has no money of its own, where did those transfer payments come from to finance the “net recipient” households? Where else, but from the top two income quintiles, and realistically almost exclusively from Americans in the highest quintile.
Specifically, the average household in the fourth quintile paid slightly more in federal taxes ($14,800) than it received in transfer payments ($14,100) in 2011, making the average household in the second-highest income quintile a “net payer” household in the amount of $700 in 2011. Basically, households in the fourth income quintile paid enough in taxes to cover their transfer payments, and then made a minor contribution of $700 on average to help cover the transfer payments of the “net recipient” households in the bottom 60% and make a small contribution to the federal government’s other expenditures.
But the major finding of the CBO report is that the households in the top income quintile are the real “net payers” of the US economy. The average household in the top one-fifth of American households by income paid $57,500 in federal taxes in 2011, received $11,000 in government transfers, and therefore made a net positive contribution of $46,500. The second-highest income quintile is basically just barely covers its transfer payments, so it’s really the top 20% of “net payer” households that are financing transfer payments to the entire bottom 60% AND financing the non-financed operations of the entire federal government.
Here’s another way to think about the burden of the “net payer” top income quintile. The average household in that income quintile made a contribution net of transfers in 2011 in the amount of $46,500. That would be equivalent to the average household in the top quintile writing four checks: 1) one check in the amount of $8,600 that would cover the average net transfer payments of a household in the bottom quintile, 2) another check for $12,500 to cover the average net transfers of a household in the second lowest quintile, 3) a third check in the amount of $9,100 to cover the average net transfer payments to a household in the middle income quintile, and 4) then finally writing a check for the balance of $16,300 that would go directly to the federal government, which for the households in the quintile as a whole would have covered almost 100% of the non-financed federal government spending in 2011. So except for a small contribution net of transfers in the amount of $700 from the average household in the fourth quintile, the highest income quintile is basically financing the entire system of transfer payments to the bottom 60% AND the entire operation of the federal government.
The "rich" that the Left bashes finances the government the Left loves.

FIFA's covers up its own investigation into itself
The Wall Street Journal on FIFA's farce:
For 16 years Sepp Blatter has run FIFA, the international soccer federation, like a Third World dictator. The Swiss national has now outdone himself by trying to muffle an investigation surrounding FIFA’s secret vote four years ago to award World Cup tournaments to Russia and Qatar. Russia’s creaky infrastructure and authoritarian politics made it a strange winner for 2018, to say the least. As strange was the choice of Qatar, hardly a soccer powerhouse that will host the tournament in sweltering desert heat in 2022.
Charges of collusion and corruption were rampant, and in 2012 FIFA banned a Qatari soccer official named Mohamed bin Hammam for life. Mr. Blatter then ordered FIFA to investigate itself—or maybe not.
On Thursday a German judge employed by the federation released a statement declaring that an “independent” investigation found no reason to reopen the bids and welcomed “the fact that a degree of closure has been reached.”
Not so fast. Hours later, the American investigator and former U.S. attorney hired by FIFA, Michael Garcia, disputed that characterization of his confidential report, saying the FIFA statement included “numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations.”
Some members of the FIFA executive committee, including the head of the U.S. soccer federation Sunil Gulati, are demanding that the Garcia report be made public. FIFA wants to head this off, saying on Thursday that such a move is “incompatible with the obligation of confidentiality.” Not to mention potentially embarrassing to FIFA.
It is worth re-watching John Oliver's take on the criminal enterprise known as FIFA. As Oliver noted before this year's World Cup, corruption -- a payoff to FIFA officials -- is the only logical explanation for awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

'Cadillac' levy to hit everyone
Tevi Troy in the Wall Street Journal on M.I.T. economist and Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber and the "Cadillac tax":
As Mr. Gruber put it, speaking last year at a conference at the University of Pennsylvania: “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, you know, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass.”
One example cited by Mr. Gruber is the so-called Cadillac tax, as the ObamaCare excise tax on high-value employer health plans is known. The tax, which he helped devise and will take effect in 2018, imposes a 40% levy on individual health plans worth more than $10,200, and on family plans worth more than $27,500. As Mr. Gruber’s remarks were unearthed last week, economist Mark Wilson and I released a study of the excise tax that shows he is right about its deceptive design. The tax is likely to hit many people who don’t have high-end coverage ...
Gruber also implicitly acknowledged that calling the excise tax a “Cadillac” tax is misleading, as the tax’s reach will expand. “Over time it’s gonna apply to more and more health-insurance plans,” he said, elaborating in a separate speech that the “tax that starts out hitting only 8% of the insurance plans essentially amounts over the next 20 years [to] essentially getting rid of the exclusion for employer-sponsored plans.”
This means that eventually the excise tax will affect an increasing number of workers who don’t have top-flight health insurance. By 2031 the cost of the average family health-care plan is expected to hit the excise-tax threshold. The tax’s creeping reach is reminiscent of the Alternative Minimum Tax, which was originally designed to hit only the wealthiest taxpayers but now nails the middle class.

Internet tax imminent?
The Heritage Foundation's James Gattuso in The Daily Signal:
Will the Federal Communications Commission tax the Internet? It’s very possible, said FCC commissioner Mike O’Reilly at a conference sponsored by the Free State Foundation in Washington on Friday. The tax, which could total over $7 per month on the typical American’s broadband bill, would be imposed as a consequence of regulating the internet via “net neutrality” rules that President Obama has urged the FCC to adopt.

Sunday, November 16, 2014
That was quick
The Oakland Raiders have been eliminated from the playoffs in Week 11. SB Nation on the 0-10 Raiders: "they were officially eliminated from the postseason on Sunday with a 13-6 loss to the San Diego Chargers, making them the quickest team to get knocked out of the playoff race in a decade."

I didn't see this poll reported in English Canada
A Leger Marketing poll released November 11: Liberals 36%, Conservatives 33%, NDP 19%, Green 7%, BQ 3%. Liberals lead Tories 40%-35% in Ontario. In Quebec it's Liberals 33%, NDP 29%, CPC 29%, BQ 14%.
Of course, any poll that has just 6% saying they wouldn't vote is probably incorrect.
Justin Trudeau leads Stephen Harper 28%-26% on question of who would make the best prime minister, 29%-27% in Ontario.

If you amnesty 5 million, you'll get another 20 million in the queue
NewsMax: "Roy Beck: Stop Amnesty or Face Never-Ending 'Chain Migration'."

'The Great Autocrat Moderation'
Tyler Cowen:
We’ve now seen a good twenty-five years of autocrats backing down, ceding power, and refusing to escalate, starting around 1989 if not earlier. Arguably North Korea and Saddam Hussein have been partial exceptions, but even there North Korea has stayed in its shell and Saddam had in fact largely disarmed his WMD. We also see many autocrats — most notably those of China — who pursue remarkably sophisticated courses of action. Just think how much more deftly they handled Occupy Hong Kong than the Ferguson police dealt with their situation. Even the Iranian leaders seem quite sophisticated, even though most of us do not share their goals or endorse their means ...
If we look back in history, are autocrats generally this rational and conciliatory? I am struck reading the new Andrew Roberts biography of Napoleon how he grew drunk with success and overreached and of course eventually failed (twice). Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, and Mao are some additional obvious examples of autocrats who, in terms of procedural rationality, simply collapsed at some point and very dramatically overreached.
Cowen says it's too early to tell about Vladimir Putin.
Neocons would disagree, but hawks exaggerate the danger dictatorships present to the West, their neighbours, and to their own people. There are still dangers but domestic and globally, but today's African, Middle Eastern, and North Korean rulers are not as ruthless and belligerent as the rulers of these regions and Latin America were in the 1960s through early 1980s.

Moral panic time
Tyler Cowen links to a study that suggests child injuries are rising due to parents being distracted by their smart phones. Yale's Craig Palsson says: "I find that smartphone adoption has a causal impact on child injuries. This eff ect is strongest amongst children ages 0-5, but not children ages 6-10, and in activities where parental supervision matters. I put this forward as indirect evidence that this increase is due to parents being distracted while supervising.

Media obsessions with celeb authors doesn't match sales
Breitbart reports that Tina Fey (Bossypants), Lena Dunham (Bossypants), and Amy Poehler (Yes Please) sold approximately the same number of books (37,000-38,000) in their debut weeks. Bill O'Reilly's Killing Patton sold 169,000 copies in its first week.

But I thought Stephen Harper cost Canada its global leadership?
Norman Spector tweets:
In the @nytimes, Harper plays a prominent role in Putin's Cool Reception at the G-20

'The Animated Movie Sadness Index'
Grantland's "The Animated Movie Sadness Index: A Brief History of Dead Parents, Sad Robots, and Devastated Animal Children" is worth reading. But how is Bambi and The Lion King so far behind Finding Nemo? I just saw Up yesterday and I found the opening very touching, but it hardly deserves the top spot and a 100 rating.

Feminists accept notion of the fairer sex
Glenn Reynolds in USA Today:
So how are things going for feminism? Well, last week, some feminists took one of the great achievements of human history — landing a probe from Earth on a comet hundreds of millions of miles away — and made it all about the clothes.
Yes, that's right. After years of effort, the European Space Agency's lander Philaelanded on a comet 300 million miles away. At first, people were excited. Then some women noticed that one of the space scientists, Matt Taylor, was wearing a shirt, made for him by a female "close pal," featuring comic-book depictions of semi-naked women. And suddenly, the triumph of the comet landing was drowned out by shouts of feminist outrage about ... what people were wearing. It was one small shirt for a man, one giant leap backward for womankind ...
It seems to me that if you care about women in STEM, maybe you shouldn't want to communicate the notion that they're so delicate that they can't handle pictures of comic-book women. Will we stock our Mars spacecraft with fainting couches?
And Tim Stanley in The Daily Telegraph:
[M]y beef is with those people who appear to actually get a kick out of being offended. They’re as kinky about it as those girlies on Dr Taylor’s t-shirt. They seem to wander through the world actively looking for something – anything – that could, at a real stretch, be evidence of racist, homophobic, meat-eating, chain-smoking, wife-beating fascism. Shirts, banter, saucy magazines and rudely shaped vegetables.
Stanley, who is usually too liberal and politically correct for my liking is exactly correct on this. People whose thing is being offended, who look for offenses, and miss the Big Picture for bullshit to upset them make life more miserable for others, and presumably themselves. They should be ignored so their offense is an issue only for themselves. And we can, as Ann Althouse (who disagrees with Reynolds that the shirt doesn't matter) says, consider the larger issues: "Why aren't we spending all our time thinking and talking about the deepest religious and philosophical questions?"

Culture of Death must always expand, permits no dissent
Bioedge: "Swiss canton forces nursing homes to host assisted suicides."
A new law passed in the western canton of Neuchâtel "force[s] government-funded nursing homes to allow representatives of assisted suicide groups to advertise their services ... There are no exemptions for conscientious objection by managers in the homes."

Saturday, November 15, 2014
Google Glass fail
TechCrunch: "Google Glass Is Ready To Become This Era’s Segway." Maybe. As TC's Mike Butcher also says:
Meanwhile, Google co-founder Sergey Brin recently went to a red-carpet event without his normally ever-present Glass. Signs the product is ready for the chop?
Reuter’s sources say a full consumer launch may now be “delayed” to 2015. Google’s people say a consumer launch is still on.
But I think we can safely say that, even if Google did launch it to consumers, the simplest thing for Google to do now would be to release the underlying technology for startups to hack around with.

Public education('s food program) is child abuse
Reason reports on a high school student's protest against the "Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act" by leading a boycott against her Wisconsin high schools lunch program, but as Baylen Linnekin notes, the issue is much bigger:
The purpose of the USDA's National School Lunch Program is, as Congress declared in establishing the program in 1946, “to safeguard the health and well-being of the Nation's children and to encourage the domestic consumption of nutritious agricultural commodities and other food[.]”
Whatever past successes that program may point to, by any objective measure, the USDA's school lunch program has since earned a failing grade.
Schools don't like it. More than 1,400 school districts have opted out of the USDA School Lunch Program since 2010. Students and families don't like it, either. According to federal government data, the USDA School Lunch Program served 180 million fewer lunches last year than it did at its high point, in 2010. Average participation for students who pay full meal prices now stands at just 9.2 million, a drop of nearly half from 1970 figures.

Public education is child abuse
Newser reports: "LA Schools Blame Girl for Sex With Teacher." The LA district won a civil suit brought by the 14-year-old girl's family for emotional trauma by saying the girl is responsible because she freely chose to meet with her teacher at a hotel. Yeah, except that legally she cannot consent. You'd expect a school district and its lawyer to know that.

Failure is over-rated
Vox's Ezra Klein interviews Peter Thiel and this stands out:
Peter Thiel: One of the ideas I'm very skeptical of is that people learn from failure. I think, in practice, failure's really demotivating. Hopefully, you have the character to persevere and keep going, but I think the default is that failure is powerfully demotivating. But success is very motivating.
Ezra Klein: Isn't counseling young entrepreneurs to reach for these moonshot monopolies putting a lot of people onto a path where the chance of failure is much higher, and thus the chance of demotivating all these entrepreneurs is potentially higher?
Peter Thiel: I suppose, but I'm not trying to get more people to be entrepreneurs. I would like people to start more good companies and fewer bad companies. I think that's the thing. I don’t think starting companies or starting startups is an end in itself.
Tim Harford would be correct if his book was called Adapt: Why Success Often Starts with Failure, but for most people and most times, failure ends in failure. It takes someone special to learn from their mistakes. Failure is often demotivating.
I recommend the entire interview, with special note of Thiel's views on education, alternatives, and why he wants to change the narrative especially around elite schools (Ivy League).

Review of Ivan Pavlov: A Russian Life in Science by Daniel P. Todes
Raymond Tallis reviews the new biography of Ivan Pavlov for the Wall Street Journal:
Ivan Pavlov is remembered today for several reasons. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for discovering conditioned reflexes when he trained dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell. He was a founding father of behaviorism, which taught that psychology should confine itself to observable behavior and regarded thoughts and beliefs as unworthy of scientific attention. And he was rewarded with special favors for his uncritical support of the Bolshevik Revolution.
None of this is true ...
As for his relationship with the Soviet Union, Pavlov was a fearless dissident. His survival until 1936—when he died, in his late 80s, of natural causes—was a miracle. Had he not been miscategorized as a Soviet stooge, Pavlov’s stature might have been more fully appreciated in the West. It is astonishing to learn that when Daniel Todes began researching Pavlov’s life in 1989, there was neither an authoritative biography of the man nor a comprehensive account of his work. “Ivan Pavlov: A Russian Life in Science,” 25 years in the making and a masterpiece of the biographer’s art, has made handsome amends for this neglect. It is a mighty work of scholarship, drawing on a vast archive—personal papers, diaries, laboratory notes, memoirs, NKVD records—much of which became available only post-Glasnost.

Chelsea Clinton honoured
The Daily Caller: "Chelsea Clinton Proclaimed Mom Of The Year By Couric For No Reason." Well there is a reason: she's a Clinton.
Chelsea was being interviewed by Yahoo Global News anchor Katie Couric after winning Glamour Magazine’s “Woman of the Year” award, during which Couric said the former First Daughter should also be honored as “Mom of the Year.”